Monday, November 30, 2009

Kick a Ginger Day Horror

red hair After reading Kick a Ginger Day: One Mom’s Horrifying Account and seeing news accounts on TV, I was also horrified. For some reason I couldn’t get it off my mind. Of course, this leads to a discussion of sorts with my husband over breakfast which really is more of a rant.

Apparently a group on Facebook who was inspired by a South Park episode encouraged kids to beat up others who had red hair and freckles. At one school a 12 year old boy was surrounded by a group of 15 others (some were even his classmates) like a pack of wild animals and attacked him. They took him down and kicked him repeatedly.

This is just more evidence on how what our children watch can influence them. There is so much violence and profanity on television now that I think our children are desensitized to it. They think it is so cool to do these kinds of things. Even worse, many of these shows are showing that the “bad guy” gets away with it.

I have watched an episode of South Park once and swore that I would never watch that again. But apparently enough people watch this so they get advertising and continue to broadcast. I was horrified with the disrespect these characters use to interact with others. How can parents allow their children to watch this garbage?

At first I thought that this type of stuff should be banned from the airwaves! Of course my husband disagreed (amazing that we got married since we don’t agree on a lot of things but I guess after 30 years of togetherness, I should be glad we agreed on the important things!). He felt that censorship is “big brother-ish.” When I calmed down, I had to agree but something needs to be done. Parents need to monitor what their children are watching. If people don’t watch certain programs, their ratings go down, advertisers won’t pay for advertising and these programs will go away.

What happened to those great family shows? They don’t seem to make them anymore. I remember my children watching Little House on the Prairie, Eight is Enough, Our House, and Touched By An Angel. Those were great wholesome shows that a family could watch together and even talk about. Even now I tend to watch the Hallmark channel a lot because those shows just make me feel good about the world and others.

I watch a lot of TV shows now that my children are grown up but I don’t think I would have watched these shows with them. There is so much violence and blood in shows like CSI, Law and Order SVU, NCIS, and other shows like this. I didn’t let my children see those horror movies that “everyone else” got to see. I didn’t let them watch TV shows that “everyone else” got to watch. Maybe I was a fuddy-duddy (do they still use that phrase?) but I felt it was my responsibility as a parent to set these limits.

I hope some of these parents with young children will start to wake up and realize that they have a responsibility. It is time to say no to these movies and shows. It’s time to tell our children no. They do not need to watch these shows and encourage their continuing influence. They do not need to do what “everyone else” does because, let’s face it, not “everyone else” really does it!

Okay, I will get off my soapbox now. I just got so upset with this story and it all boiled over. Now, tell me what do you think? Do you let your children watch these types of things? If so, convince me why I shouldn’t feel this way. I’m not sure you can but I’ll keep an open mind.

Original image: 'Little Redheaded Boy at the Atlanta Zoo' by: Steven List

Friday, November 27, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 11/27/09

011 Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my Personal Learning Network (PLN). As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Kidzillions – “We give kids the tools to manage their own money online. Parents complete the transactions, but kids make the decisions and learn the lessons.”

How to Rock Your Intellectual Game: The Top 111 Learning Strategies

A Lifetime of Color – “provides educators with a comprehensive resource of lesson plans, projects and techniques for teachers and educators!” Lesson plans from K-8 are included, demos of different techniques as well as a chance to try these techniques out.

Amazing Cells – “From the structure and function of organelles to communication on a molecular level, these materials explore the inner-most workings of cells in a dynamic and realistic way. Integrate the Print-and-Go activities below with the online activities available in the Amazing Cells section on Learn.Genetics to provide a good picture of what a cell does during its "resting phase." Tour the information on the rest of this page for teaching tips and background information.”

The Human Skeleton – interactive site that quizzes you on the names of the bones

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Blessings

Thanksgiving Today is Thanksgiving and I have so much to be thankful for this year.  (cross posted on The Life of Loonyhiker)

· Husband (the center of my life!)

· Family (I feel the love!)

· Good Health (I feel good!)

· Money to pay my bills (being able to pay my bills lets me do other things without worrying)

· Ability to travel and mark places off our wish list (I love traveling to new places)

· My father who will turn 90 on December 7th (after his stroke 2 years ago, I didn’t think he would make it to this age)

· Learning Mandarin (learning to speak Chinese is something I always wished I could do)

· Online friends (I feel so connected with others rather than isolated)

· Meeting online friends in person (I find this fascinating)

· Ability to help others (it makes me feel useful)

· Writing my blogs which I thoroughly enjoy (sharing my life with others)

· Teaching graduate courses for Furman in the summer. (sharing with others about my teaching experience)

· Books (to help me when I want to escape the real world)

· Laptop and internet (so I can stay connected)

· TVs (which are on at home all of the time)

· Recipes (so I can learn to make new dishes)

· Sunshine (makes me smile!)

· Music (makes me feel happy)

· Ipod (to take my mind off my misery while I exercise)

· Cell phones (with Verizon I can call family members easily)

· Toyota Prius (which now has almost 100,000 miles on it!)

· Cameras (because I love taking pictures)

· Rain (especially since we experienced a drought)

· Flowers (they make me smile!)

· Hiking (I love to experience God’s world)

Original image: Thanksgiving Centerpiece by alasam

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Educarnival v2 Issue 14

carnival1 The Carnival of Education is up on the midway at Epic Adventures are Often Uncomfortable. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on Unblocking Social Networking Sites is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Contributing Makes Me Feel Amazing

contributing I love to get on Plurk and Twitter connecting with my personal learning network (PLN). I am always amazed at the things I learn from people around the world. The more I interact with others, the more I realize how much many our challenges are similar. I had heard that the Georgia Educational Technology Conference was going on and wished that I could be there because I love tech conferences. Over the years I think we have moved past learning about the specific tools as much as learning how to apply the tools in specific situations.

Someone asked me if I would be willing to Skype in so they could show the audience how Skype works. First of all, I was thrilled to be asked to contribute something to a conference that I wish I had attended. Second of all, I was thrilled to be a part of something bigger. The more that people learn about using the tools, hopefully, the more people will actually apply it in their classrooms. It seemed like many of the people in the audience were thrilled to see how easy Skype worked and how clear the sound and picture was.

Just being able to contribute something made me feel special. At first it is a scary thing to do because of course I had to get out of my pajamas and fix my hair! Then it is the thought about how dorky I sound or look in front of all those people! But once I got past those scary feelings, I felt amazing. Without people who contribute to things like this, it would be really hard to show others how things work. It is the contributions that people make which make the interactive part of networking worthwhile.

I’m been holding our Council for Exceptional Children Chapter 877 meetings on Flashmeeting. I love the platform and the ease that we have holding these meetings. The problem is getting people to attend the meetings. By being there online, whether they use a microphone, web cam, or just text, they are contributing. They are adding their ideas and thoughts. Maybe people don’t realize how important their contributions are and think that just watching the recording is all that they need. Contributions are what make this a much richer experience.

I love blogging about my teaching experiences, beliefs, and ideas but it is a one woman show. I am usually throwing out ideas and hoping there is someone in the great beyond who is listening to me. Yet, when I get comments, I am thrilled. I’m not sure that people realize how much their comments mean to me. By commenting, I feel like they are making the discussion a much richer environment. Instead of being a one woman show, it becomes a conversation and conversations are important.

I started to join wikis so that I can add information. I also joined Nings so that I can be part of the community. Not only was I contributing to other people’s pages but people were contributing to mine too! The wealth of information that is out there when we all join in the conversation is astonishing! This is a way to corral everyone’s strengths towards a specific purpose. No wonder these people seem to be so successful in their professional lives.

I have noticed that some people are doing presentations on building a personal learning network and I think I will jump on the bandwagon. By being a part of a personal learning network, I think teacher’s professional lives will be so much richer. I’m hoping to create a presentation so that I can offer this to teachers in my area in order to help them because they can tailor their network to their needs and interests. It doesn’t matter what grade level or subject they teach because it is the interactions that are important to being successful in the classroom.

Do you contribute to others so that you have an interactive network? If not, take the first step. Offer a comment on a blog, or join Skype, Plurk and Twitter. But don’t just lurk (not saying anything). Join in the conversation because I promise you, once you start, you will be amazed like I was!

Original image: The hands that help are holier than the lips that pray... by addicted Eyes

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pasta Tales Contest


Here is what I found on the Olive Garden website about this contest. I thought it would be a great writing opportunity for students to win a $500 savings bond and a dinner. There is still time for your students to participate.

Olive Garden’s Pasta Tales begins online Oct. 19

Reading, writing and arithmetic — no matter the subject, teachers often leave their mark on students, inspiring them to strive for success and reach their goals.  In recognition of teachers across North America, Olive Garden has announced the topic for its 14th-annual Pasta Tales essay writing contest: “Describe a teacher who has inspired you in school and how they have impacted your life.”.

From Monday, Oct. 19 through Friday, Dec. 11, 2009, Olive Garden’s Pasta Tales contest will give young writers in first- through 12th-grade in the U.S. and Canada the opportunity to share their stories in essays of 50 to 250 words.  Pasta Tales entry forms and complete rules will be available beginning Oct. 19 at and on Oct. 26 at local Olive Garden restaurants..

The contest grand prize is a three-day trip to New York City including dinner at the Olive Garden in Times Square and a $2,500 savings bond.  Winners also will be chosen in each grade category and will receive a $500 savings bond and a family dinner at their local Olive Garden restaurant.

Pasta Tales entries must include the writer’s name, complete address, phone number with area code, grade, date of birth including year and a statement that the work is their own.  Entries must be submitted either online or postmarked by Dec. 11 and sent to Pasta Tales, PMB 2000, 6278 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 33308-1916.

Submissions will be judged based on creativity, adherence to theme, organization, grammar, punctuation and spelling by the Quill and Scroll Society of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Iowa, with finalists selected by Olive Garden.

Since its inception, Olive Garden’s Pasta Tales has provided young people in the communities it serves a way to creatively express the influences, experiences and stories that have shaped their lives.  For more information about Pasta Tales, call Katie Lennon at (954) 776-1999, ext. 240 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST.

Olive Garden is the leading restaurant in the Italian dining segment with 695 restaurants, more than 87,000 employees and $3.3 billion in annual sales. Olive Garden is a division of Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE:DRI), the world’s largest company-owned and operated full-service restaurant company.  For more information, visit Olive Garden’s Web site at “

Entries will be accepted from October 19 through December 11. Enter online here.
“Describe a teacher who has inspired you in school and how they have impacted your life."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Passport to Success 2009

On Friday we held the Passport to Success 2009. It was a successful experience and I think most of the students really got a lot out of it. The purpose of this event was to give insight to 11th and 12th grade students with identified disabilities that will provide them with information to be successful in post secondary education and training. Our keynote speaker was Jordan Sorrells, who is the quarterback for the Furman Paladins. Even though I didn’t tape the very beginning of his speech (I had the camera on the wrong settings), I got the rest of it which was truly a magnificent speech and I think it reached many of the students. I hope you enjoy the speech!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 11/20/09

010 Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my Personal Learning Network (PLN). As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Teaching Preservation – “From art to social studies, lessons that incorporate historic preservation go beyond typical textbook activities by teaching your students to recognize and appreciate the rich heritage that surrounds them.”

LitCharts – “the faster, downloadable alternative to Spark Notes.” You can read them online, in a pdf file or on your iphone

Coolfood kidz – fun and interesting nutrition information and building healthy eating habits.

Internet Safety – “This blog is a place to learn about internet safety, explore the myths, uncover the facts and discuss what it means to stay safe online today.”

Power Point Games - These games were created in PowerPoint.  Download the templates and modify the games to fit your curriculum needs.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The K-12 Online Conference is Coming

k12onlineThis is a great professional development opportunity! I have watched many of the webcasts and they are well worth attending. There are lots of great ideas and information that you can get from this and I encourage you to attend. The following is from their website:

“The K-12 Online Conference invites participation from educators around the world interested in innovative ways Web 2.0 tools and technologies can be used to improve learning. This FREE conference is run by volunteers and open to everyone. The 2009 conference theme is “Bridging the Divide.” This year’s conference begins with a pre-conference keynote by classroom teacher and international educator Kim Cofino the week of November 30, 2009. The following two weeks, December 7-11 and December 14-17, over fifty presentations will be posted online to our conference blog and our conference Ning for participants to view, download, and discuss. Live Events in the form of three “Fireside Chats” are listed on the events page of our conference Ning and Facebook fan page, and live events will continue in 2010 through twice-monthly “K-12 Online Echo” webcasts on EdTechTalk. Everyone is encouraged to participate in both live events during and after the conference as well as asynchronous conversations. Over 122 presentations from 2008, 2007, and 2006 are available, along with archived live events. Follow the K12 Online Conference on Twitter and Facebook!”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Educarnival v2 Issue 13

carnival2 The Carnival of Education is up on the midway at Epic Adventures are Often Uncomfortable. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on Lessons I Learned from Knitting is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Body Language is Important

I recently saw this video on youtube about Basic Communication. It was a great video to watch and to show my students.

It also was a great reminder to myself about how my body language affects my own communication to others. I began to think of the different people I communicate with and some things I want them to feel when we are communicating but I’m not sure I use the appropriate body language. By writing this down, I hope it will make me more aware the next time I am communicating with them.

My Colleagues – I want them to know that I value their opinions and thoughts. Even if I don’t agree with them, I need to be aware that there are more than one side to any story. I need to have an open mind to new ideas they may have and be willing to try some of them. There is so much that I can learn from my colleagues whether they are new to teaching or a veteran. By valuing their ideas and opinions, I hope they in turn will treat mine the same way.

My Students – I want my students to know that I have confidence in what I am teaching. I want them to feel inspired and motivated to learn. By showing enthusiasm and confidence, it will make learning new material more interesting for them. They need to know that when they try something new and face complications, that I will be there for them. By using the right body language, I can show them that I really care about them and their thoughts. I will also be modeling good communication skills to them.

My Friends – Sometimes I take my friends for granted. I assume that they will be there forever for me and that isn’t true. I need to make sure that I am focused on our conversations more instead of thinking about what I should be doing or what I want to say next. I really need to be engaged in our interactions. I also need to watch their body language to see if they are really saying what they mean. My friend might need emotional support but not being saying that in words. As a friend, I need to be there for this person like I would want her to be there for me.

My Family – Like friends, I take my family for granted. I might not be as polite to my family as I am to others and that isn’t right. I need to show my family how much I care for them and how much they mean to me. If I ignore them or act disinterested in their interests, it is sending a message that I don’t value them, which is not what I want to do.

Body language skills are so important to learn. These can make an impact on a job interview or a relationship. These skills may determine whether or not you are successful in what you are trying to do. Sometimes I like to videotape my class and let the students review it. We do not attack anyone or put them on the defensive but instead look at the body language and the message they are sending. Sometimes students don’t realize what message they are sending and this can make a difference.

I once had an argument with a colleague who asked me why I was so defensive and I told her that her tone of voice was making me feel that way. She did not realize that she was coming across that way and did not intend for her comments to be taken that way. She really worked on this when she had conversations with me and we really got along much better and was able to work on many projects together peacefully. It also made me more aware of how I come across to people.

Even though I think body language skills are important for my students to learn, I also think it is important to refresh my own skills. Like any skill, if you don’t use it, you lose it. I think that adults may take this skill for granted also, and not use it the way we should. Now I need to go check out what my family is doing and practice these skills!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Unblocking Social Networking Sites


In Why Facebook is Unblocked at ISB from The Thinking Stick, Jeff Utecht shares an email from his department sent to a parent who was concerned about Facebook being unblocked at his school. Near the end of the email, it states,

“These sites have emerged as social areas that form a major significant part of many of our student’s lives. This socialization is near as important to this generation as face to face time with their friends and they maintain friendships beyond ISB to include international students from schools around the world. At this point we feel that by simply blocking these sites, we as a school would be missing an opportunity to educate students about how to use them appropriately…If students cannot manage their time on computers productively at school, then they would certainly not be able to at home. Blocking access has not proven to be effective in teaching students to use a tool effectively and wisely.”

I think part of the desire to block is fear of the unknown. When rock and roll first hit the scene, parents around the world were horrified and wanted this new type of music banned and hidden from their children. I’m sure that when the first automobile hit the roads, there was fear of how this newfangled thing would affect our lives. I believe as more and more parents become comfortable with social networking sites, they will less stressed about their children using them. Of course, as a parent, I would require that my child becomes my “friend” and I would have the password to my child’s account. If for any reason this password gets changed or if I’m blocked, I would delete the account and keep my child from using this until he/she matured more. But that is just what I would do.

I also understand the need to protect our children but by acting out of fear and ignorance is not the best way to protect our children. When we teach our children to read, there is a chance that they will read some inappropriate materials. So in our desire to protect, do we just not let our children learn to read or do we let them learn to read but only material we hand pick for them? When our children learn to drive, there is a chance that they may drive to an inappropriate place. There is a chance that they may get in an accident, get car jacked, or even pick up a hitchhiker. Do we not teach our children to drive, or only let them go places if we are with them?

When I was growing up, my parents did not allow me to date until my senior year of high school. I did not have a lot of social skills when dealing with the opposite sex. My only date happened to be my prom date and it wasn’t the highlight of my dating career. When I went on to college (800 miles away from my parents), I went boy crazy. I went out with some horrible boys as well as some nice boys. The problem was that I didn’t have any guidance from my parents to help me figure out which ones were which. At one point, I had a boy who became very possessive and started to stalk me but I didn’t know how to deal with it and I wish I had dated more when I was at home with my parents. Eventually my friends were the ones I turned to and they helped me get out of a bad situation. By the time I had children, I knew that I wanted them to have some social experiences while they lived at home and I could help guide them. I didn’t want them to make the same mistakes that I did.

I think it is so important to teach our students to become independent and learn the skills necessary to be become this way. Yet, we need to teach them how to use these skills wisely. We need to introduce them to the negatives as well as the positives. We need to teach them how to handle the tough situations they may find themselves. If we can help them while they are in a safe atmosphere, they will be able to transfer this knowledge when they are on their own. Let’s face it, these students are going to get on social networking sites whether we like it or not, so shouldn’t we give them some information on how to use it appropriately?

How do you feel about this? Do you think students should have access to social networking sites at school and why?

Original image: 'chapter 8 - community building through social networking' by: David King

Monday, November 16, 2009

Can We Change the World?


From The DEN Can Change the World in the DEN Blog Network, I learned about the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge which sounds like an awesome challenge for students. It doesn’t cost anything to enter and would be a real life application of what students are learning.

The purpose of this challenge is to:

  • engage students in identifying and solving local environmental problems
  • utilize their creativity
  • involve their community
  • recommend how others could use this solution in their communities

They challenge students to come up with solutions to environmental problems in their own backyard. They have three different sections: elementary, middle and high school levels but the high school level is “coming soon.” When you click on the level, they give information about resources, the challenge process, the prizes, and the trip. The winners can win $100K plus other prizes. Included are tips for how to get started as well as what the judges are looking for. In the challenge process page, there are teacher resources, student resources and even parent resources. The challenge process is also explained in six detailed steps that tell what is expected.

“The Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge teams should consist of a teacher or other adult mentor and two, three or four students. The mentor can enter multiple teams into the Challenge, but each team should have its own unique solution and results, and may choose to work on different local environmental problems.”

You can read about the specific rules here: Official Contest Rules.

The deadline is March 15, 2010.

Please check this out and consider it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 11/13/09

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my Personal Learning Network (PLN). As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Net Cetera – introduced by the Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Consumer and Business Education.“In Net Cetera: Chatting With Kids About Being Online, OnGuard Online gives adults practical tips to help kids navigate the online world.”

Explore – “Explore is a philanthropic multimedia organization that makes documentary films and photographs to showcase extraordinary nonprofit efforts and leaders around the world.

Through fact-finding missions to identify potential grant recipients, members of the Explore team see first hand where and how possible financial support might be used. Explore opens the door to a world most people never get to see - one that has been neglected by the mainstream media. Viewers meet the people affected by positive change catalyzed by philanthropy, and just as importantly, the leaders creating it.

Explore's film and images document how people from all over the world, from every walk of life, are taking positive steps that have local impact and global relevance. Inspirational content for the web, television and theatrical viewing include interviews, conversations and stories with local heroes. Its multimedia portal brings these individuals together as a collective voice that celebrates and encourages selfless acts of giving.”

Jessica Watson – “Jessica Watson is setting out to become the youngest person to sail solo non-stop and unassisted around the World.” Follow her journey and her blog.

D112IntegratingTechnology – great resource for integrating technology in the classroom

Spinner – Random Sixteen spinner that you can customize

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lessons I Learned from Knitting


If you told me 5 years ago that I would be a knitter, I would have told you that you were crazy! I finally took up knitting about a year ago.

It may look hard but actually may be easier than expected. Many times I look at a pattern and feel overwhelmed, yet I really want to make the item that looks so cool in the picture. I decide to try it because what is the worst thing that can happen? Then I find out it really wasn’t that hard and if I had given up before I started, I would never have found this out. Maybe that is the way my lessons appear to my students. My explanation may sound more difficult than it really is so I have to be careful about overwhelming them. I need to find ways to simplify what I’m teaching and then when they understand the concept, I can go into more detail. This way it won’t scare them.

Sometimes you have to rip out and start all over. When things don’t go right, I sometimes have to rip it out and begin it again. But that is alright. That is how I find out my mistake so I don’t do it again. If I hadn’t found out what I was doing wrong, this might never turn out right. That is why I make my students correct their mistakes early on. So many times they want me to just give them a grade a move on, but they won’t learn that way. They will just keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

It helps to get have a support system. I found a group of people who do well in knitting and are willing to help me. Over time I feel more comfortable sharing my mistakes so that they can show me an easier way to do things. That is one reason I think we need to put students with various strengths together in groups in order for them to learn from one another. Also if students are working on a project if they have the same interests, it is likely they will learn different strategies for learning the material.

Mistakes happen but don’t agonize over them. I made a sweater where the arms were too long but didn’t find out until I tried it on when it was done. I made a pair of socks where the foot was too long and the heels stuck out of my shoes when I put them on. These are things that I can adjust the next time I make a sweater or a pair of socks. From these mistakes, I learned what I need to do differently but I don’t just give up on knitting because of them. I need to encourage my students the same way about their learning. Sure they will make mistakes but those are just building blocks for future successes. I don’t want them to give up on learning because of their mistakes.

Sometimes you just have to believe. Once I really didn’t understand how a pattern would make a sock but it did. I studied and studied the pattern but could not make sense out of all the steps. Somebody just told me to believe it would happen and just start following the steps. Well, I did and was amazed that it really turned into a sock. After I actually made the sock, I was able to understand how the pattern worked and it made sense to me. It would never have made sense if I didn’t try it. Sometimes we need to get our students to do the same things. If they go through the process, they may actually understand it better. That is why I feel that hands on activities are so important to learning abstract ideas. If I can relate the abstract to a real thing, the students seem to grasp the concept so much better.

I think I learn something new every day from my new knitting adventure. If you haven’t ever tried it, I would highly recommend it to all men and women. It is a great stress reliever and research shows that it lowers high blood pressure. If you aren’t into knitting, I suggest finding something new to learn because the lessons you learn will definitely help your classroom lessons be more successful!

Original image: 'Noro Socks finished (365.2.7)' by: caro sheridan

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Carnival of Education 11/11/09

carnival2 The EduCarnival v2 Issue 12 is up on the midway at Epic Adventures are Often Uncomfortable. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article Getting Your Administration On Board is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Chipping Away At Our Rights

In Photographic privacy is over from Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer, Wes tells us that,

“Back in April 2009, a California court ruled photos posted to an online social networking website (MySpace in this situation) cannot be considered “private.” This latest case from Indiana will put this plea to the test again, but in slightly different circumstances since the posters DID share the images with privacy controls enabled.”

The story Wes shares with us is about two female athletes who posted summer pictures of themselves (with privacy controls enabled) that caused them to be barred from participating in athletic activities at school because some people printed the pictures out and submitted them to administration.

This is just one more example of how our rights are slowly being taken away from us a little at a time and many don’t even realize it. These girls sent them privately to friends and didn’t expect anyone else to see them. It is not like they sent them out to the general public. Of course, I’m not excusing behaviors that put people in the position of being judged, ridiculed, or even humiliated. I also tell people that you shouldn’t say, do, or post anything on the internet that you wouldn’t want your own mama to see. I’m just saying that we don’t seem to have freedom of speech anymore.

Another example of this was when I recently read that a college football coach was fined $30,000 because he disagreed with an official publicly. He felt an official missed a call and when asked, he made that statement. Apparently the rules say you can’t say anything negative about officials publicly. That is absolutely against our constitution! What happened to freedom of speech? Am I the only one who seems outraged by this?

One last example is when a congressman disagreed with our President and called him a liar. I admit that it was rude to do that and embarrassing but it wasn’t the end of the world. People acted like it was the most horrific thing next to murder. Many people felt this congressman should be removed or sanctioned. Again, I ask, what happened to freedom of speech? If you disagree with the President, you should be removed from office or be penalized in some way? If his constituents are unhappy with him, then they will vote him out of office next time but who are we to tell him that he doesn’t have a right to speak out? Maybe he was representing his constituents who elected him to represent them. I don’t know the answer to these questions but I don’t see that he broke any law or physically hurt anyone. How many government protests happen every day and no one does anything about them. Will that be next? Will it be illegal soon to meet and protest? (Is this starting to sound like the Revolutionary War times?)

I thought that the freedoms we have are what makes America what it is. I’m not happy about the many ways that some people speak or act but they have a right to do this as long as they are not harming someone. If they are committing slander or libel, then the court system is there to protect the people concerned.

I worry that we will be teaching our students that it is not alright for them to disagree. Shouldn’t we be teaching our students critical thinking? Shouldn’t we be teaching them the appropriate way to share their views if they disagree with someone else? We should not be stifling them because they don’t agree. We shouldn’t mold them to be little robots with no minds of their own. I don’t feel this is the way they can be successful in today’s society. What do you think?

Original image: 'Packed in like sardines' by: ▄█▀▐█▌█▄▐█▌

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Use It or Lose It

In Is internet connectivity everything? from Kobus van Wyk, Kobus states,

“The internet is only of value to teachers and learners if it is used…Many a gym contract is not used because the members do not understand how to use it, how it can improve your health, and why regularity is important. Could it be that similar reasons are underlying the non-use of the internet in some schools?”

This had me thinking about how many times have teachers attended professional development and found things that they believe will work in their classrooms and spent time learning how to use it but then never touch it again. This is what is frustrating to me when I am teaching teachers to use certain programs that will enhance their lessons and increase student achievement. They come to my sessions and seem gung ho about what I’m sharing and then they go home, never to touch this or think about it again. To me, that is such a waste of valuable time. If they really like something, then they need to actually use it or they will forget about how it works, the value of it, and go back to doing things the same old way. But how can I motivate these people to not forget about what they learned and encourage them to use it? It almost feels like they are caught in this wave of excitement but once they get home away from these feelings, all is lost.

I think when giving presentations in the future I will do the following things:

• At the session I am giving, I will ask everyone to give me their email addresses so I can follow up on whether they are using what they learned in the classroom. Sometimes people need a little nudge or reminder once they get home. After getting back into their regular routines, they might like to know that they still have someone to support them while they try something new.

• I will ask people to try it at least three times and share with me the results. Sometimes by having a goal to work towards, it will motivate people to actually do something.

• Ask that people agree to share their results with the entire group by allowing me to compile all the links and send them out to everyone. Sometimes if we see how others have used something, it helps stimulate our creative process so we can use it in similar ways.

• Ask them to share this with someone else who was not at the session and try to get them to try it too. Sometimes if you have a colleague working alongside you with something new, it makes the learning easier.

Do you have any suggestions on how to get people to “use it or lose it” without antagonizing them or turning them off by being too zealous? Please share them here because I would love more ideas!

Original image: 'Lost' by: Indrid Cold

Monday, November 9, 2009

How to Be a Successful Learner

In Training like Champions from Angela Maiers Educational Services by Angela Maiers, she asks some great reflective questions that I thought was important to think about. I think by answering these questions, it would help me be a better teacher and a better learner. Since learning is a lifelong process, I always need to think about how to learn better.

“What is the most important thing you do to grow yourself as a learner?” I do a lot of research about the topic that I want to learn. Sometimes I want to just jump in and impulsively start something but I am still learning to stop myself, step back, and look into this with more details. After doing my research, I may change my mind about how much I really want to learn this skill or do whatever I had planned to do. This research may shed light on aspects that I hadn’t thought about before which might be vital to the success of this endeavor.

“What do successful learners do that make them successful?” I think successful learners keep their eye on the ultimate goal and not get sidetracked. I remember how much I wanted to be a teacher and that was my goal since I was a young child. Even though I was told that I couldn’t afford the private out of state university I wanted to attend, I didn’t let it discourage me. I knew I needed scholarships and the only way to earn any was to study hard and get the highest grades I could. When I still needed more money than I actually had, I applied for loans. I went so far as to declare myself independent from my parents so that the bank would loan me more money. I kept my eye on the goal and actually attended the university that I wanted because I knew it was the best place for me to go. During college, many of my friends attended lots of parties and did a lot of socializing but I didn’t because I needed to study and keep my grades up so I didn’t lose my scholarships. I even worked during all four years of college to help pay the costs. I truly believe the saying “where there is a will, there is a way.”
“What do successful learners do to maximize their efficiency?” It is important to identify all of the steps needed to achieve the final goal. This makes it easier to see your accomplishments and keeps you from getting discouraged. Once all of the steps are listed, it is important to prioritize them in order for it to be effective. It helps keep the excitement in your heart as you get nearer to your goal.

“What hinders your success as a learner?” Discouragement and fear of failure is the biggest obstacle I face. Many times other people will say I’m doing the impossible which is like an infection in my brain and makes me start believing them. When I do not achieve one of the small steps getting to my goal, it makes me feel discouraged and then I want to give up.

“What do you do to get over that obstacle?” I remind myself of the ultimate goal and decide how much I want to achieve it. Then I look at my list again and make sure that I don’t have to adjust it in some way for me to be more successful. This might mean changing priorities or even adding more steps.

“What do successful learners do when they are not motivated?” When I’m not motivated, I listen to those people who have achieved the same goal and are talking about it. I get this from reading other people’s blogs, talking to them online, listening to podcasts they have made, or reading books they have written.

“What do successful learners do when they do not know the subject well?” Lots and lots of research. The more you know about the subject, the more it will make sense. Sometimes I will find out vital information that I did not know was important in order to achieve success.

“How does your attitude affect you as a learner?” Believing that I can achieve anything I want to is important. It is all up to me. If I need help, then it is important that I take whatever steps are necessary to find the help I need. But no matter what, I need to believe in myself or it isn’t worth trying.
“What do you attribute for your learning success?” Having been successful in things I have tried in the past, it is a foundation for me to keep trying new things. That is why I feel it is so important for teachers to find things that students can do successfully and encourage students to do them. This will help them believe in themselves and make them more willing to learn more things. This success will give them a building block to keep moving upward. If I hadn’t been successful in anything, I’m not sure I would keep trying because I wouldn’t believe in myself.

I challenge you to answer these questions and share with others (Thanks Angela for making me think!). If you do, please let me know here and give me a link to your page with the answers.

Original image: 'Violin lessons' by: Nadia Blagorodnova

Friday, November 6, 2009

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 11/6/09

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my Personal Learning Network (PLN). As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Dinosaurs and Rockets – great science website; they even go to schools and give presentations; if you don’t live close enough, they have a live show on Thursdays at 1pm. Check out this wonderful web site!

In Search of Ancient Communities – webquests on Stonehenge, Lascaux Cave, Catal Huyuk, Easter Island

International Space Station Comes Together – see how the ISS is put together and the timeline of the assembly

Interactivate Assessments – math games/assessments; “The Interactivate activities listed below are designed so that the user may keep track of correct responses, hence they are cataloged as "assessments". A number of these activities, the Connect Four type games and the Quizzes, also allow users to select difficulty levels and specific problem types, as well as set a time limit, allowing for further tailoring of the assessment to their abilities. The Connect Four type games are designed for two players whereas the other activities listed are designed for individual work.”

Math Live – great assortment of math lessons. I found it very appealing and think students would be motivated with these lessons.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thanksgiving Activities

Now that Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is the next big holiday to prepare for. I love November because I think it is a great time to reflect and think about all the things you are thankful for. Here are some suggestions of activities you can do in the classroom. Now is the time to think about these because you might need some advance preparation for them. Unfortunately there were many times that holidays would sneak up on me and then I would run around like a chicken without a head. Maybe something on this list will interest you and help you in advance because it will help the lesson be more successful.

1. Every day take time to write three things you are thankful for. This can be an ongoing list or can be posted on strips of paper and posted around the room.
2. Make a turkey out of autumn leaves.
3. Make a turkey and post it on the bulletin board. Students can use feathers to post things like: things they are thankful for, or facts about Thanksgiving, or even the steps to cooking a turkey
4. Turkey Treat Holder – decorating a small terracotta pot
5. A Pilgrim’s Conversation: using quotation marks; grades 3-5
6. The History of Thanksgiving – from the History Channel
7. The First Thanksgiving – From Scholastic
8. Thanksgiving Theme Unit – from

I hope this gives you some ideas so you can plan. Many times I was looking for fun educational things to do the two or three days we had school before Thanksgiving holidays. I hope some of these activities are successful in your classroom.

Original image: 'Leaf turkey' by: Jennifer 13

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Educarnival v2 Issue 11

The Carnival of Education is up on the midway at I’m a Dreamer. Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article Relating to School Board Members is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Mentoring Should Be a Two Way Street

In The Witching Hour from Cruel Shoes by eplybon, she states,

“It is the responsibility of veteran educators to support them [new teachers] through this time, which will last until around April (after all the standardized tests have been administered), when they will begin to feel a new energy and hope for a future in teaching. We must first of all let them know that these feelings they are having are normal and that all new teachers face them. We must then support them through the rest of the disillusionment phase by encouraging them, offering them advice when they ask for it, giving them lesson plans and ideas, and inviting them to observe our classrooms.”

I agree that it is very important to encourage and support new teachers so they don’t give up. I also think these feelings are normal for all teachers regardless of the years of experience they may have. They need to know that these are just phases that we all go through in the cycle of teaching and we learn how to cope during these times. Sharing coping skills are important and may help them in many ways.

But I have also found out from my students that they also gain a lot from giving too. Many of my students were always on the receiving end at holidays because their families didn’t have the income to give them presents. This was great for my students and I know getting presents made them feel happy. Yet when I began to help them be on the giving side, it really seemed to make a difference in their lives. By giving, they seemed to hold their heads up high. They even told me that sometimes it embarrassed them to always be on the receiving side because it seemed like they were worthless. By helping them find ways to help others, they suddenly were filled with a sense of worth.

I think the same goes for new teachers. Yes, I think we should be there to give them moral support and encourage them when they are down but I also think we need to let them know that their fresh ideas and outlook can also help the veteran teachers. They are looking at the teaching profession from a fresh perspective and sometimes veteran teachers can get in a rut. By trying some of the new ideas that new teachers have, it would help veteran teachers to stretch themselves and explore the possibilities.

Too many times I have seen veteran teachers who think they have all the answers. They have the best advice. No matter what the new teacher faces, these teachers have an answer to the problem. But sometimes veteran teachers need to step back and listen. Rather than to do the talking, maybe it is time to do the listening. This would be a good time to share difficulties in my own classroom and see if the new teacher has any suggestions. By recognizing that the new teacher might have some great input to help me, may actually help her feel better about her own teaching. Maybe new teachers have great ideas but because they have little experience, their lessons do not go over as well as they could. Now, if you add the veteran teacher’s experience to the pot, maybe this lesson would go over better than expected. What a great opportunity for collaboration!

I see my role as a veteran teacher a little differently than some people. I don’t want to build a wall up to prop up a new teacher. I want to work with the new teacher to create a building together. Both of us could mentor each other and when times get rough, experience might not matter as much as inspiration and motivation. By building together, we could bounce ideas off of each other and discuss possibilities.

I think when these new teachers see that someone is willing to listen to their ideas and help iron out the wrinkles, it will give them new hope. By collaborating with a new teacher, I am showing that I believe in them and that I’m willing to step outside my own box and take risks. I am also showing them that taking risks is worth doing if it benefits our students. When we allow mentoring to become a two way street, I think it helps us be more successful in the classroom! What do you think?

Original image: '2b needed' by: Gisela Giardino

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Opuestos: Mexican Folk Art Opposities in English and Spanish (A Book Review)

I recently read the book Opuestos: Mexican Folk Art Opposites in English and Spanish by Cynthia Weill. (By the way, I am not being paid to write a review of this book.) The wood sculptures from Oaxaca by Quirino and Martin Santiago are used in the illustration of the book. Here is my review that I posted on The Picnic Basket:

On a scale of 1 to 5, I would give this book a 5 (strongly recommend). The ages suggested for this book are ages 2-7 which I feel is very appropriate for this book. I could also see it being used for children with mental disabilities. The colors and the pictures are beautiful to look at and would appeal to young students. Under each picture are the words. The English word is on one side of the page and the Spanish word is on the other side. The words are very simple and easy to understand with the pictures to help. This would be a great way to incorporate cultural lessons in the classroom and increase the students’ vocabulary at the same time. I could see students coming back to this book over and over again. The book could be used to teach the words in two languages as well as introducing the concept of opposites. Students could also be encouraged to come up with opposite pairs that are not mentioned in the book. Then they could research to find out the Spanish or English words that mean the same thing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Getting Your Administration On Board

In 7 steps to success when working with administrators from Dangerously Irrelevant by (Scott McLeod), he gives a list of things that technology integrationists can do to assist their principals and superintendents. This made me think that about actual ways to show how technology actually works in the classroom. I think if people can see real life examples of the way things work, it is easier for them to understand how this might work in their particular situation. Suppose you had some software that you think the entire school should know about and use because it will enhance instruction and improve student achievement. Here are ways you can go about getting your administration on board.

1. Plan your presentation. Practice it in front of someone who can play the devil’s advocate. Note their opposition so that you can come up with answers to counter these negative thoughts.

2. Keep in mind that administrators are busy people and that the world doesn’t revolve around just you. This means that you might have to make an appointment with them and give them a estimate of how much time you need to meet with them. If you need them to come to your classroom to see how something works, make sure you have everything set up before hand and that it all works. If they have to sit there to watch you set it up, you might lose their support. Once you get their support on the actual thing you want them to see, then you can discuss set up and logistics.

3. Give them short examples that show evidence of how things work. As busy people, their attention may wander to other thoughts if you take too long or the presentation is boring.

4. Let them see how this might help more than just in your class. If they can see how it will help more students or teachers, they will feel more justified in helping you.

5. Offer to be the “to go” person if this is implemented. Someone will need to spearhead the training and installation of a program or software that you are trying to implement. Offer to do a presentation to the faculty too. If the administration knows that you will take care of this, it will go a long way to getting it accepted.

6. When the administrator has questions, be prepared to answer them. If you can’t answer them, be honest and do not make up an answer. Offer to get back with them with an answer. Don’t tell them to go somewhere for the answer. If this is a demo piece of software, you might be able to get someone from the company on a Skype call during your presentation to answer any questions that might come up.

7. Make sure you send an email later to thank them for taking the time to hear your presentation.

I think by following these steps, an attempt to persuade the administration to get on board with your ideas would be successful. They might not approve this request immediately, but you will have your foot in the door for future attempts. After seeing the time and effort you put into this presentation, they will know that you are serious about implementing technology in the classroom. A presentation like this might encourage them to think more about the possibilities rather than immediately turning you down.

Original image: '3D Team Leadership Arrow Concept' by: Scott Maxwell