Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Moving in the Right Direction

Exciting things are happening in my district. Really exciting. Our district Curriculum Committee met today, and I was sitting in the meeting, I had to smile at the conversations that were taking place around me. We're moving forward in so many ways. We have blended learning taking place at our high school. One of our 3-5 buildings has already gone 1:1 with Kuno tablets (and the rest of the K-5 buildings will follow suit in the next two years.) We have a Medical Academy at the high school. Teachers are involved in the curriculum review and adoption process. We frequently talk about offering opportunities to students.

A few things that were mentioned in our meeting today include...

I need to remember this and see the big picture as I'm still struggling to figure out why we adopted a basal reading series for K-5 students as a part of our 1:1 initiative. I've spoken at our meetings about this with upper Admin and other teachers, so I'm not sharing anything here that I haven't already said in public before. As much as we are flying ahead, I need to take some deep breaths and remain calm when I try to figure out how this adoption fits into the best practices that we're implementing. I imagine that, in this day of Common Core and data overload, I can't possibly be alone in feeling this way. There are other things happening around me that just don't make sense or fit with this "step forward" mentality. I'm trying really hard to remain calm as we move toward this adoption (and 1:1 implementation) at my building in the 2014-2015 school year. I have to force myself to continue to look at the big picture and realize that this will just have to make sense in the grand scheme of things, even if I don't see it now.

So when I forget this... and I begin to panic again... remind me, ok? Great things are happening in our district, and we are moving in the right direction. : )

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Good teaching

"Were you at NCTE?"
"Yes, were you?"
"Yes! Were you in the session with Seymour Simon and Anne Marie Corgill?"
"Yes! I was sitting on the floor in the front!"
"Shut up! I was sitting in the front row!"
"Were you at IRA?"
"Yes, were you?!"

And so it went. Kristin and I realized that we've been in the same place at the same time on several occasions but had never actually met face to face. We connected through #1stchat on Twitter and finally decided to "tweet up" for dinner back in December. (And of course, it was fabulous! Such an easy, felt-like-we'd-known-each-other-forever kind of conversation.) 

Kristin and me
Last week, I was so fortunate to visit Kristin's amazing classroom and school. As the K-2 and 3-5 schools in my district move towards having a 1:1 tablet environment, we're investigating what that looks like and how it will look for us. Since Kristin has 1:1 iPads in her first grade classroom, it was an added bonus to my visit.

I sat, amazed, as her first graders moved seamlessly about her room, making choices and finding their own path to their learning. Kristin provided the spark and the choices, and then they were off to investigate. Some chose paper and pencil, while other grabbed their iPads. This is exactly how I envision it being in my classroom. 

There were times when Kristin knew a lesson work better if they could access tech tools, so she instructed them to bring their iPads to the carpet with them. They used TodaysMeet (which is way cool, by the way!) to give everyone a voice in their classroom discussion. Oh, and they got to the site by scanning the QR code Kristin posted on her computer. 

Her classroom? Cozy seating areas. An observation window. Anchor charts. A peace table. Magazines. Photographs. Technology. Evidence of student thinking. Books. Lots of books.

My biggest take-away? Perhaps it's this...

Good teaching is good teaching, 
regardless of what technology you may or may not have.

Can certain tech tools enhance lessons and provide (perhaps better) ways of connecting? Absolutely. Can it provide opportunities that you couldn't have without it? Yes, I know this to be true from my own learning. We must investigate to find the best sites and apps to use. But still... we have to know what good teaching looks like. As another #1stchat friend, Karen, taught me... our focus needs to remain on the learning that is taking place.

My comments here cannot do justice to what I saw in Kristin's room last week. So many things caused me to snap a picture so I wouldn't forget. So many things made me smile. And yes, I had those "why didn't I think of that?" moments, too. When her kids were away at lunch and at their computer tech time, our conversations quickly turned to what we are reading professionally and what new things we're trying out. 

That's what drives me. Conversations. Connections. Always thinking and trying. It does my heart good to know there are others out there who feel that same way. I'm so lucky that our first grade chat on Twitter has brought so many amazing educators into my professional (and personal) life. I am blessed.

**UPDATE 1-22-13
A few people asked if I could share more of the bazillion pictures I took that day, so here is a slideshow of some of the ones I took in Kristin's room that day. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

ETMOOC Introduction

Well... here goes nothing! :) I played around with Toontastic and brought out my super nerdy side to create this video to introduce myself.

Whew! I bet my first graders would've figured it out so much quicker than I did!

Monday, January 14, 2013

#ETMOOC Adventures!

For the next couple of months, I will be participating in the current ETMOOC. I'll be using this space for my usual types of blog posts, but please know that I will also be using this as a place where I am reflecting on the conversations and opportunities that arise from this online course. I'll be using the ETMOOC label for all of these posts.

In case you aren't aware, a MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course, and this one happens to be centered around Educational Technology.

I'm really excited (ok, and a bit nervous) about embarking on this journey. I know it will take me to new places, both physically and mentally. It's a step I need to take.

Our first "assignment" is to come up with an introduction, which I'm planning on doing using the Toontastic digital storytelling app. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge - January 9, 2013

So far, I'm off to a great start! I've read a total of 5 nonfiction picture books this week towards my goal of 52. I've decided that I'm going to try to share a lot of these with my first graders, too, because I am consciously aware of the fact that I don't share enough nonfiction with them!

Because so many of us are wishing for some snow, I shared these three books with my first graders this week.

National Geographic Kids - Winter Wonderland by Jill Esbaum (published in 2010)
This one is a narrative nonfiction book told from Winter's perspective. It was an "easier to read" type of book but still had a lot of great language to share. We especially liked discussing how Winter can be sneaky, as the book suggests.

The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder by Mark Cassino (published in 2009)
There was a lot of incredible information in this read. We shared it using Tumblebooks, which I think helped to engage some of my struggling readers. I even learned new things about snow in this one!

Who Likes the Snow? (Exploring the Elements) by Etta Kaner (published in 2006)
This is another narrative nonfiction book which was also read using Tumblebooks. I really liked that it gives the story portion, poses a question/wonder, and then provides answers/information.

I have a plan for the upcoming week but am also looking forward to getting suggestions from other participants! Also, be sure to check out Alyson Beecher's Kit Lit Frenzy, the host blog of this event.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2013

Thanks to Alyson Beecher from Kid Lit Frenzy for hosting this challenge! I know I have a major reading gap in my nonfiction picture book reading, so this seems like a great way to fix it.

My official goal will be to read a total of 52 nonfiction picture books and/or short chapter books. I'm going to stick with picture books and shorter chapter books so I can hopefully share most (or all) of them with my first graders. I've decided not to limit myself to only books published in 2013; instead, I'm just going to focus on finding great nonfiction regardless of the year.

As a part of the challenge, I'll also periodically be blogging about the books I'm reading and tweeting about them using #nfpb2013. It's always better when we have a reading community to support us and push us in these challenges. I am already looking forward to the conversations throughout the year!