Empowering

Empower

This summer, I read a book called Empower, by A.J. Juiliani.  Thoughts flew through my head each night as I sat down to read chapter after chapter.  As I read, I reflected upon my own time in the classroom.  Did I empower my students? What could I have done better?  

While reading Empower, I thought of one particular activity that I always did before midterm and final exams.  I let the students take charge of the class and guide their peers through review activities.  This was a group activity and I assigned each group a chapter or unit to review with their classmates.  They prepared a lesson and activity to teach to the class.  Some kids loved this activity and some kids hated it.  

One student, Dylan, thrived in this environment.  He loved it so much during our midterm review, that he volunteered to do this more before unit tests.  Generally, I didn’t let my students “teach” a review prior to a unit test, but Dylan really wanted to.  So, I took a step back and let him go for it.  I was amazed with the clarity in which Dylan presented the material to his classmates.  He took great pride in sharing what he knew and asking questions to the class.  As a teacher, I could see what Dylan knew and didn’t know before a test.  In hindsight, I should have done this activity more often.

Jump forward to today.

I am out of the classroom; Dylan is a teacher; I have two school-aged children.  Last Thursday, my younger son (Zach), came home and told me that I had to look on Twitter to see what he did that day.  This is what I saw:

That’s my son!  He was a “teacher” and so proud of it! Mrs. Malloy, his teacher told me,  “I don’t do it often, and I always let the kiddos say no thank you, but gosh, he was so empowered, and to me -if he can teach it -he’s got it mastered.”

Empowered.  Isn’t that what we want for all of our students?

My Office Space

Picture Time!

I don’t spend much time here, in my office.  I travel between five schools, so I am mostly in teachers’ classrooms.  I feel like I have a comfortable and cozy spot; sometimes, I wish I were here more often.

On my desk, I have a lot of paper.  When I receive it at meetings, I really don’t know what to do with it, so it ends up on my desk.  In the picture, you can see the stacks of papers.  On the papers, I have a magazine open.  I will frequently, check my mailbox, find a magazine, read it on my way up to my office and leave it open on my desk so I can come back to it.  It is hard to find time to come back to my open magazines, although, I always have good intentions.  The paper and the clutter on my desk bothers me, but I never have enough time to deal with it.

If I could take one word and describe my desk, it would have to be clutter.  I am not very good with paper, however, as an educator, I feel like I live in a world FULL of paper.  Does anyone else ever feel like that?  Each day, I walk past the copy room and hear that poor machine chugging away.  Somedays, I walk into the copy room, wanting to scan something on the machine and someone is making 200 copies of a packet that is 4 pages front to back and stapled.  Oh!  Those trees!  I frequently go into meetings and receive a paper agenda.  Or, worse yet, sometimes, I receive a copied version of the PowerPoint, with space available for note-taking.  I’m sure you know what I mean.  I look at those small thumbnails of the presentation, the lines off to the right-hand side and I think “why?”

Other than the paper, I am happy with my office space.  I love my big window, which lets in a lot of natural light.  I love my plexi-glass!  I have lists of teachers who are looking for virtual field trips or collaborations.  The lists are a constant reminder to me of what or who I should look for.

 

Happy New Year 2017!

Another New Year’s Resolution to Blog

Beginning 2017

I didn’t make it until midnight on NYE this year.  I was exhausted.  So, when I woke up at 6:30 a.m. with my kids, I thought about the New Year’s of 2016.  My big New Year’s resolution was to blog.  I looked back and on January 2, 2016, this is what I posted:

Last year, my New Year’s resolutions were to get on Twitter and to blog.  So, I got on Twitter very successfully, but the blogging didn’t happen.  2016 will be my year to blog.

It didn’t happen

That is OK. But, I will try again.  On January 2, 2017, I looked in my e-amil to see a message from a newsletter that I subscribe to claiming that it is easier to blog when others are blogging with you and you all are holding each other accountable.  I believe that.  So, I signed up to be part of the #Edublogsclub.

Prompt #1 – My Blog Story

As you can see, I have some experience in blogging.  Last year, I made it through March and my goal this year is to make it until at least the summer.  If I can blog all year, I will be thrilled! I enjoy writing and sharing my knowledge and story, but it is hard to dedicate the time every week to blog.  I like the idea that quantity is more important than quality so I hope to keep that in mind each week as I blog.

I enjoy reading other blogs.  It is helpful to me when I subscribe to the blog and receive the updates in my e-mail.  Then, I can read a summary and, if necessary, go to the website to read more.  One of my favorite blogs is Eric Curts’ Control Alt Achieve.  He always provides me with so many ideas that I can share with my colleagues.  If you haven’t looked at it, I encourage you to do so.

Thanks #EdublogsClub for encouraging me to blog again!  This is a great idea!

Let’s Hang Out! #NEOtech2016

Learning is Everywhere

When I was doing my teaching internship at Saint Ignatius High School, my mentor teacher continuously told me to “look for the teachable moment”.  As I have gotten more experienced (I hesitate to say “older”), I realize that the teachable moments are everywhere.  In fact, if you look around you, learning is everywhere.

Going Beyond the Four Walls

Classrooms are relatively small yet many teachers spend 180 or more days in their classroom.  In my classroom, I had one small window.  There were days when I yearned to go on a field trip, take my students outside, or even just go out into the hallway.  But, we were contained in those four walls.

The Web Cam

I was fortunate to live overseas as a child, so I know, first-hand what else is out there.  For the first few years of my teaching career in the World Languages Department, I struggled to teach my students what else was out there.  I could explain and explain, narrate and narrate, etc. but truly, they did not get it.  Even when I showed the “great” travel videos that I had borrowed from the library, they were still unimpressed.

One glorious day, I received a web cam.  Honestly, I do not remember the circumstance why I was granted this beautiful piece of technology, but there it was so delicately placed on top of my computer monitor.  I looked at that and the world opened up for me and my students.  Good-bye travel videos, hello real people, telling real stories! It was marvelous and a French/German teacher’s dream.

After Skype Came Hangouts

I was only with my sweet web cam for a few short months before I left my classroom to work district wide.  Fortunately, my new monitor had my favorite piece of technology also sitting atop.  I had previously used Skype and was tied to talking to one person at one time.  Also, Skype had to be downloaded on to a PC, which is another obstacle that I had to face.  I could download on my home computer, but not my work one.

Soon after I came into my new job in 2013, I learned about Google Hangouts.  Like Skype, you could video chat with people. One big difference was that more than one person could join that Hangout.  This meant that you could talk to multiple people, in different places all at the same time.  All you needed was a web cam.

Hanging Out

This brings me to my presentation today.  If you are in my session, you will have the opportunity to take part in a Mystery Hangout (providing the technology is working).  If you are not in my session, I encourage you to Google “Mystery Hangout” and see what you can find.  You will be surprised to see how engaged your students will be when you connect them to the world outside of the four walls of your classroom.

And, don’t forget…you need that web cam!

Click here for today’s slides

EdCite #OETC16

If you are reading this, perhaps you joined me in my session this morning at OETC16.  If you missed the session, I hope to provide you some insight on how and why we need to create interactive assessments for our students.

“These tests are not going away.”

Today, I was in a session where the leader was talking about preparing our students for online assessments.  One thing that she said stuck with me for the rest of the evening.  “These tests are not going away.”

I’ll admit, I am not a fan of standardized testing.  I was never very good at standardized tests, although I did very well in school and now have a successful career.  I have never understood how one’s intelligence can be measured by a test that is taken on one day.  Baffling.

With that being said, standardized tests have existed for a long time.  The presenter today was correct – they are not going away.  We just have to better prepare our students for the assessments that they are required to take.  The difference between their assessments and mine ( ** years ago) – their assessment is digital.

How can I prepare my students?

Back in the day, when I had to prepare for any type of standardized assessment, I went to the bookstore, bought a book and did the tests in the book.  I used a pencil, made flashcards and worked my way through something like this:

sat verbal workout

My test was going to be paper and pencil, so that is how I practiced.  In the 1990s, I had no option.  It wasn’t until college, that I even had internet (dial up).

Digital Preparation

So, if I prepped for my paper and pencil tests with paper and pencil, and our students are taking online tests, shouldn’t they be prepping online?  I feel like this is an obvious statement, but a fact that many people tend to miss.  We don’t want the technology to prevent the students from succeeding on the tests.  We cannot assume that they know, understand or feel comfortable using a computer, keyboard and mouse to take a high stakes assessment.  Most of the time that we sit kids at a computer, it is to play a game.  And, now, all of a sudden, they are doing high stakes assessments?  I would feel nervous and probably wouldn’t perform very well, either.

Interactive Assessments

Last year, a 4th grade teacher introduced me to EdCite.com.  She told me that she was using EdCite to prepare her students for the PARCC assessments and that she liked the website because it allowed her students to practice the tech skills needed to complete an assessment online.

I began to explore the website and found that I liked it too!  I began to encourage other teachers in my district to use it and as I talked to more teachers, I found that some had already been using it.

Click here for my slides from OETC16

If you would like to try to take an assessment, you can click on this link.  ASSESSMENT  You don’t even need to have an account to take my assessment!

In the classroom setting, I recommend that you and your students have EdCite accounts (by the way, these are FREE).  The easiest way to create an account is to “Sign in With Google.”  Once the teacher signs in and creates a class, a class code is generated.  This is the code that you can give to your students to join your class.  If you are familiar with Google Classroom, it works in the same way.  This is minimal work for the teacher.

In my opinion, the best place to start is in “Assignments”.  Teachers have two choices in EdCite.  First, to create their own content, or, second, to use the teacher created content in the EdCite library.  I am very picky about what my students see in an assessment. So, I suppose that my preference is to create my own content.  I will then have more ownership over it and I will know how best to prepare my students.  But, in a time crunch, teachers can go into the EdCite library and use whatever content they want.

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I have no time

Generally, teachers have very little time.  In this case, go to the library and use the resources there!  Any question that is in the library has been tagged with standards.  Now, this is the tricky part.  Keep in mind that this is teacher created content.  So, if a teacher incorrectly tags his/her content, it will be difficult for you to find.  As you curate more content, you will begin to know the content providers.  You can then search their particular content.  This is a big time saver.

Once you find an assessment that you like (make sure you preview it), you can copy the assessment to save it into your own account.  When you save it, you can assign it. EdCite generates a “Quick Link” to share with your students.  The “Quick Link” is the easiest way to get to the assessment.

I have all the time in the world

Well, maybe one day, I will have all the time in the world…But, if you do, you can create your own content in EdCite, or you can pull some questions out of the EdCite library and tweak them to be your own.  You could even pull some of their questions and mix them with some of your own questions!

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If you create your own question, be aware that there are 60 question types in EdCite.  Think about which skills your students need to practice.  Look at the Sample Questions provided by EdCite.  Choose the right question type for the question that you are asking.

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Once you have your questions created, you can add them to your assessment.  Save your assessment and get the quick link.  You can post the quick link in your Google Classroom for the students to easily access it.

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If you are doing this, start small.  Do a three question exit slip.  Get the students in and start slowly easing them into the world of online assessments.  Unfortunately, “these assessments are here to stay.”

Please contact me with any questions or suggestions.

Bedtime Stories

We love to read at bedtime and always have.  Even before the boys could talk, we read stories at bedtime.  And, of course, they know that if they want to procrastinate bedtime, ask Mom if they can read a book (or 10).

Bedtime Math

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In addition to reading, my boys love Math.  On a whim, one will ask me, “Mommy, what is 45 x 34?”  I always wonder what makes them ask such a math problem at such a random time.  Just tonight, as I was tucking him into bed, my younger son, asked me what is 30 + 30 + 30.  Obviously, something made him ask me that, but I have no idea what that something was!

I was so happy to have found “Bedtime Math” by Laura Overdeck and illustrated by Jim Paillot.  My older son is so proud to tell friends and family that Bedtime Math is “a fun excuse for staying up late”.  He even took it to our New Year’s Eve gathering with friends and told their kids (ages 7 and 4) just that!  “I brought Bedtime Math!  It’s a fun excuse for staying up late!”

Each night, we read between three and five Bedtime Math problems.  The backdrop to the story problems make us laugh!  One of our favorites deals with the 10 second rule and how long you have before your dropped food is too gross to eat.  These short pre-Math problem paragraphs definitely get my kids interested in what is coming up.

The story problems are their favorite parts!  There are three problems for each scenario.  The “wee-ones” is always done by my youngest.  The “little kids” is done by either of my kids.  I like it when my younger son tries to do these problems because in many cases they are a challenge for him and will get him doing math in his head and not on his fingers.  The “big kids” problems are great for my older son because it has allowed him to do fractions, multiplication and division – something that he has not yet gotten to in school.  And, he has to reason through many of the problems because they are story problems and they involve a few steps to get to the answer.  Again, I am not sure how much of that reasoning and problem solving he is getting in school on a day to day basis.

I just noticed that there is a Bedtime Math website and app that I will definitely explore!  Stay tuned for my thoughts on those!

A “Maze”y Day

As I looked out the window today at the snow falling and the wind ferociously blowing, I knew that I didn’t want to go outside.  At the same time, I knew that my boys couldn’t watch TV all day.  So, I decided to introduce both boys to a new app that I had found.

Mazes

Will, my older son, loves mazes and has loved mazes since he could pick up a pencil and follow one.  We do mazes all the time!  Recently, I found a new app that allows users to create their own mazes.  Oh, how fun!!  I always let my boys be my app-user guinea pigs and I knew that I wanted them to try this one.

National Geographic Puzzle Explorer

Geo Maze Maker

I am not sure were I learned of this app: National Geographic Puzzle Explorer Geo Maze Maker.  This app combines maze-making skills and geography. Kids use problem solving skills to create their maze and test their maze.  Then, they can share their own maze with other people.  Each maze is set in a different area of the world, so the kids can learn about cultural regions throughout the world.  The photographs are amazing (obviously, this is a National Geographic app) and all of the text is read to the child.  This is so great because my 5 year old can play on the app AND benefit from all of the great non-fiction material.

Thinking of the Parents

Many of these cool educational apps that I have found are very much geared towards teachers and how teachers can use the app in their classroom.  I love that, because, after all, I am a teacher!  But, sometimes, I feel like many app designers or marketers are forgetting about the parent market.  Parents also want to know how to use these apps which their children.  National Geographic has obviously considered this!  Right on their website, there is an Instructor’s Tool Kit AND a Parent’s Tool Kit.  Thank you, National Geographic!!  Wow!

Everything is best shared

Will was so proud of his mazes today!  He wanted me to go on his iPad and play.  Geo Maze allows the user to share his mazes so that anyone can play the maze that your child created!  The downside is that the link to share comes as an e-mail link which is copied to your clipboard.  I explained how this worked to Will and showed him how to insert that link into an e-mail to send to me.  Zach (my 5 year old) did not really understand how to paste the link and send an e-mail, so he required a little more assistance.  It was so cool watching them sitting on the couch, making their own mazes and sharing the mazes with each other!

Happy New Year!

Beginning 2016

Last year, my New Year’s resolutions were to get on Twitter and to blog.  So, I got on Twitter very successfully, but the blogging didn’t happen.  2016 will be my year to blog.

new year's