Where oh where did the time go?!

Originally posted December 19, 2017
WOW! It’s been so crazy since NYSCATE, I just realized I was behind on my blogging! ‘Business’ has been picking up in the #EdTechCoaching world, and in between there my hubby turned 50 and we snuck in a trip to Cooperstown and NYC!
I was so excited about the Adobe Spark video book trailer idea I picked up from Monica Burns, I have been spreading the news to anyone and everyone who will listen. In a nutshell, the book trailer is made with limited text, icons and voice-overs by the students. All of the librarians in the four secondary buildings are in! We have talked about not only adding QR codes to the books but also putting a link to the book trailer videos in the book’s listing on the online book catalog. So far the project has started in one of the high schools and I just finished the planning phase in a middle school. I will be speaking to the English department at the other high school in January. Can’t wait to help provide students an authentic audience for their work!
If you haven’t tried Adobe Spark Video yet…what are you waiting for?! It is a basic, easy to use tool to create beautiful videos, with just a few options (which is a good thing!). Yes, there are many options out there to create videos, however, by making the process of making the video easier, more time can be spent on the planning phase of video creation. This is where the learning occurs, the video is just the finished product that demonstrates the knowledge. Students as creators + authentic audience = successful tech integration! #WIN
Wishing you all a happy, safe and healthy holiday season! Looking forward to sharing the progress of this project as well as the new ones I will be starting in the new year.

Thanks for the memories NYSCATE!

Originally posted November 28, 2017
I hope everyone had a very happy and relaxing Thanksgiving holiday break. Not only am I recovering from two-7 hour drives, but my brain is still trying to process all of the information I gained while attending the NYSCATE conference in Rochester, NY from November 19-21. The last time I attended the conference it was held in Albany, NY and the attendees received a Palm Pilot…(needless to say, it’s been a while).
I have to say I was very impressed with the quality of the sessions I attended as well as the Key Note speakers. Tom Murray was on Sunday night, and he really made me think about school culture, who creates that culture, and how/why we use technology in schools (among many other things).
(I just noticed, I can see myself taking this picture! LOL)
The next day was Chris Emdin. Wow! Talk about an engaging speaker and someone who forces you to think out of your comfort zone. There were some key quotes I took away from his talk:
  • “You don’t teach grit, you activate grit.” It is already there for kids.
  • “We need to re-imagine the classroom first” before you can address integration of technology to impact learning
Although I really enjoyed all of the sessions I attended, there are four I am going highlight and I will reflect on them in the order they occurred.
I started my first day attending SketchNoting with Andy Wheelock. I have heard (and seen) a lot about this topic all over Twitter and I believe that students learn better with visuals, so this was the perfect way for me to start my NYSCATE adventure. I enjoyed seeing some of the research that backs up the idea of Sketchnoting, but even better, I like that Andy had us take the new information we gained from that research and create a SketchNote for it. I also enjoyed seeing how other people opted to draw their ideas. Best of all, he provided us with resources to not only see people who are well known for their use of SketchNoting, but also information to help us become better and tools to use to practice. I can see many uses for SketchNoting in the classroom, and I look forward to sharing this with the teachers I work with.
The next session (which I volunteered to be a presider for) was one I was very much looking forward to since my main focus for attending this conference was gain more information to not only bring back the teachers in my district, but also ways to help me improve my craft as a technology coach. Although the title was what grabbed my attention (Moving Up the SAMR Continuum: Coaching for Transformational Learning) it was the content that kept me engaged and delighted that I chose this session. The experience and knowledge shared by Vincy Murgillo and Megan Hugg was exactly what I was hoping for. I was just having a conversation with my fellow District Tech Coach about the idea that the coaching training we have attended doesn’t always 100% address our needs as tech coaches, so this was so helpful!
I have to say I have become a lil bit of a Twitter fan of Monica Burns, so when I saw that she was going to be presenting at NYSCATE I knew I had to make it to one of her sessions. I chose Tasks Before Apps: Elevate & Energize Traditional Learning Experiences because I think it is easy to get caught up in the tech tool, and forget about the learning goal. My biggest take away from her session was the idea of providing authentic audiences for our students. “If no one sees the work, it is the same as keeping the work in a pile on your desk.” This really resonated with me. She shared a book trailer project made with Adobe Spark which used icons and student voiceover to share information about the book, which was then made into a QR code that was placed on the book in the school library. HELLO?!?! There are so many reasons why this idea is awesome! I have already shared it with my fellow coaches as well as an English teacher who I already had introduced to Adobe Spark. We met, I shared this idea and she is now adjusting her project to collaborate with the librarian to make it happen. WINNING!
Last, but certainly not least (and I am not including this because I won a Nearpod VR headset…oh yes I did!!!) is Leverage Technology to Sculpt Culture & Ignite Innovation with Elisabeth Bostwick. There are so many ideas that stood out for me from this session. Elisabeth used a variety of visuals and quotes which, for me, helped send home the message. There seemed to be a common thread to many of the ideas that were being shared at the conference in general and in this sessions as well, one of which is to focus on the WHY (Ted Talk by Simon Sinek) and that many schools still look the same as they did in the early 1900’s. We, as tech trailblazers, need to disrupt in order to help innovate. This image she shared spoke to me:
This was such a great conference and I am so grateful I was able to attend and expand my coach’s toolbox all while adding to my Twitter professional learning network. There was a true sense of collaboration and camaraderie! Thank you NYSCATE!

Chrome Extensions Make Your Life Sooooo Much Easier

Originally posted November 14, 2017
I have been spending more and more time in Chrome recently, and have been experimenting with Chrome extensions. It is AWESOME how much easier so many of these tiny little programs can help make your life that much easier.
Here are my Top 5 Chrome Extensions (as of Nov. 2017)…I am guessing this will change as I keep discovering more. These are useful for teachers. I have found a number of extensions that are beneficial to students as well, but that’s for another post.
Which extensions do you use?
Click here for a pdf with links to each of the extensions.

The Chromebooks are coming! The Chromebooks are coming!

Originally posted November 7, 2017
This is an exciting year for our district when it comes to technology in the secondary buildings. First, the teachers received new touchscreen laptops which replaced our old desktops. We also have wireless projection capabilities from our laptops to any projector that we encounter in the district. Now, the next phase is about to happen…Chromebook carts! Up until this point, our secondary buildings have had one or two computer labs and a few laptop carts for our teachers/students to be able to access to try to incorporate technology into their classrooms. The laptops often take a large chunk of time to boot up, wasting valuable instructional time. As of the next week or so, that is all changing. As a secondary technology coach, it has been difficult for me to find teachers ready to make the jump into using technology since it has been difficult for them to access.
Chromebook carts of 30 devices each, will be deployed, starting at the high schools. Our Chromebooks are touchscreen, which will prove to be very useful. My goal is to provide our teachers with information to help use these tools effectively. The first thing I will be sharing is this infographic with some tips, tricks and shortcuts for Chromebooks (and Chrome as well).
I am so looking forward to helping more teachers bring technology to their students!

Who knew assessment could be so fun?!

Originally posted October 31, 2017
Last week, I was co-presenting a professional development session for a group of teachers focused on the possibility of using Schoology in our district. One of the concepts we talked about was not just spending time learning how to use the program, but we also need to establish ways to incorporate a blended learning environment for our students through the use of the platform.
We started talking about using different types of digital assessment tools. We all agreed that waiting until the end of a unit was not the only time to use an assessment-by then the learning has occurred (or not) and nothing can be adjusted in terms of the teaching that we do. So how can we utilize technology to capture the learning that is happening along the way? That was when we started sharing some tools that some of have used in the past for formative assessments.
Our BOCES trainer, Brian, couldn’t speak more highly of this engaging way to create quick mini-assessments. He started by showing us many of the key features. One of the things he stressed to us, is that this easy to use website, does not require us to upload any questions, we can use already made assessments as hard copies, and simply use The Answer Pad as a means for the students to record their answers. Since our district is starting to introduce touchscreen Chromebooks, he thought this would be a great additional resource to add. You don’t even need to add a class list if you don’t want to, you can do a quick connect, which provides the teacher a code to distribute to the students. There are a number of different options for the types of questions you are able to use. In addition, they have a template gallery which provides you with many options to use as backdrops. As with most things, there is a free version as well as a chance to upgrade. Seriously though…you can get 35 licenses for $9.95?! There are some subtle differences between the options, although I don’t think there is a need to upgrade in most situations.
How can you not love Kahoot?! “Kahoot! is a game-based learning platform used by millions of people around the world every day to discover, create, play and share learning games.” You also do not need to create accounts for Kahoot, which makes setting up and using this tool even easier. This is something that can be used with really young students as well as those in upper grades…I hear the high school kids rejoice when they hear they will be playing a Kahoot game! Imagine?! Rejoicing in PRACTICING a concept for class…who would’ve thought!
Here are the options that you get:
The interface is visually appealing. It really helps to provide a gamified experience for students…There is a library of Kahoots made by others that you can use and/or edit, as well as the option to share a Kahoot you made with specific people.
Now they have made it even better by introducing CHALLENGES that can be completed anytime, outside of the classroom, on a mobile device. This is a MUST try (and it’s FREE)!!!
This is another FREE, quick, easy, gamified way to assess your students’ learning. Like Kahoot, you do not need to create accounts for your students. They can be played as games in class, or assigned as ‘homework’ (which essentially means, they can be completed at their own pace). Quizziz also has a library of Quizziz’s made by others users that you can access/edit. What I found amusing about was the ability to create a collection memes to use when playing the game. You can use ones that they have in their library or you can upload your own to use for correct and incorrect answers.
Do you use any of these tools? Which do you and your students like the best? Have any others to add?

We Need to Teach Our Students They are Never Too Young to Make a Difference

Originally posted on October 24, 2017
My life changed because of coffee…and I don’t even drink it!
Back in 2009, I was attending the Annual Representative Assembly of my statewide teachers union, NYSUT (New York State United Teachers).  Each year I attended, I always walked by the Fair Trade table that was set up there, never quite understanding what it was or why it was there, but always marveled at all the beautiful looking things they were selling.  This particular year, my local union president at the time made a comment to the group that we should start to buy and keep Fair Trade coffee at our union office and encourage others to buy it as well. My immediate reaction was, WHY? So of course I needed to find out more.  Luckily for me, at the time, a woman name Anne Kelly (who now works for Mayan Hands) was the resident Fair Trade expert for NYSUT.  We became fast friends. She not only provided me with the answer of WHY, but also helped to open my eyes to a world I never paid attention to-the real world-our global brothers and sisters.  Through the union’s involvement with the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, I was able to travel to Nicaragua to find out first hand what life was like for people who grew Fair Trade coffee and were part of cooperatives that helped better the lives of those in their community.
At this point in my career, I was a 6th grade teacher, teaching English Language arts in the pre-common core era.  This provided me with a lot of latitude in the way I delivered the standards.  The following summer, I was introduced to a group of teachers that worked with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Foundation and wrote a curriculum to go along with the book Speak Truth to Power, which was written by Kerry Kennedy, one of Robert F. Kennedy’s daughters. In her book, Kerry Kennedy interviewed Human Rights defenders from around the world and told their stories.
I approached the next school years with a whole new mindset of how I would teach ELA.  It was as if the sun, moon and stars were all aligned, because I had a group of students that was like none I could have ever asked for in the 2011-12 school year.  There was a big campaign then to get Hershey to stop using child labor in their cocoa production.  What great conversations this created, as well as a desire to do something. First, my students came up with their own slogan, No Child Labor, Just Love. We made t-shirts. They wore them and asked people to sign petitions (at our school holiday concert) to ask Hershey to stop using child labor-something most people that were there did not know about. Can I tell you how warm my heart was watching these 11 year olds talk to parents and grandparents-telling them about the things they learned?! We made Valentine’s Day cards that were going to be sent to the CEO of Hershey, as well as posters that were going to be used to help spread the information in social media campaigns. I even got my dog, Bronxie, in on theaction.  Then we dug into Human Rights and what it meant to be a human rights defender using the Speak Truth to Power materials.  The students worked in groups to learn about one of the defenders and then they created an information tri-fold as well as an interactive activity related to the person they researched. This was all shared on our Be the Change Day when the school, parents and administrators were invited in to learn. It was one of the BEST years of my teaching career.
…and then everything changed. Enter: Common Core and the new APPR regulations. Up until this point, I had taught math, ELA and science. I asked my principal if I could just teach either math or ELA for the sake of my OCD.  She chose math for me.  I had intentions to try to incorporate social justice and human rights education into my science classes, but I was all consumed with trying to create math materials for a brand new curriculum that didn’t have many resources.  For the past five years, I have felt that a piece of me was missing.
When I started this year as a secondary technology coach, I vowed that although I did not have a classroom of my own, I would help other teachers incorporate these global ideas into their classrooms to help create humans that had an understanding of those that were different from them in other parts of the world.  Most conflict can be avoided if there is a better understanding of those involved…now more than ever we need to nurture and grow human beings who have empathy for and an understanding about the world we live in.
I am excited that already at this point of the school year I have some teachers who will be having their students get involved in the Speak Truth to Power video contestwhich is open to students in grades 6-12.  I have shared information about theEveryone Has Rights PSA contest which is open to elementary aged students.  I stumbled upon Rock Your World which says it is “Flexible, free of charge and fully-aligned with Common Core Standards, Rock Your World inspires global citizenship while developing 21st century skills. Starting with an understanding of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, students research an issue of choice, then create a media-based advocacy campaign to promote awareness and ignite positive change.”  Then, thanks to Twitter I found Belouga. It has only been around for about a year, but WOW, they have really accomplished a lot in that short time.  Belouga is an amazing way for our kids to become “pen pals” – in a modern age – honing their writing skills while learning about other kids around the world.  I think the BEST part about Belouga is the IMPACT CAMPAIGNS.  We want our kids to develop empathy for others beyond our own communities.  By writing to others – kids are rewarded with points that accumulate and as a class, those points are donated to schools in various places around the world that have needs far greater than our kids!
We need to teach our students that they are never too young to make a difference in our world. Help them become a ripple that will help create a better world for all of us.
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
~Robert F. Kennedy

Creating CREATORS, rather than just CONSUMERS

Originally posted on October 17, 2017
Last year I had an opportunity to work with a technology integrator for a project I was doing with my students in science.  We were going to create human body projects, but I wanted to change things up, I didn’t want to do another PowerPoint… I had recently seen a news show that was talking about AR (augmented reality) in the classroom and was hoping to incorporate some aspect of AR with my students and their projects.  The project ended up having multiple layers, covering a multitude of standards, and grew into something I could never have imagined when we started.
I created a Google Site which housed all of the materials for the project.  First, the students watched (consumed) a short video about the human body. We then had a discussion about the human body and why it was important and brainstormed a list of things they already knew about it.  They then filled in a Google Form, choosing their top three choices of body systems they would want to do their research about.  Most students were able to research either their first or second choices.
Next, students did research (consume), which was guided by a graphic organizer which provided them with a place to keep track of their important information, as well as a focus for the information they needed to gather.
Once the research was complete, students were asked to gather images related to the different aspects of the research they were doing.  Then we began to discuss the next steps. 
They were going to create a video, which was going to explain the importance of their body system.  At this point in time, they were then partnered with the other people who were researching the same body system.  They first compared and contrasted the information they researched.  Then, they highlighted the information they wanted to use from each person’s graphic organizer.
Now, it was time to plan things out.  Each group began by creating a storyboard to decide the order in which they were going to present their information, as well as the visuals they wanted to use for each segment.  Once they had their plan, they used a Google Doc (shared with their group and with me) to start drafting their scripts.  Students were able to work and collaborate on their scripts at the same time, which maximized their time on task. Once they felt they were done with their writing, I read and commented on their writing, providing them with suggestions for improvement.
As if they weren’t having fun already, the ultra creation time was about to commence! Enter, Explain Everything…boy oh boy do I just love this app!! The students imported images, drew diagrams, added their own video and text to create their finished products.  Watching this happen in the classroom was pure joy! Talk about student engagement!!!
…but we still weren’t finished!!! Each group was tasked with creating three questions (and providing the answers) about their system that would be asked after someone watch their video.  We talked about wanting to know that they gained a general understanding of the importance of their body system, so the questions shouldn’t be too specific.
Almost done…
Lastly, students created a poster with the name of their system, the names of the people in the group and a visual that best represented their body system.  This is where the AR comes in.  The posters were going to serve as the ‘trigger’ for the Aurasma app.  As the posters were scanned, their videos would pop up on the screen and begin playing. When the videos were finished, the questions (which were loaded into a Google Form) would come onto the screen so they could be answered by whoever was watching the video.
Other 5th grade classes were invited to class to watch and learn from the videos.  In addition, parents were invited to see what their children were working on in class. Students in my class were also able to watch the videos made by their classmates and use them to help learn and study the body systems that they didn’t research.
There are many tech tools out there that allow our students to create a product which helps demonstrate their understanding of a topic.  As I mentioned before, I really LOVE Explain Everything (luckily for me my district purchased the app for our iPads).  Some teachers may not be ready to have their students tackle that app.  I have recently discovered Adobe Spark, which I think is a great starter tool to create quick and easy videos, and delivers a beautiful finished product.  If videos aren’t in your wheelhouse, I also used Book Creator last year with my students to create children’s books about the ecosystems they were researching.
We all need to consume information to gain new information.  In my (humble) opinion, if we don’t do something with all that we consume, we (and our students) will never have a true understanding of all the information we are taking in…
What creation tools do you use with your students? Have you tried the ones mentioned here? What are your thoughts?