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PalBee

  What it is: PalBee is a free online video conferencing/recording tool. When you become a registered member of PalBee you have the ability to create an unlimited number of video conferencing sessions, each can be an hour long, with up to 5 attendees. PalBee also allows for visual collaboration...

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Host an RSCON4 Meetup Party- Introduce Colleagues to Your PLN!

Posted by admin | Posted in collaboration, education reform, Grade Level, inspiration, Reform Symposium Conference | Posted on 01-10-2013

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Reform Symposium Free Worldwide Conference

If you have never attended an online conference, you should definitely take the opportunity to try one out on October 11-13 for the Reform Symposium Conference.  The line up of keynote speakers, presenters, and panel discussions is FANTASTIC.  It is like traveling around the world for inspiration from the comfort of your living room.  I really can’t say enough about how excited I am for this awesome weekend of learning!  Please join us for as much as you can, you will not be disappointed!  Plus, what could be better than learning with a bunch of friends from your living room?  You don’t even have to worry about what attire you should wear (I’ll be in PJs for sure!).

Be sure to join @michellek, @nancybabbitt and me for our session Connections Through Inquiry on Sunday! We’ll be talking up strategies that we use at Anastasis Academy as teachers and learners.  Check out the online schedule in your timezone and plan to join us!

If you are an online conference regular who is constantly working to get other teachers at your school to attend (with no luck), why not consider hosting a Reform Symposium Conference meetup party?  If they won’t engage in online community on their own, bring the community to them!  This would be a great way to help those who are less tech savvy get involved in some professional development in a way that feels ‘safe.’  Choose a location with good wifi (this could be a room at school, your living room, a local coffee shop), load up on fun snacks, invite some friends and learn together!  I have done this in the past with great success! It is all kinds of fun and adds a level of safety for first timers.  Use this event as an opportunity to introduce your offline colleagues to your online PLN (personal learning network).  I find that people are more likely to engage online for learning when they feel like they have a connection to others going in.  When they start a great conversation during a session, help them continue it by signing up for Twitter.

If you want to get really fancy, share my Twitter posters as a party gift.  Help those who haven’t signed up to sign up and connect to those they met during the conference.  Following the conference, send others at your school a “Learning Moment of the Day” along with a link to the community (member) that shared it with you.

Sometimes all it takes to connect people is a new approach to the invitation delivery. :)

 

We are still looking for volunteers to help with the conference!

Volunteer to Moderate Sessions for the Reform Symposium E-Conference (RSCON4)

RSCON would not be so inspiring without a highly devoted group of volunteer moderators to keep the conference running with as few hiccups as possible. Moderators play one of the most important roles by jumping into various sessions and helping presenters and participants have a great experience. Additionally, volunteers get to meet our inspiring presenters and introduce them to the audience. To become part of this super amazing team, sign up at http://www.futureofeducation.com/group/2013-rscon-volunteers and use the booking calendar to schedule volunteer time, http://rsconvolunteers.youcanbook.me

Also, attend one of our Blackboard Collaborate training sessions so you are familiar with the platform, http://bit.ly/rscon4trainingpg

Thank you for helping us inspire educators worldwide!

If you have questions about volunteering for the conference, one of our volunteer organizers would be happy to help!  Tweet your questions to one of the awesome organizers listed below!
Peggy George (@Pgeorge), Marcia Lima (@Bamarcia), Chiew Pang (@AClilToClimb), Jo Hart  (@JoHart), Phil Hart (@PhilHart)

An End N-1: Making Way for New Beginnings

Posted by admin | Posted in Project PLN | Posted on 08-04-2013

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In 2010 @thenerdyteacher asked if I would be interested in starting a collaborative online magazine with him.  Of course I said yes!  Project PLN was born.  The passion behind Project PLN was to reach out to the education network and give everyone a voice.  Nick and I can be rather prolific and enjoy keeping a blog and keeping up a constant chatter on Twitter, but that isn’t for everyone.  We knew that there was this whole section of our PLN that had incredible ideas, amazing insight into education, but it wasn’t being shared widely.  Project PLN was our attempt to provide a place for all of those voices to be heard.  We wanted to help bring our PLN together, to introduce new voices and to solidify relationships.

N-1 is a concept that I read about on Seth’s Blog.  Seth says:

N-1. There are tons of things on your to do list, in your portfolio, on your desk.  They clamor for attention and so perhaps you compromise things to get them all done.  What would happen if you did one fewer thing?  What if leaving that off the agenda allowed you to do a world-class job on the rest?  What if you repeated N-1 thinking until you found a breakthrough?

I am a perfectionist with a pinch of OCD thrown in for good measure.  When I do something I go at it full speed ahead 110%.  The problem is lately, I can’t give 110% to everything that I would like to because I am always adding one more thing (N+1).  These things are good things, they are worthy things, important things.  I feel that way about each one of them or I wouldn’t have taken them on in the first place.  But lately I am finding that I am giving each less than what they deserve and not feeling a sense of accomplishment in any of them as a result.  I think this is a common feeling among teachers.  We always tend to be functioning in the N+1 model.  We give everything the best we’ve got and often feel stretched too thin.

After two years Nick and I are in new places.  We have LOVED Project PLN, even when we were at our busiest.  Over the last two years schools have been started, families expanded, new job titles added, speaking engagements, the list goes on and on.  It is time for us to employ N-1.  This is a difficult concept for us.  We are project adders…not project eliminators.  And yet, Project PLN’s time is coming to an end.  It has accomplished the purpose that we set out for it.  It connected our PLN when it needed to be connected.  With the increased use of social media and blogs, we aren’t seeing the need for it that we once did.  It is time for us to let go of one so that we have room for others.  Both Nick and I are sad to see Project PLN end.  It has kept us working together month after month.  It has given us a reason to plan after school Skype sessions.  It has been FUN.  It is our hope that in letting Project PLN go, we will have room for the next BIG thing that we can work on together.  (Stay tuned, we are always dreaming up crazy great ideas together!)

I suspect that this isn’t really an end, that it will be a beginning.  Now we have ourselves freed up for the next dream.

Thank you to all of you who supported us in Project PLN.  Thank you for contributing, for sharing yourself with us. We hope that this will be multiplied in new ways.  Hit us up on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, our blogs.  Keep sharing your good ideas because YOU are an inspiration and YOU matter!

 

12 Days of Dreaming #12DOD

Posted by admin | Posted in education reform, For Teachers, inspiration, professional development, Teacher Resources | Posted on 03-12-2012

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I love this time of year. Everything seems so full of possibility and optimism.  @Mr_Brett_Clark took hold of that feeling and started Education Dreamer: 12 Days of Dreaming.  Today was the big launch!  From Brett: “There is no greater time than now to share our dreams for education. Everything great that has ever happened, started as a dream.
Education Dreamer will post a new post on Monday through Thursday the first three weeks of December beginning December 3rd.
You can support this project by sharing out the post using #12DOD, adding a badge to your website, and leaving comments.”

I fully support this 12 days of dreaming and added my own dreams which were posted on day number one.  Lucky me!

Follow along, dream with your fellow educators and be inspired to make those dreams a reality!

My contribution is called: Dreaming of a Better Education.  Click the link to have a read.

Thank you for including me Brett!  Happy Everything :)

Transforming Education in 40 Days: A Call to Action

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, For Teachers, Grade Level, Project PLN, Resource type, Subject | Posted on 19-09-2012

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*** If you need the cliff notes version of this post, skip down to the Call to Action section!

Last year I had a “hunch” about learning…specifically about curriculum.  That hunch turned into a full fledged idea and a mission to do better for kids.  Everywhere.  Along the line I met some truly incredible people who taught me things I didn’t know how to do before.  Like wire framing (thanks @ianchia), and pitching ideas (thanks @houseofgenius), and how to go about picking up programmers (thanks @toma_bedolla).  Now I’m ready to share the culmination of all this work with you.

This isn’t just a post to tell you about what I’m doing, it is a call to action for everyone (yes, even you).  It is a request for you to join me in this mission in whatever form that may take.

I have a vision: to make personalized learning a reality for EVERY child. 

I know, it is big.  It is also doable.

For those who are new to following me, here was my original “hunch” written on my other blog, Dreams of Education:

“The problem with curriculum and textbooks is that they complete thoughts.  Curriculum and textbooks give the impression that learning has an end.  That when you have made it from cover to cover, the job is done.  I know in my own schooling this was true, I thought that school was teaching me what was important and that anything outside of the curriculum wasn’t important or relevant to my life…wouldn’t they have included it otherwise?  How did curriculum get this way?  Well, people realized that there was no possible way to cover every facet of learning, so they stripped it down to what they thought was important.  The problem? What is important to you may not be what is important to me.  What’s more, something that is very important to me may have been cut all together so I don’t even get the chance to know that it is important to me.  Humans tend to like things that are definable, we like things that we can put into a neat, orderly box and carry out in a predictable way.  It feels safe and manageable.  This is what led me to the following hunch:

What if curriculum was more flexible?  What if curriculum/schools/learning looked more like Pandora.  If you aren’t familiar with Pandora, it is an online radio station that plays the music that it thinks you will like.  You type in an artist or song and it creates a customized radio station just for you.  It is remarkably accurate.  Pandora almost never gets it wrong for me.  It is like they have a direct line to my brain and can predict what song I would like to hear next.  When it is wrong, I can give the song a thumbs down and it apologizes profusely for the error and promises never to play that song again on my station.  The other thing I love about Pandora: I can have multiple radio stations.  Because sometimes I really couldn’t think of anything in the world better than Frank, Dean, and Sammy; but other times  I also want a little Timberlake, Whitestripes, or Bangles.  What if curriculum looked like that?  What if learning happened as a result of typing in one subject or topic that a student was enamored with and a completely personalize learning journey began playing out for them?  What if students were led through a journey that was completely customized?  What if they had several stations mapped out for them?”

I believe this is possible.  I believe it is within our reach to create a completely personalized learning experience to every unique child.  I believe that we can honor humanity instead of treating our kids like widgets in a factory.  I believe that teachers should be teachers, focused on the needs and development of the child instead of teaching the masses through scripted curriculum.

This is The Learning Genome Project.

The Learning Genome Project will empower teachers and parents to become engineers of learning by providing each individual student the exact content they need, at the exact moment they need it.  The Learning Genome will enable students to explore the process of inquiry, experimentation, discovery and problem solving.  Instead of learning how to pass the next test, we will enable students to construct meaning and learn how to transfer that meaning to new life context.  At the hub, the Learning Genome is a platform that aggregates resources and, using a series of algorithms, provide recommendations of the BEST resources to meet the individual learning needs of a specific child.  The Learning Genome creates those serendipitous moments of finding just the right learning tool to meet the needs of children at the right time.

Much like Pandora finds that perfect piece of music, the Learning Genome will find the perfect piece of learning material to aid the student in learning.  The key to the Learning Genome’s success is crowd sourcing.  I will be drawing on educators around the world (that’s you!) to help me tag curriculum, books, lessons, videos, apps, websites and other educational content.  This collection of tagged content lives in the centralized ”cloud” and wil allow users around the world to find and access materials that best suit student needs.  By gathering information about the individual student’s learning style preferences, multiple intelligence strengths, social/emotional levels, interests and passion, the Learning Genome can help teachers to create customized learning maps for each individual.  This portion will be free. Every child deserves a unique learning experience.

In addition to the Learning Genome Hub (the aggregate), the site will include a complete Student Information System, planning tools, e-portfolios, e-learning, individual learning plans, assessment and blogging tools.  All of these will work seamlessly together for you go-to for learning and planning.

Changing the world here.

Call to Action

So…how can you help?  I’m glad you asked!

1.  Learn more about the Learning Genome at indiegogo.

2. Please consider investing in this mission (see the awesome perks that includes below).

3.  Blog about the Learning Genome with a link back to the indiegogo campaign (be sure to link to those posts you write in the comments below!)

4. Tweet about this project…a lot.  Let’s completely take over the Internet with tweets about the Learning Genome and taking over education for kids! Please make sure to link back to the indiegogo campaign so that others can learn about it! Use the hashtag #standagain (because after all, we are helping children “stand again” in their learning)

5. Offer your time as a Learning Genome Content tagger or beta tester

6.  Mention us on Facebook and like us on Facebook!

7.  Did I mention spread the word? Seriously, that is SO helpful!  You never know who might see that tweet and drop a couple thousand (or more) to make this project go!

8.  Time is of the essence.  I have 40 days starting NOW to make this happen.  eeek!  I need your help!

So, what are the perks to helping with this project?  

$5  gets your name on the Learning Genome Change Makers page.  You are changing education. That makes you a big deal.  I want everyone to know what a big deal you are!  I know many of you don’t think that your $5 can do anything.  Wrong.  According to my cluster map, I have hundreds of thousands of visits to this blog.  If each of you pitches in…we all win fast!

$10 Remember all those cool Bloom’s Taxonomy posters I made?  This campaign is now the ONLY place you can get them.  These are 8.5″ x 11″ versions of the poster.

$30 Learning Genome beta tester. You get the inside scoop and ability to play before ANYONE else.  I know, pretty cool.

$60 EXCLUSIVE A full size large-format print of my Bloomin’ Peacock mailed to you.  That awesome little Peacock looks even better large.  Did I mention this is the ONLY place you will get a big version of this?

$500 Even more EXCLUSIVE  you get all of my Bloom’s re-imagine posters in the large format.  Perfect for your classroom, library or as a gift to your favorite teachers.

$1000  My Searching for daVinci webinar for your school.  What better way to spend your professional development dollars than learning how to create a daVinci like culture of learning at your school?  Worth it!

$5000 For my corporate friends who want to see their logo in lights as a company that supports education and changing the world.  If you have an education company, The Learning Genome Project will be the place to be seen.

 

We have $85,000 to raise.  It sounds like a big number.  We can do it together.  I figured if I am going to lean on crowdsourcing to transform education, the funding should be crowdsourced too.  How awesome will it be to join together as an education community to say, together we transformed the way learning is done.  We changed things for every child in the world.  Yeah, it’s big.


 

Claco: United We Teach, build lessons collaboratively

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 19-09-2012

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What it is:  Claco is a new website that makes it simple to build, organize and share lessons. Your lessons can be dynamic including weblinks, embed codes, online videos, files and more.  In addition to creating and uploading your own lessons, you can also search and use lessons that other teachers around the world have built.  There is no better way to stretch and grow professionally than to learn from each other!  Claco makes it easy to work with other educators in a collaborative environment to streamline the lesson planning process.  I love the vision behind Claco, they have even created a movement called “United We Teach” that encourages educators to share and enhance each other’s resources.  I learn SO much from my PLN, creating a place where this is encouraged as part of the process is fantastic!

Another feature I love about Claco: no need to download lessons, you can view and use all lessons directly from your Claco profile.  That means that lessons are available from anywhere (because they are in the cloud) and can be used from computers, iPads, and smartphones…super handy!

How to integrate Claco into your curriculum: Use Claco to save yourself time.  I tend to get lost in the OCEAN of amazing lesson ideas and resources on the web.  I like that Claco can be a one-stop shop for resources and lessons.  The ability to organize all of my findings in one easy-to-use place that can be accessed by all of my devices is also very helpful.

Aside from the time saving, Claco makes it possible to collaborate on lessons with other teachers in the building, or from anywhere in the world.  Lessons can be constructed with teammates and enhanced by anyone.  Lessons can also be easily shared with students, parents and colleagues.

Tips: You may recognize some features of Claco.  Class Connect (which I wrote about here) has morphed into Claco. The genius behind Claco, Eric Simons who created the sites after some frustrations with his own school experience.  Instead of being disenfranchised, he set out to make it better.  You gotta love that!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Claco in your classroom!

Project PLN Call for Articles! #projectPLN #edchat

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, inspiration, professional development, Project PLN | Posted on 10-07-2012

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It’s that time again! Project PLN is ramping up for another year of sharing.  We took a little time off for the summer to re-charge our batteries (and let you recharge yours).

What is Project PLN?  A collection of articles written by members of our PLN (Personal Learning Network-that’s you), on a common theme, all in one place.  Project PLN is an opportunity to get to know more passionate educators, and hear new voices.  It is a chance for us to connect and think and dream together.  We are excited to begin another year of Project PLN in August.

The focus of our August issue is Back to School Tips.  Over the years we have all discovered tips and tricks that help us make the start of the year a little easier.  I am often learning new tips from others and always have the same reaction: duh, why didn’t I think of that?!  This is our chance to share and get some new ideas.  We are looking for articles (this could be a blog post you’ve already written) from anyone involved in education.  You can be a teacher, classroom assistant, principal, hall monitor, superintendent, coach, or Sir Ken Robinson.  We want you to share your best ideas with the rest of us!

We publish everything we receive that follow these guidelines:

  • Email the article, or link to the article to ProjectPLN10@gmail.com
  • Please include a small bio that includes any links to your blog, Twitter handle, and other information you would like to share.  A picture is encouraged (we like seeing you!) but not required.
  • You can send us a new piece or a blog post you wrote ages ago.  A good idea is a good idea!
  • All posts need to be submitted by Friday, August 17, 2012.  We are hoping to make the issue live on August 21, 2012.
  • If you work for an online degree program…no need to submit anything. This isn’t an opportunity to advertise. We won’t post your stuff, so don’t bother!

That’s everything, we look forward to seeing your best tips and tricks for starting a school year.

Thanks!

Kelly and Nick (@ktenkely and @thenerdyteacher)

ProjectPLN Editors

TED-Ed: Lessons (videos) worth sharing

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Art, Evaluate, History, inspiration, Interactive Whiteboard, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, TED Talk Tuesdays, Understand (describe, explain), video, web tools, Websites | Posted on 26-04-2012

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What it is: I have long been a TED talk fan, so much so that I started a lunch group at my previous school called TED Talk Tuesdays where teachers could gather over lunch, watch TED Talks and discuss it’s implication on education.  TED has a brand new education site that I am excited about.  TED-ed is a collection of educational video lessons that have been animated.  These lessons can be used as a supplement in any classroom.  Each video on the TED-ed site has an associated lesson, a Quick Quiz with multiple choice comprehension questions, Think which asks questions to help students think more critically about what they have watched, and Dig Deeper which helps students to explore the topic further.  In addition to the videos, TED-ed gives educators the ability to “flip” videos.  You can use, tweak, or completely re-do any lesson that is featured on TED-Ed, or even create lessons from scratch based on any video from YouTube.  You can re-title a lesson to fit your classroom, add context, questions and follow-up suggestions, and create a custom URL for your video lesson.  You can even track your student’s progress to see who has viewed the assigned video, the number of questions they attempted, the answers they provided, and the answers they got correct.

How to integrate TED-Ed into the classroom:  TED-Ed is a fantastic new resource for the classroom.  The videos can be used for flip teaching.  Flip teaching changes up the classroom model.  Normally students come to school to get instruction and do their practice work at home as homework.  In a flipped teaching model, the instruction is watched at home as “homework” and the practice happens in the classroom where students can receive teacher support.  This means that the focus in the classroom is on higher-order thinking and learning skills instead of on instruction.  How novel. :) Student can come to class ready for deeper inquiry, critical thinking, discussion with classmates, collaboration and get more personalized attention from the teacher.  You maximize classroom time by “going home” with the students.

Video is a great medium for learning because it allows students to learn at their own pace and gives them the ability to replay as many times as they need to.  Visuals are always useful when learning something new, video is a great medium because of the way that it helps enhance understanding through the use of visuals. 

Videos are searchable by those that have been featured, those that are part of a series or by subject.  Students can learn about the arts, business/economics, design/engineering/technology, health, literature/language, math, psychology, science/technology, and social studies.  The library will continue to grow as teachers flip the videos and TED-ed adds content from educators around the world.

The videos are great in a flipped classroom model but can also be used within the classroom.  Videos can be watched and discussed as a whole-class or put on classroom computers as a learning center.  When I taught second grade, I made sure that I had time individually with my students each week.  In the mornings, my students worked on groups with “tub work” to make this time possible with individual students.  These videos would make a great “second teacher” in a blended learning classroom where students could continue their learning while you work with students individually. 

Tips: Remember, if you don’t find a video that meets your classroom needs, you can always flip any video you find on YouTube!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using TED-ed in  your classroom!

Dreaming: A look at Anastasis Academy

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, education reform, inspiration | Posted on 13-11-2011

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You may be wondering (or not) where the daily posts have been lately.  Believe me, it isn’t for lack of tools to share!  The slowness here is directly related to the time I am spending starting a school…as it turns out it is quite a bit of work! ;)  If you are a reader of all of my blogs, you have already seen this one, but for those of you who only follow me here, I thought I would give you a peek into the school I started this year.

Below, I share a picture of an incredible morning we had at Anastasis Academy where we welcomed singer/song writer Matthew West to join us for our morning devotion…we had NO idea it would result in the incredible private concert that it did.  What an enormous blessing to have Matthew share his time, creativity and passion with us.  Check out video of the morning on our school blog Stand Again.

|Kelly Tenkely|

It’s a pretty incredible thing to see dreams come to fruition.

For me it started with an obsession and passion for creating rich learning environments where every student was recognized as an individual. In that first post I wrote:

“I have a dreams of education. I have dreams of the way that schools should look. I have dreams of kids who find their passions. I have dreams of schools as rich learning centers.”

I had dreams of stripping the “vanilla” away so that passions could emerge.

Dreams of ditching that boxed curriculum that we call an education and watching the factory model fade into the rear-view mirror.

Dreams of ending the practice of viewing teachers (and students) as expendables.

I had dreams of schools that were beautiful, that were designed with students in mind.

Dreams that education would stop looking so much like the McRib.

Dreams of breaking free of the box, of valuing students and teachers,  of using the right tools, of a school where a student’s inner da Vinci can break through, of a school that customizes learning.

I shared dreams of more fabulous failures.

The dreams started trickling into reality in March of this year (2011).  In March I started getting some hints that these dreams weren’t really all that far-fetched.  By May I had officially started a school.  In August we opened the doors to Anastasis Academy with our first 50 students in 1st through 8th grade and had hired a dream team of 5 truly incredible teachers to lead them.  In four short months we went from dreams to reality.

At Anastasis Academy, we lease space from a church building throughout the week.  We have our own wing with classrooms, a playground, a gym and a kitchen.  All of our furniture is on wheels.  This makes it easy to adjust space daily based on needs, it is also a necessity since we use shared space.  Twice a week we move all of our belongings across the hall into a storage room (if I’m honest, this is the part we could do without!).  We can’t complain about the space.  It is pretty incredible!

You will notice that we don’t have rows of desks.  No teacher’s desk either.  We have space that kids can move in. Corners to hide in, stages to act on, floors to spread out on, cars to read in.  We are learning how to learn together, learning how to respect other children’s space and needs, learning how to discipline ourselves when we need to, learning how to work collaboratively, we are learning to be the best us.


You won’t see a worksheet at Anastasis. We use iPads.  That isn’t to say that we ONLY use iPads, in fact, you’ll often see us building, cutting, pasting, writing on a whiteboard/chalkboard and even paper.  We do a lot of blogging, a lot of reflecting, a lot of Evernotting, a lot of cinematography, a lot of discussing.

Every morning we start with a 15 minute walk outside together…as a community.  We invite parents and siblings to be a part of our morning walk. Occasionally we have the dogs join in on the fun.  After the walk we come inside as a whole-school for a time of devotions. Again, this is a time for us to build community, to foster the culture we want for our school.  Families are invited to join us every morning.  We always have at least one family and, many times, multiples.  We pray with each other and for each other. We have hard conversations and funny conversations. We think together and challenge each other.

Matthew West joining us for devotions!

Our inquiry block is a time for hands-on transdisciplinary learning.  This is my VERY favorite time to walk through classrooms.  It is incredible to see the joy in discovery.  It is incredible to have a second grade student with dyslexia discover an app to make stop motion animations, teach himself how to use it and proceed to stand up before 7th and 8th grade students to explain how stop motion works.  I wish I could bring you all through the building during this time.  Every time we have a visitor the students pause long enough to describe what they are doing, the learning that is happening. I often have to pick my jaw up off the floor. These kids are amazing.


We have no curriculum. At all. Zip. What did we do instead? We hired the very BEST teachers we could find.  We gave them a base level of skills that we wanted students to have- an outline if you will.  We used the Common Core Standards as our baseline.  We don’t use the standards like most schools do. We use them to make sure that our students have the building blocks and foundations of learning in place.  And then we let our students and teachers GO. The standards are not a weight we are tied to, they are the underpinnings that make it possible for us to soar and take our learning anywhere.  When you look at the Common Core standards they are pretty underwhelming.  I’m glad they are! They provide us with just enough momentum to propel us forward and then off we go on a journey of learning!  We also have our big inquiry questions in place.  From there, we go where the learning takes us, bunny trails and all.  It is pretty fantastic.  Today one of our primary students came out to see me and said, “Look at this boat I found in this new library book. Can I try to make it?”  My answer: “Absolutely! What materials do we need?”  Together we made a list of all the materials I needed to pull together for him.  Tomorrow he will build that boat he is fascinated with and find out if it works the way he has planned.  That is learning!  Tell me what boxed curriculum allows time for that to happen? None. That is why we don’t have it.

In the afternoons we have more “content” area subjects (i.e. math and language arts).  In the primary grades this means students building the skills they need to support their inquiry.  In the intermediate grades this means honing those skills for better communication and more thorough inquiry.  Again, we don’t work from a boxed curriculum. We find the lessons, approaches, and materials that work for the individual student.  Sometimes this means working with manipulatives, sometimes it means exploring measurement outside, and sometimes it means using an app.  It changes daily based on the needs of the students.

We have mixed age level classrooms.  We do this for a lot of reasons.  Most importantly, it is good for older and younger students to work together and learn from each other; it is vital that a child be able to work at their developmental level and progress as they are ready to; and it deepens inquiry when students with different perspectives work together.

Once every five weeks we invite the parents to join us for Parent University.  This is a time for us to help parents understand this new way to do school.  Detox, if you will.  It is a time for us to show parents what best practices in education look like, why grades aren’t all they are cracked up to be, why play is important.  It is a time for us to think and laugh together. It is a time to get questions answered.

Also every five weeks, we hold a “Meeting of the Minds”.  This is a parent/teacher/student conference where we all get together and set our road map for the next 5 weeks.  Students write goals with the help of their teacher. They have ownership over what they have done the last 5 weeks and tell mom and dad what they have planned for upcoming 5 weeks.

Every Friday we have a learning excursion or an opportunity for an “Anastasis Serves”.  Learning excursions are field trips all over the place that help students start to recognize that learning doesn’t just happen when we are at school.  Learning happens everywhere we are and, if we are paying attention, all the time.  Anastasis Serves is a time for our students to give back to the global community.  Sometimes this is a door-to-door scavenger hunt for donations, sometimes this is learning about orphans around the world, or packaging cookies and letters to send to our troops.

We don’t do grades, we do assessment all day every day while we learn.  We don’t do homework, we pursue our families and passions at home.  We don’t do worksheets, we do interesting (sometimes frustrating) work. We don’t do boxed curriculum, we do on-demand learning.

We do mistakes. We do community. We do collaboration. We do messy. We do play. We do fun. We do technology. We do learning.

How do we do all this? We have a 12 to 1 student teacher ratio (or less).  We have incredible students, parents and teachers.  We have stinking smart board members who are invested in our success and trust our judgement calls.  We set our tuition at $8,000 (per pupil spending in our district) to show that even though we are private, this can be done in the public schools.  We started with nothing…well almost nothing, we had dreams.  There was no capital raised, no fund-raisers, no huge donation. We started the beginning of the year at $0 and put blood, sweat and tears into it.

This is not to say that we have it all figured out, that all of our students are perfect, that all of our staff or families are perfect. We are perfectly imperfect as every school is. We have days when the kids are BOUNCING off the walls, we have disagreements, tired teachers, stressed parents, a founder who has occasional melt downs (that would be me), students who need extra love and support, tight budgets, parents who demand different, scuffles, sniffles and band-aids…lots of band-aids.  There is nowhere else I would rather be. No other group of people I would rather work with. No other students whose germs I would rather share. This is my dream.

There are moments throughout the day when I am stopped in my tracks by the realization-this is my dream.

Ideas to Inspire

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, Grade Level, inspiration, professional development, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 27-07-2011

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What it is:  Ideas to Inspire has been a favorite of mine for years, it recently got a design boost that makes it even more useable!  Ideas to Inspire comes to us from @markw29, Mark invites teachers from around the world to share their inspiring ideas for using technology in the classroom.  These are pulled together as a presentation that teachers everywhere can benefit from.  Ideas to Inspire has a handy new filter tool that let’s you find the exact resources and ideas you are looking for easily.  Inspiring ideas include: Amazing art, A to Z of ITC, audio, books to engage boys, ideas for classroom blogging, games to enhance learning, creative geography, geography gaming, get to know your new class, GIS and GPS, Google forms, Google maps, Google search, ICT control and modelling, ICT in the early years, interesting images to use in the classroom, incredible science, inspiring writing, interactive math, Internet safety, iPad, iPod Touch, learning platforms, making your lessons ESL/EAL friendly, mobile phones, Moodle, netbooks, Nintendo DS and DSi, Non-tech strategies, ways to present Internet research, Prezi, Primary Pad, Purple Mash, QR Codes, student voice, super science investigations, super snow day activities, supporting math, supporting spelling, techy tips for non techy teachers, things to do with digital images, Twitter, using backchannels in the classroom, using video conferencing to support the use of quality texts, Wallwisher, webcams, web conferencing, Wii, wikis, Wordle, document cameras, supporting writing, search engines, marvelous music, interactive whiteboards, Google docs, ICT shopping list, creative curriculum topics, pocket video cameras, teaching reading comprehension, Voicethread, YouTube and (if you can believe it) more!

The new filter let’s you filter by curriculum linked presentations or interesting ways to use: hardware, software or online tools in the classroom.

This great resource is not to be missed!

How to integrate Ideas to Inspire into the classroom: Sometimes we could all use a little inspiration.  Ideas to Inspire is just the place to stop for some guaranteed inspiration! I love that the ideas shared on Ideas to Inspire are collected from classrooms and teachers around the world.  That tool you have been using forever in your classroom? Someone, somewhere has thought up a great new innovative way to use it in your classroom for learning!  Does not get better than that!

For those of you who are enjoying the last few weeks (gulp) of summer, be sure to stop by Ideas to Inspire while you have some time to be inspired and make plans for the upcoming school year.

Tips: Fair warning: this website will suck you right in and make you want to spend hours exploring. :)

 

17 Ways to Meet Individual Learning Needs in the Math Classroom

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, Create, Knowledge (remember), Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 15-02-2011

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Cross-post of an article I wrote for The Apple, you can read the original article here.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, The Apple is a social network for educators that is also a great resource for inspiration, lesson ideas, educational news, videos, and job postings.

Kelly Tenkely | TheApple.com

Differentiating instruction can be challenging. Student’s educational strengths and weaknesses can be widely varied, making it a difficult task to meet each student’s needs in any given lesson. Math is one such subject area where student skill levels can be very different. Some students have their basic math facts so well mastered that completing more complex tasks isn’t hindered. Other students have a logical mathematical mind and math just seems to click for them. Then there are the students who really struggle with math facts; they just can’t seem to get them down. Every other area of math feels painful because they don’t have the building blocks mastered. Still other students have no trouble solving equations but when a story problem is introduced, they are stopped dead in their tracks.

For most students, math takes a lot of practice. Unfortunately, the students who need the most practice are the most reluctant to do so because they haven’t been successful in the past. Many of these students have convinced themselves, through negative self-talk, that “I’m just not good at math.” What is a teacher to do with such a mix of skill and comfort levels in the math classroom? Technology can be a great equalizer in the classroom. It provides struggling students with extra support and attention at exactly their skill level, and makes it possible for the student to pace their own learning. Students who have mastered the basics and need to be challenged, can attend to tasks that require them to think in new ways using the skills they already have. The Internet abounds with outstanding free math resources that can be used to encourage struggling students and challenge students who are excelling in math. These websites can be used as a center in the math classroom that is limited to a few computers, for individual learning and practice in the computer lab (1 to 1 setting), or used with the whole class and an interactive whiteboard or projector. The sites are well designed to meet the various learning needs in your classroom, and motivating enough to keep all of your students engaged in learning and practice.

Offline Math Practice:

1. If you are lacking student computers for math practice, consider visiting iPlay Math Games. http://iplaymathgames.com has a collection of printable math games for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. The games are easily searched by grade or skill level. These math games can be played using common items like dice, cards, and other manipulatives. The games have been created to build skills such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, percents, algebra, long division, measurement, graphing, exponents, problem solving, puzzles, geometry, probability, logic, reasoning, numeration, patterns, and counting. Search for games that will meet your different learning needs. Next, group students together to play the games. Grouping students with similar learning needs helps students practice the math skill with others who are in need of the same practice. Create a math learning center where students can easily access the games and manipulatives needed for the games. Hold a math mania day once a week where students can practice the skills they have been learning in math class by playing these fun games.

2. 3D Vinci (http://www.3dvinci.net/ccp0-display/freestuff.html) has downloadable pdf lesson plans to teach math concepts using Google’s Sketchup. The site also has an impressive collection of printable puzzles and mosaics for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade to solve. This site helps bring 3-D concepts to life in a way that textbooks can’t. 3D Vinci also has a YouTube channel where students can watch several ModelMetricks projects.

Math Fact Practice:

Nothing is more motivating than a little friendly competition. Several sites offer competition that helps students practice their math facts, some are seasonal competitions, while others are available year-round. These sites make it a breeze to differentiate math practice. Each student can play games at their own ability level. This keeps the lower math students engaged and feeling successful in their math skills while the higher level students are challenged.

3. Math Mania and World Math Day- Vmath Live hosts these online competitions each year for students around the world to compete in. Math Mania (http://www.voyagerlearning.com/mathmania.do) is a back to school challenge where students compete against other students in real time using the Vmath Live math program. Students face off with other students from around the world while practicing their math facts. As students answer questions, they can see, in real time, how other students from around the world are doing answering the same questions at the same time. The goal is to answer all of the questions as quickly as possible (correctly) and finish before the other students. The live competition is highly motivating and has students asking, “can I play this at home?” World Math Day (http://worldmathday.com/) is a competition that is held each year in March. Just like Math Mania, World Math Day is a competition between students from around the world. Each math fact game lasts for 60 seconds and improves student’s mental math. The World Math Day competition is for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Visit both competition sites for more details about the competition and dates.

4. Make 5 (http://www.fi.uu.nl/toepassingen/00091/toepassing_wisweb.en.html) Make 5 is a fun way for students to practice addition, subtraction or multiplication. Students can play this game individually or against another student. This game provides a great platform for students to practice math facts and to start recognizing relationships between numbers. Students are given a target number and a goal to choose an equation on the grid that equals that target number. There are multiple correct answers on the grid. The goal of the game is to get 5 answers in a row on the grid (like Tic-tac-toe or connect 4). If you don’t have access to classroom computers to play this game, split your class into two groups and play with the whole class with an interactive whiteboard or projector. Each student should be given the chance to represent their team and match an equation with a target number. Give teams 30 seconds to plan their move before sending up the representative.

5. Arcademic Skill Builders (http://www.arcademicskillbuilders.com/) is a collection of fun arcade-like games that help students practice their math facts. Students can play games for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fraction, and ratios. The games are research based and standard aligned. It blends the fun of arcade games and key math skills into fun online games that engage, motivate, and teach students. All games have the option of single or multi-player mode.

6. Tut Pup (http://tutpup.com) is a free math fact practice website. Students are matched up with other students from around the world where they play fact games and compete in real time. This site does not collect personal information about students and there are several games to choose from, each with multiple levels. Students can practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, algebra, and a mixture of those skills.

7. Free Rice (http://freerice.com) is an amazing website that helps students practice math facts, it has the added bonus of donating rice for every correct answer. Students can choose to practice basic math facts or multiplication. For each answer that is correct, grains of rice are donated to hungry people around the world. Add some additional math practice by figuring out how many grains of rice are needed to create a bowl of rice, and keep tally of how many total grains that your students have earned.

Math Puzzles:

Math requires students to look at the world in different ways than they may be used to. It is about seeing relationships and patterns. Students may not be used to thinking in this way. Math puzzles can be a great way to help students start to think about relationship and pattern. This is a fun way to get your students in the math mind set. Your reluctant math students won’t realize that they are practicing math skills as they complete these puzzles.

8. Tangram House (http://games.ztor.com/tang/) This Chinese puzzle challenges students to create a shape using only 7 tans (shapes) to complete a puzzle. The tans can be rotated, flipped, and dragged into place. Tangram House can be used as a math center on classroom computers, completed individually in the computer lab setting, or used as a whole class activity with an interactive whiteboard. To play as a whole class activity, split students into teams that will take turns at the board forming the tangrams. Students who are not at the board can help their teammate using good directions and clues for the student working on the puzzle. This is a great way for students to practice giving and receiving quality instructions and descriptions.

Better Than a Text Book:

Math textbooks can be very dry and hard for students to read for understanding. So much of math involves relationships, patterns, and 3-D objects that a static textbook just can’t do justice to. Online supplements can give students a better understanding of relationship, pattern, and 3-D objects with video and animation.

9. Number Nut (http://www.numbernut.com/index.html) is an interactive math textbook, there are multiple pages for each math concept and each page is followed by two interactive practice areas. Topics on Number Nut include shapes, color, numbers, counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, order of operations, date, time, fractions, decimals, percent values, estimation, rounding, ratios, and money math. The site is standard aligned and has an exceptional math glossary. Number nut is an excellent alternative to math textbooks because students get immediate feed back as they practice a skill they have just learned. With traditional math textbooks, a student doesn’t know if they understand a concept until they turn in their math worksheet or test and get it back a few days later full of red marks. Often they will not go back and re-practice unless they are required to. This site is ideal in a computer lab setting where each student can work at his or her own pace.

10. Learning Clip (http://www.learningclip.co.uk/index1.aspx) is a collection of interactive activities for primary math. Resources and activities include topics such as using and applying math, understanding numbers, number facts, calculating, understanding shape, measuring, and handling data. Each activity includes a brief description, a pdf of notes that accompany the activity, the age appropriateness, and a corresponding worksheet that can be printed out. When an activity is loaded, a video clip explaining the math concept plays. Each activity includes a game or interactive space for students to practice what they are learning. This site is ideal for struggling students, they can replay the video portion of the lesson as many times as they need to so that they understand the concept. The practice area is a great place for students to try what they have learned.

11. Harcourt Multimedia Math Glossary (http://www.harcourtschool.com/glossary/math2/index3.html) will help students in kindergarten through sixth grade understand math vocabulary. The glossary is easily searched by grade and alphabetic order. This glossary is not your typical textbook glossary, it doesn’t just define math terms, it actually shows them what it looks like. Each word and definition can be read aloud to students by clicking on the speaker icon next to the word.

12. Math TV (http://www.mathplayground.com/mathtv.html) is a series of video story problems for math. Each math problem comes with a step by step video solution, followup problems, an online calculator, and a sketch pad. Word problems include topics such as fractions, percentages, ratios, probability, geometry, averages, and algebra. Story problems are often a source of anxiety and frustration, these videos are perfect for visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. You can’t go wrong!

Real World Math Practice:

“When will I use this?” is a common phrase muttered in math classrooms around the country. As students advance in math and learn more complex skills and equations, they are often puzzled by how it relates to real life. Students want to know that what they are learning is relevant to their lives. Bringing real world math practice into the classroom helps students relate what they are learning with how it is applied in life.

13. The Stock Market Game (http://stockmarketgame.com/) gives students a chance to practice hands on real-world math. Each student gets the chance to invest a hypothetical $100,000 in an online portfolio. While playing the game, students learn economic and financial concepts that they will use the rest of their lives. The game is intended for students in fourth through twelfth grades.

14. Kids and Cookies (http://www.teacherlink.org/content/math/interactive/flash/kidsandcookies/kidcookie.php) is a flash game that teaches students about fractions in a real-world situation. Students choose characters to be their friends and then choose how many cookies they have. Students must evenly share their cookies with their friends and can use different cookie cutters to divide them up. This is a great introduction to how rational number fractions are used in life.

Interactive Math:

15. Illuminations Resources for Teaching Math (http://illuminations.nctm.org/Activities.aspx?grade=1&grade=2&grade=3&grade=4) is a treasure trove of activities for the math classroom. The site has more than 100 interactive math activities for teaching and practicing math in the kindergarten through twelfth grade classroom. The activities help students understand concepts that can be difficult by inviting them to interact with the concept. These activities are ideal for an interactive whiteboard but can also be a wonderful math center activity.

16. Math Arcade (http://www.funbrain.com/brain/MathBrain/MathBrain.html) is a website where students in first through eighth grades can practice math facts and math skills through fun interactive games and activities. Math Arcade plays like a board game, each space on the game board is another activity that must be completed before students can move on. Students receive a special password that they can write down to return to their saved game. There are 25 games at each grade level to play. Students can play games that build skills at the specific level they are at.

17. Math Playground (http://www.mathplayground.com/index.html) is packed full of games, videos, and puzzles all centered around math for elementary and middle school students. The games are interactive and a great place to practice the skills they are learning. Students get immediate feedback as they play the games and go through the activities. If they are correct, they can move on to the next game or problem. If they are incorrect, they will try again. The word problem section is divided up by grade level, ensuring that students are challenged at an appropriate level. The Math video section contains videos that introduce students to math concepts.

There are oodles of other ways to meet the needs of your individual learners in math, check out these posts for some more ideas!