Thursday, July 17, 2014

ISTE2014 Takeaways

Newcomer, Novice, Tenderfoot, Greenhorn, Rookie - Yup, that’s me...I was an ISTE “First Timer” and quite excited about it!  I thought I'd share my three (3) ISTE Takeaways!
My FAB PLN: Jerry, Jenn, Billy, me, Paula
Background: This year I applied for and was fortunate enough to be awarded the Christa McAuliffe Living Memorial Fund  which financed my registration fee for the conference. This year the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference was held in Atlanta, Georgia on June 28-July 1st.  My wonderful opportunity was sponsored by the Alpha Upsilon Massachusetts Chapter of the Delta Kappa Gamma International Society for Women.

Takeaway 1 -  Arrive a Day Early: Arriving a day before the conference, my ‘friend’ from Indiana and I planned to meet at the airport since we were flying in around the same time.  You should know, my friend, Jenn, and I had never met in person before (though we have known each other through Twitter and Google Plus Hangouts for three years!)  Folks in the terminal didn’t quite know what to make of us as we screamed and hugged and hugged and giggled.  

The day continued much the same way as I met (for the first time) other members of my PLN.  There was Paula from New Orleans, Hugh from Canada, Jan from Kansas, JoAnn from Hawaii, Tracy from Arizona, Kitty from North Carolina, Brad from Michigan and so many others.  While we were meeting face-to-face for the first time it was as though we never skipped a beat. We picked up on our on-line conversations without hesitation.  Throughout the day(s) I was to continually learn from the members of my Personal Learning Network. Equally as important I was able to meet new folks who are now a part of my PLN!

One small portion of the crowd on Opening Day
Arriving a day early also allowed me to get my bearings at the Georgia World Congress Center before the more than 13,000 people showed up. The venue is enormous!  Walking around with so many folks can be daunting so getting the lay of the land was important for this “newbie”.

Many other folks were there too participating in the “HackEd Unconference”.
So much learning going on before the “official” conference even started.  One of the sessions I attended was about a tool used to communicate on a smartphone, called Voxer. Voxer works like a walkie talkie and allows you to connect instantly. My friend, Bill from New Jersey was the facilitator of that discussion gave examples on how to apply this tool in educator and other ideas were brainstormed.  Another session around the topic of Agency and Self Direction in Education was led by Steve Hargadon, creator of the Learning Revolution. The discourse was diverse and interesting.

Meeting my former principal, Mike Stanton
PLN Sidenote: Equally as exciting as meeting folks from my Online Personal Learning Network was meeting people I already knew!  Literally, bumping into my former principal, Mike Stanton, in ISTE was certainly a highlight.  While Mike works for a neighboring district, I don't get to see him too often, so imagine my surprise when we spotted each other in the ISTE Welcome Center! And on the escalators, I spied Suzy Brooks, a gal who grew up in my town and is now a teacher on Cape Cod.  It was so GREAT seeing those familiar faces in the see of people.  I felt like a little part of home was with me! 

GEMS: Girls Engaging in Math & Science
Takeaway 2 - Ask Questions and Engage with Presenters - One of my favorite parts of ISTE was visiting the “Poster Sessions”.  Poster sessions are displays from real folks, teachers, students, curriculum directors and more.  Each day presentations are set up for two hours at a time.  Initially, I went in and walked around and just looked.  If something peaked my interest I’d stop and talk.  Realizing I was missing out on a lot of great information, I stopped more frequently and started talking to the presenters. My favorites were the student presentations.  One group of young girls (5th & 6th graders) were involved in a STEM project where they made a xylodrum so students who were deaf would be able to play and “hear” it.  Another group of students created a stop motion animation storytelling project sharing the history of their city.  These students are English Language Learners.  All of the students waited for people to stop and ask them questions.  Thrilled that folks were interested in their projects, they spoke about them with enthusiasm.

Dont Judge a Book by its Cover:  This old adage comes to mind.  Had I not stopped to really look into these I would have missed out on many wonderful presentations.   I realized that I was passing by stations that did not necessarily draw my attention.  Quickly, I learned that I had to be proactive and ask questions and engage with the presenters.  My ISTE bag is filled with business cards, mementos and information that I can take back to my classroom to help me try out some of these wonderful ideas.

Brainstorming on how to Connect at Birds of a Feather
Asking questions and engaging presenters doesn’t just apply to the Poster Sessions.  It worked well in “workshops,” “Birds of a Feather session” and at the Bloggers’ Cafe.  There were so many people to connect with and learn from that makes ISTE an interactive experience.

Takeaway 3 - Choose 3 Practical Ideas to Bring Back: For a first time attendee there were so many aspects of ISTE that were overwhelming, awe-inspiring and down-right fun! My friend Jenn, heard that we should not worry about implementing all that we learned.  Someone stated that we put into effect just three (3) of the many wonderful ideas/resources that were shared.  So, in no particular order my practical ideas:
  1. Apps:  Here’s where it can get tricky - I learned about so many apps that it’s hard to pick just one to be a part of my “just 3” practical ideas.  So I’m not committing to choosing only ONE of these:
    1. Creator of Plickers: Nolan Amy
      Padlet (formerly known as Wallwisher): I have used this in the past but would like to renew my use (especially since I met the creator, Nitesh Geol!!!!) by having my students create Padlets (like post it notes online but beefed up) with Pre/Post assessment; Pre/During/Post reading strategies; explaining mathematical thinking; and using it during research.
    1. Plickers - They describe themselves (I met the creator Nolan Amy as well) as “Clickers made simple”.  Students hold a paper card with a multiple choice letter on it and you simply scan your audience and you can see who selected which answer.  Just a quick way to check in with your students to see if they are understanding a concept.
    1. Showbie -  This site allows the instructor to assign, distribute, collect and review assignments online or on the iPad.  Looking forward to trying these this year.

  1. Genius Hour - Student Driven-Learning: At ISTE there was a panel discussion around this topic. Genius Hour allows students time to learn, create, research and choose their own topics.  It’s inquiry time based on the interest of the individual students.  Being more of a facilitator and guide would be my role.
While I have done this in the past on several occasions I would like to fine tune it and incorporate it into my year more.  It fits in so nicely with the common core. One suggestion was to try doing it in the mornings - what a great way to get kids energized for the rest of the learning day!  
Vicki Davis hosting: Genius Hour (My Bulletin board was in her presentation!)
Along with this idea of Genius Hour came the sub topic of CHOICE. Erin Klein, a 2nd grade teacher, spoke about giving students “Choice” in the classroom, especially in the area of Design while Karen Lirenman, a primary teacher from Canada, spoke about giving smaller choices throughout the school day. These ideas were infectious and have me doing more research.   

  1. Overlooking the Expo Hall
    Partnering Technology and Parents and Students: There were several discussions and ideas around this.  At an Ignite Session Monica Burns of ClassTechTips, asked “How are you using technology to reach families?” She suggested sending home an iPad with students so their families and they could create ‘something,’ a presentation, a photo collage or a story about their family, what they like to do, their  history or just something to help them connect with others in the classroom.  I am hoping to come up with some specifics so I can try this and make our classroom more about family!

In the giant world of ISTE I might still be considered a beginner, learner, fledgling and initiate.  However, the experiences gained, the ideas learned and the connections made have helped me become more skilled and more knowledgeable in my craft.  Looking forward to next year’s ISTE in Philadelphia!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Elementary School Reunion - Celebrating a Special School 40 Years Later

On a cold, rainy, Sunday evening about 40 former students of the Fisher Elementary School, Walpole, MA joined 7 former teachers to celebrate an incredible time in their lives at the first ever Fisher Elementary School Reunion.  These teachers and students all attended the elementary school between the years of 1971 - 1981.  In attendance were siblings, former camper/counselor, neighbors and friends.  While for some it may seem this was a trip down memory lane - for most it was a way to celebrate a special school, special educators and a special decade.

Paul Sowden, Pam Nobel, Ellie Muldoon, Tom Monaghan, Judy Donovan, Sue Kelly, Sue Gillam
It all started back in 2011 when Tom Monaghan, my former sixth grade teacher started a group on Facebook: "Students of Fisher School 1971-1981."  It didn't take long for former students and teachers to join.  (I think the group is up to 266 members and growing!).  Read about it here:  Social Media for Educators - Forty Years Later.

My Grade 3 Reading Teacher & Me
Conversations occur almost daily on the Facebook Group.  Recently, one of the conversations surrounded the idea of a "reunion".  Ron Spicer (Fisher class of '74) decided to do more than talk - he quickly organized the reunion (from his home in St. Louis).  He found a function room at a restaurant in the town.  He put out an all call for photos and memorabilia and created a slideshow.  He created a form to survey former school members and prepared name tags.  In two short weeks a "Fisher School Reunion" was born.

One of the many highlights of the evening included a game. One of our beloved teachers, Suzanne Hopkins Gillam, recreated her famous Quiz Show (which, back in the day it was rather revolutionary) based on Fisher trivia questions.  She even brought along her Quiz Show Buzzers!  Coins were given to teams who answered correctly! The team with the most coins received the coveted "Fisher School Trivia" Certificate.

My Trivia Team Captain (Sue Pollak-Kelly)
Throughout the evening some common themes emerged: "I'm here because I wanted to say Thank You!"   "I'm here because Fisher School set a strong foundation for me!"  "I'm here because I remember those days fondly".    Former students shared stories about their teachers and shared the difference these teachers made in their lives!  Former teachers shared the behind the scenes stories about that special time and how connected they felt to students and their families. (These were, after all,  the kind of teachers we invited to dinner, who played games with us at recess, who have attended our weddings - who were truly the Rockstars of that time!). 

I think Carol Reardon Hawk summed it up the evening best with her following post on FB:

"All I can say is if you ever have an opportunity to go back in it! Had an incredible night of reminiscing and laughs with elementary school classmates and teachers!! Couldn't miss the opportunity to get a photo with my 4th grade, 5th grade and 6th grade teachers" Carol Reardon Hawk - Fisher Class of '78

Of course we are all looking forward to the NEXT Fisher School Reunion!  I know with more planning time and word of mouth - it will be even better attended.

Thank you Ron Spicer and Tom Monaghan and thank you Facebook for keeping us connected!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Inclusive Schools Week

"Ms. Albert, says, that everything we do goes out, like a ripple into the world." This excerpt is from the book, Each Kindness, written by Jacqueline Woodson, which our principal read to the class the other day as part of "Inclusive Schools Week".  The story is about a young school girl who misses several opportunities to befriend a classmate.  She finally makes a decision to be friendly to the other child only to find out that child moves away.  The end of the story is not what one would expect as the main character is left feeling she should have done things differently. 
Creating ripples by adding a kindness rock
The students (and I) were moved by this book.  So much so they were asking if there was a sequel. It gave us an opportunity to talk about friendship, inclusion and simple ways to make someone feel connected.   Next we discussed "Random Acts of Kindness".  Students brainstormed how to "Treat Others Like You Want to be Treated".  A few thoughts included: holding the door for someone, passing the ball to someone who usually doesn't get it; help find a missing item and Smile at someone.  

Knowing I must do something with these ideas,  I decided I needed to find a way for students to create "ripples" of their own.  I grabbed a container and filled it with water.  As I have a container of rocks in my classroom I grabbed those too.  And so, the Ten Days of School Random Acts of Kindness was born.  Each student who performs a RAK at school will drop a rock in the container at the end of the day.  We will celebrate the ripples that will surely ensue from these simple yet grand gestures.  
Creating Ripples of Kindness

We started on Friday and were able to collect 12 rocks in our container.  While hoping to fill that bucket before the holidays the long-term goal would be that these acts of kindness will continue way beyond our holidays and creep into our lives by habit!

Others:  What are some other RAK that could be added to our list for school?

Several other activities students completed as part of "Inclusive Schools Week" celebrated everyone's uniqueness.  A banner was created and each student in the school added their Thumbprint as well as their name.  The banner acted as sort of a pledge for students to include all in their daily activities.  To show commonalities as well as differences students wrote "I AM" poems.  The poem described student's role (brother, son, cousin etc); their hobbies/interests and their personality traits (thoughtful, caring, friendly etc). Students shared and displayed these wonderful pieces of themselves. 

While these were just some of the activities our school shared during this 'highlighted' week, our plan is to continually promote acceptance of diversity. I leave you with this quote by Max De Pree, "We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing and inclusion"


Inclusive Schools Week  - Information by the Inclusive Schools Network

Teaching Kids to Embrace Diversity - Ideas broken into age categories from 0 - 11

Cybraryman: Character and Ethics. This collection is filled with all kinds of resources for Character Education which includes Random Acts of Kindness

Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

20 Random Acts of Kindness for Kids: A list of other ideas that go beyond the classroom. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Analyze Text using Keep it Or Junk it

Adding words to Keep it or Junk it List
While writing my post about the Scoot game last week, I stumbled upon a new activity shared by Mrs. White, a fifth grade teacher.  She learned and wrote about a strategy to help students answer focus questions and analyze text using words from the reading selection.  This inspired me to try this with my students.

The activity is called "Keep it or Junk it!"  Here is a great video of another fifth grade teacher showing how she uses it in the classroom.

A small reading group provided me with the perfect opportunity to try it out before forging ahead with the whole class.   Students finished reading and discussing a story called, "Ranches in the Southwest." After re-reading a certain section I gave them the focus question: "How do cattle ranches affect the environment?"

To start Keep it or Junk it, the students should be familiar with the text (having read the selection more than once.)  Using the focus as a guide, students were instructed to select words from the
Final Product
reading that will 'help' them answer THAT question.  Once students created their lists they worked with a partner to make one list of words using their own lists.  Then as a group, they shared their words and we started the "Keep it or Junk it" list.  Each word was shared and students had an opportunity to decided should we Keep the word, Junk it or put it in the "Cloud" to be discussed.  Making an argument why a word should be kept or junked further helps students think about the focus question.

When the list was finalized students got down to actually answering the question.  The great thing was that by the end of this activity (which spanned 2 small group times) they students had seen the focus question many times and discussed the words in relation to the question.  So in essence, they had been answering the question all along!

Listen in as our group works through this activity: (apologize in advance for the noise in background - still worth a listen).

This activity is something I plan to incorporate with the whole class as I really saw the benefits.  Each student was able to correctly articulate the effects of cattle ranches on the environment.  It is my hope that after modeling this enough times that students will transfer that and complete the activity without prompting.

Have you tried this type of activity?   What are some of your strategies for guiding students to analyze text? Please share in the comment section below!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Scoot Games in the Classroom

Scoot in the Classroom - A Favorite
SCOOT! The students in my class LOVE hearing that word (or variations like Scooch, Scurry, Skedaddle during the game.) They know "Scoot" means they will be doing an activity that involves moving around the classroom.

Here's how it works:  1. Place a task card at each student desk.  2. Students create a recording sheet or use a handout.  3. Students begin by answering the questions at their own desk.  4. When prompted by the word Scoot (or whatever you decide) students move to the desk that would be next in numerical order.  5. When you see that the task is completed - prompt the movement again and repeat until all cards are complete.

Over the last few years I used Scoot games sporadically.  However, this year I find myself incorporating it on a more regular basis. These activities, which are usually a quick 5 minutes, can be a lesson activator, review of a concept or used as formative assessment.

While first I started purchasing games like Rounding Scoot through TeachersPayTeachers, lately I have created my own 'simple' versions.  For instance - I take 20 math flashcards (addition/subtraction/multiplication/division or a mix of all) and place one on each student desk.  I will instruct students to write a number on the card or on their whiteboard and place the card next to the number. Then students quickly number their papers 1-20 and we're ready to "move on!"

I've also used it for Vocabulary.  I will place the vocabulary words we are learning in ELA (or other content areas) and place them on student desks.  Again - we number the cards and paper - then SCOOT!  I've used it for spelling (I leave out the vowels and students write the whole words including the vowels.  Fact and Opinion can easily be reviewed with a quick Scoot activity. Students can identify states by their shape - cut up a worksheet that you want students to complete - put a piece at each desk - the possibilities are endless.

Some Scoot games can be more challenging like this Inference Game.  Naturally, the more difficult the skill the longer the activity.  So you need to decide the purpose of your scoot game. Whatever the purpose, Scoot is a learning activity that appeals to many!

Have a favorite SCOOT activity - please share it here!


Mrs. White's 5th grade Class: Using Scoot Game & QR Codes Lesson Plans:  Scoot for Money

Think Share Teach: Renaming Numbers (Free)

TeachersPayTeachers: Scoot Games  (Pay)

ProTeacher Community: Task Cards by Unseen (Membership is Free) This is a resource of over 100 Task Cards!