Friday, April 18, 2014

Daily Physical Activity

One of the British Columbia educational requirements is that my students have daily physical education.  I teach in a school with over 500 students and one gymnasium so time in the gym is limited to twice a week. So how do I ensure my students  meet their daily physical education requirement?

In the past my students have taken part in a program called Run Across Canada.  All the grade one students at my previous school ran and walked a 1.2 km route around our school and its fields twice a week.  We totalled up our distance covered and mapped it on a map of Canada.  It was a huge success as we travelled west from Victoria, British Columbia. We often made it into the province of Ontario.  It allowed my students to have a better understanding of how large Canada really is.  When we were running through Saskatchewan we "stopped" at Mrs. Cassidy's class to say hello.  So not only did it get my students moving, it also helped us with geography.



This year I'm extremely lucky to work with a teacher how teaches Yoga.  Once a week she works with my students while I teach hers.  My students are loving the calming effect it has on them, and as their teacher I'm loving it too.


Another popular way for my class to move is the incredible symbaloos created by the Kinderchat crew - most specifically Matt Gomez and Michelle Hiebert. I have three of their symbaloos on our class blog which we use regularly and  love.  They are Kinderchat Dance Symbaloo , Just Dance Disney, and Just Dance 2.  What I love about them is the variety of dances each Symbaloo offers my students.  I'm all about choice of course so it's great for my students to have so much choice.


Recently I have discovered the GoNoodle website and at the moment it's our most popular way to move our bodies during class. What my students and I love about GoNoodle is all the ways we can move our bodies.  Sometimes we practice the track and field events lead by USA Olympic athletes.  I love seeing my students exposed to different track and field events such as sprints, hurdles, long jump, javelin etc.  The videos are short (most around 3 minutes) and are engaging for my students.  We can do a few different events in a session, or mix them up through out the day.  The site also offers dances, yoga, and breathing exercises.  Lately we've been starting with a dance, moving to a track and field event, and ending with breathing or yoga exercises.  As my students participate they earn activity minutes. As they earn their minutes their character changes in size.  We are on our second character now.  I'll be curious to see what happens when we clock enough exercise to expand all of the characters GoNoodle offers.

These are just a few ways that we are meeting our daily physical activity requirements.  How are you meeting yours?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

I've Been Thinking...

A recent edSurge article I was a part of with Erin Klein on Class Dojo, followed by some twitter conversation this morning has encouraged me to finally publish some of the posts I've held locked up in draft on my blog.  Here's one of them.

For the past few months  I haven't shared too much of my personal thinking.   It's what happens when I'm struggling with things and I'm just not sure how to put them into words.  I'm not sure I can now either but I need to share some of my thinking.

To no surprise, I read a fair number of tweets, blogs, and on-line articles.  I thrive on soaking up knowledge, thinking about it, making it my own, and then doing something with what I'm learning.  I don't always agree with what I'm reading and unfortunately this school year I often remain quiet because  I just don't have the strength to speak up.  I read, think about it, and allow it to push my thinking.

Right now so many things are swirling around in my head.  I'm drawn into many topics searching for the best ways I can help my students move forward in their learning journey. Over the winter break, while struggling with trying to write a blog post I tweeted out a few of my thoughts.



As an educator for most of my career I have felt that it was most important to let my students be exactly who they are. I certainly believe that now more than ever.  I understand that each child in my class learns in a different way and instead of trying to make them learn my way, I listen and watch more and try to find ways to help them learn in their way.  I've always learned differently than those around me.  As a result my room doesn't look like a traditional classroom but it doesn't mean that "traditional" concepts and skills aren't taught. They are just taught differently than how many of us were taught.

I very clearly remember math coming easily for me. In grade six my teacher had math worksheets we could do if we finished early.  I completed many of them quickly and  received the "Math Whiz" award pin.  Once you won the pin for the month you were given a handicap for the following month. I had to complete  at least 15 more worksheets than the next person in order to win another "Math Whiz" pin. To no surprise  I earned a second pin the following month.  But after that I started to figure out what a waste of my time these worksheets were.  The pin had little value to me.  I knew the content and gained nothing other than a pin for completing the tasks. I didn't need a pin to let me know I knew the math well.  I knew I knew the math well.

So why do I share this story? When I went to school we were all expected to do the same thing at the same time. I can assure you as a classroom teacher  it is much easier to set one way of learning and expect others to learn in the exact same way.  It's much easier to manage a class this way too.  But is the one way only method best for the learners in our classrooms? NO!  Expecting every child to learn in the same way makes it close to impossible to personalize and go deeper with learning.

Unfortunately it still happens all the time in classrooms around North America.   I am doing my best not to have it happen in my classroom. It's one of the many reasons why I believe so strongly  in providing student choice with  learning.

However I am also in the midst of a challenging school year.  I love my students very much and I am doing what I can to best meet their needs.  For the majority of my students providing choice has been as successful as I could expect.  I am seeing unique ways to practice and share learning. I am seeing students engaged in what they are doing -whether it be on their bellies at the carpet, under a table in the corner of the classroom, working with a friend, or in a quiet spot on their own.   But I won't lie, I have a few that are still struggling with choice and their struggles are affecting many.

I am also having personal internal struggles with what will make my life easier and what will be best for my students.  I have read blog posts on motivation, mindset, self regulations, and authentic student learning.   Because of what I know and some of the chatter I hear from others I am constantly being pulled from what is best for my learners vs what is best for me as their teacher.  It would be very easy for me to be more strict with my students, laying down heavy rules which I have created and expect my students to follow.  I could tell them exactly how I want things done, and accept nothing but that to show learning.  In fact it would be really  easy for me to set up a behaviour chart and reward kids for complying to my rules.  But I don't want to be the controller of my students learning, I want them to be in control of their own learning.  Plus just because I can make my life easier by being more strict and controlling, doesn't mean it's best for my young learners.

 I am also having internal struggles with doing what's best for most students vs what's best for just a few.  I don't want to run my room where I am the boss telling everyone what to do, yet I know I have some students that still require a lot more guided practice to be successful with their independent learning. I don't want to take choice away from those that can handle it for those that can't.  I also know there is a decent balance some where out there and there are many times when I've found it.  They are also times where I have not.

So each day I return to my classroom hoping it will be better than the previous.  I am constantly looking for ways for each learner in my classroom to be successful.  For many it's providing choices in how to learn, show, and share their knowledge.  For others it's a far more structured approach with a lot  more social skills being taught.  But ultimately what I am doing in my classroom has very little to do with me, and making my job easier, and a whole lot more about what's best for my students.  It's been a very challenging year, but it's a year that I won't give up on.  When I keep my students' needs at the forefront things can only continue to improve, right?




Friday, March 28, 2014

Back Channeling in the Primary Grades

If you've attended a professional development session in the past year or two you'll notice that more and more presenters and participants are utilizing a back channel to share learning.  A back channel is a space to share real time learning.  Often it's a conference or session hashtag on twitter, or a shared Google Drive document, or a room in Today's Meet, or the comments section in a Google Hang Out.  Back channels happen in real time and highlight key learning  shared by the speaker or presenter.  For those that are able to be in the session, it's a great way to collect personal thinking and it's also a place to refer back to.  For those that are not able to be in the session it's a great way to learn from those that were in a session.  Back channeling has may positive benefits.

Like most new things I'm discovering on my learning journey, I try, when possible to make it something my young learners can do too.  To no surprise back channeling is one of those things.

Often when we watch a live webinar, or a video I encourage my students to take notes of the important information being shared.  My grade one students have back channeled in three different ways.  Let me explain how.

Using a White Board to Back Channel


Last year we watched a live Discovery Education Webinar on Amphibians.  While watching the webinar my students were asked to recognize and highlight the important facts being shared.  They wrote these important facts on their personal white boards.  Although they were developing writers (aren't we ALL?),  they were able to pull out a lot of important information, in their own words.  As my students were listening, watching, and writing I was able to see (in real time) what they were learning from the webinar.



 After the webinar my students and I reviewed what we felt were the important details of the webinar. Many of my students also blogged about what they learned on their individual blogs.  It was successful back channelling at the most basic level.   In fact a week later we shared what we learned with Mrs. Cassidy's class and my students had remembered many interesting and important facts.

Using Today's Meet to Back Channel


Just before spring break we watched a Discovery Education video on salmon and we used Today's Meet as our tool for back channelling.  Today's Meet allows you to set up a "some what" private room to share thinking and ideas.  I say "some what" private because anyone who has the link can enter the room but as the creator of the room you can decide how you want to name your room.  You also decide who you want to share it with. In the case of our salmon back channelling I named the room Div19Salmon. I quickly created a QR code that helped my students access the room independently.  Before the movie began we added what we already thought we knew about salmon, and what we were curious to learn more about.  As the movie was on we added important facts and information that was being shared.


Once the movie was over we were able to review the information we had learned and shared.  As a class we took this a step further by creating a class book with our knowledge which we shared with the world. You can read more about the salmon learning and read our complete transcript here and you can find a link to the book we created here

Using Twitter to Back Channel

Over the past few years my students and I have used twitter as a tool for learning.  More specifically we have used twitter  for back channeling.  Just like adults who attend professional learning conferences, children can also create hashtags to share information.  Late last school year we took part in another Discovery Education live webinar about an aboriginal community in Canada.  As we watched the webinar my class and Mrs. Cassidy's class tweeted to the hashtag in real time to share our learning.  We used the back channel to ask questions, and to reflect on what we were watching.  The cool thing was that the hashtag was shared with all the classes watching the webinar and so many others were contributing to the hashtag just like in a "real" conference.  




So you see there are many different ways that young learners can back channel as they are learning too.  If you haven't already, I strongly encourage you to give it a try with your students.








Sunday, February 9, 2014

Social Media In Grade One? You Betcha!

In July of 2011, I joined twitter and since then my teaching world has exploded.  I have discovered so many inspiring educators pushing boundaries to best meet the needs of their students.  I have read blog post after blog post. I've had extensive on line and in person conversations, and I truly believe I am a much better educator because of what I've learned from others.

Shortly after I caught the "twitter" bug I started this blog as a place to document my learning. Over the past few years the blog has helped me solidify my learning and has allowed me to share that learning with the world.  Since I know what I know because people have shared with me, I strongly believe it is equally important for me to do the same thing for others.

So where do my students fit in?  If using social media such as twitter and blogging was a great way for me to learn, wasn't it only fair for my students to have that opportunity too? Yes!

That same year that I joined twitter I also I set up my first class blog, and shortly there after set up blogs for my grade one students.  I can honestly say I have never looked back.  Like I do on this blog, my students  share their learning with the world.  And just like I do, my students  learn from reading other student blogs.  Even though they are only five, six, or seven, they understand the power behind being a connected learner.  Using social media, such as public blogs, is one way they learn.

My students also use their blogs to connect with others. Right now we are part of Kristen Wideen's primary blogging community.  My students are reading other young students blogs and leaving them comments.  They are making connections with these learners and are excited to be learning with them.

My class and I also tweet through our class twitter account @MsLsClass.  I have written about some of the ways we tweet which you can read here.  The thing with twitter is that it easily invites the world into your classroom.  I love it when my students are working on something and they say, "can we share this with the world?"

At this point in the school year some of my students are keen to read what is in our twitter feed. They are no longer just reading it though, they are responding too.  They are beginning to realize that there is a huge wealth of knowledge available through twitter.  Not only do they want to learn from the world, they want to contribute their knowledge to it too. As their teacher I am appreciative all the people  who take the time to respond to my students tweets.

I also understand that many districts block the use of social media in the classroom. I am fortunate that is not the case for me.  But I also field a lot of questions around child safety with the use of social media.  I understand that there are concerns and I do, and will continue to do everything I can to keep children safe, to answer parent questions, and address what needs to be addressed.  My students and I talk over and over again about being safe on line. They understand that any tweet from our class account has to be seen by me before it goes to the world.  My students do not have access to the password on the account so it is not possible for them to tweet outside of our classroom devices.  They also know that they can not tweet their last names, or pictures of themselves with their names in the tweet.   My class twitter feed is also shared on my class blog so parents who regularly check the blog, but do not check twitter can see what we are up to.

Today, I honestly can't imagine not having my students learn with the world. In my classroom social media such as blogging and tweeting  is as a powerful tool for learning. Are you using it with your students?


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ed Tech Teacher iPad Summit San Diego - My Reflective Post

This past week I was fortunate to spend time in San Diego presenting and attending  the Ed Tech Teacher iPad Summit.  It was a great opportunity for me and one that I won't forget any time soon.

 I began my time at the summit as an assistant for Samantha Morra .  It was a real pleasure working with Samantha. She was organized and thoughtful and did her very best to lead a group of new learners through iPad challenges and tasks. Although we had some internet issues in the morning together we did the best we could to keep moving forward and supporting our learners.  I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to assist Samantha and if I'm able to do it again I'd jump at the chance.

Tuesday morning I started my day with Audrey Watter's keynote.  She talked about the history of technology from the past. An interesting perspective for certain.  I will admit I was a bit preoccupied during it as I was presenting right after, but her presentation did have my head spinning once again.  As much as things with technology are changing, we are still repeating many of the same mistakes over and over again. Technology should be used to transform learning, for critical thinking, and to create yet far too often we use it to do the same things we do without it.

From the keynote I went to my room to get set up.  I had a bit of trouble getting my slides to show properly on the big screen but with some wonderful support we were able to get something to work.  I also found out that Beth Holland from Ed Tech Teacher would be live blogging my session.  To say that I was nervous was an understatement. I am often working with staff, sharing open ended creative apps in which interaction is a big part of how I share.  This session was far less interactive.  It was also the first time I've presented outside of my own country and I felt a lot of pressure not to let down those that supported me to be there.  Unfortunately I can't say that my session went off as I would have hoped.  I was extremely nervous, and talked very quickly.   I successfully shared my passion as a grade one teacher but that wasn't my objective of the session.  My objective was to highlight some of the many ways classes can connect and learn with the world. While I did connect with several of the participants at the end of the session, and then later throughout the conference and via e-mail and twitter I still left feeling like I disappointed. I am hoping that the feedback from my session will be shared with me.  I hate to let down others.

After my session I attended Beth Holland's session on "Crushing Your Curriculum with App Smashing".  I first heard the term "App Smashing" while I was at the Apple Institute in Austin this past summer.  It made me smile because it was something my grade one students naturally did all the time.  I  loved listening to Beth. It wasn't so much because of what she shared - she shared great things but many of what she shared are things that I already believe and actively do in my classroom - but how she shared it.  Beth is a knowledgable dynamic speaker and I paid close attention to how she was presenting.

Over lunch I took the time to ask Beth for feedback on my presentation.  I listened carefully and will use what I have learned to continue to improve my presenting skills.  It's funny that this was the first conference where I was really questioning how I present vs what I was presenting. After speaking with Beth I had a lot more to think about.  That's a good thing though as I'm always looking to improve.

In the afternoon I went and listened to Amy Burvall from Hawaii and her presentation of  ReMix Ed - The Power of Remix, Mashup and Recontextualization in the Classroom.  I have a heard Amy's name being mentioned so I was curious to hear her speak.  While Amy works with much older children than I teach, I left with many ways I can remix and mash up with my young learners.  I promised her that I would share what we get up to on her G+ community and I will.  I am very grateful to have met Amy too.

My second session of the afternoon was one being presented by Carl Hooker.  I first met Carl at the ADE institute in Austin. I have heard he too is a great presenter so I attend his session with a purpose of learning.  To no surprise Carl did not disappoint.  He shared some excellent points on what not to do when you go 1:1 with devices.  I also watched very closely on how he engaged his audience, and was clear with his why.

I ended my day as part of the Elementary Panel. Holly Clark had many questions for us (Joanne Fox, Samantha Morra, Reshan Richards, Kristen Wideen and myself) and we shared our responses with the group.  It was nice to have a Today's Meet channel to hear what the audience was thinking and wondering while we were sharing.

I was fortunate to be invited to a dinner hosted by Ed Tech Teachers on Tuesday night and I continued my conversations there.   I was able to reconnect a bit with Don Orth, another educator I highly admire. We also met at the ADE institute this past summer. Tuesday was a good day with a lot of thoughts and reflections going on in my mind.

Wednesday I was up early to attend Ken Shelton's session  Pictures in Motion - Digital Story Telling with an iPad.  I am not too knowledgable "yet" in photography or videography so this was a great session for me to attend. I learned a ton and will see how I can adapt what I've learned to help my students take better photos, and produce better digital stories.

After Ken's session I presented a second time, this time on the Power of the Little People.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am very passionate about young learners.  While I will agree that they are cute, they are so much more than just cute.  I  designed this presentation to demonstrate just what five, six, and seven year olds are capable of doing.  My audience was much larger and I think for the most part I did a better job then on Tuesday.  I had many questions, which I answered honestly. I think I inspired others to look at what they are doing with their young learners too which is always good. But of course I continued to wonder how I could improve my presentation style.  In addition, during my presentation  Tom Daccord the director of Ed Tech Teacher also sat in for a bit and to no surprise I was curious to have feedback from him too.  It interesting when I am taking in feedback as to what is being talked about and what is not being talked about.  With out going into details, like with Beth, I appreciated what Tom had to say.

I then spent time talking with the vendors.  I strongly believe that it is important to hear what vendors have to say at conferences. Often I learn about products I previously knew nothing about.  For me the highlight here was meeting the people from the iPad app Drawp.  I have e-mailed and video conferenced with them and so it was great to finally put faces to names.  They have been very good to me and in turn I have also helped try to give my opinion on their products.  I was also extremely excited to see what Tangible Play is up to. I can't wait to get my hands on the product so I can have my students test it out.

While talking with the vendors I ended up missing the second keynote.   It was never my intention but it happened.  I think I may have been on over load at that point.  I was taking in a ton of new learning, was processing feedback I was receiving, and was sick. The combination of the three meant I just needed a slower pace for a bit.

After lunch however I jumped back into it with two more session.  My first was put on by JoAnn Fox, a California educator I have been following for a long time via twitter. Her session was called App Differently, Reach for Redefinition .  She shared many apps that I am familiar with but in ways that I am not yet using them.  I loved that as it again made my brain spin on how I could transform what she is doing with grade four students to what I can do with grade one students.

From JoAnn's session I headed to Lanette Walter's session Kinder Content Creators: Keeping Engagement and Curiousity in iPad Classroom K-2.  Lanette and I shared a lot of similar apps and ideas. I LOVED what she is doing with young learners and I learned a few new ways to use some of my students favourite apps too.  Pic Collage was one that stuck out most.  After attending her session, knowing what my students do with the app, and all that was going on in my brain, I think I could write an entire blog post on the many ways Pic Collage can be used in a K-2 classroom.  Lanette's presentation really had me thinking, even though I was completely exhausted at the time. Her session was, after all, the last of the conference.

Unfortunately I didn't have much time to spend after the conference as I had a plane to catch.  I did leave with a brain filled with many new ideas and things that I want to try with my students.  Some of the highlights of the conference included my time meeting and getting to know some of the Ed Tech Teacher's team.  They are an incredible group of educators who have so much to share with others. I am thankful for the one-on-one conversations I was able to have with many of them.  Another highlight was reconnecting and meeting my Twitter PLN face to face.  And of course I was also extremely thankful to be able to spend more face to face time with my good friend Kristen Wideen.   Despite living across Canada from one another we have managed to connect face to face four times over the past year.  I look forward to our next opportunity.

So where to now?  The presenting thing is still on my mind a lot.  I am presenting a few more times this month so I will be focussing on being clear with my why. As I mentioned earlier I have a LOT I want to share, now I just want to ensure that I am clear, inspiring,  and the best presenter I can be. It's a work in progress of course, but it is something I am working at.

Many of the session handouts and presentations form the Ed Tech Teacher iPad Summit can be found here.  They are worth checking out.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Eight Questions I Ask Before an App Can Stay on Student iPads

For the past couple of years I've been really fortunate to have access to iPads in my classroom.  The increased access to this mobile technology has provided my students with that many more individualized opportunities to show and share their learning.   Now if you're new to this blog you may not realize that student choice and voice is something I believe very strongly about. Very strongly.  This means I am constantly looking for apps that  allow my students to learn, show, and share their knowledge in innovative ways.  As a result I purchase and download many, many iPad apps for my work iPad. I take them for a test drive sort of speak before they make their way onto the iPads my students have access to.  The reality is very few apps I test drive end up on my student's iPads.  But why?  Below you will find some of the questions I ask (and why) before an app will make it on my students iPads.  I am hoping this information will be of benefit for both teachers purchasing apps for their students, and developers creating apps for students.  Here are my top eight questions.

1. Does the app promote consumption or creation?

I hear over and over again how iPads are so easy for children to use.  In some ways I agree because it is not hard to tap an iPad screen and make things happen.  But where I cringe is when I see how iPads are being used, particularly in a classroom.  iPads (and I'd think most mobile devices) are powerful tools in the hands of children so it's so frustrating when I see them being used at the simplest level.  When I look for iPad apps for my students to use I want an app that my students can create with.  I want an app where they tell it what to do, vs the app dictating what the child should do.   Eg. I much prefer apps that allow my students to create content, and not just answer questions that are thrown their way. The creation apps are my apps of choice vs the consumption apps.

Now please don't get me wrong, my students do use consumption apps from time to time too. We use them to learn sight words, or to practice math facts  but we use creation apps far more often. Far, far, far more often. Most of our creation apps can be used in a variety of settings, vs consumption apps which typically have just one purpose.

2. Does the app let my students enter at their just right level?

Nothing frustrates me more than having a levelled app, and having the app expect all my students start at the same starting point.  When I make this remark to the app developer I'm often told not to worry, they can pass through the initial levels quickly. Imagine walking into a new library and having to read every book below your reading level in order to get to the books that are at your just right reading level.  If an app offers levels, I want my students to choose the best level for them and that best level isn't the same for every child in my class.

3. Can the app be personalized?

I love it when my students can add their own content to a "drill and practice" type app.  There are a couple of really great word work apps we use where my students can add their own personal words to practice and learn in an engaging manner.  If my students can take a simple app and personalize it for their individual learning needs, I'm more likely to keep it.

4. Is the app simple enough for my young learners to use independently?

This year I teach 24 six year olds, on my own.  Like a typical grade one class, my students have  a variety of strengths and challenges which I do my best to meet individually.  With 15 boys and 9 girls my room is a very active place for learning.  I also try extremely hard to provide my students with choice of tool to learn, show, and share their knowledge.  If an app requires a lot of my time and guidance for my students to be successful it's an app I more than likely will  stay clear of it.  If it's an app that, after a quick demo, my students can use, for the most part, independently, I'm all over it.  Having said that, there are many fantastic apps out there that are just not the best option for my young learners.  For an app to get on the iPads my students use, it has to be age appropriate for my students too.

5. Where does the app save what is created?

A lot of what my students create on their iPads is uploaded to their individual blogs through the KidBlog app.  As I said before the more my students can do with out my help, the more I'm freed up to work more closely with my students.  The KidBlog app, and so many other productivity apps, easily upload from the iPad camera roll so I'm always looking for apps that save seamlessly there.  This includes apps that create images or movies.  For images my students can easily take screen shots if this isn't an option, but for videos this needs to be an option.

Some apps require an account to save to their websites.  I don't have a problem with setting up a class account for all my students to share their work too, but if I have to download from that account to have the work appear on their blogs I'm not interested at all.  In addition I live in British Columbia, Canada and we have the toughest privacy laws in Canada, and more than likely North America.  In order for me to use an app with my students that stores information on a site away from the iPad (i.e. on a server some where in the world) I need informed consent from my students' parents to use the site. So if I need to create an account and log on to use an app, I'll think more closely before I agree.  Informed consent adds another variable for me.

6. Where does the app share to?

My students know to look for the little box with the arrow pointing out from it.  For some apps that is how they get their creations into the camera roll. For other apps that icon produces a whole bunch more options. My class most often needs to be able to share to the camera roll, dropbox, or twitter.   Some iPad apps provide a link to a website where the content is stored.  While this is okay (when I have permission to store my students' work there) it's not ideal for my young learners.  The iPads we have access to don't have e-mail on them so it's not an option we have available to us so if emailing is the only way we can share content, I'll run from the app for my students.

7. How much space does the app take up on the iPad?

If an app is really large in size, and is taking up a lot of space on our iPads it better have a good reason for that space.  Space is very precious because once an iPad is full, an iPad is full.  I used to have a lot more interactive books on our class iPads, but I've since removed many because they were taking up way too much space.  I love when I find a great app that takes little space. Love, love, love it!

8. How much does an app cost?

I won't lie, if there is a good free app that does pretty much exactly what I want it to do the likely hood that I'll spend money to buy the upgrade is limited.  Money is tight and so it needs to be spent wisely.  Having said that there are apps that I will pay for because there is nothing like them in the free realm.  I appreciate quality and functionality and I will pay for that.  The more versatile an app is - i.e. one that works for a variety of age levels with out being too complicated for younger learners, and too young for older learners, the more likely I will invest in the app.

Of course before I add any app to the iPads my students have access to I need to have a need for the app.  An iPad can be fully functional with just a few open ended creative apps. I'll admit we have too many apps on the iPads we have access to now, but most if not all apps are used, some just more regularly than others.  I also find different students work best with different apps and I want to provide them with the choice of app that works best for them.

I'm curious, how do you choose which apps to add to your mobile devices?



Thursday, January 2, 2014

My One Little Word for 2014


Photo Credit: linh.ngan via Compfight cc

In 2013 my one little world was BALANCE to help me regain it after my world exploded in 2012.  You can read more about my 2013 word choice here.  

As it turns out 2013 was an even crazier year for me than 2012 which meant the word BALANCE was more important than ever.   I tried hard to keep BALANCE at the front of my mind and I really appreciated when my friends would remind when I was obviously showing signs of imbalance.  

So how did I do with the goals I set in 2013?


  • better BALANCE the time I spend between work and pleasure < I probably worked more than I should have, but when ever I had the opportunity to socialize outside of work I took it. 
  • better BALANCE the time I spend between inside and outside < I still need to get outside more particularly since I know I'm happiest when I'm outside in nature.
  • better BALANCE the time I spend between being active and being at rest < The first half of the year I wasn't as good as I could have been but the second half I was much better. I  returned to swimming, found a friend to run with, and attended weekly spin classes.  Unfortunately I was also dealing with very unhappy lungs, and feet issues which meant I was not able to be as consistent as I would have wanted.
  • better BALANCE the time I spend on line and  off line < Definite fail here but when I was  with  friends my device was kept out of site. My biggest problem is when I'm at home my devices are usually on and really close by.
  • better BALANCE the time I spend between saying YES and saying NO (or at least thinking a bit longer before saying YES so quickly) < I was successful here. While I took on a few projects that had me completely over whelmed, the results of my hard work and concentrated effort reaped huge growth for me. 
  • better BALANCE the number of projects I get my class involved with (not limiting but thinking about before moving forward with them) < I definitely did better here.   I started involving my students more in the decisions of which projects we were willing to take on. I also started created projects that we wanted to do instead of what others had created. When I'm in control of a project it is much easier for me to keep balanced.
  • better BALANCE the foods that I eat - thankfully I really love healthy food but even too much healthy food isn't a good thing. < I weigh pretty much the same as i weighed this time last year. That's probably not a good thing but I am making better choices about the foods I eat.
  • better BALANCE myself. < I know I've improved a lot this year, but I still have so much more room for growth. Being single means I have a lot of extra time on my own and I really enjoy learning and reading educational blogs. So I spend a fair bit of time doing that, which puts me off balance. Hmm.  Maybe I need a lot more help here.

2013 was an excellent year for so many reasons but it was also filled with some struggles and challenges.  I improved my exercise regime but it is no where near where I know it could and should be.   I have been extremely fit (a five time Ironman finisher) and I know how great I feel when I am  fit so I have no excuse other than focussing too much of my time on my career, and not enough of my time on me.  In addition in 2013 I finally faced the fact that I needed to change schools after 18 years. That was by far the hardest things I've done in a  very long time.  Tons of tears were shed in the process but four months into my new school I  have no regrets.  The move has taken a huge weight off of my shoulders that I didn't realize was there and I am enjoying the "new beginning".   

Photo Credit: ...anna christina... via Compfight cc

Unfortunately despite trying really hard to be more balanced  I still have a long way to go.  In fact it was tempting to keep the word BALANCE for 2014 too but I didn't.   My word for 2014 is LIVE.  In 2014 I want to LIVE more. I will continue to put my all into my job, but I want to give my leisure time the same about of respect it deserves too.    My career is in a place that I am fortunate to have wonderful opportunities coming my way but my personal life is lacking. I will continue to take the opportunities that come my way both personally and professionally, but I want to create more personal opportunities so I can get back to living my life more fully.  I will take more time for me, for my friends, and for doing the things that I love away from my job.   I am going to try harder to put the stresses of work aside more often and just enjoy living again.  In 2014 I am going to LIVE more completely.

Now I'm curious will you come out to play with me and what will your word be for 2014?

*Update - The more I think about my word the more I think about what Dean Shareski said about taking life less seriously.  My work is important to me but I need to get out there and smile, laugh, and be silly a whole lot more both at and away from work. Who wants to join me?