Sunday, February 5, 2012

Horn Tooting: Yea or Nay

Did you know that this past Wednesday, February 1, 2012, was "Digital Learning Day?" I learned about it from my Twitter feed (my "go to" for all things worth knowing). I signed up right away and so my students were among the almost 2,000,000 that participated. I'm all for taking part in special days at school. For some reason, it makes an ordinary day seem special by giving it some title like "National Day" and the students will be excited and more willingly engaged. Digital Learning Day was promoted by the Wisconsin DPI. Educators who signed up received emails with ideas for lessons and as the day approached, daily "count down" emails arrived. I hope that there were people who tried new things in their classrooms and libraries. Something I wanted to try for quite a while was a Mystery State Skype. I was able to arrange a couple and they were very exciting. Through Twitter (yes...and I'll keep mentioning it) I managed to use my contacts for setting up the Skype sessions. My students were thrilled to generate various clues about Wisconsin, put them in order from least obvious to most obvious, and be ready to share them with other students. They were focused and worked as a team under the time crunch. During the Skype calls, they again were focused so they wouldn't miss any of the clues given. Connecting our little rural Kickapoo classroom to places around the nation is so powerful and memorable for my students. This is what it's all about. This day was something to look forward to for my friend and co-worker, Jen Malphy (aka @jmalphy) and I, but we half laughed when we realized that we really weren't doing much different that we do on any other given day. What was different though, was that we documented what happened. We took photos of students working in our classes and in others. We told the students that it was Digital Learning Day and their faces lit up with excitement. (Our apple-like students haven't failen far from their tree-like teachers, have they?) We gave interviews to one of the writers for the school newspaper and Jen is putting together a media piece with the photos to "tell the story" so that they Board of Education sees what innovative education happens within the walls of Kickapoo on a daily basis. We have decided that shameless "horn tooting" is a necessary component of today's teaching world - at least for us. So, when should you be "tooting your horn" and about what? We all have something to let it be known.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Adventure Begins

Today has been the culmination of some stressful activity, but also the beginning of something new. Please bear with me as I set the scene and add in the details.

On Wednesday, my principal sent an email to the staff asking whether anyone was interested in applying for a grant for $5,000 to $10,000. The funds would be used to travel and create an experience that will enhance our curriculum and what happens in our classrooms. My school is eligible for this particular grant, offered by Fund for Teachers, because we were once again named as a Wisconsin School of Promise (SOP). We have earned this this distinction for the last six years.

My principal had asked previously, but nobody responded with a "yes." Why would people stay silent? Who wouldn't love to plan a fantastic learning experience that easily could double as a once-in-a-lifetime vacation? Don't forget about the "free money." The catch is that a detailed educational plan, travel itinerary and budget needed to be submitted by 5pm on Friday. *gulp* On the flip side, the interpretation to qualify as an SOP has changed, so this is the last year we'll be eligible. Game on.

By the end of the day on Wednesday, I had convinced a new colleague of mine (the chemistry and physics teacher) to dive in and take on this challenge. We were fortunate to have the assistance of a former superintendent who volunteered her time to help us because she loves writing grants (yes, really) and she believes all teachers should travel.

By some act of a higher being, we were able to work together in bits of time during the day and after school and we submitted the finalized form at 4:55pm - with just 5 minutes to spare. Phew! As we all took deep breaths and exhaled, we slapped a few high-fives. Now...the waiting begins. We will be notified by a March 30th mailing.

You might be wondering, "What is her new adventure?" Well, what a more appropriate topic with which to start my blog, right? Welcome to the Gadget Girl's blog. Stay tuned to find out where I might get to go this summer!