Monday, May 14, 2012

#EdCampMKE Reflection: Connections

I love the way that EdCamps work.  For those that haven’t attended an one before, an EdCamp is an Unconference where there are no set presentations. The attendees put their ideas on a Post-It, stick it to a schedule board, and then everyone goes to what interests them.  With no formal presentations, most sessions turn into roundtable discussions.  You can learn what other districts are doing, the problems they’ve faced and conquered, and challenge your thinking. The best part is that you are in charge of your own learning.  If the session you are in doesn’t meet your needs, get up and leave; find what is interesting to you.  If the discussion needs to continue past the scheduled hour, there is a free room for you to do that.  Topics can also develop during the day as one did with Apple TV. I was able to choose, and that’s powerful.

My goal with #EdCampMKE was to make connections. Teachers, Administrators, Professors, Librarians, and all the others who attended want to share their experiences and hear what others have to say.  I have expanded my Professional Learning Network (PLN)  who I can go to for advice and problem solving. These connections are the greatest benefit of attending an EdCamp. After I attended #EdCampChicago in May 2011, I had the start of an excellent network. I was able to develop more professional relationships and learn from these individuals on a daily basis through what they Tweeted.  These connections are what I find most valuable from EdCamp.

Connections are not only made face to face.  Sitting in the Commons during the Smackdown, individuals not even at the EdCamp were adding resources along with those that were in other sessions.  I had conversations over Twitter with those that were following along virtually. See the collected resources on the EdCampMKE Blog. Through social networking, the learning can continue!

To give educators the opportunity to come for free (including breakfast and lunch) to share and learn new ideas is priceless.  Thank you to the very generous sponsors; organizers Chad Kafka and Tammy Lind;  and all of the volunteers that made one very powerful day of learning.   

Monday, April 23, 2012

World Book Night

Fresh Out of the Box Books!
Today is World Book Night, a movement to get reluctant or non-readers a book.  Started in the UK and Ireland, this is the first time it has happened in the United States.  One had to apply to be a giver and chose from 30 popular titles to hand out to readers who might not otherwise have access to books.  

Allison Fuelling, Biology Teacher, had a personal connection to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  She had actually done experiments on Lacks’ cells.  She promoted the book earlier in the year, so I knew that she had to be a giver.  She applied and was able to give away copies.  She loves that she is able to promote biology and non-fiction reading! 

The Happy Faces of Book Receiving Students
As is well established on this blog (here and here), I love how The Hunger Games inspires students to read.  So many of my “non-readers” have requested this book, and it’s hard to keep it on the shelves.  That is why I requested to give The Hunger Games.  

The atmosphere at school today is very exciting.  Students want copies of these books and are so happy when they receive them.  You can sign up to receive information about the next World Book Night here.  It was very easy to apply to be a giver; all it took was some basic information and a short paragraph about how you could reach non-readers. Those that were selected (everyone that I know who applied was selected) chose a nearby location (book store, public library) to pick up their books. It is my hope that all of the teachers at MHS can become givers and we can make it a huge event at school.  

Thank you to all of the sponsors of World Book Night and to all who helped organized it.  A special thank you to the East Towne Mall Barnes and Noble for specially delivering the books to school after a mix up at the store.  See more pictures from the day on the MHS Library Facebook Page. Giving away books to kids is so much fun; I wish I could do this everyday!!

Mrs. Fuelling's Promotional Display 

Promotional Library Poster made by Nate

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Best Device for Us

My district is contemplating a move to 1:1 computing, where each student would have a device.  In going to workshop and conference sessions on 1:1, the most challenging question seems to be which device is best.  At MHS, we have narrowed the choice down to iPads or Chromebooks.  Android tablets were not considered because we are a Mac district, and netbooks were quickly dismissed because of battery life and the Network Engineer’s dislike of them. 

A Chromebook right out of the box.
At WEMTA, I attended a session by Rushton Hurley where he said that the best device is the one that does what one needs it to do.  In our use of the devices, here are what our teachers and students have found: The Chromebook is easy to use, the battery is long lasting, and it has a physical keyboard.  However, everything needs to be done in the cloud.  If there is a slow connection, it can be frustrating to type and create because of the delays.  The iPad has an easy interface for users, especially young students. There so many apps that allow for creation that are easy to use after a short tutorial.  However, the expense of really good apps quickly accumulates and dealing with VPP is challenging.  The iPads are somewhat fragile, and ours have easily scratched in a lab environment.  The iPads are meant to be a personal device and trying to use them for more than that becomes a nightmare.  MHS will be using the Google Apps for Education suite next year, and one can only create and edit a Google Doc and Google Spreadsheet on an iPad; this is very limiting.  For those reasons, Marshall will most likely chose to give students Chromebooks in grades 7-12.  Students in grades K-6 will probably have more access to iPads. 
Nicole, the first student to use a Chromebook.
 Through the library, I purchased 4 Chromebooks to let students use.  I established an overnight check out procedure and policy to give students more access at home, which has become very successful.  Students have really taken to the Chromebooks.  They like how fast they start.  So much of their work is in the cloud, that the Chromebook allows them to accomplish it. 

There are still many questions of how to implement the Chromebooks.  How to give access to students without WiFi at home, what is the best professional development for teachers, what type of insurance should students acquire, and the list continues.  Yet, this will give students access and teachers the freedom to expand projects and stop fighting over labs.   There are still many decisions that need to be made, but one hurdle has been crossed by choosing Chromebooks.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Reflection from WEMTA 2012

At the end of March, I had the privilege to attend the Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology (WEMTA) Conference.  I highly recommend any librarian or technology teacher attend to gain new ideas, and more importantly, make connections.

Many schools are moving toward 1:1 initiatives, and the biggest question is always “what device should we get.”  One of the main points I took away from all of the speakers at WEMTA is that there is not one magical device. The best advice is what works for your situation at school.  Everyone is always looking for what's next, and being a school situation, it's really not possible to keep up with the next greatest device.  However that doesn't mean that schools shouldn’t  try.  It is the responsibility of educators to teach students how to use technology responsibly, to make global connections so that they can be successful when they graduate from high school. They need to give them opportunities to do this.

I got to meet two library rockstars: Shannon Miller and Gwyneth Jones. Shannon Miller showed how she is able to connect her students globally and locally so that they had experiences outside of Van Meter, Iowa. What she's able to do for her students is my goal to do for mine. It's no longer good enough to know the next latest and greatest tool. We need our students to connect to the world.  All of the spotlight presenters at the conference were wonderful and shared their resources.  They inspire me to make a difference when I go back to the library. 

The best part of WEMTA is connecting with new people and renewing connections with colleagues that have become friends.  WEMTA is an awesome place to expand one’s Professional Leaning Network and stay connected on Twitter. Many of my classmates from Cardinal Stritch University were there, and we had just a fantastic time together. Connecting over social media is a life saver, but sometimes it’s nice to connect face to face.  As Rushton Hurley said, the cancer of education is isolation.  Keep the connections to continue developing professionally.

WEMTA 2012 Resource Highlights

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Hunger Games Field Trip Success!

The students and I had a wonderful time on The Hunger Games Movie Field Trip (details on trip can be found here).  A countdown was started on Thursday and told to me during every passing period.  We had a trivia game on the bus on the way to the theater thanks to @hmz1505.

When we arrived at Marcus Eastgate Cinema, the had our school name on the marquee.  This just heighten our students' excitement.  The management took very good care of us, and I would definitely work them again.

My Co-Conspiterater and I are already coming up with ideas for what to do to go to Catching Fire (in 18 long months).

Images are my own of The Hunger Games trading cards.

My favorite part of they day is when two of the boys asked if we had the next books in the series.  I smiled and said, "OF COURSE!" And they checked them out that day.  I love when kids are excited about reading. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Never Touch the Mouse: Teaching Diane Facebook

In an effort to keep in better contact with parents and students, my principal started a school Facebook page.  His goal is to have the daily announcements posted as they happen.  He delegated the maintenance of this task to Diane, the MHS Secretary.  Diane is not a personal user of Facebook, and viewed this task with trepidation. 

The responsibility of teaching Diane how to use Facebook fell to me.  Last year I read an article about how to help people learn technology.  The one point that stuck with me the most was that the teacher must never touch the mouse.  The learner must complete the task in order to remember how to do it on his or her own.  No matter how frustrating it might be, the learner must do the task, and the teacher must not touch the mouse.  I constantly have to remind myself, and often sit on my hands, so that I do not touch the mouse. 

Diane, ready to post at a moments notice.
We’ve started with small tasks.  First, I gave Diane a tour the Facebook page features.  Then I explained how to make a post.  I always try to have a real-life example, rather than telling the possible tasks she can perform.  For example, I gave her a photo of new books that just in the library to post with a caption and a link to the Library Page.  Just showing Diane the possibilities can overwhelm, but having the practical examples, helps Diane retain the skills…just like any other student. Whenever Diane sees me coming into the office, she’s nervous that I'm going to teach her something new.  However, she is proud of all of the skills that she has learned in a short amount of time. 

Diane has reluctantly embraced Facebook, but sees the benefits.  She is able to answer questions from parents, and sees how much quicker parents receive information.  We are able to show the positive things happening around school to community members.  Congratulations to Diane for learning something new and for helping me learn how to teach technology to those that are hesitant.  We have learned from each other.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Goodbye Jan Berenstain

As a child, if someone would have asked me what my favorite books were, I would have said The Berenstain Bears.  I remember my parents, grandparents, and various other adults reading to me.  My sister, Katy, and I would go to the book store and travel straight the Berenstain Bears.  We would pick one book up and look at all of the different titles on the back to see which ones we still needed.  These books taught life lessons that I will always remember.  I was very sad to hear about the passing of Jan Berenstain; however, she will live on through her writing. 

Thank you Stan and Jan Berenstain for countless hours of learning and entertainment!!

Gilbert, Sarah. Berenstain Bears All Woozy. 2007. Flickr. Web. 28 Feb. 2012.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tweeting with Authors

Follow @LMCMarshall
Twitter can be a powerful tool in the classroom.  One way to use Twitter is to set up a class or library account and follow professional authors.  There are many Children’s and Young Adult authors that tweet on a regular basis (see list below), and many of them share how they are progressing on their current projects.  Sometimes, they even tweet about the problems they encountering.  One June day, Laurie Hales Anderson sent various tweets about her writing struggles.  I’ve shown them to students to prove that writing isn’t easy, and it is a process.

Writers also respond sometimes. I set up a Twitter account for my library. Today, Jenny Han, author of The Summer I Turned Pretty, asked her followers who should play Conrad in the movie.  I asked the students in the library that hour.  The students were so excited when Jenny tweeted back!

Twitter allows classes to connect with the world outside of the four walls of their classroom or library.  It can show students how others struggle with writing and make it through to the end.  Also, the writers of the novels become more human.  Twitter is a significant tool that can have a meaningful impact on students.

Suggested Authors to Follow: 
Laurie Halse Anderson @halseanderson
James Dashner @jamesdashner
Sherman Alexie @Sherman_Alexie
Maggie Stiefvater @mstiefvater
Mo Willems' Pigeon @The_Pigeon
Jenny Han @jennyhan
Simone Elkeles @SimoneElkeles
John Green @realjohngreen
Alyson Noel @AlysonNoel
Sarah Dessen @sarahdessen
Lucy Christopher @LucyCAuthor
Carl Deucker @carldeucker

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tech Fair for Digital Learning Day

Nate and Hannah are getting ready
to present how they used a Wiki
in Spanish Class
 Marshall Public Schools celebrated Digital Learning Day on Feb. 13, 2012 with a community Tech Fair.  The District Technology Committee took the lead to organize this event, and many teachers from across the district volunteered their time to facilitate sessions.  The goal was to show parents and the community how students are using technology to learn and what could happen with more technology in the hands of students.  

Digital Valentines
created by OurClass223
To draw more community members to the Tech Fair, the High School chapter of FCCLA hosted a Chili Supper and the PTA had a bake sale with the proceeds going to the technology fund.

My favorite part was seeing the students share how they love technology and how they use it to help them learn.  Ms. Price’s fourth graders were so proud of their digital valentines (pictured) and were excited to show their audience how to use QR Codes. It was also great to see parents use some of this technology for the first time. Many of our parents have never before seen an iPads in person, and this was their first opportunity to touch and use one. Kids were showing them how to use the apps that they use in the classroom.  
Below is the flyer that was sent to the community with the details of each session.  Things I would do differently next year would be to have more digital promotion.  I also would have the “Parents Play Area” have more focus with specific apps or activities rather than just letting them “play.” It needed to have more structure and supervision and was logistically challenging.  The most successful was having students share their knowledge. This has the potential to become an annual event.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Hunger Games Field Trip

This school year has seen several popular novels turned into films.  From Harry Potter and Twilight to The Help and The Hunger Games, these films lead some reluctant readers into the books.   Such is the case with my students and The Hunger Games.  The series is very popular and hard to keep on the shelves.  I knew that my students wanted to see the movie, so I came up with this idea that we should make it a whole school outing. This also allowed me to collaborate with one of the English Teachers for promotion. Here are the Field Trip details:

I have a lot of hope that director Gary Ross is going to get things right.  Thanks to Entertainment Weekly, my students and I have been closely following the production.  EW did such a wonderful job featuring several articles about the process and interviews with the director that we high expectations.

While this field trip is not tied to a specific curriculum, it embodies everything we want our students able to do in the real world.  First, we want them to read for pleasure and for the adventure.  Second, the paper asks for their analysis and expectations of the film maker’s interpretations.  Third, after you read a book or see a movie, you should talk about it with others.  The students are excited, and I can’t wait to see their reactions and have the discussions.

Like many librarians, teachers, and young adults across the nation, I enjoy The Hunger Games trilogy.  It’s packed with adventure with just enough romance to keep a girl interested.  It is incredibly easy to recommend these novels for any gender.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Collaboration on Social Media

Recently, I had to privilege of working with Mark, the senior English teacher.  His class had just finished Huck Finn, and he was developing a culminating project.  He came up with the premise that the School Board was going to ban Huck Finn and the students would need to develop a presentation to convince the Board to keep the book on the shelves.   He asked me if I had any other ideas for this project, and I almost jumped up and down, thankful that he wanted to collaborate with me.  I added the idea of creating a social media campaign to save the book.  Our students are using social media, but often do not see how it can be used for school; teachers can be the same way.  This project opens up the door for conversations about digital citizenship. Students then wrote a reflection comparing and contrasting the different techniques and tone used in a formal (board presentation) and informal (social media) situation. 

Mark does not use any social media, either personally or professionally.  He relied on me to develop the parameters and find resources for the social media campaigns. I also ran workshops for the students on how to use the social media tools for the project.  Students were given several choices of sites to use to create their campaigns.  The two most popular choices were:

Technology. [Photography]. Retrieved from 
Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest.
Create a Twitter campaign to gain support by sending out information tweets, links to supportive sights, and responding to those who send criticism tweets.  Most students chose to use to set up a room where they could control the environment for the project.  They set up a room and then invited their classmates to join in the conversation. They also created hashtags to simulate what happens on

Website Screenshots. [Photography]. Retrieved from
Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest.
Create a Facebook page to give information and promote discussion about the novel.  Students developed discussions about the merits of the novel, and created page information about the background of their campaign. Most students chose to create a public Facebook page, but some made a page to control the environment. 

Other options included staging a flashmob, creating a digital story of a protest, and creating a blog.  Students were also allowed to chose any book that had ever been challenge, and weren’t limited to Huck Finn.
We ran into some problems.  Due to timing Mark and I were not able to come up with a truly authentic audience for the students.  However, the students were motivated and had fun crafting various replies in the simulated environments.  Also, the school network blocks access to Facebook, but not Twitter.  Many students automatically discounted Facebook as an option because they would not have access at school and would have very limited access at home.   

Overall, this was a successful project.  In the future, I would like to have the groups interact more.  For example, I would have some students take the position that the novels should be banned.  Most of the arguments and discussion generated was fictitious.  While relevant, it could develop into more critical thinking and collaboration. 

This project was a great first step in collaborating with a teacher and capitalizing on the power of social media.  Now that Mark saw what we could throw together in a couple days, hopefully, we can do more in the future.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


One of the great things about technology is the ability to quickly put together information to show what one has learned. A great way to do this is by using images and links along with text to give examples.  This can then be posted on the web to give students an authentic audience that can also give their work more meaning.  However, there are so many web creation tools that it can be hard to choose which one to use. An easy tool to use with students would be the iOS app Zapd that allows students to smoothly create a website on an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad.  Zapd is a free app available in the App Store.

Users choose from a selection of ready-made themes.  Then one can upload images, link to other websites, and add text.  The website can be published to be public or private. Zapd also allows for commenting at the end of the site to registered users.  Finished sites look professional and are very easy to share. 

An email address is needed to sign up for an account or users can connect using a Facebook account. 

Below is a tutorial I created to show students how to use Zapd.  Click here to see my sample Zapd website. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Love for Skitch

This year, my district purchased/leased one iPad cart of 30 iPads with keyboards per building. I took the lead and facilitated the initial professional development for the teachers to show them how to use the iPads and the iPad Cart. When I give a “How To” presentation, I love to use images to demonstrate. I have found that I work best when I see a picture of how to do something. That image sticks in my mind along with verbal directions.

As most presenters have experienced, when technology doesn’t work during a presentation the world feels like it’s ending. Therefore, I like to create presentations of images that would happen in real life. This also helps me to stay on task to make sure that I don't forget anything. During a presentation, I will have the image slide presentation along with the device available to show in real time.

With so many PD presentations this year, I falling in love with an app called Skitch by Evernote. The first time I heard about it was at the Wisconsin SLATE Conference from Tammy Lind.

Skitch is an awesome app that allows you to annotate an image from photos, screenshots, the web, a map, or just a blank screen. For a long time, I have been doing using the basic drawing tools in PowerPoint or Google Docs presentation to add an arrow or circle, and then add an extra text box. This takes a very long time and can get very frustrating because it rather tedious. What I like about Skitch is that it makes the text and arrows obvious and clear. It's very easy to use. After the image is annotated, one can share it by emailing, saving to photos, or my favorite option, save it to an Evernote account.

Below is the same presentation, one with created with Skitch using screen captures, and the other with the drawing tools from Google Presentation using images taken from an iPevo camera. I think that Skitch makes my presentation look much more professional, and easier to read (it also helped that the screen images were much clearer than the pictures I took with the iPevo).

The Skitch App is available for the iPad, Mac, and Android.

Monday, January 9, 2012

How I Miss the Apostrophe

The main complaint my friends and I have about the iPad keyboard is that there is no apostrophe key on the main keyboard. Colleagues tell me AutoCorrect will add it in, but it doesn't always work. Those composers who frequently use the words “she’ll” and “won’t” have to add in the apostrophe manually. In addition, AutoCorrect will also add an apostrophe to “were" making one have to go and remove it to have a composition make sense. When I’m typing, I also find myself on new lines because out of habit, I hit the return key when all I want is an apostrophe.

There is the shortcut to hold the (!,) key for a while and the apostrophe will eventually appear. I don't what to stop and wait.

So dear Apple and iPad creators, please put the apostrophe back on the main keyboard. Thank you.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Conversations with College Professors (aka Family Members and Friends)

Christmas break is a time for gathering with family and friends. And sometimes that is the only time that you see some family members. Inevitably, you share about what is happening at school.

My cousin, and his partner, Shawn, are professors at two different Universities/Colleges in Florida. I also have a very good friend, Kevin, who is an adjunct professor at a local college. I always find it fascinating to talk to them because (1) they are very smart, but (2) they have not studied education pedagogy. They are thrown into the fire and have to learn those lessons quickly. Now, their students are different than mine, but we have all experienced the same classroom management problems. Before Kevin started, he asked me what to do if he ran out of material before class was finished, how to engage students in discussion, and what to do if his students plagiarized. All of these things I learned in my first education class and throughout my student teaching practicum with guidance from experienced teachers.

As Shawn is a physics professor, I shared with him that the physics teacher at my high school is developing a project using an app to analyze the physics properties of the yellow Angry Bird. I am helping to set up the technology needs by loading the app and teaching the students how to take video capture; the physics teacher is will instruct. Shawn was very interested and then asked me if I had ever heard of a “backchannel” being used during class. I giggled to myself because during district professional development, I’m often a moderator of our backchannel. I shared how he could use to set up a private room, and some of the benefits that I’ve experienced. He also asked me about my use of Twitter, and how beneficial it is. He seemed a bit overwhelmed at my love of Twitter for my PLN.

There are so many things that he can do in his college classroom with these tools. After our conversation, I thought about everything that I could share with him. I often think about Kevin and how with mentioning things that I think everyone knows about, but he hasn’t heard of them. When I read various articles and blog posts about technology in colleges, students are using all of these technology tools, but are the professors? It would be awesome if college professors could join into the K12 discussions about technology use on Twitter and other social media outlets. I think that we could learn a lot from each other.