Monday, February 26, 2018

The Best Learning Experiences Might Involve Snickerdoodles

Surprise or Humor?

I'm blessed to learn often with my precious little granddaughter, who is almost three years old. Recently, I asked her if she wanted to make Snickerdoodle cookies. Her whole face lit up with a smile and she fell to the floor and started laughing. She said, "Snickerdoodle, you crack me up Grammy!" 
Does the best learning happen when we are surprised? Or if something seems silly or funny? 

In 2012, I experienced my first professional learning that was filled with surprise and humor, the Discovery Education Network Summer Institute. About 150 educators met together to spend a week exploring, swapping stories and resources, and experiencing adventure. In between surprise guest speakers like Reed Timmer from StormChasers and team-building challenges, there were friendships being created. We discovered that we all had a goal in common: Create the best learning experiences for our students


While listening to conversations through an #IMMOOC Google Hangout tonight with three fantastic authors, George Couros, Katie Martin, and AJ Juliani, I decided to journey back to one of the most memorable professional learning experiences that I've had. While listening to the importance of how to facilitate professional learning by providing time for productivity, like real time...three hours for a working lunch and then coming back to share what you've created. In addition, providing time to observe other teachers, along with time for reflecting on what was discovered. These were all features of my first best professional learning experience that encouraged me to think about being a learner in my profession as a teacher. As a learner, I was given the freedom to wonder and play!

I'm bringing this blog back to life tonight to remind me to find my own "snickerdoodles" in my learning and to encourage others to do the same. Let's have some fun as we share in the learning process together! 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Capturing Scientific Discussions & Processes in STEM Lab

Students, grades 3-6,  in this elementary STEM lab took on a video and photo challenge to capture their discussions and plans from a recent Marshmallow Challenge. During the video challenge, they shared notes and final sketches that they used prior to building their structures. 

A conversation about Digital Citizenship was a requirement prior to this challenge. Students planned academic/professional conversation and displays for their videos. They put away name tags to protect their privacy when posting to their teacher's Youtube channel. The students used the preview feature, prior to posting videos to make sure that they did not share personal information and that the learning process was more of the focus. This took some teamwork and quite a few tries. 

Once the videos were captured and stored in the teacher Youtube channel, the links were shared on a Padlet wall. This online "wall" will allow for ongoing conversations and reflections with other students that visit STEM lab. This wall can also offer a quick way to share learning processes with homeroom teachers and students' families. The STEM teacher might use this as a place to assess the learning and to offer immediate feedback for students. 

During the photo challenge, students took pictures of their final sketch or the actual Marshmallow structure. From the camera roll on the iPad, they could select the file and put this to the Padlet wall for publishing and further discussion. 

By capturing scientific discussions and processes in STEM lab, the teacher and students now have an online record to share with others. Outside collaboration with other students and experts could be a future possibility!

Learning Objectives & Resources: 
Marshmallow Challenge:
Youtube Webcam Capture (only available at school through teacher accounts, under teacher supervision): Go to the Youtube app in GAFE, click on the Upload button. In the Create Videos column, click on the Record button under Webcam capture.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Power of Play in Education

ISTE 2014 Keynote Speaker, Kevin Carroll (@kckatalyst) shared a important message about the power of play! While listening to his life story of struggle, perseverance, and dreams, I reflected on my own journey of learning and growing. Some key take aways that I've put in to action since that day: 

1. Look Up! You might be amazed at what you will find.

2. Strive to be Someone's CEO (Chief Encouraging Officer)

3. Connect with Others through Play! 

"Play is serious business," Kevin Carroll shared, "I often like to quote Albert Einstein, who said, 'Play is the highest form of research'. "

My first year of teaching included 41 busy, active, and curious kindergarteners. I would watch them "in play" to determine how I could best help them with reading skills. What did they enjoy talking about? I would then search for books that they might like. I observed these students as they shared their snacks with a friend. How did they count? What strategies did they already know? Looking back on teaching kindergarten, I spent a lot of time allowing play in the classroom. What if Albert Einstein was correct about play, is this the kind of assessment that can keep our learning ignited?

I'm willing to give it a try!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Looking for STEM resources for Elementary Grades?

Here's a fantastic collection of STEM resources for an elementary teacher and their students to explore! Thank you to my fantastic Professional Learning Network for helping me collect these treasures. If there are some that you would add, please mention in the comment section below.

STEM Resources for Teachers:
Project & Lesson Ideas from an Elementary STEM lab
Educational Science Projects, Toys, and Ideas
Siemens Science Day
Engineering in Elementary

STEM in Action:

STEM in a Primary Classroom
100 +Apps with STEM focus

Book Resources:
Engineer Through the Year - Two projects each month to do, it follows the engineering model - the end of each project, they have all rubrics ready to go for each of these

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Blog Days of Summer #1 - Ready, Set, Go!

Have you found success in blogging? I am a struggling blogger and I'm not proud of it. I recently watched the movie, "Marley and Me" for the second time (yes, I sobbed just as much as the first time) and found that a particular scene reached out to me in regards to my blogging dilemma. One of the main characters had always imagined himself as a reporter, but somehow ended up being a columnist. His boss complimented him on the success of his column by saying, "you know what makes this work, you put yourself into the story."

Ready...Put Yourself into your Blog Posts - Write Like You Talk

Why take the time to blog? I started this blog back in December 2013 with the intention of wanting to share treasures of learning moments with others in my professional learning network and beyond. I have and will continue to benefit from so many that bravely put their stories out there, and I felt that it was time for me to be a contributor in this way. With that in mind, I have actually placed "The Blog Days of Summer" on to my calendar and I am going to make it happen. 

Set... Schedule a Time and Space for Blogging 

Why should teachers blog? To answer this, I need to think back to a time before the "blog" was invented.  Miss Williams, my 6th grade teacher, allowed two boa constrictors to slither around the classroom, she sat on a bean bag chair while teaching, and drove a bright green VW van. My mother worried that I wasn't learning all that I should in that classroom, but I was inspired and challenged daily. Mostly, I remember listening to her read the stories that she had written, herself. I thought that she was the most incredible writer in the world! I wanted to be just like her! This is where I first learned about the power of voice and word choice for creative writing. We even took time to write our titles and names of our stories in fancy calligraphy. Teacher blogs can serve students in many ways from academic modeling to developing a powerful home/school connection. It is especially powerful when teachers and students join together in a class blog space.  For some examples of teacher blogs check out Top 20 Teacher Blogs shared by Scholastic. 

Go... Find a Purpose and Audience and Start Blogging

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The JOY of Learning!

Think back to your most powerful learning moment from elementary school.  Was there a struggle involved? Were you following someone's lead or did you discover something yourself? Who was there to share this experience with? 
I had the pleasure of watching some joyful learning moments in a kindergarten class. Students were reading stories together that they had created themselves, using the Story Buddy app. Some of them had also created a book through iBook Author, that was available online and in a hardback book that included orginal art work. The joy found within their expressive voices when sharing about their creating experiences, along with the facts about owls and other birds (the topic of the book), was rich and powerful. 
The teacher explained that the app was new, and some of the students had modeled how to use this with the whole group. Minutes later, the students huddled up into small groups, or with a partner of their choice to explore and work. Laughter and silliness along with productivity and facts created a contagious medley of learning within this class. There was a struggle and even some tears as a student or two communicated their opinions and expectations to their teammates. The teacher guided these moments with questions, and gave options for students. 
I found it difficult to leave this classroom, it was a fun and exciting place to learn. The kindergarten students have inspired me to try out Story Buddy, and I imagine that I'll pay more attention when I see or hear an owl.