Using OER to build online curriculum

Here is one of presentations for the Education Minnesota conference this week. In it, I cover what OER is, good sources for OER, and some steps to create OER for yourself and your classroom.


When talking gets your down….

I’ve talked too much. Plain and simple–that’s the truth! These first few days of school my throat has hurt at the end of every day. And for me, that’s a sign of failure as far as the teaching I want to have occur in my classroom.

You see, my philosophy is that I don’t talk to the whole class. Or, at least I talk to the whole class as little as I possibly can. Instead, I prefer to talk to students individually. I can usually do this since I run my class in a semi-blended learning sort of way.  However, this first week of school, we have had no computers. Blended learning without technology is almost near impossible. Also, there are so many things that I need to go over like how the grammar website works, where the books are, etc.

I do try to teach procedures and class norms in a fun, student-centered way. Day one there is no syllabus talk and I use a TLAP lesson. Day 2 is a BreakoutEDU with a short rules discussion. Day 3 was story time with students writing their own personal life themes. Day 4 was speed dating with our class movie trailer and then our infographic syllabus. Today was a lesson using Ted-Ed and student mini-interviews to talk about reflection.

However, this adds up. Even I’m only talking to the whole class for 10 minutes a class period (which means that the students are talking at least that much PLUS work time for them), I’m still talking to the whole class for 50 minutes total every day. And that’s a TON.

I am going to keep reflecting on how I can change this for next year, since every year it will be the same situation: no chromebooks until  the second week of school. Most every solution I come up with for this uses technology. So, for now, I’m stuck with a scratchy throat and 50 minutes of talking total each day until they get their computers.

But tomorrow they do! And tomorrow we will learn about taking care of our chromebooks and make some awesome memes on Google Draw to teach each other about it.

First day of school 2016!

Well everyone, the first day is in the books. I had a great and busy day. I really try to make my first day pretty interactive and fun since I know that students will maybe be sitting and listening to syllabi the rest of the day. (Side note: can we all stop doing that?!)

My first day centers around being awesome. I really want to set the tone for the year as positive and exciting, and I borrow from TLAP to make it happen.

First, we watch a Kid President video (the pep talk one). Then students make a symbol out of playdoh of what makes them awesome. They then do some sharing and write about it. Overall, it’s a great first day. Who doesn’t love Kid President and playing with playdoh?

Here’s a link to a quick video of my favorite student creation. They made a book (as a whole table!) to show how they like to read.


Open House Ready with tech

I learned from the bottleneck at the front of my room last year that something needed to change in my open house set up for this school year. So, I worked this week to hopefully make open house as informative and free from bottlenecks of parents waiting to talk with me by my classroom door.

I have set up several informational stations in my classroom for people to walk around and visit. In order to save paper (who wants to print out stuff for every parent?) I made signs for each station and put them up in a very visible place. Each sign has a title of what is viewable at that station, as well as a short link. The vast majority of parents will have smart phones, and so they can just type in the link and can then see the information.

Here are my stations:

  • Welcome back/parent letter (this was also emailed out to all parents)
  • Our class Twitter account @HogensHeroes
  • The class “trailer” (like a movie trailer) I made
  • The syllabus which is in infographic form
  • A “get to know the teacher” presentation

Hopefully it will go well and we will avoid all the lines and waiting parents that happened last year!

Trip over-now to bring my new knowledge to my classroom!


The above picture was taken in a schoolhouse from the 1800s. What I think is sad is that many American classrooms still mirror this one that is over 200 years old: desks facing front with the teacher the center of attention as well as knowledge. In Sweden, the vast majority of the schools that I visited had completely thrown this model out the window. In fact, those that don’t follow this model threw it out the window long, long ago.

I’ve learned during my trip that there are many similarities between our systems of education, but also many differences. I’ve also learned that, just as in the US, schools vary so much between school districts and even between schools in the same district. Overall, I would say that each country has its strengths and challenges.

I look forward to returning to my classroom (I plan on getting in there on Monday!) to start implementing the furniture and design ideas that I gained while on my trip. I also look forward (as always) to digging in with my students and starting our new cooperative research and projects.

I am so thankful to the White Bear Lake Education Foundation for the grant to travel here. Even though I speak the language and have been in the country so many times that I feel like a could live here agin with a drop of a hat (and even gone to a whole year of high school here!), it was such an eye-opening experience to spend time here looking at everything through the lens of innovative educational practices. Who knows, I was offered jobs pretty much every school I went to…I wonder if WBLEF has a grant for moving expenses? ; )

Manilla and Fredrikshov with Victoria

I had my last meeting of my study trip today with Victoria Oldstedt. She is a teacher at two schools, Manilla and and Fredrikshovs Slotts Skola. Both schools are charter schools in Stockholm;  Manilla is on a beautiful island in a building from the 1800s while Fredriskhov is in an old castle from the 1600s.

Here is a photo album you can look at to see more pictures than just these below. IMG_1962IMG_1952

I was so happy to meet Victoria! We had our classes write letters back and forth to each other this past year a few times, and it was so nice to put a face to the name.

I got a wonderful tour of both schools and got to meet many of the teachers and staff. A few highlights were:

-the teachers lounge at Manilla decorated in a style matching the age of the building including a lovely chandelier and period wallpaper

-seeing the classrooms with high ceilings in Fredrikshov, made out of rooms from a castle from over 400 years ago

-meeting another English teacher that I will get to work with this next year (our students will also write back and forth)

-meeting one of the classes that my students and I had pen pal letters with last year

Overall it was a lovely visit on a very rainy morning. Much of my time was spent planning and talking over our plans for our letter exchange for this next year, and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to come and solidify our relationship.

Soheila Ghafouri at Örbyskolan

My second meeting of today was with math and science teacher Soheila Ghafouri. She teaches 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. She has been a teacher for 22 years; 9 of which were in Iran and 13 of which have been in Sweden. We had a great time talking about the Swedish school system. It was a wonderful conversation since we both bring our own experiences and expertise from other countries before becoming parts of the Swedish school system. You can check out the school’s website here.

The school is made up of many buildings since it is k-9 (as most of the schools are set up here). Each building houses a different group of kids and serves a different purpose. These pictures are of me in front of the building that Soheila teaches in as well as the new cafeteria building which also has some classrooms. You can check out a few more of her photos hereIMG_193134_Windwall_Örbyskolan

As I heard from everyone else here, Sweden really needs teachers. Soheila had her own thoughts as to what has caused the acute lack of teachers. It includes that students can now attend any school in the county (including charter schools) and do not have to attend the school in their neighborhood. She also thinks that the fact that teachers have a lot of administrative work to do instead of just teaching stops people from wanting to become teachers. Lastly, she thought that the pay (average teacher pay in Sweden is similar to the US) contributes to not enough people wanting to become teachers.

I also spoke with Soheila about the positives and negatives with the school system here.


There is a lot of democracy and choice for students and teachers in Sweden. As stated, Soheila immigrated to Sweden in the 1980s, and she pointed out that Iran was very strict and was a dictatorship. She said that this was even the case in schools, and teachers were told what to teach and students were told what to learn. She really enjoys the freedom and flexibility that students have here. She also thinks that, compared to the American system of funding, the Swedish system is much better.


Soheila said that since the system was introduced where children and parents can choose almost any school to attend, teachers have felt a lot of pressure from parents to bend to parents’ desires. In one week, parents can say that want it quiet, loud, group work, individual work, etc. And, if they don’t get what they want, they will move schools. We chatted about how moving schools frequently can’t be that good for kids. However, school choice is also good. As with anything, we came to the conclusion that balance is best.

Lastly, we talked about technology. Soheila’s school has computer carts so that there are enough computers for 1/2 of the students in each of her classes. If she needs, they can pool computers. She also has a smartboard in her room. We also quickly discussed the furniture in her classroom. As I had seen with the other schools this week, the furniture was small table and chairs that could be easily moved into different configurations. I have yet to see a traditional American school desk with a chair attached in any of the schools that I have visited. Not a single one. : )

We plan to work together at some point in the next year with our classes.