1.5 years later

Here I am, a year and a half into my new position of Technology Applications teacher for 5th and 6th graders.  I have had a hard time putting new posts up because life has been really crazy but I would love to share some of the things I’ve learned since taking my new position.

First off, just because kids are surrounded by and use technology in their daily live, does not mean they know how to use technology appropriately or in a school setting.  3 out of the 4 schools that feed into mine have Technology as something they do about once a week.  One school does not.  Those kids come to me with an interest in technology, but lacking even the basic skills of how to power off and on a desktop computer.

Many kids come to my room expecting to play games.  They are quite startled when they see the list of things they will do.  We are interacting with Microsoft and Google products, creating projects, using photo editing, coding with robots, and either podcasting or producing a PSA depending on the age level.  We are practicing digital citizenship all the way through my course, after having a two week introduction to it.  We are reading technology related chapter books aloud daily, to increase our reading and our stamina.  I may be the first teacher these kids have encountered that will tell them “I don’t know how to do that, let’s do it together.”

I really worry about the decline in reading and writing skills that I am seeing in kids around me.  Some kids can barely write a sentence without using “text speak.”  It scares me to death when my sixth graders create a blog post and writing 5 sentences seems challenging.  I know my own 8th grader can write pages and pages, and she is pretty tech savvy at the same time.  Is it a decline in writing requirements, or just a decline in time that teachers are having to make students write.  I think my new quest, with my elementary school friends is to encourage them to have their students start blogging from a very early age to get that love of writing ingrained in them early.

Well, that’s a few musings I have at this time.  I will try to get back on more often and document things I am seeing in my tech room!



Posted in In my classroom, Middle School Technology

Another week down…lessons about Digital Citizenship

Well, I finally completed an entire week of middle school and boy, I am tired.  I am physically tired but even more so, mentally tired.  This week we tackled some digital citizenship activities in both my 5th and 6th grade classrooms.  Many lessons were learned, most by my student’s (hopefully) and quite a few by me.

I decided to use the Common Sense media lessons available in Nearpod to introduce my student’s to digital citizenship.  My fifth graders had lessons on keywords in searching, responsibility to ourselves, our family and our community, private and personal information, and the power of words.  My sixth graders explored their digital lives, scams and schemes, cyberbullying, and strategic searching.  In addition to learning about these topics, we explored a new tool in Nearpod.  Here are some of the lessons my students and I have learned this week.

  1.  My students are so involved in their digital lives that many of them feel overwhelmed by the amount of time and energy it is taking up.  This is not unlike the feeling that most adults that I know.  Although we have very different backgrounds in our lives, we are all “slaves” to technology and children feel the stress just as much as adults.
  2. Sixth graders, and to some degree fifth graders, only want to learn how to hack.  That’s all they ever talk about.  They think hackers are heroes.  It is up to me as a teacher to find some examples of “good” hacking, such as working in cyber security and working for the government, to show these kids that hacking can have a good side also.
  3. Real stories are the key.  As I had “story times” in the middle of my lessons, much to their chagrin, they were enthralled by stories of cyberbullying that my own children have been a part of and how my “identity” through my credit card number was recently stolen.  They asked great questions all week, and I was very impressed by the amount of critical thinking that some of them were doing during our discussions.  This part of my day felt a lot like my parenting life.  I was able to pour into these kids some morals and values in regards to technology.  Now, to see if they stick.
  4. All kids are not created equal.  Some of my students have pretty much free rein to go to any website they choose.  They can watch whatever they want on YouTube with little to know supervision.  There are a few parents that are keeping a much tighter rein on their kids (closer to my own heart).  One student told me the reason she has a “flip” phone is to keep her from being overwhelmed or tempted by all the bad influences out in our technology driven world.  By the way, I love that mom!  I think that you have to supervise your children.  If we aren’t telling our kids about technology, then no one is.
  5. I am really enjoying pouring myself into these older kids.  Yes, I miss my kinder babies.  So much!  But the conversations, and confrontations in some cases, that I am able to have with these middle schoolers are so mind-boggling.  I feel like this is where I am meant to be, to make a difference with these kiddos.

Next week, we will continue our exploration of digital citizenship.  I will also further explore what I am going to do with my News Club.  Our school encourages kids to do something they are interested in, so every Wednesday, for about the last half hour, they get to go to a club of their choosing and do something they are interested in.  My news club will be exploring green screen technology and I have no idea exactly what we will do from week to week.  I am excited to see what we can come up with though!


Posted in Digital Citizenship, In my classroom, Middle School Technology

A week in…uncomfortable and a hurricane!

Well, let me tell you.  After teaching kindergarten and first grade for the last 21 years, I can safely say that the switch to middle school has not been an easy and uneventful switch by any stretch.  Let me back it up a couple of weeks…

Around August 1st, I began moving the few boxes that did not go in my attic into my new middle school technology classroom.  I also began working on projects for my administration that included filming and editing beginning of the year videos.  Needless to say, I worked most days at least half a day up until the week I had to report back.  And, much to my dismay, I spend most of my time getting myself together and almost no time figuring out my curriculum.  Add to that my general nervousness about moving to middle school, and I was having my own little mental meltdown.

As I began my teacher inservice week, I was so excited about the amount of time in my schedule that I would be able to dedicate to my planning for my upcoming year.  And then technology gave me a little wake up call.  Part of my new position is being a technical liason for my campus.  This campus technology is vastly different from what I was used to at the elementary level.  Add to that my unfamiliarity with the process and who to route work orders too, and you have one confused teacher.  By the end of the week, I had resigned myself to the fact that if I could get my first week planned, I was good to go.  The school I am at also does a great job in laying out what all we have to do with each class, especially the first day.

Then, I met my students.  On a Monday.  I can’t remember ever beginning my school year on a Monday so that was startling enough.  The first group I encountered was my homeroom of sixth graders.  Then I realized I was not in “Kansas” anymore.  What a huge difference in anything I had ever done or even experienced.  Of course, I always have enjoyed my time with the fourth graders on my campus, but usually I had a previously built relationships from when they were in Kindergarten.  These kids did know me at all and I feel like they immediately began to test me.

My fifth grade classes, 2 of them, were much easier to adjust to, as fifth graders who are new to a school tend to be more compliant.  That would wear off for a few by the end of week one.

My three sixth grade classes were mind-blowing.  These kids did not enjoy what they did last year, but they weren’t really buying into my enthusiasm for all the cool things we could do this year.  “Jaded” would be the perfect word to describe them.  I tried so hard to build relationships with them, but what I found out is that I have to show them I am serious first, then build the relationships.  They want to see what I am made of and they are not going to let up for a second.  Between that, and the basic interest in learning how to hack things, and I realize I am going to have my work cut out for me this semester.

By Thursday of week one, the exhaustion was setting in.  It seemed like no matter how hard I worked, or how late I stayed up working, technology was not cooperating and I just couldn’t make what I wanted to happen actually come to fruition.  It was very frustrating.

Then came Hurricane Harvey.  I am not going to lie, I was in desperate need of a day off.  I was crawling towards Friday.  But this was not what I had in mind.  We have been very fortunate that we haven’t gotten any water in our house or lost our power at all.  But we are being pummeled by rain, day and night with no end in sight.  Now we will be out another entire week of school and I worry that I am going to have to start all over again when I go back.  I am taking advantage of this week to do a lot of backwards planning, deciding on having a unit on digital citizenship for both my fifth and sixth graders.  I see this as a major need, just in the short amount of time that I have spent with them.  They seem to have no sense of the dangers that lurk on the internet or the rules that govern the use of technology in society.

Pray for all of us in Houston this week…and say a special prayer for me that I can figure this middle school thing out sooner rather than later.  I have always said if I am not uncomfortable, I am not growing.  I must be growing like a weed because I am highly uncomfortable at this point.

Posted in In my classroom, Middle School Technology, Uncategorized

Working blind….

Well, it has been quite an adventure the last few weeks wrapping my mind around the idea of my new position.  I have been asking questions of people who know the answers and basically what I have learned about my job next year is….it’s whatever I want it to be.  Since the computer class is an elective, there is no set curriculum.  I can basically go any direction that I want, within the confines of the existing TEKS. My new principal told me when he hired me he wanted me to make it a great program and the answer will always be “yes”.

Cue:  What have I gotten myself into?  I have never taught 5th or 6th grade, although I have raised two kids through those crazy years.  I have never taught exclusive technology, although I enjoyed putting it into my regular kindergarten classroom.  The person in the position before me left the district so getting ahold of her has been a challenge.

Luckily, I have had two saving graces.  One, the teacher before me has left her website up for the summer so I can at least see what she was doing.  Am I going to do exactly the same, probably not.  But it is nice to see how another person who created a class (the school just opened two years ago) organized her class.  My second saving grace is that we have some great Instructional Technology gurus in our district, who are more than willing to meet with me and help me figure out what I want to do.

I have already begun to get a sort of overview of what I want to expose these kids to.  Besides the normal desktop applications, I want to infuse green screen, Ipads, appsmashing, and Ozbots.  Along with coding and possibly a bigger robotics program in the future, I think I have a great place to start.  I just need to remember to seize the opportunity to disrupt my environment.  Just as I learned in my Master’s program, creating change in a place that is resistant can be quite draining.  But this environment seems totally open to change, open to my ideas, and most importantly open to me sharing my ideas.

I feel excited and nervous.  But most of all, I feel refreshed, renewed, and reenergized.  I feel great things coming down my path!


Posted in Middle School Technology

What a week!

Wow!  It’s been a whirlwind the last week (actually two).  I applied for a technology teacher job at a middle school in my district and was offered the job the next day.  I was really torn at first because as much as I want to do something different, I also really enjoyed the partnership I had created and the cool things we were doing with our kindergarteners with regard to technology and other fun things like Foodie Friday.  I decided to go ahead and accept the position.

The next days I was at a PLC workshop that my old principal had already paid for so I was unable to go and get my room ready to move out.  After two long days of training, I was able to get in.  I spent about 5 minutes (before the chaos) just remembering how both of my own children had went to this school from kindergarten through fourth grade.  And remembering that I was leaving everything that I was comfortable with to do something very uncomfortable with people who I don’t even know.  It was awful scary.  As my room was loaded up, forcibly at times, I began to realize that doing the same thing for the rest of my career was not what my heart desired.  The easy route was to stay and keep doing what I was doing.  The hard part was to just walk away.  I was hanging on to an idea that I had to be there for the kids.  But this experience showed me that any one of us can be replaced within seconds and that wasn’t an easy pill to swallow.

Now, I am getting emails from my new school about all the things they want to involve me in before the year even starts.  And as scary as it is, it’s kind of exciting too.  This is my chance to do what I love, which is share ideas with kids and have them become the creators of their own knowledge.  It is going to be crazy but I am really excited.  Am I excited to be in a building where I hardly know anyone?  At first my answer was NO, NO, NO!  But then I remembered the stress that I have been feeling, especially this past year with the curriculum and the atmosphere of my workspace.  And I think, this might be the best year of my career ever!  At least I hope so.  No, I won’t have a buddy to bounce ideas off of, take selfies with, or wear matching shirts.  But my friends will still be my friends, and whatever happens, I am at peace with it.  

I hope to share my middle school adventure with you right here, while continuing my “Appy Hour,” which was one of my ideas that impressed my new principal the most.  I am excited to expose myself to new people, new ideas, and new attitudes.  And the best part of all….my room is across from the library.  So it’s a win, win!  I hope you stay with me on my adventure!


Posted in Middle School Technology

Tots and Technology Wrap Up – Day 2

Day 2 and my energy is much less than it was yesterday.  I got there much later today, and my first session was 2 hours, so that was not really the best start to a day for me.  I still learned so much and really enjoyed my second day.

My first session was The Power of Digital Storytelling.  Not anything really mind-blowing here, in terms of apps, but just to see a person who does these kind of things with 800 students a week kind of gave me a kick in the pants.  The presenter Katie Chirhart is a tech apps teacher in Caddo Parish Louisiana.  And wow!  She is using this platform to encourage her students to love writing because when they are done, they get to produce a digital representation.  She shared some cartoon apps and book maker apps, along with green screen ideas too.  This is where the green silk gloves came in to play!  What better way to make the kids hands disappear when they are acting out a puppet story then with green gloves.  She had lots of great ideas about microphones and such too.  A valuable resource for sure!

My second session was Easy Accommodation and Assessment Tips that Will Blow Your Mind.  The presenter was Jamie Morgan from Witchita Falls ISD.  She had experience in kindergarten so my ears perked up!  Ok, my mind wasn’t blown because so much of what she talks about it what we do for all kindergarteners everyday.  But I can see as a first -fifth grade teacher how recording tests for kids who have that accommodations on Screen-Cast app could be a lifesaver.  I was even texting one of my PF’s during the presentation to brainstorm if she could use this with some of her testing situations.   I learned in this session that I really need to pump up my Google Educator knowledge, because you never know where your next opportunity could be.  I need to be a more well-rounded teacher in all areas so that I am ready to go at a moment’s notice, no matter where I am (or what district I am in).

Another fabulous lunch by the Galveston Convention Center was served next!  YUM!

My next session was Big Learning for Little Learners.  Finally, I have found my peeps.  Two kindergarten teachers from Alamo Heights ISD (in San Antonio), Jennifer Carter and Alexandra Catalani presented some great tools and ideas in a real life kindergarten classroom.  I was glad to see reference to Bloomz, for which I am an ambassador.  My biggest takeaway was that it reinforced that my kids can do so much of this stuff on their own, and they can post it to their Bloomz to save me time and the hassle.  Having the IPADS from day one next year should make a big difference in the level of independence that they have by the end of the year.

On to Herding Cats with Technology.  The presenter was Amanda Peterson from Lamar Consolidated ISD.  I found her background very interesting, along with her partner in crime, who was a former kindergarten teacher.  I am finding it hard to get people in the technology department to take my skills seriously and here we have a SPED teacher and kindergarten teacher at the district level of technology.  There is hope for me yet!  She shared symbaloo and plans on sharing some that are already made.  I use it now, but haven’t even thought about accessing others pages.  She also mentioned a Texas Kindergarten teacher named Matt B. Gomez, who has lots of symbaloo pages already constructed.  Could he be the Mr. Greg of Texas?  The one big takeaway that I had from this session is I am going to have to write a grant for some Osmo’s.  I need Osmo in my life, ASAP!  It will be a miracle if I make it to August without spending my own money on one, that’s for sure.

My last session was my luxury session as I called it.  It was about making things look good and cute.  April Whitehead is a former Art teacher who gave lots of good ideas about how to make things that I produce in my classroom, for all people, look nice and neat, but great!  We didn’t have much time to create at the end, but it introduced me to a new tool, Google draw, which might be the solution to my problem of working on Mac at home and Windows at school.  This seems like a tool where I can create documents that are easy to transfer between the two systems.  I also was reintroduced to Adobe Spark and Canva, both of which I used during my Master’s program for various projects.  It was a nice end to the day of learning and a great way to remind me to keep my audience in mind.  My coteacher has some “font anger issues” which I could tease her about too via text messages too during the presentation so it was a win-win!


I hope you enjoyed my adventure.  Am I going back next year?  YES, YES, and YES!  I might even play around with the idea of presenting.  We will see!




Posted in Professional Learning

Tots and Technology Wrap Up – Day 1

OK!  So, I just finished my two days at the TCEA Tots and Technology Conference in Galveston and my brain is overflowing  with great ideas and things I want to try next year.  I saw some awesome presentations by some awesome presenters and really felt like it was money well spent (yes, out of my pocket).  I would like to recap what I learned for my teacher friends who read this but more for me to have a place to put all that I learned so when, in August, I go back to school and can’t remember a thing, I can look here for inspiration.

My first session was an IPAD session.  It was the perfect way to start off my experience.  The presenter, David Hernandez, was a former teacher who now works for Apple, helping teachers implement them in their classrooms.  There were some A-HA moments about technology in general, and some great apps that I have never seen before.  He was very calm and chill, which at 8am is the only way to get me onboard, that is for sure.


My next session was a Birds of a Feather session.  It was really like a twitter chat but in the room with the people you are chatting with.  I could have lived without that one but it was my first opportunity to witness people resisting what was going on.  Maybe because I paid for this myself, but I was going to get everything I could out of this and wasn’t going to complain about how I’d rather be at the beach.

My third session for the morning was probably one of my favorites.  I was about to enter the J2 world, with presenters Janet Corder and Joan Gore.  These ladies are professional presenters, but you can see their love of being in the classroom a mile away.  They were hilarious, like an old married couple.  Their session was on Green Screen Magic.  Now some of you know I jumped in to using green screen a bit at the end of the year with my kids’ research.  But now, there is so much more I want to do.  I can’t wait to get my green gloves (another take away from a different presentation) and paint my pizza box green and do a Three Little Pigs puppet retelling.   Yes, I am going to do this at home.  Because if I am that excited about trying it, then I need to work out the kinks before I introduce it to my kids in the classroom in the fall.  But more than great ideas, I was genuinely excited about being a teacher.  These two ladies really know how to make being a teacher seem like the best job ever (and sometimes it can really be).  The wealth of information that they shared from blogs to ideas was mind-boggling.


My next session was on Doodle Buddy.  I had used this at the urging of my coteacher this year but only really for one activity.  Peggy Reimers, from TCEA, was an awesome presenter with a great sense of humor and a joy in using this app with kids.  I came away with multiple new ways to use doodle buddy, from using it for context clues and inferencing to using it to make a self-portrait at the beginning of the year.  This is one of the tools that is already loaded on my IPADS so I am ready to go with this next year for sure.

Now, let’s talk about lunch.  This was no box lunch conference.  The food provided by the Galveston Convention Center was awesome, as were all the employees there to serve us!  Sorry, it had to be said.

My first session after lunch was another presentation by J2.  Not once but twice in one day.  At this point, the Convention Center Wifi was having issues, so we spent a lot of time waiting on things to load up but honestly, I barely noticed.  I might possibly be able to listen to these two go on all day.  Many of the tools like Go Noodle and Kahoot I had used in my classroom already.  But I hadn’t used Quizziz because I felt like it was too much like Kahoot.  Then I was given some mind-blowing information.  The app has added the function to read the question to the child, along with having everything in one place unlike Kahoot which uses a device and a board.  I also was reintroduced to Shadow Puppet which I really need to explore more.  They shared a cool bingo making site, and there is so much they didn’t even get to that I need to go back and read.  Again, I walked away with at least two new tools that I can use right away.

My next session was Give Your Literacy Stations a Tech Inspired Makeover.  Cue, energy overload.  This presenter was fabulous, just what I needed at the midpoint of a long day.  Brittany Adcock is a first grade teacher in Texarkana and she is a bundle of fun.  I teach primarily reading in my classroom, so it’s no surprise why I chose this presentation.  I learned about Epic Pals and really need to use Epic in my classroom next year.  It’s free for teachers.  Why am I so resistant to these things?  I have no idea.  I also learned about (and purchased on Amazon right there) Tiggly.  I can’t wait to get this later in the week and begin to play with it.  My kids are going to love it I am sure.  On an interesting side note, she just started her Master’s at Lamar so the DLL program is really growing and getting stronger for sure.

My last session for day one was Classroom Crashers by three Birdville ISD technology gurus.  I really enjoyed hearing their idea of how they crashed some classrooms in their district and helped some teachers find a tool to use to solve a problem they were having in their classroom.  I would love to be a part of something like this in my school.  I think that it’s not enough to just share my ideas (cue Appy Hour) but to actually show up in the room and help the teacher use the tool instead.  Maybe someday, if I am ever out of my own classroom, I can use this idea to spark a change in my own school.

That’s day one in a nut shell.  I learned so much, had so much fun, and met so many nice people.  The perk for me is that I was just down the road from home and didn’t have to go back to a hotel like most of the other participants.  I really look forward to what tomorrow will hold….




Posted in Professional Learning

The technology/research wrap up

What a big project I undertook trying to use our Ipads to facilitate our research unit in reading.  I always forget so much about the amount of getting ready ahead of time that I need to do to pull off something like this with my kindergarteners.  But, I feel like it was a successful first attempt.

First, I made QR codes for each group directing them to some places where they could learn about their animals.  Then, each day, for four days, I sent them off in their groups and asked them to write three facts they learned that day, as a group.  I immediately saw my kids who really like to write take on that leadership role, while the others brainstormed the ideas.

Next, I had them go out an write on their own what they learned about their animal.  This was a great way for me to see what they could do individually.  And I’m proud to say they really excelled at this.

Then, we went into our computer lab and learned about green screen technology.  Our school does live morning announcements, so they have the chance to see it in action everyday.  We filmed some videos of the kids in front of the green screen and used them with an app called DoInk.  It was pretty easy to use and I was able to create some pretty neat snippets.  If I had older kids I definitely would have let them do this step.

The last step in our research was letting the kids loose with Chatterpix to record their learning.  They had so much fun doing this.  The pictures turned out so funny and their facts are very unique (and sometimes a little suspect).  This was by far their favorite part of the whole research unit.  I am very fortunate that I have parents that share my passion for showing what great students I have.  Two of them have given permission for me to share their son’s research wrap up videos.  The other three groups had more children so I was really impressed by how much these two guys got done.  I hope you enjoy!

I learned so much in this first big project with the Ipads and my kindergarten classroom!

Posted in In my classroom

Lessons learned from day one of technology and research

Well, I learned many lessons today from our research adventure with technology.  Some of them were my own fault, some were a bad mix of personalities, some were just weird. Here’s what I learned…

  • I must remember to login the ipads under my own name for them to be able to access safe share videos….and make sure the QR reader is installed.  Two things I forgot to do.  Thank goodness my kids are patient and able to entertain themselves with stimulating conversation while waiting on me.
  • All the “Chiefs” of the class cannot be in the same group.  That leaves all the other groups full of “Indians”.  Which means nothing was getting done in the other groups due to the fighting and arguing trying to come up with a system to complete their task.  I just kind of let them sort it out today.  Hopefully tomorrow will be a bit better.
  • All writers are not created equal.  While one group was able to get some pretty good information on paper, and 2 groups were able to get somewhat distinguishable information on paper, one group was not able to get anything on paper that I could read or they could remember.  I need to make sure I record them reading what they wrote tomorrow before they forget.
  • All in all, it went pretty smoothly.  All groups were able to watch a video on the IPad about their animal and come up with three facts together.

Tomorrow is another day…thank goodness.

Posted in In my classroom

Using Technology for Research in Kindergarten

Well, it’s that time of year again.  Time to teach our 5 and 6 year olds how to research information and begin writing about it.  This is never an easy time of year and a bit challenging since we are in shut down and testing mode.  This year we are going at it from a different direction with many of our kids thanks to the IPads that we won back in December.  We’ve always done one animal per class and the teacher has had to feed most of the information to the students as they are not traditionally readers of the level they need to be for independent research.  With the IPads, we felt there had to be an easier way.

We looked around on TPT and noticed several teachers were directing their older students to websites and information with QR codes.   And we were hooked.  We then were able to divide up the class into smaller groups who got to pick their own animal based on their interest.  Our school just adopted Pebble Go, so that was one great resource for our kids.  We put  videos through Safe Share to ensure that our “littles” were not exposed to You Tube or it’s crazy advertisements.  We created QR codes for each animal and put it on a resource sheet which we printed for each group.  Now, later this week, we will let the groups begin exploring their resources and recording their research.

In the coming weeks, I will write about what worked, what didn’t, and what I might do differently next time.  For now, I am excited about the prospect of my kids doing their own research (sort of)!

Here is an example of one of their research resources.


Posted in In my classroom