Be Kinder Than Necessary

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”

– Albert Schweitzer,

French philosopher and physician

I am a firm believer in kindness. And being kinder than necessary. To me, kindness is when you see a person, a thing, a situation that needs something and you help fill that need.  To serve others is truly the way to make a positive impact on the world.

In my role as Learning Technology Teacher in the Junior School, one thing I see across all classes is students who are motivated to help other students when using technology.  Someone will ask me to show them something.  I will show them and then their neighbour will want to know too. Before I can show them, the first student I helped will lean over: “I will show him!” and the two of them will chatter away, leaving me out of a job.  It is the best kind of unemployment I could hope for!

I explicitly build this into my teaching, asking “Who thinks they could teach someone how to….(do whatever we are doing)?”. “Who thinks they could help someone else?”. It is not always a zen-like state of bliss but I am hopeful that kids will see the value in learning from each other.  And that these behaviours will spill over to other facets of their life outside of technology.

New perspectives.  Sharing understanding. Building on ideas.  These are reasons I choose to be connected as an educator and I believe these are ways students can make a positive impact through the use of technology.  Technology allows us to go places we may never go in ‘real life’. This exposure to ideas that were previously beyond our reach must make us more empathetic, more inquisitive, more inclined to think, question, and wonder. Some examples that come to mind:

  • Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and the incredible way in which he has shared his understandings of planet earth with us from his reflections in outer space.
  • Humans of New York genius, Brandon Stanton and the way he captures humanity from behind his camera lens in NYC and, a few months ago, around the world when he partnered with the UN to bring us snippets of humans in Iraq, Jordan, Uganda, Keyna and six other countries in the Middle East and Africa.
  • Peter Menzel’s Global Family Portrait: Material World and his Hungry Planet: What the World Eats both give amazing insights into what people have/have not in this world. This is one thing that is so hard to explain without experiencing it first-hand (especially poverty) but this goes some of the way to allowing students to connect globally to the ideas of others.

So, how can students use technology to make a positive impact on the world? I think Hugh Macleod has some great advice:

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He doesn’t stop there.  Here is a Hugh-inspired, play-by-play for you and your students:

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  1. Inspire and Be Inspired: Look, explore, inspire
  2. Become “Intoxicated by Possibility” – so much to do!  So little time!
  3. Dream big! – Nothing is out of your reach!
  4. Make a dent in the universe – The time is now, the person is you! Make A Dent!

I think in some ways, the key question here is misleading – or at the least, tends to lead us in a direction that we may not need to go in.  The use of technology is not the key point.  The ability to make a difference in our world is the key part.  Technology can help that process, it can accelerate that process, it can inspire that process.  The desire to connect with others, the opportunity to make a difference, that is what should be driving this process.

Use technology to connect, to inspire, to dream, and to act.  That is how we will change the world.

If you are still looking for some support to help you in this quest, one of my favorite, favorite websites is Inspire My Kids.  The name says it all and it does just that with a wealth of amazing resources designed to connect kids that want to make a difference.

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Do What You Like, Like What You Do

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I was looking for something and one click led to another, led to this TEDx talk by co-founder of Life Is Good, Bert Jacobs:

Bert’s message is simple:

  • do what you like
  • like what you do
  • be grateful for everything
  • live life with optimism

If you check out the Life is Good website, you will see a section called “Good Vibes” which is a curated mish-mash of inspiration and “a breath of fresh air” for those who also believe that Life is Good.

In trademarking three words, LIFE IS GOOD, Bert and his brother turned $78 into over $3 million dollars. Ten percent of net profits go to charities supporting children, so you are not just buying cute socks or a travel mug, but you are buying hope and possibility for children. Where does the money go?  In part, toward Playmakers:

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The Playmakers are the people doing the work to make childhood a more playful place for at-risk and underserved children for whom life is not always that good.  The emphasis is on play and using play to bring out positive change in children.

The website has loads of resources including:

Redefining Playfulness – A paper on how play can revolutionize the health, well-being and education of children.

Awareness Building Exercises – A series of 3 activities to help you become more aware of playfulness in and out of work

We Got Game – Three fun games to bring out the playfulness in your kids

The website also led me to this video on the Power of Playfulness which contains the important message that we, as teachers, shouldn’t just get through each day, we should be happy and joyful and promote that amongst and within our students too.

More than a cute t-shirt store, Life Is Good is a great resource to remind us all to play more, love more, and be more joyful.

Adobe Voice

In addition to the workshop on Building a PLN, I am also leading a workshop on using Adobe Voice in the classroom as a tool for students to use their voice to tell their story.

‘Story’ doesn’t just mean fairytale.  It could include:

  • reflection on a book they have read
  • description of the theme or characters in their books
  • explanation of how something happened in history
  • description of a person, place, or thing
  • personal narration of their own learning journey
  • a guessing game about themselves using their voice and images of importance to them
  • a summary of their learning within a unit
  • a weekly check-in in which they reflect on goals they have set themselves
  • recording their voice in a foreign language as they describe images
  • timelines of events in history
  • narration from the perspective of a character or iconic historical figure

The options are virtually endless!

I have been using Voice with students from EC5/6 (5 and 6 year olds) to Grade 4 students (9-10 year olds) and all have been really successful in making powerful presentations.

If you are unfamiliar with Voice, I would highly recommend giving it a go.  It is a free iPad app, and it is beautifully designed with loads of functionality.

In the spirit of sharing new tools,  I have created an Adobe Voice ‘lesson’ using Blendspace.  This used to be known as EdCanvas and I posted about it last year. It can, in it’s most basic form, be a place to store content related to a lesson or unit – videos, websites, images, documents.  Dig a bit deeper and you will see that once you create a lesson, you can share it with a class of students (student and teacher accounts are free).  Students can give the content you post a ‘thumbs up’ or they can add comments about their understanding (or lack thereof).

Click on the image below to go to my Blendspace Lesson on Adobe Voice:

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Building a PLN

I am sharing some ideas with teachers at my school about building a Personal Learning Network. I have put together a Haiku Deck to summarize my main points and then expanded on these in a Smore Flyer.

Part of my job as a Learning Technology Teacher is sharing tools with teachers so I decided to use two ways of publishing that I don’t always use.

Smore is a great way of putting a lot of multi-media information neatly into one spot. They offer free accounts which do not expire but do have a 5 flyer limit.  Educators can sign up for $59USD per year which gives access to many education themed backgrounds, a default private setting, and unlimited flyers (so your kids can go crazy and make flyers too!).

Haiku Deck is a piece of  presentation software with a Presentation Zen feel.  It is minimalist in design and won’t allow you to fill your slides with thousands of words.  Instead, when you type in a few key words or a sentence with your main point, Haiku Deck will offer you pictures that match those words for you to choose as your background images.  All the images are licensed for Creative Commons use. The only hitch with this one is that our tech department can’t help us with the firewall situation that is blocking access to the images via the iPad app at school.  :(

Any suggestions for things to add to the resources below for people new to creating a Personal Learning Network? Your feedback is welcome! Click on the images below to go to the Flyer and the Presentation:

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Are You A Modern Teacher?

Thanks to Twitter (#pypchat) and my COETAIL course (#coetail) I came across this graphic from fellow Coetailer, Reid Wilson.

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I love it. I think it embodies everything I believe in when it comes to 21st learning. A quick look through Reid’s classroom blog (he teaches fourth grade at my old school, NIST, in Bangkok) shows that he is an avid user of technology in an integrated way to add value to his students’ learning.

Read this list.

Slowly.

Let in sink in and ask yourself if you are nodding along.  Or are you realizing that there are things on this list that you could embed in your own professional goals in the year to come? How could your mindset impact that you teach?

Grant Wiggins asked himself what it was like to be a student and this stunning, must-read description of ‘a day in the life’ and the changes he, a veteran teacher, would immediately make to his teaching, is a must-read for every teacher. If someone like Grant Wiggins (half of the Understanding by Design guys) is able to make thoughtful reflections on and modifications to his teaching practice, isn’t there room for all of us to make a change?

Your Rubric Is A Hot Mess

Confession: I stole the title of this post from this post here by the same name written by Jennifer Gonzales.  It caught my eye (yes, I judged a book by it’s cover) but then lived up the promise of the title by offering some awesome advice.  You could do yourself a favor and quit reading right now and head over to read her post.  Seriously.

Still here? OK, here is the basic premise of the post:

1. Teachers love rubrics.

2. Teachers love filling rubrics with loads of writing.

3. Students are unpredictable and don’t like to fit inside tiny (rubric) boxes.

4. Teachers spend the majority of their rubric writing, writing things they don’t really want to see.

I found myself nodding along with everything in this post. I do like rubrics but I feel like it is a lot of semantics and wordsmithing of what essentially amounts to “good”, “better”, “best”.

Solution: The One Point Rubric.  Take a look at this:

Three columns, one point for each criteria.  Instead of writing four (or five) columns, write one column based on the expectations/curriculum standards which would represent achievement at a mastery level. From here, when grading students’ work, decide if they met, exceeded, or did not yet meet the required standard.

I really like this idea. As Jennifer points out, if you are including the students in on the creation of the rubric, it becomes an easier task as they only need come up with what mastery of the task looks like rather than three or four other descriptors of different levels of achievement.

What do you think?

Have you used this approach before?  I am currently working with grade level teams at my school in my role of curriculum coordinator, to plan and reflect on the teaching of writing. One of the things the teams do when/after we meet and agree on the areas of focus from our scope and sequence, is to create rubrics.  I would like to share this with them and see if any of them would be willing to try the one point rubric.  Stay tuned…