Posted in Edublogs

Parents

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While this looks like a stock photo, it is actually my mother, myself and my son in a photo shoot from several years ago. It is one of my favorites. 🙂

EduBlogsClub Prompt #24:

Prompt: Write a post about parents.

Whether it’s working with parents, being an educator-parent, or something about your own parents.

Here are some possible topics to help get you started:

  • Write a post about successful parent-teacher conference moments.
  • What is the most challenging part of being a parent-educator or do you feel you are an educator-parent?
  • Write a post about how your parents have helped you develop yourself as an educator.
  • Write a post suggesting ways that parents and teachers can work together to ensure student success.

I am an educator-parent. As an educator-parent I am privy to a lot of insider information. I feel I am much better versed on the education system than a parent who isn’t an educator. I don’t mean this comment in a disparaging way, it’s simply my own experience.

My parents weren’t educators and they made the best decisions they could when it came to my schooling, but that largely consisted of sending me to the public school we lived near. I made the best of that experience. I had exciting teachers and boring teachers. I was an avid reader and where school could not deliver, I branched out, seeking my own answers via books.

I remember asking my parents if I could go to a private high school…mainly to be with my best friend, but also because the notion fascinated me. How would a private school compare to a public one? But the answer was no. We ended up moving just before high school as it was, and I did as I did before, attended the school assigned to my home. I remember being underwhelmed about high school. It was just something I had to do. I had a few cool teachers, but for the most part it was just something I was getting through. My grades were good as I was the sort of kid that always wanted good grades. My love of reading didn’t diminish and I kept entertaining my curiosity with reading. I remember a lot of time at the public library and how it was more to research my own interests than study for school.

I was thrilled when the time for college came. I got to choose what was next for me! I was exhilarated. I diligently studied colleges I might like to attend. I applied to the obligatory schools, like the UC near my house and my Dad’s alma mater, but there were 3 schools that were completely of my own choosing. I remember my Dad telling me to go to the UC or join the military to have my school paid for, but I rejected both. This was going to be my choice.

I ended up going to a small private college in Washington state. I always look back on those 4 years fondly. College was everything I wanted it to be. I had made the right choice.

My son’s experience has been different than my own. He has a mother for a teacher. I had been a teacher for 4 years when he was born. I had transferred to an amazing school site that year and knew I would remain there to see my son attend a great school. Granted, this school was not near our home, but because I worked there my son could attend. I personally knew all his teachers, and built relationships with each of them as both a colleague and a parent of one of their students.

That changed when my son entered middle school. The school I had worked at was K-5, so it came time for my son and I to part ways. I had chosen the middle school I wanted him to attend, but his voice is important to me. I listened to his preference and reasoning and in the end allowed him to attend the middle school he wanted to.

His 6th grade year was the hardest year for us both. I entered a district office position and he was at a school where I wasn’t. I didn’t know the teachers and I didn’t call them friends. I had never felt so in the dark. I realized that this must be what it feels like to be on the outside, and be “just” a parent. I didn’t care for it at all. I was as involved as I could be and made an effort to get to know the administrators and his teachers. I attended every event I could. My son loved his middle school for a while, then he didn’t. While the beginning of the year seemed to start off alright, come the halfway point he was showing signs of suffering. He was being teased daily. He was enduring verbal and physical bullying, he was afraid to go to school. He would tell me stories of his teachers venting to the class about how much they hated their job or how bad the kids were, and I was appalled. I reported all of this to the administrators, and while they were friendly and generally supportive and responsive, I got the impression that they felt helpless to truly remedy any of it…the climate was toxic and not at all good for my son.

I asked around in my own district about another school to transfer him to, specifically the school that had been my preference before and was told that it was largely the same at any middle school. This answer was unacceptable. I tried to look at the other middle schools around us and was frustrated that there was no true way to get information about the school without being on the inside. It was then that I realized there are options, online options.

I am a doctoral student whose dissertation will be about K-12 online learning, so naturally why not explore online schooling for my son? I am also an online student myself, having completed my second Masters in EdTech online and working toward my doctorate in Educational Leadership online. I felt confident that as an online learner and an educator, I could see my son through online school.

It came down to two online programs available in my state. I did my research, I asked around, attended online info sessions, discussed my findings with my family, and we chose one. My son started 7th grade in an online charter school last month, and while it has been an adjustment, I love it for him. I am not a teacher at his school, but I am his co-teacher. I see everything he is expected to do and the transparency of it all is what impresses me the most. His teachers are responsive and tech savvy, which is very important. My son has complained about the level of work he has to do, but I like that the bar has been raised. No more coasting and going unnoticed by teachers who don’t enjoy their jobs. I have never been so keenly aware of what he is working on than right now, even when he was attending class at the school where I had worked. This level of awareness is powerful.

Are you a parent? Perhaps a parent-educator like me? How do you feel about engaging with your child’s school and education? Share with me in the comments below. 🙂

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Posted in Edublogs

Video Killed The Radio Star

youtube-1684601_1280EduBlogsClub Prompt #23:

Prompt: Write a post about videos and/or that includes a video.

Here are some possible topics to help get you started:

  • Write a post about any topic, but embed a video. Even better if you created the video!
  • Discuss how videos have helped you engage students?
  • How have videos helped you be a better educator?
  • Share a story about a lesson that involves videos and how the students responded in ways you didn’t expect.
  • Create a list of video clips that either provide educator professional development or help create lessons in the classroom.
  • If you find incorporating videos difficult, discuss why you find them challenging.

I love making videos. I love teaching students how to make videos. I make some “vlogs” with my son on my YouTube channel, but it’s pretty much a hobby and something he and I do for fun.  My YouTube channel is mainly just a catch all for the videos I make, personal and professional. If I was serious about focused video creation, I would make a new channel just for that specific purpose. So for any who look at my YouTube channel, you have been warned, it’s a mixed bag.

When I have taught students how to make videos, I am limited by district devices and allowed programs. I remember years ago when I taught 5th grade, I had attended an American Film Institute (AFI) training via the Discovery Educator Network on making movies. It was after that institute that I hosted an after-school film club and taught 5th graders what I had learned about making films. We had a few small video cameras and district computers that came standard with Windows Movie Maker. Those early years of film making were great for the kids, they really learned a lot about making and editing videos, at least on a very basic level. Sadly, over time equipment stopped working and was not replaced, so film making went by the wayside.

More recently in my classroom I had taken to creating paper slide videos with my students using a smartphone or a tablet. (The linked video is not my own, but I did have one once upon the time, though it doesn’t seem to be up on my YouTube channel.) Once again, it was the Discovery Educator Network that exposed me to this idea. It is a very affordable and fun way for kids to make videos.

When it comes to making the most basic of machinima, I have used Screencast-o-matic to capture myself gaming. Take for example some machinima I made of my Minecraft Club: (keep in mind I was VERY new to Minecraft and that I hadn’t worked out how to capture my students talking to me so you only hear me talking to them…I did say it was basic 🙂 )

Once out of the classroom and in my role as a teacher on assignment, I spent a little more time with PowTooons. It was a tool I had come across and had known about for some time, but hadn’t had the time to really dig into and learn how to use. Now that I have taken the time to create with it, it is certainly a tool I would use with students if I were still in the classroom. Here is a sample of one of my Powtoons:

I really enjoyed the concept of a “Mrs. Ruiz Explains” series, but I have not had much time to make that really come to life. Video making takes a lot of time, and producing something that could serve students (or a YouTube audience) is something most people make a full time job out of. So at the moment for me, video creation remains a hobby and something I know I can do if the need arises.

I have found that the use of videos increases student engagement, and even more so when you have students creating the videos.  As an educator, I have found that creating my own videos really focuses my thoughts on a topic and allows me to create a video for my specific instructional needs. On a personal level, I find video creation to be a very rewarding outlet for creativity.

How do you use videos in your teaching? Share with me in the comments below. 🙂

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Posted in Edublogs

Making The Most

home-office-336373_1920EduBlogsClub Prompt #22:

Prompt: Write a post about tips and tricks that help you get the most out of your days.

Here are some possible topics to help get you started:

  • What apps help you boost your productivity? Why?
  • Describe your daily routine, What could you do to improve your productivity?
  • Share the story of a time when you were more productive than you thought you would be and how you managed to achieve that.
  • Share your favorite organizational tools that help make you more productive.
  • Create a list of tips that help you stay focused on tasks.
  • What is one aspect of being productive with which you struggle?

My job presently is rather different than when I was in the classroom, so I am going to address this topic from the standpoint of productivity on the whole. There are three big things I am working to stay on top of right now:

  1. My son’s online schooling
  2. My dissertation coursework
  3. Studying for the California Preliminary Administrative Credential Examination (CPACE)

I manage all of them with OneNote. Never heard of OneNote? Click here for a little video.

My school district is a Microsoft district and we have access to most of the Microsoft tools available in our district arrangement. However, there has not been an in-house tech training/PD on how to best use them. Most educators I know in my district who want to maximize the Microsoft tools we have at our disposal, sign up to attend a Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) training. That is what I did a couple of years ago and my mind was blown. There is so much you can do with Microsoft tools. If going to a training is not possible, the MIE community is huge and has quite an impressive library of courses you can take to get yourself up to speed with the latest and greatest Microsoft has to offer. And you earn badges too! Don’t we all love digital badges? I know I do! 🙂

So back to OneNote. I was first encouraged to put its massive power to use at work by a fellow teacher on assignment in my department. My mind was blown immediately as to how easy it was to use. I could easily add pretty much anything I wanted to it and collaborate with others if need be. I have never stopped using OneNote since then and use it daily.  I have OneNote notebooks on pretty much everything. It is a super convenient way for me to capture all my thoughts and capitalize on them. I am a journaler at heart and have been known to keep various notebooks. OneNote makes it so I can have all the notebooks I like and be able to access them no matter where I am. So handy!

OneNote goes beyond just being a cool digital notebook, it has an impressive classroom aspect called Class Notebook. I was already out of the classroom when I learned about it, but I wish I could have used it with my students!

Do you use OneNote? If so, how? If not, do you think you would try it? Share with me in the comments below. 🙂

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Posted in Edublogs

Take A Look, It’s In A Book

book-863418_1920EduBlogsClub Prompt #21 (#20 was a catch up week):

Prompt: Write a post about a book, books, and/or reading!

Here are some possible topics to help get you started:

  • What has been the book that most impacted you or your teaching? Why?
  • Share the story of a time when students responded in a positive way to a book used in class.
  • Share your favorite book about teaching that’s helped change your approach to the classroom.
  • Create a reading list for other teachers either to use with students or for themselves.
  • What books do you wish you had time to read and why?

I love reading, I always have. Maybe I was lucky I grew up in a time before there was Internet. Sure there was television when I was a kid, but there wasn’t the kind of television there is today. I remember what a big deal it was when we finally got “cable” TV, which was called “On TV” or “Select TV.” Essentially it was a flip we switched to get some additional content, it may have only been one channel at the time. [I am really making myself feel ancient right now. 🙂 ] There were video games too, but it was Atari or Intellivision. We had both, and I was never overly engaged with either of them.

I don’t remember having an extensive collection of books, but I do remember a lot of time at the school library or the public library. When I was in high school, I practically LIVED at my local public library. When I became an elementary teacher, I thought back on what I enjoyed about my experiences. One of my most memorable elementary school memories is around read alouds. My 4th grade teacher at Hurley Elementary School in La Puente, Californa was Mr. Delgado. I think he was the first male teacher I ever had (and one of the few for sure) and I thought he was so cool. One of the things he did was after lunch read alouds. He would turn off the lights, have us put our heads down and read to us. He read us several books, but the one I remember most was “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by CS Lewis. Those after lunch read alouds were such a powerful memory for me and helped to foster my love of reading that I just had to do that with my students.

I have read all kinds of books to my students, but I have never dictated which ones. Another powerful experience for me as a young student on the whole was the lack of student voice and choice in most of my elementary years. I remember how much I resented that as a student and I made sure that my students would have a voice and choices in my classroom. Read aloud was certainly an area where my students had both. My students make suggestions for read aloud and we decide together. I love when they want a series read to them. I remember reading the Percy Jackson series to a 5th grade class I had, and loved the discussions we would get into while reading. In my most recent 3rd and 4th grade classes they were very much into the Creature in my Closet series and I read them several of those books. During my read alouds I would use my document camera to project the book so students could follow along, eventually I started getting the books on my Kindle and projected that. I would also make sure to have a paperback version  available in class for students to check out and so many students wanted to follow along with their own copies that they would check out the book from an area library or ask their parent to purchase them a copy. Its memories like these that really make me miss my time in the classroom.

I am currently in the process of starting a similar process with my son. He is in the 7th grade and due to a few reasons (which I will likely discuss in future posts), we decided to remove him from the district I work for and enroll him in an online charter school. We are only on week two of this new learning adventure and I am creating new routines to support him. I have to admit I am really enjoying the online charter school experience so far, as is my son. I am essentially his co-teacher and support the work he is doing with his online teachers. One of the areas I have to support him in is his independent reading. I am a fan of GoodReads and provided him this list of books recommended for middle school. He has selected “The Diary of Anne Frank.” We will be reading that together and I hope to recreate the magic of read alouds for him.

What is a fond memory you have about reading and books? Share with me in the comments below. 🙂

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Posted in Edublogs

Social Media

tree-200795_1920EduBlogsClub Prompt #19:

Prompt: Write a post about social media

Here are some possible topics to help get you started:

  • Do you use social media to share with parents or your school community?
  • How have you used social media in the classroom with students?
  • How do you use social media to make you a better teacher?
  • Do you have guidelines that you use with students?
  • Have you experienced a story related to the use of social media?
  • What do you think is next for the use of social media in education?

I just recently noticed that my Twitter account is 10 years old this month. I smiled when I noticed that, and proceeded to tell my husband who simply looked at me with an expression that conveyed “So what?” For me, being on Twitter for 10 years and having over 3,000 tweets seemed to be a milestone. While Twitter isn’t the only form of social media, I have to say it is my favorite for getting news and information related to my interests as a mother, educator, and voting member of society. I had long found traditional news sources unappealing. Newspapers and local news broadcasts always seemed to highlight the tragic crimes people commit against one another, instead of spending more time highlighting the good things happening in our local community and beyond.

I had to pause a moment as I wrote this post to reflect on what it was that got me on social media 10 years ago. It didn’t take me long to realize that it was my involvement with the Discovery Educator Network. (I just visited that link and my photo is still on the home page! 🙂 ) It was just over 10 years ago that I came to work at my former school site. I had transferred sites craving the opportunity to work with passionate and innovative educators, and I was not disappointed. Within the first year at my former school site I was introduced to the Discovery Educator Network (DEN) and my world exploded…in a good way. I had an incredible amount of access to educators outside of my immediate site and their wealth of edtech knowledge. I learned about Web 2.0 tools and was able to go to summer institutes where we learned all about the latest and greatest app or program to use with students, and how to use it effectively. It was because of the DEN that I bothered with Twitter at all. It was because of the DEN that I was taught the power of social media and how I could harness it for my own professional development. I had a virtual PLC before I even knew what a PLC was. If you have never heard of the DEN, I highly recommend you check out their website.

My Twitter account is something that has always been open to parents for the following, but I don’t recall any parents ever following me. I think that was largely due to the fact that I taught elementary school and many parents were not thinking about social media much, and the few that were and were on social media were not interested in following their child’s 3rd grade teacher. For the longest time I tried to keep my Twitter strictly education related, but over the years I have allowed it to represent more of who I am as I share and retweet things related to non-education things.

I don’t like creating multiple social media accounts as they get overwhelming to manage very quickly, but I did use my own Twitter account on several live virtual field trips I took my students on in order to participate in the discussion. I would live tweet and project the hashtag for my students to see and they were always excited to see themselves as a part of the global discussion, if only through my Twitter account.

Being that I taught young students and knowing the importance of teaching them digital citizenship, I embarked on using Edmodo in my 4th grade classroom. It was my hope to use it as a safe school pseudo-Facebook. I used it for everything. We had discussions there, we all would post things for discussion, respond to one another, etc. It amazed me how quickly a couple of my 4th graders became “trolls.” It was a very valuable learning experience for everyone involved. The experience opened up a real dialog on what it means to be a good digital citizen. My school district does not have an official learning management system (LMS), but Edmodo is the closest LMS tool that we have.  I would highly recommend that teachers of any level use something like Edmodo or their district’s LMS to be able to safely mimic social media and teach their students valuable lessons in digital citizenship.

How do you use social media in your personal or professional life? Share with me in the comments below. 🙂

Posted in Edublogs

Art, Poetry or Music

desert-749692_1920EduBlogsClub Prompt #18:

Prompt: Write a post that uses art, music, or poetry.

Write a poem or song, draw a picture, create a meme/gif. Get creative!

Or write a post that shares how you use art, poetry, or music in the classroom.

I love art, music and poetry. I remember the few classes I had in those categories over my K-16 career with much fondness. I wish I had received more formal training in those areas and that they had not been treated like fun “extras.” It’s that sentiment that has me rather hyper focused on the arts for my 7th grade son. He had expressed an interest in music from a young age. In my school district, students are not provided any music education until 4th grade. So I asked around and eventually my son ended up at a local university for their community school of music. There he spent a few years learning piano, which served to be an excellent foundation for him picking up other instruments as he got older, including saxophone, trombone, and guitar.

In elementary school I remember being so excited to be a part of the choir. I had wanted to learn how to play the oboe, but family finances prevented that from happening. I also remember enjoying dance, but again, money stood in the way of any extensive lessons. In middle school, I remember balking at home economics (it was the young feminist in me) and signed on for art. I enjoyed the class, but felt I was rather bad at it unfortunately. In high school, my interests turned more toward writing. I really enjoyed my English Composition and AP English classes. I recall enjoying the depth that we dove into various texts. Then during my undergraduate years I remember loving my humanities courses, especially art history and philosophy. It was in college when I finally became a published author, it was a poem I had written for our local literature publication. I could not find it in time to share with this post, but it had been called “La Gitanita” (the gypsy) a poem I wrote in both English and Spanish to represent both sides of my life experience.

There seemed to be little room in my life for art after that. I have to admit I rarely did art in my own classroom for a few reasons…one of the big ones being the fear that doing too much art would be frowned on as the connections to state standards wasn’t strong enough, and the other main reason being having to manage 30+ elementary students excited about art and doing whatever they wanted with the supplies instead of the intended task.

I wish my students would have just been allowed a time for art, just to explore and create, without having to be held accountable for standards. The maker movement makes me think that education is finally coming around to allowing students to just explore, without standards needing to be a major factor.  They key is being at a school with an administrator who supports student exploration. I was at a school like that, and I was allowing my students to explore. While my experiences with traditional art were not strong, my experiences with technology are. I soon realized I preferred my art creation digitally. I ran an after school Minecraft Club, and while I tried to focus the students in my club on activities, I found they just wanted to be free to explore and build. They produced art digitally in Minecraft, and that is not any less valuable than traditional manifestations of art.

This leads me into what the prompt actually asked for, a sharing of art. While I can’t paint or draw or sculpt, I don’t play an instrument, and only sing in the car with the music turned up so loud I can’t actually hear myself, I can take digital photography in a virtual world that I consider art.

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How does art manifest itself in your personal and/or professional life? Share with me in the comments below. 🙂

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Posted in Edublogs

Project Based Instruction

idea-1876658_1920EduBlogsClub Prompt #17:

Prompt: Write a post that discusses using problem-based or project-based learning in the classroom.

Have you had your students complete open-ended projects or answer open-ended questions? Share your experiences, lesson plans, student work, or reasons why you haven’t yet. We can’t wait to hear about it!

Project Based Learning (PBL) was just coming to my classroom when I left it to become a teacher on assignment. I had heard little bits about it and had purchased “PBL in the Elementary Grades: Step-by-Step Guidance, Tools and Tips for Standards-Focused K-5 Projects”. Since then I know some of my district leaders have attended PBL World and that our district plans on moving in the PBL direction. Aside from teachers doing it on their own, throughout the district, I have not seen an organized move in that direction. As a matter of fact, a small team of teachers and the principal of my previous school site went to PBL World this last round, and I must admit I was a bit jealous. I would have loved to have gone with them. I will have to check in with them to see how they have implemented PBL into the innovative work they do at their school.

I had never had the chance to dig much into the book I had purchased on PBL, due to my new position and my own studies, but it has been one of those things I really have wanted to dig into. I wish my position would allow me to learn it and coach teachers through it. I know if I was still in the classroom I would enjoy a instructional coach helping me implement it.

I listen to a lot of podcasts (as I have mentioned in other posts). PBL is a hot topic in education, so I am not at all surprised that I would have a PBL themed podcast in my listening lineup. It’s an 10 minute episode of the “10 Minute Teacher” by @coolcatteacher called “#146 Get Motivated to Do PBL Right #MotivationMonday”. Give it a listen. Are you looking for motivation to start PBL? Are you already doing PBL? Share your PBL experiences with me in the comments below. 🙂

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