Monday, October 29, 2012

If YOU Were Designing a 4 yr Program for Teachers What Would it Look Like?

I graduated with my Elementary Ed degree in 1990 from Butler University. I LOVED going to Butler and felt well prepared for my first teaching job at Nora Elementary in Washington Township. I was exposed to Inquiry Based Learning, had  engaged professors and excellent, helpful feed back during my student teaching

Of course there are some silly things I had to do, learn to play song flute in "Music a Living Hell. Language...really? I remember learning how to give a spelling test. (Pre-test Mon. write words on Tues..blah blah blah)  But, I felt mostly prepared and I had excellent student teaching placements as well as support during student teaching from Dr. Ena Shelley. (Now Dean of the Butler CoE)

Mostly, I remember being encouraged to ask questions, Dr. Shelley was (and still is) a proponent of Reggio Emilia .  I am, too, a believer more than ever that children are not vessels to be filled but learners to be respected and cultivated. Looking back the path I started at Butler has definitely contributed to my working with New Tech Network, where school culture,student/teacher empowerment and engagement are at the forefront.
Back in college, I wish I had had more time in classrooms, more discussions/debates, more on ed policy, that being said, can you ever have enough time in the classroom? and maybe as an undergrad I wasn't as passionate then as I am now about policy.

So what I want to know is....what kind of teacher ed program would prepare you the most for what the classroom is like today?

If YOU were designing a 4 year program for teachers what would it look like? Please add your ideas in the comments!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Global Educator? I Don't Even Have a Passport!

In the words of John Mellencamp "I was born in a small town, and I live in a small town.."

I don't come from a family of world travelers, growing up  we spent weekends camping at practically every single state park in Indiana, and spent summers driving in the family station wagon eating warm bologna sandwiches driving to the far northwest corner of Iowa to Lake Okoboji to visit aunts, uncles & cousins in towns like Sibley, Sheldon and Spencer. 

My childhood was all during the 70's & 80's  The "USSR" was characterized by Rocky movies and Howard wanting to build a bomb shelter on Happy Days. I vaguely remember the Iran Hostage Crisis and a little more vividly the Chernobyl Disaster, but thinking globally just wasn't a part of my life. 

But for today's kids, the world is much smaller! Kids game with other people all over the world, we tweet, blog, skype and learn collectively. This week's #PBLChat was about connecting globally and was probably the most resource rich one we've ever had thanks to the amazing educators associated with @AsiaSociety

This tweet (along with many others) got me thinking...

  How can I be a global educator when I don't even have a passport?

Backpacking Europe? I was diaper-bagging across campus! Our middle son was born the day of my last final! So no travel as a child? No bilingual parents? No backpacking across Europe or student exchange programs on my resume....What's a girl to do?

Enter a million ways to connect without a backpack or a passport!

Check out these resources shared during the chat (archive is here)

Must follows:

There are TONS more people to follow & programs to check in the quest to expand your global education PLN in the archive and add your favorite resources/people in the comments, please!

A couple of hashtags:

Something shared by Brandon Wiley really hit home for me...

"Globally competent students don't always need to work with global peers, but focus on globally significant issues"

 This was an "a-ha" and a sigh of relief for me, you don't need to get overwhelmed by logistics, technology or bandwidth deficits, time or time-zones...this is infinitely doable!

In the meantime, those three little boys we spent time raising in college & in our 20's are  all out in the world, we are empty nesters.

Hmmm....I think it is time to get a passport! 


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What Happens When You Awaken a Sense of Civic Engagement in Students?

What happens when you awaken a sense of civic engagement in students? When a teacher gives a call to action across a network of empowered , empassioned and engaged colleagues? They have a party!
The Invitation

“2012 should be the year we leverage politics to teach media literacy & critical thinking in the classroom”

Students began diving deeply into learning about media bias, campaign techniques and thinking deeply about what they themselves believe.  Read Mike Kaechele, facilitator at Kent Innovation High's, blog post detailing "What My Student's Believe About Politics"

Students began to formulate their party platforms and even to discuss them at home.

Middle School students at APEX in Indiana  rocked the vote by registering high schools students and assisting with voter registration at a local community center.

Ypsilanti New Tech students got involved in an issue that deeply affects them, district consolidation, and presented their findings to the school board.

Students across the country have been tweeting together every debate, with several schools hosting debate parties. After learning all day at school, then going to various practices, rehearsals or work, students met back at the school to watch & tweet the debates with their classmates and teachers.

Warren New Tech High Students
Insights from the students debate watching
See complete 1st Debate archive here
See complete VP debate tweet archive here
See complete 2nd debate archive here

The students were APPALLED by the lack of civility in these debates, definitely a big take-away !

After much critical thinking surrounding the debates, students began to prepare their own stump speeches and got busy story boarding and filming their commercials. Read more about that process in this article from mLive

Each of the schools involved had students select the best campaign commercials and platforms and submit them to this playlist.

On October 29th from 10am to 11am EST students will be tweeting @BarackObama and @MittRomney with their concerns, issues and/or support.

On November 2nd at noon EST the top 5 student candidates will debate via a Google+ Hangout so that students everywhere can evaluate the debate along with the commercials & platforms of each of these groups before final voting across the network begins.

We will also be voting via a poll inside Echo on actual Election Day for President of the United States! It should be very exciting to watch those votes roll in live.

Three of the many great joys of this project have been watching teachers across the country collaborate via Echo,  Skype & Twitter, watching students investigating, evaluating and communicating on issues about which they are passionate and anticipating how these connections will continubeyond the scope of this project.

These stories are just a small part of the bridges being built by teachers & students during this project, I can't wait to see what these amazing, engaged, fearless educators and students do next! 

Photo from @jschackow


Friday, October 12, 2012

My Grandma Has Facebook

This past week I had the opportunity to spend the day at Lake Ridge New Tech Middle School in Gary, Indiana, talking with 6th through 8th grade students about their digital footprints. I have a million things I could write about from this visit but for now, just a really quick story & thought.

In the beginning of the workshop, I ask a few questions about Facebook & Twitter to see how much they are using either. This group of middle schoolers were heavy on the Facebook, light on Twitter, but this was the most interesting take away for me:
How many of you are on Facebook? Nearly 100% of the hands went up (keep in mind most of the 6th graders are only 12)

How many of your parents are on Facebook? Nearly 100% of the hands stayed up.

How many of your grandparents are on Facebook? Nearly 100% of the hands stayed up.

So, tell me again WHY you aren't communicating with your students, families & community members by having a Facebook Page?

Here are a few awesome examples from schools I know to get you thinking about it...

Niles New Tech Entrepreneurial Academy 
Kent Innovation High
EVSC New Tech Institute
Nex+ Gen Academy
Anson New Tech High

Another great resource for getting started on how to use Facebook in the Elementary Classroom is this Prezi by @MissRalston .

Have an awesome school Facebook Page? I'd LOVE to check it out! Share the link in the comments!
Not on Facebook? Really? My Grandma is.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cheating or Collaborating

Cheater Cheater Pumpkin Eater: A Collection of HS Cheating Stories

Two of the most creative ways I've seen students cheat didn't involve technology. (Both of these happened at our local high school when my older son, now 25, was a student)

1. Big Watch Face: Student wrote VERY tiny on  a circular piece of paper and taped it to the back of his watch, just turning the watch over on his wrist during the test.
2.  Water Bottle: Student carefully peeled off the water bottle label, wrote all of the answers on the inside of the label, put the label back on the water bottle.

In neither case did the school ban watches or water.

We read almost daily about cheating scandals in schools, all schools, private, public, elementary to college.  It almost always involves a standardized, high stakes test of some kind. Each article contains a "why kids cheat"  they might too stressed,  have no ethics (look at all the music they download illegally)...or "teachers wouldn't cheat if it weren't for the pressure etc.."

This week at #PBLChat we are going to talk about "Cheating or Collaboration".  Are the lines just blurry for our kids?  Did I cheat because this blog post was inspired by a student blog post.  Jake, aka @hockey_ref12 , was inspired by this article "Students Don't Cheat, They Collaborate".

WAY back in the 80's when I was a Frankfort Hotdog , I used to do my Algebra II homework with my BFF at the time who is a CPA today.  We would compare answers (she had more correct ones than I did) compare our work to find my error, I would figure out just where I messed up, fix the error and then the correct answer. I remember doing this secretly and FEELING like it was cheating. Was it?  When we had to think of topics for speeches in our speech class and I could think of a million and she couldn't think of one, was it cheating when I gave her topic ideas? We also kept this a secret, feeling like it was cheating. Is sharing ideas cheating?

When we would  host student panels during visitor tours of Zebra New Tech High ( yes, my high school mascot was a Hotdog and my children's was a Zebra, SO? ) I vividly remember a visiting administrator asking:

"With all of the technology, isn't it easy to cheat?"

A student, Sean, answered WAY to quickly and loudly. "

NO, you can't cheat at all."

The room cracked up, since his quick answer meant he had definitely TRIED!
The administrator followed up with:

"Why is it hard, do your teachers have some kind of software? "

Sean answered:
"No, you just can't cheat when you really have to think and defend answers during presentations or when you are writing. Filling in the blank is the way to go for cheating and we NEVER get to do that here.

So click over and check out Jake's blog post, leave him a comment and please join us for this student requested #PBLChat topic on Tuesday 9pm EST! (If you miss the chat or read this when it is over, we archive the chats here )

Saturday, October 6, 2012

How Do Your Students Know You Are a Learner?

I often hear educators say they want their students to be "life-long learners" or "life-long readers".  When they say this to me I always ask them:
How do your students know you are a life-long learner? A reader? 

I've seen many examples of this as I've been in and out of classrooms over the past decade, but can't really remember any from my own years in school.

Here are two of  my favorite examples:

That moment when students find their teacher's blog! ( I LOVE this one.)
( I don't remember the teacher's name or even the school, I wish I did, it had such an impact on me.)

I happened to be in the classroom at one of the New Tech school's in Indiana when students randomly googled their teacher and came across his blog. They were reading each and every post like vultures! and were rapidly quoting it and firing off questions to the teacher.

"Wait, you are in college? I thought you already went to college, you are a teacher? You still go to college? Why do you go to college?"

"Hey, I think this story is about me, is it about me? You learned about teaching from me?"

"People write back to you on this thing? Who are these people? Teachers?" "Do you know them?"

WHAT an example of not only life-long learning, but sharing his learning! The discussion that followed about learning, blogging and sharing was incredible.

Here is another, I've shared this one before, but I just love it for modeling life-long reading...

Amy Blackburn (@zebramommy1 ) teaches at a high school that has what we called at the elementary school "DEAR" or drop everything and read time.  I think it is once a week, but it could be once each day.  The teachers are to join the students in reading and resist the urge to use those few minutes to clear their desk, grade, plan etc...! I always noticed that Amy always kept her current book spine out on her desk.. Many times when I stopped by her room she was chatting about that book with a student. Several students chose the books she chose, followed the authors she followed and had great conversations with her around literature or life events. I vividly remember her discussing Nineteen Minutes by Jody Picoult  with a group of students. This conversation dipped into school violence, suicide, tolerance, many topics!  Amy teaches  Project Lead the Way courses, in Bio-Medical Science and as far as I could tell she reads mostly fiction.  I love the relationships she had with students that were developed over the love of reading in addition to the ones she developed over exploring science.

There are a million little subtle ways to share that you are a learner, most of the time this seems to be woven in to the side conversations we have in the hall with students about the weekend.
I wonder if anyone is deliberate in the attempt to model that they are a learner? When I was a classroom teacher, I wasn't deliberate, about it, although anyone who has taught with me knows I share a lot with my students, so I'm certain it happened in some small ways. I'm confident I've  modeled it for our own children, they see me read & discuss education pedagogy, they see the stacks of books all over our house, they hear their dad say over & over "Seriously, we should own stock in Amazon, what did you download now?"  They remember when I was working on my master's degree, watched me learn to knit using YouTube and the standard answer to most questions at our house is "You can figure that out" followed by "Google it".

So, how do your students know you are a life-long learner? Principals, how do your teachers know you are a lifelong learner? Please share!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"Was This Debate Civil?: Observations from HS Students

Last night I fired up my tweetchat using the #MYParty12 hashtag. I knew some schools & students in the New Tech Network were planning on tweeting using it since many of them are in the middle of a project exploring the Election, Government & Civic Responsibility.

I wasn't sure how many students would participate, we continue to hear that the young are apathetic about politics.

 Wow! Over 500 tweets flew across my screen, they were flying as fast at the #edchat feed! Here are a few student observations:

This is just a small sampling of what the students had to say. You can catch the complete stream at this storify archive . (Did you know if you add /slideshow to the storify url you can view as a slideshow? I like reading it better that way)
Some tweets from students that stood out to me were around civility, lack of debate protocol and simple good manners.  I wonder if, as a voter for over 2 decades,  I haven't become somewhat calloused to the lack of civility in this debate process.  The eyes of the students provided a fresh view for me. New Tech Network students are steeped in the words "trust, respect & responsibility". I'm thinking the candidates could benefit from a workshop led by them!
Keep following #MYParty12, these students are in this for the long haul, they are creating their OWN parties & platforms based on the issues they believe to be important.