Saturday, February 17, 2018

One Good Deed Deserves Another

I read George Couros' book The Innovators Mindset recently. It was enlightening to say the least. There was so much in the book that I wanted to implement in my classroom, so I created an infographic about the book's main points. Since I post my work online (as you see if you scroll through my blog) I didn't want to create it and publish it without George knowing. I also wanted to make sure he was OK with my interpretation of his work. I emailed him and he promptly responded that he was flattered. He loved the infographic and told me I should tag him in the graphic so he sees it when it goes online. I was happy, relieved, and did just that.
What I wasn't expecting is that he then posted my infographic on his website. Teachers from across the country were complimenting me on my work. My infographic blew up on Twitter. Teachers were asking me if they could print it out and hang it in their classroom. I was honored. Something I created would end up all over the country.
It didn't end there. George then wrote a post about what I did. The fact that I asked permission first and properly accredited his work is not something that happens all the time. He is frustrated by how many times he sees his work being used by other educators and claimed as their own. I did the right thing, and that is actual news. Sad, but common place in this day and age.
The fact that I was teaching a lesson to my students about having a positive digital footprint was an added benefit. I was able to model for my students that doing the right thing can sometimes be a great thing. I had the proof.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Don't Drive Angry

I love the movie Groundhog Day. I think it's really funny but very profound. It asks a universal question, do we live the same day every day, or are we truly living a life?

I'm trying to be more mindful this year. I'm not counting the days until the next vacation, and I'm not Thanking God It's Friday. I'm being present in each day, and thankful for it. Days I expect to be easy rarely are and days I assume will be difficult surprisingly are not. I'm open to the randomness each day can bring, and I'm finding the joy in each one of them.

We are lucky and blessed to have the lives we do for many reasons, but also because we have a freedom and the opportunity to make it better. I'm not sleep walking through life. I'm going to stay awake and aware of the world and the people around me.

It doesn't matter to me what some groundhog does. I can enjoy six more weeks of winter anyway.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Practice What You Preach

One of the big buzz words for education lately has been collaboration. We want students to work together. The 21ST century worker won't be plugging along by themselves at a workstation, they will be working with a team to accomplish a goal or solve a problem. So we need to train our students to work together.
The irony is we don't practice what we preach. Teachers are very territorial when it comes to their teaching methods. “Don't come in my room, and don't copy my lesson plan.” It makes no sense. You don't get paid any less or any more for sharing. You don't look bad if someone else uses your work. If anything, your work inspired others. If we truly are doing all we can for the kids, then we would be doing everything possible to better ourselves and everyone around us, and that means sharing.
So I'm putting my money where my mouth is. Here's my OneNote Technology Curriculum Notebook. It has all my lessons, and links to online resources for anything you need. I've built these lessons from teachers who were generous enough to share them with the world, so I'm paying it forward.

Use anything you want from it. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

These kids need jobs.

The New York City Department of Education instructs students to be “college and career ready.” Since I believe it’s never too early for my students to think about this, I created a unit for my sixth graders. It can be tweaked to work up or down a few grades.
Part One-My Career Plans

I start with a simple question, what do you want to be someday? During the class discussion about careers, I ask them the following questions.
  • Do you know anyone who has that job?
  • What do you have to do to get that job?
  • Where did you learn about this job?
I direct them to the Department of Labor website. This site will is geared towards students. They can explore all sorts of career paths to find a specific job that interests them.
From what they learn, they create a presentation illustrating the steps they will take to get that job.
I provide the students with a slideshow template. This way they know what’s expected. Some classes I don’t give them the template and let them create it from scratch. Here’s the general outline for the presentation.

I will someday be a __________ by (your name).
I will be a _________ because ______________.
(You will list at least two reasons why you want to someday have this job)
Discuss what you would do every day if you had this job, how does it help people?
Information on how much this career pays a year, from starting salaries to how high it usually pays. (The Dept. of Labor website helps with this slide)
Information on what the outlook is for this career; will there be lots of jobs available? Or is it hard to get a job in this field? (The Dept. of Labor website helps with this slide)
How will you get this job? What can you do today to help get the job you want to have someday?
Where did you get your information? What websites did you use for pictures? (This is the citations slide.)
While they are working, I circulate around the room asking the students why they chose the career they did. I’m looking to hear some articulate answers, but I’ll take what I can get.
Part Two-My Eventual Career
Once their slideshow is complete, we start working on the second part which is creating a resume geared to getting the job they chose.
Since they now know the requirements for their career, they can create a resume with real ideas on how to get it. I give them a simple resume template and tell them fill it out as if it is ten years from now. I tell them that they’ve just graduated from a four-year program in college, or professional training, and they’re looking for their first job. Some questions they need to ask themselves while they create their resume
  • What did you do to help your resume stand out?
  • Did you volunteer somewhere?
  • Did you organize a club in college about your future career?
  • Did you intern somewhere useful?
While they are working on this, I circulate around the room and observe partners asking each other common interview questions. I want my students to have a coherent answer ready for that type of question, they will be asked that a lot in the years to come.
These tasks may seem far-fetched for 11 year olds, but a dream stays just a dream until you add an action plan to it. They may not even be sure about their choices right now, but any direction is better than none. I know it seems like an advanced lesson plan for sixth graders, but you would be surprised how this opens their eyes. They now know what a resume is, and they can keep their eyes out for any opportunity to add something significant to it.
My motives seem honorable, but I’m just hoping they get really good jobs so I will someday be able to borrow money from them. I think that’s a solid retirement plan.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Cubicle Life

I did a friend a favor during this Christmas vacation and worked in an office for a few days. It was almost fun to act like an office worker; to work at a desk and feel like just a cog in a wheel.
There was a liberation in being at a desk instead of a classroom. I could go to the bathroom whenever I wanted, and I drank my tea while it was still hot. I ended up missing lunch because I was so occupied with what I was doing, and there were no bells to tell my stomach to start growling. I sat in a cubicle and listened in on phone conversations from the cubicles around me. I talked to adults all day. It was awesome.
I was doing relevant work which was the reason I was there, but I couldn’t help but feel that anyone could have done what I was doing. I was just the “hired hand.” When I’m in front of the classroom though, I feel significant. My job is truly making a difference. I have over thirty little faces looking up at me and my job seems so vital. I may be a cog in a different wheel, but I’m making a difference in lots of lives and I can see it right in front of me.
I did feel a degree of satisfaction living the cubicle life for a few days, but it doesn’t come close to how I feel when my students learn something new because of me.  That temporary life reminded me how important the life I’m already living is.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

One teacher’s approach to Digital Citizenship

In the beginning
When I began teaching digital citizenship in 2010 it was an innocent time. We were only worried about the students believing all websites were real. I directed students to The Dog Island website, where you could pack up your dog in a crate and send him off for a week long romp on a beach. The site was very believable; pictures of the dogs, and even information about how to ship your dog. There’s other sites too; you can learn how to save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus from extinction. They’re cute, but harmless. There are other sites though that drift a little into the lunatic fringe; Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie will prevent aliens from getting access to your brain, thank goodness. This site would start a conversation about questioning resources.
I would tell the story that Alan November wrote extensively about; a student working on a Holocaust report used a website created by a Northwestern University professor. The problem was the professor believed that the Holocaust didn’t happen and the concentration camps were lice disinfestation treatment centers. That was the beginning of the dark side of the internet for me.
A year later I found BrainPop which had a great unit of Digital Etiquette. It was free, so I loved it. It was also great because BrainPop is used by all subject teachers, so any teacher could discover it and use it in their classroom.
Digital Citizenship
In 2012 I noticed my students were behaving irresponsibly online. It wasn’t malicious behavior, it was more not knowing any better, like using simple passwords and leaving them around for other students to see. I found Common Craft videos that explained Digital Citizenship concepts in simple straightforward ways, and they’re awesome. I created a worksheet with items to locate from the videos and my first true Digital Citizenship lesson was born! Since then I’ve gotten fancier. Today my students create a slideshow from what they learn in the videos., but it’s still a solid lesson I use every year.
I kept looking and finding more and more resources. It was nice to see the educational community addressing the issue.
CommonSense came along, and they rolled out Digital Citizenship curriculum and I was in heaven! They review all media for children, so they know their stuff. They’ve broken it down into eight topics and leveled it for grades K-12. There’s lesson plans, games, worksheets, even resources for parents; you can get it all from their site.
I also use Everfi, they have a Digital Citizenship online module that students can complete at their own pace. It’s relevant for today’s student; one piece has the student trying to convince their friend to put down their phone and concentrate on driving. I like assigning it for homework so parents end up sitting down next to their kids and learning a few things too. The quiz at the end of the module is great for assessing them and makes them accountable for the learning. has even done their part! In their coding curriculum, they have included a few key pieces about Digital Footprints. In one lesson, the students stalk a few fake social media sites to see how much information the fake teen has shared. It really models for them what they should and shouldn’t be doing online. It hits home with many of my students.
Google recently released their curriculum, Be Internet Awesome, which approaches the subject from an empowering viewpoint and not a scary everyone-is-out-to-get-you approach. The games are fun, and the students learn as they play. I haven’t mastered the games yet so I still have work to do.
Just last year, I was part of the team that created Digital Citizenship resources for NYC teachers. We made infographics and activity books for teachers and parents to use about the rules to follow when using the internet in school and at home. It made me really think about how best to approach this subject as a student, teacher, and parent.
From all these years teaching Digital Citizenship, my philosophy could be boiled down to this. Students will live online for a lot longer than we will, and they will be creating a digital footprint that could follow them for decades. Trying to keep them off the internet until they're old enough is as dangerous as keeping them in the backseat of a car and then handing them the car keys on their 18th birthday. We need to guide them as they learn to navigate the internet, allowing them to make small mistakes now rather than big ones later. I encourage them to put as much positive stuff out there as possible. They need to create their own digital footprint, or someone else will do it for them. Avoiding the issue is not the answer. Play offense, not defense. They should develop their voice and share it with the world. That’s what I try to instill in my students.
So Digital Citizenship is not a subject that is required yet, but it obviously should be. I’m hoping it’s a subject that any teacher can master, as long as they have the support and training that’s needed. It’s too important of an issue to just hope for the best. We’ve come a long way from just worrying about Aluminum Foil Beanie websites, and we will be constantly trying to keep up. We owe it to our students to prepare them for wherever they will go.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Parent Teacher Conference Night

I have parents coming into my classroom today asking how their child is doing in my class. They only have a 95, how can they get a higher grade?
This happens over and over again. I wonder why they're here. I don't think it's to make themselves feel better about how great their child is doing in school. I also don't think that they are very worried about the 95 not being a 98. I believe it's to show their child that they are fully invested in their education.
Parents who show up to Parent Teacher Night are sending a message to their child that education is important and I'm here to support that. I'm here to help you get to where you can be. I'm taking time out of my schedule to look at what you're doing every day for six and a half hours.
So it's not about the 95. It's about taking an afternoon off from work and waiting in line to talk to a teacher for seven minutes because that's how important this is.
So thank you parents, for being here.