Saturday, October 4, 2014

2 Minute PD

As teachers, finding time to learn is not always easy, but I think it's safe to say we can all take - and need - 2 minutes in our day to get inspired and motivated. Here are three 2-minute PD's I've done for Seattle Pacific University's Masters in Digital Educational Leadership program:

Saturday, August 30, 2014

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Oh, hello! I've missed you! Here's a peek at what I did on my summer vacation:

Attended the New Media Consortium Summer Conference in Portland, OR with some of my students.
Our Idea Lab session won "Best of NMC!" BIG MOMENT!

Road Trip! Tacoma to Los Angeles and back. Here we are at Redondo Beach.
I attended the Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View, CA.
I cleaned out the back cabinets in my classroom to make room for my MAKER SPACE.
I found this digital camera from the early 2000s.
My first day back with my colleagues on a scavenger hunt. Feeling great about the year to come!

Friday, April 11, 2014

An Interview With the New Media Consortium

I was recently interviewed by the New Media Consortium as a follow-up to winning the Henderson Prize back in June. I am incredibly honored to be associated with this organization as a K-12 Ambassador. The interview (a mix of text and video) delves into some of my philosophies of teaching - enjoy!

Also, be on the lookout for the 2014 K-12 Horizon Report. I was fortunate to serve on the expert panel this year, and I can assure you that it's a very exciting outlook for the future of educational technology! In the meantime, have you read the 2013 Horizon Report?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The A is Important

I've been thinking a lot about the conversations surrounding STEM education and the inclusion of an A for the Arts. To me, it comes down to this video of a lone trombonist and his computer. Watch what I mean:

I want to show everyone this video because this is how so many of our kids (and adults!) think. Through sounds and movement. In pictures. Through stories. There's so much STEMmy goodness jam-packed into this video, all manifesting itself through the melodious sounds of a trombone...isn't it wonderful?!

Growing up, traditional STEM subjects didn't come easy to me, nor did they interest me. I excelled in music and took honors courses in English and Social Studies, yet I routinely struggled in math and science classes. I often remember sitting in those classes wishing I could just be somewhere else making music, reading, or writing...because that's what I was good at (or so I told myself). To ease the pain, I often chose the "easier" math and science courses over the years, even if they left me feeling inept compared to my peers. It was frustrating being an honors student in the low-level math and science classes, and by senior year I was completely defeated. I dropped out of trigonometry three weeks into the school year to take sewing, much to the disappointment of my guidance counselor. I continued to struggle during my undergraduate years, yet found interest in the nontraditional courses I took to fulfill my prerequisites - astronomy, accounting, and physics of music.

I spent my whole educational career thinking I wasn't good in math and science because I struggled to learn the content in the traditional way. It wasn't until I began to look back on my college classes as a new teacher and dive into my graduate work that I realized that this was not the case. My struggle in these classes allowed me to see that I was interested in what STEM subjects offered and I could learn the material - as long as I could relate it back to my passion - the arts. Suddenly, science and math became relevant and interesting because I saw how it could help me to become a better musician and teacher. Moreover, I began to see how integral math and science really was in some of my other classes. Sewing, world music, and aural skills had new meaning once I began to see how math, science, technology, and engineering influenced these subjects. It was probably one of the biggest "aha" moments of my life.

Innovation comes from the the blending of STEM with the arts, and we need to start living this within our classroom walls. STEAM curriculum allows individuals to not only be creative and expressive in their learning, but see the complicated and beautiful relationships between the subjects. Instead of just encouraging our teachers to focus on STEM curriculum, we need to really think about its long-term relevance for our kids and relate knowledge back to individual passions. Not everyone is destined for a career in medicine or computer science. We need to demonstrate that STEM is alive and well in writing, social studies, music, art, and physical education. Ultimately, we need to get kids to stop thinking they are bad at these subjects and see the value they add to their overall lives. Having STEM skills doesn't just prepare us for careers in math and science - they prepare us for careers in anything. And that's enough to make anyone feel "happy."

Monday, March 31, 2014

What I Read in March

I'm trying to read more for fun. Here's what I read in March: 

My favorites this month were Counting by 7s, Bigger Than a Breadbox, and Wake Up Missing. The silly writing in the second Templeton Twins book was the perfect mid-month pick-me-up, and much-needed after the more serious The Real Boy. Ursu's previous novel, Breadcrumbs, is one of my favorites and hooked me from the very beginning. The Real Boy...did not, but I eventually warmed to it. Mister Max and Parched did not do much for me, sadly. I also love that Kate Messner references Bigger Than a Breadbox in Wake Up Missing. That was an unintentional connection! Overall, a great month of reading!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Music for Educators (Vol. 1)

I grew up in the age of the mix-tape (and later, CD). According to Nick Hornby's character Rob in High Fidelity, there are all sorts of rules to creating the perfect playlist, but ultimately "making a tape is like writing a letter - there's a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again..." While I find great pleasure in listening to a perfect mix of hand-selected music, I often enjoy finding the songs and telling the story even more.

With that said, I am going to attempt several education-themed playlists over the next few months, and I present to you Volume 1 below. This first mix is focused around teachers' commitment to the profession and the blurred lines between professional and personal life. Teachers are teachers 24/7, and with that comes certain demands and emotions.

1. Survivor/I will Survive - Glee Cast

Because of that moment when we finally leave our student teaching assignments and get our first real classroom and realize This. Is. Hard.

2. Keep Your Heart Young - Brandi Carlile

Because we work with kids...

 3. All of My Days and All of My Days Off - AC Newman

Because we rarely get a day off.

4. As - Stevie Wonder

Because "until the day that 8x8x8 is 4" we'll love our profession...

5. Just a Cloud Away - Pharrell Willams

...but we all have those days.

6. You Belong Here - Leagues

You're doing what you are meant to do. You are wanted by your students. You belong here.

I hope you've enjoyed Volume 1. Feel free to leave your suggestions for future playlist themes or song suggestions in the comments.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Staying Connected

I've spent the past few weeks completely removed from my role as "teacher." My world has been turned upside down in the best possible way thanks to my adorable new daughter. I'm so thankful for the time off to get to know her, cuddle her, and adjust to parenthood, but to be honest, this has been an incredibly strange feeling and huge shift in thinking. I know the time I have is fleeting, so I've been very intentional about staying away from work as much as I can. Even still, the relentless learner (and probably workaholic) in me has been craving some sort of educational pursuit, while socially, I've been missing the every day interactions from my colleagues. 

Here are some ways I'm trying to stay connected and engaged:

Kid Blog - While not required, many of my students have been posting to their blogs regularly. I love being able to read what's going on in their lives and continue to foster relationships with my students virtually. 

Twitter - Twitter is such an incredibly valuable resource, but it's often  compared to drinking water from a fire hose. There's just so much. While I know I'll never see it all, I've been using my down time to find new educators to follow, catch up on some favorite hashtags, participate in a Twitter chat, and learn more about new topics. The demands of a newborn haven't allowed me to create much new content, so I've been trying to contribute to conversations by sharing as much relevant content as I can. Which brings me to...

Feedly - I subscribe to more blogs than I can keep up with, but I've been slowly making progress thanks to late-night feedings and nap times. I use Feedly to keep track of all my favorite blogs and bloggers. I can always count of great stuff from MindShift, Venspired, TeachThought, and Dangerously Irrelevant.   

Pinterest - This is what I call 'mindless internet.' It's like digital window-shopping! I love the visual organization of Pinterest, and the ability to find a lot of different ideas and activities in a one-stop-shop. eduClipper is another great place for educational resources. Pinterest wins out for me, though, simply because I can search and organize things beyond education. 

NMC Academy - Formerly the HP Catalyst, the NMC Academy offers free professional development on way-cool STEM topics, such as App Design, Citizen Science, Social Entrepreneurship, and more! Many courses are self-guided and require little to no prerequisites. It's learning for the sake of learning. It doesn't get much better than that...I'm hoping to start one soon!

Just a little bit each day helps to keep my mind engaged, inspired, and connected...while still enjoying all the newborn snuggles I can. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What I Read in February

I'm trying to read for fun more. Here's what I read in February:

Are you sensing a theme? You see, I had every intention of waking up early to watch the ALA YMA awards a few weeks ago. My plan, however, was thwarted and I ended up in labor, which, I suppose is a pretty good excuse. I've spent the past few weeks enjoying the 2014 Newbery, Flora & Ulysses, and the rest of the Honor books. 

My favorite of the bunch was The Year of Billy Miller; my least favorite, One Came Home. I'm not usually one for historical fiction, so that wasn't much of a surprise. I thought Flora & Ulysses was quirky, cute, and endearing, but didn't grab me as much as The Tale of Despereaux or Because of Winn-Dixie

I'm off to a great start for March, and I'm planning on chronicling the rest of the books I read this year. Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2014 One Little Word

My word for 2013, realize, came to me last year as I was folding laundry on New Year's Day. It turned out to be the perfect companion for this crazy year. Reflecting on the past twelve months, 2013 felt like two very different years in one - the first half was jam-packed with incredible learning opportunities and professional experiences, while the second half was filled with many difficult personal challenges that left me emotionally and physically drained. As a result, I've retreated a bit from blogging and social media realizing that despite all the success from the first part of the year, I needed to slow down quite a bit and spend more time with my family and focus on doing my job to the best of my ability. Honestly, this is a truth I've had a hard time accepting and embracing. One of my goals for this past year was to "realize I can't do it all - and that's perfectly okay." I like to think that the celebrations and challenges of this past year have shown me how to strike a decent balance between work and life. Ultimately, realize helped me celebrate the wonderful moments of 2013 and face the tough ones with courage. And for that, I am grateful.

It wasn't until I really began searching for my 2014 word when it hit me that I'd already been living with it for many months. Once again, my word snuck up on me. For 2014 I'll be focusing on the word strength. 

In 2014, I wish for physical and emotional strength for my family - as we continue to grieve the loss of my father, as my brother fights cancer, and as we welcome a baby into this world (in just a few short weeks).

I wish to strengthen relationships with my students and colleagues (near and far) - to make learning meaningful, to challenge, to inspire, and to know that we are stronger together.

I wish to strengthen my pedagogy as an educator - by trying out new opportunities, by stretching myself beyond my comfort zone, and through staying connected with those that inspire me.

Strength will require me to exert the right level of intensity, create a positive environment, and change up routines drastically. There will, no doubt, be a learning curve! And, like realize, strength will make me think deeply about myself and others, and require considerable amounts of determination, trust, and patience. So, I welcome 2014 knowing that the people, experiences, and opportunities of my journey will help me find and focus on strength in the New Year.