Avast, Me Hearties! I be readin’!

Photo Credit: Erminig Gwenn via Compfight cc

So, I’ve spent my summer reading.  Some “beach reads” but also some good professional stuff, like Damian Cooper’s Redefining Fair and Ruth Culham’s  6+1 Traits of Writing for the Primary Grades.  But I’ve recently started a new read and I was sold on the book before I even got through the introduction because of a part of a paragraph that I LOVED!

If you know me, you know that I have a pink skull and crossbones sticker and a “Pirate Girl” sticker on my vehicle.  I think pirates are cool.  I love celebrating Talk Like a Pirate Day (when my Grade Two students mutinied the Vice Principal’s office last year, in fact!) and I smuggled a whole lotta Pirate Paraphernalia onto a houseboat a couple of years ago for our annual family reunion and made everyone honorary pirates!

So, while browsing http://www.amazon.ca a couple of weeks ago I stumbled onto this book:

and I HAD to have it.  Because even if it was a crappy book, it’d still look hella cool on my bookshelf!

Now, in all honesty, I have only started the book, so I haven’t gotten far enough into it to make any judgement on the overall content but as I got near the end of the Introduction, on page xii, I found the following paragraph and I found an amazing description of how I teach.

Pirates are daring, adventurous, and willing to set forth into uncharted territories with no guarantee of success.  They reject the status quo and refuse to conform to any society that stifles creativity and independence.  they are entrepreneurs who take risks and are willing to travel to the ends of the earth for that which they value.  although fiercely independent, they travel with and embrace a diverse crew.  If you’re willing to live by the code, commit to the voyage, and pull your share of the load, then you’re free to set sail.  Pirates don’t much care about public perception; they proudly fly their flags in defiance.  And besides, everybody loves a pirate.

I’ll get back and post my thoughts about the book after I’ve finished it but really, that quote alone was worth it for me.

And just a reminder:  Talk Like a Pirate Day is on September 19.  If ye be in the area of me pirate crew on the day, bring us a handful o’ doubloons and join our motley group.  Fare ye well.  ‘Till th’ morrow.  Arrgggggg!

(And the family pirate tradition continues. . . note the Jolly Roger hanging during our family reunion this summer!)

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UPDATE:  I finished this book a long time ago.  It’s excellent!  Lots of great ideas to create engaging, exciting lessons to hook our students and create enthusiasm in our classes.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who is feeling in a bit of a teaching slump or to pre-interns and interns who are trying to create amazing lessons.   I’ve also recently discovered that there is a whole Teach Like a Pirate (TLAP) community out there.  Check out the Twitter Chat on Monday evenings at 7 p.m. #tlap.  Amazing group of educators with fantastic ideas to share.

Digital Reality check

 Photo Credit: MO3-2005 via Compfight cc

 

My 13 year old son: Hey, Mom. Whatcha doin’?
Me: Checking out Twitter.
MTYOS: Anything new?
Me: Practically everything. But some of the same. Promise me you will never forget that anything you put on the Internet stays there forever as a reflection of you.
MTYOS: (May have rolled his eyes here a li’l bit.) Moooooooooom. I *knooooow*. (Yes. We have had this conversation before.)
Me: Okay, let me show you something…

I took my son through a couple of exchanges that someone I follow on Twitter had had and we talked about how that person was perceived. I’ve never met the man in person and only started following him around the time of a local election. My son’s reaction was as it should be, based on what I have tried to teach him and what I have tried to model for him. He was absolutely shocked. “Mom! That guy swears a lot and he seems to be picking fights with everyone. He is not being very respectful, at all! What is his problem?”

I think that seeing someone, an adult, making such a poor online identity for himself was shocking to my son, even at his age of Just Barely A Teenager. And this will springboard into more conversations around digital identity and citizenship. I wonder how this man’s spouse feels about his words and choices of interactions? Is she embarrassed? Does she feel the same way? This man is regularly called names and ridiculed and heckled for what he posts on line because he is very inflammatory and often disrespectful. Two wrongs and all that…

How will negative interactions such as these affect the posters of them? I bet it’s easy to put on a brave online face and respond (or not) to the hecklers but does the anonymous trash-talking get to a person?

I’d love to sit him down and have a talk about social media as I see it and how he is perceived by what he posts but I have a feeling it wouldn’t do any good.  I will keep talking to my children and my students about it.  And hope that it will, in fact, have a positive effect on them.

Photo Credit: ~Ilse via Compfight cc

 

Confession:

I am easily distracted.

CC via: net_efekt

My students are treated to that little bit of information on a daily basis when we start talking about one thing in class and we get off on a tangent and just keep going.  And going.  And going.  And that’s okay with me.  My family is treated to this when I find a great home decor item in a store and suddenly a whole room is transformed.  And my spouse knows this about me because our storage room is filled with my past ‘distractions’: stained glass supplies, card-making materials, stamping bins, cake-making/decorating items.

I see something I am interested in and I jump in.  Which explains how I have come to have enrolled myself in #ETMOOC, a MOOC around educational technology and media.  Whenever I find something like this that I just *have* to do, I go through the initial excitement and enthusiasm and can’t wait to get started.  Now that I have received the  confirmation information and the schedule and the first ‘assignment,’ I will move onto the next part of my MO, panic and anxiety.

The second guessing has begun:  Will I have time to do this?  What if I suck at it?  What if I have nothing good to contribute?  I need to remind myself that this is an opportunity to learn through self-directed goals and activities.

I am looking forward, mostly, to watching  and learning from the big brains who are part of this activity.  I am  hoping to share a thing or two that I might know and I am really hoping that this makes me an educator even more comfortable with using technology with my students to encourage their engagement and quest for lifelong learning.

Let’s do this thing.

My dog could blog

Well, hello! It’s been forever since I have posted anything and I am thinking it’s time for me to get back to blogging. I remember the enthusiasm I had when I first started this blog…I had *too much* to say and loved the feeling of getting my thoughts out there…wherever that is. I think it is important for me to start writing again and now that I am on summer holidays, I hope to have a bit more time to do that.

But to address the title of this post:

Recently, I took my dog, a Goldendoodle named Darby, to stay with a friend while we were away for a bit. I’d like to share an email that Darby sent to me (True story, although I do suspect my friend, Tanis, helped her with the big words.) after being with my friends for a short twelve hours:

Hello humans!

Well, it is a good thing that I am over here with these other people – they are so strange!!!

First off, they have a cat living here. Umm hmmm. AND the other dog that lives here hasn’t done anything about it! Thank goodness I showed up! I chased that stoopid cat down into the basement.

Then, as I was feeling out of sorts, the humans here took me and the other dog Khaleesi to the park. I met a great dog named Charlie (a labradoodle) and we ran and ran. But when I jumped into the mud to show Charlie and Khaleesi how fun it was and then ran to the human to tell HER about it she screeched really loud, so I jumped on her because I thought she needed my assistance. I mean really! Why screech if nothing is wrong? I thought she was hurt. The other human laughed laughed. Then we left the park. When we all got home, the humans made me have a bath – which was okay. But I am really tired so I’m going to sleep in my kennel.

Good night and I’ll try to write more tomorrow. Drive safe!

Doggy kisses,
Your dog Darby

I think my dog could have a blog…she writes well, right?

Looking forward to sharing more, soon. I have been on a temporary teaching contract since Easter this year and really enjoyed the opportunity. I am pleased to say that I have accepted a full time teaching position for the fall and am looking forward to having a classroom of my own. I hope to have much to draw from to share on this blog.

Enjoy the summer, everyone!

Oh, Darby included the following picture. She’s a very tech savvy dog, I guess.

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Stars are Born!

I believe that we can engage children and have them truly own and demonstrate their learning success by incorporating multimedia learning in the classroom. This belief was reinforced by a few projects that I worked on with a class of Grade One students who I had the pleasure of working with for the past six weeks.

Anytime a child believes he has an audience for his ‘performance’ he will be more engaged and concerned about his production and success. Tell a child that she will be in a movie or on a poster and her eyes will light up. Kids are natural performers. Even the reluctant, shy ones will smile and be excited when they see themselves on the screen or in print.

One of the first activities we did was to create a ‘number hunt’ where the kids had my camera and were in charge of walking around the school to find things that were found in groups of one, two, etc.. After the pictures were taken, I used Sliderocket to put together a presentation that we shared with our class, another class and with the parents and guardians by sending the URL home for them. I was also able to download it and print it so that after it was laminated it became a popular book for the children to read to themselves, reinforcing both counting and number words. Relating to their own environment and relevant objects was important.  You can see our presentation HERE.

On Groundhog Day, we used Wallwisher to record the information that we had learned about groundhogs and the traditions around the day. The kids were thrilled to see their names being recorded on the screen and they again shared the URL with their families at home to re-read and share. We used Wallwisher again when doing a KWL session on nutrition, food,  and reasons that we eat.

We made Photovisi presentations that we printed out to record our 100th day of school activities and our Valentine’s Day fun. The picture stories with their photos were great for retelling events, ordering events and sharing with our school community and children’s homes.

The most fun we had was producing our very short YouTube video showcasing the digraph /sh/. Going through the process of learning about the sound, watching similar project videos by Kathy Cassidy’s students, brainstorming words, preparing our ‘props’, and then the steps of actually producing our video was intriguing, interesting, and motivational. The video was put together using Movie Maker and uploaded to YouTube. The kids felt like superstars! The joy and pride on their faces while watching the finished product was proof that they were invested in it. They truly had tried their very best, knowing that they would have an audience beyond the immediate classmates and teacher. Sharing the product with their parents and guardians was an exciting event!

These kids were amazing writers, actors, directors and producers. They had not had experience with creating these kinds of multimedia presentations and they were eager to be a part of it. Their enthusiasm and pride was evident and they were completely engaged in learning to share what they knew. These projects were fun and engaging and these children were truly ‘stars.’ The knowledge that they could have an audience beyond their classroom was motivating for them. Their desire to show what they knew and teach others was a huge source of pride. They were superstars and I am very proud of them!

This particular school does not have many technological resources. In a Kindergarten to Grade Eight school with approximately 550 students they have 30 laptops for the whole school and one computer per classroom. There are 4 additional computers in the resource center and one interactive whiteboard housed in a Grade 8 classroom. These could be considered limitations but the amazing projects that we were able to create are proof that there are some wonderful tools that allow us to incorporate learning and technology for kids to create with.

The problem that I have seen isn’t a lack of tools but seems to be a lack of teacher engagement with these tools. Is it fear of the new tools or an unawareness of the tools? How do we get more teachers to see the benefits of their use and to take the risk to try them?

You did *what* today?

Dear Daughter,   I am writing this blog post cautiously because  you are 7 now but someday you may read it and be all like, “Mooooooooooooooooooom!  Did you *have* to blog about this?!? OH. EM. GEE.  You are *so* embarassing me!” 

But it’s a great story.  It demonstrates both your spirit and your independence and your refusal to follow norms.  It also shows what an amazing teacher you have right now, and I think both of you deserve this public shout-out.   So, here goes.  

I hope you realize how proud I am of you.

Love, Mom

Friday morning, my daughter got dressed:  thick black cable-knit tights, white tee-shirt under a very cute black and white sweater dress with a tie-belt (trust me, these are important details for the story).  She looked adorable as usual, and off to school she went.

Fast forward to 4:15 when we are discussing her school day.

Me:  So, how was the day?

Her:  Great!  The only thing was that I had to take *this* off for gym.  (She tugs at her belt on her sweater dress)

Me:  What do you mean?  Was your belt in the way?

Her:  No.  I was hot.  So I took it off.

Me: *blink blink*  You took your *whole* dress off in gym time?

Her:  Yes.  I.  Was. Hot. (Speaking as though I was not understanding the gravity of the gym-situation)

Me:  You know you aren’t wearing leggings today, right?  Those are tights?  Kind of like long-underwear?  You ran around in just your tights and your t-shirt?  (Secretly hoping that she actually had her shirt on – pleasepleasepleaseplease.)

Her:  Oh.  Well, whatever.  I was hot.

I sent the following email to her fabulous Grade Two teacher:

Sooooooooooo, My Daughter informed me that she got hot in gym today and stripped her dress off and ran around without it.  She thought she had leggings on. I will, in the future, discuss with her the difference between “leggings” and “tights.” So embarrassed. Me. Not her. 😉 Have a great weekend!

She sent me back the following email:

She didn’t miss a beat and nor did any of her classmates.  With fashion being the way it is today none of us thought anything about a sweet little girl going hard in a tank top and tights!!  Rock on!  I did have a little chuckle though when she went to the side-lines and was working up a sweat wriggling out of the outfit.  You just gotta love it.

And this is why they need  a shout out.  My daughter is independent, practical and yet the biggest dreamer I know.  And her teacher, Maureen Taylor, is the most caring, unflappable woman I could hope for to teach my daughter. All children should be so lucky to have experiences and educators like Mrs. Taylor.  Parents appreciate it so much.

After we get over the initial shock. 😉

Her Amazing Spirit

I want to dislike them, I do. But I can’t.

Lego toys are always a huge draw for my kids and my 11 year old son’s bedroom often looks like a Lego Factory threw up in there.  We have regular Lego sets, Star Wars stuff, Harry Potter, Ninjago, random other sets and the compatible, yet different, Bionicles.  It’s embarrassing how much Lego we have, actually.

The kids play together very well and often and my 7 year old daughter happily joins her brother in building and playing in the imaginary worlds and stories that are spun together based on the pieces that we have.  There are outer space battles, explorations and adventures in futuristic worlds.

My kids and I visited a Toys R Us store this afternoon for the first time since way  before Christmas and as usual, the Lego section was the first stop for us.  It was there that we were confronted with our first look at the new Lego “Friends” sets that are ‘targeted’ towards girls by their marketing.  There are houses and cafes, inventors’ workshops and veterinarians.   There are tree houses and cars.  The characters are not the typical ‘mini-figs’ but are closer to ‘realistic,’ and currently include 5 girls with different appearances.

I want to dislike them.  I want to rant and rave and rail against the Lego company for marketing strictly to girls, assuming that they need a more gender-specific toy to play with as opposed to regular Lego.  I talk to my daughter about how she can be anything she wants to be and I don’t encourage or discourage her to play with whatever toys she is drawn to.  I don’t refer to ‘boys” toys or ‘girls” toys.  And given the fact that that little girl can wield a lightsaber and hold her own playing Batman Lego on the Wii, she has no preference or aversion for toys that are clearly marketed to boys.

There is a lot discussion on the internet on blogs, message boards and Twitter, much of it from parents who are disgusted and angered that Lego is marketing a ‘stereotypical’ scenario to our girls.  I thought I would share the anger.  Then we saw the pink and purple “Friends” boxes today.

My daughter *freaked* *out* when she saw them and she chose to spend her own money on the outdoor cafe set and the extra character set with a dog house and a puppy.  When we got home and she tore the box open, happily following the instructions to build the sets herself, she was in her glory. The sets contained things she was familiar with and could create stories about.  Her ‘friends’ went for ice cream and owned a cafe.  They looked after their pets and cooked hamburgers together.  And when the Lego Ninjago minifigs showed up with their 11 year old ‘puppeteer,’ they cheerfully ordered milk shakes and then picked up the attached broom and helped out at the shop.

I don’t hate them. I can’t rant and rail against Lego.  If they were creating “Housewives of the 50’s” minifigs, I’d be freaking out, but for now, I see the happiness that my daughter has shown playing with her new toys and I know that I will continue to raise her in a way that lets her know that I am confident that she can make her own decisions and that people and companies won’t tell her what she will like to play with.  I don’t see people railing and ranting against Lego for marketing the Harry Potter and Star Wars and Ninjago sets towards boys.  And make no mistake, they do.  What’s the difference between this marketing and marketing fighting, battle-type toys to boys?  Perpetuating a stereotype of a different kind, no?