Friday, June 28, 2013

Can Anyone Hear Me?

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3....can anyone hear me??!?

ISTE has made me think about the amount with which I speak. After repeatedly hearing one key element infused throughout conversations, lectures, keynotes, and Ignite Sessions- I am convinced I talk too much; to the detriment of my children.

When teaching Reading and Language Arts, it seems you must talk by default. Most of the current literacy research states that students show growth in a small group setting with explicit instruction and concrete examples provided. That's a lot of talking...and has students doing a lot of listening. In Scotty Iseri's (@scottyiseri) Ignite speech, Kill Your Players, one idea stuck out and resonated with me- and that is the idea that directions (and in most cases on overabundance of directions) sometimes robs the player of discovery. He spoke of less tutorials on HOW to play actually provided more play time and a better retention of the material.

It made me think of how we handle new items we buy that often come with an owner's manual; or those items we buy that tote, "some assembly required." Often, it isn't that I go home, whip those open and read them before hopping to the task. More often than not, I stack them in a drawer I keep all owner's manuals in in case I need them. (i.e. in case there is a problem too large for me to figure out.)

A prime example is the Microsoft Surface "Windows in Education" project.. Microsoft generously gave away 10,000 new Window Surfaces to attendees of the ISTE 2013 conference this past week. I continued to hear  people talk about "playing with it" and/or "trying to figure it out." Not once did I see anyone actively reading the paperwork that came with them. It isn't that reading the directions isn't important; and yes, there is a skill to being able to read directions and other technical information, process the data, and carry out a task. However, I think as humans we are curious in nature and the aspect of exploring and engaging is often times more meaningful.

For me, I learned that making meaningful, engaging learning opportunities for my students, as well as my own children, requires the opportunity for discovery and experiment. While I have always known this and it seems quite silly to even reflect on this need- how often do kids ask us for answers they either have access to the answers themselves or don't take the time to grapple with... think through the question being asked? I tend to get stuck in the crazy cycle of being ask a question and immediately answering it. Or, even worse, giving the answer before giving the student time to think through and process- problem-solve for themselves.

If the statistic that 90% of students report boredom in the classroom is true and boredom actually changes the cortex of the brain, then I must be doing ALL I can to ignite, engage, and inspire my students to explore, experiment, and problem solve on a consistent and regular basis,

Monday, June 24, 2013

The World TRULY is Flat

According to Members of the Historical Association in 1945:
"The idea that educated men at the time of Columbus believed that the earth was flat, and that this belief was one of the obstacles to be overcome by Columbus before he could get his project sanctioned, remains one of the hardiest errors in teaching."[2]
And here we are in the year 2013 only to learn that, at least in educational terms, the world truly is flat.

This week I am attending my first ever ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference and Expo in San Antonio. Until February of this year I had honestly never heard of ISTE. (Sad, I know.) However, in the last few months, that I have had the awesome opportunity to see these truly innovative educators thinking about what engages our students, what drives learning, what tools and resources we can utilize in the classroom to foster learning; I've seen them grow and network and in that small moment of time- have had the opportunity to be a part of some awesome conversations- whether just following along or actually participating.

One of the topics I feel being recycled by many here this week (at least in my opinion) is making collaboration of students not just an idea, a lofty goal, or something we want to do occasionally, but truly having our students make meaningful connections with others to not only foster their learning, but also drive the questions they want answered. This idea that learning no longer takes place solely in our classrooms, but in truth holds more meaning for our students of this generation when we allow them to reach out to others and engage in meaningful dialogue, working in tandem with others- is (when you truly think about it... and are honest with where we are educationally) a total mind shift- collectively speaking.

So the in thinking about the quote found at the beginning of this post, years from now, when our own children are grown and old and educational trends and realities are both fighting for space in learning, will there be a quote somewhere in time that says,

"The idea that educated men at one time believed that the earth was round and limited to the four walls of the classroom, and that this belief was one of the obstacles to be overcome by educators everywhere before they could get their project(s) sanctioned, remains one of the hardiest errors in teaching."[3]

Source for quote:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Technology Integration

My philosophy of technology integration has changed greatly in the last year. Until this year, I have been so overwhelmed trying to fit inside the “box” of meeting all the requirements (testing, teaching, implementing C-Scope with fidelity, Easy Tech skills each week, library time, figuring out who hit who on the playground, handing out Band-Aids for paper cuts, dealing with issues being brought from home that affect focus, progress monitoring, etc…) that I had lost sight of the ultimate goal: to enable self-motivated, life-learners who cherish education and see the value of it in their lives. And somewhere in between all of those things- I am expected to teach them to read and write along the way.

Until this time, technology integration has been “just one more thing to do.” Then we were told the campus computer techs would be rotating to various campuses throughout the year (our regular computer tech would be visiting a different campus than ours), and I was really turned off. Not that I relied on her for a ton of things, but she was knowledgeable about our kids, the programs, and what to do in the spur of the moment when you can’t exactly throw in a work order and wait for someone to come to your aid. This meant that we, as teachers, would have to be able to solve our own tech problems as they arose (for the most part). “So in addition to ALLLLLL of these other things, they are now taking away our campus tech who is knowledgeable about our programs, our kids… US away and replacing her with someone who knows nothing about us and we don’t know??!?” If I am honest here, I will admit- I was bitter.

It was then that a dear friend asked if we would like to subscribe to a complimentary subscription of Tech and Learning. Because I can’t turn down anything free, I subscribed. I began reading each month about different programs and issues happening in technology within schools and finding myself excited to receive the next month’s issue. I started looking up some of the blogs and websites the magazine featured. I also signed up for our region’s Mobile Mania Conference in hopes of learning more about how to integrate some of the things I had been reading about.

All of this led to a wonderment about technology and the mind shift began- Technology doesn’t (and shouldn’t) be “one more thing” I have to worry about and learn about. I don’t have to have ALL of the answers. I can pretend to be a guinea pig; and my kids and I can try out different programs and links that we like. This new way of thinking freed up my must-have-control personality to explore and enjoy different sites. I joined Learnist and began exploring other people’s boards dealing with technology in education. This became a Pandora’s Box, along with Twitter chats that I would stalk at night in my free time. These people I did not know and had never met were so excited and alive! I began to see possibilities.

I started keeping a list (hand-written, of course. I do, after all, have an honest to God love affair with paper) of all of the cool websites, programs, and ideas I found interesting, along with any user names and passwords I used to join those sites. This late night routine of cyber stalking various programs and possibilities was like a guilty pleasure. About this time we finished with STAAR testing, and were able to embark on the usual “Oregon Trail” simulation I have played (and enjoyed) with my kids each year after testing. A tickling notion began to take over- what if I implemented some of the cool resources I had been tinkering with? My class and I had just finished using VoiceThread (after reading about VoiceThread on someone’s Learnist board) to create a poetry project and that was fairly successful. Best of all, I was excited and the kids were excited.

Through this series of events, my thinking and philosophy began to change. I started to see technology as something that MUST be included in my content, not only because it’s where we are in society, but ultimately, I truly want my students to be successful in the years to come, they must be tech savvy.

I have come to learn there are so many options out there in the tech world to enhance your content that to NOT use it is a total waste of resources on our part as teachers. As many of us know, we are preparing our children for jobs that don’t even exist for problems in the future we don’t even know are problems at this present time. How can you NOT integrate technology into as many facets of your teaching as possible? My philosophy is simple, to learn and integrate as much as I can to not only better myself as an educator, but also enhance the learning of my students. I’m just beginning; and I can’t wait to see what we create! We currently have 2 student desktops, and I bring in my two personal iPads and daughter’s iPod to use as much as possible!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Google Forms

One of my tech goals for this weekend was to try out Google forms after hearing about it for the last few weeks and also participating in several surveys that used it. Of course, I waited until Sunday evening to tinker with it, but definitely worth it! WOW.

Google Forms is out of this world; versatile, easy to create, and definitely easy to distribute. I was able to create and send out a survey in minutes. According to the various blogs I have read about Google Forms, you are also able to see the results in real time and receive analytics based on the feedback of your form. I can't wait to use this for parent feedback, student surveys, part of assignments for core content... the possibilities are literally endless!

If you have a free Gmail account, then you, too, have access to Google Forms! Simply download Google Drive and choose "Create" on the left-hand side. Voila! You will see numerous other options, as well. I am excited to try out Google Docs and the other treats from Google; I have a feeling this is just the beginning of a gold mine! 

The only negative I found (and considering what you get... and it's FREE it is hardly worth mentioning) was that you can't change the font and backgrounds are limited.  

More resources for Google Forms:
Create a Google form-
80 Ways to use Google Forms in Your Classroom (from Edudemic)-
How to Create a Test that Grades Itself (from TeachThought)-
Innovative Ideas for Using Google Forms-

Friday, June 7, 2013

ShowMe: a Novice Opinion

One of my favorite things is trying new technologies to see what works well and what doesn't. I try to find tools that are easy to use, easy to understand, and serve the purpose I need the tech tool for.

That being said, my daughter can usually be found either bugging her brother in his room or dancing to music on her iPod in her room. Last week I asked why she doesn't ever watch her own TV, and she said because she doesn't know how to work the satellite remote controller. Oh! Well.... yes.... I guess that could be a problem...

Knowing that I could show her once and she would ask again the next week, I knew I needed something she could review as needed until she felt confident to work the remote independently- and preferably a way that would not require my presence each time. So, we decided to try making a tutorial using ShowMe. First we took a picture of the remote control. Next, we recorded the steps she would follow while circling the buttons she would need to push using different colors on the picture of the remote control. Once we were done, she was able to watch it several times on her own and also has access to it via her iPod.

All in all, a win/win for everyone. She gets to learn how to use her remote control independently with a back-up plan in case she forgets; and I don't have to be summonsed her room each and every time she decides to watch TV. I will definitely be looking for ways to integrate ShowMe into the classroom!

Check It Out:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Overload 101

Nings, AR, blogs, oh my! Make no mistake about it, I am totally in over my head. Like, gurgling in the deep end with no signs of SOS..... and loving it! The ridiculously awesomeness about this is that it is summer vacation, so it is ok to be on overload. Expectation is low, no lesson plans or grades to submit, and nothing is really scheduled except regular summer things.

So far, today I have learned that AR does not strictly mean Accelerated Reader (don't tell my dear friend Mrs. Reynolds. She would be devastated. Seriously.)... For those living in the tech world, it means Augmented Reality. The first video I ever saw for AR was from a teacher showcasing her second graders using the PC program and app, Aurasma ( To an unknowing viewer, it looked like a bunch of little people using iPads to take pictures of things... and although I didn't have an understanding of all that was taking place, one thing was sure- ALL students were focused and learning in a 100% student-centered class. (I will remind you at this point that these were second graders.) This, in and of itself, had me very intrigued. After checking out the website and app, I am starting to learn more about it. Also, a recent blog I discovered- Two Guys and Some iPads ( featured more about Aurasma and its uses in the classroom. (Check out "Aurasma for visual thinking routines" on their blog! What a great idea!) Once you download the app, go to the Aurasma website and check out the "Oreos with One Direction" campaign. My daughter thought it was the coolest ever!

Next, in a few weeks I will be attending my first ever ISTE Convention. I am super excited and also very overwhelmed. At the time I registered, I didn't realize this was a convention bringing in over 18,000 attendants from literally all over the world. That being said, "fish out of water" doesn't even begin to describe me in my current state of technology understanding compared to the majority of those I will be attending with. To learn more about what to expect when I go, I have joined the ISTE 2013 Ning, signed up to join a Google Hangout session tonight, and also downloaded a webinar from a few days ago for new ISTE members and ISTE Convention newbies. Three days ago I couldn't have really told you what a Ning is and "hanging out" in a Google hang-out session was only one of those "I-really-want-to-try-that" ideas. 

So, while I by no means have it figured out, I am muddling my way through new technologies... flopping around.... gasping for air... and (for the most part) looking forward to how this new learning will change how I teach and use technology in the classroom.  

Check out these cool websites and blogs:

Saturday, June 1, 2013

PLNs: previously posted on Storify

PLN: Personal Late Nights

How Twitter and other tech media and platforms have opened up a Pandora's Box of Personal Learning Networks for growing as a teacher... or in my case PLN stands for Personal Late Nights...
  1. A few months ago I discovered Twitter- thanks to my friend, Sommer Reynolds and a Mobile Conference at Region 5. Not that I didn't know Twitter existed; you would have to live under a rock to not know about Twitter... I just didn't see its relevance to my life and felt it was one more novelty I truly didn't have time for. However, at this Mobile Conference, the Keynote was @ipadsammy and he basically said get a Twitter account because all of the cool kids have one... and since the lovely Mrs. Reynolds was always talking about the latest cool tidbits she read about on Twitter, I decided to give it a try. Holy Moly, Batman! There is a whole list of Twitter chats you can be a part of- and some of them aren't even listed on this list!!!!!!!!
  2. In addition to this thing called Twitter and his shadow, Hashtag- I also discovered Learnist. This site allows you to curate different sites and media based on your interest... and when education is not only your livelihood, but also your passion, there is much to discover! I began following and liking some pretty cool boards and through these boards on Learnist, have been introduced to a myriad of tech tools, programs, and apps that make teaching more vibrant and meaningful; probably for the simple fact that I personally find it engaging and fun.
  3. In the last few weeks, my class and I have used to spread the word about our Poetry Project and National Poem in Your Pocket Day (#pocketpoem); partaken (is that even a real word??!?) in various polls to engage student learning for our Oregon Trail project using the Socrative app; awarded badges with; used VoiceThread to piece our original poems and illustrations together and share with the world; used as a linking page for websites I wanted my class to gain content from and shared learning points with others through our comments (and an additional shout-out to the cute girl in the next class....until we realized Mrs. Diamond was monitoring all of our comments... and they were part of our grade.); participated in a QR Scavenger Hunt using the mobile devices we could scrape together (two personal iPads, my daughters iPod Touch (don't tell her!) and my iPhone) using the great! 

    All of these things with just a Twitter account and a Learnist Board... oh!- and of course, a few PLNs.  
  4. Mrs. Diamond's QR Scavenger Hunt
  5. Students sharing the poem in their pocket with PIYP open mic!! Many student-written! #pocketpoem #LCIRocks
  6. So where will we go from here? 
    So it was on this night that I told myself (numerous times) I would go to bed at 10:00 PM. No later. No excuses. No new media to devour or try. No new Tweets to read. Technology off. Lights out. Pronto!.......... Then this happened: 
  7. @burgessdave @alicekeeler Good teachers go to PD. Great teachers implement their PD #tlap
  8. I couldn't resist. What was this #tlap they speak of and where can I find out more!!?! Which led me to someone else's feed... which led me here!-- to Storify. Remembering the lovely Sommer Reynolds mentioning Storify once, I decided I needed to give it a try.

  9. A vicious, never-ending cycle........ or professional development at its finest.......? I'll let you decide. In the meantime, it has been another PLN, and I must get up in 5 hours. 
  10. @Sumlendia @johncornyn @sentedcruz Texas teachers think this is a great idea! Fifth graders at our school would love to Skype!!
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