Tag Archives: reflecting

Digital Tools: It’s Always About The Learning!

Lately I have been sharing lots of ways digital tools can enhance, enrich and engage learning for not only the students we teach, but their families and other educators.  When I share a platform and/or tool I am asked to talk about the digital tool, which I am happy to share as well as why I choose the tools I do.  These questions offer me an opportunity to reflect again on the why and what I do and how it all happens.  For me what is most important is how the digital tool will support and enhance learning for my students as well as how their voice can be shared globally. My students have amazing ideas and are always excited to share and ask questions about what they are exploring.  The digital tools give them endless ways to share their learning with each other and the world.

When I share ideas and reflect it is always about the learning that is happening and/or has happened.  The digital tools offer ways for my students, their families and others to engage, connect and be reflective.  Through our ability to reflect and rethink about what we are doing, we learn how we are exploring ideas and what is it about how we are learning that we understand the process of gaining new knowledge and acquire new information.  As an educator I want to make sure that I am always offering invitations to my students and their families that invite them to learn alongside me.  This is possible through the use of digital tools because it offers ways to enhance and engage in conversations.  Conversations are important and vital because this is the heart of our work, as educators, where we have opportunities to listen to our students voices and get at what is most important.

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I value perspective because it gives me opportunities to have my thinking challenged as well as be inspired.  My students need to be able to experience different perspectives as well.  Through their ability to listen and rethink about what they are exploring, opportunities for collaboration appear and the digital tools help bridge this and make it possible.

Last year my students were exploring the forest.  We created a forest inside our own classroom as well as explored the different types of animals and plant life that grew in Vermont forests.  As we explored this idea of forest life we were able to extend our learning to other forests in the US via @skypeclassroom where my students were able to have a conversation with a real forest ranger in YellowStone National Park.  This experience was so meaningful that all of my students were excited to learn more about forest life and take risks with new texts and create their own books about forest life.

So through Skype, posting on our Kidblogs about an animal, creating podcasts of what we learned about the Vermont forest and then Tweeting about what we were learning and how we were learning we all became very invested and engaged.  This is where my students pushed themselves because they were curious about what we were learning.  Through their curiosity about a topic of interest, they invested their own time and hard work pushing themselves to create a multitude of projects that helped encourage them to be creative and learn more about the topic.

Digital tools are amazing.  They offer so many wonderful ways to enhance learning opportunities.  I always think about the learning and then think about what digital tools might be helpful as I explore this new theme with my students.  I also think about what tools will give us opportunities to connect and share our learning globally too.

As an educator I will always have lots of “have to’s”.  The piece I look forward to is how I am going to get at the content, make it meaningful and engaging as well as what digital tools will help me and my students.  The why of this work is always at the heart.  It is what appears and is discovered by your students.  The real learning comes from your students own curiosity.  I am trying to make it happen whenever I can.

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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.

Blogging in Kindergarten!

My First Post!  A little exciting and yes, I am a bit nervous, but here I go……..

One of the wonderful things about Kindergarten is that we share all day long and take great delight when a child’s eyes widens to a discovery, an ah ha!  I hope that this blog will inspire others to try new technologies that promote engagement and excitement in learning, while also providing endless opportunities for designing and creating learning too!

It all started for me 3 years ago when I took a workshop on blogging.  Blogging?  What is it?  What does it do? How will it be helpful?  Why blog?  These were the questions I had prior to signing up, but I am so glad that I did!  Now, 3 years later I manage 3 class blogs; class blog, science blog and a summer reading blog!  I even started using Kidblog this year!  Yes, every 5 and 6-year-old child in my classroom has their own blog!  Amazing…  So my transformation begins and my eyes widen in amazement as to what is happening and continues to unfold before my eyes daily, in Kindergarten!

Blogging you say?

I created a class blog for the children, myself and their families, then as it became more interactive and reflective, others outside of the classroom, community, state and country began to take notice of what we were doing.  I began everyday during our morning meeting talking about our schedule for the day and what new learning lay ahead.  At the end of each day I would create and design a post with the children.  I was amazed at what they wanted to share, everything!  I had a digital camera, 1 FLIP camera and we began documenting all the learning that we could each day.

The next ah ha for me was getting a SMARTboard!  Our school was purchasing 6, so I had to apply.  I did and was lucky enough to have been selected!  So… you see the blogging became really powerful as the children were not only to be reflective, but also interact.  Wow!  Again, the language, the engagement just unfolded before my eyes.  Back to blogging……….

Right away children were excited to go home and share what they did in school that day!  Parents were so pleased and immediately I received feedback about how much they felt integrated and a part of their child’s day!  This was the beginning of change and transformation for me as a teacher…….  No more paper handouts in folders, everything became digital and available anytime people wanted to access the information.  The beginning of developing responsible and safe digital citizens who embrace the tools of our age to support learning, collaboration, designing and creating their learning as well as making connections.

My Life Studies Blog was and continues to be wonder!  It reflects what 5 and 6-year-old children observe, explore and experience in the physical and natural world.  I created this blog 2 years ago so I would have a place to showcase our 4 Winds Science program which is led and directed by volunteers, parents in our community.  I soon discovered that this was also a place where I could post the physical and natural science we were doing in Kindergarten too!  My reason for starting this blog was to make more room!!!  I found that our class blog had so many different types of experiences recorded, that the pages were archiving quickly!  So this way the posts did not seem to be archived as fast.  Science is also one of those wonderful opportunities for young children where everything that we, the Kindergarten teachers need to teach, we need to do through inquiry.  The inquiry becomes important as it allows for the young child to explore and discover in a way where they can ask questions and begin to “talk out” what they observe.

Science in Kindergarten! The ideas I am sharing can be done, incorporated in all/any grade levels and have really made a difference for me and my teaching of science.  In the spirit of collaboration and sharing………..
A blog that focuses on science is a great as it allows and encourages others a place to  communicate and interact.  Once it evolved into something more, a place where I post all science related content that I am covering in Kindergarten.  I have had many children sick, traveling etc. and the blog has been great to keep parents and their child involved with experiences they may have missed.  Also my followers are beginning to grow.  I only have a few now, but 2 of them have shared science related activities and topics with me that have been used by other teachers in their classrooms.
Podcasting has also been really powerful as it has given children a chance to reflect on their scientific thinking!  I created 2 podcasts, one was of the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly and the other of the bird. You can find them on my literacy wiki. The children had an opportunity to explore the science topics, create a model of the life cycle and then reflect, talk about the stages.  Really a great tool to use as an assessment tool “did they get it?”
The other wonderful idea/practice that I am using is twitter. Wow!  I have made lots of connections with other teachers on lots of different topics.
More on collaboration in another post.

Then summer was approaching last spring and our technology integration specialist  shared a summer reading blog she had created when she was teaching!  Yes!  Blogging in the summer, sure!  Why not?  So I created  a Summer Reading Blog! It was a great suggestion and idea!  I created posts of former students and new students whom I have never met!  The connecting and collaborating began!  New student and their families would post comments, artwork and even notes about books they had read with their child.  I checked periodically to read and see the posts and then of course comment.  The power of connecting and relationship building began immediately!  I was thinking… hmm…. Can it be this simple? easy?  It was!  Now both parents and their children are reading together, posting together and meeting other children and their families who will also be in Kindergarten in the fall.  One parent shared with me how it was so inspirational for her and her child as the child felt connected and saw books she knew and wanted to try.  This is just another wonderful example and way to promote literacy, but also begin to model how to be a safe and responsible digital citizen!  I was thinking how grand this is.  Also, hmm… thinking that this is what it looks like for children.