Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sharing is good and kind and right!

As long as I've been teaching I've been trying to find ways for teachers to share what they are doing. Yes, I knew it made sense for us to use technology to help each other avoid recreating the wheel. I knew my colleagues had wonderful, creative ideas and if we could carve out time, they might share a folder crammed full of student samples. As a new teacher, my motivation was not purely for the greater good. I needed help! I needed ideas!

My first career in technology had shown me that there were many efficient and effective ways to share information. Using wikispaces, I created wikis for each grade level I taught. No one but me contributed content. I co-created a Ning to share PD discoveries across our small district. We got up to 39 members, of which about 1/3 were contributors.

Then I moved to a new district. I was pleased to see there were servers for sharing data which were regularly used by all staff! However, the files are not really owned or maintained which makes it somewhat challenging to find what you are looking for.

Last year I joined a group of six women in a 1:1 iPad pilot and we started out using Edmodo extensively to share experiences and information. We put some information in folders but the folders didn't meet our needs. We still rely on Edmodo for communication. We also created a wiki for our iPad ideas.

Still, though, it seemed that our collaboration was limited to a small group of early adopters and innovators. Earlier this week I was sitting in a meeting and we were talking about some of the creative implementations of GLAD (Guided Language Acquisition Design) strategies in our district. We talked about the irony that a program so rich in visuals did not have any visuals on their website. We brainstormed ways to share our ideas and of course, I suggested a wiki. My fellow 5th grade teacher, Nina, suggested Pinterest. She hadn't used it but it 'seemed reasonable'...Reasonable? Brilliant!




I went home, created a GLAD board on Pinterest, added pictures from my classroom and shared it with a few teachers. All of a sudden I had teachers from every school in my district contributing to the board. We are sharing ideas and connecting using tools that were already being used socially.
It seems so obvious now.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, January 14, 2013

Seattle Teachers Announce Boycott Of Standardized Test

This is taken directly from NEA Opening Bell

The Christian Science Monitor (1/12, Paton) reports, "Forty-five minutes after school let out Thursday afternoon, 19 teachers here at Seattle's Garfield High School worked their way to the front of an already-crowded classroom, then turned, leaned their backs against the wall of whiteboards, and fired the first salvo of open defiance against high-stakes standardized testing in America's public schools." The Monitor reports that the teachers announced at a press event that they are refusing to administer the state's Measures of Academic Progress test, arguing that it "wastes time, money, and dwindling school resources." Noting that the test is used for teacher evaluations, adding, "Garfield's civil yet disobedient faculty appears to be the first group of teachers nationally to defy district edicts concerning a standardized test, but the backlash against high-stakes testing has been percolating in other parts of the country."
Valerie Strauss writes at the Washington Post (1/11) "Answer Sheet" blog that the teachers "have decided to refuse to give mandated standardized district tests called the Measures of Academy Progress because, they say, the exams don't evaluate learning and are a waste of time. Now teachers at a second Seattle school, Ballard High, said they were joining the boycott, according to the Seattle Education website." According to the teachers' statement, "they oppose the MAP because it is a flawed test that students don't take seriously and that is being used by administrators to evaluate teachers, a purpose for which it was not designed."


Awesome!

We know that common core is the direction we are headed, critical thinking is valued and how students think about and arrive at an answer is as important as the answer (if not more so). And we still take multiple guess tests that oh, by the way, stress our kids, cost money and take time away from learning because...why?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, January 13, 2013

2013 goal 3: Use and inspire positive language and outlook



This year I set five goals. The third of which is to use and inspire positive language and outlook in my classroom and my life. When my first niece, Cynde, was born 34 years ago, I realized the huge responsibility of being an aunt. I could remember words that my own aunts had used when I was a child. I knew that someday my darling niece would remember something, anything, that I said to her. I knew I couldn't predict what she would or wouldn't remember, so I better be sure it was all good. Not that it was, I'm sure I made mistakes and faux pas along the way, but just thinking about my words was a good start. Fast forward 20+ years to when I decided to become a teacher. That responsibility I felt as an aunt was now multiplied by the 30 minds I'd be reaching every year in my classroom. I continue to be awed by the trust these children put in me. As I entered my seventh year teaching this fall, I found myself getting a little more cynical and a little more sarcastic. I don't want to be "that teacher" and so, my goal to be more positive.

Anyone who has known me a while will tell you I am generally a positive, optimistic person. It drives DH nuts when we are driving and someone cuts him off and I say, "oh honey, maybe he is on the way to the hospital because his wife is having a baby!" I give blood frequently with my dear sister-friend. We both have the same, rare-ish blood time and we remind the blood suckers at Red Cross, B+: it's not just a blood type, it's an attitude. So it is in my nature to be positive, but I still need a little help now and then.

Over winter break, I started reading Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives by Peter H. Johnston. Reading this book has helped me really focus in on my choice of words and to think about the impact on my students of my words, tone, and non-verbal forms of communication. I want my legacy to be one of creating a joy of learning and a respect for life in all of my students. If that is the legacy I hope to create, I need to work on it every day.

January finds our school community focusing on the life skill of kindness. My students have decided to create in our classroom a Kindness Project. We have brainstormed ways that we hear and see kindness. We are creating kindness icons and we are practicing words and actions to create a habit of kindness. I am so excited that my students are joining me on this journey!




Artwork by ERM, 3rd grade, created using tagxedo and skitch. Thank you!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Teachers who Need Teachers...


...are the luckiest teachers... I was honored to read what ├╝ber blogger +Vicki Davis  wrote about my year-end reflections and me in her blog. I saw Vicki present to a large room at CUE a few years back and have followed her work ever since. She is an inspiring lady and frankly it's quite humbling to think I could inspire her.

I love what she says about teachers supporting and encouraging each other, too often I have seen quite the opposite - passive aggression towards teachers who do things differently. We encourage our children to embrace diversity, let's do the same. Indeed, draw strength from each other! Teaching can be a lonely profession, without a lot of genuine adult contact. Rather than spend our time in the staff room griping, as my friend +Michael Bobrowicz  put it, let's spend our valuable moments together building each other up, sharing successes, learning from each other. We need each other, to learn from, to lean on and to grow with!

And in an act of shameless self promotion, I am sharing Vicki's comments here:

IN her final set of reflections, Sandy uses a new feature, that of Google plus tagging in a blogger blog, which is how I found what she wrote! IF you use blogger, use the plus and tag people and we'll find you more easily than the traffic type things. Finally an advantage for being on blogger besides just tight integration with Google.

I love how her work with edtech and ipads is part of what she's done. With all she's been through: layoffs, cancer, adding onto her house - I think I've found a new hero and definitely someone I"ve added to my PLN. I've known of her work, but now I"m a fan.

Sometimes, when you open up, share and reflect, you connect on a deeper, more personal level than if you pretend like life is perfect. TEachers, lets stick together and encourage each other.

Even more inspirational, here Sandy shares how she worked hard to find a place where students are treated with compassion and inclusion and how she found someone to work with her. She also built onto her house and had surgery on a thyroid tumor. I think that some people think that innovators have it easy and they'll just work when it is easier. Sandy didn't have it easy at all and look at what she's done. I find her reflections so heartwarming and hope some of you will share your stories. We should draw strength from one another.

Sandy McConnell has created a nice set of reflections for 2012, something I think all admins should want their teachers to do, where she shared her views, what she has done, and how she's improved. Such retrospection on a year is a powerful way to mark learning and remember. She's done so many things, but particularly I like how she didn't let the fact that she was temporarily laid off stop her from learning and moving forward. IF you're having a tough time, you might want to read what Sandy is and has done. She inspires me. Wow. I"ll link to all of her sets, because I"d like you to read them all.

Friday, January 4, 2013

#EdTech Reflections from 2012


It's the beginning of a new year, a time for looking back and a time for crystal ball gazing. On twitter +Vicki Davis,  suggested: Write a 2012 year in review about what you've done, where you've been, and the joys of the year. Take time to remember. In honor of 2012, I reflected on on my top 12 highlights from the year. As I am continually trying for life/work balance, some of the highlights are related to my teaching practice, and some are purely personal. All 12 can be found on my life+teaching blog, but since five of them are related in some way to our iPad Academy adventures, I am sharing them here, too.


1. iPads in the classroom: In March, I applied to and was accepted into the iPad Action Research Academy  in our school district. We received our class set of iPads in April and my students have been engaged ever since. I started a blog to keep track of our experiences and have had the opportunity to work with an amazing team of innovators as we have pioneered use of this technology in our district. As a group we have used a wiki and primarily Edmodo to communicate, problem solve and collaborate. It really has been a game changer for me, my students and my colleagues.

5. Since I have started teaching, I have been lucky to work with some amazing educators whose focus is special needs kids: Bill Theimann, Linda Bruton, Julie Paolini and a supportive staff and administration.  I had just assumed that their approach of compassion, inclusion and treating all students as learners was the norm.  When I left SUSD I found that was not the case. However, I was brilliantly lucky to be placed in a room next door to the new SDC teacher, Sheila Monger. Monger, an inclusion specialist, shares my views and passion for creating a seamless education environment where all students learning needs are met.  This school year, I am teaching a 4+5 combo and Monger is teaching 2+3+4+5. Having more of an overlap has opened the doors for more integration and inclusion.  Together, we are gradually breaking down barriers and opening doors for opportunity for teachers, administration and students look at learning a new way.http://mrsmcconnellsblog.blogspot.com/2012/05/technology-and-inclusive-education.html 




8.  Education + Technology = #EdTech: When I decided to become a teacher, my vision was to use what I had learned "in the real world" to help me be a better teacher.  I have worked hard, and spent a lot of my own time and money, to find meaningful ways to bring technology into the classroom to provide my students with authentic learning experiences.  When I had to leave SUSD, I was afraid I'd have to start from zero to re-establish myself as a technology leader with my new district. At my age, (really at any age) starting from zero seems like a grand waste of time.  One of my favorite expressions is that I'd rather ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.  As a manager, I respected the initiative that showed. As a teacher I appreciate the perceived independence, even though I know it can sometimes frustrate my principals.  So, I just did what I do and kept my principal informed.  Through programs like CreaTV and the iPad Academy, I have been able to flex my tech muscles while providing our students with unique learning opportunities. I have also been in a position to help develop other teachers as they learn how to use technology to become more efficient and effective educators. In January, +sheila monger  and I were honored with a Good Apple Award by our school board and recognized for our contribution in the area of educational technology.  I am very proud of the work we have done to help teachers and students use technology in meaningful ways.

10.  In October of this year I applied to and was accepted into another academy at our district. Cambrian and others use the academy model as a choice method for professional development (see page 32).  This time it is the Digital Media Academy.  I saw this as a great opportunity to merge my work with CreaTV and classroom learning using digital media.  Our students have started out by producing short PSAs  addressing personal concerns such as playground safety, littering, and bullying.  We have been able to use student created content on our monthly television show on CreaTV, Comcast channel 28,  Around Bagby.  Our students are becoming better planners, writers, problem solvers, communicators and collaborators.

12. Assessment. As I started this year end review with iPads, I'm ending with them.  While initially I used the iPads for student engagement and learning, I also used student work on the iPads for informal assessment.  However, I wanted to learn more (and still do) about ways I can use the devices to effectively assess student learning.  In August, with the help of +Jill Florant  at Edmodo, I started using Edmodo not only to communicate with my parents and students but also to assess their learning. I started using assessments and quizzes. Parents are able to see their child's progress and it really has improved the home-school connection.  In addition to Edmodo, I also started using Class Dojo for behavior management.  The kids love their avatars and work hard for positive behavior reports.  This fall I used adopt-a-classroom to generate crowd-funding for SpellingCity and our collaborative weather project.  SpellingCity helps administer spelling practice activities and tests, grades the tests and provides useful reports to me and the parents.  In 2013 I plan to further investigate and utilize methods for assessing student learning and engagement on iPads.

Happy New Year!

Top 12 Reflections on 2012 - conclusion


And in conclusion... my final 5 of 12 reflections on 2012, some personal, some professional, all combining to make me, well, me!

Write a 2012 year in review about what you've done, where you've been, and the joys of the year. Take time to remember. +Vicki Davis 



8.  Education + Technology = #EdTech: When I decided to become a teacher, my vision was to use what I had learned "in the real world" to help me be a better teacher.  I have worked hard, and spent a lot of my own time and money, to find meaningful ways to bring technology into the classroom to provide my students with authentic learning experiences.  When I had to leave SUSD, I was afraid I'd have to start from zero to re-establish myself as a technology leader with my new district. At my age, (really at any age) starting from zero seems like a grand waste of time.  One of my favorite expressions is that I'd rather ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.  As a manager, I respected the initiative that showed. As a teacher I appreciate the perceived independence, even though I know it can sometimes frustrate my principals.  So, I just did what I do and kept my principal informed.  Through programs like CreaTV and the iPad Academy, I have been able to flex my tech muscles while providing our students with unique learning opportunities. I have also been in a position to help develop other teachers as they learn how to use technology to become more efficient and effective educators. In January, +sheila monger  and I were honored with a Good Apple Award by our school board and recognized for our contribution in the area of educational technology.  I am very proud of the work we have done to help teachers and students use technology in meaningful ways.


9. Walking Compassion: 2012 marked the 11th year of my involvement in endurance fundraising walks to help raise awareness and money to fight breast cancer.  My cousin Sue did the first 3-Day from SJ to SF in 2000. My mother-in-law was battling breast cancer, so in 2001 I decided to do the 3 day.  In May of that year, Alice McConnell lost her battle, but I've kept fighting for her. Since I started walking, my friends, teammates and I have raised well over $50,000 to help fund mammograms, education and research.  Of course, you'll know where to find me September 28-28!  Walk on!

10.  In October of this year I applied to and was accepted into another academy at our district. Cambrian and others use the academy model as a choice method for professional development (see page 32).  This time it is the Digital Media Academy.  I saw this as a great opportunity to merge my work with CreaTV and classroom learning using digital media.  Our students have started out by producing short PSAs  addressing personal concerns such as playground safety, littering, and bullying.  We have been able to use student created content on our monthly television show on CreaTV, Comcast channel 28,  Around Bagby.  Our students are becoming better planners, writers, problem solvers, communicators and collaborators.

11. Friends: I can't name every moment that a friend was there when I needed them this year or I'd use up the internet :^)  My family of choice, those I am related to by blood and those I choose to have in my life, truly do complete me. This year I was fortunate enough to have many opportunities to be with people I love. I walked and golfed and even had a golf-a-pallooza clinic in April. I was overwhelmed by the support I received during my surgery and recuperation, especially from two of my best friends, Linda and my husband, Jim. We shared happy times, including the birth of my newest nephew and cheering on the Giants and we cried together in sad times, saying goodbye to loved ones who died suddenly.  My friendships mean so much to me and none more than the strong bond with my girls.  Kathy, Mary, Linda and I have been friends together since Junior High.  We have seen each other though children and deaths and marriages and divorces and everything in between.  No year would be complete without Girls' Christmas, celebrated in Monterey this year. I am so grateful and blessed!

12. Assessment. As I started this year end review with iPads, I'm ending with them.  While initially I used the iPads for student engagement and learning, I also used student work on the iPads for informal assessment.  However, I wanted to learn more (and still do) about ways I can use the devices to effectively assess student learning.  In August, with the help of +Jill Florant  at Edmodo, I started using Edmodo not only to communicate with my parents and students but also to assess their learning. I started using assessments and quizzes. Parents are able to see their child's progress and it really has improved the home-school connection.  In addition to Edmodo, I also started using Class Dojo for behavior management.  The kids love their avatars and work hard for positive behavior reports.  This fall I used adopt-a-classroom to generate crowd-funding for SpellingCity and our collaborative weather project.  SpellingCity helps administer spelling practice activities and tests, grades the tests and provides useful reports to me and the parents.  In 2013 I plan to further investigate and utilize methods for assessing student learning and engagement on iPads.

So, with number 12, I will put 2012 behind me.  The advice to sit and reflect was good. Now I realize why I am so tired!  It was a great year, but one with lots of pain and sadness, too.  

I don't make resolutions, once you break them - it's like a pass to be bad the rest of the year. Instead, I set goals which I work on throughout the year.  This year's goals? Enjoy life deeper, sweeter, healthier, happier, with gratitude. Specifically:

  1. Live a Healthier life with balance - Spend more quality time with family

  2. Research and implement ways to measure effectiveness of edtech in my classroom

  3. Use and inspire positive language, outlook - in my classroom and my life

  4. Declutter - mentally and physically

  5. Utilize Effective & efficient assessment and demonstration of learning on iPads
Happy New Year!




Thursday, January 3, 2013

My Top 12 Reflections on 2012, pt. 2


To continue with my reflections, here are three more highlights.

5. Since I have started teaching, I have been lucky to work with some amazing educators whose focus is special needs kids: Bill Theimann, Linda Bruton, Julie Paolini and a supportive staff and administration.  I had just assumed that their approach of compassion, inclusion and treating all students as learners was the norm.  When I left SUSD I found that was not the case. However, I was brilliantly lucky to be placed in a room next door to the new SDC teacher, Sheila Monger. Monger, an inclusion specialist, shares my views and passion for creating a seamless education environment where all students learning needs are met.  This school year, I am teaching a 4+5 combo and Monger is teaching 2+3+4+5. Having more of an overlap has opened the doors for more integration and inclusion.  Together, we are gradually breaking down barriers and opening doors for opportunity for teachers, administration and students look at learning a new way.http://mrsmcconnellsblog.blogspot.com/2012/05/technology-and-inclusive-education.html 

6. No year is complete without the McConnells doing some construction project and this year was no different.  After years of replacing umbrellas and awnings, I scoured pinterest for ideas for an outdoor room.  In May we met with a brilliant young contractor, Brett Stocks, of Haven Homes and he immediately got my vision.  Soon a structure emerged which I am pretty sure would survive a 8.0 earthquake.  WIth our new outdoor room, we have expanded our living space for most of the year. The room gave a more intimate feel to my parents 80s party and we've enjoyed many meals in our new outdoor dining room.  In fact we had New Year's Day brunch outside!

7. After months of inconclusive biopsies, in mid-July I had to have surgery for an atypical and inconclusive tumor on my thyroid.  Having never had a serious illness or condition, this was quite new for me. Nothing your read or hear can really ever prepare you for the sensation.  For about four weeks I recovered in the comfort of our new outdoor space and I am happy to report that while I am still atypical and often inconclusive, my thyroid, what's left of it, is just fine, thank you.

My Top 12 Reflections on 2012 pt. 1


It's the beginning of a new year, a time for looking back and a time for crystal ball gazing. On twitter Vicki Davis, @coolcatteacher suggested: Write a 2012 year in review about what you've done, where you've been, and the joys of the year. Take time to remember.  So I decided to gather my thoughts and reflect on 2012 before embarking on the adventure and promise of a new year. In honor of 2012, I'm working on my top 12 highlights from the year. As I am continually trying for life/work balance, some of the highlights are related to my teaching practice, and some are purely personal. Here are the first four highlights.




1. iPads in the classroom: In March, I applied to and was accepted into the iPad Action Research Academy  in our school district. We received our class set of iPads in April and my students have been engaged ever since. I started a blog to keep track of our experiences and have had the opportunity to work with an amazing team of innovators as we have pioneered use of this technology in our district. As a group we have used a wiki and primarily Edmodo to communicate, problem solve and collaborate. It really has been a game changer for me, my students and my colleagues.

2. Once again, this year I was laid off until the staffing and budget picture was clearer in our district and state. What was different this year was that before the school year ended, in fact on the last day of school, I knew I'd have a job the following school year and that I would not have to move my classroom! Honestly, just knowing that I'd know my status by the last day of school was a gift. Finding out that I didn't have to pack up, move, store, move, and unpack my classroom again this year was huge! I wrote an op-ed piece for the Mercury News which was picked up by a few blogs. Cool to be noticed but how do we change the cycle?

3. On our bucket list was spending quality time with the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C. This summer my husband and I spent two full weeks exploring and learning. In addition to all of the museums, we visited the Bureau of Engraving, Congress and of course, the monuments.


We had a wonderful time together walking all over the city. Knowing I'd be teaching 5th grade social studies made our visit to the National Archives particularly poignant. I got into a very interesting discussion with a female African American security guard who was standing next to the Declaration of independence and Constitution. She was unimpressed with the documents and their historical value. No one had every helped her to see that although, yes, it's initial relevance did not embrace women or anyone of color, the basic tenants put forth in the words of our founding fathers laid the groundwork for civil rights for people of color and women (and maybe soon all people!). It reminded me of the importance of my job as a teacher, to help my students see the relevance of history in their lives.

4. Time with family: this summer my parents celebrated significant birthdays. Mom turned 80 in May and Dad turned 85 in August. To celebrate, all of us siblings gathered with family and friends to celebrate the octogenarians. It has been many years since all of my siblings and our spouses were all together.   Unfortunately, not all of the grandkids were able to be here, having lives, jobs, and kids of their own now.  All of my surviving aunts, uncle and cousins were there to share in the special day and I know my parents felt the love return to them which they have sowed all their years.