The Extra Mile
As I write this post in the middle of summer, teachers everywhere are enjoying a well-deserved break with their families. Beach days. Barbeques. Pool parties. Not having to set the alarm clock. Ahhh, gotta love summer! But in a few weeks, life will return to schools around the country as teachers head back to their classrooms to prepare for the 2014-2015 school year.
In one more week, I too will head back to work to get things rolling. As I think about starting a new school year, I was reminded of the summer before what turned out to be my last year in the classroom before moving into administration. Toward the end of that summer, when I finished setting up my classroom, I tried something I'd never done before. I put in a little extra effort with the hope it would benefit my students. What did I do? Find out by watching the short video below. The entire "What I've Learned" video series can be found on my website here or on YouTube.
By now, most in education have heard of “flipping” the classroom, the concept of the teacher creating instructional videos that students watch at home, freeing up time in class for deeper learning opportunities or reteaching. For example, if students in a science class watch a teacher-created video at home that introduces a scientific concept, the teacher can then use class time the next day to engage students in a hands-on lab that makes the concept come to life.
I think this in an amazing idea that is transforming classrooms all over the world, but what about those teachers who aren’t quite ready to jump into the flipping pool? What about those who don’t have the time, equipment, or expertise to create all the videos required to flip their classrooms? What about those who like the idea of flipping but need to take baby steps?
One of the key aspects of flipping is that it opens up time during class that, if used effectively, can increase student learning. What if teachers could gather feedback from their students on a homework assignment, before class the next day, finding out which parts of the assignment gave the students difficulty? This would enable teachers to design lessons that focus on what the students really need, rather than what teachers think the students need. Is this possible? Can teachers really get this type of information that would enable them to tailor their lessons to students’ needs? Through the magic of Google Forms, the answer is "yes."
By creating and posting on their classroom website a simple Google Form like the one shown below, teachers can quickly and easily find out how their students fared on a particular assignment and plan the next day’s lesson accordingly.
The procedure might look something like this. The teacher creates and posts on his/her website a Google Form asking students to give feedback on the night’s homework assignment. Students fill out the form (which would take less than a minute) and responses are collected in a spreadsheet for the teacher to view. If, for example, the majority of students indicated they had difficulty with #’s 5 and 13, the teacher then knows to devote time the next day to going over those particular problems, and not necessarily on ones students didn’t have trouble with. Or, perhaps the class grasped the entire lesson quite well, when the teacher anticipated spending a lot of time the next day reviewing the lesson. No more guessing or spending time on problems the students already “get.” Plus, by using Google Forms in this way, students are able to communicate with their teacher anonymously, eliminating potential embarrassment by having to raise their hand in class to say, “I didn’t understand how to do this problem.”
So, if you’re looking for an easy way to more effectively use your class time to maximize student learning, but you aren’t quite ready for flipping, give Google Forms a try. Thanks to Shannon Augustin, who has successfully been using Forms with her students, for sharing this amazing idea with me. If you’re not familiar with how to create a Google Form, be sure to check out my Google Forms Tutorial Videos. Enjoy!
Last week, I received an email from one of my website hosts reminding me that it was almost time to renew the domain name for my former classroom website (mrcoley.com). As I was going through the online checkout process, I noticed the date that I had first purchased the right to use mrcoley.com -- January 24, 2003. While I first published my classroom site back in 1999 as the culminating project for my master's degree, it didn't go by the name mrcoley.com until 2003 -- 10 years ago today.
I'll admit, I got a little emotional when I looked at that date. What began as a simple site containing only basic subject matter pages, student artwork, and an "About the Teacher" page became, over the course of the decade, so much more. It was my passion. As a youth, I wanted to be a computer programmer. In college, upon realizing I couldn't do calculus, I changed my major and studied to become a teacher. With my classroom website, I was able to combine two of my loves -- teaching and technology. I loved working on my website. People would often ask me, "Doesn't that take you a ton of time? Isn't it a lot of work?" The answer was yes. I did invest a lot of time and energy in my website. But to me it wasn't work. It was fun. In their free time, some people knit. Some garden. Some watch TV. I built my website. And I loved it.
If you are one who visited my website over the past 10 years, this post is my way of saying "Thank You." Thank you for taking the time to view the things my students and I were learning and wanted to share with the world. You don't know how much it meant to my students to know that their artwork, blog posts, and podcasts were being seen (and heard) by people around the world. Talk about authentic learning and a global audience! There was nothing better than showing my students a "website visitors" map showing them their work was being seen by people all over the world. My pupils always wanted to put forth their best effort on their artwork, writing, and ColeyCasts, because they knew I wasn't the only one who was going to see and hear their creations. And if you're one who took the time to email me regarding the site, I cannot adequately express the gratitude I have for your messages. Your words of encouragement and feedback were so appreciated, especially on those discouraging days when I asked myself if it was all worth the effort.
10 years. It's been a fun ride. And if you're wondering, even though I'm no longer updating it, I plan to continue keeping the site online. Thanks for following me on my journey!
A New Chapter
“One stage of your journey is over, another begins.”
- Gandalf, in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Who knew that a quote from one of my favorite movie trilogies would become applicable in my life? Well, it has, as next school year I will be leaving the classroom after 15 years of teaching to become an assistant principal at Shivela Middle School in my district. While I will greatly miss the staff, students, and parents of Tovashal, I'm absolutely ecstatic about the opportunity to support teachers as they support their students.
Some of you may be wondering what will happen to mrcoley.com, my classroom website. The resources on my site will remain online for teachers and students to access, but the site will no longer be updated as I shift my focus to my new position. I will continue to blog, however. :-)
This is not the end. I hope you’ll continue to follow me as my journey leads me to new and exciting places (like middle school).
Flattery vs. Frustration
If you’re reading this blog, you probably know that I also maintain a classroom website at www.mrcoley.com. What began in 1999 as a simple site with just a few pages has grown into a pretty extensive collection of resources for my students, their parents, and other teachers. The mission of mrcoley.com is to 1) enhance parent-teacher-student communication, 2) provide resources that will support increased academic achievement, 3) showcase student work, and 4) share ideas with other educators. (Please note that while mrcoley.com is still online, it is no longer being updated since I have left the classroom.)
I love sharing. It’s one of my passions. As stated above, it’s one of the reasons I maintain my website. I have been blessed to have amazing teachers over the years share with me, and my website is one of the ways I’m trying to give back (see my post “Paying It Forward”). I often receive emails from teachers across the country asking for permission to use an idea they’ve seen on my site. I’m always extremely flattered to hear a teacher has stumbled upon my site and found it to be a resource. When asked for my permission to use an idea found on my site, I typically reply with the following words:
"Please feel free to borrow ideas you see on mrcoley.com and use them in your classroom or on your classroom website. I love sharing resources and ideas with other teachers (it's one of the goals for my site). That being said, I firmly believe that educators need to share and borrow in the appropriate way. Plagiarism is not something we accept from our students, and it shouldn't be something we as educators practice. If you decide to borrow an idea and include it on your website, I ask that you include a link back to my site and that you don't copy and paste my exact wording, formatting, and graphics. I have spent years building my site and crafting the text on its pages, so to see it copied and pasted onto another site as someone else's original work is extremely frustrating, not to mention illegal. In short, feel free to borrow the ideas, but please give credit where credit is due, and make it reflect your site and not mine."
Over the past several years, I have discovered many teachers who have found my website, copied my exact words (sometimes entire pages complete with graphics and formatting), and republished them onto their own sites. Believe it or not, I’ve found a couple teachers who copied practically my entire site, word for word, replacing only my name with theirs, without a word of credit. I’m often told by friends I should be flattered, that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I agree – imitation is a form of flattery. But copying and pasting is a form of stealing. Seeing a teacher imitate my site is extremely flattering. It makes my day each and every time I hear from a teacher who likes my website. Seeing a teacher copy my site is extremely frustrating. There is a difference between borrowing ideas and stealing content. Ideas are not copyrighted – they are free to be copied. Teachers should look for new and fresh ideas to make their teaching better – that’s what good teachers do. Someone’s words, on the other hand, unless otherwise stated, are copyrighted and may not be copied and republished (even if a copyright symbol or notice is not placed on the webpage). Bottom line – granting permission to use an idea does not constitute the right to copy one’s exact words. The exception to this is if material is copied from a source that is licensed under Creative Commons. Creative Commons grants users the right to copy material, provided credit is given to the original creator of the material. In my experience, however, most of the websites I have come across are not licensed under Creative Commons, but rather operate under standard copyright.
So the question is, why do teachers do this? How could a teacher who would never accept this type of action from students model this kind of behavior? I’m sure there are some teachers out there who know exactly what they’re doing and just don’t care. But honestly, I think most of the teachers who copy and paste someone else’s words have no idea they’re doing anything wrong. Sad, but I think it's true. Maybe it’s a mindset of It’s okay, I’m a teacher. Teachers are allowed to do this because it’s for educational purposes.Whatever the reason, it isn’t right. Ignorance doesn’t make it okay.
It's my hope that this post would serve as a sort of public service announcement, because if teachers are engaging in this type of behavior and truly don’t know they’re doing anything wrong, someone needs to say something. Well, I've said something.
Brent has worked in the field of education as a teacher and administrator for 25 years. He is currently Principal of Alta Murrieta Elementary School in Murrieta, California. Read more about Brent here.
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