Thursday, May 31, 2012

Reflections on the Teacher Inquiry Process

I was lucky this year. I had the opportunity to participate in a Inquiry project sponsored by our union and the district. Teachers were invited to develop an inquiry question that applied to their practice and we were given release time to learn about what an inquiry project was and to work in collaboration with colleagues.

I say I was lucky but I have to tell you I didn't feel that way through the whole process. After our first session I turned to my teaching partner and asked her what we had gotten ourselves into. The whole process seemed overwhelming and frighting to me. Asking questions, monitoring our thought processes, collecting DATA and most terrifyingly reporting about the whole process to others.

The process proved to be a great experience for me. It gave me the opportunity to collaborated with colleagues, exchange ideas and struggles. It also help me focus my own practice, giving me a clear target to concentrate on and helped me look more closely at how I was teaching and why I chose to teach that way.  It wasn't an easy or comfortable process all the time, but it was enlightening for me.

Tonight was our "presentation and party" and it really wrapped up the whole experience for me. Explaining what I had learned and how I had learned it helped me really clarify my own thinking and hearing about other teachers process and findings was also very valuable. I learned a lot and I have a whole new crop of questions I now want answers to.

So why am I sharing this with you? I believe teacher inquiry is a very valuable form of professional development. Self directed, focused on real problems and real solutions for our own classrooms. It takes teachers where they are NOW and leads them somewhere better. I know for many it sounds frighting and I wanted to let you all know - I am a survivor of the inquiry process. (I want a badge that says that!) 
Was it a lot of work? Yes, yes it was. Would I do it again? You bet - where do I sign up?

The Prezi my group presented:

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Using Prezi in the classroom

I discovered Prezi about 2 years ago and have been using it when I put on workshops.

What is it? It is a online presentation maker - a little like power-point but with more zoom.

What I like about Prezi is that it allows me to easily and quickly create a portable presentation that includes embedded video, links, images, text and PDF documents. I can create, edit, store and view my Prezi online or I can download a program for my computer. It also allows me to insert pre-made PowerPoint presentations and edit them with Prezi. It has pre-made templates for me to use but it also allows me to have a blank canvas to work from so I can create the presentation I want, the way I want it. Oh and did I mention that it is FREE for educational use?

Used Prezi before? If you haven't visited Prezi lately it is worth having another look. They have made some great updates in the last few months that have made this  program more user friendly and accessible.

One of my workshop Prezis:

So if I learned about this 2 year ago - why am I writing about it today? Well it just occurred to me that I could and should be using Prezi in my classroom too. I can make little movies that are easily embedded onto my classroom website that students can watch at home.

Here is a quick Sight-Word Review I put online:

My students can access it directly from my website and practice at home:

I can also "spice-up" some of my less interesting Smart-board lessons.  I discovered that I can save Notebook files at PowerPoint presentations and then upload them easily to Prezi. All I had to do was click File, then Export, the PowerPoint. So easy.

This is a Smart board Lesson I quickly converted about Piet Mondrian.

This week I plan on trying to create a story Prezi with my students in class. We can then post in on our classroom website and the students can read it to their parents at home. I'm excited about the possible uses in my class room. Are you already using Prezi with your students? How?

What to learn more? Check-out this Prezi on how to create a Prezi!