Summertime…. and the living is ??

June 22, 2012

I am on summer break from school. Officially… this is my second day of vacation, but I have not had students for a week. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

I hear in the back of my mind the voices of people who muttered….” Teachers…. three months off; must be nice.” I hear my friends say, “Great! Now you can de-stress and relax.” I hear myself wondering, “What am I going to do?”

What is going on?  Isn’t this the time when I get to do everything I did not have time for during the school year?  Isn’t the pressure off with a less structured day to day and no papers to grade?  Shouldn’t I be sleeping better, be outside all the time, playing with my kids and writing my book?   Instead, I sit down at my computer and run through all the favorites (news, facebook, and yes… school email) and wander a bit through the house looking for the things to do that go on the list of the things to do.  I even did a search for “teacher bored during summer.”  The article suggested it takes nearly three weeks to really allow yourself to unwind from the academic year and properly recharge.

Three weeks?  But I have a history conference next week on the relationship between the US and China that will inform my Comparative Politics class next year.  I have a two-day meeting in Sacramento on teacher preparation programs and a three day IB conference in Toronto, Canada for my Theory of Knowledge class. Those events and the remainder of this week comprise my first three weeks of summer vacation.

Unwind?  At my house?

My husband works mostly from home. We have three boys and two dogs and between meals, cleaning, rides to athletic practices, managing the children’s friends and the locations…. I don’t feel like I have much time and the house is always a bit hectic. I don’t get alone time…. except when I take a walk.  I tend to succumb to demands instead of making my own.  I have things I want to do… but I don’t push for them. Sometimes I don’t want to spend the money… sometimes I don’t feel worthy… sometimes it just takes too much effort to make things happen.

I make lists…. tasks and lofty goals go on the list and I enjoy checking things off the list. But I don’t want to be defined by my own itemization. Right at this moment, I don’t know what else to do.  The summer list of goals and activities serves as both a reminder and a motivator: I actually have some time to get things done. I have time to do things.  My challenge is figuring out how I want to define my summertime. When I look back at the summer of 2012, how will I describe it?

“Did you have a good summer break?”  Yes. Absolutely.

There was a fleeting moment today when I thought… “I just want this day over so I can try again tomorrow.”  What will be different tomorrow?  I asked the kids if they wanted to go the beach… they want to hang out at home with friends. I’ll go grocery shopping and do laundry and make sure the house is picked up.  Tomorrow is filled with opportunities and closes my first week of summer vacation. Tomorrow, I’ll sleep in a bit, add to the list, write some, and play with my kids.

But right now….I think I will go for a walk.


Using social media in an online environment

June 12, 2012

Gaining students attention in an online environment involves a willingness and ability to use a variety of online tools. One tool is social media. Social media allows students to approach course material in a new and exciting way.

One online resource I consulted to learn about using social media was a blog entry entitled

100 Inspiring Ways to Use Social Media In the Classroom
Click on the title above or here to access the entry and see a very thorough list of suggestions on how to use social media in many different educational environments.

From the list, I focused on the concepts of communication. class projects and preparing for employment. Of course, this fits in with my own learning about online instruction. Below is a brief summary and application to gaining the attention of students.

Communication: Posting assignments, participating in discussion boards and emailing classmates and instructors are part of the requirements of online learning. Using these forms of communication helps gain attention of the students by actively engaging them with course material and classmates.

Class Projects: Creating a class blog (!) or Wiki helps students collaborate and focus on a topic. Students are learning the technology tools in addition to applying content. These types of assignments gain the attention of students by allowing them to create and access new material.

Employment: Understanding the importance of social networking helps with both finding a job and establishing a positive online personal presence. Providing students with online opportunities to practice these skills will help employed students. Motivating students with important skills for their future help gain and keep attention throughout a course. Make it relevant!

Bringing great minds into the classroom

June 10, 2012

TED stands for Technology, Education and Design with a tagline of “Ideas Worth Sharing.” The blog shares TED talks and deep thoughts that relate to a variety of topics. Summaries, comments, links and innovative thinking are streamlined into one place that serve as an amazing resource for educators (and thinkers).

To gain the attention of students on a particular subject, instructors can link or upload a TED talk to stimulate thought and response. The riveting talks can be used throughout a lesson.

A couple of additional resources related to TED are linked below:

Article from Southwest Airlines Spirit Magazine on the life lessons from TED.

John Boswell “It’s Time for TED.” : a mashup of important TED lessons from 2012.

These resources are great tools for educators to bring great minds into the classroom.

A vision of students today

June 10, 2012

Dr. Michael Wesch, an anthropologist at Kansas State University, created a video summary of students. Although created in 2007, the characteristics described are amplified by students today. The video effectively lists characteristics of students focusing on “what they learn, how they learn, hopes, goals and dreams.’

The video, a Vision of Students Today can be accessed here.

As I reflect on the statements in the video, I am reminded that how we learn and how we teach must adapt to our changing world. The experienced instructors who knows subject matter well must be willing to discover best practices for delivering the material well. Understanding our students and the capabilities of modern technology enhance the learning experience for everyone.

What are your thoughts on the description of students? What connections need to be established for instructors and students to create successful learning experiences?