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What Did You Learn In 2007?

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I invited readers to send-in one-to-three things they learned in 2007.  Quite a few of you shared and I have the privilege, in turn,  of sharing your lessons here.

I’ll start off with my three lessons:

Writing a blog can be very helpful to me, as well as to others.  When I began this blog in February, I figured it would just be a little something extra I would do to help other educators by sharing resources I used with my own students.  I quickly discovered that writing here made me much more vigilant about keeping my eyes open for creative ways to use resources on the Web, and helped me utilize them more effectively with my students.  Writing this blog has also helped me connect with other educators around the world from whom I’ve learned much.

In addition, writing for In Practice, the group blog I’m part of with teachers in low-income communities throughout the world, really has stimulated a lot of helpful self-reflection for my own teaching practice.

I don’t think it’s a good idea for me, and perhaps for many teachers in high schools (especially urban ones), to only teach ESL classes.  Last year was the first time I didn’t teach mainstream classes in addition to my ESL classes.  Initially, this year it was difficult getting back into the groove of classroom management with a class of mainstream ninth graders after a year “off.”  Classroom management is definitely not something I’ve had to be concerned about in ESL classes.  Intrinsic motivation is a lot easier to tie into with English Language Learners, for obvious reasons.

When I mentioned this lesson to one of our Vice-Principals, he agreed and told me he thought it was like an athlete taking a year off from an essential part of his conditioning program.   I do love teaching both mainstream and ESL students — each just have their own unique challenges.

My opinion that technology in education is most effective when it’s used to develop and deepen face-to-face relationships has been solidified.  Whether it’s our home computer project that encourages families to read together, or our after-school computer lab where students from different ethnic groups work with each other, developing face-to-face relationships with people trumps developing relationships with computer monitors (or developing relationships online) anyday. 

Certainly students can gain from using technology individually.  And they can also learn from connecting with others online. In fact, I’ll be having one of my classes be doing joint work with a class in Argentina this semester.  However, I think of it like one of our California redwood trees.  These trees can grow pretty tall on their own.  However, they don’t approach the heights of trees that you find in a grove.  Those trees tower above everything else because their interlocking roots underground provide the support necessary for them all to reach  great heights.  And they’re connected in the physical, not virtual, realm.

And now it’s time for the insights of others:

Gail Desler:
I am ending the year in complete awe of Web 2.0 tools – with Google at the top of my list (from Google Lit Trips to Night Skies and even 3rd party GSpace, the sky really is the limit) and with the hope that in the coming year, more students have access to these tools in ways that foster creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration (21st century skills).

Liza Lee Miller:
I learned that . . . .
1.  I am a better teacher when I’m not going to school at the same time!
2.  I learned that the more organized I am, the better I teach.
3.  I learned to let go and say no when and where appropriate.

Now, if I can just keep those lessons fresh in my mind in 2008!

Kevin Hodgson, sixth grade teacher, Norris Elementary School, Southampton, Massachusetts and technology liaison, Western Massachusetts Writing Project:
I learned that social networking is an incredibly powerful platform as I plunged into Classroom 2.0 and created my own Ning networks and took part (and continue to take part) in others. (nice alliteration in there, eh?)

The  Web provides such amazing possibilities for collaboration and connection. Now, we need to continue to move our students in that direction and show administrators and parents the possibilities of breaking down the walls of our classrooms and opening up our schools to the world (is that on my list for 2008?).

Cheryl Oakes:
My 3 momentous events for 2007 are:
The way Moodle was introduced and implemented in my district because of our staff! They have embraced this technology, maybe kicking and screaming, but the end result is that our school lives on the web as well as in the classroom.

My opportunities to meet many folks from around the planet through blogging on TechLearning.com/blog and through WomenofWeb2.0

Alice Mercer:
How to use RSS and online social tools (like Flickr and Diigo) more effectively;

I had only toyed with RSS around the edges, until this year. I had some feeds on My Yahoo!, and had used Yahoo!Podcasts for a while to gather up podcasts, but I had never gotten a feed reader or subscribed to blogs. It’s rationalized my blog reading, automated some of my blog posting and commenting.  I’m starting to use it to quickly send bookmarks to my students’ grade level blogs.

How to create digital videos from still images;

A year ago, I was contemplating making audio podcasts. If you had told me that I would be making videos, I would have said you were nuts, but after some (really) rough first attempts, I’ve figured out MovieMaker, TeacherTube, etc. My opus magnum (so far) is the Rights of Children video.

How to integrate and embed technology in the curriculum I teach;

My aim, in all that I have done, is centered on delivery of Language Arts and Mathematics standards using computers, and not the other way around. I feel like I’m doing a better and better job of this as time goes on.

And, how to network with other like-minded educators.

I discovered edubloggers, Ed Tech Talk, Classroom 2.0 within the last 12 months, and they have may such a difference for me. They provide support, and a wealth of ideas to use in my classroom/lab. Thank you all for your support!

Bonnie Kaplan:
1. I’ve spent this past year flexing my tech muscle with the web 2.0 and its social networking opportunities for collaborations with people like Kevin Hodgson who has been gracious in his  sharing. 

2. As I move deeper and deeper into this web, I’ve learned to be patient with those who are not yet sold on its riches.  Most of the people I work with look at me skeptically when I rave about its rewards.

3.  I am learning to keep exploring and building my own comfort with tech tools.  I write every day on word count journal and religiously write movie reviews and reflections on my blog and even though I never know who reads them, I love the idea of writing to be read.

4. And one project leads to the next and with Boil Down Your Day, I found you, Larry and your fantastic blog. I can’t wait to begin the 2008.  We have more adventures to share.

Illya Arnet-Clark, EFL teacher, teacher trainer, coursebook author and blogger:
I have learned so much from many people this year, but in a nutshell, I think one of the most important revelations was that even if you have never met a person face to face, you can share and grow with this person. It is people like you, Larry, that make this happen, so thank you ever so much for sharing and connecting.

Closer to home I have found myself marveling at the power of a kind word or praise at another person’s attempts to accomplish something. It can make all the difference, whether the other person be young or old, adept or a complete beginner.

Susana Canelo:
I’ve been learning all the time. The most important ones??? Difficult to say.
A lot about blogs,power point,and many other tools
How to manage Autocad for Architecture
Using rubrics
How to cook “matambre a la pizza”
But there are a lot of things I’d like to learn. It’s just a matter of life!!!

Cath Riddoch (from whom I learned the value of Second Life for those with physical challenges):
1. That technology such as Second Life might allow me to continue teaching when Im physically no longer able to. I’ve met many pupils and staff for whom being in school everyday is a constant physical struggle. The freedom of movement offered in SL is immensely liberating for those of us who move with difficulty in RL. Not being able to go to school is socially isolating and meeting new people or friends in SL goes some way to helping with the feelings of isolation.

2. It has definitely been the year of new operating systems for me. I was previously hard-core Microsoft enthusiast -with an MCSE to prove it! In 2007 I not only bought a Mac (wow what a learning curve that has been) but also bought my daughter an eeePC running Linux- now that is amazing! With the flexibility of web 2.0 who needs an expensive suite of applications?

3. I learnt that I thrive on constant problem solving, idea generating, and the try it and see attitude that is often necessary when using technology in teaching. I also learnt that it is exactly this constant problem solving that makes some people feel unable or unwilling to use technology in teaching.

What do I want to learn in 2008?
How to build in SL and what SLoodle is all about.
More about Linux. Im hooked I need to know more technical stuff.
How to prevent the network sentinels from paralysing the use of IT in my school.

Scott Waldman, a middle school technology teacher:
1) How to blog and subscribe to blogs via Bloglines for up to the minute tech news.

2) Most students who can’t control themselves in Middle School missed key study techniques in their elementary years such as keeping and maintaining a student agenda with a calendar of assignments and due dates.

3) It is never too late to teach any student of any age the importance of staying organized and techniques for keeping track of assignments.

Mrs. Olson:
I’m a new business ed teacher currently teaching 4th and 6th grade keyboarding.  Things I’ve learned this year:
1) There is more information out there than I have time to read in my lifetime
2)  Edublogs is a wonderful way to start blogging
3) There will ALWAYS be someone who knows more than I do

Teresa Almeida d’Eca, who has been a pioneer in creatively using technology to help teach ESL/EFL students (and whose work helped inspire me to explore its uses, too):
I reinforced the feeling that my great enthusiasm for teaching EFL with and without Web 2.0 tools pays off and is extremely rewarding. It seems that my enthusiasm and dedication has a snowball effect in both students and teacher-friends-collaborators worldwide, who join in the fun of different learning (ad)ventures, contributing to students learning in a fun and eye-opening way.

I also reinforced the idea that blended and online learning are the future “today”.

And finally, I have to add that I’m very honored to have received the “eLearning Award 2007″ in Brussels, Belgium, on Dec 6. My curricular blog, CALL Lessons 2005-2007 , won the Gold Prize in the category of “School of the Future”. I’m especially proud of that.
What better reward and early Christmas present could my former students, colleagues worldwide and I have had this year for our constant and constructive learning, commitment and motivation?
It really pays off to embrace lifelong learning and to work hard for our students!!!
Best wishes in 2008!
Teresa (Portugal)

Mary is an EFL teacher in Japan:
Here are two things I learned in 2007; however, I still have a lot to learn in 2008!

One: Professional development is a FUN, EVERYDAY affair; and for me, is best done with an inspiring TEAM of enthusiastic educators!
It is fun to learn and grow in the company of other professionals, whether it be online through blogging or Twitter connections, communities of practice like Learning with Computers; or face-to-face through attending professional organization meetings, presentations, and conferences.  Through these experiences, I could learn about many new tools and activities to use in the classroom and beyond.

Two: Taking risks to grow professionally is a good thing.
Risk: And then the day came, when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to Blossom.  Anais Nin

This year, I learned that I needed to take some more risks professionally.  I developed articles, chapters, lesson plans, presentations, and workshops, and I challenged myself to take on some different learning opportunities.  Although not all of these endeavors were successful, I feel that learning to share my ideas with a wider audience was the biggest step.

Derrall Garrsion:
I’m a sixth grade math and science teacher who would like to see constructivist learning in my
classroom happening all the time if I had more of a choice.

What I learned this year.
1. The importance of my personal learning network along with my professional development using tools such as Skype, Twitter and Ning.

2. I need to be less passive and actively participate in writing and commenting on other edtech writers’ ideas rather than spending so much time just reading in my RSS reader for a true read/write web2.0 experience.

James Webber:
stick to your conviction”
during my recent…teacher pay issue for last three weeks

Nina Liakos:
The most important thing I learned in 2007 is probably that some people on the planet are challenged by a disability syndrome called Nonverbal Learning Disorder, or NLD.  No, it doesn’t mean that they are nonverbal.  In fact, words are their strength. 

On the contrary: NLD means a disability in interpreting information visually, which includes understanding body language, gestures and facial expressions (which can account for up to 90 percent of the message) as well as severe difficulties with things like math, writing, reading graphically presented information, understanding maps, drawing, and many other activities of daily living.  My daughter has NLD.  Getting this diagnosis and learning about NLD has helped me to understand better the challenges that she faces every single day of her life.  For more information, see http://nldontheweb.org/.

Harold Hinckley, a Special Education teacher in Main:
What I have learned is that you can teach an old dog new tricks.  In October I was extremely unhappy with how my students were responding to the old “introduce, practice worksheets, discuss and test” method of teaching Vocab and writing.  It was to say the least boring, I have tried several different methods of teaching over the last 6 years and still found myself coming back to this way of teaching.  So I started doing some research on the web to see what was out there to help me out.

I (with a lot of help from my tech coordinator – Craig) discovered Web2.0 and the multitude of applications that could help me to become a better teacher for my students.  At first I was extremely overwhelmed, there is just so much  to learn and absorb, I learned about Blogs, Wikis, YouTube, TeacherTube, gaggle.net, Classroom2.0 and so many other resources.  I have come a long ways, but have a lot further to go, I have learned that I like blogging, not really crazy about Wikis and that my students are utilizing skills that they will use beyond my classroom.  There is so much more I could write about, but in the interest of brevity, I will only say that the Web2.0 applications and the helpful bloggers out there have made me a much better teacher!  Can’t wait for the things I will learn in 2008 – Zoho suite?

Dennis Oliver in Phoenix:
I learned—or re-learned—several things during 2007:

1. “Life is a series of compromises to less than satisfactory situations” (a quote from a favorite teacher). So true! What we dream of / hope for / plan / expect may not happen, but instead of shutting down and wasting time on disappointment, it’s far better to modify our dreams / hopes / plans / expectations and continue to move forward.

2. “As we get older, we feel the same as always inside our head, but the rest of us doesn’t always cooperate” (what someone told me when I was in high school). I’m amazed that I continue to believe, on some level, that I can still do things that were routinely possible five, ten, twenty years ago. All I have to do is try—and then I realize that while my mind is usually as active as it ever has been, my mobility and flexibility and general physical abilities are not: I’m slower and less capable of major multi-tasking, and I have far less stamina than I once did.

3. Learning languages is both exhilarating and frustrating. Isn’t it wonderful (and isn’t it mind-blowing?) that it’s often possible to say something in one language but not in another? Isn’t it amazing (but also maddening) that many things can’t be directly translated from one language to another? Isn’t it wonderful (and isn’t it terrible?) that what is logical in syntax differs greatly from one language to another? Isn’t it interesting (and also mystifying) how some sounds are more or less universal yet others are very language-specific?

4. As we get older, we gradually accumulate an enormous amount of trivia—some of which ends up being useful, some of which is only interesting.

5. We’re lucky if we have even one true friend.

6. Family ties are everything.

Ms. Mize is a teacher with nine years of experience teaching PreK. She recently got her elementary licensure and is currently subbing:

I learned how powerful a choice can be.  I can give students a choice of what to do and they will typically choose the right thing.  It has helped me manage classrooms that are not permanently my own.

I learned to be more confident in my ability as a teacher.

I have also learned to quickly build rapport with students and make another teachers classroom my own for the day.

Ms. Whatsit:
The absolute best web 2.0 “thing” I learned this year was the wiki, which came to me in a life-changing video (see: whatsit06.blogspot.com/2007/06/life-changing-video.html )  While I don’t give the link to the wiki for my mother-in-law in this post, I’ll let you take a look at it  via cassin.pbwiki.com/ . Family members contribute to it almost daily still.

As an educator, I’ve set up a few wikis for different purposes.  You can see some of them at mmeh.wikispaces.com/ , oberonweb20.wikispaces.com/ , and france-spain.wikispaces.com/ .  I’ve been working hard at turning on my colleagues to the notion of what a useful took the wiki is, and it’s been slow.  It disappoints me that more educators are not as deeply fascinated with web 2.0 technologies, but I am pretty confident that they will all be using them eventually.

Paul Hamilton a teacher who supports the use of assistive technology by K-12 students with special needs:
This year I have learned the power of the connected network for personal professional development. This has occurred as I’ve intentionally become a more active participant.  Rather than simply reading blogs, increasingly I have chosen to join the conversation.  This has not only been stimulating, it has helped to establish meaningful and fruitful connections. This has also happened as I’ve  joined online professional social networks. 

Toward the end of the year, I chose to join the Twitter World. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the ways that conversations on Twitter inform and enrich my professional development.  At times, I’m pointed in new directions by comments on Twitter.  On other occasions, I’m affirmed in what I’m already doing.  As a result of my  connected network, I have never felt more “professionally developed”, nor has the process ever been more enjoyable for me.

Elona Hartjes:
I’m a special ed. teacher at a high school  in Mississauga, Ontario Canada and have worked with “at-risk” kids for many years. What have I learned or  more precisely what have I had to relearn.  I’ve relearned that my  “at-risk” students can teach me a lot about being a better teacher if I’m willing to listen and take some risks.  Just because it’s always be done one way doesn’t mean that it has to continue to be done that way and that I need to think big, start small and do it now.

Thanks for sharing your year-end reflections.  I hope everyone who contributed to this post, and that many who are reading it, will choose to share their weekly reflections during 2008 at Day/Week In A Sentence at Kevin’s Meandering Mind.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

One Comment

  1. At the end of 2007 I finally learned what Web 2.0 is all about.. I also learned to be a better listener. Because of that, blogs such as this one has made an impact on my life.. Thanks!

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