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.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Best Books I Read in 2013-revised again

I've been seeing "Best" lists all over and I thought instead of just mentioning the ones that 'got it wrong,' I'd do my own list. All of these books stayed with me after I read them. If you don't know me very well, that's truly amazing (very short memory) These are in no particular order. Nearly everyone on this list created a Celebridot, check them out and support them!!

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt. This is a fun and sweet book.

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan. I made a decision that I'd only support authors who created I asked Holly to make a dot and then bought her book (twice)

Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder (not technically out yet, but I read it this year) Available January 28. A truly thought-provoking book. What if a few events changed everything???

Crankenstein by Samantha Berger illustrated by Dan Santat. Super fun with great illustrations.

Beholding Bee By Kimberly Newton Fusco. I heard so much about this book, I had to buy it. It's so great! It really stayed with me.

The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech. Everyone who has followed me on Twitter or friended me on Facebook knows I ADORE Sharon Creech!! However, this book is so good. I love how reading a book by Sharon Creech takes you on a that you hope never ends.

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu (If this book doesn't appear on a best-of-2013 list, I immediately discount the list) The writing in this book blew me away and I tweeted and Facebooked favorite quotes. Example, "There is a way the truth hits you, both hard & gentle at the same time. It punches you in the stomach as it puts its loving arm around your shoulder."

Bobby the Brave (Sometimes) by Lisa Yee. I related to a character in this book and Lisa's style is SO FUN!

I'm Bored by Ian Michael Black and illustrated by Debbie Ohi. Loved this!!

The Museum by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. I read this book, right before it came out, to a group of first grade students. One girl exclaimed, "I don't just give it two thumbs up, I give it two thumbs and two whole feet."

Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different by Kristin Tubb. I love Kristin...and I loved this book. The first book I read of hers was The Thirteenth Sign and just knew I had to read more.

The Saturday Boy by David Fleming. This was a surprise. Janet Reynolds from Blue Bunny Books knows me so well, she just sent me this book. I LOVED IT!!

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo. I'd heard so much about this lives up to the hype.

Baby Penguins Everywhere by Melissa Guion. What could be cuter than a book about penguins?? I really cute story to go along with the penguins!!

The Smallest Gift of Christmas by Peter H. Reynolds. I had the opportunity to read this last summer and actually hear about it the summer before that. I love Peter and I love this book!!

Little Chicken's Big Christmas
 by Katie Davis and Jerry Davis Kindle Book. Katie told me in September that this book might be happening, I was SO excited. I love Little Chicken!


Journey by Aaron Becker. I wordless picture book told in breathtaking art.

The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman. How could I have forgotten a tale encouraging kids to #BeBrave??

Update #2

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. It's a really fun book and really creative...and you know how much I love creativity!!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Let's Talk Creativity

I need help: I challenged my Intro to Computer class to create a PowerPoint with original video/audio/pictures that shows the world something they are passionate about. . . A student asked if I would be creating one as well. I WILL! Since you know I am passionate about restoring creativity in schools, that will be my topic. Since I have amazing friends all around the world, I am inviting you to take part in my project.

Here's what I need: Your definition of creativity or your idea of what creativity looks like in a classroom ( with visual examples if you have them). I'd L O V E short videos of kids (and hoping for some author/illustrators/teachers) talking about creativity. I will be posting this final project on YouTube and will give credit where it's due. If using kids, I need for them to have parental permission/approval to show good digital citizenship on my part.

Monday, September 2, 2013

You Talk Too Much About Dot Day

People like to joke about my constant tweeting about Dot them I ask if you saw this...

"Hello from Hue, Vietnam !

We have held International Dot Day yesterday
at Pediatric Department, Hue Central Hospital, Vietnam."

And this from Africa

And these from Denmark:

and hundreds more from all around the world....

Would you tweet it too??

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Are You Creative?

Recently, while conversing with a friend on Twitter, the friend said, "I am not the least bit creative!" I immediately scratched my head in amazement. You see, I have watched this person write amazing reviews of books and interact with dozens of people....THAT involves/shows creativity. Creativity doesn't require watercolors, using words can be creative.

So, just what is 'creative'. . . . says,


  [kree-ey-tiv]  Show IPA
having the quality or power of creating.
resulting from originality of thought, expressionetc.;imaginative: creative writing.
originative; productive (usually followed by of  )"

Seems like a pretty broad definition having the quality or power of creating...we ALL create. Why is such narrow characterization used by many adults? My friend, Peter H. Reynolds likes to ask adults, "how many of you are great artists?" When he asks young kids, every hand goes up, the older the crowd, the less hands you see. Who told you that you weren't an artist....or creative???

I used to think I couldn't draw. I listened to Peter speak and I grew tiny little wings. I started drawing things during class while I was teaching elementary...then a few tiny dots appeared on my Facebook timeline...Now there are quite a few things out there for the world to see. Did I suddenly become a great artist?? Not really, I just grew brave and realized that no one expected perfection, just my contribution to the world. The power of "Ish," the follow up book to "The Dot."

I will never be on the level of the masters. I marvel at the colorful work of Peter H. Reynolds, the complexity and beauty of Wendell Minor's work, and the sweet, soft style of Lauren Castillo. BUT, to say I can't draw is not accurate. I can draw. . . I can also appreciate and highlight the work of the people I have mentioned. . . and so many others. Perhaps my creation to the world of art will be sharing the work of others. I know I get great joy from learning about the process that those masters share.

To highlight my point, I would like to share the work of The Celebridots! You will find the greatest authors/illustrators of our time. I love when an illustrator accepts the challenge. I greatly admire when an author does. The entire site was inspired by Sharon Creech, the Newbery Medal winning author who bravely sent me a dot on Dot Day 2011. I had long admired her writing, I was moved by her artwork. I was greatly saddened once when I got a reply from an author that said, "I don't draw, sorry." However, it made me appreciate the ones who bravely made their mark all the more.

The inspiration behind Dot Day was to get kids to be creative. Perhaps the best thing that can come from that is that kids will KNOW they can create....that they are creative. Oh, what a great world it will be when that happens. The fact that Dot Day grew from a few schools, to the International event it has become (celebrated on all continents), is because people see the value of Creativity and want to share that with kids. Speaking of creativity, check out all the different ways schools are celebrating!

YOU are creative....YOU are brave.....YOU will help change the world.

Start here: let your creativity soar! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Extending International Dot Day

I am always looking for ways to extend International Dot Day and promote creativity. Recently, I was watching this video of Eric Carle and Mr. Rogers when inspiration struck.

Last year for Dot Day, my junior high chorus made awesome designs using "Washable Markers" and coffee filters. If you haven't seen this, the student draws on the coffee filter and when he/she is done, they are spritzed with water. The colors blend into an amazing piece of art.

The idea I got from watching Eric Carle create is that once the art has dried, it can be cut into shapes. I used Bot from Boy + Bot as my inspiration for the above pieces. Boy + Bot was written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino

A few precautions: you'll want to have something underneath the coffee filter when spraying it and make sure it is very dry before cutting. Also, as you noticed from the Boy on the right, they tend to curl a bit.

Special thanks to Shannon Miller who shared her students coffee filter creations that inspired me!

Give it a try!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Connecting Kids and Authors

I love books and I love the authors who write them. I still remember the first time Sharon Creech "Liked" something I had written on Facebook, I jumped up and down because she's one of my heroes. Just today the amazing Judy Blume replied to a tweet and I had to tell everyone I know. This last week, one of my students was retweeted by Lisa Yee. When the student told me about this she said, "She's the woman who wrote the books that defined the part of my life when I was too awkward to function." Interacting with authors can be very empowering, but it can create hard feelings.

Recently, I saw an author post something on Twitter about students writing to her with questions that were already available on the web. It wasn't an author that I have ever interacted with before, but decided to jump in to suggest that kids are merely looking for a connection and, although the questions have been answered, it's a place to start connecting for the kids. I received a reply from what I assume was another author with a somewhat snarky response to what I had written.

So, that's been rolling around in my head for a few days and I decided to try to write a post to help clear things up and maybe help teachers and students to navigate this situation. I asked some of my author friends to offer advice and have included that.

Before I start, let me tell you that virtually every author I have interacted with online has been nothing but warm, kind and amazing. Some have created Celebridots and I love them most of all. They are people just like you and me, busy with their 'job' and lives.

Advice for students interested in connecting with authors:

  • Check the author's website to see what questions have already been answered. Encourage kids to be creative and ask thoughtful questions.
  • If students are emailing, have them "be brief and limit the email to 1 or 2 questions" was advice from Sharon Creech 
  • Don't expect an instant reply, authors can receive between 10-700 emails a day and are busy creating new books.
  • Remember there are lots of fans and only one author. You might not always get a reply.
  • 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.
  • 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" (Can you imagine kids do that???)
  • I've heard of teachers giving assignments to write/email an author. This seems like a ill-advised 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!
Advice for authors connecting with students:

  • If the answer to the students question is already on your website, could you kindly send them there?
  • Remember that kids want a connection with you because they love your work and the simple question might be all they are able to come up with on a cognitive level.
  • Know that all of us teacher types are watching you and admiring you more than you can know for the place to have in a kid's life.

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
Ame Dyckman @amedyckman
Peter H Reynolds @peterhreynolds
Kristin Tubb @ktubb
Katherine Applegate @kaaauthor
Debbie Ridpath Ohi @inkyelbows
Zachariah OHora @zachariahohora
Tom Angleberger @Origami Yoda
CeCe Bell @cecebellbooks
Michael Grant @thefayz
Augusta Scattergood @ARScattergood
Courtney Stevens @Quartland
Lisa Yee @LisaYee1
Stephen McCranie @stephenmccranie
Jarrett J. Krosoczka @studioJJK
Judy Blume @judyblume
Barney Saltzberg @BSaltzberg
Margo Sorenson @ipapaverison
Michele Robinson @MicheRobinson
Chris Barton @bartography
Lauren Castillo @studiocastillo
Lynne Plourde @LynnPlourde
Florence Minor @minorart
Wendell Minor @wendellminor
Bethanie Murguia @aquapup
Deborah Underwood @underwoodwriter
Eric Wight @Eric_Wight
S.E. Hinton @se4realhinton
Katie Davis @katiedavisburps
Susan Verde @susanverde
Erica S. Perl @ericaperl
Anita Silvey @anitasilvey
Beverly McClure @beverlymcclure

Thursday, February 14, 2013

International Book Giving Day-Updated

There were three excellent entries, so I sent books to all of them. To make this more glorious, Peter H. Reynolds created an original surprise for each recipient. Love!

I will be giving away at least two copies of "The Dot" by Peter H. Reynolds today for International Book Giving Day. Nominate a kid to receive them using this form:

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Our Journey to 1:1

Our Journey to 1:1

For the benefit of schools contemplating going 1:1, I've decided to chronicle my school's journey. When appropriate, I will share actual documents that we shared with the school board and community.

Our journey started when my school hired a excellent leader as a Superintendent. As he looked around our school, he realized that we were a bit behind in technology from other schools in our area and started to seek input on what we could do to close that gap. The most fortuitous thing happened when the Principal at the time, forwarded an email he had received about a device called Kuno. Since we were just starting to look at  1:1, so we invited the salesperson to visit the school, what happened then was amazing.

I walked in to that meeting thinking there was no way we could go to 1:1 because of the limited amount of time that our technology coordinator has available, but it wasn't long before I was convinced that it was an option. The Kuno is nearly locked down from student intervention so they can focus on educational usage. Only administrators can install apps. Best of all, there is a CIPA filter loaded at the kernel level, so students are safe.

Even better than that, teachers are able to push out information to students via CurriculumLoft and students can directly send assignments back to the teacher. All information is downloaded directly on the device so even if the student doesn't have the Internet at home, they are able to watch videos and keep up on work. This is a game-changer.

I first presented to the board in May of 2012:

1:1 Computing at North Tama
At the beginning of the year, approximately 25% of schools in Iowa were using 1:1 technology in their school and that number is expected to grow significantly every year.  In order to remain competitive with other schools, we need to look at what being 1:1 could mean for us. Even more importantly, however, it is important for us to make moves to strengthen our curriculum as well as prepare students for the careers they will have in the future.
The teachers and administration had a visit from Jeromy Franks and Monte Davis and were presented with an alternative that would work well for our school, Curriculum Loft and Kuno device. Teachers were very excited by the thought of moving forward.

Our plan of putting our curriculum on Curriculum Loft and purchasing devices to share work with students has these benefits:
--Creates 21st Century Learners
--Demands collaboration between students & students and students & teachers
--Promotes student engagement
--Reduces textbooks and worksheets
--Guides students in the production of knowledge (an AIW goal)
--Opens opportunities for education at all levels in our community.
--Allows access to current information and a means to manipulate information in ways that connect it in meaningful ways
--Increases enthusiasm due to the ability to use the web and other technological sites
--Promotes student pride through creative opportunities as opposed to textbook and worksheet assignments
--Improves students’ ability to self-assess and set learning goals
--Increases interactive possibilities with teachers and other students
Teachers will be able to:
--Help students learn to manage their time and projects
--Teach laptop/computer ethnical and responsible usage of technology
--Assign tasks of inquiry, collaboration, research, and polished/published writing knowing that students have the needed resources
--Provide student opportunities including independent learning and practice
--Collaborate through interdisciplinary teaching and online professional development
--Provide practice, review sessions, additional readings and differentiated learning for all students
--Include the instructional component of the Iowa Core Curriculum which addresses the principles of “Challenge-Based Learning.” Challenge-Based Learning is differentiated, project-based learning during which students collaborate on problem-based, real world situations and solutions.

Our faculty is 100% committed to adapting our current curriculum to include new technologies. In a recent survey, 95% of teachers said they would volunteer to come in over the summer to learn the curricular part of the 1:1 device if it would help adoption move quicker.  

The board was intrigued, but cautious. This was all so new to our school. The board suggested we take a look at some other devices. The board did spend a considerable amount of money last summer upgrading our infrastructure to better support any change in our school system. 

We looked at ByteSpeed devices, iPads, and briefly at Chromebooks. For our needs, Chromebooks were dismissed almost immediately because of the online nature of the device.  We looked much more seriously at the iPad. Many of us on the tech committee were Apple fans, but in the end, the Kuno won out. Below is what we presented to the board.

I created a spreadsheet that compared the quotes from Apple and Kuno/Curriculum Loft and Kuno was also less expensive.

We submitted this to the board to share our findings:

After visiting two schools, and researching four different products, the NT Secondary Technology Team recommends the purchase of Curriculum Loft and the Kuno device to begin our 1:1 program at North Tama. We would like to request the board make a commitment to this so we may start loading the Curriculum Loft with content during the second semester, order devices for teachers before the end of the year, and be fully implemented in the fall of 2013 with students 7-12. We wish to be a model school for learning with the use of technology.

Curricular Rationale:
*The use of Curriculum Loft offers ease of maintaining content, ease of showing Iowa Common Core progress and artifacts that meet standards, ability for cross curricular sharing, and transparency of curriculum to interested parties.

*The Curriculum Loft affords us ease in pushing content to tablets and removing content from tablets later.

*Teachers are currently reporting compliance with the Iowa Core Curriculum using the ICAT checklist as a tool. Going to Curriculum Loft will allow teachers to assign standards to a lesson and then the district can look at the mapped curriculum and locate gaps in instruction. The district is currently looking at additional programs like Curriculum Mapper, which is a multi-thousand dollar program.  The Curriculum Loft has this built in. Full implementation of the Iowa Core for grades 9-12 in required by July 1, 2012, and grades K-8 by 2014-2015.

*Everyone on the technology team is a fan of the  iPad as a consumer product and there is no disputing Apple’s legendary respect in the world. However, the Kuno was designed as an educational tool and was created to compliment the Curriculum Loft. Many of the teachers we talked to at Cardinal alluded to the tablet as an educational tool for getting content to students and engaging them without the hassle and worry about security.  

Staffing Rationale:
*The iPad and ByteSpeed sales people recommended that North Tama would need a full time staff member to deal with all the tech issues involved with deploying their solutions.  So that would be a large additional expense to the transition to 1:1.  

Security Rationale:
*The feature of the Kuno that truly sets it apart from the other devices we examined is the ability for the school to retain complete control of the device so students are focused on educational usage.
*The Kuno comes with a kernel level LightSpeed filter. Kernel level means that it can’t be disabled by a student (a feature no other device has)
*Only system administrators can add Apps (programs) to the devices, which would mean students can’t add games and other distractors.

What came next was the most amazing part of this process. The board suggested a "Work Session" where community members could come and share their thoughts. Over seventy people attended that meeting and spoke passionately about the need for 1:1 in our school. I personally have been to many meetings where people spoke passionately about music or sports, but that was the first time where people were very vocal about wanting to change the education system. I am grateful to the community and the school board for that opportunity.

The next Monday night, the school board voted unanimously to purchase the devices and more infrastructure and go 1:1 next year for 7-12. None of this would have happened without a visionary administrative team and a school board who wants our students to be successful. The technology team did a great deal of work to make it all happen and spent a lot of time after school hours.

I actually got to hold the check for the entire program and it was an exhilarating feeling. We all had worked so hard that it felt like the beginning of something amazing.

We set up our CurriculumLoft last Tuesday via a webinar. The high school secretary was AMAZING in getting everything we needed to make it happen. Teachers attended a webinar on Wednesday to learn how to post content in the cloud and we are under way. The devices for teachers were handed out on Thursday and the excitement in the air is building. Every time I walked around the school with one of the boxes, the students excitedly asked questions.

I need to mention the awesome support we have received from CurriculumLoft through the entire process, especially from Jeromy Franks. Jeromy traveled to North Tama three times to make this happen. Since we have started, the staff at CurriculumLoft has been absolutely amazing at answering questions and keeping us supported (I joked that he was one trip away from getting keys to the school). Katie, Matt, and Melissa are rockstars! Today is Sunday and I actually got an answer to a question this morning!

We were helped on our journey with guidance by another Iowa school, Cardinal. Mr. Chamberlain & Mr. Pederson were a huge help in leading us through the process. They provided us a lot of information on best practice.

That's our story. Stay tuned for the great shift to follow!