Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday of Summer

August is the Sunday of summer, and as Dr. Seuss said, “How did it get so late so soon?”

Summer is an important time for me to rest, recharge, retool, and recommit. As August rolls in, my focus on curriculum becomes more intense, and the first few weeks of school begin to gain clarity.

It is estimated that there are 3.7 million full-time elementary and secondary school teachers in the U.S. preparing for the start of their school year, for their first conversation about community, for their first lesson on digital citizenship, for their first science experiment, for the first opportunity to experiment with the new ideas they developed over the course of the summer. 3.7 million teachers! ...and each one of us with our own opinion about what works in the classroom.

Technology and connectivity have certainly changed my classroom, and I am increasingly aware of how it has changed the teaching profession. Educators, now more than ever, need to connect with other educators. Success is hard to come by if we isolate and insulate ourselves in our classrooms. 

As we enter into the Sunday of summer, it is time to give serious thought to reconnecting with colleagues in person and online, and building Professional Learning Networks. Reaching out to connect with other educators allows us all to test new ideas, learn new trends, collect resources, and gather feedback. Connecting with other educators in turn allows us to connect our students to their peers and professionals beyond classroom walls.

Starting with small, manageable steps makes a tremendous difference. For the upcoming school year, let's all consider:
  • Scheduling a regular meeting time with someone outside of our grade level, department, or even building.
  • Attending local, state, and national conferences. Join me at an Ed Camp!
  • Using Twitter to follow an interesting hashtag (#), to seek out others who share your ideas, and to explore ideas that seem foreign to you.
  • Reading educational blogs and posting comments based on your reactions.

Here are some of my trusted PLN resources: 

Twitter, to name just a few:

Blogs, to name a few:

What are your trusted resources for building and participating in a PLN? Share your favorite strategies, conferences, tweeps, and blogs.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Breakfast Unplugged

A little story that will hopefully prove a point.

I was enjoying a breakfast with my family at a wonderful mom and pop restaurant. The place is lively with bright colors and good music. The staff has huge personalities and the cinnamon buns make you smile inside and out.

Just after we ordered a tune came through the sound system. It was a song I knew but I could not recall the artist. I could sing it, to the embarrassment of my daughter, and was frustrated I could not remember the name of the singer.

At this point I could have dug out a device and tapped away for the answer. I did not because I do not have a smart phone. Instead, I waited for the waitress. When this boisterous woman came back I asked her who sang the previous song, providing her with a few harmonious lines as my daughter buried her face into her hands.

Of course, the waitress knew. She gave me the answer that I was looking for. However, her and I went on to have a nice conversation about music, growing up with the radio always on, how much fun it is to sing in public with your children looking on in horror, and how annoying it is to have that song on the tip of your tongue. That exchange would not have happened if I had pulled out a device.

Jarred Haas (@jarredhaas) tweeted, "Johnson’s First Sign of Technology Literacy: Knowing when to use technology and when not to use technology." There are moments when tech integration is essential. On the other hand, there are moments when face-to-face conversations and human interactions are just as valuable. As we learn to navigate the technological landscape we need to provide opportunities for children to be conversationalists, debaters, and collaborators. Sometimes, the meandering path is better than the straight line.

Friday, February 7, 2014


My colleagues have been working to discover ways that we can make our students' digital work more visible. Currently the work lives in students' Google Drive accounts, stashed away in folders. The work is accessed by students, teachers, and parents who are curious enough to pull the login information from their child's long term memory.

Recently, Ben Thrash and I experimented with Thinglink. We have been co-teaching a Russian History unit as part of the Lower School's Global Focus Study. After conversations around community and the Olympic symbol, students began researching famous Russian individuals. We have artists, dancers, musicians, scientists, nurses, leaders, and writers. All played an important role in their community. The students generated short biographies on Drive and now we have the work available on Thinglink. We captured the Olympic Symbol and added labels generated by the students. We think that this platform will be a destination for other classrooms, for families, and for community members to visit to celebrate our students' work. Each group will have uploaded their document. Those that have extra time will use some of the digital tools available to them to create a more dynamic presentation. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Friday, January 3, 2014

2-3 is SOLD on iMovie Trailers!

Here is my looooong overdue blog post!

2-3 underwent its biannual advertising study just before Thanksgiving Break.  Our advertising study generally involves learning about the history of advertising, examining different types of ads and paying attention to certain advertising tricks and claims, all with the goal of helping our students to become more aware of the power of advertising and to be thoughtful and critical consumers.  Over the years we have included a variety of activities and guest speakers.  This year, along with some of our usual activities, we had an "in-house" expert, Ken Matsubara, Sarah's husband, a creative director for The VIA Agency, working with us and touring us through The VIA Agency's workplace, and we also added a little twist to our typical hands-on activities.  We decided to try using iMovie to create our own ads.  It was a resounding success!  We enlisted the expertise and assistance of Page in first  training us teachers and then introducing our students to iMovie Trailers.  Page also worked along with us in helping the students to plan and produce their ads.  The children worked in groups of three to decide on a product or service to advertise, make a poster and then create a trailer to promote their product or service.  Since all of the students were working on their projects at the same time during a couple of different class periods, 2-3 was certainly a bustling hub of activity during those times!  We teachers were in awe of the excitement this project generated, the creativity and ingenuity we observed and how well the students worked together.  The afternoon before Thanksgiving Break, we had an "ad-fest," a showing of all of the ads we had made, complete with snacks.  The children loved watching each others' creations and were very proud of their accomplishments.  With Page's help, the teachers also shared the links to each ad with parents and created QR codes to go along with each ad.  I think it would be safe to say that we will be incorporating iMovie into our advertising study the next time around.  We are "sold" on the usefulness of this medium for children to demonstrate their learning.   Kudos to Page for all of her enthusiasm and guidance!  Check out this example: