Breaking Down the Walls

It is a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I am sitting on my front porch.  I have a beautiful view of one of the best parks in my town and it is bustling with children playing, tennis players grunting, and people walking the track.   I am feeling pretty darn happy and well, lucky…  First of all, I completed my Masters Degree in Educational Technology this summer so I have a lot more time on my hands to enjoy afternoons like this:))  Second, I am quickly approaching a school year that I will be spending a good portion of my day doing what I LOVE… working with students on projects and integrating technology into all subject areas.  Last but not least, I was fortunate enough to present some sessions at our district’s professional development technology day.

I co-presented a session with one of my amazing friends – who in my opinion (and many others) is a complete stitch!  Not only is she caring and compassionate towards her students, she is one of the hardest working teachers I know,  one who is always willing to take risks and try new things, she is also extremely entertaining!  I had a GREAT time preparing our presentation together and an even better time presenting with her.  Please follow her on Twitter @JenPierson1.  Our presentation was about creating a “Global Classroom”.  We talked about Author Skype, Mystery Skype, Blogging, Twitter, and something new we are both trying this year, The Global Read Aloud.   Click on the links to find out more about these programs to help you create a global classroom.  Here is a link to our presentation with a bunch of info, links to resources, and some funny teacher ecards from :)) I will talk about these topics in more detail as the year goes on!

The next two sessions I talked about student blogging.  I have a strong passion for student blogging in the classroom.  I started blogging with my students in January of 2014.  Right away I could see the amazing changes in my students as writers.  They were more motivated, engaged, and actually tried to produce better writing!  I attribute all of those positive changes to the fact that they were writing for an authentic audience.   Now, students aren’t just writing for a grade, me, or their parents.  They are writing for their peers and if you do enough “PR” for your student’s blogs, the whole world!  Each year I set new goals to add more to my student’s blogging experience.  This year, I am going to connect with other classes through  This is a service that connects you with three other classes from around the world and you each take turns commenting on each other’s posts.  I am really excited to start this and will keep you posted!!  This will definitely show my students there actually IS an audience out in the real world who wants to read their writing.  I really am excited!!!!  Other ways I have ensured an authentic audience would “find” my student blogs is through Twitter.  If you use #comments4kids and include a link to your blog, there is a good possibility, but no guarantee that your students will receive comments. I have used this hashtag on numerous occasions and finally had a connection at the beginning of the school year.  A group of college students were assigned by their professor to make comments on my student’s blogs.  The smiles and excitement my students felt was priceless!  I have also found authors on Twitter, Facebook, and through email and invited them to read book review posts my students have written.  I had two students last year whose author actually shared their iMovie book trailer on their own website!  Now that truly motivated the rest of the class to write more and more!!  I highly recommend you try blogging with your students.  Here is a link to my presentation with loads of ideas for blogging in all subject areas and a ton of resources.  Also, check out my iTunes U course called “Blogging in the Classroom” for a step by step guide to get you started blogging in your own classroom.  There are permission slips, rubrics, and links to all of the resources I have used to get me started!!

I always felt a little guilty, asking my students to blog and share with the world their ideas when I wasn’t doing the same.  It feels great knowing I can model and share my experiences with my students this year and I hope to motivate them more than ever through my example.

Now that is Positively Techie…

Back to School Tools

It is that time of year again, one of my favorite times of the year….Back to School time!  The things that make this a favorite time for me are setting up my classroom, planning new and exciting things for the upcoming year, a classroom full of new students, and of course – new school supplies!! :))  There are two tools I pull out of my toolbox at the beginning of the year that I can’t live without, Remind and Planbook.

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I found Remind two years ago when I was the “Cheer Mom” for my daughter’s cheer team.  I was in charge of communicating with the parents on game time, location, snacks, etc…  I was looking for a way to text all the parents at once because there were many times the location of the game was changed last minute or a practice was cancelled due to inclement weather.  I didn’t want to input all their numbers in my phone (I was busy with a new school year, new grade level, and four kids at home :))  I found this amazing website and app called Remind101.  Remind *new name* is a free service that allows teachers to communicate with parents and students safely through text messages. Teachers never see the parents/student’s phone numbers and vise versa.  I can send messages through the app on my phone or iPad or I can send the message from my computer.  I can even schedule messages to be sent at a later time!  I use Remind with only my parents as my students are too young to use the service (must be 13 years old or older).  It is super easy for parents to sign up.  In my back to school communications I send a page that looks like this: invite 2 .  As you can see, all it takes for a parent to sign-up is a quick text message or email (if that is their preferred method).  The name suggests that you would use this to simply remind parents of upcoming events, but you’d be mistaken.  The possibilities are endless – it is really up to the individual teacher as to how much or little they want to use the service.  I used Remind to remind parents of upcoming events as well as a way for me to share with parents what is happening in my classroom.  Below are a few of the messages I sent last year so you can get an idea of how I used it:

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If you Google “Ways to use Remind” a ton of sites pop up with a variety of ideas for Kindergarten teachers through college professors.  Here are a few links to some:

This is from the Remind Blog.

This is from a blog called Instructional Fluency.

Here is a link from TeacherCast for a few ways District Admins can use Remind.

I highly recommend giving Remind a try.  Parents LOVE this form of communication as they are as connected to their phones as much as the students are!  No longer can a student say “Nothing” when asked by a parent what they did in school that day…

Here is a link to the Remind site so you can learn more and sign up!

Planbook is the next tool I pull out of the toolbox and can’t live without!  Even though I am considered pretty “techie”, I am still a bit old fashioned and LOVE reading actual paper books, writing to do lists down on paper, and well before last school year – writing out my lesson plans with paper and pencil.  I stumbled upon a website that provided a digital plan book called… :))  It cost $12 per year so last year I figured I would give it a shot.  I was a little nervous at first because I was taking a risk and going out of my comfort zone…teachers can understand the special bond they have with their lesson plan books.  In the past, I would meticulously make my lesson plan pages on the computer, color coded subject areas and all.  I would then print them out, hole punch them, and add them to my binder.  My beloved flairs would come next as I would mark down (color coded of course ) days off of school, meetings after school, All School Meetings, etc.  Last, I would get my pencils sharpened and start planning!  By week three – my plan book had erase marks, arrows, and wasn’t so “perfect” looking as it was on the first day of school, but that was okay – that is what happens every year because as we all know – plans change.

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So, I started the year using this digital plan book and it took a couple weeks for me to get comfortable.  One of the first benefits I realized was that as the schedules changed last minute, I could easily change my schedule without having to reprint a bunch of pages and rewrite upcoming events on the new sheets…It was easy AND a huge time saver!  I still wasn’t 100% sold.  I missed my pencils.  I stuck with it and I am not kidding you – after two weeks I was completely sold and had no idea how I lived without this tool!  I had my plan book at the tip of my fingers, on my phone, iPad, and computer.  I could update my plans wherever/whenever I needed to.  Those arrows I was talking about on my paper plan book…not a problem.  If you don’t get to a lesson or need an extra day you just need to click the “bump” button and all following lessons for that subject get bumped to the next day.  Do you turn your lesson plans in to your principal or share plans with a co-teacher?  Not a problem, you can easily share your plans with pretty much anyone!  Do you need to show what Common Core Standards your lesson correlates with?  Not a problem, Planbook has all CCS you can attach to your lessons.  Have a link to a video or website to show students during a lesson? Not a problem, no need to have a bunch of windows open on your desktop – you can have live links in your plans with Planbook.  Oh and there are a bunch more NEW features – my favorite – the Google+ integration.  The list of features goes on and on… I urge you to check it out for yourself and give it the good old college try.  After all, we want our students to be risk takers, so shouldn’t we lead by example?

Now that is Positively Techie…

Why I LOVE to Share…

I have been presenting tech ideas to teachers in my building for the past couple of years.  These presentations were small lunch sessions consisting of how to use specific apps, integrate technology into the classroom, and other technology uses.  I recently gave my first presentation (on student blogging) to a group of teachers outside of my building.  This is something I have always wanted to do, but never felt confident enough to go for it.  I am so glad I did!   It was amazing!  The energy I felt as I presented was electrifying.  It felt natural, easy, and comfortable.  It was exactly what I should be doing and I want to do it more.

I am a reflective person, I like to reflect and think about how I can make things different/better.  As I reflected on my first “real” presentation, I was excited to think about all the teachers who will be starting their school year trying new things (like student blogging) and making their student’s educational experience that much better, because of me!  Then I thought, how can I reach even MORE educators?  (Because reaching more educators = reaching more students)  Of course blogging came to mind :))  Thoughts keep rushing through my mind: “Why would anyone read my blog?, What do I have to share that isn’t already out there?, Will this blog really make a difference in the way we educate our students?”.   And the thoughts keep coming, but the challenge I face and the risk I am taking to put myself out there feels – right.

I have a busy school year planned ahead of me.  I teach 5th grade and this will be my second year with 1:1 iPads in my classroom.  I will have a new innovative, flexible classroom space that I am super excited about,  I am trying new Global activities as well as continuing with ones I’ve used in the past, and I am planning on giving more presentations.  I will use this space to share all of the ideas, risks, fun, failures, and accomplishments I encounter this year in hopes to inspire educators to become innovative in their own classroom.

Now that is Positively Techie…