Follow up: Virtual Summer Reading Club

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Summer reading

Photo by M. E. Shenefiel

Earlier this summer I blogged about an inspired idea, a virtual summer reading club.  We are nearing then end of our second book, with one more book to go in August.  This was a new venture for me, and I was initially nervous about how it was going to turn out, but it has been very rewarding!  Most of the active participant are  going into grades 4 and 5, and I have a few colleagues actively participating as well.  I’m just as excited as the students to get on Edmodo and see the latest questions and comments.  I love how the kids interact with each other and the other teachers without even knowing one another.

Today I received this message from a parent who’s child is participating in the club:

“I wanted to take a minute to let you know that I believe the summer reading program is a huge success. I always have my children read over the summer but the interactive book club has taken it to a whole new level. My son is excited to read, excited to come up with questions for the group and excited to answer questions. And not because he receives anything just because it is fun. I think it is a great way to engage the students over the summer. He is diving deeper into the meaning of the stories not just reading on the surface. He gets so excited to check Edmodo every day. I think that this is a safe and effective way to have these students peak into the world of social media. With social media being the way of the future I do think its important for students to learn about it and this gives them a chance to use it in a safe secure way.
I am so grateful for this program and hope that it is something you keep for future years.”

Classroom teachers probably get this type of email all the time, but for me it’s a huge deal. Needless to say the virtual book club will continue, possibly even throughout the school year!  For those of you who are considering offering this type of opportunity for your students I highly recommend it!

(By the way, the June book was The Menagerie by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari H. Sutherland. Our July book is The Secret Box by Whitaker Ringwald.  The August book, which hasn’t been revealed to the club yet, will probably be Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley.)

#ISTE2015 Take-Away: Build Your Wild Self

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This week I’ve been reading many posts from educators who are reflecting on #ISTE2015 (or #notatISTE15.) Most are finally getting the chance to decompress as they try to process the massive amounts of information with which they were presented during those intense conference days.

As I participated in ISTE Live I gathered a plethora of articles, tools, strategies, videos, and other resources and added them to my ISTE2015 Symabaloo.  Like those other educators, I’ve begun revisiting those links and contemplating how this new knowledge will transform my instruction.  After all, that’s the whole point of ISTE right?  The big takeaways (at least for me) were the 4Cs (creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking,) global learning, equity of access, makerspaces, resilience, passion, and project based learning.  It’s not about a tool or gadget or website.  The whole point is to transform education through technology.

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Mrs. S- The Ho-condo-fro-ingo-monitor from http://www.buildyourwildself.com/

Sometimes though, these tools are just plain fun!  So I have to take a few lines to share this. At some point, someone shared a website called Build Your Wild Self.  Published by the New York Zoos and Aquarium this website allows you to generate an image that combines your physical attributes with the body parts of various wild animals.  You can then download the image, share the image, or download a pdf version that describes your special features.

For example, here’s me as The Ho-condo-fro-ingo-monitor.

Red river hog ears-­ Your red river hog ears have long black and white tassels. They can fluff out as a defense mechanism to make you look bigger and intimidate predators.

Anaconda snake tongue- ­ Now you can smell with your tongue! Your forked anaconda tongue collects odor molecules from the air and brings them back to tiny grooves in the roof of your mouth, letting you “taste” the air.”

Giant tree frog arms, Chilean flamingo legs, Green Tree Monitor tail.  Then choose the perfect environment in which to release your wild self.  Awesome right?

The site isn’t without it’s glitches.  I found that as I was creating my wild self the preview image that I clicked on didn’t match what showed up on my wild self, but I was going to click on them all any way, so I could forgive this glitch.

I don’t know what it is about them, but I love tinkering on avatar creation websites.  Although this site doesn’t necessarily generate avatars as such, I defy you to visit this site and NOT end up revealing your wild self!

Curricu-Links: Retweet Round-Up

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Here are some interesting links that I found on Twitter over the last several days.  I hope you find them interesting as well.  Thank you to those in the Twittersphere who took the time to share.

Here are the same links in OneTab.

Curricu-Links: Retweet Round-Up

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Here are some interesting links that I found on Twitter over the last several days.  I hope you find them interesting as well.  Thank you to those in the Twittersphere who took the time to share.
Here’s the OneTab link to these resources.

Google Maps and GAFE Apps

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I’d like to make an appeal to Google for Education to include Google Maps in the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) suite.  I’d like to encourage my fellow techie teachers (and not-so-techie teachers) to make the same appeal.

Bear with me on this… here’s my situation…

I’m a thinker.  I don’t say this to imply that I’m some kind of super intelligent, Plato-inspired philosophical guru.  Those who know me know that this isn’t the case.  What I mean is that I like to think about ways to make things better.  I get inspired by those who are smarter than me and I think about how I can use their inspiration to improve what I do.   Unfortunately for me, and my patrons, I am not necessarily a do-er.  I get paralyzed by imaginary road blocks before my plans are ever put into action.  In many cases these grandiose plans never make it past my head and we all lose.

“Earth-Erde”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Earth-Erde.jpg#/media/File:Earth-Erde.jpg

Such has been the case for a project that I have had in the works for several years.  Each year, as summer break approaches, I have this inspired idea to map, with pictures, where my students read over summer.  I make a poor attempt at collecting photos and usually I get a handful of students and teachers who hand me photos.  The photos pile up on my desk and I forget about them until the following spring when I’m preparing for summer break.  Seeing the pictures reminds me that I want to try the project the following summer.  Rinse and repeat.

This summer I decided I WAS going make it happen.  I was bound and determined to bring this project to fruition.  Our district uses GAFE, so naturally I thought, Google Custom Maps… electronic images.. perfect solution! Except… Google Maps is not part of the GAFE suite.  I’m finally putting a plan into action, and I have a real-life road block!  Ever the thinker and problem-solver, I came up with my work-around.  I’d use my personal gmail account to create the Google Custom Map… not an ideal solution (I prefer to keep my professional and personal accounts separate) but again, I was determined.

After a lot of hoop-jumping, I was able to get the summer reading map created, with pictures, and able to embed it on the school website.  It looks the way I want it to look, and the feedback from parents has been very positive.  All is good with one small exception:  When I’m logged into my school gmail account, I can’t view the embedded map.  My best guess is that for some reason Google Maps and GAFE don’t play well together.  It should be so much easier to put this plan into action.

Why would Google Apps for Education not include Google Maps in their suite? The GAFE suite is designed to promote collaboration, creativity and communication among global learners.  What better way for students to understand their connection to a global community than by helping them to visualize what that looks like?

Including Google Maps in the GAFE suite would invite a multitude of opportunities for other creative, collaborative, educational projects.  Imagine students working in groups to map events during the American Revolution, using primary source images form the Library of Congress.  Language Arts teachers could create class maps featuring the settings of fictional stories.  Science classes could map migratory patterns of various species.  High school students could map the global repercussions of current events.  Students could create their own custom maps to make connections with places of personal interest.  These maps could become part of their educational portfolios.

There may be some very valid reasons that Google Maps is not included in the GAFE suite.  I’m guessing that maybe there are privacy issues, or maybe it’s just a matter of money.  I’d love to understand the rationale, but I have a hard time believing that providing access to Google Maps would present obstacles that wouldn’t be faced in the other apps in the GAFE suite.

So again, I’d like to make an appeal to Google for Education to include Google Maps in the Google Apps for Education suite.  I’d like to encourage my fellow educators to make the same appeal.

What do you think?

Enough – My Nerdtalk for #NerdCampMi

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M E Shenefiel:

Be a reading warrior! Take a few minutes to watch this powerful speech by Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp)

Originally posted on Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension:

Yesterday I had the incredible honor of declaring myself a reading warrior along with hundreds of other passionate nerdcampers.  Thanks to the awesome Erin Klein,this Ignite/Nerdtalk from Nerdcamp 2015 is below.    If you have never experienced Nerdcamp, you need to put a huge “X” in your calendar for next year.  It was absolutely incredible to be surrounded by people who are as passionate about literacy as I am.  We will change literacy instruction if we band together!  Thank you to Colby, Alaina, Suzanne and all of the other incredible people that put this event together.

PS:  Due to the slides not working you will see me filling 3 minutes of awkward silence with my stand up routine – luckily I think I am better teacher than stand up.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud…

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Curricu-links: Retweet Round-Up

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Here are some interesting links that I found on Twitter over the last several days.  Thank you to those in the Twittersphere who took the time to share. Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 7.42.48 AMRight now this is just a hodgepodge of different topics, hopefully in the future I’ll have this a bit more organized.  You can also access these links through the QR code or my OneTab Link.