Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Slice of Life Tuesday...Writing Love

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday.  I invite you to visit their site and read others' slice of life stories and leave a comment.

It's become a habit.  Once a month, a small group of us meet for dinner, writing and feedback.  This time together feeds my writing as well as my soul.

Tonight we were treated with homemade red beans and rice...the real thing,  a drawer filled with a lovely assortment of teas, served nice and hot on this bitterly cold evening, fresh veggies and peanut clusters dressed in chocolate.

We sit around the table filling each other in on how things are going. We talk about the newest books we've read.  We share stories and laughter.

And then it's time to write.  We find spots to settle in and before long, the room is quiet except for the sound of computer keys being tapped.  There are periods of furious typing and then a lull as we stop to think and revise at different points.

We end with sharing and feedback.

I relish this time together.  These ladies are more than my writing group.  They are my friends and I am so glad we've worked to carve out this time to support each other on our writing journeys.  https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/posttuessliceshere/

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Digital Maker Playground

Thank you to Margaret Simon for creating this space where educators can share how they are authentically using technology in their classrooms.   Please visit Margaret's blog, Reflections on the Teche, to read other teachers' posts.

 This summer, I participated in the Connected Learners MOOC, also known as #clmooc.  I spent 6 weeks making different things based on themes that were created by different writing projects.  As would be expected, I learned a lot as a digital writer...new tools, reflection on crafting moves, and I got connected to new people.  It was a powerful experience.  

During the summer, I got a message from my friend Cathy Mere, wondering what this #clmooc was all about.  We chatted about it, I shared my excitement for the possibilities and a new plan was hatched.  We have a way of nudging each other into new projects.

We wanted a space for teachers to create, collaborate, connect and learn from each other.  One of the most powerful aspects of the summer #clmooc was the support provided by the other community members.  Everyone came with an open mind, expertise in different areas, and a willingness to grow.

We designed the Digital Maker Playground, using the structure of the #clmooc from this summer.  We're offering it to staff members in our district as well as anyone else who wants to participate virtually.  We are really excited about the possibilities.  Anyone who lives nearby can join us every other week for face to face workshop time (see dates and times on the S'more flyer).  It doesn't matter if you can't join us physically.  You'll be able to see each theme there on our Google+ Community as well as share your makes.  The beauty of the Google+ Community is that we can have continued conversations around our work.

If you have questions, don't hesitate to contact Cathy or me through our blogs or Twitter.  See the S'more flyer for details.  We hope you'll join us for lots of fun and learning.

See Cathy's blog for more information.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Puppy Perks Slice of Life Story

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Tuesday's Slice of Life Challenge.  Please visit their site to read other slices and leave some comment love for those slicers.


People ask me what we were thinking when we decided to get not one, but two puppies the day after Thanksgiving.  Three months later...

We still clean up poop piles in the house.    We still run around like crazy people as we try to grab articles of clothing (usually socks or underwear) out of their mouths.  We still find chewed up shoes or shredded paper towel tubes lying sadly on the floor.  

But even with all of these annoyances, the puppy perks make it all worthwhile.

We are loved unconditionally.
We are warmed on these bitterly cold days as they snuggle up against us.
We are comforted on those less than perfect days.
We are entertained by their crazy antics.
We are kept company...no time to be lonely.  

And as you can see from this photo, I'm also never short on brain power.  This little guy spent the day with me as I worked on various projects for school.

I couldn't have done it without him!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rethinking Digital Writing Club

Thanks to Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche for providing this space to share how teachers are using technology in their classrooms.  Please visit her site to see what others are doing.

Tomorrow is the beginning of Digital Writing Club.  This is the second year I've hosted the after school club.  I decided to open it up to fifth graders only, so that I am able to work with the kids more easily.  

To get started, I created a website using Weebly for Education.  It will be our home base.  I created a class and added my students.  Tomorrow, they will design their own web page and complete the  interest survey that I created in Google forms.

Because I've been reading and talking about Education 3.0, I am rethinking what our workshop will look like.  We will definitely be sharing our work on Twitter and working to connect with others outside our group.   I'm also going to use the information that I gather from the survey to do a couple of different things.

Our first two meetings will be planned by me.  I mentioned that we'd be creating webpages tomorrow.  Next week, I'm going to borrow from #clmooc and ask the kids to make something that will introduce themselves to the group.  I learned so much from the maker summer and I want to share that with my students.  

After that, I envision the kids working on creating what they want to create.  Our mini lessons may be led by me or by another student or students who have expertise in an area.  I'd like to work on some design elements with them and I'm sure that the kids will have ideas of their own.  I am envisioning small groups forming organically as the kids find common interests.  In addition, I will seek mentors and other experts and house that information on the homepage of our website.  

I imagine there will be blogs, videos, presentations, digital stories, comics, etc.  I want the kids to make decisions about what format best fits their needs based on their audience and purpose.  

I'm excited about the possibilities, and I'll be sure to share with all of you.

Please share if you've done anything similar with students or if you'd like to connect with us.  Leave your class' twitter handle in the comment section and we will definitely connect.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Questions Bring More Questions

Thank you to Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche for hosting DigiLit Sunday.  Please visit her site to read how other educators are integrating technology into their classrooms.

Education 3.0.


SAMR Model

My head is spinning.  I have more questions than answers.  This weekend, after having great conversations with some really smart ladies, I discovered Jackie Gerstein and her blog, User Generated Education.  It's evident that education needs to make a shift.  

I wondering...
Where am I on the continuum from Education 1.0 to Education 3.0?  I'd like to think that I'm between 2.0 and 3.0.  I've certainly evolved in the last 28 years of teaching.

How do we make the shift?  Change is hard!

Does a teacher have to move from 1.0 to 2.0 to 3.0, or can she skip right to 3.0?

How do we move to Education 3.0 and still integrate the CCSS?  Do the CCSS keep us from doing all we could do?

How do we help parents understand the need for change?  How do we ensure parents that as we change, we are still giving their children a quality education?

Where do we find others who are making the shift?

These are just the beginnings of everything swirling around in my head.  I ordered two books (even though I was on a self-imposed book buying diet) to help me think through some of these questions.

I'm getting ready to begin my after school digital writing club.  It'll give me the opportunity to try some things very purposefully (and give me fodder for Sunday's posts).

What are your thoughts?  Your own questions?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Snow Day! Slice of Life Tuesday

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesday.  Please visit their site to read other slices and leave some comment love.

We got a nice surprise today.  The winter storm dropped quite a bit of snow and closed schools all over central Ohio.  So I enjoyed this beautiful, but VERY cold day inside, cuddled under a blanket, drinking tea out of my favorite mug,  reading and having fun with Canva.  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Play to Learn to Teach

Thank you to Margaret Simon for hosting DigiLit Sunday.  Please visit her site to read how other educators are incorporating technology into their classrooms.

If there's anything I've learned on the digital journey, it is the importance of letting myself explore and play with different tools.  It gives me the opportunity to be creative, work out the kinks and think about how I might use these tools with my students.  In addition, I am seeing more and more that the way I think about my writing has evolved.  There is so much more to consider  as I craft my digital compositions.

In Crafting Digital Writing, Troy Hicks states, "...that the type of craft elements we insist our student create in their alphabetic texts can be complemented, - or better yet, extended - by the types of craft elements we can use given the availability of digital writing tools.  With digital writing, we need to think with words, of course, yet we also need to begin thinking like artists, web designers, recording engineers, photographers and filmmakers." (2012)

More and more I find myself thinking like a designer or photographer, or whatever it is that I'm creating as I explore different tools and create a variety of digital compositions. I can then use my learning to help my students do the same kind of thinking. My friend Cathy calls this #playtolearn.

Lately, I've been playing with Canva. I discovered it this summer and tried it out to share the makes I did with the #CLMOOC group. For this first one, I used a template provided on the site. I inserted images into the place holders and added my text. It was easy to use and I was satisfied with my first attempt, but I knew it could be better.

I returned to Canva over break and discovered their tutorials for beginners.  Being who I am, I decided to give them a try.  They even have more advanced tutorials in the Design School.

I learned about using frames and text holders to create my OLW image.  I played with fonts (choosing a font that gave a sense of quietness).  I learned that typefaces (designer word for fonts) with rounded edges are friendlier, while those with geometric edges are solid and strong.  In addition I learned serifs lend an air of sophistication.  (Go ahead and click on the link for serifs...I had to look it up and now I understand serif and sans serif).  

I used my new knowledge in yesterday's blog image, although I need to do more work with color and weight of fonts here.  Those are my next tutorials.

Last night I decided to go big and try one of the lessons from the Design School:  How to Design  a Creative Quote for Social Media.    (Much to my surprise,  Cathy sent me a text telling me how much fun she was having on Canva while I was working.  Check out today's post.  )  I chose one of the quotes from my Pinterest board and decided to play with it a bit.  This is what I came up with.  (Aren't the shadows cool?)

While designing this piece, I thought about the font, shape, and color.  I chose this particular font because it gave me the simplified look I wanted.  In addition, I capitalized the words that were important to me.  I wanted the quote to look like it was spilling down the page (to go with that free flowing feeling the quote gives me), so I used the boxes to frame the words and rotated them to help the reader's eye travel down the page. The orange boxes with the darker red frame and shadow effect make the words pop.

Some things to think about...
  • These simple looking images took a lot of time.  Not only was I thinking about my message, but I was learning the technical skills of adding shadows, spacing the text, etc.
  • There was a lot of thought into how I wanted to present my pieces.  Which images will best convey my message?  Do I want to use an image or do I use a graphic instead?
  • I needed to go through this process in order to help my students go through the process.

I think some would ask if it's important to teach our students these skills when they are crafting digital compositions?  I believe it is.  Our students are composing and consuming texts very differently in today's world.  I believe it's my responsibility as a teacher of writers to help my students be able to produce thoughtful quality products.  Even our youngest writers can understand and use  basic elements like choosing a font that conveys a serious tone versus a lighter tone or choosing colors that help words pop out instead of making them impossible to read.  

It is also my goal that students be able to articulate their thinking as they create.  Just as I've asked students to reflect on traditional pieces they've written where they discuss mentors and craft moves they tried, I want them to do the same with digital pieces.  I believe that if I want my students to do these things, then I need to model my own digital writing process, which brings us back to #playtolearn.  

What are you exploring in your own digital journey?