Redefining the SAMR Model

I want to rewrite the SAMR Model just to make it easier for me to remember.  Here is my draft:

S – Same stuff, different tool. (AKA, it’s 2017, we can do bigger, better)

A – Alright, Alright, but let’s try a little harder

M – Mmmm, that sounds interesting, tell me more.

R – Really!? You did that? WOW!

I am always looking for inspiration when using technology to expand student learning and impact.  I want to see students doing amazing things because they have powerful tools in their hands.

Let’s wow each other with what we do that redefines how our children are learning! Share what you are doing and finding. I will share what I am doing and finding.  For starters, here is a video that @pammoran posted on Twitter on 2/22/17.  I think it falls under the Wow category.

Here is the actual model and what the letters mean.  I personally love Sylvia Duckworth’s sketch of SAMR.  Plus, anything about the beach gets my attention.

How can we make the inconceivable a reality for our learners?


Curriculum Rewrite

Curriculum is a Map, not a Destination

We have a lot of constraints in education: bell schedules, building walls, curriculum, etc. We are in the midst of rewriting curriculum in our district and it has me thinking…are we going about it the wrong way? Are we asking wrong questions? Do we need to reframe our questions about learning and where we would like our students to be when they leave our hallowed halls?

So often I am asked “How does this fit my curriculum?”.  I believe this is the wrong question for educators to be asking. We should not be confined to a certain route of learning based on our curriculum. The curriculum should give educators and students freedom to explore ideas, make natural connections and find learning. Instead it should be how is the curriculum allowing my students to learn. The curriculum should simply be a roadmap to the learning destination. Not the destination itself.

What if our curriculum was written with the ISTE Standards as the guideposts?  What if we unboxed our curriculum and no longer thought of it as Social Studies, Reading, Writing, Math, Science, separate entities that live alone? What if we are asking the wrong questions: what should children be taught and when should it be taught? Instead ask: who are we teaching and how are we guiding their learning?

ISTE’s new standards for students are qualities of a learner we want all of our students to reach.  When I look over them, I see how all curricular areas could fall under each one. 

  • Empowered Learner
  • Digital Citizen
  • Knowledge Constructor
  • Innovative Designer
  • Computational Thinker
  • Creative Communicator
  • Global Collaborator

How do we get there? I believe we stop boxing up our current curriculum.  I believe we start finding ways to break the boxes down and allow more natural learning to happen based on qualities.  The skills and concepts will come because you can’t learn without them.  Let’s stop doing the work for our students by telling them what they will learn and when they will learn it.  Let’s start learning about our learners, what they know, what they are passionate about, and guide them in navigating the map that takes them to bigger learning opportunities.

An Unexpected Journey

Every year or so I reread the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings.  The characters are so familiar and I always look forward to being part of that world.  You can call me a book nerd.  I’m ok with that.  Every time I finish The Return of the King I have mixed emotions of satisfaction, joy and sadness.  Satisfaction from reading and getting immersed in the world of the story.  Joy in the happy ending and sadness in knowing that I have to leave the world of the story for a bit and leave those characters.  It happens every time.  But I still go back to it because the fun adventure outweighs the sad departure.

So I just finished Innovator’s Mindset this afternoon.  It’s the first time ever that I read a “professional” book and had mixed emotions at the end.  Joy, excitement and determination.  Joy in finding my true tribe inside the pages of the book.  Anyone else reading it thinking, “this is me, this is what has been wrong with me from the beginning, why i’ve hit so many walls and never felt like I truly fit in eduction but determined to make it different and make a difference” You.Are.My.Tribe.  Excitement in going back to read it again! Yes, I’m starting over and rereading it.  I can’t leave it just yet.  I need to stay in the world of this story longer.  There are too many things I want to revisit with renewed sense of purpose and focus on success.  Determination in knowing I need to ask more questions and work hard to make sure that I am doing the best for each learner who walks through my door, no matter their age.

I have 5 started blog posts and this was not one of them.

Mixing it Up

This afternoon our school got all mixed up to celebrate Acts of Kindness.  All of the classroom teachers read The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig. We then split up all of our classes, Kindergarten through Fifth Grade, into mixed groups and sent them out into other classrooms to do an activity that focused on kindness.  Some did art, some did writing, some did skits, but all did something that revolved around kindness.  In my room, we created short videos about kindness.

Here are my takeaways.

I Noticed:

  • Students were very excited as they arrived at the lab.
  • One little introvert struggled to be part of the team, but was coaxed by an older student. We need to consider those students who are not naturally outgoing in situations like this.
  • Students naturally started asking each other question and making connections with each other.
  • 40 mins is barely enough time.

I Wonder:

  • What new connections could students make with others if we were to do this more often?
  • How our school culture and community could become more cohesive if we had more opportunities for mixing our students up?
  • How might we see student engagement change if they were given a larger role in preparing for an afternoon like this in the future?
  • How did students react going into teacher’s room they did not know?  (All the students have been in my room for Technology Class. Some students went to teachers they do not know.)

What if:

  • Students and teachers could look forward to this on a regular basis?
  • Students prepared and ran sessions about things they are experts at doing?

I think there will be a Part 2 to this day.  I hope there is.


The Boredom Epidemic

I’ve seen it.  I’v219517-be-warned-i-m-bored-this-could-get-dangerouse experienced it first hand.  I see it in all grade levels, first through fifth. Students disengaged.  Students going through the checklist of school.  Students not putting thought into work. Students asking, “Is this enough?” “Is this OK?” Is this good?” “Do I have to do this?”

I never liked when students, or my own children, for that matter, say they are bored.  I remember in a graduate course an instructor saying that kids are bored because they are not choosing to be involved in what is going on in the classroom.  She said, “Boring people are bored.”  But are they?  I’ve been bored in my life but I don’t think I’m that boring to be around.  Here’s what happens when I’m bored, I find something to occupy my thoughts.  So yes, when I was sitting in YOUR meeting, when you showed me a power point with a thousand bullet points. I read it faster than you read it to me and I was bored.  But, I didn’t accept the boredom as mine.  I saw the boredom as yours.  It’s not me, it’s you. Instead of “being bored”, I found something to do.  Maybe I started the biggest, longest, most colorful flower vine doodle of my doodling career.  Or I hopped on my email and started reading and answering messages.  Or I may have started texting a friend on the outside to know that life still existed out there. Or maybe I jumped into my Google Drive and continued working on something that I had been procrastinating on and found you just gave me lots of time to take care of it. Some of us who get bored, find something to do within that boredom.  So do our students.  They doodle, talk, fidget, etc because of boredom.  It’s not them, it’s us!

How do we give our students experiences that remove or at least lessen the boredom? I don’t think the answer is a song and dance.  Entertainment does not take the place of boredom.  I believe high interest and a need for thinking does.  I could use all the educational jargon: engage, empower, choice, voice, blah, blah, blah, but I don’t want to go there.  Those words don’t have the same meaning to me as they used to.  They have been overused, misused and feel useless in many conversations.  Let’s just talk straight.  Kids need to feel like they matter, their opinions matter and that they can be in charge of their learning!

How can we overcome this epidemic? The solution is simple: put students in charge of their learning.  Give them the tools, experiences and space for conversations that allow them to go after their own learning.  Let them know their opinions matter and will be heard and honored in your space. Give them chances to form and express their opinions.    Let them know they matter to you, to their community, to their world. Give them opportunities to make choices that matter for others as well as themselves.

Less of me, more of them.

Stop doing to and start doing for.  There is a difference.

Thanks to Educon 2.9, PETE&C 2017, @TFerlick, @1RossPollack and Harvard Ed Magazine: Bored Out of Their Minds for the help in formulating my thoughts.



img_0458-1Every year, on my train home from Educon, I try to reflect so I can formula some intelligent thoughts about what I just experienced. I’m always in awe of people who have a blog post about their learning that must have been crafted on their walk through the airport terminal. I don’t gather my thoughts that quickly and need time to ponder. Maybe I’m procrastinating. Maybe just trying to make sense of all the thinking. This year is the first year I choose sessions that were so perfect for me that I didn’t walk out of one and I didn’t skip one. This year I tried to connect with people I didn’t know and didn’t let other people’s number of followers intimidate me. This year I spoke as one who is able to do so much of what we discuss because of an amazingly supportive principal. This year I spent time outside of my comfort zone in a session about Engineering that got me more excited than ever to share that with my students. This year I spent quality time with long distant friends who validate and challenge my thinking. This year rocked.

So since I’m posting before midnight, this year I’m getting a post in on the last day of Educon. I still need to sit and stew and sift back through all of my tweets to start putting my thoughts together. Reflecting is a key part of what we do as educators and learners. It’s a part that is often skipped because it takes time. But it a critical part to enable us to move forward in our learning journey. We need to make time for what we value. I’ll be using some quality time tomorrow to reflect.

A Small Reflection from My Week

I have many thoughts from my week, but I will start with just one.  On Wednesday, George Couros came to my school district and talked about the Innovator’s Mindset, which I read over the summer and again when school started.  Friday, I made my annual journey to Science Leadership Academy to attend Educon 2.9, my 7th Educon.  What is on my mind right now is the state of education and the fact that not much is different than it was 7 years ago. My take away from 7 years of learning with amazing educators at Educon and reading books like A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink, The Element by Sir Ken Robinson, The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros, from watching TED Talks by: Sugata Mitra, Sir Ken Robinson and Adora Svitak, to name just a few…I realize that we are doing school wrong.  We need to stop playing a game where there are winners and losers and start giving all learners a place to do just that, learn.

Timehop – 20 Years Ago

Twenty years ago, I walked into a first grade classroom as a long term sub.  The position was only supposed to last until January, but I ended up there all year.  It’s a year I’ll never forget. My first few moments were panicked as these sweet little first graders started arriving and I thought, “What am I doing to do with these little kids?!?!”  Panic turned to wonder as these children turned my world upside down with their wonder, amazement and questions.  I learned quickly to follow their lead on questions and build upon their own curiosity.  We ended up building our own rainforest in the hallway outside our door because of questions they asked.  We created videos about the stories we were reading as students acted out favorite characters and scenes.  We moved our desks around to make our work more comfortable or we laid on the floor and stretched out to work.  We read books that had text that was comfortable for us as readers.  We wrote about the things we did in the classroom and I spent a lot of money on photos, actual photos that were pretty and glossy that showed our friends and our experiments and our life together. I remember being physically exhausted but mentally invigorated by the possibilities.  All the possibilities that this group of children possessed and all we were able to accomplish. 

Three years later, I would get my own classroom.  A place to knead and break and make my own for students who would need a home away from home. I would learn that pillows and bean bags and soft lighting make a classroom feel more comfortable. I would learn who Fountas and Pinnell were and how much they would make my teacher life easier with their independent and instructional reading levels.  I would learn that each group of students, each individual student was special and changed the way I approached content.  I would learn that I could not keep my lesson plans because I could never teach the same thing the same way twice.  I would learn to always look to my learners to find out what adventure we would go on each year. I would learn.  And continue to learn. 

The hardest lesson I would learn was that I did not fit the mold of many teachers.  I thought I was a broken model of what I should be.  Never living up to an ideal teacher.  My desk was messy because I didn’t really sit there. I just threw papers on it.  I didn’t follow a manual (if there was one) to a T because my students never fit it to a T.  I was always thinking of new ways to do things, not necessarily reinventing the wheel, but reinventing how the wheel would be used. And there was constantly glitter on my floor.  Getting reprimanded for being disorganized was crushing, but I learned how to be more organized and got back to what I was good at doing.  Being admonished for not being on the same exact Math Journal page as my colleagues was disappointing but I tried to hide what I was doing a bit more so they wouldn’t notice.  And the glitter, well that just followed us around all day and I apologized to our custodial staff whenever it was apparent that the glitter had been out and heavily used.  I could not be like everyone else and as I began to own that, life as a teacher became a bit easier.   

It took me a long time to recognize that it wasn’t me that was broken, it was the mold.  The mold felt constraining and restricting, but I never let it stop me from pushing forward to try new things, no matter how hard it got.  And I will keep pushing for my students now and those to come.   I will continue to learn. 

PS. It took me 10 years, but I did finally get rid of my teacher desk and I haven’t missed it for one second!

Summer to Fall

Last week I finally  resolved to change my wardrobe over from summer to fall. It is truly the biggest challenge for me every year. I love all of my tank tops, skirts, flowy dresses and flip flops.  This is my favorite time of year.  And then October comes.  I start pulling out the bins of sweaters and pants and socks.  The uncomfortable clothes. It is not a fun activity for me, changing summer to fall.  I stall. I procrastinate. I may even sulk a little bit. I dread it. I’ve been working on it for three weeks now and maybe I will finish this weekend.  Maybe. I don’t want to do it.  My inner two year old self wants to throw a fit and demand that summer not be over.  But my inner mature adult self knows that if I don’t get it done I will be freezing cold and miserable.  This change is inevitable. And even though this happens every year, I still struggle with it. Every. Time.

This year, as I was digging in a bin for socks because I thought my toes might just fall off for how cold they were, I realized that this may be how teachers feel about change in their teaching: bringing in technology to do new things, designing flexible learning space that, flipping their classroom, project based learning. These New things make them feel uncomfortable.  They stall.  They procrastinate. They may even sulk a little bit. They dread it.  They say they don’t know how or why or they have no time.  But this change is inevitable.  Technology is ubiquitous. To our students the devices are always there. Always available to play a game or watch their favorite youtuber. These kids want to be youtubers when they grow up. It’s a thing! And we are teaching them the way we were taught because it’s what we do. But that’s not ok. The weather is changing. The change is inevitable and we need to get moving.

Teachable Moments

I have been reading Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros and I have had lofty thoughts of writing these amazing blog posts about what I have been learning.  I have notes everywhere in the book, on stickies, in my iPhone notes and even in a google doc.  I have about three ideas started but not finished and at least three more mulling around inside my thoughts.   This is how my brain works…always thinking of ideas and the next thing I can be doing, yet struggling to tie up loose ends of where I’ve been.  But instead of posting one of those deep thinking posts, I want to share this conversation with my daughter: 

Last night on the way home from a grueling Crossfit class, my 6th grader said, “Mom, wouldn’t it be great if my gym teachers could see what I just did in class?” (She did 434 reps for WOD 15.2 – scaled to 20# Overhead squats and Ring Rows) “I can’t do their tests very good, but I can do great at Crossfit.  Bent arm hang doesn’t show much.  I’m better than one attempt at a bent arm hang.”

My thought process while trying to think of what to say: Wow.  From the mouths of babes.  This is where we are selling our children short in K-12.  Our assessments don’t show much.  They don’t show our children as whole beings with passion and purpose or as learning, growing, progressing students.  And yet they, at least my daughter, feels that the assessment is the only thing seen and/or that the number defines them.

I struggle to know what to say to her as an educator and parent.  But I told her what I’ve told her in other conversations like this, “School is school, what we do outside of school is life. Crossfit teaches you things that will affect your life beyond the box. It builds you up as an athlete and as a person. You can work on your weaknesses and celebrate your strengths. Don’t let the bent arm hang test get you down or define you. What you did tonight in 15.2 was amazing!”

All of our children are worth being seen.  How are you doing with seeing the children you work with everyday?