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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

10 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Summer Break

Great Expectations
If you ran a marathon last week, your friends would expect you to take some downtime. Some time to rest and recover. It is expected you would need some rest.

If you just trekked across the desert for a month and struggled for lack of water and lack of food but you made it... people would also expect you to take time to rest and recover. It is expected you would need some rest.
Journey to the Light..

If you just came through a horrible bout of sickness and you were up for days unable to sleep. People would expect you to go off the grid for a while. To rest. To recover.

Why is it when teachers get out of school that everyone (even the teachers themselves) expect that they should immediately be able to conquer the world?

Don't we realize that we have just run a marathon? 
 A 10 month marathon including lack of sleep, in many cases missed lunches, and being pulled a million directions. Don't we realize that we have just trekked across a desert in some ways as we worked hard? Probably without much encouragement. Without much help. Not whining about it -but teaching can be a pretty lonely trek.

Don't we realize that in many ways we have been wounded? 
The struggles we have as teachers when students don't quite do what they need to do to be successful. Or the struggles we have at the end of the year when it is more fun for some kids to frustrate the teacher than to do those last few items?

Why on earth are we so hard on ourselves?
I'm hard on myself too. Here I am - it is Tuesday after I've gotten out of school on Friday. I had worked 12 days straight including Saturday and Sunday - the last four days I worked for around 18 hours a piece finishing up the graduation movie and here I am on Tuesday making a list a mile long and wondering why I'm so tired.

Saturday we fed 150 people at a family reunion and I didn't collapse into the chair until 7 pm Saturday night.

And yet, I'm sitting here telling myself it is summer so I should have my whole house clean, everything should be washed, and my kids should be up and ready to do their work.

Do all teachers push themselves like this? 
I think a lot of us do. We are listmakers by nature. Perfectionists by trade in a profession that pushes us to push others to be perfect.

Perfection is an illusion - if all our students are making a 100% then we aren't teaching anything new because they already know it. I'm looking at a list of 60 things I "need" to do today and want to run away to my bedroom, do a faceplant on my pillow and have a good cry.

I need a break. I need summer. And you do too.

10 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Summer Break
I think right now as those of us in the northern hemisphere begin summer that we need to remember a few things (myself included):
  1. Take time to rest. It is OK to sleep if you're tired and are behind. Loss of sleep is cumulative so get back on track.

  2. Take time to remember. Breathe deeply and relish the good memories of the year. Learn from them.

  3. Take time to forget. Time to be a human for a little while and not a teacher.

  4. Have a few days without a list. OK, this is almost impossible for me and I'll have to probably do this in July but sometimes I need to be a human BE-ing not a human DO-ing.

  5. Take time to heal. Every summer as I tube down the stream in the mountains, I can almost see my own heart. It is wounded and bleeding. Not because anyone has "gone after" me but the sort of wounds like a tire feels when it has ridden too many miles without being replaced. The treads are gone. The summer is the time to retread our heart and soul so we can make it.

  6. Take time to learn. Reading is part of rejuvenation. Fiction and non fiction.

  7. Go offline for a while. Unplug. PUt on your vacation autoresponder that you're not answering email. If you have to blog or Tweet because that is what you do - schedule them ahead of time so you can go offline "guilt free." But get away and unplug. I will be doing this very soon.

  8. Set realistic goals. We make "goal posters" for our summer with drawings and markers writing what we'd like to get done this summer. (We mark them off as we go.) Many of those things are places we will go and one or two things are what we'd like to accomplish. For me, I'll pick three goals for the summer. Three is a good number. If I get one done very early, I may add another.

  9. Work on one goal at a time. Start on the first goal and focus until you finish. Work on it every day.

  10. Look at Your Habits - Ninety five per cent of what you accomplish is your habits. By scheduling an appointment with yourself to do something, you take the thought that goes into working towards a goal. I set a time to work towards my goals in the summer. Blogging here is a habit. The thing about habits is you reap what you sow. If you can get one thing accomplished - GIVE YOURSELF A NEW HABIT. Whether it is working out, writing, or consistently pursuing a goal important to you. Your list may shape today but habits shape your destiny. Find good ones.
    Summer or any break can be a great time. As you guessed, I probably err on the side of working too hard but I would say that when I play that I do that very well. I go offline in a fatal, nonexistent sort of way that some who work with me can get quite angry at. But I've found that when I go offline like that that I come back into things a lot more prepared and productive. My mental knife is sharpened.

    I read somewhere that when they examine the super productive that they find that they do go offline and focus on one thing exclusively. They have the ability to focus and for me, that is what I try to bring to my summer. Focus. Focus on what is important. Taking time to unwind and rest.

    Remember your noble calling. Give yourself the royal treatment this summer and get some rest. (I'll try too.)

     Related Posts:

    Daily Education & Technology News for Schools 05/31/2011

    • I'm going to edubloggercon at ISTE2011 and am excited! Care to join us? Anyone is welcome. This page has all the information.

      tags: education socialmedia iste11 iste edu_news

    • For parents who want fun things for their students to do over the summer that will help students learn more and move forward in math and literacy skills - this is a website to check out.

      "Students enter the tournament by going to www.DimensionU.com/SummerChallenge. Once registered (parental permission is required) they will compete in math- and literacy-based games for a chance to win gift cards and summer-related prizes like inline skates, inflatable pools, beach volleyball sets, or tents. Five lucky players will be randomly selected to win an iPod Nano each.

      New this year is a social networking component that encourages students to build online “learning communities” of friends, family, community members, or even teachers – basically anyone who wants to help support the child’s academic efforts during the summer. Participants who earn the highest number of social network points in each tournament round will win prizes separate from those awarded for game play performance."

      tags: education gaming learning summer parenting all_teachers edu_news

    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

    Monday, May 30, 2011

    The Problem with Facebook Is YOUR FRIENDS!

    I know that since the Facebook Friending 101 for Schools I did here that my friend Sue Waters has since come out with a handy guide for Facebook over on Edublogger about the Why and How of Using Facebook for Educators. And Facebook has created their own Facebook For Educators guide. In this guide, Facebook notably DOES NOT talk about "friending students" per se. But does suggest using Facebook groups and pages.

    Privacy Option Issues
    The PROBLEM I have is point number three in Sue's edublogger article:

    "Despite what you may hear, there are strong privacy options that you can set up so only those that you want can access your information"

    The primary problem as I maintained in Facebook Friending 101 is NOT you. Although there are educators who post innappropriate things on their walls all of the time, MOST of you IF you are using it with your students are not. These privacy options ARE NOT ENOUGH for the scenarios I've presented.

    The Loopholes are There
    We've had a very long conversation over on my Facebook page about the loopholes that STILL EXIST in Facebook. Honestly, I want someone to prove me wrong on this. I would love to be able to friend my students and do all kinds of things on Facebook but there are several incidents I blogged about in the earlier post that almost landed our school in HOT WATER. AND IT WASN'T THE TEACHERS - it was the teacher's friends!!

    Kids can see your wall and what friends post
    So, a new educator I've met through the conversations on my Fanpage, Fred Roemer, has been using Facebook with his students but instead of just the emotional response of,

    "I'm going to use Facebook with my students because I want to doggone it." foot stomp and walk off that most educators who are passionate about using Facebook do, Fred is getting in there and helping TEST the settings.

    If we have more of us like him we can actually ASK Facebook for what we need to have to use with students. Here is what Fred Did and found. (You'll also see another progressive educator, Shani Benson in there testing it as well.)

    Join this conversation http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=225362797479876&id=143588425657314

    EVERYONE who is your Friend can see your Wall
    Fred confirmed that your friends can see each other's replies on your wall if a person has access to that post in the first place. They can see each other and follow the link from there even if they cannot see it on the left.

    Well, why do you care about that?

    Profanity on Your Wall Most Likely Comes from Friends
    A recent article on Mashable showed research from Reppler that surveyed 300,000 Facebook users and found that:

    "47% of those users have profanity on their Facebook wall. Of those, 80% have at least one post or comment with profanity FROM A FRIEND. [emphasis mine] Posts and comments with profanity on a user's Facebook wall come from friends 56% per cent of the time."

    I would venture to guess that for teachers that percentage is higher.

    Students Stalk Teacher Pages
    As I've been mulling this over in the weeks since I first saw Facebook 101 and have seen the people who insist that it is OK to use Facebook with students because this is not an issue, I've come across this comment that I reblogged on Tumblr.

    Posted on http://coolcatteacher.tumblr.com/post/5977601965/awkward-moment-when-youre-stalking-a-teachers#notes

    If you are friending them, they are all over your page.

    I want to reiterate a bit about the incident that had us in Facebook Frenzy at our school without revealing too much information.

    Someone in our community - an adult- posted HORRIBLE things on his page. Because the adults were friends and the students were friends with the teachers and adults, they were exposed to it. Some people blamed the school because of the link the school caused. The school's facebook IMMEDIATELY unfriended everyone and we went ONLY to a FanPage.

    So, how about groups?
    So, I got ready after reading Sue's post to set up groups and come back out with a way to do groups with my students. I could care less if I eventually have to retract EVERY word in Facebook Friending 101 for Schools and in fact, I pray that every issue there is dealt with so it is a NON issue.

    So, I set up a group. BIG PROBLEM. You can only add your friends to your groups. Since I don't friend my students, I can't even start the group off. I don't know how I'm going to get the students in the group without some sort of friending/ unfriending shenanigans that I didn't have time for at the end of school.

    Am I using Facebook at school?
    YES. I have some authentic research from some of my Digiteen students that I can now go public with because the "sting operation" on their generation is over.

    Operation Fake Facebook Friend
    They created two profiles for "Operation Fake Facebook Friend" because they were concerned about the proliferation of fake Facebook profiles that everyone KNEW were there but people were friending because they wanted more friends. In three weeks each profile accumulated more than 300 friends with the girl profile reaching almost 500.

    But the fact my students proved in their research is that students are indiscriminately friending people that they do not know and even more so friending profiles of people that THEY KNOW FOR A FACT ARE FAKE just to have more friends. Expect a full blog post on Operation Fake Facebook Friend later.

    The School Fanpage Rocks
    Our school Facebook Fan page is a hub of activity and has more subscribers than our e-newsletter. We have a group for Westwood alumni that many of us join.  The annual is planning on using surveys on our Facebook page to put in the annual. IT IS GREAT. We are using Facebook at our school. EVERY SCHOOL SHOULD HAVE A FANPAGE.

    I wish Facebook were perfect because I love it.
    I wish these weren't issues. But they are.

    I like Facebook. It has a lot of potential. But right now the mix of personal and professional is not acceptable and the CONTROLS ARE NOT IN PLACE TO KEEP THOSE TWO PARTS OF AN EDUCATORS LIFE SEPARATE. PERIOD.

    I wish I was wrong. I'm ready to be proven wrong. But so far, most people fall into either one camp or the other with very few in the middle trying to figure these things out.

    Recommendations For Facebook Right Now
    So, what can we do right now?

    A Fan page seems to be the only way to go EXCEPT you can't make it private and someone could use it to target your students. So, it looks like creating a separate teacher account that you only use for school and using a group with your students while not forcing them to friend you is pretty much the only way we can use Facebook right now.

    Let's Move Ahead
    I know I'm going to get lectured and flamed again about how dumb I am that privacy settings are the way to go - but if you'll listen. THE PROBLEM IS NOT YOU, Teacher, IT IS YOUR FRIENDS.

    And right now, it is that exposure that got me burned and I wouldn't be doing any kind of service to you as a reader and as someone I respect and admire if I just laid down and took the popular view on this issue.

    Let's work through and test this issue. Head over to the Facebook post and let's TEST for goodness sake and start operating on fact instead of emotion

    Facebook FACTS
    The Fact is that Facebook is here to stay and we have to learn how to peacefully co-exist with this valuable tool in ways that protect students, our professional integrity, and allow us to have personal lives with our friends from college and beyond.

    Related Articles:

    Sunday, May 29, 2011

    Should We Let Cell Phones Ruin Great Moments for People There?

    It was one of the most moving events of the conference. Perhaps in my life. Or it could have been. My great seat didn't matter.

    As soon as the talented South African storyteller entered the stage, it was all over. The cell phone mob rushed the stage. Jostling to raise their arms above each other and film the moment - ruining it for the other 1000+ people in the tent. Someone got some decent film, maybe.. On a low Rez camera that they may have shown someone who could barely appreciate it with shoddy garbled sound from being too close to the speakers.

    Or maybe someone live streamed letting others see it (and likely breaking every copyright rule while at it.) Doubtful with the poor cell service in South Africa.

    You know I believe cell phones have their uses but if you sense a rant coming on, that is because it is.

    People at an event should take priority over virtual participants
    We paid the money. We took the trip. We waited in line for tickets to the conference.

    When you rush the stage with cell phones held high you are cheating and you are rude.

    You are cheating us out of our experience.

    You are rude because you are saying that your film shoot is more important than everyone behind you who is blocked from seeing ANYTHING. Your filming is less important than those who are there.

    Even if you are a blogger with thousands of readers you are not more important than the people there.

    I took the picture above and I am a blogger with thousands of readers and my hiney was in the seat.

    The problem was that the event HAD cameras and you were even blocking those. You were rude. You were stealing. You were likely even stealing from the performers who could no longer see us -the audience but only the arms with the cell phones held high. They also have artistic rights to their music as did their client to this performance.

    These are the things we need to start talking about. NOW. ENOUGH!!!!

    Time To Talk Manners

    I love cell phones. They are good for certain things but when I couldn't see the first pirates of the carribean movie because of the blinking blue tooth headset on the guy in front of me, I realized that we have to learn the POLITE way to integrate these tools into society

    There are the kinds of things we talk about in our Digiteen project at school.

    Like the wreck I had where a woman hit me when she ran the light. I had two witnesses both of whom had a foggy recollection because their cell phone conversations were more important than watching what was happening at the busy intersection.

    Who is running who!?

    Our devices are to improve our lives.

    Don't blame it on the marketers. You don't have to answer every phone call, every tweet, and pay attention to people who aren't there.

    Show me a nice restaurant and it is one where people don't sit there talking about Aunt Martha's hemmeroids or how Joe is messing up the business deal with his ineptitude. Take those conversations outside. Let the rest of us talk with our kids about their week or whisper sweet nothings in our boyfriend's ear.

    Now you can sit in a restaurant and see kids gathered around an iPad watching tangled on their portable speaker system while the adults yell over the din and everyone 5 tables over is included in the racket.

    Yes, good manners are important. I don't care if rug rats and the Simpsons and Tosh have made it seemingly ok to talk about bodily functions that made us blush in mixed company 10 years a go but I don't want to hear it at a restaurant.

    The Bible talks about a time when people lose their ability to blush. God forbid we ever get to that point.

    Everything is not ok and it is definitely not all good. I am making a call to bloggers and teachers out there to start having conversations about what is good for public behavior and not. Otherwise we sink to the lowest common denominator. People who don't care about others.

    As for me:

    • If I am in public, I will go outside to have a phone conversation.
    • My ringer will be on silent in public.
    • I will pay attention to my family and ignore texts unless there is a life threatening situation.
    • I will not jump up to film a live event unless it is something I have arranged.
    • If I am running a live event people will want to film, I will have it filmed and make it available for those who want to share.
    • I will avoid blinking lights and bright devices in places that will impair the viewing of others.
    • I will work hard to treat others as I want to be treated.
    • I will be forgiving when others are rude but perhaps let the manager know after they have left so the manager can realize his clients would like peaceful places to dine and watch movies.
    • I will be a respectful, polite advocate for good manners knowing that the very word "good manners" will make many people who have a "to each his own" attitude angry. These people don't realize that each of us make up society.

    Bottom line. Over one thousand people in a tent deserved to see that performance of a lifetime more than 20 people had a right to film it. If giving 20 people the "right" takes away the enjoyment of 980 others at the event, I have a problem with that.

    It is time to talk Tech and it needs to start with those who use it most.

    Posted using BlogPress from Vicki's iPad

    Saturday, May 28, 2011

    Six word Saturday







    Yes, these are all my photos. :-)

    Hat tip for this idea to - Ready or Not Blog

    - Posted using BlogPress from Vicki's iPad

    Daily Education & Technology News for Schools 05/28/2011

    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

    Friday, May 27, 2011

    Encourage Other Teachers Even When School is Out for Summer

    Sitting in my room listening to the silent spinning of the DVD as the graduation / senior movie renders for (hopefully) the last time.

    I can hear the hum of my small refrigerator in my room. Funny, I put that fridge in during the second week of school and I've never noticed that hum.

    I guess it is because this room is always full. Always noisy. Always bustling. And I'm always half stressed.

    "Give me a cliff. I'm jumping." is something I often say when I'm getting to THAT point.

    That point seems to come a lot during the last month of school. I haven't been doing laundry because when I do, my broken washer leaks all over the kitchen floor and I'm stuck mopping too! Thank goodness Camilla is Flat. ;-) No cliffs.

    2010-2011 Westwood Schools Photo Album

    My Babies
    As full time teacher of technology, IT Director, and IT Integrator, I try to keep this place running and work hard to be efficient. PowerSchool is my baby and I write the SQL reports and do the geek work. I cut all the PO's, write the plans, handle the emails, server set up. Gosh, what else?

    But my babies are really these kids. These children.

    So ends my ninth year of teaching. I hear the hum. This time it is my own humming. I'm humming zip-a-dee-do-dah. I thought I was supposed to whistle that one!

    "It's the truth. It's actual. Everything is sat-is-factual."

    You Can't Fire Students
    This job isn't perfect. No job is. It is much more stressful than the general manager job I had managing a cell phone market. I could fire people there. I can't fire students and I certainly can't fire their parents. I have to work with what I have.

    I lay awake at night thinking and praying over kids. I cry over situations with my own children. I hunt down children who haven't turned in their work and send other young men into the bathroom to smoke them out of their hiding places. I work hard to put comments on their report cards and then rewrite the PowerSchool report cards when I realize that I was so tired I put the comments on the wrong period.

    UX Help
    Helping Each Other is Part of Teaching.
    But one of the most important things for me is sitting down with you every morning. Before I begin my day in my office at home. I hear a hum there too. The flourescent light hums as I write to you. I hum as I think to myself: what will HELP teachers.

    My inspiration is Mrs. Grace Adkins who started our learning lab. She is over 80 and has been here for almost the 40 years of Westwood. She rides her bike an hour a day. She is amazingly productive, sharp minded, and is probably the only other person here who has read the World is Flat. She came to me before she even knew we were in the book and asked if I'd read it!

    I'd like to be like her. Would I be let to stay in the classroom for another 40 years and write to you as part of this journey? OH, what a joy that would be!

    It would be so much easier to just travel and be at home, I guess. But would it hum? Would my life hum? Would everything be satisfactual? And really, would it be actual? Would I really know and breathe teaching like I do?


    Living It and Writing the Journey Has Value for Other Journey-Goers
    Sometimes the blog posts you like the most here are the ones that have left tears on the keyboard. It is hard to understand unless you live it. I love reading your posts as you live it too.

    Hard to Explain Unless You've Been There

    Yesterday I thought I was through with the graduation movie. I sat down to watch it and when I did I saw that for some reason the boys movie part was in low def and the girls were in hi def - as a result the boys movie was "eaten" in the rendering process and the result was garble. I was crushed. I had to cry. It was my fourth render. FOURTH! But even with school out, I still had people in my room.

    I stiff-upper-lipped it and walked resolutely to the women's bathroom. I let loose a flood of tears.

    (I don't like people to see me cry. If they saw me cry, I'd have to explain WHY I was crying and truly, no one would understand what I just said. To them making a movie is just making a movie. They have no idea that it meant I'd be over here until 6pm last night - back at 9:30 after the movie rendered and back here at 6 am this morning. In fact, I'm typing this right now as  I babysit the rendering process. )

    So, the point for me here is that ONLY you out there who have made movies and know that anything weird during the rendering process makes you completely start over. YOU understand what it means that I had to make the movie in HI Def 5 times and that 5 times with a 3 -4 hour render time means 15-20 hours of time! You understand after it renders that I have to watch this thing AGAIN. YOU understand.

    And that is the point of this blog, I guess. And that is why more teachers should blog or share.

    Some say, "I'll inspire when I retire."
    And certainly, that is of value.

    Inspire Before You Retire (and after)
    But if you encourage other teachers (AND your students) WHILE you're experiencing the classroom, you become a living inspiration as long as you don't break your professional ethics of confidentiality and privacy and you keep your dirty laundry in the closet where it belongs - it HELPS us other teachers who are living it.  


    I screwed up the other day when playing around with Tumblr and sent 10 tweets through. After apologizing and letting everyone know I screwed up, I got this really great tweet from Michael Mishaw.

    Michael INSPIRED me and perhaps me letting people see me mess up and admitting it may have inspired others. (Or they may have unfollowed - either way, messing up is OK.) When we are real with ourselves and each other that sometimes when we teach we have an AWFUL day and nothing goes right but that sometimes we actually see we're making a difference. We give others permission to know it is OK.

    As long as you're in the classroom or front office, you UNDERSTAND educators.

    Certainly, as you do this long enough you will retain the indelible mark that teaching leaves on your soul and psyche and you will still UNDERSTAND, I believe even after you retire.

    Liv-ING is INSPIRE-ing and you should be SHARE-ing it.
    But I guess right now, I am UNDERSTAND-ing because I am LIV-ing and that can be INSPIRE-ing.

    We are in this together, you and I, we teachers and educators.  Let's encourage each other.

    You don't have to be a blogger to be inspiring.

    • Be an inspiring commenter. 
    • Be an inspiring tweeter. 
    • Be an inspiring Facebook-er or Tumblr. 
    • Be an inspiring person. 
    • Be real.  
    • Be the original. 
    • Be real.
    • Repeat what others need to hear.
    • Be real.

    In your real-ness you CAN make a difference beyond your classroom

    This is the beauty of social networking. If you can follow the right people you can have a network support group. You can have friends who understand in addition to your closest face to face friends and family (which you still need.)

    Teaching is a Great Profession
    My fridge has stopped humming. The movie is still rendering. The technology plan is beckoning me to finish it and I need to set up the email accounts for the teachers hired for next year. Lots to do still.

    As tired as I am. This is still the greatest calling on earth next to being a parent. It is worth the pain.

    On to the hum of ISTE11 and the eLearning Revolution Conference in Indiana in July. On to the hum of my fluorescent lights as I do the final submission for the Pearson book on global collaboration and crank out a few other things this summer. On to the hum of my cell phone vibrating as I talk to some of you and help you in any way I can.

    "Zip a de doo dah. Zip-a-dee-aaay. My oh my what a wonderful way..."

    to live your life. Teaching. A noble calling.

    Daily Education & Technology News for Schools 05/27/2011

    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

    Thursday, May 26, 2011

    News Has A New Face: Meporter

    Meporter has launched. Meporter is available online and has free apps (Android coming soon) that let you take pictures and write reports on the news and "cut out the middleman" with the mainstream media being considered the middleman in this case.

    Sign up is pretty simple. You don't have to use the app and can submit online directly. It does say you can "earn" by posting. It would be interesting to see if some of those who are unemployed over the summer may see this as an opportunity.

    It will take time to see if the community has a way to self correct and rate reporters, but this is very intriguing. When I was a reporter for a newspaper they spent quite a bit of time teaching me about a journalists code of ethics. As I signed up, I didn't see anything like that. (I.e. Disclosures, getting both sides of the story, etc.)

    Concerns aside-- Citizen journalism may just have a new face: ME (and you.)

    Posted using BlogPress from Vicki's iPad

    12 Reasons to Blog with Your Students

    I was sent a dozen roses this week by a wonderful, amazing student who found his talent for writing in this year's Digiteen project.

    I'm more convinced than ever that blogging and doing it with other students from around the world is essential to helping students connect with themselves and a larger world.

    You ask me to give you the reasons. In honor of the dozen roses on my desk, here's just twelve.
    Sent by a student unleashed by blogging.

    1. Blogging is a different form of writing than the essay.

      There are so many nuances to blogging. You can write in first person, second person or third person. In fact, when I go through an article and take out the "I's" and put in third person my engagement levels go DOWN with the post.

    2. Blogging encourages student voice.

      First person writing lets the students share who they are.
    3. Blogging creates a stronger connection with the teacher.

      I'm a better teacher when I know my students better. When they blog, I learn a lot about them and am able to design lessons that interest them. (This is an important part of differentiated instruction.)

    4. Blogging gets students writing.

      The student who sent me flowers was literally unleashed. He had three required assignments, he wrote ten and counting. He ranted, he pontificated, he shared his thoughts -- but he WROTE. And as he wrote, something magical happened. This student who didn't really like essays loved blogging and sharing his hobbies and others responded.

    5. Blogging engages students in conversation.

      Talking with students outside your school lets you see who you are. I was picked on in school and until I got out and went to conferences, I didn't see that the other kids were WRONG about who I was. I wasn't unpalatably ugly and awful - I was someone else. Linking with other students takes students on a "road trip" without leaving your classroom.
    6. Blogging Helps Eradicate IM Speak from their Professional Writing.

      Ask online professors and they will tell you that IM speak and lack of punctuation are some of the banes of their existence online. Most students don't understand the lines between personal, informal writing and professional writing. They are professional students.

      I heavily penalize for "i" - taking 10 points off for the first occurrence and then just 1 point off for all of those afterwards. I do whatever it takes to teach them to write and THEN EDIT before publishing. Write in stream of consciousness but then EDIT.
    7. Blogging Teaches Digital Citizenship

      You can talk all day about digital citizenship. Blogging is DOING it. In-situ real-life learning happens when you blog.
    8. Blogging Can Teach the Nature of the Internet

      In our group blogs, we delve into site statistics, keywords, and the deep things of managing a blog. The students come away with a powerful technical knowledge, particularly when their work gets picked up by a major news outlet like the Digiteen Dream Team's protest of the Google Lively Shut Down.

    9. Blogging is a Real Life Skill

      Few of our students will be hired for their essay writing ability, but many companies are hiring in-house content creators. If they can blog and create video for a Youtube channel or podcast, or understand photography composition - the more the better.
    10. Blogging Can Make Life Easier for the Teacher

      The teacher is no longer the sole purveyor of feedback. Peer review is powerful, some would argue more powerful than teacher feedback. While AT FIRST when you get students started, it is definitely tough on the teacher, but once you've established community guidelines and reinforced any problems with action, students take over and sometimes the work can become a bit viral.
    11. Blogging Can Engage Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Learning Styles

      Many students learn socially. Blogging can be very social. It can also be something that the intrapersonal learner enjoys.
    12. Blogging Can Help Students Find Themselves.

      When students blog with other students not from their school (like on Digiteen) they can often find themselves. When only among their peers in the face to face environment, they can be kept in a box or label of the choosing of that group. Out of the box, they are unleashed to be themselves. This is one reason Walled Garden Blogging isn't enough.
    Blogging nor any technology will ever be the savior of education. Excellent teachers in safe school environments with supportive parents make the ideal environment. I'm now convinced more than ever that blogging is essential for all students to do. And I have 12 aromatic reasons sitting on my desk right now to prove it.

    What are your reasons that students should be blogging?
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    Wednesday, May 25, 2011

    A Beginner's Guide to Tumblr

    Tumblr is a blogging platform that is sort of a cross between Twitter, Facebook and full-scale blogging. While some might use Tumblr as a full blogging platform, from reading a free e-book I picked up on Kindle about the topic (the book isn't free any more btw.)

    The growth of Tumblr is surprising.

    "Facebook and Twitter have dominated social media in recent years, but a study released by Quantcast Media Analysis has revealed that Tumblr is growing at an outstanding rate, now bringing in more than 250 million views per day spread across almost 19 million blogs. Perhaps even more interesting is that 51% of those views come from males as opposed to females.
    When I mentioned working with Tumblr, I got back several tweets like this one from Leslie Healey

    Why  Tumblr? How is it different from blogging?
    Those of you who read this blog know that I always have 3 things on my list as part of my intentional R & D. When I sit down to "surf" - I focus on learning more about those things. Tumblr has been the object of my learning for some time. I started the blog on August 16th of LAST YEAR. But I just didn't understand. Now, I think I'm getting there.

    So, to understand something like this, it is helpful to look at the "experts" who are using it well.

    Asking Questions Is Easy
    Tumblr isn't really a different way to blog. It is a blogging-y way to have conversation.

    Like, this morning, I logged into my Tumblr dashboard and saw I had a message from a teacher friend, Alida Hanson, from Twitter who jumped on my Tumblr tweets to teach me.

    I've been posting screenshots of my favorite apps from the iPad on my tumblr (oh  I love BookCrawler!), so Alida asked this question and I replied.

    While the box you use to reply is painfully small, the process of being asked and answering a question was incredibly easy to do and share to everyone. Go ahead, ask me a question.

    Also, as you follow people and they post something cool, then you can turn around and easily reblog it on your own blog. (Like I did with Alida's comiclife for the Bookfair, plus I mentioned you can now get comiclife on the ipad) So, your Tumblr blog becomes sort of a curated group of posts.

    Other Facts About Tumblr
    • People can also submit posts to your Tumblr as well.
    • It is interesting how you can follow tags, like I'm following the tag for privacy settings.  
    • I'm finding that the privacy settings of Tumblr show a lot more promise than Facebook and am looking for some friends to help me test them.  
    • You can also easily have a group of people write your blog.  
    • You can use Disqus commenting.
    • You can use a phone number to call in audio to your Tumblr blog.
    • They have a great app for the iphone/ itouch and other devices to add easily.
    • Finally, some don't realize that you can host Tumblr on your own server.

      While I wouldn't recommend it for long, full blogging like here, some do exactly that. I think Tumblr has a purpose.

    My Purpose for Tumblr
    For me, I plan to use Tumblr as a way to engage in conversation with you. To throw in the many things that just don't make it into a formal post here on the Cool Cat Teacher blog. I know who I am here on this blog and I want to write one or maybe two high quality posts a day in several areas.

    I don't want to be a 10 post a day smorgasbord of "stuff" here. Maybe that "hurts" blog traffic but my Mom always says that the more you talk, the less you are heard. I'm a full time teacher and don't have the time nor desire to be a one woman wall street journal. I'd rather be a one woman inspiration for educators around the world. ;-)
      Getting Started with Tumblr
      I waited to write until I started getting it. I haven't promoted it yet (until now) because I wanted to share with you the "back end" work that I did to tweak it.

      Sign up for an account http://www.tumblr.com

      I kept my URL the same as my blog http://coolcatteacher.tumblr.com - I may change the domain later but for now, that is what I'm using.  (Yes, it has an RSS, you can go ahead and subscribe if you want to.)

      Meet "The Dashboard"
      The Tumblr Dashboard lets you select the type of post you want to make and will format it for you. The other people who you follow will also feed through this dashboard, but you can filter them out if you wish.
      Tumblr Dashboard for entering posts.

      Again, this type of blogging is really neat for the small "snippets" and sort of lifestreaming but also part of the power is in grabbing posts from others and making them part of your own tumblr page (without any issues with citation, etc.) It is great to tumble up other people's "stuff" on your tumblr blog as you will see.

      But Vicki, you're just getting started, you're a Tumblr noob!
      Yes, I most certainly am. And that is the beauty of it. I'm taking you along with me. From Ground zero to whatever ends up. I do have one other subscriber but I think that happened when I was tweeting out of Tumblr. ;-)  (Update, I now have 4 twenty four hours later. ;-) But I am following 26 people as well.)

      Customize Your Tumblr
      Click Customize on the right hand side.

      Tumblr Customization Screen

      Click Info.
      First you want to have a description. To have a description you want to know WHY you're on Tumblr in the first place. Is it to experiment? Is it to share? Is it going to be the more personal side of you? See mine on the right side of my Tumblr.

      OK, one more tweak to info and then on to the next thing. I've uploaded my profile picture, put in my description. Now, I need to do a tweak or two on my feed.

      Tip: If you want to see what you're doing to your site, you CANNOT see it from the dashboard or customize screen very well. Open up another screen with your full URL (mine is http://coolcatteacher.tumblr.com) and then click save and go back and refresh that screen to see your changes.

      Click Theme.
      You'll want to Pick a Theme.

      It looks like you have to pay for a custom theme. You don't. Scroll down to the bottom and pick one that is free until you know what you're doing. I picked one that let me add my facebook page on the right.

      Click Appearance.
      Do this AFTER you pick your theme. You can also set up disqus here for commenting. You'll have to log into disqus and set up the blog and copy the unique disqus id for the blog to paste in the appearance tab. You may also have a byline and other information depending on the theme you selected. This is where I pasted in the link for my facebook page for this template.

      Click Pages.
      How to add a redirect page. you MUST check show a link.
      I added pages that redirect to my other sites: my blog, my Twitter, my full website. No need to repeat things and have another place you forget to update. One place for updating. That is easier. The way to do it is shown in the screenshot.

      You can also set up full pages as well if you want to. Where these links show depends upon the theme you picked.

      Click Services.
      Optimize Your Feed and Other Services

      This tab is where you link to Twitter, Facebook, set up your feed, and import links from other sources.

      A word about your feed.
      It is amazing to me how many people move from one blog to another and lose all their subscribers! They ask everyone to resubscribe on the new blog. There is no reason for that.
      My Feedburner Dashboard.

      Use Feedburner to control all of your feeds. Just log into Feedburner (use your Google account) and set up a new feed for your Tumblr Blog.  Mine is http://feeds.feedburner.com/CoolCatTeacherTumblr
      (Yes, you can click on it and subscribe if you want to in your reader.)

      Also, I do want the blog posts I slave in over here to end up on tumblr at least as a link. So, I put in the feed from this website into RSS import and also my Youtube channel so that the teacher interviews I do will hit tumblr as well.

      I am Tweeting OUT of Tumblr but not  into Tumblr. I turned Twitter out of going into Facebook some time a go. There is a reason for each thing I do and it isn't to overload people who engage with me. Be careful or you'll end up with endless loops between social networks.

      Click Community.
      This is the coolest part of Tumblr to me. I've gone in and allowed people to ask me questions and also set it up so you can submit your own posts. You can see what I'm asking for. This may change over time.

      So, quick. Someone help me test it out and submit a review or screenshot or something about teaching! Let's learn about how this works together!

      Note: I did have to put things in bold using HTML coding. I also think it is fine to be up front with who you are. Be original. ;-)

      Lots of goodies here including making your photos high resolution and whether you want to be indexed by search engines.

      Go back to your Dashboard.

      Find Your Friends and Look at the Goodies
      I went over to the Goodies button. There, I found my friends and found 22 people who are in my gmail that are on Tumblr and followed them.

      I set up the PIN number for calling in audio and programmed that into my telephone. I also put the email address into my email account so I can email in links and photos (from zite, etc. if I cannot send to instapaper.)

      I set up instapaper to post to my drafts in Tumblr as well. (As of this post, it isn't working yet.)

      So, let's learn about this tool together.  I plan to come back and update and let you know where I am with my beginner's journey into tumblr.

      4/24/2011 - 1 followers 0 following
      4/25/2011 - 4 followers, 26 following

      Checking in
      When you look at your dashboard look at who is following you and follow back if you wish. See if you want to post any of their items to your page with a reblog. Also look for "messages" which are often questions. Enjoy!

      Let's Learn Together
      And we begin. Let's tumble together. Please share your tumble blog here or over on Tumblr.

      Let's learn together. With the robust privacy settings of this platform, we may just have a winner for education that the kids are already loving and that we should look at as well.


      While I don't recommend leaving your blog for tumblr, sit down and pencil out your purpose for each before you start. It will help you focus. It has always worked for me. Hope you enjoy the beginner's guide written by a beginner who is on her way to learning more.
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      Monday, May 23, 2011

      Performance Art? Flash Mob? Fun? Mass Collaboration? All of the above.

      Flash mobs are becoming a big part of the viral hit scene on Youtube. Just take the University of Kansas Jayhawks mens basketball game flashmob this week - over a quarter of a million hits since posted on the KU Athletic Youtube Channel . Over the next few years it will be interesting to see as this trend grows.

      Will it cause problems? yes.

      Will it cause controversy? Yes, there will be times it will be innappropriate, done poorly or smack of commercialism masquerading as grassroots (brown roots I guess. ;-)

      Will it be fun? Sure.

      What will it be? Who knows -more "random acts of culture" like from the Opera Company of Philadelphia's Hallalujah Chorus in a department store at Christmas or another in a food court in November or Flashmobs dancing to MC Hammer in Clothing store. Yes, more of that too. But as more organizations like Improv Everywhere formalize performance art and companies realize the marketing potential of a viral video (Old Spice Guy) it is sure to have an impact.

      These cultural things are things we should discuss and think about as we talk about societal shifts. As society shifts culture and entertainment shift as well.

      Oh yes, and speaking of viral videos, Shift Happens. ;-)

      Sunday, May 22, 2011

      A look in the Mind of Your Toughest Student

      Jo McLeay shared a touching letter in her comments on a post I wrote this past week  about 5 Stories to Inspire Teachers to Never Let Anyone Steal Your Joy where I commented about a "secret student" who is stealing things off my desk in my room this year.

      So many veteran teachers have reached out on the blog, Twitter and via email to say, YES! You have tough times as a teacher. Jo is one of those veteran teachers and a personal encouragement to me on this blog from day one.

      I think this look inside the mind of a difficult student will give you hope. May we all be so fortunate as to get a letter one day like this.

      A Letter From a Difficult Student
      Hi Vicki, I know that what you have said is true; a few weeks ago I got this message from an ex student -

      "I know it's been ages and everything, but I was thinking before how
      horrible and annoying I was in high school and in your class, it was
      completely immature and selfish of me to of acted that way. I know
      this is no excuse there really is no excuse for being a rude, disruption
      when your trying to do your job and students are trying to learn, but I
      was going through a fair bit off stuff at that time. Yea so I
      realize this is really random but just wanted to say sorry, and that you
      were a really caring and dedicated teacher and students are lucky to
      have you."

      High school students in Australia are from 12 to 18 and she was in the younger range when she was in my class 6 to 8 years ago. She was one of the most difficult students I had in my career. I can't begin to tell you what it meant to me. You too may get this sort of message from the very student who is now plaguing you. Hang in there.
      Jo McLeay

      Thank you Jo. And to all of you out there, hang in there! 
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      Daily Education & Technology News for Schools 05/22/2011

      Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

      Saturday, May 21, 2011

      Finding Your Beautiful Moment the Last Week of School

      "For a few brief days the orchards are white with blossoms. They soon turn to fruit, or else float away, useless and wasted, upon the gentle breeze. So will it be with present feelings. They must be deepened into decision, or be entirely dissapated by delay." Theodore Cuyler
      It is Saturday. I just ate my lunch at school halfway through grading the end of term websites, blog posts, and NetGenEd video projects. Yes. I am at school.

      There is only one chance to finish well.

      When I run, I've learned to sprint the last lap and all-out run the last 100 meters. It is proven to make you faster and stronger. It also feels great to know that I gave EVERYTHING I had to that one run. I can go home, relax, enjoy myself and know that I left it all and gave it all in a pure, beautiful moment of physical activity.

      This is Your Beautiful Moment
      This is your moment, my friends. In the northern hemisphere we are finishing school.

      "The deepest principle of human nature is the desire to be appreciated." William James

      As you finish, please consider some things that will make the lives of others better.
      • Help People Retire with Dignity and Memories. If someone is retiring, consider making a voicethread and inviting everyone to leave comments and texts about the person. Or make a DVD with the faces and voices of people they've touched. Give them something to remember and cherish like a photo album. They've worked hard and deserve it. Give people the dignity of retiring well.

      • Leave comments on every students' report card. It is a lot. It takes a lot and you don't have much to give. This is the one gift you can give that will give to your students for the rest of their lives. Find one thing each of them did well each year that is honest and sincere.

      • Say Thank You. Dash off a note, an ecard, send a text message. Thank those who help you.

      • Remember the janitors. If I have T-shirts from events, they love them. Take a $5 or $10 bill and roll it up in your hand and give them a small thank you that no one knows about.  Look them in the EYE and say a genuine thank you for what they do for you by cleaning your room. They clean up vomit and every indescribable, horrible thing found on the school campus. They deserve to feel a thank you from you. Everyone wants to make a difference and some of our truest servant leaders are our janitors.

      • Remember the lunchroom staff and others. Say thank you. Many of the staff are hourly and may have a tough, tight summer until they come back. Know what they like - whether it is an inexpensive flat of flowers to plant in their yard, or just a look in the eye saying thank you. TELL THEM THANK YOU.

      • Plan Your Last Day Well So Students Know You Care. Students need to hear speeches because you can't say things enough. They may groan when you talk about being safe over the summer. They may roll your eyes when you tell them you love them and encourage them to make wise choices. Who cares what they think -- If they KNOW you love them and you say what they need to hear. You have one more chance. Let the students leave your room knowing that you LOVE them and with the words echoing in their ears that they need to live a good life. (I love the "paper plate" awards that Chris Lehman's staff does where every student has something genuine that they do well that is written on a paper plate and given out in an assembly.)

      • Leave Well. If this is your last time at this school. Leave well. Your room should look better than when you found it. Say thank you. Be careful to never burn bridges.
      Oh, but our principal thanks all these people in an assembly, you say.

      Sure. But this is about making your school better one person at a time. When people feel appreciated there is no limit to what can be done. A principal cannot hold back the greatness of a staff that genuinely appreciates one another and treats one another with respect.

      Respect starts with you. 

      You, the person reading this. You probably read my blog for the technology part but hopefully you also read it because you want to be an amazingly good educator that leaves a lifetime legacy. (Or to understand the thinking of such truly great teachers.) You know that whatever you think is what you become.

      You reap what you sow.

      Sow goodness, appreciation, and a job well done. SPRINT, baby, SPRINT! You're almost done! FINISH WELL!

      Leave it all there.

      Oh, and by the way, it isn't the end of the world, it is just a Saturday. Live it well. Be noble.

      Thank you for being here.
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