Wanna Gab?

I've been wanted to try out Gabcast ever since I heard about it and today I finally did. Gabcast is a free site that provides you a channel to record a podcast or audio greeting on your phone that you can then publish or paste in your website or blog. My first thought when I heard about it was how neat it would be to use for field trips or when moving around the school. With that in mind, I dialed up the gabcast number while waiting at the airport today with my kids. We recorded a short podcast about our mini field trip to the airport. The audio isn't the best, but that may have been the phone I was on, the noises around me or other variables...but for it's purpose, I thought it was a cool little tool to use and I definitely will be using it on our next class field trip. Enjoy!


A Bedtime Story

Once upon a time there was a teacher. She was a good teacher, who felt like she was doing the best job she could if she made a difference with the students inside her four walls. Students liked coming to her class and parents felt like their child was getting a great education with this teacher. She was happy, her administrator was happy and life was good. She probably could have continued this way for an unlimited amount of time....smooth sailing on a calm sea.

This teacher loves to read, she teaches her students to live the lives of readers. One day, in her online news reading...she stumbled across an educational blog. It was humorous. She connected with what the writer was saying and began reading this blog more often. The funny thing about blogs is they are like a Laura Numeroff book. You know...If You Give a Mouse a Cookie ...one blog leads to another. You begin liking what you read, so you notice to the side that the author of the blog has listed what they like to read and ....wa-la....with a quick click you are visiting those pages too. She begins thinking about how she would use a blog in her classroom and what voice she might personally have in the blogosphere.

She starts her professional blog during the summer and continues reading all of the blogs she can. Without realising it at the time...she was a blog stalker (reading, but not joining in on the conversations provoked). But you know, throughout her career that was how she did everything....watching and listening to make sure she knew how to take part and do a good job. But...it was time to paddle out and meet the wave. She began leaving comments on the blogs she read, noticing visitors of those blogs tracking back to read her blog and she noticed that many of these professionals that she was getting to know online were on something called twitter. What she has learned in the last six months is immeasureable.

When the school year started, the walls of her classroom came down. Students shared what they were doing daily in their classroom blog and produced their work through digital storytelling projects as well as learning through the online work of others. Many students started their own blogs at home as well as sharing what they learned with students in other classes...such as voicethread, google documents and other tools. As they leave this classroom, they may not remember everything this teacher said but they will be able to apply all they have learned to their future learning. Isn't that what we have all been trying to do all along?

As you have probably guessed, this teacher is me. What is your web 2.0 story?


Project Dilemma

My fifth grader was assigned a project to do with three other classmates where they were to research the way another country celebrates the holidays. They had to present their facts and artifacts to the class in approximately three weeks. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, any mom who has had kids with group projects can tell you...it's not. Trying to find time for four family schedules to mesh so you can get together is hard, getting the kids to focus and use time wisely is hard and keeping the kids happy and getting along can be a chore.

Riding to the rescue is Google Documents.

Each of the girls got online in the holiday project document on Google and typed their findings from the research. We got the girls together for one official meeting where they put together their artifacts. Wa La - project done - Google docs rock!


Being Thankful

I've been thinking for a few weeks about what would be in my blog post during Thanksgiving break. I am so thankful for my life, my family, my friends, my work and my health. I am really living my childhood dreams. Ever since I can remember (starting around age 5), my fondest wish has been to be a mother and to be a teacher. I am a mother of four and a teacher of many (adults and kids) at a school I treasure.

Happiness does not cause me to rest on my laurels. I feel like I am constantly pushing the envelope, looking around the corner for what's next and pondering the possibilities for new dreams. I haven't always been this way. I think working in a nurturing work environment and having like-minded friends is what gives me courage to dream bigger. Or...maybe it's just that forty is around the corner - haha

I ran across this video on Karl Fisch's blog and figured, if he thought is was worth posting...it was probably worth watching. He simply wrote, "It's worth your time." However, remember the part about the four kids? Well, my free time comes in snatches. I could see the video was almost TWO HOURS. I thought, well... I'll just watch a few minutes of this. The beginning isn't much, a few introductions but as soon as I met Randy Pausch, I was engrossed. He is a professor at Carnegie Mellon, an inspiring person just based on his work...and yet you would barely know if it wasn't briefly mentioned, he has terminal cancer. His message is: Living your Childhood Dreams.

I knew this may be a challenge for my readers to spend time watching, so I tried summarize the message, reflect, etc. I JUST COULDN'T DO IT. Even if you have to watch it in snatches, watch it. Even with the stop and go watching I did...in the end, I sat crying at my computer and thinking about what Randy was inspiring me to do.

Happy Thanksgiving! Live your dreams!!!!


Haaaalllllooooooooo out there?

Sometimes when I log in to my blogger account I feel like Tigger. Inside my head I'm saying, "Haaaallllloooo out there? Is anyone reading this thing?" I see all of the hits on my clustermap, all over the world...but who are these people and what brought them to my blog? I have had over 1,000 visitors and 98% are unknown to me. It's a lonely existence. I wish they would at least leave a comment that says, "Visited your blog from ________(place) , I'm a _________(profession)."

So I think to myself, what can I do about getting comments... #1 Read more blogs to get to know other bloggers through commenting or twitter. #2 Write posts on timely topics that will generate interest. It definitely helps.

Recently, Dean Shareski wrote a blog post about commposting and the importance of tracking back to your comments to continue the conversation started. There is actually a website that provides a download to help you trackback to your comments called Cocomment. I plan on giving it a try. But the thing that had me gaping at my computer was where he wrote, "trying to reach my goal of 2 to 1." I mean, 2 to 1!!!! That is a lot of commenting, but conversation goes two ways and that is the difference between a blog and website. I think of my blog of a conversation with the world at large. Commenting is your way to talk back!

So please, give a girl a break, let me know why you're reading this right now. Don't be a closet blog reader, jump in and join the conversation. You'll be hooked!


Don't Judge a Book by it's Cover

When I taught 3rd grade, I was told that I would have to do an author study on Allen Say. I took one look at the stack of books and did something I always tell my students not to do. I judged the books by their covers. Don't get me wrong -- they have beautiful illustrations (one even won a Caldecott award), but it was immediately obvious to me they were nothing like the kind of books that were flying off the shelf in the library...fantasy fiction, series books, colorful lighthearted books. I reluctantly began my study with my class...

To my surprise, my students were captivated by the people, places and events in these stories --and so was I. But the thing that made me really love these stories was that they turned my class into THINKERS. They are rich with beautiful language, underlying themes and strong emotion. My students felt for these characters and wanted to revisit the stories to make interpretations, study author's craft and learn new vocabulary.

When we finished the author's study I asked my students to write Allen Say a letter telling him what they thought about his books and to ask any questions they may have. I had given this particular assignment in the past, and never really expected to receive a response since I never had from other authors. Several months later, I was amazed to find a letter addressed to Mrs. Holtsman's class from a publisher. It was a letter Allen Say wrote to my class. He thanked them for their letters and proceeded to tell them how busy he had been writing his new book: Kamishibai Man. He signed the letter with his signature and a drawing of himself. That was it...he became my new favorite children's author!

Fast forward five years...I am now the literacy coach for third grade at my school. I introduced the Allen Say author study to my teachers this year. A whole new group of kids is discovering the magic of Allen Say. Recently at our Literary Pumpkin Festival, two of my classes chose to do their pumpkin on Allen Say books. They turned out adorable.
I guess there really is something to the book behind the cover thing...I'll never do that again. In honor of the works of Allen Say, I have recorded a voicethread of my favorite Allen Say story, the one he told my class he was writing, Kamishibai Man. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do...you'll have to bring your own sweets...


Bumping the Lamp

The last several weeks, the leadership team at my school has been studying the book, The Disney Way by: Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson. It is an inspiring thing to peek into the thinking that drove Walt Disney to create his dream - Disney World. Very simply, his four steps were: Dream, Believe, Dare, Do.

There are many parts of this book that I could refer to as powerful points for reflection, but sometimes my mind gets stuck on one certain thing... Since reading about it, I am continually asking myself, "Are you bumping the lamp?"

Let me back up a minute and explain. This curious phrase came about when the film, Roger Rabbit, was being made. In this scene, the character bumps his head on a hanging lamp. Initially there were no shadows in the scene, then creators caught their error and spent the countless hours it took to add the drawings with shadows. Viewers may never have noticed the missing shadows, but they would have noticed something was off... "Bump the Lamp" became the Disney nickname for making things right down to the detail.

I have always valued the details in my job, but recently I find myself constantly repeating, "Are you bumping the lamp?" I think I do pretty well with visual details (because I enjoy them), but my challenges are paperwork, planning and following up on tasks I initiated. Bumping the lamp with paperwork, for me, means that even if I don't value it...someone else will...so I need to treat it like it is important to me too. When I plan for teaching or professional development...yes, I can do a pretty good job even if I wait until the last minute to get things together...but I also know from experience that if I am far enough in advance with my plans I usually improve upon them before delivery. I love to brainstorm new ideas and frequently put them into action or encourage a colleague to take it on...but then the adrenaline junkie in me is ready for the next brainstorm. I need to stop and nuture new things that have begun and the people putting them into action. Even when I think I'm doing well, I am frequently looking for a way to bump the lamp and put more heart into my details.
I am absolutely a failure at "bumping the lamp" taking care of myself. No shadows there at all. I am starting today by pulling out my sketchpad to do the hundreds of drawings it will take...but when I'm done I'll be exercising regularly, eating healthier food, spending more time playing with my kids and looking for ways to stop and smell the roses more often.

Let's all take our cue from the Disney Imagineers. How do you think you could "bump the lamp" in your life?


Web 2.0 Open House

In the fifteen years I have been teaching I have done my yearly Open House so many different ways. I have done the speech thing (hate that), children do performance as main part (kinda like that but it takes a lot of prep), children explain the things I would have said (they always forget to say something I want them to say) and showed video of "day in the life of our students" (like that but takes forever to complete).

This year was the birth of Web 2.0 in my classroom...so we had to shake it up. I wanted the kids to build their presentation and I wanted a short (don't want to bore them) pointed message about the importance of digital literacy from me. I used voicethread as the vehicle for the students to get their message across and here was the final product.

Not only was the message more powerful than any I ever had at Open House, it was completed in less time and was able to be shared with parents that missed it that same evening from our class blog.

I decided for my part, that the most powerful, poignant way I could deliver the message about digital literacy would be to show Carl Fisch's short video: Shift Happens. I watched the faces of the parents from the side of the room where I stood...it was the most engaged I had EVER seen a room of parents be. I really feel like between the two presentations (all took about 25 minutes) I had the most compelling message I had every delivered. I can't wait to see what next year will bring!


Playing Favorites

When I first heard about social bookmarking I thought it was really cool, but didn't have time to sit down and figure out how it works (I have four kids, remember?) Anyway, I keep a little list beside my computer of things I want to know and want to do. This has been on my list since July! Last night I sat down and created my account on del.icio.us .

Social bookmarking is a way to mark your favorite places on the web from any computer, share your favorite places with your friends and visit the favorites of other people. I want to know the favorites of people much smarter than me!

The best part about it is tagging. In my favorites folder I can only put a site in one place unless I want to save it over and over again, but with tags you can "tag" the site with words that are associated with that site. Watch this video, it will help clear it up in your mind:

Once you have all of your favorites saved in del.icio.us, you can generate lists or tag clouds. A tag cloud is an awesome visual way to look the frequency of your tags and will help you be consistent in how you are sorting your favorites. If you look at someone else's tag cloud you will be able to instantly see if they have saved things you are interesting in.

Get started today so I can "socialize" with you!


Students Today

I ran across this video in the blogosphere today and just had to share it. I've been using the video "Shift Happens" to demonstrate the urgency we should feel in preparing students for the 21st century. I thought this was just as meaningful... check it out.

What did you think?


Our Environment

Today is Blog Action Day in support of our environment and I'm throwing in my two cents...maybe you will too.

In my family, recycling is taken for granted. We have the blue bin that we fill up each week and it goes out to the curb on Wednesday mornings. It is always shocking to me when we go out of town to someone else's home and they don't recycle. Can you believe many cities across the U.S. still don't have a recycling program???!? My kids just notice there is no "blue bin".

It was during one of these visits that I realised I haven't explained to my kids the actual function of having that blue bin. I went online to show my daughters (the little ones are too young) a picture of a landfill and we discussed some of the effects of the garbage we make and must dispose of each day....
My eleven year old was especially grossed out, but just enough to provoke her to action. She stopped taking juice boxes and began taking a refillable water bottle to school.

Even when I was doing the right thing...I wasn't thinking about it and talking about it...so the message wasn't being passed to my kids. Taking the time to stop and ponder has also forced me to think about what else I could be doing... saving containers to give to the art teacher, doing a recycling art project with my students and incorporating knowledge about recycling into our research. Take a moment yourself today and consider whether there is something else you could be doing...


What? So What? Now What?

In response to Stephanie's recent post asking that edubloggers take a break to reflect on what we are doing, why we are doing it, and what outcomes we think may come from the work we are doing... here are my thoughts....

What is going on with my work? Well, I feel like I have learned more in the last six months than I learned in my entire master degree program. My professional development is becoming not only whatever a "next step" is for me...but a step into the future...integrating 21st century skills into all I do. I am blogging professionally and in the classes I teach. I am teaching students, teachers and administrators how to start their own blogs. By reading blogs, I am learning how to use tools like slide, bubbleshare, rockyou, voicethread, clipmarks and sketchcast. I can find a classroom use for just about anything I find!

So What? Who cares? My students definitely care. They can't wait for their turn to blog or record a voicethread. They go home and try these things on their own without my prompting. My parents care because they are getting real time access into what is going on in their child's classroom. My colleagues care because they are learning as I evangalize about learning 2.0. I have always said that if I don't think something is going to make a big impact on my students (whether they be kids or adults) then I should question why I am doing it. Will this matter? I think these skills will change the way my students think about learning forever. When we broach a new topic they are asking me before I can even tell them, "Can we do this in a voicethread and post it online? Can I be the one to blog about this? Will you take pictures so we can post them?"

Now What? As a teacher, the students are giving me my road map. They are leading me in ways I never considered. When I show them something I learned how to do, they don't just want to know how to do it...but also how I even thought to learn that...or where I found it online. I decided that I would do a before school tutoring session for students that wanted to extend their learning into technology outside of what we were working on in class. What is up for the first lesson? My kids have started their own blogs at home and want to know how to change sizes of widgets, how to change layout, etc. Lesson 1: Tweaking html . For me, the "now what" is twitter. I am following the people that are on the cutting edge of educational technology and learning about what they are learning, going "virtually" where they are going and collaborating with colleagues at work about our future. My professional life has always been inspired by something I am reading or doing, but now I am invigorated with a passion for learning and applying what I learn.


Using Subtext

This Wednesday was a WOW (Working on the Work) day at my school. I decided to share the strategy of using subtext to help students understand what they are reading. I got this idea from Breakthrough to Meaning by: Jean Anne Clyde. Using subtext is considering the thoughts behind the action in the story (or reading between the lines).

Here is the way I suggested it be taught in a third grade classroom:
Day 1 - Show the students a photo with several people with different expressions. Teacher thinks aloud about the possibilities of the thoughts in the characters' heads, "He must be thinking, Ugh! this is boring." "She must be thinking, I wish I had one of those!" etc. Then give the students their own picture to try from a picture book for the active engagement. During work session, students use subtext on the illustrations in their own personal books.
Day 2 - Show students another photo with several people wearing different expressions. This time as the teacher thinks aloud she considers different possibilities for the thoughts. They could be thinking____________ OR ______________. Students are given a photo to do the same for active engagement. During the first ten minutes of the work session the teacher passes out a different photocopied illustration to each set of mini lesson partners. Students consider different subtext for the photos.
Day 3 - Transition to text. Prior to lesson the teacher has done a read aloud. I suggest One Green Apple by Eve Bunting because this book deals with a situation the students probably have never encountered. During the mini lesson, the teacher walks back through the story thinking aloud about what they thought the thoughts were behind the actions going on (subtext). The teacher leaves one page for the students to try the strategy during active engagement. They practice subtext during the work session.
Day 4 - Prior to lesson the teacher has done a read aloud. I used The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson . During the mini lesson, the teacher brings out the book with sticky notes that have been placed in all the places where she used subtext while reading. She reads through the book stopping to share her subtext thoughts. One page is saved for student practice in the active engagement. For the work session, students take sticky notes and jot their own thoughts about the subtext while reading a new text.

I think subtext can be an important strategy for intermediate students. Throughout their primary and intermediate years they have learned metacognitive strategies such as questioning, inferring, connecting, and determining importance. Subtext is a way for them to "draw from their bag of strategies" and use these processes to think beyond the obvious and consider what is not written.


I'm all-a-Twitter

What are you doing? I mean, really, right now...what are you doing? If you log onto Twitter, they really want to know. Why? That is what I thought the first time I saw it a few months ago. I read online about some self-proclaimed twitterholics and I just didn't get it. They said twitter was all the rage. I didn't think my life was exciting enough to twitter about.

Although I couldn't see the application for myself, I began to enjoy reading the tweets of my colleagues in their blog sidebars. Not only was I reading real time information on blogs, but I could see that someone may be presenting for a conference at that moment, traveling to Shanghai or just laughing at a joke. I found myself really enjoying their updates. I can even go to the twittervision map and see exactly where the tweets are coming from all over the world.

Regardless of the fun I was having...it occurred to me one day at work while I was trying to track down my friend...if only she had left a message somewhere of where she would be. Lightbulb! There are many times people have said to me, "I've been looking for you." Now, they should be able to find me by checking my twitter badge on my blog. And...my friends around the world can laugh at my tweets about playing remote control helicopter with my son while they are conferencing around the globe.

It is addicting, but knowing there is a true application for me helps me feel better about my new addiction. I haven't convinced my friends to twit yet, but you can help me with my argument. Are you on twitter? How have you used it?


Welcome to Blogging Wonderland

After being inspired by my favorite person on the other side of the world, Rachel Boyd, I began my own blogging life. I am inspired by all of the blogs I read from teacher leaders and have learned more in the last few months than I have in years.

I have been working hard to get everyone I know to drink the Kool-Aid and I am proud to present my newest friends entering Blogging Wonderland. Please take a moment to visit their blogs and encourage them on their journey:
CCE Art Happenings
Chet Chat Time
Nash Mountain
Curious Kindergarteners
Timmons Times
Dillard's Dreams
H Kids Highlights
Lewis' Little Learners
Mrs. Harbour's Class
Mrs. Lankford's Line of News
Mrs. Mallon's Marvelous Messages
Mrs. Ross' Second Grade Class
Mrs. Zawis' Class - 4


I Love My Job

After many hours of angst I finally completed my school's website. I really wanted some more fancy schmancy things like javascript cascading menus and other flash features...but time was of the essence so next year watch out! There is not training provided in my county for anything more than basic Microsoft Frontpage, so everything I do is hunt-and-peck self taught. I enjoy it for the most part, but I mostly do it because I absolutely love my job, the place I work and the people I work with. I would do anything they asked (don't tell them that!).



I have been SO busy with many,many things getting back to work...but I promise I'll be back to blogging soon. I thought this would be a fun post to share. My new favorite tool: Animoto. It is free if you only want to do a 30 second video and you can do a much longer one for a very small fee. Take a peek into my first day back at work in a Magical Kingdom, Chets Creek Elementary.


A Random Meme????

I started seeing blog posts yesterday that listed something called a meme. I tried to infer from my reading to see what "meme" meant. I thought...unusual facts about a person? I couldn't really tell, so I looked it up on Wikipedia. That wasn't much help either. I discovered the wording to look up is: internet meme. Read it and see.

Fast forward to today. I pulled up my Google Reader and began reading Rachel's new post. She was tagged for the 8 random facts meme. As I read down to the bottom I noticed that she had tagged me! So here's mine:

First, the Rules:
1) Post these rules before you give your facts
2) List 8 random facts about yourself
3) At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
4) Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged

1. I read in the car at stoplights. (I only get honked at occasionally)

2. I live near Orlando, FL so I have annual passes to Disney World.

3. My guilty pleasure is playing games on Webkinz. I also collect Webkinz cats.

4. I attended eight schools and lived in five states growing up because my father got transferred frequently in his job. He was a U.S. Secret Service agent.

5. My all time favorite childrens' books are: Where the Red Fern Grows and Tale of Despereaux.

6. I will NOT ride roller coasters because I am petrified of heights.

7. I have BIG babies. My first child was 9 lbs. 12 oz., my second child was 9 lbs. 3 oz. and my twins were 13 lbs. 6 oz. together.

8. I love to read historical romance novels.

TAG - you're it!
1. dayle timmons Timmons Times
2. Patrick Higgins Chalkdust
3. Beth Young Red Headed Teacher
4. Jason Hando Clever Learning
5. Maria Mallon Mrs. Mallon's Marvelous Messages
6. Carrie McLeod McLeod's Memos
7. Jenny Nash Chet Chat
8. Jen Snead CCE Art Happenings


Jump into the 21st Century

If you're ready to dip your toe into the pool of 21st Century technology tools but don't know the difference between a wiki and a weblog, Will Richardson's book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms is for you!

We have just entered this pool ourselves at my school, but it is an exciting endeavor. The best way to get up to date with the latest happenings on the web with instructional technology is to read edublogs (educator blogs). Here are some places to visit on the blogosphere as recommended by Will:
Alan Levine
Barbara Ganley
Anne Davis
David Warlick
James Farmer
Stephen Downes
Tim Lauer
Tim Wilson
Tom Hoffman
Ken Smith
Jenny Levine
Konrad Glogowski
Clarence Fisher
If you want to see who I recommend, see my blogroll on the lower right hand column on this blog.

When I first started trying to keep up with reading blogs I was clicking back and forth checking every blog for new posts. Thankfully, I discovered Google Reader, which shows you only the unread posts when you log in so you will always be current. Give it a try!


Needed: Grammar 2.0

When I was in elementary school I LOVED the first day of school. Getting to wear a new outfit, carrying a new lunchbox, sitting down in a desk with a beautiful new nametag and a stack of textbooks I couldn't wait to get my hands on! I imagine life was much easier for teachers back then. They knew exactly what they would teach and in what order. But...it was also much easier for advanced students (= boredom) and probably much harder for struggling students because there was no individualized teaching. Thank goodness we have come so far! Using the Readers' and Writers' workshop model I know I am teaching pertinent grade level content and strategies, but providing just as much time for small group work at each students' functioning level.

The sticking point for instruction now still seems to be English or Language Skills. There is so much research, writing and professional development done for Reading and Writing...I don't really understand why there is such a big void in the area of grammar. I did find one book of value last year, Mechanically Inclined, but that is it! EVERY year I have teachers come to me as a coach and say, "How do I teach the Language skills my students need and what materials do I use?" Everyone seems to love using Daily Oral Language because it is easy and it is quick. When did that become a valid criteria for effective instruction? Don't get me wrong...I'm the last one to throw stones...I've done things for the sake of quick and easy over the years - but I'd like to think it was because I didn't know what else would work better. I think that is exactly where we are at right now.

I don't know if this is nationwide problem - how to teach language authentically - or just a rut we are in here. I don't know if grammar, language skills are even taught in other countries. Do you???? I would really like to find a way to use blogging to teach these skills...


Mosaic of Thought

I normally label professional books into two categories: books I will shelf and books I will use. At dayle's suggestion, I began my current read, Mosaic of Thought - The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction. This will definitely be a book I use...for validation of my practice and instruction for those I coach.

This book begins in an interesting way. Ellin Keene talks about using her own reading habits to determine skills that good readers need in order to comprehend what they are reading. It sounds simple, doesn't it? Demonstrating for students those invisible processes they should be using while reading and then providing them opportunity to use those strategies as often as possible. However, I remember making that transition myself several years ago and wondering how I could design lessons if they weren't in the teacher's guide. I mean...being a good reader doesn't mean I know exactly what I'm doing when I read. It took a lot of reflection!

Many of the teaching materials chosen for schools are research-based to support literacy development. Ellin Keene reminds us they can "limit teachers' decision making about their students." We want to create readers, not students who can only "read".

As I peek ahead in Mosaic I can tell I have some deep reading ahead, so I'm signing off to dig in!


Summer Fun...Not!

Everytime I sit down at the computer I am so frustrated! Of course, as usual, I have done it to myself. I decided I would spend time this summer learning how to use computer programs I know nothing about in Adobe Creative Suite 3. Normally I'm a self-taught kind of gal. I fiddle around with something until I learn it. This thing is more than an easy fiddle.

I'm also normally really good at problem solving. In this case, I have purchased self-help books and am doing an online tutorial. It is just too slow paced for me and is REALLY trying my patience. I mean, could they possibly find more boring people to be the voices in those tutorials! I haven't given up, but would love suggestions if you have any... Take pity on me!


School 2.0 in 2007-08

Right now, technology is the roadmap that guides my passion for learning and teaching. When I want to know about something I don't understand, learn new things or read...I jump on my computer. The immediacy of having a computer nearby at all times makes it possible for me to verify, learn and explore whenever I want to. I am also able to communicate with colleagues on the other side of the building or ...the world! It is absolutely thrilling to me.

I know that the things I am just learning about now: blogging, wikis, podcasting, etc. will be important components of the successful futures of my students. It is exciting to me that by simply having internet access any teacher can put these tools at their students' fingertips.

My school district is on the precipice of moving from "School 1.0" to "School 2.0". It is an energizing time for me. (I really need to lay off the caffeine.) I have always felt limited in my ability to prepare my students for the technological future because of lack of proper computer hardware, software, etc. That has all changed - thank goodness!! For a quick lesson on the difference between School 1.0 vs. School 2.0 watch Simon's video from TeacherTube:

The biggest stumbling block during this transition will be firewalls and security features on our school servers. I appreciate that these things are in place to protect our kids from the dangers that can be lurking on the internet. I was one of those parents that refused to sign the internet usage permission slip eight years ago because I was so afraid of what might happen --so I really do get it. BUT I hope that we will be able to move through this process quickly and safely. I would love to hear how other districts have handled this issue in order to educate our 21st century learners.


The Lightning Thief

Okay, I have to admit it...as much as it embarrasses me...I am a book snob. I really work hard to carve out time for reading (in the parking lot before work, while I dry my hair, in the bathtub,- NOT those two together!- etc...)so if it is not an awesome book--I don't want to waste my time! That includes children's books I read to be able to read aloud or recommend to my students.

This summer, the Today Show started a book club for kids. I didn't pay much attention to it until I happened to be watching one morning when the kids were talking about a book they had been reading. I couldn't tell exactly what the book was about, but the enthusiasm for the book was unanimous among the kids. The fact that it was recommended on TV or that it just sold it's movie rights wouldn't have caused me to seek it out, but the kids' zeal for the book grabbed my attention.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan is a story about a twelve year old boy with ADD and dyslexia who finds out he is the modern day son of a Greek God. Still hasn't caught your attention?!? Well, read the first few lines of the story in this excerpt:

Look, I didn't want to be a half-blood.
If you're reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close the book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom or dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life.
Being a half-blood is dangerous. It's scary. Most of the time, it gets you killed in painful, nasty ways.
If you're a normal kid, reading this because you think it's fiction, great. Read on. I envy you for being able to believe that none of this ever happened.
But if you recognize yourself in these pages-if you feel something stirring inside-stop reading immediately. You might be one of us. And once you know that, it's only a matter of time before they sense it too, and they'll come for you.
Don't say I didn't warn you.

What kid is not going to want to turn to the next page? I can't wait to use this book in my classroom this year and I will recommend it to anyone who'll listen. Are you listening? Don't take after me and be a book snob.


Walk a Mile in History's Shoes

This whole blogging thing is new for me. One of the ways I am learning is by reading, reading and reading all the edublogs I can. How do you find great blogs to read? Check out the blogrolls that people list in their sidebar. I have listed my absolute favorites in mine, but check out the blogrolls on your favorite blogs.

Reading the blogs of all of the great teachers out there has also given me some great ideas for how I can make blogging an exciting and valuable experience for my students. I can't wait to get them started. Yesterday, I found a great idea thanks to the author of Bump on a Blog. He attended a session at NECC on Historical Blogging. Students studied the life of Harriet Tubman and were assigned tasks to complete a historical blog with journal entries, drawings and graphic organizers. Students not only learned about Harriet Tubman, but were able to "walk a mile in her shoes" by completing this project. What a tremendous idea! Check it out and get reading!



This morning I was scanning my newsletter from Education Week when I noticed under the heading of "Blogs" the word: Eduholic. I thought, uh-oh, I don't even have to read that to know it's me. I can predict the symptoms... getting excited about free stuff for your classroom, saving everything you ever get in case you might need it later, correcting the grammar and facts of friends and family, never having too many children's books, buying strange quanities of weird items at the grocery for experiments, working off the clock as much as you do on the clock, calling your colleagues at home to talk about the place you just left... oh, boy....I'm sure my family could add to the list.

So, is this a bad thing? Some (even some other educators I know) say I'm crazy. I say I have a passion for what I do. I live the life of a reader, writer ...and lifelong learner. I try to be the kind of teacher I would want my own children to have. So maybe my house could be a little cleaner, I could cook more gourmet meals--but I don't think I'll look back and regret not doing those things enough. I do take the time to spend with my family (check my bank account to see I spent a week at Disney) and I do things for me ( like reading fiction and getting manicures ). Do you think I need to join a twelve step program or are you an eduholic too?


Point of View

I just finished reading a book by one of my favorite authors, Jodi Picoult. The book was Songs of the Humpback Whale. It is written in the five voices of the main characters. Have you ever read a book like this? I have, but never have I felt equally for each character's point of view as I did when I read this. Usually while reading, I find myself taking the "side" of a certain character and not empathizing with most them. I side with the character that suits what my own point of view would be. Jodi has the distinct ability to make me feel like I am walking a mile in everyone's shoes.

This makes me think about my first year teaching. I began my career teaching fifth grade students with learning disabilities. Many of my kids couldn't read, had challenging home situations and had behavior problems. These were the kids I WANTED. I was going to really impact their lives...and I still feel that is my goal as a teacher. I was so certain I was "right" in all I did. I thought I knew how their parents should be raising them, how administrators should handle their shenanigans and exactly how to teach them. I wasn't wrong in all I did. In fact, I think I did a pretty good job as a beginning teacher...but I have learned to look at things from many different sides. When I'm not happy with a student's behavior, classwork, parents or co-workers I always stop and think about their point of view. As a teacher or coach, I know I am much more effective by being empathetic to others. I have even learned to consider the possibility that I may be wrong! Does this mean I'm all grown up??!


Why Blog?

I learned what the term "blog" (web log) meant only about a year ago. My understanding was that it was an online diary. My first thought was...why would anyone want to put their diary online!!!? Since that time, I have seen snippets mentioning blogs on various Education websites I peruse such as Ed Week. I began reading blogs that I found interesting and discovered Rachel Boyd's Blog. It was by reading her blog that I learned how EASY blogging can be. I began a blog for my classroom and turned many of my fellow teachers on to blogging at my school. So why this blog? Well, I am constantly saying to my friends, "Oh, I'm reading this book ....and..." I have so many thoughts sparked by the things I read and learn. So here's my new space to flesh them out, ramble on, share with so many others that have shared with me, rant and rave, whatever... I hope you check back from time to time and give me your thoughts!