Monday, September 16, 2013

PK-2: We can do it too!

In all the times over the years that I have prepped for a presentation I have never once felt the gut-wrenching sense of urgency and need that I felt while preparing to share this presentation today. I even got a little choked up as I shared during my second session, trying to describe the impact that feedback on a video had had on my son's life. We cannot wait on this any longer.

Think for a minute. How many of you have kids? Or know kids? Or teach kids - that you would go to the ends of the earth to help? To provide a life-changing education? When you think about those kids is there ANYTHING you wouldn’t do to offer them the world? To engage them? To empower them?

Some of the educators in the room today I knew, others I didn't, but what I know about every single one of them, based simply on the profession they chose, is that THEY KNOW that our youngest learners can do amazing things. And what I asked them to do today was spend 45 minutes a journey with me, looking at some ways we can continue to offer these LITTLE kids BIG opportunities.

Me must take our youngest learners and help them find their voice. Express to them early on how much their voice matters. We cannot afford to wait until they are 10, 11, 12 - they are living in a world in which EVERY voice matters. EVERY voice can make a difference. That includes 5 year old voices. Six year old voices.

If you look at Kathy Cassidy's blog you find learners who have an entirely different vocabulary than they did even ten years ago. How amazing is it that these 6 year olds are talking about sharing their learning and connecting with others?

I challenged the educators I spoke with today to take their most phenomenal lessons and look at how they might step it up a notch to empower their students. Or to take a lesson that seemed a little flat and rework it a bit to engage students in a powerful, authentic learning experience.

I can tell you, I have seen first hand how a kids’ face will light up when someone communicates that they have watched or appreciated his work. Here’s an example my son made. We took one of his Kindergarten projects that he was SO excited to share with me. I heard the story over and over and over. So we recorded it. And he shared it with his grandparents. He shared it with his aunts and uncles. We put it on Facebook. But beyond that, we shared it with the world. I could literally see the pride on his face when I showed him the comments on his work.

Primary school teachers have students who are more creative, more trusting, more inquisitive, and more innovative than almost any other learners we will see throughout the course of their school careers. We must harness that power and model how to use their voice in a positive way. I love the idea of taking this group of kids who are so innately driven and fearless and giving them a stage on which to produce and share their creations.

I asked Kathy Cassidy this summer why she uses blogs and twitter with her first grade class. She told me because it creates a more authentic learning experience. The kids focus on writing in a focused 140 characters. They read tweets and comments that are written FOR THEM. How powerful is that? Her kids tweet. They share. They converse. The question. They use hash tags geared toward learning events. Matt Gomez’s kids have a map of all their “twitter friends”.

These teachers are creating authentic learning experiences for their students. They know that their kids have powerful things to say. Your kids have powerful things to say. I want to challenge you to find an audience for your kids. It might be parents right now. You may not be ready to share a blog with the world yet, and that’s okay. But there are a lot of people out there who can help you make those steps.

I know that each and every educator I spoke with today is working hard to do something amazing with his or her students. I know YOU are working hard to do amazing things with your students. And I want you to share it. The educators I met with today shared their successes on a Padlet, and I shared a resource bank that I collected, as well.

Birth to 5 years is the most important developmental period of a person's life. These kids matter. Their voice matters and their ideas are worth sharing. How are you changing your students' lives? How are you helping your students share their voice? I said it once, but it's worth repeating: we cannot afford to wait until these children reach an age that WE think is appropriate to have a voice. We cannot wait to teach them how amazing and powerful their voice truly is. They have thoughts and they have ideas and they have the power to change the world. We must give them the tools, the guidance, and the support to do that.

Change a life. Let your students BE AWESOME. Help them share their awesome.

*Thank you @mattbgomez for letting me share some of his resources, @mrfsfirstgrade and @kathycassidy for Skyping with me and sharing thoughts and resources, @TammyMassman for inspiring me

Friday, September 6, 2013

Oh the places you'll go... with technology

Tonight I went on a journey with my kids. A few weeks ago we spent some time learning and talking about heroes and super heroes. Tonight Rylee asked if we could please learn again like we did for the heroes. Obviously as a parent I couldn't say no, so she chose to do a "lesson" on planets and space. We started while I was making dinner by watching this:

Side note - why don't more people teach like Miss Frizzle? They are hands on, messy, problem-solvers in this classroom! And the kids are excited to come back each day. In this episode she ripped a map in half, took the half they needed, and told them to come find her by figuring it out. The proceeded to give hints along the way until the kids were successful. Sounds like good learning to me!

About the time the show was over, they had finished eating, so we moved on to the book the kids had ordered from their Scholastic book order.

And took some notes about what we had learned.

I then suggested we write a story and make a movie about what they knew about planets. Rylee set to work writing down her thoughts and the story she wanted to share, while Aaden and I "built the set" (including wrapping his football helmet in foil so that it could be an astronaut helmet) and found pictures for our green screen - we even talked about Creative Commons while we searched for pictures that we were allowed to use. 

It was at this point that I learned a lot about my kids. Aaden was happy just to cheese it up and play. I think it's part age (5) and part personality. You'll see what I mean in the video. 

Rylee, on the other hand, can be seen holding up a hand-drawn picture in each of her frames. Between each "take" she would return and check her notes. 

Both kids had a creative process, but they went about it in a very different way. It was interesting for them to watch each other. We talked about how Rylee had created a story board, while Aaden enjoyed doing "improv". Our whole adventure took us somewhere around 2 hours, at which point it was bed time and I spent another hour editing their video. 

Another side note - I am still learning the green screen app AND iMovie, so forgive the imperfections. At least I'm trying. :) Next time we'll get an earlier start and I'll have THEM do the editing in iMovie.

But ultimately, it took about 3 hours to work through this entire process. The kids got to read, watch, act, play, take notes, and now have a video (not a super video, but a video, nonetheless) of themselves in space. What kind of experiences could you offer your kids? Your students? With technology?