Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How do you learn and grow as an educator?

We are continuously trying to improve our teaching and to increase our students’ learning for various reasons, which include increasing test scores, improving our evaluation standards and most importantly to prepare our students for their ever changing world.  But what is the best way for educators to learn?  For many years it has been a speaker or company coming to the schools or trainings and going through a presentation (Death by PowerPoint) to all of the educators in the room.  This goes against everything that we preach is effective teaching and shouldn’t professional development be a learning opportunity?

I remember one of my first professional development opportunities that I had where I felt like a traditional student and less like an educator. I was in my second year teaching and I was attending a county supported running record workshop.  As I sat in the training the presenter spoke about the how to’s and what to look for.  The problem was that I had the responsibility of completing 75 running records the year before. Was this a benefit for my learning, maybe, but it would have benefited me more to talk to my peers about what they do after the running records to talk about mistakes that I may have made, because my first year teaching I made LOTS of mistakes.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend #NCTies15 to listen to speakers and talk with peers about their learning and how they were growing their craft. I hope that #edcamps continues to take off and we move away from the traditional sit and get workshop that is a one sided discussions. What I liked about the NCTIES workshops is that many of them moved away from the power point and one-sided discussions and incorporated back channeling (a way to ask questions and discussion without taking away from the presentation). There were discussion boards, resources to try out with others, and more network connecting to build off of the two-day workshop.  Many times when we leave a PD training or workshop we don’t continue to reflect and evaluate what we heard or worked on in the training. We usually just go back to our comfort zone. We as educators need to continue to surround ourselves with people that will ask questions, challenge our thinking and support us in our continuous growth. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

How do you assess your students learning? Summative and Formative assessments in Elementary Schools

A couple of weeks ago I was listing to a #EDCHAT podcast on assessments (formative and summative) while running on the treadmill (one of the best ways I have found to get past the boredom) and it made me think more about how we assess our students in schools.  A few of the discussion points focused on standardized assessments based on geographic locations whether it was an end of course/grade or ISTEP.  These assessments are the most natural summative assessments as teachers and school leaders do not receive scores that impact the students’ learning and most of the data is very vague in assisting with the planning process.  This just strengthens our need to have a way to assess our students that impacts our teaching and more importantly their learning. 

At #NCTIES2015 I had the opportunity to hear from a group of educators from Flat Rock Elementary in Surry County who shared their top 8 ways to assess without a formal test. Here are some of them (I added in Socrative)

Some great tools to use:
QR Codes codes
kubbu (have to log every 180 days) --
Socrative – 3 types of ways of giving the assessments – self paced, groups paced, or teacher paced
Plickers - no ipad app yet just phone
Jeopardy Labs - create jeopardy games with up to 12 teams

All of these tools are good to use with kids, but to truly be a formative assessment and impact learning students need to receive immediate feedback.  Feedback needs to be more than “good or not correct”.  Each of these tools starts the conversation but isn’t the whole conversation.  It is important for our teachers to create assessments that start the conversation and then have the power to extend the assessments and not just move to the next question.  If you just move on the next questions are teachers needed?  I continue to see more and more nicely wrapped educational software and sites that will “fix” students.  Many of these sites are neat and provide great practice for students, but do we want to teach our students through a one-sided computer?  

I hope not…