#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!

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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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How Do You Organize the Many Sites With Attention To Skill Practice?

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    I have a ton of sites for my whole KINDERGARTEN class to use during our weekly block on the school’s laptops. What I don’t have is a clear and organized way of using them on a case by case basis.  I teach the site logistics and then the class explores the site.  There’s a new site every week, often more than one site.  We also go back to familiar sites once we have a good bank of them.   Everyone benefits by the group work.

Now we are moving into RTI with 4 kindergarten classes combining the children into many new and changing groups.  Everyone will either receive intervention or enrichment.  I am planning to use technology for both purposes and with different groups throughout the year, 4 days a week, and 30 minutes at a time.

What I have not done, is analyze the sites and organized them so they can quickly be called upon to meet a specific skill practice.  I don’t know how to do that organization apart from creating a spreadsheet, printing it out, and carrying it around with me.  That is the direction I will go unless I find a better tool.  My largest collection tool right now is Mrs. Poulin’s K on Symbaloo.

I would really like to be able to target the specific skill practice the sites allow and then quickly get the kids on those sites without a lot of my one-to-one help.  We always have too many fussy laptop issues pulling me away.  Of course, I will also need to change the activity quickly if it is too challenging or too easy.  And that means quick and on the spot assessments.

One site can have many, many activities.  Some kids will need low-level readiness work, others need letter ID, and still others need sight words and/or reading.  I would like to take what the student’s teacher has told me in the way of needed skill practice, and then plug the kid into the best tool for him, quickly and easily.

Do you know of any tool out there that can fit the bill of organizing website activities?

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New Class – New Ideas!

When September rolls around, teachers wonder what the new crop of students will look like.  How will they interact with you, with each other.  There is no way to tell.

Parents, and students whom I had years ago, will often ask if I am doing a certain project again this year.  They remember it fondly and so do I.  The thing is, a classroom has a dynamic of it’s own and the flow of activities and projects often respond to that.  I like to think that’s what a good teacher does.

After a few weeks together, a class personality starts to take form.  Now that we have reached the 3 month mark, we can really see the dynamic and personality of our group.

This year’s kindergarten class is really warming my heart.  We have quite a range of learners and skill levels.  We have limited English proficient students and others with different language challenges.  We have the over the top energized kid and his great big smile stirring up the rest of the pack.  Best of all, we have the energy that comes from an eager group of learners.  “Come on Mrs. Poulin – Bring It!!” seems to be their call.

Yep, I DO like my job this year. It is challenging and rewarding.

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We Need Africa!

Anyone with Clustrmaps can see that the continent is just not engaged in the collaborative conversations we are having. There are millions of people on this large continent. Where are the little dots that spread across our maps almost everywhere but Africa?

The graphic representation of Clustrmaps really brings the message home. The only dots visible on the continent of Africa are along the coast. When we talk about how far we have come over the last few decades in terms of outreach and technology, we forget that there are people, especially children, who don’t get an education, people who don’t have access to technology.

Looking at the big picture, we can readily understand that there are some fundamental needs at the head of the line for our attention, things like food, clean water, health care, and safety. Some world organizations are helping.

One of my favorites is Ryan’s Well Foundation. (Supported in my sidebar) It was started by a young boy, now a college student, who wanted to take action to help some needy folks on the other side of the world.)

In this ever-changing world, we just can’t allow the gap to grow exponentially, year after year.

We are educators.
What can we do?
How can we help level the playing field and get these folks living, learning, and growing  alongside us?

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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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My Top 5 Gurus

This morning’s reading included the NWP Daily and a post from Three Teachers Talk . The link brings you to a cool reflection by Molly, @finchesrule where she writes, “These people, places, and collections of great knowledge have made me a better teacher.”

Well that post got my own reflective juices flowing and I thought I would work on a post of my own as well. It’s interesting to note that 2 of the 5 are not active in the tech world so they’ll probably never read this post. Here they are – my own top 5 gurus!

#1 Patti Kennedy is a tremendous teacher who gave me my first job. We worked together in a 3 teacher pre-school classroom for 14 years while my kids were growing up. She showed me how a great teacher operates, with children, with parents, with outsiders, and with the community. I struggle with being tactful and this woman showed me the ideal. She also has an amazing sense of humor and is a real class act! She retired long before the advent of blogs and the internet reached into classrooms but if she blogged – she would be in my Reader for sure.

#2 Kevin Hodgson, aka @dogtrax, brought me firmly into the world of blogging, Twitter, and the concept behind building a strong PLN. I am still amazed that this tremendous teacher works just down the hall from me. Many years ago, during one of the first K12 Online Conferences, I happened upon Kevin in my reading. Thinking I was alone in the online world of education, I quickly realized the resource I had at hand. Kevin continues to teach me through his daily posts from his primary blog Kevin’s Meandering Mind.

#3 Twitter I realize now that I am listing these in the order they entered my teaching life. Twitter is a real fount of tremendous value. I visit links shared by others and then venture off to new areas for study, reflection, and entertainment. Twitter has brought me to tons of great reading, #kinderchat, Dailies, TED Talks, and a multitude of useful apps.

#4 Cindy Diemand is the Literacy coach at our school. She is an expert at all things related to literacy instruction. Our school is closely following the Fountas & Pinnell curriculum and this year we will have Cindy back as our literacy coach. I have already participated in hundreds of hours in training in the F&P methods.  Cindy will be providing more in-depth instruction and classroom observations for all of our staff. She is always supportive of us as learners and reminds us that it takes a lifetime to develop ourselves as teachers.

#5  The Edublogger and more specifically Sue Waters, have given me the tools I need for reflection and sharing through blogging. It took many months before I felt I knew what I was doing with this blogging thing. The tools are many and I continue to learn more all the time. I keep The Edublogger in my Google Reader, Twitter, and FB accounts so I never miss the latest tips.

  • Who has influenced your practice the most?
  • Where do you go when you are looking to learn and grow as a teacher?

Why not share a post of your own and please leave a comment with Three Teachers Talk who started this ball rolling.

Reflection in blogging is a marvelous practice.

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