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Sunday, March 23, 2014

3 Cheers for EDCAMP!

Have you ever been to a conference that you can say you found 100% of it to be applicable to you? How about one where the presenters were everyday teachers who just wanted to share what they were doing that was successful? How about a conference that is planned on the spot, instantaneously? One that you don't even know what it is going to offer until you get there?

This is edcamp. It is an innovative idea. Teachers offering sessions for teachers. Anyone. Anyone at all. I attended edcampOMAHA last Saturday March 22. It was the most applicable, exciting, encouraging, purposeful professional development I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of.

I had no idea what to expect, but here is the short story. Show up, have coffee and a donut, greet others, pick up goodies. Watch the 4 sign up boards for who is going to offer what. (Even sign up yourself! which I did) Then map out your sessions, attend, learn, laugh, and play! It was all about educators talking to educators, not AT them. It was a conversation. No hubbub. No big production. Just a wonderful day of chatter about topics that matter.

I met wonderful new people. Even some of my Twitter friends (which I later learned were called Tweeps). And took away some great ideas, websites, and apps. Okay, the title says 3 cheers for edcamp, so here goes....

Cheer #1
1, 2, 3...Edcamp for me
4, 5, 6...twitter, talking, and pics
7, 8, 9...time with teachers divine!

Cheer #2
Rah Rah Rall, Edcamp for all
Rah Rah Rest, Edcamp is the best
Want to learn a bunch?
I bet you have a hunch!
Edcamp, Edcamp, Yay Edcamp!

Cheer #3
2, 4, 6, 8 Who do we appreciate?
All those who make Edcamps possible!

If you get the chance, go. I strongly recommend it. It will be the best PD you do! Ask on Twitter, find out where there is an edcamp near you. (or roadtrip!) It is worth the time. :)

Eight week transformation!

Hello friends,

Today I would like to take a minute (or 10) and talk about the major transformation my classroom, my teaching, my students, and my philosophy has undertaken.  I started my career as a behavior disorder teacher 21 years ago and as you can imagine I learned very quickly that structure and consistency were a necessity for me to be able to successfully get through my day. I carried those two basic ideas into the elementary classroom with me.

The very first thing I did was set my classroom with physical structure, organization, and visual consistency offered through matching color schemes and symmetry. My classroom management was the same. Very consistent, and weighted evenly between positive and negative consequences, with a strong focus on creating successful, thoughtful, responsible citizens.

Then enter iPads! We started gung ho in January and haven't looked back.

Here are a few case studies to share the changes I have seen. My class statistics have several IEP students, several gifted students, and several students below grade level in reading and math. Much like every other classroom in America. One of my students came to me with some strong behavior issues. He was guaranteed to have to leave class any day we worked on writing or math (which was every day).

 When we became an iPad classroom room, all things changed. His first blog post was literally 2 short sentences (5 words each) and a question (because I told him he had to ask a question, which we fought over!)  I stepped back and just continued to lay out the expectation of Tuesday/Thursday blog post writing, and Monday/Wednesday/Friday was reply and comment day. (notice the structure and consistency? I just cannot let it go)

Well, just six weeks in, I have a young man who has realized that his writing has impact. He has an audience that spans the globe (thank you Twitter, Google + communities, and Comments4Kids) He now asks...hang on....ASKS if he can blog. He usually creates 3 or 4 posts a week, on top of what I ask him to do during the week. AND these posts are a good paragraph or two. His organization has improved 100 times over! He uses capital letters, and punctutation (without reminders!!!) And all without my nagging. He has transformed into someone who wants to write and for a reason. His writing test this quarter jumped two proficiency levels, from beginning to proficient. It works folks!

On the topic of blogging, another friend had never used punctuation
EVER! and one fine day he received two comments on his beautiful paragraph about the reader being out of breath because of missing punctuation. In two short comments, and two seconds progress was made the likes by which I haven't been able to accomplish in two years! He always remembers his punctuation now. I do not give him reminders either.

I have a young lady who refused to speak in front of others, uses Tellagami and iMovie to create these amazing presentations to give in front of class. She has gotten such great reviews and feedback from her peers, she has offered to teach some new discoveries with a few apps we use in class...WITHOUT AN AVATAR! She uses her mouth! AND stands in the front of the room!

My job has become a moment of discovery every day. I have moved from a traditional teacher to an "introducer" and a facilitator. The students have taken over the role of teacher and not only have become strongly motivated to learn new things, but also to make the jump to help each other learn. They are amazing collaborators. I am always surprised and blow away each day but what they produce.

iPads in the classroom, used the right way will become a life changer. It has for me.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The agile classroom...soft spaces allowed

Okay friends, so I have this idea that was presented to me as a "wild" idea from my amazing iPad coach +Brent Catlett (@catlett1) and I allowed the idea to roll around for about two weeks. Then I began my research.

My classroom to start with!

We were calling it the "soft space" classroom and in my research I found that most people called it an agile classroom. This idea consists of getting rid of all the "hard" surface items in my room and replaces them with "soft" spaces. So THAT means, no desks, or school chairs, and bring in couches, love seats, recliners, bean bags, bar stools, etc!

The beginning of my agile classroom!

WHAT?? No desks? Are you crazy? Well, crazy enough! I began trolling the free section of and volia! in one weekend, I have enough to get me started on this agile classroom. There are a few things that I tried to think about that would be considered CONS for this idea. One: what about germs/lice etc? Well, get leather, pleather, and vinyl. CHECK! Two: what about the kids that need personal space and a "spot" like Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory? Well, I polled the kids and explained the idea and asked them who wanted to keep their space. I had about 1/3 of the class that did. So I kept those desks and added a couple blank ones to act as "coffee side tables" where some kids could sit to have private space. CHECK! Three: What about name tags for when a sub comes in? Good point, well, going to have to have name tags like when we were in kindergarten, unless someone has a better idea (I am willing to listen)! CHECK!

I am sure there are several more that I have not even begun to consider, and as they arise I will address them.  I am hunting and searching for more leather, pleather and vinyl and ever expanding! The students LOVE it! It has been amazing. I welcome any questions as I process this!

Friday, March 7, 2014

iPad 101 class for Parents

That's right! It was iPad 101 class for parents in Boycetown today! and it was, for sure, the best thing I could have done for promoting the learning that is happening everyday. When I look back at how my classroom has changed over the last 6 weeks, I find myself astounded and in awe of how quickly the students have adapted. And how quickly my entire philosophy of teaching has shifted. The only missing piece was the parents. So we brought them in.

We began the day with a few quick "show and share" kinds of things. Kids pulled up their Daily Spiral Review in Math which killed two proverbial birds...parents got hands on idea of math in 5B and then they also saw how we use Google Drive and Notability.  We moved from there to Educlipper, Stick Around, and our vocabulary projects. Finally we stepped into Kidblog. The parents and kids took some photos of themselves in photo booth, pulled it into Skitch...decorated it up, and then blogged about it.

Showing off DSR for morning math practice. 
 We got to share some stories about amazing growth I have seen with struggling students in the areas of reading and writing. We attributed the difference to writing in our blogs every day.

We have noted that one young reluctant writer used to say things like "how long does it have to be" or "how many sentences" wrote a blog last week that was two FULL paragraphs without batting an eye. It was like 20 SENTENCES!

We all have those kids, and also the ones who NEVER use punctuation or capital letters...well I have one of those too. Also been cured, and not by my millionth reminder (as I had always thought) but by a comment left by a reader! An audience makes all the difference!
 After everyone had time to get their blog posts completed, the students went to their special classes, and the parents and I got a chance to talk, ask questions, and raise any concerns. 

It was fun to have parents and kids take turns writing about their own perspectives on iPad 101 class. It was wonderful to see the parents buy in so quickly. They had so much fun taking pictures together, both serious and silly! 

The sound of laughter that was coming from parents as well as kids was inspiring and uplifting. It lifted me up to the proverbial ceiling. I had to be scraped off! 

Once the adult conversation started, we were off! The parents were 100% invested, and when the time came for questions, parents had some doozies. They asked about digital citizenship, security, email, and the final killer question....what happens when these students whose learning has skyrocketed, get out of Fairview...will they have iPads for the rest of their education! The question of the century! It was like we planted it! So it led to conversation about how to go about talking to the right people about getting more iPad classrooms. It was perfect. 

We finished off the meeting with a crazy agile classroom. What is that you ask? Well, you will need to tune into my next post. It will blow you idea of a classroom right off the planet.