Posts Tagged pln

Loving Shmoop’s Resources and Support

ShmoopI’m excited to announce that Shmoop has offered to help support the Featured #Edblog of the Week. They will tweet out my #edblog announcement every week and are even donating a tee-shirt and bookmarks for the featured blogger.  EdBlog is a project that I organize in order to help promote education based blogs, and each blog is suggested and voted on by educators in our Personal Learning Network.  I appreciate Shmoop’s willingness to support this idea, and the weekly blogs that are selected by our peers.

If you have never used Shmoop before, they provide “lively” study guides and teacher resources for educators to use in their courses. Their site has been very helpful for my online Social Studies courses, and several other teachers in my online programs also use their resources.  My PLN refers to Shmoop often, and I know that my good friend over at Free Technology for Teachers, Richard Byrne uses Shmoop for his courses as well as blogs about them fairly often.

Thank you Shmoop, I appreciate your support.

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Bridging the Gap: Letters from Students to Teachers

Cross Posted from Rush The Iceberg: Bridging the Gap – A Collaboration

Elementary School Student to a Middle School Teacher

Edna Sackson is an elementary school teacher in Melbourne, Australia that consistently offers thought provoking tweets and prolific, pedagogy challenging takes on the current state of education at her blog, What Ed Said.

What Ed Said and Rush the Iceberg were honored to be featured blogs of the week at The Next Step.

We decided to guest post on each others’ blog because we firmly believe that all teachers, regardless of grade level, can provide important insight into the craft of teaching.

Elementary School Student to Middle School Teacher

Dear Middle School teacher,

Here are some things I would like you to know about me, and some questions I would like to ask you, before I leave elementary school and join your class.

I am a person. I have likes and needs and wants and problems and interests. Please teach ME, don’t teach your subject.

I love learning. I am curious and I wonder about all kinds of things. I love to explore and question and experiment. I hope you won’t squash my natural desire to learn, by grading everything. My learning isn’t reducible to a letter or a number. It would be much more helpful if you gave me constructive, directed feedback to guide my future learning.

There are lots of different ways that people learn. My teacher calls them learning styles. Not everyone in my class learns best by listening to a teacher talk. Learning isn’t a passive activity. I hope you don’t think of students as sponges, who soak up what you deliver. I hope you will give me opportunities to learn by listening, by talking, by doing, by seeing and by moving around. Will you incorporate music and art and technology into our learning, irrespective of what subject you teach?

Middle School

Do you think creativity is important? I’m used to presenting my learning in a million creative ways, both offline and online. I hope you are not a teacher who thinks that learning can only be expressed through a written essay. Did you know that composing a song, making a movie, creating a cartoon, recording a podcast and doing a play are all great, creative ways of demonstrating understanding

I am not used to having a different teacher for each subject. Please remember to consult with each other, before assigning homework, so that you don’t overload me. I am not even used to learning different subjects. Most of my learning has been trans-disciplinary, because that’s how learning works best. I make connections between the different areas of my learning and construct meaning in that way. Please talk to the other subject teachers, so that you can help me make meaningful connections across disciplines.

Please don’t blame me or my elementary school teachers for the things I can’t do and don’t know. Maybe your expectations are different, or maybe your style is different… but you’re a teacher, so help me to learn.

I am a person, just like you are. I get hungry and thirsty and sometimes need to eat or drink, even if the bell hasn’t gone for the end of the period. I sometimes need to go to the bathroom, when it’s not recess. And yes, I sometimes just get tired of sitting still and need a break before I can concentrate again. I am a person, even though I am smaller than you. Please don’t talk down to me. Talk to me just as you would to any other human being.

Do you know the difference between work and learning? My sister is in middle school and she often has lots of work to do. Some of it is just work. Please don’t assign work for the sake of it, unless it’s clear to both you and me how this work will further my learning.

Do you value collaboration? Will you allow us to sit in groups, rather than facing you, so that we can talk and make sense of our learning, while we continue to develop our social skills? Will you encourage us to work collaboratively, by cooperating, communicating and showing mutual respect? Speaking of mutual respect, I hope you don’t mind if I suggest that you need to respect your students, if you want them to respect you. Some teachers think they earn respect automatically when they get their degree!

I’m looking forward to the next stage of my learning. I hope you are looking forward to teaching me.

Your future student.


Middle School Teacher to an Elementary School Student

Below is my response to a letter from a fictional elementary school student written by Edna Sackson, author of What Ed Said as part of two guest posts on each others’ blogs.

Thank you for the letter you sent me! I will work hard to incorporate your suggestions into my class.

I thought I would give you some realistic expectations for the beginning of your middle school experience.

Just like a carnival, your elementary school is small and most of the activities are focused on you.


At a carnival and your elementary school almost everything is designed to make you smile and laugh, even though you are learning.

There is plenty of space to walk around at a carnival and your elementary school.

For the most part, you can see all the attractions at carnival in one night due to its size.

Elementary schools are different than middle schools just like carnivals are different than amusement parks.

Middle school is like an amusement park, offering many things to many different people. If you want to get scared, there are rides for you. If you want to get wet, there are rides for you. If you want to go on the “kiddy” rides, there are “kiddy” rides for you.

But there are many rides and attractions that you will not be able to get to because of time.

Middle schools and Amusement parks are big and require great amounts of dodging people who are not paying attention where they are walking.

Oh, and the lines; the lines are boring.

Once you are on the ride, going up the first hill of the Grade Abolisher (soundtrack by the Bower-Kohn’s), then racing towards the first of 21 loops and 12 barrel rolls, the distinct blend of fear and excitement are worth every minute waiting in line.

Knott's Berry Farm

That is what it is going to be like in middle school.

There will be many extended times of boredom, however, if your willing to be patient and get on the ride, you will eventually be rewarded with new information that will help you find out who you really are.

There are too many things for me to tell you before your first day of middle school; however, here are a few things you can do to make the transition easier:

- Each teacher has close to 200 students, they may not learn you name right away, please do not get offended.

- Most students in grades above you are too interested in themselves to bully you.

- Organization is very important and needed! Use a calendar, daily agenda, or binder reminder your school gives you – DAILY and EVERY PERIOD!

- Many teachers will use sarcasm in their classrooms, do not take it personally. Look up the word sarcasm.

- Do not be afraid to take academic risks. If you happen to get teased by other students, they will forget soon.

- Many middle school teachers love “nuance”…look up this word and try to find nuance in your lessons as much as possible.

- Everyone is just as nervous as you are about changing clothes in the locker room for PE.

- Please ask questions…please ask questions…please ask questions

Middle School


Middle School Student to a High School Teacher

Stephanie Mechmann, author of English Teacher Geek, the Featured Blog of the Week for The Next Step. Continuing the Bridging the Gap posts begun with the collaboration between me and What Ed Said, this post is from a Middle School student to their future High School teacher.

Have you seen that movie “American Pie”? You know how Jim thinks he knows “things”, but only knows apple pie?


Remember that when I walk into your class for the first time around the first of September. I will likely have what my social studies teacher calls my “bravado mask” on much of the first quarter. Whatever that is…I don’t get it. We watched a lot of movies.

I had an English teacher that talked about how he didn’t expect us to be professional writers because, well, none of us were. That gave me confidence to take risks in my writing (he always told us to do so!). Please don’t expect me to write like Lois Lowry or Jordan Sonnenblick. But, they’re cool.


Oh, here are a few things I’d like you to know before I get into your class.

I still care a lot about what people think of me. My school counselor says that is my most adult-like trait. I don’t get it.

I still have to move around a lot in class. I’m addicted teachers allowing us to work in groups. I kind of get why. I see the workers at Target always talking (My math teacher said he likes to dress up in khaki pants and a red polo on weekends and walk around at Target answering people’s questions).

My PE and computer teachers used sarcasm and, for the most part, I understood what was going on. However, I did get in trouble a few times when I was trying to be sarcastic but it came across as me being a jerk. I’m still learning how to use sarcasm.

I understand that you are trying to treat me like I’m an adult. But, I’m not yet. Point to the older students for me to look up to. Especially if they are cute.

In all honesty, I’m not too afraid of the school work and homework because my middle school teachers have trained me to only think about that lame test we take every spring. Seriously, that is all they talk about. The only thing I have mastered is how to bubble in circles. I think that is sarcasm.


I’m still immature and my parents say I will be until I get a real job other than handing out flyers for the local ice cream shop. You should try their mint-n-chip…it’s a party in your mouth! Especially if you put rainbow sprinkles on top of the ice cream! Now that’s sarcasm! Right?

The only remaining curiosity I have is related to my social life: both my real and made up one in my mind.

Even though I may look annoyed when you talk to me, I am listening to what you are saying just like Jason Biggs’ character in “American Pie” is outwardly annoyed with his dad giving him advice on “things”, but inside is intently listening.

Oh, I secretly like Justin Bieber.


High School Teacher to a Middle School Student

I am thrilled to have Stephanie Mechmann, author of English Teacher Geek, Featured Blog of the Week for The Next Step, write the following guest post.

Stephanie is continuing the Bridging the Gap posts begun with the collaboration between me and What Ed Said. I want to thank Stephanie for contributing to a better understanding of the transition Middle School students experience going into High School. (Here is my letter to a High School teacher from a Middle School student.)

This post is from a High School teacher to their future freshman.

Dear My Soon-To-Be-Freshmen,


Welcome to high school. You’re not in Kansas anymore. But don’t worry: contrary to popular belief, there are no flying monkeys, evil witches, or fruit-throwing trees. High school is a whole new land that will be your home for the next four years. During this time, you will grow and develop as much as you did in your first two years of life. High school is a time of tremendous change and I love being a piece in this part of your life.

With that said, expect changes. From my experience, the greatest change you will encounter is the lack of intimate knowledge your teachers will have about you. In the middle schools that feed into my high school, students are grouped into quads. Therefore, your math, English, social studies, and science teachers all share the same students. They can conference about your progress and share valuable insights that will help one another understand you better.

That ain’t high school, frosh. In my particular school, there are at least 5 to 6 “freshman” teachers per subject. We don’t all share the same kids. It’s much harder for us teachers to share that valuable insight about you.

My advice? Be proactive. Chat with your teachers before class, during passing, before homeroom, or after school. And not just about school work! Talk about what you saw on TV last night, the cool new t-shirt you’re wearing, or how bad the cafeteria tater tots are. Make a personal connection with your teachers. We will know you better as a person and will be better able to help you as a student.

Other, more concise advice on what your teachers will expect of you: be organized! You will have about 7 classes worth of notes, handouts, and assignments to keep track of. High school teachers will treat you as an adult. They expect you to be organized like one.

Be ready to move on. Middle school is a very nurturing environment and middle school students tend to idolize their teachers. Please don’t compare what your middle school math/English/social studies/science teacher did last year to your current math/English/social studies/science teacher. It’s like comparing your ex-boy/girlfriend to your current one.

Be fluent in sarcasm. It’s the language of most high school teachers.

Be ready to be challenged. As previously stated, your new teachers will treat you like adults. We want to help you become independent-thinking, problem-solving, creative adults. In order to get you there, we are going to challenge you like never before. Many of you have earned As with very little effort. Those days are gone. It doesn’t mean that you won’t get As!!!! But. . . you will have to take better notes, write better essays, think more critically, and study more than you have previously.

Be involved. This has nothing to do with your academics. But go to an athletic event, the fall play, the cabaret night. Better yet, don’t be a spectator. Participate! Join a team or club. You will meet other students you wouldn’t normally meet and might actually gain an upperclassman friend. School isn’t just about classes and grades. Have some fun, develop your leadership and social skills.


In the next four years, you will make many memories that will last a lifetime. It’s going to be exciting and terrifying all at once. Every time you are gripped by that terror, summon the Lion’s courage. Pull back that curtain: you won’t see a scary, all-knowing, all-powerful wizard. All you’ll see is a man or woman or girl or boy. Meet your fears head on. All you need a little courage, some heart, and an ounce or two of brains. I have faith in you.


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The Science of Retweeting: An Experimental Blog Post

RETWEETAfter spending some time away from Twitter and blogging, its been fun to come back and try to examine the major changes. One of the differences is the heavy amount of retweeting that is done daily.  Another noticeable change is that many educators have huge amounts of followers.  Of course, much of this is directly influenced by the sheer growth of educators in our Personal Learning Networks, but there may be more to it then that.  I’m interested to find out the correlation between retweeting and the major increase in followers as well as why other people retweet (RT) so often.

I want to attempt a crowdsourced blog post.  I have never done this before so it’s a bit of an experiment.  It would be great if you answered the following question in the comments. I will continue to edit this blog and add your reasons into the list below.

If you think your reason is something important to the discussion but you don’t want your name revealed because it may be controversial or bring unecessary attention to you, then I completely understand.  Feel free to post anonymous/pseudonym comments. However, I will credit you and link to your blog post/ Twitter name if you leave it in the comments. After the list is completed, I will repost it and send it out to our network.

Why do you Retweet?

  1. To share good information
  2. Identify interesting people to follow – @GeofferyKehrig
  3. To send it out to a different group of people than the original tweeter did, so more people get the message (reach a wider audience). @connect2Jamie write Books and Bytes and @jneman- @tgwynn
  4. To help expand the network- @geraldaungst who writes Quisitivity
  5. Because sometimes others have a better way to say what I may be thinking  @rgriffithjr
  6. To give credit to those that deserve it – @amandacdykes who writes Upside Down Ed and @rgriffithjr
  7. To refocus on a given topic – Colin Graham, moderator of Mathchat
  8. Let someone know you are paying attention to them and laying the groundwork for future contact – Alex
  9. Do not have enough time to research on own so want to honor those that are by retweeting – David Fleming - @amandacdykes
  10. To get people’s attention – @4thGradeTeach who writes Blogging through the 4th Dimension
  11. To give a standing ovation – @digiblu
  12. Make sure others  know I am still around – @wmchamberlain
  13. To archive what I may or may not bookmark – Joe Fahs who writes Teaching and Learning with Technology
  14. To honor a great professional – @mtrump who writes Trump Talk

Ingrid Veilleux, appropriately enough, quoted/retweeted a funny statement that seems like a great way to end this experimental blog post:

“To tweet is human, to retweet, divine”

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EdBlog: Blog of the Week – How You Can Help Support a Blogger Each Week

The EdBlog of the Week Project is being created to highlight education bloggers.  Voters will choose a favorite blog each week in a survey and then it will be announced on Tuesdays at Edchat. For the remainder of each week, I will send out messages on Twitter promoting the selected blog with the goal that we share it as much as possible. You can help support the #edblog of the week in a series of ways and only as much as you feel comfortable.

Whether you see the Edblog of the Week announced live on Tuesday in Edchat, or later in the week, please take a moment and support them:

  1. Subscribe to their blog – It may help to create a folder in your reader called #edblog and save all the EdBlog’s in one place
  2. Read at least one of their recent posts
  3. Comment if you can – This will help push the conversation forward but it does take time to comment so don’t feel obligated the moment you sign up for their blog.  You will have plenty of time to go back and comment later when new posts shows up in your feed reader
  4. Retweet the EdBlog when you see it come across the TwitterStream, maybe even post the blog on another social network? Our goal is to get a lot of people to subscribe and read the blog on a regular basis
  5. Use the hashtag #edblog to make it easy for others to follow the conversation each week

Subscribe, Read, Retweet.  Comment if you have time or feel the need.  You might even take a second to contact the blogger directly thanking them for their work.

Let’s promote thought, innovation, information sharing and support the time it takes all of us to contribute to our chosen field.

Stay Tuned: The first Edblog of the Week survey will be released later today.

Update: I changed some of the original terminology of this blog. I want to thank Chris Craft and David Jakes for suggesting we don’t use winners and losers (as if in a contest, which was never the intent of showcasing blogs) in the edublogger discussion.

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EdBlog: Blog of the Week – How it Will Work

Edblog is a new project where members of our education network help select a blog to promote each week.  A primary goal of this project is to extend the conversation of education by reading, possibly commenting, and definitely subscribing to the Blog of the Week.  Blogs are a great place to get in-depth information about a topic and give readers the opportunities to really think about a new idea.

  • Sunday:  I will create a survey based on a theme selected for the week.  I will post the survey in my blog as well as send it out to my PLN through Twitter. It will give you a list of 3-5 blog candidates and ask for your vote. Poll selections will be the most common recommendations from readers.
  • Monday and Tuesday morning: We will continue to poll for the Edblog of the Week until a blog is selected
  • Tuesday at Edchat:  I will publish a blog post describing the featured blog and simultaneously announce it at the end of Edchat on Tuesday about 8 e.s.t
  • Wed thru Sunday:  Twice a day, I will send out tweets promoting the Edblog of the Week and ask for you to retweet and support. By promoting it several times daily, hopefully we can get each of our collection of friends and followers access to the Edblog of the Week

While extending the conversation to include more voices is an important goal of this project, the ultimate result should be student learning.  By getting more of us to participate in this project, we may be able to help with both.

Stay Tuned:  In the next introductory post about Edblog, I will give you some tips for how to help support the Edblog of the Week

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