Sunday, July 13, 2014

Getting to the questions...

These are my two oldest children:


Rylee is a perfectionist...



And Aaden can be a bit of a "know-it-all"



Now don't get me wrong, I love them dearly, but between one who always responds with "I already knew that" and one who hesitates to even try if she isn't going to get the answer right, getting my kids to ask question and admit they don't know is a TOUGH job! Some people want their kids to stop asking so many questions - I want mine to ask more!

Almost a year ago I came across a website called Wonderopolis on Matt Gomez's blog. Last week, at #ipadu in Cedar Rapids, Matt mentioned this resource again, and I couldn't wait to come home and try it out with my kids.



Since I got home Friday night we have been watching Wonder videos like crazy! Rylee and I watched them together Friday night and Saturday night, and I practiced modeling making educated guesses - I wanted to show her that nobody (not even mom, which is hard to believe, I know) has ALL the answers!  We took turns making guesses and then she wrote about what we learned. Tonight I did one with Aaden, and it was even more difficult to get him to ask questions. However, I am all about helping my kids practice this skill, and it is a resource I will be sharing with all my districts!

The basic set-up is that there is a kid-friendly/inspired question or "wonder" each day, with photos and a video, and then the essential questions of the "wonder" - "What is in a hot dog?" or "How are mountains made?" Along with those there is a short article with lots of interactive vocabulary words, and finally a quiz, if you'd like. Rylee and I did a couple of the quizzes, but we were more interested in the questions.

Getting students to think, wonder, and sometimes just guess is one of the hardest parts of education these days. The desire to get the "right" answer is so deeply engrained in their brains that being wrong or not know an answer is scary to them. I love this resource as a method of learning and questioning! Good work, Wonderopolis!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

6 Days of Highlights at #iste2014

Holy goodness, I had every intention of blogging my main take away each day while I was at ISTE, so my friends at home could follow along, and I totally got wrapped up in the awesomeness of the sessions and forgot!

Day 1: This was actually a "tourist" day as the conference hadn't started yet, so my highlight was Flip Burger Boutique!

Day 2: #Hacked is pretty much my favorite part of ISTE - this is a MUST ATTEND/non-negotiable for me. The unconference style combined with the #edurockstars that come, creates an experience that I can't even describe.

I had a conversation in my first session in which I described having my students help me build our class together - if we're piloting something new, they take ownership and build with me along the way. I was excited to share, but one participant said he felt like I was doing kids a "dis-service" because the other teachers aren't like this, and when they walked out of my room they had to go back into a traditional environment. Remember folks, you shouldn't do bad things to kids just because other people are doing bad things to kids.

The smackdown session had some interesting tools, like Chatter Pix, Art Rage, and Touch Cast , and a session I went to on "Voxer" in an educational setting made my day (thank you @wkrakower)! If you aren't on Voxer you should be. Trust me. I had downloaded it prior to the conference, but it came in handy

Day 3: Workshop day! We went to an Invent to Learn workshop with Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez - the time to play was excellent, but I am still a proponent for some level of structure, design thinking, something. However, that being said, our team really illustrated the learning process and environment that we want to create perfectly! Our process was collaborative, reflective, personalized, challenging, purposeful, and FUN!

Day 4: While Sunday had many amazing experiences, I have to say I can sum up my top highlight in one word: RAKtivism! I was incredibly inspired by an Ignite session by @HCPSTinyTech on Random Acts of Kindness, and tweeted about it, after which I was challenged by a member of my PLN (@JD_Rincker) who was watching the feed from home, to complete one RAK in the next week. I returned the challenge, and we agreed to both complete RAK and blog about it (okay, the blog part is still in negotiation, but I'm planning on winning that one ;). We have both since completed our first RAK, but more on that later!

Day 5: Monday was our presentation day! That was definitely a highlight! Our team had some last minute changes to make to our presentation, but we worked hard to pull it all together, and I was really happy with our collaboration and final product. It wasn't always pretty, but that's part of the process, and it meant a lot to me that we all played different roles at different times, and we got a lot of positive feedback.

Day 6: Our last day was kind of a whirlwind of activity, but I still tried to cram in some final sessions. The sessions were fine, but to be honest, my favorite part of this day was taking some time to sit and reflect and think about the big ideas we will bring back home to our #plaea teachers. That, and the peach popsicles. I had 4...

More to come - I haven't even touched on the value of my PLN and getting to meet up with so many of them at ISTE!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Why I HATE anonymous user names

As an educator I teach my students that they can make a difference in the world, and as a tech integration consultant I promote social media as a means of doing so. Recently, however, a dear family friend has been experiencing the down side of social media, and her "haters" illustrate perfectly why digital citizenship is so important, why we need to start teaching our kids early how to interact in a public (virtual or otherwise) forum, and why it is SO IMPORTANT to extend our outreach to parents and community members.
Let me start at the beginning:
A little over a year ago, I contacted Mindi, founder of the blog Bailing Out Benji, to speak with a class of my students about puppy mills, her blog, and rescue animals, after she helped my sister find a rescue dog. She shared about how she started her journey as an animal rights advocate, and how she used her blog and Facebook page to help educate people about puppy mills. 
Last Christmas we adopted a second rescue puppy when my other sister saw that BOB (Bailing Out Benji) was hosting a virtual event called “Home for the Howl-idays” to promote getting shelter dogs and cats into their forever homes (all while going through the shelter application background checks and paperwork) for Christmas. 
Finally, this spring I was able to take my two oldest children (8 and 5) to join my sisters and our rescue dogs to Iowa State University where other BOB members were holding an awareness event for college students during finals week. 
I am proud to say that BOB is educating my students and my children, as well as myself, about the reality of puppy mills, but also about the impact an individual or small group can make when they have the right tools at their finger tips. Mindi's work has grown from one individual's passion into a thriving group that raises money to support rescue work, educate the public, and raise awareness about puppy mills in Iowa and around the United States.
Fast forward to today. Iowa news stations have been picking up more and more stories about puppy mills thanks to the work of Bailing Out Benji and other awesome rescue workers and volunteers. Along with these stories, we also find the comment section, where people insert some sort of anonymous user name and have the freedom to say whatever they want; true or not, appropriate or not, civil or not.



What frustrates me about these comments on a WHO news story is not that these people have opinions that are blatantly rude (and since I know Mindi personally, I can tell you are also HUGELY false), but that they can hide behind anonymous pseudonyms, spouting whatever they damn well please. You shouldn't be able to anonymously imply that someone is dishonest, a thief, or a liar. You shouldn't be able to anonymously threaten people or make libelous statements. You can, and we all love free speech, but it sucks, and it sends the wrong message.
I wish these people had the opportunity to take a class with me on digital citizenship and how to behave in a public forum, because this behavior could definitely go on my list of “non-examples”.
Why does civility go out the window once people sit behind a computer screen? How am I supposed to teach my students that this isn't okay, when their parents, older siblings, neighbors, etc. are modeling this petty, disgusting behavior? How do we tell kids that cyber-bullying is wrong when these comments are some of the more tame remarks (and sometimes threats) that we see in public forums? 
Am I a little biased because I know the person being attacked? Maybe. But rather than "biased," I would say "more informed" - I know these things are untrue, and I know the horrible things being said about her are not only untrue, but incredibly hurtful to a very sweet individual. This is just one small example of the hundreds of comment forums just like this that are filled each day with hate and name-calling. 
This makes my drive to grow digital citizenship education that much stronger. Please join me in educating not only our youth, but our communities in what exactly it means to be not just a good DIGITAL citizen, but a good citizen - period. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

LPK Model for Close Reading

Several years ago I worked on a strategy for my students to use when reading articles, journals, primary sources, etc. I had completely forgotten about it until today, when I was teaching a class on the Rule of Law and using the C3 Framework as a means for discussing lesson design. One of the really important concepts we discussed was close reading, and as we were sharing the tools we have successfully used in our own classrooms, I remembered my own strategy. It's one that I developed and piloted with my students, and then I lost in the chaos of daily life in the last two years. I'm disappointed in myself for not making it more of a priority and using it to help more students understand their reading, but I'm ready to pull it off the shelf, dust it off, and share it with you. Feedback and thoughts on how to #makeitbetter are, as always, greatly appreciated. If you are able to use it, I'd love to hear how it went with your students. 

LPK Model for Close Reading


Underline the title
  • Look at the title and headings. Predict what the article is about

Identify the goal
  • Why are you reading this piece?
  • What do you hope/need to accomplish by reading the article? 
  • Are there discussion questions?              
  • Will you be taking a quiz?

Vocabulary
  • Skim the article - Which words do you need to look up? 
  • Can you infer their meaning from the reading?

Relate to your life/Make connections
  • What similar experiences have you had? 
  • Are there other things you have read/learned about that are similar or remind you of this topic/situation?
  • Who could you ask about the topic that might be able to help you to gain a different perspective?

Summarize the article
  • Who/what was it about? 
  • What is the main idea?
  • What is the purpose of the reading? 
  • What happened in the reading?
  • When did it happen? 
  • Was there a conflict or problem? 
    • How was it resolved or why wasn’t it resolved? 
    • Underline the parts of the reading that correspond with your answers.

Critical Thinking
  • Develop a critical thinking question about the reading – a type of question that does not have a “yes” or “no” answer. 
    • How would you answer the question?

Partner Talk
  • Compare your summary with with that of a partner
    • Did you both come up with the same thing?
    • What are the differences? 
    • Can you come to an agreement? 
  • Exchange critical thinking questions with your partner. 
    • Compare your partner’s answer to your own.

Analysis/Concluding the Reading
  • Answer the questions, take the quiz, have a group discussion
    • Did you meet your goal? 
    • How successful were you? 
      • If yes, what was most helpful to you in meeting it?
      • If no, what might have helped you meet your goal?

Rate Your Understanding
  • How well did you feel like you understood your article/reading?
  • Which strategies were most helpful to you?
    • How can you apply them to future readings?
  • What else might you have needed in order to better understand the reading?



Monday, June 9, 2014

The case for banning laptops...

This morning @mcleod shared an article via Twitter, about college professors' case to ban laptops in the classroom. The article discusses the negative impact of multi-tasking on performance, the decreased value of note-taking on a laptop, and lower quiz scores from students who had a laptop vs those who used pencil and paper. The real meat of this article, quite possibly the most important sentence, is when the author, Dan Rockmore, shares the following:
 These examples can be seen as the progeny of an ill-conceived union of twenty-first-century tools (computers, tablets, smartphones) with nineteenth-century modalities (lectures).
Herein lies the problem. The problem is not that students are on Facebook and Twitter during class, the problem is not that my ability to type quickly and produce a verbatim transcript of the lecture decreases my inner-analysis of what is actually being said, the PROBLEM is your monotonous, self-indulgent, egotistical 50+ minutes of lecture. Forget that no real application of any sort of active learning is taking place, obviously the glow from my Apple is disrupting my ability to regurgitate back to you the analysis and research that you have already done for me.

Is there a place for balance? Absolutely. Is there a place for teaching good digital citizenship and a place for modeling "computer etiquette? Definitely. But there is also a place for significant improvement in higher ed in terms of understanding teaching and learning. I would imagine that you would be hard-pressed to find a student who identifies a 300+ student lecture hall with 60 minute lectures three times per week as their preferred learning environment.

I'm not naive. I realize that packed lecture halls are cost-effective, and I don't know that it's even what I'm proposing. What I do know is that my ONCE a week lecture followed by my THREE times a week small group discussion and work session (shout out to Luther College) was significantly more engaging, meaningful, and effective than any 3x/week lecture course I was required to take after I transferred.

The case for banning laptops?

Let's start making a case for looking at increasing engagement in higher ed.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Class of 2014

A year ago I wrote a post called "An open letter to my students" to share all my final thoughts, the lessons I had learned, and my final good-byes. Today, as I watched the class of 2014 walk across the stage, I realized I had more to say.

When the class of 2014 walked into my room as 8th graders, I was a brand new teacher starting her very first job. My 8th graders first assignment (or one of the first) was to write about some of the earliest inhabitants of the Americas (aka Native Americans - NOT the Europeans, and DEFINITELY not Columbus). I don't know why I remember that, but it seemed important at the time.You presented your city planning projects to Marlin Pruismann, you created a world in Minecraft, you opened up to the world about 9/11 on Today's Meet. But it's not the assignments or projects that I remember most.

What I remember is the way you met every challenge head on. You carried out an AWESOME prom while I was on maternity leave. You worked through projects and activities when even I didn't know what the final product would be. You went through this sharing agreement and saw your high school lives change halfway through - and flourished.

I remember how you embraced life and had fun. We had parties. We named future children with strong, historical names like Natty Bumpo and Fanny Fern. I still have homemade Colts birthday cards.

I remember the hard times. You lost a classmate and it hurt. But you all grew closer and stronger. One of my favorite memories of James was a day in class where everyone was kind of sleepy. He helped me lead the class in doing the Cha Cha slide at our seats. It's that fun-loving attitude that you all have held onto and kept alive as the time has gone on. Always hold onto that.

All these things seemed so big at the time. Now they are little pieces of the past. You will go out into the world beyond the walls of NEH and remember the stories and faces and friends. But this has been just a small part of a big future. Carry the big lessons with you, let go of the little things. You won't keep up every friendship, but when you meet up again it can feel like you never left - cherish the memories as you face the future.

It's funny how even after a year away, those little things are all still such a huge part of who I am. I guess what I really realized today was that I was a small part of a great big life that you have ahead of you. But you were, and still are, a HUGE piece of my life that I will cherish every single day. I went into teaching thinking that I would get to play a role in who you became - I hope that's true - but what I didn't truly realize (although I thought I did) until today was the huge part you all would play in who I am. I have learned with you, learned about you, and learned from you. Thank you, class of 2014. I learned one more lesson from you today. You will go out into the world and each make your mark, but please know that you have already made an impact; already made a difference. Thank you for the part you played in shaping me into the person I am today.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Musings from 2nd Grade

My daughter, Rylee, has been doing some writing in her "notes" lately. I was helping her post her thoughts to her blog this afternoon, and as I read over it (to make sure it was all safe to share - and to support our conversation about proof-reading), I was a little surprised by what she had written. 
We're still working on things like run-on sentences, but there a few I thought were worth thinking about a little deeper. She titled this post, Rylee's Real World
"Today I am a 2nd grader and it teaches me that you have to keep trying and that the hole earth is filled with learning. I watch people I know to learn to do things I watch the world to learn and do things. I watch my brother to learn how to play angry birds go. I watch my friends to see what the can do. All because of the world you can learn. I watch dad and he levels up higher and higher on Hay Day. This is my world and I love  it."

I was excited to see that she views the world as a continuous learner. Do you still view the world this way? Do you see a chance to learn and grow around every corner?

"Now the world is full of excitement all because of the people who changed the world...  Now the world has hundreds of heros..."

Do you see the people who change the world every day? She goes on to mention George Washington, but I was struck by the notion that she sees the individuals who make a difference every single day. 

"I know you can't always get what you want when you are a kid but when you start to grow up you can."

Now this very easily could reference things like toys and dessert, but I choose to think about it as her seeing all the possibilities that the future has to offer. Or at least that's how I'll challenge you to think about it. The second part of the challenge is to paint a world in which she sees that she can make a difference, too. You don't have to be an adult to make a difference.