Challenge: If you chose to accept it…

Like most educators, during the final months of the year, I reflect on what I can do differently next year to improve. What changes can I make that will improve the quality of the time I spend with my students. I ask myself, what went well and what made an impact?

As a lover of technology, I already have plans for projects I want to do next year. During this reflect and review process, I am constantly doing checks in balances in my head – asking, “Is this going to be meaningful to my students, or do I want to do this just because I can?” I think we’ve all struggled with this dilemma, especially in the beginning as we worked to figure out and integrate the technologies that really worked for us. Fortunately, I quickly learned to make sure everything has a purpose and is meaningful to my kids.

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Choosing My Challenges
Each year, I challenge myself to think beyond lesson plans, to find ways to empower my students so they are both confident and prepared for jobs that are not yet created.  By this I mean they must believe in themselves and their ability to meet any challenge.  Part of my own preparation involves getting as much of the “beginning of the year stuff” done before summer starts so I can spend those months catching up on reading, trying new educational “toys,” and collaborating with my Twitter PLN.

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Blogging as a Tool for Growth
My students have been blogging for three years now. I absolutely love seeing their love of writing come alive as a result of the blogging process. They not only get to share their feelings, thoughts and eventually stories with their friends, but learn from other students blogging hundreds, even thousands of miles away as well. Blogging gives students an authentic global audience and encourages them to keep communicating. It is through blogging that students become authors with an audience. Instead of writing on their thoughts on paper and stuffing the results in a notebook to get crumbled up and eventually thrown away, they are writing to and for others, sharing their work in a safe way where even the quietest, shyest student has a voice and all the voices are equal. No one student’s blog is louder than another. Blogging creates an equal playing field for students to gain confidence and discover who they are. My students love checking their blogs daily for comments from students in their class as well as students we’ve met with on Twitter or Skype.

Make It Real
Seeing students’ faces when they get their first comment from a student in another state or a completely different continent is wonderful. From a teacher’s point of view, it is so rewarding when students finally write in complete sentences, or use quotation marks or whatever else we might be studying in our writer’s workshop. Blogging provides authenticity for students. I always challenge my students to write from the heart, to write what is real and what is happening to them. It doesn’t have to be spelled perfectly or have the correct number of commas. Learning to communicate through writing is a process. What better way to facilitate the process than by letting students collaborate while sharing in their learning?  It becomes real for them when another child makes a comment and tells them to “please add more details,” or “check your punctuation.” As the teacher, you are thinking, “See I told you.” Students are more likely to listen to their peers, even if they are sitting in another classroom 8,000 miles away.

Jumpstarting Our Blogging

Looking back over last year, I realized how important connecting with other students had been to the success of our blogging. Although we started blogging in September, my students really didn’t get as excited about it till they were able to connect with others outside our classroom. I wanted to find a way to make that excitement and enthusiasm happen sooner. EnterJena Ball and her Not Perfect Hat Club book. The latest in the CritterKin series of books about a goofy pack of mixed breed mutts, the book uses storytelling and related projects to help students understand that perfect is not an option and that everyone is special. Following the adventures of Newton, a purebred golden retriever who failed in the show ring, children are encouraged to discover what makes them unique.

I approached Jena with the idea of creating a blogging challenge around her book, along with optional Skype and Twitter visits with Jena at the end of the challenge. Another goal we identified for the project was to connect teachers and classrooms with one another so they could Skype and share their blogs.  It didn’t take long for the Not Perfect Hat Club Blog It Challenge to take shape!

So fellow educators. I challenge you, just as I challenge my students, to blog. Blog about what has motivated you to begin blogging with your students. Blog about why being not perfect is such an important lesson for our students. Blog about how the imperfections in our students are what make them so special.  Let’s make this blogging challenge about finding and celebrating what makes each of us special, or as Jena likes to say, “Let’s give every kid a place to hang a hat!”

P.S. Please consider supporting the NPHCBlogIt Challenge by contributing a post of your own. You can learn more about what to do and get guiding questions here: http://nphcblogit.com/?p=123

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Global Math Task Twitter Exchange

As the year comes to a close I look back at all the global connections and collaboration opportunities my students have had through making connections through Skype, Twitter, blog, and GAFE. One of the ways we have connected during math this year was through our weekly math exchange of a math problem or math task with Heidi Samuelson‘s second graders in Tennessee. Every Tuesday we would take turns tweeting out a math task for the other class to figure out and tweet back the answer.

The students were so engaged we often tweeted out more than one problem each day. Which would often lead to more classes tweeting and asking questions as well.

Toward the end of the year we often had other classes joining in on the fun and tweeting problems to us as well. One week we had other so classes tweeting math problems with us my students took it as a challenge to correctly work out the problem and tweet back the answer before the other classes.

This past weekend Heidi and I had the opportunity to meet. It was so exciting to meet and brainstorm ideas and projects we could have our students work on together next year. We decided to expand on the idea and get as many other classes involved to allow for teachers and students to connect.

If you are interested in participating and tweeting math tasks for a week with your students in the 2015-2016 school year click on the link below. You will have to accept the confirmation that you are willing to participate to get provided with the link to the spreadsheet. When you sign up make sure the number at the end of the hashtag corresponds to your grade level.

Are you ready to join the challenge?

http://goo.gl/forms/uqoKQnizwh

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Want to connect with other educators participating in the Global Math Task Twitter Challenge?

Jump in and chat on our Today’s Meet Page.

Global Math Task  Twitter Challenge

Nickels for Nepal

“No Act of Kindness, No Matter How Small, Is Ever Wasted.” ~ Aesop

#Nickels4Nepal

Have you ever watched one of those commercials where you are asked to donate to help for children in poverty stricken areas or aid with abused animals? Those commercials have new meaning to me since working on Nickels for Nepal. During our 24 hour Skype-a-thon we had the opportunity to learn from a class in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was an extraordinary 30 minutes that I will never forget.

During our skype session they taught us many things showing us some Napelise rupees and even took us on a tour of their school;  all of this through Skype.

The class during our 24 hour Skype-a-thon

A few weeks later they were hit with an 7.8 earthquake that forever changed the feelings of stability of it’s people as well as the physical destruction of the landscapes. Many historical structures and building that have been standing for hundreds of years were left in rubbles. Homes and lives destroyed leaving only memories of what once was a vital part of their lives.

The week following the quake led to many conversations of concern for our new found friends in Nepal all coming back to the same question, “What can we do?”.  It was out of these discussions and questions that “Nickels for Nepal” was started. We wanted to do our part now matter how small to help rebuild and aid our friends whose school was being used as a shelter and food distribution site.

On Thursday, my class discussed the plan and came up with a goal of $200.00 and our school goal was $1,000 during the month of May. To my surprise the following morning, students walked in with bags of money to contribute before the coin drive had even started; mostly savings from Christmas, birthdays, chores and piggy banks. It was rewarding and exciting to see how the students connected to their friends in Nepal. Although a brief 30 minutes of connection on Skype, the friendships and connections are forever in our children’s minds and hearts.  This was a true example of what a global classroom can do! I was so proud of my 2nd graders for thinking of others before themselves.

The first week my class raised $152.24 and the school raised $676.00. The outpouring of generosity and support from students was so tremendous. Students and families of Pine Valley held all kinds of unique projects from bake sales, collections at church, to love donations to help our cause. It was truly humbling to see.

The second week we were more motivated than ever after hearing that Nepal had once again been hit by another major earthquake. Through conversations with my friend, Sunny at the British International School in Kathmandu, we learned that Nepal does not have running water like we do in the USA. The water in Nepal is government rationed in major cities and limited to wells and waterfalls in out lying areas. We ended the week with a bang with #FillItFriday. The students created posters to hold during car drop off and car pickup on Friday as our amazing parent volunteers helped collect coins. With the help of media promoting our project, we collected over $700 from our morning drop off. Our total at the end of week two was 1,875.20.

By our third week, we were so appreciative of everything the students and the community of Pine Valley had done , we believed that any more money collected was just an added bonus.  And the end of the week three we had a grand total of $2,294.45. That afternoon some students took the opportunity to find out how much milk, cheese and water after converting dollars into Nepalese Rupees. It was a great learning opportunity for them to see the value of objects from another country on the opposite side of the world. Throughout the last week news of our project continued spread through social media and we even received a donation from California to add to our total.

As I stood at the bank for the last time, I remembered all those faces each morning as they willingly and lovingly made their contribution for their new found friends in Nepal. They sacrificed ice cream money, piggy banks and allowances all for the greater good. What a wonderful life lesson… The entire offering at the end of May was $2,405.26, which surpassed any goal I could have imagined possible.

This project shows how a school, of any size or demographic make up, can come together to make a difference. Nickels for Nepal demonstrates how even the smallest ripple can make a difference to create waves in our great big pond.

Collaborating through Voxer and Google Drive

This week we have had the opportunity to collaborate with another 2nd grade class during . This was not our normal weekly math task tweet exchange over twitter. After working on a fairy tale unit for the last couple of weeks, which included reading and writing our own fairy tales and fractured fairy tales,we set out to take it one step further. Students took their learning to the next level using Voxer and Google Drive through Google Classroom to collaborate while writing their fractured fairy tales together. After working on a fairy tale unit for the last couple of weeks which included reading and writing our own fractured fairy tales. We connected with our twitter friends who had been doing the same unit to work on writing a fractured fairy tale together.    Students chatted through voxer and shared ideas as they wrote their stories that was shared with them through google drive. Voxer allowed them to build on to the relationship and make more connections throughout the process. They absolutely loved hearing and working with their “friends” they had only been tweeting with all year.

Their stories they created will be put in book creator and then uploaded to iTunes for their stories to be shared with the world.

24 Hour Skype-a-thon

24 Hour Skype-a-thon

#PVSkype24

Have you ever wanted to learn from other people around the world? Students from Pine Valley Elementary who participated in our 24 hour Skype-a-thon did just that. We skyped for 24 hours straight to reach as many students in 26 different countries all over the world.

I started using Skype in the classroom about 5 years ago, as I wanted to connect my students to the world and give them opportunities to learn and collaborate. Since I started using Skype in the classroom my students have become more aware of global issues and have a greater appreciation for the differences they see with other children from other locations.

Read the rest of the blog here.