My Summer Device Diet

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Device Overload
Device Overload

I’m going on a diet! Who hasn’t said that around this time of year at some point during their lives? As summer approaches, many often begin the preparation of the summer body through diet, exercise, and determination. This summer I am taking back my brain. It’s feeling a bit mushy and not quite as alert as it once was. Maybe some of it has to do with getting a bit older, but I’m not willing to believe that. I have a serious theory about the cause, which is probably not so earth-shattering. I have developed some unhealthy device habits. I do a lot of scrolling and skimming. I am convinced that the amount of time I put forth in exploring ideas is far less than it used to be. The length of time that I persist in thinking deeply about any subject is shortening. The number of books that I read is on an alarming decrease. It’s time for a summer device diet, in an attempt to take back my brain.

The Devices

  • iPhone 5. I use my iPhone everywhere, because it is always with me. In addition to traditional telephone calls, I text family and friends around the world using both iMessage and Whatsapp. I check Facebook, Instagram, and my Memoir apps. I use RunKeeper to track my fitness activity and check  the Weather Channel to know what apparel is required during said fitness activity. Sometimes I use Tabata Pro to time my interval workouts at the gym. JEFIT is an app that I use to track weightlifting routines and progress. I also have circuit routines stored in both Evernote and Notes. My gym life doesn’t seem very streamlined, but I like variety and the various apps that I use reflects that. My iPhone is also my main source of music between my iTunes collection and streaming sites like Spotify and TuneIn Radio. Oh, how could I forget that my iPhone has kept me from getting lost more than once!
  • iPad Air. I use my iPad both at work and at home.
    • At work I use my iPad to access meeting agendas and action notes while in meetings outside of my office. I also access supporting documents and resources during meetings.
    • At home I use my iPad to check email, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. I rarely answer email on handheld devices. Checking social networking really means just scrolling through the sites, occasionally sending an article to my Pocket (to read later) or pinning an interesting photo/idea (to reference later). I have magazine subscriptions through Zinio that I sometimes remember to look at and read. I used to read ebooks (purchased and borrowed from my public library) on the Kindle app. Once in awhile I do the USA Today crossword. My iPad has become my go-to device in the kitchen! It is always propped up on top of the coffee machine when I am cooking, following recipes.
  • Desktop. The only time and place that I use a desktop is in my office at work. I always have anywhere from 8 – 15 tabs open in my browser, school email up and running, calendar alerts, at least two documents in varying stages of creation, .pdf docs open as I research, music streaming from any number of US-based altrock radio stations… I will be leaving this behind when I close up my office later today.

The Habits as they currently exist…

  • iPhone. Communicating, texting, scrolling, researching, and working out.
  • iPad. Communicating, texting, scrolling, note taking, researching, cooking, and reading.
  • Desktop/Laptop. Communicating, creating documents, researching, reading, working, and online purchasing.

The Approach

I am under no delusion that my reliance on, and use of, these devices has become a vital part of my work and life flow. However, I know that a fair amount of my device use outside of work is mindless time filler that doesn’t require a lot of brainpower. That’s not to say that there isn’t a time and place for mindless time filler type of activities. It’s time to exercise moderation and stimulate my brain more deeply. Here’s my current plan:

  • 60 minutes of connected device time each day. Maybe in only one sitting, maybe in two sittings. Always a timer will be set.
  • Compulsive accessing of, and searching for, information will not be indulged. I will keep a handwritten list that I can refer to during connected device time.
  • Reading hard copies of books and magazines. I have plenty at my disposal between the ones that I already own and the public library.
  • iPhone will be used as a telecommunication tool. Calling and texting, iMessage and Whatsapp only, is necessary to remain in contact with family and friends. My iPhone will have its specific place on a kitchen counter (much like telephones were attached to a wall in days of yore). I will not carry it around the house with me, unless I am on a phone call.
  • Music. I can’t live without it. I will allow myself access to my iTunes collection and streaming sites.
  • Fitness apps. I’m not 100% certain what to do about these. Do I need to track every. single. run.? Nope. I do like to ensure that I am devoting a minimum time to each run (30 minutes). I like to check my pace. I like to run intervals. RunKeeper use needs further thought, but I can probably do without the other fitness apps that I use. Running and gyming device-free is something I’m not quite willing to give up, but this is a diet of moderation. Fitness apps require further thinking…
  • Kitchen Time. It will be a return to the cookbooks in my pantry and the public library. If there is a recipe that I require from a connected device, I’ll save it to my Evernote recipe folder and make it available offline.

This is my current plan. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something. I’m sure the plan will evolve throughout the summer. I’ll report in throughout the summer with updates.

I would love to hear how you have practiced device moderation! Share your device dieting and moderation strategies in the comments section!



(Mentally) Wrestling With Adult Bullies

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Photo Credit: bullyinguk via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: bullyinguk via Compfight cc

In the world of education, bullying has become a hot topic. As educators, we work to help students to treat each other in ways that they would like to be treated. We work with the bullies to improve their treatment of others and to feel better about themselves. We work with the victims to console, to give them voice, and to develop their confidence in standing up for themselves. We work with the bystanders to recognize bullying behavior, to defend what is right, and to report mistreatment.

There is a paradox at play in the world of education and its anti-bullying initiatives. The adults themselves include bullies, victims, and bystanders. To be fair, adult bullying is not unique to the education profession, nor is it only found in professional settings. The situational irony is that the adult bully educators are part of an institution actively working against bullying behaviors. I guess the childhood bullies that aren’t changed through the anti-bullying campaigns in schools continue on into adulthood.

Photo Credit: C.M.C / Leon.C via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: C.M.C / Leon.C via Compfight cc

Adult bullies have been on my mind for quite awhile now. On my mind and in my midst. I am just so done with bullies. And by “done” I mean I’m tired of sitting back and remaining a quiet victim and bystander. Taking any sort of action has implications, though. Some minor, some not so minor. No one likes the the perceived tattletale. No one wants to look beneath the shiny veneer they see to catch a glimpse of what lies beneath. Sometimes people prefer to blame the victim. There are so many awkward and uncomfortable social juxtapositions that complicate the issue because my bully might be your friend or vice-versa.

Introducing…the adult bullies. Maybe you know them?

There are four particular bully personalities who come to mind immediately. Each of them has varying degrees of impact on the well-being and emotional security of others.

  • Bully #1. This is the serial bully who employs a varied repertoire of bullying tactics in their dealings with victims. The repertoire might include shouting (sometimes in front of others), excluding individuals, ignoring/avoiding, denying opportunities, discouraging progress, throwing a tantrum when disagreement arises, and flat out telling lies about individuals and what they believe.
  • Bully #2. This is the behind-the-scenes bully. This is the person who goes tip-tapping up and down hallways, stopping by select offices and classrooms for chatting and gossiping. This is the bully who talks about everyone who is not in the room with few exceptions. No one feels safe. Some play along in hopes of remaining in good graces in order to avoid slander. Inevitably Bully #2 can do much damage to the culture of an organization.
  • Bully #3. This is the projection bully. This bully may be unable to torment their intended victim, so friends and/or family of the intended victim become the target. Their bullying tactics are petty with attempts that include a) always being sarcastic to avoid being sincere, b) making jokes that are degrading (e.g., blond/female intelligence), and/or c) walking right on by without even being able to make eye contact or respond to an offered greeting. Their dislike is palpable whether they are bullying or not.
  • Bully #4. This is the passive-aggressive bully. The one who rarely has anything nice to say about anyone, but says it in a way that is perceived as sarcastically funny. Many people laugh. Do they find Bully #4 funny? or are they relieved that they are not the victim? The victim may choose to shoot back at Bully #4 in an equally sarcastic manner. Chances are the passive-aggressive bully is unable to handle a taste of the same medicine. This may lead to Bully #4 dramatically ignoring the victim when paths cross.

But bullies have their own issues…

I’ve read A LOT about bullying, adult bullying, and workplace bullying over the past several years. Everyone knows that the bully is often motivated by their own insecurities, jealousy of what others have, etc. Trust me. There is absolutely NO COMFORT in knowing/believing that. Bullies can ruin a good thing. Bullies can ruin lives. Bullies can poison a culture for everyone.

 My bullies might not be your bullies…but sometimes they are your friends.

This is the social juxtaposition that I just can not get my head around! You are nice people. You are worthy of respect. You are smart. You work hard. You make a difference in the lives of children. You would never bully anyone. You believe in equity. You fight for equity. You are a peaceful individual. You are honest. You are kind. You are smart. Yet, YOU ARE FRIENDS WITH BULLIES! You travel with them. You hang out with them. You call them your friends. You regale social networks with stories of what great humans they are. Sometimes you allow them to taint your very beautiful and positive soul. But, alas, bullies are very talented at living a dual existence leaving me to see Dr. Jekyll while you see Mr. Hyde.

Planning an on-site Edcamp

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Planning professional development. Making teachers happy. These are not always expressions that are used together in the same sentence.

Mixing it up.

The ES trialed three weeks of Edcamp sessions during divisional staff meeting time in December. Of course, that created a bit of a buzz among MS and HS teachers. When do we get to do something like that? Well, they finally got something like that on the afternoon of February 3. There were two Edcamp-style sessions for MS and HS teachers to choose from.

The challenges (what made this less Edcamp-y)

  • This is a school-sanctioned afternoon of professional development. It is not optional.
  • No one planning or facilitating (or participating for that matter) has ever participated in an Edcamp in the real world. Ever.
  • It is more planned than spontaneous.
  • Would facilitators really facilitate conversations or would they default to the status quo and present information?

The planning

      • The To Do List
      • Soliciting Topics and Facilitators – A Google form allowed teachers to propose Edcamp topics and to opt-in to facilitate a session.
      • edcamp prop 1
      • Teacher sign ups were facilitated, once again, by a Google form. Because certain sessions were quite popular, we capped sign ups at around 12 – 15 participants (which I monitored via the spreadsheet that collected the information). I went into the form and removed the sessions as they reached capacity.
      • I met with facilitators to outline a few agreements, answer questions, and offer any support they might need. I also created and shared an Edcamp: Facilitator How To guide.
      • I created and shared a collaborative document for facilitators to capture the conversation during their sessions. This is also intended for follow-up and continuing conversations over time. Facilitators were free to use and edit the collaborative document to suit their needs. However, it proved to be a bit “clunky” in design for some facilitators.
      • Locations were assigned and door signs were made.

The Edcamp Experience

The entire afternoon went off without a hitch. Teachers seemed to welcome a different approach to professional development. The follow up survey certainly confirms this!

edcamp survey response summary
An Overwhelming Success!


What now?

This is the new question on the tips of some participants’ tongues. It takes on a variety of tones:

  • What now? What actions will actually come from this?
  • What now? Philosophical chit-chat is fine, but what about the practical?
  • What now? When do we get to do this again?
  • What now? I was really motivated by the conversation and want it to continue.

After discussion with the Professional Development Planning Team, we shared some of the following ideas with staff:

Learning that comes from Edcamps is driven by the interests of participants. The directions in which participants choose to take their learning are infinite. Below are some ideas to consider for participants who are wondering, “Now what?”

Next steps…

You know who’s in charge of your own professional development? You.

The next step is yours.

Here are some suggestions to continue and extend the conversations and learning from Edcamp sessions:

  • Use the collaborative docs from each session to continue conversations, to collaborate, to share resources, and to inquire with your Edcamp group. Find the list of topics and collaborative docs here.
  • Seek further information and answers (e.g., do a Google search, read an article or a blog on an Edcamp topic of interest).
  • Consider starting a PLC to further explore a topic with colleagues.
  • Identify and reach out to someone at AIS who could support a next action step.
  • Facilitate an Edcamp session in the future to delve deeper and identify actions.

“The teacher, the admin, the coach – the individual – has to assume responsibility for his own learning. The individual path an educator takes to grow professionally must be built by the learner, for himself, in order to be effective. No two paths will look the same. And that’s a good thing.”

Hilt, Lyn. “A PKM Challenge.” Learning in Technicolor. 19 Feb. 2014.

 What next?

It looks like there will be another Edcamp opportunity in April. We will incorporate some tweaks to improve upon some of the organizational pieces.

However, what’s really next in PD? Well, that’s anyone’s guess. Actually, I feel like what is next is the re-branding of Professional Development to become Professional Learning. After all, learning is really what we are all about!

COETAIL Final Project – IB French, Collaborative Writing

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cada macaca no seu galho
photo by mondopanno

FINALLY!!!! I am very pleased to announce that I got the COETAIL final project monkey off my back! I refer to it as a monkey in the most affectionate of manners. This was a really long process. The first step of just settling on a project topic seemed like an amazing accomplishment.

The next step was actually planning the tech integration project. True to the life of an educator, it just never seemed like there was enough time to get this thing done.

Then, the project was done. I had photos, video footage (MERCI Lissa!), student work, and student testimonial videos…which I sat on for too many weeks to count. It was tough work scripting and summarizing. Then the hours spent in iMovie seemed never ending.Until I turned that magical corner of no-turning-back. What a sense of relief! What a sense of accomplishment!

The COETAIL journey was well worth the time and effort. I now have a solid base of information on which to build my approach to technology integration. In addition, I have a phenomenal PLN to consult for further information, developments, advice, and examples. I am certainly a better educator as a result. 😉

Necessity, the mother of…flipping instruction?

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Call !
photo by redwood 1

The week of March 3…fully booked during teaching time to record Individual Oral Assessments.

The awkward part of a week of Orals is that only one or two students become the focal point of my attention during class time. This leaves the rest of the class to their own devices (literally and figuratively). Talk about a teacher’s worst guilt trip on so many levels.

This week through a combination of using Edmodo and Google Drive apps, I am going to attempt to flip instruction. Although, is it still flipping instruction if students are left to work independently during the regularly scheduled class time? 😉

The biggest challenge is that they are beginning a new unit on the environment. I have been scouring the internet for resources that they could use to independently learn the vocabulary and expressions necessary.

The first theme will focus on Recycling.

  • Preparation: I sent students a notification via edmodo to bring a device to class and to be sure that they have a Google account. I also posted a Youtube video for them to watch either before, or upon, arriving in class, their choice. The beauty of the Youtube video is that students can turn on the subtitles in French to follow the dialogue. They are not 100% correct, but should help to support students as they begin.

  • Class 1: Today’s success hinges on a couple of factors that I can’t necessarily control: student motivation/engagement, devices present, and internet connection. I was able to snag Lissa, the French speaking tech coach to support students and help them with troubleshooting.

I posted two flipped assignments and scheduled them to open just before class begins. One is a collaborative presentation in which student are to add 3 slides each representing a different vocabulary word or expression. The other is a document that students will copy to their own Google drive and use to work with new vocabulary. There are two internet-based reading activities linked in this document with simple comprehension activities. It’s a lot of learning for them to complete in 60 minutes, even if everything runs smoothly.


  • Class 2: Not convinced that too much is getting done during class time…
  • Class 3: First student shares completed assignment via Google doc. I notice that answers about reading article were often copied and pasted from said article. Not what I really wanted, but kids often answer questions by copying by hand from text. Maybe not the end of the world, as students also need to comprehend in order to choose the right text to copy/paste.
  • The night before class 4: Second student shares a completed assignment via Google doc. Not a total surprise that I am receiving requests from many students regarding sharing the Google Presentation with them so they could add their slides. Numerous edmodo messages asking for details and clarifications on various expectations. (Without technology, students wouldn’t be able to get answers from me outside of school hours.) I am compiling a survey in Google Forms for students to provide feedback after tomorrow’s written formative.
  • Class 4: Today students will complete a formative assessment based on the previous three classes of flipped instruction/independent learning.

Well, this was an experience for all involved. The majority of students did not complete/submit assignments in the time frame allowed. Flipping instruction. It’s like flipping a coin. Will they? Won’t they? On time? Late?

Is Handwriting Threatened by Technology?

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Handwriting! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing????? Well, it seems to be good for producing tears.

Crazy conversation this morning with a colleague that began as a discussion about my 10th grade son’s handwriting. It was his French teacher (a French native) who brought up the subject. We discussed and debated the subject all in her native language, my second language. Oh, là, là!

What is the Role of Handwriting?

Oh, là, là! I enter the French classroom and immediately recognize the handwriting of my 10th grade son.

Her concern was that his handwriting needs work practice. This was certainly not the first time I have heard this in the almost 16 years since my son entered my life. At this point, it’s hard to know if I am approaching the handwriting conversation as a mother, a colleague, a tech enthusiast, or an active member of the 21st century. Whichever hat I wear, I have some very strong feelings about handwriting.

Very quickly I sensed that the conversation was becoming a debate, mostly because she and I were coming from different vantage points. She began by seeking my support in handwriting practice, that having nice handwriting is important. She argued that handwriting is important and students should be required to first demonstrate neat handwriting before being allowed to use an iPad or a laptop. (Have I mentioned she is of a different generation than mine? A younger generation than the one I belong to.) She even complimented me on my lovely handwriting! <Blush> (At that moment, I slightly regretted handwriting those sub plans for her back in January.) I may have burst her bubble when I told her that I often prefer typing since I can type much faster than I can write (neatly) by hand.

Handwriting refers to a person’s unique style of writing characters created with a writing utensil such as a pen or pencil…Because each person’s handwriting is unique, it can be used to verify a document’s writer.

So, his handwriting is challenging to read, but by definition handwriting is “unique.” His just happens to be uniquely challenging to read. 😉 Because his penmanship style is not aesthetically pleasing, the expectation is that he change. I digress and head off into questionable territory here…The Land of the Mama Tiger! 😉

Kids These Days

Of course, it is important to note that technology was blamed more than once during this conversation as being the cause of the downfall of handwriting and of a growing inability to give handwriting its proper respect. It’s the age-old “kids these days” argument, that is rarely really about “kids these days.” As the BBC news magazine video above reveals, hanging onto handwriting may be more motivated by nostalgia than anything else. Is it more important for my teenage son to increase his fluency in the French language or that he write neatly in cursive? As a parent and and an educator, I know which one requires greater cognitive ability.

I know that I have very strong feelings about the role of handwriting and the role of technology in the lives of kids and how each enable us to communicate our ideas. Some of these feelings (o.k., maybe all of them) are definitely shaped by my experiences as a parent. My son’s handwriting has been a bone of contention with teachers ever since he began school at the tender age of four. Despite his manual agility with the tiniest of Lego bricks, the dexterity required for handwriting and using scissors has always seemed to elude him. We worried that maybe he just didn’t try hard enough, so spent summers forcing him to work in handwriting workbooks. He has suffered a few poor scores from teachers who couldn’t get beyond his handwriting to uncover the ideas that he was trying to communicate. Luckily this has been rare. Sometimes, he can’t even read his own handwriting. His handwriting has become a point of many jokes in our family. He owns that his handwriting is a cross to bear.

a handwritten note from my son, age 10
(I still carry this in my wallet.)

The biggest problem is that his handwriting only serves as a handicap to his ability to communicate his ideas. He is a fast processor with lots of creative ideas that come to him at a speed that his handwriting could never support. Technology has become his best friend in this regard. He is very passionate about writing and produces a daily average of around 2000 words between blogging, writing his first novella, and various projects and assignments for school. Most of his teachers over the past few years have been very understanding and he uses an iPad in class to take notes, produce journal entries, and complete assignments.

Without technology, I wonder how his life in handwriting Hell might have been different. Would his handwriting have improved eventually? Would he be in a constant state of frustration? Would he have creative ideas left unshared and undeveloped? Would he actually love creative writing and blogging?

Straddling Two Worlds

If we lived in the States, I’m sure we would easily be able to have an IEP (Individual Educational Plan) that allowed for the accommodation of technology to assist him in written assignments. That would be nice for the times when he has to write a summative essay by hand in class or when he has to write exams by hand. Using an iPad or a laptop is not yet accepted as a means for exam writing due to potential academic honesty hazards. That said, he never complains and his teachers seem willing (maybe even able?) to decipher his handwriting. Some even joke that it really hurts their eyes, but they make sense of it, and I’m sure that he is able to make the shift to writing as legibly as possible because he realizes the necessity.

Many of us, adults and adolescents alike, straddle two worlds. We live a hybrid existence in which we use technology to facilitate numerous tasks in our daily lives, while still reaching for a print copy and a highlighter or jotting a to-do list on a Post-it note. Yes, I believe in handwriting. It’s not as if we’re talking about the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus, here. Handwriting exists, we learn how to do it, we teach children how to do it, we use it to communicate. However, it is not the end-all be-all format through which we must communicate our ideas. For that, I know at least one 10th grade boy (and his parents) who are very happy!

The evolving UbD plan for my COETAIL course 5 final project

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Flutter Workshop in Blackburn 8
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I think that I have finally committed to a final tech integration project for COETAIL course 5. I feel like I have been flitting around from one idea to another really unable to settle on something solid. In this state of flitting around, I have managed to incorporate a few lessons that involved the integration of technology and learned some new things.

The beauty of the UbD Google doc embedded below is that it is not static. I will most  likely flit around a bit more, making edits, additions, and deletions. Even now I am wondering if collaborative writing should be the focal point of my project since time is running out for the Public Service Announcement assessment. This group of students will spend the last week of March out of regular classes as they write final/mock exams, followed by a week of spring break, and returning with only three weeks of regular classes before IB World exams begin. As of today, I only have 17 more class meetings with them. I think I may have my answer. 🙂

Ultimately my objective is that, as a result of this tech integration unit, students will better understand the power of Google docs and how technology can provide them with opportunities to collaborate and learn from each other.