50 Small Things to Make a Perfect Day w/#51- Use Interesting Weather Apps

What makes a perfect day for an educator like me (and you too?) – A SNOW DAY (sort of)!

Well, I went to bed last night suspecting the possibility and woke up at 5:30 am confirming it. Lately though, here in Central Ohio, we’ve had more “calamity days” the past couple of school years due to sub-zero temps with wind chill rather than because of the more traditional – ice/snow covering the streets in the early morning.

On a day such as this, I’d much rather be either creative or lazy rather than productive. In other words, I’d rather write or read instead of grade (the 50+ freshman mid-term essays from before Christmas Break). So, I’m going to create a few posts here and also over at my personal blog too. And I have until Tuesday of next week to get those essays graded!

What makes your perfect day? One thing high on my list is echoed in this great list from Lifehack at #11 – “Take a walk in nature.” I’m hoping to do this today – so that I can meet my Fitbit goal of 10,000 steps for today. But, my WeatherUnderground iPad app tells me that it’s currently 15 degrees, but it feels like 7 degrees. Ugh – I may have to go for a walk indoors at a nearby mall instead.

BTW: Now that it may or may not feel like winter in your neck of the woods, you might want to update your weather apps. In addition to the aforementioned WeatherUnderground app, I’ve also begun enjoying on my Android phone – 1Weather (which has great widgets with it), Weather Timeline and the social-media inspired Sunnycomb 

Oh yeah, here’s the list from Lifehack:

1. Once you wake up, just stay in bed for a couple of minutes and relax.

2. Always have a book with you, we never know when boredom might decide to appear.

3. Set mood playlists on your device of choice.

4. Close your eyes and breathe deeply.

5. Smile to a stranger and see what happens!

6. Have a quick fresh shower first thing in the morning.

7. Show your love to someone else.

8. Before you go to bed, say thanks for everything you have and don’t have.

9. Connect to yourself, by using a journal: write, draw, make collages, let your mind wander.

10. On your nightstand, put something that makes you smile.

11. Take a walk in nature.

12. Do yoga.

13. Make a to-do list to help you achieve your main goal for the day. And stick to it.

14. Eat healthily and accordingly to your own taste.

15. Take an hour and do as you please.

16. Write 3 good things that happened to you and what you can do to see it happen again.

17. Put some fresh flowers in the room you spend time in the most.

18. Take a long and warm shower before going to bed.

19. Get out of the house and explore your neighborhood.

20. Sleep naked to feel sexier.

21. Boost your confidence by engaging in your favorite hobby.

22. Act crazy, put the music on loud and start dancing like there’s no tomorrow.

23. Take a 30 minute nap after lunch; as an alternative, engage in a different relaxing activity.

24. Giggle with your friends– make time for them in your day.

25. Read an inspiring quote and incorporate it into your day.

26. Declutter you life by asking “Do I really need this? Why?”.

27. Be kind anytime you can and don’t expect anything back.

28. Meditate and write down everything you’ve found out.

29. Learn something new, even if it’s just a different way of doing stuff.

30. Have some sweat and exercise. Do it mindfully by choosing an activity you enjoy.

31. Sleep a bit more if you feel tired or you’re in the middle of a situation that you can’t solve.

32. Smile. Smile. Smile. And smile some more.

33. Walk barefoot.

34. Experience flow by working at something you’re passionate about.

35. Make your surroundings a little bit better: declutter, reuse and recycle.

36. Plan a trip, even if you can’t travel right now.

37. Be aware of your emotions, but don’t control them: understand them.

38. Remember your accomplishments every time you feel like a failure.

39. Lower your expectations, little by little — most of them are unrealistic.

40. Be offline for as long as you can.

41. Enjoy the now.

42. Challenge yourself!

43. Don’t worry about your problems, but work toward a solution.

44. See everything as an opportunity to learn and grow.

45. Forgive yourself and forgive others.

46. Don’t quit: make baby steps.

47. Do your best.

48. Slow down.

49. Put everything you are into everything you do.

50. Follow your heart.


A Funny Way to Find Out School is Closed for a Snow Day

Well, the chances for a Snow Day tomorrow are melting as quickly as the slush remaining in my driveway after I shoveled the few inches of wet snow this morning.  The National Weather Service has downgraded us from a “Winter Storm Watch” to a “Winter Weather Advisory” to no watch or advisory at this time.  Apparently, the forecast for Central Ohio was wrong as we’re dry while Northwestern Ohio is getting hammered by snow.  As I tell my students, a Snow Day is like real estate – all about timing and location.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the process I used to find out my school was canceled for the day.  Via the Washington Post, here’s a funny, clever way to tell your school community “School is Closed”:

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My apologies if you now have the “Frozen” theme stuck in your head yet again.


Mindful Meditation is a 21st Century Skill

It’s another Snow Day here in Central Ohio.  The measly 3 to 5 inches we received overnight pales in comparison to the “historic” storm they are about to get in NYC, Boston & Philly.  One reason I like living where I do is that we get Snow Days without paralyzing snow.  And we’ve already had three of them in January!

It’s been a while since Tera, Rachel or I have been able to post.  It goes without saying that a teacher’s life is a full life! My to-do list, which always includes posting here, always seems to get longer and not shorter.  I’ve been collecting links and ideas though.  Hopefully I can post a few today when I’m not catching up on evaluating student work.

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21st Century Skills have been getting much attention the past view years.  Myriad well-funded websites exist and there are no shortage of posters and graphics such as the one above or this one:

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This poster is one of many resources found here.  I like the dozen and a half skills listed, but I think a critical one is omitted here and in most lists of 21st Century Skills – Attention or Mindfulness.

A fact of modern life is the temptation to becoming distracted from the task at hand – be it participating in class, doing homework, or even driving.  The dangers of “distracted driving” were driven home to our school recently when speakers from Impact Teen Driving shared their tragic story of a loved one’s death from an auto accident by a distracted driver.

Focusing attention is a skill that can be taught and developed. An M.D. from the esteemed Mayo Clinic featured in this Atlantic article writes: “We have multiple set exercises throughout the day where you basically bring intentionality to your attention…they involve no newfangled brain-training software, or really anything at all new to neuroscience or philosophy.”  His website, stressfree.org offers useful techniques illustrated by engaging videos to teach the five core principles of “gratitude, compassion, acceptance, meaning, and forgiveness.” He’s created this fact-filled, cute, whiteboard video entitled “A Very Happy Brain” that could be enjoyed even by younger students.

Cultivating gratitude, being in the present moment, and mindful meditation have been shown to have many psychological, academic, and inter-personal benefits.  There are no shortage of succinct articles which both describe the benefits of mindfulness and offer ways to practice meditation.

So how does this relate to educational technology?  There are a growing number of apps which can facilitate meditative practice.  Aside from using technology to teach meditation, I think we also need to educate our students in ways to be attentive to assigned learning tasks rather than succumbing to the massive temptation to distraction living within their iPads or Chromebooks.

This attentiveness is a vital 21st Century Skill on par with any of the other essential skills listed on the posters above.  So, how do we teach it?

In the next post, I’ll share how I am doing it in my classroom. How have you done it in yours?

SNOW DAY — And Technology

SNOW DAY – the best 7 letter combination a teacher can hear (most of the time).

Since this is a mainly tech-oriented blog, I thought I’d reflect for a moment on technology has changed the time honored rituals of – will-we-or-won’t-we-have-school and the less exciting – when-will-my-street-be-plowed.

I didn’t grow up in a snow belt area, so I don’t have personal memories of how eager students and parents previously learned about the status of school on snowy mornings.  I’m told that it involved tuning into the TV or radio and listening for the list the announcer shared when convenient for the broadcast.  Later (and currently), the ubiquitous “crawl” at the bottom of the TV screen evolved to give constant (and repetitive) info about closings.

With websites and apps, today’s eager hunt for this radically day-changing info involves less watching and listening and more acts of hitting the “refresh screen” on the browser.

Today I was out of bed at my usual 5:15am and the first thing I saw on my iPad (which I use as my alarm clock) was a notice that Columbus City Schools were closed.  This was good news, but not completely relevant b/c my children are in a different district and my school is under a separate diocese notification.

I wanted to know quickly whether I needed to continue my carefully timed “get out the door” routine or if it was a snow day and I could go back to bed.  So I went to a local TV news website and saw this:

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It’s not a terribly pretty site, but it’s definitely a “just the facts, ma’am” portal.

Since the list was likely to grow at the now 5:30am time mark, my waiting and nearly constant screen refreshing began.  This made for an awkward time of prayer as I toggled between the reflection I read daily on my iPad and the, now two TV sites I was viewing.  With each screen refresh, I eagerly scanned the list (and I’ll admit – prayed) to see if the diocese and/or my children’s district was called off.

At about 5:40, 5 minutes before I needed to move to my next step in the morning routine, BINGO! The two notifications I was seeking came up! Allowing my children to blissfully continue to sleep, by 6 am I was back in dreamland myself.  Thank you technology and Mother Nature for bringing us this SNOW DAY!

Now, the question (besides how I will use this “bonus day”) is when will the streets in my neighborhood be plowed?  Columbus, after taking a lot of heat for poor snow removal and communication about it last winter, has created a cool new website called Columbus Warrior Watch:

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Apparently the plow Road Warriors are networked and real-time data about their progress and their plans feeds into a color-coded map.  I don’t know whether it will get my street plowed more quickly (as it’s designated at the lowest priority level), but it will be another interesting map to watch on-line.

—> This is the 50th post for our fledgling blog.  Thanks for following and please continue to keep up with us as we boldly move forward with our next 50 posts!