Thursday, October 12, 2017

Just One Thing #IMMOOC

I am not sure why I did it.

Maybe it was because I was a new teacher.
Maybe it was because everyone did it.
Maybe it was because I thought that it would actually work.

When I started teaching first grade, I required a reading log. It started as a activity that parents and children would do together. 

Spend every evening reading wonderful books.
Record the minutes, record the title and author. 
Turn it in to me on Monday.


The harsh reality of the reading log was made clear to me once I had my own first grader at home. Every night after tubbie time, we would climb into her bed with a pile of wonderful picture books. 

We would laugh at the stories.
We would wonder about the characters.
We would let the beautiful illustrations take us to lands near and far.


....until Sunday night (or maybe Monday morning)...when I realized that I had to complete the reading log and record all of that wonderful reading that we had done! Yikes!  As a teacher I could recognize those "Sunday night journal entries" that were sitting in the hand-in basket.

NOT Wonderful...

Years later I started to question.

What was the purpose of that log?
Was it really making a difference in the reading lives of my students and their families?
What information was I getting from that log?

I really had to make a decision about the value of that log and after looking at those hard questions, I decided to abandon it.  On my assignment sheet I would write "Read with your child for 10 minutes a night".  In reality, those families that were snuggling up to read every night did not need to record it and the families that did not read, were recording but probably not reading anyway.

NOT Wonderful....

I decided to take a new approach. I started sending books home with kids so that they could "borrow" them. As they were returned, I would send more home.  I started helping the children make better choices during their library time and the most important thing I feel I did was to start author studies.

Total immersion in the works of
Mo Willems,
Kevin Henkes,
Rosemary Wells,
Helen Lester
And so many more.

Children started pressuring their parents to go to the library to check out books that I had not found. They also would devour and reread the favorites. I started growing a community of readers who did not need a reading log to read and love pictures and words. So I don't regret getting rid of the reading log and changing my thoughts to do what is best for learners.

Not for one WONDERFUL minute!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Innovation in Education #IMMOOC

I was SO cool.  When I went away to college I took this computer with me.  Had it in my dorm room. Was the envy of all of my typewriter-owning friends. I word-processed all of my papers on it.  I let others use it, inserting their own floppy disk, of course.  I could not afford a printer so I had to take the floppy into one of the computer labs to print my papers on the dot matrix and make sure I tore the dots off the sides.  I was SO cool.

Fast forward a couple of decades....

I just sent my firstborn off to college for the first time.  When we went shopping for computers (an item that was clearly expected for him to have), I was blown away by the number of options.  I have continued my love affair with apple for the many years since college but knew that we were looking for something different for Nate.  We came across this Lenovo Yoga.  A-MAZE-ING!  This thing is a laptop, a  tablet and everything in between.

I tell you these 2 stories not to demonstrate how old I am or how far computers have come but to make a point about innovation in education.  It is not about the stuff.  There was innovation in education LONG before the technology that we all use now.

I think that the innovation comes from the mindset of the educators.  Their willingness to try new things, explore and take chances are what moves the field of education forward.  Teachers' excitement when offered opportunity is a district's greatest asset.

The story of the 2 computers is relevant because I will say, even as an apple girl, my next computer may be a lenovo or whatever cooler version of it follows.  I would investigate it, not because of all the cool things that it does, but because of the possibilities it provides.

Possibilities for innovation.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Digital Conversion...slow and steady

Imagine that you find out that you are going to be getting 1;1 laptops in your classroom for the next school year!  What is your reaction?  My guess is that most of us would be excited at the opportunity to explore using new tools for digital learning. Or you feel your palms start to sweat, your head throbs and the room starts to spin as you think "What now?"

In an attempt to ease the minds of our teachers before the full digital conversion starts next school year, we held a half day digital conversion inservice. We spent our first hour of the day giving the teachers the "meat and potatoes" of next year's conversion.  We explained the Schoology Resource file that is housing all of our materials.

We also made classroom resources for teachers and I even added some custom color schemes because I know that we teachers love our classroom themes.  The posters were designed in primary designs as well so that even our littlest learners can take responsibility for their own learning!
I have included some examples below.

Our second hour was a "scavenger hunt" through the classrooms of our pilot 1:1 teachers.  The teachers labeled examples of different ISTE standards demonstrated in their student work.  There were also scenarios posted in each room that gave real-life examples of ISTE standards in action. Below is an example of one of the scenarios and the ISTE standards that were addressed.

The third hour was devoted to collaboration between teachers to create/plan some kind of system or product that would help them or benefit their team in the new school year.  Many teams worked on management systems for their devices and programs.  One kindergarten team designed a virtual field trip activity that addressed American locations that correlated to a story that is in our Wonders reading program.  They even designed a "tour book" with questions about the Golden Gate Bridge, Mount Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty, etc. 

Our teachers are doing great things with the ISTE standards in their classrooms and I hope to continue highlighting them as the school year goes on.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017

LOOKEE!!!!   Thanks Liz!!!!  What will you inspire me to do next?????
Sunday, May 14, 2017

Digital Conversion...a new frontier

As the 2016-2017 school year comes to an end, my school district is reflecting on the 1:1 technology pilot program that has been underway in grades 2-5.  We have learned so much on this journey including the ever popular lesson learned -- pace yourself. There are SO MANY fun, fantastic, convenient apps and programs out there and available to teachers and students. Which one to use?

This is an exciting question when you have teachers that have volunteered to pilot a 1:1 initiative, have laptops available to all of the students in their classrooms, are told "go with it" and are thrilled to do so.  What happens when you tell all of the other teachers that they will also have this opportunity?
For some, they will be as excited and the itinitial group.  And for is a terrifying new frontier. 

In my position as K-5 Instructional Specialist, it is my job to help ease this transition.  There have been facutly meetings discussing the upcoming changes, a full afternoon of sharing between the "veterans" of digital conversion and the brave new entrants. In order to give our colleagues a starting point I created a "Top Tech" handout.  We polled the current teachers and asked what their "go-to" web sites and apps are. See belowfor the results!


Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Have you ever wondered about African Penguins?  
Have you ever sang a song in hindi? 
What do the children in Iceland eat?

The students in my district have experienced all of these things!  No, we do not have an unlimited field trip budget. 
We are globalizing!

This year, we have been working very hard to move the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) standards for students off the paper and into our classrooms.  One of the ways that we are addressing the standards of Digital Citizenship and Global Collaborator is to go on Skype field trips.

We chatted with the team from Anturus (@anturus) while they were on their most recent trip to Iceland.  The students asked questions about the northern lights, glaciers, whales and found out that the people in Iceland actually eat a lot of the same things that we do, as well as some strange meats.

One of the teachers in my district has a friend that is working at a school in Malawi and we were lucky enough to get a chance to Skype with the children there and ask questions about Africa, what the children there like to do and listen to a song that they had prepared for us!  They will continue to connect and learn from each other throughout the school year.

We Skyped with Park Ranger Kelly for a Mystery Biome Skype.  The students asked questions to determine where Ranger Kelly was video chatting from.  The children used maps and charts and determined that she was in Mt. Rainier National Park.  This was a great Skype experience set up through Microsoft Education. They offer other experiences that we would like to try later in the year.

Another Skype experience that we really enjoyed was with SANCCOB (seabird rescue organization) in Cape Town, South Africa.  We got a tour of the facility and see the penguins that were being healed and ready for release.  We also learned about how SANCCOB helps the wildlife in the event of an oil spill.  The children had great questions about the penguins and even want to adopt one of them!  You can too!

 Our fourth grade students are learning about the Native Americans of New York and how they used the natural resources in NY to make housing, clothing and get food.  Our Skype session with the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming was aligned with this learning.  The presenter at the Center showed us how the Plains Native Americans used the Buffalo and the natural resources around them in order to survive.  She was able to present actual artifacts that were made from the buffalo.  I never knew that there were so many practical uses for the parts of a buffalo! Guess what they used the bladder for????

One of the cutest Skype sessions that I have participated in so far was a visit with a school in Mumbai, India.  The students' school day was over but the children came BACK to school at 7pm their time so that they could videochat with one of our kindergarten classes at the beginning of our school day. We showed them how to play duck-duck-goose and they showed us a performance of "Old MacDonald had a Farm". We taught them some nursery rhymes and they taught us a song and Hindi.  It was a great opportunity for our children to see what school was like in other parts of the world.

We are new at videochatting.  
We have experienced technical difficulties. 
We have had some failed attempts while scheduling.
We are motivated!
We are inspired! 
We will continue to help our children to explore the world! 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Five for Friday - November 12th

Five for Friday has been quite a week.  No matter how you look at it, this week has been one that I will not forget. I will not make any political opinions in this post although there may be some politically themed content. :)

I may have mentioned that I have a Senior this year.  I just filled out the Graduation Order Form for his cap and gown.....what?????? Crazy.....

Election Day 2016.
I voted in my 8th Presidential election. (don't do the math)
For the first time in the history of EVER I saw a woman's name on the ballot for President.
So cool.  So very cool...

I was able to spend Veteran's Day with my favorite veteran again this year! For the past bunch of years, the kids and I have taken my Dad (Retired Army Colonel) out to lunch at Roadhouse Steakhouse.  They provide a free lunch for Veterans on this day.  I am fully aware of how lucky I am to be able to do this every year with my kids, my Mom and Dad.

I may order the Classic Vanilla Latte every day just to see this written on my cup!

So, I live in Rochester NY and we are lucky here to have a beautiful and historic cemetery called Mount Hope Cemetery.  It is the final resting place of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. This past week was a pretty busy week for Susan B. Over 8,000 people went to the cemetery on Tuesday to pay their respects and leave their "I Voted" stickers on her grave.  This is not an unusual occurrence on election day and the day that Hillary Clinton won the nomination was a pretty impressive day too. I was really happy to be able to take my Mom and my daughter to visit the site for both of their first times. We waited until Saturday to avoid the massive crowds.  It was a lovely day....