Reflections on K-12 Robotics: A Series

This was the “teaser” photo I sent out to teachers letting them know I had some exciting opportunities coming for them! A few had come to some optional summer training I had offered, but most had no experience!

During the 17-18 school year, I’ve had the good fortune to get to work with several K-12 students in USD 113 using Dash and Dot Robots by Wonder Workshop.  This is the first in a series of posts that are reflections on what I’ve learned and how I hope our district moves forward. 

Last spring I got permission to order a single Dash and Dot set to evaluate because I’d seen them at a couple of technology conferences and wanted to try for myself to see if they’d work as well as my first impression.  I loved them! A middle school student who was job-shadowing with us spent a little time experimenting an giving input, too. I had a colleague with another set, so I used the robots once last spring for about 40 minutes with each of the 4th grade kids in some small groups.  They just got a taste, but I was hooked as I watched the student enthusiasm, engagement, problem solving and collaboration skyrocket!

Over the summer we ordered a few more sets of robots and accessory attachments like bulldozer attachments, ball launchers and xylophones as a district, and I also applied for an Appleseed Innovation Grant, a super-cool, local program that encourages innovative projects in the USD 113 district.  My grant was innovative because it includes after-school coding and robotics opportunities for the kids in our district AND incentives for teachers who help me by staying after with the kiddos as volunteers!  Teachers who stay and help in the after-school programs are earning robots for their own classrooms which the grant helped to pay for!  In this series of blog posts, I’ll reflect on these after school opportunities as well as the work we do throughout this year using the robots in the classrooms of the district.  (Maybe I’ll even get a teacher or two to offer some reflections of their own!)

So far at this point, all 4 first grade classes in our three elementary schools have had about 8 sessions learning with the Dash robots through explicit instruction, experimentation and guided challenges!  So I’ll also share some reflections about my experiences with first grade!  The third grade classes at Sabetha Elementary School all invited me in to do a couple of 30-minute sessions with them focusing on the math concept of input-output machines.  At Axtell, the Dash robots were invited to be part of their high school’s first ever Career Day as an exploratory session to encourage students to consider coding and computer science as well as other topics that our small schools may not be able to offer as formal electives.  And I had a great time introducing the 3rd and 4th graders at our Wetmore school to Dash and Dot during Computer Science Education Week back in December.  I meant to start reflecting in m blog much sooner, but better late than never, I guess!  I hope you’ll check back to learn more in the next several days to read more about my reflections!!

A Listicle: 5 Most Versatile iPad Tools/Apps #EdublogsClub


This week’s #EdublogsClub Blogging ChallengePrompt: Write a listicle.

From Wikipedia:  In journalism and blogging, a listicle is a short-form of writing that uses a list as its thematic structure, but is fleshed out with sufficient copy to be published as an article. A typical listicle will prominently feature a cardinal number in its title, with subsequent subheadings within the text itself reflecting this schema. The word is a portmanteau derived from list and article. It has also been suggested that the word evokes “popsicle“, emphasising the fun but “not too nutritious” nature of the listicle.[1]

So, my listicle post is about what I consider to be the top 5 most versatile iPad tools/apps for elementary educators:

The Top 5 Most Versatile iPad Tools/Apps for Elementary Educators

To make my top 5 list, apps/tools had to fall in to the “creative” category.  (I have a sign by my desk that reads, “I want kids to create, not just consume.”  Click here to read more about my “motivation” wall.)  If you haven’t mastered these yet, be sure you do!

  1. Camera and Photos (native iOS apps)
  2. Seesaw
  3. ChatterPix Kids
  4. Pic Collage Kids
  5. Book Creator

20170223-091123.jpg     Camera and Photos

Built right in to your iPad are a powerful camera and a tool for organizing, editing, and annotating over the top of your images.  If you don’t take time to get the most recent UserGuide when you update your iPad’s operating system, you might miss out on important and cool updates to the native apps that are part of the operating system like these are.  Here is a link to the current (10.2) iPad UserGuide that you can add to iBooks for free.  The userguide has a hyperlinked table of contents with links to chapters on the Camera and Photos Apps with great screenshots and easy-to-read instructions.  Some of the most recent useful additions is the editing option to “mark-up” a photo.  Think about having students snap a photo of something and then annotate over the top of it!  The annotations become part of the photo itself when saved.  Have them photograph and annotate text or go on a scavenger hunt for photos that contain a shape or other concept you’re studying and then annotate the photo to circle or even label what they want to draw attention to.

Many apps that encourage creativity use the Photos app as a project “library” where finished products are stored.  Any app that allows you to save a project as an image or video file, will likely send the finished product to “photos” for you to retrieve.  This means this app is often critical to being able to “smash” app features together.  Start a project in Chatterpix (see below), then save the “video” file to photos where you can then upload to Seesaw (see below) to share with families.  Understanding and being comfortable with managing your iPad’s Photos app is critical!

20170223-091946.jpg     Seesaw

Click here to see the teacher/student app in the app store.  Seesaw is an online learning journal that allows teachers to make a free account, add their class roster and share access with parents.  Students log in to the app on the iPad and make entries to document their learning using the built-in tools for drawing, recording audio and video, and annotating or labeling over images or pdfs.  Any other app that can save a product as an image, video or pdf can be appsmashed into Seesaw to share with families.  There’s so much more to this app, but that’s the gist of it.  You need to check it out if you haven’t already!

20170223-092010.jpg     ChatterPix Kids

Click here to see it in the app store.  So fun to use to let kids “show what they know!”  Find or take a photo of a topic you’ve been studying, give it a mouth and record your own voice to bring the image to life by chattering your words along the mouth you’ve drawn!  Save the finished project to the Photos app in video format and it can be shared anywhere you share videos:  Seesaw?  Sure!  YouTube? Yep?  Airdrop to a friend?  You Bet!  Set student examples up to play on their iPads on their desks and let your class roam around in a “gallery walk” to see and reflect on one another’s projects.  Don’t feel limited to projects that start with an image of a person because people are the only ones with a voice . . . give a mouth and voice to an inanimate object like a landform or an animal and have their “voice” share details students have learned about that topic.  If the 30-second time limit isn’t enough, teach students to record multiple video clips and piece them together using iMovie!  Or have students use Airdrop to share their projects with you and YOU can piece them together in iMovie to make a class video to share!

20170223-092001.jpg     Pic Collage Kids

Click here to see it in the app store.  So fun to put multiple pictures together in a creative way to tell a story or share what you know or can do.  Add pictures into provided templates, get creative with text, stickers, etc. to make it look nice, then save it to your photo roll as a single, finished image that can be added to other apps or uploaded into tools like Seesaw.  (Since Seesaw doesn’t allow multiple photos to be uploaded (yet), this can be a way to upload multiple pictures into one Seesaw journal entry.  Pic Collage Kids also has some search capabilities built into it that could be used to help teach kids about using digital images “fairly.”

20170223-091954.jpg     Book Creator

Click here to see it in the app store.  This is the only app on my list that isn’t free, but the full version of this app is worth every penny of the $4.99 it costs.  (If you’re lucky enough to be part of Apple’s Volume Purchase Program for Education, you can get it in bulk for $2.99.)  But give the lite version (which IS free) a try before you decide.  All the tools are in the lite version, but you can only have one active book at a time.    This versatile little tool lets students create digital books that can be exported off the iPad in a variety of formats.  Its tools include text, drawing, audio recording, importing of images and videos, and even hyperlinking.  Finished books will open as an ebook that can be read in the native ebook reader for iPad, iBooks.  But they can also be saved as a PDF or even exported in a “movie for web” version that goes nicely to Seesaw and web pages.


Challenging Situations: #EdublogsClub

Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory. ~George Patton

This week’s #EdublogsClub Prompt: Write a post about challenging situations.

A challenge I face in my role as a technology integrationist for our district is handling criticism from others.  I am a people-pleaser, and I like to have the approval of others.  So moving from a classroom teaching position to a district-wide support role meant that I suddenly have many more people who either approve or disapprove of suggestions, ideas, proposals, etc.  More teachers, more students, more administrators, more families, even more patrons interested in the district decisions around technology!  I know that “you can’t make everyone happy all the time” is a phrase that many people use to help themselves rationalize away negative feedback they get from stakeholders.  However, I want to be open minded and listen to all  feedback I’m given and try to incorporate it in to my work.  But this is, indeed, a challenge!  I try to remind myself of the word “iteration” very often.  It is ok to take critical feedback, because “this is only the current iteration of ______________.”  Insert into that blank: this project, this tech deployment, this way of doing my job, etc.  In the “next iteration” I  want  to do/be better anyway, right?  So why not listen to the feedback and use what I can from it to grow!

Share to Classroom Extension for Chrome #EdublogsClub

The prompt for this week’s #EdublogsClub blogging challenge was to write in some way about free technology tools.  I’m a little behind on my posts, so instead of writing extensively on this topic, I’m just choosing to share a 5 minute tutorial video I created to share with our staff.  Many of them use Google Classroom and this video is about a Chrome browser extension called “Share to Google Classroom” that allows teachers to quickly share a web link to their classes in Google Classroom.  I hope you enjoy the video!

Using Photos Fairly: #EdublogsClub Prompt 4

computer class

Creative Commons License woodleywonderworks via Compfight

This week’s blogging challenge was to write a post that includes an image and to write about that image or about the process of using images in digital work!  Here are my thoughts:

Digital Citizenship has always been an important topic, but I’m especially concerned about teaching students to use images and other works belonging to others fairly.  We are in the third year of a 1:1 iPad implementation K-12 in our district, and as kids become more and more savvy and creative in their creation of digital media, I am more and more concerned that we need to ALL be informed and take it as our responsibility to teach and enforce the proper, legal use of images.  I appreciated the recent update on The Edublogger about understanding copyright and creative commons for educators.  You can read the entire post at:  The Educator’s Guide To Copyright, Fair Use, And Creative Commons.

My favorite take-away from reading the update was the list of resources for finding images with friendly-to-use licensing.  I’d been familiar with Photos For Class for quite a while and I really like it because it saves the images with their attribution attached at the bottom.  Super easy for our youngest students!  New to me, though, was CompFight.  As a blogger, the plug-in works slick!  I can search for the image, and when I insert it into my post, the attribution and link come right along with it.  You can see my very first use of this tool in the image for this post.  Note the hyperlinked text below it….that came right along with the image when I inserted it!  So nice to have confidence that I’m using and crediting images correctly!  I  also tried out the online tool at the web address linked above.  While it is easy to search for images, the results do bring up a couple of rows of not-free, stock photos that you’d have to teach kids to ignore.  The attribution is easy to find on the page, but does not get saved right at the bottom of the photo like it does for Photos For Class, either.

Pixabay is another resource suggested by the post, but I haven’t felt easy suggesting it because, while the photos are all released to use without attribution, they aren’t all something that I’m comfortable with students pulling up in their search results, especially for my youngest students.

Another tip related to images I’d like to add:  I recently worked with some 3rd graders and wanted to show them the Google Advanced Image Search tool you can get when you visit  (On iPad, the advanced tools aren’t as easy to open in the browser.)  One thing I did was make a QR code to that URL so that they could easily get to the address.  Then we saved the URL as a web-clip so that it looks like an app on their iPad screen.  I taught them to type in their search terms and before hitting search,  change the “usage rights” field to “free to use or share.”  We talked about how different the search results were and why.  It still is important to help students find the information for giving attribution, but it makes searching a bit easier anyway.

If you’re a regular classroom teacher, what are your thoughts on your responsibility for teaching kids to give credit when they use someone else’s intellectual property like images? Should you be expected to teach it?  Enforce it?  If not you, who in your students’ lives should be responsible?

Reflecting Upon Leadership: #EdublogsClub


As our country prepares to inaugurate a new leader, I’m reflecting upon the concept of leadership myself as part of my participation in the #EdublogsClub blogging challenge.  As a 26 year veteran of education, I’ve worked for and with several different educational leaders through the years, and now I find myself in a role that does include some aspect of leadership as I support teachers and students to make an educational impact using technology.  As I reflect on leadership, I hope that in my own leadership I exhibit the following positive traits I’ve observed in other leaders:

  • Positive in Attitude:  The most effective leaders that I’ve observed are ones whose approach remains positive no matter what the task or challenge
  • Willing to be an Advocate: Someone who is willing to step forward to share the needs of students and educational systems with others who have the ability to influence a situation (parents, teachers, community members, legislators)
  • Innovative and Open-Minded:  Willing to try new ideas, take (reasonable) risks and listen to others with ideas different from their own
  • Flexible and Always Working to Improve:  I love the word “iteration,” and  I hope that for everything I do, I am willing to consider how  it could be done better, and that if it can be done better I work towards that improvement
  • Appreciating and Crediting Others: Recognizing “good” and crediting others for it, praising not only success but effort towards improvement
  • Ethical: Someone who doesn’t try to get around rules, regulations, laws and who considers the culture of the community of which they are a member
  • Right Priorities: Faith, personal health (so you can perform your duties), treating others with respect, work-life balance, keeping “what’s best for kids” in mind, but also considering a whole educational system that may include other kids, other buildings or even other districts in mind
  • Encouraging others to grow in leadership: I have a couple of notes on my motivation board that are relevant to this.  One simply reads “No Heroes,” which means to me that I want to work so I develop independent people who don’t “need” me to be successful.  The second note is the one I snapped a picture of for the top of this post:  “Leadership is about creating other leaders.”

What characteristic of a great leader have I left off this list?

My Workspace(s): #EdublogsClub


As part of my participation in the #EdublogsClub blogging challenge for educators, I’m writing this post in response to this week’s prompt to describe our classrooms, offices or other spaces in which we work.  While I do have an office in our “central district office”, I also spend a lot of time in our 5 school buildings where the teachers and students I support spend their days.  I spend time in other teachers’ classrooms, in the several computer labs in the schools, and even in the “teacher workrooms” and libraries of the buildings where I sometimes set up a temporary office from which to work!  Much of my job does NOT rely on a specific physical space.  For example, as I write the first draft of this post, I’m sitting in the teacher workroom of a school building 40 miles from my office at the central district office building.  I had 3 short support meetings with teachers in this building earlier today and later on I’ll be meeting with another one about how our 1:1 iPad program can be even more effective for her students.  During this “down time” between my formal meetings, I’ve set up shop on a table where teachers eat lunch in the room where they make copies.  I’ve answered some emails, enrolled new students into software programs that I manage and I’ve spent a little time reviewing new posts on blogs I like to follow using Feedly, a reader to help manage my time.   And now I’m taking a few minutes to write the first draft of this blog post!

But the photos I’m including are snapped from my desk.  The top photo is a bulletin board that has turned in to a make-shift “motivation” board.  The pictures of my family and co-workers show some of the important people in my life!  But the quotes I have on there are even more helpful to see into who I am and what is important for me.  Here are a few of them typed out in case you can’t read them all in the photo:

  • Pencil Labs?????  (This was a motivation for why we needed to implement a 1:1 technology program that has been on my board for several years.  We have had iPads for all students K-12 for several years now, but I still like the analogy.  Would you tell teachers and students that they had to “go to the lab” each time they needed to use a pencil????)
  • You can’t get to outer space in a rowboat. (This one is just to remember that we need to pick the right tool for what we want kids to be able to learn and do.  And it can be important for kids to learn to pick their own tool.
  • Write! Write poorly. Write poorly in public until you get better! (Just motivation and challenge to continue to try to update my blog without my hangup of perfection before publication.)
  • The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything. (I’d love perfect technology resources, perfect policies, perfect colleagues, perfect students. But we can do good things without a perfect situation, so we should!)
  • No Heroes! (I need to embrace growth in other people and take the position that it shows growth for our district when “I” become needed less for technology support.)
  • Leadership is about creating other leaders.  (When I left the classroom and took my position as a technology integration specialist, I viewed myself more as a support person rather than a leader.  And I still see the line as blurred between the two for my responsibilities.  But when I read this thought somewhere, I knew that it was definitely part of my duty to our district and to the students in our district and to our profession.  One person cannot make a big enough difference without spreading their influence!)
  • Good teaching may overcome a poor choice of technology, but  technology will never save bad teaching. (So important.  This supports the premise that “technology amplifies,” as well:  when a teacher is provided good technology their skills will be amplified:  teachers with good pedagogical foundation have a new creative tool in their tool belt, but teachers with poor pedagogy who don’t know how to manage kids or handle unexpected events technology can make that even more obvious. So if your goal is to support successful technology integration, it must also be to support the development of sound pedagogy in the teaching staff, as well.  And if technology doesn’t make the impact you wish it would, you sometimes have to be willing to look more deeply into the reasons why.)
  • Am I part of the problem or part of the solution? Do I focus on the obstacles of my job or on the opportunities? Do I make excuses or do I set a positive example for others? Do colleagues and students see me as being full of enthusiasm or full of something else? Do I brighten up my schools when I enter them or when I leave them? (I can’t recall where I came across these questions, but I hope my constant reflection upon them helps me stay a positive influence!)
  • Economically disadvantaged students, who often use the computer for remediation and basic skills, learn to do what the computer tells them, while more affluent students, who use it to learn programming and tool applications, learn to tell the computer what to do. (Neuman, D. (1991). Technology and equity. Available at and first read by me at Dangerously Irrelevant, a blog I really appreciate!  I think this quote leads nicely to this one last “image” I’m including that is a thought I try to keep to the forefront when I work with teachers on how to integrate technology:  I want them to create!!  Not just to consume!  And I sort of love that in this photo you see the green-painted dowel rods that I have for working with green-screen projects with kids!)

Talk to me:  What do you think of the quotes on my  motivation board?  Do any resonate with you?  Do any offend you?  What quotes keep YOU going?  🙂


Committed to Improvement: #Edublogsclub

I’m excited to be participating a in weekly blog challenge project that starts here at the beginning of the new year: #Edublogsclub! Each week, members of the challenge receive a prompt and are challenged to write towards this prompt during the week and publish their blog post. If you want to try the challenge along with me, click HERE to learn more and sign up!  This is my first weekly challenge where the prompt was to write a post that “tells your blog story.” So here goes:

This is not my first blog post, but I also don’t consider myself a successful blogger because I haven’t been consistent in my blogging practices in the past though I’ve tried several times to improve! I read other blogs through a feed reader (Feedly) so that I can just quickly skim the headlines. My favorite blogs are ones where new resources are shared as I used those to stay abreast of new ed tech that I then share out to the staff I support in our district.  I also read posts suggested by members of my Twitter PLN. I’m choosing to participate in this challenge to try to establish blogging as more of a professional habit. I hope that by receiving and responding to the prompts, I’m challenged to add other blog posts that are relevant to what I’m learning and sharing with others as well.

My biggest fear as I get started is that my posts will be long and wordy.  I know that other writing I do (emails, etc) can sometimes get too wordy and hard to follow, so I hope to keep things succinct and easy to read.  I’m also worried that the time I spend blogging will not be worthwhile since hardly anyone reads my posts.  In response to this fear, I hope to be able to focus on finding value in the process for professional growth and reflection of my own whether anyone reads or not!