Saturday, November 8, 2014

Philosophy of Technology Integration (and some thoughts on PD)

Our school is now a 1:1 Chromebook school. Each teacher had to come up with their own personal philosophy of technology integration / blended learning. I thought I would share mine here. I did know I believed all of these things, I just never really had anything on paper. We had to do this during our PD time or at home. 
- Sidenote 1: PD time for my school: 45 minutes before school. From 7:00 to 7:45. Every day of the week. Mondays are designated RTI days. Fridays are designated as team planning. Tuesday through Thursdays change each week. Sidenote 2: I'm not a big fan of group PD. I coach basketball after school. School ends at 3:00. Basketball ends at 5:00. That's 10 hours. So I want my time before school to work on things that will directly influence my students. I don't like sitting in meetings where there is no benefit to myself or my students. I want to spend my time helping plan great lessons. I want to spend my time dreaming of ways to engage my students. I am a very connected educator. I spend a lot of my downtime finding treasure on twitter. Sometimes I feel that large group PD is so useless to connected educators because the connected educators have already heard the news and more often than not, implemented it into their classrooms already. I think meeting everyday is too much. Twice a week is enough. Rant over, back to regularly scheduled programming. 
Although, I'm not a fan of doing things just to fill up time. I feel that I grew through doing this. I do think it's great to put your philosophy onto paper. It helps you as a teacher and as a learner. I originally thought of just using "Use Technology. Use it a lot." as the entire philosophy. I know that it technically would work and it is fairly accurate in describing what should happen with technology, but there were some parameters that I needed to include. I think this "assignment" was good for me, because it forced me to really think about how I will use technology in my classroom.  What's your philosophy? Is there anything that you agree with? disagree with? Anything I didn't cover that I need to? 


This notion that you must be taught something is no more.  With technology putting education at the fingertips, the student has become the receiver, applier, and creator of knowledge. The information that is available is constantly evolving and improving.  As an educator preparing students for what an unknown future may be like, I need to focus on the skills that will make students successful no matter their chosen field.

My Background

I have always been someone who was fascinated with technology. The information age seemed to begin during my educational career, so I pick up on it very easily and am self-taught at a lot of technological programs. I have found that “playing around” is the best way to learn something new and that is my approach with new technology. I have learned the most from accessing my PLN on twitter.  Twitter’s “community” of educators is phenomenal in that it gives you the ability to connect with others around the globe immediately.

Thoughts on Technology Education

Technology that is integrated into the classroom must be relevant and appropriately challenging. It can’t be a stand-alone entity that is used to just to say you used technology.  Technology must be used alongside the curriculum to enhance the learning.

Technology is just a tool in the learning process. Sometimes, I’m quick to forget that the #2 pencil and lined paper is technology and it still has extreme value. Doing something digitally may not be the best way to accomplish something. I have to remember it’s about the learning, not the technology.

Technology can be overwhelming. There are thousands, if not millions, of ways that technology can be integrated into the classroom. I must be cognizant of what I am using the technology to accomplish. It is better to be extremely knowledgeable on a few items of technology than having hardly any knowledge on many. With that being said, it is equally important to use the most appropriate piece of technology. Technology is meant to make things easier. No matter how hard you try, square pegs don’t go into round holes.

Technology forces us to re-imagine the classroom. Today’s classroom is not a 30’x30’ square with four walls, one door, a whiteboard, a teacher desk, and 30 student desks. The world and the internet is now the classroom. I propose a shift from using classroom to learning environment. Students now communicate and collaborate with each other and with others outside the school network, including adults and others on the other side of the world. I need to start thinking of the classroom as a room with an endless amount of doors to a never-ending amount of more rooms, and an unlimited amount of connection tunnels between all the rooms. No longer is information only available through a 10 pound textbook.

Technology aides in helping students become life-long learners. I can’t begin to tell you how many students have asked me a question while sitting in a computer lab and not realizing that the information was sitting right in front of them. With students and technology being 1:1, learning can happen instantly almost anywhere.

What Using Technology Looks Like

The goals of 21st century learning in the elementary classroom are helping each child communicate, collaborate, and exercise creativity and critical thinking while both consuming and producing content that connects them with their world in ways that are personally meaningful and relevant.

What does 21st century learning look like in my classroom, err learning environment?

The content. Technology allows for the content of lessons to be delivered in many different ways. Lectures have gone by the wayside in favor of videos and simulations. I’m not saying there isn’t a time and place for lectures. But when thinking about the way that students learn today, it is not the most effective.  There are now many avenues in which to deliver content to the students.

The process. The process of education is changing. It has changed from the traditional method of sit-and-get and write essays where the teacher will grade it after submission. With the advancements in technology, students are now able to collaborate alongside the teacher and other students while they are actually completing their assignment. The constant feedback will help shape learners a lot better than after the assignment is completed. Another aspect of how the process is changing is that digital assignment are now given where there is nothing physical to be handed into the teacher. Teachers are now using learning management systems to manage assignments, announcements, and basically anything related to the classroom. Since technology is now available in students’ homes, some of the content can be learned at home. This frees up valuable time during the school day for teachers to devote their time on helping students fully understand the content. While things are changing, these changes are preparing students to succeed later in life.

The products. I believe that while content and process are incredibly important, where I see students benefiting the most from technology is the products created. When students learn something, they need to apply the knowledge in one way or another. The multitude of ways that students can now accomplish application/creation is unreal. When using our Interactive Notebooks in social studies, I try and make the students apply what they learned through creating something that shows off their knowledge. Doing this lets students make sense of the learning in their own way. What is most intriguing about the products created today is that in some situations, the students can become the teacher to others. When students are able to think critically about a topic by determining multiple viewpoints, then are able to create something that represents their thinking, and while creating they are collaborating and communicating with others they are using skills that will benefit them for a lifetime.


To sum it up, technology is readily available to my students and when using it appropriately will challenge my students and allow them the opportunity to acquire the skills to be self-directed lifelong learners.

Day Maker

Received this email this week. It made my day.
I saw you teaching a couple of weeks ago.  I was in your building for a training.  So I stopped by your door.  Much to my delight, you had on a toga and were teaching the heck out of your subject matter!  I just stayed and watched for a little bit.
 I asked the person if she was stalking me? :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Public Praise

I really don't want to write this. I don't want it to come off as "I'm better than you." or that I'm really stuck-up, or that I need to be more appreciative. It has nothing to do with those things. 

Weird. Odd. Doesn't make sense. Yes, yes, I know. I don't know why. I just don't. 

I don't like being recognized publicly for doing good things.  

Weird. Odd. Doesn't make sense. Yes, yes, I know. I don't know why. I just don't. 

I don't like the limelight. I don't like getting awards. I don't like the feeling that I'm better than others. I just get this huge knot in my stomach when I have to talk about myself positively. I tend to deflect praise to others or at least try and diminish it so it doesn't look like I did something amazing. I have always been like this. It bothered me when I won awards in elementary school. It bothered me when I won awards in middle school. It bothered me when I won scholarships for college. It just simply bothers me. I am not motivated by awards or public praise. It does nothing for me. In fact, public praise makes me not want to do my best so that I don't get recognized. 

It has nothing to do with not being appreciative, because I am very, very, very grateful and appreciative for being praised. Public praise just rubs me the wrong way. 

I just prefer private thank yous and congratulations. This is what motivates me. Not a certificate that I did something well. Not doing something for school that is used as a good example of good practice.

I'm more interested in getting better, in improvement, and the process. The products just don't motivate me. I can't really explain it. 

I also get this weird pit in my stomach feeling when you get rewarded for what you should be doing. Although, if money is involved in the reward I tend to think differently, but that thinking involves me thinking about how that money can be used by my family. 

I tried to explain this feeling once to someone. She might be reading this, I'm not sure. She let me off the hook, but what she did do was forward the things to me that mean the most to me: the positive comments from parents and students that were praising me.  I still have that email. I printed it out and look at it often. It keeps me going. It drives me. It makes me want to do better. 

I know it's weird. I know it doesn't make sense. I think it bothers others that it bothers me. 

Like I said, I don't want this to come off as a "holier than thou" type deal. I'm just trying to put into words how I feel. 

Does anyone else feel this way? 


Tuesday, September 30, 2014


I was at basketball camp tonight for K-5th graders at one of the elementary schools in our district. It was the end of the day and we ended with a game of knockout.

One of the high school players, "had his money" on a certain player to win the game. The kid standing next to the kid who was "spoken for" had a frowny look on his face. One that said, "I'm not good enough." "Why didn't you pick me?" and "I'm not wanted."

I quickly told that kid that if I had a lot of money, I'd put it on him. The kid's eyes lit up. He had a sense of purpose and a sense of urgency. He now mattered. He now was a kid determined to do something great, not just simply, a kid.

I have this notion that students had the same fantastical upbringing that I had. The one where your parents are always there to help you with everything. The one where your mom stays home. The one where your dad is your coach at whatever sport you play. The one where your mom cuts up your waffles because they taste better when she does. Yes, that type of upbringing. It sometimes gets the best me.

His face. His attitude. His level of intensity. All of them increased because I told him that I was in his corner rooting him on.  His attitude went from boring and uninterested into the camp/day being something that he couldn't miss. It was all because I took them time to cheer him on individually. It made his day.

Deep down, each person just wants someone to root for them. Someone to have their back. Someone to say, "I believe in you." Someone to be there for you when you think that you can't accomplish something.

I've had a lot of these types of people in my life. I truly am blessed.

Who are you rooting for?
What ways can you show you're rooting for others?
How does cultivating relationships improve your students' overall school experience?


Saturday, September 13, 2014

30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 5: Our Classroom

I'm going to try and do the 30-Day blogging challenge from TeachThoughtDay 5: Post a picture of your classroom, and describe what you see–and what you don’t see that you’d like to.

What I see: A learning environment where students feel safe and are able to collaborate with others. I see splashes of color. I see learning "centers" that help bring students together. I really like my "Kid Cart" along the blue wall. It houses all the things that students need: pencil sharpeners, turn in trays, art supplies, kleenex, missing work, etc. I have an extensive collection of gnomes. Why? I'm not sure. I think they are a little creepy. You know the story how someone gives  you something and then others continue it. That's how it started and now I keep continuing the collection as we go along this journey.

What I don't see: I don't see the Chromebooks that we will get later this year. I don't see posters that deal specifically with my content. (I hope to change that soon.) I don't see any student work. (It's up there now.) I don't see my Finish Early Poster. (It's up now and it was created by the students.) I would like to eventually build somewhat of a stage, or platform to put at the front of the room. I need to do something with my blue wall. It's not very accessible, so it will need to be something that can stay up for a while. I need a new welcome mat. I've had the same one for 5 years. It's worn out. I should put something on the ceiling tiles.

 View from the the corner. 
 The back wall which includes the projector screen.
 The lounge where students can work on assignments together. I'd like to get a coffee table sometime. The Unheard Word Heard is the Vocab wall. 
 From the door. 
 The Bridge aka my desk area. And The Bridge's First Mate. :)
 The blue wall. Kid Cart with all the student supplies. 
 Futon again. 
 Book case. Students can check them out. My amazing collection of gnomes. I have around 40ish gnomes in the room. 
 Looking a the door. 
 Looking at the front board from the middle of the room. 
 Circular View
 Panoramic view. 

Thoughts on my room? Things you like? Questions you have? 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 4: Best

I'm going to try and do the 30-Day blogging challenge from TeachThought. Day 4: What do you love the most about teaching?

I have always thought that the best part of teaching is when a student comes back to just simply say, "Hi." When students still want you to know what they are up to later in life, you have made a difference. That is the ultimate best thing about teaching. It's never the lessons. Never the tests. Never the projects. It's about the learner and if you cared about them as more than just a student. There has never been a student tell me, "Thanks for helping me on that standardized test."


30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 3: Observation Improvements

I'm going to try and do the 30-Day blogging challenge from TeachThought. Day 3: Discuss one “observation” area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.

This year, I would like to improve the higher-order thinking strategies/questions that I institute during a class period. I tend to ask questions back to the students who ask questions. It's my way of guiding them to the correct answer without me telling them. Answer a question with a question. It works wonders.

I will go about thinking about my deep thought questions by making a conscious effort to incorporate them into the lesson and reflecting in my lesson plans about ways to get them deeper into the content.

30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 2: Technology

I'm going to try and do the 30-Day blogging challenge from TeachThought. Day 2: Write about one piece of technology that you would like to try this year, and why. You might also write about what you’re hoping to see out of this edtech integration.

This one is pretty easy for me. All of the students will be getting Chromebooks in about a month. I look for this to change the landscape of learning in my classroom. I've been thinking about how this is going to work alongside my interactive notebooks. What needs to change? How I am going to integrate the Chromebook into what I'm already doing? How quickly I can change from paper/pencil to more of an all-digital class?

I think the impact on learning is going to be huge. No more scheduling computer labs. No more students who don't have a device. No more making different lesson plans for students who have a computer and for those who don't. (Not that that is an issue, just that it's one thing I don't have to do.) 

Along the lines of technology, I would really like for our students to be able to freely access the internet. YouTube is blocked on all the student devices. I fully understand the risks of what can happen if there is no filter, but I also see the benefit of learning that is possible. I feel there has to be a way to monitor those students who are looking at inappropriate things. 
Sidenote - I Google-searched the obituary of someone in my family a couple weeks ago. His name was Richard. He went by the word that rhymes with Slick. I typed his name in as it would be on the obituary: Richard "Slick" Lastname. My principal got an alert of what I was searching. If they can monitor me, I feel they can monitor the students' searches. 
I think if we are going to put a device in the hands of 6th graders, we need to give them the responsibility to handle it appropriately. Teaching of proper use, acceptable use, and digital citizenship will be a premium. There must be circumstances if students are not able to handle the freedom and responsibility, but we need to fully let them explore.

I'd love to hear other's takes on this. If your school district has restricted/unrestricted students' devices what are your thoughts? Is it a good thing to restrict them? 

30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 1: Goals

I'm going to try and do the 30-Day blogging challenge from TeachThought. Day 1: Write your goals for the school year. Be as specific or abstract as you’d like to be!

My student goals that the students gave to me as a teacher this year is to make the class:
Wordle: 5WordGPS5

My personal 5 Word GPS to guide myself is:
Real - LCLs
Fun - Want to Come
Empowering - Through Choice and Content Creation
Awe - Class is Filled with a Sense of Wonder

Sure-Fire - Students are setup for Success

These are the words that I want my students to say about my class at the end of the year. Easier said than done, of course, but you need to know where you are going before you can go there.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

New Position & Collaboration Thoughts

To begin, I accepted a new position, at a different school, over the summer. Actually, I accepted the position the same day that my daughter was born. It was an interesting day to say the least. I'm not sure too many people accept a new job just hours after their daughter was born, but I guess I'm in that statistic. I went from teaching 2 sections of reading, 1 language arts, and 2 sections of social studies (my partner taught math and science), to now teaching 5 sections of social studies and 1 current events class. I'm also giving up one day of SS a week to teach a Google Literacy class to all the 6th graders. It's a day a week to get the students accustomed to all of the Google Apps. The 7th and 8th graders in the building are already pretty versed through the work that was done the year before.

I am missing a lot of the companionship and familyness from my old position. I spent three years with mostly the same group of teachers and I consider them all more than just coworkers. We spent a lot of time together, both school related and life related. It was probably one of the hardest decisions that I have had to make in my 30 years (Holy smokes! I turned 30 this summer! I think it's just now hitting me!) of walking this Earth. I miss them dearly.  I will be forever grateful for what they have done for me and my family! I love my new fellow 6th grade teachers as well. It's a different setup for me since it's departmentalized and we each teach our respective subjects individually. I had 4 other people who were teaching the same thing I was, so it was pretty easy to bounce ideas off of each other and improve each lesson to make it better since we had multiple perspectives. Now, I'm the only person teaching 6th grade SS so I kind of feel like I'm on an island.

After a month teaching, I'm finally getting into the swing of things. I really love what I'm teaching. We're going 1:1 with Chromebooks in a little over a month, and I'm super-pumped for the possibilities and creation tools that the students will be able to access all day long.

As I reflect on the first month of school, I can't help but think about my classroom procedures and how in some classes they have figured out how to collaboratively work together in a quiet voice and how I've had to have some classes work by themselves because they can't handle the freedom presented by my teaching style. It's getting frustrating to me. I think I need to be a little more direct with some students. I feel like I need to remove some of them from the ability to work with others so that the classroom functions in a way that is beneficial to all of the students. I've never really been one to not allowing talking and discussing among peers, but I think some of them have taken it a little too far. I need to look at it from the perspective that I am here to educate all the learners and I need to make decisions to make all students successful. When I look back on when I was a student, I was typically a rule-follower and quite quiet in the classroom. I got upset internally when others were being disruptive just to be disruptive. I need to open my eyes a little to those quiet learners and see from their perspectives.

I asked on twitter for some blog topics and Michelle Stein came to the rescue... I thought I'd share what I believe about a collaborative classroom. I will say that it has been a little harder this year to develop my collaborative classroom environment because I'm used to having my classes, classes as in I'm used to having 2 separate classes that I meet with twice a day. It's a lot easier when you're with them for more time during the day than 45 minutes. (Wait, this sounds I'm making an excuse. I don't let my students make excuses...) I need to do a better job.

When I think of a collaborative classroom -

  • I see 
    • students working together on assignments. Not cheating, but bouncing ideas off of each other. I don't like having students work individually. It is necessary at times, and I typically test individually, but I think one of the most beneficial 21st century skills is the ability to work collaborative with others. The trick is that it is a skill that must be taught. I haven't done a great job of teaching this skill so far this year. One of my classes is basically running itself from a management standpoint. They could probably do the whole class with just a couple of instructions from me. One of the classes is really struggling as a whole with this concept. They are lacking an overall strong work ethic and without that, a lot of the other things don't fall in place. I know, I know, a student shouldn't have to have a strong work ethic because I'm supposed to create irresistible lessons that fully engage students. Yes, I get that, but there is also a personal responsibility for students to try. 
    • I see students asking questions that go beyond the questions asked. I see students take some info and then look up things on their own and then share that with the class. I think Google Classroom is going to help with that once we go 1:1.  I see students who when they are finished, they have something already set up to do. I see students displaying their learning in non-traditional ways. 
  • I hear
    • I hear a buzz in the room. Not an annoying buzz, like the stock market floor, but a healthy little hum. This is usually conversations that students are having about their work. They might stray off to a personal conversation, but they get back on track shortly and press on. I hear students asking for help from other students. I try to be the 3rd person they go to if they have a question. One, so I don't have to answer all the questions, and two, because I imagine that someone near them already has the answer and they don't have to get up and walk all over the room to find me. 
  • I feel 
    • I feel safe and relaxed. My personality is very relaxed. That doesn't mean I'm not driven, I'm just very chill.  I've been in those classrooms where students don't talk. They have this eerie feeling about them. I top down approach. I try to get to the point that just because I'm the teacher doesn't mean I'm higher than the students. It might take a while to get that understanding from some students because they are used to that model, but I want students to know that I probably learn more during a day, then they do. 
  • The setup
    • I think this year is where I dropped the ball in some of the setup. I don't think I modeled what was expected enough and long enough. Where I really struggle is that 2 months ago, my classes were doing it perfectly. Then, I get a whole new class, and start the process over. My brain tells me that they can handle the collaboration, but what my eyes see is different. They have to be taught through talking and modeling. Anything worthwhile building, takes a lot while. I tend to forget that. I need to backtrack and talk about expectations and then hold them accountable. I struggle with this as well. 
  • The long haul
    • It takes a while to build the classroom that you want, but the benefits are tremendous. Collaborating is worthwhile. It must be taught. 

What are some things that you do to build a collaborative classroom?
How do you set your room up to build collaborative spaces?
What are your benefits to collaboration?
What do you do about the students who like working alone?
Where do you go to help foster relationships that lead to collaboration?

Monday, July 14, 2014

2014-2015 One Word (It's actually two)

Last year my One Word was Pursue - You can read about it here.

Well, this year's One Word is...a hem... actually two words. I couldn't find something that meant the same but in one word, so I went with two words.

Be Present. 

I struggle with being in the moment. Sometimes my hands and my eyes are attached to some electronic device. I miss things. Important things. I'm missing important dad things. Husband things. Classroom learning opportunity things. Coaching things. You name it. I miss things because I struggle with being "in the moment." My mind wanders. I do other things. I'll check my phone incessantly. I stare off into space. I wonder about whether that stain on the carpet was there yesterday or not. I don't focus on what I'm currently doing. Actually, I've probably gotten up about 15 times while writing this. I have a "present" problem. I also have a problem with being selfish and can be very me-first. I'm more me-first at home than I am at school. It's something that I'm working on and I'm hoping that my One Word will help me in this.

I watched this by Alan Stein, basketball training guru, a couple of years ago and it really resonated with me. Yes, it's basketball related, but it can be translated to life. We need to play present. We need to give all we have to this exact moment. No matter what it is. Whatever we're doing at the very minute, we should be giving that our undivided attention. Alan states to focus on the process, and the two things that you have absolute control over - your attitude and your effort.

The logo -

Pretty simple really. Just "be present" in a script font. Nothing too fancy. I did add the Google Maps (or most maps now, I guess) location dot thing though. It's a reminder that I need to "be" right where I am. It's like I need to "check-in" and actually be present and not just existing in the same space as others. Moments needs to get all of me.

The picture - 

A map of Medieval Europe. Not really sure why, but it's my tie-in to my social studies classroom. My One Word is supposed to encompass all facets of my life. From home, to school, to coaching, to the weekends. All of it. It's a reminder that no matter where you go, there you are.

The verse - 

Honestly, I struggled with coming up for a verse for this year, but Romans 12:10 is the verse I chose. This verse is going to be my guide this year as I hope to turn my attention away from myself and onto my family, students, colleagues, and players. Devoted is a strong word. It invokes a lot of action. Love. I just read The Carpenter by Jon Gordon for the second time. You should read it as well. Love, Serve, Care is the success formula that J. Emmanuel shares with Michael in the book. This verse speaks to that. Honor.It speaks of humility and placing the needs of others before yourself.

It's going to be a daily battle for me. It's going to be a challenge, no doubt. But the benefits are going to far outweigh the struggles as I hope to get more closer and develop more meaningful relationships with those who are closest to me.  If you don't think I'm following my One Word, you have permission to call me out on it.

Be Present is my One Word for my school year 2014-2015. What's yours and why?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Couch Conference

A couple weeks ago, I attended the Couch Conference put on by Danville Schools and lead by my friend of one year @TimKasper from #247Tech  fame. Search #couchconference to see all the twitter posts from the day.

I was so pumped for this because Dave Burgess of Teach Like a Pirate  and #tlap chat (9:00pm EST on Mondays) fame was giving the keynote and a session. I had read his book over Christmas break last year and it no doubt changed my view of what a classroom should look like. I started integrating a lot of his ideas immediately.

Here are a few of my notes from Dave's two sessions. (Side note: Dave might have the most enthusiasm I have ever seen in an individual. It's almost downright ridiculous... in a positive way. He talks incredibly fast so I took limited notes because I already have the book.) It was great to get to see him in person "teach" us. Sometimes you listen to speakers and you think they might just be there to collect a check when they are done. From Dave, all I saw was how he wanted to share how he filled a need in his classroom so that everyone can benefit from it.

On to the notes -
  • Teachers are in the life-changing business.
  • We must gain engagement but not lose it with transitions. 
  • Have props/images.
  • Be more concerned with the learning, than how they show it. (See choices on presenting)
  • Create experiences. Kids forget lessons, but they remember experiences. 
  • Want to change the way you teach? Begin by asking questions.
    • E.E. Cummings - "Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question." 
    • Be careful what you ask for. 
  • Teachers are the greatest thieves in the world. (I might add coaches, also.)
  • Be able to document all your ideas. He uses notepads. 
  • Use origami in class. 
    • I did this this year and the students loved it and remembered it. We made origami tables when talking about how to backup your ideas with details. The top of the table was the main idea, but it couldn't stand without the table legs, the support. Towards the end of the year, I referenced it, they all knew what I was talking about.
  • Add some zombies.
  • Use the brackets. 
  • Draw in the world to spark engagement. Use current events. 
  • Dave referenced this quote from Bruce Lee.
  • Follow Todd Nesloney aka @TechNinjaTodd
    • What's your 5 word GPS for your vision for your classroom? Write it down. Make it come to  life. 
  • Follow Matt Vaudrey aka @MrVaudrey 
  • Use the class clowns in your lessons. They already want to put on a show. 
Like I said, I didn't write too much because it was so fast. I highly suggest seeing him in person once you read the book. 

Lunch Break 

I ate lunch with my former crew from Danville (new post on new position some time soon), a new friend I had met on the Twitters, Kari Catanzaro aka @catanhistory, who also teaches 6th grade SS, but at Maconaquah MS. It's pretty cool how one Dave Burgess brought us together through a twitter chat. 

Speaking of bringing people together, I also had lunch with who I like to call my doppelnamer. His name is also Matt Miller and is a Spanish teacher at Turkey Run HS. You can contact him at @jmattmiller or . We met last year at the Center Grove iPossibilities Conference as I took both of his workshops on student blogging and ditching textbooks. I learned a lot and incorporated blogging this past year. Over the past year, we tweeted back and forth and met another educational Matt Miller in @MentorSuper and another Matt Miller teacher in @matthewm1970. Needless to say, one day all the Matt Miller's of the world are going to unite and take over. Matt Miller, as in Ditch That Textbook Matt Miller, coined the term #Mattpocalypse

Anyway, we had a nice chat and got to know each other a little more. What I didn't know, was that he was crafting his upcoming keynote speech about using social media. Then, we took a picture together.

Then, he used it in his speech. Pretty neat how he worked that one out. I think he was thinking ahead. :)
Afternoon -
I attended the session on MyBigCampus and NBCLearn with @libster and @CyndyNBCLearn.
NBC Learn is doing some neat things with current events and videos.

End -
I ended the day drinking a smoothie from that was delicious. (Randomness - Debbie from A Cup Above and her daughter spent a month working at the orphanage in Taiwan where our son was cared for before he came to us. Small world, huh?"

I also won a door prize. I never win door prizes. I'm also not sure why they are called door prizes because I've never seen a door given as a prize. I wonder if they give actual door prizes at construction conference? :)
Back to the winning: I received some Dry Erase Crayons. Yes, dry erase CRAYONS. I have yet to try them, but they sound cool. I also received 4 dry erase erasers. These aren't your typical erasers. No. These are in the shape of race cars. Pretty sweet if you ask me.

Good day. Good people. Good learning.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

New Posters

I'm changing jobs and schools. (That's another post.) In my old room, I had quotes on the wall in vinyl letters/stickers. I can't take them with me, so I decided to make some posters with those same quotes. I should probably put these on TeachersPayTeachers, but hey, sharing is caring. :)


Monday, June 2, 2014

Thanks Four Olive Your Kindness - Year 3 in the Books

Thanks four olive your kindness. 

Haha, I found that this card was appropriate considering all of your puns...and the olive branch you wore on your head (during Culture Festival). Anyway, this card is a thank you for being a really great teacher. This year has been very memorable. I have never had a teacher that I truly trusted. You were the only person who knew (....insert major life event here....) Like you said, "Secrets don't make friends, but really good friends make secrets." I hope that you have a great class next year and that no one can annoy you as much as me and my friends. 
- Name

We just wanted to say  thank you for this past school year. You will never know how much your daily kindness mean to the both of us - it was priceless.  Your obvious effort as a teacher is truly exemplary. Do not ever lose that or become discouraged. We are truly grateful for all of it, and (name)  learned more this year than ever.  Best wishes to you and your family. We hope nothing but many blessings. 
- Family Names

Best Teacher - 
The teacher who understood what had happened in my life and made it better.  The one teacher I won't forget when I move. 
- Name

Mr. Miller is the best TEACHER EVER, (with my 4th grade teacher) I'm going to miss you during the summer. You are always nice and funny. STAY AWESOME, and weird - in the best way.

Mr. Miller is fun sweet, amazing, and the best teacher ever. He gets you through the year in a fun way and always has a smile shining on his face. Thanks for being awesome!

Mr. Miller, thanks for making things fun but still doing a great job teaching. 

Mr. Miller is the best reading teacher ever. When he is mad, he forgives them!

Mr. Miller,
You make me laugh,
You make me smile, 
I'd love to stay awhile.
But at the end of every class, 
I ask if I can stay,
but you pass.
But I do not leave with a broken heart,
instead I am lit up in every part.
Thank you for everything. 
You are the best teacher I've ever had. :) 
Your Student,

Mr. Miller,
You are one of the best teachers I've ever had! You are very nice and funny. I hope we will see each other next year! I learned a lot and I will miss you.

Mr. Miller,
You're a great teacher and super nice. (You can't be mean very well.)

Mr. Miller,
I can't tell you how thankful I am that ------ has had you this year. It seems as if God hand-picked a very small group of you guys to go through this nightmare, journey of a year with our family. I appreciate it so much. Your patience and understanding, as well as your support, with ------ and me. 

These are actual notes/cards from my students/parents this year. I don't post these things to brag. If anything, it's as far from it as possible. I don't like the spotlight. In fact, I almost downright go out of my way to avoid it. Why? Not sure. I think it's just how I'm wired. I like seeing others succeed that have been "under" my guidance. 

But one of the things I really enjoy is receiving a handwritten note or card from my students or their parents for a job well-done. Taking the time to write a thank you is actually very time consuming. We can type in 1/2 the time or faster. Emails are so much quicker. (sidenote - I love getting emails as well) A thoughtful hand-written note means a lot to me. I keep the ones I've received in a folder in my desk. I pull them out when I have a bad day. Or when a student is driving me nuts. Or when there is something that is really pulling me down. Or when some of my students don't pass something. Or...on and on. 

They get me through a lot of days. These are what really motivate me. That desire to help someone succeed and then being recognized personally can typically bring me to tears. 

Anyway, back to the original thought. No students ever thanks you for teaching them that Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue in 1492, or that knights are the second tier of the feudal pyramid from the Middle Ages, or on and on. Yes, I teach all that stuff. But at the end of the day, you have to realize that life is about relationships and there isn't meaningful learning into a relationship has been built. (Something random - the ones that I don't develop deep relationships with tend to not do as well. I need to look into that.)

I have learned a lot this past year. About my students. About myself. About me as a dad. About me a learner. About me as a husband. About me a leader. About me. 

Thank you to the amazing students I had this year. Thank you to the amazing parents I had this year. Thank you to my teammates. Thank you to the staff. Thank you. 

I left my students with this this year. 

May you live boldly,
May you love humbly,
May you never stop searching for wisdom. 

I stole it from I typically say and do something very similar, but I really liked the wording that John used. I hope he doesn't mind. :) 

I can't wait to learn more this summer. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

How Long? Developing Your System

I was talking with a colleague earlier this week as a group of us were going to grab a bite to eat before the Students vs Staff basketball game that we do every year. Don't ask if we won or not, but let's just say that I was sulking for a couple of days.

Anyway, after my third year of teaching I have come to the realization that it takes about three years to really get a handle on the standards that you teach. The first year, you're just overwhelmed with all the newness and getting accustomed to your building. The second year you're still overwhelmed but you have a year under your belt and you start to get in the flow. The third year, you know what you're teaching and have a solid plan of two years of what worked and didn't work that you can pull from. So, from my experience, I think it takes at least three years to fully understand the standards/content that you teach. All of this exists in a perfect world where your standards aren't changing every year, or you're teaching two different sets of standards at the same time, or some of the standards you're teaching are Common Core and some are Indiana standards. We know how that goes, but I digress.

Now, along with the standards, I have also come to the conclusion that it takes about 5 years (no I'm not there yet) to get fully comfortable in a teaching style. When you come out of college, you've read all about the "ideal and perfect" classrooms from your textbooks. You see and read 3,453 best practice articles or videos. You expect your classroom to function like that. Then you get a job. Then you realize that -

  1. Those classrooms don't really exist (Ok. Yes they do, but those teachers who wrote the book make it look extremely easy)
  2. The teachers in the classrooms have been doing this a long time
  3. You have more than 15 kids in your classroom
  4. There is a canyon between your room and the "ideal" rooms
I think we've all been there, but typically those authors of those books are older and very experience teachers. They have probably came to the same conclusions that I mentioned above. What they also did was realize that there was something not right about their teaching. They hadn't found their unique style of what works for them and their students. I would say that the great teachers design lessons and do the things they do because they see a need. Once they see that need, they fill the need. Out of that becomes their style. 

I love integrating technology into my lessons when I can. Why? Yes, I understand that I have love of technology, but at the same time, look around. What doesn't incorporate some sort of technology. I went to SportClips to get my hairs cut. (Yes, I do the "'Did you get a hair cut?' 'Yes' 'Just one or all your hairs?'" joke. I walk in and sign my name in. (I could have downloaded the app and signed in that way, I guess) She pulls up all my hair cut information from last time. I don't remember 3 months ago what type of haircut I had. (Fade. #2 on the sides. Finger-length scissor cut on top. For all of you wanting to know) Technology. Stored in some server far away. There is a need that was being met. Great teachers see the need and then fill the need. 

It also comes down to what you feel comfortable doing. I learned this by coaching basketball. I was an assistant for 9 years before becoming a head coach. As an assistant, you can try a lot of things. You can tweak and borrow and steal from others. But when you're the one calling the shots, you have to be comfortable with the type of system you are running. If you're sitting over on the sideline cringing the entire game because you're not comfortable internally with what your team is doing, it's going to be a nail-biter in more than one way. (Punny!) But if you are comfortable with the system and you teach to the system, then you can coach at ease knowing that your team and you are on the same page. (Getting your players to be on the same page as the coach is a different post, of course. It lies within setting them up for success early on within your system. I just let you in on a secret.) All in all, you must first be comfortable in the driver's seat. You must figure out what works for you and then teach using that system. 

Now, you can't always use the same system. You have to be willing to grow. Over Christmas break, I read Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. It transformed the way I teach. His system was born out of a need as well. He needed his students to be engaged. What did he do? He started engaging them! Now, he's sharing what he learned and it not only works for him, but it works for his students as well. 

What I'm getting at is that it takes time to understand the What of your content. Once your What is determined, then you need to understand the Why. Understanding the Why makes the lessons go much deeper. You have to move beyond the, "Because it's a standard, that's why." answer. It needs to be applied to life. Then you can start implementing the How. The How must be about the What and Why. 

It takes time to develop these things. It might even be called the culture of you classroom. I don't know. But if you're beginning your career, don't get too frustrated. Press on. Find your system. I think I know why most teachers leave the profession after 3 years. You just have to get through first 5 years. 

End of Year Student Reflections

At the middle of the year and at the end of the year, I send out a Google Form Survey to my students with the intention of gaining feedback on my teaching. It's part of my self-evaluation that I go through every semester. I value the opinions of my students a lot. They are with me EVERY DAY. They probably know me better than I know myself. It also gives them a chance to be honest and upfront about issues and concerns that need to be addressed as I grow as an educator. I think teachers are more "fixers" and tend to want to fix the problems and improve in those areas in which the students say that I need to improve on. I also think it's very healthy to look at all the positive things that students say. I kind of set it up that way so you positive feedback and negative feedback. It's always good to be balanced, right? :)

I wrote about this last year - here

This year, I have done the same and am excited to hear back from them. I added one question to this year's survey: "What was your favorite memory from this year?" I have already had a couple fill it out on their own time at home. So far, I am liking what I received. On Tuesday, since we'll be in a lab during reading, the ones that don't check their Gmail will fill it out then. I can't wait to read them. I also need to come up with something else to do in the lab since it will probably be our last lab day (ours fill up pretty quickly. 850 students with only 3 labs + a media center lab) I just discovered Pear Deck (I'm beta testing it) that works with Google Drive that I might try. :)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Questioning Answers or Answering Questions

I guess you could say that I had an epiphany. But that sounds too amazing. It also might be considered ridiculous. Either way, it's going to make my life easier and coincidentally, my students' short answer responses better as well.

Before I go on, I imagine that somewhere along the way someone has told me this, I have read it somewhere, or I learned this in college. I'm not really sure if the problem is my memory, but I am dressed up like a grandparent today for Make-A-Wish week. I think I'll blame it on that in this instance :) But seriously, I can't believe this thought has never resonated with me before now!

Here goes - when writing a response to a question that requires a paragraph or more be written/typed : you, or someone else if peer editing,  should be able to cover up the question that was asked and after doing that someone should be able to write the question just by reading your answer. You end up thinking backwards. . Your answer should so clear that you write the question. Genius, right? 

I guess I understand that on my own, but I have lacked getting some of my students to see the value in it as their answers haven't been really answering the questions lately. Maybe it's the summer-itis settling in? Maybe I don't teach it well enough? I guess if my students don't understand it, then it's the latter. 

I love the journey I'm on. Always learning. Gotta get to work. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Exploration, Inquisitiveness, and Creativity: Where Have They Gone?

I have an almost 2 year old. It's been a hard winter. We're finally getting to the point where we can go outside. The grass is turning green, finally. Enter exploration and inquisitiveness.

He's into everything. Rocks. Potting soil. The hose. Sticks. Dirt. Mud. Sand. Leaves. And on and on. A typical 2 year old playing outside after being cooped up all winter.

I snagged this picture of him as he is pointing the hose directly toward his face. For those of  you wondering if what you think happened actually happened, the answer is no. It wasn't hooked up to the spigot.

As this is happening, I had the inclination to step back and wonder about my students. I fear that some of them have lost the intuition to explore the world around them. After spring break, I had my students show, in any way they wanted, what they learned over break. You would have thought it was the toughest assignment they had ever been given. There were literally no strings attached. No required amount. No specific way they had to show me (like you must write 3 paragraphs). Completely up to them. There were some students who just wanted to write "nothing." I had to beg and plead them to really think about something they learned. It could have been as simple as you finally learned how to put toothpaste on your toothbrush without spilling it, or you learned how to put on your underwear without falling over. It didn't matter. It could have been something like how you finally learned that your little sister doesn't like cheetos. I could have been that you finally figured out how to get past that level you were stuck on in a video game. When I say it didn't matter, it truly didn't matter.

Why was it so hard for them to come up with something? Why did they not see the world around them as a learning opportunity? Why don't they see the world around them as something that can teach them something? Why? Did they lose the ability that 2 year olds have to explore? Was it something that I did this year that made them not want to learn "outside" the walls of the school? Was it the teachers they had before now? Is school the only place they can learn? ....

Then, I started thinking about creativity. I recently started a poetry unit that centers on the use of figurative language. I use a packet to record their thoughts and "data" that they collect about different poems to find examples. Yes, I said I use a packet. Shoot me now, packet haters. I also use poetry books that I bring in. I use web sources. (Although, not that much because I don't have 1:1.) I use poems from their textbooks. Anyway, a couple students said they had done something similar the year before. I then decided that it would I would let those select students do something that they could create on their own to show their learning.

Great idea, I thought. They could use the internet/apps/whatever and do whatever they wanted as long as they could "prove" they were learning the same things as the other students. What more could students want?

Apparently, it didn't suit their desires. But I don't think it was their desires, it was their lack of being creative skills. They didn't want to because they didn't know how to start. They had their canvas and their paint and brushes ( I let them use their phones for research) but they had no vision. No plan. No inkling to what they wanted to do. The worst part was that they looked like a puppy dog who didn't know his way back home.

Where have all the creative juices gone? Did I give them too much freedom? Has there never been a teacher ever do that before to them?

I think students see learning differently from inside a school and outside a school. I think they see learning outside of school as life. Not necessarily learning. I think they believe that they can only learn something inside a school. Maybe they don't see learning outside of school as learning. It's just what they do.

I heard  say that you should keep a journal every day. And in said journal, you shouldn't write down what you did. What you should write down and keep is what you learned. Pretty good advice. Focus on learning.

Now, how am I going to get those students focused on learning instead of not wanting to do anything? Hopefully, I'll let you know.
Have a great week.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tech: Symbaloo, Tagboard, Tackk

Some techie things I've seen lately that I'd like to share.

1. Symbaloo

It's been around awhile, but I didn't really see the need to do use it. Not until I made a webmix did I realize the potential of it. I just saw it as a catch-all for my most used sites/bookmarks. I think when I started seeing it as a tool for projects and my classroom did it make more sense to me. I think it would be so easy to create a webmix for specific classes, projects, strategies, etc.

Here's some good ideas -

2. Tagboard



Tagboard is a catch-all for hashtags used across different social media. In a nutshell, if pulls (aggregates) the same hashtags from twitter, instagram, vine, facebook, google+ into one site.

I tried to do a quick run-through over spring break to track what some of my students were learning outside the school walls. I had a couple of takers. If they tag on non-public social media (a lot of my students have private instagrams, it doesn't show up. That's a downside to me, but I get it)

Here's a tagboard I did for spring break #dcmsspringbreak -

I found it useful for catching up with twitter chats like #tlap -

How about the #finalfour

I think it could be used for quick responses in class, sharing links with others in a class, collaborating together, as a backchannel, lots of things.

3. Tackk

Intro video -

Tackk is a very simple quick and easy website builder. I think it's more like a one time awesome blog post. It's kind of like a digital storyteller. It's a way to get information shared in a very nicely done way. It looks very professional.

One of the cool things about it is that you don't need an account to use it. A lot of students don't like signing up for a lot of things. Another good login amazingness is that you can use your google log-in. All of my students have google education google logins. So there is no need to not be able to sign in.

In classroom use, I see this being used as a way to showcase a project, give an assignment out, do an assignment, send out a newsletter, etc. There are a lot of things you can do. I like the idea of using them as student portfolios. (something I'd like to do next year)

You can also hashtag it (no tagboard doesn't aggregate tackk yet, shucks) but you could search for a common hashtag, say like your classroom hashtag) making it easy to turn in an assignment.

How do you use Symbaloo, Tagboard, and Tackk? How could they be used?