Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Principles of Nature ~ Balancing the Tech

I have always been a stream-of-concsiousness kind of thinker... where one thing mentally leads you from on thing to the next.

Here, on the cusp of my first day back to school tomorrow (for my 21st set of "back-to-school teacher meetings" tomorrow), I'm finding myself in that kind of wistful mode of "reflection." As I ponder
"Teaching" and "Education" in general, I'm also simultaneously landing on my regular themes; my roles beyond being "Third Grade Teacher." Namely, all things "Eco" and all things "EdTech." 

Which of course, in thinking of school, naturally it gets me thinking of books.

I feel firmly that there are a few books that everyone in life should read, for their value goes far beyond entertainment alone. A mandatory life reading list, if you will.

Kate diCamillo's "Tale of Despereaux" is one. (Although I must say her "Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" is equally exceptional with its own incredible message for life.)  Also in the category of amazing books and messages is Randy Pausch's "The Last Lecture."  Likewise, there "The Little Prince" which beautifully leads one to see clearly what is important in life--which is love.

I also adore anything by Dan Gutman (in particular his compilation "Recycle This Book").  Dan's books are always funny, sometimes irreverent, and certainly powerful in building book lovers out of reluctant readers.

Then there is the book I just finished tonight, which marries my two professional loves:  Eco and EdTech.  It, also belongs on the list of lifelong required reading as a road to enlightenment. Richard Louv's book "The Nature Principle:  Reconnecting With Life in a Virtual Age."  This is his follow-up to his equally incredible (and list-worthy book) "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder."
 In "The Nature Principle" Louv poses that we are in the middle of an "info-blitzkrieg" [page 22].  We live in a world of electronics galore, which leads us to a state of "continuous partial attention" [p. 22] as we are distracted by texts, Facebook updates, and Smartphone interruptions. We need to combat our over-attention to the tech-world and balance the unbalance out by reconnecting with the natural world in order for "human health, well-being, spirit, and survival" [p. 3].  We need to load up on "Vitamin N: Nature" [p. 47].

One of my favorite quotes in the book is actually a hundred-year-old quote from environmentalist John Muir, which still holds true (perhaps more so) today:
"Thousands of tired, nerve shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life."
Yes, we all need a little bit of nature therapy, and perhaps even a prescription like the one from Richard Louv's Children and Nature Network Website (where you can get your own downloadable copy):

So I come back 'round, in my reflective space, and I consider what needs to be on my prescription notepad. I ponder it as a teacher who plans activities for my students; as a parent of two children whose eyes gleam at the mention of electronics; as an educator who is promoting iPad use in the classroom; and as an individual who routinely gravitates to my own computer/iPhone/iPad.  I need to look to my own required reading list, and see how I can work to start "even-ing out the balance."

One final quote from "The Nature Principle:"
"There's no denying the benefits of the Internet.  But electronic immersion, without a force to balance it, creates the hole in the boat--draining our ability to pay attention, to think clearly, to be productive and creative.... The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need." [p.24]
Go out and get what you need this school year!

Richard Louv books from; All other book images from GTG's Pinterest Page "Books Worth Reading"; Prescription from; "Nature Principle" book trailer from

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Heading Outdoors In These Last Lazy Days of Summer

outside activities with kidsAs the lazy days of summer are winding down, I think I am appreciating the great outdoors even more.  (It may be more of a matter of "livable humidity" rather than anything else, but I'm choosing to look at it as appreciating the valuable and non-renewable resource of "the days are few.")

Given that, I am trying to grab time with both hands. 

Whether you still have a few more days until your wee ones start back to school, or if you are a teacher looking for ways to embrace the outdoors with you class, here is a great list from "No Time for Flash Cards" blog entitled "50 Simple Outdoor Activities for Kids."  Tons of good stuff here!!

My favorites?  Going on a sound safari, going on a photo scavenger hunt, and painting like Jackson Pollack! 

At the end, I think the basic moral of the story is:  No matter what, go on and get yourself and your crew outdoors.  If it happens in your classroom, odds are it'll make the dinnertime conversation.  That's a wayyyy better answer than "Nothing" to the "What did you do today at school, dear" question!!

Pic from

Friday, August 17, 2012

Get Your Class Moving With iPads

Once again, Twitter and Pinterest come to the rescue, and help blog fodder land in my lap, marrying the edtech and the eco worlds of mine.

Here's an awesome SlideShare presentation I ran across, created by Shelly Terrell entitled "10+ Activities to Get Students Moving with an iPad."  It is great food-for-thought to get your creativity flowing here at the start of the new year to tie in real-world learning, creativity, student activity, and building a clarity of the senses. 

Cheers, kudos, and "Green Gracias" to Shelly Terrell. 
And now... get thee outside and discovering what's around you (with or without your iPad)!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Active Learners & Learning to Be Active

Yesterday, in my morning tiptoe through Twitter, I ran across what I imagined might become 2 future GTG blog posts. Yet the more I marinated over them the more I realized that they were truly two sides of the same coin--both of which complimented the eco-edtech focus of Green Team Gazette simultaneously.

My first discovery led me to the brief video below.  Entitled "The Voice of the Active Learner," it defines the digital learner of today. I know that in just the year-and-a-half of iPad use at my school, I've seen how the trends are turning, and how heavy hitting mobile learning is becoming in the educational playing field.  I often feel like I am a scrambling sponge who can't get enough or can't keep up with the rapid changing pace in education.  This is coming from someone who is a fairly connected teacher.  Knowing where teachers range on the tech-spectrum from compu-novices to fabulously fluent (with most somewhere in the middle), it causes me to wonder--and sometimes worry--about our nation of teachers.  I think this video does a great job of showing educators how current they do need to be/become in order to keep pace with the active, digital learner.

Yet, watching this video, I was struck too by how inactive (physically) the "active learner" can become with so much screen time.  It is here I often see myself reflected as I count up my own computer/tech-connected hours.  It doesn't take much to get me sucked into the "plugged in" vortex. Yet it is through this that it reconfirms to me how important it is as educators to reconnect students to the natural world.  The more "plugged in" we all become as a society, the more our Nature Deficit Disorder increases, the less connected we become with the outdoors, the more we become a nation of "Obesity in America," and the more we truly are in need of becoming "unplugged."   This is yet another reason why (as a nation) we need to ramp up our environmental literacy.

It was here where I found my second "find" du jour.  And why it made even more sense to combine these two "finds."

Bay Backpack ran a post yesterday on their blog about having a Recycling Relay Race.  In reading the article, I found beauty in the way they married a physical, outdoor activity with a recycling-awareness activity. As I thought more about that, and then again about the above video of the connected learner, isn't physical activity equally engaging?  Aren't we all more connected when our whole body is a part of it?  Can't the outdoors entice us and capture our attention--in the same way any electronics can?  Reminds me of a photo I've seen floating around Facebook and Pinterest:

In addition to Bay Backpack's Recycling Relay, check out the Bay Backpack's resource page for a slew of other lessons/activities to connect you to the outdoors.
While you're at it, here are some other resources to investigate in order to become an active steward for our environment.  Don't be surprised if many of them lead your students to become active learners in the whole-body, outdoorsy kind of way.
Video from, green grass & iPad image from, "The Original Playstation" from, Bay Backpack pic from

Friday, August 10, 2012

Interesting EdTech Finds in iPadLandia

'Tis the season for us teacher-folk to start mentally gearing up and getting back down to business.  Some of my Florida teacher friends even started back up this week.  I still have a few more, but the wheels are turning, especially when it comes to iPadLandia. 

Here are some interesting summer finds I've sent my colleagues.

First off, here is a really interesting article from the Langwitches Blog ("There is More to iPads in the Classroom Than Apps"), which I think is helpful in shifting from iPads as an "app" machine versus a "thinking" tool. There are some good graphics when you scroll down on multiple intelligences, different literacies, and Bloom's Taxonomy.  Here is an example of one of the ones she includes.

Additionally, Here are some great lesson ideas & apps in the world of iPadLandia. Something in here might be especially helpful if you are still looking for inspiration for any iPad lesson Summer Homework assignments.

--Learning and Sharing with Ms. Lirenman: Using an iPad in a Grade One Classroom
This is a great link. There are screenshots of all sorts of apps this teacher has had good success with--with 1st graders!!  I can't study it enough!

--Back to School App-pack: This link is just a downright treasure trove. It is listed by your goal of what you want the student to be able to word process, record audio, use as a camera, etc. Lots of good ideas just waiting to happen here!!

--Free e-Book: 20 iPad Lesson ideas - HOME - Edgalaxy: Where Education and Technology Meet: Most of this book is above elementary levels (more for HS or middle school), but it is really good at giving you some of the potentials of the iPad--especially for special classes like art, music, and PE!!!! 

--100 apps for Preschool: This Google Doc has a boatload of links for our littler folks. It is a spreadsheet where they list prices and easy links to iTunes for downloading.

--200+ Teacher Blogs over at "Mrs. Smith's Classroom" blog: These are educational blogs rather than iPad apps. But a wealth!

--If you are on Pinterest... here are 2 of my boards where I've been stockpiling a bunch of things that might also be helpful (there's a ton of educational items on Pinterest, which is a very visual way to save links to other pages).
       My iPad stockpile
       All things "EdTech"

--And last but not least, Rainbows Within Reach is hosting the "Great Edu-Pinner" Link Up, where she had posted a sign up for educational Pinterest pinners.  At last count, over 240 pinners had linked up (including yours truly).

Of course as usual, I'm awestruck at how much this is just the tip of the Internet-wealth iceberg!  Would love to hear any other great finds you'd love to share!

Pictures from:  Ipad image from; Multiple Intelligence apps from

Monday, August 6, 2012

Conservation Comics: Adrian Raeside's "The Other Coast"

It's amazing the things you find on Twitter.  Special thanks to @theblackfishorg for sharing a special Sunday conservation comic strip.  It takes me back to the days of yesteryear when I got my news not from the Internet, but from the newspaper--where the thick Sunday Funnies section was a particular favorite.  "Poignant" and "telling" rather than "funny" would perhaps be the better words to describe Adrian Raeside's 8/5/2012 "The Other Coast."  Who knows, it might inspire either you or your students to come up with a comic of your own!!

Comic from

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Befuddlement Day: What Would Jamie Oliver Say?

I am a strong supporter of a lot of "Days."  There's Earth Day, Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Father's Day, World Water Day, Labor Day, Global Wind Day, Veterans Day, and more.  I even get the cathartic kick out of a little melodramatic soap opera every now and then by with NBC's "Days of our Lives." 

But I'm a little curious (perhaps even befuddled) about today's "food" day:  Mike Huckabee's proposed "Chick-Fil-A Day."

Unless you've been living under a rock the last two weeks, you can't help but to see the latest in bipartisan vitriol between Chick-Fil-A, The Muppets & Jim Henson Company, and all the Fox News (& other media) coverage and commentary about city boycotts, restaurant bans, and beyond.  Odds are you can't even scroll very far down your FaceBook news feed without seeing a rash of commentary on both sides of the political stance.  Here are two of my "favorite" pics I've seen there:

There is no question that there are seriously strong opinions at play on both sides.  But here's where I'm befuddled.  Promoting a "Food of Choice" day?  Encouraging all Americans to dedicate a day and go out and eat fast food to support your cause?  I can't help but wonder "What would Jamie Oliver think?"

[In case you are uncertain, Jamie Oliver is the fella who took on Huntington, West Virginia in the 2010 TV series "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution."  Huntington was our American city that ranked highest in obesity.  Here in the past, I've written almost a dozen posts about Jamie Oliver and his quest to tackle the super-sizing of our waistlines .]

Here's what I personally think Jamie Oliver would say (& I haven't a clue--nor do I care--about his politics): 
Instead of boycotting or promoting restaurants, why don't Americans write letters to their congressmen.  Additionally, why don't Americas boycott calorie-infested, energy-empty food?  THAT might solve a whole feast of problems, starting w/obesity in America. (Pun intended.)

One of the commentaries I have heard is that the Chick-Fil-A argument is about our First Amendment right of Freedom of Speech.  Agreed.  I've also heard it is a matter of voting with our dollars.  Equally agreed.  How we, as global citizens, spend out hard earned money should be not only a vote for our political opinions (as is being argued here on Huckabee's Chick-Fil-A day), but also for our health.  And unfortunately, due to convenience and often cost we don't always economically-vote in a healthy manner.  (Case and point: which is cheaper--a bag of potato chips or a bag of organic fruits and veggies?)  More times than not, we are shopping with time, convenience, and "crap food" rather than shopping with "health" in mind.

I have been traveling for nearly the last 2 weeks.  During that time, I have frequented a lot of fast food joints.  Healthy eating hasn't been my top concern, but rather maximizing the time I spent with the people I was visiting.  I must admit though, I have felt that choice in my body (high levels of saturated fat and sodium aren't my friend), in my lowered energy levels, and with the numbers that are popping up on my scale in the aftermath.  So for me, I'm not going to be frequenting any fast food restaurant today.
All that being said, here is another reason
I think I'll be hanging out at home as well.