Day 30 – #AprilBlogADay – Impact

How has #AprilBlogADay impacted your practice?

During the month of April:

  • I had a cold that lasted four weeks. (Maybe it was something else!?)
  • I finished up a big editing project.
  • I taught school for three weeks, minus one much-appreciated spring break week.
  • And I posted 33 times on this blog!

I did plenty of other things too, but I won’t list them all, thank goodness!

One of the things I realized is that I can write a small amount in a short time. It’s not always eloquent or inspiring, but I can write. I can even dare to post it.

After a very lean blogging year, I have again become inspired. In April, I have read more, thought more, learned more and written more about my craft of teaching than I had in a long time. I believe #AprilBlogADay has kick-started my blog, and for that I’m very grateful.

Next month, I will join the #EdBlogADay group, but I will participate as a reader and commenter. I will also post an occasional blog post. My average used to be around 3-4 in a month; I think that is doable in May.

Thanks to Chris Crouch (@the_explicator) for initiating this challenge.

Now, how about if you join us in May for round 2? Read more about it here.


Day 29 – #AprilBlogADay – My History of Learning

Your History of Learning – What have been your greatest learning experiences? (I’m going to tweak this a bit. I’ve learned some valuable lessons, but they’ve happened over a lifetime, not just experiences I can name.)

Two more days of #AprilBlogADay. I’m making it! I really didn’t think I would do it every single day in April! Yippee!

That’s one thing I’ve learned, perseverance. To carry on and keep going. Even when the road gets rough. Like when I was crawling into bed and forgot to write a blog post on April 20, I managed to stand up and turn around and write a really short one. I live by the you-need-to-eat-an-elephant-a-bite-at-a-time philosophy. Just keep on going…

Another thing I’ve learned I already wrote about here on Day 27. Over the years, I have learned to let go and become the chief learner in my life, in my faith, and in my teaching. It has made all the difference.

Another learning that has transformed my life is to choose grace and forgiveness, rather than judgment and bitterness.

How about you? What are the greatest things you’ve learned?

Day 28 – #AprilBlogADay – Tech in the Classrooms – The Good and the Bad

The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard About Technology in the Classroom

Just a few random thoughts on today’s #AprilBlogADay topic.

I’ve had some really great experiences with technology in the classroom, and a forward-thinking private school district that supplied laptops for as many students as they could afford.

When I started at Spalding in 2006, YouTube was blocked. To get to watch a video for class, I had to send the URL to the tech person and she would unblock it for just the period I needed it.

Over the seven years I was there, we came a long way. And I do mean WE–in those seven years, I grew the most of all. The administration and parents grew along with the staff, always open to possibilities. We were encouraged to participate in local and state tech conferences. We were allowed to use money for online subscriptions to blogs and other platforms instead of spending it on textbooks.

One bit of advice we got during those years was to go one-to-one with iPads, which I thought was bad advice. Instead, the decision was made to keep the MacBook laptops. I was happy with that decision. I continue to think laptops are better and more versatile than tablets (but maybe some people think that’s old school!)

On Twitter, just today, I followed Dr. Adams from Coachella Valley Unified School District in California. His profile says:

CVUSD – First in Nation to rollout iPads for all 20,000 students from Preschool through High School – Preparing Students for College! Career! Citizenship!

When I first read it, I thought of our topic today, and my experience thinking iPads were bad advice.

Dr. Adams and his district would say their investment in iPads was a good decision. He proudly tells the world on his Twitter account.

However, technology in school is not the answer for transformation. Just ask the Los Angeles Unified School District. Someone gave them bad advice to buy iPads loaded with Pearson software for all their students. They have now cancelled the program and are seeking reimbursement from Apple and Pearson. On Edutopia, Sam Gliksman offers 5 Critical Technology Integration Lessons we can all learn from the LAUSD iPad Initiative.

It’s hard to compare LAUSD, with 600,000 students, and Coachella Valley, with 20,000. Regardless of the number difference, I wonder if LA Unified sought advice from Dr. Adams and the CVUSD, just 130 miles east. I’m sure Coachella Valley could have told LA it’s not just about the devices. Vision, training, and student-empowerment are keys to transformation. You can’t just buy everyone iPads.

Watch these two videos to see more of the transformation that CVUSD has gone through. That didn’t happen just because the community voted to buy iPads. A visionary leader, committed staff and community, and empowered students are transforming the school district.

Congratulations to Dr. Darryl Adams and the whole district!

Day 27 – #AprilBlogADay – Letting Go

How to Build a More Powerful Classroom by Letting Go

I don’t understand fully what happened to me when I became a connected educator. That’s when it started, though. That’s when my classroom became more powerful. That’s when I began to let go. I became the chief learner.

When I started that journey as a reflective learner, about five years ago, everything changed. It wasn’t about blogging and Twitter, necessarily. Those just happened to be the conduits for change.

It was really about learning, thinking about learning, and reflecting on my learning through blogging. Then, with the help of Twitter, it was finding a community of enthusiastic educators that I could follow and learn from. Critical friends that we could rub virtual elbows with.

That’s when my classroom became more powerful, and I was able to let go.

So, my advice to all of us, if we want a more powerful classroom, we must continue to let go. Let go of control. Let go of power. Let go of the illusion that we are sufficient for our classrooms. We aren’t. We need our students. There is so much that our students already know. There is so much that our students need to do and be.

They need freedom to be able to share their knowledge. They need freedom to do and become.

They don’t need us to pretend to have answers. They don’t need us to do and be it for them.

Our classroom becomes more powerful, when we spread the power to all in the room.

What do you say? How do you let go?

Day 26 – #AprilBlogADay – Fighting Spring Fever

Engagement/lessons/tips/tricks/ideas for spring fever – age specific.

Funny, just last week, I found three ways to keep K-2 students engaged at the end of the year. Those are three things that I’m doing with my kindergarten students now. I wrote about them here.

Engagement for All Ages!

Those were for K-2, but today I’ll consider one way to engage all ages in true learning, even at the end of the year.

First of all, for all grade levels, they will be motivated if you let them have autonomy, let them have time to master, and let them choose the purpose of their learning.

From Dan Pink’s web page, the “Cocktail Party” summary of his book Drive:

When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system–which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators–doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: 1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives. 2. Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters. 3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

I believe his connections to the business operating system can be equally applied to much of the educational operating system. People, including students, are truly motivated intrinsically, not by dangling good grades, stickers, candy, or small trinkets in front of them. That doesn’t work and often does harm. Children in school need the “new approach” to motivation, as well.

At the end of the year, when motivation is not usually at a high point, it is a perfect time to allow those things that will motivate. Give more choices, ask students what they want to learn, and then get out of their way. Here are a couple ideas to get started.

1. Ask them what they learned or did this year that they would have liked to learn or do more. Perhaps it was when they had a measurement lab in science, and they got to measure all kinds of liquid and solid ingredients. Let a small group measure some more.

Maybe some others are interested in the Civil War, but you didn’t have time enough to spend on it to satisfy their appetite. Let them pursue more about the Civil War.

Maybe you have some writers. Maybe they even wrote a novel in November, but they haven’t had enough time to devote to finishing it, revising it, or starting another one. Let a small group dive into writing.

2. For those who can’t think of anything that they would like more time with, ask them what they did not learn or do this year that they wish they would have. Perhaps some of them will come up with topics of interest to them that weren’t in your curriculum. If they have chosen it, they have some purpose in learning it. If you really meant it when you asked them, let them have autonomy to make a learning decision.

If you happen to be in classroom with access to enough computers, you can let them choose something from Gary Stager’s list of things to do on a laptop.

3. Finally, as soon as everyone has something they are interested in learning, step aside and let them learn it. The teacher becomes facilitator, resource finder, cheerleader and sometimes gofer. Some of us call this kind of learning Genius Hour.  If you want to learn more, follow the hashtag #geniushour and see all kinds of amazing students all over the world learning with motivation, especially this time of year.

4. Have everyone choose a way to share their learning with the class.   They can write a blog post. They can make a presentation, demonstration, or model for the class. They can make a movie or photo essay of their learning.

Enjoy! Your students will love you for it! The year will be over soon, so if you haven’t tried Genius Hour before now, this is a perfect time to do a beta version of Genius Hour. Save all your notes for next year to make it even better.

Do you have any other advice for engagement / lessons / tips / tricks / ideas for spring fever?

#AprilBlogADay to Continue

#EdBlogADayThis month I’ve enjoyed writing one blog post a day. I didn’t really think I’d be able to keep it up, but I have so far! Only five days to go.

We had a Twitter chat today and decided to keep this community of the #AprilBlogADay challenge going next month. We will continue it in May with another added option.

You can write a blog post a day, as we did in April.  Or, you can read and comment on someone else’s blog post each day. I will take the latter challenge.  It will be called the #EdBlogADay challenge.

You can join the Google+ Community.  
You can sign up on this Google Form.
Follow the hashtag #edblogaday in May. #AprilBlogADay in April

Day 24 – #AprilBlogADay #ILoveMySchoolBecause

I have a once-in-a-lifetime experience of teaching school around the world from where I came from and where I’ve always taught.

This past week I was a co-leader of a committee for Earth Day celebrations, which would kickoff our K-12 anti-littering and recycling campaign. It was my first time leading a committee here at my new school, and it was also the largest event that my partner and I had ever pulled off on our own or together.

Partners in Goodness

I love my school because we are Muslim, Christian, Hindu or other, but we respect each other and learn from each other. It is a special joy to be able to wish others an Eid Mubarak, and to have others wish me a Happy Easter, for instance.

I love my school because, though we speak many languages–Arabic and/or English in school–we manage to communicate. That was our experience as we planned for Earth Day. Teachers and parents were on our committee. Sometimes parts got lost without translation, but everyone managed to pull off a very large event with each doing their part, plus some. Actually, the whole staff was involved in one way or another.

Our School, Our Earth
Grades 6-8 put their handprints as a promise to save the earth.
We enjoyed a most elaborate and healthy “green” buffet.

The Earth is My Home, I Promise to Keep It Healthy and Beautiful.
Middle School Art Students Decorated