Sunday, March 1, 2015

DigiLit Sunday: Growing Communities in Digital Spaces

As part of a continuous collaboration among educators interested in digital learningMargaret Simon hosts a weekly Digital Learning round-up on her blog:  DigiLit Sunday.  Stop by Reflections on the Teche (today's link-up) to read, discover, and link.  

As technology and educational practice evolve I find myself constantly asking new questions. Are the changes I am making improving education for children?  Are the changes I am making helping learners to build connections with other learners?  Do these changes give children more control and ownership of their learning and work?  Is what I am doing best practice or am I just working in old ways in a new space?  

I think we constantly have to ask ourselves if this practice is empowering children in new ways.  If we are just delivering content in the same way, we have missed an opportunity to create spaces that provide information, share resources, encourage interaction and put students in charge of their learning.

One of the greatest gifts of digital spaces is the power to connect.  Digital spaces allow us to connect in new ways within, and beyond, our learning community.  Digital spaces equalize the voices in our learning community.  Everyone can contribute, ask questions, and seek more information.  Digital spaces allow learners to not only create and share with others, but to receive and give feedback to other learners in authentic ways.

Learning in digital spaces can create possibilities for students to own their learning in new ways.  In digital spaces, students can own the work they are producing and collaborate with other learners.  They create content for, not just their teacher, but for a much larger audience.  They can choose learning opportunities that match their personal interests and fit their needs.  They can find answers and revisit challenging material in digital spaces.

Joining Digital Learning Communities:  Slice of Life
Our Slice of Life Writing Group
New connections are possible in digital spaces.  This week begins the Slice of Life Writing Challenge.  Two Writing Teachers host this challenge on their blog, connecting writers and classrooms around the world as they work to write every day in March.  This will be my fourth year in the challenge, and my second year to have a group of students to join the event.  The digital space hosted by Two Writing Teachers will allow us to connect to other classrooms and writers.  We will give and receive feedback from a variety of people, and learn new things about ourselves as writers along the way.

In this event, children aren't writing for the teacher; they are truly writing for an audience that reaches beyond the teacher.  Through the event they will connect with other writers.  They'll learn the power of their message and ways to get people to respond to their writing.  They'll understand the importance of making their writing clear and easier for someone else to read.  The process, and the feedback they will receive, will change them as writers.

Creating a Hub
Anytime I work with a community of learners, I think it is important to create some type of hub.  This is a digital space everyone knows they can visit for links to other spaces, important updates, and other  information that becomes useful as we work together.  Typically I use Weebly to create hubs with student learners.  In the case of Slice of Life, I chose Weebly for my hub as it will allow me to create a page for updates, links, information, insert video, and build a space useful for writers.  By adding a page to my Merely Reading website, I can easily bring together our community by putting all information in one space:  March Slice of Life Challenge.  On our page you'll find:    

Students learn to start at the hub.
Once students arrive at the site, they can click the blue
button to get our blogging space.

Buttons will take students directly to the
blogs of friends participating in the event. 

Here we will grow important links to other
participating classrooms and build resources for
helping writers.

The page allows me to continually
share important information with students
and families.  (Yes, snacks are important.)

I can also create short video tutorials
to answer questions commonly asked by students.
(I can also post video created by students here as well.)

This year my group of writers are students in grades 1-5.  They come from a variety of classrooms, and have a varying amount of knowledge of writing and digital publication.  For this reason, I know I will need space to create short video tutorials and share important updates.

New Possibilities
Digital spaces allow us grow our learning communities so students can access information outside of our school day.  Writers will be able to go to the website from anywhere, at anytime, to get to their digital writing spaces, access important information, receive help, and connect to other writers.  These possibilities completely shift the dynamic of learning.  No longer are conversations only teacher to student, but instead student to student, student to community, student to world.   Digital spaces make new things possible for young learners as they work meaningfully to discover, learn, curate, collaborate, create, and connect in purposeful ways.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Dublin Literacy Conference: Strengthening Connections

via Dublin Literacy Conference
The weather predictions had been quite clear - snow, snow, snow.  I hoped they'd be wrong, but I woke up Saturday morning to close to four inches of snow and the news that it was snowing at one inch per hour.  How could this happen on the day of The Dublin Literacy Conference?  Mother Nature has some nerve!

Though all I could see was white, I was sure the road must be out there somewhere so I put on my boots, warmed up my car, and grabbed a blanket in case I got stuck (and a granola bar - priorities).  I plowed out of my driveway in my tiny Nissan sedan, hoping I could make it.  The roads hadn't seen a snowplow, but as long as I only needed one lane all was well.  It was slow going, but finally I arrived at the conference to find many other brave crazy educators filling the high school.

I'm so glad I ventured out for an amazing day of learning at #dublit15.

Despite the weather, we still managed to fill the Twitterverse with information (my apologies to friends who follow --- there were just so many things I wanted to share).

Of course, the eternal problem of the conference is being unable to clone myself so I can be in all of the sessions I would like to attend.  Thankfully, Twitter helps with this as participants share their learning with the group.  Despite the impending days of PARCC testing, I didn't hear a word about that.  This day was focused on what we all know to be most important:  children and learning.

My Takeaways:  The Power of Connection 
Close Reading Texts, Close Reading Lives with Chris Lehman:  "Start with the things you believe about children first; the rest will come," Chris Lehman reminded us as he shared his thinking about close reading.  Chris shared ways to create joy around reading and think deeply about text to connect readers to books, thinking, and each other.  He suggested that we remember to support children across different kinds of texts and to help them see connections between texts as they grow in their ability to look closely at text.  Considering evidence is important for readers, but he cautioned us to remember, "Use text evidence, not to prove or disprove, but to put a new lens on our thinking."

The 3 Cs of Co-Teaching:  Collaboration, Communication, and Connecting with Stella Villalba, Emily Collins, Kay Leigh Michallow:  As a teacher supporting readers in classrooms, this session was so helpful for me.  I'm so thankful each day for the teachers of the students I serve as we work together to help students make progress.  Teachers are already so busy, but yet they make the time to meet, talk, and share information about students.   These three shared the ways they have made collaboration work to support the children in their classrooms.  They talked about the three pieces they consider in working together:  planning, instruction, and assessment.  Their message was that this work required honesty and flexibility --- and that one size never fits all.  They talked about how they are continually rethinking and puzzling out ways to meet the needs of learners.  It's their connection that makes this work.  It takes a village.

Teaching, Learning and Growing from the Heart with JoEllen McCarthy:  When I heard JoEllen was coming to Dublin I was so excited.  I've seen her present at NCTE before, and I'm not sure there is anyone with more energy and enthusiasm for picture books.  She reminded us that "reading is caught not taught" and it is hard not to get swept into her genuine love of books (her #heartprint list).  I'm sure she has caught a few readers in her time.  As always, she shared titles new to me and sure to cost me a bit of money including Ten Rules of Being a Superhero, Breathe, and I Hate Picture Books.  She reminded us of the significant role we play in connecting readers to books.

How (Not) to Win at Reading with Lisa Graff:  I always enjoy hearing the stories of readers, and Lisa Graff's story was no exception.  It was interesting to hear how she perceived readers and equated reading with being smart when she was in school.  It wasn't until she was able to find her own books and get lost in a series of her choosing that she really was hooked.  She told the story of watching a friend "fall out of love with reading" which just made me sad.  I think we have to be careful as teachers to not ever cause that to happen.  Reading is a delicate dance, much like shaping a bonsai tree or sculpting a piece of clay.  There isn't a right or wrong, just gentle movements to continue to make it beautiful.  Lisa had a way with words, and I laughed more than once over her perceptions of other readers.  Lisa reminded us that in order to be a reader there has to be a book you connect with in your life, a book that surely was written just for you.

Triangulating Stories of Our Readers with Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan:  Tammy and Clare talked about the current amount of data we collect, and cautioned us to remember to find the story of the reader.  Stories can get lost in numbers and we often need more information to really understand a learner.  What's the story?  They shared that decisions should be made based upon multiple pieces of information and that assessment should always lead us to more questions instead of definitive answers.  They encouraged us to ask questions about the assessments we use, the information we receive from them (and the information we do not receive), and the timing of these assessments.  They encouraged us to look at multiple pieces of information and develop stories of learners.  Stories should always connect us to the learner and help us to dig deeper.

Connecting with Educators:  This wasn't a session, but it was really how the entire day (weekend) went.  It was connections formed across conversations, on Twitter, through blogs, and at other conferences that continued as we were together; connections with those close and those far away.  The connections strengthen the work we do.  I'm so grateful for all that educators share and the way they continually push my thinking.  The buzz beyond the sessions was equally as thought provoking.  In the coming days, I'll be considering the changes I'll make as a result of all of this new learning, but most of all I will continue to connect with other learners to grow in what I do.

DigiLit Sunday: Join The Digital Maker Playground

As part of a continuous collaboration among educators interested in digital learningMargaret Simon hosts a weekly Digital Learning round-up on her blog:  DigiLit Sunday.  Stop by Reflections on the Teche (today's link-up) to read, discover, and link.  

Are you an advocate for digital literacy?  Do you think often about how you can help students improve the power of their digital composition?  Do you want more time to explore tools?  Would you like to connect with other educators?  Is life too busy to attend a class, but you want to learn more?  Do you like working from your couch during these cold days?  If so, we might have just the opportunity for you.

Julie Johnson and I have opened a new Google space to create, connect, and discover new ways to work digitally.  The Digital Maker Playground community will provide opportunities to make and create around selected themes.   A combination of MOOC and Digital Maker Space, we both were looking for a way to collaborate with others to think more about the possibilities of digital literacy for our students.  This seemed the perfect way to get started.

Of course, we need you to make this work.  If you are Hilliard City Schools employee, you can receive CEUs for this course through PD Express.  Our hope, however, is that educators from all over will join in this collaborative professional learning opportunity.

There are six maker sessions:
  • March 5: What's Your Maker Space? 
  • March 19: Lift a Line from Literature 
  • April 2: Make a Statement 
  • April 16: Rock My World 
  • April 30: Connected

Please join us.  Go to our Digital Maker Playground and join the community.  The first official make is March 5th.  Spread the word....the community is already growing.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Rethinking Professional Development: Hilliard U

This year our district has been rethinking professional development opportunities.  Tuesday was our second day this year of Hilliard University.  On this day educators across the district lead sessions for others.  Hilliard U has an #edcamp feel with a variety of sessions available to attend.  Though planned a bit more in advance, it is a grassroots event as educators volunteer to share and lead sessions during this day.  Educators, and other staff members, choose the sessions they'd like to attend.

My takeaways:  

Do What You Do
I kicked off the morning in a session with our superintendent, Dr. John Marschhausen.  Dr. Marschhausen had requested teachers take a bit of time to send him a quick note to tell why they originally got into education.  He shared quotes from staff members and positive reminders of the importance of our work.  Though accountability and assessment are essential, they shouldn't cause stress.  He reminded us our building and classroom environments are key and culture is built on ownership and commitment.  

Keep Learning
After the uplifting kick-off session, I headed to hear one our district technology leaders, Mark Pohlman, share information about our new learning management system, Canvas.  I'll be interested to play around a bit on the site to see what potential it holds.  Mark shared some of the basic features as well as ins and outs of the new system.  I'm most excited about the possibility of the collaboration between Canvas and Google.  I'm hoping it will make it easy for students to save their work across years.  It looks like possibilities in using video to support instruction will also be worth looking into a bit.  

Build flexibility with these phrases shared by
Carrie Higginbotham
Grow Creativity
My next session was lead by a group of teachers from Hilliard Crossing:  Teaching for Creativity.  These teachers talked about creativity and the need for nurturing creativity in our schools.  They reminded us of the importance of teaching for fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration.  They shared a video by Ken Robinson in which he suggests we could be educating people out of creativity.  They shared phrase stems to encourage creative thinking.  

Open New Doors
Finally, I went to a session led by media specialist, Ashley Lambocher.  There's nothing like a little picture book love to round out a day.  You can see her titles on her site:  Hilliard U Books.  New picture books open new doors for young readers.    

Take Risks
My day ended with a maker session as Julie Johnson and I kicked off a virtual professional development opportunity we are offering for educators.  In order to understand the challenges and potential of digital literacy, we have to be willing to dig in and play a bit ourselves.  Our session looked at the changes in literacy as a result of new digital opportunities and then allowed teachers to take a moment to try to compose a meaningful piece.  You can see more by visiting our Google Community:  Digital Maker Playground.  (Here's more about our upcoming learning opportunity.  It's open to everyone, but Hilliard educators can earn CEU credit.  Check it out!)  

Bringing It Together
There's a great amount of energy around the day as educators from across the district come together in one space to learn from one another.  In the coming days, I will be thinking more about all I learned and how I will be using this in the work I do each day with children.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with professionals across our district.  Always a great day!  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

What Really Happens on Snow (Cold) Days

Last night we got the call - or should I say saw the website update - NO SCHOOL because of cold.  It's a gift to find out a day in advance about a school closing as it I can stay up late and read.  What really happens during a school closing?  I worry about what my students are missing.  Every instructional day matters.  Thankfully, it's a bit easier to stay connected to learners during snow days thanks to social media.  Through Twitter, my reading website, and email I can connect with families of learners missing a day of instruction.  In a typical school day I am busy working with students the entire day so a snow day provides opportunities to catch up on reading, learning, and professional development.  

A Day of Professional Learning
The #pb10for10 community is celebrating nonfiction picture books so I added a post.  Across the day I will be working my way through posts, trying to avoid my Amazon purchase button, and hoping to keep my library card busy.  This event will help me to introduce new nonfiction into our learning community.

Educators are joining our Digital Maker Playground learning opportunity.

I've been able to catch up on a bit of reading.  I'm trying to find more early transitional books for the readers I support and have some professional reading as well.  (my children's lit shelf / my personal shelf)

I'm hoping my students are home reading, but I've been recruiting participants for the March Slice of Life Challenge.

Though it's not common, this extreme cold has closed school again for tomorrow.  I wonder what I can accomplish tomorrow.  

Nonfiction Picture Book Event: Reading Aloud Nonfiction #nf10for10

It's finally here.  Today is our nonfiction picture book event:  #nf10for10.  This is our 3rd annual nonfiction event.  In the past Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning, Julie Balen of Write at the Edge, and I have cohosted this event.  This year all activity will be collected on our Picture Book 10 for 10 Community.

Ways to participate:
  • Write a blog post with your 10 favorite nonfiction books and link your blog to our Picture Book 10 for 10 Google Community.  (You will be unable to post until you have requested to join.  I'll try to keep an eye on requests all day.)  
  • Please click the 2015 link to post.
  • Leave your favorites directly on our Picture Book 10 for 10 Google Community site.  
  • Feeling creative?  We love that!  Try a new way to share your titles (a few suggestions).
  • Tweet your favorites using the hashtag #nf10for10
  • Try to comment on at least three posts in the event.  
Please note:  If you've participated in past events, we would love it if you could add your previous posts to the tabbed year of the event.  We're trying to recreate past resources.  

10 Nonfiction Picture Books to Read Aloud
I love picture books, but must admit I still have much to learn about nonfiction.  I look forward to this event because I know many participants work hard to keep up with nonfiction across the year.  Their suggestions always help me to know more.  

In previous nonfiction events, I've shared:
This year, I thought I'd share 10 nonfiction picture books from 2014 I love to read aloud.  Mr. Schu recently shared Katie DiCamillo's video about the importance of read aloud at Watch.  Connect.  Read..  Sometimes we forget about the possibilities from reading nonfiction text to young readers.  Nonfiction read aloud can help children wonder, ask questions, and be curious about the world around them.  Nonfiction read aloud can help students step into new content and understandings.  New nonfiction picture books are also just delightful to share.  Here are my favorites:  

Dear Malala, We Stand with You by Rosemary McCarney (2014).  (Note:  This book contains difficult topics so consider this before reading to a group.)  

Iqbal, A Brave Boy from Pakistan / Malala, A Brave Girl from Pakistan:  Two Stories of Bravery (2014) by Jeanette Winter.  (Note:  This book contains difficult topics so consider this before reading to a group.)  

Creature Features (2014) by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page.

Ivan:  The Remarkable Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla (2014) by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by G. Brian Karas.

The Scraps Book:  Notes from a Colorful Life (2014) by Lois Ehlert.

Hippos Can't Swim and Other Fun Facts (2014) by Laura Lyn DiSiena, Hannah Eliot, Pete Oswald (illustrator).

Feathers:  Not Just for Flying (2014) by Melissa Stewart and Sarah S. Brannen (illustrator).

Have You Heard the Nesting Bird (2014) by Rita Gray and Kinard Pak (illustrator).

Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold (2014) by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen (illustrator).  

Monday, February 16, 2015

New This Year for #nf10for10: No Blog, No Problem

We're a little excited because Thursday, February 19th, is our annual #nf10for10 picture book event.  We know participants from around the internet will join us to share their 10 favorite nonfiction picture books.

In years past, those wishing to participate in #pb10for10 (August's picture book event) or #nf10for10 (February's nonfiction picture book event) needed a blog or some way to share their favorites.  Some participants tweeted lists and pictures on Twitter, but those were easily lost.

This year, thanks to our new Google Plus community, participants will not need a blog to join the conversation.   It is possible to share your list of 10 favorites by posting directly on our Picture Book 10 for 10 Community site.

No blog, no problem.  Pick your 10 favorite books and share them with our community - directly in Google Plus.

If you haven't already joined our community, stop by before Thursday to join and be ready to post.

If you've participated in either event in the past, we're hoping you'll take a moment to add your previous posts to our community site as a resource for others.

See you Thursday!