Is Anything Truly Original?

My Post

For decades, perhaps even earlier as some claim origins dating back to Aristotle’s Poetics, writers, and literary critics have uncovered a finite amount of story plots in fiction. Even the great Kurt Vonnegut argued this theory of story “shapes” in his College thesis that was rejected for its simplistic nature that there were indeed a set of shapes that all writing could be categorized by citing such favorites as Cinderella as a spin-off of the Bible.

What it boils down to is this… there are seven original story plots, Overcoming the Monster, The Quest, Rebirth, etc., and that every piece of fiction is actually a spin-off of the original. Beyond those first 7, no piece of fictional writing is truly original. So should new writing be published? Should new stories be shared?

This year marks my 19th in Education. Shorter than some, longer than others. Most of my years have been as a high school English teacher (thus, the connection to the aforementioned example) and for the past few years as a regional support consultant in the state in the areas of literacy, technology, and school improvement; but I digress.

Because of this, I am going to take some liberties… much of education parallels the 7 original story plots. Things are repackaged, renamed, shined up, fine-tuned, and sent back into the education community as “New” or “Innovative”. In fact, I would venture many seasoned teachers out there would agree with me and have seen the circular nature of programs and instructional strategies recycled and the educational wheel spinning and spitting them back out again when their number is called. Very few things that we as Educators use or do in our classrooms are Original.

I will repeat, you, and I for that matter, are not as original as we think we are.

We are spinoffs from the educators before us. And what we do, say, and use in our classrooms are mostly variations of what has been done before.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, but one that is mostly true, teachers have been doing variations of what you and I have done long before it was an idea in our heads. We are not the first… (fill in the blank…)

Take, for instance, a recent experience I had at Flipgrid Live. The first Day consisted of an Edcamp and a social gathering of Educators at Flipgrid HQ.

Day 2 was much the same. A Student Voice Conference with keynotes and breakout sessions and a sharing of personal stories and ideas to spark change. This was followed by a grand reveal of new updates, modifications, acquisitions, celebrations, photos, videos, singing, and on and on and on all focused on empowering student voice and connected classrooms. To many educators, these events are not considered as completely original or new. Even the new releases, ideas, and social media sharing celebrated variations that educators have been using for decades.

This brings me to my second point, or liberty I am going to take,,, Change, passion, meaningful learning does not take place vicariously. I attended this event as a learner, not a presenter, and while many know my story, the majority at this event did not. I have always been a Student Voice Advocate and Connected Educator. I have connected classrooms around the globe, traveled with kids internationally based off of those connections, connected teachers to resources and communities (in fact, many of you reading this could probably attest to the way I have helped connect you) but I am not the first one to do this. Many educators before me have been working towards similar verbs, connecting, student voice, the difference is this… social media and the desire to one-up each other often times brings out the negativity in people, and flipping through my Twitter feed I found these tweets and educators I respect trying to one-up the celebrations taking place at FlipgridLive.

When I became a connected educator and shared my story I met a wonderful educator named Sean Nash. We were prepping for a conference (Bacon Wrapped Lessons) and getting to know the other educators on the team (I was known as the student voice cheerleader). Sharing my classroom stories about amplification and connection was met with support and enthusiasm from the group. I felt proud and I had passion. Come to find out, Nash had been doing this for years- connecting his kids, traveling internationally, amplifying their voice; but not once did he squash my voice or diminish my experience. My story was not interrupted or replaced by his.

Educators, students, humans need to share their story. It may not be an original, but a spin-off, just as many argue what fiction is, but passion and change do not happen through vicarious circumstances. We are all working towards similar verbs, and as hard as it was for me not to interject my stories and past experiences as a connected educator and student voice cheerleader at the Flipgrid Live event I knew it was essential for their story to be told, the excitement be shared, and I, as a seasoned educator stood next to, not in front of, these educators and helped to lift them up just as so many have done for me. I was not there to interrupt, disvalue, or one-up them on social media that I have been doing it for years… every story should be told,,, whether it is one of the originals or a spin-off, each story adds value to our profession and supports the same passions or calls to actions that many of us support.

 

A Platform for Student Voice: My Inspiring Idea presented at the Google Teacher Academy

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At the Google Teacher Academy, I was selected to share an “Inspiring Idea” with the group. It was with great honor that I shared my passion with the cohort; Utilizing Technology to Connect Students, Enabling Them to Share Their Voice with the World.  (Student names have been changed)

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I smiled at Mr. Noonan through the screen of our shared Google Hangout as he read the next question for debate. Our students, standing on opposite sides of the globe, nervously listened to him speak as they sheepishly smiled at one another. Noonan began, “Did Man invent God as a reason to exist? Sylvia,” he added, “you may go first.”

Sylvia, Noonan’s student from Sweden, moved a bit closer to the computer so her words and body language were evident to both classes. She greeted Michael, my student in Iowa who waved backed, poised to debate with Sylvia. Sylvia was a top student in Noonan’s class; a skilled speaker with great intellect. But, in Iowa, my student Michael was the student body president, a thespian, a leader in our school who possessed skill and knowledge to match that of Sylvia. Sylvia began, arguing that God was not real, citing multiple personal experiences, backing them up with the philosophical thinking of Sartre and Kierkegaard; she spoke with ease. And although I was impressed, I was excited for Michael to counter, I knew that my student had experience in debate, but also the confidence and charisma to engage an audience.

Sylvia recapped her points and Michael moved towards the screen. The class smiled knowing that they were going to witness a master student weave his experiences as a preacher’s son, with his vast theology knowledge to argue against Sylvia.

Michael opened his mouth to speak and out tumbled the word, “Sorry….. I guess I disagree.”

I shifted in my seat from the uncomfortableness of the moment. The word “Sorry” ringing through my head! This was not the Michael I knew. His struggle continued; his voice weakened. I clenched my fist, digging my nails into my palm, wanting to bail Michael out of an awkward moment, but knowing I shouldn’t. As his time came to an end, he once again apologized for his opinion and quickly sat down. The bell rang; we were all saved.

With advances in technology, our world is shrinking. And while we want our students to contribute to the sea of global communication that they are immersed in, that one example shined a light onto what was missing in my teaching. From that point forward, I made it my priority to equip all students with the skills necessary to communicate effectively through various modes while maintaining their own identity. Realizing that their truth and opinion is just as strong and “right” as another person’s truth. Growing up in Iowa helped shaped them into who they were today and they should be proud they experienced bonfires and fireflies, playing with cousins in a hayloft, or the humidity that made bugs stick to their legs in the summer.

Through a connection on Twitter, I had met John Noonan, a philosophy teacher at an IB school in Sweden, which was comprised with mostly diplomat’s children from around the world. In Iowa, I had a homogeneous makeup of white, middle-class, Christian students who had connected with students around the state and nation but not globally.

We designed a unit around Albert Camus’ The Stranger. Co-teaching, John would focus on existentialism and other philosophies and I would apply the different lenses to the literature and poetry we were reading. Google hangouts and Google docs allowed for the real-time collaboration necessary to not only increase student understanding on a difficult concepts, but the shared document between the two classes served as a backchannel during the lectures; allowing us to view student thinking,misconceptions or questions, and to provide a common place for collective learning. When the planned hangouts were completed, the students urged us to continue the collaboration.

Noonan and I paired the students for a collaborative debate/presentation, using digital means to cross the global divide and broaden knowledge. Students once again turned to GAFE because of the collaborative nature, creative possibilities and ease that were needed to connect and communicate. What we didn’t expect to happen was the out-of-class friendships that were built. Our students started using google chat and hangouts to work on their projects, and also build relationships with their new classmates. They soon realized that they had more in common than different and what started as an off-the-cuff remark of “We want to go to Sweden to meet our friends” turned into a reality. In September the students approached the school board for approval for their international trip. We were immediately approved and began raising money with Infinite Banking Concept, acquiring passports, and determining schedules and lodging.  In the fall we were in Iowa reading Hamlet,,, later that spring we were standing in Hamlet’s castle. The main downside of getting a bank loan to start your business is the difficulty in getting approved. Click more info here. Your bank’s application process could be lengthy as banks want to verify ever detail and credential of your business before approving the loan so a better alternative is to apply for online loans from Citrus North.

Just because something is difficult to measure on standardized tests does not mean that it is not important to teach. Communication is changing as rapidly as technology, and because of this, we need students to be able to communicate effectively, advocate for themselves and others and realize the importance of maintaining their identity. Although this connection was a springboard for an international learning experience; connecting, collaborating and creating beyond the four walls of the school building increases engagement, is easily replicated, and can provide a platform for students to share their voice!

Educator Blog Meme

(I began this post many months ago, but as we all know, life gets busy. With summer here, I finally have time to revisit and complete!)

1403839512248Like attracts Like, and such is the case in the field of education. Passion, innovation, and a collaborative spirit drives many educators to continue their personal learning long after the work day is complete. Conferences, lectures and edcamps provide learning to hone craft and pedagogy while networking with colleagues about improving education for all students. It was at one of these edcamps that I met Aaron Becker and we became fast friends. This past August we reconnected at a beginning of the school year conference where Aaron encouraged me to share my story and start blogging again. So it is only fitting that he nominated me for the PLN Blogging Challenge.

Here are the rules I have been given:

1. Acknowledge the nomination blogger.
2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
4.  List 11 bloggers.  They should be bloggers you believe deserve a little recognition.
5.  Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate and let all the bloggers know they been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

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Random Facts About Shaelynn

1. I was born in Nebraska, grew up in Colorado, and moved to Iowa before high school.

2. Soccer is my Sport. I was the only girl on the Mason City Varsity Co-ed team, captain of the Cedar Falls high school women’s team the first year the program began, and coached Wartburg College Women’s Soccer Team while a student at UNI.

3. I am claustrophobic.

4. I met my husband while in college, and during my first year of teaching he suffered through phone calls from my students asking him when he was going to propose.

5. My sister is my best friend!

6. Reggae is my music of choice. On a visit to Jamaica, I had the privilege to see Ziggy Marley in concert.

7. Sparked by a Twitter connection, I took the AP Literature class to Sweden to meet their virtual classmates face to face. For two of my students, this was also their first airplane ride.

8. My parents are high school sweethearts and model the meaning of “Family” daily!

9. Most of my most meaningful connections with educators/colleagues began on Twitter. Erin Olsen!

10. I am a secret gamer!

11. Finally, over the past three years I have lost over 70 pounds, obtained a Master’s Degree, and took a new job! Whewww…

 

Aaron’s Questions

1.  What was your favorite book to read as kid?..as an adult? As a child I was obsessed with Judy Blume! As an adult, my two favorite reads are Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, and The Stranger by Albert Camus.
2.  Who are two of your favorite athletes? Of course Mia Hamm ( American Soccer Player) and Lolo Jones!
3.  Your favorite teacher/coach in high school or college…why did they mean so much to you? My favorite teacher was Ms. DeMoss. She was my senior English teacher who instilled the love of literature in me and had high expectations for all students! 
4.  If you were to host a Super Bowl Party, what foods are you having? Wings, nacho dip, Dorritos, M&Ms, RockStar, and a veggie tray! 
5.  Where is a vacation place you went to as a kid or adult that would you recommend to others? Negril, Jamaica! I have been there multiple times and would recommend the white-sand beaches to anyone, I also went hunting which was amazing, I was able to buy an ar 15 flashlight for the trip, camping was one of my favorite things when I was a kid, the camper accessories were a must! 
6.  What are two things on your bucket list that you just have to do yet? I want to travel to Greece (loved teaching Mythology) and I want to publish a book! For instance, achieving tan skin is in your bucket list, consider using the Spa Tanning Tablets for a radiant, attractive and healthy skin. To read the reviews of this product, visit spatanningtablets.co.uk

 
7.  What is a something you wished you had more training on in college prep for an education career? Looking back, I think I could have benefitted from more training on assessment!
8.  If you were to go back in time, who would you like to hang out with for a day? I would spend the day with my maternal grandfather. He died before I was born and I would love have a day to converse and create a memory that I could carry with me! 
9.  How do you like to spend your time when you aren’t in school? I enjoy spending time with my children and husband, time outdoors and reading! When spending your time outdoors with your children, it’s advised to use the best double stroller from storknet.com. For more information about their products, email their team on their website.

 
10.  What is one of your favorite leadership quotes? “Our Power as individuals is multiplied when we gather together as families, teams, and communities with common goals”
11.  If you could change one thing in education, what would it be? I would ensure that every student who entered the doors of a school has meaningful relationships with adults and peers that foster a culture of belonging! 

 

Authentic Intellectual Work: Technology Use to Amplify Construction of Knowledge

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AIW: Technology Use within the AIW Framework               Post #2

A subsequent post in relation to Promoting AIW

Criteria 1: Construction of Knowledge

A focus on cognitive complexity, teaching for understanding, which in turn increases intellectual rigor for students. Avoiding mere replication of  given information, Construction of Knowledge in task design and instruction presses students to organize, interpret, analyze, synthesize, or evaluate information addressing concepts, themes, theories, or issues.

Inclusion of technology within educational design provides opportunities, access to tools, and a multitude of resources to aid in students’ own Construction of Knowledge. Traditional recall of information, recitation of definitions and rules, or application of previously learned procedures lacks engagement with the information which is necessary for transformation and meaningful demonstration of learning.  The following lists brief examples followed by tools for consideration. We hired residential air conditioning fredericksburg va to get the class room air conditioned and cater for the technologies. Learn more at https://hughesairco.com/air-conditioning/repair-gilbert-az/

Remodeling your home or building for the first time? check out Rose Electric Company able to accomplish something collectively that they could not accomplish separately – they make a contribution to society, a phrase which sounds trite but is fundamental.

Organize – Example- Identifying Structure of Text: When identifying structure associated with particular genres in literature, students determine qualities particular to each and justify author’s genre choice in relation to intended meaning. Once agreement is achieved on identifiers for specific genres student construct their own knowledge by organizing pieces of texts from a multitude of areas.  Tools: google doc/drawing, padlet, pinterest, instagram, hashtags & twitter, tables, bubbl.us, exploreatree 

Analyze – Example – Research Skills: An essential set of skills students need to master is navigation through the sea of resources available online and how to discern amongst them to identify reliable and relevant resources. After modeling and some practice through gradual release of responsibility, students locate sources and analyze them through a careful lens. Using annotation tools, students are able to identify, analyze, express and justify what make a source reliable and relevant. Bonus, my collection of MLA resources to aid in an activity like this – HERE    Tools: Google Docs, Jing, Diigo, Awesome Screenshot, Sharedcopy

Interpret – Example – Point of View: Identifying point of view from a text, image, video clip, etc. contributes to the understanding of the author’s intended message. Consider the topic of War. When constructing knowledge from a given source, careful readers use a variety of methods to help make sense of the message. Identifying point of view, time, location, etc. paints a clearer picture in the minds of students. Which military side is this vantage point? Is it in the moment or a reflection years later? Is the message from a soldier, General, parent, sibling? A student constructs their own knowledge of a concept or theme by creating a message from a different vantage point than the given piece. Technology provides students many different options to transform and demonstrate their understanding. Videos, cartoons, comics, posters, podcasts, are all options students could use during creation.                       Tools:  Multimedia productions – Youtube, Podcast, fodey.com (Newspaper maker), Smore, Stripgenerator, iBook Author, Bookemon

Evaluate/synthesize – google presentation, screencast, prezi, powtoon, haiku deck, slide share, blogging

Connected Educator: The Why!

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October is designated at “Connected Educators Month” (initiative of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education ) which has sparked reflection on my own journey of becoming  connected. Five years ago, I was a high school English teacher embarking on a new a district shift; an educational environment with ubiquitous technology access for students and staff. Every staff member, district wide, along with all students in grades 9-12 were given laptops.

My first year as a 1:1 educator was a “normal” progression in learning the educational device (laptops) and taking small risks of incorporation into daily routines. The second year of teaching in a 1:1 environment shifted my pedagogy and curriculum from substitution to redefinition. (SAMR model) Spurring this shift can be attributed largely to relationships built by becoming a connected educator. No longer was my classroom limited by time and space, instead my students were creating and collaborating with others around the globe. Participating in meaningful and relevant opportunities that allowed for deeper understanding of content, engaging and relevant project based learning, and understanding their unique voice and contributions to an online global community.

Last week I reconnected with Erin Olson , Bev Berns, and Nancy Movall. Erin, Bev and I initially met on Twitter. We connected our classes and met virtually before paths crossed later that year, providing a face to face opportunity. The blogging community we formed was one of my earliest and most meaningful collaborations as an educator. Our students were forming a virtual writer’s workshop, honing communication and collaboration skills. Students wrote and responded weekly to each other, participated in many local and national events (NYTimes Learning Network Blog)  and even added their voice virtually as Problem-Finders, not just solvers, to the ITU Telecom World 2011 Meta Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. The love of writing, and the value of connecting from the blogging community is still communicated to me through student posts, tweets, and messages!

Our collaboration  turned to the state level when we were introduced to Nancy Movall, a forward-thinking leader whose motto, Better-Together to do the Right Work for Kids, has become a guiding compass for many of us! Nancy’s vision, which is still being shared, evolving, and refined is providing the best opportunities for students through the sharing of blended education via technology (this is over-simplified of course, but a short explanation). Iowa’s Communities of Practice provided opportunity for us as educators to share our passions and talents to develop blended curriculum for Iowa Student! Nancy believes in the power of a collective group and has championed for me personally countless times! Forever grateful!

So, how do the previous examples illustrate the power of being a Connected Educator? Consider the 4 Goals of Connected Educator Month:

  1. Helping more districts promote and integrate online social learning into their formal professional development

  2. Stimulating and supporting collaboration and innovation in professional development

  3. Getting more educators connected (to each other)

  4. Deepening and sustaining the learning of those already connected

Without drawing the obvious parallels between the Goals and my personal examples, the success of student learning found within my own classroom was fostered and enhanced by “getting connected”! Content understanding, transformation of knowledge to demonstrate one’s own learning, and searching out connections via social media to support their personal learning were the immediate student transfers.

October may be designated as Connected Educator Month, but building connections, sustaining relationships, and promoting the power of online collaboration should be part of every educator’s daily life! And if you already are a Connected Educator, do your part, get more educators connected!

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