Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Evernote to track students?

Before Easter break I attended a session with admin and teachers from my board run by Will Richardson. I've been using Evernote for a few months now to keep track of projects. It works really well for me. As Will was demonstrating Evernote to a very engaged room I got an email about a student I work with. The Internet was wonky at the hotel and even my tethering was poor due to limited reception. I could not access the database our school board uses to monitor and track student success. I threw my notes into Evernote without thinking about it. I've never done this before for student notes. I work with students-at-risk for in a variety of ways. I track report cards and see who we need to work with, I receive referrals from teachers, I work one-on-one with some students, I organize independent courses for some and credit salvage or recovery for others. Until last week, all those lists and notes were in separate places. Nothing connected them. 

Last week when finally getting around to doing the action required by me to support this student, I tried something. I linked in the students information from the database into
Evernote. I brought in his credit recovery assignments and forms. I dragged over a presentation he made on Creative Commons. I took a quick picture of his counselors business card and put it in Evernote. Being the geek that I am, I emailed the only other Student Success Teacher I know who might "get this". Rodd Lucier's (aka thecleversheep) response was "I see it as a data rich scrapbook". Exactly!

So, to track my meetings, credit recovery, parent contacts, remedial support and student work with students at risk I am now using
Evernote. I have created a notebook titled "Student Notes" and each student gets their own note. By tagging each note with key words I can sort and search them by grade, withdrawn, independent courses, credit recovery or IEP.

I wonder, has anyone else used
Evernote or any other good tools for tracking students?

Monday, April 12, 2010

When Worlds Collide

I'm not much of a TV person and don't have cable, but I recall being told about a Seinfeld episode years ago where one of the characters describes how having his relationship world and friend world collide is dangerous. I think my two education worlds have collided, and I'm thinking it's not such a bad thing!
I'm a student success teacher. I spend a lot of my time working with "at-risk" students who don't always find our ways of teaching and the structure of school a good fit. I also spend a large chunk of my time working with teachers in professional learning groups implementing new technologies and teaching strategies. Up until TEDxOntarioEd I was only making very vague connections between these two parts of my job. I could see the correlation between good teaching/assessment strategies to less students showing up in my office for "student success" work, but never thought much beyond that. The final TEDxOntarioEd talk was by a student who reminded me of those I've seen many times in my office with various stories. Every student has a story. School doesn't work for all. Nothing works "for all". Student success embodies individuality. As I was listening to Tim speak, I realized that I was using my "student success" brain to listen, not my ICT integration brain.
I felt like I was at one of our student success meetings where we regularly bring students in to speak of their barriers to education and what made a difference. I realized at that moment the similarities between integrating technology into education and student success. Teachers who are immersed in either one often share the following qualities.
     1. Creativity
     2. Put some control into students hands
     3. Focus on the "big ideas" or expectations opposed to the specific
     4. Take risks, not afraid of making mistakes while learning and trying new things
     5. Differentiate learning and assessments to best fit students needs
     6. Foster skill development in students like problem-solving and self-advocacy
It took me a long time to get here, but there we go. Teachers succeeding in both these areas embrace change. They often have "outside of education" experience (in industry, business or other) and often made bad students themselves, therefore wanting more options for their students.
So.... how do we bottle it? 

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Respecting my elders. From slide rules to apps.

Society is changing. FAST. Students are changing. FAST. Education is changing. SLOWLY. Many experienced teachers often get a bad reputation for their inertia. Teaching the same way they did 20 years ago. I was sitting at friday evening social hour with some colleagues yesterday when I overheard something that made me think. Two teachers (great friends) spoke of using a slide rule in math. This thought stunned me for a minute. How could someone say these teachers don't adapt to change? They've adapted from slide rules to calculators to graphic calculators to computers to web applications to portable devices with apps. Hmmmm....  they now do their attendance online, are my Facebook friends, do online reporting and help me create "make up" assignments for credit recovery when a student fails their course. So, yes, some things like teaching strategies, classroom set up and how we assess take a long time to change (especially when there is very little leadership to support, model or encourage this change), BUT look at some of the fundamental changes many, many teachers have adapted to. We should always begin by acknowledging that which has been done well. I often think so far outside of the box that I am annoying to many. My principal even jokes (I think its a joke) and hides under her desk when I have that look in my eye of a new idea. Rarely do I stop and reflect on all the positive changes that have been made. Sure, we stop and celebrate successes along the way, but I'd like to take this moment to give kudos to educators who have taught for 20 years and adapted to many, many changes in education. This doesn't mean i'll stop pushing the boundaries with new ideas, new technologies and new theories (and annoying the heck out of you), but I do sincerely recognize the major adaptability and changes you have seen and excelled at in education. Students greatly benefit from an experienced teachers knowledge, wisdom and well, experience. No technology or teaching theory or blog could replace that experience. I think this message often gets lost in the shuffle.