Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Magic of YouTube

Everyone knows the power of the Internet, but one specific site has changed the face of education today. YouTube is one of the most widely used sources for informal education. If there is anything you want to learn, just look it up on YouTube, and more than likely someone will be there ready to share their knowledge with you. Personally, I use YouTube all of the time to advance my own knowledge outside of professional development opportunities, grants, graduate classes, and the like. I am well aware that I do not know everything there is to know on any particular topic, therefore I am always looking for new ideas or a fresh take on an old idea. Some teachers may spend their summers at the beach, but honestly . . . I spend most of my time learning (just ask my husband). Last summer I spent several hours a day watching YouTube videos to learn how to create a blog, as well as the title, tags, and widgets for a blog. I stayed up late learning how to create professional looking teaching materials through the use of an open source program called Inkscape. I even learned how to film, edit, and publish teaching videos to share on YouTube. I cannot express my love and admiration for this site enough. Some people may spend their time watching cat videos or funny babies, but I use it as a free gateway to gaining knowledge. You know what they say . . . knowledge is power! It's possible that I spend so much time learning because I don't have any cable or public television service, nor do I want it. I truly see myself as a lifelong learner and I always want to acquire more knowledge about anything that I can; television is a distraction to this process in my opinion. I am an inventor at heart, which explains why I am continuously curious. I use everything I do as a learning experience and then I use YouTube to help me figure out how I can improve upon those experiences. More recently, I have been using YouTube to learn a new way of teaching. Some people may already know this, but soon I will be moving away from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. My family will be moving into the Springfield, Virginia area and we couldn't be happier. As a teacher in Somerset County, Maryland, I realize that many other counties (including Fairfax County, Virginia) use a much different teaching model than what I currently use in my county. I have taught in many different ways throughout my eight years of teaching, all of which have their advantages and disadvantages. The key to anything in teaching is to file away the successes for later use and to learn from the failures or challenges that have been presented to you. I never truly see anything as a failure and I discuss this in depth with my students. The only way to fail is to give up! If something does not go as expected or as you had hoped, then the only real thing to do is to stop and figure out what went wrong and how can you fix it to make it work better. I see students become upset and frustrated when they think that they have failed. I then explain to them that this is not a time to be sad, but a time to think: What happened? How can I make this better? They change, they immediately stop and their mental wheels start to turn. An inventor is not someone who is the smartest man or woman in the world, but someone who never gave up and tried something multiple times until they succeeded. Yes, I realize I have wandered away from my original YouTube discussion, but this was important to say, as so many teachers ignore struggling students instead of giving them the tools needed to become self-motivating individuals. Now, back to my move to Northern Virginia. We are moving to Fairfax County and with that comes new challenges and experiences. I have been on a few interviews and have learned so much from each and every one of them. I did not realize how different the actual classroom teaching model was in other counties compared to mine. The need to know immediately took over and I began doing extensive research into the way that Fairfax County teaches. I have asked questions and emailed the Elementary Mathematics Specialist in the county. I have learned about DRA2, Words Their Way, Guided Reading, Responsive Classrooms, and Math Workshop. I have watched numerous training videos and other videos of teachers in the classroom using these types of teaching models, all without having to go out in the rain. YouTube is simply a wonderful tool for any teacher who just wants to know more. After watching videos of teachers using these strategies in their classroom, I began using some of them in my classroom as well. I like to test and try things out before jumping into anything (if at all possible). My students and I have a wonderful relationship, and I have explained to them that we are going to be trying new things and they are more than happy to oblige. We now have daily morning meetings and use transitions to get from one place to another. We meet in small, leveled guided reading groups and work on individual skills based on their needs. We use secret passwords (e.g., stars with words) on our chairs each day to help us learn new word patterns at our individual level (stay tunned for this blog post later). We meet in small groups to learn specialized math skills, which are based on previous assessments. So many changes in so little time, yet I feel nothing but happiness. I see how happy my students are to greet each other and pick transitions. I see how much they have improved because of the more individualized instruction. Nothing makes me feel better than seeing happy children learning. I have started to wonder where has this model been my whole teaching career? I have always worked hard to have happy students who enjoy learning, but this was something different. This was a whole new way of thinking and teaching, and I welcome it with open arms. I know that there is still more to learn and I am excited to see what else my good friend YouTube has to offer. I know what I'll be doing this summer, what about you?


Shaina Soderstrom

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