Monday, June 30, 2008

End of a Productive NECC Day!

I love being back in my blog and having a place to journal and reflect on best practices and my teaching. Today was a great day for me at NECC and that has had me excited all day. I have gotten enthusiastic about blogs and wikis. I am rejuvinated about PowerPoints. I may try some PhotoStory 3 (or something similiar if I use the Macs in my room.) With all this enthusiasm, I also have a sense of thinking about what is best for my students. I try to never use technology just for technology's sake, so I always evaluate how each assignment will benefit my kids. Konrad Glogowski was right on target concerning 8th graders taking more pride and ownership of a space they have some design of and choice in. I have been a big believer of choice in writing, but I love the thought of them speaking to one another about their writing. I have decided that composition notebooks for journaling are off my school supply list. I have 25 computers in my room and my students can journal in their blogs. I want my students to collaborate, so I have several ideas for wikis. I think the students will enjoy this methodology. I know a small part of it is that it is a novelty, but at this point, I will take whatever works.

I also need to think about what I can take back and teach our teachers. They are not all as enthusiastic about technology as I am - although a few are. What can I teach them that they will actually use this year? What can I get them excited about? A few of them started using wikis last year as a place to put up their assignments for students to access. Not collaborative, but a good use of technology. Maybe those same teachers are more willing to try it with the kids this year? I didn't get many of them to write a blog this year, but I did get some to start reading them. I haven't podcasted yet, but that doesn't mean several of us can't try it. Of course, there are no microphones in our building, but why let that stop us. I am sure I can find some that will do. I still have two days of NECC left and a lot of miles between San Antonio and Rapid City, SD. I am sure I can figure it out! In the meantime, I need rest to get through another exciting day.

Konrad and Jakes

It is now just past noon and my head is already spinning. I have seen two amazing presentations and I took a short walk through the exhibit hall. I have to recharge my laptop battery - and perhaps my own as well.

This morning I started off with Konrad Glogowski and Blogging Communities in the Classroom: Creating Engaging Learning Experiences. I have followed Konrad's blog and Tweets for a while and have become a huge fan, but seeing him in person was even more than I could have expected. He is quite funny and presented blogs in an inspiring as well as informative way. I can take everything I heard today and go right to my classroom and get to work. I wanted to blog last year, but life got in the way. There just will be no stopping me this year! I just went online and pre-ordered Will Richardson's 2nd edition of Blogs, Wiki's, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. It won't be available until July 15th, but I got a nice price! (Picked up David Warlick's book while I was there, too!) I have Will's first version, but he said this one is updated with 25% new information.

I was glad to hear that it took Konrad a year to become a good teacher blog reader. I will not beat myself up if it takes me a while as well. I am not sure if I have an advantage because I have only been an English teacher for a year. I think the previous ten years as a teacher still has the teacherly voice embedded within me pretty deep. I am going home to prepare my lessons to set my kids up for forming a community and how we are going to make it a safe and comfortable environment for all. I have several thoughts as to how to get started, but I am going to have to wait until my head clears to sketch them out!

I took a brief walk through the Exhibits and was quickly overwhelmed. I really want to get in there, but think I will have to do it in short chunks. I did get to talk to the Promethean people and am signed up to take an online class. I have a board, but I know I didn't use it to its full potential last year. That is another thing I want to be better with this year. Last year I had to learn both new curriculums and between the Milken and my parents accident, I was in over my head. This year is a fresh start and I am pumped!

I then went to as session on One Hour PowerPoint: A Strategy for Better Presentations by David Jakes and Dean Shareski. This presentation was great for several reasons. I have still been using PowerPoints and feeling like they are just not as Web 2.0 as the world seems to be moving in. I was reassured that there is still a need for this. There list of ten ideas gave me loads to think about as wells as some new tools. I use Flickr, but have not used Flickr Storm or isharephotos. I will be checking these out. I have addressed color and font, but I see I still have a few more things to address. I always address too much text and bullets, but I have not added a lot of multimedia in our PowerPoints. We will have to do some of that from outside our school. Our firewall is not multimedia friendly, but there are ways around that.

As I have been in the Bloggers' Cafe, I have gotten to hear a couple of presentations, including a great one on wikis. There is rich conversation flowing around me and that is so exciting! One of the reasons I love this conference is all the face to face meetings and the ideas flowing between educators. What more could you want?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Are You Punishing or Preventing Plagiarism in Your School? Presentation

Okay, I admit it...I went into today's session with a bit of worry that after following Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk blog for a while, that there was the possibility that he might not be as wonderful in person as he is in written form. I had nothing to worry about. Doug is a very engaging person. He puts great stories about his kids in the middle of his presentation and makes his thoughts very real and easy to follow.

I have only taught English for one year and have worried about plagiarism. I discovered today that I have been doing some things well and have some excellent ideas for this year! I already believe in giving students choice and having them work in groups. I love peer review. Today I heard about a wax statue project that I want to try. I have been toying with ideas of kids making videos. I am very excited to put some new ideas into play. I certainly know I need to do a better job of explaining plagiarism to 8th graders.

While in the session, I was surprised to hear there was someone else from South Dakota. It turns out it was Jackie Jessop Rising from South Dakota's own TIE. TIE is Technology and Innovation in Education and is a great organization that really puts itself out there in the support of teachers in so many ways! I understand there are a few of them in San Antonio and I can't wait to see them.

I made my way to the Keynote speaker, James Surowiecki. I found him interesting, but I don't know that I took anything usable away. I guess I will just have to settle for all the great info I have gotten from my two sessions I have been in. After the keynote, I was going to stay for the reception, but there were SO many people there! Suddenly, free food and music did not sound so appealing. I am very much looking forward to tomorrow! Have I mentioned that I love this conference? I am going to have to do some serious work to get my school to let me go to Washington D.C. next year, but I am going to figure out something!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Saturday Evening Entertainment

After some time to relax and reflect about today's session and the upcoming days, Heather, Glynn, and I went out to dinner. My sister used to live in San Antonio and she directed me towards Dick's. I did get the warning that it was a rowdy place and the advertising said they were irreverent by design. That is short for extremely rude - but in a pretty fun way! We decided to eat on the patio, since their was immediate seating and it is a rather pleasant night. It was great to spend some more time with Heather and Glynn! I have considered us friends LONG before we actually met, but this has concreted that. Dinner was far from fancy, but the beer was tall and the chicken and ribs were tasty!

We had the absolute pleasure of sharing a table with a young couple from Oklahoma City who were celebrating their first anniversary. (Awwww!) Jason and Kim were funny and a blast to spend some time this evening with. They are also into the whole Dick's atmosphere. Dick's has a habit of putting funny hats on some of the diners with rather rude things written on them. If you can't read their hats, hers says, "Easier to get into than a community college" and his adds, "Look what I paid $20 for" with an arrow pointing at the lovely Kim. Luckily, they found this very funny and theirs were not nearly as bad as some of those around us. I was a little worried whether WE would get out of their unscathed, but I think the fact that I told our waiter that he was messing with ornery, middle-school teachers may have place him on his best behavior!

The River Walk was beautiful and the weather was pretty great. There were a ton of people down there, but all appeared to be having a good time. It all bodes well for a great conference!

Happy Anniversary Kim and Jason! And pre-Happy Anniversary to Heather and Glynn who are celebrating 15 wonderful years together tomorrow. How nice that I get to be surrounded by so much love!

Instructional Design Strategies Using Wikis at NECC

Today was my first session at NECC. I spent the afternoon at Instructional Design Strategies Using Wikis with Lorraine Trawick and Amanda Hefner. First, I learned that I am strong in TWO of the multiple intelligences: Verbal-Linguistic and Interpersonal. That gave me something to think about. I do enjoy learning in two completely different ways. I love the social interaction that comes in the classroom, but I am equally happy in my online classes.

I have done a little with wikis, but I have had a tough time trying to figure out the logistics of using this collaborative tool with my 8th graders. I had the opportunity to put together a real lesson plan that I plan to use this year and finally understand how great this is going to be with my kids. I always worried about the fact that only one person can be editing a wiki at a time, but by placing them in manageable groups and setting up plenty of pages for each group to work on. While I teach both English and Social Studies, I set up a wiki about the Boston Tea Party. I had a lot of help from MaryBeth – a lovely woman that teaches technology to upcoming, new teachers. She has a presentation in Houston in November and wants to show my kids and their wiki pages. Not only did I learn the how today, I also have the push to get it done. I am so excited! We start out Social Studies with the Native Americans and I can see a fabulous wiki emerging! Thanks, MaryBeth!

To find the wiki that Lorraine and Amanda used, go to: They do a lot of presentations and they really do a beautiful job! Moodle is another great tool!

I managed to scoot down to the Blogger Café to meet a few of the bloggers and Tweeters I have followed. What a delight to put real faces with these people! I can hardly wait for tomorrow!

Friday, June 27, 2008

New House

I have pictures of the new house on Flickr. These were before we moved in and before we filled the pool. When I get home from San Antonio, I will take some more!

You can find these at:

They are kind of a random assortment, but enjoy!

The Road to San Antonio

When I Google mapped my trip from Wichita to San Antonio, the time was right around 9 1/2 hours. That seemed right. NotW so much! The trip took me 11 1/2 hours and I was lucky at that. First there was a pile up on the Interstate in Oklahoma City. That slowed traffic down causing me to lose 25 minutes or so. Grass fire near Waco and rush hour traffic in Austin! Ugh! I was frustrated when I finally rolled into town, but a wonderful dinner with friends that I have known for 2 1/2 years, but never officially "met" until tonight cured all that. It is amazing how well you can get to know people over the Internet. When I told friends in South Dakota that I was finally going to see Heather and Glynn, they were aghast that I would meet someone I had only met over the Internet. I assured them I knew what I was doing. I guess in this age caution is normal, but I feel like I just had a marvelous meal with two dear friends (which is true!)

I am excited to attend my first NECC session tomorrow. I am attending Instructional Design Strategies Using Wikis at 12:30. I really want to use Wikis in my class, so hopefully, this will give me more ways to integrate! I will let you know.

In the meantime, I suppose I should try to sleep so I am well rested. I am just like a kid - too excited to sleep!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Long Overdue Update!

I knew it had been a while since I have written in my blog, but opening it surprised me just HOW long. The reason is a sad one. First after winning the Milken award, I was pretty overwhelmed. It is an amazing and humbling experience. Then on December 10th, the unthinkable happened. My parents were in a car accident and my mother was killed instantly. My father had a broken neck, among other injuries. December 27th, he had surgery, which went well. Then there were problems getting him off the ventilator. That finally happened. He spent time in the hospital and then time in the rehabilitation hospital. Finally, insurance sent him off. Because he still needed medical care, we had no choice but to put him in a nursing home. That was a very difficult decision. We always promised we wouldn’t. But it turned out fine. One of our friends is a nurse and surprise – the week he went to the nursing home she had taken over as Director of Nursing. She was such a blessing.

Dad had a bout of pneumonia which sent him back to the hospital for a few days, but by Easter he was doing well enough to take him out for the day. We had a great day. He ate more food that day than I think he did in all the months leading up to that. Tuesday after Easter, I told him we would get him out more often, but that I was heading to California for the Milken conference. We had a great visit. Unfortunately, it was our last. On Saturday, March 29th – two hours before the Milken Conference began – my Dad had a heart attack and passed away. When I got the call, I was going to come right home, but my sister’s called back and told me there was nothing I could do for Dad and he would be upset if I missed the conference. With a heavy heart, I stayed. While it was hard to focus, the conference was awesome.

Since then, I have been trying to pick up the pieces. I missed a lot of school during those four months and had to get caught up. We are working through probate to get my parents’ estate settled – something I knew VERY little about, but am still learning.

One great thing happened – my husband and I are buying a house. We actually are leasing it for a few months until I get all the financing in order, but I love the place. I kind of feel like my parents are helping me arrange some things.

Mom’s birthday would have been May 8th. That was tough, as were Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, my birthday, and my sons’ graduations. I have heard the first year is tough, but I know we are all pulling together to get through.

Chris graduated from college on May 17th and left for Kansas on the evening of May 18th. He has a wonderful job at an aerospace firm and has already started taking more college classes at TWO colleges. Go Shockers!

Jamie graduated from high school and we just took a trip to Minnesota to get him registered and set up at Southwest Minnesota State University. Move-in day is going to come on me pretty quick. Not sure I am ready for my baby to be off to college, but ready or not….Go Mustangs!

Tony will be home with me this next year and complete his automotive mechanic program at Western Dakota Technical School. At least I won’t have a completely empty nest!

I am currently visiting Chris in Wichita, on my way to San Antonio for NECC! I am so excited!

Now that my blog is sort of caught up, I hope to blog about all the fabulous stuff I learn. I hope I get to meet so many of you there! Twitter me. Message me. Find me! Have fun! See you soon!