Teaching and technology…preparing today's students for tomorrow.

21st Century Skills are an important new focus in education.  On July 16th I blogged about the role of the teacher in 21st Century Learning, but what are these “necessary skills” the 21st Century Teacher should be focusing on to teach the 21st Century Learner?

As I so often do, I turned to Google, and was amazed by what I found…There is no one, commonly accepted set of these.  There seem to be an infinite number of ways to group, label, and organize these same skills.  I found pages about skills in education, skills needed by today’s workforce, and even how to pages for software.  In my search to figure out the way that made the most sense to me I ran across a page appropriately labelled What are 21st Century Skills?

This page is published by a group called The Assessment and Teaching of 21st-Century Skills.  This group was created for a research project to proposes ways of assessing 21st-century skills and encourages teaching and adopting those skills in the classroom.  Not only was this categorization listing 21st Century skills in an education, but to me the categories made more sense than any other I found.

They break 21st Century Skills into four categories: ways of working, tools for working, ways of thinking, and skills for living in the world.  I see these as distinctly different categories, but yet all encompassing in a much more meaningful way than a simple listing of the numerous skills.

As I recently completed a technological enhanced unit plan for my graduate school course, I was challenged to address how this unit addresses 21st Century skills and represent this in a visual way.  Using bubbl.us I created this mind map showing the four categories I found and how this unit addresses them.


I attempted to embed it, but as I’ve said, I’m still learning these skills and it wouldn’t work, 😦 so I included the image above.  Click on the image to see, and be able to zoom, the map of my mind – at least as it relates to this topic. 🙂

I guess in this effort, I have challenged myself to use news ways of working, with new tools for working and a different way for thinking.  Utilizing the skills I am hoping to teach my students is a way to show we are always learning.  Lets hope I can continue to always use the skills I teach.


When I first heard about TED talks, all I could think of was the ads for the movie about the talking teddy bear.  Although I never even saw the movie, this is the only image I can conjure…


So if it is not this talking teddy bear, what the heck is a TED talk?  TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and it started as a conference to get professionals in these areas together.  TED talks are a way to share what happens at TED conferences with the world under the phrase “ideas worth spreading”.

I had watched TED talks before, but didn’t even realize that is what they were (see July 16th post with Chris Lehmann video about education being broken).  Realizing to greatness of TED talks I explored and watched two more.  I found them both inspiring and thought provoking, but most interestingly possibly conflicting.

I am a math nerd.  I know, I accept that is not a typical response to math, but I actually like it, and given the choice I’d love to teach math all day!  So, I was drawn to a TED talk by Dan Meyer titled Math Needs a Makeover.

He made some fantastic points about how we teach math, and how the system we currently use doesn’t apply to life.  I immediately thought of this cartoon:

cantelopes If what they are learning isn’t relevant to their lives, student interest and motivation plummet, and our students grow to hate math.    Dan tells us to take the conditions out of what we give the students, and make the problems as short as possible.  At first this sounded crazy to me, but then I had an ah-ha moment.  When you do this, then you can teach with a conversation and not a lecture.  You won’t GIVE your students information, but rather LEAD them to discover it themselves.

I am new at this teaching thing, but one of the best learning experiences for me so far occurred when I was learning from Michele Bowman as a student teacher in her 5th grade AAP class.  She is gifted in inquisitive teaching, and I worked hard to learn from her guidance. I found when I used questions I could teach the class so much more than I ever would have prepared in a pre-packaged lecture.  They learned the essential knowledge plus more and I didn’t have to TELL it to them!  There was NO lecture, but just discussion.

This talk connected with me, opened my eyes and inspired me, so I went back for more.

Still following the math idea, I found a talk by Salman Khan titled Let’s Use Video to Reinvent Education.  I knew the Khan academy originated as an online site with videos that helped math instruction, so I was interested in what he had to say.

He spoke with great passion and showed marvelous results.  In many ways I heard from him what all the supporters of flipped classroom state about getting more class time to work with the students and not giving a generic lecture.  The great way this system of video instruction allows differentiation for the students to be able to pace the lecture themselves.

Then I had another ah-ha moment that unfortunately brought me more confusion than clarity.  The videos allow students to play and repeat at their own pace, but it is still a LECTURE.  It is still sage-on-the-stage instruction where the person who created the video is GIVING the information to the viewer.  This caused me to think more critically.  If I tell the students the info in a video, then I loose the ability to lead them to develop their own knowledge.  I take away that ability to question their thoughts and let them figure out the concept themselves.  Does this “new” system using videos lead to the same pitfalls that include lack of relevance and motivation as the broken system we are using now?

I believe there must be a way to fuse the two systems together, but I am going to have to take some time to work out how.  Maybe I need to listen to my teddy bear some more…


When I hear podcasting I think it must be some fishing technique or fancy way to cast a rod.  Guess I’m revealing what a country girl I am, but I certainly never think it is a talk show you got over the internet.

In the age today of icons to click on and links that go here to there in the blink of an eye, I wondered what is the difference in a podcast, so I of course Googled it 😉  Merriam-Webster says a podcast is “a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for automated download over the Internet”.  I also found that the name podcast came as a blended word to describe radio type broadcasts you could get on your iPod.  So, I am guessing this means a podcast is just an audio track???

For this tactile and visual learner, listening to a bunch of talk is hard for me to get motivated by, so I looked to a link provided by my fab-u-lous education technology professor Steve Knight.  He directed us to check out EdReach.  When I first got to this site I was a little confused…these are videos?!  Then I found this video about EdReach:

So, essentially this site is kind of like a TV channel, but on the internet, where people can broadcast their own talk shows about education.  I clicked around and watched a few podcasts.  I saw one on Edmoto, and one called Learning RedesignED.

My thoughts on this new discovery… I find using the dropdown of channels much easier to find something of interest to me rather than scrolling through the feed of recently posted shows.  As for the shows themselves, they open great discussions and provide links to other educators that would not otherwise be present, but I found in the fast past way of my internet use, they were looooong.  30 minutes of listening to the same people talk?  I’m going to be honest, after 10 minutes or so I tuned out.  😦  I did find that I increased my multi-tasking abilities as I began listening to the discussions while I worked on other things.  😉

Over all, it is great to know this resource is out there.  There are all times when I am working on something, especially if it is new, that I feel the need to connect to, or listen to others with experience on the topic.  Listening to a podcast in this scenario will be supportive and informative. 🙂

I tend to desire interaction and face to face talk, but as I begin this journey in teaching I certainly don’t know what the future holds.  Maybe one day even I will cast my fishing rod out and catch a pod.



Stuck Sideways…

The movement of flipped classroom is one that is gaining momentum.  I shared in a previous post the blog I found written by Jon Bergmann called Flipped Learning: Turning Learning on Its Head!   To try to get more perspective on the topic I began exploring a few other blogs to understand all points of view.

I first found To Flip or Not to Flip? By Jeff Dunn.  This blog totes the greatness that is flipped instruction.  He goes on to share that since using this model his students have gotten their voice back in the classroom, gotten more individual attention from teachers during class time, taken ownership for their learning and increased their AP test scores.  After reading this blog I was just sure that this was a great new thing, and that I was going to figure out how to do it with my second graders.

With all this excitement built up, I kept looking at other blogs.  Since I was trying to get a more clear picture of the movement I was drawn to the blog Flipped Classroom: Pro and Con by Mary Beth Hertz.  This post does a great job of breaking down what flipped classroom is, what it isn’t, the benefits and concerns about the model.  It shares clearly that the flipped classroom is not just about videos, but the interactions that occur in the class after watching the videos that are the most important.  She goes onto say it is NOT stock videos created by some company or a way for those companies to make money, but must have a direct link to the curriculum, standards and activities they do the next day in class.  So far, I’m still in 🙂

Then she moves onto why it does and doesn’t work.  The reasons it works are clear in both the first and second blogs I read, but Mary Beth focused on the way it individualizes instruction allowing students to move at their own pace, repeat instruction if they desire and free up the teachers time in class to work closer with students on what they need to.  This is followed by the biggest question by most educators: what to do about students that don’t have at home access? Then, more importantly, that not everyone learns best through a screen.  I work in a fairly well off suburban school, so I am not as concerned about access for my students. What to do about the kids that don’t learn well with a screen??  The first troublesome question for me.  Hmmm.

Then I find the most thought provoking section: “Why It’s Nothing New”.  Nothing new?  This is the buzz topic, the newest way of teaching out there right? Mary Beth goes onto say that the premise of flipped classroom isn’t so different than what John Dewey proposed at the turn of the 20th century: “learning is centered on the student, not the teacher.”  So maybe this concept isn’t new?  The question she poses is: “Are we doing things differently, or just doing different things?”  Hmmm again.  This one really does make me think.  Is giving instruction in this way really doing something differently, or is it just a different thing that gives us more time in the classroom.

This led me to thinking about the role of the teacher again.  The traditional model of the teacher being the “sage-on-the-stage” and lecturing is being challenged by the model of the teacher being the “guide-on-the-side”. As I have mentioned in previous postings, I tend to lean towards being a guide, but are we really getting to do that with a flipped classroom.  By providing a “lecture” on video, are we not still being the sage-on-the-stage and imparting our wisdom?  Yes, there may be more time in class to work with students, which is great, but is this really something different or just different things?

I need to learn more…I am very much inspired by the positive results this model is having, but I am thoughtful and want to know more about some of the concerns.  Although I am still optimistic and on my way to flipping upside down, I am still figuring it out.  For now I am not yet upside down, but maybe stuck sideways.


So the new buzz phrase is the 21st Century Learner.  Everyone is talking about the skills needed by the 21st century learners.  Well, if there is this need for 21st century learners, how do we become 21st century teachers?

I recently read Shelly Wright’s blog post The Nuts and Bolts of 21st Century Teaching.  In her blog Shelly talks about a recent experience she had with project based learning (PBL) as her class was studying the Holocaust.  In this project the class was to create their own Holocaust museum.  The class outlined three areas of study, researched them and began to come up with ideas, but then they got stuck.

When students are stuck is the hardest for teachers.  I also find it the hardest as a parent.  How exactly do you help kids figure something out on their own? If you tell them or do it for them, you rob them of figuring it out and learning it themselves.  If you don’t, then you worry about frustration, shutdown, not caring, self-esteem.  I agree with Shelly when she said, “Its difficult to know how much to let them flail.”

Then she, as a 21st century teacher, did what I (a semester ago) would have never thought of – she turned to her blog!?!?  She shared her struggles and received a post that helped her.  This is something I think many “20th century teachers” would never think to do, but wow was it helpful!  The video that was sent to her in a comment I found inspirational and eye opening.  Chris Lehmann spoke about the changes in education for both learners and teachers.  He opened with “high school stinks”.  A bold statement that he followed with why it stinks and what we as educators can do about it.

At first I wasn’t sure how applicable the video would be to me.  It was focused on high school and I’m an elementary teacher.  Sure I thought it was eye opening and inspiring, but I was sure it wouldn’t make a difference in my classroom.  Then I heard “School was built on a model of information scarcity, and now we are in a world of information overload. …  Now our job is to make sure kids can make sense of the world.”  This flipped around the entire idea of teaching in my mind.  Teachers are no longer the ones to impart knowledge (teach) but will become more facilitators of knowledge.  Sure there will be things we teach, but the students may be as much of a “teacher” as we are… So what will the role of teachers become?  I think we will become less about the person teaching the information or imparting our wisdom and more about an educational guide to help our students figure it out.

For the 21st century learner will we still be teachers or will we become educational guides?   I think I want to be an educational guide…. Now, I’m off to see if I can figure out how to do that.  I’m taking the first step.  I have turned to my blog 😉

Slurping Beauty?!

Recently I learned about digital story telling.  My initial reaction to creating a digital story: “That’s a lot of work, why not just have the kid read the book?”  But oh- with a digital story there is SO much more!

When creating their own digital story students interact with it.  They get to make decisions about what it will look like and sound like.   They learn about the technology needed to make it.  And final projects can even be loaded into a computer center so students can follow along!

I never would have thought it at first, but this is FUN!!! 🙂 Hope you enjoy!

Yes, it is true!  After an exciting launch into the technological journey I fell into the black abyss of cyber-space not to be seen or heard from in weeks! 😦  Life can get crazy sometimes.  Since I posted last I have concluded the school year with the 2nd grade class I was teaching this spring, went of interviews, was offered and accepted a full time job teaching 2nd grade for next year, and celebrated my daughter’s “graduation” from 6th grade.  Meanwhile, I packed my entire house, transported all belongings to the new location, and unpacked enough that at least all the furniture has a spot.  Although there are still boxes all around, I can even cook in my own house again! I have learned a few things from the past few weeks.

1- I get by with a little help from my friends (in reality A LOT of help!) THANKS!! 🙂

2-Stairs are costly – knees and backs pay the price. 😦

3- If I ever have to move again while my husband is overseas, I am hiring a moving company. No questions asked.

After all of that – I’M BACK.Image  Keep your eyes peeled.  The next week will be full of lots of great posts, ideas, and thoughts from your truly!

That is the question!  Being a frequent Facebook user for personal connections, and a Pinterst user for both personal and professional projects, I haven’t previously found any need to expand my digital social circle any larger, then my professor recently sold me on this tweeting thing. After years of friends and kids I coached trying to persuade me, it is an education technology class that has pushed me over the edge.  That’s right, dare I say it, I tweet or chirp or whatever it is that you do on this thing.

As you can tell, I am absolutely a newbie.  Although I completely understand the additional connection twitter provides, I find I struggle.  Right now I just can’t find the time.  I have found however that it is an instant link to a wealth of brilliant educators.  I am still trying to navigate the waters though, and honestly I am still a little creeped out at the idea of following people I don’t know, and strangers following me.  However, I have already found some great articles, blogs and ideas posted by fellow educators.

Although I plunged into the waters of twitter first, I have actually found diigo to be a more helpful tool to me.  If you haven’t gone to diigo – you should go! I took over a 2nd grade class about 4 months ago.  Things have gone great, but I find the amount of information coming at me at all times is on hyper drive.  Trying to keep that information organized is an even more monumental task.

NEVER FEAR – DIIGO IS HERE!  This bookmarking site allows tagging, saved images so you can access info even if where it is housed moves.  It also has highlighting and notation abilities, so if you are like me and you come back later you won’t have to wonder why you thought this was great enough to mark in the first place.  Just highlight, note and know why! I am foreseeing that this will take me some time to adjust to, but the capabilities seem well worth the time!  I guess only time well tell.

Time. Summer is soon…maybe then I can have some time to figure out all this cool new technology;)  Well maybe after these summer classes are done.  Until then – I’ll see you at the computer!


No Games. No Fun.  Focus. Read. Write. Memorize the facts.  Really?!?! As I am planning for my first “end of the year” I have asked other educators what will happen the last few days of school.  The answer I often get is that we’ll be done with learning then and will mostly be playing games.

Done learning?  Just playing games?

A traditional view of education says that a teacher’s job is to impart wisdom and facts to the students, and the student’s job is to learn what they are taught.  Christopher Lehmann, the principal at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA says, “society has evolvImageed past that, schools haven’t yet.”   As John Dewey said, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow”.  Today’s students no longer need to survive in a one dimensional work world, but need to be able to “navigate in a buzz of confusion.”

PBS’s video Digital Media* New Learners of the 21st Century explores the new face of learning today.  As the program explores a variety of different cutting edge educational programs across the US, I find one idea connects all the various concepts.  The students see the approaches as games.  Fun, engaging games.

Taking this approach, the Quest 2 Learn school in New York, NY bases all learning on games.  “A game is a problem space.  All a video game is is a set of problems that you must solve to win.”  At the Smithsonian Institute students are now using cell phones to create scavenger games to interact with museum artifacts.  In most settings games also lead to group interaction. According to John Seely Brown, “One of the best ways to learn something is to teach something. In peer based collaboration you are both learning and teaching.”

This approach of games as instruction can address more than motivation and interest.  James Gee of Arizona State University says, “If a learning system is well designed you don’t finish it without the guarantee that you’ve learned it already…Learning & assessment are the same thing.  The learning system assesses itself.”  This would eliminate the need for stressful, high stakes, time and money consuming testing.  And that’s just a side benefit.

I’m not sure what will happen in your classroom, but tomorrow in my class, we are going to BE LEARNING while we play some games!  And dare I say it, some of them will even be on a computer!Image

I often want to do a little of this mixed with a little of that.  I revel in the fun of integrating subjects, so the idea of finding a focus can be trickier than one might think.

After much thought, I finally decided on math for a variety of reasons.  1. I love math. So many dread it, but really it is my favorite thing to teach!!!  2. As noticeable in a recent post, I have become very intrigued by the idea of flipped instruction.  Most of what I have been reading says the best place to start this practice is with math, so I guess math it is!

I am currently in a long-term position teaching 2nd grade.  I LOVE this age, and would love to expand my teaching skills here, so I turn to 2nd grade math…

All of the big ideas in 2nd grade math lend themselves to hands-on activities.  I would like to select the big idea that was the biggest struggle for my students this year.  Hopefully I can build my skills to help the next class I have be more successful.  I am also choosing to keep the “focus” broad as I can, this way I have the ability to narrow based on assignments.

This semester I will focus on the following VA SOLs:


    Focus: Money, Linear Measurement, Weight/Mass, and Volume

2.10 The student will

a)   count and compare a collection of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters whose total value is $2.00 or less; and

b)   correctly use the cent symbol (¢), dollar symbol ($), and decimal point (.).

2.11        The student will estimate and measure

a)   length to the nearest centimeter and inch;

b)   weight/mass of objects in pounds/ounces and kilograms/grams, using a scale; and

c)   liquid volume in cups, pints, quarts, gallons, and liters.

2.12        The student will tell and write time to the nearest five minutes, using analog and digital clocks.

2.13        The student will

a)   determine past and future days of the week; and

b)   identify specific days and dates on a given calendar.

2.14        The student will read the temperature on a Celsius and/or Fahrenheit thermometer to the nearest 10 degrees.


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