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Ed Tech Thoughts on the Space Coast

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What Do Kids in the Hall Say About Your Class?

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A collection of nationally reknown educators recently started a Facebook Group built around Angela Maiers mantra “You Matter”. The “Choose 2 Matter” group asked for examples of how we have helped some one Choose 2 Matter. This blog post is a response to that question.
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In my role as technology consultant, I work with relatively small groups of teachers in two cities a week during the summer and at least 1 group a month during the school year around the nation. Although it is not a required part of the curriculum, I always try and fit in a discussion / activity concerning Classroom Culture.

Classroom Culture is one of the last, but most important areas that teachers still have considerable control. As educators, we set the stage for our classroom. We can’t do much about the baggage that our students bring with them into the classroom, we don’t often get to choose the textbook or course standards, and we often are limited considerably by our physical environment (paint, temperature, sound levels, type of lighting, etc.). But we do have considerable control how learning activities are staged.

So the essential question is:
What do the students say among themselves about your class?

Answering this question may be a depressing thing to contemplate. I think most all teachers want their students to like them, and maybe even more they want them to like their subject area and course.

So I believe this is a very important reflection activity for us as educators…
What do they say? and What would we like them to say?… Once we have answered these questions, the next obvious question is How do we get there?

Some of the first answers to the last question from workshop participants is:
Respect your students, and teach them to show respect to each other. Make them feel safe (physically, emotionally, and intellectually) in the borders of your domain.
Carefully choose your words and perhaps watch video of your self interacting with your students in both whole group as well as small group settings. What does your body language say?
Provide not only wait time following questions, but give students time to reflect and interact with each other.
To create life long learners, passionately share your failures as opportunities to learn. Model life long learning. Props to
David Warlick for this thought.

You will no doubt begin to come up with many more ideas, but I would like to leave you with one additional strategy to consider. Now that digital cameras are on most everyone’s phones, and cameras are readily available in other forms, MAKE PICTURES all the time! Capture your students working, struggling, discussing, debating, laughing, entertaining…. or better yet have a couple of students assigned to be photojournalists for the week.

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Then display those images as bell ringer slideshows, learning celebrations, and possibly on review materials, in webpages, on parent emails and conferences.


What are you communicating to the students and what does this have to do with Classroom Culture?
How about:
  • I care about you.
  • I like you.
  • I want to remember you.
  • What you do in here is important.
  • What your (brother, sister, kid down the street) did was important.
  • People/Students are a focus of this classroom.

This is just one small (fun and easy) strategy for developing a positive classroom culture, and it will take many other strategies to complete that transformation. But there are many side benefits to having a visual record of your classroom… even curriculum goals will benefit: seeing themselves doing stuff in your class will cause the concepts to be revisited and reinforce the permanence of the cognitive structures being created.

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Racing the Street View

One of the things that got lots of oohs and ahhhs this summer during the many iPad trainings that I did was Google Maps, especially navigating around in Street View™. The teachers and administrators just loved it. I was actually quite surprised how many were seeing this for the first time. Even for those who had explored Street View™ on their laptops or desktops, there was something more intimate and engaging about navigating through their home street and the streets of the world using touch with the iPad.

So when I left one multi-day workshop in Toledo, Ohio at
St. John’s Jesuit High School – even though I was tired and spent, I was suddenly rejuvenated when I saw a Google Street View™ Car! I decided I had to get a picture of it!

I pulled out in to traffic, looked at the lighting and background of the potential picture, trying to determine what angle I would need to move into to get the best picture. I realized that I would probably be going well beyond my safe driver sensibilities trying to get into the lane of traffic beside the car, but I didn’t want a windshield interfering and the back view of the car wasn’t going to be that impressive honestly.

While all this was being processed by my workshop addled brain, I suddenly realized that the driver in front of me was no casual amateur... it seemed he realized that someone was after his image!!! Through a series of unfortunate brake lights and complicit native drivers, I was losing ground quickly. No longer was I nearly beside him on this four lane road. Suddenly, he was three, then six and a lane change later at least eight cars ahead of me. Maybe I should have played some those racing games over the years.

I was beginning to question my mettle the most when I passed under a very yellow light, and gazed wantonly ahead as the Google car was escaping through another light that then promptly turned red in front of me. It was a good thing I had never set my heart on a career as a
Paparazzi Photographer!

But NO! I must have this picture! So even though at moments it seemed as though I had totally lost sight of the vehicle, then I would see the large red ‘soccerball’ on the mast of it’s obscured transport. Again and again it would disappear, then as I begin to give up, I would see it turn on to a side street. The red ball became my alluring enticement to follow on at risk of a ticket for speeding, carelessness and rude behavior.

Surely he wasn’t taking pictures at this speed! I pressed harder on the pedal and squealed between the oncoming traffic into the neighborhood on the left, because I saw him turn there- I know I did. Sure enough he was now moseying along almost calmly... perhaps the camera’s were on and I had caught him like a wildebeest that had stopped to feed on some green grass in the parched prairie!

Finally, he swooped into a cul-de-sac, and I thought this is it... He has to come out of this dead-end trap of a road! I considered pulling across the road to block him and then I could possibly record my quarry as he drove around and around in a puzzled swirl. But as I debated again the best angle, this poor defeated man pulled into a driveway! For what seemed like a long time he just sat in the seat of his car. Then I noticed he was talking on the phone. So maybe he had seen me and was calling the authorities! Or more distressful yet the thought that a black corporate helicopter from the headquarters of that company that finally outgrown it’s
early motto of “Don’t Do Evil”. Ok, my rush of adrenaline had turned to delirium now. I must get out of the car and approach with camera in hand.

“Surely you get this type of behavior all the time,” I asked him... ‘what behavior?’ he replied. “I have followed you for about 6 miles trying to get a picture of your car,“ I explained. He smiled, ‘No, I’ve had a few people take pictures,’ but none that followed him that far that he knew about. “Well, why did he pull into this driveway?” I asked. ‘This is my house, dude!’

He was very kind and let me take a couple of pictures but wasn’t at all eager to answer questions about the camera’s, how long he spends driving around, is he paid by the mile or the hour... I was getting no where, and besides I was feeling a little foolish being so nosey at this point.

Maybe this is why Steve doesn’t want the Apple Logo all over tshirts and other articles of clothing of geeks, nerds and fools like me...
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So different... I expect different results

Early this month I had the opportunity to do some work with a team of nine other Apple Professional Development trainers in Upper Township, New Jersey. They were rolling out a teacher laptop program and they really wanted to capitalize on the excitement of new modern mobile technology. Each teacher was getting a Smartboard System and MacBooks.

What really set this training apart was that in all ten of the training rooms, there was a district administrator participating in the workshop. Not so much supervising as participating. From the superintendent down to the dean... participating.

What does the administration communicate by doing this?

  • I am a lifelong learner.
  • I don’t know it all.
  • This training is important.
  • Your time here is important.
  • I am interested in this.
  • I want to know what is possible.
  • I want to see how hard this is.
  • I want to know how this could impact learning in our school system.

I really expect the results of this training are going to be very different from most trainings I do, because this district knows how to lead by example.
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