Implementing Change: ISTE 2016

I was fortunate to attend ISTE and bring some ideas and technologies back to my school. Below are some of my favorites!



This is a way for students to create their own video game. First you use cubes and a board to build the structure. Then you take a picture of the board and it becomes the actual video game board….so cool! Create a character and you’re off!

CUE STEAMpunk Playground

Hopscotch: this is an iOS app that is a FREE way for students to learn to code. It’s available now¬† and so. much. fun.

Swift 3: iOS also. This is a free app for students to learn to program. Powerful application for schools!

Drones/Sphero: why not use drones and Sphero to teach content? Think STEAM rather than giving it lip service. By integrating these into our subjects, we can better engage our students in their world and make content come to life! My students will be coming up with a way to create a Sphero/Ollie obstacle course for our tech lab…..

Virtual Reality

Whether it’s Google Cardboard or another, this is the perfect way to take a 36o degree field trip under the ocean or abroad. Students will love it as it opens your classroom to the world in ways never seen before. We can create our own with students through older technology like Pano360 or newer technology like Ricoh Theta and a selfie stick. Easy and educational.



Finally, conquering fears. I went to iFly for some indoor skydiving with some others from my district. I have no problem taking risks when it comes to my professional life, but my personal life, well, I think I speak for most of us there when I say we were a bit scared. I conquered a fear and modeled what I preach.

The Future is Here: Are you Ready to Join the Innovation Movement?


This is my presentation from last week’s CUE conference.

Future Ready


Creation: Let’s Get it Made!


Creation Presentation


Is Creativity Lost in School?

As I was watching a recent episode of The Middle a college English teachers asks one of the characters, Sue, why she is in college. Sue proceeds to tell him that it’s because she graduated from high school to which he replies, “What do you want to learn? What do you want to accomplish?”

She then replies, “Is this a test question?”

He explains to her that most people come to college because they want to expand their world view or become critical thinkers.

Sue says that’s good and begins to write that down. He stops her.

How many of our students are Sue. For how many of our students has formal schooling turned into a Sue? Follow directions. Read. Take notes. Do it for the test. Do what you’re told. Go to college because you’ve graduated from high school.

But I believe it’s even bigger than that. It goes back to Ken Robinson’s idea that schools have killed creativity. How do we, the educators change that?

I believe it’s a few things.

  1.  Teachers must be encouraged to take risks. There has to be a culture within schools and school systems where educators are comfortable trying new things and being innovative. Without moving into the year 2016, we are stuck in the last century and with it an old mindset.
  2. Encourage students to also take risks and take the time to explain what they’re doing. We want them to question and go deeper rather than just accept at face value.
  3. Add more play! We know that in Finland, students get fifteen minutes of recess for every hour they are in school with huge success. Imagine what this would do for students’ creative juices. Not only that, what might it do for ADHD, sensory issues, and on and on?
  4. Less homework. There has been so much discussion about this in the last few years. Home time is for family, sports, and extracurricular. Our students aren’t getting enough sleep; how can they think and be focused for school if they don’t have time in the evening to unwind and sleep?

It will take teamwork to make changes in our education system. These changes need to come from us, the educators, from within our system, to do what’s best for us and our students!

Getting to this Point…












Going through the National Board process early on in my career certainly helped shape me as an educator. Additionally it had provided me with opportunities I would not have otherwise have: I have spoken with district and state superintendents, local politicians, and one of the highlights was speaking before members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

But our career is not made up of highlights but of day-to-days… we impact students, educators, and the field overall: that is what will make a career.

For me going through the process solidified my reflective nature. I have renewed also and that process gave me the opportunity to reflect on the professional learning I had gone through and how that learning actually impacted my practice. I took months to reflect on the training that I had completed and determine how worthwhile they were; what impact they actually had. As a result, I am particular about how I spend my time. Particular about the professional learning I take part in. Particular about the degree programs I choose.

I am currently the Innovation & Technology Coach at a middle school. I oversee the professional learning at the school as well as coach teachers as we move our school to one that is project-based learning and 1:1 iPads.

I work hard to use that same high standard to create personalized professional learning for my teachers and staff that I want for myself. I am reflective after each PL session that I plan and ask for feedback to better it for the future.

The National Board process is one that allows us time for reflection. Reflection to become better teacher. Reflection to become better coaches. Reflection to become better educators.



Over the break I took some much needed time to rejuvenate.

And then I jumped right back into EdCampVoxer to get some much needed personalized professional learning! What an amazing few days it was! Sessions about blogging, school culture, personalized PL, and coaching. Everything I needed to get myself ready for second semester.

Personalized professional learning is something I strive to do well in my school. It’s my first year in this position, so I am certainly evolving. I work hard to create learning opportunities both face-to-face and online for teachers that will meet their needs. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes I am not.

What did EdCampVoxer bring?

Voxer: Using this simple walkie talkie voice and text tool to create groups for teachers to communicate, share resources, and learn from one another.

Slack: This is an app I’ve only downloaded from the app store but not gone too deep into. I believe that there are great positive implications to it, though. This is a place where I could organize different groups for different purposes and people could opt in according to their wants/needs. A give coaching cohort could be one group, people interested in tools for one specific purpose could opt in to another. That way people don’t have to get cluttered inboxes. I see read potential in this!

Twitter: Not going too detailed into this one. One of the best ways to personalize PL. Join it. Join chats. Enough said.

Digital badging: A fun way to get credit for the learning that one accomplishes. These are set up through Mozilla or Credly or others and educators can convert badges to credits. Badges can also be shared via social media for fun.

Edcamp: This free unconference has become wildly popular all over the country. People attend ready to share knowledge or simply gain it. Sign up and show up for a day of unconventional learning: you will get out of it what you want! Do a search online to find one near you!

These are a few of the modes but when it comes right down to it, we have to work with our districts to be sure they are on board with personalized PL. The key is to move beyond one side fits all ‘sit and get’ to understanding that if personalized learning is the way to for our students, it is certainly the way to go for our teachers. Many systems are on their way, some more than others. It’s so important that teachers get the learning they need and crave.

Leaving a Legacy

I’ve been working with my middle school student advocate team. Together we are learning about leaving a legacy and the importance of advocating for themselves and their school. In my opinion there is no better time for this than during the middle school years. By nature middle school students know that they can change the world. Watching them come together for three days with three other local middle schools was incredible. They fed off one another’s energy as they came up with these plans to each leave a legacy.

One of the iniatives of my team is to teach teachers and students to better use their devices–in authentic ways in class. As we are 1:1 iPads, this is brilliant, timely, and useful. I felt I needed to come up with ways to encourage and assist them with this goal. Today at our meeting I borrowed some tips from Jennie Magiera’s session at GAEtc.

We practiced teaching one another by doing it one step at a time, hands behind our backs, counting to three while we use our voices and not our hands. Tough, of course, when we’d rather do it for our partner! After some practice, they got the hang of it and we came up with a list of useful techy things we’ll teach our peers….theirs and mine!

Interactive Whiteboards: A Hit or a Miss?


In one of my Voxer groups we have had a discussion about interactive white boards and their purpose and worth in today’s classroom. It seems that many schools are removing them as they are not seen as purposeful in a student-centered, device-centric classroom.
I remember a short time ago as a teacher when these were so sought after. They were the everything device in a classroom! I would spend hours creating interactive flip charts that my students could interact with while in small groups. Students would self-check as the charts would make noises (a huge hit with eighth graders) and be multi levels. It took time and skill but was worth it, right?
Now we are moving to 1:1. Students interact with the world at their fingertips. If we need something on the board, there is Airdrop, Reflector, and an iPad. Students can seamlessly share information in a much easier way. Teachers can too. 
The added bonus is the cost. For a $5000 interactive system, think of the number of classroom devices. We annotate, interact with, and have a completely engaging classroom where STUDENTS are making their meaning; students are creating; and students are learning.

I think my mind is made up.

Social Media


Over the past few years there has been an explosion of social media in the lives of educators. We use it for our own personalized professional learning, we use it in our classrooms, and in some cases we even use it for fun.

Twitter and Instagram can have huge positive ramifications on our classrooms. One way we used it in elementary school was through classroom accounts; teachers were able to share student work in live time with parents. This gave students the opportunity to show what they were doing with their communities and the world. 

Teachers and students took pictures of their work and handed off the device to their students who could then type the specifics. This serves a few purposes. First, parents are able to share the classroom experience. What amazing power this is–living school with your student. Second, the real-life modeling and slow-release of using social media from kindergarten on is essential in our world. By starting this early on, we as educators are able to show our students how to use social media for good and allow them to begin to build a positive digital footprint.
Being in a new setting, a middle school this year, I look forward to continuing this work and finding even more uses for social media as I work with teachers use modeling and slow release to help our students learn to use it well and build their positive digital footprint.

Failing with Pride

As I watched a middle school drama class last week, I am again reminded how much we as adults can learn from our students. The teacher was telling her students that they needed to fail with pride and as they did, the class was to applaud each time for both the error and learning from that error. What would happen if each and every one of us taught our students this message? What would happen if each and every one of us lived this lesson in our own professional and personal lives?

I watched these sixth graders, in their first week of middle school, many nervous inside, happily failing with pride. And I watched their teachers model this for them.

What an amazing start to middle school. What I hope is that creating this amazing culture of risk-takers in our students is the beginning of something incredible.

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