Category Archives: innovation

MiddSouth Innovates Issue #2

Innovation (noun): a new method, idea, product, etc.

The first issue of MiddSouth Innovates (#middsouthinnovates) was a success! We had 293 views from 23 unique locations on 3 continents!! At least 1 member of every department in my school made a comment about something they saw in newsletter which definitely shows it is having an impact. So on to Issue #2:

The more I discuss ideas with Educators, the more I realize that innovation is relative. Being innovative is not a thing–it’s a mindset. It’s about waking up and saying ‘Today I will try something in my classroom that I have never done before.’ Maybe it will be with technology, maybe it will be with classroom management. Whatever you choose to do, it is about trying to improve. So, in this issue I highlight a physical modeling technique that one of our Chemistry teachers was super excited about, and the website Smore which is what I use to make the MiddSouth Innovates newsletter. Enjoy!

MiddSouth Innovates 2


W. W. JC. D

Do you know this kid?

You have probably seen this photo with the caption “I freaking love coloring!!!!”  I want to be this kid.  I want my passion for whatever I am doing to absolutely explode out of me.  But, more importantly, my students should have this type of passion for whatever they are doing.

A good friend and fantastic teacher is an innovative teacher whose classroom is like mine, organized chaos.  His students are engaged in meaningful activities and the volume in the room tends to grow as the discussions grow more heated.  His colleagues call him Johnny Crayons because crazy, non-traditional ideas tend to be the norm for him.

I have 1 goal for this school year:  BE JOHNNY CRAYONS!  I am going to try every non-traditional, off the wall, crazy idea I find.  If it sound fun, engaging and my students are still going to learn the material, we are doing it.

Every day I am going to ask myself “What Would Johnny Crayons Do?” and then I am going to do that.  I am going to take lots of pictures of the creative work of my students and post it here and Twitter.

If you are doing something creative in your classroom, tell EVERYONE about it!  Open your doors and let everyone see the great things, too.  If you are on Twitter, post pictures and tag every off the wall activity with #JCrayons.

Let’s #JCrayons the heck out of this year!

Too much in my head

I have been holding off making a post because I didn’t want to interfere with my contest.  Now I have so much in my head one post cannot hold it all.  Let me give a brief overview of a few things and then focus on what happened today.

Went to Edscape on Saturday hosted Eric Sheninger at New Milford HS.  Absolutely amazing experience sitting with so many passionate, like-minded educators who are looking to find new tools to help their students grow.  While some of the sessions I could have run, I got so many good ideas from Adam Bellow and Lyn Hilt, both of whom I could listen to all day and not get bored.  It really inspired me to get my butt in gear in planning TeachMeet 2012.

TeachMeet 2012
Was able to connect with several people concerning the planning for TeachMeet.  Many things have stalled because we just can’t find a venue.  Mostly this is because people don’t respond to my emails.  Not sure why this is happening, but wish I could just find a place to get the rest of the planning started.  I have possible connections with Rutgers, Piscataway HS and Rutgers Prep so maybe one of them will actually get booked.

Meeting with the Principal
The principal who hired me left the school under mysterious circumstances and in a whirlwind of controversy. My guess is he said the wrong thing to the wrong person and they decided to find a new school leader.  We actually are still working under an interim principal who very well could end up back in his assistant role in a couple of weeks.  Anyway, I like to know the person who is leading me so on a whim I emailed him to see if he would meet with me to talk about his vision for the school.  Up until today, I haven’t spoken to him for more than a few minutes so I wasn’t sure how this was going to go.

My original plan was to mostly keep my mouth shut and let him talk, but that died out about 2 minutes into the meeting.  We started talking about getting everyone to create a class webpage using Google Sites (we will be going to Google Apps starting in the fall) and the conversation spiraled into more of the ideas of how to make the school great.  We started planning a Magnet program for the school, spun the professional development plans to work better with the union, and potentially started a new committee to integrate more technology into the classroom as well as to showcase the innovative ideas already in practice.  We use PLCs in the school.  Well, that’s not completely accurate.  A few years ago they used PLCs, but with the constantly changing administrative staff, everything that was created has gone by the waste side.  Hopefully we will be able rebuild some of what was lost.
To be honest, my meeting was a little selfish.  I have a lot of ideas of how to change education bouncing in my head and, since I returned to the classroom, I haven’t had the chance to test many of them out.  It was so fantastic to get the chance to talk out my ideas and have someone receptive to what I had to say.  The principal wants to do anything he can to move the school forward, but I don’t think he really knows what the best way is.
Maybe I need to get him on Twitter.

I blame the Flipped Classroom

A lot of things happened to me this year and when I started to analyze everything I realized that it is all the fault of the Flipped Classroom.

1.  My teaching style has radically changed.  No longer do I control my classroom, but give as much control as possible to my students.  I still guide the learning, but they control how and when it occurs.  I work harder than ever before and, but so do my students and they are learning more.

2.  My students can’t take traditional paper and pencil tests.  When I first started this experiment, I made my tests available on Moodle, but didn’t require it.  About half of the students took the tests on paper in class.  For the last test of the year 56 of the 58 students took the test on Moodle.  I just gave my final, a traditional paper and pencil test, and the average was 10 percent lower than any test this year.  The only students who scored at or above their average were the students who still, typically, chose the traditional testing method in class.  I have always hated formal exams because I feel they don’t mimic the normal testing situations and this proved it.

3.  I have little free time.  My students became so reliant on the podcasts that they would email me to post additional videos explaining more problems.  This meant more time in front of the computer.  I mean, how am I supposed to update my Facebook status ever 5 minutes if I am constantly trying to help my students learn outside of class?!  Ok, that was sarcasm.  But also, I have really started to grow my PLN and share my experiences on Twitter which has increased my knowledge and abilities in the classroom.  My professional development now occurs any chance I can open Tweetdeck or get on my PLN websites.

4.  I have made some enemies.  One thing that has become apparent is the Flipped Classroom is not for everyone.  My students loved it because they were finally in control in the classroom, but most teachers can’t do it.  They need to be the boss at all times.  That’s fine as long as you are adapting to the needs of the varied learners in your room.  But, lecturing every day, even if it is for only 15 minutes, isn’t what is in the best interest of today’s learners.  Implementing this non-traditional style makes it apparent the drastic differences that occur between teaching styles.

I love what the Flipped Classroom has given me this year.  I am more confident, more ambitious and constantly searching for new techniques to try.  Even if you only include some tiny aspect of the philosophy, I definitely recommend you try it.  Trust me, your students will love you for it.