Sunday, September 21, 2014

DigiLit Sunday...Write About This

Thank you to Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche for hosting DigiLit Sunday.  Teachers who are trying new things with technology are linking to her blog on Sundays to share their experiences.  Please visit her blog to find out what's new.

I am so glad to be back to Sunday's DigiLit posts.  In my new role as a literacy coach, I'm finding it difficult to not be able to jump into my classroom to try new things with my students.  I now look at digital writing with a lens of a K - 5 teacher instead of a fourth grade teacher.  I also am thinking about how to support the teachers I work with.  Just as in any classroom, the teachers in my school are a diverse group when it comes to their familiarity with using technology in the classroom.  I am trying to find the balance of offering support without overwhelming anyone.

Now that beginning of the year assessments are almost done, some teachers are beginning to approach me about using technology in their reading and writing workshops.  I am thrilled to begin working with kids and teachers to show them the power of digital literacies.

About 3 weeks ago, I chatted with Brad Wilson about an app he and Bob Armbrister designed called Write About This.  Brad, a former fourth grade teacher,  is an educational technology consultant with Jackson ISD in Michigan.  I had a chance to explore the app today and know that I will share it with teachers in my building.

Write About This, "a visual writing prompt and creation platform" was easily navigated and one that students as young as first grade could use.  The app, which costs $3.99, houses photographs, each with 3 different prompts that students can respond to.  (There is also a free version).  If they so wish, students can use the device's camera to take their own photos and use their own in their writing.   In addition, students can add their recorded voices to their written draft.  Once finished, students can save their work to My Write Abouts.  My Write Abouts can be saved to the camera roll as a jpeg or video file.  From that point, students can share their work with their parents and teachers via email or upload their work to Google Drive or DropBox.

Here's a quick example of the Write About I created this afternoon.  I used the image provided in the app, but chose not to use the prompt.  I think it's important to always give kids the choice to use the prompt or not.

video

I saved my final piece to my iPad's camera roll and then uploaded it to Google Drive to share here on my blog.



There are 19 categories with many photos in each one.


After downloading the app from the Apple Store, I spent a few minutes reading the teacher information section.  From the settings page, a teacher or parent can select (or deselect)  text prompts, voice prompts, spell checker, create custom prompts (I especially like this feature), share by email, delete, and choose the prompt level (there are 3 different levels).  A teacher can also add student profiles.


There are 19 categories from which to choose.  Each category has several different photographs that are credited to the source.  In addition, each photo has 3 different writing suggestions (prompts) or students can do a free write.



Students can choose from 3 different prompts for each photograph or do a free write about the photo.

The prompts are aligned to the CCSS.

Students are also able to go back and edit their work if they so wish.



In addition, the authors have created Tell About This for younger children who are too young to type.  They can add their voice recordings to their images.

From what I can tell, this app is for short pieces of text.  I can see students and teachers using this app in different ways:
  • The images can help students come up with ideas when they are stuck.
  • The app could be used to help build writing fluency if used as a tool for free writes.
  • The app can serve as a digital writer's notebook where young authors can save seed ideas.
  • Students can share their learning in the content areas by taking a photo and recording their voices.
  • Students can take a photo of pictures they've made and add text and voice.  (I may try this with my kindergarten friends this week).  This piece could be a response to a book they've read, a short story they've written, etc.
  • Work is easily embedded into blogs, which would be great for students keeping digital portfolios.
  • Students could upload their own images of a favorite place, family member etc. to  write about.
  • A teacher could project an image and model her thinking as she writes about the image.
  • The piece of writing could also be embedded into Glogster as part of a digital multi-genre piece.
  • Narrative, opinion and informational texts all lend themselves to this app.
I'll be interested to see how teachers begin to use this app in their classrooms.  If you've used Write About This, please share your experiences in the comments section below.














Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Nourishing the Teacher Writer

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays. Please visit their site to read other Slices of Life.

I've been absent from my blog.  I've resisted any kind of writing.  Moving from our home of 17 years and changing jobs has taken me on an emotional roller coaster ride for the last 3 weeks.   Boxes needing to be unpacked permeate my life both in and out of school.  In addition, moving into a new role of literacy coach and Title Reading teacher has me wondering where I fit into my school community now.  I don't have 25 young learners in front of me every day.  I can no longer change my lesson plans at the last minute to try out a new idea I heard about on Twitter or read on a blog.  And I wonder, "What will my teacher writing voice be now that I am no longer in my own classroom?"  

According to the dictionary, nourishment is needed for growth and good health.  It's common knowledge that we need to eat healthy foods to keep us going.  (Although chocolate has played a major role in my diet lately).  In the same way, I know it's important to nourish the learner and teacher writer inside of me.  Today was a day that filled me with inspiration, energy, and a desire to get back to my writing.  I was surrounded by other teacher writers, both in person and virtually.  There's something about hanging out with others who share your passion and "get you."  We need those people in our lives to help us move forward when we get stuck.

Tonight I was fortunate to participate in a webinar with Troy Hicks and Penny Kittle.  Troy said something that will stick with me (and it made me smile).  He said, "Don't should on yourself," in reference to holding yourself to what you think you should be writing.  And that's exactly what the last 3 weeks has been for me:  "I should get up early and write."  "I should go back to that email and review the feedback and start over again with my draft."  "I should post on my blog."  I should, I should, I should.  

Earlier this afternoon, I spent an hour with a friend who has also changed roles at her school.  We bounced ideas off each other, shared our thinking and ate really good ice cream.  Good conversation and good ice cream:  what more could you want, right?  We're committed to meeting every few weeks to keep the conversation going.

So, for tonight, it feels good to return to my blog.  Slice of Life is the perfect space for this reflection because this community nourishes me too.  I've missed reading and commenting on what's going on in others' lives.  

I'm ready.

I'm ready to jump back in and work on some challenging writing, do some deep thinking, and play around with some other ideas.  

How do you nourish the writer inside of you?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

DigiLit Sunday: Connecting What We Know About Writing Workshop to "Going Digital"

Thank you to Margaret Simon for inviting teachers to share how they are using technology in their classrooms.  You can link up and/or read others' thinking at her blog Reflections on the Teche.  


This week I played more with Zeega to create my digital story, House Hunting Blues.  If you haven't seen it, you can view it on yesterday's post.  You can also read more about Zeega here, where Mashable explains what makes Zeega different from other storytelling platforms.

I find that the more I play (thank you #clmooc for providing this opportunity), the more I ask questions about where I've come from in the writing workshop world and where I'm going as I incorporate more and more digital composition. How did this experience mirror and differ from what I might do in a traditional writing workshop?
  • What could I do in my digital composition that I couldn't do in my written narrative? 
  • What other tools would give students the same access as Zeega?
  • Does one get my message across more clearly than the other?
How did my knowledge of writing narrative inform my digital composition? (What was the same?)
  • I had a message:  This house hunting business is crazy, but it all ends well.
  • My audience:  Family & friends, blog readers, Google+ community
  • It has a beginning, middle and end structure.
  • My lead tells a bit of the background story.
  • I wrote about something that was important to me.
  • I focused on the important details of the story.
  • My ending brings the story to closure
  • I revised as I composed.  
What was different?
  • The music I chose (Everything Gonna Be Alright by Bob Marley) helped me send the message that the story was going to have a good ending.  I could have chosen more chaotic type of music to show the frustration I was feeling when the story began.
  • I carefully chose images to show what I was thinking and feeling.
  • The cartoon of the person spiraling out of control and "Nope" swirling through the air shows my sense of helplessness at that time, which leads into the muppet running away, which is exactly what we did when we terminated the contract.
  • Charlie Brown's "I need help." indicates the point when I was at the end of my rope.
  • From that point, the images begin to show my sense of peace as I said a little prayer and moved through my day.
  • I edited images, took screen shots, and used a combination of my own images and those from the Internet.
  • I easily shared with Facebook, Google+, Twitter and through my blog.


http://pactressia.tumblr.com/post/11238062249/i-think-i-need-help

  What could I do with my digital composition that I couldn't do with a traditional narrative?
  •  The choices afforded in Zeega made writing this composition very engaging.  I found myself in the flow.  
  • Using a combination of still images and gifs make my composition appealing and engaging to my audience.
  • I am able to connect with a wider audience (which I can also do through my blog).
  • I can add layers of meaning through the images (both still and gifs) and the music I've added.
Are there other tools I could have used?  Of course...and I'm sure I'm only hitting a few of the possibilities:
When comparing the written narrative to the Zeega, does one get my message across more clearly than the other?

I'd love to get feedback from my readers.  If you have time to look at yesterday's post and compare the two, please do and let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

Next week, when I post, I'll be one day away from moving.  Let's hope that this week is uneventful and the house hunting woes are finished.  


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Saturday Celebrations: A God Moment

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for inviting others to share their celebrations.  You can go to her site to read other celebrations and add your own.




This week has been incredible...incredibly hectic, incredibly chaotic, incredibly frustrating and incredibly happy.  We were looking forward and at the same time dreading the house inspection on the house we were going to buy.  We knew it was a fixer upper and we worried that it might be too much for what we wanted to do at this time.  The inspector started at 10:00 that morning and didn't finish until 5:00 in the evening.  With each new thing he found, our hopes were dashed just a bit more.  Rewiring, roof work, brick work, septic system, pool...and those were the big things. There were even more little things that were wrong with the house, including not being able to get hot water out of the kitchen faucet because the handle bumped into the stone backsplash (I'm still trying to figure out how they washed their dishes).  On Tuesday morning, we told our realtor that we wanted to terminate the contract.  In that instant, I was relieved that we were not buying a money pit, and scared to death because we had to move in 13 days and we didn't know where we were going to go.

As I drove to school for Kindergarten testing on Tuesday morning, I said a little prayer.

Dear God, I know you have a plan for us.  Could you just give me a little sign please, because I'm hanging on by a thread right now.

As each person at school asked me how things were going with the move, I held back tears and said we had a change of plans and needed to make new arrangements.  I couldn't talk about it.  I made an appointment to see a rental house for 7:00 pm and went on with my morning testing kindergarteners.  They were a welcome reprieve from my worries as they shared their stories of summer fun.

At the end of the work day, I decided to drive out to the farmer's market in Plain City.  I wanted to buy peaches but I also wanted the distraction of driving around for a bit.  I couldn't face going home right then.  After buying some produce, I thought I might drive by a house that I knew was for sale.  I had seen it a couple of month before and had looked it up then.   It was more than we wanted to spend, and I hadn't given it another thought.   As I drove by, something made me stop and look it up again.  I have never done that before (Keith does it all the time, but not me).  I pulled over to the side of the road, typed the address into realtor.com and saw that the owners had lowered the price by $40,000.00 THAT MORNING!  Was this my sign?

So, at 3:15, I'm texting my husband, asking him if we should take a look at it.  (I had told him and our realtor that morning that I did not want to look at any more houses.  We had to stop the madness and just find a place to rent).  He wanted to see it, so I sent the following text to our realtor.





He got an appointment for 5:00.  Oh, I felt badly for those poor owners.  It is no fun getting your house ready to show on short notice.  I knew that from experience.

We arrived at 5:00 and walked into a house that immediately felt like home to us.  It has everything I have always wanted in a house:  Keith and I have always liked cape cods, we both like water and there's a little stream that runs through the backyard, it has a window by the kitchen sink so I can look out while I wash dishes, and there's a space for me to write (that's the bonus).  Annie told us as we drove into the driveway that she could imagine bringing her children here to visit Grandma and Grandpa.

We put an offer on the house that night.  I feel at peace with this decision:  there are no lingering doubts like those I was feeling about the other house.  The owners have been kind enough to let us use their garage to store boxes since there is a 12 day difference between our move from our current house to our move into the new house.

We feel very lucky to have found this house.  I know it was more than luck though.  I believe that God heard my prayer that morning and he guided me down M V High Rd. that Tuesday afternoon.  I'm so looking forward to starting our life in our new home.

Do you have a similar experience that you'd like to share in the comments?  If so, please do.  I'd love to hear your story.

Since I've been participating in #clmooc this summer, I wanted to try using Zeega to tell my story digitally.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Reflections on a Summer of Makes: DigiLit Sunday

Thank you to Margaret Simon for hosting DigiLit Sundays where educators share how they are using technology in their classrooms.  Please visit her site to read other posts.



What a summer this has been.  I started out going strong...joining the #clmooc community, and two other summer challenges, all involving some kind of writing and creating.  Life happened and my journey got hijacked by circumstances beyond my control.  My mom had surgery, we sold our house, put an offer on a new one, and started to pack up 16 years of stuff.  I had to give myself permission to give up some of the things I started.  I let go of two of the challenges, knowing I can jump back in if the time is right.  I stuck with #clmooc, although I didn't get to participate as much as I wanted.  And I had to ask myself why I didn't let go of #clmooc.  What was it about #clmooc that kept me coming back?  What can I take from this experience to my school as I work with students and teachers?

I used Canva to create this graphic of my makes.




1.  I had fun and I owned my learning!   There was a sense of play and freedom as I took charge of my learning.  I tried new tools (Canva, Thinglink, BitStrips, Zeega, Imgflip (Meme Generator), Folding Story, Skitch, Google Draw), most of which I learned from the #clmooc group.  If I made a mistake, it was ok.  I learned as I went and if I needed help, the community was very supportive.  

2.  The experience was collaborative.  There was no judgment.  No one was keeping track of what I did and didn't do.  Every week, I hoped to be involved in a Twitter chat, but with all the craziness, it didn't happen.  Each week, I posted late (usually into the next make cycle), and my contribution was always welcomed by a supportive community.

3.  Some of the makes were way out of my comfort zone.  Making memes was really hard for me.  I felt like I was in my students' shoes who sit in my writing workshop not knowing where to start.  I had face my insecurity and give myself permission to not be perfect at this one.  It called for a growth mindset.  I might not be good at it yet, but I could still give it a try.   Having the community to fall back on was tremendously helpful.  I learned from what others were doing, using their work as mentor texts.  One of the makes came out on a week that I was not at my creative best.  My mom was having surgery the day the make cycle on light came out.  Kevin Hodgson created a space for origin stories that I used for my piece of writing.  I wrote my story while sitting in the surgery waiting room.  I felt like I took the easy way out that week, but again, I knew it was ok.  

4. Choice was huge.  The make cycles were so open-ended.  It was up to me to decide if I was going to use technology or not.  I got to choose what tools were going to help me get my message across.  There was time to experiment and play and get feedback from the community.  As I learned about different tools from those in the community, I had more choices to make and could make informed decisions about my composition. 

5.  I've been able to decompose my thinking as I worked through each make cycle.  For instance, when I created the Zeega about my Kitchen Memories, I had to be very purposeful in choosing the images and music.  I wanted to choose pictures that showed my kids growing up working alongside me in the kitchen.  Unfortunately, the photos of them when they were young are all in storage.  So, I was a little disappointed in that part of my work and may go back and edit it some day.  I spent over an hour choosing just the right song.  (Hmmm...how many times have I told kids to quit goofing around and choose something?)

6. Which brings me to time.  Time  to create is so very important.  When I'm in the classroom, it's easy to get caught up in the time constraints of getting a project done.  While I know that projects can't go on forever, I have a new understanding of the importance of giving enough time to kids and adults to create, revise, and get feedback from others in the community.

I created this simple graphic to guide my students as they think about creating a digital story.



As I reread through this post, the importance of a supportive community is validated.  And I am reminded of my Summer Institute experience in 2007 with the Columbus Area Writing Project.  The co-directors had a saying, "The answer is yes."  Whenever anyone asked, "Is it ok if I...," they replied back, "The answer is yes."  

So, are my take aways?  What is important for a learner to thrive?  What will I take with me?

The importance of: 
  • Support
  • Community
  • Collaboration
  • Respect
  • Choice
  • Time
  • Feedback
  • Ownership

I am so glad I joined the #clmooc community this summer.  I've connected with some great thinkers and educators and I look forward to where this experience takes me next.




Saturday, August 2, 2014

Saturday Celebrations: Change in Plans

Thank you Ruth Ayres for providing this space for others to share their celebrations.  Please visit her site to read about other celebrations.



My husband and I have spent this week packing up the house we've lived in for 16 years.  We built this house with the intention that we would live here forever.  Plans change.  We don't need this much space for just the two of us.  After 9 months, we have a buyer and we'll be moving in 15 days.  As I start packing and purging in a new room, I go through bouts of sadness and excitement.  We have accumulated so many good memories raising three children here.

Our plan all along was to sell the house and rent for a year, so that we could take our time and find a place that we both loved.  Plans change.  We gave ourselves one week to look around and agreed that both of us had to absolutely love a place if we were going to consider buying now.  I was skeptical that we would find anything, until we walked into a sprawling ranch on an acre of land just 4 miles from where we live now.

It's been empty for 6 months and is in dire need of some TLC.  Weeds have taken over the outside, but underneath those weeds is a treasure.  I fell in love as soon as I walked into the kitchen that looks out into a hearth room.  I've always wanted to have a kitchen with a fireplace nearby.  Then I walked outside and saw the possibilities.  There are lots of nooks and crannies for gardening, reading and writing, and drinking tea in the early morning.  I was smitten!  My husband?  He fell in love with the garages.  Yes, that would be plural.  This house has 3 car detached garage and a 2 car attached garage.  He's a car guy and has a 1970 Datsun 240Z that he enjoys working on.

Another positive?  It needs work.  I can make the house mine.  The former owners had different taste from me.  Some of the updates are a little too fancy for us, but we can live with them for now.  I'm excited about getting in there and scraping wallpaper, painting and pulling weeds.   I'm excited that my husband and I are starting on a new venture together.  We will create new memories in a new place. The future will bring more changes as our children go out and begin their own lives and bring new people into our family.

So, even though I'm sad to say good-bye to our home, I'm looking forward to what the future holds for us.  Here's a glimpse of what lies ahead.



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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Kitchen Memories

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays.  Please visit their site to read more Slices, write your own, or leave a comment or two.

The last week of #clmooc's challenge was to create a 5 image story.  This story, more than 5 images, was spurred by a couple of comments left on my FB post about packing up my kitchen. You see, we are moving from the house we raised our children in and the time has come to start packing.  Lots of emotions run through me.  



 A member of the CLMOOC community mentioned that often these stories are shared after the fact, when one can look back and laugh.  She wondered if it helped me to tell the story now.  It makes me wonder, why did I choose to tell this story now?  Why did I choose my favorite room to pack first?  Did I know it might be the hardest to do?  

Tomorrow, I will share my thinking about the process of creating this story.  For today, I will let the story speak for itself.  Take your time as you go through the images and listen to the words of the song.