Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Break #EdTech Challenge

Whenever I have some time off I like to challenge myself and set some new learning goals.  This is my list of fun ed-techy things to do over winter break. Today is the first day of our winter break and so I have fourteen days to get #edtechy and learn some new things. Do you have your own fun ideas to share? Please post in the comments below!

1. Post on Instagram every day until January 1st - Pictures of my most rewarding times working with students and teachers this year. Using the hashtag #bestedtechtimes2013 If you do this too, tag me in your post, I am raefearing on instagram.

2.  Start a Google+ Community - Think of a an interest or passion and create a community for it on Google+. Invite anyone I think might like to join so we can share ideas and connect all year.

3.  Reach level 30 in one category on QuizUp - My family and sometimes play QuizUp together by projecting it onto the television using Apple TV.  We work together to master new categories and
tackle difficult subjects.  A new twist on family game night!

4.  Write a blog post about a tech tool someone has asked me about. I have a back log of emails to read and many of them include questions from teachers asking me about technology tools or resources. I will write a blog post about one of them and share it with my personal learning network so I can hopefully help others.

5.  Learn more about an EdTech art tool.  I have several art apps on my iPad that I have been wanting to explore. I will pick one and master it over break.  Maybe even blog about it!

Do you want to take the challenge with me?  Post your list of 5 things to try over winter break and we can help encourage and support each other along the way.  Hey, maybe I will even set up a Google+ Community to share ideas, then I can check #2 off my list!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Making Time for Coding with Kids

Last year I completed a coding project with a 5th grade class. This was such a rewarding experience, for me, and I think the kids got something out of it too. Actually, I don't just think that, I know it.  One student in particular, whose coding project was voted most creative, emailed me at the beginning of this year about his lack of time to code.  At the end of the project last year he had asked about more challenging coding programs, so I sent him information about MIT's Scratch program and when school started this year he sent me this:

"I honestly forgot about scratch. But when I looked at it, it was amazing and I don't have time to spend on it because of the amount of homework in 6th grade and in the weekends my dad takes us off the computer  sometimes so i have little time to use scratch."

When I read this I told myself that I needed to do something to make time for kids to code, at home or at school, whenever.  My feelings were confirmed when I walked into a 6th grade classroom this year that had several of my coding kids from last year.  As I spoke to the teacher I heard whispering and comments like, "There she is!" "That's the lady we got to use Hopscotch with last year".  One student came up to me and asked if we could do the project again this year.  I talked with several of the students and asked them about heir experience. They talked about how fun the project was and that it was hard, especially at first, to learn but that they wanted to do it again.  There was a real sense of accomplishment in these students. 

You can read more about our 5th Grade Code In Project 2013 here

This year I am encouraging teachers in my school district to code with every student.  I believe programming and computer science courses should be a requirement, not an elective.  Anyone can AND SHOULD know how to code. It is the universal language of our digital future. 

I am using the Hour of Code as a kicking off point for coding in our schools.  During Computer Science Education Week, December 9-15, 2013, I am hoping all students will get the opportunity to participate in an hour of coding in their classrooms. Prior to the event I am sending out information and videos that teachers can share with their students to get them excited about the Hour of Code. Below is a 60 second teaser to get students and teachers interested.

This video with James Gwertzman from walks teachers through the Hour of Code event and shows them how to sign up and get their classes involved.

Most teachers are not coders, but this is not a reason to keep kids from coding.  The Hour of Code is an opportunity for everyone to get a little exposure to coding.  The tutorials being offered are fun and build self confidence.  Teachers can learn WITH their students and share that experience together.  I completed the tutorial: Write Your First Computer Program. It took me less than an hour and I had a blast programming my Angry Bird to get all the piggies!  I even earned this certificate.

There are a variety of tutorials to introduce you and your students to coding.  You can even learn to code with no computers using the "unplugged" activity, My Robotic friends.  You can check out all of the tutorials here. I encourage all teachers to take one hour and explore coding with their students.  Projects like these can inspire students to pursue STEM fields and allows all students to experience success in completing a critical thinking task.  

Take a look at the information I sent to teachers to support them in hosting an Hour of Code in their classrooms.

Click here to go to this Google Doc
As Dr. Kenneth Wesson pointed out at the STEM Symposium I attended earlier this week, "We were born to invent, innovate and improvise".  Coding allows our students to do all of this while creating meaningful work that can be used to improve learning. Most of the students in my 5th Grade Coding Project created math, science and word games to help teach their 1st grade buddies.  Dr. Wesson also stated that emotion drives attention and attention drives learning. My coding students learned more than I could have imagined because they were connected by emotion and the desire share their work and help others.

I would love to hear how others are coding in their classrooms and schools. If you have ideas please share in the comments.

  • “Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer
    because it teaches you how to think.”

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Common Core Literacy Tool

I started using this tool with secondary alternative education students to help them read and understand informative texts and convey their ideas effectively.

Newsela - Common Core Literacy Tool

Newsela builds close reading and critical thinking skills while giving your students a new way to climb the staircase of nonfiction reading comprehension, from fourth grade to college-ready. Articles are written at multiple levels of text complexity. Teachers simply click a button and the reading level is automatically adjusted.

Newsela makes it easy to assign articles, review student quizzes and track Common Core mastery. Teachers can create classes, assign articles and assign quizzes to measure comprehension. The teacher dashboard lets you track assigned articles, review quizzes and monitor standards mastery. Students register for Newsela and create an account using the class code - no email necessary. Students are able to adjust the reading level of the assigned article which can encourage re-reading.  Teachers are able to see at what level the student read the article and how they scored on the quiz. Another feature is that articles are conneted to the Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards. You can see the standard by hovering over the anchor at the top of the article title. Progress on these standards can be monitored by individual student on the teacher dashboard.

Hold an interactive read aloud for the whole class.  Model fluent and engaged reading of informational text. Prompt students for questioning the text to push them to infer from the article and expand their comprehension. Take the quiz together as a class and then assign another article for students to complete on their own. After reading the second article have students blog about their opinion of the article. Students should ask a question at the end of their blog post to encourage commenting. Extension: Ask students to research a related news article and include a link to it on their blog post and explain why they chose it. SAMR LEVEL: Modification

Newsela is free

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Using redeem codes in the App Store with iOS7

Using a redeem code in the app store is a little bit different with iOS7, this video shows you how to do it! 

If you need to use a redeem code to download an app or if you want to redeem an iTunes gift card, I will show you how.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Congratulations on your new iPad!

Did you just get a teacher iPad?

Here are some resources to help you effectively use this technology in class.

iPads are more than an internet device or for just practicing skills - they are powerful tools to get students creating, collaborating, communicating and publishing their new ideas and learning. 

They are also the new document camera, lesson recording device, mobile teaching tool and much more. Here are some resources to help you learn to use your iPad and the new iOS7.


Introduction to iPads:  this guide covers iPad basics, iOS7 functionality and some highly recommended educational apps by Mac1

iOS7 A brief Overview - video by Rob Spreitzer

Sharing student work: What teachers need to know about Airdrop - from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning

Teaching with the iPad

Apple TV and the iPad:  The Perfect Educator Set up - by Max Interactive, this video will show you how a few small pieces of equipment can make you and your iPad the rockstars of your classroom.

Using the iPad as a document camera - by EdTech on Tap, get the basics of how to easily set up your iPad as a new and improved version of the essential classroom tool, the document camera.

15 Apps for the 1 iPad Classroom - by We Are Teachers, this list is packed with key apps to maximize your one iPad as a management and teaching tool in the classroom. One of my favorites on this list is Stickpick!
What to do with one iPad in Kindergarten - by Rae Fearing, whole class iPad activities.

36 Core Teacher Apps - by TeachThought, many of these apps are free and all of them will open up a world of creativiy tools for class projects.
The Educational Apps user Manual - by Paul Hamilton, highlights 8 educational apps and how to use them. Created for teachers by teachers, I love the tips on how to use these apps with your students.
8 Art and Creativity Apps - by Rae Fearing, art connects many curricular areas, explore the artsy apps and find ways to engage your class with them.
Free Apps to Download Now


Excellent Apps for Creating on the iPad

(Range from $4.99 - $9.99, free on the newest versions of iPad)


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Our First EdCamp

We held our first EdCamp in Del Norte County on October 5, 2013.

We are waaaayy up there

Del Norte is the northernmost county in California, nestled on the coast among the redwoods, pristine rivers and the Pacific ocean. Ours is a remote county, and I mean R-E-M-O-T-E. For the few of you reading this post that have traveled this far for fishing or camping, you know we are about two hours form the nearest anything.

I began planning EdCamp Del Norte about 8 months ago.  There were no EdCamps happening near us and I wanted to bring the power of the professional learning model to teachers in my county. So, I decided to plan my own with the help and guidance of many EdCamp experts on twitter, including @LS_Karl@kristenswanson and @VisionsByVicky.

The EdCamp wiki was my guide to everything and really helped me to plan the event, develop my logo, and get my website listed publicly. The EdCamp Guide to Organizing was my planning tool and helped me create a dynamic and memorable event. Thank you to the creators of the guide Amanda Dykes, Jerry Swiatek, Nick Provenzano, Kyle Pace, and Josh Allen.

Planning Edcamp went surprisingly smooth. Sponsors came on board readily and I was able to get plenty of prizes including the grand prize, an iPad mini. I began to stress a little toward the end because I didn't have t-shirts and I was worried we might not have a large enough crowd. But, then I told myself that the power was in the people who attended. T-shirts and swag were not the focus of this grass roots movement, learning from each other was.  When the day arrived and people started walking in the door I felt a sense of relief and excitement for what was about to happen. I knew it would be a great day of learning for everyone. 

I welcomed the group and asked if anyone had heard of EdCamp before, I think no one raised their hand. So, I explained what an un-conference was and how we were going to be deciding on and running all sessions ourselves. EdCamp Home Co-Creator Shawn White joined in via Google Hangout to talk about his experience with EdCamps. He spoke with us right from his the soccer field with his kids, now that is an awesome guy!

Brainstorming session ideas

We started building the session board by brainstorming what we wanted to learn for the day. This helped to get the ideas flowing was a great way to get inspiration for sessions. People saw things on the brainstorming board and then stepped up to lead sessions on those topics. Once session ideas were posted on the board, we did a little arranging of times and locations then off we went. Groups went to the assigned rooms and began to share ideas.  Session topics included Smarter Balanced Assessments, Screencasting, Standards Based Grading and iPads in the classroom.  We even partnered with EdCamp San Diego which was happening the same day and held a joint session on Connecting Classrooms and Teachers with Google hangouts led by me and the always eduawesome and fellow Google Certified Teacher, Jo-Ann Fox

Everyone who attended our Edcamp was focused on learning and collaborating. One group even held a lunch session on Number Talks.  This demonstrates the power of Edcamps and how getting educators together to learn works.  Teachers were able to learn what they wanted when they needed it.  I was impressed by what were were able to do in one day. To learn more about our EdCamp Del Norte you can see our website and and view our session board.   

Our session board being built - so exciting!
Since EdCamp, several people have talked to me about planning future events. Ed Tech leaders in a neighboring county have started planning and one of our data coaches/instructional leaders talked with me about holding a focused EdCamp which would target a specific topic like instructional strategies.  I look forward to working with colleagues on these new ideas and seeing what happens next year with EdCamp Del Norte II!

More EdCamp Del Norte Session Photos

Brett Lauble sharing student screencasting projects

@colbysmart and @kendallp50 leading a session
on Smarter Balanced Assessments

Friday, October 11, 2013

Setting Event Reminders on Google Calendar

A Google Calendar Tip!

Recently,  a teacher called me and said was receiving pop up notifications for events on her calendar 10 minutes before the start time and this was not useful to her. She wanted to know if this could be changed and so I made this short tutorial video to demonstrate how to set event reminders in Google Calendar.
I hope this helps you stay ever prepared and on time!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Reading Apps for Elementary Students

Looking for reading apps to use with young students or struggling readers? Take a look at these:

Reading Raven Vol 2 HD $2.99

Reading Raven presents five extensive lessons, with hundreds of individual activities in total. Parents and teachers will find the multi-sensory learning games to be a great complement to traditional classroom and home-based reading instruction. This app is also fully customizable by age or reading level. The built in read alound and voice recording feature is a nice addition.

Recommended Ages: 3-7

Teach Me 1st Grade $1.99

Teaches four age-appropriate subjects to first grade children: sight words, addition, subtraction and spelling. TeachMe: 1st Grade's unique TeachTech character recognition engine interprets a child's written answers, helping to reinforce writing skills while teaching math and spelling. Students are very motivated to earn coins and spend them at the shape store, fish store and art store. 

Bonus! This app allows different users to be created. Great for a classroom, learning center or home. Children can even take their picture to      
   display it next to their name in the user list.

   Recommended 1st grade (They also have Kindergarten, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade)

Tap the Cat (from Reading Eggs) $1.99

9 playful activities builds and reinforces a different literacy skill – from letter sounds, rhyming words and phonics to coloring, vocabulary, speaking and handwriting. I like the recording feature on this app, students can speak a word and then play it back to hear themselves.

Recommended Ages: 4-6

Eggy 250 HD (From Reading Eggs) $1.99

This app covers the first 250 sight words using a fun and motivating game to keep kids learning. 10 levels with 25 words in each, making a total of 250 sight words.  First 4 levels are unlocked. New speed option on the settings page lets you change the speed to match your child's skill level.

Recommended Ages: 3-6

Friday, September 13, 2013

An Annoted List of Resources for Teaching the Common Core in the Social Studies Classroom

Here are some resources I put together that to help provide structure and focus for teachers transitioning to the Common Core in Social Studies. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but provides some concrete examples and clear ideas to support the transition.

1.  Ideas for Implementing Literacy Common Core in the Non-ELA Classroom - an Edutopia article with links to many resources to help teachers be effective and intentional in teaching and assessing the CCSS

2.  Text-Dependent Questions: Using Evidence - Guides and Checklists from Achieve The Core to help teachers write and evaluate text-dependent questions. These tools can help transition from the old standby "find the answer in the book" questions to higher level thinking tasks

3.  Language, History and the Common Core - Educator Bill Chapman (@classroomtools) demonstrates how to address one literacy standard using three separate documents in a social studies class

4.  Common Core Literacy in History/Social Studies - Close Reading Exemplar Lessons from Achieve the Core demonstrate how teachers can build student knowledge through content rich nonfiction and practice with reading complex informational text

5.  Minecraft History Project -  Shared by Minecraft Educator +Tim Wicks, this student decides to use Minecraft to express learning in his history lesson

6.  Integrating Technology in Common Core Teaching - Jaclyn Karabinas shares on her Institute in a Box website many ways to integrate technology into teaching using tools such as screencasting and blogging, allowing students to share and express their learning

Please share your resources and ideas in the comments!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

3 Ways To Use Google Docs To Schedule Parent Conferences

I believe in efficiency and collaboration. One way to achieve this during parent conference time is to use Google Docs.

1.  One year I created a Google spreadsheet and shared it with my school secretary.  Parents were told to email me or call the school to schedule a time to meet and discuss their students progress. This way parents could plan a time to meet with me even when I was busy in class. Having one, shared spreadsheet allowed both the secretary and myself to have the most updated schedule always available and eliminated the accidental double booking of time slots. Here is a link to my Conference Spreadsheet.

2.  The second way to schedule parent conferences is to create a Google Doc, go to sharing and set visibility so that anyone with a link can edit it. Then send the link to parents and let them sign up in available time slots. A benefit to this is that it eliminates the middle man and allows a parents to view available times and schedule when it is convenient for them.  Also, if parents need to reschedule, they can easily go back to the doc and move their name to another available time slot.  For parents who can't access the doc, they can still call or email and have the teacher or secretary add them to the doc.

This idea came from super-teacher, Matt Gomez who uses this method with his kindergartner's parents. You can see his step by step instructions on his blog post: Using Google Docs for Setting Up Conferences with Parents.  So, what happens if someone gets mischievous and deletes another parent's appointment? Thanks to the Revision History feature in Google Docs, even if a parent accidentally deletes another parents appointment, you can see when the edit occurred and restore it.

3.  I took the shared Google Doc idea a step further and added a form for parents to submit their contact information. It always seems that the contact information in our student information system is not accurate, so having current contact info for students is critical, especially around parent conference time. I added a link to the form at the bottom of the shared Fall Conference Schedule so I can collect information such as the student name, parent name, email address, phone number and whether I can text them at that number.  Here is a link to my Fall Conference Schedule and Parent Contact Form which you can use a template. To use the Contact Form - click the link, go to File--> Make a copy. When you open your new copy you will see a spreadsheet where form responses will be collected. To edit the form click Form --> Edit Form.
To share the form click Form --> Go to live form. This is the link you share with parents. 

My two step process for letting parents
drive the conference schedule

My Google Form for collecting current parent contact information at parent conference time.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Google Docs Research Tool Slam

I love Google Slams. They are quick demos showing cool tips and tricks with Google Apps.  I am doing some workshops this week and was looking for inspiration when I came across this gem from +Stacy Behmer.

I plan to demo the Research Tool in Google Docs during my session on Power Moves with Google Drive.  You can see Stacy's slam showing how to use the Research Tool in Google Docs in the video below. This is a helpful feature and I am going to share her video in my session. Enjoy the video and have fun using the Research Tool!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Using Research Tool in Google Docs to Add Links

Recently, I discovered a handy way to add links to text in Google Docs using the Research Tool. When I saw this tweet from Kelly Kermode (@coachk) via Lisa Highfill (@lhighfill) I tried it, but the tool wasn't there.  At the time I was using my Gmail account in a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) domain, so I tried it with my personal Gmail outside the GAFE domain.  The tool was there when I was using regular Gmail.  After some research, I found that the tool is there inside my GAFE domain, it just works a little differently.

The Research Tool is a great addition to Google Docs and so I made this video demonstration to explain how you can find it and use it whether you are using a public Google account or a GAFE account.  Hope you find this as useful as I did! Thanks Kelly and Lisa for the heads up on updated feature.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Use Moonshot Thinking to Inspire Your School

Looking for a video to share with your teachers, staff or students to inspire and motivate them next year?

You just found it:

Moonshot Thinking: Choosing to be bothered by the fact that something is thought of as impossible.

James Sanders (@jamestsanders) shared this with us at the Google Teacher Academy in Chicago. I really connected with the video and wanted to share it with others. Enjoy.

Here is a bonus video, because I like you.

The Future is Ours on Vimeo

Imagine the future as a movie, consider this a trailer to that movie.
Created to inspire by Michael Marantz: - 
Produced by Already Alive

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Winners of the 5th Grade Code In Project

Mr. Filsinger's 5th grade class did an #eduawesome job this year creating computer games with the Hopscotch App on their iPads.  All students did an excellent job learning to code, some of the favorites are listed below.  Please take a look and leave positive comments for the students. You can read more about the 5th Grade Code In Project on my previous blog posts: My 5th Grade Code In Project and 5th Graders Build Games with the Hopscotch App

Interacting with the App developers: 

Students loved sharing their work with the world being able to connect with the developers when we encountered a bug in the app.

One student's reflection:  Using Hopscotch was hard at first, but now I figured it out and I think I'm ready for something even harder.

I told the students about SCRATCH so they could continue to experiment with coding.

The Winners:

Most Creative - Math Construction Game

Most Technical - Car Quiz

Student Favorite - American Flag

Students spent a lot of time experimenting and learning 
as evident with this video - Triangles 

Another Creative Student Entry - Rocket Math

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Google Teacher Academy Bound

It's been almost three years since I thought about becoming a Google Certified Teacher (GCT).  After using Google with my high school students I saw the value in these collaborative tools and set out to learn more.  I passed the Google Apps exams and became Google Apps EDU Qualified in December 2010.   I worked with Dr. Mark Wagner to bring a Google Workshop for Educators in 2011 to my county and asked him about becoming a GCT.  He explained there was only one way to become a GCT, apply for and be accepted to a Google Teacher Academy (GTA).  You can also apply to be a Google Certified Trainer, but that is a different program.  It can be a bit confusing at first, so here is a description of both:

  • As a Google Apps EDU Qualified Individual you are eligible to apply to become a Google Apps EDU Certified Trainer, which can be done online. You need to demonstrate your professional development experience (and skills) in this application. It's meant more for people who are interested in listing their services in the Google Apps Marketplace. You can read more on Danny Silva's blog HERE.

  • The Google Certified Teacher program is entirely separate (and older) program. Google Certified Teachers are exceptional K-12 educators with a passion for using innovative tools to improve teaching and learning, as well as creative leaders and ambassadors for change. They are recognized experts and widely admired for their commitment to high expectations for students, lifelong learning and collaboration. To become a Google Certified Teacher, you must apply for, be invited to, and attend a Google Teacher Academy hosted by Google in a Google office.  Here are the details to become a Google Certified Teacher.

When I was helping to set up and deploy Google Apps for Education in my school district in 2011, I met Mark Hammons, a Google Certified Teacher.  Mark was the lead learner for our 3 day Google Workshop for Educators.  He amazed me with his mad Google skills and told me more about the benefits of becoming a GCT.  I set out to apply for a Google Teacher Academy.  The first GTA I applied for was Seattle, 2011.  I did not get in which was very disappointing after putting so much effort into the application and video submission.  I applied again for New York, 2012, and was turned down again.  This shook my confidence.   I skipped the next GTA and finally, I applied one last time for the GTA being held in Chicago in July 2013, and I was accepted!  Looking back, I would have to say waiting and re-applying was actually a good thing.  In the two years it took to get accepted I learned and grew as an educator a great deal.  So, if you are thinking about becoming a Google Certified Teacher, apply and don't give up.  I am excited and honored to be attending the GTA in Chicago and will blog about the experience so stay tuned!

My Google Teacher Academy Video Submission for Chicago, 2013