What's My Focus

Monday, October 27, 2008 | | 1 comments »

We all blog for a variety of reasons, but the central theme to most of our writing revolves around technology and education. I tried Wordle out for the first time just to see what words were popping up in my posts. I think I must have done something wrong because my focus seems a little out of whack. If the focus of my blog is on teaching, technology, and the library, why does my word could look like this?

UPDATE: I found out the Wordle only looks at the most recent page, not previous posts. I feel better.

Today I Felt Like a Teacher

Thursday, October 23, 2008 | 2 comments »

Today was an interesting day for me. Last week, I asked two classroom teachers if I could come in their room on a daily basis and read to their class. I told them how I missed reading good chapter books to students and since I only saw their classes once a week in the library, reading a chapter book to them was very difficult. Both teachers were very open to the idea, which excited me. In the fifth grade classroom, I'm reading Among the Hidden. It's great - the kids are loving it, I'm enjoying it, and the classroom teacher is as well. The fourth grade class is enjoying The Boys Start the War. Today, I was unable to read to the fourth graders at the normal time because I had another scheduled class. I happened to be walking past the fourth grade room this afternoon and popped in to say hi to the teacher. She asked, "Want to read right now? The kids are driving me nuts." I didn't have any classes scheduled so I grabbed the book and read the next chapter. I finished a few minutes prior to the class heading down to the computer lab. When I asked the teacher what the kids were going to be working on, she gave me a look that pretty much said, "I don't know." I suggested the students bring their spelling words to the lab so they could practice using Spelling City. They came down, I quickly showed how the students should get started and off they went. It was awesome.

I'm not sure why I felt so different today. When I was reading to the fourth grade class, and then transitioned to the computer lab, I really felt like I was back in charge of the students. I don't know why I felt any different. Standing in front of the class and giving directions, with 50 eyes watching and listening to me, I felt like a teacher. I felt like I was guiding this group of students. This was a feeling I have not experienced in some time, perhaps as far back as several years when I taught third grade. It was a good feeling, one I hope to have again soon.

After reflecting on it, however, this feeling brings me mixed thoughts. There have been many occasions that make me wonder if I made the correct choice leaving the classroom a few years ago. On some days, I'm glad I made the change. On others, like today, the feeling I had was one that's been absent. Afternoons like the one I had today made me really miss being a classroom teacher. There are days when I think about what's in my plans for the next few years and I'm confused. Part of me wants to go back to the classroom. Part of me wants to stay right where I am because I'm comfortable, like what I'm doing and who I'm doing it with, am doing a good job (I think), and the position works well for my family right now. There are other days when I think about what else I'd like to do and positions I'd like to hold (all related to technology) some day. I'm sure a decision will be made at some point soon. No matter what that decision is, I won't know if it's the right or wrong one until I make it. Regardless of that decision, today was fun.

In the past couple of days, I've been messaging a lot of my friends, through email, Facebook, Twitter, and Plurk, about a Facebook Photo Contest. Here's the main part of the email I received about the contest:

We can all agree that this season did not turn out to be everything we had hoped for, but we can still show the world that we are the biggest fans. Go vote for your favorite photo in FanSection's "Biggest Fan" contest at Milwaukee Brewers Fans. Hurry and tell your friends, because the last day to vote is this Sunday, October 26th! The photo that our fellow Brewers fans pick as their favorite will represent us in the final round and will have a chance to win one of the following MLB.com gift cards:

- $75 Grand Prize
- $50 2nd Place Prize
- $25 3rd Place Prize

Many people who are Facebook members, have logged in and voted for the picture I submitted for the contest. I thought this was a great picture, one of my son and me at a Brewer game this summer. As I write this post, I'm in second place and began thinking about what I might buy with the MLB.com gift card if we stay in the top 3 through Sunday, when the contest ends. Then it hit me.

I read the email again and started to wonder about that last sentence, which I may have glanced over the first time. Does the winner of this contest merely qualify for the final round with a chance at the gift cards? Did I read that right? What do you think? If that's the case, then I think this might be one of the cheapest contests around and I feel bad I've literally spent hours trying to get people to vote for us. Could it be that the winner of every team's contest will battle for the gift cards in another round of voting? I don't know about you, but that seems like a lot of work for a relatively small gift card. One more thing I'm not happy with is the fact that the leading vote getting picture is of Ryan Braun, Brewer superstar - not a photo of any Brewers fans. Many have commented wondering why this photo is even being allowed in the contest, as am I. Isn't this supposed to be a Fan Photo Contest? If so, why is a player photo leading the votes by more than 40 over fan pictures. Something's not right.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope we finish in the top 3 and we are rewarded with an MLB.com gift card, which my son will be more than willing to spend. If I am right, I'm apologizing now to all of you who supported us in the contest.

BTW, if you are a Facebook member, vote for us here by finding the picture that matches the one above and clicking on Vote! (Just in case....!)

Do you have a PLN? If not, you should get one. Having a group of educators willing to share their knowledge and expertise can be very valuable. My Personal Learning Network is an important part of my learning and has been a huge help to me recently. I have to share two instances where I’ve been so impressed with the people I’m connected with.

Two of my colleagues and I were planning on sharing information about Discovery Education Streaming, the Discovery Education website, and the Discovery Educator Network (DEN) to other library media specialists in our district. We are lucky to have a rather large department (16) compared to many other districts in SE Wisconsin. Our district has put a premium on keeping as many full-time, certified, library media specialists in our schools as possible. A stand many other districts are not taking. Anyway, my part of the presentation included talking about the DEN and how it has benefited me and the advantages it can provide. To me, the DEN is kind of PLN in itself, but my network extends beyond the Discovery walls. Via Twitter and Plurk, I sent out a question asking DEN members what they felt was beneficial and what aspects they liked the best, as well as things I needed to make sure I covered. While my network often meets my needs, one of the best parts is that my network also consists of the network of the people in my network, make sense? In this case, I reached out to Steve Dembo on Skype, one of the Discovery gurus in my mind, for some assistance. Steve also sent out a question looking for more responses to help me and within a reasonably short period of time, I had a number of great reasons why educators love the DEN. I was able to share those reasons with the people I was talking to later that day. To me, having this information to share was much more powerful than me just standing up there and talking about what I like. Through my PLN, I was able to gather a lot of information, from a variety of educators, and share their knowledge as well.

Another example of how grateful I am for those I’m connected with deals with my first attempt applying for the Best Buy Teach Award. I’ve never applied for a grant in my life and don’t consider myself the greatest of writers. The hardest part is often getting what’s in my head down on paper (or a computer screen). The application required me to answer a few questions about the project I was a part of and the impact technology has on student learning. This time, I just sent a message on Twitter and Plurk, and simply noted that I was working on the application. Responses came with offers to proofread. Suggestions where made to me about a blog with tips for this grant by someone who has received the grant numerous times. Another person suggested I contact someone they knew who also has been awarded the grant multiple times in the past. Wow! I put my answers in a Google Doc and shared it with those who were willing to help. They popped in, made suggestions and offered tips, and really helped me out. I reworked a few things, checked back with a few people, they made suggestions again, and the next thing I knew, I had a much better application. Am I going to get the grant? Who knows, but I certainly feel that my chances have greatly improved because of my PLN. I certainly hope I can return the favor down the road.

Complete Fun

Sunday, October 12, 2008 | 1 comments »

Okay, this isn't an education post at all. It's not really a tech post either, the only tech involved in this was the camera used for recording. A few neighborhood friends and I build soap box derby cars and raced them down a street near my house today. It was a blast! Here's one of the videos from my camera mounted on my derby car.

K12 Online Conference

Tuesday, October 07, 2008 | | 6 comments »

I started the laying the groundwork today for an event at my school centered around K12 Online. I'm hoping I can get 8 to 12 teachers/administrators to stick around on a Friday night in November to view some of the presentations. I first heard about this idea from Jeff Utecht, who hosted a LAN party like this with some of his colleagues last year.

Here's the rough outline.

30 min - View one of the keynotes as a group - discuss.
1 hour - View 2 sessions on your own or in a small group - whole group sharing/break
1 hour - View 2 more sessions with a whole group sharing/reflection

Then, further discussion takes place at a local watering hole after the event.

Sounds like a good time, doesn't it? I sent the info out to my staff today and do have some interested people. I'm excited.

Do you have any tips for this event? Things I should or shouldn't do? Let me know.

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