Thursday, December 22, 2016

Teach Like Google Exists

Do I know all the answers? NO! I do not even pretend I do. When someone asks me a question that I know I can answer using Google I immediately say, “Hold on. Let me Google that.” I model this for students every day. Last week Charles came to see me. Every time he logged onto a Chromebook his screen was magnified. I had him try a computer and it was fine, so we deduced it was just on the Chromebook. After testing several Chromebooks we drew a conclusion that something was wrong with his settings.

I told him I had to Google how to fix it because I had no clue. We sat together and looked into it. I choose key words carefully. I had already power washed the chromebook and reset his account. Nothing changed. Then we went to a Google support page. This gave us some new options, which he tried.  Zoom out: Press Ctrl + Alt + Brightness down was our solution. Now he knows how to make his screen readable, and we both learned more about his problem together.

This ten-minute exchange showed my student the power to look things up. It taught him about the importance of key words. He also discovered a solution to his problem that worked. It is so important to teach like Google exists! Students need to start learning early how to use Google to run effective searches to get the results they are looking for. Children also need to know adults do not have all the answers. I encourage you to talk to your child about how you use Google in your daily life!

Friday, December 16, 2016

I wish parents of today knew

When I was in the 3rd grade I won the Continental Math League bronze medal. My father proudly videotaped the ceremony, and the VHS tape is sitting in a file cabinet. My mom may have taken a photo with a Polaroid camera and it is sitting in a dusty album on a shelf. I am sharing this with you not because my achievement is sitting in a drawer or a shelf but rather I know my parents were proud of me for earning that medal. Then I think about if I won that medal today what could have happened. My father could have tweeted to the Continental Math League thanking them for giving me a medal. My mother could have used her IPhone, with location services turned on, to take a photo, sharing my big smile on Facebook and Instagram. Now the whole world knows where I am. If I had a certificate along with my medal she would include that in the photo, the world seeing my first and last name. My achievement celebrated with family in today’s world is now broadcasted to the world, adding to my digital footprint that probably started when I was in the womb.

I wish parents of today knew that they could be proud of their child’s achievement and share this with the world through various outlets, thinking about a few things before they post. Please cover your child’s last name in a certificate. If the certificate has the name of the school edit that out. We are thrilled your child is student of the month or in an honor society, but keep your child safe by not sharing who or where they are. I wish parents remembered to check privacy settings once in a while and make sure their location services are turned off. If parents do this, they are modeling for their child what he or she should do. Then we will have students who already think about their digital footprint in a positive way and can still show off their accomplishments to the world.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Engaging Students in the Innovation Station

Engagement in learning is one of the most powerful outcomes of any lesson. Having vision as an educator to meet the needs of each individual learner to engage them every day can be exhausting, but the students reap the benefits. Isn’t that why I got into this profession? It has never been about what I want. My day is not my own, rather it is guided by 23 bright lights and I never know the direction we will go in when I walk into the classroom in the morning. I am sure many of you parents understand this mentality because you give up your life to nurture another, each day focused on someone else’s needs.

I know my students do not benefit from the 19th century schooling model where they sit in rows with the teacher up in front of the classroom. We learn to work in groups, navigate the word of academic choice, and strive to meet new challenges. I was thrilled to be able to bring them to our schools new Innovation Station STEM lab to test it out. Thanks our amazing principal and his vision, students now have a place to go to learn, explore, play, discover, and collaborate. Students chose a station to go attend for an hour. We had students working on coding robots to go the perimeter of a square or rectangle. Another group was challenged to create an animation of a pivotal scene in Pax. I saw students making scenery and characters for when Peter left Pax. A third group was exploring Makey Makey’s, figuring out how to make a controller for their laptop. I saw students work on turning a LED light on, playing a drum, and excitedly beating a video game with the Makey Makey.

Students loved their hour in the Innovation Station and cannot wait to go back. They worked well together and were engaged the entire time. As an educator this is what I live for! Students empowered to learn and challenge themselves! I look forward to using the robots, the 3D doodler, the snap circuits, and other amazing tools we have in our own classroom. The classroom of today sure looks a lot different than when I was in school! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Embracing Picture Books No Matter How Old You Are

I remember sitting curled up in my bed reading Riding the Tigera picture book by Eve Bunting. I put the book down after my first read, pondering what this book was all about. There is a boy and a tiger, and the span of the story made me feel like there was some sort of power struggle. I read it a second time and began to notice the illustrations. The tiger grew bigger, and the boy became smaller. The eyes of the tiger were piercing. What was this book really about? After a fourth read I realized the story was about gang violence. I began thinking about West Side Story with the Jets vs. the Sharks and Romeo and Juliet with their two families. A picture book really made me think deeply, and there is extreme value in that. This story will be used during a lesson on feeling powerless and what we can do to change that.

Picture books sometimes get lost as children grow up. I often hear picture books are for babies or why do I need to read this? I think picture books are full of hidden gems. Life lessons crawl out from the pages, prompting discussions about sharing, kindness, empathy, respect, etc. Students can think about theme, plot, and characterization through picture books. Illustrations can be used as evidence to support higher-level thinking. They also help students practice fluency skills. So I encourage you all to curl up with a great picture book. This year the Newbery medal went to LastStop of Market Street. It was shocking to many that a writing award went to a picture book. It takes an ordinary day and makes it extraordinary for readers. It also asks us with being rich really means? TheTable Where Rich People Sit is another great read to help kids understand how we are all rich. We get to see the sunset, the moon shine, and laugh with our family. Model that it is okay to read these no matter how old you are. According to a NewYork Times article Alexandra Kennedy (2014) states, “Our role, as parents, teachers and librarians, is to select the right book at the right time — to carefully walk that delicate line between protecting a child’s innocence and providing a greater awareness of our increasingly complicated world and the values we hold most dear.”

Friday, December 9, 2016

The JK Phenomena

My DQ was about what I would like to call the "JK Phenomena" or Just Kidding! Several students will talk to peers or siblings either nicely or not so nice and follow it up with "Just kidding." This in turn hurts others, even if our perception is that it is funny or a way to say something without possibly dealing with a consequence of our words because we were only "just kidding." It also means we do not have to take responsibility for our words. Most agents honestly admitted to doing this or it has happened to them and all said they were going to work on it. So feel free to follow up at home.
Regardless of whether she or he thinks the person thinks she or he is kidding - typical kid reaction is to shrug things off and laugh, however deep down inside it resonates and hurts. I am guilty of laughing things off too but hurting on the inside. Often times when we laugh the person making the comment assumes we find the comment funny, and it is ok. However it is not ok. Some hide it better than others. We all know he would never intentionally hurt someone but sometimes the things we say do.

A students had one told me how online joking is worse as and I quote "there is no font for sarcasm." Brilliantly said as it is so true. We talked about how once you put something in writing it is now evidence of your words.

I showed the agents this site. The video does not play here, but if you are comfortable feel free to show it to your child.

We discussed how our class will be a NJZ from here on out and if kids do find their feelings are getting hurt by others we are going to put those practices in place. As they head to QMS this is a HUGE lesson to learn. Middle school can be like navigating through murky water. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Challenge of Group Work

This morning I planned a social studies lesson where students were tasked with completing the reading of an article on Pre Columbian civilization, highlight important information to share on a collaborative Google Slides to teach classmates, and jot down notes as to why they highlighted information. These notes are important and will help guide what students put on the slides. However, sometimes the best-laid plans do not work out the way you expected them to.

Students met with the same groups as earlier in the week and settled in to get work done. They had about 25 minutes to complete the work, which many groups were half way done when they began. What I saw were groups who struggled to work together. Some students were more concerned about them and went ahead. Others talked over each other. Some were trying to talk and their group mates and felt unheard. So when I said time was up no group finished their task, and students were surprised that they had been working for 25 minutes.

I spent some time reflecting with students on the concept of group work and the process groups go through. Students shared many were off task. Some were shouting directions as group mates, being a boss rather than a leader. Others were flicking highlighters or pencils. We did a lesson on empathy, thinking about how this makes group members feel. Students recognized feeling words such as annoyed, frustrated, angry, etc. As a class we talked about group skills for success. We problem solved how to encourage all kids to talk or share ideas, as some students felt like their idea was not good enough to share or no one cared about their idea.

Learning to work on groups is a life long skill, as many of us work on teams in our job. We all need to listen, share ideas, and compromise in these situations. Our young students struggle with collaborative group work skills, and we will continue to build upon these skills this year. It is important we all feel comfortable to share ideas and grow as a classroom community. I look forward to next week when we try this again! Glad we always have a do over!