Microsoft Innovative Educator

Microsoft Innovative Educator

Friday, August 4, 2017

DonorsChoose: Support for Military Families

On the Fourth of July, DonorsChoose enthusiasts were tempted with an offer we couldn't refuse. Just follow @craignewmark on Twitter and receive a $10 code for DonorsChoose to support classrooms with children from military families. Sounds easy enough. Right? As an educator and member of DonorsChoose, it is always great to give back. Thank you to @craignewmark for this campaign and I look forward to more great news about your mission. This Blog Is Why getting the code was easy, finding the project to support not so much.

So, how did I solve my problem? Interested teachers were encouraged to enter a contest with simple rules: 1) "Like" the MsClassNSession Facebook blogger page 2) Comment with a link to your project. View the video below to see the winner:

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 the contest through my blog and social media platforms.

Project Links: 
Project: Being The Best Me I Can Be (Donations are matched)
Project: One Chance. One Dream. One Team. (Donations are matched; Will in 14days)
**Fully Funded** Project: Carpeto Equipo 
**Fully Funded** Project: Hands on Learning to Start Our Day (Donations are matched)
Project: Learning Innovative Techniques In Our Reading

Best of Luck for funding your projects! #kidsdeserveit

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Conference Wrap-Up: EdChange Global 2017

Have you ever experienced an online, global slumber party? That's what it was like to participate in the EdChange Global Classrooms 24-hour PD this summer. Although, I jumped on board at the last minute, I was still able to enjoy the fun from beginning to end (of course with some naps in between). One of my favorite components of the conference was the variety of formats they offered for presenters and audience members. Presenters could decide on a Twitter chat, Voxer chat, Google Hangout video, or Periscope video. What an awesome concept! This Blog Is Why PD in your PJ's has taken over my summer conference tour and I am loving it.

Stop #1
After the opening ceremony, participants created Google slides to introduce themselves to the learning community. I enjoyed using the presentation to see who would be joining in and to build my PLN. Here is a sneak peek at MY slide:

Stop #2
Next, I made my way over to Periscope to hang out with Jacqueline Rose (@JRose_Edu). I was amazed at how poised and focused her presentation/share was as she stood outside of her sister's birthday party! She gave some compelling examples about how to incorporate Snapchat in the classroom or for building your PLN.
Snapchat: Your Next PLN

Stop #3
My favorite session of the event was the Twitter chat with Kathi Kersznowski (@kerszi). As a new Instructional Technology Coach, I am always looking for new connections, tools, and resources. This special edition chat using the hashtag #iichat was just what I needed. I have included my list of must-haves from the chat:
Stop #4
Now even though the chat was my favorite, I had the most FUN with the "Name That Tune Challenge". As a true couch potato, this was right up my alley! I must confess that my connection kept going in and out, so I am surprised that I was able to hang in the competition as well as I did. Ha! There was one moment when I lost connection and came back just in time to guess the TV show theme before others. Felt like sliding into home base! This is definitely an icebreaker to add to my list. Try your luck with it:
Name That Tune

Well, the next morning, I was up early to host my own chat using the hashtag #MsClassNSession. It was not as successful as I would have liked, but I am grateful for those that popped in anyway. Special thanks to @cybraryman1 for stopping by to share his tech tools page.
Technology Pages
Chat Questions: "The EdTech Exchange"

If that's not enough, during my live session, I had trouble logging in! I eventually made it and tried my best to make up for lost time. I didn't want that setback to derail my energy and enthusiasm for my session. A huge thanks to all who attended. I am especially thankful to Peggy George. As I mentioned during my online chatting, she is always a great sidekick in those sessions.

Stop #5
Tuning in with Matthew Castilleja gave me the chance to learn about Google Keep and how to use it for keeping my notes, lists, and reminders organized. There were so many surprises about what I can do with this tool. Take a look for yourself:
Google Keep Presentation via MattEduTech

Stop #6
"Leading Digital Literacy" with Katherine Goyette (@kat_goyette) taught me how I want my next online session to go. I liked the way she interacted with and included the audience for feedback, questions, and discussion during the presentation. Even though I had to check out a little early for another online session, I still gained some valuable resources. In her presentation, she addresses skills for the new workforce, digital citizenship, and reluctant teachers.
Leading Digital Literacy

Final Stop 
The last session of the conference for me was all about student blogging. This is a topic that I am passionate about and it was an opportunity for me to learn from someone else. Dianne Csoto (@MViTDiTeach) shares student blog examples and other resources for those ready to implement this tool in the classroom.
Student Blogging

There was definitely a learning curve for me. The joys of technology. In the end, I would do it all over again. I am already looking forward to next year and being a part of the EdChange Global experience.

Thank you to the conference sponsors:
Participate, Hoonuit, CCS Arizona, Flipgrid, Chromville,, Kami for Schools, Nearpod, nepris, VoiceThread, JogNog, Buncee, Classcraft, TechSmith, NutKase Accessories, EduMatch, Deb Atchison, and William Jackson

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Conference Wrap-Up: Upstate Technology Conference 2017

This summer I was fortunate enough to participate in another conference mini-tour, which included my first solo online presentation (I think) for #notatISTE. You can see my post "ISTE Unplugged" for more details.  I am very grateful that I was able to participate in the full two days of #2017utc. Last year, I made it for day 2 only after driving/riding straight from the emergency room just in time to present. Luckily, we did not have to make a pit stop at the ER this year and had a wonderful trip. Again, I am excited to be heading back to Spartanburg in late August for Edcamp Palmetto at Converse College. I hope to see you there! This Blog Is Why I can fill you in on some of my highlights from the conference, in case you missed it.

First, I want to start with some tips for those who attend the Upstate Technology Conference:
1) Use the Sched tool. I know when you log-in and begin to select sessions, it tells you that this does not guarantee your spot in the session. That's okay! Sched is about so much more than that. You can read the presenter's description to see if the session is exactly what you need. Find out what sessions have been scheduled for the day. Get an email of just the sessions you have planned out. And the best part, after the conference, you may be able to get access to to the presenter resources that you missed and heard some great things about.

2) If you are not using Social Media (in this case, Twitter) then sign up today. I think this enhances the conference experience. You can get announcements, share photos, and connect with inspiring educators. How else will you know the best lunch times to avoid the crowds? Or, why those ladies are walking around with umbrellas? Or, that Burns and Byrnes (no relation) are available at the photo booth for selfies? Social Media can be an awesome tool in education, why not try it today and be ready for Upstate 2018.

3) Use this time to connect with your awesome PLN (Professional Learning Network) of friends and bond in person. Enough said.

Okay, back to business. So what did I learn or gain from the conference? My goal was to continue building my toolkit of resources to share with teachers in my new role as Instructional Technology Coach. Did I mention that before? Oh yeah. It's official! And UTC did not disappoint. I liked the interactive components of my sessions with Dr. Monica Burns (@ClassTechTips) and Shalonda Blakeney (@sblakeney3). In these sessions, we explored: Padlet, Nearpod, SparkPost, Google Docs, Slides, and so much more. It sounds like a lot to take in with just one hour each, but the best part is you can still connect with them on Social Media if you have follow-up questions. Remember, that was Tip #2. One of my take-aways for further research is to look at Alice Keeler's (@alicekeeler) book for Google Classroom: 50 Things You Can Do with Google Classroom (List).

I also enjoyed the TAG session with Jenna Kay, Thomas McAuliff, and Bethany Whalen: 3 presenters and 3 tools in an hour. I already have my Screencastify extension added on my laptop. I learned about 4 different types of Kahoot quizzes and if you are new to Kahoot, you can just use the ones that are marked public. There is also a new Kahoot app if you want to have students review on-the-go. Finally, there was EdPuzzle. This is a great way to customize those video lessons and get an understanding of what students may be learning from the content by embedding questions. Take a look at this short video for why teachers use it in the classroom.

Ya'll, that was just  Day 1. Now, I am all about tips, tools, resources, and strategies. I gained all of that in just a few hours. So how could Day 2 be any better? I feel as though, Day 2, was tailored just for me: So you are a new tech coach? What are you going to do? Not only did I leave the conference with ideas to share, but I also walked away with some valuable information just for me. The new kid on the block. The new Tech Coach. Questions I didn't think to ask. What will the roll-out for one-to-one look like? How will I support teachers? What are possible PD (Professional Development) options? What will teachers need to know to help students? What will students need to know? I also loved being able to connect with coaches who have done it before, knowing that if I have questions, there is a support system there. Also, connecting with other new coaches as we learn the ropes together. Back to tips #2 and #3. Build your PLN. Grow together. Support each other.

Last, but not least, during my session (see the intro for more specifics about my session) I just want to acknowledge my  prize winners and the wonderful sponsors who continue to support teachers: @GoNoodle, @nearpod, and @Seesaw. A huge--THANK YOU!!

**@ = Twitter connections

Monday, July 3, 2017

GenCyber Teacher Camp 2017

Have you heard about the GenCyber experience? If not, take a look at the link below and find out if there is a camp near you. This is a prime learning opportunity for educators (or students) who want to know more about cybersecurity and careers in computer science related areas. Also, there are grant opportunities to host your own camp for students and/or teachers. This Blog Is Why I don't want to ruin it for the next cohort of teachers (Best of Luck in July), but YOU need to know what you are missing.

About GenCyber

As my time to participate in this week-long camp came closer, I began to get nervous. What do I know about Computer Science? How am I ever going to understand advanced coding and how to read or write it? I am not that familiar with ISTE Technology Standards or the Cybersecurity Principles. And math! I HATE math. Okay, hate is a strong word. I am not that fond of math. What have I gotten myself into??? Before our first day at camp, we received a secret message written in code (*see my spin-off example at the end of this post). We were also encouraged to complete the NSA Day of Cyber course. Intense! If you have students interested in a Computer Science/Technology career path, this is a great way for them to learn the requirements of various positions.

NSA Day of Cyber

So, that's what was going through my mind. What was it REALLY like? Five days of learning, collaborating, teamwork, team building, laughter, fun, aha moments, and ice cream. Of course, there is a great deal of content that is covered in those five full days with just the right amount of engagement mixed in; just the way you want to see a classroom operate. We had several guest speakers come in as well to share community resources and tell us about their first-hand experiences working in the area of Cybersecurity. Our featured guests included: Special Agents from the SC Law Enforcement Division, visitors from SC Cyber and GenCyber, local business owners for Breakout Rooms, an instructor from a local community college, members of an IT consulting firm, and an ethical hacker. I was intrigued to learn about ethical hacking and how this position fits into the business world. Each day you will learn something new and you will not be disappointed (at least not in my opinion). Team building was also an essential component of the camp. We were given a variety of scenarios and activities to incorporate key terms as well as the principles. We worked in teams, small groups, and with partners to complete these tasks. Some of my favorites were the infomercial, breakouts, and minute-to-win-it games. I am still trying to figure out how to eat a cookie off my face without using my hands! A requirement for our camp was that we had to eat lunch together and that was another opportunity for us to bond and get to know each other better. Our favorite lunch time ritual became getting our ice cream fix at the end of our lunch hour. We created some great memories during our camp experience and hopefully gained a new network of colleagues to continuously share lessons and ideas with during the year.

                                           (Voting sticks for our infomercial presentations)

Below are a few resources from the week. And I guarantee, this is just the tip of the iceberg from the resources we gained:

Even though you walk away with some amazing goodies, the best thing you will leave with is a wealth of information that you can share with students, colleagues, parents, family members all about staying safe and preparing for the future (and by the future, I mean now).

                                                         (Hot item from the camp store)

Ready to crack the code? Email your answer to for a FREE virtual Cybersecurity game.

*Secret Message: Dtz mfaj htrj xt kfw! It sty lnaj zu stb.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

ISTE Unplugged

My #notatISTE  experience just keeps getting better and better. I hesitated at signing up to share an Unplugged Session. I actually waited until the last minute and decided to take the plunge. This Blog Is Why if you missed my session, no worries, you can check it out here.

A special thanks to Blackboard Collaborate, Steve Hargadon, Peggy George, Michelle Dragalin and everyone else who made this event possible. Of course, I enjoy meeting and interacting with my audience, but I enjoyed my experience with ISTE Unplugged LIVE. The launcher for the event, Blackboard Collaborate was super easy to use. I know I had some "technical difficulties" but those were strictly user error! I liked the ability to schedule your own event with a day and time to fit your schedule. I was also able to select my time zone which is really important when you are dealing with people coming from all over the country/world. After scheduling your event, there are links for training and a practice room. Pure genius! Once again, I could use the links to access the training at my convenience and enter the training room on my own time. I liked that the practice room allowed you to set your preferences, make audio adjustments as needed and then save them. The practice room provided a simulation for the actual presenter's room, so you knew exactly what to expect. Finally, on the big day, there were helpful assistants in the room to help,as needed, and make sure that your session moved along smoothly. Again, thank you Peggy and Michelle! I hope this continues to be a part of the #notatISTE experience and I look forward to another opportunity to present.

Below you will find resources from my session and a link to view the recording:

Google Slides Presentation

ISTE Unplugged Live: Welcome to the Blogger's Cafe (All Sessions)

LiveBinder (Courtesy Peggy George)

If you get a chance to watch the recording of my session, please complete the survey. Thanks!

Monday, June 26, 2017

ISTE Ignites

Yes! I am breaking my conference wrap-up tradition with a little #NOTATISTE17 sneak peek. I was inspired and awestruck by the ISTE Ignite Sessions with Stacy Lovdahl on Periscope. Be sure to check them out if you missed it. There was a good mix of presenters from professionals to students with a variety of messages. This Blog Is Why you shouldn't be sad or upset that you didn't make it to #ISTE17, come on over to #NOTATISTE17!

This year is my second year attending/participating in #NOTATISTE. The first year there was definitely a learning curve, but I still enjoyed it. I even won a prize! This year, I feel as though I have a better handle on things. And the great thing about participating is that you can do as little or as much as you like. There are challenges, ignite presentations, even online conference sessions that you can choose to host or view. Last year I didn't get my selfies, so I am working overtime to get some this year. Fingers crossed. Come on PLN. Don't let me down!
                                      **Update: Special thanks to Darla Murinchack. You ROCK!!**

On Sunday, as I tuned in to Stacy Lovdahl's livestream (great seats!) of ISTE Ignite Session: Round One. These were some of my take-aways:

1) My favorite was Bonnie McClelland's presentation based on the childhood favorite The Gingerbread Man. Her focus was on student recipes of success using the 4 C's to cook, bake,  and stir up learning. Her kindergarten students created a class gingerbread man that suddenly disappeared overnight. They used the "magic" of technology to locate him on his journey back home. The class used tools such as Buncee, Seesaw, and Twitter during the adventure. What a great way to connect students with a real audience! Loved the selfie at the end.

2) Another stand-out presentation for me was Nathan Kraii and his plea to "Bring back the "F" Word. He wants us to "F-up" our classrooms for the sake of our kids. And you know what? I'm with him! Kraii believes that there has been a shift in schools to focus on adults and an obsession with seriousness. To counter that, we should "transform a place where imagination, passion, and fun intersect and curriculum can come alive." How do we bring the fun back to schools? If you are ready to "F-up" your classroom, check out and share your happiness on twitter #5mins4fun.

3) Next was Kim Pollishuke speaking about BreakoutEDU. I love Breakouts, so she was speaking to my heart! The connections she made were powerful. Breakout is not about play, but deep learning. She explains that the deep learning comes from students' successes AND failures. It comes from students realizing in the process, "We haven't struggled enough" (wow, what a moment). Pollishuke shares how implementing Breakouts unlocks a variety of mindsets in students: growth, collaborative, innovator, and educator. And she leaves you with this call to action, "Ignite their natural drive to problem solve. Use that spark, to begin shifting mindsets. Unlock the risk takers. Unlock the collaborators. Unlock the innovators and unlock the fun. Unlock the potential."

After watching, if you are not amazed by the educational excellence of the adults, then you will be blown away by the maturity of the students. And remember, they are standing on stage alone presenting to a room full of educators at THE biggest technology conference. WOW!

A few words of student advice:
-Allow your 2nd graders to talk/share/learn about code
-Find out who your students are
-Discover their passion
-Ask how we like to learn
-Put us in front of authentic audiences
-Publish our work
-Encourage us to connected learners in a connected classroom
-Let us share our voice with the world
-Let us empower other kids
-We can solve problems and create solutions
-"Don't ask me to memorize things, I can google."
-Ask yourself: "How are you using technology to make a real difference in people's lives?"

Throughout these 5 minute talks, the overarching message is: As you go through this conference, the challenge for you is to take what you learn back to your classroom. Your students deserve it and they are ready and waiting.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Conference Wrap-up: SC Midlands Summit

This week was my first time visiting the Richland Two Institute of Innovation (R2i2). One word can describe that experience: Wow! I love the idea of combining a student-friendly/community-friendly environment with the administrative (district level) office spaces. A great way to build community. I was there attending my very first SC Midlands Summit. Although, I was not a presenter this year, I look forward to the opportunity in the future. This Blog Is Why you should add the SC Midlands Summit to your list of must-attend conferences, I know I am!

My hat's off to the awesome presenters of this conference. They truly made their sessions interactive and I came away with many great ideas that I am ready to implement for the 2017-2018 school year. The kick-off event to the conference was a keynote by Matthew Luhn (@MatthewLuhn). He is a writer known for some of your favorite children's movies (Toy Story, Cars, Finding Nemo---just to name a few).  His presentation focused on the power of story. He states that story is 22 times more memorable than facts alone. In order to be meaningful, stories should also have impact and be personal as well. Luhn also shared what makes a good story. These key elements include: The Hook (8 seconds), a promise of change, connection, authenticity, and structure. What is structure? The Basics: beginning, middle, and end. Sounds simple, right? Finally, he shared "The Story Spine" which are sentence stems to help give your story that flow, if you are struggling with putting your thoughts together coherently. The life story that Luhn shared was definitely made for Disney. I hope you get a chance to hear him speak some day and learn his story.
More About Matthew Luhn

My favorite session of this two-day event was "GoNoodle 102: What's New" with GoNoodle Ambassador, Jessica Lopez (@SeaTurtlesCD4). One of the reasons that I loved this session, was because I THOUGHT I knew GoNoodle, but she introduced me to a whole new world. I wish I had known! I feel like I have been cheating my students. This session was the perfect combination of free swag, movement/dancing, selfies, and tons of valuable information. If you want students who are awesome, engaged, and ready to learn, try these short movement videos. You can find getting-to-know-you activities, exercise (Zumba), mindfulness videos, and academic minilessons. The Plus option expands your access to resources and features. You can get a one-month free trial before making a financial commitment or use the free version. As you try something new in GoNoodle and love it, share with them on social media using the hashtag #betterwithgonoodle. Great videos shared on Twitter if you follow @SCMSummit.
Free GoNoodle Printables

The staff from Jesse S. Bobo Elementary in Spartanburg was another favorite for me. I was inspired by the work of Ms. Alisha Bridges from an Edcamp that I attended. She shared some phenomenal Lego resources with me and I wrote an Impact Grant to get started with using LEGO's WeDo 2.0 kit. Now, I want my own LEGO Learning Lab! I enjoyed hearing from the teachers about how they incorporate the use of LEGOs into the curriculum starting from Pre-K classes. The team offered some helpful tips including management in the classroom, where to get additional resources, how to get started and lessons for elementary students. Again, more freebies and a fun activity creating a storyboard featuring a fairy tale/nursery rhyme. Can you guess mine?

Some other conference highlights: 
1) I love hearing from Nick LaFave! He always shares a variety of great tech tips. I will be checking out Screencast-O-Matic and you should join Nick's website (link below).
Nick's Picks

2) If you are attending the Upstate Technology Conference (#2017utc), stop in to see Shalonda Blakeney (@sblakeney3). She shares great resources for using @Seesaw in the classroom. Her sessions are interactive, so you can practice while you learn. Don't forget to bring your device!

3) If you are planning an EdTech event, "It's as Easy as 1-2-3"! I enjoyed the un-conference set-up for this session. The discussion was engaging and informative. As we are preparing for Edcamp Palmetto, I will use the tips, tricks, and resources shared in this presentation.  A special thank you to Irene Bal and Jennifer Thornsberry!
Edcamp Palmetto

4) I cannot forget about my best laugh of the day with Dr. Lee Green (@itsleegreen). Not only did I learn about Google's Explore Button and Add-ons, but I learned the new terminology "chompey-chompey's" (insert laughing emoji). Dr. Green shared some easy ways to make your research look professional and thorough in a matter of minutes. When I begin work on my doctorate, I am using these time-saving resources. In the meantime, can't wait to explore Autocrat, Flubaroo, Doctopus, and Orange Slice. It's a whole new Google language!

5) Another gem from the conference was the Digital Citizenship session presented by Janelle McLaughlin (@Ms_Mac4). I personally learned the most in this session. There is a lot of talk about digital citizenship and cyber security, but I must be honest that I have not put enough emphasis/focus on them. That changes now. I am more aware of my responsibility than I have ever been and I have the resources to make more informed decisions. My final share from the conference and call to action for you all: Pledge today to be better digital citizens. Our students/children are depending on us.

                                    (Courtesy: Creative Commons & @misskyritsis-Eleni Kyritsis)
**@ = Twitter connections