Friday, October 11, 2013

Our First Mystery Skype - by Guest Blogger CaLa

written by student blogger, CaLa:

Our classroom had our first mystery skype with Mr. Salsich's class! If you're not sure what a "Mystery Skype" is, I'd be happy to tell you. A mystery skype is when two classes from a different place in the world, skype each other and ask yes or no questions to try and guess where the other class is. Our mystery skype was extremly noisy yet amazingly fun! 

Recorders documented the call.

Our class asked lots of great questions along with Mr. Salsich's class. It went pretty great and we new they were on the edge of finding out where we were. Soon after a really great question from them... they had guessed what state we were in! They were so happy! We asked away again.... We definetly got a lot closer to their state too. We got closer and closer and closer! Then, they got us! They found out we lived in San Jose!! Congrats fellow skypers! You were awesome! We absolutley loved skyping with you!

We all worked hard to figure out where they were. We each had a specific job and we learned a lot. We learned about geography, how to work together and how to solve problems. We learned that each job is important. Where in the world will we #mysteryskype next?
We used our iPads to look up information.

Getting good questions and answers!


They got us! We live in California. The were are questioners and answers... asking and answering questions from Mr. Salsich's class. But there is still more to go! More questions! :)
Hmm... What's the answer to this one? :l

ScoSch was a supervisor, helping to keep us on track.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Our First Mystery Skype

Mystery Skype

Recently, my students participated in our first Mystery Skype.  According to the Skype education group, "Mystery Skype is an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions. It's suitable for all age groups and can be used to teach subjects like geography, history, languages, mathematics and science."

I had heard the term from my twitter PLC but hadn't really looked into it until one of my fellow Global Read Aloud participants, +Jonah Salsich , suggested Mystery Skype as a way to introduce our classes to each other.

We started by introducing the idea to our students.  We talked about the different roles and how important each job was to successfully guessing the location of our mystery Skype school.  We practiced with me secretly choosing a town I knew a little bit about, Duluth, MN, my mother's birthplace.  (It turns out I didn't know as much as I though, but google and Wikipedia were my coaches) my students, each in their assigned job, had to guess where I "was".  They had a lot of fun and learned what sort of questions were helpful. They also learned what sort of things they would have to know about our own location!

So we proceeded to refine our process, mapping out the workflow using Kidspiration, an app by Inspiration Software

Then we had our first mystery Skype!  The kids were so excited! Our greeters welcomes each class o the call without giving away details about our location.  My kids even wanted to keep the blinds drawn so the other class wouldn't see how sunny it was!  The questioners could only ask "yes/no" questions.  The filterer sent the answer back to the think tank through a runner.  The think tank decided what the next question should be based on the answer.  In our debrief, we decided that it would be helpful to have questions planned out like a flow chart...if yes, then.. If no then....

Our mappers were key to our guessing strategy.  They were really great at eliminating whole parts of the world based on answers.  They used the wall map, our Big Blue Nat Geo Atlas (complete with magnifier), and Google Earth & maps.

Our answerers had to prepared to answer yes/no questions about our location.  When they didn't know answers, the filters decided if they knew the answer or needed to send it via a runner to the think tank.  The think tank would use mappers and their own resources to research the answers.  We are lucky to have 1:1 iPads so our mappers and think tank could use the devices for their research.  Our note takers and recorders used Notes on the iPads and our tweeters tweeted with a teacher looking on while photographers used iPads to take pictures and movies. Could we have done it without the iPads? Of course.  Was it more authentic to use them? Absolutely.

Our Skype partners also posted about our Mystery Skype at 

Some of our lessons learned included. 

What Qs were helpful?
  • ●  Are you north or south of some
    landmark, airport
  • ●  Does your state start with A
  • ●  Major water locations
  • ●  Time zone
  • ●  Longitude or latitude
Which ?? were not helpful?
  • ●  Are you near ____ - be more specific
  • ●  Guessing before we had enough
What worked
  • ●  Greetings
    • ○  Memorizing greeting
    • ○  Script helped
  • ●  Cooperated well
  • ●  Runners and filtered worked well together
  • ●  Liked having assigned stations
  • ●  Using sticky notes and sticking with
    assigned locations
  • ●  Think tank stayed put which helped
    them work together
  • ●  Used a “battleship strategy”, narrow
    down area based on clues
  • ●  Paper mappers used landmarks well,
    magnifying glass worked well
  • ●  More practice helped, two cameras
    were good
  • ●  Reporter/notetaker located close to
    each other
  • ●  Note takers working well, mostly did our
    own jobs,
  • ●  At front table all did their jobs, runners
    did great
  • ●  It was noisy but people were working
    really hard
What suggestions for next time 
          ● Greetings
          ○ Louder voices for skypers, if memorized, still have script
           ●  One more runner for each Q and A
  • ●  Have questions prepared for both yes
    and no response
  • ●  Do more research about our own city,
    state, etc.
  • ●  Better way to call runners so we can get
    answers faster
  • ●  Answering in complete sentences
  • ●  Filters need a set of questions ready,
    that they can determine if appropriate
  • ●  Test technology ahead of time
  • ●  Video tape next time
  • ●  Reporters feed info to tweeters
  • ●  Suggestion to keep quieter so everyone
    could hear what was being asked
  • ●  one more supervisor – one for front
    table, one for TT and one for maps
Have a back up plan for people being absent TT = think tank, Q or ?? = questions
What didn’t work?
  • ●  We broke the first rule,
  • ●  Sometimes did not follow jobs
  • ●  Sometimes we didn’t know what ??s
    were being asked/answered
  • ●  TT and runners were arguing about Qs,
    Qs were not always prepared , hard to come up with Q when it was so loud and rushed

Monday, September 9, 2013

Oops on an iPad

I did not even notice this! Great to know!

There is an undo button when typing on an iPad!

Thanks Ben!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, August 30, 2013

Why I love teaching #9 - Out of My Mind

Honestly, I don't know where it fits in the ranking, but this one is pretty high up there.  A little background is helpful.  My sister +Sharon Buehler is a school librarian in Oregon. She often gives me book recommendations and she knew of my inclusive education practices, so she suggested I read Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper (OOMM). I bought it over a year ago but didn't get around to reading it, so I brought it to school to add to my classroom library.  Last year, one of my most reflective and deep readers asked what she should read, so I suggested OOMM. She came in the following Monday and said, "Oh Mrs. McConnell, you HAVE to read this book, and read it to the class, too!"  I dutifully took it home and added it to my summer reading stack.

Fast forward a bit to this past summer, and I read the book. In a day.  It was, to say the least, compelling. OOMM is an incredible story of inclusion and acceptance told from the eyes of a child.  I knew I would start my year reading it aloud to our kids.  About a week later, I stumbled across a tweet by +Pernille Ripp about something called The Global Read aloud (GRA), which she started a few years back. This year, the one book to connect the world, at least for my grade level, is OOMM! I knew we had to participate.  It is an incredible opportunity to share and discuss this powerful book with a wider group of students. Since I am super lucky to be a part of our 1:1 iPad program, I knew the kids would be able to easily collaborate and communicate with their 'colleagues' in other parts of the world using technologies such as +Edmodo , +Skype, +Kidblog  and even Twitter (with a teacher, of course).

I set about acquiring enough copies of the book for all 35 of our inclusive ed. kids to read. I co-teach +sheila monger who provides services to students with special needs.  Our kids are together every day for at least part of each day.

I ordered 5 copies with a B&N gift card I'd received at the end of the last school year. Then I went to my trusted fundraiser, Adopt-a-Classroom, and raised money to buy more books there. I put the word out via Facebook and my class web page.  One of my friends shipped me 12 books, just because she cares about public education and inclusion.  One of the parents of a student bought her daughter a copy and 2 extra copies for our classroom.  Gratefully, I should have enough books for each child to read their own copy.

Since we are participating in GRA13, I asked my kids not to read the book ahead of time (if they hadn't already) since we'd be making predictions with our global classmates.  Today, the child of the parent who bought the books for us came in and slipped this note on my desk.

 And this, my friends, is on of the many reasons I love teaching.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Notes from Edmodocon 2013

I attended this free PD in a hybrid mode - part online, part live, thanks to an invite from +Jill Florant It was amazing and I learned even more about my BFF  +Edmodo .  I created a storify to gather my thoughts, since most of my notes were on Twitter or in the various Edmodo groups.  Each session had its own group, so that we could back channel and get access to resources from the presenters.  It was a great day and well worth the break from summer vacation/back to school planning!

After I got home, I listened to the last two sessions on my exercise bike, so no notes but there were some great ideas from the presenters. +Anna Davila had some creative ideas for building student leadership capacity including new student groups and student leadership groups on Edmodo, and using +Padlet  embedded into a message, to gather suggestions.  In addition to the earlier discussed Global Read Aloud, there were some other creative ideas for flattening the classroom and finally, Denise Yamashita had inspiring remarks as we closed out the day.

Friday, July 12, 2013

My 11+1 Essential Tools for using Social Networking as Professional Development

"Real PD starts with wanting 2 learn Not with learning something once for one hour once a year Take control of your profession" Tim Charleston (@MrCsays)

In May, I presented at the iPARA Expo in Los Gatos, CA.  My topic was the opportunity that social media and networking provides for educators. I started with what I know...after some thought I realized I use at a minimum 9 different social media tools every week day!  I sure thought computers were supposed to simplify our lives!  Here is a screen shot of just the apps I use, not to mention the websites.

  1. edmodo - In addition to using +Edmodo to communicate with students and parents, I also use communities and groups to connect with other educators and learn about new ways to integrate technology with curriculum.
  2. Twitter - I read twitter like some people read the news. I check it daily to see what new things are going on with education and technology (#edchat).. In his post, Twitterati: Progressive EDU leaders or outliers?  Tom Whitby writes Today’s technological tools for collaboration now enable it globally, timelessly, and virtually endlessly. The key factor in good and effective collaboration is connecting with right sources. 
  3. Youtube is a great resource for teachers and students. I have not yet begun to tap into its vastness of instructional and professional development videos.
  4. Blogs - Not only do I write for reflection but I also follow several other bloggers in the field of education.  Grace from Teacher Learning Community suggests: Reflect on your work from time to time by blogging about your experiences. Decide what has worked and what hasn’t? What should you do different next time? You can always draw from other people’s expertise as well. Social media is all about collaboration, and what better way to do that then by teaching and learning from other passionate educators?  Then share your blog with your colleagues. Build a list of blogs to read for professional development purposes…and make sure you subscribe to them so you know when they’ve posted new content. There are many teaching related blogs out there.
  5. Wikis - I use wikispaces as a repository of information. Our current wiki is managed by a group of us involved in a 1:1 iPad pilot. 
  6. facebook -I do not use this yet for professional purposes but this year plan to use a professional page/profile for parent communications
  7. google + -   I find this a better source of professional information than facebook.
  8. diigo - social bookmarking -   Not only can I save my bookmarks for use from any machine, bt I can also see what others are bookmarking and find new and interesting 
  9.  Pinterest  Simply a great source of ideas!
  10. LinkedIn and Tioki, which is kind of like a linkedin for educators, connects users with job opportunities. 
  11. Edshelf -  -Find the right educational tools for your needs - Reviews and recommendations of tools for education
  12. This just in - Graphite, a recently launched resource from +Common Sense Educators, provides curated recommendations and reviews of educational apps and tools.

Jason Tomassini from Education Week  suggests via the Huffington Post that teachers check Twitter for hashtags related to education technology, elementary education, and 1-to-1 computing initiatives featuring iPads. He found what is certainly true for this teacher, that we use Facebook in our personal life but we aren't on Facebook with our "teacher hats on."  I know for me I am more likely to use a designed for teachers and not likely one frequented by my students, current or past.  I don't even accept friend requests from parents of my current students. I know they can see my posts in a roundabout way, but it is just a line I have drawn for myself.

Eric Sheninger, "online idea-sharing tools like RSS feeds, digital discussion forums, and blogs have the power to expand PLNs to previously unimaginable sizes. By using social media tools such as Twitter, social bookmarking sites, and social networks, educators can participate in the new era of professional development—an era of idea exchange that is accessible anywhere, anytime and that connects the field’s brightest minds. These tools are real-time, cost-effective, and accessible around the world, and they are driven by practitioners, not just consultants. 

Social media–facilitated idea sharing and online personal learning networks also bypass the challenges of traditional professional development, including time and money constraints, uninterested participants, and an overemphasis on irrelevant or boring content. 

 George Couros ‏@gcouros  "Connecting on Twitter has not only created higher expectations for myself in education, but for people in general. So much awesome out there"


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Kids Blogging

I have blogged with my students for the past three years now and have been trying to figure out, within the bounds of our Responsible Use Policy, how to up my game.  I started blogging with my kids as a way for them to find their authentic voice.  We mostly wrote about books we were reading and I have also had students respond to journal type prompts. I used Google’s blogspot as my platform as it was free and easy.  I posted and my students would comment anonymously using only their initials as identifiers.

 I moved to a new district where they required all student writing to be within the ‘walled garden’.  So I moved to +Kidblog, a free app where students post freely and privately within just our class.  Again, we mostly used the blog for journal prompts and reading logs. I was most excited when, without prompting, one of my students started a story, to which other students added chapters!

But still, I want more fro my kids from this experience. I want their real and authentic voices to shine through. I want them to learn the value writing.  And I want them to learn to be responsible citizens, both in the virtual and real worlds!

This summer I discovered  Pernille Ripp.  Within 24 hours, I came across two or her posts about her blogging experience with 4th graders.  She had some great ideas that I wanted to capture and share. 

From +Ian Jukes' Fluency 21 blog, Ms. Ripp gives practical eleven steps to blogging with students. 

I love the idea of starting out on paper. I often take for granted that kids know how to do something which they have not yet learned to do. Blogging on poster paper with post-its for comments provides opportunities to discuss real time issues like safety and style.

The second post came by way of Here she talks at a higher level about how to give students a voice in their education.  How and why and most of all, listening to those voices then reflecting and revising based on what you hear.

She has some great ideas for ‘blog challenges’ with categories such as about me, and  about school at Student Blogging Challenges - A List of Ideas

Finally, Ms. Ripp has some great suggestions for integrating blogging throughout the curriculum.  

In the end, blogging should not be a burden in your already full day. Students should love blogging, not see it as a chore (which is also why I never grade my students’ blogs) and they should be eager to express themselves and expand their worlds.

So this summer I will be researching ways to 'go global' with our blogging as well as integrating with curriculum, not just language arts. I also want to learn more about how to use twitter with my students.

4 Essential Apps for 1:1 classroom

Today I attended  #AppyHour with Graphite and   +Common Sense Educators  A team from Graphite presented 4 essential apps for 1:1 classrooms.

 +Kelly Mendoza moderated two teachers:

  •  Lisa Butler- middle school teacher, PA, 6th social studies teacher, their school is 50% 1:1 and 50% BYOT 
  • Jennifer  – Pittsburg, PA Her hot tip? check out google vine

  1. +Animoto  Educator Pro paid version or a scaled down but completely functional free version for classroom use. I have used this for years and love it. It is easy to use for me and my students. Only problem I have is that with preview, you cannot hear the whole song or all of the lyrics. So I only let students use instrumental versions of songs OR I have to preview their product before they can watch it. Great idea from Lisa Bulter (@srtalisa) to use animoto for kids to produce tutorials on other tools (ex symbaloo)!
  2. Google Earth – be sure you have clear learning goals for students to follow in geography, math, science, writing and reading (google lit trips
  3. Google art – Amazing source for all things art. Can be used for story starters, use with art vista/docent program, view world wonders. You can take virtual field trips! Check out lesson plans and ideas under educator tab
  4. Schmoop – free paid, 0-12 grade  Tools and resources to help make learning fun. It can be used as homework help, to introduce topics or to support classroom teaching.

West Valley iPad Expo

Friday, June 14, 2013

Digital Citizenship Summit

Last month I attended the Digital Citizenship Summit at the Microsoft Silicon Valley HQ. it was an informative day and I kept notes by tweeting. Here they are, with some helpful links.

Keynote with Anne Collier

Notes from other sessions using storify.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Microsoft, Mountain View

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sir Ken Robinson @CUE 2013

The keynote speaker at CUE 2103 was Sir Ken Robinson.  His presentation was worth the price of admission!  He is such an amazing, inspiring, articulate, intelligent and funny man!  I am really not sure how to even compile my notes, so I am just sharing sound bites (bytes?) along with (my comments). It should be evident which is which.  Feel free to ask me to elaborate.

On earth, over the entirely of human existence, there have been about 100 billion lives. Yet, each life is unique and unrepeatable.  You are at a unique moment in human history.

We feign knowledge we don't have. Dalai Lama - "I don't know"The mark of a great teacher is to say at times, I have no idea, what do you think?

To be born at all is a miracle.  You should never resent growing old.  It's a privilege denied to many. It is a miracle we are here.  It's amazing how little people settle for.

Human talents are like natural resources, they are often buried and need to be drawn out

It is our differences that make us interesting.  We have to cherish our diversity. It is our best hope for sustainability.  Education currently does the exact opposite.  Human beings are naturally creative.

'My own personal Everest'.  Getting his PhD was his "own personal Everest". (I love that idea! what is your Everest?!)

Where you stand now is not governed by where you started out. So what are you going to do with your life?  You don't get your resume with your birth certificate, you control who you become. 

Education has a narrow is focused on what they thought was wrong with you, not what you could do! You should teach the child, not the subject (Monger says he stole her line)

The effect of standards is to narrow the curriculum.  (Amen.) Who says Americans don't get irony? The person who named No Child Left Behind GETS irony. NCLB has had the effect of shrinking the curricula.  We are confusing the symptom of the problem with the causes. Rather than narrowing we need Expansive that celebrates diversity...Organic development and change...

Effect of mimeograph machines on teachers was profound!  (Tee hee - I think you had to be there)

10 years ago... No smart phones, social media - perhaps it should be called Asocial media (This made me laugh later that night, +sheila monger  and I were sitting next to each other, (Y) ing each other's facebook posts, rather than just talking to each other). 

We are the largest generation in human history.  There are more people on earth now than anytime in humon history. We don't know if we can make this work. - (I am paraphrasing for sure here) essentially, he said that if everyone on earth would consume what the average person in India consumes, we'd be fine. Yet if we all consumed what the average American does, essentially we'd need 4 more Earths.

Current forms of Education are locked into the previous century. We need a radical personalization.  There are 4 drivers of the need for change in education:

Economic. If people are better educated we think they'll be in a better position to get a better job and be able to be economically independent. I can't tell you much I want my son to be economically independent. 

Cultural.  The world existed before ou got here and will continue.  But the world that is you only exists because you are here.


Personal. In the end, education is always personal.  Could not be a greater irony that we are cutting funding to Ed and increasing funding to prisons. In the US, 30% of students don't graduate. In some areas, 60%. 1 in 31 in US in the penal system.  We have to get away from standardizing education to personalizing it - technology is the key.

The Empty Space by Peter Brook     Is about how he set out to transform theater. Before we can ask how, we have to ask what is it? What can we take a way and have it still be theater? An actor in a space and someone watching.  It is the relationship. There is an analogy to Ed ...our job is to facilitate learning.  They'll do it on their own so when we add ourselves into the mix, we have to add value. Facilitate. Enable, inspire, recognize diversity, recognize possibilities inside them.  Too many distractions- unions, building codes, etc that have gotten in the way of education.

Our job is to teach students not subjects.

Recognize learning styles
Broad set of experiences
Individualize schedules. ex. School of one in NY
Kids learn at different rates... Multi age
New technologies are disruptive but give us the means to change education.  By the way, Technology is not technology if it happened before you were born.

Photo by zota via flickr
Death Valley - it is not dead, just dormant.  What happened with extreme rain in spring 2005 was amazing display of wildflowers.  

Seeds of possibility. If conditions are right, life is inevitable.  Fill them with hope and a sense of ambition.  Education has (and still does) define students by what they CAN'T do rather than what they CAN do

Celebrate our creativity along with our students' creativity.  The focus on education should be LEARNING. Nothing should be added unless it contributes to learning.

It takes more resources to block effective Ed than it would to do it right

Technology for Planning and Teaching to the Common Core

Brian Balaris, Chris Morel, Todd Reed
As you are implementing technology, there are several ways to provide necessary Staff PD to help inspire, prepare and support your teachers.   In their district, they use independent contractors and send teachers to conferences to see what is going on
  • boot camp - at the beginning of their school year, one day (paid) is devoted to technology training using a boot camp model. There are a variety of workshops that people can sign up for. They get low or no cost presenters (the price of lunch for some) and teachers can sign up for the things they need, such as Google sites, Google forms, iPad basics, SMART, Edmodo, etc.  
  • Site early outs - on some of their early out Wednesdays, they continue with the staff PD for tech, which is especially helpful as teachers have begun using the technology and have some new and more complex questions and challenges.  
  • Grade level pull outs - these would address specific grade level needs
  • Pedagogical PD

ITSE NETS   (National Education Technology Standards) for Students NETS-S and teachers NETS-T - It is essential to know technology standards for teachers and students and use them in backwards planning of units and your school year. Here is an interesting resource I found while poking around ITSE , an implementation wiki for NETS standards! They also recommend a coaching model - to provide help with how to, to model lessons, research and share new ideas, generally, to spread the wealth. Coaches can take what they see at one school, one classroom and pollinate it throughout their district. 

This session blurb said it would  "provide teachers and administrators with a detailed understanding of the technology needs embedded in the common core and how to start the process of using these skills. The integration of more technology into engaging teaching and learning activities are the themes presented." My slight frustration with this year's CUE started with this presentation. I know WHY we need to use technology with common core, I want to know HOW to best implement real projects with tech+common core!  They had some great ideas to support staff using technology, but no actual projects, lesson plans, nor implementable strategies.  I am hoping to follow Balaris, Morel and Reed and do some investigation into how they actually are implementing tech+CCSS in their schools going forward.

The Bedley Bros' Research Communities

The past few days, some of us attended the CUE conference. 

This professional development was opportunity was wonderful and we wanted to share what we learned. So I'll be posting notes from the sessions I attended.

Using iPads to Build Research Communities in a Common Core Classroom

by the Bedley Bros - +Scott Bedley  and +Tim Bedley 
This standing room only CUE TIP was informative and engaging. It was a short presentation but packed with great ideas and examples. They talked about students can learn to research collaboratively. Tim discussed how students can delve deeper into a subject by using technology and their brains to mine reliable sources. Students were gives a topic to research and had to come up with consensus in their research community - (GLAD=>expert group)

Tim Bedley, is one of Riverside County's Teacher of the Year from 2013! He has some great info on his website about projects, his band links to some great classroom videos.  You can catch the Bedley Bros. #edchat which gives much of the information from the presentation. Tim also has an amazing band Rocking the Standards, check out their educational and entertaining songs

Their parting piece of advise, Leave your voice out! I am the last resource for feedback.

The session was time well spent, I just wish it had gone on longer!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

3 Classroom Apps for the New Year

Thanks HRM for the artwork!
This week I introduced my kids to three new apps which I am hoping will provide me with additional assessment information. We started a class blog using kidblog.  It is a secure blogging platform that my kids can use to create their own blog page within our group.  So far we wrote about our winter break and we've started with doing our weekly reading log online.  I am learning more about my students' writing and they are learning from each other.  There is an app for easy access to the blog from our class iPads. I am hoping that blogging will provide an opportunity for communication, collaboration and developing authentic writing skills.  My kids know that I blog, too. It helps them to see that writing is a life-ling skill.
We also started playing around with Khan Academy. Although I did the set up on my Mac, the kids and I are now using the app.  I know Khan has its detractors, and I am remaining open minded as I pilot its usefulness in my classroom.  I teach a 4+5 combo with very independent learners and I am hoping that Khan Academy will allow my students the ability to go deeper into subjects in which they have a need and or interest.

As part of our monthly life-skill focus of kindness, my students have begun a Kindness Project. We brainstormed a variety of ways that we see or hear kindness.  We are now working on developing icons or memes to represent kindness.  One of the tools we are using to draw them is the third app we started using: Skitch, which is part of Evernote.  Some students are also working on short movies to inspire kindness. We were inspired by this video from +Dan Pink 's daughter, Sophia.

Friday, January 4, 2013

#EdTech Reflections from 2012

It's the beginning of a new year, a time for looking back and a time for crystal ball gazing. On twitter +Vicki Davis,  suggested: Write a 2012 year in review about what you've done, where you've been, and the joys of the year. Take time to remember. In honor of 2012, I reflected on on my top 12 highlights from the year. As I am continually trying for life/work balance, some of the highlights are related to my teaching practice, and some are purely personal. All 12 can be found on my life+teaching blog, but since five of them are related in some way to our iPad Academy adventures, I am sharing them here, too.

1. iPads in the classroom: In March, I applied to and was accepted into the iPad Action Research Academy  in our school district. We received our class set of iPads in April and my students have been engaged ever since. I started a blog to keep track of our experiences and have had the opportunity to work with an amazing team of innovators as we have pioneered use of this technology in our district. As a group we have used a wiki and primarily Edmodo to communicate, problem solve and collaborate. It really has been a game changer for me, my students and my colleagues.

5. Since I have started teaching, I have been lucky to work with some amazing educators whose focus is special needs kids: Bill Theimann, Linda Bruton, Julie Paolini and a supportive staff and administration.  I had just assumed that their approach of compassion, inclusion and treating all students as learners was the norm.  When I left SUSD I found that was not the case. However, I was brilliantly lucky to be placed in a room next door to the new SDC teacher, Sheila Monger. Monger, an inclusion specialist, shares my views and passion for creating a seamless education environment where all students learning needs are met.  This school year, I am teaching a 4+5 combo and Monger is teaching 2+3+4+5. Having more of an overlap has opened the doors for more integration and inclusion.  Together, we are gradually breaking down barriers and opening doors for opportunity for teachers, administration and students look at learning a new way. 

8.  Education + Technology = #EdTech: When I decided to become a teacher, my vision was to use what I had learned "in the real world" to help me be a better teacher.  I have worked hard, and spent a lot of my own time and money, to find meaningful ways to bring technology into the classroom to provide my students with authentic learning experiences.  When I had to leave SUSD, I was afraid I'd have to start from zero to re-establish myself as a technology leader with my new district. At my age, (really at any age) starting from zero seems like a grand waste of time.  One of my favorite expressions is that I'd rather ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.  As a manager, I respected the initiative that showed. As a teacher I appreciate the perceived independence, even though I know it can sometimes frustrate my principals.  So, I just did what I do and kept my principal informed.  Through programs like CreaTV and the iPad Academy, I have been able to flex my tech muscles while providing our students with unique learning opportunities. I have also been in a position to help develop other teachers as they learn how to use technology to become more efficient and effective educators. In January, +sheila monger  and I were honored with a Good Apple Award by our school board and recognized for our contribution in the area of educational technology.  I am very proud of the work we have done to help teachers and students use technology in meaningful ways.

10.  In October of this year I applied to and was accepted into another academy at our district. Cambrian and others use the academy model as a choice method for professional development (see page 32).  This time it is the Digital Media Academy.  I saw this as a great opportunity to merge my work with CreaTV and classroom learning using digital media.  Our students have started out by producing short PSAs  addressing personal concerns such as playground safety, littering, and bullying.  We have been able to use student created content on our monthly television show on CreaTV, Comcast channel 28,  Around Bagby.  Our students are becoming better planners, writers, problem solvers, communicators and collaborators.

12. Assessment. As I started this year end review with iPads, I'm ending with them.  While initially I used the iPads for student engagement and learning, I also used student work on the iPads for informal assessment.  However, I wanted to learn more (and still do) about ways I can use the devices to effectively assess student learning.  In August, with the help of +Jill Florant  at Edmodo, I started using Edmodo not only to communicate with my parents and students but also to assess their learning. I started using assessments and quizzes. Parents are able to see their child's progress and it really has improved the home-school connection.  In addition to Edmodo, I also started using Class Dojo for behavior management.  The kids love their avatars and work hard for positive behavior reports.  This fall I used adopt-a-classroom to generate crowd-funding for SpellingCity and our collaborative weather project.  SpellingCity helps administer spelling practice activities and tests, grades the tests and provides useful reports to me and the parents.  In 2013 I plan to further investigate and utilize methods for assessing student learning and engagement on iPads.

Happy New Year!