Category Archives: Education

#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.

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?

ISTE 2015 Take-Away: OneTab

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For those of us who participated in #ISTELive one of the most valuable experiences that we had was the backchannel discussion. We began our discussion during the opening Keynote, but things really swung into action during the sessions on Monday through Wednesday.  Over the course of these three days we became colleagues and friends… a true cohort.  When I talk about my ISTE experience I mention these wonderful educators by name.  We shared a lot! We talked about teaching and technology, choices and challenges, family and friends, travels and home…  We talked about how we were on the ISTE diet (feeding on information forgetting to eat real food), how we hadn’t left our computers for days, how we needed treadmill desks…

…And we shared TONS of resources.  Early on, Adrienne (@adebouch) gave me the tip to use Symbaloo to curate some of the resources that I found and we both began collecting and curating.  Her ISTE Symbaloo was connected to my ISTE Symbaloo and mine to hers, and we both had a link to a shared google doc with Jen’s notes (@JKjennkaiser) from the sessions.  We had several people from our group editing that document as well.

As I said though… we shared  A LOT!  I got to the point that I couldn’t keep up, so I started just opening tabs.  I decided I would go back at the end of each session and add the links to my Symbaloo. I remember looking at my tabs at one point and I had so many open that I could only see one or two letters on each tab.  Thankfully Brandon (@Den_Petersen ), one of the moderators, recommended installing the OneTab add-on.

OneTab is a Chrome/Firefox add-on for website curation.  It is by far, the easiest webpage curation tool I have ever used.  Here’s how it works: Open as many tabs in your browser as you want.  When you get tired of looking at all of those open tabs, click on the OneTab button. Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 1.00.31 PM OneTab closes all of the open tab and creates a new webpage with links to all of the tabs that were just closed.  That list can then be named, rearranged, edited, shared, exported or deleted.  The next time you want a new list of tabs closed OneTab will add them on that same page.  You can move links from one list to another.  Check out more features here.

When you share a list you either can share it as a link or use the generated QR code.  Check out my links form the QR code/Augmented Reality Session. Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 2.07.16 PM

There are two features that are missing that would improve the functionality.  First, when I share a list, I’d like to be able to see the title of that list (the title that I gave it) on the shared page.  Right now I can’t find it anywhere.  Second, I’d like to be able to annotate the list in OneTab before sharing. My work around for this is to copy and paste the shared list into my blog post or a word document, but life would be just a bit easier it I could annotate the links before sharing.

Saving and sharing links just got amazingly easier for me and my students.  If you’ve ever been frustrated by keeping track of webpages, give OneTab a try.

Summer Resolutions

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The first week of summer vacation… sitting on the burning deck… sunglasses on…a tall icy glass of lemon water (or something)… catching up on the reading…  If you’re anything like me (and many other teachers) summer break is a time for closure, renewal, and planning.  To me it also feels like New Years.  On that first official day of summer break I’m always making my list of summer resolutions:

  • Exercise more
  • Read one book everyday (ok… maybe every other day…)
  • Spend one hour a day tackling house projects
  • Take an online class
  • Plan all of my displays for next year
  • Do something new every week
  • Cook more meals
  • Clean out my photo library (again)
  • Update my blog
  • etc., etc., etc….

When I think of it, I actually make A LOT more summer resolutions than New Year’s resolutions.  I’m also just now realizing why, about a week into break, I want school to be back in again.  (This list looks like disappointment waiting to happen…)

So what’s that one summer resolution?  How do you keep it?

Lessons From a Train Wreck

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Last week the fifth grade began research on the American Colonies.  The lesson was promising.  The social studies teachers collaborated with the language arts teachers, and me, to plan the unit.  It was up to me to kick it all off.  We had two sessions scheduled that day.  Things were going amazingly well.  The students and teachers had a conversation about research, choices, and reliable sources.  We moved on to using text features to find specific information with the text.  Every hand was in the air as the students begged to be able to contribute to our list of text features.  Three teachers beamed at each other proudly from different corners of the room.

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Hooray for text features! Photo by Mr. T.

The classes were scheduled to come back in the afternoon to use the non-fiction books, and their text features, to find information that would help them better understand various aspects of life in their assigned colony (general information, government, education, industry, climate and geography, and religion.) The plan in the afternoon was to group the students at tables by colony.  Three or four students would then each select a different book and examine the various text features of their book  to determine how that particular book could be helpful for their research on one of the subtopics.  They would then find a paragraph to read about the subtopic and read for understanding.  In the last 15 minutes of class they would share what they learned about their books as well as what they learned about their subtopic.

Before the classes left in the morning, as an afterthought, I explained to the teachers that I felt the students would benefit from a scaffold to help them as they used the books.  In between my duties and my other classes I scrambled to have a scaffold ready for the afternoon session.

As I read this now, its so obvious to me that they were getting way too much at once.  Even writing about it is way too much at once… but hindsight is 20/20.

The students came back in the afternoon.  I’ve never seen so much, go so wrong, so quickly!  The students were completely confused and frustrated.  There was a steady chorus of teachers (myself included) saying, “We told you this already!”; “You’re not listening to directions!”; “No.. you can’t look at you text features until you’ve decided as a group which subtopic going to be your focus!”; “You should be reading with your pencil down…”  There were books and papers and pencils and more papers everywhere… and many teachers and students with their heads in their hands.  It was a train wreck.  Truly.

I did what I always do in these situations.  I reflected.  Tomorrow I would have another group coming in for the same lesson and I knew things couldn’t stay the same.  I decided that I had made two big mistakes with my presentation.  First, I didn’t model the strategies for evaluating text features.  I had given the students a list of questions on which to focus but hadn’t shown them how to do it.  Second, my scaffold wasn’t clear.  There were too many sections and too much text.  I decided that I would use a slide on the projector to keep the students on track and make the sequence of the tasks more clear.

The next morning when the groups arrived (different teachers than the day before) the morning went much then same as it had the day before.  I had already talked to these teachers about how I was going to revise the lesson and try to learn from the day before.  I spent part of the morning modeling some of the strategies that I wanted the students to use.  My instructions were more clear and concise.  As I anticipated the afternoon, I felt much better and knew that these students would be much more successful.  The students came back in the afternoon and I went over directions one last time.  I had my slide on the projector outlining the tasks for the afternoon.  I sent them to their table with their heads nodding… yes… they knew what had to be done… they got it!

…until they actually sat down and started to work.

I watched as the whole train wreck repeated itself.  These kids were just as confused as the others!  “What am I looking for?”… “Should I be taking notes?”…  “There’s nothing in this book [titled The Virginia Colony]  about the government of the Virginia colony.”  How could I have gotten it so wrong two days in a row?

After school I went to those teachers and we discussed the lessons.  The comment that struck me most was from one of the social studies teachers who said, “I’ve been teaching research for 13 years and today is the first time that I realized that when I tell them to use the table of contents to find something to read, they may not know how to do that.”

Here’s what we learned from two train wrecks:

  • The students might be able to identify text features, but using them in a variety of real-life situations is another matter.
  • We need to teach the students to use inference when working with text features, especially when the authors of non-fiction texts get creative with chapter titles
  • Our students need practice with creating synonyms and related words when using the index
  • Our students need to practice problem-solving strategies when they hit a road block and they need to develop research stamina
  • We need to chunk these research experiences into smaller tasks
  • We need to provide direct instruction on how to research, and we need to do it at an earlier age
  • We need to slow down and take our time when teaching research

I love teaching research.  I literally get butterflies in my stomach when I begin a research lesson with my classes.  I love the moment when they read something and make a connection.  I love seeing their eyes light up because they get it!  I’m so thankful for this train wreck because it will provide me with an example for other teachers, who don’t yet see teaching research the way that we do.  Teaching research is more than handing a student a book and saying “Go.”  What these teachers and I know is that teaching research is an active process.  It’s slow and deliberate and messy.  It’s a lot of work!

So… “Thank you!” to my colleagues for sticking with me and with the process.  Although we were all feeling some pain, we all came out understanding more about how our students learn.  I’m so grateful that you have the energy and determination to see this process through.  I’m so glad that you are not taking the easy way out.

What a great mess!

Curricu-Links: 6 August 2013

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General/Multi-Topic

Genius Hour

Genius hour is a block of time set aside to allow students to autonomously work on projects for which they have  passion.  Wouldn’t it be nice if this could be worked into our schedule somewhere?

Sashimi Tabernacle Choir

WARNING: NO REAL EDUCATIONAL VALUE HERE! (unless you count making a creative idea into reality.)  I was looking for information on Makerspaces and I came across this (in the middle of a TEDtalk if you can image.) Honestly… it is creative and it makes me smile so I thought I’d share…

Language Arts

The Ultimate Backseat Bookshelf

Need to recommend a great read, but stuck for a title? Check out this post of the 100 must-reads for 9-14 year olds.  How many have you read?

Picture Books as an Art Form

From the Eric Carle Museum. Provides a framework for using picture books, not just for entertainment, but to promote discussion.

Social Studies

Back  in the Day: Lessons form Colonial Classrooms

An Education World article with many resources for teaching about colonial classrooms.  Inculdes suggestions for hands-on activities and resources.

iCivics.org

Great lessons and interactive games related to civics.  The lessons contain everything you need for lessons on citizenship, branches of government, the constitution, and others.  Check out the teacher page or just play a game!  If you register, the points you earn from playing games can go toward making an impact on the world.

TeachingHistory.org

This site, published by the National History Education Clearinghouse, was featured in a blog post on Free Technology for Teachers about “Why Hoistorical Thinking Matters” Features teaching materials, history content and best practices.

Science/Health

79 Animal Adventures in Honor of Shark Week

Blog post by Common Sense Media.  Includes apps, movies games, and more.

Information Literacy/Technology

SoundBible

Free sound effects with licensing information clearly marked for each file.

August AASL Hotlinks

I receive these monthly via email with my membership in AASL, but many of the articles are applicable to all educators. Includes a lot of information on curriculum, assessment, STEM etc.

Wikipedia as an authentic Learning Space

Professional development opportunity provided by EasyBib. Hurry!  The meeting is tomorrow August 7, at 3:00 EDT.

PicMonkey Collage

This blog post from Free Technology for Teachers discusses creative ways to use this new tool effectively.  PicMonkey is free and no login is required.

Sources of my sources: Susan L. Panter (@SLPanter), Joyce Valenza (@Joycevalenza), Robin Bryce (@busybryces), Emily Gover (@Emily_EasyBib)