Glob = Globe

SMARTBoard Turning Point workshops

Grrr… I hate typos.  I mean I really hate them.  It makes a person seem ignorant.  Like they can’t spell.  When in fact that may not even be close to the case.

Case in point.  I have been working all day on this week’s workshops for the Maroa-Forsyth School District.  Mom and I are headed over to Maroa High School for a 3 day training this week.  We were there last year and had a great time with the staff members that gave up part of their summer break to attend our beginner SMARTBoard sessions.  Well I decided, at the last minute, that I wanted to change some of the presentation as well as create a more detailed handout.

So…out came the external hard drive as well as the Turning Point to do some screen captures.  I wanted to include these updated screen captures to the handout to make things as clear as possible. 

(I hate it when I attend a session and things seem crystal clear only to return to a handout a month later and have absolutely NO IDEA what it means. Consequently, I try to avoid that for the participants in our workshops!)

So after getting all of the handouts finalized, creating viewable on screen PDF forms of them all, and creating the printed packets….you guessed it.  I found a typo.  Click on the glob icon should have been click on the GLOBE icon. 

So now the dilemma.  Do I point out my typo and plead with my workshop participants to believe it when I say I am not a complete idiot?  Or do I kill a tree and throw out the old handouts on account of one silly little e?

Grrr…  Have I mentioned that I hate typos?

Our Newest SMARTBoard Trainer

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We would like to welcome the newest SMARTBoard trainer as a member of the Recess TEC Inc. team of employees.  Pretty cute huh?  I love the tattoos and the ripped stomach muscles.

Mom and I have been in Camp Point, IL for the past two days to provide SMARTBoard training to teachers.  We love working with the folks at Central High School…but WOW is it a LOOOONNNNG drive.  At the end of the day today, Mom held up this drawing that was in the corner of the room.  I have absolutely no idea why it was drawn…I am sure that it had a purpose in someone’s class this spring.  Boy would I like to know the details.  I will probably ask the next group of teachers we train when we head back to Camp Point for our next round of sessions in July.

In the meantime, Mom and I enjoyed our overnight stay in Quincy and were able to find some pretty cute places to eat.  Dinner… and breakfast (we sat at the table right next to the Christmas tree in that image…obviously the tree was not there today). 

These are the pictures that Mom took of the two places.
 Tiramasu and The Park Bench

We have been noticing some different updates in Notebook software since our last round of training this past spring.  We love it when that happens.  It is like unwrapping a little surprise gift in the middle of a workshop.  One is that the shape pen no longer snaps into a shape perpendicular to the toolbar.  If you draw it at a slant, it will snap into place in the exact angle that you drew it.  This is a perfect update for one of my examples in the workshop.  Another update we noticed is the Image Group Generator.  One of our favorite tools has been the Group Generator all year.  Now we see there is one that can be used with images rather than words!  YIPPEE!  Did I mention we love new SMARTBoard “stuff”?

Ok…off to Thomasboro for the next two days…busy, busy!  Just the way we like it!

Summer… At Last

reflections SMARTBoard workshops

Memorial Day has come and gone and we have officially begun our summer series of workshops.  Mom and I have already been pretty busy logging almost 1000 miles this week.  I am looking forward to posting our experiences throughout the next three months and learning so much from other teachers in other districts.  The funny thing about providing professional development is that if you allow yourself the opportunity to observe what is happening around you, there is a great chance the PD will be reciprocal for the presenter.  I love it!

We have had the chance to travel to Olympia for a morning of “playing” on interactive whiteboards for a consultation.  I definitely learned a ton that morning.  I learned that an interactive whiteboard is an interactive whiteboard.  6 of one…1/2 dozen of the other.  BUT…I also learned that the tool means nothing unless it is used efficiently and effectively in the classroom.  Mom and I pride ourselves in making sure we do just that with all of the technology we incorporate in the classroom as well in our workshops.  We decided that implementing a “best practices” session for any interactive whiteboard would be a great service we could provide teachers.  But we also learned that if we didn’t feel like we could provide teachers with training that WE would be happy sitting through, then we would NOT take the consulting job.

Wednesday gave us an incredible opportunity to present to Chicago area administrators in an IASA Administrator’s Academy with Dr. Rich Voltz.  Dr. Voltz contacted us and asked if we would co-present with him on the topic of Web 2.0.  We were delighted to do just that.  After all, we feel like the best avenue for change begins with administrators.  It was a good day with a good mixture of discussion, hands-on application, and demonstration.  Dr. Voltz shares our passion for technology integration and does a great job of sharing his experiences as an administrator with his fellow administrators.  He also sees the value in asking other educators for assistance in providing their experiences during his workshops to create a well-rounded presentation.  We were indeed lucky to be his assistants on Wednesday.

Thursday we headed to Palatine CCSD 15 to give SMARTBoard training to a fantastic group of elementary and middle school teachers.

They were fun, engaged, and super enthusiastic about the possibilities of implementing SMARTBoards within their classrooms.  We were thrilled with the amount of questions and discussion that took place during the demonstration portion of the workshop.  These teachers are definitely going to be changing the way they teach next year.  I could feel the mind-shift happening all around me.  In a word…exciting!

We are looking forward to  heading back to Camp Point Central on Monday and Tuesday to work with new teachers as well as follow up with some advanced SMARTBoard training for teachers we trained this past school year.

We will keep you posted!


Finding the Sun

reflections SMARTBoard workshops
It was pointed out to me by a friend that MSN reported January 18th as the bleakest day of the year 2010.
We were fortunate then.
Several times that day Shannon and I looked out the window to view the gray and foggy skies and commented that we were happy to be conducting a workshop, and that the fact that it was such a dreary day provided no regrets that we were working on a day off from school.  Wonderful Teachers
In fact, we hardly felt like we were working.
First, It was a long trip since Shannon lives as far east from the center of the state as Camp Point is west.
It was also a relaxing trip and a “first” for Recess TEC in that we had to find a “room at the inn” due to the distance.
But most important, we had the good fortune to meet new friends at Camp Point School District.
The teachers there were, well….
“Enthusiastic” doesn’t even describe it.
They gave up their holiday to rise early, without pay, and join us for a day-long session in SMARTBoard training.
The morning was spent showing ways the board can be used in classrooms, and despite the fact that several had
had their boards for a couple of years, they were never distracted and they were very focused on the new things they were seeing. They were open to sharing, helping, and making suggestions to encourage each other.
Bleak day? Can’t say that it was for us…

On the Road Again…


On the Road AgainEveryone needs a little time off from work.  It gives us a chance to relax and recharge.  But now that we are recharged and refocused it is time to get back to work.  Tonight Mom and I will be back on the road again.  We are heading as far west in IL as one can travel and it happens to be our first workshop in that part of the state.  Needless to say, we are excited about branching out.  It is also the first time that we have had to stay over night the day before a workshop.  I am looking forward to the opportunity to spend productive work time with Mom.  Typically we work remotely over IM, Google Docs and other forms of technology to get “stuff” done.  I just hope we can stay focused long enough to get things accomplished.  And for those of you who know us…you know how difficult that can be!

I am sure there will be an update after tomorrow’s training session in Camp Point, IL.  Stay tuned…

Looking Back… Looking Forward…

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With but a few hours and minutes left in this year, It is a perfect time for me, (no… us) to look back over the year as well as look ahead. I mentioned to a friend this morning that I wish I could see in the future. I know better than that. Life has taught me that it is best to take it one day at a time, and better yet, moment by moment.Hurry up and wait... Wasn’t it just yesterday when Shannon and I sat at the computer asking each other, “What do you think? Should we do this? Do you want to try?” We had no idea where this would take us and never imagined that we would be where we are today. Even as I form these words, I wonder what is still ahead of us. Every month we are asked over and over again when we are going to stop teaching and do this full time. And we wrestle with those choices. We love teaching. And we understand that, as teachers, we expect the people who train and teach us to understand and appreciate what our vocation requires. We don’t expect people who aren’t standing in our shoes to understand or relate. We understand that is one of the reasons we have been able to connect to our participants. We “get it”.

With that said, I finally committed to retirement. Waiting until the last week possible, I submitted my “Letter of Intent”. It is for the year 2013-2014, but nevertheless, a commitment. I had tried once before, but withdrew it minutes before the deadline. That was four years ago. What made me go through with it this time? What is different? I can honestly say that I have no less energy than I did the day I stepped inside my first classroom. My desire to learn and teach has increased exponentially, and I look forward to new projects and challenges. The same frustrations exist, just with different names and acronyms. This time, though, I have a future. Even though the path is dim and has no definitive direction, it is there. And it is exciting. We have had so many wonderful opportunities to teach and train, and at the same time, the enthusiasm and opportunities to learn from those we have met have made the last year more than memorable.

For now, Shannon and I teach our students, the children that have been loaned to us for a year. We still have this year with so much more they need to learn before we can allow them to step outside our classrooms. The future is filled with so much to learn and try, and the promises of exciting lessons keep us motivated to continue learning and trying. The future will work itself out.

And for now, this moment, I only need to say “Thank you” to my daughter for allowing me to share all of this with her and “Thank you” to all those who have been part of our workshops and presentations. We learn from you so much, as well. You and our children are what make our future so bright…

And the Winner is…

reflections tips workshops

tech_idol_blogIt happens every year, a large group forms to reunite, socialize, be entertained, and exchange the latest and greatest in their field.  No, I am not actually writing about American Idol, but instead the Regional Office of Education’s Fall Classic Teachers’ Institute Day.  This year was hands-down one of the best for Mom and me.  Actually I can’t speak for Mom, but I thought it was GREAT!.

We decided to make our main technology integration session interactive this year. “Technology Idol”.  We compiled a list of our favorite classroom ideas, gathered teacher and student examples, and made them compete against each other for the title of 2009 Technology Idol. 

Since we use the Turning Point Student Response System in our classrooms to engage students as well as receive immediate feedback, we decided to place them around the room and have the audience vote for their favorite technology integration ideas as we presented them during the session.  There was only one problem…we have 32 clickers and there were easily over 100 people packed into a high school social studies classroom.  Don’t get me wrong, we were thrilled that the room was PACKED and bursting (sorry to those who couldn’t get in…maybe the ROE will have us do the session again in the upcoming months after school one day), we just wish we could have put a clicker in every hand! Nevertheless, we were able to gather responses from a fabulous audience cross section!

Round 1: Glogster Vs. Etherpad

These two resources are fun, student-centered, and highly motivating for students to use. 

Glogster is an interactive digital poster that allows students to mix curricular-related content with their own personal styles to achieve a 21st century poster report.

Etherpad allows students to collaboratively write on a REAL TIME notepad.  REAL TIME.  Students can work on reports, essays, take notes, or even exchange ideas online in REAL TIME.  Did I mention REAL TIME?

Round 1 Winner: Glogster

Round 2: Glogster Vs. Wolfram Alpha 

Since Glogster had won the first round, it was time to give it a new contender. 

Enter Wolfram Alpha.

This informational website is the teachers’, parents’ and students’ new best friend.  I am here to tell you!  We demonstrated how we have been using this online “brain” in our classrooms and the audience was blown away.  We easily defined a word by typing in “word duo”.  Not only do the definitions of duo come up on an easy-to-read chart, but this site also gives the word origin, synonyms, pronunciation and other “dictionary” related information.  All WITHOUT the drama of using the dictionary or thesaurus. 

We also showed its ability to factor numbers, give nutritional information on various foods, locate destinations using lines of latitude/longitude, generate words based on spelling patterns and phonics, as well as graph advanced mathematical formulas.

The gasps were audible. The buzz in the room was electrifying.  Teachers were DEFINITELY excited about this one.

Do I even need to tell you who won Round 2?

Ok I will…

Round 2 Winner: Wolfram Alpha

Round 3: Wolfram Alpha Vs. Prezi 

Prezi is one of my new favorite presentation tools.  It is just that, a tool.  It is not something that will make the kids understand content any better.  But it is pretty cool and ranks high among my motivators when asking kids to do an oral report with a visual aid.  PowerPoint is maybe a bit overused and a little lame for the kiddos. (Sorry Microsoft…I still love you!)  I showed a lesson on Author’s Purpose using Prezi that generated pleasant smiles from the audience, and they thought it was pretty cool that the presentation was online (no use of memory or flash drives here) as well as the fact that it was all on one screen, even though it didn’t first appear to be during the “show” mode.

I made sure to forewarn the teachers that while Prezi isn’t exactly the EASIEST presentation tool to quickly pick-up, the kids would have no problem and would more than likely enjoy doing reports in this format.

Winner of Round 3: Wolfram Alpha

Round 4: Wolfram Alpha Vs. Multimedia as Writing Prompts

Having difficulty motivating kids to write in a journal?  Do you need new ideas and prompts?  Why not use multimedia to spark a new story?  We showed a series of videos and images as well as what types of prompts could be generated through the use of these two media forms.  Teachers were in agreement that the kids would definitely like this twist on journaling.  They seemed to enjoy the videos (lots of laughter and note taking and questioning us about where to get the multimedia).  Therefore I thought for sure we would have a new leader.


Round 4 Winner: Wolfram Alpha

Round 5: Wolfram Alpha Vs. Google Earth

We know Google Earth is O-L-D.  We know it has been shown at many conferences.  BUT…we also have been known to use it as an interactive learning tool and that is exactly what we showed.  HOW to integrate Google Earth into interactive learning field trips with all levels of students and across all curricular areas.  We also showed how to let students use it to build their own field trips as alternative forms of assessments.  We love Google Earth and the audience seemed to enjoy it as well but….

evidently not as much as they enjoyed Wolfram Alpha.

Winner of round 5: Wolfram Alpha

Round 6 (final round): Wolfram Alpha Vs. Wordle

Wordle is an online word cloud generator that can be used across a variety of content areas.  We showed several student examples and gave additional ideas for using this fabulous web 2.0 tool.

And while the teachers thought it looked pretty useful and some who had already used it shared some of their own success story ideas…

it didn’t win.


The winner of Technology Idol 2009: WOLFRAM ALPHA…

…the site we have used in our classrooms, showed the parents of students how to use for homework help, introduced to teachers from across the region and call the Online Brain, Tutor, and One-Stop-Shop for homework help.

Thank you Wolfram Alpha for being such a motivating and exciting part of our presentation at ROE 11’s Fall Classic Teachers’ Institute Day.

Final Note:  Since this blog is also used as a way to reflect on workshops/presentations that we have provided, I want to take a moment to explain something that I learned today.  While I am constantly looking for new ways to excite, motivate and engage the students in my classroom, it seems that I often share with teachers the tools that I have my students successfully use to accomplish those things.  However, today I had a light bulb moment.  Not only do educators want ideas and resources for their students to use.  They also want ideas and resources THEY can use to help their students.  I think that is probably why Wolfram Alpha was the winner.  A lot of the ideas we showed are pretty cool (in my opinion) with a lot of “wow” factor (also my opinion but since this is my blog I get to express that one-sided opinion).  But the winner was a simple, easy-to-use and integrate, yet HIGHLY effective online learning tool.  Interesting.

I share all of Shannon’s reflections and thoughts here. This day was truly rewarding. I was worried as it began. Car troubles had me arriving just as Shannon finished unloading her car, and she had lost her cell phone (since found), so I couldn’t call her. It was raining, and both of us were more than tired from a full week of school and evening presentations. Then the teachers began to fill the room very early so, as they explained, to make sure they had a seat. This was going to be fun! And it was, as Shannon described it above. The two presentations, we agreed, are now our favorites. I walked over to Shannon after “Technology Idol” as we were waiting for the next session to begin and asked, “Would you have predicted that?” I felt that human nature would have changed the vote as we presented new, fun, and more “glitzy” Web 2.0 applications. No, not so. As the room emptied, a young man walked in, took a seat, and asked what all of the excitement was about. An administrator who had remained from the previous session to attend our next presentation explained, “It’s called ‘Wolfram Alpha’ and it’s going to replace textbooks.” How exciting for us to be part of Wolfram Alpha and its introduction to the educational community. I had to notice some of the difficulty that a few of the teachers had pronouncing the name. Not me. I’ve mentioned before that I am an “army brat”, grew up in Germany, and that my mother was a German “war bride”. When her brother (my uncle) was married, we hosted a huge celebration in our home. The bride’s younger brother’s name was “Wolfram”, and it was at that event I received my first kiss. And I’m sure if my younger sister were to read this, her only comment would be, “Eww…” Even though “That Wolfram” did not end in love forever, Wolfram Alpha is one new site that we will all grow to love in a much more practical way. It really IS a “winner”!

The Light Bulb Moment

reflections workshops

All teachers know it… The light bulb moment. The exact moment when all of your hard work pays off because you can see the light switch on in the eyes of your student. The “I’ve Got It!” look. The “Oooohhhhh…now I understand” expression. I am not sure what causes this to happen for some students or why it takes longer for some to finally get there, but it is one of the best payoffs in the world of a teacher. Better than dare I say…the paycheck.


However, as wonderful as the light bulb moment seems, I have found another moment as equally as satisfying. The smile. The smile that creeps on the faces of my students as they watch their completed digital stories appear on their screens in full viewing mode. The moment they see their creative writing combined with music and real images is unbelievably fulfilling.


That happened to me a couple of weeks ago in the computer lab. As the kids were finally done searching for images on, putting them in order to coincide with their stories, double checking transitions, recording, rerecording, and recording AGAIN to achieve their desired fluencies, the time came to insert their background music. That was when the smiles started to appear around the lab. Since they each wear a set of headphones, I don’t know what music they choose while we are working. I can just see the smile and the heads bobbing. Then more clicking with the mouse. Another smile, head bob and finally a hand shoot in the air indicating the readiness to publish. Once the program runs its course and puts the elements together into a movie-like story, the students can view the finished project on full screen. It is the easily the best part of my job!


I am SO looking forward to doing the digital storytelling workshop in November at ROE #11 in Charleston.  It is one of my all time favorite workshops to conduct.  So many times the exact same light bulb/smiling moment is experienced by the teachers in that session.  It is amazing to see them realize the power of the digital story!  And we love to show our examples for ALL grade levels and subject areas.  This is not an “elementary” thing!


Please be sure to visit and click on student showcase. My students’ first digital stories are “Nothing Ever Happens at North Ward”.


Dove Chocolate’s Words of Wisdom

SMARTBoard workshops

doveToday I had the pleasure of combining two of my favorite loves during one of our beginners’ workshops, Dove Dark Chocolate and the SMARTBoard .  How, you ask, did I manage to combine those two items in a training? Mom and I had just finished our lunches of fresh ripe juicy peaches and Clif Bars and were heading back into the ROE training room when I spotted a basket of individually wrapped chocolates.  Dove Dark Chocolates to be exact.  Well, yum!  I had to pick one up to finish off my healthy lunch.  I mean come on, Dark Chocolate is full of healthy flavonoids and antioxidants.  I couldn’t NOT have one.  It would have been detrimental to my health.

After unwrapping and enjoying my after lunch treat, I noticed the message that was inscribed on the copper foil wrapper.  It said “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”  Well…I love that.  There is nothing I hate worse than failing.  But to have that outlook regarding failure sheds a whole new light on the topic. 

During the afternoon hands-on portion of our training, a participant asked if it was possible to hold down the shift key on the SMARTBoard and drag the corner of a circle to keep the shape in proportion.  Well, to be honest, I had never tried that, so I wasn’t for sure if it would work or not.  I pulled up the keyboard and gave it a shot all while Mom said, “Shan, that isn’t going to work because you have two points of contact.”  Of course, there is that failure thing again…I immediately made my “zip it” noise and indicated that I wanted to TRY it. 

Thank goodness my mom is VERY patient.  She sighed a short sigh, smiled, and politely said, “Go ahead.”  Well of course it DIDN’T work.  Not only is my mom patient, she is one smart and tech savvy lady.  That must be why I wanted her to be my partner in this corporation in the first place.

As soon as I demonstrated the “failure” of the shift key/circle drag, I reached over, grabbed my Dove wrapper and read it to the participants.  They all smiled politely and then I proceeded to re-answer the question.  “No sir, you are actually not able to press the shift key and drag the corner of the circle simultaneously while at the SMARTBoard.  The reason this will not work is because you are trying to command the SMARTBoard to do two different things with two different points of contact and the SMARTBoard only recognizes one point of contact.” 🙂 

You see, I was able to “begin again more intelligently” with my response to his question.

So thank you Dove, for the great piece of advice wrapped around a great piece of chocolate.

The Marble Jar

reflections SMARTBoard workshops

jarI saw it…in a classroom on the first day of student attendance.  The empty wide mouth glass container with the label “Marble Jar” scotch-taped to the side.  And it reminded me of the “Incentive” slide in our SMARTBoard: “What’s It Good For Anyway?”  presentation.  We try to incorporate the use of the SMARTBoard into every imaginable facet of the teaching day, including the use of the marble jar.  Or in this case to replace the use of the marble jar.  But before I go any further, I must step back in time a bit.  You see, we recently did a full day SMARTBoard training in a southern IL Catholic school.  Mom had been looking forward to this training all last spring. (They booked us early).  She taught for quite a few years in a small Catholic school and refers to her time there as “The Golden Years”.  The strong parent-support, the church community and various self-contained groups of 8th graders all contributed to wonderful teaching experiences.  So having this opportunity to go back to her roots (so to speak) for a day of SMARTBoard training was right up her alley.  As we pulled into the black iron-gated and perfectly manicured grounds of the school, I couldn’t help but to be impressed.  And it only got better.  The school was old..and I mean O-L-D.  I am not sure what year it was built, but it reminded me a lot of the 4th grade school that I attended in the City of Shelbyville, Illinois.  The 4th grade school that was razed 15 years ago because it was not fit to house children.  Not this school.  As we walked down the hallways of this building to find the room in which to set up our equipment, the only word I could use to describe this old building was pristine.  The floors were prefectly buffed, the walls freshly painted, the woodwork unscathed.  I loved the fact that this old building was getting a technology upgrade.  Two worlds collide.  The VERY old, with the VERY new.  After we got ourselves set up and the teachers were catching up after being apart for two months, Sister came in and led us in a short prayer service.  At least that is what Mom told me it was.  As far as I was concerned, it was a short mass.  After all, it had prayer, singing, candle lighting…the works.  My first thought…can you light a candle in a classroom…or in this case a handful of candles?  My second thought… Sister can do anything she wants.  Period.  Since I have absolutely NO private school background, I learned a lot that day.  Prayer can be held in the classroom, candles can be lit, students WILL obey their teachers since the class limit is 30 (with a waiting list).

Back to my Marble Jar story…

As I was showing our idea for using the SMARTBoard as a classroom incentive tool, Mom said she was thinking about a picture she had of a Catholic School 2nd Grade class.

St. Pat's

Notice the class size…with ONE nun in charge.  I’ll bet she didn’t have a marble jar to keep these kids in line.  And I KNOW she didn’t have a SMARTBoard. Now THAT is what I call awesome classroom management!

It is often assumed that this kind of classroom management includes the use of rulers and some sort of corporal punishment. Not always.

More than half of my education involved schools that were not local public schools. As an “army brat”, I attended 14 schools in twelve years, many of them parochial schools. I was never hit or spanked, and never saw it happen to anyone else. We were just good. Why? Because if we weren’t, we received the afore-mentioned things at home. We were taught to respect our teachers, whether they were sisters, brothers, priests, or anyone else who decided to take on the task of teaching us. The best reward was a “Good Job!” or a gold sticker star on our paper, and even, yes even, a hug.

Candles lit in the classroom? Prayers before class? Singing of hymns? Did Shannon mention carrying our equipment up and down stairs without any elevators? Nothing but the help of someone else to carry them? They have nobody to answer to for government funding. No ISAT’s. No NCLB.

Just God.