Sunday, February 11, 2018

It Has Been An Exciting Year

It has been awhile since my last post. Many things have happened in my district this 2017-2018 school year. I promised myself and my readers that I would continue to blog but I have failed to do so this year. So let me just share a few of the exiting things that have happened.

First and the most exciting news is that our district went 1:1 with almost 9,000 devices rolled out at the beginning of the year ( may be lower ). PreK-5th grade were issued iPads and 6th-12th were issued MacBook Airs. It was a very exciting start to the new school year and the students were super excited!! Our leadership team worked very hard along all the technology support staff in making sure that the deployment was a huge success and it was!!

But with all this technology at the hands of students and teachers, it meant one thing, teachers were going to need lots of professional development throughout the year to establish good digital citizenship skills for our students and staff. It has been a great year of planning, collaborating and creating a sense of cohesiveness throughout our entire district. Teachers planning and working together in teams across the district has been a great way for teachers to all be so to speak "on the same page". With great leadership at the highest level, our students have already benefitted greatly. I have seen a sense of community among students, working collaboratively in teams, supporting each other and helping those who may need a little more support with technology. 

So what kinds of things have been happening in my classroom this year with technology? In the next few post, I will highlight our favorite apps and tools that have been big game changers. I will share examples, lesson ideas and templates that were created by one of our technology specialist in our district +Melodi Kunn . Teachers across the district are designing lessons that foster collaboration, teamwork, peer tutoring and so much more. Students are excited and this gets me excited as their teacher. 

Our district was fortunate to have Alan November speak to parents and staff about the importance of teaching our children how to use the internet with purpose and so much more. I left his sessions wanting to know more and how I could better myself as an educator to help my students even at an early age, to use the internet with intent and purpose. It is never too late to teach children proper digital skills. "Students need teachers now more than ever", his exact words and I truly believe this especially at the higher levels of learning. Let us always put kids first and foster the love of learning together. Next week, I will share some very cool tools and apps that you may be able to integrate in your classroom. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

A Digital Road Well Traveled

As I begin to enjoy another summer and reflect on another school year ( my 26th year in the classroom ) I think of my students and the last group that I would be looping with. I've had this group for two years in my 2nd -3rd grade bilingual class and the digital learning continues to amaze me. I've had two other groups before this one but this group has harnessed the power of what it means to learn in a "digital learning environment". 

They have surpassed my expectations by being fearless in their learning. I found myself designing lessons deeper and more purposeful than with any other group. These bilingual students challenged me to be innovative and have high expectations about the projects they were to create. Each year the learning seems to be more streamlined with their knowledge of all things digital. The things they created on their iPads and chrome books was simply amazing. When I asked them to organize their google drive for the end of the year so that they could be ready for 4th, it was so rewarding to see that their confidence and ability to perform certain tasks was easy. Not only did they organize their drive but some were helping others not as savvy as other classmates. Is this not the culture we aspire as educators to create in our classrooms, a culture that drives instruction, empowers learning and cultivates an environment of trust and innovative thinking? It is all in the pedagogy and how these tools foster a level of engagement that is both relevant and purposeful. The impact of having these devices for two years has been a huge transformation in teaching and learning. It will change the culture in your classroom and students will benefit greatly. 

The impact has been so big that next year will be a breeze and they will need to be challenged in a different way. So what more can they learn? What impact will they have on other students in their grade level who have not had this kind of experience? My hope is that they will lead others with more courage and a thirst for innovation! Being confident and purposeful with their knowledge can help make a road well traveled. I pray that their road next year will be traveled with new friends who will have the same opportunities as they have had these past two years, that they continue to be fearless and create their own digital footprint. Its not just about the device but how this tool helps them to be confident in their learning and be proud of all they have accomplished these past two years. It is their story and I am confident that their digital roads will be well traveled from this point on. Next year, I begin my 28th year with a new group of 2nd graders. I wonder what kind of digital roads will be created? I have experts that I can call upon two hallways down. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

8 Things To Look For In Today's Classroom

Last summer, my campus participated in a book study that focused on creating an "Innovator's Mindset". This book was my anchor to how I was going to lead my students in my 3rd grade bilingual class. I have been an educator for 26 years and have had the pleasure of meeting George first hand during a summer technology conference. I continue to search for ways to empower my students, unleash their talent and lead them in a culture of creativity. For these are +George Couros thoughts and words that encourage and challenge educators to explore the "Innovator's Mindset". 

My book has notes from the beginning to the very last page, highlights of my favorite quotes and experiences that I have experienced myself in my years of teaching. When I began redesigning my own classroom, my number one thing was to change the "culture" of my classroom. Allowing for students to make learning go "viral" was key to empowering their learning. George mentions 8 things that educators can bring into their classrooms to begin the transformation. Giving students voice and choice has been easy for me because I have established a level of trust with my students. Redesigning my classroom has led to this kind of learning and level of trust. I have allowed for collaboration to be the center of all learning that requires a sense of autonomy amongst one another. They love working with each other, giving each other feedback when working on a special project. I hear their conversations and they are filled with "meaning and purpose". If you know anything about bilingual children or any language learner, they are shy and do not like to speak in front of others. It is part of their culture but that's quickly becoming a thing of the past! They have a VOICE.

George challenges us to think about those things that we feel continue to be obstacles in our classrooms. For me the two things that have been challenging are teaching students how to be "critical thinkers and time for reflection". Teaching students to ask those questions that will allow them to explore on a more deeper level is challenging and time consuming. I have learned that working with small groups at a time, has given me the opportunity to teach them how to ask better questions, for I must do better at asking those same kind of questions, continuously having a "growth mindset" perspective around my colleagues and leaders in my district. 

For the last several weeks, my campus has participated in "genius hour". Every Friday at the end of the day for about an hour, our entire campus shuts down and allows for students to explore their "genius" whatever that may be. It is still new to students and staff but I have already seen the effects it has had on my students. From baking, to rock collecting to making a movie trailer of the basics of playing soccer, "genius hour" has given my students VOICE and CHOICE that they are making a difference in the world starting with our very own campus. They have inspired other students in other grade levels to make their own movie trailers and share their learning with the world! 

In George's last chapter he talks about getting there, are we there yet....well these 3rd grade bilingual students have shown this veteran teacher what "real learning" looks like when given the opportunities they so deserve. One of my favorite quotes George uses is this, " if you want to see the effectiveness of an educator, you do not look at what the teacher is doing but at the learners whom she serves". Thank you +George Couros for your words of wisdom, encouragement to lead with passion and an Innovator's Mindset. Please take the opportunity to join educators and leaders from across the globe each Sunday evening for the live session on YouTube as we continue our learning of the Innovator's Mindset. We are all better together.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Let's Blog Away in 3rd Grade

Yes we are off to new adventures and my 3rd grade bilingual students have started their blogging journey. They will be blogging all about their learning and anything else they feel passionate about. I began thinking about this process back in the summer and how I could bring life to my students journaling. 

I myself love to blog so I shared a few of my posts to my students and they began to get excited about having their own blog. So, I had one of our technologist specialist in the district help me set up each of the students blog page. I decided to use Blogger as the platform for sharing their stories. My goal is to bring a love of writing back into the classroom and to share their stories with their family and friends. 

The process to set up their blogs took a about an hour in our computer lab and the students are now able to post on their iPads in the classroom. The website is bookmarked on to their home screen and all they do is sign in. It takes some time to go through the process of posting and sharing the tips and tricks with the students but this can be set up in small groups. I took groups of 4 and showed each student how to multitask between their google drive and blogger, upload and get a link for their picture and add that to their post. I continue to be amazed how quickly they pick up on the various tasks but year 2 brings lots of learning as the students begin to transition to the English language. Technology helps students transition a lot quicker in their thinking and in their conversations. I am so excited about my students blogging this year and hope to connect with other 3rd graders outside these walls...Midlothian ISD bilingual 3rd graders are blogging, why not?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

MISD Proud....Why Not?

Student learning in Midlothian ISD has been given a new look...a little facelift so to speak. This years theme has me thinking about learning and its new challenges. It has me thinking about ways I will guide my students in their learning this year, move in a direction where they will continue to be empowered by sharing their story and taking ownership of their learning. They will be MISD Proud!

Each summer I take time to reflect back on the previous year of the learning that my students were a part of. I begin to dissect what worked, what didn't and what needs to be changed for a better learning experience. Technology continues to play a key role in that learning. I continue to stay connected with the latest tech trends and my PLN who inspires me to push forward. I stand at my door every morning greeting those little faces as they enter my classroom with an eagerness to learn. How can I not be MISD Proud? 

This year my students will begin their blogging adventure as they will share their learning on a global scale. I myself love to blog so I am hoping that my stories will inspire my students to create a digital portfolio of life lessons in learning. My goal is for my students to feel empowered when they share their stories and make personal connections with others or themselves on a global scale. They will be MISD Proud!

So where do we start? We start with a vision, thinking BIG, outside the walls of our classroom. Who will our audience be? How will we connect with them? What kinds of connections will we make? Will they help our learning? These are just a few of the questions that I have been pondering over this past summer. I get excited just thinking about it. Technology will connect us to the outside world and bring in the learning and the motivation to continue to be life long learners. Lackeys loopers are ready for another year of digital learning...we will be MISD Proud, why not?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Google Cardboard In a Primary Classroom

Google Cardboard 

As a classroom teacher, I am always looking for innovative activities or lessons that will engage my 2nd grade bilingual students in new discoveries. ELL students need lots of exposure to various kinds of experiences in all content areas of learning. They struggle with vocabulary and background knowledge so it is important that teachers bring in as many experiences as possible to help with the language barrier. 

We were studying about basic animal needs and characteristics in Science so I decided to integrate a virtual reality lesson to my unit. I borrowed a google cardboard from one of our middle school campuses and brought it into my classroom. One of our technologist specialist, Ann Witherspoon created a Symbaloo with lots of VR apps for the primary and secondary classrooms. I downloaded one of the apps "VR Safari" on my iPhone and let my students explore the app. You could hear all the "oohs and aahs" as the students walked around the classroom with a google cardboard in their hands. They had never heard of Google Cardboard so this was a perfect opportunity for them to learn about it. After the activity, rotated it through tables, the students wrote a summary of all the animals they had seen within the app. I immediately began thinking how I could use this in my Daily 5 Stations for writing activities , describing animal characteristics, or just simply let my students pretend they are inside a virtual world and write a story of their virtual field trip. 

I began looking for ways other classrooms were using Google Cardboard in their lessons and how to bring those experiences into a 2nd bilingual classroom. I found several resources that may help you when planning for innovative lessons using Google Cardboard. Here are several resources you may want to check out. I know this will be an activity that will continue in my classroom and bring in experiences to my students that provide great learning opportunities. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

TCEA 2016...My Take Aways This Year

The First Few Days...TCEA 2016

Its always exciting when you are given the opportunity to attend one of the largest Technology Conferences in Texas. The Texas Computer Educator Association ( TCEA ) is that conference for me. This year I had the opportunity to Keynote at the  ELL/ESL Academy for Teachers, Principals and other Educational Leaders from all over the country. What an honor it was to be speaking and representing my school district of Midlothian ISD for my first Keynote. The energy when you arrive is contagious and makes you feel "alive" as soon as you walk into the conference center. You arrive early on that first day so that you can get checked in and get settled into your hotel room. By the second day of the week, the mass crowds begin to arrive and the energy seems to multiply immediately. You begin to notice how "connected" everyone is to their smartphones, laptop, iPad, etc. It gets you excited and you begin to feel the energy surround you as you walk through the long halls. It was going to be an exciting week! 

Connecting With Others

Each time I attend TCEA, I begin to look for my fellow connected educators on Twitter who will be attending the conference. We have already tweeted each other prior to the conference in regards to our stay there finding out what sessions we would all attend and hotels we were staying. Being a connected educator, has given me the privilege of connecting with the most AMAZING leaders in education today on a global scale. Not only do I love getting to spend time with them but also love meeting new educators as well. Our dinner conversations begin to evolve and take us to familiar places that lead to great discussions of student learning. I love learning new ideas, practices that work, those that do not. It is a time of conversing in meaningful topics, especially technology practices and what we as educators can do to make learning relevant for students. I did get the opportunity to connect with new educators and leaders who are making a difference in education today. One of those leaders was +Eric Sheninger who's book Digital Leadership Changing Paradigms for Changing Times has impacted my learning, thinking and teaching in my classroom. Another great and former Waxahachie, Texas educator, now an Instructional Tech Specialist for Elign ISD was +Patrick Reid . Patrick and I connected immediately in Waxahachie, Texas sharing similar ideas for innovative learning in the classroom. I was so excited to finally meet him in person, a genuine and great guy and great friend. There were others of course who I had met before like the incredible +Kasey Bell  +rafranz davis and +George Couros who I did not get the chance to meet in person but did have my book signed thanks to Patrick who graciously made this happen. These opportunities are rare and so exciting for me as a classroom teacher. Being connected continues to be a huge part of my learning and has allowed me to grow in so many areas of my teaching. What an exciting place to be in my career.

Patrick Reid

Kasey Bell

Eric Sheninger

Principals Making a Difference

My Keynote Reflections

Being able to reflect on all aspects of my learning, teaching and best practices, has allowed me to share my educational story with educators from all over the world. This year I would present my first Keynote at TCEA titled, "How Big Is Your Brave?" The Real Truth About Teaching in An ESL/ELL Classroom. If you have never presented a keynote, let me just say, the preparation months before takes on a whole new level of thinking and planning. I reached out to several of my technology specialist in my district asking them for guidance in the design process of a keynote. The topic I chose would tell the story of how I transformed my classroom into a "digital hub" by redesigning it to meet the needs of my ELL learners using mobile devices. My goal: to inspire teachers, principals, and other leaders of education to step out of their comfort zone and make magic happen in their classrooms. I wanted to be real, honest, have fun and inspire others throughout the presentation. I began presenting and the next thing I know, my time had come to an end. At the end of the presentation, I challenged the crowd to come out of their comfort zone where the real magic happens and we began dancing around the tables. It was incredible and the energy was amazing. The entire ballroom stood up and sang to Sara Bareilles video...Brave. My keynote was a success and I had had the best time of my life. I will remember this day forever and will cherish the many connections that came from this experience. My challenge was not easy for some but TOGETHER we had realized one thing, it takes courage to make real magic happen but the rewards would conquer all fears in the end. Real learning does not happen in comfort zones!