Sunday, December 29, 2013

My Learning Workflow

The question I am asked most often is "How do you have time for all this?" Generally, the asker means my social media use.  I think of my social media use as professional learning time.  Learning is important to me and we always make time for what's important to us.

But, I do have a very specific workflow to my social learning.  I created this infographic with Canva (be nice, it's my first attempt at an infographic) to outline my process on a typical day. Not everyday but most days. Everything in the Sources and Share section happens on my phone and usually before I'm out of bed.  Later is done on the computer.

As soon as my alarm goes off, I check my Feedly.  Feedly allows you to add blogs or websites and then pulls the latest posts.  My Feedly is so powerful because my Personal Learning Network (PLN) is full of awesome writers.  After Feedly, I move to Twitter.  Again, Twitter is powerful because of my PLN.  I try to follow a diverse group of educators to push my thinking.  If I have time I check in with Zite.  Zite is personalized based on my interests.

I do not wake up early enough to read all the great information in my sources.  I read all my Feedly posts. If they speak to me, I share them via Twitter to my PLN.  I skim Twitter.  If someone has posted something that sounds interesting, I will email it to myself to read later.

Throughout the day when I have 5 or 10 minutes, I read the articles I've emailed to myself.  If I want to share it to my PLN, I leave it in my email for later (I don't usually tweet at work).  If I want to save the article for later, I clip it into my Evernote account.  I do most of my curating in Evernote.  I have notebooks for all my current projects as well as some general topics.

That's my workflow.  How do you handle your professional learning through social media?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Helping Autistic Students Thrive During the Holidays

This is a non-technology post.  I am the mom to an autistic son.  He had a meltdown at church when presents began apearring under the angel tree.  This got me thinking about how we, as educators, could help these students enjoy this time of year.

It’s the cray, cray, craziest time of the year!  The weeks between Thanksgiving and Holiday Break move at  breakneck speed.  In my last post on Getting Smart, I wrote about how you can survive during these weeks.  But what about your students?  How are they handling it? Specifically, your Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) kids?  What can be done to help them deal with the change and help them enjoy themselves? Some of these things you already do, they are just good classroom management strategies, but it may help to look at them through an ASD lens.

Let students and parents know in advance about schedule changes.  A sudden change can cause ASD kids a great deal of stress. You probably already post this on your teacher website and include it in your newsletter.  Consider making a copy of the week’s or day’s  schedule for a special needs student’s desk. This will help them track what’s happening in class and what will be different.  Parents are your allies in this as well. Send an email the afternoon before to remind them of any changes coming. They can work with their student that evening to help prepare him or her.  

If your class or school is participating in a community service project, your ASD student may be more receptive if the directions are concrete.  Instead of saying “Make a holiday card for someone at the nursing home.” Tell him or her “Please make a Happy New Years card for Bob.  He lives at the nursing home where the cards are going.” This may require a phone call to the nursing home to get specific names but will help those black and white thinking students.  If you are collecting toys for an agency or doing an angel tree, let your student name their angel.  It doesn’t matter what the name is, it’s just easier for an ASD student to shop for Billy, age 10 than male, age 10.

The class party can pose some interesting challenges.  If at all possible, let your autistic students take a sensory break before the party begins.  This could be as simple as telling all the students that you are polar bears and you need to bear crawl to the North Pole for the party.  Then all kids have the opportunity to work some wiggles and excitement out.

You will need to coach your student before any gift exchange.  Privately talk about how to respond if he or she doesn’t like the the gift they are given.  Practice a script of what to say.  Remind him or her that they don’t have to say everything they think.  Also practice body language with these scenarios.  Coaching may also be helpful in regards to food.  Help your student know how to react when they are served food they don’t like or if they eat something that is not tasty.  

A party schedule can also be helpful. It does not have to include specific times but a general rundown of what will happen and in what order.  This will calm most ASD students and let them enjoy the party more.  

Proximity can also be helpful during the party.  By now you probably know how your ASD student prefers to be soothed.  Keep your student close by so you can soothe and problem solve if he or she becomes upset.  Creating a cool down plan before the party begins will help avoid a scene during the party.  

This is a fun time of year! With a little planning, you can insure all students have fun.  What other strategies do you use this time of year? Share with us in the comments.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

12 Days of #Techmas

 About a week ago, my good friend Andrea posted on Facebook that she'd like to organize 12 days of technology challenges.  I responded right away that I'd like to help. Andrea shared a google doc and the ideas started flowing.  Last week was not one of my best so I missed out on the brainstorming phase.

Andrea named our group Techformers Unite and the challenges the 12 Days of #Techmas.  Andrea started posting challenges on Sunday. The first day's challenge was to take your favorite holiday song and create a word cloud. We had over 70 educators participate!

Our hope is that you'll participate in the challenges, learn a new tool and transfer that knowledge to your classroom.  We know this time of year is super busy so don't feel pressured to participate.  This is supposed to be fun not something to add stress to your day.  Participate in the challenges that you can! Each day's challenge comes with an awesome how to page.  

The challenges are posted to our Facebook group and on our website. You can reach the Techformers on Twitter as well.  If you need help with your challenges you can ask questions on Facebook or Tweet questions using the hashtag #techformersuhelp

Here are all the challenges.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sunshine Award Fun!

Amber Teamann, @8amber8, was sweet enough to nominate my blog for a Sunshine Award.  According to Amber...
The Sunshine award gives others an opportunity to learn more about me as a blogger and then, in turn, I will send sunshine the way of 11 other amazing bloggers for you to get to know!
Sounds fun to me! Which is how I would describe Amber. She is just fun.  We met last year at EdCamp Dallas. She's one of the organizers.  Amber is very welcoming as well.  Every time I've seen her since then, she's always be wonderful.  No awkwardness (as is my trademark) just genuine friendship.

Here are the Sunshine Award rules:
  1. Acknowledge the nominating 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 some recognition and a little blogging love!
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)
Here are my random facts...
1. I love going to school. My job and actual classes. If I won the lotto, I'd just go take college classes for fun.  
2. I love cartoons.  Hey Arnold and Fairly OddParents are two of my favorites.
3. I love Mr. Sketch smelly markers.  I order new ones every school year.
4. I love to watch sports and go to sporting events but I can not play any sports.  I close my eyes when something comes at me.  
5. #4 stems from being hit in the head with a discuss as a young girl.  Actually a funny story.  Ask me sometimes.
6. At some point in every school year, I will walk into the gym and get hit in the head with a ball.  My first year at Sunnyvale it happened in from of our Superindentdant. I had to work really hard not to cry. 
7.  I go to Sam's Club once a month to buy stuff for the boys' lunches and meat.  I then spend the next afternoon browning meat, dividing it into freezer bags, and separating lunch items into bags. I have a blue box that holds the lunch stuff. Leftovers go in the clear box. You can't eat out of the blue box but have what you want out of the clear box.  
8. I discovered at EdCamp Dallas this year, I realized that I don't like pictures taken of my from the side. I don't like how my nose looks from the side.  I tried to institute a 'no side nose' photo policy.
9. I'm most productive when I'm wearing comfy jeans, funny tshirt and Chucks.  It'd be great if this were in dress code. 
10.  I wrote a picture book called Santa Moon and half a middle grade novel about a girl baseball player.  Then I got terrible writer's block.  No fiction comes from my brain these days.
11. I'm actually shy until you get to know me.  When I'm comfortable, watch out.  

Questions from Amber
1. Do you prefer to shop in stores or online?   about 50/50 depends on how badly I want the item
2. How many pairs of shoes do you own? 30, I think.  Over 25 of these hurt my feet but are really cute.  
3. What is your favorite type of music? Favorite band or song? Love country music. Love dancing to country music. I mostly listen to sports radio though.  I kept Amber's answer here.  It applies to me as well.  
4. Cats or Dogs? Why… Dogs. Chihuahuas.  But not the yappy kind. I have one of each. 1 yappy 1 non-yappy.  
5. What is your typical bedtime? about 20 minutes after the boys go to bed.  
6. Favorite twitter chat? #txed
7. Democrat/Republican/Other?  Democrat - I'm very out of place politically in my community.
8. Best place you ever vacationed? Any beach with my boys. I love Paris and New York as well.  I'd like to live in either of those places.
9. Best book you’ve read in 2013? Mindset (I'm a geek, see #1 above)
10. Favorite television show when you were growing up? Hey Arnold or Dukes of Hazzard
11. What is one thing you never/rarely share that you are exceptionally proud of? I was Teacher of the Year my first year to teach and I've been Teacher of the Year at 2 of the 3 schools I've worked at. 

My 11 bloggers:
1. Carrie Ross (@carrierosstx)
2. Rafranz Davis (@rafranzdavis)
3. Sydney Musslewhite (@smussle)
4. Paul Wagner (@pwagnerlcisd)
5. Zach Snow (@zachsnow)
6.Daisy Marino (@daisyray215)
7. Christi Watts (@cwatts27)
8. Christina Carrion (@carrion_creates)
9. Don Jacobs (@don_Jacobs)
10. Jennifer Fountain (@jennann516)
11. Brenda Key (@bkeyisme)

I'd like y'all to answer the same questions.  And to know how much I appreciate the sunshine that each of you (and all of you, too) bring into my life!

Monday, December 2, 2013

A new look, a new page and a project

I made this with Canva too...
Why yes, we do have a new look around here. Thanks for noticing! 

This was my impromptu Thanksgiving Break project.  As with most things I do, it was a winding road.  Daisy Marino asked me to be a teacher testimonial for her blog STAAR Techers  (you can read it here).  She mentioned that it would be posted to Twitter and Facebook on Sunday.  We started talking about Facebook and Daisy said: 
"we have so many teachers on facebook but not on twitter...shows them the possibilities of stuff they can do in their class. "
Which got me WHY is serving teachers.  Facebook might be a great place to reach some teachers.  I think I'll make a Plugged In Educator Facebook page.  So I did.  You can go "Like" it here:  So in that process, Facebook asks me for a cover photo.  

That lead me to Canva.  Canva is an online design site.  It's mostly free.  There are some very high quality photos that cost $1 to use.  I paid a dollar for the image above.  I was able to create the Facebook cover photo and download it.  I could do whatever I wanted with the image and download it for 24 hours. If I need to create something else with the image after 24 hours, I would pay the dollar again.  What a bargain!  Canva is in a closed beta (trial) right now but I have a few invites to share.  Email me at aimee (at) pluggedinedu (dot) com if you'd like one.  

I loved the image I made for Facebook so much that I decided to make it my new logo.  And I changed the blog color scheme to match.  I love how it looks and it was fun to do!

So there's the new look and a new page and here's the project:

As you know, I've hacked my Tech Apps class this year. My students are finishing up their first self directed project.  Their assignment was to solve a problem that is relevant to them.  They could not report on someone else's solution, they had to solve it themselves.  This week they are educating their classmates on their solutions.  They are going to reflect on their projects and post to their blog later this week.  

Two of my girls (actually they are the only girls) wanted to solve cyberbullying.  They choose to make a webpage.  They want anyone dealing with cyberbulling to have a safe place to get help.  If you are being bullied, you can post anomously and they will try to help. They have enlisted the help of our counselor in their efforts.  They also have plans to add anti-bullying resources.  Please take a few minutes to visit their site and share with your students if you'd like.