Sunday, July 6, 2014

#4thChat Moderators Meet F2F at ISTE2014

I can't wait! I can't wait! Those were the words that swirled in my head in the months, weeks, days and hours leading up to heading to Atlanta for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference.

Why was I so excited? After all this would be my eighth ISTE, so I should be an old pro at this. Right? Wrong! Each ISTE I've attended has had its share of thrilling firsts for me. (Read more here and here.)
As ISTE2014 approached my level of excitement built. Let me share with you the four main reasons why this was so.

Going Early to Sightsee and Be with Some Old Friends
I arrived in Atlanta early to spend time with some very good friends and do some sightseeing before ISTE began. I know many who wait until the conference is over to do so, but I know from past experience that once ISTE ends I just want to go home and sleep. The long days and longer nights really wear me out. You can read about my pre-ISTE adventures here.

Presenting a Workshop
Bill Krakower, Jerry Blumengarten, and I presented an hour and a half workshop at ISTE. Our topic was "Connecting Your Students to Collaborate with the World".

We taught our participants how to conduct Mystery Location Calls by dividing them into two groups. Each group represented a class from a state of the group's choosing and through a series of yes/no questions, had to figure out what state the other "class" was located in. Each group used maps to eliminate states, backchanneled in an Edmodo group, and took pictures of the whole thing. The workshop was a great success and we are so glad we had them do a "mock" Mystery Location call. By being assigned the various Mystery Location jobs and stepping through the entire process, we know they are well prepared to do these calls when they return to their classrooms.

Our resources for the workshop can be accessed here.
The Mappers
My co-presenters - Jerry Blumengarten and Bill Krakower
#4thchat Face-To-Face Meeting
I would finally get to meet the gals who co-moderate #4thchat with me every Monday night at 8ET/7CT. I have been doing so with Nancy Carroll since the very beginning of #4thchat back in March of 2011. When previous #4thchat creator and co-moderator Jeanne McQueen (teaches 5th grade now), and previous co-moderator Justin Stortz needed to step away, we added Jennifer Regruth to the team in 2012.

Nancy, Jenn, and I have also been collaborating most Sunday evenings via Google Hangouts with 5 other educators. We chat and plan projects our students can do collaboratively. Our GHO group had submitted a proposal to present at ISTE, but unfortunately it wasn't accepted. I was thrilled when they decided to attend their first ISTE anyway. Seeing their little avatars on Twitter and their smiling faces on my computer screen during the GHOs still didn't prepare me properly for meeting them is person.

The magical moment happended on Friday, June 27. I was eating lunch outside across the street from the convention center with Jan Wells and Kelly Kastner when someone said, "Here come Jenn and Nancy." I remember jumping out of my chair and then feeling like I was trying to run underwater as I hurried to get to them for our first "real" hugs. We laughed, we cried, we hugged a lot. Jenn is much taller than I thought she'd be, and Nancy is much more petite.

Paula, Nancy, and Jenn with Brad Wilson 
Our time together at ISTE wasn't enough. When it was time for them to leave, I couldn't bring myself to tell them goodbye. I was so sad and heartbroken that it had all come and gone so quickly. Luckily, I have memories of our time together that will last a lifetime and sustain me until the next time we meet face-to-face. Now our online exchanges have even stronger ties and bring back the great memories we made while at ISTE.
Part of our GHO gang- Jerry, Jenn, Bill, Nancy, nnd Paula
Nancy and Jenn, I love you both and miss you so much.

Reuniting with PLN Members and Meeting New Ones
Some of you might know, I'm divorced, never had children, and don't have any surviving family members, so my friends, both in real life and online, are my family. My PLN (personal learning network) is near and dear to me.

For quite a few years now, I have paid my own way to ISTE and consider it my summer vacation. After all I'm going to what I consider a family reunion in whatever city ISTE happens to be visiting for the summer.

Those educators who have not experienced the thrill of meeting their online tweeps face-to-face just don't quite get it. Why would a person what to room with someone for a week that s/he has never met? Why would one what to spend lots of money sightseeing and traveling with people s/he barely know? Why would educators spend hours setting up Google documents to organize and arrange their "down time" while attending a huge conference like ISTE? The answer is simple. The people we are connected with online are more than just online aquaintances, they are more like family members. And we are thrilled to see them each summer at ISTE.

I know this to be true because as the last words of the closing ISTE keynote fade away, you can hear the buzz of plans being formulated to see each other at next year's ISTE. It warms my heart to see "newbies" like Jenn and Nancy excited to be a part of it all again next year.

I hope to see you in Philadelphia for #ISTE2015. 

ISTE Unplugged 2014

I always plan to arrive the day before ISTE officially starts so that I can attend ISTE Unplugged. This great unconference is organized by Steve Hargadon, Audrey Watters, and Lucy Gray.
Steve Hargadon

On Friday, June 27, I attended Hack Education (formally EduBloggerCon) with about 300 other educators from 8-4. I was amazed that over half of the people in attendence were doing so for the first time. This event celebrated its 8th birthday this year. There was quite a buzz in the air as people connected or reconnected with members of their online PLN.
Some of the participants gathered for Hack Education 

My Mentor from Classroom 2.0 Live Peggy George

Reconnecting this year with +Anibal Pacheco  Photo Credit - @MyClassFlow

The participants determine how the day will be structured by suggesting a discussion they would like to see facilitated. The sessions are then voted on and the schedule is made. I attended sessions on Leadership in a Digital Age, Digital Citizenship, Building Teacher/Student PLNs Using Social Media, and helped facilitate Twitter Tips for Newbies.
Digital Citizenship Discussion Photo Credit - Kristy Vincent

The conversations are rich and thought-provoking and I always learn new things to take back to my classroom. My Big 3 Takeaways from this year are: 
  1. Digital Citizenship should become just Citizenship (thank you @TanyaAvrith) and needs to be taught daily. 
  2. Get parents more involved in all that I do with my students especially when using social media.
  3. Help my students build their learning networks through global collaborations and projects. 
Here are some more pictures I took during this event. 
Wearing Wanda Terral's Google Glass

Paula Boston and Heather Temske
Nick Provenzano, Scott Floyd, Beth Still, Anibal Pacheco
Richard Byrne and Steve Dembo
Billy Krakower and Susan Bearden

Check out all of the tweets from #HackEd14 in this Storify thanks to Craig Yen. Craig did a fabulous job of curating links for those #notatISTE. 

Did you attend #HackEd2014? What are your Big 3 Takeaways? 

Friday, July 4, 2014

So Glad I Went to #ISTE2014 Early

Last year at ISTE in San Antonio, my dear friend from Hawaii, JoAnn Jacobs, and I made a pact to arrive in Atlanta early so that we could spend some quality time with each other before the craziness that is ISTE begins. And am I glad we did!

JoAnn, and I met up at the airport in Atlanta on the Wednesday before ISTE along with Jan Wells, my buddy from Kansas. (Read about my first F2F meeting with Jan here.)

We shared a shuttle ride to drop off JoAnn off at her hotel, and Jan and I checked into our condo at the Peachtree Towers Condos that we were sharing with Beth Still and Kristina Peters. After getting settled in, we met JoAnn for dinner at Alma Cocina, an upscale Mexican restaurant and enjoyed a relaxing time catching up. After returning to the condo, Kristina graciously helped me update my iPhone so I could download the Voxer app. She set up a Voxer group for Beth, Jan, me, and herself and dubbed us the "Peachtree Peaches". 

On Thursday we had a full day of sightseeing and meeting other friends who also decided to arrive early. JoAnn, Jan, Beth, and I started our day at 9:00 at the Georgia Aquarium. I love our aquarium in New Orleans, but was awed by this one. 

We had tickets for the 11:30 showing of Dolphin Tales and it was fabulous. So glad we booked this show and that Beth talked me into seating in the third row. I was worried about getting wet but that didn't happen. What did happen was we had a terrific view of the show. I LOVE dolphins. 

Next we had a nice lunch at BajaFresh with friends from all over the US. In the picture are Margie Rogers (MO), Jan (KS), Carrie Ross (TX), Kristy Vincent (TX), Beth Still (NE), me (LA), Adam Bellow (NY), JoAnn (HI), and Michelle Baldwin (CO). 

Then we headed to the World of Coca-Cola. Besides tasting different Coke flavors from around the world, we enjoyed the 4D show complete with 3D glasses. It gave us lots of laughs. 

Jerry Blumengarten and Bill Krakower met us right after we finished the Coke tour. I love Jerry's sign. 

Our day ended with a gathering for dinner at Sweet Georgia's Juke Joint. What a great place! We had a table right up front for the jazz band that played that night. The Mar-tans play a mixture of New Orleans funk and R&B, but I like to think they were playing in honor of those of us from the NOLA area. Great times with great friends, great food and music, and even a little moonshine. I even lead a second line around the place when the Mar-tans played Mardi Gras Mambo. 

Susie Toso (@SusieToso),  Jan Wells (@JanWells),  Marcie Hebert (@mrsmhebert), Amanda, Martin (@mandymartin1021),  me,  Jerry Blumengarten (@Cybraryman1),  Bill Krakower (@wkrakower),  JoAnn Jacobs (@JoAnnJacobs68),  and Margie Rogers (@mawrogers). 

We had an awesome day in Atlanta and were definitely ready for some shut-eye. If you are going to attend #ISTE2015 in Philadelphia and plan to do some sightseeing while there, I would strongly suggest going early to do so.  I am always so tired when ISTE ends that all I want to do is go home and sleep for a couple of days. 

JoAnn and I started making plans for next year even before we left Atlanta. So start making your plans and arrive early in Philly. I hope to see you there.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

My First Animated Google Slide

Today I learned how to make an animated slideshow using Google presentations. I happended upon this blog post by Sam Patterson and after watching the YouTube video on his post, I decided to give it a try.

I created my first slide using one of my own photos and then duplicated it so that I had 12 slides (to go with the 12 frames a second formula). I decided to use an image of a duck moving across the bottom of my slide. I did a quick search on Google images. I made sure I used the advanced search feature so that I found an image I had permission to use. Then I simply put the duck image on the right side of the first slide and on each following slide, I moved the image over to the left a little bit until the image was at the left side of slide 12.

After I went through Sam's directions to get the link to the animated show, I decided to make it a little more interesting by adding another image. So off to Google images I went and I found the starburst image to add. Again I used the advanced search feature to make sure I had permission to use the image. I duplicated my first 12 slides and added the starburst to slides 7-24 making it slightly larger each time. On the last three slides I inserted a text box and added the word WOW.  What I truly love about Google is all my changes were automatically updated in the link Google provided me.

Below is my finished results. Click on the play button and see for yourself.

The original link after I published my Google Presentation to the web. Notice that it is set for 1000.

My edited link where I changed the timing to 0084 so it shows at roughly 12 frames per second. 

Image credits: Duck -
                       Starburst -

So give it a try and let me know in the comments what you think. How could you see using this technique in your classroom? 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Our Inaugural #LAedchat - April 15, 2014

Sometimes bouncing ideas off of others makes them happen.  While attending the Google Summit in Lake Charles back in February, Marcie Hebert, Nate Kellogg and I had a conversation about Louisiana needing to start a state edchat.  We set a date to do a Google Hangout (GHO) after we returned home from the Summit and #LAedchat was born.

Nate crafted an awesome logo. We created a website. We set a date and picked a topic. During our second GHO the weekend before our inaugural chat, we shared a Google document, and created our list of questions, found some resources to share out during the chat, and discussed who we each should contact, and how we should spread the word about #LAedchat.

I was a little nervous as I fired up TweetDeck on my laptop and got ready to participate at 7:00 this evening. Would there be others beside Marcie, Nathan, and I taking part in the chat? Well, my nerves quickly faded as the tweets with the hashtag #LAedchat started streaming. Our topic - Being a Connected Educator - was attracting participation from lots of educators from Louisiana, other states, and even another country.

Special shout-outs to:
  • Tiffany Whitehead for having several of her fellow teachers and her principal join in for #LAedchat
  • Marlon Ng for joining in from Hong Kong and giving us a international connection 
  • Carl Gaines for always be such a great supporter of Louisiana educators
  • Kyle Calderwood who remind me that I introduced him to Twitter and is now paying it forward with this initiative 
  • Bethany Hill for sharing this great picture - 

Our inagural #LAedchat was inspiring and I look forward to next month's chat.  Thanks Marcie and Nate. We did it!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Showing Up in an Indiana STEM News Coverage Video

Being a connected educator means that you have a network of people most refer to as a personal learning network (PLN). I am so fourtunate to have established an amazing PLN and sometimes they let me know when my name pops up in unusual places. Thanks to Rodney Turner for sending out a tweet letting me know that my name shows up in the Twitter stream near the end of this video news story about STEM education from Indiana. (3:23)

I love being a connected educator. Are YOU a connected educator?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Can Teachers Allow Students to be Quirky (Creative) in Our Standardized Schools?

Flickr -
I recently discovered this picture from Bill Ferriter (William M. Ferriter on Flickr) and it got me thinking. I teach in a public school where high stakes testing drives so much of what we do. We are fully implementing the Common Core State Standards this year, but are still tied to our state's LEAP test for accountability. My fourth graders must score Basic or above on the ELA and math portions of the test if they are to be promoted to the 5th grade.

Is standardization really the best thing for the kids in my classroom? Sure, many students tow the line and learn how to "play school" well. They do the assignments, prepare for the tests, and for the most part follow the rules. But what about the "quirky" ones - the free spirits, the ones will very little support from home, the ones who like to test the status quo? What happens to the ones who don't "play school" well?

I pride myself on being an innovation educator. My students have tech-infused lessons on a daily basis. We communicate and collaborate with other classes around the country and around the globe. But are Mystery Location Calls, commenting on each other's blogs, and shared projects enough?

There have been so many days this year that I feel I am sucking the life out of my students, especially the "quirky" ones. I want to give each and every one of them Genius Hour to pursue their passion project. I want to let each one create awesome digital stories or paper slide videos or Minecraft projects, but that is not preparing them for "the test" that will arrive in the spring.

How many of our students remember us as the one who helped  prepare them for the standardized test? I have had former students visit me and talk about the bread we baked and the butter we made, the pumpkins we scooped out and the seeds we roasted, the time we all cried at the end of the class novel I read aloud to them, the holiday card exchange we participated in and all the places we pinned on our map. Not one ever mentioned learning the times tables or the parts of speech.

I want all the kids in my classroom, especially the quirky ones, to feel valued and not to feel that I am trying to make them a data point that supposedly validates them as a learner.  I want them to know that their opinions and ideas matter. I want them to believe that anything they dream is possible. So how do I accomplish that in this day of standardization?

How do you manage innovation, curiosity, and creativity in your classroom?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

BC5 - "Flipped" Homework

My district requires our students to take four interval assessments during the year leading up to state testing in April. While these assessments provide lots of data about how my students are progressing in math, I like to do lots of formative assessment to track how my students are doing on a daily basis. Since we are fully implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) this year, I want to make sure my daily lessons are properly aligned to the fourth grade math standards so that my students are properly prepared to move on.

I decided to create weekly homework sheets that address the CCSS. I also added a very important twist. Homework would be mostly done in the classroom. Basically, I was "flipping" homework. Each Monday my students receive their weekly math homework sheet which has problems for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday on it aligned to the CCSS. (Click here to see full size Google doc.)
Here is another example of one of my homework sheets that has new skills and review skills on it. 

I have two math classes that I teach for 90 minutes each day. After I teach my lesson for the day, my students rotate through math stations. I use the word MATH to set up our stations. A and H are done every day by every student. M and T are done as needed or as time allows. 
       M - Manipulatives - Students work with hands-on materials or play games to reinforce skills.
       A - At the Computer - Students complete work on websites such as IXL, LearnZillion, TenMarks
       T - Teacher Time - This is where they meet with me for small group instruction.
       H - Have a Go - This is where they work on their assignment and homework for the day.  

By allowing my students to work on their math homework in class, I am there to offer support and correct misconceptions that arise. If for some reason a student doesn't finish their homework in class then it must be completed at home. I have my students show their homework to their parents each night and have the parents sign it.  Each day we check the previous day's work via our interactive whiteboard. I pull up the Google document and we annotate right over it to show solutions. 

Using this type of formative assessment is really allowing me to see each day how my students are doing in math. It has also eliminated so many of the stresses that traditional homework can cause. Each and every one of my students is having their needs met on a daily basis. Once a skill is taught and tested, my students know they will be held accountable to remember it. 

Have you considered, or do you "flip" homework? What do you use for formative assessment? Please share in the comment section below. 

(This post is part of the blogging challenge being hosted by Kelly Hines.)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

BC4 - A Project I Will Repeat This Year

We aren't in school this week so I'll share a project from last year that I plan on doing with my students again this year.

I learned about Thinglink from Susan Oxnevad. It is a website that allows you to turn any iamge into an interactive one with hotspots called nubbins. (Just scroll over the image and the interactive nubbins will appear, then click on it to be taken to another site.) You create an account, upload an image and then link anything with a URL to your image. here is one of my first Thinglinks.

After I played around with this tool, I thought of a way to use it with my students. I would have them create animal reports using Thinglink. Since they are too young to create accounts, I created another account on Thinglink and used my classroom name on it. I then went over the requirements of the report with my students.

They had to find an image of their animal that was licensed for reuse, and the first nubbin they would add to their Thinglink was the link to the original image. They then had to find three online resources where they would gather facts for their report, and one non YouTube video about their animal. All of these sites where added to their Thinglink. The next step was to write their animal report as a post to their kiblog and embed their Thinglink into the post.

Check out Chloe's Hedgehog Thinglink. (One of the nubbins takes you to her report on her blog.)

Here is Mariam's Butterfly Thinglink.

After we finished the animal reports, my students begged me to let them do other projects using Thinglink. Here is one by Joshua that he made as part of his Passion Project.

My fourth graders and I will definitely be using Thinglink to create some projects this year.

Have you ever used Thinglink? What is a favorite project you will repeat with your students? Please share in the comments.

My dear friend, DEN Guru Kelly Hines, posted this blogging challenge. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

BC3 - A Website I Can't Live Without

It is so hard to pick just one! But since this is today's challenge (thanks to Kelly Hines), I choose Twitter. Why you ask? Well, because of Twitter and the amazing PLN (personal learning network) I've created since joining in 2009, my teaching has been transformed.

Twitter offers me professional development (PD) 24/7. If I need a resource for my classroom, a read aloud book recommendation, have a tech question, need to understand the lastest tool or app, I turn to Twitter for help.

Because of tweets sent out by members of my PLN, I've been able to attend conference sessions that are being lived streamed while I sit in the comfort of my home. I've learned about the newest innovative strategies such as the "flipped classroom".  I've been invited to participate in webinars, podcasts, and presentations far and wide. I've been lead to the best resources to help me implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). I've learned how to use webtools in my classroom such as Edmodo, Thinglink, animoto, and Google Hangouts.

I love participating I edchats on Twitter. I am a moderator for  #4thchat on Mondays at 7 PM CST and am one of the hosts for #DENchat on Thursdays at 7 PM CST. Through these chats, which are focused around a weekly topic for discussion, I am continually learning new things which I can take back to my classroom.

My friend, Steven W. Anderson (@web20classroom), shared a very helpful hint for those of you who aren't on Twitter, or who have an account but don't "get" Twitter. He suggests to go to and enter a hashtag such as #edchat, #4thchat, #engchat, #CCSS, and just view the tweets that hashtag will generate. In seconds you have a stream of tweets organized around a hashtag which relates to something you what to know more about. The tweets will often include links to articles, websites, blog posts, etc. which will help you learn more about the topic.

Some resources to help you learn to love Twitter as much as I do:

  1. An Educator's Guide to Twitter (Livebinder) by Steven W. Anderson @web20classroom
  2. How to Participate in an Twitter Chat (blog post) by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher
  3. Index to Educational Hashtags (Google Doc) by Chiew Pang @aClilToClimb
  4. Cybrary Man's Educational Web Sites - Twitter by Jerry Blumengarten @cybraryman1
Do you love Twitter as much as I do? Why/Why not? What is you favorite website? 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

BC2 - A Classroom Organizational Tip - Lost and Found

I'm not sure what is it about 4th graders who change classes during the school day, but beware if they find someting at or near the desk they use in my classroom. Just as I am starting that wonderful hook to get them pumped up for today's lesson, a student will want to interrrupt to let me know (s)he found something left by a previous student.
This use to happen a lot in my classroom, but no more! I put a small bookcase just inside my classroom door. It only has two shelves. The bottom shelf holds reference books for my students to use while doing research projects. The top shelf stopped the interruptions about "Found" items. How? I put a big label on it "Lost and Found". Now when a student finds something belonging to someone else, they simply put it on the shelf. I teach each class procedures for using the shelf and it was ended the problem of interruptions. One of my classroom jobs is a Lost and Found Custodian. At the end of each day, that student is responsilbe for returning all items to their rightful owners. This is usually very easy becasue all of the teachers on my team make a big deal of our students labeling everything they own with their names. Sometimes an item has no such label, so it is returned neatly to the shelf and is eventually "found" by its owner. 

There are many times when my classroom door has quietly opened, a student has entered as quietly as a mouse, and a missing item has been collected without causing any kind of interruption to the class because every student I teach knows exactly where to look. I love how well my "Lost and Found" shelf works. 

Do you have a designated Lost and Found in your classroom? What is one of your favorite organizational tips? Please share in the comment section.

(Thanks to my dear friend, DEN Guru Kelly Hines, for hosting this blogging challenge. )

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

BC1 - My Favorite Book

My dear friend, DEN Guru Kelly Hines, posted a blogging challenge and I decided to accept the challenge.

When I taught reading my favorite read aloud for my 4th graders was Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner. While I no longer teach a reading class, I have decided for the New Year I'm going to do read alouds with my social studies class, and I will begin with my favorite.

Why? First, I believe reading aloud to students helps build a strong sense of community within a classroom. Second, every student should understand that reading is not just for reading class. Third, nuturing a love for reading should be happening in every classroom.

So beginning when we return from our winter break, I will be reading Stone Fox to my students. I know that I will not get through the last few pages without crying, because I do so each time I read it. Stone Fox is such a great story of how determination can help you archieve a goal. Willie, Searchlight, Grandfather, and Stone Fox are all literary characters that I want my students to know and learn from.

I will tie the reading of this novel into my social studies curriculum by using the project ideas posted on this ThinkQuest from Oracle.

Have you read Stone Fox? What is your favorite read aloud for this age group? Please share in the comment section.