Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Its A Brand New Year of Digital Learning

What's New

Its another brand new year of digital learning with my new group of 2nd graders. Over the summer, I made a list of "new" apps that I had not used last year and I came across an app called Classkick. I had heard about it through other teachers in my district using it in their classrooms in various ways. So here we are, a brand new year of digital learning and we have already downloaded the app on our iPads and have seen its potential in my classroom! 

How I Plan To Implement in My Classroom

One of the best ways I see implementing this app is through small group instruction in all subject areas and through mini lessons depending on subject matter. In math, I work with several small groups each day to check for understanding of content being learned. This app allows me to spend more time with struggling learners who may need more remediation or one on one instruction. I love how a teacher can give immediate feedback to students who show mastery and also encourage those students who seem to be inactive. The learning is in real time and that's what I love about this app. When students are struggling, they have the option to ask for help by tapping on the "hand" which a teacher can see immediately. Teachers can give stickers or give positive feedback by showing them right there on their work. Love this feature! Images can also be uploaded to focus on vocabulary. It also allows teachers the opportunity to create interactive lessons. This is what my students love the most, being able to interact with me and share their work with others. What a great way to learn! But my favorite feature is the "recording" feature which allows me to speak in a different language for those students who may need content being presented in their native language. I have not explored the use of this app with Classroom Google but that gets me even more excited as our district provides these tools for our teachers. Its a great tool that I know my students and I will benefit from greatly this year. I hope to be a more effective teacher and engage students in a more meaningful way by using Classkick!  Happy Classkicking!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Clear Perspective

Looking Back

Summer 2105 is almost over and teachers and students are getting ready to embark on a brand new school year of learning. As an educator of 24 years, starting my 25th, I have spent all summer reflecting on the past year and thinking about the things that matter to me the most. As a mother of twin identical girls who will be starting their first year of college and wife of 25 years, I have discovered that my passion for teaching has changed in a way that has me asking questions, what will be different this year, can I still make a difference in children's lives, is my passion still there?  It is common for most teachers to spend their summers what I call "detoxifying" themselves from the daily routines that teaching brings and the demands of testing, lesson planning, grading, meeting after meeting, deadlines, etc. There are never enough hours in a day to get the work done and most days it comes home with you. So where do you draw the line?

The Things That Matter the Most

I have always been an athlete most of my childhood into my high school and college days. Long distance running has been my main sport with two full marathons under my belt, lots of half marathons and the list goes on. Two summers ago, several of my friends and I were introduced to the "triathlon" sport and I was hooked! I had discovered a new "passion" and one that I knew would be around for a lifetime. So this year I decided to get serious about "triathlon" training and hired a swim coach to help me train for my first "half ironman" in 2016. I had finally found a sport that would change the rest of my life spiritually and emotionally. So why am I writing all this?

I believe God brings people and circumstances into your life when your life begins to unravel uncontrollably. My daughters will be starting their first year in college and I am so excited for them. They have decided to go to a Jr. college in town to take their basic courses and keep their jobs as well. I'm turning the big 50 this year and that has me consumed in all kinds of thoughts. Age has never really bothered me up until now. My parents are getting older and my dad's health can change in an instant. I miss my brother who has served this great country for 16 years and I wish he were here with us. 

My swim coach has been a great influence this summer and someone who I admire and respect dearly in the triathlon community. His friendship and family have played a key role in strengthening my spirituality and I have loved spending time with them this summer. My husband continues to travel quite a bit more than usual so its been a busy summer for him. We try to spend as much time together as possible, even if it means sitting on the couch watching British drama tv all night. 

My triathlete friends, old and new, continue to inspire me each and every day to never give up and continue pushing through my training. I am convinced that God continues to work in my life as he has allowed me to reflect on what's most important. My time in education is short and he is preparing me for the next chapters in my life. These relationships are what matters to me the most. Teaching will continue to change and so will children. Some teachers will have the same mindset they had when they started teaching and others will go out of their comfort zone and take risks. In the last 5 years, I have already witnessed how much education has changed. I have seen more teacher burn out and lots of frustration with state testing. So what will change for me next year and the years following?

A More Clear Perspective

It is so important to have a clear perspective in this business of educating children. As a veteran teacher who still loves teaching and the joy and happiness it brings, I will no longer bring work home, love those most important to me more, and not worry about what tomorrow will bring. I will continue in my training for it brings me strength and peace. The seasons of my life have changed and so must my perspective. My priorities are no longer the same and I must accept that God's plan for me is uncertain but so worth waiting for as it unfolds in his own timing not mine. It is through him that I am able to make a difference in children's lives and my own and hope to inspire other teachers and athletes along the way.  

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Another Digital Success Journey

Letting Go.... 

It is always bitter sweet when I have to let go of a group of students I have had for two years. Not only do I let go of them but I also have to say goodbye to the parents who I have bonded with these last two years and who have supported our learning. This group was special though. They were my first group of students who used various digital tools for two solid years mostly the iPad and chrome books. What did I discover that I had not seen with the last group? A richly developed digital language that pushed them further than I had imagined and a love for what it means to be a "digital native". They explored places that I did not imagine on their own and some with the help of others pushing them along their journey and teaching others how to get there. As a bilingual instructor, this brings me such joy and an affirmation that "creative thinking" and " "self directed learning" take students beyond their capabilities. I saw myself as a "facilitator of learning" not a teacher instructing her students what to do next. Their digital skills surprised me in most cases which proved that "self discovery learning " is what I need to foster and support in my career as an educator. I trusted my students and let go of that "teacher control" and the results were clear. They achieved great success with little instruction and they learned how to think independently when creating digital products. There were many times when I learned from them..new discoveries and lots of aha moments! Their joy of learning brought many happy moments in our classroom but mostly a love for one another that will always stay with me as they continue in their education and discovering their "own voices". I am so very proud of their accomplishments. They showed me that trusting them and loving them would be our greatest success and they were right. I am so excited for the next two years and new ideas that I already have planned. My PLN has made a huge impact on my learning and I appreciate the friendships I have made these past few years. I keep them close and am looking forward to their partnerships. My students matter and they will always matter in my heart! Their "voices" will carry them to their next destination as they say..."let me show you how". 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Chrome Books in a 3rd Grade Class

How It All Started

When I decided to redesign my classroom 3 years ago, I had a longterm vision of how that was going to look and what kinds of challenges that was going to bring. But I was ready to face those challenges at no cost. Three years ago, my classroom became a 1:1 iPad digital hub. The excitement of redesigning my classroom brought new ideas and learning and also transformed me as an educator. The students I had this year were also with me last year so this would be my first group of students who would have the opportunity to use a mobile device for 2 years. The prior group had the opportunity to use the iPads when they were first introduced as part of our "project launch" initiative program in our district. I had a suspicion that this group would bring a new kind of learning to our classroom....one that required little instruction on my part. Thus the Chrome book came to life!

The Chrome Book Was Added

Each year as a bilingual teacher, we are given a certain amount of monies to use towards our classroom to add to our resources that would enhance student learning. So last year, I ordered three Chrome books and the students have proved that this device has helped connect their learning to the iPad. The use of their "google drive" on a daily basis has transferred that learning to the Chrome book in a way that requires less instruction from me and more time on task for them. I have discovered that the language being used on how to manage the google tools on the iPad is very similar to the language required for the Chrome book. The students know exactly what Chrome book extension apps to use because they have seen or used them on their iPad. This makes the learning transferable and more effective for me as an educator. I spend less time teaching or trouble shooting and more time facilitating their learning. What a wonderful problem to have! 

The Chrome Book in Action

During the the day, my students rotate through their Daily 5 stations in Language Arts and Math. The students use their iPads and the Chrome books throughout these rotations. My students love to work together in groups or with a partner so this helps other students that are less technology savvy with any problems they may be having. Its great to see these mobile devices being used hand in hand. The students are able to move around my room wherever they need to go to work on their project or lesson that I have created for them. Here are a few examples of the students working in groups or with a partner throughout the day. I will continue to add as many Chrome books as possible each year so that my students will continue their digital learning!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Kookie over Kahoots

As an educator in a 3rd grade bilingual classroom, I am always looking for ways to engage my students on a different level and integrate a little technology to level the playing field. Learning multiplication facts in 3rd grade is a math skill that takes practice and drill. In my classroom, using Kahoot on our iPads makes learning a little bit more engaging. The students love it and the energy levels are high filled with excitement. This web application tool allows students to learn content in many subject areas. I have used it as a way to formally assess my students in various subjects. It is a great tool for formal assessment and or can be used as an exit ticket to a particular topic students are learning in their classroom. I love the user friendly features on the teacher dashboard that allows teachers to create their quizzes, discussions, and surveys. 

The other feature I love is the many languages that are available when creating your Kahoots. More and more students from other countries are entering our classrooms and need their content in their native language. So this allows me to have access to the many languages available in Kahoot. I have used this web tool in science as well and now heavily moving into the Language Arts/Reading subject and the "discussion" feature to assess my students on various reading objectives with our novel studies. 

Another great feature is the availability to search for Kahoots that have already been created by other educators per grade level. Just simply type in the search box the content you are studying and see what others have created. You can duplicate the Kahoot and edit and make it your own. The teacher dashboard saves all your Kahoots that you create for you to access from year to year. You can go back and modify them at any time. You can also make each one private or public and share with others various social media platforms. Lots of great features and a great tool to use in any classroom. Give it a try and create your own free teacher account.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Classroom Crib Continues To Evolve

Change Is Necessary Again

Back in August of this year, I introduced my newly redesigned "classroom crib" on a blog post discussing a few of the benefits of designing your classroom with a purpose in mind. Well, we are starting the 2nd 9 weeks of school and it continues to evolve and change! I have taken out a couch and have moved a few pieces of furniture to meet the needs of my students and their learning. Floor space and mobility are key components when you start to fill the classroom with little bodies and mobile devices. Its so difficult to know whether your design will be functional until you see students in action on a daily basis. So you begin to adjust and tweak a little here and there until the students begin to move in ways that suits the climate of the classroom. The conversations and environment play a very important role in "building relationships" and collaboration between students MUST be "purposeful". 

What I Have Learned

I continue to learn that "relationships" are what brings life to the classroom. The conversations between students and their peers begin to take a more "purposeful" meaning in a way that students feel safe and happy. These observations, along with other key factors, are impacting student success on a higher level of engagement. Students feel comfortable talking to their classmates and the environment gives the classroom a sense of "purpose". This has been my goal this year to bring this kind of learning into my classroom. I want students to feel "empowered" when they walk into my classroom and that they "matter" to others around them. I believe that designing a classroom with these goals in mind, can help students feel successful so that they can "empower" others in the same manner. I see and hear their conversations and watch their learning begin to unfold in in "purposeful" play!  I continue to learn and grow in my learning each day as I watch my students learn from each other. Their English language is growing exponentially as their conversations are more meaningful and richer. I have introduced new technologies this year, music during transitions, which the students love, to shake things up a bit. They have more time for independent reading with their small pillow while the lights are turned low. They walk around with their iPad with "pride" and hug it like a book, so loved, yet so powerful. This kind of environment has changed my students to be learners of "compassion" and it has changed their teacher to be a "change" agent in her classroom. What a blessing! 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Classroom Google In A Primary Classroom...Oh Yes!!!!

Its October and I haven't posted any new learning since school started!!! Its been a rather hectic start to the school year with new curriculum in both math and science that teachers in my district are learning new content at the speed of light!! But the learning in my classroom has been so inspirational that I have enjoyed creating new "digital lessons" that have empowered my students in new ways!

My new favorite tool that I will be discussing on this post is ClassroomGoogle. I first heard about it this past summer as they were getting ready to roll it out at the start of the school year. I began looking at videos on +YouTube to help me get a better understanding of its platform. I was so amazed by its "user friendly" platform that I instantly fell in love with it. So I began "tweeting" out ways other teachers were using Classroom Google and instantly received a wealth of knowledge by my PLN on +Twitter . 

I decided to use it as an "exit ticket" for reading comprehension with the new #GRA14 Read Aloud that started this week on Edmodo by my dear friend +Pernille Ripp. I always look forward to this time of year as the Global Read Aloud kicks off the fall season! Inferencing and drawing conclusions are two "huge" skills that students must be able to do independently if they want to be great life long readers. So Classroom Google was an easy and fun way for 3rd graders to practice these skills and participate in discussions. You can bring in images, links, YouTube videos as short introductions to a specific lesson. Using it as an "exit ticket" is a great way to informally assess comprehension by students when discussing various topics. Also using it in math as a way to bring in background knowledge or flipping the classroom. But the cool thing about Classroom Google is the integration of Google Drive. Students in my classroom have gmail accounts so this makes it so easy for students to upload content created straight into a folder the teacher has created or their very own google drive. Its a "one stop" place for learning to be seamless and fun!! My goal is to move in this direction where the students are uploading assignments to their google drive or a shared folder created by the teacher! The students seem to be enjoying Classroom Google and its "user friendly" platform. Here is the link to my Classroom Google and what kinds of activities the students have participated in. I did forget to mention one very important piece and that is that students and or district must have the GAFE tools in order for you to use Classroom Google or have access to it.