#ETMOOC Is Starting This Week

I have participated in online learning as both a student and an instructor. None has been MASSIVE before now. This week I will begin participating in #ETMOOC.  It stands for Educational Technology Massive Open Online Course.

What excites me about this course is that I will be able to practice several educational priorities for me.

Technology

Although technology is not everything, being connected with other amazing educators through technology has  been a catalyst in my life, changing my thinking and causing me to grow as an educator and learner. I love to learn with technology. #ETMOOC allows those of us who love it, and those of us who are beginning, to use technology to connect with each other and to learn new skills.

Lifelong Learning

Speaking of learning, I have become the chief learner in my classroom. I have met hundreds of other passionate lifelong learners, or learners-in-chiefs. I would venture to say, those who signed up for #ETMOOC are here because they love to learn, and those are the people I want to rub elbows with.

Networking

Speaking of rubbing elbows, I have already met new people through #ETMOOC, and the course has yet to start. I look forward to meeting even more new friends and professional contacts.

Non-Grading

NOT speaking of grades! That’s right, not at all! Hallelujah! This is a recent area of passion in my professional life. Students do amazing things when we take away the bad practice of assigning an A, B, C, D, or F upon them. I’m experiencing this weekly in Genius Hour. We will experience this in #ETMOOC, because all 1200+ participants are here because they want to learn, NOT to get a grade.

Sound interesting? Why not join us?

ETMOOC.org

Google+ #ETMOOC Community

#etmooc search on Twitter

@ETMOOC on Twitter

Prison, Greenhouse, or Waterboarding

Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant evidence is introduced.

Common Core State Standards, Grade 8, Reading Standards for Informational Text

I’m working on teaching this and other standards to my junior highers. Reading and thinking critically is imperative, yet yesterday I had an interesting “uncritical” reading moment.

I read a blog post by John Spencer called “What if School Isn’t a Prison?” He said, instead of comparing his schooling to a prison, as he usually does, he was challenged to use the metaphor of a greenhouse — some crap was inevitable, but there was also sunlight and fresh water. Definitely a rosier metaphor than prison for what school was for many of us and is for today’s students.

As I read it, I thought, Hmmm…maybe…that’s nice.

Then I read the first comment at the bottom by Tom Panarese:

What is this? I can’t retweet this! I can’t quote this in my efforts to show the other teacher bloggers that they need to risk their livelihoods and families in order to rebel against a 19th Century-based system that is slowly waterboarding our children into an early grave! Terrible. F.

Whoa! It took me back. It was like a slap up-side my head. Read! Denise, it yelled to me. Critical reading alert: Evaluate the argument…assess the reasoning…relevant and sufficient evidence?

I had to stop and re-read it. He’s right. Instead of taking the blog post at face value, why didn’t I read it critically and thoughtfully the first time? Why didn’t I react like I really felt? I’m not sure why, because I really resonated more with what Tom said. I want to “risk my livelihood…in order to rebel against a 19th century-based system that is slowly waterboarding our children.”

His challenge was good for at least two people. John, the author of the original post, responded back with another comment. He began rethinking and questioning his own post. Tom got him to think critically, and he appreciated the conversation.

I am another person who was helped by Tom’s comment. His challenging response changed me. It made me a better reader. It changed my attitude, at least for a day. Yesterday I felt a little snarkier than usual. I was a little more willing to risk being wrong while doing right by my students.

The next time I hope right away I can read more critically. I don’t want to be afraid to open up a conversation if something troubles me on such an important topic as educational reform.

I also hope others will speak up when I say something that begs a challenge.

For the sake of the students, perhaps, we must.

Embracing the ‘S’ Word

I’ll never forget the first time I had a student come up to me and say, “Mrs. Krebs, so-and-so said the ‘S’ word!”

Oh, my, I thought. I was new to second grade at the time. I didn’t know what to do.

“Which one?” I mistakenly asked. Her precious little lips formed the first syllable of the forbidden word as she mouthed, “Stu…”

I actually don’t remember the rest of that story, but recently I used the ‘S’ word myself in an interview with Center for Digital Education.

I love the story Tanya Roscorla wrote about genius hour, “Google’s 80/20 Principle Applies to Students.” The amazing teachers from Canada, U.S., and Mexico–Gallit Zvi, Hugh McDonald, Juan DeLuca, Julie Jee–and my student, Meghan, were so professional and explained genius hour very well. Then I got to my quote, and I was embarrassed:

“It made all the difference when I stopped giving them stupid assignments that I chose.”

I didn’t like it that I had said “stupid assignments” in the interview. I thought I could have described assignments that I sometimes gave as boring or useless or tortuous or meaningless. But no, I said stupid. I told Tanya in a Twitter message that I wish I wouldn’t have said ‘stupid’ assignments. She didn’t suggest an edit, so I decided it was there for me to own.

And I do. I did give some stupid assignments. According to Dictionary.com, stupid can be synonymous with foolish, senseless, tediously dull, inane, pointless, annoying, irritating, troublesome.

Hmmm…yes, some of my assignments over the years have been annoying and irritating to students because they weren’t appropriate–they were too hard or I didn’t give students enough time to complete them adequately, so they raced through just to say they finished.

Some assignments were tediously dull. Sometimes even pointless. I have asked students to read a chapter and write the answers to questions at the end. I’ve passed out worksheets and word searches. And had students write a lot of spelling words.

And some assignments have been foolish and senseless. I came from the old school where we wrote sentences for punishment, and I am ashamed to say that I had stooped to that a few times in my early years of teaching.

So, now I’m embracing the ‘S’ word. I forever do not want to assign another STUPID assignment.

Genius hour, yes.

Choice, yes.

Challenge, yes.

Real-world problems, yes.

Learning, yes.

Most definitely, yes to learning!

My Favorite 21st Century Web Tools

It’s not about the technology; it’s about the learning. In a recent blog post, I asked, “What does technology have to do with it?” It’s about the learning, BUT a little bit about the technology, I concluded.

If it wasn’t for the awesome web tools I’ve learned and social learning networks I’ve become part of, I never would have transformed my learning and teaching. So, in honor of this evening’s #21stedchat, here are the tools I use every day, my favorite 21st century web tools:

  1. Twitter – I believe I wouldn’t have learned about many of these tools without Twitter. I also would not have met many of the educators, innovators, and reformers that are helping me shape my 21st century philosophy of education.
  2. Google Apps – For three years now, my students and I have used Google Docs, Presentations, Spreadsheets, and Forms. Students don’t turn in papers, they just share them with me. I wouldn’t do it any other way.
  3. Edublogs – In 2009 I knew nothing about blogging, but I happened to sign up for an Edublogs’ blog, my “test” blog. (Note the URL of the blog. I wouldn’t name it like that now.) However, since then, I have never looked for any other blog platform. I love my Edublogs Pro account. Sue Waters and Ronnie Burt are amazing. They help at the drop of a hat.
  4. Edmodo – My students and I are enjoying our Edmodo pen pals this year.
  5. Wikispaces – What a great free tool! Our Geniushour wiki and the Global Read Aloud wiki are hostd on Wikispaces. My students and I are creating wikis too–rebellions, presidents, geography, etc.
  6. Flickr – What can I say? I used Flickr when I began to take seriously our call to contribute our genius to the world. I want to share my photos with a CC license so others can use them.
  7. Goodreads – As a reading teacher, I love connecting with other readers, including many of my students who also have accounts.

Which web tools do you use every day?