Saturday, December 7, 2013

Interactive Rubrics

      While reading Phil Gobel's blog, I came across an interesting post from Edutopia- Michelle Lampinen's thoughts on using interactive rubrics as assessment for learning. Especially as a Social Studies teacher, I found this a powerful way to augment the ways that I assess students. Yesterday, in fact, my students completed a RAFTS prompt in which they were to explore thoughts on the Articles of Confederation from viewpoints of stakeholders at the time- large state residents, small state residents, women, and slaves. After having read Lampinen's post, my thoughts immediately turned to how powerful an interactive rubric could have been for this instance- I could have linked students to specific articles detailing each role's experience, as well as provided resources to help with quoting sources- a skill my students have historically struggled with, as well. Certainly, for future writing prompts, I will make every effort to make rubrics more interactive- in fact, I can easily see how this one rubric for performance task could be the "hub" for a unit. Students could click and self pace through the selected content and skill-based videos, and then complete the task when they have finished. This would be especially powerful in a setting where 1:1 technology, or a BYOD policy existed.

References: Lampinen, M. (2013, December 3). Interactive rubrics as assessment for learning. Retrieved from

Reflection on "7 Things You Should Know About Virtual Worlds"

Recently, I came across Educause's short introduction to virtual worlds. Within this short piece, the authors describe a scenario where a student doctor interacts with virtual patients while being supervised by her instructors. In this scenario, the instructors are free to pause the interaction at any time to provide feedback on developing patient relationships. The thought of this seems intriguing to me- I imagined a lesson in which I sent my students into a virtual world with a discussion topic- perhaps to research and share their findings about a historical event. From there, I could moderate and adjust the flow of conversation as necessary by providing feedback. This seems like a neat laboratory to try a real constructivist approach to lesson development. Has anyone tried, or can offer recommendations about virtual worlds that might work for that purpose?

References Educause (2006, June). 7 things you should know about virtual worlds. Retrieved from

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lesson Study in Social Studies

Recently, I had the opportunity to read an article by Anne-Lise Halverson on Edutopia.  In it, she describes how she uses the process of "lesson study" to augment the development of her pre-service teachers during their internship years. In short, here is what the method looks like-

"1. Plan a study lesson that focuses on one goal.
2. Teach the study lesson. 
3. Observe others who teach the study lesson.
4. Debrief the study lesson experience."

Halverson goes on to report that this process has had glowing reviews from both her field supervisors and her internship students, and I can definitely see why. This model is ideally how I would like to teach, and (in my idealistic worldview) what teachers should strive for. In collaborating to plan the courses that I teach, my coworkers and I are definitely adept at steps 1, 2, and 4. However, time is always the enemy when it comes to teaching, and we rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to observe each other. It might also require a bit of a "culture shift" to be truly effective. What suggestions are there for finding these opportunities, and creating this more collaborative culture?

References: Halverson, A. (2013, November 21). Pre-service social studies teachers meet the lesson study method. Retrieved from

Reaction to Educause's Reading on Google Apps

     Although somewhat dated by this point, Educause's article introducing Google Apps is a great springboard for anyone that hasn't yet taken advantage of the opportunities offered by this software. As a teacher who teaches three subjects (and collaborates with others for each), Google Docs has proved indispensable for unit planning and resource gathering. We don't have to be in the same place to collaborate, and all we need to do to submit our plans is share them with our supervising Dean. It truly makes the planning process much more efficient.
     Google also hosts several other apps, although the one I would next like to recommend is Google Forms. Google Forms does wonders to collect data and organize it in a meaningful way. For example, my building currently uses it to track accommodations and modifications provided to students with IEPS or underachieving students. It has gone a long way to reducing the amount of paperwork with each of these tasks- we only need type a few words and check a few boxes to have a detailed spreadsheet compiled. When used correctly, it is certainly a great tool in reducing the educator's workload. I would recommend that any educator that isn't already using Google Apps to start with these two.

References: Educause (2008, March 19) 7 things you should know about Google Apps. Retrieved from

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Reaction to "The Biggest Hurdle to Flipping Your Class"

     In his post on Edutopia, educator Jon Bergmann speaks to what he believes is a teachers' biggest hurdle in "flipping" the classroom- the way teachers think about how to use their class time. I am certainly supportive of the notion that a flipped classroom helps students "learn how to learn"- I have embraced that concept since I began my teaching career. ( I often tell my students, especially in these days of Common Core shifts that I care more about their ability to read, write, and speak effectively than I do their ability to recite historial facts- history is just the vehicle I use to expand those abilities.....but I digress). However, my biggest hurdle to truly flipping my room is that, despite what media and others would have us believe, is that many of my students simply just do not have regular access to technology that would make a flipped classroom feasible. In my current position, I feel I would be flipping for maybe 60% of my students- the rest would require traditional instruction. For me, this is one of my largest personal struggles with this program- seeing all the ways in which technology can enhance instruction, but not being able to implement them with fidelity.

References: Bergmann, Jon. The Biggest Hurdle to Flipping Your Class. Edutopia. 18 Nov 2013. Web. 26 Nov 2013. Retrieved from:

Reaction to Richardson, CH 6

In Chapter 6 of his book, Will Richardson speaks to the power of combining our various social networks into a personalized learning network- in other words, using RSS feeds and social bookmarking to create an easy way of aggregating material relevant to your needs and interests. To be truthful, prior to this course, I hadn't used RSS much. However, I have used Delicious in the past to collect links for my students to use for research projects (I suppose I used this as kind of the "cheater's" way- instead of letting them find my own information, I provided them with more targeted searches). I can see a great potential in combining these two technologies, and certainly moreso in a school environment that is more technology-rich. Also, upon reading Richardson's description of Diigo, I am certainly excited about the possibility to use it to annotate webpages- this might provide an excellent way for me to model appropriate research and reading strategies for my students. It will certainly be a project to play with over my upcoming breaks.

References: Richardson, W. (2010) Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Reaction to "Teaching Your Students How To Have A Conversation"

     Like them or not, I think it's rather telling that the Common Core State Standards include standards for speaking and listening. Logic would suggest that these standards were created because students show some deficiency in their ability to converse, at least in the traditional sense (texting, tweets, and status updates aside). While I certainly am an advocate of technology, I do buy into the notion that it has harmed students' conversation skills, as well as their ability to pick up on the subtleties of communication. There are probably other factors involved in this decline, but in this post at least, I'm not concerned with those. What I am concerned with is an excellent post from Allen Mendler on Edutopia.
     Mendler takes the time to illustrate several strategies aimed at coaching students through having both formal and informal conversations. While many of them seem elementary, it is truly amazing to consider their impact, especially in the "read/write/speak more" push in the Common Core. I had already implemented some of these prior to this posting, and have seen seismic shifts in the way that students communicate with each other during fishbowl discussions, as well as think-pair-shares. It's certainly a worthy read for anyone who says "why won't these kids just respect each other?" It's not that they won't, it's that sometimes, they just don't know how.

Mendler, A. (2013, November 5). Teaching your students how to have a conversation. Retrieved from