Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Value of Closed Captioning for Reading Proficiency

I was browsing on Twitter today and this article caught my attention: Closed Captioning: An 'Undervalued" Method for Reading Improvement. I am bilingual in English and Spanish and I am an excellent reader in both languages. I grew up in Mexico and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology of Education. All my education was in the Spanish language. Nevertheless, when you go to the movie theater in Spanish, you have a choice to watch a movie captioned in the original language or doubled to your native language. I watched most movies with captions in English. My love for the English language started at the movies. Later I decided to formally study English as a Second Language. 

Watching captioned movies is an instructional technique. Foreign language teachers would tell us to do this all the time: listen to music in English while looking at the lyrics, and immersing ourselves in the language we wanted to learn. 
Up to this day, as a Spanish teacher I still use the captioning method for watching movies as an instructional tool. Spanish 1 and 2 students are allowed to hear the movie in English but they have captions in Spanish or the other way around. If I want to challenge students, I play the movie in Spanish with Spanish subtitles and they have to write down words they see and they listen to in Spanish. We call it "focused listening". 

This is a great tool to explore for struggling readers or students with learning disabilities. It makes sense that listening to and seeing the word in print while enjoying a movie the learner likes might boost reading proficiency. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Trending on Twitter: A Social Justice Approach to Education (Part 2)

Social Justice is Trending on Twitter. This week I have discovered a few hashtags in Twitter that focus on issues of equality in education. I believe as I was taught, that education is the key to a better life. I consider myself a Social Justice Scholar. My platform, Educator Talk is born from life experiences. I grew up in a low income family, attended public schools and graduated with a degree in Sociology of Education, got a grant to be a Junior Research Scholar at UC Irvine, and came to the United States as an immigrant. I am bilingual and bicultural and I was adopted into the family of Christ, one of the greatest social justice scholars of his time. I feel for the student sitting in my classroom with a hungry stare, a confused look for not understanding English, and a worry in his mind for not being able to fit in and look right. I feel for the parents who have no formal education but want the best for their kids and that is why they send them to school every day with the hope for a better life and a better future. Justice in education is my passion. Justice in education means we need to be willing to stand up, step out, and take a risk. Justice in education means that we are willing to be criticized, be uncomfortable, weary, tired, and heavy laden as teachers, administrators and community members. Justice in education means we believe in our children, we want to protect them, and we want them to be the best they can be.

This week I have found that others feel the same passion. Twitter trending is pointing towards a change. An ethical reform education and education with a social justice approach. There are several hashtags on Twitter that address social justice in education. here are a couple of hashtags that got my attention. 

Trending on Twitter: A Social Justice Approach to Education (Part 1)

This week I have been observing Twitter trending to make connections with other educators and expand my knowledge of ways to use Twitter to give and take from my Personal and Professional Learning Network. One of the trends that got my attention started with one of my contacts

Philipp M. Herzberg started following me on Twitter and I followed him back. His blog is called 
The Education Blog: Where Education Meets Technology and Science.The reason Philip is part of my Professional Learning Network is that he writes interesting blogs with backed research that support an ethical approach to educational reform. He wrote a blog that immediately caught my attention called Equality Is Not Enough Why We Need Justice In Education

My vision and mission for Educator Talk  is to contribute resources with a social justice approach to education. This desire is part of who I am as a person. I grew up in a low income family. My parents have very little formal education – neither one of my parents graduated from high school. Nevertheless, my dad always told me that education was the key. You go to school and get a degree so you can get a decent job with a decent income. You get good grades and you go to college. I still follow my dad’s advice. All that my siblings and I have is because we got educated and attended college. Perhaps we did not get the best education ever but we worked hard to graduate with a degree. Teachers believed in what they did and we, as students, gave it our best. It is still with pride and tears in our eyes that we look at my dad, a self-made man with only two years of elementary schooling that made a living with a strong work ethic, hard work, and commitment. He believed he could do better. He truly believed in the power of education. It is also with tears that we look at mother and thank her for her willingness to not be a stay home mother, provide a secure environment when we got home from school, and give us a positive outlook in life with strength and faith. She also believed in a social justice approach to education, an approach where you do your best, you keep going, and you move on. 

Follow Philipp on Twitter @mikioherzberg

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Connected Educator Interview: Meet Mrs. Patti Patrick

On July 8th, 2015 I had the opportunity to interview Patti Patrick, experienced teacher, administrator, and connected educator. Patti has been a high school science teacher, technology coordinator for Fresno Unified School District, instructional designer, and adjunct professor at Fresno Pacific University. He dedicates part of her professional career to work with students at the Center for Online Learning at Fresno Pacific University. Patti describes a connected educator as someone who has built a platform on different social media outlets as well as someone who connects with other educators online over a variety of topics. In her own words, technology does not replace the teacher but rather gives students the ability to consume, create, and disseminate information and as she states: “to do things that would not be possible without technology”. Patti connects with educators and the community through Linkedin, Twitter, and Moodle communities. The questions that Mrs. Patrick answered for Educator Talk are embedded in the video. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Meaning of a Professional Learning Network

When I went back to school to join the Masters in Educational Technology, my family and I had several concerns regarding the time that needed to be invested in homework and class time.  My husband reluctantly agreed to let me go back to enroll in the Master’s Degree program. He was sincerely worried about the stress, doing homework, and me not being able to enjoy family time together while on vacation. For us, family time is precious. I have now discovered that a Personal Learning Network  works very well with my desire to keep being a mother and wife above all things. How does my Professional Learning Network fit with all of this?

Connections 24/7
I can keep learning and contributing to a network of well-informed educators while on the go. I don’t have to physically be present in a conference, classroom, or meeting place to continue connecting through Twitter. I can learn what I want, when I want and where I want it. I have joined Twitter and I have learned so much about different subject areas and topics of interest. 

Avoiding the Summer Slide
If it is true for kids it is true for me as well. After taking a long summer vacation without any brain work, when I go back to work I feel it. My brain is still baking under the sun, savoring the breeze of the beach. I feel sluggish the first weeks of school and I have to force myself to get back into the routine. Being connected throughout the summer and forcing my brain to intellectually contribute good ideas to my PLN keeps my brain in shape. My brain is already planning for the new school year and incorporating my summer learning into the new school year is exciting.

The Value of Family Time While Pursuing My Passion

As an educator of 20 plus years, I strive for excellence and I can get caught up in my professional aspirations. I often neglect family time. I wanted to spend time on vacation but I was sad I had to miss the interaction with my colleagues during class on Thursdays. Today I had a great connected educators’ experience through my PLN. While still enjoying vacation time with my family, my colleagues shared a Google Doc with me and we LIVE tweeted during the entire class. I was in Southern California and my colleagues in Fresno California. I felt included, I felt like I did not miss out much. That would not have been possible without my PLN. 

Who are you reaching out this summer for professional learning and networking? 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Golf and Teaching: The Challenges of Being a Rookie

The Players

Just like in teaching, golf can be either a group activity or a solo endeavor. Even though a group of people can be there to help you play a good game, they cannot do it for you. They give you advice and techniques, they keep you company and encourage you but they cannot get the ball in the hole. It is up to you to learn from advice, observe, and apply in order to improve. Golfers watch out for other players just as our teaching buddies will be willing to watch out for you.

The Golf Course Map

This is our curriculum map. Each area represents a skill we need to master in teaching. Each poses its own challenges, has specific characteristics, and we have to use appropriate tools to be able to master that particular area. Each area looks different and in order to get there we are required to have achieved and master other areas and skills

The Holes
The only purpose of golf is to navigate a vast and beautiful landscape in order to put a ball in a small little hole….. And so is with teaching. There is so much preparation, sacrifice, training, focus, and skill put into one objective: the learning objective. When we as teachers see that something clicks in a student’s mind, that’s it! We put the ball in the hole or in teaching terms, we have made the learning process come to life!
The Clubs
This one was hard for me. When I learned to play golf, nobody was willing to teach me which club to use for which purpose. I had 12 clubs and they all kind of look like the same. I was using all of them trying to find out which one did what. Just as with our teaching skills and tools, during our first years we are just using whatever we feel might work in order to accomplish our learning objective. After I played golf a few times with some not so newbies, they noticed my mistakes. They told me the rules of choosing the right club for the right purpose. Wow, that hurt my ego, but it did surely improved the way I played. My newly found confidence in playing golf by using the right tool allowed me to keep trying. Just as in teaching, when I am willing to set aside my ego and watch and learn from the pros in teaching, everything becomes clearer and I experience success.
Sand Traps
No golfer, new or experienced likes sand traps. When your ball falls into a sand trap, it requires a certain skill and a particular club to get it out to the faraway in order to keep playing. Your ball can be stuck in there for a while…. Just like in teaching. Challenges, problems, lack of motivation, tiredness, belittlement, gossip, lack of recognition. It is hard when you fall in that place and harder to get out and keep going. Use the right tool and the right technique. Surround yourself with other professionals that will teach you the tricks to move on. 

Golf is not easy, and neither is teaching. Will you persevere? 

Photo Credit Vallarta Golf Castillo 2015 
Photo Credit: Whisper Creek Golf Club, Huntley, Illinois via photopin (license)
Photo Credit: Too good for your home? via photopin (license)
Photo Credit Golf Set Castillo 2015
Photo Credit: Dornoch Golf Bunkers via photopin (license)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Using Video Conferencing Tools to Connect with Parents by Guest Blogger Cindy Escandon (Originally Published on 7/07/2015)

Unfortunately conference time falls during harvest seasons in the Central Valley.  For many valley educators their parents are back to work in the fields earning a living to support their families.  Some parents may work out of town picking, packing, or pruning.  For many field laborers their work day begins at 5 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. making it difficult to schedule after school parent-teacher conferences. So often these parents do not want to take a day off from work because of the hit they will endure financially.  So what can educators do to meet with our parents who so desperately want to ensure their child is doing well in school but can not afford to take a day off.  Let's connect with them using video conferencing tools.

Video conferencing tools are a wonderful way to connect personally with parents.  Utilizing a video conferencing tool allows educators and parents to have a conversation in real time from anywhere. These tools also allow teachers to share images and files as well without disruption.  Tools like Face Time and Google Hangouts are simple to use on any digital device. Imagine how empowered your parents will feel knowing that they can connect with their child's teacher without financial penalty.
Before you jump into video conferencing please take time to practice to work out all the bugs.  Here is a link to a tutorial video that is useful when beginning to use video conferencing. Next, create a system to collect the contact information of parents who would be interested in video conferencing and the times they would be able to connect.   Last, encourage your parents to continue to invest in their child's education and acknowledge the sacrifices they continue to make to better their family's life.

Cindy Escandon
Latina Ed Tech Eduator Blog Spot

Friday, July 10, 2015

To Game or Not To Game by Kristine Rubenstein (Originally Posted 7/09/2015)

Follow Kristine Rubenstein at Juggling Technology and on Twitter @jugglingtech

One of my goals for next school year is to include more aspects of gamification into my science classes.  At first I thought the idea of gamification was a little silly.  I enjoy games and all, but I teach Biology, Chemistry and Physics to high school students! 

 I think it is important to understand that there are many ways to incorporate gaming strategies in core classes (even at the high school level) that do not involve high school students playing video games instead of learning core content.  

My first attempt at gamification was in my Physics class during the Spring 2015 semester.  Here is a link to my blog post about the success of adding badges to my homework wikis.  It was amazing how even high performing high school seniors were excited about earning what amounted to a digital sticker!

As with anything else in educational technology, I believe it is important to remember that it is ok to start small.  Don’t try to revamp your entire course.  Find a great idea and go with it.  Sometimes things will work.  Sometimes you will fail.  It is ok to fail.  We learn by making mistakes!  

If the idea of creating your own badges seems overwhelming or not worth your time, check out
  for help getting started with badges.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Latina Educators: A Personal Perspective

I have been invited to be a guest blogger on Latina Ed Tech Educators by Cindy Escandon. Cindy is a passionate educator who is focusing on Latina educators and educating children of poverty. Her passion and commitment to education is contagious. Here is a transcript of my blog.

I am really excited to be invited to be a guest blogger for Latina Tech Educator. It is not an old cliché but it is certainly a reality that being a Hispanic Educator in the U.S. offers a different perspective for educational settings. As teachers, we strive to create a learning environment where all students feel free to express and learn from each other’s identities. There is inherent passion in being a Latina educator in the United States. We have faced the challenges, some of us have grown up poor and we see education as the only way to improve our lives. We are passionate about education and helping English Language Learners and students of poverty because we were once there. As a second language learner, many Latina educators know what it feels like to sit in a classroom where you understand half of what is being taught; we know what it is like to be among people who makes fun of you because you don’t speak English well or because you have an accent; and we also know what it is like to live in a place where you always try to fit in. In the movie Stand and Deliver with Edward James Olmos, the main character states that we, Latinos in the U.S., have to work twice as hard. We need to speak English well but we also need to speak Spanish well and we need to fit within two cultures. He ends his statement by saying: “It is exhausting!”

When I was a professor at the School for Foreign Students in Mexico City at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), I had a student that considered himself to be a Chicano. He was born in the United States in a Mexican family who always talked to him about the wonders of having Mexican roots. His family had idealized their Mexican roots therefore this student’s dream was to go live in Mexico for a few months to discover his roots. After a few weeks in Mexico City he was devastated. He confided in me that he was distraught and disappointed. People in Mexico City were cruel to him. He looked Mexican but his Spanish was broken. People were rude to him and continuously made fun of his lack of fluency skills in Spanish.

As a Latina educator, I advocate for teachers to go beyond the stereotypes and the popular culture and traditions of a specific place. If we advocate a multicultural approach to education we need to step beyond the clichés. It is our responsibility to offer an honest perspective of the current state of the culture that we will be teaching in the classroom. Even though it is true that Hispanics eat tacos, listen to Mariachi music, and dance a lot, it is important to take a broader look at who we are in order to avoid stereotypes.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Teacher Declutter: My Strategy

It is truly a nightmare when you have 10 years of educational materials sitting in your garage and even worst when you have not used those materials. The task needed to come sooner or later. Mission declutter! It was not an easy task. I honestly wanted to keep everything I was finding. It was truly a treasure hunt. It was really hard for me to decide what to keep and what to throw away. Here is my strategy:

1.      If it is paper, it can be replaced.
I have been in education for over 20 years. Needless to say, I had tons of papers and binders. I needed to let go. With technology access, finding and keeping information is so much easier nowadays. If you are too concerned about privacy issues, keep your papers to be shredded at a later time. There are organizations that will shred your papers for a small fee (I know my high school does it as a fundraiser as well as my credit union bank)

2.      If there is not a chance that you will ever teach a subject again, it’s time to let go.
Do an honest assessment about whether or not a topic you taught years ago will be in your future teaching assignments. In my case, I was an ESL teacher for 10 years. I kept all my books because I know teaching ESL on a part time basis is something that will always be available for me to do, even after retirement.

3.      If it worked in the past, it does not necessarily mean that it will work again
As teachers we suffer from separation anxiety. Separation anxiety from countless hours of work on lessons that were effective 10, 15, & 20 years ago. We put so much time and effort into our creations that we really want to keep them forever. My strategy was to think about Heidi Hayes Jacob’s saying that we are teaching 21st Century students, in 20th Century classrooms, with 19th Century materials. I threw away many lessons and materials I created several years ago to force me to be innovative, creative, and most importantly, timely. Our digital learners have different skills and abilities and they need more dynamic and engaging lessons.

4.      Once is put away, is forgotten….
I made a conscious effort to just keep what I truly think has present and future educational value. I also worked longer hours to organize my materials in an easy to find spot. Label every single box you put away and keep your most to be used items at reach. It is better to keep less but to use it more often.

5.      Digitally scan all your materials on a traditional scanner or using the scan features on a tablet or IPad
I have to confess that I did not get to this part yet. My plan is to scan lessons and activities digitally as I am using them over the next school year and have a digital cabinet.

6.      Finally, if you created a great lesson once, more than likely you will continue improving.
Just let it go….. You were smart and creative yesterday and you are smart and creative today. One of the benefits of being a connected educator and long-life learner is that you don’t want to use materials from the past without revamping them to fit the educational needs of today.

Photo Credit Garage Cleaning Castillo 2015

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Power of Self-Directed Learning

It has truly been a challenging task to shift towards becoming a connected educator through Blogger and Google Sites. I have spent several days figuring out how to work with both, Google Sites and Blogger. Interestingly, I found Goggle Sites to be rather self-explanatory and easy to use. Blogger really posed a challenge to me. I faced a huge obstacle (of course, huge in my own limited mind). I was focused so much into learning Google Sites that I missed the live explanation in my class as to how to add a navigation bar to your Blog. Seriously, overlooking 5 minutes of class while paying attention to my Google Site cost me four days in Blogger. I was frustrated, I played around with the features for hours, I stayed past midnight, and nothing…. My blog did not look the way I wanted it to look. The lay out and format was a challenge. I was ready to quit. I had settle for a simple looking blog, no navigation buttons, and I was going to stick with Google Sites. I was going to use Blogger just for that, blogging. I could not go to sleep because I needed my brain to tell me what I was doing wrong. My brain did not help. It just went to sleep. That’s it! I need to figure this one out, if I can’t do it by myself, I am sure I can find a video to teach me. There it is, the power of sharing, the power of social media, and the power of being a CONNECTED EDUCATOR! I persisted, researched the topic, and I got it. My first accomplishment in Blogger is completed. My advice to anyone that has the desire to learn to apply technology is not to give up. Keep playing around, stay put to your computer, research the topic and ask the experts on You Tube, Twitter, and other Social Media. This is precisely the essence of becoming a connected educator and to build a platform to tell the world what you know. You might just become someone’s hero on line with your knowledge.

Leadership: Trait or Skill?

My Definition of Leadership

I used to think about leaders as people who had been born with an incredible amount of good luck and charisma. Leadership to me seemed to be a lottery where only some fortunate ones were able to reach their dreams, become extremely successful and popular, and navigate through life effortlessly. I guess I had adopted the idea that leaders are born, not made. One of the most determining factors that has changed my perspective on leadership is not academic knowledge but rather personal experience. 

As I work in different educational settings, I have always felt attracted to work with strong, charismatic people who know who they are, who display and live by strong values, and who consistently demonstrate that they care about who I am as a person in addition to my abilities as a professional. The people that have changed my perspective on leadership have always been those who get to know me and the ones who have taken the time to invest in me by taking the risk of allowing a work environment where failure is a learning experience and a place to grow and praise for work well done is abundant.

Since I have noticed that there is a specific type of person I am always willing to work for, come on board and share visions with, I have come to the conclusion that a leader has the following attributes:

1) Honesty: It doesn't matter how hard a conversation has to be in order to promote growth and positive change. When it comes to establishing a parallel healthy relationship with a leader, I need to know that a person has my best interest in mind and a higher goal and purpose for the well being of the community. As Secretary of State Collin Powell stated in his video about leadership at Colgate University, "it is ok to hurt people's feelings". I don't mind hurt feelings when the greater good is at stake and I know that a leader has my best interest in mind. 

2) Positive & Enthusiastic  Attitude: A person with a great attitude and a positive outlook on life is always easy to work with and easy to listen to. It doesn't matter if the task at hand is challenging, a "let's do it" kind of person is always an inspiration for others to follow.

3) Ability to connect:  A person who encourages the heart encourages the way (Posner & Kouzes, The Leadership Change, 2012), and a leader who truly cares about their people earn respect from others and lead by relationships, not by commands. 

4)  Ability to Articulate and Share a Clear Vision and Mission: In order to enlist others to accomplish a common goal, a leader needs to be able to communicate and influence others to work in the same direction with passion and a sense of community rather than individual gain.

5) A Strong Work Ethic and Commitment to Personal and Community Values: I once read that a leader needs to watch his/her reputation as the most precious asset, which is what I compare to what Posner and Kouzes call "Model the Way" (Posner & Kouzes, The Leadership Change, 2012). A person that leads by example rather than leading by title always commands respect and has the ability to influence others.  

I have come to the conclusion that everyone can be a leader. Leadership is rather a set of acquired life skills rather that a natural predisposition obtained at birth. 

Blogging Challenges: From Private to Public

Lately I have been reading about the importance of using online tools to launch a professional platform to participate in the bigger community of connected educators. This has truly been a difficult concept for me to grasp since I grew up in an educational system where someone else is the repository of knowledge and the only skill I needed to develop well is that of understanding the lecturers' perspective and crafting my knowledge to match that of the lecturer's expectations. I used to work for an audience of one. I am now an educator that is witnessing an education reform with a strong focus on technology integration. Well, needless to say, I am learning in the process, facing challenges, and trying to overcome obstacles in order to help students transition to the 21st Century.

Considering that I have been an educator of 20 plus years, how do I integrate technology education reform from an ethical perspective? My first dilemma is becoming a public figure online. How do I keep my privacy and the safety of my identity when I have to talk to the world through a Blog to become a connected educator? I understand the importance of exposing my ideas to the public and inviting the community to collaborate and wrestle with cognitive endeavors. The ethical issue for me as an educator, a private person, and a concerned citizen is what to share, how to share it, and whom to share it with? What is it that others want to hear that they don't already know and what is it that I can share that will become a professional platform and not a record of wrong doings? 

At this time, I am thinking that my plan of action to become a participant of the virtual community is summarized through the following thought process:

1) When Blogging, find a meaningful connection between what I am learning and what I think is relevant to others with similar interests.

2) Carefully review every aspect of my online platform to find out which details are too private or too revealing.

3) Think from the perspective of my audience. If I am reading someone else’s blog, am I really interested in what they have to say or am I just venting out in public.

4) Write every post assuming that every single person in this planet earth will be reading it (I know that this is pretentious but better safe than sorry)

5) Exercise political correctness while striking a balance between being truthful and kind