Monday, December 30, 2013

Zoom towards 2014

I would be remiss if I did not gleefully gloat about the one thing the teaching profession offers in comparison to similarly ranked careers. Of course I'm referring to vacation time. I absolutely love having vacations during holidays. My equally elated spouse insists on taking in new ventures, enjoying each full minute of an unstructured afternoon. As you can see,
I have discovered, the thrill of riding a fat tire bike on winter snow. A four inch tire hugged by a heavy wide frame, race ready shifters and derailleur. It rolled harmlessly over woods terrain leaving a tread but no ruts. I climbed easily over  the recent snowfall that wasn't deep enough for skiing but too wet for walking.  Tentative speeds were replaced with aggressive cornering, bridge climbing and downhill plunges. The aptly named Surly, Moonlander, did not skid out from under me. So confident was I that I aimed straight up and over that small rock ledge that had deterred me all summer. My brother in law caught air, sailing expertly over our GoPro camera for the Facebook video we would post later. I did not sail and I did not fall. I rolled. I rolled and bumped at high speeds, zipping off course, breaking a fresh trail just as I do when. I ski the back country. My heart and stomach fell back into place, smiles replaced my video'd look of horror. We rode for four hours and I only thought of school twice.
Here's what I was thinking. My students would love this. How can I fit demos into our school wide wellness studies? Is adrenaline rush part of the Common Core? It should be. Taking risks is a healthy part of learning, it's a healthy part of growth. Trying something new gives people an impetus for conversation.  So often teachers revert to the safety of a tried and true lesson. Students bemoan projects that end in constructed outcomes that end in predictable assessment scores. Can I recall moments in the classroom where students were working at individual paces yet pausing to cheer each other on? How often do these moments happen in a given year?
 I remember using clickers on a unit test. Each student sat with an open notebook, the test and a clicker that calculated their instant raw score. Students reacted with shock or confusion, an "ah man". When offered a chance to converse, share notes and their scores, they began speculating which questions were undoubtedly right or probably wrong and then at a certain moment, begged to retake the test. While a retake is not as exciting as a cliff jump, recording the highest score allows each student to walk away with greater satisfaction and a reason for returning for the next class and the teacher's explanation behind appropriate answers.

Taking risks while flying through the familiar woods of Stowe, Vermont is not the real reason I plan on renting a fat tire bike from iRide cycle real soon. The real reason is that I had fun. And this fun revived me. I plan on carrying this enthusiasm back to my students and the walls of my classroom. I plan on keeping an open mind while encouraging students to focus on design and possibility in the lessons we learn. Fat tire bikes were not around when I was racing 10 years ago even though the idea was. It reminds me that some ideas are worth a second glance, no idea is too preposterous, and the more we redo the things we already know the chances are that everyone walks away happy.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lessons for Foodies

Like most teachers in New England I start the school year off sprinting and then lose energy at the same time the students do, right after high school playoffs and Halloween.  Our first report cards are sent home at this time and I only mention this because it is also timed well with our third annual haunted high. Kids scare the pants off each other and scream a little too loudly. It seems that they are not so much as frightened as they are releasing steam. Are they screaming at teachers? Screaming at low grades? Or is is teen angst, Nirvana style? What is important is that this tradition continues because it is engaging.

Jumping off such enthusiasm is hard and "where to go from here" is constantly on my mind.  In my 20 year career I have seldom had an easy year. Every new administration has pushed for reforms that add hours to my work day. I am one of those educators who follows the rules and works as much as can be expected.  This push to prepare for the Common Core would have seemed overwhelming if not for the sage advice of a veteran mentor. This literacy specialist showed me the values of routine in an ever changing world and for that I am grateful. I took my favorite unit on commodities , adhered to my established classroom routines and then revamped it to fit the Common Core. I'm quite pleased after one evening of multitasking and catching up on episodes of Scandal ( app).

Every November I teach students about long distance trades and the changes that resulted when commodities were exchanged. Students are invested in this and are naturally interested in discovering the cultural histories of common items like the potato or exotics like vanilla. This time of year with families coming together, sharing traditional dishes or trying new recipes, I credit students who admit to sharing their research with family during their holiday break.  Prior to their break I use class time for diet analysis. Students list food items and food ingredients they have consumed.  I present a list of foods and their origins in a New World (America's column) and an Old World (Africa, Asia, Europe column).  Students chat and shout out ingredients and annotate their lists with N or O or ?. They calculate the # of Ns from their list total and determine the percentage of their diet based on the total items consumed.  This lessons serves the purpose of taking the difficulty out of a breaking down data into meaningful conclusions, meeting the emphasis on analysis in the Common Core. It also serves the purpose of demonstrating the ease of analysis is when the outcomes are of personal interest.

My research projects are supported by the genius in our high school library.  Librarians created a pathfinder from their page to the Pearson database and to the shelved books. This organization gives all students guidance through the research process while giving them that safe pathway for independent research.  I also like that the Pearson primary and secondary sources already have sources cited.  Students choose their articles and send me the citations which I try to check. This fulfills the criteria for using credited sources.

This year I want to emphasis geo literacy skills as they have been updated by National Geographic.  I clipped the following ideas for the front page of my unit:
Geo-literacy is the understanding of Earth systems and interconnections that we all need to make good decisions. Whether we are making decisions about where to live, what precautions to take for natural hazards, or how to set up a manufacturing supply chain, we are all called upon to make decisions that require geo-literacy throughout our lives. The three components of geo-literacy are:· Interactions: How our world works.
Interconnections: How the world is connected. Interconnections: A geo-literate individual is able to reason about the ways that people and places are connected to each other across time and space.Implications: How interactions and interconnections determine outcomes of actions.

I thought it would make sense to have the students begin to informally debate how the value of a product or commodity leads to unforeseen consequences.  And behold! a fantastic interactive online survey from  I placed a QR code near the entrance to the classroom. Students entered, scanned it with their iPads and were immediately engaged in meaningful conversations instead of the usual.  The arguments following the survey helped me convince students that analysis is best when we not only critique our sources but wonder what other research should be done to counter ideas presented.  Students are hooked.  I supply classroom lectures on 17th century long distance trade, they supply the rest.

I have fallen in love with many authors who have presented a history of change over time through the exploration of silk or perfume or salt.  I love Mark Kishlansky 's picture book on Cod and I make time to read this with my high school students. They love knowing that a picture book is the perfect vehicle for deep contextual knowledge. More so than a textbook.  Several students will present their research in a similar form which is much more fun and yields better results than a traditional five page paper. Years ago I read Alfred W. Crosby's essay (which is now online) on the Columbian exchange it forever changed how I perceive history, leading me to Daniel Boorstin, Michael Pollan, and the McCormick website.   Several museums have curated exhibits around chocolate, tea and coffee which still have active links.  Students are often inspired to curate their own virtual museum.  I love the transformative experience that the digital classroom offers when we take a second glance at the common products that surround us, asking the question, how did this get here and do I really need it?
No textbook had come close to presenting the implications of commodities exchanged and there is so much unchartered territory. 

New World
Old World
avocado                  turkey
peppers                  red squirrel
squash                   guinea pig
maize                       pinto beans
potatoes                 chocolate
tomatoes                 quinoa
pineapple               peanut
sweet potato         vanilla
bannana        beef
citrus            chicken
olives           pork
sugar beets  sheep/goats
rice              soybean
wheat          millet
coffee          tea
mango        pepper, cinnamon
nutmeg         apples
pear             grapes
dairy           yams

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The end of Zombie Apocalypse.... or is it?

I'm tying up loose ends, teaching this zombi apocalypse unit and I have to say... it was fun. The game of keeping up points along with intentional studies petered out.  Next year, I should hold a culminating event, a zombie prom or a zombie run but sometimes life get's in the way.  Right now students are invested in their performances in Shrek, The Musical, deer hunting season and the upcoming November holiday.
My quick assessment of success in teaching this unit: Students have developed a habit of paying attention to news events.  The impact of disaster became very real for some of our students following news events and the typhoon in the Philippines.  The idea of disaster preparedness was no longer focused on killing zombies but saving lives.  Two of my students fulfilled the unit requirement to bring attention to a global issue by putting up flyers about the typhoon.  These students also overheard both teachers and students in a meteorology course referring to the flyer, excited that different courses had shared studies.  Preparing for a zombie apocalypse is quite similar to surviving a typhoon. Access to 2 gallons of drinking water a day, food, shelter from exposure to elements become crucial to survival.   While I hoped rural Vermont students would learn more about the world, the study of population growth and a lesson in trend extrapolation really encouraged many students to want to flee to Vermont or other remote havens in the US. Students mapped their routes out of cities on a hall map.  My favorite escape plan was that of the community that relocated to Area 51.

Students enjoyed juxtaposing imagery and studies of facts with their fictitious survival plans.  Here is an excerpt from a student who is usually quiet and removed from collaborative studies.

China was built about 5,000 years ago for rich philosophers and Artists, now days its has a population of 1 billion people, held the 2008 Olympics, people's life expectancy is 72, and has aG DP per capita of $4,700. Which the Reason  why I would not stay there is the more people, the more zombies.
Day 1 - The First EncountersEvery one has died, but I don't care, because they were all worthless and weak, they only complain because scared, I think, and they didn't speak friggin' English. So I killed them, and some reason they transformed into a creature, which the cop who was arresting who's got attack by, and he yell "Jiangshi!!! Jiangshi!!!!!  我被攻击的一个灵俑" (I'm being attack by a zombie) people started running, as I said "Hey stinky" right to the zombie, then a guard to a near by palace through be a Ninja sword, and I sliced his cranium in half, and did the same to the 12 other zombies/Jiangshi. The people above clapped and cheer quietly, and I said "we need to find a cure, bring me to all your hospital, I need all you vaccines. I will find the cure" I then stated "not many of you will live, I'm afraid, but I will find a cure" people cheer quietly!!
Day II - We're All Screwed, well you are....After I visited every hospital, I got a crap load of illnesses, I learned from books and movies like World War Z, if you're mentally Ill, you're gonna live, so Injected by self with mental illnesses. Now a sick freak. Which is cool because Zombies  can't detect me. You all suckers!!!  Then I started building a zombie proof tour bus type thing, it had 45 beds, made of steel, solar Powered so it did not need gas, bullet proof one way windows, so the we could see outside but not in, I has a top bunker with weapons, it has a lower bunker of hiding, if a zombie somehow got in, the tires had 10ft razor sharp blades coming out each side, the tires were steel as well. It has a TV, Oven, Microwave, Fridge, two bathrooms, wifi, wall outlets and solar powered so I Always have electricity. It's called the Zombonie

Students chose many forms for their 3 day double entry diaries. Here is a sample of what one student accomplished after 2 days in our computer lab. It is missing the citations because it was not meant to be published. It was only meant to build contextual knowledge. The elements of how she identifies site/situation and push/pull factors with her fantasy of survival impressed me. I can't wait until this student receives her 1:1 iPad from our schoolwide initiative.  Think how much more depth and detail could be added if she had access to her document at all times instead of the limited time I accessed for her.   I like to think that the image of a survival outfit would be replaced with a sketch of her own
Students and teachers were quick to notice on a community forum post the following survival courses coincided with our studies here in Hyde Park, Vermont. Wish I had the funds to somehow involve students. Maybe the instructors will become involved next year? 

This Saturday, November 9 from 10-3 at Hope Grows Farm in Hyde Park: Denise Krause, founder of Heartwood Wilderness Skills, presents Wilderness Survival Basics for Adults. Learn how to construct a warm emergency shelter, find and purify safe drinking water, make fire with ease, create rope from plant fibers, and keep yourself nourished! You will leave with confidence and an effective awareness of survival priorities. We will share primitive and modern skills in this workshop. Bring your own lunch. Cost is $50. Contact Denise Krause at 716-655-7622 or email to register.
In conclusion, students seemingly seem to understand that cities of the world are a draw for greater concentration of our total global population.  They seem to understand that overpopulation is a global concern if food, water and other resources continue to face limitations.  Future projections concur that 5 billion of our total population will live in cities in the 15 years.  Are we prepared for this?
How do governments balance difficult decisions about limiting family size or providing enough food?
How do we use resources? What can people live without?

Their interest in preparing for a better future is the understanding behind the design of our next unit: commodities that transformed regional and cultural heritage. Cocoa, sugar, petroleum, salt, cod, rice, technology, banking... the list goes on and on..

Friday, November 8, 2013

Another Great Year at  Technology Professional Development
It was snowing at Killington, Vermont as we gathered at the hotel near the foot of the mountain. I love professional developments like this.  Most of us attend workshops all day and then swim in the heated pool with snow coming down.  We leisurely discuss ideas learned or tech tools that we have never considered.  And we gather in common spaces helping each other relearn with our devices while sipping lovely beverages.  We move from intensity to creativity to playtime and back in a workflow not offered during the daily grind of teaching in a school.
So first, let me shout out to colleague who presented with me at Vermont Fest:
Here's our presentation-
After Hours Social Studies - Using Haiku LMS to Promote 24/7 Learning - HS 
 Whitney Kaulbach and Peter Lavigne 

For this session two high school social studies teachers will demonstrate how they use Haiku LMS to 
conduct dynamic online discussions and promote student learning outside the school day. The presenters will show real examples of online discussions, assessment, and collaboration for learning. Although Haiku LMS is the platform being used, the principles may be applied to other LMS’s as well. 

We rocked this! We were able to reach a diverse audience of educators and schools that have not adopted learning platforms or experiments with asynchronous discussions formats for students.  And we were able to redirect our audience to think about the future of dialogue and the myriad of ways that students enjoy collaborating.

Every year I walk away with a new mindset for offering educational opportunities in the classroom. The Keynote speaker, Eric Sheninger, was mindful of the struggle with the balance of control, structure and possibility but urged us to embrace an ever-changing educational landscape.  As a principal in New Jersey he has moved to open Facebook campus and open twitter.  He believes that the web is publishing ideas and opinions every minute that impact individuals, groups and organizations.  Isolation does not allow us to own our identities. Own your identity. Shape your brand. Use more Twitter. Be uncomfortable with students leading our daily classroom.....ok.......

A Day in the Life of an iPad: How iPads are Really Being used in a 1:1 Environment -  
 Marc Gilbertson, Sara Reed took educators through the trials and tribulations of setting up the 1:1. Students needed digital citizenship training. Teachers needed to learn how to turn on their iPads and then how to create a workflow.  Storage, take home, leave at school.... exhausting.  And so worth it.
Minecraft: This Will Blow You Away – Sally Bisaccio, Jane Wilde, Mike Beardsley. 
This blew me away.  Especially the child who demonstrated how minecraft was played and commented on his rationale for his movement.  This would be a great class or club activity.  Oh Please Lamoille, let's start this!
Because of Minecraft I gained some courage and went to the next presentation, thinking I was savvy enough to learn how to design my own gaming apps. 

On the Road to iPad App Development - Lucie deLaBruere 
Well, I was wrong. I can't just walk in, design an app and walk away.  All I learned was how much there is to learn about app design.  On the plus side, everyone starts out as a beginner and the learning curve is steep.  She encouraged us to consider taking college courses that are offered in this at a few Vermont locations.  That seems possible.  Getting credit in creating a app. I like that. 

3D printing! argh- I missed out on this. 

Veterans of 40 Years in the classroom

Link to published article  At TER
While it can't be said for all professions everyone I know remembers a teacher who changed their world in a positive way. It was a teacher who helped me love learning and who made me think I was going to fantastic when I grew up. For most people that teacher was someone they encountered in their youth but for me it happened to be my daughter's kindergarten teacher. She is organized, enthusiastic, creative and kind. She had a reputation of being a stable force in education because of her forty one years of experience yet was one of the first to embrace 21st century digital technologies.  I was questioning my own educational practices when I first met her and was struck by this thought:  while every child in kindergarten was excited to learn the same can't be said for every student in my high school classroom. Curiosity got the best of me so I studied my daughter's experiences. I took notes on how this teacher hooked students on math and drilled them on phonemes. I volunteered in the classroom and mimicked her collaborative discussion tactics of "think, pair, share" in my own classroom. By continuing best elementary school practices at the secondary level, I found this sudden rapport with students, eager to engage because routines and language of instruction was familiar.   I piloted other practices of formative polling, deliberate phoneme review, instruction for independent and collaborative assignments. Eventually I confessed my covert  operation and began to enjoy face to face conversations. If only there was more opportunity for co teaching!

Diane Marcoux-LaClair will retire this year from education but will continue to be engaged in worldly experiences. Her son, serving in the Peace Corp, in French Senegal returns next year. Until then she will tend her garden and experimenting with different strategies for keeping deer out.  XC skiing and snowshoeing will probably bring her to the woods behind my own home if I'm lucky. 

Here is her story.
My name is Diane Marcoux-LaClair and I was born second of six children to French-Canadian parents. I grew up in Hyde Park, Vermont and attended Hyde Park Elementary School. Actually, you can say that I started first grade at HPES in 1960 and have gone to school every year since! Whew! I am retiring in June.

How long have you been teaching or coaching?

I began working with the children of Hyde Park Elementary School in my senior year at LUHS as part of the “Co-op” program. Watching Mrs. Nancy DeForge work her magic in a classroom filled with children with special needs is what made me decide what I “wanted to be when I grew up.”  Following my graduation in June of 1972, I went to work as a fulltime teacher’s aide at HPES, and learned how to be a teacher from three teachers I really admired: Nancy Stokes, Peg Mudgett, and Grace Miner.  While I worked there, I took courses, and completed the ADP at Goddard College, earning my BA in Early Childhood Education and getting my teaching license in 1980. I have been a kindergarten teacher at HPES ever sinceI’ve been teaching in one aspect or another for 41 years.

What is it that you do that inspires students to want to engage?
In other words, what do you believe is your gift that you bring to teaching?

was blessed with really good spirit! Good spirit inevitably becomes joy. I think that if teachers take and bring joy to their teaching, children will take and bring joy to their learning.

What change in education/ coaching really helped make a difference for the greatest number of students?

For the greatest number of students, I don’t think it has happened yet. In my opinion, until we can say, in all honesty, that every child, including children with special needs, gifted children, AND all of the kids in the middle, are treated with the same amount of respect, time, resources, and teacher attention, education hasn’t changed enough yet. The education pendulum seems to be stuck on one side: somehow we have to get it back in the middle.

4. What method of teaching has consistently helped more students succeed?

Having been a teacher of 5 year olds for so many years, this is an easy question! With kindergartners, it’s all about hands-on learning! Over the past 33 years, my students and I have tapped the maple trees on the playground and made maple syrup in the classroom. We’ve dug up soil and planted a beautiful sunflower garden in front of the kindergarten classroom windows. We have spent hours watching life cycles in the spring with the tadpoles and in the fall with metamorphic Monarchs.  We’ve walked all over town andgotten to know the people in it as well as invited countless people to come in to share their expertise and teach us stuff we wouldn’t necessarily learn in our kindergarten curriculum. Grandparents have always had open invitations as they tell the best stories and children listen carefully. Whether through performing dozens of scientific experiments or dances on stages, engaging in these types of activities makes it impossible for children to fail. I’ve taught children about squares and rectangles by teaching them the box dance and about triangles by teaching them the waltz: 1, 2, 3. 1, 2, 3… I am passionate about mathematics. Last week, the children were learning number combinations to 4. I used  bunk-beds fashioned out of personal check boxes and small plastic teddy bear counters. The question of the day was “How many ways can you put those 4 bears to bed?” Very quickly, the children figured it out and took turns coming up with the different combinations. “2 on the top bunk. 2 on the bottom bunk.” “3 on the top bunk. 1 on the bottom bunk.” “4 on the top bunk. They’re all sleeping together! None on the bottom bunk.” When it was time for lunch, no one wanted to go. They wanted to keep playing the game with “bigger” numbers. Hands-on learning has always been the true “hokey pokey” and that’s what it’s really all about!

If you could have more of anything what would that be?

Time! There never seems to be enough hours in a day for me. My mind is always working, working… I go to bed thinking about something my students do not understand, and, believe it or not, in the morning I always have the solution, or an idea about something I can design to help them better understand. You should see my storage totes: they are filled with games, gizmos and doohickeys I have made over the years. I still use them! This is the thing: education, and our world have changed dramatically, but kids really haven’t. Kindergartners are kindergartners through and through. The 18 delightful students I have in my classroom this year still love seeing “Eggbert” go down the ramp in his wooden car and hitting the wall (with and without his seatbelt) as much as my students did years and years ago. They still love to go outside and do the leaf dance as they watch the autumn leaves fall to the ground, and walk through town in the spring, in the rain, walking and splashing through every puddle they see. They still press their noses against the window panes as they watch for the very first snowflake to fall. This is why I have taught kindergarten for so long. It’s always been about how delightful five year olds are…

Can you describe an outstanding moment in the history of your career?

I have been both honored and humbled by receiving several teaching awards and accolades over the years, but really, the hundreds of students I have taught and the support of their parents, are what truly merit to be called “outstanding”.

What does it take to help every student succeed?

Instill in them the belief that they can!

Who inspired you?

Besides Gordan Gayer (my high school history teacher), Nancy DeForge, Grace Miner, and my Dad and Mom? Every single child I have every taught.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why I Love Zombie Apocalypse

Incentives are the reason people learn because incentives drive choices. I could never admit this to my fair trade coffee drinkers, but I love Starbucks.  Every time I buy a coffee I receive a free app or song download.  My app allows me to earn stars that eventually gain me a free coffee.  And when I am lost driving x-country the map app points me in the direction of the nearest Starbucks and the nearest wifi.  But this is not a blog about Starbucks, it is a blog about incentives.  None of these incentives are really amazing.  I could find those same apps for free on line, the free coffee never applies until I spend + $15.00.  And I live in rural Vermont with the nearest Starbucks 50 miles away. Incentives are fun, I take advantage of them which makes me a bit happier to take time to spend money on a cup of jo.   Education works the same way.  Most of my students attend school because they have to not because they want to.  If we can make the day a bit more interesting, with a chance to win arbitrary prizes we embed an incentive for showing us their best work.  The problem is finding the right incentive without spending $$$. And Zombies fit this nicely.

I am new to loving Zombies. I saw World War Z film, became a fan of Walking Dead and read a novel by Max Brooks. I was drawn to chapter connections between a place in the world and fantastical stories of apocalyptic survival.  Max Brooks even presents Vermonters as prominent as builders of utopian societies.  I began plotting a geography unit while hiking with my husband in western areas devastated by mega fires and flash floods. How does one survive in a world of destruction? Unbelievably an interview on NPR with David Hunter  (ted ed video) linking zombies to geography standards was broadcasting as we drove between Utah and New Mexico. This was a sign that the time was right for action.  

I started with a globalization unit introducing students to use of demographics and economic indicators for assessing the state of the world today.  We review the aftermath of World War II and the international organizations (UN, WHO, IMF) that play controversial roles in development.  The culminating project intends to have students predict and create considerable improvements for the world.  Students can either focus on real world developments and predictions or life after a zombie pandemic. Everyone begins with an exploratory of our world of 7 billion people. I recommend using Hans Rosling's video,  200 years of World Health and Wealth to pose the question, why are so many people drawn to living in cities?

Students are given an absolute location of a megacity. Identifying their city on a map earns them a unit guide outlining research on cities with a survival plan for escaping harm. Students document their migration from the city to any safe place on earth utilizing a double entry diary template.  Research leads to meaningful decision making and personal opinion for adding creative design elements to their plan. Juxtaposing diary entries about fantasy and real world studies led to unsolicited, passionate sharing. Each day of this 5 day unit students perform random tasks: push ups, crawls, scavenger hunts, knot tying and interviewing the health office staff about blood born pathogens. I download games from the UN, Nobel Peace Prize, Games for Change as both an incentive and as research into globalization. Gaming excitement led to shared values, discussions and drove students to seriously consider: What would your game design look like if you wanted to educate people about global issues? How would you write a better game?

Bonus points earned become the discussion points for designing escape vehicles, weapons, costume and safe bunkers.  Students used points to travel certain distances. They build communities and they designed a better world. Points do not impact the actual grade but they are the incentives that drive choice and a learn to increase their knowledge of the world.  Students can not engage in extra activities until assignments are completed.  So, how should we prepare for a world of 7 billion Zombies?  This unit is transformational. Preparing for Zombie apocalypse means preventing such a world from existing.  We all finish as heroes. 

Discussion Boards

My Wall of Discussion at   Padlet
Outline of Presentation
  1. Introduction- What is Haiku?   (Peter)
    1. management structure for 24 hour access
    2. engaged from anywhere in the world (teacher & student)
  2. Why we use discussion boards in a learning platform
    1. Problems of Democracy
    2. Haiku- add responses to discussion posts
    3. assignment list
  3. Assessment- 
    1. AP US History Assessment retakes
    2. Usage Statistics Data
    3. Wiki Projects
  4. Common Core 
    1. RH.11-12.4 Craft & Structure 
    2. WHST.11-12.6 Production & Distribution of writing.
    3. selecting a topic- collaborating and writing- RH.11-12.7 Integration of Knowledge & Ideas
  5. Assessment
    1. Rubrics- Zombies & Asynchronous learning
    2. Video Discussion- NAFTA, Peer Editing (no picture!)
    3. student input- the Pen Pal Project
  6. -Possibilities
    1. video chats while gaming (Google Chats) 
    2. twitter
    3. publish   ie-
I am a social constructivist. I believe that discussion in its many forms leads to better published ideas, better outcomes and meaningful writing.  I believe that people need incentives to engage in productive discussion.  Reading alone is not enough of an incentive.  Reading is complex and it requires many experiences with text for truly contextual connections.  This is why I offer a classroom in which games, simulations and activities are practiced or observed prior to discussion, prior to writing.

Teachers benefit from presenting the same content year after year in a variety of engaging experiences and knowing their content well.  I was raised in the era of Sage on Stage and began my career learning how to lecture to an audience.  My first teaching experience was in a school that embraced Gardiner's Multiple Intelligences; student research was based on their interest and discussion was not an interest of the majority. In the 1990s I attended workshops on the Socratic Dialogue prior to the use of the internet. I still have a 4 digit Yahoo! account. Yup.  Vintage. My teaching network spread out across the country where I studied with game designers for economic standards. I was taught how to introduce an economic principle, present a hypothesis and then offer set rules for a simulation. Interactions led to discussions which led to constructed proofs.  Over time I developed a myriad of ways of engaging students.

Discussion format is forever changing. The tools for discussion are never the same even though the outcomes always yield the same positive results.  Students who discuss knowledge own their knowledge.  Which is why I am surprised and disappointed that it is not a direct Common Core standard.  Asking clarifying questions, defending an idea, ranking, racing a clock, hearing rhythms, repeating an idea are all forms of discussion. Chats, Polls, Messaging, Tweeting have given us tools for clarifying an idea in the shortest of dialogues.  I edit my tweets at least three times before sending.
Students who have to defend their thesis orally, often make quick changes based on positive feedback and then write a perfect thesis. Students who collaborate in discussion about different Silk Roads are better able to write a compare contrast essay of discoveries and inventions based on long distance trade.

What is next?  I'm assuming that video playback especially in short form will follow tools similar in style to Twitter.  Students revel in quick messaging.  Why not follow that trend?  My students do not like posting to a flat site.  They like posting to spaces that offer immediate feedback. Asynchronous dialogue is also essential to dialoguing as newcomers enter or leave a conversation at any time.  I'm now considering teams students together with one student gaming and the other tweeting like a commentator on the progression.  The analysis of all contributing commentators would give students an experience for final analysis. Or require students to Tweet commentary while watching a film or video.  What if their initial reactions to characters in a film changed over the course of the film? That would be fun to analyze.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Veterans of Teaching

Last night I was flipping through old photo albums, reminiscing about my first years in teaching which seem so sunny and bright. I know that I have gained efficiency, patience and organization since I first began yet forced changes in education have me questioning my assurances. Change insinuates that everything I have been doing was somehow wrong. Or in means that the vision I have promoted is suddenly coming to fruition. Those who institute change I regard warily since they are likely to move on in their careers without looking back. It makes sense to turn some attention to the veterans of education who still arrive to work with smiles, take on new challenges and converse without cynicism. 
These veterans of education have also been coaches who  took me under wing when I was still a high school student. I adored them as individuals could not tell you where coaching began and where the teaching ended. They devoted endless time to us. Later, under their tutelage I began my career with them, drinking coffee late through nights, designing lessons and fun activities. I learned how to fund athletes without a budget and to praise students brave enough to ask questions. Our mantra was, "triumph is just try with a little umph" .  Many of my mentors, coaches and fellow educators are closing the gap on 30 years of education. I honor their integrity by collecting stories and accomplishments through interviews.
This first interview starts with Fred Griffin. I met him when I was racing for Rossignol Nordic and coaching a high school girls team in Stowe, Vermont. I had no experience except for my own fond memories for what my high school coach had inspired in me. Vermont has long winters and great skiing but the pool of Nordic athletes attending collegiate or national level competition was incredibly small. Private ski schools tended to dominate and the expense of skiing kept many athletes away from the sport. Fred helped launch a New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA) to provide a social network for all skiers young and old. Through NENSA I received coaching instruction from Olympians and other prestigious athletes. I learned how to navigate the rules and regulations of national competition. I brought public school skiers into racing and developed a championship level ski team. Throughout the experience, Fred provide guidance with a focus on the importance for the love of learning. Recently, I took up coaching xc running and was invited to a costumed race at the neighboring school. Of course Fred was the mastermind behind this event. More than 700 runners had showed up in elaborate costumes that they wore over the terrain of a 3 kilometer relay course. I realized that it was time to understand the story of  this man who long ago inspired me to devote my life to working with kids. 
Fred Griffin began teaching in 1973-74 but  explored careers as diverse as farming, writing, grocery store management, and building contracting. He returned to teaching after pursuing a Masters at Dartmouth.  Currently Fred is completing his tenth year as an English teacher in Fairfax, Vermont after experiences teaching drama and special education. Coaching was always part of his repertoire. He began ski coaching in 1988, assisted in running and started a girls' tennis team. In 1994, Fred started NENSA and became the executive director a year later. His wife's ministry gave them opportunities to move throughout New England before settling in Fairfax.  Fred turned a ski club into a ski team and added girls' ultimate as a spring sport. 
 What is it that you do that inspires students to want to engage?
It starts with the teacher. Individuals will come in passionate about a class, but they are few and far between. When a teacher loves what he/she is doing, loves the material, loves the kids, it is infectious. Exuberance is contagious.
In other words, what do you believe is your gift that you bring to teaching?
I make the classroom fun. Kids say my class flies by. They say they never know what to expect, not in terms of material under study, but the way it is presented, or the theater I bring tp the classroom. Yesterday we began class by playing eggplant baseball. One fearless child held it by its stem and I exploded it all over the floor, walls, etc. Then we settled down to work. Unorthodox, yes, but fun. Learning can be, should be fun. Creativity has to be part of the curriculum and part of the class room protocols
 What change in education/ coaching really helped make a difference for the greatest number of students?
Hmmm... I know I like block scheduling because I see the kids longer, have a 80 minute block of time to be able to read/write/discuss every single block . My years in voc ed taught me that unless applied, virtually daily, learning has little traction. We have lab of some sort daily
 What method of teaching has consistently helped more students succeed?
Removing the "front" of the room; ending lecture, empowering kids, allowing them to collaborate; digitasl tools aid in this. Every child in Fairfax has an IPad. Research papers are no longer text researched, but video, photos, music..anything relevant to the topic in addition to words must be drawn in to create a multi-discplinary presentation instead of mere text. The ability to do this transforms education
 If you could have more of anything what would that be?
Hours in a day
 Can you describe an outstanding moment in the history of your career?
Whenever I have made something that didn't exist before I was there. NENSA, two running teams in two different schools, One tennis program, one ski program, a drama program, a 4K set of woods trails, an Ultimate program. I gave them life. They are my children.
 What does it take to help every student succeed?
Someone to believe in them so they can believe in themselves. Every kid has a story. Let them tell it to you.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Not so flat classroom

The sounds of my daughter and her dear friend chatting in the kitchen gives me great comfort. I know that while I work away the hours each weekend on school related projects she is not being ignored, she is engaged and thoughtful. She is happy. But this weekend was different. Her dear friend was actually 1,500 miles away in West Palm Beach even as they baked apple crisp in the kitchen. FaceTime chat changes everything.

Sunday was a slow day for us. I was cooking and baking to get ahead on weekly meals. A frost was on its way so I quickly harvested our backyard garden. Plums, apples, squash, tomatoes were piled around me when Kata's friend from Florida called. They play all summer while on vacation in Vermont. Kata set up the FaceTime and we all gathered around to wave and say hello. Usually the girls entertain each other by holding up their pets or zooming in on facial features. They both occupied themselves with coloring until Kata took out a kitchen knife and some of my apples. She listened to her friend and quietly sliced her apple into minutely diced pieces. She was absorbed in conversation and in her designated project.  Her friend became curious and inspired. She too found apples in her own kitchen and as they chatted, diced apples in a similar manner. Hours went by as they chatted and diced. I did chores and watched as they two girls stayed engaged in conversation and self appointed tasks. They were together, perfectly happy and enjoying simple task mastery.  Never before would I have allowed or afforded this long distance engagement. Nor could they have practiced something in tandem. Internet tools link us in ways I never really thought possible.

My teaching brain began to wonder- what if we tried something new next weekend? What if both families agreed to buy cookie ingredients for the girls so that they could both make cookies? What if teachers could send students home with kits for particular studies. Students and teachers could connect through Google chat or FaceTime simultaneously constructing, designing or creating a project while discussing instructions?

Baby steps have me looking forward to reading recipes and making cookies next week. The cookies will not be virtual which makes me happy.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Preparing for the big event- 1:1 iPads

Who is with me? I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer for a
Google Hangout  with The Educator's Room (TER). Hoping to see follow up discussion #lancer1 on twitter too. Username: @WhitneyKaulbach.

Here is a quick overview of how our schools- grades 7-12 will offer each student personal access to digital devices, the majority being iPads. Yes, I am spending oodles of time gaming, using apps and some official summertime professional development on my school campus.  Don't all teachers find a way to squeeze hours of work during vacation time?  It is a terrible disease- this devotion to learning.

As teachers we need to prepare for the phase in period and then the full access period.  Fortunately I am part of an amazing social studies department or PLC. We get along,  we agree to commonalities while embracing our individuality.  Our principal supports teacher led professional development which is why we all showed up in a good mood today. My husband Marc led us through a quick review of the goals and purpose for our innovative technology. What drives the initiative and where will we end up.

Steps for preparation-  management chart for workhorse apps- see document (by Marc Gilbertson)
make certain every adult teacher can master the basics, the tricks to efficient use of our devices. It is silly but we quickly reviewed where the home button was located, how to create a screen shot or turn a website into an app. Turning down brightness saves the battery. Four fingers swiped across the screen will bring you to a new open window. These are the intuitive tricks that my daughter can master. For teachers, we actually needed the review.

Marc presented us with the goals that should elevate the purpose of learning.  For example, we have this ongoing debate on paper versus paperless classrooms. Marc reminded us that a loftier focus is to ascertain that each student learns with ease, choosing  the resources most invaluable. Even if it means a return to paper. ubiquity for all students does not mean, the same tools. It means same access.

Ubiuity- Our department agreed that we will all utilize the same online learning platform.  First, it has privacy protections concerning grading and student identities. Personally, I will add my blogs and website links to this site in order to have quick pathways outside the school. I like to have greater public access at times. And there will be times that students feel this way too.  We decided to stop Marc's presentation and view one another's Haiku learning platforms. We all set them up differently but, as the librarian pointed out, those organized with visuals and animation were more user friendly. Iconic images, portraits, animation can be the starting off point for discussion concerning a particular era of history.

Spontaneous learning- we want students to explore topics of interest in a style most beneficial. This freedom needs a ton of upfront structure. Marc had us download workflow apps a month ago. His investigation and tutorials saved us a ton of time. I had learned three apps but needed assistance for two. We all spent time coming up tp speed with these apps that will  be on every device. We also chose ones which can be accessed offline since 20% of student and faculty lack Internet access at home.

iMovie      Explain Everything         Notability       Pages     
 Google Drive/ Dropbox                     Creative Book Builder

Routines and Possibilities.  Tools and apps change constantly and the competitive market constantly bombards us with these exciting changes. It overwhelms me. We decided through ongoing discussion, to design classrooms with routines that are NOT reliant on one app. Potentially, students will have these clear expectations and daily routines that support their experimentation with a variety of apps. 
Each class will devote time to formative assessments using Haiku polls, paper quizzes, sketches, Quizlet, Socrative etc.  Each course will deliver common summative tests. Students will be able to take them numerous times for recorded highest scores. Technology that supports discussion is a primary goal. We want opportunities that were not possible in traditional classrooms as the added value.
Discussion boards and chats - Haiku
Audio notes- embedding audio in a written note or a photo journal- Evernote, Explain Everything
Reports, book clubs, debates, movie trailers, interviews, read aloud- iMovie.

Personalized- my Masters in Literacy has prepared me for greater organization and attention to reading and writing. My routines include a daily itinerary on my Haiku. Students will find this on their own or immediately when they enter the room via QR code. I hope that by outlining tasks and knowledge gained, students will personalize their learning. Clearly defined minimums and maximums allow them to work at their own pace. Homework will shape itself from there. We should see a transformation from my control of assigned work towards their choice of editing, reviewing, retakes, depth or interest.

Reading from text & etmology or word derivation of a chosen vocab term. This can be collaborative.
Notes and lecture or Q&A- use Notability or Pages etc. 
Formative assessment
students update interactive notebook.
Document analysis- discussion, point of view 
Game/ activity/ dance or music
Exit reflection or assessment.

Engagement & augmented reality-  I'm spending the last days of summer playing with apps and redesigning big goals. It would be great to have goals for myself and for the students that we work on all year long. For me, this means more publication online. For students it's design could be simple or extraordinary. Stay tuned at I use twitter and geochirp to collect big data.

for more on my school, check out our website: 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Slot canyons- Off a beaten path via Kia

Ok, so we checked with NP at Fruita before we took off. They never say this but the rangers gave us a 100% assurance of no rain. The absolutely perfect day for slot canyons, novice style.  Consulting three maps, notes of a reliable biology teacher and tour guides, we pulled off onto Hole in The Rock Road and proceeded to navigate the 26.1 miles of straight dirt road to nowhere. Every write up assures that this is a rough paved road. By rough, they mean, no pavement. Our rental Kia jostled along without complaining. I eyed the 6 gallon reserve of water in the back seat and crossed my fingers as we passed a broken down jeep with a flat. We waved enthusiastically when a Ford pickup flew by with a tailgate of young bucks. It even lightened the mood when the road hump was hit dead on and the boys bounced up and into each other with great whoops and yeehaa.

Devout Mormons built this road and it intrigued me from the moment I read its name. It does dump into a river but let's faced it, it is a road to nowhere and no tour bus would follow us. Even though the guides assure that it is well marked. It isn't. Or, it is but the markers don't match the directions. We chose to turn left at Dry Gulch and bumped along until we discovered a parking lot full of vehicles. It was already passed 11 am, the sun was high, above 85 and the dry winds were picking up as we descended into what I call, the funnel.

Following cairns down, down this once molten rock lava flow into a canyon gave me the impression of climbing the sidewall of a funnel. Should it rain somewhere distant, water would collect and spiral down this rock filling up those slot canyons we we so excited to explore. And I stupid or adventurous in bringing my 8 year old into this abyss? She seems resigned to compliance with our plans. This only makes me feel guilty until we spot a family with more to risk than us. Slinking in the shade of the canyon walls brought us face to face with a friendly Mormon family and their kids ages 2-10. Kata and their 7 year old joined forces and ran ahead from the Coyote canyon slot into Peekaboo. We literally had to climb up the already hot walls of the Peekaboo into the slot. What seemed risky soon became a playground as we helped to hoist the toddler into the shade of the cool slot. Sucking her billy, she disappeared through an arch. Adults had no choice but to follow her and the squeals of the siblings leading Kata almost out of sight.

Pumped up by adrenaline, shade and success we combined forces again with our new found friends and made the impetuous decision to search out Spooky. They had been here long before kids but the canyon split, leaving us skeptical and lost. I ran ahead, found other people to confirm its location and once again we were off. Spooky slot is shaded. We had to drop our bags because it was purportedly too narrow for much more than our bodies. Wide enough for our hat brims to brush the canyon walls front to back, we began shuffling sideways through. I panicked. The kids were moving with ease ahead of me and I couldn't keep up. At times I had to squat to fit through and I feared begging able to reach Kata should she need help. Marc was hot on her heels but it all seemed just a bit unsafe. I turned around at one point and headed back. Going back renewed my sense of adventure and I grabbed the camera.   I went up and waited in a wide opening in the slot. The sand beneath me was cool and the wind singing down the walls calmed the heat of anxiety. I shot the camera lense at the aperture above and reflected on my entombment. Should it rain, began my morbid thoughts, would I rise and survive or be dashed into these unforgiving rock walls? No longer could I hear my family and this disturbed me more than anything. Suddenly I felt a calm, acceptance of this natural place. Images of temples, crypts and Middle Eastern cities carved into canyons flooded me. I understand the grandeur of being tucked into a final resting place for all eternity. Would I be so lucky someday to be sheltered by rock? Well, not today. I hopped up and plunged into the shadows, climbing up and up until I heard happy voices once more. With no place to turn around, I turned my head and shuffled back to my aperture to click photos of emerging explorers. Together once more we resigned to the heat and the climb out of the funnel. We resigned to the slow return to pavement and cheered as we headed to the power lines and houses of Escalante. Would've stayed here if we. Hadn't made reservations in Bryce. Wolfed down burgers, refueled the car and the food supply. Towns after this would sufficient grocery stores.
Thank you to the friend who suggested leaving the safety of objects, wifi, cell service...
Thank you Mormons for building this road. I now understand its purpose.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Trip to Utah

Somewhere,enroute to Moab, I began to breathe easier. not only because the air is purportedly clearer but because the open sky, the long ribbon of highway gave me the perspective that, once again, my collected problems were small. The world is a big place and zipping 80 mph through Spanish Forks to Price, Utah helped remind me of this. 8 days of camping was a gift I could give my family. I worked for a week in Salt Lake City grading essays for the Collegeboard to pay for the trip. Other graders wondered if they should take on a similar venture next year. I say, go for it. We drove nonstop to Moab but camping along the Green River or in Price appeared tempting. Vermont friends on a similar trip two days ahead did not enjoy their campsite on the Green River but I still would try it if driving at night was a problem. Price was greener and less crowded, yet Moab was calling. We only drove the last 20 miles in waning light at 9 pm, heading right to our air conditioned cabin. Air conditioning is a must with nighttime temperatures still in the 90s.  

Moab RV is clean and tidy. The cabins have beds and bunks with nothing but the sweet smell of cedar. it is located across from the Colorado River walk and next to the entrance to Arches NP. We could have hopped on the bikepath if we had our bikes. We hoped to get up at 4am, head into the park for early sunrise viewing. But I slept until 6 and struggled without our coffee. Must. Buy. Stove.
The campground did provide free coffee to campers, I discovered two days later. We mustered strength and drove into Arches. At 7 am there are no lines to get into the park. It was Good Morning at Windows Arches before the bus tours arrived. Blue, no cloud sky.
We played until noon at Windows and Double Arches until the heat caught us. Staggered back to the visitors center for the films and notes on where to go next, what to avoid. The film overview actually helped me become decisive enough to pick other must see adventures ahead in Capitol Reef. Back to the campground for long showers, pool time and siesta. We slept until 5, ate dinner and headed to the park again for sunset. Once again, no cars, no lines. We climbed onto double arches for sunset around 8:30. Only one other couple was there. We then shot pics of the waxing Gibbon moon and delighted in the uncluttered night sky.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Paper Chase Race

Love this article on Decoding!
Ready or not, my rural high school is preparing to deliver 1:1 iPads to our entire middle and high school populations next fall. Furtive conversations abound in halls and at lunch gatherings as we debate the possibilities and traditional needs of classroom learning. There has always been a fine line between reliance on products that facilitate 21st century learning or teaching as salespersons for product placement. Are we building a service based society at the expense of academic learning?  What about our rural students? Does reliance on iPads alienate them or become enhancers their  talent? I’m wracking my brain over these questions; I dare not get the answers wrong.  My excitement and anxiety is compounded by my husband’s responsibilities for said project. He is the tech integrationist, a stand up teacher who sacrificed his classroom role to lead this initiative. We have much at stake in this, including a dinner date a year from now.
Teaching in a classroom with equitable digital technology allows students access to more information than I can control.  They will be multitasking, they will be distracted from learning and this will be cause for conflict if I continue in the traditional sense.  Whereas a lack of planning creates an environment with little student investment, the simplest management can present students with reason for investing in their own potential.
Paperless- Among my peers the debates revolve around having a paperless classroom, a selling point for technology for as long as I can remember.   ITSE published a yes/no analysis that presented  practical considerations.  General communications with parents or students improve with less paper waste.  Email or push notifications are great for reminders or redirection to  itineraries and Twitter is very handy in this use.   I am someone who benefits from push notifications from calendar appointments.  Next year I plan to have students develop daily routines: open calendars, review the itinerary, click on surveys and formative questions.  Students will access readings and handouts through readers or pdf which should save me time spent at the copier. When paper copies are needed they can be printed out of necessity instead of excess.
Paper cannot and must not go away. I have heard parents worry aloud that students are engaging in collaborative projects at the cost of writing. Handwriting is vital to foundational literacy and developments of fine motor skills, it is how students decode. Reliance only on applications and spellcheckers weakens skills for deciphering multi-syllabic words and content rich text.  Students need to manipulate language structures kinesthetically and paper is that useful technology. Years ago, I was impressed by an unobtrusive glass case in the foyer of West Point.  The writings and art sketches of former students Ulysses Grant and Robert Lee were displayed as proof that the arts and academia were as crucial to war as firearm accuracy.  There is still a minimum expectation to being able to present with clarity, the potential location for a battle site on paper. (ps- Lee was the stronger student). While  ideas fill tangible spaces around us paper collects, holds and exhibits.
Notebooks- Not having a notebook is like designing fashion without models to wear the clothing.  Another metaphor it as the base camp for mountaineers, holding the  restorative fuel and proof of the adventure.  Students need a  tangible portfolio/binder of their course knowledge.  For years I have had students keep classroom binders for quick reference guides, reflections and geographic studies not knowing that Interactive Notebooks exist in numerous examples on Pinterest  and other publications (Kenney).  Students should keep work both on iPads and in class.  They can pick and choose templates from applications (notabilitypages,Inspiration) to create professional notes that are actually published for classroom use. Common Core expectations for writing tend to push students away from recall and knowledge collection towards analysis and development of word consciousness for a variety of purposes and audiences.  That first audience is the classroom.
Textbooks and primary source documents have a place in an iPad classroom. When the cloud is full or the internet is spotty, textbooks can be read by anyone at anytime. Juxtaposed with E-literature gives students the role of critic, comparing what was left out or how well it presents a point of view.  Multiple experiences with variety of text is essential for struggling readers and the iPad can assist.  My daughter uses hers as a timer for her three minute math. What if the homework was to not to read and finish a chapter but to read for time? What if students reread a piece, focusing in the habits of reading and fluency instead of surveying content? Would the conversations in class be richer? Would they read more often?
Flipped student-  I have observed a variety of  flipped classrooms and have spent hours making videos  of my own.  It occurred to me  that students could engage in similar practice.  The music teacher at our school currently relies on parental signatures to document weekly practice logs.  We discussed having students videotape their practice to post for a weekly review.  They could pick one best piece or one particular struggle. They would be building a portfolio and self monitoring their progress.  In English or social studies flipped students could submit one minute readings of text for fluency.  Hearing a student read aloud shocks and enlightens teachers to the  sincere need for teaching reading strategies instead of plowing through content.
Testing- I love when students come into class demanding  answers to questions on an online test.   Posting tests as instantly scored online homework helps me focus on what I should reteach before I walk in the door (Socratize is a great testing app).  Students sincerely ask and answer a more challenging question especially if there is an allowance to take that test multiple times.
1:1 iPads is going to be an experience.  I do not see it as a threat to the traditions of face to face conversations but believe it will foster considerate attention to integration and celebration of student work.