Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mrs. Diamond's QR Scavenger Hunt

QR codes seemed to be everywhere. I had heard a lot about them, seen them on clothing (Rafranz Davis' favorite!), and was only able to view information for an upcoming Mobile Mania Conference at our Region by scanning one... but I was unsure how I could use them to enhance the learning in my classroom. Although it was our first year for our district to launch BYOD, many of my fifth graders didn't have devices that had been approved for use in the classroom. And while I could have used our mobile laptop lab, my students had been asking for a scavenger hunt throughout our school. Knowing what I knew about QR codes and taking my students' recent request into consideration, I tried to come up with a plan.

About this time I discovered and all of the many cool resources they offer- all of which are free and do not require an account. Even better- they advertised a text-based QR Scavenger Hunt that wouldn't require wifi; meaning if I could round up several devices with QR readers, we would be able to have a QR Scavenger Hunt.

I decided to use the information for an upcoming Pioneers Project for our Scavenger Hunt. I needed the basic information to be delivered to the students, and it would allow us an opportunity to practice using QR codes since many didn't even know what they were and had never scanned one. Plus I could also earn a few brownie points for weaving in a scavenger hunt from my students who had requested one!

I printed out the 10 text-based QR Codes I wanted to use, along with the assignment they were to complete while on the scavenger hunt. I taped the QR codes throughout the main areas of our school. Then divided my class into 4 groups of 5 students each. I initially assigned jobs to each person in the group, but they each took turns scanning a code and being the answer keeper. We used two iPads, an iPod Touch, and a cell phone to complete our Scavenger Hunt. The students loved it, learned what I needed them to know for our upcoming unit, and also could now tell you what a Quick Response code was and why you would use one. All in all- a success!

I know trying out new technologies can be scary and many times, we feel like we don't have the knowledge or technology to do things, but there are so many resources out there that- even while taking baby steps- it is doable!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Basic Rights of Our Students

        For some reason the words "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" have been rolling around in my head for the last few weeks. Although immensely grateful for my country and the freedom that I so enjoy, I've never considered myself an overly patriotic kind of girl. So I'm still unsure why I've had the beginning of the Declaration of Independence is stuck in my head like the lyrics of some song that just won't go away.
        That being said, they've got me thinking about the basic rights that our forefathers felt every individual was entitled to in that phrase. While these words are often thought of in relation to our basic rights as citizen, aren't these the very basic rights we want our students to experience in our classroom?
        It is my desire to foster an environment this year that truly enables my students to thrive; to live life to the fullest while in my care. I realize this may be is a lofty goal (and occasionally feel like I'll be doing good just to make it to the end of the day), but in the context of my Reading/Language Arts classroom, I can start with making it a point to introduce my students to meaningful texts that sparks a love of literature and authentic opportunities to write. For this to be a reality, it means giving my students some liberty to explore topics they find fascinating and have an interest to learn more about; it means providing an array of choices when designing lessons, which can be contradictory in this one-size-fits-all day and age of education. And yes- that means more effort on my part to ensure more of a variety for students to choose from. I feel that by fostering these basic needs of ensuring my students thrive and providing choice in their learning, we- as a learning community- will pursue happiness. When you're plugged in through meaningful connections with others, intrigued by what your learning and have opportunities to express yourself through numerous avenues, the excitement can be palpable! Will this happen every day? I hope so. Will we have setbacks and failures? Probably; but these are just learning opportunities in the disguise of obstacles. Will my students feel like they have made a meaningful contribution to a learning community that has made an impact on their life? Absolutely because by making it my goal as their teacher, I am declaring my hope in their ability to be independent learners; to be real world problem solvers through meaningful connections and authentic opportunities to collaborate with others over the texts they're reading and pieces of writing they are publishing.
        While this may seem like optimistic wishful thinking, if these are our basic rights as citizens, then it isn't too far reaching to think these need to be the same basic rights we provide our students in the context of our classroom.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Global Connections and the Confidence They Bring

Before long we will anxiously stand at our doors awaiting the arrival of our newest group of kids for the 2013-2014 school year. For many of us, our class roster will be hot of the printer with still several changes as a possibility. And while we may approach each new group that we have the privilege to teach with optimism and hope for a great year, many of our students come to us apprehensive about what the year will hold. They arrive at our door with no self-confidence in their talents and abilities. Where we, as educators, approach each year as a clean slate, many of our students approach the year with pre-conceived notions of how others see them as learners.

In my opinion, this is why things like The Global Classroom, Global Read Aloud, Skype, and Google Apps for Education are so important. They are not only game-changers for education as a whole, but they are also game-changers for our students, as well. All resources and tools that provide opportunities and avenues for all students to feel successful at working with others in a meaningful way is huge. Students are no longer working in collaborative groups with many of the same people they have worked with since Kindergarten, but instead meeting new students in various regions, states, and sometimes countries to share their learning and knowledge.

This thought process has been stemmed by the various blog posts and Tweets lately about why Twitter is so powerful for educators. I began wondering what makes it so meaningful for me, personally. While there are several reasons, the biggest is that it breaks down the barriers of how we see ourselves in relation to others and allows for more meaningful connections. I don't think about what a person's job title is when I connect with him/her on Twitter. I think about learning more from others, but also see myself as a contributor to others' learning. For some of our students, this is life changing. I know for me, personally, it has been. After virtually peeking into classrooms, thinking through practices and beliefs, and making connections with other teachers who teach the same thing I do, I feel I have more to offer the students I teach and the people I work with. This helps instill confidence and the belief that I have something meaningful to offer others; and if I find this much passion and excitement as an adult when globally working with others, imagine how empowering it will be for my students!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fighting Words in Education

Edgar Dales says some pretty powerful words. For some teachers, they may even be fighting words. The kind of words that cause us to take offense and defend our position on how we do business in our classrooms. But the reality is if we only remember…

10% of what we read

20% of what we hear

30% of what we see

50% of what we see and hear

70% of what we discuss with others

80% of what we personally experience

And 95% of what we teach others…

What does that say about the actual learning that goes on in the classroom and how- as teachers- the typical “stand and deliver” methods must change? ISTE has caused me to truly think about the way my classroom is handled. I may be a phenomenal teacher, but if my phenomenal status hinges on content or lessons I am delivering to my students, despite how focused and on-task they may seem, it doesn’t make me a phenomenal teacher. It simply means I deliver content well to an audience.

For me, it means my goal this year needs to be providing opportunities for my students to connect their reading and writing to real-world events and people as much as possible. It means integrating Skype and other collaboration tools which are readily available that enable our students to not only discuss with others what they are reading, seeing, and hearing in the classroom, but also experience collaboration and world-awareness outside of the four walls that encompass our classroom.

A chat that centered on professional development was underway when I made the comment that I was glad I was the teacher and had the opportunity to watch & learn instead of actually teaching PD. These are the 2 comments from my friend, Rafranz Davis:
Teach??... Adults?... ME...?? Ummm...... No.
Then this tweet followed:
It was when I read this second comment, sighed with relief and thought, "Well yes- I can share all day long... teach? Not so much," that I had my lightbulb moment. For some reason sharing doesn't seem as intimidating, yet in many ways is the same. It was in this moment I thought about what an awesome summer it has been as far as growth. I have read others' blogs, lurked on many a Tweet Chat, seen face to face many educators I learn from and rely on, discussed various topics in education, and personally experienced the power of having avenues to share and collaborate. It will definitely be a summer to remember... and yes- I can definitely share my experience with others. But all this will be diminished if I don't provide the same learning opportunities for my students. It's not enough for them to read, see, and hear the content; as Edgar Dales said, it needs to be discussed, experienced, and shared with others if I truly want to say that my students learned from me this school year!


Ana has been playing with Symbaloo, so I thought I should create a webmix also! It is just a beginning, and more will be added. I wanted to embed here, but when I embedded the code, its width was wider than my blog dimensions, so it overlapped some  of the other content. I decided to just include the link. (Remember: I'm a newbie!)

If you haven't used Symbaloo, it is very user friendly and perfect for visual learners. I plan to use Symbaloo on my student computers to help students find their content more easily and also make a webmix for parents containing helpful resources. I have also heard of teachers having students create a webmix with content they have done research on. There are numerous ways to use Symbaloo. What about you? How do you Symbaloo? 

Click here for my Symbaloo webmix of useful edtech resources.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Ideas and the PLNs that Make Them

As I cull through my notes and resources from ISTE, I came across a statement I wrote down from Steven Johnson's keynote, Where Good Ideas Come From (see Johnson's TED talk by the same title, stating that- historically speaking- good ideas don't arrive as these light bulb, Eureka! moments; but rather they are a network of various ideas fused together.

First of all this made me feel a little better to know that I probably won't have some revolutionary idea come from seemingly no where and change the world with it; but rather a string of ideas from random and various places could very well make up a game-changer in the grand scheme of things. Second, this made me realize the power and significance of PLNs.

In a recent Twitter Chat the question arose, "What's the difference between a PLN and a PLC?" For me, our campus holds PLC (Personal Learning Communities) meetings each week that are made up of core subjects and grade levels. While I value my PLC immensely and a great deal of information is shared, the majority of ideas are parallel and centered on specific content/objectives we are teaching each week. Whereas, my PLN is made up of people in various positions, in various states/countries, with various views and opinions. This makes the feedback and suggestions I receive multifarious and dynamic. It sometimes forces me to rethink things and other times think of things I would have never otherwise considered. My PLN is just that- a personal network. Although I am new to Twitter and have only recently began participating in Twitter chats and circles, I can already see that a PLN, along with Twitter Chats, are game-changers for education in general. They provide ideas and resources I wouldn't otherwise have available to me. I have been able to connect with people who are passionate about education and want to see change for the better. This robust network of people push me to think outside the box and challenge me to rethink the lessons I teach. It is my hope that I am a better educator because of them; more helpful and accessible to the students I teach and friends I work with.

And who knows, maybe one day years from now we will look back and trace the beginning of someone's big idea to a PLN Twitter Chat. After all, all Eureka! ideas are actually a network of ideas fused together... and isn't that the very thing Twitter chats and PLNs are made of? 

For more info:
  • Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From: the Natural History of Innovation:
  • Education Twitter Chat- days and times (from Cybraryman):
  • 2013 Must-read Blogs (according to EdTech Magazine) Great resources with All-stars in innovative thinking & game changing education: