"The man who has no imagination has no wings" Muhammad Ali

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Edutopia's New Teacher Boot Camp Reflection

Edutopia, from the George Lucas Educational Foundation is a fabulous website full of resources for educators. With best practices strategies, blogs, videos, lesson plans, discussion groups and plenty of options for PD, this is one website I continually go back to.

For the last five weeks I have been involved with Edutopia's New Teacher Boot Camp, led by the tireless advocate for new teacher support, Lisa Dabbs, and founder of #ntchat on Twitter every Wednesday night at 8pm. (EST) This past Wednesday we had a webinar to wrap up our boot camp. The purpose of this camp was to introduce new teachers to some of the valuable web 2.0 tools that are out there in the internet world, and model for us how to effectively and authentically use them in the classroom. I had a great time during the camp, learned a lot about some great tools, practiced utilizing them on  my own, and had some very engaging conversations with the contributing educators and my fellow campers.

I just wanted to take a moment to reflect upon my experience and offer a thank you to everyone who was involved in the creation of this camp experience. I know a lot of hard work, time, and effort went into it, and it was all greatly appreciated.  While being introduced to and working with these tools was wonderful, it was the conversations I had surrounding these tools that really made the experience come alive for me. It is the sharing of ideas so freely that makes this community of educators so amazing. Everyone I engaged with over the course of these last five weeks was so creative and thoughtful, each person had different experiences and passions that made for such an amazing pool of contributions. I love this idea of collaborative brainstorming, sharing our thoughts and ideas with one another. I came away from this camp with broader horizons and a new bag of tricks to dig into and for that I am truly grateful and inspired.

Here is the link to my boot camp portfolio which holds all of the work and reflections from my experiences with the following five web 2.0 tools (the links will take you to the nt boot camp blog on each tool):
wordle, voicethread, storybird, wetoku, and blogging.

I hope you enjoy taking a look through these great resources as much as I have!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

RSCON3 Conference cont...

So last time I wrote about how I was attending seminars during RSCON3, a global e-conference educational event. All of the sessions I attended over the course of those three days were fantastic, however I want to especially take a moment to talk about two of them that really stood out in my mind.

The keynote speech on Day 2 by Prinicpal Salome Thomas-El, award winning educator and administrator, and author of two best selling books "I Choose To Stay" and "The Immortality of Influence" was phenomenally inspiring and encouraging. Best known as Principal El, his speech also titled the Immortality of Influence, focused on the importance of leadership, mentoring, parenting, and service to others. While I can not relay all of the brilliance of his speech here, (thank goodness the amazing presenters of this conference have recorded and are archiving all of the RSCON3 events, because this one most definitely needs to be shared) I can mention that one of the things he mentioned that really struck home for me was the idea that students can choose their behavior but not the consequences, and when speaking about diversity that the students must be able to see themselves when they look at some one else. What a beautiful sentiment, to encourage our students and each other to recognize the common thread that runs between all of us as humans and individuals. I am honored to have been one of the educators in that "room" with such a brilliant, well spoken, passionate man, and after a stunning speech he then spent an additional 20 minutes answering questions live from the audience of viewers across the globe, and continued to amaze us with his wit, humor, and honest humbleness. You can visit Principal El's website at  http://principalel.com/ to learn more about this warrior for education, and if you get the chance, find his speech on the RSCON website and take the time to listen to his words, be inspired and share them with others.

The next seminar I want to mention was led by Elizabeth Peterson, 4th grade teacher from New Hampshire, strong advocate for arts integration, music lover, blogger from The Inspired Classroom, and all around phenomenal woman. I am lucky enough to have connected with Elizabeth as my mentor through Lisa Dabb's Teacher Mentoring Project. If you are a new teacher, I seriously suggest that you check out the site and take a look at the incredible resources she has provided us in the means of experienced, passionate teachers who are willing and ready to help guide us through our first years. I am very grateful to have connected with these amazing women in this way, and I think they deserve a huge round of applause for all that they do, along with the rest of the mentor teachers out there willing to help. On behalf of my fellow new teachers, we sincerely thank you.

So anyway... Elizabeth led a seminar on day three of RSCON3 on the parallels between Listening to Music and Reading. She spoke with elegance, enthusiasm, and such excitement on this topic, and her passion for both teaching and music and integrating them together in the classroom really came through and inspired all of us lucky enough to be in the room with her that day. While discussing her use of "listen alouds", visualization, and the "BME Rule" the parallels between reading and listening to music became very clear, with Elizabeth reminding us that "the more we listen the more we enjoy, the more we read the more we understand." We all came out of that seminar feeling energized and excited to try out her suggestions in our own classrooms, and shared their own ideas on ways to continue integrating music into the classroom. It was a lovely session filled with what felt like kindred spirits, and I made many wonderful twitter connections in that room.

Elizabeth wrote a book entitled Inspired by Listening which she calls a: "Complete Resource for classroom teachers and music teachers includes information, activities to advance students’ listening skills, ready-to-use lesson plans for both art and core curriculum based lessons, vocabulary usage, project ideas, reproducible worksheets, rubrics and a list of practical resources you can use to implement active listening strategies into your curriculum. Suggestions for teacher collaboration are provided to encourage integration of subject areas." and which I most definitely need to get a copy of! 

So thank you Elizabeth for being such am amazing, inspiring influence, and for sharing your talents with the rest of us. 

And thank you to the presenters of RSCON3 for organizing such an incredible event, and to all of the educators who led seminars and gave speeches. I am so proud to be a member of this community. 

The archives from each seminar will be available at http://reformsymposium.com/ within a few weeks so keep checking back.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Reform Symposium e-conference Day One

After taking part in a webinar offered by ASCD entitled the New Teacher's Toolkit, I embraced the advice offered by presenter Lisa M. Dabbs and began building my PLN. I joined twitter, which up until that point I had believed to be populated only by celebrities and their rabid fan base, and have made connections with some incredibly talented and passionate educators from across the globe. One of the fantastic things about twitter is the constant chances for some really great PD. One thing I have found and strongly believe in as I have embarked on this educational journey is that you never stop learning, and any opportunity to increase your knowledge base or personal world as I call it, is a real positive. 
This weekend is the Reform Symposium, or RSCON3, taking place from Friday, July 29 to Sunday, July 31. It is a huge global online conference for everyone concerned with education, with more than 75 presentations and 12 keynote speakers. I am very excited to be taking part in such a wonderful event and learning "alongside" educators from all around the globe! 
So far this morning I have participated in two presentations:
It's Personal: From Differentiating Instruction to Customizing Learning with John T. Spencer of educationrethink.com and Using Drama in the ESL Classroom with Faisal Shamali 
Both presentations were very interesting with some great take away ideas, especially in John Spencer's presentation about getting students to take on responsibility for their own learning and holding a greater stake in the development of their education. He talked a bit about project based learning and giving the students the freedom to be creative in how they express their understanding of a subject, which I love. 
I will continue to write about the presentations I tune into this weekend, and I am looking forward to more of this 21st century learning event for educators! 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Humans don't get ideas, they make ideas

In a conversation with my mother the other day it was brought to attention that I have worn several different professional hats in my young life, and she would be right. Since graduating with my B.A. in Theatre in 2002, I have worked as a costume designer, custom dressmaker, retail shop owner, professional artist, veterinary technician, and therapy dog trainer. 

I like to think of my prior job experiences as life training, all of which have influenced my personal world and understanding of that around me. In each carnation of my work experience I have demonstrated creativity, innovation, the ability to research, gather, and disseminate information. I have managed, organized, paid attention to detail, mastered technical procedures, exhibited patience, compassion, and shared my knowledge with others. With all of this in mind I suppose I could say that the path I have been on has been leading me all along towards my greatest challenge and most rewarding career, teaching.

The decision to create a blog to document my journey as a pre-service teacher and graduate student along with my eventual foray into a classroom of my own, is based on a question my classroom management professor had posed last semester after discussing 21st century learning skills. Basically she asked us to reflect upon the idea of learning as an interdependent process as opposed to a strictly personal or independent one. I will share my thoughts on the subject below;

Knowledge is a constructive process. To really understand something, learners must first create something from their personal world. As Costa* said, "Humans don't get ideas, they make ideas." Yet learning is also a reciprocal process, where the individual influences the group and the group influences the individual. Therefore the creative process executed by the individual to drive understanding is is constructed through both their own and shared knowledge, thus making their personal world an interdependent one.

In the spirit of collaborative learning and interdependence, I ask you to join me on my journey. Let us walk awhile together on the path of discovery and innovation in education. Our worlds are not so far apart as they may have seemed.

 * The Thought Filled Curriculum
    Arthur L. Costa
    ASCD Educational Leadership
    February 2008, Volume 65, Number 5
    Teaching Students to Think pages 20 - 24