Share and Share Alike

Each week I share articles, posts, tips, and tools with my colleagues. This is an excerpt of what I shared with them this week. I believe if even one person reads and tries one thing that I share, it is better than nothing.

It’s a 17 tab day for this week’s Shipley PLN Lower School Edition meaning there is a lot to share with you.

First, a shout out to one of our first grade classes for launching their 1M News- “channel”. These first graders are becoming quite the historians!

Also, the Rev War unit of the digital textbook is almost complete and ready for your perusal. If you haven’t seen the first unit, or even the digital text in the first place, you may see it here. Our fourth grade students are taking their lunch time to work on this digital text and are doing this on a strictly volunteer basis. It is all them and they are loving it.

Anyway, I mentioned it’s a 17 tab day so I best get started on sharing the goods.

#1 What does the number 10,000 have to do with anything educational? From Edutopia, this article on the importance of helping your students embrace and learn from their mistakes. Judy Willis would encourage quick feedback from a neural standpoint, and this article also brings the science to the topic. But why 10,000? Read on to find out.

#2 Speaking of science and research, this post and podcast from Vicki- Cool Cat Teacher- Davis is about how the aesthetics of the classroom impacts the learning and retention. In this podcast Vicki speaks with Erin Klein, interior designer turned second grade teacher. If Feng Shui is not your thing, don’t close the tab, instead check out some of the other recordings with some of the amazing educators on #BAM radio. Try Educators Radio or EdTech Radio. When I say there is a LOT of great information just waiting for you, I mean there is a TON of free PD just waiting for you.

#3 Looking for a fun way to engage your learners while learning or reviewing information, or just want to do some formative assessment? Well then, Kahoot may be just what you are looking for. Of course there is also polleverywhere and Google forms (slightly different but both will give you instant feedback options).

#4 Next is a Pinterest Board of Teachers on Pinterest. What? Yep, 30 boards from Preschool through High School, art, science, technology, and more for teachers. Holy Macinoli start pinning!

#5 What does Project Based Learning look like in an elementary classroom? This blog post and several more will show how this second grade class’ experience has been. What is PBL? I’m glad you asked.

#6 It’s spring- yay- and that means it’s time to plant some beans. Beans? Yes, well, this teacher would like your students to plant some beans and share their growth and observations with other students around the globe who are also planting beans. If beans aren’t your thing, not to worry, there are many ways to connect your classroom with others looking to do the same. Start here! I promise you won’t be disappointed.

#7 For more on building a global community for your classroom, please consider the BLC Conference or Preconference this summer in Boston. I know I’ve pushed this before but it’s really one to put on your Must-Check-Out list

#8 Read how this elementary school principal is encouraging his teachers to reach out and tell their class’ story via Twitter. Our own @4WJedis are tweeting about their learning, perhaps yours will want to as well. Want to get started? I will help.

#8A On the heels of and related to #s 7 and 8 is this from Silvia Tolisano about the importance of and how to build your PLN.

#9 Take 1 hour to view this webinar “Empowering Elementary Learners with Technology” and flip through the accompanying slideshow for some more ways to engage your students and empower them to become active contributors to their own and other’s learning.

#10 How often do you and your students just talk about math while you are doing math or before you even get started? Well, this post will share 10 Ways to get your students talking and writing about math

#11 On the heels of learning from mistakes (See #1) is this from Silvia Tolisano, aka Langwitches, talking about the time and practice it takes to upgrade and amplify your lessons and the need to do this for our learners to thrive in the modern world. Please be sure to check out the accompanying slidedeck as well as the one in the adjacent column of her blog. On a side note, if you like how she makes these slidedecks (not your typical powerpoint) you can try using HaikuDeck.

Friends, I know I have just tossed you a lot of information and it is a lot to ingest and digest at one time, but if you would just take the time to look through even one or two I really believe you will be inspired and motivated.

Weekly Share

Happy Thursday. For those of us at my school we are heading to break—yay— for those of you not here, some have had it, some have not, and some have just “had it.

Anyhoo, lots to share today’s Shipley PLN Lower School Edition; many tabs open, many links ready to go. I’m hoping for a few of you (and by a few, I mean the 2 that actually read this) to read it and find something useful. Let’s see what sticks.

First, and maybe the best for some of you, is this post from Kelly Tenkely about Google Docs Storybuilder. Seriously, is there nothing that Google does not have for us to use with our students! Google storybuilder is another different, fun, and creative way to share learning about anything you or your students can think of. It’s pretty cool. Take a look. I’m thinking specifically about the 4th and 5th grade end of year projects, but definitely a possibility for 3rd grade and most certainly middle and high school.

Next, I’m learning how to code html5. This is what I’m using. If you have any interest, you might want to check it out as well, even if just to get an idea of what </p> means.

This is what the html5 code looks like before it is run (I’m using Text Editor on my Mac)

Screen shot 2014-03-19 at 12.27.39 PM










And this is what it looks like after (I pasted it in to my Text tab on the blog)

Screen shot 2014-03-19 at 12.28.04 PM

Cool, right!

This article from Eric Sheninger, Principal extraordinaire of the New Milford High School in NJ wrote this piece on being “connected”, and included several true stories from his teachers on how connecting with others via social media has enhanced their teaching and learning. A fairly quick and important read.These two quotes sum it up,

Those who are connected to greater social networks are more informed about their practices, beliefs, and perceptions regarding education



Connectedness is no longer an option, but
rather a standard and a professional obligation.

You probably know I am a serial tweeter. I love to learn and share with great educators. I tweet from your classrooms and even the littles in first grade have tweeted during their butterfly unit taking pics and explaining what’s happening. 140 characters is a great way to get your students to summarize and get to the point! This post from Aviva Dunsiger is all about the educational benefits of “blogging in 140 characters.”

How about having your students make a digital book jacket using Google for one of their book reports or just to practice the art of summarizing or persuading? This post will explain the idea and show you a how to video for getting this project from start to finish.

And now for something provocative. This article from Icelandic Educator-now living/teaching/studying in Sweden, Ingvi Hrannar is titled 14 things that are obsolete in 21st Century schools is not the first of it’s kind, but the one I’m looking at at the moment. What are your thoughts about this? Do you agree? What would you add?

If you have read my other weekly shares, then you have seen this post before. I’m putting it out there again because it’s Alan November’s summer learning conference, and because the pre-conference workshops are going to be great. I recommend the one by Kathy Cassidy, 1st grade teacher who brings the world to her classroom and who shares her classroom with the world. She will show you that it not only can be done with first graders, it can be done with your students, AND it does not take much to get started other than interest, patience, persistence, and perseverance.

Many teachers begin a new unit of study or a project with inquiry. This post will help you to make sense of the inquiry cycles.

Finally, many of you have heard about the big changes coming (again) to the SAT. Unfortunately for my Ben, these will not take effect- boo- but will for my Madel. Just thought you might want to read this very interesting article from the NY Times about how and why this change came about. Fascinating.

And lastly (I know I said “Finally in the last one but hey, I’m allowed to toss one more out if I find something). Reading Bear is a new site that is FREE and is great for differentiating reading instruction, enrichment, and remediation in your K-2 classrooms. Think digraphs, blends, and vowel sounds. Think phonics and vocabulary, think Reading Bear.

Is Opting Out an Option?


Many people opt out of things all the time: credit card offers, email marketing, solicitations, even standardized testing. But is it ok to opt out of teaching? Is it ok to opt out of advancing your career through professional development and continued learning? When does it become ok for teachers to say, “I don’t/won’t do/try that”? Can we as educators succeed in today’s modern classroom if we don’t model learning for our students; if we don’t model trying, failing, trying again? If we don’t show our students that times are changing and we are able to adapt and change with them. Personally I don’t think we can, or rather, I don’t think we should. What do you think?
photo credit: ** RCB ** via photopin cc

Caring is Sharing

square_3931909203I know the saying is actually “sharing is caring,” but I am going to put it out there that if you care, then you share (i.e. caring is sharing).

I work with a wonderful group of fantastic educators. Over the six years that I have been at the school, I have tried several ways of sharing information with them and it has evolved over time. Here is a glimpse:

  1. First it was several emails a week with links to tools or tips– not terrible, people made me a folder in their inbox just to keep them from cluttering the rest of their mail
  2. Next the emails turned into a spreadsheet (blech- who was going to look)
  3. Then came the learning resource wiki (still up and running and regularly updated- love this)
  4. Weekly Wow Wednesday was my next endeavor- I invited my colleagues to my room to learn about the weekly “wow”. No one came. Ever. Not a soul. Sad.
  5. Not to be deterred, I turned my weekly wows into Web Wow Wednesday and shared my tips, tricks and tools via screencast which I then embedded on my wiki
  6. Which brings us to the weekly edition of the Shipley PLN Lower School Edition

Each week my updates which, as my tagline says, brings great information to great teachers. I eagerly await it’s arrival so that I can share it with my colleagues. Usually I open about twenty articles (or so), read through them, and then choose which to highlight. My motto with respect to this is not necessarily to pre-chew it as a mother bird might do, but to do the weeding and sorting for my colleagues, and then share what I think they will find “ready to wear” so to speak. OK, not so much ready to wear, but ready to use, read, try, ponder. Then I send an annotated email with links and a bit of humor (pretty much just to see who actually reads to the end) in the hopes that perhaps one or some of my colleagues will find something to use, try, or learn from.

Here is what I sent this week:

  1. Design Thinking for the Younger Crowd- this article brings the idea that design thinking is not just for the adult or teen, but also for the elementary student. The embedded TED video definitely gives some food for thought.
  2. Next, a Principal’s Reflection by Eric Sheninger- Eric Sheninger is the Principal of New Milford High School in NJ and author of the book I am currently reading, Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times. This post is about what kinds of exciting things are happening in his high school, but I am recommending the read for those of you that daydream about Maker Spaces and other STEM related ideas, and just to read about an amazing innovative school leader. If you can dream it . . . .
  3. Summer is right around a couple corners and that is a great time to get you PD on. Check out these workshops happening in Cambridge. Can’t get to Cambridge but still want to learn, just ask and I will happily make time for whatever you need.
  4. I’m not sure you know this, but I am a HUGE fan of Alan November and his annual conference, Building Learning Communities, also in Boston, is one of the best around. If you have an opportunity to learn from the amazing educators that Alan November brings together, then I strongly urge you to take it.
  5. Who is not a fan of the great Dr. Seuss?! Here is a s’more with 16 (SIXTEEN!) story videos.
  6. Create Thinglink channels and interactive albums with Thinglink EDU- Thinglink is a site I have shared previously but in a nutshell, upload an image and make it interactive by adding links of text, audio, video, links or other images. With Thinglink Edu teachers can create channels with the images your students create. This article shares the dets (that’s details in cool speak).
  7. Digital Portfolios- the time is coming. Here is why . . . And here is the how.
  8. I love livebinders- they are a great way to collect and share resources. Here is a whole library of binders that one teacher has created. Binders include resources for music, math, reading and more— actually, a whole school day’s worth of binders. And then there are mine. Want to make your own binders for your class or your grade level?? You know who to call (RIP Harold Ramis).
  9. From the man who never sleeps, Richard Byrne . . . This is a teaser; I highly recommend your clicking the link to see what he is sharing. I guarantee you’ll like it and want to start using it.

That’s it, my top 9 things for you to check out. Ta da!

photo credit: erika.tricroche via photopin cc

It’s About Time


Being stupid takes no time at all.

This is what I tell my students when I am teaching about digital citizenship and online awareness. Digital citizenship, like anything, is about doing the right thing and making the right choices. It takes no time at all to send a mean text, make a nasty comment, or respond to a negative email; but it does take time to stop and think about the consequences of your actions: will this embarrass, hurt, shame or make someone uncomfortable; will it embarrass me, my school, or my family? This meta-moment of pausing to imagine the consequences is something that we all need to remember to take the time to do.
photo credit: smaedli via photopin cc

It’s About Passion

If you don’t have passion for what you do, then what you are doing will do you in.

Just my opinion of course, but I think passion is the key to turning a “job” into a vocation. After all, when you love what you are doing, it ceases to be just a job.

And, I also believe that for students, having a teacher who is passionate about their subject, who is passionate about teaching, makes all the difference in the world with respect to students’ interest and enjoyment of the class, and, I believe, their performance.

Case in point: my son who is a junior in high school has the most amazing US history teacher. His passion and enthusiasm for the subject is palpable. The students eagerly go to his class and engage with the material and the teacher in a completely different way. They are not memorizing facts and figures, they are discussing motivation, reasoning, impact on society and impact on their lives. Now, one could say that passion alone will not make a student like a class or even do well in a class. But I will say that it is a large part of what makes a class or subject come alive for them.

Case in point number 2: I happen to have introduced coding to my eighth grade students during the Hour of Code this past December. Many of the students enjoyed it so much that I decided to suspend my regularly scheduled class programming so the students (and I) could explore a bit more of the coding. We are using and Khan Academy and we spend about 48 minutes once a cycle solving puzzles and creating code. It’s been very exciting. One of my girls who started off as a reluctant participant (she preferred the discussions we were having over the coding we were/are doing) told me today that she is going to be participating in the LEAD program this summer and she will be continuing to learn computer programming! Now this is quite a turn around for this student who begrudgingly started coding with me just a short time ago. But, because of the excitement and enthusiasm in our classroom environment, she has become excited and enthusiastic about learning how to code! Quite wonderful if I do say so myself.

SO what can we as teachers do to keep the passion alive?

  1. I think we need to begin every year as if it is our first. We should not just open our plan books to see what we did last year at this time. New students, new interests, new personalities, teach them differently; one size does not fit all.
  2. Try something new. Coding is not something I knew a lot about. I had taken a Coursera course from Stanford, which I loved, and tinkered around in Tynker, but it was not until this year that I really began embracing the excitement and challenge of solving these puzzles.
  3. Keep learning. As John Cotton Dana says, “Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”
  4. Find other teachers to learn with and from- create your PLN
  5. Lastly, take risks. There is nothing difficult about doing everything the same. It’s easy certainly, and comfortable, but you can’t grown when you don’t change.



Only a few more hours until educators everywhere will be able to be wowed by this year’s plenaries and presenters at this year’s Reform Symposium e-Conference! See below for more information via the conference site:

Teachers now have access to free quality professional development via current online technologies. Experience this live with thousands of educators from around the globe by attending the 4th annual Reform Symposium Online Conference, RSCON, which takes place October 11th to 13th in conjunction with Connected Educator Month. Attend this free online conference from anywhere that has Internet access.

View the schedule online here. Look forward to being inspired by the following:

  • Plenaries- Sugata Mitra, 2013 Ted prize winner and instigator of the Hole-in-the Wall experiment and Salome Thomas-EL, Principal EL of the Dr. Oz Show.

  • Steve Bingham, electric violinist, and Laura Oldham, the Book Supplier, will play live.

  • 3 Panel discussions featuring Dr. Alec Couros, Ozge Karaoglu, Nicholas Provenzano,                                                            Jackie Gerstein, Steven Anderson, Silvia Tolisano, Joe Dale, Tom Whitby, Pam Moran, Lisa Dabbs, Erin Klein, and Tom Murray.

  • 100+ sessions. Topics include genius hour, the flipped classroom, global projects, mobile learning, game based learning, web 2.0 tools, integrating iPads, e-portfolios, and more. The activities meet Common Core objectives and cover all subjects and age groups.

  • Nominate an educator to receive an EdInspire Award. Takes 5 minutes.

  • Keynotes include Angela Maiers (US), Mark Moran (US), Steve Wheeler (UK), Chuck Sandy (Japan), Rafael Parente (Brazil), John Spencer (US), Chris Lehmann (US), Sue Waters (Australia), Jose Vilson (US), Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto (Japan), Mark Barnes (US), Josh Stumpenhorst (US), Nicky Hockly (Sp), German Doin (Argentina), and 13 year-old humanitarian Mallory Fundora (founder of Project Yesu)

Connect with over 10,000 educators from 100+ countries and receive conference updates via the community,  Twitter (@RSCON4), Facebook, or Pinterest.”