Friday, December 30, 2011

My Lottery Ticket: The Most Important Thing I Learned This Year

Image by Robert S. Donovan
As another calendar year comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on all the things I've learned and experiences I've had. Of all the things I've learned, the most important has been this: great risk can lead to great reward. I once heard a saying during a English soccer, "You can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket." This year has been a year of really great relationships. I've been lucky that some wonderful people have come into my life. I took a chance, put myself out there and connected with some amazing people: I continually get amazing advice, support and encouragement from Shelly TerrellSean Junkins' tweets leave me laughing so hard that it hurts; Kelly Croy's blog posts challenge and stretch me; Steven Anderson daily reminds me to be great; I discover great tools and technology integration ideas from Karen Blumberg;  I'm inspired by Mary Beth Hertz's creativity, classroom innovation and reflective practice; Cory Plough continually changes the way I view online learning; and Ken Shelton's photography takes my breath away and makes me want to grab my camera and capture the world around me through still images. These relationships, whether from far way or face to face, have taught me what authentic and selfless leadership looks like. I've been reminded this year of the importance of relationships; we are not meant to learn, live or grow alone.

All the great people that I've met and everything they've added to my life and my learning has been as wonderful as winning the lottery :-D


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Difficult Questions

Image by CarbonNYC
Growing up, I was always told that there was no such thing as a stupid question or, a slight variation of it, that the only stupid question is the one you don't ask. Adopting that belief, I began asking any question that came to mind. I value question-asking as part of the learning process because I feel that it was better to have all the facts than to sit mutely and be confused.

Then I began growing my PLN and found myself growing cautious of asking questions. My personal learning community consists of some smart, talented and creative people; some of the smartest people I know.  While that can be encouraging, it can also be a little intimidating. I started second guessing myself. Was this a silly question? Should I already know the answer to it?

What I forget is this: we are all learning. Some  have had more years and experiences to learn from so they have more to offer. Others are just starting out and building their momentum. Great teachers are always teaching. That includes students in a classroom or inquiring minds on a social network. Asking questions can be beneficial for the person you're asking because in helping you, they can be reminded of things they've forgotten or it allows them to share their specialty.  Leadership blogger Dan Rockwell maintains that "curiosity and questions enable leaders to bring out the best in others; to find solutions through others." 21st century learning is all about connected learning which means we're not learning alone. Information is meant to be shared, remixed and reflected on with others who see things through different lenses. Questions open up dialogue and establishes connections. Asking questions might not always come easy but it is necessary and definitely worth it to take learning to the next level.

Friday, December 16, 2011

iPad App Reviews

Image by Photo Giddy

My Digital Media Production and Storytelling class reviewed a series of iPad apps for iEAR that can be used in the classroom. Here are the great apps we found:

StoryBuddy -
Coach's Eye -
Blurb Mobile -
Story Wheel -
Flat Stanley -
Time-Lapse -
Dragon Dictation -
Where's Mommy? -
Storyrobe -
Cartoon Studio -
Story Lines -
Fitness HD -
Postcard -
FRS Story Starters -

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My First Day of School

This is lesson is a digital storytelling lesson for a first-grade class. For the assignment, students will create a digital story about their first day of school. As part of their pre-planning, the students will create story tables. They will draw several pictures and write the sentences that they want to put with their project. Prompts will be provided to the students to help their writing. For example: "Before school I felt...", "I thought my teacher would be..." The students will have two options when creating their story: they could narrate their story or they can type it. The students will use the online software ZooBurst to create their story. The goal of this project is to provide students with an opportunity to articulate their feelings about starting school and, hopefully, find common ground with their classmates. The student's final products will be shared with the class.

The model project for this lesson was created with help of elementary school students. At first, I was concerned that they would have trouble navigating the website but they quickly learned how to move objects around the page and add pages to create the book. Through the drawing tool, students are able to draw their own images; however, the students became very frustrated using the tool with the mouse. To implement this lesson in the future, I would have the students draw pictures beforehand or allow them to upload hand-drawn images. Creating the model lesson was manageable with two students but an aid would be needed to do a project of this size with an entire class. 

State Standards
This lesson meets the following Pennsylvania First Grade Standards:
AL 2 Demonstrate engagement and persistence
1 - Show persistence in ability to complete a variety of tasks, activities, projects and experiences
9.1 Production, Performance and Exhibition of Dance, Music, Theatre & Visual Arts
L -  Recognize color, shape, line, texture, size/relationship (proportion/ scale) and 
pattern (repetition) in visual art
PS 1 Develop Self-Concept
A - Is aware of self and one’s own preferences, strengths and challenges
C - Know and state independent thoughts and feelings
1.8 Research
A - Use a systematic process for the collection, processing and presentation of information
3.7 Technological devices
D - Use basic computer software
1.5 -Quality of Writing
-Progress through the stages of the writing process (e.g., prewriting, drafting, revising,
editing and publishing)
-Write clear and coherent sentences and 
paragraphs that develop a central idea

ISTE Standards
This lesson meets the following NETS∙S:
1b - Students create original works as a means of personal or group expression
2b - Students locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media
2c - Students evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks
5b - Students exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity
6b - Students select and use applications effectively and productively

The following rubric will be used to asses student work:

Here is a model story for this project

This story is based on a true story by Alexander Johnson
Pictures were drawn by 8-year-olds Alexander Johnson & Danielle Whitley
This digital story was made with ZooBurst
NETS∙S were provided by ISTE
State Standards provided by PA Keys

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My 20% Project

This semester I had to create a 20% project for my Digital Media Production and Storytelling class. My project was to create a comprehensive plan to help promote the new online educational technology certificate at West Chester University. My plan was to create a website full of student-created content that would serve as a resource for graduate students, undergraduate students and faculty. I wanted us to leverage social media to build an online presence. I became so passionate working on this project because it was something that was  applicable to my life as a student; the hours passed and it never felt like hard work. To me, this reinforces that assignments should pertain to a student's real life and have real-life application.

Here is the presentation that I shared:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Green Screen Fun

Last night, my Digital Media Production and Storytelling class learned how to green screen. Before class, we all thought that green screening was really difficult but we learned that it was really easy to do. We spent an evening in the studio with our props filming our scenes on our iPads. We used iMovie to create the green screen videos. Our class had so much fun: the studio was full of laughter, everyone stepped in to help each other and there was active participation, a great snapshot of what learning should be. In the end, we all created videos that we were excited to share with each other.

Green Screen in the Classroom: Students will love creating commercials, videos, newscasts and digital stories using green screens. Green screening projects can be used in a variety of content areas. A green screen is easy to create using a blank sheet or painted wall. Students can choose t  backgrounds or film them. More ideas of using green screens in education can be found here.

Here is the final product for your viewing enjoyment:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

iRig - Microphone for iPod, iPad and iPhone

My Digital Media Production and Storytelling class has been using the iPad for a majority of our media production this semester. One of the issues we ran into was producing quality audio. Then I discovered the iRig. It is an external microphone that can be used with an iPad, iPhone or iPod. The iRig can be plugged in and used with an existing app or used with VocaLive, AmpliTube, and iRig recorder. The iRig creates high-quality audio for narration and singing for a variety of apps. The iRig can be used as a handheld device or placed in a standard microphone stand. It features three sound settings that can capture soft voices or loud speeches making it ideal to use in a variety of settings. Last week one of my undergrads (who worked in film production) said, "The eye can accept bad images and the story will still come through but the ears cannot accept bad audio." Now audio will no longer prevent users from creating powerful stories with a mobile device. With the iRig, students can create audio and video stories on the go. 

The iRig mic can be purchased from the Apple Store

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Things I'm Thankful For

Image by honor the gift

In honor or Thanksgiving and inspired by Lisa Dabbs, I reflected on all the people that I am thankful for: 
     My amazinfamily who have been so supportive of everything that I've done. Their selflessness and sacrifice have contributed to my success and they mean the world to me. They keep me grounded and I always know that I can turn to them when I'm feeling down or want to celebrate.
     I've been blessed to have some great friends in my life. My oldest friends have been there for all of the crazy life transitions. It has been an amazing journey of laughter, happy times, career moves, graduations, weddings, babies, relocation, etc and they make every moment so much better. I don't know what I would do without them. I'm also thankful for the new friends I've made who add flair and laughter to my life. They never cease to amaze me with their challenging questions, tough love and genuine concern. 
     Mentors who believe in me and push me to be better. I am so thankful to have Chris Penny and Larysa Nadolny as my (unofficial) mentors. It is so amazing to have teachers who see the talent in me and partner with me to help it flourish. They've opened up a whole new world me, they're great to bounce ideas off of and they're constantly encouraging. 

What are you thankful for?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Natural Ability of Storytelling

Image by Gracieli Lisboa
Earlier this week, I had a conversation with one of my undergraduate students about media production (a little background: he worked in LA in film production). He said something I thought was really profound: that we all have a natural ability for visual storytelling. He said that we are capable of seeing a group of images and telling that they make a story. That we can all see moments and the natural story it creates. While I agree with that I think it's easier said than done. I can see a moment and see a story revolve around it but it can be hard to take tools, technological or not, and bring that moment to life or capture it in a photograph, an animation or video. I think that's part of the reason I don't delve into photography as much as I would like. Seeing a story and creating a story, breathing life into an idea and making it something that people can connect to, are two skills that I'm finding myself trying to merge because you can't have one without the other.

Monday, November 7, 2011

ZooBurst - 3D Pop-up Books

ZooBurst is an online tool where students can create their own 3D pop-up books. A user can control the look and feel of their book such as page color and background color. Objects can be moved, re-sized and rotated using a mouse. Sound effects, animation and voice recording can be added to each page of the story. Characters can be made clickable so readers can learn more about them or read their dialogue. Pages of the book turn like pages in a real book. By printing a symbol, the user can view and flip through their book using their webcam. Books can be shared with a link or embedded on a website.

Classroom uses for ZooBurst: Teachers can create books for their class and narrate them or have their students create their own stories based on what they see. Students will love creating their own pop-up books individually or collaboratively. ZooBurst gives students a chance to practice storytelling with digital media and using augmented reality. Students will also be content creators as they can contribute their stories to and share them on the online gallery for online discussion.

Here is a sample book I made:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Door Scene: Take 2

Last week my Digital Media Production and Storytelling class returned to the door scene that we had filmed the week before. Instead of filming off the cuff, we spent the week individually storyboarding the scenes we wanted to shoot and shared them with our group (my group members were kind enough not to laugh at my terrible drawings). Excited to reshoot our door scene, we were surprised to find out there was a twist: we were going to be switching storyboards with another group and shooting their scene. It was interesting to see a scene from another group's perspective and the direction they planned to take the project. We were not allowed to make any alterations and we had to shoot exactly what we saw on the paper. The challenge that my group had was knowing specifically what to shoot and how to shoot it. In the end, I think we created an excellent video that was better than our first one.

Image by dsevilla
The experience of shooting that scene taught me the importance of storyboarding. Storyboards need to be clear and specific enough that someone else could take it and see the same vision that I had in my head. What was also great about having a storyboard is that it gave our group direction when filming because we could shoot one scene at a time and we weren't confused about what to shoot next. I originally struggled with pre-production planning but I am starting to see its value more and more. The main reason I had so much trouble with pre-planning was because I thought that it robbed stories of its creativity and emotional drive out of a story. But I'm learning that that's not necessarily the case. Storyboarding can ensure that the elements that create that emotional pull in a story are included. The process of making one can make you think about what angles, sounds and movement would convey the most meaning. It forces you to take the emotions and power of the story and make it concrete so you can make it real to your audience. Most importantly, pre-planning makes sure that you never lose sight of the story you're planning because you can see it in black and white.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Walking Through the Door

This week my Digital Media Production and Storytelling class had to shoot a door scene in groups of three with very specific parameters, one of them included NO video editing. At first I thought this would be a roadblock but it actually made our video better. The readings we have done for this class so far stresses the importance of focusing on the story in digital storytelling and without the "extras" my group was able to focus on the story itself. We focused on how to convey emotion through facial expressions, movements and dialogue. We were much more focused on precise recording because we couldn't go back and clip scenes or rearrange them. This project was an exercise in telling a very specific story, which is what students can be asked to do in an assignment. The success of the story rests in the storyteller's ability to "stick to the script" and tell the story as the assignment requires. On the technical side, shooting with the iPad, compared to a camera, was a little difficult because it is big and cumbersome and lacked the option to zoom in and out of a shot. With the option to zoom, the iPad might be a better choice for filming but for this assignment, the iPad's use was limiting.

While working on our video, I became worried about spending too much time on planning and not being able to film in the allotted time. Reflecting afterwards made me realize my difficulty with digital story planning. I think I have trouble with the planning stages because in real life when I tell a story, I don't plan it, I just tell it so I feel as though digital storytelling should be the same way. I value stories for its emotional aspects but there are practical elements that go with it that I need to remember. Our assignment this week is to map out our story and come back and film it again. My hope is that putting the exact scenes on paper will clarify our vision for the video and make it even better than our first one. What am I taking away from this experience? Planning beforehand is valuable because it makes shooting easier and more efficient.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Why I Write

In honor of the National Day on Writing, I answered the question "Why do you write?"

Reflection - Whether it's in my blog, a paper for a class or jotting down thoughts in a journal, writing allows to me to quiet down the fast-paced world around me and connect with the thoughts in my head. It allows me to process things that I've learned from a conversation I've had, a session I attended or a quote that got me thinking. 

Channel creativity - When I put pen to paper (or fingers to a keyboard) magic happens. When I start writing, things like grammar and spelling fades away and it's my ideas, my vision, my passion that drives my work. Some times I find myself telling stories I didn't know I had inside me. Writing also gives me room to flesh out ideas that were whirling around in my brain awakening new ideas. 

Find my voice -The art of writing involves writing from your own unique perspective, in your own words and in your own style. Every writer has a voice. When I write, I tap into that voice and I give it room to mature and develop. More importantly, the more I read what I've written, the more distinct my voice becomes to me. 

To become a better writer - I believe the old adage that practice makes perfect. The more I write the better I get at writing. The more I write, the more I challenge myself to dig deeper or take a different avenue or paint a stronger picture.

Reflecting on my own reasons for writing reminds me of how important it is for my students to have opportunities to write. I hope my own practice will set an example for them and pass on my love of writing.

Why do YOU write?

Monday, October 17, 2011

To Rubric or Not to Rubric: That is the Question... Right??

Image by Gracieli Lisboa
My Digital Media Production and Storytelling class has been discussing rubrics for assessing digital stories. This got me thinking about the utility of rubrics as an educational practice. On the one hand, it takes the guesswork out of a project because all the students know exactly what is expected of them and the elements that they need to take into consideration in their projects. I do believe that teachers should communicate clear expectations to their students. Rubrics can also help provide direction, especially to those students that have trouble knowing where to start. But on the other hand, I remember being that student that clung unswervingly to rubrics making sure  I created exactly what my teacher "wanted." That killed my creativity and took the joy out of learning because my projects didn't mean anything to me. I've also worked with other students who cling to rubrics  and I think projects and assignments are no longer a journey of discovery and learning but a single focus on a finished product. This is what I am wrestling with: Do rubrics teach students to "play school" or can they aid  them in creating quality work? If there is a middle ground, what does it look like?

Thoughts, ideas and suggestions are welcome!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Keek - Microvideo Status Updates

Keek is an online service that allows you to share short microvideo status updates, up to 36 seconds, with friends and family. Microvideo updates, or "keeks," can be captured using an iPhone, webcam or an Android device. The status updates can be posted to Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. You can add followers or develop your own following. Hashtags and @mentions can also be added to status updates.

Classroom uses for Keek: Teachers can use Keek to record class updates to be posted on the classroom website or class Facebook page. It can be used to update students on assignments which comes in handy for absent students or on snow days. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Power of a PLN

Gary Stager posed this question on Twitter: "As a result of your PLN*, what can you now DO that you couldn't do before?" I decided to answer this question for myself and these are some of the things I came up with:

  • Get support - I am lucky to have an amazingly supportive PLN. I can ask questions and get answers. If I feel discouraged, someone comes along with an encouraging word. They celebrate with me. They have lunch and chat with me. They let me bounce ideas off them. To a pre-service teacher, or to anyone for that matter, all these little things are so meaningful. 
  • Discover new tools - People are always blogging and tweeting about new tools they've discovered and it gives me an opportunity to discover new ones I might not have found or a unique way to use it and it builds my technology toolbox. 
  • Build global connections - As a result of a PLN, I have built relationships with people all over the world. Technology and social media helps us to stay in touch so those relationships aren't lost. 
  • Chat - I know that sounds silly but as a graduate student not many people share my interests which can get a little lonely. But having a learning network allows me to meet and discuss with people who share my passions and get excited about the same stuff I do.
  • Build my network - My PLN helps me to build my PLN. Sharing my blog posts, retweeting my tweets or making a simple introduction at an event helps me to add valuable members to my network.
  • Be inspired - This one I could have done without my PLN but with it, it's exponentially better. I am daily inspired by the people in my PLN for their fortitude, creativity and willingness to take risks. I hope that when I've been teaching as long as some of them, I will still have the same passion and dedication to education.

*PLN= personal/professional learning network

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Photo Story 3 for Windows

I recently discovered Photo Story 3 for Windows. Photo Story 3 is a desktop application that allows you to create stories with your digital photos.

In Photo Story you can:
  • Import, edit and arrange photos
  • Add text to your photos
  • Time photos and add transitions
  • Narrate your slideshow
  • Add music from your computer or create your own

Photo Story 3 in the Classroom: Photo Story 3 is a quality tool for digital storytelling. Creative students will love being able to edit photos and create their own music. Narrating a story will give younger students and ELL students practice speaking. Tools like this are great for teaching students about constructing stories that have a beginning, a middle and a end. Teachers can create a story and use it to facilitate discussion or have students create their own individually or collaboratively.  

Here is a sample story I made:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Reflecting on Digital Storytelling in the Classroom

My Digital Media Production and Digital Storytelling class is currently reading Digital Storytelling in the Classroom by Jason Ohler. This book has given me such a new appreciation for the power of stories. Stories are so powerful and hold so much of who we are inside of them; perhaps that's why I've always been so drawn to them. I want my students view their stories as valuable; to me, their peers, to their community and to themselves. The reading I've done so far makes me feel as though my previous attempts at storytelling have been so lazy, "shooting from the hip" as Ohler puts it. I will admit it: I am not a fan of storyboarding; it is really time-consuming. So when I get the chance, I skip right to the production aspect of storytelling but now I'm realizing what a mistake that is because I run the risk of losing my story and not accomplishing what I set out to. How much better could a story be shaped if I sat and asked myself "Where am I going and what steps do I need to take to get there?"

The section on music hit me hard because over-reliance on it allows someone else to take over your story so then you're basically telling their story and not your own.  There are so many elements to consider in telling a digital story and I can see why some people take the "easy" way out and allow media tools to carry the story. The idea of applying critical thinking to digital storytelling doesn't sit well with me. I think that stories should be works of art and beauty and I'm not comfortable with the idea of them being dissected. Will it lose its power and its beauty by doing so? My class hasn't had a chance to discuss this yet but I'm eager to see what my classmates have to say about it. Maybe I'm missing something or they could shed light on this topic.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Testing: A Practice in Frustration

The last few weeks I have been studying in preparation for my Praxis tests. For those of you that don’t know, these are the tests that have to be taken (and passed) as part of teacher certification. The more I studied, the more frustrated I became. In the last year, through my conversations on Twitter, attending and meeting fellow educators at conferences and my own personal learning, I have learned more about teaching and what happens in the classroom than anywhere else. And so much of what I learned was being disregarded in place of regurgitating answers and filling in bubbles. The more I studied, the more concerned I became about the “right answer.” What made my studying even more frustrating was knowing at the same time members of my learning communities were engaged in creative, powerful and meaningful conversations.

Nowhere in my study guides were mentions of teacher collaboration, integrating technology in the classroom or fostering 21st century skills, to name a few. I found myself wondering if everything I learned could be represented on this test. How could filling in bubbles measure if I was going to be a good teacher or not? How could this test measure my ability to make connections between ideas and theories and help my students do the same? The entire experience of studying and taking standardized tests has helped me to sympathize with regularly-tested students: students who don’t test well; students who can produce brilliant work with a little freedom; students who have interests and passions that aren’t tested. Focusing solely on testing can cause us to miss out on the wealth of knowledge and talents within our students.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Digital Story Reflection

I reflected on the story My Life in Toronto by Ambar Sabah from the Center for Digital Storytelling.

What was your overall impression of what you saw?
My overall impression of this story was that it was a creative way to tell a story about finding a place to call home. Instead of using images or people or herself to set the stage for her story, I like that Ambar chose fish instead. Because the subject of the story was migration and community, it had the potential to be trite but the creative use of color breathed new life into it. The imagery of this story was meaningful and powerful.

How could it be used in education?
A story like this one would be excellent for teaching students about identity, migration and culture. It could serve as a conversation starter about student's own experiences about making friends, building a community and their experiences in a new place. That discussion could also build empathy among students in the classroom.

How would you assess what you just saw?
I would assess this story on its use of imagery and metaphor and the deeper meaning they brought to the story. The movement of the yellow fish created the speed for the story beginning with a faster speed to mirror the crowding and chaos of her life in Pakistan and still images to show stability once she began to build a life. This story was a very personal tale for the author told through the first person instead of a detached piece. The strength of the story comes from Ambar's ability to tell her own story. The lack of music in this story allows the audience to focus on the images and narration instead of being emotionally swayed by the music. Ambar's story is relatable because it is based on a common human experience.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Power of Perseverance

Image by Don Fulano
My Digital Media Production and Storytelling class is experimenting with the use of the iPad as a media production tool as opposed to solely using it for media consumption. Using it for the first time didn’t go so smoothly: we kept getting kicked off the wireless, the lack of Flash made it difficult to view some sites and it shows your password as you enter it which is a problem when you’re projecting it on a screen to an entire class. Despite all these issues, for the second class we decided to persevere and try it again and surprisingly enough, it went much better the second time around; we even worked out some of the kinks of using an iPad with our classroom management site. 

My take-away from this experience: You can’t learn how well (or terribly) something works unless you use it... and try it again. Our class would have never learned some of the glitches with the iPad for production and presentation if we hadn’t continued using it. We may have more issues and problems with it as the semester progresses but it all serves as a learning experience. Technology frustration is common. Sometimes technology doesn’t work the way we want it to; websites won’t load, applications crash or complicated assembly is required. It is easy to forget that there is a learning curve with technology and if you stick with it, sometimes you’ll be able to add a new tool to your arsenal. On the other hand, you might decide that a certain piece of technology doesn’t fit your objectives but at least you know that you tried.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Resources for Digital Storytelling

For teachers interested in incorporating digital storytelling into their curriculum, there are free and cheap tools you can use. Here are a few that I really like:

GoAnimate - website to create animated videos

Scribblitt - website that allows students to write and publish their own books

Storykit (Free) - application for creating electronic storybooks

Storyrobe- ($0.99) application for creating digital stories using movies and images

iMovie - Desktop and mobile device application ($4.99) for making film

Story Wheel (Free) - Create a story by choosing images, choosing characters and recording narrative

Puppet Pals (Free) - iPad app to create animated movies

Little Bird Tales - website for younger students to create their own digital stories

Voice Thread (Free & paid) - web-based tool for narrating still images and creating collaborative stories

Whatever tool you use, always remember that the story comes first and digital tools come second.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Starting the Semester with 20%

The official start to my Fall semester began with my ed tech class Digital Media Production and Storytelling. This class is about using digital tools to amplify storytelling. Following Google's example, our class will devote 20% of our time to working on our own educational technology projects. I was excited to hear this; however, some of my classmates did not share my excitement. I can understand why: such a project can be a little scary because you're finding yourself pushed to actually do something with a project or idea that was originally just whirling around in your head. On the other hand, it can cause panic if you can't think of a project to work on straight out of the gate. I wonder if Google employees feel the same way or if they jump at the chance to invest company resources into their own passions. I'm looking forward to working on this side project because it's going to give me a chance to make ideas come to life and isn't that what teachers are supposed to be doing anyway?

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Craziness of Steve Jobs

In the wake of Steve Jobs resigning Apple's CEO, his quotes have been widely spread from social media sites to news channels. I have read plenty of these the last few days but none have touched me as much as this one:

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square hole. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

Go on and dream; be a little crazy; color outside the lines. You never know the impact it could have. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Week of Google Goodness

Last week I had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for a week long Google workshop for a small group of educators. The workshop was an excellent chance to share Google tools while learning about tools that I hadn't used myself. The biggest thing I took away from this week is that as an educator, you don't have to have all the answers. Discussions and sharing resources led to the teachers learning new and innovative ways to implement Google tools in their classroom. My hope is that as all of these teachers prepare for the upcoming school year that they implement these tools, tricks and tips to increase student engagement and love of learning.

Here are the two presentations I did on Google+ and Google Mobile:

Thursday, August 4, 2011 - A Great Tool for Curating

After attending an amazing presentation at ISTE, I have been really fascinated by digital curation. What is digital curation? According to Wikipedia, it is "the process of establishing and developing long term repositories of digital assets for current and future reference by researchers, scientists, historians, and scholars." Of all the tools I learned about for curating, my favorite is

What is it? is a platform that allows users to collect media centered around a specific topic. Once a topic is created searches for and suggests content that matches that topic. This content can also be shared on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. My favorite feature of is the "scoop it" button that can be added to your web browser allowing you to quickly add the websites you're viewing to your page. Students can even create their own pages and begin building their own curation skills. in the Classroom: is a great way for teachers to accumulate resources on a particular topic. First, they create the topic.  Then, they search's suggested content, the Internet or their social bookmarking site to find all the websites that pertain to that topic and add it to their collection. Now, they have one place for all of their resources that students can go to. Teachers can even follow other topics and find content to add to their own page.

Here is a sample of one I've built on the future of storytelling:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Apples in the Desert: The ADE Summer Institute

Image by Chris Penny
This week was the summer institute for the new class of Apple Distinguished Educators in Phoeniz, AZ. I followed along on Twitter and it seemed as though just as many powerful things were happening with a small group of 200 educators as the 18,000 people that attended the annual ISTE conference.

What impresses me so much about this group? These educators don't just sit around and talk; they plan, they promote, they collaborate. I have seen the fruit of their work and, one by one, they are changing the landscape of education in their classes, in their schools and in their communities. Their goal? Improving learning by learning themselves. Their learning didn't stay inside a conference room all week but spread throughout learning communities inspiring educators who weren't able to be there. 

Here are some powerful things that came out of this week:
We need to allow students to use the digital tools they use outside of the classroom. Presenter Kevin Honeycutt captured it best when he said "If we amputate students' digital limbs when they walk in the door, how can we expect them to learn?"

Tips for Storytelling:
    -Be unique
    -Know your audience
    -Be concise
    -Start strong. End strong.
    -Think about perspective
    -Show. Don't tell

"It's not about teaching. It's about facilitating learning." - Chris Tully

"Not sure what kids are doing on their computers in the classroom? GET UP! If you love your chair so much, retire." -Kevin Honeycutt

"Technology is nothing without a real relationship with our students." -Kevin Honeycutt

"Passion knows no hours." -Bill Frakes

Thanks to all of the ADEs for tweeting what they were learning throughout the week so I could learn along with you :-)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Thoughts from An Idealist

When I was at ISTE two weeks ago, I was able to attend tons of sessions and I noticed a startling pattern: At just about every session when a new idea or strategy was suggested, someone would raise their hand and talk about all the reasons why something wouldn't work or their limitations. After a few days of this, I began to feel really discouraged. 

I would love to see more teachers be unbelievably creative and bold. I would love to hear how more educators are remixing ideas to fit their classrooms. I believe that our students need to see us try, fail and try again because that's the only way they will feel comfortable doing the same. The job market as we previously knew it is rapidly changing. Fortune is on the side of those that are capable of creating opportunity where it didn't previously exist; our students will need to be creative, flexible and innovative. We cannot ask students to use their imaginations and tap into their creativity when we will not do the same. I know that budget cuts, layoffs and internet filters are a realty but shouldn't we try first

Do these thoughts make me an idealist? Maybe so and I'm okay with it :-)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Trial and Error and Lots O' Fun

As ISTE 2011 comes to a close, I learned a lot about being at a conference like this for the first time. Here's what I've learned:
  1. Follow advice that you're given. My previous post mentioned all the great advice that I had given to prepare. Some I followed and some I didn't... and there were consequences. One blogger suggested getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated. I was running all over the place and found myself feeling dizzy halfway through the conference. I was also told to leave any session that wasn't serving me and I didn't and that session quickly became wasted time. Bad idea. Someone suggested wearing a backpack. I thought "That's not very stylish" so I brought a laptop bag. Now I'll probably be at the chiropractor for the rest of the summer from carrying around my 10,000 pound laptop. These suggestions are given for a reason so follow them!
  2. Meet people. I had the chance to meet and chat with the new ISTE president Holly Jobe and she told me one of the great things about ISTE is that there are so many people to meet and she was right. Chatting with people in hallways and other random places, I met people from all over the world with some fascinating stories. I even met another preservice teacher, which hardly ever happens. It's the amazing the kind of relationships that can begin with saying "Hi."
  3. Have fun! At the Newbie Lounge, someone asked me if I was feeling overwhelmed and I said I wasn't because I was having so much fun! I had my palm read, played phone games, watched dancing robots, learned words in new languages and laughed until my stomach hurt. How can you feel overwhelmed when you're having so much fun?
More thoughts and reflections from ISTE are coming but hopefully my trials and errors will serve others.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Newbie Gearing Up For ISTE

    This weekend I registered for ISTE 2011, the annual conference held by the International Society for Technology in Education. (Better late than never, right?) Having attended a conference or two before I mistakenly believed that ISTE would be a breeze. I was wrong! There are so many workshops, sessions, exhibits and showcases to choose from my head is spinning! This conference is unlike any other one I have ever attended.

    The thing I'm most looking forward to is meeting members of my learning network in person. EdCamp Philly gave me an appreciation for the ability to shake hands or sit down and chat with people that I've been connecting with virtually. I'm really looking forward to conversations longer than 140 characters.

    I was feeling a little nervous about my first conference but there are tons of resources for newbies. The conference website features Tips for Newcomers including a Newbie Lounge. I'm there! The ISTE Ning is full of advice and forum topics for first-time attendees. Beth Still also offers Tips for Newbies on her blog. My favorite tip? "Comfort is really the most important thing" when choosing clothes. That tip makes choosing my wardrobe a lot easier.

    I'm so excited for ISTE 2011and I can't wait to learn, connect and grow :-)

    Anyone else have advice for an ISTE newbie?

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    A Year of Improvement

    I was inspired by Mary Beth Hertz's blog post  reflecting on the five things she improved on this year so I decided to do the same:
    1. Putting myself out there. I got the idea to start blogging over a year and a half ago but I was too scared to do it. Once I started blogging for my class I realized I could use it as a starting point or let yet another year pass by wishing I could. I decided to take a chance and in the process I'm finding my voice.
    2. Reflecting on my classroom management. I always thought I knew how to handle kids but working with kids this year proved to be a bit of a challenge and some of the techniques I used to rely on weren't working. So I started asking myself "What could I have done better in this situation?"Answering this question made me take an honest look at what I was doing well and what needed improvement. Once I started doing that, it was easier working with kids and I experienced less frustration. 
    3. Saying thank you. The last year I've been lucky to have so many people invest in my learning and development. In response to the flood of support and encouragement I started thanking everyone for the little (and big) things they do for me that will make me a better educator. 
    4. Finding creative ways to learn. For the longest time my only source of learning was through reading books. While I'm still an avid reader I've learned that there are a ton more ways to learn new things. I've found resources through other people's blogs, Twitter posts and other's lists on Diigo. And because of creative learning I've learned more than I ever have.
    5. Sharing what I've learned. Someone once said not to die with your ideas inside of you. To that end, I started telling friends, coworkers and members of my personal learning community about tools I've started using, why I value Facebook and Twitter and what I'm reading. The response has been that I've given people ideas they didn't think of and a fresh perspective.
    This year has been such an amazing time of learning and growing and I can't wait to see what the next year holds.

    Tuesday, May 31, 2011

    My Ultimate Productivity Tool: StayFocusd

    I love sites like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc. because they keep me connected and I  learn  from them on a regular basis. But sometimes these wonderful websites keep me from getting anything done. The battle looks like this: I sit down to get some work done but I stop to see pictures of my friend's new baby or "quickly" comment on a friend's post or retweet an awesome tweet (I have to share the wealth, right?) and before I know it, hours have passed and I haven't gotten much, if anything, done.  Then I discovered StayFocusd for Google Chrome. StayFocusd is an extension that blocks the websites I designate. If you try to access a site once it's been blocked, I see this message:
    Here is what StayFocusd can allow you to do:
    • Block parts of websites or entire websites
    • Allow parts of websites so you can still use the ones you need to get work done
    • Set the daily limit for how long you are allowed to use banned websites
    • Choose which days StayFocusd blocks websites
    • Block you from the entire Internet for a set period of time or when you exceed your daily limit
    • Receive reminders at different intervals (ex. 5, 10, 15 mins, etc.) before your allotted time runs out

    Cons of StayFocusd:
    • It is difficult to change the settings once you've set them- once you've been blocked from a website, you cannot go back and change your time limit
    • The changes you make don't go into effect for 24 hours
    • If you go to a website and then go to another window or tab, your time continues passing
    So far using StayFocusd has helped me to get a lot more work done by not even giving me the option of accessing those sites that drain so much of my time. I would recommend it for Chrome users but I would warn first-time users to be liberal with your settings in the beginning until you get a feel for it.

    Not a Google Chrome user? Download the LeechBlock extension for Firefox.

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    Soak it All In: My EdCamp Philly Experience

    Yesterday I attended EdCamp Philly, my very first unconference. As the excitement about the event built on Twitter, I found myself feeling a mixture of nervousness and excitement. I had never attended an unconference before and I had no idea what to expect but I felt it held promise as a day full of learning. I must admit that when I first arrived at the Wharton School of Business I was a little starstruck. I was in the same room as people who I followed on Twitter, people whose blogs changed my thinking on education, reform and technology. With stars in my eyes, I eagerly welcomed the opportunity to learn from such innovative teachers, thinkers and leaders.
    The hardest thing to get used to at an unconference is the “two-feet rule.” Because an unconference is meant to be organic professional development with minimal structure, you’re allowed to walk out of a session if it’s not working for you or if you want to catch part of another one. I was so used to the typical conference model, I found myself uncomfortable using this rule until I realized that unconferences are about taking learning into your own hands and making sure that you get something out of every session you go to.
    In the Web 2.0 in the Elementary Classroom session, I found out about using Edmodo with elementary students who love how much it looks like Facebook. I’ve used Edmodo in graduate classes but it was nice to see examples of teachers using them with younger students. Tagul creates word clouds with live links to the word search in a search engine. Kids’ Zone has great tools for having students create graphs online. Tons of resource websites were shared by people in the sesion. My favorite was this one.

    Education Transformation via Social Media was led by Shelly Terrell via Skype. Social media is often feared but it is a powerful tool for spreading messages virually. Teachers need to share with each other, parents and administrators what they’re doing in their classrooms and how their students are learning passionately and creatively. “Just reaching one other person sends a message to people about what education can be like” -Shelly. 

    Getting Districts to Adopt the EdCamp Model for PD with Kevin Jarrett was all about changing professional development. Using TodaysMeet, we had a discussion within a discussion with people sharing stories about implementing the EdCamp model at their schools. As shared in the session, edcamp can be a little intimidating for people but it can be adapted to best fit one’s school community.
    My favorite session was Writing the eBook on 21st Century Literacy with Kristin Hokanson and Mary Beth Hertz. This session was all about the evolving definition of literacy and how that impacts our teaching. There is often a disconnect between what students learn at school and what they are able to do with the tools they have at home. It is so important for educators to have conversations with kids about attribution and fair use because there is so much confusion of what can be used fairly and most people think everything on the Internet is free to be used. Creative commons photos can be found on sites such as Creative Commons, flickrCC, Comp Fight or Behold. Instead of simply sitting around and talking, our group became creators producing an ebook.

    At EdCamp Philly, I got to be a part of my very first SMACKDOWN! At a smackdown, people come up and quickly share different websites and web 2.0 tool that they really like. I learned about so many new websites that my head is spinning! All of the resources from the Smackdown and more can be found here.

    EdCamp Philly exceeded my wildest expectations. It was exactly what I always believed professional development and personal learning communities should be: groups of educators sharing what they know, using each other as resources and having discussions driven by passion. I loved meeting such valued members of my learning community in person, seeing old faces and meeting new people that I can learn from. Edcamp is a quickly spreading movement that is revolutionizing the way schools do professional development and putting it in the right hands: the hands of educators. It was so amazing to see so many people who decided to spend their Saturday learning when they didn’t receive an credit or professional development hours. To me, that just shows how many teachers are truly dedicated to improving their teaching and improving the school experience for students. Would I recommend edcamp to a current or aspiring teacher? In a heartbeat! :-)

    (The EdCampPhilly logo is a cc Image from kjarrett)