METC 2015

METC 2015

Conferences tips

Sunday Sit, Sip, and “Sync” ~ 2-8-2015

This Tuesday, February 10, we will be presenting at the annual Midwest Education Technology Conference
(METC 2015) at the St. Charles Convention Center in St. Charles, Missouri. It has been one of our favorite conferences and it is known as the region’s premier education-technology event. We compare it to a “Mini ISTE”.

We will be hosting two sessions:

Session T2 – Tuesday – 10:50-11:40 “Did You REALLY Read This?”
Strand: Library & Media Literacy

Session Description: “Reading is important at all levels across all curriculum. We know this. Where we stumble is how to motivate and how to foster independent reading. Join us in a session to give you some fresh ideas on how to manage independent literacy.”

Session T3 – Tuesday – 1:00-1:50 – “To Each Their Own”
Strand: Assessment

Session Description: “My mom always says, ‘It’s not how smart you are, it’s how you’re smart’. We all know students learn differently. How can we make sure all students have an opportunity to succeed? Attend this session to find ways to differentiate instruction and alternatively assess your students.”

If you are planning to attend the METC Conference, we recommend that you arrive early to secure easy parking, insure a shorter line to confirm your registration and pick up your “conference swag” (unless your last name is “Smith”), and to take advantage of the morning “coffee, tea, and crumpets” that will be available from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. outside the Grand Ballrooms

Take some time to download the METC 2015 app to pre-plan your sessions,
or scan through the online conference booklet to see all that is available.

METC 2015 itunes app
Click on the image for the link to download the iTunes app.


The keynote speakers will be be presenting from 8:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.
Gwyneth Jones will be featured on Tuesday and Jaime Casap on Wednesday.

Finally, remember to follow METC 2015 on Twitter and use #METC15 to stay informed.

We have been working hard on this year’s presentation and, as always, are looking forward to sharing some fresh, new ways to include technology into your curriculum. Join us and we’ll help you make your lessons a little more relevant, motivating for both you and your students, and of course, a little more fun!


classroom management Conferences email tips writing

Sunday Sit, Sip, and “Sync” ~ 4-1-2012

As many of you know,

I’m back in the classroom.

My “anchor” was thrown over the side of my little “retirement boat” when I agreed to finish the year for a very special friend who discovered that she was expecting her first baby.

Teaching the last five weeks of the school year in what was my own classroom, 

in my own school,

teaching the same curriculum,

(Well, sort of…)

seemed very doable.

Until the doctors decided that bed-rest was required for the expectant mother.

The five weeks turned into eleven, as in a full quarter, of what is the most beautiful spring I can ever remember.

The hardest part of this teaching assignment has been working without the technology that I had in place,

and the connections that I had built with parents that were used to support and enable student achievement.

Last Thursday, my dear friend was scheduled to deliver her new baby boy.

All day we checked our text messages, Facebook updates, and emails.

Finally on Friday, we received pictures and a text announcing the arrival of a beautiful red-haired 8 pounds 5 ounces baby boy. His mother had to have an emergency C-section, but good news prevailed with Lucas Kyle’s arrival and the news that everyone was healthy and happy.

It was checking my texts that made me think about a student that I had last year.

His mother would not answer phone calls from “unlisted” numbers, which is how our school number appeared to the Caller ID.

One day, Alex suggested that I “text” her.

“That is the only way my dad can get her.”

As reluctant as I was to text a parent from my personal cell, I felt it was worth it.

I can honestly say that the impact texting Alex’s mother had on his success in my classroom was amazing.

So, finally, I present this “tip” for my morning “Sunday Sit, Sip, and Sync” post.

Kikutext is one site that would be on the top of my list for implementation in my classroom.

For years I had emailed parents daily, and it was one way that enabled communication and connection that helped foster student achievement and growth.

Email, however, is no longer the only option, nor is it the best use of technology in terms of communicating.

Both Shannon and I check our email on our phones,

and a text will be answered much sooner than an email or a “call-back” from a message left on our voice-mails.

Just this Friday an important note went home from the nurse’s office,

and if I had Kikutext set up and running, I could have sent a text to parents notifying them to expect the note before their students got on the bus.

Students, in turn, would know and expect that they would be responsible for delivering the note, and expectations for student accountability would be raised and reached.

Kikutext is

  • free,
  • and easy to use.
  • It is web-based, so teachers can type and send texts from their school computers.
  • Parent contact information remains private and cannot be seen by anyone but the teacher.

The little video will explain a bit more,

and after watching it,

I encourage you to check out Kikutext and give it a try.

Have a wonderful Sunday.

I’m planning on a bike ride and a visit to my favorite garden center.

Whatever your plans are, I hope it includes unplugging and enjoying the day so you can return tomorrow fresh and motivated for your kiddos.

Two Timely Tips

Conferences iPad2 SMARTBoard tips

Sunday Sit, Sip, and “Sync” ~ 11-20-2011

Shannon and I were on the road this week presenting at IETC in Springfield and at the Triple-I Conference in Chicago.

We did three sessions in Springfield that included iPads, SMARTBoards, and our favorite web tools.

In Chicago we enjoyed the opportunity to co-present with Dr. Voltz as a team with “Dueling Apps”.

While waiting to present in Springfield, we grabbed a little “down-time” to sit in on a few sessions. Two helpful tips we picked up that we felt were worth sharing apply to our favorite technology pieces, the SMARTBoard and the iPad. (LOVE the iPad!)

We usually toggle our iPads to “airplane-mode” while traveling to conserve the battery when we are working without the Internet. A tip provided by Ledith Whitehall was to use this toggle (found in your settings) as an alternative to rebooting your iPad. It saves a ton of time shutting-down/restarting your device.


Here’s a tip for our SMARTBoard users. If you use the “Random Word Chooser” in the Lesson Activity Toolkit, and you find that it makes the choices in the same order, look down in the lower right corner and choose “Reset” and your choices will, once again, be random.

As we begin another week,
we want to take a minute to let all of our friends know how much we appreciate the opportunity to work with you at our workshops and in your schools.

It truly has been a blessing for which we are thankful.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and we wish you the best as you “unplug” to spend family time together with those you love…

Nancy & Shannon
The Recess Chicks

Conferences tips

Monday Morning Message ~ 5-23-2011

Friday after school, Shannon and I headed out for the “longest distance to travel to a conference” at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois.

Now, the reason why we stress the longest distance, is that often people think living in Illinois means living somewhere near Chicago. We all know that Chicago is a big city, and is, in fact, the example I use when explaining the definition of a megalopolis. For students living in a rural community, this would be their only connection.

Living in central Illinois, and if you looked at a map of Illinois, we’re talking pretty much smack-dab in the middle, I live 238 miles from our destination, and for that, we were the day’s first prize winners – a gas card for having traveled the longest distance.

And yes, it was well worth it!

I know, at times, our workshop participants leave with their heads “spinning” saying, “No more!”

On this day, we left with our heads spinning and saying, “Overload!”

It was a fabulous day spent at “EdCamp-Chicago” with other presenters and educators who work in the field of educational technology.

We cannot wait to share the new ideas and resources in our workshops and presentation, and with only five more school days left, that will be one of the first things I will tackle.

Until then, though, we give you one new tip,
which is a website that combines more than one link.

When you want your students to visit several sites in one session, finally here is a way to provide the link for them in one, quick step.

This is what it will look like when applied:

Yes? You love it?!
We thought you would.

Just visit:

And have a great week of school!

Before we “sign off”, just one quick note:

Make sure you use the exact address given above.
If you type in “www” before the address, the link will take you to a website that will give you some problems closing.

Guest Post: Miffy’s Trip to Chicago

Conferences SMARTBoard

I would like to introduce our readers to Miffy.  Miffy is our classroom foreign exchange student from Hilversum, Netherlands.  She is a perfect example of how using distance learning projects can connect student from across the globe.  We are excited, as a 4th grade class, to communicate with our classmate “Illini Bear” via our classroom blog.  Miffy just posted on her page  and I thought you might all enjoy a recap of our busy weekend last weekend through Miffy’s perspective.  She was a very well-behaved traveler! 

Miffy at IETC

Wow. I sure was busy with Mrs. Smith last weekend. I got to go with her to Chicago. That isn’t all. We also went to Springfield. But I didn’t get to see any of the Abraham Lincoln sites. We had to go to the Crowne Plaza hotel to present ways to use the SMARTBoard in the classroom. The room was packed full of teachers, administrators, and technology specialists. I was kind of nervous. Especially once I had the microphone clipped to my dress. Since I haven’t used the SMARTBoard too much, I was glad that Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Brachbill (Mrs. Smith’s mom) did most of the talking. They didn’t even get through their list of 10 ideas because the crowd kept asking them so many questions. It was pretty fun!

After we finished packing up all of the technology equipment, we went and listened to some other people speak about using technology in schools. It seems Mrs. Smith finds that to be pretty interesting, because she talks about it with anyone who will listen! I was pretty excited for what came next.

Check Out That VIEW!

We got to head to Chicago. That is me sitting on the dashboard of the car so I could see the city skyline. It was pretty incredible. The town where I am visiting, Tuscola, is pretty small, so getting to go to Chicago is a pretty big deal. We walked down Michigan Avenue. It is called “The Magnificent Mile”. There are a lot of shops and restaurants, and it was really crowded with people. I got to go to the famous Gino’s Pizza place where we stuffed ourselves full of deep dish Chicago Style pizza. It was YUMMY!

Miffy at IASB, IASA, IASBO Conference

On Saturday morning there was more presenting. This time we presented general technology ideas to a HUGE room with more than 300 people. The audience was school board members and administrators. Mrs. Smith and her mom wanted to make sure they knew how important it is for kids to get to use technology in school. They seemed to like the presentation because they laughed a lot and asked quite a few questions. This time I didn’t have to wear a microphone on my dress. I just had to stand really close to the microphone on the podium so the people all the way in the back could hear me.

The Magnificent Mile

 After the presentation, there was a huge festival downtown where they had a parade and fireworks. They lit up all of the trees along Michigan Avenue. It was really pretty! I had a really great time with Mrs. Smith, but it is nice to be back in Tuscola. I can’t wait to tell you all about my Thanksgiving with Benito! Talk to you soon, Miffy

One Busy Week

Conferences SMARTBoard workshops

This week is going to be a super busy one! 

 We will be at the ROE in Charleston on Wednesday for an evening session.  Mom and I are going head-to-head for a Web 2.0 Smackdown!  Don’t worry, I will keep you posted on who wins.  If I had to predict, it would be me.  I might have a little competitive streak in me.  Just a little.

Friday we will be getting EARLY to head to Springfield for the IETC conference.  A SMARTBoard session is in order.  We have put together 10 Ways to Get SMARTer.  It was SO hard to decide what to include.  I wish the session was longer than 50 minutes so we could include more.  Including something for all levels of SMARTBoard users along with subject areas, and grade levels was a challenge, but I think we have managed to do it.

After the conference on Friday, we are heading up to Chicago to join @principalspage for the IASB convention.  While we have been attending this conference for quite a few years now, it will be the first time to present there.  We are teaming up with Dr. Richard Voltz for a Top 10 Technology session in which we will count down our favorite ways to incorporate the use of technology in our classrooms.  Dr. Voltz will be presenting his Top 10 and will explain how they apply from an adminstrator’s point of view.  We will present ours from the classroom perspective, obviously.  Can’t wait!

Updates will be posted once we have time to catch our breath.  It has been a super busy fall and I can’t believe that we have neglected the blog for as long as we have.  It is time for that neglect to come to an end.


Homework Day

Conferences reflections Wolfram Alpha

The term “Homework Day” conjures up several images in my mind.

  • Students with overwhelmed looks on their faces
  • Bulging backpacks taking on rectangular shaped outlines
  • Frustrated parents bent over kitchen tables helping their children

When I think of “Homework Day”, I definitely don’t think of the phrase, “Lights, Camera, Action”.  But that is exactly what Wolfram Alpha’s Live Web Event entitled “Homework Day” had in mind.

Mom and I were lucky enough to be asked to participate in this live web event after word got out that we have been using in our classrooms with our students.  Not only have we been successfully using this site with our students, we have had rave reviews about it from educators with whom we have shared it during our workshops and presentations.

The Internet Cafe - Photo by Megan Bearder

We took a half day off from our respective 4th and 5th grade classrooms to drive to Wolfram Alpha Headquarters for our world-wide debut.  Did I just type, “world-wide”?  While we have done a ton of presentations for a ton of teachers, we have never participated in a global event.  This was EXCITING!

After entering “The Set” I was immediately mic’d and placed in front of the SMARTBoard in order to go live within 15 minutes for a demonstration of how I have been using Wolfram Alpha in the classroom.  It was just like I imagine TV personalities are queued.  A number of cameras from a number of different locations all pointed and ready, a producer counting down, the host getting ready to hop in to crack a joke or ask a question, it was all surrounding me.

All of a sudden I didn’t feel too well.  Nerves?  Uhhhh….yes!

But something funny happened…as soon as the cameras started rolling and I picked up the SMARTBoard pen, it was like I was presenting at a workshop, or teaching my kiddos.  I felt totally at home.

I was thrilled to show the ways I have been using this site with my students.  I made sure to include a variety of examples for a variety of curricular areas…just like we do in our workshops.  The host actually spoke with me briefly before we went live to make sure he knew what I was showing. “Math examples right?”

On a side note, the developers of Wolfram Alpha also happen to be the creators of Mathematica.  This extraordinary software is used globally for upper level math.  So obviously I would be showing math examples…right?

Wrong.  Recess TEC prides itself in showcasing the use of technology across all different curricular areas, learning modalities, and ability levels…and I mean ALL.  This demonstration was no different.  I made sure to show how I have been using the site for Social Studies, English, Spelling, Reading, Science and Math.  I even had a music example up my sleeve but didn’t show it only because they asked me to show how I use it in my class and I am not the music teacher.  But if I WERE the music teacher, I would still be using this site…because there is something for everyone…which is truly the Recess TEC mantra!

After my demo, Mom and I were escorted by a young intern to the kitchen to make sure we had everything we needed.

Something to eat? Drink?

An autograph session with Richard Dreyfuss?

That’s right…not 10 feet from the potato salad bowl sat Richard Dreyfuss waiting for his interview segment.

Was this really happening?

I felt much better and my nerves were gone.  I just had the residual high from presenting something about which I am passionate with anyone who will listen. What to do?  Get something to eat.

I turned to Mom and asked her if she wanted to eat…the look on her face told me her answer.  She was experiencing my same nervousness.  Her interview was still an hour away.

During that hour, we had the opportunity to meet and speak with some of the friendliest people in education.  It was fabulous…and sort of surreal.

I will let Mom tell you about her interview and experience during Homework Day from her point of view.  But I can’t help but point out that she was awesome!  The ever so calm and collected veteran educator who answers questions from the heart and continues to find new and exciting ways to motivate and challenge her students did just that during her Q and A session with Eric. (A.K.A the Conan look alike…according to the web chat that was rolling all day).

As Shannon described, this day was beyond exciting. It ranked up there above my skydive and… almost everything else. To sit and watch your daughter present at a global event and to feel the pride that only a parent would understand ranked up there with her birth. Shannon did a wonderful job and she did justice as a spokesperson for the “product” that is truly our future.

I did have a tiny butterfly fluttering before my interview, but I don’t think it was my nerves so much as the adrenalin that was picked up from the excitement that permeated the whole atmosphere. Even the “audio guy” who mic’d me up told me he was genuinely excited about the day, the event, and even seeing Richard Dreyfuss.

As I was placed shoulder-to-shoulder with the host on the “X”…  even an “X” on the ground, “surreal” truly is the only word to have described it.

The host asked me if I was nervous, and I told him I was not.

I asked him if he was, and he said he was not.

I asked him if he was having fun, and he said he could not possibly be having more fun.

He asked me if I was feeling “anticipation” and I sang that one word of Carly Simon’s “Anticipation” because, as I told him, there is always a song in my head.

So it went as the producer with her headset and clipboard counted down to my global debut. And then the fun began. I was able to talk about teaching, my students, our passion for technology, and this wonderful new addition to our students’ lives and future.

I have always told my students that I will make as many oppotunities for them to present in front of their classmates, but to remember that when they talk about those things that excite them, they will not feel as nervous. They will only want to deliver their message. This was our day, and how could I have had, as the host told me, any more fun?

The next day I had to return to reality. My students knew where I was going. They had seen the Homework Day icon on Wolfram Alpha’s website, and I am not gone very often. They were mesmerized listening as I described my day and truly excited to see the pictures from the Wolfram Alpha’s site on the SMARTBoard.

My return day continued into the night as we are also in the middle of parent-teacher conferences.

Then it happened. That thing that summarizes the reason for the whole event.

One of my parents said that his daughter had asked him to ask me about my day with Wolfram Alpha. I tried to put it into words thankful I had a small break before my next conference so I could share the experience. Then he described to me the day his daughter had forgotten her Science book and he was concerned whether or not she would be able to complete her assignment.

“That’s okay, Dad. I can just go to Wolfram Alpha”.

She did and she did.

Wolfram Alpha, thank you for making all of this happen.

Wolfram Alpha’s Homework Day did not resemble ANY of the earlier images to which I alluded.  This Homework Day was the essence of 21st Century tech integration to help students work smarter, not harder.

Homework Day – Now the teacher’s best friend, the student’s saviour, the parent’s support system.

It was an awesome day!

Enough said.