Use of digital photography and video in elementary classrooms is a habit every teacher should develop.  When teaching kindergarten I took photos of students doing math and science activities.  I used the camera on my iPhone which I kept handy through the day.  I posted the photos (after ensuring I had full parent permission) on our class website.  I would show these photos to the students and we would have a second  chance to think and talk about the activities in the photos.  This practice built language and academic vocabulary in my students by allowing them to revisit and review with engaging visuals. (more…)

The Challenge of Change

Courtesy of TypCut

I have titled this post, “The Challenge of Change,” in reference to the difficulty of creating sustainable change in instructional practice.  In my experience, as a teacher and support teacher in elementary schools, there are many factors that make changes to instructional practice difficult to foster.  I believe the path to real change and adaptation will come from building our faith in practicing teachers, teacher expertise and encouraging and supporting teachers to share expertise.  This approach is not commonly embraced by politicians, academics and some administrators.  There is often a thinly disguised anti-teacher sentiment, a sense that teachers are stubborn and unwilling or unable to accept guidance to improve instructional practice.  These people tend to believe that outside consultants and professional developers should guide instructional improvement. Continue reading

Sarah Z’s Edu-Techno Ramblings – 2012

I called my original Blog, Sarah Z’s Edu-Techno Ramblings because I have second thoughts about publishing on the Internet.  In effect, when I post to this blog I am posting writing that has not been reviewed by my peers.  Use of the word, “ramblings” acknowledged that what was written was my own untested thoughts.  I believe it is important to have others review our work and test our thinking.  It is especially valuable to have others who are also knowledgeable in a given field contribute their thoughts on the subject.  In these days of the open web, we must learn to monitor our own reading and writing, doing our best to avoid bias, imprecise logic and baseless theorizing. I challenge my readers to question and test the logic of my ideas, and add their ideas to mine in the comments, in order to create a more robust picture of the subject at hand.

Clearly, we are not going back to the days when writing was presented solely in peer-reviewed journals and reviewed by editors and publishers.  We are living in an age where anyone can start a blog and share his or her ideas with the world. It is up to the audience and those posting to take responsibility for sharing ideas of value that contribute to a better world, and a brighter, stronger, more intelligent populous.  Lector Caveat!

Document Camera

Document Camera

Document Camera

Document Cameras are becoming more common in schools.  The document camera adds usefulness to a digital projector and classroom computer. The document camera, quite simply, is a camera that captures and displays whatever is placed underneath it onto the class projection screen. It quickly makes the overhead projector a thing of the past.  In my classroom I use this device in nearly every lesson. In fact, if it were to fail, I would have to quickly rethink how I present material to my class.  It is very useful. Continue reading

Mind and Body Teacher Readiness

I find that in my practice as a teacher it is important for me to keep my mind and body prepared for the physical and emotional demands of each day.  There are a few practices that I am committed to on a regular basis.  The first is my yoga class twice each week.  Yoga strengthens me, and has increased my ability to balance and breathe in a mindful way on a more regular basis.  The stretching activities work out some of the stressors that would otherwise build up in a job that keeps me on my feet about 90% of my day.   The second regular, committed activity I do is a workout that combines weight lifting with low impact aerobic dance.  Regular exercise helps me build strength, have fun and manage stress in a positive way. It keeps me feeling strong so I can be a good role model for my students.

There are a few other healthy body and mind habits that I strive to do regularly, but am not currently doing as often as I would like.  First is a morning meditation routine.  I do get up early to drink coffee, occasionally jotting down notes about my teaching practice in a journal.  However, my real goal in getting up early has been to do some stretching and “real” meditation.  I guess I prefer a kind of “coffee meditation.”  And the last healthy mind and body habit I would like to get to more regularly is a brisk walk.  Right now I get in a walk once or twice a week  and I’d like to get a walk in five or six days of the week.

These habits help me be a better teacher, and adult role model. These habits also help me manage the physical and emotional stress of teaching in a healthy way.

If you have ideas about how to keep physically and mentally ready for teaching, please make a comment below!

Reading Every Day

Recent Books that have kept my attention include Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and the Biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. These books are very different, but are both intelligent, well written and entertaining.  Cutting for Stone is an epic fiction tale with a richly portrayed cast of characters and settings from India to Ethiopia to Inner City New York and back to Ethiopia, the main character is kind, loyal and extremely talented as a surgeon. Steve Jobs Biography details the amazing life of this man whose work, at Apple Computer and Pixar, has changed the world. Both books explore human virtues, vices and foibles leaving unanswered the question “why do I do the very things that I hate?”

Recommendations for inspirational and fun books for educators can be found on this Edutopia Webpage

If you live in Marin County, California and want to support your school and a local bookseller, I highly recommend Book Passage. They have a main store in Corte Madera and a smaller store at the SF Ferry Building. They even have a small coffee shop if you are missing Borders in San Rafael.  If you ever get a chance to hear Elaine Petrocelli, who opened the store in 1976, talk about the latest and greatest in books, don’t miss it. She can keep an audience on the edge of their seats for a full hour jotting down notes about all the great new reads. The store organizes regular visits from authors and you can often find signed copies of those books at no extra charge. When you make a purchase at Book Passage be sure you tell them the name of  your local school and they will make a donation to your school library.

If you want to save money and be green, you can see if your book is available at the library before you go, here’s the link to the Marin County Library Catalog.

Enjoy a healthy habit of reading!

Please share your favorite reads with us by posting titles and a brief note below.

Hello world!

After years having a blog hidden away on my website, it’s time to start fresh.   Many posts will focus on my experiences working with my fourth grade class, as I seek to infuse technology in meaningful ways that enhance student thinking, learning and creativity. Last year I taught kindergarten, my emphasis was on finding ways to make assessments of student learning easier to gather and analyze.  I created a  simple Google Form that I used to track student alphabet, letter sound and High Frequency Word learning.  Using the form on my iPhone allowed me to quickly collect and manage student assessment data.   This year I am teaching fourth grade. I use my document camera, online video and online activities regularly to give students more ways to wrap their minds around the topic at hand.  But as the second half of the school year begins, I am using available resources to allow my students to build their skills and creativity as writers, reporters, and presenters.

I also work with credential candidates, helping them learn how to use technologies as they enter the teaching profession.  Ideally, this blog will help me share my work with elementary aged students with my adult students.