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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!

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Couple of Summer Learning Opportunities

Summer break brings a great opportunity for us as educators to recharge and refresh our batteries.  It also offers us TIME to learn and explore some new technology tools, apps, ideas that we can apply in our classrooms for the upcoming school year.

I have created a couple of summer learning activities for our teachers here at Aurora Public Schools. Check them out below.  Feel free to take any of the ideas that you see here and modify them to fit the needs of your teachers and administrators!

The Breakfast Club
I started The Breakfast Club three summers ago. It's tough to introduce new tech tools, concepts and ideas mid year, as teachers don't have a lot of time to dig in to what I show them.  The Breakfast Clubs generally run an hour (I am offering some two hour sessions this summer) and are all about having time to explore and play.  Generally, I will do a quick run down of the tool, then let teachers have time to play.  You can check out my Breakfast Club offerings for this summer here, 2014 here or 2013 here.

Summer Fun Book
The idea for my Summer Fun Book came about after noticing that our elementary teachers send home Summer Fun Books with all sorts of activities for their students to work on during the summer.  I thought that it would be a great idea to compile an activity book that my teachers could work on during the summer, at their own pace!  My Summer Fun Book is composed of eight challenges.  Four that I created specifically for the Summer Fun Book and four App Task Challenges that I had previously created.  If a teacher successfully completes all eight challenges, they get invited to a pizza party that our elementary Principal has graciously agreed to fund!  Check out my Summer Fun Book here.  Feel free to make a copy and use with your staff!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Let's Talk with Students, Not at Them When It Comes to Digital Citizenship

One of my favorite duties as the Integration Specialist for Aurora Public Schools is getting the opportunity to talk about Digital Citizenship with our K-12 students.  It's a task I enjoy doing and I thought I was teaching it the right way...

Boy, was I wrong!

I have organized various presentations to use during our digital citizenship time that are full of great information and resources from websites like Common Sense Media, CEOP and Netsmartz. I showed up in the classroom or auditorium and shared what I had created with our students.  The students listened and watched to what I thought was some pretty interesting material that I had pieced together for my presentations.

Then I started evaluating how I was going about this process and how I was addressing this very important issue with our students.  I realized that I shouldn't have been talking AT our students.  I should have been talking WITH them about digital citizenship. Wouldn't it be more effective if the students had a voice in the matter? After all, they are the ones using the devices, websites and tools we are talking about.

This major change in my mindset of how I talk to students about digital citizenship can be directly attributed to Danah Boyd's book "It's Complicated."  I'm not going to go into details about the book. Download it and read it. You will see how it's totally changed my perspective of how we should be addressing digital citizenship with our students.

After reading this book, I realized that I need to listen more and engage in conversations with our students.  So I changed the way I was teaching and talking about digital citizenship with our students.

I created a "Things That Rock" slide presentation based on some topics that students could relate to when it comes to digital citizenship.  It's based on the "Things that Suck" EdCamp session made famous by Dan Callahan.  I borrowed the title "Things That Rock" from Dean Shareski because the "S" word is pretty powerful and I didn't want to use it around students.

Below are the  presentations that I created for grades 3-5 and 6-12 respectively. Feel free to steal the idea and add some of your own topics.  As of this blog post, I have completed this session with all of or students in grades 3-12 and I can honestly tell you that we have had some fascinating conversations during our time together. Our students have so many great perspectives.  We really need to listen to their voice more in our schools!

This whole process has reaffirmed my belief that we need to engage in conversations with our students when it comes to the topic of digital citizenship instead of talking at them about it.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Rejuvinate with an EdCamp

It's hard to believe that today is the first day of Spring.  With Spring comes MAPs testing, NSEA testing, musicals, awards banquets, track meets, golf meets...there is so much going on this time of year.  And to think that there are only 40 days left in the 2014-2015 school year!

Where did the school year go?

I'll admit that it's really easy to lose focus in the Spring.  Admit it.  You've done the same.  As educators it's tempting to begin counting down until summer vacation.  The time that we will have.  The family vacation we have planned.  As a result, it's easy to lose focus in our classrooms.  That's not really fair to our students.  Is it?

I have found the solution to this problem.  Attend an EdCamp.

Tomorrow, I am attending EdCamp Omaha.  It is going to be a much needed "kick in the pants" for my psyche.  It's going to help me focus.  It will recharge my batteries.  It will remind me of why I have become an educator in the first place.

I am looking forward to being surrounded by passionate, driven and determined educators that are ready and willing to give up a Saturday to make themselves better.

I can't wait.

Monday, February 23, 2015

App Smashing and Rhyming Words

It's an easy app smash that you can do with your students to reinforce those rhyming words.  This whole app smash came about after a conversation with one of my awesome colleagues, Mrs. Hansen.  She had been having her students use the iPads in her classroom to scan a QR code that would display a word.  Her students would then think of and recite a word or two that rhymed with the scanned word.

We did a little talking and planning, and before you knew it, we had created a little app smash to reinforce this simple lesson.   Here is the app smash recipe:

Here is how you can use this app smash in your classroom with your students:

1.  Create a whole bunch of QR Codes that link back to rhyming words (can, car, bat, etc.). Laminate them or store in a 3-ring binder in protective covers.   I like to use when needing to create a bunch of QR Codes at one time. It's an awesome tool for this. 

2.  Have students scan the QR Code.  Let's say that the word that it's linked to is "bat."  Now have your students open the Pic Collage app.

3.  Let students customize their background as they really like doing this.  Have your students add the word "bat" to their Pic Collage.  Have them make this word fairly large by two finger pulling.  

4.  Now have the students add three words to their Pic Collage that rhyme with their original word.  For example, I would add "cat," "hat," and "brat" to mine.  Have students two finger pinch to make these words smaller and drag them to where they want them in their collage.

5.  Now, let's have the students add an image from within the Pic Collage app.  Have students add an image of their original word by tapping on "web images" in Pic Collage. Drag and place the photo that they choose. 

6.  Five finger pinch to close Pic Collage. (It's a simple move I teach all our students.  If you have multitasking gestures enabled, simply take your hand with all five fingers spread apart and pinch them together quickly. This will close the current app, allowing you to work in another).

7.  We are almost done.  Why not let them create a drawing of one of the the words that is on their collage?  Have them illustrate one of the words using the Doodlebuddy app.  When they are done with their drawing have them save it to their photo album.

8.  Double tap your home button to reveal apps that are open.  Choose the Pic Collage that we have been working in.  Tap to make it full screen.  Add your Doodlebuddy illustration by tapping on "photos" and adding it to your Pic Collage. 

9.  Have students add their names.  Now, you could save this artifact to your library so that we could embed it into a future blog post using KidBlog or you could simply have your students email it to you so that you could do whatever you like with it!  

Happy Smashing! 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Who's Telling Your Story?

Ask your child what they did in school today.  What's the typical response?  "I don't know" or  "Nothin', really."  As a teacher, I beg to differ!

What's going on in your classroom this week? Who knows about it?  A majority of teachers that I ask that question answer with the following:

"My administrator, students and some of my parents."

Really?  That's it?  Shouldn't the whole world know what's taking place in your awesome learning environment?  Now, some might say that "nobody really cares" or "who would want to know anyway?"

I truly think that YOU need to be sharing the awesome events that are happening each and everyday in your classroom.  An activity or project that you might think is meaningless, could be magnificent in the eyes of another educator!

I was one of those teachers that didn't share much during my first eight years of teaching.

I went about my business. I did my thing.

Then one day, I joined Twitter.  To be honest with you, I was a little hesitant when I first joined.    I didn't see the value of me sharing and telling the story that was playing out each day in my classroom.  I lurked on Twitter.  Eventually, I started seeing what other social studies teachers were doing in their classrooms.  I started lurking and learning.  I started taking their ideas and modifying them to use with my students. My classroom was no longer a static learning space.  It felt like it was constantly evolving.  I was learning and it felt great!

Eventually I started to realize that by tuning in to other educators I was become a more well rounded educator.  

Eventually I started joining in conversations on Twitter.  I no longer lurked.  I started conversing.  I shared and produced.  I collaborated with other teachers from all over the world.

I quit being an Idea Hoarder.

How can you start telling your story?

One of the easiest ways is to start using Twitter as your broadcasting platform.  Creating a hashtag for your classroom is an easy start.  We have several teachers in my school district that are utilizing hashtags in their classrooms to tell their stories.   Check out #auroraspanish #ahsbio #hudsonkinders or #ahs109 to see how these teachers are harnessing the power of the hashtag.

Using a hashtag for your classroom creates a digital window so that others can tune in to see all of the great activities/events/learning that is taking place.

So, who's telling your story?