DRA 2 - Online for you!

This year, our county transitioned from using the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) to the DRA 2. School started a week ago, but we just got our kits! The teachers were ready to assess but needed training on this new tool. One week into the school year it is impossible to have all of the reading teachers take a few hours off for some training ...sooooooooo, technology to the rescue!

One of the reading teachers at my school, Jenny Nash, was the designee who received the training on DRA 2 for our school. I arranged for her to be out of her classroom for a few hours while I filmed her explaining and demonstrating the DRA 2. I spent a little over a day editing the footage with Pinnacle and then uploading it to the web. Instant professional development! I hope we will be able to use video and internet applications like this for more professional development this year.


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

It's been several months since I read Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds, but I think I needed that time to reflect, process and enact change before sharing my thoughts.

I've never been a big fan of powerpoint. It always seemed more like a prop for the speaker than something that added to the speech. In Presentation Zen, Garr uses Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind as a framework for explaining how presentations should target the left brain and right brain. A presentation is really storytelling and storytelling is made more powerful with the images. I learned so much from this book about images. How negative space in an image conveys part of the message...how choosing the right image can change the point of the message. A book well worth reading, and one I will return to for reference.

With Presentation Zen in mind, I built my first Keynote presentation. Searching for the right image to convey a message became my mission when I began working on the presentation for my principal's opening day message. I really enjoyed perusing through stock photos and thinking about how particular images changed the message. Here's how it ended up:

Opening Day 8 11 08

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: web2.0 teachers)

What I didn't expect was for my personal lens to change as I chose photo shots of family, school life and nature. I'm as amateur as you get when it comes to photography, but now I think about composition before I shoot and I find myself searching for the camera when I normally wouldn't have taken a photo. Today was the perfect example, I took my kids shopping at the party shop and they hopped up on these fun little stools. Normally I would have smiled and said "let's go", but today I saw the image in head and began reaching for the camera from my purse.

I've joined a group on the photo sharing website, flickr, called 366photos. They take a photo a day from their life, a snapshot in time each day over the year. I can't wait to see how I grow as a photographer and a storyteller. I hope you'll follow along...


Back to School - Blogs are Born!

Last year at my school, a handful of us became bloggers and blogevangalized to everyone who would listen. This year, our school theme and focus is technology and meeting the needs of our 21st century learners. Most everyone is wanting to dip their toe in the pool on blogging. So, during our first few days of teacher planning I offered Blogging 101.

What do we do in Blogging 101? It's really quite simple.
#1 What do you want you want to name your blog?
I tell teachers that they can name their blogs whatever they want, but to be smart about the blog description listed under the title. Blog readers that are surfing to find new blogs to subscribe to might not go past the description, so tell them what or who will be doing this blog (your students, you, a group of teachers, etc. ).

#2 Consider something easy for your blog address.

When I created my blog I didn't know any better. I thought it had to be the title. Now I know if your blog is titled, "Mrs. Moore's Third Grade Mathematicians" it would be much better to have an address like math3.blogspot.com rather than mrsmooresthirdgrademathematicians.blogspot.com. Make it easy for your readers to remember where to come if they don't have a blog reader service.

#3 Follow the steps on Blogger to create your blog.
(There are many other platforms, but when training a group it is easier to stick with one and we know it is unblocked where we teach.) It literally only takes a few minutes.
#4 Make a post before you leave!
I like teachers to make a post telling something interesting about themselves or telling about their summer adventures. This gives us the opportunity to learn about hyperlinking and looking for images for the post. Also, it gives the reader something to read when they go there, because they will give out the address right away!
As I went through my Blogging 101 sessions last week, one of my seasoned blogging teachers said, "Hey, what about me?" I said, "You already know how to blog!" She said, "Teach me something I don't know how to do!" So.... Blogging 201 formed.

Here's what I decided to do in Blogging 201:
#1 Ways to build your readership.
Read other blogs and comment so they will track back to you and read yours. Blogs are for two way communication, leave thought provoking posts with open ended questions at the end of the post soliciting responses. Make sticker labels to put in students' daily planners to remind parents to read the blog ad comment.

#2 Tagging
If you tag your posts they will be easier for people to find and link to you. You will also be able to sort through your old posts easier.

#3 Images
One of the first things I noticed as I continued to read blogs was the images that other bloggers were using in their posts. It always seemed like everyone found better images than I did. Most teachers know how to use Google images to find a particular image, but most don't know about stock photos. Here are my favorite free sites:
Stock Vault
Public Domain Photos
Every Stock Photo

#4 HTML Code
Now, I don't know much about html code, but I handle it like I do everything else...I fiddle until I figure it out. I've had many people ask me why a widget or video posted on their blog was too wide. Sometimes I can't fix it. But...many times if you look through the code and find something that says: width 350 x 550 or something like that, you can tweak the numbers until it fits. The key here is writing down the original numbers in case you need to go back to the beginning.
101 and 201 Bloggers alike have started off this first week of school with their blogs which are all linked on our school webpage under Websites, Blogs and Wikis. We'd love for you to follow us!


Second Life with Daniel Pink

One of the reasons I wanted to know more about Second Life was the professional development opportunities there. Recently, Kevin Jarrett put out on twitter that Daniel Pink would be presenting about his new book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko. Last year, I read A Whole New Mind and loved it - so I couldn't wait to hear about Daniel's new book.

I followed the link to his event and my Second Life avatar showed up in an area with a large screen and an avatar with Daniel Pink's name. (In Second Life, your name appears over your head.) See the photo with all the audience members? That's me in the maroon shirt, near the bench.
It was an interesting experience. The screen shows the slide show and as the presenter is speaking you can speak to other avatars and ask questions. I can't wait to try it again!

Johnny Bunko is a different business book that Daniel Pink has written entirely in manga . Here's a video to tell you more about it.


Back to School - Jeff Utecht Style

Today was the first day back to school for teachers in my district. At my school, our theme and focus for the new year is technology. We're going on a "Virtual Learning Adventure"! We arrived at school this morning ready to board school buses to be shuttled to our county's professional development center. The room was prepared for a day of learning and connectivity with laptops at each table.

After our principal welcomed us all back to the new year, we were fortunate enough to receive a skype call from Jeff Utecht. Jeff was able to capture his screen and show us on Google Earth a mini-bio of Jeff Utecht, from Washington to Bangkok. What a great way to connect right away to this amazing international educator. The room was silent as Jeff shared his thoughts about harnessing online tools for education and giving students a global audience for their work. In the short time span of about ten minutes he was able to show them some websites with powerful collaborative possiblilities and global audience.

The impact on my faculty was evident in their notes to Jeff:

This morning's presentation by you was perfect. You punctuated so many of my points for today - I think our faculty really loved hearing from a REAL teacher! Thank you for taking the time to visit with us.
Susan Phillips, Principal

Jeff, You made my head spin with all of the possibilities that we each have as educators. This morning you gave each of us the confidence that "we could empower our students in the world of technology".
My thanks to you for a great 1st day.
KK Cherney, Media Specialist

It is very nice to know that in a very fast-pace changing world, we will always have someone to teach and guide us along the way. I am very excited about infusing technology into my first grade classroom this year. However, I know that I have to take it one step at a time and I'm very thankful that we have instructional help from teachers such as yourself that are willing to walk us through the process, no matter where each of our own individual start lines are. Thank you for taking the time to share with us!!
-Haley Alvarado 1st Grade Teacher

It was great to have the opportunity to learn from an expert who had such a modest and personable presence. I really enjoyed hearing about all of the places that Jeff has traveled to as well as some of the "rough" conditions he experienced :) He spoke in a practical manner and gave applicable every day ideas and suggestions that I am eager to try out in my classroom. Not to mention, I had a major mojito craving by the end of the conversation! [Jeff said that on the first day, teachers were probably thinking about the mojitos they wish they were having]
Jen Zawis, Teacher of the Gifted

I would just like to thank Jeff, first of all for his time. He didn't have to stay up late, but because he is so passionate about what he does, and about educating others, he did. I thought his message, the fact that we were actually speaking to him half way around the world tied in our theme and excited the faculty. He shared many new and informative sites, ideas, and I loved his message, '"being safe in a new learning landscape" because so many of us have those concerns.
Christy Constande, 4th Grade Teacher

As I sit hear tonight and think about all the possibilities that Jeff opened up to us today, I am still simply amazed that we were able to hear and interact with someone in Manila! As commonplace as that must be for so many people around the world, it still blows me away. I think Jeff made me believe that there is nothing that we can't do if we can imagine it. I'm already thinking about an Australian wiki for first grade teachers as they study about the country during their Author Study of Mem Fox and skyping in a friend that is playing baseball for the Canadian team at the Olympics so he can have a conversation with 5th grade students learning about China and... the list goes on and on. I just can't thank Jeff enough for taking his time to help me believe in what I once would have thought was impossible!
dayle timmons, Exceptional Education Teacher

Jeff, I was completely enthralled with your presentation this morning as we viewed you from the Schultz Center. What a great way to start the new school year by hearing from someone so knowledgeable and real as you! I had heard of you from Melanie, as she just thinks that you walk on water. Now, I can see why. You are a very cool guy who is not only on the cutting edge with technology, but you are a very real and normal guy, with a terrific sense of humor. You explained things to our faculty, in a way that is easy to understand without making anyone feel ignorant or incompetent.You made us feel like any of us could do what you were explaining. Thank you for being so motivating, inspiring, and for believing in us and making us feel that one day we might know what you know in technology. One of the many quotes from your presentation that I wrote down was, "Create content through a medium they love to use." This statement really hit the bull's eye with me. As teachers, we are always trying to find ways to connect to our students and motivate them. Technology is meeting them where they are and taking them further. I got so much out of your presentation. Thank you for taking your time to share your knowledge. It will reach more people than you could ever imagine as we use it to accelerate our students' learning.
Dorry Lopez, 4th Grade Teacher

Jeff, I loved listening to you this morning. You are such a great motivator and I really enjoyed getting my brain started to think about how I can push myself to new limits along with my students. Thank you for sharing your passion with us.
Debbie Harbour, 1st Grade Teacher

What fun to speak with Jeff this morning. He was such a nice "everyday" teacher, it made the whole concept of web 2.0 seem more attainable to many of us, I think. I loved some of his simple ideas that he relayed with us for elementary level applications (i.e. publishing via personal page of class blog). Like Jeff, I, too, loved the comment from the child's father. How powerful is that? What a special treat for a child to receive such public praise and current connection from their loved ones!
I'm looking forward to making connections with other students, teachers, and other interesting people around the globe this year. I have recently felt the power of how the internet can bring people together (via Facebook). I've been fortunate to reestablish connections with old friends and family who, now, have scattered themselves around the world. I am excited and inspired to draw them into my classroom and share their global knowledge and experiences with my students.
Thanks, Jeff, for your time today! I've added your blog to my reader and look forward to tagging along on your journeys!
Jenny E. Nash , 3rd Grade Teacher

Dear Jeff, I want to thank you for your time and insight into the world of technology and its impact on education today. You had a wonderful impromptu presentation - it was interesting and insightful.
Thanks again, Maria Mallon, 1st Grade Teacher
P.S. I skipped the Mohito and had a Margarita instead :)

Master Jeff in a sort-of Jedi way,
Your message really made me feel like I am going in the right direction with my teaching (blogging
, web page building , emailing (ruarkt@duvalschools.org )...). I do agree that the powers that be need to worry less about the flow of inappropriate information at the expense of the flow of meaningful info. We must model and then trust kids to do the right things. I would love for my kids to have an open and genuine wiki for homework help, but I fear that if I over-manage the endeavor, the kids will not engage, and without engagement you have nada. I am all ears, if you or others have suggestions.
Thanks for your time and your insights. I love to listen to people that simply have the will to make things work out, gives me hope!
Peace to all,
Tom Ruark, 5th Grade Teacher

Jeff, Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with us. We're so excited about expanding our classroom to, virtually, the world! I especially enjoyed the Google Earth tour. My father-in-law is a huge fan of GE and shows us all kinds of places when he comes for a visit. (For example, the house he grew up in back in Ill.). Now I have something to share with him - the compound in Saudi Arabia was my favorite. I hope you have a wonderful school year and I look forward to reading your blog.
Sincerely, Lori Metzger, 3rd Grade Teacher

I absolutely love watching technology in action in the teaching world. It is amazing to me to see how easy collaboration becomes through Skype, Wikis, etc. What a great way to bring the world and so many different cultures into our classroom at the click of a mouse. Thank you Jeff for taking the time to share your world with us.
Melissa Ross, 2nd Grade Teacher

A mentor once taught me that nothing will ever change until there is a sense of urgency established. Too often, it is my fear that teachers don’t feel that sense of urgency the way say business executives trying to drive up profits would. However, I feel that the tide is changing. Technology and Web 2.0 have made the world so much smaller, so much more connected. That is why I was so excited when Melanie said that Jeff had graciously agreed to Skype with our faculty on opening day. Teachers not only got to hear about how connected the world truly is, but got to experience it first hand. I hope Jeff realizes the aftermath that his conversation is having. Teachers, today, when they could be doing any number of other things, are setting up wikis, creating blogs, and sharing ideas about infusing technology to promote student engagement. They will most definitely have students writing to a world wide audience this year. They will know their voice is heard. Thank you Jeff for planting the seed of urgency and possibilities! I know this year will most certainly be a Virtual Learning Adventure!
Suzanne Shall, Standards Coach

Thank you again, Jeff, for your time and inspiration - as you can see, talking to you was just the ticket to get our year started!


Latest Videogame: Your Classroom!

Video games...kids love them. They can't wait until they get home to play them. They hold their attention for an extended period of time. They hate it when they get them taken away as punishment. Kids that can't sit still for a fifteen minute mini lesson sit glued on the spot while interacting in the video-virtual environment.

How can this behavior translate to a classroom? What teacher doesn't want her students to love their classroom? Look forward to coming every day? Pay attention to every morsel of information delivered in the lesson? How can we make our classroom more like a video game?

David Warlick, in Web 2.0 New Tools, New Schools, says we need to study the experience of video gaming for a child. Here are the elements that keep the kids returning with gusto for more:
1. Responsiveness
2. Convert-able and convers-able rewards - Kids work to increase their own level. This is desirable for bragging rights and also to share strategies/short-cuts used to achieve their level. Also, when moving up levels the game environment changes.
3. Personal investment - Video game developers learned that kids return to games they have invested in. This can be done by generating currency in the game, health points, extra powers or an inventory. Kids have to invest time, skill and learning into the game to increase their level.
4. Identity building - Customizing your video-game presence. Personalizing the player's experience.
5. Dependability - Most video games give a sense of the solution to the problem being attainable in some way.

This got me thinking...how can a classroom environment harness these powerful elements? I think the easiest thing would be identity building. As a classroom teacher, every summer I worked hard to decorate my classroom and label each desk with names. Everything matched and looked great. I never thought about the fact that it was an identity I assigned. Each desk could have an identity the kids assign. Some easy ways to do that? Allow the kids to cover their desk with a piece of gift wrap from home ( or bring an assortment in ), by the time they tore off it would be time to choose a new identity. They could put stickers, notes or photos taped on the wrap. Students could bring little pillows from home to sit in their chair. Or...have a class project to bring in a favorite fabric pattern and sew them in class. Allow students to move around the room to work if they work well that way. Many of the teachers at my school allow kids to choose an area of the classroom for their "book nook" for reading.

Think about what kind of personal investment your students have in your class behavior system. I think the biggest mistake teachers make is never varying what they do throughout the year. Change the rewards involved or offer alternatives. Allow students to earn non-tangibles such as special priviledges (helping out in another class for 30 minutes, inviting someone from another class to recess, eating lunch with the teacher one on one...if you need new ideas, ask the kids for suggestions). Offer rewards "points" for coming to school on time, kindness, 100% effort, neat personal spaces, etc.

Most teachers probably feel their class encompasses dependability already. We feel like we give students strategies to attack problems and comprehend...but many students still aren't getting it and they know they should because everyone else is understanding. Do they know what to do? They don't want to raise their hand or admit in public a lack of understanding. Provide a private way for students to communicate. Have a teacher mailbox on your desk for notes. Let them know the solution is attainable and they can ALWAYS say they don't understand.

Convert-able and convers-able rewards is a BIG new idea. Bragging can seem negative, but what if we allow students to be "experts" on certain things. You can make a chart on your wall that labels experts on topics such as: naturally good spellers, organizers, multiplication facts, artist, welcoming committee for visitors, musical, book reviewers, etc... Students would then have permission to go to those students for needs in those areas and would generate an opportunity for bragging when the student explains why they are an expert. It could be possible that one day a week you allow an "expert" to teach a strategy on what they are good at doing.

The only thing I think about responsiveness is that sometimes the relationship you have with your students can be more powerful and life changing than any other thing you do all year. Think about how well you know you students. Is there a way you can know them better?

I hope this idea of looking at your classroom the way a child looks at a videogame has impacted your thinking like it has mine. I can't wait to hear your thoughts and your ideas...