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We are making plans for our annual Theme Week which takes place the third week of February. I’ve written about Theme Week in the past here.

theme weekThis year’s theme is Connected Cultures Through Wellness. That seems to encompass many ideas, almost too many! In the workshop that the tech integration team offers, we like to offer something inspiring, fun, and that hopefully will filter back into the classrooms and influence teachers and students to try new things that enhance learning.

Last year we did that with the Aurasma app and augmented reality. The year before that, iPads were fairly new in our school and we offered a workshop around digital photography using various apps. Both were successful in getting students excited and they transferred that excitement back to their classrooms.

So, this year’s brainstorm is now upon us. We will have 4 groups a day for 4 days. Students in each group will come to work with us twice. One group comes at the same time on Monday and Tuesday, and then another group on Wednesday and Thursday. That’s a total of about 2.5 hours to get something accomplished. By the end of the week, we’ll have worked with about 200 students.

Please help us- we’d like to use the power of our networks to get ideas. What ‘new-ish’ technology tools can we use to address the theme, while having it not feel like traditional school work? Students love Theme Week because it’s a break from the normal routine; the workshops provide opportunity to do something fun and different.

Feel free to help us with the brainstorm in the comments below or on this Padlet. Your input is greatly appreciated!

I recently had a conversation with our District Leader (the administrator with whom I work) about why we use technology in schools. We realized that it is important to have those reasons at the tip of our tongues, especially during budget season in our town. Rather than the two of us developing the list, we asked faculty and staff for their input. We got great responses! We looked through them for common themes and narrowed it down to 7 big ideas.

I’m sharing our list here – hoping for feedback on the wording (For example, is ‘digital tools’ the best term?) and the content. Do you have suggestions or thoughts on what else might be added to this list? We wanted to keep it short and sweet and as jargon-free as possible so that any member of our town or community would understand them. Do you think we’ve accomplished that?

reasons for tech

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

 

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