Thursday, October 11, 2018

Making Connections to Make Magic Happen

Last week the North Carolina School Library Media Association Conference (NCSLMA) was held in Winston Salem, NC.  Several of my colleagues attended from lots of schools in our area, but I was not one of the lucky attendees. I happened upon the many great things happening there by following the #ncslma18 hashtag on Twitter.

The first tweet I saw was from the one and only, Stacy Lovdahl: 

Stacy is traveling the state serving districts from far and wide as an Educator on Loan with DPI while she also serves her home district, I knew good things would be coming from her all day.  My excitement for the conference was elevated by the incredible authors and speakers they had lined up, one being Pernille Ripp! 

Pernille is the creator of the incredible Global Read Aloud project.  Her passion to ignite the love of reading in kids around the globe is infectious, and she has inspired me in many ways! I've shared her project with many teachers, and have had participants in the project at my schools for several years.  Her project drove me to create a Local Read Aloud project to connect the schools and students within our own district to connect and collaborate on a common book.

The Local Read Aloud in Burke County Public schools started two years ago with three books for different grade levels; Kindergarten-second grade reading Clementine, third-fifth graders reading Wish, and sixth-eighth graders reading The Last Boy at St. Edith's.

I don't know how Pernille can choose such wonderful books year after year, after year. It is so difficult!! I settled on these choices, having only read Clementine, but based on the summaries and reviews, I was confident in both of the other selections.  I reached out to the authors on Twitter, and wouldn't you know, Barbara O'Connor replied enthusiastically!

Ms. O'Connor not only engaged with our teachers and students via Twitter, she also joined our shared Google Classroom and interacted with our students! What an amazing experience for everyone! I could never have imagined the impact this made on our students and teachers! Wish was loved by everyone, and many inspired teachers purchased multiple copies to use with small reading groups.

So.... you can imagine my excitement when two women, who have impacted my practice in great ways, were heading up sessions at the very same conference not far from home!! AWESOME! Unfortunately, it wasn't on my radar before hand so I didn't attend, but the power of Twitter is incredible. I reached out Stacy, and she so graciously purchased a copy of Wish, and got it signed for me. She magically was sitting at a table with Lori Eggers, a media coordinator that I work closely with at East Burke Middle School, to whom she handed the book off to.
I got the book a few says ago, and wow... What an incredible journey of learning and connections all thanks to Pernille Ripp, and her Global Read Aloud, Barbara O'Connor, Twitter, and personal/professional connections.

So, my friends, reach out to others, try new things, connect with strangers! You won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Building and Sharing Math Stuff

I created a cool resource to help math teachers in our district navigate digital resources for mathematics instruction. This was a need for our educators as the NC Math Standards have been updated for this school year.  This site features an Awesome Table that is sortable via standard, cluster, or key word. It is my hope that this will be a valuable resource for teachers while planning lessons/units.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

CETL Certification

I earned this handy, dandy badge a couple months ago. It's a CETL Certification, which says I'm a Certified Educational Technology Leader. That's a mouthful, and a year ago, I would have said, "No way, I could never pass that test." I had been introduced to the COSN network, casually, on one of those casual BCPS 10 hour summer workdays.  I brushed it off as as "Yeah, right" possibility because my knowledge of the vastness that is technology leadership was not on my radar, at all.  Fast-forward to fall of 2017, and NCDPI announces that there is a partnership with COSN to provide a 2 day course, as well as the testing for CETL Certification. Lucky me, I got signed up, and found myself in Wake county for training in January. What a whirlwind of information; two straight days of information overload! At the conclusion of the training days we'd had about 4 weeks to study, as the test was scheduled for February 28th. I spent lots of time working through all the material, mostly early morning sessions before my kids were awake, and I tested myself in many free moments using Quizlet, and pre-made sets. I knew the vocabulary pretty darn well, all 400ish terms that I studied.  I memorized acronym after acronym, and felt both prepared and scared out of my mind when test day rolled around.

If you have been a part of a proctored exam recently, you know the feeling of stress, dread, nausea, and anticipation.  This test is 115 questions, with only 2 hours to take it. That timer, is menacing! I read, and reread, and read, and marked questions to return to.  I marked 30ish to review, and I bet more than half of them I changed my initial answers.  I submitted with mere seconds, more nervous than when I first walked into the testing session.

I will always remember Marlo standing behind me as I got my test result. She knew I passed before I did.  I was in shock! No doubt, the hardest test I've ever taken.  Every minute of hard work paid off.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Staff Meeting = Play Time

For the past four years the North Carolina Digital Leaders Coaching Network (NCDLCN) has been a driving force in my growth as a coach.  I have been able to grow my professional network, stretch my thinking, grow through reflection, and put new ideas into practice.  The most recent NCDLCN session I participated in was an alumni session focussed on the concept of design thinking.  I didn't exactly know what I was getting into, but I knew that I would learn something new, be with my people, and have a blast. That I did.

As part of the design thinking process each participant was paired with another to work through the process.  The best part of this partnership, was two-fold; my partner was Delaine, one of my mentees from the 2016-2017 cohort, and the purpose of the design thinking process we were to work through was to solve our partner's problem!  This was so powerful!  I love helping people solve their problems, mine, not-so-much.  

At the end of our two day challenge, Delaine identified a solution to my problem, and gave me a gift.  See below:

My gift from Delaine, a solution.

So, Delaine said I need to help my teachers play, laugh, and flip out, build trust, and then do the work.  She nailed the solution to the problem I didn't realize I had.  We needed to build a culture of teamwork, but before we can work together efficiently, we need to establish some foundational relationships.  These relationships must branch out past our grade-level hallways in order to be fruitful!

Enter the Uno Tournament staff meeting. I did some research and gathered some fun tidbits to share with my principals, you can find it here.  I got commitments from 2 of my principals, which I considered a win!

I created a Google Slides presentation to share with the staff, before and after, designed the tournament bracket, and picked up some prizes along with 8 decks of UNO cards.  

The outcome: The folks that were able to stay for the meeting had a blast!!  We saw personalities that don't normally emerge from day-to-day business.  The competition was fierce and laughing was infectious. More than one staff member stopped me to thank me for the experience!  

Now, was it an incredible experience for everyone? No.  You can't please them all.  However, I feel like the experience was a valuable one for everyone.  Fun and games do belong in the work-place, and especially in schools.  I think everyone could walk away from our tournament feeling a little lighter, and a little less stressed.  

Now, the ultimate goal of this tournament was to get folks into each others classrooms. I followed up the next day with an email to the staff inviting them to visit the classrooms of the other three players from their original table.  I suggested that they visit this classroom within 2-3 weeks of our game.  I will be following up with them after the break to see what they learned from their colleagues.

I'll be running UNO Tournament #2 at another school this week, I'll be sure to add my findings in an update to this post.

Hope my fellow 'NCDLCN Design Thinkers' are making progress on their ideas.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Summer Reading and Google Sites

Summer time means summer reading!  I love seeing what other people are reading, sharing what I've read, and getting book recommendations from friends.  This morning I put together a very simple Google Site to display my summer reading, and thought I'd share a quick walk-through on how to do it!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Digital Breakout Creation/testing

This adventure in learning began when one of my 6th grade science teachers approached me prior to spring break wanting to plan a BreakoutEDU game. She wanted a game based on the unit her students were wrapping up, Plants and Ecosystems.  I searched the BreakoutEDU webpage without luck, and decided we'd have to create something to fit the needs of her and her students. 

We met together and she was able to walk me through a good bit of the material, and we were able to bounce some puzzle ideas off one another.  She wanted to cover the cycles that take place in an ecosystem; water cycle, carbon cycle, photosynthesis, and pollination to name a few.  She also wanted to include different types of biomes, as well as a variety of flowering plants. Identifying the parts of a plant and symbiotic relationships rounded out our discussion that day.

After our meeting I tried to get to work on designing puzzles to match our chosen topics, but my wheels were spinning, and I really lacked direction and motivation.  I'm not sure how long I sat in that funk, but as soon as my backstory started to come into focus, the puzzles started writing themselves.  I decided to write the game from the perspective of plants and animals in an ecosystem, and telling their stories through social-media puzzles.  

Symbiotic relationships correlated to a Facebook relationship status.  The food chain worked with song titles on Spotify.  Snapchat fit with labeling plant parts, and counting Instagram likes in specific plant photographs made sense.  The directional arrow paired with tweets about plant processes worked perfectly. I was also able to create a text conversation that proved to be so simple it was challenging.

I was so excited for game day, that I was awake before my alarm had gone off. I just knew that the student would LOVE the game I had designed.  Boy, was I in for a rude awakening.  I'm not sure if my puzzles were just that difficult, or the student just struggled to make the connections, but the first class was difficult.  No-one broke out, and several didn't even open a single lock. Afterwards, I had time to recreate and adapt some puzzles so that the game would be more appropriate for the students.  The next classes were still a struggle, but were also slightly more successful.  At the end of the day I felt quite defeated, but my colleague assured me that the game was solid, and it was the students that really needed to apply themselves more in order to achieve success.  I created a digital version of the game over the weekend and shared it with her so that her students could have another shot at the puzzles.

I have since tweaked the game even more, rewriting some of the clues to be a bit more to the point.  I do believe I created something that was a bit too advanced for those sixth graders.  

I have a group of 6th graders trying the digital version of the game tomorrow. I'm eager to see how they do and get feedback from them so that I can continue to improve the game.  I really did enjoy creating it, and I hope the students can enjoy working through it.

Want to try the game?  Click the link below:

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

See a need, fill a need...

Recently, my family was gifted the movie, "Robots" and we watched it a handful of times, and the line, "See a need, fill a need" is one that resonated with me.  I believe that as educators we see lots of needs on a daily basis, but the filling of needs may be an area where we need some improvement.

I got the opportunity to really live out the "See a need, fill a need" idea in our final meeting with our Burke County Global Educators Cohort (BCGEC). We kicked off our session with a Gripe Jam activity.  Jennie Magiera had shared this activity at NCTIES during her PD is not a 4 Letter Word session.  The Gripe Jam activity is a great way to think about challenges that we face as individuals, and then collectively brainstorm ways to address the challenges.

One of the collaborative conversations that took place as a result of our Gripe Jam was a need for a collection of technology resources that could be categorized and searched in order find an appropriate tool for a task. Using a collection of resources created by, Donna Wells, a fellow ITF, I created an Awesome Table view and hosted it on a Google Site, along with a Google Form for teachers to complete in order to suggest a resource that should be included. You can check out the site here:

Making Connections to Make Magic Happen

Last week the North Carolina School Library Media Association Conference (NCSLMA) was held in Winston Salem, NC.  Several of my colleagues a...