Wednesday, June 28, 2017

ISTE17 Adventure (Day 3): Monday Morning

My ISTE17 Adventure Day 3 was on Monday, which was the first full day of the conference. My plan was to get there by 8am to go to the poster sessions and look around before my first session at 8:30--Differentiated Instruction in the Chromebook Classroom.  In true Bonnie fashion, I actually arrived shortly after 8:30 so the session was closed.  People stood at the doors with counters and when it reached capacity, you were out of luck.  

I had marked down at least 5 things I wanted to go to during every time slot, so it didn't take me long to realize this gave me an opportunity to hear esteemed ed tech leader, Kathy Schrock. Her session was called "It's Time to Find Your EdTech Passion."  She showed us an image highlighting where her tech interests had been over time and provided us with a link to her website with resources for each area. One of my favorite resources is similar to the SAMR model of determining the use of a tech tool, app or website, but seems more practical and easier to use. It can be found here and uses TECH for the acronym--Traditional, Enhanced, Choice, and Handoff.  It was fun, informative and a great way to start off my morning.  

The next session I attended was an Ignite presentation.  For this, each presenter has just five minutes and 20 slides each to share their passions in a continuous rapid-fire presentation.

I walked in on the tail end of Sketchnoting but here is a video from PD in Your PJs that tells more about it:  Christine Pinto was charming, energetic and inspiring as she told us about #GAFE for Littles.  One of my favorites was Tara Martin talking about BookSnaps and how she uses what the kids are familiar with (SnapChat) to get them to share about their reading, but you don't have to use SnapChat.  Students could use other apps or websites like Buncee to create their snaps. One comment that stayed with me was "If we fear tech because of what they might do, that's crazy!"

Michael Cohen, The Tech Rabbi was fun to watch and had engaging slides.  Ginann Franklin had us all laughing about being too old for ISTE but pointed out the ageism that tends to exist when at tech conferences.  Jen Giffen almost had me crying with her presentation "We Can All Do Better." She shared a story of a student who worked very hard on getting an assignment done, being excited about doing a good job, then not turning it in.  When she asked why, he said: "I didn't hand it in because as long as it is in my bag, it is still good."   We do this to our students when everything is about red ink and grades instead of discussions for improvement.  To end the session, Claudio Zavala shared the Flipgrid fever and his #singasong movement.  Kudos to all for an enjoyable morning!

Monday, June 26, 2017

ISTE17 Adventure--Day 2

Day 2 of my ISTE17 Adventure started off with an Uber ride from Days Inn Airport, which had enough shortcomings for its own blog post, to the Wyndham Riverwalk, where I would be staying until Thursday.  I was just hoping to store my suitcase, but my room was ready, so I was able to unpack and hang up clothes, etc.

My husband, youngest son and I have come to San Antonio the past two years in February, so I am somewhat familiar with the Riverwalk and headed to one of our favorite breakfast places, Market on Houston. My waiter, Rey, was a sweet smooth-talker who did everything to make sure I was comfortable and well-fed.  I had bacon, scrambled eggs, and country potatoes. Since I had only had snack food the day before, it tasted delicious!

After brunch, I walked around the block then headed to St. Mary's for the noon Mass.  I was there more than a half hour early, but I thought some extra prayers of thanksgiving were in order after my experiences the day before.  I was also able to pray the Rosary, which is something I need to do much more often.  As a convert, I still don't have all the prayers quite memorized, but I have a handy app on my phone called Laudate (available for both iOS and Android) that has an interactive Rosary, along with anything else I might want to know or pray. 

After Mass, I headed to the Henry B. Gonz├ílez Convention Center.  What a beautiful facility!  I found the registration desk, put on my name tag and looked around the lower level, before making my way upstairs.  I sat in on a couple Ignite presentations but was pretty restless, so I left to look around a bit more.  A little before 3, I made my way to the Lila Cockrell Theater to hear Adam Bellow and Steve Dembo presentation entitled "Open the Curiosity Door."  I'm pretty sure Steve was one of the first people I followed when I joined Twitter in 2007.  

They shared many great ideas, including Dr. Robert Dillon's new book The Space: A Guide for Educators, a thought provoking quote by Don Wettrick, Chris Lehmann's advice on how to build a school, and Monica R. Martinez's  Deeper Learning: The Planning Guide.  We were left with two important thoughts:  "You can't change everything in one day, but you can change one thing every day," and "Keep the big picture in mind...."
Next, it was time for the opening keynote.  People were in line 45 minutes early, so I followed the herd.  The Tiarra Girls were the opening act, followed by new ISTE CEO Richard Culatta.   He was a very engaging speaker with an impressive background.  I'm excited to see the growth of the organization under his guidance. The keynote speaker was Jad Abumrad of Radio Lab fame.  

Jad's story of how he got started,  including those who had been an inspiration to him was fascinating.  It was a great example of grit, perseverance and growth mindset.  It was also a testament that dreams aren't easy.  My favorite quote was "Sound is touch at a distance," when he was speaking about how mothers all over the world essentially sing the same tunes to their children when calming them to sleep. 

My day ended with a reception sponsored by the Midwest Education Technology Community (METC) and the promise of more exciting learning in the next three days.

Houston, We Have a Problem

ISTE17 Adventure--Day 1

This week I have the opportunity to not just step, but leap out of my comfort zone.  As part of my summer professional development, I was approved to attend the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in San Antonio.  I packed comfortable clothes and shoes, bought a backpack to use instead of a purse, spent hours looking over the schedule and arrived at the airport in plenty of time Saturday morning for my 7:25am flight.

It was a beautiful day to fly and I had been able to board in the A group so I chose a window seat.  The flight to Houston was just going to take a couple hours.  Unfortunately, bad weather had hit the Houston airport, so we were diverted to Corpus Christi.  We refueled there and made it to Houston around 12:30.  My connecting flight was delayed an hour, but it left at 11:30, meaning I missed it.  

We were told to get in the line of the gate we would have left from and they would help us.  After standing in line for over 30 minutes, I was told that all flights were full, unless I wanted one leaving at 3pm with two plane changes, including one in Chicago, then arrive around midnight, or I could wait until Sunday at 10pm.  At that point, I made a bold decision to rent a car and drive.

I was told my suitcase would be at the San Antonio airport, so I hopped on a shuttle for Enterprise Rental.  On arriving there, I was told they were not allowing any one-way rentals due to a shortage of vehicles.  I walked across the street to Dollar/Thrifty Rental and was in luck. My phone was down to 20% and my charger was in my suitcase, but I had a goal to make it out of Houston before it got any later.  At 3:30 the traffic was already heavy and of course, the navigation on my phone took me right through what seemed like the center of the city.  It may not be, but keep in mind that there isn't even a stoplight in most of the towns I drive in, let alone 12 lanes of traffic.  

I stopped at an OfficeMax to get a phone charger cable, which unfortunately didn't end up working.  It was a straight shot to San Antonio though, so I just turned the radio on and enjoyed the scenery after getting out of the city. It was a three-hour drive, that may have taken me a little longer, and I thought surely I'd see an airport sign when I got to San Antonio.  Silly me! I stopped at a gas station for directions and the girl had no idea except it would be exit 22 off of the Interstate.  I followed exits 33,32,31, then they suddenly jumped to the 1300s, so I stopped at another station.  "Aw, it's easy!  Just take...."  Of course, it was easy for him.  Long story short, I finally ran across a sign for the airport and after taking several turns around the same loop, arrived at the rental car place.  

They took me to the airport baggage claim, where I waited, and waited, for my suitcase.  The first plane to arrive from Houston since morning finally came in--the flight I was supposed to have been on, but my suitcase wasn't on it.  In retrospect, I don't know how I thought it could since it left before I arrived.  About 15 minutes later another flight from Houston came in and after watching what seemed like hundreds of suitcases, I finally spied mine!  I could have cried.  I was able to catch a taxi and get to my hotel.  

You may think the story is over, but wait.....when I ordered supper online from a delivery place, I didn't get a confirmation so called.  They said they were sorry, but they were closed because their oven had just caught fire.  By that time, it was too late to eat much anyway, so I called it a night.  I never cried, or yelled, or screamed, so I was pretty proud of myself for solving my problems and grateful the be there safely.  What an adventure!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Case for Making: Kids Love to DO Stuff!

My TAG pull-out groups frequently ask "when can we build something again."  After sitting at desks, staring at books or computers most of the day, they crave hands-on learning and creating things.  Some might ask what this has to do with reading and math since that is the areas the program serves with the pull-out groups, but what I witness with these activities is so much more valuable.  They collaborate, create, solve problems and have fun doing it.  In the pictures below students have built a creation using Zome Tools, represented math problems with Omnifix Cubes, explored patterns with Osmo Tangrams, and learned about electricity with Snap Circuits

The Osmos and Snap Circuits were borrowed from our local area education agency but will be a possible investment after watching the students work to solve issues.  The other two pictures show a project that took very little investment:  a STEM challenge using spaghetti and marshmallows in a competition to build the tallest tower.  It amazed me which students were able to get right to work with an idea, and which ones had no clue where to begin.  

One of our goals for the next two years is to create a "maker space" in our intermediate building, then in our primary building.  The activity that will go along with these spaces will be messy and chaotic, but I can't wait to see what they create!


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Faith of Our Fathers....and Mothers

My faith journey has covered many different trails, but through it all, I have recognized a need for God in my life.  I was baptized a Methodist and grew up attending church and Sunday School each week before going to Grandma's for dinner.  My dad was Sunday School superintendent and my mom was often in charge of summer Vacation Bible School. We sang wonderful hymns embellished by a wonderful pianist who I had the pleasure of taking lessons from, and the minister knew just how to modulate his voice to keep people from falling asleep.  

In fifth grade, we moved to a nearby town where my father had moved from owning a grocery and feed business to owning a grain elevator.  Based on his customers' suggestions, we attended the Lutheran church.  My sister and I went through confirmation and were active in the youth group.  Unfortunately, they asked for money a lot and made comments about how if people couldn't tithe, they should not be there.  That is the memory anyway.  This occurred after my father had a heart attack and money was tight.  Eventually, my family quit attending.    

This could have easily ended my faith journey, but I was involved in another youth group with several of my high school friends.  I have such great memories of the Cherry Box MYF--a Mennonite church youth group.  We sang, prayed, played games, and learned more about the Bible with great enthusiasm.  During church services, the congregation sang four-part acapella and the hymn sings with the two nearby Mennonite churches were some of my favorite times.  It didn't hurt that they also had the cutest boys...haha.  I dated one of the young men in high school, then again in college, so when I had a chance to join the church I was re-baptized to signify my conscious decision to follow Christ since my earlier baptism was as an infant.   

The youth group was very vocal about their disapproval of the Catholic faith, to the point that in college, several of us tried to convert another girl away from Catholicism because it was so "evil."  Her brother was a priest, and years later, I really regret the stress we must have put her through.  When I started teaching and met the man who is now my husband, I told him on our first date that the one thing he could never ask me to do was join the Catholic church.  I eventually asked to attend church with him so I could see him earlier on Saturdays.  This led to many questions, so he suggested I look into the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) at a local parish.  

The sponsors of the RCIA classes explained things in a way that I could understand and accept, so Easter 1989 I was confirmed, and marriage preparation classes followed.  Many of the mysteries of the Church still puzzle me, but the history and ritual are very centering and I am continuing to learn and grow in my faith.  That faith helps me understand that some things are just beyond our ability to comprehend.  Future posts will be more about recent readings, music, and experiences, but this varied background was important for me to share.

A Daily Battle

My health has been a daily battle for quite some time.  Over 20 years ago, a well-meaning doctor put me on fen-phen, birth control pills and allergy medicine all at the same time.  Within a month, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure.  When we decided to have one more child at age 36, I developed gestational diabetes, which then a few years later led to a type 2 diagnosis.  (It may have been related as much to genetics, inactivity, and obesity if I'm being totally truthful.) 

Also, because of my high blood pressure and age, I could not go back on birth control.  I said I needed it because of mood swings, which I thought were hormonal.  The kind doctor then prescribed an antidepressant.  Fast forward a couple years to having pressure in my chest and the first of three stress tests.  The doctor said maybe I should see a psychologist because there was nothing physically wrong.  After several meetings with her, medication has been adjusted and I have a diagnosis of some sort that explains many behaviors and I live a pretty "even" mental existence.  I still keep thinking I should be able to handle things without medication, even though I have seen and read all about chemical reasons for depression.

To add to the mix, throw in high cholesterol, premature ventricular contractions, bone lesions, a thyroid nodule, arthritis in several joints, thoracic spondylosis and being a glaucoma suspect.  If I let myself dwell on all of this, it would be easy to have a non-stop pity party.  Instead, I have chosen to work with a trainer for two solid workouts each week, walk more and watch what I eat, at least most of the time.  I dabble in essential oils and aromatherapy as well as some great natural supplements that keep me healthy most of the time.  

Five years ago, I finished a half-marathon and a 20K, then went on to get my group exercise certification and lead classes for almost two years.  A friend of mine posted a quote that said: "Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do, not a punishment for what you just ate."    I know that moving and losing weight will keep me healthier for a longer period of time, and it also seems to help stress as well.  

I can be a stronger, healthier person if I continue to move away from the comfort zone of the recliner and emotional eating, and get moving!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What? Who? Why?


Another blog from another educator?  Do I really think I have something new to say?  Do I really think I'm an expert on anything?  The answer to both of those is a resounding...maybe. I also know that I am a person who needs to reflect to gain the most from my experiences  This blog will be a place for my personal reflections on my work, my home, my health, my spiritual journey, and anything else I need to get off my chest.


I saw a quote once that said 

“I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am ”-T. Cooley

I am done with this.  I want to be me.  This may be the best part of being over 50.  I am a 30 year veteran teacher who still loves to learn, a wife for 28 years who still loves her husband, and a mom of three sons who still marvels that we are all still alive.  I teach PK-3 general music and I'm in charge of the gifted program from our K-12 district.  I have taught in 4 schools in two states, worked with over a dozen administrators, and held positions as band director, choir director, musical director and elementary music teacher, along with gifted facilitator, and various other duties as assigned.  Most days I love what I do, and spend my "free time" trying to figure out how to do it better or learning something new to make me a better person.


As I stated earlier, I am a person who needs to reflect.  My husband says I think too much.  Possibly, I am guilty of overthinking.  This blog will give me a chance to do a brain dump. I can get some of the ideas out of my head so I can focus on more on specific tasks.  I know I am easily distracted, so this will be a coping mechanism.  Also, I just may have something to share that someone else hadn't thought of yet.