Ah the lazy days of summer! Summer is a time when we embrace our inner child and enjoy sunshine, fresh air and freedom. As an educator summers open up a lot of possibilities for me. I have a lot of side projects (as you can tell from my site) and summer really allows me time to curate my passions. This is one of the great things about being an educator. In a way its like my own "genius hour." I get to work on side projects that may not necessarily have to do with my classroom, but allow me to explore, create, and learn. While I have spent July working on my personal side projects, August is fast approaching. This is the time when I retune my courses for the fall. Rework material that needs it, brainstorm new ideas, create new content as needed, and generally refresh everything. I find I am more likely to do things if I write them down, so in addition to all of those things I mentioned, here are a few things I hope to accomplish before returning to school in the fall:
1. Virtual Field Trips- I don't mean finding virtual field trips online, I mean actually going to sites with my camera and taking my students on a field trip. I live just outside Boston which has a wealth of historical sites. I'm also a half days drive to many many famous sites that I would love to take student's to, but since budgets and time don't allow for that, I'd like to take a few day/weekend trips and film some field trips. My hope is that by doing this throughout the summer and through the year, I'll have a variety of virtual field trip movies that students can go on. I realize this will never take the place of standing in a place themselves, but I hope to at least spark there interest enough that maybe someday they will go on their own. Has anyone ever done something like this and had luck with it?
2. Update and rework videos that are no longer working, have dated references or simply need to be updated as technology as improved so much. I'd like to have some more "if you'd like to know more" options for my classes. In other words for those students who want to dig even deeper into a topic, I'd like to have some resources available.
3. Content curation. I'd like to move beyond the video, where I have lots and lots of resources for students on each of our topics. In the past I have gathered what I felt were the best resources on a topic and selected a few to present to students. I would like to move to a model where there is a variety of materials available and students can choose which ones to use in their exploration of the topic. In other words, I would like them to curate their own content (to a degree) and really use what works best for them!
4. Rework Differentiated Instruction and what it means to me at the high school level. I was always very proud at how differentiated my middle school classes were. This was due in part to the fact that the school I was at had no leveling. This meant that you had 26 students ranging every imaginable ability and level in one classroom. As a result it was very necessary to have differentiated lessons. I didn't mind this, on the contrary I feel like it forced me to be a better teacher. This past year I moved to the high school where classes were leveled. In part because I was starting a new curriculum and didn't have the time, I didn't really differentiate. I wish I had. Regardless of whether the course is honors level or academic level students have different talents and abilities. Therefore I need to go back and think about what this means to me in the various levels, and how better to incorporate a variety of learning styles. I love project menu boards and will probably think about adding a few more of those as well. I'd love to hear from someone at the high school level and how they utilize DI in their classroom. I envision tasks that have different paths that students can choose and things like that. Does that make sense?
5. Create audio files of any required reading. I have wanted to do this for a while. I don't use the textbook in my courses, but we frequently use primary source documents and things of that nature. I want to make sure that all students have the ability to access and understand what we are doing, so I'd like to create some audio files to ensure that I have them available for students who may need them. Does anyone have a software recommendation for this?
Although summer is only half way over, I know school will be starting before I realize it. It feels like I have so much to do before then! I'm not rushing it though- there's still many sandy, sunny, sea side days ahead- I just have to put the work in so I can enjoy them!