Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Providing a safe place

What exactly does that mean? A safe place? Safe? Who defines what is safe? And what does it really mean?

For teenager Anne Frank and her family, it meant hiding from the Nazis and relying on assistance from co-workers and friends who could be trusted. We just finished reading the play version of The Diary of Anne Frank last week. We also saw the play as a class the day before Election Day.

Following Election Day, the news filled with words like divisiveness, fear, divided, safety. And then we went into a long weekend. That long weekend came to an end with a horrific tragedy that rocked our community. A well-known sheriff's deputy was shot and killed. This impacted our county, but more than that, it brought great pain to our community and even more specifically, to some of our school's families. This provided a teachable moment. We had gone into the weekend hearing how divided our country was and we emerged from it united as a community in the face of tragedy. We came together in part because we were already a close-knit community.

As I walked into my classroom on Monday morning, I knew that our recent learning, our nation, and our community all offered something very important: an opportunity. What I did with this opportunity was up to me. I chose words such as safe, respect, and feelings. As class started, I invited students to find places to sit around the classroom, to emerge from behind desks and sit where they are comfortable. This is not unusual when they are going their own ways to work, but I wanted something slightly different. I wanted them to sit where they wanted, but remain as a group. I wanted to encourage them without insistence.

I explained to them what I just wrote: the difference between how we went into the weekend versus how we came out of it. Our class was not divided, but a reminder that we are a community was worthwhile. I told them that I wanted our classroom to offer them a safe place. A place where they can share their thoughts, ideas, and feelings. We have spent months discussing the election and it has always happened in a respectful manner. Encouraging them to continue their respectful dialog and allowing them an opportunity to share how they were feeling proved to be exactly what we needed to start this week.

We talked about everything from the election to international matters, but it was our local tragedy that remained at the forefront of many of their thoughts.

Our students need to know that they have a safe place to think and share ideas. We as teachers can do this, offer this, encourage this, and live this.

The following day a student asked why I kept wearing a safety pin. I replied, "it's a reminder." She asked, "that you're safe?" I responded, "yes, and you are too."

Not everyone will agree all of the time, and that's ok. As long as we maintain a safe and respectful forum, our students will know they are valued as are their thoughts.

If I am going to encourage students to think bigger, dig deeper, and ask questions, then I need to give them the right place to do that. Think, dig, ask, share, respect. The best part is seeing my students accomplish all of these.

Whitney Houston once sang, "I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride to make it easier..." We, as educators, can and should remember this. Always.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Dear Student, From your guide

Dear Student,
I am your teacher. I will push you to dig deeper. I will implore you to ask more questions. I will encourage you to think, watch, observe, listen, hope, work, and do. I am also your guide on this journey, if even for only a brief moment. Additionally, I am your champion, your leader, your supporter, your cheerleader. If it is important to you, it is important to me. I may miss some of the important moments, but if given even half the chance, I will be there. I will be there in class to instruct and guide you. I will be there, after school to help you through the difficult math problems. I will be there to cheer you on as you work toward your own personal goals. This evening, I cheered for two of my students as they played in their All-Star football game. Previously, I cheered as two of my (former) students participated in a water polo tournament. I have led hikes. I have spent lunches with students. I have asked questions.

Sometimes, I get it right, Sometimes I'm not quite where you need me. But, believe me, I support you.

I hope for the best for you. I am a cheerleader. Perhaps I am not the biggest or the loudest, but I am your cheerleader. Dear student, you are why I do what I do. Even my own children know it. I hope you know it as well.

Dear student, your success is important to me because it is important to and for you.

You teacher, your guide, your facilitator of learning,
Ms. Remkiewicz
Ms. R
Ms. Rem

Be awesome. Be you.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

I'm not an entertainment lawyer, I'm an educator

I will remember the day always and forever. It is embedded in my brain.
When I was 14, my granddad looked at me and told me, "you're going to be a teacher."
"No I'm not," I replied. "I'm going to be an entertainment lawyer."

I went on to spend two years at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts studying theatre. (1992-94)

I love acting. I love being on stage. I love costumes. Sometimes, I love make-up. Most of all, I love a candid audience. I never had any big aspirations for acting. I love it. I do. But, I knew that I was made for something different. I knew I was supposed to help people. I think, that's why I was thinking "lawyer."

Flash-forward a few years. I sat in the office of a newspaper publisher, interviewing for a job as a young reporter. As the publisher and I talked about my lead up to this moment, I shared some things about who I was and what I had done. He looked at me and called me "a frustrated actress."

I will never forget that day as well.

I went on to become a newspaper reporter at another newspaper, then an editor, then a publisher. Yes, this "frustrated actress" who wanted to be an "entertainment lawyer" became a newspaper owner and publisher. I wrote and edited articles. I sold advertisements. I worked with people. I helped people. And then, my world changed. A shift occurred. A change happened. As I continued to run my newspaper business, I found myself back in school working toward my teaching credential. I also worked as an adult school teacher. I found a path for myself far different than I ever would have anticipated. And, each step of the way, I knew granddad was watching. I wanted him to see what I was doing. We wrote letters back and forth. He remained one of my greatest fans.

And then, one day, I walked away from journalism.
Another day, I stepped into the traditional classroom.
Another day, I became a full-fledged teacher.
Another day, I looked back on it all and saw that my granddad was right.

I am a teacher.
I was born to be a teacher.
It is in my blood.

My grandparents were educators.
My parents are retired educators.
I am now an educator.

I grew up with an administrator at one end of the dinner table and a teacher at the other.
I can tell you quickly who my most influential teachers were in the classroom and I can tell you that my family also includes influences on my life.

My grandfather is someone people remember. So is my nana. My mom has students with whom she (and I) remain in contact with and my dad is amazing. My aunt is in the top of her field.

I was born and made to be an educator and our dinner conversations are part of my PLN.

I am a teacher.
I am not an entertainment lawyer.
My granddad was right.
And I am ok with that.

I am an educator.
And I will work with m colleagues, near and far to be the best educator I can be. Always.
I am a lifelong learner.
I am a facilitator of learning.
It's in my blood.

Oh...and that actress stuff? I do it. Every. Single, Day. Sometimes I put on a costume. Sometimes I wear make-up. Sometimes I write and follow a script. But always, yes always...I put my students first. Always. And forever. I am an educator.

A glimpse at Fall CUE 2016

I was one of many attending Fall CUE this weekend. Today I will offer you a glimpse, an overview of my experiences.

I arrived on a dark, rainy Thursday night in an unfamiliar area. I found parking easily and made my way to the badge pick-up. I found it easily and everyone I encountered treated me with kindness. We were off to a good start. Then I followed directions to the cafeteria to grab a bag, a badge holder, and best of all...ribbons to add to my badge. A saw a familiar face, John Eick, and said hello. I made it just in time to get my badge. As I made my way back to my car, others heard words I feared I would hear, "Sorry, we just shut everything down for the night."

I selected a hotel about 15 or 20 minutes from American Canyon High School and the drive worked out pretty well on Friday and Saturday.

Friday started with the opening keynote delivered by Dave Burgess, author of "Teach Like a Pirate." The theatre packed full quickly and easily thus leaving some of us out in the rain. But only for a moment. Organizers worked to get people settled in overflow rooms quickly and efficiently. I ended up in the comforts of the cafeteria with coffee, a cheese danish, and a decent view of the screen broadcasting the keynote. I read "Teach Like a Pirate" over a year ago and it inspired me to keep doing things I was already doing, as well as to bring out my costumes and really take some of the things I did to the next level. I looked forward to this keynote so much so that I dressed in my full pirate costume for the day. (I received great, positive feedback and that made it even more fun, of course.) Standing in the cafeteria, listening to Burgess speak, I had one thought above all others.

"Wow! He talks really fast!"

He does. And you have to try to keep up. Sometimes you do, and sometimes you're still making a note about the I in PIRATE while he starts his big set up for A. (I exaggerate only slightly.) Here are a couple of my big take-aways from the opening keynote Friday:

Student Powered Showcase
"You don't have to have permission to learn."
* I try to instill in my students the idea that they can and should always dig deeper, ask questions, seek answers, and look beyond the face value of questions they are asked. If I ask them to tell me what they know about current events, they will give me headlines and I want them to go beyond the headlines. That is a goal we have for the year. When I give them a math problem, I don't want them to show their work just for the sake of me seeing it, but I want them to be able to go back and find where they made a mistake or discover different ways to solve the same problem. Sometimes we will do this on paper, sometimes I will have them create a model of the problem in Google Draw. Right now, I am guiding them through these processes to some degree but my hope is that eventually they will come to do it naturally. I only have them in these classes for this school year, but they need to continue learning and they need to remember that they do not need permission to learn. They need to feel free to discover and learn on their own as well.

"We are in the life changing business."
* Yes. See my notes above. If I can make the difference in the lives of my students and if I can get them to ask and answer difficult questions and if I can get them to pursue greatness in all they do, then I have done my job. I may not do this for every single one of them, but if I can do it for at least one of them, then I have succeeded. It's like the story of the starfish. (More on this in a moment.)

"Bring more of myself to work everyday."
* Precisely! As I noted above, reading "Teach Like a Pirate" inspired me to dig into my closet and begin incorporating my costumes into my teaching, but I have more I can and will do. I can wear hiking boots and take them on virtual hikes that I find on websites or that I create myself. Why? Because I enjoy hiking and there are valuable lessons to learn: math, science, literature, observation skills, and so much more. Let's go for a hike! That inspired my #EduAwesome #Adventure seeking in my lesson planning. I love adventure and can bring that into the classroom. Back to the costumes, I wear my Steampunk costume for STEAM events and teach Pirate speak on Talk Like a Pirate Day. But now, I see more. We will read "A Christmas Carol" coming up soon and it will all come together just before Christmas break when we celebrate with a party in the spirit of Charles Dickens' writing, costumes fully encouraged.

"What is unique about you makes you powerful and effective."
What is unique about you? I have found some of my uniqueness and I strive to live it, be it, and teach through it daily. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fall on my face. The key here is I pick myself back up and try again. Sometimes a lesson may not work with one class but will with another. Sometimes a lesson just needs to be reworked and strengthened. I started this school year asking my eighth graders what their super powers are. What makes them unique? I will ask them

Closing Keynote Saturday, October 29

again toward the end of the year and we will compare this. I look forward to seeing how they change and how they stay the same. I look forward to seeing the greatness in them grow. It starts with us. We must fi

rst show them that we embrace ourselves, our strengths, our unique approaches to life and to teaching. We must demonstrate what it means to be a lifelong learner and encourage them to become lifelong learners themselves. Be powerful. Be effective. Be you.

Earlier in the week leading up to the Fall CUE Conference, I talked with my parents about wanting to take and wear my pirate costume in the spirit of the opening keynote. They both encouraged me. My mom said, "Be you." So, I did. I am almost 40-years-old and hearing my mom encourage me still to be myself can make all the difference. I am a little silly, a little fun, a little adventurous. I have a background in writing and theatre. I love bringing that to the classroom and continue to expand on it. So, why shouldn't I do the same when spending time among other educators. One of my presentations begins with showing "We're Going on a Bear Hunt." It asks, "Are you afraid?" "I'm not a afraid," declares a sea of children's voices. As adults, we must do the same. We must declare that we are not afraid and take our students on the bear hunt of education.

I earned all possible badges to earn in the Fall CUE Game and that was pretty cool. Initially I wasn't sure I would even try. Then, I realized how easy it was to do one. Then another. All I had to do was document things I was doing anyway. I greatly enjoyed time in the STEAMpunk Playground and I wanted that badge. So, I took more pictures. I have a dream of bringing drones into my classroom, so I spent more time with the drones than anything else. Now, I am curious about more, especially the VR experience that was available there. I am hopeful to have a chance to experience some of these things at CUE Annual in March.

Another highlight for me at Fall CUE was the Breakout EDU session with Ari Flewelling and Ben Cogswell. I keep glansing at Breakout EDU and "thinking about it." Their session helped me see how I can use it in different ways. I have ideas for my math, history, and language arts classes. Now, I just need to work on getting set up for them. My goal is to do three Breakout EDU lessons (one at each grade level) by the end of the year.

Now, back to the starfish reference.

I shoved a small strip of paper in my pocket at the Breakout EDU session. On it is a single question.
What can you learn about failure from playing?
This is a wonderful, beautiful question.

Two of my favorite educators:
Doug Robertson and Jon Corippo
My answer includes this: if we quit because we hit a roadblock only then have we actually failed. However, if we continue and are persistent, then we have blown failure out of the way and eventually meet with success. The only failure is in not trying or in giving up and quitting rather than trying to do things differently. As teachers, we know this. We know we have not failed unless or until we quit trying. That is precisely what we need our students to learn. We can model it for them, but with tools such as Breakout EDU, they can actually experience it. So, what tools can and will we bring into the classroom to allow our students experience missteps only to look failure in the eye and say, "Not this time. I got this," and then find their own way to success?

As teachers, we have to remember that we may not reach our ultimate destination or predetermination of success with every single student on every single day. But, we can and we will do our best. If we help one student, we have made a difference and we have succeeded. Just as the boy threw starfish after starfish back into the ocean hoping to make a difference, we must go in and take our unique skills and interests to our students through our lessons and strive to make a difference. We can and we will make a difference.

Fall CUE is a very different experience from the CUE Annual Conference. After attending Palm Springs three times, this was my first trip to Fall CUE. I knew it would be smaller and different, but I still had to experience it to get it. The networking is more personal. The idea-sharing is different. Relationships are strengthened and lessons taught, lessons learned. Just before i left for the conference, someone asked me, "Why do you do it?"

1. I can grow as an educator.
2. I can help other educators.
3. And the biggest reason of all, the true "payout" from experiences like this: the benefit to students. My students, my colleagues' students, students in other places throughout the state, across the country, and around the world. Students benefit from teachers who strive to do more, be more, share more, learn more, explore more...We are lifelong learners now in hopes that our students will become lifelong learners themselves.

Why do I do it? Because my students deserve the best me I can offer and this helps me on that journey.
Why do I do it? Because I can and I will make a difference, one starfish (err...student) at a time.
Why do I do it? Because it is what I am called to do. It is my passion and in being true to myself, I must follow my passion.

I am a lifelong learner, a passionate educator, and my students are going to journey their way through potential failures on the road to success and they will have a guide along the way.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A whole new world: Of GHO and beyond

As I sat, a wee bit frustrated at times, eating my reheated homemade fettuccine with two coffee stirrers as chopsticks (because while I carefully planned what to eat, I somehow forgot to plan how to eat it in my hotel room), I spent almost two hours on a Google Hangout, with my children.

This is my life.

And, I love it.

My son had math homework he wanted to have my help with while my daughter sought my help with spelling homework. My son is slightly better versed in the Google-verse than my daughter. Hence, the periodic frustration. I had to teach her a few things from this end of my computer. She had to pick them up as quickly as she can so we could move forward with homework. She's six. Her class uses iPads. At home, she has a Chromebook. She wanted to type her spelling while keeping the video feed from our GHO in plain view. This was no simply task with me here, her there, and other distractions along the way. My son stepped in and did what he could on the other end to help. And, help, he did. Afterall, remember, we are an EdTech Family. From us is born the "If you give a kid a camera..." (stay tuned, it's coming. I promise.)

We accomplished our goals. My son completed six math problems with my help and my daughter performed her "Type It" task (typing her spelling words as prescribed and chosen from a spelling menu offered to her by her first grade teacher). At the end, my son helped share the typed spelling words with me so that I could be sure they would end up emailed to my daughter's teacher. Following that fairly easy task, my daughter read a story. I listened, saw the pictures, and helped with words as she held the book up for me to see.

This may be my most favorite Google Hangout of all time, even though I cried (as only an adult woman can and will) for a break during one point. The best part of it was seeing the joy in my children's eyes and feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end of it all.

Last spring, I used Google Hangouts to connect a class with podcasters. It was incredibly fulfilling to see my students ask questions and get answers in real time then apply what the learned.

Before Google Hangouts On-Air became a thing of the past, my son and I did our first EdTech Family broadcast and will turn to YouTube Live for future installments.

This real-time video and audio interaction is beyond anything I ever could have imagined 30, 20, or even ten years ago. And seeing its classroom benefit outweighs all frustrations.

It helps students in the classroom. It helps students at home. I do indeed like it here and there, I love GHO everywhere!

And, you will too!

Give it a try. Find its usefulness in your arena and go for it. Connect with parents. Connect with educators. Create a classroom without walls. And help a kid accomplish homework tasks. This is what it's all about! Let's do this!

Reporting live from Fall CUE 2016 Night One. @RemScience

What's ahead:
Tomorrow is the day Fall CUE really, actually gets started.
Dave Burgess will provide the opening keynote address.
Many sessions ahead, but I will attend one paid session featuring Dave Burgess.
I forgot my copy of Teach Like a Pirate.
And, that's ok.

Learn how to transform lessons into EduAwesome Adventures using video (and yes, that includes Google Hangouts!) in my session on Saturday at 2 p.m. Hope to see you there. But, if you're interested in something a little different, check out Karly Moura and Kelly Martin's session on using Padlet! (Great tool! I'd be there if I were't presenting.)

What sessions are you most looking forward to attending at Fall CUE?
Have you picked up your badge yet?
Remember badge bling!
Make it EduAwesome!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Take me IN to the ballgame

If you have met me or if you have participated in Twitter chats with me or even, quite simply, read just one blog post, you know I am a huge proponent of breaking down the walls of the classroom. This could mean actually venturing outside or it could mean bringing the outside into the classroom. There are many ways to break down the walls (both physical and proverbial) and extend lessons into EduAwesome Adventures.

Today, I want to talk a little bit about one of my very favorite things on Earth: baseball.

"And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again. Oh...people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

~Thomas Mann (James Earl Jones) in Field of Dreams

I love baseball. And, I love teaching. So, naturally the two can and will come together in the classroom. When I taught middle school science, I used hula hoops, tennis balls, jump ropes, and baseball to teach lessons. At one point, to gain some insight, I attended "Fastballs and Physics," a Science on Screen presentation at the State Theatre in Modesto, California. It drew primarily from baseball movies. I connected lessons from there with lessons I already planned. Now, as I teach a math class and the baseball season makes its final dash toward October, I find myself once again looking to incorporate baseball into lessons. The measurements between bases, speeds of pitches thrown, and batting averages and ERAs for pitchers all automatically lend themselves to math lessons.

As we sat at the San Francisco Giants game on Friday night, I looked around and started thinking of how and when I would incorporate baseball into upcoming math lessons. Then, I started looking around and I found a couple of good resources.

Edutopia has six baseball themed lessons and I also found some that I like over at Education World. I will continue to explore these, but also had a couple of ideas of my own.

I recently had my first lesson in Number Talks and am in the process of building them into my lessons. We have been working with converting decimals to fractions and vice versa, so I will start there and build. We will explore averages and we will find differences between best and worst ERAs. We will determine how many games the Giants need to win to pass the Dodgers and at what point they may become mathematically eliminated. The other piece of this is the Wild Card race which was much talked about mathematically through the weekend as the Giants battled the Cardinals, splitting a four-game series.

Over the next two (or more) weeks, we will break down the walls and bring baseball into our math classroom. Students will learn, friends. Students will learn. They will begin solving math problems and it will be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters.

So..."do you wanna have a catch?"
How have you incorporated baseball into your teaching?
What new thing will you try this week?

EdTech Adventure: Family Style

Over the course of the last few years, my children have watched as I have attended conferences. They get excited about the swag I bring home and always want to hear about what I've learned. They also love to talk about what they learn at school and what new tricks and tips they have. Close to two years ago, my son and I started to develop an idea for a conference. Then, earlier this year, as I traveled to make some connections at schools in Alabama, I introduced him to Google Hangouts. A few months later, he joined me as a watched one of my favorite podcasts. More ideas bloomed.

Within the last week, we finally took a step and made our idea happen. We sat down and did a Google Hangout together and recorded it thanks to Google Hangouts On Air. Here I will share some of what we learned and what we discussed.

First, as of September 12, Google Hangouts On Air is no longer available. Google has redirected people YouTube Live. We recorded on September 10, so we used GHO (On Air) but mentioned at the beginning that we would transition to YouTube Live for the next discussion.

We conducted our first conversation "interview style." I wrote the questions and we had a brief discussion beforehand. Then, we set ourselves up and got the conversation going. The only addition was my six-year-old daughter who decided to participate as well. That added more time to it and we will adjust in the future. Our hope is to have these typically be 10 to 15 minute conversations that allow a teacher and student perspective, but also a parent and child perspective as well. This first conversation focused on the use of technology in education, specifically in the classroom and focused on the child/student perspective.

Our conversation offered many thoughts, but it was a closing thought of my son's that I think is an important thing for us to all consider, and remember. In his closing thoughts, he talked about how some students lack Internet access at home. Connectivity is definitely an issue and I think it puts things in perspective for students to be aware of it as well. At a time when some fourth graders are asking for the latest iPhone, others would simply appreciate accessibility for the sake of looking at the homework for the week on their teacher's website. A discussion has started in some circles, but we definitely need to keep the conversation going about connectivity and accessibility.

Other highlights include my fourth grader sharing about Chromebooks, Google Classroom, and Google apps in his classroom. My first grader shared some about iPads and her favorite apps/activities. Her most favorite is Starfall.

Our first EduAwesome Adventure conversation took almost 40 minutes and we will work to keep them shorter in the future, but this was a fun kick-off to something new from our little EdTech family. Want to hear some for yourself? The video appears below.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Blending math learning approaches

In February, I had a special opportunity to travel to Baldwin County, Alabama and visit classes where I got some interesting ideas. At the time, I had little idea how much I would be able to incorporate some of the ideas as soon as I have. It was a unique opportunity to share approaches to learning across the country. I found great value in the trip and brought back some ideas that I explored immediately, but some were placed in my "ed bag" (my mind vault). One experience included observing students in a math class complete a Gallery Walk. Each student had a worksheet where they could work out math problems. They worked in partners and walked around the hallway where their teacher had placed different posters with math problems on them. They used this opportunity to have a low-tech, high learning day where they applied the Pythagorean Theorem. Observing the students, talking with the teacher, and soaking in the learning happening was incredible.

Flash-forward to last week. Over the summer, I had started hearing about Math 360. I took interest in it because as I started a new role at a new school, I would take on teaching one math class and becoming familiar with new ideas seemed like something I definitely should do. I browsed the Internet and looked at fellow educational Twitter users' Tweets about this approach to math learning. I wanted to know how I could do it. Going to the training and purchasing the available supplies was a little out of reach for me in the immediate future, but I could pull aspects of the learning approaching and incorporate it into my class. As I wrote my lessons for the week, I knew I wanted to incorporate what I could, how I could.

Then, I remembered my Baldwin County experience.


I took the two ideas and I blended them together. I made large posters with math problems for the current chapter. I laminated them and put them up around the room. Additionally, I put one problem up on the white board and one on the SMART board. I broke the students into small groups and handed each group a dry erase marker. With their Interactive Notebooks in hand, students made their way around the room. Their task was simple: complete all of the problems in their Interactive Notebooks and take responsibility for solving at least two problems up in the room. They spent the entire class period making their way around the room and getting math practice. The next day, we came back together in the classroom and went through the problems as a class. This allowed students to correct their work. We identified specific issues together, they made their corrections as needed, and we were ready to move forward.

As we reflected on the experience together, I came up with one modification. (We will do this again!) When we do this in the future, students will complete all of the problems in their Interactive Notebooks, then when we come back together, each group will take a turn leading through the steps of one or two problems with the class.

I left the posters up around the room to show parents at Back to School Night, too, so they could see what their students did in math during our first full week of school.

We are off and running and it is #EduAwesome without a doubt!

Monday, August 22, 2016

A splash of color, a little song, and creative learning rocks!

I recently started using a planner. I still love my Google Calendar and I use it for everything. It's ease of use makes life easier. My planner allows a different sort of organization and creativity to emerge. In that, I received a pack of gel pens from my very best friend. It has allowed me to color code my planning on paper similarly to how I color code on my Google Calendar. It's fantastic!

Last week, I brought that organizational technique into the classroom. I am using a varied approach to my math instruction this year. I am incorporating different approaches in instruction and learning to reach all students. One thing I started with students was the use of an Interactive Notebook. As we make notes together, I color code with my set of gel pens. I have encouraged students to color code as well. It allows them to get creative while keeping their notes organized. Today, I modeled for them how I would be ok with them using gel pens. Erasable gel pens! Make a mistake? That's ok, erase it, rewrite, and move forward. The colors have engaged them in their note taking and takes some of the potential drudgery out of it.

Meanwhile, in eighth grade, students wrote songs! As we spent the first few days of school getting to know each other and establishing routine, I incorporated some fantastic learning. We started by co-creating a Google Slides presentation. Students worked in small groups and each group created three to five slides with the primary emphasis being on the 13 colonies. Each of the 13 original colonies had its own slide. At the end of the week, we presented together as a class team and the final slide (which I had created) introduced the song assignment. They could work independently or with a partner and they could create their own tune or put words to a familiar song. The only requirement was that all 13 original colonies be included. Today, they presented, and let me tell you, these student

s ROCKED this assignment. One group wrote a song and choreographed their whole number, one group did the whole song creation using technology tools such as Audacity and a voice sounding much like Stephen Hawking came across with the lyrics, another group sang a beautiful tune, another did a rap with a Yankee Doodle underscore to it. Today, we heard very different songs from each group and got to know the 13 colonies just a little bit better.

During tonight's TOSA Chat, I mentioned that one of my goals for the year is to allow more creativity in learning within the "regular" classroom and I think we're off to a great start!

Looking for other ideas? Check out what my EdTech friend Ryan O'Donnell came up with this summer. Seriously, go, read it. Now. And, be sure to follow him on Twitter (if you aren't already.) @creativeedtech

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Back in the classroom again

With the start of a new school year, comes the start of many new beginnings. This is especially exciting as with the start of a new year, I meet new students in a new classroom at a new school. With this new school year, I return to a more traditional teaching role and I see the EDventure in it all.

As I entered the new classroom to prepare it for the start of the year, I looked over bulletin boards that remained on the walls as I walked in with some of my own supplies. I always like to create an environment that sets a good example. For a couple of years, I put my run medals up on a small bulletin board to let students know that anyone can do anything that they commit to doing. I also like to encourage creativity and spark conversations where I can learn what interests my students while showing them things that interest me. One such conversation starter is my TARDIS door poster. This year, I knew I had more usable wall space that was ready for bulletin boards. At first, I thought I might keep some of the existing bulletin boards as they were. Then, I thought again. I need to add my own self to it, I need to make it a space for the students, and we need to make it our creative learning environment. I kept shadows of the previous teacher. for example, the Accelerated Reading board is in the same spot. It, however, has a different look and feel to it. We will celebrate all AR accomplishments with a flare of individualism. I set up the bulletin board, but left it open. I created a space with a superhero theme, which happens to be the theme for the classroom this year.

We are all superheroes.

What's your super power?

I used trim and added "What's your super power?" after adding the students names on superhero name cards.

Preparing the creative space (AKA: the Classroom)

I decided against using a bunch of brightly colored bulletin board paper to cover sections of the walls and left the more neutral bulletin background in most areas. I simply used trim to section out areas. It's calming but powerful. I found previously, that I really like a horseshoe or double horseshoe for seating. Students can break off easily into groups as needed and it works very well for class discussions and presentations. I went with a modification of that to start the year. I may adjust ever so slightly. But, more on that in a moment.

As I prepared to transform the room, I came across a blog post that fit with the direction I like to take my room, but had some advice I knew I needed to heed. Exploring the Science of Effective Classroom Design was exactly what I needed to read, exactly when I needed it. I do well with my classroom design generally and seeing the science of it was fabulous. This offered me a chance to modify a few things. For instance, with it, I decided less was more and opted to hang fewer things up on the walls ahead of the start of the year. There are still conversation starters, such as the TARDIS and there are inspirational quotes that I put up at varying levels around the room. There are a few images of famous Americans and people relevant to our course of study. There are things that will inspire students. I also made sure the designate certain spaces to which the students would contribute. For instance, the AR board. I designated the space, now the students would help fill it. I wanted to inspire rather than distract and I moved in a very positive direction.

I did my modified horseshoes and I brought in a teacher desk while leaving a table at the front. I have stools around the room for students or for me depending on the day's activities. My reading corner was an immediate draw. As I dreamed of returning to a more traditional teaching role, part of that dream was having a reading corner. There are lots of books to choose from and there is a nice, new reading chair. This chair will also serve as part of an incentive program I have established for the year. Each month will have a Student of the Month. That student can choose one day to sit in the chair for the day. Otherwise, it is available to students on a first come, first serve basis in the reading corner only.
EdCamp-inspired class discussion
on Day 1. 8/11/16

So, how did it all come together? It looks great! On the first day of school, I had only the eighth graders. I helped establish the space as OURS. When I handed out sticky notes and invited students to write down questions, one student wrote, "will there be more stuff on the walls?" PERFECT!

AR Superhero Capes designed by
8th graders who loved the idea!
The students designed their AR superhero capes and we put them on the AR board. As they reach AR goals, they will earn stickers to add to their capes. In groups of three, they designed a comic book cover illustrating what they thought the year ahead would have. Then, they went around the room to look closely at what was already hanging and we discussed the people, places, and things they found most interesting. Their first "homework" assignment was to find out something interesting about four current presidential candidates. They received bonus group points if they brought in images. We will add those images to the Election 2016 board.

The homeroom students have already established a since of ownership and creativity in the classroom. It all started with a less is more approach and a few conversation starters. I also learned more about who prefers Star Trek to Star Wars (and vice versa), who watches Doctor Who, and who knew who John Steinbeck was. I learned about things they are interested in doing as a class. And they learned a little bit about a new teacher who will work to get them digging deeper, thinking more, and asking questions. A teacher who wants to guide them in their learning and in becoming thinking members of society as they move forward in life. A teacher who really is a facilitator of learning. I am the facilitator and the room is the facility?

What changes have you made to start the year? Where do you see if leading you? More importantly, where do you see it leading your students.

Welcome to the 2016-2017 school year! 

Let's make it an EduAwesome Adventure for all!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

As summer winds down...

As summer vacation comes to an end and preparation for the new school year begins, I find myself finalizing a few summer goals. I painted a mural of the Narnia lamppost at our family cabin. I took my children on some pretty rad adventures, giving them more EduAwesome Adventures to hold in their memory banks. One such adventure included visiting Mission La Purisima. My son hopes he will get to select his mission for his fourth grade project, so that he can put to use some of his knew knowledge. He has visited other missions, but this seems to be his favorite so far. I've worked on developing some professional development sessions, but indeed have some more work to do. I set my website up to redirect here to the EduAwesome Adventure blog.

Make Each Day an EduAwesome Adventure

And, I designed a t-shirt and matching sticker to help promote making each day an EduAwesome Adventure!

As I prepare to enter a new role at a new school, I have been keeping a small notebook with ideas. I just made my first purchases of the new school year yesterday.

I have a fabulous theme in mind for the classroom: 
We are all super heroes! 
What's your super power?

I look forward to teaching, to learning, to sharing. I am excited to teach eighth grade social studies in a Presidential election year. Great things are ahead!

Goals for the next week include:

1. Complete my outline planning for the school year.
2. Set up my classroom.
3. Continue to share the thinking behind making learning into EduAwesome Adventures.

What are your top three goals for the week ahead?

If you're in the market for a new shirt or sticker? Check out this link:
EduAwesome Adventure gear

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Six Highlights from an EdTech year

As the 2015-16 school year came to a close, so did my year as the Technology Instructor and EdTech Coach for our school. When first approached with the possibility of taking on these roles, I felt hesitant, to say the least. I surrounded myself with great people, connected with TOSAs, participated more fully in Twitter chats, and worked hard to create curricula for our students that would instruct, inspire, and encourage students. I also developed Professional Development (PD) sessions for my colleagues and guided them and supported them to the best of my ability. That which we did not know, we learned together.

This school year provided incredible opportunities for our students and for us. This year offered a time of growth for the students and for the educators who love them. This year was a game-changer and everyone benefited in one way or another, if not multiple ways. This was truly an EduAwesome year of Adventure.

Highlights from the year:

1) Using technology to teach journalism. By incorporating newspaper and yearbook into the technology classes, student reaped the benefits. Eighth graders learned journalistic style and worked on creating designs, writing blog posts, interviewing people and taking photographs. Yearbooks students worked to design and plan, with some honing photography skills as well.

2) Hour of Code: We had over 220 students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade who learned at least a wee bit of coding. How cool is that?! We had one seventh grader who logged over 50 hours of coding in a two-month period and shared this with joy on his face in his heart. We used a variety of tools collectively and a handful of students found their own. Tools we used included: and then later we discovered and which many students loved. Later still, some second graders started working with Scratch. Our Hour of Code grew from a schoolwide activity in December to a driving force of learning within the technology curricula throughout the school year.

3) Maps! Everything maps! We used Google Maps, MyMaps, TourBuilder, and everything we could in between. Students with downttime, would "play" in GeoGuessr. Students explored the world and broke down the walls of the classroom with help from mapping, but especially interactive mapping. Third graders mapped the Oregon Trail which fourth graders created Heroes Tours using Tour Builder. All grades loved discovering where in the world they were by simply exploring in GeoGuessr. GeoGuessr reminds me of a mapping version of "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego" while the activities we did in MyMaps took me back to the days of learning in "Oregon Trail." Recognizing the differences, of course, I introduced the third graders to an online version of Oregon Trail which also introduced them to DOS. DOS--WHAT?! Yes!

4) The STEAM Fair! All aboard the train of awesomeness! These students rocked this! Seventh and eighth  grade students created STEAM projects within the technology classes. However, participation in the STEAM Fair was optional. We had a few students who entered their projects for the STEAM Fair and even added a couple. Two kindergarten students entered projects: a wiggle bot and a static electricity butterfly. This is just the beginning for these young learned and much more lies ahead for them. I am so proud of their hard work and their interest in learning.

5) Video: video was everywhere. It was the primary point of learning for sixth grade students. We did varying video projects, but video was incorporated into other classes as well. Eighth graders worked on their "Through the Eyes of an Eighth Grader" project that they turned in at the end of the year. Their task: Show what a school year looks like through your eyes. At least one completely blew my mind as it opened a door for a learner to express himself in a new way, a way that worked really, really well for him. The seventh grade class used video, as well. The most note-able project being their final project of the year: a marketing plan. Of course, sixth graders did weathercasts, news reports, and TED-style talks. Students used mobile devices to record, and editing happend using Windows Live Movie Maker, iMovie, and WeVideo. My favorite: WeVideo!

6) Audio/podcasting: The fifth graders rocked my socks with their podcasting adventures this year. They wrote scripts which had them honing typing skills, they researched the topics that they brainstormed, and then they recorded.  We recorded using Audacity ad the podcasts were uploaded for listening to Spreaker. We kept it very simple, using a USB microphone and a computer. Most difficult thing to contend with: background noise. However, the sound of work happening is a beautiful sound!

There are so many other incredible things that happened this year. There was so much learning that blossomed. Teachers started using Google Classroom and we refined our use of Google Calendar for checking out Chromebook carts. The Technology Lab was open after school daily and sometimes at lunch (by appointment). This was an incredible year for our students and our teachers. This was a trailblazing year. It was an honor and a pleasure to be a part of something so fantastic. I hope to go back and visit to see where they take it from here. For me, my role is shifting. A new position, at a new school, in a new chance for more EduAwesome Adventure! Let's roll!

Be sure to follow the ongoing EduAwesome Adventures through the summer and beyond with these hashtags:

And take note: something amazing is brewing for this blog and more!

Rock on, educators and students! Rock...on!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

STEAM Fair success

At the start of the year, I dreamed of starting a STEAM Fair. I knew it could be done and yet, I wondered how to really get it started. Where do I begin?

I reached out to my PLN through Twitter and started gathering ideas. I watched to see what others had done in the past. I incorporated what I saw and what I learned with what I envisioned. I started talking to students about it in October and some were ready to get the ball rolling. Then, I assigned STEAM projects within the seventh and eighth grade technology classes. These students truly embodied all things STEAM: science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. I saw their ideas from the beginning and watched them grow. Our students rocked this assignment!

I used Google Sites to construct a page where parents and students could go to develop and submit ideas. I used tinyurl to customize a shortened link.

In March, I had two fabulous inspirations. I attended a field trip with my son for a science show during which we saw a flying saucer (a weighted helium-filled mylar balloon) and we both knew we need one of these in our life. At the CUE Annual Conference in mid-March, I saw remote-controlled sharks for the first time. I enjoyed the shark races at the closing keynote and felt inspired to bring sharks to our STEAM Fair.

We had student-made projects, we had sharks, we had a flying saucer. We added the STEAM Fair to Open House night. I hoped we would get at least a few parents through to see things. The day arrived and students pitched in to set up the room. We had  podcast listening station, a recording area, and a coding table. Projects were spread around, but we left the center open so people could move around freely and to allow plenty of room for driving the sharks. I had also just received my Swivl demo model and set it up with my Samsung Galaxy tablet. I left the remote handy with the tablet turned on. This provide an opportunity to catch some moments of the STEAM Fair we may have otherwise missed. One student stood by and showed people how his Rubik's Cube solver worked. This and the sharks became the stars of the STEAM Fair.

It has taken some time, but using WeVideo, I have finally edited the video and images together to show our STEAM Fair 2016 success.

Are you thinking of doing a STEAM Fair? Go for it! Want to know why? Take a look at the awesomeness that can come from a STEAM Fair:
STEAM 2016
Want to see that Rubik's Cube solver one more time? Here is the video of just it.

Look for more coming on WeVideo and Swivl soon!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Carpe diem and allons-y!

I have two points consuming my thoughts and therefore, this post will address two different matters. Or, are they really that different? Are they really only two thoughts? Perhaps, it's more of a blend.

One is a matter of classroom happenings and the other is a matter of what we send home from the classroom (read: homework). Perhaps they are more interconnected than one may realize. In fact, they are, in a lot of ways (beyond the fact that they both relate to school).

A teacher's approach to education will directly affect both what you will observe in the classroom and what you see the students taking home in the way of assignments.

Let's start within the classroom.

I recently spent some time in a couple of primary classrooms. The expectation was that students would work quietly at all times. I personally remind students to raise their hands when they need my assistance, rather than shouting out. (Have you ever experienced 15 primary students shouting out your name? It can become a little overwhelming, to say the least.) While continuing to enforce the "raise your hand for help" guideline, we relaxed just a bit on the working in silence expectation. And then, magic happened. As students collaborated, they worked through problems and came up with solutions. When given free choice on their activities, a large number of students selected coding activities. The noise level was a little higher, but the creativity was increasing with it. The great part was that it seemed to be more of a "buzz" of work and creativity than just noise. When one student offers to help another and they find something new together then explore it first together then independently, amazing things transform. One situation that I found particularly striking was after a few students discovered the Music Mixer on the Made With Code website. Fantastic! Allons-y!
Students created music with code!

In a recent Twitter chat, another educator shared that something that transformed her as an educator occurred in her first year of teaching. A student taught her that not everyone does their best work sitting at their desk. I had a student like that my first year working in primary education. There were times when he absolutely needed to stand to work at his desk. He produced some pretty incredible things. He's older now and still does some of his best work standing. He also has an aura of creative genius about him. I am thankful for what I learned from him, and continue to learn from him. In second grade, he was fascinated by square roots and was self-teaching himself a lot of it. (Square roots, of course, come later in math curriculum.) I loved when he would greet me with a new square root that he learned or ask me about one he wanted to know. This year, I have seen him do some incredible video editing and we won't get into video until next year. He has helped other students in another grade level with theirs. His enthusiasm for learning and his passion for creating continue to show me that there are a myriad of ways students learn. We need to help them embrace learning in ways that work for them. Carpe diem! And, seize the opportunity for learning!

If you've read previous posts, you know that I gain so much from the DitchBook Twitter chats on Thursday evenings. The fact that my children know that on Thursday nights, I have "an Ed Chat" and they both support and encourage my participation means that I have shared things effectively at home. Every day I enter the classroom or interact with a teacher and share something I've learned then see the results, I know I have effectively participated in this chat. (Side note: one week when I had a schedule conflict, my son told me that I needed to Tweet out ahead of time that I would miss the chat. I thought the same thing, but I treated it as taking his advice. This thrilled him...and me!) This week, the chat revolved around homework.

Ahh....homework. My big take-away includes a development of thoughts I had previously. Homework for homework's sake is about as effective as technology for technology's sake. We, as educators, need to carefully think about the purpose behind homework we assign. Do we want students to earn points? Do we want to reinforce what we instructed that day? Do we want students to demonstrate what they have learned? Do we want to keep them busy? Our ultimate goal behind the assignment will make a significant difference in the the type of homework assign and the amount we send home. When we find an approach to homework that works best for our students and nurtures learning, then we need to communicate it to the parents. Communication is a key to success on multiple levels. As a parent, I loathe the amount of paper that comes home, but I appreciate the way homework is communicated to me. If the type of homework changed suddenly, I would expect that the teacher would communicate that. I try to remember my parent mindset when functioning as a teacher, and vice-versa. I have always preferred project-based learning to worksheets. When I had students in science classes take notes as a means of becoming familiar with vocabulary, I had them take notes in ways that worked best for them. Every student had a composition book and I had certain expectations about what would go into them, but HOW those notes were made, I left up to the students. Some color-coded, some did outlines, some scribbled their notes in ways that they could understand and I, at least, could decipher as I checked them off. Some made illustrations. When it came time to demonstrating what they learned, I loved seeing the terms incorporated into lab write-ups, stories, and project descriptions.

Wait. Stories? In science class? YES! I had eighth graders incorporate the science they learned into writing science fiction stories. The emphasis was on the science, but they had to create something around it. That usually came later. We built up to it. First I would have them do scientific analyses of other science fiction pieces. Ray Bradbury was part of our science learning. His short story Kaleidoscope provides great learning and a chance to apply learning. I hope to one day have a class where I can incorporate his short story The Rocket, now that I have discovered it. Our students can benefit from high expectations. They can apply what they learn outside the classroom doors We need to encourage them to think differently. When a student comes back and shares an experience that relates to something they learned in my classroom, we high-five, a little cheer sets off inside me, and I know something happened just as it should. My goal has always been to help guide students so that when they go outside or into the kitchen or on a train or anywhere, that they can see science, history, culture, math, language arts. I want them to go forth and CARPE DIEM! I dream big for them, but hope that I do more than that. I hope that I show them how dreaming big pays off and that transforms into  encouraging them to dream big for themselves. We are in tax season, a time when adults are sitting down to fill in their worksheets and calculate math problems. But, let us stop and think about what we do the rest of the year.

When we go into the kitchen and create a new recipe, what are the things we need to know? When we pack for a camping trip how do we decide what to take? When we visit an historic landmark, what are we hoping to see and experience? Where do the roots for this thinking originate? How can we nurture it? Let us think of these things as we consider what we will assign for homework. Let us remember to communicate our goals to our parents. Let us nurture learning, exploration, and creativity in our students.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Hashtags changed my life

When I first joined Twitter, I did so reluctantly. I had my reservations, but I was so excited about what had been shared at a one-day workshop that my principal sent me to that I knew it was worth trying. So, I did. A year later, I did a little self-promotion within the Twitter world as I set a goal to reach 100 followers. I thought 100 followers would be a great accomplishment. With a little help from my friends, I reach that goal. I still rarely, if ever used hashtags. I, honestly knew little about how to use them. Slowly but surely, they crept into my Tweets. Then, last spring, I joined Instagram with the help, encouragement, and urging of my students. Suddenly, I found myself hashtagging posts like crazy. I found a couple that I liked and I developed a couple of my own. Last summer, I started #wheresmsrnow so my students could follow awesome science adventures in the off months. I made a little game of it. But, I kept it. Periodically, I post to Instagram and Twitter with that hashtag. I also use #EduAwesome #Adventure for many of my posts. Afterall, this crazy thing many call life, I call an adventure. And, I am a #lifelonglearner.

What developed in 2015 was more than that. As I started using my "own" hashtags more (I realize #EduAwesome and #Adventure both are used by many), I started using others to meet other EdTech folks on Twitter...and beyond. I also started getting my feet wet with Twitter chats.

Every week I participate in a couple of chats now. Most times I'm on my phone and have to get a little creative. A search using the related hashtag does the trick for helping me follow, phone in hand as I prepare dinner, help my kids with homework, attend a local event, or am otherwise involved in "IRL" matters.

I have grown my PLN, I have met amazing people, I have figured out TweetDeck (for the times I can actually sit at my Chromebook for a chat). Hashtags helped with that. (Oh! And that Twitter follower count? Yeah, I passed 500 followers this week. My PLN continues to grow. How do I love sharing, collaborating, learning from other educators... Let me count the ways...)

My students, CUE conferences, interactions with amazing educators have all contributed to my use of hashtags and my involvement with my students, CUE conferences, and interactions with amazing educators has developed because of the use of hashtags. How about that?

What was just a pound sign has become so much more. As reluctant as I was to start on Twitter, I was even moreso to start hashtagging. And look at me now!

#EduAwesome #Adventure

And my favorite that I haven't used but have seen this week:
And I was the Rebekah in the hashtag! #Awesomesauce #Awesomeness

How have you used hashtags to make a difference in your life as an educator?

Note: In a Technology Committee meeting earller this week, for a brief moment, I spoke in hashtags. That was weird. For a minute.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Otherwise known as T-WOW

I may appear to be an odd one, but I actually like Mondays. Mondays are generally good days. They are fresh starts. They provide a long, but wonderful day to kick things up and how they set the tone for the week ahead is entirely up to us. But really, I like Mondays because Monday nights bring TOSA-chats! I love these chats. I only started them a couple of months ago, but the people are wonderful, the information is awesome, and the ideas are ever-flowing. It's truly beautiful. Then, last week, I had the opportunity to meet some of my favorite TOSAs. In that, something struck me.
"Are you a TOSA?"
"Well....I'm only a sorta-TOSA."

In many ways, I function similarly to my TOSA counterparts, but I am not an actual TOSA. I enter a classroom, I write lesson plans for my kindergarten through eighth grade students while also coaching my colleagues, designing PD sessions, learning new things, and planning/co-ordinating our upcoming STEAM Fair.

I started thinking about the #sorrynotsorry that you see periodically on social media. That got me to thinking, perhaps I am a #TOSAnotTOSA. I'm a teacher. My assignment is certainly special. I have had opportunities I never would have imagined and I love the ways I get to bring things back to our school. That's it!! I thought back to my trip in February for the Baldwin County Alabama school visits. It was there that I wrote my "teacher without walls" blog post. I am a #TOSAnotTOSA, otherwise known as a #TWOW.

Let me tell you a little about some of the highlights of being a T-WOW.

Most days, I start by pushing a Chromebook cart into a classroom. I work with the grade level teachers to outline what we will do. A few things we keep pretty standard week-to-week. We begin with some supplemental math activities. With the primary grades, I focus on keyboarding, strategy, and coding. The students are receiving support for math and ELA within these activities as well as with the specific supplemental activities we use (Sadlier-Oxford Math and IXL). With the intermediate grades, we do a nice blend of supplemental activities and guiding them through introductions to some wonderful tools. Additionally, I work with the grade level teachers to team-teach and/or to align an activity to something they are currently learning.

For example, last fall, the fourth grade teacher did a great lesson that included science, history, reading,  and writing. We worked together to incorporate some of the new technology available and to use this as an opportunity to introduce it to the students. I introduced the fourth grade class to Google Classroom where I had the technology assignment that went along with the lemons lesson. For my part, I started by teaching the difference between search and research. We had a great discussion then went into Google to search for information where the students then began researching the information they needed for their reports. Another lesson I did with the fourth grade was a variation on my virtual hike lesson. You can read here about how I enhanced a bone identification lab for my seventh grade science class last year. For fourth grade, I stepped back just notch. We went on the virtual hike then they completed an assignment in Google Classroom. We then did a second virtual hike and related assignment where they compared the two hikes. I originally worked with this class when they were in second grade. There are students in this class that respond really, really well to project-based learning. I found that to still be true (no real surprise there). The best part was seeing some students who just jumped right in and who were the first to complete the related activities for the virtual hikes. This allowed some students who normally take a little longer with assignments to get fired up and knock our socks off with their enthusiasm for completing these assignments. The other great part of doing this was that I worked with the students during their Chromebook time which allowed me to model for their teacher different ways to incorporate technology into the learning process. Basically, I taught a lesson for the students that doubled as a coaching session for the teacher. WOW! T-WOW, in fact!

Currently, I am introducing third and fourth graders to Google MyMaps. I worked with seventh grade just before Christmas with MyMaps as well. Seventh graders created their own Santa Trackers. They had an option of creating it fully or creating a model of how they envisioned their Santa Tracker. They viewed existing Santa Trackers, I modeled some of what could be done with MyMaps, and awesomeness ensued.
What I've started this spring with third and fourth graders is a little different. The third grade class has had their introduction and the students started placing markers, adding a photo, writing descriptions. After the break, they will have a chance to create their own map and show one of the trails they have studied this year. Their classroom teacher will cover some more information as far as stops made on the trails so the students can include more details on their trail maps. The fourth graders have had a chance to incorporate MyMaps into what we have worked on with their MyHero projects. I created a map and they have gone in and mapped a significant location, such as birthplace, for their hero. Next stop: Google Tour Builder. Since collaboration (shared editing) for Tour Builder projects is not yet an option, they will work in small groups of three or four and create Heroes Tours. They will submit the main part of their MyHero projects just after the break and then on to Tour Builder we go! T-WOW!

As I wrote about in  February post, Google Classroom has allowed me to start (and moderate as needed) classroom discussions even from 2,700 miles from my classroom. It is time for me to introduce this to more of my colleagues, too. As I arrived in town for the CUE Conference, I corresponded some with the colleague who would cover my classes. I sent a screenshot of a Google Classroom assignment so she could see what the students would see. "How do I get this to the students," she asked. "You don't have to," I replied. (That's the short version, of course.) We are seeing things unlike ever before and we all certainly have a lot to learn, share, and experience, teachers and students alike. T-WOW!

The fifth graders have worked on podcasting this year. Their creations are fantastic and I will spend a portion of my Spring Break working on getting some more of them uploaded to Spreaker (great tool in itself!). Recently, I started reaching out to podcasters to come into the classroom and speak to the students. Here's the thing, the visiting podcasters come into the classroom via Google Hangouts. (My first podcast speaker was over 300 miles away!) This has excited the students and watching them learn from it has been amazing! Google Hangouts offers opportunities beyond anything I ever could have imagined back when I was a student. Though, I do attribute my love for breaking down the walls of the room to things like my third grade teacher allowing us to listen to the Challenger launch (1986) on the radio. T-WOW!

I use Instagram to communicate information to students and families, but also to share special moments and celebrate accomplishments. This has been a wonderfully positive thing for all of us.  I am thankful that my last year's seventh graders helped me get started. The one thing I would like to do more of with Instagram is have students more involved with posting on the @RemScience one again. I think the students sharing some of what we're doing is even more important and allowing them to share through their eyes is something that will benefit all of us.

As I sit here on Easter afternoon, finally wrapping up this blog post, there is one last T-WOW item I would like to share with you. Our school is on Spring Break. Science Olympiad is next Saturday and I am coaching for the TechTime event. I live about an hour from my students. I could call this week a loss as far as preparation goes or I could use a great tool! I choose the tool! We will meet using Google Hangouts this week to finalize their preparation for the event. (These are two of the aforementioned fifth graders, by the way.) We did a trial Hangout Thursday evening and I think we're all set to go. They initiate the call. For our meetings, we set the time together. T-WOW!

We can create classrooms without walls and some can take it a step further: become teachers without walls.

I'm #SorryNotSorry that I'm a #TOSAnotTOSA otherwise known as a #TWOW!

Please share some of your WOW moments in the comments section!