Posted in Edublogs

Guest Blogger

mouse-2575068_1920EduBlogsClub Prompt #27:

Prompt: Write a guest post on another blog, or find a guest blogger for yours!

Ask someone else to post for you this week on a topic of their choice. Or see if you can find another blog or website that will let you post there. If nothing else, consider writing on something like Medium.com this week, it can help you grow an audience 🙂

I knew the guest blogger prompt was coming (because I am behind and I have all the prompts queued up) and I still couldn’t bring myself to do it. So I got to reflecting on why that is and I came to the conclusion that I view my blog as a journal that only I write in, but lots of people can read if they so choose. I welcome comments and enjoy them, but that is where guests get to write on my blog if they want. I didn’t look for another blog to blog on because of the same thinking. The blogs of others, belong to them. Unless it is a group sort of blog, I think blogging on another teacher’s blog is not something I feel comfortable with.

So if I am not going to have a guest or be a guest, then that leaves me with the other suggestion in the post (thank you for those!), which is looking into Medium.

I have been aware of Medium, but I never really looked into it, mainly because I really don’t want to have to manage another log in for another website or create another account for a service I may not use. I know that sounds rather pessimistic of me, but that is not my intent. It is just a time thing. I only have so much time and signing up for a bunch of things is not the best use of it, when I know I am going to have a hard time staying on top of or even using all the things I sign up for. I have to be selective.

But for the sake of this prompt I did look into Medium. I spent some time looking at the work of other Medium users, specifically the “Noteworthy” writers. I really enjoy the way Medium is set up. I think what stands out to me is that it doesn’t look like a blog, it looks like a and feels like a writing community.

So without further ado, here is my first post on Medium.

If you are on Medium too and would like me to follow you, share your link with me in the comments below. 🙂

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Posted in Edublogs

World Teachers’ Day

38_World Teachers Day

#EduBlogsClub Prompt #38:

Prompt: Reflect on a teacher or the status of teachers

What thoughts come to mind when you think of World Teachers’ Day? Here are some ideas:

  • Share a story of a teacher who made an impact on you.
  • Tell us about your experience with higher education and the teaching staff you encountered.
  • Why did you become a teacher?
  • If you had total freedom and unlimited resources, how would you celebrate World Teachers’ Day at your workplace?

So much for blogging a few times a week to catch up! Life is funny like that. Regular blogging is important to me. The reflective practice of blogging is very therapeutic.

Today’s topic is so time sensitive it forced me to do my catch up posts out of order. It might even have caused me to do the remaining past posts in any order they appeal to me rather than their numerical order. What’s fun to remember is that I make the rules here on my blog, so catching up in numerical order or completely random order is up to me.

Today is World Teachers’ Day. I have to be honest and say that in my 17 years as an educator I don’t recall celebrating or acknowledging World Teachers’ Day. That’s not to say it doesn’t matter, it most certainly does, but now that I am out of the classroom I have a lot more time to reflect on my classroom days.

Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers

I felt very empowered when I was in the classroom. While I had the framework of my district to work within, I always felt I had some room to make decisions about how my students were taught and how I wanted to approach teaching them. I felt free to read and learn about new approaches and strategies. I felt free to collaborate with my colleagues to make my students’ academic experiences as powerful as possible. It had been my hope as a teacher on assignment that I would be able to work with teachers in accomplishing the same goal…enriching the learning experiences of their students.

On this year’s World Teachers’ Day I ask all those who have been teachers and are now in a position outside of the classroom, whatever that may be, do you feel free and empowered in your new role? Do you feel disconnected from the teacher you once were or do you feel you are even more empowered in your new role? Share with me in the comments below. 🙂

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Posted in Edublogs

Reflections

img_4855EduBlogsClub Prompt #26:

Prompt: Write a post reflecting on the last half year of blogging.

Here are some possible topics to help get you started:

  • Share your favorite posts that you’ve written and tell us what they mean to you.
  • Share your three favorite posts that others in the #edublogsclub have written and tell why you loved them.
  • What has been your biggest challenge during the last six months of blogging? Why?
  • What would you like to do differently over the next six months of blogging? Why?
  • What has been your proudest moment in blogging over the last six months? Why?
  • How do you feel that blogging about education has made you a better educator?

The prompt was originally posted in July of this year so I am still a bit behind, but I enjoy the opportunity to reflect.

Favorite posts? I enjoy writing all of them, so I can’t say I have a favorite really. Favorite posts from other EduBloggers? I am going to amend that one to be my favorite EduBloggers. I have followed the blogs of several of the other bloggers in the challenge. And while I enjoy reading all the posts, here are the EduBloggers that have not only stood out, but have continued to blog regularly:

Mandy Ellis, A Principal’s Decree
As an aspiring administrator, I really enjoy being able to read the blog of a blogging principal! While I know some principals do blog, they don’t with the frequency that teachers do. I enjoy reading Mandy’s perspective and seeing how she uses her blog as an administrator.

Alicia Abdul, Readers Be Advised
I really enjoy Alicia’s thoughtful and regular posts from her perspective and experiences as a librarian.

and my newest favorite read…

Kathleen Morris, Primary Tech
Kathleen may be the newest contributor to the EduBlogger account, but she is a wealth of information and a very nurturing support to EduBloggers. Her responses to my posts have really helped remind me how important engagement is. I tend to be a lurker when reading the posts of others (like on Mandy & Alicia’s blogs) and I really need to engage by leaving comments. Thanks for reminding me of the importance of that Kathleen! I even volunteered to be a mentor for the student EduBlogs challenge, I would love to have some student blogs to visit on the regular to leave comments on.

I am pretty sure I had signed up for the EduBlogsClub challenge before and not participated. I am so glad I did participate this year. I may have gotten VERY behind at some point, but I am enjoying the process of catching up. The prompts have me reflecting on my experiences and practices each time I write and that is so valuable.

While there aren’t many months left of this year’s challenge, I expect to finish it on time with the few other EduBloggers that have managed to go the distance. I plan on signing up for the EduBlogsClub challenge each time they offer it. I enjoy having the prompts and they way they get me to think about things. It has been very therapeutic!

Have you reflected on your own blogging? What did you realize? 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

Free Web Tools

Hello Readers!

I am a lil behind on my Edublogs challenge posts, but that’s ok. Life happens and skipping posts or posting late is fine. I am actually trying my best to not skip any posts at all. I enjoy a challenge and I want to address each prompt.

Prompt 5 was simply to write a post about free web tools. That seems like a pretty simple post, but there are so many free web tools! Being that I am late to this post, I had the benefit of reading all the posts from other bloggers on this topic before adding my own. I didn’t want to duplicate what any of them said, so if you are in the market for free web tools, be sure to visit the link above and check the comments, there are a lot of helpful posts on free web tools and how to use them.

Now for my suggestions! Many of the tools I am about to reference have both a free and paid version.

  • Skype – Skype is a communication tool I use regularly in many ways. It is a great instant messenger, but is also great for long distance calls (both voice and video). I tend to use Skype most with my gamer friends and when I was running a remote Minecraft Club. As a Microsoft Innovative Educator, I love the promise of Mystery Skypes to broaded the horizons of our students. I was never able to do one while I had a class of my own, but I have been part of a few group Mystery Skypes and they are great fun. Microsoft even has a whole page of classroom ideas.
  • Gyazo – I LOVE this tool for quick and easy screen capture! I learned about it from my gaming friends as a way to show one another things in our game without needing to screen share. Gyazo can make instant screenshots or GIFs and provide you with a shareable link in seconds. So easy!
  • Poll Everywhere – I was introduced to Poll Everywhere at a conference where the keynote speaker engaged the ENTIRE audience in a few questions, with the live results projecting on screen. It was powerful. I have used this tool a few times and really enjoy it, but it is best suited for a secondary classroom and up.
  • Today’s Meet – Another goodie I was introduced to at a conference. Today’s Meet is essentially a back channel, where students or those attending a meeting or conference can talk about pretty much whatever they like with the other students/attendees. I have used it a few times and found it to be not only fun, but very useful.
  • PicMonkey – I mentioned this one last week and I really can’t mention it enough. A free web editing tool that is super easy to use. You get great photo editing results with very little effort and time. LOVE IT!
  • Screencast-o-matic – I forget where exactly I learned about this one but I have a feeling it was from watching a teacher tutorial and I saw the watermark. Screencast-o-matic is great for making tutorials. It is easy to use and very intuiative. I have found I really enjoy making my own videos and I can see students being able to use this tool quite easily too, even upper elementary students.
  • PowToons – I have been aware of this tool for a while but never got around to actually using it. It is a bit time consuming, but I enjoy the creative process of creating an animated video. I am sure secondary students could handle it and likely some very motivated elementary students. (If you visit my YouTube channel you will find some examples of Screencast-o-matic and PowToons in use.)

Do you use any of these tools? Are you thinking you would like to try? I would love to hear from you in the comments! Thanks for stopping by!blog-signature

Posted in Edublogs

For Fiona

Hello Readers,

The latest #edublogsclub challenge was released this past Tuesday. The prompt was simply: “Write a post that includes an image.” That seemed simple enough to me. I put images in my posts all the time, at least just one. There was some guiding text with the prompt as well to help generate ideas of what to write about, and I knew instantly that I would share about my favorite photo editing tool, PicMonkey. I was thinking about how I wanted to frame the post when something rather sad occurred in my life. I then debated on if I should bring that to my blog at all, if it was relevant, or if I should just do as I often do and pretend nothing sad at all has happened. So I will warn you reader, this post is not going to be a cheery one. It is going to be an authentic one, that will serve many purposes, including that of the prompt this week. So if you are not in the mood to read something sad, or you are simply looking for a quick photo tip, then it is best you read the next two paragraphs and skip the rest.

So I will start with the photo tip up front. PicMonkey is a web-based image editing and creation tool. It is free for basic features and has a small cost for extended features, which I highly recommend. I first learned about PicMonkey from Second Life blogger Strawberry Singh. Second Life is the 3-D virtual world I have been involved in since 2007 and that I blog about separately. If you are curious about it, Strawberry has all kinds of useful posts and videos that explain it all, so feel free to explore that if it interests you.

PicMonkey was a blessing for me. I had been attempting to learn and use Adobe PhotoShop and as with most Adobe software, learning it in order to be able to use it effectively can be rather time consuming. PicMonkey did pretty much what I wanted to very simply and I then lost all desire to learn and use PhotoShop. My life had been simplified! I have used PicMonkey to write on photos, to place frames around them, to add filters, to make banners for my website and for my YouTube channel…PicMonkey has been indispensable!

Now onto the photo and story.

fiona-rip

My 13 year old Labrador Fiona passed away Thursday night. Some might react, “Oh? your dog died? I’m sorry” and move on. Those of you who are, or have been, pet owners know it is much more complex than that. I am of the camp where our pets are a part of our family. They are loved and they matter. You do whatever you can for them to keep them comfortable and happy. Dogs are very special creatures who can truly bless our lives with their presence.

Fiona was the last of a very special kind of dog in my family. She entered my life as my second guide dog puppy in training. I had been a volunteer puppy raiser for Guide Dogs of America in Sylmar, CA. I had puppy raised a German Shepherd I got to name Frieda, Fiona was my second, then I had a black and tan Lab named Riva. None of my puppies actually made it to be guide dogs, but they sure did try! Frieda had an aggressive streak so she was not allowed to continue in the program when she was 6 months old and I got to adopt her. Fiona was considered for their breeding program because she was so well tempered and obedient, but she failed the dysplasia test (elbow or hip, I don’t remember which) and I got to adopt her too. Riva made it all the way to being turned in for official training, only to demonstrate mild aggression in harness and be offered to me for adoption as well. They were my guide dog pup trio. I adopted them all. Frieda and Fiona became therapy dogs. The only reason Riva did not is because my son had been born about that time (Riva’s birthday was my my son’s predicted birthday…he arrived 6 weeks early). I had to put Frieda down at 7 years old due to severe spinal cord issues. Riva died suddenly at 10 years old. Fiona outlived them all.

Fiona was an amazing dog from start to finish. She was the one I brought with me to my first school board meeting when myself and another teacher/puppy raiser in my district petitioned them to create a board policy allowing service dogs in training and therapy dogs on our school sites. Which the board ended up doing. Fiona then began to come to school with me as a guide dog pup in training and eventually as a therapy dog. I had her in class with me for years.The kids read to her and wrote to her. I created my own little books of the kids photos with Fiona and their words. It was my “Dogs in the Classroom” series. Kids at my school (DGE of course, see my post on Leadership if you don’t know what I am talking about) knew me as the teacher with the dog and there was no getting anywhere quickly. Everyone always wanted to pet and hug and generally love on Fiona and I never denied anyone that treat. When I retired her so I wouldn’t lose my mind trying to take care of an infant and manage a therapy dog at the same time, the kids were sad and often asked about her. She would come back for visits here and there. She loved school and she loved the kids.

Fiona was a change agent and she showed me how much dogs can do for others first hand. My life has gotten too busy to truly dedicate to the raising of another service dog puppy, but I highly recommend it.

We have the next generation of dogs at home now. When Riva passed I allowed my son to select our next dog. Since I am so techy we had to do that online of course. We used Adopt-a-Pet and my son found Dot, who just so happens to share his exact birthday. That fact gave me the chills as we did not know that beforehand. I only happened to notice it when I was signing the adoption agreement. It was clearly meant to be. Four month old Dot was too much energy for the then 12 year old Fiona, so I used the site again to look for a Lab mix (I am personally partial to Labs thanks to Fiona and Riva). I could not find what I was looking for so I turned to Purebred Breeders (who apparently now is known as PuppySpot) online and found Ryker, who was flown to me from Texas. Ryker is a handsome red lab that I have big plans for. He only just turned one and has a lot of training ahead of him, but I would love to bring him into therapy work once my doctoral studies are done. For now, my son and I attend obedience classes together with Dot and Ryker. Its a mother-son activity I really enjoy.

obedience-class

If you made it this far, thank you for reading. I welcome your comments about PicMonkey or your own dog/pet story or whatever strikes your fancy!

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Posted in Edublogs

What Leadership Means to Me

leadership_edublogs

Hello Reader!

First I want to address the new theme for my blog! I had changed it when I left the classroom to something rather neutral while I transitioned into my new position as a Teacher on Assignment in our new Linked Learning department. Since beginning the #edublogsclub blogging challenge I have felt my blog take on a new feel which called for a new look! I hope you like it, because I sure do!

Now onto business. This is the 3rd post of the #edublogsclub challenge. This week’s prompt was: Write a post that discusses leadership, peer coaching, and/or effecting change. 

I had really wanted to stay on time with my posts, but this one made me pause to think for a while, and then life happened and prevented me from really and truly thinking about it. I have probably written this post over about three times as I wrestled with what I really wanted to say about leadership. What brought it together for me in the end was a quote I was introduced to as a part of my school district’s aspiring leadership program:

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.
– Jack Welch, former GE Chairman and CEO

We had been presented with several leadership quotes that day and had been asked to move toward the one that spoke to us. There had to have been at least 10 quotes plastered around the meeting room we were in and the one above was the one that stood out the most to me. It gave me cause to reflect on all the great leaders I had worked with at my last school site, Dorothy Grant Elementary (aka DGE). Now I am going to try VERY hard not to go on a long rambly, nostalgic post about how amazing this school is, but this school changed the trajectory of my teaching career. The truth of that fact was something I had never given conscious thought to, but when thinking on leadership and the qualities of a good leader, and the type of leader I want to be, my experience at DGE has everything to do with outstanding leadership.

I arrived at DGE just after my 5th year of teaching…a rather crucial turning point for many teachers. It is widely recognized that a significant number of new teachers do not make it to or past their 5th year of teaching. I needed to be at DGE. I had already suffered through 2 previous schools with significant leadership deficits. I was transferring to escape them, to hopefully arrive at a school that was right for me and equipped with an inspirational leader. I wonder if I would still be here 12 years later and in my 17th year as an educator had it not been for DGE and its leaders.

I was very fortunate to have met and been selected by Dr. Ken Decroo to transfer to the open 4/5 combo position that was available. DGE was a shiny new school then, only one year old. As I had shared in a previous post, I had NEVER gotten to work at or attend a new school, so this was certainly a perk for me. Dr. Decroo was new that year, but he was very well liked and did a lot for the school’s climate. I remember enjoying his handling of the school and interaction with the staff. He was by far the most mellow, friendly and knowledgeable principal I had ever had at that point. While he and I had several interactions over that year, one in particular has always stood out to me. I remember being in his office, talking about something I don’t recall at the moment (and likely never will) when he said to me “You should consider becoming an administrator.” I remember my reaction. Shock. I remember backing away from him as if he was trying to infect me with something and shaking my head and waving my hands “What? Me? Oh no…no I could, never… Was that the bell?” Now I could be paraphrasing just a bit, but that exchange really did occur and it has stuck with me. I don’t know what he may have seen in me, being too caught of guard to really ask and too quick to dismiss it.

Dr. Decroo’s time at DGE was far too short for me when he retired the next school year. Chris Ridge was the next principal assume the office. Mr. Ridge was driven. He had a mind for innovation and staying ahead of the academic curve. He wanted the best for DGE students and it showed. Some teachers didn’t care too much for him because of his drive, but I did. DGE was in at the top of the elementary rankings in our district, we were leaders in trying new techniques out like RTI and data driven decision making. Talk about data! Mr. Ridge was always equipped with a report of some kind. I had never looked at data so much in my whole life, but he took great care in explaining to us why we needed to spend so much time with the data and how doing so could help drive our instruction and in the end help our students achieve. I amuses me now to think back on it. Data driven decision making is so common place now, just as is RTI, but thanks to Mr. Ridge I was exposed to both a lot earlier than others in and out of my school district. Mr. Ridge stayed at DGE several years and then his time came as well, not to retire, but to pursue other opportunities. I was sad to see him go, I had learned a great deal from him.

Sadly, DGE had a year of administrative uncertainty after that which is really not relevant to this post apart from saying that in year where we did not have stability in our leadership, the overall DGE community had already become so strong that we weathered that storm just fine. Thankfully we did receive another solid leader in Anne-Marie Cabrales. I have to say that I wasn’t certain about Mrs. Cabrales when she first arrived. She wasn’t like any leader I had before. It has been hard to put my finger on, but in the end I believe it was that she still felt like one of us. She felt like a teacher. She did not feel like a principal to me, and I don’t say that in a negative way at all. It was just something about the way she carried herself and how she got to know the staff. There was something very personable and humble about it. Mrs. Cabrales became very well liked immediately. She fit right in with the staff and was very passionate about DGE and its students. She works tirelessly to keep DGE at the top of the rankings and has continued the trend of keeping DGE at the front of the pack when it comes to new approaches to education. She did a great deal in supporting me and the various projects I wanted to do with technology and our kids, and it was she who encouraged me to consider a position at the district office level. I remember conversations with her turning toward me branching out and getting known in the district so that I could advance beyond the classroom. Dr. Decroo’s words would echo in my mind at those times. I had tried for district positions before, only to not be selected. My home was DGE, and I took the fact that I was not selected for a position as a Teacher on Assignment for Instructional Technology on more than one occasion to mean that I did not have what the district wanted for that position and that I was best suited to my work in the classroom at DGE.  I had become a teacher leader at DGE – in technology as a site coach and as a part of our leadership team where I spent a several years being a grade level leader. DGE had become my cozy, comfy blanket that I never wanted to be without.

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.
– Jack Welch, former GE Chairman and CEO

So here is my favorite leadership quote again. It expemplifies the leadership that I experienced at DGE in the 11 years I was there. 11 years that felt nothing like 11 years. I was having so much fun there I had lost track of the time. I felt successful in the way I had grown as an educator and the way DGE had nurtured that growth. Dr. Decroo, Mr. Ridge and Mrs. Cabrales were all amazing leaders in their own right for their own reasons. I have recently realized that they were helping me to grow so that I could be a leader too. I cannot thank them enough for that. This post has likely already passed the point of rambling nostalgia, but it has captured what leadership is to me and that is the kind of leader I want to be – one who creates a space where leaders can grow.

Always a Volunteer,
Mrs. Ruiz

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