Friday, September 14, 2012

Hello Twitter!

So long ago when twitter first came out my husband convinced me to get one. I was on the job market and he thought it would be a good way to get my name out there. Well that's not how I got my job and I fell out of the twitter world after 8 twitter posts. In the last six months my husband convinced me to at least hit the "forgot my password" button. After 3 years of twitter abandonment I logged in. My goal was to start following some people and get it going but the motivation just wasn't there. Once I found out that this class was going to be all about building a PLN I decided it's time to get serious.

So here we go first step to getting twitter up and running again: figure out what I am doing :)! These tips helped me get started in thinking about who and how to follow someone. Then I headed to a wikki full of educational twitter people.. my first click was a failure. A first grade teacher with one tweet from 2009, but hey this boosted my self esteem in the twitter world... I have 12 tweets! However after searching through many educators, skimming posts, and clicking on links I found some good educators to follow. I noticed someone had retweeted a link from a common core hashtag. As I clicked to find a list of several great articles via the #commoncore, I thought can I follow a hashtag. I poke my husband, "silly question but can I follow a hashtag?" With the roll of his eyes he shows me a few more features of twitter. You can save searches, which is, in a sense, a way to save hashtags. It is not necessarily following though, because it will not display in my feed. Common core is obviously a hot topic. In our school K-2 is teaching common core full force. We are learning as we go, we are adapting our report card, and we are struggling through the assessment pieces. This hashtag has numerous resources!

Through my searching and reading I came across the Global Read Aloud project. We were just talking about Charlotte's Web the other day at school and so I am challenging myself not only to find time to read this book aloud but get my kids involved as well. It is setup on a wikki. The reading starts on October 1st. Everyone that is reading can add to the wikki. I am looking forward to this exciting adventure. I am so excited to find such a neat technology project on my first night of twitter.

Once I get the hang of twitter and begin using it more, my husband promises to show me some other aspects or ways to use twitter. Through a twitter post I also found this link on how to best make use of twitter. I think I will hang on to these tutorials for when I am ready to become an expert.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Grant Search!

Okay so I am going to have to be completely honest... for the 3rd day in a row I have attempted to sort through several pages of "available" grants. Tonight I forced myself not to give up and 2 hours later I feel pretty empty handed. I found a few possibilities, but nothing I head over heels excited about :( First of all I would like to mention that Lowes has some great local opportunities, in fact there were 3 olathe schools and a KC school that received money just in this last year. However, our focus is technology.
My most successful find was Adopt-A-Classroom. I did sign up and have 2 projects listed, however I HATE asking for money so I have been too timid to put on facebook. This is a great alternative to Donors Choose... in the past I have tried that site and it was all but failure. Donors Choose focuses on low income schools and you have a certain number of "credits" to use. Adopt a Classroom is a much simpler way to raise money for the classroom, but requires you to do some advertising!
The other place I found, just through googling Kansas Grants for Schools, was K-12 School Grants. This site provided 3 local grants that I am eligible for (well not entirely sure about the Boeing grant). The sprint grant said that it focused on Character Education, but I am not entirely sure what the entails. The Pentair seemed to be the easiest to understand and apply for.
One last grant that I found to be a possibility was the Toshiba Leading Innovation grant. This one was divided K-5 with a separate application if you are 6-12. Looking at the past projects many of them are very concentrated on Science.
Maybe I am too pessimistic, but I feel very unsuccessful in my search. I am excited to see if my colleagues had better results!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Collaborative Technology


Well, first of all I have to say I love Skype. This is how we keep in contact with Grandma and a friend of mine who lives in Sweden. Never imagined incorporating it into my classroom though! I love that they have a classroom version and ideas for teachers to think about how to use this technology in their classroom. What a perfect idea with the growing emphasis on communication in the common core standards. Unfortunately, there are a few things I am already for sure that will get in my way A) my district and their powerful ability to block useful sites and B) issues of their child being on "camera." There are for sure some solutions to these problems, it will just take time.

There was also the Flat Stanley site, which is what I used to inspire my lesson plan on collaborative technology. Students would exchange Flat Stanleys and get to "see" another part of the world. E pals is another site that I have longed to use for student collaboration with writing. The issues that may arise with these two sites is finding a good match. In the past I posted on Epals and found one or two classes interested. However, it turned out there was a huge number difference and so it never went through. This could be a potential problem with the Flat Stanley project as well.

Another type of collaborative technology would be using Voicethread or Edmodo. These sites can encourage sharing information, or documents. It also allows for leaving feedback and critique.
Most of these sites only require computer access, while the Skype would require web cams. If you were to just Skype as a whole class only one webcam would be needed. Many laptops today have built in webcams and microphones which would eliminate the extra devices.


Some of the same sites used for students can be used for teachers as well, voicethread, edmodo, and skype. But there are oodles of communities to get involved in as teachers. Currently, I have my own teacher blog and am following several others which I have come through my reader so I can stay on top of them all. I also am a part of proteacher and there are several groups to join via Edmodo. Call me cheap, but I am all about the free sites! I think I have said this before, but I will say it again... there is no need for a paid subscription if something similar is available for free. The one place I have paid for teacher stuff is the Teachers Pay Teachers site. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Serious Gaming

Gaming is a serious issue in education today! Our generation and beyond lives in a gaming world. As educators we are going to have to cater to this game atmosphere if we want to survive! Students are being challenged every day with video games, whether we see it that way or not. There was an article we read (I believe earlier in this class) about gaming. I've looked for it and just can't figure out where it came from, BUT I remember reading it out loud to my husband. It discussed how many people consider gaming an addiction. What about people who love to read, do we call that an addiction? The word addiction becomes negative when paired with video games. However, in the current generation of students that is how they are interacting with their world. They are meeting people all over the world, challenging each other, and creating masterpieces. I will admit my husband is a "serious gamer" on the XBOX and it drives me crazy, but he has shared some pretty cool games that require you to think outside the box and be creative!

In a past class we looked at this site, it has several tools to use in the classroom. I chose to research the creativity section and found much of it to be games. One of my favorite sites was the Invention at Play, the section that I think is really neat is Tinker Ball. This game could be used when talking about basic elements of physics. What I like about this section of games is they are not just remedial questions. These are sites that encourage creativity and thinking. Students get bored with just repetitive questions, even if there is a "little" game to go along with the question.


In my opinion, it is not worth it to spend my personal money on games that just spit out questions, IXL (you can use this site free for a limited time). There are plenty of free games available through PBS , funbrain, gameaquarium, and sites like BBC. However, I would be willing to spend money on Zondle's Phonics portion of the site. From the demo it sounds like kids follow a mission and work their way through different levels of phonics, while also saving the world :) Another site I am looking into using this year is ABC Mouse, which I found through a colleague in another class. It is free for teachers and you can set up a class account. Serious gaming does not have to be expensive if you look in the right places!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Flipped Classroom

While I think flipping classrooms is a wonderful idea for classes like this one, I am just not sure how it would play out for 1st grade. I don't want to be a Debbie Downer, but I can't hardly find any resources or examples of 1st grade classes that have tried it! There is one school that has a set of resources for the first graders, which can be found here. However, I don't see any explanation of the whys, and hows. The teacher does have an extensive list of resources and simply, but well done.

Let's get the negatives laid out:
First graders access to technology at home (parent permission, or not being available at all)
Longer amount of Time
First graders have limited technology troubleshooting skills (and parents may too)

Looking at the positives:
Students would be more engaged in homework
Students could spend as much time on skill as needed
Parents can SEE what the skill is and how it's being taught.

So while I have come to the conclusion that the full idea of a flipped classroom won't work for me, I have got some ideas running. There are ways that I can promote learning at home so they are prepared before coming to school. One easy way that I can do a little flipping is encouraging access to our reading material from home. Each student has login, which can be accessed from home. They can read or listen to our textbook, fill out practice book pages, and assessments from home. Now loading up the kiddos with online practice book pages is not the point of a flipped classroom, but having the students read the story before coming to class would! They could come already knowing about the story and then in class we would have more time to work on skills. This would overcome one of the negatives of dealing with troubleshooting. If it is always the same site, and drill of reading the story there is less chance of error.

I could also see occasionally providing videos for students to access at home to pre-teach, but I will definitely have to be prepared for the kiddos who will have to access this before or after school. Which most of the flipped classrooms I read about encounter this every day as they flip their classrooms. I think the key to making this work in my classroom would be parent communication. Ultimately, they are the ones in control of whether their 1st grader can access these videos. Once students are older they are responsible for getting to that video (whether coming in before school, going to the library, accessing while parents aren't home), but for first graders they will be very dependent on their parents for making this happen! I could see some 1st grade parents loving the idea of a flipped classroom, the ones always asking about what they can work on a home. Then there are the parents who are runners from one activity to another who will not find this an easy task to accomplish... What? My kid does his homework at home instead of during his brother's baseball practice?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Videocast and Podcast

The best set of videocast that I could find was actually through our Think Central login which correlates with our reading curriculum, Storytown. Most teachers would probably not find these too helpful, but as I make the switch to 1st grade it was helpful to see the different aspects of Storytown taught to the younger ones. You cannot access the set of podcast unless you have a login so I thought I would give you a brief overview. The podcasts are divided into different sections and skills. Each skill is explained and gives examples. Then the remaining time you are in the classroom watching the skill be taught.

As for videos that may enhance the learning environment for the kiddos I found this adorable video cast on school tube. Now I see two uses with this videocast. One, I could use it as an engagement piece. Get the kiddos excited for what's to come as we start our chicks unit. Two, I could simply use the as inspiration and document our own experience. Then I could post for parents to share what we have learned. Better yet, use the videocast both ways!

Why Podcasts?

Podcasts are great for storing directions, and how tos. They are perfect for differentiated instruction. May even be a great tool for showing parents how a certain skill is being taught. In fact the videocast I created will mostly be used for small group, but also will be accessible to parents so they can see how we practice our spelling words at school.

However, the time that goes into making them is does not seem worth it for general class use. There are so many videos already made, such as subscriptions to brain pop. There is also study jams and many times I can find valuable videos on youtube. So unless there is something unique to my classroom (such as my spelling words) or I have in mind a specific use (i.e. small groups, documenting our learning) I will take advantage of everyone else's podcasts/ videocasts.

What do you need?

Equipment needed would be video recording device or camera for still shots. Microphones, which is not lacking in our building, however getting them to work with our ancient computers is another story. Then some kind of compilation software, whether movie maker or a storyboard program. Audacity (which is free) is very helpful for recording voice.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The iPad and Clickers

In my building we currently have 2 class sets of clickers, one of which lived in my classroom all last year. In the past I used them for state assessment prep in 4th grade but am going to challenge myself to use them with 1st graders this year! As for iPads we are supposedly getting a cart of 30 in a year or two (as a part of a bond issue). My original thinking was to have each teacher check out one each day, because I think it is going to cause drama of checking them out (laptop carts is the current drama). Now this decision is not in my hands, but the more I get into my master's the more I am steering away from this idea anyway. Having each kid on an iPad would be pretty awesome. So that was my motivation for exploring these two technologies, now here is what I found...


Okay for starters I found this comparison of using web vs. iPad tools. My iPod I got from entering the master's program at Mid America has been designated (by me) for classroom use. Wow, what a great bunch of apps I discovered through this image. Just thought I should share these tools! So I guess this would be a reason for using the iPad, there are several FREE apps that can support students in reading/writing (that is what most of the apps were on this pdf). One of the apps listed students could record themselves telling a story and add sounds effects... what a great pre-writing activity. Or it could even be used to read a book and then playback to hear themselves read.

Now imagine your students going on a scavenger hunt, if you are an educator you've made one! Students walking around looking for clues, now imagine an iPad in their hands. And finally picture them scanning a black and white picture, aka QR code. That code directs them to a link of a question, video, picture, article, website, etc. Anything you want!

I have to be honest, this website has made me want to purchase 20 iPads for my class next year! (Not sure my husband would be too happy about that!) When looking at pricing of iPads there didn't seem to be a difference in buying for education vs. average Joe. Either way an iPad 2 is $399 and the new version is $499. There was however a bundle of buying in sets of 10, which brought the price to $379 each. And I am sure if a district is buying in bulk there would be an additional discount. The iPads in Schools blog states that while we do not see a lot of tablets right now because schools were reluctant to commit, they are seeing huge growth and many campuses will be adopting tablets soon!

While I can continue to dream of having a classroom set of iPads, I may lower the bar and make things more realistic by researching android tablets. However in the meantime I will enjoy the new apps I discovered for my iPod. 


The link provided to me for information regarding clickers was all geared towards college, so I did some digging myself...

This video was helpful in seeing how they incorporated clickers into a lesson with younger students. The school also is very fortunate to have smart boards and software in which there was a lot more interaction beyond the clickers!

So I mentioned an article earlier focusing on college clickers, and I have found that many articles/ information regarding clickers revolve around the college or high school world. I did stumble upon this blog  and found a common feeling about technology, especially clickers. Bob Deneau noted that teachers often feel that in primary grades technology has to be "dumbed down" and they cannot use as much. I agree with his response that this is not true. In the classroom he observed the teacher used the questions from brain pop for clicker responses. This is a great way to check understanding without recreating!

One other site that I found which also discussed iPads as the first use of technology gave examples of how to use clickers in a primary classroom:

  • Which word has the short vowel sound of /e/: "bet" or "bit"? Choose A for "bet", choose B for "bit."
  • Choose the right order of the phases of the moon.
  • Which pattern is correct: A or B? (make two number patterns with one having an error).
  • Choose the word that is spelled correctly.
  • Use classroom clickers as a way of pre-assessing knowledge before a unit of study.

In the primary classroom I think clickers would be a great tool to check in through asking a couple of questions every so often to check for understanding. I also feel that clickers would be a great tool for pre-assessment. Our district requires first graders to take a pre-test every quarter, it's a huge paper and pencil packet! It also takes forever to grade! How awesome would it be to have the questions put into eInstruction and have students answer through clickers. It would probably be more engaging to students and is less work for the teacher.

Clickers does not really bring up a cost issue to me, because we already have a couple sets in the building. While we do have this technology, I may be playing tug of war with fourth grade (as they are usually the only ones that use them).

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Diverse Learners

In my classroom I do not have a lot of cultural difference, but as I studied the six elements listed in Cennamo's Technology Integration... I realized I do view myself as a culturally responsive teacher. The last four really hit home for me: feeling personally responsible for helping my school reach every student, understanding how my students learn, knowing about the lives of my students, and design lessons based on prior knowledge. All four of these revolve around really knowing and understanding my students. I do my best to truly get to know each student. Whether it's a one-on-one discussion in the morning or the hockey games I attend after school, I enjoy getting to know my kiddos.
Technology in my classroom supports my students varying abilities. On page 274 it states that it's important to realize that equitable access to technology does not necessarily mean equal time spent using technology (Cennamo 2010). It needs to be used however it meets each, individual student's needs. For my enrichment kiddos I often post links to webquests or other websites where they can be challenged. When using it with the whole class, I try to find games to support a skill and I usually try to find at least 2 different levels. For example once most of my kiddos were getting the hang of long division I found some sites to practice on. One of the sites reminded the student of each step they just had to figure the numbers. The next step up was a site where they filled in the numbers without help, but if they needed help they could click the hint key. The highest level was simply a problem generator and then they could check for the correct answer. Students started at their ability level and could move up as they got better. This also allows me time to pull some enrichment kiddos off the computers and work with extending the skill.
I am not a teacher who does a lot of future planning, because my plans are constantly changing.  When teaching a skill I am constantly assessing and trying to decide whether to move on or keep working on that skill. I am very fortunate to be a part of a team that works so well and often I will check in with them on their student's progress. They can often give suggestions for my struggling students or sometimes we find that both of our classes are doing really well and we are ready to move on. One of those elements I listed above was understanding how they learn and I think my awareness of they abilities, and learning styles is what guides my planning. 
One aspect that I always have good intentions of, but haven't quite mastered is helping my students be reflective of their own work. I want them to think more deeply about their results and thinking. Cennamo states that an active part of metacognition would be allowing students to chose artifacts to include in a portfolio (page 267). While I have done this I want to make it a more regular habit and help them chose pieces that truly reflect their abilities. 

Cennamo, K., Ross, J. D., Ertmer, P. A., & International Society for Technology in Education. 

(2010). Technology integration for meaningful classroom use: A standards-based approach

Belmont, Calif: Wadsworth.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Hello! This blog was setup to fulfill a requirement for a master's class. However, I am excited to use it as a place to record my growth with using technology. First, of all I love technology... I tried to use it as much as possible with my 4th graders. My team often comes to me for help with different applications or figuring out ways to incorporate it with various projects. But now, I am headed to first grade. This will allow for new challenges of incorporating technology! So as of right now I am not sure where I want to go with technology, because I don't even know where I am starting :)

My students will have an hour of computer time with our computer teacher every week. That is a huge help in helping my students get comfortable with the logging in process, typing, and exploring different aspects of the computer. I want my students to learn purposeful uses for the computers, not just for games and keeping busy. My top 3 elements for my 21st century classroom are: Computer literacy, using technology for communication, and allowing for students to explore their creativity through technology.

Most of the other first grade teachers find it easier to avoid using technology because the amount of time it takes to get setup and logged in. Therefore I can use the laptops often in order to create an environment of frequent use. If I could even setup 3 to 4 laptops daily to demonstrate frequent use. I want to create a learning environment where it isn't just that we use it frequently but that we complete meaningful products.

After watching New Learners of the 21st century, I feel like I have been living in a cave. This video opened my eyes to technology that I hadn't even realized was available to kids. More importantly I often catch myself thinking "that is too challenging for my age group." Seeing kids that are fairly close in age to children I teach and seeing what they are capable of opened my eyes. One of the narrators mentioned, 'we have to be careful because we are calling gaming an addiction. A kid that stays up all night to read a book gets rewarded, but a kid who stays up all night to finish a video game is labeled addicted. WOW, my husband is quite the gamer and I cannot tell you how many times that this exact scenario has happened between the two of us!

I also am amazed the products these kids are developing. Another narrator said that instead of consumption (which I interpreted as learning from teacher or reading) to production, this type of learning is production to participation. It's so true as you watch the kids analyze their peers products and share their interpretations. This is where reading and writing take on a role in this learning. Students are not writing APA style papers, but communicating through feedback on blogs and other forms of communication on the web.