Thursday, May 29, 2014


I can name 5 books that impacted me deeply. They changed the way I looked at the world and myself - The Bible, Harriet the Spy, Start with Why, Freakonomics and Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now.  I was deeply saddened by the lost of Dr. Maya Angelou yesterday.  I struggled all day long thinking about how to externalize what I was feeling.

In 1996, I was commuting to my last semester of college from home.  I had moved back home that year to help with a family situation.  My semester was easy course wise because I had left all my electives to the end. I had an entire semester of electives.  But the drive was brutal.  An hour one way into the country.  I was preparing for graduate school.  Applying, interviewing and deciding.  I felt very at home at my university.  It was small and friendly.  I was involved in lots of things.  I was looking at graduate schools that were large, out of state and some out of the south.  Big changes.  I listened to a lot of books on tape that semester.

My momma gave me Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey now on cassette.  I listened and feel in love.  Maya read the book herself.  I loved listening to her talk.  Journey is a collection of her thoughts and lessons. It's not a sequential retelling of her life.  Her lessons spoke directly to my heart.  Her words changed me and molded me into who I was becoming (not who I am, I'm not finished).

As I struggled yesterday I wanted to share which words impacted me the most.  So, I went back through Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now.  Here are Dr. Angelou's words that shaped my heart...

On Style - "We should be aware of all we do and how we do all that we do.  Never try to take the manners of another as your own.  For the theft will be immediately evident and the thieve will appear as ridiculous as  robin with peacock feathers hastily stuck on it."

"Meet adverse situations with the intent and style to control it."

On Humor - "A woman should keep her sense of humor intact and at the ready.  She must see, even if only in secret, that she is the funniest, looniest woman in her world, which she should also see as the most absurd world of all time. "

On Life - "Human beings are more alike than they are unlike"

"We are created creative."

"Life loves the liver of it."

"Because of our routines we forget that life is an ongoing adventure."

"What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it.  If you can't change it, change the way you think about it.  Don't complain." (this was advice from her grandmother)

On Direction - "Each of us has the right and the responsibility to assess the roads which lie ahead and those over which we have traveled and if the future road looms ominous or unpromising and the roads back uninviting, the we need to gather our resolve and, carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road and into another direction.  If the new choice is also unacceptable, without embarrassment we must be ready to change that one as well."

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Addition by Subtraction

Through the next few months we'll all be planning for next year's students.  Many of us already know new things we want to try next year.  Or maybe there was a lesson or unit that didn't go well and you want to change it.  Perhaps your standards have changed and you need to teach new material.  And you may already be am I going to do it all?

Here's a nickle's worth of free advice...

Practice Addition by Subtraction

And now you're thinking: What. In. The. World? Hear me out...

Often in education and VERY often in edtech, we chase the shiny.  What's the newest gadget? What's the latest app? What's everybody buzzing about? And then we cram it into our curriculum.

Not only does this crowd your curriculum, it leaves you crazed and cranky.  It also diminishes the impact of the technology.  Students begin seeing the technology as an add on instead of one of many tools at their disposal.  So, before you add one more thing, identify what you can subtract.

When I work with teachers, I like to work to transform a lesson they already do into a technology infused lesson.  I don't want to shoe horn in another project. There's just not enough time for that.

You have to get the most bang for your buck! Bundle your standards to see what you can teach together.  Students can demonstrate mastery of several standards at once.

As you decide to add something to your lesson plans, also decide what you will subtract.  I'm not talking about subtracting standards.  You still have to teach all your standards.  I mean don't have students create a Tackk of Egyptian culture AND build a pyramids.  And moving pet projects to purely at home projects, doesn't count as subtracting them.  Then you're just assigning them to parents.

When planning units, remember to Hit the Target!

How will you practice addition by subtraction?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

#TXGoo 14

I loved being at #TxGoo - Texas Google Summit today.  #TxGoo is always a great time to see members of my PLN and the Tech4Tex put on a great conference. This year Kyle Pace keynoted and brought his precious momma.  The food was great - huge BBQ sandwiches and Blue Bell Ice Cream.

Moooooving to Drive

Can You Hear Me Now?

One of my favorite things (and there are many) about #TxGoo is the Photo Booth.  These pics are of me and some of my favorite EdTech Women - Rafranz Davis (@rafranzdavis), Martha Lackey (@lackeymartha) and Kristy Vincent (@bigpurplehat)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Failing Forward

Students must be allowed to experience failure

Failure is not an option.  

Educators often send mixed messages to students.  One of the most prevalent right now is about failure.  We say school must be a safe place to experience failure then turn around and require students to pass a standardized test in order to be promoted to the next grade level.

This time of year, failure is a top concern.

  • What students have failed THE TEST?
  • What students have failed to earn credit for their courses?
  • Have I failed my students as their teacher? 
Standardized testing is a part of our educational landscape.  Laws of the land dictate that they must pass.  And yet, many teachers want to provide opportunity for failure.  We want our students to make mistakes and learn to survive them.  

How do we mediate these two competing messages for our students?

Failing Forward - this is failure that moves you towards a goal instead of away from it.  We must teach students how to fail forward.  How can this failed attempt inform your next attempt?  

Be Honest - some failures have consequences.  Openly discuss those before, during and after the event.  Don't be Suzy Sunshine, 'everything's going to be alright!'.  Be positive but be honest. 

Fail to plan, plan to fail - work with students to develop a success plan before they begin.  If failure occurs, review what went wrong and develop a new plan.  

Share your failures - students think all their teachers were geeks in school.  If you struggled with an academic subject tell them about it.  But also tell them how you adapted or overcame.  Within reason, share what you struggle with now.  I struggle receiving feedback on my fiction writing.  I'm too invested in my characters and I don't receive feedback well.  I've shared that with my students.  They know I'm working on distancing myself so that I can receive feedback and improve my writing.  

Offer safe opportunities for failure and creative exploration - Genius Hour is a great time for this.  During Genius Hour (sometimes called 20% time) students get to explore something they are passionate about and create something related to their passion.  This is a great time for students to try new things.  And you get to coach them through the process.  Learn more about Genius Hour here.

Allow them to learn from failure - I hate NO REDO policies.  I don't need a kid to get a 65 on a multiplication quiz.  I need them to learn to multiply.  Redos can be overwhelming from a grading and recording keeping perspective.  You don't have to offer redos on everything but key or foundational concepts it is a must.  You can't build a house on a missing foundation. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

#EdTech Draft 2014

We are big football fans around the Bartis house.  I mean super-size-Texas big! We were supposed to have 2 baseball games tonight but a storm blew through this afternoon.  My boys are giddy to watch the NFL draft tonight.  And, truthfully, so am I.  In honor of the NFL draft, I present my #EdTech Draft.  I'm going to give you my 3 favorite tools in 3 different rounds.

Web-based Round
#1 - Google Apps for Education - Oh the things you can do! Email, word processing, spreadsheets, slides, drawings, forms!  And work collaboratively.  But, hands down my favorite thing about Google is the 'restore the revision' function that allows you to go back to previous (autosaved) drafts.  To find this function, click File - See Revision History - choose the revision you like - restore this revision.  This has made Mrs. Bartis a hero to many students.

#2 - Canva - Canva is a beautiful graphic design website.  I make most of the images I use on the blog with Canva.  It's very easy to use.  You can also sign up to receive design lessons via email.  Canva is free to use and has many great free images.  Premium images are only a dollar each.  When you finish your image you are free to download and use it.  Canva does not require branding on your images.  I added the 'made in Canva' to the image above.

#3 PicMonkey - Another wonderful free tool! You can quickly edit images without logging in.  If I make my Canva image too large, I upload it to PicMonkey, crop it then download it.  You can upgrade PicMonkey to a Royale account.  You get some awesome effects with a Royale account including zombie effects.

iPad apps
#1 - Penultimate - Penultimate is an notetaking app that allows you to write in your own handwriting. I love to make lists.  I have my calendar in Penultimate as well as several other notebooks of notes.  I have notebooks for my classes, sermon notes, and recurring meetings.  Along with my Adnoit JotPro stylus, I use Penultimate every day.

#2 - Book Creator - My students can make some awesome ebooks with Book Creator.  They can draw, add photos and even videos.  Book Creator also lets them narrate their book.  One of my favorite assignments this year was the Geometry Scrapbook.  Students found geometric shapes in the wild, took photos and created a picture book using Book Creator.

#3 - iFiles - a life saver when you share iPads!  Many apps let you export your product to iFiles.  You can then use WiFi sharing to see the files on your iPad on your desktop.  For the Geometry Scrapbooks, students exported to iFiles, I downloaded them to my iMac and burned them all to a DVD.  Super easy!

Cross Platform
#1 - Evernote - I love that I can get to my notes and Penultimate notes on my computer, iPhone or iPad.  I save all kinds of information in Evernote: passwords (encrypted of course), medical notes, and ideas for later.  You can type, speak or take photos in a note.  Lately, I've been taking pictures of information that comes home from school and putting it in Evernote.  I have a notebook for each boy.  Tomorrow when I need to know what time Sam will be back from Band competition, I'll open Sam's notebook and the picture of note from the band director will be there.  You can also read about how Sam's using Evernote here.

#2 - Comic Life - Comic Life is an iPad app and a downloadable computer program.  It's a bit on the expensive side but so far worth it.  My 5th graders use it all the time.  They recently created a timeline using Comic Life.  Students created 1 frame comic poster for each timeline entry.  They then pasted them on a large piece of butcher paper.

#3 - Remind 101 - My teachers, students and parents LOVE Remind 101.  You can send texts from their website or app. As a mom, Remind 101 helps me keep up to speed with my boys' school work.  I also use it for our numerous sports teams.  It's so easy to send a game change text from my phone.  Especially on the weekend of baseball tournaments.  Remind 101 is always improving and adding new features.  Currently, you can attach documents to texts.  And every text you send is backed up by Remind 101.  So you'll always know what you sent and when you sent it.

There are my #EdTech Draft pics! What are yours?