Microsoft Innovative Educator

Microsoft Innovative Educator

Friday, July 29, 2016

I Wish I Had Thought of That

Welcome to this edition of "I Wish I Had Thought of That"! Looking for some great ideas? Me too. One of the great things about the teacher/educator community is that you can count on someone to come up with an awesome idea. That you get the benefit of without too much brain energy. In this blog, I want to share some gems that I found as we are all gearing up for another school year. Yes, it's that time again. This Blog Is Why it's back to school, but we are not going to sweat the small stuff.

Up first is my favorite one. A "Welcome Back" letter with a technology twist. Here is where I put in a plug for you to use Seesaw. It's FREE to join. And right now you can even try some of their paid features for FREE. Use my link/QR code below to get a free month of Seesaw Plus. You're welcome.

Free Seesaw Plus (Click here)


Even if you don't use Seesaw (but I highly recommend it), you can still have a technology twist by following Jodi Southard's instructions in her "Fun in First" blog. If you need a template, it's there. Not sure how to get a QR code? It's there. Not sure what recording app to use. You guessed it. There. Or you could just use your Seesaw account. And it's a great way to introduce your parents and students to this great tool that you can use throughout the year.

Welcome Back Letter with a Twist

While we're on the subject of QR codes, here is another ingenious idea for making that first conversation about rules more memorable and engaging. We like engaging, right? This comes from Christy Crawford via Scholastic. All you need is a QR code reader and QR codes that she has created for you. Then, let the games and conversations begin. If you have younger students that are not readers yet, you use a QR voice option. Once again, you can incorporate Seesaw into your rules scavenger hunt if you want to use your own voice to record the rules. Of course, Seesaw generates a QR code for you to use. Happy Scanning!


Finally, I will leave you with these money-saving and time-saving finds from We Are Teachers:
Dollar Store Hacks

Unexpected School Supply List

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

STOP...Enough is Enough

What is going on in the world? Is it the power of social media? It has taken some time to gather my thoughts before sitting down to express myself in writing. Some things in life you wish you could "unsee", but you can't. For a while, I needed a break from social media. The images, the words, the emotions, the hate. It was too much. It was like watching a train wreck. I couldn't turn away. This Blog Is Why Enough is Enough.

I feel like a spectator watching a scene that is so unreal you struggle to see an end in sight. Black Lives Matter. Blue Lives Matter. All Lives Matter. Like all of a sudden we're choosing up sides. But that wasn't the worst part. It was the comments. That's what hurt the most. It makes you look at the world differently. At people differently. Those you've known for years. Maybe you've worked alongside them. Even those new to your life. Is this how you really feel? Is that what you've been thinking this whole time. It hurts. These are not the words of past ancestors or a scene from long ago. This is now. This is how you feel now. It's still there. It never went anywhere. It never went away. As much as we would like to sweep it under the rug. It's still there.

It takes me back to two very real events in my life. The first happened when I was young. A child. I am going to guess and say that I was in fifth grade. I may have been a little older. That part is a blur. But the memory is not. My mom had dropped me off at the public library for a school project. There was an author there. I think a local author. She was having a book signing and the assignment was to get a copy of her autographed book. After I had received my copy, I was standing outside the library waiting for my mom to pick me up. There were three elderly women standing outside as well talking in a group. I'm sure they didn't see me. I'm sure I was invisible to them. A lady walked out of the library and recognized one of the elderly women. The lady looked like me. She came up to the small group of women and hugged the one that she knew. That's how excited she was to see her. There was a brief exchange between the two. Then, the lady walked away to leave. The two bystanders  began to ask the woman that had been hugged, "Oh my goodness! Are you okay?" And began to gather around their companion as if they could wipe the hug off of her. I thought to myself, "Why would a harmless hug cause such a commotion?" I was confused. Or maybe I knew and didn't want to admit the reality.

The second event occurred later in my life. While in grad school, my class was assigned to read a book: "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" The title made me think back to my days in college. The days when some students sat in the elevated seating area. While we sat in the area known as "Little Africa". In those days, it was a running joke (which I never found to be humorous). As I read this book, it made me look at life differently. It made me look at people differently. Oddly enough, we never discussed the book in class. We ran out of time. Afterwards, I would ask close friends/colleagues if they had read the book. No one had, but they were curious about its content. The subject matter. Privilege. I usually advise them against reading it. It changes you. It changes your view on life. It changed me. I didn't like it (the change, not the book).

You may have noticed there are certain names/words that I didn't use. I didn't need to use them. And I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about. You can fill in the blanks for yourself. That's because it's common. More common than we like to believe. More common than we like to admit. At times, I want to be the girl that Rudy Huxtable wrote about in her story. Do you remember the episode? Someone just needs to tell everyone, "STOP"!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Conference Wrap-Up: Upstate Technology Conference

There are quite a few things that I love: Coca-Cola, zebra print, Sonic chili cheese fries (with extra cheese), Red Velvet Cheesecake...oh yeah and the Upstate Technology Conference (UTC). This is a FREE conference that is held each year in Greenville, SC. It was also the next to last stop on my conference mini-tour (Heading back to Spartanburg in late August for Edcamp Sparkle). This Blog Is Why UTC is the best conference in SC. I am looking forward to being a part of it again next year.

Before I begin my reflection on UTC2016, allow me to take you down memory lane for a while. This is the conference where I learned all about Twitter.  UTC is the reason for my quest to become a Connected Educator. If memory serves me correctly, the session presenter was Chris Beyerle (@cbeyerle). In the computer lab, he walked us through setting up Twitter accounts. He also shared with us educators to follow, explained chat groups, and displayed our tweets using . Now, even though I was not completely new to Twitter, this information gave me a new understanding of the nuances and how to manage it more effectively. Since that day, I have never looked back! If you have ever attended a session with me, you can see many influences of what I learned that day.

So, you can imagine my excitement when my submitted proposal to present at UTC was accepted. Of all the conferences I presented at and/or attended this year, this one was the most special. Here, I must admit that my experience was bittersweet. UTC is a two-day event. I was pumped and ready for two full days of learning and fun. Unfortunately, that was not the case for me. Life happened. My trip had some unexpected twists and turns. My attention was focused on making sure that my loved one was okay. On Wednesday morning, we left the ER headed to Greenville so that I could fulfill my commitment to UTC.

Upon arrival, after checking in, I was on my way to a find a quiet spot to sit down so that I could gather my thoughts for a minute. But, I noticed people heading into a room---auditorium---I turned and noticed a familiar face from Twitter. It was Nick LaFave (@NFLaFave). His session was one on my list of sessions to attend, so I changed course to follow the crowd. Yes! I am glad I had that moment of clarity. The session was 50 Free Tech Tools (in an hour). That was a roller coaster ride that I would gladly go on again. He included tools in the following areas: communication, formative assessment/student response, review & study tools, observational assessment, planning, content sharing, video, animation, storytelling, interactive timelines, and visual media/design. You can learn more and get his weekly tech picks by clicking on the link below (and subscribe).

Nick's Picks for Educational Technology

The only other session that I was able to attend was presented by Kelly Hines (@kellyhines) from Discovery Education (@DiscoveryEd). The topic was creativity, collaboration, & STEAM. She demonstrated some ways to use the website and its resources to foster creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and content in the STEAM (or STEM) classroom. Some of the options included: Paper Slide videos, Virtual Field Trips, Lively Lessons, Educational Partners and Spotlight on Strategies. If you are planning STEAM lessons for your classroom, you may want to check out Punkin Chunkin--have your students create a way to propel their punkin as far as they can; Chase the Race in 2016---follow the upcoming Presidential race with student-friendly coverage; Good Egg Project---teaching students how food makes its way from the farm to the table. One of the most exciting resources that came from my time with Kelly was learning about the EA Sports Virtual field trip and how they incorporate STEAM as a career option for students interested in football/sports. Take a look by clicking on the link below.

Madden NFL By The Numbers

Discovery Education (full website)

Finally, I ended the day by presenting two back-to-back sessions focused on blogging. When I got to the room for my session and began to set up, I realized that I was not as prepared as I thought. My tablet was not compatible with the projector. Luckily, I met the wonderful, Mrs. Avis Canty Duck (@iThinkHighDef) who allowed me to use her laptop for my sessions. What a lifesaver! I knew there was something special about her when I saw her zebra-accented attire. Although I did not get the full experience of UTC2016 and my mind was a little preoccupied with concern for my loved one, I am grateful for the time I was able to spend sharing at the conference. The icing on the cake was reading a blog post from one of the participants at my session Matt Johnson (@MattJohnson10). Welcome to the #tribeofbloggers!

Teacher Geeks Unite


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Conference Wrap-up: #NotatISTE16

I know this is waaaay late. But this is my recap of #NotatISTE16. If you are not familiar with ISTE or #NotatISTE, let me fill you in. This year, the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Conference was held in Denver, Colorado from June 26th-29th. If you were like me and many others, you may have been unable to attend for a variety of reasons: schedule conflict, finances, family ties, fear of flying...the list could go on. But, fear not. Thanks to the great developers, creators, contributors, and sponsors of #NotatISTE; you could still be a part of the learning (and fun!). This Blog Is Why you could say it's the best of both worlds.

How did I get involved with #NotatISTE16? Twitter of course! I came across the hashtag and began to follow the conversation. The next step for me was joining the Google+ Community for #NotatISTE16 and that, my friends, is where the fun began. I was able to create an "official" badge, join the #NotatISTE16 challenge, and grow my PLN. During the week, I was attending and presenting at a conference in my own home state. Can you imagine that I was able to participate in two conferences at the same time that were miles apart (in Colorado and South Carolina at the same, same time)? Truly, the best of both worlds. Joining the Google+ community allowed me to watch Periscope videos from some of the sessions or speaker presentations. Sometimes I was able to catch them live, but if not, I could watch on my own time. I also loved the tour of the Convention Center that @Kitty_Tripp gave us the day before the official start of the event. But, the best part is that I was a lucky winner of one of many donated prizes. A special thanks to Mr. Billy Krakower for my book 140 Twitter Tips for Educators. Now I have an autographed copy for my personal library (Shout out to Brad Currie-@bradmcurrie and Scott Rocco-@scottrrocco my #satchat friends and co-authors of this book with @wkrakower).


I know that many times after leaving a conference you may have so much information swimming around in your head that it's hard to remember it all. The beauty of participating in the #NotatISTE16 Community is that many of the resources are packaged in this wonderful LiveBinder that can be accessed after the conference is over. Those sessions that you missed, you can still get that great information even though you didn't get in! Welcome to the age of technology. Gotta love it. And Peggy George (@pgeorge), I hope you don't mind me sharing.

#NotatISTE16 LiveBinder resources

Now that you have participated in #NotatISTE16, I know you have your bags packed and you are already looking forward to next year. Well, here is some information that you may find helpful. ISTE 2017 will be held in San Antonio, Texas from June 25-28, 2017. If you are interested in submitting a proposal as a session presenter, call for proposals will open September 1, 2016 until September 29, 2016. Good Luck!

ISTE 2017 Information

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Conference Wrap-Up: SC Induction Symposium

Summer can be the perfect opportunity for educators to sharpen their skills and grow through attendance at conferences (and other professional development opportunities). If you know any new teachers in their first or second year, they need to know about a great conference in SC hosted by CERRA (Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement) and Newberry College RETAIN Center for Excellence. This was not only a chance to learn new strategies or gain helpful resources, but it was also a time to network with other professionals. This Blog Is Why educators can always learn from each other, even when you are a veteran attending a conference that targets new teachers.

During the pre-conference Opening Session, the speaker for the night was Jeremy Rinder (@jeremyrinder). His inspiring message encouraged teachers to find out from students what they want from them as a teacher. He shared that his students wanted him to participate, get the class to lunch on time, and have name a few. Each student request was followed with a touching story from inside the walls of his classroom (I'm sorry..."learning cottage") or from inside the lives of his former students. The second day of the conference started with speaker/author Madame Esme Raji Codell. Madame Esme is the author of the must read book Educating Esme (as well as other titles) who shares her educational journey from a first year teacher to librarian. She has a passion for books, reading, and empowering through literacy. Her message is that literacy is "the promise of tomorrow." She states that educators should focus on read aloud, motivation, and building students' connections with authors/illustrators. Her motivation-based approach encompasses the four I's: Interest, Integration, Invention, and Identity. Madame Esme also suggests that first year teachers add The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease to their professional reading checklist. Click on the links below to review Madame Esme's blogs:

The Planet Esme Plan

Educating Esme Teacher Blog

In addition to inspirational speakers, the conference offered a variety of breakout sessions centered around the "PIPEline to Success"-Planning, Instruction, Professionalism, and Environment. There were four rounds of breakout sessions filled with valuable information from experienced presenters.
During Session 1, I presented a session about blogging. If you are interested in getting the presentations shared with the audience, you can click on the link to my blog post.

Session Presentation

During Session 2, I attended Dr. Ann Marie Taylor's session "Behavior Interventions for ALL Teachers". Dr. Taylor, a special education educator, has created a one-sheet behavior intervention menu that suggests options for dealing with unwanted behaviors. The menu of strategies range from least restrictive to most restrictive. Her tips include establishing class norms that are explicitly stated, modeled, and taught in the classroom. She suggests that teachers review these norms with students DAILY. This list should be limited, five at most, and interchangeable depending upon the needs of the class. Dr. Taylor also believes that teachers need to be aware of the top three reasons for student misbehavior which are avoidance, control, and attention. Once these are recognized, then the teacher creates an environment that seeks to give students choice and values their input in establishing a positive class culture. The third session that I attended was presented by CERRA's own, Todd Scholl (@toddscholl), titled "Managing Teacher Stress". Who doesn't need to know this secret? Right?! A special thanks to Todd for the calm, serenity, and peacefulness he created. But, one thing I learned is that even when I think I'm relaxing, that inner voice is still running in the background. My goal for the summer is to build my stamina with truly being able to relax my mind and meditate. The final session that I attended was with Elementary teacher, Megan McNinch (@McNinchie). Her session "Computer Coding in the Classroom" addresses a need in the 21st Century job market--more students that know how to write code. Megan shared several resources that teach these skills to students using a gaming format. This is a fun, interactive way to get students involved and peak their interest in Computer Science. I missed Megan's earlier session on "Breakout EDU" but as an added bonus, she generously shared her handout with a link to her presentation and resources. If you are looking for an activity for your classroom or faculty team building, this box of materials and accompanying games will provide the group with opportunities for Critical Thinking, Collaboration, and Creativity. I also loved the debriefing questions that allow the group to reflect on the process. Questions such as: "Do you feel like your ideas were heard?" "How do you think your group could have been more effective?" "Specifically praise someone from your group" (I know that last one is not a question, but it is one of my favorites for the reflection conversation). The last speaker, during our lunch break, was our newly named state teacher of the year. One thing you learn when Jennifer Wise (@awiselearner) speaks is that she LOVES math. You also learn that she loves her school and her students. She is a dedicated educator who truly understands the impact of her work.
This conference was informative and inspiring. I made some great connections that I hope will develop into great relationships. I hope to present again next year and maybe I'll see you there!