Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Learning Journey

My very first keynote presentation was to an amazing group of gifted and talented educators at the "Developing Possibilities" conference held in Storm Lake, IA. I was honored that Shari Collins asked me to present my story and passion for creativity.

The main points of my talk were:
 -Make connections, let them bring out your passion. For me, I learned about a program called "Stationery Studio" and fell in love with a company that designs amazing software and has a huge mission that showed me how passionate I was about creativity. Through that first connection, I was beyond blessed to be able to meet and fall in love with Peter H. Reynolds and software designer, Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns
I was also fortunate to have a friend at school, Brent Thoren, who took one of the lessons I created for "Animation-Ish" and had kids do it as an assignment, even before the program was on the market, to test it out. Having people who support you along the way is so important, I was lucky to have one of the best.
-Share your ideas with the right people. I shared the small idea of having kids make dots in their classrooms with Peter H. Reynolds and it took off because he loved the idea and supported it. He had the brilliance of calling it International Dot Day, setting the bar fantastically high. 
-Find people who share your passion. The first explosion of Dot Day happened when Shannon M. Miller and John Schumacher shared with their schools and social networks.
The second major milestone happened when Newbery Medal winning author, Sharon Creech, kindly sent me a dot on Dot Day 2011. That one act of kindness launched the Celebridot site. One of the huge blessings in my life is to be connected with the very best authors and illustrators on the planet who were kind enough to make dots to inspire kids to be creative.
I shared examples of how creativity has impacted my school and my classroom. So many awesome connections have established because of my passion for creativity in the classroom. Watching kids create amazing things feeds the passion in me. 
International Dot Day has allowed me to meet and build enduring friendships with the very best educators all around the world. Search #DotDay on Twitter and find amazing educators with amazing creativity and heart.
I challenged the educators at my session to share a dot with me. I am so honored that some of these great people sent me a dot and shared what they are passionate about. Below are the dots they sent, I was so impressed with all of them!!

What are you passionate about and what are you doing every day to feed that passion?

Inisha Hoehamer



Terry Van Berkum

Marleta Smith

Shari Collins

Rebecka Allen

Vickie Hemmingson

Julie Gibson



Sunday, March 2, 2014

Photoshop Tricks-Splash Bravely

Recently, I was asked to present at a conference. Since I was talking about International Dot Day and reading "The Dot" by Peter H. Reynolds, I wanted to model the theme of the book and bravely make a splash. So, to that end, I painted the slide background and the backgrounds for the important quotes. I used watercolors for some and my iPad for others. I used a fun method to invert the words and the background and wanted to show it here in case others want to do it. 






Final Look:
Awesome author, Sharon Creech recently shared how to make Orbs from pictures on Photoshop, You can find the directions on her blog


 Other Examples:




Friday, February 7, 2014

Connecting Authors With Readers



Almost a year ago, I wrote a post with advice for readers interested in connecting with authors. After some recent discussions online, I want to revise and update.

If you are asking questions: Check the author's website to see what questions have already been answered. Encourage kids to be creative and ask thoughtful questions. I see this often from authors so I'm repeating it.

Don't expect an instant reply, authors can receive between 10-700 emails a day (not to mention social media tags) and are busy creating new books. Many of them really want to respond and I've seen some of the struggle for the "right" words to respond with, so you might need to be patient. 

Also, "one thing teachers should know is that when they send us a big package of letters it becomes impossible to personally reply to each kid. I totally get why teachers want to encourage kids to write letters, and there's no reason they'd realize how it feels on our end. But it seems worth spreading the word about. If a kid REALLY wants to connect with an author it's best done on a personal one-to-one basis. I feel terrible about the envelopes I have that contain a bundle of thank you letters, and I try to write an email back, saying how much I appreciated the notes, but for authors who work with a lot of classrooms, it can be rough." Laurel Snyder

Remember there are lots of fans and only one author. You might not always get a reply, I know there are authors who agonize over that fact. The majority WANT to interact, but time is precious.

Many authors have blogs, search those out. I think author blogs may be one of the most motivating and inspiring things available for young writers. 

Great authors like James Preller have blogs they use to respond to kids' letters: "I've been posting random fan mail letters & responses on my blog for the past 5 years: http://www.jamespreller.com/category/fan-mail/

If you are using USPS mail: enclose SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope).

"Don't ask for help with your homework." was advice from S.E. Hinton, author of "The Outsiders" 
  Here is an example of that from the amazing Lisa Yee:

Letters as assignments: I've heard of teachers giving assignments to write/email an author. This seems like an ill-advised idea to me. Perhaps save those interactions for authors that the student really wants to know more about and have a greater connection with. On this subject, S.E. Hinton said, "It is very unfair to an author to make them responsible for a student's grade. That should between the student & the teacher." She is so right!

Publishers as postal carriers:
"I also wanted to point out that if a child doesn't get a response from an author, it could be because of the ridiculous amount of time a publisher can take to forward the mail. I was heartbroken when I got a pack of letters from a class sent in care of one of my publishers and a note from the librarian saying "Please write back!" and I didn't get it till the following school year--I don't know how it took the publisher six months to put the letters into an envelope and mail them to me, but it's not an uncommon experience, I understand." Deborah Underwood

Request for books/drawings/charity:
If you're going to ask an author for a book to give away, please know that authors don't have an unending supply of books and they will actually have to go to a bookstore, buy the book, pay for it, and pay for shipping. Authors/Illustrators are some of the best people I have ever known, but, like anyone else, there are limits to their generosity. If you are going to make the request, you should find ways to make it easier for them to help you (like buy the book, provide postage, etc.)

School Visits:
*Just as you would never expect other professionals to provide their service for free, you should understand that you should expect to pay an author/illustrator to visit. You will also need to provide transportation.

*Make sure they give authors breaks so they can prepare for the next presentation. PLEASE adhere to the agreed-upon schedule--saying, "You won't mind just dropping in and doing a quick visit with the kindergarteners, will you?" puts the author in a very awkward position, especially if they'd planned on using the time to mentally prepare for the next assembly.

*Authors receive a number of inquiries for visits either through email or website. Typically the contact information is on the author's website. Once you have made contact and received a response, it would be respectful to write back to the author, even if you are not going to secure a visit with them. It appears some schools write to many authors at the same time to inquire, or decide not to use that author, and then don't extend the courtesy of responding to let them know another direction was chosen.

*Once the visit is set, make sure that the kids and the other teachers know who the author is before she visits.

Barbara O'Connor wrote this awesome post about successful school visits, check it out.

Updates:
I would love to update this list and help with connecting readers and authors. If you have ideas, please let me know.

Connections:
Here are authors and illustrators I have in my network. Click on their names to go to their website. I've learned so much about the writing process from them, maybe if you start following them and check out their blogs, you can pass that on to students. Follow them on Twitter and learn all about their latest projects and get sneak peeks of things to come:

Sharon Creech @ciaobellacreech Celebridot 2011, Celebridot 2012, Celebridot 2013

Ame Dyckman @amedyckman Celebridot

Peter H Reynolds @peterhreynolds Celebridot 2012, Celebridot 2013, The Dot Club

Kristin Tubb @ktubb Celebridot

Katherine Applegate @kaaauthor Celebridot

Debbie Ridpath Ohi @inkyelbows Celebridot

Zachariah OHora @zachariahohora Celebridot

Tom Angleberger @Origami Yoda Celebridot

CeCe Bell @cecebellbooks

Michael Grant @thefayz

Augusta Scattergood @ARScattergood

Courtney Stevens @Quartland

Lisa Yee @LisaYee1 and @RealPeepy Celebridot

Stephen McCranie @stephenmccranie

Jarrett J. Krosoczka @studioJJK

Judy Blume @judyblume

Barney Saltzberg @BSaltzberg

Margo Sorenson @ipapaverison

Michele Robinson @MicheRobinson Celebridot

Chris Barton @bartography Celebridot

Lauren Castillo @studiocastillo Celebridot

Lynne Plourde @LynnPlourde Celebridot

Florence Minor @minorart Celebridot

Wendell Minor @wendellminor Celebridot

Bethanie Murguia @aquapup Celebridot

Deborah Underwood @underwoodwriter Celebridot

Eric Wight @Eric_Wight

S.E. Hinton @se4realhinton

Katie Davis @katiedavisburps Celebridot

Susan Verde @susanverde Celebridot

Erica S. Perl @ericaperl

Anita Silvey @anitasilvey

Beverly McClure @beverlymcclure

Donna Gephart ‏ @DGephartWrites

ElizabethRoseStanton ‏ @PenspaperStudio

Sage Blackwood ‏ @urwalder Celebridot

AJ Smith ‏ @AJSmithillustr Celebridot

Cynthia Leitich Smith ‏ @CynLeitichSmith

Drew Daywalt ‏ @DrewDaywalt Celebridot

Cynthia Lord ‏ @Cynthia_Lord Celebridot

Deborah Wiles ‏ @deborahwiles

Lisa Jahn-Clough ‏ @ljahnclough Celebridot

Holly Goldberg Sloan ‏ @HGoldbergSloan Celebridot

Jennifer Fosberry ‏ @jenfos Celebridot

Anne Belov ‏ @PandaChronicle Celebridot

Anika Denise ‏ @AnikaDenise

Jamie Michalak ‏ @Jamie_Michalak

Bonny Becker ‏ @bonnybecker33 Celebridot

Lori Degman ‏ @LoriDegman Celebridot

Deborah Freedman ‏ @DeborahFreedman Celebridot

Russ Cox ‏ @smilingotis Celebridot

Julie Falatko ‏ @JulieFalatko Celebridot

Stanley & Katrina ‏ @StanleyNKatrina

Kristi Valiant ‏ @KristiValiant Celebridot

KimberlyNewtonFusco ‏ @kimberlynewtonf Celebridot

Tina Kugler ‏ @tinatheatre

Nicole Walters ‏ @nicoleywalters Celebridot

Laurel Snyder ‏ @LaurelSnyder Celebridot

Samantha Berger ‏ @BergerBooks Celebridot

Kirby Larson ‏ Verified account @KirbyLarson Celebridot

Anna Raff ‏ @annaraffNYC Celebridot

Jesse Klausmeier ‏ @JesseKlausmeier

Matthew Cordell ‏ @cordellmatthew Celebridot

Anne Ursu ‏ @anneursu

Timothy Young ‏ @TimSYoung Celebridot

Melissa Guion ‏ @MelissaGuion Celebridot

Jessica E Young ‏ @happybluejess Celebridot

Ellen Potter @Ellenpotter

Adam Lehrhaupt ‏ @Lehrhaupt Celebridot

Erin Dealey ‏ @ErinDealey Celebridot

Aileen Stewart ‏ @AileenWStewart Celebridot

Chris Crutcher ‏ @ChrisCrutcher

Aaron Becker @storybreathing Celebridot

Lois Lowry @LoisLowryWriter Celebridot

Kathi Appelt @kappelt Celebridot

Louise Borden @LouiseBorden Celebridot

Jon Klassen @burstofbeaden Celebridot

John Lechner @johnlechner Celebridot

Barbara O'Connor @barbaraocconnor Celebridot

Rebecca Kai Dotlitch @Rebeccakai 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Guidelines and Helpful Tips for Posting Online

My very wise Intro To Computers class of HS Juniors made this list of guidelines and tips for posting online. I'm so proud of this list and the students who came up with it! This grew out of the assignment I blogged earlier

Guidelines and Helpful Tips
Fall 2013 North Tama Intro To Computers

1. Be careful because anyone can see your tweets

2. Retweets reflect on you as much as tweets

3. Swear words make you look immature and reflect badly on you even if you don't usually swear

4. If you wouldn't say it out loud don't say it online

5. What you tweet now affects your future and you don’t even realize it

6. Be the bigger person

7. Don’t tweet when you're mad

8. Don't say anything you'll regret

9. Before you tweet something think about what your grandma or grandpa would say if they saw it

10. Be careful who follows you. Block people who are not particularly "nice"

11. Never agree to meet with someone in person that you don’t know

12. Don’t make yourself sound unsafe or dangerous

13. If you’re going to state your opinion, make sure you are able to justify what you say

14. Respect opinions that differ from yours

15. Do not bash others

16. Be positive. Use social media for good, positive things and events in your life.

17. No rude, offensive or inappropriate pictures

18. Please don't use it as your diary

19. Everyone can see what you favorite, use it wisely

20. Show the world the good in you

Monday, January 6, 2014

My Favorite Features in Stationery Studio





 I've been tweeting and Facebooking a lot lately about my love for Stationery Studio. I wanted to share some of my favorite features of the program
I









Full disclosure: I lead an educator program for FableVision Learning. I do not make any money from sales. I am writing this post because I love this software and think it should have more exposure. My school has a site license. I also love Peggy Healy Stearns who designed the program, that did not change my review of the program, I actually loved it before I met anyone at FableVision.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Stationery Studio Contest- December 30--UPDATE WITH WINNER


As you know, Stationery Studio is the software that started my journey with FableVision Learning so many years ago. I saw it at a conference and was blown away by how well-designed it was and how well-suited it was for elementary education. My elementary has a site license.

SO, I want to give away a copy so you can see what I found so fascinating. (You can also download a trial copy) All you need to do is share the Facebook post or retweet the Tweet for a chance to win.




Stationery Studio is on special until midnight on December 31, so if you don't win, you can buy your own copy for 50% off.

Here is what Peter H. Reynolds says about Stationery Studio:


Product Features
An award-winning, intuitive software tool for writing at the computer and by hand, Stationery Studio includes:
  • Over 400 curriculum-based borders & shapes featuring art by Peter H. Reynolds — including portrait, landscape, and envelope options.
  • 59 teacher-friendly classroom activities by Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns that support national standards.
  • An easy-to-use word processor, featuring all the basics — and none of the confusion.
  • Simple tools for customizing line style, line width, page layout, and more.
  • Ability to use all installed fonts and special dotted fonts to guide handwriting practice.
  • Multiple formats for printing activity sheets, awards, invitations, and letters.
  • Compatible with all interactive whiteboards and AlphaSmarts, including the NEO 2. All popular add-on packs now included!


Dave Tchozewski won the free license. Since he is an Ambassador and already has the program, he may donate it to whomever he likes. 


Thursday, December 26, 2013

On Digital Citizenship: A Digital Footprint Lesson

I teach a class called, "Intro to Computers" which has both high school and dual enrollment (college + high school) sections. This term I was teaching the high school only section and I wanted to find a way to talk about digital footprints without be preachy. I wanted for kids to be aware of the mark they are leaving on the world.

I sought volunteers via my own Facebook and was overwhelmed by how awesome my online friends are. I had many more than I could use in the time allotted. I chose three college students (two the kids might know and one they didn't), two authors and a few educators.

The students were asked to look at the Tweets WITHOUT reading the profile (which I realize is hard to do). I asked them to describe the person with five characteristics based solely on their tweets. The results were amazing. 

The students then decided if they would hire the person (again, based on their tweets) for a variety of jobs and to give rationale (quoting actual tweets). The potential jobs were teacher, principal, and grocery store clerk. I also asked if they would buy the person's book if they were an author of children's books. Again, the results were amazing.

Finally, I took screen shots of tweets (and retweets) from the Twitter timelines of students in the class, obscuring the names, and we pretended that this was a fictional person named, "Brenda Bunch." (The associate in the room at the time is named Brenda). This proved to be the greatest lesson of them all. Here are some words the students used to describe "Brenda Bunch": "self centered, un caring, uncreative,un prepaired, not smart, likes to share her opinion, doesn't really care what people think, mean, demanding, likes the weekend, depressed, She is very innaproprate and uses vulgar language."


I asked students to email me their thoughts, I received this from one student, "Before I started this project I seriously thought it was pointless and I would get nothing out of it. After working on the project for a class period, and viewing peoples profiles it made me realize tweeting one bad word can make you look like a very bad person. If someone tweets something about someone, subtweets them, says a bad word, or is a very negative person it can make them look bad. After finishing this project it made me realize to never be negative on twitter or say anything bad because this could effect you in your future while getting a job, and people reviewing your profile before hiring you for a job."


To take the lesson one step further, I asked a friend in college admissions at a local University to look at the "Brenda Bunch" tweets and to see what possible repercussions a student could face, she noted that several tweets would disqualify "Brenda" for scholarships. About one retweet, she wrote, "sounds like there are some mental health issues...might be flagged as a student to watch when they enter college"


We then talked about this project in class and it was an eye-opening discussion. I've long been concerned about the idea that kids don't see what they retweet as a reflection on them. One of the college students is one of the smartest people I know, and he was described as not being very smart. I shared with the students what I knew to be true about the people we profiled.


I also shared that an awesome author, Samantha Berger, wrote this on Facebook:
which came at the perfect time. I'm always nudging my students on Twitter about the types of things they are saying. Reading this post reminded me that I was once a teenager and I would have torn up social media. All of my nudging, and the point of this lesson, is not judgment, but just a wakeup call.

I myself have used Twitter to snark. Most of the time, I have removed the Tweets (which I know doesn't remove them from the world). It's important that we all take a look at our footprint and readjust our sails. 

Do I think that this lesson will change the way these kids tweet?? No, not all of them. But if it gives them pause before they hit send, then I think it had the desired effect.