Google Academy 2008

Last year I was lucky enough to be selected to attend the Santa Monica Google Teachers Academy. It was one of the best staff development opportunities I have ever experience. Well, it looks like they are doing another one. Instead of only being open to people within 90 miles of the Mountain View Googleplex, anyone around the name can apply. Good luck!

They also announced a “reload” session for the first three sessions – looks like I get to head back to their Santa Monica office some time in 2008 or 2009!

Three Things

I’m trying to come back… OK, as part of the whole application process, I have had to do some serious thinking about all sorts of educational issues, but educational technology issues remain my central focus. After identifying a problem (not enough real world technology use in our classrooms) and a potential solution (more conversations, more opportunities, more money), I acknowledged that large-scale institutional change is unfortunately far-fetched. So, it is up to us. You know the underpaid teachers to start making a difference, like we always do.

Here is a list of three things I thought WE could start doing now to help prepare our students for the 21st century and try and get out of that 19th century rut we are in. So try one now or maybe next school year. When you get the chance.

What do you think? Any others to add?

  1. Information handling and processing: The incredible access to information that the Internet has afforded us has dramatically changed the manner in which students acquire and then use information. With the ability to publishing content open to virtually anyone, we must start teaching students the value of evaluating resources. Just because it shows up in Google, does not mean you can trust it!
  2. Responsible online behavior: Here is the perfect example of students creating worlds with little or no guidance from adults. Very few schools actually teach students how to properly behave online. Plus, what might be acceptable within a peer group, often times violates appropriate behavior within an academic or professional setting. Teachers can even set up their own learning social networks to help demonstrate and model appropriate behaviors using free online applications.
  3. Authentic production opportunities: To stay relevant, at least some of our learning opportunities must reflect real world situations. The application of their knowledge and skills must stretch beyond multiple-choice and essay tests. Many jobs at all levels in the economy require employees to complete specified projects. Students need to be able to plan, create time lines, work collaboratively, and finish assigned tasks.

Teacher of the Year Application

I was selected to represent my school at my districts Teacher of the Year competition, here is my letter of introduction. My interview is on Thursday.

I love history, from the broad historical trends that have shaped the various regions of the world to the personal first hand stories of struggles and triumph. History defines who we are as a nation and gives insight to the roots of our conflicts. For me, those connections are natural. I am intrinsically fascinated by history and the lessons that we can take from it.

But students, they have other things going on. They have MySpace, video games, texting, and all the other distractions that have plagued teenagers throughout the history of education. That’s where my love of history blends with my love of teaching. It takes more than me telling them something is interesting or important, I get them hooked and keep them engaged. I have to make the curriculum assessable while still maintaining high academic expectations. I have to get them to think about the French Revolution and the greater implications of the French Revolution when they just had a rockin’ weekend with their friends at the River or they have stayed up all night fighting trolls in World of Warcraft. I’ve never found that silver bullet solution, that one tried and true method that works for every student each day. Instead I have found dozens of techniques that I use to actively engage my students.

On any given day you may find my classes participating in deep discussions, dissecting primary sources, examining photographs online, reenacting portions of history, trying to solve a problem, analyzing art, writing poems, listening to music, empathizing with a specific individual from history, or playing a historical game. Students must understand the importance of different events and how most modern problems have deep historical foundations. History also serves as a tool to teach practical skills that will assist them long after the dates have faded from their memories. I craft my lessons so that students can develop a range of skills, from basic note taking and critically analyzing a source for bias to ultimately applying complex problem solving skills. The ability of level of each student helps determine the emphasis of specific skill sets, for instance AP students have much different needs than college prep students. I also create a balance between teacher-directed lessons and more constructivist student-center projects, providing opportunities for students to approach their learning on their own terms.

Over the years I have attempted to define my educational philosophy and found that I do my best work when not adhering to a rigid school of thought. I am always open to new ideas, theories, and techniques that better serve my objectives and the varying needs of my students. If I were to describe my teaching persona, I would say I am a history teacher trying to prepare students for the twenty-first century. That idea may be one of the most defining factors of my teaching career that has brought me extensively into the realm of staff development. I cannot imagine teaching without a computer or the Internet just a click away. Without getting on a soapbox, I do not think we can responsibly ignore the power of technology in the classroom. The American students of today get little or no academic direction how to responsibly use computers and the Internet in an ever-expanding global economy where there are significant potential long-term consequences. As a result, I have made it a priority to integrate cutting-edge technology-based projects and assignments throughout my curriculum. By the end of this year, students in my classes will have created digital video projects, completed WebQuests, mapped historical events in Google Earth, published their work on blogs, and used wikis to collaborate online.

Through my strong connection with the SDSU Department of Educational Technology, San Diego County Office of Education, GUHSD Technology Resources, and a strong Internet presence I have had the opportunity to help spread that message. In my 12 years in the district, I have had the privilege to speak to over 350 GUHSD teachers and hundreds more around the nation about integrating various forms of technology into their curriculum. Through these expanding connections I find myself part of a nationwide network of teachers and educational technologists who continually look to improve instructional strategies. At West Hills I have helped establish what I consider to be a model professional learning community for world history. Our five teacher team made incredible strides to enhance the course curriculum and provide equitable learning opportunities for all world history students, which resulted in a dramatic increase in subject SAT9 scores last year. We continue to bring our strengths together while still encouraging independent innovation.

In many ways I consider myself an artist. The mechanics of my classroom are fluid and flexible. I constantly work to improve my instruction. I refine and at times redefine the lessons and dynamics of my classroom as necessary. As a product and now an employee of this district, I know the caliber of teachers found in the GUHSD. I am honored to be nominated for the Teacher of the Year award, and I appreciate your consideration.

NCSS in San Diego

Is finally here! This weekend San Diego hosts the annual conference for the National Council for the Social Studies. In an act of shameless self-promotion, I’m doing yet another revised version (updated from last month’s SDCUE version) of the Choose Your Own Adventure presentation I first did at NECC in 2006. If interested, it is listed for Friday at 3:45 pm.

Recent Workshops

In the last week, I’ve done three workshops:

  1. Choose Your Own Wiki Adventure – This is a rehash of my NECC 2006 presentation, except that I’ve now added a support site. Still a work in progress, but it should be a better resource now. Presented at the SDCUE Tech Fair.
  2. The Ultimate Teacher Web Site – I’ve been wanting to share something like this for a long time. I think teacher web sites are an easy way to keep connected with your students and their parents. I introduce three web site platforms (WordPress, Wikispaces, and Google Pages) and some add-on tools (slideshare, etc.). It is unfinished, I’ll finish it – maybe. Presented at the SDCUE Tech Fair.
  3. Google: Beyond Searching – This is just an outline of the Google tools that could be useful in the classroom. It was a full day workshop I presented for my district.

Obviously, Taking a Break

Since the end of last school year I have been trying to keep up with an expanding number of commitments. I will return to this space and add more to it in the future. Maybe things will slow down at the semester as a couple of the projects I’m working on wrap up – or I’ll just take on a couple more to fill those spaces. Basically, I’m on hiatus from the blog.

See you soon and take care.

Too Much

This summer has swept by. I can’t believe I am reporting back in just two weeks. This has been my most unrestful summer yet. I’ve been creating my school’s web site in Joomla, developing educational materials for an upcoming PBS documentary, taught a class at SDSU, a made a short business trip to the PBS office in DC, and will conduct five days of workshops in the next two weeks. It has also been the most rewarding professionally. I feel like I’m back in graduate school – I’ve been learning so much. I just need time to wrap my brain around all of it and see where it fits and where I’m going. Right now I’m being pulled in so many different directions. It might also be the exhaustion setting in.

These last two days in DC have been truly amazing. I hope I can find some time to share in the coming days….

Six Offices – No Keys

In preparation to teach a Saturday seminar on digital video at San Diego State yesterday, I had to acquire a key and security card to the computer lab. Seemed easy enough so I brought my six year old with me – I was going to make it an adventure. I parked off campus to avoid a ticket or paying for parking and hiked over to the Ed Tech office. There I got the form that would allow me to check out the key. It is a pretty hot day, so to head my son’s complaining off I bought him a small box of candy. Then I headed FAR across campus to the security office only to find out that I needed a faculty ID card to get a key. Now I had to get to the ID office, which was near where I parked. The candy was gone and we still had a lot of walking to do, so I gave him a piggy back ride. At the ID office I was told that I needed an authorization form from the department. Now my son was out of candy and patience. As we lumbered back over to the Ed Tech office, I now offered a treat from Starbucks. This bought me more time (my 45 minute errand was already over an hour and a half).

We got the authorization to get an ID card, headed back to that office. Took a picture – complete with with a sunburned face, and went to Starbucks to split a strawberry smoothie thingy. Next we walked off campus to the car, drove a little closer to the key office. Walked up a hill, got the key and security card and finally headed home.

But here’s the kicker. I show up and the security card doesn’t work. A SDSU police officer had to come turn the alarm off before I could unlock the door. Now I have to go back and get a new card.

Using Gmaps-Pedometer, I figured my six-year old and I walked about 2.5 miles to get into a classroom that still required someone to let me in. Here is our route.