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Grateful for My Learning

I signed up to participate in the @TeachThought Attitude with Gratitude 30-Day Blogging challenge for November. But something seems to have happened and we’re halfway through the month without many posts! I’m going to try, when possible in the next few weeks, to blog more often.

Today’s prompt is this:

5 things you are grateful to have learned in your teaching career

1. Stay true to the principle that all children can learn. (This one took precedence in a conversation about beliefs and principles yesterday. Make sure that your principles guide what you do.)

2. Relationships are key. (Enough said.)

3.  That there’s always more to the story than you know. (I’ve learned that before I get myself all riled up about something,  do some research and find out more from different perspectives. Take a deep breath.)

4. Technology is not even a tool, it’s a digital assistant. (I recently started reading the book 1-to-1 Learning: Laptop Programs That Work, by Pamela Livingston. I’m only on the introduction and already there are so many ideas that resonate for me! The idea of changing the language about technology and tools to digital assistants works. This is also attributed to Prakash Nair – “Student Laptop Computers in Classrooms – Not Just a Tool“)

5. All of us are smarter than one of us. I attribute this one to Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, who stated this frequently in our work with PLPNetwork during a formative year of professional development. I strongly believe in the power of my PLN and collaboration.

Obviously there are MANY more lessons that I’ve learned, but these come to mind this morning.

 

 

I’ve had quite a few conversations recently about writing and technology at the elementary level. Some teachers feel that it’s not developmentally appropriate. Many of us are using the Lucy Calkins’ Writing Workshop materials, and there’s either no mention or very little mention of integrating technology into that model. These concerns are definitely valid, especially for me as a past primary level teacher. I don’t think we need to scrap using pencil and paper to teach learners how to write. However, as much as I honor these perspectives, we need to push through and find ways to provide some opportunities for our students.

This past summer, I worked with primary-level educators in a course and we focused specifically on this topic. Lo and behold, a few months later, all of the teachers have found ways to weave in digital tools in support of the writing process. Some have delved into Kidblog, others are introducing the tools in Google Drive, and others are using various iPad apps. This is all happening with students at the K-2 level! Yes, they can!

writing techLast week I attended the VermontFest conference in lovely Killington, Vermont. It was sponsored by Vita-Learn, our ISTE affiliate. I did a presentation on the topic of writing and technology at the elementary level. It was well-received. I’m sharing the site I put together for the presentation here. There are many resources, ideas, and examples there for you to peruse.

One component of the class and the presentation was to build a repository of ideas collectively. I borrowed Tom Barrett’s (@tombarrett) idea for the Interesting Ways series and have created our own Interesting Ways to Integrate Technology into Writing at the Elementary Level. Feel free to add to it.

I encourage educators to use these resources and let me know how things evolve. Writing permeates most of what we do; let’s make it engaging and powerful.


Comments and ideas are more than welcome!

Image created by me at canva.com

Primary Productions

I’ve had a few experiences lately where I’ve been so impressed with what’s happening at the primary level. By that, I mean grades K-2, but this is certainly prevalent at other levels as well.

I taught some courses this summer and had the privilege of working with teachers at all levels. Recently, teachers from two different courses, who teach at the primary level, have had things to share with me.

One course was all about integrating Google tools. During our week together, a few teachers and I got to talking about Twitter. Yes, not a Google tool, but still a powerful one. They wanted to hear more about how to use Twitter to make classroom connections. I continued the conversation with one teacher beyond our summer work. Last week, she came to visit one of our kindergarten classes, Sharon Davison‘s (@kkidsinvt), and watched the class use Twitter to share with other kindergarten classes (class account: @vermontkkids123). Our guest, a first grade teacher, also has explored the #1stchat hashtag and has lurked in a Twitter chat as well. She is overcome by the sheer numbers of primary educators that are out there sharing and connecting. Her visit to our school helped her get underway.

bloggingAnother summer course was about the integration of writing and digital tools. All of the participants in that one are primary teachers, plus one principal. Two of the teachers, who teach in our district but another school, have added blogging with their students to the vast array of things teachers are responsible for these days. They approached it systematically by paper-blogging and paper-commenting, leading up to using the technology for those tasks. The second grade teacher got things underway with her students and they blogged a few times and left one another comments. The teacher was thrilled and set up a future session with her colleague, who teaches first grade. Today, the second graders taught the first graders how to access and create their blog posts. I was invited to observe and help out. They didn’t need my help- these students were ALL engaged and on task. They all felt successful and the first posts by first graders were a huge hit.

I got back to my school and walked into a computer lab filled with a first/second grade class (multi-age). They also were blogging! The teacher was so excited at how well things were going, how easily the students were navigating Kidblog, and how many skills are embedded in the experience. She is eager to try to help more of her colleague see the light.

Finally, one of our third/fourth grade classes (multi-age) has been participating in the Global Read Aloud author study of Peter Reynolds’ books. They’ve been blogging about his books and including some amazing reflections. They have also learned a lot about commenting – from penny comments to dollar comments, as well as highway and dead-end comments. The teacher used the Global Read Aloud hashtag #grapeter to share a set of recent posts about Peter’s books . What came next was the biggest surprise of all; Peter Reynolds commented on her students’ posts! the students and the teacher were jumping up and down with excitement. What a fabulous way to understand the power of a larger audience.

It’s been great to have more and more positive examples of how our younger students can and do achieve a lot with digital tools.

It Pays to Share

I have ‘preached’ quite a bit about how being a connected educator means giving as much as taking. I’ve been having fun with canva.com (also an app now!) and wanted to share some recent creations. Feel free to adapt or use in any way. 

commenting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

drive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

netiquette

I’ve read a lot of posts during Connected Educator Month, about the value of being connected. I consider myself a connected educator, though sometimes more connected than others. What you put in directly relates to what you get out; it does take work and time. However, it’s well worth it. As many have said in a variety of ways, “all of us are smarter than any of us.”

What Being Connected Is:

  • Developing trusting relationships online and face to face
  • Giving as much as you take
  • Sharing
  • Collaborating

Last week I went to visit another school district to facilitate a session for their in-service day. I offered a session about the importance of blogging with students. When I shared about students writing for a larger audience and the change in motivation, a number of teachers in the room asked how you build that audience. How do you find other classes with which to collaborate?

I said that I use my PLN – especially networks on Twitter and various Google+ Communities of which I’m a member. Many in the room stared at me as if I was from another planet. I reflexively turn to these networks to ask questions, to share ideas and resources, and to connect that I don’t even think about it anymore. But for someone new to it all, it can be intimidating. chain link

Tips to Get Connected:

  • Start slowly, it won’t all come together at once.
  • Join one of these networks – Twitter or Google+. Just one. See how it goes. If you like it, keep going. If not, try the other one.
  • Ask others who are already connected to help you.
  • Observe, watch, lurk.
  • Put your toes in the water and send out a tweet or a post in a community.
  • Take risks. No one will judge you. Instead you’ll be welcomed.

There’s a whole wide world out there full of educators who are sharing and connecting. Join it. It will change how you view education and your work, and then have an impact on your students as well. Get smarter- connect.


 

Image originally from: creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by jspad: http://flickr.com/photos/jspad/3349733909

Then adapted with pixlr.com

 

Connecting is Hard Work

hard workAs much as I have written about and speak positively about connecting, it’s not easy. That was reflected upon recently in this post, “The Top 4 Excuses for Not Connecting.

I’ve been thinking about this as well, even before I saw that. Honestly! For me, being a connected educator requires putting in the time and building relationships. The time element is challenging for everyone. Yet somehow, there are thousands of educators blogging. I don’t even know the number of educators on Twitter, but it constantly amazes me that at no matter what time of the day, there are people sharing, participating in chats, and supporting one another. And they have the same 24 hours in a day. It all comes down to how you choose to prioritize.

Building relationships takes work in any realm and it’s no different when you’re trying to get connected. Over the past years I have made many professional connections, both face-to-face and online. But like any other budding new friendship, you have to commit and put forth the effort to build them into relationships that thrive. Relationships are both give and take. You can’t take if you don’t give. I have found that to be true- the more I give, the more I get.

Despite these challenges, it’s worth it. I feel very fortunate to have connected online a few years ago with Kay Bisaillon, whom I finally got to meet face-to-face at ISTE in San Antonio and again in Atlanta. When I saw her again this year, it felt like I was visiting with an old friend and we picked up right where we’d left off. The connection there is strong, at least for me. I know that I can turn to her with questions, ask for help making connections for collaborative projects, and seek her perspective in new ideas.

It took a few tries before Kay and I finally met in person a few years ago, but it was worth it. That’s just one example of how devoting the time to building relationships makes connecting pay off.

Constantly Connecting

Yes, the 30-Day Blogging Challenge came to an end for me, but thankfully now there’s Thoughtful Thursdays! The folks at TeachThought are encouraging us to blog on Thursdays during Connected Educator Month.

Here’s today’s prompt: What does “connected education” mean to you?

I have blogged quite a bit about being connected and the value of my PLN. Feel free to check out the tags to the right to view some thoughts about this from past posts.

To reflect on the question for this post, I’ll share events from recent days. This week in our schools, each of our teaching teams were given a half day out of their classrooms to plan integrated/interdisciplinary units. I sat in for some part of each team’s meeting. It’s been a whirlwind week; I’ve visited with 14 teams so far with one more tomorrow!

Throughout the course of these meetings, I’ve added technology integration ideas to the brainstorms and planning. I was happy to hear a number of teams ask how they could provide opportunities to move up on the SAMR model through different activities and events. I shared many ideas, like the Global Read Aloud, Mystery Skype/Hangouts, and classroom collaborations.

Some teachers asked, “What would be the one activity or tool that would give the most bang for the buck?” I do find that the topic of blogging is usually my answer many times to such question; blogging accomplishes so many things in a simple way. Students are working toward Common Core Standards, technology standards, improving keyboarding in an authentic manner, and learning valuable skills about digital citizenship as they compose posts and comments for one another. They are writing for a larger audience, often beyond their classroom and even the school. This impacts their motivation and drive to write well. To kick it up a notch, teachers can connect with another class and leave comments for one another.

42 secondsThen I’m asked,  “How do you find other classes to connect with for this purpose?” I often have to say that I can help them connect through my networks and PLN. I can put it out there on Twitter, using hashtags that I know will reach the audience we need. I can access a number of Google+ communities on which I can seek other classrooms for projects or blogging. I can reach out directly to groups that I’m a member of, or even specific individuals that I’ve collaborated with in the past. I’m ready to go and help them connect. But why can’t they do this themselves? They can, but are much more limited if they’re not connected educators.

I notice that I feel I have all of these networks and resources, but that some of the teachers inquiring don’t. That’s the benefit of connected education for me. I can turn to experts around the world for assistance, not just those in my school building. I can seek answers to specific questions and get better results than I would with a Google search. I feel informed about developments in education because I’m reading tweets, posts, and articles I come across daily. I access and pass along this information and then find that I’ve seen it long before it gets shared through other channels. As a recent commercial stated, “that was so 42 seconds ago.”  I’m on the leading edge.

This is a ramble more about being a connected educator than connected education. But it’s all connected, right? There’s real value in this, for many adults and many students.

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