Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Summer Reading and Google Sites

Summer time means summer reading!  I love seeing what other people are reading, sharing what I've read, and getting book recommendations from friends.  This morning I put together a very simple Google Site to display my summer reading, and thought I'd share a quick walk-through on how to do it!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Digital Breakout Creation/testing

This adventure in learning began when one of my 6th grade science teachers approached me prior to spring break wanting to plan a BreakoutEDU game. She wanted a game based on the unit her students were wrapping up, Plants and Ecosystems.  I searched the BreakoutEDU webpage without luck, and decided we'd have to create something to fit the needs of her and her students. 

We met together and she was able to walk me through a good bit of the material, and we were able to bounce some puzzle ideas off one another.  She wanted to cover the cycles that take place in an ecosystem; water cycle, carbon cycle, photosynthesis, and pollination to name a few.  She also wanted to include different types of biomes, as well as a variety of flowering plants. Identifying the parts of a plant and symbiotic relationships rounded out our discussion that day.

After our meeting I tried to get to work on designing puzzles to match our chosen topics, but my wheels were spinning, and I really lacked direction and motivation.  I'm not sure how long I sat in that funk, but as soon as my backstory started to come into focus, the puzzles started writing themselves.  I decided to write the game from the perspective of plants and animals in an ecosystem, and telling their stories through social-media puzzles.  

Symbiotic relationships correlated to a Facebook relationship status.  The food chain worked with song titles on Spotify.  Snapchat fit with labeling plant parts, and counting Instagram likes in specific plant photographs made sense.  The directional arrow paired with tweets about plant processes worked perfectly. I was also able to create a text conversation that proved to be so simple it was challenging.

I was so excited for game day, that I was awake before my alarm had gone off. I just knew that the student would LOVE the game I had designed.  Boy, was I in for a rude awakening.  I'm not sure if my puzzles were just that difficult, or the student just struggled to make the connections, but the first class was difficult.  No-one broke out, and several didn't even open a single lock. Afterwards, I had time to recreate and adapt some puzzles so that the game would be more appropriate for the students.  The next classes were still a struggle, but were also slightly more successful.  At the end of the day I felt quite defeated, but my colleague assured me that the game was solid, and it was the students that really needed to apply themselves more in order to achieve success.  I created a digital version of the game over the weekend and shared it with her so that her students could have another shot at the puzzles.

I have since tweaked the game even more, rewriting some of the clues to be a bit more to the point.  I do believe I created something that was a bit too advanced for those sixth graders.  

I have a group of 6th graders trying the digital version of the game tomorrow. I'm eager to see how they do and get feedback from them so that I can continue to improve the game.  I really did enjoy creating it, and I hope the students can enjoy working through it.

Want to try the game?  Click the link below:


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

See a need, fill a need...

Recently, my family was gifted the movie, "Robots" and we watched it a handful of times, and the line, "See a need, fill a need" is one that resonated with me.  I believe that as educators we see lots of needs on a daily basis, but the filling of needs may be an area where we need some improvement.

I got the opportunity to really live out the "See a need, fill a need" idea in our final meeting with our Burke County Global Educators Cohort (BCGEC). We kicked off our session with a Gripe Jam activity.  Jennie Magiera had shared this activity at NCTIES during her PD is not a 4 Letter Word session.  The Gripe Jam activity is a great way to think about challenges that we face as individuals, and then collectively brainstorm ways to address the challenges.

One of the collaborative conversations that took place as a result of our Gripe Jam was a need for a collection of technology resources that could be categorized and searched in order find an appropriate tool for a task. Using a collection of resources created by, Donna Wells, a fellow ITF, I created an Awesome Table view and hosted it on a Google Site, along with a Google Form for teachers to complete in order to suggest a resource that should be included. You can check out the site here: https://sites.google.com/burke.k12.nc.us/techtools/home

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Power in Asking for Help...

I have the great opportunity to work with a team of fabulous people that I love to help, anyway I can.  This group of people was integral in helping me learn a very important lesson about asking for help.  Together, we participated in an escape room session in which we failed, because we didn't ask for a hint when we needed it.  

I was adamant during the session that we could do it, without help, and yet in the end I left feeling like a failure.  In my mind, asking for help was an indication of weakness, and weakness is not good.  However, in the 'debrief' on the way home, I realized that had we asked for help we probably would have been successful, and would have felt pretty darn good about ourselves.  

That was an eye opening lesson for me.  In the past I have rarely asked for help.  It was a personality flaw of mine, that goes along with my stubbornness, perfectionism, and procrastination... While these traits have helped me to strive to always do my best, in my own time, they are often traits that have caused my relationships (both coaching and personal) to fail to flourish like they could.

More and more I am learning about the power in asking for and receiving help from others.  I have seen my relationships grow and flourish through this very simple, genuine act.  While it often makes me feel vulnerable to ask, the feeling of gratitude and overall happiness when help is given far outweighs the vulnerability

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Classroom Tweets by your Students

In an effort to get more and more of our teachers engaged in Twitter, our district has created many resources for teachers to utilize to get started.  These resources include a Twitter #pdchallenge, an ideas list, a 20 day challenge, and a Twitter drive.  We have also shared a resource created by +Alice Keeler which you can find here which enables students to tweet from a teacher account with supervision.

This sheet is awesome, and I've taken it a step further to be more manageable for students on mobile devices by attaching a simple Google form to the sheet and using the CopyDown Add-on.  See below for some instructions if you want to try it out!

First, make a copy of this Google Form.  Click here, and then click "Copy"

Rename the form if you'd like and then click on the 'Responses' tab and the spreadsheet icon to 'create a new spreadsheet' and click 'Create'

Your spreadsheet is going to need just a few modifications to get it up and running, but first you will need to submit the form for the first time.  So, enter a name, a simple test tweet, and the hashtag you will want your students to use.

Once you have that info on your sheet you will need to add the formulas to make it work.

You can view a sample of the sheet here.

These cells need editing: 

E2: =if(C2="","", len(C2))

F2: =if(C2="","",hyperlink("http://twitter.com/home?status="&C2&" via "&B2&" %23"&$G$1,"Click Here to Tweet"))

G1: =right($D$2,LEN($D$2)-1)

Now that your sheet is complete with formulas you will need to configure the CopyDown add-on.  On your Google Sheet window click 'Add-ons' and 'Get Add-ons' if you don't have CopyDown already added.  Once installed go back to 'Add-ons' and select 'CopyDown' and 'CopyDown settings.'

Toggle the switch to 'On' and save settings.  It should look like this:

One more step!  You can get a pre-filled form URL to share with your students that already has your hashtag set!  To do this go to your live form and click the 3 dots button in the upper right corner, then select 'Get pre-filled link'

Fill in the 'Hashtag' question with the hashtag you want your students to use, and click submit, then copy the link that you see at the top of the form.  It will look like this:

This is the link you will want to share with your students via QR code, or posted in Google Classroom, or shortened URL.  You can bookmark to browsers, or add it to the home screen of mobile devices.  

Now, as a teacher, you can preview tweets via the spreadsheet and 'Click to Tweet!'

Happy Tweeting!

Sample Student Tweets:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

What's the Purpose of Education?!

What do you see as the purpose of education?  Why might innovation be crucial in education?

In my head it's hard to come up with the 'purpose' of education because it seems like such an enormous idea that encompasses so much more than classrooms, books, and tests.  

I'll do my best, but forgive the run-on sentences that may follow.  I think the purpose of education is to help students reach their potential.  I think educators are required to challenge students to prepare themselves for both the known and unknown.  Learners must be provided a safe place to take risks, ask questions, search for answers, share opinions, fail, and try again.  The purpose of education is to empower those that feel powerless, to help them see that their circumstances don't define them, and that they can find a better way.  I think education should encourage problem, ideas, and solutions and embrace new ways to do things. Our job as educators is to provide an environment in which learning is a desire for all students, no matter where they are.

I see innovation in education as a requirement, not an option.  Information is readily available at our fingertips, any time we want it.  I know that I Google at least 20 questions each and everyday, and I don't have to depend on anyone else to get the information I need.  However, information at the ready, is not the key to creating a world of learners.  We have to utilize that information along with our students, our greatest asset in our schools!  Collaborating, and connecting our students inside and outside our buildings is key, so that we can all learn from one another, always.  

Thanks to Dave Burgess I am moving forward, not focussing on those that don't want change, but helping those that are ready.  I want to continue to build upon the success we're having with our students, and let the story unfold, with other watching.  I want to grow the pockets of innovation in my schools so that the others WANT to grow and change in their profession.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Positive tips for teachers

Our school system welcomed teachers back yesterday for a full week of work days to prep for our first student day on August 29th.   We are fortunate to have many new teachers, both brand new, and new to the profession.  I serve three middle schools so I have relationships with many teachers, media coordinators, and administrators.  As an Instructional Tech Facilitator I have taken on the roles of a Mrs. Fix-it, friend, co-teacher, and counselor. With that in mind I felt the need to offer a short PSA for all of our teachers and those that love teachers.

  1. #notaboutyou Totally stealing this from my girl +Abbey Futrell!  She was our awesome #bcpsdtlc Keynote speaker and she reminded us that we are are here for. the. kids! When the going gets tough, remember you're here for those students in your room, focus on them and you can't go wrong!
  2. Take care of yourself!  Teaching is incredibly hard work!  It's draining, all-consuming, and totally worth it!  The hours are long, the lesson planning, after-school meetings, conferences, and extra-curricular duties are never-ending.  So, with that, do what you can, and then take a break. Spend time on yourself, in quiet, reading, listening to music, journaling, exercising.  Take time to enjoy your family, your hobbies, and the outdoors.  
  3. Ask for help! No one can succeed on their own.  It takes a team, and we're all better together!  This is something that I have learned about myself, and the stress of trying to do things on my own has not proven to be the best for me or my team.  Ask others for help that you know can help you.  If you don't know who can help you, ask someone who to ask!
  4. Be Kind- Build one-another up with kind words, support, smiles, coffee, and chocolate!  Kindness is free, and should be spread to everyone, not kept in isolation.  Being kind to others also makes you feel great, and makes others feel great too!
  5. Try something new! Experiment in your classroom, and try something new with your students, your teammates, or with other educators in your building and beyond.  See number three.
  6. Be Positive- Start your day with a positive outlook, even if you have 5 meetings and your planning time is non-existent.  Find something positive about each day, reflect at the end of the day, and express gratitude.
This will be a great year, and I am excited to work with the fine educators in Burke County Public Schools, and excited for my impact with students and teachers to be evident in seamless and meaningful technology integration.

Summer Reading and Google Sites

Summer time means summer reading!  I love seeing what other people are reading, sharing what I've read, and getting book recommendations...