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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!





Coaching Service Announcement in Powtoon

focus glasses

During the last few weeks, I have been taking a MOOC on Coaching Digital Leadership from the Friday Institute at N.C. State University. This week, while pondering the Four C’s, I developed a Coaching Service Announcement. You may have heard of the following Four C’s for 21st Century Learners: Communication, Critical Thinking, Collaboration and Creativity. I attempt to plan lessons that embed the Four C’s, some of which I have included in my previous blog posts. As a part of the MOOC, participants were asked to create a Coaching Service Announcement using a digital storytelling tool known as PowToon. I am sharing the video link here and welcome your feedback.  




Digital Storytelling with Audacity and WeVideo

Sound Waves Image Credit:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sonic_boom.svg

After completing a four week MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) on Copyright in August of 2014, I decided to enroll in another MOOC.  Well, I actually enrolled in two MOOCs. The first one is “Powerful Uses of Digital Storytelling” in Coursera which is taught by two professors from the University of Houston.  The other MOOC is on developing digital leadership with educators and is taught by facilitators from the Friday Institute at N.C. State University. There have certainly been challenges of balancing the assignments with my teaching job and my family, but feel that the process of learning has benefited me personally and professionally.  I look forward in a future blog post to sharing my learning from the digital leadership course, but today I will focus on how I learned to develop a digital story using a Storyboard, record my narration using Audacity and create the actual digital story using a free video making tool called WeVideo.

This experience of storytelling in a digital format was explained to MOOC participants as a series of steps to follow while planning a digital story rather than only elements.  Many examples of storyboards were provided at the University of Houston’s Digital Storytelling website along with multiple high quality examples of digital stories that spanned multiple genres. The instructors shared the Seven Elements of Digital Story Telling which helped me choose a topic for my own story that I created during the course.  I chose not to tell a personal story with emotional content, but rather focused on a science topic related to energy.   I appreciated the short video clips that the instructors recorded and shared with students to allow us to understand steps of choosing a topic, writing a script and locating images that are free to use on the internet, finding copyright free music to play in the background of our narration at jamendo.com, recording our voices using Audacity, how to save and export the audio file properly and how to use the editing tools in WeVideo to draft and edit our stories.   Here is the link to my digital story on Sound Energy:  Sound Energy Digital Story

Since my school district is a Google Apps for Education School District, I knew that I could add on WeVideo for students to use in their Google Accounts for free.  Audacity is already installed on our school computers too so I had the necessary digital tools in place to be able to replicate the steps of digital storytelling with my students.  As each week progressed in my Digital Storytelling Course, I was able share the steps with my school’s Media Specialist and together we developed a planning guide to use with our fourth graders.  She and I consulted with a fourth grade teacher who told us that fourth graders would be studying forms of energy during October such as light, heat and sound.  We decided to have students research forms of energy using print and digital resources in the school Media Center and record their notes on a sheet with four guiding questions.  We considered our planning sheet to be students’ storyboard.  Here is an example of the sheet that we showed to students as the example:  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Fzqxae-_HiE10E5qFCEBf1TKLpGvggoxIu1Hc5GCjCM/edit?usp=sharing

I learned later in the course that it would be better to add larger images to a digital story in WeVideo starting at least at 1,000 pixels.  I included the size of the images to show students so we could analyze the clarity of the smaller images.  I found fairly clear free images that were free to use or share in Google Advanced Search and added them to my final story.  This coming week, I will be showing students my completed MOOC Digital Story on Sound Energy as a way for them to envision what they are about to do too.  I will show them how to do Google Advanced Image Searches and how to properly attribute the images.  They will look at their notes and determine how to construct narration that will not only explain the type of energy, but also give examples of how this energy form shows motion and include examples.  They will record their narration in Audacity then upload the WAV file to their free WeVideo account.  I will show them how to put together a WeVideo Timeline Storyboard and how to stretch various images that they have found to play as their voice narration plays.  I am excited about showing them the animation known as the Ken Burns effect which allows users to zoom in or out on a still image for effect.

This project has been a wonderful example of collaboration between the Media Specialist and myself as the K-5 Technology Teacher.  As a result of our collaboration, we have realized that this topic of energy has proven to be a bit of a challenge due to the advanced reading level of many of the printed or digital texts that she is using with students in the Media Center.  The use of online resources at www.ncwiseowl.com has also provided online encyclopedias with kid friendly explanations of energy forms.  I know that we tackled a rigorous project to do in the first quarter of the school year, but look forward to teaching students the digital citizenship piece next as they locate images and possibly, some background music at jamendo.com.  I know that students will be able to create future digital stories with their scripts written out clearly as a result of this initial training.

I will also have students share their storyboards with each other before proceeding with locating images and recording narration to provide helpful feedback using a rubric with the following elements like the one which was used in my Digital Storytelling MOOC.  I also will ask students to self evaluate their digital stories on energy to see if they have met the goals outlined in the rubric below.

The Purpose of the Digital Story:

4 – The Purpose of the digital story is established early and a clear focus is maintained throughout the entire video.

3 – The purpose of the digital story is established early and a clear focus is maintained throughout most of the video

2 – The purpose of the digital story is somewhat difficult to understand, but becomes clearer by the end of the video.

1 – The purpose of the digital story is not clearly expressed.

Clarity of Voice of the Recorded Narration:

4 – All of the narrator’s words can be easily understood.

3 – Most of the narrator’s words can be easily understood.

2 – Some of the narrator’s words cannot be easily understood.

1 – Most of the narrator’s words cannot be easily understood.

Quality of Images:

4 – All images are of high quality and are appropriate to the topic of the digital story.

3 – Most images are of high quality and are appropriate to the topic of the digital story.

2 – Some images are of high quality and are appropriate to the topic of the digital story.

1 – Few images are of high quality and are appropriate to the topic of the digital story.


Yes or No – Image URL’s were provided.


Meaningful Use of Music:

4 – The music nicely complements the audio narration and the content of the digital story.

3 – The music only somewhat complements th audio narration and the content of the digital story.

2 – The music is too loud or distracts from the audio narration or the content of the digital story.

1 – Music track caused viewers of the digital story to not be able to understand the audio narration.

Yes or No – The song track’s URL was provided from jamendo.com along with proper description of

Creative Commons – BY – NC – SA

I also plan to allow students to use StoryboardThat.com to plan out a story as a way to differentiate and provide images for students.

I would love your feedback on how you use digital storytelling with your students.