Thursday, May 28, 2015

Summertime learning

I remember so fondly as a child the last day of school, the relief when I'd been promoted to the next grade, and the exhilaration of looking at so many weeks of summer. Freedom from a rigid five days a week schedule. Freedom from early bedtimes. Freedom from learning.

Freedom from learning? Really? Isn't it interesting that when we look back, we realize our best learning happened when we didn't even know we were learning.


Swimming lessons
Driver's Ed
Camps of all kinds
Library time
Reading anything you want to
Cooking classes
Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts/4-H
Vacation Bible School
Family vacations
Educational TV
New notebooks and journals to write in
Playing with the neighborhood kids and siblings
Arts and crafts
Visiting extended family
Gazing at the stars
Summer theater opportunities
Community Band
Growing a garden

What learning experiences can you create this summer? Does learning have to take place in the four walls of the school? If it didn't back then, it certainly doesn't now. Add to the list above, which is still applicable, the Internet, and there is no end to the possibilities for learning anywhere anytime all summer.

My job is year round, and I still get excited for the opportunities for personal learning that come to me in the summertime. What are you waiting for? Create some personal learning experiences!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Relationships - Relationships - Relationships

"They maneuvered around one another with the absolute confidence of people who have spent huge amounts of time together, who trusted and loved one another and who knew how to show one another off to best advantage and how to curb each other's boring and annoying habits."--The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Never neglect the relationships you develop at work. So many disagreements and heartaches could be avoided if, as my superintendent once said in his opening year remarks, we always treated people like people, not objects. I'd go even further and say that we also have to step outside our own little boxes and look at a bigger picture than what we personally deal with day to day. There are many forces at work in our schools, and sometimes people's actions become very understandable when we look at all the angles. Here's what I'm thinking right this minute.

  • We can disagree without being disagreeable.
  • We can have different viewpoints and still like and respect each other.
  • We can walk a mile in each other's shoes before we criticize.
  • We can relinquish control over the things we don't know enough about or have the time for.
  • We can find the time and places to really get to know the people we work with.
  • We can always give the benefit of the doubt.
  • We can let go of the past.
  • We can buy into the fact that education and experience does qualify those we work with more highly than ourselves in their specific subjects.
  • We can quit gossiping.
  • We can change our minds when evidence supports a different conclusion.
  • We can realize that we all work for the same team - our students, our schools, and our community.

As role models for each other and for our students, we need to work together and respect each other. Always.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Learning About 3D Shapes

   We recently had some 3D printer fun in Mrs. Knapp's second grade classroom. 

The students were learning about 3D shapes.

Technology certainly added a Wow Factor!

There were lots of ooooooo's and ahhhhhhhh's.

There was lots of curiosity.

In addition, the students enjoyed creating their own 3D shapes.

They compared them to the shapes created by the printer.

I think we cemented 3D shapes into these students' memories
and increased their learning.

Don't you?

Friday, May 1, 2015

Making the Impossible Possible

I LOVE this time of year - Putting the ribbon around all the learning that has gone on during this school year and making optimistic plans for how we can be even better next year. My favorite symbol in the whole world is the flying pig. The flying pig symbolizes to me that what at first may seem impossible can often be made possible if we're just willing to figure it out and do the work. It's how I approach education and how I approach life.

It won't shock anyone for me to say that much of my district is still on the fence when it comes to the best use of technology for learning. We've purchased lots of devices, but many have still not bought into the enormous potential technology has to improve education. We make a lot of progress when we regularly offer EdTech Professional Development, but then we slip and slide when we don't. Unfortunately, we still have a tendency to think instructional strategies and Iowa Core are separate from educational technology, and we divvy up our days of professional development and throw up our hands with, "There just isn't enough time." We love the use of social media to keep our stakeholders informed, but we neglect the huge potential social media can bring to our learning.

Because of this reality, I'm always looking for ways to persuade administrators and teachers that technology use by students is absolutely valuable to the instructional process. I'm always looking for opportunities to model effective use of technology for learning - beyond drill and practice games and reading online and simple Google searches to find information. I'm always looking for ways to persuade our people that the world has changed and to think that we can continue to educate the way we were educated is unfair to our students. It does not equip them with the skills they need to live in the online world that they spend time in already, nor does it prepare them for the global society and world of work that they will be a part of not in some nebulous time in the future but right now.

Most of all, I'm always looking for ways to persuade our administrators and teachers that using technology supports the instructional strategies we are already using. It's not something separate or something more. AIW and rigor and Iowa Core and reading, writing, and math instructional strategies can remain on the schedule for our teachers, because they can and should be seamlessly meshed with student technology use for learning. Curriculum, instruction, and technology are inextricably intertwined. They are not separate entities. They hold hands and they support student learning together.

I know these words are hardly new or unique. In fact, I've said and written them myself many times. However, we're getting ready to buy and deploy almost 400 new devices. We're going to spend all summer updating network things that need updated and devices that need to be reconfigured, and we're going to equip our renovated high school with state of the art technology. While we're doing all of that, my mind can't help but race to figure out how to make the best use of all that technology. Fortunately, a very long conversation with my superintendent this morning leaves me with massive hope that we are ready to take some big steps to be where we need to be when it comes to using tech in the best ways possible for learning. I have some great ideas for making the impossible possible.

Stay tuned!