Category Archives: learning

What I Teach Face to Face

My School Technology class met last evening for the first night. I joined 14 practicing educators who have chosen to pursue advanced degrees and principal certifications at a university in Richmond. They come from surrounding divisions including urban, suburban and rural schools. One class member works at a correctional institution.

My course is a bit free wheeling as I want to make sure students have time to explore and experiment with technology while considering its potential uses to support student learning.

Last night, we spent time playing with Merge cubes. I had collected enough of them during the $1 frenzy earlier this year that I was able to give one to each student. All of them quickly followed the simple instructions to download the app and get up and running. But soon, one of them wondered aloud, “How is this educational?” Discussion ensued even as they continued to interact with the cubes. I’m sorry I didn’t grab some video! But one student went home and posted some after class  as his second Twitter post ever!

I teach online and enjoy the convenience but you can’t have the kind of experience we did last night where everyone explores in real time, sharing, helping, laughing.

I am really looking forward to the rest of the semester!

What Comes Easily to You?

I am just a few hours away from teaching the first class of the semester. I have a limited number of face to face sessions so I think this first class is even more critical than in a K-12 classroom. Every moment together counts.

Katie Martin’s pic of six questions to ask your students showed up in my Twitter feed. I followed the link to her blog post about four ways to create a learner-centered classroom. Both are worth a look. I completely agree with her that reviewing the rules or the syllabus are important but should not be the first thing a teacher does no matter the grade level. When I taught middle school, we started working on the first day and I either wove the rules in as part of our activities or spent some time with the students creating classroom rules and norms together. I wanted the message to be that this was an interactive class where we worked hard, played hard, and learned hard.

The goal of Martin’s six questions are to help teachers build relationships with their students. They are reasonable questions that would certainly help a teacher personalize classroom learning for students.

But, I did wonder about one of the questions: What comes easily to you? This is a potentially powerful question. But as with all things: it is all in what we do with. If the answer is used to customize activities so Suzie always gets to write and Billy always gets to draw because it comes easily to them, I think we could be taking student choice too far.

Given a choice in how to respond, I’m probably going to choose the way that comes easiest to me, in my case by writing text. In fact, publishing my little sketchnote/infographics and committing to public writing has been my way of moving away from what comes easily and pushing myself outside the proverbial comfort zone.  (I probably add 750 words a day to my journal…writing isn’t the problem for me, publishing is.)

I shared my course outline with some colleagues and at least one pushed back on requiring a “TED style talk” to present the work from their passion project. Wouldn’t some people be uncomfortable doing that, he asked. Yes, I’m sure they will, and I might tone down the “TED talk” rhetoric so it eases the pressure a bit, but the students WILL do a stand up presentation about their semester-long project. They are going to become school administrators and education leaders, and they need to get comfortable presenting ideas in front of groups of stakeholders.

We do lots of things that make people uncomfortable in my class at one point or another, from coding to recording videos of ourselves to solving challenges. For some people, just taking a course called School Technology causes anxiety. I combat that by being as supportive and reassuring as I can that while they will be expected to try out tools, failure will not affect their grades. (I don’t grade anyway really but that’s a whole other blog post.)

I am offering lots of choices this semester: from pursuing your passion to choosing from various tools to “writing” to your blog using a variety of media. But, I also am planning whole group activities around topics and tools, and I will expect participation from every student to some degree.

I think we should use the answer to the question of what comes easily to a student as a foundation for supporting them and a springboard for pushing them beyond the walls created by their preferences. I am a huge fan of Seymour Papert’s idea of hard fun where learning is challenging, but we find satisfaction in that challenge. He comments:

My whole career in education has been devoted to finding kinds of work that will harness the passion of the learner to the hard work needed to master difficult material and acquire habits of self-discipline. But it is not easy to find the right language to explain how I think I am different from the “touchy feely … make it fun make it easy” approaches to education.

My class is not easy in many ways and does require students to do more than a typical textbook, lecture, discussion kind of graduate class. You will get metaphorically dirty in this class but if you’re willing to try out things that may be difficult for you, I can promise you hard fun.


Blog Challenge Update:

Bad news: I had just turned out the light and plumped the pillow last night when I realized I had not posted a blog entry. I made a futile attempt to see if I could do it from my phone if only to keep the very short streak going but gave up pretty quickly and went to sleep. And slept soundly so clearly wasn’t too upset about missing.

Good news: In an effort to be more public about my blogging (honestly, I could probably write away here for months without anyone knowing), I shared my 10,000 Steps post on Facebook and got some nice feedback.

 

What I Learned From Walking 10,000 Steps for 116 Days

And counting…

Photo of pedometer face with number of stepsI turned 56 years old in May. I was never a marathon runner but had always been active. Something happened in my 50s and I found myself in spring of 2018 very overweight and out of shape. A long, out-of-breath trek up the hill to the Monroe building in Richmond was my wake up call. And as often happens with those calls, I answered by going to extremes and signing up for a 10,000 step challenge that started on May 1. It was sponsored by a trainer from Canada and the rules were simple: post a picture of your pedometer every day to a private Facebook group. Last person standing (or walking, I guess) would win $100.

I don’t have records for my steps on April 30, but I can tell you that since then, I have walked at least 10,000 steps every day. I hike the farm with the dogs, walk on the treadmill, “ride” my bike on the Wii and use the bathroom that is on the second floor, furthest from my office. I park at the back of the lot, take an extra turn around Target, and, when traveling, locate public walking paths or make a stop on my way home at the Capital to Capital trail where it comes out of Charles City County along Route 295. I get up 30 minutes early at hotels and jostle for the treadmill in the exercise room, sometimes having to settle for the bike and sometimes giving up and heading outside for a walk instead. I walk almost five miles every day and have done so for 116 days. And, since I’m already at 6,000 steps today, I have no doubt it will be 117 when I go to bed tonight.

What have I learned?

  1. Exercise doesn’t necessarily help with weight loss. I lost a few pounds but now have been holding steady. Admittedly, I have not made any significant changes in my diet and it is horrible but it could use some tweaking. That’s next on the list. I will admit to feeling better in general both health-wise and self-esteem wise. I can make a resolution related to my health and follow through on it.
  2. Eventually, even things you don’t love, can become habits. I am not a convert to exercise, not planning to run a marathon or try out for American Ninja Warrior. No tough mudder races are in my future. Part of the reason I do it every day is that if I don’t, I worry that I will stop. Every day makes it a habit, and I find myself wandering to the treadmill or Wii about the same time every afternoon to get over the hump of 7,000 steps.
  3. But when routines get disrupted, habits take planning. While I am fortunate to mostly work from home so I can work in my steps easily, I have been traveling and that means thinking ahead. I don’t want to end up at home or the hotel at 8 PM with 5,000 steps to go. It may mean that early morning treadmill, or talking a walk during breaks or at lunch. I can usually find someone to go along. When we break for the afternoon, I may head out into the neighborhood or to the local chain store where they do not charge you for walking.
  4. Accountability matters. There is a small group of people still participating in the original challenge (there are 4 or 5 of us left along with the trainer), and I look forward to taking a minute each night to share my results with them and like their posts. Most of them are in Canada, and I do not anticipate ever meeting them, but I did think it would make a fun story to take a trip to Ontario and take a walk with them.

My new habit to build is blogging. I suspect all four of these lessons will apply although I’m hoping that I will learn to love the practice of writing. I like to write…but the discipline seems to elude me.

Meanwhile, my tracker just reminded me that it’s time to get 250 more steps so here I go!

Being A Learner

At the end of July, I gathered with a group of other educators to begin the journey to ISTE Educator certification. I’m still not sure why I signed up when the invitation showed up in my inbox. Maybe it’s the same reason I became a JoyLabz certified trainer this spring,  finally opened the box for the Micro-bit this summer, and ordered a pi-top laptop after checking one out at ISTE. I want to devote some time this year to my own learning and professional growth. And, I want to share my journey publicly through this blog.

Despite a busy schedule, I have been making time to tinker. The Pi-Top is the perfect answer to easily using a Raspberry Pi: no need for setting up a monitor and keyboard in limited space, easy to connect a breadboard and components and just kind of fun. Open the lid, press the button, and you are using a pi. In addition to doing the tutorials that came with the laptop, I am practicing my Python skills using the turtle to draw pictures, following along with John Rowland’s Learn Python 3: A Beginner’s Guide Using Turtle Interactive Graphics.

Here’s my answer to the hexagon challenge in the book: (sorry for the low quality: I took a picture of the pi-top screen. Figuring out screenshots on the pi-top will come later.)

hexagonal flower

 

 

 

 

 

Reviving the Blog

I have dabbled with blogging almost since blogging began but never started a regular practice the way others have. (Tim Stahmer has always been my blogging hero…he posted almost daily for a very long time.) Blogging regularly means more than just making time to write. It also means connecting with the larger community, committing to research and writing, and being willing to write publicly for comment.

This fall, as part of the certification process in support of the ISTE Learner Educator standard, I will make the commitment of strengthening my ties to my professional learning community. I will make regular blog posts that will reflect on the course I am teaching this fall, share my work around coding and making, and explore research topics related to ed tech. The collection of blog posts will be part of my portfolio for the ISTE course, representing my work around the Learner standard and indicators.

So…the last step: what’s the commitment? Every day? Every other day? For now, I’m going all in: at least 250 words every day. I think a daily practice gets the habit going. I’ve been doing 10,000 steps every day since May 1. I’m not sure I would have achieved that if I had taken a break on May 2.

Google Certification Study Schedule Fall 2017

Here is my plan to study for and take the Google Educator Level 1 Exam before the end of the year. I’ll be sharing my progress here and encouraging others to join me in this journey through the Google Educator Groups in Virginia.

I’m working my way through the Google Training Center materials.

Section One:  ENGAGE IN PROFESSIONAL GROWTH AND LEADERSHIP

Week One (11/6/2017): Get Ready to Use Technology in the Classroom, Expand Your Access to Help and Learning

Section Two: INCREASE EFFICIENCY AND SAVE TIME

Week Two (11/13/2017):  Have a Mostly Paperless Classroom, Save Time Communicating

Week Three (11/20/2017): Organize Activities for Yourself and Others, Bring Meetings Online

Week Four (11/27/2017): Bring Student Work Online, Measure, Understand and Share Student Work

Section Three: FACILITATE AND INSPIRE STUDENT LEARNING AND CREATIVITY

Week Five (12/ 6/2017): Teach Students Online Skills, Build Interactive Lessons

Week Six (12/13/2017): Captivate Your Class With Video, Facilitate Group Work

Week Seven (12/20/2017): Promote Digital Citizenship, Final Review

Week Eight (12/27/2017): Take the Test