I’ve Been to the Other Side

Have you ever watched a presenter and thought to yourself, yes that’s a great idea BUT… What follows is never good.  Fill in the blank; not with my students, I don’t have time, we don’t have devices. When I present I love to show real work from the classroom.  Students in action, photos, student work, and videos that kids have made.  I select these carefully to represent students of all learning abilities.  I never show just the “smartest” students.  That’s not authentic.  Yet there has never been a time when I haven’t looked at evaluations and seen the accusing phrase that goes something like “but my students are English Language Learners, or have IEP’s, or are low income.”  My students were all of these things.  The work you saw, the clips you viewed were low income students and students with IEPs, students with no label who still struggled, students somewhere in the middle, and yes sometimes the more accomplished.  I’m not kidding I’m really not.  

 

But that’s not why I’m writing this post.  I’m writing because I want to address the other comment.   The comment that went something like “How can I do this without 1 to 1 iPads?”  These comments were much more prevalent.  They were from naysayers to teachers who really did want to start tomorrow but just couldn’t wrap their minds around how to make it work with what they had.  I’m writing this post to tell you I’ve been to the other side.

 

Last year I left my classroom, 30 ipads, and ten years worth of books and furniture grants to a very lovely teacher.  Now my job is to coach people in literacy and technology and lots of things in between.  Next year they will all have iPads but this year…yuck.  Shared carts of old netbooks that take forever to boot up and even longer to log in.  Missing keys, odd trackpads, unfamiliar programs.  No shiny iPads, no quick fixes.  I’m living in the other side.  I’ve seen your BUT. I get it.

 

And yes it’s hard, it’s challenging some days and sometimes I see in the eyes of teachers that they want to give up and go back.  But then they see their students light up and give a little more, and help each other out, and do something amazing. Then they learn something new and feel that spark, that fire again! I’ve been to the other side and we aren’t letting it stop us.  We can do it!  You can do it!  Let’s just try.

iPad Friends for Early Learners

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 2.55.03 PMHow do we ensure that our littlest learners are equipped to use technology in a meaningful way?  We go slow to go fast!  I’m very pleased to share this document with you, created by myself and a group of fellow instructional digital age learning coaches. (kindred spirits, overall geniuses, and great people)

The concept came to use as we were working on another document to help teachers roll out the year.  Where were the lessons for our youngest learners?  Hey, these are people who need to learn how to sit on the carpet.  Giving them a $600 device takes a little preparation.  So iPad Friends was born.  A short sweet document with a teaching point and an image of a student modeling.  Our hope is that teachers will take the teaching point and make it their own, then take a photo of their own students modeling these great habits.

Please share, enjoy, and make it your own.

iPadFriends

 

 

Amplify Learning with Words and Images

TitleImage.jpgThis post first appeared as a guest post on the Educator Collaborative blog leading up to the Spring Gathering.  The archive of our free webinar can be viewed here! : )

image credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/jLwVAUtLOAQ

If you’ve ever logged into a social media site you’ve likely seen an image like this one. Perhaps it had a funny quip or thoughtful quote.  These images capture our attention due to their ability to stand out from the sea of words and noise and connect with us in some way.   I wondered what would happen if we leveraged these images and words to amplify the learning in our classrooms. How could we take this medium and make it work for kids?  What if?

What if we used these concise images as a way to remind students of goals or learning targets?  Better yet, what if students created their own reminders to help them be the best that they can be?  What if they acted as a class record of lessons throughout the unit? Perhaps these images become printed reminders of accomplishments or digital badges of success across the year? The potential is limitless.  Here are a few ways that I’ve begun to explore.

 

Social Emotional

Collaboration, teamwork, perseverance, risk taking, self-control.  Each of our students has unique ways that they can grow.  I’ve often noticed the school social worker giving little reminder cards to the students she works with.  But what if every student had one?  Perhaps they refer to their own little image tucked in their notebook before a book club meeting or group work.  If students have devices they might make this their lock screen.  These images can act as a quick reminder to breath when stressed, listen before they talk, or accept failure as a learning moment.  Students might also have a group one during collaborative work to help them with the skills they need to accomplish tasks  smoothly together.

SocialEmotional1.jpgimage credit: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/910393
SocialEmotional2.jpgimage credit: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/189442

Goal Setting

Over the years I’ve tried many ways to help students set and keep a record of goals.  While my systems have improved I still feel that students often forget these goals in the moment.  What if they created images like these and displayed them in a notebook or on their desk?  They might keep a photo roll on a device and pull it up by subject as the day goes on.  Making goals visual is an effective way to help us keep them at the forefront of our mind and achieve them.  Creating the visual; selecting an image, color scheme, and juxtaposition cements the goal for the child and makes it memorable.  Today’s tech tools coupled with a little guidance make this a quick and streamlined process.

GoalSetting.jpg

image credit: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/1002573

 

Micro Lessons

We might also use these visual reminders to serve as a vehicle for delivering micro lessons- remind students of prior teaching points, essential steps, or set a purpose for the day.  These class “goals” for learning can be displayed on a projector screen or smartboard at the beginning or end of class.  What if the class quickly helped compose one at the end of a lesson as a wrap up for the day? It might be a simple “today we learned…” statement or hold students’ words, reflections, and examples of great work of the day.  Or we might display a slideshow of visuals from recent lessons to play while students work independently or transition.  I keep photo albums for each subject in the photo app on my computer.  From there I can easily play one as a slideshow right from the app, no muss, no fuss.
MicroLessons.jpg

Image Credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/O1TNdLNvJLM

Reflection

Student reflection is an essential part of our school day.  We guide students to stop and notice where they are and how far they’ve come.  What goals they’ve achieved and what more they need to accomplish.  What if we paired student’s own reflections with images of them at work or a sample of the work itself?  Students can create and archive them digitally or printed, share them with parents, and display them in any way they choose.  These powerful moments capture and honor process over product and value the student’s own words and observations about themselves as learners.

Reflection.jpg

Image Credit: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/944212

 

Getting Started

Creating these visuals is surprisingly really easy!  To make the images in this post I used Canva a free webbased tool with ready made layouts and simple options which you can master with a bit of play time and experimentation.  You might use photographs from your classroom or students can take their own photos.  In this case I’ve used images from two sites that offer free pictures for use in creative projects. (listed below)  If needed you can do a little footwork ahead of time and build an image bank for or students to streamline the process.  These can be stored on a device, USB key, shared photo roll, or shared Google drive or Dropbox folder.

 

The images in this blog post are from the following websites.  

 

Morguefile offers free stock images to use in creative projects.  These images are intended to be altered by the user.

https://www.morguefile.com/archive

 

Unsplash also offers free images and is a creative commons zero site.

https://unsplash.com/

 

Canva is a web based tool (they also offer an app) for creating digital images, infographics, and art.  While there are paid options within the app it is easy to avoid these and use your own.

https://www.canva.com/

 

One Little Word: Energize

I started doing One Little Word many years ago, inspired by the ladies at Two Writing Teachers.  You can read my post from last year on how I used One Little Word with my students here.  This post is about my word for 2016.

This year I chose the word Energize.  Energize.  Every time I say it I think of Star Trek and imagine myself standing on the teleporter pad barking the command “Energize!”  If only it were that easy.

It’s not a mystery.  With a toddler and a three month old baby at home I don’t have much energy because I don’t sleep much.  Let’s face it, I never exercise and I’m usually eating the dinner I made for my toddler (because why would she eat it?) one-handed while I rock/bounce/jiggle/sway the baby with the other. Most of my energy comes from coffee and my own tears as I pull gobs of post-partum hair from my head wondering if I’m doomed to a life of wearing hats.

There are some things that are beyond my control such as whether my baby sleeps through the night or whether I’ll be forced to attend a late night bouzouki party with Greek family.  But little things like making choices that give me energy are with in my control and so I’d like to start there.

Energize my body with good food and activity, whatever I can get.

Energize my mind with interesting books, media, and conversation.

Energize my heart with kind actions towards others.

Energize my colleagues by helping them find what they need to have a joyous day.

Energize my hair with all natural vitamins, snake oil, and magic.

Energize 2016!

IMG_8969.PNG
For the year 2016 I chose the word Energize.  I want to energize my mind, my body, and my approach to life.

Tweets As A Nonfiction Text Feature

Earlier today I was looking for resources on extreme weather for one of my teacher teams and stumbled on this article.  Below is a screenshot or you can click the link to read the entire thing.

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 1.47.19 PM

It gave me pause for thought because it’s peppered with embedded Tweets like the one in the image below.  Now this is nothing new to me as an adult reader and a Twitter user.  But I wondered how many students would recognize this new type of nonfiction text feature and know how to approach it.  What might we want students to consider when they encounter an embedded tweet in an article?

Perhaps that there has been a shift in author?  Therefore a possible shift in validity.

How do we look at the source and decide if it’s reputable?  Is this an expert in the field like a weather person?  Is this someone who is giving us a “from the scene” perspective?

What image literacy skills might students need to interpret, connect, and synthesize the tweets with the body of the article?

We’d love for you to share your experiences if you’ve tried using any articles with embedded tweets with your students.

The Value of Screencasting

Building on our recent digital artifacts discussion I thought we might take a minute to look at the value of using screen casting in the classroom.  When I first learned about screen casting my initial thought was “what a great tool to use in math!”  I began to create quick tutorials for students to help them learn concepts and strategies.  These were shared on our website so that any student (or parent) who needed to could access them.  I would use QR codes on class charts to provide quick access to certain tutorials and make the charts come alive.  And all of these things were great, but…

I was starting to feel like my own little Khan academy.  Sure it was personalized to our curriculum and the learning we were doing directly in class.  But I  couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that this was a tool that should be in the hands of STUDENTS!

You see, unless you can sit and watch kids solve and think through problems there are essential pieces of information that you miss.  I would look at papers and see erasure marks, sometimes down to holes in the paper, and wonder what process had taken place to get the student to the end goal.  Where was their understanding breaking down?   If they caught a mistake in their process how and why and when?  I thought perhaps if I could get them screen casting that I would have answers to these questions and I could be a better math teacher.  In the end, I was right.

Let’s look at an example of a screen cast from a former student of mine.  In this screencast she is doing something that we call an “interactive” screencast.  This is where the student is creating the screen cast for an audience and is tasked with engaging the audience to solve the problem, then provide an explanation as to the correct answer.  It’s one of the many formats we brainstormed as a class so that students understood that screen casting is not just a digital quiz to be turned into the teacher, but that we often have different purposes and audiences for creating them.

As you watch think:

  • What does this student already know?  What is she able to do?
  • What questions do you have about her process?  What do you assume she had done mentally that we don’t see?
  • What evidence do you see that she understands the concept?  At what level does she understand it?  (Is there evidence that her understanding goes beyond just being able to apply an algorithm?)
  • What feedback would you give this student about her screencast?  About her math process?
  • What are some next steps for this student?

We’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments!

 

Have You Tried To Slice?

Every March I participate in the Slice of Life challenge created and hosted by Two Writing Teachers.  It’s been a great push for me as a creative writer over the years, with some years being more successful than others.  Last year I started it with my students and am continuing it with this years class.  They often find it challenging and exhausting but exciting and energizing at the same time.

As part of this daily writing I write with them and follow the model that the fine ladies at Two Writing Teachers have set by inviting kids to try different things in their writing each day.  Sometimes it’s experimenting with a new format, other times it’s about honing their craft as writers.  Along with the “writing” lessons I’m also teaching lessons on digital communities (like how to leave thoughtful comments) and the ins and outs of using Kidblog. (We even get a few lessons in HTML coding thanks to Kidblog’s app)

Here are some thoughts from last year’s class.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 6.09.04 AM

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 6.09.09 AM

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 6.09.13 AM

Since this year I wrote my first slice about the coffee shop where Kristin and I write our books I thought I’d share it with you.  (This is reposted from my personal Slice of Life blog.)

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

The Kitchen Table

For the past year I’ve been spending most Saturday mornings at a little coffee shop on Damen Ave. with my writing partner Kristin.  Over the months our newest book has been taking shape fueled by massive amounts of coffee (what else?), the smell of bacon smoke in the air, occasional 80’s power ballads, and the general feeling that we’re trying to make a difference in the world.

Most of these mornings were spent on a big green leather couch stationed at the back of the room.  An ideal place for writing, people watching, and generally overseeing the goings on of the coffee shop.  One recent morning I walked in to find that the couch had been moved.

My first thought was “what the heck? why did they move the couch?”

My second thought was “what is in its place?!?”  There in the back of the room hogging the space that our beloved couch had once lived in was a retro reddish orange kitchen table.  I glared at it in disgust and distrust.

Our beloved green home had been moved to the front of the coffee shop, right in the middle of the chaos and was now joined by another couch.  It was an overall unwelcome change.  Now chaos abounded around us, other people invaded our space, and our writing mojo was thrown by the constant din of the door banging shut.

“The music is too loud.”

“The light is all wrong.”

“There’s a draft here.”

“It’s too far from the outlet.”

The next week I felt anxious walking in the door.  I trudged slowly to the back of the coffee shop and set my bag down tentatively on the table.  I unpacked slowly, hesitantly as if the table might blow up at any minute.  As I set up my computer I ran my fingers over the tacky laminate surface noting the old coffee stains, the scratches along the edge.  This table had history.  This table had a story to tell.  It was then that I thought perhaps it was fate, that this table was put here for a purpose.  A storytelling table for two storytellers.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 3.07.38 PM

If you’re interested in finding out more visit Two Writing Teachers.  It’s never to late to get started!

photo (7)

Try It Tomorrow: Online Safety with Image Stamping

Processed with RookieBlogging and providing my students an authentic audience of their peers and the world has been one of the most significant practices I’ve employed in the last few years.   As we’ve nurtured young bloggers we’ve made a commitment to our students and their families to keep kids safe online as they share their thinking and learning with the world.

We do that in a number of ways, but one practice we employ is to never post a child’s name and image in the same context. This is a simple way to add a layer of security to work that students share online. We teach this to kids as young as kindergarten and model safe sharing practices from day one. As we engage in conversations about what is shared online, who has access to work and how long it “stays” online, we lay a foundation for digital citizenship that we build upon across the years.

A number of blogging platforms that are available to students have a place for kids to display a picture of themself as the author of the blog. For developing readers and writers this image helps students quickly sort and locate their classmates’ blog. For older learners this image is another piece that signals the blog belongs to them. Many classrooms design their own avatars using an avatar creation tool like Gravatar or Voki. I prefer to invite students to create their own avatars using a simple drawing tool.

First, have students take a selfie. Then import the photo into a drawing app like Doodle Buddy or Drawing Pad. Both apps have the option to use a photo from the camera roll as a background image or piece of paper. Once the child’s photo is set as the paper, teach students to use it as a coloring sheet and select crayons, markers or colored pencils to draw over their image. Sometimes referred to as image stamping, this practice invites students to represent a likeness of themselves while also protecting their true identity. More so, it invites our kids to create–and when students are creating learning is personalized and differentiated, and most importantly, fun!

IMG_0784
This 3rd grade student created an avatar for his blog site using Drawing Pad.

Once we’ve taught kids how to create an avatar and use photos as coloring pages they can transfer this practice across the curriculum as they represent their work and the work of others in this protected fashion. Students can use famous pieces of art, favorite book characters and photos they’ve shot in class as background templates for their drawings.

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 9.55.29 AM
A student avatar is displayed when the child leaves a comment on Kidblog.
IMG_0790
A first grader creates an image of herself that she posts to her blog titled, “A gift to my mother.” Note how her real eyes show through the drawing (kinda creepy!).
20130528-090919
An excited student wants to share about her loose tooth online, but recognizes she should not post a photo of herself to her blog. Here, she uses Drawing Pad to cover her face but shows and labels her loose tooth.

In one simple lesson we engage students in creation, representation and digital citizenship. Best of all, its easy and fun so try it tomorrow and let us know what you think!

photo 2 (7)

Try it Tomorrow: One Little Word

Processed with Rookie

I first heard of One Little Word over at Two Writing Teachers.  What a wonderfully simple way to focus your energy for the year.  No messy resolutions, just one little word.

So I thought: why not try it with students?

I started by pulling a variety of exemplars and popping them into my favorite tool…Padlet.  This visual layout worked great in helping students see the variety of words and the visual/artistic element of the project.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.31.36 PM

As they viewed it we talked about what we noticed and some things that we wanted to keep in mind as we made our choice.  I asked students to view the Padlet through two lenses.  1) word choice and 2) design elements.  Then students got to work, here is a photo of their hard work!

FullSizeRender

They attacked this project with gusto.  (I’m sure it was sounding better than revising those pesky feature articles.)  Students used both traditional and digital tools to create their words.  Then they each took a picture or screenshot, posted it to their blog, and wrote a bit about why the chose the word that they did.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.29.33 PM

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.28.45 PM

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 12.28.07 PM

It’s tempting to over schoolify things sometimes so I didn’t set any expectation for their writing other than to explain why you chose the word you did.  I took a big step back on this and just allowed students to do things however they wanted because I was hoping to encourage creativity and excitement.  By making the one little word their own and not a “project for school” I hope they take it to heart and use it to help make 2015 an amazing year.

It’s not too late for you and your students to find your one little word for the year!  Will you try it tomorrow and let us know how it goes? 

photo (7)

Try It Tomorrow Follow-up: It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

Processed with Rookie

Such an exciting response on Twitter to the first Try It Tomorrow post! Thanks to all who shared this idea with friends and colleagues. A number of teachers took the Try It Tomorrow challenge and tested this practice in their classrooms. Several were gracious enough to share snapshots of their Padlet with us.  Take a look at how these teachers used Padlet to build a book buzz by clicking on the image:

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 5.54.08 PM

Many thanks to the following classrooms for sharing your thinking with us: @msclancysclass, @mslsclass, @mscassidysclass, @Burley5th302, @team4chapman, @edisongradeone, @MrsLaffin4, @skogstad_class

Please tell your students that we love learning from them!  Readers, make sure to add these teachers and students to your PLN! Connecting helps us all become better educators.

I look forward to hearing from other classrooms who Try It Tomorrow. As always, thanks for sharing your learning with us!

photo 2 (7)