Time has absolutely flown by, and it’s been almost a month since my last posting. I’ve been consumed by assessments (not always a bad thing, just HATE the paper-pushing) and new programs and preparing my incredible student teacher for her solo period. It’s not that I haven’t been learning and reflecting…just not in writing. In one of my endless wanderings across the internet, I did come across a viral video that begs to be shared. (Is that redundant?) I linked a YouTube version, but I originally found it on a ning website called Inconvenient Youth. This is definitely worth your time to check out.

Find more videos like this on Inconvenient Youth


A few years ago (well, maybe a little more than a few), there was a well known mantra in the DOE, “Don’t teach technology for technology’s sake.”

Basically the idea was that we shouldn’t be farming out our students to the tech teacher to get an extra break! Totally agree with this. After all, technology should be used to facilitate learning and communication, and the place to do this is in our classroom. But the other idea was that we couldn’t teach the students how to use a particular tech tool as a main objective. The learning objective had to be in a core subject area, and if we were able to incorporate Kid Pix or internet research, then that was a bonus.

My question is: Why NOT teach the students about a tech tool as a main objective?

Realistically I know that if you are teaching someone how to use a tool, and they don’t use it, then they will forget. That’s happened to me many times, and I’m sure it’s happened to you. Practice makes perfect and all that. The context needs to be meaningful and purposeful. In today’s world, use of technology IS meaningful and purposeful. One just has to take a look at India and China and any other number of foreign countries. As educators, we need to make sure that our students are able to recognize technology’s importance in today’s society. It’s the same thing we do for reading, writing, oral communication, mathematics, science, history, geography, the arts, etc.

I know. One more thing to add to the already overflowing plate. This addition, however, is one I’ll gladly take on. For our students’ sake.

SnagFilms is a great site for free, full-length documentaries! Planning on using this in my history classes!

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Here’s a “joke” I found in my email the other day:

Q: What do you call a person who keeps talking when no one is interested?
A: A teacher.

I know this was meant to be in fun, but call me humorless. In a profession whose members are not typically regarded as “professional,” we really don’t need to be perpetuating stereotypes. Instead, we should be promoting each others’ expertise, building our leadership capacities, and recruiting the best and the brightest to fill the vacancies left by those who leave the classrooms.
Yes, there are always the few who count the days until retirement or resist change and perpetuate the “sort and select” classroom of the early 20th century. Every profession has members that make poor choices. Call it malpractice, if you will. I would hazard to say, however, that the vast majority of teachers are sincere in their attempt to change the world (because that is what we do on a daily basis). When we sing with our students, read aloud a piece of literature that moves us, guide fingers and minds to the web to research current events, and have conversations that empower students to take action, we toss a pebble into that proverbial pond.

At any rate, I apologize for the rant. And we cannot object to something without providing what we deem to be an acceptable alternative. I propose that when we receive such well-intentioned email “jokes,” that rather than forwarding them mindlessly, we replace them with cartoons and images that empower educators. Here are just a few taken from Susan Ohanian’s Cartoon Collection to get you started.

Happy forwarding…

My 7 year old has been in school for over half his lifetime. Never did I imagine the kind of heartache this would cause for us. After all, we read together daily, talked and shared our experiences, enjoyed outings to the zoo and the beach and the aquarium.

Being my first child, he went to activities such as Gymboree and Keiki Sports, all meticulously recorded for posterity. With typical parent over-confidence, I was positive that I had given him everything needed to insure that school would be the right mixture of challenge and creativity guaranteed to stimulate mind, body, and spirit.

Then reality struck.

Nightly homework, long commutes, and early mornings combined with a difficulty decoding text, “poor” penmanship, and letter reversals added up to near disaster. As an educator, I began researching strategies and systematically applying them, but as a parent, I despaired. Not because I needed a child that would be “perfect,” but because I hated to see what was happening to him. Someone who rattles off scientific facts (especially those pertaining to dinosaurs!), sings songs word for word after hearing them once, and spends enormous amounts of time building and rebuilding Legos and Bionicles without instructions, puts on a brave face every morning and counts the days until the weekend.

By no means do I blame his teachers or even the school he attends. But, I do wish that our school system would allow for the kind of learner I know my child is. Somehow, I don’t think that the completion of a worksheet will ever bring that same glow and satisfaction that the Lego city which spans our living room floor does. Not a day goes by that I don’t worry and hope and pray that something will click, and my son will be able to approach school learning with the same enthusiasm that he does his own pursuits. So when I read Who/What is Smart? on a blog that I follow, I saw my son and his struggles reflected in that post. It was a call to recognize different kinds of learners, and I’d like to add my voice, and my son’s, to that call.

Just the other morning, as he worked through his first chapter book, he told me, “You know, Mom, I kind of like it when there aren’t any pictures, that way, I don’t have to think like the author thinks.”

Out of the mouths of babes. Lessons for us all.

Approximately 3 months ago, David Warlick asked people around the world to “say hello” to a conference room full of educators in Hawaii. I was amazed at how quickly people responded and connected. Well, in reference to an oft quoted movie, he “had me at hello.” This was my first introduction to Twitter.

Since then, I’ve grown addicted to this micro-blogging tool with the cute name. Cute…but powerful. Not only am I able to keep up with friends that I don’t see on a daily basis, but I’ve managed to connect with new ones who share the same interests. Maybe not all of these connections will be lifetime ones, but they are fun and fulfilling while they last! The Olympics, for example, has set me to exchanging stats and updates with a number of new people. I doubt many of these interchanges will last beyond the closing ceremonies, but perhaps I’ll see a few familiar “tweets” during the 2012 games in London.

On another note, I’m also following the conversations of experts such as Alec Couros, Wes Fryer, and Angela Maiers. I’ve learned about incredible PD opportunities, links, and websites from a number of other education experts, perhaps not as well known, but definitely as well-versed in their own arenas, right here in Hawaii. In a few short weeks, Twitter has become an indispensable source of information.

And yet, because of Twinkle, I’ve seen a whole different side of Twitter that has left me shocked (though I shouldn’t be) and feeling a need to respond (which I should).

Twinkle allows you to add your current location to your tweets, as well as seeing who else who is nearby. You are able to see the tweets of anyone on Twinkle within a certain distance from your location regardless of whether or not you follow them or they follow you. While this has allowed me access to a number of interesting conversations, it has also been similar to stepping into a nightclub atmosphere! This in itself does not bother me. I know these conversations are not meant for me, and I can choose to read them or not. What did bother me were some aggressive words, threatening violence towards another Twitter user.

Cyberbullying is by no means a new problem. Countless headlines have demonstrated an abuse of power, power given to individuals by the internet and its tools. But sometimes we fail to see that this power can also result in incredible positives when channeled properly. Hence, this is what we as educators and parents must do. We must give students the tools to use this power wisely and with good purpose; to participate in the global community with compassion and empathy. Just as cyberbullying is not a new problem, neither is a teacher’s charge to instill and inspire good citizenship in his or her students. We simply need to further the reach of our teaching and learning to include cyberspace.

I’ve been following, with great interest, an outreach for resources on digital citizenship on the internet the past few days. Ironically, this conversation happened on Twitter. Two sides of the same coin. Let’s open our conversations to include digital citizenship more frequently and with greater urgency, especially at the beginning of the new school year when building community is a staple. These tools are here for us to show our students the world and to help them shape it into the place they want it to be. Rather than ignoring their existence, use them frequently, and use them well.

My most valuable communication tool so far this year as a teacher…definitely my iPhone. Oh, I’ve had fun introducing my students to blogs; they’re slowly making their way into the blogosphere with their class blog about reading. I know this will grow over the year as their baby steps become stronger and more confident. I’ve also found a VERY helpful site called LibraryThing.com which has made organizing the classroom library and keeping track of books much simpler. Yet, as I’ve detailed in an earlier post, communication with parents is key! We’ve set up a website for parents to keep in touch with us and feel informed about what is going on in the classroom. And as that old cliche goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

The iPhone, which had been previously relegated to the depths of my purse, is now out and about with me. When the students are working with their math manipulatives, or sharing a writing piece, or conferring up close with a friend, these previously unrecorded moments are captured, emailed to Flickr, and instantly posted on the website. Voila! Learning is happening, and it’s visible.

If a student were to respond typically to the question, “What did you learn today” with the inevitable grunt, all mom or dad, or grandma or grandpa, or auntie or uncle, has to do is ask about the picture clearly shown on the screen. Better yet, they can ask about the picture first! No beating around the bush, no pulling teeth.

An article in Midweek this past June summarized the results of a survey done on Wirefly.com regarding cell phone camera usage. Unsurprisingly, cell phone cameras are the “camera of choice” for young adults. To my mind, my cell phone is always available (I never leave the house without it), I can easily upload pictures to Flickr, email them to friends and family, and I don’t have to carry another gadget with me nor wait to get home to share my pictures with others. In fact, the reason I love Twinkle so much is because the picture option is so easily integrated into the text. It provides the ability to tell a story and share it instantaneously.

One of the big stories the past couple of days in Hawaii has been the arrival and subsequent vacation of Democratic nominee Barrack Obama. Now love ‘im or leave ‘im, there has definitely been buzz about town as people try to get a glimpse of him, not just for themselves, but to chronicle and share with others. What I found truly telling and a sign of the times was a cartoon in the Star Bulletin. Decidedly not the paparazzi, but a whole different breed, with a whole new tool, and a whole different purpose.

The Obama Watch

The Obama Watch

Telling stories and sharing them with others, in this case, perhaps one about a potential future president.

Don’t get me wrong. There are deeper issues in education. Ones that we address quietly, on our own, in our classrooms everyday. But perhaps that’s where the potential for change lies. We can’t address them alone. We need to take these issues outside, connect with others whose ed-views and world-views lie within the same or overlapping spheres. Let’s tell these stories…and tell them together.

I’ve been so busy with the first few days of school that I haven’t had time to blog. Animoto made it easy to capture some quick memories, yet still make it look polished. Uploading the pictures took longer than any other part of putting this video together!

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Just for fun! It’s like a commercial… 
(Thank you to “Angela Maiers” for the tip on Animoto)

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This time of year is always a little bittersweet for me. I love spending time with my two children, going to the beach, staying up late, reading books together whenever the urge strikes, unhampered by homework or papers that need correcting. The dishes can sit in the sink until the next morning because we have to play one last game of flashlight tag before bed. Yet it also brings great excitement and anticipation, the entry of twenty or so new children into the next ten months of my life. And of course 2008 is no exception.

I have spent the better part of my summer reading, but mostly writing and reflecting as I haven’t done in quite a while. That is all thanks to a two day conference and and an ability to publish my thoughts and ideas. While my entries are not many…yet…not all of my writing is online. The point is, when I found something that was meaningful enough to pursue and a tool that gave me a voice beyond myself, I could not help but immerse myself in every aspect. This mindful pursuit and thirst for more knowledge is what I hope and aspire to for each of my students this year.

One of my colleagues had the rare opportunity to participate in mindful pursuit of knowledge at The Teacher’s College this past summer. When sharing her incredible experience with us this past week, she made mention of how read alouds were done. The teacher reads and thinks aloud and no one interrupts. This struck me as odd. Isn’t reading a form of communication? Don’t we need interaction to boost comprehension? My colleague said that she felt the same way, until she realized that through “turn and talk” there was lots of interaction…just not with the teacher. Had I not heard this and been forced to look at it in that way, at that particular moment, my thinking and therefore my educational practice would remain unchanged. However, as serendipity would have it, I have been thinking all summer about real conversation, in a larger arena than a single classroom, and rereading To Understand by Ellin Oliver Keene this past week. 

I do not want my students simply regurgitating answers to a text chosen by someone else and learning vocabulary words out of context. I want them to have conversations with each other and their peers who may not necessarily be in the same physical space without it flowing through me first. I want them to think and feel deeply, to remember, and to take action for causes of their choosing. I want them to know that they can have access to teachers that are experts in every field, and that these teachers come in all shapes and sizes and ages. And perhaps most importantly, I want them to know that they, too, can be teachers.

Happy School Year 2008-2009 to all educators, who I know are thinking and wishing these exact same things for their students!

June 2018
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