My Dad: Life-Long Learner

My dad will soon be celebrating his 66th birthday. He is a life-long learner. Within the past year, he ditched his flip phone for a ‘smartphone’. It was bad! He hated it at first then got to know it and like it. I hated that phone! He couldn’t send or receive photos with his plan, but he had voice typing. It was awful. So his texts became a decoding game I had to play. He enjoyed that aspect.

Then, came the most recent ‘smartphone’. Sooooo much better! His plan allowed him to voice text more accurately, send and receive photos, and best of all, it was Google based! Since purchasing the phone and 5 Gigs of data (monthly), he has downloaded countless apps, initiated a Google Hangout (although he has no idea how he did it), viewed a shared photo album (Google Photos) of Ireland I sent him, signed up for Uber (even though he won’t use it “I don’t get drunk at bars, what do I need it for?”), and countless other things I have no idea about, yet.

18268201_403501643363221_1980745947158834116_nMost recently I received a text telling me that he ‘enrolled’ in Instagram. Yes, he did this without knowing what it was, how it worked, or why he would even need/want it. Then, 24 hours later he decided that he didn’t have the ‘brain of a teenager’ and Instagram wasn’t for him. Ironically 72 hours after signing up, he was back to looking at my photos and liking a few.

All this got me thinking. How is it that a retired man just jumps into technology and yet so many teachers are still afraid or claim it’s not for them? Really, it’s not for my dad either, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. Clearly, my father has a growth mindset. And if I said as much to him, he’d look at me like I was crazy. But, he’s not afraid to try and fail. He’s not afraid to ask questions. He’s okay with playing around to see what happens – thus the Google Hangout that one day.

So my point to all this is; if a retired, soon to be 66-year-old, is unafraid of new technology, we can all try something new. And don’t worry, I’m headed back home this summer to teach him a bit more about his phone and set him straight on his email, which is Gmail.

Finally, because my dad inspires and amuses me, I started a Facebook Page, Texts From My Father. If you’d like to ‘follow’ him on Instagram he can be found @garynowakowski. We’re still working on his selfie taking skills. We can no longer see both arms holding the phone! So that’s progress!

Go forth and experiment, be unafraid, and play!

Coordinates Breakout Continued

Yesterday, my class began creating a Coordinates Breakout. They figured out which locks to use and what the codes would be. Today, I tasked them with creating the clues and a story to accompany the Breakout.

IMG_5343We had a bit of trouble coming up with a story so I had them creating some of the clues to the locks. They were RockStars creating the clues! They really thought out how to make the clues meaningful, with a bit of depth. One clue deals with the compass rose. We are still debating if we should have different ones on one page or split them up onto different pages and have them placed around the room. I think we will have to run the game with another class to work out some of the kinks.

Another clue, or three, deals with coordinate planes – first quadrant. Each group took aIMG_5346 different approach in creating the coordinateplane. One group created a visually pleasing one with gradient coloring and took the time to draw each line. Meanwhile, another group struggled to create one; they needed four or five. The struggling group asked if the gradient colored group would mind sharing so they could copy their coordinate plane. And of course, the group was kind enough to share!

Then, while in the middle of creating, a student came up to me with a back story for our game. We bounced ideas off of each other and made it better. Tomorrow, I think I am going to have the students work together to make the story even better.

So far, this experience has been challenging, yet rewarding. It is our plan to submit the game to the Breakout EDU website. I think before that happens, I will share it out to make sure it’s in tip-top shape!

Meaningful Homework

IMG_5277On a quest to find more meaningful work for students to do at home, my 5th-grade team has been toying with projects. We have refined our ‘Homework Matrix’ through the year. Basically, students are responsible for producing 4 projects per trimester. Some have been to look for the International Space Station (ISS). Others have been to create a sculpture that can be placed outside. However, I think my favorite has been the ‘Create a shadow box about someone who is important to you.”

The students have been creative, caring, and proud of their work. The shadow boxes range from an actual shadow box to a large wooden box, to an old drawer, to a picture frame that was painted. They have talked about their sisters, moms, aunts, dads, and cousins. I love seeing what they have to say, as presentations are a given in my class, and what they include. Even more fun, is hearing how families are working together to create these projects.

IMG_5278

Google Classroom – Personal Accounts

So I received this today in my inbox!

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 5.49.59 PM A few days ago I wrote about Google Classroom and Personal Accounts. I applied for early access and was granted it today! The nerd in me is super geeked.

This is a game changer for me. First of all, I enjoy sharing my knowledge of Google Classroom with the masses. Secondly, a friend and I thought about created classes that people could take to become more proficient in technology use in the classroom. THIS is the perfect tool to get that going.

I can’t wait to see what uses others come up with.

New Year’s Resolutions

I Hate New Year’s Resolutions

So it’s 2015, Happy New Year, and everyone is making resolutions. I, for one, do not make any resolutions. It’s not that I’m perfect, rather I’m not a fan of setting myself up for failure. Most people treat the resolutions like a sprint – start strong and end quickly. I view changes more like a marathon – slow and steady – for better results.

New-Year Resolutions list

By Photos public domain.com [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

How Does This Relate To A Teaching Blog?

All the talk about resolutions got me thinking about changes we, as educators, make. We change our approaches year after year; we change lessons (even if we’ve been teaching the same grade for 10+ years); we change our outlooks; we are constantly changing. That’s what keeps us fresh, invigorated, and excited.

And how do these changes occur? Well, some are organic – as times change, so does our approach. Some, more often than not, come through challenges. Those challenges can come from a failed lesson, a problem student, varied ideas from colleagues and administrators. My most significant challenges have led to my most significant changes.

Look, I’m like any other teacher. I would love to have a class full of students that did what I asked the first time around, hung on my every word, and told me that everything I said was great. Fact of the matter is, that kind of class would probably scare me, then I’d get soft – as a teacher.

I’ve learned to be humble and listen to students’ ideas. It’s those students who say, “Can we … instead?” who inspire me and make a lesson better! Recently, I wrote about a student who made my life easier. Frankie suggested a better way for groups to individually turn in assignments on Google Classroom (post). If I did have that class that never questioned me, it would have taken me a lot longer to realize there was an easier way.

Which Led To This Thought…

Does everyone prefer a challenge (not the ones that make you go home and cry)? Or are there those that would rather be surrounded by the ‘yes class’? Upon reflection, I sadly came to the conclusion that there are those who would rather be surrounded by the ‘yes class’ (aka yes people) than face challenges. I have been in one organization or another since childhood. I have been a part of the ‘yes class’ – mainly out of fear of retribution – and I have also been a part of the ‘can we…instead?’ class. Without a doubt, I can say the ‘can we…instead?’ class is not only more enjoyable, but it’s also a more safe and productive environment.

My Point To All This?

Ditch the New Year’s Resolution and challenge yourself. Surround yourself around those that will make you a better person and/or teacher. Seek out others with opposing viewpoints, you can learn a thing or two from them. Even if it’s as simple as ‘that’s NOT what/how I want to be, do, or teach’. Have conversations and accept other’s ideas. Challenges can be good; it’s where we learn and grow.

And have a GREAT 2015 – even if we don’t have those hoverboards just yet.