Sunday, January 31, 2016

Ok Google, I'll Keep you around

When I hear about something new, I want to try it. Sometimes I like what I see and sometimes I can live the rest of my life without it. I have downloaded and deleted apps in the same day.

I received my first introduction to "Ok Google" at CUE last March. I found it fascinating and looked forward to using it and seeing how it could benefit me, my students, my family. When I upgraded my Android phone in June, I got excited as I discovered that all I had to say was "Ok Google" and my phone would find things for me. Now, I observe my students as they use the voice searches on their Chromebooks in class, then hop in my car to go home and say, "Ok Google, take me home" and love hearing, "navigating to home." It took me about eight or nine months to finally start using it more, but I find myself using it a little more each day. Between that and my BlueTooth enabled vehicle, I do a lot of talking in the car, even when I am seemingly alone. With my help from my mobile friend Google, I can get directions, look up phone numbers, and even make a note to myself. Which leads me to my next item...

Screen shot of my first tries with Google Keep.
The graphics, of course, were added later in my Photo
Studio (on my phone) in preparation for sharing here.
My other new "toy" is Google Keep. I heard about this app in passing, did a little research of my own, and decided to give it a try. I keep finding things that I can do with it. So far, I have started a shopping list that I have shared with my dad because we share grocery duties I love that we can mark things off and then when we need them on the list the next time, we can just tap them and they reappear. I have made notes on student presentations as they present. These are notes I can then take into Google Classroom for grading purposes as assignments are completed. I rather like having a separate place to make notes, and it's quick and easy to do on my phone. (I will add it to a tablet next.) I have set memos with reminders. This has been especially helpful for meeting the deadline for submitting my weekly lesson plans, but even better than that, I have one for when my small groups need to switch. The memo is something I can share with colleague or sub if necessary and the reminder helps keep my timing on track. Reminders on Google Keep are especially interesting to use. In addition to the more typical clock reminder (like an alarm), there is a way to set a reminder connected to your location. That being the case, I have set up a very special reminder with a neat memo for my kids and me. Every time we arrive home, my phone reminds m to Hug, dance, laugh, and love. Thank you, Google Keep!

Have you tried Google Keep? If so, what is your favorite feature so far?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Never stop learning

One of the highlights of the last 12 to 18 months for me has been the growth and development of my PLN. You may have seen my post on Twitter use and how Tweet it is in November. It has been a large part of my PLN growth. But wait, there's more...

Much of the core of my PLN exists because of some incredible real-life, face-to-face conferences. These are people I met first and connected with on Twitter later.

Have you been to an EdCamp?
EdCamp. That was a foreign word to me until about this time last year. Have you heard of it? If not, Google it. If so, I imagine you are already familiar with the amazing things that can happen at an EdCamp. Regardless of what group you fall into, please continue reading.

The neat thing about EdCamp is that everyone there gets to participate in deciding what the day will include. Sticky Notes rule the beginning the day and collaboration remains the theme of the day. EdCamp is an "unconference" and it can be fun trying to explain that to people.

I attended my first EdCamp last spring I connected with handful of wonderful people who encouraged me, inspired me, and led me to seek even great greatness. A couple of months later, I met with one of the people I met at my first EdCamp to discuss my transition into teaching technology and to continue navigating through some ideas I had. Additionally, I had a chance to continue to share some of what I was already doing. But, my best EdCamp experience was yet to come.

I attended another in the fall. Also, in the fall of 2015, I had the opportunity to present at CapCUE's TechFest. There, I again reconnected with one of my favorite CUE Rockstar teachers, Ryan O'Donnell. in fact, he and Brian Briggs (who I only really know from Twitter), gave me the opportunity to speak on camera as part of their regular Podcast, Check This Out. I saw Ryan again last my best EdCamp so far.

CapCUE hosted an EdCamp in Rocklin. Rocklin Unified provided lunch. (Score!) Amazing people came from all over for this EdCamp. The smartest person in the room was indeed THE ROOM. People shared ideas, experiences, awesomeness. And my day ended learning a little more about Podcasting in a special session with Ryan and a small group of wonderful people. Our familiarity varied. Our experiences difered. And, learning happened. I immediately took it back to my students and they were further inspired. Wonderful things will continue to happen with my students because of these experiences.

Later in the week, I revisited my favorite Twitter chat, with the DitchBook crew. We discussed science lessons specifically. Knowing that there are like-minded educators willing to share ideas who I can connect with on a weekly basis makes my heart sing.

I am now rejuvenated in my enthusiasm for my role as a facilitator of learning and my students are better for it. As I look forward to traveling to a different state to collaborate, learn, and share experience, as I look forward to CUE 16, as I prepare to present at an upcoming conference, I can say I am better for the the face-to-face experiences nurtured by online correspondence and interaction.

So, now, I leave you with some recommendations.

Five Suggestions
One. Attend an EdCamp.
Two. Find your tribe, your people, the collective with which you can share ideas virtually and in person.
Three. Participate in a Twitter chat. If you haven't seen #DitchBook, check it out. I love it. But maybe a different one fits you better. It's about what works for you and what nurtures your teacher soul.
Four. Take the time to listen (view) a podcast. I strongly recommend Check This Out with Ryan O'Donnell and Brian Briggs.
Five. Stand firm and be flexible. That's right. When you know something works, stand firm in knowing what is right, but be flexible and willing to try new things.
Be you. Be real. Be awesome. But never stop learning.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A whole new world

When I was in elementary school, I struggled with spelling. I love watching my son succeed with his spelling homework and spelling tests. We have had issues off and on this year with him leaving his homework in his desk at school. On days such as that, we do alternative activities at home and then the next morning he goes into the classroom before school starts to work on his homework. More often than not, he gets it done. This happened yesterday. This morning, I started my day by sending a Class Dojo message to the teachers letting them know they should see him in the room first thing. A little while later, while still on my commute, I received a reply. He was in the classroom working on his homework. There are not cards being pulled in this classroom, but Dojo points. I have excitedly watched as my son has had really awesome days, especially this week. Of course, I also use Class Dojo as a teacher and I am in the process of helping a colleague start it with her class.

I started my day as a parent corresponding with the teacher through Class Dojo. Then, I arrived at work and took my fifth graders into the classroom where they polished their podcast scripts and plans. Then, recording began. We recorded the first two episodes of Fifth Grade Life today. We are eager to finalize things and begin sharing them. I was impressed with their commitment to the projects, as well as their enthusiasm.

Later in the day, the sixth grade class presented their TED-style "talks." One of which was absolutely outstanding. They followed the assignment to a "T" and their presentation went incredibly well. Bravo!

I had my "usual suspects" in the technology lab after school and kept it open a little while longer than usual. It was a great day. After the last couple of students left, I worked some more on editing a recording that will become the first episode of the Primetime Podcast Adventurers (named by my son) podcast. This is a family effort to put into action some of the things I am teaching and it allows me to work a little more with audio editing which is still somewhat new to me. If I am going to teach it, I want to know it and do it. My children are more than happy to assist in such projects. Thus, our family Edu-awesome adventure podcast was born.

I packed up my things and headed for the door. The phone rang. It was my son. He asked if his teachers had sent a copy of the spelling list this week (sometimes they send it through Class Dojo). They had not, but I still told him I would look. Just in case. Of course, the list was not there, but I found a link to their class website. I clicked on it. It did not load. Oh, bummer. Still, perhaps it was an issue on my end. So, I sent an email to my son with the link. I called him, he grabbed his tablet, and tried the link. It didn't load. We came up with a new idea. I sent a Dojo message to the teachers and asked where I might find the list. A quick reply, despite it being 5 p.m., and I had a new link to try. It worked! I kicked off another email to my son. Another call to him, another check of his tablet, and another success. The link worked! By the time I arrived home, he had completed his spelling homework, cheerfully. Normally, he has to finish his homework and practice piano before using his tablet, but emails from mom for the sake of homework completion warranted early access. We have started talking about working on a claymation style video in the future as inspired by one of my students' Lego stop-motion video for a project. We entered the planning stages tonight with a target to begin filming by Spring Break. First, though, we have science fair projects to work on: rotting fruit with my five-year-old and melting bomb pops with my eight-year-old. Tablet use...optional.

We have entered a whole new world, folks!

Today, all of today, is proof of some of the wonderful things that EdTech makes a teacher and as a parent.

How has EdTech made a difference in your day today?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

What do you do when the tech doesn't co-operate? Facilitate!

You walk into class with your students ready to get to work. They sit down at the computers and attempt to login to their accounts. happens. The Internet refuses to co-operate. The plan for the day was to have students access their podcast scripts and work on final editing and rehearsing so that recording could begin the next time the class meets. Unfortunately, a huge storm rolled in and the Internet rolled out. There you were with over 20 students, including one new one who came in committed to the as-yet unfamiliar project...with no Internet connection. None. Zero. "Ms. R.!!! The computers aren't working!" My reply: "To be fair, the computers are working just fine, but the Internet seems to be down, yes."

"My computer isn't working."
"None of the computers are working!"

First, a brief, but important lesson. The computers ARE, in fact, working. The Internet is down. Ok, new plan.

I had the students break off into groups. One group still attempted to gather around a single computer. "We aren't using the computers today," I said. They looked stunned. For a moment. Then, they got right to work. Their task was simple. All groups would discuss their podcast topics. Each student would share with the other group members what they would discuss during their podcast.

"We don't have our script. We can't do this without our script!"
"Yes, you can. You aren't rehearsing your script. You're having a conversation. You know your topic. You can do this."

And then...

they did.

They came up with new ideas, too.

When we gathered back in a whole group setting, I called them to order by briefly ringing a bell and blowing a train whistle. They brought their chairs and gathered together. I asked, "How many of you are planning to use sound effects in your podcasts?" Answers varied. And students started to think. Differently. I played a recording I took earlier in the school year that would assist one of the groups. Other groups started planning new ideas. Ideas blossomed. It was fantastic!

Later in the day when the Internet still had trouble, the kindergarten students reviewed a map of Internet outages and discussed what their favorite things they've learned so far are before starting a writing activity: "The best thing I have learned in computers so far this year is..." And then they talked about and puzzles, and all of the wonderful things they have done so far this year. As the conversation winded down and students started writing, I had a chance to think back over some of our great accomplishments of the year.

Teaching tech without the tech? It can be done. Some days dictate that it must be done. Today was one such day. And, we did it! By the end of the day, the Internet was back up and co-operating. Students resumed some of their regularly "scheduled" activities. Now, ask me which students learned something new and different when they least expected it.

Excuse me while I re-work some lesson plans for the rest of the week.

How has a tech difficulty led to great learning for your students Comment below or share on Twitter with #EdTechSuccess

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Make it an Edu-Awesome Year!

"I want to be a blogger like mommy."
It's a new year. Well, sort of anyway. As educators, we essentially have two new years. We have the start of the new school year and the start of the new calendar year. We are already on day three of this 366-day Edu-Awesome Adventure!

Great things happened as 2015 came to an end and plans have already been set for the year ahead. We're kicking things off next weekend with a (tentative) hiking trip at Mount Bruno in San Francisco. We will adjust for weather, as necessary/if necessary.

I write a lot. I write beyond this blog with other topics and I am working on some crossover this year. I'm calling it the hashtag crossover. There are a handful of hashtags I will use this year. #EduAwesome and #ScienceRocks will continue, of course. The crossover hashtags are:
Will Maggie Rose make an appearance at CUE16?
#steampunk #anticipation

I invite others to join with me throughout the year. When you encounter something that brings you joy, please share it. When you look around the world and see ways in which we can spread love, share it. And, of course, even on the worst days, we can all find something for which to be thankful. There's the student who made a breakthrough. There's the day the computers co-operate more than usual. There's the day we high-five a colleague. There's the day we make it to school even though it's pouring rain. There's the day we finally get to participate in one of our favorite Ed chats.

I have labeled this year as a year of anticipation. We are still awaiting the results of the #FindYourPark contest. Voting closed in October. In mid to late November I was told winners would be notified "in a few weeks." And so, we wait. With anticipation. A colleague nominated me for CUE's Outstanding Emerging Teacher. And so, I wait. With anticipation. I am presenting at the end of February at ETC! 2016. And so, I wait. With anticipation. Travel plans, adventures, and of course, classroom firsts are all ahead. And so, I wait. With anticipation. Perhaps, I plan with anticipation. Great things will happen in 2016.

My uncle (a former chemist) led my children and their cousins in the volcano
experiment that came with my daughter's MC2 doll from Santa.
I thank my PLN for moving me along in this journey. I thank all of you from whom I have learned. I thank all of you who have shared with me and read and encouraged me. Every bit of this has benefited students at my school and in my hometown. What a wonderful, small world in which we operate and educate.

We investigated more new finds.

At home, we have a new circuit kit to work with, we are trying new things with a Chromebook, we are looking at robots and spheros and Star Wars. Do you want to build a robot...??? Then while my kids take the new things they are learning back to school, so will I and I will share with my other kids, my students. I saw a shirt or meme a few days ago about "stop teaching curriculum and start teaching students." Very thought-provoking.

What are your goals for 2016? What are your hashtags for 2016?



Let's do this.

Let's do this with love and joy and anticipation. Let us be grateful everyday and tell the world #whattup as we continue on this Edu-Awesome Adventure! Allons-y!