I appreciate Chris Lehmann’s clarification that SLA uses an “inquiry-driven, project-based” approach. I also will echo Will’s last paragraph that there don’t seem to be many districts putting in the time to “rethink” education.


Just a quick observation:

The fact that Chris Lehmann at Science Leadership Academy has moved away from full-fledged Apple laptops to a “90% solution” using new Dell Chromebooks certainly can be debated in terms of whether or not Chromebooks fulfill the true vision of 1-1 computing in…

1:1 iPads in my 4th Grade Classroom

I was asked to share how my students are using iPads in my classroom. Here’s a quick snapshot of what day-to-day use of iPads looks like in my classroom.

Please keep in mind a few things:

  • There is no right/wrong way to integrate iPads, find something that is comfortable for you.

  • My wife and her job share partner have had an iPad pilot in their 4th/5th looping class for three years. They usually recommend to teachers getting started to choose one part of their day that is undesirable and find a routine for iPads during that time.

  • My personal philosophy on iPads is “There’s app for that, but it isn’t about the apps.” You’ll notice there is very little use of a variety of apps here. It’s not that one is better than the other, it’s just my philosophy. I guess when I think about using iPads, I ask the question: “How could the iPad help students to make their thinking visible to me, peers, parents, world?”

A typical day/week in my classroom in terms of iPad use:

8:35 AM

  • Students take out their iPad as they arrive and answer a Daily Question in Edmodo


Reading Workshop

  • Our Friday routine is to write our “best thinking letter” on Kidblog.

  • My classroom’s Kidblog site (I keep it open to the world, but you can make it private for just your class)

  • You can check out Saraylla’s Blog to see a variety of what we’ve been blogging about this year.

  • Also, when we get around to it (not a regular occurrence) we use “commenting sticks” to choose a student’s blog to comment on (each student has two sticks in the cups). Sticks are moved to “left a comment” until all blogs have been commented on twice and we start over. Nice Friday afternoon activity.image

  • We try to use these prompts to leave our comments, but that’s something that we’re still learning


Writing Workshop

  • We plan and brainstorm our pieces in a composition notebook, but we do all of our drafting in the Google Drive app

  • Students have the ability to share their writing with me to receive comments (I’m not very good at finding the time to comment on their writing digitally), but the past two weeks they’ve also started sharing their writing with each other to receive commentsimage


  • RTI - Roosevelt has a building subscription to Moby Max. Here’s why I like it:

  • Each student is assigned lessons based on placement test

  • Teacher can manually assign lessons to RTI current study, students return to “automatic” lessons after completing lesson

  • Fact Master is like XtraMath


  • If you took a look at our Kidblog site, you’ll see that each student did their first ShowMe last Friday demonstrating 3 x 1 multiplication. Earlier in the week, I had asked two “guinea pig” students to create ShowMes teaching 3 x 1 multiplication. I used them to introduce the concept and show students what they looked like.

  • ShowMe now allows you to create student accounts so that each student gets their own login

Science/Social Studies/etc.

  • Use a Keynote to share something simple, we started I wonders this week and will do 5-6 of these a year with students presenting answers. Presentations usually are around 1-2 minutes per person

  • We experimented and tried using a collaborative Google Doc to collect words with spelling patterns (limit the number of collaborators to 6 or so)

  • We link all of our maps on the Roosevelt 4th grade site that my 4th grade colleague and I share.

  • I’ve used mind-mapping apps in the past to organize thinking, drawing apps to create sketches in science

  • The options are quite endless…

I’d love to hear any feedback, ideas, extensions, etc.

If only I had a workspace that looked like this…

If only I had a workspace that looked like this…

(Source: instagram.com, via minimaldesks)

Resources for My #ZETACon Sessions

Links for my two sessions at ZETA.

Inquiry: Making Thinking Visible
1:10-2:00 pm
Room 110

Building Your Tribe: PLN 101
2:10-3:00 pm
Room 110

"Waking from cancer…"

"Waking from cancer, I fell into an unexpected loss of ambition, and the milestones by which I wanted to engrave my image on the world scattered." 

- Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen, p. 47
Chloe, tubing the Platte River last week.
My six-year-old daughter, Chloe, was diagnosed with a stage III Wilm’s Tumor two years ago this week. Thanks to God, she’s doing great. 

The changes that the arrival of cancer brought to our family were immense, innumerable, and life-altering. While we would never invite cancer into our family, my wife and I can readily cite hundreds of positive changes that it brought to our family. Life-threatening illnesses have a way of doing that.

Yet, from my vantage point, my working world has never quite recovered. Maybe that’s why the quote from Mark Nepo resonated with me this morning. In so many ways I feel like my pre-cancer goals, my milestones, disappeared and I’ve spent the past two years trying to figure out where I’m headed professionally.

However, I’ve begun to wonder if it’s okay to not know exactly where I’m heading. Maybe it’s okay to just show up each day, ready to learn, ready to question, ready to listen. Present to the possibilities.

"What now?"

A while back, a friend shared this comic with me.

Emotion by xkcd
Substitute a few of the pre-cancer “causes” and shift the arrival of cancer a year forward and it could be my emotions.

As my daughter’s chemo treatments wrapped up early in 2012 the white area with the ?? began to grow.  Life pre-cancer was just life, it wasn’t perfect, but it was. Life post-cancer is different, time feels more precious. (She’s doing great, by the way.)

The white space has been filled with a fuzzy attempt to discern where my energies should be spent, what should be my focus, what is worthy of my time now that it feels more precious.  

But it’s been too much thinking, not enough living.  I believe that something new, something amazing, something creative will come out of our family’s experience.  Yet I’m having a difficult time waiting to see what that something is…

Random stories have appeared out of nowhere to encourage me to just move on, to live, to do.

I recently learned an adventure photographer whose work I’ve admired for years experienced cancer at a young age and was touched by the way his view of community changed.

A colleague shared how his career path changed following a family tragedy.

Yesterday it was Rob Bell’s Drops Like Stars that jumped off the bookstore shelf and resonated in my soul as I read:
Others with far more wisdom and experience than me have tackled the “why” questions of suffering.

Here, in these pages, I’m more interested in another question…

Not “why this?”
But “what now?”
He goes on to write: “[Suffering] compels us to eliminate the unnecessary, the trivial, the superficial.”

I can see that in our family’s life, in the way that we’ve reordered our priorities and the new ways we use our resources of time, energy, and money.

Rob continues with this observation:
Sometimes what happens to us when we suffer is that we become open to the mercy and grace and gratitude and gift and appreciation and joy that are always around us all the time…
While I wait to see “what now?” I’d be content if I could be open to what is, and always has been, all around me.

Goals for 2012, or the lack thereof

Over the past decade, a friend and I have traditionally written personal goals for the new year and shared them with each other.  This year, for a variety of reasons, I’m opting to live without goals.

However, if I were to write goals for the new year, they might go something like this…

Thanks to my beautiful wife for passing this along to me, even though I thought she was poking fun at my need to set goals. :>)

Tags: Personal goals

Prayer & Inspiration

"How are you guys doing it?"

I can’t tell you how many times my wife and I have been asked that question in the months since Chloe’s diagnosis.  The answer is simple.  You get up, you get going, you get the family going, and just live the day.  You don’t have a choice.

Actually, I’ve found there are two things that are making days manageable.  Prayer and inspiration.

Prayer is the obvious one.  However, I’ve found there are so many days when it is difficult to quiet my mind and heart and allow the Spirit to enter the moment.  Yet it is on those days that others tell me, from seemingly out of nowhere, that they are praying for Chloe and our family.  Today is was a colleague during my plan time, over the weekend a parent of one of my students told me that my student prayed for Chloe during Sunday School. Wow.

The inspiration piece is something that evolved as I was trying to expand my circle again.  In an effort to get back into my PLN, I began to give myself five minutes a day to explore Flipboard containing my Twitter and Google Reader feeds.  Not only did I begin to feel inspired again, I began to want to share that inspiration either through a tweet, an email, or a conversation.  A daily ritual had begun.  Now each day, without planning or forethought, I carve out a few minutes to be inspired or inspire someone else.

And that, possibly poorly written, is how I do it each day.

An expanding and shrinking circle

Circle inversion by fdecomite on Flickr
[I have a few posts that don’t really fit here, but they don’t fit on the family-turned-Chloe-update blog.  As work, family, and life are closely integrated right now I’m going to post them here.  I’m feeling the need to write.  Thanks for understanding.]

When Chloe was first admitted to the hospital this summer, my world, or my circle, shrunk to five people - our  family.  Many days it was a circle of three as Henri and Martha were cared for by grandparents, aunt and uncles, or family friends.

In the weeks following, it was challenging to expand that circle.  It went slowly, sometimes trying to include a few friends from church or colleagues from work.  Often times I found myself needing to retreat to my circle of five afterwards to regroup and recharge.

It took at least a month and a half before I was able to expand my circle great enough to include my PLNs via Twitter and Google Reader again.  Even then, most of the time it is still as a “lurker” rather than as a participator.

Last week, Chloe had a tough week.  A heavy dose of chemo on Monday made her feel cranky, tired, and generally out of sorts for the week.  That determined our week as well.  Couple that with a lot of assessments within the walls of my classroom and I have found my circle shrinking again.  

I wonder if this expanding and shrinking circle phenomenon is just a product of cancer in our family or if it has happened before without my awareness.  One more detail that I just need to accept and roll with…

Prayers for Chloe

Chloe, my four year old daughter, was admitted to DeVos Children’s Hospital yesterday and had surgery this afternoon to remove a her left kidney containing a large mass.

Details can be found at our family blog: http://blog.hollandanderson.net

Prayers are appreciated!


Here’s something I’ll be pondering this summer, courtesy of Seth Godin in Poke the Box.

If you had a chance to do a TED talk, what would it be about? What have you discovered, what do you know, what can you teach? You should do one. Even if you don’t do one, you should be prepared to do one.

When the going got tough…

…to be honest, I wanted to quit.

Since Christmas Break I’ve been trying to get back into the running groove. Unfortunately, beginning about that same time, I began to suffer from painful IT band issues. In an effort to keep myself motivated to get out there and pound the pavement, I signed up for the 25K Riverbank Run. A little nutty, I’ll admit. Yet I knew that if I didn’t have that out in front of me, I probably would have quit. And boy did I want to quit.

On at least three occasions (and probably more), I came home and told Christa that I was done running. It was time for me to be content walking and cycling. She did a great job of just listening, and then usually suggested to take a few days to recover and then try it again.

Towards the end of March when my mileage was about half what it should have been according to my training schedule, I discovered that I had overlooked one possible contribution to my IT band pain: insoles. Even though I replace my shoes on a regular basis, I hadn’t replaced my insoles for many (read: around 5!) years. Once I put new insoles in my shoes, the pain started to go away.
Yesterday, I achieved my goal: I finished my 25K run with a smile on my face. The run was great. Lots of energy, the rain stopped just in time for us to start, and the temperature was perfect. No record time, but I feel great about my effort.

Without going into too many details, I see so many parallels between my efforts to train for my run and the work of the ZPS TPIT. I was reminded of that as I finished up reading Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard yesterday afternoon. Two quotes from the final pages resonated with me:

Change isn’t an event; it’s a process. (p.253)

To lead a process requires persistence. (p. 254)
My run yesterday was certainly an event, but it wasn’t the change. The change is my getting back into running. Likewise, handing our staff and students new technology in the coming months will be an event, but the technology itself won’t create a transformative change. That change is going to be a long process, one for which we will be persistent.

Am I Googleable?

That’s the question that blogger and author Will Richardson would like us to ask of ourselves as educators. In an interview with Education Week from last October, Will shares:

…too few teachers have a visible presence on the Web. The primary reason this matters is that the kids in our classrooms are going to be Googled—they’re going to be searched for on the Web—over and over again. That’s just the reality of their lives, right? So they need models. They need to have adults who know what it means to have a strong and appropriate search portfolio—I call it the “G-portfolio.” But right now—and this is my ongoing refrain—there’s no one teaching them how to learn and share with these technologies. There’s no one teaching them about the nuances involved in creating a positive online footprint. It’s all about what not to do instead of what they should be doing.

The second thing is that, if you want to be part of an extended learning network or community, you have to be findable. And you have to participate in some way. The people I learn from on a day-to-day basis are Googleable. They’re findable, they have a presence, they’re participating, they’re transparent. That’s what makes them a part of my learning network. If you’re not out there—if you’re not transparent or findable in that way—I can’t learn with you.

If a student, parent, or colleague were to Google you, what would they find? How are you using online communities to learn and grow professionally?

Join in with us as we all learn what it means to say iLearn@ZPS.

Cross posted to the iLearn@ZPS blog.

Thinking Constructively (about changing the status quo)

During Christmas Break my family and I were invited over to my parents’ home for lunch with some of their friends. Unbeknownst to me, one of their friends, Mike, had spent over 40 years in education. Of those 40 plus years, he spent about 10 years in the classroom and the remainder in various leadership positions working with curriculum, instruction, and technology integration.

We “talked shop” for well over an hour, and I mostly just listened. Even though Mike had “retired three times in three different states” he was still full of passion for his profession and the changes he had worked so hard to make over the years.

Somewhere during the conversation I mentioned that I had completed an independent study on constructivism a number of years ago. Mike’s face lit up.

"Did you know that constructivism has been around for over 30 years?" he asked.

"So why do you think it has taken so long to catch on despite research to support its effectiveness?” I replied.

Without hesitation Mike replied, “constructivism is a student-centered approach to learning. The teaching profession is and has been teacher-centered. That’s the status quo. Changing the status quo is difficult.”

I’ve spent the past month pondering the idea of changing the status quo.

I was first introduced to the idea of inquiry (a constructivist teaching practice) a decade ago by the Building Science Leaders program at the Regional Math and Science Center. Over the past ten years as I’ve experimented with moving towards a more student-centered classroom I’ve had many successes, and just as many failures. I know it is working well when my students are excited, engaged, and motivated to learn, to prove, to share their learning.

One of the huge challenges of inquiry-based learning I’ve experienced over the years is having materials available for students on-demand. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve told my students “now, if you each had a computer sitting in front of you, this is what we’d do…” I could have bought my own class set of laptops. The most exciting thing about our 1:1 initiative is that this will now be a reality. Students will have instant access to information, the ability to discuss their learning and questions with their peers — locally and globally, and the ability to share the products of their learning with the world.

Do these reflections bring us any closer to changing the status quo? I don’t know. However, I am hopeful that as teachers and students start to see the benefits of student-centered learning made possible by 1:1 technologies, we will be able to finally transform teaching and learning for the benefit of all.

Learning can — and must — be networked

Over the weekend, I shared the EduCon Conference’s axioms with the TPIT Diigo group which included the statement: Learning can — and must — be networked.

I’ve often described my experiences with learning within social networks as serendipitous. I never know what will pop up on Twitter, in my Reader, in my Diigo groups, or, as it occurred today, even in Goodreads. I don’t even usually consider Goodreads when I name the social networks I use. I started using it because my brother uses it and it was a fun way to keep up with his reading and to share my reading as well.

A few weeks ago my Goodreads account was followed by Paul Reynolds, the brother of Peter Reynolds (author of Ish, and other excellent books). I’m guessing he connected with my account because I had marked several of Peter’s books as read (but to be honest, I don’t really know). Today, Paul shared a review of The Big Picture: Education is Everyone’s Business written by Dennis Littky and Samantha Grabelle.

In his review, Paul wrote:

If we move to a model that is student-at-center/teacher-at-periphery within a distributed learning community (one that, as Chris Dede states would, “enable a shift from the traditional transfer and assimilation of information to the creation, sharing and mastery of knowledge.”), the teacher has TIME to take on the mentoring role. Educators would no longer have to scramble daily to be the fully-stocked “information vending machine” - rapidly dispensing knowledge to “cover” content standards/requirements - instead they could focus time and energy on knowing their learners.
While I’d love to head off on a tangent and share how I see this as one of the benefits of 1:1 and student-centered learning that we’re trying to achieve, I’ll practice what I preach to my students and stick to my topic.

For me, much of my learning occurs when I simply show up in one of my networks. Thankfully there are others out there who are sharing what they are learning and trying with their students. What can you do today to facilitate learning for yourself? Is there a social network that you’ve been curious about trying out? Give it a try and see what happens.