Saturday, August 11, 2018

Let's Get It Started

Today I sit with the pre-planning, trainings and meet the parent night in the rear view mirror. I look forward, facing the year ahead. It is always a mixture of excitement and nervousness. I am always reminded of the awesome responsibility, as well as the great privilege it is to be a teacher.

My goals for this school year are to equip my students to be a vital part of a community (both local and global) and to create an excited, empowered bunch of lovers of learning. Not too lofty, right? 

It sounds lofty as I look at the amount of days and limited minutes. My dreams are big, and yet sometimes my opportunity to make those dreams come true is so limited. What I know I need to do, is plan with purpose and go deep...I need to create an affect that will go long and far even after they move from my classroom.

I am excited to have the support of a team that will help make this happen. My colleagues, my admin team, my PLN, my student's parents and many others that fit into the puzzle. I can do nothing alone.

I want to make a great effort to reflect here often this year. I want this journey to be captured on a page. I hope you will follow along and encourage me through each step.

May this year be blessed as none other has been before!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Reflections of ISTE 2018: Chicago

In many ways, when you leave a conference such as ISTE, it is hard to tie it up into a nice neat package. It is an incredible experience and packed full of stimulating moments. I have looked over my notes/pictures and have been trying to pull together my thoughts. There are some big ideas that float up from among the many moments. 

Literacy Has Changed

If you step back for a moment and just observe our students you will see a big change. How are they spending their time? How do they communicate? What are they interpreting and analyzing (even if they don't realize it)?

I have been in education for 20 years, and I have been at the same school. I have watched administrators and educators come and go. Programs come in, and before long replaced by another. I have moved classrooms and grade levels. All those may seem important...but probably more important is that I look at the world outside the classroom. I need to see how the world has changed, I need to see the world our students will grow up in and I need to prepare them for it. 

As I listened to the many speakers and presentations, it was pointed out that there is a big change in literacy. Technology brings a new idea in literacy, digital literacy. It is two-sided. It gives us this incredible tool box for students to create, share their voice and have a world wide audience. However, it gives us a responsibility to instruct and prepare them for this "new world". Students are continuing to view, listen and speak...but they do it with a "new" media. We need to teach them how to think critically about this media, recognize point of view, identify the roles of social media and help them to create media with responsibility. If you think about the use of social media in our world, we now often communicate in images, videos and emojis. It is now a part of our literacy. I love this quote from @TaraMartinedu:

" We can shy away from social media because of what students "might" do, or we can be intentional about teaching them the positive influences of social media. I'll choose the latter."

I must agree with her. I also believe we need to begin early. As I plan for instruction, I know I will need to instruct students for these skills. They need to know how to comprehend images, and think about the messages coming from the videos they spend countless hours watching. As the world continues to change, so should my classroom and my instruction. 

Why's and Purpose

This is certainly not a new idea, but it is one that accompanied every thing I heard. Each presentation was tied to ISTE standards, and allowed you to connect to the purpose of using tools. We should always have a why. It just is that reminder, as we jump off and try new things, before you jump, think about the purpose and the why behind your jump. At a conference as large as this you're inundated with new tools, new ideas and new "toys". I find myself being a little more reflective, limiting the tools, but not wanting to limit choices for my students. 

A question that was continually answered at ISTE is: why should we have students create? Why have all these tools for creation? The Opening Keynote with David Eagleman, Ph.D., truly captured me as he shared about the miraculous brain. He explained the importance of creating to engage learners, and the importance of creating opportunities to build and allow curiosity. 

If students are reading, researching and comprehending that is a good thing. But, if after doing that they then recreate that comprehension or learning, now they have used both sides of the brain. That is engagement! I can't think of a better WHY. A purpose for all tools in my classroom: engagement for my learners. 


In chatting with someone in my PLN at ISTE she said how surprised she is at how "timid and shy" I am in person. She feels I have such a presence on Twitter. I have thought about that a lot. As I sat at the social events, I do kind of sit back, listen and contribute little to conversation. Twitter has given me a place to use my voice. It has connected me to incredible people who lead me, inspire me and instruct me.  
What is wonderful, I see that same thing happen for students in my classroom. I know what it is like to be given a "voice" and an "audience". It does level the field some. It exposes them to so many more ideas, cultures, people, knowledge and opinions. It empowers them as learners.
As Pernille Ripp said, "The true power in technology is the power to break down walls." 
Those walls don't only mean the walls of the classroom, but also the walls of communication. I think we can all find a place or a tool, that we can comfortably share our voice and our ideas. 
Technology can be a place where we share empathy, kindness and acceptance. We must be careful not to leave "humanity" out of tech. We have an incredible opportunity as educators, let's embrace it and use it well. 

I am sure my reflection of ISTE 2018 will continue for a long time. I still have resources sitting in my digital tote, blogs to read, ideas to flush out. It may even continue until I make my way to ISTE 2019 in Philadelphia (fingers crossed). It is an enriching and wonderful experience and I am so grateful to Donors Choose and the donors who made it possible this year!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Tech Tools that Enhance

Don't you love seeing engaged and motivated learners? If I want to measure the effectiveness of my lessons, activities and practice...
engagement is my barometer. It also lets me know if this is a tool we want to keep.

I have been using an incredible tool for several years now. I doubt there are many educators out there who aren't aware of online library of books and videos, free for teachers. I love to learn how others are using this tool. But I also love sharing how I use it.

I have found it to be the perfect tool for small reading groups. I have instant access to books, can get each child on a book that I can choose by level, interest or other topic we are studying. Students love using Epic. Small reading groups with engaged learners will lead to better readers.

Students love to have Epic as a choice during independent reading as well. This tool is student friendly. They quickly learn how to search for books they choose. Students can also read together with ease. It is so frustrating to them when they can't find two books the same to read with. Every child has access to the same books. They also love to use the read to books for books above their level. All educators know it is important for students to have books read to them above their level to enhance comprehension and vocabulary. It is impossible to do that with every child...that is unless you have Epic!

In our classroom we love doing virtual field trips. One of our favorite tools for this is Learn Around the World . My students absolutely love the #geoshow! It certainly helps to prepare students for a virtual trip with some schema. I love Epic for this. I can go into Epic to plan with purpose. I can set up collections of books and videos based on the topic we will be  learning about with Brandon from Learn Around the World. I can make one collection for the whole class, or more differentiated collections based on reading levels. Students are then armed with information and questions, ready to make a great virtual trip even better! This same idea can be used for any research your doing or to enhance Science and Social Studies.

Speaking of virtual collaboration...Epic is the tool for connecting with other classrooms as well. Books clubs don't have to be in your classroom walls, nor do reading buddies! Collections can be shared with other educators as well. Make plans to connect and collaborate using a tool we ALL have access to.