Thursday, October 14, 2010

That Dreaded Word: Cancer

My heart is weighing very heavy for yet another friend (she's a young mother) who is preparing for the greatest fight of her life. The fight for Amy started several weeks ago and is becoming even greater with each, future treatments, and so many unanswered questions. Breast cancer is her fight.

Other friends, Jen and Tory whose young daughter Ashtyn was diagnosed with leukemia at age three; Kyle, a young boy in my son's school has been fighing leukemia; Angie's dad is fighting lymphona and just went through a stem cell transplant; Angie's mom has aggressive lung cancer. The list could go on!

This fight is especially close to me as my own dad's life was ended by this terrible disease just twenty-one months ago. My grandfather fell victim while I was in college. Other people, relatives,and friends have faced the dreaded word(cancer) while in a physician's office. Further, I am sadly confident that every single person who reads this post has dealt with cancer either in themselves or in someone close to them.

So while this post is for me to reflect on how cancer has claimed and threatens so many people that I care about, it is also to give a glimpse of some great technology tools that can help families and individuals dealing with this process.

The first one that comes to mine is CaringBridge. Several of my friends have been able to use this site to update friends and family about the struggles, the victories, and the losses when dealing with cancer.

Another site that was brought to my attention just yesterday by another friend of Amy's is Lots a Helping Hands. This site is set up to allow friends and family sign up on a calendar to help with meals, laundry, child care, etc... What a great way to offer help without having to call the already exhausted family.

Another site that I just learned about (via Scott McLeod) for young people with cancer is Re-Mission. This is a game- based program that takes young people through the cancer journey. It offers explanations and other ideas about how to cope with and understand what is happening in their bodies.

These are just a few of the sites that I have been made aware of. If you have other great information, sites, or even just a personal story to share, I welcome your feedback. I still believe in the power of human compassion and know that this is a subject that touches so many of our lives. Our support for each other goes far deeper than one can even imagine.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Better Late Than Never: A Reflection on ISTE 10

Well, it is back to school for many! Now that I have finished creating my online courses, I can finally write this post.

I had the opportunity to go to ISTE 10 in Denver. The learning was excellent for me. Having never been to an ISTE conference before, I got to take in some sessions that gave me a lot of new information. Here is a highlight of just a few of the sessions/individuals I got to learn from.

Saturday started the conference with Educon. The session “Crap Detection” shed new light on how to engage students in writing and researching. Angela Maiers enlightened us with a fool-proof three-step process both for writing and for research: What is the message, who is telling the message, and why is the message important? These simple questions establish credibility which parallels purpose. There you have it…simple yet effective!

Later it was the “Smack Down.” Educators shared some of the cool tools they use in their schools. I was amazed at some of the search engines available.,,, Google Squared and more. Really the Internet holds a wealth of information. It is the teacher’s job to share how to find it and how to use it! Excellent!

Sunday I went to the opening keynote by Mario Armstrong. His message: We need to face the "giants" out there and make a difference one thing at a time. Great message! Teachers are not superheroes, though we might like to think we are. We have to choose which battles we want to fight. Which mountain are we willing to die on? In choosing our battles we need to remain focused on the outcome for our schools and our students!

Monday kicked off with a session from Will Richardson. He talked about using social media with student. The key to success? It is all in the links! Teachers are still the facilitators. It isn’t a free-for-all. Everything must have a clear purpose! He concluded with this: Know your impacts, Favor Improvements, Share what you learn (Daniel Goleman via Will Richardson). Excellent advice!

Tuesday I listened as Adam Bellow showed us not Web 2.0 tools, but simply Webtools (his new name for tools on the Web!) He reminded us of how quickly things change, and just as some are learning about Web 2.0, others are introducing Web 3.0. So why give it a number? Just call it Webtools. Makes perfect sense to me! Here are a few of the tools that wowed us: (reality 3D pop-up books), Museum Box (build up an argument or description of an event, person or historical period by placing items in a virtual box), Sumo Paint Pro (an advanced paint program), Vidinotes (flash player to upload and create a pdf), Capzles (embeddable timelines, stories, etc...), Search-cube (search engine with a 3-D interface), doodlebuzz (a way to search for news stories...graphic organizer type), and so much more!

Wednesday I went to a session by Vicki Davis and Adam Frey. I loved listening to Vicki talk about her use of Wikis in her classroom. It really is amazing to see what students can do with creativity and resources. One example of how a student used a Wiki was for her resume and college applications. WOW! That is definitely something I can use with my classes. You can see the Westwood Schools Wiki managed by Vicki Davis here. Another great classroom site shared in this session is found at

The last part of this adventure took place on Wednesday as I got to be a part of a panel discussion, "Personal Learning Networks: Untangling the Secrets of Getting Connected." We talked about how to start, establish, and manage a PLN. What a privilege it was for me to work with Cory Plough, Jason Schrage, Beth Still, Steven Anderson, and Richard Byrne. What a great experience for me to work alongside some really quality people!

Well, these are just a few of the things I took from ISTE 10. Not only did I get to learn from great educators, I got to meet a lot of great people! I could start naming them, but I am afraid I would forget someone. Thanks to all of you who helped make this experience memorable!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Stop the Insanity!

I have been away from my computer for a few weeks: state assessment testing, reporting, planning, re-vamping online program, plus having a life! The list just goes on. However, sometimes I think it is better for my health not to be online as I read things that just seem so far from the truth!

I appreciate all the technololgy people out there. In fact, thanks for all you know and do. Because of people like you, I have learned a ton over the past two years and feel as though I have made great strides in changing my teaching. But is it reasonable that the average person/teacher knows everything about technology and implements every new thing that comes across her desk? Is there a checklist for using technology with a clear purpose and educational value? Or do we just try all new things out on kids to experiment in their learning?

Well, in a perfect world teachers could do whatever they want. They could teach what they see as important and ignore all else. However, in the real world, there are tests, reports, AYP, and a multitude of things that demand attention. So when a statement is made that consistency in a program for students is important, does that mean we are simply stiving for "mediocrity." I think not! From a person who is learning, I need to learn one thing at a time, gain some mastery, understand the point, get the purpose! Things change too fast to try them all!

While something may look "fun," don't we owe it to our students and ourselves to ask the question "why"? You know kids are going to ask, so why don't we answer it first. Lots of things in life look fun, but sometimes we need to use a little caution in the things we choose to avoid being faced with a consequence. Does caution equal boredom? Maybe for some; but for others it is safe and necessary.

So when we look to add new things to our classrooms, we need to ask ourselves these questions: What is the point? Why do my students need to know this? How will it help them understand the content of my class in a more effective way?

All things aside, the "wow factor" has little credence in my book. If it is only about impressing people, you're doing it for the wrong reason!

Hermann Hesse once said, "“It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is.”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Embarking on a New Journey

Starting a blog is no small feat. The title, the colors, the purpose all must be thought through, at least for me. Thanks to the brainstorming efforts by a couple of my friends on Twitter (@amandacdykes and @j_allen), I was able to come up with a title and a picture. However, the bigger question was "What is the purpose?"

First, starting a blog is about being a model for my students. I will not ask them to do something that I am not doing. It is a learning curve for me so I can better inform those learning from me. My friend and colleague (@bethstill) has encouraged me and has been a huge help in my getting started.

Second, this blog is a way to reflect on all of the wonderful things I have learned from so many inspiring people. Be it education or life in general, I get to come in contact with people every day who offer me new insight. This blog will allow me the space to reflect on what they have taught me.

Last, this blog is about making new footprints. I love the question posed by Randy Pausch in his book The Last Lecture: "What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?" As teachers, parents, friends, etc... that question is often hard to answer. The footprints we make will be our legacy for others to learn from us.

One anonymous quote that I found says this: "The footprints you leave behind will influence others. There is no person who at some time, somewhere, somehow, does not lead another."

Thanks to everyone who has influenced me; I hope to inspire others in return!