Thursday, October 11, 2012

Edcamp Dallas

Edcamp Dallas on Saturday, September 29, 2012 and I still can't get my mind around everything I learned.  It was an awesome day of teacher-led professional development.

First, let me tell you a bit about the Edcamp movement.  Edcamps are unconferences held all over the world.  When you arrive at Edcamp there is a huge board of available locations but the sessions are blank.  That's right, no schedule of speakers beforehand.  That could make my little overplanning OCD heart skip a beat but I went with it.  You can learn more about Edcamp on their wiki

Back to Edcamp Dallas.  It was held at Coppell HS.  That's a hike for me and it was raining that day so I arrived frazzled.  I was excited but also nervous.  I knew there would be people I knew from Twitter there but I had not met any of them in real life.  I'm an extroverted introvert which means I can be outgoing when I'm comfortable but until I'm comfortable, I'm a bit nervous. All that to say, that I couldn't think of anything to present about it until half way through the first session. 

My first session was by @ipadsammy about Web 2.0 tools.  The session was awesome. The thing about Edcamp is that someone is leading the session but everyone is participating.  Jon showed us a lot of great tools but the participants added information too.

My second session was by @akbusybee about using technology in a multiability classroom.  Andrea is a whirlwind.  The things she does in her class are amazing.  Check out her blog here. 

I went to lunch at Rosa's with a great group of people I follow and learn from on Twitter. It was a good time and the food was YUMMO.  Flour tortillas with each meal, you know I'm in!

After lunch I attended a session by @the_drama_coach on student relationships.  He also does so amazing things and really connects with his students.  He gave me a lot of great ideas. 

The highlight of the day was the Smackdown at the end.  The last session, everyone comes back together.  A line forms at the front and whoever wants to goes up and shares an idea, website, app, anything.  It was awesome!

I highly recommend attending an Edcamp.  I learned so much and had a great time meeting my twitter peeps.  If you're in Texas Edcamp Waller is set for the spring.  Learn more about it here. 

Here's the Edcamp Dallas wiki page. You can see the session lists and resources.  Definitely check out the of the Smackdown ideas. 

Thanks for the Edcamp Dallas organizers: @matt_gomez @8amber8 @mikingpd @jessica_branch

And here's a video by @ipadsammy

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Screencasting + Educating Parents = WIN

I love screencasting.  It's so much easier to show than to tell.  In the past I've used Jing.  Jing is easy to use and, best of all, free.  What I didn't like about Jing was that I didn't have the actual video file.  Because I was using the free version, the video was stored on their server, accessible from their website.  I didn't use Jing enough to justify the cost to upgrade.

This summer I got a new desktop computer at school and my laptop was upgraded.  I was about to download Jing again when I decided to see if Mac OS X offered any screencasting options.  I googled Mac screencasting, found this article from The Next Web and learned that I could use QuickTime to record screencasts.  For free.  I would have the file to edit.  Shaabamm!

We moved from Gaggle to Google Apps for Education this year.  I knew our 7th and 8th graders were already familiar with Google but I wanted to give them a tour of the 4 apps we are going to be focusing on.  So, I created a screencast but it needed something extra.  In the shower last Saturday night (where I do my best thinking) I came up with a little jingle "We've gone Google" to the tune of Alan Jackson's "Gone Country".  I emailed the choir teacher and she recommended a student to sing it.  I was able to record him in Garage Band and add it to the start of my video tour in iMovie.

I have been so proud of my teachers for jumping into the deep end of the technology pool already this year.  Many of them are using Edmodo.  The 5th grade math teacher wanted to know how he could explain to his parents how to help the students join his class and find the parent code.  "A screencast!" I exclaimed.  15 minutes later, I had the video up on his site.

This got me thinking (in the shower again) about our parents.  I'm not just a teacher this year, I'm a parent, too.  My oldest is in my building and in my class.  (Worlds Colliding!)  But I wondered how many of them are confused by all this tech talk coming home.  So, Friday morning I came up with the idea of creating screencasts to explain the new tools we are using at school.  I added a page to my teacher site and called it Catch Me Up.  Friday between co-teaching in 5th and 7th grade classes, I ducked into the conference room and filmed "What in the World Is Edmodo?" I was also able to edit the video I made for the 5th grade math teacher to make it match the new video.

I decided that I would highlight the Technology Applications TEKS in each video so that parents know there is a reason we are using these tools.  I am compiling a quite a to do list for future videos: educreations, glogster, remind 101...

I'm really excited to reach out to our parents in this way.  What ways have you used screencasts?

If you're interested in seeing my videos, you can see them here.  Be kind, I'm a Texas native and my voice shows it ;)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gaming Professional Development

Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal
This summer I joined the Level Up Book Club.  Level Up focused on gaming in education.  I'm not a big gamer but my sons and students are so I wanted to learn more about gaming in education. The first book we read and discussed was Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal.  During our June Twitter chat, I put forward the idea of creating a professional development game for my teachers.  Another book clubber Tamara Cox ran with it and created Level Up Tech Quest

I'm a percolator so I spent the rest of the summer thinking about what I wanted our PD game to look like and how to deliver it.  I had several pages of ideas and notes.  During our staff development the week before school started we had a FedEx Day to work on anything we wanted.  I worked on the game.

I named our game Power House PD because we want to be a technology Power House.  I decided on Edmodo as our delivery system.  I chose 14 tasks and spaced them out over the year.  They are roughly two weeks apart and allow time for holidays and testing schedules. 

edmodoI will post the challenges in our Edmodo group on Monday.  The assignment postings will also contains directions for the task and how to get points for completion of the task.   The tasks will be due on Fridays, generally two weeks after the assignment is posted.  I am going to upload any documentation or directions they may need into the Edmodo library and attach them to the Edmodo assignment.

In a nod to the three houses of the Three Little Pigs, teachers can level up to be Straw Houses, Stick Houses and Brick Houses.  (cue music "She's a brick house"...) Besides being an individual competition, teachers can earn points for their departments as well.  I created a Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) spreadsheet Leader Board.  I try to update the spreadsheet at least every other day.  I also put a paper Leader Board in the teacher's lounge.  I'm planning on updating that one every Monday.

So far, we've had one task and it's an ongoing one.  (They can earn points the entire year for Tweeting certain things.)  Our first task with a definite deadline will be posted on Monday!

What do you think?  What can you gamify?

PS - if you'd like to check out our Edmodo group, tweet me.  Or if you'd like help creating your own professional development game, let me know.  I'd love to help! 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

QR Codes - Part 2

This is the 2nd post related to my QR Codes presentation at the Region X Tech Conference.  You can see all the resources here.

During the presentation, I asked participates to add their ideas to a Today's Meet page.  Today's Meet is an excellent backchannel tool.  I highly recommend checking it out -

Here are the responses - great ideas!

How have you used QR Codes in the classroom?  Add your ideas in the comments!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Students Love QR Codes & You Will Too!

These are the resources from my session at the Region X Technology Conference on May 8.

Link to Prezi

Today's Meet back channel (this link will only be active until the end of May)-

QR Code Readers -  Desktop

QR Code Readers - iDevices

QR Code Readers - Android

QR Code Readers - Blackberry

QR Code Creators

Kaywa - basic code creator -
Creating QR Codes with Kaywa Screencast -
QR Stuff - colorful codes, more data choices -

More Ideas

Discovery Ed blog -


QR Codes in Education LiveBinder -

The Daring Librarian -

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


One of my favorite people on campus is Coach Parsons.  She is so much fun! She's young and hip and just sarcastic enough to hang.  She teaches Math and rocks at it.  Her students love her.

I've been looking for ways for Parsons to bring technology into her classroom.  We used wallwisher (more about that in a couple of weeks) with some success.

After my tech conference in February, I was thinking a lot about "the flipped classroom".  And I knew Parsons' class would be a great place to field test my ideas. 

Enter Educreations

 Educreations is a free iPad app that lets you create lessons.  You can import pictures, draw with your finger and record your voice.  You can then share your lesson on Facebook, Twitter, via email or get a link to your lesson.

The idea was that Coach Parsons would record short, review lessons and post them to her teacher website.  The students would watch the lesson at night or after school. Then they'd discuss the lessons in class.  We don't yet have a 'school iPad' so I bring Parsons my personal iPad.  She makes the lessons during her conference period.  Nice and easy. 

We are both thrilled with the results.  Coach Parsons reports that the lessons are easy to create and her students love them.  I'm so excited to see her excited about technology.

Here's her lesson on Probability

And just for laughs, here's my 3 year old and I doing the ABCs

What do you think? Have you used Educreations? What lessons have you created?

Want to use Educreations? Need ideas? Let me know!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Randomizer

We use C-Scope curriculum.  The 5th grade Science curriculum called for the students to create a brochure on an animal, plant, and scientist. The curriculum offered up a list of choices.  My 5th grade Science teacher didn't want to assign the topics, she didn't want the students to pick only animals, plants or scientists they already knew about, and she didn't want the students spending a lot of time agonizing of their choices.  Enter The Randomizer:

It's actually a tool in the SMART Notebook software that comes with SMART Boards - Random Word Generator.  The Random Word Generator is part of an add on called Lesson Activity Toolkit 2.0. You can download it here.

I add three Random Word Generators to one page.  I loaded the animal names in the first, plants in the second, and the scientists in the third.  I clicked "No Repeat" on each generator. This keeps more than one student from getting the same animal, plant, or scientist in the same class.

I loaded The Randomizer on the Science teacher's desktop and my laptop.  We each called students up and had them click the Select button.  The Randomizer makes a fun little noise and highlights choices until it lands on that student's choice.  We did reset each generator after each class. 

The students thought it was fun and the teacher loved that everyone had a different combination for their brochure.  And it wasn't boring liking drawing choices out of a hat!

Have you used the Random Word Generator?  I think it would be fun a writing activity to build a story using the Random Word Generator.

Do you have favorite tools from the Lesson Activity Toolkit?  Let's hear about them in the comments!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Capzles Timelines

My 8th grade History teacher wanted his students to create a timeline of some Civil War events.  For one of the events, he wanted the students to do an eye witness account.  It's the eyewitness account video that led me to Capzles.

Capzles is billed as a Social Storytelling site.  Students can upload pictures, videos and documents.  Capzles also creates a URL that they can email their teacher for grading.  Students do have to be registered with a unique email but they don't have to verify their membership through the email.

Our students had 7 events to choose from.  For 6 they found images and had to add information from their research and History notes to the image.  For the 7th, they recorded an eyewitness account.   First, they wrote a script that was approved by their teacher.  Next, they recorded their script using PhotoBooth (we're a Mac school).  They uploaded their PhotoBooth video into their Capzles.

For the eyewitness accounts, I set up 4 recording stations with laptops.  I have 2 science fair boards that are cut in half.  I put a laptop and a board on a desk to create a semi-private recording studio.  Students worked on their Capzle until their teacher sent them to record.  Our network is set up so that students can sync their work to their network account.  All they had to do was sync and their movie was in their documents folder and ready to upload to Capzles.

The project took 2 days in the computer lab and went very smoothly.  I did register the students for their account ahead of time to save lab time.  If you have your students create their own account, you may need to add some extra time.  I did create a how to sheet for the students. Click here to download the how to sheet.

Have you used Capzles?  What kind of projects did your students create?  Let me know how it goes!

Sunday, April 15, 2012


I decided a while back that I wanted to start blogging about EdTech.  It took a while to pull it all together.  But here it is...Plugged In Educator

Why Plugged In?  Our students are plugged in to something outside of school.  Is it fair that we ask them to unplug when they walk through the front door?  Not if that 'something' will help them learn! (I was inspired by this Alan November article)

I'll be blogging about projects my students are doing.  I wouldn't be sharing student work but I'll tell you what we're doing.  My students are 5th - 8th graders in Texas.  Somethings work, somethings don't.  I'll try to share it all!

Ready? Let's get Plugged In!