Posts Tagged reading

What I Am Reading: Invent to Learn

I came across this quote on Pinterest a while ago.

If you read an hour a day, one book per week, you will be an expert in your field within three years. Through continuous learning, you will be a national authority in five years, and you will be an international authority in seven years. ~ Brian Tracy

In reality I do not have an hour a day to read as some days the kids are lucky if we have time to eat and read their books before bedtime. So I guess I am becoming an expert on Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Whatever After, but that really doesn’t help me in my career.  I have decided that something is better than nothing and I am not seeking to be an international expert, just to get better at what I do.   I have started by finding books that challenge me to think about education, technology and how kids learn.   Currently the buzz I have been hearing is around MakerSpace.   MakerSpace was a big topic as last year’s SXSW Edu event and I can honestly say I did not “get it” at that time.

I began to watch how my own children learn and play and started to see the allure.  We have gotten away from allowing kids to build and create.  School work needs to have multiple choice questions associated with it.  I see it in their homework and graded papers.  Science is graded on how well they can choose the right answer instead of how they can make predictions, test theories and explore how things work.   I also began thinking back to my own school days and tried to think about what work do I remember from the 1980s that I was graded on.  What came to mind was the replicas I built of the Globe Theater, an Egyptian Tomb, science fair projects that I researched and put together and the one page notes pages my trig teacher would let us bring to class.  All these things I created.

I was starting to “get it.”    The idea still seemed overwhelming in the face of standardizing testing.  I began to research online and ran across the recommendation for this book: Invent to Learn.  I am enjoying reading through the ideas and thoughts in this book.  I have used it as a reference book to find ideas and resources in how I am helping to create a MakerSpace existence on campus.  More to come on that later.    By reading I am conquering my fears and finding solutions.    I am not through with it yet, but wanted to share and find out what other people are reading right now.

What are you reading to become an “expert?”


Tags: , , ,

Finding My Passion

Since late October I have not really enjoyed going to work.  It was a chore and I did my duty, looking forward to my exit time at the end of the day.  I realized yesterday why this has happened.  It has been about the “stuff” lately and not about the learning or the people.   This was a necessary evil as it was my campuses time to get new computers.  New computers are a blessing and a curse, but for me it took my attention away from what I love about my job.  So now with winter break approaching I am desperate to find something to hold onto to take me through the long spring semester.    I stumbled upon a pin on pinterest about a “Genius Hour” that a 5th grade teacher was implementing.  I was fascinated.   I want my kids in this classroom.  But more importantly I want to be this kind of teacher!

I started searching for more information about Genius Hour to see what I could find.  I found run by Chris Kessler (@iamkesler) and started reading.  I am hooked.  I am not sure how to implement this strategy as an Instructional Technology Specialist, since I don’t teach in a classroom.  I also think those I work with are overwhelmed, but maybe they are not. Maybe they need a fresh take as I do.  It doesn’t hurt to ask, and I plan on asking after the Christmas break.

I began asking myself, what would be my passion project?  What would I investigate?  That is when I think about the last few months on the job and the focus on the “stuff.”   I want to investigate how to get away from the stuff and focus on the learning and the people.  To start on this journey I purchased one of the books suggested on the Genius Hour website – “Teach Like A Pirate” by Dave Burgess.  Okay – so I first looked at the book because I liked the title and my college mascot is a pirate, so it spoke to me.  Turns out Pirate stands for traits in a good teacher.  P is for Passion.  Passion can come from the 1)Content, 2)Profession and 3)Personal.

I got stuck trying to answer the question “What is it about being an educator that drive you?”  This should be an easy question, but it wasn’t.  I could not pinpoint what it was that I enjoyed about my profession, especially the technology side of things.  I was having fun in the classroom when I took this position 13 years ago.  Why did I take it?  Why did I leave?

  • I took it because I wanted to help teachers reach students in new ways.
  • I liked helping teachers make sense of how technology could fit into their classrooms.
  • I wanted to impact more students that I could in my own classroom.

I did not take it because I love laptops, tablets, desktops, chromebooks, android, google, apple, windows, office, web 2.0, or any of the other “stuff” out there.    This answer has been freeing to me.  I am looking forward to learning more about how this is going to look in the coming semester and the impact it will make.

I also am contemplating the future of this blog.  So far it has been about how to work the tools, but I really want to focus on the learning that happens with the tools.  I have tried to jumpstart the blog for the past year or so without success. Does it need a new name?  Has it served it’s purpose and it’s time to move on?  We shall see.   For now I am going to use it to journal my thoughts  and ah-ha moments as I move through the book and through my own search to find my passion in my chosen profession.



Tags: , ,

Idea #4 – Concept Mapping with Inspiration

Want to increase brain activity in your students,  encourage active comprehension and step-up dynamic discussions in the classroom?  It all can be done with one simple activity of concept mapping.

Today’s idea uses  the software Inspiration 8 (installed on all teacher machines on campus) and your projector.  The document camera can also be incorporated as student’s share the maps they have created.

Why use Inspiration?

  1. It’s easy and already loaded on all teacher machines on campus.
  2. Inspiration provides pre-made templates to get the concept map going for the big screen (choose New – From Template to see the options)
  3. Keeps the map organized and easy to read for the class.
  4. Circles can be changed to clip art for more of a visual impact.
  5. Brainstorming is easy with the lightening bolt icon.
  6. Maps and ideas can be easily rearranged without starting over.
  7. Finished products can be saved as Word files and placed online for those who missed the class.

Ideas on How to Use Concept Mapping in the Classroom:

As a reading strategy:

1. Pre-reading:  have students brainstorm what they know about the items listed on the skelton concept map.  Add those ideas in and have students record on their own papers.

2. During Reading – Students then read the assigned passage and add in more details as they learn them.

3. Post reading – Compare maps with the class and add in details students might have missed.  (Use the document camera to show student’s original maps.)


    • Sub-topics can be recorded on note-cards and students can add in more details about that topic as they read/learn more
    • Cards can then be turned into a paragraphs within a research paper.
    • Each sub-topic could become a research topic for the class.

As a note-taking strategy:

  1. Give students a partially filled concept map and have them add to it as you discuss, research, etc. the topic given.
  2. Have students create their own map of the story/event with main characters/main events in ech sub-circle and details surrounding from there.

Getting Started:

Download a how-to guide for Inspiration 8:  How to Use Inspiration 8

Watch a quick tutorial on the software here:

Documentation and research on using concept mapping in the classroom is based from “Classroom Instruction that Works” by Robert Marzano and Project Criss.

Tags: , , , , ,

Idea #3 – Read a Children’s Book

Our third idea for using projectors and document cameras in the classroom is incorporating Children’s Picture Books into lessons.

The Technical Side:

Before Doc Cameras:  When reading a book to the class you had to stop and hold the picture up as you walked around the room, or panned the room for all to see.   Most of the meanings in the pictures were lost on the students who could not see the image well enough or long enough to derive meaning from it.

With Doc Cameras: When placing the book under the document camera the entire class can see the pictures as you read the story aloud.   Students can look for meaning in the illustrations and how that meaning matches, or does not match with the text.   With the zoom feature you can focus in on details of the pages they would have never seen before.

Why read picture books in middle school?

Research shows that reading aloud to students is an important way to build their vocabulary, reading and comprehension skills.

Here are some of the highlights of an article written in the Middle School Journal on why you should read picture books in middle school:

  • Provides students with an opportunity to read a variety of texts
  • Increases and enhances the reader’s personal connections with the subject matter
  • Picture books are now being written to address middle school needs and interests.
  • Many picture books can be interpreted on several levels.
  • Students are visually oriented and are accustomed to using visual images to assist in learning new concepts
  • Good activity for English Language Learners – it reduces the word load for students while keeping a high level of comprehension needed

Things to consider when choosing a Picture Book:

  • How enthusiastic are you about it?  The more you like the book and are excited about it, the better reception the students will give it.
  • What are your learning objectives?  Books should always be chosen to help meet those objectives.
  • What is the quality of the book?
    • Does it have rich information?
    • Does it meet high literary standards with it’s vocabulary and author’s style of writing?
    • Look for awards such as the Caldecott for indications of a good book.

A great place to start when choosing a picture book is your library! use the librarians expertise in helping select books that meet the needs of your classroom.

For more details on choosing books for each academic subject area see  A Middle School Teacher’s Guide for Selecting Picture Books – Middle School Journal.   Half way through the article they break it down for each academic area to choose books.    You can also search for “picture books in middle school (insert your subject here).”


Tags: , , , , , ,

Idea #1 – Teach Students How to Read the Textbook

With the addition of document cameras and ceiling mounted projectors in the classroom, the challenge is learning to use this new technology to it’s fullest.   This is the first in a series to offer teachers ideas:

Idea #1:  Teach Students How to Read the Textbook

Students do not automatically know how to read any given  textbook.  Each book is different with it’s own structure and style.  Using a document camera and a projector, teachers can teach students to analyze the structure of their textbooks so that they can better comprehend what they are reading.

Students who have more knowledge of text structure learn more from expository material that students who are not aware of text structure.

The document camera makes it easy by allowing the teacher to project the textbook onto the screen for all to see, instead of having to hold up the book and hope students are looking at the same place they are.

The video walks you through the basics of teaching students to evaluate the structure of a textbook and to identify the resources provided.

For more information on teaching students how to read a textbook see:

Tags: , , , , , ,