The School Experience

This week I’ve been sharing “My Teacher Is A Monster” by Peter Brown with first graders.  They love the story.  Here’s a reading of it on You Tube:

I encouraged my first grade students to draw pictures with text on iPads in the Storymamker Free app to share moments from the story. When the teacher reprimands the boy, Bobby, in the story, we see that he envisions her as a green monster. The teacher yells, “Robert!”, which is Bobby’s real name. Bobby had thrown a paper airplane in class which was clearly not a good choice for Bobby by the way Ms. Kirby states his name rather sternly. It wasn’t until a chance counter that Bobby had with his teacher in the park that he began to realize that she is nice. He recuses her hat when it blows in the breeze. She calls him her hero. They quack along with the ducks. They climb to a special spot where Ms. Kirby pulls out a sheet of paper and encourages Bobby to fly his paper airplane. As the story progresses, the illustrator brilliantly shades the teacher to look less green and to have an even skin tone. When Monday rolls around after the weekend park play time, Bobby sees his teacher so much differently. She is someone who will lead his learning and will give him what he needs to succeed. Ms. Kirby took the time to bond with Bobby and recognized his way of learning which is personalized learning at its best.

It really caused me to think about the way that children perceive their teachers.  Kids create their own interpretation of the adults who talk to them at school.  They see their teachers one way which is sometimes not the way teachers perceive themselves.  I know that they go home and share stories about what their teacher did or did not do.  Even parents begin to paint a picture of the teacher.  

I hope that one of our new kindergarten students will remember the patient woman who took her by the hand and talked to her about her new class as the student dried her eyes this morning.  The child had just left her mother in the car pool line.  The little one is learning a new morning routine and seeing new faces as she enters school each day.  My friend and colleague, Kelly, masterfully walks children in daily and is a difference maker.   Her heart to show love is evident.  She shows kindness and does not shame students for having a difficult time with separation anxiety or the stress of arrival at school.  I also have the privilege of greeting children each morning as they arrive.  I am one of many who create the school experience for students.  I know that the adults who guide and reassure students are the ones which help set the course for our new Kinders as well as all students and make them want to come back each day.  I hope that they talk about their smiling and positive interactions with adults at school when they get home at night.  

I have had teachers whom I may have viewed like Bobby viewed Ms. Kirby at the beginning of the story.  They talked so sternly that I had trouble focusing on the content.  Being organized is a key quality of a teacher, however, I have felt so much stress by teachers who had to have me do things their way with not much regard for my style.  I think that it matters as to what our students think of us.  How a teacher treats a child will either unlock a trust filled relationship or it will build a barrier to learning.  Teachers should hold high expectations while taking into account the way that their words are received by their students.  Words matter.  Children matter.  

I try to notice the interests of my students and listen well. I hope that my students see me as positive, encouraging, welcoming and one who notices them and the effort that they give. It is when teachers build trusting relationships with students that students will buy in to the school experience.  

I included some of the pictures that my students drew of scenes from “My Teacher Is A Monster”.  They are so creative and give us a glimpse into how they understood story events.   Ms. Kirby realized that she needed to try a new strategy to win Bobby over after some initial moments at school when she reacted instead of seeing Bobby’s choice of flying a paper airplane as something to redirect into something positive.  She began to see that she should build on his strengths and interests.  Building on strengths should be our focus as we interact with our students too.


Science Olympiad 2016

Discover. Play. Build.

This past weekend, my school’s Science Olympiad team competed against 26 other Varsity Teams at a local university. Our team placed 10th overall! I am so happy that our team earned medals in 10 out of 19 events! Fourteen out of 18 of our students won individual medals where they placed anywhere from 2nd to 9th in their events. They had worked so hard to learn all that they could about 19 different events ranging from weather, force and motion, fossils, landforms, CSI, electricity/magnetism, animal adaptations, insects and plants, outer space, circulatory/respiratory systems and data collections to building a Pasta Tower out of hot glue and dry spaghetti, folding paper airplanes and flying them, designing a blueprint to build a rollercoaster out of K’Nex blocks, catapult building and launching marshmallows to specific distances, shooting bottle rockets after engineering the best designs after multiple test launches day after day and building a structure while following written directions from a partner. To see short descriptions of each event, go to this link:

I took a chance when I decided to be their Head Coach this year. I didn’t want to feel overwhelmed but sometimes have been known to bite off a bit more than I can chew what with also being a wife and mom in addition to being a Technology Teacher.  Nineteen students were on this year’s team which was a much more manageable amount of students than when I had coordinated it in the past. My youngest child really wanted me to get the club started again like I had done when her older sister had gone through fourth and fifth grade. Back then, I organized around 100 students for each of the two years when I had done Science Olympiad Club three and four years ago. It was exhilarating while also feeling overwhelming as a classroom teacher to fourth graders. In past years, I devoted at least three hours for each event (except a few events that teachers and an expert parent coached) to create Smartboard files about each event which I shared with parents after school and then they used those files to deliver the three weeks of lessons on the events. My husband insisted that I not do it again until there was more support because of the time it took away from our family on weekends to prepare the S.O. lessons and afterschool while I met with each parent coach.

So, in the Fall of 2015, I asked my principal if I could send an email to each fifth grade teacher for them to send to each parent email list in their respective classes. I included a Smore digital poster with a link to which 19 parents responded. I included each of the 19 students in this year’s S.O. Club. I also put an announcement in the PTO newsletter announcing S.O.Club.

I decided that for this school year, with my own younger daughter being in fourth grade, I would start a club but allow students to be in the driver’s seat for many of the events. I created web links to support materials in a Google Classroom for my students and had them create collaborative Google Slides on their topics which they worked on during and outside of our Tuesday morning practices.  I am so glad that I personalized their experience by allowing them to choose the two or three events that they wanted to learn about and compete in then had them build Google Slides to curate their knowledge.  It was the way to go!  For the events that needed more hands-on participation, I was blessed with three parent coaches who helped them create Marshmallow Catapults and test them to reach various assigned distances, design a rollercoaster with K’Nex cubes in 40 minutes using a blueprint which they created and hot glue dry spaghetti pasta together into the form of a Pasta Tower to see how much sand it could hold at the tournament!

I was so glad that my daughter chose the 3,2, 1 Blast Off Event!.  I saw her go through the project based learning cycle and facilitated each step with her.  She had engineered bottle rockets and tested them several times at school.  We spent many weekends at our house with her cutting out wings from pizza boxes and taping them on numerous empty soda bottles.  We purchased clear cylinders from Lowes and taped them to the end of the bottle.  The rocket that she chose to launch at the tournament stayed aloft longer than any of her other test rockets!  It stayed up for around 12 seconds which was combined with her partner’s rocket time too for a final score.  They placed 11th out of 26 teams which was a great joy to us!  My daughter and I had to leave during the Science Olympiad tournament and drive to her Dance Recital.  She performed beautifully!  After taking pictures with family, she changed clothes, grabbed a snack and we headed back to the Science Olympiad Tournament. It was a very busy day but it was worth every minute to see her face not only as she retrieved her rocket after it performed so well but also to see her dance her heart away on stage!  She is a “Maker” reminding me of Krissy Venosdale’s description of them:


Image Credit:

When this year’s S.O. Team came to my classroom from 8:15-8:45 this Monday morning for donuts with me to celebrate, I had them share their experiences about participating in the tournament during the past weekend. They were smiling as they wore their team tee shirts and talked about what went well and some things that didn’t go well.  I praised them for their effort to be at club meetings before school from January through May every Tuesday morning, to meet at each others’ houses for practices for certain events, for creating Google Slides about their Events then studying them and for giving amazing effort to be at UNC-Charlotte at 7:30 a.m. and competing all morning this past Saturday! It was a great day at the Tournament, however, very disappointing for the STEM Design Challenge team whose rollercoaster did not function as they had planned resulting in them not earning a medal. They had spent many practices together outside of school so this was very sad for them. It gave me the chance to praise their effort because it was never about earning medals. It was always about growing as problem solvers, collaborators, communicators and creators!  I decided to have this club to engage students in STEM topics and further their interest in STEM related careers. The process of meeting to learn about the 19 science topics from January through May of 2016 gave students opportunities to persevere, to work together on a shared project and to enjoy the journey.

They also appeared on our school news show today which elevated them as role models to rising fifth graders who will hopefully want to follow in their footsteps! I hope that by putting the S.O. Team on the morning news today, it elevated interest in the S.O. Club for next year for rising fifth graders. I have also been seeing more students wondering what the bottle rockets are which have been in my classroom and for me to explain a catapult that I have in my room.

In order to have a Science Olympiad club, there must be Administrative and parental support. My principal and Admin Team have been very supportive of me and encouraged me to not put too much on my plate. I was able to handle 19 students in a before school club much better than around 100 students which I had three and four years ago when I first ran a Science Olympiad Club. There is a lot of preparation and time that must be devoted to preparing students for the events.  It is my plan to continue to have One Varsity Team in the future because I can handle that amount of students and not feel like I am over extending myself with all of my responsibilities as a Technology Teacher to over 1,000 students. I will also have to gauge whether or not I can have the club next year based on the amount of coaches who will volunteer. I was able to manage this year with three parents as coaches. I know that one of those parents who will still have a child at my school is eager to help next year with the rockets and catapult events, but I will just need more help.

Our kids, overall, placed consistently higher in most Science Olympiad events than many other schools. Since I had run this club with only three coaches besides me, I couldn’t be happier with the results! I am celebrating my students and all that they learned in the process of preparing for the tournament.  I plan to announce the possibility of having an S.O. club in the PTO newsletter, on the school news and by parent email lists in the Fall of 2016 to gauge interest for having the club in the next school year. I hope we can do it again!
To see more about the Science Olympiad tournament, visit this link and look for posts around May 21, 2016.

After seeing the excitement for STEM in this before school club, I began to view our time together as Maker Time.  Students made designs, made Google Slides and made time to create!   Krissy Venosdale expresses her thoughts so well from her own Launch Pad experiences in her Texas school.  I wanted to end my post with one of her posters which has caused me to think about bringing out the maker in each child which is exactly what happened for five months during Science Olympiad preparations:


Image Credit:

Thanks to Ruth Ayres who provides a linking space to share our Celebrations!


STEAM it up!

In Spring of 2015, I was awarded a $3,000 STEAM focused grant in which students learned to code robotic Sphero Balls and use Lego Story Maker Kits to build scenes which they used in digital storytelling projects.  The Charlotte Hornets, Lowes and Fox Sports provided this grant to me as a part of their Teacher Innovation Grant.  I have been so thankful for these resources.  I decided to share my reflections on my work with my 2nd – 5th grade students in this blog post.


Students need opportunities to tinker, learn to code and create projects as a part of Project Based Learning (PBL). My two ideas to engage students in PBL gave them the opportunity to experience learning with the following eight components: 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. They needed materials with which to build and to code. My project had two components: Coding with Sphero Robotic Balls and Digital Storytelling with Lego Storymaker Kits.

Students in my school have participated in the worldwide Hour of Code for the past three Decembers using resources at I wanted for students to have the ability to write the code to see a three dimensional object follow their commands. The resources at have been a good foundation for my students along with apps such as Daisy the Dinosaur and Legos Fix the Factory, however, I wanted 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 accomplished my goals of having my fourth and fifth grade students think like a computer programmer and articulate the process of coding the Sphero balls.
The Legos Storymaker project was innovative because it provided a way for students to design a beginning, middle and end of a story using Lego scenes then write about their stories. Students developed narratives and wrote text to go along with scenes from their Lego story settings. They published the narratives in creative ways through Google Slide Presentations and in Pic Collage creations on the iPads. I reached my goals of providing a creative way for students to construct a story in a collaborative setting and then be able to use the image of their Lego story as they wrote and typed about their stories.

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 allowed me to take my students into deep thinking projects where in order to succeed, they had to communicate thoughts verbally and in writing, collaborate in teams, critically think as they brainstormed solutions and developed digital stories after building with Legos, and created projects that showed the world that they are 21st Century Learners.

I used the Sphero robots with 200 4th graders and 230 5th graders. The Sphero robotics ball project impacted students because it provided 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 My exposure to coding through the Sphero robots excited students 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 also allowed students to problem solve using a Driving Question such as “How can you save the monster using your Sphero robot?”. Students began to realize the value of discussing commands for the Tickle app that would accomplish their group goals and reach a target where they were supposed to go through a maze that they had created and then “save” a monster. They were able to come to my class for additional classes to allow them time to develop their ideas, test their programs in the Tickle app and make adjustments to reach their goal.

I used Lego StoryMaker kits with 200 2nd Graders 230 3rd Graders. The third grade students brainstormed on graphic organizers their beginning, middle and ends of their Lego collaborative stories and are in the process now of typing their stories in Google Slides. Each student will also revise and self-assess his or her Lego story creation using the following rubric:

Assessment Rubric for Lego Fiction Story

Writing Process: Student devotes a lot of time and effort to the writing process (prewriting, drafting, reviewing, and editing). Works hard to make the story wonderful.

Introduction: First paragraph has a “grabber” or catchy beginning.

Characters: The main characters are named and clearly described in text and most readers could describe the characters accurately.

Creativity: The story contains many creative details and/or descriptions that contribute to the reader’s enjoyment. The author has really used his imagination.

Setting: Many vivid, descriptive words are used to tell when and where the story took place.

Pace: Individual scenes are easy to follow, make sense, and moves the story along at an appropriate pace.

Organization: The story is very well organized. One idea or scene follows another in a logical sequence with clear transitions.

Dialogue: There is an appropriate amount of dialogue to bring the characters to life and it is always clear which character is speaking.

Spelling/Punctuation: There are no spelling or punctuation errors in the final draft. Character and place names that the author invented are spelled consistently throughout.

Proper formatting: Title, name, and paragraphs are present and used properly.

Assessment Citation:


I have shared my lesson ideas on Twitter where I am a part of a global Professional Learning Network using my Twitter handle of @edu_maples. On Feb. 17, 2016, I shared an Animoto video ( that I had created in honor of Digital Learning Day showing my third graders involved in building with the Lego Story Maker kits and creating stories about their Lego scenes on iPads within the Google Slides app. On Dec.8, 2015, I shared on Twitter a link to a You Tube video ( which I made of fourth and fifth graders programming the Sphero robots using the Tickle app to navigate the Spheros through mazes which they had created. These videos show many examples of how students learned to code, to collaborate, to creatively think and plan and to design their own innovative paths with the Spheros and to design Lego stories.

Kindergarten and First Grade students did not participate in these projects, but they are very excited about doing them next year as I repeat the projects that I did this year. They could see the Legos kits out around my class and the Sphero robot balls which caused great excitement for them!

Learning to code Sphero balls allowed 4th and 5th grade students to work in teams to build Sphero chariots that they maneuvered through mazes using iPads using the Tickle app while revising their work through trial and error. They had to critically think as they problem solved in groups and programmed the Spheros to reach their destination. Students communicated with small groups as they built Lego Story Scenes using the kits. They built 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. They uploaded photos of their scenes to their Google Drive Accounts and inserted the images into individual Google Slide Presentations which they used to plan a fictional story on a graphic organizer.

The third graders are in the process of finishing the typing of their Lego Stories and revising/editing with a Lego Story Rubric. I am also still working with CMS Technology leaders to get the StoryMaker software downloaded onto the computers and iPads at my school. Second and Third graders published Lego Storymaker projects in Google Slides and in the Pic Collage app even though my original idea of publishing on the StoryMaker software did not occur just yet.  I had planned originally on having third graders upload their images to the Lego StoryMaker software, but have had some difficulty in getting it uploaded on to CMS School computers. I am in the process of working with CMS engineers to figure out how to make this happen. I think that there are multiple ways to share their Lego scenes so using Google Slides and Pic Collage have been perfect ways to have students share their scenes and create written stories. I plan to use the StoryMaker software in the future.

In order to accommodate all of the 4th and 5th Grade classes and allow them ample time to learn to program the Spheros, I had to work with each of the 4th and 5th grade teachers to have students come to see me for additional class times. I worked with the PE teachers who allowed me to use their gym space for students to have more room to spread out and create obstacle courses for their Sphero balls to move through. I also realized that since I only see each class for 40 minutes every 8 school days, I had to give third graders time to play with the Legos and generate their group stories then invite them back for extra class times. I had to show them how to take pictures with iPads and upload the images to their Google Accounts which is a multistep process. Once the images were in their Google Drive accounts, they had to plan their stories and begin the process of adding text boxes, speech bubbles, transitions, etc. I had to have them plan their stories with me in follow up classes which prolonged the project.

Students have been extremely engaged with planning their stories and using their plans to type. I have been excited to see their enthusiasm for this project. In addition, I realized that students in 2nd grade would not need to have to upload their Lego story scene images to Google due to how long it took 3rd graders. I had them build one scene then upload the scene to the Pic Collage app on the iPad which they then used to type descriptive phrases and arguments about why someone would not need to destroy a bird’s habitat and not cut down trees that were depicted in their Lego scenes. They have been able to successfully follow all directions and save their images to the Camera Roll of the iPad all in the 40 minutes when I see them.

I think in the future, I will have the third graders plan their stories immediately following my class when they return to their homeroom classes using graphic organizers while their collaborative stories are fresh on their minds. Allowing them to “play” with the Legos and use the Lego StoryMaker Spinners that came with the eight kits has been a great way to allow creativity to flourish. I have heard many students show their excitement and enthusiasm for developing their Lego story which provided momentum as they became writers of their individual stories. I love that students didn’t just have to draw pictures on a graphic organizer, but had been able to think with group mates about the content of a fictional story and build it with Legos. Students in 2nd and 3rd Grade loved to get to tinker with the Legos and use them as a basis to communicate later in writing in their Google Slide Presentations and in their Pic Collage Digital Storytelling projects.

I made a video and uploaded it to You Tube in hopes of having the Tickle App award our school with a drone which students would use to program. The link to the “Hour of Code with Tickle App and Spheros” video is here:


I created an Animoto video to highlight how my third graders used Lego Story Maker kits as a part of the 2016 Digital Learning Day!


I created an Animoto video to show second graders being Makers and Thinkers as they used the Lego Story Maker Kits and the Pic Collage app to design posters of why we should not cut down trees. This occurred during the week of Earth Day 2016!

I have included a final collection of images which showcase how students in third grade have created Google Slide Presentations about their Lego scenes. Click on the hyperlink below to see the Animoto video with images!  

Lego Digital Storytelling

Image Credit:

Top 10 of NCTIES 2016

I was privileged to attend the NCTIES (North Carolina Technology in Education Society) 2016 Conference in Raleigh, NC March 2 – 4 whose theme was “Innovation”.  There were around 3,000 registered participants who filled the Raleigh Convention Center with excitement and engaged educators.  Why did they come?  They came to dive deeper into STEM and expand their understanding of best practices.  I would like to share the 10 best tips that I saw and learned.

  1.  Code Studio – I have participated for the last three Decembers in the Hour of Code at  It was my goal to explore the site more and understand the pieces of Code Studio.  I enjoyed the all day Pre Conference training where I learned how to enroll students in Code Studio found at  Hadi Partovi, founder of, and his team have developed lesson plans to support teachers as they prepare students for the Courses for Elementary Students.  In groups, we prepared a lesson to teach to our colleagues from the support materials and taught each other non digital ways to do computational thinking.  I learned the 3 C’s and 2 P’s of Computational Thinking Practices:
    • Creativity
    • Collaboration
    • Communication
    • Persistence
    • Problem Solving

    I loved how the trainers shared practical information like creating a Symballoo to link every Class in a school where students are enrolled in Code Studio courses.  The training fueled my interest in coding.  I am so excited to create classes in Code Studio for my students so that I can track their progress and they can see how they are doing.  I love that there are lessons to share to promote development of the 3 C’s and 2 P’s in non digital coding opportunities before students dive into the digital piece of coding.  There is ongoing training around the USA so check out the for more information.

  2. – Google Drawing Presentation from NCTIES.I asked the presenters if I could share their Slide Show at the link above to show examples of using Google Drawings.  I love their ideas to build a corkboard for students to use as a collaborative Exit Ticket, to annotate screen shots of documents, to add speech bubbles to images, to create graphic organizers with Google Drawing Tools and to design Infographic ideas to make using Google Drawing Tools.
  3. Choosito is a website which Richard Byrne shared that helped me see the power in gathering websites that can be searched by topics or reading levels to help students in doing research.  It allows teachers to curate playlists for students based on topics and reading levels.  Visit – Scroll down a bit to see the words “Personalized Instruction” then scroll down more to see “Real Time Data Tracker” to see how students are doing research using the links that teachers can curate.
  4. Cubetto Wooden Robot – – This website shows the Cubetto wooden robot and the box which students use to program the robot.  Visit this link to learn more and see video of children coding with Cubetto:  
  5. Pernille Ripp – I was able to have lunch with this amazing teacher.  I have followed her work and appreciate not only her blog about teaching middle school, but also love that she created The Global Read Aloud.  I was able to discuss school and my family with her as we ate together but also was able to go to her Connected Literacy session where she shared many ways that she ignites a passion for literacy in her students and connects them to themselves, each other and the world.  Some of her most poignant comments:“Teachers can ruin the love of reading and writing.  We have to own it first.What am I doing to kill their love of reading and writing?

    I need to bring my passion of reading and writing to my students and to my own kids.

    It is what we decide is the most important that speaks the loudest.

    If I deliver all of the information that tells kids that the class is about us not about them.

    If a child hates reading, let’s not worry about whether they are using our strategies, let’s worry about the fact that they hate reading.”

  6. – This site is similar to Kahoot, but allows teachers to set up a Quizziz for homework instead of face to face and allows students to see choices on their screen not just the teacher’s presenting screen.
  7. Google Classroom – I learned an incredible amount from two technology facilitators from Union County, NC. I asked them if I could share the link to their presentation and they agreed.  You have to go through it to see the practical ways that they coach teachers to use Google Classroom:
  8. I enjoyed the incredible tag team of Brad Waid and Drew Minock.  I have followed them on Twitter for several years and loved website.  During their opening keynote, I heard them say this powerful quote:  “Education means inspiring someone’s mind not just filling their head.”  They also showed several awesome videos with my favorite on “Giving as the Best Communication” found below:

In their Thursday session, they shared the Innovation image which I posted at the top of this blog post and they discussed the wonderful opportunities to inspire innovation in students as they explore the following apps or programs:

Mystery Island


Code monster

Google CS First Clubs (3rd through HS)

The Foos

Hopscotch Code Academy

Video Game Creation at

At this website, students can draw their own video game.  Each rectangle is a floor.  Once you draw it on paper, you hold a device above it, scan it and it will pull it into app.  You can customize and build a game. 

Bloxels, at a physical object on a board with colored cubes.  Student build using those cubes and design a video game.  You can even build with the iPad app.  They scan what they build with cubes and it will put it into the app.  Students will gain greater understanding of topics like design logic and computer science and demonstrate their knowledge of history, science and math and more through the games they create.  It’s enjoyable like the old fashioned Light Brite!  Once you build a sailboat in an old fashioned Light Brite, you can’t scan it to see the boat sail but in the Bloxels program you can scan it and the boat would sail!

9.  Canva is a simple way to design posters, invitations, business cards, blog graphics, flyers, presentations, book covers, and more!  There are teacher created lesson plans at the Canva website and multiple tutorials are available.  The most exciting news to me:  Students can sign in to Canva through their Google Apps for Education accounts!

10.  The highlight of the conference for me was at the closing luncheon.  My family had driven that morning to be with me in Raleigh.  I was very excited to be awarded the NCTIES Outstanding Teacher Award for 2016.  The organizers had told me that I had 30 seconds to give my own comments.  I am placing the biography that was read about me and my comments below as they express my heart for being chosen for this award.

Lisa Maples is the K-5 Technology Teacher at Elon Park Elementary School in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.  After earning her Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree from UNC-Greensboro, she spent the next 20 years teaching 3rd and 4th grades in Greensboro, Raleigh and Charlotte.  For the past three years, she has become her school’s Technology Teacher where she uses iPads and computers to teach 1,100 K-5 students.  Lisa is a wife, a mother, a National Board Certified Teacher, a past Teacher of the Year, a blogger about teaching, her faith and her family, a teacher in the Governor’s Teacher Network, a PBS Learning Media Digital Innovator, an Ed Camp participant, a Twitter fan, an NCTIES conference presenter during the past two years, a Science Olympiad organizer and coach, a Summer Church Camp counselor, a Girls on the Run Assistant Coach, a mentor and a fan of the N. C. State Wolfpack along with the Carolina Panthers.   As a recipient of a $3,000 grant last year by the Charlotte Hornets, Fox Sports and Lowes, Lisa purchased 12 Sphero robots to teach her students how to code and 8 Lego Story Starter Kits which she has used to provide digital storytelling opportunities for her students.  It is evident that Lisa loves to use technology to engage students and to provide them with digital creation projects. She is thrilled to celebrate the 2016 Outstanding Teacher Award today with you, her family and friends.  

My comments:

It is my great honor to accept this award.  I have discovered that I can do what I do because of my support system. Psalms 139:8-10 reminds us that God guides and holds us.  I would like to thank God for guiding, holding and helping me, my family for supporting and loving me, my students for learning alongside of me, my principals and Dean of Students who believe in me, my dear friends and colleagues for helping and encouraging me and for the NCTIES committee for selecting me for this incredible honor.  Thank you.

I loved the excitement and being surrounded by my family and dear colleagues, Jen and Melissa, from my school and from around the state and country.  Two other colleagues from my school district were also awarded a Principal Leader Award and a Media Coordinator Award!  Within minutes of the Award being given, my principal who has believed in my vision from the beginning of my journey as Technology Teacher, announced my Award to my school colleagues in his weekly letter.  Throughout the afternoon and evening, I was humbled as I read comments on my school’s Facebook page or on my Twitter account (@edu_maples) from parents, teachers and friends as they shouted out their support.  I am thankful to be surrounded by so many people who have celebrated with me!

Innovation Image Credit:


iCARE…Do You?

Image Credit:


How would you feel if your friends were rating you online?  Should there be more conversations in schools to promote appropriate use of technology outside of school?  Using social media requires a degree of respect, however, some tweens and teens are  rating each other in certain apps, hiding inappropriate images that have been circulated among students in what appears to be an innocent Calculator app just in case mom checks their phone, circulating, in social media, racially insensitive memes and trying to outdo each other in images that they post of themselves which show little amounts of clothing or none.
As a K-5 Technology Teacher, I have a character education idea to give a common dialogue about promoting caring, respectful and responsible interactions among students in our schools as an expansion of digital literacy.  In an effort to build upon a culture of caring and respect at the Elementary level, I developed a character acronym to guide students when posting online.  iCARE is the acronym which stands for
Using the words in the iCARE acronym, values of a caring, respect and responsibility could be promoted in schools.  By using iCARE as the platform, opportunities could be provided through service projects and in interactions in classrooms and throughout the school to build an expectation of CARING and RESPECT which will hopefully spill over into out of school interactions, especially online.  iCARE allows a dialogue to exist between students to build an expectation of respect in all interactions including online behavior.

While in person and online, students encounter each other and develop ways to communicate.  In order to promote self worth and self esteem, iCARE spotlights ways to communicate face to face and online with respect.  Too often, students have disrespected themselves by posting inappropriate images of themselves or others, belittled others through rude comments (Ex.  TBR – To Be Rude which often precedes an ill spirited text or online posting) and seem to not care about the long term ramifications of their actions especially as it relates to racially charged texts and memes which perpetuate a lack of respect for various ethnic groups.  It is time to take action and raise the bar.  We have expectations for behavior at school already, however, iCARE gives a place to gauge interactions as respectful or not and provides opportunities for students to discuss how to change outcomes into respectful ones.

iCARE could build on Character Traits by having students celebrate ways that their classmates communicate and respectfully encounter each other at school or in social media. For example, in January, the traits that we focus on in my school are Justice and Fairness.  Classes could talk about how they see people being treated fairly and unfairly by pointing to examples in the media.  Teachers could show examples of how kids have not been treated fairly by other students online and have students brainstorm ways to change the tone to a respectful one.  Students would decide how they would encounter the same situation online and what they could do to promote respect.

During February, students could examine situations of how to be a responsible citizen by creating hearts on paper which would have examples written on the hearts of how they are responsible, respectful and caring in online and face to face encounters with others.   Schools could add to an online social media outlet like Twitter to share compliments of how people have been respectful, responsible and caring with the hashtag:  #iCARE.

In March, students could focus on Courage or doing the right thing when others aren’t.  iCARE conversations in classrooms would again spotlight ways to be courageous.  Students could take the iCARE Pledge to promise to communicate and respectfully encounter others in person and online AND focus on examining how their choices online are courageous or cowardly.  Teachers could have students examine ways to be courageous if online sharing in Social Media puts others down or tears down their reputation.  Teachers could talk about how students who put others down are sometimes just seeking ways to build themselves up but are going about it all wrong.  Students could brainstorm the following scenarios:

Brainstorm acceptable ways to communicate courageously.


Brainstorm respectful interactions and projects to empower people.


Brainstorm ways to respect ourselves and those who do not look like us.


Brainstorm ways to not perpetuate stereotypes.


Brainstorm how to give “likes” for sharing appropriate information online instead of seeking to “one up” someone and put a riskier image or meme online.  Discuss apps to build a sense of community instead of oversharing inappropriate topics for tween and teens.


In April, our spotlighted trait is Perseverance.  This could be a time to think about continuing the traits and persevering to make a difference in the lives of others.  Students could show that they care by developing iCare school projects to target how to help others such as tutoring, volunteering and community service.


In May, the character focus trait is Hope.  We could end the school year by sharing stories how students have had hope when they have seen others choose to communicate and respectfully encounter others.  Students could nominate each other for iCARE Awards where they would outline how other students have demonstrated character traits while communicating respectfully face to face and in online interactions with others.


I would like to have students design an iCARE Tee Shirt for our community.  A portion of the proceeds from each school could go to fund a service project such as the Servants With a Heart food preparation for hungry families in Charlotte and Nicaragua or to fund another charity.  My school’s students packed 50,160 food packages in September of 2015 for Servants With a Heart which had a huge impact on students and their ability to make a difference.  I blogged about that experience here.
This could be the beginning of a movement to usher in a culture of caring in other schools too.  iCARE…Do you?

Going into the Deep End with News-O-Matic and Skitch!

Second graders at my school have studied weather topics this year.  As a way to build a global weather understanding, I had students read weather articles found in the News-O-Matic app.  I like that this app has not only articles of high interest from around the world that can be read aloud to readers, but it has slide shows, videos, definitions and a lot more.  My students read about the cyclone that hit Yemen in October of 2015, saw the flooding and realized the effects such as the food and fuel supplies being wiped out.  They also read about how the World Health Organization is sending relief kits and fuel to help hospitals stay open.image

I introduced the second graders to another versatile app called Skitch where they were able to write about what they had read about.  They took a screen shot from the News-O-Matic slide show and used that image in Skitch.  They chose colors for fonts and began the process of writing about the article.  I have included some images of their work.  They only had about 20 minutes to work on this project after I demonstrated how to use the apps by mirroring my iPad on my big screen using my Apple TV.


imageI set the work time up so that each table had two iPads.  Both students opened the News-O-Matic app then they decided on a picture to use from the slide show about Yemen.  One student took the screenshot and did the typing in the Skitch app, while the other partner kept open the Yemen article to refer to and use


I like using technology as a way to augment what has typically been a paper and pencil assignment, but I also like to dive deeper into the SAMR pool and modify or even redefine an assignment using technology as a tool.  SAMR stands for four stages of technology integration:  Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition.  The lesson that I have described above substituted a paper article for a digital article.  I moved on into Augmentation as I encouraged students to type sentences that described the cyclone in Yemen in the Skitch app while working collaboratively with a partner.  As we continue to read other articles in the future and do a collaborative Skitch, I will have students take screenshots of their Skitch and upload it to their Google Accounts since we are a Google Apps for Education School.  I am even thinking of having students upload their Skitch creations about global topics to a Padlet which would transform the assignment to the Modification level because students would be able to read other students’ Skitch creations online and give feedback.  I could post a link in my website to the closed Padlet once all student have uploaded their Skitch for the world to see which would take this assignment to the Redefinition Stage!  When an assignment can be shared with a global audience, it has been transformed from what could have just been a paper/pencil task, to one that provides a large audience, even reaching all over the world.  To learn more about how to transform assignments in the SAMR pool and see Padlet examples, I invite you to view the Smore Digital Poster at the following link:

My students will also use Skitch to publish character graphic organizers about characters that they’ve read about.  I think that those Character Skitches will be another post on another day!  How have you used News-O-Matic or Skitch?


On September 11, 2015, my school’s 1,100 plus students participated in a service project.  We worked with Servants With A Heart, a nonprofit group which provides raw materials for people to put together into bags of beans, rice and vitamins which will be given out to people who need it in my home town and in poverty stricken communities in Nicaragua.  A generous gift was given to our school to allow our students to participate in this project.  Students came into the gym at assigned times and each had jobs along an assembly line to put together, weigh and pack the food bags.  Our students packed just over 50,000 bags of food!  There are already plans to raise money to host another food packing session for the 2016-2017 school year!  It was absolutely amazing to see adults and children working alongside each other to accomplish a goal that would make a direct impact on other children in our area and in another part of the world!

This service project has allowed students to work together to make a difference in the world.  Some of my first graders used the app called Super Duper Story Maker Free to draw a picture and write a sentence about the project.  Fourth Graders described how they made a mark on the World during the Dot Day Observance Week in mid September by designing special dots that described how they put the food bags together.  They used an Augmented Reality app called Quiver to hover over the Dot and cause it to pop out and spin while looking at it on the iPads.  They loved being able to describe what they did and how they’ve made a big impact on the world.  Fourth Graders have also been creating Google Spreadsheets on poverty figures by county in my state from 2012 to 2013.  They are opening their eyes to differences in rates and speculating about what could have caused decreases or increases in county poverty rates.

Recently, I came across the Kid President Video above where he calls us all to action, to open our eyes to the problem of poverty and world hunger and to do whatever we can to end poverty and hunger.  I plan to share his video with my fourth graders and ask them to analyze what makes him persuasive.  Next, I will ask them to develop their own digital presentation in the form of a public service announcement where they will describe how to make a big impact on the world by being a digital citizen.  These are the days when students need to have opportunities to participate in service projects and in creating digital projects that call others to action.  The digital creation which they create will be done using a platform such as We Video or iMovie where students will provide images and cite their image sources.  The purpose of their public service announcement videos will be to cause others to consider elements of digital citizenship when communicating in online environments.  Students may not be able to end world hunger or online bullying, but they can get others to notice that they can make a difference in the words that they choose to say online, when sharing personal information online and when citing their work.

Kid President asked us to open our eyes to what is happening in the world concerning world hunger and poverty.  I will ask my students to open their eyes to how they can be influential role models when creating online digital projects and when they communicate online.  The Kid President video gives us a great act to follow when making our own digital citizenship videos.  My students will enter their digital public service announcement projects into a district contest where they will have opportunities to win robots for our school.  I am excited about the collaboration that will exist among students as they develop storyboards for their digital citizenship projects, communicate by writing scripts and create their public service announcements by putting their ideas together!  We will begin these projects during late October which is Digital Citizenship Month and Connected Educator Month!

Another great resource on Digital Citizenship can be found at the following website:  What will you do to celebrate and open students’ eyes to the importance of having traits of a digital citizen?

Image Credit:
Image Credit:

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,

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:

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 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?