Thursday, June 28, 2012

ds106: Wiggle Stereoscopy

I've been a bit MIA at Camp Magic Macguffin for the past week as the family has been in San Diego having a wonderful time. Oddly enough, even on vacation with my family ds106 has not been far from my mind. Walking around Legoland I had many thoughts about assignments, both current ones and possibilities.

We took in Miniland, an area full of cities and creations made of Legos. It's really quite impressive. I took a few pictures of this Lego steamboat with the purpose of creating a wiggle stereoscopy image. I ended up only using two of the images after trying to get one that worked the way I wanted.

Lego Steamboat

I'm finding as I work through ds106 assignments (slowly, but still) that I don't fully understand why I think things work or don't work. Hopefully as I continue with this process I'll hone my eye and begin, to a bit at least, to be able to explain my thinking.

Monday, June 25, 2012


The last few days have been busy. A good busy though. ISTE is off and rolling. I started Saturday with SocialEdCon, one of my favorite events. When things slow down a bit I'll get my thoughts and reflections for that organized. Yesterday was the official kick off for ISTE12. During that event the award winners were announced and I got to be up on the big stage. Pictures were taken but they are on the laptop which won't stay connected to the internet here so they'll come later. Today I've been hanging in the Bloggers's Cafe talking with teachers from around the country. These conversations are thought-provoking and fascinating, but they also frequently serve to remind me that I have a great job in a fabulous school. That's a good reminder to receive. I feel lucky to be here, learning with and from these brilliant folks.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

ISTE 2012

For the fourth year I am headed to ISTE just after the end of the school year. This year it will be extra fun because the whole family is headed to San Diego. We've got plans for Legoland and the San Diego Zoo set already. I'm hoping to be at Social Edcon on Saturday and I'll definitely be at the opening stuff for ISTE on Sunday.

On Monday at 4:15 I'm copresenting about and we have a poster session about the site at 1:00 on Tuesday.

If there is something I shouldn't miss, let me know! Mostly I expect I'll be in the bloggers' cafe quite a bit.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Draw It: Next Visual Assignment

I'm still struggling with Warhol Something so I was concerned the Draw It assignment might stump me too. Instead, it went swimmingly. This isn't the first picture I tried, but it's the one I'm happiest with how it looks. I was worried about the business of the background but it worked.

The original picture is of our principal talking to one of my students at our writing celebration.

Here it is as a drawing.

Love: In Three Frames for Father's Day

As I attempt to catch up on ds106 I'm trying some visual assignments. For Father's Day (a day that always slips past me as it falls right at the end of the school year*) I gave Love: In Three Frames a try for both my husband and my father.

Here's the collage for my children's father.

And the one for my father.

Neither of these is what I want them to be, but I think that may be because I can't really put into words what I'm trying to say here.

*A recent conversation with a single father friend has me convinced we should have one 'family day' rather than Mother's Day and Father's Day. Children missing a mother or father have a rough time on those days. One day to celebrate parents would be better.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

ds106 Design Assignments

My goal with participating in ds106 (in whatever way that played out) was to learn something. I've only scratched the surface but I've learned quite a bit about GIMP and Photoshop today. In addition, without putting in much effort (as I probably should have done) I am looking at design differently, more aware of choices made and how those decisions impact the overall view of an item. Again, lots more to learn but I've gotten started.

I had to make some lame workarounds to create my CC poster because I'm not yet proficient enough in GIMP or Photoshop. That said, I'm fairly pleased with how it turned out. Here's the original picture from Mean and Pinchy on flickr:

Here's my take on Creative Commons:

The next assignment I attempted was If Movie Posters Told the Truth. I'm less pleased with this work because I know if I had more patience I could fix the 'bad script' part to look more a part of the poster. Unfortunately it's late (for me) and I'm not a patient person in general. 

I picked a movie I can't stand because that seemed more fun. It required inventing a new word but it captures my sentiment pretty accurately.

Finally, I tackled Iconic You. As simple as this looks, it took me a while because I kept trying to make it do too much. I could not come up with one thing to illustrate me and I wanted to create something that included a lot of the ways I define myself. This design came pretty quickly but I spent a lot of time trying to add more to it. I thought about using the top of the music note to be waves and add something to symbolize biking and running in order to show my participation in triathlons. I thought about adding some little faces to the apple to symbolize my children and husband. After trying some of these out and not liking anything, I got back to the simple. It may not show everything that matters to me, but I like it.

Getting my ds106 Game On (Maybe)

School's out for the summer.* I've dedicated at least part of today to ds106 work, finally. I'm working on a Creative Commons poster, but I'm stuck trying to put the CC icon on there. I haven't given up yet but I did decide to take a break.

Instead I did the One Story/Four Icons assignment. I've enjoyed seeing the work of others on this assignment and it seemed doable. I may try some other movies soon as well. The Noun Project made this pretty simple.

*The kids are done but I still have three days next week of meetings and packing up.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Daily Creates

It's not much, but I've managed to do the last four Daily Creates for ds106.

On Thursday the assignment was to take a picture of something that you are envious of (physical or metaphorical). I snapped this shot at recess that day. This little girl is not in my class (although I do know her and adore her) but was outside when we were and amazed me on the bar. It may not be clear but she is hanging upside down with her legs away from the bar. The strength and balance were what I envied!

Friday's assignment was to tell a story about your most random job. Mine can be heard at this link or below.

On Saturday I had to download PhotoShop's 30 day trial and test it out in order to take a picture of the oldest building near you; use filters to make your photo look even older. I really don't know what I'm doing with this but it was interesting to try. I took a picture of the, now closed, Lorton Prison. It opened in 1916 so I figured it qualified.

Today's effort doesn't impress me but it does prove that I'm thinking about the Daily Create all the time. The assignment was to take a picture featuring rope or knots. During our weekly family fitness class (an absolute blast) we used ropes with a partner. As soon as the exercise was being modeled I grabbed my camera and got a picture of my husband and younger daughter working together. I cropped it down to focus on the rope.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

I'm Not Flipping Over this Idea

Flipping the classroom is an idea being thrown around everywhere. I've had conversations about it with folks both in and out of education and teaching at all levels. No one has convinced me.

I may be hard to convince because it's not something I seriously need to consider. I teach first graders. I don't give them homework much less expect them to do any significant academic work outside the classroom. Plus, many of them lack internet access. So, the idea is shot down on two counts.

That doesn't stop me from having strong opinions on it. Why should it?

Valerie Strauss, at the Washington Post, wrote about the flipped classroom this week. She quotes some folks to explain their support and shares others' concerns about the idea. To my mind, nothing there hits on my really big issues.

First of all, a flipped classroom is not revolutionary. (I do understand that many folks don't feel we need to be revolutionizing education but plenty are throwing this idea out there as groundbreaking.) All it does is take traditional instruction and switch it around. Teachers are still lecturing at students.* Recording those lectures and sending them home allows students to watch them multiple times but doesn't allow any interaction. If something in the video doesn't make sense, there is no way for that to be addressed. How does watching a video, possibly more than once, equate to significant learning?

Secondly, let's imagine this really flies and most folks start doing it. How long will these videos be? How many videos will each student watch at night? Are we talking about half an hour per class? A high school student taking six class will have three hours of video to watch. Is that a good use of time? Is that even remotely reasonable? If teachers are taking their classroom lectures, from each class period of nearly an hour, that may be a conservative estimate. (Of course, I have serious issues with homework in general so these thoughts are tainted by that.)

Finally, this idea is so teacher focused it causes me pain. Students all get the same instruction at home (or possibly a teacher makes multiple videos for the same idea to offer differentiation - that's a lot of work for something that is not really specific to student needs). The message is that a teacher knows exactly what the students need to know and can just impart that knowledge and move on. The student's role is simply to listen and soak it all in.

I'd much rather see us rethinking our use of classroom time, rethinking our instructional models. Not just moving around the deck chairs.

* I do believe there is a place for lecture. My concern is that currently it is the default mode, used most often without any thought or question.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Reflection: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

I've been sitting on these thoughts for a while, sadly. I'd like to say I've been reflecting on them, but that's been pretty sporadic. Reflection, for both teachers and students, has become one of those big ideas that gets in your head and is then everywhere you look. At least for me it is.

Dean Shareski writes about the importance of modeling reflection for our students. I think most teachers do a lot of reflecting, but I doubt their students see it. I know mine don't typically.
"Imagine if every teacher recorded themselves each day and watched it. Hmmmm. We want our students to be reflective and would love for them to document and describe their learning in detail. Why aren't we actively modeling this? Not just for the sake of modeling but because it makes us better. Imagine if a movie director or actor never watched their work?"
Another post from Dean caught my attention because of his push to help his students (preservice teachers) reflect but also his own reflection on how that is going. In this instance his focus is on having students give themselves a grade and justify it. My favorite bit, not surprisingly, is the idea that even very young students could do this.

"I suppose in some respects, I'm still assessing, assessing their assessments but my goal was to do two things. First to empower them to think deeply about their learning. While I've always advocated for reflection, I tried to emphasize more documentation. I still need to structure this better but that was my intent."
"I'm thinking that even 6 year olds should be able to assess themselves. If we give them the tools and expectations. As far as trust goes, it seems that it speaks to the climate of your classroom to some degree. I will say that since I was the one submitting the grade, if I felt it to be way out of line, I had the authority to adjust it, I just never did."

A brilliant teacher in my school, just down the hall from me, really struck me with her thoughts on how she helps her young students reflect on goals they set. Powerful. Simple, in many ways, but very powerful.
"During morning meeting my goal everyday (and sometimes I just forget...) is to read the reminders together with the students. Then each student decides what they want to work on that day - do they want to try to sit with their hands in their lap, do they want to make a goal of sharing, of listening, or of walking safely? They put a sticky note with their name on their poster. At the end of the day (if I 1. remember and 2. have the time) we talk about how their goals went - did they sit quietly, did they keep their hands in their lap, etc. I like that it lets us focus on just ONE behavior a day. During the reflection time one of my kids may have had a rough day but he can at least say, "my goal was to keep my hands in my lap and I did that." It is a good reminder to me to find the positive even on our most difficult days. Sure you threw your pants in the toilet, but you know what - you did walk safely. Thank you for that. Sometimes I ask them to identify what they did well that day from our posters as a way to get them to reflect on their behaviors. Some of them are not ready to grasp the larger intangible concept of setting a goal and trying to meet it, but the conversations allow us to repeat the language of the expected behaviors over and over again. The more we talk about those expected behaviors the more likely we are to see it."

Another of my favorite folks, Doyle, also wrote about reflection recently (or somewhat recently). I think this statement really covers what I believe about what I want my classroom to be.

"Schools should be places of reflection, learning spaces helping children see the world, to see their role in the world, the whole world.."
My big take-away from all of this is the versatility of reflection. It is a critical tool for teachers and students in assessment, growth, personal and classroom management, and curiosity and creativity. If students were supported in becoming reflective learners I believe they would grow in all areas.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Stretching Out of My Comfort Zone

In a burst of insanity I registered for ds106 this summer semester. The theme this time around is Camp Magic Macguffin. I've been following ds106 for a while now but never felt an urge to participate. It seemed out of my realm of competence. We'll see if I was right then or if jumping in was a smart choice.

So far, it's hard to say. With only a few weeks left in the school year and a sprint triathlon tomorrow morning I haven't been able to find the brain space for ds106. Writing this post is the first step in breaking through that wall. I intend to at least try some of the Daily Creates in the next week. That and commenting on others' creations is likely all I can handle right at the moment. I hope before the summer is over I will have achieved much greater things.