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Monthly Archives: February 2015

How is The Voice like Education?

Screenshot 2015-02-25 at 7.58.02 PM


Just to be clear right out of the shoot, I do know that these are not the judges for this season on The Voice.  This is the one show I try to catch.  (sidenote: And I really like Pharrell on the show more than Usher.)

Do you ever sit in church, listening to a sermon and wonder how the pastor made that connection between something in his day-to-day life and scripture?  Well, I had one of those moments after watching the opening night of the “blind auditions” on The Voice Monday night.

In case you don’t watch the show, the first shows are of the four judges listening to singers with their backs to them.  The idea is that the judges won’t have any biases based on the performer’s appearance.  Instead, they are able to fully focus on the performance.  How does this relate to education, you might wonder?  Hmmm…I’m glad you asked.

All too often throughout my years as an educator I have heard teachers talking about the incoming students .  Last year’s teacher gives “advice” to the new teacher, sharing behaviors, strengths/weaknesses, and personal feelings.  The sad part of this is that the kids are entering the class with biases already created by their new teacher.  There are certain bits of information that may be important to share as a child leaves your class to go on to the next, however, most should be left to be discovered by the new teacher.  This enables the teacher to form her/his own relationships, focusing on the learner and not on preconceived notions.

On The Voice blind auditions, if a judge likes what they hear, they turn their chair around to show interest, and a desire to have that contestant on their team.  It’s a huge deal to get a “four-chair turn”.  If one judge turns around then the performer automatically moves on to the next round, but to get multiple judges turning around is pretty amazing.  They get to pick which judge’s team they want to be on.  These people are putting their dreams on the line, being vulnerable in front of millions of people.  Our students come to class each day vulnerable.  Their dreams are being discovered, molded, and nurtured each day…or they’re not.  They feel like their teacher wants them on their team each day…or they don’t.  They go home each day feeling like they had a ” four-chair turn” with this amazing confidence-boost…or they don’t.  Teachers are leaders.  They have so much power.  Let’s use it to build the students and encourage their dreams.

Love and Hate…overused??


Some things I love – in no order:

  • Monster cookies
  • Dark chocolate
  • Fruit (all kinds)
  • Hugs
  • Kissing my kids’ cheeks
  • Snuggling babies
  • Good books
  • Dancing
  • Laughing
  • Traveling to warm places
  • Coffee
  • A good workout
  • Roasted red pepper hummus with celery
  • Saturdays with nothing that has to be done
  • Spring time


Some things I hate:

  • Stubbing my toe
  • Realizing too late that I forgot something important
  • Disrespectful people
  • Tomato worms (they are seriously disgusting)
  • Snakes and mice (see above)

So, obviously, these are far from being comprehensive lists.  Some people might be quick to point out that I left out the “big ones” like loving my family, or hating human trafficking.  Well, that’s kind of my point.  Our society, in general, uses “love” and “hate” loosely and frequently.  I’m definitely at fault of doing so myself.  It wasn’t until a good friend pointed out that he “doesn’t just throw those words around” that I started being more aware of how often I do.  I like to point out that my love for hummus is a completely different kind of love than my love for my children.  But, in English at least, the word is the same.  Since I’m an educator, who loves to teach about the importance of word choice in writing, I find myself pausing a bit and trying to think of a more accurate word to describe what I’m talking about…reserving love for more appropriate times.  I really do love more than I hate.  I’ve mentioned in previous posts that “I love big.”  And while, I am not ashamed of that fact, I am trying to be more intentional with my word choice, so as not to diminish the feeling behind the words.  Thoughts?


Geekout: Social Media in Education

social media

I was asked to be a panelist on a Geekout today via #INeLearn regarding social media in the classroom.  What is a Geekout, you ask?  A video chat via Google Hangouts.  It was my first Geekout experience.  And it was so much fun.  If you missed it, but are interested in the topic, here are the questions we were asked to answer.

What would you consider your first social media tool?  When did you realize that social media could be a tool for learning?
Facebook is the first social media site I frequented.  However, I wouldn’t have called it a “tool” exactly.  I still use Facebook for personal connection rather than professional.  Twitter was my first professional tool for learning, connecting, and sharing.  I began my Twitter account in 2011 after I became the Curriculum Director for my school district.  Most of my early Twitter experience was spent “lurking”.  It was after I found some outstanding educational bloggers through their tweets that I began to see the learning potential.  I was soon hooked by the fact that I could quickly and easily do my own professional learning through the links tweeted by other professionals.

In what ways do you see yourself as a digital learner?
I use digital resources every day.  I read and respond to articles I find on LinkedIn and Twitter.  I process thoughts and learning via Twitter, and more in-depth through this blog.  I communicate and collaborate with other professionals through social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Learning Connection.

Many stakeholders in education do not see social media as a meaningful learning tool. How do you overcome that challenge?
This begins with conversations.  Every person is at a different level of acceptance and/or readiness.  Through talking with them and showing them the benefits of social media in learning you can help broaden their experience with the benefits.  There is a way for each stakeholder to utilize and benefit from using social media for learning and teaching.

How have you introduced social media and/or supported others in using it in their classrooms?
I introduced Twitter to teachers first in school-wide professional development trainings. Whenever doing trainings on a larger scale like this, it’s a little harder to meet everyone where they are.  In the first workshop, I focused on the basics.  I helped them set up accounts, explained how hashtags work, and then gave them the opportunity to try out using a hashtag to tweet what they were currently reading (this piggy-backed on our reading initiative and I showed them an activity they could do in the classroom with their students).  I shared five people in the global world of education that would be good to follow, and then gave them five educators from our own district who were already active on Twitter to follow.  I showed the teachers and administrators how I began using Twitter for my own professional development, as well.

In smaller groups then, I was able to follow-up on more individualized levels.  One teacher set up mystery Skypes for his geography classes through connections he made via Twitter.  Another teacher had a question on the board ready as bell work for students as they arrived.  They would use a class-specific hashtag to share their thoughts regarding that day’s question.  These responses are what began the day’s discussions.

One resource educators in Indiana have is Learning Connection (created by the IDOE).  I would direct certain grade levels and/or departments to different communities for a great place to communicate and collaborate with other Indiana teachers and administrators.

What value have you seen as a result of using social media for learning? (Outcomes)
Social media has impacted my learning over the last three years more than any other avenue.  I have formed a Professional Learning Network that goes world-wide.  I am constantly making new connections which allows me to learn from and talk with educators and leaders across the globe.  I get advice, support, and encouragement from people I have never met except through social media channels.  I enjoy being able to return the favor, as well.  I have 24/7 professional development at my fingertips.  I can choose what I read, when I want to read it.  On top of all of these benefits, I find that I am more intentional with my thinking about my learning as I share thoughts with others.

If you had a piece of advice for a teacher who wanted to start a similar effort, what would it be? (Lessons Learned)
Just start.  Twitter and LinkedIn have been my own personal favorites for professional growth.  It’s okay to “lurk” on Twitter until you feel comfortable chiming in.  You also don’t have to have a “profound” statement to tweet out.  Find some key professionals to follow, and get involved.  Tweet, post on LinkedIn, follow groups, join Twitter chats…just jump in at your comfort level.  The key is to push yourself a little beyond that level each time so you get more out of the experience.

How do you use social media?