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Unearthing Humor

As a parent and educator, you always hope that your children and students find their purpose and passion and then live it. My daughter, Sara Zimmerman, is living her passion better than many people I know. She’s an artist, web designer, musician, climber, mom, wife, daughter, sister, and now author.

Unearthed ComicsCheck out  ”Unearthed Comics” where she just launched her book “Un-earthing the Universe, One Comic at a Time” and I’m a sponsor. What a great idea!

Everyday is exciting for Sara, her husband, Rob, and her 5 year old daughter, Cali. I am learning from them that you can play while you work and work while you play. They have a band where Sara plays her drums and Cali has her own set to follow along. Rob and Sara are a real team with the web designing, their band, and climbing.

Check out ”Unearthed Comics” and get yourself the book and a decal. You can even take the decal with you when you travel and share where in the world you and the Marilyn decal are visiting on her blog. And for anyone wanting some great marketing advice, download her free eBook on Making Smart Marketing Decisions.

Make Smart Marketing Decisions

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Listen to Voice Comments

I learned something cool this week. You can leave voice comments on a Google doc. This is very cool for teachers who want to leave a comment on a document for one of their students, but found that they had to write a lot. Now they can leave a voice comment.  I am a writer and editor. So this could save me so much time when I edit, and this can save me if my editor uses this feature. Jennifer Roberts created this video tutorial on how to use it. Check it out!

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Building Community in your Classroom

School starts soon for many. Some have started already. If you think of your classroom as a community of learners right away, then the culture changes. What is the culture of your classroom? Do you…

  • spend hours and hours getting your classroom ready?
  • buy lots of posters and materials to put on bulletin boards?
  • arrange all the furniture just the right way?

 

If so, you have set the culture of your classroom where you are in control, you manage what happens in your classroom, and your classroom is teacher-centered from the start. I’m not saying you have to take everything down and start over, but think about what it might look like to your learners if you…

  • left the bulletin boards and walls empty so the room was an empty canvas ready for the community to design?
  • had all the furniture in the middle of the classroom and had each learner help arrange the desks or tables together?

 

This sounds like chaos and you may not be ready to do something like this. So start slow. The classroom is where your learners will be part of for almost 9 months. It is their home with you. Consider your life as a learner. What was it like? Did you have any say in how you would learn or contribute to the classroom?

Communities work if there is trust and respect. I remember sitting at desks in rows. Fear was one way to control the class in the classes I attended. Was it yours? Did it work? I didn’t feel much respect in many of my years as a learner – even in college. I felt I knew a lot but was not given many opportunities to share what I knew or dreamed about or wanted to know. I was tested on facts that were not relevant to me. I remember an art class where the teacher scolded me because I went outside the lines. I came from a home of artists where there were no lines. What about you? What was it like in school when you grew up?

Some of you probably hear ” if it was good for me, it’s good for my child.” Remember your experience and what it might feel like for your learners in your classroom. Their lives and experiences are connected and different than many of their teachers. Their experiences include the Internet, mobile devices, and have everything at their fingertips.

If you already set up your classroom or that’s just too out there for you. Then take a chance to arrange your furniture in an unconventional way. Then ask your students for feedback. Keep some of the walls or bulletin boards empty and ask your students to submit ideas on what to put on them. Have ways to hang student work or questions from your students from the ceiling.

Some more ideas for the first few days of school:

  • meet and greet each student at the door with a smile and a handshake.
  • invite everyone to contribute to the class rules — include some off the wall, funny rules.
  • use an icebreaker or have them tell a story so everyone has a voice the first few days.
  • share what the expectations are for the year and ask for feedback.

I’m sure some of you are thinking “this is an open classroom and I saw it before.” I’m talking about learner voice and choice. This is a classroom where everyone is part of the community and sharing in decisions. There is a feeling that each voice matters. I am only touching on a few points and know there are so many wonderful teachers out there who can share more.

How would you build a community of learners where there is trust and respect?

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The Wild Wild West

The Wild WestSomething’s happening online. Does it seem like everything is safe and then you find it isn’t? When you consider the Internet provides so much for free, but then you see companies that are FREE going IPO with a value of billions. Where do they make their money?

Every time you sign up for free analytics, an online game in your social network, or a free online community, you agree to the Terms of Use. Have you ever read any of them before you clicked agree?

Most companies do a good job posting privacy-aware policies that make it clear to users how they use their data.  What users might be doing is sacrificing ownership of their analytics data which might surprise you what that means.

Definition from Wikipedia: monetization involves maximizing the revenue potential from available data by institutionalizing the capture, storage, analysis, effective dissemination, and application of that data. Said differently, it is the process by which corporations, large and small, leverage data to increase profit and efficiency, improve customer experience and build customer loyalty. The practice, although common since 2000, is now getting increasing focus as regulatory and economic pressures increase on businesses.

Financial services companies are a relatively good example of an industry focused on replacing lost revenue by leveraging data. Credit card issuers and retail banks are using customer transaction data to improve targeting of cross-sell offers. Partners are increasingly promoting merchant based reward programs which leverage a bank’s data and provide discounts to customers at the same time.

What does that mean for you? All you want to do is go online to learn, find information, resources or ideas, connect with others, or just to lurk and see what others are doing. There may be other reasons but it’s not to give away your data. That’s what you think. This is a new time where data and the ownership of data makes companies grow and get rich. The new revenue model is give it away, make it free, and then collect 150,000 points of data for each user.

That’s right – that’s what I said. A minimum of 150,000 points of data for you. This means that your data includes:

  • contact information like your address, phone number, email address for EVERY place you ever lived.
  • credit and banking information for every credit or debit card you signed up for, loan for anything you ever signed, mortgage or rent agreements, and bank or credit union accounts.
  • record of every purchase where you used anything but cash.
  • any agreement you signed and filed: marriage, divorce, business partnerships, wills or living trust, utility bills, etc.
  • channels you watch on TV and listen to on the radio or on mobile device.
  • every time you make a phone call, location of a picture you take, or text.
  • analytics for a website for the number of hits and page views.
  • social media and all of your connections and their data points.
  • apps and activities on your mobile devices.
  • online games and how you are performing.
  • online courses and what you are learning.
  • and so many more data points from thousands of places.

 

So why would any company want to know this about you? This is how they target their marketing and plan for research and development. Big budget stuff! You see if a company just relied on the activity of their clients, they wouldn’t know how to project future development. Now with all the social media and mobile devices, companies can now track all of the data points. They can use the analytics of your page views and visitors on top of your own activity. Companies now need lots of data to make decisions and they need millions of users. The only way they can get that is to offer programs for free or at very low cost. You think it’s a great bargain, but they are using your information to get rich.

So what if you wanted to bow out of the data mining business and take all of your data points with you. It’s too late. You were born and that is now recorded. You signed up for a phone some time ago. That was recorded. You made calls and each of those were recorded. I know many people who will not use the Internet or a credit card because they are concerned about someone taking their information. Sorry. It’s gone already. You can take control of some of your information by doing some Internet forensics on yourself. Find out what is attached to your name by Googling your name, address, etc.

But here’s another thing – every time you search on Google, that’s another data point connected to you. Oh my!!! I wrote this just so you are aware of what Free really means so you can make good choices when connecting online or by your mobile device for the right reasons.

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Image Trolling, Blogs, and Pinterest

Are you a blogger? Do you use social media sites like Pinterest? If so, you will want to be very aware of copyright infringement. Getty Images is trolling the Internet using the software PicScout that they purchased last year for $20 million. If Getty Images finds that you use any of their images illegally, they will come after you with a cease and desist letter.

But that won’t be the last of it. You can try to ignore the letter, but they will demand payment even if you remove the image or images because you used it. They refer to Time Machine and any other tools that can bring back archived websites. If you use your blog to promote your services or product, Getty Images will come after you. The charge for the use of the image  can be $1,400 or more per image depending how long the image was on your site. You can negotiate with them, but you will have to pay something.

But what if you didn’t know the image was copyrighted? You may have even received permission to use the image from what you thought was the original owner of the image, but they weren’t the owner. They were just another blogger right-clicking on Google Images.

Photographers and artists are wanting their due credit and compensation for the use of their images. Getty Images is protecting them. You can avoid downloading any copyrighted images when you do a Google Images search by using ImageExchange, a nifty little plug-in that runs on the side of your browser that you can download from PicScout.  As you browse images, any image that is hosted on microstock (or other agents) is found with details of the image owner and a link back to the relevant agent.

So now Getty Images is investigating the pinning and repinning of sites with images on Pinterest. They are in a huge battle. Pinterest is using software to affect the use of PicScout so there is no way to determine original copyright. Photographers are scanning Pinterest to see who has pinned and repinned their images and demanding that there is copyright infringement. ImageExchange may not work with Pinterest which could be a problem for you if you have several boards with questionable images.

Pinterest Locked in Statement with Image Owners

So I downloaded ImageExchange and am using that before I look for any image to use on my site. I come from a family of artists (starving artists) who want to be compensated for their work. So where can you find images to use on your blog, website, or pin to Pinterest?

  • Take them yourself and brand them with ImageExchange.
  • Use ImageExchange when you search for images.
  • Make sure that you get permission to use the image from the original artist or photographer. (this doesn’t always guarantee that you are okay)
  • Pay for the image before you post.

 

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Inquiry Circles in Action

Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action
by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels

Comprehension and Collaboration is a guide for teachers who want to realize the benefits of well-structured, engaging, cross-curricular projects. Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels lay the foundation for inquiry circles:

  • explain 10 fundamental classroom conditions needed for active, small group learning;
  • profile 19 small-group inquiry circles that bring strategies and principles to life;
  • provide 27 practical lessons in comprehension, collaboration, and inquiry;
  • offer how-to instruction for four types of inquiry circles – mini inquiries, cross curricular inquiries, literature circle inquiries, and open inquiries; and
  • address characteristic management concerns.

 

The authors Harvey and Daniels stress the importance of student collaboration and using inquiry as a vehicle to increase comprehension and deepen understanding.

“Comprehension is about understanding…Reading is about thinking.” (p. 27)

Inquiry is a process of learning that encourages kids to ask questions, to work together to solve problems, to discover knowledge, and to construct their own meaning, with guidance, rather than lectures, from teachers. The inquiry approach has three key strands (p. 56-57):

  1. “framing school study around questions developed and shaped by kids” which means allowing students’ genuine curiosity about curriculum topics to form the center of teaching;
  2. “handing the brainwork of learning back to the kids” meaning that instead of sitting quietly and receiving the information presented by a teacher, students actively work to construct their own learning experiences and take responsibility for the outcomes; and ultimately,
  3. “focusing on the development of kids’ thinking, first, foremost, and always.”

 

“The Gradual Release of Responsibility” has different stages (p.112):

  • Teacher Modeling: Teacher explains and models a new strategy, thinking aloud in order to demonstrate their thought-process behind the strategy use.
  • Guided Practice: Teacher and students practice the strategy together in shared contexts, constructing meaning through interchange; students gradually take more responsibility for task engagement and completion.
  • Collaborative Practice: Students share thinking process with one another or work in small groups and pairs and reason through text together; the teacher moves between groups, checking in on how things are going.
  • Independent Practice: Students practice using the strategy independently of teacher and other students; students receive regular feedback on their progress.
  • Application of Strategy: Students use the strategy in authentic situations, across a variety of settings, contexts, and disciplines.

“Kids’ questions really matter.” (p. 228)

I recommend this book as prompts for discussions about bringing inquiry-based learning into your classroom and as part of your professional learning communities.

The authors also created DVDs that support their work:

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The Information Diet

All of us have used the term “Information Overload”, but is it really that? This book, The Information Diet by Clay Johnson, has a different take on how we use information.

The Information Diet

The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption

The author shares that humans spend upwards of 11 hours out of every 24 hours in a state of constant consumption. Not eating, but gorging on information ceaselessly spewed from the screens and speakers we hold dear. Just as we have grown morbidly obese on sugar, fat, and flour—so, too, have we become gluttons for texts, instant messages, emails, RSS feeds, downloads, videos, status updates, and tweets. As part of the technological revolution, many of us are addicted. We wake up and have to check our social media to see who did what when and comment on this here and there.

We’re all battling a storm of distractions, hit with notifications and tempted by tasty tidbits of information. This is just like  too much junk food can lead to obesity, too much junk information can lead to cluelessness according to the author. We are taking multitasking to extreme limits. So here is a book that opened my eyes. The Information Diet shows you how to thrive in this information glut—what to look for, what to avoid, and how to be selective. In the process, author Clay Johnson explains the role information has played throughout history, and why following his prescribed diet is essential for everyone who strives to be smart, productive, and sane.

In The Information Diet, you will:

  • Discover why eminent scholars are worried about our state of attention and general intelligence
  • Examine how today’s media—Big Info—give us exactly what we want: content that confirms our beliefs
  • Learn to take steps to develop data literacy, attention fitness, and a healthy sense of humor
  • Become engaged in the economics of information by learning how to reward good information providers
  • Just like a normal, healthy food diet, The Information Diet is not about consuming less—it’s about finding a healthy balance that works for you

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10 Tips for Active Listening

“Listening is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well.” – John Marshall

Dog headphones“What, Huh? What did you say?”
“Are you really listening?”

The problem with “kind of” listening is that it can lead to mistakes, misunderstandings, the wrong goals, wasting time and lack of teamwork. As a coach, I learned the importance of careful and thoughtful listening. Yet, I still have to remind myself about active listening. Some people think they are listening but to build relationships that work, they need to listen well. They may be listening just enough to jump in to say what they want to say. Some have trouble concentrating on what the other person is saying so they zone out or daydream while the person is talking. There are others who think they are listening but actually are thinking of all the things they need to do that day. Yet, listening is less important than how you listen. By listening in a way that demonstrates understanding and respect, you build a true foundation for a good relationship no matter if it is between coach and coachee, teacher and students, friends, mother and child, spouses, or team members.

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway

Here are ten tips to listening well:

  1. Decide you want to Listen: Remember the old adage about having two ears and one mouth. Maybe we’re supposed to listen twice as much as we speak. Whatever, it starts with the decision to listen.

  2. Come with an Open Mind: It is very easy to come to a conversation with a preconceived idea about the other person and what they are going to say. Give them a chance to surprise you and you surprise them with an open mind and listening well.
  3. Hear What They Say: Make sure you can really hear the other person. It is surprising how often people do not realize that they cannot even hear other people. Make that you can really hear them first for effective listening. Let them know if you cannot hear what they are saying.
  4. Give 100%: Show you care about the other person or persons by giving 100% of your attention to them and suspending all other activities. If you multitask while listening, you are not listening.
  5. Listen 75%, Speak 25% of the Time: This is a powerful tip unless you are giving a speech. Try to allow the other person to speak more than you and listen to them.
  6. Respond with Interest: While you are listening, you can give both verbal and nonverbal responses such as nodding, smiling, and comment to the other person(s). You can demonstrate you received the message and how it had an impact on you. When you respond, speak at the same energy level as the other person. This will help the person who is speaking that they really got through to you and will not have to repeat what they said.
  7. Show Interest: While the other person is speaking, lean forward and maintain eye contact. Be sensitive to their cultural background while listening. Some cultures find smiling offensive. Some people talk with their hands. When you are listening, use similar cultural gestures and actions.
  8. Let the Speaker Finish the Point they Were Making: Our brains speed along four times faster than when we speak. Try not to finish their sentences or interrupt. Wait for Pauses. When the speaker pauses, you might be able to jump in and ask a clarifying question. If there are not good long pauses, then wait until the speaker has completed speaking their idea.
  9. Show understanding: Just saying “I understand” is not enough. People need some sort of evidence of understanding. You can demonstrate that you understand by occasionally restating the idea they were sharing or ask them a question that probes deeper into the main idea. Try not to repeat what they said just to prove you were listening. Active listening means you can show you understand what the other person is saying.
  10. Be Respectful: Let them know you take their views and ideas seriously. Be willing to communicate with others at their level of understanding and attitude by adjusting your tone of voice, rate of speech and choice of words to show that you are empathetic and trying to imagine being where they are at the moment.

“I think one lesson I have learned is that there is no substitute for paying attention.” – Diane Sawyer

Resources:
How to improve your listening skills
Listening Secrets
Listening First Aid
The Art of Effective Listening
Talking is Sharing, but Listening is Caring
Listening is crucial in a Multicultural Workplace
Training in the Art of Listening

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Baby Boomers Retiring: Opportunities for Teaching Jobs

Something is happening now. Teachers that are baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1954) are going to be retiring. That means that teaching jobs are going to be available. Lots of teaching jobs will start opening up all over the country and world. Kansas is putting together a plan to prepare for all the teacher retirements and shortages. According to the Kansas City Star, “Administrators were concerned five years ago that there wouldn’t be enough teachers once older teachers started retiring. Then the economy tanked and many veteran teachers decided to keep working for a few more years.”

What is interesting is that teaching is now a second or third career for even retirees according to this article in the NY Times. Walt Patterson who is 65 who had been a local school board member, heard about an opening at the nearby West High School to teach science, and decided to build on his science and math background to become a teacher.

Teacher Coming back to teach after retirement

“My wife told me she wasn’t going to keep working while I went out every day to play golf,” Mr. Patteson said. After 10 years in the Navy, where he was a pilot, he returned home to help run his family’s farm in Tracy, Calif. But two decades later, in 1999, when the farm was sold, he was only 53 and he wanted to do something community minded.

All over the Internet there is talk about baby boomers leaving in droves and leaving a teacher shortage. This means there could be an expanding economy. If teachers retire, they leave with a pension and have time to enjoy themselves and spend some of their money on themselves. Money that goes back into the economy.

Michigan is probably one of the hardest hit states because of the collapse of the auto industry. Rick Heglund writes in his article ‘There’s hope for unemployed workers: Baby boomers will retire’: “Michigan’s unemployment rate stands at 14.1 percent as 684,000 people say they can’t find work.”

The Orlando Sentinel article “Teaching: A Hot Career as Boomers Retire” starts off with how many teaching jobs have been lost and why would anyone want to be a teacher. “within the next decade as waves of aging baby boomers retire, leaving districts with lots of openings to fill.”

This means that if you are interested in being a teacher, this is the time to jump in. Especially if you have a math or science background, you will be in demand in a few years. Take some classes. Learn about how technology will play a big part in a classroom and online environment. Things are changing. Jobs are coming. And if you’re retiring and want to work, look at teaching and sharing your vast knowledge you have attained.

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11 Tips to Personalize Learning

1. Find out how each student learns best.

Each student is unique. Find out each students best learning styles using multiple assessments. Have students create a personal learner profile that identifies how they best learn, their strengths, and their weaknesses.

2. Allow students to choose their topic.

Give students a chance to make decisions about how they learn best. Have students pursue their own interests and something they are passionate about. Make sure they address their strengths and their learning styles. Don’t expect everyone to respond in the same way.

3. Encourage teachers and students to co-design the curriculum.

Review the standards with the students so they understand what they need to know and do. Ask students to brainstorm ideas and topics around the standards and examples of projects, problems, and challenges.

4. Ask lots of questions.

Take one topic and brainstorm open-ended questions that have no one right answer but multiple answers and more questions. Provide a framework for students to engage with new learning by making connections, thinking critically and exploring possibilities. Have them brainstorm questions and then prioritize the questions.

5. Teach less, learn more.

Review the lesson so you are not lecturing or the main expert of the content. Make it so everyone in the class is an expert on something or a great researcher so they can find the information they need. Change the seating arrangements so students are in groups or encourage students to redesign the learning environment. Have students find their strengths and be available to help others. When someone has a question about something, have them ask 3 people that have identified they know the topic before you. Integrate the appropriate technology that encourages publishing, creating, and collaborating with other students.

6. Share how you learn.

Talk about your own learning. You are creating a learning community where you are modeling collaboration, curiosity, and reflection. Be an active participant in the learning community. Opening up about you and what you know about a specific topic encourages discourse among your students.

7. Connect, extend, challenge.

Ask your students to write down and reflect on what they learned, if there was a particular learning experience they enjoyed, what helped and hindered their learning, and what might they do different next time. This can be in the form of a blog or personal online journal.

8. Re-evaluate assessment.

Instead of focusing on standardized tests only to measure progress, create meaningful assessment tasks that allow transfer of learning to other contexts. Have students publish evidence of their learning on the internet for an authentic audience such as a blog or ePortfolio. Place as much value on process and progress as on the final product.

9. Define goals and encourage reflection.

Each student can define their learning goals and develop their personal learning plan. They can refer to their progress towards their goals with ongoing self-evaluation and reflection. Provide opportunities for constructive, specific feedback from you, the student, their peers, and their parents. Student blogs are great tools for reflecting on learning and responding to their peers.

10. Focus on learning, not work.

Make sure you and your students know the reason for every learning experience. Avoid giving worksheets and busy work. Start with the Why they are learning something. Ask questions. Encourage questions. Develop with your students learning experiences that support personalized learning and collaborative group activities.

11. Coordinate student led conferences.

Invite students to lead the conference about them sharing their strengths and weaknesses with their teacher and parents. They also share how learning has progressed, areas for improvement, and the process and product of learning. Evidence of learning and the process can be published to an ePortfolio, a VoiceThread, Glogster, or blog.

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