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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Growing Up Digital

Being a parent has been the most rewarding event that has happened to me in my forty three years.  There have been some good times and then there have been times that I wish my Mom and Dad would have told me about some of the issues/choices/decisions that I would have to make as a parent.  I think it is their way of getting back at me for all the times that I caused them anguish.  And believe me, there are more than you can count on two hands!

As my kids get older, I find that their world is a whole lot different than the world that you and  I grew up in.   Growing up in the digital age is so…”distracting” to me.  To my children, that is all they know.  Sometimes I find myself wanting to take them back to 1985 to show them how simple life really was!  Life seemed so much easier without all the technology.  The only technology I needed was my boombox and my hip and trendy cassette collection consisting of Men at Work, Prince, The Cars, etc.

As the Integration Specialist for Aurora Public Schools I have focused over the last four years on having conversations with our students about Digital Citizenship. I believe that schools have to make a concentrated effort to educate our youth on the proper way to use the internet and how to behave online. As parents, navigating and keeping up with technology is tough business.  Too many parents don’t know what to do or where to start, so they do nothing.  

I would highly encourage you to sit down with your child and have “the talk.”   No, not the talk that you are thinking about, but one that pertains to them as a digital citizen and how important it is that they make good decisions while they are connected. Have you talked to your children lately about how they are using the Internet? Have you checked their devices to see what they are publishing or texting?  What about apps they are using?  If you are unfamiliar with an app they are using, sit down with them and have them teach you how to use the app.  Remaining immobilized around your child’s technology use isn’t effective for you as a parent and it doesn’t help your child.  The most important thing you can do is open up regular dialogue about your child’s online activities.  Ask questions, set boundaries, download the apps yourself, follow your children on social media, and model appropriate technology use.

I know that my kids get tired of me preaching about their digital footprint.  I don't care. It is just another one of my responsibilities as a parent, and I encourage you to do the same as well.   When you and I were younger, first impressions started with a handshake.  Now they start with a Google search.  What your child is doing online now and in the future can have a tremendous impact on their digital footprint.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

My Old Flames

Sorry...I had to come up with a catchy title.  No, I'm not going to be talking about my old flames from junior high school.  I'd rather fill you in on some Web 2.0 tools that I fell in love when I started integrating technology into my 1:1 Social Studies classroom back in 2007.

They are oldies, but goodies. 

Tried but true.

For some reason or another, I fell out of touch with these gems.  Well, it's time to rekindle the flames. Here are three awesome tools that you can start using with your students tomorrow.  

With Voki, you can create fun and unique characters that speak in many languages! You are able to customize their appearance and what they say!  I love the fact that you can "publish" your Voki in a variety of ways.  You can email your completed product, embed it into KidBlog or have your students embed it into a web page. Head on over to Voki's website to check out how you could use this tool in your classroom!

Wordle claims to be a "toy" for generating "word clouds" from text that you provide.  I loved using Wordle in my Social Studies classroom.  From analyzing text and historical speeches to creating summaries of civilizations.  A very powerful tool for any classroom!

So many possibilities with Big Huge Labs!  Create your own motivational posters, magazine covers, movie posters, etc.  The creation opportunities with this tool are endless!  Check out BHL and get your students to creating with those photos that they love to take! 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Camera App in Kindergarten

I have to give all the credit for this great idea to Kelly Smith, Instructional Technology Facilitator in Greenville, South Carolina!  Thanks, Kelly!

It all started when I saw this tweet from Kelly:

I was immediately intrigued by this activity as I love working with our Kindergarteners and their teachers on ways to use the iPad in their classrooms.  Yes, we cover some basic "parts of the iPad" and talk about what certain buttons do, how to four finger swipe, five finger pinch, close open apps, etc., but I never thought about building the foundation on the basics of the camera app. 

Man, I love the ideas shared on Twitter! I asked Kelly for some details about this activity and she shared what she does when introducing the camera app to her students. 

We use the camera app for a lot of different activities in Kindergarten.  I've never taught Kindergarteners how to utilize all of the tools within the camera app.  Until now!  Thanks to Kelly, we have spent some time showing our Kindergarteners how to do some of the following tasks, to better prepare them for some of the tasks we will be doing with the iPads throughout the year. 
  • Using the cropping tool.  The students loved using their math manipulatives along with a simple numbered card to take a picture, then cropping the image.   So simple, but the students loved it!
  • How to rotate photos.
  • How to use the zoom feature.
All this sounds pretty basic, but I actually created an App Task Challenge for the camera app to better educate my teachers on the various features within the app. Check it out here.  

I think we take the camera app for granted sometimes.  There are a lot of great features in this app that has so many uses in our classroom! 

Give this activity a try with your students.  I plan on building on it this week as we introduce the Pic Collage app.  Students will take a photo, edit it, then insert their edited image into a collage we will be creating. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Top 36 Educators To Follow That Have Less Than 1000 Followers

***This blog post is co-written by Craig Badura & Brent Catlett***

As connected educators Brent and I strongly believe in ALL educators being connected.  We believe that building and developing a PLN (Personal/Professional Learning Network) is an important task for ALL educators to be doing, not just a few.  We also believe that ALL educators bring great value to the table as someone who can SHARE the great things happening in their classrooms, schools, and districts via Social Media like Twitter!  
As educators we sometimes become idea hoarders and are afraid to share some of the successes in our classrooms because we feel like we are bragging.  I am convinced that there is a plethora of great educators out there who  have started a Twitter account, used it consistently, but haven’t gained a large number followers, for some reason or other.
Perhaps our list of 36 educators are typically not listed in articles talking about the "Top 25 Educators to Follow" on Twitter by popular educational companies like Edutopia or Education Week, or another person on Twitter with a massive amount of followers, but it doesn’t mean they are any less of a potential contributor to one’s PLN.  They are simply great teachers.
To Brent and me, the number of followers we have on Twitter doesn’t matter!  Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in that when you first get started on Twitter. Heck, I even wrote this blog post back in 2012 about my Twitter numbers.  What was I thinking?!
In one of our many discussions about Twitter we discussed how awesome it is to FOLLOW educators back that follow us!  Not ever limiting ourselves to certain numbers or acting as if we are too good for them because they may only have 24 followers.   Every member of your PLN is important. Follow them. Never limit your numbers. We also discussed the fact that we try to respond to ANYONE who tweets us with a question or thought.  I know I was frustrated several times when I started on Twitter because someone wouldn't respond to a tweet I had directed at them.
We feel like anyone who wants to join our PLN is more than welcome!  You follow either of us, and you are an educator, we are probably going to follow you back!  Just make sure you have a great bio explaining who you are and what you do in education!  And be sure to add a profile picture of yourself!
This amazing group of 36 educators that have less than 1000 followers are a group that anyone could easily learn from, collaborate with, and break down classroom walls!

So, GO FOLLOW THEM because they are fabulous educators!  

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Digital Citizenship Resources for the Primary Classroom

I know it may sound a bit odd, but I love Monday mornings.


I get to start every Monday morning during the first semester talking Digital Citizenship with our 94 Kindergartners.

 If you are a Kindergarten teacher and you're reading this, thanks for being AWESOME!  I admire you more than you will ever know.  I have a hard enough time keeping these students engaged for 25 minutes, I can't imagine what it's like for 8 hours!  Honestly...thank you for what you do!

As we get settled into our new school years, I thought I would share some of my favorite resources that I use with our primary students here at Aurora Elementary School. I hope you find a thing or two that you can use in your classroom!

Goodnight iPad: A Parody for the next generation
Yep, it's a Parody of Goodnight Moon, the classic by Margaret Wise Brown.  I read Goodnight Moon first, then head right into Goodnight iPad having students take note of all of the technology that is in the book.  We then have a great conversation about if there ever is a time when we can have too much technology in our lives.

If You Give a Mouse an iPhone: A Cautionary Tail
The follow up to Goodnight iPad is yet another great message for our students to hear.  We are all guilty of being distracted by our devices.  This tale drives home that point.

Arthur's Computer Disaster
Our conversation after reading this book is about how we should always keep our parents in the loop when it comes to technology.  Students should never be afraid to talk to their parents about something that happened online.

The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV
My mom used to harp on me all the time about watching too much TV.  I don't think our kids watch too much TV today, they spend too much time with their devices!  After reading, we talk about the importance of taking "tech timeouts" and getting outside and playing and just being a kid.

hello! hello!
Great book with a great message! Similar to The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV, the emphasis of this book is to unplug and enjoy the world around us!

My Online Neighborhood via Common Sense Media (who, in my opinion, have created some of the best resources to use in your classroom in regards to teaching digital citizenship)

Pause & Think Online via Common Sense Media

Hector's World via Thinkuknow
Join Hector and his friends as they embark on a trip to the local carnival and learn some valuable lessons along the way.

NetSmartzKids Videos
Your students will love learning with Clicky, the main character for NetSmartzKids.  I absolutely love everything that is created by the gang at NetSmartz

Friday, June 12, 2015

Quit Being an Idea Hoarder!

The following quote by George Couros really made me think...

"What if every teacher tweeted one thing a day that they did in their classroom to a school hashtag, and they took five minutes out of their day to read each other's tweets?  What impact would that have on leaning and school culture? 

I am lucky and blessed to work with some amazing educators.  The ideas for activities and lessons that they come up with is inspiring.  Parents in our school district should rest well knowing that their children are being taught by some very passionate, enthusiastic educators.  


I often compliment a teacher for an activity or lesson that they taught while I was in their classroom. I encourage them to blog about it or tweet about it. Just share it!  Too many times, I hear the response, "Oh, who would care about that anyway?" or "It's nothing fancy" maybe even a "It's really not that great of a lesson."  

My response?  "That was amazing!  Imagine if another teacher saw your tweet or blog post about that lesson or activity and did that same lesson with the children in their classroom!"

I think that we can sometimes look at the lessons/activities/ideas that we are using in our classrooms as just your average, run of the mill lesson.  Yet in the eyes of another teacher they are MAGNIFICENT!

Quit being an idea hoarder! 

Some of you are doing great things in your classrooms! We need to hear or read about it!  Get your blog set up if you haven't done so.  Don't know how to use Twitter?  Find someone to teach you how to harness the power of this amazing tool!

The world of Education needs your contribution!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"I'm Just Not Very Good With Technology" Is No Longer an Acceptable Excuse.

We've all heard someone use the phrase.  Perhaps you've even used it at one time or another.  I've heard the phrase countless times during the five years that I have been an Integration Specialist.   

I'm tired of the excuse. It's 2015.  Now, if it were 1989, it might be an acceptable excuse, but not any longer.  There are some great ways to use the various technologies that we currently have available to us as educators to make our classrooms an even better place to work, play, collaborate and learn.  

When thinking of this whole issue, it makes me think of a teacher that just retired this year from our school district.   Her name is Ms. Breese.  She was an outstanding Family and Consumer Science teacher at Aurora Public Schools for 40 years.  Yes, 40 years!  That is simply amazing!  I was really bummed the day that she came into my room to personally tell me that she was planning on retiring at the end of the school year.    

You see, Ms. Breese was what I would consider a "pioneer teacher" in our district in regards to the use of educational technology.  She was a "pioneer" in the fact that she was a prominent teacher leader during our 1:1 iPad initiative.  Ms. Breese used the iPad in so many creative, practical and engaging ways in her FCS classroom.  She was always looking for ways to use the iPad and we had some great brainstorming and planning sessions together. Other teachers in our district could always count on Ms. Breese to have a great new idea on how to successfully use the iPad in the classroom.  She was truly an asset to me as an integration specialist.  I could count on her to share all of her great ideas with our other teachers!  I loved her creative spirit and willingness to change things up in her classroom.

Ms. Breese had 37 years of experience when I started.  When our school decided to proceed with our 1:1 iPad initiative three years ago, it would have been very easy for Ms. Breese to use the excuse, "I'm Just Not Very Good With Technology," yet she jumped on board the "tech train" from day one and was always looking for new and unique ways to better her classroom using educational technology. I vividly recall the day a couple of years ago that Ms. Breese came into my classroom and told me how using the iPad and other technologies in her classroom really had revitalized her passion for teaching.  “It’s so much more fun,and there are so many opportunities” she recalled.  I hated to see her retire, but really enjoy the fact that I was able to work with Ms. Breese for three years.

Thank you, Ms. Breese for being a "pioneer!" And, THANK YOU to all of the other "pioneer" teachers that are out there reading this!