Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Where Does the Time Go?

When did it get to be October already!?!?!

I presented at my first "Google Summit" this weekend: Missouri Summit featuring Google for Education :)  It is something I truly enjoy doing.  Hopefully the paperwork will subside soon so I can finish my Google Educator Level 2 certification!

Some highlights of the day:
-Use the Explore button in Google Sheets to visualize data
-YouTube Capture is a powerful tool
-Tina Lauer is my hero
-Nick Cusumano isn't so bad either
-Amazing teachers in my session and getting them re-energized for their classrooms!

More than anything, I realized that I have reached the point with my love of educational technology that I have to make a decision about what the future holds for me.  When I began my journey into teaching, I wanted to be a really good math teacher.  After learning that not all students learn the same way (yes, this was a shocker to me because I'd never really thought about it before), I pursued Special Education as my Masters program.  In my mind, a Masters in Math Ed simply taught me more of how to teach math, but not to students who struggled.  Still, I wanted to be a regular education math teacher, one that could teach all students who came through my door.  That isn't the road my career took me down.  I wouldn't change any of it for all the gold in Fort Knox.

Over the last 5 years, I have worked with 2nd graders, 7th graders, and high school students.  I have taught reading, writing, and math.  For the last 3 years, I have been teaching high school math in special education and I really enjoy that part of my job.  Some days I think I could do that forever.  Some days I don't know if I can take another day.  High school has it's ups and downs.  Just when you think you have it all figured out, a new adventure always finds you.  My one constant through the years has been my desire to stay on top of the latest educational technology in the classroom.  As I mentioned in a previous post, we are now 1:1 with Chromebooks and that has led to triumphs and challenges in itself.  One of my strengths (in my opinion) is rising to challenges.

I feel confident using technology in the classroom, but this isn't the case for every teacher I work with.  This isn't the case with most teachers I know.  I really enjoy working with teachers to help them gain confidence.  I don't see standing in front of my peers and presenting/teaching to be a daunting task.  In fact, it's quite the opposite.  Herein lies the problem.  How do I make that transition?  Will I be accepted?  Will they take me seriously?

So I'll follow the advice I give my students.  "If you don't ask, you're telling yourself 'No'."  After all, what kind of leader would I be if I didn't take a chance?  If I didn't choose to lead?

Friday, August 14, 2015

2015-2016 Back to School Preview

The year is about to start and I absolutely cannot wait for what is in store.

Some things to look forward to this year:
Idea turns into inspiration turns into 18 hours of grant writing turns into grant approval!  So much cross-curricular student engagement in store for this project.  Stay tuned.

I had chromebooks in my classroom last year, but this year the students have their own...Will device management change considerably?  I hope not.  I'll be sharing challenges and insights as the year progresses.

I completed Google Certified Teacher Level 1 this summer and I'm looking forward to tackling Level 2 soon!

Be on the lookout for new lessons from me in the Nearpod Content Store.  Follow @NearpodContent on Twitter

Also stay tuned for great new features!  Lots of good things to come from these folks!



For the first time, educators in our local area conference got together to learn from each other.  We didn't have to drive for hours or stay in hotels.  We didn't have to get subs and write plans.  We didn't have to complete PD requests and hope to have it approved.  Union School District in Union, Missouri put on this event and it was fantastic! Special thanks to Dr. Justin Tarte (@justintarte) and Josh Hall (@jhalltech) for your dedication to our community of educators.

For more information, check out the symposium website

The bar is set high for next year.  I have no doubt it will be bigger and better!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Google Classroom Crash Course (Part 2)

I dabbled in using Google Classroom at the end of this school year.  I want to work on utilizing other features, such as student comments and posts.  In general, just more use on the student side than a place for assignment list and links.

I want my students to communicate within Google Classroom for Bellringer/Do Now activities...and I want to be prepared for the "can of worms" that is students posting comments.

I met with another teacher in my building who had been using Google Classroom for her Bellringer activities during last school year to get some insight and feedback.

  • Students need to learn digital citizenship and self-monitoring in the context of classwork.
  • Google Classroom allows for individual students to be muted, but otherwise students can comment on assignments or announcements when student commenting is on.
  • Questions with a finite answer can result in students just copying once another student has commented, so an assignment can be created to allow "hidden" responses that can be seen and commented on by the teacher(s) and individual student.
  • I want to look into using Google Drawings to have students type/draw their answers to submit for certain types of problems.  For example: Algebra works on Functions for a great portion of the year.  Students could graph, solve, and identify information within a pre-made Google Drawing and then submit through the Google Classroom assignment.
Reflection (September 2015)
  • What do I like about student commenting?

  • What do I need to further explore or change?

Bottom Line
-"Just keep swimming" -Dory, Finding Nemo

How are you using Google Classroom?

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Google Classroom Crash Course (Part 1)

(If you are wanting an awesome resource on Google Classroom, check out Alice Keeler's website. If you haven't heard of her before, prepare for hours on her website.)

Backdated Post:  Actual Date: June 15th, 2015

I dabbled in using Google Classroom at the end of this school year.  Anyone who knows me knows that I prefer to use fully-vetted things in my classroom because I need to know and understand all the ways my students will misuse it or try to break it before I implement.  I also don't like introducing new procedures mid-year.  Thinking about it now, usually when I go against this policy of mine, Google has a hand in it.  Google has created many solutions to problems in my world.  It has become something I know I can not only trust, but rely on.

In the last month before state testing, we are reviewing concepts from the previous two years, across chapters and resources.  On a daily basis, students are supposed to fill out planners, but this time of year most students have either stopped entirely or never brought their planner to begin with.  For some reason, absences are also rampant during this time period.  It adds up to frustrations and limited options to reinforce student responsibility in a positive way.

Problem: Students have assignments scattered across resources  Even though I have every single objective and assignment written on my objective board in my classroom, this does no good to them outside of my classroom.

Solution:  I began posting daily assignments in Google Classroom to offer a resource and serve as a "backup" planner.

  • A few other teachers were using Classroom, so most of my students understood the setup.
  • Those who hadn't used it before took to it quickly.
  • I emailed my students to invite them to the class (I already had email groups, so it wasn't the painstaking process it might be for most getting started) and posted the code on the board.  All of my students were officially in the class within 5 minutes...fastest setup ever.  I will just do the code next year because it really was that easy.
  • The students like it because it doesn't involve another username and password to remember.
My use of Google Classroom was successful.  Since students were not turning in assignments on Google Classroom, I wasn't very picky about students mark their assignments as "Done".  I kept student posting and commenting turned can of worms at a time (See Part 2 post for more on this).

I also used Classroom to share links to online activities and Quizzes/Tests on Google Forms that I would normally email or share via shortened URL on my board (never having to deal with "Is that a l or an I?" or "Is that an 0 or an O?" = PRICELESS).  We began in Classroom and ended in classroom.  Students would actually catch themselves in the middle of asking the dreaded question ("What are we doing today?") and just look it up.  A few would come in already knowing because they checked during last class.  One day, I was pointing at the objective board when previewing our day and one student asked something along the lines of, "Why do you even write that up there anymore?"  It was and is a completely valid question.

Bottom Line
Google Classroom is yet another problem solver from Google...and it will be a part of my classroom from the beginning next school year.  I want to work on utilizing other features, such as student comments and posts...follow-up in next post.

On Starting to Blog...again

Originally posted October 28, 2014 (personal blog)

This week, I attended the annual MOREnet conference in Columbia, Missouri.  While it isn't a nationally-recognized event and likely not a blip on the radars of most people, teachers included, it is always an amazing experience.  I enjoy working with technology, much to the boredom of my fellow teachers, family, and friends.  It's not something that "turns off" when school is out.  It's rare when I'm not at least contemplating how to improve a lesson.  While driving back this evening, I was recounting the many things I learned (some re-learned) that I'll never be able to fully write down and wondering to myself: 'How anyone does this in the confines of their own classroom.  Better yet, why would anyone not want to experience this environment?!'  I sought out this opportunity.  Submitted a presentation proposal and presented in, quite possibly, the most intimidating time slot ever...following the Keynote speaker: Dave Burgess (who was dressed as a pirate).  Could it have gone better?  I'm sure.  There's always room for improvement and I'm no exception.

This blog is my attempt at collecting my lessons and resources.  No promises on frequency (or efficiency).  These posts are for me, but you are welcome to them as well.

When I return to my classroom tomorrow morning, I know the hours spent writing sub plans and time away from my students was worth it.  I often tell my students that not asking or not trying is an automatic "no".  While I was the only one from my school to attend, by no means was I alone.  I return to my building stronger and MORE connected.

Thank you to those who made this week's conference a success.  Thank you to those who decide to attend, when they could stay at home or in their classrooms.  Thank you to those who engage in meaningful conversation with strangers when they could just as easily turn their backs.  Thank you for sharing your passion for teaching, for being strong enough to talk in front of adults, and most importantly...for letting me be me.