Saturday, September 28, 2013

Reflections on The Bammy Awards

Meeting Pernille and seeing Erin again were highlights of the weekend! 

Fun on the Red Carpet! 

It's taken me a week to get my thoughts together, and I thank Pernille Ripp, Angela Maiers, and Tony Sinanis who all wrote fabulous posts earlier this week. For those I am leaving out, I apologize! I know there must be more of you out there whose posts I read. I am still a bit exhausted from the whirlwind trip last weekend from SF to DC!
Much like our students sometimes find the written word a challenge, I found myself struggling to get my thoughts down, so I decided to share with AudioBoo. Don't worry, it's less than 5 minutes! Thanks for listening, and feel free to add to the conversation in the comments.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Celebrating our Moment in the Spotlight at the Bammy Awards

The Beautiful Bammy Statuette

Although I'm not a huge fan of awards in general, I do think it's critical that educators have the opportunity to share what is good in our vital profession. For the tireless hours that we dedicate to ensuring that students are successful, we deserve to be acknowledged for our excellence and commitment. As I write these words, I salute all of my fellow educators.

As a finalist for the Elementary School Teacher award, I must prepare my 2 sentence acceptance speech, though I expect that one of my incredible peers will win. I am so grateful and humbled to be nominated that I honestly do not care which of the five of us takes home the beautiful statuette.  I will share the theater with so many esteemed colleagues, those who I have been fortunate enough to know through my network on Twitter. Hugging old friends and meeting new ones will be a big part of the weekend, not to mention dressing up in a beautiful gown, and savoring the inspiring moments.  There is so much negative press, so much pressure on us to transform education, but this is our turn to bask in the spotlight (no matter how uncomfortable it might be for those of us who enjoy anonymity).

You can watch the exciting action live this year, so I hope you will join us in celebrating the fine work happening in schools across the globe. 

Please join me in offering heartfelt thanks to the team at the Bammy Awards for helping us spread the good word of our dedication and service each and every day. 

Watch the live broadcast and see us all walking the red carpet!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

5 Things I Love about Kaizena

Some of you may know that last spring, I was the Educator in Residence for ImagineK12, an edtech incubator in Palo Alto, CA. ( And actually, I loved it so much that I am back again this Fall with 2 other incredible teachers!)  My role was to share my teacher perspective and opinions, talking about the biggest issues and problems tech could help to solve. One of the teams I met with often, and who solved one of my biggest problems, was Voice Comments, aka 121writing, now called Kaizena!

In our early sessions, I shared with Max and Edward that providing students with timely, personalized quality feedback on their writing was a huge challenge. My handwriting seemed to get more scraggly with the more essays I graded and I often felt like I was not doing my students justice. They were very open to working on solving this problem, and after much hard work and iteration, developed a fantastic product that allows my students to feel like I am, in their words, "sitting right next to them" as they listen to my feedback.

Now let's get to the nitty gritty: Here are 5 things I love about Kaizena

  • Kaizena allows teachers to highlight, annotate, record voice comments, and attach resources, links to lessons, videos, tutorials, etc  so that students can actually learn the skills related to the errors they make! mean actionable feedback? 

  • Kaizena allows students to respond with their own voice comments, so that there is a discussion with a feedback loop. Before this brand new feature was in place, I would have students email me answers to questions like: What did you hear that reflected something you did well? What do you need to improve on? What is confusing? What will you do for your next writing piece to improve? Now they can respond right after my comments to get clarification. 

  • Kaizena differentiates. Students can hear feedback, see feedback, listen at their own pace, and listen again if they missed something. My students loved the ability to pause, go back, and refer back to the recording later when they wrote their next essay. 

  • Kaizena integrates with Google Drive. Enough said! 

  • Kaizena listens to teachers. Not only did Max and Edward listen intently during our sessions, but they also reached out to hundreds, maybe even thousands, of  teachers, observed students using their tool, and worked very very diligently to be sure that they were solving the actual problem teachers have. 
If you'd like more information on how other teachers are using Kaizena, check out this post from my friend Karl.  

 Disclaimer:  I was not asked to write this post, nor do I have any material gain from promoting this company. I simply believe in the product and want to share how it helps give quality feedback! 

I'd love to know how you give clear, quality, actionable writing feedback to your students! Please share in the comments. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

5 Questions I Ponder


I'm going to give a warning here, that I might just be on my soapbox, spouting out questions, and appearing to expect easy answers. I don't believe in easy answers, but I do believe that we need to question the practices and status quo that keep us stuck, that keep us from bringing our learners into a state of flourishing. It's not enough to boast that we have, "raised test scores," but it's vital to know that our children are going forth with the skills, self-awareness, and confidence to make a difference in the world.

So.. I leave you with these questions that recur in my mind as I ponder what kind of school I would want for my own children ( now grown). 

  • If we know that early experience, attachment, and social learning are so important, then why do we pay those who educate young learners such little pay? We can’t expect those in early childhood education to take lots of classes and continue their learning when we pay them barely enough to live on.

  • If we know that movement is key to stimulating the brain and that most children are not getting the exercise they need, then why is school so determined to keep kids in their chairs all day?  There are creative ways to get kids moving and some wonderful traditions and rituals that can bring a community together. At the fabulous school, Anastasis Academy, in Colorado started by my talented Twitter friend Kelly Tenkely and her wonderful team, students and staff walk a mile together each morning to begin their day. (yep, on the right foot ;) Couldn't resist that one! 

  • If we know that kids need safe places in the community to hang out, be with friends, and stay out of trouble by pursuing passions and interests, then why do so many buildings go underutilized? Schools are closed during weekends and summer, but could they be community centers where families, kids gather to continue learning, innovate, support each other?

  • If we know that teachers are not coming out of teacher preparation/ pre-service programs with the skills and understanding to deal with the complex issues that students face, then why aren’t we changing these programs to include classes that address child development, working with families, and learning theory? ( Ok, so perhaps I am going by my limited experience of many of the teachers I have met who also claim that they were not prepared for the multitude of issues we face daily in the classroom) 

I'd love to hear examples of how we are doing things differently. We MUST be making progress in some of these areas across the nation, right?