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  • Community and the Secondary Classroom

    Friday, January 23, 2015

    As an educator, I understand that commitment to community is twofold. Not only should teachers connect curriculum with community, they should also be enthusiastic to serve others. I have come to understand that “community” is no longer a zip code, so I challenge my students to explore and engage in areas that push the comfort limits of their own learning. As the wise professor says in Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie, “You’re not a wave, you’re part of the ocean.” It is in this spirit that I provide community-related opportunities for my students.
    Teenagers, Smiling, Team Work (1) copy

    First, I aggressively seek out guest speakers. While I may have the education credentials, I am acutely aware that I am an expert in one specific field alone. I teach a high school course called “Literature of Social Change,” and we study an array of contemporary nonfiction; many of the issues we discuss are topics beyond my knowledge and experiences. David Pelzer’s A Child Called “It” is one example. After hearing from a county Court Appointed Special Advocate (C.A.S.A.) attorney about her experiences with child abuse and neglect, my class collected $200 in donations and brought in toys and candy for a county-sponsored Easter Egg Hunt for the wards of the court. Another group volunteered at Operation Breakthrough, a local organization that cares for children of poverty. Prosecuting attorneys, death-row attorneys, and priests have all been guests in my classroom during our unit over Damien Echols’ Life After Death or Sister Helen Prejean’s Dead Man Walking. Talking with a priest prior to his visit, he hesitated because of his concern about the separation of church and state and asked if it was even allowed.

    “Father, you’re fine. You’re simply going to discuss the Church’s position on life, the nature of atonement, and capital punishment. As long as you don’t baptize anyone or offer communion, it’s completely appropriate.”
    He offered a conservative chuckle, and I reciprocated. Later, when the day of his talk arrived, he rocked it. All of these guests, I’ve discovered, are delighted to be a part of my students’ learning—and they’re eager to return. Additionally, these same individuals discuss their respective positive experiences among the community, which provides a byproduct of positive public relations to local voters.

    As an alternative to the traditional final examination in this course, students may choose to explore important and credible organizations that have cultural and thematic connections to the literature. Students can volunteer, shadow, interview, or serve in various capacities for several hours. In addition to presenting their experiences during a roundtable discussion, students are asked to compose a reflection which provides an overview of the student’s motive for selecting this organization, makes specific and thematic and/or cultural connections between the literary work and the experience, shares any benefits or insights the student noted as a result of learning about this organization and its mission, and predicts what may be future obstacles for this organization. These students move from awareness to action, and in doing so see their personal and collective responsibilities within a community.

    The most vital component of our nation’s infrastructure is our schools. Not only does engaging community within our classrooms prove to be enriching, memorable, and relevant for all stakeholders, students gain a sense of empathy, pride, and fulfillment.

    And it doesn’t get any better than that.

    *Darryl Johnson is a secondary English/Language Arts teacher who likes to read, write, and wrestle with educational issues. As Missouri's state Teacher of the Year and an inductee of the National Teachers Hall of Fame, he enjoys speaking to regional and national audiences about the challenges and rewards of teaching.*

  • Summer PD can be fun – and free!

    Monday, July 21, 2014

    Summer is a great time to relax, recharge, go to the beach, and also have some fun engaging in professional learning.  Many educators are finding that the growing world of online professional communities is not only a great way to find resources and ideas (especially tech ideas), but also a place to meet up and have fun! is a community built especially for educators and provides free professional learning communities (PLCs) and webinars on a wide range of really forward-thinking topics like assessment, game-based learning, mobile learning, techtools for the classroom, school gardens, digital citizenship, and much more.  Unfortunately, most schools and districts don’t have the time, money, or expertise to provide information and training on these exciting new frontiers in education.  edWeb provides just-in-time PD by educators and for educators that accelerates learning for everyone!

    What’s a MOOC?

    Have you been reading about or tried to take a MOOC?  It’s been the latest craze in online learning – a “massively open online course.”  edWeb’s programs are like a MINI-MOOC. We average 275 live attendees on our webinars – just the right size to have a very active live chat that provides a fantastic forum for collaboration with our dynamic presenters, and with each other.  With edWeb you can drop in anytime – there are no start and stop dates – and all the resources are free and always available in our online communities, so you never miss a thing.

    Angela Maiers, who just presented on edWeb this week, says, “The smartest person in the room is the room!” Love that.  edWeb provides “rooms” on all kinds of innovative topics in education and brings in such a passionate and motivated group of educators who are delighted and thankful to have the opportunity to share and learn from each other.

    Join the Assessment for Learning Community!

    We are delighted that one of edWeb’s most popular communities – Assessment for Learning – is now hosted by Triumph Learning!

    The goal of this professional learning community is to provide ideas and resources to help you with instruction and formative assessment. It will also help you to use technology to change the process of student assessment to improve, differentiate and personalize instruction. Assessment for Learning is a forum for educators to come together online to engage, innovate, and discuss best practices for the classroom.

    Sign up for one of the upcoming free webinars!

    Tuesday, July 29th - 2PM Eastern Time

    Understanding and Implementing Formative Assessments

    Presented by Eileen Depka, PhD, Director of Continuous Improvement and Assessment for New Berlin Schools in Wisconsin and author with Samantha Bunting, Vice President, Digital Content for Triumph Learning

    Thursday, August 14th - 3PM Eastern Time

    Make Assessment Matter: New Research on What Students and Educators Want From Tests

    Presented by Kelly Goodrich, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Northwest Evaluation Association and Peter Grunwald, Founder and President, Grunwald Associates

    Monday, September 22nd - 3PM Eastern Time

    Differentiation, Assessment and Grading: Redefining Fair

    Presented by Damian Cooper, Education Consultant, Plan-Teach-Assess

    Join the community and you’ll participate in online discussions and be invited to all future events – and it’s all FREE!

    Join Assessment for Learning


    Giving credit where credit is due!

    Educators who are motivated and take the time to use social media for professional learning get many perks just for being part of an online community with fellow educators who share the same passion.  But let’s be realistic, we all need recognition for going the extra mile.  edWeb provides CE certificates to educators who attend our live webinars, or watch the recordings that are archived on  Fortunately, many educators are beginning to get credit for informal professional learning, so our certificates are accepted in many districts and some states for PD and certification requirements.

     Snack on some PD this summer

    One of our members calls edWeb a great PD “snack” – it’s so fun and satisfying!  Join in the collaboration and fun this summer by participating in these great programs:

    Assessment for Learning

    Game-Based Learning

    Mobile Learning Explorations

    Tech Tools for the Classroom

    Growing School Gardens

    Digital Citizenship

    Do you know a new teacher? Pass the word on about our great PLC for new teachers – New Teacher Help.

    Want to try an edWeb PD snack?

    Explore the explosion of technology education apps and how they can be great tools for you and your students.  Here is a link to a recent webinar that rocked our edWeb world – over 700 educators attended this webinar live:

    There’s an App for That!  50 Apps That Will Rock Your World

  • Top 5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Summer

    Monday, June 2, 2014

    Summer is a great time to relax and recharge – you’ve earned it! But you can also take some of this valuable time to prepare yourself for next year’s challenges and opportunities. Here are some ideas for learning, refreshing and preparing for fall, all of which can be done comfortably poolside.


      • Reflect on the past school year. What can you learn from it? What worked really well, and what didn’t work so well? What new things did you try and what were the results? What did your students really respond to? Taking some time to honestly evaluate the year will help you shape the year to come.


      • Make plans for next year. After you have evaluated this past year, think about things you wanted to try but didn’t have time for. What have you heard from other teachers in your network that you think might work for your students? Make a list of new ideas, prioritize them, and think through how you can incorporate them into your teaching.



      • Find new sources for classroom activities, lessons and resources. Likewise, you can also use the web to find and collect new resources to use with students.
        • Pinterest – You may already be using Pinterest, but if not, you have to check it out! There are literally thousands of lesson plans, worksheets, classroom ideas and more. Pinterest has even created their own section of the site, just for teachers: Teachers on Pinterest


    • Get a deeper understanding of the skills and standards your students will need to master. Whether your state has adopted the Common Core Standards or has its own, it’s important to understand how your students will be assessed next year. Take some time to read and reread required standards so you can implement them into your teaching.
      • Read the standards at or on your state Department of Education website
      • Watch videos, download lessons and ask your questions at


    We hope you’ll also join our network and connect with us on Twitter, LinkedInGoogle+, Pinterest and Facebook. Have a great summer!

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