The Writing on My Wall

Two months ago I began reading The Writing on the Classroom Wall by Steve Wyborney.

Wait.  Let me back up a bit… Two and a half months ago I had the opportunity to witness Steve Wyborney communicate via FaceTime with one of my 3rd grade educators and her class.  Later that day I ordered TWOTCW because of how he interacted with those kids.  The conversation was supposed to be via Skype, but due to technological difficulties, we migrated to the educator’s cell phone.  Steve was so patient.  At one point he wrote notes and held them up to the camera when we couldn’t hear him.  The content of the conversation that day with the kids was important (it was about SPLAT Math), but the message he sent in his kind voice, welcoming language, and genuine love of learning was so memorable I knew I wanted to learn more from him.

As I read TWOTCW I made notes (sketchnotes) of the Big Ideas.  My sketchnotes represent what images come to mind when I read.  What words stand out.  What colors inspire thought.

On every page I included the same central image – inspired by the book’s introduction.  Steve challenges us to connect with others, to take risks, to share ideas.  As I completed each page of notes, I shared them via Twitter.  Write(sketch), reflect, share.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

On every page I also included a lightening bolt.  More to come on that.






Now for my first Big Idea.

It hit me like a slow bolt of lightening.  (There’s the image.)

Learning is not paced.

Sometimes moments of clarity come in rapid succession and sometimes they come few and far between.  Sometimes we seek understanding as the answer to a question or the solution to a problem.  Sometimes understanding leaps out of the page in front of us without prompting, like a pleasant surprise we didn’t expect.  But usually, understanding comes after much contemplation.

This is why we should write, reflect, and share.  If we are in the habit of capturing our learning and documenting it, we will be on the lookout for new understanding as content to write about – whether this happens once per day (as if we can be that lucky!) or once in a while.

So, learning does not occur like clockwork.  Wake up, it’s 12:00, time to have a profound thought.  No.  Learning is not paced.  It is not a box to be checked every 400 meters as you pass the starting line.   It is, though, something to celebrate as forward progress occurs – maybe inches at a time, but inches no less.


Let the journey begin.



Creating Digital Breakouts with iWork: What I have learned so far

I challenged myself to create Digital Breakouts using the iWork Suite because I know the power of the features embedded within the programs.  I chose to use Numbers as the platform for the content and Pages for the final certificate.  Two of my Digital Breakouts are linked below.

Why Numbers?

Numbers is so much more than a spreadsheet program!  I use Numbers as a combination of a graphic editor, word processor, and spreadsheet all in one.  Without the constraints of page size or the need to scroll through a document, students can toggle between sheets easily using the tabs at the top, like bookmarks.

The use of iCloud with Numbers is valuable!  I use view only and share the link through email and social media.  Then, students can download a copy and complete the Digital Breakout without altering the original.  In addition, teachers can download a copy and make edits, if they wish, before sharing with their own classes.  I also appreciate the ability to make edits to the document and not worry if students have access to the latest version.

How to Use the Sheets

I create one sheet for each lock or step in the process, in addition, I use the first sheet as a welcome/introduction and the last one for the final lock.

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I take the opportunity to embed clues within the titles of the sheets as well as tab numbers as an indication to move through them sequentially.

How to Use Shapes

The new shapes in iWork are powerful!  They are clean, clear, and editable.  To edit the shapes, choose a shape to include on a sheet, then select the shape and choose Break Apart.  This will separate the shape into component parts.  Select the shape again and choose Make Editable.  This will allow you to change the shape, such as toggling between straight and curved lines and adding new lines.  Adjusting the color is also an option.

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How to Use Cells for Responses

I create a small table on each sheet to capture responses.  I layer these cells on top of an image related to the theme of the Digital Breakout.  For example, if the purpose was to determine a 5-digit password, then I would add 5 cells across the top of an image that resembles spaces to enter a password.  In this case, the Digital Breakout includes 5 locks, one per cell in the password.

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How to Use Conditional Highlighting for Feedback

I use Conditional Highlighting to provide positive feedback for correct responses.  Select the cell, then Format, Cell, and Show Highlighting Rules.  I choose to use Green Fill as the indicator of a successful response.

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The Final Lock

I layer cells over a shape for a final lock.  I insert a formula to reference the value in the cells on the other sheets.  This way, the solution for (or a clue for) the final lock will be displayed on the last sheet once they are determined.

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Certificate of Success

I use Pages to create the certificate of success.  Then, I share it through iCloud and set up a password for access.  The password is the key to open the final lock.

In Pages, I use the Kids Certificate template, alter the center image and text and in a few short minutes, I have a certificate of success ready to go.  Students can add their name and date to this Pages document and save it to indicate they have successfully completed this Digital Breakout.

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The first Digital Breakout I created involved a lot of problem solving every step of the way.  The second one was a bit easier, with the effort spent mostly on the content – as it should be.