I was reluctant to hop on to the Socrative train.  For those of you unfamiliar with Socrative it is a clicker system that can be used on any device.  I was hesitant about this tool because to say I’m not a fan of test-like items is an understatement.  But then, on Saturday I attended the New England 1:1 Summit in Burlington, MA and Dan Callahan engaged his audience (me included) with this tool.

There is a lot to like about it!

  • access on any device: iPod, iPad, PC, smartphone
  • variety of question types: multiple choice, true/false, short answer
  • students can work on their own, or teacher can lead the group
  • you can prepare ahead of time, or go on the fly
  • you can set it up to have just 1 right answer for immediate feedback
  • download reports, view live stats
  • play as a game, set up exit tickets
  • can see how many have and/or who has responded

Here are some possible ways I can see myself (an anti-tester) using it

  • a check-in
  • workshop wrap-up
  • an activity reporting tool (I used it this way today when working with Starbursts to determine area)
  • collaborative notebook ~ collect students’ thinking during an experiment or other inquiry
  • front-load
  • pre-assess

Below is the wrap-up activity the students did after using Socrative as the reporting tool.  They had to report the area in Socrative and share a picture of it on Twitter. The self-checking activity that I set up in Socrative allowed for the kiddos to independently share out their own on Twitter.

[View the story “What is Area?” on Storify]


Text Me!

A week or so ago I had the great pleasure and opportunity to Skype with Alan November.  I loved what he had to offer and his chat re-energized me.  While chatting a question was asked about parent involvement / communication, and Mr. November had a few suggestions. 

He stated that every household is guaranteed to have one piece of technology; a television and that burning DVDs is an optimal way to share what students are doing in the classroom.  This is something I have done upon completing fairly big projects, like plays, but have never considered doing this for other routine classroom activities.  Based on when I have done in this past, I can see how it would be a big hit with families.  In the past when I have burned DVDs that demonstrated student learning families shared how their child ‘forced’ them to repeatedly watch it and brought it to every family function. 

Another suggestion that I know has been discussed on Twitter and that I have considered is texting.  Mr. November said that after TVs every household has at least one cell phone, and they have the capability to receive texts.  Some things he suggested were:

  • record the class celebrating a student’s success and text it to the parents
  • take a picture of something the students did and text the photo
  • take a video of a piece of learning and text it to parents
  • send reminders and/or updates

I would add to have the students be responsible for the recording of any of these items.

l know that when I first heard about texting parents I had privacy concerns; I am pretty particular about giving out my cell phone number.  But since then, I have come across Google Voice.  If you have a GMail account you can access Google Voice.  When you set up Google Voice Google will give you a phone number that you can use to place calls and/or send texts from your devices. 

I have since used it and am pretty happy with the results.  I use Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, and my website as means to keep parents up to date about what’s going on in the classroom, but I like what texting via Google Voice has to offer as well. 

  1. I can take videos, pictures, or audio bites, or web links off of my smartphone and text them through Google Voice.
  2. I can send a web link of student work
  3. When I use GV Mobile + I can attach pictures and/or video as well
  4. I can send messages to multiple people in one shot
  5. My personal phone number is protected

Already in the short time I have used it I have been able to quickly get in touch with parents and they quickly respond back to me.  When I attach a link to student work the parents go there and reply to the students about their learning.  There is also excitement from the parents and students.  More so than with Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, or the Website.  My thinking on this is because it is me reaching out to the parents, to let them know what has been updated.  They don’t have to take the time to check the other feeds to see if anything has changed.  We are all busy, but if there is something I can do to free up family time for my students I am happy to do that.  And Google Voice does just that.



I went to see Act of Valor with my sister. Towards the beginning of the movie, before the team deploys for their mission, the Lt. gives a brief pep talk to his team. He tells them to make sure that everything is all set at home before they leave; their relationships, finances, etc. If they are not, he encourages them to let the chief know so that they can help. His reasoning? If things are left uncertain at home, they will be unable to focus out on the mission.

What a message that sends! I value you. Your happiness is important to me. Your success is our success. I’ve seen something similar to that in a school a couple of years back. I know that recently the Waldorf school in California has gotten some press as being the anti-technology school of choice for Silicon Valley, but having visited one myself, I believe it is more than that. You know how some say it is the emotion that is invoked that people will remember? Well, this is certainly why I remember why I remember my visit there.

Upon entering the school I was warmly (and sincerely) welcomed and immediately felt at ease. During the day I had the opportunity to tour the grounds and speak with students and teachers. Here is what I discovered. Every child, every person, is greeted (at least once) by name once they enter the campus. There are multiple adults and student greeters stationed to do just that.

In one classroom I visited a child began to cry. The teacher kept singing until she reached the child and enveloped her in kindness. A gentle touch on the child’s hand to calm and a soft voice with probing questions to soothe. Some may say this is a perfect way for children to behave to receive attention, but it demonstrates to the children how important they are and that they have support.

In speaking to one teacher she had told me that she had once worked in public education before going to the Waldorf School. She mentioned that she worked with excellent teachers in the public school, but she never felt as supported as she did at Waldorf. Why? Because if she was struggling with something the whole staff was there to support her. If a child was having difficulty the entire staff participated in helping that child.

Yet the sense of community did not end there. During my tour it began to rain pretty hard out and I asked about recess. The parent that was my guide said that weather never prevented the children from being outdoors. They all had gear to participate in any type of weather. Naturally, I queried about the gear because some of the students were in attendance because of scholarship and would not be able to afford the gear. She responded that those families who can, provide extra gear.

This school, this community, understands the importance of belonging and significance; and it brought me back to my Montessori days. The students and the staff are supported to be clear-headed so that they can do their best while in school. The same with the staff. When there is that type of community it is easy to see how there is great success for the students after graduating.

Bashing Begone!

Browsing through my Twitter feed during my usual morning routine I stumbled upon a tweet by Alec Baldwin.

Responses have been mixed to this tweet, and the conversation is continuing now as I write this.  I know that I have written before about how we need to treat others with kindness regardless of station and occupation, especially when we are online.  But this tweet, this morning, made me wonder.  I know that a lot of folks have said that unkindness (aka bullying) has been around forever, it’s just more prevalent today.

Why? Is it possible that in this “information” era that we live in that we are really not informed?  Instead, there’s a perpetual bombardment of poor behavior of mass unkindness.  To an unprecedented degree, and we have created a wild west of cruelty.  It is mainstream to be mean, on and off the screen.

This woman has been lambasted in the media, print and digital.  Regardless of what we may think of her behavior (something that never would have been revealed had she acted in a different era) was it ever okay for people to speak about her the way they have?  This woman has been publicly ridiculed, one cruel comment after another.  People did skits about her on TV.  She has been humiliated in newspapers and magazines.  She has been called names online.

Some say that if she didn’t want negative press/attention then she should not have become an actress. What?!?  This type of statement says a few things. 1) Don’t live your dream, because if you do then we will find some way to tear you down. 2) It’s okay to be cruel to people in certain professions, because their life is not of value. 3) If you want people to support you, then be a robot and don’t make mistakes.  Ever.

Watch TV, go online, or read a magazine or paper and you will see unkind things being stated about others.  Just stand in line at the grocery store and your emotional senses are overloaded.  Photos with negative headlines, pointing out people’s imperfections.  Reporters or talk show hosts criticizing someone’s decision or mistake.  Radio show hosts calling people names.  President Obama being cursed at during a Facebook Town Hall Meeting.

This is what our youth sees, hears, reads.  They are bombarded with examples of how to be cruel to others.  Part of the problem with bullying and cyberbullying is the constant modeling of unkindness.  One way that children construct meaning of how to live their lives is by watching what others do, repeatedly.  They then take that behavior and make it their own.  Our words and actions have led our youth to believe that interactions should be cruel more often than kind.  They deserve more than that.  We all do.


Two other tweets regarding @alecbaldwin’s Lindsay Lohan tweet can be found here and here.



Please, Not Paper

As you may know, yesterday was Read Across America. I bought a new Dr. Seuss book in the late fall that I have been eager to read. Yesterday proved to be the perfect time to read The Butter Battle for an array of reasons.

It was my intent that after engaging in turn and talks and whole group discussions the children would continue their conversations online, in Goodreads.  We finished the book, the children engaged in spectacular conversations about the ludicrous behavior of the Zooks & Yooks. And then they had to go to their special.

We decided to continue when they returned, but as can happen with ed tech…the network went down and we were unable to get online.  Upon sharing the sad wireless news one if my kiddos said, “Please don’t make us do it on paper.  Can we try again on Monday when the wireless will probably be working again?” Of course, there was a lot of head nods in agreement.

Interesting.  Anecdotally, I’ve noticed thus over the last two years. Children will do any task without complaint, regardless of difficulty, if they can use tech.  Even if they don’t know how to completely utilize the tech they are happy to problem solve their way through it.  This is why schools need to embrace and purchase technology.  It is our kiddos’ mode of communicating. They just want us to show them how to do it well. 

I Didn’t Realize

Inevitably, each school year this pops up, and when it does I love the teachable moment it provides.  We were walking outside the other day and a kiddo came to me, upset that another kiddo waved his skyball in his face.  I was talking with the upset kiddo and he said he felt like the other kiddo was picking on him; rubbing in the fact that he couldn’t play skyball that day.

I do a lot of work with kiddos around I Statements and was working with him to word his feelings in this way so that he would be ready to chat and express his thoughts.  Once he very proudly stated, “It really hurt my feelings when you rubbed the skyball in my face because I can’t play today.”  The other little guy stopped and looked at him, stating, “I didn’t realize that.  I was just so excited that I got a skyball I wanted to show it to you!”

After that they had a brief conversation about the awesomeness of skyballs, and then I stopped them for a quick chat.  I said something like this, “You know guys, I just realized something.  Jack, you were upset because you felt like Cordell was picking on you for not being able to play skyball.  And Cordell you were excited to get the skyball and wanted to share that with your friend, but didn’t realize it would hurt his feelings.  You know, sometimes we do things, and without meaning to we hurt someone else’s feelings.  Sometimes we just don’t know what is going on with someone else, how they feel, and we don’t know how our actions are going to effect them.  This is a really important reason why we need to talk to each other.”

Both kiddos thanked me when we were done chatted and happily ran down the stairs together.  I truly do love moments like these, because it shows kiddos how necessary dialogue is.  Dialogue like this encourages them to be honest while being kind.  In the end, both parties demonstrate empathy and are empowered.  In addition, the more we can help kids work through misunderstandings like these the more trust we build and they know that they can come to us for anything.

Shower Keyboarding

I wish I could take credit for this idea, but can’t (click the picture to see it in action).  I saw it somewhere about ten years ago and have been using it ever since. I love that it not only teaches kiddos how to use a keyboard, but they can move around the board and practice spelling while doing so! I know that so many kiddos can just do the real thing on a computer, phone, or tablet, but for me it’s about the movement. Below are what I can remember of creating this.

  1. cut a shower curtain in half
  2. measure out 5 equal rows
  3. mark out the keys; the space bar is equivalent to 5 letters & others are equivalent to 2 letter key
  4. outline the keys in chisel point permanent marker
  5. label each key in chisel point permanent marker
  6. store in giant Ziploc bag, after folding flat

If kiddos have to keep their shoes on when using this, make sure they understand that they need to walk on it. If they can go barefoot, they can hop around from key to key and it will still in tact. I’ve used it for kiddos to practice spelling, collaboration skills, Morning Meeting Activity, and for kiddos who need a bit of extra movement in their day.

Two other ideas, that the kiddos brought up today were to also make a calculator to practice facts and a clock to practice time.  For the clock, their arms become the hour hand and their legs become the minute hand.  I’ve done this with hula hoops in the past and they love contorting themselves to tell the correct time!