Thursday, April 11, 2013

Using SoundCloud (for poetry and other stuff)

The other day, I read about Poetry Foundation's new SoundCloud group, Record-a-Poem. Basically, the idea is that anyone can record themselves (or someone else) reading a piece of poetry and post it on the Record-a-Poem group. Here's a more detailed post on how to do that.

If I were still teaching English--grade school, high school, or college--I'd take this prime opportunity to get my students to appreciate the oral art of poetry. Imagine: you tell your students to join the group, pick a poem from the Poetry Foundation archive (of which there are a great many), record a reading, and upload it. Others get to listen to their poems, like, share, or repost it. I think it's a wonderful way to get students excited about reading and listening to poetry.

Alternatively, you can also do the following:
  1. Create your own SoundCloud group.
  2. Ask your students to make a SoundCloud account and join your group.
  3. Have them upload whatever audio file you want them to upload (e.g., a podcast about your current topic, a song, a poem, reaction to a lesson, readers theater, etc.)
  4. For added interaction, ask each student to listen to a few of them to give comments or reactions.
Doesn't even have to be for English class. I can imagine all the different subject areas
that can use this. The possibilities are exciting!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

App Happy: Some Educational Apps I Recommend

Image from Google Apps for Education page

A couple of days ago, I went to visit a former co-trainer who was already the principal of a school. I went there for work (full disclosure: I work with Flipside Publishing, an ebook company that distributes etextbooks for different publishers), but during the meeting, us being former co-trainers, we talked about materials and faculty development. And then she asked me what I actually thought of schools who adopt tablets for education.

Now, even if my work throws me across such schools and publishers who provide e-textbooks for these schools, believe it or not, I rarely get asked this question. But whenever I am asked, I give the same answer I've always given for years:

I think schools should think more about how to maximize the use of a powerful multimedia device to aid learning and instruction, instead of thinking of the device as merely a substitute for books. Like, seriously, as an educator, using a tablet primarily to replace textbooks is the worst kind of reasoning I have ever heard. The one who reasons that is not someone who fully appreciates what it takes to be in the classroom, day in and day out, designing good learning experiences for one's students, but likely of someone looking for a business or marketing opportunity.

I'm not against using tablets. Far from it. I think they're wonderful. IF, and that's a big if, used properly. I'm not against etextbooks, either. Obviously I can't be because that's part of my work, and I happen to really love my work. I am against, however, a myopic view of what content should be put in it. No, Virginia, a tablet is most definitely not just for etextbooks.

It should also be for online work, where possible, to maximize Web 2.0 (itself a seemingly passe term already, though I don't know if my country has caught up with it), and for apps.

My former co-trainer knows that getting the tablets are the easy part; it's what to do with them that's more challenging. And this goes way beyond putting a few etextbooks in the device.

My advice: start with choosing good apps. And that means that the teachers will have to curate the apps. Which means that teachers will have to get familiar with what apps are available first. Which presupposes that the school/administration provides the resources and creates an environment where the faculty can play around with the devices, test apps, and share their discoveries. Part of testing, too, will be imagining how to use the app in instruction.

Now, since I stopped teaching in an actual classroom four years ago, I can't claim to know all the great educational apps out there. I'd love to, but alas, I no longer have all the time I'd like to have for this interest.

I do know a few good ones, though, some of which I get for my two young kids and others I just like. We use iOS devices, so I'll be linking to those versions, but I think some of them may also have Android versions.

For Grade School Math:

A couple of Splash Math apps on my son's iPad. (He likes the knights, hence the wallpaper.)
Splash Math for Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5

I'm super sold on Splash Math. We've been using it for the past 2 years. It's like an entire Math workbook, with a cute interface and clear segregation of skills. Very easy for kids to use. And if you're worried about the idea that kids won't learn to actually solve things by hand, Splash Math actually has a "scratch pad" that kids can use to solve for the answer. But my favorite part? Analytics. There's now a parents' section where I can check how my son did on each skill. I've even opted in for the email reports, which I get weekly.

There's a free option, which is only a few skills, but the full versions currently cost $9.99. However, I just think about how much it costs to enroll my kid in one of those summer enrichment classes or how much different math review books cost. Put those beside the $9.99, and the full version is more than worth it.

For pre-school kids literacy and numeracy:

Three of the Planet Boing apps. 
Planet Boing with Savannah!, Ocean!, Iceland!, etc.

Admittedly, this is a more recent discovery, when I was looking for beginning literacy and numeracy aids for my daughter. The main app, Planet Boing, really just has these characters that boing around based on your taps. And there are prizes if you keep them boinging. For some reason, this vastly entertains the kids. But that's not why I got the app. From this main app, you can go to the different planets like Savannah, where the beginning numeracy skills are, or Iceland, where my daughter's learning words and phonics. Like Splash Math, I get email notices every time my daughter finishes a level. I'm loving this set of apps, too, because they're fun and challenging in an age-appropriate manner. Plus, the boings are really cute.

For grade school Science:

Star Walk on the App Store
Solar Walk, Star Walk

To be honest, I'm not sure what age level this app is for. But I downloaded it for my son last year, when he was eight, and he loves it. Then again, it also seems like the kind of app that even adults would appreciate, especially if you want to take a look at the universe. Solar Walk and Star Walk allow you to look at the universe from a closer perspective. You can toy around with the planets, moons, and stars. You can read about them and even about the ships, satellites, robots, and other projects NASA sends out to the different planets. Very, very informative, and pretty cool.

For higher-level English:

The Paris Review 

Ok, so this might not necessarily be an app for basic education. But it's a wonderful, wonderful resource you can refer your high school English students to if you want them to learn more about the Art of Fiction or Poetry or the Essay from the mouths of esteemed writers themselves. After all, what decent-thinking lit major is going to say no to a collection of the Paris Review Interviews? Because I have a tutee who's reviewing for his IB finals, and he wants to prepare for poetry, I advised him to read at least one Art of Poetry interview per day. Who have they interviewed? Well, only poets like W.H. Auden, Billy Collins, and T.S. Eliot. But to be honest, the list of interviewees for the Art of Fiction series seems more impressive. In any case, they're all in the app, and the app is free!

Poetry Foundation

Some days, you just feel like reading some poetry, you know? That's why I have this app. And it's fun because it classifies its database of poems into themes. The themes are placed in two rows, and there's a spin button. When you spin, the rows move, and whatever two themes match, you get a list of poems with those themes. See what I mean by fun? Anyway, it has a combination of the classic poems and more contemporary ones. Also recommended my tutee to read a couple of poems here everyday. And if I were still teaching, I'd probably use the spinning feature for some activity in class. Because, as i said, it's fun.:)

For thinking out of the box:

The Moron Test

I am seriously not above recommending this. When my son was in prep, I'd give this to him to play with everyday. The app might insult  you a little bit with the copy, but it has really fun lateral thinking puzzles. Good for any age.

And these are just the fun apps. There are a lot of productivity and social apps that are wonderful for education. I hope to write about them, too, thereby adding to this list of apps I'd recommend.

What about you? Any apps that you think are great for education? If so, for what year level, and why do you think they're great?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Better reasons for using tablets in Philippine schools

Students using a tablets in school (img src)
In the Philippines now, there's been talk of schools adapting the use of tablets for basic education. Tablets, being the latest "it" device, are seen as having great potential for teaching. After all, students seem to take to it very well. (On the other hand, students take to everything technology-related very well.)

In the media, however, most of the coverage about the device centers around its capacity to reduce the weight of heavy books lugged around by students. (Case in point: this news report about E-tablets replacing bulky books and this blog post about an all girls' school in Metro Manila also exploring the use of tablets to replace their books.) In both of these reports, the tablet seems to be touted as no more than an ebook reader--place all of the textbooks in one light and nifty device. Though I'm sure we all agree that the tablet does do that, I think we need to refocus and see all the other benefits of the tablet, over and above its function as an ebook reader.

At this point, let me clarify that all I intend to talk about for now is the perceived use of the tablet in schools that do propose to use tablets, as shown in media reports. I will not touch on economic issues and digital divide issues, simply because that is topic enough for one very long post.

Full disclosure, too: I work with a publishing house, and though the views here are mine and not the publishing house's, through my work, I have had the opportunity to talk with various educators about their views on the use of tablets in education. It's been refreshing to see how educators really perceive the advantages that can be brought about by these tablets, beyond the lightening of the physical load. I just wish the media reports would focus on these other advantages. Why? Because I feel that by focusing on the tablets capacity as an ereader solely does injustice to the device and to education in general.

img src
Now, let me give you an example: an e-Reading device is something like the Amazon Kindle or the Barnes and Noble Nook. The purpose of these devices is to allow people to carry entire libraries in one handy mobile device. Now, e-readers are very popular with leisure readers, of which I am one. That's why most e-readers have only minimal games, use e-ink (meaning it's not backlit), and have a black and white screen. These features are there because, again, the purpose is to mimic the experience of reading a book.

A student's books can be digitized and placed into an e-reader, but if we're talking about textbooks, there will definitely be limited functionality in a digitized pdf or epub format of a textbook as opposed to a print textbook. For instance, a student cannot write on it. For some formats, he can highlight and annotate, but not for all formats. And, if the teacher wants the students to answer an exercise or drill from the ebook, it'll have to be printed out and submitted.

If the textbook were an interactive textbook, it would definitely be superior to the print book. An interactive textbook allows the student to answer exercises in the book itself, perhaps even listen and view multimedia presentations connected with the text. One such example is the Music textbook below.

An interactive Music textbook via the Inkling-McGraw Hill partnership

Unfortunately, interactive textbooks like these are still currently under development. Meaning as of yet, none are available locally.

So, what the tablet will have are mostly plain ebooks, which might signify that the tablet is just an ebook reader. However, based on a few studies, mere ereading functionality is not necessarily an improvement when it comes to education.

  • In Feb 2010, Princeton released the results of a Kindle study. The study involved the use of the Kindle DX in some of the college courses. Though the data showed that paper use was reduced for the entire semester (good news for the environment), most of the users, professors and students alike, also stated that the device was "ill-suited for class readings." Main complaints were difficulty in page-turning and note-taking on the ebook itself.
  • In May 2011, the University of Washington also released a study involving the Kindle DX. And the results showed that, eventually, users shelved the device for use in class because they considered it detrimental to "cognitive mapping" a technique in which "readers used physical cues such as the location on the page and the position in the book to go back and find a section of text or even to help retain and recall the information they had read."

Yes, both of these studies involved the Kindle. Personally, I have nothing against the device. In fact, I am a proud owner of a Kindle and you can bet I'm not giving it up anytime soon because I use it for my own leisure reading. And that is why I mention these studies. The Kindle or any ebook reader, a device which is suited for one type of reading (leisure or extensive reading) may not be suited for another type of reading (intensive reading--the kind we do in school).

You might say, however, that what we intend to distribute in schools are not e-readers like the Kindle, but tablets like the iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab. This is true, but the effectiveness of the device is also dependent on how it is used. If the tablet is only looked to as an ereader, I think it won't be very effective, as the two studies above demonstrate.

A Kindle and an iPad (img src)

However, Oklahoma State also released a study about the use of iPads in their classes. This time, the study was a success, with professors and students saying that the device enhanced learning, specifically by "increasing the pace of the course, reaching traditional benchmarks weeks in advance." So, the experiment was a success.

Now, I don't think it's a matter of Amazon vs. Apple. I think it's a matter of suiting the device for the purpose. If you browse through the Oklahoma State reports, one part highlighted was this: "Faculty were able to explore and recommend course-specific apps (i.e., software) to enhance the learning environment." Emphasis mine on apps. If you browse further down, the report also says that responses were mixed as to using the iPad as an ereader.

A tablet is a powerful computer that can allow students to interact with various types of resources and people.   It also allows teachers to teach with more relevance and flexibility through these resources. And the resources I speak of are not just the plain ebooks but more especially the apps. As early as Dec 2010, there was already news of a school in Scotland that gave iPads to their students. What did they load it with? Educational apps. A quick Google search of schools that use iPads or other tablets tells you that these schools look to the use of apps. And why apps? Because they're interactive. Because they allow students to do things with it and to connect with other people, rather than just be passive receivers of knowledge.

Again, if you Google it, you'll find lists of the best apps for education or for kids. Here are a few lists that you can check out:

There is so much more that the tablet can offer aside from being an ebook reader. From a parent's perspective, the tablet can be used to keep track of my kids' projects, school communications, assignments, etc. From a teacher's perspective, the tablet can be used with a Learning Management System that allows the teacher to create quizzes and assessments, deliver them to the students, and get the scores which will then be automatically recorded on a digital record book. From a student's perspective, the tablet can be used to explore concepts and content via interactive exercises, to discuss ideas with other people around the world in order to build knowledge that doesn't just come from a single source, to create content that exhibits his knowledge and talent.
(img src)

This is the exciting thing about having this new technology for teaching and learning. And these are the things that I feel are lacking in the media coverage of the use of tablets in Philippine education. There are so much more to tablets than ereading capability. Neither do I think that the tablet is the Holy Grail of education. In fact, no one who's using it is claiming that it is. But it is a fantastic tool for the kind of learning that we should be fostering in the 21st century--collaborative, creative, and connectivist learning. That is, learning by letting students explore concepts, connect with different materials and people, collaborate towards the creation of meaning, and create something that exhibits their understanding.

According to the NMC Horizon Report: K-12 Edition, a project that identifies emergent technology that will have great impact on teaching and learning, "Digital literacy is less about tools and more about thinking, and thus skills and standards based on tools and platforms have proven to be somewhat ephemeral." Thus, having a tablet is less important than knowing what we can do with it and how it can encourage the kind of thinking that we want our students AND teachers to engage in.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Family Math and Science Day

So impressed by this activity in my son's school. It was a Family Math and Science Day. Sort of like an alternative class day, but for the parent and child and based solely on math and science fun activities.

Three days before, we got the sign up form, and there were something like 30 stations to choose from. Participants could choose up to four. Sadly, I don't have a copy anymore of the paper describing the stations, but I swear to you, they sounded like so much fun! The fantastic thing is that the descriptions also specify the ages for which the activity is appropriate. I think the activities were only for the pre-school to grade school kids, but it seemed the high school kids helped facilitate the sessions. So, everyone was involved.

Anyway, my son immediately chose the Painting with Magnets session, which was exactly that--creating a painting using magnets. He also picked What Do Dinosaurs Do in the Dark?, where they had to listen to a story then pick out shapes from a basket and assemble them to form a dinosaur; an Air project thing, where they looked at how air propels objects with balloons, pinwheels, and toy cars with sails; and the Ruler Scavenger Hunt, where my hubby and my son had to compete with another parent-child team to measure several objects using a ruler. Finally, once the parent-child team finished their four stations, they got to go to the Bubble Room where kids had fun with bubbles. And, boy, did my son love that.

I couldn't go because I had a teacher training gig, so it was just hubby and sonny-boy. Though I really wished I could be there. Still, here are a few of the pics that hubby took; you can see how much sonny enjoyed the entire thing.

Showing off his shape-dinosaur.

Painting with magnets

My son's pterodactyl, from the Painting with Magnets session.
Getting the bubbles ready
A few trial bubbles
Aaand here's the whopper!
And I say again, I am impressed by this activity. It's awesome on so many levels--kids get to choose the sessions they like, they deal with math and science concepts in an uber-fun way, parents get to see what their kids do in school, they get to see how teachers teach and deal with the students, and the parents and kids spend time together in a fun and educational venue. Plus, it gives parents ideas for what they can do with their kids at home.

Because the other amazing thing? The whole activity cost much less than a Starbucks Venti, for both the parent and child. The materials used were just ordinary materials. Fantastic.

And, naturally, I wish we had something like this when we were kids in school.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Thoughts on DepEd's "No homework during weekends" policy

A couple of weeks ago, the Philippine Department of Education released a memo stipulating that public elementary school teachers should not give homework to their students during weekends. Immediately, DepEd drew flak from teacher groups, such as the Teacher's Dignity Coalition, who said, in so many words, that DepEd need not legislate this, but instead, trust their teachers.

I don't completely agree with what the Teacher's Dignity Coalition said, but I do believe they are justified in questioning whether a policy such as this be required for all elementary public school teachers. And, like some teachers, I do see the rationale behind this policy and I applaud it.

But I think it is in danger of failing. Simply because the landscape is not ready, and, if the landscape were ready, such a policy would be unnecessary.

I think my post in Facebook summarizes my views. My initial status post said this:

Oh, DepEd. You want your "no homework over the weekend" thing to succeed? Then streamline the curriculum content well!

And then, in response to one friend, I also commented,
I like the rationale, actually. But unless the guidelines are reasonable and clear, unless they streamline the curriculum and fix it so that it targets performance mastery and not just imbibing content, unless they train the teachers to be assessment experts, then this thing will fall flat. It'll be a band-aid solution to the problem of education, and it won't achieve its objective. That's my two cents.
Let me take this opportunity to expound. I see the rationale--parents are complaining that kids have too much homework during the weekdays and the weekends. If so, this gives undue stress both on the child and the parents, not to mention the teachers who have to check all that homework. Hence, teachers should not give homework during the weekend to lessen the stress for everyone involved.

I think certain factors are forgotten in this logical argument. For instance, the conclusion, which is the no-homework-during-weekends policy, only targets a symptom, if you will--the overabundance of homework. Nowhere does this policy address why there is too much homework. We could also question if there is too much homework, but having been a teacher and a teacher trainer, that question is moot for me. In a lot of schools, there is too much homework. Nevertheless, it wouldn't hurt to include some external metrics to show a stronger basis of the impression that there is too much homework.

However, for the sake of argument, let's say that there really is a lot of homework piled on to our young kids. I am more interested in the question, "Why is there too much homework?" Because, honestly, telling teachers that they can't give homework without addressing what leads them to give homework may cause greater problems than what this particular solution intends to erase.

There are purposes to homework. Fine. If you've monitored the news regarding this policy, I'm sure you've heard the defense--teachers give homework to prepare the students for the next lesson or to help them remember the current lesson, teachers know when to give homework. Let me just say this now, before I forget--yes to the first, a conditional yes to the second, but the question is, if there is such expertise in homework-giving, then how come there is little mastery among students?

In none of the news I've read about this policy has this observation been raised: maybe one of the reasons that some of our teachers give homework is that the things they intended students to learn in the classroom can't be finished in the classroom. So, they ask students to do it at home. The lack of classroom instruction time is addressed by giving them homework. I have been guilty of this. *Oops, the guys can't finish the work in class. Ok, let them take it home and submit it the next day; Oh, they need to write two major compositions and four minor compositions. I don't have the luxury of time to do the process writing approach in class for all of these writing assignments. Hey, let's just assign some of them as homework.*

The truth of the matter is, when you enter the classroom, often, even the best planned of lessons and assessments will change because of classroom factors. So, sometimes, the teacher might not intend to give homework, but ends up doing so. Or sometimes, the teacher feels that he or she has to finish the entire book or maximize it, so he or she'll give homework to the students from the book. It's this analysis of what actually goes on inside the classroom and its causes that I feel is lacking behind the impetus of this policy.

So, if students can't finish what you want them to finish inside the classroom, if homework occasionally works as a substitute for classroom time, then the question to ask again is--why? And there we go to the overstuffed curriculum, which, I think, most teachers already know, judging from reactions of fellow educators and teacher trainees when asked about the coverage of the curriculum. There is just too much. What's more dismaying?--In spite of the extensive coverage, there is little mastery, judging again from the performance of students in standardized testing and reactions of higher institutions in general. Not to mention the state of our economy.

This is why I believe streamlining the curriculum is key. You cannot tell teachers to lessen homework if you expect them to teach an enormous amount of discrete information. Streamlining the curriculum means determining what is really essential, organizing the content in a logical and efficient manner, and getting rid of topics that might have been there for ages, but are actually no longer pertinent given the world we live in now. I know, easier said than done. But it can be done.

Another essential element is the teacher himself or herself. Homework is assessment, be it formative or summative. Together with streamlining the curriculum, teachers must also understand better how to use assessment and when to use it and what kind to use. Because, honestly, it's not so much the existence of weekend homework that is annoying; it's the kind of homework given. Once again, I have been guilty of giving students mindless homework exercises over the weekend that they can easily, easily copy from a friend. I realized that accomplishment of these tasks do not really tell me much of my students' mastery of the subject matter; it's just that it was a weekend and my prior training taught me that I should feel guilty if I send the students home without even so much as a task to remind them of me and my lesson. In other words, those homeworks I gave, in my honest opinion, were an inefficient and ineffective way to assess.

Then again, not all weekend homeworks are created equal. Two Fridays ago, my son, who's in Prep, came home with the following homework: "Walk around your neighborhood with your mom and dad and draw things that you can see, smell, hear, taste, and touch." Ok, granted this is a Prep homework, but it's a difference from the homework that he used to take home, which were just worksheets that he had to answer, match, or color. This homework actually required me to go around the neighborhood with him, which I loved. So, along the way, we talked, we identified things that appeal to the five senses, we spent time together, we both got to go around our neighborhood more. The walk also gave me opportunity to talk about garbage in the street and how it clogs up the waterways, among other things. Didn't cost me anything and it took us all of 20 minutes. As a teacher and a parent, I loved that homework. It targeted the skill, made it experiential, provided me the opportunity to spend time with my son, and potentially led to other real-world discussions with him. This teacher, this school, knew how to use homework.

To tell teachers not to give weekend homework is not enough and does not really address the problem. To help teachers understand how, when, and what homework to give is more essential. I think that, together with a streamlined curriculum, will work more towards the goal of not burdening students with too much homework. If those two things are targeted: the curriculum and training of teachers to be better assessors, then the policy of "no weekend homework" is no longer necessary. You've eliminated one of the great causes for overabundant homework, and your teachers are truly trained to understand when homework is useful.

Because without the support of the curriculum and teacher training, this policy will be a nightmare to implement. The blanket statement is limiting to everyone, but most especially detrimental to teachers who actually do use assessment efficiently and effectively. Are there clear guidelines for what kind of weekend homework is permissible? Who is going to monitor the adherence to the policy and how will it be monitored? Will this impact on the teachers' year-end evaluation? Are there sanctions for one who does not follow? If so, are the sanctions fitting for the infraction? The policy might be creating more problems than it fixes.

As an educator and a parent, I do believe that children should have the luxury of time to engage in non-school-related activities, as well as bond with their families. I also believe that a lot of educational institutions do give too much homework to their students, thereby taking up too much of the student's time. But I don't believe this policy is an effective solution to the problem. It is well-intentioned and brave, but a tad bit reactionary. Perhaps our sights should be set less on removing the burden of homework, and more on getting teachers, students, and parents to love homework because it is meaningful.

Once an Educator...

Always an educator.

I stand by that. For almost two years, I've been blogging about one of my passions--books. But I have other passions, other loves: my family, food, and my career--education. I could probably use the term "teaching," but doing what I do now, I'd feel pretentious calling myself a teacher. After all, I don't teach in a classroom anymore. But it seems no matter what I do, no matter how far I go, my heart will always, always be in education.

And so this blog is born. I may not be in a classroom anymore, but I am still an educator. I do teacher training, and my current work as a writer and editor of instructional materials requires me to do some instructional and curriculum designing. And I love doing all of that. But since I no longer work in a school setting, I find myself looking for more people I can talk to with like passion. Teacher training is great, but it doesn't happen everyday. Dealing with teacher-writers is also great, but again, meetings are few and far between. As a blogger, I've found, though, that the discourse online can be rich and rewarding. If nothing else, this allows me to talk about my other passion in a more apparent manner.

But I have a specific agenda for this blog than just a repository of my teacher-y thoughts. You see, I also work as an e-learning specialist, and though I find that title a bit too big for me, I do think of myself as an apostle of web 2.0 applications for educators. So, in this blog, I'd like to feature a lot of Web 2.0 applications that teachers can use, some of them I've used myself, others I haven't had the opportunity to use in class but will pimp out nonetheless because I see some potential in it, or because I know of someone else who used it to good effect.

As a Filipino educator, I have an idea of how accepted technology integration is in schools. Teachers and administrators like the idea, like what it can do. But right after that comes the litany of constraints against it--we don't have the hardware; we have the hardware, but not the internet connection; we have the internet connection, but it's slow; we have a fantastic net connection, but teachers just use it to check email; the hardware's very expensive so that, even if we have it, we don't want to let a lot of people use it; we're not sure how to use it; our students are too poor that integrating technology in school would be useless since they don't have it at home anyway; and so on. I understand that these are real concerns, but as a perpetual optimist , I think that the first thing that needs to be done is to get rid of the fear. Because once the fear is overcome, then solutions to these issues, new and creative, come out of the woodwork.

There is one final reason that I was pushed to start this blog. I am a mother of two beautiful children, a six-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl. My girl has Down Syndrome, so she has special needs when it comes to education. But it is through my children, both my son and my daughter, that I'm learning to look at education in a new light. For all my teaching life, I've taught in very traditional schools. But now that my children are in pre-school or about to enter early grades, I'm seeing more exciting ways of teaching and learning. I see that what I've always dreamed of when it comes to teaching, others have already been doing or are on their way towards. And I want to give props to these great educators I've met through my children. In fact, when it comes down to it, my children are my teachers. They have taught me that there are more ways to teach and learn than what I had previously known.

So, if you're reading this, welcome! This blog is an adventure, as teaching is a grand adventure. I do not know where it will lead or what it will bring, but as always, I look forward to what I shall learn. And I hope you find something of value here, too.