Saturday, January 26, 2013

THAT is What We Should Standardize, Learning How to Learn!

In following the #educon hashtag today during @MikeKaechele 's session called #standardizethat, I listened in to many conversations around "What if kids designed their own curriculum?".  One of the people on who's group conversation I was eavesdropping said, "I can learn anything I want to, if there is something I REALLY want to learn how to do or learn about, I have the tools, that's what kid's need, the tools to learn how to learn, THAT is what we should standardize, learning how to learn."

This made me think, what I have learned that I just flat out wanted to learn how to do?

About 10 years ago I really wanted a fisherman's sweater, you know the yummy, wool, cable filled ones? They are expensive!

So, I figured I would teach myself how to knit one for myself. I got my hands on some needles, bought some yarn and began googling. Tons of tutorials later, I could knit. I can knit scarves, hats, purses (felting your knitting is super fun), and YES, I made a sweater like the one above. (not until I was knitting awhile, turns out knitting cables & shaping sweaters takes some skills!).

During the process I made a boatload of mistakes, I dropped stitches, made really ugly things, things that didn't fit, used the wrong yarn, mis-read patterns, and guess what? I LEARNED from every single mistake!

So, yes, I really wanted to learn something, so I did.
Even when it was hard,
even when I was frustrated,
even when I made a lot of mistakes.
I really wanted to do it. So I did.

Our youngest son loves to skateboard. When he wants to learn a new trick he is RELENTLESS, no matter how many falls, injuries, or hours it takes, he will conquer it.He REALLY wants to learn it.

When my little sister wanted tile in her bathroom and didn't have the extra cash to pay for it she watched online videos, read articles and did it. Her bathroom floor is gorgeous. She REALLY wanted to learn it.

Do you know what students REALLY want to learn? Is there time & space in your classroom for them to explore? Practice? Fail? Try again?

What about you? Tell me something you learned not because someone said you had to learn it, but because you REALLY wanted to!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How do you finish this sentence?=> "Oh, These kids today...

I think students are awesome. I love elementary kiddos, they were my first love, I thought my whole career would be spent in buildings with chairs too small for adults to sit in. Over the past few years I can't believe how much I like middle school and high school kids. Conversations with them are at times hilarious, challenging and inspiring!

When I hear the phrase
"Oh, these kids today...." 

I finish it with
are amazing
are creative
are rebels
are unpredictable
are facing a tough road
are so funny
are going to change the world!

BUT, so many people who say

"These kids today" finish it with less than a positive ending.

So how do we have the folks who spend no time with "these kids" see the kids the way we do?

Invite them in! 

Before I worked in our middle school and high school I was sort of afraid of this age group. I had kids of my own this age, but teaching them? All it took was a few minutes in a few classrooms for me to know that kids are just kids, whether they are 8 or 18 they each have their own individual story.

If we want our communities to view our students the way that we do, we must get them together. When I taught elementary school it was common to see parents in the building, reading with kids, helping in classrooms, but that changes the older the students get.
Start changing that public opinion by inviting the community in, invite them in as experts to share with students, invite them to sit on panels for presentations, invite them in for gallery walks of student work.

If they won't come in, go to them!

Find problems to solve in your own community and empower your students solve them!

Students at the New Tech Innovative Institute in Gary, Indiana did just that. They worked with several community partners to design a subdivsion .

 Students at Niles New Tech in Niles, Michigan partnered with a local elementary school helping to bring elementary student's creative invention ideas to life.

Students at Facing History New Tech in Cleveland, Ohio created public service announcements to help local non-profits.

Students at the Weidner School of Inquiry in Plymouth, Indiana hosted a Tech Fair for their community showcasing a variety of tools and projects. They held it in conjunction with a BBQ and a home basketball game!

How are you partnering with your local community to change the way people finish the sentence...
Oh, these kids today....?

Friday, January 18, 2013

What if We Helped When They Were Still Little?

I have been teaching since 1992. Over the years I can recall students who really stood out to me as potential dangers to themselves and others. The experiences with these students were all equal parts heartbreaking and frightening.

My 3rd year teaching 1st grade, I had little boy in my class that I was afraid of and for. .

If his switch flipped, for any number of seemingly random reasons, he would grab the first object he could find and go stand threateningly over a nearby student and motion menacingly towards the student while glaring at me.(The first time it was scissors, many times a pencil)

This was my first experience with asking myself "How do I balance supporting, teaching & caring for this boy with the safety, both physically & emotionally of the rest of the children in my class?"

On the way to school each day as I got closer & closer to the building, I could feel my shoulders begin to tense up, would he be having a "good" day or a "bad" day?
Would this little boy move from threatening another student to actually hurting one?
Could I stop  him in time if he did?

I asked for help many times. I had "case conferences", observations, interventions,  read books, articles, met with his parents I used every avenue that I knew was available. I was advised to use a 'behavior plan".  Right, stars & stickers? Not helpful.

The only solution was eventually (after a parent from my class complained & asked for her child to be removed from the class) that he had a full time teaching assistant assigned to him. So one adult stayed within arms length of this little boy all day, every day. A bandaid to be sure, but it got us through the year.

I have no idea where this boy is today. I also have no idea what being in school every day with this little boy did to the other students in my class, to be honest, I hardly remember any other students from that year.

I have no idea where this little boy, who would be 27 or 28 today, is or how his life has gone.

But, what if we had gotten him REAL help while he was still little?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pinning for Parents! One More Way to Communicate!

No matter how much you communicate, it seems like communication is always an area that every learning organization needs or wants to improve. I remember getting phone calls from folks  that would go  something like this:

Parent: I had no idea that the parent night for FAFSA was last night, you need to do a better job of communicating dates like that. How was I supposed to know about it?

Me: I'm so sorry, it was in the paper

Parent: I don't get the paper

Me: Also on the radio and on our website

Parent: I don't listen to that station and I never visit the website

Me: We posted it to our Twitter feed and Facebook page

Parent: I don't use either of those

Me: It was on the sign in front of the school & sent home with your student & on the announcements

Parent: I don't drive by the school and my child doesn't tell me anything

Me: How about from now on, when something important is happening I come to your house and fold your laundry, while you make dinner and personally tell you about it?

Okay, I never really said that last line!

All kidding aside, I'm a parent of 3 kids. My husband and I both work full-time and certainly missed some important dates in our day, life is busy!

So, my motto has always been just communicate, communicate and communicate some more!

Enter Pinterest! I signed up for this tool when it came out in beta and anxiously awaited my invitation via email and when it arrived I quickly began pinning boards like recipes, garage organization, landscaping, knitting patterns etc..I've just never gotten hooked on a bookmarking tool and this one was SO working for me!

Then I had a little "aha moment" as I was talking with some friends who were in LOVE with Pinterest. This group of friends was made up of all women who aren't at all the tech addict that I am. They read books, not on e readers, they don't tweet, their computer is actually still in on a desk in their home and not right beside their chair in the family for immediate & full time access. But they were VERY engaged with this site. The visual aspect worked for them.

So, for me, Pinterest became yet another way to pull in teachers who are reluctant tech users and to reach more parents where they are! You can see ways teachers are using Pinterest in this great post from +Edudemic

I'm wondering how many schools are also pinning for their families and community! Consider boards like:

College Virtual Tours
Financial Aid
Classroom photos
Financial Literacy for Your Child
The Truth About Bullying
Helping Your Child Study
Online Safety
Learning Games
Student work
Project Based Learning explained
Standardized Test Info
Great books (so many sub-topics here, too!)

Pretty much any topic the School Counselor wished they had time to talk to parents and students about!

How are you using Pinterest to communicate with families? Share the link to your board in the comments! We'd love to follow you, follow our boards, too, I pin education resources as New Tech Network

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Notre Dame + Alabama + Frustrated Fan Tweet = #DigCit Lesson !

Last Monday night I was watching the BCS championship game, Notre Dame vs Alabama, ( I know, I know, #rolltide...blah...I'm an Irish fan, don't rub it in)

I like to have Twitter open and follow the conversation about the game as well.  Tweets add a different kind of color commentary!

As I checked my feed, I saw a tweet from a student that often engages with us during #PBLChat, he uses social media really well as a student, he tweets encouragement to students in lower grades on their presentation days, celebrates his academic success and future goals, shares his learning and compliments his friends, a stellar example of a teen crafting a fantastic digital footprint.


He is a Notre Dame fan....did you SEE that game?

His tweet was one 4 letter word.

Uh oh!

Because he oftens tweets during #PBLChat I had no problem replying to him and letting him know that he has a better vocabulary than that, but before I could hit reply, I watched in real time as a conversation with one of his former teachers it is:

Trust, respect, responsibility, relationships and great school culture? Yep, all that is in place and evident by this exchange!

We don't have to be afraid of students and social media, we can be there for students to remind them that indeed, they are better than that!

Kudos to Josh for being receptive to his teacher's words and to his teacher for being there for Josh!