2013 was full of moments that challenged me to grow, inspired me to experiment, stopped me to reflect and filled me with gratitude for choosing a career in education.
My favorite moments from this year in chronological order were:
2. Designing an Instagram scavenger hunt for a field trip to Chinatown in San Francisco to complement our Joy Luck Club unit. When I had this brilliant idea, I was an Instagram neophyte without an Instagram account. One of my students volunteered to walk me through the basics of using Instagram, which she did in 5 minutes. It reminded me how much my students can teach me and to always remain open to learning from them.
3. Delivering the kick off keynote at the annual CUE Conference in Palm Springs.
4. Reading Daniel Pink’s Drive and instituting FedEx days in my own classroom. Pink’s book challenged me to plan every lesson, every class and every unit with purpose, autonomy and mastery at the forefront of my mind.
5. Using the Story Corps interview model as a foundation for a digital story project where my students selected a family member to interview and recorded those conversations. They transformed those conversations into riveting digital stories using the hodgepodge of devices at our disposal.
6. Leaving my students voice comments instead of written feedback when assessing their digital portfolios at the end of the year. When I polled my students, the overwhelming majority said they “definitely preferred voice comments to written comments.” Many wrote me emails to thank me for taking the time to leave such thorough comments on their work.
7. Being invited to deliver the closing keynote at Alan November’s Building Learning Communities (BLC) Conference in Boston. It was an honor sharing a stage with Alec Couros, Tom Barrett, and Kathy Cassidy.
8. Flipping my Back-to-School Night. My first instinct was to freak out when I realized I would be out of town for Back-to-School Night, but I quickly realized I could use the flipped model to provide parents with all the information I would have presented in person. I made an iMovie introducing myself, then proceeded to give parents a virtual tour of my classroom, our go-to website, and the web tools we use on a regular basis (StudySync, Collaborize Classroom, YouTube, etc.). I set up a TodaysMeet backchannel to field questions, collected parent information using a Google Form and ended with an Animoto video composed of photos from our first few weeks of class. The irony is I probably reached more parents this way than I would have if I had been present for Back-to-School Night!
9. Publishing “Five Musts of Mastery” in Educational Leadership to share how I’m attempting to support students in their pursuit of mastery in a traditional classroom. (For anyone attending BLC 2014, I’m leading a workshop titled Embracing Mastery Learning in the Traditional Classroom on Monday, July 14 from 1-5pm. Join me!)
10. Discovering Blogger! Yes, it has always been part of my Gmail account, but this is the first year I’ve used it. Now, I have an interactive homework blog, class blog and every student has his/her own blog on a topic they are passionate about.
11. Providing synchronous comments using Google docs. There is nothing more rewarding as an English teacher than working real time on a document with your students.
12. Crowdsourcing notes during student designed presentations using TodaysMeet, then copying and pasting the transcript to a Google doc and realizing my students had generated 126 pages of notes!
13. Opening the email from Corwin announcing they wanted to publish my second book Using Web 2.0 Tools to Teach the Common Core Literacy Standards! Now I just have to finish writing it, which is both exciting and daunting.
I wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year!