Sunday, March 20, 2011

If Nothing Ever Changed, There'd Be No Butterflies....My Trip To Merton

If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies.

~Author Unknown

Over my spring break, I visited Merton Community School District in Wisconsin for two days. Merton is a school community that I am already very passionate about because of the connections that Van Meter has made between classrooms, students and teachers.

Last fall, teacher Chris Reuter and I met on Twitter after I sent a tweet out looking for special education teachers to connect with. Chris responded saying that he could speak with the special education teachers at Merton and see if they were interested. Later that week I connected with Mark Flynn, superintendent, and Lisa Morowski, elementary technology teacher. We jumped right in and connected several classrooms in different grade levels with fun activities using Web 2.0 and social media.

And that was just the start of something very special between our schools. It wasn't just about the learning taking place. Our connections were also about the relationships and friendships.


I loved what I saw at Merton. The classrooms are full of life spilling out creativity, energy and amazing relationships between the teachers and students. I was invited into each classroom where everyone was so gracious and thankful that I was visiting.


I love how the students at Merton feel comfortable connecting and learning with one another and their teachers. Couches and other comfortable furniture ia a common scene throughout Merton. In Sarah Kasprowicz's 5th and 6th grade classroom the students enjoy sitting on the couch while collaborating about their next group project. This really added to the feel of community within the classrooms.


One of my favorite rooms was Mary Shannon's 5K classroom. Being an artist and in love with creativity, I was in heaven!

The first thing I saw was this amazing sculpture made out of recyclable materials and LOTS of packing tape. A little boy with crazy curly hair told me all about how they built a spaceship and had me look into different tubes or "spy scopes". Right next to this sculture was a cardboard box on the floor. When I was in the room the first day, two kids were in there talking all about constellations and what they had learned. I wanted to stay here all day. And Miss Shannon....amazing herself.


In Chris Reuter's classroom, the 6th graders were watching a video clip about Chernobyl. He told me that they were learning about something else, but when Chernobyl came up in the conversation the lesson took a turn. He quickly found a video on Safari Montage and engaged the students in a backchannel on their netbooks while watching the video. The students were engaged and enjoying the backchannel conversation.

Chris and I have worked together this year in connecting not only his 5th and 6th graders, but other teachers as well. His students are currently working on Voice Threads with the 6th graders at Van Meter. I hope that this relationship between the students continues to grow. Chris, Sarah, Julie Gilbert, and the other 5th and 6th grade teachers at Merton amazed me on how they work together and are bringing rich experiences to their students and community.


The highlight of the two days happened in Catherine McMahon's 4K classroom. Catherine has been connecting with Christa McClintock's kindergarteners at Van Meter throughout the year. My son Hagan is a student in Christa's room and she just happens to also be my cousin. So I have a little bit of a personal connection to these children at Merton as well. I couldn't wait to meet his Merton friends and take a photograph of them holding the gingerbread Hagan had created during their two month, multi-curricular unit Christa and Catherine did this year. (You can read about and see their incredible Gingerbread Tours here.)

As they were playing on the carpet I sat down next to two students and asked them about the basket of iTouches sitting next to their couch. A little girl asked if I wanted to see her use one and I said yes. As she went to get one of the iTouches, two more students went and got them out of the basket too. She came over, sat on my lap and started telling me all about the 100 different apps they have, how they have their very own cart, and the "cool" math game that is her favorite. The boy sitting next to us showed me his favorite game which involved dressing up people in all type of clothes. They could hardly wait to show me what was next.


It only took a few minutes for three more students to join us. Another girl came up and asked if she could play too. The little girl on my lap said, "Sure you can play a matching game with me." She quickly went to that app and they started playing the game together, taking turns and helping one another remember which squares matched.

I have seen Hagan and other children use iTouches before but never in a classroom setting like this. It was evident that they were comfortable and felt successful using the technology. When it was time to come to the Smart Board for a group activity, the students put the iTouches carefully back into the little basket and made sure they were all organized. Two of the girls looked at each other once they were organized and one said, "Bye bye, iTouch." It was priceless.



During these two days I brought ideas and thoughts to Merton. We spoke about change. We spoke about the similarities and differences between our schools. We spoke about 21st century learners and the type of environment we will need to create for them. Not only did I give them ideas for change, they gave me so many ideas too. I cannot wait to go to school on Monday to tell everyone at Van Meter what I learned. This will help us change and grow too.

So as you walk by something beautiful like a clay butterfly, spaceship made out of milk jugs and paper towel rolls, an iTouch in the hand of a five year old, or a student teaching an adult how to edit a movie on their laptop, remember these words once again...

If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies.

Change can bring incredible opportunities to our students, teachers, and communities. Embrace change and look for ways to support and enhance what it brings to your school. From these changes, we will create the spaces, opportunities and relationships that our young people need.

Thank you Merton. You are a very special place....with a whole lot of butterflies.


Monday, March 14, 2011

It Was Definitely a New Leaf in Learning....Follett Software User Conference

On March 9th after a busy day of connecting with several schools and six authors for World Read Aloud Day, I flew to Chicago for an exciting event. I was going to the first Follett Software User Conference being held at the Fairmont Chicago Millenium Park. Over the last few months I had connected with many people from Follett and others who were attending the conference, so I was very excited to get to Chicago.


The morning of March 10th Don Tapscott opened with an inspiring keynote speech. As I participated in the #FSC11 Twitter stream, a few of my favorite quotes to share were, "We need our students to LOVE learning. We need to be PASSIONATE, creative learners ourselves" and "School should be like summer camp. It should be fun." Everyone in the audience left the ballroom knowing we could all create a change in education and in the future of our young people.


The day was filled with breakout sessions covering a variety of themes such as Data Driven Decision Making, Curriculum & Instruction, IT/Technology Leadership, Library & Resource Management and Product Support Center.


I was asked to present at the conference about social media being used within in education. I was very excited to share my story about how I am using social media with the students, teachers, and school community at Van Meter. I told stories about the connections at schools such as Merton in Wisconsin and Grosse Pointe South in Detroit.




There were two highlights for me in the session. First, my friend John Schu traveled from his school in Oak Brook to join me that afternoon. John and I met at the School Library Journal Summit last October in Chicago and had become amazing friends and teaching partners since. This was only the second time we had met in person but collaborate and communicate almost everyday. Also, we have used Skype, Twitter, Edmodo, YouTube, Animoto, Blogger and other resources to connect our students to several incredible projects over the last few months.


John and I created the Two Libraries One Voice blog to share our experiences with students, teachers, parents and others. During the presentation, we spoke about not just our relationship but the one that we have created with our students and schools. He even brought a whole envelope of the sweetest hand made cards that his students created that morning. It was so nice having him there with me to share our incredible connection.




I didn't want to be the only one to share Van Meter's story, so I Skyped in four of our students from Iowa so everyone could hear their voices too. Julia, Michael, Maddy, and Emma told stories of using social media and how it had changed their education and lives. They spoke about how social media gave them a voice and a place to connect to their passions. I was proud as I listened to them tell their stories.


The day before the conference they videotaped one another and created a short iMovie just in case Skype failed us the day of the conference.




Below you can find the SlideShare of my presentation.
Social Media in Education
After a day of learning and connecting, everyone headed to Aria in the hotel for a Tweet Up. Brandi Heinz and Carly Anne Molstad greeted John and I with fun t-shirts and conversation. They did a great job coordinating the Tweet Up and getting everyone together to continue the connections.
The next morning offered more breakout sessions about a variety of topics. I loved Elaine Roberts, Director of Professional Development for Follett Software, presentation about project based learning. We had a great conversation about the topic which lead to many ideas for all of us in the session.
The highlight was when she Skyped in Ginger Lewman'sstudents at the Turning Point Learning Center in Emporia, Kansas. The students were excited to show us a Viking Ship which they created together and a phonograph powered by a Lego's robotic piece. They reminded me of my students at Van Meter and definitely had a voice in their education and future too.
At lunch Susan Patrick, President and CEO of theInternational Association for K-12 Online learning (iNACOL), spoke about the future of education and importance of global online learning. After listening to the keynote, I was anxious to go back to Van Meter armed with new ideas about online learning within our school.
The Follett Software User Conference was by far one of the best learning experiences I have been part of during my career. The people at Follett are incredible and really made sure they created an experience all of the attendees would enjoy.
As I left the conference on Saturday, I picked up my program to pack it in my bag. On the back it said, "Thank you for attending A New Leaf in Learning Follett Software User Conference". I smiled as I looked at the logo they had developed. The different colored leaves on the tree represents not only the various types of knowledge we gained but also the lastly connections we were lucky enough to have throughout those three days. When a variety of people come together for a common conversation, we all leave richer and more diverse than before. To me, this was the best part.
Thank you Follett for bringing us together. I look forward to coming back next year.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

It Was Definitely a New Leaf in Learning....Follett Software User Conference

On March 9th after a busy day of connecting with several schools and six authors for World Read Aloud Day, I flew to Chicago for an exciting event. I was going to the first Follett Software User Conference being held at the Fairmont Chicago Millenium Park. Over the last few months I had connected with many people from Follett and others who were attending the conference, so I was very excited to get to Chicago.

The morning of March 10th Don Tapscott opened with an inspiring keynote speech. As I participated in the #FSC11 Twitter stream, a few of my favorite quotes to share were, "We need our students to LOVE learning. We need to be PASSIONATE, creative learners ourselves" and "School should be like summer camp. It should be fun." Everyone in the audience left the ballroom knowing we could all create a change in education and in the future of our young people.

The day was filled with breakout sessions covering a variety of themes such as Data Driven Decision Making, Curriculum & Instruction, IT/Technology Leadership, Library & Resource Management and Product Support Center.

I was asked to present at the conference about social media being used in education. I was very excited to share my story about how I am using social media with the students, teachers, and school community at Van Meter. I told stories about the connections at schools such as Merton in Wisconsin and Grosse Pointe South in Detroit.


There were two highlights for me in the session. First, my friend John Schu traveled from his school in Oak Brook to join me that afternoon. John and I met at the School Library Journal Summit last October in Chicago and have become amazing friends and teaching partners since. This was only the second time we had met in person but collaborate and communicate almost everyday. Also, we have used Skype, Twitter, Edmodo, YouTube, Animoto, Blogger and other resources to connect our students to several incredible projects over the last few months.

John and I created the Two Libraries One Voice blog to share our experiences with students, teachers, parents and others. During the presentation, we spoke about not just our relationship but the one that we have created with our students and schools. He even brought a whole envelope of the sweetest hand made cards that his students created that morning. It was so nice having him there with me to share our incredible connection.


I didn't want to be the only one to share Van Meter's story, so I Skyped in four of our students from Iowa so everyone could hear their voices too. Julia, Michael, Maddy, and Emma told stories of using social media and how it had changed their education and lives. They spoke about how social media gave them a voice and a place to connect to their passions. I was proud as I listened to them tell their stories.

The day before the conference they videotaped one another and created a short iMovie just in case Skype failed us the day of the conference.


Below you can find the SlideShare of my presentation.
Social Media in Education
After a day of learning and connecting, everyone headed to Aria in the hotel for a Tweet Up. Brandi Heinz and Carly Anne Molstad greeted John and I with fun t-shirts and conversation. They did a great job coordinating the Tweet Up and getting everyone together to continue the connections.
The next morning offered more breakout sessions about a variety of topics. I loved Elaine Roberts, Director of Professional Development for Follett Software, presentation about project based learning. We had a great conversation about the topic which lead to many ideas for all of us in the session.
The highlight was when she Skyped in Ginger Lewman's students at the Turning Point Learning Center in Emporia, Kansas. The students were excited to show us a Viking Ship which they created together and a phonograph powered by a Lego's robotic piece. They reminded me of my students at Van Meter and definitely had a voice in their education and future too.
At lunch Susan Patrick, President and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online learning (iNACOL), spoke about the future of education and importance of global online learning. After listening to the keynote, I was anxious to go back to Van Meter armed with new ideas about online learning within our school.
The Follett Software User Conference was by far one of the best learning experiences I have been part of during my career. The people at Follett are incredible and really made sure they created an experience all of the attendees would enjoy.
As I left the conference on Saturday, I picked up my program to pack it in my bag. On the back it said, "Thank you for attending A New Leaf in Learning Follett Software User Conference". I smiled as I looked at the logo they had developed. The different colored leaves on the tree represents not only the various types of knowledge we gained but also the lasting connections we were lucky enough to make throughout those three days. When a variety of people come together for a common conversation, we all leave richer and more diverse than before. To me, this was the best part.
Thank you Follett for bringing us together. I look forward to coming back next year.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How Two Schools in Two States Celebrated Read Across America Day Together


Theodor Seuss Geisel (AKA Dr. Seuss) was born on March 2, 1904. On March 2, schools, bookshops, and libraries celebrate the power of reading and Dr. Seuss's birthday.

It is also the day we celebrate NEA's Read Across America Day! As the NEA site states, "NEA's national reading celebration takes places each year on or near March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Across the country, thousands of schools, libraries, and community centers participate by bringing together kids, teens, and books, and you can too."

So that is exactly what we decided to do at Van Meter and Oak Brook schools this year.

Shannon's kindergarten students (from Christa McClintock's classroom) and John's third graders (from Mrs. Sompolski's classroom) connected on the morning of Dr. Seuss's 107th birthday in their libraries to celebrate this very special day. After introductions and a little sharing about what the students knew about Dr. Seuss the celebration began.

John's students took turns reading pages from Dr. Seuss's ABC while Christa held up the book in Van Meter for the students to see. It was fun to hear all of the students say their ABC's together too.

They played Seuss Bingo as a group with Shannon and John calling out words such as, "Brook Forest, Van Meter, Fun, The Foot Book, and Read Across America." The students marked their Seuss cards and yelled "BINGO" from both schools.

The students read the NEA Reader's Oath together.

At the end of the Skype celebration, the two schools stood up and sang Happy Birthday to Dr. Seuss. To watch the smiles on their faces and to see the excitement throughout the libraries was very special for everyone.

As the children ate their cupcakes in Van Meter and cookies in Oak Brook, this line from the Reader's Oath came to mind....

"I'll read to myself, I'll read to a crowd. It makes no difference, if it's silent or loud."

What a difference reading together made within these two schools and in the lives of the children on this day. This is a celebration of reading with new and old friends that they will always remember.

How Two Schools in Two States Celebrated Read Across America Day Together


Theodor Seuss Geisel (AKA Dr. Seuss) was born on March 2, 1904. On March 2, schools, bookshops, and libraries celebrate the power of reading and Dr. Seuss's birthday.

It is also the day we celebrate NEA's Read Across America Day! As the NEA site states, "NEA's national reading celebration takes places each year on or near March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Across the country, thousands of schools, libraries, and community centers participate by bringing together kids, teens, and books, and you can too."

So that is exactly what we decided to do at Van Meter and Oak Brook schools this year.

Shannon's kindergarten students (from Christa McClintock's classroom) and John's third graders (from Mrs. Sompolski's classroom) connected on the morning of Dr. Seuss's 107th birthday in their libraries to celebrate this very special day. After introductions and a little sharing about what the students knew about Dr. Seuss the celebration began.

John's students took turns reading pages from Dr. Seuss's ABC while Christa held up the book in Van Meter for the students to see. It was fun to hear all of the students say their ABC's together too.

They played Seuss Bingo as a group with Shannon and John calling out words such as, "Brook Forest, Van Meter, Fun, The Foot Book, and Read Across America." The students marked their Seuss cards and yelled "BINGO" from both schools.

The students read the NEA Reader's Oath together.

At the end of the Skype celebration, the two schools stood up and sang Happy Birthday to Dr. Seuss. To watch the smiles on their faces and to see the excitement throughout the libraries was very special for everyone.

As the children ate their cupcakes in Van Meter and cookies in Oak Brook, this line from the Reader's Oath came to mind....

"I'll read to myself, I'll read to a crowd. It makes no difference, if it's silent or loud."

What a difference reading together made within these two schools and in the lives of the children on this day. This is a celebration of reading with new and old friends that they will always remember.