Category Archives: sharing

Brag – #Kinderblog13

This week, our colleagues in the #kinderchat #Kinderblog13 Challenge are asked to brag a bit, to tell something about themselves that is special.  I have a few ideas running around in my head but I will limit myself to one important one.  It’s not that I am super special but I can see some traits that serve me well in the classroom and out.

I LOVE to learn!   I seek out opportunities for learning and explore communities online to find nuggets or gems to add to my bag of skills and tricks.  This involves a certain amount of risk taking and that’s another cool quality to own.

Being a professional means staying on top of the craft as well as the science.  By following great folks on Twitter and by curating blog posts for  Scoop.it/Kindergarten, I come across loads of great ideas every day and they invariably help me see my job in a new light.  As an active member of my communities, I pass on much of what has appealed to me.

clmooc_site_logo This summer I am participating in #CLMOOC, a Google+ community of education minded folks.   The community is encouraging teachers on all ends of the tech spectrum to learn more about their own practice and demonstrating new tools for sharing our thinking.

I am also completing another MOOC through Stanford UniversityHow To Teach Math.  That one is full of reflections and peer sharing. I love the pace of it and the way the developers have blended videos with reflection almost seamlessly. I highly recommend this one.

Math_1Here is the response I drafted to a recent prompt:

Question:If you wanted to take on this new evidence on brain growth and ability, how would it change what you do?
Response
I will approach student learning with a clearer understanding that the students’ brains need to be exercised more.  Not by drills but by discerning where they are in the learning path, and by targeting instruction to shore up the weak areas of their foundations.  It will give them more connections for future learning and understanding. This does not need to apply only to math but to other subjects as well such as reading.

Learning new things? – yep, that’s what I am good at.

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Map Making with #CLMOOC

Cycle 3 of the Connected Learning MOOC in Google+ is calling upon participants to create a map and share it with the community.  I thought I would try again with Prezi and this time I found success.

After spending hours weeding my flower gardens, I took some pictures and in the air conditioned comfort of my computer room, I created a map of something called a #LearningWalk.  It was yet another opportunity for reflection.

Gail's_Garden

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#clmooc – Mapping In Cycle 3

I am developing my thinking and creating new products with the #clmooc, Making Learning Connected, based in Google+ and running most of the summer.  Since this is only my first real day of summer vacation, I feel I am right where I need to be with this project.  I created a few artifacts for Cycle 1 and never made any for Cycle 2, the week of toy hacks

This week in Cycle 3, we are asked to create a map.  There’s a part of my head that is always running through ideas for a science based curriculum.  It makes sense to tackle the project early so I can bring it where I want it to be by summer’s end.  Creating a visual plan or map should serve me well.  I am a visual person. (I swear I could learn almost anything from a video.)

I am using Google Docs to create my spreadsheet. That means I need to get refreshed on shortcut keys. While a right-click helps me everywhere else in my world it seems, Google Docs wants you to use their Control-whatever keys for everything.  No biggie, but just as I find it odd moving from a Mac to a PC, from MS Office to Open Office or Google Docs, I move on a bit more slowly than I would like.  That is the part of projects I like the least.

What do I like best?  The part where I go inside my head and shuffle thoughts around.  I am an intrapersonal learner, preferring to work alone.  So mulling over tools and docs and connections all by myself works well.  Of course an overnight reflection can cause me to throw the whole thing out, but I digress, yet again.

And now I have a call to action by #clmooc.  This spreadsheet and the LiveBinder that goes with it are works in progress and their development will extend well beyond the start of the next school year.  I am always looking for great resources to help bring the learning home to my students so be sure to share some of your own ideas.

It’s never too late to join in the action on Google+ #clmooc.  With so much of the summer left to go, you really should check out the fun and interactions with teachers from all over the world!

science_curric

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Cranky!

crankyfaceYeah that’s me. Cranky!

Every day I read amazing, energized posts and reflections by teachers all across the country.  They are excited by their practice and seem to have so much fun teaching a fresh new approach to curriculum.  I however, am feeling my time in the classroom must be coming to a close. I don’t feel the drive and energy that once fueled my work as an educator of 27 years. I suspect I would be better off not reading all these posts because they make me feel more discouraged.  The most popular posts are from a core of educators who seem to have the world by the tail.

Not only do they love their jobs, but they seem to be devising their own curricula. I don’t hear any frustrations with the expectations coming down from administrators, the state, and the Common Core.

I, however, am feeling the strain. We have weekly COP (community of practice) sessions during one of our prep periods.  Our focus is always on drilling down the standards and discussing how we are meeting the Common Core. We never actually share our own personal ideas on practice. When we talk about developmentally appropriate practice, it’s just a reflection on how the academics have pushed off play time. Early childhood educators KNOW that play IS learning in a truly integrated sense.

The bloggers I follow also enjoy tremendous tech advantages. I just finished reading a post by a teacher who has an interactive white board and 1 to 1 iPads in her kindergarten class. She is not alone. Many other bloggers have great tech tools and take them for granted.

This particular blogger has Skype conversations where the classes can actually see each other on the IWB and stay engaged. Try doing that (as I have) with a poor quality projector on a pull down screen or on a laptop. It’s a lot harder to feel connected when you can’t see who’s doing the talking.

I would love to see a study or survey of the equipment and tech kindergarten and other primary grade teachers have in their classrooms. It’s not reasonable to put out a call on Twitter because so many teachers are not present there. Their PLNs are teachers in their schools and districts, if they have a PLN at all. Connected teachers are not the reality. In my school, we only have 2 out of 35 teachers who have Twitter accounts that are active and follow educators. Most folks are on Facebook but not as part of a PLN.

There are entire collections of apps and Symbaloo webmixes for well-connected teachers, in well-funded programs. I have access to a COW of laptops for one hour a week. The laptops are updated only rarely so many sites don’t work at all. Installing updates is essential, as so many sites and plugins get updated, but our part-time tech guy doesn’t get to that. He’s too busy putting out fires  during his 1:30 – 3:30 shift. After that, he goes back to being the custodian. I have updated the computers a few times this year myself but that just feels wrong when I have so many other things to do that directly improve my student’s learning.

Our district has always kept the fiscal focus on keeping staff, not buying tech or even maintaining the tech we have. Even our supply budgets have been cut by more than half of what they used to be 10 years ago. Much of what we have is low bid and refurbished. The bandwidth is a huge problem. The other afternoon, I continued an after school PD tech session with some teachers on blogging. The refurbished Macs with one gig of ram were incredibly slow. Boy, do I hate that beachball! My iPad blows these school hardware tools out of the water but I don’t plan to make that a school tool.

Would anyone care to comment? Here are a few questions that come to mind.

  • How much of school budgets get swallowed up by the needs of the Common Core?
  • How much of our PD time is focused on writing and re-writing goals so they are aligned with the Common Core and use a smart goal formula?
  • How much of our PD time is spent working on evaluation tools and creating data so others can see what we do for a part of our day?
  • How much of a student’s day gets swallowed up working toward a good score on a high stakes test created by an ed reform business?
  • Why have we veered away from student inquiry in favor of chasing smaller targets of learning?
  • When did people stop looking to the teacher for the best ideas on reform and curriculum for educating children?
  • When did PLAY become a waste of a student’s time?

I curate Scoop.it Kindergarten and posts on the importance of play always make it into the curation. I hope I can bring the creative aspect of play into a science based integrated curriculum next year. I will no doubt have to leave the expected activities and pacing that are plaguing our schools now. The revised curriculum will bring in more inquiry and exploration. The students will be engaged with learning about things in our world and will gradually build the necessary communication skills through reading, writing, listening, and speaking activities. Science based activities already use an abundance of math work.

My heart and mind know that I can get my students where they each need to be, where each student is learning at her own pace, and with her own unique challenges and support. This cranky teacher is not able to do that in the current climate of big business and the Common Core.

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Teachers & Sharing

I have only been learning and growing online for about 5-6 years and even in that short time, I have experienced many changes. I started with the K-12 Online Conference, then I joined Twitter. After that, I started blogging and reading other people through RSS. I’ve had lots of ideas shared with me via the web.

Now the learning is not only going more mobile but new teachers are approaching their careers from a somewhat different angle, and they are making their jobs work for them in other ways too.

I am getting more material in my Reader that classroom teachers have created and are selling or freely giving away through a few teacher sites. They are commercializing the materials they create on the job. No doubt this helps to pay the bills since our salaries are pretty bleak in many areas. I need to view this as a very strong trend as we roll with the changes in education. It’s also something that I think I might enjoy myself.  Creating things online is often fun. First I’ll need to buy some online clip art and graphics though, programs such as

My Google Reader Docs folder has really blossomed this summer, thanks to the work of others. A number of folks on Twitter have shared that these free materials made all the difference for them as they were working through their first years.

I have also seen something called “linky parties” and lots of giveaways for following the blogs. It’s pretty ingenious to bring others to comment on your blog by giving something away. Some of these sites even have the backing of companies in providing the giveaway item. Linky parties have a signup at Pinterest. Although I have submitted a request to Pinterest, I have been wait listed. (I received my invite in less than an hour!) I am seeing some interesting “pins” though. For instance the pinboard “Classroom” has some really cute ideas! Check it out!

Are you in the market for some new materials and ideas? Here are some of the sites that I have found offering materials either as free downloads or for $. I have found some helpful things there but I know I need to do a lot more exploring.

Have you created materials to share with others? Leave a comment with a link to your materials.
What kinds of materials are you hoping to find online?
Are there other programs and sites that you use and recommend? Please do share what you think.

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