Monday, January 31, 2011

How do I pursue self-selected Professional Development?

How often do teachers get to choose their professional development based on their strengths and passions? How often do they get to engage in meaningful conversations about learning?

Following blogs that resonate with my pedagogical beliefs for learning provide me with the professional development that meets me where I am.

How in the world do I have time for this? It started by clicking the word "Follow" on blogs, so that I could read them later in my Blogger Reading List. I do still look at this, but I've realized that Google Reader is even quicker (and appeals to my love of lists and organization).

To read the blog in Google Reader, all I have to do is click on the RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication. However, when I see "RSS" I think of it as "Read So Simply," because that's what it does.

You click it, and now the blogs I've requested get placed in an organized, alphabetized menu with a window to read them! I can dive into the blogs, look for particular ideas, or simply "Mark all as read," and not bother with it.

Every once in a while I have an issue getting into my Google Apps account because I'm still logged on under my regular Google account. I was fixing that by emptying the cookies/cache, but that was a bit of a nuisance. With the suggestion of Sue Waters, I now just use a different browser when I open my Google Apps account. Easy fix.

I can engage in meaningful conversations with other educators on the blog, at work, or in personal reflection. My pace. My time. My choice of professional development.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tips for Student Comments on Blogs and Forums

A science teacher would never let his/her class play with chemicals and the Bunsen burner without setting the rules, procedures, and expectations. Similarly, it's important to set guidelines, rules, and expectations for students to comment on blogs and forums.

These guidelines should outline appropriate online behavior and internet safety precautions.

These guidelines can simply be borrowed from mine below, or you could create a class project to make your own.

  1. Students, parents, and teachers will identify the students by their first names only. (If a parent comments, it should read "Tracy's dad" instead of "Ken Watanabe"). 
  2. Keep personal information private, such as your last name, phone number, and where you live.
  3. Respectful comments are allowed.
  4. Proof-read comments are allowed. 
  5. Use complete sentences with appropriate grammar. ("Text talk" does not qualify).
  6. All comments submitted must have teacher approval first.
  7. Try to write comments that continue the conversation. (Click here for helpful hints).
  8. Try to find comments you agree with or made an impact on you, then add to the discussion. 

Create Guidelines Class Project or a Webquest:

Here is an idea of a webquest that could help you create the guidelines and expectations for your own blog:

Task: Our class blog needs guidelines for appropriate and safe online behavior. Your task is to create those guidelines.

Resources: Here are examples of effective blogging rules and guidelines.

High School and Middle School examples:
Elementary School examples:

General Procedure:
1) Which of the resources are our favorites? Why? What makes them effective?
2) Based on the above discussion, create criteria for what makes effective blog guidelines.
3) Collaborate to write our own blogging rules and guidelines.
4) Panel Presentation: Present your blogging guidelines to a real audience of experts. Allow them to use your criteria and/or their own to decide which one is best.

Timelines: You should set these up with daily goals. Graphic organizers or a wiki might be wise choices.

Assessment: A rubric with exactly what you are looking for should be created. Emphasis on effectiveness, clarity, originality (to avoid the ole copy/paste), and collaboration should be set.

Suggestion: Allow students to "try it out" and allow reflection/revision.

Anyone up for the task?

This post was inspired by CCJH's Ms. Schreiner who is in the process of creating her first class blog, Edublogs Teacher Challenge, and Patrick Ledesma's article.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nominate a Classroom Super Hero

The other day I sent the following email, "I'd like to nominate you as a Classroom Super Hero! Would you please register at the Classroom Super Heroes site? Thank you!" is a project of the National Education Association. It allows parents, students, and community members to show educators the support they deserve. 

If you are a teacher, it's also recommended that you register. This way your posts about nominations will show in the comments.

This is just a way to encourage those wonderful people who make a difference in kids' lives.

PS Wouldn't this be a great writing prompt?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

in"Voki"ng Learning

How can we promote fluency and creative writing with first graders? What do you suppose would happen if a group of first graders got to choose a "talking puppet" on the computer to read a story that they created?

If you guessed they'd be ready to start right away, then you were right! That's just what happened when Ms. James showed her class Voki.

They looked at the pictures of the animated animals, dogs, and cats, then chose from there the animal "puppet" they wanted to star in their story. Ms. James had a graphic organizer to help the students gather thoughts. They worked on word choice, fluency, and animating their voices.

Ms. James
They recorded their stories right into Ms. James Voki account. She showcased their stories on her school website. The students wanted to hear them over and over again.

What happened next was not expected. Our Director of Technology, Jon Castelhano, sent an email to the district about exciting things happening in classrooms such as Ms. James' students integrating technology in learning. Then emails started flying around, reply all, about how they heard about this from their grandchild or others.

Teachers, staff, parents, and obviously students were talking about the amazing learning going on. For some of them, this was the first time they had considered the power of technology for learning.

Why did this happen? Because a teacher was willing to try something new. She was in"Voki"ng learning.

This blog was inspired by Ms. James allowing me back in her class for another adventure; a recent post from Nick Sauers; and a conversation I had with Presidential Award winner, Colette Bos. I want to thank the three of you for making a difference!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What is your favorite blog to follow?

Mrs. Yollis and class Skype
I have many favorites, but the one that has my fancy is Mrs. Yollis' Classroom Blog. Learning is their focus, and having a real audience engages them beyond the four walls of the classroom.

I absolutely am inspired by classrooms like this! Not only has the learning extended the four classroom walls, it has also permeated to the families. Parents are the administrators of their child's blog, which means that the parents are learning about blogging right beside the students. Three of her students earned achievements in their bi-annual contest.

My question is, how do you get to where her class is? How do you set something up so dynamic?  I am new to blogging, but am supported by a community of bloggers who are teaching me how and walking me through the steps. Thank you Edublogs Teacher Challenge!

Do you have a blog? Does your class have a blog? If so, how did you get started and what advice can you offer us? If you are new to blogging, have you thought about giving it a try? If you follow blogs, what's your favorite?

Click here to learn more about blogs.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Microsoft Peer Coaching

Tomorrow our Collaboration Coaches work on Session 6 from the Microsoft Peer Coach training. I'm excited to get our fabulous collaborators back together.

Session 6 is based on what Marzano reminded us of, that there's a dip after the initial excitement, and this is the pick-me-up session for breaking through scotomas.

Here's a video of a school who has collaboration as part of their culture. The Microsoft Peer Coaching helped with shaping their behavior, and down the road their beliefs.

I would like to make a video like this. If we did, what should we include?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Edublogs Teacher Challenge

I saw a Tweet about the Edublogs Teacher Challenge. Intrigue took me to the link, to discover other educators interested in learning. There's a challenge to support the beginners, the advanced, and you can opt for mentor support. How cool is that?

I chose the beginner's challenge because I'm new to blogging and I would love to learn more about it. As I encourage other educators to blog, it is natural that I do the same. Plus, as I learn, I will get more insight to pass on to others.

AJUSD hosts Peer Coach Training
What I struggle with is knowing that I don't have one topic to blog about and sometimes wonder if I should. For example, should I have a different blog for each of the different topics of my focus: Project-Based Learning, Collaboration Coaching, 21st century learning environments, one-to-one, professional development for learning with technology, etc.? That just seemed like too much to manage, so I stuck with one. However, it is still a thought that I continue to wonder about and grapple with. What do you think?

I love this idea of a Professional Learning Network! Thanks so much for the Edublogs Teacher Challenge!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Learning Dispositions as Learning Muscles

As I'm reading Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age, I stopped at the "Spotlight" on page 52, called "Thinking Aloud about Learning Dispositions." The focus was Guy Claxton, professor of cognitive learning, discussing how students learn. What caught my attention was a quote from an eight-year-old who was reflecting on her own learning. She thought her "Imagination" and "Resource Planning" had improved, but her "Stickability" was an area she needed to focus on. She decided to make that her next goal.

From my own experience, I know kids learn more when they are aware of how they learn best. I would like to learn more about students' metacognition. I specifically would love to talk with someone who has taught their students about their "learning muscles." As I stretch my "learning muscles," I ponder the idea of a project exploring "learning muscles" with students and the effect it would have on their motivation and engagement in learning.

  • How would the motivation and engagement in learning change if students were aware of how they learned best, set goals, and had the power to focus on their needs?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Reinventing the Biography

I am still mulling over Patrick Ledesma's article "Student Choice: An Important Step for Meaningful Technology Integration," and applying that notion of having an authentic purpose and audience to what I'm currently reading, "Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age." This is my second time reading the book, and on page 48 stopped at their simple notion of how to spice up the traditional biography assignment:

The traditional biography looks something like this: Research a famous person from the 20th Century and write a report describing his/her achievements.

The reinvented biography looks something like this: Research several figures from the 20th Century who were distinguished in the same field. "Develop criteria for 'hall of fame' status, compare these figures' accomplishments, then select one individual for inclusion in a '(20th Century) Hall of Fame.' Justify your selection. Design an appropriate seal for the award he or she will be granted," (Reinventing PBL, page 48).

I loved their idea! Of course, this reinvented biography could go so many different directions such as setting up a blog for this 20th Century Hall of Fame and welcoming comments and critiques. What are your thoughts about this? How do you envision this biography project being presented in your class? How could you reinvent the biography?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ingredients for Successful Technology Integration and Learning

1/3 Cup Standards-Based Task
1/4 Cup 21st Century Thinking
1/4 Cup Problem-Based or Project-Based Task
2 Tablespoons Choice
6 Tablespoons Purpose
3 Tablespoons Audience
1/3 Cup Authentic Assessment

Combine Standards-Based Task with 21st Century Skills. With mixer running, add Problem-Based or Project-Based Task. Add 2 Tablespoons student choice for technology that best suits their needs in order to complete the task.

Transfer to saucepan. Bring Problem-Based or Project-Based Task to boil. Over medium-high heat, slowly stir in Purpose. Choose a purpose that motivates your students. Blend in audience, stir frequently. Boil until mixture is smooth with an engaging task that is relevant for your students.

Serve in a manner that catches their attention before they even begin. You want them excited to try your dish.

Criteria for assessment should be made ahead of time.

This blog was inspired by Patrick Ledesma's article, "Student Choice: An Important Step for Meaningful Technology Integration."