Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Shake it Up: #BFC530 and Voxer

Sometimes in the past, I would check twitter right after I woke up. Gradually, I noticed an increase in the hashtag #BFC530; eventually I figured out it's the "Breakfast Club 5:30 am" (There's actually a MT group too, which is 7:30 am ET) How many times have you googled a hashtag?  Joining this chat and then Voxer have changed my whole daily routine! I set my alarm for 5:25 am and only occasionally hit 'Snooze'; I don't want to miss the chat.

Courtesy of @ScottCapro, #BFC530 Co-Founder

Now, I've participated in lots of twitter chats, but some don't seem to accomplish much. Plus, this one is a mere 15 minutes, a "spark chat'. Another thing that distinguishes #BFC530 is that it is very organized, has high quality topics, and encourages participants to lead the chat and suggest themes. I can honestly say that starting off the day with #BFC530 has given me a more positive outlook. Frequently during the day I will remember something said in the chat and draw some inspiration from it.

I moved slowly at first, but the group convinced me to try Voxer. What a revelation! Voxer is a sort of walkie-talkie phone app, with messages that can be shared with individuals or anyone in a particular group.  First I joined the #BFC Voxer group, then #INeLearn, and then started a group for AISLE (Association of Indiana Library Educators).  Yes, the tweets are still valuable, but Voxer gives you an opportunity to extend the learning and interaction beyond 140 characters.  Frequently I listen to Voxer on my way home from school, although then I have to scramble to remember some of the ideas or resources I learn about while driving.

Courtesy of @ScottCapro

Some reflections from chat/Voxer members:
1) You can use this to support a Critical Friends Group (CFG). You can easily share ideas, reflections... now or later
2) One member is using Voxer for a book club (Love that idea)
3) This extends your PD time without necessarily taking up extra time.
4) It takes even less time if you play the voxes at 2x or even 3x the normal talking speed.

Sometimes I think it's almost better than most of us do not know each other. We have been amazingly open and honest, with several individuals sharing successes, failures, get betters and requests for assistance. By trying these new technologies and interactions, we're modeling in a way what we would like our students to experience.

When I was working with some students one day after school this week, the Voxer signal on my phone went off; they asked me what it was, and I explained that it was my "Voxer friends". They were intrigued with the premise that these friends were from around the world-- and that we concentrated on education.  Hopefully, they too will come to see learning as something it's easy to do 24/7 in a meaningful way.

Please check out the #BFC530 chat and the website if you haven't already. (You can also get the Voxer details from the site.) Many have gone from lurkdom to total participation almost instantly.  Thanks to @ScottCapro and Jessica Raleigh for a fabulous idea!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What's in a Name? ICE was Right to Change Theirs. Day Two Review

After the second and final day of the ICE Conference, I've taken some time to reflect on the overall experience.  It was an outstanding event! What really struck me is that the most moving, inspiring sessions really had little to do with computers or technology.  The keynotes from Dave Burgess (AKA Talk Like a Pirate) and Kevin Honeycutt truly were more about relationships than technology. Thus, the name change from 'Indiana Computer Educators' to 'Indiana Connected Educators' seems to make a lot of sense.

Yes, there were great ideas to be gained from the speeches and sessions, but things have moved more from the "things" to the 'why'.  It's not how you get there, it's just that you get there. And, students should share in some of the decisions on the path to take... even the destination.

Danielle Darnell &Amy Schmidt from MSD Wabash County shared their successes in coding with all students. 
Here we practiced with moving cups to simulate the moves of a robot.
We heard quite a bit about coding, and the session I attended was great at giving some of the nuts and bolts, as well as resources,  In addition to their emaze presentation, and a Pinterest page, they shared specific ideas for different grade levels and answered many questions. I really liked the fact that their entire district participated in an hour of code last December. Could my district do this?  Even just the two schools in the same building? 

Any time Leslie Fisher is presenting, I have to go to at least one of her sessions.  From the clever videos she plays as you wait for a session, to her content and comments, she is always entertaining. This time I attended her gadget presentation, although I heard that the twitter session was very illuminating, too.  And then there was evernote and others.... too hard to choose!

Whenever I hear Kevin Honeycutt speak, I have to tell people about the stories he relates. Even though I had been to two sessions of his before, he had lots of new material. As I mentioned on my twitter stream, he has so much that is "quotable and tweetworthy" that it's hard to keep up. Listening to him makes you feel empowered, important, and inspired; now for the follow-through.

At a later session (wisely moved to the auditorium to accommodate a larger crowd and keep his equipment intact), he gave some rapid-fire ideas for incorporating digital literacy into research. By using us as a class, he showed how he would have students answer the question, "What was the first submarine to sink a ship?" Then he asked many, many follow-up questions, asked us what websites we were using, alerted us to false information, and told us we always had to cite sources.  Have 15 minutes left at the end of a period/day?  Divide a class in two; half the room researches to support     A: Black widow spiders are the worst  OR B. Brown recluse spiders are the worst.  Put your links and citations into a shared google doc (which can even be shared with parents)  Or choose things such as dogs/cats, standard/automatic, text/email/chat. He encouraged us to use one of his ready-made PBL lessons dealing with an asteroid hurtling toward earth. He has worked with many students to find ways to turn their talents into money, even careers.  

Our great Indiana DOE Office of eLearning has several events for October, Connected Educator Month.  One of these is the #INeLearn Challenge, designed for you to use with your staff.  You can even earn PGP's for completing it, all as you learn about different aspects of the Google Online Communities of Practice. There are communities by discipline and grade level.

Sherry Gick &Addie Matteson demonstrate their enthusiasm in the Maker Space photo booth.
And, I would be remiss without another mention of the extensive Maker Space available to us.  A lot of effort went into affording us the opportunity to experience several possibilities. All in all, the conference was an ideal experience, and will definitely go on my calendar for next year!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pirates, Vacation, and Makey Makey

The first day of the Indiana Connected Educators (ICE) conference was a fabulous experience! Several districts and the Indiana Department of Education Office of eLearning have combined to make our state a leader in education technology, with many inexpensive opportunities for teachers and other educators to learn from nationally-renowned tech stars.

Consider the line up for this year's conference:
-Sylvia Martinez
-Leslie Fisher
-Dave Burgess, AKA Talk Like a Pirate
-Kevin Honeycutt

Throw in two breakfasts, two lunches, free wireless and parking--- all for $100? (and presenters attend for free)  No wonder more than 400 people registered. My primary reasons to attend: ICE helps you experience the same joy of learning that you hope students will, and I get to see lots of friends!

Some of my media specialist friends at ICE. AISLE had great representation 
Photo courtesy of Michelle Green
Although I participated in the eLearning book club with Sylvia Martinez's Invent to Learn and have been in webinars where she presented, seeing her in person really helped me realize more of the impetus and reach of the "Maker Movement".

Buzz saw?  Whirlwind?  Psycho?  No-- it's Dave Burgess!
I've read the book, been in multiple chats... but nothing can compare to seeing Dave Burgess in person. My main take away when I read his book was that teachers should not be afraid to be different, to "go out on a limb" to be memorable, and entertaining to students.  The level of engagement in his presentations was phenomenal, and you could sense teachers thinking of ways they could adapt lessons.  I was so excited to see Dr. Nancy Steffel of the University of Indianapolis, who brought all of her junior and senior preservice teachers to this conference, and had them sitting in the front row for Burgess's keynote.  What better way for future teachers to prepare!

One of the best things about attending: the learning and connections continue. There are so many opportunities through ICE and the IDOE Office of eLearning. Whether it's the Thursday night twitter chats or other programs, it is easy to find encouragement and support.  ICE has been during my fall break the past few years, and fits nicely with what I want to experience on a vacation: enjoyment, time with friends, learning new things.  I rarely go anywhere over break, but if I do, I plan around being able to attend ICE.  It's disappointing to me that some educators think of it as "giving up" their vacation.  There's no hassle of lesson plans, having a sub, and I think districts might more easily be able to come up with a mere $100 for this wonderful experience. It could also be that many classroom teachers don't realize this exists, as they are rarely sent outside their districts for PD anymore.

And best yet-- I get to come back today!

This year's ICE includes an extensive Maker Space.
As with students, it seemed like the 3D printers drew the largest crowds.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Teacherpreneurs, Revisited: We're Getting There!

I had the unique opportunity to be part of a group of classroom teachers from across the country who collaboratively wrote a book Teaching 2030: What We Must Do for Our Students and Our Public Schools... Now and in the Future  (The linked video by graphic recorder Sunni Brown does a nice job of explaining "teacherpreneurs".) Barnett Berry wrote the bulk of the manuscript, and incorporated parts of our writing (truth be told, I have all of about three paragraphs in it).

Notice how I mentioned classroom teachers? Part of the idea behind teacherpreneurship is that you shouldn't have to leave the classroom completely to be involved in teacher leadership. Who better to collaborate with other teachers and implement new ideas that someone familiar with the classroom? A true teacherpreneur has the opportunity to remain in the classroom at least part of the time, while also taking on additional roles for the district or organization. To our minds, teacherpreneurship is NOT leaving the teaching profession to become a full-time consultant, nor is it becoming fabulously wealthy by selling copious materials on websites such as Teachers Pay Teachers.

Tonight, September 3, I have the privilege of being on a panel at the University of Indianapolis for their Kappa Delta Pi chapter on the topic of teacherpreneurs.  Karen Van Duyn and I presented at Kappa Delta Pi's Centennial Convocation in Indianapolis on this topic in 2011.  I decided to revisit the livebinder that we used for the presentation, which lent itself to some analysis of how things have changed in the past few years.  What has happened in the educational landscape since we wrote the book? (Other than CCSS) There do seem to be many more opportunities for educators to take on hybrid roles, and organizations of teacher leaders are giving voice to efforts to resist or promote various education reforms.  The exponential explosion of technology has made it easier for educators to network and find professional learning most suited to their needs.
The Teacher Leader Network, affiliated with Barnett Berry and the Center for Teaching Quality, has now become the CTQ Collaboratory, "a virtual community for connecting, learning, and innovating with teachers to transform education".  All educators can become a part of the Collaboratory, and there are smaller groups, called labs, as well.

What about my fellow Teaching 2030 authors?  Most of us are still doing much the same thing, although some now have advanced degrees, have changed schools, or have published additional books.

Please feel free to add examples of teacherpreneurs and teacher leader organizations in the comments below.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Some good friends just started the twitter thread #whylib, telling stories of why they became a librarian.  I became a librarian partly because of a printer and an LMNet post.

Creston MediaPlex

I loved the public library growing up, but have to admit I don't have that many memories of the school library-- because I didn't go there much. In my first elementary school, we got a grade for returning our books on time and selecting "proper" books.  One grading period I got a 'B' because I forgot my book once, and I selected a book that was deemed inappropriate for a third grader. It was a 5th grade neighbor who led me astray by suggesting I check out a book called Trouble after School.  In it, some characters dared to play hooky!

Fast forward a long time to the beginning of my career, when I started teaching science. I don't recall ever taking a class to the library at my first school (two years). A few years into my second school, I was talking about an upcoming project at the lunch table when the librarian said, "Why don't you bring your classes to the media center?" My response: "I can do that?"  I don't think collaborating with the media specialist was ever mentioned in my education classes, undergrad or first masters, and I don't recall one of my own teachers doing it.

As a member of a fabulous interdisciplinary teaching team, I assisted every other week when students created a team newsletter. At the time, the best printer was in the media center. I spent some time there finishing the newsletter, and found myself looking around and thinking, "I like what they're doing in here.  This looks like fun; I could do that". A few years later, the media specialist and her hilarious assistant announced their upcoming retirements, and a principal earned my eternal gratitude by allowing me to have the position if I agreed to work toward certification.

As I contemplated the move, I lurked on LMNet. Someone (I'd like to know who it was) posted, "One thing I like about being a librarian is that 90% of my interactions with students are positive".  Then I discovered that IU's library school was one of the top-ranked in the country, AND that AASL was coming to Indianapolis in the fall.  I took those as serious signs I needed to do this!

AASL's Logo for the 2001 Convention in Indianapolis
I thoroughly enjoyed most of my classes at SLIS, and met some great future librarians as well. I have found that my 23 years of teaching science have served me well in assisting students with research and navigating a lot of the accompanying vocabulary and concepts. There are many times when I miss teaching science, but I have never regretted my move to the media center.  It's a great time to be a librarian!

IUPUI Library

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Snow Day Make Ups Could Be Better than the Original

Having a true winter has thrown many schools for a loop; wouldn't it be ironic if this is the impetus to truly innovate some aspects of education? One of my favorite professional reads has been Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns by Clayton Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson, and Chris Horn. A key point I took from it is that "disruption" does not refer to a change that takes the place of something else, it offers something new that hasn't existed before.

Fortunately, Indiana State Superintendent, Glenda Ritz, is giving districts flexibility in making up snow days. Districts can use built-in flex days, add on to the end of the year, go on Saturday, or add an hour of instruction to six days to equal one day. Using online learning with a high level of participation could be another option.

What could you do with an extra hour in a day?
 I can think of lots of great things that would benefit students:
-what about letting the students pick a special area of interest, ala Genius Hour?  In six days, they could really get some traction!
-at the high school level, many AP classes could benefit from an extra hour.  AP science labs, in particular, already require time outside the regular school day in most schools.
-you could have a mini-career day and have each student attend a presentation
-schools that have the equipment could connect to other schools, authors, or speakers via Skype, google hangouts or other platform.
-what if students simply read for an hour?  Staff could be sure that each student had quality reading materials. They could even designate a special book to read for the week, or some groups could read a common book.
Adding an hour to our school days would mean secondary would dismiss at 3:50, elementary at 4:40; that's not that late.

If the days are added on to the end of the year, please don't let it disintegrate into a movie festival. How about using all of the special activities that didn't fit the ever-prevalent pacing calendars and assessment windows?  I was on some highly-functioning interdisciplinary teams when I taught science.  We had several special days that have since been abandoned, such as "Math Day" (every class did something connecting the discipline to math), a "Who Kidnapped Cupid" mystery, "Hoosier Hysteria", "Winter Olympics", and more.

Once when my own children had a Saturday make-up day, I was able to assist in first grade as a parent volunteer.  The teacher made the day very special; the students had fun and they still learned.  One child said at the end, "Can we come next Saturday, too?"

I learned a very valuable lesson from a student about the worth of "teaching to the end". One year I was selected by a high school student for an awards ceremony, and one of the things she mentioned was that we dissected, cooked, and ate squid on the last day of school.  Other teachers might have been packing up, cleaning the room, having the kids sign yearbooks, etc., but we actually did a memorable lab on the last day.  I never did tell her that it was partly due to my disorganization and failure to order the squid on time. Each day should count as fully as possible, whether it's day 1, 60, 100, or 180.

Several schools have already held planned eLearning Flex Days, including Maconaquah, Attica, and Zionsville.  Districts could have just secondary participate, with other levels attending in person if needed.. These schools who have already participated have incorporated many accommodations for students and families, including meals. Success in planned eLearning Days can lead to using them for unplanned days off.

The key here is choice. In this day of so many mandates, it's refreshing for districts to have a chance to be inventive on a trial basis; who knows where it might lead? We need to get away from seat time and move toward learning time. Districts will be able to apply for a waiver from adding traditional days with submission of  a plan..

What are your ideas? Let's think about what's possible to maximize learning and move toward innovation, not just add more of the same. If anything has been disruptive, it's this winter! Let's take advantage of it.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How social media led to more disappointment... and that's a good thing?

Just got back from ALA Midwinter, with one of the highlights being the announcement of the Youth Media Awards (for you laymen, the biggies are the Caldecott and Newbery Awards, and if that still doesn't make sense, it's like the Academy Awards for children's books).

Compare and contrast from watching the Grammy's the night before: the clothes were a little more sensible, there was less bleeping, but still a lot of heartfelt cheering and some varieties of hair color.

The experience was incredibly electric; how often have you experienced cheering and extreme suspense entirely related to books and reading? I was practically moved to tears when two of my personal favorites, Navigating Early (Printz Honor) and Rose under Fire (Schneider Family Honor) were recognized. When a book you adore receives an award, it validates your feelings.

All books, authors, and media received cheers, with a few getting added murmurs such as, "Honor-- I thought it would win". When it was over, the questions began: "What about Counting by 7's? Mr. Tiger Goes Wild? The Thing about Luck? True Blue Scouts? The Real Boy?"

Why does the disappointment perhaps seem so widespread?  I think it's because we share so much more with a wider range of people in many additional ways.  I read more of these books than ever before, partly because I knew I would be in Philadelphia, but also because of my involvement in the #titletalk chat, the Nerdy Book Club, the Heavy Medal and Fuse8 blogs from School Library Journal, Goodreads, listservs, and even a Facebook group, adbooks. In days past, I wouldn't see follow up posts and reactions from so many people, either.

Thinking back a day later, I've decided that in the long run, this is a good thing.  More people are devoted to more titles than ever before.  What's wrong with that?  More people were disappointed, because more people were involved. Every book someone loved could not win, because there are so many good books!

Ultimately, the most important step: convert this to enthusiasm among our students. Many teachers and school librarians have inaugurated mock awards groups, use edmodo or Biblionasium to offer safe social media opportunities, or create a community of readers within their classroom. It would be wonderful if all students could experience the thrill of the awards that we did on Monday.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's 2014: Pick a Word

I just saw a segment on our local news with "Carol the Coach". Instead of making resolutions, she suggested that you pick a word for the year.  Write the word down, tell others your word, put it on your calendar daily, and keep working toward that instead of keeping track of resolutions.  I did a search to see if the post was delineated in one place, but mainly found posts from 2003, 2008, etc. I do like the idea; I always enjoyed it when my interdisciplinary teams (some of my glory years of teaching) had a team name or theme that we carried out (often very successfully, if I do say so myself)

Here are some suggested words:

I'm thinking I might go with pride; at the end of the day, can I be proud of what I have done?  Can I inspire my students to take pride in their accomplishments?  Would I be proud for others to see what my house looks like right now?(no!) I've thought of many applications already.

Happy 2014!