World Read Aloud Day 2017

Read Aloud. Change the World.

That’s the message of World Read Aloud Day. Today we celebrated the joy of reading — the joy of listening to a book and the joy of talking to authors.  We were so fortunate and we took action on behalf of the 758 million people who cannot read.

If you have visited my blog before, you know I’m passionate about spreading the love of reading throughout the world in events like this and through my Books to Africa Partnership. Today we Skyped with two authors- Dan Gemeinhart and Robin Yardi.

Dan Gemeinhart is the author of the middle grade novels, The Honest Truth, Some Kind of Courage and Scar Island.

Dan spoke to us from his home in Washington state and shared his reading and writing story to an audience of 4th and 5th graders. Nearly everyone in the room had read at least one of his books and they were completely enthralled with his presentation. Dan shared how he moved a lot when he was young, and while that was difficult, he found that he always had one thing no matter where he was….BOOKS!

Nobody could take away the stories from him and he always had a book in hand. In fact, like many authors and readers, he got in trouble for reading TOO much. Only readers know how painful it is to hear parents beg them to go outside and get stop reading. By second grade, he knew he wanted to be an author, but he didn’t do anything to make that dream come true until much later as an adult. His message that you have to make your dreams come true – that they don’t come true magically on their own was especially powerful. Even more powerful when that message is coupled with the fact that he had a very hard time getting published.

Dan was very candid about the fact that he wrote for 8 years and tried to publish 5 and I quote – “terrible” books, but was rejected 99 times! Then letter #100 came back with a big YES, and The Honest Truth came to life. Now there’s The Honest Truth, Some Kind of Courage and Scar Island with two more books in the works.

As soon as our call ended, there was a mad dash of students trying to be first to nab one of his books. You know it’s a successful author visit when you have to figure out a way to safely hand out books! thank you Dan for so generously sharing your story with our readers for World Read Aloud Day.

In the afternoon, we hosted Robin Yardi, author of The Midnight War of Mario Martinez and They Just Know: Animal Instincts.

Robin read They Just Know Animal Instincts to my Thursday 1st and 2nd grade classes in an interactive presentation. The students let Robin know when they saw silly and real illustrations as they read the story together.

Afterward she shared photos of cool animals like the pygmy seahorse and a species of bats. They learned the words adaptation and echolocation. she shared some of her new favorite books with us as well before we had to end our call. The children loved being to talk to an author almost in person. They were super excited to checkout their own book and bring it home. I am so grateful to the Microsoft in Education Skype in the Classroom program for our Skype visit with Robin.

World Read Aloud Day 17 is nearly over, but the message remains the same. We can all take action on any day to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people. We can all dream  and imagine a world where everyone can read. As Dan said in our call, dreams take work, and we can all make a difference.

Since I began celebrating in 2012, I’ve noticed the numbers of illiterate people advertised in the handout literature are going down. The handouts in 2012, stated there were 793 million illiterate people in the world.  The 2017 materials have 758 million people. That’s a reduction of 35 million in 5 years! We are making this dream come true for millions of people. Keep advocating locally and globally!

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Power of QR Codes

The power of a QR code has become crystal clear in the past few weeks. I’ve been working closely with a teacher who works with significantly learning disabled students. Each student has highly specialized individual education plans. The demands on this teacher to ensure that her students have different activities which support their IEPs  every single day is overwhelming at times.

She has looked at technology as a possible solution to some of her questions, and is an avid OneNote user. In our conversations about her students and their new access to iPads, we were brainstorming programs and how her students were going to use the devices. I suggested that she try using Microsoft Forms with her students.

The next day she had a form made, but we ran into a new wall. How could her students independently access the form? The forms live online, but it’s too hard for her students to type lengthy URLs. There had to be an easy way. Enter the QR code solution! Using a QR code generator she was able to make a simple title page with a QR code to put in her student’s notebook. Then she taught her students and their Educational Assistants how to scan the QR code with a QR code reader. In seconds, the form activity was activated and the student was working.

Her students all love using devices, and since she has implemented the program, they are starting to push against adult assistance! More and more she is seeing a “I can do this myself!” mindset.

What I love is this wonderful blending of adaptive technology – iPads + Microsoft Forms + QR codes = independence AND gives this teacher more time and flexibility for other lessons. It’s a pretty big win!

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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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A Year in Review

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It’s celebration time! Another year is over. The library is shut down and it’s time for some quiet. Before I forgot what I did this year, I made a Year in Review report using Sway. A friend of mine Sony Evans published his annual report using Sway. I also usually  make a report, and using Sway is a great idea! Thanks for the inspiration Stony!

I happened to finish my report almost a week after school ended, but a late report is better than no report at all.

Now I can concentrate on getting ready for the Microsoft US Forum and ISTE conference in Denver!

Happy summer reading!

Julie

 

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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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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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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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