Upside Down Education


What Exactly IS Science? and Math? Is That What is Being Taught?

This is my first year to teach technology after 5 years of science and 3 years of math before that. I’ve had a lot on my mind about STEM and the connection of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math part. Even throw in an “A” for Arts and make it STEAM. To me they can all fit together seamlessly. Think about it. Science is this ongoing process of testing knowledge, it test the “unknown” as well as the “known.” Math is that “known” science of space, quantity, and numbers. In my tech class our definition of technology is having scientific knowledge, skills, or tools to perform or improve a task. We discuss how only 1/5 of tech is actual hardware, rest is that knowledge and skill. Lastly, engineering is the combination of math and science to design real world solutions. The “A” in STEAM focuses on the art of the design. So no way you can argue these do not fit together.

Now lets look at it from a classroom perspective. Look at a school day. A typical math classroom. A typical science classroom. Maybe a computer lab class. Do they fit together seamlessly? Look at standards, benchmarks, and standardized tests. Are they completely separate? Does the science class fit the definition above about “ongoing process of testing knowledge?” Are math classes focused on just the number part or all three listed above? Do technology labs focus on learning hardware or scientific knowledge and skill? Is that skill tangible? Do you use all of these skills to design and build? Well if you live by standards, probably not. If your students have to take benchmarks that are pure memorization or formulas, probably not. I can be as guilty of this as the next guy. It’s hard not to fall into that trap. Benchmark asks “which biome __?” You fall into “here is the facts…” Be science is not facts, knowledge yes, facts, no. When I taught math “memorize this formula” not “take info and ___.”

So here is what is the problem. School and real definitions do not match. Matching is a 1st grade (or was when I taught first grade) math skill, so we all should know how to do it. I could sit here all day and point fingers and say we need it to be __ way. But common sense tells us, “we ain’t doin it right.”

This month the 2012 PISA scores came out. PISA measures scholastic achievement in math, science, and reading in nations around the world, and ranks them by comparison. According to the rankings, the US fell below average in science and math. *sigh* People want to blame teachers, poverty, etc. Please don’t blame teachers. Teachers are told “teach __” those blanks do not usually match those definitions of science or math mentioned above. Students are tested on __. Those skills tested do not match the definitions above. So of course when we are assessed on our global knowledge of science and math we are not really “doing” math or science.

This past week was Computer Science Education Week. During this week there was a big push for all students to spend one hour this week coding. The Hour of Code was promoted by everyone from President Obama to Mark Zuckerburg. But for every teacher who had students participate I have to wonder how many teachers did not because “it didn’t fit the curriculum.” When looking through information about Hour of Code I heard coding called “the one thing not taught in schools.” I first I wondered why then realized, duh, there is no “standard” that says “Learn to code” and so often if it is not on the benchmark test or written word for word in the standards we feel like we can’t spend time on it. I’m sure many teachers thought it was insane to waste an hour on it this week. But that idea has got to change. I saw a lot of praise that half of US students participated in Hour of Code, that is so exciting, but what about that other half? Half is not acceptable. But it is a start.

The technology and engineering takes those math and science skills makes them practical. It brings them out of the text books and off the paper and into real life skills. The state I live in does not follow Common Core State Standards (CCSS), we have College and Career Ready Standards (CCRS) so I’m not 100% sure what all the CCSS are, but when I look them, and the CCRS, I see these math abstracts that are right on with higher level Blooms domains using words like “model” and “reason” but then you see the standards and we are back to “understand” and “solve.” When you have all these basic levels it is hard to focus on the higher level skills, ones you know may not be on the multiple choice test. This is why STEM needs to be in place in schools. It allows for the “create” and “evaluate” domains to come first. It allows for taking that basic and giving it a place for practical use. This week my state announced that computer science will now be accepted as a high school math elective. This is definitely a step forward to the matching and combining. The state superintendent Bice put it perfectly “These courses are rigorous and are an innovative way to teach our high school math curriculum. In these courses, students will learn the core concepts of mathematics, but they will go one step further and apply these concepts to real-world situations.” Ta-da! That’s what we need!

When it comes down to it, I wish STEM programs were not a separate class or after school program. I wish it was a huge few hour combo of math and science. We need to stop separating it. We need to have “standards” that stop with these nit-picky skills instead of knowledge. When we teach these classes, we need make this a focus. We heard over and over about tech integration, but lets make that tech integration more than “google your answer.” Let that tech me the 4/5 of technology that is not exactly tangible. Let’s take that knowledge and design and create to support it.

Lastly, this video was recorded in 1996. It is of Carl Sagan an advocate for science and science education who died in 1996. He was a little radical but this video did a pretty good job predicting science education. 


Lessons from 1967

If is funny when people remember what you said years ago. About 9 years ago I was at my husband’s (who I was dating then) great uncle’s house for less than 10 minutes but while there I saw this basket in a corner and realized it was LIFE magazines from major events during the 1960′s. I made the comment that it was a gold mine and that I would love to go through those. Fast forward to a few months ago when his great uncle passed away. His cousin Katie remembered that I liked the magazines. So yesterday my mother-in-law gave me a huge box of them. Of course I was in heaven. Articles by Martin Luther King Jr., Moon landing, Memorial of Apollo 1, tons of JFK, and even an article about how Nixon followers are all moving into Watergate – I know, right?!

LIFE

So while flipping through history, and kind of sad that we won’t have print like this in the future, I found an article interviewing Howard Howe II the U.S. Commissioner of Education in 1967. Now as someone as from the south I know that was a headache of a time to be in that position, this was during desegregation in the south. (You know, because here in Bham we are celebrating 50 years of civil rights while the rest of the country had been desegregated for 150+ years #thingsIdontunderstand) People were not happy on either sides at the moment. You think Arne Duncan has it bad taking over with CCSS and reform, nah can’t even compare.  So anyway the article had a bunch of his quotes bullet pointed. I really liked these, so decided to share with y’all. And of course comment, because I’m never straight to the point.

We continually have to be asking, “why are we doing this like this? Only because we did it like this last year?” We shouldn’t back into the future looking wistfully at the past.  

How about that? Um, yeah! Why 50 years later are we still having to remind each other this? I know it is because as humans we become comfortable, but it is sad when that happens. We have all been victim of this, but every year we need too look at our jobs whether we are classroom teachers, instructional coaches, or in administrative positions and think, “how can I make this better?” 1964 NASA was in the beginning stages of Apollo, what if they were still doing things the same? Thank goodness we still don’t do school the same as in 1964…Oh wait…oops… Ok scratch that, let’s start looking toward the future and not forget to ask these questions.

I like E.B. White’s book The Elements of Style. Style is one thing you don’t find much of in the educational world. Administrators and school superintendents tend to not express themselves very well on paper. I’m engaged in a minor war on this in the Office of Education. I have been trying to goose the establishment into a more direct way of saying things. 

 I love this. I hope blogs are changing this. I think they are to an extent. Finally 50 years later. But how many admins in a district do, probably a crazy small percent. I also see how so often the ones that are are having to defend themselves, Howe was on to something here. I think he saw the value of blogs, long before blogs!! This can go for teachers as well. We do need to reflect, we do need to teach each other. Admins, you are the leaders in your school/district, step up. Teachers would rather learn from reading your thoughts and ideas more than from a principal on other side of world. Also, I am terrible at grammar, maybe I need to download this book…

The tough thing these days is to get the innovations that are going on in all the federal branches of government together and to make sense out of the grand scale – coordinate them some how.

Yeah, do I really need to insert something here. At least we know it isn’t a new thing. At least websites couldn’t crash back then, paper always worked.

The influence of kids on each other in the school is very interesting. The survey of over 600,000 kids we did as requested in the Civil Rights Act shows that disadvantaged kids don’t think it will do any good to work hard and achieve because it won’t make their over-all chances of success any better. Put these kids in with kids from advantaged families, and this attitude definitely changes for the better.

Hot dang! Ok so some of you have no idea of my school’s demographics, but lets just say we have every one. It is a crazy mix. It took me months to get used to it. But I totally see this. I can’t usually look at a student and know what socioeconomic background they have, neither can kids, but those lower income kids know and know they get same opportunities. He was talking about race here, my school is almost 50/50 and race comes up less than you think it would. Kids are used to their friends being of different races. On the flip side, this can have an opposite effect. Students from a culture of apathy can disrupt and rub off on students whose parents have higher expectations. Especially in my grade, 6th, where kids are learning who they are. This is when your influence is most important.

So he was right on with a lot of stuff. BUT not everything. This is the quote that broke my heart

I have always thought schools should be in a state of controlled unhappiness. There is a gumminess about a happy school that is almost fruity. Ruts develop in any institution, especially schools.  

and I am afraid this is a trap we all can fall into. I’m bad about it, getting in the “do what you’re told” mindset. Why should kids be subjected to 7 hours of “controlled unhappiness?” I don’t want that for my kids nor my students. I like fruity, I mean who doesn’t want a Starburst now and then? Hopefully we have leaders who no longer think this, yet are our schools “happy?” Should they be? I hope so.

Any way, I wanted to share this little treasure and of course throw my thoughts out there. Happy Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for all of you and your encouragement and your leadership!

Article:

Vaughan, R. (1967, February) Tough, Blunt, Master of U.S. Schools. LIFE, 37-45.

 

 


An Open Letter To All Adults

I want you to stop for a moment. Think back on dumb things you did in high school. Like really dumb things. Like things that were ignorant, that you would be mortified if you did now. I’m pretty sure you came up with something. Now, other than your friends at that time, and maybe your family if you were busted on it, no one really knew about it or knows about it now. Right? I may be totally wrong, but the majority of us got away with a lot of crap as high schoolers. What idiots we were. Man we were lucky.

Our students, children, kids in our communities, not so much. They don’t get to be lucky. They make the same stupid mistakes that we did. They also do awesome things too. The bad part is that when they do dumb things, it becomes viral. It gets posted online. The local media picks it up and does news stories on it. Now that dumb mistake is pure drama and punishments for embarrassing the __ (insert school, family, etc, here) are handed out.

I preach time and again that we need to educate kids on how to have positive digital footprints. How we need to watch out for them, spy on them, what ever it takes to teach them how to do this. So if that is our jobs, why on God’s green Earth are the adults publicizing these dumb mistakes? Why are adults not trying to protect them? We are the adults here, right??? We are those in the community trying to teach them not to pass on post that shouldn’t be there. We are the ones teaching them when someone makes a mistake not to post it. I tell my students time and again, when someone does something stupid, you posting that online and getting others to dislike them or laugh at them is BULLYING.

So why my rant? Well I don’t want to get into too much because I am no different then, but most of you know that I used to be a cheerleading coach. Well as teachers and coaches, we get those groups of kids who some how carve their names on your heart. Well there was this group of girls who did so. They could brighten my day no matter what. Even when I wanted to scream at them and make them run for all of practice, they would some how make me smile. So those girls are seniors and juniors this year. They make a stupid goal post sign. Really stupid. Some turned into a racist (no it is not a black/white thing) comment. They were trying to be funny and catchy with their sign. Well pictures were taken and by the time I woke up on Saturday morning they were all over the internet. No one brought up the fact they were unsupervised. Punish someone, punish the adults who should’ve been there helping and guiding them. Telling them they were being boneheads. I know I would’ve told them that.

My point of all of this, adults need to be guides. They need to tell kids when they are doing wrong without public humiliation. See a kid posting inappropriate stuff, go to kid and parents to get it taken down, not superintendent till get them kick off sports team. Or post on Facebook the picture along with your “outrage” of there actions. Or write you news report and broadcast it report every 30 minutes. No one knew anything was there until YOU told them. They are children, people! They may look like adults but their brains are not there. Just like ours were when we were that age. Unless harm is being caused, step in as an example, as a guide, as someone who could use it as a teachable moment. Stop it from an embarrassment. Let’s not humiliate kids.

On a ending note, NBC 13, you want a story about a sign from MHS? Here you go. These same girls you embarrassed on your broadcast made this sign a few weeks ago in game against Brookwood. If you don’t know about #teamkelsey, Kelsey is a cheerleader on the opposing team who has bone cancer. They wanted to show her support and let her know how much they care. No one asked them to do this, they came up with the sign themselves. That’s the kind of girls they are. Not the racist heathens trying to get one passed everyone.

image

Update on 11/22
I just wanted to add this quickly:
If your comment mentions the school name or what sign says I will not approve your comment. My job as an educator and an educational technology and social media expert is to protect children and not put online anything that could add to their digital footprint negatively. This also goes to my employer. If you have noticed never on my blog has my school name or district been mentioned. Yes the school name is on the sign but a word on the picture is not “googable.” Also the quote in the sign will not be printed. That would be the point of the post, I will not spread the mistake. Lastly, before you start blaming my coworkers and calling our school below par, 1. Find a new forum for that 2. Look up state curriculum, take it up with lawmakers. I will not add to you harassment and the whole adults acting like children. Sorry if this upsets you.


Create Like a Girl! (Sorry Boys)


“Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”

Hey y’all! I’m still alive. I think this is the longest I have ever gone between posts. But I’ve been busy. I’m a mom as most of you know, and those kiddos take up a lot of time lately! Also, I have 2 teams/sports I obsess over, the University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team and the Boston Red Sox. Well the Sox just won the world series and Bama is still kicking tail and undefeated. Then throw in a brand new (unwritten) curriculum, the struggles I’ve been working through there, the GaETC last week, I’ve been busy. Did I mention I have 2 kids?! Anyway, I was beating myself up last week for not taking the time to write and had a pretty cool person (really a mentor, but don’t tell him that I look up to him, it’ll go to his head) last night remind me why, life is busy. My first thought was “Being a woman is tough!” It is, but being a woman is confusing too. This has been on the crazy mind of mine lately, and y’all know what goes in, a lot of times comes out here. So here we go.

“The world isn’t getting any easier. With all these new inventions I believe that people are hurried more and pushed more… The hurried way is not the right way; you need time for everything – time to work, time to play, time to rest.”

Yesterday was my idol’s birthday. (Well the idol not my mom, who is a successful business woman, amazing mom and “Munner”, and cancer survivor.) Her name is Hedy Lamarr. I have mentioned her before and every woman should read her biography. She was smart, beautiful, and a bad girl who took a huge chance. She went from a marriage where her job was to stand there and look beautiful and being hostess to taking that beauty and becoming one of the most wanted actress of her time. But you see, she didn’t just stop there. She was smart. Not only was she already educated, while playing hostess to her Austrian husband pre-WWII, she learned a lot of secrets of what went on behind the scenes when preparing for war. More than just guns. She took that knowledge and her studies and along with composer (yes music composer – music and computer science can be so close to the same at times) George Antheil came up with the “Secret Communication System” that allowed the submarines to change the frequency to their radio controlled missiles and stop enemy interception. It used Frequency-hopping spread spectrum. Sounds like spy stuff but you are using that technology RIGHT NOW. Yeah. This allows things to have their own frequency, so now can talk over electromagnetic waves privately. Sounds complicated, right? Nah, it is pretty much how your cell phone works. Yeah you have a cell phone because a woman was awesome. Not only that but using that technology, you have wifi. So the beautiful woman who was the first to make a R Rated movie, is the reason you can watch an R rated movie anywhere, any time. Thank goodness she married an idiot who made her dress up and attend all of those meetings where she learned all she needed to know. Don’t underestimate the quiet and beautiful. Or do, and she will bomb your butt. (BTW she is the voice behind all the quotes mentioned here.)

“I can excuse everything but boredom. Boring people don’t have to stay that way.

So this week I was at GaETC. I had 2 sessions, and both I had to start early because the room filled to capacity. (It was a small room, I’m not that popular.) But the room was filled with women. We are teachers, it is a profession where women are the majority. I noticed the percentage during my session, then afterwards someone pointed it out and I was reminded of this post by Amy Taylor (another beautiful woman who is awesome and has the power to bomb your butt too). She talked about how only 3% of creative directors are women. When she wrote the post I had it in an open tab for a long time. It was one of those post you really want to comment on and can never get the time or thoughts together. So here’s the comment Amy! I think girls do become creative women in a creative field. But I think because of our influences we don’t choose the path creative men choose. Think of the most creative, fun, inventive woman who influenced you growing up, she was probably a teacher or a stay at home mom. I say time and time again when working with teachers and technology, teachers are the most creative people I know. When you take the fact you were probably influenced by one and then add that some of us have that natural maternal instinct (I think my instinct is broken but then I was put in education school by accident, not a chosen path) and teaching becomes a natural choice. In college it is a place you fit and full of people like you, so why branch out. I think that is FANTASTIC, but I think as teachers we need to take the time to introduce other STE(A)M fields as well. Would’ve been sad if Hedy had just stuck with the norm. We may just be getting to Zack Morris phones in 2013, not smart phones. That would totally mess with Moore’s Law, huh?

“All creative people want to do the unexpected.”

But back to making sure girls are aware of other STE(A)M careers. Get them in STE(A)M courses. Put them in a makerspace and let them make! We need to give all kids, really, the chance to be literate when it comes to technology. We need to make sure they have the skills beyond Common Core. We need to show them where these skills can take them. And we need to make sure we are not underestimate girls. We need a generation of amazing women who are powerful and think they can do anything. There is nothing wrong with being a teacher, but so many teachers quit after their 3rd year. We now know it is because of burn out, but so often I wonder if that burn out is caused because it was just not the right career for them but they are unaware of the other options out their when in college. Girls move in packs, the packs are in education schools, teach them to be confident enough to leave the pact and go out on their own!

“Hope and curiosity about the future seemed better than guarantees. That’s the way I was. The unknown was always so attractive to me… and still is.”

Hero Cape

Lastly, don’t judge a woman by her cover. Women are the WORST at this. We all know, women dress more for women than men. We judge and it is not always nice. Don’t think the pretty girl isn’t smart. Don’t think the homely  girl is just a wallflower with nothing to offer. During the conference last week I had a woman tell me after the session that “many didn’t answer your questions because you are a blonde dressed up who knows what she is talking about.” That really bothered me. Women, we need to be each other’s biggest supporter. And while I LOVE fashion and shoes and even make comments about it, I could not imagine judging someone on looks and clothes. As a mom of a beautiful blonde, I have this hope that people judge her for her kindness as well as her brilliance. But I judged her. She is a girl who is an artist. I always call my son “my math kid.” So met with the gift teacher at her school a few weeks ago, she will be in the program next year. Her test scores tell us that she is in the 97% in math and science. Yeah she is my “math kid” but I judged. Even though the other day she came running in the room to tell me she figured out how to divide. She is 7. Only info she had to go on was that I told her dividing was like subtracting, the opposite of multiplication. I’m a math/science brain. Who am I to judge?! If I judge my own child, what on earth am I doing in my classroom??? Lets kick stereotype butts. Be a mentor. And don’t leave the boys out, they need the encouragement and education as well.

“I think women are concerned too much with their clothes. Men don’t really care that much about women’s clothes. If they like a girl, chances are they’ll like her clothes.”


A Pain in my Assessment

Hey y’all, it’s been a while. I miss writing. I mostly miss having time for writing. I keep thinking, if I can just get to the next quarter I’ll be able to breathe. I doubt it though.

This year has been fun. But it has been pretty rough. Writing a curriculum as you go is hard. Doing that plus having one core class (science) to teach every day is even harder. Breaking hard headedness and apathy has become a huge focus of my day,  and that is exhausting emotionally and mentally. All this exhaustion steams from one thing though. Grades. Grading. Assessments.

This year our district has a mandatory grading scale. This has never been something we have worried about. No
matter my frustrations I’ve had at my school over the years, the admin has always trusted us to make grades fair and reflective of learning in our classroom. Majority of coworkers and I rarely give homework because kids were not doing it and the zeros were causing us to grade on laziness and apathy instead of learning. But now we can give homework to kids every night and they could make only zeroes and it would barely make a difference in their grade. But the opposite is happening. They kids are working hard in class but their grades do not reflect it.

Here is the grading scale: Classwork/Homework is worth 20%, Assessments 70%, and 9 weeks benchmark test 10%. Makes sense. Grades based on students learning the standards, not doing work. But it’s not helping. It’s literally killing me and my students. Here is why:

1. Kids blow off tests. I know assessments aren’t always tests but many of them are. When the are 3 units during a 9 weeks,  you have 3 tests plus other activities but most done after standard has been learned so not much time to this, not that many things can be done. My students do not associate what they learned with tests. It’s the most insane thing I’ve ever experienced. We can sit and talk about causes tides or Google strategies all day long but I ask about it on a multiple choice test and no clue. Because it’s on a test. And it wasn’t asked the exact same way as a study guide was. So kids bomb a test or two. The moment that happens, the grade a dropped to a point the kid can no longer bring the grade up to desired grade. Yes test says that they don’t know the standard but we all know how that isn’t always accurate.

2. There is more to learning and school than just standards. Questioning skills, problem solving, learning to work together, and digital citizenship are so important. In the past I made these part of my grading system. Not negatively, kids did not fail because they couldn’t get along with others but if kids worked hard on something and during that learning part of a standard has occured, but not mastery. So it goes into that 20%, and the more I put into that 20%, the less value it holds.

3. Grading on mastery means grading on correctness. When you are fighting apathy and a power struggle there isn’t much correctness to grade. For example in my science class I had a lab that focused on a standard.  At the end of class on the last day of lab, I asked them to turn it in before leaving. 12 of my 28 did not turn it in.  For days I begged for them. Still waiting on 6 and it’s been 7 weeks.  Last week my tech class was struggling with a search strategies activity. So I stood in front of the class and said “ok let’s walk through this together…” told them exactly what to write for the first part hoping it would be a starting point. Pulled the whole “let’s all stop what we are doing and write this together,” and told them the answer. Of my 120 students, 43 did that. Did same thing on the test for it. Gave the answer,  maybe 1/8 wrote it. I let them put all the answers to the test on a “reference card” and no one used it. This whole apathy and ‘I know this without you’ attitude has completely drained me.

4. Again,  grading mastery means grading correctness. I’m swimming in rubrics, tests,  and kids work. I can’t get it done. Parents are bombarding me mad bc kids grades so I spend and free time (maybe 15 min of my off period) calling, meeting, or emailing them back instead of grading papers that could help with accurate grades. 140 is a lot of kids.

5. I take my students grades personally and my hands are tied. This hurts.

6. In science I don’t get to choose the benchmark 9 weeks test and have no idea what the questions will be. So I don’t know if I’ve prepared them. Or science standards are kinda vague.

7. Grading morals is rough. In my tech class our focus had been on digital citizenship. But if hate speech or stealing are not things they think are wrong offline, how do I assess cyberbullying and plagiarism? That one is bugging me.

8. No room for failure and the learning that comes with it.

Ok I feel better getting all of this my chest. I hope I find a life raft soon. Once digital citizenship is done, my tech class will be almost 100% project based so that will help. I hope. If not, I hope someone knows CPR.


Make It Personal

Summer vacation has been over for a little over a month now. If you are like me it is (and always has been) my favorite time of year. I hate being cold so as soon as it hits the end of March my quality of life improves greatly until Thanksgiving when the temperatures being to drop again (I’m from the south we get to defrost longer). Summer break was great, I got to relax some & spend more time with my kids, but was,  as usual my busiest time of year.

Summer is when I catch up on reading books and blogs that make a better teacher and help me reflect on changes I need to make for the next year. I also spend a lot of time at conferences either presenting or learning, lots of times I do both. I get to spend more of my day on twitter learning from my PLN and bookmarking links. Many of my friends, family, and coworkers make fun of me for spending my time and money at conferences or blogging, yet when they need to know how to use a new technology or want to know the best site to use for a lesson, they come to me. Heck, Tuesday I spent my daughter’s gymnastics class helping a teacher/mom decide on best response system for her classroom (we decided Socratic was way to go since had class set of Chrome books).

One of the conferences I attend every summer is my district’s “Tech Camp.” This year the sessions were great & so was the attendance. It was nice seeing some of the talented people in my district step up. But I noticed something in my sessions and a session from one of my coworkers, a lot of the attendees did not know about some of the web 2.0 tools most have been using for years. He asked who has used Google docs and since no one had, he ended up doing an impromptu Gdocs lesson. In my session when I would mention a common tool or app and ask if anyone had used it before I would get crickets. I recently was pretty upset that conferences focus so much on tools and not higher level learning, but this was an awakening moment for me reminding me there were still those needing to learn the basics. But the “why” there are many who do not know these basics was what has really stuck with me.

I work in a very large district, over fifty schools and in those schools around 2,500 teachers. But we only have one technology specialist and one technical coach. The schools have “tech reps” that are teachers in the schools that have some knowledge and are asked to do some tech PD, but one person is in charge of this for the district. They do not get a dime for this,  it’s strictly volunteer and do all they can (found out a week ago most get a free day off,  but I’m sure that comes with guilt of taking a day). The one technology specialist we have is awesome and totally gets it but no way she and one coach can do PD and support all 2,500. So how are these 2,500 teachers supposed to learn about the newest trends in educational tech as well as feel like they have support with this tech they are not familiar with? I’m sure you have heard the saying “Give a man a fish you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime,” that saying totally fits here.

You see, we can do these quick one hour “here are a bunch of tools and here is a link to find them in September after school starts” or we can spend time teaching them how to take control of their own PD. I doubt anyone reading this blog post said “Hmmm, I think I am going to start right now reading educational blogs” and went to the right place and automatically filled up their Reader. Or did you randomly said I’m going to use twitter for educational purposes because following just celebrities is lame. No if you use those tools someone showed you either how they used it or told you why it was beneficial to them. Not only did someone show you how/why/what of these tools, they also gave you the information to allow you to decide which is best for you, or your took the trial and error route. Either way, you probably have found some connecting tool that works best for you, and others need that opportunity. Twitter may not work for some but a teacher may be already addicted to Pinterest easily can see the benefits there. Maybe a teacher on your hall needs that one on one time from the team PLC you think is a waste of time, so don’t blow it off and remember this is how they learn.

As teachers we dream of our students taking charge of their own learning, but as teachers we don’t always do that. Today’s world is so much smaller than it was 5 years ago, we have more options than ever before to share ideas and learn from each other. Whether it is from just going to a few conferences a year, reading blogs, or taking the plunge and connecting with others on Twitter. Everyone’s PLN is different, but it is your “Personal” learning network. Without it you only know as much as you know, with it you only know as much as all of the others you connect with, and to me that is a lot of smart kids I get to hang out with and learn from. The definition of PD is changing drastically, if you are in charge of it and taking advantage, than PD becomes an everyday experience not just a PowerPoint with handouts. It becomes real. It becomes personal.

October is Connected Educator month. It’s when we celebrate the learning and relationships that happens online. It’s also a time to encourage those around you to connect with other teachers in a way they feel comfortable. Take the time to do so, everyone should get the opportunity to sit with the cool kids.


Make It Personal

Summer vacation has been over for a little over a month now. If you are like me it is (and always has been) my favorite time of year. I hate being cold so as soon as it hits the end of March my quality of life improves greatly until Thanksgiving when the temperatures being to drop again (I’m from the south we get to defrost longer). Summer break was great, I got to relax some & spend more time with my kids, but was,  as usual my busiest time of year.

Summer is when I catch up on reading books and blogs that make a better teacher and help me reflect on changes I need to make for the next year. I also spend a lot of time at conferences either presenting or learning, lots of times I do both. I get to spend more of my day on twitter learning from my PLN and bookmarking links. Many of my friends, family, and coworkers make fun of me for spending my time and money at conferences or blogging, yet when they need to know how to use a new technology or want to know the best site to use for a lesson, they come to me. Heck, Tuesday I spent my daughter’s gymnastics class helping a teacher/mom decide on best response system for her classroom (we decided Socratic was way to go since had class set of Chrome books).

One of the conferences I attend every summer is my district’s “Tech Camp.” This year the sessions were great & so was the attendance. It was nice seeing some of the talented people in my district step up. But I noticed something in my sessions and a session from one of my coworkers, a lot of the attendees did not know about some of the web 2.0 tools most have been using for years. He asked who has used Google docs and since no one had, he ended up doing an impromptu Gdocs lesson. In my session when I would mention a common tool or app and ask if anyone had used it before I would get crickets. I recently was pretty upset that conferences focus so much on tools and not higher level learning, but this was an awakening moment for me reminding me there were still those needing to learn the basics. But the “why” there are many who do not know these basics was what has really stuck with me.

I work in a very large district, over fifty schools and in those schools around 2,500 teachers. But we only have one technology specialist and one technical coach. The schools have “tech reps” that are teachers in the schools that have some knowledge and are asked to do some tech PD, but one person is in charge of this for the district. They do not get a dime for this,  it’s strictly volunteer and do all they can (found out a week ago most get a free day off,  but I’m sure that comes with guilt of taking a day). The one technology specialist we have is awesome and totally gets it but no way she and one coach can do PD and support all 2,500. So how are these 2,500 teachers supposed to learn about the newest trends in educational tech as well as feel like they have support with this tech they are not familiar with? I’m sure you have heard the saying “Give a man a fish you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime,” that saying totally fits here.

You see, we can do these quick one hour “here are a bunch of tools and here is a link to find them in September after school starts” or we can spend time teaching them how to take control of their own PD. I doubt anyone reading this blog post said “Hmmm, I think I am going to start right now reading educational blogs” and went to the right place and automatically filled up their Reader. Or did you randomly said I’m going to use twitter for educational purposes because following just celebrities is lame. No if you use those tools someone showed you either how they used it or told you why it was beneficial to them. Not only did someone show you how/why/what of these tools, they also gave you the information to allow you to decide which is best for you, or your took the trial and error route. Either way, you probably have found some connecting tool that works best for you, and others need that opportunity. Twitter may not work for some but a teacher may be already addicted to Pinterest easily can see the benefits there. Maybe a teacher on your hall needs that one on one time from the team PLC you think is a waste of time, so don’t blow it off and remember this is how they learn.

As teachers we dream of our students taking charge of their own learning, but as teachers we don’t always do that. Today’s world is so much smaller than it was 5 years ago, we have more options than ever before to share ideas and learn from each other. Whether it is from just going to a few conferences a year, reading blogs, or taking the plunge and connecting with others on Twitter. Everyone’s PLN is different, but it is your “Personal” learning network. Without it you only know as much as you know, with it you only know as much as all of the others you connect with, and to me that is a lot of smart kids I get to hang out with and learn from. The definition of PD is changing drastically, if you are in charge of it and taking advantage, than PD becomes an everyday experience not just a PowerPoint with handouts. It becomes real. It becomes personal.


Say What?

Isn’t it funny how sometimes as teachers lessons we have planned ahead of time will end up happening at the prefect time? For example,  last week I spent way too much time trying to help my science students understand solstice and equinox, the lesson lasted until Friday. Yesterday was equinox. Didn’t plan the timing, it just happened.

Lesson I taught today in my tech class has been planned for 3 weeks now. Really since January, it was a lesson a group came up with in the conversation led by Gerald Aungst and me at the last educon. And now I sit back and think,  wow at that timing.

The lesson was to look back over your social media footprint as someone from the outside and write a negative story about yourself. Last week we spent the entire week discussing what makes someone a cyberbully and how that line gets crossed. We also talked about how kids are so quick to point the cyberbully finger when someone disagrees with us or posts something they don’t like. So it is safe to say we’d have spent weeks having dialogue about online persona and how to judge or not to judge others online.

So today they wrote. They reflected on what they posted online and twisted it into something else, something negative, hateful, etc. They made comments about how easy it was. Tomorrow we are going to look over these stories and see how we should give each other a break instead of looking for something to jump on as well as be careful of what we say or what pictures we post.

Today and this weekend I’ve watched this lesson bloom into reality on so many levels. On a personal level as well as a professional. And what it comes down to is this:
1. Why the heck do we not give a rats about who we hurt when when twist things?
2. Why have we become a society that does not value others’ opinions and honesty?
3. Why do we not listen, we see/hear/read but we don’t actually take the next step and listen then do.

Totally not getting into the personal, but the professional side of this is eating me up. Last weekend was the Bammy Awards. I was not an honoree but I went as a connected educator. I loved going to Bammy’s last year because it was a chance to hangout with my PLN without the stress and exhaustion of conferences. Hey, I like to party. :) I also like to celebrate those who put their whole lives into this profession. So that’s why I went. Not because it’s a clique (that one hurt some bc never once have I ever left someone out at an event or online purposely, I have same fears as everyone else about going to events like this and being alone or left out) even though I enjoyed seeing friends and meeting others f2f for first time. I didn’t go because I want a pat on the back,  I’m not online for recognition. No matter what anyone says, I’m not. I often wonder why the heck people read my oddities. I even have crazy guilt because I had to tell my daughter no she couldn’t have something she wanted because I spent what extra money I had this month on this trip (no worries teachers make millions). I went because our profession gets beat down too much. This was an event that was supposed to be the opposite. This was a time I don’t get the eyebrow lift and “Ohhh you’re a teacher…” comment. No this is a time to celebrate. Heck I almost quit this summer but didn’t and I’m having the best year I’ve had in years. Let’s celebrate!

The event wasn’t as ‘celebratory’ of education as I hoped. Teacher awards were not recognized, as someone in a classroom every day, that stung. Heck I’ll be straight honest with you, it more than stung. The reason I went was the celebration of education because it’s a profession so often looked down upon. But without teachers, there is no education. They are the front lines. There was more (the look on the kids faces while comedian says she wishes kids still got chicken pox stung as well) but that is not the purpose of this post. One of the teachers I got the pleasure to meet this weekend did a great job writing an honest reflection about her experience. It’s what happened next that made today’s lesson hit home.

You see Pernille was just being honest. She was giving her opinion and being open and real. That can be tough, especially when it is negative. She was giving her opinion. (This is number 2 above.) Yet her opinion was looked down upon and belittled or even worse used to attack the entire event (number 1). Twitter and facebook was just a buzzing. But her words were twisted (number 1) as well as the response from the Bammy’s, which belittled her opinion (number 2 BTW her post was compared to online opinions of Miley at the MTV awards – number 1). When others voiced opinion they were called cyberbullies – which if you were in my class and went through the checklist it did not classify.

As the convos on blog and twitter heated up people stopped listening and valuing others opinions (number 3). No one stopped and asked “what can do to not make people feel this way?” or “how can make this better?” on either side of the aisle. Or side of the theater. What ever. No it became a “right” vs “wrong” and we missed this huge chance to start dialogue. We missed this completely. People start arguing about cliques and asking “why didn’t __ teacher who isn’t online get nominated?” (um probably because your butt didn’t nominate him/her). Screw dialogue, right? Let’s twist things,  let’s complain, let’s argue,  but God forbid we work together to find a solution.

So tomorrow I’m heading back into my classroom and we are going to discuss whether or not what they posted online really was something inappropriate or was it just easily twisted. Then we are going to try to figure out the purpose of twisting things. We are going to weigh the hurtful words vs jealousy vs uninformed vs actually being wrong in doing something. I have this small hope left that my kids will learn something from this and we can see a success in this.

By the way, there were positives this weekend, I got to spend a weekend with some of the most awesome people I know,  that is totally worth it. I got to see lovely friends receive much deserved awards. Let’s focus on that, let’s ‘fix what’s broke’, and let’s watch how we respond to others.

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Just Following That Path…

Just a little thought that I wanted to share. Not much educational value but food for thought.

So it was a rough summer being turned down for jobs I knew I was perfect for. Was very hard for me to get excited about the school year starting. When I would talk to friends or people in my PLN they would say the ol “everything happens for a reason” or “well there is a plan for you and this wasn’t part of it.” That always makes me gag.

In the end I got to teach a new course and even write the curriculum for the one thing I’m really his at, technology.

So far it’s been a lot of fun. I enjoy the classes and the kids, a lot.  After the group we had last year, these kids are perfect angels most of the time. But as class discussions and activities have started to unfold I’m seeing that so many of these kids really fit this class or seem so interested.

Here is what makes this tidbit of information interesting, this class did not exist until 2 1/2 weeks before school started. So the students checked the box marked “other” when signing up for electives. If things had stayed the same these kids would have been in ‘creative writing’ class. That’s pretty different from my class!

Few weeks ago we had a 6th grade only Open House. After our asst. principal and counselor had spoken to the group of parents (all 150 of them, which is a record!) they had chance to meet and talk to the teachers. I had many parents say their child was excited about the class, common parent meet teacher convo. But as I started talking so many had reasons why they were excited about my class. One student has always wanted to be a computer engineer or the child loves computers and apps and is always trying to figure out something on there. One said his child wants to develop software while another stuff he wants to grow up and work on computers. One said her daughter wouldn’t let her cook  dinner the first day of school until she heard about her awesome tech class. Then the robots came up many times. One parent said her son is so excited about the programming part and had been looking for ways we could fund them. Then there was the clincher, a mom starts telling me how her son was on the FIRST LEGO league at his former school and was really upset he had to move to a district where there was no robotics in middle school and how excited he is about if we can get the funding or grants he would get to do what he loves again. Huge. As a teacher knowing you are doing something that helps a new student find his place is huge.

So maybe this was not part of my plan or really may not be my path, but this class is apparently “part of the plan” for huge group of kids. Makes this class that much more important to me. Makes doing this right much more of a priority.

Also makes fundraising and grant writing a huge priority as well. I no longer can just hope I fill that wish list, but I must get the materials for these kids. The wonderful financial secretary in my school has really tried to help but the central office had shut down my suggestions of donors choose, edbacker, and an online campaign using PayPal. Apparently all unethical. I’m still scrambling for ideas but like I said before I no longer can call it a wish list but it’s now a to-do list.


Happy New Year!

To a teacher our year starts the first day of school.  We don’t have to wait for January for our new beginnings.  So Monday my new beginning starts.  My excitement and worry  levels soar up and down. One moment I can’t wait but the next I feel completely unprepared.

This year, as many of you, know I’m teaching technology elective this year. Since it has not been offered at my school before I get the ‘how fun for you’ and the next question is ‘so what are your plans for this class exactly?’ I mostly want to say ‘same plans as you’ but I’m nice and usually say ‘I want this class to be the class that pushes them while being the most fun they have all day.’ That will get you some weird looks. The odd thing,  the weird looks mostly come from teachers. The parents usually say it’s going to be awesome then. But why on Earth should I be only one having fun? Then I think about how lucky I am that I’m looking at my new year and thinking it’s going to be fun.

If your back to school week has been like mine ‘fun’ and ‘kids’ are not words spoken the most. You keep hearing ‘common core’ and ‘rigor’ and ‘procedures.’ I think we are loosing site of the fact we are dealing with children as well as the fact we have one of the most fun jobs in the world. Think about it. No one becomes a teacher bc they are good at raising lexile scores and make lots of money. If so,  please do something else. Work for a text book company.  Yesterday a local church brought us lunch.  During lunch I was sitting with 2 other teachers and my 3 administrators. We were laughing so hard I was doubled over crying. Of course the teacher we were messing with wasn’t but he wanted to. Anyway one of the ladies from the church said ‘Y’all know aren’t supposed to be laughing this hard, especially the principal. You’re supposed to be tough.’ Is this how people see us? Gosh I hope not but I think it maybe. It’s heartbreaking.

Please do me a favor and go into this year focused on the kids and having fun.  Yeah I know we have common core to worry about but if you remember that we have a fun job it’s going to be a great year.

Lastly I leave with you a Ignite from one of my favorite people,  Dean Sharski,  about how adults should have more fun.  He has it figured out,  why he’s one of my favorites.