Sunday, December 29, 2013

My Learning Workflow

The question I am asked most often is "How do you have time for all this?" Generally, the asker means my social media use.  I think of my social media use as professional learning time.  Learning is important to me and we always make time for what's important to us.

But, I do have a very specific workflow to my social learning.  I created this infographic with Canva (be nice, it's my first attempt at an infographic) to outline my process on a typical day. Not everyday but most days. Everything in the Sources and Share section happens on my phone and usually before I'm out of bed.  Later is done on the computer.

As soon as my alarm goes off, I check my Feedly.  Feedly allows you to add blogs or websites and then pulls the latest posts.  My Feedly is so powerful because my Personal Learning Network (PLN) is full of awesome writers.  After Feedly, I move to Twitter.  Again, Twitter is powerful because of my PLN.  I try to follow a diverse group of educators to push my thinking.  If I have time I check in with Zite.  Zite is personalized based on my interests.

I do not wake up early enough to read all the great information in my sources.  I read all my Feedly posts. If they speak to me, I share them via Twitter to my PLN.  I skim Twitter.  If someone has posted something that sounds interesting, I will email it to myself to read later.

Throughout the day when I have 5 or 10 minutes, I read the articles I've emailed to myself.  If I want to share it to my PLN, I leave it in my email for later (I don't usually tweet at work).  If I want to save the article for later, I clip it into my Evernote account.  I do most of my curating in Evernote.  I have notebooks for all my current projects as well as some general topics.

That's my workflow.  How do you handle your professional learning through social media?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Helping Autistic Students Thrive During the Holidays

This is a non-technology post.  I am the mom to an autistic son.  He had a meltdown at church when presents began apearring under the angel tree.  This got me thinking about how we, as educators, could help these students enjoy this time of year.

It’s the cray, cray, craziest time of the year!  The weeks between Thanksgiving and Holiday Break move at  breakneck speed.  In my last post on Getting Smart, I wrote about how you can survive during these weeks.  But what about your students?  How are they handling it? Specifically, your Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) kids?  What can be done to help them deal with the change and help them enjoy themselves? Some of these things you already do, they are just good classroom management strategies, but it may help to look at them through an ASD lens.

Let students and parents know in advance about schedule changes.  A sudden change can cause ASD kids a great deal of stress. You probably already post this on your teacher website and include it in your newsletter.  Consider making a copy of the week’s or day’s  schedule for a special needs student’s desk. This will help them track what’s happening in class and what will be different.  Parents are your allies in this as well. Send an email the afternoon before to remind them of any changes coming. They can work with their student that evening to help prepare him or her.  

If your class or school is participating in a community service project, your ASD student may be more receptive if the directions are concrete.  Instead of saying “Make a holiday card for someone at the nursing home.” Tell him or her “Please make a Happy New Years card for Bob.  He lives at the nursing home where the cards are going.” This may require a phone call to the nursing home to get specific names but will help those black and white thinking students.  If you are collecting toys for an agency or doing an angel tree, let your student name their angel.  It doesn’t matter what the name is, it’s just easier for an ASD student to shop for Billy, age 10 than male, age 10.

The class party can pose some interesting challenges.  If at all possible, let your autistic students take a sensory break before the party begins.  This could be as simple as telling all the students that you are polar bears and you need to bear crawl to the North Pole for the party.  Then all kids have the opportunity to work some wiggles and excitement out.

You will need to coach your student before any gift exchange.  Privately talk about how to respond if he or she doesn’t like the the gift they are given.  Practice a script of what to say.  Remind him or her that they don’t have to say everything they think.  Also practice body language with these scenarios.  Coaching may also be helpful in regards to food.  Help your student know how to react when they are served food they don’t like or if they eat something that is not tasty.  

A party schedule can also be helpful. It does not have to include specific times but a general rundown of what will happen and in what order.  This will calm most ASD students and let them enjoy the party more.  

Proximity can also be helpful during the party.  By now you probably know how your ASD student prefers to be soothed.  Keep your student close by so you can soothe and problem solve if he or she becomes upset.  Creating a cool down plan before the party begins will help avoid a scene during the party.  

This is a fun time of year! With a little planning, you can insure all students have fun.  What other strategies do you use this time of year? Share with us in the comments.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

12 Days of #Techmas

 About a week ago, my good friend Andrea posted on Facebook that she'd like to organize 12 days of technology challenges.  I responded right away that I'd like to help. Andrea shared a google doc and the ideas started flowing.  Last week was not one of my best so I missed out on the brainstorming phase.

Andrea named our group Techformers Unite and the challenges the 12 Days of #Techmas.  Andrea started posting challenges on Sunday. The first day's challenge was to take your favorite holiday song and create a word cloud. We had over 70 educators participate!

Our hope is that you'll participate in the challenges, learn a new tool and transfer that knowledge to your classroom.  We know this time of year is super busy so don't feel pressured to participate.  This is supposed to be fun not something to add stress to your day.  Participate in the challenges that you can! Each day's challenge comes with an awesome how to page.  

The challenges are posted to our Facebook group and on our website. You can reach the Techformers on Twitter as well.  If you need help with your challenges you can ask questions on Facebook or Tweet questions using the hashtag #techformersuhelp

Here are all the challenges.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sunshine Award Fun!

Amber Teamann, @8amber8, was sweet enough to nominate my blog for a Sunshine Award.  According to Amber...
The Sunshine award gives others an opportunity to learn more about me as a blogger and then, in turn, I will send sunshine the way of 11 other amazing bloggers for you to get to know!
Sounds fun to me! Which is how I would describe Amber. She is just fun.  We met last year at EdCamp Dallas. She's one of the organizers.  Amber is very welcoming as well.  Every time I've seen her since then, she's always be wonderful.  No awkwardness (as is my trademark) just genuine friendship.

Here are the Sunshine Award rules:
  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger. 
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)
Here are my random facts...
1. I love going to school. My job and actual classes. If I won the lotto, I'd just go take college classes for fun.  
2. I love cartoons.  Hey Arnold and Fairly OddParents are two of my favorites.
3. I love Mr. Sketch smelly markers.  I order new ones every school year.
4. I love to watch sports and go to sporting events but I can not play any sports.  I close my eyes when something comes at me.  
5. #4 stems from being hit in the head with a discuss as a young girl.  Actually a funny story.  Ask me sometimes.
6. At some point in every school year, I will walk into the gym and get hit in the head with a ball.  My first year at Sunnyvale it happened in from of our Superindentdant. I had to work really hard not to cry. 
7.  I go to Sam's Club once a month to buy stuff for the boys' lunches and meat.  I then spend the next afternoon browning meat, dividing it into freezer bags, and separating lunch items into bags. I have a blue box that holds the lunch stuff. Leftovers go in the clear box. You can't eat out of the blue box but have what you want out of the clear box.  
8. I discovered at EdCamp Dallas this year, I realized that I don't like pictures taken of my from the side. I don't like how my nose looks from the side.  I tried to institute a 'no side nose' photo policy.
9. I'm most productive when I'm wearing comfy jeans, funny tshirt and Chucks.  It'd be great if this were in dress code. 
10.  I wrote a picture book called Santa Moon and half a middle grade novel about a girl baseball player.  Then I got terrible writer's block.  No fiction comes from my brain these days.
11. I'm actually shy until you get to know me.  When I'm comfortable, watch out.  

Questions from Amber
1. Do you prefer to shop in stores or online?   about 50/50 depends on how badly I want the item
2. How many pairs of shoes do you own? 30, I think.  Over 25 of these hurt my feet but are really cute.  
3. What is your favorite type of music? Favorite band or song? Love country music. Love dancing to country music. I mostly listen to sports radio though.  I kept Amber's answer here.  It applies to me as well.  
4. Cats or Dogs? Why… Dogs. Chihuahuas.  But not the yappy kind. I have one of each. 1 yappy 1 non-yappy.  
5. What is your typical bedtime? about 20 minutes after the boys go to bed.  
6. Favorite twitter chat? #txed
7. Democrat/Republican/Other?  Democrat - I'm very out of place politically in my community.
8. Best place you ever vacationed? Any beach with my boys. I love Paris and New York as well.  I'd like to live in either of those places.
9. Best book you’ve read in 2013? Mindset (I'm a geek, see #1 above)
10. Favorite television show when you were growing up? Hey Arnold or Dukes of Hazzard
11. What is one thing you never/rarely share that you are exceptionally proud of? I was Teacher of the Year my first year to teach and I've been Teacher of the Year at 2 of the 3 schools I've worked at. 

My 11 bloggers:
1. Carrie Ross (@carrierosstx)
2. Rafranz Davis (@rafranzdavis)
3. Sydney Musslewhite (@smussle)
4. Paul Wagner (@pwagnerlcisd)
5. Zach Snow (@zachsnow)
6.Daisy Marino (@daisyray215)
7. Christi Watts (@cwatts27)
8. Christina Carrion (@carrion_creates)
9. Don Jacobs (@don_Jacobs)
10. Jennifer Fountain (@jennann516)
11. Brenda Key (@bkeyisme)

I'd like y'all to answer the same questions.  And to know how much I appreciate the sunshine that each of you (and all of you, too) bring into my life!

Monday, December 2, 2013

A new look, a new page and a project

I made this with Canva too...
Why yes, we do have a new look around here. Thanks for noticing! 

This was my impromptu Thanksgiving Break project.  As with most things I do, it was a winding road.  Daisy Marino asked me to be a teacher testimonial for her blog STAAR Techers  (you can read it here).  She mentioned that it would be posted to Twitter and Facebook on Sunday.  We started talking about Facebook and Daisy said: 
"we have so many teachers on facebook but not on twitter...shows them the possibilities of stuff they can do in their class. "
Which got me WHY is serving teachers.  Facebook might be a great place to reach some teachers.  I think I'll make a Plugged In Educator Facebook page.  So I did.  You can go "Like" it here:  So in that process, Facebook asks me for a cover photo.  

That lead me to Canva.  Canva is an online design site.  It's mostly free.  There are some very high quality photos that cost $1 to use.  I paid a dollar for the image above.  I was able to create the Facebook cover photo and download it.  I could do whatever I wanted with the image and download it for 24 hours. If I need to create something else with the image after 24 hours, I would pay the dollar again.  What a bargain!  Canva is in a closed beta (trial) right now but I have a few invites to share.  Email me at aimee (at) pluggedinedu (dot) com if you'd like one.  

I loved the image I made for Facebook so much that I decided to make it my new logo.  And I changed the blog color scheme to match.  I love how it looks and it was fun to do!

So there's the new look and a new page and here's the project:

As you know, I've hacked my Tech Apps class this year. My students are finishing up their first self directed project.  Their assignment was to solve a problem that is relevant to them.  They could not report on someone else's solution, they had to solve it themselves.  This week they are educating their classmates on their solutions.  They are going to reflect on their projects and post to their blog later this week.  

Two of my girls (actually they are the only girls) wanted to solve cyberbullying.  They choose to make a webpage.  They want anyone dealing with cyberbulling to have a safe place to get help.  If you are being bullied, you can post anomously and they will try to help. They have enlisted the help of our counselor in their efforts.  They also have plans to add anti-bullying resources.  Please take a few minutes to visit their site and share with your students if you'd like.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fake Tweet Builder

Fake Tweet Builder allows you to build a Twitter conversation and then save it as an .png

It is super easy to use.  You enter the user name, a colon, and their tweet. You repeat the process with the person the first user is talking to.  You can customize the conversation with avatars, colors, background images and more.

Fake Tweet Builder is a great way to interview a historic character or have two characters talk to each other.  You can create a Tweet to promote an event.  Make a tweet into a poster.  Create 'what not to do' tweets for digital citizenship lessons.  

How can you use Fake Tweet Builder in your classroom?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Stich Together Websites with Stich.It is a website that 'stiches' together multiple URLs into one short URL. I love to use when I have several sites I want my students to visit. In this video, you'll see how to create a stich with articles and Google forms to collect student responses.


So, what do you think? How will you use

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Round Rock Google Ninja Academy #ninjaacademy

On Saturday, November 2 I presented at the Round Rock Google Ninja Academy.  I presented over using Google Apps - docs, presentations, spreadsheets, draw, forms and sites.  Below is the Google Presentation I used. If you have questions or would like to see the actual student projects (I starred the available student projects), just email me!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Conflict of Thinking Big Thoughts

Over the past few weeks, I've been pondering my place in the world. Specifically in the Education and EdTech world.  To be clear, I love my job and I LOVE my district.  I don't want to leave. I've just been thinking about my impact on others and feeling a pull to make a larger impact.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about new teacher education.  Are our new teachers effectively prepared for this new education paradigm?  On some level, it's impossible to be fully ready to step into a classroom for the first time.  You just can't recreate all the feelings that come on that first first day.  In addition, there's no way to prepare preservice teachers because we have an awesome concept here in Texas - local control.  Each local school district has certain freedoms within our state Essential Knowledge and Skills standards.  So, the very idea of effectively preparing preservice teachers become muddied.

Which brings me back to the district level. How do districts effectively screen and hire new teachers? How can they insure that the teacher will fit in to the campus community? Can the addition of this new staff member impact other teachers? Can he or she encourage positive change on campus?
Then comes the idea of training and integrating the new teacher into the school environment.  Do we give new teachers enough information before the first day? Is there a mentor system in place? Are our expectations clear?

This is just one example of my big thoughts.  Others include how to personalize learning for each student, how to effectively use technology in the classroom, how to balance curriculum, how to provide a better learning environment for special needs kids (here's a hint, it goes back to personalizing learning), what is important to teach kids, can we decrease the number of required standards and still produce future ready kiddos? Then I have big thoughts for things I'd like to see happen in my school and in my district.  Lots and lots of thoughts going on...

The conflict comes when these thoughts crash into real life.  As I've already said, I love my job and my district.  But I do desire to make a larger impact in education.  How can I make a larger impact, serve more people within my current life.  I'm first and foremost a momma.  A momma of 3 busy boys.  2 who are involved in a wide variety of activities and 1 with special needs.  I have an awesome husband that supports me in all my endeavors.  But the truth is our family takes 2 leaders.  I'm away from my boys (husband and dogs included here - everyone at my house is a boy except me) about as much as I can stand right now.  I try to space out my absences.  My absences makes life complicated.  My house stays about as messy as I can stand.  Right now there are dishes in the sink and clothes on the living room coffee table.  Papers are all over the living room as B's current obsession is writing and drawing and he must start with a clean piece of paper each time.  I've learned to let go of some of my OCD about the house being perfect looking in order to free up time.

So, my real question is: how to answer the pull of big thoughts when you really love the life you have? I understand how people follow the pull when they are unhappy.  How do you add when you don't want to subtract?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Plickers - Free Student Response System

I wish I could remember where I first heard about Plickers.  One thing is for sure, as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to share it with my teachers.

Plickers is a free student response system.  Yes, I said free.  All you need is an iOS or Android device. Just one - for the teacher.  Students do not need a device. The Plicker app reads the student response cards and gives you real time feedback.

Here's the step-by-step
  1. Go to
  2. Sign up for a free account
  3. Download the cards (the paper clicker)- you can choose 1 per page or 2 per page. You get 40 cards
  4. Create your classes and enter student names.  Plickers will assign them a number
  5. Print the cards and hand them out to your students matching up the student with the correct number
  6. Download the app
  7. Ask a question
  8. Students turn card so that their answer is at the top of the card
  9. Launch the app and scan the room
  10. Enjoy the magic
Now, Plickers will not replace all student response systems.  Students can't answer open ended questions or enter numbers.  It's strictly a multiple choice set up.  But it is great for a quick pre-assessment or exit question.

Here's a screen shot of what your data will look like
You can see the overall percentage correct, how many have voted and each student's answer.

But what I really like is what you see on your screen as you scan.  When you pass by a student their name and answer choice appears on the screen.  You know right that second if they answered correctly. 
I'll bring my Plicker cards to EdCampDallas this Saturday, October 12.  If you want to see how it works, just let me know. I'll be the crazy woman in the royal blue "Keep Calm and Tweet On" shirt.  And yes, I do already know what I'm wearing on Saturday.  Don't judge. Things are crazy around here.  But I wouldn't have it any other way!

Monday, October 7, 2013

#MindsetBC Chapter 8

Our last chat will be Tuesday, October  8 at 9 pm CST.  We'll be discussing the last chapter of the book, Changing Mindsets.

This last chapter is full of scenarios and how the growth mindset can change situations, I'd like to spend our time talking about our students. No, not in a teacher's lounge on Friday afternoon kinda way. 

I'd like to discuss
  • how we can introduce growth mindset to our students  
  • how we can help keep our students in growth mindset
  • are there any practices/routines we need to change in our classrooms to encourage growth mindset
Are their other things you'd like to discuss? Let me know in the comments!

I have really enjoyed our book chat. I've learned a lot about myself.  I hope you have too!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Today was a great day!

Every morning I wake up, grab my phone and start learning. I first read the blogs I have sent to my Feedly app. Then I skim Zite. Imagine my surprise at seeing this
 There was the blog I started with my students right there in my Zite feed!  I had a minor freak out. I had to explain the whole thing to my husband but he was supportive. 

The kids also started getting comments last night and today thanks to my Twitter peeps! 

When class started I plugged my iPad into the projector and started explaining Zite. Then I scrolled to their article and said "anything here look familiar?" Now it was their turn for a minor freak out. 

But I wasn't done yet. I pulled up the blog and asked what they noticed there. "We have comments!" 

We started reading the comments and more came in as we were reading! They were so excited! 

The cherry on top of our day was getting to show off to our District's Director of Student Services. She happened to be in the building, I heard her in the hall and called her into the room. We got to show her Zite and our blog. She asked the kids some great questions. I am really proud of them. 

You can check out their blog here
Our goal is to post every school day. I have 9 students so the topics will go in groups of 9. 

Our focus is to think thoughts not remember facts. I try to encourage them to not just give a list of events but to tell what they thought about those events and how it made them feel. It's a new skill but they're getting better! 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Who are we serving?

Do we serve others or ourselves?
"Was I seeking good or just seeking attention?" - Elphaba Wicked

This morning I read a very thought provoking blog post by my friend Carrie Ross. In the post Carrie talks about why she doesn't self promote. You can read the post here

Carrie's post spurred a conversation on Twitter about self promotion and stepping on people's toes. I love it when things like that happen! 

I have written about my WHY before. My WHY is to serve. I work hard to make that the basis of everything I do. Who am I serving by doing this?

At school I serve my teachers. I make sure they have the technology they need and that they feel comfortable using it. I serve my students by serving their teachers. 

I want to be a leader on my campus, my district, and my state. Why do I want to lead? So I can serve more teachers and impact more students. 

But does the quest to become a servant leader require self promotion? I'm starting to think it does. If I don't apply to present at conferences, how will I reach more teachers? If I don't tweet about my blog, how do I share what I'm doing and, hopefully, inspire other teachers? 

I'm not going to lie. I like recognition. I like to be recognized for my hard work. I love hearing from other teachers that they read my work and tried it in their classrooms. It makes me feel good when people call, text, tweet, or email to ask for my help. I want to be asked to speak to groups, to have the opportunity to share with teachers and help them grow.  I want to serve teachers because I believe all students deserve the best teacher. But recognition is not why I start anything. It's a side effect, not the goal. 

So, where is the line between sharing and self promotion? It's a fine line. It has a lot to do with your intentions, your motives. As for me, I'll work to keep my motives pure. Because in the end, it's all about relationships.  Keeping my WHY in mind will lead to meaningful relationships which will open doors and allow me to serve more.  

What are your thoughts on leadership and self promtion?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hacking Tech Apps

This is my 10th year to teach Tech Apps to 8th graders.  For 8 of those years my TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills - what the state of Texas says should be taught in Tech Apps classes) were very descriptive.  2 years ago, my TEKS changed and now focus on the '21st Century' skills.  I can't stand that phrase by the way but that's another post for another day. The TEKS now resemble the ISTE-NETS Student Standards.

The sign on my door last Tuesday
Last year, I continued my class as usual.  We did keyboarding, Word, Excel, Multimedia and Web 2.0.  But it didn't seem right. I wanted to innovate. I wanted to do something different.  I want students to think thoughts instead of learn facts.  Last year I tried Genius Hour with little success.  My students were still focused on the 1st right answer, the easy way, the first page of Google.  I knew I had to do something different.

Last week we finished keyboarding.  I do believe keyboarding is an essential skill and it's in the TEKS so I still teach it. Besides, the rest of the year go much smoother for students who can touch type 35 words per minute with 97% accuracy.

On Tuesday, we sat in the floor and I handed everyone (I have 9 students this year) a copy of the TEKS.  I told them this is what the State expects you to learn. Let's dive into it.  I want you to understand what you are supposed to learn this year.  We spent the rest of the class dissecting the TEKS.
The circled TEKS need
direct teaching

On Wednesday, we sat in the floor with our copies of the TEKS, chart paper and smelly markers (sometimes you just need to write with smelly markers!).  This time we categorized each TEKS as a Task or a Behavior (something you need to do over and over no matter the task).  We then discussed which Behaviors need to be directly taught.  From this we created our first 6 units.

After the units, we'll start the student directed learning. They will solve relevant problems.  Relevant to them.  Through these problem solving units, we'll complete our Tasks.  When a student needs to learn something about Technology, I'll teach it when they need it.  JITT - Just In Time Teaching. We'll change the audience.  Their first relevant problem needs to be solved to help others.  This time they are working individually.  In the future, they will work in pairs and groups.  But they will always work on problems that are relevant to them.

Throughout these discussions, I've talked to them about thinking critically, thinking deeply.  We've talked about making decisions that matter.  We've talked about moving beyond Google's first page. And looking for the 2nd right answer.  I told them it's not going to be as easy as they think it will be.

We are going to blog about our journey.  Thursday and Friday they did some blog exploration.  Today they began writing their first blog post - a reflection on what we've done so far.  It wasn't as easy as they thought it would be.  Those posts will sit and simmer until Wednesday when I'll meet with each student to review their work.  Tomorrow we're planning on setting up our blog.  Be on the look out for it!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

#MindsetBC Chapter 7

We will chat Tuesday, September 17 at 9 p.m. CST.  Chapter 7 is all about parents, teachers and coaches.  I wanted us to be able to spend sometime with this chapter.  The big question of this chapter is: where do mindsets come from? The answer, of course, has a lot to do with how we talk to kids.

Here are some possible questions for Tuesday night's chat:

  • Dweck tells us that we need to praise students for effort rather than intelligence in order to put them in a growth mindset. Do you find this easy or hard to do? Why?
  • As a teacher, how can talk to students about failure to help them develop a growth mindset?
  • What kind of policies/procedures can we put in place in our classes and schools to help students (and teachers) develop growth mindset?
  • What is growth minded discipline?
  • "The great teachers believe in the growth of the intellect and talent, and they are fascinated with the process of learning." How do we demonstrate this love of learning to our students?
  • What are your experiences with students who seem not to care?  How can we reach these students?
  • Coach Wooden is one of my favorite examples of excellent teaching.  How can we apply his theories to the classroom?
  • "Beware of success. It can knock you into a fixed mindset." How can we show our students how to be successful, enjoy their success but keep a growth mindset?
I'm looking forward to this chat and learning from each of you.  See you Tuesday!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Twitter Board

I've added something new to my room this year. A Twitter board.
Class Twitter Board, working
around the fire alarm ;)

I've been finding it harder and harder to connect with my 8th grade tech apps students since I started as an Ed Tech specialist. Most days I'm running from someone else's class to mine. We get started with our work and they are behind a computer for 50 minutes. Yes I walk the room and give feedback but I'm struggling with real conversation. I wanted to get to know more about them.

So, each day I post a big post-it note with a question and a little about myself.  It's on the board when they come in the door.  Sometimes this means writing my tweet as soon as I get to school so it doesn't get forgotten.  At the end of the period, my students get a yellow post-it and post their replies.  I take down their replies before my 5th graders come in so no one gets embarrassed by their tweets being read by others since they are writing about themselves.

I could not be more pleased with the responses.  I love reading them each day.  The more I know about them, the easier conversations will flow.  I've tried to use one of their favorite words each day since I've posted that tweet.  Below are some pictures of some of my favorite tweets and replies.

what's your favorite movie?
Who's your favorite author? 
What's your favorite word?

 I'm not really sure where this will lead.  I don't just want to ask them surface questions all year.  What are your ideas?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

One step closer to paperless

I have a confession...I love to write. Like pen and paper write. I order new Mr Skitch smelly markers to start the new school year. Children (my own or the ones I teach) are only allowed to use year old markers. I carry a zipper bag of different colored pens.

I have tried to go paperless with my iPad. But I miss the sensation of writing. So I downloaded Penultimate app and got a stylus. But it didn't feel right, it was too squishy. 

This summer I ordered an Adonit Jot Fine Point stylus. No squishy ball at the end. It took some getting used to but I've grown to love it. I take notes in Penultimate in meetings and even in church. 

My paper stumbling block has been my integration form that I use with teachers.  I tried to insert it as a picture in Penultimate and write over it but that was painful. The picture would move every time I touched it. 

Today I discovered that you can create custom paper in Penultimate. First you need a picture in your camera roll. Then you tap the papers icon, then the plus sign and choose the photo. And SHAAAABAAAM! Custom paper!! 
my original form & my new custom paper 

My next step is to move my calendar to Penultimate. My calendar is much like my pens. I'm kinda obsessed with it. I make it myself. But today I also bought a 99 cent paper pack in Penultimate - Time & Tasks. The pack has a calendar page that looks like mine. I'm going to give it a try. I'll report back. 

my calendar & calendar paper 

What are you doing to go paperless?

Monday, September 2, 2013

#MindsetBC Chapters 5 & 6

I hope everyone has had a great start to school.  It's been super crazy around here. I'm ready to settle into our usual, crazy Fall routine.  And I'm glad to get back to our chat.  This week we'll chat Tuesday, September 3 at 9 p.m. CST.  Here are some possible questions to mull over...

Chapter 5

  • What's the best way to deal with a fixed mindset leader?
  • Do you find it hard to be a growth mindset leader? Why or why not?
  • I loved this definition of self-confidence "True self-confidence is "the courage to be open - to welcome change and new ideas regardless of their source". What are other definitions of self-confidence in a growth minded leader?
  • How can we root out fixed mindset and groupthink in our classrooms?
Chapter 6
  • "In a relationship, the growth mindset lets you rise above the blame, understand the problem, and try to fix it - together." This quote is about love relationships but how can we apply it to work relationships?
  • What are you thoughts about more shy people having a fixed mindset?
  • If fixed mindsets lead to bullying, what can we do to promote growth mindset in our schools?
Do you have other things you'd like to discuss about these chapters?  Let me know in the comments! See you Tuesday

Friday, August 30, 2013

Tech Camp Debrief

This week was the first week of school and our first ever Tech Camp for students.  I blogged about Tech Camp in early August when I was writing the lessons.

I could not be more pleased how things went!  We started Tuesday with 5th grade, had 6th grade on Wednesday, 7th grade Thursday and wrapped up with 8th grade on Friday.

Students were grouped alphabetically.  I posted the groups and each group's schedule the day before.  I color coded the group signs and schedules but I don't think anyone noticed ;)

I have to say, setting up the schedule was the toughest part.  Let me rephrase that...setting up the 7th and 8th grade schedules were the toughest part.  Those grades have a lot of moving parts. We share coaches and teachers with the high school. Some classes have more than one grade. I wanted all kids to get to go to PE or Athletics each day and every teacher needed a conference.

5th grade was easy because they still travel in homeroom groups.  6th grade has one coach and he just missed one period.  7th grade has 2 coaches that we share with the HS so that day was a bit confusing.  8th grade is similar to 7th grade.

Students traveled in their groups to each lesson in a rotation.  I knew that each of my groups had come from the Google session and would go to the Hardware/Software lesson next.

After I got the schedule ironed out and groups created I tried to over communicate them to everyone in school.  We used the same bell schedule so I didn't need to involve the cafeteria ladies.  I made a packet for the ladies in the office and attendance rosters for all the teachers involved.

I have to give big props to the office ladies.  Tech Camp was a beating for them.  They had to deal with paper attendance each day.  And Friday they didn't have any office aides all day because everyone in 8th grade was in Tech Camp. Not to mention all the other stuff office ladies deal with the first week of school.  But they handled it all with a smile.

Feedback from students has been very positive.  One 5th grader told me "Best Day Ever!"

Somethings to remember for next year:

  1. my portfolio creation lesson lasted all period for 5th graders but not as long for the other grades. For 7th and 8th graders we used the extra time to register for online ELA textbooks.  Add something else for 6th grade next year. 
  2. be careful to communicate all necessary information to the awesome teachers (and an administrator) who filled in so our coaches could have a conference or go to the high school.  Make sure they know everything they need to know.  
  3. give myself a conference each day. On Wednesday, 6th grade went to PE during 6th period. That's when my 8th grade tech apps class meets.  When I made the schedule I thought, 'awesome! I don't have to get someone to cover that class'.  But that day I thought "I really need to use the bathroom"
  4. Edmodo codes were challenging.  When I had my teachers for staff development in June, I had them create their Edmodo groups and give me the group codes.  I planned to write them on the student's schedules for the Accounts session.  Edmodo now locks all groups after 14 days.  So my teachers had to go in, unlock their groups and send me the new codes.  This lead to me staying up late (midnight late, I'm a 9:30 kinda gal) several nights writing in the codes.  I'm not sure how to fix this but I'm going to figure it out.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with the way Tech Camp went. I feel like our kids are fired up about Technology and are ready to hit the ground running.  It's going to be a great year!

Note - in the original post there's a link to the Tech Camp lessons

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Finding Your WHY

Today I was privileged to get to do 4 break out sessions for our staff called Finding Your WHY.

Last summer, I read the book START WITH WHY by Simon Sinek and it changed my life. Before last summer if you had asked me why I do what I do I would have said "because I am a teacher". But I had started to sense a switch in myself the previous Spring. It was my 2nd year as an Educational Technology Specialist. Up until that point, if I came across a new resource I would immediately think about how to use the tool with my students.  That Spring I began thinking which teacher needed that tool.  I had to change my idea of who I was and what I was doing.  Additionally, I was exhausted.  I had some many things going on personally that I needed to figure out why I was doing what I was doing.

In the book Sinek talks about the Golden Circle.  I made mine blue because that's our school colors
Sinek explains that conventional people or companies tell you what they do.  They might tell you how they do it.  They hardly ever tell you why they do it.  

But remarkable people, people who inspire others, start from the inside out. They know their why, they operate from that why then move to the how and the what.  

I spent a lot of time thinking about my WHY.  And I have decided that my WHY is SERVICE.  I love to serve people. It's what I'm passionate about.  I serve my Lord. I serve my family and friends.  I serve the teachers at my school, and through them, serve our students. It's why I write this blog, to serve others.  It's why I share on Twitter.  I'm passionate about EdTech and I serve others when I can put that passion into action for them.

Knowing your why clarifies every decision.  If it doesn't fit with your WHY, you don't do it.  Simple as that. It also helps you when you're feeling grumpy. If you're grumbling about doing something that does line up with your WHY, you have the opportunity to rethink about that project.  Your WHY helps you persevere.  I love this quote from the book:
"When people come to work with a higher sense of purpose, they find it easier to weather hard times or even to find opportunity in those hard times. People who come to work with a clear sense of WHY are less prone to giving up after a few failures because they understand the higher cause."

The one thing I felt is missing from the book is how to find your WHY.  It's not easy.  It's deep, personal stuff.  I thought I knew mine but the more I thought on it, the deeper I went with it until I could simply say SERVICE.  I am a servant I used the following questions to guide my thinking:
Think about the things that are most important to you.
How do you relate to those things?
What are you passionate about?
What do you think defines you?
Look for common themes in the things you do.

You can buy the book from Barnes and Noble here.  You can also learn more at

So, what's you're WHY?

Monday, August 12, 2013

#MindsetBC Chapters 3 & 4

Alrighty #MindsetBC chatters, are we ready for our 2nd chat tomorrow night - Tuesday, August 13 at 9 p.m. CST? I am! We just returned from vacation and I talking my husband's ear off about Mindset while he drove.  I love a captive audience! ;)

Here are so possible questions for tomorrow night's chat.  Please leave a comment if you have a question to add.  Also, please let me know if there's a question from the list that you REALLY want to discuss.

Chapter 3
  • What's your experience with low effort syndrome?
  • How can do you stay interested in low interest materials?  How can we help our students with these strategies?
  • What are your thoughts on the drawing experiment?
  • Are there situations where you 'get stupid'? Have you noticed this with students?
Chapter 4
  • How does someone gain mental toughness?
  • What are some ways you remember that you're a work in progress?  
  • I'm a big sports fan so I loved all the stories in the chapter.  Which was your favorite story in the chapter? 
  • How can you bring that story to your students?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hitting the Target: creating standards focused technology lessons

Last night I had the privilege of doing a Google Hangout with Michelle Russell to discuss her upcoming teacher trainings.  We were brainstorming and an idea that had knocking around in my brain came together.

I have been thinking about a graphic to show teachers how to plan a technology based lesson.  When I work with teachers I want to ensure that we are creating lessons that focus on the curriculum standards. Last night the idea of a bullseye came to me during my hangout with Michelle.  This afternoon I created the following graphic.

Start center of the bullseye - Identify the standard.  What are you teaching?  For example, Students will make connections across literary genres.

Move to the center ring - Decide what mastery of the standard looks like.  What are students doing when they are making connections across genres?  

Finally, go to the outer ring - Choose the tool. The tool should allow students to demonstrate that they have mastered the standards.  In this example that they can make connections across genres.  The tool should wrap it all up, pull it all together.  

So, what do you think?  Would this tool be useful to you and your teachers?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fine Arts/Elective Technology Staff Development

I'm going to be honest with you Fine Arts/Elective Technology Staff Development day always scares me.  Maybe not scares but it does intimate me.  First of all they are INSANELY talented!  And my talents in areas of Fine Arts are greatly underdeveloped.  It's intimating to plan training for a group of 6 people who all do different things.  Our school has 1 PE teacher/coach, 1 choir director, 1 band director, 1 theatre teacher and 1 art teacher and I get to have them all together in 1 glorious day full of words, ideas and concepts that I don't understand.

So, in my continued effort to focus on my learners, I asked them to work on any technology based project that they want to have ready for the start of the year.  I consulted one on one with each of them individually but they did most of the heavy lifting.  Here's what they worked on...

Our 5th and 6th graders are going to delve into spreadsheets and charts this year.  First, they will log all their activities. Then they will enter their data into a spreadsheet and create a chart. Second, they will log their food intake, enter data and chart it.  Finally, they will log both and make one chart to see if their activity out weighted their food intake.

In the past, our art students have created digital portfolios in PowerPoint. This year, our art teacher decided to take it to the 'net.  Students are creating Google Site portfolios during Tech Camp this year.  Students in art will add their art work to their portfolio.  Our art teacher spent the day creating a sample site to share with the students.

Our theatre teacher wanted to use avatars in her class.  She knew about Voki but I introduced her to Blabberize.  I was going to show her xtranormal but we discovered they closed down July 31! She's going to use avatars after they learn about voice acting. Students will create a super hero costume and avatar. Then the avatars will speak to the class and the class will try to guess who created the super hero.

Our choir director was a part of our 1 iPad classroom training so she spent the day working on her iPad. She shared an app with us called SoundyThingie.  The music changes depending on where you 'draw' on the screen.  I believe you can control pitch and resonance but those are things I know nothing about so don't catch me lying.

Our band director spent her day exploring a website she learned about at a music conference she attended this summer.  It's called Quaver's Marvelous World of Music It is awesome. Here's a screenshot! Look at those graphics!

Students can create music in a variety of genres on the site.  She described it as Bill Nye the Science Guy for music.  They have a ton of videos on YouTube.  Check this one out!

What ideas do you have for incorporating technology into Fine Arts and Elective courses?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Tech Camp

Blazing a new trail...
I am so excited for our 1st Tech Camp this year! Tech Camp is one the many hairbrained ideas I've hatched in the shower. I'm so blessed to have a principal that supports most of my nutty ideas.

The first week of school each grade will have an all day Tech Camp. 5th grade will be Tuesday, 6th grade Wednesday, 7th grade Thursday and 8th grade Friday. Students will be divided into groups and will travel together all day. Each department is responsible for teaching lessons.  I created the lessons in Google Drive and shared them with the teachers.

Why Tech Camp

Last year we taught most of these lessons through out the year in the library and called them Tech Bytes. The lessons went well but we never had enough time to really discuss issues.  And something has to be taught later in the year.  When we'd talk about citing sources in April students would say "I wish I knew this earlier".  So, the idea is to front load them.  Spend time at the beginning of the year to save time throughout the year.  A key piece of Tech Camp (and one that I'm still working on) is an ebook manual for students called Tech Tips.  All the Tech Camp info will be in Tech Tips plus some 'how to' pages.  Students will have Tech Tips shared with them through Google Drive in their Google Apps & Searching session.  Since it will 'live' in their Drive, all students really have to know is how to sign into their GAFE accounts!

Tech Camp will cover
  • Digital Citizenship - taught by the Social Studies department with the help of our counselor.  Each grade has an unique lesson.  5th grade focuses Netiquette and Cyber bullying.  6th grade focuses on Digital Media (the beginning of a digital footprint) and Digital Drama.  7th and 8th grade focus on Digital Footprints, Profiles and appropriate sharing.  7th & 8th grades have different videos to watch but the underlying themes are similar. Most of these lessons are remixes of lessons from Common Sense Media. 
  • Copyright - taught by the English Language Arts department.  Students will learn the basics of copyright and siting sources.  They will be introduced to Britannica Image Quest (a product that our district subscribes to that offers copyright free images).  Students will work in teams to create glogsters to summarize copyright information and use images from Image Quest.
  • Hardware/Software - taught by the Math department.  This is a QR code matching game to introduce students to hardware and software terminology.  One card has the vocabulary word, the matching card has the definition. There is a QR code on the back. If the student makes a match, they scan the code and get an affirmative message.  If they don't receive a message, they don't have a match. 
  • Accounts and Expectations - taught by the Science department. In this session, students will sign up for Edmodo (if needed) and join their classes on Edmodo.  Students will receive their class schedules with the Edmodo group codes for each class written on the schedule.  They will also create their Prezi accounts.  Expectations for account usage will also be discussed. 
  • Google Apps & Searching - taught by our Librarian.  Students will be introduced to their GAFE account.  Email and Drive will be explored.  Students will practice sharing by sharing Tech Tips (a student 'how to' guide that I'm in the process of creating).  Students will also go through a safe and effective searching mini-lesson.  
  • Portfolio - taught by me.  I'm so excited about this one.  I've been worried for some time now that our students' digital work disappears and dies a sad death.  So, I've created a template in Google Sites to get students started.  During Camp, we'll personalize the template and add pages for each class.  Then we'll add projects to the pages during the school year.  Then at camp next year, they'll create a new section of pages for the new year. 
You can see all the lessons by clicking here.  This will take you to my Drive folder with the lessons.  Each lesson file includes the grade level Technology Applications TEKS.  If you're not from Texas those wouldn't mean much to you ;) You'll also a few find supplementary materials in the folder. 

Please let me know what you think! 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

OhLife!! Email Journaling

I replied to Jessica with a tool I've been using personally: OhLife.  

OhLife sends me an email each night. I reply to the email with what happened that day.  The really cool thing is that everyday I get to see something I've previously written.  I don't know if it's going to be a week only or a month old.

I had not thought about using it in the classroom until Jessica tweeted this morning.  But it could be very powerful.  Students could log in to their email each morning and reply to their OhLife email and reflect on the day before.  At the end of the year (or anytime really) they can login at to see their previous entries.  If you login and click Past student can choose to Export or Write.  Using the Export feature, students could turn in their journals.  And it's all free!!

OhLife also offers another free service: Time Capsule! You can send an email to your future self.  Last year I had my 8th graders send an email to themselves as Seniors. They'll receive their email on April 1st of their Senior year.  This year, I'm going to have my students do it twice.  Once at the beginning of the year to themselves at the end of the year about what they expect to accomplish this year.  Then at the end of the year to their Senior-selves.  

You could also use this with teachers you train. How many times have your forgotten about something you learned at a professional development session?  Have them send themselves an email reminder to use the new tool they've just learned about. 

How will you use OhLife?  Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Your words have power

Last night was the first #MindsetBC chat on Twitter.  I am really pleased with the how the chat went. Lots of great discussion.  You can see the Storify of the chat here.

In the book, Dr. Dweck talks about not being put in a high reading group.  That lead to this discussion:

I had always been in the high group.  So, one day I was trotted across the parking lot to the Intermediate School with the rest of the high group.  We took at test and went back to school. I didn't think much about it.

A little while latter (It could have been two weeks, a month, 2 months. I have no idea) several of my high group friends were trotted back across the parking lot while I stayed behind.  When they got back I asked my friend John where they went.  We were at GT. That night I ask my Momma about it.  That lead to "The Meeting".

"The Meeting" was at the Intermediate School in a portable.  It was my Momma, the GT teacher and me.  Momma and I sat on at a kidney table and the GT teacher sat in the middle on the other side.  I don't remember everything but I do remember very clearly these words:

Aimee is just not as smart as she's lead you to believe. 

Even typing those words today makes my heart race.  Maybe I'm not.  How did I fool everyone?  I didn't mean to trick anybody.  

I stayed in the high groups and honor classes until middle school until creative differences over The Yearling lead to my exit. I do not like animal stories.  Like hate them. I offered to read War and Peace instead.  My insistence lead me to be labeled 'difficult' and exited from Honors. 

Needless to say high school was boring.  I was not challenged and I did the minimum to get by.  I was not a straight A student.  But, I didn't fail (except Spanish, that's another story).  And no one talked to me about college.  I'm the youngest of 3. All 3 of us and my Momma graduated from the same high school.  No one in my family had gone to college.  I guess the counselors just assumed I wouldn't either.  

But I did.  I received a dance scholarship to a junior college. Then I transferred to my beloved East Texas State University in Commerce, Texas.  In college I started feeling smart again.  I loved learning. This continued when I went to graduate school at Texas A&M University in College Station.  In grad school I had several professors who built me back up. They knew I was smart and expected me to lead.  And I did.  

I still have times when that GT teacher echoes in my ears.  Especially when a project doesn't go the way I expect or when I'm rejected.  When she does, I try to have my grad school professors talk her down. 

As we gear up for another school year, please remember that your words have an impact. Think before you speak. Love the ugly cats. Speak love to all kids.  You may need to be stern but there's no reason to be mean.  Just love kids.  It's what they need the most from us.