Category Archives: Technology

Building Technology Grit

I am SO excited that our school is choosing to now focus on technology. I have my masters degree in instructional technology and this is what I live for! I believe that tech is a vital component of education and I use it constantly! But there are teachers at my school that struggle with the idea of changing how they teach. So we are working to build our teachers’ tech grit! Here are some of our resources that we will be using to help us start this important work.



Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. (Try to say that five times fast!) These overlapping circles explain that we have the what we teach (content) and the pedagogy (how we teach it.) Lots of teachers live in that little green area (PC) but what we often skip is the technology and how that is incorporated into our instruction. They all work together and need to be planned together using backwards design. You can’t just squeeze it in at the last minute and have it be nearly as effective.


Teaching has #AllTheAcronyms! The SAMR Model falls into the T circle of TPCK. It shows us that we can incorporate technology into our instruction in different ways and in baby steps.b4e25bceb556254f25c542957f8a6654.png

If you are using an activity that falls under the substitution category, that isn’t bad! Every activity you teach cannot be a redefinition! That would be exhausting and overwhelming for most teachers. Baby steps!

You can also take SAMR a step further and align it with the different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.


Common Core Student Standards for Technology 

We were trying to come up with things for teachers to work on with their kids to promote technology use in the classroom and instead of reinventing the wheel, we went to the common core standards. These are skills our technology teacher works on with our kids, but if I see that my third graders should be learning how to perform basic searches on databases, I can plan a project to have them work on that in the classroom too.


ISTE Teacher Standards

When deciding what teachers should be doing to promote technology in the classroom, we went to the ISTE Teacher standards. These are very general but I think they will allow our teachers who are more reluctant to use technology find some strategies that will work for them. Promoting creative and innovative thinking could be just about anything! We will definitely need to come up with some specific examples to get our teachers started and then hopefully they will run with it!


So this is our starting point. We will definitely have to take some baby steps and support our teachers as much as possible, but I am excited about the possibilities this technology focus has!



I got to use virtual reality today and it was SO COOL! I was visiting Legacy Academy to talk tech with some of their staff and they had just gotten their VR system. Before now I was like, “ya whatever, VR is probably cool, but meh.” You really can’t comprehend what it’s like until you’ve tried it and it’s crazy. We were in a fairly small conference room, but I was walking on the surface of mars and plotting points on a graph on the x, y, AND Z AXIS! I could literally get lost in this for hours, and it was just my first taste.

You really can’t comprehend what it’s like until you’ve tried it, and it’s crazy. We were in a fairly small conference room, but I was walking on the surface of mars and plotting points on a graph on the x, y, AND Z AXIS! I could literally get lost in this for hours, and it was just my first taste.

Walking around I was aware that I was still in a conference room. Other people in the room were talking, I could feel the cord from the glasses on the ground, I was trying not to run into anything (but they have cool systems in place to help you not run into anything.) But it’s so easy to get fully absorbed in whatever world you happen to be exploring. And I wasn’t even wearing headphones. I could only imagine what that would have been like.

And of course, I’m already thinking about what I can do with my students in this. I teach astronomy and there are already TONS of space to be explored on VR. It is SO HARD to teach little kids the concept of the scale of space when every picture you google looks like this: INACCURATE! (I’m writing in all caps a lot in this post because I’m really excited!)


(side note, I take my kids to CU Boulder to walk the mile long scale model of the solar system, and this video does a good job demonstrating the correct scale as well.)

BUT with virtual reality, my kids could LITERALLY (I get annoyed when people use that incorrectly, but I really mean literally with vr) walk on the surface of Mars and see the Curiosity Rover. SO COOL!!!

And this is just the beginning. I’m sure that there will be more educational content rolled out as teachers get their hands on this. From solving math problems to drawing. From to astronomy to virtual field trips: I think the possibilities are endless and I’m so excited to see what happens with it.

(I promise I’m not making a commission off this, I just think it’s awesome new tech.)

If you can’t beat them, join them!

There are so many pop culture things that our kids (and adults) are obsessed with right now. I say, don’t try to swim upstream, just go with the flow! If your kids are into Pokemon Go, try Aurasma and do some augmented reality. Here are my kids showing their science and technology learning doing a mannequin challenge!

These are a few of my favorite things…

a-few-of-my-favorite-things-jan-7-2011(Sing this to the tune of My Favorite Things)
Students on iPads and mixed up math classes, comfy class couches, teaching in sunglasses, fostering students to all love reading, these are a few of my favorite things!

Every teacher has their own unique style. Mine is comprised of several pieces, all contained in my song parody above 😉

IMG_0181.JPGFirst of all, for the parody itself, Music: I’ve always thought that music is a powerful teaching tool. You could go up to any 9th graders at my school and ask them how far the sun is from the earth and most of them would sing you “The sun’s about 93 million miles away, and that’s why it looks so small” from the They Might Be Giants Song I taught them way back in third grade. Music sticks in your head better than just about anything.

img_2529Technology: I’m a tech guru. I love trying new tech tools and apps and websites. If I could have a class set of iPads, I’d be in seventh heaven. Google apps are amazing and Tiny Bop Human Body is the most fun science app I’ve found.

Flexible grouping: I’ve come to realize over the years that I am a middle and high kid advocate. Yes, our low and struggling students need our support, but I refuse to believe that I should sacrifice 24 students for the benefit of 1. So I love flexible classes. I’ve taught the high math class at my school for the last five years and I love it! We finish concepts quickly and then I get to show my students how cool it would be to become an engineer one day. We build Mars rovers and landers, we play Simple Physics, we research careers in math fields, web build structures out of straws. In flexible classes it’s easier to give all the kids what is best for them.

Flexible learning environments: I call this my deskless classroom. My research on this comes from The Third Teacher. It says there are three teachers of students, adults, their peers, and the physical environment. Our classrooms set the tone for their education, why not use that to the best of our advantage?


img_2089.pngTeach like a Pirate: my parody teaching in sunglasses line was a bit of a stretch, in rhyme and content, but I can make it work. Teach like a Pirate is all about doing what it takes to engage students authentically. So that might be wearing a silly costume (or sunglasses,) or playing a song, or going outside for a lesson. If kids could choose whether they go to school or not, would they go to your class?

Reading: This is my favorite thing to do in the whole entire world. I love to read. My goal for 2016 is 125 books. I’m currently up to 95 as of the end of September. It’s unfortunatley a subject I have a hard time teaching becuase so often too much curricula and programs and stuff gets in the way of learning to love to read. I’m working on that.



1 Second Everyday

I found this super fun app, 1 Second Everyday. It reminds you to take 1 second snippets of video every day and then mashes them together. You can also 1 Second Freestyle and just take any 1 second snippet you want. Here is a video I made using the app: 16 seconds of field day:

It’s Worth the Extra Effort

Before our students can read books to learn information, they have to learn how to read. Before they can write essays we teach them how to write their letters. Before they can find equivalent fractions we have to teach them to multiply. So why should teaching technology be any different?

We can’t expect to introduce a new technology tool and for kids to automatically know how to use it (although they may know how to use it as a toy, but that’s entirely different.) Yes, it takes extra time that we don’t feel like we have. But as far as I’m concerned, if we don’t make the time to teach technology, we are doing a severe disservice to the children whose minds have been entrusted to us.

In our standardized testing scores from last year our kids’ writing scores were quite low. We were wondering how much of that is writing ability and how much of it is our kids’ inability to type. I’ve seen kids plan a whole beautiful paragraph on a computer test and then after frustratingly hunting and pecking at the keys they give up and write one sentence. They do practice typing every week in technology class, but thinking up what you want to write while you are typing it is a very different skill. So to combat this struggle, I piloted something this week that I want to implement in all our third grade classes.


We are very fortunate to have 6 ipads in each classroom along with keyboards. So I borrowed all the third grade iPads so I had a whole set and I decided to have my kids do a writing on demand: essentially I gave them a prompt and they had 45 minutes to write a single draft of a story. So much of the writing we do is writing process, spending several weeks on one piece of writing. This is a totally different skill.

I knew I would have to start with an intro lesson. So my first day was all about how to get logged into Google Docs on the iPads, how to create a document, how to share a document, and how to type. This went great until we went to put everything away in a rush, then everything was a mess. Each teacher has an iPad cart that we got from Ikea that is labeled with their name. I knew we needed a better system for getting the iPads into and out of the cards next time. More on that later.  IMG_7134

Then that night I went in to my google drive to see how many of the kids’ docs got shared with me. (I know this whole process would be much easier on Google Classroom, but I’m just not there yet.) About half of them successfully shared docs with me (their email addresses all end in so there were spelling mistakes gallore.) I pasted the writing prompt for the next day in those docs already shared with me. That helped me the following day because the kids knew if they didn’t have the prompt in their document, they needed to reshare it with me.


The following day I implemented my cart captains. I put a student in charge of each cart, taking ipads off, putting them back on, and ensuring that each iPad was placed on the correct cart. I also assigned students to a specific cart. It was much less of a free-for-all. The majority of the students could get logged on and started by themselves. I had a handful of kids I had to help and get them to share the doc with me, but overall it went really smoothly!


I know it took a few extra lessons that I “don’t really have time for,” but I really do think this is valuable and I will definitely do it again. I’m thinking this is the start of something new for my class! (I couldn’t help it, High School Musical just had their 10 year anniversary! Haha)


Next time I think I’ll try sharing the doc with my students first, and then they won’t have to type my email address in order to share it with me. Then I really need to try out Google Classroom. This kind of this is exactly what Classroom is designed for. I also want to look into getting us an email shortcut to bypass the  😉


What Teachers do over Winter Break…

I’d like to say that I take two whole weeks and don’t think about school at all, but that’s just not the kind of teacher I am 😉

First day of winter break, here is my project: