sharing a love for educational technology

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Integrating Tech Really Does Pay Off

Trying new things is scary, especially in technology. And with all the new tools that come out every year it can be
downright daunting. Where to begin? It is overwhelming when you already have a full plate just keeping up with
day to day responsibilities.

As a Tech coordinator in my school, I try to share out cool and engaging resources as I come across them.
I research tools so I can see how they play out in the classroom and then recommend them to teachers who might
like to try them. I think it’s important to keep the teacher in mind when I try new things.

Of course, my true guinea pigs are my students. If I like something, I will try it in class first, incorporating it into a
lesson. My classes will give me feedback on the new tool so I can judge if it’s lesson-worthy.

Over the years I have refined my go-to tools and use them regularly--the others I use for specific projects as they
fit. I will say as a caveat -- I do not use technology for the sake of it -- and do not recommend it for that reason
either. It must serve a purpose to furthering the learning process and it must make the teacher’s job easier.

With that said, I also think it’s important for lessons to be looked at and refreshed from time to time. After 17
years, I readily admit that even I get bored with some lessons. I often survey students afterward to see what
worked and what didn’t. I adjust the lesson delivery or abandon it altogether. I find something new to make
the topic more interesting.

So with all that’s available, how do you know what’s right for you?

Reach out! Talk to your edtech person (if you have one), talk to your colleagues, get on social media!! There
is a plethora of resources online. There is one thing that I know and yet am always surprised by and that’s the
generosity of teachers. People are using and creating curriculum resources every day. Why reinvent the wheel?
Over the years I have found some tried and true sites that offer fantastic ideas. There are also innovative
leaders in education who are on social media and sharing their stuff all the time (blogs, twitter, Facebook).
Check my links on the sidebar and at the end of this article for some of these people.

To avoid the “try it all and use nothing” syndrome -- PICK 1 THING. Pick one thing to try in a lesson and
use it until you’re comfortable with it. Once it becomes part of your teaching toolbox, try something else.
But, give it a chance. Try it with your kids and reflect on its effectiveness. Soon your arsenal will grow
and become refined. If you have trouble, get help first. If after you’ve tried it and it doesn’t work or
infuse something into your lessons--move on.

Trying new things is scary, but sometimes the payoff is how the student remembered the information
because of the way it’s presented or how they were engaged in it.

Last night I ran into a former student. This was a kid who I worried about. He didn’t always get his
work done--but when he did, it was inspired. He told me how well he was doing, an A student now.
He made a point of saying how well I had prepared him. He had even shown his teacher some
things he had learned with me. (I beamed inside). Sometimes you don’t get the affirmation you want
at the time, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t made an impact where it counts.

Take a look at your lessons. Find one that has some dust on it. Blow the dust off and infuse some
new life into it. Your students might actually thank you.

Some of my favorite Teacher Tweeters
Pinterest is a great resource for whatever you’re looking for - personal or professional
Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) - free and paid lesson plans

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Going Google Suite

     Our school went Google 2 years ago and some days I wonder how I went without it for so  long.
The training was very important in order to make for a smooth roll out. Since our goal was to have the middle school at 1:1 in the classroom, we started the full suite there. Two teachers took the Google Certified Educator training so they could be additional point people in the building. Every teacher on campus started with the basics of gmail/calendar as well as Sites for their class webpages.

I have slowly worked my way down to the fourth grade and will continue building skills with them for the rest of the year. My goal is to add the third grade next. While it's great to work with the kids in the computer lab, the success lies in the teachers using it in the classroom.

Classroom has changed the way I deliver instruction in my classes. I can put a whole lesson together in one place (including resources, weblinks, reflections, and assessments). The best part of all is that regardless of the hardware platform being used (Apple, Windows, etc), every student can access the work. The Forms App allows me to ask questions, quiz, survey, or use Exit tickets with my students (and fellow teachers).

The Share feature within the Apps (docs, slides, sheets) has the students creating and collaborating on work in a way they couldn't before. The G-Suite is working great with our Chromebooks and the Admin Console allows us to control the permissions for what students can (and can't) do.

I have been able to access my work wherever I am, reply to student questions or comments easily, and update or edit things on the fly.  I wholly recommend  G-Suite if you are thinking of taking your class or school in that direction. Be prepared for some bumps, but in the long run, it's well worth it.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Back in the Saddle Again

I have to explain the big gap in posts here -- I know it is not the way to keep an audience, but I hope you will
stay along for the ride. I promise some really exciting Ed-Tech tips and applications and maybe a guest
post or two.

Over the last 2 years, we rolled out Google for Education, (originally GAFE) now renamed Google Suite, in our
K-8 school. If you have done this you know that it involves multi-level training that includes teachers, students,
staff and parents -- and a lot of planning.

In addition, we have added close to 100 chromebooks in our middle school. All along the way, new ideas for
professional development and apps took a priority.

I hope to bring my experiences with the roll out to you and offer something that might be helpful.

To add some fun to my days, I also added robots to the mix. Initially, I introduced my students to Ozobots--they
clamored for them. And this year, we started a team and  joined the First Lego League using the
EVO Mindstorm.

It’s been a busy time.

So forgive the lapse and I hope you stick around to see what’s new and helpful!
And remember to Take 5 for Tech...

Thank you,

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Digital Storytelling with Story Jumper

One of the most interesting parts of my job is trying out new technology and resources for my teachers. I love experimenting with different tools and finding ways to use them in lessons. I also enjoy watching my students use a new resource and make it their own.

One of the surprise hit picks this year was StoryJumper. StoryJumper is a digital storytelling website that allows you to write, illustrate and create a digital book. The site provides prompts and illustrations or allows you to create your own from scratch. 

According to the website: "StoryJumper is a site that gives teachers, students, parents, and authors a fun set of intuitive tools for writing and illustrating stories. Our goal is to inspire anyone that's ever wanted to write an illustrated story to get started!"

In our cross-curricular project with ILA, Art, Media Center & Technology, 6th grade students created a retelling of the classic fairy tales. They rewrote a chosen fairy tale and illustrated each page, then scanned each illustration as a .JPG file so they could upload the pictures into StoryJumper.

Once completed, StoryJumper compiles the text and pictures into a story book, which can then be viewed or shared digitally as well as ordered in various options of paperback, hardcover or digital versions.

The kids did a fantastic job with the project - and their final books were awesome. They learned that writing and editing went hand in hand - even if it was hard work - it was well worth the end result. 
Our school ordered a copy of each book for our library and we had a book signing with the students when they were delivered. 

I'm sure there are a multitude of ideas and uses for this website - our students were truly engaged for this.  Teachers can sign up and use it for free. 


Thursday, August 7, 2014


Yesterday I spent the entire day in the most awesome PD -- 9 hours of amazing presentations that have me invigorated for the new school year. I encourage you to try Edmodo -- not just with your students but for yourself and the community of sharing it offers. I have come to find that teachers are the most generous group of people on the planet -- they embrace sharing: ideas, resources, and time. There is a community group for everything in education and then some.

In a few days the archives of the presentations will be up and I highly recommend checking them out -- totally worth it! From assessment ideas to connecting with students on a new level--but most importantly, bringing the passion for your students' stories and making them the star of the show.  As the dynamic Steve Dembo of Discovery Education said in his Keynote closing, "Make your classroom activities a story worth reading, not a bullet point!"

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Time Away and Time Again

I have been away from my blog for some time. It has been a time of personal and professional reflection and growth.  Sometimes we have to step back and get a view of the big picture, it really does help with focus. I feel reinvigorated and ready to share again (not to mention prepare for the upcoming school year).

My time off has not been without learning. We implemented an iPad mini cart program for our school as well as getting the teachers on board with iPads in their classrooms. It has been a learning process for me as well as everyone involved. Some really great projects have come out of it already, though! (I'd love to hear how you are using devices in your classes).

One of my favorite projects this year was using StopMotion on the minis with my 5th grade class. They were asked to chose a scene from the book Wonder and create a stop animation movie using whatever they wanted for the characters. Such creativity -- we had everything from Legos, goldfish crackers, a mix of action figures, to drawings! The kids were great and their imagination was boundless.

Sadly, because we used the free version, I have yet to figure out how to share these videos beyond our school. But, these are the things that come with new endeavors and technology integration. Some of my teachers are also finding cool uses for the minis as they do research and instant assessment with their students.  It seems the possibilities are endless.

I just finished some certifications and have some ideas I want to flesh out for the new year. The #Edtech chats on Twitter are always food for thought. There are a few learning adventures (PD conferences) coming up -- maybe I'll see some of you at TeachMeetNJ or online at EdmodoCon -- possibly even at the DiscoveryEducation VirtCon.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Monday, April 22, 2013

Our Very Hungry Caterpillars

I love using Animoto with my younger students. They create wonderful pictures on a theme that we are studying and through this cool website, their work becomes an award-winning movie (well in our minds anyway)!
Animoto allows you to select a theme, upload pictures, add text, choose music--and in a flash a video is produced. My kids all think it's  magic and you know, in a way it is!
Check out my 2nd grade's latest creation - a take on Eric Carle's Very Hungry Caterpillar:
 Our Very Hungry Caterpillars