Author: Michael Drezek

P3 Remix

My P3 Experience, Remixed

*Disclaimer: This post really doesn’t serve any educational purpose. It is just a post for me to share something I enjoy while doing a little reflecting. While I mostly share education-related posts, sometimes a post like this helps provide a break from all of that. As one of my favorite artists, the late Gord Downie once wrote in the song Use It Up, “There’s music that can take you away, away, away, away.”

There is something about music. It takes us to a place in time, it brings about emotion, it lives on forever. As I listen to new episodes of Noa Daniel‘s Personal Playlist Podcast (P3), I get a chance to connect to stories, to connect to music, and to connect to people. I’m a music geek. Always have been. I can so vividly remember car rides in the family station wagon on an hour ride to my grandparents’ house as Paul Simon’s Graceland album plays on repeat the cassette deck. Perhaps this is where I get the habit of listening to an album on repeat until I have it memorized track to track. When the radio was on, it was Casey Kasum’s Countdown of top hits during the late 80s, early 90s. When Gord Downie ended many Tragically Hip concerts with “Thank you, music lovers,” I imagine just about everyone there felt like he was talking right at them. Back in May of 2019, I had a chance to share my song selections and some stories on Noa’s podcast. The songs came to me quickly.  Many guests have expressed that their song selections could easily shift based on the time they were asked to share. That’s where this is headed. It is a new time, one heck of an interesting time as I sit here in essential quarantine from the world, hoping to stop the spread of coronavirus. No place to travel and air to be filled with music through the day. One can only take so many newscasts and press conferences.

I have had so many things to have blogged about over the past months. It didn’t happen. This space has sat idle for far too long. Between my pals at #EduBlogYear writing and supporting constantly and having some extra time stuck at home as a result of COVID-19 school closures, I felt the urge to write and press publish. As I work back into writing, this felt like an easy, enjoyable re-entry.

The idea for this post comes mainly from sports being canceled.  Sports media outlets are currently looking for content to keep fans reading. Some look back at past years drafts and re-pick them years later based on their knowledge of current team needs and player success through that time. Here’s a great example of a recent one looking back at 2005. For this, I only have to look back to a year ago. I LOVE my three-song selections from 2019. I’d put them up against any songs, any day of the week. They mean so much to me. They are personal. But for fun, let’s remix the picks and mix in some reflection.

My original P3 selections:

Nostalgic:
2019 Selection – Ballad of a Poet (2018) by Our Lady Peace

Identity
2019 Selection – Comin’ Home (live) (2007/2017) by City and Colour

Pick Me Up
2019 Selection – Relentless (2018) by Arkells

My P3 Re-Draft a year later (in this current time of COVID-19):

Nostalgic:
2020 Selection – Public Service Announcement (2003) by Jay-Z

2003 was a very nostalgic year for me. I was graduating from college and finishing my competitive NCAA ice hockey career at the age of 21-22. I thought I knew so much but really, knew so little about the world, about life. I still know so little, but I know a lot more than I knew back then. It was a time of closing one door and opening another. This song kind of captures all of that in a way. A song of putting in the work, walking away from that work and that chapter of your life, closing the door in a way on something you love, and setting forth on something new, and finding a new path, while still having these past experiences wired inside of you and shaping the future you. I know there are many songs out there that capture this, but this one rose to the surface. Jay-Z (Sean Carter) is one of my favorite artists. His flow, his storytelling, his beats & hooks. Hip hop is nostalgic for me because this is what I would often pump through my headphones while working on whatever I was doing at the time, a school project, mowing the lawn, washing the car, riding my bike, shooting hoops in the driveway, getting ready for a hockey game, driving with the windows down, you name it. Something about it just put me in a good mood. While many current hip hop artists of 2020 don’t do it for me like those of the 90’s and 2000’s, I can throw on any of Jay-Z’s albums and it’s instant nostalgia. 

Identity
2020 Selection – The Depression Suite (2009) by The Tragically Hip

Our identities aren’t shaped by one moment or one experience, but rather a collective “suite” of these. Perhaps mine is shaped by the many concert experiences I shared over and over again with hundreds and sometimes thousands of others enjoying an evening with The Tragically Hip. Mesmerized by the lights, the sound, Gord and the boys on stage, the life all around in those two and a half hours. This song is a journey of itself, much like our own life. It is multiple songs in one. It plays on and at times, you feel it is not going to end. In many ways, I didn’t want it to. It is an underrated song in The Hip catalog. In this month of May, Mental Health Awareness Month, I have joined part in the #SameHere movement. This song captures the joys, and the struggles. Are you going through something? I am too. Same here. We have the music and we have each other. Find some time amongst all the noise to take a look around and enjoy the ride. 

Pick Me Up
2020 Selection – Years in the Making (2020) by Arkells
*Even the acoustic version picks me up! 

I cannot find a song by this band that I don’t enjoy. I can think back to a few years ago when I saw Max Kerman in a Starbucks in Niagara Falls and was too shy to say hello and strike up a conversation. It was one of those things where I didn’t want to bother him. If I could go back, I’d probably say hello, say cheers, and say thank you for the pick me ups. This band holds a special place for me because it also was the first time I took my then 5-year-old son to a live music event. An Arkells pop-up acoustic show at Revolver Records. A hundred or so people crammed inside a tiny record store (boy does it feel good to see a few record stores holding onto existence in 2020), with him on my shoulders. I captured the moment here. Here he is just enjoying the music, the song My Heart’s Always Yours. And then…the pick me up moment. A moment we’ll always have together, a moment that will always pick me up when I see it. Just like their music always does.

Cheers to songs that touch on our identities, offer some nostalgia, and pick us up. 

Tune in for yourself if you’d like:
Apple Music Playlist
Spotify Playlist
*For some reason The Depression Suite track doesn’t appear in Apple Music or Spotify. Surprisingly the entire We Are the Same album from 2009 is also missing in both spaces. I guess this is where it pays to have the album on disc. 

Student Voice Day 2020

The goal of International #StudentVoiceDay has always been to bring the world together.


World Record Wednesday (#Flipgrid2030WR) 2018 asked, “Describe the world you would like to live within in the year 2030.”

#StudentVoiceDay 2019 asked, “How will you use your voice to change the world?”

#StudentVoiceDay 2020 finds millions of us around the globe apart due to COVID-19. We’ve seen student voice used in so many powerful ways. What if now more than ever, that voice was used to lift up others? What if once again, the power of technology was used to bring people together?

The educators from the Our Global Classroom (OGC) Community have connected and collaborated on a topic aimed at the topic of gratitude and giving thanks to another who has helped us during this difficult time. You’ve most likely helped someone during this time. Others have most likely helped you in some way. Let’s celebrate the good by using our collective voices! We hope that you’ll join and get inspired to amplify student voice in your classroom on May 13th and beyond.

This year’s topic (sneak preview) will hit the Disco Library on May 12th for teachers to add to their grids. Direct Flipgrid Disco Library link

For #StudentVoiceDay 2020, record a message of gratitude or thanks for someone who has helped you recently. Tell them how they have helped you and the difference they made. A parent, a teacher, a sibling, an essential worker, a neighbor, anyone. For additional impact, share your Flipgrid message with that person! 

Planning on participating on May 13th? Check out these fabulous Grid Tips from Jornea Erwin: https://blog.flipgrid.com/news/respectingeveryvoice

Want to make your video even more fun? Check out those camera options shared by Jess Boyce: https://blog.flipgrid.com/news/flipgridcamera

We realize that student voice happens in many spaces! In-person AND across many different technology platforms. Flipgrid has always been our go-to tool for amplifying student voice, but this year we want to be sure to bring #StudentVoiceDay to as many platforms as possible through tools that students and teachers enjoy. Love getting creative on Buncee? Create and share it there! Love creating collections in Wakelet? Create and share there! Love building in Minecraft? Create and share it there. Love creating your own rhyme in the Flocabulary Lyric Lab? Create and share it there! Love coding? Create a message on Scratch or in the code.org Sprite, App, or Game Lab. Love learning more about the world with the world? Join a Belouga Deep Dive Series and share your voice there on a global scale. Love chatting with classmates and want to share that message with them? Create a bubble on GoBubble and share it on your channel.
*Scroll to the end of this post for resources and collections related to participating in #StudentVoiceDay 2020.

Have some ideas on what other tools could be used this year? Share your ideas to the #StudentVoiceDay hashtag on Twitter and tag @m_drez, @JoyceBronwyn, and @mrshurtteaches!

Even more awesome ways to amplify student voice this year:

Wakelet:
Official Collection
 (View Only)
Contributor Link


Buncee:
Blog Post
Buncee Board


GoBubble:
OGC Channel

 


Belouga:
Mental Health Awareness Month & Deep Dive Series


Maker Challenge (from @thekylekitchen)

Site: #FozzbottomChallenge

Where To Find Me at #ISTE19

This upcoming week I will be making the trek from Buffalo, NY to Philadelphia, PA for the International Society for Technology in Education Conference. It will be a busy stretch of days and I look forward to learning and connecting with so many from my PLN. If you are heading to Philly for #ISTE19, here is where you can find me:

ISTE19Schedule

Sunday, June 23, 2019
8:30 – 10:30 AM – The Great GLOBAL Scavenger Hunt

~10:30 AM
ONEducation Podcast at ISTE19 Guest

6:00 PM – Education Podcast Network ISTE Meetup

7:00 – 8:30 PM
DigCitKids – Digital Citizenship for Kids by Kids #bethatKINDofkid (Poster)

8:30 – 11:30 PM
ISTE 2019 Rock Concert

Monday, June 24, 2019
9:00 – 10:00 AM
The Classroom to the Boardroom: Digital Citizenship is Everyone’s Responsibility (Panel)

12:00 PM – #StopMotionSlides (Jake Miller)

7:00 PM Flipgrid LIVE & Student Voice Speakeasy

Tuesday, June 25, 2019
10:30 AM – Digital Storytelling Playground: Explore the Creativity of Telling Stories Digitally, Presentation Stage 1 – Storytelling with AR/VR

11:45 AM The InterACTIVE Classroom: Making Intelligence Interactive (The Merrills)

1:15 PM #DigCitCommit: A Dialogue with Practitioners

1:45 PM – How To Build A Social Learning Community (Panel)

3:00 PM – STEAM Up Your Buncee Game (Booth Session)

6:15 PM – Microsoft Hack the Classroom

7:30 – 8:00 – BrainPOP CBE Pop-In

8:00 – 9:00 PM – Buncee Bash

9:00 – 11:00 PM – EdTech Karaoke

Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Let the Games Begin! Come Play with Global Classrooms and SDGs

9:00 AM – Our Global Classroom at ISTE Global PLN Playground

10:00 AM – Something Different for #WorldReadAloudDay at ISTE Global PLN Playground

I will also be dropping by many of my favorite exhibit booths throughout the conference!

Student Voice Day

This year, my Our Global Classroom friends and CoPilots, Bronwyn Joyce & Malinda Hurt have joined forces with our friends at Flipgrid to collaborate and create an International #StudentVoiceDay. We hope that you’ll join and get inspired to amplify student voice in your classroom on April 24th and beyond. Currently, over 300 classrooms are signed up to participate. This effort will build on last year’s World Record Wednesday Our Global Classroom Flipgrid topic. More details: http://blog.flipgrid.com/studentvoiceday

Join us: https://www.wevideo.com/view/1361524264

Planning on participating on April 24th? Check out these fabulous Grid Tips from Jornea Erwin: http://blog.flipgrid.com/news/respectingeveryvoice

Don’t forget to join us for a special #FlipgridFever chat at 9 PM EST on April 24th as we celebrate what is sure to be an incredible day in classrooms around the globe!

Promo FlipgridFever #StudentVoiceDay

A DigCitSummitEDU Experience

What if students became the teachers for a day?

What if this day empowered students to be digital leaders in their school communities for the rest of their lives? What if teachers, school administrators, parents, and community members got so inspired by these students that they too vowed to support all students on their digital citizenship journeys?

This March, a student-led Digital Citizenship Summit accomplished all of this and more in Lake Shore Central School District.

Located about 30 minutes from Buffalo NY, Lake Shore serves around 2,500 students from Kindergarten through 12th grade. It’s a school that has put digital technology at the very heart of how it inspires its students through learning.

Their journey towards hosting their DigCit Summit started with students wanting to show children around the world, as well as people in their local community how the internet can, and should be a tool for doing good.

District Technology Integrator, Michael Drezek explains: “Through our own DigCitSummit we really wanted to highlight the importance of digital citizenship and how it can be embedded into all subject areas, Everyone has an effective role to play; from students to educators, administrators to parents, through to our wider community members too.”

“We know that technology plays a big part in our daily life, and we really wanted to drive home that it can be used for good in many different ways.”

Michael, along with a team of teachers across each school within the Lake Shore District, worked closely with the DigCitInstitute (DCI) to bring together their Summit, which was held on March 15th.

“When the DigCitInstitute came in, we looked at the work we were already doing with our students and talked about the importance of empowering students to become teachers of digital citizenship.”

Deann Poleon, K-12 Technology Integrator at Lake Shore explains more: The students were motivated and energized by the idea that they would be teaching the teachers of the district. They also understood that their work could have an impact and be used by teachers and students throughout the district. They really wanted to show the teachers what they could do.”

This combination of student leadership, educator buy-in, and the DCI’s global perspective led to a Summit that was unique in its creativity, energy, and connectivity with its school community.

Students, parents, and community members came together to celebrate Lake Shore students’ ingenuity; and experience student-led demonstrations of:

DigCitPoster List


To get a taste of the action on this impactful day, enjoy the following productions created with the help of recent Lake Shore graduate, Connor Kwilos:

Recap: 

Extended Version:

Feedback from those attending the event has also been empowering:

“Students felt like teachers. They made comments about the amount of talking a teacher does. I thought it was awesome to see the adults who are not tech advanced ask questions like me!”

“It was amazing turning over the material I taught students and letting them decide what adults should learn and watching them blossom. They went so way beyond my expectations. It was phenomenal!”

For Michael and his team, however, it was vital that throughout the day the students lead the conversations.

“Equipping our students with skills like these at such a young age is really important. We hope they’ll remember what they’ve achieved and carry it on from grade to grade, and after they graduate.”

Working with the team at the DigCitInstitute has been critical in making Lake Shore’s vision a reality.

Michael said, “As advocates for technology they were able to highlight examples from classrooms around the world and make it meaningful for our students.”

Dr. Marialice B.F.X. Curran, Founder and Executive Director of the DigCitInstitute is so proud of the Lake Shore Central School District:

“What I loved about Lake Shore’s approach was the active role the students took, they really owned digital citizenship. It truly demonstrates the benefits of a community approach and learning together.”

And Lake Shore’s Summit is right at the heart of the DigCitInstitute’s vision for offering school communities professional and personal development for educators, parents, students and the community at large.

This student-led DigCitSummit planted the seed for continued citizenship growth and impact for years to come. Everyone involved realized that this work is too important to be a stand-alone event. A ripple effect of good was done. Lake Shore Central plans to continue this work in classrooms, at home and throughout the community as well as continue to inspire others around the world to follow their lead. To keep up with the action, follow along with the hashtag #digcitLSC on your favorite social media channels.

Learn more about the Lake Shore DigCitSummit

Something Different for World Read Aloud Day

World Read Aloud Day is a celebration of reading and literacy. It is a call for people, especially our students to grab a book, find an audience, and read aloud. There are so many great books out there and you’ll find many amazing students from around the world reading and sharing on this day. But what if one of the books read aloud for World Read Aloud Day (#WRAD2019) hasn’t been written yet? What if your class helped write the story…and read the story to the world?

This year, we’ll be doing just that with Buncee, a classroom multimedia tool that helps writing come alive.  Schools around the globe will contribute to a #GlobalBunceeBook and write the story.  The project will run from January 30 to February 15, 2019 and won’t be possible without awesome classrooms joining in and adding a page to the book.

Let your creativity and imagination fly as the #GlobalBunceeBook travels from classroom to classroom.

Here are answers to your questions:

How Do I Participate in #GlobalBunceeBook?
1. Visit the Buncee Board here: https://tinyurl.com/BunceeWRAD19
*Full link: https://app.edu.buncee.com/bunceeboard/57e63c2fa6d64885ac4d9167c30f73d0

2. Read the Buncees added to the Board from oldest to newest (oldest will be farthest away from the “add” button).

3. As a class, create a Buncee, adding a page (or two) to the story from previous Buncees on the Board.
*Bonus: Add the Bunceeman character to the story (searchable in ‘Stickers’)

4. Have your class attach audio of them reading their part of the story using the Buncee audio feature and built-in audio recorder. Your Buncee will now have a play button on the text.

5. On the last page of your Buncee, add your school name and location so we can tally up the total virtual miles between pages.

6. Make your Buncee ‘Copyable’ in the ‘Share’ settings.
copyable

7. Copy the Link Code in the ‘Share’ settings.
copycode

8. Add your Buncee to the Buncee Board
addtoboard

9. Once you post, tag an educator in your PLN to join in and add a page to continue the story

10. Subscribe to the Buncee Board above to follow the story OR wait until late February when all of the individual Buncee pages will be shared as a single #GlobalBunceeBook that your class helped author!

*Directions are also shared in this Buncee

How Will the Story End?
That’s part of the fun! You’ll have to wait and find out. Will Abby and Bunceeman venture into the big city? Did Abby leave something on the school bus? What exactly might that dog discover while digging in the yard? What’s with the strange spacecraft above the city? Could that dog possibly end up in outer space (FYI – there is a dog astronaut sticker)?

We have a classroom ready at Lake Shore CSD to write and record the final page read aloud on February 15 after all other pages are added by participating classrooms.

How Do I Know It’s My Turn To Write/Create?
Don’t stress. Jump in when you and your class are ready!

What If I Don’t Have a Buncee Account?
Sign up for a free (30-Day) Classroom Account here.

Participating classrooms are encouraged to share out to #GlobalBunceeBook, #WRAD19, and #WorldReadAloudDay.

UPDATE (April 2019) – The finished #GlobalBunceeBook is here!



The Road First Traveled: 10 Tips for New Teachers to Set Off on their School Year Journey with Success

*The following post is a collaborative guest post from a veteran educator of 25 years, Mary Morrison. Mary is a Reading Specialist/Math Interventionist at Anthony J. Schmidt Elementary School and also is the Mentor Facilitator at Lake Shore CSD in Angola, NY. 

1. Build Relationships
Travel this year with connections clearly in your sights. You can’t overestimate the power of relationships… in schools…or anywhere. Maya Angelou made the case so well:

‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

New teachers, we challenge you to commit to be remembered. All of us are inspired by kindness and encouragement. Find opportunities to show your students, their families and other teachers how you feel about them and how valued they are. Rally around your school and student success by initiating short, authentic conversations. You can make a significant impact on student confidence and achievement!  

Thinking you won’t have enough time to build relationships? Here’s a strategy that takes an investment of only 20 minutes a week yet can reap immeasurable rewards.  Each week, pledge to make 3-2-1 Connections:

  • Engage in a 3-minute individual conversation with 3 different students – find out what’s important to them, let them know they are important to you
  • Take 2 minutes to positively chat with 2 colleagues – build the team
  • Phone 1 parent of a struggling student –  brainstorm supports, show you care
  • Celebrate that these brief connections may payoff with long term benefits!

At a recent Flipgrid Live Student Voice Conference, educator Ann Kozma of California summed it up greatly. “Be the teacher you needed when you were a kid!”

2. Utilize Resources
Be on the lookout for the riches the road offers. Anyone who made it through the first year of teaching will tell you that other teachers, administrators, students, families and friends made it possible. We truly are better together. The most successful new teachers inquire about/recognize/explore the resources at their fingertips. Resources are there for the taking.  Don’t reinvent the wheel at every turn when you have access to lesson plans, ideas and experiences from a colleague just down the hall or a few keystrokes away.

For starters, here is a nice little resource from Western New York educator, Pamela Warner. It is a Buncee Board filled with advice for new teachers.
https://app.edu.buncee.com/bunceeboard/30ea67cd1a6d44b18c027cce6b9c3a6c

Open Educational Resources (OER) are also a great place to discover high quality, FREE, educational material across all of K-12. Take some time to explore a few of the more popular OER sites.

Looking for what educational websites, apps and games are out there? Explore the EdSurge Index. Common Sense Education also offers reviews of these resources in addition to much more.

3. Fend Off Fear
Unsure how you’ll handle what’s up around the bend on this first-year journey? Although most of what is listed here may cause an element of fear at first, ultimately they help put fear in the rearview mirror. Fend off fear by:  

  • Ask for what you need
  • Admit what you don’t know
  • Take risks
  • Learn from missteps
  • Forgive and move on

4. Find Your Marigold
Scan for the beauty in the landscape. Jennifer Gonzalez in her article “Find Your Marigold: The One Essential Rule for New Teachers” champions the importance of surrounding yourself with positive colleagues that will help you flourish. In gardens, the marigold provides neighboring plants with protection from weeds and pests. Just as vegetables thrive in the midst of marigolds, you will thrive by surrounding yourself with voices of encouragement and hope. Conversely, Gonzalez warns new teachers to beware the “walnut trees” – colleagues whose negativity can impair your growth and zap your confidence. Be grateful for the marigolds in your midst – be sure to recognize them, learn from them and blossom!   

5. Find Your Tribe
Leverage Social Media to Build a PLN (Personal Learning Network). Sometimes your marigold might be in another town, state, country or continent. Technology makes the world so much smaller. If you know where to look, you might just discover an entire garden of marigolds. Twitter is the most popular place for educators to share in a chat and build community because of the character limit. Educators can drop in at their convenience. Some people make the analogy that Twitter is like drinking from a fire hose. Overwhelming and constant fast flow of information. However, educator Matt Miller looks at it differently. He likens it to a river. Yes it is always flowing, but “you can dip your toes in or jump right in and go for a swim for an hour and leave refreshed.” A PLN can be a source of inspiration and marigolds that can help you flourish, especially if you are ever feeling isolated in your own building. I have found my tribe on Twitter by connecting with groups that both support me and challenge my thinking. You will find so many like minded, passionate educators in these spaces. Here are 20 hashtags where I have found some of my tribe:

  • #waledchat
  • #122edchat
  • #CBLchat
  • #edumatch
  • #2pencilchat
  • #passthescopeedu
  • #ARVRinEdu
  • #TeachSDGs
  • #globaledchat
  • #collaborativePD
  • #bethatKINDofkid
  • #CelebrateMonday
  • #TrendThePositive
  • #gratefuledu
  • #SparkEmpathy
  • #FlipgridFever
  • #BunceeChat
  • #socialLEADia
  • #Culturize
  • #bfc530

A PLN made so much impact on educator Sarah Thomas that she coined the phrase PLF (Personal Learning Family) at her ISTE in a 2017 Ignite Talk.

6. Learn the Expectations
Right from the get-go, set the course for your year by operating between the lines. Read your faculty handbook as well as your teaching contract.  If your principal requests lesson plans by Monday at 8:00 A.M., submit them on time. If the faculty needs to report at 7:30, be there. Keep your focus on student success. You are significant in the overall school culture so bring your best daily. Work hard. Greet everyone you meet with eye contact and a kind word. Dress for success – don’t be mistaken for a student. Smile. Stay positive. Be grateful. Hope.

7. Don’t Dwell on Mistakes. We ALL Make Them.

“The only mistake in life is the lesson not learned.” Albert Einstein

No doubt you will have to maneuver a rough stretch or reroute from a wrong turn. The road may feel like a high-speed 12-lane freeway at times. Teachers have hundreds if not thousands of interactions in the course of a school day as well as countless decisions to make. How do you efficiently and effectively navigate those interactions that may be difficult?  Jimmy Casas, in his 2017 Culturize, explains that you need to “ARM” yourself when navigating tough conversations in schools. “A”  is for acknowledge. Communicate clearly that the student, parent, colleague has legitimate feelings worthy of being addressed. “R” stands for rectify.  You can rectify a situation by using problem-solving strategies rather than focusing on “fixing it” (a strength that many of us educators possess and therefore immediately “go to”). “M” is for move on. Once a situation has concluded, of course you will want to reflect on and learn from how you handled it.   But then consciously stick it in the rearview mirror and look ahead. If you perseverate on what more you could have done or place blame on the others involved, you are setting up roadblocks to your own progress. ARM yourself today with an emphasis on the “move on” so you’re ready when it’s time to ARM yourself again down the road.

8. Celebrate the Wins
Honk for the small wins! Sometimes the small successes make a big difference – they certainly add up over time. Unfortunately, they can be easy to miss and overlooked. Just like the mainstream news, it is easy to focus in on the negative. Our losses do not define us. Adopt a growth mindset and recognize your successes. Finding them, no matter how small, is critical, especially if you think you don’t have any yet.  And when you learn to spot your wins, chances are you’ll discover more than you think. Take the time to celebrate them in any way that lifts you up. Whether it is a smile from a student or colleague or a thank you from a parent, know that you are making a difference. If being a teacher was easy work, everyone would do it. Just by setting forth on this journey for kids, you’ve tallied a BIG win!

9. Attitude of Gratitude
Do you already set your cruise control for “appreciation’?  Do you put a thankful spin on daily events and interactions? If not, you can retrain your brain toward positivity. Start small with simple wellness activities like getting one more hour of sleep each night, eating fresh vegetables at lunchtime and keeping a water bottle close by throughout the day. Then practice daily metacognition exercises to take control of your outlook and reactions. Work up to trying more strategies that promote a positive mindset. Need a little more inspiration. Child author, Muskan Virk wrote 365 Days of Gratitude when she was just 6 years old and has even Skyped with Lake Shore students to help them learn to embrace an attitude of gratitude. Sometimes children are our best teachers!

10. Take Care of Yourself
Those regularly-spaced rest stops along the road are there for a reason. Often we have to remind ourselves to take a break and stop working. So how do you determine the right time to stop and rest?  Rather than finding “Wellness Balance” between work and home, Jimmy Casas proposes seeking a “Wellness Life-Fit.” He points out that each of us has a unique wellness balance based on our current circumstances. The optimal ratio of work time to home time changes for each of us as our work and home demands change. The “right” home/work life-fit is what makes you happy and fulfilled at this point in your career. Embrace where you’re at right now! Read more here.

Embark on your first-year journey fueled by a positive outlook.  You are in the driver’s seat. Happy travels and thank you for all you do and will do for kids!

Sparking Learning and Empathy with Empatico

As educators, we make it a goal of trying to develop students into good citizens, preparing them for the world that awaits them once they leave our classroom. This is no easy task and I can’t think of much more important for the betterment of our world. Prior to becoming a technology integration specialist, I was a classroom math teacher at a Middle School in Western New York. During this time my focus was on making sure my students developed their mathematical thinking, reasoning and problem-solving. I also focused on helping students to become kind and caring at this transitional time approaching their teenage years. The best way I knew to do this was to form positive relationships and model this behavior myself. It worked for many, but it sure was tough. Middle School kids could sure be cruel to each other. They seemed to enjoy life going about their day to day focused on not much other than themselves and what their peers thought of them. Looking back to my Middle School self, I was just like this. These students were a smart bunch finding their way, making mistakes, finding humor in just about everything, even my math lessons. My teaching was confined to my own classroom. You entered Room 207, we learned in Room 207, asked questions in Room 207 and what went on in Room 207 probably for the most part stayed in Room 207 aside from the few students who actually told their parent or guardian what they did in math class that day when they got the question, “So, what did you do in school today?” Keep in mind, this was prior to digital portfolios and parental communication SMS tools like Remind and Bloomz. What was missing from my classroom was a connection to the real world, beyond the book. A math problem referencing a real-world scenario was the best I did. I needed to do better for my students if they were truly going to be prepared for the real world.

Fast forward several years later to today. The advancement of educational technology and the continued movement towards a global society along with teachers looking to engage and empower students has changed the landscape of classrooms and schools. No longer does learning just have to be contained in “Room 207.” In my new role as a technology integration specialist, I aim to bring meaningful learning experiences to the classroom by utilizing technology. To focus on meaningful integration, I love connecting back to the International Society for Technology in Education Standards. I especially like connecting to the latest student standards. These include Empowered Learner, Digital Citizen, Knowledge Constructor, Innovative Designer, Computational Thinker, Creative Communicator, and Global Collaborator.

While embarking on my journey of seeking global collaborations with technology I came across Empatico, a project brought to classrooms by The KIND Foundation. The headline that caught my eye was: “Empatico introduces your students to the world, no passport needed.” Along with it was also the phrase “Match with another classroom. Discover standards-based content. Connect in real time.” This sounded like a recipe for meaningful technology integration and learning to me. Also, the name Empatico hit very close to empathy, something our students need to develop in becoming good citizens. It is aimed at students ages 7-11 (Grades 1-5 in the U.S.) and is completely free (and always will be). The idea behind creating this for children is that having early positive experiences with diverse types of people can strongly influence how they develop perceptions of others in the future. After doing a little more reading about Empatico, it was clear that this program very well aligns with the ISTE Student Standards.

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Within a couple minutes, I had an account created and a profile set. I connected with classroom teacher Lori Wunder of A.J. Schmidt Elementary School, one whom I support in my role as a technology integrator/TOSA. I was excited to share with her this new learning tool. There were four activities for us to choose from. In finding a common match with another classroom, we had to set our availability on their built in calendar as well as select two of the four activities. This would allow there to be a shared interest in topics. The activities available were Helping Hands, Ways We Play, Community Cartographers and Weather Out The Window. The total activity time is 2-3 hours, which includes a preparation activity before the interaction (40-70 min) and a reflection activity after the interaction (20 min). Matched classrooms can and are encouraged to modify or extend the connection to meet their individual needs. In our case, what started just as laid out in Empatico, spun off into a collaborative Kindness Project. Our classes both selected Community Cartographers and Weather Out The Window.

Within the dashboard was a Resources/Materials tab with ready to use items for teachers including printables and ideas. These included and could be filtered by need:

  • Teacher Tips for Intercultural Experiences
  • Reflection Circles
  • Backup Plans
  • Room Setup
  • Parent Take Home Letter
  • Empatico Skills Mini-Lessons
  • Activity Templates
  • Reflection Tools

We were matched with a class in Andover, Kansas from Prairie Creek Elementary. Within the Empatico Teacher Dashboard, there was a messaging portal that made communication a breeze. I loved that I also received an email message when our partner class responded. Within a couple days we were having our first connection. Empatico promotes the exchanges as seamless and I couldn’t agree more. With one click of a button, our classrooms were connected over video.

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You could feel the positive energy in the room as kids were so interested in meeting their partner class. Students asked questions about each other’s school day, hobbies, and community. We learned that we both had something in common in starting Kindness Projects in our schools and both agreed to help each other out and share experiences. During this initial video connection, I could see students making connections to how they were similar and also to some of their differences. It was during this call we also learned of our partner class’s Kindness Project. They were creating cards and gift boxes for a local children’s hospital. It inspired our students in Mrs. Wunder’s class to create cards for our local children’s hospital connecting on the hashtag #theroadtokindness. We calculated the distance between our schools in Google Maps. 1,142 miles to be exact. We also realized it would take us almost 17 hours to drive there. Students couldn’t wait to connect again for the next part of the activity.

We scheduled our second connection to take place a couple weeks later. This allowed students enough time to construct their maps of their surrounding school community and put their cartography skills to work.

When it was time to connect again, we switched between classes describing their school community surroundings. Here is a video highlighting part of the exchange. During this exchange, it was really snowing heavily outside in Angola, NY. The students in Kansas loved to see the snow because it is rare they get much of it. It helped set the stage for our next activity exchange, “The Weather out the Window.”

Here are a few examples of student maps shown in this Tweet.

I was impressed that a few of our students even labeled specific names of an apartment complex and a lake nearby their partner school. I loved that it forced them to communicate creatively and ask the right questions in creating the most accurate map possible while knowing almost nothing about their partner school’s community.  

After our connection ended, we took to Google Maps again, this time to satellite view and street view to see just how what it really looked like compared to what students mapped based on what was communicated to them. The students loved being able to explore the area in Google Street View feeling almost as if they were right outside the doors of their partner school. We also found a few of the places referenced that made it feel even more real. It was a fabulous global learning experience and collaboration.

Circling back to the indicators to ISTE Student Standard 7: Global Collaborator. They are listed as:

  • Students use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning
  • Students use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints
  • Students contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal.
  • Students explore local and global issues and use collaborative technologies to work with others to investigate solutions.

Empatico hits on many of these indicators and serves as a launching point to teachers wanting to venture out and explore new global education opportunities. Knowing that I experienced students becoming empowered learners, creative communicators, digital citizens, innovative designers and knowledge constructors through Empatico made it a huge success.

In addition to the 4 activities in Empatico, they also launched a two-week long Caring Kids Challenge that which we signed up to participate in. The Caring Kids Challenge was designed to provide free, simple activities to reinforce positive social skills and help students build stronger relationships while navigating differences with curiosity and kindness, in the present and for years to come. These were short 10-20 minute challenges and they certainly sparked some empathy for our learners. The first week’s challenge focused on respectful communication, one of the four Empatico Skill Pillars. The second week’s challenge focused on cooperation and critical thinking skills. All activities and challenges take on a focus of perspective taking in helping students relate to the experiences of others and understanding how those others feel.

Getting back to #theroadtokindness collaboration that became an organic extension of our Empatico connection, here are a few snapshots of the magic that took place:

Ready to get started in your classroom with Empatico? Visit https://empatico.org, click Get Matched with a Class, create a profile setting available times to collaborate and you’re on your way to being matched with another class somewhere in the world. Enjoy the ride and the learning ahead, but more importantly, enjoy the benefits of a classroom actively developing more empathetic students!

As my first child begins Kindergarten next year, I can’t help but think that if he is experiencing these during his educational experiences on a fairly regular basis, he will be well prepared for anything that may come his way. I want my son to be a good citizen, a global citizen. I can only hope that he gets to experience the power of Empatico along his journey. Fingers crossed!

#LoveTeaching

It’s Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air. As teachers, there are days we love to hate and days we just absolutely love. That mix keeps us on our toes and keeps things interesting. It’s #LoveTeaching Week starting today from February 14 – 21. A challenge was put out to teachers from https://www.weloveteaching.org to “Share the Love.”

I’m not sure I’ll have another story in my career that shares love more than this one from the #K12Valentine project in 2017. I still think back to this often and it immediately brings a smile to my face.

For Valentine’s Day, I came up with some reasons why I love teaching.

  1. I love teaching because I love sharing my passion with others.
  2. I love teaching because of the people I meet along the way.
  3. I love teaching because of the sparks of curiosity.
  4. I love teaching because of the wonders and what ifs.
  5. I love teaching because of the questions from students and colleagues that really make me think.
  6. I love teaching because of the fresh start of a new school year that comes around each Fall.
  7. I love teaching because of the feeling of accomplishment after a full school year as well as the reflecting and recharging that comes with Summer.
  8. I love teaching because of the smiles and laughs.
  9. I love teaching because of the “everything’s going to be OK”s both given and received.
  10. I love teaching because of the creativity displayed day in and day out.
  11. I love teaching because of the powerful collaborations both near and far.
  12. I love teaching because of the brainstorming and problem-solving in moving things forward.
  13. I love teaching because of the discovery of a new resource or tool that empowers us and/or students.
  14. I love teaching because no two days are the same.
  15. I love teaching because of the involvement and connection with the community.
  16. I love teaching because I get to #BeTheOne for someone.
  17. I love teaching because it is just plain fun.
  18. I love teaching because it will never be perfect.
  19. I love teaching because of the unknown and potential for what lies ahead.
  20. I love teaching because of its importance in building a better world.

I love teaching because of ALL students, even the ones that set out to challenge us the most! I love that this list could be added to on any given day and love knowing that I wouldn’t have it any other way! Here’s to teachers everywhere. Thank you for all you do.

Why do you #LoveTeaching?