Monday, March 16, 2015

Traveling Sketchbook

I saw a Pinterest pin the other day about a traveling sketchbook that piqued my curiosity.  A traveling sketchbook is a blank book, which is passed along from one person to another, each contributing something to book.   What each person writes or draws is personal and over time, the book takes on a personality all it's own.

I sent the Pinterest pin on to the media specialist Gabrielle Waters at the high school and what she did with the concept was amazing. So much so that the sketchbook hasn't sat on the shelf once since it's inception.

We are in the process of weeding our library collection and had several books sitting on the "take me home for free" table.  Ms. Waters got creative with several of the titles by altering the cover, writing some instructions about how to use the sketchbook, gluing them to the front cover and then adding the book to our media collection.  The book can now be checked out by any student or staff member in the school.

I checked it out over the weekend and had some fun with a contribution.  Even my grandson helped with the page.

The instructions for the Traveling Sketchbook are as follows:

What is a Traveling Sketchbook? A traveling sketchbook is a blank book, which will be checked out to various artists, they draw something and then check it back into the Media Center so it can be checked out to the next person. There will be artists of all levels, styles and backgrounds participating!   Each artist can have a one or two page spread to work with.

What can you put in this notebook? A masterpiece, a doodle page, typography, a collage, or most anything you choose.  Just keep it tasteful.

  1. Checkout The Traveling Sketchbook in the Media Center. It is now yours for the next 3 days!!
  2. Choose a page to do your Art, Sketch, Design, etc. (choose any media)
  3. Sign your art work
  4. Once you are finished, tell a friend that The Traveling Sketchbook is in the Media Center for them to check out next.
  5. Then PLEASE return book back in at the Media Center for others to checkout! (I want to keep track of who the amazing artists are and where the book travels)
  6. Once the books are completed they will be displayed in the Media Center. 
Rules and Guidelines: 
  1. Keep the traveling sketchbook for no more than a week
  2. Please respect others art, please no defacing or ruining artwork before yours 
  3. If possible try not to let your work bleed through to the next page if there is already art there. 
How much fun is this? 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thoughts on Personalizing Learning

I've read lots of thoughtful comments on the UPE blog ( ) related to chapter 1 of the book, Make Learning Personal by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey. I think Kym hit the nail on the head when she said the greatest challenge would be that of relinquishing control of learning to students.  So many of our views on learning are contrary to this idea.  Educators tend to take full responsibility not only for student learning, but for student motivation, engagement, excitement and even empowerment.  I'm amazed what students can and will do once we do relinquish that control.  I've seen this magic happen in my own classroom and once you've seen the magic it never leaves you.  Perhaps that's why I'm so passionate on the subject of personalized learning.  Beth asked, "how do we keep students engaged?"  The answer is - We don't.  That's the educator in us wanting to be in control.  We need to foster the grit, determination and perseverance in learners that is needed when their engagement wanes and they grow tired, bored and frustrated with tasks.  This "disengagement" will happen throughout their lives.  Sometimes learning is fun, sometimes it's hard work.  The internal satisfaction of achieving cannot be given, it must be earned by the learner themselves. 

One of the first pieces of information I came across when I was running a personalized classroom was the PDI chart explaining the differences between personalized, differentiated and individualized instruction.  I loved all aspects of the chart as I felt it really identified the differences between these topics.  Finally, I had found something that put the learner first.  Everything is personalized learning was about the learner.  When you look at the chart as a whole and read the first column you become amazed as to what learners can do.  If you haven't downloaded a copy of the chart - here is the link: 

Whenever the topic of personalized learning is discussed it is often followed by a conversation about the need to balance a love of learning with the need to learn the "important stuff."  Again, the view on learning that learning is being taught shines strong.  Is the only way to learn the important stuff through someone telling it to us?  Personalized learning is not about learning what ever you want whenever you want to learn it.  We are governed by state and local standards that specifically outline what each and every student should know and be able to do in a certain grade.  These standards can be used in conjunction with personalized learning.  They can serve as an umbrella to guide students in their learning and understanding of necessary topics.  Students need to learn how to unpack standards so they are meaningful and relevant just as much as teachers do.  As educators, our job is to facilitate the process of making sense of standards, not deliver them.  Russ describes this shift in teaching to that of moving from the "Sage on the Stage" toward being a "Guide on the Side."  Educators need to build a bank of resources and skills to facilitate the varied needs of each of the learners in the classroom in addition to being versed in content.  But it's not our job to do all the work.  I'm convinced this is why so many teachers leave the profession from burnout.  They do the job the learners should be doing and in doing so, unknowingly rob the joy of learning from students.

The book Make Learning Personal will point to lots of schools who are embarking on a personalized learning journey.  The authors' website also has many journal entries with interviews from teachers all over the world.  ( )  A question from the book to pause, think and reflect upon:  Is personalizing learning something that someone or something personalizes for you, or do you personalize your learning for yourself?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Learning to Sketchnote

This summer, I was introduced to sketchnoting and challenged to incorporate  the concept of sketchnoting as a means of note taking.  Sketchnoting is the process of creating a personal visual story while listening, reading, or recording an experience as it happens or on a later date.

Sketchnoting brings in a variety of cognitive processes, increasing the connection between speaker and listener due to the engagement needed to listen intently while synthesizing the spoken word into drawings and short narratives.  I decided to to take the challenge seriously.

The first lesson was to watch a video titled "A Sketchnote Primer" by Brad Ovenell-Carter. (See at bottom of post.)  One of the first points emphasized in the video was the need to let go of the idea that only a person with artistic skills could be successful at sketchnoting.  In fact, with a view basic design principals. The skill of sketchnoting will grow with practice.

And so I began to learn about the basics of text, labels and simple drawing details that would bring figures and inanimate objects to life on blank paper.  And I practiced. 

An important side note:  I am not, nor have ever considered myself, an artist.

My first experience with sketchnoting as a serious attempt in capturing a speaker's details was met with failure and an immediate return to what I knew how to do best, traditional note taking in which I act as a shorthand secretary attempting to capture as much of the story I was hearing.  Would I go back over the notes later and review details?  Perhaps. 
Remember, I had been asked to put on my learner hat for the week and so, despite my first attempt ending in failure, I decided to try again as soon as the next opportunity arose.   I didn't wait long.

This time I met an increased level of success.  I still had issues with the drawings that weren't satisfying to me overall.  We were also asked to share our sketchnotes publicly on Twitter, thus making our learning process public. (You can find them by searching for #adesketchnote on Twitter.) The confidence I received from others when they favorited even my most basic of sketchnoters was staggering.

Sharing made me feel good and gave me an increased desire to improve my skill. So I asked questions.  A lot of them - to anyone who would listen.
And those who we're accepting the challenge, learning right along with me but perhaps a little further along, taught me additional skills that soon brought my competences to the next level.  That felt good!  I couldn't have been more pleased with my next sketchnote.
Upon review, I was able to vividly recount the story being told by the speaker, Lisa Jackson, head of Apple's Environmental division and former head of the EPA for the United States of America.

And then, something amazing happened.  During a lunch, someone who was beginning to delve into sketchnoting asked me to teach them what I had learned.  This provided me with an opportunity to share my level of mastery on the subject and teach others what I had learned.  I believe this is where true demonstration of learning happens and the feeling was magnificent.  Not only the individual forever grateful for the time I had invested in her development, but I felt good, as if I was making the world, or a piece of someone's world, just that much brighter.

I'm continuing my study of sketchnoting by continuing to practice drawing basics through recaps of story and significant events.  Since sharing the concept of sketchnoting with others, several teachers have asked me to come in and run a primer for both themselves and their students during the first week of school.  And though my skill level is still quite basic, I know the only way to grow and improve is to continue to practice and share my experiences with a broader, global community of sketchnoters, both experts and budding sketchnoters.

Additional Notes:
A good stylus goes a long way.  If you don't have a stylus available, hold your pointer finger as if it were a pencil.  You'll be surprised at the gained dexterity.

I used a variety of Apps but ended up purchasing all of Paper by 53’s In-App purchases.  The trouble is this isn't a viable solution for schools purchasing apps through the VPP.  Explain Everything may be a viable alternative in addition to the variety of drawing and note taking apps available.

Watch the video that introduced me to the concept of sketchnoting.

Friday, July 25, 2014

ADE Institute Take-Aways

Nearly a week has gone by and I'm sitting at my desk, reflecting on the amazing week I had in San Diego with a heavy heart.  I miss my ADE Global Community terribly.  The week at Institute was unlike anything I ever imagined.  That's because the minute I arrived at the airport in San Diego I felt valued and appreciated for my contributions to education.  That sense of appreciation remained all week.  So thank you, Max, Don, Ivey, AP, Jason, the ADE Board, and all the Apple Staff who so carefully crafted an incredible week to honor and celebrate the work of educators.  Because of you I was able to reconnect with old friends and meet new ADEs from all over the world.  I was able to further develop my understanding of transformational pedagogy.  You have all  become my family.  Relationship, I have grown to learn, is key in building and transforming learning environments.  That's because without sharing, learning has no where to go.

Below are a few of my take-aways from the ADE Institute in no particular order.  Enjoy.

A Theme Goes a Long Way
The theme for the ADE Institute was Change Over Time.  This theme was integrated into each and every experience Apple organized for us.  Before arrival, we preloaded our iPads with iTunes U courses, iBooks, apps and content that would allow us to easily navigate the week and interact with materials and each other.  Every speaker, from Apple staff to guest lectures to park rangers incorporated some form of Change Over Time into their presentations.  Our skills changed over time as we were introduced to new concepts such as sketchnoting, the process of creating a personal visual story while listening to a speaker, reading, or recording an experience changed over time.  I became more proficient at the skill.  The intentional weaving of the theme into learning experiences was no accident.  Note to self - always be conscious of this as I develop content.

Practice What I Preach
Every educator should put a learning hat on and immerse themselves in a PD experience using the pedagogies and technologies that transform education. 
At the institute, we used iBooks relevant to the theme, Change Over Time.  We downloaded an iBook to provide background information about La Jolla Cove prior to visiting the cove and taking a self-guided walk of the area.  This iBook provided information about plants, geology, birds, marine life and the cultural history (changing through time,) of the area prior to us experiencing the beauty of La Jolla.  Off site visits provided authenticity to the Change Over Time theme, validating the learning experience.  Expectations and access to information to further my study were provided in the iTunes U course.  Using a variety of applications to both document the experiences and research further, we then shared our learning experiences in a variety of social media platforms, taking the learning global.  Reflection and challenges were built into the process. 
I’ve been practicing and encouraging transformational teaching for several years but have never been a learner in this model.  Wow!  Each and every PD course I create will be sure to emulate my experience at ADE Institute.

Share, connect, develop relationships and grow.  When we take our learning to a global level and reach out and participate in a diverse, growing arena of learning we continue to grow and learn from each other.  Our ideas resonate, grow roots and develop into ideas that spawn amazing experiences for our students. 
At the ADE Institute we were given permission, and time, to build relationships, converse, laugh, play, and work together.  This creates a community of learners who are free to dream and innovate.

Do something with knowledge gained so it continues to grow.  When you create and share, even from
a reflective point, you place a stamp on the world that wasn’t there before and your feeling of importance grows.  Belonging and importance are essential needs of every human being.   I created and shared sketchnotes via twitter and shared images I took via Flickr - all of which connected me to others willing to take risks and share what they were learning and doing.  My upcoming goal will be to tell my ADE Institute story through video and then to create an iTunes U course related to 20% time in the classroom.  Don't worry, I'll share them :-).
Create good content too - keep it rigorous, don't dumb it down.  Ed Olson Wilson, the creator of the Life on Earth iBooks series states:  teach the subject of science from the top down not the bottom up.  Create curiosity by asking really good questions and build that into your instruction.  Drew Barry, the molecular biologist and individual responsible for creating the amazing animations in the Life on Earth series emphasizes the need to never dumb the science down but instead to edit the tasks to accommodate all learners. 

Communicate - Globally
Take advantage of every opportunity to meet someone new, interact with experts, listen, ask questions, and share.  The more you do this the better you become at this.  Even the introvert inside me has grown to appreciate and value the art of communication.  Today there are so many avenues for expression and communication - public speaking, blogging, photo journalism, video, etc…

Think Critically
Always!  Ask questions, reflect, evaluate, find relationships and do this with vigor.  Be curious and investigate.  Grow grit!

Take time to celebrate everything, successes and failures.  When teachers try something new, celebrate, regardless of outcome.  Recognize that success comes from failure and celebrate that too!  Celebrate a job well done, an accomplishment, an effort.  Find joy.

Friday, July 11, 2014

On My Way - Apple Distinguished Educator Global Institute 2014

The excitement is building once again as I prepare to attend my second Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Institute.  This year is special as it marks the 20th anniversary of the Apple Distinguished Educator Program.  The week consists of powerful opportunities for collaboration and ongoing professional growth as ADEs from all over the world come together to work, learn and share from experts and each other.  This is a group of super heroes and I feel incredibly fortunate to be learning side by side with them.  It's an intense week!

Apple Distinguished Educators are Advocates for Apple technologies.  They are Advisors and spend a great deal of time working with other educators inspiring and integrating instructional technologies.  ADEs Author content as it relates to teaching, learning and leadership and publicly share this content with their peers and colleagues.  And, Apple Distinguished Educators are Ambassadors, redesigning teaching and learning practices by expanding classroom walls to embrace the global community.  We're innovators who are always trying something new and different to provide an engaging and authentic learning environment for all involved. 

I can't wait!

Share Everything - Open Educational Resources

I'm a fan of Learning Management Systems.  A good LMS provides teachers and learners with the ability to curate and house content in a convenient, online location.  Learners gain access to relevant content and information and may easily connect with members of the classroom community. 

Robert Fulgham reminds us to "share everything" in his book/poem, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." Yet, as we continue to progress and talk about the need for Open Educational Resources that are free, an increasing number of schools are moving to paid LMS systems that require school specific usernames and passwords. 

Teachers and students are creating amazing lessons.  Locking up this work behind walls hidden inside a password protected LMS makes no sense.  This practice forces many teachers to reinvent the wheel and continue to hide inside the walls of their classrooms.  21st Century Teaching and Learning emphasizes the need to tear down these walls and connect with one another.  I encourage schools and educators to use platforms that encourage the sharing of educational content so that everyone may benefit from lessons created together.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Personalized Learning

We are constantly looking to provide classroom environments that are active, constructive, collaborative in nature,  authentic and goal directed in which students own their learning and are pivotal members of the classroom community.  Shifting teaching practices away from teacher directed learning toward student facilitated learning is becoming an expectation of all teachers because it places the focus on learning where it should always be - on the student.  The information age is here, in the hands of students, 24/7.  As teachers, we need to understand and embrace the fact that content is no longer confined to those who have studied at university.  The learning opportunities are immense and available for everyone who knows where to find the information.  We will capture learners by providing engaging learning opportunities that are personalized to meet each learner's individual needs.

So, how do we begin to create these personalized learning environments in our classrooms?
  1. Have learners develop Personal Learning Profiles, a concept developed by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClasky.  An important first step is understanding how each and everyone learns.  Learning is broken down into the what, how and and why of learning.  We all employ different methods and techniques to access, engage and demonstrate our understanding of new information. 
  2. Unpack the standards with your students every year.  It is just as important for learners to know and understand what is expected of them.
  3. With the learner, customize a learning plan to suit interests, needs and prior knowledge. This is where the learner can form essential questions.
  4. Document the journey transparently.  Learners should document their progress in a collaborative manner to make  to monitor and share progress as well as to solicit feedback.  Blogs, google sheets, and online spaces are excellent tools.  Teachers, too, should have a public space for expectations, communications and suggested resources. Learners should be documenting action steps for acquiring new knowledge, the practice opportunities they employ and their methods of demonstrating new knowledge. 
  5. Share excellence.  Students need to have anchors for competencies.  Moonshots here!
  6. Remember to teach strategies for learning new information.
If you're not ready to completely transform your classroom to a personalized environment, try approaching personalized learning from one of the following:
  • Innovation Day- Take a day on your team, department or school and designate it "Innovation Day," and let students choose what they want to learn that day.
  • Genius Hour aka 20% Time (View Examples) - Employ a similar strategy to our Summer Institute course by designating 20% of the time, either daily or once a week, to allow students to work on their personalized learning goals.
Most importantly, try something new.  Transforming educational practices isn't about doing what we've always done.  It's about employing practices that shift the ownership of learning from the teacher to the student, by creating classroom environments that are alive with conversation and discussion around authentic and engaging topics and by empowering learners to pursue their passions, interests and their future.

The time for a moonshot is now!