"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body"
~ Richard Steele ~

Monday, August 5, 2013

Engaging Readers with Technology

Engaging readers becomes more difficult as students progress through the grades.  How can a teacher connect students to their reading and make it relevant and real? I struggle with this question every year and search for ideas and approaches that can meet the needs in my classroom.

I am presenting on this topic at the Ripon Tech Academy. I am not an expert...just a willing participant. Below is the presentation. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer...A Blended Approach

Summers...many in the public feel that teachers have summers off. That may be true for some, but I choose to do a blended approach.  I appreciate the routine that comes with planning, teaching and learning. I set goals each day on what I want to accomplish while setting aside time to enjoy the patio and relax to the sound of birds.

Recently, I have been evaluating global citizenship because I will be presenting at a Tech Academy. I am passionate about preparing our students for global citizenship. One of the workshops is one Flattening the Classroom. The link contains all the information from the class to get started.

I try to reflect on my time and what I have accomplished so far over the summer. I try to keep things "blended". So far, I have had the opportunity to visit family in Florida. 

I presented at ISTE 2013 and brought back a deeper understanding of technology that I hope to share with others.

I have had cataract surgery on both eyes and have a respect for the advances that have been made with technology. Amazing....

I taught summer school and saw the rewards of small groups and the gains that students made. The smile of accomplishment on their faces when students see the growth they have made is what keeps me moving forward.

There is still a long list of what I need to accomplish this summer. Planning for Catalyst Charter Middle School, searching for more ways to meet the needs of students in reading, pushing projects to the next level... all on the list. The key is to keep everything "blended" and balanced. There is also one more trip to Brooklyn to visit with family before jumping in with both feet. Yes, blending is key.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Reflections...this is something we teach our students to do as they complete projects. Reflecting causes you to assess how you did as well as evaluate how you can change things for the future. 

As I complete my first year at Catalyst Charter Middle School, I look back over the year to determine several things. I ask myself if the vision I had for the school actually happened. "Think, Create, Collaborate" That is the vision of the school. I see these words every day as I walk down the hall into the school. 

"Think"...yes, we created projects and challenges to get the students to think. How can you design a pasta car that demonstrates Newton's Laws of Physics? Students needed to understand the laws in order to apply them. They needed to think when their design failed. Failure often led to the best designs.

"Create"...every project involved creating a product. It is an essential part of Catalyst. Students needed to create a simple machine that would lift an obelisk. Creating is a love/hate affair. Students often created something that they thought would work, only to find that it didn't work. This started the creating cycle over...often, several times. 

"Collaborate"...This was the toughest one this year. Collaboration is easier when you can work with your friends but it is much more difficult when you are assigned a group. This year, students were often placed in a variety of teams. Each time, members needed to communicate, share, problem solve and develop a plan. This was not an easy task. Team conferences with staff members was a part of the process because students did not always have the skills to work through the problems in collaboration. One of the goals I have for myself next year, is finding ways to model and guide better collaboration.

The first year in Catalyst was amazing. Yes, it was a lot of work and sacrifice but it also caused me to grow. Isn't that what it is all about? Growing? I had to change the way I viewed learning this year as well as change the way I approached teaching. I no longer was alone in my room but was in a situation where team communication was essential or the projects would fail. This was a tremendous challenge to me but a necessary one to keep me moving forward in my profession. I also looked at my approach to teaching. Was I ready to let go of some of the control in the classroom and hand it over to the students? 

There were so many proud moments, especially Showcase Nights when the students needed to take charge and demonstrate to their family and community, what they learned. I have commented many times to the students that the transformation they have made from the first project to the last one demonstrates growth. Initially, students felt very helpless and wanted exact answers. As the year progressed, they learned to think and problem solve. They took more ownership for their learning. No, we haven't reached Eutopia yet but the growth is there.

Already I have ideas swirling around in my head for next year. Summer will give me an opportunity to start the planning process again.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Flat Classroom Project

I just finished judging one step in the  Flat Classroom® Project 2013-1. It is always fascinating to be a part of this project that brings students together globally in a collaborative project using web 2.0 tools. I only viewed a small piece of the puzzle with this project. I know from doing the Digitween project, that there is a lot more that goes into this process. Students need to learn how to digitally connect through handshakes as well as work on a project using the Web 2.0. They also need to take on active roles as researchers, leaders and storytellers. It is one big package that brings together all the "goodies" that you want the student to be able to accomplish...collaboration, critical thinking, digital citizenship, leadership...the list could go on. The project is well-organized with specific timelines, rubrics, and requirements. 

It was an honor to judge this round. The students never cease to amaze me with their perspectives and creativity. I saw a variety of multimedia presentations with similar information but through the eyes of the students. How refreshing! Thank you to each of the students and teachers for their hard work on this project.