Travel the world and Never Leave Home

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My students and I  traveled around 30,000 miles today and we never had to get on an airplane thanks to Skype and the 2016 Skype-a-Thon!

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This is year two of Skype-a-Thon and by the end of day one, not thousands, but 3 million miles were traveled by students and teachers across the globe.

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My day started at 5:15 in the morning with fellow librarian Karey Killian and a group of 3rd graders asking questions about our Books to Africa program. She tried to have our partner teacher Thejane Malakane in Lesotho Skype with us,but he unfortunately had internet issues.

cybypx0usaeea2wThis call was followed by a quick connection with fellow MIE Phuti Ragophala in Polokwane, South Africa. When you see friends online, it’s almost as good as being there in person!

cybxypbviaazxiOnce school began, we had calls throughout the day. We tried to call Phuti again, and reached her, but again, couldn’t hold that call. So, almost as good, we left a video message asking her some questions.

Then it was a Mystery Skype session with a group of 5th graders and Sarah Loomis. The students played Mystery Skype and had to ask her through a series of yes or no questions where she was located. After hearing her American accent, they launched a series of USA oriented questions, but we had a trick up our sleeve. While she is American, Bryce figured out she was actually calling us from the Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany!

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After that I had a chance to play Mystery Skype by myself with Melanie LeJeune’s high school students in Louisiana. We worked hard to figure out the state, city and school where we were both calling from!

cydk8wjvqaepwcjWith some lunch to refuel, we were at it again all afternoon! My 3rd graders Skyped with Tammy Dunbar’s students in California. Tammy knows how to spark lots of fun into a Skype session.

tammyFor the very first time for both my second grade students and myself, we played Mystery Number. Using a 100’s chart, the students had to guess each other’s special number.

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Talk about developing critical thinking skills! My first class narrowed the number down in SIX questions –Wow! Thank you to Karina Bailey in Georgia and Hillary Chandler in Washington for playing with us.

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img_22091The first graders ended our day with a fun game of Mystery Animal with Ipec Tunca, a special visitor from Microsoft in California.

img_22161The children loved guessing her Mystery Animal was the turkey, not because of Thanksgiving, but because she was born in the country of Turkey!

By 3:00 we had logged a bit more than 35,000 miles in one day. That does not count the terrific Author Skype call we had yesterday with Tara Lazar. She and her special assistant read The Monstore to us. We found out being an author can mean you get to go to work in your home and wear your PJs.

img_21621The week isn’t even over, and we have connected three continents, and many children across the globe.

A few days ago we also Skyped with Blair Smith and his students in Australia for our first international mystery Skype. Because of the time differences, we played after school in Washington while it was morning in Australia.

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With more sessions later in the week, I know this won’t be a week we will soon forget. Learning about geography, math, teamwork, critical thinking, problem solving, digital citizenship, keyword searches and research ins ENGAGING and FUN with Skype in the Classroom!

Want to learn more? Visit the microsoft in education website and see how you can join in on the fun for FREE! Connect your students with the world and never leave your classroom. https://education.microsoft.com

 

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Advertising Books Thru Media

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Since 2012, my 4th grade students have created book trailers for favorite novels.  In the past four years these student trailers have had thousands of views. Video is an amazing way to promote reading and advertise fabulous books to other students.

We’ve also had the ability to connect with students around the world. For the past two years, we’ve partnered with Angels Soriano in Valencia, Spain. This year her students made hand-drawn book trailers of local fairy tales in their native Catalan language. You can view them here.

Here are the latest book trailers we have published. The students made them on Photostory3, which is a Windows 7 program for the PC. I hope they inspire you to go to your local library this summer and check out these books for some fun summer reading!

Dragon of the Red Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne

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City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

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People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau

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Wonder by RJ Palacio

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Nest by Esther Ehrlich

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A Dog’s Way Home  by Bobbie Pyron

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If you would like to read more about the trailers we have completed in the past with Angels Soriano, this Sway showcases our program in the 2014-15 school year. You can also find our complete list of book trailers at the top of this website on the Book Trailers tab.

 

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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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E2 Educator Exchange

BudapestHungaryOn Saturday I will be leaving Seattle for this fabulous city in this photo. Do you know which one it is?  I’ll give you a couple hints. Hint #1 – It’s not in North or South America, Africa, or Asia.  Hint #2 – It is a landlocked country. None of its borders touch an ocean or sea. Hint #3 – It is in the “EU” but uses its own money, called the Florint. Hint #4 – The Danube River flows between the two parts of the city.

Have you guessed it by now? Yes, this is a photo of Budapest, the capital and largest city in Hungary. I’m going there because in January I received this email invitation.

WIN_20160302_21_50_13_ProI was invited to participate and represent the United States as one of the 15 US teachers in the Global Educator Exchange. For three days I will be surrounded by some of the most creative and innovative educators from around the world. We will share our experiences, collaborate on projects and learn new techniques to integrate technology in our classrooms. Some of the event highlights include:

WIN_20160302_21_50_05_ProThe conference will be at the Corinthia Hotel Budapest. I don’t know anything about this hotel, but judging from the photos I’ve seen, it appears to be a beautiful example of restored Hungarian architecture.

53dabbe16dec627b149fee28_corinthia-grand-hotel-royal-budapest-budapest-hungary-106366-3 83_6ad013b2I also was invited to visit The American International School of Budapest on Monday with some other educators. We will be touring the school and talking to fellow teachers about their techniques. I am really looking forward to visiting the library of course!

When I travel I am always fascinated by what the money looks like. I got some Florints – their currency- from the bank. The money is beautiful!

WIN_20160302_21_51_26_Pro I’ve had a lot of questions about what the weather will be like. I can’t say I know for sure, but my weather app tells me that it will be in the high 50’s with mostly cloudy weather during the week. So, mostly like Seattle.

This week will be learning, learning, learning! I know I will return with a tired brain full of new ideas to share and try at Cougar Ridge. As much as I am able, I will share photos and blog. I will also tweet photos on our library Twitter account @CRidgeLibrary.

See you back at school on the 14th!

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Hour of Code Week

We just finished 5 days of Hour of Code week. Many of the teachers used the Hour of Code website and tutorials like Minecraft, Star Wars, Angry Birds, Ice Skating to promote in our school. I had countless questions about whether kids could do this at home too! Yes! Hour of Code doesn’t have to be something you do at school. You can experiment with the games at home too. Go to https://code.org/learn for lot of options.

Here’s a short video that Josh Moore, one of our district Tech TOSA, created about our Hour of Code activities.

Hour of Code 2015 from Tech Tosa on Vimeo.

 

In grades K-3 we focused on Robotics with our new Bee-Bots. A Bee-bot is an exciting new tool to teach robotics, sequencing, critical thinking, problem solving while having lots of fun! The children use directional keys to enter a sequence of commands, push GO! and send Bee-Bot on its path. The robot eyes light up and flash when it has finished its program. As the children became used to the commands, simple sequences became more and more complex as they guided Bee-Bot around the mats. The children learned programming skills and had a blast in the process.

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The Bee-bots are made in the UK and brought to the US by Terrapin Tools for Thinking which is, according to their website, one of the oldest and most experienced educational software companies. A huge shout out to Donor’s Choose and the Chevron Corporation for funding my grant!

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In the intermediate grades, we worked with the games on  https://code.org/learn.  Mr. Larry Golding, a Microsoft programmer and his wife helped us with the Minecraft, Star Wars and other games on the Hour of Code website.

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In the 5th grade classes we did some beta testing  with the BBC micro:bit devices. The BBC micro:bit is a very simple computer. It is programmed using another device like a computer, smart phone, tablet, etc to write the program, which is then compiled and downloaded onto the BBC micro:bit. The device has a display made up of 25 LED lights which light up when it runs the program.

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The purpose of the BBC micro:bit is to offer a gentle introduction to programming. It’s designed to be a starting point to get students interested in coding so they can move on to other, more sophisticated devices in the future.

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The BBC micro:bit is supported by Microsoft and we were very fortunate to have one of the programmers on the program, Michael Braun, bring the devices to our school as part of their beta testing. Michael and I know each other from the Microsoft Expert Educator program and it was so much fun to experiment with a device that isn’t even available to the open market yet.

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Our Hour of Code was a week-long introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics. All week long I repeatedly heard students cheering  “I did it!” as they successfully figured out a command sequence. Remember, it’s not limited to school. Try coding at home too!

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(Information obtained from  BBC micro:bits handout, Hour of Code, and Bee-bots websites.)

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Grateful for Stories

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What’s their story?

I was in California over the weekend with my husband and we had a surprise encounter with thousands of migrating monarch butteries wintering at a small grove of eucalyptus trees at Natural Bridges State Beach. We arrived when the sun was filtering through the leaves and warming the orange and black wings of these delicate creatures. Seeing thousands of butterflies wake up and begin fluttering through the grove filled me questions. Why are they there? How do they know where to go? Is one of the senior butterflies their director of story?

Seeing them made me think about the gala we attended on Friday evening and how I have a serious case of job title envy. My husband and I were at the Digital Innovation in Learning Award gala and heard the Karen Cator, the CEO of Digital Promise introduce the keynote speaker and his position within the company.  I thought I misunderstood what she said, and had to check the facts on their website.

Director of Story

Digital Promise believes in the power of story enough to actually have a person be a Director of Story. Not a Communications Director.  Not a Media Relations Specialist.

Director of Story.

I think that job title speaks volumes about the vision and uniqueness of this company whose dream is for all learners to have access to learning technology.

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And a storyteller he is. Marco Torres spent the next 20 minutes illustrating how math and music can integrate through GarageBand and iPad orchestra. Within minutes he had created a musical composition without ever touching a “real” instrument. Then he shared his story of how some students in Geneva, Switzerland saw a similar demonstration and then proceeded to make their own version of Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel. You can view this incredible piece here: https://vimeo.com/43162659

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What I took home from that gala event were the stories about amazing educators being recognized for doing amazing projects in their schools. Administrators bringing coding to entire school communities. Teachers finding ways to connect their students with peers around the world. Companies bringing cross-cultural and meaningful exchanges to school aged children. Everyone in the room had a story. Stories with heart. Stories with vision. Stories with children as the core element. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to participate in the DILA gala event as one of the honorable mention award winners in the Busting Boundaries category because I could share the story of how my students have worked to make our world better through generosity and literature. Their story deserves to be heard.

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That story and those of our partners in Africa will continue to be heard in 2015-16 within the Microsoft Expert Educator program. Educators around the world have been celebrating for the last week after receiving their congratulations letter. Me too.

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My letter highlighted a spectacular week – acceptance into this amazing program, the DILA gala, and a Skype call across continents with 120 students from different cultures. I am grateful for the opportunities Microsoft has opened for me to meet and collaborate with teachers around the world and close to home.

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I have been involved with the MIE program since 2012 and it has changed my life. I am not the teacher I used to be. I don’t regret the way I taught, but now I’m thrilled with how my lessons are evolving and integrating technology in meaningful ways. The world is coming inside my classroom without the need of a passport. This year my students will be making book trailers with students in Spain, writing cards and mini-stories with a teacher in Turkey, creating videos for students at a refugee camp in Kenya, plus continuing our Books to Africa program. All it takes is technology and a willingness to experiment and step outside the traditional box. I am not the extroverted person in the group and I certainly am not the most talented. I need quiet to re-charge my batteries and time to write. What I am willing to share is what my students want to say to the world. I am grateful that the MIE Expert Educator program has helped me find the voice for my students and myself through story, technology and education.

I am a teacher. I am a librarian. I am a Director of Story.

 

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Succeeding Through Failure

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I sent off our last shipment of books this week to our partner schools in Lesotho and South Africa. It’s been an incredible year of fundraising, gathering donations and shipments. We raised a total of $2088.50. Sent 23 boxes of books and 1545 books altogether.  Wow! Taking that final photo yesterday made me wonder what will get to South Africa first. The boxes or my suitcase???

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Yes, I’m going to South Africa! Woo-hoo!

We have been involved with our Books to Africa program for three years. During this time, I have had the chance to get to know the teachers we work with quite well despite the fact that we live thousands of miles apart.  I am immeasurably grateful to the Microsoft Expert Educator program, which connected me with our partner teachers. If not for that program, I know I never would have met these teachers.

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It’s been my wish for a couple years to visit the schools where we send books. I applied twice for a Fund For Teachers grant to enable me to go to South Africa to study children’s literature and extend our partnership. Twice I was turned down. The second time it really hurt. I had put hours and hours of effort into my application. I revised it with advice from members of last year’s committee. I submitted a draft this year and got valuable feedback on what would strengthen my application. I put everything I had into the application and it didn’t work.

When I told one of my classes I didn’t know what I would do if I wasn’t accepted, one of my students said, “Why don’t you go anyway?”  I had all sorts of excuses for why I couldn’t, and I stuck stubbornly to the belief that I would get the “You are a Fund for Teachers 2015 Fellow” letter that day.  When I  got “we regret to inform you” letter, I was crushed. Immediately I thought I was a failure. I had tried my best and I still failed. How could that be? I had a very big pitty party for myself all afternoon. Yet, the words, “Why don’t you go anyway” kept ringing in my head. 

I also thought about how we teachers  are role models for our students. If we can’t accept failure, learn from it and move forward, how can we ask our students to do the same? So, after finding some amazingly priced airline tickets, and the “I’ll be disappointed if you don’t go” message from my husband, I took that failure and turned it into a success story.

In exactly 9 weeks I will be boarding a plane and flying to South Africa to visit three of the schools and teachers that we work with on our project! I am so excited.
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First, I will fly into Johannesburg (purple circle) and spent a couple days visiting some historical sights and recovering from 26 hours of traveling. From there I will fly to Polokwane (formerly called Pietersburg). I will spend 4 days visiting Pula Madibogo Primary School. Phuti Ragophala, the principal of this public school is trying very hard integrate technology into the classroom and  make changes for her students. I will have the chance to teach some lessons and work with some of the area teachers about how to get students inspired to read.

From there, I will fly to Durban on the Indian Ocean coast. I will spend a week in this area and visit two or three more schools. Our partner school Highbury Preparatory School is here. This is an all boys private school located in Hillcrest, South Africa.

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They partner with Ndlokolo Primary School, a semi-rural school near the Inanda Dam in the Valley of a Thousand Hills outside of Hillcrest, South Africa. They have had a ten year relationship with Ndlokolo Primary School, sharing visits between the two schools for 7th graders, an annual Easter egg collection and food collection project designed to collect food for the numerous children who attend school without having had breakfast. They also deliver the books we send to Highbury Prep.

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I may also have the opportunity to visit the all girls school in the area as well. St. Mary’s School is in Kloof, South Africa and a short distance from Hillcrest. I’ve never actually visited an all girls or all boys school, so that experience will very different than school in Washington.

Words can’t really fully describe how much I am looking forward to this trip. I’ve never been to Africa or traveled this far by myself. It’s going to be an adventure of amazing proportions. I’m crossing my fingers that I will be able see some of the Big 5 animals (elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, and rhino) while I am there too.

Between now and July 15th, I’m trying to figure out what books to take and lessons to share. If you have any advice for me, please share it! There’s nothing worse about going on an adventure and then saying, “I wish I had thought of ….” or “I wish I had known….”. I will be sharing photos via social media and on this blog as much as I can or as internet cooperates. Look for the hashtag #bookstoafrica15

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What dog is in Sovenga?

Where is Dogzilla?

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I think the book Dogzilla is in Sovenga, South Africa! Yes, the hilarious book by Dav Pilkey was one of the books we sent to Mrs. Phuti Ragophala at Pula Madibogo Primary School, in the Limpopo Province.

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One of the boys read the book Dogzilla to me on Skype last night. Dav Pilkey, who wrote Dogzilla, is also the author of the Captain Underpants series. His books have been making children laugh for years!

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 Last evening at 11:15 pm, I skyped with Phuti, two of her teachers, Mohlake and Molepo, plus a classroom of students! They were so excited about the boxes of books we sent that they wanted to talk to us live on Skype. Here is are some photos from their classroom during our Skype visit.

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Four or five of the students read portions of one of their favorite books. Just being able to read aloud on Skype was a huge motivation to practice reading for these children. We are calling this project “TechnoReading!”

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In South Africa, the teachers call their students by a different term.They call the children learners. I like that word better than students. It just seems to say what we all do – we LEARN! I hope to Skype again this summer and then once school starts we will arrange for a call and a time when our students can participate. We will have to write a sing a song for our friends. They sent me a video on Facebook, but unfortunately I can’t figure out how to download it and post it on the blog. If we get the technology worked out, I will post it here.

The teachers have already asked for more books! I was sad to say that we have to wait until we raise more money for postage in the fall. Now I can’t wait for school to start again. Look at all the books on this cart that are waiting for new homes.

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Even Jett, Mrs.Daly’s dog helped out when she came up to the library to add to our book donation cart. Are you wondering where this school is located and where some of these books will go in the fall? Here is the general area where the school is located in South Africa.

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In case you were wondering also, how I could know someone 10,000 miles away from our school, I have the answer. Mrs. Ragophala and I met in March at the Microsoft Global Forum in Barcelona, Spain. We started talking about our projects, and she was very interested to hear that we send books to schools in South Africa. Before you know it, we added another school to our Books to Africa project!

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She was selected to attend for her project “Planting seeds” Changing lives! This project is about the different stages on how food is produced, technological tools that were used to enhance teaching and learning & how the lesson impacted learners and community members. She has been teaching for 27 years at Pula Madibogo Primary School, of which nine years being a principal.

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I hope you are as motivated to read as the students at Pula Madibogo Primary School. Who has already read 5 books this summer? Let me a comment and let me know!

Happy Reading! Mrs. Hembree

 

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Best of Barcelona

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Last week I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Microsoft in Education Global Forum held in Barcelona, Spain. The forum is a professional development event that gathers together educators and school leaders from around the world  sharing how we link everyday subjects like reading, science and math with  technology to make learning fun, engaging and memorable. In other words, I went to school for a week. The school it just happened to be in a really wonderful city, far, far away from here.

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I flew into Barcelona before the forum began to do some sightseeing with some of the other teachers from Team USA. We stayed at a hotel along a street called Las Ramblas. This street is really a long pedestrian walkway lined with people day and night.

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The first place we visited was Park Guell (Catalans pronounce it “gway”) and saw Barcelona’s famous dragon and colorful tilework by the artist Antoni Gaudi.

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The next day a group of teachers spent the day sightseeing. We first visited Sagrada Familia (Holy Family Church) which is a large, modern style church that began in 1883, and  is still under construction.  It’s a very modern, colorful structure, designed by the same person who did the tile work at Park Guell.

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At the top of many of the towers are colorful spheres that look a lot like candy, yet they are all made with tiles. I’ve never seen anything like these tower toppers!

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To get to the top of the towers, you take an elevator, but you must walk down the spiral staircase. You can’t got too fast, or you get dizzy!

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After we saw the cathedral, we walked to the Arc de Triomphe, which is a smaller version of a similar structure in Paris, France. There is a large walk area where street performers entertain the tourists, venders sell balloons, and teachers can get a little crazy.

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I also had the chance to visit a bookstore in the mall. I loved seeing Dork Diaries, Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid in Spanish. I came home with some books too. Stop by the library to see what I brought home for you to read.

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 On Tuesday, the conference began. The organizers welcomed everyone and then it was time for the teachers to set up  the teacher booths. Each teacher had a booth to use for showcasing their work. We hung posters and decorated our spaces so people who walked by could get a quick idea of each project. Our booths were arranged in alphabetical order by country. When you look at the top, you can see the name of the project and then the country of origin. We also were evaluated by a judge who met with us individually.

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Each project was given two judging times over the course of two days. A judge would come to your booth for 15 minutes and we had to present our “digital story” and then answer any questions the judge had. One of my judges was from India, and the other one was from France. I gave them the thank you cards the Books to Africa group made for them.

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It was a very busy time. When we weren’t being judged, most of us tried to go visit other booths to connect with other teachers and hear about different ideas. I met another teacher from South Africa who would like to be part of our Books to Africa project and a friend of Mr. Malakane in Lesotho, who is one of our partner teachers.

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When we weren’t being judged, we were listening to presentations or in classes about technology. Everyone had received a Surface RT, so it was fun the learn about some of the great apps we can use with it.

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We had a welcome reception that evening. Each country wore something to indicate their team. It was a lot like going to the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Some people had team jackets, others had hats, or scarves. We all had our special name tags that we had to wear everywhere we went. Team USA had red, white and blue shirts with USA across the front and our name on the back.

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In addition to the project judging was a learn-a-thon. Teams of teachers had about eight hours to create a student project using technology to solve a real-world problem . I was partnered with teachers from Belgium, Israel and Japan. We created a project called Trees Please, drawing attention to the problem of deforestation in China because 11 million acres of trees are cut down each year to make disposable wooden chopsticks. In the photo below you can see us hard at work.

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The next morning we took turns presenting our project to a panel of judges, including a student judge from the United Kingdom.

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After that we had some free time for sightseeing.  Mrs. Arnett, my teacher friend in Colorado, and I went to the beach and picked up seaglass and shells to bring home to our students. The Barcelona beaches are beautiful!

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The closing keynote, or assembly, had many inspirational speakers, including Felipe de Borbón y Grecia, Prince of Asturias.  Many of the teachers in Team USA, including me, sat right behind him. There is no question – we had some great seats!

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Whenever I travel I like to bring something back that reminds me of my experience. This time I returned with some sea glass, some shells, a few souvenirs and a signed copy of The Dot. Whenever I could, I asked fellow teachers in Barcelona to sign my copy. I wish I had everyone’s signature, but I just wasn’t possible. The message of The Dot is to make a mark and see where it takes you.

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The highlight of the last day of the Global Forum was a reception and dinner in the convention center, followed by an awards ceremony. I have never been to the Olympics, but I think this event closely matched what it must be like at the awards ceremony. As teachers from different nations proudly wore their flags and came to the stage for their awards, the rest of the room clapped and screamed in support. When they announced our team was the 1st runner up for the sustainability learn-a-thon, I was completely in shock. Someone wrapped the American flag around my shoulders and I headed down to the stage to accept the award with my team-mates. It was a moment I will never forget. Each of us is now looking forward to putting our project into action.

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The day after the forum ended, I got up early and went on a tour to a medieval village in the Pyrannes Mountains with Mr. Bergman and Mr. Wettrick, two other teachers from Team USA. Most of the day we hiked up through trails in the countryside and had a chance to step back in time and see a different side to Catalonia. I brought The Dot with me on the hike. This book helped begin our Books to Africa journey, and it needed to be with me at the end too!

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Now I am home, recovering from some serious jet-lag and thankful for the experience. I was reminded that sometimes life takes you down a path you never expect. If you are willing to join the journey, there is so much that can be learned. I spent a week with some of the most energized, innovative teachers from around the world and their stories have changed my life. Still, I couldn’t trade places with any of them because as Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “there’s just no place like home.” 

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Lastly, I know this isn’t directly student- related, but if you are a teacher reading this post, I urge you to join the Partners in Learning Network. It’s free to teachers and schools. You have access to all of the global forum teacher projects, free tools, professional development, and information about 21st century learning design. I hope you will join the network and apply for the 2015 Expert Educator program. I have had the opportunity to attend two Global Forums now, and I can whole-heartedly say the experience will change your teaching life. I am so grateful to Microsoft and humbled by the support of all the global educators I met. So long, Global Forum Barcelona! It was a great ride!

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