Saturday, December 31, 2011

My 2011 in Review

Can you believe another year is about to begin? I am finding out that the older I get, the faster the years seem to go. Maybe by writing this post I can see what seemed to zoom by me as I traveled through 2011.

Started the 30 Day Blogger Challenge hosted by Edublogs (unfortunately I didn't complete it), but I learned how to add pages to my blog.

I presented a session for the Greater New Orleans Teachers of Mathematics called Being Better at Math.

My Skype buddy, Jan Wells, and I presented for Classroom 2.0 Live. We took our presentation Seeds to Success with Skype and had a wonderful time interacting with the live audience during this session. You can access the archive of the session here.

I was invited by Jeanne McQueen to be a moderator of #4thchat. I was thrilled to join the team of Jeanne, Nancy Carroll, and Justin Stortz on March 21 and have had a wonderful year of being a moderator for this lively chat each week. Check out the archives and get more information here.

Celebrated my 6oth birthday.

I presented virtually by using the screensharing feature of Skype to educators attending InnovatED in Memphis, Tennessee.

I was invited to write a guest blog post for BrainPOP. Then I was invited to do a webinar for BrainPOP based on my post. The archived webinar can be accessed here.

I started the #JJAProject with some of my Twitter friends.

Thanks to Ken Shelton, I was hired to present to the Tech Coordinators for Region 8 in Monroe, Louisiana. You can read all about this event here.

Made plans to help Newbies at ISTE11 with my friend, Beth Still.

Arrived in Philadelphia in time to attend EduBloggerCon. I love this unconference and I even facilitated a session on blogging with elementary students. I was stunned when I realized my students' best commenter was sitting there in front of me. I had to stop and give JoAnn Jacobs a huge hug. My roommate and fellow JPPSS educator, Tinashe Blanchet, and I had some great late night chats.

During my ISTE days I presented on a panel with Beth Still, George Couros, Josh Allen, and Jason Schrage entitled Get Ready, Get Set, Get Organized. I was approached by some of the METC organizers and invited to present for them in February of 2012.

Jan, Len Horn, Kristen Robertson, and I did a two hour presentation called More Seeds to Success with Skype for teachers in South Africa attending the INTEL ICT in the Classroom 2011 Conference.

I was an organizer of EdCamp Louisiana which took place on the campus of UNO on Saturday, July 9. It was a great day and I was thrilled that Dr. John Hadley Strange and some of his students from the University of South Alabama attended.

I flew to San Diego that same evening to attend the Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute (DENSI). I couldn't believe that I was finally going to meet Jen Wagner, one of my first online mentors, face to face. She picked me up from the airport and got me to my dorm room that I shared with Jeannine Shields. It was a wonderful week of learning and bonding with other DEN members.

I was thrilled to present with William Chamberlain about the Power of the #comments4kids Hashtag for Reform Symposium 3. You can access the archive here.

Began the 2011-2012 school year by doing presentations for other teachers in my district at our inservice day. One of my presentations was called Using the 4C's in Math. I also presented to the 3-5 grade math teachers at my school on tools to help cover our GLEs (grade level expectations).

Began the year with an About Me lesson I shared with my PLN on Twitter.

I wrote about our great first week of school here.

My first attempt at flipping my classroom I shared here.

We celebrated Constitution Day with my friend, James Adams, being our guest speaker.

We connected and collaborated with my friend, David Craig's class. I wrote about it here.

I also got to connect with my friend, Joan Young, as we participated in our first Mystery Skype Call.

My students and I hosted a Blog Commenting Party for parents.

We celebrated anti-bullying month by having Joey King, the star of Ramona and Beezus, Skype into our classroom.

Returned to Monroe and did three presentations for LATM (Louisiana Association of Teachers of Mathematics). Shared the ride and a room with Tinashe again. We had a great time.

I was very surprised to find out my blog was mentioned on page four in Open Book: A K-12 Tech Playbook for Teachers by Classroom. I wrote about it here.

I presented three session at LaCUE, which was held in New Orleans this year. One of my presenting nightmares came true when I lost Internet connection for the last hour of an hour and a half hands-on session. Everyone of the participants applauded how well I handled the situation.

Erica Shepherd, another fourth grade teacher in my district, and I co-presented from Paper Blogs to the World at LaCUE. Read about it on Erica's blog.

Jan Wells and I presented for the K12 Online Conference again this year. Our presentation, Playing with the 4C's in an Elementary Classroom can be viewed here.

Found out I'll be presenting on a panel again at ISTE12 in San Diego in June and will be spending a week in a fantastic house with some great members of my PLN. WooHoo and thank you, Beth.

I was nominated for the EduBlog Award as Best Individual Tweeter.

I graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University with a Master's in Educational Technology Leadership. Here is my portfolio of the courses I took.

Wow, what a great year! What were the highlights of your 2011?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Nominated for Best Individual Tweeter - 2011 Edublog Awards

How sweet it is! Thank you to Patti Grayson, who nominated me for the Edublog Awards of Best Individual Tweeter. I am humbled and honored to be included in this short list of 40+ tweeters. All I have to say is I'm in a win-win situation. If I don't win the category, and believe me, I truly believe there are more deserving people in the category, I still win because I get to reap all of the wonderful resources that these incredible tweeters share each day on Twitter.

If you are new to Twitter, blogging, or social media, the Edublog Award list is a great place to find wonderful blogs to read, innovative educators to follow on Twitter, great free web tools to use in your classroom, and more. If you have been doing this for a while, remember to share the links with your friends and PLN members. I just sent the link to the Best Administrator Blog nominations to my principal and assistant principal.

So head over to Edublog Awards 2011 home page and vote. Voting is open until 11:59 pm EST on Tuesday, December 13, 2011, and the winners will be announced on December 14.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Christmas Countdown Ribbon

I have done this craft activity with my students for years and just realized I have never blogged about it. Well, I'm fixing that today.

Each year at the end of November, I have my students bring in 24 Hershey's Kisses. They don't know ahead of time what we will be doing with the Kisses, so there is a lot of excitement in the air as they speculate about what project is looming in their future.

I supply the other materials needed for them to make a Christmas Countdown Ribbon.

Material Needed
1 piece of wired ribbon 30" long for each student
1 8" piece of small ribbon for each child (this is the hanger)
1 small bell for each student (purchased from Michael's)
24 Hershey's Kisses (or similar wrapped candy)
hot glue glues and glue sticks
1 cellophane gift bag for each student (purchased from Michael's)
card stock to print poem on
pinking shears (optional)
piece of poster board for each table
Step 1: Type up this poem in your favorite font using a word processing program. Click here for my Google doc version.
How many days till Christmas?
It's mighty hard to tell.
Take off a candy every night
When the Sandman casts his spell,
And Christmas Eve will be here
By the time you reach the bell.

Print it on the card stock and cut them apart with the pinking shears. (Using pinking shears is optional.)

Step 2: Review (or teach) hot glue gun safety.

Step 3: Plug in the glue guns.

Step 4: Explain how to lay the candies out on the ribbon. Space is needed at the top for the poem and at the bottom for the bell.

Step 5: Have one student demonstrate how to place everything on the ribbon.

Step 6: Put a piece of poster board on the tables being used before anyone starts gluing. This will protect the table tops from getting glue all over them.

Step 7: I set up 4 working stations. I have my four best listeners place everything on their ribbons and then start gluing everything in place as I closely monitor. They write their names on the back of the poem card which is glued to the top of their piece of ribbon. I glue on everyone's bell at the bottom of the ribbon because I find this difficult for my 4th graders to do without getting hot glue on their fingers. (Ouch!)

Step 8: I will glue the small piece of ribbon (used for hanging the Countdown Ribbon) on the back of the poem card. Again I find it easier for me to do this and I don't get kids with burned fingers. Use Plenty of glue to attach the ribbon hanger.

Step 9: Gently lift the ribbon off of the poster board. Yes, there will be some sticking. Just keep pulling and you will get the ribbon off the paper. If a candy pops off in this process, just glue it back on.

Step 10: Lay the ribbons somewhere safe to thoroughly dry.

Step 11: Now my four students become a monitor at each working station, as the rest of my students take their turn putting their countdown ribbon together. I continue with the rest of the class working on our regular lessons.

Step 12: Curl the countdown ribbon up carefully, place it in a cellophane gift bag, and send it home with the students on December 1.

We always make some extra ones for the office staff, lunchroom ladies, and custodial staff. Have fun with this craft and Happy Holidays.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My First Popplet

I finally tried out Popplet after watching this video from HP Teacher Experience. Here is my first creation. Zoom in and scroll around. If you create a free account you too can start making Popplets.

If you have an account and are logged in, you can click on the blue gear at the top and scroll down to view, and then over to presentation mode and click it it. A pop-up appears in the lower left. Click on the blue Present arrow and then use the left and right arrows on your computer to go through my Popplet presentation.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I Feel Special

I received an email from my friend, Joan Young, informing me that my blog was mentioned in a publication. I opened the PDF entitled Open Book A K-12 Tech Playbook for Teachers by Classroom. It is a 12 page booklet explaining social media and tech resources to teachers. There on page four is a box titled Hot Blogs for Teachers and a list of 11 blogs to check out - and mine is one of them. I was blown away by that mention. My blog is included along with the likes of Steven Anderson, Tim Childers, Chad Lehman, and Richard Byrne, who are all good friends of mine.

I don't know who authored this publication, but I would like to thank them and for mentioning my blog. I feel very special. Thanks Joan for letting me know about this.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Primary and Secondary Sources Using 9/11 Resources

My students are learning about primary and secondary sources in social studies class. As a nation we are also approaching the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. When I found this YouTube video that is explaining primary and secondary sources by using speeches, pictures, artifacts, books etc. about 9/11, I thought it would be a perfect way to cover the two things. Unfortunately we can't watch YouTube videos at school, so I am requiring my students to watch this at home with their parents. I am putting the video in our Edmodo group. I wonder how many will watch it? I wonder how many will watch it with their parents? Well, I am asking them to respond to the video by posting a comment on Edmodo.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Twitter Timeline Inographic

I visited Paige Graiser's twitter stream after Nancy Blair tweeted that Paige was in New Orleans teaching teachers about Twitter. I found Paige's blog and was intrigued by this post. When I visited the site that creates the infographic and entered my Twitter handle here is what is created

Built by Cartridge Save, providers of Epson Stylus Photo ink

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Calling All ISTE11 Newbies

My friend, Beth Still, has been working with the ISTE organizers to make the convention experience less intimidating for first timers. Thanks in part to her efforts, this year for the first time there will be a Newbie Lounge. Beth is working to get veteran ISTE attendees from her personal learning network (PLN) to be there to help welcome the newbies.

There were almost 13,000 attendees at ISTE in Denver last year. That's more people than were in some of the towns I lived in as a kid. A number like that can be a staggering statistic to someone who is attending for the first time. So when you are feeling overwhelmed head to the Newbie Lounge for a breather.

I am one of the veteran ISTE goers who answered Beth's call. She and I tweeted back and forth and finally I came up with a plan. I am hosting a BYOB (bring your own breakfast) Monday morning, June 27 at 8:00 in the Newbie Lounge. I have already been contacted (mostly through Twitter) by over two dozen newbies who plan to attend. I sure hope if you will add this event to your conference planner.

In her usual helpful style, Beth created a video showing how to use Google Maps to locate donut shops close to the PACC (Pennsylvania Convention Center). Are you going to join us?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Enjoying #4thchat and #elemchat

I have been helping to moderate #4thchat on Twitter since it debutted on Monday, March 21, 2011 with the topic Brain Breaks. If you don't understand how ed chats on Twitter work, check out this post where I explain it in more detail.

I would like to thank Jeanne McQueen (aka @jmplus2 ) for inviting me to help moderate #4thchats. The other moderators are Nancy Carroll (aka @ncarroll24) and Justin Stortz (aka @newfirewithin). Justin also created our #4thchat logo. I love working with this team and am glad that I have gotten to know them better through our interaction on Twitter.

Check out the archives of the #4thchats on our wiki. And remember to join us on Mondays at 7:00 Central (8:00 Eastern)

Another chat I am loving is #elemchat which is now taking place on Twitter on Saturdays at 5 Central (6 Eastern). This one is moderated by seven great educators. This chat was born on July 8, 2010. Check out their Archives and Summaries.

These two chats account for two hours of my time during each week. To some people who don't "get" Twitter that might seem like a waste of time. I can tell you that I love the learning, sharing, and interactions that occur during these chats. I anxiously await for them to start and hate when the hour is over. If you have never attended a chat try one of these out or check out this list by our good friend Cybraryman1.

Do you love #4thchat or #elemchat as much as I do? Is there another educational chat that you love? Please leave a comment explaining why you do.

Joining the Big Time

I have spent the first week off putting together my first presentation that I am being paid to do. WooHoo!! I am excited but also very nervous. This is what I have been working toward for the last two years. Thanks to Ken Shelton for suggesting me as a replacement when a scheduling conflict didn't allow him to do this presentation. He sent me a direct message on Twitter asking if I would be interested. I immediately answered back that I was, but didn't think Region 8 would find me an acceptable replacement for him. When I was very surprised to receive an email from Margaret Henderson inviting my to present at the Region 8 Summer Institute.

It is Sunday night and I have put together a Google site that contains my presentation. I try to be as paperless as possible so everything from the agenda, to the presentation, to the handouts, and the evaluation are all a part of the site. I have tweeted to a few close friends to look it over and give me feedback. So far, so good. They think I have done well getting organized and think I have a great presentation. Their feedback makes me feel better but I'm still nervous!

I will leave Tuesday afternoon to drive to Monroe. The event in taking place on the campus of Louisiana University at Monroe on Wednesday form 9:30-3:00. I checked with Margaret to see if any sites I wanted to use were blocked. She assured me that everything from YouTube to Skype will work for me.

I have tried to make my workshop a nice mix of lecture, time for discovery, collaborative group work, and participatory. We are even going to have a Smackdown at the end of the day. Wish me luck.

Time Keeps on Slipping into the Future

I am amazed that I spend so much time at my computer but don't seem able to find the time to update this blog on a regular basis. Maybe part of the reason is I spend quite a bit of time moderating my students' posts and the over 1,900 comments they received thanks to using the hashtag #comments4kids on Twitter.

I finished school for the 2010-2011 on Thursday, May 26. I walked out of school very happy that my classroom was finally packed up for the summer and knowing I would not have to return on Friday to finish.

I left New Orleans Friday afternoon and headed to Baton Rouge with one of my best friends to attend the Bayou Country SuperFest. The BCS was being held at the LSU stadium over the Memorial Day weekend. It was a great way to relax and unwind after a super busy school year. I slept late each day since we weren't going to the stadium until about 6:00 pm each day. We heard Trace Adkins, Sugarland, and Tim McGraw on Saturday and Billy Currington, The Zac Brown Band, and Kenny Chesney on Sunday. We left Baton Rouge on Monday and had lunch (needed a Swamp Burger) before getting back to our homes. It was a fantastic weekend - thank you so much, Janet.

Monday, May 2, 2011

May 1, 2011 - The Death of Osama bin Laden

I am alone and in tears in a hotel room in Houston. I am confused by my feelings.

As I was responding to emails. I heard a story on Fox News that caught my attention. I stopped what I was doing and started watching the news report. I learned the President was about to address the nation. Then I heard that Osama bin Laden was dead. My first reaction was a fist pump and a loudly yell "YES!" Since it is late and I am hours from my home in New Orleans, I wanted to reach out to others and share the news.

Created by Dean Mantz on

I opened TweetDeck on my computer and started following the stream of tweets. Most were expressing a satisfaction that he was dead. But there were others who were critical of the outpouring of joy over the death of a man. Other shared links to breaking news reports, and still others shared pictures or videos of crowds celebrating the news that bin Laden was dead. Each new tweet had my emotions in a whirl. Should I be joyous? Should I be outraged by the celebrating by others?

I clearly remember September 11, 2001. Back then I got ready to go to work in a quiet house - no radio, no TV, and of course Twitter didn't exist yet. I liked my solitude in the mornings as I prepared for work. When I arrived at school on that brilliantly beautiful morning, another teacher asked me if I had heard the news about a plane hitting the World Trade Center in New York. I had been in New York the week before attending the U.S. Open and had gone to the World Trade Center twice while I was there.

I ran to my classroom and turned on the TV and started up a computer. I was trying to wrap my head around what was happening when I watched as the second plane flew into the other tower. I had to make a decision because my 4th graders were starting to arrive. I turned off the TV, and muted the sound on the computer and positioned it so my students couldn't see it. I was trying to decide if I should talk to them about what was happening or not. Well, that decision would not be mine to make. Our principal came rushing into my room and announced that the superintendent of our district had just announced we were not to talk about it or share any of the images of what was happening with our students. We were to protect them from the horrible events that were unfolding.

During the day the teachers took turns getting updates in the teacher's lounge and trying to comprehend this horrific event. Parents started arriving to check their children out early. The children were confused and a little bit frightened. I told them that an event had occurred in New York that their parents would tell them about when they got home. I left school early that day and spent the rest of it glued to the TV watching as the events of the day were replayed on all the channels. I cried and cried. I remember being scared as I wondered what would happen in the coming days. I wondered how our world would change.

We had the next day off from school mainly because our superintendent was worried. Our district has children from 88 countries including many from Iran and Iraq, so she wanted us to have another day to deal with our feelings in private before returning to school. The next days and weeks were kind of surreal. Everyone went through the routine, but we all had a numb feeling. Slowly things returned to normal. But I knew I would never forget.

So tonight I am struggling with all of the feelings that resurfaced from 9/11. I have vascillated between being joyous and being concerned that I am joyous. I am both grateful that a terrible man no longer exists, but confused because I am celebrating a death.

I read this post by Tom Whitby. I guess his last sentence sums up my feelings.

God Bless the USA.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What is a Twitter #chat?

One of my new favorite activities on Twitter are joining in on some of the smaller Twitter chats that take place each week. I am good friends with Steven Anderson and Mary Beth Hertz, two of the founders of the granddaddy of all educational chats, #edchat. I was lucky enough to spend a few days with them and other members of my PLN in Estes Park before ISTE last summer. They showed me first hand how a chat happens on Twitter. (Correction: #edchat was founded by Shelly Terrell, Tom Whitby, and Steve. Mary Beth, who actively participates, was not a founder of #edchat . Thank you CybraryMan1 for helping me get the facts straight.)

First of all the organizers must decide on a hashtag. A hashtag is the # sign that is used in front of some letters (#edchat). Then they decide on what day of the week and hour of the day they what the chat to occur (#edchat occurs on Tuesdays at 7:00 pm EST in the US). By the way chats are usually scheduled to last an hour, but you don't have to arrive on time or stay the entire time.

The organizers will usually set up a poll listing four or five topics for the upcoming chat. They tweet out the poll information and interested people on Twitter can cast a vote for the topic of their choice. When the poll closes the winning topic is the one that the #edchat (or other chats) will focus on that week. Everyone who wants to be a part of the chat must put that hashtag somewhere in their update. There are usually several moderators for each chat who help keep everyone on track by stating the topic at the beginning of the hour, asking guiding questions during the chat, and generally keeping the conversation flowing.

Okay, now what? Well if you use a Twitter client like TweetDeck or TweetGrid you can set up a column which will search the Twitter stream for the hashtag you are following and put all those tweets in the column for you. It makes it easier to follow the discussion. Well, that's what Steve and MaryBeth told me and I tried it, but I was definitely overwhelmed. There can be tweets coming in from over 1,000 people during #edchat and I find it difficult to keep up.

That is why I like the smaller educational chats that are popping up. Two of my favorites are #elemchat and #4thchat. #elemchat occurs on Saturdays at 5:00 EST for elementary educators or interested parties, and #4thchat occurs on Mondays at 8:00 EST for primarily 4th grade teachers, but all are welcome. Again the moderators usually put out a poll to determine the topic for the upcoming week. I am one of the moderators for #4thchat along with Jeanne McQueen (the founder of #4thchat), Nancy Carroll, and Justin Stortz. Jeanne launched #4thchat on March 21, 2011 with the topic Brain Breaks. Archives of the chats can be found on the 4thchat wiki.

What Does That Mean?

I don't know about you, but I have a hard time trying to keep up with all the acronyms being bantered about on Twitter. Most of us have learned about RT (retweet-send someone's tweet out again), DM (direct message-send a tweet to just one person), PLN (personal learning network) and ISTE (International Society of Technology in Education). Since I wasn't into texting when I joined Twitter, I remember when I didn't know what LOL (laughing out loud), IMHO (in my humble opinion) or TIA (thanks in advance) meant. I actually asked on Twitter what LOL meant. Well, I guess I made more than one person LOL and I think I made a couple even ROFL (roll on the floor laughing). But, hey, at least I learned.

Since that time I've always asked when I don't know what an acronym means. Yes, I might make someone else roll their eyes or snicker under their breath when they see my tweet asking, but at least I will know what is being said.

When I blog I always write out the words for things like personal learning network the first time I use it, followed by the letters in parentheses (PLN), so that my reader will know what I'm talking about. My good friend, Beth Still, wrote a great blog post reminding us to spell out what we mean if we want to be understood.

I remember last summer reading a tweet from a member of my PLN that said, "I'm going OTG to spend more time with DH and DD." I had to DM (direct message) her and ask what she meant. Translation: I'm going off the grid (Twitter and other social media sites) to spend more time with dear husband and dear daughter.

Here is one of the responses I got when I asked my PLN on Twitter for some acronyms to help newbies. Funny thing is, I didn't know any of them. (LOL)

Just last week I told a member of my PLN to DM me and I would share the code to our LMS with her. She quickly tweeted back asking what an LMS is? And so she should. I answered her by explaining that an LMS is a learning management system. This occurred during an #edchat (educational chat) on Twitter and it is easy to talk in acronyms because you only have 140 characters to deliver your message. (I'll talk more about #edchats next time.)

I'd love to hear about some of the times you were left scratching your head and saying, "What does that mean?"

Others tweeting answers about acronyms @katiechoudhary, @jdornberg, @derrallg, and @marsacat.

(Cross posted on Tweachers.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Are You Ready for a Smackdown AzTEA WOW Participants

On Saturday, April 30 I'll be presenting at the first AzTEA WOW Virtual Technology Conference, thanks to Peggy George. As part of the fun, Peggy is holding a smackdown. For those of you who are not familiar with that term let me explain. A smackdown is where participants have 2 or 3 minutes to demo a favorite tool or web-based app. It is fast and fun and you come away from one with new toys to try out. Here is my smackdown entry - AnswerGarden.

What is you favorite Web 2.0 tool?... at

The reason I like this tool is its no fuss attitude - no sign up, no email, no complications. Just type in a question, share the link on your favorite social media site, or grab the embed code and put it on your blog or wiki, like I did here. As people type their answers, they show up in the box. The more times a particular answer is given the larger the word appears (sort of like in a Wordle). It's so easy that my fourth graders love to include them in their blog posts. See an example here and here.

If they have time for me to do a second one I'll demo Wondersaid

made on Wondersay - Animate text with style

Here is another one made by someone else.

made on Wondersay - Animate text with style

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A New Kind of Awards Ceremony

A tweet held me to this blog post by The Bearded Teacher (aka Timothy Patrick Monreal). I had never visited his bog before but found a strong connection as I read his post …But Awards Feel So Good. I left this comment for him and then decided to write my own post about award ceremonies.
"As I was reading your post an idea come to me. Why not have students create awards for themselves? Let each student reflect on who (s)he has been as a learner during the year and design an award that is suitable. Have each student write a short blurb about why the award is being given, collect all the awards and blurbs, and use them at the awards ceremony."

I had a flashback to high school and our National Honor Society Induction Ceremony. I remember sitting in one of the rows in my high school auditorium and hoping that I would be one of the inductees. The way it worked in our school was a student who was already a member would walk down a row and then stop and put the NHS collar on the newly inducted member. I can remember the feelings I felt on that day as clearly as if they were happening to me right now. And that was some 40 years ago. I was nervous. I had my fingers tightly crossed. I kept a silly smile plastered on my face. Twice a member from our NHS walked down my row and I was thinking, “Yes, I am going to be picked!”

Well, needless to say, I wasn’t picked and I was devastated. I silently shed tears as the rest of the induction ceremony took place. Funny thing is, while I truly believed I was worthy, my grades were not of the standard that would have let me be inducted into the National Honor Society at my school or any other.

Please understand I’m not totally against organizations like the NHS, I am just sharing how deeply I was impacted by an awards ceremony and how vividly I remember how I felt that day, forty years ago. I spent several weeks after that ceremony in a funk. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t study, and I kept telling myself I was not worthy. It was something I truly had wanted, and I had been denied.

Now suppose I had attended a school where every student received an award, but no one else decided on those awards. Each student had to figure out on his/her own what award should be bestowed on him/her.

Had I attended a high school where the awards process was handled like that, I would have had to take a very honest look at myself and think about my own learning. What was it that I truly excelled in? What had I done that would merit an award? I probably would have focused on one project I did in biology lab on fruit fly genetics, or maybe I would have given myself a “Stick to It Award” for completing a knitting project for my art class. But wait – should there be any award presented at all? Shouldn’t my intrinsic satisfaction will a job well done, have been enough? I wish I could say, “Yes, I know I did a good job, and that is the only award I need!” But unfortunately I was raised in a culture where … Awards Feel So Good.

As we approach the end of another school year and the end-of-the-year awards ceremonies, what are your thoughts on awards?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Am I Preparing My Students Properly?

Today is the Saturday after my 4th graders completed LEAP testing week. It is my least favorite week of the year. I came home everyday totally exhausted and frustrated by what I observed happening during this high-stakes, high-stress testing week. I saw some of my students who are nervous, anxious, and sometimes just downright angry. Most did well and proceeded through the week with all the enthusiasm of facing a root canal. But I also saw several of my students who suffered a complete meltdown during testing. It seems inhuman to make 10 year olds go into "testing lockdown" for about four hours each day.

Well, it is now behind us and we have five weeks of school left in this school year. Now the fun begins! I have so many great projects planned from now till the end of school. Don't get me wrong, my students have participated in some great projects throughout this school year, but for the last several weeks we have concentrated on "test prep". I have been questioned by my students several times during these last few weeks as to when we will get back to doing "fun projects".

I am reflecting on how I've done in preparing my students for their future.

I discovered this Prezi from Ashley Azzopardi who is currently studying to be a primary teacher at ACU, in Sydney, Australia

My goal this year was to teach my 21st century learners in a 21st century way. I teach in a school with an 85% free and reduce lunch population made up of about 1/3 white, 1/3 African-American, and 1/3 Hispanic students. Yes, I have a very extensive set of grade level expectations that I must cover in my social studies and math classes. I am responsible to collect a weekly assessment from each of my 75 students as well as a participation grade. My students have outperformed other 4th graders in our district on each of the five interval assessments we took during the year. But that's not how I'm measuring my success.

I'm reflecting on how well I met their needs as learners in the 21st century.

This year my students have blogged, made glogs, used Edmodo as their learning platform, and Skyped with classes across the country and in Canada. They have taught other classes about Marid Gras and backchanneled during a guest speaker presentation with our buddy class in Kansas. They have received over 1,500 comments from around the globe on their blogs thanks to my being introduced to the hashtag #comments4kids on Twitter. They have commented on the blogs of other students around the world. They begin most days chatting with each other on Edmodo. I post their assignments to Edmodo and they turn them in when they are completed. I have gotten to know them better as individuals as they post questions and responses to each other on Edmodo. They love being able to use a social media type website in the classroom. They share a netbook with another student and use websites I've bookmarked on a Symbaloo webmix each day to practice lessons they've been introduced to through the use of our IWB. They've collaborated with other students in online projects and one even won a Glogster challenge hosted by another student in another state.

But is it enough?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Presented Virtually at InnovatED

Thursday evening marked a new milestone for me. I did two presentations via Skype for the InnoveatED conference held in Memphis, Tennessee. InnovatEd was a blended conference with both in person and virtual presenters. I heard about this opportunity from Cindy Brock on Twitter and quickly signed up to present. She accepted both of my proposals and added me to the wiki she and her co-workers put together for the event.

As fate would have it my laptop got a virus Wednesday night and I was scared that I wouldn't have it to do my presentations. I relaxed when I remembered that my presentations were on Google sites, so I could access them from any computer. So I brought my school laptop home with me. I felt so geeky because I had both computers running and was logged onto the uStream channels so I could watch the other presenters.

At actually 5:40 my Skype started ringing (I love that sound) and I went live to a room full of educators in Memphis and to anyone who happened to be on the uStream channel. During my first presentation I used the screen sharing feature on Skype to show my slideshow on lessons I've learned and best practices I've developed while using Web 2.0 tools with my 4th graders. Twenty minutes later I was done with the first one. Wow, that 20 minutes went fast, but I managed to get through the presentation right on time.

I presented again in the same room at 6:00 so I just stayed online. Education with Edmodo was what I presented next. I love using Edmodo with my students and I know I was bubbling over with excitement. I had set up an Edmoodo group for the educators attending InnovatED and invited them to set up a free account and join the group. Seven of them did immediately. I finished just in the nick of time again. Phew, how time flies when you are having fun.

Above is a photo Philip Cummings sent me via Twitter to show me what the room I was presenting to looked liked.

I even got to fill in for a virtual presenter who didn't answer her Skype call. When I saw that they were missing someone, I tweeted and IMed on Skype that I would gladly fill in if they wanted me to. Richard Cumminghan acknowledged my offer and I quickly pulled up Symbaloo and shared how I am using it both personally and with my students. I felt like such a seasoned presenter to be able to do a presentation on the spur on the moment like that.

I was excited to have had a great experience using Skype to present. I really handled the tech part of it with ease. Of course I was following the hashtag on Twitter and got some great feedback. Thanks to everyone who worked on putting this conference together. I appreciate being able to participant both as a presenter and an attendee.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Coming July 9th - edcampLouisiana

On Saturday July 9th on the campus of UNO the first Louisiana unconference will take place. As one of the organizers, I proudly present edcampLouisiana. What, no thunderous applause? Oh, you don’t know what an unconference is and you’ve never heard of an edcamp. Well, not so no ago I stood right where you are standing now – with the same confused look on my face too.

Unconferences like edcamp and TeachMeet have been springing up all over the country. I had originally thought I would host a TeachMeet in New Orleans, but when Valerie Burton, another STAR in my district approached me and asked about organizing an edcamp I decided to join her efforts. The rest of our team includes: Brian Mull, Director of Innovation with November Learning; Tiffany Whitehead, Teacher Librarian in Baton Rouge; and Carl Gaines, a high school teacher from Violet.

I will be updating this blog as edcamp draws nearer, but today I just wanted to get your gears turning. I am starting out with a little history quiz. Do you know where the first edcamp was held? Do you know who the co-founders were? Better yet, do you follow any of them of Twitter? Oops, that’s not a history question. Well just head on over here to get the answers. (I cheated and had Dan Callahan, one of the co-founders, email me the answers. It pays to be connected on Twitter.)

Oh, and don’t forget we have a date. Mark your calendars for July 9th. It will be an experience like no other.

(I cross-posted this on the Louisiana DEN blog.)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A "Tweet" Surprise

I love being able to participate in #elemchat on Saturday afternoons. This chat takes place on Saturdays from 4-5 CST.

Today we were discussing assessment and how we use it to guide our teaching. As I was participating in #elemchat on Twitter today this tweet popped into my Mention column on TweetDeck-

@metrychick, aka Celeste Haar, is a parent of a former student of mine. Several years ago Celeste and her daughters decided that homeschooling was the way for them to go. Celeste, I want you to know that it still saddens me that you are no longer a part of public education. It was so sweet of you to take the time to send out this validation of my teaching. Thank you, Celeste.

Monday, February 28, 2011

2nd Twitter Anniversary

I meant to post this on my second anniversary but I missed it by three days. I joined Twitter on February 25, 2009. I reflected on my one year anniversary here and wanted to update what I've been doing with regards to Twitter this year.

I am following 926 people, I have 2,576 followers, I have tweeted 6,440, and I am included on 180 lists. I use TweetDeck on my computer and iPhone to keep up with my Twitter stream, mentions, direct messages, as well as certain hashtags. I currently have 12 columns tracking things like #comments4kids, #elemchat, #jppss(the district where I work), and #ISTE11 to name a few. I change columns to follow what is going on at conferences such as EduCon, ICE, Reform Synposium, K12Online Conference from time to time.

During the past year I got to spend time with some of my PLN (personal learning network) members at Estes Park, Colorado before we all headed over to Denver for ISTE10. I was able to get a ticket to attend TEDxDenver ED thanks to seeing tweets about it. While at that event I won a PolyVision Eno interactive whiteboard. I presented online for the K12 Online Conference because of Twitter and was invited to present on Classroom 2.0 Live which I attend most Saturdays and tweet about each week. I was invited by @bethstill to be part of a panel that will present at ISTE11 this year in Philadelphia. Thanks, Beth.

My students and I have connected with over a dozen classrooms so far this school year via Skype. Lots of those connections were started on Twitter. Read about some of those connections here and here.

If you are a new educator to Twitter you might want to check out this LiveBinder by Steven W. Anderson (@web20classroom). It contains lots of helpful information. By the way Happy Twitterversary to my friend, Steve. He and I share the same start date.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Kick Start - Activity 3 (Add Some Muscle)

Well today while enjoying the day off in observance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday holiday, I learned a new trick. I learned how to add pages to my Blogger account so that I could add an About Me page in response to Edublogs' Teacher Challenge. I also updated My Complete Profile which is a built in part of the Blogger platform.

I am excited to now have a separate About Me page on my blog. I feel like a big kid now. Now that I have been successful in Spring cleaning my blog's About Me section let me know what your feelings are about my upgrade. Did I include too much information? Would you add to or delete anything?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Kick Start - Activity 2

Well I've been working on the second activity of the Edublog Teacher Challenge. Since is one of my favorite Web 2.0 tools I decided to create a glog about what makes a great blog post.

I am doing some thinking about the direction I want to take my blog this year. It is definitely a mixed bag of various types of posts - tool reviews, reflective pieces, answers to challenges, etc. I want to write more about what I learn from my PLN and I want to write more often but time seems to get away from me because of the many things I am trying to do each day.

Are you happy with your blog? What is your focus? Do you mind reading someone's blog who writes about quite a mix of topics? What draws you to read a post? What makes you take the time to leave a comment?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Checking Out Montage-A-Google

Today I read about Montage-A-Google on Jeff Thomas' blog. I tried it out on a couple of searches that I wasn't thrilled with but I finally typed in fleur di lei and got the image below. I guess it has possibilities.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wildlife Finder from BBC

While doing a search for a bird picture for one of my students, I discovered this BBC site. While exploring the site I found this video and hundreds of others that would be great to use with my students and it's not blocked at school.

Check it out and let me know what you think about it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Am I Up to the Challenge?

I just found out about the 30 Day Blogging Challenge for Teachers being run by the great folks at Edublogs. I have been thinking about which direction I should be heading with my blog or a couple of weeks now and this challenge might help my find a focus. So here is my response to the first challenge.

1. When did you start this blog?
I started this blog on Sunday, June 21, 2009.

2. Why did you start this blog?
I started this blog because I'd had a classroom blog for a new and wanted a place to post more professional thoughts and reflections.

3. How did you start this blog?
Since I was familiar with Blogger, I decided to use that same platform for my professional blog. I knew what I wanted the title to be and I played around with a few templates before choosing one I liked.

4. What are you most proud of about this blog?
I am most proud of the fact that I have maintained my professional blog. I am proud of the comments I have received from people in my PLN that I admire.

5. What would you like to change about this blog?
I would like to find a focus for this blog. I write reflective pieces, posts about tools I've discovered, and responses to various challenges. Maybe because I don't post on any kind of a regular schedule, I feel that this blog is a hodgepodge of posts.

6. What upsets you about this blog?
I am upset that this blog doesn't have more comments, but I don't think I have developed it in such a way as to have much of a following. Why would people want to read it?

7. Do you read other blogs?
Yes, I learned how to set up an RSS reader when I attended LaCUE in December of 2008. It often gets filled up with many posts that I have fed into my Google reader. I have been setting aside more time lately to read posts of other educators and edtech leaders.

8. Do you comment on other's blogs?
Yes, I do comment on other people's blogs. I tried last year to leave at least one comment a week and am trying to do the same thing this year. I would like to comment on the blogs of new bloggers to offer them encouragement to keep going.

9. Do you Tweet about your new posts?
Sometimes I will tweet out my new post, but sometimes I don't. It depends on the topic of the post. If I feel that I said something that would be interesting to others then I will tweet about it. I'm not usually a shy person, but sometimes I get shy about promoting myself.

10. What do you hope this challenge helps you accomplish?
The two most important things I hope this challenge will help me accomplish is to find a focus or "a voice" for my blog and get me to write posts on a more regular basis. I also hope to find some new connections through this challenge.