Monthly Archives: April 2013

Reading Reflection: The Connected Educator

I recently started the Connected Educator by Sheryl Nusssbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall. I’ve been fortunate enough to connectededtake ecourses from both of them through Powerful Learning Practice. They have both inspired and supported me in so many ways, so I was very excited to read their book.

After completing the first two chapters one thought that kept going through my mind is that all preservice teachers should be reading this bookIt sets it up so clearly what it means to be a connected educator and how important it is to be a part of multiple communities. I can think of many instances in my first year of teaching that I would have liked to turn to a personal learning network for support and ideas especially because I was still getting to know many of my colleagues and building relationships. (Don’t get me wrong, I had incredibly supportive coworkers, but when I was  still building trust, I didn’t always feel comfortable asking certain questions.)

One aspect of the first chapter that has really hit home for me is the DIY mentality that Sheryl and Lani talk about. I took some time off from education to be with my son, while I had the best intentions to stay on top of things, being a new parent became my main focus for a while. Now that life has calmed down a bit and I’ve rediscovered my passion for education, all of my learning has been DIY. I try to get on twitter at least once a day, I’ve been reading blog posts again and I’ve signed up for several newsletters, all of these things have helped me catch up and stay current with all that is going on.

Throughout reading Chapter 4, I found myself highlighting and agreeing with a lot of it. The main focus of this chapter is building relationships and how important they are if we want to begin to change our schools. This one quote really struck me, in a section talking about making changes, how it affects us to let go of a practice and the importance supporting one another:

“Working in teams ensures that individual issues are addressed rather than ignored  often without putting at risk the speed of adoption, morale, or achievement.  Make time for members in your learning community to talk through and adjust to change initiatives and the transformation taking place in order to build a community that will last and be effective.”

This is so important and I think it is a vital part of the process that gets forgotten when changes are being globalconnimplemented. Many times teachers are told how they have to change their teaching practice and how they feel about this change is not considered or addressed.

Another aspect of this chapter that I thought was really important was the idea that if we want our students to be connected global citizens, we have to model this for them. I think this was an area I fell short of when I was working through my teaching transformation and I’m sure if I was still in the classroom I would be working towards this. Our connections as teachers give our students ready made connections in a safe network. By showing them how we built trust with our PLN, we are modeling safe relationships and the power of reaching out and making connections.

As I read chapter 5 I was introduced to a tool that I haven’t used before and other ways I could expand the uses of tools I use already. I found Sheryl and Lani’s advice very practical and Sheryl makes a great point when she says:

“However, I feel it is a disservice to children when educators become so enthralled with the tools that they lose sight of what is most important-the learning. Our focus should always be on what we can do with the tool. Tools should be used to serve the learning. Blink, and online tools change, so be careful where you invest your time.”

While this points out the importance of mindfully using tools, for me it also brings up the importance of teaching students how to be adaptive, tools are constantly changing. We don’t know what tools our students are going to be using years from now. This is the primary reason I introduced new tools to my student by letting them explore and learn on their own. I would do a short quick lesson on the main points and then give them time to play.

The last few chapters focus on creating a learning network and community for yourself and your school. They realistically bring up all aspects of developing a Connected Learning Community, and how you can push past obstacles and encourage the development of this community.  The advice and resources come from Lani and Sheryl’s direct experience with building and supporting Connected Learning Communities, so you know it has been successfully applied in real situations.

In the beginning of this post I said all preservice teachers should read this book, after completing the book, I think anyone involved in education would benefit from reading this book. For teachers there is practical advice on growing their network and how they can use that network to support their teaching. The activities at the end of each chapter ease the reader into becoming a Connected Educator and help educators that are new to the tools feel comfortable with exploring. For administrators and leaders, the final chapters are key in supporting the development of a Connected Learning Community. If you’re looking to change the culture of your classroom or school, this book will be a valuable tool! 

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How can I help?

As I’m developing content for the blog, I’ve been really thinking about what my goals are and how I can best support teachers as they develop lessons, transition to Common Core Standards, and incorporate 21st Century skills.

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Here are some of my goals for the blog:

  • Short, informative posts  
  • Links to Common Core when appropriate
  • Ideas and resources to incorporate 21st Century Skills
  • Technology integration resources
  • Usage guides for new tools and ideas for incorporating them

If there is a tool you want to learn more about, something you’ve been curious about and just haven’t had the time to look into it or a lesson idea that you can’t find the time to investigate, let me know! I would be glad to do the research and pass on the most useful knowledge. Being a former classroom teacher, I know how valuable a teachers time is and how many different directions you’re usually going in, so my goal is to support educators as efficiently as possible.

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National Poetry Month: Web 2.0 Poetry~ Voki

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Another Web 2.0 tool that can be used to share poetry is Voki. Voki allows students to create an avatar, chose a background, and record their voice(or use a computer generated voice). This is a great compromise when you are not able to post videos of your students to the internet.

Here are some ideas to try for Poetry Month: 

  • Have student chose a favorite poem and recite it. This allows students to practice fluency and gives them a creative option to share their favorite poem. Voki is asking people to submit their favorite poems in Voki form in honor of National Poetry Month. You can even find examples on their post
  • Chose a historical character and write a poem from their point of view explaining an event in history.
  • Have students chose their favorite form of poetry and record a Voki, then have their classmates listen to the Voki and guess what form they used.
  • Chose a current event to write a poem about, create a character and chose a background that accurately represents the event.
  • Introduce your students to a new poet, poem or poetry form by creating a Voki.
  • Create a digital poetry slam on your class webpage. Have students record original poems, stressing the idea of inflection and portraying emotion through their voice.

If you haven’t used Voki before, they provide a Getting Started Guide and a Voki Classroom Guide. Love the tool and want to use it in other ways? They even have a lesson plan resource guide that includes teacher submitted lessons.

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National Poetry Month: Web 2.0 Poetry ~ Mixbook

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One tool that I loved using with my students was Mixbook. While there are many uses of mixbook, one of my mixbookfavorite was creating Poetry Books.

What I loved about this tool was that students could completely personalize their books. They have the ability to add text, pictures, backgrounds, and “stickers”. I gave my students several options for adding illustrations to represent their poems. They could take their own pictures that represented their poem,  draw their own, or they could find them on the internet. If they drew their own pictures, I scanned them and uploaded them as jpgs. I also had a student who wrote a shape poem, so we were able to scan that in and incorporate it as well.

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Mixbooks can be embedded in class websites and a link can be emailed. Once parents have the link, they can order hard copies of their child’s book. One thing I always did, was chose the cheapest version to get the kids to started, that way if parents did want to order it, it wasn’t too costly.

Here is one example of a poetry book created by a student. 

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If you’re interested in using mixbook, but don’t know where to start, Jennifer Barnett created a step-by-step guide to get you going. 

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National Poetry Month: Writing Inspiration For Kids

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As a student, I never knew what to write about, for some reason my mind always went blank when I was given an thinkingassignment. I think brainstorming ideas or looking for inspiration is something that some students need to be taught. Here are some ideas for inspiring poetry for your students: 

  • Allow them the use of digital camera, have them to pictures of things they like and then write a poem inspired by the photograph. 
  • Brainstorm a list of things that are important to them.
  • Ask them to to do one of the creative activities below, but don’t tell them why they are doing it. When they have finished their piece of art, ask them to write a poem about it.
  1. Create a clay sculpture. (Use a digital camera to capture their sculptures)
  2. Doodle for a few minutes.
  3. Create a watercolor.
  4. Create a collage using newspapers, magazines, photos and drawings.
  • Find photographs to inspire your students using Creative Commons (This allows you to find pictures that creativecommonslogocan be used on the internet, usually you just have to give credit).
  • Think about the content you are currently covering, can they write a poem about a historical character/historical event? Or create a rhyme explaining a scientific idea?
  • Use the Shel Silverstein Poetry Took Kit
  • Poetry Idea Engine from Scholastic Kids
  • Read a variety of poems out loud. Have students pick one they like and write a simliar one.
  • Have kids create a Book Spine Poem using some of their favorite stories. (Found at School Library Journal)bookspinepoem
  • Have students chose their favorite month, time of year, or holiday and write a poem about it.
  • Have them cut out words from a magazine or newspaper and create a poem with the different pieces.
  • Have students bring in their favorite item to write a poem about.
  • For older students have them pick a current event and share their opinion about it in poetic form.

Please feel free to share other ways you inspire your students! 

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