Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Using Public Service Announcements to Resolve Playground Issues:

This article is provided by guest blogger, Kathy Kimpel, principal of Bagby Elementary School

The students of Bagby Elementary School in San Jose, working in conjunction with CreaTV are creating PSA’s to address some tough playground issues.  Teachers Sandra McConnell and Shelia Monger are the innovative teachers at the heart of this program.

The initiative began last year when four boys, who were long-time friends, found themselves in the principal’s office due to teasing that got out of hand.  They were determined to have something good come out of a terrible situation.  They worked together with a volunteer parent, and McConnell and Monger to create our first “Student Initiative” to promote better decision making.  Their screen play appeared in the first “Around Bagby” that was shown on Comcast Channel 28.

This year, the teachers wanted the students to learn how to use story boarding and careful planning to shoot videos.  The students are starting with short Public Service Announcements and are currently working on several films dealing with current playground behaviors that they chose. The topics span the gambit from serious injuries that can result from “horsing around” to the inconvenience of trash left for others to pick up.

This out of the box thinking is a direct outcrop of our work with Project Cornerstone, CreaTV and the Cambrian School District’s 21st Century Learning Community’s emphasis on digital media literacy.  Kids are helping kids make better choices through videography. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Have you ever attended a mandatory professional development (PD) session with little or no relevancy to your position?  How about a class where you left excited to try new things, but just never had the time to try it out, and the binder sits dusty on your shelf?  I attended a PD about differentiation when a colleague turned to me and stated what is now obvious, "why do they expect us to teach using differentiation strategies, yet we are all receiving the same exact training with no regard to our ability, experience or relevancy?"  Why indeed?
Published in ASCA's November issue of "Leadership Magazine", our superintendent, Dr. Deborah Blow and I co-wrote an article exploring the benefits and challenges of the Academy Model for professional development (PD). To me, a huge benefit of this model is providing teachers with targeted PD in areas they are interested in, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach that usually never fits all.  Our article describes the planning and vision that went into creating our academies, as well as some of the problems and opportunities it has created.

It was amusing to me that as we collaborated on writing the article Dr. Blow and I faced many of the challenges encountered by our students. Not allowed to share in and out of our internal  "walled garden", we were unable to collaborate with Google Docs (which we 'require' our kids to use). So then we tried our wiki, (Thank you wikispaces for offering free wikis to educators), but we had multiple user IDs and couldn't connect that way. Laughing as we tried to use 21st century tools, we ended up using good "old" cut & paste and email.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned with having the iPads is allowing students even more control of their own learning. I am trusting my kids and they trust me. The iPads changed the way our classes ran and they way our students learned.... Change drives their creativity, and their creativity fosters change!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Day of Thanks Giving

I am taking a pause from the preparations for our little family dinner to make note of some things I am grateful for that are specifically related to my teaching with technology. I just read a quote that said "it is not what you say about your blessings that matters, but what you do with them."

I have been blessed with a loving, supportive family, both the family of my birth and my family of choice. Having their support has helped me take the courageous leap to 'retire' from high tech at 40, and embark on a new career of teaching at 45. My husband has been so patient, supportive and generous on this new path we've taken.

I am grateful to SUSD for giving me a start as a librarian then teacher, and actually, yes, grateful that I was laid off. After 5 years of annual layoffs it finally happened that I was not called back. So that year, 2011, my mentor called me from her new district and invited me to interview there. What I didn't know in my layoff despair was that my new district would open doors of opportunity for me. So yes, I am grateful that SUSD laid me off so that I could expand my horizons.

My new district, Cambrian, has a lean, mean, IT machine. There is only a paid staff of three, with SysOps teachers at each site who receive a small stipend to handle first level support issues. The vision and insight of our "magic men", as my students refer to them, as well as the leadership and guidance of our superintendent and school board have provided for an atmosphere of technical leadership and innovation.

I am grateful that my background, reputation and enthusiasm are evident enough for me to be accepted into both the iPad and Digital Media Academies, allowing my students and me access to incredible tools, information and opportunities.

I am so thankful for the parents of my students, who trust me to teach their kids, help them navigate the 21st century landscape, but above all, keep their little ones safe in cyberspace and real life.

My heart is filled with gratitude for my creative, courageous, and committed kids who are willing to try anything. Their spirit of adventure and willingness to leap in to the unknown and help each other and me find new ways to do things is inspiring.

I have many blessings, and am even more blessed to have the opportunities to share my blessings with my students.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Monday, November 12, 2012

Yes Teachers Want Tech, Let's teach them how to use it!

I just read an article tweeted to me by Edworld written by Edworld Jason. He points out how most teachers are finally ready to take on tech, and want more of it in the classroom. Buried at the end of the article, beneath some really cool graphics, is this sentence...

Researching costs for technology purchases—ranging from installation to training time—is the first step in identifying what's right for your school.

The training time has been in my experience the biggest block to anyone other than early adopters using technology in the classroom. Teachers I have worked with have dust gathering on projectors, use Smart Boards as screens for their overhead projectors and don't know what to do with laptops, iPads and PCs. I hold dual citizenship, but most teachers are digital vacationers at best. We need to find ways, and finance ways, to help these teachers learn how to use the tools to provide meaningful and authentic learning opportunities for our kids.

I have scoured the Internet for lesson plans using iPads and have come up with very few good examples. New-to-tech teachers need good and easy to find sources of information and resources to help them step across their own digital divide. In our district, where we have a growing pilot program for 1:1 iPads, we have started a wiki and edmodo group to share best practices and ideas. But it is still a challenge for all of us, we are so busy teaching, to find the time to research and learn and share new ways to be innovative in the classroom. Yet, we owe it to our kids to prepare them as best we can 'for jobs that don't even exist yet.'

And, to reward you for reading all the way to the end, here is one of the really cool graphics I mentioned.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Weather Kids Kick Off!

Today we kicked off our Weather Kids project.  We unpacked our equipment and tried it out, including the anemometer, which they were quite fascinated with!  Students also joined our new edmodo group  "weather kids" and they were quite thrilled to introduce themselves to our partner schools.  We now have a daily meteorologist who will record the data for the day. RR found out it was 62 degrees Fahrenheit!  Using the iPad he uploaded the data into our Google doc using the Google weather reporting form.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Weather Kids

Weather Whenever, Wherever! I am so energized to be collaborating with two colleagues at two other schools in our district on a new project: Weather Kids. The three of us (Debbie, Camille and I) met last night to create a weather project for our students. We were inspired by a team that Debbie met at Napa Cue teachers Stacy Holder and Julie Berglin. I'm teaching 5th grade science but both my 4th and 5th graders will participate in the project. Debbie teaches a 3-5 SDC combo and Camille, a K-1 combo. Our students will be collecting data on rain fall, temperature and wind speed using a variety of high touch instruments. They will then record and share the weather data using our iPads via a Google form and Edmodo. Weather is a part of the science curriculum in both first grade and fifth grade so it fits all three of our curricula.

Stacy and Julie were warmly willing to share their templates and experiences with us to make roll out for us much easier.

We are also hoping to use either Scribble Press or PaperPort to create science journals that the students can share with one another. But we are still trying to figure that piece out. Everyone in our academy is finding sharing from one device to another to be challenging. We are also hoping to Skype between schools to build some community.

Eventually we'd like to add more tools such as barometers and hand made anemometers. I was thrilled to receive generous funding from friends and families through adopt-a-classroom. We'll be incorporating math with calculations to find dew point, converting between metric and US customary measurements (inches) as well as graphing and creating charts to help understand and analyze data. We will also be writing (we've already started with weather themed parts of speech) and geography as results start to come in from schools we partner with throughout the country and the world!

I just found out from UPS that my equipment was delivered while I was in our meeting so I'm super excited to get started! With the ferocity of Superstorm Sandy, my kids are well aware of weather and have a lot of interest in this project as well! Of course, they think it was named after me;)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, November 2, 2012

Kids and Candidates

I have been so in awe of my students this week. My fifth graders have an assignment to research presidential candidates' stand on three important issues. They used their iPads to research using Google, YouTube and timeforkids.com as their main sources, though several went beyond that. The students got to pick the issues and the candidate. After researching, they wrote persuasive essays, which required them to understand the position of the opposing candidate. They wrote their essays collaboratively using Google Docs, or Drive, mostly on the iPads, though some chose to use the Dino-PCs since google apps are still a bit glitchy in mobile mode. Finally, they are in the last step, creating presentations. Some students are choosing to make commercials or skits using iMovie. They are story boarding, script writing and filming ...editing starts next week.

I am impressed by their ability to collaborate, to move effortlessly between the high tech tools and communicating face-to-face in a meaningful way. They are problem solving, negotiating and demonstrating creativity in meaningful ways. They are able to integrate tools and are finding new ways to show what they know. I am so proud of my 21st century learners!

An excerpt from EL's essay
Site/people: http://www.education.com/magazine/article/Barack_Obama/page=1/ My mom and my partner Paul helped too.

This issue is important to me because is leaning is an important thing.

Barack Obama promotes an assessment program called “Race to the top,” this new assessment is different from the original one because it asks the students to problem solve, it is more in depth so they can’t just memorize everything. Obama supports charter schools by providing more funding for them. This causes healthy competition between the public and charter schools and makes them try harder to keep the students. Obama believes that in order for the quality of education to rise, we need to improve raise the quality of the teachers by sending them to professional training. He also helped the “American Opportunity,” a program that makes going to college easier, give 4,000 dollars tax credit to help low-income students go to college. Obama thinks that teachers should get paid according to how well they do. That will motivate them to do better.

Will post more samples soon!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:San Jose, Ca