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Recently, I attended the GAFE Summit in Riverton, Wyoming. I will have to admit that attending a professional development conference just as the summer begins did not particularly appeal to me. I didn’t really know much about the conference, only that it would be centered around Google Apps.

I have to say that this was probably the best conference/event that I have ever attended. I came away with so many new ideas that I am still not sure how to implement them all in my classroom.

If you are unfamiliar with the GAFE Summit, Click Here. This link will give you some info on the “who and what” of what takes place at one of these conferences. This is how I would sum it up. Basically, it is a two-day conference packed with top notch sessions on how to use Google Apps in the classroom. These sessions are led by teachers and education professionals that know what they are talking about. I attended sessions by Rushton Hurley, Delaine Johnson, and Jeffery Heil.

Here are a few of the things I learned that I just haven’t been able to stop thinking about:

  1. I learned how to help students to use Google Draw to draw comic strips. I actually did this with my summer school students this last week, and they loved it.
  2. I learned how to use Google Forms to create “choose your own adventure stories.” I haven’t tried this one yet, but it is on the docket for later this week.
  3. I learned how to implement 20% projects in the classroom.

These, of course, are just a few of the highlights. I have several pages of notes on little tricks and tips that I can use in the classroom. After two days of classes, my head was so full it was starting to spin.

Looking at the lineup, there are a bunch of these conferences taking place across the globe, so there should be one near you in the future. I would highly recommend these conferences to anyone who wants to add some new tools to the belt.

 

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Today, I had a discussion with my classes about projects. They are facing a pretty heavy project in class at the moment, and I wanted them to see that taking the easy way is usually not the best way. Looking into the world of big wall rock climbing shows what it really means to use a project as a means of making oneself better.

This short video is an excellent starter for this conversation. Tommy Caldwell doesn’t look at a mountain and try to find the quickest, safest, most efficient way to the top. If he did, he would walk up the back of the mountain. Instead, he looks at the mountain as a project.

Look at the definition of a project: “an individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned and designed to achieve a particular aim.” Caldwell isn’t just trying to get to the top of a mountain. He is trying to climb the Dawn Wall in a way that has never been done before. He wants to show that he has the mental and physical fortitude to overcome the mountain in the hardest most challenging way possible.

After watching the video with the students, we talked about how they could be like Tommy Caldwell in the face of the projects I assigned in class. Too many people look at a project and choose the easiest and quickest way to get it done. Instead of doing that, I encouraged students to do something that showed thought and hard work.

 

 

 

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I have spent countless hours in the past few weeks trying  to answer this question. In my current classes, I am attempting to come up with a means to grade students that is fair.

I guess that, first, I have to determine what the word “fair” means. A fair grade is one that reflects what a students knows. Knowledge, in this case, needs to be set as some sort of standard. This standard is then categorized into grades dependent on what a student can show he/she has learned. Just thinking about this makes my head hurt!

Is is fair to get a bad grade if a student is working as hard as they possible can, even if they do not get all the knowledge? This is a  good question, and to be fair, I guess I have to say yes, if the grade is indeed showing knowledge. I guess I am thinking that when a student gets an “A” in English, that a college will assume that the student has the skills associated with “A” work. This does not mean that the college will assume that the student worked hard, and therefore, although he/she can’t write well, will still work hard and perform well in college.

This is not the case. A students with an “A” needs to be able to write effectively and efficiently. That student should also be reading at the appropriate grade level, maybe even above.

So I guess, if you haven’t figured it out already, my conclusion is that grades need to reflect what a student knows. The hard part is knowing what standard to use to base this grade on. However, with the Common Core, this is made simpler. A teacher simply uses the proficiency benchmarks as the standard for what students need to know. If they show proficiency, then they deserve the grade.

This, however, brings up another issue. Is proficient sufficient to get an “A” or is proficient just “B” grade work? What does a teacher do with someone who is showing advanced skills? What does that even mean?

I am going to have to think about this one for a bit!

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Back to school!

Here is a great video to get you excited for school. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch. This will at least make you laugh. To teach, you have to love the profession.

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