MiddSouth Innovates #6

Another Monday, another issue of MiddSouth Innovates.

In this issue, we look at some of the classes that are using Google Expeditions to take students around the world to look at both the past and the present. We discuss storytelling and how it relates to giving good presentations. And we highlight some of the amazing work that’s being done in the Media Center.

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My favorite part about writing each issue is getting to work with amazing educators and students, and helping them find awesome technology to enhance learning. I hope you enjoy all of the work the #middsouthnation is doing.


One Foot In Front Of The Other

I happened to talk to my cousin, Matt, on Christmas. I think this was the first words we said to each other in a decade. He is a few years older than I am and we have never lived near each other so we were never close. He mentioned that he was preparing to run his 20th LA Marathon this Spring which will be his 120th marathon overall! So now let me tell you why this is so impressive.

Matt is smart. No, that doesn’t cover it. Matt is probably genius-level when it comes to math and computers. I remember back in the 80s him being so good that his teachers would have him teach the class because they couldn’t challenge him in any other ways. He was bored in everything else and got average grades. He would spend his free time programming games for his computer and learned the various computer languages he needed on his own. No teacher, he would just get the book from the library and learn.

He went to college (I think to major in Mathematics) and that is when addiction found him. It didn’t take long for him to drop out of college and that is when the real problems started. His drug addiction was so bad his father had to kick him out because he was stealing from him to pay for what he needed. He was homeless and an addict by hisĀ  early 20s. I don’t remember how long he was living on the streets for, but his family found him, brought him home, and nursed him back to health. And his dad demanded he get a job.

Matt is not a person who could work in an office or behind a checkout counter. He is just too much of a free spirit. So, living near LA, he finds a job at the beach riding one of those bicycles with the cart behind it that takes people up and down the boardwalk. Matt was always athletic. He was a fantastic runner in HS and it probably would have earned him a scholarship in college (he used to run a 4 min mile!!!). So riding a bike for a living was perfect. He could set his own hours, be on the beach, and get exercise at the same time.

Matt noticed immediately that very few people got in his cart just for the ride; they usually were heading somewhere specific. So Matt decided to talk to a few of the businesses along the boardwalk about sponsorship for the vehicle. He told them that if they paid him a flat fee each month, he would put their name on his cart, and any time someone asked for a recommendation for a [restaurant, bar, swim shop, etc.] he would ride them right to door to the business. The owner of the cart (she owned several carts on that boardwalk) loved what Matt was doing and put him in charge of the riders of the other carts. Within a year, Matt had made enough money to buy the carts from the owner and buy 7 more to have a total of 10 carts working for him. He also hired people who were down on their luck (especially the homeless) because they could work any time of the day and the work was entirely cash based. He gave them pagers and later cell phones, all paid for by the business, so that customers could reach them directly at the end of the night to get them back to their hotels or cars.

In just a few years, Matt went from being a homeless drug addict to an entrepreneur. He was now making steady money, enough that he was able to replace the teeth that had rotted out from being on the streets (a several thousand dollar job!).

Matt no longer needs to work. He expanded his business to other beaches in California and makes enough to cover all of his expenses. He is currently living in Florida taking care of our 98 year old aunt. He is by no means rich, but he doesn’t need to worry about his expenses either.

Ok, so what’s the moral of the story? I guess that depends on where you are in your journey. Maybe the lesson is to be patient; personal success takes time.

If you are a parent who is frustrated that your child isn’t living up to their potential, maybe time and support is what they will need to eventually find themselves.

If you are that kid who isn’t finding success in school, don’t measure your success by your peers. I graduated with who kids who wanted to be doctors/lawyers/engineers and very few ever made it there. Some dropped out; some changed majors; some became that thing and hate every day they are at work.

No matter what path life takes you down, live with passion, find your moments of joy, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.


MiddSouth Innovates #5

Assessments are being heavily debated in my district right now. When PARCC first arrived, we switched from Midterms/Finals to Marking Period Quarterlies. Now Quarterlies are up for discussion again. So, with assessment being so heavily discussed, I figured that should probably be the focus of this issue of MiddSouth Innovates.

First, you will find a glimpse into Mrs. Bach’s Biology class as we look at Thinglink and how she used it to provide more meaningful feedback on student-created study guides. Second, you find some key points from the book How To Grade For Learning, K-12. This book focuses on the research and writings of a variety of influential educational scholars and what they have learned about assessments in schools.

Happy New Year!!! And remember to click the image below to see the full MiddSouth Innovates Issue #5.

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MiddSouth Innovates Issue #4

I apologize about forgetting to post our end of the year MiddSouth Innovates. One of the best parts about my new role as Educational Technology Specialist is going into classrooms all over the school and seeing how technology is being used. In this issue, I had a chance to join one of our math teachers in an Algebra I lesson using Desmos. In the last 2 years, Desmos has moved from simply being an online graphing calculator to a full activity hub for math teachers. As you will see below, this math teacher runs the entire lesson from Desmos using direct instruction, individualized feedback, and both individual and group responses. I was really impressed with both the lesson and tech application.

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MiddSouth Innovates Issue #3: The Hour Of Code

National Computer Science Week is upon us (December 4-10) which means it is time for the Hour Of Code!! I absolutely love the activities they have developed to get students solving complex problems. That’s right! Coding isn’t about typing words on a page. It is about figuring out how to put together a puzzle when you don’t know what the puzzle looks like. For the past couple of weeks, my students have been tackling simple and complex coding HW in an attempt to expose them to both Scratch and Python. First, they had to animate their name using Scratch. Now they are drawing snowflakes with Raspberry Pi Foundation.

I created the following Smore to remind my staff about the Hour Of Code. We are going to setup stations in our Media Center for students to participate, and have Certificates and 3D Printed badges for anyone who completes the full hour. Enjoy the Smore and check out #middsouthinnovates for pictures from our activities.MiddSouth Innovates 3

MiddSouth Innovates Issue #2

Innovation (noun): a new method, idea, product, etc.

The first issue of MiddSouth Innovates (#middsouthinnovates) was a success! We had 293 views from 23 unique locations on 3 continents!! At least 1 member of every department in my school made a comment about something they saw in newsletter which definitely shows it is having an impact. So on to Issue #2:

The more I discuss ideas with Educators, the more I realize that innovation is relative. Being innovative is not a thing–it’s a mindset. It’s about waking up and saying ‘Today I will try something in my classroom that I have never done before.’ Maybe it will be with technology, maybe it will be with classroom management. Whatever you choose to do, it is about trying to improve. So, in this issue I highlight a physical modeling technique that one of our Chemistry teachers was super excited about, and the website Smore which is what I use to make the MiddSouth Innovates newsletter. Enjoy!

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MiddSouth Innovates Issue #1

“If you don’t tell your story, someone else will”–Dylan Klempner

I would like to introduce the first issue of MiddSouth Innovates–my way of sharing innovative practices with my colleagues. As you will see below, I found that smore.com offered the most visually appealing and easily accessible method for sharing these resources. My goal is to send out an issue every other week. This will allow me to collect lesson resources for/from my colleagues and share items that they deem relevant as opposed to ones I feel are important. I hope you enjoy Issue #1. Feedback is always encouraged and welcomed!


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[Note: I apologize for the screenshot and a link. Apparently I can’t embed smore code on a WordPress site because it isn’t whitelisted. Looked great in the editor and then converts it to a link when published.]