I've moved the blog!

I've moved my blog to www.coolcatteacher.com as well as all of the posts from this blog. Learn more...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Don't Stop Believing: The Retiring Principal Flashmob you've gotta see

Principal Roger Boddie  has led Hingham Middle School in Massachusetts for 36 years. On his last day on the job, the entire school surprised him with a flashmob to "Don't Stop Believing."

The words he says in shock and surprise (you've got to listen to all he says) are:

"I always knew I'd miss the kids..."

In there is loaded, the things he won't miss.

What will we not miss?

I needed to hear and see this video today. There are some things in schools that are quite challenging to deal with. We all have them. They are upsetting. They keep us awake at night. They even sometimes cause us to question if we can make it another day. But, in my case, out of all the things that frustrate me... it has never... not once been my students.

In fact, for most of us, the students are our WHY. They are why we do it.

Education needs us to keep on believing

Right now, education needs you... it needs me... it needs us to not stop believing. Don't stop believing in the kids. Don't stop believing that you can still make a legacy.

We are amidst a time of great turmoil, largely caused by the digitization of society and education along with it. Teaching is the hardest job that everyone thinks they can do. Everyone has had a teacher but there are very few who could actually breathe the air in the classroom without running for the hills.

Don't stop believing.

You can all give me a million reasons in the comments about why you're betrayed, misunderstood and hurt. We all have these stories of hurt and pain. Of injustice and incredulity. We've all be hurt by those we try to protect. There are many times parents, kids, or even admin have told one side of the story where we're bound by silence not to tell the truth.

Don't stop believing.

We have work to do. We have a generation to educate. Our actions scream a lecture we cannot mute with our words. What will those actions say about what we believe about education?

Will they say your life said:

  • There is no injustice so great that I will not suffer it so you can learn.
  • There is no problem too big that I won't show up and teach you any way.
  • I don't care if the media disparages me, I believe in my mission and nothing will stop me.
  • I will love you even when you don't love yourself.
  • I will help you see the genius in you when you don't think you can even tie your show.
  • I will believe in you when you don't believe in yourself.
  • Even when society puts down teachers, I will not put down my desire to teach you.
  • I will live in a way knowing that I'm among the noble and time will show just how noble... but even if it does not... I will teach because it is the right thing to do.

For every reason to do something, there are a hundred not to. But that one is the most important reason - and that one usually comes in the face of a child.

I'm heading to the Common Core State Standards National Conference put on by many different organizations including the Center for College and Career Readiness. I was perusing the hashtag when I came across this tweet that showed me the video and want to give credit to @schoolsrock for pointing it out. Just another reason to follow the hashtags for the conferences you attend. This one is #ccssconf2013 - so follow along starting today through Saturday. My handouts will be on this page.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

My wish for everyone attending #iste13

If I had a wish for everyone at ISTE 2013, it would be:

Iste 2013 has opened just now in San Antonio. It is already Trending on Twitter. #iste13
  • Remember your students. Look for practical methods to teach.
  • Remember your students. Technology doesn't engage - YOU DO when you use it well.
  • Remember your students. Take notes for ACTION ITEMS you'll do when you return. (I keep a list of my big three.) They should see you learning and engaging at #iste13 like you want to see them engage in your classroom.
  • Remember your health. If you run yourself down and you get sick, that isn't good for anyone. Pacing yourself is so hard, but take time to get sleep, eat, and rest.
  • Remember your friends. Take time to say hello to those people who encourage and inspire you.
  • Remember your friends. Not everyone could go. When you tweet good thoughts and ideas to the #iste13 hashtag, you join the #iste13 pln and inspire and reach others.
  • Remember to make new friends. Make time in your circle. Seek out people who are alone at ISTE.It is hard to go to a conference alone. Involve and encourage them.
  • Remember the presenters. Give credit. Look up the presenter's twitter handle or write it down at the beginning so you can cite what they said. It is good manners.
  • Remember the presenters. Take time to follow presenters and give feedback. When you echo comments, it helps them know what resonated.
  • Remember your profession. You are teachers and educators. Lots of people are watching. Behave in ways that make your profession proud. We are different and should be. I'm not saying not have fun, I am saying have a blast in ways that honor what you do. If you have on that ISTE badge, behave in ways that you'll be proud of. Tip well. Be kind. Be encouraging. Show San Antonio the nobility of educators. If you act up, for goodness sakes, take off the badge.
  • Remember your students. They are watching. They are likely watching your stream and your updates. How does this relate to them? Do they see the kind of learner you want them to be reflected in what you share?
  • Remember not to get caught up in the hype. There are things that give hope and there's hype. Hope usually comes from methods, strategies and people-centric activities. Hype comes in when someone begins to think that technology will solve a problem that requires personal intervention. Lots of things will be hyped - it isn't bad to get excited about new technology, I get excited too - but your hope should lie firmly in best practices and teaching. Seek out how to USe technology not just the technology.
  • Remember yourself. You are at the center of your own attitude. It is easy to get jealous of others. It is easy to start making excuses. Do what you can - you can do something. There is always someone better off and worse off - doing more and doing less. This isn't a measurement process but a process of improving yourself. Are you better than you were when you left for the conference?
  • Remember your administration. Give an overview of ideas and your notes to your administrators and peers. Give your administration 3 actions that you plan to do in the fall. Schedule a meeting to answer questions or discuss ideas.
  • Remember the price. Everything costs you something. Nothing is free. It will cost you your time, sometimes your privacy, sometimes your data. It is time for educators to become laser focused. We've bought into the word "free" and given away far too much in return. Examine the fine print. Read disclosures and terms of service. It is time to wise up that NOTHING is free and to figure out the price of every service we use. Haven't we had enough experiences like Google Reader to wake us up that everything costs SOMETHING. We're working with students and have a responsibility not to be hooked by everything "free" that comes along.
  • Remember to cut yourself some slack. Most of us are average every day teachers. We're not rock stars. We're not superheroes. We're just teachers and that is enough. So, you don't have a cool name and you don't go to a neat party. You don't remember to get a ticket to the sold out session. There is plenty to do and amazing places to be. You are at iste - a place that many want to be as evidenced by the #notatiste hashtag that is trending on Twitter right now. There are sometimes at ISTE where I feel insufficient. I get tired and feel uncool. This is normal. I also sometimes ignore the stream when I'm not there just because I wish I was there. You are where you are. You are enough. Soak in the learning - there is enough for all of us. Like a coral reef, we are all part of the beautiful ecosystem in a tiny way. Just enjoy the teeming life and color of a great profession on the cusp of transformation. Don't let yourself get down if you don't "feel cool" - if you're there, you're awesome enough already. If you're just following the hashtag and learning, you're "cool enough." too. I just know the maelstrom of feelings that accompany ISTE and hope to spare some of you the emotions.
  • Encourage. Some of the amazing people you see at ISTE are in tough situations. Many of them take time to blog every day anyway. When you say thank you, you help make the sacrifice worth it. There are times I was secretly considering if the sacrifice of blogging was worth it. It always seems that during those down times, I've gotten an email or a kind word at a conference and it brought me back to reality. Encourage others, please. The world out there isn't kind to educators, so it is our job to be kind and encouraging to each other. With this goes the need NOT to bash. Bashing usually gets back to the one you're bashing. It isn't in good taste. Have dialog about issues, not about people. Most educators and presenters I know are some of the finest people you'll find anywhere. People who work hard every day to make a difference for every kid and teacher who comes their way. Encourage excellence wherever it shows up.
  • Thank. Thank the volunteers and presenters. It is always a sacrifice.
  • Remember. Use your external brain to capture notes.. Whether it is in evernote or diigo or whatever, set up a system to capture and remember. Use a personal note for things you want to pull back and review. *REVIEW or something of the sort. Plan ahead to remember.
  • Share. #iste13 and blog posts are great ways to share. Hoping someone curates an #iste13 magazine on flipboard. (I'm putting mine in my education flipboard magazine and following the #iste13 hashtag.) Live blog. Invite others to participate with you. Be inclusive and transparent.
  • Enjoy. Enjoy yourself and have fun. This conference is always a highlight.

Finally. Please, remember your students. (Didn't I say that already? ;-) They are why our profession exists. It is about them. It is about helping build a bright hope for their future. It is about using technology that will help them learn and engage in the future. ISTE is a fantastic conference and I highly recommend it as a great learning experience. Next year it is in Atlanta and I plan to be there!

I look forward to "attending" every year, even when it isn't in person.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Let him fly

It took the little boy behind me in seat 15A to realize how totally not ready I am for this.

"Daddy, I'm so not scared. I'm never afraid of anything, no not nothing," the tyke says as we taxi down the runway.

Just last week, I said,

My son is #98 in this picture. He had a great senior year. Now, I have to let him fly.


"Yes, Kip, I'm ready. I know it is time for our son to go to college. This is a good thing, we're ready. We'll adjust and he'll still come home sometimes. Sure, it is time. I'm OK and this is a good thing."


I'm flying back from Dubuque, Iowa where I was presenting to 750 wonderful educators. Even there, I gave assuring words of how ready I am to move my son into his dorm at Georgia Tech today.

"It is time," I said confidently, believing it.

As we taxied and took off, the little boys tenor changed.

"Yeeeeeeeeeeh," he said at first, excited to be airborne.

But then, just as cars became the size of postage stamps, he changed his tune.

"I am scared for this, this one moment, Daddy." He peeped in a quiet voice.

He said these words and my eyes misted. I'm scared too.

"I am scared for this, this one moment, Daddy," I prayed.

I turned to the window and wiped the tears as they flowed. I realized that I'm not so ready.

My life has centered around our oldest son for over 18 years. I quit work when he was a year old. I was pregnant with his sister. I was a stay at home Mom / entrepreneur till he was in 2nd grade.

I wanted to live my life with no regrets. The moment I saw his sweet face and blue eyes - this boy wasn't born crying. He was born living and looking into my soul from day one. I saw his eyes and fell in love. He eventually cried - when he realized he was cold and probably hungry. He's always been hungry.

My days have been centered upon making sure he is fed (along with my other 2) and in being the best Mom I could be.

I really just wanted to be a Mom. More than anything else. Just a Mom. A Mom who'd give up anything for her babies. No price was too much. High paying job - Poof - who cares - my babies need me at home. We want you to teach - poof - I'm a teacher - all to be closer to my babies.

Like the postage stamp cars, I now feel myself ascending - going further away from this tyke become a man. His brown mopped head ascended far beyond mine several years back - he's a whole head taller than me - at 6'6" he is taller than most.

Yet, as I looked out my window hiding my tears from strangers, I didn't see tall linebacker- I saw my little boy in the red onesie with the sailboat on the front. We used to play this game - I made lesson plans for my kids to cover all areas--

The science game was called "Sink or Float." I gathered up a lot of items and had a bucket of water. He would put the item in the water and see if it would sink or float. He did it to everything in the whole house.

Now, he's the one going in the water. The waters of college. Will he sink or float?

He doesn't have on the red sailboat onesie any more. He has on his favorite grey GT hat - the one that makes his hair look just right when he takes it off. He has on his jeans, hung a little low for me, but they cover everything. His yellow GT shirt with Buzz, the mascot, on the front. He's dressed the part, that is for sure.

I remember him running around and his sister on my hip. All those years. It was yesterday. Last night I was up with his colicky sister. I remember being in church and able to count on two hands the hours I'd slept since last Sunday. I swear that was last night? Somehow it was 17 years a go. How does that happen?

When he was two, I desperately read books to help me figure out how to help him sleep. I also remember the "wise" girl with one child - younger than my son- who gave me all this advice about how to help my son sleep. She had one - I had two. Her child slept. Mine didn't. She thought it was something she did - sad, clueless girl. My son is 18 - he still doesn't sleep. I smile and laugh realizing that I might have known more than I thought even though I would have done anything to sleep - even listen to an over-proud Mom who cluelessly thought she had anything to do with the fact her child slept.

Yet now, I hurtle towards Atlanta Georgia ready to get a taxi to go downtown. It is time to move him in. It is, quite honestly, time to let go.

"I am scared for this, this one moment, Daddy," I whisper again as my jaw and back of my throat feel the strain of suppressed crying.

Yet, my son is not scared. He's picking up his bucket and he's jumping in. He's more ready than me, I'm not. I'm still just a Mama. It is all I really want to be. A Mama with one less at home but room in my heart for friends and a new family that one day I'll meet who will bear his name.

I will fly on knowing I gave all I had to this young man. And what he needs most now from me is my belief, support, encouragement, and love. He needs me to let him go. He needs me to let him fly.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Key to Staying Positive in Your Classroom: Throw Away Your Depends

Does my attitude depend on others? Be careful - there are always reasons for having a bad one.

As I sit here in the Fort Wayne, Indiana airport at 12:30 pm after my 6 am flight was delayed, I'm still not sure if I'm on the flight to Detroit. The agents are hiding in the back because so many people are upset, they refuse to deal with it one person at a time. I'm not going to let this turn me into a cranky person. My joy doesn't depend upon whether they do their job. It can't or I'm an easy target of the natural happenings of life.

Does your attitude depend?

If you are in education and your attitude depends upon whether things are right in the front office - you'll be lucky to be happy half of the time.

If your attitude depends upon whether your school has a sorry teacher or two - you'll never be happy. Every school I know has a few sorry teachers, sad to say.

Your attitude cannot depend! It cannot.

It cannot depend upon whether it rains or snows. You have no control over that!

It cannot depend upon whether you feel good or not. You have no control over that either!

It cannot depend upon whether there is no drama in your school. There always will be!

If you have a great administrator - thank him or her every day. You are fortunate. Sadly, there are also those administrators, who, overwhelmed and for reasons of their own, hide like these shadowy gate attendants at this airport - afraid of angry people and letting the ire pile up. They hide behind closed doors and sometimes clock out early. This is life.

If all of your colleagues are perfect teachers - enjoy it - it won't last. We all screw up sometimes. Some teachers do the bare minimum - copying worksheets and memos and leaving no imprint on the minds of children except a hatred of the topic. You can't help that. You can't.

If no one in your school has answered the call of the siren song of secret sin - now gone public for everyone to know - be thankful! Because odds are there will often be these scandals.They happen because people are human and make mistakes. Your attitude cannot depend on whether one of these is going on either.

Are you really waiting for the nightly news to be good?

Waiting for everything to be perfect is like waiting for the nightly news to only report good things - it will never happen. Bad things happen. They do - this is earth - not heaven - bad things happen here.

I'm saying this because so often, as a teacher, it is so easy to get upset about things we cannot control. We cannot control others at all. Not one brand new spanking bit.

Quite frankly - if your attitude depends on others - it is like the other kind of Depends. It will always smell because foul stuff is always around you. It is the function of the world that stinky stuff happens. It always will. Your attitude cannot depend upon your environment being squeaky clean. If it does, you'll be disappointed and miserable the rest of your life - whether you teach or not.

As teachers, we must get rid of our depends.

Throw them in the trash and never put them on again! We have to. It is essential that we cultivate an ability to insulate our students. When we close the door, it should be like a cocoon - a safe, secure place.

Take off your Depends!

To do this, we must get rid of our depends. Take off your depends RIGHT NOW!

The Most important "A" in your Classroom

The most important A in your classroom is your Attitude.

Look at that word attitude. -- look at it again --

Att - I - tude.

Do you see that?

I am at the center of my attitude. It is me. I'm at the center of my own attitude.

There are times we have to own our attitude and decide to turn it around.

Attitudes spread

I've been in Ft. Wayne this week at the Knight Time Learning Conference in Kendallville, Indiana at East Noble High and they have an ash tree borer that is killing off these lovely ash trees. The only thing they can do is cut out all the trees around when one is blighted. Bad attitudes spread like ash borers - killing off attitudes -- beauty, and effectiveness.

East Noble High School has the other kind of attitude - they are some of the most positive, kind, hard working people I've ever met. They are blessed.

The difference between trees and us is that once a tree is blighted - it must be chopped down. You and I can actually do something about our attitudes. We can change.

How can I change my bad attitude?

Sometimes it is just going to a friend and saying:

"You know what, I've had a stinky attitude and I'm done. I'm not going to do this any more. I'm going to do what it takes to be part of the solution, not part of the problem."

Other times it is decided to stay away from the ash-boring negative talk of some of your colleagues until this most recent happening passes.

Ultimately, there are often times - probably less than you think - when the corruption is so foul that you've made your home in a septic tank and you have to get out.


But every school - I repeat - EVERY SCHOOL goes through cycles. ALL OF THEM.

All have scandals. All have staff members who make mistakes. All have parents with nasty divorces and the drama that ensues. All of them have things that make others angry and irate.

All schools even have people who bide their time and have become people who hold a job instead of doing their job. These people, hold a job because no one else can do those responsibilities but they don't do their job - leaving others to secretly have a hard choice. Do you do the right thing for your students and do the job of another or do you let them fall and hurt more kids in the process? (I admit, I usually do the latter, although it might not be right - I love the kids and they are why I teach. It is infuriating when sorry people get "promoted" to get them away from students but it happens. Move on. It isn't fair but life isn't either. Do your job anyway and love those students. It is the right thing to do.)

If your attitude depends - why not get rid of your depends?

If you're going to be one of those teachers who makes it 30 or 40 years then you're going to have throw your depends away.

Like Dorothy saying "there's no place like home" and clicking her ruby slippers, let's repeat the words that will remind us how to throw away our depends.

  • My attitude will not depend upon whether other teachers do their job.
  • My attitude will not depend upon whether administrators are doing their job.
  • My attitude will not depend upon whether everything is fair around me - life isn't fair. It never will be.
  • I will influence MY attitude. My attitude will be positive and encouraging. I will make no excuses and will not perpetuate negativity.
  • In my classroom, my attitude determines my student's altitude and ultimately their aptitude for my subject. My attitude is important and I will protect it.
  • If my attitude stinks, my students are not old enough to get rid of their depends. Because I love my students, I will do whatever it takes to keep and maintain my positive attitude even if it means distancing myself from colleagues.
  • Nothing good comes out of a bad attitude - they stink.
  • I will do what it takes to be a noble teacher - ANYWAY.
  • I will surround myself with positive people, encouraging books, and avoid whiners.
  • Even when truly tough things are happening, I will do my best to close my door and provide the most positive environment I can for my students. This only depends upon me and my attitude.
  • I will work hard to stay rested and healthy so I have every chance of staying positive in tough times.
  • I will encourage other educators to see the big picture instead of dwelling on the injustices that will happen.
  • If I depend upon anything or anyone it will be my God, my family, and my closest friends and even then, I will know there are times and things I don't understand that I have to leave at the front door of my school so I can teach.
  • My smile depends upon nothing and I will give it freely as I will also give my love, energy, time, and knowledge.
  • My students depend on me and I'll never forget the honor and privilege I have to be given the opportunity to teach them.

Hi everyone, I'm a teacher and I've thrown away my depends. How about you?

Written June 15. It took some time to finish and publish this post.

Monday, June 10, 2013

My speaking Schedule for 2013: Indiana, Iowa, Virginia, Florida & Hawaii

You are very important. If you're reading my blog, you're probably an educator of some sort. Your professional development is important. You don't want to waste your time.

Last year being live streamed at Fall CUE.

Here's the schedule.

June 13 - Knight Time Technology Conference - Kendalville, Indiana - East Noble High School
June 18-19 - Keystone AEA Technology Integration Conference - Dubuque, Iowa
June 28 - National Conference for College & Career Readiness and Common Core State Standards - Orlando, Florida
July 18 - Tech Splash - Lebanon, Virginia
July 23-26 - Flat Classroom Live! Hawaii
December 9 - Virginia Society for Technology in Education Roanoke, Virginia

You are important. If you take the time to come to one of these conferences, I'll make sure your time is well spent. I'm excited to get out and meet you all and have some things to say that I hope will help unleash your potential, balance your life, and teach in incredible ways.

Last fall at Edscape at Eric Sheninger's school Wow.
via my friend Dr. Spike Cook's blog.

I hope that if you live in these areas, you'll try to make the time to join us at these conferences. There are so many great conferences out there! Many volunteers work tirelessly to bring you the best in professional development. Working with these amazing people throughout the country, it is stunning how much work they have to do.

It is a blessing to be included in some of these conferences each year. If you read this blog and would like to come say hello - I always give everything I have to customize the message to the audience at hand. I hope you'll tweet out that you'll be there and let me know. I'd like to help make your conference special and get a chance to say hello to the educators who take the time to converse and teach me too.

Hope to see some of you this summer and fall. If you're interested in checking availability, I have room for just a few more conferences this school year. Just contact me and let's see what we can work out.
This motto from our football team is my own motto when speaking.
I will give all I have and leave nothing else behind. I hope when
you do your presentations this summer, you'll do the same.

Thank you to all of those conferences who have invited me to join you in the past. It is a joy to be an educator. I'll give everything I have to inspire and encourage you to reach all of your students. It will be an exciting summer.

This is me and a few friends last year at ISTE 12 in
San Diego. It was AWESOME! This year I'll be
moving my son in at college and spending time
at wedding celebrations of a first cousin of mine.
ISTE 13 in San Antonio will be awesome and
I hope to pick back up and see some of you at ISTE 14 in
Atlanta! www.iste.org

Friday, June 07, 2013

Karen Lirenman: Interview with outstanding K-2 Teacher 2013 #iste2013 @klirenman

First grade teacher Karen Lirenman (@klirenman) has won the Kay L Bitter Award for innovative leadership in the K-2 classroom. She'll receive this award at ISTE 2013 in a few weeks in San Antonio. You'll want to see what the younger classroom can be by listening to what she's doing. Wow!

Karen Lirenman is a grade one teacher in Surrey, British Columbia who loves to provide her students with choice in how they learn, show, and share their knowledge. She engages them globally through video conferencing, twitter, and blogging and uses technology as seamlessly as possibly to make this all happen. She started teaching in 1992.

Professional blog http://www.learningandsharingwithmsl.blogspot.ca/
Class twitter @MsLsClass. Class blog. http://www.mslirenmansroom.blogspot.ca/

Listen to the show

Essential Questions

  • You joined Twitter in 2011 and it changed your life. How?
  • You have your first grade students create hashtags. How?
  • How do you have your first grade students Tweet without problems? Doesn't it make you nervous?
  • How did your class communicate with an author over Twitter?
  • You say that "your first graders are in control of what to share with the world," what are some of the things they choose to share with the world?
  • How do you use video conferencing? How do you pick whether to use Skype, Google Hangout or Facetime?
  • Describe how your classroom technology is setup in the classroom?
  • You describe your teaching style as one "that empowers students to choose the tool that fits best for them" how does this look? How do you give choice in the math class?
  • What are your student's favorite apps?
  • How are your students writing fiction and nonfiction stories and how do they publish their work?
  • How do you tie in your personal and professional blog in a way that protects your student's privacy?
  • If a teacher is getting iPads, but they are nervous, how does the teacher get started?

Show Links

Skype http://www.skype.com

Google Hangout: http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/hangouts/

Facetime http://www.apple.com/ios/facetime/

Draw and Tell: http://www.duckduckmoose.com/educational-iphone-itouch-apps-for-kids/draw-and-tell/

iMovie http://www.apple.com/ilife/imovie/

Educreations http://www.educreations.com/

Pop Words https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/popwords!/id472853634?mt=8

Word Wizard https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/word-wizard-talking.../id447312716?mt=8Popplet

Skitch http://evernote.com/skitch/

Bookcreator https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/book-creator-for-ipad/id442378070?mt=8

My story https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/my-story-book-maker-for-kids/id449232368?mt=8

Discovery Education app http://www.discoveryeducation.com/ipad/

Pop zoo app https://itunes.apple.com/om/app/pop-zoo-free/id610497983?mt=8

Dropbox https://www.dropbox.com/


To find out more about this podcast go to my Podcast page.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

4 Reasons I bought Microsoft Surface after wrestling alligators (guest post by Mark, my nephew)

When my nephew, Mark, used his birthday money and money he'd earned from working on his Mom & Dad's gator farm to buy a Microsoft Surface, I asked him to tell me why. It is important that we cover all platforms and make up our minds. I've used Windows 8 and have a touch-enabled Lenovo m90z at home and at school and believe that Microsoft has moved forward. I've asked Mark to share here on my blog on an ongoing basis. Mark is also one of my students and came to show me his new Surface the day he bought it. Mark bought a "Windows RT Surface." When I look at the Computer information it says the manufacturer is Microsoft.
When Mark bought his surface, he brought it to school to show me right away.
by Mark, guest blogger
I bought the surface for many reasons. But these four are the main reasons why I decided to work hard for weeks on my dad’s alligator farm to earn the money needed to purchase this device.
I had a very hard decision to make. I had to decide if I wanted to buy Apple’s iPad, which was slightly cheaper, or the Surface. I had to spend a lot of time researching to decide which tablet to spend my hard earned cash on. Eventually I made up my mind and decided that the Surface was the right choice for me.

1. Portability

A reason I bought the surface is its portability. It is a very convenient size for using it on an airplane, car, or just carrying it with you on your day to day routine. In fact I am typing this up on the way to the airport! The touch or type cover, when purchased, can protect the Surface and especially the screen when you travel with it.

2. Convertibility

Another reason I bought the Surface is its ability to change from a tablet to a laptop. As a consumer, I couldn’t decide if I would rather buy a laptop or a tablet. When I found the surface, I was amazed that it wasn’t only a tablet, but could function as a laptop as well. If I want to play a game, I can use it in tablet form, but when I am ready to work, all I do is flip out the kickstand and snap in the touch cover and I am ready to work.

3. Usability

One of the great things about the surface is its ability to use the internet smoothly. Other tablets, such as the iPad, have trouble running the internet and showing flash videos and playing flash games. (I also notice now that the Surface loads YouTube videos faster than Dad's iPad). The Surface can easily surf the web, and show you that video, helping you finish that grueling school project or research that new business idea.

4. Compatibility

A great thing about the Surface is its compatibility with Office programs. Apple products and other tablets might have their own version of Word, Powerpoint, or Excel, but none of them compete with Microsoft Office. The new touch optimized version of office allows you to work casually, and then snap in the type cover to get productive.
I'm interested in purchasing a Windows phone next. (By the way I want a Nokia Lumia 928 in case someone out there is listening.)

Mark takes his Surface everywhere. He just calls it "My Surface."

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Alfred Thompson: How we can teach computer science to every age @alfredtwo

Alfred Thompson (@alfredtwo) "Mr. Computer Science" spent some time talking with me and the listeners of Every Classroom matters about how we should be teaching computer science at all levels. It can be simple. Students should know how to cause the computer to do things starting at a very young age. In 10 short minutes, you can learn all about this topic and how you can put some concepts in your classroom. Are you teaching students about advanced searching? Start there.

Alfred serves on the Computer Science Teachers of America board. He's my go-to guy for questions about how to teach Computer Science. I've been a faithful reader of his blog since the first month I started blogging in December 2005. Alfred, though, isn't just a PLN resource, he's my friend. He's a good man and a great servant leader to the cause of Computer science and STEM education and is a wealth of knowledge. Take a listen, follow Alfred on Twitter, and understand how Computer Science Matters in your school.

Blog: http://blog.acthompson.net

Twitter: http://twitter.com/alfredtwo

Home Page: http://www.acthompson.net

Listen to the show

Essential questions:

  • What should elementary age students to be able to do? (curriculum directors listen up)
  • What are your favorite simple introduction to programming tools for kids in elementary? (elementary teachers)
  • What do students not understand about searching and search engines?
  • Can every child learn to program?
  • If a high school puts in AP Computer Science or Computer Science what programming languages are being used today?
  • How can use use practical examples to teach programming?
  • What is the Raspberry Pi and how can it be used in the classroom?
  • What are some examples of what you can do with the Raspberry Pi?
  • What is the computer science teacher's association? What does it do?

Show Links:

Elementary Apps & Teaching Tools

Scratch from MIT: http://scratch.mit.edu/

Alice from Carnegie Mellon: http://www.alice.org/

Kodu - Microsoft - make simple games: http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/kodu/

Advanced Searching

Why search engines can't replace teachers: http://blog.acthompson.net/2013/05/why-search-engines-cant-replace.html

Advanced Google search: http://www.google.ca/advanced_search

Advanced Bing search: http://onlinehelp.microsoft.com/en-us/bing/ff808438.aspx

High School Computer Science

Small Basic: http://smallbasic.com/

Python: http://www.python.org/

Java: http://www.java.com/en/about/

The Super Cool, Super Cheap Raspberry Pi

Alfred's Blog Post about the Raspberry Pi: http://blog.acthompson.net/2013/04/new-toyraspberry-pi.html

See official Raspberry Pi Website for projects: http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=15

Note since I recorded the show. Some people are making game consoles from the 80's with these and hooking them up to their TV's. i.e. Atari anyone? This is so cool, I gave you some bonus links below!

Lifehacker - How to make a retro gaming console for $35: http://lifehacker.com/how-to-turn-your-raspberry-pi-into-a-retro-game-console-498561192 (Great Maker project for this summer!)

Other cool articles about how people are using raspberry pi in many ways: http://lifehacker.com/tag/raspberry-pi

CSTA Information

I teach Introduction to Computer Science. I do not teach AP Computer science or extensive programming. If you teach any computer science concepts, I highly recommend you should join. Last time I checked, dues are covered by a grant if you're an educator. The newsletter is great and I learn so much about STEM every time I read it. Every school should have one member of CSTA on staff - it is that important. (I also think every school should have at least one ISTE (www.iste.org) member on staff - it is another vital STEM organization that shares best practices. These organizations have become hubs of learning and networking.)

Computer Science Teacher's Association: http://csta.acm.org/

Computer Science Education Week (December 8-14, 2013): http://www.csedweek.org/

(Add this to your school calendar now. What a great time to plan some activities. How about Raspberry Pi for Christmas? You could have a Raspberry Pi making contest!! This is a perfect time to celebrate computer science just before Christmas because you can do so many fun things. Make fun games on Kodu, etc.)

About the Every Classroom Matters show on BAM Radio Network


To find out more about this podcast go to my Podcast page.


Monday, June 03, 2013

12 Secrets to Having a Truly Restful Vacation

Summer is here. Whether you're reading this in June and live in the northern hemisphere or in November in Australia and south America. You know what you've got ahead.

See "School Daze: Recapturing the Teacher within" for the
story of these photos of me and my son.
I'm an idiot when it comes to being goofy in the water.
It just feels so good to be outside and be free!
You do need rest. You need to veg out. There are so many things you can do. Let's look at some things that will improve your life and your mood. When I say technology, I really mean an always-on smartphone that texts and tweets and vibrates every time that some happens to hit send. I don't mean you can't take pictures. We're talking the barrage of people OUT THERE keeping you from paying attention to the people RIGHT HERE.

Disconnecting helps you feel more like a human BEING rather than a human DOING. It is ok to just BE.


new study shows that people who claim to be the best multitaskers AREN'T. So, if you think you can focus on all happening OUT THERE, you're lying to yourself. There is a company now to help you with your internet addiction. Even more so, your kids are likely at risk.

This was taken just the moment before I saw
a flash of light and bubbles. If you've done water sports
you know how fast it happens.
Don't be afraid to have fun because you're going to fall
if you're healthy.
Are you really UNABLE to disconnect? Is this a matrix where your spine is forever wired into this mesh of people and when you're done, you unplug and are thrown in the ground?

Take a technology-free vacation.

1. Set guidelines

If you have to check, then set a time when you won't be taking away from your family. What does disconnecting mean?

 I'll never forget the year I was in the mountains and I got a nasty tweet from an awful person. The attack was very personal, off base, and upsetting. I spent the day brooding and writing a response. 

No one can cross the fence of disconnectivity to ruin your peace of mind. You can't control THEM but you can control what you look at. You NEED To disconnect sometimes, YOU DO. What does it mean? Will you still take pics (I do?) Will you use your ereader?  Don't say technology free to your kids and take away their phones and bang away on your laptop. What does technology free look like.

Picture of a mushroom taken on a hike.
Vicki Davis
When we go to the mountains with my parents, sisters, kids, and nieces and nephews, we all check our email, etc.in the morning. Then we spend the rest of the day together.

2. Plan to go offline

I'll schedule my tweets in buffer and my blog posts as well. I'm often a better blogger when I'm out of town. This also helps others not worry and start trying to reach you because you disappeared! Communicate with those who need to know that you're going offline. 

Decide how often you're going to post and schedule those before you go out of town. My goal is that the moment I get in the car, I can curl up with a good book and start laughing at Dad's jokes.
Me and my son rafting down Little Wesser Falls.
Yahoo! I'm always scared but glad I do it.

3. Disconnect your eReader / Tablet from notifications

OK. This doesn't include a Kindle that is NOT connected to the internet. I have an old Kindle that allows me to download books.

The problem with my iPad is that if I don't turn off notifications, it will bug me all day. If your tablet is your ereader, then turn off the wi-fi. You need to read. You might not take paper books any more, especially with the prices for luggage on airplanes. Make provision to read, but be careful you're not interrupted.
Last summer all of us went ziplining. It was awesome. They don't
allow you to have cell phones on the zips for safety reasons.
They say you can't focus and you become a danger.
You're not focusing on the moment and what you're doing.
I think this applies to everything on vacation.

4. Take up Smartphones and cell phones for long periods of time

My pastor, Michael Catt, has a basket at the door of his summer vacation cabin where everyone deposits their cell phone. He pays to take his adult daughters and their families on the trip and makes it a condition of the trip. I agree.

Have you ever looked up from your laptop on vacation and seen everyone furiously texting people who aren't there? Your time as a family is your chance to connect. You can make memories. I promise that you won't remember ONE text you received or tweet you wrote. You will, however, remember going ziplining with the kids or rafting. You'll remember playing Uno or a board game. You'll remember snuggling up under blankets with a warm batch of brownies watching old episodes of The Pink Panther.

You'll remember sleeping late and staying up late. You'll remember catching fire flies and building bonfires. You'll remember when Joey sat on the flaming smore. You'll remember when Suzie ate a bug because she didn't look before grabbing a handful of raisinettes from the picnic basket. You'll even remember when the whole family started singing a crazy Pink song and you filmed it and put it on the family movie at Christmas.

When you unplug you make memories. When you stay plugged in, you just make data.

5. Take pictures but wait to upload them

I don't upload pictures until after a trip. First of all, so I don't worry about the security of my house. Secondly, so I can just be in  the moment. Thirdly, because as much as it hurts, if you put too many cool things on Facebook in a small town, people get jealous and it doesn't help you.

I know people who go to the beach every weekend and others resent it like crazy. If they just went and kept it private, NO ONE WOULD KNOW. Upload a few highlights when you're done. Plus, if you do something cool, then you start getting, TEXT MESSAGES.

This blog post is full of photographs I've taken with my Canon Rebel. It is offline, I can focus on what I'm seeing and I truly see it. I remember the snail and the mushroom and the flowers. Pictures are beautiful memories but beware lest they suck you back into an online world that will take you away from your vacation.

6. Carry a Journal

I use Evernote for everything. But it is a quick jump from Evernote journaling to Twitter for me. Typing is typing. So, I carry a journal to capture ideas (it is what writers do). I write down memories and thoughts. Then, when I get home, I scan them to evernote which handles handwriting recognition just fine. This includes pens and a small notebook in my pocket book and full size journal with at least 20 pages.

If I can avoid technology as much as possible, I'm happier. Plus, the bright light of technology can make it harder for you to go to sleep.

7. Investigate cool places

We collect "waterfalls" in my family.
We buy books about them and
go off weird places to find them.
There's something beautiful in the roar
and something calming in the shhhh
of water falling from rocks.
We use the same book every year and
mark them in the book. We take pics.
Think of something you like to
see and collect experiences.
I do use Yelp like crazy when we're traveling. I use the "nearby" feature to find cool restaurants nearby and bookstores. I love bookstores,even though I'm an ebook fanatic. I like the smell of books and the feel of them. Books are like air to me - they help me feel truly alive.

Some people check these out ahead of time and mark them on Foursquare.But be careful, it is an easy slide into full blown online engagement and offline disconnect. There have been times my kids have looked at each other and said, "Mom's gone again..." I don't like that! I'm here! I'll be here! Time is short because soon they'll be gone.

8. Go places off the grid

Do you really NEED wifi everywhere you go? I've found the best way to disconnect is to go somewhere with bad service. I always feel so much better by the second day and like a human again by the third.

9. Plan ahead to do fun things

We have older movies, board games and card games. We pack them. Sometimes the boys pack their airsoft guns or nerf guns (what a mess.) This is a great thing about going to one place each summer that is the same from the prior year. Routines often make memories.

Do you really look at the wildlife?
Kip stopped the car one year so I could
photograph these lovely flowers.
When you take pictures, you make a memory.

10. Leave your worries at home

I make a list of things that will bother me while I"m gone and do them before I go. If there is a bill to be paid, I pay it. If there is something upsetting me, I try to tackle it head on (unless it is something I have to think about.) I handle the pets. I'm not tempted, then, to make phone calls and interact too much with the outside world.

11. Plan to return to a clean house

Money is always tight but one thing I've always done is to schedule someone to clean my house while I'm gone. There is nothing nicer to come home to a clean house. Otherwise, you feel like you've got to come home and wear yourself out.

How does this help with technology? It means that when I come home, I can focus that first day on getting caught up. I don't have to panic as I drive home all upset knowing the house is a mess AND I haven't checked email.

12. Don't stress. Remember, you make the rules and this is YOUR vacation.

Stuff happens. It does. If it does, handle the problem. Get on the phone, use your laptop, etc. Talk to your family and then move on. Remember, though, that you are a gift you give your family. Unstress and be your best.

But stuff doesn't happen every day. If it does, why are you on vacation?

In Conclusion
This is your time. These precious people will not last forever. Twitter will likely live longer than some of the people you're with. If you want to live life with no regrets, intentionally walk away from things that tempt you to distraction.

Life life with intention. You can't be perfect but you can plan ahead. You can focus on the people around you instead of that cell phone that will put you in a digital jail if you let it.

Enjoy your vacation and yes, I want to see pics and I will be happy for you. (Unless you go to Alaska and if you do, I don't want to hear about it! ;-)

Saturday, June 01, 2013

How your students can join the #quest2matter and change the world @angelamaiers

The Quest 2 Matter is here! 

Listen to my interview with Agnela about the #quest2matter (Every Classroom Matters on BAM Radio)

Think of a Match.com for student ideas to improve the world and the rest of the world. That is the platform that is being built behind Quest 2 Matter. Some incredible opportunities are here for rich student participation.Whether it is on the back end helping manage and run the projects (some of my students are spending time on their summer passion projects volunteering in the movement in social media, judging, etc. Kids really are behind this movement) or submitting their quest.

I sat down recently with +Angela Maiers  (@angelamaiers) to understand the details about the Quest2Matter and how your students can participate. Watch as your students solve a problem. Help them upload their videos to the Quest 2 Matter website. The best will be selected and curated for an opportunity to mentor and be scaled globally. The Huff Post video above gives an overview about the movement from a business/ college perspective. My show focused on students and the classroom.

This is an important part of the #geniushour movement (See Engage Students and Supercharge Learning with #geniushour) It is also passion based learning and integrates well with digital storytelling.

If you're looking for the PERFECT way to end the school year THIS IS IT!

Links from the #Quest2Matter Show

Flyer - https://www.smore.com/0ruh-taking-student-genius-global
YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/choose2matter -- Many students including my own have been involved in the Quest2Matter. They are excited and share their stories.

FAQ about Quest2Matter and how to join: http://choose2matter.org/quest2matter-join
Rules for the Quest2Matter

Respond to the Huff Post Video Above: http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/tech-game-changers-choose2matter/519501802b8c2a258b000319

I hope you'll join in the quest2matter!

Daily Education and Technology News for Schools 06/01/2013

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

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Disqus Comments for Cool Cat Teacher Blog