Connected Educator Month 2014 #CEM

Getting up earlier now and then allows me some time to dig into the material I am connected with daily via email, Twitter, and RSS. Today, I spotted a post on one of my favorite blogs The Edublogger, inviting everyone to expand their PLNs.

While I can say with confidence my PLN feels pretty healthy, I know that there are an infinite number of possibilities for my own learning and that can and does happen via new connections. The reason my PLN feels so healthy is due in great measure to the exercises and challenges I have pursued via The Edublogger and other groups.I look forward to the weekly challenges and will continue to explore the #CEM website for new thinking, teaching, and learning ideas.

Some of the other places I am connecting through during Connected Educator Month are:

I have already written about the ConnectedCourses challenge, next I will invite my PLN to join the Hour of Code movement.

 

Wellness

This is an example of a post that did not pass muster for my classroom blog and therefore has been posted on this reflections blog. Sometimes the message is delivered too passionately and families may be offended. I can accept that and appreciate having this space to let it all go!

A big piece of a child’s life calls upon them to practice good habits for wellness. Most of this learning and practice goes on back at home. I was raised in more simple and meager times. Our foundation included healthy food on a daily basis, no dessert except for special occasions, and plenty of exercise. We did not have between meal snacks.

Our parents made sure we were outside of the house playing with friends. This didn’t mean going into a friend’s house because their parents kicked them outdoors as well. As a result, we walked miles and miles every day, not including the 2 mile hike to school and back, which really did feel like it was all uphill both ways.

Now our children lead more passive lives. The kids are not playing outside with neighborhood friends from sun-up to sundown. We protect our children with pads and helmets, and sports are coached and supervised by caring adults.  The initiative by the children themselves can get lost here. Will children learn lessons without the close and caring support of an adult? Will they try things out as a feat of daring and learn from it rather than simply worry about whether Mom and Dad will get mad? That takes confidence.

I am trying to instill a personal sense of ownership for wellness but this all too often means I am “interfering” in the actual process. I am directing the child to do the exercises and run the laps. Sure the leader for the day gets to pick the activities but I am issuing the expectations.

You pack the lunch or the child buys the lunch. Do you know what your child is eating from the foods provided? If you have included a sweet dessert, it is probably eaten first. Most of the healthier foods are thrown in the trash. I can’t simply tell the kids to eat the most nutritious things in their lunchbox and save the sweets for later. That is just too high an expectation.

Our cafeteria has few sweet treats now. There are tons of starches in the lunches but the staff are following the national standards for lunch programs. That also means the child must have a veggie or fruit on their tray even though they never eat it, just dump it. It’s the law.

The government is really concerned about the wellness of children. They created this website but it’s easy to miss. Let’s Move!

The primary focus seems to be obesity as that has reached epidemic proportions. Parents in the upper grades can be furious when they get the report from the nurse that their child’s BMI is too high. The BMI number and diagnosis of a problem can be hard to swallow. So is the fact that the child is not able to meet fitness goals because they lack strength, coordination, and stamina. The latter is not reported to parents. If they saw a decline in wellness via a drop in those scores, I’m sure parents would initiate a better family exercise program.

As an educator of the whole child, I take my responsibility very seriously. I will teach the children the facts and we will practice wellness during my watch. All of this can be undone if it is not supported at home as well. There are no real shortcuts to wellness. We need to practice healthy habits all day every day so that the occasional dessert or video game become what they are supposed to be, a treat and not an expectation.

Trust and Network Fluency – #CCourses

The task put forth this week in the #ConnectedCourses MOOC is the following:

In the quantum learning space where interest is a key driver, how do we employ the same dynamics in our teaching? Or, how do we leverage the power of open? How do we maintain trust and a sense of security in open networks? How do we build our networks? What is social capital? How do we enable at-large learners to engage in our courses? Where should we teach our classes?”

I just finished reading a post by Kevin on his blog where he reflects on his own experience with this topic, When Trust Gets Breached, Repairs May Be Impossible. He points out pretty clearly through example, just how people can feel violated when the trust breaks down online.

We are often reminded in more modern times that our information is rarely private no matter what we do to limit its circulation. Alessandro Acquisti  reveals just how extreme the invasion can be in this TED video, “A Creepy Talk.”

Keeping trust in the front of my mind, I am reflecting on how to create a truly closed and safe environment for the sharing of learning by very young children. Not only do I want them to dive right into the good stuff, I need to make sure they are not exposed to content that is unacceptable. That is one piece of the trust conversation that parents will expect.

Another piece is the need for a “safe” environment that includes making mistakes and moving on to try again.

How many times have we seen comments left on people’s blog posts that take them to task for something in a destructive tone. No one wants to be exposed to undue criticism or even ridicule. Fortunately, we work in education, where by and large the readers are respectful of our efforts and can add to a conversation without rancor.

Can our students find the same safety in their online learning experience? That speaks to the “social capital” mentioned in this week’s quote. It will be my job to establish clear expectations and even moderate comments, if necessary, to protect the innocent.

The #CCourses MOOC continues with “Trust and Network Fluency.”

 

Setting Goals and Finding Purpose

I found another thought-provoking post in my feed today. This one is at one of my favorite sites, Edutopia, and it’s called Helping Students Find Purpose and Appreciation for School by Maurice Elias.  In it he discusses the need for teachers and students to/for:

  1. Recharge
  2. Appreciation
  3. Ownership
  4. Purpose.

Recharge – kindergarten children need plenty of breaks and changes of pace. I suspect this matters in all grades but less attention is given to implementing it on a regular basis.

Appreciation – Acknowledge and include the small successes along the way. Not only do the children feel successful but you are giving yourself a pat on the back at the same time. Children are more confident about trying things when they get recognition for their gradual advancement.

Ownership – Is it important to the student? Have they made a personal connection to the learning experience? Do they have options and a voice in how the lessons and learning will go? Is the learning inquiry based so they ask the important questions and the learning is advanced for all?

Purpose – Talk with your students and your peers whenever possible so they can see the bigger picture, so they can understand the why and wherefore. When my class talks about their personal goals, they see their progress and think of ways to extend the goals.

We all have so much to learn. A growth mindset will keep it rolling with tremendous satisfaction.

Self-Regulation and #CCourses

I was reading this post today on self-regulation in order to better understand my students who struggle with it. This is a yearly challenge for all teachers but most especially early childhood teachers as our kids are often at a more primitive place in developing their own self-regulation.

Quoting directly from the post by Dr. Alyssa Sawyer,

The economist James Heckman described two components as central to children’s success: cognitive and non-cognitive skills. Cognitive skills refer to intelligence, while non-cognitive skills refer to personality characteristics such as self-regulation. While both are crucial, in our recent research we were particularly interested in self-regulation skills, focusing on understanding how children’s abilities to pay attention and persist with tasks, and to regulate their emotions, affect their ability to learn and achieve at school.”

This is a very big deal. When I think about creating an online learning environment, I know that it is critical. I see students who lash out on impulse, who daydream in a fantasy world while the teaching is going on, and how they look for the teacher to do the thinking for them.

Like so many other things in life, students need meaningful time to practice and reflect. In kindergarten, that means keeping students aware of what they should be doing and redirecting them to that. It is important that the redirection itself become part of the learning experience so they can get a handle on it themselves. Far better is it to work meta-cognitively and be in the learning moment with purpose.

But that is not as easy as I wish it were. Johnny will still creep over to Sean and touch him, push him, talk with him, distract him in any way possible. They will both miss the instructions or the sharing and discussions with other students.

There is nothing “wrong” with Johnny but he and others can be missing out on the learning going on around them so self regulation needs to be stepped up a bit.

Presenting the learning via an online space means I will not be watching the learners first hand. Parents cannot be expected to sit with their child throughout the lessons but I think they can be supportive facilitators of the online experience. That means the students need to hang in there through the slower pieces and alert for the appropriate response, be that practice, exploration, discussion, or assessment.

The results of Dr. Sawyers research suggest, “In particular, the ability to regulate attention in order to attend to and persist with tasks was found to effect both maths and literacy achievement.”

What does that mean for me as an educator developing an online curriculum? I will see how this plays out over time. I will need to keep a wide range of skills and abilities linked to developmentally appropriate challenges. At the same time I will need to expect a close watch over those further back in the self regulation spectrum and be ready to cycle back with online supports as needed.