Three C’s: Creating Collaborative Culture

     Creating Collaborative Culture is the key to a successful, productive year! Defining culture is more global than you might think. What I’m proposing is creating 3 critical cultures: collaborative classroom culture, collaborative parent culture, and collaborative collegial culture!

                                                                  Ice Cream Social
 Padlet-summer highlights
                                        Get-to-know each TEAM member Hershey Kiss puzzle
     Collaborative classroom culture starts with the students! Even before the first day of school arrives, relationships begin to form early when a plethora of opportunities are presented. Some of the initial contact begins with supportive school events and the other imperative piece is teacher/team contact. Our school hosts many transition opportunities as students ready themselves for a new school year which include tours led by student body leaders, and even an Ice Cream Social which allows students and parents to meet the teachers! Team teacher’s mail out welcome letters telling students what is needed for their classes as they begin their annual school shopping! When students arrive on day 1, in my room, they are greeted at the door and they quickly realize school is going to be fun today! Soon they are chanting, “Happy New Year,” and are excited for a great school year!


Happy New ‘School’ Year! 1, 2, 3…

Happy New “School” Year! Balloon pop with secret message which requires action by students!

     The first week of school is filled with get to know you activities that required students to interact, communicate, collaborate, and problem solve with a partner, in a table group, as a classroom, and as a team! The room is welcoming and active! Students are engaged and hooked immediately. They are challenged with an ambitious project in science class. Students are communicating with me outside of school too through Edmodo seeking feedback as they work on their project during self-directed efforts. All of what I am sharing with you was done in a mere 8 days which sums up the first 2 weeks of school. The students feel connected and cannot wait for the next school day-this is the power of culture I refer to!
     Classroom pets arrive and a scientific study begins. The Great Grow Along-Nutrition study! Students love the 2 sister albino rats and are immediately loving and taking care of them. Students vote on names for the rats. They record mass and tail length measurements daily as they observe the growth impact from Rat 1 receiving sugar water and Rat 2 receiving whole milk. Handling procedures are modeled and utilized. Feeding and cleaning is done weekly. And of course, play and exercise time is a student favorite as you can see below.

Great Grow Along

     Students are immersed in a screencast science project called, “Science Is All Around Our Town!” This appsmashing adventure requires an enormous amount of peer interaction to learn the apps being used. Students are using netbooks as well as their own devices should they choose to. In large group, problem solving happens each step of the way. Teacher helping students, students helping teacher, students helping students…to move the group forward creating accounts, using apps, and combining the individual project parts together to make a presentation demonstrating learning about science around our town, the “Sweetest place on Earth” the community of Hershey, PA!

     Apps & URLs used by students include a science picture taken with digital

device,, Edmodo, Google Docs, Chirp, I-Nigma, Google Earth & Maps, and Educreations. Later screencast links will be layARed into our town map for the world to learn from my students about Science All Around Town!

Science Around Town 1

Science Around Town 2

Science Around Town 3

     Collaborative parent culture is essential to provide students with the greatest amount of support. When parents and teachers work together, students are sure to have success. To facilitate communication immediately, A week before the first day of school, I sent out a Google Survey requesting contact information, shared an invitation to my class science Facebook page, and asked parents to tell me something they would like me to know about their child. Parents are encouraged to get teacher text messages using Remind 101 to improve communication. These tools have made my teaching transparent and allow parents to see what is happening from the daily Facebook posts and pictures. Parents have been very open to using these resources as well as email and have shared openly about who their child is and what their child needs. This feedback has helped me to get to know individual students more quickly and is helpful for me to better provide what each student needs. Transparent communication grows the culture with parents efficiently from day one.
Parent Communication….
     Collaborative collegial culture begins prior to even the first inservice day. Our district is supportive of professional learning communities and provide time for the meeting of two groups: Team (core teachers, support teachers, & guidance) meet to discuss team students which is comprised of approximately 100 students. Instructional needs are discussed. When data is available it is used to drive strategic planning. This is also a time for parent meetings as necessary. PLC (grade level department teachers ie: 3 6th grade science teachers) meet to examine teaching styles, analyze assessment data and student learning, as well as critique facilitation of concepts. My PLC even videotape ourselves. We collaboratively view our teaching and seek critical feedback. The collaborative collegial culture puts students first and is all about student learning. Our staff is part of a larger school community that we model paying it forward and empathy from the top down. We do many school wide projects with our students. On the first inservice day our staff prepared 10,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now! We have a Turkey Trot at Thanksgiving where we run/walk 2 miles to promote healthy living, includes a food drive for our local food bank and culminates with a pep rally. We also hold a MiniTHON 4 Diamonds Cancer Dance-A-thon in conjunction with our high school. We value community and it is part of our COCOA principles: Community, Opportunity, Citizenship, Ownership & Academics! (!
Stop Hunger Now!
 Annual Turkey Trot & Hershey Food Bank Can Drive
Hershey Middle School MiniThon 4 Diamonds event


Do you have what it takes to make the Next Generation #EduPitCrew?
Pic courtesy of Fox News/Holly Cain

Sundays are synonymous for many with watching their favorite sports on the big screen; living vicariously through seasonal change with NHL, NFL, MLB, MBA, and what led me to write this blog-NASCAR! While viewing NASCAR Countdown, the video shows a “Next Generation Tryout” system that Hendrick Racing uses for recruiting pit crew members to their elite organization. I was engrossed as I viewed the intensity each player exuded focusing on a personal best performance striving to make the team. In that moment I realized that there is a huge take away that can be applied to what is happening in education. The point being that each member contributes to a team and brings a unique drive, passion, work ethic, life developed skill, experience, grit, determination, perseverance, and a need to work together towards a common goal. Individuals bring strengths and weaknesses that need to be equalized to avoid being lapped on the proverbial track. The goal in NASCAR obviously is to win races, and the pit crew team’s performance, in a split second, can mean the difference of getting the win or falling back in the field. The members that make up the pit crew are critical to the team’s outcome. The pit crew is critical to the organization which is dynamic; and includes owner, driver, manager, body crew, engine crew/engineers, crew chief, and pit crew. The organization’s performance is constantly critiqued by sponsors and fans. Much like an educational organization which is complex and multifaceted. The EduPitCrew includes superintendents, principals, guidance, departments, grade levels, teachers and support staff. The schools are consistently critiqued by community members, parents, and students. A fine tuned team that works in sync creates a powerful synergy that pulls ahead of the rest on the track. When the team works as a cohesive group where by the sum of its parts is the ability of the group, it will outperform even its best individual member every time. If educators embrace this system the organization will increase horsepower and sling shot to success!

photos courtesy of &

     Educators, Start Your Semi-Conductors!
     So what does a winning EduPitCrew look like? The system should consider following the MAGNAFLUX process. So let’s detail the process. Magnaflux is the examining of systemic parts, consideration of elements in suspension (effectiveness of communication), connecting fluid factors (effectiveness of collaborative teamwork), checking for cracks and other defects using a solution. Active engagement in Magnaflux by all constituents are required for winning performance. The systemic goal must be looked at through a 21st Century lens to ready students to use critical thinking & problem solving, creativity & innovation, communication & collaboration, as well as information, media & technology skills. It is much like manufacturing a race car, educational leaders must look at the system from the inside out; from the engine to the paint scheme.
     In a Jan. 2012 article, “Inside NASCAR: ‘Fuel Injection a Really Big Step’ stated that NASCAR has used the same carburetor for the past 40 years. “The technology’s moved on. It’s time to move on.” -Harold Comstock. The sport says goodbye to the carburetor and welcomes EFI (electronic fuel injection). He continues, “In many ways, the engine will be more efficient because we can give exactly the right amount of fuel to each cylinder that it needs.” Pit row is open, the educational system needs to lead a lap. When leaving the pit box, the message needs to start with the drivers (the individuals). The race day strategy must consider the course but not allow it to over power the goal. The goal is for the driver to be a life-long committed learner, driven by interest and a passion to learn as much as possible. Educators need to take a self-directed learning path to hone their skills. Educators that are encouraged by the organization to take risks and are supported through the entire process model innovation and creation which impacts their colleagues and students in new ways which lead to systemic efficacy. 
     As we approach corner one on the track, let’s take a look at suspension. Suspension is being used in the context of postponing judgement. Idea exchange and honest feedback is disseminated. At times this proves to be an uncomfortable ride. Critical feedback is necessary at all organizational levels. Discourse needs to happen in clear, unemotional ways. I suggest that critical feedback be accepted as input. Input comes in and the driver analyzes the feedback and chooses whether it can improve the performance, thought, idea, project, prototype, model, creation, etc. Critical feedback is necessary to generate change and growth. As stated in my previous blog, “The smartest person in the world, is the world When we are open to input we have the world’s thinkers available to help to move the idea/project/goal forward. 
     The drivers pull ahead to corner two, fluid factors are at work as team members draft for position. Organizational leaders need to guide the team down the social media chute. Educators must be shown the Magnitude of Twitter Social media is an untapped resource that provides educators with intense horse power. Collaboration with other online educators revved my engine. I was exposed to an enormous amount of educational practices during qualifying. My starting position input was used to better my personal teaching practice and the result is a direct benefit to the students I am entrusted with and opens communication with parents. A great amount of self-directed work was completed. Feedback and reflections furthered adjustments. Failures will happen and the experience and input will be used to learn and adjust. When educators tap into the passion that drove them to become educators in the first place, do the self-directed work, collaborate with others utilizing all means of resources (face to face, conferences, social media, podcasts, webinars, free online learning as well as college classes) and are open to receive the critical feedback as input to reflect and rethink their thinking–it gives the driver an advantage on the track when the restart is signaled.
     Soon the drivers bank corner three, it’s time to check for cracks and other defects in the system before getting to the black and white checkered flag at the finish line. This is a shared responsibility by the EduPitCrew and should be a transparent process. Each team needs to gauge effectively their role in the system. Using the Potential Hazard scale example found in the Magnitude of Twitter post, the model can be a starting place for determining the levels of connectivity and the effectiveness of the system. Aerodynamics are good, members use their talents collectively to move the organization at great speeds across the finish line for a win. The win today is celebrated and can be learned from in preparation for the next track-the next race-(the next school year-the next student) that your EduCrewPit will have an impact on. Using the Magnaflux process, you can be sure that the sponsors and fans (the community members, parents and students) are in the stands cheering you on!

Magnitude of Twitter

New to Twitter as of July, I have experienced the sheer ‘Magnitude’ of Twitter as a professional learning community. I started blogging and documenting my journey for DoMoreEdu. This evolution led me to write my recent post for #LeadershipDay13, HyperThink.” In HyperThink, I proposed that the smartest person in the world is the world! I discussed that this is a time of exponential change, we can no longer keep our ideas and voice to ourselves. We must engage in critical thinking and collaborate with others to not only dream the future but design the future.

     Yesterday, I had the pleasure to twitterating (deep meta-cognition discourse) with Grant Lichtman. This opportunity arose when he commented on my blog post, HyperThink. After commending me for my great quote, The smartest person in the world is the world! He shared a tweet, “Learning ecosystem=evolution of the cognitosphere. Connectivity, synergy, symbiosis measures of system health.” As a connected learner, I was immediately intrigued and responded with, people don’t realize the magnitude behind it! He quipped, “As a former geologist: 11 on the Richter scale puts a crack around the whole globe.” Loving science and tapping into my passion and drive I responded with 10+ magnitude on the ECOSYSTEM Richter scale! Blam! He countered with, “Hmm, maybe should develop equivalent of Richter Scale for school innovation, from quiet rumble to global split!” With jubilation, I stated, let’s do it! ‘Collaboration’ at it’s best!
     You see, my journey on Twitter has provided myriad of personal experiences with many educational leaders and passionate Tweeps striving to learn from each other. Constructing my own learning from the experiences I’ve recently absorbed have led me to observe that everyone has a voice, are being called to take risks and challenged to use our voice as change agents. The sheer power and ‘Magnitude’ of Twitter, has catastrophic future events should we not use our voice. As a world uniting on the Twitter #Hyperloop (future idea design transportation collaboration system) to solve the world’s needs it is and could remain an untapped resource should we not take board the pneumatic hovercraft known as the Internet/social media.
     As change agents, we need to take on the challenge to have our voice heard. This means active engagement with the Twit Hyperloop transformational highway. We need to let our interests, experiences, talents, passion propel us forward and use our voice to converse, stimulate critical thinking in others. We need to provide critical feedback. We need to push the boundaries of thinking when we conversate. Yes Tweeps, it is important to praise when you are moved by an original thought and challenge others metacognition when you connect. When we engage with others the potential is exponential.
     Mr. Lichtman’s next Tweet setup the collaborative challenge. If I were to have clicked on the Twitter star, identifying I liked his thought and then scrolled to the next tweet in my feed, he may have never considered the lens of ‘Magnitude.’ I believe, it was the pushing of his thinking by my comment that was the inertia leading to his blog post, “Innovation: Are we overlooking the “Magnitude” with focus on frequency?”
Several great thinkers last evening engaged in our phenomenal discourse on the topic, Holly Chesser, Angel W. Kytle, Kami Thordarson, and Bo Adams added to the Hyperloop-sphere of critical conversation. Ideas like “Madonna Curve” and “Logarithmic” were explored. Great ideas evolved and opened up varied thought generation on the concept of scale to measure school innovation.
     There was canter (friendly exchange of critical remarks) back and forth further between Mr. Lichtner and I, exploring the possibilities of developing an equivalent Richter Scale for school innovation. Delaney: We don’t want to crack it but hover on the edge using mega risk! Lichtman: “Depends on what “it” is that might crack. Can argue that is exactly what we want , or that crack is inevitable.” Delaney: Great advances have both failures and success-grit, determination, perseverance to hold on for ?! Lichtman: “It’s next tool for school innovation self-assessment: what does your innovation scale look like? Love it!” 
     At that point I told Mr. Lichtman that I would work on it and get back to him and that’s exactly what I did. By the way, still at this point I had no idea that he was a reknowned change agent and TEDxTalks speaker until I perused his feed as I pondered the problem of what my scale would look like. The powerful video allowed me to collaborate with his ideas. I took notes. I analyzed his “Ecosystem and Industrial Scales.” I examined his ideas about the “Global Ecosystem.” Many of the ideas blended with my thinking about the smartest person in the world is the world. For this reason the magnetic force of attraction to each others ideas could not be avoided. I imagined the impact of his construct on “Anchors, Dams and Silos.” My creative energy was synthesizing. I created my own schema for what I call, Complexification Scale: Potential Hazards for Connected Learning and enthusiastically shared it!
Lichtner’s natural Ecosystem concept (taken from TedxTalks with G.Lichtman)
Lichtner’s Industrial concept (taken from TedxTalks with G.Lichtman)
IAA SETI Potential Hazard Scale sparked my innovation.

My work:

Potential Hazards for Connected Learning

The smartest person in the world is the world!

Complexification Scale

10    Extinction        Ideas are nonexistent

9      Endangered     Isolation of thought and fear of extinction

8     Polluted           Ideas, design, creation are stagnant

7-6   Erosion           Original thought not supported/encouraged when shared            Erosion***CRITICAL Hazard in Road! (Turning

5     Organic           Alive using collaborative skills and capable of decay                 point at which someone’s idea is inert or moves

4-3   Variable           Rooted in solid communication; some shoots embedding          pneumatically to global destination on Hyperloop.

2-1   Global             Connected learners collaborating and creating worldwide

     The Complexification Potential Hazards Scale for Global Connected Learning, was sparked by the Twitter interaction with Mr. Lichtman. Through collaborative discourse while traveling the Twitter Hyperloop (Transformational Connected Learners Highway), we moved IDEATION at light speed! We challenged each other to make an impact on the world. As a Global Learning Network (GLN), we must be the change conductors. We can do this by being self-directed learners who take risks to voice our ideas. Using social media as the tool, as change conductors, we do not have to become inert when our ideas are not embraced by another. Power forward and know that you are connected to a world with a plethora of potential waiting to be the catalyst to move your ideation forward on the Complexification Scale. I call on you to be the actuator, use pneumatic potential to voice your message and arrive at your destination having great WORLD impact when you trust the ‘Magnitude’ of Twitter!


A call to BLOG…Leadership Day 2013!

The year was 1974 and I sat in a sixth grade classroom. I recall the desks aligned in rows and I sat listening intently. My teacher, Mrs. Fallon, I didn’t know it then but was an innovative teacher that challenged her students. That afternoon, she challenged my class to think about the future. She told us to dream what it might be like 30 years from now. I recall thinking that I couldn’t imagine 30 years from now which would make it the year 2004, a new century! She encouraged thinking and directed the class to get to work. At that time the technology that was in my home included a television in the living room, a rotary dial phone, a radio, stereo, a CB, and a metal detector. This was actually a lot of technology. One of my favorite things to do was to rush home after-school and watch General Hospital on TV with my mom. As I sat pondering about the challenge in front of me I had a brainstorm, a creative burst, and I welcomed it. I crashed the white of my paper and began sketching a TV watch! How amazing would it be to view my favorite shows from my wrist! Did I dare dream of something like this. I thought it could never happen but I designed my blueprint in detail. When it came time to share, I was so proud of my work and my classmates dreamed with me about the future possibilities. At what point was my passion, innovation, idea, possibility put into a drawer and forgotten about? What path, nurturing, grit, does an idea need to lead to its purpose, technology?
     This week news dropped that generated intense interest and curiosity worldwide. What is it, you are wondering? The Hyperloop! The Hyperloop design could potentially forever change the face of transportation! Elon Musk is the creative mind behind the electric Tesla car and SpaceX rockets and is now ready to share his latest passion and genius about his high-speed travel, solar-powered, air tube concept model. It fascinates me to see the impact on society. For somewhat selfish reasons, I’m highly fixated on the future possibility of being able to travel from the East Coast to the West Coast in 30 minutes to visit my son. There is speculation of it moving at speeds of 600 mph. It’s mind-boggling! A year ago, Musk Tweeted some clues about his design. He said, ” (it’s) a cross between a Concorde, and a railgun, and an air hockey table.” Can you imagine the future? Do you have an image in your mind of what the Hyperloop will look like? Well, grab something to write with and draw a model of what you think the future of transportation will look like! Oh wait, that’s exactly what “the Tinker,” John Gardi, did. His Twitter profile reads “I’ve always been a tinker. I started by taking stuff apart. Then I learned how to put stuff back together, then how to fix it. It’s a way of life for me really.” John put his concept out there for the world to see when he tweeted on July 15th and asked Elon Musk for some basic clues to add to his concept. Musk replied to John that his was the closest guess so far and supplied the hint, “pod diameter probably around 2M.” Musk was seeking critical feedback from the world for improvements.
     I recently listened to an EduAllstars interview with a very profound educator, Angela Maiers. She stated, “The smartest person in the room is the room.” I agree strongly with her statement and propose the next step in this line of thinking, the smartest person in the world is the world! In this time of exponential change, we can no longer keep our ideas and voice to ourselves. We must engage in critical thinking and collaborate with others to not only dream the future but design the future. We must make use of social media tools to move our lone voice to great potential with many voices using critical feedback to build potential solutions to the world’s needs. Educators must create learning environments that are a buzz of voices working together to solve real world problems driven by their passion. We need to use social media and connect kids with other voices working on similar challenges. As educators, we need to be connected, passionate, involved, present, leaders who model critical thinking and critical feedback. If we dare to embrace the simple idea, the smartest person in the world, is the world, together we can use our voices for powerful creation!
Just A Tinker @John_Gardi Tweet exchange with Elon Musk                           Gardi’s wheeled intermodal pod design
Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Concept Models, images released by Tesla Motors.

John Gardi’s article posted on Motherboard explains “How Hyperloop will work.”
The Hyperloop concept model is open source. Maybe you have the grit and perseverance to make the Hyperloop reality!

21st Century Teacher & Blogger….a summer of re-thinking my thinking about teaching and getting CONNECTED!


During my summer vacation, I have Awakened and become a Connected Learner! Mid-summer I took a week long 3 credit ipad class that I found invaluable (


It exposed me to hundreds of apps and put an ipad in my hands that I now own and can take back to the classroom! My final project incorporated the use of students collaboratively using the Explain Everything app. Upon finishing my work for the class, I started to critically look at the plethora of apps I was exposed to. I needed to decide which apps would best suit my students’ needs for learning, but which apps to utilize, there are so many! I became distracted and found myself moving in yet another direction. I made a Twitter account purely for educational purposes and started to search out my colleague’s handles. I looked to see who they followed and then added educators that grabbed my attention. I decided to look for educational hashtags. I found #edchat, and #edtech and many more. I noticed in my feed that there were active conversations happening. I followed the hashtag and joined in. I found myself making connections with more educators. As a result of the tweet content, I added and followed more individuals and many began following me too. I followed a past principal to a MOOC and engaged in their live conversation, very cool! I began signing up for and participating in Webinars. I began connecting with educators who are very active in the Twitter community , as well as going to National Conferences, authoring books, and even creating shows like EduAllstars and EduSlam who hold live online interviews in locations like the Google HangOut. I’ve learned so much to say the least and became ultra inspired and motivated! I found my brain engaged 24-7 and my creative juices flowing. My PLN (Professional Learning Network) is growing everyday. 
  I saw that someone posted a link for Sophia which offered a free certified “Flipped Classroom” online course ( I signed-up and found myself watching videos, viewing resources, taking assessments, and creating my own Flipped lesson. Each evening I would view a hashtag calendar and join in the discussions. I came across the #TLAP (Teach Like A Pirate). This hashtag discussion group was focused on Dave Burgess’s ( ) AMAZING book, Teach Like A Pirate. Everyone was surging the discussion platform with creative ideas. I needed to read this book too. So I did!  Teach Like A Pirate should be a required read for all teachers! One piece from the book that had a powerful impact on me was his talk about “The 6 Words.” He focuses on the fact that creativity is lying dormant and waiting to be tapped. His powerful story flooded my senses and propelled me into deep thinking–and emerged as creativity–in fact it came while I was on a run. I saw a tree with a blue bird box and a tag. All of a sudden creativity flooded every part of my being.
I thought of using QR codes, GPS mapping, Google Earth, putting the newly learned apps into a meaningful science lesson that would hook learners! I took my iphone and recorded my ideas immediately and taking to heart another piece of advice from Dave Burgess, the “Law of Attraction.” He stated, “To put the real Law of Attraction to work for you, you must create a vision of what you want and define the goals you want to achieve–and then you must start working for them. I immediately went back to work.
Sophia offered another free certified class, Ipad Prepared, so I sign-up and began honing additional ipad skills. The lesson I created was an integration of many things I had recently learned ( ). This lesson incorporated use of the camera on a personal device, QR Stuff, GPS locations, I-Nigma QR reader, Side by Side app, Google Earth, Chirp, Educreations, Google Docs, & Moodle. The lesson (ex. will be facilitated using a blended learning technique-flipped classroom and traditional classroom environments. I am very excited to challenge the students with this learning opportunity. So much so, that I applied to present the lesson implementation results at the K-12 Online Conference ( ). Hopefully in a future post I will be able to share the lessons learned with my readers. I successfully completed the Ipad Prepared class and assimilated my ideas into a powerful lesson I believe students will immensely enjoy while collaborating with peers and using their devices for learning! 
     As a result of listening to Erin Klein’s interview by Todd Nesloney on “EduAllStars” podcast ( ) I found value in Todd’s question to Erin (time 32.10), “What are you really passionate about in education.” Erin’s answer, “Finding out what kids want, period.” She went on to say that she likes to ask her nieces and nephews questions like what kind of technology they are using and how they are using it. (Erin’s Blog ) I was inspired and decided to use the Socratic app to create a survey to use with my students. I want to find out what technology they have access to, what they enjoy doing with the technology, and what they know about digital citizenship.
My questions include:
1. Do you have Internet access at home?
2. Do you have a mobile device with Internet access, what kind?
3. What are your 3 favorite apps and why?
4. Do you have a social media account? List and tell which is used most often.
5. How do you use technology most of the time?
6. What do you think the purpose is for using technology in the classroom?
7. What is digital citizenship?
8. What level of experience do you have using technology?
The survey will be a great discussion platform and give me a great deal of information about my students and their technology needs.

As a result of following Matt B. Gomez ( ) on Twitter and reading his blog (, I became empowered to create a class Facebook page. Matt uses Facebook to communicate daily with the parents of his students. Parents are able to see pictures of the awesome things students are learning and doing in his class. He is able to share timely information too, in fact in an instant! Parents commented to Matt that the Facebook page provided an overview of what was happening in school and it allowed for parents to ask their child specific questions about their learning and school day. One parent wrote, “ I am not sure how I would have been able to communicate effectively with my son, on a daily basis about school, without the FB page.”  It motivated Parents to use social media. A parent also stated, “ I appreciate how you kept in mind that not all parents are tech savvy or use facebook, and helped me utilize this tool that turned out to be so special!”   So of course I needed to set up a class Facebook page too ( The power of parents, students and teachers working together is immeasurable!
     I have a few more learning notes to share with you. I created a ScoopIt account ( ). I am now able to curate and publish educational content. I am connected with others and collect the best and most relevant articles to share with other educators. . I created a YouTube Channel to curate video resources too ( ). Pinterest  is great place to find and exchange ideas ( I’ve begun creating bulletin boards and pinning educational resources! Each year my students in 6th grade are entering a middle school building and are anxious about getting and being able to open lockers. Using the educations app, I created a locker tutorial. I will be able to show students rather than tell them how to open a combination lock I struggle with recalling student names, using Haiku Deck, I created a class set of students pictures with names for each of the four classes I facilitate. It’s fantastic, I run through the deck and practice looking at faces and names. We have an ice cream social which is a time for parents and students to meet the teacher prior to school starting. During the social, I will be able to know the child’s name when I see their face. I’m planning on having some fun with that!
     Finally, I’m BLOGGING for DoMoreEdu! Being a connected educator, I surely want my students to be connected learners. I plan on having my students blog too ( ). I’m putting my experiences, thoughts, ideas, passion, everything out there for all to see and critique. I am taking risks, thinking, reflecting, learning, rethinking and trying to be the best I can be. My experiences this summer have fired me up, inspired me, and I cannot wait to bring it ALL back to my students! I thank my online PLN. Together we can be great educators!

Happy New Year!!!! …An activity guaranteed to make it a great school year!

     It’s August and teachers are scrambling to set up their classrooms and prepare for the first day of classes and students arrival. Consider throwing a Happy New school Year party! This is a theme I have done for quite a while and the students LOVE IT! Of course all great teachers know the importance of connections with students that begin with greeting them at the classroom door. I greet them at the door with a smile and a noise maker! They look at you with a puzzled face and know immediately that this 1st day of school will be like no other! When they arrive at their seat, they find a Happy New Year hat or tiara, a lei, and a goodie bag filled with a pencil, eraser, candy, crazy sunglasses, silly lips and a class name word search (made on On the back of their chairs, students find a balloon. To start the party we yell, “Happy New Year!” and then pop the balloons. Inside the balloons, I placed a little silly note. The students find the notes on the floor and begin reading them. The notes are an ice breaker or mixer activity. Students are directed to find someone who…and then they are directed to introduce themselves to each other…then they must do a silly task written on the note with a peer (like jump up and down 10 times while singing the birthday song or lock arms and skip in a circle singing ring around the rosy) and finally…the note tells them to high five each other and shout, “It’s going to be a great year!” The students are hooked right away and are on the edge of their seats waiting for more! Doing fun things with your students at the beginning of the school year builds caring connections that will guarantee that It’s Going To Be A Great Year!!!

Moving Students To Deeper Understanding – 21st Century Learning – Let’s turn up the H.E.A.T!

 As you’ve learned previously, students in my classroom are connected and utilizing netbooks in a 1 to 1 environment as a learning tool. My concept map is posted and reads like a learning road map (What students will know and be able to do) and regularly referenced during learning. The middle school model allows for collegial groups of teachers to meet regularly. My TEAM is made up of teachers that see a group of students for core subjects: SS, Math, Communication Arts and Science. My TEAM is The Hurricanes! The team supports the whole child and their needs. My PLC, or Professional Learning Community, is made up of my grade level (science) subject colleagues. My PLC group has worked very hard to design curriculum that engages students with content and involves students in real world inquiry processes by which students construct understanding. We’ve collaboratively generated common assessments that require students to use critical thinking as they apply their new learning in new situations. At times each teacher comes from a different way of thinking, which leads to some intense professional dialogue but we always keep in mind, ‘what’s best for kids.’ We collect and analyze student test answers and look at the data. We have honest and at times difficult conversations about the results. When there are discrepancies in scores, we talk about what we as different teachers are teaching. Since we are teaching the same curriculum, what might we be doing differently and why. We have worked hard to build a professional caring rapport with each other so that when we are examining our teaching methods we are working together trying to help one another be the best we can be because it’s what’s best for kids. We are passionate teachers and even hearing constructive feedback can be hard to hear. We help each other to stay open by talking about how we feel and support each other. We have become a very strong and model PLC in our school building due to the transparency with each other and our school community.

     Consistently students in our 6th grade science program are exposed to the same inquiry lesson content. The curriculum includes the following concepts: Models, Variables, Energy, Levers & Pulleys, and Ecosystem. Systems is an over arching theme. Each lesson drives critical thinking and teamwork. Students construct their understanding during work with partners and collaboration in small groups many times using equipment or materials. Students go through a learning process. With each new experience students assimilate how the parts relate, connect, and ultimately how the system works. Each lesson begins with a key lesson question that focuses learning. At the end of each class student go back to the question and add or modify new information gleaned as well as any insight. Students are formatively assessed with an application question that requires critical thinking and a connection using some of their constructed understanding of the system. Students rate their written response with a PSU system. P-powerful; solid understanding with real world connections and meaningful vocabulary use. S-satisfactory; accurate information but lacks real world connection and meaningful vocabulary. U-unsatisfactory; misconceptions present and need for additional learning opportunities. Students receive feedback and are encouraged to seek extra help to turn an unsatisfactory rating into a satisfactory rating by participating in one on one or small group reteaching opportunities. I constantly remind students that learning is a process and some of us need additional practice for some topics to grasp understanding. I tell them that they need to put the work in, to own the learning. When students participate in the extra opportunities and then experience success, they feel empowered and motivated. In class students begin to raise their hand more often and share ideas.  Students are more willing to take risks and a learning culture forms. Students become more open to other opportunities too, like lunch study groups, that they form on their own and I just provide the space and support if sought. The students are learning resiliency. When it comes time for the summative assessment it too is high level and follow a written response format. Students apply their learning to this new scenario which can be very challenging. I use a two day testing model. On test day one, students complete their assessment online in Moodle and upload any conceptual models or graphs required. I read all of the tests and provide feedback telling students which test question response is missing answer parts and is not yet at a powerful response level. Students will be able to take a second critical look at their work the next day. Day 2, I begin class with a whole group reteaching of any concepts where a majority of students struggled. Then students look at the personal feedback I provided. They analyze and make critical decisions as whether to add, delete or change their response. That evening I grade the tests and students earn their grade reflecting understanding of the key learning concepts. Students are actively involved in the learning process, strive for deeper understanding, and an ability to apply learning to their lives.
     Recently my PLC has taken on a new challenge, videotaping. This creates a higher level of transparency. The video lessons allow an open window into the room to see a colleague’s personal teaching style. No more excuses that we cannot visit classrooms because we are teaching. The videotape allows our PLC to have rich discussions. Following viewing of the video together we analyze what we saw, ask clarifying questions and provide feedback. We are careful to ask questions from observations and not to emotionally charge our words. For example, you might consider saying, “Can you tell me a little more about…” If we have constructive feedback, we pose our statements in a, “Have you considered trying this technique and then share. Again, the communication process may need to be revisited from time to time so members feel safe and remember that we are in it together to be better teachers collectively.
     Our middle school has been using the HEAT framework (Look Fors; which include higher order thinking, engagement, authentic connections and technology use. My PLC has done a nice job incorporating the HEA but T needs to be focused on more purposely. Yes, my students are 1 to 1 using netbooks but much of the netbook usage is organizational tasks and management skills with some Google Doc peer collaboration.  Two things occurred that began to impact my classroom technology environment. First, my netbooks started to break down and need repaired. Second, the economy slowed and money for technology started to tighten. These two factors drove me to seek a solution to my problem. As a member of our district 21st century technology committee, I was involved with numerous discussions about implementing a BYOD program, which would initially start in the high school. Spring forward 6 months, the high school started the BYOD implementation and the middle school was given the go ahead for teachers to implement usage of student personal devices for learning. Since my largest class now was not 1 to 1 due to nonworking netbooks, I encouraged any students who wanted to bring in a device with Internet access to do so. Students brought in their iphones, droids, ipads, and tablets. I too brought my ipad to class. Different platform issues would arise and as a class we would actively problem solve to find a solution to the problem at hand. We collectively grew so much and were able to then help others when a similar issue came up in other classes. More and more students brought their device to class which opened up new learning opportunities. Calendars, notetaking, cameras, and of course THE APPS—became a treasure trove that all pirate teachers out their forging ahead with innovation can consider! Spring forward another 6 months and now our district has become an apple school and ipads are the device being used by all 8th grade 1 to 1 classrooms. Back to my classroom, BYOD made me aware that as an educator I need to immerse myself further to learn which apps to use and how to use them meaningfully with students to turn up the heat in lessons. More to come on my summer professional learning evolution…