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Monday, May 16, 2016

My Social 1986

I'm a child of the 80's.  I'm proud of it.  Yep, I wore the black Reeboks with the rolled up jeans.   I sported the Ocean Pacific tee shirts and you might have even noticed about 30 friendship pins attached to those black Reeboks.  The good old days!

The image you see above is from a digital citizenship presentation I created called "Growing Up Digital."  I like to take my audience back to when we were kids.  It's fun to reminisce, plus it's a great attention getter.   It's also great lead-in when talking about social media with parents and students.  

Too often we criticize students about their use of social media.  "They are addicted to it!" "They're on it all the time!" are just a few of the complaints I hear.  Yes, some of them are warranted, but I wonder if our parents would have said the same thing about some of the things we did when we were kids. I know my mother was always telling me to "not sit so close to the television, or it'll ruin your eyes."  Well, I can still see fairly well, but bifocals are in my near future, but that's due to my age.

This whole social media blame game got me to thinking about what I had for "social media" as a child of the '80s. How did I converse with my friends?  What did we do before all this technology?

Well, here is what I came up with for what social media was like when I was a teenager. I bet that you can identify with a few of them.

1.  Handwritten Letters
I read somewhere that the average American receives only ONE handwritten letter each year.  I know I haven't written a letter in cursive in years.  Boy did I write a lot of them back when I was in school! Wasn't it awesome writing a love letter to your sweetie and getting one in return?  I did get a nice handwritten note from my grandma each year on my birthday.  She passed away this last year, so I'm going to miss reading that note and seeing that beautiful cursive writing. And I guess I better plan on writing a couple of more love letters to my wife instead of a simple text.

2.  CB Radios
Remember the CB Radio craze?  So fun!  Think of all the TV shows that had characters using CB Radios.  The Dukes of Hazzard, BJ and the Bear, The A-Team and of course the ever popular movie, Smokey and The Bandit.  The clan I ran around with as a kid all had CB radios on our bikes.  Man, we were ridin' in style!  Until the day Bobby Markvicka ran into the back of my bike, rolled me and in doing so, smashed my CB radio to pieces.  A sad day indeed!  Seems like everyone had a CB radio, either in their vehicle or house and we each had our unique “handle!”   It was like the internet chat rooms or texting of today!

3. Cassette Tapes
Did you ever find yourself inserting a blank Maxwell cassette tape into your boombox at the start of Casey Kasem's "America Top 40" hoping to create your own playlist of your favorite songs?  You pushed in the record, play and pause buttons anticipating that your favorite song would be on next.   Once you did manage to get your playlist created, you created mix tapes for your friends.  We didn't know a thing about copyright, but we were so glad that we finally got the intro to ZZ Top's "Sleeping Bag!"   We'd get together and listen to those silly tapes for hours.  I miss some of those great conversations that were about absolutely nothing, but at the time meant everything in the world.

4.  Talking on the Phone
Ever get in trouble for being on the phone too long?  My mom would holler down the hallway to let me know it was time to end my conversation.  If I didn't acknowledge her command, the ultimate embarrassment ensued as she would pick up another receiver and let me know ON THE PHONE as I chatted away with my friend.   Not cool, Mom!   We could spend hours on the phone talking about nothing!  I won't even get into the prank calling that happened.  

5.  Playing Outside
The things we learned while playing outside.  I learned a lot of life lessons playing outside, some a little before I should have.  No Mom or Dad to rescue me.  Me fighting my own battles, figuring things out.  The street light at the end of our block was my cue to come home in the summer.  When it came on, it was time to come home. Yep, I ended up not paying much attention to that light during a couple of crazy touch football and kickball games, and I had consequences when I got home.  I didn't care, it was worth it.  It concerns me today when I drive by a park and don't see a pickup game of basketball or football going on.  Must be me getting old.  

6.  Going to the Mall
I never got into the hangin' out at the mall crowd.  Some of my friends wanted me to go and hang out with them, but I guess it wasn't my style.  Sure, I'd go to a movie, but the thought of socializing while walking around the mall wasn't very appealing to me.  I still see groups of kids hanging out the mall today.  I'm glad to see that this form of social media from youth has stood the test of time.


7.  Cruising

How could I not include one of my favorites?  Remember when you were 16, had your own set of wheels and not a care in the world.....and you started to like girls?  Our cruising spot was South Locust in Grand Island, Nebraska.  It's about 2 miles long and was THE place to be on Friday and Saturday nights.  Cruising speed was about 10-15 mph and it was better if one of your friends was driving so you could do the talking out the window.  I don't know how many times one of us in the car would say "wanna pull over at the Village Inn and chat?" as we were cruising down South Locust.  It was our way of getting acquainted with other teens in our area from all over central Nebraska.  Great memories and conversations.   I really wish that the students of today could experience this.  

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Pushing the Reset Button

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with an old colleague.  We began our careers teaching and coaching together and had some really great years teaching in the same pod of our building.  
I don't get to see that colleague much anymore due to the distance between us.  When we do get the opportunity to see each other, we make the most of it with some great conversation.   During our last chat, we had an interesting conversation.  It was all about the new high school that his school district is constructing.  The current high school that he teaches in is old, dingy and ready to be replaced.  Luckily, their school bond passed approving construction of a brand new multi-million dollar facility. 

I asked my old friend if he was looking forward to the move.  He has taught in the same classroom for the last 10+ years and I was curious as to how much of a hassle it was going to be to pack and move all of the materials that he had accumulated.  His answer really made me think.   A lot. 

He told me that he was looking forward to getting into his new classroom this summer to get it ready for the new school year next August.  I get that.  What teacher doesn't get a little excited to set up their room for the upcoming school year?

  But what he said next, was the kicker.  He told me that he was getting rid of everything in his classroom.  EVERYTHING.  Everything from what he had in his filing cabinets to what he placed on the walls. 


He told me that he was excited to start fresh.  He told me that it is invigorating to think that seventeen years into his career he is starting over.  Starting fresh.  He relishes the opportunity to create new units and lessons for the classes he has taught for several years.   He said he felt like he did that first summer right out of college when he was prepping for his first ever teaching position. 

While driving home after our conversation, my mind began to comprehend this whole situation. Here is a veteran teacher that was excited, if not ecstatic, about starting fresh for his eighteenth year in education.  I likened it to pushing the reset button on a video game.  

Would you be willing to "push the reset button" in your classroom for next year? 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Warning! Your Students Will Want to "Play" This App All the Time!

Let them Code! Are you using The Foos app in your classroom? It's awesome and your students will love it! Trust me, download it. You will have a hard time putting down your iPad!  I think it is the best app when it comes to teaching students to code and to work on their problem-solving skills!  

The Foos provides a creative space for students to put basic programming concepts to work.  Your students will love creating their own video games and having their friends play them.  Check it out. But, be warned, your students will want to "play" it all the time.  It's one of those apps that never gets old in your cart of iPads.  Download it today....and play! 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Scissor Tool in Pic Collage

Pic Collage is an app that never gets "stale" with students. There are so many ways to integrate and create with this simple, easy to use app. Recently, I taught some of our first graders how to use the scissor tool within Pic Collage. They are learning about different types of weather so I had the students add three types of weather in the form of a label to their collage after setting their background to a weather related picture. We then took selfies that conveyed the emotion they feel when experiencing weather that they chose to add to their collage. I showed the students how to reveal the scissor tool (double tap on image), then had them trim around their selfies.   Simple way to use this awesome creation app in your classroom! 

Monday, January 25, 2016

AgingBooth App and the 100th Day of School

It's hard to believe the 100th day of school is here!  Where has the time gone?  Here's a simple little project we did today in 1st-grade. Here's what our workflow looked like: 

  1. I downloaded the AgingBooth app on my iPad and created an image for each student, being sure to save each one to my camera roll.  While I had each student come to me individually, other students were busily working on the writing piece on a piece of paper that their teacher had given them.   The writing prompt was, "When I am 100..." 
  2. When I had created an image for all of the students, I created a new folder in Google Drive. I then uploaded each of the images into the folder.
  3. I shared the folder with the classroom teacher.
  4. We printed the pictures from Google Drive and had the students cut out their pictures so they would better fit on their piece of paper. 
  5. Students pasted their pictures on their writing sheets.
 The students really enjoyed this activity! It was fun listening to all of the laughter in the classroom.

It was such a fun and easy way to incorporate technology into a writing activity.  I did most of the technology in this activity, but one could easily have students use the app, then post it in Kidblog or Seesaw.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Goodbye, Friend

It all happened too fast.  I wasn't prepared.

At least I had the opportunity to say "goodbye."

I need to blog about this.  It creates closure for me.  

Eleven years ago we made the decision to purchase a family dog. After much  research, we decided on a Boxer.   Our oldest child Caleb was given the opportunity to pick from the litter as it was his 5th birthday.  I remember the day well.  He picked the fat, pudgy runt of the litter.  As we are avid golfers, we named our new friend "Bogey."  She was perfect.

Our family proceeded down the path of puppyhood.  Chewed items, messes on the floor, lots of puppy kisses and some very active play sessions ensued.

As we proceeded on our journey of dog ownership,  we all learned some valuable lessons from Bogey. Accept people for who they are, forgive and move on, unconditional love, take time for exercise, to always meeting someone with a smile.

Bogey was always in a good mood.  Always happy to see us.  Yes, some of the things that Bogey did drove us nuts.  She jumped on visitors, she shed too much, she trampled through our flower gardens flattening our chrysanthemums.  As she aged, she had a hard time keeping up with my wife and me on our morning runs.

What I wouldn't give to have one more run with Bogey.  To be able to tell her to "get off the couch!" one more time.  To have her look at me with that look that said, "let's go upstairs, it's time for bed."

To see her snuggled up to my daughter as she read a book.  To see her jump up on my son as he sat in a chair that was way too small for two.

We lost our dear friend Bogey after eleven wonderful years on Tuesday morning at 4:00 am.

It all started Monday night.  She was sleeping on the couch between my daughter and me like she had done thousands of times.  She always had the ability to believe she was a lapdog, even though she was 45 pounds over the weight requirement.

She jumped off the couch and winced.  I didn't think much of it as she had developed arthritis in golden years.  After heading to bed around 11:30, I noticed that she wasn't "right."  She went to bed, but was restless.  At 12:30 we made a trip down the steps so she could go outside.  Nothing new, we'd done it before.  After a considerable amount of time outside, it was back up to bed.

This happened two more times.

After our third trip outside, Bogey beat me back upstairs as she usually does.  I went over to pet her on her bed and she wasn't there.  I didn't want to call for her as it was 1:30 in the morning.  I walked down the hallway, turned on the light and there she was.  She was walking back and forth between our kids' rooms.   She did this a couple of times and I foolishly asked her what she was doing.  After all, the kids were sleeping.

She immediately headed back downstairs and jumped up on the couch.  By this time, I could tell that something was not right.  She whimpered and cried if I would leave her side.

Something was wrong.  I panicked.  My wife awoke and came downstairs.  I expressed to her that I didn't think that Bogey was  going to make it through the night.

I hoped and prayed that I was wrong.  

It was 3:00 in the morning.  I had to call our amazing veterinarian.  He told us to meet him at his office in 15 minutes.  I dressed for the cold weather and tried to mentally prepare myself for the short drive.

We wrapped Bogey in a blanket and I carried her out to the car.  

Then I lost it.  I sobbed.   I cried all the way to the Vet's office.

Our veterinarian informed us that Bogey was suffering from Gastric Dilatation Volvulus.  She needed surgery immediately.  We consented.  We were told to say our "goodbyes" just in case the worst happened.

What do you say?  How do you thank a creature for some of the most amazing memories.  For being the perfect companion.  For teaching my children some of the greatest lessons they will ever learn? For loving each one of us unconditionally.

It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life.

Our Bogey died before the surgery even began.  Damn, she was a great dog.  She was more than a pet though.  She was a family member. 

At the time, I didn't think much about Bogey walking back and forth between our kids' bedrooms. Looking back, I now believe she was taking time to say her goodbyes to her two best friends. 
She was one of the best friends I have ever had, and I am forever grateful.   

Monday, January 11, 2016

Drowning in Mediocrity

As I mentioned in my last post, my #oneword for 2016 is "Reflect."  Here is the first of a series of blog posts I am composing as I reflect upon my 16 years in education.

I realized it during the 2001-2002 school year.  The day is burned into my memory.  It was my Freshmen World History class, 6th period to be exact.  We were right in the middle of our unit on the Renaissance.  I had a Powerpoint projected onto the screen in my dimly lit room and my students were taking turns reading out of the book as I walked around the room making sure students were on task.

Then it hit me.

My class was boring.  

Some days we would read out of the textbook, other days I would make my students take the notes that I was writing on the overhead. Yes, that type of overhead.  I eventually upgraded to Powerpoint and had my students take notes from the bulleted slides that I had created.  Towards the end of each class, I'd give my students some kind of worksheet or crossword puzzle to reinforce what they had learned.  

At the conclusion of the unit, students would take a 35-50 question test that consisted of several multiple choice questions (it was easy for me to grade), matching questions and one essay.

I was in my third year of teaching and I was teaching each class, World History and Nebraska History, the exact same way I had since I began teaching in 1999. 

I was drowning in mediocrity.

Looking back now, I realize that I didn't know any better.   Sure my Principal had issued a challenge to me after my first year of teaching, but I was teaching Social Studies the way it had been taught to me.  It was comfortable.  It was easy. 

My teaching had become routine. The filing cabinet in the corner was my best friend.  All of my units were pre-packaged and ready to go each year.   My Powerpoints were saved on the local server, easy to pull up for presenting.  A quick trip to the copy machine at the start of each unit to print my worksheets, quizzes and tests and I was good to go for a couple of weeks. 

Repeat each year with minimal changes or reflection and another year was in the books.  Easy peasy.  

I didn't like how I felt after teaching the lesson that I mentioned above. I didn't feel like I was making a difference.  I was just another class on my students' schedules. 

I was bound and determined to do something about it. 

I remembered my social studies classes in high school and college. I didn't enjoy them. Actually, I hated them.  Yet here I was teaching a subject that I loved.  I thought to myself, "You can't say that you hated social studies just hated how the information was taught to you."   

I came up with a new motto for the 2002-2003 school year.  I printed my new motto and placed it on the wall so I could be reminded of it daily.  I talked to my students about what those three words meant to me as a teacher.


Fast forward 6 years. Take a look at the images below.   It's my classroom after "the change."  It took time and effort, and most importantly, the willingness to change. 

I tried to create a learning environment that I would have wanted to be in if I was a student.  

What happened during the change? 

 I started utilizing the technology in my classroom to have students create.  I got rid of all of my desks and replaced them with tables.  I placed two couches in my room that students could sit in whenever they wanted.  I had tubs of markers, colored pencils, scissors, paper clips, glue sticks and scratch paper.  I started playing music a lot, not just as students entered the room.   

My classroom became a noisy environment (sorry, Mrs. Coover), but the students loved it.  

And I loved teaching.  I looked forward to coming up with different, creative ways to teach.  Yes, it took some time out of school to do some extra planning, but it was well worth it. 

I loved my new classroom.  I was no longer drowning, I was now doing the breaststroke! 

Reflecting on this moment in my teaching career makes me proud that I made this decision.