Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Make Time To Fall In Love With Fall

A week ago, we were all saying:

A week later... I'm still having a little bit of a hard time with that.

Don't get me wrong.  I do love fall.  
It's gorgeous, the colors--at their height--are amazing. 
The beauty seems to transform each and every day.  
The crispness and coolness are delightful, and it's like we can breathe after the summer (and then again in Indian Summer) days of swampy, sweaty mess.

But, autumn means shorter days... and it means saying goodbye to my pool.  

This is the arrow in my heart!

The pool makes summer's heat endurable, and it brings me as close to meditation as I get.  (Clearly I need to work on this.)  The canopy of backyard greenery and leaves almost makes breathing easier.  You can't sweat in a pool.  And the backyard commute is the perfect length of time.  
It's my place to play with my kids, my crazy dog, and my own thoughts while chillaxing as only teachers can in the summer.  Major decompression!  Ahhh!

Now, we're clearly back to school, and it won't be long until the pool gets closed up.  The water temperature has already dramatically shifted, 
and it's lost its solar magic.  I miss it terribly, already.  

But that's when we need I need to embrace the season-specific outdoor activities that you can only do in October & November.  And I need to make sure to carve time out for more than pumpkins... but rather for all of those things as 
I'm knee-deep in the back-to-school busy!  

Note to self: Make time to fall in love with fall!

What types of things do you like 
to make sure to sit & take the time for 
while the leaves are turning?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Pope's U.S. Pilgrimage... & the Presidential Pups

Unless you've been under a rock the last few days, you know that Pope Francis is in the United States.  He stopped first in Washington, DC, then New York, now he's off to Philadelphia. Certainly 3 iconic cities here in the U.S.

Last night, Friday night, I came home wiped and mentally spent after a long (though good) day of Professional Development. I came home with two pizza boxes in hand.  Ah...the life of an elementary teacher here in the first month of school!

Plopping in the couch to eat with my family., we were tuned in to CNN.  On Friday night, the Pope was touring around Central Park in the "PopeMobile" and then going on to speak at Madison Square Garden, ousting my man, Billy Joel, from his arena. For good and obvious reason.

So it is Friday night, and we are riveted by the Pope. There is something slightly awe-inspiring about this on a traditionally happy-hour-kind-of- night.

I saw the above picture yesterday on Facebook, and it seems to centralize the humanity of the Pope. I view myself as more spiritual than religious, and time in outdoors can become more heartfelt and inspirational at times than some church sermons.  But, I have children and I want them to get some religious education.  This is perhaps why that quote spoke to me.

Despite the fact that Snopes refutes the above, illustrated quote, there are indeed elements of truisms in the quote that date back to history.  How many stories through the ages are there of corruption in the ancient church?  How many people do you know who go to Saturday night mass or Sunday morning church to ask for forgiveness for weekly transgressions of true meanness and wrong doing, with the idea that if I confess I am led to absolution?  How many hate crimes are on the news due to supposedly doing so in the name of God? Being a church-goer doesn't necessarily make you a good person.  You can be spiritual in nature, in your living room, on your back patio, and also in church.

I think it's because of the hope we have in this Pope that quotes like the above speak to us. More than hope, it's also about faith, adoration, respect.  We respect that he turned down a pricy plated lunch with DC politicians to go share a meal with the homeless.  We appreciate his views on humanity and embracing being a good person and being good stewards to our planet.  We are touched by his level to pass down the pomp & circumstance and to go a simpler route.  And that crosses religious lines:  it doesn't matter what your religious bias and leanings are.

Shephard Smith said it well in regards to how we are politicizing things that are just good basic human kindnesses that are traditional teachings of the church:

Plus, who can question the goodness, kindness, & compassion of the Pope--clearly a lover of the Presidential Pups?!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

My Love-Hate Relationship With Technology: A Litany of Links

If you have been hanging out with me for awhile, you know that the previous two posts were the first 2/3 of my true confession trilogy of my love-hate relationship with technology, despite being a tech teacher.  You can find them here and here.

Clearly I'm not the only one out there that has spent some time and energy thinking about this one. Below are a bounty of pieces that might make you think and rethink yours and your children (and your students) attachment to technology.

Let's start with an infographic:

And here's a litany of other links on this subject:

And let's end with the "Book Book:

Saturday, September 19, 2015

My Love-Hate Relationship With Technology: Unplugging

As I've mentioned before...
I have a love-hate relationship with technology.

You can learn so much online.
You can waste so much time online.
Your children can become zombified. Just. Like. That.

Sometimes we need to step out of the routine and rut of our "Tech Connect" and go cold turkey and be unplugged.  Vacations are like that.  You are out of your normal setting, your typical sphere.  You put yourself in places you haven't been and you really start seeing.

Unplugging is like that too!  It opens you up to the things that you have been omitting for awhile.

To let you know how well that's going from a tech-teacher and adult-side:
My phone screen recently broke.  My phone is my main line tool of connection, of calendar, of note-taking, of book-reading, of idea-making:  my everything.  It's akin to apolectic shock.  I hurt.  I reeled in pain.  It let to momentary panic of "What am I going to do?"  It led to a trip to the Verizon store.

All that aside:  I am a mom.  And I want my tech-generation kids to unplug naturally. Yeah right. We all need strength, will power, clarity, and vision.  Because in doing so, you really do see.  Broken screen and all!!

Unplugging routinely is healthy, but hard.  This poetry slam piece from Marshall Davis Jones entitled "Touchscreen" really shows us the clear-cut case of addiction that we all know we are sucked into.

 Marshall Soulful Jones, part of Team Nuyorican 2011, 2nd place finishers at the National Poetry Slam in Boston, performs "Touchscreen". The Bowery Poetry Club NY

Stay tuned for the final part in my trilogy of my Love-Hate Relationship where we will get some more morsels to help you analyze your own and your kids attachment to technology.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My Love-Hate Relationship with Technology: My Top 5's on Both Sides

True confessions from an elementary school Technology Specialist:

I have a love-hate relationship with the technology of today.

My Top 5 Loves:
  • In the classroom, technology opens up doors for student engagement. My favorite folder on our student iPads is the "Create & Write" Folder--filled with apps designed exactly for just that! (That being said, technology is one tool, not the holy grail. There are times when low-tech and no-tech options like games, thinking skills, cooperative learning, outdoor experiences are better suited for the task at hand.)
  • For people who love to learn, computers and mobile devices hold so many opportunities to keep your knowledge base going and growing--from software, to apps, to coding opportunities, to the wealth of information called the Internet. This holds true for students & adults alike.
  • iPads, smartphones, & laptops are all ripe with their ability to hold everything in one place.  I remember days-gone-by, packing for a trip: the handful of books I was currently reading in one bag, another one filled with a magazine or two, a music player, maybe a movie, my camera, my calendar, my notebook/journal, any maps, my cell phone, my address book... Now, you've got it packaged all neatly in one place for one-stop-shopping, especially once you connect to wifi.
  • Given the 1-device-ness mentioned above, not only are you packing lighter, but you are packing in a much more eco-friendly way.  My daughter's middle school is almost completely a paper-free environment thanks to their 1:1 iPad program.  That is saving a lot of trees!
  • Technology tools can be used for such a force of good when it comes to 21st century skills:  creativity, connection, collaboration, critical thinking, and more. 

My Top 5 Hates:
  • I am a tech teacher, and I am a mom of tech-loving children.  Given that, I have to be the "Tech Czar" to my own kids--telling them when to turn it off, take a break, and unplug.   (Nobody likes that job!)  I'm still working on ways to have them self-monitor that more, but I haven't found the magic in that one.  (See below.)
  • The seduction & addiction is hard enough for us adults to know when it's time to step away from our devices.  How can we truly expect children to self-monitor this?  (See above.)
  • Given my job, I use my devices for research, for work, for creating lesson plans, and following trends.  I am on tech a lot...which means this is the example I set for my kids.  I try to explain to them how my curation & creation is different than their frequent consumption.  (I mean, how many Minecraft Youtube videos can they really watch?!)  Sometimes this falls on headphoned-ears.
  • To cultivate creativity, studies have shown us that you need to get bored. Steve Jobs knew that and limited his own kids and their computer time.  Can you get bored with your device? In this age of multi-tasking (which never really goes well), we don't ever really get there.  Once you start getting bored, you switch apps, and move on, being driven by instant gratification. Innovation & invention won't really enter the picture if you are time-slicing (or bouncing from one thing to another) at a speed-racer-pace.
  • I've found myself doing everything I made fun of when the first "Blackberry" (aka "Crackberry") came out.  How many times do we check our devices?  (Apparently there's an app to answer that!) How near is it in any given situation?  I have found myself become more Adult-Onset-ADHD. Check email. Text a couple people simultaneously. Play Words With Friends. Scan Pinterest. Check Facebook. Play another Word....Not to mention Twitter, Instagram, the weather, and anything else we can't live without--or so we've told ourselves. We've all seen the family of 4-5 who are all laser-locked at a restaurant table, each on their own device, silent as mice.
So....what's a techie teacher to do in this double-edged sword world in which we live?

As with anything, I know it all comes down to balance & moderation.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Innovation: The Key to Fixing the Eco Problems of the World

Deon Jackson sang in 1966 that "love makes the world go 'round."

He was right. And our world could certainly use more LOVE and less HATE. The nightly news (any day of the week--but especially in the anniversary season of 9/11) will tell you that. But the nightly news will also reveal more than crime in our cities. Wildfires. Droughts. Floods. Climate change (why are we still debating this, people?). Pollution. Marine debris. Deforestation.

Love alone isn't going to handle it.

We also need a heavy dose of innovation & innovators to take the lead, healing our planet by solving the problems we face.  Bill Gates knows it (and just recently wrote about it on his GatesNotes blog). As I've written about, at least 12 young eco leaders were driven by innovation.  The creators of the Hidrate Bottle & the Baltimore trash collecting water wheel were too.  As are people facing drought conditions in California.

Innovation is the springboard, and it is what it will take to make "green fixes of the world."  That means our job as educators is to grow innovators. Sometimes, that spark starts in organically in outdoor experiences during childhood.  Other times, that sparks comes from both those spontaneous teachable moments, while other times it comes in a well-crafted lesson.

2014-11-11-Explorationisthe1.jpgBill Gates spoke about this in his blog post on clean energy innovation at the end of July.  His innovation intention: to invest $1 billion in clean energy over the next 5 years. His view: through innovation, the "pace of progress" can be accelerated. Climate-change wise, poverty-wise, clean-food-wise, anti-pollution-wise.

Here are 8 resources to encourage innovation, investigation, curiosity, critical thinking, & a problem solving mindset (in both students & educators!):
  • "The Last Generation of Kids That Played Outside," the November 2014 Huffington Post article by Nate Hanson
    • This is one of the most powerful articles I have ever read! It continues to linger in my teacher (& parent) brain. The gist: how our current innovators [who have created all the techy gizmos we now love] were outdoor players. This quote is striking, as it reminds me of my childhood. It shows the difference between the bucket of LEGOs I got as a kid, and the instruction-based kits my children now get:
    "You weren't dependent on someone else's creativity and ingenuity. You knew how to dream. You didn't need someone to entertain you or design things for you to have fun with. You could create a game with pinecones and sticks. When this past generation of Apple creators sat down to dream up the next product, I believe they subconsciously drew back on their own 'backyard' roots. They knew how to solve problems because they had solved them before. They knew how to dream up new possibilities because they had been doing that since they were a kid." ~ Nate Hanson
  • 5 Ways To Encourage Kids to Grow Up to Be Innovators by Gwen Moran 
  • 5 ways to get your students started on global PBL projects from ISTE 
    • Whether you begin searching from 5 miles away to 5K, the global project-based learning connects all cultures to solve problems. The article promotes finding a cause, doing the research, using social media both in searching or taking action, and going small and large while looking both locally and globally.  That real world connection is what will make the difference!
  • Choose2Matter 
    • This website is dedicated to inspire folks to work together to creatively tackle social problems. It's an online community for students and teachers, with resources galore to promote collaboration, critical thinking, boldness, bravery, and action in the real world of problem solving.
  • Tech For Good 
    • Here you have a 3 in one: a website. a meetup, and a hashtag: #techforgood. Their mission is to carve the path of innovative solution for social and environmental challenges through technology. The meetup groups at Tech For Good want to unite the "hackers, coders, developers and designers with people who really understand a social problem and want to build digital solutions to social challenges." The Tech For Good TV website houses a number of inspirational videos.
  • Recipe for Innovation 
    • Brought to you by Chobani & Discovery Education, this website is ripe with virtual field trips and actvities for K--12th graders combining entrepreneurship and nutrition education.
  • Filapino Teacher Wins National Outstanding Green-o-vation Award from
    • Here is an example of environmental education innovation...and well deserved accolades.  Jennifer Suzara-Cheng won the 2015 Green Difference Awards this past spring in Massachusets.  Combining STEM and "green" teaching, Ms. Suzara-Cheng has shown the importance of getting kids outside to sharpen their critical thinking skills to solve real world needs.
Innovation is what it's going to take to make the world continue to go 'round.

Deon Jackson album cover; Edith Widder quote from; Chalkboard brainstorm pic from

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Nature RX

"Nature has a marketing problem."  So say the good folks at Nature RX.

It's like they read my mind, my recent posts, and GTG.  Or at least Richard Louv's book.  (Deep down inside, I know which one it is!)

From their website--that's exactly what they are doing--marketing Nature:
"The creators of Nature Rx love making films and the outdoors.  Nowadays everything has a brand and marketing campaign.  What about nature?  Maybe a dose of humor and the outdoors would be a good prescription.  Time for Mother Nature to get her own commercial." ~ Justin Bogardus, writer/director of Nature Rx
Take a peek at their videos on their YouTube Channel or here below, 
and be ready to chuckle a bit on the way....then go get yourself outside!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

HidrateMe Smart Water Bottle

This summer has once again led me on a quest toward healthy eating. Upping my water intake, lowering my vices (Diet Coke & red wine), enjoying the ripeness of seasonal fruit, and having the time to allow for a more clean style of cooking and eating. This perpetual quest that indeed seems to get a tad more difficult each year. (What is it about the busy-ness of the school year that leads to the annual "up and down roller coaster" weight graph on my Fitbit app??)

But summer is golden, opening up the time, making it easier to jump on the bandwagon of good health and a heartier commitment to exercising.  My fingers are crossed that I can do the same now that the school year is upon us!

Being techy-minded, I gravitate to "oohing" and "ahhing" over the new gizmos. Luckily "geek" is in vogue. In this fast-growing world of innovation where no stone is left unturned, that includes tech help for healthy lifestyles.

Luckily, there's soon to be "an app for that" as there's a "smart water bottle" on the horizon.

HidrateMe is one of the latest crowdsourced "body-tech" finds out there on Kickstarter. The main HidrateMe objective is to track your water intake in real time.  With a Kickstarter goal of $35,000 to fund the HidrateMe bottle, they chimed in as overachievers, raising more than $600,000.

Slate has an interesting article on the subject.  I will say, I like it. I like the reusable concept. I like that it is chic and moves us away from purchasing plastic bottled water (& the waste that produces). I know I drink more water when I am trekking around town with water in hand. I could totally see the reminder glow as a good Pavlovian response for me to drink more water!!  However, I will say, the price point of $46.95 might be a little high for my blood.  Though, it might make my Christmas wish list as a splurge item.

At the very least, I think it's brilliant that the HidrateMe team saw a need, went the distance with their entrepreneurial spirit to make it happen, and clearly found that this is a niche needing to be filled (as Kickstarter proved). Kudos, team! I can't wait to see where you go!

Video from, "Water" pic & quote from my phone, using the Motivational Poster app, HidrateMe bottles from

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Innovation Defined


No matter the iteration, "innovative" is one of those words that just keeps popping up these days. Commercials. Leadership podcasts. Education books & blogs. Educational trends of STEM & STEAM, Project Based Learning,, & the blossoming Maker Movement.

It's making me wonder: is it really more in vogue lately, or am I operating under the universal magnet of the "law of attraction" where you are drawn to what's on your mind?

Maybe, just maybe, innovation is the key we need these days to solve ... well, just about everything: environmentally and socially.  (But more on that in another post.)

Perhaps the best definition I have found on innovation is the The Innovative Manager's Manifesto:

For some inspiration, hop over to The Innovative Manager for "25 Innovation Quotes That Can Change Your Life." Then, see what you can do to "put a dent in the universe!"

Lightbulb pic from; Innovation Manifesto image from