Monday, April 25, 2016

Key Connector #5: Striving to be Tomorrow..TODAY!

In Chapter 5 of "What Connected Educators Do Differently", we are reminded that as educators, we strive to inspire our students to believe that they can truly achieve the success they long for. However--are we doing this for ourselves to? Do we take the time we need to do to be successful? Are we we taking the necessary steps that lead us to the path of greatness?

Whitaker, Casas, and Zoul said that if we are going to inspire our students to be great, we must be willing to model what it looks like to push the limits and strive for excellence. How can I do this? By bringing my personal best each and every day. One quote that really stood out to me from this chapter is, "A huge part of striving for a successful tomorrow is by living out a great today." How often are many of us living our lives as "go-mos"---those who just "go through the motions". I must admit, I am guilty of doing this from time to time--typically right before winter, spring, and summer breaks. As the school year is drawing down to a close, I will remind myself of this quote. I know that I am, for the most part, in control of what happens throughout my day. Things happen, roadblocks pop up, but I can control how I let it affect me and how to overcome any obstacles. I must make the most of each day, choose to bring my "A Game".

So what are my biggest takeaways from this chapter? Well:

1. Continue to make and build connections within my school and social media.  Collaboration is HUGE!

2. Be purposeful and intentional with my time. As a woman who wears many hats, I find myself wishing there were just two more hours in each day so that I can get everything done.

3. The 33% Rule. Don't let the bottom third suck the life out of me! Continue to bring positive energy each and every day, as well as surround myself around those who do too. Protect my greatness!

4. Strive to make a greater impact. Plan intentionally to make a difference in the lives of those who I work closely with each and every day--my colleagues, my students and athletes, and their families.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Key Connector #4: Education-It's All About Give and Take!

After reading the fourth key connector, "Give and Take", I find that most of my giving is happening in my daily workplace and/or at various district-level meetings and collaborations. Though I am able to share ideas with my fellow BPS colleagues, I know that I need to push outside these boundaries, and share with the rest of the world. Whether it be through Twitter, Pinterest, blogging, or "Teachers Pay Teachers", I need to find confidence to share with fellow educators all over the world.

As for "taking", I love how Whitaker, Casas, and Zoul promote "stealing" ideas through the use of networking. I will admit that I find myself "taking" more than "giving. Most of my best lessons and activities are found through our iPad Academy collaborations and my Twitter PLNs.

Regardless of where educators find themselves on this spectrum, this does hold true: "Connected educators possess an almost fanatical "pay it forward" mindset, whereby the become energized not only by giving, but also by receiving help". The more we receive from our fellow educators, the more we feel compelled to give back!

Key Connector 3: The Three C's

As we continue to read "What Connected Educators Do Differently", I am finding myself gaining a better understanding on how to be an effective 21st Century educator. In order to do so, Whitaker, Casas, and Zoul tell us to, "embrace the three C's".  This includes communication, collaboration, and community.

As I sit back and reflect on my own experience with embracing the three C's, I came upon some realizations:

1. I find "communicating with purpose" to be something I do well with day in and day out. I believe it is important to share what is going on in the classrooms and schools. This is where my Twitter account comes into play. More often than not, I tweet out what students are learning in the classroom. Some of the hashtags I utilize are #tt4t, #ipadacademy, #CECougars, and #bpsne.  In addition, I helped our school principal set up a school Twitter account. This is both an easy and great way to connect home and school. Many of our families are now following us on Twitter, and are receiving instant updates on Central's happenings.

2. I am lacking adequacy in the "professional blogger" department. When I first started my journey in the iPad Academy, I set a goal for myself to create one educational blog post each week. I started off the first month. From there, blogging was placed on the back burner, and I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't posted anything in over a year. Life happens, people get busy, and as a mother of three kids under the age of four, priorities and goals have changed. This is an area that I would like to better myself in--not only as a way to share my ideas, but to also reflect upon the effectiveness of my technological pedagogy.

3. Pinterest, iPad Academy Collab Days, and Twitter PLNs are life changing!! Collaborating with colleagues has always been something I've enjoyed. It's always great to find an authentic audience or a group of peers in which I can share and swap ideas. Being connected--whether through internet connection (Pinterest and Twitter) or face-to-face (iPad Collabs)--has given me endless opportunities to interact with so many smart and talented educators.

As I finish this post, I realize that I've come so far, yet I have a lot to learn. Although the school year will be winding down, I am looking forward to setting new goals--or even visiting old ones!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Key Connector 2: #LearningWhatIWant

One of the greatest things about being a connected educator is that I have the choice to learn what I want. How am I able to do this? Teachers are constantly sharing their most innovative ideas on different social media outlets. The two biggest avenues in which I seek professional development is through the use of Twitter and Pinterest.  With Twitter, I have the ability to seek out things I am interested in. With a hashtag, I am able to instantly able to connect with other professionals who want to learn the same things as me. As for Pinterest, I've created boards for different content areas that I teach. When I see an idea or image that I am interested in, I just pin it to my board. I then have these pins that automatically add to my professional learning and growth! I am so excited that with just the click of a mouse or a swipe of my finger, I am instantly able to connect with other professionals who want to learn the same things as me. 

I will say, as much as I love Twitter and Pinterest, I have always longed to attend a NETA conference! I've seen many of my fellow Bellevue Public Schools colleagues attend and tweet their new findings, and I must say--I am completely envious of them! Just by "stalking" their Twitter feeds, I learn so much in just 160 short characters. I've even taken some of the simplest tweets and added them to that same "teaching tool box". I hope that sooner than later, I will get the same opportunity to attend NETA and gain a multitude of information that I can transfer into my daily practices! 

Monday, November 23, 2015

It's Been Awhile...

Almost two years ago, I set out on this new journey in my teaching career called "The iPad Academy". My classroom was transforming from the "traditional setting" to a 1:1 iPad room. The purpose of blogging then was to document my journey--the highs, the lows, the "ahas", and the "oh no's". I must admit, at first I was pretty stoked about my new blogging ritual--I was excited to document and watch myself grow as both an educator and learner. 

Well, almost a year and a half has past since my last post, and reality has set in. What happened? Life happened. As a mom of two toddlers under the age of four, my priorities shifted from blog posting to dance and soccer practices. The one thing that has not changed, nor wavered at all during my journey is my love of learning, my fascination with technology integration, and wanting to better my teaching practices each and every day. With that said, I decided to tackle another challenge--a position as my school's Building Technology Coordinator. I have been encouraged by my leaders Ann, Jeff, and Jeanette to start blogging again. At first, I was a bit hesitant, but I'm glad I'm blogging again! 

Currently, we are reading a book titled,  What Connected Educators Do Differently by @ToddWhitaker, @Jeff_Zoul, and @casas_jimmy. In Chapter 1, we focused on Twitter and building a PLN. I must admit, a few years ago I was completely overwhelmed by Twitter. Hashtags? Tweets? Only 140 characters to speak your mind? wasn't for me. But as I finished my Twitter 101 class (Thanks Brent and Ann!) I realized something: Twitter is POWERFUL. I believe Twitter is used solely for two purposes: connections with the general public and as an outlet for professional development. I am proud to say that I use Twitter for both of these reasons! Professional Development: to build my classroom's PLN (@coachsmeby) and General Public Connections: to connect my East volleyball families and Chieftain Nation with our volleyball program's happenings (@BEASTVB). 

I believe I am in the right mindset, ready to accept change, and I cannot wait to see what's in store in the months to come! Until then...

Monday, March 17, 2014

We Are Officially iPaddling Through Our Day... (Part Two)

Well, here it is--part two of the "We Are Officially iPaddling Through Our Day" series! I will be discussing a few more apps that have become a staple in my classroom. These apps include: Notability, Google Earth, KidBlog, and Popplet!

Notability has been a game changer in my classroom! We use this app at least two, if not three times, each day. If you were to ask any of my fourth graders what Notability is used for, they would simple say, "A way to do our regular work without using a pencil and paper!" 

What I love about this app is simplicity of it. This would be one of the apps my students caught on to using right away. Many of our daily paper assignments have been transformed into PDF files on Google Drive. I love that I can share a worksheet or task with all of my students within a matter of a minute. What I love even more is that fact that once my students have completed their annotations, they can "customize" it with colors, and export it back to me via Google Drive! 

An example of student work using Notability. 

Using Notability to complete the Southwest Desert Webquest. 

Google Earth: 
Google Earth is geobrowser that accesses satellite and aerial imagery over the internet to represent the Earth as a three-dimensional (3D) globe. In fourth grade, students study the different regions of the United States. During our study of the regions, students are asked to recall landforms, landmarks, major cities, important individuals, and important events. My tech coach, +Ann Feldmann and I decided to come up with virtual field trips, also called "Webquests" to go along with our studies. 

An example of a Webquest/Google Earth study that the students have completed.

Each webquest has a series of instructions and questions. Students load the Webquest into Notability, then annotate as needed. They are asked to search for important landforms and landmarks, using key words, within the Google Earth app. Once they find what the are looking for, they are asked to document their findings in their webquests. (This can range from "fill in the blank" answers to importing screenshots.) Multitasking has become the norm to my students! 
An aerial view of Arizona. (Screenshot taken by one of my students.)

A 3D, ground view of the Colorado River, right in the heart of the Grand Canyon.

In just a few short weeks, my students have been able to travel all over the west region of the United States! They have been able to visit places like the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge, the USS Arizona Memorial---all without stepping a foot outside our classroom! 

I introduced KidBlog to my students back in December. KidBlog is a safe and simple way for students to blog. This app allows me to control and manage student content, as well as comments. A blog is a frequently updated online personal journal. iPads and the KidBlog app have had the greatest impact on the quality of blogging over the past few years. 

How do I utilize this in my classroom? We use KidBlog to practice the writing process and our writing skills through blog prompts. Students also have the chance to reflect on their learning, as well as connect with other students around the world! 

Mrs. Feldmann and I introduced Popplet to the students several weeks ago. Popplet is a power tool that allows students to create mind maps, brain diagrams, and basic graphic organizers. Popplet allows students to customize their graphic organizers by changing colors to the background, boxes, and text. Pictures can also be dropped into the organizers as well. As I've mentioned before, I appreciate the simplicity of apps---and this app does that!

My students have been using Popplet in a variety of areas. Most recently, my students have used this app to organize their rock and mineral observations in Science. I always find it fascinating how they organize their information! This has really given me a "snapshot" of their understanding, as well as their processing! 
Students were given a basic template to use while recording their observations.

As you can see, they just take a template and create and make their own organizers!

So many wonderful things are happening here in fourth grade at Central! Gone are the days of basic knowledge (remember) and  comprehension (understand). My students are now expected to apply, analyze, evaluate, and create material as they learn! I am definitely proud of them! 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

We Are Officially iPaddling Through Our Day...(Part One)

WOW! looking at the date of my first post, many would assume that I've been completely disconnected with this journey, but that is the complete OPPOSITE! Life in fourth grade is busier than EVER! I figured I'd finally publish this draft---especially since I have four others sitting in the draft "back burner" waiting to be complete! This post will be a two-part post, just due to the sheer fact that there is so much information to share. Please be on the look out for the second post in a couple of days.

Our iPads were officially delivered to our classroom on Thursday, January 25th. Thankfully, that was our day of no specials, so we were able to really sit down and break apart the basics of the iPad. We spent the majority of our time discussing the basics of the iPad, i.e. turning it on/off, navigating the screen, exploring the settings, and scrolling and finger swiping the screens. It was nice to have a hard copy of the iPad Basics to give the kids. Thanks to Ann Feldmann, my awesome coach, for providing us with that handout! I still see the kids take them out from time to time to review the basics. Below is the image that was included in their handout.

The following day, Ann popped into our room to introduce herself to the class. The kids were excited to finally meet our tech coach! 

With Ann's help, we were able to help the class create folders, all while dragging and dropping their apps into their designated folders. We also spent a great deal of time introducing their Google Mail and Drives. Ann and I decided to have the students set up shortcuts for their BPS emails, which has been such a blessing! Gone are the days of waiting 5-10 minutes for students to plug in their emails. With a shortcut such as "JS", John Smith's email pops up! We then took some time to answer any questions the kids had.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I am happy to say that my kiddos have done a phenomenal job with the transition into a 1:1 classroom. We are now utilizing our new tech tools in 75% of our day.  Below is a short blurb of each app the kiddos are using on a daily basis.

Khan Academy: 

My class has been working with this app since Day 2.  Khan Academy allows to differentiate Math concepts for each of my students. Students have the capability to practice math at their own pace. You can start at 1 + 1 and from there, you can jump right into whatever topic needs some brushing up! One thing I greatly appreciate about this app is that each problem is randomly generated, so you never run out of practice material. (Reminds me somewhat of our MAP assessments!)

With each concept, students are allowed a "hint". If you need that hint, every single problem can be broken down, step-by-step, with one click. If students are still having difficulties and need more assistance,  they can always watch a related video. Independent learning at its finest!

My favorite part of this amazing app? The immediate data and feedback I receive! I have access to all of my students' data. I can get summaries of our class's performance as a whole, or dive into a particular student's profile to figure out exactly which topics are a challenge. From there, I can quickly figure out and determine how to best spend my time working with my students, as well as make sure to assign the appropriate lessons to my kids. What a time saver!

Spelling City: 

Students now utilize this app as they study their weekly word lists. On Mondays, I have students complete a "Pre-Test" by using the "Test Me" activity in Spelling City. Once finished, students highlight the misspelled words in their planner. This gives them immediate feedback on which words to spend some extra time on studying during the week. It also provides my parents simple information in terms of what to really focus on while studying. 

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, in addition to completing their assigned Spelling Practice Book pages, I asked the students to complete various activities within the Spelling City app. Depending on the difficulty of the list, how I assign the activities change weekly. Some of the activities include, "Hang Mouse", "Word Scramble", "Word Search",  "Alphabetize", and "Audio Word Match". 

As for Thursdays and Fridays, we continue to use the same procedure as before. Students will complete their Spelling Pre-Test on Thursdays via Spelling City's "Test Me". If students receive their 100% that day, they have officially tested out for the week. If students do not receive a 100%, they will retest on Friday. I am so amazed about the immediate feedback both students and I can receive with just a click of a button. It is truly amazing! 

Explain Everything:

This app has been a staple in our classroom since Day 1!! For those of you who know my students and myself, we are absolutely obsessed with this app! Explain Everything gives my students the opportunity to create presentations, or slideshows, all while having the capability to use the record feature to explain what is happening. We have been using this app for:

-Creating math videos and explaining the process and concepts we've learned. As students record their problems and show their work, they are "voicing over" what is it that they are doing. The students are literally walking me through their work! It's been a great tool to monitor my students' learning. Are they truly understanding the material? If not, where did they go wrong?  It's a simple, yet amazing, diagnostic tool!

-Creating vocabulary journals with our weekly Reading selection vocabulary. Students say the word, state the meaning, use the word in context with a sentence that makes sense and relates to the Google image they found. The students take pride in their journals and more often than not, ask to work on their journals instead of playing during indoor recess. How awesome!

Please be on the lookout for my next post soon.  We will discuss: Notability, Google Earth, KidBlog, Popplet, and Stick Around!