I wonder how Twitter can help me connect with others and grow to become a more effective leader of literacy and Bring Education to Life for students and teachers? This was my inquiry question at the beginning of 2017. I am amazed at what I have learned so far and the PLN that I discovered because of it.
My introduction to Twitter started with one of my reading certification classes with Jeanette Armstrong at Viterbo University in a cohort in Green Bay, Wisconsin. A couple years later, it was reintroduced by Susan Tegen in a Foundations to literacy class and again in my new teacher cohort at Howard Suamico School District by Brian Nichols. Brian really got us Tweeting Out during our boot camp into the district. A few of us became quite good at sharing out as a way to connect with others. Then, our Literacy Coaches started offering opportunities & Jessica Budek offered an opportunity with Brian to teach us about Twitter Chat at our district Creation Days PD.
Learning about Twitter chats lead me to a place where I could reflect about myself and then find other people with similar passions. I felt like a whole new world had opened up to me. That is where I met Meredith Johnson and Tara Martin, the founder of #BookSnaps. Tara introduced me to my favorite way to respond to books, #BookSnaps and how awesome Bitmojis are to communicate visually. I was not big into Snapchat so used Book Creator because that was what I knew and the kids had available to them.
Tara held a #BookSnaps challenge so I lead some teachers and students on the journey. I learned how engaged students can be when the right platform is presented. It was like we were meeting them in their world. They were writing, digging deeper, and asking for feedback. This provided opportunities to conference with students and increase writing skills through micro writing.
I was honored to be invited by Tara Martin and Book Creator to collaborate on a blog that was shared out in September. We collaborated totally via the internet and without ever meeting. We even made a video using Book Creator to make Booksnaps. That blog was read all over the world and I met people in Russia. How cool is that!
Tara lead me to George Couros and the #IMMOOC PLN family. I learned a lot about keeping up with a fast Twitter chat through some serious fail forwards. The amazing thing is when you make mistakes the PLN family helps to show you the way in a safe environment. We are all taking risks out there, so everyone wants to help you on your journey to learn. IMMOOC also taught me about using a blog as a professional portfolio to document my professional growth.
From there I met Dave Burgess and Aaron Hogan, who helped to encourage me to continue to blog. I read Teach Like a Pirate and then, Lead Like a Pirate by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf. They taught me about sharing appreciations abundantly, about being visible, using hooks, and numerous other treasures found in their books
Through Twitter and chatting I have met so many educators such as Mena Hill, Tisha Richmond, Emily Francis, Cori Orlando, Heather Marrs and Brett Salakas from Australia. I even joined teachers in Australia for a chat on a few Sunday mornings at 6 AM and others in Oregon at 11:30 PM. Time change was an issue for chatting, then I realized how to join the chat after it happened. (That could be a whole other blog.)
Once school started my chat time decreased, but my knowledge was in full swing. I am hoping to get back into my routine of making my favorite chats a few times a month. My PLN family is my driving force that helps keep my passions alive and moves me forward so I do not stagnate. They keep me focused and reflecting on my ultimate goal “what is best for learners of all ages?” We are all on a journey of learning; it doesn't matter where we are on the path, only that we keep moving forward in our growth and shining our light for others to follow.
The people I have met this year on Twitter taught me we are all leaders in education no matter what our title is. We lead from where we are. You just have to #Believe! (my one word for 2017-2018)
As this school year has started their have been some challenges and changes that I have had to accept. I have had to determine the things I can impact and the things I have no control over. It was easy to get caught up in the negative mindset, but then I asked myself “How is this making the situation better? How is this going to impact my students?” This questioning brought me back to one of my favorite prayers. This prayer is not saying that I can not change things. It is not saying I can not be Innovative. It is actually saying just the opposite. It reminds me sometimes I have to be more creative because there will be obstacles. I need to be able to evaluate the activities and situations and determine if or how I can make a difference. Then, focus on those. As I have changed my mindset to focus on what I can impact, it helped me to be more productive and find creative options. It is not always easy, but if we focus on what matters and keep our WHY in front of us... We will be able to come up with innovative ways to accomplish change, within the confines of what we can control.
"What I discovered over time, is that PASSIONATE leaders also need PATIENCE if we want to ignite a fire in our schools and districts that lasts. Once we light a spark, we need to give it time to catch… we need to nurture it, feed it, stoke it, give it our constant attention and let it develop into a slow and steady burn that ultimately engulfs our school or district community. “
This segment from Shelley Burgess' blog grabbed my attention. I think about how excited I can get about new resources and ideas. But, not everyone will be as excited as I am. Recently, I was talking with the principal I work with about a recent presentation by Pernille Ripp. Something that struck her from a conversation with Perenille was “...we have to remember there is a person in personalized learning.” It made me think about how we need to consider how much we are putting on the plate of our teachers and students. It is important to consider they are a person with a life outside of school and we do not necessarily know their whole story. After all isn't our mission to educate a whole person.
This conversation was followed by a conversation with a teacher. I had left a note on my door … “What literacy magic would you like to happen this year?” A teacher responded with, “Personalized learning.” We have been implementing personalized learning for the past couple of years. Later, the teacher let me know she had added the response. We had a conversation about the need to work to get better at some of the current initiatives instead of adding more. This is where I see we need to nurture, feed, and stoke the fire. Teachers want to do what is best for kids, we all just have different perspectives about what that is. Those who already are participating in implementation need the time to allow the fire to grow. Others need us to nurture, feed, and stoke the process. With a little personalized coaching and a lot of understanding and trust, magic will happen.
This year, I will be in the new role of literacy coach. As I go into this new role I need to remember my passions are not everyone's. My perspective of what is best for students will not always be the same as everyone. To help me to maintain my passion for education and stay patient with others, I am taking the #LeadLAP challenge and committing to the following:
I hope to do all this while staying true to the district mission and the passions that drive me.
I always thought my “WHY” came from my son and my students. Then, all of a sudden I realized, my “WHY” originated with me. Thank you PLN, Dave Burgess, and Aaron Hogan, one question about vulnerability on a Twitter chat and it all flowed out easily.
( The value of a PLN is immeasurable)
I did not start off wanting to be a teacher. I wanted nothing to do with anything that meant more education past a four year degree. I especially did not want to write. I am not sure where my avoidance of writing originated, but it has been there as long as I can remember. I avoided AP English, because there was a lot of writing. Then, in college it was unavoidable. I ended up in an independent study, one on one with a professor, because I was not prepared to be a college level writer. Why did I end up in that situation? I was a straight A student, in the top ten of my class in High School! Now, in college I needed an intervention for writing. Huge blow! I managed through, but still did not develop a love of writing. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Merchandising Management.
As my children entered school, I was again faced with education. A kindergarten teacher was let go mid year for one of my boys. The students had had 5 subs in 6 weeks. Yikes!
Something told me I needed to step in. The next thing I knew, I was in the principal’s office offering to sub for the remainder of the year. That was it! I was hooked and back to school for a Master's in Elementary Education. Thank goodness for an understanding and loving husband in so many ways. From supporting our family to cooking, cleaning, and helping me edit and revise numerous papers.
That wasn't the end. We moved to Wisconsin and my desire to help those struggling with reading, writing, and spelling led me back to school and MORE WRITING. I was fortunate though some professors were starting to use technology and included options to remove some barriers for me such as presentations with Prezi, Animoto, PowerPoint, etc. That was when I fell in love with app smashing. (I just didn't know the name for it then)
My last certification for Reading Specialist turned out to be the most difficult. There was a lot more writing and an instructor that ended any chance of me loving to write. I fully understood how an instructor could change everything. I was done writing forever. I had struggled before, but never had I felt my papers knit picked apart so much that there was nothing good about them. Content was not addressed, it was all about the grammar. I was ready to give up completely. Of course, my husband did not let me and re-focused me to my task and “WHY” I was putting myself through this. He is good at reminding me about how I would work with my students and turning me around even if I am not in a good mindset at the time. (Sorry Honey! Thank you for sticking with me.)
So “WHY” I do what I do to the best of my ability for myself, my son, and my students is that we deserve every opportunity to learn the way we learn best, allowing us voice, choice, path and pace. That includes being empowered to thrive with constructive feedback that includes success as well as what we can improve. We need to give learners the benefit of the doubt that they are doing their best and encourage them to grow.
So, thank you #tlap and #teachermyth PLN for the great chat and helping me to realize I need to be in the game sharing my voice and reflections for my students, peers, colleagues, and PLN. Our voices together is what is going to make education for our students great.
Are you wondering where my blog title came from? It evolved from my original idea of “Bringing Books to Life”. It was pretty simple, I wanted kids to fully experience books. We teach them the reading strategy to visualize the book in their mind, but not all kids get that visual. It is like trying to create a dream while you are still awake. One day, a student said to me “Mrs. P. when I am reading THIS book it comes to life.” That is when I REALLY believed this idea of expressing books coming to life was working. Can you guess what book he was reading? If you guessed The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan, you would be correct.
Did you know the Merriam Webster Dictionary has 20 different meanings for the word life? When I started to talk about Bringing Books to Life I did not look up the meaning, but instead used my experience of using the word life. I knew I was talking about animating, vigor and energy. Most of my students knew it was figurative language.
Now let’s get back to the original idea of Bringing Education to Life. What does this mean? It means nurturing the wonderment and curiosity that is naturally part of being human beings. Remember the two and three year olds always asking Why? Why? Why? Where do they go? I see a few in our schools, but so many have lost their curiosity. Bringing Education to Life grew from my curiosity about how to bring it back for those who have lost it and keep it going for those who have it.
Today’s education system was designed for a different world than the one we live in today. If we want it to change, the right conditions for educators and students need to be available. We need to provide safe environments for risk-taking, celebrate the strengths of all our learners (both educators and students), and fail forward. Use the attempts for success as chances to learn. Bringing Education to Life will be a place where I share my thinking about what I am learning about empowering learners to wonder and be curious so they can grow.
Are you wondering how to get your students writing about books? Tara Martin has shared a new idea to spark creativity into the world of books. It is called #BookSnaps. She has provided some great resources to help you get started on her blog. You can check out some great examples of #BookSnaps on Twitter, just search #BookSnaps to see examples. Two of our the students earned the opportunity to be guest bloggers, with Tara Martin, from her #BookSnaps Challenge. Then, #BookSnaps became contagious and other students were asking how they could respond to books with #BookSnaps too! Since then a classroom has participated in a Google Hangout and two more students will be guest bloggers on Tara's R.E.A.L. Blog.
To help students and teachers get started I created a video of how to create #BookSnaps with Book Creator. Then, to my surprise and excitement, Tara asked me to be a guest vlogger. The resulting video can be found here. You can also use other apps to create #BookSnaps. Find out more about these on Tara Martin's blog.
Now, you may be wondering what Micro-writing has to do with #Booksnaps. Micro-writing is just what it sounds like, it is writing in small snippets. The cool thing I am finding is students are choosing to write in a creative way about books. Some are using voice, but they need some work on conventions and expressing ideas in words. #Booksnaps help to provide small pieces of work to focus in on skills each student needs.
I don’t know about you, but time for writing used to be an issue, because they spent so much time trying to get started. Now, many of them can’t wait to start, even those who are normally reluctant. But, remember students need choice. Make sure #BookSnaps are a tool to achieve the student's goals. They need to be the ones choosing to respond to reading in this way. Let them choose how they respond, including using visuals to express their thinking. Consider how this would work in YOUR classroom, set the parameters, and let them CREATE!
This morning, I was reflecting on all the opportunities I have had to learn. I am sure I made some good choices, bad choices, and some that were just choices. This year, I have spent time learning from students and amazing professionals in my district, on Twitter, and at conferences. There were opportunities to learn in all these situations. My realization is the choices I make and the mindset I have, leads to what I learn.
Everyday my students strive to teach me all day long. My question is... Am I taking advantage of all the opportunities they are offering? Or am I too busy teaching to realize I need to listen. Sometimes, I need to let them have the lead. I need to talk less and empower them to learn? (Burkins & Yaris) Just as John Michael Montgomery sings in the video, Life is a Dance. Teaching and leading is also a DANCE and WE need to learn as we go. Sometimes we need to lead and sometimes we need to follow.
As I started the IMMOOC journey, I remember George Couros saying you will get out of this what you put into it. I think this applies to all our learning opportunities. Teaching (and leading) is a dance and we learn as we go.
Today, I am trying out a blog challenge with gifs to share with you some of the bloggers that have impacted me on this #IMMOOC2 journey. I had no idea how to go about this until I read Tara Martin's blog, Story Power, and was in awe of how her gifs told her story so well.
When you start on a new adventure it can be a bit scary...
On this learning adventure, I hoped I would find more colleagues that share the same passions because collaboration, relationships, and empowerment are so important to growth.
I met Vicki Den Ouden, through her blog about curiosity. I am a bit of a "word nerd" (her term) so I connected with her blog tying the words curious, care, and cure together. If you are intrigued you can read more by clicking on her name above.
Dora DeBoer and Alex Lianne Carter caught my attention with their blog Empowering Language Learners with Technology. They share some innovative ways technology empowers their students. Technology and Language Learners have been a huge part of my teaching and learning this year. Some of my experiences can be found in the blog I collaborated on with Tina Abbott, IT Director from Newnan, Georgia.
Through IMMOOC a lot of information has been shared, but I have learned from what George Couros states in his book, The Innovator's Mindset, that less is more. We need to focus on quality over quantity.
Buddy Blog inspired by Part III of The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. Tina Abbott, IT Director from Newnan, Georgia, and April Padalino, Title 1 Literacy Intervention Specialist from Green Bay, Wisconsin, have paired up to share experiences infusing technology to enhance learning.
While thinking about focusing on powerful learning first, technology second, George writes in The Innovator’s Mindset, “Technology is for empowering kids to find their own answers and launch their own learning.”
Yes! That said, technology is not the point in learning. We shouldn’t “do” technology just for the sake of saying we use technology in the classroom. But technology can provide learners with opportunities to deepen their learning in ways that would not be possible without technology. It can empower them to learn and release them from complete dependency on a teacher. That is a great thing! (After all, one day they will be out of school.)
This graphic has been hanging on the wall in our Makerspace all year (many thanks to creator, Bill Ferriter - @PlugUsIn) and it was fun to see it appear in The Innovator’s Mindset. It shows the positive effects technology can facilitate. Here are a few examples of those “Right Answers” we have experienced in our schools.
Sharing an issue through a blog or social media has far greater reach than just hanging posters or making an announcement at assembly.
Blogging and sharing through social media also invites feedback and conversation from a larger audience than just the classroom. While friends in the classroom sometimes limit their feedback to compliments and congratulations, external feedback may include more constructive criticism from which learners can gow. Occasionally, feedback may be negative. It can be a great experience for learners, with guidance, to learn how to handle negative feedback, when and how to respond, and how to divert the conversation back to the positive. Better to learn with guidance from a wise teacher than to face that in the real world, alone.
Find answers (to their questions)
We had a middle school learner take an afterschool program on 3D printing and design last spring. It ignited a fire in him! He has spent the last year scouring YouTube and Instructables to learn more and more about the subject. His enthusiasm has gotten other friends involved. They are creating a game and 3D printing the game pieces. Collaboration! Engineering! Design! Creativity! All self-taught and self-motivated.
Our kids have partnered with video pen pals in Palestine, India, and Costa Rica. After the first couple of video exchanges, the kids became very comfortable, friendly, and open with each other. They shared ideas, discussed books, and collaborated on designs across the globe! One of the most valuable things they learned through this process, impossible without technology, is that they have more “alikeness” than differences with their global partners. That has positive implications galore.
A few learners wanted to use vlogs to share about and discuss books. Working with the Technology Integration Specialist we came up with a way they could use the Schoology app on their iPads. The learners used this to show accountability, review and reflect on their own reading, and share with others about books. In the example vlog, we were totally surprised by the animation and expression we witnessed. This example makes me think about when George states, “students who have never felt comfortable speaking up in class may now feel free to share their voices through a different medium, such as videos, blogs, or podcasts.” Without technology, this girl may not have found her voice, which changed her mind and broadened her opportunities for expression. It likely also changed the minds of her classmates and teachers, in terms of how they viewed her (more confident, more expressive) after that.
Make a difference
Technology can be used as a tool to empower English Language Learners (ELLs) to read, write, listen, and speak in English. A couple of examples include using Book Creator and Google Translator. Book Creator allowed educators and learners the ability to create needed vocabulary and phrase books to support communication at school. Once started, the kids took over the books to make them their own. (In the actual e-books a speaker icon is next to each word or phrase so the kids can hear them in English) In order for them to participate in collaboration and develop relationships, Google Translator was taught to all the kids in the class. It also made a difference for our ELLs by allowing them to read and complete assignments.
Our district has been implementing personalized learning and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) frameworks. It has been made clear that this does not mean to only use technology. It does mean technology is a tool we can offer learners for use or use for instruction. As it states in the Innovator’s Mindset, “we should be trying to understand the opportunities it can provide for each individual.” Learners are empowered by having responsibility for their learning and how they want to learn. By offering opportunities to deepen their learning and explore their passions, technology helps empower them to take action.
In an effort to drive engagement in daily reading, we decided to explore some new ways to let kids share their reading. We found learners like having the choice of Booksnapping to annotate text using Book Creator. It gives them an opportunity to share what they know about what they read and empower them to use their thinking voice while they read.
After attending the district’s Creation Days PD and learning about app smashing with the book creator comics, we decided to try it out ourselves and then teach the kids. It has helped them understand (and enjoy) retelling stories. Example
We need to use whatever tools will work best for each learner. Can innovation happen without technology? Absolutely! We can name numerous examples of that, and maybe we will in another blog post. But innovation can also happen with technology, so let’s include technology in our toolkit where appropriate. From The Innovator’s Mindset, “Technology gives us the power to accelerate, amplify, and even recreate learning.” And that is a beautiful thing.
Some additional websites to support learning
Booksnaps - Snapping for Learning Tara Martin
Book Creator - Comics Tutorial
How to create a Vlog for students April Padalino
Sample Book Snap by a student to annotate an article
LevelUpVillage.com for ways to implement global partnerships
Chapter 8 from the Innovator's Mindset helped me to reflect on my learners who are often referred to as struggling readers. It made me think about how even the reference to students as struggling readers is not focusing on their strengths. Students who are not reading yet or are not yet at the expectations still have strengths. By stretching the strengths of our learners, they have the opportunity to build confidence, grow as a learner, and discover learning can be fun. By helping them develop a growth mindset they are able to persevere through content that is more difficult.
When I look at the screening assessments, I look for strengths so I know what learners can build on. We also refer to our reading support as STARS (Students and Teachers Achieving Reading Success). I see them as Learners working with me toward success. This year I have also been looking for ways to empower students to take charge of their learning and have started to see pockets of this happening.
The same can be said when working with adults. It is important to build on strengths and show people the way to growth. George Couros states in his book " Focusing on individuals' strengths that contribute to the vision of the school helps to move us from pockets of innovation to a culture where innovation flourishes." I can see this happening in our district. We have been offered opportunities three times this year to share what we are passionate about through a workshop model of professional development. We are given the choice how to best spend our time on those days by presenting, attending, collaborating, reflecting, or a combination of these. While working on the new strategic plan the district asked the staff the question, "If you could create a school, what would it look like?" I have to say it was nice to be asked. Our district appears to be working toward creating a culture of innovation. I am looking forward to where it will lead.
April Padalino and Cyndi Dull
We are educational coaches with a passion for learning and empowering students, parents, and educators to Bring Education to Life.