Saturday, September 16, 2017

A New Recipe....Sat., Sept. 16, 2017

Sat., Sept. 2017

So we've now had twelve rapid, exciting days of school in the 2017-18 school year, and it appears promising.  Its amazing how the chemistry of a class changes based on the students in the class.  I feel like a chef trying to figure out how to amend the recipe in a few classes.  Some definitely need more sugar and some a lot less spice.  We're all starting to settle in and dust off those academic habits that were mothballed for the summer.  I'll keep you updated as the year progresses!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Schoolcraft - Mon., July 24, 2017

Mon., July 24, 2017

In the Games and Sims course I am taking this summer at Marlboro, I have become "Tiffany Star" and experienced and learned Jokaydia Grid, Second Life, and now Minecraft.  Each world is so different from each other and from school.  This last program is "Minecraft" and an article we read from James Paul Gee, "Good Video Games and Good Learning" made me think about how we could create "Schoolcraft."  Taking the key principles that Gee mentions and make them REAL in our schools.   For example, one of the principles is "risk taking" and that good video games lower the consequences of failure.  In schools, we operate on the "fear of failure" as "sticks" for students to learn.  We must innovate our schools by starting with our classrooms and making "failure a GOOD thing."  We also have to "customize a game to fit with the learning and playing styles."  Personalized learning will support this, but it's still so new and "risky" for educators when we are held to high stakes testing scores.  What if our SBAC tests were like video games, and preparing for them was a "well-ordered problem" - what a difference it would make in mastery of concepts for students.   Building a house in Minecraft requires math skills - four planks divide into tools, etc., so math content can be applied in a game setting.  I believe we must do the reverse, and make our schools/classrooms more like a game setting, if we truly want to engage today's learner for LIFELONG learning.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Resistance is Futile - Wed., July 19, 2017

Wed., July 19, 2017

On an infamous Star Trek Next Generation Episode, the "Borg" repeatedly said to all, "Resistance is Futile, prepare to be assimilated."  I remember at the time that my response was balderdash, technology does not have the power to be such a major part of who a person is.  Of course, there aren't true "cyborgs" as was on that episode, but there are students who live in a totally, and I mean totally different world than we do.

As classroom teachers, and principals, banning games or at least ignoring them is futile.  We must embrace them, learn them (as challenging as it is), and begin a conversation with our students about them.  As James Gee mentioned, students talk physics without being "required" to.  Learning can truly be in different formats, and gaming is one strategy whose time has come.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Maximizing Abilities - July 16, 2017

Sun., July 16, 2017

Taking five (5), yes five, grad classes this summer has been a challenge, but it's easier to overload when there aren't student's in the building.  Working as a principal and teacher and taking grad classes at the same time is more challenging.  I'll still have to take classes in the fall, but not as many hopefully because I'm "doubling up" now.

Two of the grad classes have had similar topics - accessibility for all.  With 504's and IEP's, equal access should automatically happen.  Needless to say, it doesn't because with those you have to have a diagnosed, documented disability that's affecting your ability to learn.   One of my classes had us watch a video about "Virtual Ability Island's" founder, Gentle Heron.  It's an uplifting, inspirational real life example of how to embrace diversity in the real world.  Gentle Heron said that she deals with "TABS" or Temporary Able Bodies, which we all know change as we age.  Real innovation about such an important topic.

In my other class, we talked about universal design and how all websites, etc. are to have access to all disabilities, known as Section 508.  There were several informative YouTube videos from Portland Community College called "To Care and Comply."  They pointed out that disabilities are barriers to learning, so it's to us as educators to open the door, NOT shut the door.  It's important, but more importantly is the RIGHT thing to do.  That's what VAI does as well.  There is no success without access virtually or in real life.  It's all about maximizing our abilities, no matter what they are.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Virtual Learning = Simulations?

Virtual Learning = Simulations? - Mon., June 19, 2017

Years ago when I was a young teacher I wanted my 6th grade students to get the "feel" and try to truly understand the concept of power and resources.  We divided the physical classroom up into regions and each region had specific resources.  One had the door, another had the water fountain, another had the pencil sharpener, another had the dictionaries, one had the calculators, etc.  Throughout the day we did regular class activities, and it wasn't long before the students in one "region" figured out they didn't have the resources they needed.  It's hard to describe here, but my students got it.  They got an early, primitive lesson that really stuck with them as we went through the year.   I learned then that if I wanted them to get big abstract concepts, I had to make it real.

So it's 2017, how do we make it "real" if it's virtual?  It's not REALLY real, but yet students think differently than we do now.  Our school uses a program called "Dreambox" which is game-based learning for Math and the students have excelled with it.

I think virtual learning is for classrooms what TV was in the 80's.  A way to bring the real world into the house, the classroom, the phone, the device of the students.  Learning can be anywhere, anytime, so virtual, game-based play must be developed and available for all students everywhere and not at a huge cost.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Vacation from Reality- Sun., June 18, 2017

Sun., June 18, 2017 - A Vacation from Reality

So in the Games and Sim course I'm taking, I've become an avatar and get to explore Jokaydia Grid which is beautiful and perfect and safe.  I was flying (1st hint I wasn't in Vermont anymore), and then accidentally landed in the water/ocean.   Rather than drowning I simply walked on the ocean floor to land, which was quite odd, but kind of nice at the same time.  There was no "risk," no "accident report" that had to be completed and sent to the SU and VSBIT.  It struck me then that the true draw for virtual games is that it is a "vacation" from reality.  The world is perfect, neat, no grass to be mowed, no barking dogs, etc.  Often when people are stressed, strategies recommended to them are mindfulness, yoga, walking in nature, bubble bath, massage, prayer, etc.  I've NEVER heard gaming recommended, but I'm going to add it to my list.  For a short visit, I'm taken away to land with no worries where I can relax and be safe.  Of course, you have to go to the right game to make this happen so I'm going to start a list of "Vacation from Reality" games for recharging the stressed, exhausted educators!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Sun., May 28, 2017 - Lost & Found

Lost & Found - Sun., May 28, 2017

As a principal, teacher, and aunt,  I always believed that “gaming” and virtual reality was wrong.  Board games, i.e. Monopoly, Scrabble were the ONLY real games.  The “other” games were unhealthy and going to make killers of our youth.  (Of that last part,  some of that may sadly be true.)

So I was recently introduced to Jokaydia Grid and Second Life as part of a tech grad class I  am taking, and this post is an assignment, enjoyable though it is.  My first adventure into "virtual games" was exhilarating, petrifying, and addictive.  In Second Life I arrived and started on the "introduction" which helped me feel more confident in myself as an avatar there.  I kept getting passed by other avatars, so I started to remember what it was like in elementary school when I couldn't catch on to a new topic.  I could not jump no matter what I did.  I did what the screen said, but something else happened  overtime.

In Jokaydia Grid, When I first entered the world as an “avatar”  I felt literally lost.  I had no idea how to walk, run, much less fly.  I could feel my heart beating faster as I thought, “I don’t know what to do.” I started wondering around, but very slowly, very cautiously.  Like the real world, new places can be scary.  Luckily after a while, I ran into a teacher who helped me “find my way,” again just like reality.  I was lost, but then found. It was "safe." She had to leave, but I continued to explore. I now understand why students love this realm!  

Here’s a few photos of myself while I waited for friends to join me.  

I recently read a great article:  What is Gamification and in it, is this amazing Ted Talk, which you can view here. This is such a strange new world, but one I'm going to enjoy learning about and having great conversations with my students about! I'll be sharing more of my revelations about this experience as the course progresses! In the meantime, if you haven't gamed, why not?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Hope for the Sunlight - Sat., May 6, 2017

Hope for the Sunlight - Sat., May 6, 2017

Hope for the Sunlight.  Losing a student is such a painful experience.  It makes you even more appreciative of the present and the moments that you have.  You look at every student and listen a lot closer when you realize that the moments that you have with them are finite.  The days that I had as S.'s teacher were some of the sweetest - small classroom and lots of hands-on learning.  Our school had him for seven years of his life, and his presence lives on everywhere on  our school murals.

Here's the  VISION for the school that I'm blessed to be leading.  Your comments are always welcome!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tweeting - A Paradigm Shift - Tues., Feb. 14, 2017

Since today's the day for love, I have to say that I have never loved "tweeting."  I was briefly introduced to it in the last class, but never really was motivated to really "tweet."  Personally, it's a humility thing.  My ideas are important, but are they important enough to share with the world?  Maybe I'm too "old school" and that I had to wait to be called on by the teacher to share my thoughts.  That's a paradigm shift to think that my ideas are valued and that others can learn from me.  After watching the videos assigned for class, I've got a much greater understanding of WHAT it's for.  I loved George Sieman's words "combinational creativity" and that knowledge is a network project.  I've always looked at it as "one more thing to do," but the value is more evident now.  I can even see where a # for my school could help with communication and knowledge sharing.  I'm definitely more motivated to start using it as a tool in my daily life. When I set up my account years ago, I set it up with a lame account name because I didn't know any better.  Here's my twitter LINK.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Change Project Pitch: Technology Fluency - Feb. 10, 2017

"There is NEVER enough time in the school day to do the things that you HAVE to do."
It's understandable that when you ask staff to ADD anything to their day, the elephant absolutely bucks the rider right off its back.  And that's quite a height to fall from.  

I've created a draft of my my pitch for change in my little school.   Our change action would be supporting the long term change of students being fluent with technology in our school.   The audience and/or stakeholders are the teachers.  What I want from them is to have 15 min. a day dedicated to tech time.  In order to motivate the elephant, I will provide teachers research that shows the need for computer skills for students.  To direct the rider, I would limit it to just 15 min. a day.  To create the path, I would have the students use 15 min. from their current 70 min. lunch (40 min.) and 30 min. (recess).   By preparing the students in tech class how to use the programs, they will just use that time in class to reinforce their Keyboarding and Coding skills.  


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Understanding Leadership - Tues., Feb. 7, 2017

This week's assignment was to make a visual representation of my thoughts on the leadership readings this week.  Though I used the topic "Leadership" as the center of my mind map, I really wanted to put lightning bolts out from all sides with the word CHANGE written on each lightning bolt.  Change effects leadership every second of the day.  It's like the weather in Vermont, wait 5 minutes and it will change.  

Learning about mind maps and visual note-taking on was not a new concept, but not something I had a great deal of practice with.  I spent hours researching different sites that I could use.  I wanted to do just good old pencil and paper, but forged on to find "Mindmeister."  I liked the samples and thought I could make them work for me.  One of its greatest strengths is the video instruction that comes along with it.  Truly mind maps for dummies and it was advertised for free!  BUT free has a cost as I couldn't download a JPEG or PDF, so I'm linking the map.  

My very rough draft  ViSUALIZATION of the Article:  Leadership Past, Present and Future , and two different resources on the Diigo group about leadership theory, traits, and styles was created on MindMeister's free application.  

I used "" for another Mind map I made, but wanted to try something new for this posting so after scouring the links provided this week, I decided on MindMeister.   I didn't buy it, as I'm not sure it's the best.  I need to experiment with it more and try it out with teachers to see what they think and then I might get the school professional subscription.  

Using mind maps and visual note-taking "digitally" is a paradigm shift from whiteboards and old-fashioned overhead projectors.  As a science teacher, I was always creating mind maps, but doing it digitally is world-altering different.  I'm excited about learning this new tool.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Who Do I Admire as a Leader? - Jan. 17, 2017

Who Do I Admire as a Leader?  - Jan. 17, 2017

The leader that I admire always has a smile and a friendly greeting when you approach her.  She actively listens and asks clarifying questions as needed.  She doesn't react, she responds.  She asks what your plan of action is and then asks questions to help me refine my ideas.  She is patient and supportive, and never has a negative thing to say about anyone else.   Their leadership style is team based, not top down.  She works hard, but is never too busy to help.  She never gets "flustered."  She doesn't have meetings for the sake of meetings, and if there is a meeting, she respects people's time and starts/ends on time.  She isn't afraid to say, "I don't know," I'll find out and get back to you, or "let's research that together."  She is the ultimate professional and the kind of educational leader that I aspire to be.  She "lights" up the darkside for me and everyone who knows her.   

Who Am I As a Leader? - Mon., Jan. 17, 2017

Who am I as a Leader? - Mon., Jan. 17, 2017

Eleven years ago I was teaching in a small, rural school, and had the opportunity to transition into a principal position at a neighboring small school.    I had always been a teacher leader, always president of this and that, always the "do-be," so I thought "why not??   I was fairly active in the local union, and when I told the NEA rep. what I was considering, he said, "Oh, no, you're crossing over to the dark side!"  I didn't really take it to heart since his position was naturally adversarial to administration having just finished contract negotiations.  Since then I've understood what he meant by that, and so I'm creating this blog for the class as I "search for the light from the dark side."  

The important work for me as a leader is supporting teachers so that they can do their job.  Having been a teacher for over twenty years, working for a supportive principal can make a break a teacher, especially a new one.  Teachers have a hard job, and administrators can make it even harder if they aren't leading.

As a leader, I use two factors to guide me - what's best for kids, in partnership with the "golden rule" - treating the other person like I'd want to be treated.   When making decisions for my organization, I still think about the students first, and then the community and how that will impact the parents.  I still have a teacher license, and think like a teacher, so my decisions are guided by what a teacher would want.  

Getting the work of the school done is a formidable journey, especially right now.  The focus changes depending on the time of the year and who's in charge of the spotlight.    Educationally, teachers think "long term" and how this fits into preparing those students for career and college ready, yet short term in the day to day lesson plans.  Action plans help guide the way for the staff, Board, and community.

I communicate with others in a variety of ways.  The number one way to communicate with parents and the community is through my weekly "Rockets Report" blog that they receive every Sunday.  I have a separate "blog" for my staff community.  When possible, I prefer face to face conversations, but to make sure that everyone has access to the same news, it's the blog.  

My decision making process depends on the type of decision and who the stakeholders are.  If it's a decision that affects the staff or students, then it's a "shared" decision.  I present options and my rationale, and let the staff discuss and decide.  If it's an "executive" decision, then I go with my guidelines as mentioned above.

Determining what resources to use and how to use them is an evolving process.  Since we're small, it's usually about cost, so how can it be done for little or no cost?  If it's human resources, then it's about avoiding burn-out and sharing the burden.  I have a bad habit of being the "fallback" resource that gets overused, something I'm aware of and working on.

As I've lead groups, I really believe in teams and shared decision making.  Throughout my career, I've worked with  "School Improvement Teams" made up of volunteer staff who don't mind a little extra "meeting time."  We operate with group norms, an agenda, and minutes with rotating facilitators.   As a teacher, I'd been on "teams" where there was a mandatory rep. for each grade, but found that mandatory does not necessarily make the best team member.  When I was a camp director, I'd have an "admin team" that consisted of all key stakeholders - asst. director, nurse, cook, program director, H20 director, etc. where we discussed/brainstormed/planned/cried, etc.  In my current school, we have so few staff members that everyone is on the SIT team, but we do break down into "committees" on certain topics like PBIS, etc.  I'm not afraid to make a decision.  I have no problem with "executive decisions" and make them when I have to, but consensus and buy-in are key to growth in an organization.  

It's easier for me to see the "light" when there's a team actively working towards the goal.   It also "lightens" my load considerably.  And so my search continues....