Essential focus

October 5, 2008 at 11:19 am | Posted in Learning is Messy, Planning | Leave a comment
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In my after-school group, Digital Media Kids, I have 3 girls and 3 boys with 1 fifth, 1 fourth and 4 third graders. We’re a diverse group but all decided to join this activity. Being a teacher, my first thought was, now I have to plan something that will really engage them, all of them, and help them grow while having fun. My thought was writing/image based expression through a blog, podcasting and VoiceThreads towards collaboration within the group and globally.

But I have so many ideas and directions this group could go in that I became stalled in my planning. This morning I woke up with the solution; because it’s extra-curricular, we don’t have to be driven by curriculum or skill outcomes. The direction I need is to ask the group what they want individually and collectively from the experience and together come up with essential questions for the group that will guide us individually and collectively. If it was a snake, it’da bit me.  From that discussion and big question(s) will come our project- the collaborations and tools will fall into place.

So, tomorrow I plan to display my activity description that they responded to and pose the questions, what do you see us doing? What do you want to learn? What do you want to express? Who do you want as an audience? After we sort those out, then we can bridge, What do you want to express and how?

Sometimes I love Mondays.

BTW, fantastic video of Chris Lehmann found on a J.Utecht twitter post.


Keeping fresh and focused

September 21, 2008 at 7:19 pm | Posted in Learning is Messy, Planning, Tech Integration | 1 Comment
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Now that the first 2 ½ weeks of school are in, Open House is over and I’m looking at a typically busy fall- I feel the need to set a new mantra to keep fresh and focused. My new mantra is from The Geography of Bliss. In it, Weiner relates a Thai expression, “mai pen lai” which means, nevermind, let it go or it doesn’t matter. As a typical American, this has always been difficult for me and I occasionally engage in thinking too much in an unproductive vein.

So I have set my focus then for this fall as:
•    setting up and proctoring the NWEA MAP tests (for the first time)
•    helping teachers get the new math program, Pearson EnVisions, digital components off the ground and into student’s hands
•    my first conference presentation at the MAIS conference
•    celebrate and focus on global classroom collaborations in grades K, 1 ESL, 4 and 5
•    enjoy my role as teacher/facilitator with my after-school digital collaboration kids (grades 3-5) and trying 2 new tools a month

The above are listed in order from those requiring the most sweat to those providing the most joy. It’s a fairly long list but I’ve put many things that are also needed on the back burner.

What are your priorities and goals for the rest of 2008?
How do you keep fresh and focused?

Back to School with a PD idea

August 3, 2008 at 7:47 pm | Posted in Collaboration, Conference, Learning is Messy, Professional Development | 4 Comments
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It’s been awhile since my last post and now that I’m back at work, my mind is filled with ideas and plans for creating, adopting and implementing 21st century educational experiences this year at ASM.

One thing I heard repeatedly in sessions at the Laptop Institute this summer is that an essential ingredient in creating change and allowing growth is professional development (hello?? We know this already but it’s nice to hear it from others!) We can’t ask teachers to make changes without support for creating this change, but scheduling PD opportunities that meet many schedules is a difficult task. I feel that what is needed to stir up collaboration and risk-taking is to implement formal, established collaboration opportunities outside the school day.

Last April I started Tech Thursdays every other week that allowed staff to come in before or after school for tech and edtech assistance and sharing ideas. This was met with limited success mainly because 2 days a month is not enough time and opportunity to meet many busy schedules.

My idea is to start this year by establishing available Tech Drop-In times 3 days a week (Tuesday/Thursday/Friday) for staff development where I will promote and be available each day at 8:15 before school and until 6:00 after school. On Mondays and Wednesdays I plan on holding my ASA student group.

The opportunity can be promoted each Monday with an all-staff email reminder that includes items such as a collaboration opportunity announcement, MS Office tip, website, edtech tool or best practice example in an effort to hook teachers. My 10 minutes at each monthly staff meeting will be another positive way to generate interest. I’d like to keep anecdotal records of types of help requested during these sessions and success stories will be reported in our school’s staff Tech newsletter.

The before and after-school tech time (in addition to during the school day every day) would consist basically of my availability for any question or idea a colleague wants to develop. When I don’t have experience related to a specific question, it will also serve as an opportunity to model how to find answers such as use of AtomicLearning, the Help menu, or Google. If there is a lack of attendance, I plan to advertise topics, tools, skills and books to promote growth.

What do you think? Has anyone tried a similar format? Any words of advice or further ideas?

Time for relaxation and reflection

June 27, 2008 at 4:10 pm | Posted in Collaboration, Learning is Messy, Planning, Professional Development, Shift, Tech Integration | Leave a comment
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With my first year as an international educator behind me and the comfort of being in my native country with family and friends, I feel ready to reflect on my past 10 months in Madrid. There was a lot to the adjustment in my personal life but also professionally.

The issue I’m currently mulling over is, What IS the best way to encourage change in an individual school?

From personal experience and talking to teachers in other schools, there seems to be 3 main options:

1. Hiring leaders who nurture, model and encourage 21st century change in the form of “education technology specialists or integrators” who work with teachers.

2. Teacher/tech mentors who work within their team.

3. A computer lab teacher/integrator who provides grade level curriculum lessons with technology as a tool in the lab

My experience in the states was as a classroom teacher in a school of 600 students with one tech support person and one lab plus 1-3 desktops per classroom. We had a small district-wide program to encourage “tech integration” and professional growth with limited success. Basically it was up to the individual teachers interest in professional growth and change.

My experience this last year as a K-5 “technology integrator” (the first one for the school) had it’s ups and downs. The pros are that we have an administrator promoting movement towards the future, an excellent head of technology and tech support team, a teacher laptop program recently implemented and individual teacher interest starting to percolate. The down side was the newness of the integrator position and teacher expectations that the integrator would “take over” the tech implementation as the PE, music and art teachers do- even though this was never communicated as the plan.

A friend in another international school is a teacher/tech mentor for her grade level team. This has been successful in a limited way, and as with the previous examples, it is reliant on individual teacher motivation.

The third path, the lab teacher/integrator is effective in that students are provided with 21st century learning experiences for at least one hour a week, the rest depending on the individual classroom teachers. But this may be more than students in any of the other options receive. On the other hand, classroom teachers may be less inclined to attempt updating teaching methods at all in their own classrooms.

I’m not sure which is the best path, perhaps none of the above. In my experience and what I have heard from other teachers and edtech professionals and read on blogs, the greatest need is professional development time outside the school day and/or during the summer. It takes a motivated teacher to investigate and create more relevant classroom experiences during the school year. With that in mind, I think the first and third options are best because it allows a designated person to serve as a resource who supports those willing teachers to take risks and move into the future.

Lastly, on the topic of lack of time and professional development… yesterday morning my dad saw me at my laptop with papers strewn around and commented on my confusion with what “vacation” meant. Like Bob Sprankle and the Seedlings group, I see summer as a time for fun, relaxation AND professional development. I’ve started with Brain Rules as my first beach book and plan to alternate professional and fiction books over the summer. I plan to get caught up on reading my favorite blogs and post here more often. Also, I am attending the Laptop Institute in Memphis in a few weeks and virtually attending NECC next week.

The beginning of summer is so wonderful; stretching out in front of you with the promise of much sunshine, picnics, late nights and (for educators) time for catching up and recharging! Too bad it goes so quickly!


May 17, 2008 at 12:51 pm | Posted in Learning is Messy | 4 Comments
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It’s been almost a week since my last post or comment on another blog. These last two weeks were exceptionally hectic- presenting 2 orientation sessions about 20 times for all LS staff for use of their new designated laptops. The response from teachers ranged from grateful to overwhelmed to negative. I won’t go on in a negative vein, but I have ended this week feeling drained, hopeless and unloved. : ) And I don’t understand the negativity!

Which leads me to think, move my focus to those in my environment who are positive and proactive and prioritize an amount of time each night for those in my virtual environment through podcasts, blogs, twitter, etc. I come to this realization over and over, some day it will sink in permanently I hope. It’s time to reread Kim Cofino’s post,  Work with the willing… again.

Not enough time

May 9, 2008 at 7:32 am | Posted in Learning is Messy, Shift, Tech Integration | 1 Comment
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We rolled out our designated laptop program for teachers this week which meant the IT director and support staff spent many hours last week prepping the laptops and my colleague and I spent hours designing 2 orientation sessions for teachers to become familiar with their new laptops. This week and next is spent in orientation sessions with teachers and our IT director and support staff are attending to quirks with the new PCs. So, I have already failed to meet my blog goals to post and comment. However, it is uncharacteristically rainy here in Madrid and is forecast to be so all weekend- so I’ll have the time and energy to dive into the Comment Challenge blogs and recharge.

I have more thoughts on the thread of “not enough time”. Essentially, there isn’t enough to learn and apply many of the ideas I catch when reading or listening to blogs, news and podcasts. Progress is slower than I would like at times and I am saddened with the amount of time wasted. Finally, the way we use the minutes in our school day needs to change if we want to grow and improve the quality and relevance of the school day and what we are asking our students to do all day.

I have heard often enough, “Even if we had more computers in the classroom, there is no time for the kids to use them.” They are right given the way we currently teach. However, it is time to update the way we teach and allow students to “graduate from the slate and chalk to the pencil.” Use of computers should not be seen as an add-on but a useful tool. And it doesn’t have to wipe out the use of pencil, paper, books, crayons, etc. either. All the tools can be used in the classroom.

Let that reluctant writer (or all students) pre-write and then write a first draft on the computer- the power of flexibility with word processing is so freeing!

Tell students, “I don’t know the answer to that, let’s find it” or “Let’s find a video to show this concept or content so you can all see what I’m talking about.”

Don’t answer all your students questions or feel you have to, when they ask “what do I do next?” when learning a new application or software activity. Answer their question with, “Let’s look at the screen, what do you think?”

As a “tech integrator” who is not a lab teacher but “housed” in the LS lab, I model this for teachers by responding to students in this way when they are in the lab or I am in their classroom. I, carefully, apply this with staff and suggest ideas that rethink old ways of teaching. I firmly believe in show don’t tell. Telling is easier and faster, but rarely as effective.

Finally, I am definitely building the plane while flying it in terms of my growth as an educator who wants to be present in the 21st Century. I have so much to learn, which I find exciting rather than chilling. I am also challenged by continuously reflecting on what I do and asking myself, this is better but is it good enough? Is there an even better way? Plus, what is best in one classroom or for one student will not always be best for another classroom or student. Differentiation is another powerful consideration. So, I do the best I can each day, reflect, and wish there were more hours in the day!

May 3

May 3, 2008 at 5:00 pm | Posted in Blogging, Learning is Messy | Leave a comment
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Here are the questions for day one of the Comment Challenge with my responses:

How often do you comment on other blogs during a typical week? I started with podcasts and podcasting (the listen-talk web?) in my classroom and professional development. It’s either a slight case of ADHD or being an auditory learner, but I really love downloading and listening for enjoyment and personal and professional growth. I am a beginning blogger- I used them more as a classroom teacher with my class the last few years than to collaborate professionally. I also find it easier to make time for receiving (reading) than giving (posting comments.) Sooo, my answer is rarely- in the past.

Do you track your blog comments? How? What do you do with your tracking? No, see above.

Do you tend to comment at the same blogs or do you try to comment on at least one new blog per week? NA, see above.

Today’s challenge is to read and comment on a new blog, which I plan to do as soon as I publish this post.

Exploring- Day 2

May 2, 2008 at 9:42 pm | Posted in Blogging, Learning is Messy | 2 Comments

First, it was great getting comments on my blog as this is my first professional blog. I have one to keep friends and family current on my life abroad- but they aren’t bloggers and only comment by email.

I connected with Christy and then checked out her blog. I learned more about the position of an instructional designer and my eyes glazed over when reading about her use of Synergy- that’s down the road for me. Then I read a bit about mini-PC laptops and the future of laptops from Learning2.1. It’s so tempting to go spinning off in different directions when reading online and I need to remind myself to read, absorb what I can and save it for later.

Learning to tag

May 1, 2008 at 9:11 pm | Posted in Blogging, Learning is Messy | 6 Comments
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Being a busy person like everyone else, I tend to learn new skills on a “need to apply” basis. To participate in the 31 day challenge, I’ve created a Technorati account and am now writing a post to see if I can tag this post. Day one, one new skill! Thank you Silvia for your guidance!

A Second Beginning…

April 29, 2008 at 5:53 pm | Posted in Blogging, Learning is Messy | 2 Comments
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I was recently forming a new post for this blog and thought, why do this? Why describe and share my life and work experiences with the general reading public? I haven’t even invited anyone to read it yet!

First, much of what I have learned in the last 4 years has been from listening to podcasts and reading blog posts, books and articles by others who are teaching and working in schools in a way that makes sense to me for my students’ future. I have searched, lurked, listened and read- but further, and more importantly, I have begun collaborations and made new friends by responding to what I have read. I have also reached out and made professional and personal friends with people who were before unreachable when the internet is taken out of the equation.

And I am still learning from what others are sharing. A current example is a recent Twitter post/invitation. Four educators in my network are posing a “31 Day Comment Challenge” to encourage improved blog collaboration, keeping in mind quality over quantity.

So I’m going to take the challenge, pick up this starter professional idea of a blog and begin sharing my experiences and ideas. I too often compare myself to those I follow leaving, who are further ahead on the path I want to take. The challenge for me is to share and not judge my thoughts and writing as naive or unoriginal but rather remember that my situation and level of experience can offer others encouragement and insight. So, this May I plan to post to this blog at least 2 times a week and respond to other blogs as well. I won’t set a number on my responses as I don’t want to leave comments to meet a personal quota, but will instead read posts as if the person were there with me and add to a comment or discussion if I feel I have a question or comment to offer.

What do I have to offer the edtech blogsphere? My status as an experienced edtech beginner, 21 years as a teacher in elementary classrooms in the states, 19 years use of tech in my classrooms ranging from software and email coast to coast keypals to US/Europe real-time student audio collaboration. Up until this year I have been exploring tech in a school-system with an extremely tight budget and this is my first year as an elementary tech integration specialist in an international school that is taking off in terms of 21st century teaching and learning. Essentially, my recent experience in the classroom, level of edtech knowledge and passion for becoming a 21st century educator are the mix of what I have to offer. We all are in various levels of knowledge and experience and sharing these unique ideas and experiences broadens and enriches everyone’s palette.

Thanks Silvia, Kim, Sue and Michele for motivating me to jump in!

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