Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Designing Students

Hello there! Long time no see!!

I'm so excited that I had the opportunity to present at the Revolutionizing Learning Conference on July 25, 2017 (my birthday!)

Here are the resources from my session - Designing Students.  I'm not going to include the slide show because we spent most of the time on a design challenge.  We can't introduce students to design thinking if we don't know what it is and experience is the best teacher!

The Virtual Crash Course Playbook

An Educator's Guide to Design Thinking

Bootcamp Bootleg (stage and method cards)

K12 Lab Website

K12 Lab Wiki

Redesigning The Classroom Experience (the exercise we did)

Stanford's d school Reading List

Design Thinking for Educators

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Spreadsheet Bingo

In my many (many, many) years of teaching technology to kids, I've found that the understanding cell locations is the key to spreadsheet success.

If kids can understand that they tell the spreadsheet WHERE to FIND the number instead telling it the actual number formulas make much more sense.  

I've attacked cell location with Geometric Shapes in the past.  But I wanted something more fun.    

Last week, I played spreadsheet bingo with our 5th graders and they really liked it.  

Before Class:

I created 5 Bingo boards and posted them on the teacher's website. 

I downloaded the app Randomiser.  I chose name picker and added in all the possible cell locations (A1, B1, C1...).  I saved the group as spreadsheet bingo.

 During Class:

Students signed into their GAFE (Google Apps for Education) accounts. 

They went to the teacher's website and downloaded/copied the bingo board of their choice.  

On the Randomiser app, I loaded the group I created and tapped send to random. 

To "call' a cell location I tapped the single arrow.

If the cell location was outlined on their bingo board, students typed a X in the cell. 

Play until someone calls Bingo!

We just played one time then moved into a lesson on creating a budget.  The kids loved it!
Check out the boards here:

Monday, September 7, 2015

Creating a Community of Learners: Problem of Practice Sessions

This summer I had the opportunity to attend #ECET2 (Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching) in Seattle.  ECET2 is hosted by the Gates Foundation and was unlike any conference I've ever attended.  It was such a collaborative environment.  There were no 'rock stars' or 'groupies'.  Everyone was friendly and willing to help.  When I registered I was asked what types of educational problems I'd like to work to solve at #ECET2.

For a little over a year, I've been thinking and reading about creating Community of Learners.  As teachers we are excellent at creating this kind of community in our classrooms with our students.  Teachers are my students and I wanted teachers to see themselves as a community of learners in our school and beyond.

In Seattle, we were placed in Colleague Circles.  The first thing we did in our circle was to write about a problem or something that was bothering us at work.  Then we exchanged our writing with someone across the table and commented on each other's problems.  We shared our problems with the table and choose 2 to work on over the next 3 days.

We worked through a specific protocol called Problems of Practice.  One teacher presents his or her problem.  The other group members ask questions to help understand the problem.  This is so key.  Many times the problem you think you need solved is not the real issue.  Questioning helps uncover the real problem.  Then the group members offer solutions while the presenting teacher listens.  This is so hard, to sit and listen, but it really helps you focus and lower defenses.  In the final phase, the presenting teacher reflects on the process.  A notetaker records the session for the presenting teacher.  This is very helpful so that the presenting teacher can be fully present.  It also helps the presenter after the session as he or she might not have heard every suggestion.

I was so excited to implement PoP when I returned from Seattle.  My principal was very supportive.  This past Friday, our ELA department participated in our school's first PoP session.  I can not tell you how excited I was!  Not only did the presenting teacher gain important feedback and ideas, the other teachers learned as well.  And they had fun with it as well!  It was an important step in creating our Community of Learners #CofL!

PoP, donuts & silliness!

You can see the #ECET2 Problem of Practice protocol here. You can also see how we modified it for our school here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

RL Conference

I'm so excited to be presenting Thursday at the Revolutionize Learning Conference in Royse City!
I'll be presenting in Room C227 at both 8:30 & 10 am.  Below is the presentation.  We'll add to the final slide through out the session!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

See through another's eyes

I love me some Pinterest!  I usually scroll through it at night before bed.  It's my go to for new recipes and projects.  But the other night a Pin popped up in my feed/suggested for you that made my stomach upset.


I'm going to be honest, before this past school year I would have thought these pins were super cute.  I probably thought they were excellent classroom resources.  But this past year changed everything.

I share openly about my son B, who is autistic.  He has changed my thinking on so many things.  He's autistic and very verbal.  Sometimes he's very self aware.  Always he's extremely literal.  Let me tell you a story...

In December, B's class had a Polar Express party scheduled.  Kids were going to wear their pajamas, drink hot chocolate, eat snacks and watch the movie.  The movie came on TV a few days before the party.  B was sitting at the kitchen table playing.   
I said "B, Polar Express is on TV. You're having a Polar Express party Friday.  Want to watch the movie with me?" 
"No Momma.  I'm not going to the party. I don't want to watch." 
"What do you mean you're not going to the party?" 
"My teacher says only hard workers are going to the party.  I'm not going." 
"What were you doing when she said that?" 
"I wasn't working hard.  I'm not a hard worker. I'm not going." 
I reached out to the teacher.  She assured me that B was going to the party.  I explained to her that he had taken her words VERY literally. After the conversation, I reflected on how many times I've said something similar to my students.  About a million! 

When I saw these posters, I immediately thought of B and other kids who take things literally.  And it broke my heart.  I can't imagine sitting in a classroom, knowing that I do some of those things.  Believing that my behavior makes me bad.  Makes me a peacebreaker or a bucket dripper.  Additionally, some of the things on both negative sides of the posters describe things that B does mid-meltdown.  Things he has very little control over.

Kids on the Autism spectrum have enough trouble handling super busy, highly decorated classrooms and making friends.  Can we PLEASE not give them negative labels?  Can we PLEASE not give other students names to call them? Can we PLEASE see through another's eyes?

Prior to writing this post, I was familiar with the No David! books that the Peacemakers/Peacebreakers poster is based on.  But I wasn't familiar with Bucket Fillers/Drippers.  I researched it and found this interesting article.  Here's my favorite part of the article.

Did you catch that? We can not add to ourselves by taking away from another.  Let's model this for kids.

To be clear, I have no problem with the positive sides of these posters.  I think being Peacemakers and Bucket Fillers are awesome things.  We need to teach kids how to do these things.  We just do NOT need to teach kids that some kids are bad.  Let's seek to teach compassion. Please stop shaming kids into behaving.

Along those lines, I have not linked to the original posts nor the pins.  I have no interest in shaming anyone for their use of these posters.  I am simply asking teachers to see through another's eyes, to empathize with how these posters can be perceived by kids.   I am attempting to reach out to the creators privately to ask them to consider another point of view.

Update: I received a very quick response from one creator.  She was extremely gracious.  She shared that she takes each year's specific class into consideration when determining her classroom management.  The peacemaker approached worked for the group of kids she had that year.  In the years since, she's adjusted based on the kids in her class.  That's all anyone can ask for! I appreciate her heartfelt response and her willingness to listen! 

Monday, July 13, 2015


Howdy! I'm Aimee.  I have dysthymia.

Dysthymia is a chronic, persistent mild depression.  It's just a part of who I am.  Something I deal with everyday.  However, I refuse to say that I suffer from depression.  Just like I don't say that my son suffers from Autism.  He has autism. It's a part of him.  My depression is a part of me.

I made a decision years ago to try to minimize the hold dysthymia has on me.  I have worked closely with my doctor to determine a combination of drugs that help me to live my best life.  It hasn't been easy.  I had to get over the pride admitting I needed medication, then admitting I needed to add another medication.  I had to be honest with my doctor about side effects so we could try new things.  Some meds I tried left me feeling sluggish, boring and not at all creative.  My doctor listened to my concerns and never gave up on trying combos until I felt like I wanted to feel.

You might be thinking TMI Aimee, T.M.I.  That's the point.  I am joining with a community of educators who want to be upfront and honest about mental illness.

The #semicolonedu movement started with Nicholas Provenzano.  Last summer, Nick shared about his battle with depression.  I was inspired to write this post at that time.

"The Semicolon Project is a faith-based non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction and self-injury.  Project Semicolon exists to encourage, love and inspire. A semicolon is used when an author could've chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to.  The author is you and the sentence is your life.  On April 16, 2013 thousands of people joined us to raise public awareness against depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide."

This summer Nick writes
I would love to see pictures across the Internet from all of my PLN on Tuesday July 14th with a Semicolon drawn (or tattooed if you are up to it) on your body to show support for all of the educators dealing with mental health issues. Use the tag #semicolonEDU to show your support on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Let's show the world that we can come together and fight mental health stigmas by showing our support for one another. I know we can do it. 

I don't have a semicolon tattoo.  I have a custom bracelet tattoo.  On the top of my wrist is a cross, underneath the word serve.  Service is my why.  I had it tattooed on my wrist for reasons similar to the semicolon project.  To remind me of who I am, what I do and why.

What can you do?  Be kind.  Everyone is dealing with something.  It doesn't do anyone any good to pile up their sorrows to see who's is largest.  Just be kind to everyone.  Accept the fact that people are different and handle things differently.  Try to see through another's eyes. 

Part of the power of depression is feeling alone, feeling as if you are in a constant shadow.  When we discuss depression it loses a bit of it's power.  When we listen without judgement we bring others out of the shadow in to the light.  Everyone deserves to live in the light.  

If you are struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury or thoughts of suicide, please know that you can discuss it. Please seek help immediately.  Project Semicolon lists some excellent resources here. The world needs your contribution.  You don't have to be in that shadow any longer.  There are lots of people who will support and help you.  Throw back the shades and join us in the light. 

Listen. Love. Support. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Unleashing Student Creativity with Tech-Infused Lessons

Yesterday I had the pleasure of present a webinar in conjunction with Shutterfly and EdWeb - Unleashing Student Creativity with Tech-Infused Lessons.  I had so much fun!

About 400 people from across the globe joined the webinar.  There were participants from the US, Iceland, South Africa and Argentina.  I must admit, I was a little nervous but it helped that I couldn't see all those 400 people.  Although it was a little strange, feeling like I was talking to myself since I couldn't see the participants.  There was a chat box at the bottom of my screen so I could see people's thoughts and interactions.  I only got distracted by the chat box a couple of times ;)

The recording of the webinar is available in Shutterfly's EdWeb community - Creating Multimedia Stories for Learning.  The community is free to join.  You'll have access to the recorded webinar and be informed of upcoming webinars as well. If you watch the webinar and answer a few questions, you can get a continuing education certificate.

During the webinar, I shared a lesson planning tool I created.  I've shared it on this blog (and here) before but I wanted to share it again.  I need a catchy name for this framework so let me know if you have any great ideas!

Start by identifying the standard you need to teach or that your students need to show mastery of.

Next, decide what mastery of those standards would look like.  Present this to your students in a rubric.  Remember, you are providing a framework, not a recipe. You want to give students the freedom to demonstrate their mastery in their own way.  You are not telling them exactly what to do.  "Why was Declaration of Independence was written?" vs. "Create a presentation on the 4 reasons the Declaration of Independence was written".

Finally, what tools could be used to demonstrate this mastery?  For younger students you may want to give them a multimedia menu or choice board.  Older students can choose their own tools.  I love learning about tools from students!

If you attended the webinar or watched the recording, I'd love some feedback! I hope it was helpful!