Tuesday, February 10, 2015

App Smashing 101

Technology is an incredible tool for learning because it puts the power of creation in students' hands.  Not only that, but it allows students to share their learning with an authentic audience - beyond the walls of the classroom - their families and friends, and others around the world.

App Smashing is an amazing way to combine the strengths of the various applications available to create a final product that redefines the learning task by creating something that would never have been possible without the use of technology.

App smashing has been one of my goals for technology integration at my school this year, and I have enjoyed sharing app smashing ideas and examples with my staff, as well as other educators, and have been learning a lot along the way.

Check out my App Smashing 101 slides from the ITEM Conference for information, ideas, and resources:

Here are some App Smashing resources that were developed collaboratively during my session:

Explore and Play: Coding with iPads

Coding on iPads can be fun and [fairly] easy with some of the awesome apps that are available these days.  Check out my slides from my Explore and Play: Coding with iPads in the Elementary Classroom poster session at the ITEM Conference for some ideas and resources to help you get started:

ITEM Conference 2014 - An Award!

This past October, I was extremely honored and humbled to be recognized as the Technology Integration Specialist of the Year by the ITEM Organization - Information and Technology Educators of Minnesota!

I am fortunate to work with a very talented, passionate, and supportive group of educators at my school who are open to trying out new ways to integrate technology into learning.  I also feel lucky to collaborate (face to face and via social media!) with knowledgeable and innovative members of the local, national, and international ed tech community through my PLN.

I look forward to continuing to refine my practice through continued learning, collaboration, and reflection, and am so honored for the recognition!

Many thanks!

PS - check out the #mnitem Twitter chats for the latest on information and technology education in MN! 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Teachers as Pollinators

This post corresponds to day #18 of the +TeachThought 30-day blogging challenge, focused on reflective teaching through blogging. Click here to learn more about the challenge!

I've been giving a lot of thought to an analogy that helps to shed light on my teaching philosophy, and I have landed on the following:

Teachers are like pollinators.

image: https://flic.kr/p/ePxjLW

We are hard workers.


We deliver information and instruction to our students, and provide them with 
opportunities that help them to grow and flourish.


We cross-pollinate by connecting, sharing and collaborating 
with colleagues with different areas of expertise.


What's your metaphor for teaching?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Challenges in Education

This post corresponds to day #17 of the +TeachThought 30-day blogging challenge, focused on reflective teaching through blogging. Click here to learn more about the challenge!

Teaching is a tough job.
We navigate financial hardship, lack of resources, time crunches, language barriers, lost homework, keeping up with new initiatives, and the need to meet each of our students where s/he is at.  All while simultaneously trying to teach the content and language students are expected to learn this year.

But, if I had to choose the biggest challenge in education today, I'd have to go with the pressure and focus on standardized test scores.  The importance placed on achieving a certain score on a standardized test is enough to cause major stress for the student, family, and teacher.  The part that I see as the biggest challenge is that the standardized tests of today really aren't able to get at some of the overarching skills that will help our students be successful throughout their educational and professional careers: perseverance, problem solving, collaboration, innovation, creativity, critical thinking, self-directed, good communicator, etc...  Additionally, the time spent preparing students to take standardized tests often takes away from other content areas and projects that would continue to develop students' habits of mind.

Have you ever watched Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk entitled "How Schools Kill Creativity"?  In it, Sir Ken talks about the importance of giving kids the chance to be wrong -- yes, to fail -- to make mistakes and to learn how to learn from their mistakes.  The pressure kids face with standardized tests does not exactly set the stage for the mindset that failure is an important part of learning.

There are many challenging issues in education today, but for me this issue stands out.  As Sir Ken Robinson says at the end of his TED talk, "Our task it to educate childrens' whole being so they can face the future...because we may not see the future, but they will, and our job is to help them make something of it."  #philosophicalfoodforthought

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A New Set of Superpowers, Please!

This post corresponds to day #16 of the +TeachThought 30-day blogging challenge, focused on reflective teaching through blogging. Click here to learn more about the challenge!

Today's post is all about superpowers.


It's true, I think teaching is already a pretty awesome superpower... but, if I were able to take on additional superpowers in the classroom, I think I'd go with the ability to instantaneously clone myself, be in multiple places at once, and have superhuman endurance.

If I had these superpowers, I could be in classrooms supporting students and teachers with their tech integration, while also meeting with other teachers to plan and brainstorm new ideas, as well as participating in various Twitter chats throughout the day, meeting with student technology groups, blogging about cool things we're doing, researching new ideas on other educators' blogs, planning future professional development, collaborating with the other tech integrationists in my district and general area, and attending and sharing ideas at various educational conferences worldwide.

I went around and around with my superpower choices to make sure they were the best ones I could come up with.  I talked with some co-workers (one had the idea of a superpower to start and stop time so she'd have a chance to work with every student when they needed help, another had the idea of turning her hands into homework magnets so that kids wouldn't forget to turn it in), and I also did some research online (ever wonder what a list of superpowers and characters who possess them might look like? Check out this Wikipedia entry!).  There are so many awesome superpowers out there!  I mean, c'mon, who wouldn't like to try out a sonic scream, animated hair, or vortex breath every once in a while?

So, how about you?  Which superpower(s) would you choose?  I can't wait to check out the other 30-day challenge participants' posts from today to see what they chose!

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Few Strengths

This post corresponds to day #15 of the +TeachThought 30-day blogging challenge, focused on reflective teaching through blogging. Click here to learn more about the challenge!

It's true when they say that it can be difficult for teachers to talk about our strengths. It's all about the students, after all, right?  We want to encourage them and help them to recognize their strengths so that they gain a deeper understanding of themselves as learners and individuals. But, we have to remember that modeling self-confidence and self-awareness for our students is a great way to help encourage those skills in them as well.

When I reflected on my own strengths as an educator, here were a few I came up with:

1) I'm an innovative thinker.
I like to push the boundaries and explore new ideas. I'm a connected educator and love to collaborate and connect with my PLN to exchange and explore ideas, strategies and resources.  A quick example from last year: After being met with some indifference initially from staff about coding, I decided to start a recess coding group for our 1-6 grade students last year from January - May, and had incredible results!  Lots of students were interested, and lots of staff became interested. This year, we taught coding as a part of our school's back to school summer institute, our 6th graders will code for 6 weeks straight, and I'm hoping to forge ahead with my recess coding group to include kindergarten.

2) Motivator / Cheerleader / Positive Thinker
I love to cheer people on (students, staff, anyone!) and find the positive side of any situation.  I especially love to take on this role when others take risks and need some encouragement. It's awesome to celebrate an accomplishment with someone who has worked hard to get there!

3) Lifelong learner
I'm definitely a lifelong learner. I think this is a strength because when I learn new things, I am excited to try them out at school. I usually team up with a teacher or find a way to integrate the new idea, all while letting students know that they are about to try out a new idea (I'm also not afraid to fail... FAIL = First Attempt in Learning, right?!).  I also love to learn from my students, and I absolutely embrace the idea that everyone is an expert and has expertise to share.

4) Sense of humor
I love to laugh! I like see the lighter side of situations and try to take things in stride.
A quick anecdote: I was in a 2nd grade class last year and some students were taking while to put their iPads back in the cart after an activity. I got closer to see what was taking them so long, and overheard their conversation, "My iPad says hashtag nineteen. What does yours say? What do you think it means?" ... ahh, hilariousness!  One must have a sense of humor in education - too many silly things happen during the course of a day  :)

What are some of your strengths?  Go ahead, toot your own horn!  These are undoubtedly the things that make you a great and memorable teacher!