It’s Comin’ on Christmas

I walked into our school building today and it hit me–Christmas break begins on Friday. Where did this time go? Obviously, I had a period time where everything stopped and I had to dis-engage from school for a few weeks. (This was tremendously difficult and not without sneaking peeks at email.)

Despite the crazy life times, I am really proud of all of the things that have happened in ed-tech this semester at Norwood. I’ve seen teachers stretch themselves, old ideas refined, new ideas flourish, and, in the end, the kids are the winners! Some highlights:

  • Every single teacher in the Lower School tried Hour of Code with their students. (EVERY SINGLE ONE!)
  • One of our 4th grade reading classes is in year four of successful blogging and the system is working beautifully. (Want to collaborate with us? Tweet me.)
  • Our K team has used lab resources for math at least once a month and has continued to support Centers.
  • Several of our Math teachers are infusing games into their curriculum to strengthen and expand computation skills. (Math Doodles totally rules.)
  • E-books abound in several classes and screencasts start this week in 4th grade math!
  • The 5th grade team is chomping at the bit to open up our Minecraft Rome unit at the beginning of January.
  • Reading centers in 1st grade includes a tech component and each week I have amazing readers come through my door.
  • Middle School Coding Workshop is off to a great start with lots of light-bulb moments and some lovely collaboration.
  • One of the awesome MS teachers is exploring flipping and is having great success.

I am so proud of all of the work of my colleagues and friends. We are peeping through the keyhole of re-thinking learning and I am so very happy about it. I think 2015 will bring even more ideas to our pedagogical table and I can’t wait to see what is next.

It also wouldn’t be a last post of 2014 without offering my immense gratitude to the entire edu-community and specifically my Norwood Blue Hawks. Not a day has passed, really not a minute has passed, where I haven’t felt compassion, love, and patience. I am truly grateful and hope that I can continue to express my thankfulness as our calendars flip to the next page.

May this holiday season bring you lots of time with family, a comfy chair for reading, snuggles of furried and child types, full bellies, warm hearts, and perhaps a gadget or two.

Peace,

@teach2connect

this is hard; this is fun!

Heard in the tech lab this week….

“This is hard!”

“This is really fun!”

“I can do it!”

“I’m a coder!”

This week has been chock full of light bulb moments, squeals of delight, squints of frustration, and cheers of success. Hour of Code week in our lower school has been amazing. Every single child in our lower school (k-4) has spent time using apps to learn the fundamentals of programming (coding) and have grappled with struggle and found success. The phrases I’ve used the most this week….

“Keep going!”

“You can do it!”

“What would happen if…?”

“Give it a try.”

I haven’t done a ton of direct instruction this week. I have spent time facilitating discussions about what coding is and how we need to think to accomplish a task, but most of the work was done by students working through projects. Every single child, regardless of their math level, has taken to the same set of tasks based on their grade level. They have worked through apps on their own time and to their own best success.

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This has been the best week of my year so far because I see the learning coming to life. Real learning has happened this week. Whether it has been gaining a new set of logical thinking or feeling confidence to learn a new skill, EVERY child has done it. Every child has experienced the fun that comes from hard work. The challenges found in Hopscotch and Cargobot, in Daisy the Dinosaur and Kodable are not inauthentic. For our young children, they are difficult ways of thinking. And despite this difficulty, success has come.

It is in times like these that my belief in hard work for kids is affirmed. Children rise to difficult tasks, if only we present them in a way that challenges them and engages them. If only we keep pushing them to try and to collaborate. I am so grateful this #hourofcode week. I can’t wait for next year!

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Hour of Code 2.0

Hour of Code week is next week and I’m so tremendously excited. I absolutely love seeing what the kids are able to do through their brief glimpse of coding. We have even have our Lower School acting troupe preparing a skit for the kick off (based on one of our apps.) We are committed to giving our kids an introductory experience with programming. Here’s more on Hour of Code.

This year, we will use iPad resources in K-4 as they have been met with wild success and interest. For more information on the resources we plan to use for our 2014 Hour of Code, check out our Tech Lab page on Haiku LMS or visit Hour of Code.

code.orgI also really love the Google Made w/ Code Project, especially the connection to the National Christmas Tree. I had a blast this morning playing the Frozen themed coding game on code.org. Here’s the bracelet I made last summer via Made w/ Code.

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What are you doing with your kids for this year’s Hour of Code? Tweet me @teach2connect and don’t forget to use #hourofcode to share your ideas with others!

new online safety…same good parenting

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I’ve just spent two invigorating days at the Family Online Safety Institute Annual Conference. This event brings together tech industry leaders, education professionals, policy makers, and parents to discuss online privacy and safety. As I spend a lot of time discussing online safety and behavior with students and parents, I thought this would be a great avenue for me to learn about new trends, policies, and strategies for being a successful facilitator of these conversations.

I attended both plenary and breakout sessions on topics ranging from 1st Amendment vs. graphic content to the psychological impact of social media to the legal ramifications of sexting. I had conversations with local edufriends, researchers in the field, and leaders from instagram and ask.fm (yup, ask.fm–more on that in another post.) My brain swirled with all of the concepts and my twitter feed burst with commentary. Learning the trends of media use by adolescents and children was helpful in terms of data and provided reassurance that parents and children do, in fact, talk to one another about safety online.

I could wax poetic and share my notes from the many sessions but it comes down to this…parents (and other adults in kids lives) need to start the conversation of appropriate, kind, and safe behavior early and have the conversation often. This is not a new concept, but in our age of digital over-saturation, it seems to feel new. It is not about the latest app or the newest way to block content, it is about engaging in meaningful relationship building with our children. It is about modeling the appropriate use of devices in our own lives. It is about not panicking about brain development and at the same time providing opportunities for those little brains to build in meaningful ways.

It is apropos that this article from June in The Atlantic resurfaced on facebook yesterday. In brief, it seems that parents are more worried about a child’s high achievement and happiness then they are about building a sense of empathy and compassion. This falls right in line with what many of us see as educators–parents looking for filtering, blocking, privacy controls over having a conversation about appropriate, kind, and compassionate behavior AND creating lines in the sand about what is expected. My favorite line from one professional discussing children’s use of media created a little backlash on twitter but the point was valid—parents must be willing to say no, especially when it comes to their children and media/devices. Choices about use of media need to be purposeful and monitored. Screen time balance is not just about time limits-it’s about content choices and conversations of purpose.

FOSI has provide parents with a resource for helping them along the way. As has Common Sense Media. And Safe, Smart, Social. And a host of other companies and programs out there to help parents. It is there, all for the taking. Good parenting has not changed, it has just become just a little bit more challenging. We are in this together, as adults who care for children, to help them grow into smart, safe, kind, and compassionate human beings. Let’s go do it!

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image source

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**A word of preface: it is not often that I share such personal things on this my professional blog, but my world has been so fully rocked and my #edufriends community as well as my current and former school communities have been so amazing in the last few weeks, I felt a cross post was imperative. I hope that all in the edu community know my heartfelt thanks and my desire to serve you in any capacity, should you find a need. Be well. @teach2connect**

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My life has been a whirlwind in the two weeks since my beloved was called home to the Lord. My heart is broken to a depth I don’t fully understand. Yet, my heart is also full because of the intertwining communities that have come together to celebrate Kenny’s life, support our families, offer gifts, prayers, food, hugs, and tears. How do I even begin to say thank you? There are not enough words.

I believe the community you belong to is the community you help build. As a super-introvert, I feel like I have been blessed to ride the coattails of Ken’s amazing ability to build community. His laughter, his generosity, his gift for conversation, his sparkling smile, his compassion, his encouraging words and actions, these are what brought people into Ken’s community and I have been so honored to join him as his plus1/partner in crime.

In the deepest of our sorrows, our true friendships emerge. Our communities draw us together. We cling to these words of encouragement, grace, and strength in a way that we didn’t know was possible. We see friends old and new, acquaintances, and strangers come from the woodwork of our communities to lift us up when we can no longer stand. And these communities seek no reward, they seek no gain–they simply give. This sense of community has humbled me to my core.

I have often repeated the words grace, patience, gratitude, and plain old, thank you in the last two weeks as if I don’t have a thesaurus big enough to express myself. So I will go on with these words and live to honor the man that has built such an incredible set of communities for our Thomuto Team.

Peace to you and may the souls of the eternal departed rest in peace and rise in glory.

sifting through sand. #ce14

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image credit

I love being a Connected Educator. My network of #edufriends has allowed me to grow my practice of teaching and leading in a way I didn’t know possible.  My PLN has teachers, administrators, ed techs, edu wonks, and all sorts of ed-sy types from all over the world. We meet together on twitter, google+, facebook, instagram, and blogs. We occasionally get a real-life-in-person visit through our participation in edcamps and other local and national venues. So many incredible things are produced and shared through this network of incredible educators and parents. The amount of information can cause my brain to feel overwhelmed. I aggregate through hootsuite and feedly. I clip to evernote. I use all my tags and tools.

But sometimes, it feels like I’m sifting through sand. (This is a good problem to have, of course.) The deluge of information can exacerbate my already full brain–constantly feeling pressure to multi-task to be able to follow the threads. Then I stop. Close the tabs. Remember that in our 24/7 world, it will always be there later, tomorrow, or if I need something else, it will be there still. If we as Connected Educators try to keep up with the rush of our networks, we will inevitably all find ourselves in lovely padded rooms with Nurse Ratched as our guide.

You can connect a little or connect a lot, as long as you connect. If you are new to our connected educator world, do not dismay, in time, you’ll sift through the sand, find your go-to’s and build a strong network. Click on the link above for great resources from The EduBlogger or tweet me, @teach2connect and I’ll get you on your way. You can do it PLN! Keep Calm and EDU On.

 

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do i get a cape?

Whenever I talk about being an NAIS Teacher of the Future at home, Ken (the soon-to-be husband) says “Teacher of the Future” in a circa 1920’s radio announcer voice.  It makes me laugh and gives it a somewhat superhero spin. It provides a comical twist to a really big thing. I get to represent my school as someone who has a voice in the future of education. No pressure there, huh?

But in all seriousness, I take this responsibility very seriously. We, the Teachers of the Future cohort and alumni, are charged with studying, reflecting, and sharing our understanding of the way teaching and learning should be in the 21st century. Since we are getting started 14 years in, we have our work cut out for us. While we will all study the aspects of Blended/Online Learning, Assessment, Student Health/Well-being, and Accreditation, we will really be looking at how education is “done” in the United States and elsewhere.

I think it comes down to asking great questions. I am a big fan of the Essential Question. Wiggins and McTighe define an essential question as “a provocative question that will foster inquiry, understanding, and transfer of learning.” (2003) As a teacher, it is incredibly important that I ask questions about my own practice. Is what I am doing a Best Practice*? This summer, I went so far as to read an entire book about asking good questions.

I begin a reflective process of teaching and learning with these questions:

What are we doing? Why are we doing it? How is it good for kids? What do we need to change to make it better?

As I ask these questions, I am able to refine my practice of teaching and learning and guide students on their educational journey. Without these questions, teaching and learning can easily become stagnant or sterile. With these questions, teaching and learning can become robust, innovative, creative, and, frankly, fun for the teacher and the student.

The fact of the matter is, we are ALL teachers of the future. The children in our charge are going to be the leaders of our world. It is our responsibility, in collaboration with their family, community, and friends, to give them skills and experiences that will prepare them for adulthood. (Again, no pressure, right?!) It is our duty to ask the right questions, to encourage the children to ask them, and work together to find the answers.

No capes required.
iteach

Amazing Graphic from @venspired, Krissy Venosdale

*This was our Norwood School summer read for 2014. Such a fantastic read for new and veteran teachers alike. Chock full of all of the things you should have learned in ed school, but probably didn’t.*