Tag Archive | Blogging

Mobile Teachers

I can’t imagine not having my iPad and/or Droid by my side while teaching. Am I tethered to my devices? Not necessarily. But I have become accustomed to the applications available on them that assist in the daily ‘stuff’ that makes up teaching.

I can not say enough about Evernote! I use it to keep track of parent – teacher conferences and phone calls as well as notes during PPTs and student – teacher conferences. I was sold on upload with Evernote last year while conferring with one of my students. after conferring, he wanted to try what we just talked about but couldn’t remember it. I tossed him my phone and he listened to our conference to remind himself, followed by application of our chat. Because I have Evernote downloaded on both devices I could still confer with other students while he was doing this!

Twitter and HooteSuite are very helpful when we are tweeting away in the classroom. Having these applications on both devices has allowed me to walk around and chat with my students while monitoring what they are all tweeting. During a recent TwitterView my classroom desktop was not connecting to the Internet. But…hooking my iPad up to the projector I was able to display the feed in case the student devices were not loading quickly enough. But I was able to walk around chatting with my students and use my Droid to stay in contact with the folks we were interviewing. Also, it comes in handy on field trips when we want to share our experiences with other folks!

Goodreads is a fabulous social bookshelf! We can be knee deep in a read aloud turn-and-talk and I can monitor what my students are saying about the book in real time. Or I an see what books my students are uploading to their shelves to get an idea of what they are reading at home and school. I really enjoy seeing their ratings and book reviews!

These are just some of the apps that I have on both devices, but there are some specifically on my iPad that I find helpful. Stick Picks is a handy app that lets me keep track of Ana array of things. I have written about it here. another one that infrequently use is Teacher Pal. Also written about here. While some may think it is poor modeling to use our mobile devices in the classroom, I disagree. When we use our devices for things like these we are showing our students what it means to be a responsible learner and citizen. We are showing them that we can use our devices for specific tasks and walk away from them. We are showing them how to be task oriented. Purpose driven. Accountable.

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My Teacher Bag

Today began my tenth year of teaching. And in those ten years I have collected a great deal of bags. Teachers seem to like bags, or companies and organizations seem to think they do, and so anytime I attend a conference a new bag is added to my collection.

There must be something to that perception because I have friends and colleagues who walk into and out of work with, at minimum, three bags filled to the brim. Every day. Bags stuffed with papers, books, lesson plans, and grade books.

This year, since June-ish, I have been in a purging mood. Trying to get myself into a ‘less is more’ frame of mind. So I figured that I would start the school year in much the same way. Other than my lunch and plenty of bottled water all I brought into work with me today was this:


It’s really all I need: conferring notes, rubrics, lesson plan notes, access to student work, books… Not to mention I can keep up to date with work emails and memos if needed. It was quite nice bringing home only a bag filled with empty water bottles (will work on that next). And my shoulder thanked me.

How Should Teachers Use Social Media?

Imagine being told that you can not blog. Or who you can friend on Facebook. Or that you can not tweet. How about you can do all of those things not only so long as they are not related to your job? This may sound frightening to many of us because this is how we learn, but for some this is a harsh reality. To decrease the likelihood of these policies popping up there are things that can be done.

1) Provide and/or seek professional development on ways to use social networks in the classroom. They can be used to encourage conversation, as formative assessments, research tools, and a method to disperse information to multiple audiences.

2) Have separate accounts for work. Have a Facebook page, not account, for your classroom. Do the same for Twitter, YouTube, blog, and Google+ Circles. Use these as tools to engage students in learning and critical literacies. Use them to engage and inform parents.

3) Share only positive things about your students and be sure NOT to disclose full or real names to protect them. The same is true for colleagues and administration. When children speak negatively about other people we call it bullying.

4) Speak generally about education policies and not specifically about your colleagues, administration, school, or district. Disagreement is healthy and necessary in a democracy. However, there are ways to do it without pointing fingers or embarrassing those who made decisions.

5) Know WHY you are using social media in and out of the classroom. For example:
~ I use Facebook and Twitter in the classroom as a way to inform parents and share resources with them, but also as a tool to engage in my students in critical literacies. I blog in the classroom to engage my students in critical literacies as well.
~ I use Facebook personally to be social with friends and family, just be silly. I use Twitter personally as a professional tool, engaging in conversations that shape my teaching and philosophy. I blog to share educational ideas with other educators.

Why Use Social Media?

This is a pretty common question that I hear when I speak about digital citizenship, and its usually followed with because the whole point is to socialize.  When I hear people say this I hear a lot of fear.  Fear of losing control.  Fear that their students will engage inappropriately.  Fear of repercussions from administration, parents, and the community.  Understandable, because no one likes to feel afraid, and outside of the fact that you should define social media for yourself so that you have a purpose for using it and then know what you expect of your students while they are using it.  So why use social media when students will be socializing?

Because it is social.  The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.  There is an abundance of research that proves this and it is one of the principles in the Responsive Classroom philosophy.  People, including children, learn best when they are exchanging ideas with others.  It strengthens their understanding, helps them clarify misconceptions, and opens them to diverse opinions and experiences.  All of these things happen in a classroom when students are working in small groups, but provides the opportunity for this to occur in an exponential way when happening online.

Using social media with students gives them the opportunity to practice social skills.  The same social skills we teach and expect students to use when engaged with others in person, we expect them to use online.  At the same time, we have to teach them new skills that involve social critical thinking.  For example: if I say _____ I am trying to say _____, but someone could think I mean ______ so I should say ______ instead.  We are teaching them critical literacy tools that are necessary in the absence of body language and intonation.  We are teaching them word choice, tone, intent, and perception.  But, most importantly, we are teaching them empathy.

While novelty is key in some ages, early adolescents in particular, relevance is important to any learner.  Social media hits both of these.  Using tools that students are familiar with is one important way to engage students in curriculum.  This also tells them that we validate their lives outside of school, creating a sense of significance, and making them more apt to participate in curriculum that could be unappealing or challenging.  Then there is the novelty.  Tools like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more are used by students of all ages for social reasons.  Using them in the classroom is novel because we are using it a way that is foreign to them: to learn. 

Sticks and Sand


A dear friend of mine says that all she really needs to teach her students is a sandbox and a stick. How can that be? Take a moment and think. Strip your teaching down to the essentials of what you do, the core philosophy and pedagogy.

How about that interactive white board? What does it do that can’t be done with some base-ten blocks, beans, or Popsicle sticks? Sure it projects. But, if I have a big enough meeting area all of my students can see whatever modeling their peers or I do.

Speaking of meeting areas. Does a rug need to define it? Not necessarily. I could create the same effect by carefully arranging my classroom. Maybe push the tables to the perimeter or cluster them so that there is enough space for all of the children to gather in one space and/or see from a chair.

I can not easily say the same for other classroom materials. I would need manipulatives for math. Even if they were just counters or beans. Not all of my students would need them, but some would and it is important that they have the option.

Paper would be necessary as well. Working with primary aged children I have found it difficult to get away from. Many of them need the paper to flesh out their ideas. Sure, they could use word, paint, or excel, but many of them prefer using their hands to plan.

Technology is a must. While it may not be necessary for every child to have his/her own device it would be necessary to have some technology. Being able to access up-to-the-minute information and resources is invaluable. Never mind students being able to create interactive content of their own.

As I looked around my classroom last Wednesday it seemed bare. Granted many of the books were piled high on the counter. But, bare it looked because I eliminated those things that we could live without. Now what would happen if I did that with the curriculum?

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

I Hope You Dance


Dear Friends,

Do you remember that last day of second grade? In June of 2010? The day we first met? The first time we gathered on the rug together? We read this book, a gift from my dear friend, together? Remember when we got used to the pattern of the book and we were completing the rhymes of the book? Saying to each other, “I hope you dance.” And then we met again in late August, the first day of third grade. Again we gathered on the rug. And again we read this book.

Some day, when you are older than you are, but not nearly as old as the stars, you’ll understand why I hope what I hope for you. But between the distant then and now, if I look at you like you’re the cats meow, it’s just because my heart is in my throat for you. Listen…

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder. Your curiosity about everything around you made me see the endless possibilities in the world around us. Every time one of you began a question with, “what would happen if…” made me eager to discover the answer with you. I didn’t know that if you left homemade toothpaste out in the air it would become hard like clay. Or that the way our room was set up could look like an airplane. Or that the earth’s layers are like the human body. Your questions and musings made me see our world in a whole new way.

Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens. I saw so many of you deal with heartache and disappointment this year. Many of you lost a loved one or had to deal with big change in your life. But I also saw each of you rely on your new (and old) friends in our classroom to help you get through difficult times. Remember that just because the door to our year together is about to close we are all opening another door to a new classroom with new friends. Maybe even some old ones. It will be okay for all of us.

Promise me…that when you have the the choice to sit it out or dance…you dance. Be fearless. Always be the risk taker you have proven to be this year. Take on new challenges. Know that they may be difficult, but also know that you can do it. You have the skills and resources available to you to try new things. To venture into the unknown. And remember…you are not alone. You always have friends there to help you and cheer you on if you need it.

Never settle for the path of least resistance. Living might mean taking chances but they’re worth taking. Work hard. If it is too easy than we won’t learn anything from it. It will not become a part of us. Sometimes we have to make mistakes and that’s okay. It is from our mistakes that we will learn. Just like we learned what to do when the computers didn’t work. Or when we didn’t know how to multiply. We worked hard to figure these things out, and because we persevered we now know what to do.

I hope you’re never ever lost and always found. You are incredibly special. Your ability to draw well. To take things apart and be able to put them back together. To make someone laugh, cheer them up when they are blue. Your ability to be just as serious about learning as you are about playing. I hope every person you meet sees your unique talents and values you for who you are instead of who they want you to be.

But, most of all…I hope you DANCE!

Quotes from the children’s book I Hope You Dance by Thomas Nelson and the song I Hope You Dance by Leann Womack.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

To AUP or not to AUP

That is the question. Actually, the current question is what should the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) say? The real question should be why even have an AUP? This train of thought can cause as much disagreement as homework. In short AUPs outline how to use the school’s technology (Internet and intranet). They also outline consequences for inappropriate use. There are plenty of reasons provided why to have an AUP, including digital footprints and Cyberbullying. My argument for eliminating AUPs is quite simple.

1) The technology is a school material. If we are to have an AUP for tech then we need to have one for all school materials. All school materials have the potential to be misused with degrees of severity and harmfulness. Pencils and crayons have the potential for poking someone’s eye out. Paper has the potential to spread mean-spirited comments. Base-ten blocks have the potential to be used as a weapon.

2) Trust. Teachers have to be trusted to teach their students how to access and navigate the web as well as Social Media. IF administration does not seem to think their staff can do this, then they need to teach them how to do so. Some teachers just may not know how to teach their students how to appropriately use the web and social media. Thus leaving them incapable of knowing what they don’t know.

3) Faith. Adults need to have faith that the students will use the tech appropriately. I don’t bring out my dice every year thinking that my students are going to whip them across the room. I believe that with my guidance they will roll them on a flat surface from an appropriate distance. I have this same faith when I teach my students how to blog, tweet, and search. Because I believe they will use it appropriately, they will. (The instances of appropriate student use, world-wide, far outreaches the inappropriate.)

4) Don’t only expect the staff to teach the students how to use the technology, but hold them accountable for doing so. Do frequent classroom check-ins to see that they are doing so. Encourage open dialogue about how to set this up in a classroom. But just throwing the technology at them and showing them ways to use it is not enough. Make sure they are monitoring their students’ use, walking around the room, have routines and expectations of their own that meet their class’s needs.

My district probably does have an AUP, but I do not need to read it to know that my students need to be responsible online. I know that they need to be kind to others online. I know they need to learn how to take care of school property. I know that they need to know how to interact with others online. I monitor them in very many ways.

1) They can only work in area where they can are visible. This is a key expectation to everything we do in our classroom, but particularly important when working with tech. There is no hiding in my classroom where you can sneak off to do something inappropriate. Everything is done out in the open, for all to see (and hear).

2) If they are saving or accessing something to and from the school server, I make sure they know how to do so appropriately. This helps teach them how to take care of a shared resource. Keeping them aware to respect other people’s saved work on a shared network.

3) If they are engaged in social media I watch their tweets and blog comments in real time on my iPad or Droid. They know that I am going to read what they write online. They know that I will hold them accountable if they engage in inappropriate behavior. But they also know that I will reinforce their positive behavior.

4) I personally monitor my students while they are working by walking around the room and conferring with them. Doing this, and in no particular student order, tells them that I am watching them. Not only does this keep them on task (I typically don’t have to worry about this if I have them engaged), but provides them with some 1:1 time…which they LOVE.

5) I hold them accountable for the small stuff and early on. “It’s unfortunate you chose to listen to music (or play a game) online instead of making your Glogster (researching, or watching one of the suggested videos). You need to shut down and do this instead.” I obviously file away that they did this as a reminder to include more options with music and games, but until then they understand that there are class expectations.

Some of this may sound harsh, but it’s all in my tone of voice. I try to always be empathetic and word it in a way so that they know there will be a next time. They will get another opportunity, real soon, to show that they know how to use the tech appropriately. If teachers are doing these things, then AUPs are obsolete. If they are not, opportunities need to be created so that they can learn to, and then make AUPs obsolete.