Thursday, July 28, 2016


Ready with coffee in hand!
Earlier this summer I attended iPadpalooza in Austin, TX. This was my second time to join this learning festival and it did not disappoint. I wrote my reflection after I completed day 1 (here) but the remaining time I was there my spare time was spent working on grad school - so I've had some time to process all that I learned.

Even better to learn with a friend!
Looking back, I gained a lot from the sessions but it is even more about the experience. If you have not yet attended any sort of education conference, I highly recommend it. Yes, I know it takes you away from your family for a few days or may take spending some money (however you can write a grant, ask PTA or your administrators) or hotel points... but the energy that radiates from being surrounded by eager educators ready to learn, share, and connect makes it such a wonderful experience. Yet, iPadpalooza is different. Yes, it is about technology but also about mindset.

So entertaining... I had an 'eye-phone' as a kid, too!!
To get things started they gather everyone together and have students do this incredible light and sound show. Y'all - these students are so talented!! Then the godfather of iPadpalooza (Carl Hooker @mrhooker ) gets things started. It is like a Pep Rally!! This year there were mini-Key Notes and I loved it! They were entertaining, funny, emotional, cute, and also made me ugly cry... right there on the 2nd row, big tears and crying.

Before it was a hashtag, it was the 'octothorpe'!
Band playing in the background

I have to mention one of my favorite things is the Food Trucks! Every day there are several Food Trucks in the parking lot for lunch. I know, it's not educational but everyone has to eat and Food Trucks are FUN! Plus there is always a band playing or karaoke. They have massage chairs, cookies, and free breakfast! Some of my favorite time is coming into the cafeteria and just sitting to soak it all in.

One of the most rewarding things about attending a conference with learning buddies and coworkers is you can divide and conquer. A few of us used a Google Doc to share what we learned in each session. There are so many sessions I wanted to attend but this allows us to view what others experienced and learn from those as well. Plus when you get home a few weeks later and attempt to remember everything you learned, it is all in one location.

The sessions are incredible and there are so many to choose from, plus the times are staggered. So, I would stay in one for a while, move to another, find some quiet to reflect and process, then move to another session. The schedule is relaxed and people are constantly moving from one place to another. As I walked in to one session (Connect with LEGO Education) I found a seat at a table with two Smurfs. Yes, you read that right - SMURFS! So, that's another thing that makes iPadpalooza fun - I mean, HELLO, it is in Austin! There are themes and people dress up and contests - I don't participate much but it makes for a fun time!

We worked together with LEGO StoryStarter sets to recreate an ending to a popular movie. We had to sketch the ending together, then create the movie set with LEGOs (plus we used a notecard to draw). The new ending had to be 1 minute, but no longer than 2 minutes. We could record the ending with any video app we chose, then had to upload it to Youtube and tweet it with the hashtag/octothorpe #iplaz16 We recreated the ending to Pretty Women. It was so much fun! The possibilities of using LEGOs for engaging work are endless. Plus, it was super cool to experience it for ourselves.

There is so much to share but really you need to experience it! Some of the topics we attended include Google use, Maker Spaces, GIFs, Digital Footprint, Genius Hour, Google Classroom, Twitter Chats, Fresh Grade, literacy apps, youtube, the selfie center, and more! One of the sessions that made a great impact on me was with April Requard @AprilRequard as she shared about her SWAT team. SWAT = students working to advance technology. THIS! It was amazing. You can read all about it on her blog (here). To sum it up, she facilitates a group of elementary students who are passionate about leading others to integrate technology, not just in the classroom but also in the community. I would love to do this. Amazing.

Part of attending any learning opportunity is connecting with others. Whether this is at a campus faculty meeting, district-wide professional development, or conference - this is a great time to connect! The introvert in me has to get super brave to speak with others but everyone is so friendly, it is easy! Plus, finding people from your PLN (Professional Learning Network) from Twitter is awesome. I was able to speak with a Twitter learning friend from Louisiana face-to-face! Another PLN friend came up to visit with me - it is so fun forming friendships with people from all over then connecting face-to-face at conferences. The best part was meeting up with a friend who I have known since I was five. We went to the same schools and I always knew her because we were the only people we knew named 'Erin' (not a common name at all in the 80's here). Here we are:
 And you can see this is the extent of my 'dressing up' for Retro Day! HAHA!

A nice thing about getting away to learn is your time away from sessions. It is perfect for continuing to connect, reflect, site see, relax, or in my case... complete some homework. They were so nice at the hotel, since my learning buddy and I sat in the lobby late every night working and drinking Starbucks!

One of my most rewarding times this visit was presenting. I was able to share how my students and I integrated robotics into our learning. It was fun to share plus make some connections with others that attended.
My room spinning around from the performance hall.
As educators, we are constantly learning. The world around us is changing by the second. In order to best meet our students' needs, we must be learners ourselves. Expand outside of your comfort zone and explore to find what is out there. There are incredible people with super cool ideas just waiting to share with you! Try a conference. Some of my favorite conferences are EdCamps, TCEA, iPadpalooza, and anything Google. What are your favs? 

Dig in. Get connected. Find an awesome learning event. Give it a try!

iPadpalooza 2017 info HERE

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


While participating in a district professional development opportunity, I was introduced to Mentimeter. At the time Mr. Zahn (@aszahn66) was gathering data on his audience to gain insight to our understanding regarding the topic presented. Right away, I knew this was a tool my students and I would love! Over the next several months, we used Mentimeter often in our classroom as a tool. We found it to be quick, easy to use, easy to read, and would lead to additional discussions beyond the topic at hand (comparing the graph, etc).

While we were studying context clues, students watched a silly, entertaining video of a pig trying to get to some chocolate chip cookies (we had fun with this because I, too, love chocolate chip cookies and they know it). We watched just a bit of the video then made a prediction based on context clues. It was so fun and engaging! Using Mentimeter was easy and quick in the classroom. I would display the results on the board and students would answer using their iPads (answers can be submitted from any device with web access). Students loved watching the bar graphs grow as more votes were submitted, plus it is anonymous so it protected the learners and built confidence in our classroom.

When preparing to present to others, I do not always know my audience. As a classroom teacher, I know how important that is. With professional development, I use Mentimeter as a tool to assess my audience. Before getting started, participants go to the link on my slide and anonymously cast their votes. I keep the link to the results on the slide, as well, and model how to use Mentimeter before we begin. Plus, it gives me insight on how I need to adjust the information I share. There are many options for using Mentimeter. You can ask an open-ended question, gather data on a scale, create a matrix, or (as seen below) make a word cloud or bar graph:

This is a beneficial tool to use for educators and learners, as well. How can you use Mentimeter?

Monday, July 25, 2016


Leading a classroom of unique, diverse learners is an exciting opportunity. Educators are constantly searching for and learning new ideas and techniques for meeting the needs of their students. Last spring, I heard about EDpuzzle @EDpuzzle and was eager to try it in our classroom. 

EDpuzzle is a web site that provides opportunities for learners to view a video as a learning tool. The educator in me loves EDpuzzle because I can use a video I found on YouTube or another website (our school uses BrainPopJr and that works well). Once you select the video your learners need, you can edit the video's length if needed plus there are no ads! The user can edit the video by length, stop the video to ask multiple choice or short answer questions, and can add audio notes. The userI can also copy a video another user has created and either use their questions or edit the copy to work best for students. The user can share the EDpuzzle video with colleagues - they can use the video or duplicate it to edit for their students. You can share the video via URL or make a QR code (I use URL Shortener extension on my MacBook which provides a shortened URL that I can write on the board or a QR code I can print and pass out to younger students). A huge plus for our district is we are a GAFE district (Google Apps for Education) and use Google Classroom. EDpuzzle can share directly to Google Classroom, which makes sharing to students easy and seamless.

Anytime I learn of a new activity, book, app, global connection, or site to share with my students, we discuss before and after if it has a purpose for learning in our classroom. Student Voice is important to me and I value input from each child. After we use any new learning tool (digital or not), we discuss if it is a tool we should continue to use in our classroom or if it does not offer growth in our learning. Often we use Kahoot! or Quizizz (see here) in our classroom for formative assessment, but we found EDpuzzle had a place in our classroom, as well. Here are a few of our favorite features:

*EDpuzzle moves at the learner's pace. Several of my students prefer the feature that they can pause or rewind the video. I observed this was especially helpful for my English Language Learner students, students with dyslexia, and students who work hard to focus, however, many students used this feature. My goal is for my students to learn and if that means they know the information was missed and can go back to find it to be successful, super! On my screen, I can see who attempted which questions multiple times. So my students can be successful and I still have the data I need to reteach or revisit a topic or skill.

*EDpuzzle is versatile. It can be used as a whole group activity, in collaborative groups, with a buddy, or individually. We like how there are times for each of those types of learning options and it can work for each.

*EDpuzzle is easy to use. Students could access the videos and work using their notes. In our classroom, we took notes during any video since it was an opportunity to document new ideas and learning. Students could choose to write on the table or in their notebooks (they would take a picture of the table and save it in their Google Drive for later use) and they would choose how to represent the information they were learning or add to previous notes.

*EDPuzzle provides immediate results. I could look on my screen and watch how students were working and make notes or provide support at that moment. Students would have feedback right away upon completing their activity.

We found EDpuzzle to be a beneficial tool in our learning environment and enjoyed using it very much. While presenting earlier this summer, I shared a video clip of George Couros' TEDTalk so educators could experience EDpuzzle for themselves.

How can you use EDpuzzle?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

#OneWord Mid-Year Reflection

This year my #OneWord for 2016 is 'choose'. In January, when the year had just begun and is like a clean, blank slate, I wrote about my word (here). Now that the year is halfway over, I want to do a little self-assessment and see how I'm doing with my choices. 
Over the past few years, I've felt led to do something different. I sought out advice and direction from anyone who would meet with me to listen, but I quickly discovered that no one had the answer I needed. Only I have the answers I need. After much thought, discussion with my husband, and prayer I made some choices. It was SO scary! I'm such a stickler for routine and consistency but BOY it's exciting! Looking back to January, I challenged myself:
This year I need to CHOOSE in all areas of my life: 
*Choose to have a good day
*Choose to stop at the gym
*Choose to listen to a friend
*Choose to play with my kids
*Choose to empower myself and others
*Choose joy
*Choose to continue to grow professionally
*Choose to go on a date with my husband
*Choose what is right for my students
*Choose to be present at home
*Choose to move forward
I think so far this year I'm doing a pretty good job!

One reason for the neglect of my blog over the past six months is due to me spending my time working towards my master's degree. What a big decision that has been! I never, ever, ever, ever, ever thought I'd return to school. In fact, I used to say I would never... funny how life teaches you to watch what you say. : ) After much thought, I chose to return to school. It has impacted many of the other things listed above, such as going to the gym, date nights, spending time with my kids... but it has taught me to be present when I am doing those things. When I actually get to the gym, I focus on being there. I've decided that taking a walk with my kids does two things at once - exercise and time talking with them. My husband and I make certain we take time for each other without devices or distractions (other than a quick pic!). Plus, I want my boys to see that you spend your whole life learning. My parents modeled that for me, just as their father and I have returned to school and hope to inspire them as well.

I've tried hard to choose carefully those who I surround myself with. I want to be surrounded by people that I can laugh with, be ME, push me to grow and not be stuck, and who remind me to be HAPPY and thankful. I decided to change how I dressed, what I read, how much TV I watched. I try hard to watch what I eat, but I also love food - so... still working on that. : ) I'm trying to be intentional about how I spend my time for my family, my friends, but also for me. I spent all spring semester soaking up my students and how we could learn together... and then I did it. I applied and interviewed for new positions. Y'all. I never thought I would do anything other than teach in a classroom! Yet, over the past few years, I knew there was something more. Recently I began to feel almost trapped by a classroom - DO NOT get me wrong, I love teaching and love my students so much - but I want to share what I learn from others to everyone! I want to work with them and provide support for them to try and grow and learn. I'm thrilled to begin my new position as an instructional coach in a week. I have so much to learn and I'm ready for the opportunity.
As I was sitting in church today, I noticed they handed out stickers that represent the vision of the church. At Compass, the vision is 'navigating people to God' and I thought - what a fantastic goal, for many reasons. It also made me think of my upcoming position as an instructional coach. 
I decided to place this sticker somewhere to be a visual reminder for myself. While the sticker has a meaning to me shared by my church, it also is a reminder of my vision:

I strive to be a change agent* by empowering others, building relationships, connecting, collaborating, and inspiring others to grow from where they are.

As I continue on this year, I'm excited about the choices I'm making. These choices have an impact on my entire family. Time to study has resulted in my husband and the boys spending LOTS of quality time together fishing, going to movies, and hanging out. (Some of my best memories of my dad is when we went for pizza while my mom was in school working on her master's degree) Since my position location will be new, we moved our boys to attend their home campuses, and they are both really excited about the new adventures ahead. There is a lot of anticipation building in our home! My focus on choosing to move forward, continuing to grow, and remembering to soak it all up in the process is making me more aware. Which reminds me, I better finish my homework while the boys are out fishing. Then I am going to choose to enjoy my last week of summer to be as refreshed as possible for my new adventure! 
How is your #OneWord making an impact on your year?

*I first heard about a 'change agent' from George Couros @gcouros and I immediately related to that term. 
THIS is what I want to do. If you have ever read Platypus Police Squad (or your kids have) by Jarrett J. Krosoczka @StudioJJK that's the image I always get. HA. I love it! If you have not yet read Innovator's Mindset, please do! I highly recommend it (see here).