What’s Your Story?

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.-Maya Angelou

medium_4828439402Stories…we all have them, but have you ever thought about the power of story? As educators, we want to relate to our students and connect with them. Stories bring people along on your journey.  Stories move people to action.

We are built to remember stories much more than figures and data.  When we advocate for our ideas, we often use data and figures; however, our brains are wired to resonate with story.

A story is a connected set of events with a beginning, middle and an end. Stories persuade and they move people to action. Stories shape how others see you.  Stories are tools of power.  People slow down and listen when a story is being told. Listening matters.  Stories are the one way to invite people in, to have them not only know you but to get in touch with their own story as well.  Good stories ignite emotion.

So much of what we teach students evokes the “Who cares, so what?” response.  You know…the math problem that posits someone bought 60 cantaloupes and divided them into thirds.  How many did each person receive? Who cares?  More likely the question is, “What is wrong with this person that they have 60 cantaloupes?” Our students need to get to the “why” of what they are learning.  They need to resonate with the material and care about it.

When we take our students on an engaging journey, we can persuade them. Stories need to have goals. What do you want your audience to think, feel or do at the end of the story? My kindergarten students love stories.  They lean in and tune in when a story is being told.  They not only listen more attentively to me as I tell a story, but they also listen to classmates who are telling stories.

My students love telling stories on their iPads with Book Creator and Explain Everything.  These apps provide them with a platform to share and create.  Even students who may not seem overly creative, find a voice when they are sharing stories about themselves.

My story is documented here. I encourage you all to find your own story, but more importantly, think on the importance of story in your school environment and how it may be used to connect deeply with your students. How can you get your own students to tell stories?  We live life in narrative.  Story isn’t just a good idea….it’s necessary.

So, what’s your story?

Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

images from Creative Commons

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Reflection on the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute

Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to another, not words-Rumi

Words.  So plentiful and easy to use in most situations…but what about those events in life for which there are no adequate words?  Those events that color your world and leave you transformed in such a way that defy explanation…

IMG_1925As I sit on the plane returning home from Austin, Texas, I am reflecting on just such an event.  6 days ago, I arrived in Austin to attend the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute.  Over 400 select educators from the United States, Canada and Mexico came together for a week of professional development, deep conversations, reflective practice and authoring.  I know when I get home, I am going to have several people ask me about the experience and that’s where things get difficult.  The adjectives I use will be inadequate to describe the week.  Words like awesome, amazing, transformative, affirming, celebratory, and inspiring are the best I can do.

For educators, our world is filled with a lot of “Yes, but….”.  This week showed me the possibility and power of “Yes, and…”.  The simple substitution of one small word in that phrase changes everything.  We also learned to celebrate failure and not to fear it.  With failure, comes learning.

We were encouraged to take deep dives in thinking about pedagogy and not be afraid to be leaders in change.  Leaders do not spend time curating the status quo.  They dig down deep and become the change they seek.

While our individual levels of technological knowledge varied, everyone accepted and celebrated each other’s work and success.  There was no competition or jealousy.  We were all made to feel like Rock Stars and were supported no matter where we are in our journey.  Meal times revealed tables and tables of people intently listening and passionately sharing.

Staff development offerings gave us opportunities to learn new programs, apps and techniques as well as get advanced learning in programs we already use. We had brilliant speakers and we learned about the importance of story…how the story isn’t about us and we aren’t the hero.  We are more like Yoda…a mentor (only with better hair!)

We learned about the power of iTunes U for educators and we learned how to create our own courses.  We were given projects and formed PLN’s (professional learning networks) with like-minded people.

We met the developers of many of the great apps my students use daily.  It was so much fun meeting Reshan Richards (Explain Everything and a member of the ADE class of 2013) and Dan Amos (Book Creator).  Both are pure genius.

Reshan Richards

Reshan Richards

Dan Amos

Dan Amos

For 17 hours each day, I was drinking from a fire hose.  I soaked up every minute and made connections that will for sure be my life-long friends.  I was given a legacy to do more, dream more, learn more and become more than I ever thought possible.

I am forever changed…and eternally grateful!

Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

Picture This!

There are no bad pictures; that’s just how your face looks sometimes. -Abraham Lincoln

Have you ever gone down a rabbit hole when you were online?  You know…you click on something that leads to something else and then something else and before you know it, you’ve lost an hour or six.  This happened to me while looking at some suggested apps for taking photographs with iOS devices: iPhone and iPad primarily.

First, let me assert that I am not a photographer.  I have a basic digital camera and iPhone 5.  I haven’t tried being “artsy” with my photographs.  I basically just point, shoot, done.  I know nothing about F-stops, apertures, lenses and the like.  However, through my rabbit-hole experience, I have found a few basic tools that have given me a new-found interest in the artistic side of photography.

First, I read a great article on taking HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos with iPhone.  I hadn’t heard of HDR before, but this article is very easy to follow and has good info.  Keep in mind, that iPads also can be used for photographs.  I downloaded HDR Pro FX app, Moku HD and also Hipstamatic App on my iPhone and iPad. Here are a few before and after shots taken with my iPhone 5 and enhanced with HDR Pro:

Before HDR Pro

Before HDR Pro

After

After

Before

Before

After

After

Before

Before

after

after with Moku app

So, you can see you don’t have to have any talent to create some beautiful shots. I encourage you to play around with your iOS device camera and see what fun things you can do with them.  One more fun fact I discovered:  the volume button on your iOS earbuds serves as the shutter button for the camera.  When the camera is open, if  the earbuds are plugged in, you simply push the volume button on the cord and you can take a photo.  This is great particularly if you don’t want to be seen taking a photograph (People of Walmart upload maybe??)  I digress…

There is an online community I have recently joined for mobile photography.  MobiTog is the iPhoneography Community for iPhoneographers around the world to share their images and join a global community.  You can check it out here. It’s a great place to get tips, ideas and feedback on your photographs.

So, I hope you will try out some of these ideas, go down your own rabbit hole and have some fun!

Today we will do exciting new things.  Let’s get to it!

Packing for the Journey

Packing is my pet hate. -Seal

medium_5016464980Packing a suitcase…an activity that elicits a variety of reactions.  Under the right circumstances, it can actually be quite exciting and full of anticipation.  I tend to pack light, but always struggle over which shoes to bring.  Sometimes, it’s even hard to know where to begin because you want to pack all the right things and are worried about leaving something crucial behind.

A week from today, I will be flying to Austin, Texas for the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute. I will spend the week in extensive professional development and work with other ADE’s to create and share content.  I’ve been thinking about this since February 19th-the day I was chosen as an ADE.  I’m filled with excitement and anticipation over this opportunity.

Packing for the unknown can be a little unsettling.  I know the “big picture” schedule of activities while in Austin, but not the details.  Aside from the obvious packing of clothes, I am hoping that all of the tools and experience I bring with me will be enough.

Whether you are a teaching veteran or a rookie, I’m sure we can all relate to hoping that all that we bring to a situation, a classroom or activity will be enough.  That our suitcases will have all of the necessary things. Facing changing educational times and increased responsibility and accountability, it is easy to question what you bring to the party.

I think it is important to remember that while the “big picture”schedule can often be scary, we have others on this journey to help us along the way.  The items others have packed in their bags, in combination with our own, can be combined and shared to bring about change and success.

As I look at some of my “go-to” apps:  Explain Everything, Book Creator, Pic Collage, iMovie etc…I know that I will meet people next week who are using these in different ways than I am.  As we meet and collaborate, we will be able to share and learn from each other.  I also look forward to learning about different apps that perhaps I’m not using or haven’t heard about. I’m prepared to have my mind blown!

Take a look at your own suitcase.  What items are outdated and need to be thrown out?  Can you make room for new things acquired along the way?  These are questions I’m asking myself and I encourage you to think about as well.  I’m sure I will have a bag full of goodies to share with you when I return!

Today we will do exciting new things. Let’s get to it!

photo credit: Creative Commons

All A’Twitter

Dance like the photo’s not being tagged, Tweet like nobody’s following.-@postsecret

I like to think of myself as an early adopter of technology.  I like gidgets and gadgets even when I’m not sure what I will do with them.  I’m on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google + and Twitter.  I also read blogs by other educators who use technology such as TechChef4U and Matt B Gomez.  All of these help keep me current.

Image from Twitter

Image from Twitter

Having a Professional Learning Network (PLN) is so important for growth.  Whether you are resting and re-charging on summer vacation or you are in the middle of a school year, you are the lead learner in the classroom.  And…let’s face it, staff development given by the school district isn’t always on target or just in time.

While there are many social media sites you can be involved in, I’m going to talk mainly about Twitter today.  I joined Twitter a few years ago without really knowing what to do with it.  I lurked and read Tweets by local news outlets and some celebrities.  I didn’t tweet because I didn’t have any followers and didn’t know what I’d tweet about even if I did.  I wasn’t doing anything interesting ( I thought) and didn’t think anyone would care.  I really didn’t see the big deal and why people were all a’ Twitter about Twitter.  I felt stupid and definitely like I was missing something.

Once I started writing this blog, a friend suggested I start sharing it via Twitter and Facebook.  I said ok.  Soon, I started having some followers.  The more I blogged, the more followers I got.  That was pretty cool…except I was still missing the point of Twitter… and the bounty of knowledge of other educators.

Going through the Apple Distinguished Educator application process, I started following other ADE’s.  I also started following some of the people they were following.  I started reading their tweets and following some of the links they were sharing.  I was amazed at the wealth of information, apps, links and other information I had at my fingertips.  I had found a PLN that I could share information with and gain knowledge from.  It is like the corner convenience store…open 24/7 and always has just the very thing you need, plus some other things you didn’t even know you needed.

So, a few things you might need if you are not on Twitter or you are still lurking in the shadows:

1.  Use the hash tag # symbol followed by whatever topic you might be interested in.  I follow #edtech, #kinderchat and a few others.

2. Use the @ before someone’s name to find them.  For example, you can find me at @kristimeeuwse.

3.  You can post tweets, choose to favorite some tweets (that way you can refer back quickly), re-tweet or even direct message people.

4.  Keep it simple…140 characters or less and don’t go crazy with the hash tags.  Others may want to retweet you.

Many of the topics you choose to follow have scheduled chats you can join.  These are always full of good information.  Also, if you download HootSuite app, you can add several streams that you want to follow and look at them all at once.

Ok, so you say you don’t have time to do all you need to do plus keep up with all the social media demands.  I say find the time. Simmer down…you don’t have to check it everyday.  If you only do one thing, do Twitter.  Don’t worry if you don’t tweet much at first.  The more you read and learn from others, the more you will find you do have something valuable to add.

It seems the theme of many of my posts this summer trends toward the importance of continued professional development.  In the words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.” As educators in the 21st century, we can’t afford to miss much.

Give Twitter a try, or if you are already on, give it some more time and attention to grow your PLN.  It’s worth the time.

Today we will do exciting new things. Let’s get to it!