Sunday, September 8, 2013

Classroom PLN

On the third day of school, a tech specialist knocked on my classroom door. "Here are your laptops!" she chimed. A couple days prior, my teammates advised me not to count on the laptops for a least a month. Naturally, I was very pleased to see that they had arrived on the third day school as opposed to the third week, or even third month of school!

My first question was, "When may I begin using these computers? And how do the students sign on?" The tech specialist's response was a little wishy-washy. Apparently students used to use a standard user name and password. Now, for security reasons, each student must have their own user name and password. But... the user names and passwords have not been created yet. She suggested that I try using the outdated standardized user name and password. Problem: The tech specialist could not remember the standard user name and password nor had she been told when the individualized user names and passwords would be available.

So, there I was. Three classroom laptops. No usernames and passwords. I'm sure they will rise to the surface and be shared with the teachers in time, but, how much time? My students were thrilled to see them lined up neatly on our computer table, plugged in and "ready to go" when they arrived to school on Friday morning. Let's hope the user names and passwords arrive as promptly as the hardware did.

I'd like for my students to have a PLN (Personal Learning Network) of their own within our classroom. We are living in an age where "sharing" is becoming more popular than "privacy". My students are eager to share their thoughts, their work, and their life stories. In addition, they need to work on their typing skills. I know for a fact, I, along with the majority of my classmates, became incredibly skilled typists during the years 2001-2003 via MSN Instant Messenger.

Most people are curious about their peers' thoughts and experiences. I'd like for my students to feel enthused when sharing their writing and reading others' writing and I'd like for them to write not only for me, but for themselves, and for a larger audience (their classmates). I am a huge believer in personal journal writing as well. Thus, not all writing is meant to be shared, but, when it is meant to be shared, I want my students to feel comfortable enough with each other to share their thoughts, comment on each others' work, and grow as readers, writers, and technological navigators, together.

As a side note, web PLNs may be especially beneficial for ESOL students. The computer screen serves as a buffer. Students have more think time before they share, and more think time while they interpret what others have already shared. This creates a low-stress environment where each student can relax, and respond without the pressure of "real-time".

I'd like to experiment more with edublogs and edmodo, however, I must first collaborate with my 2nd grade teammates to see if thy are at all interested in participating. I'll also need to get permission from the administration. Sometimes, I feel as though teachers have quite a few hoops to jump through before they are able to experiment with new programs, etc. One of the busiest weeks of my life was last week (first week of school) and it was tough to get enough sleep, let alone experiment with technology. But, it is something I would like to do, so, I will find the time... sometime. Hopefully soon! Perhaps around the same time my user names and passwords arrive!

Cheers to a new school year and to a new way of sharing.


Friday, August 16, 2013


Last year, I introduced myself to my first graders with a PowerPoint. It was thoughtful. And cute. But it was merely a PowerPoint.

At the time, this was as technologically savvy as I could get. My first graders still seemed to like it, however. I shared pictures of myself when I was their age, accompanied the PowerPoint with energetic dialogue, and projected fun personal facts for all to see. For instance, I was a Uintah Elementary School... Unicorn. The kids could not get over how funny that was to have a Unicorn mascot. I stood by the magical creature and reassured the gigglers that Unicorns are the most powerful mascots of all, because they will never die. (Vocabulary Word? Immortality) ...The didn't buy it.

Side Note: It is important to "humanize" yourself in front of your students. Typically, students feel more inclined to work hard for/with a person they genuinely like and respect. This does not mean teachers should become their students' best friend. It means teachers should share parts of their lives with them. In return, students will feel comfortable sharing with the classroom community, and teachers won't be considered "the enemy", hopefully.

As I draft out the first week of school as a first-year second grade teacher, I'd like to incorporate the PowerPoint again, or... maybe not. Secret: After learning about iMovie, Prezi, Vocoroo, Tagxedo, Edublogs, Kidblog, Glogster, Educreations, QR Codes, Edmodo, Pinterest, Xtranormal, and more, in my graduate classes, I believe I'd like to try something new: Similar "Getting to Know You" information presented in an innovative way. Kids these days speak technology. Why not speak their language?

Of course, I mustn't get carried away. Integrating technology is not a cure all. And I still treasure days and lessons without it. I value teaching students how to use a 3 inch thick dictionary, compose a friendly letter with pencil and paper, and play games, unplugged. But to withhold new technologies from them due to my limited understanding of new technologies is to do them a disservice. They must stay up to date. When they graduate from high school, they must be able to compete with our increasingly fast paced electric world.

This fall, I am lucky enough to have access to a SMARTboard in my classroom. I had access to one last spring, but I generally stuck with the basics. I'd like to learn how to "create" uniquely designed interactve lessons instead of "borrow" them from others. I can imbed links and adjust images on the screen to "move when touched", but there are so many more bells and whistles I haven't tapped into. Again, I do not want to the "bells and whistles" to get in the way of teaching and learning, rather, I'd like them to accompany and support student learning.

I am excited to begin my teaching career during a time of infinite possibilities. The future ahead of us will require students to "get it". I cannot sit on my hands and rely on PowerPoint to expose my students to the tech world. We, as teachers, need to get out there and "learn" how to utilize Web 2.0. I expect my students to reach for the stars. So, I must reach too.

For now, I must wait until next week to really see what is available to me as a new teacher. I know I am receiving a Dell PC (As a Mac user, I'm already seeing lots of "Hi, Dell. My name is Kate. How do I use you?" sorts of conversations.) And I believe I have access to ipads here and there. (We have a small, portable ipad lab... I think) Until then, I'll revamp my Ms. Olsen intro, and try to familiarize myself with as many 2nd grade appropriate sites as I can. I am always interested in learning about new websites, so please, do share!


Ms. Olsen

(More Ideas!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

In Closing...

FINAL ASSIGNMENT: Write a blog on your “point of resonance” in the story and how it offers a touchstone for your source of vitality (the water of life to sustain you as a professional). -Dr. McCaleb

Point of resonance: Collaboration with veteran teachers.

If I am feeling "lost" or overwhelmed during my first year of teaching, which will certainly happen to most of us newbies, I plan to fearlessly listen and ask questions with sincerity.

When the third brother heard the "small voice", he tugged on the reins, hopped off his horse, and listened intently. He did not pretend to know the way. He did not tell the voice to leave him alone. He sought out the voice's (veteran teacher's) advice. And because of this, the voice shared with him the secrets of the water of life (the secrets of teaching)!

Veteran teachers should not be feared. They have all been where we are now. Wide-eyed, brand-spanking new teachers. If we pretend to know everything, we will be hurting ourselves, and potentially, hurting our students' education. We will be missing out on precious opportunities to build meaningful/professional relationships with our coworkers.

Bottom Line: ASK QUESTIONS!!! People respect those who ask questions. They tend to trust you more, because they know that instead of cluelessly nodding your head in agreement, you will immediately clear up any misconceptions, and get straight to work!

That's it for now. Good day, and good luck!

(We did it MCERT 2013!!!!!)



Thursday, June 20, 2013

Joyfully Creative Teaching

Everything is a remix. Okay… what does that mean? To Kirby Ferguson, (writer, director, & editor) it means that creativity is not self-made. It is dependent upon others' previous discoveries.

The creative process embodies three stages:

1.     Copy
2.     Transform
3.     Combine

In essence, I am copying, transforming, and combining Ferguson’s speech to create a “creative” blog post. Quite frankly, this section of my blog post is merely a reorganization of Ferguson’s statements.
Henry Ford… the founder of Ford Motor Company… said this:

“I invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work… Progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready and then it is inevitable.”

I like this quote because it invites human beings to be creative without feeling like they need to be the "first". No, I was not the first person to introduce the idea of "Remixing". But, I am the first person to combine Ferguson's ideas in this exact way. Nobody has ever reorganized Ferguson's speech like I am doing at this very moment! Tubular. 

Now, please pardon me as I jump into the next series of questions...

"How does the experience of searching for and making contact with your own passion/joy in learning bridge into your teaching? How is that at the heart of professional development?" -Professor McCaleb

First, let me share with you a few of my "joys". Joy is people. Family, friends, students, children, kind strangers... animals, classical music, weekend getaways, athletics, health... all of which influence my teaching and professional development. 

How? Well, let's start with item one: People. I find joy in getting to know people and talking with them one-on-one. I have also noticed that people tell me things, personal secrets if you will. This is probably because I do not share secrets. 

I'll never forget this-- in elementary school, one of my best friends was practically begging me to tell another one of our best friend's secret. I simply responded with, "No way." "But why??" "Because, if I tell you HER secret, you'll never trust me enough to tell me any of YOUR secrets, ever again!" To this, she laughed. And we've remained friends, and confidants, ever since.

Why am I sharing this story with you? Not exactly sure, but I've shared it, so let's try and tie it in somehow. Perhaps it came to mind because I view people as individuals. My family is made up of individual people who possess differing experiences, interpretations, opinions, feelings, etc. But, instead of listing all of their names, and passions, and personalities, it is more convenient for me, and for everyone else, to just say "my family". 

My students are not just "Ms. Olsen's class". They are Molly, and Tyler, and William, and Catherine, and... I try to get to know ALL of my students. Simple things matter, especially to the kids themselves. For instance, do I know his favorite color? Book? Food? When is her birthday? How did her soccer game go? Did she score any goals? Wow! I remember you mentioning that you scored a goal last weekend too! Way to go Soccer Super Star! Is he struggling with homework because he is misunderstanding? Lacking support from home? Lugging around a disorganized backpack? What's Lauren's dog's name? What are her hobbies? get the picture. 

I suppose the joy I find getting to know people makes teaching a joyful experience for me as well. Teaching is not merely teaching content. It is teaching, and learning, with people. 

The other passions I mentioned above influence my teaching and affect my professional development, too. 

Animals: I will probably keep a "class pet". Many of my lessons may "just happen" to include animals. Animal characters, animal sorting games, paw print math manipulatives...

Classical Music: Easy. Music will be integrated as often as possible to help my students memorize multiplication facts, the United States, the works. And, if my students prefer, classical music will be playing softly in the background during some of our independent exercises. 

Weekend Getaways: Teachers must take care of themselves!

Athletics/Health: Many of my lessons have, and will, include movement. You know, students getting out of their chairs and interacting. A favorite lesson of mine was a science lesson I taught last May to my 1st graders. The objective was for students to view and discuss information about the three states of matter in order to classify objects and "act" like the molecules of solids, liquids, and gases. 

A few highlights: Three "atoms" linked arms because they bonded together and became best friends. What are they now? A molecule! How do molecules act in a solid, like in this block of wood? Show me. How do molecules act in lemonade? The air we breathe? The helium in this balloon? To make a long story short, after the lesson, my students literally pretended they were "gas molecules" during recess. They aced the post-assessment, and tackled a very abstract topic gracefully. BECAUSE, in part, the teacher got them moving. 

So, jumping back to the beginning of this "creative" blog post. Did I invent acting? No. Did I discover how molecules behave within the three states of matter? Definitely not. Did I use equity sticks to select eight students at a time to "act" like molecules in order to demonstrate to the class the characteristics of the three states of matter? Yes. Did I instruct the entire class to collectively act like the three states of matter in order to prepare for their assessment? Yes. Did my kids love it? Yes. Did I? Yes. 

So, there you have it. Discover your passions, and do yourself a favor: Incorporate them into your teaching. Not only will your students respond positively, but so will you... naturally. 

Thank you kindly.

Your friend, 


Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Capstone Graduate Course. Define Capstone? …THE END!

In 23 days, 18 bachelors will morph into masters.

However, before we walk the academic red carpet, we must blog, tweet, direct movies, and read books. All of this is relatively new to me, except for book reading. So, I am genuinely having quite a bit of fun.

To compliment my “tweets” about Jonathan Kozol’s book, Letters to a Young Teacher, I decided to compose my very FIRST blog post EVER!

Below is a poignant quote from Kozol’s letter to “Francesca”, a first year inner-city public school teacher.

“We need the teachers who are coming into our classrooms making up their minds, before they even get here, which side they are on." (109)

Kozol advocates the rebuilding of our public education system as opposed to tearing it down and replacing it with charter schools, small schools, and for-profit schools. He passionately states that education vouchers and the privatization of our public schools are, “The Single Worst, Most Dangerous Idea”. It seems appropriate then that a chapter from his book is titled, “The Single Worst, Most Dangerous Idea”.

Going back to his statement, “We need the teachers who are coming into our classrooms making up their minds, before they even get here, which side they are on." What does he mean by this? What sides are there to choose from? To me, this means I must decide whether to choose the authentic and joyful side, or the prescribed and standardized side, or for reality’s sake, perhaps a combination of both?

Because so much pressure is placed on students to perform well on high stakes tests, it has become necessary for teachers to prepare students for such tasks. However, good teachers must not forget to practice good teaching, even if prescribed curriculums are in place.

Presently, I choose to prepare my students for high-stakes tests because it is unfair to set them up for modern-day “failure”. If students are forced to take these tests to get into AP classes and universities, who am I to take these opportunities away from them? BUT… this does not mean I will become a robot-teacher. This means I must somehow incorporate “test-prep” into authentic learning experiences. Wish me luck!

#emmakdoub #MCERT #education #jonathankozol