Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Power of the Hour of Code

"It don't take money, and it don't take fame.
Don't need no credit card to ride this train.
Tougher than diamonds and stronger than steel.
But you won't feel nothing till you feel,
You feel the power, just feel the power of love." (Huey Lewis, The Power of Love)

However, in our case, we're talking about the power of CODE!

What a fabulous week we have had at our tiny but mighty K-8 school. Students at all grade levels participated in our Hour of Code event. I missed this last year and have been a bit of a late-comer to some of these types of events. As the time neared, I looked up information, began sorting through resources, registered our event, and geared up with the students for what I hoped would be an interesting time of learning for everyone.

I introduced the seventh and eighth grade students to the idea of coding first. I thought that this would help in the event I needed back-up with some of the other classes. It did even more than I could have imagined. But, I want to save my big story for later in this post.

As the time neared and as I shared the idea behind the Hour of Code to more and more students, I admittedly remained a bit hesitant with the idea of introducing coding to my kindergartners. I knew that technically it could be done. I knew the tutorials on CODE(dot)ORG even made it look possible. I even knew that I fully intended to try it at home with my very own kindergartner. Finally, I decided to blast myself through any fears and concern and hesitation I might have and give it all she's got, Captain. I knew the best time to introduce our kindergarten students would be on a Friday when I had them in small groups of about five. I knew I wanted to make myself available to help each student as needed. My role would be a supporting role, but an important one for these students in particular.

I had a group of five kindergartners come in and sit down at computers. I explained that we were going to learn how to communicate in computer language, that they were going to learn how to run a program like one of the activities we did every week. I also explained that they would be able to go on to another activity after 10 minutes if they chose to do so. I knew that some may get frustrated and need a break and with o ur limited time, I wanted to make sure that they were more engaged than frustrated. That was key.

I worked with half of the kindergarten class one day and half another. The first day got me so excited. I watched as students tried and met with both successes and failures, but they learned from all results. They tried again. Yes, they got frustrated every now and then, but overall, they were engaged and learning and trying and doing. After awhile, one by one they shifted to other things. All except one. I was blown away by her patience and her desire to stick with what she had started. I called over the kindergarten teacher to show her what I was witnessing, what one of her students was accomplishing. It was a moment of celebration and joy. And this was not the only kindergarten student to demonstrate such patience as she navigated through a series of early reader tutorials and Angry Birds coding. A note will go home with students so that they have a chance to access activities at home with their parents too.

Meanwhile, back at home, my own kindergartner gave her best shot to the Elsa/Anna tutorial. She walked away on level six -- the same level where even eighth graders grew frustrated. But eventually, she got it. In fact, every single person I have watched hit a peak of frustration with the sixth level on that tutorial has eventually figured it out, succeeded, and moved forward. Success! I went home at night only to continue what I had spent my day at work doing, just in a more one-on-one format with my two children. Then, once they settled in for the night, I had interesting conversations with my dad...the guy who once worked as a programmer. This is the guy who wrote one of my favorite computer (math) games when I was a kid. Multi-generational programming and coding conversations following a day of coding successes! Huzzah!

Success is the theme that seemed to repeat itself again and again. I have all grade levels that I teach, but I only see them a maximum of three times during the week. I had to get a little creative with making sure everyone had a chance to explore the coding exercises, but absolutely every student had a chance to experience these lessons. And success after success happened. Students celebrated.

Now, back to the big story. I had one seventh grader who came in every day after school. He reported back to me daily about his coding experiences at home. He requested additional resources, and he found some on his own. When all was said and done, this student logged over 50 hours of coding!

Another student in his class shared with me one day about telling his mom about Hour of Code. He went on to say, "she's teaching me to code," referring to me as he continued to recount the story. I stopped. I looked around. I understood what he was saying and stopped myself from blurting out, "No I'm not, you're just learning it." Stopped in my tracks, I looked around the room. I was doing exactly what I had always described myself as doing. I was functioning as a facilitator of learning. I facilitated a process and the students taught themselves as they learned new things. I smiled inside and took the story home. Of the 34 students in the seventh grade class, these two made a huge difference in my Hour of Code experience.

We all worked together. We navigated through it together. We learned together. We taught together. We explored. We coded. We rocked it! They rocked it!

This whole experience brings brand new meaning to: Do you want to build a snowman?

Just feel the power of CODE!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How Tweet it is

When I attended my first EdTech workshop two years ago, I had little idea what it would set in motion. Ten years earlier, as I sat in one of my first credential classes, my instructor encouraged me to keep in mind the idea of one day working on my Master's degree in education technology. She saw my natural abilities, my interest, and the way it worked for me. She knew also that it would be something I would have to return to in the future rather than pursue then and there. I have kept that in mind these last two years.

At that first EdTech workshop, "If you're not on Twitter, you should be" came through loud and clear. For a moment, I froze. The previous school year, I taught only halftime, so I devoted some of my time to my writing. Six months before attending this workshop, I did a branding workshop and launched a full social media blitz as I moved forward with branding my writing-self. Now, my teaching-self was essentially facing the same need and I feared my social media worlds would collide. The funny thing was that I knew this was the right step to take for my teacher-self. By the end of the workshop, I had created a Twitter account and even started following a few folks.

Things grew from there.

And then they grew some more.

Initially, my plan was to use Twitter to communicate with students and families, but what I found was that it was far more useful as a means of building my PLN. In fact, it was darn-right amazing. I have learned things. I have read articles, I have sought advice, I have shared ideas, I have built myself into a better teacher because of my interactions on Twitter. I have read books, then discussed them with their authors. I have experienced inspiration and challenges. I have seen a few things that aren't for me and a whole lot that are for me. More importantly, in being "for me" they are FOR my students. My students have absolutely been the benefactors of my Twitter experiences and HOW TWEET IT IS!

The people I have met on Twitter and through Twitter, and later even off Twitter have helped shape some incredible things for me and for my students. I can only hope to one day do the same for others. Twitter is less social media and more networking. There are some in the world hesitant to the idea of using "social media" to extend themselves and grow their PLNs. I will do my part to help spread the Twitter awesome-sauce and I hope you will too.

In the meantime, I originally maintained my blog as my primary means of communicating with students and their families. Then, last spring, my (then) seventh grade students helped me branch into Instagram. They invested themselves into it and helped hook me. It was a wonderful means of mini-lessons when we first started, but continued through the summer and now into the current school year. My #wheresmsrnow summer post-series was a fun learning adventure for all who followed along. I hope to keep such things going.

It may be hard for some to see, but it is educational Tweetness that rocks my world! And I am thankful for those who do see it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Exploring new territory

On Saturday, I had my first experience as a session presenter. Ever. It was wonderful to be a part of CapCUE TechFest and to see familiar faces while meeting new people. I presented my Technology: The Swiss Army Knife of Education for the first time as I have been developing to concept for months. I touched on it in a professional development session at my school a few months ago, but this time I explored it more in-depth. I presented to a rather small group, but enjoyed sharing ideas. I have always been very comfortable with large groups and in a one-on-one setting while feeling some discomfort in awkwardly sized groups. This happened to be one such group. I had four people in my session. I definitely felt some discomfort, yet still took a dance break and didn't let myself stop even when those in the session opted out of the dance break. It was fun. I learned and I hope they did too. My second session explored the ways in which video can be incorporated into science lessons in order to enhance them. It went really well. This group was a little larger and I loved the collaboration that happened. I was honored to be a part of this so much so that on Monday I submitted my proposals for ETC! 2016 which will take place February 27. Hope to see you there!

My experience as a presenter took me into new territory, but I am seeing even more as I guide my students into new EduAwesome EDventures! The fifth grade class is preparing to launch a podcast. I have a few details to iron out still, but we are headed in a great direction and their enthusiasm has me excited! This is a great group of students and I look forward to seeing through this process with them. Meanwhile, my sixth graders shot their first video this week as we work on a brief project to kick off our video learning. They will also have the fabulous experience of being a part of Ted-Ed Club. We got our approval last week and will be moving forward in October. This is especially exciting! These students will do great things with their video projects and I very much look forward to seeing their Ted talks develop.

I will use some of our experiences and chronicle our journeys here. As always, I am open to feedback. If you have something that has worked especially well with podcasting or with video, share your ideas in the comments section or Tweet with #EduAwesomeEdventure (yeah, I know it will use a good number of your character limit).

Have a great rest of the week! It's already Wednesday?! Wow!


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Starting a conversation: K-12 vs College tech uses

Here are a couple of things I remember. I remember becoming acquainted with computers at a very early age. I remember being awe-struck once visiting my dad at his school district office as we saw the enormous computer and how the different terminals could communicate with each other. A person could sit at one, type a message, and another person would receive it at their terminal.  I remember having green-screen Apple computers at the elementary school I attended for second through sixth grades. I don't really remember what we learned during computers.

I graduated from high school 20 years ago. I had started testing out of computer classes in eighth grade. I remember fondly spending some time in middle school playing with Oregon Trail. At home, we had educational games such as Where in the World is Carmen San Diego. My dad had written a math game and my mom had done the music for it. I had been exposed to computers a great deal.

When I went away for my freshman year of college, my uncle drove down to give a computer to me. It was a hand-me-down that I appreciated greatly.It was in college that I got my first email address. The university issued email addresses and we were able to connect with our professors by email. It was exciting. The following year, I returned home and attended school close to home. This time we had something super amazing: Infonet. It was a chat feature that allowed us to connect with fellow students. In fact, a few of us became friends through Infonet and eventually had a group that gathered on weekends for different activities, coffee or pool usually. I completed my BA in 2002 and still used technology minimally. I remember being very excited about the way we could connect with a classroom at another campus, but beyond that I don't think there was much tech use. Yet, as I continued my education, I saw technology grow and grow. It's amazing how far we have come in 20 years. I do more in my classes now than my elementary teachers probably could have ever imagined.

It just feels right to be caught up, using, and coaching with the current technologies. I'm getting closer and closer to being cutting edge. I am helping start new trends at my school and working with other educators on implementing new ideas. This is a fantastic time to be in education!

The high school we primarily feed into is going 1:1 iPads for next year and phasing out textbooks. We are implementing the use of and exposure to Chromebooks. My goal at the Technology Instructor then is to bridge it all together and introduce the students to different technologies and enable them to learn more as they move forward through their educational careers.

Here's the thing. Are colleges keeping up? More importantly, are college students using what they have learned as they continue on in their education?

As we all know, there is still quite a divide among elementary, middle, and high school even still. So, imagine what happens when these students descend on the colleges of their choice. These are students well-versed in social media and surely most (probably still not quite all) have some form of technology in hand on a regular basis. At the very least, I am sure most of them have some form of Smart phone. Still, what happens when they walk into their college classroom?

This seems to vary greatly.

A friend of mine teaches classes at a university in California. She incorporates the use of social media. She has also launched podcasts and has a YouTube channel. Her class is a blended format so they only meet face-to-face a portion of the time in the semester.

My aunt teaches at the graduate level. She does blended formats, online courses, as well as face-to-face classes. As she visited recently, we had a very interesting dinner conversation.

Now, interesting dinner conversations are pretty much the norm. My family always ate dinner together, and we still do. As a kid, I sat with a school administrator at one end of the table and public school teacher (and union member) at the other. We talk about all of the interesting topics that often you're not "supposed" to talk about with people. But, we're family. Education issues, technology, and the like are fairly regular topics for us now especially. So, my aunt was visiting and I talked some about some of the different things that I do in my classroom. I love what we are now capable of doing in the way of instruction. I love that we can go beyond expectations. We can raise the bar in our classrooms.

Yet, here was something that threw me off some. What my aunt is seeing is that many college level students are wanting to see PowerPoint presentations and cloze notes or some variation of that combination. I personally struggled to learn in those sorts of class sessions. I need to get into the material. I need to participate in my learning. I proposed that perhaps she will begin seeing a shift in the graduate level classes

A couple of days after this dinner conversation, I saw that someone I once attended a session with was having the opportunity to visit college-level.  Then I saw something more about college-level. And then something more. As I sat down to write this, I saw one more thing.

So, here are my questions:
What happens to our students once they start college?
Is there something that changes between undergrad and graduate level work?
Do they really like it or is it what they know? As in, it's comfortable to them.

We all know magic happens just outside of the comfort zone, so do we need to push the college students farther out of their comfort zone?

What are you seeing and hearing? Please share your thoughts in the comments below or Tweet them out with #collegetechdivide

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Let the story continue;

A few weeks ago, I was browsing a social media network when I stumbled across something a friend had shared. It was an article about Project Semicolon. I read it and immediately shared it. A few days later, I saw another article. Then another. In the meantime, I had already scheduled my appointment.

My tiny but mighty semicolon is small enough to hide, but present enough for me to remember it is there and share it with folks when and where and how I choose. Mostly, it's just one of those things I felt I needed to do. For me. So, I did. (More on this in a moment.)

In the days following, Project Semicolon gained even more momentum on social media. It spread like wildfire. People started sharing their own stories. Then, it came up in education circles on Twitter. I was pleasantly surprised.

I have always been excited to work in education. I have done many different things in my career as an educator, only getting my multi-subject teaching credential about three years ago. I have been proud to come from a family of educators. I have been proud of my students. I have been excited to learn from and share experiences with other educators and the best thing I have done is started using Twitter to connect with other educators. Today, though, I am proud to be a part of a group of educators that are helping to bring more awareness to mental health issues. I am honored to count them among my peers.

#semicolonEDU is going strong right now. Today. At this very moment. Seriously, read the stream associated with the hashtag. It's amazing. Some are sharing tattoos. Some are drawing Sharpie semicolons on themselves. Whatever and however they do it, they are coming together in the education circle for something that needs our attention.

As educators, we will work with peers struggling with various forms of mental health issues, some of whom battle behind closed doors, others who will at least try to share bits of their stories, and still others who are choosing to share their stories completely and openly and honestly. We will work with students who suffer with various forms of mental health issues. Some as "simple" as anxiety. Some far more severe. We will have conferences with parents who have their struggles. We engage the world on a daily basis and there has often been a stigma attached to mental health issues no matter how big or small. The current statistic is that about 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Every day. These could be former students, parents or grandparents of current students. They could be our friends or family. And that statistic is just for veterans. Suicide has been reported to be the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the United States. These two statistics alone should lead to a very open discussion.

Ten years ago this October, my cousin chose to end his own life. This was not a distant cousin. This was a cousin who was like a brother to me. In fact, he had lived with us for a few years in high school. I saw a post recently:
Suicide doesn't take away the pain, but it gives it to someone else.
In fact, in some ways it increases the pain because it passes it on to so many. For ten years, not a day goes by that I don't think about my cousin and the decision he made. He chose to end his story.

Later a person very close to me threatened suicide on more than one occasion. I am thankful that his story continues, but it definitely had to go in the direction of a new chapter.

A parent battles PTSD.

A child struggles with anxiety.

I experience anxiety, in part related to Fibromyalgia.

A little over three years ago, a local high student ended her story. An active, involved, high-achieving student. But, as has become painfully obvious since Robin Williams' suicide, all the successes in the world don't necessarily bring health and happiness.

So, let's use our semicolons to keep the story going. There is so much more to write, so much more to share, so much more to do. We can make a huge difference. We can also stop and listen. Last fall, my son and I participated in a local Out of the Darkness walk. So, this semicolon trend is good and I hope will keep going, but we can show our support in other ways, too. Check here to see if there is a walk near you.

I have a life preserver magnet that I keep in my classroom. It is associated with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. You can learn more about them here.

I am incredibly thankful that @thenerdyteacher helped get the dialog more open and the momentum for Project Semicolon going even stronger. I am proud to stand with you and others. I love seeing educators joining together and discussing real issues such as this. Let's keep this going.

Share your story. Listen to others. Be open. Be real;

July 14, 2015

Monday, July 13, 2015

A new day, a new Edventure

After a wonderful, albeit short, trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park, I returned home to begin the next transition. Of course, we leave next for Pinnacles National Park and have to prepare for that Edventure, but there is something more I have started working on this week.
Instagram post 7/13/15 #FindYourPark

Feeling inspired
I really like being an educator. I tend to think of myself as a facilitator of learning and I recognize that I always have more to learn. My summer reading list includes three books:
Teach Like a Pirate (Dave Burgess)
He's the Weird Teacher (Doug Robertson)
and a more handbook-style book on Google Classroom...

I am in a transitional stage at my school. After two years as the middle school science teacher, I am moving into the technology lab where I will instruct all K-8 students and offer EdTech support to my colleagues. This comes as our school transitions to becoming a GAFE school. Big changes and lots to look forward to in the year ahead. But first, I had to completely close out myself as the science teacher. I thought I had done that. I spent extra time following the end of the school year packing up my things and making the move from the science classroom to the technology lab. Some things I packed up and brought home. And, there they sat. And sat. And sat some more. Until this morning.

I realized it was time to move forward. So, I sat down, went through the things and sorted what I need at home (I'm a mom, too, so of course I'm a 24/7 educator), what I can pack away, and what needs to just go for good. I sat down with my three bags and a single, small box. I know there will be a time when I will need these things again. So, packed into this box are some of my favorite science items including tweezers that I purchased recently, three different types of Slinky, and two rubber ducks. How cool is that? I have fun stuff in my science collection and they all had great lessons to go along with them. I bought my first full-sized Slinky in YEARS to incorporate into our P-waves/S-waves lessons. The kids had fun and learned great science at the same time. I pack away a few items, but what I can never and will never pack away is my desire to do right by the students and teach them well.

Guess who's coming to class...
By a few weeks into the school year last year, my seventh graders were never quite sure who would be teaching them that day. I had started doing different things to grab their attention and really hook them. One of those things was trying different accents. It worked so well for that group of students and I got more out of them because of it. Here's the best part...I got more out of them because they were getting more out of the class. They were engaged and learning and exploring. This class was so excited about what we would do each day and it helped me find even more motivation to do more of what I was doing.

Back to the reading list. I started Teach Like a Pirate last week and I am taking my time with it. I am using a pencil as a bookmark, in fact. I am making notes and stars and underlining. As I am reading I am finding that I am on the right track and I can keep doing what I am doing. I struggled with this position change for next year, but the more I look at it and the more I explore new ideas, the more excited I get about it. I will miss my science classes terribly, but now I can do different things that will continue to support their learning. And, I may just show up in costume one day. Definitely I will keep some of my accents up to date. As I read through the Rapport section yesterday, I got a huge idea and started working on it. In case a student is reading, I won't share it just yet. Though I will say, the door to the technology lab will be a portal to another world where amazing learning takes place.

Early this morning I read what Dave Burgess wrote at just the right time. It was exactly what I needed.
"It's not supposed to be easy -- it's supposed to be worth it."

And, it is. Every bit of what I do is worth it. I have struggled and had lessons where I fell flat on my face (not literally...well, most of the time). I have had lessons that were among some of the most successful things I have ever experienced. I show students that it's ok to try and fail and try again. And I show them how we learn from each other. Next school year, I will begin developing a STEAM fair, I will work on developing a Makerspace, I will seek out more new ideas, we will have an actual newspaper, students will run the yearbook, we will develop video and we may even try our hands at a Podcast. Amazing things are happening. I read over the weekend this:
Sometimes God brings time of TRANSITION to create TRANSFORMATION
Regardless of your personal beliefs, there is something in there for everyone. We can take times of transition and transform ourselves, our teaching, our students and beautiful things can and will happen.

I attended an art high school where I spent two years studying theater. I often put on plays, skits, puppet shows, whatever I could to perform for my family throughout my youth and, still as I read my book this morning, I nodded in agreement. I am a creative person, but that does not mean it all comes easy to me. It takes lots of hard work. It takes networking. It takes asking for help when I need it. It takes sharing ideas. It takes successes and failures and trial and error. But, by golly, I am going to rock my new world in the technology lab next year. What are you going to do?

Side note, as I sat down to write this, I saw something on Twitter that fit perfectly on the #SlowchatED and was impressed out how everything came together today. This was the post I was supposed to write today. You'll get more about the outdoors EDventures soon. Oh....and a video idea is brewing. Good times! 

Happy Monday, folks!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Gearing up for the next Edventure

Last summer, I traveled up the center of the state (California) to Lassen Volcanic National Park. I took along two video cameras and captured some fantastic video while exploring the park, particularly the Bumpass Hell Trail.

This summer, I will return to Lassen with an additional video camera (the GoPro I added to my collection this spring) and try out a different trail or two.

Step one: Check all equipment. All cameras will be charged ahead of time. Last year, I had one major glitch. I had charged one of the cameras the night before only to have it turn itself on in my backpack on the drive. I managed to capture hours of the car ride and very little Lassen. Everything will be charged tonight and checked upon arriving at our destination tomorrow (a lodge with electricity). Additionally, one of my camera requires batteries, so I will put in new batteries and pack backups.

Step 2: Send out reminders. I use social media to reach out to students when we're off from school (as well as communicating with them during school). Students have been invited to participate in the Lassen hike. I will do one last social media blitz tonight. Once I arrive at the lodge, I will be slightly off the grid. No WiFi, minimal cell service. Although for this particular Edventure, I suspect little to no involvement from the students, the use of social media helps them feel connected to it. When we return in the fall and they see the video footage, they will have more of a connection to it than they would otherwise. Voila! The world is their classroom!

Step 3: Go. See. Capture.

Finally, I have elected to do something a little different this year. Since I am shifting into a technology instruction role, I will bring more of the raw footage into the classroom and I will have students work with some of its editing. If you want to see some of last year's Lassen footage, take a look at my previous post Taking it to the Next Level.

As an aside, I always check the weather ahead of any trip. Last year, it was in the 80s and sunny. It looks as if it will be a completely different experience this year. Turns out, thunderstorms are in the forecast. I will pack accordingly and thankfully, the GoPro has its protective waterproof case and my smaller video camera is waterproof as well, just in case it rains.

Lassen this week, Pinnacles next
In the middle of the month, I will pack up and do a similar trip to Pinnacles National Park. This will be a different sort of experience though. This one will be even more off the grid and I've elected for camping instead of staying in a lodge/cabin. Stay tuned.

I lava this!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Taking it to the next level

Over the course of the last 18 months, I have expanded the tools I use in the classroom greatly. I have met with other educators and tried new things. It has all been to the benefit of my students. I recently shared my Virtual Hike/Bone Identification lesson and lab on Twitter. Here, I build on the 142 character limit to give you some additional highlights on how video has enhanced my science lessons.

In April 2014, I returned from a spring trip with two bones I collected on a family property. I took the bones into my seventh grade science class. The goal was simple: have them identify the bones. We worked through the identification as a class. I led Internet research and students came up with their conclusions. Little did I know at the time that it was just the beginning of what would become one of my favorite science lessons.

In December 2014, I returned to the same family property on another trip. Out for a hike, we came across a mostly intact animal rib cage. I returned to the location with a large bag and collected the bones. With the help from my two trusty sidekicks (ages seven and four), I took video of the hike up the hill. Later in the trip, we took another hike and this time collected an animal skull. We also took some photographs along the hike. The video and photographs from the trip would provide exactly what I would need to guide my students through this bone identification.

First, I posted on Twitter images and a preview of what would come upon our return from the Christmas vacation.

Second, I got to work on the video. I created a virtual hike with the video I took and added in some of the still images as well.

Third, I rebuilt the bone identification lab around the virtual hike.

I walked the students through the hike. (Pun fully intended here.) They were to take notes on their observations. Once they completed the virtual hike, the students were then broken into groups and rotated through different stations. Each station had a different bone (or group of bones) to identify. I provided them with a worksheet to fill in notes as they visited the different bone identification stations. They had a chance to revisit the virtual hike and collect more information from the bones on a second day. Students also used personal electronic devices and the two classroom tablets to research. They then took the information they had collected and did a lab write-up.

This enhanced lesson allows the students to explore and inquire. I was so impressed with everything they did with this lesson and the outcome was fantastic!

So, what's next? How else can this lesson be enhanced?
Google Forms

The next step would be to take the worksheet and make it into a Google Form. Groups can then fill in the Google Form and ultimately submit the lab write up through Google Drive.

Video is the "thing" I have decided to continue pursuing in new ways. Sixth grade lesson: I used it to enhance a series of lessons on earthquakes. I showed news footage from different earthquakes, including the 1989 Loma Prieta and the 1987 Whittier-Narrows earthquakes. Then, I took my own video showing the how Whittier looks now. This included a class discussion as we viewed videos. We also examined National Geographic videos.

Also, I used a summer adventure to enhance lessons with all three levels of science (sixth, seventh, and eighth). I took video at Lassen Volcanic National Park. I brought back resources from the visitor's center there. I put different pieces of the Lassen experience into difference lessons as they fit with the science. This video was shown to the sixth grade class.

Among the tools I have built into my teaching toolbox, or my Swiss Army Knife of Education, if you will, I have found that video can be used in a multitude of ways and is especially helpful in bringing the outside into the inside of the classroom. It enhances the learning experience for my students. It helps to build in differentiated instruction that has done well by my students who may need a little something more. I have a ways to go as I continue to work with video and I look forward to actually doing it better and better.

The best part is's worth trying. The only failure comes in not trying, as "they" say. So, if you haven't already done so, give it a try. Bring the classroom to life by enhancing a lesson with video.

Next school year, as I take on a new role where I will actually be teaching some of the technology I use, I will have the students do different things with video themselves. One significant step will be creating a video yearbook.

How and why do you use video in your classroom? How will you take it to the next level? Share your thoughts here or post a response on Twitter with #ScienceRocks and/or #EdTech


Monday, March 23, 2015

My take-away: The Swiss Army Knife of Education

I spent five days attending different sessions at the CUE 2015 Annual Conference and the Google West Coast Summit. I met amazing people and am still processing a lot of what I learned. I got excited about like-minded thinkers who helped give me fresh inspiration and celebrated new ideas that will fit wonderfully into my plans for the rest of the year, as well as for next year.

As I returned to school today, my students were excited to see me back with them. They were also excited to hear about the conference. I asked two of my three grade levels to include in their Five Minute Writing assignments what their hopes for technology in education are. It was wonderful to hear student perspectives' and how they aligned with what I spent five days hearing and learning. It all fits together so nicely.

As I spoke with my seventh graders, I shared a few thoughts of my own (in connection with what I heard them saying). We talked about technology as a tool.

Is technology a hammer? No.
A screwdriver? Guess again.
A wrench? Nope.
Pliers? Still no.
I know! It's a corkscrew!

So, just what kind of tool is technology?

Here it big take-away from five days of Education Technology.

Technology is THE Swiss Army knife of education.

It's a tool that can be used in different ways at different times. It can do amazing things. It can do big jobs and small jobs. It can make the difference that we need to make. But, it is something we can keep in our pocket. We can have it ready to go. But, there is much we can do without it as well as with it. Everyone needs to have a pocket knife, but it is a Swiss Army knife that is the utili-tool that many adventurers rely on most.

If you're packing for an Edu-awesome adventure, be sure to pack in technology and use it differently at different times.

Students need to be familiar with technology and able to use it under varying circumstances. In order to help them along with that, we need to be familiar with it under varying scenarios ourselves. I have often been excited by the fact that my technology all works so well together. I am an Android "baby" and love the Google. I appreciate greatly that my two tablets and my phone all work well together. I have set out on a Google adventure. But I must also become familiar with other forms of technology and how to use them to help my students through their Edu-awesome adventures. I need to prepare them for what is still to come. I must prepare them as they are the LEAD LEARNERS of tomorrow.

There are three components to technology use in education that work together.

1. The hardware
2. The software
3. The knowledge (or know-how, if you will) to use both

I'm still building my technology tool chest, but the best part is that it's not a heavy case that I must lug around. It's a pocket-sized Swiss Army knife that I will have ready to go.

I returned to the classroom today from five days of education technology awesomeness to have at least two technology "fails" within the first two periods of the day. My WiFi gave me issues and I struggled to get my new Chromebook to do what I wanted it to do. But, you know what, all went well overall. We made it through the day, had a little laugh, and moved about our business. I listened to what my students had to say and we are ready for another day in our educational journey.

Happy Monday! Let the new journey continue!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

10 minutes to blog the official launch of Edu-Awesome Adventure

I have given myself a maximum of ten minutes to blog this morning. I have been attending the CUE 2015 Annual Conference and today have a full day of the Google West Coast Summit. This seems like just the right place and time to officially launch my Edu-Awesome Adventure. My first post (see below) was done when I set things up so that you can have a chance to get to know me and why I am here.

My mind is already so full of ideas from some of the CUE sessions that it's a good thing I took notes. What high-tech note-taking method did I use? (Afterall, I'm at a technology conference, so I must have the latest and greatest tool to use, right?)

Kickin' in "old school"
Are you ready for this....I used something called a notepad and a pen. It was a yellow legal pad with real paper and two colors of pen: blue and red. WHAT?!

Yep! That's what I used. I always keep some real paper source and lots of pens with me or nearby. I typed my first kindergarten spelling homework in 1982 at my dad's work. I love to type. I appreciate technology. Always have. But just need a piece of paper and a pen or pencil.

Guess what else...I still do my lesson plans by handwritten means as well. I have a plan book and always write them out in pencil. Then, when I make changes as I go, I can erase and write in what I've done whether I'm at the front of the room, the back of the room, the car on the way home, or at a coffee shop. I type my lesson plans for subs and I do it on Google Drive so I can easily share, even giving my principal comment privileges in case there's something the sub, or I, need to know.

Sometimes, you just have to kick it old school.

Time's up. Time to get ready for my first Google Summit session. My paper and pencil are already packed into my briefcase, along with a journal, a Chromebook, a laptop, and a tablet. And pens... lots and lots of pens!

What are you doing today?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Welcome to Edu-Awesome Adventure

Education is an Awesome Adventure. I like to think of it as Edu-Awesome! I currently teach sixth through eighth grades and greatly enjoy what I do. Let me take a moment to introduce myself and my background.

My name is Rebekah Remkiewicz. I come from a family of educators. One of my great-grandmothers was a teacher, both of my maternal grandparents and both of my parents were educators. I have several other family members who are also educators or otherwise work in education. When I was 14, my granddad looked at me across the dinner table one evening and said, "You're going to be a teacher." I countered, "No, I'm going to be an entertainment lawyer." He insisted that education was in my blood and that I was destined to be a teacher. He was right.

I have worked in education for over 15 years and even before that, I often helped my mom in her classroom. I have worked with students from preschool age to adult, including spending five years as an adult school teacher. My work as an educator overlapped some with my work as a journalist. I spent well over ten years working in various capacities as a smalltown journalist, including functioning as the owner and publisher of a small weekly-turned-monthly newspaper publication. I have two passions in my career life:
1. Education
2. Writing

My other passion, of course, is being a mom. It's amazing and there are things from mommyhood that overlap what I do in education.

When I first set out to get my credential, I intended to obtain my single subject credential and teach high school. What I learned about myself as I started that credential work was that I was better suited for younger ages. In fact, what I like most is the set up of K-8 schools, though I knew I would be happy anywhere teaching intermediate level. When I first started my credential work, I excelled at the Education Technology coursework. It was recommended that I consider getting my Master's in EdTech. I put it in on hold. At one point, I put a lot on hold. I obtained my Adult Ed credential and loved substitute teaching in K-8 schools, teaching adult school, and working with the Special Day Class and Resource students at a couple of different schools. Then, the time came to make a solid decision. I needed to either complete additional coursework in order to maintain my adult ed credential or I needed to get back to work on either my single or multiple subject. I looked at what made me happy and where I was headed. I considered the teacher I had adopted as my mentor. I knew it was time to finish my multiple subject credential. So, I did.

Having completed that credential and finding a school I love, I have finally been able to explore EdTech. All these years in between caused me to fall a little behind when I had always been ahead of the curve. (I was typing my spelling lists as a kindergartner before most anyone even really knew what a computer was and my family was among the first to have a home PC.) I have spent a great deal of time (summer vacation last year helped a lot) investing in getting myself caught up with the times and now I'm moving full speed ahead. I am in my second year as a CUE member and preparing to attend my second CUE annual conference. I have attended other EdTech conferences and I get excited about many different aspects of it. I completed my Google Educator qualification last fall and have a goal of attending a Google Teacher Academy.

Teaching science has allowed me wonderful opportunities to blend my love of technology with education. I created a virtual hike that led into an investigative lab for life science in January and it was one of the best lessons I've done in my entire career so far. My strongest interest has always been in Earth Science and this was nurtured throughout my life, especially when at age 11 my nana took me to Hawaii and I got to visit volcanic trails. I have been spelunking and love hiking. EdTech blends my loves in wonderful ways.

This blog will be a place to share resources and approaches, as well as some of my general thoughts on education. I am who I am because it was nurtured by a family of educators. I do what I do because it is a passion. My passion.

So, welcome to Edu-Awesome! It's going to be a fantastic adventure!