Saturday, April 25, 2015

As a MATTER of Fact...Student Choice in My 21st-Century Science Class

I'm always experimenting with ways to use Edmodo to give my students more choice in how they learn and demonstrate their learning to me. My latest experiment is to use the small group feature to divide up the "Big Rocks" or standards in our science unit about Matter.

Students start with "3 States of Matter" and then move through the other groups at their own pace. In each "group" there are a variety of activities to choose from to learn about the content. Activities include: songs, raps, games, videos from Bill Nye, experiments from Steve Spangler, virtual experiments, etc. I'm letting my students pick and choose what, when, where, how much, they want to use. BUT, they are required to know the content and must provide me evidence of their learning.

I've used the QUIZ feature for little checkpoints. Students can instantly see their score and have me reset the quiz for another try if needed. I do not use these quizzes for grades.

Students have a list of standards (I Can) statements that they check off as they go. This is the "flipped" version (sort of) of our science class. During class, we do the hands-on experiments. These activities are completed during our independent learning time. It's not homework, but I never object to kids learning on their own at home.

This unit is not gamified, but I do have badges to give the kids for showing me mastery of the standards.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Radio Show? Me? Are You Kidding?

Since I've been off-track, I've tried to participate in some education chats on Twitter that I usually don't get the opportunity to join. Last Tuesday, I joined #edchat a little late and because I saw the tweet of someone that I knew and responded. I'd forgotten about the chat. It was a lively discussion with all kinds of opinions about what's considered innovative and what's not.

At the end of the chat, I received a tweet from Nancy Blair telling me to check my DM (direct messages). She asked me if I'd like to be a guest for Edchat radio.

Radio Show? Me? Are You Kidding?

I'm not an edustar, an author, a highly sought after speaker or someone in the spotlight with a lot to say. No, I'm the person that is self-conscious about having a conversation. I've always been one to listen more than talk. I don't think I'm shy, but I am a quieter person until you get to know me.

As politely as I could, I told Nancy that she was asking me to go waaay out of my comfort zone and that perhaps down the road, I'd feel more confident.

Then, I reached out to a PLN member that I trust and knew had been put in the public spotlight. I asked where the courage came from to be in the public eye. Through the course of the conversation, he said, "Tell your students how you took a risk and did something completely out of your comfort zone! You know they'd be so proud!"

That's all that it took! Instantly, I realized that I had to do this!  I could not be a hypocrite by telling my students to take a risk and then not do it myself! I couldn't breathe! I sent a direct message to Nancy telling her that I was willing if she still needed a guest. It was hard to click the send button! I took a deep breath...and didn't look back. From there, it was just a matter of learning the details of how the show worked.

I couldn't sleep. I couldn't eat (which is a good thing). I couldn't concentrate on anything else. What had I just agreed to? So, I turned to my kids. We're off-track. I was glad that through Edmodo that I could still reach out for their advice.

The time came for "the phone call" and surprisingly, I was pretty calm considering. The producer connected me to Tom Whitby and Nancy Blair before "the show". Both of them were so kind. I was a little star-struck. I honestly don't remember the conversation. I don't think I answered the questions. My responses were somewhere between anticipated questions and the answers I thought I could give and the real thing. It was over before I knew it. It was actually kind of fun! Tom and Nancy were the ultimate hosts.

For the last week, I've sweated it out. Did I ruin the whole show? Did I even have an answer for the questions? I knew they weren't intelligent answers because I couldn't remember the conversation! I was just hoping that I wouldn't make a complete fool of myself!

Earlier tonight during #5thchat, I received a tweet with a link to the show. I held my breath!

Honestly, it's not the best podcast I've ever heard (referring to me). But, it's also not the worst. Through the magic of editing, it turned out okay. I'm forever grateful to Tom and Nancy for carrying the responsibility of the show. I'll chalk it up as a learning experience! Next time, (if there is a next time) I'll be a little more prepared.

The best part of this whole experience is that I was able to have a fun conversation with Tom Whitby after the show was made public. He is a leader, role model, and innovator that I admire.

The second best thing is that I conquered another fear and am better for it! I feel confident in telling my kids to take risks, to get out of their comfort zones, and to have a growth mindset.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Reality (Augmented) Time

Augmented reality isn't new to me, but I've never been able to get things to work. Honestly, I haven't spent a lot of time trying to learn. But when Brad Gustafson shared a cute idea from one of his teachers, I was motivated to try to learn.

Before Spring Break, I had the kids create some old fashioned TV screens out of construction paper. They turned out darling! The UCET conference was that weekend. My plan was to go to the conference, learn more about AR (augmented reality) and then be ready to help the kids use the TV's for a trigger when we returned from being off-track. It was backwards planning- and not in a good way.

The AR class was great! I learned how to use Aurasma properly and feel ready to go! My original plan for making movies was so much more complicated and so I'm glad that I learned the proper way. I can't wait until we're back in school again!

One of my PLN members and friends, Katie Ann Wilson, is an expert on all things AR. You can find her great ideas, tips, resources, at Diary of a Techie Chick.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Strength Of A Little Girl

Photo Credit: JK x via Compfight cc

Earlier this week, one of my sweet fifth grade girls lost her father. My heart broke! I couldn't help wonder "Why? Why this family?" And then I couldn't help but reflect on the challenges that lay ahead for the family and my student. I'll call her "Heather" for the sake of anonymity. There will be many times in her life where she will "ache" to have her daddy's embrace, advice, and listening ear. I know because I grew up without my father. There were so many times growing up when I just wanted to be a "daddy's girl" and couldn't be. As her teacher, the next question that I asked was, "How can I support "Heather" through this tragedy?"

I went shopping and found the perfect little figurine that reminded me of Heather's beauty both inside and out. It reflected all that I'd learned about her- her passions, her values, her desire to be a girlie girl. We've shared so many little talks and giggles this year because building relationships with my students is/was a top priority. I was glad that I'd taken the time to know her.

Last night, I went to the viewing. The line was long, and it took over two hours to see the family. But, as I was looking at the pictures that the family had on display, I felt two little arms wrap around me from behind, and Heather's voice saying, "Ms. King, you came! Thank you!" As I spun around, there was my sweet Heather that had been looking for me in the crowd. Our conversation was sweet. It was full of tears and laughter as we looked at all of the pictures of her with her dad. I gave her my gift and had to smile as she expressed her delight. She was so appreciative that I would think of her.

It didn't stop there. By now the line of people had moved a little, and I was almost to where the family was standing. Heather stayed close to me and introduced me to all of her cousins, aunts, uncles, grandpas, and grandmas. She made sure that she was near me as I hugged and talked to her mom. It touched me. Heather's strength was so apparent that others noticed as well. She was holding this little family together during their darkest hour.

Not only was she strengthening her family, but she also was strengthening me. As is very common, my kids teach me something every day. Relationships are so important! It's not about the facts, the content, and the test scores! It's about learning together and enjoying this journey. It's about telling each other how much we love and appreciate them. It's about building each other up and celebrating our talents and gifts. It's about living in the moment. It's about life. It's about love.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Out Of The Storage Box To Conquer A Fear!

Photo Credit: Carrie Can via Compfight cc

  It was inevitable! I knew I'd have to face my fear! 
 At some point, I knew that I would present at a technology conference of some sort because of my responsibilities as an Edmodo Ambassador. But, I've been able to stay in storage (hidden away) for several years. I'm not an instructional tech person, staff developer, PD mentor, or anything of the sort. I'm a classroom teacher.  Sure, I occasionally help teachers in my school with the tech that I learn, but nothing is very formal.  I'm not afraid to teach or talk in front of an audience. In fact, that's always been something that I've enjoyed. So my extreme nervousness about presenting at a conference was unexpected.

On some level, I wanted to take on the challenge of presenting at a tech conference. But, my heart skipped a beat when I was invited to present at UCET- Utah's tiny version of ISTE. As the conference date drew closer, I became more and more nervous! What had I just agreed to?

My FEAR was presenting with tech about tech to tech people! 

Photo Credit: Lili Vieira de Carvalho via Compfight cc

Edmodo provided a Powerpoint for me. I knew my content well. Why was I so nervous? Why couldn't I sleep or eat? Why was my stomach in knots?

I've integrated a lot of web tools and apps into my teaching. I know to always have a plan B, C, and even D just in case the technology doesn't work. I live every day in the space of not knowing exactly what will happen.  I fail many times and keep going- keep learning- keep pushing myself. But, presenting to adults was a different kind of challenge.  I had nightmares of the tech not working and of me trying to continue presenting.

Fortunately for me, I have the best PLN in the world! I reached out to them for every step of the way. They delivered! I'm not sure that I could have been successful without their tips, resources, and support!

The night before the UCET conference, I was sick with FEAR! There were technology issues the first day of the conference. The more problems that I heard about, the more my stomach churned. My laptop was also giving me problems. Stress! I arrived early Friday morning so that I would have plenty of time to prepare.

I don't know about you, but I believe there are angels amongst us- people that come into our life at just the right time to help us. There, sitting in the room with his wife, was my angel. He had presented in the same room on the first day. He was just making sure that everything was ready to go for his next presentation directly following my presentation. Knowing how nervous I was, he offered to help me set up and showed me how to work all of the tech in the room. He was a gift!

Once the tech was working, I calmed down considerably. Now it was just a matter of setting up my pirate props, playing some music, and getting into the right frame of mind. I dug out my iPad and read some of my favorite quotes from Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess.  I could feel the confidence building inside me. I tweeted out that I had 30 minutes before I presented for the first time. Once again, my PLN (including Dave Burgess) cheered me on! Twenty minutes before my presentation, I stood outside the door to the classroom to be ready to greet the teachers that came to my workshop. I didn't have to of course, but they gave me more energy! Engaging with people before the presentation relaxed me and I had fun meeting everyone. The rest, as they say, is history!

I had a BLAST! 
Photo Credit: sixastray via Compfight cc

The teachers that I trained were wonderful! Some were extremely techy, some were conquering their own fears of using any technology, and most were somewhere in the middle. We learned together! Yes, I had more experience using Edmodo. But they contributed to the conversation, and I learned a lot because of them.

I admire people that have confidence to use technology to make and present beautiful, inspiring presentations for professional development. I'm learning.....slowly! I hope that some day that I can reach that level. Maybe I'll never present a keynote, but I want to have the skills. Conquering this fear is a step towards reaching a higher goal.

What I Learned:
  • You can't let the fear of failure stop you from progressing.
  • Being a connected educator raises the bar of excellence. Mediocrity and the status quo are not tolerated. But, a PLN supports you in ways you can't even imagine!
  • I can do more and achieve more. I need more faith in myself.
  • I learned that I have a little flame of passion for presenting and teaching teachers in me. This is what I want to do!