Final Application Essay: by Chris K.
The main reason why I took this online graduate course for teachers is because I am at the stage in my career when I can choose topics that actually interest me and I can relate to. I’m glad I don’t have to take the same type of graduate courses for teachers who are at novice level.
I am not looking for any tips on classroom management, how to write the most perfect assessment strategy for certain subjects, or how to plan the most perfect lesson. I have been there and done that. I want to learn about the students that I teach everyday and how they change from decade to decade. This course offered some good insight to how our brains develop and how technology is changing the way students do actually learn, to make sense for teachers.
As I reflect back on my own childhood and compare what I did as a teen in comparison with the options teenagers of today have, I can list a number of things that are different today compared to twenty years ago – this graduate course really shed light on that. With the development of more mobile technology there is less engaging with face to face communication but more communication between multitudes of people. I know there has to be a change in the way students are learning and I was hoping that this course would shed some light as to help me engage students that seem to be learning differently in today’s world.
The chapter readings and the article were exactly what I was looking to find in a good teacher professional development graduate course. The human brain is very complex and the studies that have been done already show that students are learning differently due to the fact that most are engaged with technology most of the day. I like how these online graduate courses for teachers condense and summarize those studies. As an educator, I think this is more important to helping kids become productive members of society in a competitive world. I do believe that teachers have to be able to be organized with lessons, have good classroom management skills, and also master their subject matter. Teachers must also be able to change their methods with the changing of students and the environments of which they grow up in.
One of the concepts covered in this graduate course readings, which I found to be most relevant to what I was looking for, was Chapter 5 “Making Material Meaningful”. I can tell when I have engaged students by how I feel after a certain lesson. Reading the classroom environment at the time of class is very important to me. There seems to be an emotional change in each class from day to day and period to period. Sometimes they come into my class all fired up and ready, other times they come in and are slightly above being zombies. If I can get their attention and make a connection right away then I am confident I will have a good lesson with the class. At times I stress about how I can better get kids emotionally involved with a unit of which I know they have little interest in.
One concept that I learned from this graduate course for teachers which will incorporate into my class is rituals. I have always thought that my kids coming into my class are like puppies. They must be trained to the way I conduct class and learn the expectations I have when they come into the room. To their credit, I find this eliminates a lot of problems with student behavior because they learn to know what I expect. I would consider this to be a ritual they follow when coming into my course, a ritual that will always be the same, a course for teacher and students to share. I will try to incorporate rituals that vary from lesson to lesson to set the tone for the subject being covered. For the lessons of which I know are not very interesting to the students, I could start the lesson out with a game. I have found that students like trivia type games, so I will find “trivial pursuit” type of activity for students to engage with in relation to that “sticky” subject matter I have to cover. I am going to vary the rituals so that students do not become bored with coming into the class and knowing what I am going to do while beginning a lesson. I want the kids to come into course and look forward to what I have planned for getting them involved with class.
Another way I will use the ritual concept is by incorporating the use of the smart board that has recently been installed in my classroom. I am not yet very familiar with the intricacies of its abilities (do you by chance have any courses for teachers on that!? :). I do know that it will be hard (for me personally) to incorporate everyone into engaging with the board itself, but I am hoping that it will open up a new way to keep kids engaged with the activity. The board allows me to present relevant information that I find on the internet. I think that this will open up some connections with material covered in class (example: civil rights), with their abilities to access the internet on their own (example: smart phone). I would hope that the connection made with the material will be directly related to the “real world” issues outside of the local issues we may have in Ashland, Wisconsin. I want this to help foster their ability to already use technology and enhance their knowledge of why we cover certain topics in course materials and how it relates to real world issues.
I also plan on implementing some project-based learning activities inspired by this online graduate course. Since I am a teacher who covers a multitude of topics in my class, I think this will enhance their curiosity of certain topics we cover. In relation to the smart board, and their own abilities to access the internet, this will be a good way for me to tap into their world and for me to learn about some topics they may be interested in. I think this would be a good way to engage the student by letting them explore what they feel strongly about and present the information. I will resource the pblnet.org for finding additional teacher graduate course ideas for incorporating this into my teaching strategy.
Thank you for a great graduate course for teachers like me! I have found the information to be “spot on” for what I was looking to find!