Monday, November 3, 2014

Connecting Your Students Globally

Students learning from Steve from South Africa
I believe that one of the biggest impacts we can have on our students today is to expose them to the world around them. Especially if you are from a small, rural community like I teach in. I love to connect my students with teachers and students from other countries. They jump at the chance to learn about other cultures...what they eat, the languages they speak, what their schools are like...and I love to see the excitement in their faces as they learn.

Doing a Mystery Skype with Govinda from Nepal
My third graders are studying cultures and comparing and contrasting them to our American culture. I'm a hands on kind of teacher, so, of course, we couldn't simply learn about cultures through books and the, we had to talk to someone from that culture first hand! This week I am connecting each of my third grade classes with teachers from around the globe using Skype and Google Hangouts!

These are staples in my classroom! Skype and Google Hangout are tools that we use constantly to learn and share! How are you using them in your classroom?

Friday, May 2, 2014

My New Favorite Site!!!

Ok, so y'all know I am always looking for new, fun websites and tools to get my kiddos interested in learning! Well, I have found my new favorite thanks to Shannon Miller, an AMAZING educator who I found on Instagram! (If you haven't heard of her, make sure you go check out the wonderful things that she is doing in education!) Shannon introduced me to PebbleGo, an emergent reader and research site. I have one word...."WOW!" I mean this site is what I have been looking for! It is filled with nonfiction articles on anything you could imagine! The articles include read aloud capabilities, as well as sounds, videos, corresponding printouts, and games! It works wonders for my researchers who have a little bit of trouble reading those more difficult sites. I introduced this site to my K-3 teachers and students and they instantly fell in love! There is also a mobile-ready PebbleGo in the works, which would be great for the 1:1 classrooms! Now, you know how I am about my tech tools....I like FREE. However, when it comes to a site that my kids and teachers LOVE and get a lot out of, I am willing to pay. This tool is one that you will have to pay for, but it really isn't too expensive and I think that it is totally worth it! Make sure you go check it out today and get yourself a free trial! You'll get hooked!

Kindergarten Day in the Lab

One of my favorite days of the week is Thursday's this year! Why? Because that is when my Kindergartners come! I had a little trouble in the past creating lessons for my kinders that weren't too simple. I don't want them to spend their computer time learning to click and drag or find their letters on the keyboard. Yes, I do believe those things are important, but I feel like that "stuff" can be incorporated in with more thought provoking lessons. When my students enter the lab I want them to be engaged in inquiring, analyzing, collaborating activities...yes, even my kindergartners!
A couple weeks ago, my kinders started a partner research project on the animal of their choice. All I gave them to begin was a pencil, paper, and a few links they might find useful. Ready, set...GO! I only see my kinders for an hour a week, so going into it I planned for multiple weeks.
The first week the students chose their animal and wrote a few things they already knew about it. They then came up with 2 questions they had about their animal.
Writing what we already know and 2 questions we have about our animal.
Week two, they began researching their animals. Along with finding the answers to their questions, they also had a place on their paper for WOW facts. These were things that really stood out and they would like to share with others.

Researching our animals, using Big Universe, Pebble Go, Discovery Education, & Enchanted Learning.
The third week the real fun began! Students got to use their Discovery Education accounts to create an interactive board in Board Builder. They are in the process, now, of putting all of their information onto their boards, along with some awesome videos, images, and sound effects from Discovery.
Building our boards using Discovery Education Board Builder.
Next week, we will be finishing our boards, and the students will become the teachers! They will use their boards to teach me and the class about their animals.
This is the first time that I have done a complete research project with my kindergarten students and they have blown me away! I truly believe that your students can accomplish anything you believe they can. It does take patience but it is so worth it! I am so excited to see their "lessons" on animals next week!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What's Going on in Your Classroom?

Have you ever been in the middle of a lesson and thought, "Wow, my kids are doing some amazing things! I wish people could see the awesome learning happening now!" but don't have a way to get it out there? I don't know about you but I find myself thinking that daily! My kiddos amaze me everyday with their learning! Since I have turned the control over to them (read more about that here), some great things are happening in the lab! But other than just talking about it over lunch and discussing it on my blog, I didn't really have a way for others to SEE the awesomeness that my kids are getting into....until now!
I have used Padlet (formerly known as Wallwisher) for a few years now. We used to it collaborate and share ideas as a class. However, it wasn't until I went to a workshop with Kevin Honeycutt, who is an AMAZING and INSPIRING educator, that I thought about using it as a doorway into my classroom! Padlet lets you change the layout of the posts to a stream, a lot like Twitter. This works great as a timeline! I have started taking pictures of the inquiring, learning, and collaborating that happens throughout the day in the lab. I then, upload the images to Padlet and type a little blurb describing what's happening with each grade level that day. I may post as many as 3 or 4 pictures that day, just depending on the lessons. I have embedded the Padlet wall into my class website and onto our blog so that the students, parents, and other teachers can get a first hand look at what's going on in our room! Check out our Padlet wall below! How could you get the word out about how awesome your students are?

Monday, February 17, 2014

You want me to do what?!

I've really been taking a step back lately and looking at the way that I run my classroom. I've been thinking about how the type of assignments I give. I was coming up with a research assignment where I would give the students a graphic organizer for them to complete, filled with questions that I came up with. Once they finished, I would have my students create some type of product that I decided, whether it be a Glog or a Voki or some other type of multimedia. Yes, I was using technology. Yes, I was using research. Yes, I was using 21st Century web tools. But I wasn't giving my kids any real freedom. I was in control of every step of the assignment. Then one day I read a very interesting quote...

"When we ask all students to do the same learning task in the same way, we have no idea what individual children are capable of." ~Dr. Bertie Kingore

This hit me like a slap in the face! I had been asking all of my students to do the same thing! I decided it was time for me to let go of control. That same day I revamped the way I ran my entire classroom. My students are now in control of the learning. I give them an assignment, but they are the ones inquiring, researching, and creating a final product that best suits their information. I am trying to align my lessons to the Bloom's Revised Taxonomy and giving my students a variety of tools to use for each step in the process. I have to say that, though I have just started, I am amazed at the way my students are taking control of the wheel. It was a little scary, at first, for me more so than for them, just because I had to transition from being the teacher to the facilitator and sometimes even the student!

Have you had any moments like this in your teaching? I'd love to hear how you individualize your instruction in your classroom!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Celebrating MLK Jr. with Discovery Education & Tagxedo

Because it is Black History Month, I have been trying to incorporate famous African Americans in
my technology lessons. Today's lesson with my first graders was one of my favorites! First we used Discovery Education to find the video of Martin's Big Words. During the eight minute video we paused and wrote words that were important, positive, and reflected Martin's influence on the world. Once we got our words written, I had the kids navigate to, a great website for creating word clouds in any shape you could imagine! The students could choose at least 5 words to include in their cloud. They could then put the words in the shape of a speech bubble and work with their colors, layout, etc. They looked amazing! To display their awesome work, we took headshots and glued their speech bubble to each child's picture. Our version of "Martin's Big Words-2014" are now adorning my hallway!

I created this lesson using two of my favorite tools. Discovery Education is a free website but you do have to have a subscription through your school to create your account. It is filled with tons of videos, articles, images, sound bites, teacher resources, etc. Tagxedo is also free and there is no account needed to create your word clouds. Once created, you can print or save your work and even have it turned into t-shirts, mugs, all kinds of stuff! I love mixing various tools like I did in this lesson! What are some ways that you could mix tech tools in your classroom?

Friday, January 31, 2014


First off, let me say, "hello stranger!" I've been in a little blogging funk here lately...well actually just a funk in general. It seems like, this school year, I just cannot get ahead. I am constantly trying to catch up and certain things, like my blog, and even my lessons have been struggling. I have been in major need of something to get me pumped...something to throw me back on the technology horse. So, where did I turn?? Twitter of course!
Now, I don't know if you have been turned onto that little blue bird or not, but once you get started, you are thrown into a new world of amazing educators sharing ideas, lessons, resources, you name it! The best thing about never sleeps! You can always pull it up and there are new tweets right at your fingertips! It didn't take long before reading through some of my favorite tech idols before I felt much better. I feel like my lessons are improving! I'm more pumped about getting into my computer lab everyday to  work with my kiddos!
Twitter is an amazing tool! It is a way to connect with people in all areas of education and learn and collaborate with them! One of my favorite things to do is "lurk" through the hashtags...especially when there is a conference going on that I couldn't attend. (Yes, I am a hashtag lurker.) When I visit my Twitter feed, I am empowered. I am inspired. It makes me a better educator. Are you a "tweeter" as one of my 3rd graders called it? How does it help you? What other tools do you use to inspire you?