Getting Started

Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.  ~John Cotton Dana

photo-12Today was the day…iPad Day.  It was the 5th day with students.  I had been questioned about the iPads every day since day one. I knew they were excited and ready to use them but we had some procedures and routines to get under our belts first.  Front-loading procedures is a “must do” when it comes to introducing iPads to students.  Yesterday, I took their pictures with their iPad and set it as the home screen and wallpaper.  That way, we all know which iPad belongs to whom.

My assistant and I pulled over small groups of 5 and we showed them how to turn on the device, put it to sleep, navigate screens, and how to adjust the volume.  I keep all of my apps in subject related folders.  We opened the ABC folder and we worked with a couple of apps and then we put them to sleep and put them back in the iPad cart.  Wait..what? That’s it? Yes…that was it for today.  Tomorrow, we do a little more.  Each day will build on the day before. I’ve learned after 3 years of 1:1 iPads, that not only do the children need procedures, I need them as well.  It’s very tempting to embrace the idea of “Go big, or go home”.  Taking small steps early on not only keeps me sane, it allows the children to learn in manageable chunks.  I had a few students tell me today they already know how to use the iPad because they have one at home. We talked about how we need to learn how to use them at school also.  Going slow now, means we can speed up in September.

Before long, they will be masters of this device.  But since it is a powerful learning tool and not a toy, it is important we take our time in learning proper care and handling as well as digital citizenship.  It also takes time to integrate the device into the curriculum in a way that is meaningful and not just have “app time”. I want them to be creators of content and not just consumers.  This is why teachers won’t be replaced by technology.

So, we will forge on in the coming days. I’m excited about all of the possibilities. We will learn the names of our classmates and how to work, learn and play together as a community of learners. We will also begin the exciting world of a student-centered classroom that incorporates iPads in kindergarten.

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

Endings and Beginnings

“This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.” -Taylor Swift

IMG_2070I’ve been away from my blog for a couple of weeks…in fact, I’ve been away from almost everything.  My father passed away this past week after an extended battle with cancer and I was soaking up every minute with him that I could.  Bits of reality intruded as we started back to school last week with professional development days.  I went to some, not all.  Some things are just more important.

This past summer has been a time of both personal and professional metamorphosis for me.  Maybe you’ve noticed a shift in my blog posts.  I’ve spent a lot of time questioning what I really believe about teaching and learning.  I’ve spent time reflecting on what true leadership is.  I’ve read excellent blog posts from fellow educators and had conversations with colleagues.  I’ve made decisions and I’ve made some changes. There are endings and beginnings.

As I pursue a student-centered classroom this year, I will be building on some of the things put in place last year. There will also be an ending to some things that have previously been part of my class.  Missing from my classroom this year, will be a formal calendar time, formal homework , a stoplight behavior management system, and stated classroom rules. The links provided explain why beautifully.  My students and I will create together and deploy a shared classroom vision.  From that, we will build our classroom Code of Cooperation.  I will be sharing these with you as we build them.  We are also going to build behavior rubrics so that students can rate themselves on how they felt they did that day.

I worked a lot last year on building in student voice and choice by having my students choose which app they wanted to demonstrate learning.  I will be continuing that this year and my students will be building digital portfolios using the Showbie app. I am excited that one of our favorite apps, Book Creator, is able to be uploaded to Showbie and easily shared with parents. The iPad and the creation apps we use, have been essential to creating a student-centered classroom.

medium_143860670My work and reflection this summer, in addition to spending an amazing week with my fellow Apple Distinguished Educators, were the threads to the chrysalis spun around me the past 9 weeks.  Woven in, were many quality moments with my ailing father.  As I begin to emerge from this cocoon this week and meet my new students, I bring with me the collective wisdom of many wise people.  I am certain of my path and am excited about new possibilities.  I’m also aware of just how very short this life is and it is too short to waste time using outdated, inefficient methods for educating children simply because change is too hard.  The butterfly is a great reminder of the beauty of change.  We should be more afraid of the effects of not changing!

My students arrive this Wednesday.  A new journey begins…

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

It’s Personal!

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…Dr. Seuss

Who doesn’t love some Dr. Seuss? I believe his book Oh! The Places You’ll Go! could almost be a manifesto for Personalized Learning!

IMG_2012In my last postI mentioned that I was building that Personalized Learning plane while I fly it.  I have been working on setting up data notebooks for my students and thinking a lot about how to approach it.  Each child is different and unique, therefore personalized practice is necessary for personalized learning.  Student ownership and use of their data is essential to maximize learning. With student-maintained data folders for academic and behavioral goal setting, we can have a shared monitoring of progress through conferencing. Since data drives my instruction, there will be ongoing personalization of instruction to help meet student goals.  For each skill, students will determine their goal and will maintain their goal sheets after each assessment.  These folders will be accessible to students all the time so they will always have access to their progress. The folders will originally contain the usual assessments we give in the beginning of kindergarten…letter identification, naming letter sounds, beginning sight words, number recognition, rote counting, and shapes.  As students master these early skills, we will move on to the next set of skills.  Each one moves on as he/she is ready.

I was already doing this the last few years with high frequency words.  As students demonstrated mastery of one list, we added to the list.  We continued to add words as their abilities increased.  The last 3 years, all of my students completed 100 kindergarten sight words.  Most finished first and second grade sight words and even a few more finished third grade words.  I stopped at 3rd grade because comprehension begins to break down at that point.

But wait…I teach kindergarten.  How in the world will these young children be able to handle keeping track of data folders?  It is all in the way you organize your environment for learning and the expectations you set.  By working with each student, they will learn to take ownership in their learning.  By shared monitoring, they will learn how to make adjustments in their goals and articulate what they are learning.  You see, the key concept here is that they will learn.  As my students learn to create content with their iPads and create digital portfolios of their workflow, they will grow in their ability to discuss concepts and ideas. 

Part of my job as the lead learner in the classroom is to teach them how to be a stakeholder in their learning process.  And yes…even 5 year olds can handle it! After all, “Things may happen and often do to people as brainy and footsy as you!”

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

Lead On!

People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. -John Maxwell

Before we proceed with this blog, you must watch this video on leadership. Go ahead…I will wait…

Ok. So my question to you is who are you?  Are you the Lone Nut? Or are you a First Follower or maybe the second?  I’ve watched this video several times and I must confess…I am a lone nut.  While I don’t get up and dance like this guy did in a public arena, I do like to step out into the unknown and take chances.  This very personality trait resulted in my story.

Many of you who read this blog probably find yourself in a leadership role of some kind.  Even if you aren’t a school or district leader, you are definitely the leader of your classroom.  By taking some risks and stepping forth, you become a part of a movement of change.  Take note…the lone nut isn’t always popular.  Change can be threatening and downright scary, especially to folks who are the ones who tend to linger in the back of the crowd and never really feel comfortable joining in the dance.  What I’ve learned over the last 3 years of working with iPads, is that it is ok to embrace that lone nut role. I have apologized for myself and sat back and kept my dancing feet still, but after experiencing the ADE Institute in Austin, and being with approximately 400 other lone nuts, (or at the very least First Followers), I am stepping out and dancing in front of all of you.  (For the record, unlike the dancing guy in the video, I am fully clothed.)

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At my age, I find it a lot easier to speak my mind about what I believe is right and what I don’t.  We can not be awash in the flood of “Yes, but we’ve always done it this way.” If you simply add technology to what you are already doing, you will not get very far. We need lone nuts and their followers to create a movement that authentically brings technology into our classrooms.  We can courageously follow and encourage others to follow as well.

My next lone nut step will be to jump all the way on the Personalized Learning plane.  Perhaps it will be more accurately stated that I am building that plane as I fly it…however, I have wonderful colleagues like Frannie and I’m certain that together we will not crash. I will be documenting that movement into personalized learning over this next school year.  I’ve already been trying some things but will be letting my freak flag fly in August.

So, I hope you will follow this lone nut into new adventures.  I go back to school in 11 days.  What do you say?  Wanna Dance?

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