Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Grateful Heart in the Classroom

My colleague and friend, Sheila Monger and I talk a lot about gratitude. After a particularly rough couple of years teaching, she and I would daily remind each other of our mantra to Choose Gratitude. When teachers get caught up in the problems it is easy to become negative and grumpy. No one sets out to be 'that teacher' but we all know them, and at times, may have been them. There really is so much to be grateful for. And lest you think I am a Pollyanna, rest assured, I am not. I was laid off every year for my first 6 years of teaching. I have had great and not so great colleagues and administrators (I liken a principal to an appendix, you don't notice them until they are bad) My husband was diagnosed with cancer in the middle of year 8 of teaching and died the following winter. So I have had a lot of reason to be grumpy and not grateful, yet still, I choose gratitude.

So imagine my great joy to meet +Scott Meile. Scott is a 8th grade English teacher in New Jersey.  His district is in an area with one of the highest teen suicide rates in the country. He saw a need for connection in his classroom and community, and he created it with the Door of Thanks. With all the bad in the world, Mr. Meile encourages his students to stop, think and appreciate what they have.  Throughout the year, students place note of the wall that state what they are thankful for. Notice I said wall. The door of thanks became the wall of thanks, and that became a virtual wall of gratitude!


I met Scott when he traveled to San Mateo, California to participate in a panel discussion at Edmodocon16. I was honored to facilitate the discussion on Supporting the Whole Student with Edmodo. This panel included short presentations from speakers on how they use Edmodo to meet the unique needs of their students for more than just academics—building community, supporting a school Gay-Straight Alliance, reaching out to students who struggle to get to school, and encouraging gratitude.

Although I've begged Scott to blog about his gratitude journey, Being a busy dad, husband, teacher and coach hasn't allowed him much time to write. So I asked his permission to share his story. in his own words.
It’s our job in education to show them that our school, our community, our families aren’t just about what we’re teaching but the people that are involved and the relationships that are created and the people we meet. The issues in New Jersey aren’t uncommon everywhere else, There is that many young kids don’t know where to turn. There’s peer pressure, bullying, and self image awareness which often leads to students not knowing who to turn to or who they can trust. Peers are left with unanswered questions, they often don’t understand or realize that some kids need help and aren’t being taught compassion or understanding and the ability to find the right people to talk to. 
In our class we try to recognize the importance of our team and our goals, in addition we take time to recognize our lives outside of the classroom. We push ourselves to complete tasks, but more importantly we learn about each other. We take 6-10 minutes everyday and give thanks. Edmodo is the key because it unlocks a level of communication and acceptance that isn’t always easy for students to receive or acknowledge. We each and everyday make it a point to reach out to one another, and comment on some of the things that are going on in our lives outside of school (or within our school community) and that allows for interpersonal growth that sometimes is lacking in today’s students busy schedules and culture. Edmodo creates a connectedness that allows for something easy, reachable, and creative. It takes a snapshot of our class, the highs, the lows and everything in between and we document these moments and get to see the growth throughout the year.
Emotional intelligence is something we try to grow throughout the year, taking time to talk about gratitude leads to more interesting conversations regarding citizenship and compassion.  As I have become more and more experienced in the classroom I have found I have less and less to say to my students regarding their learning.  I often find them discovering new things and showing me more about their learning then I ever imagined was possible.  But, what I have found myself talking more and more with the kids is their responsibility to each other, how we as a class can make a difference, and more importantly, every person should act with respect, integrity, and empathy.  
Even more importantly it has made me a better teacher, dad, and coach because I have come to realize just how much of a struggle the kids go through on a daily basis.

I am grateful for teachers, and friends, like Scott.



Monday, December 19, 2016

When Mommy Can't Read

Let me start with a story - it will connect to the topic, I promise.

This fall, my niece was married in Jamaica. I was fortunate to join in the family festivities, and spent a few days relaxing in the south coast for a few days after the wedding. Like I do every time I am on an amazing vacation, I fantasize about living there. The place where we stayed (which I am not going to name, so it stays small!) supports Breds Foundation and one of their projects supports Sandy Bank Primary School. Well, this is fate! My nickname is Sandy and I am a credentialed school teacher! I could come here and teach! I was giving voice to this little fantasy while on a small fishing boat with a local captain. He asked what I taught, and I explained that, as a 5th grade teacher, I taught all subjects, reading, writing, math and all.  Captain Clive said, "Well, why don't you just teach me? I don't read very good."

That got me thinking about making an impact on the local economy through adult literacy. I'd need to learn how to teach adults.  And if there adults in Jamaica who can't read, there are certainly adults in my city who struggle with literacy. I researched online and signed up to become a tutor of adult learners here in my home town with the Santa Clara Library's  Read Santa Clara service.  I met with Shanti Bhaskaran, the program supervisor, who seemed thrilled to have someone interested who not only has a teaching background but also experience with educational technology.

During out meeting, she shared some rather startling statistics.  More than 30 million adults in the United States cannot read, write or do basic math above a third grade level.  Adult literacy impacts our workforce, family finances and heath. And now I come back to the topic of this post.  Children of parents who had not completed high school score lower in vocabulary assessments. A mother's level of reading skill is the greatest determinant of her child's academic success. I am not sure it ever occurred to me that some of the parents of my students could not read, write or speak fluently. I know I had some English Language learners, and for those families, I'd arrange translation.  But what about the parents who just can't read yet in any language? I was not making accommodations for them.

My first job in education was to help three recent immigrants to the US learn English. My thesis was titled "Effective Classroom Methods for Teaching English Language Learners." I often joked that mu classrooms were like a mini-United Nations, with all the languages spoken at home. Yet not once in my pre-service or in-service professional development was the literacy of parents ever addressed.

I haven't yet been matched with an adult learner, but I am passionate about spreading the word.  As teachers we need to be not so quick to judge that parent who doesn't respond to our emails, return permission slips or volunteer in the classroom.


What can we as educators of children do to make a difference? After all, we already differentiate and accommodate for our children, now you want us to do the same for parents? Yup. I do! I am not suggesting we all teach adult literacy classes, But there are things we can do. Be aware of the signs that someone might need help reading or writing. Find out about programs similar to Rad Santa Clara in your area. Get some of their literature and make in available to all families 'in case they know someone who might benefit'. Never call them out directly. But think of how hard it must be to have your child read and write for you. Show some compassion to that parent who might just be too embarrassed to participate in classroom activities or unable to read or reply to your notes home. If not for the parents' sake, for your students'. Remember, your students' literacy will improve along with their parents'.

Signs a person might need help reading and writing:




  • Uneasy body language, facial expressions or embarrassment when asked to read or write
  • Humor or other distraction is used to change the subject of reading or writing comes up
  • School experiences rarely mentions. If they are, it is in a negative light.
  • When expected to read or write, excuses might be, "I forgot my glasses,' 'I've hurt my hand,' 'I don't have time.'
  • Person appears unable to follow written instructions
  • Reluctance to fill in forms or asks to take forms home
  • paperwork is filled out incompletely or incorrectly.

NPR's All  Things Considered had a 4 part series on Adult Education, where they concluded:
Low literacy rates for adults can have wide-ranging effects on those around them. They may rely more heavily on government services; their children may not get that extra hand with schoolwork; their families may not get sufficient financial support. 
But for the millions of adults with low literacy, the ability to read, write and speak English might offer them the most important opportunity of all: a chance to emerge from the shadows and participate as equals in society.
I still may end up retiring in Jamaica, but for now, I will make a difference locally.



Sources:
Read Santa Clara
ProLiteracy
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
NPR: all things considered

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The dinner party

A little while back, a Facebook (and real life) friend of mind made this observation. With their permission, I am sharing the thread. 

Teaching analogy: teaching is like putting on a dinner party for 30+ people everyday (90+ in middle school) mostly by yourself, with a wood stove, and only one pot. And sometimes there is no wood and the pot breaks, but you have to have the dinner party anyway. Seriously - it should not have to be this difficult!
Photo: Getty

  • Renee: Very good analogy! So true

  • Sandra: Yeah, but you know you love the dinner party!

  • Andrea: And if you're on various committees, it's like helping the neighbors, advocating for quality food with the market managers, and communicating with the non-food suppliers, too, while also trying to still create a perfect dinner for your guests. And then one of the guest's associates stops by to discuss the meal...

  • Joy: I loved this! It described my day to a "t"! Thanks!

  • Karyann:  And some of the guests will need different meals than the others, and 1 or 2 will not eat at all:)

  • Shannon:  FOOOOOD FIIIIIIIGHT! ...hehe, couldn't resist. But in all honesty you nailed it!

  • Andrea: Some guests need organic baby food, but it should be the same food the other guests are eating. Other guests need gourmet food and eat with chopsticks. The guests may have difficulties swallowing the food if you don't cut it up for them, especially if they order their own food off a menu of standard items. All food should be perfectly prepared, done at the same time, and consumed by guests on the same occasion, or at least before The Grand Meal.

  • Sandra: Yes, some guests just won't eat. You can't make them. They are not hungry. And some will ask for seconds and thirds, and still need more. Some will be grateful, but may not tell you until 20 years have gone by. And some will have bad manners. But you love to cook, and you love the dinner party. So you cook again another day.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Schoedinger's President-Elect

I couldn't take it anymore last night. I went to bed. Around 1030 maybe it was 11.  I just didn't want to know. it wasn't going change anything and I needed to sleep. When I woke up this morning I wondered and I was afraid. As I reflected on the potential outcomes of this election I decided, much to my surprise that it would probably be better for our country if Donald Trump won. Now hear me out.

If Hillary Clinton won, then she would face indictments, a combative Congress and a populous at least half of which are Trump supporters.  And of those,  a small, perhaps, but vocal percentage are fanatics. He has previously urged his fanatics to create some not so civil unrest. My real fear is that if Clinton won, Trump supporters are going to create such havoc and unrest, the likes of which our country hasn't seen in decades. Now on the other hand if Trump wins... well,  we got a little taste last night as Clinton supporters were starting to read the writing on the walls or the tea leaves or whatever. Some of the posts to Twitter and Facebook were along the lines of,  you're not alone. we still will love. love wins. we're still going to get up and continue to fight for positive change. 

So I'm thinking that if Trump won, then Clinton supporters are going to fight even harder to make the world a better place. That said, I still was lying in bed this more morning in the fetal position with my blankets pulled up over my head.Tthe things that Donald Trump represented: arrogance, greed, self interest before others, bigotry, misogyny... all those horrible things that he said and did do not make him in my mind an ideal candidate for president. Regardless the people have spoken and Schoedinger's cat is going to have to come out of the box one way or the other

Monday, April 11, 2016

LOA Diaries: CUE Rock Star

I have been a member of CUE  since I started teaching. I found the conferences I've attended to be engaging and inspirational. I also attend EdCamp un-conferences and local events sponsored by my school district as well as several workshops at SCCOE, our county office of education. Considering the salary structure of most educators, I appreciate that many of these events are local (meaning no travel expenses) and free or very reasonably priced. In addition to the annual SVCUE event, I've also attended some amazing CUESF events just up the road.

After a two-year CUE Conference hiatus, I attended the annual conference in Palm Springs last month. This is kind of the big daddy of #edtech conferences in California, and I am willing to take the hit for the conference and travel, usually working out to about $1000. The conference fee itself is $250-ish for members of CUE. I have never questioned the cost of this 3+ day event. The keynote speakers are high profile folks, from Vinton Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet to The Brad Montague, the creator of Kid President.

I had heard about CUE Rock Star Camps and honestly didn't even look twice. I resented the implication that if those attending were Rock Stars, then the rest of us were not. CUE has at times felt very cliquish to me and I just did not want to be part of that. Three things changed my mind, sort of. Our school district is opening a new STEAM school this coming fall and I have been privileged to be part of the planning and implementation from very early on. While at the conference in Palm Springs, I learned about an upcoming Rock Star Camp which was a STEAM edition. I was intrigued. When I saw it was in Orcutt, CA, a week before I needed to be there for an iPad Academy workshop I was facilitating, and the home of a dear friend, I was almost sold. Finally, on the flight heading home from PS, I sat next to +Jason Borgen, currently on the CUE Board of Directors. Jason and I used to teach at the same district (at different times) and we met at the first CUE I attended in 2008! We have stayed in touch, connecting at various ed tech events over the years. As we sat on the plane, and I explained my reservations about Rock Star events, and even just the name, he encouraged me to give it a try. I have a great respect for Jason, and I have heard such great things about the camps, it all seemed to point to yes, so I bit the bullet and paid the $249 registration fee.


And so, I packed up my car and my dog and headed south for a week in Orcutt. I was impressed with the sessions I attended. I left feeling inspired to try new things such as YouTube (creating, not consuming), some really exciting resources for integrating Science and Engineering activities and maybe even Minecraft. That said, I do think the $250 price tag is a little high for this format. I asked CUE Rock Star's 'baby daddy', Jon Corippo (actual title, CUE Dir. of Academic Innovation) about the price and he explained the costs involved and how they calculated their price from that. I get it, but think there is room for corporate sponsorships to help reduce the hit to already cash-strapped educators. There were no "big name" speakers, of course, it was more structured than the free EdCamps but I feel the price simply adds to the "us vs them" impression I first had about Rock Star camps. But the cliquishness I had experienced at my local affiliate was not apparent here and even though I was not local, I felt welcomed and appreciated. That was a nice surprise. There were inside jokes about ice cream and pickles and such that made no sense to me, but in general, it was a very inclusive experience. The faculty was incredibly generous with their time and resources, sharing lesson plans, links and even physical items such as books and maker supplies. Ed Campos, Jr. was a perfect Master of Ceremonies and the Orcutt team was flawless. Their superintendent, Dr. Deborah Blow, attended sessions right alongside us each day!

Cambrian Represents!

So here are some of my key takeaways from the weekend:

What is a Maker Space? The maker session was facilitated by Henry Danielson, director of Technology, Coast Unified School District in Cambria, and his middle schooler son, Max. While Henry was great, Max stole the show. I love hearing from kids how they work, think and learn. Max was articulate, thoughtful and enthusiastic. The two of them plus the rocket guy were definitely guides on the side, letting us explore and fail forward. Henry provided a google doc with so many resources that my head spins just looking at the doc, but I am thrilled to have it!

Minecraft. Get Crafting: Led by Chris Scott,who runs Minecraft camps and presents at conferences, this session really forced me out of my comfort zone. While I appreciate the value of games in learning, and I totally get how much kids embrace Minecraft, I've felt it has been a little overhyped and overdone. Plus I have never enjoyed playing video games myself. I was happy to finally get into a Minecraft world and see what it was all about. However, I was totally frustrated. Chris kept telling us to find a turtle and nothing at all looked like a turtle to me! Chris reminded us "the moment we forget the struggles of a learner, we stop being an effective educator."

I am still not sure the hype is worth it, but I am less daunted and willing to learn more. In a later session, Scott Spector shared several resources for using Minecraft across the curriculum so I have a lot of learning yet to do!

NGSS, STEAM, STEM What's it all about? Scott Spector, Coordinator of Innovation and Academic Events at the Santa Barbara County Ed Office, blew my mind with the plethora of resources he shared. He talked about the difference between the importance of performance expectations over rote learning as well as the integration of content across all subjects, something we elementary educators have been doing forever, but now have so many more resources and tools at our disposal.

YouTube on Your Side: Another session with Chris, we started out by watching 10 minutes of a daily vlogger's video. Ty next to me asked, 'why?' I think you either enjoy watching the mundane daily lives of others or you live your own. We moved on from that to talk about the power of such a potentially large audience to give ourselves and our students a voice with an authentic audience. I don't want to be a daily blogger or a daily vlogger, but I do know I have a unique voice and if I don't tell my story, someone else will. I have made many movies with my students and as a teacher, but this was my first foray into becoming a youtuber. It's not pretty, but here it is. I appreciate the push!



And finally, a few tidbits overheard at Cue Rock Star: STEAM

From Ed. Campos, Jr.'s 360 Math session - "Why buy an interactive whiteboard when you can get all this for less?"

In the youtube session, we watched a short video of building a pyramid of pennies. A math teacher in the room recognized it as part of the Dan Meyer Three Acts of a Mathematical story. I'd never heard of his work so I will do some research. It is an interesting approach.

"Are you going to learn more looking at a piece of paper or making it yourself & explaining it?'~ S. Spector

Granted there were about 5500 fewer people at this event than the Big CUE but there were zero tech issues, the wifi worked great, the site custodian was cheery and helpful and the IT group, Kirby and Janet, were available and on their feet the whole two days. So, I guess I am on the bus, and I need to start saving up for my next CUE Rock Star Camp!


For more, see my storify summary.

Friday, March 25, 2016

LOA Diaries: #CUE16

It has been a long, strange road to get me back to CUE. I really appreciate +Edmodo making good on the contest prize I won (but was unable to use) two years ago. I find the CUE conference to be inspiring and invigorating and this year was no different.  The opening keynote was none other than THE Brad Montague, the co-creator of +Kid President. Not a dry eye was in the house after his motivational pep talk.

Making Sense of Creative Commons Licenses

Interview with Jane Park

Last week I was fascinated to interview Jane Park, director of Platforms and Partnerships at Creative Commons. I always have to look up what the various licenses mean, so I was happy to have the opportunity to listed to Jane make sense of it for me! Following is a transcript of your interview. 


Tell us about you and your role.
I've been at Creative Commons (CC) for a number of years and currently I lead our platform initiatives. Which means working with OER platforms like Edmodo, Amazon, and Microsoft, as part of the U.S. Department of Education GoOpen initiative.

What is Creative Commons?
We're a nonprofit organization and we offer a suite of legal tools that make it easy for creators to share their creative work online. Prior to us, there were only two options if you wanted to share your work- all rights reserved copyright, where you had to ask for permission every time you used any part of someone's work, or in the public domain (you had no rights to that whatsoever). CC licenses are a set of copyright licenses that allow the creator to flexibly say, 'you can use my work and you have to give me credit,' and they allow the creator to manage those different permissions.

What does "open" mean in the context of OER?
The "Open" requires the 5 Rs. Retain (you can retain a copy- download/duplicate/store on your own computer), Reuse (use it in a class, in a study group, re-share it in a website or in a video), Revise (modify it, adapt it to your classroom, translate, and alter the content in other ways),Remix (combine the work with other works to create a collection or mashup), and Redistribute (share it on a website or video publicly).

On Edmodo Spotlight we have 3 choices: Attribution, Attribution Sharealike, and Attribution Non Commercial No Derivatives. Can you tell us about what those three mean and why I would choose one over the other?

Attribution is the most liberal and accommodating of the licenses we offer. It essentially says hey, you have to give me credit for my work, but you can do whatever you want to do with it- you can remix it, adapt it, even use it for commercial purposes. We recommend this license as a default for OER.

The second option is Attribution Sharealike, which is basically the Attribution license with one extra condition attached. If you alter or modify the work in any way, you have to Sharealike your derivative work under the same license. You're still allowed to use it commercially. For example, if you take a song and sync it with a video, that video with the song you would have to Sharealike under the same Attribution Sharealike license.

The third license- Attribution Non Commercial No Derivatives - is actually our most restrictive license. It signals to the user that you can redistribute my work verbatim, but if you make any modifications or changes, you cannot share it out. So it's saying "don't change my work but you can share it widely."

http://www.masternewmedia.org/how-to-publish-a-book-under-a-creative-commons-license/ 


What about paid resources?
If you're the owner, you can always sell it and/or add a Creative Commons license. If you're not the owner, you can use works under the first two licenses for commercial purposes, but not the third one, since it has a non commercial condition.

Do I need to worry about using someone else's work in my classroom? We teach our kids about fair use. How does that apply to this?

When you're using work in the classroom, it's more lenient than re-publishing in the open web, since the classroom is a closed setting. If the work is under a CC license, you're free to use it as long as you abide by the terms of the CC license. It applies in and out of the classroom. When it comes to using all rights reserved copyright works, you're free to use them both in and out of the classroom, the difference is the rules might be more liberal in the classroom, under fair use.

I'm not a fair use expert but there are 4 fair use factors that any court of law will judge fair use by. That is: the purpose and character of your use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion you use, and the effect of that use upon the potential market. But I would definitely read the wikipedia article on it, it will explain much better than I do.


What's the most common mistake teachers or students make when labeling using CC licenses?
If you are not the owner of the content, you should not be adding a CC license to that work. That's a common mistake, people put a CC license on works they don't own. A second one is adding a Noncommercial No Derivatives license, and say it's OER. As we discovered with the 5 Rs, if you can't remix it, then it's not OER. So if you want it to be OER, choose one of the licenses that allow derivative works or allows Remix.

What's the most important thing you want teachers to know?
There is a large world of OER out there. If you take 10 minutes to familiarize yourself with the CC licenses and how they work, you can tap that world of OER and clearly figure out what you can and cannot use and under what conditions. CC licenses really provide clarity, where there is often ambiguity, especially when it comes to fair use. That being said, we do encourage teachers to rely on fair use, exceptions and limitations to copyright, when using any educational resource.

Thank you Jane, for helping to make sense of this for us!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Quality Content on Edmodo Spotlight

Background

Edmodo Spotlight is a repository for Open Educational Resources, (ROER) as well as a source of content which is not considered "open" but is being made available, either for free or a nominal cost, from educators for educators. Edmodo Spotlight hosts and facilitates access to these resources.  

To be truly open, content must satisfy the 5 Rs: the consumers ability to Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute the resource. In an article published in the online Research in Leaning Technology journal, titled: Questions of quality in repositories of open educational resources: a literature review,  J.Atenas and L.Havemann discuss certain indicators of quality in the design and implementation of ROERs, and some of these include user evaluation tools, peer review and use of keywords (emphasis mine).


Call to Action

To ensure high quality content is available for Edmodo users, users such as the Luminary community can provide the most meaningful, authentic reviews. To help with the review process, I've come up with some suggestions.

When I introduce  Edmodo and blogging with my students, I use an acronym, R.A.M.E to remind them than any comment should be relevant, appropriate, meaningful and edited. The same is a good start for reviewing teacher created content. 

RELEVANT: When providing feedback, be sure that you have actually looked at the contributor's resource and that your comment reflects that - what is something you liked? what didn't you understand? what connections can you make to your own possible implementation? in short, is your comment relevant to the resource you are reviewing?

APPROPRIATE: Consider your audience. Is the public comment section the right place for your feedback? As fellow teachers, we may be reluctant to give negative feedback publicly - I know I am. When I see an issue that I feel needs to be addressed by the resource owner, I direct message them.The good news is, Edmodo understands this reluctance to 'call someone out' and they are building in a messaging option on the product (Spotlight Resource) page.

MEANINGFUL: The Huffington post had a nice article written by Kim Pisolkar about Why Good Job Isn't Good Enough where she provide the analogy of a gift:

Feedback is like a gift... and as with any gift, the initial impression is in the wrapping. Think about how you’d feel receiving a gift not wrapped nicely, just sort of thrown your way with little thought or sincerity. Now think of how differently you might feel receiving a gift that is lovingly wrapped, given with pride and thoughtful consideration. That analogy represents the difference between giving ordinary, bland feedback like “Nice job” and delivering effective, sincere feedback that actually tells a person what was good.
The article goes onto cite the SBI model developed by the Center for Creative Leadership. SBI is an acronym for situation, behavior, and impact:
1. Describe the situation where the behavior was observed.
2. Describe the behavior- the specific and factual actions or interactions that were observed by you or others.
3. Describe the impact - the effect the behavior had on others such as clients or team members, and/or the results.
So please include meaningful, perhaps even actionable feedback. Contributors are able to update their resources in Spotlight and often will based on community feedback.Your words do have an impact. 

EDITED: In general, please try to make sure your review comments are edited.

After studying Socrates, my students also added the final two letters of the acronym: N and N to make RAMENN - is your input nice and necessary? Are your comments, even criticism delivered with kindness? 

When you look at at resource in Edmodo, you have the option to rate it 1-5 stars. You can also post a comment, preferably using guidelines similar to what I have outlined above.


A final note about keywords. Users, content consumers, look for and find content using keywords. When you are reviewing a resource, if you notice they are missing some valuable keywords, please let the owner know. If they add them, your suggestion might make the difference for someone looking for just the right amazing resource.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

LOA Diaries: Earning NerdCred at Skywalker Ranch

I was extremely honored to be invited by +Edmodo to the US Department of Education's #GoOpen Exchange. +Office of Ed Tech's  #GoOpen campaign encourages states, school districts and educators to use openly licensed educational materials to transform teaching and learning. From the day I started teaching, I've advocated for a more open sharing of content, why, after all, should we re-create the wheel in thousands of classrooms across the globe? So this event was an exchange of ideas on a subject I am passionate about. The fact that it was being held at Skywalker Ranch in beautiful Marin County, just two hours north of my home, was icing on the cake.

I met like-minded educators from across the country and was truly energized and invigorated by the exchange of ideas. We even got to watch the original Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, in George Lucas' theater. I couldn't help myself, the sound of the THX 'Deep Note' caused me to break out in cheer!

I tend to use Twitter as a note taking device and below is a compilation of my tweets about the event.

Thank you to +Kevyn Klein,and  +Julia Gitis from Edmodo for making my attendance possible, and to Andrew Marcinek and Katrina Stevens from the US Dept. of Ed, Office of Educational Technology for making me feel so welcome and putting together such a fun and inspirational day!



Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Open and Free

One of my soapbox issues since I started in Education was the need for sharing and collaboration. Teaching is hard enough without cooperation. New teachers, including those I now find myself coaching, need all the help they can get. Providing them with free resources that they can adapt and edit to fit their student populations is so important, especially in those first few years when new teachers haven’t yet built their own personal arsenal of “go to” lessons and activities.

Decades ago in my first career, I first learned about Open Source software. Wikipedia defines Open source as computer software with its source code made available with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose.[1] Open-source software may be developed in a collaborative public manner.

Working in high tech, the idea of collaborative development seemed a little like the wild, wild west. I didn’t really care much about Open Source until I started working in Education and funds were limited. Suddenly the idea of free and accessible seemed like a godsend to cash strapped schools.  

Fast forward a few years and I have now figured out a platform for sharing lesson plans in Edmodo’s Spotlight. It is a place to share, collect, review, and discover helpful resources for your students and teaching. It acts as a marketplace where both publishers and teachers can create and share resources. Teachers from the Edmodo network can download, peruse or access these mostly free resources. Some teachers do choose to sell their lessons but that is not in my ethos.


As I am approaching the final years of my time in the classroom, I love having an outlet to share some of my favorite resources. I have shared original, editable content as well as recommended some of my favorite online resources.  I've been sharing my favorite resources. I was thrilled to see the First Lady announce #OpenEBks on @Twitter and shared the resource with my PLN. I tagged my tweet with #OER and #freeandopen.


Through the magic of Twitter, I was re-schooled by Douglas Levin. Doug is the founder and president of EdTech Strategies, LLC. He is an adviser to federal and state policymakers and education leaders, Mr. Levin has conducted research that has informed and shaped the field, and written and spoken widely about the trends shaping the future of education. Doug pointed out my misuse of the term “open”


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He then sent me a link to an article explaining (reminding me of) the definition of open in this context.  We had a bit of a back and forth and I sent him a quote from the Princess Bride:


Which then inspired him to write a blog post which included this FAQ for educators about what OER really means.  

Open educational resources are and always will be free, but not all free resources are OER. Free resources may be temporarily free or may be restricted from use at some time in the future (including by the addition of fees to access those resources). Moreover, free resources may not be modified, adapted or redistributed without express permissions from the copyright holder.

How do I know if an educational resource is an OER?
The key distinguishing characteristic of OER is its intellectual property license and the freedoms the license grants to others to share and adapt it. If a lesson plan or activity is not clearly tagged or marked as being in the public domain or having an open license, it is not OER. It’s that simple (emphasis mine). Creative Commons copyright licenses are standardized, free-to-use open licenses that facilitate the development and use of OER and are recommended for use by all K-12 educators.



Hopefully this will help clarify but mostly inspire you to openly share what you have created! 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Six Steps to Submit Stellar Spotlights - plus a few other suggestions

Edmodo Spotlight helps you boost your lesson planning and find resources to spark your students’ curiosity and improve their overall learning experience. It is a place to share, collect, review, and discover helpful resources for your students and teaching. It is a marketplace where both publishers and teachers can create and share resources. Teachers from the Edmodo network can download, peruse or purchase these resources.

I was reluctant to use Spotlight, until I really stopped and looked at it. It was super easy, but it helps to be prepared. So this blog post is to help you plan ahead. When you upload, you’ll be asked for some information. If you have it ahead of time, it will make the upload flow much smoother. Also please know your resource is most likely to be approved if you include a title, at least 1 (but 4 is better) thumbnail images and both parts of the description.

1. If you are “recommending” a resource, first, please, search spotlight to be sure no one else has already shared it. If they have, simply add a comment using the [review] button, seconding the recommendation.

2. Title: be sure your title gives a clear picture of your product. For example, Sandy’s Shoes tells you nothing, but Measuring Distance with Sally’s Shoes gives you a better idea. A good title helps teachers decide whether to look at a product!

3. Up to 4 thumbnails: you will need to have 1-4 meaningful thumbnails representing your product. If you do not include your own, there are defaults, but these are not going to attract users to your product. (see images below)


Great thumbnails will help draw in teachers. For example, the images for the products here...


tell you more than these ...



4. Description: The Description Field provides an overview of your content. This is what teachers will read when clicking on your resource, before deciding whether or not to download it.
  • Question 1: Describe your content, including how it addresses a specific subject and standards. Tell us what academic objectives it achieves. Hint: Try to anticipate questions that teachers may have. We recommend 50-100 words.This is the overview teachers see when they are deciding whether or not to download your product. It should provide a detailed overview of the content and related standards. It may include links to related resources or products. You could also provide data or social proof, “this project is a favorite with my 5th graders every year”. If you have this written up ahead of time, you can just paste it into the box when uploading
  • Question 2: How can teachers use this in the classroom? Hint: Provide an idea for how the teacher can integrate this resource into their lesson. You can mention discussion, collaboration, assessment, etc.

5. Resource type: if your product doesn’t neatly fit into one of these categories, just give it the closest choice.
6. Grade levels (up to 4) and subjects addressed. You should also know the CCSS numbers, if applicable.


There is sometimes confusion about the licensing. There are six licence options but only two are available through Spotlight. Non-commercial, no derivatives means no one can sell OR modify your work for their purpose, to fit the needs of their students. If you are okay with others using and modifying your work to fit their needs, then use share alike. This allows others to build upon your work as long as they give you credit, even for commercial purposes. I am a big fan of open educational resources (OER) so I tend to use the most accommodating license.

You will also need to select a few other things but these are pretty straightforward.
A few other suggestions:

  • Create a profile! I know I like to see that someone has put the effort into letting me know something about them. As we say in twitter-land, don’t be an egg! Upload an avatar or picture representing you. And come up with a motto. It can be a mantra, guiding principle or even a nickname.. just put something!
  • Share your work! You are your own best salesperson. Tweet out links to your products. Share them in content specific groups in Edmodo, let your spotlight shine!
  • Share the spotlight love… review and rate other teachers’ products. Not only will it help give you great ideas, a review helps that teacher by motivating, encouraging and giving them ways to improve their own offerings. After all, it is all about collaboration!


Coming up next, 

How to Search for Stellar Spotlights