Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wouldn't Everyone Have a D?

Some of you may remember the post from last February, #SBAR Thoughts. A post from last February just got a new comment today from Meg, nearly 9 months later. The post was in response to our district switching 6th grade to standards based reporting that they had been craving for a while.
I would argue that English is the best subject that it works in.  The reason that this works is because of the standards, if your standards are too general or too hard to accomplish then it will not work.  If a standard for Grammar Punctuation was "Places periods in appropriate spots after sentences" that would be a piece of cake for a normal 6th grader to do. If the standard was "Uses proper quotation and comma placement to structure a quote" that would be more leveled for 6th grade. 

I can't speak for other schools but middle school teachers in our district use standards behind the scenes for their own purposes of tracking student knowledge and understanding. But they have to then take those standards and form a rubric that converts them into points to put in the grade book. Not only does that take more time but the simile I like to use with it is that you have to measure in inches and report it centimeters, kind of pointless.

Language Arts is subjective at times. For example, last year we studied the holocaust for a month. It wasn't social studies so the standards weren't to understand and grasp what happened in the holocaust but to understand the social effects, and dive through writing from the time period. In the grammar example I gave above you could grade them on a worksheet and give 5/5 points for secure,4/5 for developing. The issue with that is they got an 80% because they slipped on one problem and in the grade book that's the only thing that is reflective of that. Where when you use standards you take into account that worksheet, group work, independent practice, formative and summative assessments to decide what they receive on that one concept.

Everyone puts their own little spin on standards based reporting but it still comes back to the standard. In a standard of "understand and use the 201 concepts of grammar" everyone would be developing. Standards are sorted and specific and that's what makes them work.

I hope I didn't throw you under the bus too far Meg. :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Six Standards, That's It

Last Wednesday the Kee Squad group at our middle school taught Google Calendar to all the teachers in the building to incorporate into their new blogs, I think(look at how much I knew what I was doing.  We split the teachers in half: advanced & beginner.

Life got in the way earlier that week and all I had going into that presentation was a list of 6 items to teach.  I thought this would be easy to do and I tried my best to flow with it.  I thought, "All I had to do was go through a list of six things to teach, six standards, that's it."

Within the 10 minutes (I went into this not knowing how much time I would have) I feel like we completed one of those standards.  Maybe I had over scheduled that session, maybe I didn't prepare enough, maybe it was more difficult to teach 25 people SIX things in 10 minutes than I thought.  What ever it was I felt like I crashed and burned while my co-pilot was dead in the passenger seat.

I had planned on doing live demonstrations on the projector step-by-step while they followed along on their laptops.  I had planned on letting them explore that for a minute or two before we moved onto the next.  The two times I attempted to do live demos on sharing a calendar and subscribing to a calendar the page wouldn't load, the dongle came unplugged three random times in the presentation and the ELMO wasn't even set-up yet.
After I fiddled around for 5 minutes we got into Calendar labs. Everyone turned on event bling and I individually helped people.  That one thing was finally going so good I thought I could bring this crashing jet back on track when my ten minutes (that I never knew I had) were magically up and 25 people were out of sight in 30 seconds.

What I learned from this is that live demonstrations barely ever work when trying to do them with a crowd, screen shots are the way to go.  Coming right in and getting right to the point without daddling will give me more time to teach.  The projector needs to be set-up and turned on before everyone comes into the room.  Next week I get a chance to repent my sins.  I have an attack plan and only five standards to cover this time with about 15 minutes.  I now have a new understanding for teachers having to make these lesson plans daily and having to teach it six times a day, all though I would rather do that than have to do the work.

I Let Go

Today I let go of every and anything normal.  My day was a routine, a boring and repetitive routine.

  1. I woke up at 6:40 this morning, 30 minutes later than normal.  I put clothes on, brushed my teeth, grabbed my phone, and was out the door 15 minutes after.  
  2. I snapped this morning in the library, tried to ignore the fact that I did it and moved on (or so I thought).
  3. I organized stencils into a perfect stack while we watched a video.
  4. I watched Finding Nemo in Spanish and wrote down new words.
  5. I went to art and focused on painting. Just painting. Everything else was blocked out.
  6. I went to P.E. and played dodge ball for 10 minutes until I left early to eat lunch with my advisory.
  7. I ate lunch (cheese bread ins't too long of a lunch) while listening to everyone elses weekend plans, relationship drama, and sports team arguments (the regular 8th grade chatter).
  8. I put on a peppy mood when we were doing our 1k walk and cheering on others but my mood fell off after doing that for 2 hours.
  9. I watched yet another movie in social studies on the French & Indian War.  It was probably the highlight of my day.
  10. I took a quiz in math and missed one problem (and got 85% on it).  I didn't even bat an eye when I didn't get an A.
  11. I participated in 40 minutes of credible sources and searching techniques in English.
  12. I fixed a TV, projector, and worked on a video question for 3 different teachers. It was a slow day tech help wise.
My point of giving you my daily schedule wasn't to make you feel sad for the off day I had or about how many movies and quizzes and notes I take a day (you wouldn't believe it).  It was to show you that I made it through a day of doing this.  I let go of any emotions after 7:55 this morning.  I put no effort into the remainder of my day.  I let go of any leadership I had in me and was a regular person.  I followed others all day and probably couldn't have told you what time it was all day.  I worried about nothing but the one task at hand.  I didn't read a book all day and got something out of my binder once.  I did things like a regular middle schooler, like the other 825 kids in the building.  I felt like a robot.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Just One Tweet: My Narrative

Shaelynn Farnsworth and Erin Olson invited me to contribute to the Just One Tweet narratives that they used during their presentations at #TICL11 and #BLC11 on the benefits of Twitter in education, below is my narrative.

I joined Twitter in May of 2010 after hearing Russ Goerend talk about his PLN of 1,000 all of that year.  For the first month I added lots of people and a majority followed back.  It was a great way to learn about new social media and web 2.0 tools that I use on a daily basis.

The first people that I interacted with that I’d never met before are Ron King and Northern Lights Pizza last summer.  The most eye opening and inspirational person I know is Beth Ritter Guth.  We met this spring when she was the winner of a video camera contest I hosted.  I sent two cameras to Mouth of Wilson, VA where they planned on using them to make podcasts to share with the public schools in the county and use QR codes to organize them.  What makes this so inspirational is that she works in a private boarding school and is using them to help out the rest of the poorer community and open up kids to their remote world.  Most kids in their county drop out and of the ones that don’t, only 4% go onto college.

It has also been a great way for me to connect with people even WHILE I’m attending conferences like #itec10 and #i11i.  They are state level education conferences hosted annually in Iowa.  I presented with a classmate and Russ Goerend at ITEC on “Breaking Down The Walls Of Our Classroom”.  At the Iowa 1:1 Institute I was one of the few students who attended and went to sessions the whole day.  I find these conferences fun not only because it’s a big tweet-up but because I like involving myself in everything.  It’s that moment of honor when you reach the end of the tunnel and can say I was part of that 10 years ago that put the U.S. back on top.

This summer I followed Robin Phares because truthfully, there was an iPad in her profile picture (Apple fan boy in your presence).  She sent a tweet about wanting Google Sites to show in one of her classes she is teaching this summer. I gave her a link to the three I made to represent learning using Project Based Learning this year.  There were many tweets to come and another awesome student to meet on Twitter, Ivan Shires.  I plan on hanging out (Google+ instead of Skyping) into her class and talking to these teachers in Ohio when I live in Iowa.  The class is on how you can use PBL to improve learning instead of the 100 year old lectures.  We will blow their minds apart, all because of Just One Tweet.
- Ian Coon @Waukeestudent

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I Failed

This afternoon the 5 year-old was playing Angry Birds on the laptop when she told me, "I failed this level".  So I took the laptop and restarted her level and told her to do it again.  30 seconds later, "I failed AGAIN."  So I took the laptop and did the level for her.

On Angry Birds it may not matter but in life or education would you have done the same thing?

Would you as a teacher taken their math book and done the assignment for them, NO
Would you give them another test without teaching them about what they did wrong. NO.

You would've helped them through it and made sure they mastered the concept/level/assignment before you gave them harder tasks.  Are we as educators making sure that our students master the concept before we challenge them with more difficult concepts.

How do you conference with your students?  Are you accurately assessing?  Do you do any proper reteaching of the skill?  How do you know when it clicks in a student?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Top 10 quotes from Iowa 1:1 Institue 2011

Angela Maiers made the infamous top ten quotes list at #ITEC10 so here's mine for #i11i.

10. "bandwidth is critical!" Tech coordinators group
9.  "Hashtags are like a look into the collective subconscious of those schools." @SMGHogan
8. “We decided that we were doing it, and we did it.” Admin group
7. "1:1 is not going to help improve test scores." Admin group
6. "The world is shrinking, and most people don't even know it." @CoachB0066
5.  "I'm smart, just not three paragraphs double spaced smart." @shermanmi
4.  "Teachers need to stop hiding behind points” @russgoerend @mctownsley
3.  "Twitter is your Neighborhood BBQ, SO how'd you get to be the party host?" @angelamaiers
2.  “Technology does not equal learning.” @mcleod
1.  "Providing students a laptop will not magically improve the quality of instruction provided to students." @DeronDurflinger

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Can We Become A Community?

Last Friday the Ambassador group hosted the "Waukee Carnival".  There was dancing, games, food, and fun.

Towards the end of the event @CoreyStJohn (who was co-DJing) said, "This is great, we should do this more often!"
I said, "There's only 50 people here out of the 750 in the school, we can't afford to do this often."
"The people that are here are having fun, that's a good thing"
"We should have these for all sporting events; basketball, football, baseball.  Then we could come up with a school chant that everyone would learn on orientation night, then we could all walk to the gym or field chanting.  Wouldn't that be cool to get 400 middle school students chanting at one football game?"

That would be cool, but how do we turn an attendance of 50 to 400+ students?  How do we become a community?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tour of Waukee MS

Kids learn a lot from their teachers but teachers can be more effective and productive in a great building that we are fortunate enough to have.  I am going to share what makes Waukee #1 in my book.

You can tell that this isn't any ordinary building by the front entrance.

The brightly colored mural at the front of the building.

The lovely secretaries are a great key to success here!

The library is a lovely place to stop in and read, browse, or chat with @kellynelsen.

The "heart" of the building is the painted bench.  Original name, I know. :)

Our three state-of-the-art computer labs are nearby too, offering students access to many life tools.

The lunch room keeps everyone well fed and ready to learn!

The P.E. teachers are ready to help you burn off those calories you just ate at lunch in their gym.

At the back of the building is another mural that takes up an entire wall.

Last but not least, the classrooms where all the magic happens.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

iPad or #SBAR

When the now infamous iPad came out only a year ago, there were quite a bit of demoting outlooks on the device but today you're considered old fashion without one.  You could say that Standards Based Reporting is the same way.

When they were released to the world not everyone latched onto them, they were kind of leery to take that first step.

When the iPad came out there were those Apple fanatics that had their device pre-ordered.
When standards based reporting came out there were some that were all for it.

Most people wanted nothing to do with a "giant iPod Touch".
We've taught this way for 100+ years and it hasn't failed us yet.

Apple has provided updates and newer models to make a good device great.
People have developed methods and made them fit their needs and students.

Apple has sold over 1 million iPads and probably even 2 million by the time I'm done typing this.
Schools are looking into and experimenting with Standards Based Reporting if they don't all ready have the system.

The iPad may have only been out for a year while standards based has been for about 10, but everyone has their own five minutes of fame.

How long do you think it will take for the majority of U.S. schools to switch to #SBAR?  Is there any other way to compare the two?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


     Today I spent the day at the Iowa 1:1 Institute in Des Moines.  This is first in a series of posts about my day at the convention.

     If you're reading this, you probably found it from Twitter, right?
     That means that Twitter is a great education tool, right?
     If you said "Yes" to either one of those questions, you're right.
     So if Twitter is that great, how do we get new Tweeters on board with it too?

     This was an interesting topic that we discussed at the Tweet Up in the afternoon.  @AngelaMaiers made a metaphor that works beautifully with the topic!

     Twitter is your Neighborhood BBQ.  When you're NEW to the neighborhood (Twitter) you're kind of nervous and reluctant about jumping in and talking to people unless you've all ready met them.  You also aren't obligated to bring anything to the potluck for the first time, just eat what everyone else brought (Not tweeting, just lurking & getting info).  Unless you absolutely hate your neighborhood you'll come back to the next BBQ and have some familiar faces, bring a dessert, converse with a few people here and there. (Tweet a little, get some followers)  IF you never bring anything to the BBQ then you're neighbors might start despising you. BUT, eventually you'll be hosting your own BBQ and having people bring, desserts, and their own NEW friends (Expert tweeter, established followers, PLN). So within a year you're no longer the neighborhood newbie but the party host with your own friends and connections.  SO, how'd you get to be the party host?

It's just a few simple steps...

  • Be on Twitter; add a bio, picture, location.
  • Tweet often; even if it's only five a day.
  • Find followers that tweet about your passion.
  • Start tweeting about your passion and involving yourself in conversations
How did you become the tweeter you are today?  How can you help a friend that needs to get started?  What else is essential in being a part of the Twitter Culture?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

FREE Video Camera Contest

I am hosting a contest to give away two used video cameras to educators to use in their classroom, building, district, etc.  The most creative idea will be the one rewarded the cameras.  All you have to do is complete the form below by April 30th and I will email you if you win.
Please tell others about it on Twitter, Facebook, etc. so everyone has a fair chance.  Can't wait to hear your responses!

Fill out the form here or click the LINK to fill it out.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Middle School/Bullying Discussion

In Language Arts we are studying "Upstanders" for about a month.  We also had visitors from the high-school talk about bullying, cliques, and opportunities in their building this morning, which coincided greatly with what we are studying.
Today in L.A. we discussed what we had been told this morning and had a very "Reflective discussion"about it. 

The whole thing started with the question,
     "What did you guys learn this morning?"
In which people openly answered.  Lots of connections with their own lifes were made and you could see peoples eyes light up at the phrase,
     "People find out who they are and anyone who bullies is left behind, it's just not cool anymore.  Not that it ever was."
If everyone was like me they were envisioning a world where everyone got along and was their own person.  Great right?  Then this was said,
     "It's not like we all sit around a campfire and sing koom-by-a, but we all respect each other."
I then brought up the comment of,
     "In middle school everyone tries to fit in, in high school you want to be as independent as possible."
Then Mr. Maxwell said,
     "If you were to ask anyone what their hardest years of school were, most would answer middle school.  Why?  Even my wife who went through years of medical school said that it was for her."
"When I was in middle school I used to aggravate my L.A. teacher and look how I turned out, A middle school L.A. teacher. :)"

The discussion then turned to students asking about standards based reporting, but that's a whole other story....

I'd love to hear from you on twitter, in a comment, or by email on any of your thoughts!

What was the hardest part of your education?  How can you help educate your students about bullying and individualization?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

#DYF Should Students Be Allowed To Bring Computers To School?

@Russgoerend and @Amyquam 's kids are writing #DYF Posts about the same topic and I was inspired by them to write my own.

Student's should be able to bring a laptop, mobile device, iPad, or any other technological thing.  I think this because it would be a great benefit to their learning.  At this point at Waukee we would not be able to go 1:1 like this but it would be a nice start. 

The people that didn't have a laptop or mobile device could "borrow" one from the school for the day (not being able to take it home, it's not officially their property).

People also think that maybe it will get lost or stolen. My opinion is that they won't be stolen because everyone else will have one too so why would they want yours?  Plus I keep at least $400 (retail price) of items in my locker most of the day.  If nobody steals it now, they wont in the future.

Visit to read others #DYF Posts.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

21st Century Teaching

We had a substitute teacher in math class on Friday. We took a quiz that took about 30 minutes to finish.  12 minutes isn't enough time to start and finish a new lesson so we had "free work time" to read, draw, or do homework.

I was waiting for the infamous question of
     "Can we use our iPods?"
And sure enough it was asked before we even started the quiz.
This sub was an older lady and her answer was
    "Yes, but if I was your teacher there wouldn't be any of those things in this building.  All they do is distract people and cause interruptions to learning"

I realize in this case they were for entertainment purposes but my question is this
     "Does she know they are educational tools too?"

I use my iPod everyday for school purposes.  In fact, I couldn't imagine a day without it.  At the end of the day it's dead and ready to be charged again.
  • I take notes
  • look up information
  • Take pictures of directions to reference back to later
  • Access the wiki for assignments
  • Make movies
  • And it's been used as props many times
I have one last question, Does that sound distracting?

Reading Reactions

At the beginning of each quarter we make reading goals.  I wanted to be a higher thinking reader.  In order to do this I ask 2 questions, 1 connection, 1 prediction and a summary of each chapter.  I also try to read MORE often, to be truthful though I've found myself reading LESS because I don't like taking notes. 

Here's how I take notes now:

Whenever I started a new book I put 20 sticky notes in the front of my book.

As I read something that interests me I write on it and put it over that area of text.

At the end of the book I take all of my sticky notes and make them into a more formal reading journal.

There is one thing that I don't like about this system; my questions, connections, and predictions are too short.  I don't feel like I'm pushing myself enough and I'm not using my full brain capacity.

I'm going to try and solve this problem by using bigger sticky notes so there is more room to write.  Instead of using 4 little sticky notes I'm going to use 1 big sticky for that chapter.

I am hoping this will work for a few reasons:
     1. I have a lot of these I want to use up.
     2. I'll be able to go above and beyond my quota for the chapter.

Do you have a different way of taking notes?  What works for you?

Monday, February 21, 2011

#SBAR Thoughts

I haven't really gotten into this pool of education yet, just because I don't know a lot about it.  I'm dipping my feet in and testing out the waters.

I am making generalizations of the people involved in Waukee Middle Schools transition.

A majority of parent's don't support it:

They think,

  • It's hard to see their child's overall understanding of the subject.
  • How will they transition into high school?
  • How do you know your GPA?

A majority of students don't support it:

They think,

  • It doesn't give them anything to strive for.
    • Now:  "I want to get an A in Science and a 4.1 GPA"
    • Future "I want to get an S in writing multiple stanza poems"
  • It will be difficult to see what my grades are at any point.
A majority of teachers love it: 

They think,

  • It helps them serve individual students better.
  • They can reteach as needed to those that need it.
  • They can sort their students by understanding of topics.
 Most of these concerns by parents and students are due to lack of knowledge of the topic.  Most people are looking at how it was during elementary school, NO Powerschool, no online communications or technology at all. 

It would be like me, buying a 1st generation iPhone and never buying one again because I didn't like it.  I need to realize that Apple has changed lots of things in the past 5 years and I should try it again.
So, stop comparing this to what is happening in elementaries, because we're not in elementary anymore.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I have recently started using Evernote in Language-Arts to take notes.  It is easier because I can access them anywhere, it saves paper, and it makes me look smarter than I am. :)

As we read we take Cornell notes (format) on our books.
Evernote is nice because of it's great organizational methods.  I've made an "English Notes" section and tagged it notes, and Devils Arithmetic so I can find it later on.

I make each chapter a different note with the same tags.

It's also easy to edit them anywhere you need to.  In Language-Arts I type them on my iPod Touch that is brought along where ever I go.  And then later on when I need to type an essay, reflection, or paper on the book it's all at my fingertips.

Tech Tools Implementation

I've made some great technological advances lately that I'd like to share with everyone.

#1.  For Christmas I got a 4th generation iPod Touch for Christmas.  I use it for everything, except calling. (The one thing it doesn't do well)

#2. Evernote:  I've had the app on my iPod for since November and have been using Evernote web until last week when I installed the desktop program.

#3. Sony Bloggie:  I bought one thinking I would use it more often than I do.  I have used my iPod Touch for most videos & photography.  I've had this for 2 months and the first time I will have used it productively is tomorrow.

#4. Tweetdeck: It doesn't do too much that Hootsuite didn't but it's easier to use since it is a Chrome app.

#5. Chrome:  It's SOOO much easier to use than FireFox was.  It has basic options (like anything google) without all the confusion or ugliness of other browsers.  The best part though is the Web Store where you can get free apps or plug-ins, such as Tweetdeck.

These were in no specific order of greatness, just thought it was worth sharing!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Revolution Of Cell Phones Survey

I would greatly appreciate it if you would take 2 minutes to fill it out for me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

PBL Prezi Reflection

Today was a remarkable day.  I made my 1st Prezi ever for a Project Based Learning Unit focused around "What Computer Should I Buy."  I've never been a fan of the PBL stuff but this was quite fun to make and is alot more beneficial and meaningful than looking up the history of computers, or how a mouse works.

Sorry for the brief post, It was just a tad too long for a tweet.  My Prezi is posted below if anyone is interested in looking at amateur work.