Inspiring people

Some rights reserved by Striking Photography by Bo

There have been a few people that inspired me to be a better teacher, willing to take a risk and step out of my comfort zone.  I have seen Doug Johnson present at many conferences and have enjoyed his Blue Skunk Blog for several years.  Last year at the ECIS Librarians Conference I attended Joyce Valenza’s sessions.  I have followed her blogs for many years but this was the first time I saw her in action.  She has amazing energy and conveys her passion for working with children and giving them and educators all the tools they need.  Her blog for the School Library Journal is Never Ending Search.  Sums her up pretty well, I think.  Tara Ethridge is the elementary librarian at International School of Bangkok.  She is moving on after this year, and heading back to the classroom for a while.  Librarians around the world will miss her.  Her blog, Tech, Library, Classroom, is full of innovative ideas that she has done with her students and chock full of sites, books, and contacts that she has used.  I was privileged to work with her in Shanghai.  While in Shanghai, I was very lucky to share an office (for a time) with a young, hyper, passionate tech kid (I am old remember) that was always willing to help me try something new and fairly patient when he had to show me 3 more times how to do it.  He certainly pushed me.  You may have heard of him — Jeff Utecht.  Guess why I signed up for this program.

Now, I told you all that, to tell you this.   Joyce Valenza is attending the ASCD Conference in Philadelphia.  She has attended sessions by one of the people that inspires her, Heidi Hayes-Jacobs.  She writes about the first sessions on Heidi’s talk on her Never Ending Search blog.  Click here.  I am very interested in her comments about “differentiated professional development”.  She gives examples such as, “new teachers with great tech skills needing help with curriculum development and older teachers needing help with tech skills.”  As a good presenter should, she has given us some sites to look at and programs to use.

I have had the good fortune in my life to have people to inspire me.  I hope all of you do as well.

Holiday over – Time to Get Back to Work and Back to Course Work

Now that I am back home after a week spent in Sicily, I see there is much work to be done.  Creative Commons licenses, copyright issues, cyberbullying, and on-line footprints will certainly keep me hopping.  I read Kim Komando’s “Your online reputation can hurt your job search.”  Then I went in search of myself.  I found myself on three sites, all of which I expected:  Linkedin, Google+, and Coetail.  There were two Gwen Martin’s on Facebook but neither was me.  Linkedin had 24 other Gwen’s.  Some were very impressive.  I found nothing starling, but I didn’t dig very deep.  After reading Kim’s article and some of the flap in the news about employers demanding passwords, I have decided that my goal of retirement in three years might be better than I thought.  Searching for a new job now could be scary.

I am looking forward to course 2 very much.  I am in the midst of talking about cyberbullying with the 4th and 5th graders, so hoping for some good tips.  We will talk about the good things about the internet and the not so good, as well as how to present yourself well.  All of which ties in with this course perfectly.  What a deal for me!

Congrats to James and to all of those just starting or looking forward to spring break “enjoy it as much as I did mine”.  Rejuvenate and be ready for the push to summer.

Course 1 Final Project – Sea Turtles

My course one final project is a collaboration with a third grade teacher at the American Cooperative School of Tunis. We have just started implementing the plan, which will continue until the end of March. I have embedded the Ubd for the over-arching project and will include my library/tech goals which are part of the project here. They will be attached to Marilyn’s Atlas Rubicon page at a later date.

1. Creativity and Innovation

Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.

**Students will produce a Public Service Announcement.  They will watch some of the sample PSAs posted on the Roots and Shoots site to give them an idea of what has been done before. (  As always, they will be asked to not merely “copy” some idea already done, but to put their unique stamp on the project.

A poster, used in the PSA, will be displayed around the school.

**Classroom teacher will be primarily responsible for this project and will oversea the scripting. However, the librarian and computer teacher will help with editing and in any other ways necessary.

2. Communication and Collaboration

Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.

**We are working on setting up a Skype call to a sea turtle conservation expert.  There are 2 sites here in Tunisia we hope to connect with.  If not a site in Tunisia, we will look for another source.  This is tricky due to time differences.

d. Contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems

**Students will work in 3 person teams to produce a PSA.  Each will be required to keep a journal of how what their team is doing.  Their journals need to be done as a Word document and saved to their server account.  (They may also save to a thumbdrive.)  This  ensures it will be handy to work on each day, not get lost between home and school, and can be accessed by the teacher team at any time.  At conferences with the classroom teacher, the teams will discuss how each member is contributing.

3. Research and Information Fluency

Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.

a. Plan strategies to guide inquiry:

**Students will work in groups of 3 (later to be their production team) to go over the assignment and expectations.  They will be encouraged to ask questions to clarify what is expected of them and to suggest possible ideas to move forward.

b. Locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media

**Classroom teacher, librarian, and computer tech teacher will participate in a lesson where group (including students) will brainstorm possible resources and how to access them.   We will include a calendar/agenda of extra library and computer session, times when library is available for individual searching and work, as well as plans for guest speakers, etc.

**Librarian will conduct a session on the use of the databases available through the school.  They have used World Book On-line before, but we have recently added two or three new ones that will be good for this project.

**Classroom teacher will discuss note-taking.

c. Evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks

**Students investigated the website dedicated to the protection of the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.  The discussion included the visual appealing aspects of the site and the ease of navigating from one area to another.  Students used the links to read further information, including The Cephlapod Page.  They were asked to evaluate the site for usefulness in a project.

All students thought it was a very good site.  They were very interested in this species and thought this site provided good information.  Positive comments about the links were made.

All were gobsmacked to learn that there is no such thing as a Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.  (One student was sure I was wrong as there was a picture on the site.)  We then discussed why it is important to find data on more than one site and to use a variety of sources to gather information.  They came up with a 3 column form to use for their research, so they will find each fact 3 times to ensure they aren’t being “hoodwinked” again.

4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making

Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.

a. Identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation

**Each group will be required to generate an outline, project proposal, or other method of showing how they will proceed.  Should include what they hope to show, resources they may or may not use, and what the product will look like – in a general, beginning draft.

**Each group will be required to storyboard their PSA.

**Each group may decide who will be running the camera, who will be on-air talent, and who will be the director.  They may choose to take turns doing all jobs.  Everyone should be involved in the writing.  (This group has done a lot of audio recording and are keen to move up to video.)

5. Digital Citizenship

Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.

a. Advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology

**Students will be required to create a bibliography/works cited document.

Prior to this unit, all third graders received a user name and password for our Follett Library Management System, Destiny.  By logging in as themselves they can create a “Resource List”.  This is in essence a bibliography of books and websites available through Destiny.

During the initial library session he students created a “Resource List” labeled Sea Turtles or Endangered Species.  As they locate materials (books or websites) they add them to this list.  The follow-up lesson showed them how Destiny will create citations for each entry in their list.  They then took this information and created a bibliography page in Word.  It was saved to their account on our student server.  Students will add other entries as they accrue them.  They realize that prior to completion they will need to come and edit this page to make sure everything is correct and delete any entries they did not use.

**Students will spend 2 sessions looking for photos.  They will use to search for royalty free pictures.  They will also use the Roots and Shoots site,



We have been having some traditional bullying problems of late, with fourth graders. Girls. Acting quite like middle school girls their worst. Now, they have gone over to cyberbullying. Thus, I have embarked on a unit talking about cyberbullying and ways of handling and stopping it. The counselor, tech teachers, principal, and teachers are on-board and adding to the discussion as well. I am preparing an article for our weekly parent newsletter.
Our upper school librarian has passed along an excellent website that has materials and lessons. It has a parent information side as well. I am going to include the site in my parent letter.  It also includes movie and television reviews, which I know many parents would appreciate.

If you have other sites or suggestions I would love to hear about them. I want the kids to know there are many cool uses for the web, but that being mean isn’t one of them.

On the Brink of the Abyss

As previously noted, I am not a new, young, digital immigrant.  I am nearer to retirement than beginning.  I admit how excited I was when I got my very own overhead projector for my classroom.  Even more excited when I mastered the use of the ditto machine.  (Seriously old.)

Yesterday while clicking down the path towards educational change, I found myself on the brink of the abyss — darkness lurked — little words in blue words beckoned me further and further, ever closer to the edge.  I was looking for wikis.  I Googled library wikis.  I started clicking.  It was still light outside.  One innocent click led to another, soon darkness had fallen and night sounds were filling the air (the dog upstairs was howling).  I had gone so far I couldn’t remember where I had started.  I ignored the grumbling in my stomach, I was on a roll.

5 hours later, I realized I have a long list of new things I never dreamed of back in the day: an Apple laptop; an iPad; a cellphone that I use as a phone despite efforts to make me text;  a Google Reader; a blog; a Twitter account (although I still don’t twit); Dropbox for all my cloud saving; Google docs for all my cloud saving; a Pinterest with pins attached; Evernote which is waiting to begin; 3 email accounts; and a facebook account.  Thank God I don’t have small children or a husband that needs to be fed.  My stomach gave up growling.  I willed myself up and to my bed.

This morning, after a sleepless night dreaming of children chasing me and screaming, “Ms. Martin you aren’t gaming yet!”, I realized that a little goes a long way.  Education isn’t changing.  It has changed.  It is always in flux.  As educators we have to pay attention to the world around us and listen to our students.  Consultant after consultant has implored us to listen to our children and to address their individual needs.  Good teachers have been doing this for years.  The new stuff has just gotten faster and there are so many choices.  The trick is to put on the roller skates – ah er — roller blades and try to keep up.

Now if I could just remember where I started yesterday.  Who are you and why am I here….. am I going into this room or just coming out …..

General ramblings of a Wednesday mind

On the whole I like Wednesdays.  My lightest teaching day, which means I have time to plan, both individually and with teachers; try to catch up on library admin chores; check out some sites for future units; and to sneak in some Coetail coursework.  Today, however, feels like a Friday.  Maybe since yesterday was such a knockout day and that the sun is stubbornly refusing to show itself.  Thankfully, the kinders responded to Robert Munsch’s book, Purple, Yellow and Green.  Who doesn’t love Robert Munsch.

If you need a good video on computer safety and how to be more secure check out Nate’s Computer Safety video.  It is posted on Joyce Valenza’s blog, the Never Ending Search.  Nate is a student that expanded a report into a video.  I intend to use this with teachers and parents in the future.

Working on my final project for course one.  The best part is that I am collaborating with a third grade teacher.  The hard part is the organizing my thoughts and ideas in a manner others can make sense of.  As a teacher of many years (previously referred to as old fart), I usually just give myself sketchy notes and phrases on what I am doing and then work up more concrete things for the students.  I understand my doodles and scribbles.  Hard to make them coherent.  I have asked my fellow cohort member here at ACST to have a look.  I fear I may be off the mark.  I do have an entire week to re-do.

After reading about messing & geeking around and reading about flipping attitudes, I am trying to be more open to the games allowed in the library during recess and after school.  Pretty much been “no games” during the school day and “school appropriate” games after school.  I have been letting the games in all day for about 2 weeks.  The kids think they are sneaking them.  Why not let them think that?  Today a group was looking at Anime drawings and getting frustrated that they couldn’t copy them in another document.  I gently asked if they were pasting some copyrighted material without permission.  “RATS!”  Then, one of the 5th graders that had worked so hard searching for royalty free pictures earlier piped in, ‘Whoa man, what if that was your design?  Do you want someone ripping you off?”  Hmm.  I still am smiling.

On a related note, the gamers think I am lame in my game selection and abilities.  My addiction is Marble Lines.  Consensus is that it is a baby game.  I contend I don’t have a warfare mind.  Just saying . . . .

Off to Sicily in 9 more days!  Then a house guest for two weeks.  I love company and Tunisia is a grand country to visit.  Mind you I am looking forward to the wine in Italy vs the wine in Tunisia.  And the cheese, and the pastas, and the sauces ……