What I’ve Learned from Fellow Bloggers

If there is one thing I have learned from my education classes this semester, it is to use your resources and ideas from other teachers. Looking at it the other way, I have also learned to share, share, share your ideas and findings with other teachers! Everyone hits the point (often more than once) of “being stuck” whether it comes to new lesson ideas, or how to modify lessons to make them more engaging. Us teachers are all in this together and want to make school the best experience we can for our students in order to help them be successful, so we need to help each other out! I have had the privilege of following my fellow classmates’ blogs this semester and have gained a lot more knowledge and ideas for teaching- especially when it comes to technology. By reading their blogs, I’ve been introduced to many other great tools and resources to use in the classroom aside from what I discovered that I now want to share with you.

Sara Middendorf wrote a blog about a great tool for communication and collaboration called Twiddla. Twiddla is an online whiteboard or sort of a web-based meeting playground. It is a great interactive way to teach class since you can draw on websites and photos, as well as brainstorm ideas. A teacher can also use this tool to teach the class when he or she is gone for the day. Find out how by checking out Sara’s blog!

Have you ever heard of a flipped classroom? I had heard the term, but never new exactly what it was until I read my colleague Ellen Luthanen’s blog. A flipped classroom has technology as a central focus and is completely transforming student learning. As with every major change in the education system, there are pros and cons, but check out Ellen’s blog and you’ll see how far we have already come by trying out a flipped classroom and how much farther we can go.

In my Educational Media Applications class (which is where I started this blog) I learned a lot about green screening. I actually participated in a green screening Makerspaces event with middle schoolers and even presented at the WEMTA conference for teachers on how to use green screening in the classroom. Before this class, I had never green screened before but I learned how easy, cheap, and fun it is to use in a classroom and know that I will definitely use it in my future classroom. Wesley Wingert wrote a great blog on green screening that includes an awesome green screen video that he and fellow classmate, Megan Burbach, made. Be sure to check it out along with his other blogs!


Formative Assessments… Fun?

When people hear “assessment” they do not usually associate it with the word “fun.” Most people think of the classic long, dreaded, paper tests which have been the primary type of formative assessment used since about the beginning of time. Well those boring days are history! Today formative assessments have taken new, appealing forms through technology that will excite students along with still serving as a great way for teachers to assess student learning. The one assessment tool I’m going to tell you about today is called Socrative.

Socrative is an online software that allows you to create and administer different types of short assessments. On Socrative, you can create your own quizzes or even download and use quizzes made by other teachers. Not only does it allow you to administer full quizzes, but you can also make “Quick Questions.” Teachers can use a quick question to check for understanding on the fly. There is also a “Space Race” feature that breaks students up into groups and makes formative assessments a game.  In addition, there is a feature called “Exit Ticket” which is another quick way to check for student understanding right before they leave for the day. All this, plus the fact that it involves technology makes assessing an easier process for teachers, and much more fun for students through Socrative.

If you want to learn more about how to use Socrative, you can find a tutorial at: http://www.socrative.com/materials/SocrativeUserGuide.pdf

or check out this video:


Collaborate and Communicate with Skype!

Wondering how to transform student learning in your classroom…..on a budget? Have no fear- Skype is here! Most of us probably think of Skype as just a way to video chat with long distance family or friends, and that was the sole purpose of Skype when it was first created. However, now there are so many more aspects of the tool that teachers can use to revamp their lessons and re-inspire student learning without spending an arm and a leg.

One way teachers can use Skype is to “take their students across the world.” Teachers can collaborate with other teachers from around the world and set up a time when the two classes can Skype. Students will love talking with kids their own age about what is different in their two lifestyles. You could even take it a step further and have the two classrooms work on a project together. It will be great to get two completely different perspectives. Another way teachers can use Skype is that they can have a guest speaker talk with the class through Skype. This is a great opportunity for teachers to have a speaker that cannot physically make the trip to the school still connect with the students. I have had a few different teachers do this and it has worked great every time! While these are two awesome ways to use Skype, I think the coolest way for teachers to use Skype is to take students on a virtual field trip. I didn’t even know this was possible until I researched the tool, and it looks like an amazing opportunity! I should note right off the bat that this is not just a video tour that students watch. This is an interactive experience in which there is a tour guide that talks with the students as the “field trip” is going. Also, students can ask questions and make comments just as they would be able to on a real field trip. There are numerous virtual field trips available that teacher simply have to register for. This is so incredible because it can give students an interactive experience in places that they would otherwise never be able to visit.

To learn more and get started using these amazing Skype features, go to:  https://education.microsoft.com/skypeintheclassroom


Photo Editing Challenge

20150721_194146This is a picture of me attempting to somewhat reenact the famous scene from Titanic because that is just something you have to do when you’re on any type of boat that is bigger than a normal fishing boat, right? The picture above is the original picture and the picture below is the edited one. I think that pictures that have either water and/or a sky in them are absolutely beautiful, often even without any adjustments made to them and I bet many people would agree. However, editing those pictures by adjusting the lighting or giving them a filter can completely transform them and turn them into a masterpiece that people can hardly imagine.  I used Picmonkey to edit this image which is a free online photo editor. This site had tons and tons of tools to use in the editing process, but it was not hard to navigate at all. All I did was adjust the brightness and contrast a little bit to make it look more like a sunset even though this picture was taken around midday. I also heightened the clarity of the image just little bit and what I noticed is that it really enhanced each and every crest of the waves. There were numerous other features I could have added like a border or faded corners but I think the few adjustments I made captured the true beauty of that moment perfectly.

edited image

A Guest Blogger: Future Ready Schools and Google

I am very excited to have Mineral Point High School’s Instructional Technology and Information Specialist, Kris McCoy, as my guest blogger. Kris is very smart, tech savvy, and always eager to learn and use “the next big thing” in technology. Today she’s giving us some insight on Future Ready Schools and Google:

download google-apps-custom-2.png

First of all I must say how cool it is to be asked to be a “guest blogger” on one of my favorite former student’s education/technology blog!  I must admit that I have struggled with narrowing down what I want to write about.  There are so many exciting things going on in education and technology that it’s hard to know where to start…

Two things I think all teachers should know about are Future Ready Schools and Google.

Paula wrote an earlier post on SAMR, and I am thrilled to know that future teachers are learning about this.  People who understand SAMR understand that it not about the technology, it is about transforming the learning and making things possible for students that could not have been done before.  Future Ready Schools understand the importance of personalized, digital learning and the need to “work collaboratively to transform teaching and learning using the power of technology to help drive continuous improvement…. to teach students to become responsible, engaged, and contributing digital citizens.”   More info about this can be found at http://tech.ed.gov/futureready/ and President Obama Future Ready

Moving on to Google… Know your Google and the many opportunities it provides for collaboration, learning, efficiency, communication, and more in education!  I highly recommend participating in the online Google for Education Training.  Not only will this look amazing on a resume, it will transform your teaching and possibly your life.  I know that sounds dramatic, but you will find that what you learn about using Google tools in education carries over into your personal life making you more efficient and connected.  This will be greatly needed as you try to balance teaching and everything else.

In closing, be brave when it comes to integrating technology in your teaching and learning.  You do not have to be an expert before trying something new; you just have to be willing to try.  Things may not work exactly as you planned the first time out of the box, but you will learn so much more as you try to figure it out, make mistakes, and try again.  Each time you push yourself to do this, it will get easier and easier and what you learn from one new thing will transfer over to the next new thing you try.  To get started, follow the technology leaders in education through blogs, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. and then take the leap to pushing your learning and that of your students through the integration of technology and digital tools.  You will be glad you did!

Hmm…Common Core State Standards

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are being talked about in all of my education courses because they are becoming extremely important in the education system. The CCSS are a set of standards that clearly demonstrate what students are expected to learn at each grade level in the subjects of Mathematics and English/Language Arts. The main goal behind the implementation of these standards in schools is to ensure that all students will graduate high school prepared for college, a career, and life, regardless of where they live. Since Mathematics is one of the two subjects affected by the CCSS we study the standards more in depth in my educator math class than any other of my classes.

Before I became an education major, I had heard about the CCSS but I never knew exactly what they were, so let me give you a few examples. The English/Language Arts Reading: Literature Standard One for 2nd grade states that students should be able to “ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.” The Mathematics Statistics and Probability Standard Three for 7th grade states that students should be able to “informally assess the degree of visual overlap of two numerical data distributions with similar variabilities, measuring the difference between the centers by expressing it as a multiple of a measure of variability.” As you can see, the standards are very specific which is why teachers should care about them. Students are constantly taking standardized tests to assess if they are meeting these standards or not. If the assessments show that students are not meeting these standards, the states then look to the teachers. So, as a teacher, it is extremely important to be well aware of and educated on these standards so that you can make sure you are doing everything you can to help your students meet them.

There is much controversy over the appropriateness of the Common Core State Standards. I mean, when I first decided to go into the field of education, I heard complaints beyond complaints about the CCSS before I even knew what they were! Many of those complaints were from teachers about how they felt they couldn’t really teach the way they wanted and the way the students liked anymore because they felt pressured to “teach to the standards.” Also, many parents worry that the standards create an unmanageable workload and set too high of expectations for students requiring academic rigor to start earlier than ever, even as early as preschool.

The standards are here to stay, and if anything about them changes, it will probably be in a way that requires more effort from students and teachers rather than less, like the addition of more standards, for example. I too have similar concerns as the ones mentioned above regarding the standards, but as all good educators should do, I am going to do my best to overcome the challenges that the standards present. Fortunately, I believe the hardest part- the transition to new system of teaching that the CCSS require- is behind us. Future teachers like myself have the luxury of going to colleges and through professional development programs that better prepare us to teach in a way that helps students meet the standards. The CCSS also benefits teachers in that they provide teachers with consistent goals, benchmarks, and expectations for their students, and the chance to collaborate with other teachers across the country to create curricula, materials, and assessments since the standards are consistent among 42 states and the District of Columbia.

If you have more questions about the Common Core State Standards, visit the official CCSS website at corestandards.org  You can not only read all of the standards on this website, but it also gives you all of the background information on how they were developed, answeres to frequently asked questions, and more.

SAMR Model

SAMR is a popular model for educational technology today. SAMR stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition.


To find out more about what exactly SAMR is and how to use it in your classroom check out this video:

or this website:


The SAMR model will impact my teaching in every way. Before I plan every lesson I will think of how I can use technology to enhance or completely transform the lesson to benefit my students.



The Evolution of the Typewriter

What is the oldest piece of technology that you can find around your home? A VHS player? A record player? Your first cell phone? An old computer monitor? Maybe you have all of these things! However, I highly doubt it because there is a different piece of technology that is a new and improved version of each of these things.

Technology has been constantly evolving and improving over time- especially within the last decade. We can easily see and identify many of the advancements like with cell phones, for example. The sole purpose of the first cell phone was for talking. We started with “car phones”which were big bulky devices that often still had cords and were hooked up to the car. Then we got the first actual mobile phone, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, which was the big rectangle box looking thing that was at least the size of an adult head. Then, phones started getting smaller. It seemed like society’s cell phone philosophy was the smaller, the better! We evolved to flip phones and slide phones. As the appearance of cell phones changed, so did the features. Voicemail, text messaging, and cameras were added into cell phones, as well as some games. Then, the incredible Smartphone was invented. Oooo! Ahhh! Ironically, instead of getting smaller, cell phones started getting bigger again. They gained countless more features including access to internet and e-mail, cameras with photo editing, video chatting, music, fitness trackers, and so much more through the numerous applications that could be downloaded. Now, cell phones have shifted from being primarily verbal communication tools to multimedia tools. Because of this, smartphones are often referred to as mobile devices instead of mobile phones.

The cell phone is just one example of technology evolution that we can all relate to because we’ve witnessed it and have most likely owned one or more of the different cell phones. However, the cell phone is not that old, and it is definitely not the oldest piece of technology I have in my home.

The oldest piece of technology I could find in my home is the old Royal Typewriter pictured below.

It’s a beaut, isn’t it? Sure, some of the keys stick, some just plain don’t  work, there’s no ink in it, and we don’t know how to replace it, but that is a real typewriter. My brothers and sister and I used to love playing with it, back when it had ink, of course. We’d type up letters or stories or anything we could think of. The worst part was how we could not make a mistake, because there was no erasing. If we messed up, we had to start all over, and that was not very efficient! Luckily, because of the evolution of the typewriter, we have a lot more efficient ways of typing today.

The first typewriter was invented in 1714 by Henry Mill. Throughout the 1800’s and 1900’s, there were many different models and versions, but they all essentially did the same thing- allowed people to type their thoughts instead of writing them which made text much more legible and the process of writing much more efficient. Like I mentioned before, however, the typewriter is not the most efficient typing device. Hence, the invention of the computer keyboard which is still largely successful today. Typing on a computer keyboard is much more efficient since mistakes can be deleted. Computers also have features that can enhance writing. For example, font types and sizes can be changed, and the color of the lettering can be changed. As more technological devices were invented, like I-pads and Tablets, keyboards were automatically installed on them in touch screen form. The latest advancement in typing is that now, on many devices, you can simply speak what you want to type, and it will show up in text!

So as you can see, many things that we once thought were impossible are happening right before our eyes through technology. Typing used to be a long, inefficient process, but now we can simply speak and the words appear in front of us. Who knows what’s next- maybe we won’t even have to speak the words, but we can just think them and they will appear!

Why Blog?

Today, you can rarely have a conversation about education without talking about technology simultaneously. Technology is improving our way of teaching and students’ ways of learning every single day and is going to continue being used in every aspect of the educational system. That sounds great, right?

Well, if you’re anything like me, it sounds a little intimidating. I have never been very tech savvy. In fact, I used to joke about how I was cursed with technology because I could never get any technological devices to work properly. I can partly thank my parents for this “technology curse.” They kept the amount of technology my siblings and I had access to at a minimum. This is mainly a result of the big social media boom that started about a decade ago. I’m sure I’m not the only one that has heard, “No one cares or wants to see what you had for lunch today!” Because of posts like that, my parents then began to believe that that’s all there was out there on social media and it made them look at technology as a whole as a useless waste of time. My siblings and I were all the last ones in our grades to get a cell phone, a facebook, and then the last ones to get smartphones. I honestly didn’t mind it, though. This lack of exposure to technology taught us that we don’t need to share every minute of our lives with random people on the internet, and it taught us to be more personal with people through face-to-face communication which is a very valuable skill to have. Eventually, I started to take on my parents’ belief that technology was just making people more lazy and had no major benefit to society.

Boy, was I wrong!

Just in the last year I have seen how much technology enhances learning in the classroom and I have seen just how useful and beneficial it is to society. Students are now able to collaborate with other students their age who live across the state, country, or even world through technology, they can practice reading or math at a pace that is right for them on personal technology devices, they can access live videos of animals in the wild that they would otherwise never be able to observe in person, and so much more!

Although I have learned a lot about technology recently, I know that I have a long way to go and a lot more to learn before I can be a digital leader. My goal for this blog is to inform educators about what technology options there are for their classrooms, and the different ways they can all be used. I’ll be learning right along with my readers as well!

So, for all of the current and prospective educators out there that are afraid to join the conversation about technology in education like I was, fear no more! This blog is here for you and together, we are going to learn and work towards becoming the best educator we can be by incorporating technology.