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…

Edusomnia Strikes Again


I am cross posting an entry that I actually just placed on my classroom blog.  Cheating?  I think not.  If you stick it out until the **end of the post you will see my Recess TEC relevance.tired-yawn

Here I sit at 1:49 on a Friday “morning”. Oh who am I kidding…it is definitely still Thursday “night”. Edusomnia has struck again and I have a gazillion thoughts running through my brain. I am very excited about some of the projects I want to tackle this school year but still trying to figure out how to balance it all and cover the IL learning standards all at the same time. The mention of learning standards just caused me to yawn. Could my edusomnia be coming to an end? I think not.

While the standards are definitely something that bore me to even contemplate, I must admit they keep me focused on what I need to cover in my classroom. It is easy to get distracted by all of the tools and fluff that make learning exciting for the students, yet educators must also stay focused on the task at hand. The standards aid in my focus.

Reflecting back to my Parent Orientation presentation, I wonder if I over-spoke about the tools that would be used in the classroom to aid in learning rather than their infused pedagogical use. Ugh…did I really just use the word pedagogical? I exhaust myself. Too bad I can’t use that exhaustion to aid in SLEEP! I digress.

At the end of both sessions I did have several parents approach me about teaching them to use the tools so they could be an active part of the classroom environment this year. WOW. I have actually always wanted to have a Parent-Class for this type of parent involvement, but figured the parents of my students would a.) think I was completely NUTS (ok, I am a little). or b.) tell me they had better things to do with their time (which they probably do).

SO…in summary…. Parents: If you ARE interested in learning how to add comments to the children’s blog pages or wiki pages… or if you are still wondering what language I was speaking during orientation, please drop me an email or even a voice mail and I will get several options scheduled. I think it would be fun to have you come to the computer lab one evening and actually have some hands-on practice with some of this.

Also, if you have any requests for different topics, please let me know. I would be happy to accommodate any type of “info” session that would benefit you and your child.

**Could Recess TEC Inc. be expanding its line of workshops to meet the needs of parents as well?  This has my brain even more overloaded.  I will NEVER get any sleep.  Actually, I am a little nervous about feeling the need to catch upon sleep during our faculty meeting tomorrow afternoon.  I may need to load up on the coffee in the morning….ok…later this morning.  Geesh!

That “Age-Thing”…

reflections SMARTBoard workshops

“Cathy, Linda, Sharon, Connie, Brenda…”

I feel like I’m home when names like these show up on our Saturday workshop rosters.
And you find these names less and less often among the faculty pages on school district websites.
You see, attending these workshops says our guests are giving up a Saturday morning to spend it with us learning about technology.
A Saturday morning during the school year…
A Saturday free of grading, lesson plans, and “all things school” to spend it doing “more things school”…
They belong to my generation…and they are still excited and willing to learn new ways to teach and to make their teaching relevant for their students.

Shannon and I just returned from the 2009 NECC Conference in Washington, DC.  One session we sat in on was “Teaching Math Using SMART Technology”.
The session was excellent in that it was presented as a math lesson on plotting coordinates on a quadratic plane.
The demonstration was led by Michelle Meehan, a young 7th grade math teacher from Virginia with teachers pulled from the audience who had volunteered to be her students.
It was fun to watch someone else present and to see the excitement that was generated by a Notebook 10 lesson and the “How did you do that?” questions that followed.
A facilitator walked around and answered the questions, and several times she made comments that began, “If a 50+ person like me can do it, so can you!”

Anytime we have participants who are reluctant or afraid to use the technology, and use their age as an excuse, we, also, try to reassure them that one of their teachers is older than they are,
(and I always am.)
Often these people are not “old” at all; just afraid.

We recently presented at a school where the curriculum director had spent some time doing research on the connection between the age of teachers and their willingness to use technology in the classroom.
I was very interested in hearing the results of her research and was quick to inquire.

She found that the connection had nothing to do with age,
but had everything to do with the willingness of the teacher to step out of their comfort zone, (a.k.a. “The Box”) and to try to do whatever was necessary to get their kids to learn.

I was not surprised.Mom's Facebook Profile Picture

This summer we were fortunate to have a vistor to one of our sessions. My mother attended a beginning SMARTBoard workshop, and she was totally engaged by what she saw. Her comment to me was that, “This is so fascinating! If I were a young teacher, I would be at every one of these classes!”

Again, I was not surprised.

My mom just turned 80.
She was one of the first her age to use email.
She has been IM’ing ever since it was introduced and she “Skypes” and is on Facebook.

Thanks, Mom, for passing those genes down to Shannon and me…

Learning to Accept “Less Than Perfect”?

reflections workshops

As teachers, we are “life-long learners”, and as students, we expect to be graded…

So it is with our workshops.

And our grade is generated by a form required by the Illinois State Board of Education:


Please answer the following questions by marking the scale according to your perceptions of the professional development activity.

  1. This activity increased my knowledge and skills in my areas of
    certification, endorsement or teaching assignment.
  2. The relevance of this activity to ISBE teaching standards was
  3. It was clear that the activity was presented by persons with edu-
    cation and experience in this subject matter.
  4. The material was presented in an organized, easily understood
  5. This activity included discussion, critique, or application of what
    was presented, observed, learned, or demonstrated.

This needs to be filled out by each participant before we can provide their CPDU‘s.*

We’ve both been known to have a few “control issues” and we tend to lean a bit towards perfectionism. Therein lies the problem…

We want all “A’s”.

 Our biggest stumbling block is #2. 

As teachers, we have heard about our state standards over and over and over and over again…

     *In workshops
     *In conferences
     *In committee meetings
     *At board meetings
     *In classes we have attended

We have had to consider them

     *as members of textbook selection committees
     *in our lesson plans
     *when aligning our district curriculum
     *when considering state testing

And here we meet them once again as presenters.

So we address them…while trying to keep our workshops both informative AND fun… (Refer to our logo.)

Sometimes we cannot get straight A’s on #2….because…

They are not easy to understand? They are not fun?

Trust me; we TRY to connect what we teach to the relevance of our State Standards.
And we TRY to make the connection “fun”
And even while “trying”, our participants will often sit with blank looks on their faces when the topic shows up on the screen in front of them…

We provide access to all of the State Standards.
We explain that technology standards for the State of Illinois DO exist.
We tell them to include them in all of the grants they write.
We even provide online copies for them and encourage them to “copy and paste” them whenever they feel the need.

And yet, at the end of the workshop, #2 is the “gold ring” we can’t seem to grab.

Until…Illinois State Board of Education

The day we forgot to include any reference to our beloved state standards.

THAT was the day we finally received “Straight A’s”.

We have come a long way since our first workshops.
We have learned that sometimes it isn’t always “us”.
Sometimes our attendees are having a bad day, too,
and we have accepted the fact that we just can’t please everyone all of the time.

 *CPDU – Continuing Professional Development Unit: a measurement used in continuing professional development to award credit for participation in a broad range of activities, including action research, staff development programs, curriculum design, mentoring, supervision of a student teacher, workshops and seminars, etc. CPDUs generated by workshops, seminars and conferences are earned at the rate of one for each hour of participation. Such a workshop or seminar must be offered by an approved provider.

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!