Saturday, September 29, 2012

Missed Dean Shareski's Talk? No Worry It's the 21st Century!

This year my school district Surrey is holding six sessions as part of the Engaging the Digital Learner - Going Deeper series.  I am very excited that my school is involved with this incredible dinner series and that myself and three of my teaching colleagues are attending.  The first session was held  this past Thursday night and featured Dean Shareski.

The evening started with two different presentations from Surrey Schools sharing the amazing things they are doing with their students in our school district. It was great to learn with them and I look forward to more of this sharing.

Then dinner was served.  

This is where things went from great to awful for me and a few others in the crowd.   You see, Thursday, Sept 27th, the night of the first session, was also the night of my school’s Meet the Teacher evening and so I could not stay for the second part of the session.

Now you have to understand I have been following Dean on twitter for a while now and I was really looking forward to meeting him  face to face and just as eager to hear him speak.  But with the Surrey Schools sharing first, and Dean presenting second I was not going to hear him speak.  While I always say "I'm only super human" I couldn't be in two places at once.

Since I still could meet Dean face to face I made sure to introduce myself to him. Now I have a real face behind the tweets and interactions I have with him. It makes them even more real. So that was good.  

But what was I going to do about missing the talk?  Did I really have to miss his keynote?

This is the 21st century right?  We have tools for everything these days right?

I’m not sure if you remember or not, but when I attended Unplugd12 back in August I was given a livescribe pen.  And to be perfectly honest I don’t normally carry my livescribe pen with me in my purse, I keep it in my classroom.  But, as it was someone special had sent me some livescribe notebooks and I wanted to show her how awesome the pen was.  She was at the learning session too so I had the pen with me. 

Then it hit me, if I only I could leave the pen with someone at the dinner series who could record Dean speak, then pick  up the pen the next morning.  I'd have the entire talk recorded.  But who could do this for me and make it easy for me to get the pen the next day.  Since I'm in the middle of using the pen for collecting reading assessment data on my students I needed the pen back ASAP.  Hmm... I thought for a while and then it hit me! Tia Henriksen is a wonderful vice principal in my district and her daughter Trista is a student in our school.  How perfect. Tia could record with the pen, and then I could collect the pen from Trista in the morning.  

Thankfully Tia was totally game to give it a try for me so after some quick instructions, I headed back to school with fingers crossed that it would all work out okay.

And guess what... it did!  After catching up on the tweets shared, speaking to a couple of people, and flying e-mail back and forth I knew I had to listen to Dean's talk. In addition Dean shared his slides so that not only could I listen to the talk in the comfort of my own home, I could also follow along with his  slides.  The only thing missing were the videos but if he gave enough information I could quickly search them out.  I found some, but not all of them.

Anyhow since this the 21st century and sharing our learning is so important these days with Dean's permission I am happy to share both the audio, and the visuals of Dean's presentation on Thursday night.  Enjoy!

The Audio


The Visuals  

All credit for the above audio and visuals go to Dean Shareski with an extra special thanks to Tia for being willing to record from her table.  

Wow, I love that this was even possible.  It makes missing it not nearly as bad as it really was.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Learning Today Looks Nothing Like Learning in the Past

I know, I say it over and over again, but I can't thank twitter enough for getting me connected with so many inspiring educators.  This year I want my class to be equally connected because I know how powerful it truly is.  So what global or collaborative projects have I got planned for my class so far this year?

1. Quad Blogging :  My class is involved with Quad Blogging with primary classes in the UK and New Zealand.  We've been visiting their blogs and leaving them comments. We've been learning from them.  This coming week the three classes we've been following are coming to visit us. I can't wait.

2. Global Read Aloud:  On Monday, October 1st we are taking part in a global read aloud as I read Charlotte's Web to my class.  Not only will my class, along with many other classes around the world, be reading the same book, but we will be connecting with other classes while we do it.  So far I have three different collaborative projects going on with this one project.

Within my school district Niki Leech and Lora Sarchet and I will be using google hang out to read a chapter (or more) to each of our classes at the SAME time.  One week I will read to Niki and Lora's classes via Google Hang Out, the next week one of them will read to us. It's something so simple (listening to a chapter be read) yet so powerful to know that others are doing the exact same thing at the exact same time.   I am more than willing to invite other classes into our hang out too so please let me know in the comments if you want in.  We will be working on our BC time zone.

I will also be working with a teacher in Ontario. We plan to skype with our classes Monday morning to set the project off and hopefully continue to skype (maybe once a week Kristen??) to see how we are enjoying the book and ask each other questions about the book.

Finally (I write that with a smirk because I have no doubt there will be others that I connect with before this project is over) my class will be writing and skyping with a class in Manhattan.  For this connection we will go "old school" sending a couple of letters back and forth over the course of the read aloud (the month of October).

While I have three different projects going on all around this one Global Read Aloud, I feel confident that we will be able to do all three with out interfering with the rest of our learning.

3. Primary Blogging Community: This one is the brain child of Kristen Wideen's and it's a take on the Quad blogging I mentioned above.  Kristen has set quad blogging primary style.  In the month of October I have been matched up with three other classes from around North America.  Over the month we will visit one another's blogs and leave comments. In the month of November we are going to try and arrange a google hangout or skype call.  In December we will send something in the mail.  In January we will do another round of quad blogging but this time the focus will be on our students individual blogs.  I'm looking forward to getting this started on Monday too.

4. Elementary School/ High School Collaboration - Through twitter I have meet Valerie Leeds an English/Humanities teacher at a local high school.  I put out that I was keen to do a project with high school students and she was keen to jump on in.  After some back and forth discussion, and a face to face meeting I think we have our project figured out and it will involve more than just our two classes.  My students, with the help our our big buddies, will be coming up with a setting, characters, and basic idea of a story.  We will then be sending our story ideas to Valerie and her students will be writing a story based on the information we provided.  Then she will send the stories back to us and we will use technology to illustrate the stories. Then we will send them back to high school and  Teresa Oakland, a drama teacher at the local high school, is going to have her students act out the stories and we (and our big buddies) are going to go to the high school to watch the plays.  Pretty cool hey, yet still relatively simple for each of us as we are just doing what we normally do, but we are doing it collaborative style. Each class is covering their own required prescribed learning outcomes but we are doing it in a much more exciting and engaging way.

5. Skyping, Skyping, and More Skyping - Finally my school has open wireless which means things like skyping and google hang outs are EASY to do.  Tomorrow we have our first skype call with Kathy Cassidy's class in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan.  I feel quite confident in saying it will be the first of several we have this year.  I also feel confident in saying that there will be a lot more skyping with a lot more "far away" classes this year.

6. Connecting Through Kidblog - I am really excited that kidblog now allows us to add links to other classes blogs right onto our class kidblog.  Already I'm excited to add Niki and Lora's individual student blogs to our blog roll so my students will be able to visit and comment on their students' individual blogs.  I am also excited to add Karen Fadum's class to our blog roll too.  The cool thing about these three classes is that we CAN meet face to face since we are all in the same school district.  How powerful is that!  Of course I'm game to add other grade one  kidblog classes to our blog roll too.

7. Connecting at the District Level - I know I keep mentioning Niki and Lora but I LOVE that we have connected with one another.  This year my vision is that our classes do a lot more things together, even if virtually.  I can already see that we will be having a field trip down to their school, and they will be having a field trip up to ours.

8. Collaborative Writing: Jenni Van Rees (Ontario) and I talked over the summer about having our students write a project collaboratively.  While we haven't finalized the details yet I am totally looking forward to this project too.

9. Collaborative Projects with Grade 6s in Ontario - Last year Aviva Dunsiger and I connected through twitter. Our classes met a couple of times once through a video she shared on her blog and through a skype call where we shared frog jokes with her grade 1/2 class.  This year Aviva has a grade six class but we are still going to find a way have our students work together on  project.  We've talked about having reading buddies, which may work but nothing has been finalized yet.  I am really excited to be working with Aviva.

10. Skype Read to Someone/Listen to Reading: I have this vision in my head that during my class reading time a couple of students from another class some where around the world (okay more than likely in North America because there is this thing called time zones) will skype in and share their reading with one or two of my students.  I want my students to have an audience to read to outside our classroom.  So if you're reading this and are keen to skype in to us around 9:45 - 10:15 am PST please let me know via the comments.  I know I can make this work and I can just see how cool it would be for my students.

11 Blogging Around the World - This is something I did last year and am already doing again this year.  Blogging around the world is just as it sounds - we visit grade one (ish) blogs from around the world and leave them meaningful comments. It's exciting to read and learn from others.

12 Working With The Class Next Door - For the first time in many years I have a grade one teacher right next door to me who is keen and interested in trying new things.  We've already set our PE schedules together so that our students will work together then but we've talked about doing a lot more things together.  She's a really great teacher and I am so excited to do  projects with her. Super excited!

Now the problem is I can go on as my head continues to spin with ideas of ways to get my grade one students connected in meaningful age appropriate ways.  Twitter is filled with inspiring educators willing to take risks and try new things.  I can't wait to see what else we get up to this year.

Learning today looks NOTHING like learning in the past.

What adventures do you have planned for your class this year?  If it feeds our educational needs maybe we can join along for the adventure too?

(Ah, and not sure how I let this one past by without a mention.... this is my 100th post on this blog! Looking back on my very first few I am once again reminded of how far I've come this year.)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Dreaded Projection Device

If you're not a primary teacher, or you've never really used a projection device that is not ceiling mounted you probably have no idea about what I'm about to tell you.  Never have I had a tool in my classroom that has caused me so much grief as my projection device has this fall.  But why you ask?  Well my students are completely fascinated by the light that comes out of it and how it allows you to make incredible shadows.

Now please, don't get me wrong, I love their curiousity. I love how they want to try to put as much of themselves in front of the light to see what happens.  I love that every single time the light is turned on they are filled with that same excitement.   EVERY SINGLE TIME!

I think I've done all the right teaching things too.  I gave them each a fair bit of 1:1 time with the light to discover the cool things they could do with it.  In addition every time I turn on the light they are allowed a bit of play time to get the curiousity out  so we can focus on the actual lesson.

I want to skype with my class, I want to google hang out with my class but I'm worried that this fascination with the light will go on all year long.  We'll be too busy exploring the light that we won't see who we are skyping with or who has left us comments on our blog.  Ahhhh!  What am I going to do?

After what I would consider ample time to play and explore with the light I decided to implement some rules.  From now on the first time the light goes on each day my students have a minute or so to be curious in the light.  But once that light curiousity time is over they must refocus on the task at hand, the whole reason why the projector light is on.  If their hand (or head or any other body part) appears as a mysterious shadow on the screen after said free exploration time they are removed from the light's ray and must learn with us from a slightly different angle.

Am I being too harsh? Does any one else experience anything like this? I'm curious to know what solutions you have for this problem.  As you can see by my photos, it's a real problem.

Friday, September 21, 2012

What Matters Most in September - Building a Positive Classroom Environment

You'd think, as I begin my 21st year of teaching, that I would remember how stressful September is.  Right now I remember how brilliant my students were in June and how "easy" everything was.  At the end of June they were bright, passionate learners willing to take on challenges, and push themselves to be their very best.  We were a school family.  We cared and supported one another. We celebrated each others successes and encouraged one another when we struggled.  It was a really wonderful place to be.

This September I am once again reminded of where grade one students begin the school year.  They are still brilliant in their brand new grade one ways and they are keen to learn too.  But they are also a little bit fearful as they fumble through our "grade one" ways.  Grade one is new and different from Kindergarten and as much I try to keep our activities simple in nature with a focus on "hands on" for all types of learning  it's not the same as kindergarten and we all know it.

This year my students  have come from from six different kindergarten classes which means we really don't know one another very well ... yet.  You can never under estimate how much that plays a role in developing a positive classroom climate.  We don't have our family feeling.... yet.  We don't know one another's strengths, and we don't know one another's weaknesses.  Today, while doing a small group counting activity, one student mentioned to me that another student in his group wasn't doing any of the counting.  What he didn't know is that this student has struggled a lot in trying to learn his letters and numbers despite intensive intervention.  While he could join in with the counting activity he was only successful with the smaller numbers.  Once that was shared there was a job for everyone in the group and the task was completed successfully. When we are a classroom family we have a really good idea of where everyone is working out, and how we can modify, adapt, or enrich to make sure everyone's individual needs are met.

When you think about it, it's an interesting dynamic that 21 stranger like people are put in a room together to learn specific curriculum.  Goals need to be set, and criteria met.  In my role as a teacher I have things I have to teach, and I need every day in the school year to get them taught.

But for me, at this time of the year, building a positive classroom environment is the number one lesson I should be teaching.   The academics we do in the first few weeks of school, while important, are not nearly as important as the relationships we are building with one another.

So I apologize to those of you that are visiting my classroom  during "Meet the Teacher Night".  I may not have all the beautiful artwork, and impressive writing samples up on the wall, but what I will have is a class that is bonding, like a true school family should. To me, right now, that is what is most important in grade one.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The On-Line Activity Permission Slip

While my school district has a very clear Media/Website consent form specific to public media and our school district website there is no consent form yet in place for the on-line activities I do with my class.  These activities include but are not limited to our class blog, my students' individual blogs, our class tweeting, our class skyping, and the global projects we take part in on-line.  Last year, when I got involved with this connected world I created my permission slip which you can find here.  At the time I created it I had no idea where my on-line connections were going to go.  I don't think I had even considered having my students have their own blogs, or that we would be participating in such incredible global projects. But I digress.  Knowing what I know now, and where we took our learning last year I'm at a point where I feel I need a new, updated permission slip.

For the past several weeks this has been on my mind. I have begun creating permission slips to later start again.  As I am about to meet my official 2012-2013 class some time this week (hopefully tomorrow) I need to have my permission slip approved by my admin and ready to go home so we can get started on our exciting year of on-line learning.  I have a very clear picture in my head of why I feel this global collaboration is so important so I thought it would be easy to create a new form.

Boy, was I ever wrong.  After starting and stopping over the past few weeks I realized I needed serious  time to get it done.  I wanted to inform my parents about why we are doing so many things digitally.  I ended up with a two page tightly typed information sheet, and then a one page permissions slip. While I had a lot of fantastic information behind the "why" and the safety protocols I have in place it was way too wordy.  I needed to cut it back. It had to be shorter and clearer particularly for my parent community who come from many non English speaking places.

After a lot of editing I was able to come up with a permission slip that I was happy with and that my administration approved. You can find a copy of it here (with some formatting and my personal contact details removed). If it is helpful for you please feel free to copy/share/modify to make it work for your needs.  

But, that wasn't good enough for me because I really want the parents to know the why and the how behind our on-line activities so I took it another step forward.  I added a page to my class blog that is entitled "Why Do We Learn On-Line?"  Here I share the thinking behind why we are doing what we are doing. Again, if you find this information helpful please don't hesitate to copy/share/modify to make it work for your needs.

Have you had a similar experience? Is there something that I haven't thought about that really should be include either on my information/permission slip or my class blog page? I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Space in My Heart For You

The start of the school year is a pretty exciting time because I have an open book of possibilities waiting to explore with my new class.  It is also a sad time because despite the fact that June was my last time teaching my previous class, the reality is meeting my new class is the final closure on the previous year's class.  While I'm fortunate that I will see many of my students wandering the halls of my school, or out on the playground, we will never be together again as  a complete group.  After 20 years of teaching you'd think that would get easier to swallow, but the reality is it isn't. It's another family that has been broken up.

Yesterday I received a wonderful voice mail from one of the students in my 2011-12 class.  You can totally hear the excitement in her voice as she is about to start grade two.  It made me smile from ear to ear, but it also made me a little sad.  This student is no longer mine, and she will receive the care and warmth of another teacher.

Wishing all my past students the most incredible school year yet.  While I may no longer be your teacher there will always be a little space in my heart carved out just for you.