Uncharted Territory: Endeavours of an EdTech Educator

I always knew that I would go back to university for my Master’s one day, but it feels surreal that it’s actually happening. The decision to go back to school was solidified when I stumbled upon the Master’s Certificate in Educational Technology and Media. I read that title and I instantly felt intrigued. I felt like those words were tailored specifically to me… almost. Educational… sounds great! Technology… even better! Media… not so sure. As a teacher, I have always tried to learn more about technology in the classroom, but learning about Media in our 21st Century world seemed like foreign territory and a BIG task. Even though the full title of this certificate felt slightly daunting, it also felt like a challenge… and isn’t that what learning is supposed to be? A challenge. I feel like I am ready to take on this new adventure of not only digging deeper into technology in education, but also digital media and how it affects our world today. And so begins… Endeavours of an EdTech Educator.

What They Don’t Teach You In University: Thoughts From A First Year Teacher

As we enter into a new year and a fresh start, it’s given me a chance to reflect on the “first half” of my first year of teaching. I have been able to look back on my successes and my opportunities for growth. I have thought about the areas of change that are needed in my classroom, my teaching habits, and in my life in general.

As I think about my year so far, I have realized that a lot of what I have learned has stemmed from my real life experiences in the classroom, rather than in a desk in university. It is when I am on the front lines of teaching that I gain the most strides in education and growth in my profession. There are a lot of things that I have learned in my first year of teaching that a part of me wishes I had learned previously so I was better prepared. Since I am experiencing this first hand, I thought I would make it a little easier for the next first year teacher out there and prepare them for what is to come. I came up with a list of the most important things I have learned so far, and I know that by the end of this year, I will have much to add.

1. There is a COST to teaching
First of all, first year teaching costs MONEY! Be prepared to spend money for your classroom and your students. When you are starting from scratch, there is a lot to be bought for the classroom. Even though it can be expensive, it’s worth it. It makes a lot of difference for your students and for the classroom environment.

First year teaching also costs TIME. You will spend countless hours at the beginning of the school year setting up your classroom and planning your year. It is A LOT of work, and it will continue to be A LOT of work for the rest of the year, but that is the profession we are in. Even though we spend a lot of time planning, prepping, and even with professional development, it pays off!

2. Teaching is a TEAM EFFORT.
I do not know where I would be without my “team” in teaching. I have many people who support, guide, direct, and encourage me. Whether it be my fellow staff members, my family, my friends, or my PLN, they are all important to me in my teaching career. These people can be my biggest resource.

3. Take it DAY BY DAY
First year teaching can be draining- emotionally, physically, and mentally. At the end of a teaching day you feel exhausted, but yet you still need to put time into planning. It’s important to prioritize your work so that it doesn’t become overwhelming and that you still have time for a life outside of teaching. At the end of a teaching day, I make a list of the most important things that need to be done for the next day. This helps me focus on the most important tasks at hand and helps me take each day at a time.

4. You INVEST in teaching
Teaching is not an easy job for the heart. I had a quick reality check in my first few months of teaching with how quickly you get attached to your students. You are constantly concerned that they are safe, their needs are met, they are happy, or that they are learning. It’s not easy to separate yourself from your job, but at the same time, maybe that’s what makes it obvious you are meant to be a teacher. Even though it doesn’t make it easy sometimes, it’s important we are there for our students when they need us. The reason we teach is for our students, which is why we need to invest in their lives.

There are a lot of parts to teaching that you need to worry about. Testing, curriculum, outcomes, report cards, grades, etc. Even though these are important aspects, at the end of the day, the biggest thing that matters is relationship. Building strong relationships with your students is what will make or break your teaching experience. No, not all the material will get covered over the year and you might not have time to teach a specific math lesson. However, I am confident that a student will remember how you cared for them, laughed with them, and made them feel a sense of belonging over that missed math lesson. Teaching is difficult, draining and exhausting, but when you have a connection with your students, it makes the hard stuff a lot easier.

6. Every day is FRESH START
There will be days that are tough for you and for your students. There will be days that you wish you could do over. Unfortunately, there are no do overs, but luckily, every day is a fresh start. As a first year teacher, every day is trial and error because teaching is a brand new experience. However, I am so thankful that kids are some of the most forgiving people. When I come to school the next day, they don’t bring up the mistakes from yesterday, they move forward. My students have taught me to brush off the past and start over. We all have bad days, teachers and students, which is why it is so encouraging that we can treat each day as a new beginning. Everyone wants a chance to start fresh every day, and everyone deserves it.

-Amanda Brace

New Teacher Nerves

In 25 days, a new chapter of my life will begin. I will start my teaching career; what I have worked so hard towards for the past four years. And even though I went through school to learn how to become a teacher, I feel like my learning is just beginning. There are many ups and downs as a new teacher, and the learning curve is huge. I have many apprehensions and at times I feel very unprepared. I wish I had a better understanding of what I will experience for my first year, how I should handle certain situations, and even how I should organize my academic year.

Since I have so many unanswered questions, it has been very helpful for me to collaborate with other teachers and educators. There is so much to learn from other teachers who are engaged online and willing to share resources, ideas, and helpful tips. Technology plays a huge role in preparing me for my upcoming teaching year. I am lucky to be a teacher in a time that allows me to share and gather resources online. I can connect with other educators through blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, and even Facebook. I find that teachers who are connected online and are active with social media are quick to answer questions and help me with my uneasiness about my first year of teaching!

25 days from now will be the start of an unfamiliar experience, and to say I’m nervous is an understatement. I feel like I have so much more to understand and prepare for, but at the same time, I have to take everyday as it comes. I realize that things won’t always run smoothly and will probably seem chaotic at times, but I will continue to learn from my mistakes and experiences as I go along.

As a first year grade 3/4 teacher, I would love to hear any advice, tips, or ideas from other experienced teachers. I am excited to experience my first year of teaching alongside other educators by connecting online! I plan on using blogging and Twitter in the classroom, so any advice on how to get things started in those areas would be great. Let me know your thoughts!


Summary in Stop Motion

I decided to make my final summary of learning video for DCMOOC through a stop motion film. I had a ton of fun creating it, even though it was a lot of work! I used the app Stop Motion, which was easy to use and convenient to export to drop box or my camera roll. I am excited to teach my students about this tool and use it in my classroom! Check out the video and let me know what you think. Enjoy.

End of a Chapter, but not the Book

Even though DCMOOC is wrapping up and coming to a close, it doesn’t mean that I will stop sharing, connecting, and being creative online. Digital citizenship means having a positive online presence and footprint!

This was my first time taking part in a massive open online course, but I know it won’t be my last. When the digital citizenship course started, I had no idea what to expect, but I was soon pleasantly surprised by the outcomes.

I was amazed at how the course involved people from all around the world- my connections were limitless. I was able to learn from fellow teachers and educators who realize the importance of technology and who make an effort to teach others about digital citizenship while becoming more familiar with it themselves.

I am now a part of an online community who value and take time to contribute to the wellbeing of others digitally.

DCMOOC gave me the opportunity to:

1. Go Back to the Basics:
I was able to learn about the fundamentals of digital citizenship. Through the weekly online sessions, I was reminded that digital citizenship is about “building safe spaces and communities, understanding how to manage personal information, and about being internet savvy” (Digizen)

2. Expand my Digital Footprint:
Throughout the course, I was motivated to reflect and respond to other people’s thoughts and ideas. I made an effort to blog about what I was learning and was able to showcase my learning and growth. It was very cool to see proof of my digital footprint by how quickly people shared my blog posts with others or responded to my posts through comments or tweets. By creating these blog posts, or sharing on twitter or Google Plus, other people are able to see who I am as an educator and take part in my digital journey.

3. Connect with Others:
DCMOOC reminded me how powerful technology can be! The ability for me to connect with fellow educators from around the world and learn from their innovative ideas is incredible. Twitter allowed me to read about other people’s experiences in education and it showed me what other people were learning through DCMOOC with a simple hashtag. By viewing other teacher’s blogs I learned about helpful teaching strategies, activities, and even iPad apps to implement into my classroom. By taking part in the Google Plus community page, I was constantly exposed to articles and links that helped me grow in my knowledge about digital citizenship. I was also introduced to useful tools and websites to use as a teacher and to integrate into my classroom.

DCMOOC has helped me realize that it is my role as an educator and a digital citizen to show others the importance of “using your online presence to grow and shape your world in a safe, creative way, and inspiring others to do the same” (Digizen). It is evident to me that giving students the opportunities to learn how to demonstrate digital citizenship is crucial, and it is even more important that I stay digitally fluent myself.

I have learned so much from DCMOOC, but I know that this course was just the first chapter of many because I still have a lot to learn. I will continue to connect, share and be a positive voice online so that I can also help others move in the same direction. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds!


Today’s Teaching Goes Beyond the Three “R’s”

It’s becoming more and more evident that school is different than it was in the past. As teachers, we need to understand how to teach children in a progressing world. Yes, reading, writing and arithmetic are important, but what is more important is that students learn these skills in purposeful, relevant ways. Our students need to learn beyond the three “R’s”. We need to instil in our children the skills to be life long learners.

I recently read an article about the skills that students need to acquire now in order to keep up with our advancing world. The list of skills that are necessary for children to have for the future are exactly what we as teachers need to be integrating into our classroom. It is our responsibility as teachers to give our students the opportunities to learn these important and applicable skills within the context of today’s world, and to develop transferable life skills for their future.

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If you’re interested, check out the article here.

Sharing is Caring

This week in the digital citizenship course I am apart of, we are talking a lot about what our roles as educators look like. There is a lot of conversation about how we should be modelling digital citizenship to our students. One of the questions that is up for discussion is “how do we become and remain digitally fluent and knowledgeable about the emerging digital world that our students already embrace?”

I believe as educators, it is crucial for us to stay engaged digitally ourselves if we expect to understand what our students are experiencing. By being active and sharing our knowledge and ideas through twitter, blogging, or through Google plus, it allows us to connect with other educators and learn about the current digital culture.

At the school I interned at, some of the teachers put on an “Appy Hour” once a week that allows teachers to come together and share apps and resources that they find useful in the classroom. It allows teachers to share ideas and creates conversation about our digital world. Collaborating with other teachers through events like “Appy Hour” is what helps us grow as digital citizens, which in turns allows us to model to our students.

My favourite way of connecting and learning from other educators is through Twitter. I find so many great articles, blogs, videos, and pictures from people that I follow. I am able to connect with amazing educators from around the world and can easily keep up to date with news stories and trending articles. It is also a great way for my students to engage with others and develop digital citizenship. Twitter is a useful tool that I use to grow as a learner by sharing my knowledge, and learning from what other people have to share with me. The important aspect to any tool is that it allows us to connect with others, share ideas, and engage in collaboration.


The Power of Digital

Thinking back to my elementary days, I remember the process of doing a writing assignment and then storing it in my paper portfolio. I always felt a sense of accomplishment when I completed a piece of writing because I could add it to the collection in my folder. However, countless times I would lose an assignment or throw it out at the end of the year. I was sick of storing stacks of papers and folders in my closet for no one to see but myself. Thankfully now, students have the ability to store their work online for others to see.

Digital portfolios make it possible for parents, relatives, and friends to see the growth, creativity, and activity of a child. There is something powerful about having the ability to access a child’s work at any point in time with a click of a mouse. E-portoflios give students the chance to look back at their work throughout the years and share their successes with others.

Instead of have the unreliability of paper portfolios, which can be lost, destroyed, or stored in a closet, students can have easy access to their pieces of work through digital. There are powerful benefits to giving children the chance to store and share their work online. As teachers, we have many ways of displaying a student’s piece of work. If you want your students to share their work in a convenient, easily accessible, creative, and engaging way… go digital.


Digital Citizenship… Starts in the Classroom

Kids are constantly plugged in online and exposed to the digital world. As teachers, we can make a positive difference in our student’s lives by teaching them about being digital citizens right in our very own classrooms. It is our job to influence children to be engaged online in constructive and innovative ways so that they carry on a positive digital footprint outside of the classroom. One of the main messages that I want to share with my students is that…

“Digital citizenship isn’t just about recognizing and dealing with online hazards. It’s about building safe spaces & communities, understanding how to manage personal information, and about being Internet savvy- using your online presence to grow & shape your world in a safe, creative, way and inspiring others to do the same.” (Digizen).

I want this quote to be posted in my classroom so that I am constantly reminded of these things at all times. I am beginning to realize how significant it is that I teach my students the importance of being positive and influential digital citizens. I want to help them develop their online skills so that they can be effective online and inspire others to do the same.

As teachers, we have the chance to show our students the endless possibilities that technology can bring. It is crucial that we give our students the chance to develop their digital footprint. Kids are now developing digital identities at a young age, and we have the amazing opportunity as teachers to show them the value of a positive digital identity. Their world can be expanded by sharing their ideas and thoughts with positive communities and networks online, giving them an audience for their work. The digital world allows students to be authentic, engaged, and creative. As teachers, we are fortunate that we can help students develop positive digital citizenship and help them grow and progress in their digital journeys.


The Big Finale

I had such a fun time creating my Final Summary of Learning! With some of my classmates from the course, we created a video on iMovie about what we learned over the semester. Through an interview format, we each addressed our favourite tool that we learned about and displayed how it works. We used On Air Hangouts on Google Plus to show videos of the tools. We struggled in knowing how to import the on air videos into iMovie, but with a little help, we managed to figure it out! The video we created is only a small portion of what I learned over the course. Check out my other blog posts to see what else I have been learning over the semester.

I hope you enjoy our Final Summary of Learning!

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