Course 1 Final Project: Passions Collide

Through this process I’ve learned that I am an idea girl. I can come up with some great ideas, but the plausibility is sometimes questionable. I struggled with this project because add to the dreamer in me and the feeling of loss from being out of the classroom and not having a class to call my own and I had no clue where to start.  Should I do a unit for teachers?  Parents?  The ELL students I work with for 40 minutes a day?  Or the multi-grade students in a free period I help coordinate? The choices were overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start.  So I started…multiple times.  I basically did 3 projects and didn’t like any of them.  Finally I read Rebecca’s final project and the light bulb went off.  Why not start with something I already had and REDEFINE it?

Another thing I learned is that it is hard to plan a global collaborative project. I’ve joined many, but starting one is more of a challenge. I got on Twitter and threw my net out a couple of times (remember how I started 3 projects?) but to no avail. I waited and continued planning, but as the due date got closer I realized things weren’t panning out and it probably wasn’t going to happen. I am not the Twitter queen, but I have some followers and if it was this hard for me to start a global project then how hard would it be for a new Tweeter or someone not on it?  Is there a database for collaborative projects? I know Skype has Skype in the Classroom and I found a Global Collaboration Day, but these weren’t exactly what I was looking for.  I was frustrated and added this as a challenge to tackle in the future.

The actual planning and creating the unit was the most fun (remember I’m an idea girl). I decided to go with the students that have a free period while other students are in Portuguese class.  In the past this has been a waste of time because there isn’t a curriculum and no one has really claimed it as their class.  This year I took on the challenge and came up some ideas.  I did Genius Hour in my 5th grade classroom for the past couple of years, and realized this is the perfect opportunity for students to use this time more effectively. I have introduced the passion projects, but was just going to do the sharing in-house.  This is where my PLN came in handy, a couple of weeks ago a PLN buddy at Lincoln to collaborate with their TEDed clubs, but at that point I didn’t really see how I could work it in. Then I thought although we aren’t another TEDed club, this is a great opportunity for my students to share their projects and receive feedback and also give feedback to their partners’ at Lincoln. I can already see this project growing into something similar to a TEDed forum.

One thing I want to look at after I teach the first round of passion projects is adding a mini-lesson on Pecha Kuchas.  I had to create one in one of my Masters course and it was a huge challenge, it really made me focus and plan out my content and then move on with the overall theme in mind.

Without further ado, my final project.  I would love feedback on how to improve it.  Thanks in advance!


Global Landscape



Technology has significantly changed the learning landscape in my classroom. It allows for students to create things and share them like they never have before.  Last year my class created promotional videos for their non-fiction writing pieces and put them on Aurasma for parents and students to see in our Authors’ Aura Archive. Students that were never excited about writing jumped at the opportunity and dove in head first.  Some of my struggling writers glowed with pride when the Head of School scanned their video and book into his phone.  Parents that couldn’t make it in person were still able to read their child’s work through our blog.  All of these things couldn’t have been done without technology.  

Mystery Skype is another of my favorite things for my class to participate in.  I purposely step aside and let my students figure it out.  Of course there are times when it is painful to watch, but there are other times when I get goosebumps because of what they accomplish together. We probably do this around 5 times a year and it is amazing to see the growth in efficiency and teamwork. Just like Rebekah said in Middle School: Learning in the 10th Circle of Hell it is theirs. They take ownership of it and take risks, it empowers them.  They begin to see each other in different ways, the not so typical leaders in the class step up and give valuable suggestions or the shy quiet girl in class becomes our class comedian during the wait time.

Another change in the landscape is connecting with a class across the world.  While Mystery Skypes are normally a one shot deal, we have been fortunate to connect with one class repeatedly throughout the year.  Our kids became e-pals, we shared math videos with their class, and they shared their passion projects with us.  My students gained friends that were thousands of miles away.  When I was in fifth grade my furthest friend was a 10 minute car ride from my house.  Landscape changed.  I guess the author of Ofcom: six-year-olds understand digital technology better than adults was right with the statement, “As a result of growing up in the digital age, they are developing fundamentally different communication habits from older generations, even compared to what we call the early adopters, the 16-to-24 age group.”

One more way our learning landscape changed was to expand our read aloud through The Global Read Aloud. My students were highly engaged because they could share their opinions and thoughts about the book with classes from all over the world.  I mentioned it in another post, but we even got a tweet from the author, Jenni Holm. That right there made my reluctant readers buy in and start reading all of her books. We used Padlet to share our opinions and make connections with other classes, and even the parents could get in on the action.  

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There are so many other things out there that change the landscape of our learning that I want to try.  I have never used wikis with a class, sure I know what they are but I’m interested in how to use them effectively. This year I am working with a group of 2nd grade ELLs and this post on digital storytelling has me intrigued. (I’m going to try a simple version of this with Book Creator for my final project). I’m hoping they can share their stories with classes in our school, but also put them out there on the line.


Everything out there is amazing and has changed our learning landscape, but I have found that when my class has a sustainable partnership that we continue to nurture and develop through the year it is way more beneficial.  It takes away the shimmer and the shine, and we start to work with the class like they are just down the hall from us. And that my friends is pretty amazing.


Jackpot Finds

This week I was checking out other COETAILers blogposts and came across Amanda’s post on infographics in the classroom.  I fell in love with the way the information was communicated to students in a simple way and wanted to try to create one.

I am not working in the classroom this year (I miss it so much!) and I am a visual learner I thought I would try to make an infographic on Piktochart for a parent informational letter about our literacy program.My current school has a heavy population of parents that don’t speak English, so this is a perfect chance to be concise and visually appealing. The letter started out as a three page document that our literacy coach created, I played around and created this:

Literacy at EAC (2)

It is really easy, they have lots of templates to choose from.  You can have more access to different templates if you pay, but I was happy with the free choices.  Also, when you do the free version you have to download it as a jpeg, but I easily converted it into a PDF.

The next jackpot find was Google Keep, a collaborative to do list and note taking app.  I found this through Free Tech 4 Teachers while searching for ideas for my final project.  Ana Maria’s blog has some great ideas for using tech with English language learners, especially older students. Her post about using Google Keep with students was simple and a great substitution for many different tasks.  I myself have started using it with my husband.

I am still wrestling with my final project idea, but I thought I would share these great finds.

A Change Would Do You Good


Since I went to school I can say that foundation of teaching and learning has changed a ton.  I  remember we when had CD-ROMs for encyclopedias, which back then was a “new way” to do an old thing.  We’ve come a long way since then.  Even as a teacher I feel that as time changed so did the teaching and learning.  Knowledge was no longer just held by me, the teacher, but rather in a variety of places.  My first year teaching I never would have dreamed of connecting with other classes via Skype, Twitter, blogs, and Instagram.  Sure we had Flat Stanley that was sent around the world, but now there is the traveling teddy bears that we can track around the world in real time. Because of the global audience, the learning has changed. Students now have a global audience and write with that in mind. Another example of how the knowledge is dispersed is when students become teachers by creating videos of content and sharing them with another class in another via Edmodo. There are countless examples of how tech has enabled teachers and students to go beyond the typical classroom.

However, with the introduction of so many tech tools to improve our teaching and student learning you may feel as you are at a churrasco with unlimited helpings. There are the of required dishes to have (Schoology, PowerSchool, Atlas, Email, Google Docs, Manageback) and then the extra yummy dishes (apps, gadgets, etc) that you try to cram on your plate, because let’s face it they are enticing.  Then you have the meat (collaboration, blogging, etc) that is a must if you want you and your students to learn with others. Pile them all on your plate and you will be good to go.  Expect maybe not.

While at first glance it is an amazing sight, in the last week at my job I have realized that with all these options of tools, teachers are stressed and shutting down. Maybe it is just my school, but I am trying to help teachers find the balance and necessity for using new tools.  There is always a next best thing in education–technology, strategies, systems, communication, etc., but are we just doing old things in new ways?  As I read Prenshky’s article I thought of Dr. Puentedura’s SAMR model.  I tried to connect Prensky’s stages with Dr. Puentedura’s levels.

  • Dabbling.
  • Doing old things in old ways. (Substitution)
  • Doing old things in new ways.(Augmentation)
  • Doing new things in new ways. (Modification/Redefinition)

We do a lot of substitution or augmentation and expect the learning to change.  Sometimes I think we see technology as the solution, and with it our students learning will flourish, but that’s not always the case.  Dr. Puentedura included a ladder to help teachers transition to the next level and change the learning. When appropriate, we need to be reaching for the modification and redefinition of learning.

Even in 2005 Prensky saw that as educators we need to

…Not just adopt technology into our schools. Let’s adapt it, push it, pull it, iterate with it, experiment with it, test it, and redo it, until we reach the point where we and our kids truly feel we’ve done our very best. Then, let’s push it and pull it some more. And let’s do it quickly, so the 22nd century doesn’t catch us by surprise with too much of our work undone.” 

Adam’s school hosted a weekend festival that gave students the space, materials, support, and time to do just this. Students that participated in the festival had learning experiences that I never could have dreamed of when I was in high school. I think this is an example of what Prensky was aiming for. Or he was talking about the kind of teaching that is happening at Learning2, man I wish I could have been there.  But I learned so much through the tweeters there, and then today the best news of all…it’s coming to South America! But I digress, all this being said has teaching and learning changed? Yes.  Does it need to continue to change more? Yes.  Education should mirror our society, and at the rate things change then we have a lot of work to do. As Sheryl Crow said, a change would do you good. 


To Share or Not to Share?

When blogging your voice is really important, you want to make sure you are making sense and appealing to your target audience.  I hadn’t thought much about this until Trina sent this tweet to me.

Twitter Voice

She is absolutely correct, the voice I write with on here is totally different than the voice I use for my personal blog. My personal blog is to document my life for family back home, my future self, and my son, and I basically write stream of consciousness and captions for photographs. Whereas this blog is to document and share my learning. I never realized how I code switched in my blogs. My two audiences are different and I switch to to fit the need.  I doubt my family cares about PLN, embedding technology, etc and I highly doubt that you all care when my son sits up on his own.

That got me thinking. How much of my personal life do I share on my professional profile. Jeff talked about mixing our Flipboard with our Facebook and Instagram so that we will go there to read more often.  Will mixing my personal and professional online presence create a stronger PLN?  Some of my PLN like Clint and Liz mix their personal and professional lives online, while others such as Ku and Pernille tend to stick to only sharing professional content. Do I feel more connected to one over the other?

I normally just share professional content on twitter, but sometimes I will link my Instagram to Twitter.  I don’t have a problem sharing, but for some reason I have just used it to build my PLN.  What about you?  Do you mix your lives online?  Do you code switch between different blogs? Do you feel a stronger connection with people in your PLN that intertwine their lives?  Thanks Trina for bringing this up, I enjoyed reflecting on it.

Embedding or Adding On?

In education we are constantly bombarded with embedding things, I looked up embed on my Mac dictionary and it states, “to implant (an idea or feeling) within something else so it becomes an ingrained or essential characteristic of it.” This definition is intense and changes the thing from its original state. I feel the term embedded is used too loosely and has become too watered down. We think we are embedding things, when we are just adding them on. So often in reality technology isn’t ingrained nor essential in our students’ learning. Sure it is the intention of every educator to have it embedded, but it is a hard task to authentically embed something. I have this visual of food coloring being dripped into a glass of water. There is no way to separate the water or the coloring, they are now one. That is how we should look at technology.  So, how do we truly embed technology in an authentic way, where it is mixed into all areas?

Before moving to the how, I want to look at a little of the why we should effectively, practically and authentically embed technology within our curricular areas. In Living and Learning with New Media the authors state, “Geeking out in many respects erases the traditional markers of status and authority.” Education isn’t changing, it has changed.  As Jeff Utecht says, “Either you are a 21st Century school working on preparing students for today or you are a 20th Century school that just doesn’t get it.” Being a “21st century” school or embedding technology is no longer an option.  We aren’t doing our jobs if we don’t give our students opportunities to learn and experiment with technology.  (Sidenote: I had to laugh when the article mentioned MySpace, and of course because I am a clicker and remembered something I saw on my Facebook feed about where Tom is now.)


Now, where to start? We start with making sure students have the basic skills to use the technology tools we will use. I found Colorado’s Technology Skills Scope and Sequence, which aligns with the Common Core, ensuring that students have the skills to reach the standards. Gone are the days there is a stand alone technology class, every teacher needs to be reinforcing the technology skills.

Thanks Flipboard and our COETAIL Course 1 magazine I found Anne Karakash’s article on how to plan around technology. She reflects on her teaching practice and recalls the shift when her “focus went from adding technology to her lessons as an afterthought, and instead the technology became the starting point of the lesson”. She proceeded to give five steps (plan, research, engage, explore, and synthesis) on how to plan your lessons around technology. Anne didn’t say, but I am assuming she begins with the standard or learning objective and then focuses on the technology to get her students there.

SAMRDuring all my readings and research this week I kept coming back and reflecting on how I have used and use technology in my teaching.  I am a tech lover so this got me thinking about the purpose.  I tend to overuse it and just like the term embedded, it loses its value when I do that. I need to be more purposeful in my use of technology. What do I want students to learn and how can I use technology in the most authentic and effective way?  I had flashbacks to when I added on a cool technology tool or app to a project and it actually took away from the learning objectives. I spent so much time teaching the technology that the students were focused on that and missed the content.  I need to do a better job of clearly defining my learning objectives and then working backward from there. Then thinking about the purpose of technology in that unit

It all comes back to SAMR, I said it in my last post it’s about balance. I would like to amend that and add purpose to balance. I came across Jeff’s tweet of a brilliant visual for SAMR.  It really struck me because we want our technology to go to unknown places and dive deeper into content.

The Balancing Act

Connectivism and Constructivism

Can you separate the two learning theories?  In constructivism you gain knowledge through your experiences, where connectivism is all about learning through connections and community. If you are in a community and making connections to me that is a learning experience. So are connectivism and constructivism woven together? Can you have one without the other?

As I read more and more about connectivism lots of questions kept spinning in my brain was, do learners that prefer to learn alone exist anymore? If they do, how do we support them in connectivism? The world we live in today requires teamwork and collaboration, so how do we make sure we do not leave the independent learner behind?

The positive side to connectivism is that learners can now personalize their education and because of technology resources they can learn from anyone across the world at anytime.  Thanks to Twitter, blogs, Wikis, Periscope, and so on and so on, we can learn without knowing our teachers or having to meet face to face. Now for some that works, but to others it may sound horrible. Since learning should be an individualized journey, I come back to my question from before, how do we support all learners through connectivism?


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Flickr image click photo for source

Because of my all or nothing personality I always try to make myself come back to the question of balance.

I am a hanger outer (without the teen drama) and a messer arounder, and it got me thinking, how much of what I read do I actually digest? A quick search on handy dandy Google and I found this article, How the Internet is making us stupid. The author states, “People who read text studded with links, the studies show, comprehend less than those who read words printed on pages.” I immediately thought of how often I am side tracked or link happy in my reading.  Is it because of I am genuinely intrigued to learn more or is is just another site to check out?  If I am doing this than I’m sure my students are. Is it beneficial or harmful?  Where is the balance or is there any?  How do we utilize the information without being overloaded with it or just skimming the surface.  Speaking of skimming, I just signed up for a daily Skimm so I can keep up to date with important news.

With my PLN I try to gain as much information as possible and also be a honorable prosumer too, but I have to wonder how much of it am I actually learning and applying.  Am I just getting great ideas and storing them away in my memory filing cabinet with a hope to be found in the future, are they just fleeting or am I internalizing and growing from them?  In the same article  the Roman philosopher Seneca  is referenced and the author thinks Seneca “may have put it best 2,000 years ago: “To be everywhere is to be nowhere.”” How do I find my balance in learning through my PLN?

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Now how to apply these theories to engage and motivate our digital students?

Coming from an elementary background I see this happening more in the class setting at first and then evolving into students experimenting to find their comfort level and their learning community. For example, creating a class Twitter account.  My class did this last year and my students were in awe when we actually had a twittersation (twitter conversation…I just made this up) with the author of the book we were reading. After that a couple of my students started their own twitter accounts and followed their favorite authors, building their connections.

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The learning theories aren’t new, but do challenge educators affective thinking. I think so often we the teachers let our feelings and attitudes about technology get in the way.  We are scared that we don’t know all the programs or how to teach a certain skill, so we let that stop us.  Perhaps we should expand our learning network to our students. They are whizzes with tech, so why not use them as a source.  The first training I went to of Jeff’s at Learning2 he brought up Google Ninjas at ISB, what a brilliant idea. Our school recently began using Schoology as the funnel that all things flow through. So instead of having our tech team train everyone we are dispersing the sources and having students, proficient Schoology users teach parents and teachers how to use it. When we look to non-traditional sources we learn new things and give them opportunities.

Another thing I thought about was the whole “Google It” directive we give our students. George Siemens asks some great questions that we need to explore,

How are learning theories impacted when knowledge is no longer acquired in the linear manner?

That is just a start. As a learner myself I know that I don’t gain knowledge linearly, so how does this change my approach to learning? What impact does it have?

SAMR and Bloom’s

I gave a presentation on SAMR for my school’s teachers last year and I’m familiar with the Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy , and again I come back to balance, or more so purpose. What is the learning goal and is the technology going to be purposeful in reaching it?  Is it always best to be in the HOT or can you over use Redefinition so it no longer is a powerful punch.  Does the technology for that learning goal hinder or help the learning? With limited contact time how do you manage teaching new technology programs, skills, and tools to students alongside the content? An experienced  COETAILer said it way more eloquently than I could, and also brought up the whole balance issue.

Because I’m a simpleton, I just don’t buy it. When should technology integration ever be typical, and what does educational benefit really mean?1 Does it mean higher test scores? Does it mean lots more fun?  Surely balance is in the equation somewhere, and hopefully today’s lesson is engagingly different than yesterday’s. If we, as educators, are shooting to be typical, then it’s little wonder why our kids are so bored.2

Our students are growing up in the digital age and I completely agree we need to teach them how to learn through connection and networks, the important part is knowing your school, students, and learning goals then figuring out how to best go about opening the connections for ALL learners.

Wow, I’m not sure if that post answered or posed more questions.

Connecting Through a PLN

I found both required readings very interesting and connected in the sense that technology is evolving so fast and it is up to us to use it to its potential.  Jeff’s Reach chapters resonated with me because figuring out who I am as a learner is something I am learning (no pun intended…okay maybe a little). I feel a bit like today’s youth, with the world at my fingertips but a bit overwhelmed at all that’s out there.  It is freeing, but also a bit scary at the same time.  Do I have anything worthwhile to contribute?  What if I reach out and no one answers?  What if I put myself out there and am wrong?  These are just a few of the questions I have asked myself.  Not to mention the good old comparison game. 

As I read about PLNs and creating communities I snapped myself out of my own head and realized that if we want our students to be able to learn, unlearn, and relearn quickly than I better be doing it myself.  I am a learner and thanks to technology I am a prosumer. I have this great tool to communicate my learning process. Jeff says, “If we are to teach our students to become prosumers of information in today’s connected digital world, then we need to understand and become prosumers ourselves.” I couldn’t agree more. We need to model and live out what we are preaching to our students. Student learn more from what we do than what we say, so we ourselves need to be flexible learners.  

I love how PLNs are personal and how “the people I follow or friend creates my unique network.” Laura Sockman from this article is a prime example of connecting with others.  She learned from experts and developed such a large network she in turn became an expert and resource for so many people at the ripe age of ten!

What I love about online PLN is that you don’t have to sit and wait for an invite to join, or you can.  You go at your own pace and comfort level.  You can still learn being a lurker, but your thinking and practices will be stretched further if you interact and connect. As I was saying in the beginning of my post, it is difficult to put yourself out there, connecting isn’t easy. While creating my PLN I have had to learn more about who I am as an educator and what I am comfortable with.

I like this infographic below by Silvia Tolisano on her blog, it goes right along with Jeff’s comment, “The more active you are within a community the more visible you become to other members. The more visible you become, the more potential connections are created.” When it comes down to it, you get what you put into PLNs. I think I move between stages 4 and 5, although some collaboration is just for a project and not continual. One of the first people I collaborated with was Paul Solarz, he is an amazing teacher from the US and really shared a lot with me. It’s been fun to watch his reach grow over the years and he just recently published his first book


Individualized learning mirrors what we should be doing in schools. Therefore we should teach students how to create their own PLN so they do not rely on teachers. They become the driver of their learning and learn how to construct their learning in a way that works for them. Flipboard and blended learning are both great examples of this, students learning doesn’t stop when class is over. How powerful is that? Yet, if we don’t teach our students how to do this than we are doing them a disservice.

Two more thoughts that I kept having with regards to my school.  One, how do we get other teachers to create their own PLNs. Right now our PD is very traditional (pictured below), but I think if you can create a tipping point and get enough people into the right cart than others will follow and start owning their PD. If we put PD in teachers’ hands than they have a more personalized experience as opposed to sit and gets AND they will see the power of PLNs for their students in their classes.

faculty meeting

My second thought was, if we are teaching students how to create PLNs than why not teach parents.  Being a new parent myself I have had to create a PLN of all things parenting.  It’s not easy to be a parent to a student nowadays, so shouldn’t we as educators help them navigate by pointing them toward other parents and resources. The Educational Technology Guy, David Andrade, thinks parents need to be connected too. Now how do I go about rolling this out to parents? Anyone have experience?



3, 2, 1…Go!

I have wanted to do COETAIL for awhile now, but with completing my Masters and finding out I was pregnant I thought I would be too busy to give it the attention it needed. Fast forward and now I have a new baby, new job, and just started back to work after a glorious 5 month maternity leave and I realized I am always going to be busy. I need to feed my brain and have some me time where I can grow and learn, so here I am. Ready or not, here I am.  Because isn’t that part of life, just showing up.