Sunday, February 28, 2016

How IoT Could Change Education

    The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity—that enables these objects to collect and exchange data. - Wikipedia
    I've been hesitant to write this post because I know it could open Pandora's box and quite frankly I don't know if I have it in me right now to deal with the fact that people think this is what I think education should be like. My passion for edtech is obvious but because I'm passionate about it I am also sometimes pigeonholed as one of those "techies" that wants everyone assimilated. Nothing could be further from the truth. 
    So here it goes, I'm going to run with my thought provoker nature- I bought an Amazon Echo with some birthday money this year. If you read the definition above for "internet of things" you will get the gist of Alexa- my Amazon Echo. Here is a little snippet of me tapping into some of her skills recently: 
    Every week that I have owned this I have seen more "skills" being coded and available via my Alexa app on my phone. I've been so intrigued by this and how it might be utilized in an education setting that I actually posted the above video asking others what their ideas might be on integrating in a classroom setting on LinkedIn and my friend @tntechgal connected me with one of its developers, Noelle LaCharite.
    After digging into how to create skills for it I realized it is a bit over my knowledge in coding at the moment but I do see possibilities! 
    So then I started thinking about the fact that I am always saying "we need to be asking students ungoogleable questions" and realized how Alexa might benefit students AND teachers in regards to ciritical thinking. 
    Stay with me as I make a huge step here (I realize there is much that would need to be talked out and evaluated before taking this plunge). BUT what if an Amazon Echo was in every classroom grades 7 and up? What if educators said, "if I ever pose a question that could quickly be answered with an Internet search, you can use the Internet"? What would that do to our classrooms? Would teachers progress to hitting critical thinking more often due to the immediate feedback of their lessons? Would we see a lack of basic knowledge in students because they become dependent on doing a quick search? Does that matter?
    My Amazon Echo had opened up a flurry of thought in my head. What if's? Then what's? And how so's? I'm at a place where I look ahead at education and wonder what the path will be with IoT options. Wearable technology is real and being used for "cheating" now. How can we as educators embrace this new realm of technology as we dig in to see how we should limit or integrate it?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Boom...drop the mic.

I believe dreams and goals are important to finding and maintaining professional happiness. I tend to have a restless need for bettering myself, trying new things, and pushing my comfort zone a bit.

As a related arts computer teacher for nine years, I never had the same lesson plans from year to year because I needed the change and challenge to stay content. I was content in the role of a classroom teacher because it was a very compartmentalized part of my life during a very busy part of my "Mom Life." 

As I stepped out of the classroom teacher role to the tech coach role three years ago, my bent to restlessness increased- to some extent I "blame it" on Twitter. The truth of the matter is, blame isn't the right word- attribute would be. Twitter has opened my world to innovation by the multitudes. I'll be honest, when you think of an accountant turned teacher I'm probably not the mold you expect. I've always had a need to be creative. This might explain why accounting didn't end up being a long term calling! But I digress. 

Here is my current dilemma...finding value and contentment where planted. Like never before I see so much potential in educational technology. I enjoy the opportunities I've been given to be a part of prototype models of blended learning and leading a 1:1 iPad initiative for fifth graders this year at my school.  I also love that I have a voice in the Twitterverse, have been given opportunities to speak at conferences, and can share my edu thoughts within my blog, that's for sure. BUT I also struggle greatly with being patient with the rate of change I see towards innovative thinking and the slow trek to being more student-centered in educational institutions. It's a ME problem. I see potential not being tried. I see innovative people that just need some wind beneath their wings. I see students needs not being met. And I want to make a difference.

My one word for 2016 was BETA- I see it as a willingness to try things that are not status quo but also already being implemented by others so not necessarily cutting edge, but I think many people see me more as a one word personality of TECHFORWARD. (Yes, that was a made up combo word.) I don't believe in tech for tech sake but I am living in a world where I can see well used tech making significant differences in the lives of students towards better learning.

When does one know when enough is enough? I know we can't implement every awesome thing I see or hear about. How does one choose the best path for the environment one is planted in? LMS or no LMS? Blended? Flipped? Disruptive? All these things sound like a technology rollercoaster. No wonder so many people fear the thought!

My prayer is that as a technology coordinator I will always be able to find my balance and be perceived as an educator that sees value in balance. I fear that because I tend to use social media to speak into my learning, it sometimes makes people defensive that I'm going to try to force them into something. That is never my goal. I believe wholeheartedly that those who work with me often know that about me.

As an instructional technologist I often take part in Twitter chats that talk about moving teachers to the next level in tech integration, teachers that refuse to change, and about an unwillingness of school cultures to move forward but I also know not every lesson needs to be tech-enriched, not every student thrives with every technology option, and there is so much prep that goes into those statements of disappointment that are often shared by my tech integrationist friends. 

What a rambling mess this post feels like. I guess my point is I want to be an approachable educator that is valued and respected where I'm planted. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Elementary iPad Enrichment Activities

Here are some iOS app options for use for when students master quickly/finish early.  These are activities that are self-correcting or easy to understand creative options.


This app allows students to work on a foreign language. Mrs. Hoffman says it would be good for Spanish in grades 2-5.


This app allows students to create a “book.” I would be happy to explain it to your students at any time.

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This app is a great grouping of language games by grade level for grades k-5. Students will need headphones to use.

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This app is a great way for students to practice keyboarding on an iPad to become familiar with where letters are. All grades.


This is a coding app for grades 3-5. Great way for kids to critically think while learning how to program.


This is a coding app for grades 3-5. Puzzler type app that teaches coding

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This is a coding app geared towards the younger grades. Allow your students to create their own games or stories.

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All students to create books grades 2-5. Watch the tutorial to learn how best to use this app.

Monday, February 8, 2016

"Edcamp Style" PD- Personalizing teacher learning on a required PD day!

Last year our school had the opportunity to host Chattanooga's EdcampGigcity. Several of the elementary teachers at our school attended and many plan on attending again. After the experience it allowed the lower school curriculum coordinator and myself (lower school technology coordinator) to rethink some of our professional development days. On one day in August before the students came, and again in January of this year we set up Edcamp style PD days.

I am thankful for a curriculum coordinator that I work well with. She is someone that sees the value technology can add to the classroom and looks for ways to enhance learning in many different ways. While our PD days weren't like the traditional Edcamp style (we actually came up with the choices instead of the teachers making the choices), the teachers found the days to be useful.

So how did we decide what the session offerings should be and what did this look like?

  • We both spend a lot of time with teachers and learn what their needs are. Many of our sessions were based on things teachers had asked us questions about.
  • We have exemplary teachers using tools or creating environments that work. We asked those teachers to lead a session to showcase how they do things in their classroom. Two things happen when you do this:
    • Teachers feel affirmed as educators by asking them to lead a session.
    • Other teachers feel more comfortable asking questions and learning more from a peer because of the strong relationship bonds that already exist. Hearing "this is a good practice/tool" from a teacher already implementing is more effective than hearing it from myself or the curriculum coordinator that aren't using it practically.
  • As the technology coordinator, I used it as a time to introduce new tools and practical ways to use them that would be beneficial for all grade levels in an elementary setting.
We then shared a version of this document below (see red) a day beforehand and asked teachers to think about which sessions would be the most useful for them. We even suggested that someone from each grade level attend different sessions so they could share the information with each other later but this was not a requirement.

                                         A Room               B Room                  C Room
RenWeb 1- Steve
Q & A on Integrated Units- Elaine

4 Cs of Tech Integration- Julie
Small Math Groups- Carie
Brain Pop- Myra
See Saw- Leigh Ann
Problem Based Learning in Math- Craig
Reading groups- Beth Ann
Book Talks-

NWEA Resources- Allison
Small Math Groups- Carie
Formative Assessment with Technology-  Julie
Reading Groups- Beth  Ann
Positive Behavior Supports- Shonda
Mystery Skype- Julie

Session 1 Descriptions
RenWeb 1- Intro to the cloud-based version of our grade book system.

Q & A on Integrated Units-
We have spent the first half of this year mapping your Social Studies and Science units. During this session, you may ask questions or discuss ideas about the work which has been completed so far and the next steps in the integration process. There will also be five integrated unit notebooks for you to examine. These completed units offer examples of enduring understandings, essential questions, approaches on how to plan a unit map, Biblical themes, performance tasks, and culminating activities.

4 Cs of Tech- We will discuss four different ways to integrate technology into your classroom- CONSUMPTION (i.e.- reading and watching opportunities), CONNECTION (collaboration opportunities), CURATION (research and finding good information), and CREATION (presentation opportunities). I will give you examples of apps and websites to be used in the classroom that represent each of the 4 C’s..

Session 2 Descriptions
Small Math groups-
This session will discuss the benefits of teaching small group math.  We will discuss tips on how to manage your rotations and utilize your math time in the most efficient way.

Brain Pop-
This session will be an overview of the features found on BrainPOP. We’ll take a quick look at units and topics covered, as well as support materials: videos, quizzes, games, activity pages, graphic organizers, and the informational text feature.

SeeSaw- learn how Leigh Ann is using Seesaw learning journal app in her classroom. It's great to keep track of student work in one place, for students to reflect on work, and for you to easily look through. You can even share it with the parents. So easy first graders can use it but it is also even being used in eighth grade!

Session 3 Descriptions
Problem Based Learning in Math-  Quickly review what “Problem-Based Learning” is and the purpose of it.  Teachers will build capacity in strategically planning and implementing daily problem solving opportunities for all students, as we look at a 6-step process for planning for the “Problem-Based Learning” portion of a lesson.

Reading Groups-
You (really) can do it all!  Really!   We all know we feel crunched to make everything happen during a Guided Reading group.  We will discuss time management and the necessary skills that will allow even the shortest amount of time to be beneficial with individualized learning.

Book Talks -
This session will introduce or reintroduce you to the concept of Book Talks, especially as it pertains to a Reader’s Workshop model.

Session 4 Descriptions
Positive Behavior Supports for the Classroom
In this session we will discuss the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA).  Do you know the difference between negative reinforcement and punishment?  These two concepts are often confused and are important to understand when determining the function of a behavior. We will discuss Functional Behavior Assessment and how it can be used as a powerful tool in the classroom. We will also discuss how to use these methods of training to encourage our students as they seek to serve Christ and His Kingdom.

Small Math Groups-
This session will discuss the benefits of teaching small group math.  We will discuss tips on how to manage your rotations and utilize your math time in the most efficient way.

Formative Assessments with Technology- Wouldn’t it be nice to know if your students got a concept you just taught? We will learn about a variety of different formative assessment tools that can give you immediate feedback from your students. This could mean less grading for you and a faster turn around on knowing what your students have actually learned! Win/win.

Session 5 Descriptions
Reading Groups-
You (really) can do it all!  Really!   We all know we feel crunched to make everything happen during a Guided Reading group.  We will discuss time management and the necessary skills that will allow even the shortest amount of time to be beneficial with individualized learning.

NWEA Resources-  Please bring your laptop and explore the NWEA website for all the resources available to help guide your instruction for your students.

Mystery Skype- Looking for ways to teach geography and connect with the world at large? Mystery skype! We will discuss how to lead your students to ask good questions, how to connect the lesson to other things you are learning in the classroom, and how to lead your students to have a global mindset in their world! We will even get the opportunity to try it out.

As you can see there were a variety of different voices sharing that day. This way even teachers that could share had the opportunity to also attend sessions as well. We asked our math interventionist, reading interventionist, IT director, exceptional education director all to be a part of this day.

I have definitely seen positive results from this. I have had one teacher in particular that followed up with me after sitting through all of my sessions and let me know how successful the use of Seesaw and Kahoot has been in his classroom. While this might be 100% personalized learning, it did give our teachers some voice and choice opportunities in what they felt might be most useful for them.

Monday, February 1, 2016

What if Chattanooga's Connected Educators Were Even More Connected?


In the last 3 days I have posted 3 tweets that look a lot like the one below. In the 3 different ones I have tagged #CHA #hcde and #ccslearns in hopes of getting a few more noticed. So what were the results?
I had 17 unique educators notice the tweets and respond- three of them were superintendent level educators, a few were edtech edus, at least three were principals or assistant principals and the majority seem to be classroom teachers but I do not know for sure. I know for a fact that we have more connected educators in the Chattanooga area but for whatever reason the tweets weren't noticed. Which leads me to the WHY of my postings. 

Lately I've been wondering just how many connected educators were in the Chattanooga area and how I could make sure I was connected with them on Twitter? I've been wondering what these educators are doing that our school might benefit from seeing? I've been wondering who in my area is leveraging the learning ability of social media for their school practices? I've found myself wondering if the teachers in my city know about the upcoming Edcamp Gigcity and how could I make sure they know about this awesome opportunity?

Last week I had the opportunities to co-lead a session at the Administrator's Technology Academy (ATA) sponsored by the East Tennessee Education Technology Association (ETETA). While speaking to a packed out, standing room only crowd I realized there were only two attendees that I recognized - Allison Fuller-Mulloy and Amy Myhan. It dawned on me that there might be quite a few more educators from Chattanooga in the room but I just didn't know them.

What if there was a way that connected educators in Chattanooga could connect more readily? At Edcamp Gigcity last spring there was a session about citywide collaboration. Many in the room wanted it to happen. To be honest I took lots of notes, had grand plans and they all fell through in my lack of vision. But what if we all started following and creating locally based tweets that might be of interest to other educators with the hashtag #eduCHA? With #eduCHA we could let each other know when opportunities for learning are taking place, we could check to see if there is truly enough interest to create "lunch and learn" opportunities in the summer, or #CoffeeChatCHA opportunities at that cute little donut shop on Frazier Avenue one Saturday morning a month. We could connect and share triumphs, dissect failures and learn from each other more.

What if I knew that a local educator was doing something that I want to see be done at my school? We could hop in my car and head over and see it in action.

What if more educators in our area were using social media for professional development opportunities? One thing that keeps coming back to me over and over in my very small "test" was that almost 30% of the educators that responded to my tweets were administration level. What does this say? I think it tells us that many school system leaders at least see the value of Twitter for professional development. They may not expect connected educators but I think we can make the assumption they notice them.

What if more of those teachers that clicked that like button became more than "lurkers" on Twitter and actually shared things? I was a lurker for a long time before I started adding things to Twitter. There is nothing wrong with lurking and learning but each educator has a voice to share. Take a chance, model good digital citizenship skills (don't bash others or your school) and bump up your twitter involvement to see what you can add to your PLN (professional learning network).

What if more administrators took part in Twitter conversations? Some of my favorite twitter chats to participate in include Dan Lawson, superintendent of Tullahoma City Schools. Dr. Dan adds a viewpoint to chats that many teachers overlook. I am thankful for his use of Twitter because it has grown my own personal views as I have listened and learned from his viewpoint. That being said, administrators should make sure that Twitter is a safe place for teachers to be transparent and real in their sharing. Voicing opinions should be allowed. Obviously if someone is bashing the school or an individual that has to be addressed but teachers shouldn't be scared to share their fears and discouragements safely. There is too much goodness to glean from Twitter, Google +, Voxer, etc not to give teachers the power to feel free to discuss!

I am not trying to start a movement or create a subculture. I just want to be able to look beyond the four walls of my school for support and my global community starts the moment I step out of the front door of the school. Let's connect and collaborate!