February 17, 2011

Where the H*@* is Mimi?

It happened again...
Just like last year...
M.E.T.C. 2011 just blew my mind...

Everyone keeps asking me "How was it?", and all I can answer is "Awesome".
I feel like a giddy 15 year old, who has no (or has lost) her vocabulary.

Yes, I'm crushing on you M.E.T.C... You once again left me speechless, and lord knows that doesn't happen to me very often.

How do I explain? How do I tell people that I can't fully wrap my brains around the whole experience?

Maybe I should start with this year's theme?
Motivate, Engage, Transform, Connect....
Did you even look at the program?

What is it? Like 180 sessions? Which reminds me...
Dear Mr. Creator of Twitter,
I love you.

I cannot imagine this conference without the power of Twitter. I can be engaged in one conference room, and actively participate in discussions taking place in different rooms or even out in the cloud. A real ADD fest... Perfect for me. But I digress.

I could go on and on about the variety of sessions and "tools" that I was introduced to (or reminded of)... but I think I would not be doing this conference justice.

You see... To me... the magic of the M.E.T.C. experience lies in the people... The organizers, whose "planning" tweets I have been following all year long... The presenters, whose knowledge and creativity always amaze me... These guys are very good... but the true magicians... those who motivated me with their ideas... those who engaged me in brilliant conversations... those who transformed me from a shy, sweet little thing (OK, here I'm pushing a tad)... To me, the beauty of M.E.T.C. lies in its attendees...

Between the session rooms, the connection lounge, the tweet-ups, the lunch lines, birds of a feathers, the sharing of power strips, and sometimes of "hot spot" (I cant thank you enough @hankb), conversations are started... Connections are formed...

Strong connections too... Connections that last through the year via Twitter, email, phone calls... Connections that I carry in my heart, when I go back to my (sometimes lonely) District... And it is to these connections that I reach out to when I feel isolated, in my quest to become a better teacher. I re-live the conversations... I smile at the memories of the jokes and the occasional "trash talk"... I tweet out... And then I remember... I am not alone... I am CONNECTED... No matter where I am...

Let me show you what I mean...
Here is the Video Essay that I have submitted to #METC_CSD... (Yes I DO want to win the Ipad), but I truly believe it provides a glimpse into the magic of M.E.T.C.

 "Where the H*@* is Mimi?"...
(inspired by one of my favorite viral video "Where the hell is Matt?)

February 9, 2011

Skype You Later Alligator....

We did it... We finally did it....
Repeat after me... " I Skype, you Skype, he Skypes, we Skype."

OK, let me get off my cloud, and backtrack for a sec, so you too can share in my euphoria.

Every year, students in my daughter's school (Cathedral School- MO) participate in a wonderful whole school geography project. Each class selects a country; and for a 2 weeks period students conduct research about it. They share their findings in a "World Fair" where other classes, parents, and anyone interested can come and learn about the various countries, their geography, their history, their culture and more. (this year, they are attempting to build a wiki to share with the world)

My daughter Zoë (a new 5th grader at Cathedral), had been praising Belgium (my native land) to such an extent, that the 3rd grade class picked it as its "2011 Country to learn about." I was pretty excited about it too. I love to talk about Belgium... (you know... that little country most Americans go through on their way to Germany or to Paris...LOL) Best kept secret in Europe if you ask me...LOL

After a quick chit chat with the 3rd grade teacher, Ms. Lauren Supple regarding what type of resources I could provide them with (yes it did include some Belgian Chocolate), we realized that my contacts in Belgium, might just provide us with the perfect opportunity to try and set up our very 1st virtual exchange via Skype.
Surely, I could find a school in Belgium who would be interested. So I quickly posted a message on Facebook, tagging about 20 of my elementary teachers friends, asking for anyone wishing to participate to contact me... Oh man...were they interested... Problem was, most of the answers were along the lines of "I would love to, but we are not equipped for it." Needless to say I was starting to wonder if my "big fat mouth" had once again betrayed me... Then came our saving grace... One of my college friend, Stéphanie Mercenier, offered to work with us. She was teaching second grade (1 year off), but was fully equipped with an LCD projector, and even a smartboard. We had our winner... We would Skype with the 2nd grade class from Ecole Primaire St Croix, in Hannut (Belgium). Perfect... Problem solved... NO issues... Wrong....

Neither teacher had ever used Skype in the classroom, but both were very determined to see this project through. Heck, Stéphanie had never even used Skype before, but in a true 21st century educator fashion, she ran with it. Both were kinda looking to me for advice on how to communicate (translation would be needed), and were kinda looking to me for "professional advice/guidance" on how to use it.... Way to go "Big Mouth."... OK I'll admit, I was so stoked... Over the last year, I have often been saying that I'd love to be a technology Instruction Specialist/Coach when I grew up... LOL... well... Here was my big chance... Two eager teachers, two very motivated classes, and a pretty cool project... Oh and we had exactly 4 days to put it together. My kind of challenge.

I was also worried about the technical aspect of this endeavor. I was not about to be responsible for letting down a whole bunch of 7 and 8 year olds. Thank God, for Joe Dale... He and his UK Tweeps (I think he refers to them as UK Twitterati), always come through for me with very valuable resources. Joe had the best step by step blog post on How-to Skype in the classroom. I went to work

I met with Lauren, and we discussed the need for this conversation to be students initiated as much as possible. Right away, she got to work. Her students came up with a list of questions they would like to ask their Belgian counterparts, and emailed it to me promptly. I Tweaked it a little by converting this Word document into a Google Doc, in order to be able to fully collaborate, and to publish it as a webpage... I was already thinking about the follow up...  Then I contacted Stéphanie, who by then had signed up for a Skype account. Within seconds of my phone call, she too was a Google user, and was accessing our document. She turned around and within 12 hours, had her students come up with their own list of questions... Same process... I talked to both of them about the need for "structure" during the conversation. Students should all have a job to do... Some needed to be the "interviewers", some would be the "interviewees", some would be on documentation duty (photographer, cameraman, reporter, etc.), and some might even be on crowd control duty. Both teachers  "got after it," and had a game plan in place within 2 days... My kind of pace... So we were all set... all scheduled in... the US students would come to school on Tuesday February 1st at 7:30 (1/2 hour early), and the Belgian students would stay until 3:30 pm (1/2 hour later)... See we were already learning about time zones... Wonderful.. Add to this the fact that Stéphanie had in her class a new student this year who used to live in England... How perfect was that... They were going to be able to have their own translator.

 Ready, set, SK... Wait.... What is that???? Oh yeah... That's when the "snowstorm of the century" hit Missouri, and school got cancelled all week. Talk about a bummer... I knew to expect glitches, but Really??? Weather delay???? How do you want me to explain that one to a bunch of 8 year old????

Never mind... We were on a mission, and it would take more than ice, snow and a blizzard to stop us. We were finally able to reschedule the experience for today, February 8. It ensured better weather in Missouri, and added time for the Belgian side to do a little more research of their own (colored a few american flags, discussed the statue of Liberty etc." To quote Stéphanie: " I have never seen a bunch of 2nd graders that interested in Missouri Weather..." Take that Mother Nature...

Today it happened.... Today was perfect....

So there you have it... 1 big fat mouth + 2 fantastic daring teachers+ a bunch of really cool kids + a little help from my friends = a great experience that I cannot wait to reproduce.

So now... Repeat after me .... " I Skype, you Skype, he Skypes, WE all can Skype."

Watch the video of the event... Recorded by Hunter (age 8)... Note to self... in the future bring a tripod...LOL

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Photo Gallery: USA side --- Belgium side (coming soon)

February 1, 2011

#30 Goals Challenge Day 1- "Be a Beam"

If I thought today was going to be a "lazy" snow day, I was way wrong. Leave it to @Shellterrell  to once again come up with something to challenge me as an educator and get we all worked up.

Shelly challenges all of us to take the #30days Challenge. (did you know that more than 4600 educators participated last year?) She suggest 30 "short-term goals we reflect on and see how they help us aim towards long-term goals." Once again, Shelly's practical yet thoughtful approach is what "got me". She posted Goal #1 today: "Be a Beam". The idea is that by helping someone who struggles (student or teacher today, it will have a long term positive effect. 

Never mind that I was going to re-read "Pride & Prejudice" for the millionth time (yes it is my guilty pleasure); never mind that my Christmas tree is still up (it might just have to become a holiday tree with valentine decoration and all), and definitely never mind the laundry; once again, the woman had me thinking...


“You cannot force commitment, what you can do…You nudge a little here, inspire a little there, and provide a role model.  Your primary influence is the environment you create.”
by Peter Senge, suggested by John Evans (@joevans

That seemed simple enough... helping someone... lord knows some of my colleagues could use some help (let's be honest, one of the hardest thing to do for us teachers is to collaborate with some people whom we would never have anything to do with outside of school. we call it "teaching philosophy" and we all know that we look down to some of them because of these philosophical differences; even if we are grown up enough not to say it out loud anymore) ... but I am snowed in... and probably wont be back at school until Friday (wishful thinking), so how was I going to do that? After re-reading that quote I realized, I could participate. I had been gathering all these links and tweets for several weeks now, in my hopes of convincing more people at my school to participate in the discussion via #twitter and #edchat. "A little nudge?" I could do that... I could start sharing these resources via personal emails with my colleagues, without the "smart aleck"/sarcastic comments that tend to be my trademark. People respond better to the "personal notes" rather than the mass email; even if by "mass" I mean their department only. So I "composed" and "attached" and "clicked" and "forwarded". I was nudging alright.

 But it's me we are talking about... not exactly the queen of self control... Yep, If I open a bag of chips I finish it (I can do that with Ben & Jerry's ice cream too). So what started as a little nudge turned out to be a wide campaign. Pretty soon it wasn't just the "struggling ones" I was emailing... The feeling of sharing, and looking for something special that would personally touch a particular person kinda felt like the hunt for the perfect Christmas present (Oh good my tree is still up.. I am ready..LOL).. And I liked it... It felt good...It put a smile on my face when I found the perfect links, and shared them. But not as big of a grin as when response emails started pouring in. So they were interested... They were needing the time to explore these resources I had mentioned to them (Thank you Mr. snow day)... and some of them were actually pretty excited... maybe not as disaffected as I thought them to be after all.

So you see Ms. Shelly... It's already working short term too... My frame of mind has already altered... from a somewhat judgmental/sarcastic outlook this morning; I am now pretty happy with the end result of Day 1. I am "beaming" alright. almost glowing (LOL)

#30Goals Challenge: "Be a Beam" Mission Status?
Accomplished... No... Let me change that mission status to "in progress", because it is only going to have a long lasting impact if we keep it up. And Long term is what we are really looking for after all .