Microsoft Innovative Educator

Microsoft Innovative Educator

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hack the Classroom

Most Saturdays, this is where you can find me (after #satchat, of course):
But on this Saturday, I was front and center of my computer screen for two hours so that I could be a part of the revolution: #hacktheclassroom. This online event presented by Microsoft (#MSFTEDU) and hosted by Anthony Salcito (@AnthonySalcito), included a panel of leaders in education and industry focused on the hack learning movement. The panelists included: Author/Speaker-Rafranz Davis (@RafranzDavis), Founder of Partovi (@hadip), MAKE Magazine Founder-Dale Dougherty (@dalepd), and Elementary Teacher-Leah Obach (@LeahO77), and Middle School Teacher-Jeff Kash. If you missed it, I highly recommend that you go view the broadcast on-demand at: Hack The Classroom Event. This Blog Is Why you should #hacktheclassroom and inspire a generation.

The wave of the future is in technology, specifically Computer Science/Coding, which is sadly underrepresented in schools. As I listened to the guest speakers, the Call to Action was clear---prepare students NOW. After the event, I immediately began to learn all about coding at Inspired by the words of Rafranz Davis and Hadi Parvoti, I started my Minecraft tutorials. Sad to say, I am already stuck on a level! But, I am sure my students can help me get past it once we work on it together (fingers crossed). You can also participate in face-to-face training in your area. These are one day, free workshops. Everybody loves free! Right?
Free PD Elementary Teachers

Hack Tips from the session:
Hack #1-Try Minecraft via
Hack #2-Use Minecraft via mobile device.
Hack #3-Get Kids Involved with Teacher Training.
Hack #4-Let the creativity of your students lead.

 Elementary teacher, Leah Obach shared her journey into the world of teaching coding to young elementary students. You can learn more from her blog Mrs. Obach's Class where she shares some of the resources she used to get started with code including: Scratch Jr, Kodable, and Code Monkey to name a few. Mrs. Obach also shares how she started a Coding Club and planned a Kids Who Code Code-a-thon event. What easy, practical ways to bring coding to life in the classroom/school environment!I also loved the "Code Stars" introductory video. I was almost inspired to changed my career...Almost. =)

Finally, I have heard the term "Maker Spaces" but I never fully understood what they were or the meaning behind the term. I learned from Dale Dougherty that the Maker Movement is all about providing a platform for creative expression. His messages were clear: "Every child is a maker." "All of Us are Makers." Do these words describe you: uplifting, expressive, inspirational, joyful, interactive, innovative, daring, messy, social, playful, experimental? Then YOU are a Maker.

Today is a new day. I look forward to learning more about Coding as I continue to work through courses that will help me prepare to learn and grow with my students. I am excited to see all they will create with the new tools that will be implemented into our classroom. Stay tuned!

Formative and Summative Assessment Tools

As an educator, I know that formative and summative assessments consume your days and nights-- maybe even your dreams. In the end, I believe that no matter what form of assessments you implement in the classroom, if you use the information to meet the needs of your students then you are on the right track. The #satchat discussion of the day focused on measuring student learning and my Twitter PLN did not disappoint. I learned a great deal about resources that are being used in classrooms worldwide. This Blog Is Why you can find out too and expand the tools that you use to move students forward. Let's get to work!

In this blog, I want to share some of the many resources that educators are using to measure student learning. There are some that may be familiar to you, but hopefully you find a new tool that will help to make your life a little easier and move your students a little closer to their learning goals.

Before we jump right in, you may ask: What is the difference between formative and summative assessments? Here's a cute graphic for you:

Some common tools that were shared include: Kahoot, Formative, and Padlet. Each of these allow teachers to provide students with individualized links or log-ins to complete interactive assessments. These tools seem to work most appropriately when each student has access to a device. Check out this link to Edutopia for more information and examples:

My big take-aways:
The lists provided here are in no way all inclusive, but they provide some tools that educators are using and finding success with in the classroom.
1. Shaelynn Farnsworth (@shfarnsworth), School Improvement Consultant, shares her list of formative assessment technology tools. Take a look here:

2. Brad Currie @bradmcurrie), #Satchat Co-founder, compiled a list of resources shared by the educators that participated in the chat. You can find the complete list at the link below:

What is an assessment tool that works for you? What new tool will you commit to try out with your students?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Did You Say Free Social Studies apps?

Finally in my short series, is of course a share because as we all know: Sharing is Caring! As a former Fifth Grade Social Studies teacher, I know how difficult it can be to cram hundreds of years worth of history into one short school year. If that wasn't difficult enough, you also faced the daunting challenge of engaging students and maintaining their interest. In other subject areas, there were always games, gadgets, links, programs and even apps that students loved. But when it came to Social Studies, NOTHING!! Well, I don't have that particular challenge currently. I was still excited to come across this link and I wanted to share just in case someone else is in the shoes that I once filled. This Blog Post Is Why Social Studies is about to get a make-over in someone's classroom.

This resource is from Monica Burns, an EdTech and Curriculum Consultant. See the link below:
Twitter Connection- @ClassTechTips

Here is a brief overview. For a more in-depth description, read Burns' reviews. She also includes lesson plans that can be purchased at

1. Stack the States/Countries Lite-fun for students of all ages; free version just as good as upgrade
2. Today's Document-documents and photos from the US National Archives
3. Presidents vs. Aliens-facts and trivia about former presidents
4. History Channel apps-resource for video and segments
5. News-o-matic for Current Events-reading levels appropriate for Grades 3 & 4
6. This Day in History-lists historical events that took place on a particular date
7. Revolutionaries of the Past Century-biographies
8. Watchup-create your own news program w/short clips from news sources
9. The States-teach your students about the electoral college
10. Congressional Moments-primary source documents from the Library of Congress
11. Atlas by Collins-3D tool
12. TapQuiz Maps-geography game
13. Tourwrist/Sphere 360 degree photography-panoramic view of landmarks from real photos
14. Manifest Destiny-Westward Expansion; primary source document; connect past and present
15. ChangingAmerica-Civil War; primary source document
16. American Revolution Interactive Timeline
17. National Archives DocsTeach-challenge activities from the US National Archives
18. iPad project: Resume Builder-write the biography of a famous person from history and use contemporaries as references; identify skills and strengths of the person, personal info, experience and education

Trivia Part II

This Blog Post Is Continued from "Do You Like Trivia?"

Over the last couple of weeks, my social media has been buzzing with some mind boggling, thought-provoking, fun games. I have enjoyed challenging my mind and sharing in some deep discussions with my friends and colleagues. Not only has it been a great way to challenge my mind, but it has also been a positive way to connect with those around me, whether it has been through social media, over the phone, or passing in the hallway. This Blog Post Is Why I need more space in my blog or maybe I just need to blog more often! I hope you will share these with your friends, family, and colleagues as well.

How many locks are open/unlocked?

Do You Like Trivia?

Continuing my short blog New Year's series...I like to keep it light and fun! Over the last couple of weeks, my social media has been buzzing with some mind boggling, thought-provoking, fun games. I have enjoyed challenging my mind and sharing in some deep discussions with my friends and colleagues. Not only has it been a great way to challenge my mind, but it has also been a positive way to connect with those around me, whether it has been through social media, over the phone, or passing in the hallway. This Blog Post Is Why fun is a part of life that you must never let go of no matter how hectic your life may be. I am sharing some favorites from my social media posts and I hope you will share these with your friends, family, and colleagues. Even if they have seen them before, it still makes for good conversation.

In the first set: Can you find the 6 words hidden in each picture?

How many tigers?

Chat Like a Pirate

Happy New Year! This year has kicked off with a fast and furious start. But I am excited about the opportunities that will be in store for 2016. During my hiatus, I have had some blog ideas percolating in my mind and now I finally have the chance to unleash them in another short series. First up, I want to begin with a recap of an inspirational Twitter chat co-moderated by a 12-year student. What an opportunity for this student to have the chance to present her thoughts and ideas to educators world-wide! It was also an opportunity for those same educators to hear a student's perspective and rethink ideas/philosophies from a different angle. This awesome idea was the brainchild of Teach Like a Pirate author Dave Burgess and his wife Shelley Burgess as a part of the Saturday morning Twitter group #satchatwc. This is the West Coast version of #satchat. Occasionally, I pop in to share and learn with this group when time permits and they never disappoint. This Blog Is Why educators need to pay attention and listen up. Student voice can be an important resource in the educational process.
Twitter connections: @burgessdave and @burgess_shelley

Please find below a list of questions sparked by this inquisitive, young learner:
Q1: How do you work to build relationships with [students]?
Q2: How can you take advantage of [students'] love for devices?
Q3: How can we solve this ridiculous homework situation?
Q4: How can you ask for our feedback and use it?
Q5: How can you create more lessons where [students] are doing things?
Q6: How can you tap into [students'] knowledge and expertise?
Q7: What would you guess are top pet peeves of your students?

Even if you were not a part of this chat, I believe these are questions worth thinking about as you set out to reach, teach, and inspire today's youth. In this age of technology, there are debates about how devices should be used in the classroom. Think about how much a part of a child's life they already are and how teachers/educators can use teachable moments to create responsible digital citizens.

My big take-aways from #satchatwc:
1. Take a selfie of yourself reading at home. This homework idea shared by Reading Specialist/Literacy Coach @lisarosenfeld. Students and parents hate the homework packets and assignments that take hours, try something innovative and fun.
2. Build positive relationships with students. They will work harder when they know you care.
3. Remember: "Whoever is Doing the Talking is Doing the Learning". While you're here, check out this blog post also from @DavidGeurin.