Week Two Reflection – Tools Used to Provide Insight into Students

Who, Why, What, When, Where, How?

Essential question for the week:

What tools might provide me with insight into the learners in my classroom and how might I use this information?

There are many ways one could answer the question above, as there are more tools at the disposal of teachers than there are teachers, or so it would seem. With each year come new tools, gadgets, gizmos, theories, ideas, mandates, and of course, “proven research.” But as one veteran teacher once advised me, begin with the student and build upwards. What this teacher was advising me to do was to get to know my students first, build a relationship with each, and find the appropriate tools to measure their growth throughout the course of the school year. This advice, though simple, is a great first step to building a comfortable learning environment for students.

The greatest tool that I have found in my teaching career up to this point are attached to my body and happen to help me navigate through life: my eyes. Observation of my students on tasks, content, crafts, and the like has provided me with valuable information on the strengths and weaknesses of each student in my class. For instance, observing a student trying to do an activity where she is to complete three patterns, all varying in type, gives insight into the both student understanding and presentation of the work. If the work is presented in a manner that is confusing to the student and this is noted in the observation it can then be altered and reintroduced to enhance the student’s learning. It is through such informal assessments that instruction can be altered on the fly to meet the diverse needs of students within the classroom.

As one might have already guessed, observation isn’t the only tool used in my classroom that provides me with insight into my learners in my classroom. We have tools such as PALS, DIBELS, MAP, Reading Eggs, Touch Math, and many teacher-created assessments to gauge where students are in all academic areas. The beauty of having a plethora of assessments and data is that it can then be shared with students, parents, and fellow staff members. Goals can then be set, a course of action can be taken for each individual student, progress can be monitored and celebrations can begin. The assessments used with students throughout the year serves as tools to enhance their learning and to empower each of them with ownership for his/her learning. Yes, even in kindergarten students can begin to take ownership for their learning and celebrate their progress!

Another well-known fact in teaching is the fact that not all celebrations in the classroom are academic. Some are emotional, some are social, some are behavioral, and some are life celebrations. Educators today are tasked with being more than merely teachers of one subject, content area, or grade level for that matter. They are tasked with being counselors at times, nurses at others, sturdy role models every day, and caring friends to each student. The lives of students have an impact upon their learning as do their social, behavioral, or emotional needs. Teachers use this information as well to plan for instruction that is teetered to meet the unique needs of students, big and small alike.

The tools and knowledge that I have discussed above are only fractions of what is included within the teaching realm. As we strive to strengthen our own teaching we often have to branch out to others to take in advice, guidance, or feedback. It is how we continue to grow in our profession. We collaborate. With that said I have found it rather enjoyable and encouraging seeing the thoughts and reflections of peers as they pertain to education in this course. The blogs for instance have provided me with varied insight into the thoughts and reflections of others that I might not have previously considered. Being a learner does mean being flexible at times and yes, seeing another person’s perspective on a matter.

In my own classroom setting I have tried to emphasize the above mentioned point that differences in thoughts, feelings, and opinions is okay. As a matter of fact, it is something to be valued. As I push my students to become more competent, confident learners I in turn have learned more about what I still need as an educator to continue to better my instruction. This course has challenged my thinking and created a stir within my imagination of the far-reaching impacts technology can have upon a classroom, regardless of age. I now have begun to look more into the idea of creating a class wiki page where I can create blogs, upload images, post calendars, and the like. It is an exciting thought that I am still entertaining and as soon as next year may move on it. As for survey monkey, I am trying to create a kindergarten-appropriate survey that can be given to my students during a choice time. These two ideas are only the first two steps of many that I plan to incorporate into my classroom in the near future. The possibilities, as they say, are endless!

Week One Reflections

For the past week or so I have been introduced to a whirlwind of new technology, well, new to me anyhow. To the rest of those that keep pace with technology, this stuff is newish at best. I have been logging in, signing up, watching intro videos, researching, posting, responding, creating, editing, tweeting, bookmarking, following, and linking. It has been whirlwind that has at times been confusing, frustrating, or downright overwhelming. In order to make sense of it all, I first had to breathe and remind myself that I would in the end be “okay.” Secondly, I had to take a step back to list out all the things I needed to keep track of, which in its own ways was another dizzying headache at first. Thirdly, I had to ask myself the question how I would make sense of all this and further my own learning while keeping track of all the sites, log-ins, and topics. The answer to this could be found in the very sites I had recently begun to use. Up to this point in the course I have found that I furthered my own learning by becoming engaged in it all and by reading/responding to the posts made by others in the class, whether it was twitter, our Google group, or what have you. Fourth, I then had to ask myself how I have or will contribute to the learning of others in the class. Up to this point, I haven’t provided many resources to my peers. I do plan to increase my resources, advice, feedback, and interaction with peers once I have more of a firm grasp on the sites and their various uses.

Now for the question we have all been waiting for: What are the characteristics I will need to be successful in this MOOC?  Below is a list of what I feel will be essential for me to be successful in this MOOC.

1.      Remember to breathe and to focus

It is easy to get lost in the plethora of information, sites, responses, and unknowns.  Take a step back every now and then, breathe, and refocus, even if it means focusing on one thing at a time.

2.      Be open-minded

There are a lot of new technologies out there and things that will make us uncomfortable throughout this course. For example, sitting in front of a screen to create an intro video. Though uncomfortable for many, it is a valuable learning experience that allows us to step out of our comfort zone. Change isn’t always easy, but it is often necessary.

3.      Orient

Become familiar with the materials needed for the class, links that will be essential for communication as well as posting of assignments, and finally, be aware of the time needed for the assignments in the class.

4.      Network

Unless I plan on this class being a flop I need to connect with others. This means following people on twitter and responding to their tweets, posting in my Google group and responding in the appropriate group, following and posting on other people’s blogs, attending twitter chats, sending emails, and the like. The learning I can attain through networking will be tremendous this semester I am sure.

5.      Last but not least, have fun!

In order to survive and be successful in any course I must always remember to have fun through it all and know that regardless of the frustrations or confusions that I am learning along the way, which in the end betters me as a person.  This course will consist of meeting new people, sharing of ideas, stepping out of comfort zones, taking on new risks, researching until our eyes hurt, tweeting until our fingers go numb, and laughing at how little we knew when we first began. It never hurts to remember to smile now and then.

This is how I plan to survive and succeed this course and this MOOC. I hope that my short list is helpful to your success in this MOOC as well! Until next time!

Resources Used:
All About MOOCs
What is a MOOC? – Video
Success in a MOOC – Video