Leader or Follower?

Happy Monday, friends!  I know I am ready for a great week of learning and discovery, and I hope you are, too!

I want to start this week thinking about our class meeting from Friday.  We discussed trouble we were having related to lines, both in the hallway and at the end of PE.  While we came up with a tentative solution (aka. boy, girl, boy, girl), it was also mentioned by several people that we ought to just follow the rules.  Do the right thing.  Get it together.

So here’s where you make it public.  Announcing your intentions helps all of the rest of us hold you accountable, but also support you as you go.  🙂  Leave a comment here and tell us what ONE SPECIFIC THING you will do this week to make our class better.  What will you do to make sure we have the best week ever?  It can be related to the line or just learning in general.

Now the decision is yours: will you be a leader or a follower?

EDUC 573: Week 3–Digital Imminatives?

We’re almost halfway there! Week 4 is next week and I am continually amazed at all the things we can cram into a week of learning. 🙂

This week’s topic was Web 2.0–what it is, how we use it and why that’s important to ourselves and our learners.

I have to be honest that until last year, I hadn’t ever even really heard the term “web 2.0” and until just the other day, I hadn’t really thought much about what it meant.  I think I get it now that it’s the way the internet is no longer a “read only” experience, but is instead a place of co-learning, co-teaching, co-llaboration (hee hee).  Where once you could just look at a website, now you can be a partner in creating it.  Perhaps my favorite part of the whole Web 2.0 movement is how most everything you (I) need is always at my fingertips, regardless of whether or not I’m at my own computer.  Because of applications like Dropbox and Evernote, or numerous other web-based programs, I can work whenever, wherever I want or need to.  (But then, I must stop for a second and admit that while I like this feature, it’s probably not all positive.  There are definitely times and places I should NOT be working, but choose to anyway because I can.  This is definitely something I need to work on. 🙂 ).

I really enjoyed this week’s work, but much of that could have been because it was a topic I already knew much about.  As we were asked to explain a variety of Web 2.0 tools, I was able to easily think about how I’d implement them in my classroom because I’m already doing that!  The great part, though, is reading all of the thinking of my classmates regarding Web 2.0 and learning how I could use them differently.  What else could I do with something with which I am already familiar?

Now on to the explanation about the title (I know you were wondering what in the world I was doing with that!).  The article we focused on last week (and then reflected on this week) was Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants by Marc Prensky (2001).  While I’ve read this article before, and even used it as a reference in a paper I wrote last semester, of course reading it again and thinking about it in a different time and context made me consider different things than I did previously.

As a part of the course, we’re supposed to choose a quote from the article and respond to it.  I could have easily chosen the whole article, as Prensky makes numerous valid points, but alas I chose just one.  Ok, I chose two:

It’s just dumb (and lazy) of educators – not to mention ineffective – to presume that (despite their traditions) the Digital Immigrant way is the only way to teach, and that the Digital Natives’ “language” is not as capable as their own of encompassing any and every idea.

I think what really struck me about these words are that I want to be sure to do everything in my power not to be that Digital Immigrant teacher!  I like to think I am a trailblazer, that I try new things even when I am not sure of the outcome because I think they will help my students learn.  I like to think that I trust my students, that often they are teaching me more than I am them.  And so it’s my job then, right, to help the Digital Immigrants see that there is a better way.  Just like with any new learning, it may not be quick and it may not be easy, but in the end it will be good.

And so this article also led me to another question:  Is there a name for someone who is both a Digital Immigrant and a Digital Native?  I consider myself to be somewhere in the middle.  This part got me thinking:

Digital Immigrants don’t believe their students can learn successfully while watching TV or listening to music, because they (the Immigrants) can’t. Of course not – they didn’t practice this skill constantly for all of their formative years. Digital Immigrants think learning can’t (or shouldn’t) be fun. Why should they – they didn’t spend their formative years learning with Sesame Street.

So like I said, I am somewhat of an Immigrant just because of my age, but that definition doesn’t ring true at all with how I think/believe/feel about myself, my students or learning in general.  I do think learning can and should be fun, I did spend my formative years learning with Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers and the Electric Company, and I am a MASTER at multi-tasking (i.e. learning while watching TV and/or listening to music–I’m doing it right now, actually).  Perhaps its like with any definition or rule, there’s always an exception.  And in this case, an exception is what I long to be.  🙂

So what do you think about the digital natives, digital immigrants and Web 2.0?  Which are you?  How does knowing about digital natives impact the way you teach and the way your students learn?  I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts. 🙂

Math Warm-Ups January 22-25, 2013

This was a short week because of the MLK holiday on Monday, so we only had four warm-ups this time around.  Most were related to our current geometry unit, except for the last one from yesterday.  I’ll explain that one at the end.


IMG122Besides just knowing polygons and their names, a major focus of this unit is being able to figure out unknown angles using information that is already known.  That septagon that I made is actually created from 3 separate triangle pieces (that we know and have figured out the angles of), so then here I was asking them to use that known information to determine the measure of this new angle.  Many of them also used the idea of a “right angle + some more”, and the fact that it was an obtuse angle in their calculations.  We also focused on the way this question was worded: many went right to telling me WHAT the angle was rather than HOW they figured it out, which is what I was actually asking.  This is an important test-taking strategy that we were able to highlight, as well.


                                     IMG123     IMG124

This question was an extension of what we had just been talking about the day before.  Our focus was on all the different names that one polygon could have, as well as the continued use of known angles to determine unknown ones.  The “G” refers to the way that rhombus is labeled in the set of Power Polygons we use as manipulatives.


IMG125This warm-up was a review of old knowledge, but then we used it to connect to our new concepts from this unit.  I reminded them (since of course this seemed like something they did AGES ago!) that area is just like all the work they did with arrays during our study of multiplication.  We also were reminded of how we could use our knowledge of order of operations to correctly write the equation of how we figured out the perimeter.  The lesson following this asked them to be able to create new rectangles based on this one, but with different area/same perimeter  or different perimeter/same area.


IMG126Hopefully you’ll notice the difference in this one.  This week we were looking at winter benchmarking data noticing that our 5th graders seemed to have a hard time showing that they are solid in computation skills.  It’s clear that we need to do more practice with computation even when it’s not the unit we’re in, as well as more practice with timed situations (the benchmark we use asks them to complete a certain number of problems in 8 minutes).  Other than the benchmark and standardized testing, they aren’t asked to do this.  Simply having more opportunities like that could be helpful.

Literature Circles–Book Trailers!

Today is an exciting day for you.  Today you will get to choose the book you’ll read and then discuss with your new Literature Circle!  I hope that this is a great experience for you, both as you make your book choice, and then even more as you learn and grow with your group.  So, now you’ll begin your journey as I give you a sneak peek of the books from which you’ll have to choose.  Please watch the trailers and read the reviews here, and then give me your first, second and third choice for which book you’d like to read.  You’ll write your choices on an INDEX CARD, NOT in the comments here, because I want them to be private.  In your note, please include how you know it’s just right for you and why you’d like to read it. I’ll let you know which group you’re in by Monday, January 28.  Happy book shopping!

1. The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis   LEXILE: 1000

Book Trailer: The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963 from Carolyn Martin on Vimeo.


2. A Friendship for Today by Patricia McKissack


3. Ghost Dog Secrets by Peg Kehret  LEXILE: 730


4. Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford  LEXILE: 750


5. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper  LEXILE: 700

Mystery Skype!

What a great opportunity we had today–we did our first Mystery Skype!

Because of the connections I’ve made on Twitter, I’ve been exposed to many new things that seem right up our alley, and Mystery Skype was one of them.  The basic idea is that you Skype with another class–somewhere in the world–only you don’t know where they are (ok, well I knew where they were, but the kiddos did not)!  You ask each other yes or no questions that help you narrow in on the location of the other class.

We waited patiently until 10:35 when they called–Ms. Venosdale’s 6th grade class.  We answered the call, with nervous but excited feelings in our stomachs.  I had already set it up so that they would lead, since we’d never done it before, and so they asked the first question.  They asked, “Are you near a major body of water?”  Our answer, of course, was yes–the Mississippi river is just a hop, skip and a jump to our east.  Our first question was (we hoped) a good one, too–“It’s 10:35 here, is it the same time where you are?”  We had been having a conversation about time zones just before we answered the call, and so they thought this one would help narrow down (and so eliminate) much of the world  if their answer was yes.  And it was!

I wish I had grabbed the list of all the questions, because we kept one, and I wish that we had a picture to share–but we didn’t take one.  We had coordinated “jobs” before we got started: some were charge of the map, some were in charge of writing down what we learned from our new friends, some were in charge of writing down the questions we each asked (so that we could look at them for ideas for the next time), someone was in charge of asking the questions and the rest of us worked to synthesize the clues and figure out what to ask next.  It was really cool how a room full of about 20 people could all be involved in the same conversation in such different ways.

In the end, we found out that our new found friends were actually calling us from very close by in Missouri!  Hillsboro, actually.  That was surprising to them, too, because they’re used to chatting with people from much farther away!

All in all, we had a great time, met some new “friends” and figured out that we need to brush up on our Missouri geography a bit.  🙂  We already have our next Mystery Skype on the calendar for next Friday and are VERY EXCITED for it!  I’m interested to see the way their questions change and improve each time, and for what it will be like when we talk to someone from a place where we’ve never been.  It’ll be very cool to learn what life is like in that other next of the woods!

Until then–have you every been a part of Mystery Skype?  Who did you “meet?”  What suggestions do you have for us as we try again with another class?  Tell us your story–we’d love to hear from you!

Our Own Bill Nye

We love Bill Nye!  You know, the Science Guy?


Well, we had a visit from our very own Bill Nye, who’s real name is Mr. Browning.  He LOVES physics and LOVES to talk about it, and we LOVE to learn, so it was a match made in heaven.  He came today to teach us about Newton’s Laws of Motion.



One of the things we loved about Mr. Browning was his enthusiasm.  He was really excited about this, and that made us excited, too.  Plus he had props.  Lots of props.  Props that he used to guide us through activities that modeled what we were talking about.  He also shared some really interesting videos from the ESA that showed Newton’s Laws in the gravity-free environment of the International Space Station.  What a great day!



Newton’s First Law

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Mr. Browning in action:

ESA video:



Newton’s Second Law

The acceleration of an object as produced by a net force is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force, in the same direction as the net force, and inversely proportional to the mass of the object.

Mr. Browning (with Rosalee and Rebekah) in action:

ESA video:



Newton’s Third Law

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Mr. Browning in action:

ESA video:


FOR SURE we will remember this day and Newton’s laws for a long time to come!  THANK YOU, Mr. Browning, for making science fun and exciting. 🙂

Now it’s your turn: what did you learn about Newton’s Laws of Motion? What else can you teach us about Newton?  What’s your favorite thing about science?  We’d love to hear from you!

Edmodo Have-a-Go

Remember how I told you about Edmodo the other day?  Today’s the day we’re going to try it out!  You will need to use the link here to get to the login page.  While you’re there, look around, and then I want you to consider these things:

1. Can you figure out what to do?  Is it easy?  What are some confusing parts that you have a question about?

2. What kinds of things do you think we could use this to do in our classroom?  Why do you think that would be a good idea?

3. Would you use Edmodo at home?  (if you know that at this point)  Why or why not?

Ok, lastly, I want you to post something.  It can be about anything right now, but I want you to think about adding a question so that people can respond.  This will feel pretty much the same as writing on your blog, only WE will be the only ones who can see it.  This will be a little assessment to let me see how much we figured out and then what I need to do next so we can get started.

GOOD LUCK and have fun learning about Edmodo today!


Today, with your group, you’re going to do a little digging.  You’re going to dig into the paragraph examples here and here:

Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 8.17.07 PM Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 8.17.20 PM Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 8.17.35 PM Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 8.17.49 PM

Next your job is to figure out what makes them all paragraphs.  What do they have in common?  What are the “rules” for writing a paragraph?  After you’ve figured out the answer, post your thoughts in the comments (along with your group members’ names) and we’ll discuss together.  Happy digging!  Can’t wait to see what you uncover!

EDUC 573: Week 2–Edmodo and Twitter

Hopefully it will not come as a surprise when I say that I am a life-long learner.  I feel like it oozes out of my pores, and that if you spend more than 5 minutes with me, you get that vibe.  At least that’s what I hope.

And so I also hope that it’s not a surprise that the learning I’m most interested in these days is related to technology.  I’ve written about some of it already , in the form of how my kids are blogging, and I’m sure that somewhere farther back I explained how I got to the place that I am now with using technology in my classroom (and if I haven’t, I’m sure I’ll decide to write about it!).

This post is the second one for the class I’m taking right now: EDUC 573–Applications of Technology.  It’s a requirement for my Masters; even though my focus is not tech, it’s a topic helpful to every teacher these days.  And even in just two weeks, I’ve already learned about and tried countless things!  I’m beyond excited about “having” to do things that I’m interested in doing anyway.

So that brings me to my goal from last week.  I was most excited about beginning to use my blog “in-the-moment” and pledged that I’d try something on it the next day.  Which I did, indeed.  This week my class reflected on themselves as learners and wrote their own goals, and we used the blog for our ActivActivity in math rotations two different times this week.  And so far I’d say I LOVE IT!  Kiddos loved seeing their work all right there in one place (rather than all spread out on their individual blogs), and I loved it for the same reason.  We could quickly review what we had shared, and compare our thinking.  There have already been several other suggestions for how we might continue to use this together.  Love that my kiddos are such great thinkers, but I love even more that they know I’ll listen to and incorporate their ideas into what we do.  It is, after all, OUR classroom, not just mine. :)

The topic this week was related to becoming familiar with and beginning to use learning management systems in the classroom.  We investigated both Moodle and Edmodo, and considered how they could be used in the classroom to enhance the learning that’s already happening.  And that’s the key, I think, to any tech that you’re using–it should complement the learning goals you already have.  It should be the learning goal, nor should it come first.  I also think that it’s key that whatever you add be easy to use.  And for that reason, I am excited to start playing around with Edmodo in our classroom.

Edmodo is a learning management system that is comparable to “Facebook in the classroom.”  It’s a safe, private, focused way for a class to communicate on a topic, and has countless features useful to teachers, students and even parents.  I think that the first thing I’ll do (after a suggestion from a colleague) is give them some time to see what it can do.  I am sure they’ll figure out alot of the ins and outs very quickly.  Next my plan is to start literature circle conversations on Edmodo.  We’re just about to start them anyway, and it would make sense as a starting place.  I’m excited to see the difference in depth that may happen when kids have a chance to put their thoughts in writing this way.  And as always happens, I’m sure someone will come up with a great idea for what to do with it next.

Aside from the LMS, we also read the article “Taking the Digital Plunge” by Bill Ferriter (2009).  And while I originally focused in on a quote about how quickly finding like-minded learners helped me want to jump in and get my feet wet with tech, this one might even be more meaningful:

Connecting with colleagues online has helped me explore skills and dispositions necessary for
networked cooperation—skills like finding partners beyond borders, making my own thinking transparent,
revising positions on the basis of feedback, accessing valuable information from colearners, and
creating shared content. It has profoundly changed the way I learn.

This week alone, I’ve signed up and am starting to use Edmodo, created the template for my eportfolio, added over 50 links to my delicious account, and planned a Mystery Skype for next week with a teacher in my PLN on Twitter.   I believe these are all powerful tools that used by both me and my students to make connections.

I’m excited to see what continues to come out of this learning I am “having” to do here.  It’s so much fun it doesn’t seem at all like work!

What have you learned this week about technology?  Have you read “Taking the Digital Plunge?”  What did you learn?  Have you tried Edmodo, Twitter, delicious or Mystery Skype?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!