Tag 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!


Touchstone Moment of my Teaching Career

Ben Wilkoff is the Director of Personalized Professional Learning in Denver Public Schools and he is an educator that I really admire. I’ve been to several conferences and classes that he’s taught and I really love what he’s trying to do with PD and technology and I really aspire to be more like him.

Ben recently started a youtube/twitter series (see the original series here) where people can ask him questions and he answers them on his walk to work. Recently he posted a video answering the following question that I thought would be a really good one for me to reflect on as well: What was one touchstone moment of your teaching career that you carry with you?

It’s really important for us as educators to be reflective and think about our day to day, and what went well, and what could have gone better, and what we could do differently next time. Reflecting on my day to day classroom was one of the reasons I started this blog. It forces me to stop and think and not just plow through. So I pondered this question for a bit and here’s what I’ve come up with:

Astronomy is the largest science unit that I teach my third graders, and through the years of teaching it, I’ve really come to enjoy learning about astronomy on my own time. I love how there are new developments coming up in this field every day. My kids and I once spent an entire afternoon watching the MAVEN satellite launch. We watched Chris Hadfield’s youtube videos of what it was like for him living on the International Space Station. We learn to sing David Bowie’s Space Oddity and They Might Be Giant’s Why Does the Sun Shine?


The kids really understand that it is something I am passionate about and all year long I get drawings of the solar system and space themed gifts from them. We really do go above and beyond what I am required to teach them.

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I teach my students about the Space Shuttle program and in past years the subject of the Challenger explosion had come up and I often swept it under the rug, fearing they would get upset, fearing they wouldn’t be able to handle it, fearing the angry parent emails I would get that night. They are just third graders after all.

Well, my touchstone moment came last year when I really felt convicted to talk to my kids about the Challenger. Before we started our discussion I told the kids that this was a difficult subject to talk about, but just because things are hard doesn’t mean we should ignore them. We learn so much from the past. An event like the challenger explosion had such a huge impact on not only the shuttle program and NASA, but everyone in the country was impacted by this tragedy.

There is usually a lot of silliness and goofyness to be had in my classroom, but I was absolutely amazed by these eight and nine year olds’ serious attitude towards this subject. We talked about empathy and how we felt for those astronauts and their families. We researched Christa McAuliffe and thought about what her students must have been feeling. We talked about having good character and the courage it takes for every astronaut to do their job, especially the astronauts that went up right after the Challenger.

By the time I showed the video of the actual live news footage there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, but not because they were irrationally upset in a bad way. They had a much better understanding of empathy, and the richness of our history in astronomy, and our need for exploration. And we also tied that to the future journey to Mars. They showed incredible maturity, even if just for that morning, and it was incredibly powerful to see.


This touchstone moment really taught me to never put kids in a box and say they can’t handle that or they aren’t capable of this, because however high we put the bar, they will rise to the occasion.

What was one touchstone moment of your teaching career that you carry with you?  


Everyone knows that it is important to do pre-assessments to see what your kiddos already know about a topic before you start teaching. I do a fair amount of pre-assessing, but I don’t always think that a big formal test pre-assessment is the best approach for every unit, and I get bored of the standard KWL chart.

For my astronomy unit I use a website called Wordle.  This is a great (but sometimes glitchy) website. It creates word clouds. So at the beginning and end of my unit, I ask the kids to write on a piece of paper every word they can think of about astronomy and space. The result is a lot of individual papers that look like this:

IMG_2028This is clearly a post-assessment Wordle list. Lots of great vocab!

Then I go through and either digitally or long hand make a tally chart of how many times a word is written, which ends up looking like this: pre-assessment in blue, post-assessment in purple:

IMG_2030IMG_2029I think it is so cool to see how there are so many more words and more complex scientific words that the kids know at the end of the unit.

Next, Wordle gives you a text box to write the words in. I type the word once and then copy and paste it as many times as I need. Here is where you should learn from my mistakes. Wordle needs the latest Java to run properly, so almost every time I use it I have to update my software. If I forget to update before I start typing, it erases everything I’ve typed! Super frustrating. So now I type it all in a word doc and copy and paste the whole thing into wordle. That way if it gets erased I don’t have to re-type everything. My word doc looks like this when I’m done.

IMG_2040The OCD in me cringes at all the red squiggly lines, but I get over it 😉

Then you hit Go and it spits you our a word cloud. You can change the colors and the font and the formatting to be whatever you want. Here is my pre-assessment astronomy wordle:




And my post-assessment astronomy wordle:



After we have both created, the kids and I look at and analyze them. I ask them to make observations about the differences between the two. On this pair they noticed that there are a lot more words on the post wordle and there is a greater variety in sizeof the word. (The more times a word is typed, the more kids wrote down that word, the bigger the word is in the word cloud.) In our pre wordle the biggest word was Sun, and in our post the biggest word is star. There are also some really teeny tiny words on the post wordle because only one or two kids wrote those down, but they are still great vocab. (I was dupe excited that three kids put geocentric and heliocentric, which we learned in the first lesson I taught in the unit almost 3 months ago.)

So there you have it. A fun new way to do pre-assessments!

What non-traditional pre-assessments do you use in your classroom? 


A Window into Tech Class


At school today I forfeited a few minutes of my precious plan time to poke my head into technology class. My kids were practicing following directions, math and measurement, computer programing, and working together. They were programing robots.

I know you must be thinking, “really? In 3rd grade?” YES! Mr. Stout, our tech teacher, has great aspirations and a very high expectations bar for pushing our elementary students into the 21st century. Today they were working with the ReCon Programmable Rover.  It is a super cool piece of technology.

The thing that I was most excited about, however, was Mr. Stout’s report of my kids’ behavior. He said they did an amazing job working together. The fifth grade students completing the same activity this week didn’t get nearly as far because they couldn’t collaborate. This is exactly what I wanted to hear of my kids and what I’ve been working on with my class.

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My Technology Philosophy of Education


I went into teaching to make a difference in students’ lives. There are a lot of ways I try to accomplish this, the main one being technology. Technology is giving them life skills that they need. Teaching with technology is necessary for students to become successful, functioning adults in today’s world. Helping other teachers by being a technology leader in my school is something I am very passionate about. My goal in teaching is that in 15 or 20 years I will have former students come back to visit me and tell me that I had a positive impact on their lives. That is what I focus on every day as I teach.

The way I see it, I am not just teaching my students about Ancient Rome, Astronomy, and how to do multiplication. I teach life skills. These are skills they need to be successful adults in our society. I am well aware that all the teachers around the world, myself included, are creating and fostering the next generation of world leaders. Even if I am having a bad day, or one of my students is having a bad day, I just think about the greatness they can become if I continue to push them. So while I am teaching them the difference between similes an metaphors, I am really teaching them social skills, how to focus and concentrate, how to think critically, how to be imaginative, how to love reading and learning, how to have self discipline, and how to be responsible.

In addition to life skills, I am teaching my kids technology. I am an instigator of technology change in my school building. I am passionate that we need technology in student hands at every opportunity. This is a growing and learning experience not only for the students, but more so for the teachers. It is no longer acceptable, in my opinion, for a teacher to say, “I’m not good with technology. I can do the same thing with pencil and paper.” These kind of teachers are doing a severe disservice to the students in their classes. They are depriving their kids of opportunities to critically think and problem solve, to have a say in what they learn about, and to glean knowledge of technology tools that they will need to be proficient with in order to be a functioning member of society when they grown up.

In addition to being passionate about teaching with technology and having technology in student hands, I am also passionate about being a technology leader in my school. I sit on the technology sub-committee of the school board. We discuss how technology fits into the big picture of our school. We have also discussed what technology will look like at the high school we are currently building. In a few years we will be filled out as a K-12 charter school. I also lead the teacher technology team at my school and I have hosted multiple technology professional development sessions so that I may be a resource for those teachers. One such workshop I did was how to use Edmodo. I showed teachers how I was using the app to allow my students to have discussions about a specific topic in my classroom and also give quizzes online. Then I helped the teachers get started using Edmodo in their own classrooms.

In many teaching job interviews, administrators ask how we as teachers will address the issue of diversity in our classrooms. To this I reply that diversity does not only have to do with your skin tone and your culture. Every single student is diverse. In any given lesson I might be differentiating my instruction 25 different ways to meet my students’ needs. Every student learns differently and that is what makes teaching a real challenge. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences really comes into play here. Some kids learn visually and because of that always write directions on the board and I have a bulletin board for every subject area where I post pictures, words, definitions, and charts. Some kids learn verbally, so I am always repeat directions multiple times as well as read aloud scientific content for them to listen to. Some kids learn kinesthetically, and for those students I plan lessons where we are up and moving and re-creating astronomy concepts like revolution and rotation. Each child that comes through my classroom brings with them a completely different set of personal experiences, beliefs, and attitudes towards school that I have to learn and be able to work with. I try very hard to get to know my students so that I am able to teach them how they need to be taught in order for them to be successful. The use of technology makes this process simpler for us as the teacher. There are so many wonderful tools available and more are being created every day. I use the website Moby Max on iPads in my math class. It gives the students a placement test to see where their gaps are and then assigns them lessons to fill in those gaps. Also, for every minute spent learning students earn time to play educational games on the site. They have incorporate differentiation into math and tied in simple extrinsic motivators. Not all of my students enjoy learning in this way, and they all don’t have to use Moby Max, but it is a choice of theirs and it’s one way I cater to my students specific needs.

My teaching beliefs and philosophies come out in every aspect of my teaching. My passion for technology would be evident to anyone who spent 5 minutes in my classroom. The technology motivates my students and it’s teaching them at the same time. You would not believe how fast my students get through their math work in order to play Simple, Physics, an educational game on the iPads. Like the title implies, the game uses basic physics principles and has the students build various objects like a tree house, a river dam, and even a submarine, while still maintaining a building budget and assuring their structures were safe.

I work very hard throughout the school year to create a comfortable and safe classroom climate. As a teacher, I need to know about students’ backgrounds and personal beliefs before I can teach and differentiate for them effectively. Students need to feel comfortable in school before they will show this side of themselves and, to quote Ms. Frizzle, take chances, make mistakes, and get messy. My students and I have a lot of discussion in class about respect and what it means to respect their technology, their teachers, their classmates, and themselves. Here, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs becomes evident. Working at an upper-middle class school I don’t often have issues with students whose physiological or safety needs are not being met. However, with some of my students I do struggle with helping them in belongingness and making friends. This is where my comfortable class climate becomes so crucial. If this step isn’t in place there is no way I am going to be able to build my students’ self esteem enough to get to the creativity and problem solving they reach in the top self- actualization step of Maslow’s pyramid.

I firmly believe that teachers need to be life long learners. I love to learn new things and I am always on a path to gain new knowledge about teaching and about any topic that interests me. A lot of times those topics are technology related because technology is such a prevalent part of our society and our education system right now. All of my free time is spent reading professional texts to make myself a better teacher, non-fiction texts about topics I am interested in, and reading just for fun to expand my imagination. I model my love of reading, learning, and technology for my students every day. I am always looking for new professional development opportunities, whether that is conferences to attend, weekend classes, or this instructional technology masters program. Also, I am always asking for help. I truly believe that two heads are better than one. The four teachers on my grade level team can come up with better lessons and ideas than I could by myself. I also collaborate closely with a fourth grade teacher at my school on technology matters. He and I are currently working to get an iPad pilot at our school so we could have 1:1 iPads in our two classrooms. Our intent behind this is to be able to show other teachers, especially other teachers at our school, what can be done with iPads in the classroom.

Technology has always been a topic of interest for me. I have always been intrigued by the new developments the field has made and how I could implement those ideas into my classroom. At the school I currently work at, we have a full time technology director and I have really enjoyed getting to work with her and help her implement all of our technology resources throughout the school. Because I have been working so closely with our technology specialist, many other teachers now come to me with technology questions they have. I really enjoy getting to be a resource for those teachers. Growing my knowledge of technology will only help me be a better resource to them in the future.

My professional goal this year is to increase student engagement in my classroom, and increase my recognition of student engagement by using technology in new and innovative ways. Additionally, I want to gather information of how to think about technology in different ways and be able to share it with the other teachers at my school. One of the ways I am doing this is by using Bloom’s Taxonomy. The taxonomy itself is immensely helpful in creating more engaging lessons and getting my students to think deeper. However, I have also started researching the revised Digital Bloom’s Taxonomy. It is important to incorporate technology into everything we do in education and this area is not an exception. This is not only my personal teaching goal this year, it is also my administrator evaluation goal. So I will be meeting with my administration throughout the year to discuss how I am working towards this goal. My indication that I am achieving this goal is that I will receive marks from my administrator of Satisfactory or Very Good in the Student Engagement category on my evaluation rubric. I will also be sharing what I learn with my school technology team at our meetings every month.


Armstrong, T. (2009). Multiple intelligence in the classroom (3rd ed.). Retrieved fromhttp://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=zCdxFRFmXpQC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=multiple+intelligences&ots=g9AqeCua

Bloom’s digital taxonomy wheel. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2014, from Edutechalogy website:http://eductechalogy.org/swfapp/blooms/wheel/engage.swf

Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=nOHsjJZB0J8C&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=multiple+intelligences&ots=6pRL022h1w&sig=vWImJ-i3Ud

Green, C. D. (2000, August). A theory of human motivation. Retrieved March 11, 2014, from Classics in the History of Psychology website:http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Maslow/motivation.htm


Hey everyone! It’s Christie. I’ve just finished my Masters Degree in Instructional Technology and I’ve done a lot of research on TPCK. If you’ve never heard of it don’t be alarmed. I hadn’t heard of it until I was in school, but it is a great mindset to keep while teaching with technology.

Here is a little more information on TPCK: TPACK_hi_res_image

The TPCK Framework is a cohesive approach to teaching with technology. It builds a technology piece onto Shulman’s idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge. There are three parts of the TPCK Framework. They are Technology Knowledge, Pedagogy Knowledge, and Content Knowledge. At the heart of TPCK is the idea that these concepts need to be studied together, not just independently, for successful teaching. Schools might have professional development on iPads, a technology, and another professional development on enrichment, an element of pedagogy, but then teachers would be left to make connections between these areas on their own. That is where TPCK comes in.
Each element of TPCK is an important part of education. Technology Knowledge is the ability to operate different technologies such as computers, projectors, iPads, and different software. Pedagogy Knowledge is how to teach. It asks what are different ways you can convey knowledge to your students. Content Knowledge is knowledge about the subjects you teach. This might be the skeletal system, multiplication tables, Ancient Romans, or proper nouns.
There are distinct relationships between each of the components in the TPCK Framework. This is the essential part that many teachers and schools leave out. When you have both technology and pedagogy you know how to use technology to support your teaching. You have the teaching skills to use technology effectively in the classroom. With technology and content together you know how to operate the technology and you know how it relates to your content area. When content and pedagogy come together you have the skills to be able to teach that content area. Finally, the three pieces meet in the middle. When this happens, you understand how technology, content, and pedagogy work together to support good teaching. You are an expert in your content area, you know how to successfully convey that knowledge of content to your students, and you can integrate technology into your instruction in a meaningful way.
When you are lacking these relationships between the different components you get not fully rounded teachers. Teachers with years of experience might have strong pedagogy, but may not have knowledge about some technology tool. Teachers with little teaching experience, but knowledge of technology tools may not know how to successfully use those tools in the classroom. And masters in their content knowledge may not know how to teach that content knowledge to other people.
I think that implementing the TPCK Framework in my classroom and at my school will not be difficult. TPCK is a way of thinking about teaching with technology. Using the three aspects of TPCK is just best practices in everyday teaching. All teachers aspire to be masters in their content areas, to know how to teach well, and know about the latest instructional technology tools available. The only difference is the TPCK mindset that the three pieces are not mutually exclusive.
I can take several steps towards using TPCK in my classroom. I think simply being aware of the TPCK Framework will help me to be cognicent of how I am integrating technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge in my instruction. I will definitely be bringing up the TPCK Framework at my next school technology team meeting, and also with my grade level team. Just teaching my teams about it and being able to discuss it with my coworkers will help us all to become better teachers.
Fijor, M. (2011, October 21). TPACK in action. Retrieved November 10, 2012, from  NewSchool Technology website: http://www.newschooltechnology.org/2011/10/tpack-in-action/
Kimmons, R. (2011, March 22). TPACK in 3 minutes [Video file]. Retrieved from    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=0wGpSaTzW58
Koehler, M. (2011, May 13). What is TPACK? Retrieved November 10, 2012, from http://www.tpack.org/