Tech, Teaching and Me

Trying to turn off my brain by writing it down

I Will Keep Whistling

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The Easter mass my husband and I attended was lovely. The music was beautiful. The people looked pretty in their pastel spring colors. The younger children were adorable. All of those things were wonderful. I left feeling renewed and refreshed in my faith. What a wonderful experience!

The story our priest shared with us has slowly grown in my mind.

“A young man moved into a new home. His neighbor, an elderly gentleman would daily tend to his rose garden. The entire time he gardened, he would whistle. He would whistle loud and long. Our priest has a wonderful way with words and he said, “the whistling seemed to be louder than necessary for the gentleman’s own pleasure.” The new neighbor grew weary of the constant loud whistling. Eventually, he went and introduced himself to the older gentlemen who kindly invited him inside for a drink. Once inside the house, the young man met his new neighbor’s elderly wife. She was blind and had difficulty walking. The older gentlemen explained, “When I work in the garden, I whistle so she knows I am nearby.”

This story brought tears to my eyes. It honestly still does. It made me think…. a lot. Who is whistling for you? Who are you whistling for? Professionally? Personally? Personally, I hear my husband whistling to me every day. His love rings in my ears. I hope he hears my whistles for him, as well. Together, we remember to be quiet so we can hear God whistling for both of us.

Professionally, I am whistling…loud and long. I am sharing all I am learning about passionate, engaged learning for our students. I am talking to others and telling them things I learn through Twitter, Google+, Edmodo, blogs, and more. I know I am annoying many who hear me whistling and just want me to stop. It is bothersome to them. It is annoying and they don’t understand a note of it. Maybe, though…just maybe….I am whistling and someone is hearing it. Someone is comforted by it. Someone is learning through it.  All I know is, I have to keep whistling.

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Summer Links & SymbalooEdu

Tuesday Tech Tip 3-26-2013 SymbalooEdu

Are you looking for one place to put many links? Consider one website for a variety of summer math and reading links to suggest to parents and students. Imagine using this as your home-screen to quickly navigate to all of your preferred sites. Check out SymbalooEdu for exactly this purpose.

You can make a free account and insert up to 52 links of your preference. Watch the tutorial above on how to use SymbalooEdu, created by Alyssa Calhoun or view an example I made for 1st & 2nd grade.

I placed my Symbaloo created webmix (the term for the Symbaloo creation) on our school webpage for students to quickly access all of the links we use during computer time. You can have this one link, with access to many links, on your homework page throughout the school year.

This approach is much easier than a list of links with lots of \\ and ww….’s that is difficult to remember or to type. Using a cloud storage approach to your favorites or for sharing your classroom sites will definitely make it easier to access.

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Why and How of Being Connected

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Educators hear all the time about being connected, making connections, removing the walls of the classroom.This concept needs to be broken in two pieces.

The first piece is for the beginning professional educator who wants to know WHY? Why connect?The thought is, “I don’t have time for one more thing to do.”The answer is a bit fuzzy to understand from the outside looking in.You may not believe it, but frankly speaking, you create better learning experiences if you are connected to other educators.The best lesson plans, the best applications and the best tools are there for the taking. Why wouldn’t you? Why shouldn’t you make the time?

Now, that an educator is ready to make those connections, where do they go? What do they do? It can be a daunting challenge. Try one or a few of these approaches, websites, or communities and start to grow your own connections. Create your own PLN (professional learning network). After you pick the approach or the sites, keep trying. It will take time and effort, but the rewards are worth it. You didn’t give up when you learned to walk. You didn’t jump on a bike and roll away on two wheels. Why do you expect to effortlessly create a PLN?

Here are a few ideas and places to start.

1. Twitter– Okay….I love Twitter. I can’t emphasize this fun, engaging, easy tool enough. For those that say, “I don’t care what Ashton Kutcher had for lunch.” Guess what? Neither do I. What I do care about is the information the best and most amazing professional educators in the world have to share with me. The secret to Twitter is learning the #hashtag and all it has to offer me. Pick a topic, #edchat, #catholicedchat, #sschat, #5thchat and you will find valuable professional connections.

2. Skype in the Classroom or ProjectsbyJen– Have a great idea for a collaborative project and looking for classrooms to participate? Or, browse through all of the projects and ideas posted by the amazing Jennifer Wagner and see what you can join.

3. Edmodo/Schoology- Join one or both of these communities. Even if you don’t use them for the amazing educational platforms they offer you and your students, use these tools to join the many groups available and learn and connect with other educators. Be daring. Put yourself out there and connect.

4. Ask a Friend-Most of us have many teacher friends, in and out of our school. Ask your co-workers, “Do you know another 4th grade teacher who might like to blog about a book with my class?” You may not get a connection right away. But, keep asking. Eventually you will.

5. (Scholastic)Facebook Page -Do you use Facebook? If you don’t, perhaps you should check out the many professional learning groups available on Facebook. There are many professional connections and learning opportunities available through Facebook.

6. Students-My friend Barb Gilman (@barbinNebraska) mentioned this idea to me and I thought it was brilliant! A new student had transferred into her class. She was planning to Skype with the student’s previous class. What a great experience for the new student! Imagine if that connection builds into a collaborative project between classes.

7. Classes/Workshops/Webinars- If you participate in a professional development opportunity, take the plunge, be bold and pursue the connections outside of the environment. Other teachers welcome the idea and would be grateful for the connection.

8. Google+-I am learning the many opportunities available in this forum. The ability to have a variety of circles, personal and professional is a real plus. The variety of communities offers a wide variety of connections and learning.

9. Blogging-Blog for yourself. Read other blog posts. Comment on them. Interact and learn from the words of the authors. In most cases, they are just a teacher with a thought to share. Leave a comment. Think of a response and write your own blog post.

10. Classroom 2.0Powerful Learning Practice, Edutopia– Any of these communities have so much to share with you. Join a webinar. Take a class. Become powerful and connected.

It is time to make the commitment. Be consistent. Invest a small amount of time as often as possible. Don’t you have 15-20 minutes two or three times a week to learn amazing things? Do you have an hour a week to learn from the other educators who want to share their ideas with you and your students? Just Do It….you AND your students will be glad you did.

There are others. Pinterest and Scoopit come to mind.What do you use to connect? How do you use it? What other tools did I not mention that you find useful and engaging?

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