Friday, December 20, 2013

Why I Love Feedly

Want to learn more but don't have time to hunt?   Find a great blog but lost the site?   Well then my friends, Feedly is for you!
At this year's IETC conference I spent some time in a session all about RSS feeds.   RSS feeds make your life easier.   What they do is keep a website link the RSS feed constantly updates and bring you the newest articles or blogs at that site kind of like a newspaper.   There are many RSS Feed Sites, but I love Feedly.   Feedly links with your Google account which is great.   One less username and password for you to remember.   My Feedly is organized also by categories.   Makes it easier for me to find my Techie blogs, recipes, and everything inbetween.
If you would like to learn more about how to use Feedly read my blog HERE and HERE .
Go out there, set up a feedly and start reading!

Friday, November 15, 2013

My first time Presenting at IETC

Yesterday I had my first experience presenting at a conference.  The past three days have been the Illinois Educational Technology Conference, IETC 13. I have presented at district wide conferences but this was my first session where I was not familiar with my audience.  It was a. Fantastic experience!
I, along with a teacher from a school that I work at presented on using Twitter in the classroom.  Basically a says to harness Twitter and inspire your students.   You can find the presentation here
As I reflect on my session, I feel as thought he experience was equally beneficial to those that attended and for me!   I stretched myself a little that day.  Of course it was great to collaborate with a fellow educator to create the session, butt he end of our session was an opportunity to share ways that the participants thought they could apply Twitter in their rooms.   We also created a google form to gather everyone's contact info so we could stay continued beyond the conference and hopefully follow each others' classes on Twitter.  
So my challenge to all you readers.  Especially the teachers out there.  Figure out what you are passionate about and find a conference to present at!   Many of you have something worth sharing so do it!  I guarantee you will find it rewarding!

**shameless plug you can find me at ICE 2014 METC 2014 and cross your fingers for ISTE 2014

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Technology, Level the Playing Field

This blog post has been sitting in my list of things that I wanted to blog about for a while now.  Technology in schools:  why it is so important to make technology accessible to ALL students, not just those who some may think 'deserve it.'  I spent a lot of time this week training teachers for a 1:1 initiative coming to our high school so this has been on my mind.
Decatur Public Schools is going 1:1 in their two high schools with MacBook Airs.  Teachers are getting advance practice and training starting now, and students will receive their devices when they move into their new state of the art high schools.  Our school district is in an urban environment with a high free and reduced lunch percentage.  Reality is for many of our students they do not have the money to afford wifi, computers or smart phones. For many students the only technology that they may come into contact with is at school.  For some, this 1:1 program could be a game changer.  I think that's very exciting!
If you ask me, school is suppose to be a place where it doesn't matter what you have at home, you should be able to succeed as much as the next student.  This isn't necessarily the case.  School districts sometimes are not equal.  If you are lucky and born into a family with money you are afforded many experiences outside of school that others who are not as lucky do not get.  When your school is able to provide opportunities to all, no matter your background, this is when the playing field could possibly be leveled.  Because of this, it is not just a nice thing to be able to do for our students, but something that is imperative for our students to be successful.  The future is changing.  We are looking toward preparing our students for college and careers.  Businesses say they are looking for students coming out of high school with a different set of skills than what we have prepared them with in the past.  Problem solvers, ability to collaborate, these are just a few of the skills that going 1:1 can help to support and develop.
In addition to all of the skills that computers can help to unlock and develop there is something else deeper here that going 1:1 can do for any student.  Our district is saying "yes you are worth it and you deserve it."  Our students deserve the best that we can provide for them.  We know that they deserve what others deserve as well, regardless of socioeconomic class.  I believe that this program has the potential to change the way that students view themselves and even inspire some to see new potential in themselves and what they can do with their future.  If their district, school, and teachers believe they are worth this investment, then maybe they will believe it as well.
I will get off of my soap box for now, but there it is.  ALL students are worthy of using technology and ALL students deserve the opportunity.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Visiting Classrooms

Today I spent the day traveling around our district, Decatur Public Schools, and visited teachers who are doing fantastic things with iPads with a teacher just starting her journey with iPads.  Check out her Blog here.
We are very lucky in our district.  Teacher are given a few visitation days that they are allowed to visit teachers in or out of district.   When the teacher approached me about wanting to visit a few classrooms where people were integrating iPads in a successful way I was super excited!  I felt like this was something that was really coaching, and then I got nervous.  So much to think and do before during and after the visit to make it successful.  When it was all done I think it went really well, so I thought I would share what I did.

Getting ready....

Before the visit I had to figure out where we would go!  I reached out to my network of coaches.  I asked for recommendation on teachers in their buildings who were successfully implementing the goal of the visitation, in this case implementing iPads.  I was lucky.  Teachers who were recommended I had seen in action.  Be sure to visit the room before going with the teacher to be sure that they are doing what you want the teacher to see.  One of the worst things to do would be to bring a teacher to see this model teacher and then its not what you want the teacher to see.
I also put together an observation form.  Basically a place for the teacher observing to gather their thoughts as the were observing.  This is also a good idea because you can guide your teachers thinking process with key questions.
Finally you need to be sure that the teacher is OK with the visit and reserve the times.  Be sure to communicate to the teacher that is visiting that they need to do all district requirements as well.  ie- booking a sub, filling our required forms.

The day of....

The day is here and everyone is excited to see awesome things!  If traveling to multiple schools I would suggest car pooling.  Time to reflect and share in the car is another way to squeeze every drop of the day.  Before you start the visit, take 10 minutes to prepare with the teacher.  Share the form you will use to guide the observation, explain what's going on in the room, and answer any questions they may have.
Visit the rooms and use the form.  I love using google forms because then everything is shared and there is no danger of loosing papers.  Encourage the teacher to ask students questions and encourage them to be an active observer by modeling that same behavior.  RESIST THE MULTITASKING URGE!

After the visit....

The visit is done and heads are spinning!  If at all possible, build time into the end of the day to meet with the teacher and decompress the visit.  If that is not possible try to meet as soon as possible.   Before you being talking with the teacher I would recommend giving them 10 minutes to sort out their thoughts.  Have them write, list, blog or whatever they need to do to begin to process the day.  While they are doing that, finalize and fine tune the questions that you want to ask the teacher to help them process their thinking  At the end of the 10 minutes start the discussion.  I had questions prepared so that we could be sure we made the most of this time.
Set another time to support the teacher with what they want to implement from the visit.  The visit is just the beginning, the follow through is super important so be sure to plan time for that.

So now you are ready to start visiting!  If you are a coach support your teacher in a visit.  If you are a teacher ask to go on a visit!  Sharing what you do well and working to develop yourself.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Connected Educators

Happy Connected Educator's Month!  If you didn't know before you know now, October is Connected Educator's Month.  Its time to reach out to educators, build your Professional Learning Network (PLN) to learn and share with others.  In honor of Connected Educator's Month I will share some of the ways that I connect with others.  Feel free to try one, all or any sampling of the ways.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I love Twitter!  You can follow me @techiechrissie.  The reason that I love Twitter is that its a source of constant sharing, learning, and support, if you do it right.  A great place to start is by following some awesome people.  If you are looking to add a few to your PLN try @mattbgomez @Shyj @tbbrwn @msellis61 @craigyen @stumpteacher @justintarte .  These are just a few of the hundreds of thousands of amazing educators on Twitter.  Start by reading tweets and links attached.  Favorite the ones your like.  When you are feeling brave, reply and comment!  If you are interested more about how to use Twitter to connect with educators read my blog here.

Google +
Google + is a community online through gmail accounts.   Mine is  You can search for hashtags similarly to Twitter, join communities, and save contacts into circles.  I have used Google + to seek out resources and support on things I am working on.  I have also shared things that have worked for people who are looking for support as well.  On Google + you can type more than 140 characters which is helpful.  Search for communities and join them to stay connected.  To start out I would recommend searching a topic you are interested in, then add those people to your circles.  Some communities to get started with are teachers helping teachers  and teachers loving technology.

I use Feedly to manage my blogs that I read.  Its basically a place that holds blogs with an RSS feed and holds them kind of like a newspaper.  When i find a blogger on Twitter or Google + that I think is interesting i will copy their blog link and paste it into my Feedly.  Now the blog is saved and will keep all of the posts there.  Some grade blogs to start with right off the bat are

Go forth and get connected!!

Friday, September 27, 2013

iPad Accessibility

Use settings on your iPad to Support Your Students 
When working with teachers, some of the best trainings I have done have been on the features of iPads that help to make information more accessible using the accessibility features on the iPad.  So for today's blog post I thought I would share two of my Must Have accessibility settings, Speak Selection and Highlight Words

  • Speak Text-  When working on writing it is important to go back and be sure that you have typed what you have intended to say.  I know that I struggle with noticing repeated/misspelled/autocorrected word, I apologize for any repeated/misspelled/autocorrected words on my blog.   A way that I try to curb this is utilizing the Speak Text feature on both my iPad and MacBook.  Before I publish anything I listen to the text being read back to me.   One of the principals that I work with always says, let me say it to you because you are an auditory learning. (Follow her on Twitter here and read her blog here) Boy is that true!  When I hear it I can see the mistakes, when I read it I cannot.  So many of our students who are developing writings would so benefit from this option.   Go to Settings/General/Accessibility/Speak Text and turn the slider to on.  You can adjust the speed of the speech and allow students to check their work by hearing and not seeing.  Definitely one of my favorite features, and yes I will be using it to check this post. 
  • Highlight Selection-  Another feature which I love is the Highlight Selection feature.  It is great that students hear their writing but if you are a struggling reader that may not be enough.  Highlight selection  enables the iPad to highlight text as it is being read aloud.  Go to Settings/General/Accessibility/Speak Selection/Highlight Text.  Another cool feature.
Go back to your classroom and enable these features.  You will be amazed at how it will support it will provide your students.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Favorite Part of Edcamp

Connecting at edcamp is half the fun!
This past weekend I was able to go to my first edcamp with an instructional coach from my district. (Find her on blogger here, and follower here on twitter here.)  The goal was to learn more about the format, meet some awesome people, and learn.  We were able to accomplish all of our goals.  It was an awesome experience and I loved every moment.  I wanted to blog about the experience but I needed some time to reflect on the experience.  What I came up with was this, connecting with other educators was awesome!
The best part of edcamp was the opportunity to connect, reflect and share with others who were passionate about education.  Heck, we were all there for a full day of learning on a Saturday!  The instructional coach and I reached out and shared in conversation with others and edcamp is a great platform to do this.  We were sure to provide a google form for our session so that we could all stay connected after the day was over.
Half of the learning of professional development is the learning that will continue after the conference is over and that's what I got out of edcamp.   When you attend a session of professional development do you extend your learning?  Set up a follow up session with your district's professional development providers, connect with teachers at your grade level to carry on what you've learned, be sure to meet new people at each session you attend.  When you connect and continue that's when real learning happens.
And if you get the oppurtunity to go to an edcamp, GO!

Friday, September 20, 2013

iTunes U for Professional Development

Durfee iTunes U Courses
One of the personal goals that I have made for myself as a coach this year was to differentiate my professional development.  There is one of me and about 70 teachers that I am responsible for developing technology integration with.  Within those 70 teachers there is a variety of skill level with integrating technology into instruction.  The only way that I can think to support all levels of skill is to flip my professional development.  This involves me making a lot of videos and handouts but its paying off.  At my 1:1 building Durfee Technology Magnet School (Like us on Facebook) I am using iTunes U.
This year we have a few courses on iTunes U at Durfee.  Each course is for a specific purpose.

General Building Professional Development
This iTunes U course holds all of the directions and materials for the typical  faculty professional development.  Links, documents, and resources are all held here.  When we have a faculty meeting teachers know that they should bring their iPads and look at the course to be prepared.
Tips and Tricks
There is a lot to share and know in order to have a successful 1:1 classroom with iPads.  It is impossible to provide a professional development session for everything.  We use this course to share tips for classroom management or routines and rituals.  Teachers can share things that have worked, or ask for ideas for something
App Club
There are 1000s of apps to sort through, why not bring our brains together!  Each month we have an app that we focus on.  Week one the course holds 'how tos' and support for using the app.  Week 2 the teachers share ideas on how they could possibly use the app.  Week 3 we try out the app, week 4 we share how it went.
MacBook Pilot
This year teachers applied to be a part of a pilot where they would take home a MacBook pro to create resources for iBooks and iTunes U for THEIR students.  Support docs and resources are housed here.

iTunes U is allowing teachers to have resources accessible and leveled.  Teachers no longer have to sit through development they are not ready for, or are ready to move beyond.
If you are at a school where teachers have their own iPads I would definitely recommend using iTunes U to administer professional development!

Learn more about our program here!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Another class of bloggers

We are ready to share our blogs!

We have another class of bloggers at Durfee Technology  Magnet School!  This fifth grade class will be blogging about their classroom.  Instead of the teacher deciding what will be important and creating a weekly newsletter, the students will blog about things going on in the classroom and sharing via their blog.  Goodbye newsletter hello blogging!  Below are hyperlinks to all of the students' blogs.  Stay tuned for their blogs!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Expect the Dip

Keep using the technology even when it's hard.
A new year is starting and many teachers are creating goals around incorporating technology into the classroom.  Enthusiasm is high as are expectations, and then the kids arrive!  I see many teachers loosing that enthusiasm, and even backing off of their endeavors with technology.  Don't give up!
There are many things that happen at school that make teachers feel tempted to stop using technology.  Unexpected hiccups occur; the wifi crashes, apps don't sync.  All of these things are definitely events that could make one stop and put away the tech.  Don't let that be the reason you stop your technology mission!  The wifi will go back up, you will figure out how to sync your apps have no fear!
Any time you try something new there is a natural dip in skill.  Think about when you get a new car.  It takes a few times to remember that the cruise control is in a different spot, or the gas is on the other side.  After a few times you get the hang of it and remember.  The same is true for integrating something new in your teaching practice.  Tech or not there is a learning curve with a new strategies.  Give yourself time to breathe, and reflect.  Have your coach or another teacher sit in to observe.  Chances are you are being harder on yourself than you need to be.
I was in a class with a teacher integrating iPads.  This was the third time I was there and the students have been using these iPads frequently.  I saw the lesson going well with students working together to navigate and learn how to use this new app in instruction.  The teacher saw a classroom loosing control.  When students take more control of their learning it is not strange for teachers to feel out of control and that can be scary!  This is normal, take a deep breath, and press on.
Anything worth doing is hard.  Change is super hard but good things come from
change.  Find the people around you to support you and stay the course!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Day 3 with the Gen 1 Project

Using skitch to annotate over images

Today was the third day working with a middle school science teacher at one of my buildings.
Quick background:  This teacher and I had been working and working on getting more technology to her building or classroom.  Our hard work paid off with a cart of 20 Gen. 1 iPads this year.  The plan is to integrate technology into the science curriculum via Google Drive, Edmodo, and a few Apps.  Day 1 we learned about Google Drive.  (Click here to learn more about what Google Drive is)  Day 2 we learned how to use iPads, and set up user names and passwords.
So back to day 3, it was awesome!  Every day that we work with the technology gets better and better.  Today we learned how to use Skitch which can be a finicky app.  The students really worked together, helped each other out and were able to get the job done.  I was super pleased with today.
Use Edmodo to share links and
assign tasks!
The teacher, although excited to be working with the technology, found it very stressful.  We talked about this.  Integrating tech is a HUGE job!  Many say they feel like a first year teacher all over again.  She and I spoke about how this is a huge change and change can mask itself as feeling out of control.  In her words, "the change is coming", it's scary, but we're in this together!  I'm so proud of where we are going, where we've come from, and where we are at!
Use Google Drive to create presentations
and store documents
Today we gave the students a google form to find out what they thought, and what they were thinking about this Gen 1 Project so far.  I'm excited to reflect on the feedback with the teacher and keep moving forward!

To learn more about the Gen 1 Project please follow the teacher's blog and follow her on Twitter!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Put your Summer Learning into Action!

Summer is coming to a close, it's hard to believe the school war is already upon us.   One of the focuses of my blog has been to share how to keep learning personal and continue it over the summer. Now that the summer is ending, it's time to make sense of it all and incorporate the things you have learned into your practice.  That can be overwhelming!
Select a focus and stick with it!  If you try to do it all at once your may get overwhelmed and give up.   Pick something to work on and stick with it!  This past week the coaches and coordinators in my district got together to prepare for the year.  Something that stuck with me is to prepare for the dips.  If  you try something and it doesn't go well, don't give up. Stick with it!   Ask for support, reach out to your PLN, and stay the course.   Anything worthwhile isn't easy but if you stick with it you will find success in the end.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A New Blogging Adventure!

Why do I blog?  I blog to reflect.  I blog to share things that have worked well for me.  I blog to connect with other educators.  This year I have been encouraging teachers, and staff in general that I work with to do the same.  I'm proud to say that I have been successful in getting people to hope on the blog bandwagon!  One of my principals, two teachers (here and here) and of course many of the coaches I have worked with have also been blogging.  (Here and here)
Today I completed the fun adventure of helping students in a fifth grade class to start blogging.  The teacher set up all of the accounts and the blogs and they are ready to start blogging and we created our first post today!  This teacher will be having students use the blogs to reflect on a project that they will be doing the entire year.  This class will research and learn about colleges and careers.  Every week they Skype with a person somewhere around the world.  Every week they will reflect on what they have learned in their blogs.  We did our first posts today and they were so proud.  Below you will find a link to each students' blog.  Please follow their adventure and comment on what they have learned!

Monday, August 19, 2013

BYOSS: Cool way to Facilitate PD

Not only do we get ideas, we get free snacks!
A few months ago I went to a conference in Chicago put on by SDE.  This conference's focus was differentiation.   There were a lot of cool things that I picked up on but one thing that i brought back was an idea for professional development from a session hosted by Rick Wormlei.  He spoke on an interesting way to lead professional development called BYOSS.
BYOSS stands for Bring Your Own Skill and Snack.  The goal of this professional development session is to have teachers bring ideas on how to use a tool, or implement a strategy, the skill.  And of course teachers love a yummy treat after school so that's why the snack.
If you are leading a BYOSS first you need to select a idea.  Its a good idea to think of something that people could share a variety of ways to use or implement this idea.   I chose to have my session on Promethean Responders as all K-8 classrooms in my district has a set.  Teachers that choose to attend are to bring a copy of a way they use the idea, responders, in their classroom for every attendee.  So 15 participants, 15 copies.  I chose to have teachers bring 10 copies as a standard.  Then of course, they must also bring a small snack to share.  Entry into the session is both the copies and the snack.
Once everyone is there, collect their 'skills' and everyone has there snack its time to get started!
Distribute the ideas to all of the participants.  I like to pass them out one at time so that the teachers can focus on them one at a time.  The teacher who brought the idea shares it with the group.  Then, as a group we brainstorm at least one way to modify or adapt the activity.  We do this for each idea.  The great thing about this session is 1.) you get to eat yummy snacks and 2.) you get to leave with a TON of ways to use an idea or incoporate a strategy.

# of teachers x 2 = tons of great ideas! 

When I tried this out at my schools is was super successful.  In addition to getting a lot of ideas, it allows teachers to reach out to each other and find experts in their own building.   Its definitely a style of professional development that I plan to try again.  I challenge you to try this at your school.  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Keys to Successful Technology Leadership

Happy Leadership Day!  We all know how important leadership is to a school.  A strong leader, who cultivates positive culture and acts as an instructional leader will find themselves at a school who will have a lot of success.  What separates a strong leader in the area of technology from a weak leader in the area of technology?  Why do some leaders struggle with technology while other seem so successful? I believe there are a few things that administrators and school leaders can do to develop themselves as a leader in their building in the area of technology.  

Develop Your PLN
We all know the power of a Professional Learning Network.  Teachers are encouraged to work together in their PLN to become reflective teachers and create a shared vision with regards to teaching and instruction.  The same should be true for administrators!  A PLN can help to find new resources, develop yourself professionally, and expose yourself to new ideas.  Try to find a school to connect with are share ideas, successes, and opportunities to grow from.  If you grow your PLN, you grow yourself!  

Make Professional Development a Priority
One of the commonalities of technology programs that fail is a lack of support for teachers.  Professional Development is the key to success with technology in the classroom.   It is super easy to invest in the flashy new tech and forget to save money for the support!  Integrating technology in the classroom can be a huge task for any teacher.  I have heard an 8th year teacher say that it felt like they were a first year teacher all over again.  A way to support those teachers is with coaches and professional development.  If we leave this key piece out it is incredibly difficult for teachers to experience success with their technology integration.  

Find Your Expectations and Stick With Them
Many teachers are looking for clarity on what they should be doing with technology in the classroom.  There is a limitless world of options in the world of technology.  It can be overwhelming to decide where to go, what to use, and how often to use it.   Clarity of expectations for technology use can help teachers to find a starting place.  In addition to setting a bar, these expectations can also be good for teachers who are ready to rise above and find their way to being an exceptional teacher.  Once you have created these expectations but sure to stick with them and back them up.  

I challenge you school leaders out there to try to do these three things.  If you are already doing these items, kudos and keep going!  To read a blog by an awesome leader click here!


Professional Development is key to technology integration

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Why QR Codes?

Scan this QR Code using an app like
This summer I have spent a lot of time participating in, planning, and delivering professional development.  Throughout the course of the summer I have received a lot of feedback from teachers and found out more of what they want to learn.  One of those things that teachers wanted to learn more about was QR Codes.
QR Codes, in my opinion are pretty awesome.  You can find them everywhere from magazines, nutritional labels, and packaging.  In the classroom they can be very useful. QR Codes can link a user to a variety of resources.  You can link to anything with a web link.  I have seen teachers use QR Codes for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:
Create wearable QR  Codes!

  • link students digital work in the hallway, like a digital bulletin board
  • direct students to morning work
  • share 'I'm finished with my work now what" extension activities
  • Scavenger Hunts
  • Links to parent resources outside the classroom
  • Links to the school or teacher's website
The next question I get after what can I do with them is how do I make them?  They are surprisingly simple to create!  There are a variety of free websites that will generate them for you.  Simply google 'Create a QR Code Free' and many options will be found.  I like to use Kaywa.  You have to create a username and password, but then it saves QR Codes that you have created.  Copy the link of whatever you would like to create a QR Code for, and paste it in the field that asks for the URL.  On Kaywa you will need to be sure to switch the slider to static, this site allows static codes for free**, and click generate.  Your QR Code will be displayed.  You have a variety of options as to how you can download the code which is also nice.  You now have you QR Code to display!
If you are looking for an app to use to scan QR Codes, I recommend QRafter.  It is free and works with apple products.  Happy scanning!

**Stay tuned for a blog post on the difference between dynamic and static QR Codes

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Fun Way to Reflect!

A letter to yourself to inspire and reflect!
It's summer and there are two days left until I head back to work.  I'm trying to take care of the things that once the whirlwind of the school year begins I'll forget about, like cleaning the kitchen cabinets, I know super awesome, when my husband came home with the mail.  There it is, staring at me from the top of the pile, the letter I wrote to myself back in January!
This past January my district asked to attend a conference in Chicago put on by SDE.   Of course, it was awesome!  The closing keynote was lead by Rick Wormlei.  He chose to use this time not speak to us, but provide us with time to reflect on what we had learned.  He gave each of us paper and an envelope.  The challenge was to write a letter to ourselves that we would receive in the summer, remind ourselves of all that we had learned in the past 3 days and keep ourselves accountable.  I LOVED this idea.  I ended up writing 3 pages.  Through the rest of the school year it did help to remind me to do things that I wanted to do.  I wanted to blog, kept my promise, and start ups a BYOSS session, which I did and will blog about later.  The letter reminded me to go back and look at my notes on rigor and relevance, making differentiation happen, and PBL.  The letter said to either look through them right now, or set an alarm for later in the week, I chose the later.   It also said to blog about this letter right now so I am!
I would definitely recommend us all to write a letter to our future selves that we should open when we're tired or at the end of the year.  Make goals, keep yourself accountable, but provide support in case your forget or leave things behind. I think I will try to include this in my first training sessions this Monday. If Rick should happen to read this post, THANK YOU!  You made my day, reminded me to think back, and got me excited for the beginning of the year.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer Learning: Blogs

Learning together at Apple Academy
I have been blogging a lot more this summer than I have during the school year.  I think this has been happening for a few different reasons.  First, I have more time than I typically have had during the school year. I know I will get busy again, but I plan to post with more frequency now that I have been getting in the swing of things.  Secondly, I have had time for learning this summer.  I have been lucky to attend two awesome experiences, Apple Academy and ISTE, as well as hosted many summer learning options for my district.  I have found that the best way for me to learn, is to reflect.  Blogging is the platform that is the easiest for me to reflect on my learning.  When I think back to the school year there were many times I was able to learn, but I spent little time reflecting.  I plan to keep up with the blogging when the school year begins, not only to keep up, but to help me reflect on my experiences as I go.
One of the themes that I wanted to blog about this summer was ways for teachers to take control of their summer learning.  Reading blogs and writing blogs is another way to do this.  If you have an experience that effects you, you blog about it!  Use your blog as a platform to reflect.  Not only does that support your learning, but then others can learn from your experiences as well!
Even if you choose not to blog, you should read blogs.   Twitter and Google + are great places to find blogs to read.  Find the blogs that interest you and save them for future posts.   I encourage you not to only read the posts, but leave comments as well.  See an awesome comment strand on this post by MattBGomez here.  Commenting and replying to comments challenges you to reflect even further.
I have recently been encouraging teachers in my district to blog.  You can find some herehere, and here.  I'm glad they are taking the digital leap into blogging and hope that they get the same benefits as I have.
So challenge! Read more blogs, comment on those blogs, and start your own.  Further you own learning and you never know you could even contribute to someone else's.  Happy Learning!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Its Not the Technology Its Us!

I have been sitting on this blog post for a while now.  Been looking for the best way to talk about how technology isn't amazing because its an awesome tool, it's because there are awesome teachers.  At today's professional development session I facilitated the teachers helped give me the words that I was looking for.
Teachers working to keep tech integration fresh!
Today I facilitated another two sessions on the SAMR model.  If you are interested in more info on what SAMR is you can watch this super awesome video or read my blog post on the SAMR model.  Each session had awesome conversation around which level of SAMR is related to different tech and tasks.  What we finally drilled it down to is that the technology tool isn't at a certain level, its the expectation of the teacher.  It's not the tech its us!  Many different tech options, from Promethean Boards to apps, can be integrated into the classroom.  The expectations and tasks that the teachers support and set out are what makes the difference between a classroom simply substituting technology with minimal gains, and a classroom blowing it out of the water and being innovative.  Technology is awesome, but its the teacher that makes the real difference for the students.
Later in the afternoon after the professional development sessions were done I met with a science teacher in my district who is trying to integrate iPads into her classroom, check out her blog here.  Writing grants, meeting with me on a regular basis, and research has inspired our district to repurpose Generation 1 iPads to her class.   To many these iPads are junk and belong on a shelf.  To her, its an opportunity to utilize Edmodo to support tasks via Google Drive, Educreations, and research capabilities.  It's not the technology it's us!
No matter what you have in your classroom for technology you, the teacher, are the real tool that is you the teacher!  Be sure to keep yourself fully updated!  Keep reading, learning, trying, testing, and asking.  Reach out to your peers, coaches, PLN, and social networking circles.   Join Twitter and build your circle!  It's not the technology it's us!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Managing Your Learning on Twitter

This past Thursday my school district hosted a day long learning event for all school staff called Summer Splash.  From my perspective it was a very successful event.  Teachers were able to register and sign up for sessions hosted by coaches in our district.  Sessions included everything from how to differentiate your classroom, how to be a reflective teacher, to integrating technology.  I lead three sessions, Twitter for the Classroom, The SAMR Model, and Small Groups with the iPad.
I received a lot of great feedback especially in my Twitter session.  One question I was asked was how do you manage and "file" everything that you learn on Twitter.  There is a lot to learn on Twitter and it can be overwhelming.  So I began to think, how do I organize and store my learning from Twitter. Here is what I came up with.

Create bundles to organize saved links
When I find a link to a blog post I like, I will retweet it or share it out.  Twitter saves all of your tweets but it's in a timeline and can be to remember where that great blog was.  I use bitly to shorten all of my links.  Bitly will store your links and save them.  You can also bundle together links that are similar.  If you create bundles its easier to find those links again.
Save Blogs in Feedly

Another way I save and organize my Twitter Learning is with Feedly.  When I find a blog that I like I add it to my Feedly account.  You can also organize by groups here.  It makes it easier to sift through the blogs you like to read.  Kinda like a digital magazine of all my favorite reads.

One last way to organize your Twitter Learning would be through creating lists in Twitter.  I have not played with this a lot yet but it's something that has been added to my to do list.  When you gain more people to follow your timeline can become overwhelming.  If you have a lot of time to sit and sift through that's fine, but what about when school comes and free time gets more and more scarce?  Creating lists can sift through your feed and highlight people's Tweets that are in that list.  Timesaver for sure!  You can also follow other people's lists and they can follow yours as well.  Great way to organize and build your PLN.

So there we are, my two cents on organizing Twitter.   Happy learning!
Click to follow me on Twitter!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Key to Tech Integration: SAMR

Higher levels of achievement as you move up the levels.
Over the past year I have been working with my district to integrate technology into the classroom.   Many teachers have been excited to use new ideas and try something new.  It has been an exciting time but I have had the feeling that I have been missing something.  I wasn't sure what it was but I knew there had to be a key to the success of integrating tech.  Over the past year I have been very fortunate enough to go to conference and connect with other educators around the country and world.  I've learned a lot and I found that missing key, the SAMR Model.
The SAMR model is one of the models of tech integrations.  It's a way to evaluate the integration of technology based upon research by Dr. Ruben Puentedura  His research in Maine showed that all technology implemented by teachers falls into four categories; Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition.  To learn a little more about the SAMR model watch this amazing video by Candice M. on YouTube.
I have led a few trainings on this model with the teachers in my district and received good reviews.  I think that this model is what the teachers have been hunting for as well.  Before the goal was to have the students using the tech.  Now the goal is to facilitate learning opportunities for student that will engage and create previously impossible opportunities.  As a result, students will achieve higher levels of academic achievement.  All future trainings of mine will have a portion of time dedicated the SAMR Model.  Regardless of what technology you are using using, the SAMR Model can help you to evaluate how you are enhancing the students learning experience.
I challenge you!  How have you been using technology in your classroom?  Where does your tech integration lie?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What Should PD Look Like?

Teachers working together on a SAMR educreation
A few #edchats ago the discussion revolved around what good professional development or PD should look like.  An hour later, a lot of awesome conversation, a lot of lightbulbs, and a lot of ways PD can be more productive.  Teachers' time is SUPER valuable.  They have so many things that they are responsible for that it is important that when they do choose to spend an hour or 3 or a full day of their time in a session that we make the most of it.  There have been many ideas rolled around as to how to make the most of this valuable time, everything from flipping PD, tiering PD, and embedding it in their jobs.  Today I think I was able to create professional development that teachers found valuable and got a lot of.  I'll share what I did that I think made it valuable, I took a step back and let the teachers do the talking!
Today I led a training on the SAMR model.  This was a model that many teachers didn't have very much experience with, so this was really their first exposure.  I stepped them through the four levels, but as often as I could I had the teachers think/pair/share.  They were able to reflect and talk out what they thought each level was and apply it to experiences that they have provided to their students or things that they could do.  I was incredibly lucky to have groups of teachers who were so willing to speak and share!  That being said it is super important that the presenter have the tools to draw out conversation.  After they were able to talk it out they were able to share out how they understood the here, here, here, and here.  They were able to reflect on what they learned but also feel what the different levels of SAMR felt like.
Result of teacher collaboration

SAMR in their own way.  You can see examples
In addition to the teachers learning from themselves, when you let the teachers talk you can learn too!  I have a few new resources that I excited to play with and learn about (goanimate) , and a few new whys to reach out to teachers in my distrtict(app clubs).
I challenge all of you PD providers to incorporate as much teacher discussion into your professional development.  A great way to engage teachers, and use their time to the full extent.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Aurasma vs. Onvert

I have been spending a lot of my summer reading blogs, following Twitter, attending conferences and trainings, and leading a few of my own trainings.  Little did I know when I accepted this position that it meant that summer vacation was a thing of the past.  It has been super exciting, draining, and has allowed for me to learn a lot more.  In all of this summer learning, I learned about two iPad programs, Aurasma and Onvert.  I have played with both a little and decided that the next blog of mine should be devoted to comparing the two apps.
I first learned about Aurasma from another blog I follow from Matt B Gomez.  Aurasma is basically a QR scanner with a twist.  Instead of a QR code leading to another web based resources, you scan an 'Aura'.  An Aura is a picture which will trigger  media.  When you scan a 'Aura' another resource appears directly on top of the Aura.   The website has a set of media that you can utilize, or you can upload your own pictures and videos to the  Aura.  To be able to utilize this program you download the free Aurasma app which is available through Google Play and Apple's App Store.
Image I used for my Aura

Strength of trigger photo
I tried out this program and created my very first Aura. All Auras are created on your device.  For the media that will be displayed I created a Keynote video on my MacBook and exported it to iTunes.  This caused me a bit of a headache as Aurasma wants to load videos from your camera, photo album or something called blinkx which I haven't explored yet.  After playing for a while I ended up recording the Keynote while it played using my camera on my iPad. Once you have selected your media that will be shown over the trigger picture, you select the picture that will be scanned, the trigger.  Through trial and error I discovered that the picture must be relatively complex.  I originally wanted the trigger to be a sign with a few numbers and letters, like an element on the periodic table of elements.   Aura will show you how strong your image is with a bar ont the bottom of the selection window.
 You also have to actually take a picture of your trigger image so be sure to have that ready to go.  Once you have your trigger and overlay set up you save and you are done!
I could see a lot of excellent uses for Aurasma, the most exciting being student created Auras.  They are very easy to create especially when you use the camera tool to record your overlay.  Students could create anything from book reviews when you scan the cover of a book, to All About Me's a the beginning of the year when you scan their photos.
QR code you scan on the first step
Onvert is a program I learned about from a session that I attended at ISTE this summer, Crackin' the QR Code by Kurt Kohls.  He shared a lot of different ways to use QR codes.  My big take away was Onvert.  Onvert is a web based program that allows your iPad to scan QR codes, and then creates 3D media that is displayed when you scan a picture with the same QR code. Onvert works with both Apple and Android devices as well.  You create an Onvert QR code on the computer.   Go to the website and follow the steps.  Upload information about yourself the first time, load the trigger image and what will be layered over the tigger when scanned.  You can also load audio recordings as well.

Image to scan after you've scanned the QR code
I found this program to be a bit tricker than Aurasma.  The images had to be certain requirements and it required more work to set this up.  Students could use Onvert to create any type of presentation in the classroom.  They would need to be sure to have images and audio already recorded.
When thinking about which would be easier for a student to create I think Aurasma was the winner, although Onvert does has value as well.  I had some difficulty getting pictures which were the correct dimensions and it was difficult to change the layout of the layers.  I encourage you to try these programs out.  Both allow for students and teachers to create more interactive activities.