Not at all intentional

December 9th, 2014

About 15 years ago — in November — I attended a Classroom Connect conference in Long Beach, CA.   I cannot remember the speaker (it was a women) but I do remember the room — and the moment.   She shared about David Warlick’s Global Grocery Project —

Oh, I am sure she shared many other things — but that one stuck — and lingered — and fermented a bit.   And as I kept rolling it through my mind — though it was interesting — it was daunting.   I wanted to host some sort of “data collection” project but I could not let it overwhelm….so I continued to twirl it in my brain…..until I came to 1 conclusion — we would gather info on the oreo cookie — since there were several variables of eating them — and see what happens……

And so I blasted out an email to my Email Group — and began my wandering into Online Projects.  I honstely thought I would host 1 project — poof and be done.  Never in a million years was the idea to be an Online Project host for 15 years an intentional goal — yet —

15 years ago today.

And as I wander down memory lane — I think of so many memories — some good, some not so good — but all that have molded technospud projects into jenuinetechprojects into ProjectsByJen.

Almost all the projects I have hosted can be found on this page:  http://projectsbyjen.com/archives.htm – if you want to wander through —

But for now — here are 10 Memories I have — of my projects — since 1999 —

10.  The DC Duck Project. 
To this date, still my favorite project.   A 23 day project as we waited for a Mallard Duck’s ducklings to hatch in front of the US Treasury Department.   http://projectsbyjen.com/Projects/dcducks/dcduckshome.htm
The icing on the cake was the student who convinced his parents to DRIVE HIM TO THE duck to have his picture taken.
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Not even an inkling of an idea for this project- – but WOO HOO memorable!!   Something many of us will always ALWAYS remember!

9.  Shoeless and Bark
I have to admit that I did not know a lot about Lewis and Clark — but their bi-centennial anniversary was coming up — and it just cried out for a project.   So I put together a travel buddy project FILLED with a 5 day lesson plan, items of interest (maps, coins, etc) – plus 2 beanie babies — a cat named Shoeless and a dag named Bark — to help students learn more about Lewis and Clark.   (To this day people still are figuring out that Shoeless and Bark rhyme with Lewis and Clark — grins, I thought that that was obvious.)  http://projectsbyjen.com/Projects/snb2005/index.htm The first 2 times I hosted this project it was flawless…everyone followed through — no so much with the last 2 times.   But my biggest memory from Shoe and Bark was when I received an email from my friend, Effie — who shared with me the story of how one of her shyest students came dressed as Pocahontas many months after the box had been at their school — for a party.    The project had impacted her so — and she wanted to dress up to share with others.   I still tear up about this one!
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8.  The name game

Once I started hosting projects — I realized that I truly was becoming a couch potato — but being Jen, I could not call myself that ordinary name — so I had to be clever — and I became a TechnoSpud.   Clever, cute — and I had a graphic made especially for this:
technospud

But after a while — cutesy wasn’t what I was looking for — it lacked a bit of respect, a bit of professionalism — so I wandered over into Jenuinetech.  (still cute — but a bit more professional).    But then, a few years ago — I did not want TECH to be a part of my projects — not to be the emphasis at all — so I thought of what I did….I host Projects — ProjectsByJen.   So the name fit — and I ran with it.  And it works.

7.  THANK YOU, EduSpot
Until the Holiday Card Project, my most successful and highest number of participants was the SKITTLES project.   This was way before Google Docs, so as data came in — I had to copy/paste each result into an Excel Spreadsheet.   Looking back, I honestly don’t know how I truly did this!!   But, 2 years into the project — a company called EDUSPOT asked if they could collect my data and display it for me.  And that is when automation of data collection for a project was an AHA moment and I went from having maybe 150 – 200 people in a project to over 700 without a worry.  They offered this collection option to me freely — and I will forever be grateful.

6.  2006, A Banner Year
In 2006, my projects suddenly started being noticed by a lot of people — from a lot of different areas.   I was invited to speak at conferences, on podcasts, write up papers about my projects, was interviewed by several newspapers and won 6 awards.   My most treasured award to this date is still the Global School Net Online Teacher Award.   (http://www.globalschoolnet.org/award/)   Though I usually dismiss awards that are based on popularity — this one truly was based on merit, there was criteria that had to be met, references that had to be requested, and several judges that spent many long hours sifting through proven concepts.   Though I had to laugh when I won since the award provided airfare to the NECC conference and that year it was in San Diego (a 40 minute drive for me).   The confidence this award provided to me that “this was a good thing I was doing” and the recognition from my peers that the projects were making small differences in classrooms — will forever be a “wow” moment in my life.

5.  Sandy Hook
My heart is still sad for the events that happened at Sandy Hook — and I have written a blog post more here:  http://projectsbyjen.com/blog/i-had-to-do-something/
But what happened within the community of Projects By Jen was huge — and will always remind me that my participants in projects are much more than that — many have become dear dear friends — and we are a community — even perhaps a family.
I reached out to my network – and for the next year, we sent cards — each month — to the teachers who had been at Sandy Hook – that returned to the classroom to continue to teach.   I have NO idea how many cards were sent — who received them — when, where, if — I have no idea.   But I do know that I have received 5 letters, 2 emails, and 1 phone call — thanking me for what our group had done.   That “we did not forget” – that we continued to “support”…..and that as a group – we united to come together and uplift others in their time of sorry.

4.  The Connections
A ProjectByJen is much more than just stacking a cookie or coloring a Christmas card or sorting cereal…..they have (and they always will) encourage teachers to connect with each other.   Each and every project encourages teachers to reach out and connect with each other.   I do not push this down their throats — but continue to give opportunity for people to share their classrooms with other classrooms.   And it has been great to hear of these connections — these friendships — that have started because of a Project By Jen connection.

3.  Simultaneous Reading
Both of “Some Project” (based on Charlotte’s Web) and our Happy Birthday, Mr Lincoln project were involved within bigger projects.  Both projects had a simultaneous reading opportunity.   Walden Books hosted the Charlotte’s Web read aloud to break the Guiness Book of World Records for “most people reading aloud simultaneously” and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library hosted a nation-wide simultaneous reading of the Gettysburg Address — I was able to include both these extenders into my projects.  An example to me, that my projects could not just be contained to my ideas but also include the ideas of others.

2.  Good Deed Doers
The DC Ducks might be my favorite project — but the project I am most proud of is “THE GOOD DEED DOERS” —
forged from ideas from “the wizard of oz” — this project encourages students to look for ways to help others — within their classroom, their home, their school, their city, their state, their nation.   The project began just because my favorite graphic site (thistlegirldesigns) offered a Wizard of Oz themed graphic collection — but this project rippled from a simple idea to an opportunity for students to serve others – unselfishly, willingly, and with great kindness.   It is a quiet little project — not a lot of fanfare, never received any recognition — but to be honest — isn’t that what true kindness is — helping others without any expectation of anything in return.
http://gooddeeddoers.pbworks.com/w/page/26665909/FrontPage

1.  The People
— both the grownups and the kids! — but especially the kids!
I will probably never meet most of the teachers who have participated in projectsbyjen.  Some are dear dear friends — who’s names appear in registration and I am encouraged by their continued support.   Some are dear dear friends — I meet at conference, edcamps, etc — who are kind to tell me thank you for hosting these projects.  Some are dear dear friends — who share out on twitter what their classroom is doing because of a project by jen.  Some are dear dear friends — who share at conferences and edcamps about ProjectsByJen with no solicitation at all from me.
And I doubt that I will meet most of the students who have participated in projects by jen — but I do have 1 last story to tell.
During this past September — O.R.E.O. 2014 — I received a letter.   The letter basically said:
“Dear Miss Wagner,   In 2003, I was a 6th grade student and my teacher hosted the oreo project in my classroom.  I have never forgotten that project.   Currently now, I am a pre-service student in a 2nd grade classroom at (name withheld by request).   My lead teacher asked me to put together a lesson idea that combined art, history, math, science, and literature.  So I hosted the oreo project for the 2nd graders.  I just wanted to tell you “THANK YOU” and I look forward to being a registered participant when I become a REAL teacher this coming September.   Thank you.  (name withheld by request)
So — my projects are now generational.

Grins!

I don’t know if I can keep this up for 15 more years — sometimes 15 more days (we are in the midst of the Holiday Card Project right now smiles) — but it has been good.  It has certainly been a journey of highs and lows — of lots and lots of learning — of many successes, and a few failures — of appreciation and humility as teachers come up to say thanks — of never hosting the same project exactly the same way twice, so I learn new ideas —

To those of you who have participated — I thank you.
Thank you for allowing my simple ideas to have an positive and creative impact in your classroom!
It means the world to me.

Jen

HOUR OF CODE

November 16th, 2014

I have been in the classroom since 1979 — and in an educational technology classroom since 1992 — and though I have always had a very creative, fun, learning, active classroom — yet, I have NEVER seen the joy and engagement as I have since I have brought CODING into the lab.

About a year ago, my friend Vicky S shared with me about coding — and I decided to give it a try by using the APP kodable.  (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kodable/id577673067?mt=8)

I introduced it briefly to my students and then watched them learn — I was also blessed to capture this moment of joy when one of the students was using the app:
nipads

Fast forward to this year, and I decided to investigate more about HOUR OF CODE (http://code.org/learn) and created an account and signed my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classes up.

Each week during November and the first week of December — our 3rd, 4th, & 5th graders will be a part of HOUR OF CODE and 6th grade will join up in December.

For the 1st week — I showed the HOUR OF CODE welcome video and then introduced them to the first 3 lessons in the 20 lessons of Hour Of Code…..and then stepped back and watched them.   There was an excitement, an engagement and such learning happening.

For the 2nd week — I showed the PAIRED PROGRAMMING video from Hour of Code and then we worked on the LIGHT BOT lessons.  Again — they were so involved and working in teams was NOT a issue at all.

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For the 3rd week — we will be learning SCRATCH and for the 4th week we will use KODABLE again.   I might even extend it to a Week 5 and let them choose whatever coding program they wish to use — but smiles, still deciding that.

We also have created an HOUR OF FAME window where I am posting pictures of students who have completed the HOUR OF CODE (on their own time – not in the computer lab)
wofand a bulletin board that changes each week as the arrow of direction is added:

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Since we started coding in November — I have shared to several people about the excitement and joy happening in the lab — something I have NEVER seen before….and though it is not with every single student — I can honestly say it is over 90%.

Because of coding — my students are learning:
Problem solving, cause and effect, if then then this, math skills, teamwork, independent work, being inquisitive, being triumphant, failing and learning

I have also stepped back and learned a great deal about my students -
Some are truly competitive and need recognition, some of my students need step by step directions and get confused if a step is missed, some of my quiet students are VERY VERY strong thinkers.

I and my students are also learning that SUCCESS does not always come easily or the first time — but you step back, learn from your mistakes and try again.

Hour of Code does not officially begin until December 8, 2014 — http://code.org/learn — but you can join any time and you can host it anytime.   The site has created an exceptional portal for learning, resources, and a variety of coding opportunities.  Plus, there are also some great apps you can download to your devices — and many are free.

You might already have your lesson plans set in stone for the week of Dec 8th — but I would urge you to step back and put those lessons off for a week — and try HOUR OF CODE — I believe with my entire heart that YOU and YOUR students will be glad that you did!

Jen

ABOUT JEN:
I am an educator who LOVES bringing creative opportunities each day to my students.   Currently, I am working with a wonderful group of Kindergarten through 6th grade students at a Private Christian School in California.   Since 1999, I have been hosting online projects for elementary classrooms at ProjectsByJen.com.   I have won several awards for my projects – but those mean nothing compared to the smiles from students and the thanks from parents & teachers! I enjoy traveling to conferences and edcamps and sharing ways to bring JOY and CREATIVITY back into your classroom. Follow me on Twitter @JenWagner.   Have a wonderful day!

Hiding Your Cape

October 12th, 2014

This past week was homecoming week on our campus and with that brings “dress up day”.  One day was movie characters and several staff members dressed up like super heroes.   After morning devotions, I noticed one teacher (who had a jacket on) ask another teacher to help her show her cape and together they pulled the cape out from behind the jacket.

Then this morning, as reading through tweets before heading to church, I noticed an avatar that consisted of a fact shot with a red cape proudly flowing behind.

And that — is what is prompting this post….

Because I think I hide my cape way too much — and wonder if you do the same thing.

Just this past week, I hid my cape when —

  1. In a meeting, where I should have boldly spoken up about the vision of tech on our campus, I remained silent.
  2. When people twittered or posted about the O.R.E.O. project, I did not retweet their tweets.
  3.  I declined a speaking engagement because right now I am terrified of flying.   (sad but true)

I have gotten a very nice reputation on twitter, at conferences, etc of not self-promoting.

But ….. am I concealing my super power just to be modest?

I don’t want to be perceived “ever” as an in-your-face promoting kind of person — but I also think many times I stay quiet when I need to speak up.

To be honest, I am in awe of those who know how to market themselves.   Who get noticed for every single little thing they do — who’s names are dropped so frequently — who are recognized not only by their online community but also their own campus for being a leader.

Yet, to be honest — I am the one who continually hides my cape.

And, to be honest — I don’t think I am the only one who continually hides their cape.

And what is holding us back —
is it pride?
is it fear?

is it ………………………………?   feel free to fill in the blank.

What keeps us (me) from sharing what WE do know?  For being proud of our accomplishments?  For sharing out our classrooms and what our remarkable students are creating?   For saying “I am making a difference in education and here is how”!!

I am struggling with this right now……………….
I know there is a balance — but at this moment, I am not seeing how.

Thank you for listening.

Jen

 

To All The Others….

September 26th, 2014

Unless you are new to my blog — you have no doubt that I am NOT a big fan of awards — especially awards that are often given for popularity and notoriety  ……. and many many who are just as hard-working, yet again, go unnoticed.

This weekend will be yet another awards ceremony and people are beginning to tweet about it …. and I wondered, why does this bug me so?   I was reading this blog post — which sums up well, the thoughts I have been having, have had, and ever so often dwell on — http://www.eduleadership.org/an-open-letter-to-the-bammy-awards/ – (written a year ago but still relevant.)

So — as many are preparing to receive awards, smooze together,
and pat each other on the back
…… this blog post is for all the others……

Thank you — for your hard work this past year — that perhaps has gone unnoticed or even overlooked or even perhaps been credited to someone else.
Please, keep up the hard work.
Though, you might feel invisible — someone who needs what you are doing has noticed
and they are thankful.

Thank you — for writing your blog post — that perhaps has gone unnoticed or even overlooked or even perhaps been credited to someone else.
Please keep up your writing!
Though, you might feel invisible — someone who read your blog post remembers it, perhaps did not comment, but you had an impact
and they are thankful.

Thank you — for sharing what you did on twitter — that perhaps has gone unnoticed or even overlooked or even perhaps been credited to someone else.
Please, keep sharing thoughts on twitter.
Though, you might feel invisible — someone who read your twitter thought told someone else
and they are thankful.

Thank you — for sharing that resource (on a google doc, or website, or facebook, etc) — that perhaps has gone unnoticed or even overlooked or even perhaps been credited to someone else.
Please, keep sharing your ideas!
Though, you might feel invisible — someone who read your resource, used your resource
and they are thankful.

Thank you — for getting up each morning and doing your job — that perhaps has gone unnoticed or even overlooked or even perhaps been credited to someone else.
Please, keep doing your best.
Though, you might feel invisible — to your students or to your staff — you are INVALUABLE!!!
and they are thankful!

Thank you — for making a child or a staff member feel important and necessary — that perhaps has gone unnoticed or even overlooked or even perhaps been credited to someone else.
Please, keep noticing those around you!
Though, you might feel invisible — you just made someone else’s day
and they are thankful!

Thank you — for showing up at conferences and edcamps and joining the conversation — that perhaps has gone unnoticed or even overlooked or even perhaps been credited to someone else.
Please, continue to be a part of the conversation!
Though, you might feel invisible — someone heard what you shared
and they are thankful!

Thank you — for not giving up — even though you might have gone unnoticed!
Please, don’t give up – but continue to GET UP and make a difference.
Though, you might feel invisible — YOU ARE NOT INVISIBLE —
and WE ARE THANKFUL for what you do!

Just my thoughts today
Jen