Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Get Inspired - Exploring Writing in the Classroom

Today, fewer words, more action.

As my head starts spinning around our next Electronic Village Online Session 2011, free online sessions for educators all over the globe, I thought it would be a great idea to start sharing great resources available in what we want to explore in January - Digital Storytelling.

So, here's my first:

Twenty Interesting Ways to Support Writing in the Classroom, by http://twitter.com/russeltarr.

I'm sure you'll love and get inspired to try at least one!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

No Helplessness in the Trenches - Take Action!

Funny thing happened this morning.

My oldest son is a night owl, not morning person at all. He studies in the afternoon. Yes, in Brazil, there are two school shifts, and kids can study either in the morning or afternoon. Even so, my kids have morning extra activities, like sports and English classes. Well, every morning I feel I'm in the trenches trying to get those soldiers to stand, get up for the activities. Many words, sometimes even threats, to see if there will be something convincing in my action to make them stand and go. It's almost like losing a battle every single time my day begins. I tried all the strategies, really, from kindness to tickles, some drops of water, fun stuff, even madness. Again, a lost battle just not totally lost because at the end, the little ones wake up. Not in a good mood. Sometimes that cranky look, others tearful moaning an groaning.


With an impotent feeling of helplessness, sometimes I even considered giving up, meaning just to cancel all the extra activities. Many times, in fact, I've thought about it. But, reconsidered it. No. I can't just give up on the kids' present and future. I, from my own background, know the difference it makes when you try out different sports, when you are outdoors, when you learn another language, when you meet new people, a world even bigger than the school environment, where kids learn tons.

Well, we say in Brazil that if you can't change it, just go with the flow. So, today, and I don't know why I haven't thought of that before (!), I simply had a slightly different approach to the whole situation. Not even bright, but sometimes you're so into things you don't notice that very simple changes can have a high impact of surprise. Well, I got my kids' cellphone, set up the alarm, and bang. When I got home after my tennis classes to pick up the kids for their sports activities, they were sitting in the living room, totally ready to leave. I couldn't help myself, but laugh. Such an unpretentious act had such an impact in the whole family environment...Yeah, not brilliant, creative, but just plain, simple shift of perspective. Life was more resplendent today.

All that kept me thinking of our own classrooms. I remember a teen group I had it was almost unbearable. It was the same kind of situation I felt helpless and burnt out after two hours with them. It seems I was trying to manage the unmanageable just to realize that the problem might not have been with those wonderful kids, but the way I was approaching things. With small changes to help us connect, at the end of the semester I was in love with all of them, sad to let them go, and I know they felt at ease in class, as well. We had established a wonderful camaraderie-type of relationship due to the shifts I made to my own lesson plan that really tapped into their interests and my own attitude towards them.


How about you? When was the last time you had an issue in which from just a few adjustments and some action things changed to the positive uplifting side? What are the kinds of situation that are bothering you that YOU could make a change with ever-lasting impact on the outcomes?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

DNA Rescue - Part 2: Skills are Cheap. Passion is Priceless

Still on Gary Vaynerchuk's book, "Crush it", I can't help it, but keep exploring the world of passion and our double-helice (DNA) historical perspective and bring it all together into our professional realm. Because of my last post's comments, I was taken into the recordings of the Reform Symposium(Thanks, Mrs Tenkely!). If it were in the past, I'd be able to have listened to it live, but due to some time constraints and options, I couldn't be there, but had the chance to download it via iTunes. Amazing, thrilling stuff, though, simple again. It is crushing true and there's no way out that the simplest, most caring ideas are the ones who are truly powerful.

George Couros hit it hard! His presentation about Identity Day at his school in Canada is just a brilliant way to shape and channel the undoubtful hard-hitting effectiveness of giving voice to our passions. How many of us know what are co-workers' passions really are? Yesterday, I asked this plain question, "What's your true passion?" Some could spit it out in nanoseconds, others had to think a bit hard, but just the fact that we were talking about it gave a boost of optimism and happiness to our spirits. Imagine what we could do to our lives, our classrooms, our work places? We could really crush it as a group if we let those passionate and vigorous voices bloom. A spark in the eye, words that are generally not mentioned, getting to know the other...All our passions, all possible connections to one another.

So, let's keep our movement toward our DNA rescue spiced up with passion. It can be amazingly transformative.
Get to know what your true passions are
Never forget your historical background as it could give you big clues of dormant passions
Share your passsions with others
Encourage others to find their own
With all that in mind, let us remix ourselves to become better people

If you asked about my passions, I could tell you about some. However, the one that moves me, makes me a believer, an optimist, an explorer? My passion for PEOPLE.


What are your ingrained passions?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Value your DNA - Keep Passion Alive

I've just started reading a very pleasant book. Nothing new, but simply painfully true. Gary Vaynerchuck's "Crush it" talks about being true to our DNA in the beginning of his book.

For me, being true to our DNA is rescuing our roots and reminding ourselves what really makes it all worth it. I've been talking more and more, or even preaching, about the power of passion in everything we do. I've seen many educators with their passionate instincts dormant, just burnout, stressed out, lifeless...They even forget why they've started. They forget how fiery they once were about teaching, learning, the classroom....

I'd say that we need to start a Rescue your DNA program, in which inspiring people, professionals, educators find inspiration in what they believe in and who they are. What ticks them? How can they match their passions they once had and are latent into vibrant forces that are conducive to self-fulfillment, effective teaching and on-going learning?  What is the balance of keeping up with our routine, but not keep our drives simply inactive. We all need action, movement, transpiration, passion in our lives. We need to be true to our DNA. We need to find understanding and truth in what we do to be multipliers of powerful inspirational sourced to the ones around us. We need to transform or reform ourselves to be agents of change in society.

How should we start regaining passion in what we do and who we are?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Blended Learning

For some, blended learning means having a mix of face-to-face classes, plus online encounters. However, I'd go a bit beyond. Blended learning can take different shapes if you consider a regular face-to-face classroom with the use of online tools to supplement the learning process that takes place within brick and mortar spaces. Also, if you consider the many different forms of professional development, it can be considered a blend of formal + informal, the kind of sharing in the school hallways plus your connections within your online networked context. I consider them all to be types of blended open learning opportunities. To blend is to find different paths to keep evolving as people, lifelong learners and professionals.

In this screencast, I talk about three examples of blended learning experiences:

  •  Using http://voicethread.com/ to connect our students and their ideas beyond classroom walls. Here, I show an example of a very simple, but highly effective, activity some friends of mine worked on with their very young learners. These co-workers would panic when they got started in this blended-informal-formal educators' world, but they are now totally into it: http://ctjconnected.blogspot.com/2010/07/embracing-changes-learning.html
  • Using Flickr groups to keep promoting vocabulary/language development. Educators can model how to use images to convey an abstract concept. Then, learners can start preparing their own photo sets. Here, the example was the Flickr group, Idioms in English
  • I also make a point that PD can be part of the blended learning realm and give the example of using a wiki, a collaborate webpage, to make sharing and learning an on-going cycle in the workplace.
The biggest challenge we all face when we make blended learning part of our routine is to find the right balance between the so many choices we have nowadays. I'd say that the most important aspect to optimize our choices is to keep in mind that the tools are there only to be enablers of brain connections and networked encounters.

How would you define blended learning and how would you make/have you made it a reality in your classroom?

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