You Might Be a Geeky Teacher if You've Been Having Conversations about Education Reform

I am on my annual girls weekend with four friends who raised our kids together and help each other survive!  We go somewhere different in the Colorado Mountains every fall.  This year we are in Carbondale, halfway between Glenwood Springs and Aspen.  I  opened up the Sopris Sun Newspaper today and found an article on a fascinating conversation they are having in Carbondale.  They are organizing Our Children, Our Schools (OCOS) events throughout the community to have conversations around dreaming and envisioning new schools.  They  have a website and even give the community some homework videos to watch before they come to the meetings.

Much of their conversation revolves around Sir Ken Robinson's contention that we are anaesthetizing our children and the example of what is happening in Finland.   "There is a country where students start school at a later age...spend less time in school per day... have barely any homework...are rarely tested " So begins a video showcasing Finland the country whose education system consistently ranks at the top of the world by almost every measure.

Among the many contrasts between schools in Finland and the US is their approach to the teaching profession.  Whereas U.S. teachers today must comply with an onslaught of accountability measures, Finland's teachers are trusted to work as professionals.  "If people are trusted then they want to be worth that trust."  In Finland, "people perform better when they are trusted....They are not controlled."
Roaring Forks Schools are inviting people to "Think outside the box, explore what's possible and participate actively in the district's visioning process."  Check out their website for more information!  Kuddos Roaring Forks!  We should all be having these community events!  http://www.carbondaleconversation.org/


You Might Be a Geeky Teacher if Your Classroom or School is Going BYOD or 1:1

Our school has started down the yellow brick road toward BYOD.  We have found some interesting resources along the way and are working to have engaging training with our staff and convincing conversations with our parents.  We started with a flipped classroom model and sent information in the form of a Google Presentation to our staff before a whole staff vote about whether or not we should go BYOD.  This helped our staff to have time to review resources, think about pros and cons and to be ready to ask questions and finally to vote!  It is important to use professional development and meeting times to model good instruction and transformative practices.  Have you thought about flipping your professional development or faculty meetings?  

We created a student use agreement and had district IT and the Legal department finalize it.  We want to have parents and students take ownership of the security and set up of their devices to make sure that they stay up-to-date and ready for school.  Liability, insurance and security issues are addressed in this agreement.  We voted as a staff and the majority voted to move forward.  We are now working to design professional development and convince our parents that this is the best move for our kids.  We sent out a survey asking for information from our parents.   Our next steps involve informing out parents and then presenting at a PTA meeting.  We are going to flip our presentation to PTA by sending out this presentation before the meeting and then demonstrating a lesson at the PTA meeting using devices that parents bring to the meeting.  One of the most convincing stories about how BYOD looks in and transforms a classroom comes from my home state of Idaho.  CBS showed a documentary entitled TEACH that included a class in Kuna, Idaho that received a grant to convert the classroom to a BYOD and work with KHAN Academy.  The teacher was reluctant but as the year went on, she realized that this model transformed her teaching.  She was worried about being replaced but found that this teaching style is how teaching should look.  Take a look at her story.  


You Might Be a Geeky Teacher if You Have Used Gaming in Your Classroom

I've had several requests and experiences around gaming in education this week. 1.  The first was reviewing 50+ video submissions from students applying to be a PBS Super School News Anchor or Reporter.  One student submitted a video story about Mine Craft.  I have to admit that I am surprised at how many kids play and work in this 2 dimensional world for hours at a time and beg to code and build here when they have free time.  Check out this news story! 

2. The second occurred as I was considering that all I needed to know about the future of education may be learned from science fiction! We are starting a One Book Four Grades program at my school around Ender's Game which will culminate in attending the movie in November with a compare and contrast follow up!  Consider this section of Ender's Game (published in 1985) and the vision of tablet computing:
Personal Tablet Computing – Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1985) 
"Ender doodled on his desk, drawing contour maps of mountainous islands and then telling his desk to display them in three dimensions from every angle...
The bell rang. Everyone signed off their desks or hurriedly typed in reminders to themselves. Some were dumping lessons or data into their computers at home. A few gathered at the printers... Ender spread his hands over the keyboard near the edge of the desk and wondered what it would feel like to have hands as large as a grown-up's... Of course, they had bigger keyboards - but how could their thick fingers draw a fine line, the way Ender could..."
Game-Based Learning – Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1985)
Consider the Battle School from Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Through rigorous game-based simulations, students in Card’s world learned standard curricula as well as military strategy.  Schools around the world are starting to pay attention to video games and how they can be effective tools for teaching. 

3.  Gamification came up several times today, once with a student who is applying for a specialized high school program and wants help submitting an application that includes information about gaming in education and then some of my own research and attendance on a gaming webinar.  What questions come to your mind as you watch these slides?  Can we use gaming to engage our students in the classroom?   

WoWinSchool: How to Use WoW and MMORPGs to Engage Students - GSummit 2013 from Lucas Gillispie

Listen to this TED talk about the short history of gamification beginning with Where in the World is Carmen San Diego (1987 - can you believe it?)    

I am interested now in joining this 3-D classroom and training for teachers where I can even earn badges! I am considering the possibilities of this for my classroom.  
 Here is more information on their site! 3D Game Lab 


George Washington and the Constitution: Digital Resources from the Library of Congress and National Archives

LIbrary of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/96523313/

It's that time-- Constitution Day is around the corner! We were excited to receive a George Washington portrait as part of an amazing portrait program at Mount Vernon, and are launching school activities in honor of his role in the early American republic.  As part of our search for great activities and primary sources we stopped first at two of the premier resources for historical documents: the Library of Congress and the National Archives. So in honor of the Constitution and our first president, here are some really neat resources to use in the classroom for Constitution Day, parked in one spot for easy reference! Have fun...

You can find out about the portrait program here: 

And all the cool primary source lessons here:

Primary Source Resources from the Library of Congress and National Archives

Constitution Day Resources from the Library of Congress
Outstanding collection of resources from our national library. A wealth of ideas and primary sources to engage students in inquiry in the classroom. One of the first go-to spots for teachers for great activities and resources!

George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress: Timeline
A timeline of the George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress with embedded primary sources.

Constitution Day Activities Blog from the Library of Congress
Recent Library of Congress Blog on Constitution Day Resources from the Library of Congress.

Free Speech and the Constitution: Library of Congress Resources on You Tube
Check out this resource in honor of Constitution Day on the Library of Congress YouTube channel (And there are some other neat ones there too!)

Washington’s Annotated First Draft of the Constitution: National Archives
Zoomable annotated draft (by Washington) of the Constitution

Signers of the Constitution: National Archives Activity
Great photo analysis activity using a well-known painting in the National Archives Collection

Comprehensive Overview of the Constitution: National Archives Charters of Freedom Online Resource
Excellent reference for an overview of the Constitutional Convention

Questions and Answers on the Constitution from the National Archives
Ever have an unanswered question on the Constitution? Our National Archives probably has the answer!

Behind the Scenes Video of Important Treasures of the National Archives
This is a great curator hosted video highlighting treasures of the National Archives (Be sure to explore other treasures of the National Archives on their You Tube Channel!)


You May Be a Geeky Teacher If… You Are Also a Junior Ranger And Use This Program in Your Classroom!

Do you love your national parks? Are you drawn to the beauty and history they hold within their boundaries? So are we! 

Your national parks are one of the best teaching tools available for learning inside and outside the classroom, and over the next several months Two Geeky Teachers will dive into some of the many print and digital resources that are available from the National Park Service through this blog. To launch this discovery series we start with the Junior Ranger Program (which evidenced by the photo below is not just for students anymore!) We have been involved with them from coast to coast and in between!

Accessing the Junior Ranger program is easy peasy, and you can  find information about your national parks and those that offer the Junior Ranger program right here: http://www.nps.gov/learn/juniorranger.cfm. Although NOTHING can truly replace being in your national park to experience the actual environment and history of the place, accessing the WebRanger program can help students explore wider themes in our national parks online and is a cinch to access through this link: http://www.nps.gov/webrangers/

If you are lucky enough to visit a park you can get these patches and badges!

Or you can complete some programs online and still receive a Junior Ranger pin via mail or a Web Ranger patch.

Here are five ways you can use the Junior Ranger program in the classroom along with some highlights from the program included in the links below. Regardless of being in a park—teachers will find the information contained in the Junior Ranger program books a huge score for teaching history, science, geography, and other subjects.  We love our national parks…we are betting your students will too. Here we go… Ready? Enjoy!

Five Ways to Use the Junior Ranger Program in the Classroom

5) Engage students in using the Junior Ranger program as a means to research an important location, which holds information on a topic of study and could have been a turning point in the course of American History.

Did You Know About the Junior Ranger Program At: Fort Sumter National Monument?

Tech Connection: Use a technology tool such as SpicyNodes (www.spicynodes.org) to help students organize their research around an essential question(s).

4) Use the Junior Ranger program to research a historical figure and bring to light little known information on that person, or sites that are unknown or out of the limelight, which could give more information about his/her life.

Did You Know About the Junior Ranger Program At: Abraham Lincoln Birthplace?  http://www.nps.gov/abli/forkids/beajuniorranger.htm

Tech Connection: Use the information from the Junior Ranger Program to create a Blabberize (www.blabberize.com) biography of young Abe Lincoln

3) Use the Junior Ranger Program as a means to explore literature and place in their humanities studies! The National Park Service has many locations that highlight significant authors and their works. Broaden your social studies content to humanities content by including literature and written works in your online or personal quest for understanding America.

Did You Know About the Junior Ranger Program At: The Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site? http://www.nps.gov/edal/forkids/beajuniorranger.htm

Tech Connection: Use the information from the Junior Ranger Program to create a found poetry poster presentation in Glogster (http://edu.glogster.com/)

2) Use the Junior Ranger Program to explore science and the environment, and create an appreciation for our natural landscapes. Connect social studies and science together through an educational lesson on a scientist.

Did You Know About the Junior Ranger Program At: The Thomas Edison National Historic Site?  http://www.nps.gov/edis/forkids/beajuniorranger.htm

Tech Connection: Use the information from the Junior Ranger Program and connect it to primary sources from your national library, the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress houses Edison films and recordings, drawings, and papers from the famous scientist. Use clips from an Edison film to create a presentation on a famous event or person in iMovie to share with your class.

1) Encourage students and their families to get outdoors and explore their world together. Learning together, sharing together, and enjoying our National Parks can be a family event! You are never too old to be a Junior Ranger, and you can always start early too even if it is just wearing a “flat hat” and knowing that our park rangers are pretty special! It is these  rangers that help make our National Parks a special place to visit. In honor of our First National Park we will embarrass the geeks in our house with a picture of their very first Junior Ranger badge at Old Faithful Lodge/Visitors Center in Yellowstone (And yes this is the same kiddo in the picture at Mount Rainier below. Imagine that-- 12 years of Junior Rangers and 35 patches and pins later...) :

Did You Know About the Junior Ranger Program At: Yellowstone National Park

Tech Connection: Use the information from the Junior Ranger program to help differentiate content in the classroom setting though activities at different levels of complexity. Use a tool such as Animoto (http://animoto.com/) or Prezi (http://prezi.com/)
 to have students create a collaborative presentation on what they have learned to share with an authentic audience. 

And to prove that we have used them from coast to coast heres the photo evidence as our geeks would call it!

Fort Clatsop- Lewis and Clark National Historic Park
Fort Clatsop- Lewis and Clark National Historic Park
Ellis Island National Historic Park
Yellowstone National Park
Minuteman National Historical Park
Mount Rainier National Park
Yellowstone National Park


On the Days You Need an Alternative to Pinterest...

So-- a question sparked a quest-- one which has also been explored by others but which we will share here after digging around on our own.

The Need? 

To bypass a filter and access a Pinterest-like setting for kids in other tools which would not be filtered out by the school filter.

The Solution? 

Here are several which may be useful. Two apps are included, and several web 2.0 sites. NOTE: we have not long-term tested these sites but rather have done a cruise-by to take a look and play with them. The sites and apps marked Classroom Friendly are those that can serve needs of teachers in an ad-free environment and without the requirement of logging in with social media connections.


Corkulous: Classroom Friendly
Take a look at this cool application which can allow your students to collaborate to create mind maps, poster presentations, brainstorming boards, and many other collaborative tasks. Contained, and secure—it is a paid application which can be immensely useful in the classroom.

A new beta site (request an invite) which allows you to share your content in a user-frindly, safe mode without taking screen shots. Embed video, code, and photos into your own personal portfolio.

Web 2.0 Tools

Quicklinkr: Classroom Friendly
Nice addition to the Pinterst types of social media and easy to use even though it still is in some BETA form. The site is free with no social logins necessary, and it is ad-free. There is also no forced registration with an email which makes it more accessible from multiple devices.


Basically a site for tech geeks—you can find that newest gadget, and latest tech word—all in one spot.You know we had to add it in here right? 


A personal sharing site for you to collect photos, images, video, links, and the like in a pinterest style portfolio.