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.

Fotor / #Kinderblog14 Week 3

I love it when I can tackle a couple of assignments at the same time. This reminds me of multifaceted assessments that help inform me in a number of areas rather than one single focused skill.

My weekly webinar with Australian friends, Jo Hart, Phil Hart, and Jo Freitag, challenged me to use a tool I test drove last week called Fotor and to create an artifact while using it.

#Kinderblog14 asks people to choose/write a post on one of a couple options.  I am choosing to do “Option 2: How do you feel about where you live? This could be your house, your neighbourhood, your city, region, even your country. What do you love about it? What do you hate? What would you change if you could?

So, I will try to present one of my favorite places that I call home, Bald Mountain Campground, and the seasonal site where we keep our trailer. I will use the Fotor app and site then embed the product here.

First I opened Fotor and messed around with images I have taken of the place. I opened the folders on my pc and was reminded once again that I really should organize photos in a more coherent way. There are just too many options for folders and programs. I have 1000’s of photos of school and home that are still too blended. I know I am lazy about naming pictures because you can only tag them with a unique identifier. From the pc, I only found 3 images and uploaded them to the project. Full stop! Not enough pictures for a project.

Next I went to my iPad and looked for more images. Of course that required a download of an app in order to work with Fotor. Quick enough, now I had to learn to use the app…

WOW! That took some effort. What I am not successful with yet, and what I really need to know is, can the projects be synced between devices and saved anywhere within Fotor? No luck with that yet so it’s choice time. Since the iPad had more images, I will work with that device. photo It also saved my projects in the photo album and in the app. Again, that is not syncing to the pc.

I found a number of good images and saved some of my favorites as a 9 cell collage. There are many options for cell layout and number. You can also adjust the images within the cells and expand or reduce the cells as needed. I was not able to add the images from the pc to the images from the iPad. The project you see below was completely created on the iPad. I loved that I could edit the images to get higher definition.



What do I love about it?

  • It is only 75 minutes “away.” I can leave the worries of the world behind me for a couple of days each week and be ME in a more true sense. Some days I am alone and that has a completely different feel to it.
  • The sky gets really dark without nearby or distant city lights polluting the sky.
  • The state parks are literally right next door and down the road a piece.
  • I have marvelous neighbors who share conversations on human related things in a positive way. They also share eggs!
  • There are strangers (in the form of transient campers) who always provide interesting interactions.
  • I have my wifi. That is not something I want to be away from.
  • Campfires, glow necklaces, and sky lanterns.
  • It is by a river and I love being near water in all forms and majesty.
  • A walk around the campground is a 1 mile loop. Lots of people are walking throughout the day.
  • Bigger lots than usual.
  • Animals are allowed and they are almost always quiet, well behaved, and picked up after.
  • The local area has tons of recreational opportunities.
  • Vermont people are wonderful!

What do I hate about it?

  • My phone doesn’t get a signal so I worry about not being in contact with loved ones. Email works but only if I check it obsessively and reboot.

What would I change if I could?

  • While the trailer sleeps 7, it isn’t very cozy when it’s full. It really only sleeps 5 comfortably and two of those are narrow bunks.
  • Low water pressure means longer showers for rinsing off.
  • I would  have a site directly on the river bank AND still have sewer hookup AND still get wifi. Neither of the latter are available on the river directly at this time.
  • AT&T would have cell reception. Sorry AT&T but you are becoming a bigger drawback by the day.

Now back to playing with Fotor. I actually continued the post here but it got to be really long and unwieldy to navigate so I cut and pasted it to a new and dedicated post.

Supports For Good Teaching and Learning

I have several unpublished posts for this blog. That’s part of the beast for reflection in blogging. Now there is a blogging challenge put on by the folks of #Kinderchat. What a great opportunity it presents for editing the older piece and getting it out there. So thanks to Amy and the rest of the #kinderchat community for presenting #Kinderblog14.

I had a real blast teaching the science based curriculum that I created for the year.  The children were really engaged and the cross curriculum worked splendidly!

Even with all the good news, I know that it was not enough to satisfy my needs as an educator.  We all operate a bit differently and I am no exception. I finally got the IWB I had been whining about for years. What I didn’t count on was the challenge in making the system of tools work together with ease and practicality.

In an ideal world, the learning would be captured quickly and efficiently by having tech tools at the ready and doing what they need to do. Not the case! I couldn’t keep the laptop (a refurbished Mac) connected to the internet and the linking was slower than my old iPhone.  Later in the Spring, a newer hub was added that gave me a better signal but dropped me whenever it was idle which was often.  Kindergarten kids aren’t inclined to wait around minute after minute for me to get the material up and running. They also couldn’t get to record the audio and video of what they knew. Updates are rarely done on the equipment and I give too many hours in prepping them so I get behind. I miss that presentation piece.

In the old days, I used my PC and an attached webcam but apart from the minimal bandwidth and the old tech, the kids were able to regularly log on and present their newly acquired knowledge.

In many schools, students have a set of laptops, or better yet iPads, in each classroom. We all know how adept kids are about using technology, and a dedicated iPad in the hands of a kid can really be a rich and active experience. They demonstrate, collaborate, record with audio or video, and learn the important life skills associated with online learning. The posts in our feeds each day detail the wonderful apps that are available and making the learning more accessible.

We are an underfunded public school and the town defeated an override request which meant layoffs and zero funding for classrooms. To put it in perspective though, Massachusetts is highest in student ranking and spending at $13,361.Being third from the bottom is probably still higher than many other schools.

I think we may very well move lower on the per student funding charts from our already abysmal third from the bottom (for schools of our demographic) to an even lower spot. One of the things eliminated (along with several teachers) is the 1/2 time tech support – 1/2 time custodian. So about those technology needs…

Skype Call With Our Keiki Pals!


skypeLast week, we had a great Skype conversation with Mrs. Lee’s kindergarten “keiki” in Honolulu. We had prepared some questions in advance so the conversation moved right along. Our new friends answered those questions and asked some of us as well. Over the coming months, we will reconnect and expand on our conversations. Since we are changing the clocks this weekend, we will only have 5 hours time difference. That will ease the schedule.  Screen shot 2013-10-22 at 2.32.14 PM Screen shot 2013-10-22 at 2.35.12 PM Screen shot 2013-10-22 at 2.36.31 PM

Images of our class have been removed as permissions have changed.