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.


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”!

NECC Reflections #2

reflections SMARTBoard workshops

Autistic ChildrenMy niece, Allison, came into our lives thirty years ago. She has provided us with a glimpse of another world that we can’t begin to understand, only because we are limited in both our intellect and ability to “see” things the way she does. As a child, Allison “danced with the fairies” and was lost in thoughts that we could only wish to share with her. She was first diagnosed with significant developmental delays with “islands of ability” or possible “childhood schizophrenia”.  When Allison was five, her pediatrician called my sister, Diana, at work. He had just returned from attending a conference in California and was very excited to have found an “answer”.  Allison eventually was “labeled” autistic, and was placed in special classes in schools in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Diana worked as a political consultant at the state and federal levels, and used any and all connections she had to educate herself on autism. She became an officer in the Autism Society of America, and became proactive in securing the best help to enable Allison to become all she could be. Eventually we learned that Allison’s symptoms were best described as Asperger’s Syndrome, and she was not only very high functioning, but had an IQ that was far above anyone else in our family. When she was twelve, Allison described to me a book that she was reading about “parallel universes” in terms I could understand. My “Allison Stories” include finding piles of miniature notebook pages under her bed with hieroglyphics of different thoughts and messages filling each page, all easily translated by her at the age of eight. On a visit I took her to buy a bathing suit, and she absolutely needed the black one-piece with a huge beautiful sequined pineapple filling the front. How could I refuse? She loved nothing more than to sit in front of the television under a huge open golf umbrella watching Comedy Central and laughing with the audience. Her humor is quick, dry, and catches you off-guard bringing you to your knees. She has been to “Burning Man”, belonged to a tango club, belly-dances, and has taken Diana and me on a trip to southern France for the “Gathering of the Gypsies”. On our trip to Paris, her first request was to go to the cemetery to see the grave of Jim Morrison. On our trip through the Louvre, she was our personal guide. Just this past Sunday her post on Facebook read, I just had a great day yesterday at Plunderthon. I and a bunch of other people dressed as pirates and went on a bender in Downtown Portland. Yyaaarrr!!!”

So, with Allison in mind, I chose to attend the NECC session entitled “Increasing Attention Span of Students with Autism Using Interactive Technology” presented by Randy Welch, Chief Program Officer, at the Spaulding Youth Center in Tilton, New Hampshire and Kathleen McClaskey, President of EdTech Associates. It was the first session that brought tears to my eyes. With a great deal of conviction and dedication, Randy described the difference that SMARTBoards made in five of their classrooms where the students ranged from ages 7 to 20. He described how the use of these boards help children focus on communicating and for the first time, they found words to relate their experiences and thoughts to their teachers, aids, and other children. Videos took us into the classroom and we were introduced to several of the children, specifically “Katie”, and watched their progress in ways that I have never seen before.

Leaving that session I was excited to share with Shannon what I had seen. I was convinced that schools need to require a SMARTBoard in every special class, and that interactive websites and Web 2.0 tools are included in their curriculum.

The school in which I teach now has SMARTBoards in every classroom. Two of our teachers who work with special needs children, both friends and partners with whom I have taught, attended our SMARTBoard workshops in the first session of our 2009 Summer Series. They were both excited and enthusiastic about the possibilities of how to use the boards in their classrooms, and I look forward to watching them grow and learn, and providing additional help and support to get them started on what promises to be an exciting path to an exciting future.

I invite you to read the handout that was provided in the workshop I attended.

Ice Ice Baby



Who knew I would ever really have the opportunity to make a Vanilla Ice reference in a blog?  I guess being invited by Nadine Norris to host two sessions at the Ice Cold Mini-Conference in Lisle, IL made it feasible.  A couple weeks ago Mom and I had the privilege of presenting our first professional development session in “The Burbs”.  We were both excited and nervous all wrapped up in one.  When my husband asked why that was the case, I told him it was because I was worried that our downstate, rural, small school ideas would be old hat in the big city.

(Were we two “chicks from the hicks”?)

After getting up in the wee hours of the night (4:30) and driving by way of GPS (as not to repeat our trip to Raymond/Panhandle) we found ourselves digging through the ashtray for change to pay tolls.  What is with tolls anyway?  We sure don’t have anything like that anywhere around here, unless we count the Lion’s club periodically standing on the corner of our busiest streets to collect our spare change.  I guess the tolls are a way to remind me to appreciate small town living.  It worked, because just as soon as I was able to muster up enough change and get back in the lane I needed, I had to veer right again to repeat the process.  Note to self (and Recess TEC):  Invest in an I-Pass if we start getting more work up north. (And I hope we will!)  The GPS took us right to the front door of Lisle Junior High School, and after several small, but manageable bumps in the setup process, we were ready to present.

As it turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Now don’t misunderstand, I am not crazy about being wrong, but in this case I was thrilled!  We presented “10 Ways to Shake Things Up” using technology within the classroom.  We have presented this session on several different occasions and it is funny how it always ends up getting tweaked so that it is rarely the same 10 things.  I guess you could say that Recess TEC also likes to “Shake Things Up” since we are in a constant state of revising our sessions. 

icewebThe participants during our sessions were delightful.  It was fun to see so many of them taking  notes and asking  questions about our ideas and how to implement them.  We really enjoyed the morning and especially enjoyed getting to meet one of the members of our PLN (Nadine) in person.  In fact, she is the one who took this picture!

wholefoodsMom and I usually like to go out to eat for lunch after our presentations as a way to reflect and enjoy one another’s company.  Today we made a trek down the road to Whole Foods, the Mecca of healthy eating grocery stores.  I think I may have heard the Hallelujah Chorus play as I pulled into my parking spot (thanks again to that GPS for getting us there with NO problems!).  We did some shopping for things that I definitely can’t get in Central IL and then had lunch in the cafe area where they have the best selection of hot and cold bar foods from which to choose.

We Love Interactive WhiteBoards but a Wii IWB??

SMARTBoard workshops

Wii Remote

Ok…I was curious.  I have seen the YouTube video of Johnny Lee.  I have had a SMARTBoard in my classroom for 4 years.  I know about school budget crunches.  All three of those reasons combined led Mom and me to attend  a session at the East Central IL Tech Conference on Friday entitled “Interactive Whiteboard (aka “SMARTBoard”) for <$100″.

It seems like this $100 Wii IWB thing is really starting to become a reality.  There are quite a few places online where you can purchase the light pens, as well as accessories for the Wii Remote to make it stand on a tripod as a functional piece of classroom equipment.  Software is available as a free download to get your computer compatible with the hardware.

Any surface can be transformed into an IWB. 
Even a table top. 
And with Multi-touch capabilities if you have more than one light pen. 
Wow…the opportunity to have a multi-touch table in my classroom in 2009?

Well…I have to admit.  I was less than thrilled with the functionality of the Wii IWB as a suitable means within a classroom. 
Sure, it would work….if you were using your IWB as a game board, or to write and wipe. 
But I think there are many folks who are beyond the “glorified whiteboard” idea.  At least we hope they are.  And if they aren’t?  Well, we can certainly help with that!

We have a multitude of ways that the SMARTBoard can be used within the educational setting from small individualized center activities, to whole group lessons, to alternative assessment tools, to differentiated instruction. 

I could never go back to teaching without my board.  Ever!

Presentation Squats


Yesterday Shannon and I presented at the 2009 East Central Illinois Technology Conference at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois. We always enjoy this conference since this is one opportunity to see many of the new friends we have made through our workshops, as well as visit with many friends from the past to catch up on family, and to share pictures on our cell phones.

Our last session was also the final session of the day. 
The room was packed and I even gave away my chair for someone to use.
This was one of our favorite presentations requiring two computers, two sets of speakers, and two projectors. The biggest challenge of the hour:

maintaining internet access.

Shannon carries the delivery. She talks much faster than I do, and she is excellent at voice projection. (I understand these things. I had her in my 7th grade study hall once.)

My job was to show as many links as possible, and to throw in comments when she needed to take a breath.  I was down on my knees or squatting most of the time since my computer was on a low table, and the room was dark.

And then the question about…

inappropriate use of computers…and the expressed concern about students going where they shouldn’t go.

This had my attention and both Shannon and I flew to reply,
“Teachers are the best filters.” 
I have never stood up so fast in my life.
I almost flew over the table.
If I could have moved out into the audience and stood next to her “face-to-face”, I would have.
I held myself back from saying,
“Teachers need to quit grading papers when they take their students to the lab.”

We are passionate on this subject. We actually did a “Guest Post” on a famous blog.
And people left comments!

Our goal is to motivate teachers to use technology.

The schools are asking us to use technology.

The schools want us to use 21st Century tools.squats2

But the schools don’t always give us those tools.

Or allow us to use those tools.

And when they do, either because they haven’t noticed that we are using them, or because they have finally seen the value, we need to teach responsibly.
We need to monitor our students…
and we need to educate ourselves.


I’m a little sore…
Squats in heels are a little rough on the quads!