Comparing Evernote and Google Drive for iPad

Evernote as Portfolio

Comparing the possibilities of Evernote and Google Drive for the iPad. Comparing the possibilities of Evernote and Google Drive for the iPad.

After my last post I have been asked by people to give some sense of how I considered the Google Drive shift.  Here is a visual that I created for the faculty at my school to help compare the use of the various tools along the portfolios process.  You can see that in the first two steps that Evernote and Google Drive can act in much the same way.

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In a conversation with a very good friend and colleague at ISTE, the phrase ‘fake it til I make it’ came up as a one many of us jokingly use on a regular basis. The thing that really struck me was that the phrase is not really used by the people who I feel are faking it – it is used by people that I trust to make sound decisions and to be knowledgable about education as a whole. I trust the individuals that are risk-takers.

Then, in a session about reflective PBL, one of the presenters mentioned that many of his students would “guess and fix” their way through the problems they were solving in class. I realized that these two phrases were quite similar. Real learning isn’t a formulaic process, it’s an intuitive one. The best learning experiences my students (and my own kids) have had were the ones that were based on figuring it out as they went.

We are so focused on the terminology that describes teaching (‘mastery’, ‘proficiency’) that we seem to have forgotten the terminology that describes learning (‘inquiry’, ‘discovery’, ‘trial-and-error’). I’m a relatively successful professional in my little world, and I don’t know one thing that I have ‘mastered’. Not one. In fact, I approach most new things in teaching feeling that I have no clue what I’m doing. I feel like I am truly faking it. But recently I am going in with the attitude of inquiry, the open mindset of “I can learn something new today if I try something new”. I’m not saying that having a goal of students being proficient at skills and masters of specific content is a bad thing. It just can’t be the only thing that we care about.

Enter the maker movement. A movement based solely on the process of inquiry and self-driven learning. The type of learning that kids do because they are curious.  A movement filled with makers – kids, adults, boys, girls – that are researching, reteaching, collaborating, presenting, practicing, rehearsing, memorizing, and writing all based on their love of learning.  Though I don’t finish many projects, I classify myself as a maker.  I enjoy the researching and trial-and-error; getting lost in websites about obscure topics. I enjoy the pride I have when I make something useful to me…and the skills I learn through ‘making’ have permanence in a way that forced learning never did (I’m looking at you, 6th grade math).

In this recent maker revaluation, I trust that I can learn anything if I give it the time and attention it deserves…there’s nothing I feel I can’t learn. Brain surgery? Sure. Rocket science? Just give me some YouTube time. I am also going into the learning without the expectation of mastery. I am not planning on operating on someone’s brain (nor would anyone let me), and the only rockets I would be flying are paper or Estes models. The fact that I am not applying to med school or NASA doesn’t devalue my inquiry or my learning.  This is echoed by a few recent videos I have found of Josh Kaufman demonstrating his 20-hour rule for learning new skills.

This year I’m looking for more ways to allow students to explore their own interests in hopes of fostering a deeper love of learning.  And along the way, allow them to try and fail on their paths to learning.

Blogging…who has the time?

So I’m at ISTE again, and I’m realizing that the connections that I make through social media, the web, and conferences like these inspire me to think about new things and spark crazy, random thoughts about education. The problem is that many times, due to life, kids, the ‘job’ aspect of teaching…I rarely get time to reflect on my thinking in a more official manner.

I keep thinking that is where blogging will fit in perfectly. I will sit down once or twice a week and put my thoughts down on paper (digital paper) and the reflections will start. But then I look and the last blog I posted (or drafted for that matter) is a year ago. Not a good use of the blogging thing.

So I’m looking for suggestions, tips, ideas on how people with real lives and responsibilities find/make time to blog their reflections (or other forms of reflections).

Will keep posted about what I find. Hey, maybe I’ll blog about it…

Collaboration, not cheating

At the end of last year my science department ran a problem based challenge where students had to rescue themselves from an island with a set group of supplies. You’ve probably seen something similar before: a bag of ‘found’ supplies, a certain distance their craft had to go to save their group, popped balloons, rubber bands, laws of physics, giggles. Fun.

As much fun as we had, one thing that really struck me was how many students were accusing other groups of cheating and copying throughout the build days. I realize that there was competition in the air, but some of these students were taking it really, really, personally. And on both sides, too – the ones accusing and the ones being accused.

It’s something that I’ve noticed getting more extreme over the last couple of years. Which is ironic, since I feel that collaboration is a major 21st century skill (not that it wasn’t in the 20th century). I feel like I do a decent job fostering a collaborative environment for my students, but having this happen at the end of the year hit me hard. So I am making it a goal for this year to see if we can do better.

In doing some internet research, I came across this Edutopia post on collaborative tech tools for the classroom. The author talks about improv comedy, which really is true collaboration – in order for the bit to work, everybody has to contribute, be flexible, and be ok running with others’ ideas. The author uses Randy Nelson’s two rules of improv that he thinks are important: never reject an offer and make your partner look good.

Adapted for the classroom, we can tweak those to something like: make sure everyone’s voice is heard and make the group/class look good. These sound good, and I think I’ll use them especially with small group projects. But I’m also looking to boost the overall collaboration between groups; to help my students see that their collaboration can be more than the sum of the individuals’ work. That’s the answer I’m still searching for…

*side note: the video of Randy Nelson from Pixar is awesome. In the right circumstances, I’m thinking of sharing it with students. I think it fits in well in the, “we’re preparing you for jobs that don’t exist yet” conversation.

The SOLE of teaching?

I’ve been thinking for a while about a TED video that I saw a few years ago. Sugata Mitra talked about his hole-in-the-wall project in India that showed kids can and will teach themselves info with access to the Internet. Even in another language. It’s an idea he calls the self-organized learning environment (SOLE).

Here he is summarizing his work in his TED Wish this year. Pretty cool stuff.

Seems like this would play right into the PBL idea, too. Once students decide what they need to know to start developing solutions, they could work in these types of self-organized groups to find it. Of course, in Mitra’s examples, students weren’t as worried about finding reputable sources, Creative Commons images, citing their work, or developing a presentation to a wider audience. We’ll have to do some work in that area.

So now I need to figure out how this idea of the SOLE fits in with my classroom. During a few projects this past year I allowed total freedom to make groupings and allowed some cross-group switching midway through the project. Some crashed due to the chaos, but a few went great. In fact, one of my most content moments this past year occurred when I stopped during a free-floating project and looked around. Everyone was spread out working. Singles, pairs, threes. On the floor. Sprawled in chairs. Standing. Every once and a while, a student would move to another group to see what they were up to and talk with them. The projects from that assignment were as good, if not better, than many of the other projects I got last year. It was one of those moments where few of the students nor I would choose to be in any other spot in the building

As I move forward with a focus on PBL, it will be interesting to work on creating these self-organized groups in hopes of better whole group collaboration.

And it begins…

Welcome. I am a 14-year Social Studies and Science teacher in a middle school in central North Carolina and this is my first blog.

I’ve thought about starting a blog for quite a while and have attempted a few times. Every time, however, I either had nothing to say and never got going or too much to say and ended up ranting. But in the last few months I have found new energy and, hopefully, direction. I’m hoping to capitalize on that energy to document my reflections and inspirations a little more efficiently.

My biggest change recently has been in my use of Twitter. Until three months ago, I was a casual Twitter user (@TeacherNWB). A wallflower. But then I made the decision to add it to my classroom with the hopes of upping engagement. Totally changed my life. Now I was creating Tweets, not just reading them, for a specific audience of students.

In order for my students to see how Twitter could be used to create a learning network, I had to model it. So, put out some feelers to other teachers in my district who were using Twitter and after some hand holding and assistance, I was off on the adventure that is the Twitter PLN.

For me, this blog will be an extension of that network in my (and my students’) classroom practices. Trying new things, failing magnificently, reflecting, and retrying.

In efforts to make my experience better, please feel free to add your thoughts, comments, suggestions, etc. in the comments. Thanks!