Category Archives: mentoring

What Lucia Taught Me….

The iPad is really an amazing digital tool with so much flexibility.  I have noticed how easy it is to navigate and also how this tool enhances my students learning. This digital tool has become part of my classroom culture as a way to enrich, connect and collaborate relationships and learning.

I have been asked lately how I got started using the iPad.  So today I share my story because it is an example of what can happen when we watch, listen and share. iPads, tablets, any device has the potential to bring people together to communicate, share and explore the world.  I am #grateful for Lucia, a former student, who taught  me about the value of having a voice and being able to share it.

I have the pleasure of working in a wonderful school district that supports innovation and creativity. My school district provides teachers and students with many types of digital tools and professional opportunities that stretch our thinking.  Our school also has amazing technology educators as well as IT people who work tirelessly to ensure that our tools are working and ready, as well as provide updates about new things happening and opportunities for students and teachers to collaborate inside/outside of our buildings. 

Every spring near the end of Kindergarten our preschool teachers offer their students opportunities to visit their kindergarten classroom for the fall.  This is a wonderful way for me and the students to begin to say hello and explore the classroom with each other as well as the present students.

So Lucia arrived.  She is an amazing young lady.  She came with a smile, confidence and sat right down on the floor near a group of her students with her iPad. Right away I was struck at how many of the children started talking to her.  They asked her for the code so they could unlock her iPad.  Lucia was not able to speak, but used sounds and gestures with her hands.  The students immediately began looking at her with amazing eye contact, speaking to her and waiting for her to answer and show them what was next.

The iPad was new to me.  I did not have one, hadn’t used one before and already Lucia, was demonstrating alongside her new friends how this digital tool was going to open up opportunities in regards to learning.  Remember this was brand new for me and I was also going to get some professional support because our school was also going to purchase iPads as well.  My learning started, my eyes were opened, my mind was racing with ideas about the possibilities that might be possible because of this digital tool.

Thinking back on my first introduction to an iPad I think about how naturally the other children were drawn to Lucia and how she immediately felt comfortable showing and using her iPad with them.  Right away the children started taking turns speaking to Lucia, listening and watching her as she responded using sounds, her iPad and gestures to answer.

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What a wonderful surprise! iPads really make a difference in student learning and engagement.  This has been so exciting and a great learning opportunity for me and my students.  This is a digital tool that is making a difference and yes, Kindergarten children are finding lots of ways to use these tools as well as discovering lots of a ha’s about how this tool can help them to reflect and create learning experiences.

On the 1st day of Kindergarten I begin by introducing this interactive tool to my class.  We talk about being safe, kind and responsible as well as how it might help us with our learning.  The children immediately start exploring with the iPads and instantly began figuring out how they work.  We explore the basic features of the iPad.  Then I explore how to use the video, camera and take a screenshot.  I begin with these 3 features because this is where I want to model and show how this digital tool can be used to capture the what and why we are exploring. I continue to be really impressed with how quickly the children adapt to this tool and of course the excitement is wonderful.  The touch screen really makes it easy for the children to type and access.  The children begin touching the screen and the exploration begins of how this digital tool will enrich our learning.

As an educator I often think about all of the things I want and need to do during the course of a school day.  It can be a bit overwhelming…  So when presented with a tool that might make learning more accessible and engaging, I find myself beginning to see how many opportunities I have to make connections within my lessons as well as help children to become more engaged and invested in their own learning.

In the photograph you see a child creating a post on an iPad on her kidblog.  Lucia helps by showing her where to go to next. swlm

As a class we spent time from the beginning of school talking about blogging, what it is, why do it and how it helps us with our learning. The children understand that when they blog, they need a title and thoughts that we call sentences.  In the beginning I use lots of books to help demonstrate this point.  I find that the more explicit you can be with children and the more tangible, concrete connections and comparisons you can make, the easier it is for children to grasp and begin to use technological tools.  The beauty of this example is that this child knows 1 way to use the iPad in a meaningful, safe way.  She is motivated to blog and share her ideas with others.                                     

As an educator I find myself trying to create and design meaningful learning opportunities for and alongside the children and families I work with.  Digital tools are amazing and their impact on student learning and engagement are endless. For me the iPads have enhanced everything that I do.  I can’t help but love them!

I am #grateful for Lucia and how she introduced me to what was possible with the iPad.  She has courage, perseverance and amazing ideas.  She taught me to always have hope, to be brave and that technology gives us all a voice.

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Allen Brook School’s Davison is VT NEA Dorta Winner – myChamplainValley.com

Allen Brook School’s Davison is VT NEA Dorta Winner – myChamplainValley.com.

In Between Naps On A Sick Day!

What a wonderful surprise I had in my Gmail yesterday!  I have been sick and many of my students have been out as well.  So one of my innovative parents decided to create and connect Kindergarten at home with her child who was not well.  The reason I am posting about this is BECAUSE as a teacher, I am able to model explicitly how I use digital tools, but also more importantly how they can offer an opportunity to connect and engage when you are not able to come to school.

In my classroom parents understand that the blogs I use are ways for them to connect, reflect with their child and engage in the learning.  So because this parent looked at our class blog, she was able to connect the learning happening in Kindergarten with her own child.  I love this because it reflects and displays so beautifully the seamlessness that blogging can offer.  As an educator I want my students and their families to be a part of our daily learning.  When this is encouraged, parents feel welcomed to engage.  Through our ability to model this and offer invitations to extend learning outside of our classrooms parents begin to work alongside us, the teachers who are working hard each day to make a difference for all of our students.

We have been reading a variety of texts and creating our own persuasive writing pieces.  One of the things I love about Kindergarten is how excited my students are when we read together.  Through reading a story out loud and making it interactive I am able to model and make connections.  My students pick up on this right away!  During our turn and talks everyone is excited to share,participate, reflect and engage in their own writing to share their point of view!
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I share the writing that one of my students did while home sick because I think that this was not only amazing, but also that this child, my student, was excited to do this!  The parent knew how to use Skitch because this is an App we have used many times in Kindergarten.  I love the initiative that was taken and shared.  I also received 2 voice recordings as well! Quick Voice Mail!  Wow!  This was new to me.  So I am learning from a parent who is experiencing the value of how digital tools can be used to connect and enhance learning opportunities.
Using digital tools and technology is not about increased screen time, but it is about how can we, as educators use a variety of synchronous and asynchronous tools alongside each other, our students, the families we teach, etc. to build connections and strengthen relationships so we can be engaged together with the learning that is happening.  Through opportunities like this, authentic learning appears and yes, I learn too!
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I am sharing this parents comments BECAUSE it is important to find ways to engage the families that we teach.  Parents want to be involved.  Invitations need to be present, fluid, ongoing.
“Consider me officially inspired by your use of technology in the writing process.  I can’t believe how long___ stuck with this and how proud she was when she was finished!!!  We read Click Clack, Moo…talked about the “see,” “think” “write” strategy and then I had her record her ideas on Quickvoice. (so she could remember what she wanted to say as she wrote.) Then she wrote her ideas on “fundations-esque” paper and read her writing again on Quickvoice.  Skitch to label her coverpages.  Holy moly, I don’t know how you do this stuff for all of your students.  It’s amazing but totally EXHAUSTING!!!

Thank you for everything!!”

So in between naps, look at what can happen!  Inspired and grateful!

Kindergarten Mentors

As I am finishing up last minute things in my classroom today I was thinking about all the different ways my students have been mentors this past year with each other, helping model how to tweet and blog with other classrooms as well as sharing their expertise with adults.

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Last spring a teacher approached me and wanted to observe how I use technology with my students and was also interested in how I use the SMARTboard as well. I asked one of my students to provide additional support and more 1:1 time after our meeting.  As I watched and listened to the conversation I was really impressed with not only how comfortable my student was with the SMART technology, but the problem solving that took place during this 1:1 support time with a teacher.  I loved seeing the teacher take notes as she asked questions about not only the operation of the board, but what happens when things go wrong and do not work.  Watching my student navigate through how to solve problems as they arise was really wonderful.  k

I am not only proud of all my students, but this experience reminded me of the importance of  self direction, problem solving and critical thinking.  All of these ideas were happening at once and being facilitated by one of my kindergarten students.  As a teacher of young children I have a unique opportunity to model explicitly how synchronous and asynchronous tools can be integrated in a seamless way in regards to learning.  Once my students understood how this tool works, how we use it, then they are able to create and design their ideas as well and make contributions.  Through our contributions and being able to teach and share what we know with others we get inspired, experience positive self esteem and make connections.  This student was empowered because she was able to make a contribution, help another teacher and engage in conversations that challenged her thinking and helped her reflect on what she has learned.  For this amazing teacher, my friend, I think about what great professional development this was for her!

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Really looking forward to summer and ISTE 2014 where I have an opportunity to share what a magical place kindergarten is. Happy Summer Everyone!

My Advice: Caitlin, Megan, Jessica, Katherine and Patrick

Last week my students and I said our final good-byes to the last of our college interns in Kindergarten.  During this year I have had the pleasure of connecting and working alongside 5 amazing, collaborative, engaging and inspiring people who have challenged my thinking, supported my students and have been open to being transparent in their practice which has led to some deep, reflective conversations which have benefited all students.

One of my interns had a set of interview questions for me in regards to teaching culture, etc. One of the questions was about what advice would I give to someone pursuing a career in education and what would I recommend that they do.  I have continued to think about this idea for awhile now because it is really important for new people thinking about a career as a teacher.

So this is my advice……

1. Care, care a lot. You will be able to make a difference for many if you have empathy and perseverance.  Take the extra time to be patient and listen.  Notice how your students react and interact with each other and the culture you create and design.  Be responsive and flexible to making changes that support your students needs.  Collaborate to make a difference for others in the communities you teach.  Through your modeling of caring, your students and their families will become engaged.patrick

2. Be passionate.  Celebrate the learning that is happening inside and outside of your classrooms.  Express your excitement through your face to face, online and other opportunities that you create.  Through your passion, your students will get inspired and become passionate about their learning explorations.  Remember to dance, laugh and sing.gre

3. Surround yourself with people who inspire you and challenge your thinking. Remember as a teacher you have lots of opportunities to learn and interact.  Think about how you and your students might learn alongside each other.  Look for others who are doing creative and innovative things.  Through others ideas, you develop your own inspiration and find your voice.  You have the ability to be brilliant and make a difference.photo+1-30

4. Connect, connect, connect.  Develop your PLN!  This is vital and very important.  This is where your thinking is challenged and you will connect in many ways that will turn into future collaborations.  Through your connections you will develop a group of people, who like you, care, want to make a difference and are willing to make changes that improve their teaching practice.  Your PLN is always there.  Count on them and lean on them when you need support, want to celebrate, collaborate and need inspiration. Join online communities that promote and engage what is important to you.

5. Be transparent. mm2   It is okay to share what you are thinking and why.  Through your transparency you will invite others in and share your perspective.  Think about asynchronous and synchronous tools that can share the learning you and your students are exploring together.  Information is important for all of us.  Make it meaningful and interactive. Through your explicit modeling of sharing globally, your audience will be broad and you will connect and others will benefit from your ideas as you will be inspired by theirs.

6. Be well.catherine  Remember that what you do for your own personal wellness is important.  Your wellness of mind and body gives you stability, strength, endurance and patience. Exercise and healthy eating keeps your mind and body healthy and active. Be sure to pursue your passions that recharge you and make you feel energized.  Positive energy is contagious and helps everyone be successful.

I want you all to know that it has been my privilege and honor to have you in Kindergarten.  I have learned from all of you and I thank you for your daily energy that you shared with all of us. I wish you all the best in your future experiences in education.  I hope you will discover the magic in working with children.  We need people like you, who care, ask questions, connect and smile.

Why I Tweet and Use Kidblog In Kindergarten!

Last week one of my students created a post on their kidblog about something they designed with materials at their home. My student took a photograph, created a title and some words to describe what he created. He created something that “worked with electricity”.
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Afterwards he sent me a tweet to tell me that he had just created a post. I was able to tweet back using twitter to communicate and connect with my student. I am modeling how to be a safe, kind and responsible digital citizen through an authentic learning opportunity.

On Monday my student shared his kidblog post he created with the class. As you can read from the exchange of tweets I had with my student he understood how to communicate with me to let me know that he had something to say/share. (click on photograph to enlarge) This is a reflection of how young students can use social media in regards to their learning. This young child is beginning to understand and experience the power of using social media and blogging as platforms to connect and reflect with others. This is how I can help educate and give my young students meaningful experiences with social media and blogging.
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Some observations I made while my student was sharing his kidblog were very telling of the awareness being created in regards to the technology I am using in Kindergarten. I was also thinking about the opportunities my young students have had to make observations and be reflective about those tools as well in regards to their learning.

My student was at the computer using the mouse and went to touch the screen. He said; “Oh wait, this isn’t an iPad or a SMART board. What side of the mouse do I click Mrs. D.” Right away I was reminded about the tools we use and how important it is to use a variety of tools to help students become flexible and adaptable when they are interacting with their learning. He adapted right away and continued to share.

I then asked my student why he tweeted me. He said; Because I wanted to tell you what I did on my kidblog.” Another student shared; “That’s communicating!” Yes it is! Wow! This is really amazing to me because my students are developing an awareness of audience, how to communicate in ways beyond the classroom walls and experiencing the feeling of receiving comments and compliments in regards to their discoveries.

Kidblog is a platform available for all of my students and their families. It provides endless opportunities for them to connect, collaborate and celebrate what is important to them. Kidblog is a wonderful way for my students and their families to share their discoveries outside of the classroom and an opportunity to experience how to use kidblog in a safe, kind and responsible way.

Twitter is a way for me to model along with my students and their families the value of being connected and sharing with others. Through experiences like this my students begin to develop an awareness of audience. They experience the “how to” use social media as well as the importance of receiving feedback from others who make connections with what they are sharing.
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Through this type of interaction my parents will understand and experience the value of using kidblog and twitter in regards to learning. The beauty here is that my students and their parents are using the technological tools together, at a young age. This gives everyone opportunities to engage and enrich their learning experiences in meaningful, safe ways. As an educator I am responsible for my students, but also their families. I try to be transparent in my thinking and practice when using technology so my families will do the same.

A Collaboration Focused on Kindness

In celebration of Digital Learning Day my Kindergarten students are collaborating with Ms. Weegar’s 3rd and 4th graders in a mission to share and connect with others in world about kindness.  This is part of a whole school initiative supported and inspired by our Technology Integration Specialist, Bonnie Birdsall.  The idea is for teachers and students at one school site, to connect with a class at our other school site in celebration of Digital Learning Day using technology.  So the collaborating begins!

Ms. Weegar starts with the idea of focusing on kindness and we begin to develop her idea.  We created a kindness wall on wallwisher.  We are talking and sharing with our students about the idea of a kindness wall, tweeting it out to our students, their families and our PLN’s as well!  Our students will begin to experience the value of how small the world can be!100_0282

Just by posting stickies of how we are kind, our students will be collaborating and sharing their ideas with others and the world.  We look forward to reading what others will be posting and sharing how our ideas are similar.

This is a wonderful way to connect and work with others in a positive, meaningful way.  Our focus is universal in that we could all, always use a little more kindness.  Our students are exploring the importance of what it means to be a safe, kind and responsible digital citizen. ImageToday we started posting stickies about how we are kind each day.  Our SMART board is a great way for everyone to see what we are posting and how to post as well.

Last week we began by saying hello using Skype!  This was a wonderful way for us to share acts of kindness in our school, home and community.  Our students experience the value of using technology in a meaningful way.  100_0280

Our students make new connections with others and share what they are experiencing.  Ms. Weegar and I continue to connect using Gmail, facebook, Google circles and twitter to share our ideas.  Our students also use twitter, Skype and wallwisher to collaborate about kindness.  Click here to add to our kindness wall!

All it takes is an idea……..  Ms. Weegar, you had a great one!