Monday, March 21, 2016

Reflection Makes Us All Better

Back when I was in the classroom I spent very little time going back over my teaching.

I of course went back over test questions, quizzes, formative assessments and the like to see where students had gaps in their understanding or those content areas we needed to revisit.

But rarely did I sit down and just think about my teaching. What was I doing? Could it be better? Was it effective? What was working well in my lessons that I could perhaps replicate in other lessons?

I regret that. There were so many opportunities I missed to be better or change things in my classroom for my students for the better because I just didn't take the time to reflect.

Reflection is such an important part of the learning process. We ask kids to do it all the time. (Or at least we should be.) As educators the reflection process is just as important for our improvement as it is for students. Even now, in my role or working with schools and districts on communications and technology or presenting at a conference, reflecting on my processes, methods, what I say, what I did, all deserve some internal and external review.

Reflection is how we learn and how we get better.

Whether you spend a great deal of time reflecting and want to do it better or you want to start, there are some great resources out there and some great tools that you can use for the reflection process.

Reflection4Learning-This is a site I have used often to talk about reflection in learning. Geared mostly towards student reflection this site has some great resources like reflection models and how to fit reflection into the classroom. It's been around for a while so some of the tools are a bit outdated, it can, however serve as a jumping off point to more places to learn about reflection in learning.

Learning Through Reflection-In the book Learning and Leading With Habits of Mind from ASCD authors Costa and Kallick explore what habits all educators need to develop to improve. Thanks to them, the full chapter on Reflection is posted for you to check out. In it there are methods to reflection and most importantly why it helps us all improve.

High-Tech Reflection Strategies Help Learning Stick-This great piece from Edutopia not only lays out why students need opportunities to reflect but how technology can help make that process better in the classroom.

In addition to learning about reflection its important to understand there are many technology tools that both students and all educators can use to openly reflect on learning.

Blogs-As you read in the piece from Edutopia blogs can be a great way to openly reflect on our learning and invite the comments of others to help us see differently or think differently. I often use this blog as a place to reflect on my own learning. There are many different blogs and blogging platforms so the choice is really yours. Check out this post I wrote a while back about getting started with blogging and this post on using blogs in the classroom. 

Twitter-I am a huge fan of using Twitter for reflection. I will often tweet out quotes from speakers to reflect upon my own thinking. This give me a platform to engage with others out there on a myriad of issues. Sometimes I get push back from what I tweet and other times I am the one pushing back. The debate and discussion helps us be better and think smarter. Moreover, Twitter chats have proven a great way to discuss, debate and reflect on pressing issues in edu. Visit the Twitter Chat Calendar to find a chat and take part in the discussion. Don't know about Twitter chats? Here is a post about the most popular, #edchat, and how to get involved. 

Recap-Currently in beta this app has the potential to really change reflection in your classroom. When the app is launched students (or could be teachers after a professional development session) record their thoughts and feelings on what they've learned. Videos are uploaded to the site for review by the teacher. When recording the video students (or teachers) can self report their understanding and the platform breaks out those that are still having trouble so you can focus on the learning that matters. I had the chance to take a look at it and if I was still in the classroom this would be a must-have app for me. 

Technology certainly makes capturing and sharing reflection easier and we can do more with it. But there's nothing wrong with good ol' paper and pencil. I carry a journal with me to write down what I am thinking. Sometimes just writing to get words on a page helps me see another side I hadn't considered.

Whatever you use, always take the time to reflect on what you've been learning and teaching. And allow students to do the same!

photo credit: Red and blue via photopin (license)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Quick List STEM Resources For The Classroom

This post is sponsored by Samsung. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 






I had the honor of being both a Middle School Math and Science teacher. Those were some of my fondest times in the classroom, blowing things up (it happened once!) while at the same time being able to connect the math to the science we were doing. I always had a passion for learning about the way the world works and the elegant patterns we find in everyday mathematics. (Heck, I even married a Math Teacher!).

STEM today is so much more than just the 4 areas that make it up. And it's important to embrace STEM in every classroom and at every level. But how can you do that? How can you incorporate Math into Language Arts or Engineering into Social Studies? And beyond that what about the Arts, Coding and Making? Don't those all have a place in the "STEM" classroom?

Here are list of 7 place to learn more about STEM, how you can incorporate it and what you can do with it.

ISTE: Rethinking STEM-ISTE (The International Society for Technology In Education) has a bunch of STEM related resources in their archives. In particular, this blog post that has 5 simple things Educators can do to rethink what they know about STEM. From Following STEM leaders on Twitter to taking in a free webinar there's a reason this on is at the top of the list.

ASCD: STEM Resources-ASCD (Formerly The Association of Curriculum and Development) also has a great list of STEM resources for the classroom. It's a little older but still a great collection of sites to explore.

Teaching Channel: Videos For Making STEM Come Alive-I find myself spending more and more time on the Teaching Channel and this post is why. These videos are great! There are some super lessons here and not only do you get the plan, you can see how it was done in the classroom!

Samsung: STEM Fuse Curriculum-If you are interested in a STEM Curriculum Samsung STEM Fuse is worth a look. It contains Tablets, Guides, Resource Packs and more to get STEM started in the classroom.

PBS Teachers: STEM Education Resource Center-Another not to miss resource set. Here they have tons of Activity Packs, Resources from NASA (which are awesome), discussion boards and more.

Edutopia: STEM to STEAM Resource Guide-Just about everything that comes out of Edutopia is top notch and this is no different. The Arts should be just as much a part of the classroom as Math and Science. It's actually easier than you think to bring in drawing, music and other aspects of the Arts into STEM classroom. This guide has all you need.

Resources For MakerSpaces and 20% Time-This was a post I wrote a while back that has tons of sites, blog posts and personal experiences with Maker and 20% Time. These can be the cornerstone of any good STEM/STEAM Program.

This is far from everything. What are your favorite resources, sites, posts, people to follow when it comes to STEM and STEAM? Leave your thoughts below.

photo credit: IMG_5274 via photopin (license)

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