Summer is Here! It’s Time For Some #SPF20

I’ve been in education for about 30 years, but today happens to be the last day of school of my 20th year working in my district. I’ve done a lot in 20 years here. I taught special education resource room and in-class support. I taught every elementary grade level. I was an elementary computer teacher, and I’ve been a district Technology Integration Specialist for the past three years. I ran a STEM Club called STEAMMakers. I’ve brought in new programs, secured grants, and started district-wide initiatives. I even went back to college and got certified as a school administrator three years ago.

I couldn’t have done all of this if I didn’t fully embrace a perpetual love of learning. I am ridiculously addicted to learning new things – to keeping my mind active, staying cutting edge, and continually working toward self-improvement. It really is an obsession. But there’s more – I have a second “affliction”. I am insatiably passionate about teaching it all to others.

The teachers throughout my district depend on me to be an edtech expert. I serve as a team mentor and bring new resources, skills, ideas, and learning to the other Technology Integration Specialists in my district. I now own my own edtech consulting business, Integration Innovation, LLC. I do presentations for thousands of attendees nationally and even internationally. I owe it to all of these people to stay current and really be a powerhouse resource for edtech learning.

So on this first day of summer of my 20th year in my district, I’m kicking off this summer by setting a goal called #SPF20. It stands for summer professional fun! The fun part is obvious, and the 20 means that I intend to learn or deepen my learning of 20 edtech things by the time I go back to school. Some of these things are brand new to me, and have just been things ‘on my radar’ that I knew I wanted to learn when I could find the time. Many of these goals are platforms or tools with which I’m already familiar, but I really want to dive deeper and become more of an expert. I also want to curate dynamic presentations based on what I learn.

Why 20? Well, it is originally inspired by the celebration of my 20th year in one district, but it’s also based on the fact that I have just about 10 weeks of summer vacation. That means that I can pointedly learn two new things each week. I first I thought that number sounded too low, but the more I thought about it the more I realize that it’s a really good balance. If I had made it #SPF50, I’d dabble in a lot, but not really become an expert at anything…and I’m craving expertise this summer. Balance is something I’m working on in my life, so 20 it is! If I learn something new on a Monday, and something else on Thursday, I have all those other days of the week to:

    Just spread out the learning – go deeper into my inquiry, or just wake up the next day and explore things I wondered about after reflecting
    Reach out to other friends and folks on Twitter who use these sites or tools and ask questions, and maybe even schedule in-person or virtual meetups to explore and learn together! (I would really love this!)
    Contact the vendors with any questions I have, request demos, or just build good relationships with them
    Curate presentations and resources to share with colleagues
    Take a day or two off when I just want to! I need some pool days in the sunshine, fishing trips, beach days, and down time with my family, too!

How am I going about this #SPF20 thing? Well, I have a list. I REALLY like my #SPF20 list – it is ambitious but inspired! To be honest, it’s not quite finished yet, but I have about 15 things on there so far. I’m saving some open spots until after ISTE in late June, where I’ll meet all kinds of people who will undoubtedly inspire me to learn things I haven’t yet even considered. I was going to schedule the items from my list on the calendar, but I realized I want the flexibility and freedom to decide what I’m going to learn week by week…it IS summer, after all! So the list and the learning will remain fluid.

So I’ll be using #SPF20 liberally this summer. I’m always up for having learning buddies – so if you want to teach me cool new stuff, learn with me, or just suggest something I should put on my list, I would love it! I don’t yet know if I’ll blog as I go along, or post to Twitter using the hashtag #SPF20, but I’m open to your ideas and input about that, too. And hey, if anyone else wants to hop on this hashtag and create your own list (or share mine), let’s rock some #SPF20 together!

Oh, and I’m reserving the right to up that #SPF level… extra coverage, ya’ know?

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Writer’s Workshop Tool You Probably Knew About But Never Thought Of In This Way

My colleague Donna brought her 5th grade class to the computer lab a few weeks ago.  She had signed up for some quality computer lab time for her students to work on publishing their major Writing pieces.  They had been working on their pieces for several weeks, as part of a Writer’s Workshop, and they were creating these on a class wiki (more about wiki writing in a future post)  Anyway, Donna has an absolutely remarkable wiki that the students can access 24/7, and they use computers to do all of their writing.  By the time they came to the computer lab, Donna had taught many mini-lessons on writing this piece, and students had applied these lessons to their pieces as the weeks went on.  Because of the wiki, their writing is also semi-public, at least to the other students in the class, and a LOT of commenting, suggestions, and feedback had already occurred.  Revisions and editing had also happened as a result of the feedback from the teacher and other students via the commenting aspect of the wiki.

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    If you are a primary school teacher who teaches Writing, you know that everything I mentioned above is dang-near-perfect, and just the way Writing instruction is supposed to be!  Keep reading – it gets better…..Donna is uber-involved in this Writing process and injects multiple comments and suggestions into her students’ wiki pieces every day.  She also meets with all of her students – frequently, individually, and with quality tips for improving their own pieces.  But……..and Donna will tell you the same thing……

Students are often unable to self-edit or revise, because they inherently auto-correct their own reading.

    So, when they reread their own pieces (as directed) to find errors, listen for inconsistencies, look for areas that could be improved upon, hear grammar mistakes…..the students don’t really hear them or even see them, because they often ‘auto-correct’ as they self-read.  That day in the computer lab, just before final publication, Donna and I could both see that this was still happening.  The students had self-read their own pieces so many times that they were no longer able to hear/see/find areas for improvement.  My buddy Donna doesn’t mind when I jump in a little bit, so I just kind-of threw an idea out to the class, and a whole new world of revision opened up…

Here comes the tool.  Finally. And I urge you to try this if you haven’t before:   Get your students to copy and paste the entire text of their piece into Google Translate.  I could give you the website, but all you have to do, really, is Google ‘Google Translate’ and it comes up. (Okay, I gave you the quick link if you click on those blue words.)  Now, make sure the left side and the right side are both set on English.

googletranslate       Have students copy/paste their written work from wherever they had initial created it – an MS Word doc, a Google doc, a wiki, etc.  They should just paste that text in the box on the left.  The text is automatically (haha) ‘translated’ into English on the right side of the screen.  But look at this screenshot below, and you’ll see two magical things:

googletranslate2     First, there’s that whole “Did you mean:” thing going on below the left box.  This area automatically suggests changes for your young writers, and may get them seeing or thinking about changing things they hadn’t noticed.  But here’s the greatest part of using this web tool: the text-to-speech function!!!   Look at the box on the right.  Do you see the little ((sound)) icon?  When clicked, that actually has a computerized voice (think Siri) that READS the text back to students!  Have your kiddies put headphones on and actually LISTEN to their own pieces read back to them.  Whoaaaaa….

It won’t catch every mistake, but it sure does give students a different perspective to hear their Writing pieces read back to them when there are missing periods, or missplled words, or redundant redundant redundant words you get the idea the kids hear things that they normally might have missed, and it’s just one more AWESOME checkpoint before final publication!  (And yes, I mad these mistakes on porpoise so you culd hear how the sonde in in Google Translate!)

Google Translate.  English to English.  Text to speech.  That’s how 21st century writers roll!