January 2012

Monthly Archive

Broken toes and little things

Posted by on 29 Jan 2012 | Tagged as: broken bones, climate, environment, Family Matters, Gardens and Life, good things, teaching, Uncategorized

I rammed my foot up against an immovable object this afternoon. Will be teaching with a broken toe for a while. Which I can do, but it’s not going to be fun. Crutches on standby, ugly but comfortable shoes at the ready!

It was a lovely, grey-infused day today. I like the gentle, seasonally productive, rains. It’s not so dark when the silver sun is falling.

I have done very little that is productive since I hurt my toe. Stuck with my foot elevated, tired of sitting. Will have to get up and get some of the materials I need for the coming week in order.

This week I will have a chance to teach a lesson on figurative language, and another an art-social studies lesson that will encourage discussion about perspective taking and decision making. I will get to talk about math, science, and a host of other topics that I find interesting.

While the elder stidkid stays in town with a friend for a few days so we don’t have to worry about coordinating schedules around school-work/school-work/school/work, I hope to get the house a little neater and more orderly.

And I hope it keeps raining, but gently. Our mountains need snow and our aquifers need recharging. The gardens of our lives all benefit from a little water blessing at regular intervals.

Sometimes confirmation is good…

Posted by on 26 Jan 2012 | Tagged as: Education Professional, good things, teaching, Uncategorized

Today I confirmed that I am really not cut out to teach very young kids — at least, I need more experience with whole-class, non-specialist time, with second graders.

I enjoyed my day, but it took me a little while to “hit my stride” with giving instructions, knowing what I was going to need to point out, and how to adjust as I went along. I thought I had things pretty well wrapped up when suddenly at the end of the day I had three students in tears; and one of those in full-on meltdown mode. Which discombobulated me enough that I ended up forgetting to send some notices home. Nothing that the regular teacher won’t be able to handle, just left me feeling as if the day had been somehow off-kilter. Working hard to remember that MOST of the day, and MOST of the interactions were very pleasant and productive.

The good things: no one got physically hurt, the insults that occurred were minor, I really understood what I was doing with the reading and math work (that last one feels like a victory), and science was a blast! I accomplished almost everything in the lesson plan, too! The neighboring teacher I talked to was wonderful, and very supportive. They always are, at that school. They know that I am pedaling as fast as I can! But I did mention on the way out to the scheduling secretary that second grade is probably the youngest I should teach… I feel so much more comfortable with older students!

I also, however, confirmed that I CAN teach the younger students and even have a pretty good time doing it. Next time I am in a younger classroom, I will be better able to head off some of the issues, and more adept at dealing with what does occur.

Each day, I learn something new!

It’s a good feeling.

The joys of teaching

Posted by on 25 Jan 2012 | Tagged as: education, Education Professional, teaching, Uncategorized

  • That moment when the student who has been in tears realizes that they aren’t expected to know everything already.
  • The point in the day when a student spontaneously smiles and says, “Thank you.”
  • The teacher next door who pokes his nose in and says hello without following up with a request to borrow…
  • The administrator who pokes her nose in and says “Thanks for being here,” simply because she really cares.
  • The parent who sees you in the parking lot and asks if you want extra help — and then actually comes in.
  • The lesson plan that works out just as planned.
  • The lesson that takes an unexpected turn and teaches you as much as the children.
  • The professional development course that has real, and immediately useful, suggestions.
  • The morning that you wake up and realize that you look forward to taking on the day.

It’s a short list (so far) but all of these things have happened to me, either during student teaching, or as a substitute. Teaching is full of good moments. There are challenging days, and sometimes heart-breaking situations, but in general I really look forward to each day I get to teach. And I spend hours thinking about lessons I would like to teach, lessons I would re-work, and lessons I hope I never repeat.

Parent-School Communications and In-school Technologies

Posted by on 21 Jan 2012 | Tagged as: education, Education Professional, Interesting Websites, teaching, technology in education, Uncategorized

I have just finished attending a web seminar, my usual Saturday-morning activity. Glad our power was restored in time for this! The livebinder of links for this webinar is at livebinders.com classroom20live. The actual webinar is available for playback at live.classroom20.com archives (there is a link to archives at the top of the page). It is also available on iTunes U!

I am excited by Joe Mazza’s presentation. The way this principal has integrated technology into a robust home-school program is inspiring. And to my question about what to do for the families who lack tech connections, the answer was simple and obvious: they maintain a list of those families, and EVERY communication that goes out via the web or cell network goes home to those families in hard copy. The school also has awareness of community resources that can help families become connected (cut rates for cable internet was an example).

The school district I am applying to is very rural. Cellular service is questionable, let alone smart phone access, and cable internet will be sporadic as well. Affordability of technology will be an issue for some families in this district. Some families might be able to access or afford technology but decline to use it. I want to be sure that anything I do online does not disenfranchise families!

So I am thinking about using a telephone-based call-in feature where I could leave a homework update or family notices about tests and conference times. My local school had something like this when my boys were little, and it was very helpful to me. Paper communications don’t always make it home in a timely manner! But that would be a common way for me to send information home also. Class sizes in this district will be small, so printing won’t be a huge deal. But in a larger, still rural or low-income community, cost to print might be an issue.

One of the participants in today’s webinar in the chat room mentioned Remind 101 as a tool that can both text families/students and email. This would be a good tool where cell service is reliable, and most families have cell phones. I know that just because families are in an urban location does not guarantee that they have access to computers. Even public access computers in libraries are not always available (as I mentioned in my Master’s Paper). So wherever I am, whatever I am teaching, I will have to be sure I make communications with families as broad and inclusive as possible.

I have a lot of things to think about! A different person in the chat room was insistent that online communications are not safe or secure. I think this person is unfamiliar with technologies, as many families are, and has read too many alarmist reports. However, there are some very real and important personal security issues that need to be addressed with online communications. I am going to do some research and thinking about how to convey to families (and other teachers) the knowledge they need to be able to address those concerns. For example, I understand how to disaggregate data and keep it anonymous, but I think most people don’t. I should be able to explain this better! I should also be able to talk intelligently about firewalls, restricted-access sites and communications, and what a “hacker” does – and doesn’t.

Finally, these webinars make me think about how tech can be used to support learning, both within and outside the classroom.

I am always trying to wrap my head around how to integrate tech into instruction without losing the developmentally appropriate tasks of non-tech activities. I think students of ALL ages benefit from using physical crayons, paints, scissors, glue… I think students of ALL ages need to know how indexing systems work in physical texts, how to ask a question and hold it in their minds longer than the time it takes to click a link, how to communicate face to face. I think students of all ages also benefit from being able to move quickly past a stumbling block by using online resources, to communicate with teachers or project team members outside of school time, to be able to publish their original work to websites where classmates and far-flung friends and family can view and comment! So when I think about the home-family connection, I think about things like posting student work to a class website that parents can access (with a password) and comment on. I think about a web-based chat room where parents can ask questions or suggest things and I can respond so all the parents can be part of the conversation (emails don’t allow this!). I think about giving students the tools to post notes from class so peers can benefit from the group process — who noticed what? Why would that be important? I think about an online class calendar and notification system so that my students can see what I have taught as well as what is coming up (projects, tests, special guests).

So much to think about, to be excited about.

I hope I get a classroom of my own soon so I can start working on this!

New pages at Stidmama.com

Posted by on 19 Jan 2012 | Tagged as: education, Education Professional, grad school, school, technology in education, Uncategorized

I have added two pages, both are in the sidebar to the right.

Under "About" is a Page that reads My Online Resume. No surprise, but it has the basic text of the resume I walked in to a local district last week. I am going to add in some of the additional activities and training sessions I have attended in the last 7 months as well as some of my hobbies and skills — those would go on a second page, if I were to hand it in.

In the "Papers" section is my Master’s Paper. Titled, Access to Opportunity it is a cursory exploration of some of the issues surrounding technology literacy in schools. While the writing process was artificial and disorganized, I think there is information in this paper that could help other teachers who are also struggling with either how to articulate the need to take instructional time to support student use of technology, or how to understand the variances in capacity between students.

I will probably be spending time this coming summer organizing and re-arranging pages, to make it easier to navigate what is rapidly becoming a catch-all site. I might break out some of the functions again, and start maintaining separate sites for my professional teacher activities, storytelling and arts, and my random but hopefully fascinating observations on life in general…

What would you do if…

Posted by on 18 Jan 2012 | Tagged as: copyrights, Making a Difference, politics, Uncategorized

  • you couldn’t access information about products, trends, people or news on the internet?
  • you couldn’t direct others to interesting information you found on the internet?
  • you were liable for legal penalties if you direct someone to a site that had pirated content — even if you didn’t know it was pirated?
  • your work, created with another’s permission to use and make derivative works, suddenly became retroactively illegal?

This is the a short list of some of my concerns with the SOPA legislation that is being discussed in Washington, D.C. – it is based in part on complaints that there are many websites that are illegally posting and streaming content that is copyrighted. Which may be true. However, the legislation that is being discussed would also catch people who are inadvertently including materials that may be copyrighted.

For example, I took a short video this morning showing the walls of my son’s bedroom, including the many movie and book posters he has collected through the years. As written, this legislation might make this small, innocent video illegal. Even things that are wholly my own work could, potentially, find their way to being charged as not legal, or disallowed from some websites even with my permission to use!

Search engines might be reluctant to link to any but the most well-researched, and most well-connected websites, rendering small operations like my own tiny business (currently on hiatus) all-but invisible online.

I urge people who value freedom of expression, freedom of information, freedom of communication, to think carefully about two things:

  1. Contact your legislators to express concern over the potential to erode the average person’s online freedoms in the name of protecting personal and corporate copyrights. When law-abiding, honest people find their rights restricted in an attempt to stop piracy, it is shameful. Laws should be written to punish and deter criminals, not regular people!
  2. Don’t knowingly use, promote or provide pirated content. This includes music, movies, books and other materials that clearly have a creator/owner who expects payment for use. If people paid for legitimately sourced content, legislation like this would not be sought after!

Remember, laws should be written to protect and support people. People should not be afraid of, nor un-necessarily restricted by, laws. Let’s keep the balance in favor of people, and avoid legislation that will increase lawsuits against innocent folks.

In Solidarity, Blacking out my Blog

Posted by on 18 Jan 2012 | Tagged as: Making a Difference, politics, Uncategorized

Tom tells me there is a plug-in to do this. I will be offline for a day.

Stop SOPA!

Don’t inhibit the ability and right of people to collaborate and communicate!

At the end of the day, I am not sure if my small protest made any difference. Not by itself. But perhaps, in conjunction with others who made small protests, alongside bigger protesters like Wikipedia and Google… maybe we can make enough of a difference.