Sunday, December 19, 2010

Great Expectations...

I was fortunate enough to be selected as an opinion columnist this year for the Dallas Morning News. It has been a great exercise in writing and editing. My first column was on the fallacies in the movie "Waiting for Superman." This time i wrote about something near and dear to me, expectations of ourselves and students. I really believe that having high expectations is vital to student achievement. I have seen any number of examples where setting high goals led to unimaginable student achievements. Too often we sell students (and sell ourselves!) short on what is possible. We put up our own roadblocks to success. We say the kids are too young, not experienced enough or we've just never tried to do it that way before. Kids will believe they can do anything if we let them. The way they perceive accomplishment depends on how we value what they do. We need to promote excellence and lead the there. Great adults are not necessarily the ones who scored well on state tests; they are the ones that found out early on that they were capable of accomplishment in all that they do. They were given the tools and guidance to believe in themselves and what they were doing no matter what facet of life they were engaged in. We are not in the test passing business, we are creating people. That is the higher calling.
Here is the link to my editorial. Feel free to add stories or comment! DALLAS MORNING NEWS

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I Love my Librarian Award

I just returned from New York where I was presented with one of only ten "I Love my Librarian" awards. This honor is sponsored by the ALA, The New York Times, and Carnegie Corporation. It was a $5,000 prize. What a great evening it was! It was so nice to meet librarians from different parts of the country. We all have different jobs but ultimately the same goals. New York at Christmastime was beautiful and my wife and I turned it into a mini vacation as well. Thanks to all the sponsors for recognizing the work my teachers, students and I are doing. What a great life when you recieve an award like this doing something you love!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

Right before Thanksgiving we performed the musical "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" with our 5th and 6th graders. You have to understand, despite this show's cartoon title it can be a difficult show to do. It was originally on Broadway in the 1960's and young voices sometimes have a difficult time with the music. Our kids don't have a performing arts program in our school district so my wife and I are providing that opportunity. Most of the kids we have do not have performing experience but they do have great desire and drive to try something new. I love the look on their faces when we spark some new idea in their head and open their eyes to an opportunity they had never seen before. Despite a shorter rehearsal schedule than we would have liked and logistic porblems involving scheduling 25 kids, 3 schools and administrators, we did a pretty god job getting it together. I thought the kids were amazing and we were rewarded by an audience of nearly 300 in a two day run. This is in a town of 4,000 and a district of 1300. Not to shabby for good ol' Charlie Brown!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Another Winning video

I recently found out that a video I produced with some of my students won the National Middle School Association Innovate. Create. Inspire. student video contest. The students were extremely happy to win because we have tweaked and entered this video into several contests. We got a flip vid and an I-Station license for our efforts along with awards for the major performers. There is more award news coming but I can't talk about it right now!

Sweet Dreams (of Technology) revised from Doug Valentine on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

And we have a winnah!

Wow. I am so happy that one of our videos was voted to win in the 1st annual School Library Journal "Trailee" awards. As you may know, I believe in using video as a learning tool and it's alwys nice to see this process recognized by others. Our kids work hard when they get their "moment in the sun" and our student that won for her "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus" video is very deserving of the recognition. I love that so many of our kids are succeeding. It's not just the same ones or the most talented all the time. We give as many kids as possible the chance to shine and you know what? The great majority of the time they do! SLJ WINNERS

Friday, October 15, 2010

Doug Valentine: Why wait for Superman to fix schools?

I was selected for a program to write opinion pieces for the Dallas Morning News. The group is made up of educators around Dallas. We will get to write a piece of our choice several times during the school year. My first article has just been published and here is a link to it.

Doug Valentine: Why wait for Superman to fix schools? | Dallas-Fort Worth Local Opinion Columns | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vote for us In SLJ "Trailies" contest

Holy frijoles! We have two, count 'em TWO videos in the School Library Journal Book Trailer contest. This is so cool because these videos did not win in another contest but here they are in the final four of this one. Our kids were thrilled, but they would be more thrilled if you would vote for one of them. I can't choose and I know that having two in the finals probably splits our vote. I guess that means we need twice as many votes to win :) PLEASE, if you've enjoyed my "Hot Dog" reviews, give us some love in this contest and pass it on. We are in the PK-6th grade student category. Either "Cam Jansen" or Don't let the Pigeon Drive the Bus." Both kids are equally deserving so I'll leave it up to you the viewer to decide. Look at the other categories as well, there is some fine work there. Thanks to SLJ for recognizing this kind of video work. It is time consuming and difficult at times. Here is the link:
SLJ Contest

Storytubes Contest Entry: Don't let the Pigeon Drive the Bus from Doug Valentine on Vimeo.

Storytubes contest: Cam Jansen from Doug Valentine on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The year so far

It's been a busy year so far. This is my third year at my school so a lot of the groundwork I have been laying is coming to fruition this year. The teachers are very responsive to the things I would like to do and of course this is a mixed blessing because they are now bringing me additional projects! I do enjoy it though. I had to expand our news crew because of the number of applicants. The thing I dislike about doing this is it really cuts down on the total time each student will get to work with the technologies. Our musical is also going well. It is SO different working with 5th and 6th graders as compared to 3rd and 4th. They actually have an attention span! They will need every bit of it as this is a far more complicated show than we have tried in the past. I don't know if I metioned it before but in a past life I directed a youth theatre group. It was made up of high school kids although we also worked with middle and elementary aged. We did a full season of plays and musical every year. I missed it a lot and felt like the kids at our small district school should have a chance to perform. Two years ago my wife and I created an after school program to give them that opportunity. I was so happy this year when several kids that had been in our program enrolled in summer performing arts camps in the area. We saw every show and beamed like proud parents. Here are a couple of pictures from our first choreography rehearsal:

I've also started my Hot Dog Book Reviews again. I hope to get a little more descriptive about the books this year. The problem is, the longer the review the more time it takes to actually create them. Maybe we'll work on our adjectives. Here is the latest from one of our 4th graders:

Hot Dog Book Review: Horrible Harry from Doug Valentine on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Success breeds success...

Wow. After starting a daily news broadcast last year I wondered how this year was going to go. We only have K-4th at our school so the 4th graders are the leaders on campus and make up the News Crew. Last year I had 3 crews with 5 in each crew. They rotated weekly since they had to come in early each morning to tape the news. So anyway, we put out the audition notice this year. 66 applications came in. 66! There are only 110 kids in the grade level! So I have to decide through audition and application which kids to take. I'm no stranger to this but it's always difficult to make these decisions. I don't always make my decisions based on talent alone, sometimes I base them on need. Who would really benefit from this activity? Not only that but I also have to cast our musical this week. My wife and I are directing "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" with our intermediate school so some of our former students can continue performing. We have 30 kids signed up for that. We are going to try to give them all an opportunity. Success is great but it sure leads to hard decisions down the line. Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New video awards

Earlier this summer we enterd four videos into the International Student Media Festival competition. We received word that all four received the honor of "Judges Favorite." This is given to the top 10% of the videos out of 1,000 entries. Our winning entries were our news broadcast from the Starship McKillop, an animated book review of Best Christmas Pageant Ever, a review of One Potato, Two Potato, and a video my wife did with her class called Super Duper Shopper Sophie. Our kids are the greatest!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sweet Dreams (of Technology)

Last year my wife and I entered videos into the eInstruction video contest to try and win a $30,000 technology makeover. We entered this international contest every year for three years. After a long, hard competition my wife's video won the elementary division. Even though my video didn't win I really liked the way it turned out. The kids did a great job showing some of the tools we used to make a music video. If you've never seen it here it is:

Sweet Dreams (of Technology) revised from Doug Valentine on Vimeo.

P.S. I was very happy my wife's video won in case you were wondering :)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What's it all about?

Summer does strange things to me. Maybe it's the ability to stay up too late and wake up whenever I want. Maybe it's the lack of routine or daily challenges. Somehow I tend to lose focus on what I should be doing and what needs to be done.
Last year was very rewarding and very trying. Our school and entire district was rated "exemplary." I know how hard everyone worked to make this happen. And yet, I believe sometimes we lose focus on what is important. We have teacher meetings, learning communities, professional development, paperwork, and all of the new things that "we should be trying." Administration constantly adds to the stack of "non-negotiables" without ever taking anything away. We get so involved in being a better teacher that sometimes we lose the primary focus of that goal. We talk, we plan, we execute and if we're really good we evaluate and change the things we do. We take workshops, we discuss how we can move up, over or out. We serve on committees, lead teachers and teach leaders. Even though we are busy all the time I feel like we sometimes still forget what is most important. Do you know what it is? What our primary goal in education should be? Can you put your finger on what sometimes gets lost in all of our good intentions? It's the kids. That's why we're here. That should be the bottom line for all of us as teachers. We need to ask the simple question "What is best for the kids?" We need to look at our grand plans through the lens of "Does this best serve our kids and their learning?" We need to focus the most energy on doing those activities that will make an impact on the lives of those kids that we are responsible for. All these other things we do have importance but if there is no relationship to student learning then what are they all about? As we all breath in a collective sigh and prepare ourselves for the new battles before us, I think it's important to ask the question of what it is we are fighting for. I think i've made my choice...have you?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Look Back

As I started building my Wiki page and gathering my videos together I began thinking about some of the first ones I did and what got me started doing them in the first place. I started out with Dr. Loopy and the Blinding you with Science series. It's funny how such a simple idea can grow. I started out thinking I would just do a couple and ended up with 12 full length videos and several in which I cut out smaller bits that could stand on their own. They are all available on my Wiki, Vimeo, Teachertube and Schooltube pages which can be accessed at the top of this page. I hope to complete a new one this summer! It would be the first I shoot with HD and I have so much more experience now that I can't imagine what it will look like. Here is an example if you have never seen Dr. Loopy.

Blinding you with Science #5 Magnetism from Doug Valentine on Vimeo.

Another series I enjoyed doing was on Classroom Teacher and Librarian Collaboration. I divided the topics into smaller sections and they have been popular with librarians who show them at staff orientations. You can see the full length version here. The smaller sections are available on my Wiki.

Librarian and Classroom Teacher Collaboration from Doug Valentine on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The New School Year

A new school year is about to start and despite my good intentions of doing so much planning this summer, I find myself in the same position I do every year...where to start. Perhaps I'm not being fair to myself. I'm much better at being given a specific task to overcome than I am at planning from nowhere. I'm sure once the school year starts there will be more than enough to do but right now I feel a little...lost. Maybe lost isn't the right word. Maybe "unfocused." We will be getting a new Principal, Assistant Principal and several new staff members this year and that's always a challenge. Sort of like starting over again. Maybe I just feel this way because my birthday is the 22nd and I'm taking stock of what I have done and what I still have to do. You would think things get easier with time but when you are constantly evaluating, innovating and evolving what you do it's just not like that. I guess I set the bar high with what I expect from myself and right now I need to get a little further back to get a good running start. Wish me luck!
In other news...I found a little tool I like to help teachers collect all those sites i give them in one place. It's called Symbaloo and it is a neat little way to customize a desktop with shortcuts to important websites. You can even e-mail it and then update it. Hopefully I will be able to demonstrate some apps and them give them a way to store them easily so they can call them up whenever they need to. Check it out!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

School Video News

We currently have a profile in an online magazine called School Video News. They provide tips and information on good practices in school media production. They are featuring our Shortie Award winning "Starship McKillop" news broadcast and a reworked version of a video we did for an earlier contest called "Sweet Dreams (of Technology)Check out our article!
Starship McKillop Profile

Friday, July 9, 2010

Working on a Wiki

I have had a wiki for quite awhile but I have not been keeping it up. What with summer and all I decided to revamp and work on collecting a lot of our video work into one place (besides the Starship McKillop Glog Page). Anyway, this is a work in progress: Doctor Loopy Wiki
I bought myself a Sony Vaio laptop for my birthday and have been using it to update the pages. I LOVE this laptop! It was on sale at It has the power I need to edit and has a blu-ray built in. It also has a little program that makes videos similar to Animoto. I will post one when I get it together.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

ISTE Smackdown

One of the sessions I wanted to attend most at ISTE was our SIGMS smackdown. It was a very quick overview of tools and tips that librarians around the country are using right now. If you are interested here is a link to an article on the tips:
or if you'd like to see a video of the entire session check this out. Yours truly makes an appearance about an hour and four minutes in:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

More Hot Dog book reviews

Some of you may come here in search of my animated book reviews. Each week I give 3rd and 4th graders who have done well in the library the opportunity to do a book review for our Starship McKillop Glog site. I've gotten a little behind in posting some of these. Yesterday I found a few I still need to post but I thought I would show them here as examples of what we do. These reviews are great because they protect the identity of the students while giving them a very personal way of expressing their opinions online.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Using Old Technology

You know, in this web 2.0 world it's fun to sometimes go back to old technology. Kids today are unfamiliar with 8-tracks, albums, dial telephones, and in the case of my wife's third grade class...floppy disks! They had no idea where to even begin to put one into a computer. So I go waaayyyy back sometimes and do lessons using what I can my "long ago and far away" machine. It's a circa 1957 Predicta black and white television. Using this, I can teleconference with characters from the past and interact with "history." The kids really love it. One of the lessons I used last year was based on the book Abraham Lincoln Crosses a Creek. In this book we have an account of Abraham Lincoln nearly dying at age 10 when he tried to cross a creek with his best boyhood friend. It's an interesting book to study historical fiction vs. fact and makes the kids think about what history really is. A little research shows that the character of his boyhood friend did exist and that the book is based, at least partially, on a true event. Anyway, I start out my lesson by showing this video on the Predicta:

Yeah just an old black and white video. Big deal. Where is the color Mr. Valentine? But now imagine seeing it on this:

or this:

It makes all the difference. The kids get a general background of what was going on at that time and the television (my system of delivery) really gets their attention before I read the book. Of course there are details in the news that I pulled from the book to make it tie in nicely. At the end we have a discussion on whether the book was a true account or not. Just as they reach some conclusions I pull out research and photos about the boyhood friend in the book and watch their faces change. They are interested, they are wanting to know more. And that is where I give them material to do their own research. It's fun and the 50+ year old technology was what got them hooked.
LESSON: You never know when that overhead projector might be useful in a new way :)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

White Water Rafting

Last year we went to Durango on vacation and has quite a time riding trains and going white water rafting. We were so brave. We went on a white water trip down the Animas river and took on class I and II rapids. We had this down and were ready to step up...

...or so we thought. It was fun but as you can see there was not a lot of "white water." Since we were in Colorado this summer once again, we decided to try another white water adventure. This time we went to Royal Gorge where they said there were class III and class IV rapids...

See the difference? We certainly did! When we put our raft in and went about 100 yards from shore we hit water rougher than the ENTIRE TRIP on our first try. It was fun but it really forces you to focus and work together. It would be a great team building excercise. Here is a little footage of us going down the River:

...and another thing....

Besides seeing Karen accept the award at ISTE I also got to go to some great sessions and see some interesting displays in the poster section. I was happy to attend the TL Smackdown with a lot of great librarians from around the country. Many of them I have communicated with through listserves and e-mail only so it was nice to put faces to names. I spoke briefly to tell them about edu Glogster and my animated book reviews. I can't believe how popular they have become. When I first started life a few years ago as Dr. Loopy doing my science videos, I never would have dreamed it would go this far. It is gratifying and humbling to have people contact you about your work.

The real point of going to Denver

O.K. So I didn't go to Denver just to take pictures of a Conspiracy Theory. The real reason was to attend ISTE and see Karen get her award for being the ISTE INTERNATIONAL Teacher of the Year. I don't think it really hit home how big this award was until we were there and saw the stage. It was huge! And all of the people were very nice. We were fed and given the opportunity to attend great workshops. I got to meet with many of the Librarians I have only known through e-mail and online. I hope we get to go back....I have a project up my sleeve to enter into next years collaboration competition. Here is a video of Karen accepting her award:

Karen Wins the ISTE Educator of the Year from Doug Valentine on Vimeo.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Welcome to Denver

So we are in Denver for Karen to pick up her ISTE Teacher of the Year Award. (ISTE...the first letter stands for INTERNATIONAL...She is an INTERNATIONAL Teacher of the Year.) I have always wanted to see the weird murals at the Denver Airport. I had read about a lot of "conspiracy" theories that are pretty far out
Even though it's hard to swallow, they are a bit weird for an airport:

A little odd huh? A nazi like figure wiping people out. What a perfect way to say hello.

How would you like your restaurant next to this at the airport?

Whee. A little more cheerful unless you see the entire mural. There are others I want to find on our way out of the airport.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Folk Art

One of my more eclectic pursuits is collecting Folk Art. I don't know exactly what got me started on it. For several years I collected original comic book art and I still have several pieces of that. But something about Folk Art spoke to me. It's usually done by "untrained" artists. Most of them are from the south and grew up in poverty. They used the materials the found around them for their creations. Here are a few of my pieces:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Glogster Home Page Starship McKillop

This is our Glogster webpage. We based it on our theme this year of the Starship McKillop. You can follow the links to over 30 pages of videos, book reviews, and Dr. Loopy shows. I hope to add some new ideas this year to make some of the pages into mini databases ceated by students.

Storytubes winners

Looking over some of my past posts I see that I never updated the fact that two of our kids won awards in the Storytubes book review contest. We had a second grader win the "Audience Favorite" and a third grader won the "Wild Card" portion of the contest. They were both thrilled with the awards. They got a trophy and a book store gift certificate for their wins. Another of our reviews was picked up by author Mo Willems and posted on his blog! Nine of our videos were up for voting in the finals. Not bad for a little 2a Texas school!

Audience Choice Winner

Storytubes Contest Entry: Katie Kazoo from Doug Valentine on Vimeo.

Wild Card Winner

Monday, June 21, 2010

Amazon Commercial

Last summer Amazon has a "contest" for Amazon users to come up with a commercial for their company. Although they advertised it as a amateur competition, of course it wasn't. The winners (you've seen the stop motion Kindle commercials)were professional producers. Oh well...Amazon got some great talent for a bargain and it doesn't stop me from buying there. Here is the commercial I entered. It's a homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Amazon .com entry. The Dawn of Shopping from Doug Valentine on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

How to Eat Like a Child

Our Cards OnSTAGE acting group recently finished our annual 3rd and 4th grade musical. These guys did an amazing job with the show! We selected How to Eat Like a Child because it had such a large flexible cast. We were very proud that these guys showed what they were capable of, especially the 4th graders that we had for two years. This was an after school activity that they had to commit to for 10 weeks. We had 60 kids involved in the production!

Starship McKillop Shortie Awards winner

My wife and I were both honored with Awards from the International Shortie Awards Film Festival in May. Karen won for Teacher Produced video and I won for 7-10 year old daily news broadcast. Karen also recently won the ISTE Educator of the Year. we will be heading to Denver this week to pick up that honor.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

ATPE Special Educator of the Year Winner!

Wow! It was a tough competition but I managed to win the 2010 Association of Texas Professional Educators award. I had an evening of interviews and then went to a banquest the next night night where they announced it. What's really cool is that my wife was the winner in the elementary teacher category last year. This year she is the TCEA elementary teacher of the year and I was the Librarian of the year or them last year! It's been a great winning streak for us.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Storytubes contest

Ten kids from our school wrote book reports for the 2010 Storytubes contest. Each has their own special flair. We are very proud of what they have done. Here is an example of one of the videos. This one is about a Cam Jansen book.

USS McKillop Glog Page

Lately I have been getting a LOT of comments and reaction to my Glogster page. edu Glogster is a great site for students and teachers alike. Most of my material is posted on this site. If you want to see what all the talk is about check it out here: