Friday, May 30, 2014

Learning Along With & From Our Students

Fisher Price Blue Bird Music Box

When I was a baby, I had a Fisher Price Blue Bird Music Box hanging on my crib. I would pull the red string on it, and it would play a little song to help me fall asleep. Being a bit nostalgic, I searched online to find one of these so I could use with Gia, my little toddler. They don't make these anymore, so it was hard to find one, but I finally did thanks to the internet and Etsy! It was used and in good shape, and now it's hanging on Gia's crib. The only little flaw it had was that when I pulled the string, the song would play only part of the song. No big deal, though. It was still so cute, and I was so happy to have it for Gia.

Something really cool happened this past weekend having to do with the Blue Bird. What happened was my almost two-year-old daughter taught me something for the first time! Now, I know I’ve learned things like life lessons from having my daughter, but this was different. She literally taught me something totally new about something I thought I already knew all about. When Gia woke up that morning, I did what I normally do. I walked to her room, opened her bedroom door, and saw her little face light up with a smile when she saw me. Before picking her up out of her crib, we started playing with the Blue Bird. I pulled the string once, and it played only part of the song, like normal. Then, Gia started playing with it and I was just watching her. She started pulling the string, and instead of pulling it just once, she started pulling it about five or six times in a row. Initially I thought, "Woah; please don’t break it" but, I didn't stop her though. I just let her do it. Then she stopped pulling and the song started playing. But, instead of stopping part way through, the song kept playing. The song played the whole way through! My eyes opened wide and I was smiling SO BIG! I was so happy! Because she pulled the string a bunch of times, it made the entire song play. My happiness came not so much because the song played through, but more-so because I was so proud that my little girl taught me something I didn't know before.

After Gia taught me this new little thing, it made me think of so much afterwards....

  • It made me think that accidents can turn out to be successes.

  • It made me think that I might have missed the lesson if I had stopped her from pulling the string over and over so many times (which was my first instinct, but I stopped myself).

  • It made me think that children have so many abilities that we need to allow them to discover and amaze us with.  

  • It made me think that if we put children in the "drivers seat" more often, I think we would be so surprised at what they could teach us.

  • It made me think of teaching and that we can be ok with learning along with our students especially in this culture of technology which is essentially "their world". We can be ok when learning goes past what we may know and be confident enough to embrace the students who may know more about something than us, and not hold them back. There is so much to learn and understand and we can choose to go along this amazing path together with our students.

  • And, it inspired me to write this blog post. :)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

EdCafe - "Students in Charge of Their Corner of the Universe"

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the spring EdCamp Chicago this year held at Palatine High School. It was such a fun professional development opportunity! If you haven't attended an EdCamp, they are referred to as an "unconference" because it's a conference that is participant driven. The sessions are not pre-determined by someone else. They are created that same day by the people who attend. People volunteer session ideas and the ideas get plugged into a schedule grid for the day. After the schedule is complete, you choose what you want to go to. The hard part is choosing because there end up being so many great ideas!! Once you get to the session, you along with everyone there can participate. If you volunteered a session idea, you may end up leading the group discussion, but you don't have to have anything prepared ahead of time. You'll find as the session gets going, people will share things they know about the topic, ask questions about it that maybe someone else knows, and it goes from there! It's just awesome being with people who are interested in learning about the same topic as you. 

Because I'm such a fan of the EdCamp model, I was super excited to hear about one particular session idea! The session idea was on having EdCamp in the classroom, or an  #EdCafe. Brilliant! This session was volunteered and led by Katrina Kennett. I loved it! 

Here's a great explanation for What is an EdCafe (more info found HERE): 

An EdCafe is a way to structure class that promotes student choice and ownership over learning. 
The model was inspired by EdCamp conferences, where participants build the schedule and choose what sessions to attend. 
This bottom-up approach shifts energy, engagement, and opportunity for exploration to the students, and transforms the teacher into expert facilitator instead of gatekeeper/manager.

So, what you'll need to have an EdCafe in your classroom
  • a class of students and a space to work with them
    (12-15students works well with three corners, 15-23
    with four corners, 24+ students use the center of the room too)
  • a way to make and see the schedule
    (a piece of paper on an overhead, a whiteboard and markers, or a projected Google Doc)
  • a topic / theme / text / stage in the writing process
    (ex. WWII, Leaders as Behavior Monsters, 1984, thesis statements)

There can even be corners designated to where the students are at in a project they're working on. For example: stuck, confident, finished, beginning. The possibilities are endless!
Video: "Students in charge of a corner of their universe"

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

5 Stages of a Twitter User -- Weekly Twitter Chats

Learning through Twitter will become a part of your life (like breathing).

Twitter has become one of my favorite PLN's for education. Connecting with other amazing educators, learning from each other, and getting inspired by each other, has never been so easy. It really is a whole new world of learning. Beyond following amazing educators and learning from each other, each week there are opportunities to join chats on Twitter. These chats are moderated by different individuals, focus on a different topic, and they run for an hour. If you're using Twitter or the Twitter app on your computer, phone, or tablet, you search (# discover) the specific #hashtag for the specific chat (chat list below). You can also use something like Tweetdeck to customize columns for the chat #hashtag. Then you can view the questions posted by the moderator, share your answers to the questions, and read everyone's responses as well. Using Twitter chats for learning is an exciting way to have educational discussions, and you put professional development in your own hands. I can bet that after joining a chat, you will take away something useful from it, whether it makes you think about something a little bit more, makes you want to try something new, or get inspired about something that interested you.

Below is a great list of all the Twitter chats going on all week long! Choose what and when you want to learn. The benefits from joining the chats with so many educators from all over, who are interested in the same topic that you are as well -- are endless!

Weekly Twitter Chats List