Category Archives: Classroom Management

My Workspace(s): #EdublogsClub

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As part of my participation in the #EdublogsClub blogging challenge for educators, I’m writing this post in response to this week’s prompt to describe our classrooms, offices or other spaces in which we work.  While I do have an office in our “central district office”, I also spend a lot of time in our 5 school buildings where the teachers and students I support spend their days.  I spend time in other teachers’ classrooms, in the several computer labs in the schools, and even in the “teacher workrooms” and libraries of the buildings where I sometimes set up a temporary office from which to work!  Much of my job does NOT rely on a specific physical space.  For example, as I write the first draft of this post, I’m sitting in the teacher workroom of a school building 40 miles from my office at the central district office building.  I had 3 short support meetings with teachers in this building earlier today and later on I’ll be meeting with another one about how our 1:1 iPad program can be even more effective for her students.  During this “down time” between my formal meetings, I’ve set up shop on a table where teachers eat lunch in the room where they make copies.  I’ve answered some emails, enrolled new students into software programs that I manage and I’ve spent a little time reviewing new posts on blogs I like to follow using Feedly, a reader to help manage my time.   And now I’m taking a few minutes to write the first draft of this blog post!

But the photos I’m including are snapped from my desk.  The top photo is a bulletin board that has turned in to a make-shift “motivation” board.  The pictures of my family and co-workers show some of the important people in my life!  But the quotes I have on there are even more helpful to see into who I am and what is important for me.  Here are a few of them typed out in case you can’t read them all in the photo:

  • Pencil Labs?????  (This was a motivation for why we needed to implement a 1:1 technology program that has been on my board for several years.  We have had iPads for all students K-12 for several years now, but I still like the analogy.  Would you tell teachers and students that they had to “go to the lab” each time they needed to use a pencil????)
  • You can’t get to outer space in a rowboat. (This one is just to remember that we need to pick the right tool for what we want kids to be able to learn and do.  And it can be important for kids to learn to pick their own tool.
  • Write! Write poorly. Write poorly in public until you get better! (Just motivation and challenge to continue to try to update my blog without my hangup of perfection before publication.)
  • The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything. (I’d love perfect technology resources, perfect policies, perfect colleagues, perfect students. But we can do good things without a perfect situation, so we should!)
  • No Heroes! (I need to embrace growth in other people and take the position that it shows growth for our district when “I” become needed less for technology support.)
  • Leadership is about creating other leaders.  (When I left the classroom and took my position as a technology integration specialist, I viewed myself more as a support person rather than a leader.  And I still see the line as blurred between the two for my responsibilities.  But when I read this thought somewhere, I knew that it was definitely part of my duty to our district and to the students in our district and to our profession.  One person cannot make a big enough difference without spreading their influence!)
  • Good teaching may overcome a poor choice of technology, but  technology will never save bad teaching. (So important.  This supports the premise that “technology amplifies,” as well:  when a teacher is provided good technology their skills will be amplified:  teachers with good pedagogical foundation have a new creative tool in their tool belt, but teachers with poor pedagogy who don’t know how to manage kids or handle unexpected events technology can make that even more obvious. So if your goal is to support successful technology integration, it must also be to support the development of sound pedagogy in the teaching staff, as well.  And if technology doesn’t make the impact you wish it would, you sometimes have to be willing to look more deeply into the reasons why.)
  • Am I part of the problem or part of the solution? Do I focus on the obstacles of my job or on the opportunities? Do I make excuses or do I set a positive example for others? Do colleagues and students see me as being full of enthusiasm or full of something else? Do I brighten up my schools when I enter them or when I leave them? (I can’t recall where I came across these questions, but I hope my constant reflection upon them helps me stay a positive influence!)
  • Economically disadvantaged students, who often use the computer for remediation and basic skills, learn to do what the computer tells them, while more affluent students, who use it to learn programming and tool applications, learn to tell the computer what to do. (Neuman, D. (1991). Technology and equity. Available at http://www.ericdigests.org/1992-5/equity.htm and first read by me at Dangerously Irrelevant, a blog I really appreciate!  I think this quote leads nicely to this one last “image” I’m including that is a thought I try to keep to the forefront when I work with teachers on how to integrate technology:  I want them to create!!  Not just to consume!  And I sort of love that in this photo you see the green-painted dowel rods that I have for working with green-screen projects with kids!)

Talk to me:  What do you think of the quotes on my  motivation board?  Do any resonate with you?  Do any offend you?  What quotes keep YOU going?  🙂

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Google Classroom Video Resource: Sharing!

Here is a Great video on using Google Classroom!

In today’s blog post, I’m sharing a video I ran across through a useful resource I use to learn about Google Tools:  www.thegooru.com.  I’m often asked by staff to show them quickly how to use Google Classroom, but this tool has become more than a “quick share,” so I’m hoping that being able to help folks create their first classroom and then sending them to this blog post will be useful!

This video is about 50 minutes long, but you can forward through the first part of the video because this is a recording of a live webinar and the first 6  minutes (or so) are the presenter inviting the live viewers to join his Google Classroom account so they have live participation.  As a viewer of the archived video, I just suggest you forward in the video to about 6:15 and start it there.  (This should make the viewing length about 45 minutes total.)  The video was published in September of 2015, so as of today, it is pretty current on what Google Classroom can do.)

iPad Timer and Timer+ Video Review

Classroom teachers use timers all the time. I used to keep a stopwatch AND a kitchen timer on my desk when I taught middle and elementary school. In my science classes, I often needed multiple timers for each group to time experiments. I was also NOTORIOUS for being the teacher whose class was late to “specials” like music, library, art and PE. (I started life as a middle school teacher who lived by bells . . . then moved to an elementary building where each teacher’s schedule was so unique they had to get their classes where they needed to go on their own time!! What an adjustment THAT was!) So timers are a valuable resource in my eyes. Here is a short video reminding readers that the iPad operating system has a nice built-in timer/stopwatch as part of the Clock app, and also a review of an alternative timer app, Timer+ that I think is worthwhile.

If you’re interested in trying Timer+ link to it in the App Store here!

Reflections from a Twitter Chat: Connected Educator Month

As part of my “celebration” of October as Connected Educator Month, I thought I would post a short reflection following my Saturday morning Twitter chat today. I like to participate in #SatChat which occurs every Saturday morning at 6:30 am Central Time (where I live). It’s pretty early, but I’m a morning person, so I’m already “up” if not fully awake…a couple little dogs are on a morning routine that helps ensure that I’m ready to go when 6:30 rolls around. So I grab my coffee and log in to HootSuite, the tool I like to use to more easily follow the chat messages as they come in. This morning, I just climbed back in bed with my laptop and participated in my pjs…now that is some convenient professional learning, right there!

As I was participating in today’s topic of “Game Changers,” I was challenged by some of the questions the moderator posed, especially Q2: How does your philosophy of education impact student success? and Q4: Does your philosophy of education make you a game changer? So I thought about how I could have an increased impact and be more of a game changer. This reflection combined with Connected Educator challenges I’ve been working on resulted in a conviction to be more reflective and regular in my blogging practices. I frequently share things from my Saturday morning Twitter chats with individual teachers or administrators in our district, but I don’t know if I have ever actually blogged my reflections for all to see. Who knows…maybe someone, somewhere will read my reflection and be challenged to impact students under their direction in a positive way. So, here is my first post reflecting personally on #SatChat October 18, 2014:

Game changers are important to keep education moving because the world is constantly changing. We’ve all seen the quotes about how industry has changed so much in the last 100 years, but if a teacher from 100 years ago walked in to a school or classroom, they would know just what to do because education has changed very little while other industries have been through total transformations. I hope in the schools I support, a similar transformation is starting. We don’t need to change everything…just the things that are not the BEST. Keep what’s best and change the rest.

A couple of quick resources to share that I gleaned from this morning’s chat:

1.  An article to read about Rigor:  22 Ways to Add Rigor to Your Classroom

Although the term “rigor” is not a new one, the emphasis on rigor in education today is high.  We see it mentioned in new standards, new teacher evaluation tools, and lots of educational commentary.  I like the definition of Rigor from  The Glossary of Education Reform which includes this phrase:

” instruction, schoolwork,learning experiences, and educational expectations that are academically, intellectually, and personally challenging”

You can read the whole article explaining rigor here:  http://edglossary.org/rigor/

2.  A blog post that could challenge you, but also might help you maintain sanity as a teacher:  Buried Alive:  A Cautionary Tale about Piles of Work

In this post, Starr Sackstein reflects on sharing responsibility with students as a way to both empower students AND maintain a reasonable work load for the teacher.  While she is a journalism teachers, her post has relevance for teachers of all subjects.

In the future, I’ll try to be more reflective following my Saturday morning Twitter chats, so that others can also benefit from my early, weekend morning forays into professional learning in my pajamas!

Digital Camera Image

Power Up! Conference: Let the Sharing Out Begin . . . Digital Images

Digital Camera Image

Used from http://pics4learning.com/details.php?img=2009digitalcamera.jpg

In early December, I spent two days at a great conference put on by SDE titled Power Up! which focused on lots of great technology integration ideas.  I had the pleasure of attending with two great elementary teachers from one of our district’s buildings and I’m excited to work with them to implement a few of the ideas we brainstormed while we were at the conference together.

One of the things that I was motivated to do as a result of the conference was to dedicate myself again to sharing more information out through my blog.  So for the next couple of weeks, and through the Christmas break, I’m going to try to be faithful about writing blog posts and promoting my blog to our staff a little bit more.  (Hopefully I can develop this into more of a habit!)  The content I’m going to focus on for these next few weeks is going to cover the main points and resources I came away from the Power Up! conference.  So . . . here is my first “share out” from this conference:

“Engaging Students with Digital Images” was the title of one the sessions I attended.  Gail Lovely presented this session that really has application for all educators no matter what the grade level or subject matter or type of students in your classroom.  Some main points from the session that I think are worth being reminded of:

  • Images add context to anything students read (handouts, presentations you’re using to deliver instruction, etc.)
  • Images prompt students to question what they read/hear, to reflect on what they read/hear
  • Images can help build a common background before instruction
  • Pictures can help students understand your expectations
  • VERY IMPORTANT:  Teach students at ALL grade levels to use images legally and give credit for images not their own when used in any way.  Model this!
  • Learn what Creative Commons means and teach kids to look for images that are free to use with creative commons rights
  • Model using pictures with permission and citations in your presentations to kids.

Some specific examples of how images can be important in your classroom using the ideas above:

  • If you’re delivering instruction using PowerPoint or another presentation tool, carefully select the images you include.  They should just be humorous or pretty.  They should support the ideas…ask yourself before adding an image…will this picture help kids with no exposure to this topic, better understand this information?…will this picture prompt the class to ask questions around this topic? …will this picture encourage deeper thinking about the information I’m presenting?
  • To use images to teach classroom behavior and social expectations, ask students to help you “set up” and take pictures of the right and wrong way to do things.  Take a picture (or video) of kids lining up the right way and show to your class compared with a picture of a class lined up the wrong way.  Show a picture beside a center of what the “cleaned up” center should look like before students leave for the day.  Show pictures of how students should look when they are paying attention to the teacher, when they are working with a partner, when they are working in small groups.  Discuss body language in the pictures and how it affects the dynamics of the classroom settings.
  • Teach students to properly identify and cite where an image comes from.  If used from the internet, when you ask a student where they got a picture…the answer is NOT Google.  Just like you don’t “live in the phone book,” a pictures doesn’t “live at Google.”  It has a specific web address (URL), and that is what should be used for citations.    When students want to use a picture in a project, teach them to FIRST copy the URL and create the citation, THEN copy the picture they want to use.
Related Links to check out from this session:
Places to safely search for image:
http://pics4learning.com  searchable by categories (safe and free image library for education)
http://arkive.org (animals only, but also contains information)
http://edupic.net (all pictures here are posted with permission to use for education)
http://www.google.com/advanced_image_search   If you must use Google to search for images, teach kids to use the Advance Image Search and to be sure to select to limit the search results to those images labeled for reuse and allowed to be modified if your project requires that.  The direct link to the advanced search link isn’t on their images page anymore, so you may have to teach kids to type it.
Online Photo Editing
http://www.picnik.com/ No account required!  Upload your photo make basic edits and download the edited image back to your computer!  Easier than Photoshop!
Links I’m excited to try but haven’t had time yet:
http://minus.com/  I haven’t created an account here yet, but I’m excited to try it.  Looks like a great place for uploading your own photos and then allowing others to download them for use.
http://photopeach.com/  Most excited about this because I heard that you can burn a slideshow to a DVD format here!  I do think it will require a premium, paid account to do, but I’m still excited to give it a try.
http://www.fotobabble.com/  Record audio to narrate your photos.
http://blabberize.com/ Take a photo and make it talk!
Image Citations for this Blog Post:
Digital Camera in upper left corner:  Oro, Ann. 2009digitalcamera.jpg. August 11, 2007. Pics4Learning. 14 Dec 2011 <http://pics.tech4learning.com>

Jeff Utecht: Community Trumps Content

I sometimes review manuscripts for publishing companies, and I’ve had the pleasure of recently reviewing one that mentioned Jeff Utecht’s Ted Talk titled “Community Trumps Content.” He does an excellent job of bringing to the forefront the idea that schools are trying to keep kids away from the social aspect of today’s technology when, in reality, that very social aspect is what can draw kids to technology and its application in education. Here is the video from YouTube:
Continue reading

Alternatives to YouTube…potential and pitfalls

As in many districts around the world, the administration of our school district here in Kansas sees too great a risk in allowing students to have full access to the videos hosted at YouTube.  Several teachers, however, have found value in using carefully selected videos to supplement their curriculum.  The use of video is an illustration that the teacher is addressing multiple learning styles and that they are using all available means to motivate and instruct their students.  But allowing teachers and students to have access to the educational content on YouTube also increases the risk that students will inadvertently (or purposefully) access inappropriate video content through the site.

So I’m please to suggest the use of two different alternatives to YouTube that are more closely controlled and (at least as of this posting) are currently “allowed” within our district.  TeacherTube and SchoolTube are both alternatives that I would be comfortable using.  I’m personally more familiar with SchoolTube, simply because I created an account there as a moderator.  The process took about 24 – 48 hours for me to register and  them to “approve” my status.  I’ve uploaded three projects that I worked on with SES 1st graders this past year.  The students read a Jan Bret book “The Mitten” back during the cold winter months.  They brainstormed with their classroom teacher things that make them warm like the animals in the story.  Then they planned and took digital pictures of one another with their “warm” items.  I put the pictures together into PhotoStory 3, a free downloadable application.  Then I went into their classrooms with my laptop and projector and we had a short lesson on writing interesting, descriptive sentences before they wrote captions for their movies.  I added some copyright-free background music with the built-in PhotoStory 3 tools, and saved them as a Windows Media File movie.  A quick upload to SchoolTube means that no files storage space on our district servers is required!  I’ve embedded the videos below this post.  This was my first attempt, and it was quick and painless, though I’m sure you experienced movie critics out there can find flaws and make suggestions for improvement!

The use of the “moderated” video sites will solve some of the problems teachers were running into with being “blocked” out of YouTube.  However, the one problem YouTube causes for large networks that will NOT be resolved is the issue of bandwidth used when videos are shown from these sites.  Even one single user allowing the video to stream in from SchoolTube, TeacherTube or any similar service, will use large amounts of bandwidth and thus, take resources away from other users on the network.  If a whole lab of students is using a site like that, a sudden slow down of resources can be debilitating.  So even though there are appropriate alternatives, teachers need to take caution to make sure only critical videos are being used during school hours when others are also needing bandwidth.

OK…here are the embedded videos our first-graders made this past year.  Click on the black box to find the play button.

Teaching Web Searching Strategies

Teaching web searching skills is an important part of supporting students.  When the web was new and none of our students had access to it at home, we teachers would never dream of sending young people to the computer lab to do research without giving them instructions on using the Internet to search for resources.  Today, our kids are 100 times more comfortable using the computer and the Internet, but they still waste a lot of time searching when they could be more efficient with 30 minutes of instruction on web-search strategies.  Following how to “search” should come some direct instruction on how to “evaluate” what you find.  There are getting to be more and more poor resources on the Internet all the time.  Teaching kids to critically anaylze what they find is important, too.  This video from Common Craft is a short, high-interest intro (about 3 minutes) to help kids focus their searching skills.

A fun lesson that I’ve used in the past to emphasize the need for critical evaluation is to send students to some “fake” websites and pretend to be impressed by new information or new product that you “just heard about” on the web.  Education World has a great comprehensive list of good sites here. (My personal favorites are the Endangered Tree Octopus and DiHydrogen Monoxide.  After a few minutes of impressing the kids, explain that these are all fake sites that look great, but the information on them is totally bogus.  I’ve had several teachers in workshops over the years who just can’t believe that they would “allow” such false information on the web!

However we go about it, it is important that we don’t assume that young people know everything about the Internet and how to use it efficiently just because they can navigate it easily.  We can still improve their ability to work efficiently and to think critically if we spend a little time at it!

Tech Tip of the Week: Word Talk Text Reader for Word

WordTalk is a resource I’ve just been reviewing that I feel is worth sharing for those that haven’t used it.  The free download is an add-on toolbar to Microsoft Word that allows the user to read aloud the words in any Word document.  Once the download is installed the Word toolbar looks something like this:

This toolbar appears in Word once the download is installed.

The various tools allow the user to have read aloud individual words, sentences or paragraphs while the word is highlighted with your choice of color.  While it has the same downfall of all speech readers that the voice is a bit mechanical and it doesn’t recognize unusual names, I see great value in using this with students who have the need to have text read aloud.  The other feature that is valuable in this tool is its ability to read back to students as they key text into Microsoft Word while they compose at the keyboard.

The WordTalk website is easy to use, and the download only took a few moments and a restart of my computer to complete.  There was a great illustrated QuickGuide available on their website, too!

If you’re in my school district and would like to see how this program works or would like to have help installing on your machine, let me know!

Tech Tip of the Week: Kick You Tube

Kick YouTube!

Most school districts are being true to their efforts to do what’s best for kids and are choosing to use a web filter of some type that blocks inappropriate content. Unfortunately, this often means that great, motivating tools that have wonderful educational potential often also get blocked because the users can’t keep it “clean.” Yes, I’m talking about YouTube! There’s not a tech-savvy teacher out there who hasn’t seen a YouTube video that would be perfect to motivate the video generation that we all deal with today. But finding a way to show the video in your classroom is a nightmare…and if you’re smart enough and have enough time (and fast enough internet connection at home) you can get the video but it hasn’t been easy to do….until now! Follow these steps and downloading, saving and replaying that valuable YouTube video in your classroom is just a few clicks away:

  1. Go to YouTube and find and preview the video you want to teach with.
  2. Place your curser just in front of the word YouTube in the web address.  (where the asterisk is in this address:  www.*youtube.com
  3. Insert the word kick just in front of YouTube. (should look like:  www.kickyoutube.com/blah/blah/blah   where blah/blah/blah is the name of the video you want)
  4. Hit the Enter key…you’re now at KickYouTube’s website and you can follow directions to download the desired video.

Need pictures or more details?  Here is a link to more complete directions with images.  If you happen to work for my district . . . give me a call and I’ll walk you through this in person the first time you do it!

Grab a flash drive or explore an earlier post I made about drop.io to make transporting your downloaded video easy!