Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dreams to Life Celebration!

Dream to Life Presentation in Slideshare
On December 15th, the library was a very special place to be at Van Meter. It had been decorated with a painted banner, homemade paper snowflakes, Christmas lights, and red table clothes. The students were so happy and excited as they got the space ready for a very special event that was going to take place after school.
Around 3:00pm, a few of these guests walked into the library. There were board members from the I Have a Dream Foundation, the mayor of Van Meter, the president of the Van Meter school board, and other friends of the Dreamers.

Soon our special guests arrived! The King Dreamers from Des Moines were here for a holiday celebration. Several of the Dreamers gave their Van Meter friends high fives, hugs, and smiles, while others just went to the tables to sit down.

But today the Dreamers were here for something more than just a holiday celebration!

Everyone had been invited to hear the announcement of the Dreams to Life campaign the Van Meter National Honor Society has created with the help of Youth Venture.

Julia Albaugh, Dani Hubbard, and Andrew Flaherty prepared an amazing presentation to tell everyone what the Dreams to Life campaign was all about. The mission of Dreams to Life is to put technology into the hands of the King Dreamers and other children in the Des Moines area. It is important to the Van Meter NHS chapter that others have the same opportunities through technology, creativity, and innovation that we have been given. In order to make these dreams a reality, the Van Meter NHS chapter along with the King Dreamers will develop and carry out fund raising events and educational opportunities.

During the presentation, the King Dreamers received three Flip video cameras as gifts to start capturing moments to use in the projects which will be created throughout the year. This will give the Dreamers a real opportunity to bring their lives into the work created with the Van Meter NHS members. It will also give them a chance to teach other students and teachers about new technology and let their voices be heard.

Every time we see our King Dreamer friends we all leave feeling blessed and so lucky to know each and every one of them. They bring smiles to our faces, laughter to our group, and friendships that we will have for a lifetime.

The lessons that we learn with our these friends are more important than anything we can learn in the classroom. These are the moments that we will have forever in our hearts.

Thank you King Dreamers for bringing so much to our lives! We love all of you.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Connecting with our Brook Forest Friends Using Edmodo!

On November 24th I wrote about connecting with John Schu and his amazing students at Brook Forest Elementary in Oak Brook, Illinois. Ever since I met John at the School Library Journal Summit in Chicago this last fall we have thought of fun ways to connect our students in the library.

In this project we focused on the 4th graders at Brook Forest and Van Meter. We both have two sections of 4th grade in our school so it worked out perfect having two groups....Fourth Grade Reads 1 and Fourth Grade Reads 2.

The students started out by introducing themselves and posting something of their choice about school, their town, what they liked to read, favorite authors, and more.

The next time they came to library it was fun to see them read about their new friends and reply to comments. They were excited when they read about similar interests and hobbies.

Today in the computer lab, I loved watching them also respond to their classmates at Van Meter. The conversations are growing in our two groups and this is becoming exciting and challenging to the students to think about what they are writing. The connections they are making mean something to them and give them a VOICE in their learning.

We created this Animoto video as a THANK YOU to Mr. Schu and all of the 4th graders at Brook Forest Elementary. We wish you a very happy holiday season and cannot wait to connect again in 2011.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Edublog Awards Meets the Geek Tribe!

Posted by joycevalenza on December 5th, 2010 on the Neverending Search Blog from School Library Journal

Yesterday, the Edublogs folks announced the short list for the seventh annual Edublogs Awards. As I examined the list, I began to realize how far we’ve come as a tribe. It probably started just over a year ago when we first got together as a group to prepare for AASL Charlotte.

This morning Gwyneth and Shannon and I Skyped about our upcoming Educon2.3 session, but the conversation kept returning to the presence teacher librarians have developed in the larger edtechosphere.

Awards are really nice. Personal recognition is really nice. But you can’t help but notice that it has been a year of serious accomplishment and dramatic school library creep across the board. My hope (always) is that a rising tide lifts all boats.

So explore ALL the wonderful contributors who made a difference and were nominated for an Edublogs Award. But also take a good long celebratory look at this Google Doc and see what a difference our own Geek Tribe has made. And then vote for your favorites!

The three of us starred all the library/librarian-connected projects we recognized. Please add stars to any we may have missed. (23 blogs in the official category of best librarian/ library blogs were nominated this time around!)

Congratulations all. Great work, tribe!

And as Gwyneth says, let’s embrace & welcome our new voices and recruit new Geek Tribe members! And no matter who wins the Edublog awards — really, we all win!

We are stronger when we share!

~ Gwyneth – Joyce – Shannon -

The Edublog Awards Meets the Geek Tribe!


Posted by joycevalenza on December 5th, 2010 on the Neverending Search Blog from School Library Journal

Yesterday, the Edublogs folks announced the short list for the seventh annual Edublogs Awards. As I examined the list, I began to realize how far we’ve come as a tribe. It probably started just over a year ago when we first got together as a group to prepare for AASL Charlotte.

This morning Gwyneth and Shannon and I Skyped about our upcoming Educon2.3 session, but the conversation kept returning to the presence teacher librarians have developed in the larger edtechosphere.

Awards are really nice. Personal recognition is really nice. But you can’t help but notice that it has been a year of serious accomplishment and dramatic school library creep across the board. My hope (always) is that a rising tide lifts all boats.

So explore ALL the wonderful contributors who made a difference and were nominated for anEdublogs Award. But also take a good long celebratory look at this Google Doc and see what a difference our own Geek Tribe has made. And then vote for your favorites!

The three of us starred all the library/librarian-connected projects we recognized. Please add stars to any we may have missed. (23 blogs in the official category of best librarian/ library blogs were nominated this time around!)

Congratulations all. Great work, tribe!

And as Gwyneth says, let’s embrace & welcome our new voices and recruit new Geek Tribe members! And no matter who wins the Edublog awards — really, we all win!

We are stronger when we share!

~ Gwyneth – Joyce – Shannon -

Thursday, December 2, 2010

When Students Also Teach from Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk Blog

This appeared on Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk Blog on December 1, 2010.

In response to a blog post last week, Shannon Miller, Library Media Specialist in Van Meter, Iowa, sent me a personal e-mail. She has graciously allowed me to use the e-mail as a guest blog post...

I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your post Dear Students, Please Lead a Thoughtful Revolution.
These few lines are just awesome and so RIGHT ON.....
If you want to see this kind of revolution that will use technology to help make your schools more effective and meaningful to you - not just the same old, same old with a few bells and whistles - you will need to be the ones who lead the revolution.
Technology alone won't create change. I am less and less convinced that adults will be able to fundamentally change how school is done.
I think it will be up to you...

We are a 1:1 laptop school at Van Meter (Iowa) and it is amazing how things have changed. And you are so right....It is not the technology alone. The thinking has changed. The playing field has leveled....not just with students, but with teachers. The teachers are not the only teachers anymore...the students are also the teachers. And this is okay. This is the really powerful transformation that we have all been lucky enough to be part of. We are part of an environment filled with respect, creativity, collaboration, connecting, thinking, learning, and one of CHANGE. At Van Meter, we want students to find their PASSION. Through this transformation we encourage them to think, lead, and serve. To be part of something bigger...outside of the walls of their school and into the world. This is where every one of our students are going to make a difference and mark on the world in their very own way.

This year I have been fortunate enough to teach a very special group of young people in a PLN/Web 2.0 course that I developed with Bill Brannick from Philly. I have a group of students in Van Meter and we have connected with a group of students at Bill's school too. Our blog, The Student PLN Connect, is one place that we have connected our students and a place for them to be heard. On the side of the blog you will see all of our students blogs. We connect through Skype, Twitter, and email throughout the week. The students are

just finishing a collaborative project that they have been working on with a partner in the other school. By offering this experience to these students and to see the powerful connections has been amazing. My daughter, Brianna, is a student in the class. To see her Skyping and talking with her friend Reanne in Philly while working on a research project together 1,000 miles apart is so incredible. This experience is teaching both of the girls valuable skills and giving them a sense of how powerful connections can be.

And the element I love the best....the chance for our young people to have a VOICE in their education. For them to make a difference in the world. Today we Skyped for a few minutes with our classmates in Philly.

Earlier in the day I had sent them the link to your post and asked them all to read it, discuss, and reflect. I just got done reading the comments that they left. I am so proud of each one of our students in #vanmeterbpchs.

They are our future and we need to let them be heard!


Shannon McClintock Miller
Van Meter Community School District Teacher Librarian, Technology Specialist, and National Honor Society Chapter Advisor

And a few reactions from students to the post...
My name is Reanne _______. I am a junior at Archbishop Prendergast. I have to say I am in total agreement with you. I believe that is the purpose of our Web 2.0/PLN class, preparing a group of student leaders for the revolution that is occurring! I think that all students entering in to a 1:1 community SHOULD read this post so they can grasp the gravity of the situation.
The purpose of technology in education is to further our knowledge in the right way. We aren't learning to use netbooks so we can check our facebook during class- it's so we can better our understanding of the availability of tools and people on the internet and be able to use that in a learning environment.
I agree that 1 to 1 will allow us to be more creative and publish our own ideas. It helps us to be self directed learns and find new tools that will enable people to do more things. Also 1 to 1 will help kids with technology and teach them to use different tools, websites and plenty of more things. This will allow both students and teachers to connect with other students and teacher from different schools, they can collaborate on ideas and new tools.

I am from Van Meter, and our school has a 1:1 program. We've had [laptops] for two years now and I think this was the best change for our school. Having computers was a big step for our small school of 600 students. We embraced the change though, we are now teaching our teachers how to use the technology. Our computers are tools, but it isn't just about the computers. Having them has been great but the computers are doing more than just eliminating text books. They are changing the way we are thinking here at Van Meter. I know I have been thinking differently I am using social media like Twitter, to connect with people. I recently connected with the mayor of our town. He is going to help me with my interest of public relations. I hope the more I learn about communication, and public relations the easier it will be in college, and in the business world. Without these computers and new methods of teaching I would not be as motivated, and I would not be this interested in my schooling. I think we have such an advantage over kids that don't have a 1:1 program. We are expanding our knowledge further than just a text book, and what our teachers can teach us. It truly is a revolution, a revolution for the better.

I am a student at a 1:1 school. We have laptops for grades 6 to 12. There are about 600 people in the whole school grades K-12, so it isn't a very big school, but even in our little school changes are happening because of technology. We now do more projects that we used to, and students have more responsibility. Like anything there are pros and cons to this. Not all of the students are as responsible as they should be, and, as with all technology, there are problems that can set everyone back. Although, I do think that the good things outnumber the bad things.We have access to more information, and have so many great tools available at our fingertips. It is a change, and some people don't like change, but I believe it is a change for the better.

Excellent post! It truly portrays the core ideals of the social and education revolution that we are defiantly entering. Our society is moving into a more technologically involved community in both our school, workplaces, and homes. If we are not ready, if we are stubborn and do not move forward, and if we refuse to get involved into the revolution, we will fall behind in this global society that we have entered. Thank you Doug for writing this article. I am a student in a web 2.0 class at MBAPCHS and it has allowed me to learn more about social media, creating my pln, and learning how to sift through information than I could have alone. Very cool video as well! It is awesome to think how much better education would be if this tool was universal. Your article is an inspiration to students and educators everywhere and I hope that many get a chance to read your article and take what you wrote to heart to utilize these ideas in their environment. If one day every classroom, student, and educator were able to utilize these tools, this education revolution would be in full motion forward into the future!

So why do things like this happen in little VanMeter, IA, but not universally? Inspired leadership? Supportive communities? Alignment of the stars? Dumb luck? Inquring minds want to know. - Doug

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Celebrating Ivy + Bean Day with Brook Forest Elementary

This month in the Van Meter Elementary Library the second graders celebrated Ivy + Bean Day! Ivy + Bean are two wonderful characters in a series of books by Annie Barrows.

To make the celebration even more exciting we connected to Brook Forest Elementary Library in Oak Brook, Illinois. Mrs. Miller met their librarian, Mr. John Shue when they attended the School Library Journal Summit in Chicago at the end of October. They just knew that all of the students would have a GREAT time connecting and sharing their celebrations with one another.

During the celebration, we created Double Dare Cootie Catches, designed Ivy's bedroom just like we wanted, dressed Ivy + Bean in awesome clothes, and shared the seven books with one another. As a special surprise, Ivy + Bean even left us tiny cupcakes in the library for us to eat. Everyone had an awesome time and it was so much fun getting to know more about Brook Creek Elementary too!

You can find out more about Ivy + Bean on the Van Meter Elementary Library and Tech Voice Google site at on the Second Grade page.

And don't forget to check out the library for all of the Ivy + Bean books!

Be a Dreamer Too!

Last week the King Dreamers came to visit Van Meter School for the first time. The
Van Meter National Honor Society have become mentors and friends to this amazing group of 5th graders. The Dreamers are part of the I Have a Dream Foundation which adopts classrooms of inner-city, high risk kids in first grade, providing tutoring, mentoring, and personal support along the way. Upon successful completion of high school, financial assistance for college is guaranteed to each Dreamer. I posted A Story of Hope last February on the Van Meter Library VOICE, which tells how our journey started with the Dreamers last year.

We usually travel to King Elementary in Des Moines, but this year we have decided to host the Dreamers at least once a month for connecting, creating, collaboration, and a lot of FUN! With this being the first visit to Van Meter, our students showed the Dreamers around our school and introduced them to Mr. Durflinger, Mrs. Arentsen, Mrs. Wesselmann, the Van Meter cheer squad, and a few of our other teachers and students.

It was inspiring to walk around the library and computer lab to see all of them talking and working together. There were groups of kids that were Skyping across the room to one another and using Photo Booth to take crazy pictures to share. One Dreamer was using Google Earth to show their Van Meter friend where they lived in Des Moines. On the far side of the library, The Cupid Shuffle video was being watched on YouTube while two Dreamers danced for their Van Meter friends. After looking at instruments in the band room, two friends were creating their own music using Garage Band. It was so special to see how their interests and differences were coming together and the friendships were developing even more than last year.

I recently contacted Random Kid and Youth Venture to figure out how the King Dreamers and Van Meter NHS members can raise money to purchase iMacs, Flip video cameras, and other technology for their space at King Elementary. After Thanksgiving, Danny Heggen from Youth Venture is coming to speak with the NHS members to brainstorm ideas of how we are going to make this dream a reality. On December 15th at our Christmas party, we are going to be able to share this plan with the Dreamers. Together they will make this dream come true and it will give the Dreamers a chance to make a difference in their own lives too.

The King Dreamers and the Van Meter National Honor Society members inspire me every time we get together. I am thankful to have the chance to work with and know each and every one of them. They are a gift in my life and in each others. I am very thankful for what they have taught me.

Yesterday I heard Imagine by John Lennon. The lyrics in this song say it so well....

You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you will join us,
and the World will live as one.

The moments I spend with the Dreamers and NHS members, make me realize how we can change the world.
It is moments like this when I think about the difference anyone can can make regardless of who you are, where you are from, or what resources you have.
We have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those around us.

If you have a dream, make it a reality and change the lives of others. Be a dreamer too!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

I NEED YOUR HELP....Please Vote! :)


I have entered a contest entitled TELL YOUR STORY from Follett.

At Van Meter School there are so many incredible ways that Destiny Library Manager has made a difference and connected our students, teachers, and school community to books, online resources, multimedia services, and each other. Destiny has brought our students and teachers together by connecting and sharing through book reviews, ratings, and talks. Teachers, students, and families have access to important information about each book in our collection; are able to reserve books; build resource lists of books and online resources; and view the Van Meter Destiny homepage with various websites for research, community resources, learning, creating, and fun.

With all of our students in grades 6-12 having their own MacBooks, they have our library and other resources at their finger tips at all times, which is extremely valuable. Destiny gives students the tools that they need to be successful and work towards their full potential. All of these elements Destiny has brought to Van Meter, teaches and enforces valuable 21st century skills that are essential for all children. Most importantly it is one more step in bringing the school, families, and the community together to support and encourage the education of all children.

Thanks so much for your support and vote!

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Power of the FIRST Connection With Merton Community School!

On Monday morning before school, 2 kindergarten teachers, 2 second grade teachers, 2 third grade teachers, the Merton technology teacher, the Van Meter Elementary principal, and the Van Meter teacher librarian sat down to talk about how they could start connecting their two schools and the different classrooms. The meeting was so exciting and everyone enjoyed the conversation of how the two schools could connect, learn, and create with one another. The unique piece of the meeting is that we were over 300 miles apart in two different towns.

On this day, Van Meter Community School in Van Meter, Iowa and Merton Community School in Merton, Wisconsin were collaborating through Skype and taking their students' learning outside of the school walls. Lisa Morowski, Merton's technology teacher, and myself, the district teacher librarian, connected on Twitter a few weeks ago and soon after started planning our first activity to kick off this new partnership. We shared the idea with the teachers, collaborated on times that would work, and set our plans into motion. What an exciting week this would be!

Today was the first day our students connected! It happened in the two kindergarten classrooms. As I watched our kindergarten students being read Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak from the classroom in Wisconsin, I could feel the connections starting. The students were engaged, excited, and sharing. It was hard not to smile as I watched them meet their new friends. And I loved it when one asked, "When are we going to get to go and visit the Wisconsin students?"

I have had people ask me before, "What is the power in these Skype connections? What do students really get out of them?"

After school my son Hagan, who was one of the lucky kindergarten students at Van Meter today, came up to the library and got a new book from my desk. Hagan and I had read it together last week and he knew there was a map of the United States inside the front cover. Hagan got up on a chair where I was working and said to me, "Mommy, I can show you where our new friends live on this map. They live in Wisconsin. It is right here by Iowa."

There is your answer! Our students are gaining knowledge, experiences, and relationships that they might not have had before. Hagan not only learned where Wisconsin and Iowa were on the map, he was now able to make a personal connection to this knowledge. And he also has a whole other classroom full of wonderful children and teachers that he will be learning with throughout the year. This is something that I want for not only my own children, but for all the students at Van Meter and around the world.

That is the POWER of the first connection!

You can follow the story of these two schools throughout the year at the Van Meter Merton Connect blog!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why I Love Being A Teacher!

Yesterday I was showing the 5th graders the new Van Meter Elementary Library and Tech VOICE Google site. On the "Important Information" page I posted a video called Be The Change You Want To See, which I used in two library presentations last week. When the kids saw that it was a YouTube video of our library they all wanted to see it, so I played it for them.

As the video and Hey There Delilah started playing the students began to sway back and forth while singing the popular song quietly. When it got to the chorus, everyone of the students in the lab were singing the song without any hesitation with their sweet little voices. It was just beautiful to hear and to see how happy that song was making everyone of them.

I am so happy I got this moment on video. And the best part...everyday I experience little moments like this with the kids at Van Meter and with my own children. I might hold the title of teacher librarian and mom, but they teach me more than I have ever learned in a classroom, online, or from a book. They teach me to embrace spontaneity, to find fun in little moments, to be noisy, to smile even on the worst day, and most of have a VOICE all of your own!

And this is why I love being a teacher.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Start of Something Great...Connecting Students 1000 Miles Apart...The Student PLN Connect

Today this was posted on our new class blog The Student PLN Connect for #vanmeterbpchs.

Once upon a time, a superintendent, principal, and teacher librarian from a small town in Iowa called Van Meter met a very cool principal from Philadelphia on Twitter. After a little tweeting, the principal from Monsignor Bonner & Archbishop Prendergast Catholic High School came to Van Meter with his superintendent, technology director, and one teacher. They learned about the 1:1 laptop program, connected with others, watched kids be creative and excited about learning, and most of all...experienced the Walking Taco.

This was the start of something amazing between these two schools.

And the start of something great for me as a teacher, learner, and most of all a person.

My name is Shannon McClintock Miller and I am the district teacher librarian at Van Meter Community School in Van Meter, Iowa that was lucky enough to be the one in this story. And let me tell you how the story continued.

Last year I developed and taught a PLN course to eight students the second semester. I watched these students find their passions and connect with others through social networking and other resources. Throughout that semester, I thought a lot about ways to create a network for our students in which they could express their creativity, thoughts, and ideas. Someplace that would foster a desire to move outside of the walls of our school and into the world to take their learning to a whole new level.

As the semester continued and the students connected to others, I also connected with my new friend Bill Brannick, principal at this terrific school in Philly. We discussed education, kids, and my PLN course. We talked about ways to get his school involved and decided to connect the two schools virtually and online to create an unique experience for all of us. Over the summer, Bill and I Skyped and worked in a Google Doc writing the course description and expectations. When I went to Philly for #ntcamp in July, we were able to talk face to face and this got me even more excited for school to start. I knew that we were onto something very special.

Our school years have now started at both places. Our classrooms have came together through Skype, Twitter (#vanmeterbpchs), Facebook (Van Meter/BPCHS Connect), and now through newly created student blogs (you can find everyones blog on the right hand side of this post). We have invited several creators of web 2.0 tools into our class in the last few weeks. We learned about Diigo from Maggie, had fun creating a Juxio with Will, and started a Van Meter/BPCHS PLN Webmix in Symbalooo with Kimmie. And we were lucky enough to have Tom Whitby, creator of Educator's PLN Ning and #edchat speak with the students about developing and the importance of their PLN. And it is only September 22nd....I can't wait to see what happens in the next eight months!

This summer I traveled to ISTE in Denver, Colorado. When I got home I wrote this blog post on VOICE called, Are Students Part of My PLN Too? . My students are such an special and important part of my PLN and now I have another group of students in Philly that are just as wonderful!

This might be just the start of something special but just wait....this is definitely going to be one group of kids that will show the world what they are capable of not just inside the walls of their schools, but outside too!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Announcing the NEW Van Meter Elementary Library and Tech VOICE Site!

This year I am teaching technology to 3rd through 5th grade at Van Meter School along with their library time. The students come to the library and computer lab for 45 minutes once a week for this collaborative time.

With these changes and a focus on technology in our district, Jen Sigrist, Van Meter Director of Teaching and Learning, and I have been working on my curriculum. The library and technology curriculum includes four different strands: information literacy, technology literacy, digital citizenship, and love of reading.

After a couple weeks of school behind us and lots of time working together in the library and lab, I saw a need for a new site just for the elementary. I have created a new Google site called the Van Meter Elementary Library and Tech VOICE Site. This site will be geared towards elementary students but has a ton of fun things on it for everyone! There are lots of awesome fun brain and game websites; reading and book resources; typing games; Iowa AEA Online resources; and much more.

Since the has been taken by the Van Meter Library VOICE Site, I asked the students at Van Meter what address they thought I should look for at A few suggestions were littlevanmetervoice, vmvoice, and voice. We decided on for the Elementary VOICE site. This will be easy to remember and share with everyone.

The Van Meter Elementary Library and Tech VOICE is a great place to connect, create, collaborate, and be HEARD! So check it out today and please let me know if you have suggestions of other wonderful resources to add to VOICE.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Edison, New Jersey and Van Meter 6th Graders...Let’s Build a Bridge With Shelfari!

Have you ever read a really great book and wanted to share it with everyone you know?

Have you ever wanted to start a book club, but didn’t really know where to start?

Or if you are like me, have you ever wished you could take every cool book that you have read and keep it on a shelf in your room?

Well, I have a Web 2.0 tool that will give you the power to share, connect, and keep a neat little shelf of all the books that you read in one place. It is called Shelfari! Shelfari is an amazing global community of book lovers. It is a free social network where users can create a virtual bookshelf to feature books they have read, see what friends are reading, and most of all discover books they want to read through collaboration with other friends in their network.

There are several unique characteristics that make Shelfari stand out! Shelfari members can add other individuals as “Friends” to their network and create or join “Groups” that interest them. In the photograph above, you can see my Shelfari Friends that make up my network. If you look closely, you will see Mr. Poole is a friend of mine in my Shelfari network. ☺

Books from your shelf can be critic-rated and reviews can be added to share with others in your network. Once you start building a virtual shelf it becomes important and personal with the beautiful covers and extra details like “read it, plans to read, or is reading now.” It is also fun to show off your shelf with a Shelfari widget on a blog or website.

Last Sunday, Mr. Poole and I were talking over Skype about how we could connect our students in Edison, New Jersey and Van Meter, Iowa using Shelfari. We decided to create a Shelfari Group called “Kids Bridge.” This will be an exciting place for all of us to connect, collaborate, and share our favorite books, authors, and most of all our thoughts.

Although we are in two schools over 500 miles apart, Shelfari will give us a place we can all come together to share and learn. Next Monday, we will be connecting our two schools through Skype. Once we meet, Mr. Poole, Mrs. Prouty (our 6th grade reading teacher at Van Meter) and myself will explain how to sign up for Shelfari and start adding to your very own shelves. You will also connect to Mr. Poole’s Shelfari , Mrs. Miller’s Shelfari, and the other students at Herbert Hoover and Van Meter. As you build your network, you will discover others that enjoy the same books and authors as you, get ideas on what to read next, and have fun letting your voice be heard through book discussions and critics.

We look forward to seeing where this bridge will take us and having Shelfari as a place to come together will make it an even more exciting journey!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mrs. Miller...Look at What My Dad and I Created On My Laptop!

This weekend I received an email from one of our 6th graders that I have in technology class. It was entitled "My Dad's Messed Up Animal." She wrote, "Mrs. Miller. Look at what my Dad and I created on my laptop! This is my Dad's messed up animal. We started laughing so hard because it looks really funny and funky." She also attached the animal that her Dad and her created. On Friday I showed the class Switcheroo Zoo where you can create mixed up animals and learn all about them. You can even name the animals and write a short story. It is a website that everyone loves. It is very fun and educational too.

It made me smile to think that she had taken home something she had learned in my class and shared it with her Dad. Later that same night, I got emails from two other 6th graders creating amazing mixed up animals at their homes too. I also received a Facebook message from a parent thanking me for sharing Switcheroo Zoo with their son. It had entertained their family on a Friday night.

I was so happy they were having fun creating animals on Switcheroo Zoo and other sites they found on the Van Meter Library Voice Google site, but the thing that I loved most was that they were connecting with their families through technology, creativity, and collaboration.

The MacBooks that our students have at Van Meter School have brought change not only into the school, but also into the homes of our school community. In our house, I have sat with my daughter Brianna many nights as she creates amazing iMovies using her laptop. I have stood by smiling as Brianna and her brothers laugh so hard as they take crazy pictures for an oral history project using PhotoBooth. I have watched my five year old Hagan use Skype to show his uncle Mike something he drew in preschool last year and describe the picture to him all the way in Texas. All of these experiences have made their learning more personal to not only Brianna, Brady, and Hagan, but also to our family. It has given all of us a way to connect and learn together.

My goal is for every student to collaborate, teach, and create amazing products with their families and friends using the laptops and technology. I will continue to connect my students at Van Meter to resources and experiences that they can share with others in hope that these interactions will be meaningful and special to them too.

And most of all, I hope that our students and families will have stories to share like Kacie's.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Who Makes Up Your Team?

One of my favorite blogs to read is The Principal of Change by George Couros. George is the elementary principal at Forest Green School and Connections for Learning, located in Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada. In his recent post entitled, 5 Things I Think About #rscon10, he listed five thoughts from the Reform Symposium which took place the weekend before. The point that I immediately connected to was the POWER OF A TEAM.

In his blog George wrote,

"1. Power of a team. - For the first ever Reform Symposium, I was so amazed at how this was all pulled together by Shelly Terrell, Kelly Tenkely, Jason Bedell, and Chris Rogers. Being able to do all of the work without being in the same place was amazing. I saw the #rscon10 tag all through the weekend and it was great to see Twitter buzzing from this event. Amazing work by those four passionate educators. Thank you. From what I saw from this team working together across the world, imagine what we could do in teams at our schools?"

After reading George's post I just had to write about the power of my team...

Hi George,

Once have written a great post that really made me reflect on my own experiences in education. As I read there were a few points that really stuck out for me, but the number one thing that caught my attention today was the POWER OF A TEAM!

I am fortunate enough at #vanmeter to be part of an amazing team. The two people that I work the closest with are my superintendent John Carver and secondary principal Deron Durflinger. We have been lucky enough to teach together, learn together, be in awe over our students together, present together, travel together, and see a wonderful change take place within our students and school community. As I strive to change education everyday, John and Deron are always the first two people to support me and cheer me on (even though sometimes they have to reel my excitement back just a bit. :) Deron's wife even refers to the three of us as "Team Twitter," which I smile at every time I hear. John and Deron are great friends and I feel lucky to share the same passion they have for education, change, and our students! It is essential for all parts of a school....administration, teachers, teacher librarians, technology support, other staff, and especially students and parents to feel like they are part of an amazing team! Coming together within a school community is the first step in creating change and having an united VOICE to be heard!

When I think of the POWER OF A TEAM I also think of my PLN! Amazing! Everyday I am blown away by the way that people in my PLN influence and inspire me. I am a better teacher and person because of my PLN. I have been able to offer our kids at #vanmeter unbelievable opportunities thanks to my PLN. Without my PLN would Mark Moran from findingDulcinea have taught my 7th graders about his amazing search engine for students called Sweet Search? Would they have learned about the web 2.0 tool called YouTellYou from its creator Ruggero Domenichini all the way from New Zealand with John Carver, Deron Durflinger, and others learning with them? Would I be teaching a Web 2.0/PLN class to our kids and Bill Bannick's high school students in Philadelphia? The members of my PLN are part of my team and want to work with me to make sure our kids have these experiences in their education. They want me to also be the best I can be! From the relationships I have built with others has come a pretty powerful team. I feel lucky and blessed to have such a great team behind me and our students everyday!

Together we can all make a difference! Shannon

As I reflect even more on the last few months, I look at what a team I have and how it grows each and every day! I not only gain from my team, but i also give and contribute too. Yesterday I helped Steven Anderson during a presentation by Skyping in to share what my PLN means to me. Two days ago, I Skyped in with Jason Bedell at the KIPP Charter School Network in Las Vegas to talk about 21st century librarians. And that morning Shawn Hyer, Jared Lange and myself Skyped with Nick Provenzano in a two hour long collaborative work session. Nick, Shawn, Jared and I are going to connect English classes at his school Grosse Pointe South and Van Meter School (#vmgps). Bill is also an essential part of my team! We have been working on developing our course all summer to provide an amazing experience to our students. School with start in a few weeks at Van Meter. I will be working as a team with John, Deron, staff, students, and the community through another school year.

I recently went to Philladelphia to #ntcamp! It was an amazing experience to meet even more friends from my team like Tom Whitby and Jerry Blumengarten. One of the best memories from #ntcamp was when four of my favorite friends from my PLN and I climbed the "Rocky Steps" at the Philadelphia Museum of the Art. Even with the 100 degree weather Kyle, Steven, Mary Beth, Gerald, and I all climbed the stairs, cheered each other on, and stopped at the top to take a picture! Here were five people who met on Twitter and are now wonderful friends and part of an amazing team.

Everyday I am thankful for the different facets of my family, friends, students, school, and my PLN. I know they are always here to support, learn, share, and CHEER me on. And I am always there for them as well.

So ask yourself “Who makes up your team?” And make sure you embrace and thank these people today! Just imagine what you can do with your team!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

ISTE 2010 Reflection: Are Students Part of Our PLN Too?

ISTE 2010 has been over for two weeks now, but the things I learned and took away from the conference through networking, presenting, and being involved are hard to forget. This experience gave me great opportunities in my professional growth by presenting with Mark Moran, founder and CEO of findingDulcinea, about 10 Steps to Better Web Research and with a group of teacher librarians and teachers in the SIGMS TL Learning Tools SmackDown including Joyce Valenza, Gwyneth Jones, Chad Lehman, Hadley Ferguson, and other rock stars. I felt honored to be asked and enjoyed everything I learned from these individuals.

My absolute favorite part of ISTE was connecting with the amazing people from my PLN. These are people that I met through Twitter over the last year. As I walked into EduBloggerCon with John Carver and Deron Durflinger I was excited to see Beth Still and Monica Hardly sitting among the crowd of people debating the meaning of a personal learning network. And then there were the great reconnections with friends Steve Anderson, Scott McLeod, Angela Maiers, and Russ and Becky Goerend. It always seems like not a minute has passed since I had seen or talked to them last, because these are the people I am constantly learning and sharing with through Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking tools.

By the end of the first evening I had met Kyle Pace, Mark Moran, Mary Beth Hertz, Cory Plough, Ann Leaness, Paula Naugle, and many others from my PLN. Over the next three days I connected with my friends at the Denver Convention Center in the Blogger’s CafĂ©, The Butterfly Lounge, unPlugged and Poster Sessions. I was thrilled to sit with Doug Johnson and Nick Sauers to talk about Iowa. When Joyce and Gwyneth greeted me with hugs and encouraging words I felt honored to be part of the Geek Tribe. I was thrilled to meet Ken Royal from Scholastic Administrators and creator of The Educator's Royal Treatment. It was so much fun our last night in Denver eating hamburgers and telling stories with Mark and Shannon Firth from findingDulcinea along with my Van Meter friends JoEllen Wesselmann and Ann Volk. And connecting with others from my PLN like Nick Provenzano, Amanda Dykes, and Kelly Tenkey truly made my first ISTE conference unforgettable.

Even though all of these great things were happening around me, I couldn’t get a very special group of people from my PLN out of my mind. They were the only ones that were missing.

My students at Van Meter.

They make up a special and important part of my PLN. I thought to myself several times, “I wish the C.E.W.L. (Computer Efficiency Workers League) kids were here to see how that works. I wish Mark and I would have planned to Skype in Maddy so she could tell her story of how Mark taught her and others at Van Meter over Skype about findingDulcinea and SweetSearch. Michael would love to hear this conversation about students creating YouTube channels and wouldn’t they be impressed with the help videos he has created for his YouTube channel Mike398100 .”

Last August over 300 students in 7th through 12th grade received MacBooks at our 1:1 laptop rollout night. This was new to students and teachers alike at Van Meter but we jumped right in together. Over the next 9 months we taught, learned, created, and collaborated together. We made mistakes and we found solutions together. We cleaned up and turned in all of those laptops at the end of the school year and some of us even cried to not have a laptop all summer long. I watched education change. I watched our school environment change over this time. I saw the walls come down between the teachers, students, and our community.

Most of all I saw relationships change. I watched, as the students at Van Meter became respected, trusted, and valuable members of a place bigger than just Van Meter School. The students were being encouraged to connect to their passions. They were learning how to think, lead, and serve in a global society. They were excited to be at school. And because of the laptops and other technology we had given them a way to connect with teachers, friends, parents, and others throughout the world through social networks, Skype, iChat, texting, email, blogging, and many other forms of communication. We became part of each other’s PLN.

I was proud to present with these students and other faculty members to the Iowa Board of Education and tell them why and how education needed to change. Or when they presented to the Iowa House/Senate Education Appropriations Committee on January 28, 2010. Later that week Sandra Dop from the Iowa Departmnet of Education wrote in her blog Next Generation Schools, "Then the legislators asked, So what can we do to get out of your way and let you go? I nearly cried." What a day in history none of us will forget. We presented together at the P21 Institute in June. The students graciously welcomed over 400 guests into their classrooms last year and shared what they were creating, thinking, and experiencing. I sat back and smiled several times when schools around the United States would Skype with our kids to find out just what had changed and to ask questions about the laptops or virtual reality system we have.

I will never forget one thing that was said as five students and myself presented Be the Change You Want to See in Schools at the Iowa 1:1 Conference in the spring. Patrick Larkin, principal at Burlington High School in Massachusetts, asked this question to the students, “How do you see Mrs. Miller? Do you see her as a teacher, resource, or peer?” Josh, who is a junior, responded, “Pretty much all of the above. She is my teacher and helps me with a bunch of stuff also.” Then Patrick asked, “Would you speak up if they wanted to eliminate her position?” And Josh said, “I would definitely speak up to save it! We need her.” I just smiled and would have to say….I need them too. (You can listen to a podcast of the presentation at Wes Fryer’s Speed of Creativity blog.)

This fall I am going to start on a new adventure by teaching a PLN/Web 2.0 class with Bill Bannick’s students and a group of students from Van Meter. Bill is the principal of Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast Catholic High School in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. We met Bill on Twitter and he has been to Van Meter to share and learn alongside us. Now we are giving our students a chance to do the same by connecting and learning. We are giving them a chance to build and connect to their own PLN outside of the walls of Van Meter.

As I was working on our class today I thought about my own PLN and what it means to me. My PLN has connected me to the things I am passionate about like technology, learning, creating, change, and most of all people. I am friends with people who I want to share and learn with. I listen to the conversations on Twitter and find it fun to contribute to them also. I have wonderful friendships with people I never would have meant if it weren’t for Twitter

I want the students at Van Meter to experience what it means to be part of a group like my PLN. I feel lucky that they are also part of my PLN and am excited about the journey we will continue to take.

I challenge all of you to embrace what students have to contribute to your PLN and find ways to encourage them to do the same. Together we can all make a difference!