Saturday, August 18, 2012

App Icon Alphabet for Word Wall

So I've made some major changes in the job department in the last month, but I'll be back later to give an update on that! First, I want to share something that I think is a super cute idea.

As I was doing my morning ritual of scrolling through Pinterest before I got up this morning (that's addiction y'all), I saw a super cute idea from one of my favorite Pinners for teacher resources, Jennifer Jones.

The idea was to use the App icons as headers for a Word Wall. Totally cute, right? So I repinned and tweeted the pin. After doing so, I realized that the link to icons was not to the individual icons, but to 1 image of all of them compiled. So of course, being the super geek that I am, I spent a little bit of time this afternoon finding icons and compiling them so they'd be simple for my teacher friends to print out. After a bit of searching, I was able to find all the letters...and even found multiple choices for a couple. I hope these are useful to some of you! You can see a preview of these letters to the right...but you can download the whole thing using the link below!

App Icon Alphabet for Word Wall

So what do you think- can you guess the apps these icons represent? Any changes I should make? Let me know if you have other apps that would make for better letters!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

3 Easy Integration Ideas for Your Blog

I talked in an earlier post about the evolution of the use of blogging in my classroom. Whenever I mention starting a classroom blog to teachers, or do professional development sessions that involve blogs, there are a few ways to use blogs in the classroom that I seem to always mention. Here's a list of a few ways you can use a classroom or student blogs in the classroom.

  1. Blogging is writing, so it's pretty obvious that the go-to use of blogs is to have students write. A blog is a perfect place for students to keep a learning journal, reflection log, or writing notebook! For this, a service such as Kidblog is perfect for creating and managing blogs for younger students. Older students or adult learners could use Google's Blogger easily for this. This is a blogger blog !
  2. When I was in the elementary classroom, I loved using my class blog as a center activity. Students rotated through the blogging station through-out the week. Each week there was a discussion question for them to answer or reply to. I posted the topic or question, and they replied back through comments. There were quite a few reasons that I loved using blogging as a center. Let's be honest- as a teacher time is the one thing you never have enough of! Each week, the only setup I had to worry about for this center was posting a question or topic. Also, depending on the need, the question or topic could be from any content area or subject! Finally, it was great seeing students answer the question and then be excited to reply back to others in the class!
  3. Another thing that my students always loved was looking at the stats from our class blog. In blogger, you can view your page views broken down by country. It didn't take too long to get page views from countries around the world...and students were so excited about that! So not only were students motivated to make sure their writing was up to par with being seen around the world, but I could also use the stats as a way to engage students in learning about other cultures, countries, geography, and more. We could even pull mathematics in by using the measurement tools in Google Earth to measure distances between different places, or in upper grades by using the page view numbers and converting them into the fractional or decimal parts.

So those are 3 pretty simple ways to use a classroom blog. How do you use yours?

Friday, June 22, 2012

New URL and Domain!

Good morning! I'm still finding ways to procrastinate from working on my dissertation proposal, I've FINALLY starting setting up the domain that my brother and sister-in-law gifted me for CHRISTMAS.  That's taken long enough, huh? Anyway...for now at least this blog will still redirect, so it should be okay if you leave your reader feed set as it is. However, you can actually set your reader to the new URL at if you'd like!  Once I actually make some progress on the dissertation front, I'll be working on my site more!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Social Studies Fun with QR Codes

I don't know about any of you, but it has been a whirlwind summer so far! This week our county has started summer hours for 12 month employees, which are Monday - Thursday 7am - 6pm. It makes for long days, but I am really looking forward to having Fridays off for the next few weeks!

I'm just now getting the chance to sit down and reflect on a few things from the school year, and I wanted to share one of the fun things I had the opportunity to do during the last couple weeks of school. I got spend some time doing one of my favorite things- working with 3rd graders! Mrs. Bare at Carr Elementary contacted me about collaborating on a social studies lesson focusing on inventors. We had the best time!

Once Mrs. Bare told me which inventors to focus on, I created a QR code for each inventor that took students to a biography page, video, or other resource for that inventor. I printed each QR code out on a single sheet of paper and posted them around the school (making sure to post in places where there was a wireless signal). Students were paired up, and each pair was given an i-Pod touch. To complete the activity, students searched for the QR codes, scanned them using i-nigma, and filled in the requested information on their handout. The QR codes were also on the handout, since I wasn't sure they would be able to travel around the school that day. The activity took over an hour- and it was great to see students intent on reading the information on each site! They even asked for more time so they could watch the accompanying videos on each site. After the research portion was done, students could then take their information and use it to create presentations to share with each other. I loved doing this activity with this great group of 3rd graders!

If you'd like the QR code printouts, student handouts, and lesson plan for this lesson just leave a comment and I'll be glad to send it out or post it!

Below you can enjoy some pictures of students hard at work.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Our Responsibility to Keep on Learning

I took the time today to do something I haven't done in a long time- browse through a few of the latest posts form the Elementary Ed folder on my Google Reader. You don't think it's really been that long? Oh trust me, I have evidence! Those numbers (which indicate the number of unread items in each folder) aren't pretty are they? While these numbers are true, they don't tell you that I've still kept up with Twitter through Hootsuite and Flipboard, and have done a little blog browsing on Flipboard, but obviously I've fallen way behind in the last few weeks. And yes, this is a crazy busy time of year, not just at work but also personally. But is that an excuse to fall behind or just stop reading the feeds I've subscribed to? While we all need a break sometimes, I don't think it would be okay at all for me to just stop reading what other teachers and educators are doing, seeing their ideas, and keeping up with the latest issues and never pick back up with it. Within 10 minutes of looking through a couple posts in my Elementary Education folder, I had found several pretty awesome lesson ideas and teaching reflections.

Here's the thing- as an educator, I've pretty much signed up and agreed to be a life-long learner, right? Furthermore, in my current position, I also provide lesson ideas and have the responsibility of training other teachers. If I don't keep up with what is going on in classrooms both in my county and globally, am I not doing a disservice to the teachers I serve? I think so. And by keeping up- I don't mean by just knowing what vendors or other people in my position are doing. Neither of those are necessarily bad resources, but if I'm going to truly help teachers, isn't it going to help me to get first-hand reports and ideas from people who are doing great things in the classroom right now? I think so!

So, as we are immersed in the world of assessment next week and start to feel summer fever, just remember that there are other teachers just like us out there who are still publishing their great ideas. You may just find something that rejuvenates you for the rest of this year or excites you for the next!

You can check out a couple of my folders by clicking on the bundles I've linked below (you may even see the blogs of a couple of our rock-star GCS Pinnacle Leaders):

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Favorite Apps: Top Three for Keeping Up

This post is Part 2 in a series of My Favorite Apps. Here's what you might have missed:

There are thousands of apps out there that will allow the iPad to be used in many, many ways. I have to say that in my house, unless I'm going to be formatting a research paper or something of that nature, it is the device I pick up the most. At work, it is my go-to device for when I'm traveling from school to school and want something quick and light-weight to carry around to take notes, check emails, do web browsing, and more. As I mentioned before, right now in my district administrators can purchase iPads for their use and we are now accepting applications for a student pilot of iPads in the classroom. Since administrators are the ones who have iPads in hand right now, I'm still keeping my focus on apps for them and teachers.

Don't judge me for the US Weekly and Disney feeds!
So today, I'd like to share my favorite apps for taking in content. By content, I mean the apps I use to keep up with the blogs I read, news, current trends, and a little social media. My first love for this is Flipboard. The first great thing about Flipboard? It's free. So what does it do? Well according to the makers of the app, it's a social magazine. Great, but what does that mean? Basically, you tell it what content you are interested in, and it pulls that specific content into a visually appealing magazine like format. All in one place. So no more going to twitter to read tweets, google reader to reed feeds, specific news sites to read the news. Everything is all there in one place. For those of you who are thinking, well I do that already with RSS feeds in a reader, well I did too! The reason I like Flipboard so much for this is because it displays the content in a more visual format, kind of like a magazine. You can see in the screenshot of a page of my Flipboard screen, I have a mixture of blogs, bundled folders from my Google Reader, magazines, and twitter hashtag searches all feeding into Flipboard. And I can turn the pages by swiping my finger. Also, I can easily share anything I find interesting by tweeting or Facebook-ing it, or I can send links via email. Pretty cool right? I think so too.

A second app that I really like is Zite. Instead of pulling your specific feeds into the app, you pick out sections from categories such as Technology, Education, Social Media, Pets, and more. You can also enter your own keywords to create sections. You can also connect to your accounts such as Google Reader, Facebook, and more. Zite pulls in stories, and you can "like" them, kind of like you like songs on Pandora or rate movies on Netflix. The app uses your preferences to send you more stories. It's a great way to get information and see articles you know you'll be interested in. And of course you can also share what you're reading with the click of a button finger. Be careful...this app by default does make a whistle noise when it drives my dogs crazy every time!

And finally, even though I do love Flipboard for getting my read fixes in a visual way, I can't not give props (is that still a saying?) to the Hootsuite App. I first started using this one more than Tweetdeck at the urging of Jason Mammano over at Have Technology Will Travel, all because he loved the little owl that pops up when you send a tweet. Seriously though, I think it is great for many reasons. You can add multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts, add hashtag searches to your streams, see all your direct messages, mentions, retweets, and more. You can also view analytics from this app, and follow people straight from the app. The other clincher for me is that if I'm not using my iPad, I can log-in from the web and everything is all synched together. For some reason there were times when my Tweetdeck columns weren't synched between devices, which gave Hootsuite the advantage for me. Also great was the one time last summer when I tweeted a question to @hootsuite about an issue I was having, they replied back in less than 5 minutes. The free Hootsuite app and site both have a few ads, but I barely notice them.

So those are the apps I use to keep up with content- what are your favorites?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Advice About Teaching with Technology

I spent a little time tonight looking back at the classroom blog that I started back during my first full year as a teacher, before I was even accepted in the Pinnacle Technology Leader program that we have in my county. In fact, I had forgotten that I even HAD a blog way back then, but the proof is there! What's interesting to me is comparing the blog I had then to the blog that I had the next year. One reason I love having a personal blog is because it's like a diary of sorts that reminds of those sometimes mundane turned awesome life happenings when memory fails. As is turns out, my classroom and professional blogs work the same way.

In looking back at my first classroom blog, it was totally there to distribute information. It wasn't to provide collaboration or spur discussion, but simply used as a tool to get information out to parents and students.

1st Class Blog
2nd Class Blog

But then I took a look at the classroom blog that I used the next year, and it had obviously evolved into something more than simply information distribution. By this time, I was not only using the blog to post assignments and communicate with parents, but was also using our classroom blog as a weekly literacy/content center, and as a place to get student feedback on many activities we did in the classroom. 

But thinking back on this time in my classroom, not only had my use of blogging changed, but my use of technology in general had changed as well. When I first started teaching, whatever technology I used was mostly just that- me using technology. I was lucky enough to have a school laptop that I could use to write lesson plans on, and had easy enough access to a projector when I wanted to show a video or a website for use in my lessons. And I think that was natural, especially when I take into account that I started teaching in my own classroom half-way through a school year. It was more about survival and figuring out where to pick up than making things my own.

But...just like my blog evolved in my 2nd year, so did my other use of technology. I started focusing on letting my students use whatever technology was available, not just me. And it wasn't just about using the technology... I figured out that what was most important was what students were DOING with technology. So using the technology wasn't important, but learning was. And learning new technologies wasn't even important, but learning about the moon, or other countries, or about the life cycles of plants, or about how to work together even with people you aren't best friends with was the important stuff. And if through doing that, students learned new technology or got to use the newest "it" site great. 

And you know what? Teaching with technology, and integrating it in a way that was seamless and flowed wasn't always easy. BUT. It was possible. I know it was, because I did it. But that doesn't mean that it is going to happen overnight.

So my advice to all those trying to figure out ways to teach with all this new technology? Whether you're a veteran teacher trying to update your teaching practices or a novice teacher already in love with all things tech...take it step by step. Baby steps are okay. The same methods don't work for everyone, and that's okay. If this year or this semester, you want to try using a class blog or give a site like Edmodo a try and just focus on communication, that's okay. Don't feel like you have to do everything at once, and don't feel like you have to try every single new thing out there. Because you know what? Technology and all the cool new stuff shouldn't really the focus. Your content should be. All that cool stuff may be a great way to engage your students in your content...but that's what your Instructional Technology Facilitator can help you with too! 

So if you're scared, it's okay! Take small steps, and don't be afraid to ask for help!

What's your advice for integrating technology into teaching?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Have you looked at Thinkfinity lately?

A site that has been around for a while, but kind of fell off the radar for me is Thinkfinity. After hearing a couple of colleagues talk up Thinkfinity based on a session they attended at TCEA, I decided to give the site another look. Well, it turns out that I have really done myself a disservice by not using Thinkfinity in the past! So, what is it? Powered by the Verizon Foundation, Thinkfinity is a great website that houses K-12 lesson plans as well as other interactive lesson materials. Not only are lessons linked to state and common core standards, but there is great content available from Thinkfinity partners such as National Geographic, Read Write Think, NCTM's Illumimations, Wonderopolis, and more. Part of the power of Thinkfinity for me though is not just that there are thousands of resources that are already available, but that you can also join the Thinkfinity Community, which gives you access to resources that other educators are finding and using as well. Once you've joined the community, you can save and organize your favorite resources and join in on discussions about those resources. It turns Thinkfinity into a PLN of its own, which I love. Since the majority of my time is spent planning and providing professional development for teachers on different technology tools and how to integrate those tools, one of my favorite finds in the Thinkfinity Community has been the Integration Framework for Educators, which is a 5 step process for successful integration of technology into an instructional activity. I like that it asks specific questions and really takes teachers through the thought process of implementing technology tools while keeping instructional content the focus.

Have you checked out Thinkfinity? What did you think?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Favorite Apps: Top Two for Notes

You can't go anywhere without hearing about iPads...they're all the rage at conferences, in some school districts, and more. Even when I go out to eat, you see kids (and adults) playing with their iPads at the table. Now I'm not here to judge whether or not that's okay (especially since I may have been guilty of pulling mine out once or twice), but what I would like to do is share some of my favorite apps. There are apps for everything it seems, and app lists aren't hard to come by at all. Sometimes it can even be a little overwhelming because there are SO MANY great apps out there. In our district, right now it is approved for administrators to purchase iPads, and we are in the beginning stages of running an iPad Pilot for students. I can't wait to share my favorite apps for student use, but in this post I'm going to stick with top 2 apps that have been invaluable to me at work and as a doctoral student for note-taking and organization.

PaperPort Notes (formerly Noterize)
An app that I first fell in love with last year when I first purchased my iPad (thank you Uncle Sam for that tax refund!) was Noterize. It was described as a "digital note taking tool," which doesn't even begin to tell you about the magic you could make happen with this app. Unfortunately, my favorite app became unavailable for a while, but now you can grab it by it's new name- PaperPort Notes. So what's so magical about this app? Well- you can create notes, obviously. And on those notes, you can add "sticky notes" or annotate using a pen and highlighter tool. Pair this app with a stylus and it's like having that legal pad to carry around with you everywhere. But what I use it for the most is annotating over pdf files. I can import my pdf files from several services such as Dropbox and Google. I could also choose to use Paperport to open the pdf when I first open it on the iPad. Then, I can use the same sticky note, pen, or highlighter tool to annotate on that pdf. When I'm done, I can choose to share it by email, or export it out to Evernote, Google, or Dropbox. And have I mentioned that it also uses Dragon Dictation's voice recording technology so I can talk instead of text if needed? Amazing. My favorite organizational, I need to do work App. I use it to store and annotate over research articles, mark up pdf checklists when I don't have access to wireless, and more.

An app that is coming in to a very close 2nd place for me is Evernote. I admit that when I first tried it a couple of years ago, I was not impressed and I just didn't "get it." But a colleague recently shared some conference swag with me- and in that swag was a free premium month at Evernote. I rarely turn down free, so I of course went through the pain of remembering my login and vowed to give it another shot. Wow. That was my first thought, and my second, and my third...Before we even talk about the many features of the app, a big plus for me is that not only is the App great, but everything synchs to the Evernote website, meaning that even if I don't have my iPad with me (blasphemy!) I have access to my content. From this app, which you can see in the App Store here, I can view and create Notebooks, and then create Notes inside of those. Here's a pic of my Notebooks. On the left side, you can see a list of the notes that I have saved in this notebook. On the right, a larger preview of the Note I was looking at. Those notes with the nice bulleted list and the link you see there? All typed straight from the iPad. Oh, and that audio player you see? Did I mention that you can also record from the app as you are taking notes? Yep. Magical. And I can also add images, either using the iPad camera or from my Camera Roll directly into the Note.
Once I've created a note, if I wish to share it, Evernote will let me add specific people to the note (or Notebook) or give me a public link. Awesomeness. And honestly...the free version is just as good, you just don't have quite as big of an upload limit.

So although there are many many more apps I'd love to share, i'm going to save those for later posts as I think I've rambled enough for today!

What are your favorite note-taking or organization apps? Let me know in the comments.

Monday, January 9, 2012

MLK Day Resources

We just got back from Christmas break, and soon we will be celebrating the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. If you're looking for a way to incorporate a Social Studies lesson on this topic before break, hopefully you will find something of use in one of these resources!

I'm sure a lot of you have tons of MLK resources, but just in case, here are a few:

Scholastic's MLK Day Resources page includes lots of info, links, and a Notebook lesson:

Remember you can get the full "I Have a Dream" speech transcript (print and audio) on American Rhetoric: or on Discovery Education

This school system has compiled a plethora (I just love that word) of resources, including background info, blackline masters, lesson plans, technology links, and a list of Discovery Education clips:

Larry Ferlazzo is an ESL teacher who compiles list of website resources for different topics- this one is 2 years old, but has some good ones that would be great for EC, ESL, or lower level students. For example, the first site listed is a biography of MLK created by students that is text, but can be read to students.

Here are some resources from different government agencies

And finally, if you search for MLK lessons on the SMART Exchange, this is what you'll get:

Hope there's something in here you can use in the next couple weeks! What's your favorite MLK Day resource?