Sunday, October 25, 2015

True Confessions of Your Teacher


If you were any animal, what would it be? 

While I would love to say a cheetah for its stealthy ability to run and its sleek body movement in the wild, the fact that I am a wood duck proved more accurately after a recent field trip to a Botanical Garden and boat ride on the bayou.
While I've gone with classes in the past on this same field trip, ridden this same boat through the bayou, and heard about the wood duck nesting boxes erected along the side of the bayou- I guess I had never really given much thought to the special nature of the baby wood duck and the mother duck who calls her babies to literally fall out of the wooden boxes since they are unable to fly.
I think the mother wood duck must feel like a teacher most days of her motherly life in her little nesting box. Why?
Because as a teacher I worry and fret about what I'm doing in the classroom to help my students be successful. Sometimes as a teacher you feel like your kids have automatic hearing they can turn off and on when they only hear half of what you've said... You wonder if they know how talented they are or unique and you want them to know there is something special about them- not their neighbor or their best friend who sits on the other side of the room, or the student they think has it all together. Each student provides something special to the overall class dynamic. Sometimes their persistent personality may challenge your patience. Sometimes it makes you consider other career options. Sometimes it makes you wonder if you're the only positive voice that child will hear so you should be choosy with your words; and some days you've reached your own limit and just need some space from them to regroup. As a teacher you're always wondering if you're providing the content in a challenging, yet understandable way so students can apply it to their own learning. I'm always second guessing myself. Always. I'm never satisfied with the year, sadly, until it is over and my students leave me for the last time to enter the world of junior high. At that moment, I know they will be ok. They're ready. Some will wobble when they get there. Others will soar, but either way- they will make their way into the world and hopefully remember all we did, learned, practiced, and loved. 
So why am I the wood duck and not the sleek, stealthy cheetah I long to be?
Because the mother wood duck pops out of her nesting box when her babies are just a few days old, still unable to fly, and calls for them to come out of the nest also. Each baby pops its head out of the hole, teeters on the edge of the opening, and falls into the water or to the ground below. Baby wood ducks have been known to fall up to 50 feet. .....think on that for a moment... 50 feet. The mother sits below and watches, without helping the baby wood duck. I guess she trusts she did a good job in the nest and the babies will be just fine. And I guess that's where I need to do a better job as a wood duck- trusting I did a good job; trusting my students know love, know positive thinking, know that pushing themselves is a good thing, know there are consequences to their actions, know that they have the power and ability to make our world a better place, know their words matter, know how to write a logical response to a question or prompt, know the differences between genre and how important reading is to their lives. I hope they know they have improved in their personal achievements from the years before and believe in themselves enough to carry those ideas to the next grade and beyond.
And one more just because I like the different personalities as they pop out of the box. Definitely reminds me of some of my own little wood ducks.....

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Fake Tweets Ethical?

Ok I admit it, I've been in a slump. Since life has had more distractions this school year I promised myself I wouldn't feel loser-ish over not making regular blog posts unless something just jumped out and grabbed me, thus feeling compelled to sit before the computer screen spending an hour or so pondering over the issue. (Yes.... I am a slowww writer.) So fast forward to this morning when I'm browsing through some Diigo links a friend posted. One that caught my eye was for Fodey's newspaper clipping generator. I like this one and have used it before personally- my children needed to know that throwing grapes at our Elf on a Shelf, Darby, was not appropriate and a danger to elves' health according to the "North Pole News"...
The next link listed was for Lemmetweetthatforyou. This site generates fake Tweets from any user name you type in. It uses their profile picture, their background from their Twitter page, and worst of all, you can type anything at all you want. In an effort to make the tweet even more authentic, it will appear as if this fake tweet has been favored and retweeted.
I decided to try it out before I got my Edupanties in a bunch and see how "real" it looks and how much further damage this site could cause by creating a fake tweet using my own profile.

So this is my real profile picture, with my real background image, and a real message appearing to come from my Twitter account, and yet.... It's not. The crazy thing is that anyone can create what I just did with a few strokes of the keyboard and instead of filling in the blank with "....", write something truly devastating to my career, family, friendship, etc. And to make things even better worse, you can actually tweet your fake message using your real Twitter account. 
I tweeted my fake tweet from my Classroom Twitter account. See picture.....

 I'm sure some will say I'm being "over the top" and silly. And I could definitely see how using this site in educational settings for educational purposes could be awesome, but I also think it teaches our kids a message of low standards in regards to media literacy. Students are already struggling so much with face to face interaction, I just feel like this site gives an additional array of tools to make poor choices and cause havoc that isn't really needed. On top of that, teaching students how to verify simple facts can be daunting, much less verifying if a tweet or a text message (yes- there is also a fake text message generator that looks eerily authentic. You can even choose your carrier, battery life, etc. of your generated fake text) is real or not. 
So, I give this site an F for #fail. It fails to give my students substance and good ethics. It fails to add value to what they are learning. It fails to stand up to the sites and apps that help my kids make good choices when creating using technology. 

Ok- my small rant is over. I will step off my soap box now. :)

PS- and yes- I do see some similarities in the newspaper clipping generator as far as creating things that are fake and pawning them off as "real" but for some reason the Newspaper Clipping Generator isn't as menacing as the Fake Tweet. I don't know why. I'm still grappling with it. Feel free to comment and let me know your thoughts on either.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Being Reminded by My Annoyance

Ahhh... the Christmas Winter Break. Staying up late followed by closing the shades so we can sleep in the next morning, relishing in the fact that 5 AM will come and go and we will never know. I'm not sure about you and your family, but my family and I love the laziness of the Christmas Holidays. It wasn't until I caught myself becoming increasingly annoyed (...and often) that I realized while we were basking in the unstructured, late-morning routines, my son was missing some very crucial parts of his- and sadly, none of us realized it.

K's two main areas of struggles, as far as sensory processing go, are Vestibular and Proprioception. Our Vestibular system allows us to accurately use our vision, prepare our posture, maintain balance, plan our actions, move, calm ourselves, and regulate our behavior. When his is out of whack and his body feels he isn't receiving enough input, we notice he is on the go more. Not really running around, just aimlessly wandering around (usually touching things) or twirling in circles. At times, we notice him rocking as if in a rocking chair while he is totally oblivious. 

Our Proprioceptive systems deals with the receptors located in our muscles, tendons, and various connective tissues throughout our bodies. These receptors tell us where our bodies parts are located and positioned, how close we are in proximity to others, as well as objects, and how much force is needed to carry out our movement for the task at hand. When K's are lacking sensory input, we notice he seems more clumsy than usual, tends to knock things over or spill things easily, and doesn't seem to be aware of his surroundings as far as bumping into things, stepping on things, etc. 

As you can see, when a child is randomly and consistently twirling through your house, bumping into things, knocking items over on his way to the fridge, spilling the milk he is pouring, and then usually making some type of new mess trying to clean the first one.... it can become a bit exhausting. And so it was today that I found myself saying "Be careful", "Pick that up", "Go over there out of the way", "Stop twirling", "Blah, Blah, Blah" that I finally had a lightbulb moment. He isn't in his regular routine of a school day and so some of the automatically built-in self-helps have been missing. 

Example, usually he walks across campus for each class. He usually uses the walk as an opportunity to run his hand along the fence or brick building which helps with tactile stimulation. The backpack he carries is super heavy, which helps center him more and make his body more aware of its place. It is actually satiable to the Vestibular system. With school being out, none of these usual opportunities for sensory input have been available. [Some home remedies are using 10-pound ankle weights and/or brushing (as part of a sensory diet).]

So, at the end of the day he presents as a clumsy kid who doesn't pay attention to anything he does, makes a lot of messes, and randomly twirls through life without a care in the world, but that isn't what is truly going on inside. This is further proof to me that we (I) need to slow down some of my own assumptions and look deeper at the root of the problem. If this is true of my own children, how much more true is it of those I have the privilege to teach each day?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Marshmallow Challenge and What We Learned

I heard about The Marshmallow Challenge at Region 5 Edcamp last year and knew I wanted to do it! Honestly I got a little excited at the thought of shoving as many marshmallows in my mouth as I could while chanting "chubby bunny" like we used to at youth camp, but then I found out this was a different kind of Marshmallow Challenge. 

The Marshmallow Challenge was created by Tom Wujec as a team building exercise that allows the participants the opportunities in collaboration, innovation, and creativity. It was discovered, however, that students were much better at this activity for several reasons. Learn more about the official Marshmallow Challenge HERE or see Wujec's TED talk HERE

I used the Marshmallow Challenge as a team-building exercise the first week of school. It was a fun way to see how students worked within a group, but also what strengths and weaknesses they brought to the table that could be used during the school year. I was delightfully surprised by the amount of thought and creativity that went into the project, as well as simply working with others in a group setting. Below are a few of the pictures that captured the hard work, followed by what groups felt they did well and what they wish they would have done better and it's solution if there was one. 

So what about you? Please share your best in-class collaborative project your kids have done and the results. If your class participated in the Marshmallow Challenge, we would love to hear your students thoughts and ideas, what worked and what didn't, We followed the highs and lows of many classes via their Twitter feed! Always fun to see what others come up with.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

When a Connected Educator Unplugs

If you had asked me last year, I would have happily told you that I am a connected educator. I thrived on making new connections with fellow educators who I could bounce ideas off of; hear about new things that are working in education and things that aren’t. I searched for classes I could connect my fifth graders to, broadening our learning experience as a collective learning community. It was where I felt most comfortable as an educator. And when life handed me lemons (as life has a tendency to do)- it was no big deal. I’d make lemonade and blissfully move on while adding sugar and stirring. I had the year down pat and felt my students were learning so much.

But then seemingly overnight I found myself making connections and connecting less and less…. And oddly- it didn’t bother me. Once the new school year started, I not only connected less, I finally just unplugged.


Lights off. Game over.

“Why?” you may ask… (and I did! I asked myself that same question… A LOT). I really didn’t have an answer other than there were several pressing issues that needed more of my attention on a daily basis at this point in time, and… (how dare I even say this; it’s blasphemous) I needed a break.

The problem began, however, when I tried to resume my connectivity. I tried to use the same techniques I had done last year with this year’s new group of students. I anxiously awaited to same expectation and thrill of collaborating with other classes and students from various areas of the US, but instead was met with hesitation and apathy. Not only that, I have a different schedule this year making scheduling time to connect and meet-up problematic. Some days I felt like I was skimming the surface and didn’t know how to fit it all in, but knew it was worth it. Then frustration set in. Not only was I unplugged, but now I was frustrated and feeling hopeless. I felt like instead of lemons and lemonade, I was dealing with lots of lemon seeds with nothing to work with!

A few nights ago, I was thinking about my feelings of being stuck in a rut and wondered what advice I would give if a friend from my PLN was in this same predicament. I decided it all boils down to starting little. I needed to find one area to play with, experiment with, a willingness to try. I set up a Skype meeting with my friend Craig Yen from California. He and his class would meet with us to read a chapter from The Fourteenth Goldfish and discuss ideas from the book. Our students would verbally share their ideas via Skype, as well as use a backchannel for additional communication with one another. After our time together, my kids were excited, I was excited; the excitement of sharing our reading with others was present in the classroom again, and it felt good!

It was in this moment I realized that while I’ve been expecting the same outcome as last year, and dealing with problems the same as I would have last year, that’s not what being a 21st Century educator is about. It’s about flexibility, growing, and learning. It’s about realizing the learning comes first and everything else is extra to enhance that. It’s about realizing that instead of waiting to make lemonade, I’ve been given seeds and if I would plant them, they’d grow. It’s ultimately about being ok if this year doesn’t look identical to last year, because this year is its own- and that’s a good thing because with a little water and some TLC, this year might be the best I’ve ever experienced.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

2014 Life Lessons Learned this Summer

Ms. Angelou said it best; and for this summer- I am thankful for life. 

As my summer wraps up, I'm left to reflect on what I've learned- which is to being thankful for the moments we are given, each one of them. So these are my top 2014 Life Lessons learned this Summer:

Grow your zones of comfort; push your boundaries... Being scared to do something is ok... normal, even; but when that fear overpowers your will to step out of the boundaries you set for yourself, you begin to limit your own effectiveness, defeating your power of growth.

Celebrate the moments of life; even in death... The mom of one of our students unexpectedly died toward the beginning of the summer. My heart ached for this young man; losing his mom at such a young age. My son was also a classmate of his this school year, so we (my son and I) attended the funeral for his mother. It was a beautiful service, but also a reminder that the kids we serve are not only our kids from August through May. Our lives are forever intertwined, and our support for them is so much more than a regular 8-5 kind of job. 

Cherish each moment; live your day to its fullest... As stated above, we never know how much time we will be given and that is true for the young, as much as the old. This summer our school lost one of its rising 5th graders in a tragic accident. While I had not had the opportunity to teach this young girl, I had the privilege of hearing countless stories of how she loved life- loved laughing, fishing, going on adventures, and "wasn't afraid of anything." She was known for her vivacious smile and excitement for life. May we, too, celebrate each moment in the same way.

Relish new beginnings; they equal growth... I also had the awesome opportunity to attend the wedding of one of my friends, whom I teach with! I sincerely enjoyed seeing all of her planning and excitement fulfilled as her dreams came true. I'm reminded that we should also relish in new beginnings because this equals growth... and growth is good.

Take time for family and friends; your devices, tools, and resources will be waiting... At the end of the day I've tried to do my best with not being as "electronically" connected and instead "presently" connected during these summer months with my family and friends. What I've learned is that while there always seems to be an urgency and fast-paced sense to things in the Edtech realm, those things are still there, waiting, when you pick them back up. 

I hope that you're gearing back up for a great school year, but also hope that you've stopped long enough to enjoy your summer as well! 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Top 5 Magic Making Moments from ISTE 2014

Duplicating an amazing event is often impossible; so I attended this year's ISTE convention with high hopes, but was totally prepared to be somewhat disappointed. Last year's ISTE convention was phenomenal, and I felt like I'd discovered the secret wardrobe into a mystical world full of excitement, opportunity, and ideas... for all intents and purposes, it was my Narnia.

So for this year's ISTE, I had to be prepared. If you know me at all, it should come as no surprise that I bought a composition book (to appease my love affair with paper) and divided it into different sections. (Yes, I am well-aware there are many great apps and platforms for this... but the physical act of writing calms I go with it.) In my little ISTE Convention 2014 Book, I had a section with a quick sketched outline of the days I'd be there, along with any sessions I'd heard people talking about that sounded extremely interesting, as well as the BYOD sessions I'd pre-registered for ahead of time. 
Getting to hang out w/ friends from Twitter

After reading Holly Clark's (@HollyClarkEDU) "Must Have Guide to Networking at ISTE" I decided to suppress my inner lurker, break out of my introvert shell, and push my own zones of comfort. I made a list of several educators I actively follow on Twitter and/or personal blog that I would love to say hello to in person. Some names seemed more approachable than others, but I decided to take Holly's advice to heart and use it as a networking opportunity. I also added a section right after that with all of the names of people my class and I had collaborated with this school year, on the off-chance that some might be attending ISTE also. Surprisingly, I soon discovered that Karin Stadler (@ICT_Integrator) would be attending to present a poster session on her Traveling Rhino Project. I had recently received one of the little rhinos to hold him for safe keeping until school starts and was able to bring him with me to ISTE and arranged for us to meet up at the Meet and Greet. 

The remaining bulk of my book was left for taking notes, doodling while I listened, and quick lists in the margins when I had a brainstorm of ideas. 

I am excited to say I was pleased with my participation in this year's ISTE events. Stacy Hawthorne (@StacyHaw) reminded us that "the true magic happens outside of people's comfort zones" in her inspiring Ignite session, and with that- I was determined to make magic.

So- here are my Top 5 Magic Making Moments from ISTE 2014 with an emphasis on connecting with others:
    Susan & Anibal
  • Hack Education 2014- a type of "un"conference the day before ISTE officially starts where educators gather to discuss topics of interest. The entire day is made up of networking and discussions- both in large groups and smaller groups. And even though I didn't arrive to Atlanta until after 1 PM, I still managed to push myself beyond my little box of comfort and attend. While there I officially met Timonius Downing (@techmonius). During EdCamp Home 2.0, I ended up in a GHO session with Timonius about gamification, but 5 minutes into the call, my server crashed and I lost the call. I was also able to have an impromptu visit with Susan Bearden (@s_bearden) and Anibal Pacheco (@anibalpachecolt). I learned about Susan's new app (TweechMe) to help new Twitter users navigate the platform and get better connected. (Which is AWESOME! Highly recommend.) But we also chatted about life, with Anibal sharing how he got into the ed-tech field to begin with. 
  • #CoffeeCue with Alice Keeler (@alicekeeler) at SIX in the morning. (Yes- the time DOES matter. I am NOT a morning person, but decided Alice would be worth it.) We discussed ideas for getting buy-in from reluctant/defiant students. Amy Burvall (@amyburvall) suggested finding technologies the students are already using as a foot in the door with a low-risk assignment as a starting point. (On a total side note- if you haven't seen her history videos, check them out! Wowzers! Check out her YouTube channel- historyteachers.) So happy I met her, along with the Amazing Keeler. I have so much respect and admiration for her. It was great to be in a learning environment with all of the CoffeeCue peeps.
Kristen Magyar (@mrsmagyar)
  • Attended a social gathering sponsored by Class Dojo where I met many awesome educators and/or people working in the edtech field. I learned more about additional tools and resources I have available to me through my MS Office365 subscription and also had some questions answered. I learned about 81Dash, a collaborative back-channel that provides teachers more options to truly be in control of a room that he/she creates for use with students created by Carlos Fernandez (@fernandezc4) who will go out of his way to find solutions and is also certified as a Microsoft Innovative Educator- which was very helpful for me since my district is rolling out M365 with all of the MS tools this year.
Rodney Turner (@techyturner) One & Only
  • I was brave enough to leave my introvert shell in the hall while I mingled and chatted with Twitter peeps as if they were long-lost friends, as well as make new ones. And while there were times I wanted to be the strange lurker in the background, I found being social isn't as awkward as I sometimes feel it may be. 
  • And my #1 Magic Moment would be the underlying theme I found interwoven in all of the sessions I attended- my voice matters and what I share with my students matters. Bringing this to the classroom is vital because students need to know they are heard. My students need to know the world expects their contribution, and it is my job to fuel that desire; that belief that their "learning is bigger than adult agendas." (Quotes from #YouMatter panel session & also the session on #Genius Hour.) It sets the stage for an epic learning adventure in the school year ahead and sets the bar high (in my opinion). While this pushes me to rethink some routine activities and look at rearranging how I do some things, it also pushes me beyond my comfort zone... but that's ok... because I'm making magic. 
Relationships, Collaboration, Being Brave, Sharing, Learning... Epic.