Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Harvard Education Letter

Harvard Education Letter

So, much of my time has been devoted to being a cheerleader for the Common Core standards lately. My Pinnacle training has assisted me with this as I have used my technology skills to better convey my message about Common Core and to streamline some of the activities we were asked to do with our break out meetings last Friday. As always, meeting with my peers across the county can be a positive and a negative experience. Many of the fellow educators I spoke with shared a relief that Common Core was not as drastic as they first thought, but others were once again leery of change. Chris Goodson presented a video about the changes we as educators were going to have to make to continue to be relevant to our students. Some of the negative remarks I heard were grumblings about this move to better integrating educational technology. At first I was defensive, then became irritated with the lack of vision in some of my peers, and as always I became a little cynical. As I read the above article, I was renewed in my confidence not only in Common Core, but with our ISTE standards too. It reminded me that as with all change there are going to be myths that have to be busted in order to move people in a positive direction. I know this article is more Englishy than technology, but right now this is a big part of my world. Adios for now!

Friday, September 30, 2011

That went better than I thought...

My kids finally got started blogging a couple of weeks ago and it went really well!  I used Kidblog and the students found it easy to use and I found them easy to grade.  All three of my classes are using it to post blogs every other week on something they "read."  Read is in quotations because the choices include watching short videos on history or from TED, poetry, art pieces from the National Gallery, or letters from Peace Corp workers.  The first week's entries were pretty good and the second attempt looks even better.  They are required to discuss how it affects their world or themselves, not just summarizing the article.  After a few weeks, I will have them read each other's blogs and comment for a grade, but some are already doing that.  :-)  The best part about this assignment is that it involves NO PAPER....ah, my first "green" assignment. (I evaluate and give them their grades via a private comment.)
I read a really interesting article about a school supplying iPads to all of their students and began dreaming about all of the cool things I could do with that resource.  I'm really hoping by the time my daughter is in high school...a mere five years away...that GCS will be there.  (I have a very vivid imagination where money grows on trees.)  Here's a link to the article "No More Pencils, No More Books: Instead iPads"  The host site, is pretty interesting, so you might want to check it out too.
One of my proudest accomplishments has been recruiting my husband to join Twitter.  He set up an account and started following some of the companies involved in his type of business (machine tools) and loved when his boss went to a trade show and called him with several "updates" that my husband already knew about because he read their Twitter feeds.  
I've found now that I am in the "real" world of full time teaching I don't get to it nearly as often as I did over the summer, but it is handy for killing time at my kids' soccer practices and picking up some fresh ideas.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

And we're off!

So, school has started and life is busy again!  My students will be writing a weekly soon as I set up the classes once the kiddos stop moving around.  In the interest of trying to motivate my students to study their weekly vocabulary, I've set up Quizlet groups for each of my "preps".  The students can not only utilize online flashcards, but can also use various Quizlet features to learn their vocabulary, test themselves, and compete against one another in a couple of vocabulary based games.  My next big step in integration is setting up my senteo classes to not only take their weekly vocabulary quizzes, but to also perform pre-reading surveys to assess what the students know before we read certain selections.
Since it is the beginning of a new year, I'm of course struggling through learning nearly 85 new names.  Instead of assigning a specific introduction project, I've left the decision making up to the students.  I gave the students a list of information that was required to show up in their presentations, a rubric, and some suggestions on where they could go for presentation mediums.  I found that several students used Prezi for the first time and LOVED it.  (I had used it for my introduction.)  They loved finding obscure places to place information.  Other students used schema bags, posters, and PowerPoint, but a few tech savvy students created videos.  As I sat among the students during the presentations, I heard students comment, "Wow! That was cool!"; "That was smart, she didn't have to talk at all"; and "I'm going to use that next time." Finally! Introduction presentations that aren't boring or repetitive!

Friday, July 22, 2011

A New Look at Twitter

Okay, so I've had a Twitter account for awhile, but have really failed to see any value in it until recently.  While attending some technology training for school, I was introduced to Twitter as a professional development tool.  The biggest key for this application is in who you follow.  I have two accounts, a personal account (@lakalmbach) and a professional account (@kalmbachteach). I did this for two reasons, the first is that I'm a teacher and I prefer to keep much of my private life, private to those I know and trust; the second is that what may be interesting to my teacher self is not always interesting to all of my friends and my outside interests are not often all that academic. My private account is just that, private, those that follow me must be approved by me first.  My professional account is open to anyone who would like to follow and read my thoughts on education, literature, and educational technology. The idea here is that if you want to read what is on others' minds, you need to be open to letting them read about you too.  Be aware that most of my posts are retweets of other, much brighter folks than me, but I may be getting ahead of myself.

If this sounds intriguing, here is the quick and dirty lesson on using Twitter for professional pursuits.

1. Go to and open an account (or two!) and configure the settings as you see fit. 
2. Decide on who to follow.  In order to find professionals in your field you can search in the "Who to Follow" tab.  You can search by name or topic.  Once you begin following some folks, you'll start to figure out who you like and who you don't.  Eliminate those that disinterest you, it's okay!  If you really like someone, look and see who he/she is following and follow some of those folks.
3. In your stream, you'll notice hashtags (#), in my field some of these are #edchat or #edtech.  People use these to organize their posts. You can search for people in the "who to follow" tab using these tags to find more people tweeting about these topics.
4. Another feature you'll find in your stream are shortened URL addresses.  Because Twitter is limited to 140 characters, long URL addresses will eat up your message. In my experience, if you are using Twitter, Peep, or Tweetdeck, these applications will shorten the URLs for you using, tinyurl, or other services to shrink the address.  These links will take you directly to the full length article the tweet has mentioned. 
5. Retweet (RT) or  replying (@) or mentioning (@) As you read through your stream, you'll notice these symbols.  When you see RT@kalmbachteach, that means someone has taken my tweet and sent it out to his/her followers.  I do this when I read something I really like or think others would benefit from.  I try to be selective with this as I don't want to be "that girl" in the stream.  When you acknowledge someone you follow or reply to someone's post publicly, the @ symbol will appear.  You can also use this to bring someone's attention to your tweet that you think he/she will be interested in.  To re-tweet, hover over the retweet link that looks like two arrows following one another in a square shape.  To reply, click the reply arrow.  To mention, use the @ before a username and type as usual.
6. Direct messaging.  This is the equivalent of a message in Facebook.  You can privately message someone through a direct message.  To do so, click the "messages" button at top of your twitter screen, click the "new message button, type the username of the person you wish to send the message to, and send away.  You may only send direct messages to those that follow you. 
7. When tweeting think beyond what you are doing and think more about what you find interesting in your field.  What are some of the exciting things happening in your field? Who is a mover or shaker in your field?  What have you used that has worked?  What would others in your field find interesting?
8.  Dip your cup....(thanks Kyle!)  Don't feel like you need to read EVERYTHING in your stream.  I'll read a few articles here or there.  The beauty of retweets is that several people I'm following may retweet the same article, thus bringing my attention to something that is probably interesting. You cannot read everything posted or you will never sleep or get anything accomplished ever again. Get a few ideas here or there, it will be better than no new ideas at all. 
9. Enjoy!  I've only been using Twitter a few days for professional development, so I'm still learning. 
It is cool to see what is going on beyond my locale in my field.  I've already run into a few ideas that I plan to use in the coming school year!  Have fun and I hope you'll follow me on this fun journey!
10. Invite a friend!  If you find this to be an enjoyable experience, be sure to invite others so we can grow together. 

A big thank you to Kyle Wood for introducing me to Twitter as a professional tool.  Much of the above is from his lesson at Pinnacle XVI. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

So if you give a geek a laptop...

she might even keep up with her blog.  Day two Pinnacle and I'm looking forward to making some changes.  I'm a little intimidated by the thought of not having Office at my disposal, but I'm looking forward to slowly weaning myself from expensive software and becoming a "cloud" dweller.  When do we get our Google doc training???? I really enjoyed our revised Bloom's activity today and liked that my group discussed alternative sites to improve the assignment.  I love getting to end with our book talks since it feels like a little bit of "home" after a slightly over-stimulating day.  You know I've been kept busy when I only check Facebook before class, during lunch, and when I get home.  Loving this new experience and can't wait until our workdays to really get my hands dirty.  :-)  TTFN!

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Whole New World...

Okay, so I've never had a blog and I'm hoping that I can actually keep up with this.  Even as a kid I tried to keep up with a diary and never had any luck.  I'll get busy doing something else that is newer and cooler and then leave it out there helpless and dated.  Maybe having a requirement to update this periodically will make this more successful.  Well, until we meet again...