Thursday, December 17, 2015

Why Not Us? - Part 2: Baby Steps

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."

I think we can all agree that children today are growing up in a world that is vastly different than the world we grew up in. The amount of technology and information available to them is unprecedented. At the same time, your average classroom has changed very little. Students are still given the same worksheets and expected to complete assignments in virtually the same way as was done 20 years ago. How can we move our classrooms closer to a 21st-century learning environment? What steps do we take to adjust our teaching to include the technology around us? To answer baby step at a time.

In the world of technology education, there is an acronym to describe the level at which technology is being used in classrooms. This model, known as the SAMR model, defines the level at which the technology is being used and aids teachers in transforming their instruction to include technology that continually pushes forward to higher levels. Dr. Ruben Puentedura ( is the researcher who is credited with this model.

Ruben R. Puentedura, As We May Teach: Educational Technology, From Theory Into Practice. (2009)

Using these four levels, we can move from merely using technology to directly replace tasks accomplished with older technologies to using technologies to transform how we connect learning to the learners.

Here is a 5-minute video that does a good job explaining the model and why it is important to our instructional practices. This video was found on Kathy Schrock's website,

Take the humble overhead projector as an example. Invented in the late 1800's it was first used in police and military work. In the 1950's, when they were first used widely in education, the overhead projector allowed instructors to meaningfully change their instructional techniques. Flash forward 65 years, and these basic projectors have now been replaced with expensive projectors and cameras. Unfortunately, many still only use these expensive replacements as glorified overhead projectors. We are stuck in the substitution/augmentation phases of the SAMR model. What can we do move forward and improve our instructional practices using this technology?

In part three of this series, I am going to show you ways you can better utilize the technology in your rooms and improve your technological teaching practices. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Why Not Us? - Part 1: Get Motivated

"Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else." 
~Judy Garland

I recently attended a technology conference in Albany. It's purpose was to inform and inspire schools about technology and innovation.  The conference format allowed you to select from several different presenters during three separate sessions. The presenters at the sessions I attended were classroom teachers from schools around the area. They shared technologies and techniques that they were using in their rooms. In the afternoon, I was a member of a round table discussion about using Google Apps for Education.

During the afternoon discussion, I inquired how other districts were teaching students about using technology. I heard great things about designing technology curriculum and what others found were good to teach and in what order. After I heard a few responses I asked when do they start this kind of instruction. Most were middle school and a few were high school. When I informed them that what they described was what I was teaching this year to 3rd graders, they responded with silence. 

I went to the conference expecting to learn, think, and dream of our potential as a district. The reality is I came away frustrated. I wasn't frustrated by what everyone else was doing, I was frustrated by where we stand.  I saw over and over again is that everybody else is doing things that we're already doing, what we've already tried, or that we could do better. We are at the forefront, the very leading edge of what everybody else is pursuing, and we don't even know it. Have you ever watched these videos that are shared at PD's and conferences and wonder why that is not us up there? We do great things, YOU do great things. Last year our administration told us our motto would be, "Expect Excellence". We should "Expect Excellence" from our students, our co-workers, and ourselves. We need to go a step further, don't just expect excellence; achieve it.

Over the course of the next few posts, I am going to show you where we stand using technology and how we can move forward. I will shoot down all of your arguments about time, lack of resources, or the abilities of the students. This is my eleventh year teaching here. I know the kids, I know the community, I know the challenges we face. I also know the incredible people I work with and I see the dedication and determination in you all. I also see the potential that you possess. I see the potential WE possess. 

We are better than every district around us. We are leaders, its time to show it.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Reflections of my first Computer Science Education Week

"Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance." 
~Samuel Johnson

Monday morning, the first class of the week and also the largest. There they were, 27 bundles of energy pouring into my room eager to start their week. Chitter-chatter filled the room as I passed out their cards and helped them log in. The moment had come, it was time to start the week teaching something that I was just begin to get a grasp on myself. I was introducing computer programming concepts, the building blocks of the technology around us. It was a bold step and I was extremely nervous. I felt prepared, but were they?  

To say I was blown away is an understatement. After my first class on Monday morning, I knew it was going to be a pretty good week. By Tuesday, I knew it was perfect. Over the course of the week, I observed perseverance, determination, leadership, and excitement. One student started the class in tears from frustration and ended the class walking around helping and encouraging her classmates. I saw students who usually have trouble sitting for more than a few minutes glued for 40. I can't count how many times I saw students faces glow with pride and heard shouts of, "YES!" from excited students. They were the kind of moments you dream of as a teacher.

If you didn't try any of the coding for yourself, I strongly encourage you to give it a try. It is fun and at times challenging. After a few lessons, I think you will understand why coding has a place in the 21st century classroom.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Analyze Data Using Charts and Graphs

"You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data."
~Daniel Keys Moran

Collecting data can be a dreadful task at times, analyzing it can be downright mind-numbing. Most people benefit from visual representations to help them understand concepts. If only we could do that with the data we are collecting. Guess what, you can! Here is a tutorial on how to make charts and graphs using the data in your spreadsheets.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Chromebook Shortcuts

"Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort." 
~Paul J. Meyer

Most people know a few simple shortcuts that save you from a lot of mouse moving. Copy and paste are good to know but did you know that you can just use CTRL+d to duplicate whatever it is you need? Here is a quick tip on how to find useful shortcuts on your Chromebook. These can be handy when you are trying to work as efficiently as possible.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Searching within a webpage

"Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant." 
~Mitchell Kapor

After the arduous task of finding a web page with the information you need, you are tasked with finding your information on the page you selected.  This can be quite the process on long, dense pages.  Using the shortcut explained in the video below, you can get right to the keywords you are searching for without pouring through thousands of words.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Hour is Upon Us.

“We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.” - David Warlick

The word 'code' is a popular term to describe the set of languages that programmers use to get computers use to do what we want them to do. To work in any technological field, you must be familiar with at least a few of them.  Some of our students will go on to get good jobs in the computer science field. Our school is blessed to have many resources at our disposal to teach and inspire our students. Not all of our kiddos will go on to computer science jobs, so why teach programming? I have learned as I have gone through many of the tutorials I am sharing below is that programming is fantastic at showing kids how to think logically and strengthening math skills.  Students learn to problem solve and persevere through challenges.  Give it a try for yourself and let me know what you think.

Welcome to the 21st Century!

“Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event.” – Heidi-Hayes Jacobs

Think about your weekend, how many times did you interact with technology during your day? I am willing to bet that it was a lot more than you realize. Technology surrounds us. It is in virtually everything that you interact with everyday and the uses of technology is growing everyday. Are we ready to teach kids for a world of technology?

I know what some of you are thinking, "They are growing up with technology, they'll do just fine." While I believe are students will aclimate with the increased use of technology, that in no way makes them experts. A five year old might be able to do what appears to be more on your phone it doesn't mean they are able to use it functionally. We need to guide and teach our students to be functional and productive with your computers.

Are you willing to try and learn more? Everyday this week, I will send out quicktips that I hope will make you more productive and functional in your use of technology. In addition, I will send links to videos that explain a bit more about the Hour of Code and what it is all about. I challenge you to try to complete an hour of coding and to learn one new thing from my posts this week. Who is up for the challenge?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Computer Science Education Week 2015

“I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”
~Steve Jobs

Next week is National Computer Science Education Week. This week is designed to highlight the demand in the job market that require degrees and knowledge of computer science and computer programming. The Hour of Code is an international event that is used to create interest and develop an understanding of what programming is. Beyond the use in the computer science field, learning to code also teaches you to think logically and put mathematics principals to use. Here is a short video that gives you a little more about the hour of code.

Throughout the next week, I will be exposing all of our students to coding and the concepts behind computer language.  I highly encourage you to take a little time in your class so that all students will be able to complete the full hour of code. Here are some resources you can use to participate in the Hour of Code.

Students centered activities -
Teacher led/ whle class activities -
Activity that can be done without a computer -

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Using Google Slides to Create Documents

"Instead of thinking outside the box, get rid of the box." 
~Deepak Chopra

Sometimes to do the things you want to do, you have to try it many times, coming from many different angles. I pride myself on being able to do what I need with what I am given. I think that mentality came from being raised having only what we needed. It ultimately taught me how to persevere despite the circumstances. One of the downfalls of Google Docs is that it is not so easy to use when you are trying to make documents that have lots of formatting or pictures. A good way to work around this is to use Google Slides. While it is designed for making presentations, a few simple tweaks make it a great resource for making all kinds of documents.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Google Advanced Search

"The noblest search is the search for excellence."
~Lyndon B. Johnson

A simple Google search can give you access to practically anything in the world that you could possibly want to learn about. Unfortunately using poor search technique can also lead you to several billion web pages that have virtually nothing to do with what you were looking for. Google has a simple way for you to narrow down your search results to just the content you want. Here is a short video introducing you to Google Advanced Search.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Quick Tip - Making Columns in Google Docs

"Learning never exhausts the mind."
-Leonardo Da Vinci

Here is this weeks quick tip for you. This tip will show you how to mimic columns in Google Docs. Enjoy.

If there is anything you want to learn more about or if you have a great idea for a video, shoot me an e-mail.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Quick Tip Tuesday - Advanced Sharing in Google Drive

"The Internet is a great way to get on the net."
~Bob Dole

In an effort to keep you all learning new things, I will continue to share with you Apps, websites, and tutorials that I think you will find helpful in your class.  The reality is you probably don't have time to try them all. Therefore, I introduce to you, "Quick Tip Tuesday". Each week I will share with you a short tip that I hope you can use immediately. Today is a tutorial about an advanced sharing feature in Google Drive that I hope you find helpful. If there are things you would like to know more about, please let me know and I can share what I know.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Running Records with Fluency Tutor

"A text is at a students' independent reading level if they can read it with about 95% accuracy."

~Marie Clay - "An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement" (1993)

Running records are a little window into the world of our students. They allow us to understand how a student sees the words on the paper and their strengths and weaknesses with regards to vocabulary. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find time to sit with students one-to-one and listen to them read as often as you would like. 

Fluency Tutor is a free app available in the Chrome Webstore. This app syncs with your Google classroom and allows you to assign Lexile leveled reading assignments to your class. Texts are available through the app or you can use text from websites and Drive.  The great thing about this app is that students can record themselves reading the passage. The student and teacher interface is really easy to use. 

I tested this app with a class and the kids were really excited to be able to hear themselves read. Used on a regular basis, I can see how this program can be great for students. They get an opportunity to reflect on their own reading and hear for themselves how they can improve the way their reading sounds. For you as a teacher, it gives you the opportunity to hear every student read multiple times a week and take running records as needed. Students could also just as easily respond to a text instead of recording their actual reading.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Collecting Data Using Flubaroo

"Experts often possess more data than judgement."
~Colin Powell

Anyone anywhere near a classroom these days hears the word data more often than they would probably like. Some teachers have long defended their use of judgement to evaluate students. The reality is that whether we like to admit it or not our judgement is often flawed.  I am not saying a gut decision every once and a while is wrong, however, we should be using hard data regularly to guide our practice.

The trouble with data is without ways to easily collect it and analyze it, you end up with a pile of useless information. Fortunately, there are ways we can use technology within our classrooms to make collecting and analyzing data a little easier.  Some solutions require a little time to set-up in the beginning, but the investment pays off in the end. Today I will introduce you to one that can be easily incorporated with online quizzes.

Flubaroo is an Add-on to Google Sheets that automatically grades quizzes and provides data in an easy to use and analyze package. To use Flubaroo, you must first create a quiz in Google Forms. The responses get populated in a Sheet and then the Add-on can be run to score the quiz and provide data that is easy to analyze. Below are some resources to learn more about this Add-on.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Just Keep Learning

"Don't limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time." 

-Rabindranath Tagore

I am sure most of you have heard someone say, "...but that's the way I have always done it!" It's a classic refrain from people too stubborn to learn a new way. The problem with that mindset in education is that we are teaching kids to be prepared for a world that doesn't exist yet. Why not try something new?

Here is a resource that I would encourage you to try sometime this year. I offer a couple suggestions on how you might incorporate it into your routine but I would love to hear ideas on how you use it in your class.

Classroom by Google

Google Classroom is part of the Google Apps for Education package. This feature allows you to create virtual classrooms where you can post assignments, hand out "worksheets", and collect assignments. It is a great resource for teaching students to become more independent. I am using this in my class to achieve the blended learning approach I am aiming for. The app is really easy to set up and essentially creates an invite only webpage for your class.  You can access Classroom at or from the Classroom link on our start portal.

Idea for Kindergarten through Second Grade:
  • Set up a classroom as an easy to update webpage that students can go to for links to games, videos, and activities that you want them to do in class.

Idea for Third through Fifth Grade:
  • Create a classroom for literature circles or differentiated groups.  As a teacher you can post questions and students can have discussions within this class.
Please feel free to ask questions and send me feedback on what your experience with Classroom is.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A New Chapter...

A New Chapter...

There are many analogies to describe life and living.  Each one speaks to us and resonates within us in different ways.  We all have our favorite authors; Shakespeare, Lincoln, Confucius, Eminem.  They each weave with words a different take on the life we lead.  We all have our favorites...

To me, Forrest Gump's Mama said it best.  Everyday we encounter something new.  Sometimes it is hard to sink our teeth into.  Sometimes it is hard to swallow.  At times life can be bitter sweet, smooth and silky, or even a little nutty.  All we can do is make the best of today and enjoy the hope that overall, life will be pretty sweet.

The past couple of years teaching as a profession has been the chocolate covered maggot hidden in our box. We have each been challenged with finding ways to persevere and continue doing what is best for our students. For many teachers these years have been wrought with self-reflection about the direction of their life and career.  Some have changed grades, sought new schools, or left the profession altogether. This has been my existence these last several years.  I have struggled to find my place in this world. This year is no different but now I find myself with new hope.

In my new role as the technology teacher, I find myself with the exciting challenge of teaching our students how not only to use technology, but how it can enhance or lives, our learning, and how it can be used as a voice to the world. I want our students to know that they can use technology to make an impression on the world.  It is a tool that will allow anyone to see that they are the best and brightest. 

I also hope that I can use this year to help my colleagues learn new tools and how to make better use of the technology they have. This blog was an old tool of mine that I found a lot of satisfaction in creating. It is my hope that I can regularly update it again with new and useful tips, ideas, tools that can be easily incorporated into your daily teaching. Together we can raise the bar and achieve the excellence that we all know that we possess.