Tag Archives: teacher

A Vision of the Future for Teachers and Leaders

If you are a faithful Tweak Your Slides reader, you know that one of my favorite people is Pamela Slim, guru, author, and TED speaker. Slim advises those who want to “escape cubicle nation”and those who wish to connect the disparate threads of experience to help create a cohesive and impacting body of work, and helps them find a way to take success and their future into their own hand. Upon first studying works like Escape from Cubicle Nation and Body of Work, it seems that Slim’s focus is on experienced workers, those who have been in the workforce for years and are looking for a way to put their experience to different use or who want to pursue their “side hustles.” But, today’s TED Talk shows us that Pam’s mission to change her clients’, readers’, and the world’s vision of success extends to the group she sees as the most important in helping us recover economically–our youth. In her TEDxPhoenix talk, Slim shares several stories of young people who show strength, perseverance, and bravery in the face of a tumultuous world. These young people presented through the framework of Slim’s powerful storytelling can remind teachers and leaders of what our true role is in educating others: we are guides, encouragers, mentors who help others unlock hidden potential that can and will change the world.

Pain is Power

Among these remarkable folks is Amanda Wang, a graphic designer who brings awareness to bipolar disorder by sharing her journey to train for the Golden Gloves with audiences; Amanda uses her pain, her “weaknesses” to empower herself and empower others. In a world with constantly shifting ideas, ideologies, power structures, work modes, etc. the ability to harness pain into power is remarkably important.

A Free Mind Creates Economic Freedom

Another impacting story Slim shares is the story of Willie Jackson, who left a traditional corporate career to help others jumpstart their creative endeavors through building WordPress sites. For Willie, the traditional work mode and traditional definition of success were not enough to make him happy. His willingness to use his talents to help others freed him.

We need to stop telling our young people to spend 40 years creating spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides that have no meaning.

Beauty is a Universal Constant

Slim then shares the story of Avery, a young Navajo man, who traverses two worlds–the world of his native culture and the world surrounding it in Phoenix, Arizona. Avery uses art to communicate his perspective and the perspectives of other natives in a unique way. He gives voice to experiences most of us would otherwise know nothing about, and empowers others to share their experiences. For Slim, Avery is representative of the potential future of contemporary native people. He will grow to be a leader and guide to future generations, including her children.

Pam Slim Future.001

As teachers and leaders, it’s up to us to keep this idea as an important focus. Yes, generations have different concerns, different values, different interests, but I think we fall into the “what’s wrong with young people today?” way of thinking far too often and far too quickly. If we see potential in every one of our students, they will live up to that potential. I will be leaving my current position and subject matter with corporate education to return to a learning-centered college in the Fall (the same one I left almost six years ago). I brought with me the principles of learner-centered education, and I learned more than I can say about teaching, leadership, and design as a course director of Professional Communication and Presentation. I will return to Valencia College with these new skills, always keeping in mind that my role is to guide, inspire, and motivate the young people who will continue changing our world for the better.

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Data Display of the Day: The Flipped Classroom

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The phrase “Flipping the Classroom” has become a hot topic of discussion among my colleagues–workshops have been offered on the subject, teachers have been implementing flipped strategies in their campus and online classes, and a student even proposed this as his persuasive speech topic several months ago. So what exactly is a flipped classroom? The concept exists at the intersection between the opportunities offered by video and online modes of delivery and a much needed response to the problems with our factory model of education, one that Sir Ken Robinson asserts is killing our creative centers.

The concept was first introduced via MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses), by teachers like Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, and fueled by the rise of online videos and lessons (in large part made possible by presentation software like PowerPoint). In essence, in a flipped classroom, students experience lecture on their own in video format and learn the subjects they study through experience. For schools, teachers, and students who spent countless hours in lectures, delivered those countless hours, or dealt with the ramifications of a failing school system in part driven by a lack of actual learning, the flipped classroom is an open window of opportunity.

One of my big goals for this year is to devote more time to activity in the campus course. While I do not seek to remove the impact a deep socratic discussion of course ideas has on learning, I do see the benefit of keeping instruction and the dissemination of information minimal for the sake of application. One of my big goals for this year is to add even more in class activity and application than is already present in the course. There’s no reason our campus students couldn’t study the same videos as online students as they study their course textbook. This would leave more time for application and activity-based learning and help students see the ideas they learn about in action. Today’s infographic provides a visual introduction to the concept of Flipped Classrooms. Check out this infographic and the rest from Knewton, a learning systems/learning platform company (their adaptive learning platform sounds so cool!)

flipped-classroom

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The Teaching Portfolio: Stretching those Design and Cognition Muscles

Recently, my department was tasked with a goal that left a few of us filled with a bit of anxiety (as it does most teachers when asked to take on this task)–our goal for the new year is to create or revise an online teaching portfolio. While most teachers are expected to have a completed portfolio they can call up at a moment’s notice, that portfolio is generally in print form and lacks the interactivity that is possible with today’s technology. So, I was excited to tackle this project and expand my already existing mini-portfolio to a full-fledged site with samples, student work, videos, images, and lesson plans. Here is the first draft of my site. It’s technically “live” though not being fully promoted as it is not complete.

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Note: I removed the curriculum section from the published site as it is not yet complete.

I had to ask and answer a few questions in developing this project: what is a teaching portfolio? Why do teachers need a teaching portfolio? What purpose does it serve new and experience teachers? What makes a good teaching portfolio?

What is a teaching portfolio?

While a resume or curriculum vitae is a part of a strong portfolio, it is not a replacement. Unlike a cv, a teaching portfolio focuses on communicating a teacher’s pedagogical vision, his or her range of expertise and experience, his or her teaching methods, the level of the teacher’s effectiveness at facilitating learning, and methods for assessing and improving teaching.

“While dissertation abstracts and research summaries document your expertise in research, the teaching portfolio documents your expertise in teaching.” (Source)

Why does a teacher need a teaching portfolio?

Teaching is a profession that requires lifelong practice, learning, and evolution. A teaching portfolio not only allows viewers to see how your approach has grown through experience, trial and error, and the use of metrics, but it also gives you as a teacher the opportunity to objectively consider how your experience and approach have aided you in achieving your goal–facilitating learning. The Teaching Center at Washington University in St. Louis gives a few more reasons for the use of portfolios:

A Teaching Portfolio is a useful tool that can help you (Source):

  • develop, clarify, and reflect on your teaching philosophy, methods, and approaches
  • present teaching credentials for hiring and promotion in an academic position
  • document professional development in teaching
  • identify areas for improvement
  • prepare for the interview process

So, a strong portfolio can help you land a job, a promotion, or related position within academia. It can also help you focus on the same kind of self-reflection and analysis you ask your students to engage in every day!

“Portfolios have much to offer the teaching profession,” writes Dr. Kenneth Wolf, of the University of Colorado. “When teachers carefully examine their own practices, those practices are likely to improve. The examples of accomplished practice that portfolios provide also can be studied and adapted for use in other classrooms.”  (Source)

What makes for a good teaching portfolio?

First of all, a teaching portfolio should be summative and selective, not broad and comprehensive. Instead of cramming every detail of one’s educational career into a portfolio, a teacher should instead selectively choose material that supports the main and universal component of a strong portfolio–a clear teaching philosophy. A teaching philosophy is in this case the big idea; it communicates who a teacher is as a professional and why he or she does what you does. The rest of the content fluctuates depending on a source, but in general, a strong teaching portfolio includes the following in addition to a philosophy:

  • Goals as an educator
  • Tracing of one’s development as an educator
  • Lesson plans and instructional methods
  • Methods of assessing student work and success
  • Course materials (syllabi, activities, assignments)
  • Student work examples
  • Evaluations from students, colleagues, and supervisors
  • Evidence of professional development
  • Video/photographic evidence of teaching

George David Clark of The Chronicle of Higher Education discusses three tips for a successful portfolio in his 2012 article on the subject. According to Clark, in developing a portfolio, a teacher should focus on organizing to minimize. By providing the target audience with a clear organizational structure and cutting content that doesn’t support that structure, a teacher can ensure that one clear message regarding theory and approach to instruction is being communicated. In addition, a strong teaching portfolio should clearly chart a teacher’s development and maturation as a professional.  Clark states that the “format of a teaching portfolio allows job seekers to connect the dots and even briefly describe the thought process that led them to try new things in the classroom.” Teachers can use the linear structure of a portfolio to help their audience understand where they’ve been and where they are going as educators. Finally, Clark suggests focusing on the student as a measurement of success. Something he suggested that I’d like to adapt is making reference to letters of recommendation students have written on behalf of a teacher that led to that student earning a position at a school or with a company. I’d love to get a sense from past students of how they use the skills they learned in class. These could be integrated while still maintaing the students’ privacy in an online portfolio.

You know I have to add a few design-based dos to this list…

  • Do create an easy to navigate site for your online portfolio
    • This is, I feel, the area I need the most work in–the way the information is in my head is not the way others might understand it.
  • Don’t use a template; remix existing design but make it your own
    • There’s nothing worse than an unoriginal teacher (ever have to teach someone else’s class–I don’t mean substitute necessarily here, but use someone else’s materials to reach something! So difficult!)….
    • …except for a teacher who steals. Be inspired by what you see more experienced web folks doing, but iterate that inspiration.
  • Use relevant visual support
    • While a print resume is by nature text-driven, you have the entire “mystery box” that is the web to draw from. Don’t rely on text only to communicate your message. Recall that text alone helps your audience retain far less information than text and image together (Source).
  • Make it interactive
    • Create a dynamic portfolio with text, audio, and visual to maximize your message.
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Tweak Your Teach: The Teaching Portfolio

I am excited to continue working on Tweak Your Teach and the rest of my blog in the new year. I’ve just updated the site to include a teaching porfolio section that I will be adding to and growing over the next few weeks. What exactly is a teaching portfolio and what is its purpose?

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According to Rutgers University’s Center for Teaching Advancement & Assessment Research, a teaching portfolio is a “flexible document” that details a teacher’s “teaching responsibilities, philosophy, goals and accomplishments.” This traditionally print document contains the breadth and scope of an educator’s experience and includes three major areas:

1. Teaching Responsibilities (What I do)

2. Teaching Philosophy and Statement of Competency (Why I do it)

3. Evidence of Effective Teaching (Proof that I do what I say)

A strong portfolio is dynamic–it changes constantly and includes both specific goals and measurable data indicating those goals have been met. More than proof of concept, a dynamic teaching portfolio shows an educator what he or she has accomplished and what he or she still needs to grow. There are several excellent print guides as well as examples available. One of the most highly recommended is The Teaching Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Improved Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decisions.

However, several  comprehensive guides to the portfolio process that don’t cost a penny come from reputable educational institutions like Rutgers. Two of my favorites are A Guide to the Teaching Portfolio by the University of New Hampshire and the very comprehensive and useful guide from the Center for Effective Teaching and Learning at the University of Texas at El Paso.

As I begin this process, I have many great examples to draw from, but find the approach to the standard portfolio to be a bit stale. I am working on ways to make it more dynamic and interactive, drawing from my design skills to further enhance how usable this is as a tool  for me and for others. I’ve added a few preliminary elements to the portfolio section, the most recent of which is my teaching philosophy. I’ve truncated this down from two pages to one, but would definitely like to add specific goals to the end. This draft focuses on my self-definition as a “super-teacher.” I began using this term several years ago when I saw a stark difference between those who teach because they cannot do something in their field and those who teach because teaching IS their field. Those are the super-teachers, at least the ones who call teaching their bliss and work towards the betterment of education for all. Check it out in the new teaching portfolio section under “About Me.”

Are you a teacher? What’s your philosophy on teaching? What do you draw inspiration from?

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