Classrooms are Like Kitchens

I am not a huge fan of cooking but when I do get into cooking or baking I know I need to have the right tools to get the job done. Typically, if I am in the kitchen there is a trail of mess behind me as I make delectable delights.

My favorite bowls to use when I’m baking are my antique Pyrex bowls that are bright colors. They remind me of baking  with my grandmother when I was little.  Lucky for me Pyrex seems to last forever so I can continue to use them with my children now.

When I making breakfast I have a favorite pan for cooking my eggs and a favorite griddle and spatula for flipping pancakes. I wouldn’t be able to use my Pyrex bowls to cook my pancakes or my favorite little egg pan to create wonderful baked goods. The tools would not fit the job.

Our classrooms are the same way maybe a little messy as we go and in need of the right tools to get the job done.  I do not believe that there is only one tool that works for what we ask students to do on a daily basis. When I went my students to create videos movies anything that shows their understanding and their own voice our go to tool is an iPad. An iPad offers lots of apps that give children the opportunity to create and share in a very easy, streamlined way. They can create, Airdrop to me or upload to their Google Drive and share.

When students need to get into the mess of research and organizing their research I tend to lean to start them on a laptop. Having the keyboard, a mouse, being able to manipulate information quickly with a quick copy/paste makes the laptop seems to be a much better tool.

There are times we have dueling devices in the lab where students get both devices out so we can compare the way they work and what we like better for the job we are doing. Some students end up liking to do everything on their iPads from research to creation. They are comfortable and use it without any issues. Other students appreciate having the precision of a mouse and the ability to type with a keyboard on the laptop. Some start on a laptop and then take their learning to the iPad for creating a final product.

As we consider tools for our classroom I think we need to keep in mind that there’s no one device that is going to make everything perfect. We need to have multiple tools for children to use. If you’re considering no iPads in her upper grades, middle school, high school, why? Are those children are not creating with video and voice? The iPad is a perfect tool for that. Are we not putting keyboard devices in lower grades, why? It gives excellent opportunity for children to learn about precision at a young age. There’s nothing wrong with that.  I think we need to get away from this idea of one size fits all for some age or grade level.  Or that one device is going to be the savior of all education.

In my room I have a Mac  and a Dell Desktop, a Mac and a Dell Laptop, 8 iPod Touches, 30 iPads and 30 Laptops.  It’s a kitchen of sorts and I’m the manager.

Authentic Work

I challenge myself to do the work I asked my students to do. If it doesn’t feel authentic to me why would they buy in and feel it’s authentic to them.

  • Booksnaps – I first started sharing what I was reading when I began reading Innovator’s Mindset.  I was engrossed in my reading and the words on the page jumped off the pages and moved me.  As I was reading I felt like I was reading thoughts in my mind on the pages before me.  I could not help but share my thinking in tweets as I was reading.   It was later, in the fall, that I learned about #booksnaps from  and started thinking more about how I could share my thinking around the pages I shared. Once I started learning about real #booksnaps, I knew it was a real way for students to share their thinking about their reading.  So this week we are book snapping in classes.  (More to come on this topic!)

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  • Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 11.12.08 PMFlipgrid – Last week I learned about #flipgrid in a Twitter Chat about #ditchbook.  I was pretty excited how easily I could add my thoughts to the conversation even after the chat time was over.  So now I am considering how I can use #flipgrid with my students and get teachers excited about this amazing tool.  I am planning on trying it out starting tomorrow with my 4th grade students.  I’m still thinking about the topic, since I only get one for starters.



  • Presentations – I am always making presentations.  Since I started in my Technology Teacher/Coach position 9 years ago I have made presentations for students and for teachers.  Just this past February, I was able to go to PETE & C and present to educators from all over PA.  I don’t know if anyone noticed my digital designs, but I worked hard to make my presentations interesting and less wordy.  When I am in a meeting/session, the last thing I want is for the presenter to read their slides to me.  I teach my students digital design and presentation skills.  It’s a very real lesson for me because I am using it all the time.  There is authenticity in me being able to use my work as examples for my students.
  • iMovie – We make News from the Nest every week.  I have learned a lot about iMovie for the iPad and for the Mac.  I’m always learning more and encourage my students to do the same.  Writing, producing, and editing video is a very real job and it is happening daily in my classroom.  My students create for their classmates, their parents and their community.  Their audience is real.
  • Homework – I am reading, posting, engaging, testing and reflecting.  My work at home is more about what is next for my students and how can I get them there.  I read other’s work, post about my own and engage in conversations.  I’m testing new tools and reflecting on how things are going.  Sometimes it’s simple and doesn’t take much time.  Sometimes I stay up way past my bedtime because I have so much to process, read, share.  But my work is real and matters to me and ultimately to my students.

I want to always have my students doing authentic work.  I will not ask them to do anything that I would not do in response to reading or in learning.  What would be the point?

Let’s make it a point to do the work we ask our students to do and make sure it is real work, not just busywork.

Being True to Your Beliefs

If there is one thing I cannot stand, it’s wishy washiness.  (Is that a word? I made it one a few years ago.) When we are working on changing education, we cannot say we want openness one day and then shut down our openness the next. There are many things that are deal breakers for me in education today.  These are my MUSTS I would include if I’m starting a school from scratch or just trying to right the ship I’m on. (Not in any particular order.)recite-10h3jcn

  1. Communication. A two way street of communication for all stakeholders.  Not just a top-down approach.  Using the same language. “Yes, and” conversations instead of “Yes, but”. “I noticed, I wonder, What if” as reflection and as the point of moving forward.  Timely.
  2. Openness.  Open wifi to all participants in the learning environment. Open minds to new ideas.  Open spaces to accommodate learning.
  3. Devices in the hands of all learners.  Not just one device, but different devices for different jobs.
  4. Agency for all learners.  Not just the ones in the “seats”.  Also the ones guiding those “seats”.
  5. Curriculum that guides learning, not scripts it. Don’t put learning in boxes.  Allow the learners to navigate their way to and through the learning. ISTE standards as the foundation.  Project Based Learning and Design Thinking Process embedded in everything that learners do. Teaching learners to think for themselves.
  6. A mixture of right brain, left brained educators who are passionate about teaching and learning!  We need the dreamers to “dream big or go home” and we need the logical brains to help us put the dreams in motion. Those who are on the side of the learners, not the system. In fact, I’d get rid of the system and the game of school altogether.
  7. Play!  Kids need to play. Play board games, outdoor games, video games, make believe.  Play is not a bad word, it’s necessary for social, emotional and academic wellbeing.
  8. Flexible work environment for all.  Spaces that can transform into whatever learners need at the moment. Spaces for small group, individuals and large groups.  Space that is beautiful and inspires.  Space that is learner-created.
  9. Sustainability. Everyone one on board with creating sustainable practices both in and out of the brick and mortar school.
  10. Core Values that thread every decision and every experience together.  Buy in from all stakeholder to those core values.

What it means to be innovative in my world view

Another reflection from Educon 2.9. This one is short and sweet.

Innovation is not just about technology. It is the space we create and the climate we nurture. It is seeing the potential we are afforded by the devices available to us, alongside the needs and motives of our students. Some of us don’t choose to be innovative, we just are. Innovation is an idea that we create into something bigger for our students and ourselves. Innovation is asking questions and challenging the status quo.  It’s messy.  Sometimes it is seen as too “out there”.  It is pushing the thinking of us as learners.

A Post 2 Years in the Making

*I first wrote these thoughts after attending Educon 2.7 in 2015.  I love reflecting on my thoughts and seeing where things are actually shifting!  It’s amazing how thoughts come back around and are solidified through conversation and learning. The last few sentences have different color text of what I’m seeing today.

Culture Shift-How do we make it happen?

Friday at Educon 2.7 was a great day.  I arrived at Science Leadership Academy, checked my coat and bags and proceeded to explore the school.  It amazes me how they do school there.  Is it just staged for us as Educon attendees or is this real life everyday for these students and teachers? Students engaged in learning in all classrooms, teachers brilliantly bring the real world to high school.  A highlight for me was visiting Marci Hull’s tech class where they were discussing privacy issues.  Marci was reading from a book with real life stories about digital boundaries that were broken and having them connect to their lives.  Transparent conversation from the students ensued.  You can see and feel the culture of learning in conversations, classrooms and walls. *This culture of learning is still going strong and noticeable at SLA

So how do I bring that to my suburb district? I have been working hard for 8 years to change the culture of my building.  I’d say we are partially there, but much more work to be done.  *The work is happening. Over the past year and a half, I have seen teachers go out of their comfort zone and try new things.  Shifts are taking place in both our physical and digital learning environments.

What can we do to be more relevant and prevalent in schools?

How can we reach out to classroom teachers to help them be more comfortable with integration?

We all see the deficiencies. From neighboring teachers, coaches, to administrators.. change is not happening, there is reluctance to change teaching habits, excuses as to why integration cannot happen. What can we do as an organization to help fill some of these deficiencies?  *Baby steps and patience.  Finding one or two people who are ready is a key to moving forward with new thoughts and habits. 

There are companies that do PD to sell their product.  What if we did PL to sell an idea or a culture shift in a grade level, school, admin, district?  *Working on this.  I really want to see teachers doing the same work in their professional learning as we want our students working in their student learning, open to new ideas and how to do Professional Learning vs. Professional Development.  Stop doing to our learners and start setting up opportunities for learners.


Redefining the SAMR Model

I want to rewrite the SAMR Model just to make it easier for me to remember.  Here is my draft:

S – Same stuff, different tool. (AKA, it’s 2017, we can do bigger, better)

A – Alright, Alright, but let’s try a little harder

M – Mmmm, that sounds interesting, tell me more.

R – Really!? You did that? WOW!

I am always looking for inspiration when using technology to expand student learning and impact.  I want to see students doing amazing things because they have powerful tools in their hands.

Let’s wow each other with what we do that redefines how our children are learning! Share what you are doing and finding. I will share what I am doing and finding.  For starters, here is a video that @pammoran posted on Twitter on 2/22/17.  I think it falls under the Wow category.

Here is the actual model and what the letters mean.  I personally love Sylvia Duckworth’s sketch of SAMR.  Plus, anything about the beach gets my attention.

How can we make the inconceivable a reality for our learners?

Curriculum Rewrite

Curriculum is a Map, not a Destination

We have a lot of constraints in education: bell schedules, building walls, curriculum, etc. We are in the midst of rewriting curriculum in our district and it has me thinking…are we going about it the wrong way? Are we asking wrong questions? Do we need to reframe our questions about learning and where we would like our students to be when they leave our hallowed halls?

So often I am asked “How does this fit my curriculum?”.  I believe this is the wrong question for educators to be asking. We should not be confined to a certain route of learning based on our curriculum. The curriculum should give educators and students freedom to explore ideas, make natural connections and find learning. Instead it should be how is the curriculum allowing my students to learn. The curriculum should simply be a roadmap to the learning destination. Not the destination itself.

What if our curriculum was written with the ISTE Standards as the guideposts?  What if we unboxed our curriculum and no longer thought of it as Social Studies, Reading, Writing, Math, Science, separate entities that live alone? What if we are asking the wrong questions: what should children be taught and when should it be taught? Instead ask: who are we teaching and how are we guiding their learning?

ISTE’s new standards for students are qualities of a learner we want all of our students to reach.  When I look over them, I see how all curricular areas could fall under each one. 

  • Empowered Learner
  • Digital Citizen
  • Knowledge Constructor
  • Innovative Designer
  • Computational Thinker
  • Creative Communicator
  • Global Collaborator

How do we get there? I believe we stop boxing up our current curriculum.  I believe we start finding ways to break the boxes down and allow more natural learning to happen based on qualities.  The skills and concepts will come because you can’t learn without them.  Let’s stop doing the work for our students by telling them what they will learn and when they will learn it.  Let’s start learning about our learners, what they know, what they are passionate about, and guide them in navigating the map that takes them to bigger learning opportunities.

An Unexpected Journey

Every year or so I reread the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings.  The characters are so familiar and I always look forward to being part of that world.  You can call me a book nerd.  I’m ok with that.  Every time I finish The Return of the King I have mixed emotions of satisfaction, joy and sadness.  Satisfaction from reading and getting immersed in the world of the story.  Joy in the happy ending and sadness in knowing that I have to leave the world of the story for a bit and leave those characters.  It happens every time.  But I still go back to it because the fun adventure outweighs the sad departure.

So I just finished Innovator’s Mindset this afternoon.  It’s the first time ever that I read a “professional” book and had mixed emotions at the end.  Joy, excitement and determination.  Joy in finding my true tribe inside the pages of the book.  Anyone else reading it thinking, “this is me, this is what has been wrong with me from the beginning, why i’ve hit so many walls and never felt like I truly fit in eduction but determined to make it different and make a difference” You.Are.My.Tribe.  Excitement in going back to read it again! Yes, I’m starting over and rereading it.  I can’t leave it just yet.  I need to stay in the world of this story longer.  There are too many things I want to revisit with renewed sense of purpose and focus on success.  Determination in knowing I need to ask more questions and work hard to make sure that I am doing the best for each learner who walks through my door, no matter their age.

I have 5 started blog posts and this was not one of them.

Mixing it Up

This afternoon our school got all mixed up to celebrate Acts of Kindness.  All of the classroom teachers read The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig. We then split up all of our classes, Kindergarten through Fifth Grade, into mixed groups and sent them out into other classrooms to do an activity that focused on kindness.  Some did art, some did writing, some did skits, but all did something that revolved around kindness.  In my room, we created short videos about kindness.

Here are my takeaways.

I Noticed:

  • Students were very excited as they arrived at the lab.
  • One little introvert struggled to be part of the team, but was coaxed by an older student. We need to consider those students who are not naturally outgoing in situations like this.
  • Students naturally started asking each other question and making connections with each other.
  • 40 mins is barely enough time.

I Wonder:

  • What new connections could students make with others if we were to do this more often?
  • How our school culture and community could become more cohesive if we had more opportunities for mixing our students up?
  • How might we see student engagement change if they were given a larger role in preparing for an afternoon like this in the future?
  • How did students react going into teacher’s room they did not know?  (All the students have been in my room for Technology Class. Some students went to teachers they do not know.)

What if:

  • Students and teachers could look forward to this on a regular basis?
  • Students prepared and ran sessions about things they are experts at doing?

I think there will be a Part 2 to this day.  I hope there is.


The Boredom Epidemic

I’ve seen it.  I’v219517-be-warned-i-m-bored-this-could-get-dangerouse experienced it first hand.  I see it in all grade levels, first through fifth. Students disengaged.  Students going through the checklist of school.  Students not putting thought into work. Students asking, “Is this enough?” “Is this OK?” Is this good?” “Do I have to do this?”

I never liked when students, or my own children, for that matter, say they are bored.  I remember in a graduate course an instructor saying that kids are bored because they are not choosing to be involved in what is going on in the classroom.  She said, “Boring people are bored.”  But are they?  I’ve been bored in my life but I don’t think I’m that boring to be around.  Here’s what happens when I’m bored, I find something to occupy my thoughts.  So yes, when I was sitting in YOUR meeting, when you showed me a power point with a thousand bullet points. I read it faster than you read it to me and I was bored.  But, I didn’t accept the boredom as mine.  I saw the boredom as yours.  It’s not me, it’s you. Instead of “being bored”, I found something to do.  Maybe I started the biggest, longest, most colorful flower vine doodle of my doodling career.  Or I hopped on my email and started reading and answering messages.  Or I may have started texting a friend on the outside to know that life still existed out there. Or maybe I jumped into my Google Drive and continued working on something that I had been procrastinating on and found you just gave me lots of time to take care of it. Some of us who get bored, find something to do within that boredom.  So do our students.  They doodle, talk, fidget, etc because of boredom.  It’s not them, it’s us!

How do we give our students experiences that remove or at least lessen the boredom? I don’t think the answer is a song and dance.  Entertainment does not take the place of boredom.  I believe high interest and a need for thinking does.  I could use all the educational jargon: engage, empower, choice, voice, blah, blah, blah, but I don’t want to go there.  Those words don’t have the same meaning to me as they used to.  They have been overused, misused and feel useless in many conversations.  Let’s just talk straight.  Kids need to feel like they matter, their opinions matter and that they can be in charge of their learning!

How can we overcome this epidemic? The solution is simple: put students in charge of their learning.  Give them the tools, experiences and space for conversations that allow them to go after their own learning.  Let them know their opinions matter and will be heard and honored in your space. Give them chances to form and express their opinions.    Let them know they matter to you, to their community, to their world. Give them opportunities to make choices that matter for others as well as themselves.

Less of me, more of them.

Stop doing to and start doing for.  There is a difference.

Thanks to Educon 2.9, PETE&C 2017, @TFerlick, @1RossPollack and Harvard Ed Magazine: Bored Out of Their Minds for the help in formulating my thoughts.