Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Time for Reflection

What an amazing year....2008. Today, as I am a bit homebound, I started to reflect on the year of connections and technology....and the beginning of a new and amazing section of my journey.

Over last Christmas break, I was asked to write lesson plans for a new software program called, "Animation-Ish" from my dear friends at FableVision. What a great experience that turned out to be. There is nothing more exciting to me than dreaming up ways to reach kids using any tool available, and having a great animation tool was the motivation for a lot of new ways to teach! In May, the high school kids made political cartoons (one of the last lesson plans I came up with) and I was blown away by the results. Huge thanks to History teacher, Brent Thoren, for having students work on the assignment. Check out my resource collection on a previous blog post.

In May, I also took the jump into Twitter. I had read about (and mocked) Twitter for quite some time and didn't see the point. How can a person learn anything or make friends 140 characters at a time? After gaining 220 or so followers, I have learned that the "Personal Learning Network" is a very strong force in my career and my life. I have learned so much from these friends, most of whom I have never met in real life. I must give thanks to Sylvia Martinez who tweeted my presence and gained me a lot of followers on that first day!

Also in May, I launched this blog. What a journey that has been. I have been able to post about the things that move me. I have been able to think out loud and also make some cherished connections. I love the thoughtful comments and I love being the voice for some other dreamers. One of the greatest thrills this year was when I blogged about "Darius Goes West," an amazing journey that EVERYONE should watch and support, I received emails from some of the gifted filmmakers. What a thrill. I purchased a video and I hope you will too. Here is a previous post to give you more information.

June was truly amazing and unreal. I traveled to NECC in San Antonio and was part of the FableVision group for the second year. I attended the Constructivist Consortium with my friends Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns, Gary Goldberger and Cristine Goldberg.  I got to meet "The Great One," of Twitter and Plurk fame, Diane Cordell (@dmcordell). What a treat. What could be better than being in a room with motivated educators who want to make a difference in the lives of children and they want to change their practice to inspire the difference?

I also had the wonderful opportunity to be a guest presenter with my hero and friend, Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns in her session. Watching this truly gifted educator is treat enough....but being invited to present some things my students have done was unbelievable. Another great treat of this conference was while I was sitting on a lobby floor hanging out and having lunch with Peggy, Peter H. Reynolds came up to sit with us and showed us the proof for the book that would be come one of my favorites of this year, "Free to Be...You and Me: The 35th anniversary edition." I had used "Free to Be...You and Me" in my classroom over the years, I was thrilled that it was being updated. Peter H Reynolds' artwork is some of the best ever. It is a beautiful book and a work of art to me

The other great part of NECC was meeting people all around the country who love FableVision and some who hadn't met the company yet. It was great a way, like teaching. Sometimes, you could literally see the fire light as educators dreamed of ways to use "Animation-Ish" in their classroom!

Sometime in the summer, I also jumped on the Plurk bandwagon...I have amassed 143 new friends. It is amazing how much sharing goes on in that arena. Although much of it is the sharing of the mundane comings and goings of the day.... their have been some very poignant discussions. There have been the passing of animals and the devastation of areas with weather that have led me to make charitable donations. I am amazed how the lives of people that most of us have never and will never meet have brought about such compassion.  On the other side of serious, my sense of humor gets a work out with some of my favorite sparring partners on Plurk, like principalspage and Dedra. Although I love making connections and learning about the latest in education and technology, my extreme quest for humor enjoys the silly interchanges as well. I once said, "If you can't have fun doing it, don't do it!"

In the end of October I was hired part-time by FableVision, the world's greatest software company (which you know I thought was that great before I 'worked' there). I lead the Ambassador program, which is the program I had been involved with. As I mentioned earlier, one of my greatest joys in the world is talking with educators who are committed to motivating kids and improving lessons with new products or methods. So, this job is a perfect fit for me. I am not in sales, which I would be really bad at. I get to spend time talking to phenomenal educators who are ON FIRE about reaching kids and love education. I get wonderfully touching emails about what people are doing with kids and it is truly a joy.

In November, I was asked to write an article for "Learning and Leading" magazine because of a comment I left on my "cyber angel" Sylvia Martinez's blog. It was a thought provoking prompt and it was gratifying to be asked to respond.

In late November, Peter H. Reynolds encouraged me to join Facebook. Previously, I believed that was an avenue for college students to come up with party plans....I was wrong. I have had a great time connecting with my Twitter, Plurk, and FableVision friends. Lately, I have started following some of the authors I admire in the Young Adult realm. Susan Patron, Deborah Wiles and others... Another great way to be motivated by interesting people. But, probably the greatest use of Facebook is that I have been reconnected with some of my favorite students from the past.  What a great use of technology!!!  I now have 229 friends and am enjoying adding more as the days pass.

It was a year filled with friends and good times. Thanks to all who played a part!

I am a very lucky man!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Animation

Created by me using Animation-Ish

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Are we SURE we want to go to DC???

This from Michelle Rhee, the new chancellor of D.C. Schools...

"She says things most superintendents would not. "The thing that kills me about education is that it's so touchy-feely," she tells me one afternoon in her office. Then she raises her chin and does what I come to recognize as her standard imitation of people she doesn't respect. Sometimes she uses this voice to imitate teachers; other times, politicians or parents. Never students. "People say, 'Well, you know, test scores don't take into account creativity and the love of learning,'" she says with a drippy, grating voice, lowering her eyelids halfway. Then she snaps back to herself. "I'm like, 'You know what? I don't give a crap.' Don't get me wrong. Creativity is good and whatever. But if the children don't know how to read, I don't care how creative you are. You're not doing your job."
Source: Time Magazine

In education, we do need people who can make hard choices....But, more importantly, we need leaders who have taken their place in the classroom and been EFFECTIVE! Unless you have been in the trenches, you don't know how to handle the struggles in education. Thinking that creativity and "Touchy Feely" people have no place in the classroom gives me the impression that Ms. Rhee has not been in a classroom and/or was not effective in it.

Well, I am going to say it right here.... I am one of those "touchy feely" people who tries to teach kids that they can be whomever they want to be--if they work for it. I think you could survey kids in my room and they would KNOW I care about them and I want what is best for them. If I had to guess, I would say that many kids love me and most kids I know respect me....and most all of them, learn from me. SO, touchy/feely and learning are not mutually exclusive.

Creativity will get us to the promised land in education! We need to be done educating kids to punch clocks....we need to get them to THINK and come up with creative answers to the problems ahead of us. Thank goodness for amazing people like Peter Reynolds and Sylvia Martinez and others leaders in education who keep us heading in the RIGHT direction!!!!

So, when I fly into D.C. this summer, I pray to be met by wonderful people who create amazing things. I know I will be able to be in the presence of teachers and leaders like me who are touchy-feely in all the right ways! WE KNOW that the kids will learn more from a caring adult....and we will lead those amazing children in our classes to a brighter tomorrow.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wordle Meme

Beth Knittle tagged me in a Wordle meme. She was tagged by Jen Wagner and Martha Thornburgh. The Meme was started by Lee Kolbert The mission, which I chose to accept, was to create a Wordle using your blog and/or your account... I chose to do both.

The first one, from this blog....
I think this does a pretty amazing job of highlighting who I am. KIDS ---the biggest word and my mission. Everything I do and everything I am in education has kids as the focus. Even the FableVision, North Star, and Peter Reynolds markers are all about kids!

Next, the tags...
Yep, here it is again. EDUCATION is largest. technology, music, fun, Web 2.0, blogs all make an appearance. Education is the key!

Thanks, Beth. It was great to get the affirmation that kids and education are the center of what I write about.

I tag:

'The Great One" Diane Cordell

"My Cyber Angel" Sylvia Martinez

"Super Friend" Andrea Hernandez

"Best Ambassador Pal," Julie Everett