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Monday, September 10, 2012

Am I a Quilting Blogger or a Blogging Quilter?

One of the benefits of having a blog is that you have a platform to expound your ideas. One of the drawbacks is that you need to post regularly if you want people to read it. I completed two surveys today and put that I blog about my quilting, but I really haven't blogged about quilting yet! You may have seen some of my quilting pictures, but I have not finished anything yet this year. I've focused in on only working on three projects at once, which is fewer than usual. I am finishing a "Crappy Scrappy" quilt, also known as "Do you even think about color?" which is what my daughter said when she saw it. It's a crayon quilt with delectable mountains for a border. For some reason, I decided to machine quilt it at home using a pattern from a Japanese art book. The stitches, which are supposed to look like pine needles, look like green chicken tracks. It sits in my living room because I only need a week to finish it. This was set up at the beginning of June, after my retirement party. It's hard to finish something when you are not proud of it. But it will be warm. I used the last of my thick polyester batting, which is why it is hard to machine quilt pine needles on it. Did I mention that the silk thread is dark green on a light green cotton? Every mistake shows! I have increased my sewing - a group at church that meets twice a month and the Northwest Suburban Quilt Guild bee, meetings, workshops, and retreats. Slowly, I am improving. I think I am going to get sick of it at some point, but I never do. I just love to look at all the possibilities.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Time Flies, Whether You're Having a Good Time or Not

I have been percolating a poem this month. Although my life is very busy, knowing that I will not have the weekly grind of lesson plans has made me a very relaxed person. I like to have a full morning or afternoon to write, but I have been reading Christian Wiman. His poetry is life-changing. How did he know what it was like to live from paycheck to paycheck wondering if you will have that car accident that will upend your life?

I began this post on July 5th, well before I finished teaching Lego robotics this summer. I went from summer school to a quilting retreat without stopping at home. The UFO (unfinished object I was working on was a Mariner's Compass by Quiltsmart. I got the entire circle done, but the center seam wouldn't line up, so I folded it up and sadly put it away unfinished. Fast forward to Denver, the Dabrowski conference and July 21st. I had come with no apparent goal in mind except to learn more about the nature of gifted people and possibly make some friends in the gifted community. On one of the tables are handouts for NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children), which will also be in Denver. I had seen it earlier this week and immediately said, "I can't afford to come to Denver twice in one year." Today, as I picked up a pin from CAGT (Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented), in the center was a compass. (Cue Twilight Zone music.) What does it mean? What does it all mean? My brain is so stimulated by the presentations and conversations that I can hardly sleep. It means I will need some time to recover from all this thinking, time to sort through what it means, and time to integrate it into my life. And now ... on to some very stimulating conversations.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lego Robotics I & II

Monday was the first day of Lego Robotics I and II. I am trying a new rubric this year. In the past, I have evaluated each student on creativity, concept acquisition, cooperation, and tolerance for frustration. This year, I intend to focus on cooperative learning behaviors. Let's see if having a rubric shapes behavior. The new behaviors I am looking for are: listening, openness to others’ ideas, contribution, and leadership. So far (Thursday), most of the students are doing fine. There are a few kids who just don't want to share. I had to physically take the machine away from one student and give it to another. Our problem is compounded by the high number of students in each class, due to site limitations. I will go over the rubric again tomorrow and see if the kids understand it.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

New Job

Today was my first day as a tutor. I have tutored before for school districts, but not for myself. The assignment for my student was to read for 20 minutes a day and write for 20 minutes a day. I promised her I would try to do it as well. Her topic for today was what she can do well or what she likes to do, so I shall do the same topic. The things I do well are reading, math, teaching exceptional learners, gardening, all kinds of needlework, music and swimming. This summer I am teaching summer school in the morning at Summer Wonders in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, where my primary students make amazing Lego creations with the Lego WeDo. We have 8 computers, counting my laptop, and I let the students videotape themselves and their creations. I honestly saw students dancing and singing while they worked today. It is such a joy to see students happy.

When I am not teaching, I am sewing or taking care of my 96-year-old mother. My church has a small group of quilters that I joined when I retired in May. I also spent Friday and Saturday learning how to fuse and embroider a quilt. The teacher, Laura Wasilowski, also loved to dye. She has a great many jokes about dying and sings during her presentations. I am now a graduate of the Chicago School of Fusing. Finally, I have a quilting bee with one other lady. We alternate meeting at each others' house and call ourselves the Scrappy Ladies.

Spending time with my mother has had a positive effect on me. At first, I struggled with the dilemma of finally getting to do what I want (thanks to retirement) and not getting to do what I want (because of my mom). Many of my friends are going through this as well, and they have all told me it is worth it to give up every weekend. I have grown to love our time together. It's not usually fun. She has lost a lot of her vision and hearing and teeth and confidence. But it is endearing. I am amazed at how few people understand the need for a good, home-cooked meal each night. Is this just a woman thing? Guys? I haven't done a lot of cooking the last few years because my kids grew up and moved away. When they do come home, I have forgotten how to cook several things and have them all ready at the same time. When they all come home at once, my meals are not coordinated well. Have to take time to play with the grandkids, you know. Mom is making me slow down, cook good food, and do some hand sewing and writing. Thanks, Mom.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Wake Up Chicago!

When protestors requested permits to march at the G28 Summit, Rahm Emanuel determined that they could not legally march in the vicinity of McCormick Place. Then he raised the cost of an arrest to $1000. Is this how he promotes democracy in the heart of the country? What is he afraid of? Does he think the people of this great city are going to go crazy and turn into an angry mob? Or is he afraid that he might be seen to be powerless over the force of innocent people voicing their opinions. Almost all of the reports I have heard frame the debate in terms of a mass of people with unclear aims. I think the aims are very clear. Stop running businesses and countries as if profit were the most important part of life. One of my favorite quotes is "If you want peace, work for justice," which is attributed to both Mencken and Pope Paul VI. The reality is that this movement is the global response to the globalization of business. Profit is NOT the most important thing. Read Article 1 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights:
  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
We are faced with people in positions of power that don't know how to share. Maybe they never made it to kindergarten. Maybe they're not even aware of other people's needs. That doesn't mean they can ignore the law, write their own law, and enforce their own law. Laws are provided to prevent injustice. While they will never be perfect,  they will never be fair unless voices are heard from all parties involved in the law. I only took one policy class, but that point was perfectly clear. Wake up Chicago: to the exciting events occurring in the city this weekend, to the attempts by the media and government to discourage us from participating, and to our responsibility to make our voices heard. Stop insisting on having it your way, and learn to compromise. Use the new tools to communicate and collaborate, but keep an open mind. For Pete's sake, stand up for your rights!

Monday, April 23, 2012

This Unthinkable Sorrow

This Unthinkable Sorrow

Corn stalks fly at half mast
in the field beside the church
against a dirty backdrop of brown trees.
A tractor and a combine salute the teen
who lies inside the church.
Volunteers wave cars into the lot
behind a Future Farmer banner:
Family, Farming and Faith.

Inside, the line shuffles from the back,
an hour’s wait to the bereaved,
but no one minds.
This unthinkable sorrow is
the twine that binds our souls.
We still love him where he lies,
his farmer’s cap upon his bruised head.
A few words, reminders of the
humor, joy, honor, and love
of his too-short life.

Then outside, sunlight hurts
our swollen eyes. We mill about
and wander to our cars,
form a queue for miles.
Family accepts the graveside seats,
now on holy ground, where they will say
When words of comfort are scattered,
we leave them in their grief.

Tables heaped with home-made food
greet the mourners in the church.
At the family table sits the woman
who remembers their kindness
when her teenage daughter died.
Now her gift to them is silence
that comes from knowing
the ineptitude of words.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

One Small Voice

I have discovered that it is possible to erase a blog post just by failing to close a window on a different computer. Apparently my post from Monday was deleted when I logged into my PC and Blogger saved the almost empty post I had started but not finished. It erased the post I had spent more than an hour composing. For me, that's not a lot of time, but a lot of effort overcoming inertia to get writing. I had taught a poetry class to special education students at Wauconda High School a week ago and heard myself telling them to write because they are the only one of them in the universe. That was enough to get me going again, and I want to write about what I see happening in the country. I have two people I love who will lose their jobs soon and with it, their health insurance. I have a coworker who lost her second job and with it, her health insurance. And I have a dear friend of ten years who has cancer. Her husband will lose his job soon and with it, his health insurance. A few years ago, I lost a friend to cancer because she had no health insurance and the hospital cut off treatment. People are dying. People I care about are afraid. The Obama administration has managed to get rid of the "uninsurable" label, but the cost of insurance is still unaffordable if you are out of work. We think that we can always go on Medicaid, but the doctors who will take medicare patients is dwindling (especially in Illinois, a state that doesn't pay its bills), and there can be a three-month wait to see one of those doctors. A book I read in church a few years ago talked about the fact that the ideas we use to solve a problem are the ones we have available to us. So I am calling for a discussion of the health care problem from anyone who has an opinion. Let us use good policy and take input from everyone who is affected. Then we can see the problem from all sides and make the best decision for the present time. Let's set in place a routine examination of the condition of our public health, including how we are paying for it. It's good to know that we are struggling with obesity, AIDS, and diabetes, but let's treat them like polio or smallpox. What can the government do to prevent and care for those who are suffering from such diseases?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Two Themes in My Life

Last weekend, I was privileged to go to the Art Institute of Chicago and a Poets & Patrons workshop with one of my best friends, Cathy Decker. It satisfies a need deep inside to see the beauty and meaning others can create and then try to create a little truth myself. The two exhibits I saw at AIC were the Japanese prints of the 1960s and 1970s and Light Years: Conceptual Art and the Photograph, 1964–1977. The Japanese prints were quite different from some of the other collections I have seen at AIC. The older prints have the perfect design and details but the themes are traditional. The collection leaving the AIC on March 4 showed more variety in techniques used and the images they created. What a service the artists did for the world! The photography exhibit had several interesting viewpoints that were thought-provoking. One artist showed photographs comparing Chicago and New York City. Another had taken photographs through a telescope showing what appeared to be absolutely blackness. Distances were described in light years to the 10th power. All photographs looked completely black with no details. The intent of the artist was not clear. Was it to put all life on this planet in a vacuum of nothing, or was it to show how precious life on this planet really is?

The Poets & Patrons is one of Chicago's treasures. I joined the group many years ago when a poem I submitted to the annual contest won an honorable mention. John Dickson was still a member at that time. This group meets four times a year in the Chicago Public Library at the main branch on State Street for workshops. After a relaxed luncheon, we adjourn to a small room on the third floor. Two "judges" critique our poems for about an hour. In recent years, the format has changed a bit to include an actual writing workshop after the poetry reading and critique. Last weekend, we enjoyed hearing poems from Cynthia Gallaher and Carlos Cumpian, our judges. Then Cynthia led a short exercise using the most outrageous post cards I have ever seen. Carlos played some sounds from his everyday environment and asked us to identify them. Both exercises illustrated the way our perceptions can help us become better poets.

That's my fun weekend. How was yours?

Coming soon! My notes from the 2012 ICE Conference are coming this Friday. If you can't come to the conference, don't forget there are lots of materials online.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What I am Learning in LASSO

Every day I go to work with a plan in mind. I hope that my students are able to comprehend a weather report so they know what to wear outside. I'd like to think that folk music is teaching them a little about the values of the country they live in. I see them learning new words in reading and beginning to understand that words have meaning. I would like to think that they are getting comfortable with computers, not just to surf the Web and watch videos. Can they comprehend the role that math plays in our lives? Are they beginning to understand that they can write words to describe what their life is like? Do they know what is going on in the world around them? Can they go to the library and check out a book or video? Can they follow the steps needed to succeed at work? Most importantly, can they begin to calm themselves down when they get upset, instead of blowing up and striking those nearest and dearest?

To balance my introspection, I must also look at how the students influence me. It is so ironic that I have been given such beautiful, loving students my last year of teaching. It is going to be very hard to say good-bye, knowing they won't be there every day, showing me love in their unique little ways. I forgot today how important Valentine's Day is to students. I tried to have a normal day, just following our schedule. The students reminded me, however, that today is very special - a chance to show love to each other. I got my Perfectionism hat on and plow through my planned activities, while the students demanded their sweets all day long. Being a special education teacher in a high school setting can really have its challenges, like how to treat students like their neurologically-intact peers when they really need a party! Well, we did at least have treats in class and sent home gifts and goodies from everyone. Tomorrow is a new beginning and I relax a bit so that we all have fun. My students have taught me that.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

NICE Miniconference 1/28/12

Keynote Speaker: Steve Dembo is having technical difficulties with the Keynote, but EVERYONE in this audience understands. His title is 22nd Century Skills Today. Throw out some old ideas like textbooks! He is working on a TechBook with no table of contents. It's time to completely rebuild. He predicts flying cars in 2379 based on the NYT history and future of computing.
Information is malleable. Those who do not learn from the future will be forced to wait for it.

1. Play: Lego design can be photographed and loaded, app will show others how to make it. Cubelets are magnetic colored building blocks with different purposes. The company has taken the ideas of Montessori. Sifteo cubes are another toy that is interactive and problem-based. He also mentioned Scratch (free from MIT)

2. Applications: creating-a-business simulation, real-world application is to purchase old iPods and sell them on eBay, see who gets the most for product. Kickstart sells actual products such as a ruler pencil. Another group marketed their video yearbook on Kickstart.

3. Marketing: Singer wants to make a CD, student wants equipment for a documentary. Students give different returns on different levels of giving. Klout offers coupons related to interests based on access to all social accounts, and Wahooly is an example influence rewarded, gives shares in start-up web sites. Scholar Match is like Donors Choose or Kickstart for kids who want to donate for college. In Kiva, you can loan to third-world businesses.

We are in the midst of a tremendous transparency shift.

4. Sharing: Instruments now measure actual movement and sleep and post it to social media. Jawbone Up. May find it at Target. Wii Scale will keep track of weight and tweet it.

5. Social Learning: Can receive applause for running a marathon, kids are tweeting what music helps them work when they do homework for support. Oprah Winfrey app on Discovery: second stream, has sync button. Listens to room and figures out where you are in show you are watching. Ambient devices show info pertinent to you. Printer, too.

6. Aurasma is like a QR code. Free app can link up to logos, etc.

Closing the Learning Gap with Powerful Technology Anthony Reibel (areibel at

1. Paperless Classroom

Evernote or Newnote

Bluetooth Battleship

Google Maps Direction Activity

Create House Floor Plan

QR Codes/ Simon Says

AudioBoo Speaking Activity

Viaje a Madrid Project

Story Kit/ePubs

2. Checking Understanding Levels Using Google Doc Quizes, students can get immediate feedback. Kia, ProProfs are additional resources. Self-grading quizes, tiny url, google docs shows which problem number is missed. Create new form. Conditional format color incorrect answers, identify gaps. Formative feedback until they get it right. Reminder, then it returns to previous question. Differentiated quizes: change colors for difficult/easy questions.

3. Providing Immediate and Meaningful Feedback QR codes: students scan QR codes to find what to do next. QR code creators work with YouTube. You can create a screencast at screenr, TechSmith, Jing, Screencastomatic. Students create a document in google docs, you can comment and create a screencast, QR code creates a link and it gets sent to student, they can go to url freely. The Living Rubric is QR codes with video that tell what each item is and gives video instruction on that particular skill.

4. Increasing Student Engagement upload to Using an iPad, the following activities are used: Video Charades, Quiz, Quiz Trade, Audio Gallery Walk using Audio Boo, Test Reflection with Progress Points, Animation Pictionary with FlipIt, 10,000 Dollar Pyramid with FlipIt, Create your Ideal Style using Pages and Google Images, Vocabulary Popcorn, Haiku Writing, Oral Exam using Audio Boo, Directed Dialogue Reflection, Children Writing Book, ePub Editor Activity, and Directed Dialogues.

5. Time for Personal Reflection Time for Personal Reflection Progress Points helps them id their learning gaps and fill them It is a skill practice and organizational tool, home-bound student portal, special ed IEP communication tool. Give students envelope, put in test scores, shows learning gaps, give them assignment. Students who used this averaged a grade higher than previous trend.

Google Earth - Do More Than Find Your House

I love it when people have all the info online! They began with some basics, and moved on to showing us about LitTrips. Alas, everyone fired up their Google Earth and no one could access the Web. A timeline appears in Google earth which allows you to go back in time for previous civilizations. This presenter's English class put a link to a deli in the book they were studying. The use of little man takes you to street view. The most powerful part is the street view. The Civil Rights marker has extensive information about each event in history. This is also true of international events. Due to lack of network connection, presenters were unable to demonstrate their favorite projects. They recommend kmz files. Moon gallery has information about Buzz Aldrin and the moon landing. Use primary databases to find kmz files. Make your own with a new placemark, give it a name and type in a question. Move trips to My Places on each computer. Student ID will work on any computer. Information about Twin Towers and Hurricane Katrina are available.

QR Codes in the Classroom, Cynthia Karabush

Definition: a mobile bookmark. Can also link to phone number, text messages, etc. Stores same amount of info as a barcode in one-tenth the size. Keeps students from getting sidetracked.

Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant. Mitchell Kapor
Link to: syllabus online, pre-assessment, flipped classroom, assignment calendar, video game, scavenger hunt, GPS treasure hunt, take surveys, polling and voting. Students who do not have computers may have smartphones. Can be used for business card, Facebook pages, blogs. Teachers can put them by their classroom doors to let parent know what is going on in your class (goes to web page). Links to authors, interviews, book trailers, link for differentiation and for enrichment, class blog or wiki to review books for each other, link to Google lit trip or author interview. Audio podcasts for pronunciation, links to class Voice Thread. Go to I-nigma and put in URL, it creates QR code for that web page. Research support for assignments. In social studies, she showed a map of Rome with QR codes with information about each building. Virtual field trips can also used QR codes. It is also used to review topics, link to online texts, teacher can comment on class presentation, also archive class information. Genealogy Quest activity by Cynthia directed students to good resources she called a pathfinder (Grayslake North High School). Always post url as well as QR code. For community outreach, she created a postcard to distribute to board of education. For fundraisers, link to online shop. Oxfam did celebrity fund raiser with 1-2 minutes video attached to clothing donated by that celeb. Simpler addresses produce sharper QRs: use or tinyurl. Need 4 modules of clean white space border, include a url as well, and always link to yourself for questions. Students love Other resources are, -neoreader/wapdownload,, groups/10949441@N25/,, and Khan Academy Videos. Students don't have to retype the link to access web page.