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How to Bring Teachers in Your District on Board with Technology

How to Bring Teachers in Your District on Board with Technology

I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had over the years to attend and present at educational technology conferences hosted by outstanding organizations such as ISTECUE, Google’s EdTechTeam, National Writing Project, and NCTE. Being able to attend keynotes and sessions by nationally known educational visionaries, such as Will Richardson or Kylene Beers or Rushton Hurley, provides sufficient inspiration and innovative ideas to energize my teaching throughout the school year.

When I attend conferences outside of the Sacramento region or outside of California, I’m also aware that very few teachers from my district have been able to find the funding to cover registration and travel costs. Many are just dipping their toes into the technology integration waters and are not yet ready to submit a workshop proposal, for instance, which might entitle them to attend a conference with registration fees waved (a benefit I frequently take advantage of). And those who do attend some of the two-day, three-day, or four-day conferences often share with me that they ended their conference experience a bit overwhelmed by all the mind-blowing tips and tricks from the many technology rock star presenters.

I love what my district is doing to bring teachers on board with technology integration. Last Saturday, we hosted our 2nd annual Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms Saturday Seminar at one of our high schools. For a mere $20 (which covered breakfast and lunch costs – and was waived if you volunteered to present), teachers could begin the morning with an amazing keynote from nationally/internationally known technology innovator and #HyperDocs queen Lisa Highfill. Following the keynote, our teachers could then select four 1-hour, hands-on sessions to attend.

Photo of Lisa Highfill presenting at Elk Grove USD's Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms Saturday Seminar
The ever-inspiring Lisa Highfill rocks the Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms house!

To give you an idea of the wonderful variety and range of topics, here are a few session descriptions:

  • Teaching in a [Semi]Paperless Google Classroom – Teachers of all grade levels can learn tips and tricks to setting up their Google Classroom and implementing assignments.  Basic knowledge of Google Drive very helpful, but not required. I will show you what it looks like from teacher view and student view.
  • e-Portfolios for PRIMARY Students – Start an amazing journey to meet CCSS with authentic assessment using 21st century tools. Come learn how to create digital portfolios of student work to provide them with important opportunities to reflect on, curate, and showcase their learning beyond the classroom walls. Engage easily with parents and connect them to the heart and soul of your classroom.  It’s EASY, versatile, and accessible from ANY device. You’ll love it!
  • Extension Must-Haves for TeachersChrome extensions can make you a millionaire! Okay, so not really, but they can help you and your students be more productive and isn’t that more important than money? Come learn how to install and use the top must-have extensions you need now.
  • NASA & Project Spectra – Come learn about various tools you can use to teach astronomy & magnetism, grades 6-12.  Get hands on practice with interactive games, find resources that augment your regular class materials and try your hand at mapping magnetism on another planet. “Project Spectra!” is a science and engineering program for 6th – 12th grade students, focusing on how light is used to explore the Solar System. “Project Spectra!” emphasizes hands-on activities, like building a spectrograph, as well as the use of real data to solve scientific questions.

I believe what makes our Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms Saturday Seminars so immediately relevant to attending teachers is that, other than our keynote speakers, every presenter is a district teacher. Across grade levels and curriculum, our presenters share best practices that work with our students – students who the attendees may have taught in the past or may be teaching in the coming years. Add to that motivating factor the fact that all presenters are easily accessible for an on-site visit or via district email, I know many attendees left ready to implement on Monday new ideas, strategies, and tools.

photos of teachers attending session to learn about Twitter
Awesome group of Elk Grove USD teachers delving into the power of Twitter.

It was my privilege to co-present Extending Student Voices Through Videoconferencing with Erica Swift and Twitter: What’s all the fuss about?! with Cathe Petuya. Already several teachers have contacted me with questions and ideas for weaving videoconferencing into their curriculum and others (via Twitter) to express their awe at the power of Twitter.

Given the manageable scope – and reasonable expense – of organizing and hosting a district-centered Saturday technology conference, I highly recommend this concept as an effective way to encourage technology “newbies” to explore how different tools offer new possibilities for teaching. I’m pretty sure the “newbies” who attended our Saturday Seminar are now ready to head off to CUE, ISTE, and other popular technology conferences – minus the intimidation factor. And based on the above session descriptions, I will be encouraging ALL of our presenters to start submitting proposals – beyond our 2018 Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms event.

If you are already sponsoring district-based/centered technology conferences, I would love to hear any suggestions or answer any questions!

 

 

Teaching and Learning in the Time of Trump

Teaching and Learning in the Time of Trump

Last week a school district colleague shared a beautiful letter her 9th grade daughter Emma had written for a homework assignment: Write a persuasive essay on a topic you care about. Emma chose the topic of equal rights for women – on a global scale. She wrote her essay in a letter format, addressed to President-elect Trump.

The English teacher was actually on maternity leave, so the assignment came via a long-term substitute teacher. But Emma’s letter was too timely and too well-written to not have an authentic audience, an audience beyond just the teacher. I shared with my colleague the National Writing Project’s Letters to the Next President website. Of all the phenomenal projects and communities the NWP sponsors, Letters to the Next President has to be one of the most timely.

Last Wednesday, Teachers Teachers Teachers,  a group led by Paul Allison (New York City Writing Project), discussed the topic of Teaching and Learning in a Time of Trump in their weekly Google Hangout.

In addition to addressing some immediate community actions/reactions in the days following the election, the panel also discussed the need for teaching media literacy. Links to referenced articles are posted on the site.

I am very grateful for an exponentially growing support group for “teaching and learning in a time of Trump” – with the NWP at the top of my list. I also want to recogize Harvard’s Project Zero: Children as Citizens project as as a second global microphone for students.

From my own region (northern California), I’d like to acknowledge Sacramento City Unified for stepping up to be the first school district in the greater Sacramento region to approve a resolution declaring Sac City a safe haven for students who may be “fearful of deportation and hate speech.” The resolution is in response to the “intolerant rhetoric made over the course of the 2016 presidential race.”

As the January 20 Inauguration Day fast approaches, a quote from Teachers Teaching Teachers panelist Dianca London continues to resonate with me: “Apathy is not an option anymore.”

 

Note: Featured image is licensed Public Domain

Post-Election Resources for Teachers

Post-Election Resources for Teachers

Election 2016 graphic by DonkeyHotey CC BY
Election 2016 image by DonkeyHotey CC BY

Friday night was book club night, a favorite monthly event. For 16 years we’ve been coming together to discuss, over wine and dinner, good literature, education and, occasionally, politics.  Although we briefly discussed our November book choice (Kate DiCamilo’s YA Flora and Ulysses), for most of the evening, we tried to make sense of the election results, consider the ramifications of our President-Elect’s cabinet choices, and envision the possible impacts, both immediate and long-term. I’m guessing that across the nation hundreds of thousands of similar discussions were happening.

I truly appreciate the resources individuals and groups have posted to help educators address students’ concerns and questions. Thank you to my Rwanda group for sharing an elementary school principal’s letter to his families, Joseph Long’s Facebook post I AM TRYING: THE RELEVANCE OF SOUTH PARK IN A TRUMP WORLD, and Clint Smith’s TED Talk The Danger of Silence.

To Facing History and Ourselves, thank you for the depth of resources shared on your recent (Re)Building Classroom Community Post Election. Starting with Fostering Civic Discourse: A Guide for Classroom Conversations, the resources will help students “gain critical thinking skills, empathy and tolerance, and a sense of civic responsibility.”

To the New York Times Learning Network, thank you for Election Day 2016: Teaching Ideas for Before and After the Votes Are Tallied (updated November 15). The thought-provoking article snippets and accompanying questions will provide powerful opportunities for students to reflect on and join in discussions. I also appreciate the link to the National Writing Project’s invitation to students to write a letter to the next president, a beautiful call to action.

To Larry Ferlazzo, thank you for your comprehensive collection of Best Sites to Learn about the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, including your interactives for teaching English Language Learners about the elections.

And thank you to Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, and John Oliver for your timely reminders of the value and importance of laughter.

If you have resources to add to 2016 elections topic, I warmly invite you to leave a comment.

Creating a Culture of Civility

Creating a Culture of Civility

 

entrsekt - October 2016
entrsekt – October 2016

The October issue of entrsekt, ISTE’s quarterly journal, immediately caught my attention – with the cover boldly featuring Jennifer Snelling’s “A Culture of Civility: The New Tenets of Connecting in the Digital Age.”

In a highly contentious election-year atmosphere, I really appreciate having at my fingertips the research, examples, and reminder that “Civility and citizenship come from understanding alternate viewpoints and being able to have conversations and respectful debates.” 

When ISTE released the 2016 Standards, I was delighted to see Digital Citizenship as an integral component. In reading “A Culture of Civility,” I was struck by the connection between Digital Citizen and Global Collaborator, and how both standards promote “vital skills to empower students to thrive in an uncertain future.”

istestandards

In my day job, I serve on a district committee tasked with making sure teachers have access to a wealth of high-quality resources, such as Common Sense Media, for teaching and modeling digital citizenship skills with their students. Initially the topic tended to be taught in isolation, as part of an homeroom advisory period or in a computer class, for instance – too often without providing students with opportunities to put their digital citizenship skill set into practice. The arrival of Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education has thankfully brought technology integration into the core curriculum – along with the need to make sure all students are firmly grounded in what it means to be a positive, contributing digital/global citizen.

One of the many note-worthy quotes from Snelling’s article is from psychiatrist Dr. Helen Riess, who stresses the importance of developing listening skills, a first step in building empathy:

As soon as there is a culture of disrespect for opposing opinions, we lose the art of not only listening but also of compromise and negotiation, and that’s what’s contributing to this polarized society.”

In response to Dr. Riess’s concern, I’d like to share that, occasionally, when visiting classrooms in my district, I enter just as a student has apparently posted something inappropriate online. Instead of taking away the Chromebook, I love how teachers are tapping into technology misuse incidents as teachable moments on how to respectfully disagree. It is inspiring to watch students come to understand that being proficient in the genre of commenting is a non-negotiable, must-have skill for the digital age.

I am bundling the “Culture of Civility” article (which does require an ISTE membership in order to access) with two of my favorite digital citizenship resources on teaching the art of commenting as a genre:

  • From Linda Yollis’s 3rd graders: How to Write a Quality Comment

With interactive technology tools such as Google Docs, blogs, wikis, and videoconferencing making it so easy to take student voices beyond the classroom, creating a culture of civility is an essential step in empowering students to listen to and learn from a mix of shared and alternate viewpoints.

If you have resources to add to the topic and conversation of promoting a culture of civility, I warmly invite you to share them by leaving a comment.

 

NWP 20, Hmong 40

NWP 20, Hmong 40

Twenty years ago, I started on an amazing, ongoing professional development journey by applying for the Area 3 Writing Project’s Summer Institute (SI). I knew from the opening day that my SI experience would provide me with exceptional best practices in teaching writing and, equally important, with an incredible professional learning community. But in 1995, I certainly had no idea of the life-changing connections that would come my way as a result of my joining the NWP community. I’d like to share one of those connections.

At the close of the SI, A3WP director Jayne Marlink invited our group to a celebration at her home. As I entered her hallway, I was completely drawn into an elaborately decorated wall hanging. The intricate embroidery depicted groups of people clearly fleeing an area and attempting to cross a river. Soldiers were everywhere. That was my first time to see a Hmong story cloth. It was a gift, Jayne explained, from a former student, a Hmong student whose family had fled Laos after the U.S. pulled out of the Vietnam War.

I grew up with the Vietnam War. It was in the news during my high school years. By college, the war dominated the media, with an escalating protest movement on and beyond campuses. So I thought I knew about the Vietnam War, including its extension into Cambodia. But I do not remember any news coverage from Laos. The Hmong story cloth hanging in Jayne’s hallway was a new chapter for me. Over the years, I continued to “read” about the Hmong migration from Laos, mainly at Sacramento area farmers’ markets, where Hmong often sell story cloths along with their produce.

In 1998, I transferred from a small, semi-rural school district in the Sierra foothills to the Elk Grove School District, a rapidly-growing district in the south Sacramento area.  Prior to World War II, the Elk Grove-Florin area had been home to hundreds of Japanese-American families who farmed the region’s strawberry fields. When President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of all citizens of Japanese heritage from the West Coast, the history of this community overnight and forever changed. Few were able to return and reclaim their farms.

The Elk Grove USD annually commemorates the forced removal of its Japanese-American citizens through its Board Resolution 33: Day of Remembrance. As a technology integration specialist for the district, it has been my privilege to help document the internment stories through the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project.

History does have a tendency to repeat itself. Two wars later, the strawberry fields of Elk Grove-Florin are primarily farmed by Hmong and Mien. They are refugees of the “Secret War in Laos.” This year, 2015, marks the 40-year anniversary of the Hmong and Mien migration from Laos and Thailand to the United States. During the Vietnam War, the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency formed a secret alliance with the Hmong army to fight Laotian communists and the North Vietnamese. Shortly after the U.S. military abandoned Laos in 1974, the communist group Pathet Lao announced plans to wipe out both the Hmong and Mien. Their only option for survival was to flee Laos.

Yien Saetern: Elk Grove strawberry farm

It is through the vision and support of Steve Ly that have I become actively and deeply involved in researching and documenting the stories of the Secret War refugees. Steve’s family fled Laos when he was four. Thirty-eight years later, he was elected to the Elk Grove USD School Board, the first Hmong member. In his tenure, he introduced Board Resolution 59 to commemorate the critical role the Hmong played in supporting the U.S. during the Vietnam War, to celebrate relocation of over 100,000 Hmong to the U.S., and to encourage teaching students in grades 7-12 about the Secret War (in alignment with California AB 78). Forty years later, Steve now serves as the City of Elk Grove’s first Hmong City Councilman. Through text messages, emails, and phone calls, he keeps me in the loop on upcoming events in the Sacramento area, such as a recent CSU, Sacramento, presentation by author Gayle Morrison, or a local hosting of a Hmong Story 40 celebration.

Steve Ly: Thai refugee camp

To commemorate the 40-year anniversary of the Hmong and Mien exodus from Laos, my colleague, the very talented EGUSD graphic designer Kathleen Watt, and I have been developing and curating a new section on the TOR website: the Vietnam War. We currently have completed interviews with 10 Hmong and Mien refugees and are in the process of annotating each interview so that teachers can easily locate and share specific parts of the interviews. We’ve posted snippets of several interviews, and should have complete interviews available within the next few months. Thanks to Steve Ly, we’ve even connected with and interviewed five Ravens. Ravens were the U.S. fighter pilots used for forward air control in conjunction with the Central Intelligence Agency during America’s Vietnam War. The Ravens provided direction for most of the air strikes against communist Pathet Lao targets.

From my first foray into the Secret War in Laos via Jayne Marlink’s Hmong story cloth, I now have on my night stand a small but growing collection of publications on the Secret War: The Latehomecomer; Tragic Mountains; Hog’s Exit, Jerry Daniels, the Hmong, and the CIA; and The Ravens: The True Story of the Secret War. Kathleen and I connect almost daily to discuss “Secret War” updates to our TOR site and its accompanying TOR Talks site. Twenty years later, I could now confidently and enthusiastically provide a guided tour of Jayne’s story cloth, enriched by stories shared during our interviews.

It is through Writing Project networks that I’ve come to understand the value and importance of telling our stories. It is through the support of my department (EGUSD Technology Services), in partnership with our Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium, that I’ve been able to digitally document community stories from two separated yet connected wars.

As California commemorates the 40-year legacy of the Secret War in Laos, through projects such as Hmong Story 40, I eagerly anticipate expanding the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Archive and facilitating discussions on the TOR Talks site. Your input is warmly invited.

 

 

Helping Students Flex Their Reading Level/Lexile Muscles

Helping Students Flex Their Reading Level/Lexile Muscles

I grew up in a home with books. In the room we referred to as the “den,” an entire wall was lined with my parents’ books and book collections. There was also a small glass three-shelf bookcase that did not require any climbing and reaching on my part and that held “the book.” It was The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rowlings. But it was N.C. Wyeth’s illustrations that drew me to this classic. Other than my dad’s golf books, few of their books were illustrated. N.C. Wyth’s illustrations were gripping and fueled the imagination, as you can see by scanning the online Project Gutenberg version.

I think it’s entirely possible that I actually learned to read at home, not at school. I remember being assigned to reading groups according to reading level. I can’t remember ever coming home wanting to talk about any great stories from the classroom readers. Although when my first or second grade teacher introduced me to Charlotte’s Web as a read aloud, I know I begged to have my own copy.

Back to The Yearling. When I first discovered the book, I was still in the primary grades. Even though I couldn’t read it, I could tell from the illustrations that it was an animal story, a favorite genre then (and still today). When I told my dad how much I wished I could read The Yearling, he gave me a great piece of advice: Just keep checking back every so often, because at some point you will be able to read it.

Looking back, I’m pretty sure it was the Nancy Drew detective series that helped boost my reading level up to The Yearling’s lexile. Although totally done as outside reading, separate from classroom readers/anthologies, I regularly brought my latest Nancy Drew book to school in order trade with friends. Sort of an organically organized early book club. I’m guessing it was about 5th or 6th grade when I realized The Yearling was now an accessible read.

Years later, as a parent, I watched my daughter jump start her reading with The Babysitter Club series, which she traded, just I had with Nancy Drew. When she was in 5th grade, we moved to a small two-school district – which, thankfully, used outstanding literature instead of readers/anthologies. She quickly moved on from the Babysitter Club to Anne of Green Gables and onward in her journey as an avid, life-long reader.

With my son, I watched him as a 2nd grader pick up a wrestling magazine with Hulk Hogan on the cover, and, on the spot, become a reader. Only weeks earlier, he’d had the opportunity to see Hulk Hogan live in Sacramento, a memorable event for a 7-year old! He opened to the magazine article with the confidence and content knowledge of a highly proficient reader – clearly no longer limited by any “lexile levels.” Like his sister, he too became hooked on great YA authors, such as Gary Paulsen, via the excellent literature introduced at school. Pretty impressive what interest level + background knowledge + teacher enthusiasm can do to boost a kid’s reading level.

A recent situation has prompted me to reflect back on when my children and I began flexing our reading level/lexile muscles. The event has to do with Accelerated Reader (AR) and what I now refer to as “AR non-best practices.” A teacher at one of my district’s elementary schools contacted me about changing the AR school year end dates to include the summer. I am the district administrator for the AR program (by assignment, not by choice). The site wanted to require that students take AR quizzes during their summer break. The AR points would then be factored into the students’ reading grades for the first trimester of the 2014-15 school year. Despite my attempts to present a case for summer being a time to read simply for the joy of reading, apparently the entire site, including the principal, wished to formally reward or penalize elementary students for their summer reading habits.

At least this was an isolated case of AR non-best practices … or so I thought. I shared the story with a colleague, who, as a parent, shared his frustration with teachers “making an advanced reader read below his/her level to meet class AR requirements.” As parents, we know we need to be advocates for our children, but it’s not easy to speak out within our own districts against a program once it’s ingrained in a school’s culture.

I shared both of the above the examples with a National Writing Project (NWP) colleague, who is now an elementary school administrator. She responded with a story from her previous district, where, during her first week as principal, she explained to the staff why their school library, which was organized by lexile, would be reorganized by author. She further explained that if a student became interested in a certain author, the student would be allowed to check out any of the author’s books, regardless of lexile. How about that for a AR non-best practices easy fix?!

For the most part, I remain quiet about programs such as AR, out of respect for colleagues who truly believe that the programs boost reading skills and promote a love of reading. Occasionally, I suggest that teachers go through Google Scholar to read the research on AR. Or I send links to articles such as Stephen Krashen’s 2003 journal article. Or maybe suggest reading what Kelly Gallagher has to say about AR in his wonderful Readicide piece.

This year, I’ve starting looking beyond elementary school to see how teachers at middle and high school are promoting a love of reading. In September, at the same time the elementary site was asking how to pull a report on summer AR quizzes, I read high school AP English teacher David Theriault’s post Why Do We Give Students Summer Assignments? Seriously, Why? I love his ideas for Alternatives to the typical Summer Activities section, especially Idea #1:

What if teachers on the campus created a Google Slide. One for each teacher. On the Google Slide was a list of ideas for students to learn about their world during the summer. Here’s an example:

 

Even if every teacher just had four ideas on a slide, students and their parents would have a ton of ideas and these ideas would help students and parents get to know the teachers better. Heck you could ask every staff member at your school to contribute including the district office. Can you imagine the conversations that would take place in the hallways the following school year?”

In October, with AR non-best practices still on my mind, middle school English teacher Pernille Ripp posted The Things I Did that Stopped the Love of Reading to her blog. Right off the bat, she addresses locking students into reading levels/lexiles:

Then:
I forced them to read certain books because I knew better.  Armed with levels and lessons, I have forced many a child in giving up the book they were certain to struggle through and handed them a better suited one.  Better suited based on levels, reading abilities, but typically not interest.

Now:
Students have free choice to read with few restrictions.  Throughout the year they have to read 25 books, 15 of which must be chapter books.  If a child is continuously abandoning books we discuss, adjust, and try new things.  We also spend time selecting books together and work on strategies to get through books that may be a bit out of their “level.”

In all fairness to AR (and to help sites justify the annual subscription renewal fees), I know I should also be collecting AR best practices examples. Here’s one: During a unit of the American Revolution, 5th grade students have access to books at their reading levels. Having taught 5th grade for several years, I can see the value in students being able to easily pick out books identified by reading level from the school library as they begin a new unit of study.  In my classroom, my personal American Revolution library included a wide reading range, including multiple copies of My Brother Sam Is Dead, which Scholastic marks as grades 6-8. Every year, students at all reading levels borrowed my copies of this book, with many reporting that they couldn’t put it down. No reading level/lexile limitations. No points earned for completing an online quiz. Just reading based on interest.

If there are more examples I could add to an AR best practices chart, I warmly invite you to share them.

More importantly, I would  love to learn about any districts that have opted out of AR – for reasons other than budget cuts. Was it a top-down decision or teacher driven? Was it research-based? Was it widely embraced? Any information and tips would be much appreciated.

 

It’s that time again: #eddies14

It’s that time again: #eddies14

edublog_awards_170x290_v2-2h4n5ynI love the Annual Edublog Awards. Every year, the event puts me into a reflective mode, as I think back through memorable posts, tweets, and virtual connections.

In making my 2014 nominations, I’ve focused mainly on two areas that are very important to me:

Resources for a connected educators

Resources for primary grades (too often the marginal or missing component of tech conferences)

Resources for transitioning to Project-Based Learning (PBL)

So …. drumroll please ….

  • Best Individual Blog – Primary Preoccupation – Kathy Cassidy’s blog is the first resource I share with primary teachers in my district who are starting their journeys into connected learning with their young students.
  • Best Group Blog – Digital Is – Sponsored by the National Writing Project (NWP), the Digital Is blog and website continue to offer an amazing range of topics, discussions, resource, and best practices on teaching (digital) writing and promoting (digital) literacy and connected learning.
  • Best New Blog – Mrs. Petuya’s Class Blog – Oh, such joyful learning takes place in Cathe Petuya’s Kindergarten classroom (my district). She is a fearless explorer ever in search of ways and tools for developing and supporting student voice – beyond the walls of the classroom.
  • Best Class Blog – Mr. Bentley’s 5th/6th Grade Loop – For a journey into powerful PBL instruction, with young filmmakers at the helm, you will want to revisit Jim Bentley’s blog often. Amazing teaching and learning (my district)!
  • Best Teacher Blog – The Tempered Radical – Year after year and from the classroom trenches, middle school teacher and NWP colleague Bill Ferriter pushes my thinking and expands my teaching toolkit.
  • Best Ed Tech/ Resource Sharing Blog – Edutopia – If I went back over my Tweets for the year, I’m pretty sure Edutopia would be at the top. My #1 go-to place for PBL resources and tips.
  • Most Influential Blog Post of the Year – No Longer a Luxury – Digital Literacy Can’t Wait – Written by Troy Hicks and Kristen Hawley Turner and posted to the National Council for Teachers of English website, this is the article I continue to share with teachers and administrators.
  • Best Individual Tweeter – @LarryFerlazzo – From app recommendations (love Shadow Puppets) to ed articles, Larry continues to find, create, and Tweet about an incredible range of useful resources (starting with his Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day blog).
  • Best Free Web Tool – Twitter.
  • Best Use of Media – Ms. Cheung’s Terrific Kinders – This wonderful teacher (my district) started a new journey this year: teaching students in TK (Transitional Kindergarten). She is already tapping into the power of voice to document her students’ journeys into literacy and numeracy.
  • Best Educational Wiki – hickstro – I am a better teacher thanks to the incredible depth and breadth of resources Troy Hicks so generously and regularly shares.
  • Best PD/unconference/webinar – Teachers Teaching Teachers – Throughout the year, I try to keep Wednesday evenings free to join Paul Allison and the weekly gathering of innovative, thought-provoking educators who join this weekly Google Hangout. And the good news is if I can’t join the Hangout, Paul always posts it to the site.
  • Best Mobile App – Shadow Puppet Edu – Again, with my focus on finding resources for primary grades, finding an app that makes recording over images and embedding the image/topic/lesson into blog very easy, I’m glad to have discovered (thanks to a Tweet from Larry Ferlazzo) Shadow Puppet.
  • Lifetime Achievement – Suzie Boss – Suzie Boss’s support and documentation of classroom teachers – within and outside my district – who are empowering their students through Project-Based Learning has been ongoing and far reaching. From her Edutopia posts to her publications, EdChats, Tweets, and presentations, Suzie is responsible for a growing bank of best practices in PBL and 21st century teaching and learning.

I know I’m missing a few categories, so if you have recommendations, please post a comment.

Be back soon.

 

 

Starting the Count Down to Digital Learning Day 2014

Starting the Count Down to Digital Learning Day 2014

Feb 5 = Nat'l DLD
Feb 5 = Nat’l DLD

February 5 marks the Alliance For Excellent Education’s 3rd annual national Digital Learning Day (DLD). I love the many ways the Digital Learning Day website and program encourages and showcases best practices in supporting students as digital learners and global citizens. The video below highlights the importance of digital learning from a student perspective, with a strong message that digital learning is no longer optional or simply an add-on:

 

If you are wondering how classrooms, school sites, and districts are participating in DLD, a great starting point is the Digital Learning Day Celebration Map, which includes a search bar and the registration form. As of today, Alabama, New Jersey, and California educators are the top contributors.

Of the many ways you and your students can participate in DLD, here are a few of my favorites:

 Another option we are offering through our Digital ID partnership with the California Writing Project is an #Upstanders Tweetout.

Wherever you are and however you involve your students in any of the above  or other DLD activities, please be sure to visit the DLD Map Celebration and enter your information.  I look forward to learning from and being inspired by a national network of DLD contributors!

NWP Radio – Sharing the Microphone with Student Upstanders

NWP Radio – Sharing the Microphone with Student Upstanders

It was my privilege to join NWP’s Paul Oh, Common Sense Media’s Merve Lapus, CWP’s Jayne Marlink, and my Digital ID joyce-frendelyco-curator Natalie Bernasconi for last night’s NWP Radio Talk Show discussion on California’s first-ever Digital Citizenship Month. The highlight for me was sharing the microphone with Valley High School seniors Joyce Joseph and Frendely Vang – two outstanding upstanders, who were willing to participate in the event – even though it was the night before their last day of high school!

nwp

Joyce and Frendely are upstanders in all the communities to which they belong.  From sharing their stories on the Upstanders, Not Bystanders VoiceThread to assisting with and participating in the making of the very powerful Teen Dating Violence PSA, these two cross the line on a regular basis to speak out for themselves and for others.

Like many of their classmates, Joyce and Frendely have had their share of challenges, challenges that are all too common in tougher neighborhoods and school communities.  They are both passionate on the importance on converting bystanders to upstanders. They have have made a difference at Valley High School.  They will make a difference as they move on to life after high school. Lucky me for having the opportunity to meet, work with, and co-present with Joyce and Frendely!

Back from NCTE 2012 Convention

Back from NCTE 2012 Convention

I’m back from a 5-day trip to Las Vegas, host site for the 2012 NCTE Annual Convention: Dream, Connect, Ignite. The opportunity to hangout with and learn from NWP and NCTE colleagues more than made up for having to traverse the ultra smoke-filled, incredibly noise-filled casinos that lay between the MGM Grand rooms and convention center.

I arrived in time for Thursday’s NWP Plenary session, where I joined a room full of educators “writing together, writing in the moment.” What better way to start a conference than with Tanya Baker’s words, which came to life each of the five days, that “I am smarter and better because of the many NWP mentors who continue to push me ahead, as a writer and as an educator.”

A few take-aways:

Thursday

  • Natalie Merchant’s Thursday Night Opener – My first conference take-way will actually go to my niece: Leave Your Sleep– Natalie Merchant’s collection of classic children’s poetry – put to music – which Natalie played for a delighted conference hall of English teachers, as she strolled through the gathering.

    NCTE 2012 Convention

Friday

  • Sir Ken Robinson’s Friday Keynote – Being a big fan of Sir Ken’s TED talks, it was a treat to see and hear him live. Three quotes I now carry with me:
    • on empathy (which is usually defined by what it is rather than its absence) “When you don’t have it, unimaginable things can happen.”
    • “Imagination is the heart of human life – from it springs set of competencies. Creativity = applied imagination.”
    • “Our resumes don’t come at birth – we earn them – we create them.”
  • Will Richardson’s (20 minute) Ignite Session – “Networks are the new classrooms…The network is more powerful than the node (e.g., Twitter)… The literacies, skills, dispositions have changed – we have to change too (from analog to digital). Connected teacher network graph by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach makes visible the need for us to stop being teachers and to start being learners. Our students need to see us as learners”
  • Stop the Bullying – Although I am deeply involved in this topic as a stepping stone into positive digital citizenship, I knew with this outstanding panel, I would walk away with new insights and resources.
    • Ferial Pearson – Reminded us of the power of pro-active vs. re-active  – and the value of spending the 1st week of school building community – with the result that students will understand what “respect” looks like.
    • Kevin Hodgson – I know that back at my district, I’ll be pulling from Kevin’s When Bullying Goes Digital Prezi, including his reference to Our Stories Count.
    • Kylene Beers – For all the times I’ve talked with students and staff about the need to “google well,” I can’t believe I haven’t also walked them through the steps for setting up a “Google alert” to notify them instantly when their names pop up in cyberspace. Great tip!
    • Lester Laminack – I can’t help thinking about the impact Lester’s Sticks and Stones Break Bones but Words Can Really Hurt You presentation could have on a faculty or student body as they plan their own anti-bullying campaigns. Such a compelling, gripping story.
    • Chris Crutcher – So sorry I couldn’t stay for Chris’s presentation.

Saturday

  • Meenoo Rami’s #engchat Tech-to-Go  session – If you haven’t been able to participate in the synchronous Twitter session, the good news is Meenoo is archiving the sessions. Meenoo recommends TweetChat for easy following and adding to #edchat discussions.
  • Chad Sansing and Andrea Zellner’s Hackjam Tech-to-‘Go session – So glad I was able to catch the last 10 minutes of their high-energy presentation, just in time to learn about Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker, a great free tool to “enhance, remix and share web video.”

Sunday

  • Reports from Cyberspace – It’s definitely worth getting up early on a Sunday morning when the session is co-hosted by Sara Kajder, Troy Hicks, and Bud Hunt!  Here are a few gems from each:
    • Bud – “If you don’t have a rationale for the (tech) tool, don’t use it”
    • Sara – In addition to exploring ways to use a Livescribe pen (to create “pencasts” of notes and audio, which can then be sent on to Evernote), SoundPaper (lets you create “talking labels”), and WeVideo (for book trailers), I’ll definitely be checking out Subtext (currently available as an iPad app, but scheduled to go live to the cloud), described by Sara as the “game changer” for having students collaboratively close read texts.
    • Troy – Five Ways to Destroy Digital Literacy:
      1. count slides, images, links – with a rubric reflecting that
      2. blog without blogging (wikis, docs, wiki) – instead of recognizing and tapping into the power  of connective writing.
      3. criticize “digitalk”  – instead of recogning the benefits of students “code switching” as described by Kristen Turner  – these kids are more digitally aware.
      4. ask only “googleable” questions – For example: Let me google that for you – http://lmgtfy.com/
      5. always be thinking about the “coolest” website app, or gadget – when instead, you could use Google docs to read, confer, respond with students).

Sunday (ACE workshop)

  • I wish Katherin Garland’s session on Prezi had been filmed.  In the Prezi workshops I’ll be doing back in my district, I will definitely draw on Kathrin’s reminder to “think conceptually” as I attempt to model her simple, elegant creation of a favorite author Prezi.
  • Thanks to Carey Applegate’s session on Storify, I’m now on board with this free tool for telling our stories. Carey posed the question, “How would your story change if you could bring in images, film, etc.?”  Carey’s example illustrates her question: http://storify.com/careyapplegate/breaking-canon.

There is nothing like the power of five days spent with 9,000 English teachers to truly “push me ahead.”  What I learned in Vegas will be reflected in my upcoming workshop.

I’m already looking ahead to next year’s event…in Boston!

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