Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bucket List

I was tagged by Jeff O'Hara to do a Bucket List for 2008. A variation on resolutions I suppose and I'm sure much more entertaining than the movie of the same name... (never getting those 90 minutes back.) A Bucket List is a list of all the things that Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman are going to do before they kick the bucket. This list consists of some things that I want to accomplish in '08.

Here they are:

  1. Continue to build a network of like-minded educational technology folks.
  2. Continue to dab in the role of trainer in educational technology.
  3. Present at Learning 2.0 a Colorado Conversation in February and TIE in June, just to push my comfort zone.
  4. Explore these possibilities while still being an effective fourth grade teacher.
  5. Expand my formal education... Masters in Educational Technology, Doctorate? Decide whether this is even necessary to expand my learning.
  6. Encourage a sense of wonder and love for learning in my own children (this is number 1)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Friday Idea

On Friday afternoons, I used to put kids on the computers because they had been asking me all week and I finally gave in. I had about 4 or 5 websites that they would explore, none of which were very good. Now... with all this embeddable media, class blogs and wikis, students are on the computers all week long. Given a little Friday afternoon freedom, they willingly visit our blog, wiki or website to read and comment on each other's writing, revisit a video clip related to our reading or listen to each other's poetry. They are literally creating and exploring their own online content, in fourth grade!

Along that line of thinking, I am experimenting with VoiceThread. This is one of those resources I keep hearing about over and over again from different educators, here's Dave's post on the Global Learners Blog). I have been exploring and thinking of ways I can use this in my classroom because it is just so cool. Is that a good enough reason??

I think it is a great collaborative tool. It gives students the opportunity to contribute with text, voice and image through a webcam... lots of different choices. It is also great for all of my students to bring their "voice" to a single image or idea. We talk a lot about how we are all different learners, some of us learn quickly, others slower. This would bring out the idea that we can all have a different, and correct, idea for a single image. I like this one below that has different kids exploring the meaning of a piece of Norman Rockwell art. There is also a good demo of kids commenting on a Venn diagram comparing the heart to the skeleton.

Embeddable as well? Cool! I could post it on the blog and kids could review a concept at their convenience... on Friday afternoon.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Classroom 2.0, Edmodo and Twitter

A goal I have set for myself this spring is to build myself a network of teachers, including Global Learners, to engage in student-led projects with other teachers around the world and to share ideas. A year ago, this goal would have seemed impossible... but within the last few weeks, I have been making some connections with extremely smart, creative educators. I thought I would share...

Classroom 2.0 is a social networking site for educators. There is a post where you can introduce yourself and then subscribe for responses to your post via email. I have received four responses since Saturday, including one who knows our exchange teacher from Melborne, small world indeed. They have posts organized by tool, flickr, podcasting, wikis etc. They are also in the process of organizing "live" events, one coming up in San Francisco. There is a teacher at Rocky Mountain School for the Gifted in Boulder who has volunteered to do one there.

From Classroom 2.0 I received a introduction from Jeff O'Hara who is developing Edmodo which is advertised as a free web service to connect schools, teachers, parents and students. It is still in development and you can add your email to receive updates, they also have a blog. The cool thing about finding someone like him on Classroom 2.0 is you can be stay in touch with the development process and provide input.

Finally, I am back on Twitter and amazed at the networking possibilities. I don't have very many followers but have found it to be a great impromptu meeting place for educators discussing, not so much what is happening right that second, but what ideas are crossing their minds and what challenges they are grappling with. I didn't see its value when I was introduced to it in August, now I do. Also my class is tweeting and it is embedded in our blog.

Anybody have experience with these tools they would like to share?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Teaching to Teach

Just returned to the classroom after a relaxing winter break. Students returned ragged! Two of them missed most of the week, one throwing up, the other with a migraine. Had another complaining of stomach issues. Jeez, I thought they would come back relaxed and ready to go! Hopefully they will go home this weekend, regroup and come back healthy.

Nothing makes me reflect on my practice more than when an "outsider" comes in and starts askin' questions. I have two new outsiders in my professional life right now. One is a student teacher from the University of Colorado finishing out his undergrad and licensure program. He is all of 22, enthusiastic and curious... a good combo. The other is an exchange teacher from Melbourne, Australia. She has 30 years of teaching experience, is enthusiastic and a bit overwhelmed after two weeks in the states and a week in a Commerce City classroom.

I tweeted the other day that I was discussing the finer points of pukey fourth graders with my teacher candidate. Seriously... I was. We had a student make an emergency run to the bathroom so I sent my TC to the office to fetch the nurse while I stayed with the class. He asked what I would have done had he not been there. The question seems a bit silly, until I remember what it was like for me stepping into my classroom for the first time. My TC asks lots of these kinds of "what do you do when" questions, which is a good thing, but I realized how difficult it must seem as a pre-first year teacher to take into account all of the things you must remember, and all that can possibly go wrong. I do my best to answer all of his questions, and hope that I demonstrate with my actions, my ideal: That I am a teacher who teaches with enthusiasm and abandon with a complete willingness to fail, knowing that I can't control every detail. I commented to him today that I think we sometimes try to control too much in our classrooms, forgetting that these 10 year olds are just kids. They need to socialize, play, laugh, joke, sometimes they are ill, sad, frustrated... we can't control it all.

Our exchange teacher had a trial by fire this week (her words). We had CELA testing all week which pulled 1/3 of her kids out for the first hour of the day and replaced them with 1/3 of mine while I tested. Two of her boys had a fight in the classroom and were suspended. We tried to express how this is not the norm in our school. She shouldn't expect fistfights and standardized testing every week. This was right before discussing the finer points of CSAP testing. This weekend she is spending time with other Aussies who are exchanging in Colorado and I wonder what their conversation is going to sound like.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Chicken Lips

Two members of an improvisational group called "Chicken Lips" presented at our inaugural 2008 professional development meeting today. They were posing as Department of Ed stuffed shirts there to present about CSAP testing. Instead their purpose was to inspire and bring humor to our meeting. Their message was simple and powerful:

  • Laughter is important and productive.
  • "Yes, and..." is a game we played in groups of four. One person starts talking about a subject, the next person takes over their thought by saying, "yes, and..." It is what you say when you are improvising in a group to validate what the previous person has just presented and continue the thought. It validates their work and makes them look good, which makes the group look good. This is what we should be saying to students and colleagues as an alternative to "yes, but" or just "NO".
  • Improvisation is about LISTENING and COLLABORATING... so is education.
Thanks to Chicken Lips, we ended our winter break and began our new year with laughter and positive energy. Great stuff!! Now just to continue the momentum into the coming months.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


With the new year comes new resolutions. I hate to be cliche but ...

  • More personal/professional posts - Considering my last post on this blog was two months ago, it would stand to reason that I would resolve to post more often. I value having a place where I can reflect on my practice, especially during a year where my practice has changed so much. My thought is that I would post every Friday about the week that has just passed.
  • More student posts - In conjunction with this, my students will also be reflecting daily using Twitter. I embedded it into our class blog and I am going to have them post every day (too ambitious?) a reflection on what has happened during that teaching period (math, writing, reading or science). I am going to work this into a job that a handful of students have for the week. Given their relentlessness on reminding me about their jobs, I think it just might stick.
  • More collaborating - with my team, with the Global Learners, with other technology minded teachers. It seems natural to me that with all of these great tools would come great opportunities to collaborate beyond my four walls. I am going to actively seek out these types of opportunities. Ever heard of eduwikis? I heard about it from a wikispaces email update. At first glance, a good place to engage in long distance collaborating. Lots of teachers from PA.
Surely you didn't make new year's resolutions... or did you?