Surface to the Rescue

Every teacher knows how frustrating it is to teach at the front of the room, tethered to the computer without ability to move around freely.  Sometimes you need to walk around the room and help students, without having the lesson come to a complete stop. Not any more, at least not for me! My FREE new Surface Pro4 is here to rescue me!

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Yes, I did say FREE. In December I submitted my application to become part of the 2016 MIE Surface program. The purpose of the program is to learn and share how the Surface and digital inking can evolve the teaching and classroom experience at Cougar Ridge Elementary. In early March I received the news that my application was approved.

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In late April my Surface Education Training Kit arrived. I put the box at the front of the library and waited to see if any of the students noticed.

One class came and left. Not.a.word. The next group of 5th graders came in. Within 15 minutes one of the girls asked me what was inside the box. A couple other students asked too. They got to be the ones to open the box. They were even more excited than I was!

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The box was filled with the typical promotional goodies like posters and a wrist bracelet USB filled with information I will be able to use in the classroom.

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Want to know the VERY  best part?  I am able to  connect my Surface to my projector. What’s more – I did it myself. Once our district tech person gave me the directions, I was determined to figure it out. It took me an hour, and some frustrating moments, but as you can see, IT WORKS!

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Having the ability to move around the room, between tables and anywhere I want with a device is priceless. I don’t do it for every class, but love the ability to use it as I need it.

Am I an expert? No way. I’m working through the tutorials, so I’m definitely not an “expert” by any stretch. However, I am learning from the Microsoft materials, colleagues, social media groups, Surface group connection calls, and from good old trial and error. I like it. A LOT! Especially the new digital pen. I’ll have more stories coming in the months to follow, but right now I am one happy Surface educator! Thank you Microsoft!

 

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Become a Microsoft Expert Educator

If you’ve read my blog very much, you already know that I’ve been part of the Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator program since 2012. I firmly believe that I would not be the teacher I am today with the skills I have developed without this program. I connect with educator friends both in the US and around the world. No you won’t get paid with dollars, but you will get paid with amazing experiences that will change your life both professionally and personally.

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The Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator program is an exclusive program created to “recognize global educator visionaries who are using technology to pave the way for their peers for better learning and student outcomes.”

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What do MIEs do? We work closely with Microsoft to lead innovation in education. We give feedback on new products and tools. We advocate for effective use of technology in the classroom. We collaborate to develop new lessons and project ideas that bring promote optimal student learning. We develop life-long friendships. And often we have fun!

The self-nomination applications for 2016-2017 are now open! I urge you to view this Sway and find out more about the program and then send in that application. Find all the details and the application you need by clicking here. If you have questions, please contact me. I would be happy to answer any of your questions.

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/education/educators/miee/default.aspx

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Learning without Borders

This has been a very special couple of weeks for our books to Africa program.Our international reading project was featured in the first issue of Microsoft’s Innovative Educator magazine last week. This magazine is filled with stories, tips and helpful information from teachers. Our article is on page 35 and showcases the impact this project has had on  the teachers and students receiving these books.

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Technology really works wonders with tearing down the classroom walls and bringing the world inside our classrooms. Last week we Skyped with some of the students at Pula Madibogo Primary School. We shared facts, we had an impromptu recorder mini-concert and students shared poetry they had written.
Seeing the faces of the students 10,000 miles away made the connection personal and real for the students on both sides of the world. Suddenly they understood how relevant our project is and how we both benefit from it.

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Next week we are Skyping with Thejane Malakane in Maseru, Lesotho using his mobile phone. He doesn’t have internet at his school, but he doesn’t let that inconvenience stop him. A phone with a camera can bring us together as well. In a few days 300 more books will arrive at Thejane’s school where the students will use them for lessons and free reading. It would be quite the miracle if they arrived in time for us to  see his students open these boxes.

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I sent off 4 boxes on April 30th.   As you can see below, the box went from Issaquah, to Kent, to New York, then Dubai, Johannesburg and hopefully to Maseru for its final stop. The tracking information is so helpful because I can see where the boxes are, if they are together and when they arrived at the destination. Sometimes communication between the post office and the schools needs a boost, so I try to let teachers know when the books are there.

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Whether they get there in time for our call or not, we are having a great time packing up and sending off the boxes. We raised about $1500 and roughly speaking that means we will be able to send about 1500 books this year. Since our program started I estimate we have sent about 6,000 books to Africa. We are changing lives one book at a time!

 

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Singing with John Farrell

The singer/songwriter John Farrell entertained our kindergarten students this week with a fun program promoting peace, friendship, books, fun animals and caring.

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Everyone participated with hand movements and singing about ants, libraries, feelings and other fun topics. Here is a short video of his visit.

I am so grateful that John was able to visit our school and I could finally meet him face to face.John Farrell is also the founder of “Bridges of Peace and Hope,” an international, non-profit organization of teachers and students dedicated to promoting education and understanding through collaborative, creative arts exchanges and service learning projects. I joined the Bridges of Peace and Hope non-profit group in 2015, but hadn’t met John yet. When I went to Budapest, some other members and I visited a school also very involved with the program.

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Now I’m looking forward joining the “We Care Because We Care” book project. I think it would be an awesome addition to our Books to Africa project.

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John Farrell has fabulous school programs. If you would like to learn more, visit his website http://johnfarrell.net/ or the Bridges of Peace and Hope website. http://www.bridgesofpeaceandhope.info/

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More Poetry to Celebrate

For National Poetry Month, my students have been composing poetry individually and in groups and sharing them in our Global Poetry Unites Project OneNote notebook.

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This notebook is kept online and is a way for students to share their writing with a global audience. We have poems published from different US states, as well as Canada, Spain and South Africa.

Here are some of the 5th grade Origami Inspired poems:

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My dream is to have at least one poem from students in each continent, but it may be a bit of an ambitious dream! These are busy times, and teachers often don’t feel that they have the extra time to take one more step and publish their student work. I understand their feelings. I get completely overwhelmed at times as well.

Yet, that one step to bring social media into their classrooms, is one that may make all the difference in the world to a student. In a recent blog post, 10 Cools Ways Teachers Bring Social Media into their Classrooms, Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) showcases how different teachers use social media to make sure their students have a voice. I urge you to read her post and then visit the classrooms where teachers are harnessing the power of social media. In particular, view the PS22 Chorus video and see how these children know in their hearts that the work they are doing matters for one of their teachers. (have a hanky nearby) Yes, I’m honored to be included with such an amazing group of educators.

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I know that when I show my students their poems in our notebook, there are always quite a few who smile and are excited to see their work. They like just as much to read the poems others have written. They keep asking if other teachers will join in. I keep telling them I hope so.

If you have student poems that you would like to publish in our notebook, click on this link. Publishing on OneNote is easy and there are step-by-step directions to guide you. We are looking forward to reading your student poems! Happy writing!

 

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Sports Section Makeover

Since the winter break I have been focused on updating the non-fiction area of our library to make it easier for students to access the books they want in a quick, independent and efficient manner. I wrote about the first part of the process in this blog post.

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Last week I finished the Sports Section. My library assistant changed the call numbers on the books and in the system and I worked on the re-design of the shelves.  To make space, I weeded, weeded and weeded some more. If a book was published before 2000, it had to have a really good reason to be kept on the shelf. Otherwise, it got the heave-ho to the weeding pile. The extensive weeding gave me four shelves to use for our new Sports Section.

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All call numbers have the Dewey number 796 and then the three letters following that are the actual sport.  796 BAL for Ballet  796 FOO for Football books. I used dividers I purchased from Demco and made labels for each sport. The bottom shelf got tricky as the dividers don’t work there. Instead we found old VCR plastic boxes, wrapped them in some paper and added the label on the outside. It’s not perfect, but until I figure out a better way, it works for now.

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If you look closely you may find a few books that don’t have the new call number label yet. Instead of waiting, we moved forward and will catch up this week on the few remaining titles.

The student reaction proved immediately that the work was worth the trouble.

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One girl exclaimed, “I didn’t know we had camping books! My family loves to go camping!” The camping books are checked out and have gone home with a happy student.

The labeling system worked well with my young, intermediate and ESL students. The clipart and the sport clearly indicate each sub-section of sports books. I also found holes in my collection. We have a LOT of baseball books, but absolutely no track and field books. I don’t think I would have easily figured that out without this system in place.

Of course, this is a work in progress. We need to go back to the land mammals and finish that up. I had the chance to visit the library in Budapest that I based the system on. I’ll be writing more about that in an upcoming post.

 

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Global Poetry Unites Project

Happy April! I am launching a brand new project today called the Global Poetry Unites Project. I hope you will join me in celebrating the wonder of poetry during the month of April and beyond.

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I’ve had the great fortune to attend three major conferences this year. In the fall, I went to our state librarian conference in Yakima, Washington. In February I attended the NCCE conference in Seattle. Then in March I had the opportunity to participate in the Microsoft E2 conference in Budapest, Hungary.

Some common themes emerged from all three conferences. From fellow teachers and librarians I learned that teachers need to:

  • Collaborate with other teachers beyond our classroom and building walls
  • Give our students a global voice to show them that their work matters
  • Provide opportunities for students to create while learning
  • Remind students that failure is really an opportunity to learn, not something to be feared

I was particularly struck by this slide at the E2 conference. It made me stop to think about how I could expand what I am doing in my library classroom to the next level.

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I believe the E2 conference gave me the final push to innovate in a different way. Inspired by global projects I’ve seen other teachers and librarians start, I decided it’s time to try something new with one of my favorite units – poetry.  I decided I would like to try a crowdsourced project. A project like this would help students meet both Common Core and American Association of School Librarian Standards (AASL), build connections and leverage technology to enhance my poetry unit.

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While I think I am a bit of a risk-taker, this new project is a gigantic step down a brand new tech road. I have never started a global, crowdsourced project. I was at the tulip fields this weekend and was intrigued by how stunning they are in these giant fields. As in the photo above, I don’t know if the project will be numerous teachers coming together to create something wonderful, or the empty trough dry and barren. I was so nervous at one point, that I had to reach out to some fellow teachers to get feedback on whether this idea had any merit at all. Thankfully they all encouraged me to take the leap.

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This Jamie Foxx quote is so appropriate. My greatest fear is that the project will be a complete flop and nobody will participate. And…the fear is all in my head. If this project flops, then so what? Nobody will be hurt. Also, if I am going to ask my students to take risks in their learning, then I need to make sure I take some big ones myself and remember what it feels like.  If the project succeeds, then a community of teachers and students will have a new way to share their love of writing and poetry.

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The Global Poetry Unites Project is a group project where teachers can publish their student poems. In the US, April is the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month. I would love to see the celebration of poetry be a worldwide movement, hence the reason for launching this project in April. I understand that sometimes students and teachers are intimidated by writing poetry, so I have included some sample lessons for you to try in your own classroom. We are not analyzing anything. We are creating and sharing new ways to communicate through verse and technology.

Please join in the project. Spread the word. My goal is to have teachers from every continent participate! Access the Global Poetry Unites Project OneNote Notebook here. Teach some poetry lessons in April and share your student work in our OneNote Online Notebook. Give your students a voice and let us all celebrate! The Global Poetry Unites Project link will take you to our crowd sourced notebook.

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I have designed the project to be primarily for teachers within the Microsoft Educator Community because I am very involved with the group. However, if you are reading this post and wish to participate, feel free to do so. The project is built with OneNote Online and is cloud based. Anyone with internet can access the notebook with any device. All I ask is that you take care and respect one another’s work. The instructions are in the beginning of the notebook. If you have any questions, please ask them on the Feedback page. I’ve also created a #gpup16 hashtag to follow on social media.

Maybe when you see the work of students and teachers around the world, you will be inspired to join the Microsoft Educator Community. Click on this link to see how you can connect and collaborate around the world and gain easy access to lessons created by educators for educators.

So, what do you think? Are you willing to participate and give your students a voice? As Angela Maiers says, “You are a genius and the world needs your contribution!” I hope you will give your students the opportunity to share their genius with us in our poetry project.

 

 

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Fun Animal Research

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To correlate with my library curriculum, Common Core Standards,  and our Books to Africa project, my second graders have been researching facts about land mammals in South Africa. We used our library iPads, the database PebbleGo (I LOVE PebbleGo!!!) and the app ChatterPix (aka ChatterKid).

I am thrilled with the results because the kids were highly engaged through each stage of the process, including the end where they got to record their mini-report on ChatterPix. I documented the process in this Sway.

If you are interested in making a Sway, check out this link. I love Sways because they are incredibly easy to make and embed in blogs without hassles.

This is my first experience with using iPads in the classroom and as with any project it came with its own set of problems because of my learning curve. I really wish there was a way to transfer files with a USB. After working out how to get files from five different iPads to my iPad (thank you Dropbox), I found one BIG area for improvement next year. I have five second grade classes and the video management quickly became very complicated. Next year I will definitely limit each class to an indepth study of one animal. Lesson learned!

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Food for the Teaching Soul

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It’s been nearly two weeks since the E2 conference ended in Budapest, Hungary. I was one of nine teachers from the US who joined about 275 educators from around the world at this conference. Many people have asked about this experience and yet, words like amazing, unbelievable or fantastic don’t capture the experience adequately.

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With the climate of teacher bashing so prevalent in the US, going to a conference where teachers are celebrated and treated as rockstars, feels like you’ve stepped into a magical make believe world.

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Instead of being questioned about every choice we make in the classroom because someone wants to tear it apart, E2 teachers are questioned about how Microsoft can improve their products to make them work even better for teachers and students.

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The excitement of this extraordinary group of educators in one place is infectious. Cameras flash non-stop, OneNote cape selfies abound, and teachers can get pretty silly.

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Yet, the conference is work…hard brain work. The lightning fast boot stomping of the Hungarian dance group, Varidance, set the tone for the week.

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We listened to the Microsoft corporate Vice-President of Central and Eastern Europe and a member of the European Parliament speak about the importance of teachers.

A panel of speakers discussed how Minecraft has a role in today’s classrooms. In fact, Minecraft was present in breakout sessions, keynote speeches and table conversations. I’m not a gamer, but after hearing how playing Minecraft can enhance student learning, I am interested in learning more about how it can be utilized in the library classroom.

The theme of Hack the Classroom defined our collaborative team work. We had to design a classroom hack in an assigned persona: Gamify, Personalize, Minimize, Simplify and Strategize. Our Hack had to be shared in an Office Mix and couldn’t be over 3 minutes long. Each teacher was assigned to a team, where we had to find a common problem and a solution to it.

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Oh yes, and it had to be done quickly, with teachers who speak different native languages. These team challenges are part of the magic of the conference. Everyone is thrust into a collaborative situation that is difficult, and yet the experience breaks down barriers.

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After a couple days of intense meetings, new connections are launched. I am still friends with the members of my team when I attended the Global conference in Barcelona. I hope the same holds true from my Budapest team.

One of our American team members was part of the winning Hack the Classroom team. Here is their classroom hack.

I especially liked the breakout sessions on a variety of topics led by fellow teachers. It’s one thing to hear about a product from a developer’s point of view. It’s invaluable to listen to a teacher model how that product can be successfully used in the classroom. Like at any conference,there wasn’t enough time to attend all the sessions I wanted to visit. I did really enjoy the sessions on using Sway and OneNote Class Notebook. I really hope these tools will be available for my students to use at home. The ability of Office Lens to take photos of documents where you can then store them in OneNote was really intriguing. The Office Mix add-in also offers new tools for recording information within the familiar context of Powerpoint. It’s exciting to see how the new tools can enhancing lessons.

We could also take some of the Microsoft certification tests if we wanted. Taking an intense test was a good reminder of the difficulty it can be for our students. The Microsoft Certified Educator exam tests whether educators have achieved technology literacy competency in six content areas, mapped to the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers, Technology Literacy:

  • Education policy
  • Curriculum and assessment
  • Pedagogy
  • ICT/technology tools
  • Organization and administration
  • Professional development

The tests takes 90 minutes and I was very excited to learn I had passed. Whew!

During the second day keynote address, Anthony Salcito, the Vice President of the World Wide Education team emphasized the mission of the Microsoft Education team.  We had a chance to Skype with an Arctic Explorer and hear what it’s like to live in such a harsh climate.

On the last day came my favorite part of the conference – the Learning Marketplace! Each educator set up a trifold poster detailing the project they focused on at home with their students. The trick is to be at your booth to meet other educators and tell them about your project AND move around the room meeting others and hearing their stories.

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I visited as many booths as I could, but it’s never enough. If I could get my wish, we would have some Learning Marketplace time every day of the conference. More time with colleagues allows for more indepth conversations with each other. This is my third experience at this type of Microsoft conference. The Learning Marketplace has been the highlight of the trip every single time. Getting a new perspective on how to use tools is invaluable. We all bring these ideas home to try with our own students.

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The last evening of the conference was the celebration time. Dressed in fancy cocktail attire, we were bussed to the National Gallery of Budapest to spend the evening at the building that houses some of the most renowned Hungarian art. There was an award ceremony where the winners of the Hack the Classroom contest were announced. As each team hurried to the stage, with each member proudly carrying their national flag, we all cheered and clapped for the winners. Whatever national or cultural barriers might exist at home, have no place on the E2 stage. We are all one group of educators who want the best for our students.

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As a person who loves the written word, I feel inadequate to explain how this conference is the cherished food that fills my teaching soul. I encourage everyone to apply to become a Microsoft Expert Educator and experience the value that comes from collaborating globally with other passionate educators. Jordan Shapiro, an internationally recognized speaker, lecturer and journalist, who writes about global education and game-based learning published an outstanding article about E2 in this Forbes.com post.

Maybe this video will lend a taste of the excitement, that my words can’t convey. All I can say is Thank you Microsoft! Thank you for changing my life in 2012 when I became part of the MIE family and for each year since. You have taught me how to lead my students to take risks and achieve more through the use of technology.

You can find out more information on the Microsoft Educator Program by clicking on this link here.

 

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Student Smiles Tell the Story

We had some fabulous news recently from our partner teacher in South Africa! In late February we mailed off two boxes of books to Principal Phuti Ragophala and her students at Pula Madibogo Primary School in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.

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Earlier in February, my students raised $1400 in a coin drive to send as many books to our partner students as we could this year.

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The workers at the post office always tell me that it will take 7-10 business days for the boxes to arrive at their destination. Believe me – that’s never happened! More like 4-5 weeks is my experience! In any case, I saw this post on Facebook this week.

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The timing of the arrival was perfect actually. They arrived right before the school was going to close for the Easter holidays. The students were glad to have some books to take home to read during vacation!

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These smiles on their faces really tell the whole story.Students can make a difference in the lives of other students. They just need to be empowered to do it by their teachers and librarians.

How are you empowering your students to be global learners?

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