Friday, February 6, 2015

Voices from the Classroom: Big Plans for Technology

The Office of Instructional Technology has had the pleasure of working with extraordinary teachers throughout the Cherry Creek School District.  We decided that we would launch "Voices from the Classroom" as a way to highlight innovative teaching and learning from the teachers themselves, in their own words.  

Our guest blogger today is Faye Ampe from Rolling Hills Elementary.  Faye has been teaching 4th grade for 10 years.  Faye has her master’s degree in literacy and endorsements in Reading and ESL.

Big Plans for Technology
In the beginning

There I was, sitting at my end of the year review with my principal discussing my achievements and goals for next year.  Everything had gone well until I noticed I had been marked as partially proficient in technology.  At first I panicked slightly and then realized I completely deserved that mark.  In fact, my principal was generous in giving me that. I barely used technology in my classroom and that was simply unfair to my students.  It was time to do something about it.  I emailed our district technology coaches with a plea for help.  The title of my first email was “Big Plans for Technology.”  The thing was, I wasn’t quite sure what those plans would be yet.  In late August I had the privilege of meeting and working with my technology hero, the best coach EVER!  She was there to help me fulfill my technology dreams.  We began right away in building my Schoology account.

Why do this?

I had always dreamed of having a classroom web page and had attempted several times in years past, only to fail due to the difficulty of keeping up with them.  Schoology hasn’t been difficult at all.  It is a place where I have created many folders in which I store resources for myself and my students.  I have created many assignments and discussions for students across curriculum.  I have created assessments that I had always done previously with paper and pencil and put them in Schoology. It has allowed me to differentiate in a way I have never been able to do in years past.  And my students love it!

Big plans played out

I have learned many things about Schoology in a short 4 and a half months.  I have learned how to use resources where I have created folders for each subject area.  Within the folders I have more folders for different units or activities.  The folders can be shared between resources so I can keep them for myself and share with my colleagues and my students.  

One of my favorite folders is the “Wonderful Words” folder.  This is where we house our classroom words plucked straight out of our read alouds.  The students uploaded videos of themselves in small groups stating the word, giving a definition, using it in a sentence, and then creating an action for it.  After the words were uploaded, the students went back and in the comments section of each word they wrote a sentence using that specific word.  They knew the public (their classmates) would be seeing their sentences so they did their best to impress.  This is just one small example of how I have used to folders to make learning and technology enhance my students’ learning.

I have also begun to scratch the surface of Schoology by using updates, the calendar, the gradebook, and badges.  I send updates to my parents through Schoology.  This is where I have created a calendar for the year with special events.  I upload my weekly newsletters to the updates for my families to access.  And parents can check out the gradebook for their student to see how they have done on their assignments.  I have even had a little fun creating and giving out badges to my students for their wide variety of accomplishments.  They get so excited to receive a badge.

It’s worth it!

Creating the Schoology page has taken time and effort and I am so glad I have done this.  One of the best things I have done is set up bi-weekly coaching.  This gives me the opportunity to learn about something in Schoology, practice it, and come back with questions and celebrations.  I have definitely stumbled along as I experiment with Schoology more and more and that is fine because I have learned so much.  I keep trying because it has been so beneficial for my students and their families.  I can’t wait to see what the next 5 months brings in my technology journey.  And I can promise I will not be scoring partially proficient on my end of the year review again.  I am making sure of that!

Our deep thanks and appreciation to Faye Ampe and all that she does for her students!

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