Images of my awesome NCTIES experiences!breakoutedukristin-ziemkencties17lisabeckancties17

At the beginning of March each year, I prepare to travel to Raleigh, NC for the North Carolina Technology in Education Society’s Conference known as NCTIES.  This year, like two out of the last three years, I had been preparing to present a session with an amazing colleague of mine, Rebecca Thompson. When you pour your time and effort into preparing the right sequence of information to share with the people who will choose your session, you feel that your words must stand out and be ones that they can carry with them.  We had planned and revised our presentation.  I arrived Tuesday night feeling excited.

On Wednesday morning, I attended the Pre Conference which has always been a way for me to dive deep into a topic.  I get to spend three hours with a morning presenter in a room that will hold 30 people or so then spend the afternoon with another presenter.  This year, I got to spend my morning with Kristin Ziemke.  I have read her “Amplify” book which gave me a variety of ways to have my students use technology to amplify their learning.  I really liked that she encouraged me to promote writing about visual images.

First of all, Kristin introduced me to a website which has people draw various shapes for 20 seconds then places the drawings in a database so that a computer can recognize drawings from many different people.  This site is called Doodle drawing and can be reached here:

Kristen told us that research reveals that the first 17 minutes of a class is prime time for students to learn.  She called on teachers to do high yield activities at the start of a lesson to reach more modalities.  Research is also revealing that doodling helps learners retain their new content.  When we doodle as we are thinking, we retain the new information better.  As a result, a new definition of note taking is taking shape through the use of Sketch Noting.

In our world, kids know how to use Smart Phones and technology, but this awareness of technology does not necessarily equal understanding of how to create with the digital devices.  They know how to be entertained but not as a tool for learning.  She shared an infographic from Common Sense Media which shows that 81% of 6-8 year olds watch You Tube regularly and 76 % of 9-12 year olds access content on You Tube.  This means that kids are interested in viewing many types of videos to understand the world but may not be able to read the information yet depending on their age.  I love that she said to “put kids in a place of possible and have them publish”.  In order to hook students and engage them from the beginning of a lesson, she suggested starting lessons with video or images and have kids ask questions about them such as:

What do I see?

Why is that in the picture?

I wonder why…

How does this photo or video communicate a message?

Why did the photographer take it?  

She shared images with us from the NY Times Learning Network.  Every Monday, this site places a picture on it in a series called,  “What’s going on in this picture?”  The site has suggestions on how to guide students to closely read the picture.  Teachers and students are invited to leave a comment and read other comments.  The site previews comments to be sure they are appropriate before the comments are posted.  On Thursdays, the site posts an update and tells you what is going on.  The picture comes from some place around the world so that students are given a global perspective and gain empathy as they view others in situations that are not like their own.

Kristen referred to the fact that visuals are processed 65,000 times faster than text through our eyes.  Text plus visuals stimulate both sides of the brain requiring more synthesis, retention increased comprehension.  She encouraged teachers to use the interests of students to show images and graphics which they can compare.  One of the people who have had an impact on her understanding of how reading develops is Smokey Daniels who says we should ask kids as they view images this question:

“What do you see, think and wonder?”

Not only should we ask kids to ponder, but teachers should model how to do this type of thinking out loud.

In the afternoon, I was able to use the steps of Design Thinking which is what engineers use as I developed a video game.  We went through the following steps:






Darren Hudgins, the presenter, told us that Design Thinking is ugly at first filled with uncertainty, patterns, insights and research.  When engineers come up with a concept, they develop a prototype then test, gain feedback and keep designing.

In order for us to go through the Design Thinking steps, each participant had to plan out their game on a grid sheet then develop their fame by building it with colored cubes in a black grid.  Next, we scanned the cubes and the cubes became the setting of our video game.  I knew about Bloxels Builder but had never gone through the design process to create a game.  It was a valuable and difficult process to go through, but I can see the value to allow kids to go through this same design process to build a game.  Partners tested out each others’ games and provided feedback.  The games were not perfect, but they allowed us to see where we needed to make changes.  My favorite part was when we were told that each of us would get to take our Bloxels Builder Set home as our gift.  I have requested a set of 15 Bloxels Builder Kits as a part of a recent grant and hope that I will get them.  They will motivate students to build games based on book settings, characters, science or social studies topics.  Here is the link to the Bloxels website:

On Thursday, Rebecca and I shared our presentation.  Since we had worked tirelessly on this project for the past few months, it was so good to finally share our ideas.  We had researched HyperDocs and begun to use them this year in our teaching.  I also had brought my eight Lego Storymaker Kits to provide participants with the chance to create Lego scenes and create a digital story using Pic Collage or Google Slides.  I am sharing the link to our presentation here:

Breakout EDU was another interesting experience.  I worked with a group of teachers as we solved clues to open locks on a box.  Each clue was fairly difficult but we brainstormed together on how to break out or open the box.  Here is the link to the presentation:

I always enjoy hearing Richard Byrne give the “Best of the Web” for each year.  Here are some tools that he mentioned.  Some of them I already knew about but there are several others that I plan to check out:

A beta version of a Creative Commons search engine – It allows kids to write “Choose your own adventure” story and think about logic then publish on web. – This is a timeline tool that has built in recording piece.  Example Project:  Record interview with grandma and save as podcast. – Almost all premium features are not completely free on Edublogs as of last month. – Like Snapchat but with virtual reality.  Android with ios coming soon. – Create your own DIY Virtual Reality Headset lets you design a VR experience and publish. – Has Webtools that don’t require registration so kids can go and make things. – 30 sec. Exercises for a brain break for kids

CheckItOut is a google form and great to keep track of who borrowed stuff and get them to bring it back. – add on that makes Google Sheets templates in one click.  Quiz Shows, flashcard with voices and pics, or app has a ton of e-books  – has letter matching games

Quill Connect – a new feature.  Helps students learn to see fragments that they must arrange into complete sentences.

Choosito! – a search engine that ranks websites to their readability levels 

CamFind app – take a pic of anything and it will tell you stuff about it. – website of how to interact responsibly online and teach through games how to be responsibile citizens (developed by guy from France) – blending worksheets together. Interactive quizzes and share through Google Classroom – new features in next month that will give you more data and give them more option on how for students to give feedback.

JoeZoo – Grade and edit students writing.  Create comments to enter into Google Docs to use when grading writing – Quizzes which can be done anytime.  Teachers could have families take a quiz night and do a link that starts between certain times.  They play game and see score of others but less of a race.

Triventy – lets kids contribute to a quiz, students can collaborate on what they think should be in quiz and teacher approves them and it is an app – Interactive math lessons

On Friday, I was blown away by two colleagues of mine in my school district, Suzanne Blaszak and Chris Grabon.  They presented “Content Creation with Chromebooks”.  I am sharing their Google Slide presentation so that the world can also take their teaching with the Google Suite of tools up a notch!  They love Google Drawings and now, I do too!  There are so many templates that they gave which we can modify and push out to our students by having them make a copy of the Google Drawing or Google Slides.  Check it out:

Chris shared how to make stories or interactive timelines using from the History Channel.  Wow!  It has an interactive timeline which the kids could bring in more multimedia that they create!  Adobe Spark poster, You Tube clips, iPad Green Screen creations that are uploaded to You Tube and Audio Files can be placed on the timeline.  I can’t wait to try this with my kiddos! Kids will join my class which I create and in the free version you get 200 free views.  The students can create and share stories on a Google Sites website, collaborate with others, upload media directly and create up to 3 groups with 50 students in a group.  For example, Chris created an Explorer Group for his class to join.  You can put questions in a quiz format in Sutori for audience participation.  They also have a “Did you know?” feature to add cool facts to their story or timeline.

He encouraged us to have students add the Awesome Screenshot Google Extension on their Chromebooks.  He has his fifth graders take a screenshot then with the Awesome Screenshot extension, capture a certain area of the picture then annotate on top of the image.  When students locate an image, they can make it their own and add to it.  You can also blur faces on an image with this extension.

When he wants students to record their voice, he likes Recordmp3online to record audio.  He likes Vocaroo to record audio too.  In Vocaroo, kids would convert the recording to mp3 then save link and place on your website.

Suzanne shared Adobe Spark which allows us to create pictures and videos or posts.  She likes students to use Adobe Spark Page where you can add text, images, add video, add a glideshow option to layer text on pictures in background and link to an example on a web page.  Here is an example of a student ‘s presentation.  Students usually post their Adobe Spark link to a Padlet for their classmates to see and provide feedback as they look through each one in Padlet.  In Adobe Spark Video, Suzanne’s student included season images created in Google Drawings.  They brought the images into Spark Video and recorded their voices to narrate reasons for the seasons.  Here is the video example!

Adobe Spark states that kids have to be supervised by the teacher.  Some teachers create a class account.  You can have students to login to their Google accounts and then give them the teacher’s birthday to prove that the teacher is supervising them.  Adobe Spark is also an app for iOS users.

I have dear friends, Jennifer Moore and Melissa Toner, who used to be at my school but have moved to other schools this year.  They presented on Friday on “Connecting with 1:1 Technology in the Special Area Class”.  Jennifer is a former Music teacher and know is a Technology Facilitator at a K-8 Oaklawn Language Immersion Magnet School in Charlotte.  Melissa is a Media Specialist at Park Road Montessori school, a  K-6 school in Charlotte. I miss them dearly at my school but they mentored me so much and I will always adore them! Their amazing presentation can be found here:

I was able to catch another session from Kristin Ziemke on Friday.

Kristin emphasized that teachers put power in the hands of kids when we invite them to track their thinking, fluency, and opinions of books. She likes for young learners to do Visual Book Reviews.  She will have first graders rank a book with stars that kids draw on top of their picture while they are holding their favorite book.  Teachers can set up kids to guide others in book selection.   Communities of readers talk about their books so when teachers print the Book Reviews and place on class walls to let kids see book recommendations from other kids, it empowers kids.  It is important for teachers to model for kids how to upload a picture of themselves with a book to a Padlet space.  Kids can scan a QR code to get to the Padlet quickly.  Then they learn how to leave a comment in Padlet about their picture too.

In addition, Kristin spoke about the fact that we put power in hands of kids when we invite them to track their thinking, fluency, and opinions of books.  Kids listen to audio snapshots that they took of themselves reading a book and chart what they need to work on as a next step.   She talked about helping kids craft a vision for how to record themselves and talk about their thinking.  For example, on Chromebooks, use Movenote to have kids talk about their thinking.  Ex.  What did you learn in science?

She also encouraged us to have a space online to capture, narrate and illustrate ideas using a limited amount of tools.  She differentiated between Practices vs. projects.  The nature of a project signals the end of unit every couple of weeks.  If it is a practice, then it happens consistently across subjects different times a week.  They go deeper with thinking if they know the tool already.

She has templates at her website to place directions at a center to remind them how to record to capture, record and share.

She teaches kids to represent in a drawing tool to capture, narrate and illustrate their thinking.  Less is more because they know these tools very well.

Here are some of her favorite tools for students to capture, narrate and illustrate their thinking:

Book Creator



Explain Everything


Camera on iPad

Google Drive


She has her students write and blog for real audiences and have blogging partners.  Wonder Wednesday is when kids blog what they wonder about.  Then blogging partner can respond back.

I also was able to learn more about the Dash and Dot Robots.  There is a ton of information at about how to use them.  They won’t work with iPads 1 or 2, but will work with iPad 3, 4 and iPad Air or Kindles.  I am hoping to get some Dash Robots in a Charlotte Hornets Innovation Grant.  There are so many ways to build in coding experiences in Blockly or in the Wonder app with Dash.   We can tell kids that we can program Dash to do word problems to test dimensions that they would generate for area and perimeter review.  For example, If a rectangle has a Perimeter of 200 cm., what could the dimensions be for the rectangle that Dash will create?  One teacher, drew the perimeter on pieces of chart paper to allow students to self check so that if their Dash robot stayed on the rectangle, then they would know that they had programmed Dash correctly.

Here are some incredible ideas that the teachers from Forestville Road Elemenary School shared in their session:

In Literacy, kids can retell a story, make costume for Dash to retell the story, explore the setting of story and create a map for Dash to go through based on the story.  In science, have students travel at different speeds to knock down a tower to focus on force and motion.  Students can build a “body part” for Dash that will give him new abilities. There are ways to build with Legos on top of Spheros.  Ex.  Create a butler Dash to bring snacks and drinks to others.  The kids can program Dash to go to points on a paper timeline and have it stop to tell important information at each point.  Dash can be programmed to line dance.  Pick a song from and create a line dance for Dash (more forward, left,right, lights to represent claps) then they have to line up and dance with Dash!  The xylophone attachment is awesome to have kids program a song.

Here is a great idea called “Trick or Treating with Dash” – The teacher made a 15 foot Wonder Way and placed 8 houses on it along the path which has signs that has the type of candy that will be given out.  Each child had a job:



Time Keeper


Each child had chance to program Dash to get to the house that they wanted to go to.  They kept commands on a chart at first.  They had to program the Dash robot to roll to their chosen house, program a doorbell sound, record their voice saying “Trick or Treat?” and program Dash to get back to start.  They would look at what they wrote and troubleshoot to see what worked and what didn’t to get Dash to his destination.  Those who did all the steps, got to design a costume for Dash.

The Wonder League is a competition that students can do that has challenges.  You can use mats such as a Twister Board, vinyl tablecloth, tape on the floor (use tiles as a guide) or print banners.

She also charges multiple Dash robots with a USB charger that has 12 USB ports and stores them in mini boxes.  The Dash robots do spin sometimes as they are charging.

NCTIES is a place to wrap my head around innovative lessons and always supports me in developing ideas for the future in my classroom.










Discover. Play. Build.

This week I am celebrating and linking up with Ruth Ayers and the Celebrate Link Up that she hosts each weekend!

Every time I enter a restaurant, I see people in booths or at tables who are glued to their phones.  They just don’t seem to talk to the ones they are with unless a phone is not present.  Their heads go down as they study the content on their phone.  Sometimes, their faces light up when they see something funny appear in their account on the phone.  When people are engaged in conversations with each other at restaurants, there is typically a distinct joy on the faces of people whom I observe.

My family members and I have been guilty of scrolling through social media sites while sitting at a restaurant, but after I saw others recently at a local restaurant seemingly disengaged from their family members based on seeing very little verbal interaction between them, I decided that something needed to change.  I needed to model the behavior that I wished to see.  I think that I am an Effective Communicator, but I decided to really work on my verbal communication with my family and them with me.  I changed my behavior and stopped looking at my Smartphone at home and in restaurants during meal times.  While I was changing my habit, my school participated in some Professional Development that directly related to the topic of communication as a part of being a scholar.

In my school district, we are working toward designing personalized learning for our students.  I really like a Personalized Learned Profile that was developed by teachers in my district.  Recently my school’s teachers had an afternoon of PD where we analyzed the definitions of each of the descriptors on the PL Profile and had to defend which one we thought was most important.  At first, I leaned toward “Creative and Critical Thinkers” as being paramount, but I am now shifting toward “Effective Communicators” as being a characteristic that must be present if a person is to be able to do anything.  I have shared the definition on the PL Profile with my students and told them that we need to develop our verbal communication along with written and digital communication techniques.  Here is the PL Profile:

The image above and more information about Personalized Learning in my school district can be found here:

I am thrilled to have shared the Device Free Dinner Challenge, a national movement to promote talking at dinner time, not looking at a digital device, with my students during the past couple of weeks.  My thought was that something needed to change in our community to promote healthy and effective communication in families.  Common Sense Media has spearheaded the Device Free Dinner Challenge movement and provided directions on how it works at their website.   The Challenge consists of three parts:  commit as a family to put devices out of sight during dinner, have a “Device” basket to place the devices and engage in conversation with the family during dinner.

After I introduced the Challenge to my third, fourth and fifth graders, I have encouraged my students to share stories about how they have seen people using digital devices outside of school.  Here are some of them:

  1.  A child’s parent and the child were watching the child’s other sibling play ball one night recently, but the parent wasn’t watching.  The parent scrolled through Facebook the whole time until the end when the parent turned to the non playing child and said, “Honey, who won?”  Clearly, the parent was present but not really there.
  2. A child told me that at a recent 16th birthday party for her sister, a bunch of the 16 year old’s friends were on their phones and not talking.  They were in the same big great room of the house, but were texting each other based on the “dings” that were heard by the child.  The child went upstairs to get the family’s cat then brought the cat down to the others.  The party goers put their phones down and wanted to  focus on the cat.  The cat made them talk.
  3. Many children told me that while they eat dinner, their parent or siblings are frequently on the phone looking at something such as Facebook while the family is eating.  Children reported that they did not feel like the parent who was focused on the phone was not really paying attention to the child.  Sometimes when the child kept trying to talk to the parent or a sibling who was preoccupied with the phone, it made the parent or sibling irritated and they responded, finally, with an aggravated comment like, “What?”
  4. One child told me that her mom travels a lot so they will often Face Time her while they are eating dinner at the child’s house so that the mom can “be” with the family at dinner.  I think this is an appropriate way to use the digital device.
  5. Most students had observed people on their phones at restaurants and noticed how that the phone placed a barrier in communication between people sitting at the same booth or table.
  6. Several students said, “My mom/dad is constantly on Facebook.  Every time we eat, s/he is looking at their phone.”
  7. One child told about a restaurant in another state where she visited last summer that had “Device” baskets at each table to promote conversation at the table with the actual people who were sitting there.
  8. Many kids expressed the idea that they like it when their parents talk to them about their day or go around the table telling one positive thing and one negative thing that happened during the day.  They understand that time is limited with seeing their families and have a desire to enjoy their time together.
  9. A few students told me that they had already started the Device Free Dinner Challenge and they liked that the devices were put away.
  10. Some students told me that their parents have always had the policy of “No Devices at the Table” even before the Device Free Dinner Challenge.

I also had promoted the Device Free Dinner Challenge at my school’s Art and Cultural Fair on a Tuesday night recently while standing next to a special bulletin board that I had created about the Challenge.  Parents gave me excellent feedback and thought it was a great idea.  Some even told me that they already don’t allow devices at the dinner table.  I handed out the Family Commitment sheet that I had copied on brightly colored sheets of paper.  In more than one instance, a family member took the sheet, looked at their spouse and replied, “He/She really needs this!” and laughed.  I think that people realize that it has just become the norm to have phones out at dinner time but that is probably shouldn’t be commonplace.  I also shared with parents some conversation starters to share at the table to promote development of healthy relationships.


As I introduced the Challenge to each third, fourth and fifth grade class when I saw their class for Technology Special Area Class which accounts for close to 600 students at my school,  I also gave each child a mini family commitment sheet from Common Sense Media to take home.  They would share the Challenge with their family to let them know that they are working on being effective communicators.

I had already sent every K-5 teacher a blurb about the Challenge which they sent to every family on their email distribution list.  This is what I wrote in the blurb:

K-5 Teachers:

Please copy and paste the following message in your weekly email to your students’ parents in your weekly email:

This message is from our Technology Teacher, Lisa Maples:

Have you heard about the Device Free Dinner Challenge?  It’s a movement to balance technology use and promote healthy relationships in families.  The Today Show on NBC did a report on this topic on Jan.25, 2017 found at this link:
Some experts say technology has created a culture of obsession and addiction. TODAY’s Sheinelle Jones shares a look at the partnership between NBC Universal’s …
The Challenge encourages families to have conversations with each other around the dinner table and commit to placing devices in a basket away from the table along with turning off the TV so they can just focus on each other.  By listening to each other talk about their day, they would continue to build strong relationships and contribute to the overall health of their children.  The American Academy of Pediatrics supports this challenge.  Researchers have also found that when kids eat dinner with their families, it leads to happy and healthy children, improved academic performance and fewer problems with behavior or substance abuse.
I have placed a link below which shows how the Challenge works. If you’d like to participate in the Device Free Dinner Challenge, print out the challenge and share it with your family.  Family members can sign their name and commit to putting away devices during Dinner time so that conversation can flow!
Research has proven that family dinner is good for kids.  Hands down. How often can you take your nightly family dinner and make it one percent better than the

Family Conversation Starters for Dinner Time can be found in a free downloadable pdf at this website:

Having a hard time getting kids to open up about their day? These free printable family conversation starters will get kids talking and laughing as family.

While my family and I have had dinner together at restaurants and at home in the past two weeks, we have participated in the Device Free Dinner Challenge.  I have felt that we had excellent conversation and paid attention to each word even more than we had done when we allowed phones at the table.  All I know is that I want to enjoy my time with my family and friends.  I feel devalued and not important when any of them pay more attention to their device than to me.  Children need to feel that they are valued as do adults.  They are growing up in a time when everyone around them appears to be engrossed in something on the Smartphone. I want them to have my attention.  They deserve it.  I am celebrating today because I have been present and not distracted by technology while with my family!

Watch this video from Common Sense Media to see how the Device Basket is used to put away devices before dinner:

Have you tried the Device Free Dinner Challenge?  Believe me, you will see a positive effect at the dinner table!

Say Something

Today at my school, students left school at 12:45 so that teachers could have time for Professional Developmnet.  I found this time to be extremely valuable with my fellow teachers.  Our Leadership Team provided spot on workshop material based on our previous work with the book, “Academic Conversations”.  Our focus today was on a learning routine called “Say Something”.  We silently read a complex text, chunked it by labeling paragraphs with numbers, decided with our partner who would “say something” after we read each portion of text, then analyzed vocabulary and interacted with a graphic organizer to help us give supporting reasons to a claim we made after reading.  In order to facilitate our “Say Something” conversations about text, we were provided with sentence starters which in our classrooms will go up on Anchor Charts or mini Charts for students’ notebooks.  We also documented our prior knowledge on our topic by writing words in Alpha boxes on a sheet before we read the text then again after we read it to gather more complex vocabulary.

We first talked about what had gone well since our last training then were sent out of the library to do a ghost walk around the school to see examples of student work in classrooms and bulletin boards where students had closely read text and of how teachers facilitated academic conversations with Anchor Charts in their classrooms.  I took many pictures which I compiled into an iMovie and have shared below:


I also am excited to have left the meeting and made plans for the coming weeks which I plan to do with my first and second graders using iPads.  I found some “Say Something” half sheets which I will use as mini individual Anchor Charts and give to students when I teach them during Tehcnology Classtime.

Here are some of my lesson ideas for how to use the “Say Something” routine which we learned about today:

1st Grade

Obj:  SW discuss moon text, make a claim, provide reasons for their claim and create a talking avatar who will share their reasons in the Tellagami app.


I will remind students that they have been studying the moon with their teachers. I showed some of them a Google Earth Moon Guided tour in our last class which described how Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon in 1969 and how dangerous it was. Today, I will have them watch another video about how astronauts live on the international space station: ( or read aloud “Night Light” book or “The Moon Book” by Gibbons and go through the “Say Something” routine where I will pause the video and have them

Make a prediction

Ask a question

Clarify something you had misunderstood

Make a comment

Make a connection

I will first show them the routine that I will have them do with Say Something on my Anchor Chart. I will have them use some of the sentence starters on the Anchor Chart which I will show to help them know how to stop and “say something” the first time I stop the video, Partner 1 will talk and the second time I stop the video, Partner 2 will talk. After we have watched and discussed the video, I will have students tell why they think we should go to the moon again with people or why we should not go to the moon. They will write down reasons for why NASA should or should not send astronauts to the moon. They will need to use “because” in their complete sentences. I will require at least three sentences.

Lesson Jan.30 – Feb.6
In our next class, I will hand out their sentences that they wrote in our first lesson. I will show students how to record themselves reading their sentences into Tellagami, a video creation app. They will present their claim and their reasons as to why NASA should or should not send astronauts to the moon. The students will be able to quickly create a picture in the StoryMaker Free app which they used in the Lab when they watched the Guided Tour in Google Earth/Moon. They will take a screenshot of the image and then place the image in Tellagami where they will record their voices reading aloud their sentences. They will go to quiet corners around the room to record themselves reading. Some students may need to finish writing their sentences.

2nd Grade Life CyclesObj: SW listen to a butterfly book, use the “say something” routine to talk about the book, find images about butterflies on the internet by scanning a QR code and take screenshots of the images.

I will read aloud portions of the “Monarch Butterfly” book by Gail Gibbons.

I will ask them to “Say Something” after I read a few pages and give them a scaffold for the Academic Conversation of “Say Something” by providing the following Mini Anchor Chart sheets:

You will turn and talk but first you will decide who will “say something” when the teacher stops reading and who will “say something” second for each chunk of text that the teacher reads aloud.

When you say something, do one or more of the following:

Make a prediction

Ask a question

Clarify something you had misunderstood

Make a comment

Make a connection

3. If you can’t do one of those five things, then you need to reread the section.
I will provide a mini anchor chart for each child to use as I read aloud portions of the book found here:

Once I have read aloud through half of the book, they will have had the opportunity to turn and talk about a topic of choice from the book.

Make a Prediction

Clarify Something

Make a connection

Ask a Question

Make a Comment


I will show them how to use Pic Collage app and they will learn to scan QR codes with the Scan app, open the pics, take a screenshot, resize the pictures by pinching out or in, etc. Next, they will be able to “play with” the Pic Collage app and see what it does. In our next class, they will create a poster with vocab words from the “Monarch Butterfly” book that I will have read in this lesson and show again about life cycles:
Lessons Jan.30 – Feb.6

2nd Grade Lesson – continuation of Lesson 1

Make a mini poster in Pic Collage of each stage of life cycle

Scan the images using QR Codes at this doc to get to websites where you will take a picture of the lifecycle and then add to Pic Collage:

I like how the “Say Something” routine helps students with being accountable to talk about portions or chunks of text with their peers.  I look forward to using this routine in my first and second grade classes in the next few weeks.  By having reminders on the Anchor Charts of how to interact with text and with peers while reading, students will become stronger as readers and internalize metacognitive strategies.

I would love for other teachers to share in the comments section about how they use the “Say Something” learning routine.

Global Read Aloud


During October and November of 2016, my first grade classes participated in the Global Read Aloud which featured the books authored or illustrated by Lauren Castillo.  I would read aloud featured books by Lauren Castillo who was the chosen picture book author for 2016 at the Global Read Aloud website.  I reached out to teachers in my PBS Learning Media Digital Innovator Professional Learning Community and to a teacher on Twitter in Australia and asked if any of them would be willing to have their students participate and share their responses to the same books with my classes.  I was thrilled to work with a class in Louisiana and in Minnesota.  We had hoped that it would have also worked out to partner with a class in Queensland, Australia, but their school was getting out so it wasn’t meant to be.  Here’s an Animoto Video that features the Padlet writing spaces which my students typed in response to hearing the books read aloud by me:

I really liked the rationale for the Global Read Aloud found at the Global Read Aloud website by Pernille Ripp:  “Global collaboration is necessary to show students that they are part of something bigger than them. That the world needs to be protected and that we need to care for all people. You can show them pictures of kids in other countries but why not have them speak to each other? Then the caring can begin.”

As you can see from my video, the students were engaged as they used iPads to respond to various prompts.  I would read aloud the books, have them scan a QR code which led them to a Padlet space that I had previously prepared and then they’d type their response.  I am including the links to their Padlets below to allow readers to see their responses which classes in other states read too.  As the Technology Teacher, I see each of the eight first grade classes which is why there are a lot of responses!

Nana in the City – I read aloud this beautiful book by Lauren Castillo. Students saw the main character wear a cape that his grandmother gave to him which made him feel brave in the big city. Then, students typed a response to the book based on this prompt: If you had your own cape that made you brave, what scary things could you now face?

Made with Padlet

The next book I read aloud was The Troublemaker which showcased a sneaky raccoon who created trouble for a boy and his sister.  They were working with their classroom teacher on using the word “because” to add to their sentences which would provide an explanation to their opinion.  I asked students to respond in Padlet to the following prompt:  Would you want a brother like the boy in this story? Tell why or why not. Use evidence from the text to explain your answer.

Made with Padlet

Finally, I shared The Reader with my students.  I loved that this book provided the audience with a child who traveled to a special place just to read a book.  The reader in the story provided children with a way to value reading time and enjoy reading for pleasure.  Since the story had the setting of winter time, I asked students to write about what winter is like in our town.

Made with Padlet

My students liked getting to see the responses from other classrooms in the United States.  Knowing that other students had read aloud and responded to the same books as they had read made this project particularly exciting.  Here are some examples of the tweets that the another teacher and I tweeted during the GRA:

Thank you to Erin Kramer for the activity ideas from her free Teachers Pay Teachers resources.

In addition, Darlene Moreno, a Digital Learning Coach in California, shared her lesson ideas which I modified to make my own.  I have shared my chart below, but here is hers:  Here’s another link to the Google Doc which has plans that she compiled for all of this year’s 2016 GRA books, not just the picture books:

Week Lesson # Technology Needed: Time
Week 1:



Lisa Maples will tweet from her @edu_maples Twitter account using #GRA16 and Lauren Castillo’s author study hashtag which is #GRALauren.  Participating teachers will reply to Lisa’s Tweet or create their own Tweet about working together with my students.       Teacher Tablet, computer or Laptop 5 minutes
Week 1:



9/27 – 10/5

  1. Read Aloud: Nana in the City
  2. Activity– Post on Padlet answer to: “If you had your own cape that made you brave, what scary things could you now face?  Lisa’s Class will post using the following link on a Padlet:
  3. Review other students’ responses.  Participating teachers will post their Padlet links below so that Lisa’s classes can view other students’ responses to the same question in #2.   Other Teachers’ Padlet links:

    4.  *Optional* Nana in the City Kahoot! (Lisa will play Kahoot with her classes after they respond in Padlet.)  

During your chromebook cart time or iPad time, complete the activity. Then review what the other class has posted.


Rotate students on classroom computers.

30-45 minutes
Week 2:





  1. Read Aloud: The Troublemaker
  2. Activity: Post on Padlet answer to: “Who do you think the troublemaker is? Use evidence from the text to explain why.”  Lisa’s Class will post using the following link on a Padlet:  
  3. Review other students’ responses.  Participating teachers will post their Padlet links below so that Lisa’s classes can view other students’ responses to the same question in #2.   Other  Teachers’ Padlet links:


  1. Have students create a double bubble map comparing and contrasting the characters: boy vs raccoon.
  2. Play The Troublemaker Kahoot!
During your chromebook cart time or iPad time, complete the activity. Then review what the other class has posted.


Rotate students on classroom computers.

30-45 minutes
Week 3:

10/17- 10/21


10/18 –


  1. Read Aloud: The Reader
  2. Activity– Post on Padlet response to:  Describe what winter is like where you live and what you do during that time.   Lisa’s Class will post using the following link on a Padlet:  
  3. Review other students’ responses.  Participating teachers will post their Padlet links below so that Lisa’s classes can view other students’ responses to the same question in #2.   Other Teachers’ Padlet links:

*Optional*The Reader Kahoot!

During your chromebook cart time or iPad time, complete the activity. Then review what the other class has posted.


Rotate students on classroom computers.

30-45 minutes
Week 4:

10/24- 10/28


10/28 –


  1. Read Aloud: Twenty Yawns
  2. Activity– Post on Padlet the answer to: “What helps you fall asleep at night?”  Lisa’s Class will post using the following link on a Padlet:  
  3. Review other students’ responses.  Participating teachers will post their Padlet links below so that Lisa’s classes can view other students’ responses to the same question in #2.  Other Teachers’ Padlet links:

*Optional*Twenty Yawns Kahoot!

During your chromebook cart time or iPad time, complete the activity. Then review what the other class has posted.


Rotate students on classroom computers.

30-45 minutes
Week 5

10/31- 11/4

11/10 –


  1. Read Aloud: Yard Sale
  2. Activity: Post on Padlet the answer to: “What is something that you would have a hard time giving away or selling?”  Lisa’s Class will post using the following link on a Padlet:  
  3. Review other students’ responses.  Participating teachers will post their Padlet links below so that Lisa’s classes can view other students’ responses to the same question in #2.   Other Teachers’ Padlet links:

Optional: Play the Yard Sale Kahoot! Game

During your chromebook cart time or iPad time, complete the activity. Then review what the other class has posted.


Rotate students on classroom computers.

30-45 minutes
Week 6: 11/7-


11/28 – 12/7

  1. Have students reflect on their experiences over these past six weeks.
  2. Write comments in a final Padlet about their experiences with the Global Read Aloud and share responses with each others’ classes.  Post on Padlet to this question:  What will you remember most about the Global Read Aloud?  Lisa’s Class will post using the following link on a Padlet:
  3. Review other students’ responses.   Participating teachers will post their Padlet links below so that Lisa’s classes can view other students’ responses to the same question in #2.  Other Teachers’ Padlet links:
During your chromebook cart time or iPad time, complete the activity. Then review what the other class has posted.


Rotate students on classroom computers.

30 – 45 minutes
I used lesson ideas from Erin Kramer from her free Teachers Pay Teachers resources at the links below to design my lessons for the 2016 Global Read Aloud!  I found these links at the Global Read Aloud Website:
Nana in the City
        The Troublemaker          The Reader            Twenty Yawns            Yard Sale

I had hoped to also read aloud Yard Sale and Twenty Yawns but time did not allow since I see each class every eight school days and time ran out.  In fact, the teacher in Louisiana and I had discussed having a Google Hangout to have students share their thoughts about what they do to help them fall asleep at night after hearing Twenty Yawns. We had hoped to have them dress in their pajamas and bring stuffed animals as a part of this sharing time.  Unfortunately, I had to cancel the Google Hangout due to some required testing that occurred in the Computer Lab during the week we had hoped to do it.  Nevertheless, I liked that it would have allowed our classes to interact and share in a safe way with other classes in different states.

I hope to do be able to continue sharing in Padlet spaces and hopefully in Skype or Google Hangout sessions with other classes as we discuss books in the 2017 Global Read Aloud. Stay tuned to the Global Read Aloud Website as decisions will be made during the next few months as to the choices for the 2017 books.  You can vote on your favorite picture books and chapter books at the GRA website.  I am grateful to the teachers who worked so hard to put together lessons and resources to use which got me started this past year and of course, to Pernille Ripp, the teacher in Wisconsin who created this global collaboration opportunity.

Comparing with Venn Diagram app

During November, I had my third grade classes investigate and compare the lives of Pilgrims in 1621 and Wampanoag families.  They investigated types of houses, food, chores, games and schooling of both cultural groups at an amazing website then they typed about them using the Venn Diagram app on the iPads.  I had them read at the Scholastic website which describes both groups as portrayed at Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in Massachusetts.  The website also has video and images of the model of the Mayflower ship, the journey from England to the New World, examples of housing like the English cottage and the Wampanoag wetu and interesting historical letters.  The link to it is here:

As they read or listened to the narrator read the text about houses, food, chores, games and schooling or the Pilgrims and Wampanoags, students took notes in the Venn Diagram app from Read Write Think.  My next step is to have them take a virtual field trip to Plimoth Plantation and become a historian by reading and finding out more using the following link:

Earlier in the year, I had students read and compare two books using the same Venn Diagram app.  They were able to smoothly access the Venn Diagram app and create a new project because of their prior use of the app.  You can explore the Venn Diagram app at the following website:

Here was the lesson that students had done prior to using Venn Diagram app to compare Pilgrims and Wampanoags:
Listen to the videos of “Cook A Doodle Doo” and “The Little Red Hen Makes A Pizza” then  create a Venn Diagram in the Venn Diagram app comparing and contrasting the books:
Cook A Doodle Doo
The Little Red Hen Makes A Pizza

I think that having students compare and contrast the lives of Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans is a great way to teach them about the history of the United States while providing grade level appropriate and interesting video and text.

Recently, I had a PD on “Academic Conversations” to encourage schoolwide discourse about texts.  So prior to having them launch into their own research, I had students read about the mishoons, or canoes, that the Wapanoag would create out of logs using fire and tools at the following link on my big screen:  They turned and talked then shared a “Golden Line” or a significant part of the text.  Many of them thought it was interesting that 400 years ago, there were no horses in the New World until the 1630s-1640s.  As a result, the rivers were like modern day highways and required canoes to maneuver.  Students often grabbed these lines as their Golden Lines from the text allowing them to determine parts of text which spoke to them.  I had them do this Golden Line activity at the beginning of the lesson to involve them in reading a portion of shared text and excite them about the reading that they would be doing independently at computers at the Scholastic website.  Here is another link to using Golden Lines:  

I liked how students could make choices about words that spoke to them through the Golden Lines Academic Conversations and how it was the perfect way to guide them to discovering their own Golden Lines as they researched at the Scholastic Website about the Pilgrims and Wampanoag.



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

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: