EdCampQC – September 19, 2015



Today I experienced my second EdCamp in Charlotte, NC, also known as the Queen City (QC).  It is known as EdCampQC.  Many educators have begun to own their learning by being a part of thIs “un-conference” model of learning around the USA.  At the beginning of the day there are no set topics for sessions.  The Room numbers and time slots are planned before the EdCamp begins, but the attendees share topics that they are interested in hearing about, leading or participating.  Topics are then written on chart paper and attendees vote with circular stickers placed beside of their favorite topics.  The organizers of EdCamp then assign topics to each time slot and room, then share the session schedule board at their website, http://www.edcampqc.weebly.com.

Some of my favorite sessions today were on using comics in the classroom, Google Apps For Education and Green Screen using the DoInk app.  There were facilitators in each room to help guide conversations, but the participants shared their ideas, questions and stories.  Sometimes the Smartboards were used to share Livebinder resources like the one I loved about Comics in the Classroom, Google extensions or Green Screen student examples.   Educators provide their Twitter handles in the shared Google Documents that were linked to the session names. I was so proud of my colleagues in my district who had organized every detail.  In the end, participants heard from teachers who, in some cases, were experts on session topics which helped them see new possibilities to bring to their classrooms.  I love how that even in the hallways, I connected with teachers who, I had just met or had known from a previous district training.  The positive energy of these conversations in the halls and in the classrooms injected a breath of fresh air in my teaching outlook.

I have included a variety of pictures that I took today either as screenshots on my iPad from the EdCamp or from Twitter posts that occurred during the EdCamp.  The Twitter handle for this EdCamp was #EdCampQC.  You could search Twitter for the #EdCampQC handle and see the awesomeness as well as links to resources.

One of my favorite times of the day occurred during lunch when I wandered into the “playground”.  This room was filled with amazing materials such as 3D Printers, Little Bits kits, Sphero robotic balls, Ollie robots, Osmo, CoLAR app, and 3Doodler.  It was so exciting to see and touch the BB-8, the newest version of Sphero who is a robot which is a part of the upcoming Star Wars movie.  My pictures below show some of what I saw and manipulated.  Making 3D glasses and maple leaves with the 3Doodler pen, much like a glue gun, gave me a glimpse of what I want to write a Donors Choose Grant for this year!

Ultimately, I left with my mind swirling with ideas.  I heard about Alan November’s book title, “Who Owns the Learning?” at this EdCamp and plan to read it soon.  Because educators came to share and learn, we all went away owning learning about topics that we chose to be a part of in our self selected sessions.  I also met new educators that I added to my PLN on Twitter so that the learning can continue into the future.  I hope you will scroll through the images to get a feel for how I felt.


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Educational Tools – Coolio Toolios!

I have spent the past three days learning about Google Tools, apps and websites to use with my students in a Tech Leader Training.  Although it is the middle of July, I can’t wait to use the tools with my students when school starts in August.  I discovered an awesome video by two of my district’s instructional technology team members during our training.  They share 10 apps or websites that teachers can use with students to deepen engagement with content and allow for content creation by students.  I would like to share it so that all of my friends in education can get ideas on some amazing web tools.

Here is a pdf that describes the 10 tools:  https://drive.google.com/a/cms.k12.nc.us/file/d/0B6s0t8HsJ8hlV2RBbjFlZ3pzaXc/view

My district also has a great way to assess apps and websites. Here is a link to the rubric that we use to assess educational apps and websites:


I also like an iPad and Android app called Goose Chase!

Teachers sign up for a free account at https://www.goosechase.com/howitworks/organizing/ then they create challenges for students to do.  Students take a picture with their device and submit the picture as they go on a scavenger hunt to find things that the teacher assigns.  There can be up to 10 teams enrolled in a game so students are encouraged to work together.  Some of the examples that you could do in class:

Find your teacher’s website and take a picture.

Take a picture of a new student in the class.

Locate the place in our class where you turn in parent forms and take a picture.

Discover your teacher’s expectations on how to act in class.

There are so many possibilities to use this app with students and with staff at the beginning of the school year.

What are some of your favorite apps and websites for K- 8 students?

What a great year!

School is coming to a close for the 2014-2015 school year.  I have enjoyed teaching my 1,100 + students in grades K-5 using technology as a tool.  I have curated some third and fourth grade projects at my new school Google website at bit.ly/eagletech.  I am sharing the link to my school website today to allow others to take a peek at what amazing work our students created.

Third graders created iMovie Book Trailers after reading Mystery books in their Book Clubs.  Their iMovies are shown at my website under each third grade teacher’s name. The iMovie Trailers were carefully planned using the fabulous graphic organizers at Tony Vincent’s site.  They sketched scenes in the boxes of the trailers and wrote their scripts in their classrooms with their homeroom teachers after I had shown them a variety of iMovie trailers in my class using the iPad and Apple TV.  The Third Grade teachers and I collaborated on this project which allowed students to use a book that they read in their classes as a basis for their iMovie trailers.  Students were given class time to not only plan their scripts and images, but they also were given time to draw their iMovie trailer scenes on white paper.  They brought these papers to my Technology Lab where they took pictures of their scenes using the iPad’s Camera.  Next, they opened the iMovie app, selected their theme, and started placing each image into the correct slot within the iMovie Trailer.  Once they took turns typing their scripts, they had a finished iMovie Trailer.  We turned down the lights and shared the iMovie Trailers on the Big Screen in my room.  They loved seeing their hard work and effort while sharing with their peers.  I love how the iMovie Trailers turned out.  Some of them are good and some of them are great!  I hope you’ll have a look by clicking on movies under each teacher’s name at bit.ly/eagletech.  My hope is that students will continue to watch these iMovie Trailers during the summer which may persuade them to read books that they friends have read.

Fourth Graders researched N.C. Lighthouses then collaborated with a partner to take notes in a shared Google Doc.  They used a variety of websites that I had collected in a Blendspace.  When they visited my Technology Lab for a Special Class or went to the Media Center for their Special Class, they used the time to gather information on the Location, History, Construction and Interesting Facts about their chosen lighthouse.  They were able to paraphrase information from the websites and type bulleted notes into their Google Doc which was a great step in learning to research without copying and pasting exact sentences from the website.  Next, they turned their notes into paragraphs and placed their paragraphs in a Google Slide Presentation.  They found images and citations.  I am so proud of their hard work.  One student even visited Bald Head Island Lighthouse during Memorial Day which was the Lighthouse that she researched and brought back “I Support Old Baldy” stickers for her class.  She gave them the stickers after the class saw each others’ Lighthouse Presentations in a Gallery Walk around the Technology Lab.

My fourth graders also researched N.C. Symbols then wrote scripts as if they were the symbol.  Kids personified the Plott Hound, the Pine Tree, the Strawberry and a Stock Car along with many other N.C. Symbols.  They would research with me or our Media Specialist when they came to our Special Area Classes then wrote their scripts.  They recorded themselves reading their scripts into the Chatterpix app on the iPads, saved the Chatterpix as a video to their Camera Rolls, then uploaded their completed projects to their Google Drive accounts.

I hope you will enjoy all of these projects when you visit my Google Site at bit.ly/eagletech.  While you’re there, click on “Suggested Sites and Apps” to see a Smore Poster on Summer Reading ideas!

Image Citation:http://www.skylinepictures.com/Lighthouses_North_Carolina_Photo_li16_large.jpg

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Bob Iger’s surprising contribution to the Star Wars empire


I have been awarded a grant by the V
Charlotte Hornets which will allow me to purchase Sphero robotic balls for my students. They will use an app on the iPad to control the balls. They will use coding strategies to make the balls move and turn. I was excited to hear that a modified Sphero ball will be used in an upcoming Star Wars movie. Read more in this blog:

Originally posted on Fortune:

A little-known startup got a big shout-out at this week’s Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, Calif., thanks to Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger.

Iger, whose media empire bought Star Wars creator Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion in 2012, kept a low profile at the bi-annual gathering of the space saga’s hard-core fans. But he was sitting right in the front row of the massive convention center auditorium where a star-studded panel took place on Thursday morning, the first day of the four-day-long event.

One by one, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, director J.J. Abrams, actors Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill and others took the stage to disclose more details on the next installment of Star Wars, much to the delight of the lightsaber-toting crowd. When an adorable free-rolling robot named BB-8—a new character in the upcoming installment of the series—joined them in the spotlight, it too received a fervent round…

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8 Essentials of Project Based Learning

Last weekend I attended my first Ed Camp (#EdCampQC on Twitter) at Hawk Ridge Elementary School in Charlotte, NC.  It was a powerful learning experience for me.  I enjoy traditional presentations in a regular conference format, but I now can see the reason why Ed Camps have become so popular.  We gathered in classrooms to hear teachers share their ideas and crowdsource ways to be an effective teacher to our 21st century learners.  I experienced conversations about MakerSpaces, Literacy in Technology, Genius Hour and Blended Learning. All of the ideas that I heard revealed how essential it is to inspire and nurture learning, creativity, and innovation through technology in elementary schools.

After being on Twitter for the past two years and building my Professional Learning Network, it thrilled me to get to meet at Ed Camp some of the members of my Twitter PLN such as Steven Weber (@curriculumblog), Stacy Lovdahl (@braveneutrino), Ashley Hurley (@ashleyhhurley), Jennifer Brinn (@Jenn_TeachLearn) and Nathan Stevens (@nathan_stevens) to name a few.  I have appreciated the contributions of these people through Twitter Chats or on Voxer.  Knowing that educators in North Carolina were willing to volunteer to learn from each other on a Saturday, even driving through snow and black ice, made the Ed Camp experience extra special.  

I heard Troy Moore, the principal at Hawk Ridge Elementary School, share how they are having kids pursue their passions as a part of Genius Hour which they do during the first hour of the school day.  One of my favorite examples was that of two boys who interview teachers and community members including sports figures and create Podcasts because they love Sports Casting!   I love that student ownership is a huge part of the culture of Hawk Ridge Elementary School where teachers have bought into the idea of allowing time and creative space for students to flourish.  Troy Moore (@HRESPrincipal) generously opened his school for teachers to see including a Project Based Learning space that was recently sponsored by the restaurant called Chili’s.  Teachers teach their students how to calculate tips in a restaurant setting within the school using percentages.  Other creative learning spaces included a classroom with mobile furniture that can be situated to best meet the needs of the learners.  Being at Hawk Ridge Elementary School helped me to understand why they have recently ranked 9th in the USA among other outstanding Elementary Schools.

In my role as the K-5 Technology Teacher, I am always contemplating ways to encourage my students to become engaged in the learning process.  I have also begun to realize the power of the process of PBL or Project Based Learning.  I recently heard Mike Gormans (@mjgormans on Twitter) in a webinar as a part of my monthly PBS LearningMedia trainings right on the heels of my experience at EdCamp.  He encouraged us to think about using the Eight Essential Components of Project Based Learning which helped me put together the ideas that were swimming in my head from Ed Camp.  Providing students with meaningful projects means that I need to incorporate the following eight components as published by the Buck Institute at http://bie.org/object/document/8_essentials_for_project_based_learning:  significant content, a need to know, a driving question, student voice and choice, 21st Century Competencies, in-depth Inquiry, critique and revision and a public audience.

I love the idea of new technology options to help me engage my students.  Students need opportunities to tinker, learn to code and create projects as a part of Project Based Learning (PBL).  They also need materials with which to build and to code.  I will describe in this post two possible technology tools to use when designing lessons for Project Based Learning: Sphero Robot Balls and Lego Storymaker Kits/Software.  I have written a grant for 12 Sphero Balls and Lego Storymaker Kits and hope to have it funded so I can implement a variety of lessons for my 2nd – 5th Graders.

Students in my school have participated in the worldwide Hour of Code for the past two Decembers using resources at www.code.org.  I would like for students to have the ability to write the code to see a three dimensional object follow their commands.  The resources at code.org have been a good foundation for my students along with apps such as Daisy the Dinosaur and Legos Mindstorms Fix the Factory, however, I would like to provide additional real world opportunities to create code.  Students would work together to develop commands for the Sphero balls and cause them to run through mazes using coding apps on the iPads.  I would like to have students think like a computer programmer and articulate the process of coding the Sphero balls.  Learning to code Sphero balls will allow students to work in teams to build Sphero chariots that they will maneuver through mazes using iPads, communicate their results in writing and in revising their work through trial and error.  They will need to critically think as they problem solve and program the Spheros.  At the NCTIES PreConference on March 4, I am looking forward to learning how to program Sphero balls while collaborating with other teachers.

Students will communicate with small groups as they build Lego Story Scenes using the kits.  They will build their scenes in groups of three and decide on the plot of the story, characters, setting, etc. using special spinners to help guide their thought process.  Children in schools need opportunities to build and make which leads in this case to detailed stories and end products.  The process is just as important as the end product.

The Sphero robotics ball project is innovative because it will provide a way for students to see what it feels like to be a coder/computer programmer.  There will be a shortage of computer programmers in the next 10 years according to recent data published at https://www.kodable.com/infographic.  Schools must excite students at an early age to learn to code in an inviting fashion.  Getting to work in collaboration with other students to make a Sphero Chariot go through a maze will allow students to problem solve using a Driving Question.  There are math apps that I will also use to provide lessons using the Sphero balls found at http://www.gosphero.com/education/.

The Legos Storymaker project is innovative because it provides a way for students to design a beginning, middle and end of a story using Lego scenes then write about their stories.  Students will be developing narratives and writing text to go along with scenes from the their Lego story settings.  They will publish the narratives in creative ways through Newspapers and Posters.  Visit this link to see examples of Lego Storymaker final products:  https://shop.education.lego.com/legoed/en-US/catalog/product.jsp?productId=5003448

In my role as the K-5 Technology Teacher at my school, I love to engage my students using innovative apps and projects that require researching and development of digital stories.  The Sphero and Lego Storymaker Projects will allow me to take my students into deep thinking projects where in order to succeed, they will have to communicate thoughts verbally and in writing, collaborate in teams, critically think as they brainstorm solutions and develop digital stories after building with Legos, and create projects that will be an authentic way to show the world that they are 21st Century Learners.

How have you used Project Based Learning?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

The Global Read Aloud


Great blog post on how to participate in the Global Read Aloud!

Originally posted on Reading By Example:

I recently had the opportunity to take part in the Global Read Aloud this fall. It is facilitated annually by Pernille Ripp, a teacher in Madison, WI. Leading a group of 4th graders, we joined many other classrooms online who were also reading The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. It is the fictional story of a gorilla named Ivan in captivity for almost 30 years, told from the perspective of Ivan. It is loosely based on a true story (the real Ivan recently passed away).

What was unique about this experience was technology was used to support and enhance the story as I read it to the students.


Every classroom involved received a code to join The One and Only Ivan group on Edmodo, a safe social networking site for students and teachers. As you can see, it has a similar look to Facebook, which helped us…

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Clarifying the SAMR Model


I enjoyed reading Ms. Kranenburg’s blog post about the SAMR Model. She heard Dr. Peuntedura, who developed the SAMR model for technology integration in schools, talk about the SAMR model and shared some suggestions that he gave. She gave me permission to Reblog her post here.

Originally posted on Ms. Kranenburg:

This past week I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Rueben Peuntedura speak at Lambton College in Sarnia. The College graciously invited a group from LKDSB, I was very pleased to be included in this group.

Over the past few years visual representations of the SAMR model have been strewn across my office desk, as I have grappled with the task of maximizing the impact of using new technology with my students. Initially, the SAMR model provided the structure that I needed to come to terms with how I could integrate iPads in my primary classroom. In the early days of iPad use in my program I would refer to the model as frequently as I did the curriculum; ensuring that I remained focused on the academic goal. With all the flashy apps available, I feared it would be too easy to get off track.


Fast forward a year…

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Gifts, Goals, and Grit – The Three G’s


Discover. Play. Build.

After my experiences with the Growth Mindset at the beginning of the school year, I have had my eyes wide open for opportunities to  continue the conversation with my students about a goal oriented mentality.  I discovered a picture book titled “Rosie Revere Engineer”  by Andrea Beaty recently which I read aloud to my second graders in January of 2015.  Rosie, the main character, loves to tinker with trash, design and build structures, however, her uncle, while not meaning to hurt her feelings, laughs at a fan that she made for him leading her to hide her other creations.  One day, though, her great Aunt Rose visits and encourages Rosie to build a new thing.  The new creation is designed to do one thing which is to fly and although it does what it is supposed to do, it also crashes.  Rosie decides to learn from her mistakes and tweaks her creation with the help of her great Aunt Rose which leads to a new awakening on Rosie’s part.  Rosie realizes that she can use her gift of being able to wonder and figure out how things work as she sets her mind on achieving her goals.  Without determination, she will not succeed but soon realizes that her willingness to try helps her classmates to also want to try and work on their own creations.  I love a phrase from the book which is “with each perfect failure” because it show us that from our mistakes we can make improvements and try again.

Following the reading of this book, I had my students develop goals for the coming year.  They are learning, as second graders, how to login to their Google accounts, create a Google Document and type while changing fonts, letter sizes and colors of words.  As they composed and typed their goals, I gave them the option to print it when they were done.  I created a bulletin board of their goals.  During the month of January, when we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it seemed the perfect time to focus on students’ dreams and goals.  Students’ goals ranged from being a priest as a grown up person to improving their reading levels now as kids to not fighting with siblings. A few even have their sights set on exploring coding and engineering!

On the day that I read “Rosie Revere Engineer” to my second graders, I was feeling a bit like Rosie when she had worked hard but couldn’t get her flying machine to stay aloft.  As hard as I had worked, I couldn’t play a piano piece perfectly and it mattered a lot as I would be playing piano for the local Middle School’s choral performance at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.  I took piano lessons for 10 years and have always enjoyed playing piano for school and church choral groups.  I practiced the music including “Baba Yetu” which is sung in Swahili and means “Our Father” daily for about a week before I had to practice with the choral group.  On my first day of before school practice with the choral group, everything went well, however,”Baba Yetu” had tricky timing.  Although I had practiced it correctly according to my counting, the pace of the song changes near the end and I did not play it correctly which became apparent when the chorus sang the last note and I was a few measures behind.  I noticed the choral teacher coming toward me and telling me that my timing was off.  As a teacher and as a musician, I am one who plans ahead and practices my part. I do not go in unprepared.  My face felt hot and I would have loved it if the floor would have opened up and swallowed the piano stool and me.  It was hard for me to face it, but I realized that I had played the last few measures wrong.  I humbly agreed with the teacher who came alongside of me and sang the measures where I had faltered.  Because of her patience, I recognized the place where I needed to change my thinking and relearn the timing.

I realized in the process of recognizing my error that I was embarrassed, perplexed and dismayed much like Rosie Revere Engineer.  I couldn’t believe that I had made such an error.  The students had practiced it correctly with the teacher so me playing it incorrectly in front of them led to further discomfort in my head and stomach.  I left the practice only to head to my school feeling like a failure.  The teacher sent me a CD of the song which I listened to throughout the evening.  I practiced for about an hour that night and began to feel a confidence when I played the song correctly.  I once heard the adage that “Perfect Practice Makes Permanent”, which is not the same as “Practice Makes Perfect”.  The next morning at our choral practice, I played those measures correctly once, then again when we sang it from the top.  My confidence soared as I felt the joy of getting it right.  You get it right first in your mind, then it comes out through your fingers.  I have always appreciated the piano lessons that my parents gave to me because of how the lessons developed my abilities as a musician. Many nights as a 2nd – 12th grader, I would persevere again and again to get a song just right.  I wanted to please my teacher and know that I had done my personal best.  It was never about competing with anyone, unless you say I competed against my own previous performances.

It is this determination to master a song that has resonated with me.  It was Rosie’s determination to keep planning and designing as she envisioned how to make a machine fly.  When you combine the three G’s, gifts, goals and grit, you will always find a way.  The key to success is when we give effort while building on our gifts, have our goals in mind and persevere until the goals are met.  On the evening of our performance, I played “Baba Yetu” alongside of drummers playing loudly on African drums. I kept the beat and sensed a special joy as I accompanied the talented choir. Although I don’t think that I would have ever given up and told the teacher that I couldn’t do it, it was an option. I am so glad that I practiced more, got it right and didn’t give up. It is such a beautiful song and one that I have loved to learn. Here is a rendition of the song with a full orchestra along with a water/light fountain display in Dubai.

This idea of grit in education is one that we should continue to consider as we look to personalize learning in ways that build on students’ gifts and on their goals. Teachers look for ways to challenge students and build on existing knowledge. When our students are presented with lessons that challenge them to reach a higher cognitive level, they will likely rise to the occasion. It may take extra effort on their part or on the part of the teacher to differentiate for the learners, but will allow students to build their determination to succeed and learn from mistakes. Angela Duckworth so eloquently describes grit in this TED Talk.  I’d love to know ways that you have helped students in their efforts to reach their goals and build grit.

Invite them to code!

Have you ever wondered how to make a digital dinosaur grow, shrink, spin and turn? Check out Daisy the Dinosaur app and join the fun. I have shared this app with my Kindergarten classes and given it as an option for my older elementary kids. The truth is, they all love it.

My favorite quote from a fifth grader today after he took a break from coding with Angry Birds at code.org: “This is the most fun I’ve had!” The child usually sits on an island position and has a daily behavior contract. I gave him an iPad and invited him to code, then watched the magic happen. He couldn’t get enough of the games. Some of my older students have gravitated to the Frozen coding option at code.org while others have skillfully given a robot directions at Lego’s Fix the Factory app. Hopscotch has been another fantastic app for kids to explore during our focus on coding.

My Kinders also had a blast drawing pictures and labeling their computer programming codes which they had used with Daisy. The joy and excitement will hopefully lead to increased interest in coding!