Microsoft Innovative Educator

Microsoft Innovative Educator

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Edcamp in Your PJ's

Professional Development is in a constant state of change. This is perfect, because so is education. As educators, we are always looking for new and innovative ways to advance our profession. When PD in your pj's (pajamas) and edcamps combine, it is nothing short of amazing! A special shout out to the EduMatch team for a successful 4th annual event. This year was only my second time attending and I was not disappointed. If you missed out, check out the highlights in this post. This Blog is Why you should go ahead and mark your calendars for next year's event.

The Edcamp model encourages the educators/participants to be the experts. There is not a set agenda or prepared presentations. Participants propose topics that they wish to discuss and the conversation begins. Something else that is unique about the Edcamp model is that if you find that the discussion is not what you anticipated or need, you are free to move on to another session/topic. It is truly an informal learning environment. You might also find that sometimes the main topic sparks discussion about other related topics as well. The point is: You drive your own learning experience. For many, that can be a little scary at first. But I think it is a great way to empower educators. The platform for Edcamp EduMatch is MIT Unhangout. I like this forum and I want to explore how I can possibly use it for professional development as an Instructional Technology Coach. If anyone has ideas, please share!

Edcamp Highlights:
1) The first session that I attended was Supporting Elementary Teachers with Tech. We discussed different ways to address the technology needs of staff members. One person was moving from high school to work with elementary teachers and inquired about the best approach. There was advice about meeting face-to-face and going into classrooms. There were questions about Google Classroom Sreencastify and Flipgrid as resources. Check out the conversation here:
                                         (Thank you Nancy Swanson for recording/sharing)

2) The second session was facilitated by Desiree Alexander on the topic of Tech Certifications. There are many, many ways to stretch yourself as an educator/innovator. Want to learn more about Microsoft? Google? Apple? Nearpod? Edmodo? You name it! There is probably a badge/certification for that. For more information, head over to Educator Alexander's website and see what you may be missing. My advice is to get them all (or as many as you can). You can never learn too much and it opens the door to the possibilities that you can bring into your classroom and/or school. I am interested in learning more about IC3 certifications. As I am learning more about computer science/coding, it is becoming my new passion. Peek in on the discussion here:
                                         (Thank you Nancy Swanson for recording/sharing)

I hope you are inspired to attend the next event. The time really flies and you have the chance to make some wonderful connections with other educators from around the world. And the best part of all, FREEBIES!! Huge shout out to the following Edcamp supporters:
Spelling City
Write About

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Conference Wrap-Up: Midlands Summit 2018

This was my second time attending SC Midlands Summit in beautiful Columbia, SC. As promised, last year I was just an attendee while this year I was invited to present two sessions. This was a great way to end my week and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. While the sessions were great, that wasn't the high point of my time at the conference. The high point for me was connecting with people. It was great to see my colleagues and spend some quality learning time with them. I am so fortunate to know some great educators. I love supporting them and I truly appreciate the support they give to me. This Blog Is Why professional development and relationships go hand-in-hand. Love my PLN!

After leaving the Partnership Conference at Winthrop University and attending Midlands Summit, I definitely detected a theme in the learning this summer. Computer Science/STEM/STEAM are the hot topics. There were so many connections from the keynote speakers Mike Meechin @mikemeechin and Dr. Cindy Moss @stemboss. I learned about several careers in the computer science/tech industry that I did not know before. This is the information that we must share with our staff and students.
Have you heard of these career options? Mind blown.
  • Mechatronics
  • Surgical technician 
  • Radiation technician
  • Extracorporeal technologist
  • Bioinformatics
  • iCar certification 

Some other conference highlights: 
1) Over the course of the conference, I was able to support my colleague and PLN friends. The great thing about technology is that there is so much to learn. I was proud of my colleague for presenting her first session on Guided Math. I was also proud of myself for being able to complete most of the activities that she shared (despite my math phobia!). I also learned some great tech tools thanks to @sblakeney3 and @psjoseph718 that I will be trying out soon. Check them out on Twitter.
Try These:
Random Name Generator

2) This year, my favorite session was presented by Mrs. Shambi Broome. I have been using Scratch this year with Google's CS First curriculum and Shambi has opened my eyes to a whole new world of options with Scratch and the new Teacher Account. I am excited to get started creating and sharing in the Scratch community. I look forward to sharing more with you soon! In the meantime, check out her website:
Webgyrlz Code

3) Seeing so many familiar faces in the audience helped to ease my stress level as I presented. I also truly appreciated the participants' willingness to try new tech tools. My first session was my version of an EdTech Top 10. As I shared with my audience, this list could include so many different resources. Even in preparing my presentation, I changed and switched out items several times. Check it out and drop me a line if you have something new that you think I might enjoy! And my second session was all about blogging. I love talking about blogging and my goal is to inspire others to pursue blogging as a reflection tool.

EdTech Top 10: Tips & Tools to Implement Now

Welcome to the Bloggers' Cafe

**@ = Twitter connections

Conference Wrap-Up: Computer Science

Wow. What an amazing week of learning! Well, this conference wrap-up is not brought to you by "computer science" but the 9th Annual Partnership Conference for Educational Renewal. Long name, right?! I always love presenting at my alma mater, Winthrop University. And this time was no different. There were a couple of firsts for me this time around: co-presenting with colleagues and focusing on the topic of computer science. This Blog Is Why after co-presenting two sessions at the conference, I am more committed than ever to implementing computer science (standards) into our elementary curriculum.

Before we dive into the wide world of computer science, I want to give a huge shout-out to one of my former colleagues (really, still a colleague; we just don't work in the same space any more!). She was a presenter at the conference and I hope she doesn't mind me sharing. I learned all about the WriteReader program and I can't wait to explore it with teachers in the upcoming school year. I enjoyed seeing samples of work from her students. What a great way to start grooming those future authors in the classroom!

Our computer science sessions focused mainly on three areas: the standards, hands-on learning, and curriculum connections. I will share some resources here, but I am also motivated to create some professional development sessions for schools in our area as we begin (continue) to implement these standards. We really hope to alleviate the "one more thing" feeling and help educators to recognize the importance of preparing students for jobs in this market. As we discussed this topic and the standards, I thought of the video linked below and how crazy that at my very next conference (see Conference Wrap-Up: Midlands Summit 2018) the keynote used it in her address. I hope you will share these videos with fellow educators, students, parents, etc. Share the possibilities. Let's expand kids' minds!

First Step: Familiarize yourself with the Computer Science standards. Decide which ones you can implement easily and which ones may be a bit more difficult. What are some key terms that stand out? Are there any that will require defining (for you and/or students)?
SC Computer Science and Digital Literacy Standards

Next Step: Identify where these standards fit into your current curriculum. Are there areas where you already address certain skills? If not, how can you incorporate computer science standards into the core subject areas?
Curriculum Connectors
      (Lunch Break)

Final Step: Create opportunities for hands-on learning. And keep in mind that you do not always need the latest, greatest tech tool or gadget. You can teach many concepts without the use of a device. During the conference, I enjoyed getting to explore with my colleagues and brainstorm how I will implement these activities in the upcoming school year. But most importantly, it was just fun. So don't be afraid. Dive in!

Try these: 

Code Monkey Island

Robot Turtles


Bloxels EDU

Monday, May 7, 2018

Teacher Appreciation Week

Lately, there has been so much talk about teachers/education. I'm sure you've heard about it in some shape or form. The topics that grab my attention: guns, salaries, strikes, funding...the list could go on and on. And the opinions vary.  Well, no matter what side of the pendulum you swing on: from teachers are overworked and underpaid to teachers are overpaid and underworked (Yes, educators, I actually read that somewhere!) that is not what this blog is about. This Blog Is Why I hope you take some time to show some appreciation for a teacher; support a dreamer.

This Blog is about the Dreamers. The educators that have big dreams. They don't just want the status quo for their students. These educators want more. And for them, the sky's the limit. Or is it DonorsChoose? If you dream it, try to get it funded! I really enjoy seeing the variety of projects that are posted by teachers here. I get so inspired and even for me, it makes me want to dream bigger. Try harder. Work harder. That makes me excited for students. When you have educators who will dream big, then that opens the door for students who will do the same. These dreamers will spark the minds of tomorrow's creators, innovators, or...dare I say, EDUCATORS.

Once in a while, I get a chance to support my fellow educators. I wish I could do more to support these classrooms and help them get funded. One of the ways that I have been able to get my own projects funded is by sharing, sharing, sharing. So, as an additional show of support, I am sharing all of the projects entered in my RANDOM contest through my blog and social media platforms.

Project Links: 
Project: Classroom Document Camera

**Fully Funded** Project: The Flight of the Butterfly

Project: Laptop for Learning

**Fully Funded** Project: More Reps Means Better Prep

Project: Every Botley Will be Coding! (Only $153 to go)

**Fully Funded** Project: Everyone Can Be the Teacher!

**Fully Funded** Project: No Summer Slide for Us!

**Fully Funded** Project: Can You Hear What I Hear? You shouldn't!

**Fully Funded** Project: We Want to Sit on the Floor

Best of Luck for funding your projects! #kidsdeserveit

                                          (Thank you DonorsChoose for the kind words!)

A special shout-out to my fellow colleagues:
Brooklyn Springs Elementary

Sunday, April 22, 2018


Have you ever been at a place in your career or your life where you are not quite sure which direction to go, which way to move? These days, that's where I am professionally. I have experienced so many different successes and I am proud of the things that I have accomplished, but I continually ask myself, "Is there more?" "Should I be doing more?" This Blog Is Why I feel as though I need to take a moment and truly reflect so feel free to share your thoughts/stories with me.

Not very long ago, I found myself in the role of administrator. Not just administrator, but principal. In my first few days, I was scared. After getting over that, I was determined, dedicated, and passionate. I had worked hard to get there, the work was hard, but I loved it. I loved every minute of it. Except the end. Only two years in, and I found myself back on the market seeking another position. It wasn't what I wanted to do, but it was what I had to do. Since that time, I have struggled. Struggled with confidence in myself. I went back into the classroom and I enjoyed being back in the swing of things. I feel as though it made me a better teacher. But that's just my opinion. The problem, though, once you see the whole picture or big picture (as you do as an administrator), it is super hard to take those lenses off.

In my journey to find myself, and ultimately that "right fit", I found something else. I found myself traveling down a different path. I saw a posting for Instructional Technology Coach and after reading over the job description, I decided to apply. I thought, "Hey, this sounds like me. Why not?" And over the summer I attended a camp learning all about cybersecurity, technology integration, and technology standards. By the time I started my new position, I was ready! And I found myself in a position that allows me to do all the things that I love. I get to share my passion for technology, learn about new resources, plan professional development sessions, and be in many different classrooms. And as an added bonus, I am still a part of the admin team. It's like living a dream. How did I just stumble into my passion like that?

So what's the problem? I still find myself searching the job postings, looking at administrator positions and wondering if I should apply. There is still that feeling that my impact could be or should be greater. At the same time, traveling back down that road would require me to give up so many of the things that I have come to love in my role as Coach. I like being able to go into classrooms without being seen as "evaluator". I enjoy creating and teaching lessons or hosting "Hour of Code" with a Coding Lab. My dream is to start a LEGO Lab or even a STEM/STEAM lab. Would I still be able to find the time that it takes to commit to these goals? Do I want to risk giving up my DREAM job? Why is this position of administrator still pulling so hard at my heart strings when I truly love what I do?

Well, for now, I am sure my principal will be happy to know that I am just looking, wondering, and encouraging others. I haven't applied for any. I'll just keep that option in my back pocket.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Kindness Ripple

I have been a member of DonorsChoose since 2016, which is not that long, but it has been truly amazing. As an educator, it is great to take an idea that you want to implement in the classroom or in your school and make it come to life. What a great feeling when you get that email, fax, and eventually that package of materials. Even the students' faces light up like it is Christmas. Just imagine, you can make Christmas happen at any time! This Blog Is Why the #kindnessripple has me even more inspired to be a part of DonorsChoose.

So far, I have completed 8 projects using this online crowdfunding company. In addition to creating/completing my own projects, I enjoy inspiring or offering advice to other teachers to help them get going with making their classroom dreams come true. Watching another class experience the awesomeness of receiving that special package or packages is just as magical as opening them yourself. One of my most memorable experiences with DC, was getting a project funded that covered the costs of a field trip for each student in my grade level. This was the highest amount that I had proposed for a project and my team put in a lot of work to get as many donations as possible. Nearing the final hour, I had to break the news to them that I didn't think we were going to make it. BUT, before our deadline arrived, I received a message from the Caring Classrooms community. This is a successful giving community that guarantees funding for DC projects promoted on their page. As my birthday gift (thank goodness for birthdays), our project was going on their page. That is a moment that I will never forget. I loved the feeling of watching the messages from other educators across the country as they helped us reach our goal.

Inspiration. That is another exceptional component of the DonorsChoose movement. You become inspired to not only create dreams for YOUR students, but to support the dreams of OTHER classrooms. I don't get the chance to donate to other projects as much as I would like to, but it is a great feeling when I get to bless someone else. Well, now that brings me to the reason for me sitting down to write this blog post. I received an email from DonorsChoose that I would be getting my very FIRST thank you package. I have mailed a few, but this one was just for me. I watched the mailbox for days (which I never do, just ask the mister)! When that envelope finally arrived, I was ecstatic. I will cherish these cards. Not too long after, I got that same feeling when @Ripple funded every single project on the DonorsChoose website. I didn't even have a project up, but I was so pumped that I couldn't sleep that night just thinking about all of the classrooms that would be effected by such a wonderful gesture.

Now, I am on my way to ten. My goal is to have ten completed projects by the end of this school year. Here is a peek at my two current (final) projects for the year:

Botley Crew: Computer Science in Our Future

Bots, Camera, Action

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Keynote Speaker: Gerry Brooks

As many of my fellow colleagues are heading back to work after a relaxing Spring Break, I am just getting started! And how do you think I started it off? That's right, work-related! But, in my defense, it was a much needed laugh break. This Blog Is Why: if you have not had the chance to hear principal Gerry (pronounced "Gary", but southern) Brooks speak, make plans to be at his next event.

Here is one of my favorite clips, just in case you have not seen his work (no judgment):

Even though we may know him as the fun-loving guy who makes us laugh with his southern accent and funny videos, he delivered some powerful gems. What I enjoyed about his presentation was the REAL-ness. He shared his journey as an administrator and a YouTube sensation (my words, not his). As educators, we all face similar struggles. Principal Brooks sheds some light on how he has handled situations and adds in a little humor through video messages. There were several times I had tears rolling down my face and I just could not help but laugh out loud (no, really).

His message is great for principals and/or staff who may need a little culture and climate boost. It's like standing before a mirror and realizing, "Yes, I do that." Or "You know, I could do that better." It's not about pointing fingers or placing blame, but understanding our role in building the culture/climate of our work space. So as not to ruin the experience for you, I am going to share a few general points.

Keynote Speaker Highlights: 
1) As a former administrator, one of my mantras was "Have Fun" because we are in a tough business and if we don't take time to laugh, the stress becomes unbearable.

2) There are some things that are within our control to change. If so, change it if you don't like it. And the things we cannot change, we should not allow those to consume our days.


3) Finally, do you reflect on personality types in your building/work space? What makes you tick? Do you pay attention to the likes/dislikes of those around you? One of the ways that I like to start off a semester with my college students is by completing some type of fun personality quiz similar to the Myers-Briggs inventory. I also like to share my results. I completed the real (paid) version in college and again as an administrator. My results were exactly the same despite a span of about 15 years. What that tells me is that this is just who I am: good, bad, or indifferent. I think it's important to know how others like to work and/or interact with others. Let's take the guess work out and really get to know those that we spend a great deal of time with in our work lives.
Here's one that I like to use: Personality Test

One final video for the road...Happy Spring Break!!