Friday, July 30, 2010

My Reading List

As I shared in my previous post, I have decided to join in on the 48-Hour Read-A-Thon in order to get myself back into reading. I wanted to share with you the books I will be reading this weekend. I've already started the first two, The Book Whisperer and The Magician, both of which I highly recommend. When I finish with those two, I'll move on to The Book Thief and Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life.

In case you're wondering about my fancy bookends, those are the "just in case" books for this weekend (as in, "just in case I finish all four books I'll have more reasons to continue lounging around enjoying my read-a-thon!") Those books are:

Time to get back to the couch. That's where my books are!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

48-Hour Read-A-Thon

I am a teacher. I pride myself on getting middle school students to love reading. The best compliment a parent ever paid me was almost a complaint: "We could never get him to read before; now, we can't get him to put down the books!" I love reading! There's nothing better than curling up with a good book and staying there until I've finished it.

And yet, I have not done nearly enough reading in the last year or so. I let school get in the way of my biggest joy in life. How can I expect to remain happy in my career if it keeps me, or if I let it keep me, from something that gives me joy?

Time to make some changes...starting this weekend! Enter the 48-Hour Read-A-Thon. It's quite simple. Just take time away from other activities like television-watching or internet-surfing and devote that time to reading. I can do this! Will you join me?

Here are the guidelines from the Unputdownables blog:

If You’re In:
  1. Choose a few books that you will attempt to finish this weekend (Friday evening through Sunday night).
  2. Post your TBR Read-a-Thon books on your blog so your readers can see what you are attempting for the weekend.
  3. Challenge your readers to read along with you! (It’s OK if they don’t, but might be fun if they want to choose at least one book to participate with).
  4. Join the discussion all weekend long at #bookblogchat on Twitter.
  5. Post updates on your blog about what you are reading and what you have finished (full reviews can come later, but this will let your readers know what you are reading so they can either read along or look forward to your reviews!)
  6. Visit other blogs that are doing the read-a-long. Post comments and follow your fellow bloggers.
  7. Make sure you sign up here with Mr. Linky with a link to your first post so we can follow your progress!
  8. *If you don’t have a blog but want to participate: Sign up with Mr. Linky, just don’t add a website (or you can link to your Twitter or GoodReads page).*

If You’re Not In, but Want to Support:
  1. Check out the blogs that are participating below in the Mr. Linky list.
  2. Visit those blogs and leave comments and encouragement
  3. Add to your own TBRs as you see what others are reading!

And here is my reading challenge for this weekend:
  • The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller (I've started it, but plan to finish it)
  • The Magician by Michael Scott (I'm surprised I put it down to write this post!)
  • Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
It's tempting to add another twenty books to this list, but I need to keep the list manageable for this slow reader! Now, I wonder what would make the best snacks...

Friday, July 9, 2010

My Thoughts on ISTE

It's an interesting experience meeting for the first time people you have considered friends for several years. And it's an experience that can be hard to explain if you haven't been through it yourself. Let me put it to you this way: You know that feeling when you're meeting someone for the first time, when you feel like you've known them forever, and you know instantly that you'll be friends for a very long time? Multiply that feeling by about one hundred and you'll understand what it was like for me in Denver last month.

I wasn't exactly sure what to expect when meeting the members of my PLN (personal learning network) for the first time. I definitely did not expect to feel like I was amongst family from the moment I stepped off the plane in Denver. But, I guess when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. These are people from all over the world, from all walks of life, that share something very important: a passion for education and the use of technology in education. In other words, if you ignore the differences in height or weight, hair color, eye color, or skin color, rock star status or starry-eyed groupie, those of us gathered at ISTE for a few short days were really all the same. Educators dedicated to our students.

There is a phrase that keeps bouncing around in my brain ever since ISTE, and it's something that Vicki Davis said in one of her sessions. We always talk about our "three takeaways" when it comes to conferences or professional development of any kind, the three new ideas or tools you take with you back to your classroom. But Vicki put it in a way I had never heard before:
If you don't do something with the information you get from a conference right after you get home, you won't be changed.
I won't be changed. When I really started to think about it, I think that was the reason I went to ISTE. I wanted to be changed. I wanted to be different afterward. I wanted for something deep down inside me to wake up and say, "This is it! This is what you are meant to do! Now, go do it!!"

I probably should have asked for specifics.

Three Takeaways

Let's start here. Just what were my three takeaways from ISTE? They can be summed up thus: Connections. Creativity. Collaboration.


By far, the best part of ISTE for me was being able to connect to the amazing people who make up my PLN. Being around people who think like I do when it comes to student learning was invigorating, but it was also incredibly validating...I wasn't the only one in the room who knew what was going on with technology! What a novel concept!

My Connections Takeaway. During the school year, I get so involved in all the things that make up my job that I always seem to be working. All day. Every day. I can't keep that up. I need to make sure to include time in my year to connect with my friends. There are so many different ways to connect with people in the 21st century; I know that. Any type of connection, virtual or otherwise, will be so much better than none. I made so many amazing connections while I was in Denver, and I'm bound to make even more connections at Google next week. These are connections that don't end when the school year begins, at least not if I nurture those connections instead of ignore them. Or myself.


Most of what I learned in sessions at ISTE, at the Denver Zoo with all those amazing Discovery Educators, and in plenty of moments in the Bloggers' Cafe, could fall under the category "creativity." If you want to engage your students, bring creativity back into the classroom. We know we have standards to worry about and tests to work toward, but what about the learning? Shouldn't learning be fun? I love learning something new; I find learning to be incredibly exciting and full of hope and promise. Do you? Do your students?

My Creativity Takeaway. There are so many ways to allow our students to be creative in showing what they know. We just need to be open to letting them. Let the students decide how they will be assessed. Not only will they have a more vested interest in the process, but they will go above and beyond what you think they are capable of. I saw that very clearly last year. One of my goals for the last school year was to take a step or two outside of my comfort zone and let my students have more control over their learning. It led to some pretty amazing experiences for all of us. As it turns out, part of the reason the kids loved it so much was that they felt like someone was finally listening to them and honoring their ideas and opinions.

In case you're wondering about the picture above, I took it during one of Rushton Hurley's sessions. He is an incredibly dynamic speaker, not to mention truly inspiring. It's hard to capture the essence of a presentation in a photograph, but I think the energy with which Rushton shares his passion came through fairly well in this picture.


Before leaving for Denver, I asked myself what my goals were for ISTE. One of my main goals was to learn more about collaboration, but I especially wanted to know more specifics about how I can get my students working with students from other schools, other states, even other countries.

My Collaboration Takeaway. My biggest concern about collaborating with other schools has always been that I wouldn't be able to manage the project and that I might let someone down. My learning issues make doing my job challenging enough. Would I be able to handle what I imagine would be a fairly large undertaking?

For all those who know me, I'm sure this will be a tremendous shock: I believe I may have been overthinking things a bit. I'll give you a moment to recover from that incredible insight. ISTE I was able to attend Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay's session 7 Steps to Flatten Your Classroom. It was probably the best thing I could have done while at ISTE in terms of my own growth as a teacher. Vicki and Julie make it sound easy enough that even I could handle it. I know that I'll have many moments of doubt in any project of this nature, but being at ISTE reminded me that I have people all over the world that I can lean on for support. That alone gives me the confidence to step a little further outside of my comfort zone.

And Finally...

To be honest, I think my biggest takeaways from ISTE had nothing whatsoever to do with technology or even education. I learned a lot about myself while I was in Denver, and I was able to see the changes that I've made as a teacher and as a person in the last five years or so. I'm not the person I once was, and that's a good thing. Talking with teachers from all over the globe made me realize that maybe I don't need to be in a classroom to make changes in education, but I'm there now and it seems like I may just have some pretty good ideas. Stay tuned...

Miscellaneous Takeaways.

True "Rock Stars" are those who don't believe they are.

Learning happens anywhere...

...and is more fun with a few thousand of your closest friends.

Life comes with musical accompaniment, and you get to choose the soundtrack.

There are so many ways to communicate; never miss an opportunity to reach out.

And, most importantly...

Great friends...

...are great friends...

 matter where...

...or how...

 find each other.

My deepest gratitude to all of those who have helped me along on my journey. The journey is never smooth...but that's what makes it interesting!

Photos: Most are mine and can be found here: Flickr

Photo from EduBloggercon is from Peggy George

Photo of Lee Kolbert and Me is from Lee Kolbert, taken by Teryl Magee

Photo of Teryl Magee and Me in Bloggers' Cafe is from Melanie Holtsman

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Notes From McTeach...And YOU!

I'm sure everyone is breathless with anticipation for my first blog post about ISTE 2010. Unfortunately, I was left rather breathless from the entire ISTE experience. I have several blog posts rolling around my brain (or one really, really LONG post), but for the moment I just need to rest and let my brain recuperate from such an amazing experience.

In the meantime, I'd like to ask for your help. I attended two of Vicki Davis's sessions yesterday at ISTE, and would love to have some help with my notes. If you took notes at either of these sessions, would you be willing to add them to these Google Docs? I really appreciate the help with my own learning, but I also want to show my students and other teachers how powerful a PLN can be in helping me learn and grow.

I truly appreciate any help I can get with my notes! My PLN has been an amazing source of knowledge and, more importantly, support. I just hope I can return the favor sometime.