Monday, June 16, 2014

Learn along with me at #TCEATOTS!

Pin It I am back again this year at TCEA's annual Tots and Technology conference for elementary teachers in Galveston, Texas.  I am eagerly awaiting the start of the first session - App Smackdown!  Below are my live notes for this year's conference.  I will share all of my favorite tidbits so you can learn along with me!  Hope you can grab a few new ideas along the way!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

"When I got into this [education], I knew it wasn't going to be for the next 40 years."

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Several weeks ago a dear friend of mine, who is also a teacher, said this to me:

It hit me like a knife through the heart.  I thought, when I got into this I HOPED it would be for the next 40 years!  (I wish I'd had the nerve to say that to her at the time.)  I am a fourth generation educator.  My mom is still a HS Physics teacher and THIS IS her 40th year as an educator.  I am SO PROUD to share this profession with my mom AND my dad AND my sister (and my grandparents AND my great-grantparents!).  To think that someone would consider this a temporary situation or a stepping stone or anything other than a lifetime commitment hurts me.  When I was little, I played school.  When I was bigger, I loved school.  And today, I cherish the gift of school and my role in education.  I love to come to work {most days!}.  I would hope that anyone in this profession who does not see it as a calling ... as a passion ... as a burning desire ... would step aside and let those of us who do have that fire step in for you.  There are a million jobs in the world.  I implore you to choose a different one if you feel the way my dear friend feels.  Or if you just need a professional pick-me-up, team up with a colleague or an instructional coach or technology specialist for some new fresh ideas.  Life is short, but for the students in your class, the year is long if you aren't enjoying this journey with them!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

When the curriculum and instruction and technology stars align, it's nothing short of MAGIC! #PBL #edtech

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MA-GIC, MA-GIC, MAAAAGIC...MA-GIC, MA-GIC, MAAAAGIC...  I swear I heard Sting singing in the background last week when Pam Plagens ( - KES Instructional Coach)and I were planning a second grade PBL unit at #keswired with two traditionally reluctant teachers.  It was possibly the best day of my year - a day when everything I am trained to do paid off and I wanted to run singing through the halls!

It happened by chance that these teachers asked me a question about a unit assessment.  Now, I was fully prepared here to tell them I have NOTHING to do with assessments and walk away, but then I realized the problem was that there WAS NO unit assessment and they were freaking out.  No unit assessment?!  WHAT-EVER WILL WE DO?! about look at the performance indicators for the unit and plan a PBL unit?!  :)  (Man, I was glad I didn't turn my back when I heard the word assessment!  This was an OPPORTUNITY!)

It took 2 hours to plan 10 days, but it was as if the heavens opened and shone the good light down on Pam and me!  We were on FI-YAH!  Pam brings such great verbiage and strategies to the table.  (I was taking notes of things to say in future planning meetings so I can talk the talk!)  Her perspective as an Instructional Coach is SO VALUABLE to me.  I was able to interject with technology resources and PBL planning steps, strategies and documents.  It was amazing to feel so alive with Pam and also with two teachers who were surprisingly on-board not afraid to let us guide them!

At one point I went to make a copy of a rubric (yes! we even created rubrics!) and ran into our district Writing Curriculum Specialist, Alex Ratcliff.  I asked her if she would stop by our planning session to see if she could add anything.  It was awesome!!!  She advised us to change the word convince to persuade and suggested letting students create a rough draft of the brochure we had planned so we could cover some writing TEKS as well.  Such a simple thing, but with such BIG impact on helping the teachers see it's really quite easy to plan cross-curricular activities!  Alex even had the idea to have students write a mock letter as a reflection (which we revised to postcard) instead of the same old "journal entry."  FUN!

Since then, we've created a Google folder with planning documents, rubrics, and supporting materials.  We shared the folder with other Instructional Technology Specialists and Instructional Coaches in the district, as well as all of the 2nd grade social studied teachers in the district so they can contribute and benefit, as well.  Everyone is excited and I think they really see the advantages of putting our heads together ESPECIALLY in the PBL planning process, which can certainly be daunting alone.

The moral of this story:

TEACHERS - trust your support staff (Curriculum Specialists, Instructional Coaches, Technology Specialists, etc)!  We can HELP YOU.  We WANT to help you!  Together we're better, right?!  Help US help YOU!  ;)

SUPPORT STAFF - don't give up!  Be ready to step through the door even when it's just open a crack!  I happened to be in the right place at the right time last week and it was amazing.  And WORK TOGETHER!  If coaches and techs and curriculum peeps present a united front and work together as a team with teachers, it really is pure magic!

If you would like access to the unit we developed, please comment below.  We are more than happy to share it when all of the materials and planning documents are ready.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Is going #paperless really enough? How can we take it one step further?

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A few years ago when I was re-entering the education field after a brief hiatus to work for my husband, the big industry trend was "going paperless."  I remember thinking what an awesome idea this was and how it could really push educators and students into the "digital age."  Teachers were going to the cloud, reducing worksheets and embracing services like Edmodo to engage their students online.  Fast forward 5 years and in some regards I feel like we've gotten stuck in the paperless rut.  I am afraid that some teachers view online versions of worksheets and assessments as technology integration.  Please don't get me wrong, the reduction of paper waste and use of technology tools in place of traditional worksheets and assessments is great and definitely a step in the right direction.  However, I am curious to get your thoughts on the following:

  • How we can move past the going paperless rut and take the next step to true technology integration?
  • How can we get teachers to move past substitution (simply digitizing their traditional worksheets and tests) and move toward augmentation ... or even modification!?
  • What tools are you using that could possibly replace traditional worksheet activities (ex: research reports, vocabulary practice, reader's response, etc)?

I am anxious to read your thoughts on this topic and maybe get some ideas for my teachers!  We're all in this together and I would love to brainstorm with you!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Goo in the Loo is ALIVE thanks to #GTACHI!

Pin It Yesterday I received one of the best tweets I've had all year!  Thanks to +Marek Beck and +Mike Arsenault, I learned that the Goo in the Loo posters I created (with lots of help!) for my #GTACHI Action Plan are alive and being used!  This was a dream I had during my time at Google Teacher Academy Chicago and I immediately set to work on crowdsourcing the Google Certified Teacher and Trainer community for the best Google tips out there.  I managed to get a poster created for every month of 2014 and then 2014 hit me like a freight train.  My life has been a bit tumultuous, so I've been doing the best I can to stay afloat.  Unfortunately, that means my Goo in the Loo roll-out has been put on hold.  HOWEVER, I have a renewed excitement about the program after seeing these tweets yesterday!

I pledge to fulfill my Goo in the Loo promise and post these flyers on our campuses in the fall.  I also pledge to follow through with partnering with local businesses to try and spread our Google goodness throughout our community.  I can't thank you enough, Mike and Marek, for the reminder that this program is simple, fun and effective - our BISD Tech Dept motto for this year!

If you would like more information about this program, please visit  I would love to hear if you're implementing this program in your school or organization!

Monday, March 31, 2014

See who's left your class and for how long with ClassManager - a Chrome Web Store app by @codingwithclass #TxGoo

Pin It What do you do when you need a program that will track your students as they leave and return to class?  Well, if you're , you just ask your son, , to write you one and stick it in the Chrome Web Store!  Introducing ClassManager...

This is a simple and effective way to track when students leave your class and when they return.  You can find a video overview of the app below from the creator himself, .

Want to see more from  and ?  Join us on May 17, 2014 at the Brenham High School for the second annual Texas Google Summit and attend sessions with both of them!  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why shattering my Samsung S3 was the best thing ever!

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Last Monday I dropped my Samsung S3 and shattered the screen.  While I cringed at the thought of how much $$$ I was going to have to shell out to get a new phone (nope - no insurance), I was secretly doing the happy dance and here's why...

A few months ago I did the update for my S3 and it was all downhill from there.  It became unresponsive and apps were crashing left and right.  The battery was dreadful and I found I was restarting constantly.  The biggest problem was the flakiness of the camera.  I take a lot of pictures and when the camera app crashes as soon as my kids do something amazing, I lose it!  I am not a patient person and my phone is really my #1 work and personal technology device, so this was not ideal.

I had been researching phones for a few months and kept going back to the Note.  (iPhone is no longer an option for me - sorry Apple)  I was, at first, concerned about how large of a device the Note is, but I finally concluded that I rarely use my phone as a PHONE.  I really use my phone as more of a tablet.  That shift helped me get over the size issue.  (Even though it won't quite fit in my back pocket..grrr)  I also had hesitations about getting another Samsung device given my distaste for my last one.  But, online reviews and personal contacts kept singing the praises of their Notes, which made it hard to ignore this device.  Finally, there is the learning curve issue.  I am a fairly techie person and it only took me about an hour to make the transition from my iPhone to my S3, but I honestly didn't want to have to learn a new device.  Call me lazy.  After a few minutes comparing phones on this awesome site ( my pal +Amy Mayer shared with me, my decision was made.

I went with the Note 3 and I am SO GLAD I shattered that S3.  Here are my favorite features of my shiny new Samsung Note 3...

  • The charger is the SAME as my S3!  Hallelujah!  Thank you, Samsung, for not making me buy all new chargers!
  • The battery life is STELLAR!  It easily goes a day without charging and I'm a power user, so this is impressive.
  • I love the stylus!  I really didn't think I would care, but it's cool to have and it works like a charm.  The hover feature is cool and love the action button in the action memo.  Screen Write is also great for making tutorials.  :)
  • The camera is AMAZING!  Much faster and it has cooler options than my S3.  Like this...
  • Screen resolution and screen size - both much better than the S3.  I admit, bigger really IS better.  :)
  • Haven't gotten one yet, but I definitely see a wireless charging kit in my future!
  • This is silly, but it autofills my email information when I am filling in forms.  Time saver - big plus.
  • And finally, this thing is SOLID!  It's not flaky, it's not unstable ... it's reliable and responsive and SUPER fast, which makes this impatient full-time working mommy VERY happy!
Who could have possibly known that shattering my old phone would have proven to be so exciting!?  I would love to hear from you about tips and tricks of this awesome tool, as I am still learning about all of the cool features.  If there's something I really need to know, tweet me or leave me a comment below!  As my dear friend +Kellie Lahey says, "Together we're better!"  ;)  Amen, sister!