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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Constant Reflection & Improvement (Kristen Hammer)

This is in a series of posts by teachers in the TUSD Connect Fellowship for the 2016-2017 school year.  I hope you enjoy reading their reflections on the impact of technology in their classroom, specific tools and strategies that have made a positive impact on teaching and learning, and their goals moving forward.

This is my second go around as a fellow, and I think this time I truly understood and benefitted from the process.  Technology has impacted my teaching and my students in a variety of ways.  I think one of the most beneficial ways has been through a what I would call a semi-flipped class.  The ability to have students be prepared through watching a video, and answering questions before coming to class for a lab or lecture has saved us time and we can spend more time on labs and hands-on activities in class.  I haven’t used a total flip, but the implementation of what I have done I can say that the prior knowledge on a topic or lab has gone up.  The class has the ability to be front loaded before coming to class and I have seen a better participation rate in answering questions about the topic.  I have saved time going over procedures that I have had to do in the past during class time.  I know I still want to work on the participation rate, and I think if I start these with guidance in class they will see the benefit of completing outside of class.

I have also used videos when I know I am going to be out of the class with a substitute.  The videos have ensured my students don’t get behind with materials or instructions when I am out.  It’s business as usual, and I don’t feel that I am wasting a day when I am out.  I can give them notes as if I was there, go over homework, and ask them questions.

I believe I have also improved my formative assessments using technology.  I have instituted Quizizzes again this year, but this time I have required the students to meet a minimum % to receive credit for the assignment.  This makes it so they have to keep trying and not give up after one attempt.  I have seen a greater participation rate when I tie it a grade.  They also seem to do better on their tests.  The students also love Quizlet live, so I really like having that available during class for a quick review before a test or quiz.

Looking Ahead...
As I think about my continued goals and next steps, there are several areas that I was able to explore with my coach this year that I want to continue to revamp.

I tried a menu assignment that I really liked this year.  This assignment gave the students choice on what genetics problems to complete.  They had to complete so many in a set, but they got to choose.  I polled the students and they said they liked the choice.  I also have given them choice in doing some assignments digital or paper.   I would like to do more choice assignments in the future.  There is a bigger buy-in with these types of assignments.

I am also looking into digital notebooks, and the idea of Google Sites for the students to keep their science work sounds, and looks really cool.  I need to research this more over the summer to implement this next year.

I made a couple of hyperdocs this year for the students to use and follow through the units.  I would like to continue this.  I see the benefit of having a one stop shop for the students to see where we are going in a topic or unit.

I also need to rethink my digital labs and doing them in Google Docs or Google Forms.  I was really bad about timely feedback when they are digital, so I think if I use the sites idea there could be more timely feedback.  I will continue to revise and revamp my lab write-up process.

I tried implementing Classroom Dojo, and it was helpful, but not exactly what I am looking for in a randomizer.  I will continue to think about this, and find the tool that works for me to make sure students are engaged and all students are participating.  Overall, I think my student engagement has improved, but I still would consider this an area to continue to improve upon.

Obviously, a big thing coming is NGSS implementation, and my curriculum will be changing due to this.  I have a lot of work ahead to make what I have now fit into the new standards and performance expectations.

Reflections on being a Fellow...
The fellowship has been extremely beneficial having someone to bounce ideas for curriculum implementation and revision off of.  Two heads were always better than one.  I believe the fellowship is only as good as what the fellow puts into it.  I was willing to try most things, some failed and some succeeded, but I feel that it pushed me more than I would have normally.  I enjoyed working with my coach, she was the perfect match for me.  She let me vent, but then got me back on track with the work ahead.  I felt if I wasn’t moving forward I was letting her down, and I didn’t want to do that.  If I thought of something, and posed a question to my coach, I always knew I was going to get a response about the idea or question.  I also needed the reminder of why was I doing something, was it going to enhance my teaching and the students learning, or was it just a replacement for the same.  I am better at reflecting on my use of technology and when and where it is best suited.

I loved that fact that although my coach wasn’t a science teacher in her past, she always tried to find examples and ideas that suited to science. This has been a worthwhile experience, and I will continue to consider my coach as my DLC (Digital Learning Coach) even if I am not going through the coaching cycle each week with her.

My name is Kristen Hammer.  I have been teaching science for 17 years.  I am currently teaching Biology, and my  science department’s chair.
I received my undergrad from Northern Arizona University in Zoology and my Master’s and teaching credential from National University.

I believe in making curriculum accessible and meaningful for all students.  I feel that each year of teaching should look new and different with the implementation and revision of a teacher’s art; their curriculum.

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