31 May 2016

Italian Teacher's Summer Homework List -->


Italian Teacher's Summer Homework List

The Huffington Post published an article last June that is getting some new traffic. The article titled Get Off The Computer And Complete This Italian Teacher’s Summer Assignment. You Won’t Regret It.
has some of the best summer homework assignments I've ever seen.
A summer homework list assigned by Cesare Catà of Don Bosco High School in Fermo, a small town on the Adriatic Sea in northeastern Italy, is currently going viral across that country.

Instead of giving his students required reading assignments, Catà gave them a prescription for how to live an inspired life, telling them that in the next few months, they should take time to admire a sunrise, dream about the future and read, because reading is “the best form of rebellion you have.”
Go check out the 15 assignments Cata gave his students and then come back and tell me all homework is a bad thing. I think I'm going to try my hand at a number of them because they are so great. And who cares if the homework list is from 2015, I think it's timeless and I may even consider adapting it for my 2016-17 school year students. We'll see.

Thanks to my pal Marialice for tweeting it out so I could find it.

(via Marialice BFX Curran - @MBFXC on Twitter)

More #DigCit Not Less - #100DayProject - Day 061

A few weeks ago I came across a tweet shared by Linda Wearne that contained an incredible image regarding the need to teach Digital Citizenship and proper social media usage in schools. The image, seen below, was created by the very talented Sylvia Duckworth and shows a very sad, but an often accurate representation of how social media is considered in schools and amongst some parents.

Image Source: Sylvia Duckworth

How often do we think we don't want to teach or discuss social media in classes because our kids aren't really using it? My students are too young, they can't have an account yet anyways. I have spent the last eight years teaching 4th- and 5th-graders (ages 10-12) and many of my students have in fact had social media accounts, even though all of them were under 13 years old, the typical age required for many social networks to have accounts.

I think Sylvia said it best with her caption:
We can't tell our students "Not to" use social media or "Be careful" and then put our heads in the sand. Instead, we need to teach them how to be safe & responsible digital citizens (because they're going to be using it anyways.)

We need more Digital Citizenship, not less!

Image Source: YouTube.com

We can't sit by and assume someone else is going to teach our students how to properly use social media because that's no better than putting our heads in the sand. When I was at the #DigCitSummitUK in January, someone there mentioned the idea that if we taught driver's education classes the same way we teach Digital Citizenship then our students would all sit in a lecture hall for a short "lesson" on how to drive before being handed a license on their way out of the lecture hall. Is that how we teach driver's education classes? Not a chance! We have students go through a number of classes followed by many different practice scenarios that ultimately lead to many months of practice before allowing them to receive their actual license. And yet we assume a couple of short lessons on how to be safe and good citizens online is enough? Have you looked at Facebook or Twitter lately? Have you seen the garbage that adults are publishing as an example to their children and youth around them?

We need to do everything in our power to include MORE Digital Citizenship in schools, not less. We should be allowing students to practice social media skills regularly, while under the supervision of educators and school officials as frequently as possible, if not daily during their time in the K-12 system. Does that mean they won't ever make mistakes? That they won't ever have a problem? Does the current driver's education system completely erase all traffic violations and accidents from our roads?

Image Source: DigCitSummit.com
Hopefully, this issue many people have with students using and practicing social media in schools and classrooms can be calmed because we are missing out on YEARS of practice for helping our youth become more mature in their digital selves. Find a way to get your head out of the sand, or help others remove their heads, so we can all work together to better educate our students on proper social media and digital usage. We nee to find ways to better teach Digital Citizenship into our lessons, both at home and school. We need to Be the Digital Change we hope to see in the world!

30 May 2016

How One Military Vet Teaches about Memorial Day -->

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I've already posted about my desire to better teach my students the true meaning of Memorial Day, but I wanted to share this excellent post by my PLN member Demetrius Ball, an incredible educator out of Maryland who also served in the Army for five years on active duty.

Demetrius was recently asked to write about his experiences as a veteran now in the classroom for PBS.org and that's exactly what he's done. The following are a couple excepts from that PBS.org post:
Before entering West Point, I had no idea what Memorial Day or Veterans Day was really all about. It was not until I experienced life on deployment did I truly understand what both represent. Now, as an educator, I feel it is my responsibility to make sure that my students do not leave high school without understanding the meaning of these two important days.
and
We have school on Veterans Day, so my first year teaching I decided to put together a presentation titled “A Soldier’s Experience.” I take an entire class period to share my military experience with my students. The last few years I have worn my Dress Blue or Green uniform. I discuss the difficult transition that I had adapting to life as a cadet, like struggling to qualify on the range with an M16 rifle, not feeling prepared for the academic rigor, and even failing my first class ever.
Isn't that the way it usually happens? We start something not totally understanding the significance and by the time we finish we have a much greater appreciation for that experience. What I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall during Mr. Ball's lessons on Veterans Day, powerful!

While I never served in the military, I often thing about how my life would be different if I had. I'm grateful for the many men and women who have served and those who are currently serving. Thank you for your sacrifice and devotion to keeping this great country free!

Please take a couple minutes and go read the full article because it is so very heartfelt and impressive. Thank you Mr. Demetrius Ball for sharing your message about this important day and for being an example of making school personal and authentic!

Happy Memorial Day! - #100DayProject - Day 060

I just wanted to take a moment and wish you all a Happy Memorial Day with special thanks towards all the military personnel out there. Thanks for your service and sacrifice for doing what needed to be done to keep America and the rest of the world as safe as can be. We have many freedoms here in the United States of America that many could only hope for, so thank you for that hard work and dedication.

I also want to thank all the families out there who have lost a loved one in their service of our country. Thanks for your sacrifice as well. You helped to make sure your loved one had the support they needed to go out and give their life to the cause of liberty and freedom and for that, I thank you as well.

I know I already shared the below YouTube video on Saturday, but I wanted to share it again because I found it to be so powerful and to the point. Thanks to the Champion Forest Baptist Church for putting it together.



God bless the U.S.A. and God bless the Armed Forces who keep us free and safe! Freedom isn't free because it was bought with some of the best blood and sacrifices of the brave men and women willing to give their all for us to stay free!

Thank You, Military Personnel and Families!



via GIPHY

29 May 2016

#WalkingToMordor - #100DayProject - Day 059

Image Source: LizPro.com
I am a self-described nerd and proud of it! I love all the nerdy things; comic books (both the actual books and the movies), action figures, science fiction, fantasy, etc. You name it, if it's nerdy, I probably enjoy it on some level. I guess the only thing I don't do in the nerd-sphere is gaming and that's because I can't handle the 3D stuff in games, it makes me feel sick. But almost anything else besides gaming. is a go.

I have been a HUGE fan of The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings for as long as I can remember. I mean, I read them all for the first time in 5th- or 6th-grade and loved them all! I've seen the movies more times than I can count, and I even own the funky animated versions of the films from way back when. But I recently discovered I may have been out-nerded in regards to Tolkien's classics by a friend who is doing something a little crazy and also incredibly fun. Her name is Lizzy and she's a Stage Manager in New York and she's embarking on something I had never heard of or considered, she's #WalkingToMordor. Yes, you read that right. She found a link to an article on NerdFitness.com called A Hobbit's Guide to Walking and decided it was something she wanted to do. So that's exactly what she's doing, she's #WalkingToMordor, the roughly 3,400 miles to do so!

If you want to read more about what she's doing, check out her site LizPro.com. If this crazy #WalkingToMordor stuff doesn't wig you out too much and you'd like to follow Lizzy on her journey you can do so by following her on Twitter (@LizProBackstage), Facebook (Facebook.com/lizzienationaldays), or Google+ (+LizzieRobinson1225). You may even decide you too want to #WalkToMordor and that's great because we all could use a little extra help in the fitness area, so feel free to do so. If you do, be sure to share out your journey on Social Media using the hashtag #WalkingToMordor so we can all follow along.

28 May 2016

Remembrance - #100DayProject - Day 058

Remembrance - #100DayProject - Day 058 | EdTechBabble.net
Some of the flowers we placed on family graves.
Here in the U.S., we have an important holiday coming up that many seem a bit confused by its purpose. On Monday, we will celebrate Memorial Day, a day we should be remembering those lost in the service of our military, often protecting our freedoms. While many spend the day grilling and playing (things we often do in my family), the real reason is not always remembered. In order to help our children learn more about the true meaning of Memorial Day, we took a little road trip to visit some of my wife's family members' graves. We put out some flowers on their graves and told stories about them all while remembering the important things they did in their lives. While not all of them were military veterans, some were, we were still able to remember them and live through some memories. We didn't visit any of my family's graves, but I'm sure we'll make a stop here in town to see some of them on Monday. 

Remembrance - #100DayProject - Day 058 | EdTechBabble.net
Veterans Park was a great history lesson on sacrifice.
Another  place we stopped was called Rotary Centennial Veterans Park, a wonderful memorial honoring those from the community who served in each of the majors wars the U.S. has survived. This was a little piece of heaven I had no idea existed, and yet, felt very familiar due to the construction of the monuments being similar to something you might see in the Washington, D.C. National Mall. I really enjoyed walking with my son, my oldest daughter was feeling sick so she stayed in the car, along the monuments explaining the different things in simple terms his three year old mind could understand. It was very refreshing to see that even he could understand some of the importance of this place. 

Since school ended for me on Wednesday, I didn't have a class to really go over the purpose of Memorial Day, but if I had I would have liked to show them this short video I found courtesy of a tweet shared by Pernille Ripp. Please take the two minutes to watch this powerful reminder of the true meaning of Memorial Day.


Remembrance - #100DayProject - Day 058 | EdTechBabble.net
I'm not trying to say you can't enjoy your Memorial Day away from work or school by swimming, boating, grilling, or whatever else you might do, but I hope that you take even a couple minutes with your children and family to share the real reason we have this day to celebrate however we choose. Thanks to the brave men and women who protect us daily and those who have in the past. To you I owe an incredible debt because I get to be silly with my family and enjoy them in the simplest ways. 

Thank You!

27 May 2016

Tear Down This Wall! - #100DayProject - Day 057

Image Source: WikiMedia Commons
While I didn't call for a world famous wall to be torn down today, I did help in the #BreakingDownClassroomWalls of a school. I was asked by an amazing young man to visit his class digitally through the power of a Google Hangout (GHO) and read a story to his classmates. And once I got the approval from his teacher, we set to work in preparing for this amazing event. 

You may not see this as anything too amazing, especially if you, like me, regularly have GHOs or Skype sessions with your students and other classes. But today was special because, for four years, this student has been trying to get the okay to bring more digital learning into his classroom. You see, I was able to help a mother finally get through to a school and show them the Internet isn't such a scary place and that Social Media isn't just in the dark corners of the World Wide Web, but is being used every day to help students find a more authentic audience for their learning. I was able to change the world, just a little bit, for one classroom and one teacher. At the end of the GHO, many of the students were saying this was the best day of the year, that it was 200% better than regular school, that they loved school that day. And to think, all it cost was a few minutes of time and a little extra planning for a 200% better day. 

So how did it happen? Let's go back to November 2015 when I first heard about a little thing called the Digital Citizenship Summit and a possibility of going to London, England to present at a conference. I applied and was asked to come and present at the #DigCitSummitUK alongside the amazing Sarah Thomas and co-founder of the event, Marialice BFX Curran. It was amazing! While there in the UK I met a young man who came across the pond with his Mom to share about how he wished he could learn the same way at school that he did at home, using the Internet and digital tools like Social Media. Curran was the hit of the Summit and has since gone on to present at TEDxYouth@BHS and possibly, even more, places. 


I was inspired by Curran's story and told him I'd do anything I could to help in his plight for digital access at school. After returning from the UK, I was involved with a couple of different projects with Marialice with one involving the sharing of stories online via GHOs. I shared with a class at her school and Curran was so upset he couldn't be involved that we started plotting the chance for me to come into his class and share the same book. 

Fast forward a few more months and I received a very excited Vox from Marialice saying she had broken through and Curran's teacher was okay to let me call in and do a Mystery Reader as long as Curran could handle all the technology. I was ecstatic! We were finally about to start the #BreakingDownClassroomWalls project and I was lucky enough to be a part of the process. So we planned the day and time for the call and we even had a practice call yesterday, but I had a little surprise up my sleeve for Curran. While he thought only I was coming into his class today, he was wrong because Marialice and I had also invited the talented Sarah Thomas to join us and totally surprise Curran. And boy was he surprised! He had no idea! We surprised him on multiple fronts today and it was amazing.

We had a blast today and I wanted to share the recording of the GHO with you all. You will only see my face (sorry, I definitely have a face for radio) and Sarah's face, but you won't see Marialice (who was of course there to see this amazing moment happen), Curran, or his class due to a technical issue with the computer, but it's okay because you can still hear them on the other end. So enjoy the #BreakingDownClassroomWalls from today, and remember, never give up on a dream because someone out there has the ability to help, you just have to wait long enough.








26 May 2016

Summer Break Laziness - #100DayProject - Day 056

Wow, it's amazing all the things you can accomplish in a day when you aren't confined to your school the whole day! Today was the start of my summer break and yet I think I was busier than a day at school. Even still, I'm already home and in bed (that may have been a little TMI, sorry) ready to sleep. My kids are in bed and my wife is at book club so I guess sleep is good for me.

Don't worry, I'll get back to some better writing tomorrow because I have an awesome story to tell that involves #BreakingDownClassroomWalls and helping a class in Connecticut have their first ever connected learning experience. So stay with me. I just had to be a little lazy today because it's the first day of break.

The End - #100DayProject - Day 055

Wow, what a day Wednesday was! It was so spectacular that I missed my deadline, again. That's alright, here I am, getting it in any way. So why was it so spectacular?

Wednesday was the last day of school for my first year teaching 5th-grade since my time student teaching years ago. I made it through another year and am still standing. But even more than that, I enjoyed the year. I worked with different people on a different team and still had some level of success. Was I enamored with my results of the year? And I'm not talking end-of-year testing at all here because I have NEVER felt those showed me the results of a year! I didn't have the perfect year. I had issues with students, with parents, with colleagues, and yet, the year was still great. I saw students come together and become a family. We worked hard and played hard! We learned a lot and had some struggles to keep it together. But throughout the year, we had fun and that's what I think is important.  Will I make changes for next year? Yes. Will I get better acquainted with my content and be able to teach it better? Yes.

As the final bell rang, I was happy and played my traditional Alice Cooper and yet, at the same time, I was sad. I was sad to see these kids go. I was sad to see the end of the year actually come. Sometimes we are so busy that we forget to notice the amazing opportunity and situation we are living. I'm afraid I was a little that way with this school year. I will miss many of my students dearly next year, but I'm also looking forward to the next crop of 5th-graders who will get to join the Larsonlandia family. So here's to the end of a school year and the preparations for the beginning of another one!

24 May 2016

No - #100DayProject - Day 054

It's the eve of my final school day for the 2015-16 school year and I'm finishing grades and report cards. Often times when I work I like to listen to something and tonight it's The Minimalists podcast. As I listen to episode 19 | Mental Clutter, I'm reminded of a phrase of a wise person who I used to listen to often and still read his sites, Patrick Rhone. Pat would always mention a phrase that has stuck with me, although I've yet to really put it into practice, "When you say No to something, you are saying Yes to something else." What a powerful phrase that really hits some deep down truths. And it works in reverse as well, the more we say Yes to things, the more things we are saying No to, even if we don't realize it.

The fellas on The Minimalists podcast were discussing that idea on their show and it made me think, how have I done with saying No more frequently this year? And after thinking on it, I haven't done very well. I need to do better with telling people No more frequently so I can be better focused on the important things in life.

How are you doing with saying No? Do you need to practice it a bit still like me? Let me know how you're doing and maybe leave me some tips and tricks.

23 May 2016

Walking Away From Promotion and Tenure -->


Image Source: DigCitSummit
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My good friend Marialice Curran recently wrote a great post about walking away from her tenured job in Higher Education. Marialice is a Ph.D. who isn't your typical academic and she knows it. She explains in her post that she walked away partially because she wanted to be a connected educator and that just wasn't fitting in with the rest of the tenured faculty at her school.

The gist of the piece can be summed up below:
The truth is there’s a privilege about being an academic and I no longer wanted to be a part of it. With privilege comes exclusion and I want to be a part of an inclusive community. Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for academics, my problem lies with the institution.
And while the above quote sums up Marialice's post perfectly, my favorite part of the whole piece is the following:
Just recently, I presented at a university and a full professor shared with me, “You just brought the UNIVERSE to our university.” I thanked him and shared how I had just recently left higher ed and he said with a smile, “Well, you can’t keep a saddle on a maverick.”
Having been lucky enough to work with Marialice initially with the #DigCitSummitUK in January and then on a number of additional occasions, I can truly say she is a maverick! She makes her own way in education and she's doing amazing things. But the reason she makes her own way is because she wants to help the greatest number of kids feel loved and respected and safe online. She has worked tirelessly to help create and grow the #DigCitSummit organization and I'm so excited to see where this organization will go. We've have a number of conversations about her plans to help change the discussion on digital citizenship and I's so excited to see her plans come to fruition.

If you don't already follow Marialice on Twitter, please correct that and follow her at @MBFXC and then start following her writing at her blog. You won't regret one bit, and you will actually find yourself thanking me!

Last Week - #100DayProject - Day 053

Image Source: Pedro Dias via Wiki Media
So what do you do the last week of school? That's a question I'm asking as we start our last three days of school this week. My district ends on Wednesday this year and that means I need to be ready for 3 days. Well, it's really just two and change because two of the days are short days dues to the graduation schedule and needing to be out early enough to compensate for that. So what's the plan? Here's what I've got so far.

Monday

Today we have our regularly scheduled PE Specialist in the house so that's a great way to start. We'll follow that up with some State Reports. We'll probably take 30 mins or so to allow the students to finish any final touches on their reports and then we get to start seeing the presentations. I'm so excited for these as my students have been working so hard on them. We'll for sure have an AM Recess break and then come back in and share a few more reports followed by cleaning out our desks. We have to have them empty so we can stack them before lunch because we can't have desk after lunch due to our big activity. All the fifth-grade classes will be showing a different movie and our students get to pick whichever they want to finish out the day. It makes for a fun event that allows the kids to sit back and relax and gives the teachers a couple extra minutes to work on grades. And that concludes Monday!

Tuesday

Tuesday is a short day, as in we're out at 1:15pm which is our normal Friday dismissal time. Normally we go until 3:30pm, but not today due to some of the graduations taking place on Tuesday. So what's on the docket today?  We're gonna have our final class auction so I can get my class money back for next year. I'll bring in all sorts of great things from the Dollar Store as well as my house. But my fav thing this year is I have been saving some books from Scholastic Book Clubs and I'm gonna include them as well. When the auction finishes we're gonna do some more cleaning. Along with some Recess breaks and getting out early, we won't have much more time.

Wednesday

Our last day for the 2015-16 school year is Wednesday and it should be fun! The fifth-grade has a tradition of holding water activities and just being outside, which will totally rock! We will also finish any last minute cleaning and then we're done at noon. What? Yes, you heard me right, we dismiss at noon on the last day and it's pretty cool. Our K-4th-graders all get their next year teacher assignments and that's a wrap. While our 5th-graders won't get their next year teacher assignments it's because they will be leaving out elementary school and heading to an Intermediate School which is 6-7 grades only. It should be a lot of fun for these kids and I'm excited for where they'll end up in their lives. I'll be sad to see some of these kids move on, especially since I've had five of them for two years now. It's both good and hard at the same time.

I do have a little tradition of my own for the last day, though. I don't usually keep a lot of music on my phone because I'm more of a podcast listener, but there is one song that is ALWAYS on my phone and it's because I play it every year as the students leave and for the next 30 minutes or so afterward. What song is it? None other than Alice Cooper's Shools Out for Summer! I've included it here so you all can have a little taste of what I jam out to as my students all leave me for the summer!




So what do you do the last week of school? Do you have any great traditions I can "borrow" for future years? Let me know. And have a great Last Week of School!

22 May 2016

Forgiveness - #100DayProject - Day 052

Image Source: Pixabay.com
Today in church a member of the congregation was giving a talk or speech at the pulpit and was discussing an incredibly difficult and yet important subject. She was discussing forgiveness. As she was telling her story about how their family was challenged with not one, but two different head-on collisions with drunk drivers that changed their lives forever, not by death, but by serious debilitating injury. And even with those obstacles, she and her family were able to forgive the drunk drivers and move on with their lives somewhat. What a powerful example of forgiveness even when you don't really want to forgive.

Listening to this good sister made me stop and think about my class and the end of the school year. Did I have any experiences where I felt issues arose that weren't possible to work out and find peace? Did I come across any situations where I felt I have been pushed so far to one extreme that I needed to either forgive or be ask for forgiveness? While this year has been amazing for me, I can't help but think back on past years where there were experiences that caused great pain and suffering on my end and yet, I'm still here teaching.

Then I stopped and thought, were there any issues this year where I made a bigger deal out of something than needed to be made? Now that's the question that got my brain spinning and really caused me to stop and realize I need to make some adjustments. I try to be calm and collected in my day-to-day dealings in school, but I have been known to overreact on occasion and afterward I often feel really bad. One of the first things I've done is pull the student(s) aside and let them know I was wrong and offer an apology and I'm always shocked by the shock these kids have because they haven't had that experience before. I am the first to recognize that I'm human and make mistakes so I also try to right my wrongs whenever and as soon as possible. How many of us do that with our students, though? If my experiences are any kind of example, I fear too many of us don't take that time to tell our students we're sorry and that we've wronged them.

I'm the teacher who levels with my students daily as we discuss the good, bad, and the ugly of our class. We talk about what is working and what's broken. Does it take time? Yes. Is it worth it? I think so. Do I have to cut some things in order to take this time with my students? Yes. While we don't sit around in a circle when we have these discussions we still get some of the benefits of a class meeting. I'm hoping to take even a few more minutes next year each day as we discuss the important topics of the classroom feeling.

Although, as important as it is to take the time to discuss these issues, I have to remember to share the importance of forgiveness. The longer we hold grudges the worse life gets and the less we are able to accomplish. And that advice goes for us adults towards our students. We need to be the example of forgiving and forgetting. We need to show the students that it's possible to work with others who don't really want to work with us and that we can be successful. May we all take a couple extra minutes to determine if there's anything we need to forgive others for before the summer comes and takes our classes away from us.

21 May 2016

#PodcastPD - #100DayProject - Day 051

Image Soure: Pixabay.com
I am a fan of podcasts for many reasons and one of them is for the amazing opportunity I have to learn while doing other things. Many people are able to, I hate to use the word multi-task because I don't believe that is an actual thing but it is the best word here, do more than one thing at a time and listening while working is a great way to do just that. I am often found listening to a podcast while working unless I'm writing or reading because I feel working with words and listening to different words doesn't work for me. So I have a lot of podcasts in my player of choice, Instacast.

Tonight while doing the dishes, I was listening to two very different podcasts and yet, I feel that I learned greatly from both. First up was the amazing House of EdTech podcast with Chris Nesi. It was episode 60 with Jennifer Gonzalez of Cult of Pedagogy and it was amazing! Jennifer discussed her new book-thing called The Teacher's Guide to Tech 2016 Edition and it sounds like an amazing resource. This book-thing (she didn't call it a book or ebook because it's this really crazy linked-up resource that is loaded with 255 pages worth of technology tools for teachers to use in their classrooms. The episode was great because she and Chris discussed a couple of the tools in a little more detail and I've already decided I plan to send a link to some teachers I work with so they can get a start on better technology integration for next year. If you'd like to listen to this episode, you should definitely do it and then subscribe to the show because Chris releases a great new episode every two weeks and I always enjoy what I hear/learn. As a side note, I was delighted to hear my voice on the episode in the form of some feedback I sent Chris about the previous episode where AJ Bianco and Stacey Lindes took over the show and interviewed Chris. That was a fun episode and you should listen to that one as well.

Image Source: Chris Nesi

The other podcast I was listening to is called The Minimalists and it is done by The Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. While I'm not a minimalist yet, I still can enjoy listening to a couple of minimalists talk about their lives and how they live. This podcast is great for seeing another way of life, a simpler one that makes me want to embrace it so badly, and yet, maybe someday. While the podcast typically has both Joshua and Ryan, the episode I listened to was only Joshua, Episode 018 | Writing. It was a great episode that dealt with how to write better, something I am trying to do a lot more of these days.

In the episode, Joshua shares a number of great tips and a couple really stood out to me because of this #100DayProject I'm trying to complete. First, he says to write daily and I feel like I am doing that now. While I'm not writing at the same time each day, I still enjoy that I am writing almost every day. But someting that I have found from this #100DayProject is that I am really enjoying my writing time and I will probably continue writing eery day. Second, Joshua mentioned the need to not worry so much about the initial first draft and instead focus on getting all the words out so you can go back and edit it. He shared two great thoughts on editing that stood out to me, 1) you should spend 30% of your time writing and 70% editing and 2) writing is like sculpture except you have to first create the slab of "granite" to chip away at to find your statue underneath. I plan on sharing these ideas with my students because it's important for them to realize they need to focus first on getting words on the page before they can actually get the good stuff. He mentioned the fact that all of his books he's written or co-written started out much longer than they ended because they needed lots of ideas to find the best so they could get rid of the rest.

What an incredible night of learning and it was a Saturday! Using podcasts to learn is a great idea that's also a lot of fun. If you enjoy listening to podcasts then you should also consider joining the Twitter Chat/Blab.im show for #PodcastPD that happens every Sunday from 8:30-9pm Eastern Time. It's hosted by Stacey Lindes, Chris Nesi and AJ Bianco, three amazing New Jersey educators and friends. I hope to see you there!

20 May 2016

Friday Funday - #100DayProject - Day 050

Since today is Friday and we all need a little fun on a Friday, I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite songs I've had in my head for the past week. Who doesn't need more music in their lives? I know I couldn't live without it, and I'm sure you're the same way. So here we go, let's get down and funky!


Can't Stop the Feeling! - Justin Timberlake

You have probably heard this one because it seems to be ALL OVER right now and I love it! I've been a Justin Timberlake fan since the NSYNC days and have only grown to respect him more and more as he's aged. Can't Stop the Feeling! is a great upbeat tune that may just become the official summer jam of 2016. Take a listen below to either of the videos he's released, although I prefer the one with the cast of the new Dreamworks Trolls because it's more of a chill session, but I also like the official video as well. And yes, I have already bought the song via iTunes and love it!

Can't Stop the Feeling! First Listen:


Can't Stop the Feeling! Official Video:


Prodigy Cellist Will Amaze You

While this next video isn't a song, it's an incredible video showcasing the young Sujari Britt who is an outstaning cellist. She started playing cello at age 4 and at age 8 played in front of President Obama at the White House. As a freshman at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, she was allowed to play a recital, something usually reserved for seniors. If you want to see and hear something absolutely amazing, watch the below video and then tell me Music Education isn't important.

Prodigy Cellist Will Amaze You:



God Bless the USA - Lee Greenwood

I wrote about my school's 5th-graders performing their Give Me Liberty program earlier this week, and this next song was one of the songs they sang. I have always loved God Bless the USA and because we've been practicing it for the last little while, I've definitely had it stuck in my head. Of course, if you have to have a "school song" stuck in your head, this is a pretty amazing one to get stuck. I love that every time I hear/sing it I get goosebumps because of the its message. I hope you enjoy it too.

God Bless the USA:
 


Me Too - Meghan Trainor

Now, don't go taking my man-card away for this one, but I really like this super catchy pop tune. Meghan Trainor jumped onto the music scene a couple years ago with her All About The Bass hit and the girl hasn't left the spotlight since! Me Too is a super catchy tune that mixes styles seamlessly. As a bass player I love the bass riffs and how different they are and yet, they both rock! My favorite part of the whole song is the pause on the chorus the last time she sings, "If I was you I'd wanna be me too," so catchy. Plus, besides the fun attitude of the song, there's a deeper message with the whole photoshopping issue and the way Meghan pulled the video from YouTube until the director "fixed it" and made her look the natural way again. What a great role model for all of us!

Me Too:
 


Self-Titled Album - Third Eye Blind

I'm gonna cheat for my last "song" and list an entire album because it is my all-time favorite album. This is the first album by the band Third Eye Blind and it is awesome! I can put this album on in my car and not remove it for weeks at a time because I love every song on it that much. If you want to listen to the entire album, check it out here, but I'm going to actually post two of my favorite songs from the album here, Motorcycle Drive By and God of Wine. These are the last two songs on the album and the perfect way to wrap an excellent album, a little calm after crazy. You need to definitely end your listening where with these two great tunes, but if you have time (about 58 minutes to be exact) listen to the entire album and see what I'm talking about.

Motorcycle Drive By:
 

God of Wine:
 

I hope you enjoyed this sampling of what I've been listening to this week. No go out and enjoy the weekend with some of your favorite tunes. Let me know what you think of these songs in the comments and let me know what songs you're listening to currently.

19 May 2016

Retirement - #100DayProject - Day 049

Retirement - Making goals after attending a retirement Open House. | EdTechBabble.net
Image Source: Pixabay.com
I was able to honor a former teacher turned colleague tonight and it was an eye-opening experience for me. My 5th-grade teacher retired this year after 30 years (!!!) in education. Just typing it makes me emotional. It makes me realize just how short a career can be.

Goal 1 - More Play at Recess

Mr. Whitmer was a great teacher and I enjoyed his class, but I've been reflecting the last couple of days on what made it so enjoyable and I think I have something, maybe. Mr. Whitmer had a mantra that I have since stolen (isn't that what all great artists/teachers do?) and use in my classroom, Work Hard and Play Hard. Mr. Whitmer was always coming outside and playing with us at Recess. He would make sure we were out and enjoying what is supposed to be fun about school. Suddenly I feel like I'm not measuring up because when was the last time I went outside and played with my students? I am going to change that for the rest of this school year and years to come, more Recess time where Mr. Larson is outside playing and being fun.

Goal 2 - More Consistent Read Alouds

Another thing about Mr. Whitmer's class was that he always had a Read Aloud book that he was reading to us, like ALWAYS. I loved that! That is one area I have tried to emulate, but I haven't been as diligent as he was. I often start a book and then we start to lose interest after a little while because I've struggled to find the best time to read this year with my grade-level change. Being more diligent with reading aloud to my students daily is going to be added to my goals for next year and beyond.

Goal 3 - More Student Choice

While I don't have the best of memory, I do remember doing some fun projects. While I do have my students do different types of projects, I need to do more with them. But I want to take the project idea a step further, not because Mr. Whitmer did, but because I want to make sure the projects are not only fun but that they are more Student Choice and less Teacher Choice. I need to make sure I am prepared to offer students more choice in their major assignments so they can have more ownership and may actually want to complete them. While I plan to allow more student choice in my room next year, I am working on a guest-post where a colleague and friend of mine will tell about her experiences with letting go and allowing more student choice in her classroom this year, so keep an eye out for it in the coming days/weeks.

While retirement is both a happy and sad thing, I take more hope from the events of today. I hope to make changes in my classroom that will allow for my future students to receive a more successful and fun school year. Thanks Mr. Whitmer for your 30 years of service to the most important and under-appreciated career out there, education. I hope to make you proud in the coming months as I try to be a little more like you in the classroom.

18 May 2016

Give Me Liberty - #100DayProject - Day 048

Image Source: Pixabay.com
Today is the day fo our 5th-grade program, the Give Me Liberty program. This is the same program I recently spoke about during the April #PassTheScopeEDU event. The Give Me Liberty (GML) program is one where students showcase what they've learned about the history of the United States of America.

The GML program is an excellent program that asks students to learn about, memorize, and pass off certain requirements to show their understanding of U.S. History. This isn't some easy "spend five minutes and you've got it" program. It has 13 requirements, that I believe, will help students learn about their past and prepare them for their future. The intense list is as follows:
  1. Correctly write the Pledge of Allegiance 
  2. Correctly recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Sign Language
  3. Correctly recite the Preamble to the Constitution
  4. Either sing or recite the Star Spangled Banner
  5. Name all 44 US Presidents in order, first and last name
  6. Correctly name and locate each of the 50 (a) states and their (b) capitals on a map
  7. Correctly name and locate the US and all the continents of the world on a map
  8. Correctly recite the Gettysburg Address
  9. Correctly recite a line from the Declaration of Independence
  10. Correctly recite the symbols of the United States of America
  11. Correctly recite the symbols of the State of Utah
  12. Correctly recite the symbols of 'Old Glory' 
So, do you think you could do it? I did and it was tough work. I have 21 of my 27 students finished with all 13 (states and capitals count as two separate items since they are technically different) requirements! And of the other seven, four of them are only lacking one or two of the requirements.

The program will be great as the students share what they've learned through both the spoken word and song. We will be singing ten different patriotic songs, including God Bless the USA. What a great way to end the school year and help our 5th-graders prepare to move on to Intermediate school and beyond!

Late Again, But Why? - #100DayProject - Day 047

Image Source: Pixabay.com
Looks like I'm a little late again, but why? What happened to me, why am I late again? Is everything okay? Is something wrong?

How often are we quick to mark our students late for the day and yet, we don't ever ask why? What happened that caused them to not get to school on time? Is everything okay at home? Do their parents know they're late? Are they the cause of the tardiness?

I've had some interesting experiences with stepping back and talking with my students. Finding out about their lives and what's happening with them. I don't think I'm the only teacher who talks to their students like humans, all be it little humans, but humans nonetheless. But even still, I've been called strange and weird for asking them why things happen and why they aren't capable of completing things. I don't always get great answers, but I still like to ask because it shows I care more about them than the stupid assignments or grades or even their lack punctuality.

I've been in situations where students have told me they are late because they have to get themselves and their siblings ready because Mom and Dad are both at work and can't do it. I've been told they are late because they have to do everything themselves because their parents don't care if they show up or not, so it's entirely up to them. I've been told they're late because they just don't feel like coming to school because nobody cares if they're there anyways. All of these reasons make my heart break because these elementary kids aren't being allowed to be kids but are being forced to grow up too soon. I'm especially saddened when a student says the don't want to be at school because nobody cares because then I feel like I've not done my job as a teacher.

Are we taking the time needed each day to help our students know they are important and special? I only have six more days of school this year and I know that for the next six days I plan to shower my students with support and encouragement because KidsDeserveIt!

16 May 2016

Formative Assessment Collaboration with @KerryHawk02 - #100DayProject - Day 046

Image Source: www.KerryHawk02.com
I have been blessed to connect with some amazing people online and make some true friendships that have helped me grow immensely. One of those people is the amazing Kerry Gallagher who inspires me to be better each time we talk and each time I read her excellent blog, Start with a Question. Which, by the way, if you aren't yet subscribed to, you MUST remedy that situation. I'll wait, go now, get yourself subscribed and then come back.

Okay, you're back! Good, now I can get back to gushing about how fortunate I am to have worked with Kerry for an article she wrote for the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) that was published last week on May 10th. The article titled What Data Can Do: A Teacher’s View of Digital Tools for Formative Assessment is part of The Standard, a journal published by the NASBE three times a year and can be accessed by their web page or as a pdf download here. The article is a great view into how different teachers use formative assessment in their classrooms and I was the lucky duck to be selected to share out some of the things I do in my classroom.

I love that I was the only elementary teacher involved and that I was also the only teacher not in a 1:1 classroom proving you can still do fun and effective Formative Assessment without a lot of tech. I also loved that I use a paper product, Plickers, to more easily gather student data. Plickers are great because all you need is one device to scan the students' paper codes and you can still allow for more enjoyable forms of assessment. While I do use my Plickers, I also use my Promethean AcitvExpression clickers along with other tools. But I love that I was the analog guy because I do love to use paper alongside my digital tools.

Thanks Kerry for allowing me to be a part of an awesome project and to learn from you each day!

Kerry Gallagher is an amazing writer who has had her articles appear in many places including EdSurge, ConnectSafely, Smarter Schools Project, CorwinConnect, and many other places. She was recently listed among the 50 Must Read K-12 IT Blogs by EdTechMagazine in the area of Classroom Leaders and was well deserving. Really, though, if you aren't following her online and reading her words you need to fix that error.

Minimizing Your Teacher Wardrobe - #100DayProject - Day 045

Image Source: Pixabay.com
Anyone who knows me knows that I am anything but minimal, but I am really starting to like some of the things I am reading and learning about the minimalist lifestyle. I have really been interested in trying to cut back on my "things" and live more simply. One area, in particular, is that of clothing. I don't have a large wardrobe, but I think that some mornings I struggle to get ready only because I can't seem to decide what to wear. It almost makes me want to throw all my clothes out, or more likely donate them to the local thrift shop, and buy multiple versions of the same outfit and do like Steve Jobs and wear the same thing every day. While I don't think I could get away with wearing a turtleneck, jeans, and running shoes at school, I'd almost like to try.

I have come to really enjoy reading the website Becoming Minimalist by Joshua Becker and loved a post I recently found called 8 Reasons Successful People are Choosing to Wear the Same Thing Every Day. One of the first reasons to choose to wear the same thing is to make fewer decisions to help yourself avoid Decision Fatigue. Now, I'm not sure how you feel about all the decisions you make in a day, but I can for sure relate to this one on some levels because I often make better decisions earlier in the day and they start getting worse as the day goes. Becker mentions this is one of the reasons we only ever see President Obama in blue and gray suits as it's one less decision for him to get stuck on. A very interesting idea.

While Becker mentions seven other reasons to consider revamping your wardrobe, the other item that stood out the most is that of Less Wasted Time. I am the type of person who LOVES to sleep, but only in the morning. I am such a night owl and I love to stay up into the early hours of the morning working (that's when I usually feel the most creative and desirous to work on things) and then I love to sleep far too long in the morning. Not the best schedule for a teacher, but I'm actually working on changing it becoming an early-riser, but still, I love to sleep-in in the morning and that means I'm often rushing out the door. Saving even minutes in my morning routine would be amazing. By limiting my wardrobe to the same basic thing would greatly simplify that and help me out. So again, this idea is kind of sounding perfect.

So, while I don't think I'll try the Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerburg type of casual approach, I may go a little less than President Obama and Albert Einstein and just wear the same basic shirt and tie combo most days of the week. I may not win any fashion awards, but let's be honest, I'm not winning any now. But I haven't yet committed to changing my life over to the minimalist ways, I may actually try out the clothing and see how it goes. Who knows, I may even love it so much, I may become the Minimalist Teacher. Is that even a thing? I guess so since I just found MinimalistTeacher.com, maybe I better reconsider that name change.

15 May 2016

School Free Saturday - #100DayProject - Day 044

Zion National Park
I realize I'm late for my daily post today, it is now technically Sunday here in Utah, but I have a really good excuse. You see, I spent today as the most unusual Saturday that I've had in months, I spent it 100% away from school and school related stuff. Yes, you read that right. For the first time in months, I spent a Saturday away from planning, or prepping, or grading, or anything that had to do with school. I didn't even check my school email on my phone. And yet, isn't that the way we are supposed to spend our weekends, away from school? But even still, I don't know many teachers who are able to be 100% school-free on weekends because there seems to be so much to do that we can't seem to get it all done in the five weekdays. But it should be.

A couple my monkeys in a tree!
So what did I do that was so important I stayed away from all things school? I spent time with my family. I ran errands in the morning with my son and then played at the park with the whole family while my son practiced riding a bike without training wheels. And then I spent the evening with my wife celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary! Eleven years spent married to me should count as double on her end because she's so amazing to deal with all my craziness, but I'm so grateful. We spent the evening as "tourists" in Springdale, Utah outside the beautiful Zion National Park. We ate great food and window shopped in some amazing art galleries and just had a blast. Special thanks to my parents for keeping my kids so we could actually eat a meal uninterrupted!

Happy 11-year Anniversary!
Even with all these amazing plans, I shouldn't have to be surprised that I was able to spend a Saturday not involved with school stuff. While I'm not totally prepared for next week, I know I am prepared enough to be effective on Monday and then I can finish planning during my preps and after school. But I will say, I am more prepared for Monday than I have been in months because I actually stepped away from the work and let myself rest. I sharpened the saw and I'm sure that will make me more effective on Monday than I typically come back.

Hopefully, y'all are better than I am and make sure to take weekend breaks from the work so you can recharge and be ready for a new week. If you are one of the few who almost always take the weekends off, please get in touch because I'd love to learn your secret. I know that after loving my Saturday today, I plan to make this more of a regular occurrence next school year! Here's to goals and taking the time to rest.

13 May 2016

Language Learning Videos - #100DayProject - Day 043

Image Source: Pixabay.com
I don't know how many of you teach foreign languages in schools, but I just came across wheat I think is an amazing resource for your teaching. It's a YouTube channel called Langfocus and it's all about one man's desire to share his passion for languages. He even has a website at LangFocus.com, but it doesn't seem to be as up to date.

I'm not a foreign language teacher, but I found some of his videos incredibly entertaining and very informative because he goes through the history of the language and why it acts the way it does. I haven't used it with my students, but only because I haven't found a situation where it really makes sense, and because I just found it this week. But after looking through his catalog of 60+ videos, I think there are a number that I may try to use next year in my 5th grade classroom.

Even if you don't use the videos in class, I found them to be entertaining enough that I could watch a couple while in my YouTube binging moments and still feel like I've learned a thing or two. I'm especially excited to share this channel with my brother-in-law who studied Linguistics at BYU because I think he'll get a kick out of it.

Now, one final thing I want to share here is about something called the Foreign Services Institue, which is basically the U.S. Federal Government's training institution for helping it's government agents learn foreign languages. This is another site that could be useful to you if asked about why its important to learn foreign languages or as I found interesting, a list of how languages compare to English and thus, how difficult they are to learn. Either way, I hope these resources are ones that can help you in your effort to teach your students foreign languages.

12 May 2016

#PassTheScopeEDU - Summer Learning - #100DayProject - Day 042

Image Courtesy of Brian Smith - @1to1Brian
After the success of last month's #PassTheScopeEDU, we've decided it needs to become a regular learning event and will be holding it each month on the 3rd Thursday. So that means the next #PassTheScopeEDU event will be on Thursday, May 19th, so mark it on your calendars now! One of the best things to come out of the first event was that we will have a lot more teachers taking part this month and I'm sure that trend will only continue as we go forward.

But what is it and how do I take part? #PassTheScopeEDU is an event where educators use Periscope to create a live broadcast (called a Scope) and share their thoughts. Each person participating will be using their own Periscope account and those of us following along will use Periscope to follow and watch their scope wherever we want, making #PassTheScopeEDU a truly personalized PD opportunity.

For our #PassTheScopeEDU event, we're gonna keep each scope live stream to about 5-10 minutes. When the first person finishes their scope they will tell you who is next up and what their Periscope user information is so you can go watch the next part. This continues until the last person finishes and the event ends. We didn't invent the idea of #PassTheScope, but we are very excited to do another one and share some great educational ideas.

If you are more of an auditory learner, check out this great episode of the Hack Learning Podcast by Mark Barnes, who is also participating in this month's edition of #PassTheScopeEDU. It's a great explanaton that is short enough you can listen just about anywhere.


Who is involved and when are the times? Often a #PassTheScope event happens all at once, back-to-back, but we are going to do it a little different and have people throughout the day so feel free to jump in whenever you have time. The schedule and lineup is below:

** This list will be updating for the next couple of days until our #PassTheScopeEDU May Event!**

Thursday, May 19th

12:00pm EST / 9:00am PST:
Toutoule Ntoya
Twitter: @ToutouleNtoya
Periscope: @ToutouleNtoya 

12:15pm EST / 9:15am PST:
Deniece Frideley / Christine Grimm
Twitter: @piggyreads / @samthegecko
Periscope: @piggyreads
Website: LttlePiggyReads.blogspot.com

12:30pm EST / 9:30am PST:
Jacqueline Rose
Twitter: @JRose_Edu
Periscope: @JRose_Edu

12:45pm EST / 9:45am PST:
Kimberly LaneTwitter: @askatechnogirl
Periscope: @askatechnogirl
Website: AskaTechnoGirl.com

1:30pm EST / 10:30am PST:
Brian Smith
Twitter: @1to1brian
Periscope: @1to1brian

2:45pm EST / 11:45am PST:
Mark Barnes
Twitter: @markbarnes19
Periscope: @markbarnes19
Website: HackLearning.org

3:00pm EST / 12:00pm PST:
Jennifer Gonzalez
Twitter: @cultofpedagogy
Periscope: @cultofpedagogy
Website: CultOfPedagogy.com

4:00pm EST / 1:00pm PST:
Cynthia Day
Twitter: @msdayvt
Periscope: @msdayvt

4:30pm EST / 1:30pm PST:
Stacy Lovdahl
Twitter: @braveneutrino
Periscope: @braveneutrino

4:45pm EST / 1:45pm PST:
Sarah Thomas
Twitter: @SarahdaTeechur
Periscope: @SarahdaTeechur
Website: SarahDaTeechur.com

5:00pm EST / 2:0pm PST:
Knikole Taylor
Twitter: @Knikole
Periscope: @Knikole
Website: www.KnikoleTaylor.com

5:30pm EST / 2:30pm PST:
Tara Linney
Twitter: @TaraLinney
Periscope: @techteachert

6:00pm EST / 3:00pm PST:
Heather Campbell
Twitter: @hqcampbell4
Periscope: @seriousgiggles

6:30pm EST / 3:30pm PST:
Derek Larson ( That's ME! )
Twitter: @lars3eb
Periscope: @lars3eb
Website: EdTechBabble.net

6:45pm EST / 3:45pm PST:
Jordan Pedraza
Twitter: @RemindHQ
Periscope: @RemindHQ
Website: Blog.Remind.com

7:00pm EST / 4:00pm PST:
Cassie Reeder
Twitter: @reeder_cassie
Periscope: @reeder_cassie

7:15pm EST / 4:15pm PST:
Molly Levitt / Mary Jo Madda
Twitter: @Molly_Levitt  / @MJMadda
Periscope: @Molly_Levitt
Website: EdSurge.com

7:30pm EST / 4:30pm PST:
Valerie Lewis
Twitter: @iamVLewis
Periscope: @iamVLewis

7:45pm EST / 4:45pm PST:
Jason BretzmannTwitter: @jbretzmann
Periscope: @jbretzmann
Website: BretzmannGroup.com

8:00pm EST / 5:00pm PST:
William Jeffery
Twitter: @CoachJeffery
Periscope: @CoachJeffery

8:15pm EST / 5:15pm PST:
Shaina GlassTwitter: @SVicGlass
Periscope: @SVicGlass 
Website: ShainaVGlass.com

The following is a great YouTube video created by our very own Stacy to showcase the order of the participants as well as their home locations. I hope you enjoy it because I think it is amazing what Stacy came up with and hope we're lucky enough to have more videos like this one in the future.


Come join us for #PassTheScopeEDU and don't forget to follow each of these amazing educators on Twitter and Periscope! Also, if you follow the #PassTheScopeEDU on Twitter at @PassTheScopeEDU you'll see reminder tweets so you don't have to worry about when the next scoper is starting. And remember, if you watch, feel free to give lots of hearts because we love you!

** Updated 5/16/16 **
** This post has been updated to include some changes to the schedule. **

** Updated 5/15/16 **
** This post has been updated to include a link to the YouTube video about the event as well as to update the schedule. **

** Updated 5/12/16 **
** This post has been updated to include a link to the Hack Learning Podcast episode about the event as well as to update the schedule. **

11 May 2016

Global Connections - #100DayProject - Day 041

Image Source: Pixabay.com
I am incredibly lucky to be able to connect with awesome educators from across the globe who help push my thinking and help me become a better and more successful educator. And while I LOVE face-to-face and analog connections, I am very grateful for the digital tools and Internet that allows me to connect even more wide range. Just today, I responded to a tweet of my friend Craig Kemp, who is currently teaching in Singapore, about the need to connect with another educator, and new friend, David Carruthers who is based in London, Ontario, Canada for a #MysteryGHO.


So, to clear things up, I am in Utah, United States. I responded to a tweet from a friend in Singapore about connecting with a new friend in London, Ontario, Canada. We just connected three countries and two continents in a matter of hours and it was awesome!

What did we do? My 5th-grade students taught a bunch of teachers in Canada how the idea of #MysterySkype, or in our case, #MysteryGHO works and they had a lot of fun doing it! We were able to guess their country, the first time we have done an international #MysteryClassroom call, their providence, and even their city before they guessed our state! My kids did great and they loved the chance to be the shining stars teaching teachers.

If you aren't connected with Craig or David, please connect with them because they are great educators doing amazing things with schools. Also, if you aren't connected with me on Twitter, please find me at @lars3eb and connect and maybe the next time we do a #MysteryClassroom event you'll be on the other end!

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