October 29

What defines life as rich and meaningful?


Now more than ever before…we need understanding and empathy.  Please consider joining us in an opportunity to further unite us as human beings across the world.

Last year, Marlise Bosman, a colleague at Hopewell Elementary School in Bettendorf, IA, and I embarked on a journey that took many twists and turns.  She wanted her students to wrestle with the concept of ‘What defines us as human beings?”  Using a website entitled Gapminder.com, under the tab Dollar Street,  the students were exposed to photos of real families from all over the world.  Dollar Streetfeatures 264 families from 50 countries with over 30,000 photos. We had a front row seat to their homes, the food they eat, their front door, their toys, computers, their location/street/front door, etc.  The families became real to us as we discussed our likenesses and differences.   It was so much more powerful than just reading generic information about a country.  It helped us break stereotypes and inaccurate perceptions.

One of our favorite sections for each family featured plans for their next purchase and their dreams.  Interestingly enough, this led us to talk about our dreams, and our next purchase, and what is important to our family.  The more we talked,  the more we discovered common dreams and beliefs of families around the world.

We spent time also digging into all the statistics and information within the website to analyze trends, changes and factors that impact our world.  Education. Literacy. Pollution. Infrastructure. Health. Environment. Work. Energy. Economy.  Looking at the information from a mathematical vantage point, one can see the connectedness of all these factors. It is a domino effect of circumstances.  Again, we are connected as human beings.

Our classroom conversations led students down a rabbit hole that became deeper and deeper and  we wanted to be able to share our new insights and ideas with others around the world.  When we share our personal stories of what matters to us, we break down misconceptions.  The common thread became our ‘story’.  We each have stories about our traditions, ideas, heroes, fears and accomplishments. So why not share with the hashtag- #Whatsyourstory?  Our students posted their stories via Flipgrid. Using Flipgrid has given us a vehicle for classrooms to join us in a safe and effective way.  The seven prompts include:

  • Your hopes and Dreams
  • Your inspiring person
  • Your greatest fear
  • Your achievements
  • Family tradition
  • What matters to you the most?
  • How do you contribute to your family?

Our hope is that other classrooms from across the world will join us.  Look at  gapminder.com to learn and discuss.  Attached is a link for a pdf of lesson plans that will help articulate the steps for conversation.  If you’re interested, sign up, and we’ll invite you to the Flipgrid wall.

Listen to our stories.  Talk about your dreams and ideas.  Develop your story.  Talk about ‘What defines life as rich and meaningful?’  If you’re interested in posting to our wall, join us.  We want to foster kindness, empathy, understanding, conversations and perspective.  Our job as educators is to empower our youth to be leaders in making this world a better place.  Please consider being part of our work.



FROM DOLLAR STREET: (gapminder.com)

Laoye family lives in Lagos city, in Nigeria. Adeleke is 37 years old and is an architect. His wife, Bolaji is 34 years old and she is a fashion designer. The family lives along with their son in a 1 bedroom house. Their son, Tomiwa is 5 years old and he is a student. The family lives in a 1-bedroom house and has been living here for 7 years. They grew up in the area and like the location and surroundings of the house, but they aren’t happy with its size. It has indoor toilet facility and electricity which fails more than 3-times for an hour per week. The family buys all their food supplies from the market which altogether costs around 60% of their income. They use natural gas fuel stove to cook food. For drinking water, they obtain it from a water source which is 2 min away from their home. The family goes on vacations and have traveled to Kaduna, Nigeria on their furthest trip. They are saving money and their next big plan is to buy a car, some new furniture, and a laptop. Their most favourite items in the home are their smartphone and laptop. Their dream is to buy their own house someday.

September 30

Paul Davis comes to Bettendorf

Paul Davis, social networking expert from Canada, will be visiting the area tomorrow.  He will be leading a session for educators on how to step up our Twitter game.  Everything from photos to hashtags to blogging and security settings.  Here at Pleasant Valley, we’ve been an active group on Twitter the last few years and I’m anxious to learn what we need to do to continue to stay safe and protect our students.  In my many conversations with students, I preach the importance of checking security and privacy settings on a regular basis.  We talk that digital safety is an ongoing learning process.  I need to practice what I preach and continue to hone my own toolkit.

Please consider joining us tomorrow at Hopewell Elementary School at 3:45 to learn more about this critical topic.  Mr. Davis will also have several evening presentations for parents  at North Scott High School and Bettendorf High School.  See attached flyers for additional information.


I’ll update this blog post afterwards to include my new learning.


September 12


At Pleasant Valley we take digital citizenship seriously.  Our students and teachers in grades 3-6  spend multiple class periods at the beginning of the year discussing not only what is means to be a digital citizen, but how can we make our world a better place?  We talk about a digital footprint and the permanency of our online behavior.  Each grade level has a slightly different focus to build on the concepts from the year prior. And always, the emphasis is on the power of the conversation – both at home and at school.  Families need to be discussing how to address privacy issues and the appropriate sharing of information, as well as how much screen time is healthy?  Do devices really need to be in a child’s bedroom during the night?  At school. our students even sign a contract to front load the expectations of responsibility, respect and doing the right thing.   Actually, doing the right thing as a digital citizen, means we believe in the importance of contributing to make our world a better place.

However, when I reflect on these  digital citizenship lessons, I always wonder what is really changing?  Are we making a difference?  What behavior and safety issues are being addressed?   What are our students going to actually do? Are students applying new learning to their daily life?

So, we’re trying something new this year.  At ISTE 2018, the hashtag of #DigCitCommit was introduced and we’re placing this challenge in front of our sixth graders.  I’ve created a Padlet wall of ideas. On the virtual wall, students can join their classmates across the district by placing their name next to an idea they want to take on this school year.  Everything from ‘Unplug from your device’ to ‘give someone who has messed up a second chance’ is on the Padlet wall. Students from all five elementary buildings may join in an idea with others, or come up their own plan.  Some projects will be time consuming:  podcasting on digital citizenship, hosting a parent event about online safety and mentoring younger students.  Others have very little to do with computers, yet will impact interpersonal communication skills: writing a letter a month, playing outside more often and calling friends instead of texting them.

Bottom line?  I’m proud of these students and their willingness to take action.  They are creative, innovative  and caring young people.  They do want to make a difference.  Sometimes they just need a venue and some encouragement.  I’ll be sharing more about their work during this school year.

August 20

Culture of Readers – past and present

We’re embarking on a new school year, with a vibrant and energized focus.

Back in 2013, we started talking about the term #Culture of Readers in Bettendorf, IA.  Our ultimate philosophy centered on creating a community of people, (adults and teachers), who  come together and to further a true love of reading – connecting one’s head and one’s heart.  Since then, we have been sharing our philosophy with others through a variety of platforms.  But, this year is different.  We want to make our thinking MORE visible and share the steps for creating a Culture of Readers.  Want to join us?  Feel free to email me at campbellbeth@pleasval.k12.ia.us or reach out on Twitter @hopewelllibrary.