Thursday, December 29, 2016

One Word 2017: BRAVE

2017 One word: BRAVE

As I think of everything I know that this next year will bring I feel apprehension first. My baby graduates and is planning to go off to college. We will be empty nesters. Dynamics will change. And that's just the known changes at this point. There are always unknowns that both excite and shake us each year. New ideas adopted, new people met, new challenges, new promises, new days are sure to come. 

As I think about this next year I wonder what life will bring for me professionally, personally, and spiritually. My prayer is that God will give me the discernment to know what is best in this next year and make me BRAVE enough to do so. 

My favorite verses in the Bible "came to me" in one of the darkest times of my life. Lamentations 3:21-23 says "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." 

I am thankful for New Years, new beginnings, new opportunities, new thought patterns, and the new mercies I experience every day of my life! I want to be a woman brave enough to face this year eyes wide open, with a risk taking mindset, and discerning heart yet BRAVELY moving forward in who I am to be. 

Elementary Technology Favorites by Grade Level

Recently one of our fifth grade teachers, Alice Sikkema, was chosen to present in the poster sessions at Georgia Education Technology Conference (GaETC).  She rocked it! One of the things shared was the list of "tried and true" technology usage by grade level at our elementary school. Below is the compiled list brought to you by teachers that implement daily. New semesters are a great time to try new things. Especially second semester when students have already found their "new year" rhythm. I hope this list is helpful for you. You will immediately see that our teachers have access to iPads and many of their choices are iOS apps but often there are web versions and android apps for these as well. Good luck as you start your new year and happy integrating!

Kindergarten technology use:

Wet-Dry-Try iOS App- $4.99
 An app for teaching handwriting based on the popular Handwriting Without Tears® Slate Chalkboard activity. Students trace a letter on the iPad but the app won't allow them to trace it incorrectly. They must learn which line comes first in order to progress to the next letter.

 An app that allows children to quickly learn common vocabulary.

Number Match is a fun matching game for kids to practice numbers and counting. 

SlateMath is an iPad app that develops mathematical intuition and skills through playful interaction.

Matific (cost but free trial) works on multiple platforms
Matific develops mathematical excellence and problem solving skills through playful interaction. 

First Grade technology use:

SeeSaw App (free version) works on multiple platforms use for children to have an electronic portfolio of their work in the classroom while also allowing their parents and myself to see and comment on their work. It helps with accountability, cutting down paper used in the classroom, and allows students to explain their thinking in multiple ways (video, audio, photo, drawings, blog, etc). Works on any device.

iPods - Tons of audio books downloaded on them. Students use these as their listening to reading center.

Matific app (cost but free trial) works on multiple platforms - individualized math games that are centered around the curriculum we are learning that gives me feedback on what students have mastered as well as what they need to be retaught.

Epic app (free) works on multiple platforms- students have individualized e-book libraries based on their interests. It is very engaging and the kids who typically loath reading enjoy it because it is what they like.

Second Grade technology use:

Keynote app (cost) iOS and apple computers - We use the keynote app for student presentations. The students are introduced to the research process. They are assigned a topic and divided into specific groups (as known as typical collaborative learning groups.)   Students gather information using the web and are taught to reference and give credit to their resources. 

See Saw (free version) works on multiple platforms - We have recently started the implementation of the Seesaw app. This is a student-driven digital portfolio. We are working on students taking responsibility for their learning. This empowers students at a young age to document what they are learning at school and share it with their teacher, parents and classmates.  Because this is fairly new to our grade level, we provide assistance to the students; however, it is our goal to make this tool a center that students can document their efforts and eventually be utilized to enable and provide independence for their work.

Math Master iOS app (free)- Math factorization and recall is important for our students. The Math Master and Blaster apps provide students an opportunity to become a math maniac with Mr. Number using their math skills. They can exercise their brains by remembering their math drills and solve the mental math problems to test their skills. There are 7 challenging games in 1 single app that targets their age group and higher. They can play basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division or the ones that are quite a challenge for them.  They can complete an equation with the correct signs or answer the random questions if they want to accept the challenge. They can solve the long complicated equations or pop a balloon with every right question answered. Or challenge a classmate to get on top of the global leader board by answering a difficult question in a minimum amount of time. We especially appreciate this app and use it regularly at a math center.  Others include Math Blaster, Math Ninja and Sushi Math.

Epic app (free) works on multiple platforms- We recently started using the Epic app. It is a huge arsenal and an all-you-can-read eBook library for kids 12 and under with unlimited access to over 10,000 high-quality kids’ books. We use it during our literacy block as a reading center. We especially enjoy using this as a partnership with our parents. It’s unlimited and as long as there is technology our kids can take reading anywhere, therefore, students can meet their nightly objective in a myriad of places. 

Green Screen iOS app ($2.99)- This app was amazing. Students made commercials highlighting the finding from the resource of the local landmarks in Chattanooga. This was the objective from their first PBL (Project Based Learning). Students actively explored their assigned local landmarks within their collaborative learning groups. They made commercials highlighting the information gathered from their resources.  This app allowed some students to illustrate or use pictures from the internet as a backdrop. We especially liked this app because it was fun and allowed students to constructively critique their oral presentation and group collaboration skills. It was eye opening and very beneficial.  

Third Grade technology use:

Mr. Math Blog (free) web based
Online math class!!!  There you will find links to videos that have been created to help your class become successful in math.

Viewpure (free) web based
ViewPure removes all comments and related videos, allowing videos to be watched without distractions, or more likely, without "inappropriate content" from Youtube.  Think of it like YouTube without the bloat.

Kahoot! (free) works on multiple platforms
Kahoot! is a free game-based learning platform that makes it fun to learn – any subject, in any language, on any device, for all ages!  Great for reviewing concepts.

KidBlog (free +)  works on multiple platforms
Kidblog provides teachers with the tools to help students publish writing safely online. Students exercise digital citizenship within a secure classroom blogging space. Teachers can monitor all activity within their blogging community.

Fourth Grade technology use:

MobyMax (free) web based
MobyMax  finds and fixes missing math skills that are essential for math comprehension. Moby Math is a comprehensive math curriculum for kindergarten to 8th grade. MobyMax finds missing math skills with a quick, efficient placement test.

Brain Pop  (free+) works on multiple platforms
Animated Educational Site for Kids - Science, Social Studies, English, Math, Arts & Music, Health, and Technology.  The clips short but full of great information then tests the students knowledge with an interactive quiz.

Khan Academy (free)  works on multiple platforms
Does a great job supporting the math curriculum.

Doceri (free) works on multiple platforms
Doceri iPad app is a remote desktop app that allows you to control the desktop of your computer remotely, from you iPad. Doceri also has an interactive whiteboard that allows you to mark up the screen to illustrate important points.

Fifth grade technology use:

Great as a “whiteboard” while working on math problems with the teacher.  Great for brainstorming!  Tons of other applications!

Notability iOS app ($6.99)
An annotation app. Great for math!  Students complete their work on this and submit it to the teacher.

Fun app for students to tell a story and explain ideas.  There are all kinds of uses for student projects.  Students will have super fun using their imaginations.

Matific (free trial) works on multiple platforms
The Matific approach was designed to provide optimal support for educators to convey math concepts in as effective and engaging manner as possible. Matific episodes enable a blended learning approach. Having selected the relevant episodes, teachers can seamlessly integrate hands-on math explorations into their own class learning format.

Quizlet (free) works on multiple platforms
Makes simple learning tools that lets the student study anything.  Teacher creates flashcards for students to reinforce their learning and great for test reviews.  Lots of fun for students.  Free!

Newsela (free) works on multiple platforms
Gives students the ability to read nonfiction literacy and current events based on their reading level. Also a great way to quiz students on the readings afterwards.

See Saw (free version) works on multiple platforms
Student-driven digital portfolio used in math to journal their math resources.
A place for students to turn in their work to the teacher and also a place for the teacher to share items with the students.

Ipad camera 
Students can use the camera to save information.  For example, they can take pictures of the homework board in the classroom. Other usage ideas: (free) web based
Comprehensive typing curriculum that teaches your students typing skills.  

Gmail (free) works on multiple platforms
Fifth grade students have a gmail account set up where they can only receive emails from our domain name and/or e-mails we give permissions to email our students.

Google Slides (free) works on multiple platforms
Teacher shares Class presentations with students so they can follow along as teacher discusses concepts being taught.

Google Docs (free) works on multiple platforms
Teacher shares spelling/vocabulary words with students.  Students never have to worry about losing this document since it is on their ipad. Students have the ability to share their learning and writing with their teachers and peers. Great for giving feedback to students via comments. This also teaches elementary students the skills of knowing how to write papers for future needs.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Why You Should Blog in 2017

Why people who make decisions should blog in 2017...

Silly title, we  all make decisions. But I share this from the viewpoint of someone that makes decisions that often have a direct affect on others. While I try very hard not to make educational technology decisions in a vacuum, it sometimes happens. Sometimes decisions need to be made quickly and I don't have time to bounce the ideas off the people that are implementers. This is where blogging is helpful.

1. Blogging allows others to see the thought processes behind the decisions that were made. 
2. Blogging allows others to see the pros and cons of decisions made for an institution. The weighing of the benefits versus detriments of certain decisions isn't always obvious to others. By publicly sharing your thoughts it allows a transparency for others to see big picture moments.
3. Blogging shows your humanness. To say out loud (in written word) your struggles and to celebrate your successes shows others you are striving to do your best even if they disagree with your decisions.
4. Blogging allows others to see YOU. Because I'm an instructional technologist many people often assume I think technology should be integrated everywhere all the time but I don't. Blogging allows me to show others my desire to be a balanced educator.
5. Blogging lets people in on your inner thoughts and dreams. It creates a sense of knowing and understanding of you by your often opens the doors for hard conversations and thought provoking dialogue between yourself and your readers. It allows opportunities for self growth.
6. Blogging allows you to mentally work through issues. Blog for yourself. Blog to process. Allow the process to grow on paper. There is something about putting things in written word that seems to help me feel like I'm making progress in my world.
7. Blogging means trusting. Not everyone will agree with all you have to say but you have to trust that your desire to be transparent will be accepted for both its bravery and ability to inspire others to consider things deeper and differently. 
8. Blogging shows you purpose and growth of yourself in your role. Do it for yourself, if others read it... awesome. If not, you'll still grow from the experience.
9. Blogging can lead to misunderstandings. If you feel your topic is exceptionally controversial, have someone else read it to make sure you will be heard as you intend.
10. Blogging creates a space of freedom to be real. Everyone should have the opportunity to do that on the topics of their choice. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Comparison of Teachers vs. Students


Oftentimes I hear teachers complain that they don't have time to learn a new software platform, research new techniques, create lesson plans to meet the needs of a wider variety of students. I hear it and I respect it but I started thinking about the differences between a teacher's school year and a student's. Are we as educators respecting our students concerns? Bear with me.

Every year a student starts the school year not knowing what their teachers will be like, not knowing their learning styles will match the way the teacher teaches, not knowing what technology abilities the teacher will expect, not knowing how the dynamics of their classmates will affect their learning.

Every year teachers wonder what this group of kids will be like, how much time they will have to spend on classroom procedures before the students understand their expectations, how to freshen up certain lesson plans, wondering if students will test well and progress well in the curriculum.

Teachers and students each have stressful expectations placed on them. It's no wonder the night before school starts each year teachers and students alike often have a sleepless night due to excitement and worries. I look at the list for teachers and I think of how technology can aid some of the burden through efficiencies (because that's what I do). But I'll be honest, as an educator, when I look at the following bullets I see the conformity needed for students to varied teacher whims being much harder than the teacher's expectations. I also look at this list and see more and more reason why personalization of education, voice and choice, and freedom to critically think are so valued by today's students. Take a look and see what you think:

  • Spend the day teaching in the subject area that they chose as something that is interesting to them
  • Teach 1-3 different preps in a day usually within the same overarching curriculum
  • Are confident about the things they teach because they are “degreed” in the subject matter
  • Set the tone and expectations of their classroom based on their likes and dislikes
  • Decide how they will teach the curriculum (for the most part)
  • Usually have 1-2 periods off in a day
  • Have family and/or coaching expectations after a full days work
  • Have grading of the work of many to accomplish in a timely manner
  • Are reviewed by their administration 1-8 times a school year.
  • Have various meetings that pull them out of the classroom teaching time or take away from their planning periods
  • Have a responsibility to students, administrators, parents, and constituency


  • Spend the day in 30 min to 1 hour 20 min segments of time (depending on bell schedule)  in varied topics of interest to them
  • Have 4-7 preps in a day within varied subject matter curriculums and homework coming at them daily from any of those subjects
  • In a constant state of learning and acquiring skills in those subject matters with varied levels of confidence
  • Restricted to rules and regulations from each instructor they visit each day that may vary tremendously based on the instructor and/or subject matter.
  • Must learn in each subject area based on the way the instructor teaches them.
  • May or may not have a study hall or break throughout the day
  • Have sports/arts/job/family expectations after a full day of school
  • Have homework to accomplish in a timely manner (often with one day’s notice of being due)
  • Are reviewed through formative and summative assessments on a regular basis throughout the school year
  • Have consistent expectations of a day except for a few special days/activities throughout the school year
  • Have a responsibility to students, administrators, parents, and constituency

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Ethics of Technology

According to Forbes, "Wearable Tech Market To Be Worth $34 Billion By 2020" ( Wrist-based devices can be found in schools everywhere. In fact, a friend of mine said she has twins in first grade at her school that have iWatches. 

Educational technology LMS platforms are spending much money and man hours on creating safeguards against plagiarism. Add-ons like and question banks for testing that changes the variable numbers, order of answers and questions, and the actual questions themselves help teachers better monitor cheating.

Teachers are fearing websites like the free iOS app, PhotoMath that automatically solves equations and shows you the steps. Or how about the website that for a small fee will write your paper for you? Where should technology start and students end? Where is the line between "technology is an aid to the learning process" and "technology did this by itself" for the ever needed good grade?

We are at a place where today's students have to learn that information is not knowledge. The easy access to information due to their smartphone in their back pocket does not make them truly knowledgable...just able to regurgitate facts....or fake it. I've done it, I've been asked questions regarding certain educational topics, I've quickly googled it and was able to sound knowledgable but in honesty, my level of comfortability wasn't there. As my mom would say, "I knew enough to be dangerous."

Recently being recognized as a Common Sense Media Certified Digital Citizenship Educator and dealing with some realities of access to Google images for elementary students has caused me to reflect on the ethics of technology usage. This is the fourth year I have been a certified digital citizenship educator because I find it incomprehensible to ask family's to allow their children to use technology in our school without also doing my part to prepare their hearts and minds for this fire hose tool of information and engagement.

Most parents received no training on the ethics of technology use and therefore they don't know how best to guide their children either. Parents often aren't making choices to be proactive in protecting their children on the internet. Often they are reactive after something they wish hadn't happened happens.

Educators, all of us that use technology in the classroom, have a responsibility to teach digital citizenship. If you want to reap the benefits of technology you must also teach responsible use. Including it based on current day events such as media literacy that is been in the news so much lately, and real world situations that occur at your school often, give you authentic learning experiences for both you and your students. You would be surprised how often students are surprised by being held accountable for things they do on social media at home. Anything that harms the school culture has to addressed. Technology changes the span of the classroom by breaking down walls and growing the timeframe of the classroom. We must be proactive about preparing our students to influence the world positively with their digital footprint.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Squad Goals

As we navigate technology integration at our preK-12 school we are looking at establishing a better understand of definitions and expectations.  This includes:

  • Philosophy of Instruction Technology Integration
  • Integration Expectations
  • Instruction Standards Related to Technology
  • Device Infrastructure
Most currently we have been rewriting and reassessing our philosophy statement. While this is a work in process, I'm wondering what philosophy statements have others seen that they really liked? 
I have several questions for anyone willing to discuss:
  1. What could be stated better in your own district's philosophy statement? 
  2. Does your district/school have a philosophy statement for technology integration?
  3. Would you include the ISTE standards in your philosophy statement? Why or why not? 
  4. Should a philosophy statement offer examples?
  5. How should the philosophy of technology integration support the mission statement of the school. Should that be stated in the philosophy?
The following is our work in process...thoughts? 

"At Chattanooga Christian School we see technology as both a medium and a tool that can be used individually and as a society for human flourishing. It is our desire to lay the foundation for appropriate usage to mold our students into digital citizens with a biblical worldview. Technology is not a replacement for education or an end in itself, but it can be used to to enhance education and to expand that education outside the walls and timeframe of the classroom, empowering students to become lifelong learners. We are preparing our students to learn how to be motivated to leverage technology for best learning practices both now and in the future.

These opportunities are significant, but must be understood within the context of a biblical worldview. As educators, we need to model and instruct wise and discerning use of technology. Technology is rightly used in education inasmuch as it helps improve student learning, teacher effectiveness, and institutional coherence and communication.  The technology team will constantly be evaluating current tools of instruction as new innovations come available. This will happen in direct collaboration with curriculum leaders at our school to find the needed balance to best meet the needs of both students and teachers.`

Technology integration expectations (based on ISTE student standards 2016) for the student include :
  • Empowered Learner: Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goal informed by the learning sciences.
    • Articulate and set personal learning goals, develop strategies leveraging technology to achieve them and reflect on the learning process itself to improve learning outcomes.
    • Students build networks and customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process.
    • Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.
    • Students understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies.
  • Digital Citizen: Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.
    • Students cultivate and manage their digital identity and reputation and are aware of the permanence of their actions in the digital world.
    • Students engage in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices.
    • Students demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property.
    • Students manage their personal data to maintain digital privacy and security and are aware of data-collection technology used to track their navigation online.
  • Knowledge constructor: Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.
    • Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
    • Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.
    • Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.
    • Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
  • Innovative Designer: Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.
    • Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
    • Students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.
    • Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
    • Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.
  • Computational Thinker: Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions
    • Students formulate problem definitions suited for technology-assisted methods such as data analysis, abstract models and algorithmic thinking in exploring and finding solutions.
    • Students collect data or identify relevant data sets, use digital tools to analyze them, and represent data in various ways to facilitate problem-solving and decision-making.
    • Students break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models to understand complex systems or facilitate problem-solving.
    • Students understand how automation works and use algorithmic thinking to develop a sequence of steps to create and test automated solutions.
  • Creative Communicator: Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.
    • Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
    • Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
    • Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.
    • Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.
  • Global Collaborator: Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.
    • Students use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning.
    • Students use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints.
    • Students contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal.
    • Students explore local and global issues and use collaborative technologies to work with others to investigate solutions."