One of the social networks out there that is not as widespread as some of the noted ones is the website Reddit.com. This site has communities for a great number of different interests. One of the ones I’ve been using since I started this program is the “/r/teachers” community. While there are individual subject specific teacher Reddit communities, I prefer to watch the primary one, as there is no specific religion teacher community, and the main one is the most active.
Before I started this program, I had never taken a class online. I was wary about it, even though a few members of my own family are involved in this sort of work. During my searching of various Masters’ programs, I even went as so far to look deliberately for one that had live classes in person, but with this sort of program, practically every University I was interested in only ran the program online.
The reason I was slow to warm up to the idea of online classes, is that I was not confident of my abilities outside of what one could call a “brick-and-mortar” classroom. At the time, I believed my abilities hinged on hearing out lectures in person and taking notes the older way with pen and paper.
I am glad to be proven wrong, as I’ve managed to proceed through this program with strong performance. I’ve also enjoyed the online class model quite a bit, but I’ve also been quite aware that this may not have worked for myself a mere decade ago in my undergraduate. I have considerable more self-discipline than I did before.
As for as developing my skills beyond the thirty short credit hours of this program, I’ve taken to not only watching the occasional YouTube video from other teachers, but have searched out low cost to free teacher webinars as well. There is something inherently valuable in hearing other teachers talk about the struggles that they’ve had in class, and the novel solutions that they’ve come up over the years to solve them.
One of the many sites out there for Teachers to find and attend Webinars for me is the site Education Week. Aside from being a quality site that repots on the news of Education, it also has several resources available for teachers to use. One of these is an updated list of Free Webinars for teachers to use. This has been invaluable to me to hear from other teachers, and do so on budget.
While serving at CBC we used the Learning Management System known as Blackboard. It’s a solid system; it’s considered dominant among most high schools and colleges. However, there is one major problem. Without additional support, there is nothing preventing students from freely accessing the general internet while using the system. While for the most part this may not be a bad thing, you want class assignments that depend on students using internet resources to have access. However, during examinations, this does become an issue to make sure students do not attempt to cheat.
I sat on CBC’s New Technology committee; my voice was added to members of every department at CBC in order to discuss and evaluate new technology, including Blackboard. The vendors would present new features. One such technology I helped implement was the Blackboard LMS “Lockdown” browser.
This is function built into Blackboard that can be implemented at a higher fee. When teachers give a test, they can force students to use the Lockdown browser, which suspends all access to other programs while the test is in motion. If other programs are started, LockDown suspends action on the test until the programs are shut down. This has led to better implementation of academic integrity at CBC.
In addition to the lockdown browser, the Technology Committee at Christian Brothers College High School was also tasked with evaluating if our 1:1 computer environment should continue to use traditional laptops or move over to something newer. We took a look at three Lenovo models during the year- a Lenovo X550, a Lenovo Helix and a Lenovo Yoga 12.
The three models in question are respectively a traditional laptop computer, a detachable tablet computer from a keyboard base, and lastly, a tablet computer than could physically fold from a laptop mode to a tablet mode. There were serious discussions about which to pick, from all members. We ultimately polled our other faculty members about the situation and asked which they would advocate for, both as faculty models and future student models.
I personally advocated for the traditional model computer, but the faculty chose the Yoga as the preferred model. We also drew up plans for the administration to move towards similar models for students within a few years.
One of the projects I learned in Action Research was how to reconsider tried and true technologies that even most teachers had taken for granted. Within the class, I developed a plan for my St. Monica’s Parish School of Religion classroom. Given my classroom is a “low-tech” platform, based on the recent popular phenomenon of adult coloring books. I made a plan to implement coloring books as a tool to help students focus before the start of class. This small action lets me help students focus before class begins.
During my Instructional Design class, I worked with classmates on a team to develop an education plan for fellow educators based on four different technologies, with Microsoft PowerPoint as my assigned technology. We proposed using a Weebly site that any teacher could use to study at their own pace and using both formative and summative evaluations to make sure that our colleagues were absorbing the lessons well. This included both in-person interviews as well as virtual surveys.
Long before I joined this program, I participated in a program that started my teaching career. The Missouri-New Orleans province of Jesuits maintains a volunteer program called the Alumni Service Corps. Participants in this program work on a volunteer basis for one year at one of the several Jesuit-run Catholic Middle and High Schools in the states of Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado, with the program expanding into Texas recently.
I served during the 2009-2010 academic year, Assigned to Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, MO. I worked for the school, teaching two sections of 9th grade Catholic Systematic Theology. In addition to teaching, I also served in their Faculty Work Studio as the first line support for their I.T. department. With only two sections to teach myself, I was regularly called on to serve as an assistant or substitute for all other subjects. While I had some initial training before the year had started, much of it was learning on the job.
As part of the program, you work closely with a number of both formal and informal mentor teachers. This was invariably helpful; as many of my first year mistakes could be easily identified and addressed, much less the wisdom of veterans helped over all to help me through that year.
Given the end of the program rapidly approaching, I’ve worked hard to keep my coding abilities up to speed, as well as prepare for if I will ever need to teach them myself. One of my favorite tools to learn this process has been the website Code Academy.
It is an excellent tool to keep your own skills up to date, or for teachers to assign lessons based on the lessons there. When working at Christian Brothers College high school, I always would recommend it to students who were involved in Web Design classes so that they could help practice their abilities.