Guest Blog for EdCamp March 28, 2018
Guest Blog for Hoonuit February 8, 2018
Guest Blog for EdTech Team February 10, 2017
It was so much fun presenting at the Texas Library Association Conference.
Librarians, Teaching Librarians, Library Media Specialists, Media Specialists, or whatever title is used are some of the most passionate, hard working people I have ever met. And some of the most taken advantage of and disrespected. As a former school librarian, I know firsthand the work that goes into being a librarian. Becoming a librarian taught me so much about leadership, about dealing with multiple different stakeholders, and about programming and planning events.
However, even though they are such hard workers, I heard over and over again about the mistreatment they get and how many of their positions were being cut. I don't understand education sometimes. You have an expert in literacy, in literature, in technology, and in programming on your campus and you dismiss their value and worth at every turn. Now, I know I have someone saying...that doesn't sound like my school librarian. Well, there are people not good at their job in every profession. And I have definitely seen some librarians that needed to be replaced pronto because they gave all of us a bad name. But I have seen SO many more excellent, caring professionals that just get a raw deal.
So many that supervise them don't really understand what a librarian is supposed to do. Well, let me tell you. A librarian is there to support instruction, to support the curriculum, to teach digital citizenship, to teach research, to foster a love of literacy and reading, to create programs and so much more!
If I ask you who knew about Hoonuit, I am not sure how many people would raise their hands. That may be because it used to be called Atomic Learning...now it is Hoonuit by Atomic Learning. I, who am sometimes late to the train, found out about Hoonuit a little while ago and I love it!
So, I must let you know about my experience if you are thinking of using Hoonuit!
First, I love learning. I do several types of presentations, but you cannot be effective at presenting if you are not continuously learning. Second, because of my busy schedule, I really need to learn at my own pace in my own time. So, I was looking for a way to do that besides the ways I was already using. Someone suggested Hoonuit to me. I was pleasantly surprised that they had so many different topics, including technology topics I have been wanting to learn for years, but could never get to a class (I am looking at you Adobe Suite). I was still skeptical about it though…I wanted to see if the teacher’s voice annoyed me, were the videos boring, did they teach at a snail’s pace, was the content relevant and up-to-date and so forth. I wanted to test a class to see if I agreed with the content and liked the style. So, I chose something I knew I already knew: classroom management.
And, again, I was pleasantly surprised! I liked that the content was broken up in five minute or less (many of them less) videos. That was helpful when I needed to stop it…I could come back directly to where I left off. I also liked that the speaker’s voice was very clear and easy to follow (professional). The images were stock images or bullet points of what the speaker was saying. The bullet points really helped me over stock images because I am partly a visual learner. The only thing that I did not like was that the videos did not keep playing if I wanted them to continuously play the whole playlist. I had to manually start each video (1st world problems, I know).
And as for as the content, the teacher/presenter was spot on! I even learned some classroom management examples that can work for lower grade levels (which is never my strength). I am so pleased that this is a product that I can add to my own personal learning plan (and suggest to others)! It is great to have something that I can use on my own time that is professional and no-nonsense (get straight to the point with me).
And I do like that they have added other steps if you want to get a certificate for the course. If you want the certificate, there is the Do-It, Share-It, Prove-It model. This is where you do a small project with your new skills and share that project. That is good because others can see it and give you feedback on it (I plan to use this A LOT with the Adobe Suite I am about to start learning).
So…if you could not tell, I am very satisfied with Hoonuit! I believe in the product so much that I decided to get certified in it. I love learning about things that are just no-nonsense! Educators don’t always have time for the cutesy things…sometimes we just need to learn what we want to learn and start using it. Hoonuit allows that for me!
Participation. Connection. Inclusion. Engagement.
We all want our students to enjoy their school experience inside and outside of the classroom. However, if our tweens and teens are not a part of the obvious clubs and groups at our schools, sometimes they really have no way of getting involved. I propose that is where teen programming comes into play: creating programs where teens can be involved and feel that connection with others. We all know how important this is because many of our tweens and teens feel hopeless with no connection to others. Offering diverse types of programs before, during and after school can help attract those teens who may not be into band, sports, academic clubs and the like. So, here are 12 programs I have planned/hosted to consider at your campus. Most of these events are completely free or you may want to offer some snacks that can cost under $20. Also, even though some of the programs have “night” in the title, many of them were immediately after school.
1. Before School Game Shows
If many of your students hang out in one area before school, create some game shows to host during that time. You can have your students sign up to participate and all you need is some organization and a mic with speakers. To get you started, you can play “Are You Smarter than a Teacher?” putting students against teachers in trivia, “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” where they try to say the next line to popular songs, “Last Comic Standing” where they can try out their best jokes while trying to make the other person laugh, a rap/signing competition, a poetry slam, and anything else you and your students can think of! Let them start creating and hosting the events too.
2. Book Clubs
Some of your students that you would never think of are avid readers. The thing about this book club is you let them choose and vote on the book they want to read. And it does not have to be traditional literature…open it up to Manga and comic books and the like! You can get copies of the books from the local school and public libraries, from online resources/electronic copies, from book publishers (sometimes all it takes is for you to ask), and using grant money/donations.
3. Straight Talk
One of my most popular programs was called Straight Talk. I gathered topics that my students told me they were interested in and got speakers to talk on those topics. It was not only a way to get my students “real” information about what they were interested in, but it was a way to bring the community into the school to get involved. I would tell our speakers that there were no canned speeches…everything they presented had to be straight talk—honest and open communication. We hosted admission officers from different colleges come and speak about what they really look for on college applications and how to avoid pitfalls. Local business managers came to discuss how to get jobs at their locations (and some students dressed up for this one to make a good impression). A local bank came to discuss money issues, how not to get into credit card debt (especially for our seniors going to college the next year), credit scores and such. Personal trainers came to discuss the right ways to stay fit and nutrition/eating disorders. Manga publishers came to discuss how to break into the Manga to write and draw. Mary Kay came to give makeovers and Men’s Warehouse came to tell them how to dress for success (and brought coupons that could help with prom). We had so many students attending these (and parents for some of them) that we had to start having sign ups or saying first come, first serve until the seats run out.
4. Movie Nights
Just having a safe, fun space to come to watch a movie that they probably have already seen is a nice haven to offer your students. Think about days when they may feel extra lonely, like Valentine’s Day. We had an Anti-Valentine’s Day scary movie night (right after school) where we showed an appropriate scary movie. So many teens showed up to just hang with friends or to have something to do. Or showing that popular teen drama as soon as it is released is a nice touch!
5. Game Nights
You would be surprised how board games bring people together. Most of us have a stash of board games, so get with a couple of other people to bring their games too and you have a party! We had special game nights for teachers and some for students. Then, we decided to combine them and have a student versus teacher game night. It was great to see students from diverse backgrounds and social cliques sit at the same table to play Uno or Jenga! We also had throwback games like Candyland and Chutes and Ladders. We also set up a TV and had someone bring their Wii system to play sports games. Throw each game on a table and have the rest on a cart and the program took care of itself!
6. Trivia Nights
Think of all the different topics you can have a trivia night for and the different students you would attract! Have sports trivia, popular book trivia, TV/Movie trivia, gaming trivia, cooking trivia, and the list goes on! You can attract so many subsections of your population and have fun while doing it. Prizes can be free items such as jean days or homework passes or small items such as things from your school store or candy! You don’t have to break the bank to have fun! And you can find all your trivia questions online.
7. Get Fit Nights/Lunch
Pop in a Zumba DVD and let the good times roll! Letting your students get active and do it in a safe, fun environment is key! Do it in the gym, cafeteria or library where you have space to dance and have fun.
Do you have that group of Manga/Anime lovers? Get them involved with a Cosplay event. Let them come together to meet their favorite characters in person (each other dressed up as their favorites) and give a prize for the best costume (box of theater candy is $1 at some big chain stores). Of course, you would have rules of appropriate dress, but let them have fun and show their creativity (and have some events for them to do when they are there).
9. Poetry Slam
Let your creative writing students and rappers have their moment to shine. It will shock you how some students that you never hear from have such deep thoughts! Have them sign up, but also have some time for them to come up to do a poem if the moment hits them. Maybe even invite some local poets as well.
I did not know how much tweens/teens loved Do It Yourself (DIY) projects! Whether it was making mason jar banks, duct tape wallets, snow globes, paracord bracelets, or melted crayon art, it seems that different students were into making different things, so this program brought in many types of students. For the supplies, sometimes your students have their own, you can get them donated, or you may have to buy them. If you must buy them, know your budget and put a participation number on the event (only 10 students can sign up).
11. Physical Competitions
Think The Hunger Games! You can have students competing in teams in several different challenges! They can test their intellect (trivia), aggressiveness (musical chairs), memory (putting random items on a table and letting one team member see it for a minute and then they have to act out the items on the table so their team can write down what they saw), creativity/speed (trying to put jelly beans in a bag using a fork), teamwork/speed/creativity (have them work together to complete a task such as each person has to do something different with a hula hoop and also do what each person did before them), self-preservation (eating dirt-Oreos and pudding-without using hands), and alliances/teamwork/speed (having them hold hands and try to get a hula hoop from one side of the line to the other without letting go of hands). There are so many different examples of games online, but just have them form teams and be competitive and have fun!
12. Murder Mystery Nights
Read more about how to do these in my previous blog here: https://www.educatoralexander.com/honestly-desiree-blog/murder-at-the-library.
So, there you go! 12 programs you can plan to get your students more involved at your school and to reach all your diverse student population. Try holding events at different times since all students may not be able to stay after school. Also, you can contact for more information about any of these!
Are you looking for a new, innovative program to hook your teens? Well, what about a murder, darling? Holding a murder mystery at your library can be a fun, different event that is cost-effective and a night your teens will never forget. These are 10 steps to throw a murder mystery on a budget:
Ever since I took my first breath, I have been underestimated.
Being born with a cleft palate and cleft lip, my mother was told by the doctor not to expect much from me. He told her I probably wouldn't be social, I wouldn't speak that well, and would probably not excel in school.
Thank God my mother did not listen to him and raised me, along with my father, to be a strong woman. I definitely had setbacks: I had to take speech classes, wear braces, face teasing, have surgeries, etc. However, I learned very quickly through the very supportive family and friends in my life that my cleft did not define me. I grew and I excelled.
After being an Army brat, we settled in a small town in Louisiana. Going to my high school, I faced a few teachers who seemed to underestimate me! That only made me work harder! I realized when adults underestimated me, especially when I felt it was for racial reasons, it really fueled my fire to work. Succeeding was my way of fighting! However, I would never talk about my succeeding. That is why when it was announced that I was fourth (and then later moved to fifth--that's as story for another time) in my class, I had some classmates exclaim, "Wow...we didn't know you were that smart."
OK. Thanks again!
Now, in my adult life, I have definitely had setbacks! However, I have had so many INCREDIBLE people in my life...they have helped me overcome so much! Recently, I was in a position where many people underestimated me. It was horrible. I started to feel like worse than nothing...like I was worthless and could do nothing right. Around the same time, I felt something growing inside me: motivation. The more I felt worthless in that position, the more I felt empowered to create something of my own! Them underestimating me lead to me branding myself and the creation of my own company, which has lead to some amazing, life-changing, not in my wildest dreams opportunities.
So, what I have learned about myself is the more those around me underestimate me, the more they motivate me! It is a strong, real consequence of them either trying to bring me down or not thinking I am worth anything. I share this to say this: PICK YOURSELF UP! If they do not see your worth, find faith in your higher power and find faith in your family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances...anyone who sees the greatness in you. If you have no one around you that does, then find faith in yourself. You can do this!
Let their underestimation be your motivation too!
Too much inspiration...is there such a thing?
I just finished an EdTech Event in California that was simply awesome! Jennie Magiera and Rafranz Davis were the keynote speakers and I got to hang with them and talk about the education issues of the day. I left this event tired, of course, but so, so inspired!
But then something odd happened. My inspiration took me to a dark place of almost hopelessness. I began to do the worst thing I know you can do in this educational landscape: COMPARE! I began to think...there is no way I will ever be where these ladies are...great speakers, so knowledgeable of the educational issues of the day and how to solve them, and just overall great people who are always willing to help.
Now, don't get me wrong! I think I am awesome (and oh so humble...haha). However, sometimes I see some of the amazing things that others are doing all around me and I feel I do not measure up! And I KNOW others are feeling the same way because I get emails and comments that say things like "how do you do it all" and "I want to be you when I grow up." And I stop and think that I am not doing anything special...I am just doing what I am passionate about...helping teachers in any way I can.
So when my inspiration leads me to that dark place, I know I need to stop, breathe and realize that I need to stop comparing myself to others. The world needs ALL of us because we all bring different things to the educational landscape. And then I realize why I was so inspired by Rafranz and Jennie in the first place! It is not because I want to be them, but because of who they are! In her keynote, Jennie spoke about wanting to be a teacher EXACTLY like her former teacher who she respected, but her former teacher told her, "If you try to be me, then who will be you?" Let that sink in for a minute...
JUST BE YOU! BE INSPIRATIONAL, BE KIND, BE KNOWLEDGEABLE, AND SHARE YOU WITH THE WORLD!
It has been a year!
It has been a very exciting year since I became a Google Innovator in #COL16! It has truly been a whirlwind and so much has changed in my life since that time. I have met the most amazing people and feel like I am part of an amazing family!
I didn't think I would get in.
I was new to this world of Instructional Technology and I decided to kick down the door and be as active as I could in this world. I heard about a Google certification. I wasn't completely sure what it was and how it would help me, but I knew I loved and taught Google products, so why not! I was interested and started down the path to becoming a Google Certified Trainer (old program). Then, I learned you can become Level 1 and 2 certified, so that was next! Finally, I learned Google had an Innovator program, but that it was hard to get in. I decided there was no good reason not to apply and at least try, so I did! I got in on the first try! And then...my journey began.
I had just started my company, Educator Alexander Consulting, LLC, and that was where all of my passion flowed. So, I decided that when they asked me to chose a passion project, my company was a no-brainer. And it worked! I was thrilled to go to Colorado for the first time and meet other people who were passionate about education, technology, and Google!
You know how people say there are events in your life that are so life-changing that there is a before that event and an after that event. Well, this was one of those events! The people I met...the things I learned...my life would never be the same. Before this, I thought I was getting into the instructional technology world, but through this, I learned that there were so many things that I did not even know about.
I was transformed!
I am so happy and proud to be a part of this community...of this family! It has opened up so many doors for me and my company. It has lead me down roads I did not know existed and I feel like this is only the beginning for me.
If you are thinking of applying, do it! If you have applied already and did not get accepted, apply again and reach out to an Innovator for help with your application. It can happen for you and, take it from me, it is absolutely worth it.
Do it! It is one of the best decisions I have made in my life!
Desiree Alexander aka Educator Alexander is excited about her first blog, Honestly Desiree! Learn more about her at www.educatoralexander.com/about.