Thursday, August 7, 2014

Exploring Blendspace

This morning I was listening to the #satchat Voxer group messages, and one of the tools shared was Blendspace. I hadn't heard of this one, so I decided to check it out, and here's what I came up with!

There are a lot of uses for this - included some flipped or blended learning options. There are lots of media types that can be embedded, including Google Docs files (although you have to download them as Microsoft Office files), YouTube videos, Flickr photos, websites, and more. You can add text/writing prompts and quiz questions for formative assessment. This is all great, but in this set up it's something we are doing to students. There is definitely a time and place for curating resources for students, but think about this:

 I'd be excited to see students creating content and using this platform to present and publish their learning! You can upload Educreations videos, which I find really exciting, because I love Educreations for student demonstration of knowledge! They can share their collaborative group work from the Google Apps, use the comment features to get feedback and lead discussion about their work,  create and upload their own YouTube videos, and build a portfolio of work throughout a unit or year! By adding rows, this could be an ongoing project, and all of it is EASY to share on a blog or webpage, although you can also share the finished product via email, QR code, or Facebook (among others). Blendspace is definitely worth a look. I'm excited to continuing exploring, and interested in hearing about other ways people are using tools like this!

Cross-posted from RethinkRedesign

Saturday, August 2, 2014

6 Places I Will Not Take My Students This Year

Without winning the lottery I definitely won't be taking students to these places this year, but you can get pretty close by using Google street view! It's not a perfect remedy to budget constraints, but using this old favorite, but often under-utilized tool will take students to places they may not otherwise get to see! I've picked 6 places in the United States that I would love to visit with students, and included teacher resources associated with each of them. Don't forget to check out these other virtual field trips from Google+ Connected Classrooms project!

Sea World

San Diego Zoo 

Wahington DC: WWII Memorial

Grand Canyon

Mount Rushmore

Central Park & Central Park Zoo

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Student Networking

One of the most important parts of my world is my PLN. Networking has become almost as essential to me as breathing. This was something I wanted to share and inspire in my students. In addition to modeling life-long learning and Twitter connections in my classroom on a daily basis, I used a career unit in 8th grade computer class to demonstrate the value of having a strong network to my students.

Here's the process we went through:

1. We created class Twitter accounts. I did not follow their accounts, but many of my students opted to create new accounts for class purposes - this told me that they understood the value of having a "professional" persona versus a personal persona. For me, these were one and the same. For teenagers, that wasn't necessarily the case.

2. I asked them to think about their career units from guidance class, their passions, and their personal goals and ambitions to make a list of top career choices they wanted to explore. When they had their list, we set about finding personal and professional blogs around their choices. I wanted some personal blogs so they could see how the career path impacted day-to-day living for the people who worked in those areas. At the time, we just read and favorited their blogs. Now, I would recommend using something like Feedly to organize their lists.

3. We searched for companies and professionals on Twitter for them to follow. We talked about what sorts of things were tweeted out, whether it was more professional or more personal, and how social media might impact their job.

4. With my help, we connected with someone they followed on Twitter (or a connection I found through Twitter) and did a video chat with a professional in their career choice area. Allowing them to have a face to face conversation enabled them to ask questions, put a face to the blog or Twitter handle, and make a personal connection.

5. Finally, the students wrote about their own goals, who they are online, and how they might be perceived in a digital environment.

Since then, I've been doing some digging on personal branding, and Emily Whitehead (@mrsewhitehead) shared an idea that I think I would use as the culminating piece (or maybe as bookends to the process). She recommended having students do a Google search of themselves or a partner, write a logo, create an icon, & tagline that represents what was found - then have students reflect on their brand. After students have thought about themselves as a brand, have them do the activity again for who they WANT to be, and follow it up as a conversation about how to get there.

How are you talking to your students about networking and branding?

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?

  • 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. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Top 10 Lessons for Education from The Lego Movie

10. Instructions can only take you so far. In fact, while they can be really helpful to get you started, there is no one prescription for everything. You should feel free to use your mind to create your own instructions when it’s necessary.

9. Pull a page from the book of female lead, Wild Style (a.k.a. Lucy), and fight the status quo! Sometimes the “master builders” or great thinkers step back, hide, or are off track for whatever reason. So don’t be afraid to work against the grain. And for goodness sake, beware of the “kragle”! Don’t ever get stuck. 

8. One person believing in you can make all the difference. This is why we teach. This is why we do what we do and get out of bed each day. Because making a difference in one child’s life matters. 

7. Trust your instincts - unless your instincts are terrible. As educators, each of us has a niche, and each of us has areas where we struggle. Take what you do well and make it amazing, but never be afraid to push outside your comfort zone. When it’s not working, it’s okay to admit it. Not every idea is gold, and that’s okay. On the flip side, though, sometimes people think your idea for a double-decker couch is lame, and it ends up saving your life. So please also refer to number nine.

6. The only thing that anyone needs to be special is to believe that you can be! This is for you AND for your students. Believe in yourself. The world depends on YOU to make a difference. 

5. Build things only you can build. We are all unique and bring different perspectives to every problem and situation. Focus on being the best you that you can be, and bring that to the table. Whether  you are lesson planning, on a building leadership team, at EdCamp, or working one-on-one with a student, you can change everything. 

4. Share what you build! I recently wrote a post called “I’m not THERE yet” and what it really comes down to is that people are inspired by you. Whether you intend to or not, whether you know it or not, people - teachers, kids, parents - are inspired by you, and will take what you made and make something new. And likewise, you will take something somebody else makes and make it your own. Make it better. This is how we learn. This is how we grow.

3. LET. KIDS. CREATE. I don’t think I need to explain this one, but in short - please do not stifle a child’s creativity by trying to fit them in a box that fits what the world expects. See numbers nine and ten. And probably six. Eh, if you aren’t getting it yet maybe you should re-read all the numbers.

2. You are the most talented, most interesting, extraordinary individual, capable of amazing things. So is each student sitting in your class. So is everyone. Embrace what is special about you and share it with the world. 

1. Having a plan helps talented individuals work together as a team and save the world. I love celebrating the unique talents of individuals, but when we can harness the power of those individuals to work as a team for the greater good we can accomplish so much more. When we complement and push each other is when real progress is made. Don’t forget, “Everything is awesome! Everything is cool when you’re part of a team!”

Friday, January 10, 2014

1000 Words #omw1314

When you look out your window, what do you see? If your window is anything like mine, you see fields, trees, maybe a barn or silo, maybe a few other modest houses.

When I look out my window I see majestic branches frosted in glistening snow. I see intricately designed snowflakes falling all around me. I see beauty. I see a glorious piece of nature unique to my window.

This fall I had the opportunity to worth with my amazing friend and colleague, Erin Olson (@eolsonteacher) on a project that was near and dear to my heart, and through that work, and I now also see poetry.

I see a rhythm and beauty and an elegance and a story that didn't exist before. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. These pictures are worth so much more. They are an identity.

By photographing and writing about where I live, how I live, and what makes it unique, I am able to share my view - my window - with the world. Sharing my world via "Out My Window" gives others a chance to see the world through my eyes.

What do kids see out their window? And what impact would it have if they could see out another student's window? Being able to express yourself, share your point of view, and make sense of the world around you are great skills - but being able to appreciate where you are and find the beauty in the ordinary are skills that are undervalued. Those skills, coupled with connections with peers across the globe create an experience that reaches extraordinary.