Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Whole Child

This morning as I work on my final assignment for grad school (WOOHOO) my mind is spilling with thoughts, emotions, ideas, and questions. Our assignment is to first watch Sir Ken Robinson's TEDTalk "Do schools kill creativity?" then respond to a variety of questions and prompts. I find myself overflowing with what I want to say and hope that by blogging first, I can streamline these thoughts.

Several years ago our school read Sir Ken Robinson's book Creative Schools and I remember it being one of the first educational books that made me think - made me REALLY think and reflect and consider. It so happened at the same time my first child was beginning school. Listening to his words made all of these memories come flowing back and all the feels! *I must say before sharing more that in no way at all do I blame any educator for my children's experiences. As an educator, I have grown and evolved and understand how things work and I do not place blame. However, I do want to see and be part of the change that continues to push the boundaries of traditional education. I am thankful I belong to an innovative district that is constantly moving to provide new ways of learning while asking questions and encouraging learning forward.*

It is stated in the TEDTalk that 'all kids have talents and the education system squanders them' and I completely agree this is true when we only focus on academics. Sir Ken Robinson shares the story of a girl - her parents were told she may have a learning disability when in fact she was a gifted dancer! Once given the best learning environment for her needs, she was able to grow and learn and eventually create CATS! Wow!

What are we doing to ensure our children are provided all they need to be well-rounded members of society? Not later - not when they graduate, but now? Please know there are children around the world making a difference at very young ages - thanks to technology and social media, people of ALL ages make an impact. We do not need to prepare them for tomorrow as much as preparing them for today. For now.

Traditional education systems were formed to educate the masses, often preparing students for factory work or war - hence the lines of silent students walking from one place to another, or completing a set of tasks to show mastery of a concept. If you look around, few work environments function this way anymore. People collaborate, must have strong communication skills, must be able to work independently and self-motivate to complete a wide variety of tasks in multiple environments. Where are all the people walking in a line silently? I struggle to understand the reasons for some of the expectations we still hold in high regard without understanding how it is best for children.

One child I know has such a strong athletic ability. He shows exceptional control on a pitching mound, where he is still and focused and holds the entire game on his shoulders with confidence. Yet if you ask this child to read a book or write a story, he faces multiple challenges. He can appear to be impulsive and hyper, but if you really know him, he is the most caring and loving person and wants to be accepted. Another child I know is overflowing with curiosity. He wants to take things apart - not just physical items, but also ideas. He begs to gather information and question the norm. He finds no value in knowing facts, he knows he can 'ask Alexa' or Google it; so memorization holds no weight to him. He wants to program things and feel challenged. At three years old, he carried a tiny notebook around drawing ideas and writing questions; but at school, he had to put it away. These stories I have seen first hand, as these are my children.

Please, know your students. Please, ask them questions and value their answers. Know who they are and what their strengths are. Some people need to move. They feel like they can't breathe when they have to sit still and conform. Some people need to talk. They thrive on learning from others. Some people need to be alone. All of the noise, movement, action just exhausts them. Don't you know adults like this? Children are no different.

Continue to ask questions. Continue to learn forward and provide options that are in the best interests of your students. Let's continue to promote educating the whole child.

In what ways can we challenge the traditional system and evolve to value all unique strengths of students?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

TCEA #Tots & Technology 2017

TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) is a great organization that promotes and supports the use of technology in education. TCEA provides a wide variety of learning opportunities, such as a statewide conference and local area conferences. TCEA also provides online learning options, including their Lunch and Learn series.

In 2015, I attended TCEA in Austin and reflected on it here. Plus, I attended TCEA Tots & Tech in Galveston and reflected on it here. This year I am thrilled TCEA Tots & Tech is in Arlington, which is very close by! Many teachers and librarians from our district are attending, which makes for great collaboration and deeper learning opportunities. Plus, it is a great time to continue to build relationships.
Some of the GCISD Educators at Tots

One of my favorite things about attending a conference is making connections with others. I've been in touch with another educator in the area for a while as she is looking to find the best next steps in her journey as an educator. We had the opportunity to meet face to face and chat today. It was great to meet the person I've been talking to on the phone and via text and email. One of the sessions today was called 'Birds of a Feather' which provided a room for same area educators to gather, connect, and collaborate. So, all first-grade teachers met in a room, etc. My group consisted of five instructional coaches. We were given questions to discuss then tweet, like a Twitter Chat. It was so nice to have time to meet others in a structured, yet flexible environment. We shared ideas, got connected on Twitter, and discussed challenges and celebrations from our year.
Our Birds of a Feather Group
There are so many opportunities for learning, and some sneak up and surprise you! While attending Miguel Guhlin's session on Blogging and Podcasting, he used me and a few others that were 'voluntold' to share our experiences with blogging in our classrooms. You know I LOVE to blog and had great experiences with my students blogging, but impromptu speaking is a HUGE fear of mine. However, I think once I got going, I shared our blogging story well. He recorded the conversation to share on Voxer, which I think elevated my anxiety; but afterward, I was pretty pumped to share more. I looked up the microphone he used on his phone and want to purchase one for recording students and teachers when I'm on campuses. It was a fun time and I will remember that presentation, for sure!
Me getting interviewed
Other topics included using QR & AR for Early Literacy (@techwnancy) with TONS of ideas and resources plus Lawsome Elementary's (@SusieTowber1 & @SeaLionLibrary) journey to "Playker" Spaces. The resources shared by other educators (blogs, books, robotics) are on my Amazon Wish List and I will share those ideas forward with others I work with. CISD Coaches shared the idea of having a 'Play Date' with teachers and admin to provide time to explore coding and robotics with support nearby as needed, making connections on how to integrate with the curriculum. Our team has InTech Coaching, which made me realize I need to be more intentional about using that time to expose others to the tools we use and learn about on a daily basis.

As silly as it sounds, another fun feature I enjoyed was TCEA provided good food and time to enjoy it with peers. By having food available, we didn't have to leave and waste time going somewhere else, plus we got to visit and enjoy time with people - building relationships and sharing ideas. In my role, I work with staff district-wide so it is wonderful to have time with others to get to know them and share ideas. Plus, it is nice to gain new ideas while hearing new ways to use tools we already love.

Be sure to check out #TCEA to see what kind of professional learning opportunities meet your needs and goals. In what ways do you enjoy learning and connecting as an educator?

Sunday, July 16, 2017


WOW! Attending ISTE this year was awesome! ISTE is the International Society for Technology in Education. This year it was held in San Antonio, which made it easy for me to travel to and attend. However, nothing - even the wonderful blog posts and emails prior to - helped me prepare for all that was in store.
Before I begin, I want to encourage you to attend a conference. ANY conference! In Texas, there are so many offered, it is a matter of connecting with someone to find one or more that fit your learning styles and goals. An instructional coach in our district led me to several which in turn began a new platform for learning and sharing for me.
A few of my favorite are:
*ISTE - annual conference bringing people together from around the world
*TCEA - annual conference located in Texas
*TCEA Tots & Technology - primarily focused on elementary (Pk-5) educators
*EdCamp  - an unconference where educators come together and create the agenda on site based on needs of attendees
*iPadpalooza - a learning event unlike the others focused but not limited to iPads and integrating technology
*EdTech Team GAFE Summits - conference learning how to use Google (GSuite) in education in more depth
There are many others, such as SXSWEdu and local area conferences that I enjoy. Search and find some that work for you and GO!
A helpful hint I picked up before attending ISTE was to pick a few topics of focus and stick to them. There are hundreds of options each day and over 15,000 attendees - so many choices made it hard to even know what to do, let alone where to go. So, I picked a few based on what I thought would be beneficial learning to meet my goals. Another hint I read but did not take seriously was wear comfortable shoes. I was dressed more professionally and most people were comfortable (it was super hot and humid and completely appropriate for shorts and tennis shoes). My feet had many blisters and were hurting terribly.

Students sharing how AR amplifies
their language acquisition.

Poster Sessions on all sorts of topics.
This topic is 50 PE Tech Tools!

First, I selected several sessions on Makerspaces. In my classroom I enjoyed exploring the idea of a makerspace and it was always evolving. In my new role, I get to work alongside teachers and librarians who are introducing or evolving their makerspaces in their learning spacees. It was so beneficial to see and hear so many ideas! Pamela Howell shared the idea of Makerspace Ambassadors to create task cards, train teachers, and assist students. One of my favorite new manipulatives I spotted are What a fun tool to use for creating and imaginative exploration! Plus, they were invented by a dad at one of the schools and I love supporting small businesses. Most of the information I gained on makerspaces was at Poster Sessions - these were set up similar to what I would think of as like a Science Fair. Educators would set up with resources and share their ideas. Some included students, which was also a huge favorite of mine! I was able to hear Colleen Graves, who is an amazing educator that I've followed for years, speak on her experiences with makerspaces. All the information - so excited to share!

My second focus was on Tech Teams. As a classroom teacher, I (along with many others) had a Tech Team in the classroom that consisted of students rotating in roles to help support others with their technology. This may include a tech issue or how to use an app for learning purposes. It also often included charging devices and setting them up before we were 1:1 in the classroom. A hope I have in my current role is to begin a few Tech Teams at the elementary level. I was able to visit with many students at Poster Sessions about their roles on a Tech Team. I loved the ideas from Jennifer Casa-Todd @JCasaTodd on having roles that include social media and public relations on the Tech Team. I gained so many tidbits of ideas, like being sure to have a team that is inspiring students to solve problems and promote healthy digital use.

With all the information coming in (there is SO much I'm not including in this post) I felt most moved by the learning I gained regarding Digital Citizenship. At the time, the grad school class I was in was Digital Citizenship, so I already had it on my mind. Plus, our district is working to become Common Sense Media Certified for Digital Citizenship and our team is providing resources and support to students, staff, schools, and community. It is a big goal of mine, but even more so now. I had also just ordered Jennifer Casa-Todd's book Social LEADia the week prior to ISTE after learning about it on Twitter. When I figured out she was presenting, I HAD to go - and meet her! (I did.) Her presentation was amazing. It really made me think. I need to write an entire post on Digital Citizenship soon, but this topic was fueled for me at ISTE. One piece in particular that made an impact on me was at the IGNITE Smackdown by Keegan Korf @OPSMrsKorf She discussed how often we shame students/children into FEAR from their mistakes made on social media, that they do not understand that they can recover from mistakes and trust adults to help them. Instead they often feel alone and ashamed, that they have no future if they do make a mistake or if something hurtful is posted about them. This five minute speech really got to me. How do we support students to see the positive? How do we support students to recover from mistakes? @jdayedu suggested we ensure students know that we are there for them and 'when in doubt, talk it out' but we have to listen and act. As Jennifer Casa-Todd mentioned, it takes more than hanging some 'THINK' posters around campus. As I stated before, more to come on this topic. Another post, another day.

WOW! That barely scratches the surface on my #ISTE17 experience. Y'all, there was so much more!! I was fortunate to meet so many people I connect with on Twitter and Instagram IRL (in real life) A few I met were @TaraMartinEDU @MrsGadtke @jess_malloy @JCasaTodd and SO many others. I got to work as a Seesaw Ambassador in the @Seesaw booth in the EXPO for an hour and loved sharing Seesaw with others. The EXPO!! Oh my - this is where I connected with so many vendors and tools that I use and share with others. It was great to chat and give feedback on how we use these tools in classrooms to amplify learning. I was able to learn from @AliceKeeler @jmattmiller @KleinErin @lhighfill - right there in the EXPO! I met a few educators, too - yes, this shy, introverted person felt brave and met some new people to learn with. I also met a few of my LAMAR professors and one of my online peers IRL.
Meeting @TaraMartinEDU and @MrsGadtke
at the @Seesaw Booth

@jmattmiller PLUS got a book!


My LAMAR professor and peer.

Remember to take time to digest all the information and reflect. Getting away for a conference is also a great time to build community with your team and peers. Meet for lunch, chat about your learning, CONNECT THE DOTS. It's ok to have fun!
See the sites!
Remember the Alamo!
Take time to reflect and
digest ALL the learning.

ISTE was amazing and overwhelming, but I left overflowing with ideas to share and implement. Have you attended a beneficial learning opportunity lately? What is one of your new tidbits of learning to share?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Blogging Buddies

One of my favorite things to do is reflect. Ideally, it is by the pool soaking up sun or watching the waves in the lake, but realistically I do not have those opportunities often. I do like to think about what I've done and consider what the celebrations are plus how I will face similar challenges next time. I was probably the kid took it literally when my mom or sitter said 'Now go think about what you've done!' after I got in trouble. Recently I completed an assessment on my leadership skills and one area that stuck with me was that I tend to over analyze my failures and it recommended I should also celebrate my successes. As someone who is more on the introverted side as a communicator, I enjoy blogging as an outlet to share my learning.

I began my blog a few years ago to model for my students the benefits of reflecting. If I was going to expect my students to do it, I would do it myself, as well. I really love to blog, however over the last 15 months I have not dedicated much time to it. My #OneWord this year is 'Be' since I am juggling (as many people are) many things at once - new schools for my boys, new job, grad school, kids in sports, friends, family, ME - that I need to refocus and BE present which means, for now, my blog may be quiet, but only for a few more weeks because I graduate in August! Woohoo!! ALL of that to say (in a super long sentence), I recently read about Blogging Buddies in my ISTE Ed Tech Coaches communication and thought THIS will get me back into blogging with intention, plus it will grow my PLN and continue to connect me with others to learn along with!

What are Blogging Buddies? Blogging Buddies is an opportunity for ed tech coaches to connect, network, and learn together through blogging. We have this platform to provide feedback among each other to promote growth and reflection. We will blog at a minimum of once a month and provide feedback on each other's blog posts while practicing good digital citizenship. Interested? Sign up at and join us!

Joining this group has reignited my passion for blogging. I may start off slowly but I am looking forward to making new connections and learning together with my group! Check out my buddies and follow them, too:

Penny Christensen @Pen63

Michele Bond @MrsBond

JP Prezzavento @JPPrezz

Tara Waudby @TaraWaudby

Plus check out #ETCoaches to grow your PLN, too!

How do you reflect and share your learning?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


While searching for engaging ways to integrate technology with her students, Tara Martin (@TaraMartinEDU) created #BookSnaps. Tara's idea was to use a platform her students were already familiar with to share about stories they were reading. Now, #BookSnaps have developed into so much more!

BookSnaps are fun for learners of all ages and can be used with a variety of apps.

*iPad app suggestions: Draw and Tell HD, PicCollageKids, Doceri, Shadow Puppet, ChatterPixKids, Seesaw

*Chromebooks/Laptops suggestions: Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Draw

For more information on How To create a #BookSnap, view Tara's blog post here.

Students can use #BookSnaps to identify words, make connections, describe vocabulary terms, locate topics in Grammar, identify and describe story elements, share their thinking with connections from the text, and more!

Students use #BookSnaps to
 identify vocabulary words.

Students use #BookSnaps
 identify topics in Grammar.

Students use #BookSnaps to
identify and explain story elements.

Students use #BookSnaps to tell the main idea
plus connect to other content area skills.
Students use #BookSnaps to
 identify connections to the story.

Students use #BookSnaps
 to define vocabulary.
Students use #BookSnaps
to define vocabulary.

Students can share important information or describe their work using #BookSnaps. These can provide a snapshot into the minds and hearts of our students. #BookSnaps can be used for Student Voice.
Students use #BookSnaps for Student Voice.

Provide clear expectations for #BookSnaps in your classroom. Invite students to create guidelines and rubrics for effective use of #BookSnaps in the classroom.
Provide clear expectations for #BookSnaps.
Provide opportunities for students use
their creativity when making #BookSnaps.
#BookSnaps have cousins, such as #SpanishSnaps, #MathSnaps, #LabSnaps, and such.
Students can practice language
acquisition with #SpanishSnaps.
Students can identify vocabulary
or explain their learning with #MathSnaps.

Teachers can collect #BookSnaps on a class Padlet for students to view and comment:
Create a Padlet or table in Google Docs
 to hold a collection of #BookSnaps for students.
Teachers can collect #BookSnaps on a class Google Slides and students can compare and discover a variety of thoughts and opinions from their peers:
To use Google Slides for each student to insert their #BookSnaps, make a copy of this:

To use Google Slides for the class to add a Book Snap on each slide, make a copy of this:

To use Google Slides for the class to add a Math Snaps on each slide, make a copy of this:

How can your students use #BookSnaps or other snaps to share their learning?

Saturday, January 28, 2017


As an instructional coach on the technology team, I spend my time supporting teachers with professional development, PLCs (professional learning community), and as a thinking partner either one on one or small group. Twitter, blogs, and Instagram are other formats I use to connect with, learn from, and support educators. As a coach, mindset is incredibly important to consider with each person I encounter. Just as a teacher with students, the educators I get to work with all have various experiences, schema, and mindsets. When I am questioned or challenged with educators, I have to redirect them to feel safe, build trust, and take a risk with a growth mindset using ‘yet’. I have to carefully consider all of this as I work with others. This is a challenge for me as I am building relationships with teachers at eleven elementary campuses in our district. Not only do I have to consider their individual mindsets, but I also have to constantly check my own mindset. Being new to this role after 18 years in the classroom, there are days I am filled with doubt. I have to intentionally rethink and choose to redirect my thoughts. I know they chose me for this job for a reason. I know I am capable of this job and it is my passion. So when I get off track, it is up to me to get back on track. Therefore, mindset is extremely important in several aspects of my job as an instructional coach.

To promote learning about mindset, I created a HyperDoc. A HyperDoc is a Google Doc used to provide resources for learners to seek information at their own pace while documenting their learning. I use these with teachers by forcing a copy so they have the resources and their notes in their Google Folder at all times. In this case, their notes are not for me but for themselves. Our team uses HyperDocs to model for teachers how they can be used in their classrooms. Within my HyperDoc, I have included videos, reading, and areas for note taking or directions to take notes, as well as images, opportunities to reflect, and ways to connect.

Mindset HyperDoc or

In addition to using the mindset HyperDoc, I can continue to support teachers by promoting the power of ‘yet’. I can encourage growth mindset for teachers by encouraging them to set goals, provide opportunities for teachers to track their growth, and reflect. In PLCs, I can promote growth mindset for students with teachers as well. We can work together to think of ways to promote growth mindset with students and in the learning environment. One of my passions is coding and computer science. Coding is a great opportunity for students to practice ‘yet’ by debugging codes and persevering to find a solution through collaboration. Another of my passions is Student Voice. After PLCs, I ask teachers to complete a Teacher Voice survey so they have an opportunity to share their voice plus I can gain input to provide better support. I hope this models for teachers how they can use Student Voice to hear their students, build trust, and understand obstacles students encounter in order to promote a growth mindset in the classroom.

A growth mindset is necessary for me these days, especially. Working full time in a new position with two children that are active in sports while my husband travels is a lot to juggle, but I am also completing Action Research, a Principal Practicum, and graduate school classes. I am fortunate to have a supportive family but parts of my life have had to take less priority during this time. There are days I feel discouraged for not being able to do what I feel I need to do, so I have to remember this is temporary and find the motivation to persevere. I read the mindset book a few years ago but this refresher is coming at a very good time for me. I find the four steps to be very helpful as I am over the halfway mark with grad school and need a little confidence boost. By reminding myself of the four steps, I can redirect my thoughts to work toward successful growth and learning.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Seesaw Ambassador

I am a Seesaw Ambassador!
I learned about Seesaw late last spring and was excited to test it out in my classroom. I began following @Seesaw on Twitter, Facebook, and joined a Facebook Group to learn more. Now as an Instructional Technology Coach, I have the opportunity to see Seesaw in action in multiple classrooms at a variety of grade levels as well as provide Seesaw as a tool for teachers to offer in the classroom. My goals as an Ambassador for Seesaw are to learn more about integrating Seesaw to amplify student learning, provide support for educators to purposefully use Seesaw to connect their students and families, promote ideas for using Seesaw, and connect classes to share their learning beyond the four walls of their classroom. I'm looking forward to learning more, connecting with others through this opportunity, and sharing ideas I gain from this experience.

Seesaw empowers students and engages families by providing a platform for students to share their learning by uploading a picture or video, then adding text, labels, and voice. Teachers can connect classrooms to promote collaboration and communication beyond the classroom. Students can post questions and comment on each other's work. Parents can view their children's work to promote discussion at home of skills and learning.

If you would like to know more about Seesaw, go to my Ambassador page or just ask. If you are not local, search for a Seesaw Ambassador near you. I enjoy attending Seesaw's 'PD in Your PJs' - I can view these webinars live or they send a recording to watch at a time that works best for me. Webinars last from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on the topic.

Already using Seesaw? Check out a trial of Seesaw Plus by scanning here:

How do you connect your students with each other, their families, and other students?