Is it Transformative?

I REALLY struggle with whether what we do in our classroom with technology is transformative…..making sure it isn’t just fun bells and whistles of a device that we think is transformative….but moving beyond that into higher level thinking skills and creation. My other struggle is that what we think is transformative will quickly become the norm as technology possibilities continue to amaze us. Can what we do today be transformative tomorrow? Can I simply do my project with paper and pencil like I have in the past…what is soooo different about it?

I went and spoke to my adviser about my struggle…and was given the message….relax and quit thinking about it so much. What you are doing is meeting the needs the curriculum, providing the students with opportunity to create something from their knowledge and practice, share it with others, analyze their work, give feedback, use their speaking, writing and listening skills ON TOP of using the technology as the TOOL to get there.

So I relaxed and did it :)



Project Reflections

Here are some things that I have thought about during the implementation of the Explain Everything Math Project.

First, I think I would have students choose either a multiplication or division story. It took much longer than I anticipated and if we had only focused on one story, the project would have had a more reasonable flow to completion.

Second, make sure you have students back-up their projects in dropbox or another cloud data storage that is compatible with Explain Everything. We have had a few glitches and that was a real life saver to have the most updated version saved so students did not have to start all over again.

Third, have students complete all the slides and THEN add the recorded narration. If you edit the slides in anyway after narration  sometimes the slides do not completely delete the previous work.

Fourth, when students are solving another student’s problem, make sure they put their name on the slide. We had many that were unnamed and it was challenging tracking down who solved the problem.

Fifth, I see the potential for students solving many students’ problems. This will give a teacher many opportunities for formative assessment. You made need some sort of record keeping to know which ones to check and listen to.

I will definitely do this again next year. Students really enjoyed the process, sharing their stories and solving them. Being able to solve another students problem makes it so much more engaging for students.


Interactive Math Project

Math is my passion these days…so I decided to adapt a project I already do every year.

Students created and solved math story problems to share and have other classmates solve. This is something I have done in previous years with paper and pencil. I decided to use Explain Everything to add annotating and recording for both the problem and solution. My hope was to transform the activity by students sharing their problem with more student, students being exposed to mathematical flexibility by looking and listening to their classmates solve the same problem different ways and provide me with formative assessments that included students explaining their thinking in writting and orally.

Students were given the task to write one original multiplication and division story problem in their math journals. If students already had a strong understanding of those operations I challenged them to make their stories more complicated by adding more steps and decisions required to solve the problem.

These problems were checked by me for mathematical understanding, sentence fluency and editing. After they were checked by me they were given the green light to get an ipad and begin their project in Explain Everything. If you are unaware of the ipad app Explain Everything, it is an essential project creation app that allows students to write, annotate, record and import drawing, photos, movies and real time web demonstration. 

Students created:

Title Page


Story page for their multiplication story including photos, drawings, text, etc.


Blank page for another student to solve the problem.


Solution page where the author shared how they solved the problem.

Students repeated the same steps for division stories.

Students then uploaded their projects into dropbox AS A PROJECT so that another student could go into the file, download it, read the problem, solve it and then check the author’s solution to see if the were correct or to compare their method with the author. After they solved and checked the problem the student uploaded it again to dropbox. The idea was to eventually upload the finished projects as a movie to youtube for parents to see. An unexpected bonus was we had student led conferences right around this time. We had our students show their parents the project and asked the parents to add a slide to their child’s project and solve the problem. We were proud to see some students asked for their parents for EVIDENCE of their thinking!

This was a successful project that I will definitely tweak and use again next year.


My Kind of PLN

What is a PLN? Well here is my version….

Twitter – Right now I am a follower and a re-tweeter and not much of a contributor. This is where I find resources, ideas and discussions that lead to application in my own class and sharing with my colleagues I work with.

Researching iPad Apps – I have a passion for math apps that are open ended, simple, accessible and support the learning in the classroom. I have a routine. I weekly search the itunes store for new math apps. If I find one, I follow up on either the developer page for other apps or related apps. I check out apps that have been recommended by others.

Connecting with App Developers – I have established relationships with app developers because I have asked for support or given suggestions. For my favorite app developers, I check out their webpages and follow them on twitter. This gives me current information about updates, tutorial video that may be helpful. I have a group of colleagues that I share ideas with at my school.

Rookie Mistake

As we all embark in gathering digital artifacts for our project, it is a small quick decision that can lead to huge mistakes along the way.

I was in a rush trying to download some new apps on my ipad as well as clear some room to work in imovie. One of the first places I go is to photos and movies…something that is easily deleted.

So I busily deleted unneeded photos and videos….whew…have some room now…..

Wait….what did I delete? Yup…all my videos of students working on their projects.

I KNOW I should have a back up…I KNOW I should always double check before actually hitting delete. I KNOW this and yet…here I am recreating something I already had.

The moral of the story is….even when we KNOW what to do…we don’t always do it.

UHG! My Creative Process of Instructional Planning

You would think after 22 years of teaching experience I would have some sort of system down when it comes to planning a unit and/or lessons. I am a big picture person and have a hard time bringing big ideas to small manageable steps. This is something I know about myself and struggle with daily. So, this is what I am up against as I start to plan my COETAIL final project.

It is very important to me that this project be RELEVANT. I want to create something that I will use in my class now and in the future. I do not want to create something flashy but rather something that is streamline, simple and most importantly a powerful student learning tool.

I struggle with what unit to tackle. I could go the ‘easier’ route and begin work on the social studies unit our third grade team will work on next quarter as we begin our elementary school commitment of planning a unit using the TPACK model. I consider this ‘easier’ because I love collaborating with others and the pressure would be off me alone. OR I could follow my math curriculum pasion. The second option is where my heart is but there is the fear of where to begin???

I have decided to take the passion plunge and pursue math. Wish me luck….

Time Travel

How will education as we know it change because of technology? Where and how will you be teaching in 5, 10, 15 years time?

The above questions are actually a little mind blowing. I never would have guessed we would be where we are today in education. I mentioned to my administrators the other day, “I am more excited about teaching now than ever.” I really believe we are at such an amazing time. With brain research, pedagogy research AND innovations in technology…we are destined for more change. I am trying to keep up with right now. I am excited about the future, but my energy is to support the students in my care with the highest quality, most authentic and engaging education as possible.

I have NO IDEA where or how I will be teaching in the next 15 years. I have been overseas long enough to know that making plans is a nice idea, but things can change dramatically with out much time to prepare. The most important quality to have as an overseas teacher, or any teacher for that matter, is to be flexible. Flexible with your time, ideas, learning, and resources. There are definitely trends that are described in the Horizon Report by the New Media Consortium. Some include: seamless integration, cloud based technologies, collaboration, abundant resources creating challenges, online learning and challenged based active learning.

I do enjoy thinking about these questions but I am reminded that my most important goal is to be the best educator I can be RIGHT NOW!

Photo Attribution AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works ChrisM70

My Report Card

Am I integrating technology….yes.

Am I using it to my vision of its potential…no.

I AM busy gaining knowledge, researching tools and experimenting with ideas. Looking at TPACK, I appreciate the visual and the model it represents. Linking all of the important ideas in teaching together, taking time to notice where they merge and how we can explicitly engage in bringing those ideas to our classroom.

As I experiment with transforming technology into a “to be” verb,…my wish is to have it as something that “is” and not something we add. To do this, there is a lot of work to be done. I look for ways technology can bring efficiency and complicated ideas together with ease. I get a small thrill when I find a ‘tool’ that will do that. But, more importantly it is critical to open your heart, classroom, curriculum and teaching style to ways technology can lift what you are doing to another level.

Students in our class use the ipads every morning using the xtramath website to improve their math fact skills. This website provides a more efficient process than I could ever do on my own. I have used many methods over the years, but xtramath has really lifted a huge burden. Our class also uses the ipad app Explain Everything in math. I find it a remarkable vehicle for students to share their work and thinking in a way that is accessible to the students themselves, their peers and teachers as a formative assessment tool.

My big project coming up is to have students create a small video reflecting on what has happened in the class for the week. I created the first video as an example of the format. This week we will work together as a class putting the next video together. Our hope is that we can release the responsibility to students over the next few weeks and students will work in small groups to create a short digital video every week.

I am beginning to create technology “is” in our class by experimenting and evaluating our experiments.


Walking the Bridge to Change

Like so many things in education, teachers are caught…we understand research is revealing more successful ways to present our content whether it be math, literacy, science or integrating technology. Often I feel like we have to cross a bridge that isn’t always clear or even there. I visualize a bridge in some science fiction movie that is built every time we take a step or maybe some Harry Potter building that takes time to figure out the code for it to appear. Change takes commitment, time, practice, collaboration and professional development for it to happen. What many of us tend to do in the mean time is feel like we are terrible teachers. There is so much we want to do well because we are responsible for supporting young learners. Sometimes I wish there was a rope swing and we could just gently land in the place we want to be now without crossing the bridge.

I believe Teaching for Understanding matches our Elementary School Philosophy. All of our research based content and pedagogy in our school is teaching for understanding. This has a huge impact on our pedagogy and choosing our content. The challenge we face as teachers is to find the way to seamlessly add the technology circle into the venn diagram as shown in the TPACK video and article by Punya Mishra and Matthew J. Koehler.

As I was re-watching the video “Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom” by Alan November I heard him mention a teacher he knew was having students create a podcast reviewing what they have learned for the week. We have students do this individually in a written form. The idea is to synthesize and reflect on what they have learned, what was challenging, what they enjoyed and a goal for the next week. It also informs parents and creates a space at home for the discussion of the ideas presented in class.

I wondered if we could take the current reflection to another level by having a small group of students each week create a video summary. Students would have to share the information effectively by working collaboratively to decide what was important, write a script, edit video and assemble all the pieces. Students would have their parents and other family members as authentic audiences by posting it on our classroom blog. I am currently making an example with an ipad using the imovie app to share with the class. I am excited to begin this project and hope it will bring students together creating something they have a personal stake in.

My own struggles of crossing that bridge to understanding and applying technology in our system of education is one of excitement, terror, frustration and conviction. I know that what we are all working so hard to do is what is best for our learners.

 Original Photo Attribution “fog on the Golden Gate bridge” Chris Willis

Visual Literacy Final Reflections

Having time to CREATE some digital visuals was both exciting and challenging. It was time consuming and quite frustrating for me. I was surprised at the time it took to complete every assignment. Design is not one of my strengths. I am someone that can tell you what I like and identify something that is well designed, but when I am asked to apply design skills, I panic!

But, as Daniel Pink presents in his book A Whole New Mind, and was discussed in the Presentation Zen blog, the skill of design may be one of the six aptitudes needed in our new age. Zen Presentation has an emphasis of design. I love the simplicity and heart that a Zen Presentation provides. But, like most things that have powerful meaning, they take time. So, one must be sure to remember balance. Teaching elementary, I will not be teaching the elements of a Zen Presentation for the traditional Power Point application, but I will certainly bring out the ideas and apply them to what we do in class, related to design.

I have used every single project in my classroom with great success and they will all be used in the future. This is one thing I have appreciated about our assignments, that they are useful and relevant to our current teaching. The Zen Presentation will be used as the beginning lesson for our Courage next year. I shared the presentation it with my team members, who found it to be simple, engaging, and they plan on using next year. Our class was the only class that used digital storytelling as our performance assessment for our Courage unit, using ipads and the Puppet Pals app. But, when we showed our idea to our team members, many have decided they would like to do this next year as well.

I have made growth in my techie geekness that I embrace. It is just what I wanted. I wanted to explore, dabble and play with ideas and tools so I could apply what I have learned to enhance my teaching and bring student learning to another level. Technology does not replace good teaching, but it can be the highway to more possibilities.