How Do You Have the Time?

CHcz2NaW8AAA763

People often ask me, “I love what you are doing, but how do you have the time to fit it in?”

My short answer is this:  Providing these experiences is a high priority of mine, so I make the time.

My long answer is this:

Learning is fun.

A friend wants to give back to the community, so she spends her free time packing Blessings in a Backpack.  This is her first experience spearheading such a large initiative, so she has had to learn.  She makes the time.

A coworker is renovating a home for her parents and is learning something new everyday.  She is no renovation expert, but she is learning.  She makes the time.

My maker team buddy loves makeup and hair tutorials and thinks she might be able to share a few helpful tips on a website.  She doesn’t know how, but she is learning.  She makes the time.

We make the time to pursue our interests and learn new things every day.  Are we inspiring our students to do the same?

These children are more than a score. My son is more than a score. I want him to have a place where he is encouraged to pursue his passions. I want our students to know that they have skills, right now, that can make a difference in this world. I want them to understand that all efforts, no matter how small they may seem, are important. I want them to understand that connections and communicating with the public are just as important, if not more important, than communicating with me. The Internet has made it possible for them to learn things that we never even dreamed of learning. I want to guide them to these resources and encourage them to learn on their own.  They are not too young to impact the world around them with new skills.

In addition, my value as a teacher is greater than a set of scores. I have too much to offer as a educator, as a person, to let a test dictate how I teach or how my students learn.

I believe the same about my coworkers.  I work with an amazing group of people with the best of intentions and amazing skill sets.

When you wonder how I have the time to deviate from the curriculum, I leave you with two questions:

Would you want to be a student in your own classroom? 

Are you making the time to provide meaningful, relevant, and inspiring learning opportunities for your students?

If the answer is no to either of these questions, you might want to rethink how you are doing things.

Make the time.

Sew What’s New?

albert einstein creativityThings are about to get really interesting around here!  See how we will be using our new Makerspace and integrating making into our reading!

Winter Around the World Collaborative Project

So much has been happening at Cecil Intermediate School that it has been difficult finding the time to write.   I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but I am a huge fan of goals.  Blogging more often is at the top of my list.

winterheading

Recently, my homeroom and exploratory group participated in a worldwide collaborative project entitled, “Winter Around the World.”  Spearheaded by the fantastically creative librarian, Shannon Miller, over 250 classes around the globe added stories, illustrations, and poems to create a wonderful digital storybook.  You can learn more about the project here.

Cecil Intermediate students added haiku poetry as this was our focus in grade six ELA classes.  We used the Word Mover app by Read, Write, Think (free) to publish our poems.  Word Mover can be used on computers and Chromebooks also.  Here are a few of my favorite submissions:

Winter Life by Liam-page-001

winter poem by Katie-page-001Winter in Pennsylvania by Abby-page-001

I am so proud to have been part of this forward-thinking project.  My students were inspired by the sheer number of participants.  They loved viewing the ideas from children in far away places.

Please enjoy the sights, sounds, words, and voices of children as they share their experiences in Winter Around the World.

Winter Around the World

Makerspace-To-Go

makerpd1.1

It’s no secret that I absolutely love Pinterest.  With over 9,000 pins on both my personal and  iPod Teacher boards, Pinterest has become a great resource for those of us looking for trending, exciting, and easy DIY projects!

It is also no secret that I love integrating technology into my classroom.  Modern students are intrigued by technology, and I think it is so important to show them how technology can improve their learning!

So, what do you get when you introduce the DIY community to technology?  Maker Education, of course!

I’m excited to announce that Cecil Intermediate School has entered the work of #makered with our new Makerspace-To-Go!  In our portable Sterilite container, you will find duct tape, craft sticks, modeling clay, a rubber band loom, and hot glue.  But you will also find a LittleBits circuit kit, an iPad for stop motion animation, and a Sphero robot.  We are allowing students to tinker, experiment, improvise, and create.  We are saying Yes to the Mess and letting the students use their hands to learn, think, and grow.

Here are some photographs from our recent after-school professional development.  My students loved being able to teach the teachers!

Augmented Reality

makerpd1.12

Stop Motion Animation with Lego

makerpd1.11

Duct Tape Wallets and Flower Toppers

makerpd1.10

LittleBits Circuitsmakerpd1.9

LoopDeeDoo Bracelets

makerpd1.8

Let’s not forget about the BOOKS!makerpd1.7

Want to know more?  Check out my Makerspace Board on the iPodTeacher’s Pinterest page

or read this article, “What’s the Maker Movement and Why Should I Care?”

Our Digital Journey: Selecting the Tools


Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 5.57.33 PMThis is the third post in a series documenting the digital literacy initiative at Cecil Intermediate School.  If you like this post, you may want to read “What Do You Value” and “Building a Team”.

Writing a lesson plan can be difficult.  I always know what I’d like the outcome to look like, but I struggle with the details.  Sometimes, I just have to get started before I can be super specific about how I will meet my objective.  The same is true with our new Digital Journey.  As I highlighted in my first post, the world is looking for problem solvers, team players, collaborators, and communicators.  But as many of you know, there are thousands of web tools and apps that encourage these skills.  How do you narrow it down?

I considered the following categories before making my final selection:

1.  Ease of Use:  Our students are sweet, hard-working, and bright fifth and sixth graders.  Many of them have their own devices at home, but they have not had a great deal of experience using complex programs.  I wanted them to feel comfortable and successful right away.

2.  Compatibility:  If we are going to encourage students to learn and create at home as well as school, I felt that the programs needed to be available on many different platforms.  I gave special consideration to tools that could be accessed from computers, Chromebooks, tablets, and even phones.

3.  Google Connected:  The technology department created Google Accounts for each of our students as we have three Chromebook carts available for use.  I wanted students to have the experience of registering through Google, so they could see how easy it is.  The fewer the steps they need to take to get into a program, the better off we will all be!

4.  Application:  The tools selected allow students the ability to express themselves through pictures, video, and audio.  The tools can be utilized in ANY of our courses, including the Arts and Humanities.

5.  Ability to Share:  After students have created their spectacular projects, we need to be able to share them with the world.  Tools that encourage sharing via email, Twitter, YouTube, and Schoology were given special preference.  But no worries, most educational web tools are built with this in mind!

Want to see our first digital tool list?  Stay tuned!

Our Digital Journey: Building a Team

IMG_4428

This is the second post in a series entitled “Our Digital Journey”.  Click here to read my first post describing why and how Cecil Intermediate School has embarked upon a digital literacy initiative…

So, my first meeting with our fabulously connected middle school librarian, Amy, occurred at the end of July. She might be horrified to know I was promoting her blog, but you can find her @MrsBarbarino on Twitter and http://www.amybarbarino.com She feels that she should blog more consistently, and she should, but the experiences that she has already created and the tools that she has been sharing are spot-on. Her approach to a “movement” will be different as she reaches students in a different mode, but her Tech group will be something special, no doubt! Bottom line, connections are essential, and I will need a sounding board, someone who will experience the same successes and frustrations as I.

My next logical step was to think about how I was going to create a team within my building. Many do know how to use many tools beyond the Office suite, but they WANT TO. They are interested but professional development has left them with no opportunies to explore. There are a few that I decided to approach first:

Jody is the other sixth grade reading teacher in our building. She is super creative, fabulously artsy, and has the most amazing personal style. Her experience with technology was top-notch a few years ago, but her teaching partner sadly left for a position with another district. I knew I needed to grab her immediately for planning purposes. I also know that she is willing to take risks. Our first meeting was at her house with my kiddos. I set her up with a Padlet board of things to think about while I was on vacation and a Twitter account to engage her further. Oh, and I also ordered a copy of the book, The Dot, to be shipped to her. If you have not read it, you must, especially if you are lacking the courage to start a movement within your own building.  You can follow Jody’s class, Room 313,  @mcilvaine313 on Twitter.

Chuck is the gifted support teacher in our building. You can keep up with his enrichment projects @tatumenrichment on Twitter.  He has his own, albeit small, classroom. He has access to extra resources and a flexible schedule. Most importantly, he has an interest. In the past few years, I have shared crash courses on several tools, and he has been intrigued. But again, he lacked opportunity and time to learn. Here’s his reply to my email:

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 4.48.54 PM

Lauren is a fifth grade Math and Science teacher. She and I were paired a few years ago, her very first year as a regular education classroom teacher, and it was one of the best years in my teaching career. Lauren is ready to try anything! She is an avid “pinner” and has a overall idea of what we should be doing but aren’t. Lauren is working on her Master’s degree, but beyond her life in academia and with her super tech-savvy husband, she has something that I definitely don’t have: time.  Follow Lauren’s adventures in Math, Science, and #edtech @204shelley.

The last thing I knew I needed to do was run this whole endeavor past my boss, Bob. He was somewhat up to date with parts of what I wanted to do, but I pitched him the idea wholly one afternoon, and he was very supportive. He gave me time on our first inservice day before school started to introduce the idea to our staff.  I wanted to keep this as simple for the teachers as possible as I do not want to overwhelm the staff as they prepare for a new set of students, so a quick 30 minutes is all I allowed myself.

As an added bonus, I helped Bob create a Twitter account. He was just like me in the beginning: what in the world am I going to do with a Twitter account? I showed him how to follow people and how to compose a tweet. He started to follow a few members of my PLN, which is now in a list! And people immediately started to follow him. He says that he won’t do much commenting and sharing, but I hope to nudge him in this direction!

Stay tuned for future posts about the process used to select digital tools and our final list…