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Monday, December 28, 2009

Vocabulary in Context with eBook readers



I've always loved to learn new vocabulary, but really, didn't have the dictionary handy or texting Google was just a pain. One of the coolest features of my Amazon kindle (see Kindle Wireless Reading Device (6
) is that if I see a word I don't know, I can move the cursor to just beside the word and it gives me a definition.

I've gotten to where I press the enter key and go to the full definition, then copy that definition to my clippings (using the bar to highlight and save the note) - then when I'm done, I can see the words I've learned. I'm about 1/3 of the way through a reallly killer Clive Cussler book and have already learned 5 new words - just think of the rich learning.

The more I use this Kindle, the more I think that ebooks really have tons of potential for learning - just being able to learn vocabulary in context is huge.  But you can also install custom dictionaries (like the Eastman Bible Dictionary) and then turn that dictionary on when I'm reading my Bible for a sort of in line definitional commentary.  Really cool.

OK, gotta run to a basketball tournament half way across the planet.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Learning, Reading, Refocusing



Christmas break is one of the few times (besides July) that I and some others of my friends TOTALLY disconnect. Just wanted to check in though and let you know what I'm really enjoying out of my Christmas Gadgets.

Fitness Gadgets
I had a great run today with my Nike+ipod sensor (around $20) in my shoelace adapter (around $10) so I don't have to use the Nike+ipod shoes by Nike. (Love my Saucony's anyway.)  It was wonderful because I could leave the track and run around the baseball field and all kinds of places - I had a very good time, which I think is largely because I could focus on the joy of running instead of counting my laps. (my short term memory issue has me counting on my fingers - I know those who watch me run must think I have some sort of hand deformity!)  The cold-weather UnderArmor shirt and gloves kept me oh so warm in the frigid 49 degree weather in Camilla Today.

Loving My Kindle
Oh, and this Amazon kindle has hardly left my hand since yesterday!  This time each year I either reread How to Win Friends and Influence People or How to Stop Worrying and Start Living -- this year, I need the one on Worry so it made it to my Amazon Kindle lickety split.

Also there is a new book by Brian Tracy Focal Point: A Proven system to Simplify Your Life and Double Your Productivity.  OK, so if it sounds too good to be true - Brian Tracy is one of those self made formerly homeless high school drop out, turn around kind of guy that so many of us love to read.  He always motivates me!  And the kindle -- well, I just love it.  More on that later.

Pulling Out My Paper Planner
Meanwhile, I went back and bought a Franklin Covey paper planner which allows for more contextual lists.  (They have some new styles definitely influenced by David Allen's Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.)

Although I love and adore my itouch - a problem I had with Google Calendar and Timebridge this December (when a change to my Google Calendar password caused EVERYTHING to be thrown out of sync literally and I missed TWO important meetings!) has me remembering why I swore I'd always have a paper backup.  Although many roll their eyes, the actually process of WRITING things down forces me to plan and I just have to do this for myself because I'm so visual and have three kids, husband, and many global collaborations to keep rolling.

We're a 1:1 iTouch Family
Just finished setting up the itouch for my eight year old -- we are now a 1:1 itouch Family and I couldn't be happier - this tool is simply the best gadget/ pda/ life improver I've ever used (and trust me, I've been into technology since I was 7 with my first PDA address thing from radio shack when I was 12.)  It makes me cast a longing eye towards the future of this iSlate, Apple Tablet thing that many say will be  game changer.  (Well the iTouch has been for me, but time will tell - I usually let others spend the money as I don't have it to waste.)

One day schools are going to wish they encouraged this gadget for a multitude of reasons -- most of which is that when kids use them they are BEHIND your firewall and your filter -- if they are using their cellphones they can see anything on their phone -- even watch porn in the bathroom. iTouches are great for many reasons, but especially because they do give you some control though they may strain your network.


Take Advantage of the Time and Don't Whine
For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that much of our time has been spent putting in new flooring ourselves. My husband had to take furlough days (and subsequent paycut like many of you out there) and so we decided to make use of it.  The floor we priced 3 years a go is literally 1/3rd of the cost it was then and with the time of putting it in ourselves, we're saving even more than that - plus it is gorgeous. (My husband built houses before he sent himself to college - making him a very self-made man in more ways than one.)

So, it is kind of a matter of either whining about the tough luck and paycut or making the best use of our time and money to improve things before my speaking schedule goes crazy in January.


Looking at Location Based Gaming
Been also pondering the tools that I've been using this year and considering the location based/ gps things I need to add to the curriculum.  Think I might want to play with Scvngr.com which seems to have people who follow this sort of thing abuzz

Pondering Projects
Also pondering the projects of this last year and contemplating making them scalable while handing off even more of the day to day admin in some way.  We've been fighting to keep everything with Flat Classroom free by partnering with vendors, etc. but we're reaching a point that to grow and make it duplicable we're going to have to make some decisions.  We feel profoundly that we want to continue in the day to day creation and connecting work of linking classrooms, etc. but the day to day administration, etc. is quite a bit for us to handle.  For someone like me, who likes to be inventing and creating, it is draining in many ways as evidenced by the fact I haven't been able to blog as much.  With several book deals under negotiation, there also has to be time to make time for the writing and editing that needs to continue to bring those projects to fruition.

I keep coming back to how Garr Reynolds published Presentation Zen and have self publication as a very real option for me - particularly with my first book wihch is half laid out in camera ready form.  We'll see, these are things on my plate and I guess in the spirit of the season, I'm just sort of sharing with those of you who take time to read my blog here.

There are a lot of things to do and I've got so much grading to finish up next week - whew!

The spirit of the Season
Amidst all of this... I do hope that all of you are enjoying this season. For me as a Christian, this is a very real, important holiday during which I celebrate the birth of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  But as I shared on Twitter on Christmas Eve - I do so love all of you, no matter your faith or background or belief, after all, that is a core part of being a Christian - the inherent worth of each of you here.

Meanwhile, I wish I could tweet from this Amazon Kindle which I've now got synching with an app for my computer and itouch which is just so unbelievably cool, I cannot stand it.  I just love the fact that I can annotate my books and extract the text file -- even can put my Audible books on my kindle in case I get tired or my itouch is being crochety (which is like, never, but hey, the battery MIGHT run low... it could, I guess.)

Family Movie Memory Disks are a Favorite Gift
Hope you've taken time with your family and had lots of fun.  My family loved the new movie I cranked out for this year's memories with my favorite movie software Pinnacle Studio Ultimate 12 - the most expensive software on my home computer and worth every single dime -- the automovie feature is great. (Pinnacle Studio Ultimate V14 is now down below $100 so I may cough up the money to upgrade) I also cranked out a hilarious Charlie Chaplin style black and white from scenes I filmed at the pool in the mountains to "Freebird" (OK, I know, even the thought of such a mix gives me a lopsided grin.)

The Gift of Disconnection
But I think perhaps the best gift to myself this Christmas has been the gift of disconnection.  In today's overly connected world, we must have and keep our identity strong with personal connections with those in our family.

Sometimes I think we're altogether becoming too much like Pavlov's dog salivating for the next comment or retweet. Partial reinforcement is so powerful and those designing the apps, games, and networks that so surround us are getting very good at getting us hooked.  We have to have the self control and mental acuity to realize that sometimes we need a good old disconnection from our online world so that we can live a richer, more fulfilling life overall.

New Year Expectations
Looking forward to seeing many of you in the new year -- with four NECC workshops planned hard and fast for June and trips to Michigan, the Midwest, Arkansas, and a couple of virtual link ups with Superintendants and IT Directors from around the US - there will be plenty of time to share the really cool things we've been doing in my classroom and these projects that I just haven't had time to blog here.

Enjoy your evening, rest some in your holidays - refocus, read, and as always -- learn something, even if it is only about yourself and your family!

Merry Christmas!


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Monday, December 14, 2009

A Piece of Mind: The Dangers of Distracted Driving




Find more videos like this on Flat Classroom Project

When you only give a piece of your mind to something that is important... I mean very important... it is just like giving none of yourself to it.

In fact, only piece of your mind can be very dangerous to everyone when you're doing some things.

Take this past Saturday... a rainy day.  I'm on my way to take my son to a ballgame at the school, just five minutes from my house.  I'm stopped at the red light and getting ready to cross US 19 at probably the busiest intersection in Camilla. My light turns green and (thank goodness) I just happen to slowly begin my way across the intersection.  Fortunately for my son and I, when I reached the middle of the road (across the first three lanes of northbound traffic) I happened to see out of the corner of my eye, a woman and her fluffy white poodle in a van barreling southbound through the red light.  I was incredulous but slammed on breaks and yelled for my son to brace himself as we slid into her through the rain-sodden streets.

She never even hit the breaks nor saw me at all - since I hit the brakes, instead of her t-boning me and hitting my son's passenger door, I hit just behind her door.  It was the difference in a horrible accident and an accident where everyone walks away -- just a split second.  The only witness wasn't paying attention because he was on his cell phone with his wife and said he wasn't sure about the light - if it was green or red and didn't notice till the silver van came spinning towards him.  The woman driving the van said she didn't notice if the light was green or red and wasn't sure. (Her poodle may have had something to do with it.)

Well, I'll tell you something, at this time... this one split second.. I'm thankful to my good Lord above that my whole mind was on the road and the rain and the traffic and the oncoming traffic.  I'm also thankful to my good Lord for the value of that split second.  That split second where I could have been hurried and rushed and been so eager to get to the game that it would have cost my son and us dearly.

Although now with all this going on and for car to be at the body shop is really a strain - I'm glad my car is at the body shop and my son's body is here at my house alive and breathing and well.

I don't have a lot of time to share because I've got to go cook until about 1 am this morning for family coming into town on Friday, but I do want to share this.

When you're behind the wheel of a car - that is not the time to only have a piece of your mind or a piece of your eye or a piece of anything on the road ahead - it is the time to have your whole mind on driving.  YOUR WHOLE MIND.  It is not the time to give a piece of your mind to the driver in front of you who is driving slowly - what good does your anger do?  As I tell my students - -if you argue with someone and you both get hurt - even if you are right - what good have you done? 

I'd rather lose an argument and save a life!

This is the season for giving but not the season for giving traffic tickets or dents or wrecks or God forbid, trips to the hospital.  The sad fact is, that as my student points out in the movie he just submitted for the Flat Classroom project two weeks a go - that Driving while texting (and the larger picture - Driving While Distracted) is claiming more lives than drunk driving.  It is time to wake up and get these things out of our hands... so whether you are driving while poodling or driving while texting or driving while distracting -- it is time for the while to come out unless it is driving while paying attention.

We've all got to stop giving pieces of ourselves to driving unless we all want to end up in pieces and start focusing on what is important.  Driving is a great thing that has made us more mobile and advanced human society - but when we need cameras to document accidents because most of the humans at the intersection are doing something else, that is just plain sad.


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Join the Eracism Debate Finals this Thursday



We are so excited about this Thursday and the Finals of the Eracism Project!  Our presentation for k12 online will also be going online this week as well, so you can "look under the hood," so to speak! 

The 2009 global debate project for middle schoolers, the Eracism Project (a Flat ClassroomTM Project www.eracismproject.org) will hold the finals of Eracism on the private Eracism grid on ReactionGrid on Thursday, December 17 at 9:15 am EST – 10:15 EST

Although the students and judges for this project will be in-world, the presentation will be streamed live with a backchannel as part of the K12 Online Conference 2009 to CCiTV Live – http://ccitv.cciu.org/ and ReactionGrid  http://livestream.com/snowcrash.

Student finalists will be debating “Differences Make us Stronger” in the impromptu style debate moderated by Bernajean Porter (http://www.digitales.us) with the final vote on the winner taken from the judges and student participants in the project who will be in the virtual world.  This final debate is the culmination of an 8 week debate project that began with sixteen teams from 12 classrooms in 7 countries and is now down to two debate teams from Shorecrest Preparatory School in Florida and Westwood Schools in Georgia.
The organizers of the project recently shared a presentation as part of the K12Online Conference about how the project was founded, the methodologies and tools used to make the debates “feel” as synchronous as possible, even when in the asynchronous environment of VoiceThread.

Sponsors of this project include: Elluminate, VoiceThread, ReactionGrid, and Wikispaces.

Date: Thursday December 17, 9:15 am EST – 10:15 EST. (click the link for time/date conversion)
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Flat Classroom Project Student Summits: Invitation to Join



 Julie has a presentation coming next week for K12 online about the Flat Classroom Student Summits and what we've seen, but this is your chance to participate live with this year's student summits and talk to the kids about what they are learning.  This is such a powerful experience for us as teachers and those who follow Julie or me on Twitter - we always tweet out invitations, but these are official and scheduled for you! We hope you'll join our students to hear how they have learned about the technological trends that are shaping our world and the powerful multimedia that they have constructed to tell their stories as well as experiences creating wikis with one another in authentic research! 

From the K12 online Blog:

As part of the Flat Classroom™ Project 2009-3 we are holding online Student Summits in our Elluminate virtual classroom and invite participants in the K12 Online Conference to join us. These sessions will be 45-60 minutes long and participants will have the opportunity to interact with individual student presentations as they discuss their involvement and achievements in the recent project. Participants will also be able to see how a virtual meeting that includes students and educators around the world can be successfully run as a synchronous and virtual event.  The focus is on the students, digital citizenship and online learning skills as well as cultural interaction and sharing of knowledge about the topics in the Flat Classroom Project.
Join our Flat Classroom™ Projects Group on this Ning: http://k12online.ning.com/group/flatclassroomprojects

Here is the link to our Flat Classroom™ Public Presentation room: https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?sid=2007066&password=M.BBF3F987EB53E7EAB1128C0DA2E961

Come and join us at any or all of the following Flat Classroom Student Summit times:
Monday December 14: Beijing (BISS) International School Summit #1 11am GMT, 7pm China, Timeanddate conversion
Wednesday December 16: Beijing (BISS) International School Summit #2 12:30pm China, 4:30am GMT Timeanddate conversion
Tuesday December 15: Westwood Schools Summit #1 10:30am EST, 15:30pm GMT Timeanddate conversion
Wednesday December 16: Westwood Schools #2 1:30pm EST, 18:30 GMT Timeanddate conversion

Please share, RT and invite your friends.

Super Social Safety Digiteens Present the Top Sites for Kids Ages 8-12: Invitation to Join



Want to issue a special invitation for this event.  It is so exciting that K12 online encouraged live, simultaneous events along with the presentations that were submitted.  The presentation (a compilation of various thoughts on Digital Citizenship from the Digiteens) went live yesterday.  You can view the full presentation on the k12 online blog and the video presentation is posted below.



Here is the invitation to see these amazing students present, also cross posted over at the K12 online conference:

As part of the k12 online conference 2009 and as a conclusion to the Digiteen Project #3 of 2009, students from Westwood Schools will be presenting their top socially connected sites for kids aged 8-12 (and some that they DO NOT recommend.)  As part of Digiteen 2009, these students felt that many sites that are marketed to kids aged 8-12 are not appropriate nor safe and set out to review and test the best.  They have been blogging and have a twitter account (@socialsafety) and will be presenting live in Elluminate on Wednesday, December 16, 2010 from 12:15 pm-12:45 pm and answer your questions about their testing experiences.
At the conclusion of the student presentation, from 12:45pm – 1:15 pm leading social internet safety expert, Anne Collier will reflect and talk with students about their findings.  Backchannel questions will be included in the conversation.

This is just one of the many action projects of the Digiteen project: A Flat Classroom project. This project will be moderated by Vicki Davis, and led by student project manager, Erin B from Westwood Schools.

Join our Flat Classroom Projects Group on this Ning: http://k12online.ning.com/group/flatclassroomprojects

Here is the link to our Flat Classroom Public Presentation room:  https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?sid=2007066&password=M.BBF3F987EB53E7EAB1128C0DA2E961


Come and join us at any or all of the following:
Super Social Safety: Sites for Kids Aged 8-12
Wednesday December 16: Super Social Safety Presentation12:15 pm EST , Time and Date Conversion

I hope you'll join us and join the students and Anne for something that I think will be very special.  Take a look at their blog! http://supersocialsafety.blogspot.com 

The k12 online conference is a wonderful event and many people have worked so hard to bring this free conference to you!  It is the conference that keeps on giving!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

How our Big Family Comes Together



As I work, I'm reviewing some of the Flat Classroom 2009 videos and as usual am awestruck at the creativity of these students (and how hard they have to work to get these done.)  Feel free to join our Ning if you're an educator and leave comments!  The judging is happening now and the winners will be announced at our awards show on Friday at 8:30 am EST -- we will share the link on our flat classroom twitter account and through our various networks. 

This video has captivated me, particularly the dinner table scene with the whole family!

Find more videos like this on Flat Classroom Project

Remember, these students are collaborating globally to create meaningful multimedia on authentic research topics -- can your ninth and tenth graders do this?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Time for Educators to Get up off the couch!



Just sent this message to the Edurunners, which gives you a glimpse of how Daily Mile works and how we are connecting and using this to motivate ourselves towards fitness.

Hi everyone! We have 35 members of edurunners! That is so cool.  Here are some suggestions to get the most from the group:

1) Connect -
See this as a way to find other educators or retired educators who work out, go through the membership list and add some as friends and then set your mind to encouraging them.

2) Care
After you've friended, encourage people in the group (and beyond) - it makes me feel good to get motivations and reminders when I'm not working out like I should and to see that all of us (event 12 mile Franklin D - the leaderboard leader of our group this week) might not feel so good.

3) Converse
Questions are being asked on our discussion board - PLEASE answer and help (like one this week about treadmills) - if you know a lot - share -- if you don't know a lot -ask and encourage.  But do it!  Just go to community and groups and head to edurunners.

4) Coach
If you know something help others - cybraryman1 on Twitter (who I think joined the group) is encouraging me everywhere.

5) Log it, baby, log it
You can log any kind of physical exercise except picking up a fork to lift to your mouth!  While everyone else is getting fat over the holidays we are living on the fat of life that comes from having the endorphins of exercise helping us see the colors clearer, thinking more bountifully, and having an up beat mental attitude!  Share and log it!

Finally, since I'm almost done with my little "preachy" note (which as much to me as it is to you) -- let's share the group and learn to use the power of social networking to improve our individual lives. 

We as educators will be paid in an inheritance in the future -- it will be one of gratitude or looking down upon us thinking we missed it.  We teach an obese generation and we, of all people, MUST BE SEEN to be working to be fit, shed the extra pounds that keep our minds and bodies harnessed to the limits which aren't really there.

I'm forty and started running and now can run five miles (or surely more) without stopping.  Running is my salve and my drug - my addiction and my enjoyment - it helps me keep myself together.

I can't believe I'm even saying this!  I will say that this group has become a great encouragement to me as we friend one another and plan to share this little email on my blog before I head to the grocery store!

OK, edurunners (or eduwalkers or eduworkouters) or whatever kind of edu-fitness person you are -- start connecting!

You all are amazing.  Oh, and by the way:
Franklin D has 12 miles this week
Ted B has 10 and Alicia and Sheri are tied for third at 8 miles with Aaron having 6.

I'm having  a tough week with only four miles, but then again, I do have today and tomorrow so watchout leaderboard!

Get out there and move it today!

I don't use half of the features of Daily Mile, but if you map routes, etc. this lets you map routes even if you don't have Nike+ipod, etc.  I'm going to work on this, but it is a great tool!



So, if you are doing anything with fitness, consider this an invitation to join us!  As you may know, I used the couch to 5K app starting the last week of July when I couldn't even run to the mailbox!  Now I can run five miles without stopping and have as a goal to break a 10 minute mile and run a sub-30 minute 5K (will it ever be?)  I feel SOOO much better and though I blog a little less, I'd a lot rather post three posts a week here and live another 20 years than post 7 days a week and die in 5 years! ;-)

What Couch to 5K does is that it tells you when to run and when to walk and at the end of 9 weeks, you can run a 5K! It is crazy but IT WORKS.  Just search for it in the itunes store, and I use the one that is the brown icon.  I'm asking for a Nike+Ipod for Christmas to get the sensor that can map even more detail.

There is a huge mind body connection, I mean our mind is part of our body.  I find that I think more clearly and experience things so much better since running and in fact, somehow it has overflown into many areas of my life.

So, join us.  Be a part of a network of encouragement, not only for our classrooms, but for the wellness of our bodies. After all, our students ARE WATCHING!
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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Globally connected... Personally disconnected?



Connecting globally can give you some disconnection too!

Now that my students are so connected globally - literally EVERY class has them collaborating with other kids on a daily basis -- I spend so much time being the architect for their connections that my connections have somewhat frayed at the edges!

Is this how it will look in the future? The teacher is busy building the framework for things and has to struggle to stay connected themselves?

It isn't about a huge stack of papers any more but a chock full RSS reader with student assignments and a full email of items to do. Timebridge reminders and Google calendars, wikis to update, and websites to create.

Between this and my new passion for making this body last a while longer (I LOVE RUNNING - anyone on Twitter has heard by now, probably) and handling my three children's schedules it is quite hard to spend time here talking to you.  I wish, by goodness, that I had time to do a weekly podcast or something to connect with you all, but this seems to be my time right now.

Just want to reflect that if this is about the students that this is OK.  I may not be at the top of everyone's RSS reader with my twice daily posts any more but if there are over 500 students each quarter connecting in these projects now, that is something.

It is OK to feel personally disconnected sometimes, particularly when that means you are creating rich, vibrant, deep learning experiences for students around the world.

Just keep perspective and don't beat yourself up too much about how often you've blogged or tweeted.  If you've got something to share, share it any way you can with the time you have and just don't sweat it.  (And if you're wondering, you just got to hear what I'm saying to myself today!)

Have a great day and remember that teaching is a noble calling! Keep the faith! 

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Virtually Open Source



I would like to share an article that two of my amazing pioneering students and I wrote about our experiences on Reaction Grid and in virtual worlds.  I promoted these two students to estate managers of Digiteen Island and the F.L.A.T.S. and they have done amazing work with it.  This was printed in the Fall Issue of the SIG Innovative Learning and Technology newsletter which I've embedded at the bottom of this post. If you're not on this Special Interest Group for ISTE and you love technology - you're missing out!  You can see Trent and Tyler interviewed on Leon Cych's blog Post about the Open Source Virtual World Pioneers.

Virtually Open Source


by Vicki Davis, Teacher
Trent H  and Tyler R, Students and Co-Estate Managers Digiteen Island and the F.L.A.T.S. (Flat Learning Area for Teaching and Sharing)

From Vicki Davis, Teacher - Moving My Class Into a Virtual World: Driven By Students to Innovate

When my 2008 Freshman class was brainstorming their ideas for an action project on digital citizenship, they kept coming back to virtual worlds.  As part of  the Digiteen project, they had to teach another student group about digital citizenship in a project of their choosing and design.  As the teacher, I advise the student groups and help them find tools that we can use at school to accomplish their task.  When looking at the profile of students that needed digital citizenship education, they kept coming back to the virtual generation (we finally called them Generation "V" for virtual last fall and since then, the Gartner group has also begun calling them Generation V.  To reach these students we needed a virtual experience, my ninth graders said.  So, we went down two paths with one group choosing Woogi World to teach fourth graders about digital citizenship and another using Google Lively to allow virtual interactive experiences for middle schoolers. They chose Google Lively because of the cost (it was free) and also because of how easy it was to get on (you launched a web browser.)


The Google Lively group embarked on an amazing experience, partially because they designed so many very robust rooms so very quickly and secondly because after one month and some elaborately orchestrated "performances" in Lively, Google announced they were shutting the world down.  After helping my students express their opinions by creating a blog and hosting a Lively in-world protest (during which 3 minutes before a griefer came in and deleted half of the room and thus my students have a great concern for Gridizenship) my students could not let go of virtual worlds.


Trevor Meister from Canada read the students' blog and offered some space on ReactionGrid for them to build their Digiteen Island.  (ReactionGrid is a commercial site offering PG non-commercial world using OpenSim with islands running about $25 a month. As full disclosure, they were an in-kind sponsor for the NetGenEd Project awards show this past spring.)  The student vision was to construct a virtual world that would teach digital citizenship without a person having to be present through the use of smart objects.  Smart Objects are objects placed in the world that have action and objects that teach.  For example, they put boxes in Camelot in Atlantis (a castle with an underwater lake in the center) that would hand objects to teach students about copyright using a script on the box.

From Trent H - Teaching in a Virtual World and Gridizenship

There are two huge benefits to teaching in virtual worlds.  One, people are more attentive to something when they are interacting with it.  The second, there are so many ways you can make it interesting. For example, as you read a book in your literature class, you can be building the scenes as you read them.  Not only does it make reading the book more interesting, but also it deepens your understanding of the book itself.

Another great example would be how you can use virtual worlds in a math class. In a virtual world, to build something you must have the correct x, y, and z coordinates.  This is to make everything seem much more realistic.
 
Gridizenship is how you should act toward other people and the things that they have made. Gridizenship is extremely important if you want to help other people. For example, would you rather be taught by someone who is completely closed to your thoughts, or someone who is not only willing to hear your thoughts but also tries to help you put them into action? The answer is clear.
 
We have had more than one experience when people have come in and demolished what we have done. One, as Mrs. Davis mentioned, was in Google Lively. In Lively we were just about to hold a protest when someone, still unknown who, came in and deleted most of the features that we had added to the room. Although this proved to be a giant dilemma, it did nothing but arouse the entire class' morale and within a matter of minutes we had the entire room looking better than it had before.
 
The last thing that I have to say has something to do with humanity. When you have been in a virtual world for a few days you should have obtained somewhat of an extensive knowledge of how to move and act. The first thing that will pop into your mind when you see someone that has just started (you will be able to tell because the program starts everyone out with the same avatar) is,
"What can I teach this person that will enable them to bypass the troubles that I had?"
So, when you first start you will more than likely be extremely excited about the simple things that you find out how to do and want to try it in different locations, so don't overload the person. Simply try to find out when the person will be back and possibly set up classes when you can teach the person how to use the there newfound knowledge.
 
Tyler R- Smart objects and Avatar friendly environments

Now, smart objects are things that give people information. When you put a smart object into your sim you will do two things. One, you will make your grid seem much more inviting because you have something that tells the person where they are and what they can do. Secondly, you can potentially slow down your actions. This means that your moves may be slowed, or even stopped. (To help prevent this I suggest to try and befriend some of the administrators, they can bring your grid back up if it crashes.)
 
I was the person who constructed large 3D objects and found that the best objects were avatar friendly. Avatar friendly means that whatever the thing is, it doesn't hinder your avatar in any way. For example, when you are building a house, make the doors taller than normal and wide enough that you can get through with ease. Also in a grid like Opensim, you can fly. So to help you out with flying, make your building without a roof so you can fly straight up for a quick adjustment of scenery.

Vicki Davis, A Teacher's Quick Tricks for Teaching in a Virtual World

To teach in a virtual world you have to understand the dynamics of the world.  Three practices helped me considerably:
  1. Feedback Boxes -
    I designed a box that I placed in all of the primary work areas that had "Cool Cat Teacher" and a picture of my avatar on the box and "Click here for feedback."  Then, I had a script that would hand a notecard to the student when they clicked on it.  When I went into a virtual world area to assess the work of students, I would type my feedback on a notecard and include landmarks (coordinates that would allow students to go there) and sometimes even stray objects in the notecard and put it in the feedback box and then I would edit the script to change the color of the text floating over the box.  When students went into their area to work, they would be responsible to go to the feedback box first and receive my feedback.  This streamlined things greatly. (You can see these graphics scattered throughout this blog post.)

  2. Students Hand in Weekly Activity Notecard Reports -
    At least once a week (but often twice a week), the students would turn in a notecard to me to include:

    1) Landmarks of anything they had made so I could go see it along with a description, objectives, and any issues or questions they had,
    2) A copy of the objects that they created in the notecard so I could have a copy,
    3) their working objectives for the next week,
    4) the new things that they wished to learn and
    5) Other avatars that they encountered that week that showed good gridizenship. 

    Eventually I created a notecard template so they could just fill in these items.  We finally learned that we did not have to be in the same place for them to hand me the notecard but could just hand it to me through chat.  So, during the last ten minutes of class, I would go to a blank area, sit still, and ask them to hand me their notecards so I could save them in a folder in my inventory.

  3. Have Folders for Everything

    I had folders for working groups, weekly activity reports, objects,  inventory items, and scripts.  This made it easy for me to teach and work with students without looking for things and also made it easy to teleport.

  4. Sandboxing

    When we had many scripts on the island we started having problems, so we have a sandbox area where all scripting is done and limited building happens. This is the location for my office.  Students have to test their scripts in the "Cool Cat Teacher's Scratchpost" first before moving them onto the grid. (We didn't call it a sandbox for obvious reasons. ;-))

  5. Self-Teaching Office

    I constructed an Office in the Scratchpost with four lessons including ones on scripting, building and other topics.  These lessons were designed to be self teaching and used URL's.  These are in the sandbox so a student could walk up to a lesson box, click the box, and then walk into a grassy area with no objects and learn the skills. I cleaned up the scratchpost frequently to keep it response and ready for students to "play."  These self-teaching boxes also handed students resources, scripts, and modeled the types of things I'd like to see them do.


Truly, I am still totally a beginner and giants like Peggy Sheehy, Bernajean Porter, Marianne Malmstrom, Kevin Jarrett, and Kyle and Robin Gomboy  and Chris Hart from ReactionGrid mentor me but the results are powerful and I've learned enough this past year to allow me to jump into virtual worlds without the significant learning curve I had the first time.

However, as my students and I learned together, I saw real leaders like Trent and Tyler emerge to teach and mentor me as well.  Virtual worlds have incredible potential but we have to continue to share our best practices to help those who are teaching learn more about how to do virtual worlds efficiently. I look forward to the day when I can build an area and give it to another teacher and vice versa as we create legacy projects that can be inherited and built upon to allow students to immerse themselves in deep learning that we can barely imagine now.

Vicki Davis is a teacher at Westwood Schools in Camilla, Georgia and blogs at the Cool Cat Teacher blog.  She and her students were recently named OpenSim Pioneers




Monday, November 30, 2009

Bad Backchannel: My Take on Danah Boyd's Bad Day



Danah Boyd's recent travesty with a backchannel at Web 2.0 Expo better have all presenters examining the use of this tool - which can be valuable or can be devastating! Danah said about the experience:

"Well, I started out rough, but I was also totally off-kilter. And then, within the first two minutes, I started hearing rumblings. And then laughter. The sounds were completely irrelevant to what I was saying and I was devastated. I immediately knew that I had lost the audience. Rather than getting into flow and becoming an entertainer, I retreated into myself. I basically decided to read the entire speech instead of deliver it. I counted for the time when I could get off stage. I was reading aloud while thinking all sorts of terrible thoughts about myself and my failures. I wasn't even interested in my talk. All I wanted was to get it over with. I didn't know what was going on but I kept hearing sounds that made it very clear that something was happening behind me that was the focus of everyone's attention. The more people rumbled, the worse my headspace got and the worse my talk became. I fed on the response I got from the audience in the worst possible way. Rather than the audience pushing me to become a better speaker, it was pushing me to get worse. I hated the audience. I hated myself. I hated the situation. I wanted off. And so I talked through my talk, finishing greater than 2 minutes ahead of schedule because all I wanted was to be finished. And then I felt guilty so I made shit up for a whole minute and left the stage with 1 minute to spare."

 Why were they laughing -- someone wanted her to slow down?  What did she do? She sped up because no feedback mechanism was in place.  Additionally, sexual slurs began smattering the backchannel.

When I use backchannels in presentations there are a couple of guidelines that I think are a good idea to do:

1) I don't like the backchannel on the big screen.  Period.  

It leaves people out in the audience. I was moderating a backchannel like this at NECC and was LAMBASTED by an angry person who didn't even read the comment I made and wouldn't listen otherwise.  She couldn't respond and so hijacked the Q&A part of the conversation. I felt badly for her but felt a lot like Danah Boyd did in her current blog post.

Honestly, it was the worst presentation experience of my life and I played a bit part which was escalated to a HUGE part.  I felt like Danah, wondering if I should even be presenting at all.  It was unfair to those in the audience without a laptop and couldn't follow the stream and it was unfair to me as the moderator who had a comment totally misread!  UNFAIR!

It would take something HUGE to convince me otherwise.  Level the playing field or whatever, if you are presenting you are NOT in the backchannel and the backchannel can become a BACKSTABBER that you cannot answer unless you have someone moderating the channel and providing you with feedback.

If you have it on the "big screen" have a backup slide or two and be ready to pull the plug.  Just be ready.

2) All presentation backchannels should have moderators.

Chatzy rooms, etc. - this makes sure that what is happening is OK and also allows the speaker to turn to this person and say "Hey, what is happening in the backchannel" and get feedback!  If Danah had had someone to give this feedback during her speech, it would have allowed her to slow down. 

When I have backchannels, I share the link on my slides and turn to my moderator(s) - {if more than 100 people I usually have 2} and ask what is happening and what questions they have.  This is a GREAT way to include an audience with laptops while not making the others feel too left out who cannot respond because of the digital divide.

3) Backchannels Should be Part of the Presentation from the Speaker
The speaker should know about it, understand how it is going to work and be on board with what is happening.  Period.  Speakers are paid a lot of money to do what they do and if something goes wrong with the PRESENTATION it is on their shoulders and their reputation is at stake.  (Here are the slides I use when sharing about how backchannels are to be used.)

4) Twitter makes a poor presentation backchannel.

I think chat rooms are definitely my favorite way to backchannel - everyone can participate and also you don't end up with the 140-character truncated version of what people were really trying to say.

If you truly participate in a Twitter backchannel it also causes a Twitter flood and if you follow your unfollow stats like I do -- if you backchannel in Twitter too much - YOU WILL BE UNFOLLOWED, temporarily by some and permanently by others.  Actively backchannelling in Twitter will annoy your tweeps and could cause you to become marked as a Twitter spammer - it is not a good idea to do.

Really, a chat room is so much better for this anyway because it can be archived and allows more meaningful conversation and more extensive replies.  Twitter has a place but deeper connections can happen.

5) Backchannels Should be Intentional
My goodness - slapping together backchannels without a plan and without communication with the speaker is RUDE.  It doesn't make for a good conference and is just plain tacky.  Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

Everything in a presentation should target towards the goal of the presentation and conference.  Backchannels can be very  useful when in a workshop, in small open source lab settings, or when you're trying to facilitate conversation.

My Take on Danah's Bad Day

One of my dear friends, Anne Bubnic, emailed me to let me know what happened to Danah.  She was at NECC this year when my horrible Backchannel Bad Day happened and I'll tell you what - it didn't matter that I had 12 pretty good presentations at NECC -- the 13th one was very unlucky for me and made me feel like a total L-O-S-E-R!  Totally.  It was awful.

It didn't matter what anyone else said, it was one of the worst presentation experiences of my life.

Danah Boyd, I'm going to tell you something.

#1 You are brave.
Thank you for openly speaking about how you felt.  And you don't need ot make excuses for anything, being backstabbed by a backchannel that you didn't really know was there and having no conduit for feedback to you on the podium is totally the wrong way to do this!

There are enough people who have worked through the pedagogy of good backchanneling that we should be able to have some good backchannel guidelines that work for speakers so they don't have to write in their contracts that no backchannels are allowed!

#2 Keep on plugging!

Plug ahead - keep going.  My heartbreak over Kathy Sierra's experience with cyberbullying was that she STOPPED.  We as women must show we are especially resilient.  (Which is why when I received death threats on this blog that I didn't stop here!)  But we also have to have supportive families, who usually react by wanting us to quit!

You know that there are things worth dying for.  Freedom.  Purpose.  Cause.  And my goodness, although I wouldn't want to die for my blog, sacrificing pride and going right back out there after a horrible experience is the kind of "dying to self" that I think is appropriate.

Don't quit, Danah.  You'll come out stronger! 

#3 You are now an ambassador.  Use it Well.
Just as Kathy Sierra carries a lot of weight on cyberbullying - you can now speak and carry weight on backchanneling and how it can be best used.  There are many people (like me) who would be willing to sort of codify some backchannel suggestions or guidelines or some alternatives that have worked for us so we can share them with those considering doing it.

You know if this happens once, then chalk it up to learning but this is NOT the first time it has happened.  It angers me that we haven't learned from the humiliations of other speakers and improved how this is done.  The Web 2.0 Expo organizers should be embarrassed that they didn't have better communications with you on this!  It is a way NOT to do a conference.

Who wants to pay to go see speakers humiliated?  If they want to do that, there are plenty of TV shows that do that - my goodness!

OK, so my little tiny thoughts are added to the cacophony, but Danah, I appreciate your sharing and your thoughts.  Thank you for sharing your perspective, this is something I think I should do more next time when I have things happen, I guess, if appropriate.

Keep on going and moving ahead.  In many ways we're still moving through the "Wild West" phase of the Internet, but you know what... you're still standing.

Keep on going and perhaps one day our paths will cross.  And sometimes the very worst things that could ever happen to us, can end up being the best.  The spotlight is not out on this one, my friend!

Friday, November 27, 2009

From Amazing to Normal: Taking the Journey while Encouraging Others



 While doing Black Friday shopping online, I came across Chris Betcher's Post This is Not Amazing and was struck by his feelings towards those he is working with:


"It’s time to stop being so “amazed” at things that are just part of the technological and cultural landscape of life in the 21st century.  It’s not “amazing” that computers can edit video, manage numbers or manipulate digital images. It’s not “amazing” that mobile phones can stream live video or GPS your current position.  It’s not “amazing” that you can make phone calls to the other side of the planet at no cost. None of these things are really “amazing” any more… they just “are”. To be “amazed” at this sort of stuff is to fail to recognise the invisible role that technology plays in all our lives these days. To anyone working in education, working with young people, you need to realise that simple tasks performed with technology are not something to be “amazed” at, marveled at and gushed over.  For our students, the use of technology as the enabler for such tasks seems as natural as breathing air.


I was in another meeting with some students and a teacher the other day, and the teacher was trying to show the kids about a Ning they’d had set up for a class project.  The teacher was all effusive, gushed about the Ning’s “amazing” features and wanting to show the students all the “amazing” things it could do… “Look! You can use it to leave messages for each other!”, she said excitedly.  One of the students confided to me later “I can’t believe how worked up she was getting about that Ning… it’s just a blog. It’s like Facebook. Of course we know how to use it.”  It reminded me of that wonderful line from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, where the people of Earth were considered a bit of a joke for being “so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”
Here is my own response that I have for Chris (as left in the comments):

I think it is important to realize that everyone has their own personal journey into this computing age.  As change agents it is important to realize that just because something isn't amazing to us does not mean that it is not amazing to another person.  I think the reason more people don't jump into technology is the condescension of those already in technology.

If someone thinks it is amazing, the first thing to do is to put their hand on the mouse and then let them try it. Then it travels from amazing to "I can do it."  And when it becomes non-amazing and part of what they do on a daily basis, then, we have enacted positive change and helped people transform.

We have to help these things move from amazing to normal for people and as long as people are thinking these things are amazing we aren't making it real enough for them to think that they can do it! 

Please be kind to the others you work with - they are probably great people who just aren't there yet and need some encouragement.  And when the light bulb goes on, we all gush on and get excited and then we move on and just use it.  Newbies need some kindness and grace from those who know more and not made to feel like dummies.  How will those you help feel if they read this post - will they feel appreciated and accepted or will they feel like you're on the inside looking down at their stupidity?  They aren't stupid they might just be newbies and that, in itself is a HUGE accomplishment because each person needs to start somewhere.

It is also amazing that we have the ability to build our own social networks and do it for free and that we can set these things up.  There are a lot of amazing things computers can do -- does it mean that separating conjoined twins or the stars in the sky aren't more amazing. I guess it is sort of like how the Eskimos have so many words for snow -- perhaps we need more words for how it feels when something is really really cool.

*****
I do think Chris is right that it is about time for many of these things to move from "amazing" status to just what we do.  But we're not there yet AT ALL.  The fact is that these things really are amazing to a whole lot of people.

Honestly, I find my iTouch's ability to coach or help me manage my christmas list or my calendar pretty amazing because it has made my life better and I remember just a year a go when I didn't have it.  I also find Twitter's ability to connect me to everyone else all over the place pretty amazing as well - since we didn't have this ability around 4 years a go.

Do I find it as amazing as the sparkle in my young son's eyes as we play with the cat?  Or as seeing my Mom serve Thanksgiving yesterday when we didn't know last year if she'd live through 2008?  Gosh, not - those things are transcendent.

I think we just have to give people time.  Love them, encourage them, help them and also teach a true patience when newbies are just learning something because truly we're all newbies and gush on about something new to us that is old hat for someone else.

Chris is a great guy and I'm sure as he helped these people that he was just thinking inside himself: when, when is this going to move on and be something everyone knows how to do? Why am I the only one doing this? Why can't they see that this is no big deal?  We all feel this.

And yet, we have to temper how we feel with the reality that a lot of good people in education out there are really just now starting to begin to understand these tools and patience and helpfulness when they are ready is a great asset in our desire for change.

In sports - I would do anything for my coach who was kind, loving, and encouraging but the most arrogant coach I ever had coached the sport I loved the most (basketball) but the one I quit because he was so frustrated that we didn't get things that were old hat to him but very new to us.  Coaches gotta keep coming back to the fundamentals when new people are on their team.

Progress is being made - keep it going.  Help teachers connect themselves using an RSS reader and Twitter - that is a great first step to helping them connect and learn themselves without being so dependent upon a few people at their school.

And one side note:  when these things are no longer amazing, they no longer carry a premium price tag for the people who can help them with it -- so if you're an IT person worth your salt, you'd better be working in the realm of amazing to the other folks at your school, that IS what they pay you for.

Finally, it is all about learning and helping students learn.  To me, when my students in 8th grade first make a video, they think it is amazing but by the time they are done with tenth grade - videos are just what you do and are part of what they know how to do.  We should be part of transforming these important tools, skills, and knowledge from amazing to just what we do for the students and the teachers -- although this is something we will have to continue to do as long as new humans are being born on this planet.
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

WaterShed Moment in the History of Online Safety Education



In Larry Magid's Brief, Poingnant Overview of the recent third annual conference of the Family Online Safety Institute, he called it a "WaterShed Moment int he History of Online Safety Education" I felt buoying hope.  Below are the extracted annotations from his article from me but I'd like to add something that I just emailed to Larry.


Wow, Larry. Just a note that your current article in the San Jose Mercury News is SPOT ON - http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_13723472?nclick_check=1

We've been seeing this in our Digiteen projects where the kids determine their own ACTION project to teach digital citizenship to the audience of their choice.  (You can see this year's action projects forming here - http://digiteen09-3.flatclassroomproject.org/Westwood+-+USA -- they are right now in progress.) The kids research digital citizenship w/ partners around the world and self form teams.

One of the coolest is my Super Social Safety Team (http://supersocialsafety.blogspot.com and http://www.twitter.com/socialsafety ) they are testing programs for kids 8-12 and upset that many sites are being marketed that are irresponsible.

Just wanted to reach out and say YES!!  There are schools using social media like Nings and wikis and Twitter and some ARE receiving erate funding -- eRate funding has long been an EXCUSE to do nothing and the blocking has gotten ridiculous with a lot of public schools not even being able to upload a video for Obama's youtube contest.

I hope that people are reading, but right now with budget cuts, outsourcing of filtration, and the typical struggle to keep your head above water mentality many of us have right now - I hope that wise people become progressive about these things and realize that the greatest danger is the person who picks up the kid in the car every day - not some random stranger who might see a kids picture on the Internet. (Although kids SHOULD be educated about that.) Personally, I think Digital Citizenship encompasses more than just safety and that all kids of all ages should be included.  But as my ninth graders say, they are often best qualified (with guidance) to create compelling educational lessons for younger kids on safety.  

Magid: Treating kids on the Web in a new way - San Jose Mercury News
  • a watershed moment in the 16-year history of online safety education.
  • in that young people were viewed less as potential victims of online crimes and more as participants in a global online community.
  • the "predator panic" that was rampant a few years ago has largely been put to rest as safety experts and law enforcement studies from the Crimes Against Children Research Center and elsewhere show that, statistically, the odds of a prepubescent child being sexually molested by an
  • online stranger is virtually zero and the odds of it happening to a teenager are very low, especially when compared with children who are harmed by family members and others they know from the real world.
  • the culprit is far more likely to be a fellow young person.
  • Kids are affected by their own behavior ranging from posting pictures or comments online that could come to haunt them later to "sexting," sending nude or nearly nude pictures of themselves to others.
  • a few misguided ones have used these laws against children.
  • others continue to perpetuate myths about Internet dangers.
  • "one size doesn't fit all.
  • There was a lot of discussion about the lack of interactive social media in schools.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blessings and Stressings: Reflections from Home



A Break from Traveling
Since July I gave myself five months off from travel. There were simply some things to attend to. My youngest son needed to be tested in more detail (he has dyslexia and a form of ADHD) and my older two - one in high school and one in middle school needed a chauffeur and a cook each night.  Life begins at home and if I should raise children who do not contribute to this world in a positive way then no matter what else I do, in my own mind, I'd be a failure.

Also, we have had the Eracism project to kick off and have been struggling and trying to raise money for the Flat Classroom conference in Mumbai, India still need about ($20K to do a few things we feel like we need) as well as other upcoming projects.  I picked up running the week after NECC (using the amazing Couch to 5K app on my itouch) and have lost another 10 pounds since then and ran my first 5K about four weeks a go (this weekend I run another.)  I'm totally addicted to running and I enrolled my youngest son in Tae Kwon Do two days a week while my husband and I run-- he has lost weight and my husband and I have as well and he has his first testing Saturday.


Opportunities and Challenges
Additionally, I've had several book offers but also have been strongly considering self publishing as well.  I've had to enmesh myself with the legalities of Intellectual Property with some contracts coming my way that literally would have taken Flat ClassroomTM from Julie and I, should we not have been savvy and alert.  It is upsetting but the "nature of the beast," I guess.

Kim Caise has been hired by Elluminate to help Julie and I 20 hours a week with the tremendous growing Flat ClassroomTM projects which we are struggling to keep free, doling out money from our pockets at this point a little too often.  We've also got some proposals out to work with some groups to take some Digital Citizenship education resources out further to others with the Digiteen model.

Computer Lab is Dying
Meanwhile, I am teaching in a 5 year old computer lab with computers dying on me and no money to replace them and working on grants to try to raise the $60,000 I need for upgrades at the school and to just keep my SANITY! Our school is actually growing (surprising) and my classes are bigger than ever and now EVERY class has a major global collaborative piece in it.

Needless to say, it has been busy, but a different kind of busy.  I've really had the time in the classroom I needed to innovate and help my students get grounded before I take off to speak in New York in January, keynoting TICAL in Little Rock, Arkansas in February, co-leading Flat Classroom Strand at ASB Unplugged in February 2010, keynoting MACUL in Michigan in March, my students and I will be leading a leadership workshop for librarians at Valdosta State College in March, and keynoting the TNT Conference in Bismarck, North Dakota in May and of course ISTE 2010 in Denver, CO.  Talking with a few schools about the summer and organizations about next year and I may have  a few spots that will come available in April/May.  (If you want to talk about what you're doing, just email me to see if we can work it out.)

{Oh, and tomorrow night, November 12 at 7pm EST, I'll be presenting online about Differentiated Instruction and Global Collaboration as part of George Siemen's Online Learning PD Activities (he has some amazing presentations lined up tomorrow.)}

I've got a lot on my to-do list - updating my websites, creating a new website for me, a new elementary science Flat ClassroomTM project, and lots of other things needing handling.Really it is quite overwhelming.  K12 online 2009 presentations (we wrote 3 proposals hoping for 1-2 acceptances and then learned they likely accepted everyone -- well, if they're going to do that, I'm NOT going to do that again and submit one!!)

Halfway Between Hyperventilation and Blackout
Although right now I'm in a break from the conference thing, my life does seem about halfway between hyperventilation and a blackout.  Picking up kids and running places - long late night trips home from ballgames and shopping for a pageant dress for my 6 foot size 4 daughter!  These are the things of life and they are great but it is quite fraying on my sanity! My husband has had to downsize his department from over 120 staff to around 30 and it has been hard on him. (They are dependent on automotive work.)

You know, it is easy to look at someone's life and think they have it easier or better.  My husband got a nice handy little PAY CUT which was unannounced along with all the other employees of his company, so we've had to do a huge share of belt-tightening like many of you.

So, this morning when I woke up feeling pretty rough and knew that I had another full day of Justin Reich, wiki uber-researcher (and now a good friend) observing my classes today, this was the only thing I could tweet:

Overcoming hardship is only glamorous in the movies made years after the tears and sweat have evaporated.
http://twitter.com/coolcatteacher/status/5616541396

Guess I'm sharing all this to bring those of you who are my friends out there or who somehow think that other people have it easy in some way that, it is rough all over! One of my "pet peeves" is when someone calls me a "rock star."  At first, it was cool, but somewhere while running around the track these past months, I realized that I don't want to be anybody like that -- (I mean who wants to be a super popular, lack of privacy alcoholic drug addicted sex addicted mega-millionaire anyway if we play on all those stereotypes.) 

I'd really rather be a normal person out here who encourages other normal people to strive to be excellent in their profession of loving and educating this amazing generation of students in our classrooms. Truly, the lowest points of being able to help anyone are when I started believing that stuff and that somehow the fact that some really cool people read my blog that it made me right all the time.

My dear friend, Terry Freedman always makes me laugh when he says "I'm quite proud of my humility."  Well, it isn't about being humble - you can be confident without being arrogant.  To me, it is about being usable and relevant - usable to be used to help others achieve and do and learn more and relevant so that perhaps some of you can identify with this woman who put her keys in the refrigerator yesterday but still somehow manages to educate her students well.

Pie Day
This past Sunday was "pie day" in my house - the self-proclaimed day after Fall Festival when everyone is allowed to eat any homemade pie or cake that they won at the Fall Festival the night before.  Well, we won 12 pies and 3 cakes!! Not kidding! It was too much -- so I froze some of them for later. If we'd gotten in to all those pies, it would NOT have been pleasant and we would have ended up wasting some of it. Well, in my life I sort of feel like I felt when I looked at all those pies on my table Saturday night - that if I try to take it all on it is too much - -that I'm outmatched and am not up to the task.

So, I ramble up to a couple of points here:
  1. If we really look at our lives, we are all blessed in many ways: family, friends, children, rewarding careers.
  2. If we really look at our lives, sometimes the blessings are also stressings:  family, friends, children, careers.
  3. The Blessings and Stressings are Part of Life:  Get Over It, Get Up, Get Going and sometimes Get a Nap!
Today, when my students in the Arab Israeli Conflict Simulation where sharing the most important things that they had learned, one of the students playing Barak Obama said,

"I've learned that these things take time and all these other world leaders want results NOW but it just takes time to work these things out.  Sometimes freaking out makes the situation much worse - you basically have two choices - blow everyone up and make  a mess or take your time and work it out and improve things for everyone."

OK, so he said it - but I listened for my own personal life.  If I freak out, it makes the situation worse.  If I blow up -- it makes a mess.  But if I just take my time, plod ahead and do my best, I can improve things continually for everyone:  my family, friends, children, and career.

Blessings and Stressings
These Blessings and Stressings are part of the fabric of life and if you haven't noticed we're all having to cut budgets, cut out expenses, get creative, and keep our chins up. (Yes, I said chins! ;-)

I don't know about you - I've got a life to live here and why on earth am I going to ruin it whining and having a pity party about any of my struggles - there is always someone with more and always someone with less.  I am thankful I do have a God to take these worries to each morning to help me through them. Who am I to think that somehow I "deserve" to live in the best time in history? (As if there were a best time.) 

Did our forbears deserve to live through the great depression and 2 world wars? 

There is more than enough hard work to go around but if I 've got to do it anyway, golly pete, I'm not going to fuss about it. 

You know, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill and Ghandi were not born into happy go-lucky fun times when everyone could afford a vacation, they were great because they had great leadership, insight, and vision and they were able to inspire people who would have been hopeless otherwise. 

They were able to somehow stand up against the tides of dissent and cesspools of despair to churn up their own tidal wave of change that rocked the shores of society!

This is a time of great change for all of us. If you look at when societies struggle, it is when they somehow think that money can buy anything worth having.  Money CANNOT buy as good of an education as having an involved caring parent and teacher and hard working administrators.  Money CANNOT pull a nation or world out of economic depression or recession-- only hard work and wise counsel. 

The problem with many of us is that we'd rather watch TV for four hours a night than to spend that time with our kids or helping them do homework.  WE don't complain about the kid who plays on the Xbox for 20 hours a week, but God forbid the teacher send home 30 minutes at night!  If you asked us to restrict kids to 30 minutes of TV a day, we'd balk.  Where are our priorities?

I hope that we will all take a look at what is happening and realize that we can't spend money we don't have, that we have to choose how to spend our time and not allow it to go down the drain of mindless activity and that no matter our generation or the strife of our societies that we can, my friends, choose our attitude.

Thank you for allowing me to ramble. I'm always nervous with such a long, stream of consciousness post that I'll have mistyped or said something wrong here -- "In many words is folly" and the more I write the more likely I'll mess up by mispeaking or writing. 

My Heart ForYou
However, my heart for you, my friends out there, teachers, educators, and technology buffs is one of wanting to encourage you whereever you are, whatever you're going through to get up, smile at the sun (or the Son as in my case), enjoy the snow on your eyelashes or fragrance wafting towards your nostrils and:

see the blessings around and have a good attitude towards the stressings that are also inherent in life today.

Keep the faith.  Don't quit and remember, as my Granny always said,

"Sometimes you gotta let the rough end drag and it is OK!"




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