George Lucas Educational Foundation
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As the end of the year draws closer, it is important for all teachers to start evaluating how things went. One part of this evaluation should be the use of technology. Much as a teacher will look back on the lessons that worked and did not work, it is just as valuable to look back on the technology tools that were effective and ineffective. As teachers, it's important to try bettering our craft, and reflection is one of the best ways to do this. Here are five steps to help make the technology reflection a bit smoother.

1) What Tools Did You Use?

Take a look at the technology tools you used this year. How many did you incorporate into your lessons for student use, and how many did you use for your benefit alone? It's important to make a list and really look at the tools utilized. You might be surprised at how much technology you actually use throughout the year.

2) How Did You Use These Tools?

The next step is to look at how you used these tools throughout the year. Were they tools that allowed students to present information? Were they tools that helped you become more organized? What role in your classroom did the tool fill for you and for the students?

3) Was the Tool Effective in What You Wanted to Accomplish?

Next, you have to decide how effective the tools were. This is a great time to talk to your students about technology and ask them how the tools used in class impacted their learning. Your view on the success of a tool is important, but the view of the students can really be different from yours. Take note of all of the things that worked as well as what didn't work. Then decide if the parts that didn't work had to do with the tool or the user (that would be you).

4) What Tools Could Be Removed or Replaced?

After creating your list, see if there are any tools that can be removed or replaced. It may be hard to stop partway through a lesson or unit to find a new tool, but if you're using a tool that doesn't meet your needs, there's no point sticking with it. The only reason to try again with the same tool is if you feel the faults were with your implementation and not the tool itself. If that's the case, see what happens next time.

5) What Are Your Goals for Next Year?

Create a short list of goals for yourself next year. They can be small goals like converting a traditional paper assignment into a web-based one, or something large like having students create a multimedia project using various Web 2.0 tools. Whatever the goals are, it's nice to have them; they'll make the evaluation process at the end of the next year even smoother.

As teachers, it's important to take stock of what we do every day in an effort to become better teachers. If we do not evaluate the tools we use, we run the chance of shortchanging ourselves -- and our students. Reflecting on our practice is the best way to ensure continuous growth and life-long learning.

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Like many of us, my districts have turned to curriculum mapping and have focused on Atlas. Practically, as a teacher, I love the idea of doing the heavy lifting, brow sweating type of work once and then having it carry on by the click of a button, year after year. However, it constrains the classroom limiting creativity. Once students get in stride, teachers know best when their class can benefit from a side project or a lesson delving deeper into a subject. If we are slaves to curriculum maps, there is no wavering from the time allowance and we are forced to move on with the master calendar.

TODD SENTELL's picture
Author of the hilarious schoolhouse memoir, "Can't Wait to Get There. Can't Wait to Leave"

You can easily get your nose hairs and ear hairs and eye brows singed off in a Japanese hibachi steak house in Columbus, Georgia

Even though they've gotten in trouble for being loud in a museum, it's probably not a good example for a teacher to scream at them in the museum for being loud in a museum

If there's a gift shop in a museum, and there always are, the boys will spend more time in the gift shop than they did in the museum

Later in the week, make sure you tell the boys that the fellow acting as a pirate in that haunted old restaurant was really a pirate and see how they ponder over that information for the rest of the week, especially since the fellow acting like a pirate really did seem like he was one

When you learn that a couple of them have not called their parents not once during the week and when they also tell you their parents have not called them not once during the week try real hard not to act like something is real, real wrong with both of those things

You might consider pulling off to a hardware store and having a copy made of the bus key in order to keep you from totally freaking out and having a near heart attack the moment you think you've lost the only bus key

When you ask them to be packed and ready outside their rooms at 8 o'clock and they're packed and ready outside their rooms at 7:55 you must do all you can to ignore their irritating and smug expressions when they have successfully and totally called your bluff

Totally impress the kids by asking site managers and museum guides questions site managers and museum guides don't know the answer to

When Sheldon gets into that weird habit of using cuss words in his conversations and you know he really isn't doing it deliberately, don't give him a wonderful nickname, like Cuss Master, which is the one we gave him, which then acts to encourage him even more to use profanity in his conversations for the rest of the week

You'll be surprised how they don't get mad when you remind them every day to please take showers or baths and to please shampoo their hair. They all know they should practice comprehensive and frequent hygiene but most of the time they're apocalyptically uninterested in doing it.

When you get back from a week of overnight field trips and you're putting your personal stuff in your truck and there's Percy standing there watching you and you're prodding Percy to make sure he tells Lurlene that Todd and Gary are the most awesome teachers on Earth as well as your heroes make sure Percy's mother isn't standing behind you and you didn't know it. It's slightly embarrassing when that happens.

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