‘Tis the Season for Giving


We’ve heard it all before–giving is better than receiving. So why not give some of your photos to Creative Commons today??:)

I’m the first to admit that I’ve never ‘given back.’ I’m a taker when it come to getting images and information from the internet. Until recently, I’ve never thought about it. But now, as I search for just the right image for my post, I become frustrated. How come all the best photos are for sale or are copyright protected??? And it’s not even just the best ones; sometimes, I search for something, and NOTHING comes up under Creative Commons. 

I’m using mainly compfight. Is anyone having better luck with another site? Please share!  (And then go post one of your images for all to use–the world will be a better place:)

The Halloween REMIX

Remix culture is something that we touched upon in Course 2. it makes a lot of sense to me that no idea is completely new and sterile.

Some rights reserved by bernat…

Ideas are often born from a spark of the imagination. But where does that spark come from?

Usually it’s seeing another product or something in a movie or even just overhearing someone’s conversation on the subway.

That’s why we’re such an interdependent society. We need each other. Humans were not created to live in isolation. We feed off each other (not in the cannibalism way; in a good way).

I was down to the wire with what to wear for Halloween. Thanks to COETAIL, I managed to come up with my costume for tonight…

 The Halloween REMIX!

Expanding Horizons at ISTE 2012


It’s all kind of a blur. ISTE 2012, that is. It was an amazing 4-day ed tech conference in San Diego, chock-full of great ideas and like-minded professionals all with the goal of using technology authentically and purposefully to enhance student learning.

Here are my top 10 highlights:

1) Building my PLN! I connected with educators from all over the globe that I WILL contact in the near future:)
2) As an aside to #1, I discovered some global collaboration opportunities that I’m super excited about, including connecting with some of my new PLN, as well as looking into using ePals, edmodo, and/or Skype in the Classroom. I need to sit down and vet them to make sure the tools I choose to use serve my purpose and don’t overlap. Anyone with experience in any of the above, please share any advice.

Some rights reserved by Matt Hamm

3) I grew more confident as a Twitteree;) I recruited some more followers (I literally made them take out their phone on the spot and follow me;), and then some people that I didn’t even coerce are following me! Pre-ISTE I had 9 followers and post-ISTE I’m up to 22–WOO HOO! Knowing that I have an authentic, global audience motivates me to write with more volume, clarity and inspiration. It makes sense that students would feel the same way if they are blogging their writing! I’m interested in having my students blog their writing rather than use the paper/pencil notebook. I spoke with a teacher doing this, and she said the quality of her kids’ writing rose exponentially when they were able to share their work with a wider audience as well as write and receive comments for and from others. Anyone doing this with success? Or doing this and NOT having success?


4) I learned about 2 tools, Poll Everywhere and Today’s Meet, that I cannot wait to use with my students (and colleagues). They are web-based tools that allow you to gather data in real-time. You should have seen how engaged all the adults in the room were. I can see this being used in the classroom for quick, formative assessments and even to start off the day with a fun question or end the day with some type of reflection of something they learned that day. So many possibilities.

5) Visiting exhibitors in the 5 and 1/2 football-length hall. I felt like a kid in a candy shop sometimes as I grabbed free highliters (yes, I’m a dorky elementary teacher who loves nothing more than to color-code) or signed up for the myriad of raffles. More importantly, this is where I was able to speak  with people from Evernote, ePals, Poll Everywhere, Edmodo and other wonderful booths to see how I could better utilize their service with my students.

6) Poster sessions. As an ISTE first-timer, I had seen these in the program and thought they were just random people presenting random things that weren’t ‘good enough’ to be one of the workshops or sessions. Man, was I ever wrong! This was one of the meatiest parts of the conference! Here I was able to talk 1-on-1 with real people out in the trenches putting this technology to good use.

7) Keynote sessions. Sir Ken Robinson and Dr. Yong Zhao were particularly inspiring for me. You can view their keynotes here: Sir Ken (start watching at 45 min. mark) and Dr. Zhao (start at 53:45). Both are funny, funny guys.

Some rights reserved by somethingmarissa

8) San Diego! I went to university in this beautiful city many a year ago, and it was GREAT to be back, even though the majority of my time was spent rushing from room to room in the gi-normous convention center. I did take time to go biking on Coronado Island and visit my MOST favorite spot on this planet–La Jolla Cove.

Some rights reserved by mikebaird

9) Filling in some of my tech knowledge gaps. I finally learned how to use QR codes. I didn’t even know what QR stood for (it’s Quick Response for those who also don’t know;). There was a fantastic QR 101 article I read in the ISTE publication Learning and Leading that I read on the place to the conference. Then, I got to put it into practice as I paraded around booths zapping codes.

10) I was thrilled to gather several resources to teach global citizenship and internet safety. I feel really strongly about explicitly teaching these skills to kids. If we focus more on the hardware and what tool we’re putting in kids’ hands, we are putting our kids at a loss and setting them up for disaster. It’s just not fair. I think one of the biggest things we need to remember is that there’s no guarantee that our kids are going to be 100% safe and never see an inappropriate image or word, even with all the citizenship lessons we give. As an adult, I come across spam email or inappropriate comments or images on blogs all the time, but I know how to handle them so that they don’t interfere or distract me from my work or whatever I’m trying to do. We need to teach kids how to do that as well…rather than just installing cyber-nanny-blocking services on their devices.

11) Okay, so I know I said this was my “Top 10″ list, but I have to put in 1 more…Spending 6 days with my husband and without my kids. I love my kids more than ANYTHING in this world. It’s important though to balance oneself–whether it be between work and home lives or making time for yourself or a loved one. Balance is key to production…and sanity.

Some rights reserved by Courtney Dirks

The tricky part now will be to sort through everything I learned and decide what my priorities will be. As I write this on the plane ride back to St. Louis, I’m starting my ‘To Do’ list. As much as I want to put everything in the number one spot, it’s not realistic. I don’t want to set myself or my students (or colleagues) up for failure, so my goal is to start small and grow from there.

Help please

I think the correct forum for question/answer is actually Twitter (is it?), but I don’t really know how to tweet, so I’m asking for advice here;)

I have a couple of questions and would love any wisdom you can offer. Thanks!!

For people with class websites, how do you get parents and students to read them? (Background knowledge: Our elementary school is looking to get away from our static Moodle page which is very difficult to navigate from a parent’s side and difficult to update on a teacher’s side. We are thinking of using Google Sites as it seems very user-friendly, and we are already using Google apps and email in our school.) So back to my question, if I update my site only once a week or so, how do parents know when to check back without having to check the site everyday? Do your parents use RSS readers? I looked into it for our students, but with the educational Google gmail, I don’t believe RSS reader is an option (only for personal gmail accounts).

Also, as a school moving away from monthly grade level newsletters and into dynamic class websites, which do you recommend using: Google sites, WordPress, Edublogs, or maybe something else?? Please note that unfortunately, our school works in a walled garden, so we would need it to be private. We also need something easy to use as this will be a BIG change for our teachers and parents.

Thanks for the help!

Course 1 Final Project

This course is just what the doctor ordered. 

I got a dose of “tech fever” at Kim Cofino’s NESA workshop and have been wanting more ever since. However, once getting back into my classroom, I fell into the chaotic nature of being a teacher buried in work. Course 1 has allowed me to explore and fill in some of my tech knowledge gaps. For example, I had always heard of an RSS reader and seen that little symbol all over the place, but I never understood how it could simplify as well as enrich my life. And it has! I had also known of WordPress but just never had the need to go and try it out myself. Even though some days are more frustrating than others;), I’m slowly but surely learning how to navigate and change my site as I wade through this course. There are many other things that I look forward to discovering as we go: like how you actually tweet, and how to embed that world revolver map in my WordPress site–it looks so cool on other COETAILers’ sites!!, and how to more efficiently navigate the COETAIL site. Then I think about more in-depth things I am eager to learn, like: How can I help to create an emerging technology vision for our school who is in desperate need of one? And, how do we get people ‘on board’ when making big change (and sometimes scary change, as many people at my school are slight tech-phobes)? How do we make sure that teaching is actually changing with the use of emerging technology, and not that we are just doing “old things in old ways” or “new things in old ways” as Prensky so wisely told us. And when your school is just embarking on this tech journey, WHERE DO YOU BEGIN???

One of the learnings from this course that has been most significant for me is the idea of connectivism. This is why I chose our current social studies unit on entrepreneurship for this project. This is the first year we’ve taught this unit, so we’ve made a lot of changes as we’ve gone along. This is also one of the first times we’ve really used technology not just for the sake of using technology. The technology actually served a purpose!:) Because many of us (including our tech integrator in some cases) were new to implementing some of the tech pieces, some of the lessons took a LONG TIME, like the one teaching them how to make a google form and then how to share it with the entire grade 4, or the lesson teaching them how to turn their advertisement into an iMovie. We, the teachers, definitely learned from some of our mistakes and already know how we could teach this more smoothly next year.  Failure is the foundation of success, right???;)


So here’s a brief overview of this particular unit:

Who: Grade 4

What: Social Studies unit: What is an Entrepreneur?

Tech Integration: Students first brainstormed ideas for their particular product or service on a Google document. Students then created market surveys using Google forms and shared them with their peers. Next, students filmed each other’s advertisements with Kodak PlaySport cameras and then used iMovie to produce commercials. Students uploaded their commercials to a Google document in order to share with Grade 3 and 4 students for viewing and voting purposes.

Final product: “Mall Day” is on March 21st. This is where all companies will fight their competition for ‘Viper Bucks!’ We have invited grade 3 students to come and shop. Each student will get 10 Viper Bucks for each category (food good, durable good, service, and entertainment). After “Mall Day” students will tally up their totals and pay the mall owners (teachers:) rent and taxes. Their profits can then be used to purchase incentives like extra recess or eating lunch outside, etc. Next month at our ES assembly, we have Viper statues (made by our awesome art teacher) that will be presented to the winners of the advertisement votes (3 categories: best ad, best communication/persuasion, and best teamwork).


A company filming their advertisement

A company using iMovie to make their commercial

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The technology used in this unit was purposeful and essential. The students were always engaged and even wanting to stay in from recess to work more on their ad or answer more market survey forms. I even had parents telling me how excited the kids were at home about this project. I felt really good about this unit, and I look forward to continue authentically integrating technology across all curricular areas!

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KONY 2012

When I opened up my facebook today and saw KONY 2012 (below), I kept thinking back to the enduring understanding for this week: Collaboration, on a global scale, is a key component of 21st Century Learning.


As soon as I shared this amazing video on my wall, I got a few people writing back to me right away saying that I should read this article, and that KONY 2012 may not be all it’s crack up to be. Then, another friend came back with another article from Invisible Children that seemed to clear it all up for me. I really don’t care if a few numbers were fabricated, the bottom line is that this guy is bad news and needs to be put to a stop.

Strictly speaking from the standpoint of using technology to bring about global collaboration…WOW. It’s amazing how 1 person can really bring about change. I remember always hearing that as a kid–that 1 person can change the world. (Right now I’m thinking back to my mom and I karaoke-ing to “We Are the World.”) But it always seemed impossible and daunting to even think about it. However, nowadays, with the technology we have access to, we truly are empowered to make a change. And when I think about teaching this concept of speaking up for what you’re passionate about to my students (and now sincerely MEANING it, knowing that it can really bring about change), it fires me up.

Technology is truly transforming the way the world works. I love the first few minutes of the above video as it overviews how connected the human race is in this day and age. My parents recently got iPhones. Just last night we were showing them how to use Facetime. Once my 4-year-old’s toothless grin (yes, she already lost her front 2 teeth–long story) came up on their handheld screen, my mom could barely contain her excitement. Why? Because her only grandchildren live on the other side of the world, and now she feels like they are next door, because she has a sense of CONNECTEDNESS.

Moving this into the classroom, it thrills me to think about collaborating with other 4th graders from around the world. Who says you have to physically sit next to your book club members while conversing? Why can’t you take a virtual trip to China and meet people actually living there when learning about the Great Wall? This may sound odd, but for me, this conversation opens up Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory (so many incredible ideas to explore) but also a can of worms (being in a ‘walled garden’). Being in the Middle East, the US embassy has enforced some security rules. One being that our kids must work in a walled garden. We can’t publish anything on the net. I’m wondering though, if this would prevent us from collaborating with other schools. I’m definitely going to look into it, but does anyone have any experience working in a walled garden, and have some ideas of how to still reach out to others beyond the wall?


Why have I been avoiding writing a post in the past 2 weeks?  I’ve been on COETAIL daily, reading and commenting on other blogs, but I just couldn’t make it to my own. Here are a few reasons:

1) Really heavy workload this week at school. I actually am the facilitator for our Elementary School Emerging Technology group (scary, I know), and I had (have;) a lot of organizing to do with that, including our first meeting last week.

Multi-tasking: dinner in the tub:)

2) 2 kids, ages 4 and 2. I have 2 full-time jobs. When my job as a 4th grade teacher finishes at 4:00 (who am I kidding–this job never finishes!!), my (more important) job as MOM calls me up to bat. When I finally get them to bed, I am just too dog-gone tired sometimes to get anything else done. (I often think about people who get to read for fun. Ahhhh, that sounds lovely. Does it count that I skimmed my new cookbook the other day in the car waiting at the stoplight?:)

3) Apprehensiveness. This actually may be the real reason I haven’t got to blogging these last couple of weeks. I feel like my daughter at ballet class. She loves going to class (even though she complains about it) and watching her peers dance. But when it’s her turn, she doesn’t like people watching her. She feels uneasy with all eyes right on her. I feel the same way sometimes in this course. I absolutely love checking everyone else’s blogs; I’m learning so much each day. However, when it’s my turn, I feel like I’m up on stage and I forgot the words to my song. I know that with more and more practice, I’ll figure WordPress and other minor annoyances out. It just takes a little time…which is why I’m so glad that this entire first course is dedicated to getting our feet wet.

Okay, now onto to my actual post:) As I read Marc Prensky’s  Shaping Tech for the Classroom 2 weeks ago, I cannot stop thinking about when he discusses the 4-step process of technology adoption. As I mentioned above, I am the facilitator for our ES Tech Pioneer group. I’m really trying to move this group into the 3rd and 4th steps,”Doing Old Things in New Ways” and then, “Doing New Things in New Ways.” We, as a school, have the potential to move forward as we’ve got a 1:1 situation with computers in upper elementary. Each student has their own computer, but the computers stay on a cart at the end of the day. The computers are not personalized. I remember Jeff telling us when we were setting up our RSS Readers to make sure we subscribed to sites that were of personal interest to us. And so I did–healthy/natural living and foods, travelling, parenting. The result? I actually go and read my RSS on a regular basis. It’s not to say that I’m not interested in Ed Tech, but my RSS Reader now represents me as a whole person. That’s why, as Prensky says, we need to let kids customize their computers, and I completely agree. Some people would disagree. They would say that they are school property and that letting kids personalize would get too messy. Kids may even think they can use the computers then to connect with others by chatting online or download their own music onto the machines. Absolutely not. To me, this is the thinking of a digital immigrant.

The concept of digital natives and digital immigrants is one that fascinates me. When I see my 2-year-old quickly navigate through the iPad or iPhone, I am reminded how normal it is for her, and not some new mind-blowing piece of machinery (as it is for many of us digital immigrants). Prensky is right. In order to truly reach our 21st century learners, we need to change our way of thinking and teaching. We need to let go of the old ways how we learned and move into the future. Now, just how do we do that? That’s where I’m going to need some more guidance…


ISTE…here I come!

This week I sat down to plan our summer travels. Being married to a Guatemalan means a big chunk of our time is spent in the air…flying between St. Louis and Guatemala City to make sure that both grandmas get equal grandchildren time:)     Well, this summer, the time also needs to be shared with San Diego–for the ISTE conference! Both my husband and I are going to go, and I’m very excited to continue to move forward in my tech thinking and purposeful integration.

As I was reading over the NETS (which I had never heard of before), it once again proved how vital it is that we take a look at how we’re using technology in schools. I loved how it touched on the idea that no longer is it enough just to know HOW to “use technology,” but it is imperative that our students gain digital age skills. Digital Age Skills.  It’s both exciting and scary to think that when I went to university to become a teacher, “digital age skills” were never mentioned. It’s just incredible how much has happened technologically in such a short period of time.

What really struck me was when I went to the NETS page for teachers. It says that “teachers must become comfortable being co-learners with their students and colleagues around the world.” Being a co-learner with colleagues around the world is something that now is starting to catch like wildfire. It’s pretty amazing that I am now in a digital PLC (COETAIL) learning from and with colleagues from all corners of the globe with whom I have never actually met. We are all literally just a click away from tapping into each other’s knowledge and expertise. How cool is that.

The other part of that quote though, is what some educators are going to have a hard time swallowing, and that is that teachers are going to need to be “co-learners with their students.” Thinking back to Diana Laufenberg’s Ted Talk (from Jeff’s reflection on his recent conference), teachers and books are traditionally the holders of all the knowledge. The problem now is that the rate at which knowledge is coming at us is just impossible to keep up with. I know that some teachers have a really hard time telling students that they don’t know the answer to something. Yes, it doesn’t feel good to admit ignorance; however, if we as teachers aren’t going to teach (by modeling!) our students how to be life-long learners, then who is? It’s time we sit side-by-side our students and grow intellectually together.

Who knows–we just might learn something from them;)

ISTE–here I come!


Anyone out there like me?

I keep envisioning that graph that Jeff showed us in the beginning of this course–the one with the steep uphill climb in the beginning, then the drop, and then the leveling out. I definitely feel like I’m scaling a mountain right now. As I mentioned before, I’m married to a tech wizard. Therefore, I have many gaps in my tech knowledge. So when the wizard is not home and out playing poker (as is the case tonight;), I am left to fend for myself. I guess this is a good thing, but all I feel at the moment is frustration. This course is my first experience with WordPress. Does it get any easier, people???  I use Google Sites, and it is so user-friendly, so I’m just not used to this. Jeff wants us to play around with our widgets (I barely know what these even are) and continue to get to know the site more; however, without explicit instruction, I keep ending up clicking the same thing, and each click just pushes me closer to signing off.

My frustration goes deeper than WordPress. I’m the kind of person that likes to stay on top of things. I like organization. I like being knowledgable. I like being a leader. I’m definitely not feeling like I’m any of those right now. All of this (what we’re learning) is quite overwhelming–exciting, but overwhelming. (How do I twitter exactly? How do I get Creative Common photos and add them correctly? How do I set up my RSS Reader in a way that I don’t have to hunt for it each time? And the list goes on…;) The hard part for me is that I feel so behind. I look at other people’s blogs or questions/comments to Jeff, and I don’t even know what they are talking about sometimes. Yes, I know I need to not worry about others, and just worry about myself and the progress that I am making (I know that I’ve said that to my students before!!), but I just had to express my thoughts, and wonder, “Is there anyone out there like me?”

Emerging from My Cocoon

I’m married to one of the tech guys at school. For this reason and up until a few months ago, I have been living in a tech-less cocoon. Whenever something happened to my computer or I couldn’t get something to work on the Internet, “LUIS!” was all I needed to do. I would not take account of anything as he worked his techie magic.

I began to peek out of my cocoon when I attended to Kim Cofino’s NESA workshop on tech. It gave me a taste of the amazing things that I can do with tech! I’m the first to admit that I have several gaps in my tech knowledge, as I barely knew how to upload photos until last year! However, I’m also the first to say that I’m now willing to take the risk and give it a go. As Jeff mentioned in one of his posts, he expects us to FAIL sometimes! In my classroom, I refer to those mistakes as “Beautiful Oops.” Once we stop making mistakes, we stop growing. And there is not one person in all the world that is all-knowing, ESPECIALLY, in the tech world, as it is ever-changing.

I have to say that I am so thrilled that I ended up signing up for this course. My enthusiasm for wanting to integrate technology (and to do so PURPOSEFULLY!!) has grown leaps and bounds. My husband almost fell out of the bed when I told him the other night that the  iPad 3 announcement was happening March 7th–not because he didn’t know about the announcement (b/c he did), but because, ME, of all people, was telling him!

The idea of connectivism and how the world is moving away from the individualistic way of doing things to a more collaborative style is fascinating. And it makes sense. If I have the world’s experts on a certain topic at the tips of my digital fingertips, why take the time and energy to flip through the one or two books I found in the library? I love how George Siemens writes in, “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age,” that it’s more important to be thinking about HOW we’re going to access future information rather than just thinking about what we currently know. It’s amazing to think that 20 years from now, there may be technology that we haven’t even fathomed yet…

[Now, I can remember from Kim's workshop (and seeing other COETAILers do it) that I should use Creative Commons' photos and then post the link under the photo, but I completely forget to do that. Hopefully Jeff will make another video about it]