Category Archives: Uncategorized

#SatChat Notes from January 17, 2015: Collaboration

The early Twitter chat on Saturday morning is my favorite! I’m a crack-of-dawn type of person, so it fits perfectly for me. I fix my coffee, grab something light for breakfast and get logged in. I prefer to use my laptop over my iPad, but sometimes I challenge myself and require myself to use only my iPad. I prefer to participate in the chat using HootSuite rather than Twitter. HootSuite is a web-based tool with an app for iOS that allows you to create “feeds” from your Twitter account that make it easier to follow the tweets coming from the chat’s hashtag. I also like to create a feed that is just the tweets from whoever the chat’s moderator is. That way I can easily see the chat topics as they are “released” for comment. My personal goal after today’s chat is to keep encouraging collaboration opportunities between our schools and possibly global connections I can help our teachers and students make! Here were the questions and my responses from today’s chat:

Q1: Define Collaboration
A1: collaboration is 2+ people working towards a common goal with everyone allowed/expected to contribute based on their strengths. #SatChat

Q2: How is collaboration supported in our schools?
A2: Common time f/Ts, projects & organizations f/ Ss, tech for distance collab. all support collab. in our schools, #SatChat

Q3: What does collaboration look like in the classroom setting?
A3: Collab. in class: Ts share stage w/ Ss, Ts coordinating global connections based on S voice, Ts help Ss develop strengths #SatChat

Q4: How can teachers and administrators model collaboration?
A4: Ts & As must develop own collab. skills including using media/tech, then expect & arrange collab in rooms/buildings, #SatChat

Q5: How does technology foster collaboration?
A5: Tech helps collab. by making connections w/ others including experts possible/easier & publicizing results is rewarding #SatChat

Q6: Please share best practice resources that help support and keep a strong focus on collaboration
I didn’t submit an answer to this topic because I got sidetracked reading some web resources I found during the chat!! That happens sometimes!

Developing Your PLN: Setting up a Feed Reader and Finding Bloggers to Follow

One of the most beneficial parts of my Personal Learning Network or PLN is my feed reader.  I use this tool to compile in one location all the updates from educational bloggers that I like to follow.  This way I don’t have to visit each blog each day to see what new information is available.  When Google Reader went out of commission as a feed reader, I had to find a new one, so I’m currently using Feedly for this purpose.

I keep my eye out for mentions of blogs to follow when I’m at conferences, when I’m reading professional paper publications (yep, I still do that now and then), or even when I’m spending time reading other folks’ blogs.  Many bloggers keep a “blog roll” on their own blog showing other bloggers they like.  If I like someone’s blog, I figure I might also like who THEY like!

Once you add the blog address to Feedly, you don’t have to keep it bookmarked or remember the web address…just go to Feedly and log in and the updates will be sitting there for you to scan as headlines and to link to if you want to read the entire blog posts.

I try to schedule 15 minute blocks of time here and there during my week to just stay current in my reading.  I sometimes have to set a timer, because it is easy to get lost in the “blogosphere” and kill an entire hour!  If you need some help finding valuable bloggers to start following, the Teach100 list at is a great place to find a few to start with.  Just pick 3 – 4 that sound good, start an account at Feedly and put it on your calendar to revist every few days for the next few weeks.  If you find it valuable, you’ve gained a new professional development tool!


iTunes U Course: iPads Making an Educational Impact

As part of my responsibilities as a teachnology integration specialist, I train teachers and other staff on new hardware and software as it becomes available. Since we are investigating the possibility of a 1:1 iPad learning program for grades K-12, I new I would need to provide several different ways for my teachers to get training. Some choose optional face to face opportunities, but many would rather train on their own schedules and at their own home. So I built an iPad training course for teachers in iTunes U and have been trying to compile my basic lessons into the course as I deliver them face to face. This has also been a good way for me to explore iTunes University as a potential learning platform for our older students when the time comes in the deployment of the 1:1 project.

If you’d like to enroll in the course, I’d love to have your feedback! It is currently not listed as public course, so enrollment is by request only. You make request enrollment through iTunes U using the enroll code: EPF-JLS-4KE

If you have feedback, be sure to email me at!

My Challenge to You #1: Follow Some Blogs

keyboardI’ve decided that throughout this year, I will post some challenges to my readers.  They’ll be challenges that should help you grow as an education professional in the area of technology.  The difficulty levels will vary in these challenges, but if you need help accomplishing any of them, I’ll be glad to work with you in person or in a small group in your building to accomplish it.

The first challenge is find 2 – 5 professional blogs to follow, and to schedule time in your work week to skim through them regularly.  Once you’ve found the blogs you’d like to follow, the skimming should only take 15 – 20 minutes a week.

You’ll find that reading others’ ideas and reflections will energize you as a teacher, and help your own professional attitude and creativity.  Choose the first blogs carefully.  Find someone who seems to have a similar teaching assignment either in subject matter or grade level.  Read through a few of their posts to see if their sense of humor, attitude, and writing style seem like you’d enjoy reading them on a regular basis.

To get started here are links to two great lists of educational blogs, one organized by subject matter and one organized by grade-level.  Once you find a blog you enjoy…also skim the front page for blogs that the writer recommends.

List of Subject Specific Blogs

List of Grade-Level Specific Blogs

For now, bookmark or save the blog to your favorites.  Challenge #2 will involve a way to organize the blogs you like to follow into a simple to use format.

If you take my challenge, post a comment telling how it goes…I’ll provide a small reward to the first 5 USD 113 Prairie Hills employees who comment!

MTSS: Reflections from State Symposium

Recently I had an opportunity to attend the Kansas MTSS Symposium in Wichita. We have various stages of MTSS implementation in our district: all the way from full-blown Math and Reading implementation to “just starting to talk about what MTSS is.”  But I believe a couple of main ideas that I saw at the symposium will apply to everyone…one relates to technology, one does not.

First the technology concept I came away with: The most important first step a school takes as it implements the MTSS process is to focus on the main, core curriculum that all students receive. Strengthen it, analyze it to make sure it addresses necessary concepts, and then look at all the ways it could be delivered. That’s where technology should first be used…not as a strategy for “fixing” problems, or even as a means for gathering data about students, but as a tool for providing a variety of instructional delivery approaches. How can technology be used to help deliver your core curriculum? Are you using video and audio to support your delivery where appropriate? Are you using motivational assignments that allow students to choose technology applications to demonstrate their understanding to you? Are you giving kids plenty of practice in ways that take advantage of technology? This should be the main role of technology in our classrooms.

The second and perhaps more important thing I think everyone in the district can benefit from being reminded is not a technology concept, but valuable none the less: MTSS is NOT about meeting AYP, earning grade level “Standard of Excellence” marks on state assessments or being awarded the Governor’s Achievement Award for building-wide excellence. All those are worthwhile building goals to have. But the MTSS process is about KIDS. Not “kids” as in “the 3rd grade class.” But “kids” as in “Johnny, Susie, and Bobby.” MTSS is about using data to help make instructional decisions for what is best for each individual student whose face you smile at each day. This is an especially hard concept to grasp when your overall grade level or building performance is already outstanding. But as I listened to some of the speakers at the symposium, I thought…this should really be about never being satisfied with “good enough.” As a teacher, I always encouraged my students to never be satisfied with less than their best work. Are we as a staff satisfied with less than our best work at helping kids become all they can? That’s really what the MTSS process is about.

Online File Storage Now Part of Google Docs

Google just keeps making itself more and more valuable to me! I love the possibilities that I have to use the Google Docs tools to gather information and work collaboratively. I can’t WAIT for our students to have a Google account option so that teachers can make good use of it, too. But now I’m really anxious for that day to come because they’ve added online file storage to the Google Docs application. Now you can upload, store and share any type of file into the Google Docs arena. We have students using a similar program through Kan-Ed called the “backpack,” so that if they want to finish a project at home and still be able to access it at school, they can log in and use it. This will give the kids even more file storage space and is so simple to use. The traveling teachers that I work with will also love this application as they can access files of all types in whatever building they are in at the time. Here is a link to a great blog entry by Glenn Weibe about the details on using the feature: Tip of the Week: Google Docs “G” Drive.

Free Technology for Authentic Assessment for Foreign Language Classes

I’m excited to share how our French teacher is using technology to conduct Authentic Assessment in her classes!  She has had the kids use the super-simple Voice Recorder that comes with Windows operating systems to record themselves speaking in French.  The end result is a file that they can name and save according to her directions.

We have a network where each student logs in and has file storage available to them once logged in.  The teacher directed her students to create a folder on their directories labeled for her to find and then to save all the recording files into that folder.  As a teacher, she can easily access each students directory to open and listen to their recorded files outside of class. The end result is that she can take one class period to have all students take part in a performance assessment, without having to give her attention to them one at a time while the rest of the class waits.

My job is to make the process easy for the teacher to accomplish and seemless to complete.  I had positive feedback from the teacher, and we are ready to move forward with bigger and better ideas!  The biggest limit to the Sound Recorder (which you access from Start > All Programs > Accessories > Entertainment > Sound Recorder in Windows) is that it doesn’t have unlimited recording time.  Its 60 second limit is fine for simple projects, but to streamline this assessment, we hope to move to a more complex and less-limited free tool, Audacity.

Audacity can be downloaded here. It is is a free audio editing software that is simple to use.  Lots of people are using to create podcasts.  It does require an additional plug-in if you wish to export finished products as mp3 files.  The set up of the plug in is a little tricky, but once you set it up, you’re good to go.  Here are instructions for downloading and setting up the plug-in, called LAME.

By being able to export as an mp3, you have the option of burning cds that can be played in audio players, or put onto mp3 players of all types.  I used this process to make a birthday present for my nephew this summer.  I bought a couple of books on his favorite character, Thomas the Train Engine.  I recorded myself reading the stories to him in Audacity and then exported the file as mp3 format.  I burned a cd for him so that he could put into his cd player and listen to “Aunt Yeesa” read the stories over and over.  I did a few more books for my him and his sister before his family took a big road trip and heard from my sister-in-law that the kids loved being able to have books read aloud whenever they wanted.

Classroom applications could be to make audio recordings of any book that you would use in your room,  Centers could be set up as listening stations for younger students.  Once students know how to use Audacity or Voice Recorder you could have them practice recording themselves and listening to it play back (maybe even without having the files saved) to practice Reading Fluency as well.

Honoring Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, I’ve posted a couple of possible resources for teachers.  I’ve had some requests from some people for info on Martin Luther King, Jr. so I’ve put together this post as a starting place!

Video from:

Some resources from Education World (one of my favorite teacher resources):

From the Nobel Prize Foundation website, you can find Martin Luther King, Jr.’s biography.

Our youngest students may find it easier to read this version of his biography from Enchanted Learning.

From some general information on Black History.

Child of the Seventies? Lite Brite Web Version!

My First Online Lite Brite ImageI grew up in the 1970’s and have great memories of lots of great toys from that era, but one of my favorites was my Lite Brite.  It was that little back-lit box with a plastic pegboard front.  It came with hundreds of colored, translucent pegs that you poked through a black paper laid over the pegboard to let the light shine through in a colored pattern.  There were “color by letter” sheets you could follow to get someone’s pre-programmed picture or you could just create your own design. I spent hours playing with my Lite Brite and then later stepping on the pegs that got lost in my lovely “shag” carpet!  As a child of the seventies, then, I was elated to read about this creativity website that is an online version of the old Lite Brite toy!  An image of my first creation is on the left. Try it for yourself:  put on a little Elton John, James Taylor or John Denver music, (or maybe a little disco music if you were into that) and enjoy a little flashback to the 1970’s.  Just click here:  Lite Brite!

Educational value….ok maybe a stretch…let’s go with creativity and mabye a little geometry…unless you’re studying the historical era of the 1970’s, then it’s obvious!

p.s.  Just found a little different version of this site.  This next one has an on/off button that turns the light behind your picture on!  Now I’m REALLY reminiscing!