Saturday, February 16, 2013

Want to know how native your students are to the digital world?

Just ask them to show you what they know!
After reading this post about BYOT in Kindergarten  by @emily_dunlap, an Instructional Technology Specialist, I had an aha moment!  
In one classroom, a teacher posed questions and had students answer them however they could through their digital device.  Some used apps they had downloaded, some created videos, some used pictures.  Here were some of the examples of questions given in the post.
  • Show me how many syllables the following words have – wonder…target…combination
  • How many syllables does your name have?
  • What was the setting in _____ story?
  • In your opinion, do you like winter or summer?
  • Show me one way to make 8.
  • What kind of punctuation mark would I use for this sentence… “I love school”?
  • Show me a 2d shape.
  • Show me a 3d shape.
  • How many vertices does a rectangle have?
  • I am going to break down a word and I want you to blend it.
  • Show me something heavier than a crayon.
  • Show me something longer than your pencil pouch.
  • Show me something on your device that you can use to help you learn.
I realized even without a BYOT program, I could do the same with the IPads and computers I have in my class.  So many times, I choose the app and then students have freedom within the app to “show me what they know.”  It’s time to take it a step further and truly let their creativity and different learning styles shine.  

Technology Tools for Designing, Saving, and Sharing Your Curriculum

Technology allows us to connect and collaborate in ways that have never been possible before.  We can brainstorm ideas on teaching a concept with a teacher across the hall or across the globe.  All of this collaboration can lead to well developed units and curriculum designed through careful thought and analysis.  The power of many is certainly more than the power of one.
But how do we make sure that the hard work we put into designing curriculum, continues to grow and remain accessible year to year?  As teachers come and go on a campus, it is important to examine how and where we store our units, plans, and curriculum so that we can sustain momentum. As the educators who may be the ones coming and going, how do we make sure that we preserve the work we’ve done?
Designing curriculum has become less about drawn out lesson plans and more about curating resources. So, as we write curriculum we have to examine more non-linear ways of organizing resources both online and off, documenting essential questions, gathering student work samples and more.      
Here are my favorite free tools for curating resources and maintaining a sustainable curriculum:
Dropbox/Google Drive/Box/Cloud Storage: An absolute must.  My associate teacher and I use a shared Dropbox folder in which we share every item related to our classroom.  It cuts down on emailing documents back and forth, plus allows us to access documents on any device we may be using.  This has to be one of the most helpful things I’ve done this year.  At any point, we can easily transfer files or add others to the folder.
***On a side note, I recently moved cross country.  Instead of moving a filing cabinet full of stuff, I scanned the most important documents in, and now they are stored in my Dropbox account.  It was a large project, but I couldn’t be happier to have my files stored online and organized.  
Pinterest: Follow teachers to find new resources, or pin ones yourself.  Create new boards for each unit you are teaching and pin away!  You can even share boards with your teammates and share the ideas you find.  You can Follow Meon Pinterest.  There are so many other great teachers on Pinterest it was hard to narrow down ones to list here.  Do some exploring and you are bound to find teachers that inspire you.    
Youtube channel:  This is a must for gathering multimedia resources for your units.  Not to mention quick transition songs.  And a tip, watch them via to avoid “comments, suggestions, or the ‘other’ things” when showing them to your class.
Evernote: I create a Notebook or Note (depending on the size of the unit) and fill it with resources, links, and videos.  I also make a list of useful Smartboard files so that I can remember what I’ve created and used from year to year within my units.  All I have to do is pull it up to easily find my resources.  While Evernote isn’t built for collaboration, you can share your notes with others via email.         how we store our units o grow and remain accessible year to year.  As teac
Popplet: Accessible on IDevices and on the web.  This mapping tool allows you to brainstorm ideas around a central topic.  As we plan with our team, it helps guide our thinking and keep us centered around the main theme, concept or skill we want to teach.  The online version also allows you to add collaborators, although, this isn’t running as smoothly as one would hope just yet.    
Not an exhaustive list, but these are a few of the tools teachers can use to create a workable and sustainable curriculum on their own campuses.

Are we working at a sustainable pace?

Are we working at a sustainable pace? 

Educators are arguably under more stress than they ever have been before.  They feel pressure from administrators, parents, and their students; each group bringing their own set of priorities and needs to the table.  For dedicated educators everywhere, undoubtedly the most pressure comes from within.  It’s hard not to take it personally when every “expert” you hear talks about what a poor job we are doing in teaching Math, or Reading, or Science, or History, etc., etc.              
So, we spend our evenings reading blogs, checking in with online learning communities, working on advanced degrees and engaging in reflective practice.  We do all of this because we want to be better.  We want to be the best.  We want to make an impact and a difference in the lives of our students.  Educators want to inspire the next generation to love curling up with a good book, to enjoy tinkering with experiments, and to embrace our collective past and our future.  Our classrooms and our curriculums are designed to inspire them to collaborate, communicate, and create.  We want them to understand their relationship to the world in which they live and that they will one day inherit.    
For many educators, it isn’t enough to just reach the group of students they see each day.  They want to engage the parents of the children in their classrooms.  They want to bring about positive change not only on their own campus but also share their experiences with others in their profession through presenting, tweeting, blogging or any other means.  The idea of the dedicated teacher now involves leadership and collaboration one could argue, on a global scale.  
Can it become too much?  When do we stop trying to be an expert on everything?  How do we balance focusing on the students that come to us each and every day looking for love, guidance and wisdom and our growing responsibilities as a professional? 
Are we burning ourselves out? Or passing on the flame?

Everyone you will ever meet...

Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.
Bill Nye

Technology, Sustainability, and Curriculum Design

Technology, Sustainability, and Curriculum Design
Sustainability isn’t just a buzz word.  It isn’t just about environmental change either.  It’s a mindset that can be applied to almost any part of our lives and our profession.  Jaimie Cloud and the people at the Cloud Institute  have been helping educators design curriculums that encourage children understand the world and their relationship to it.  Along with the teachers they work with, they hope to inspire a whole generation of young people who will lead us to a sustainable future. 
Technology gives us exciting new approaches for examining the idea of sustainability and creating globally aware students.  It also gives us tools that allow for a level of collaboration as professionals that is unprecedented.          
My recent discussions with Jaimie inspired me to think, “Is what we are doing sustainable?”  I’m planning a series of posts that examines just that question.     
Are we working at a sustainable pace? 
Is our curriculum sustainable?
Are we creating sustainable ways to document and share student growth?
What can we do to make sure changes we bring about are sustained?
In what ways can we inspire our kids to think globally and work towards a sustainable future? 
Follow Cloud Institute on Twitter

How to lock an app in iOS6

How to lock an app in iOS6


Good-byes make you think, they make you realize what you’ve had, what you’ve lost, and what you’ve taken for granted.

#140EDU conference

Last summer, long before my dream of moving to New York City was a reality, I heard rumblings of #140edu.  A twitter friend suggested I check in on the hashtag.  I watched as the tweets came out and was inspired by the conversations and innovative ideas about education in the 21st century that were being tossed around.  I even joked with my twitter friend, “maybe I’ll be there in person next year.”
Jeff Pulver and Chris Lehmann, the organizers of the event, have given educators from all walks of life the opportunity to share ideas and learn how the web affects all aspects of the business of education.  The list of speakers is full of education and technology rock stars and enough to make me want to sign up right now.  Not to mention the other educators attending that you’ll have the opportunity to meet.  But, what makes this even better is the fact that educators can attend for only $1.40!  
Fast forward from my conversation a year ago and it looks like I will be there in person.   I’ll be moving to the city to teach in the Upper East Side.  And as fate would have it, we’re moving the weekend before the conference and my apartment will be within a few blocks of the 92Y.  This is one of those moments that tell me I’m doing the right thing. 
Will I see you there? 

A brand is...

“A brand is a set of EXPECTATIONS, MEMORIES, STORIES & RELATIONSHIPS that, when taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.
If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.”
Seth Godin

Essential Innovation Practices

5 essential practices that develop innovative thinking in your school or organization.
1. Learning to work collaboratively (innovation is a team sport!).
2. Learning to understand problems from a multi-disciplinary perspective.
3. Learning to take risks and learn from mistakes.
4. Focusing on creating versus consuming.
5. Reinforcing the intrinsic motivations of play, passion, and purpose versus the extrinsic carrots and sticks.

Source: Huffington Post

Here's to the Crazy Ones..

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers. The ones who see things differently. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.

Digital Footprints

Video Courtesy of Common Sense Media
As we prepare students for their lives in the 21st century, we need to immediately begin talks about digital footprints and personal branding.  I teach Kindergarten and we use computers and technology daily.  We use web 2.0 tools, blogs and social media platforms.  I would be doing a disservice to my students if I allowed them to use those tools without also having conversations about digital footprints and personal branding.  I don’t use the term personal branding in Kindergarten, but we do discuss what we want other people to think about us online.  We want them to think that we are smart, critical thinkers that do their best work.  For example, we use Twitter to connect with other classrooms around the world.  Every single time we post something or respond to a message, we make it a practice to edit it and revise it.  Together, we make sure that it doesn’t have any mistakes and that it sends the message that we intended.  As soon as children begin using technology, they should be exposed to the ideas behind digital citizenship, personal branding and online reputations.  It is never to early to start.   

A year from now...

A year from now you will wish you had started today
Karen Lamb

How can you push your lessons further?

Loving how New Braunfels is connecting district planning to lesson stages we shared.