Reflecting on this semester…

During this semester my views regarding my educational philosophy and learning were constantly being challenged to grow and expand.  I don’t feel like I was ever far off track from what was going to work for me however I equate my learning journey to a drive down the highway with slight corrections here and there.  Throughout my experience this semester I feel like I was able to grow and develop into the teacher I want to become.  I realize that my growth is not finished and that I am going to be challenged quite a bit in internship however, I feel comfortable with my abilities entering pre-internship.

One of my greatest areas of growth this semester has been in regards to how students learn.  I entered pre-internship after reaching a point in my understanding that students want activities and engaging opportunities to learn.  In pre-internship I found this view of what students want to be both challenged and supported. I realize this is somewhat of a paradox so let me try to explain a bit.  I found, after being in a high-school, that students were very comfortable with taking notes, memorizing, and then writing an exam.  In contrast I found that many students were originally hesitant when faced with an activity that challenged them to apply the concepts that they were learning.  I found that this hesitation was associated with the challenge that the activity presented.  Students enjoyed learning through activities and although there was some initial frustration, these students were often thoroughly engaged.  It was the challenge and the demand to do more than memorize which presented some difficulty to these high school students. I feel that high school students very quickly saw the benefit and value in being asked to apply what they knew once they began to do more activity and application based lessons.   My belief entering pre-internship was that if I can connect the content to my students in a meaningful way I can teach for a deep understanding.  Reflecting on my pre-internship I believe connecting experience to learning is possible if students are shown how to buy in to the process and led to understand that experiencing frustration is itself a valuable learning opportunity.

Photo by: Piero Sierra

The most important area where I have grown this semester has been how I have come to an understanding of what my most important role as a teacher is going to be.  I have come to understand how I have a legal, ethical, and moral responsibility as a teacher to make my classroom safe for all my students.  I have learned that how I respond to this responsibility begins first with being aware of the different discourses that my students and myself are going to be exposed to on a daily basis.  This idea of making my classroom a ‘safe’ community is a theme that has echoed through all my courses, not only this semester, but this entire year.  I have been challenged throughout this semester as to how I was going to do this within my classroom.  I knew that in order to begin this process I needed to be aware and create a community, but isn’t there more than that?  It was when I was able to attend a WestCAST conference with some of my peers that I realized how I can, and am, going to confront discourses within my classroom.

At WestCAST my opinions on education and inclusion were challenged and forced to grow in a variety of different sessions.  The most impactful experience for me was when I listened to Dr. Darren Lund talk on student activism.  Dr. Lund from the U of C has published over 250 papers or articles and won numerous awards including the Alberta Human Rights Award.  The projects that Dr.Lund and his students have established have gone on to have not only local, but international influence and have been a catalyst for change in many situations.  While listening to Dr.Lund I was forced to take my thinking about discourses and apply it to my students and myself.  I had all the theoretical knowledge but was struggling with how to practically apply it to myself.  After listening to Dr.Lund I realized that what I can do as a teacher is begin the process of discourse analysis in my class and then get out of their way.  My thinking was challenged and grew from an understanding of my responsibility to an understanding of how I would accomplish this within my classroom.  Students are capable of far more than most teachers give them credit for.  Sometimes a teacher can stifle or hinder an idea that a student may have not fully understanding the perspective or intent behind the idea.  As a new teacher I enter with a fresh perspective.  If I can keep an open mind, empower and really listen to my students my classrooms will have the potential to create the same kind of changes that Dr.Lund’s have.

I have learned so much this semester and the most important thing for me now is to not allow my learning to cease.  I need to stay invested in the professional development process and what this means for me as a teacher.  As I learned this semester, if I continue to invest in my growth I will continue to grow.  If I make mistakes or experience success, as long as I focus on growth, I can take away valuable lessons that will help to shape my practice as an educator.   As I previously mentioned, I realize that my views on learning as well as my educational philosophy will continue to be challenged throughout my entire teaching career.  I also realize that I will probably experience the most growth in my thinking within my first couple years however I also realize that to be effective this growth can never stop.  It is important that I continue to challenge the way I think about learning because, as I have experienced, this is how I grow as a teacher and a professional.  I can’t start to think that I have all the answers.  What I know might work at the time but this could change as my students change.  In order to be an effective teacher I need to critically and continuously evaluate my practice and philosophy.  Focusing on my own personal growth will be the most effective way to help my students grow.

Ipad Apps for the Classroom

When I was doing my three week education pre-internship I found that there was an Ipad within every classroom.  Every teacher was given an Ipad however there was not much guidance as to how to use them within their class.  I think Ipads can be excellent tools if used properly and am hoping that this post could offer some help.  Ever since I got my own Ipad last Christmas (thanks again Mom & Dad) I’ve been looking for ways that I could use it effectively in the classroom.

These are what I have found are probably some of the best apps currently available for teachers and students in the classroom (this is kind of like an Ipad apps essential toolkit for science teachers):

For Students:

Presenting/Creating: NFB Pixstop (Free stop motion movie creator), Comic Life ($2.99)

Student Support/ Help: Khan Academy

Showing/Telling their Understanding: ShowMe, Skitch, VoiceThread

For Teachers: Ted Talks, Science 360, Google, Twitter

Subject Specific Apps

Physics:

Vernier Video Physics ($2.99) – Take video and instantly turn it into velocity and acceleration graphs.

SPARKvue – Turns Ipad or mobile device into an accelerometer.

Chemistry

The Elements: A Visual Exploration ($13.99) – A beautiful app exploring the different elements in the periodic table.

Periodic Table of the Elements – Shows you the electron configuration, different groups, state at any temperature, etc.

Biology

Molecules – Instantly pull up a 3D representation of a molecule from ChemPub or the International Protein Database.

TimeTree – Quickly show how long ago a common ancestor was shared between two taxa.

Those are the best of what I have found so far. I would love to hear what Ipad Apps you have found to be useful in your classroom…