Saturday, March 29, 2014

What Does a Blended Classroom Look Like?

Having technology in the classroom gives our students access to an open ended source of knowledge and opportunity.  As educators our main goal is to educate our students.  We have dedicated our lives to teaching, helping, encouraging, and loving our students.

Technology is bringing a whole new "look" to our classrooms. The classroom textbooks and workbooks are slowly becoming obsolete in today's technology world.  As we approach this new era with new teaching strategies it takes time and thought to plan out the most effective ways to teach our students.

What does blended learning look like?

I've included a glance below of a blended classroom. This glance includes what reading lessons might look like.  Technology may or may not be used every single day. Some days lend themselves to technology easily but sometimes technology tools are not the right go-to resource. When incorporating technology into a lesson it is important to plan ahead and think about what strategies would be the best choice for teaching the objective.

Day 1 (No technology use)

  • Play "Vocab in a Bucket" This is a non-iPad vocab game that students love (I see a new blog post in the future.)
  • Pre-reading discussion
  • Literature reading
  • Somebody Wanted But So Then activity - I use an activity found at one of my favorite TPT stores (my sister's). 

    Day 2 (Blended Learning)
    • Choose one vocabulary word for the week and create an Educreations presentation using the Educreations app.  The presentation must include a student friendly definition, visual representation, and the word in a sentence.
    • The teacher uses technology such as the Nearpod app to present reading strategies and questions. This particular app has a polling and quiz feature that is great for classroom discussions and interaction.
    • Use for the literature reading or read the literature aloud
    • Use a Literature Response Graffiti Wall activity

      Day 3 (Limited Blended Learning)
      • Independent reading using strategies.
      • Use reading stops during the reading for discussion.  
      1st stop during reading -  students share their thinking with a shoulder partner or a group  
      2nd stop during reading -  students post their thoughts on a board in the classroom using sticky notes
      3rd stop during reading -  students post their thoughts on Today's Meet.

      Saving Today's Meet on the home screen of each iPad will make it quick and easy for students to access. I keep my link assessable for the entire school year. (

      We often have 3 stops during our reading.  Some days I use Today's Meet for all 3 stops but I like to switch it up sometimes also.

      I LOVE Today's Meet even in classrooms that have limited technology. Teachers can project  a single laptop, iPad, or phone.  Students can take turns posting their thoughts for the entire class to see.

      There are so many resources to use even in a classroom that has limited technology.  If you haven't tried blended learning, grab a co-teacher or student and try something. It only takes trying one small idea in your classroom today to make a difference in the lives of our students tomorrow.

      Recently I found this quote below on Twitter.
      If you have a great resource or idea...please share...your ideas are valued.

      Thursday, March 20, 2014

      Book Store Visit

      It wouldn't be Spring Break without a visit to Barnes and Noble.  Woot! Woot!  I'm now the proud owner of 4 new books.  My wallet says, "Ouch!"...but isn't that the life of a teacher?

      The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child and Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits by Donaylyn Miller
      Thanks #4thchat for the book suggestions. 

      The Literacy Cookbook by Sarah Tantillo

      I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

      Here is a sneak peak of Where is My Hat.

      After watching the movie "Non-Stop" last night at Movie Bistro, I'm excited to have a good book to read on my flight home this weekend.  I think a book will keep my mind occupied instead of studying the other passengers to see who is a potential hijacker.  Although, studying the passengers might be more entertaining...and could help me get creative juices flowing for a great writing piece. FYI, Non-Stop is a MUST SEE.  It will keep you in suspense until the very end.

      If you have a great educational book or anchor text to share please leave a comment below.  I'm always looking for great books to read and share.

      Monday, March 17, 2014

      Virtual Professional Development

      Beginning the "techie" adventure during this school year with 1-to-1 iPads in my classroom, I was unaware of the path and mind shift I would encounter.  One mind shift has been in the area of professional development.  Initially I thought attending conferences would give me PD I needed to be successful in the classroom.  I attended the Technology and the Classroom Conference in Pittsburg, Kansas; Extraordinary Educators Conference in Chicago, Illinois; and the MOREnet Conference in Osage Beach, Missouri.  Although all of these were outstanding conferences with great presenters and usable take aways, I knew there was something missing.  Excited and filled with ideas, I still didn't quite feel confident in the techie world.

      How did I get started with virtual professional development?

      Professional Literature and Resource Books

      In my quest to learn about the techie world I turned to the Accidental Techie and her fabulous resource books. These books include step by step instructions with pictures. I bought every book of hers I could find.  As I was reading Dr. Elliott's books, I discovered excitement and an "I can do this" attitude. She was my rescue and the beginning of my techie professional development.

      I also had the privilege of attending several of her workshops at the Extraordinary Educator Conference in Chicago.


      I couldn't stop at Dr. Elliot's resource books.  I began reading her blog to continue getting ideas and information.  Of course I questioned myself again, "If her blog has great ideas what other techie or 4th grade teacher blogs have great ideas?" Deciding to search for other technology and 4th grade blogs that use technology turned my world upside down again.  I couldn't believe all the great ideas and resources available in the virtual world.  I was in awe of the ingenious ideas teachers were willing to share on the World Wide Web.

      Collaboration with My School Team
      Let me start by saying I work with some of the best teachers anywhere.  They constantly amaze me with their knowledge and data driven decisions. In our building we realized the value of sharing with each other and the value this piece would have in our professional development and growth as educators.  We decided to meet during our lunch time 1 to 2 times a month to collaborate and share what we have learned AND what is working well in our classrooms. Although we discuss frequently on a daily basis this time was set aside specifically to share ideas.

      District Collaboration
      I was getting hooked on professional development and needed more information about technology.  I set up a meeting with my teacher friends (and their friends) in other buildings within our district to collaborate and share what is working well.  Some of the teachers have iPads and some have Chrome books.  Wow! We were learning from each other and I was loving it.

      I also connected with a couple teachers from other buildings in our district at the Alan November Innovation Academy.  Through this connection we have developed a comradery.  We share resources and ideas regularly.  Watch out, we will be Google Certified Teachers soon.

      Snow season began and I was bored.  I was thinking, "Where can I find more information about blended learning?"

      I had read a few blogs that talked about twitter chats and decided to check one out on Christmas Break/Snow Break (11 snow days this year). The first chat that I happened to join was a school district in McKinney, Texas.  This school district has a regular chat for all 4th grade teachers in their district (my next "I want to do this in Webb City") #mck4thchat.  These teachers are awesome. I learned so much in the short hour.

      I would strongly encourage you to find a Twitter chat group for your grade or subject area. Check out this  website from one of my PLN members for more information about Twitter chats in education or to find a chat group for you. FYI, I met Jerry  the Cybraryman on #4thchat.  He has an amazing inventory of resources. Shout out to my #4thchat PLN, you are the best.

      Not only are Twitter chats great professional development opportunities but Twitter is a great place to connect to other teachers who teach what you teach.  I've connected with 4th grade teachers all over the world.  Teachers in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom are all part of my Professional Learning Network.  The tweets these teachers share include encouraging words, blog posts, resources, classroom pictures, student work, etc.  I've learned so much from them.  The BEST part is I have my own professional development conference available to me 24/7.  All I have to do is pick up my phone and start looking at my Twitter feeds.  No driving, conference fees, or travel expenses involved...just me and my phone (or laptop).  Check out this Twitter Post from one of my #4thchat tweeps.

      Next on my adventure was Google+.  Yes, another Missouri snow day...and I decided to check out Google Hangout (GHO).  Why were my Twitter friends so excited about Google Hangouts? Wow, I opened up a whole new world yet again.

      I joined several Google+ communities but found myself drawn to the Eduhangout community.  Through Google+ communities I was able to connect with teachers interested in Google Hangouts.  This lead to our Mystery Hangouts, book clubs, and activities with students all over the world.

      Collaborating with Teacher's in the US and Abroad
      Google+ and Twitter allowed me to connect with teacher's around the world.  I connected with 5 other teachers around the US to plan (via GHO) an Olympic Game Show for Digital Learning Day.  We connected on Sunday evenings to plan.  It blew my mind that I was looking at, talking to, and planning student learning with educators in Massachusetts, Indiana, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Florida.

      I continue to collaborate frequently with 2 teachers in the United Kingdom and 1 in New Zealand through our Quadblogging project.  Working with teachers around the world to develop ways to help our students learn is exhilarating. 

      What's Next?

      I can't wait to find out what virtual professional development opportunities arise next.  If you haven't stepped out into the world of virtual PD I strongly encourage it.  Grab a friend or co-teacher, challenge each other, and get going.

      “You're off to Great Places!
      Today is your day!
      Your mountain is waiting,
      So... get on your way!”

      Wednesday, March 12, 2014

      It's NOT All About Tech

      Stepping into the world of 1:1 iPads this year has stretched me as a teacher. My goal has been to energize and innovate my classroom without sacrificing curriculum and standards. I began the journey thinking, "What apps can students use to help them learn?" Very quickly I discovered it's not about the apps or's about the LEARNING and instruction. I can be a top notch techie but it doesn't really matter if my students aren't learning.

      If it's not about iPad apps then where do you start? I started at the kitchen table. "What?" My favorite place to brainstorm and generate ideas is seated at my kitchen table. Before the school year started I gathered at my table with my laptop, iPad, highlighters, post it notes, district curriculum guide, standard reports, and resource books. Mission Learning had begun.

      STEP 1
      Question to Self:
      What units and standards are taught during the quarter?

      Action Plan:
      1. Identify objectives and standards taught during each unit.
      2. Review district summative assessments for the quarter.  
      STEP 2
      Question to Self:
      What technology resources (if any) will help my students learn the material?

      Action Plan:
      1. Review the lesson activities
      2. Review resource books, blogs, Pinterest
      3. Create a list of possible apps, sites, video, images, or links that will help students learn concepts more effectively.
      STEP 3
      Question(s) to Self:
      • What is the best way for me to know if my students understand what is being taught? 
      • What formative assessments will I use?
      Action Plan:
      1. Identify resources that will best assess the skills.
      2. Review summative assessment again.
      • Students use Today's Meet to ask questions about the text.
      • Teachers use Google form checklist to document mastery while circulating classroom.
      • Online quiz/test created by teacher using Google Forms, Nearpod, Edmodo, or Schoology.
      • Twitter, Answer Garden, Padlet
      • White boards (My students use the Kids Doodle app as a white board on their iPad and love it.)
      STEP 4
      Questions to Self:
      • What activities are best to teach/assess the objectives and standards? 
      • What technology or traditional resources will be best to use during instruction?
      Action Plan:
      1. Review brainstorming list. 
      2. Finalize what resources and activities would best meet the needs of students and teach the objective/standard.
      Step 5
      Have fun instructing and watching students learn.

      Sunday, March 9, 2014

      Technology has Changed the Way I Teach

      Internet connectivity in my classroom yesterday was what I would call problematic.  If you were thinking that is typical for the Internet you would be incorrect (HUGE shout out to the tech department in my school district). Yesterday, March 7th, was the first day during this school year that our classroom had connection issues.  In my opinion, that is impeccable...if only my home Internet had such an outstanding record.

      Due to plan A, plan B, plan C, and so forth during the day yesterday; once again I am reflecting on technology (I know, I know...I can't stop reflecting). My first intuition was, “Oh my goodness, I had no idea I used technology so much.  I teach instrumentally different now.”  It is no secret that good educators teach differently today than they did yesterday. For me, my teaching philosophy has changed more in the past year than it has during any single year in my 19 years of education and it's all because of the technology in our classroom.

      Over the next few weeks I will be blogging about how technology has truly transformed the way I teach (and learn). My blog posts will encompass topics about:
      ·       Project based learning
      ·       Professional development
      ·       Collaboration
      ·       Connecting to the world
      ·       Curriculum
      ·       Making data driven decisions
      ·       Assessments
      ·       Online student portfolios
      ·       How to get started

      All of these are certainly not new concepts to the world of education.  My goal is to simply interject my thoughts on how these topics intertwined with the world of technology has changed the way I teach and the opportunities for ALL my students.