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.