Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Unique Cultural Experience

An inside look at a true relic.
I experienced a unique piece of culture and I found it in Colman, SD. I pass by this quaint, side of the road cafe twice a day and always think to myself how I should stop and eat there. I love cafes like that. Well, I finally did, thanks to my schedule opening up and a couple current students encouraging me to try it. The place is called "The Norseman" and I will certainly be going back. 
As I walked into the Norseman, it felt like I was walking into 1970. I loved it. The place was decked out Norwegian flair, with Thor on the wall, Viking figurines on the shelves and TVLand playing "Gunsmoke" on the television set off in the corner.  I was the only one in the place. The owner, John, mid-sixties, life-long Colman resident, currently living in the house he was born in, was sitting at a table, reading the newspaper. I walked up to him and introduced myself. He had to mute the t.v. so he could hear me. We talked for a bit and really hit it off. I explained how I teach at DSU and pass by this place each day and finally had the chance to stop. He was very friendly and I could tell he was excited to have some business. I liked John already.  So I sat down as John retrieved a menu. It was quite the menu! Not in appearance, but in variety. Lots of delicious sounding food to order. John, like the polite host that he is, asked if I needed anything to drink while I looked at the menu. Water, please. As I sat down to browse the wide variety of options, John sat down next to me and watched as I looked it over. What pressure! I was a first timer, looking to get a good grasp on my options, but the owner of the place was just sitting there watching me! I asked him what he recommended and he quipped, "One of everything" which was followed by a chuckle, from both of us.  I asked him if he was Norwegian and he quickly fired back with his dry sense of humor, "You mean, there's something else?" Oh, that John. What a card. This was just the beginning of a string of Norwegian jokes that did nothing but add to this cool experience. 
I decided to order the Norseburger and tater tots. Being my first time, I decided to go for it and make it a deluxe with cheese.  Good decision, I must say. 
As I ate my burger, John, of course, sat by me and talked. I explained to him that I had a couple students currently at DSU who are from Colman. Well, he certainly remembered them! Before I knew it, he was up and off to the shelf, rummaging through some old Colman-Eagan yearbooks. Two bites later, John was back with a couple yearbooks. He flipped through the pages and showed me my two current students from their middle school years. What a riot! John was pretty proud he was able to find them so quickly. Then we went back even further to kindergarten!  Hilarious. We then searched the yearbooks for a friend of mine that taught there. He was really enjoying the yearbook searches. 
I finished up my meal and told John that I would like to come back because there were so many delicious looking things on the menu! He said, "Well, we can help you with that!"  Then he gave me a little tour of the place and showed off some of his Norwegian memorabilia, including the helmet and sword the little kids wear for a picture. Let me tell you, so tempting to put on the helmet and take a picture with the sword. Maybe on my second visit. It might have been too forward of me on my first stop. We talked a bit more, thanked him for his hospitality, shook hands and I was on my way. I excited the cafe with an urge to start rowing a Langskip.
It was a very pleasant stop, one I am glad I finally made. I am already looking forward to my next meal. Should I go Philly cheese steak or the famous pizza? I guess I will just as John what he would recommend. 
If you find yourself in the Colman area, give the Norseman a try. Two giant-Thor like thumbs up from me. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Close Call! A relationship story

That was a close one. I almost made a big mistake that would have ruined my pursuit at building relationships with a class of 8th graders. Luckily, I was able to stop myself in time, think it through and prevent the mistake. Here's what happened:
I had a BreakoutEDU game set up for my 8th grade class to work on our lesson of the day which was "perseverance." BreakoutEDU fits perfectly with that topic because it's all about persevering through challenges/obstacles and not giving up. Anyway, I had the boxes locked and set up on the various tables in the classroom. There was a few minutes before class started so I stepped out for a bit to talk with a teacher. As I was talking with the teacher, my students filed into the classroom, waiting patiently for class to begin (which was still about 5 minutes away). I wrapped up my convo and headed into the room. When I entered, I saw a group of them huddled around one of the boxes, trying to pry the box open and/or pick the lock. They had managed to force their way into the box and pulled out the "secret" items.  I was mad. Furious. Annoyed that they were messing with the boxes and finding out what was inside. I should have known to not let a group of 8th grade boys be unattended around a locked box. Of course they would try to break it open! Their curiosity is too great at that age! This is where I had to make a decision on how to handle this. I was at a fork in the road.  You see, this was only the fourth class period I have had with this group of students. So we don't know each other very well. Which means I haven't had the necessary time to make a lot of "deposits" into the Relationship Bank. And without a lot of those deposits, it's very dangerous to make withdrawals.  If I made it a huge deal and came down hard on them about how what they were doing was unacceptable, I would lose them. Luckily, I fought that urge and decided to just be relaxed about it and just put the stuff back in the box and begin class. It was a close call.
Make a sustained, committed effort to make deposits into the Relationship Bank. When something happens that requires a withdrawal, you will be prepared. I didn't have enough deposits in the bank at this point, so I had to be real careful with how I handled it. Building relationships is a fragile thing. Hard to build, easy to destroy.

Friday, February 24, 2017

2 Hour Late Start - Nature's Way of saying "Thanks"

The 2-hour late start is nature's way of saying "thank you" to teachers. But not because teachers have to work two fewer hours that day. Ha! Far from it. Teachers aren't happy with two-hour late starts because they don't have to deal with students as much that day. Well, at least I hope that is not why they are happy. Teachers are happy with two-hour late starts because 1. They might get a bit more rest to get recharged, but still GET to teach students that day. 2. They have two extra hours to plan and perhaps relieve some of the stress/burden that might be building. 3. They get a chance to have a "slower" morning with their kids and not have to rush out of the house before the sun rises.  4. All after school activities (practices, events, clubs, etc.) are still on which are important to a lot of people.

With the two-hour late start, Mother Nature is saying to those teachers: "Teachers, thank you for all the work you do, especially to those who are underappreciated because they "boss" is anything but a leader and never encourages them or builds them up. Teachers, I want to thank you for your hard work and dedication so here's a little snow and nice. Use your two hours to help plan a new idea or just to rest and recharge your battery. And also teachers? One more time, thank you for what you are doing." Yep, that is what mother nature is saying with 2-hour late starts. I'm sure of it.

I'm glad mother nature "thanks" teachers from time to time here in the midwest because I, too, have this undying support for teachers who head into the trenches each day to face whatever comes their way. Well, those that work hard and are dedicated to being life-long learners and producing life-long learners. To those who continue to strive to get better, to research, to develop new ideas. To those who are passionate about kids and attack each day like it's their mission in life.

Hope you enjoyed the 2-hour late star! No need to thank mother nature, because you thank us all, every day for the work you do. So thanks!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Current Favorite Tech Tool: Flipgrid.com

I was thinking about what to share and I decided to just go with my current favorite technology tool: Flipgrid.com
Flipgrid is an awesome tool to get students thinking, listening, speaking, and discussing. Having class discussions face to face is great. But, sometimes, it's hard to hear from all students. They either don't want to talk in front of people, or you just don't have enough time to get to every student. Flipgrid is a great complimentary piece to your classroom discussions. Flipgrid allows you to have your students post a short video clip of themselves responding to whatever prompt you have posted. Students post their video and then their classmates can watch. Not only that, but their classmates can also respond to the original video with a response video as well. I teach online classes and with zero face to face time, I have found flipgrid to be the most effective tool in building classroom community in my online classes. The possibilities are endless with flipgrid! The key is to think about and craft flipgrid tasks where there is a purpose to not only what they share initially, but to what the students are responding to. The traditional prompt that students respond to and then you have your students respond to a classmate with "What did you think about what they said?" That general type of response is okay, but try to think up a way for a more meaningful, specific response. Early, I had my students post 3 clues describing a US president. Their classmates and to watch the videos, figure out who the president was, and then post a response video on flipgrid with who they thought the president was and why. 
Student do NOT need an account to use flipgrid, which makes it very easy to use. All students need is a webcam on their computer (or ipad with the app) and the link to your "grid." 
As an educator, you can get Flipgrid One, which means you get one free grid and can post as many topics to that grid as you would like. If you teach multiple classes, you would have to pump up to the paid subscription.   
Check out Flipgrid.com and see if it is something that would help your students learn!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Cooking with the Klumper's: "The Perfect Pancake"

It seems that on any social media I may find myself on, there are these recipe videos everywhere! I love watching them. It makes whatever food item being shown look so easy to do. I watch one and find myself thinking, "Yeah! I could do that!" So what draws people to these videos? What makes them so popular? Why is a recipe delivered in this format better than a simple list of ingredients with text description? It's all about the visuals. People can SEE what is happening or what should happen or how it should look. SEEING is powerful. The whole process is laid out for you in a few minutes in a visual way. That is what makes these videos so popular and helpful!  

I decided to make my own video and get in on the craze. The next step would be: How can we use this video concept in education? What does it look like or how could it look in the social studies world? Science? Math? So many possibilities. I'm sure you will think of something.  

Enjoy the Perfect Pancake! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Powerful Video. Powerful Message.

This can't be viewed or shared or thought about enough. As much as technology helps us and as much as I love it, this video offers perspective that is much needed in our world today, myself included. Don't be surprised if you watch this video and find tears welling in your eyes.  Don't be surprised if you watch this video and decide to make a change in your technology habits. Don't be surprised if this video makes you stop scrolling through feeds and pages and posts and images. Don't be surprised if you watch this video twice. Don't be surprised if you find yourself thinking about the message, long after the video ends. Don't be surprised if you suddenly feel this urge to live more with your eyes open, head up and phone resting on the counter or table or inside your top dresser drawer. Don't be surprised if you suddenly feel anxiety thinking about all the time spent looking down, rather than up and realize that time is not guaranteed or plentiful.   

Gary Turk sums it up beautifully: "Give people your love, not your like." 

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Commercial that Bothers Me

Perhaps you have seen this commercial. It's for the Toyota Tundra. Watch the video above to see what happens. The basic gist is this: a high school football team loses the game at the end because the receiver was out of bounds when he caught the would-be game-winning touchdown. Everyone is devastated at losing the "big game." Then, on their way home, a family of the losing team sees the referee who called the catch out of bounds standing next to his broken down vehicle. The driver rolls down the window and after a moment of hesitation and thought, gives the referee a ride.

Here is what bothers me about this commercial: Toyota is making a big deal out of the fact that even though the referee made the call to end the game, the family of the losing team gave the referee a ride home in the rain. That's what SHOULD happen. It's just a high school football game. The commercial makes it look like this tremendous act of compassion because they were just devastated at losing the big game, yet they dug down deep into their soul and found the courage and compassion to help out the referee who was standing in the rain with a broken down vehicle. A high school football game and referee's call (correct call, btw) was almost the reason why they didn't pick up the referee? Ridiculous. It wasn't an act of compassion. It was the obvious thing to do.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Merge Multiple Google Forms into One

There actually is no merge tool out there that can take multiple Google Forms and merge them into one. So if you have multiple Google Forms and you want them to be all in ONE Google Form, you have to copy and paste everything. HOWEVER. There is a trick or work-around to solve this problem. 
Application to Education: Let's say you have given five short 'exit ticket' formative assessments throughout the month, semester, etc. At the end, you want the students to answer those same questions to see how much they have improved, or just as a study guide/review tool. Rather than posting all five links and having the results go to five different places, you can set it up to make one Google Form and have all the results go to the same spreadsheet. 

Open the Google Forms that you want to use and make copies of them all so you get fresh data. 

Choose what Google Form will be the first one. 
For the second google Form you want to use, get the "share link" and paste it in the first google form in presentation when you are able to determine what it says for the student after they hit submit. In other words, after the student hits submit for the first Google Form, they will be given the link to the second google form. 
Repeat this process until you have all five google forms linked together. 

*Results all in one place: Create a spreadsheet for results for the first Google Form that you used. For the other Google Forms, rather than creating a new spreadsheet, set it so the results go to a tab in an existing spreadsheet, which should be set to the first Google Form spreadsheet. 

Check out the tutorial to see it in action! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Social Injustice Project. Fight It. End It.

In my opinion, there are few things in life that can have an impact like reading a book. Recently, my students and I read social injustice novels. Being aware of our world and the injustices that are happening is important because we need that awareness before we can take action. But what is that action? It's a daunting question. It's an overwhelming problem. How do we stop human trafficking? How do we stop genocide? It's almost a feeling of impossibility. Like, no matter what we do, we can't stop it or even help! So what do we do? I don't' know. I guess we can start by getting educated. By becoming aware and spreading that awareness. I think reading about social injustice and learning about it and spreading the awareness of it helps us become more compassionate. It helps us take less for granted and be more appreciative of what we have. If we talk about it enough and read about it enough, perhaps a student will go out into the teeth of the injustice and do something to stop it.  Maybe we all will. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Copy Entire Folders in Google Drive

Have you ever wanted to copy an entire Google Drive folder but found that when you right click on the Folder, it does not give you a "copy" option? There is a solution to that problem. It is a spreadsheet add-on and it allows you to copy entire folders. It's simply called "Copy Folder" and you get it through Google Sheets - add ons.  For example, let's say you have a bunch of resources in a Google Drive folder and you want to share that folder with a colleague or you are leaving a position and want to give that folder to the new person, but you want to hang on to your folder for the future. Use the add-on so you each have your own individual folder (of the same contents). The video does a good job showing how to use this add-on. 
*Note: You can not copy a folder that is shared.