Saturday, July 30, 2016

Privileged and Valued

I was excited to attend the SMART Exemplary Educator Summit, but I thought I knew what to expect. I spend a lot of time going to conferences, and I have been to a summit or week long training almost every year for the last fifteen summers. Every summit is a little different, but somethings are common among all good summits. Every summit I have attended, this part has been the same. It is also the reason I seek at least one week long learning experience each summer. You learn from your peers; you learn from your hosts; and you contribute to the learning process by giving up some of what you know. Spending a week with like-minded educators always ends with friends, and luckily with Facebook and twitter these friendships continue on long after the conference. Your personal learning community (PLN) expands and your pool of resources expands along with it. All in all, this part alone is pretty awesome. At the SMART Summit, one thing that made it stand out, however, is that the new friends and new resource pool was not coming from just the United States or even just North America. Attendees were from all over the world. I met people from Finland, Sweden, Norway, German, Austria, England, Scotland, Australia, Uruguay, Chile, Canada, France, and Spain. I was so fascinated that I could not stop asking questions about their countries and their cultures. I am a grown-up and a teacher. Imagine when I expose my students to their students. Imagine how curious they will be! Imagine the doors of communication and knowledge they will open. Imagine students researching other countries, not because we assigned them to, but because they want to know more about them, because they have new friends that live there. That's how I felt when I left the summit, and I know my fifth graders will feel the same! Another thing that made the Summit different from other summits was the way we were treated. That is not to say I have ever been treated poorly at any other conference I attended. As a matter of fact, I would not continue attending summer week long conferences if I was treated poorly. However, I always felt privileged to be able to attend those conferences. The SMART conference was different. Day after day, in so many ways, they told us how privileged THEY felt that we had attended their conference. At times, I felt almost uncomfortable and undeserving of the kind of attention they paid to us. At other times, I just felt proud and...well, privileged to be there. They had an amazing white hat ceremony to thank us for attending the conference. This is my chance...THANK YOU SMART...for caring about teachers, for listening to teachers, and for making us feel valued.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

First Blog as a Techno Tiger

Each year my class comes up with a unique name. Last year my class was the Global Gorillas. The Gorillas were a tech savvy group. They created wikis and blogs. They started their own digital sports program that was published on iTunes. Their knowledge and use of Web 2.0 tools was outstanding, and they used this knowledge to create weekly literature circle responses. The Gorillas dabbled in podcasting and video production including the use of green screening.

The year before the Global Gorillas my class named themselves the Cyber Chickens. They were also no stranger to technology. They hosted a blog and a podcast about “The Series of Unfortunate Events” books. They created a blog to teach others about cyber bullying and another to help others prepare for the Pennsylvania State Assessment. The most impressive feat of all for the Cyber Chickens was the work they did to force a local company to clean up their hazardous waste mess near our school. They published their work on a Project Trinity wiki and a Project Trinity blog. The Cyber Chickens had a pretty impressive resume.

The Historic Hippos were there the previous year, and they were no slouches in the technology department, either. In their day, they were cutting edge! They were the first class to produce and publish their own podcasts on iTunes. They had their own email accounts on Gaggle and they were the first class to have a wikispace.

A new year has begun, with a new crop of students. They have named themselves the Techno Tigers. The Tigers have big job ahead of them. Will they be up to the challenge? What new ground in technology will this class break? I’m not sure, but I can’t wait to find out!

Techno Tigers

Global Gorilla Blog Roll

Friday, April 17, 2009

Managing a 21st Century Classroom

The following is a post I made to my Authentic Learning Blog about a year ago. At the end of the post, I will explain how a classroom like this is managed.

What does a 21st Century Classroom look like? About ten minutes before lunch today, I looked around my classroom. I grabbed a pen and paper and walked around the room recording what students were doing.
  1. Three students sitting at a laptop using Audacity to edit a podcast they made for literature circles.
  2. Two students adding titles and descriptions to Morpheus Fortuna's Flickr page.
  3. A student typing his blog entry on "What is Project S.C.A.T.?" (Stop Contamination at Trinity)
  4. Three students quietly reading newspaper articles to research for Project S.C.A.T.
  5. Two students using laptops to research the history of the Trinity site (taking notes in Microsoft Word.)
  6. Two students looking up Trinity stock prices on Yahoo Finance and recording in a table on a wiki page.
  7. Three students down the hall using an iPod and Tune Talk to record an interview with a teacher whose father died from asbestos exposure.
  8. Two students sorting through printed material and dispersing to students according to topic.
  9. Two students researching the chemicals Trinity dumped on our school's neighboring lot.
  10. Four students using laptops to research and record websites and small blurbs on a wikipage
  11. Two students saving pictures to network folder
I rang the classroom bell to let students know it was time for lunch and I heard a collective groan as students slowly pulled themselves away from their work.

Do you think that's what a 21st Century classroom is supposed to look like?

A year later, my classroom looks much the same, but the tools have expanded exponentially. For example, instead of just creating podcasts, students are using a flip video to create movies. Blabberize, Voki, Voice Thread, GoAnimate, ToonDoo and Glogster are just some of the web 2.0 tools students use to demonstrate knowledge of the content areas.

How is this possible in a fifth grade classroom? What are the management techniques employed? First of all, this doesn't just happen. Students don't arrive on the first day of school knowing how to use the tools and knowing how to work independently and collaboratively. This all takes time and patience. Starting out small in the beginning of the year, teaching mini lessons, and raising expectations as the year progresses are critical.

Behavior management is key. I am lucky in that the school I teach in has quite a few programs in place that produce respectful citizens. A program called Responsive Classroom is employed district wide. By the time students reach fifth grade, they have had five years of morning meetings and are well-versed in what it means to be a community learner.

In addition, our district adopted the Olweus Bullying Prevention program. This is a comprehensive program designed to reduce and prevent bullying problems among school children. DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) is another program taught at the fifth grade level that not only teaches students about avoiding the dangers of drugs and alcohol, but also uses play acting to equip students to resist peer pressure.

With the combination of all of these programs coupled with the interest students have in what they are doing, I can honestly say behavior issues are minimal in this 21st Century classroom.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dog for Obama

The Obama's have chosen the new "First Dog." Check out our research to help them make the decision.

(Special Thanks to my partner Denise Whiteman.)

Click to learn more about Hypoallergenic Dogs.

Check out past President's pets.

Click to view our wikispace.