Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Genetics and Hard Work

You never know what you will learn when you walk in to classroom.  
Today I watched students "create" a baby through the flip of two coins and a series of genetic choices.  Dominant and recessive genes were stitched together into one face.  

That was the assignment.  But, I observed so much more. 

-Two languages-Spanish and English words floated around the room
-social skills of partner work displayed with varying degrees of success
-drawing expertise on display from the quiet student in the back of the room (some serious drawing skills!!)
-a teacher able to answer questions from Ebola to chicken pox and back to dwarfism without skipping a beat
-engagement with the topic and the partner

And that was about 10 minutes worth of class.  Think of all the skills and abilities that are on display every minute of every day in the millions of classrooms across the country.  There is serious work going on!

So. are right.
There are problems In our education system.  
But there are amazingly right things happening too!

And it is HARD work for both teachers and students.  
Let's remember that before we start throwing around generalizations!  

And just maybe you might consider hanging out in a classroom before you make statements.

Because they are pretty amazing spaces!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Genius Hour

As the staff at a local junior high is sitting and discussing Genius Hour there is a word staring down at them from the wall above their heads...

What a great environment to build a genius hour for students. Their environment beckons both students and staff to grow and discover!

Way to go!!!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Specialized Search Engine

Did you know that Google allows a quick and easy way to create a customized search engine. You can add the sites you want and exclude all others. It works great!

  Here are the easy steps.
1. Log on to your Google account
2. Go to
3. Follow the directions on the page to add sites, keywords and recommended sites.
4. Click Search Features and get the embed code
5. Embed the code on to your class website

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Art in Science Class

As I sat in a biology class listening to the teacher explain photosynthesis I was drawn into the lesson. I, a self-proclaimed scientific idiot, was excited to hear about the way leaves use light for energy.  I wanted to be a part of the upcoming lab! I actually cared about this and wanted to take part in the upcoming lab.

And then it hit me... I was watching an artist at work!

I would have been able to read the teachers manual and deliver the same content to the class,  but it would not be the same. It would be rote repetition.  It would not be art!  

So in the time of computer generated this and that it is the ART of the teacher that brings learning alive. Students can watch a video lesson, read about a topic or peruse a website. But a teacher brings it all together and makes it sing. 

This is one of the secrets that is hidden in school halls. There are ArtistsinResidence inside many of our classrooms!  The students know this-they know which teachers bring the subject alive.  

But, somehow this is forgotten when they leave the school walls.  The larger world seems to look down on the teaching profession believing any old person is able to teach.  It erases the dedication that artists give to their work! 

Here's to the artists who encouraged me tol learn and grow!

This is why I love working in a Middle School

Seen @ MS in Rural Iowa
This makes me smile every time!!!

Friday, September 12, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 12

How do you envision your teaching changing in 5 years?

This is such an exciting question!  This is what gets me jazzed up! I think we are in a VERY exciting time in education!  

I think the main components of change will be...
  • a change in grading - moving to standards rather than flat grades
  • common standards that drive the skill learning and big picture projects to practice and use the skills
  • personalized learning for students and staff - learning that is delivered in a wide variety of methods
I am involved in a pilot project on Blended Learning this year.  I am an observer who will provide support for the classroom teachers - I won't be doing the actual teaching.  As we learn more about Blended Learning - I think it has the potential to bring all these pieces together in one place.  Teachers need to be very well versed in the standards and skills that their students are required to learn.  Those standards are presented to students in a spiraling curriculum in a wide variety of ways - with technology, collaboratively with other students, and independently on their own.  Students demonstrate their learning of these skills through both formative and summative assessment.  I think this is all brilliant!!

But - what gets me even more excited is students learning what they want.  I don't mean complete freedom.  But, if students are given the opportunity to be responsible for their learning and apply it to a project that is authentic I think the sky is the limit!!!  So what this looks like is - teacher requiring specific skills - students demonstrating those skills in the research and presentation of an authentic problem/solution project.  I feel like I need to take a breath after I type all that!  

I have been reading Who Owns the Learning by Alan November. He explains that long ago in an agriculture based society children were needed to run the farms. Their work was directly related to the success or failure of the farm. They had a purpose.  What is our students' purpose today?  Who is working the hardest in the classroom?  Are we more focused on teaching rather than learning - and so more on the teacher than the students?

And then there is assessment. In 5 years - I truly believe that assessments will figure out how to match!  Please oh please!!!!

I am excited about the opportunity of having a part in both the pilot this year and the next 5 years!!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 11

 What is your favorite part of the school day and why?

image from iClipart for Schools

I have heard so many teachers say that their favorite time is whenever the students aren't there.  That just makes me sad!  I know it's a joke - but it is a tired and depressing joke. 

So what is my favorite part of the day? The times when I could be myself with students - when I was less Mrs. Swantz and much more Beth.  Those times came first thing in the morning - at recess time and when we were getting ready to go home.  It was at those times that I felt like students really showed me who they were and I showed them as well.

I have thought about that a lot. I believe in rules and limits and the need for distance between students and teachers.  I think all that is really important. But, I also think we, as teachers, lose something if we hold to that persona all the time.  I have taught with too many teachers who never showed their true self to their students - or the rest of the staff for that matter.  They believed that the distance was a requirement for respect and learning. I disagree - I think that distance can mess things up.

When I was little, my kindergarten teacher was married to the school custodian. When they saw each other in the hall they would nod their head and say and say "Mr. Long" or "Mrs. Long."  I thought that their real names were Mr. and Mrs. I don't think that is all the uncommon - I know kids who believe their teachers live at school.  All of that creates an aura of teachers who are not real people.  I think it makes teachers and learning scary and inaccessible.  And there are many parent who would also believe that.

We need to be reminded of all those stories of teachers impacting student lives.  They seem to have a common thread - the teacher became more than just Mrs. to the student. So - I need to look for those moments and embrace them whenever I can find them!

New Tech

Love being in a classroom where the teacher is honest about new tech. 

Things I saw
-students helping one another to get started.
-an ongoing dialogue between tch and st about how the process was working or not working
-tch reminding the students that this is all a learning process
-"sorry that was my fault, completely my fault." From tch to st
-remember this isn't for a grade we are just practicing the procedure

Concept Speed Dating

I hung out in a Sociology room this morning and watched a great teacher prepare her students for a test.  

Through the course of a block the students experienced a variety of ways to dig in to the content.  I watched a debate over immigration policy, personal time to process what the debate incapsulated and the speed dating.

And what you may ask is Speed Dating?  Students were assigned a concept and had a minute to share that concept with a partner before the right side of the table rotated to the right.  In a very short time students were able to jigsaw a complete study sheet. But, that wasn't all, after the concept speed dating students self assessed each concept by circling a yes or no on their sheet. 

Mind work + movement = effective review

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 10

Share 5 random facts about yourself, 4 things from your bucket list, 3 things you hope for this year as an educator, 2 things that made you laugh or cry as an educator, 1 think you wish more people knew about you.

5 Random Facts
1.  I was born in Athabasca, Alberta, Canada and became a naturalized United States citizen when I was 16.
2.  Coconut is my favorite food 
3.  I married my high school sweetheart 31 years ago.
4.  In the first 7 years of our marriage we lived in 7 different houses.
5.  I have a dog named Penny, and yes I knock 3 times before I say her name.

4 Bucket List Items
1.  Visit all US National Parks
2.  Write a book
3.  Learn to play the piano
4.  Hike Pikes Peak for the second time

3 Things you hope as an educator
1.  Build relationships with teachers in the districts I serve.
2.  Build my skills as a presentor of professional development
3.  Become a Google Certified Teacher

2 Things that made you laugh or cry as a teacher
1.  Laugh - Puns and dumb jokes from my 4th graders- I loved their humor and dearly miss it!
2.  Cry - reading aloud Where the Red Fern Grows every year.  I cried when I read about the dogs every single year, even when I could practically recite parts of it!

1 thing I wish others knew
I am excited about almost everything, while that made me a great elementary teacher it can be a bit irritating to normal adults.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 9

Write about one of your biggest accomplishments in teaching that no one knows about.

Inage from iClipart for schools
His name was Josh.
He was the student who drove you completely crazy.
He was annoying
and grouchy
and an under-achiever.
He was a little boy wrapped in a cloak of bravado that pushed people away because he had been let down so many times.  He came to my 4th grade classroom with a file a mile thick and a chip on his shoulder just as big.

Josh and I spent many, many recesses together working on his daily work or his attitude or his apology to another staff member. When he realized that I wasn't budging from his desk no matter what kind of growl he dished out we came to an agreement
and then we came to appreciate one another
and finally he came to trust me.

And then he moved.
He just disappeared in the spring.

At the start of the next school year - on one of the early days in August when I was working in my room I got a phone call at school from Josh's new school principal.  We had a great conversation - I was able to share a bit about who Josh was - not just what his file said.

That conversation was probably 15 years ago - but I still remember the final sentence from that long forgotten principal, "Wow!  You really knew him, Josh was lucky to be in your class."

That sentence has come back to me at hard moments.  I am proud of the relationship we built together that year!  And I hope that there are times when Josh remembered that 4th grade classroom and Mrs. S!! I certainly haven't forgotten him!!

Monday, September 8, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 8

image from iClipart for Schools
What's in your desk drawer and what can you infer by those contents?

  • Post it notes in so many sizes and shapes
  • pens - both felt tip and ball point and fine point
  • notepads
  • notebooks
  • paperclips - silver and colored and weird shaped
  • small containers to keep the stuff in place
  • nametags
  • scissors
  • clips
  • bookmarks
  • ethernet cables
  • odd cords for past electronic equipment
  • more post it notes
  • poker chips
So - I basically have a Staples store in my desk drawer.  
And yes - I have a problem!! 
Oh well!  I love office supplies!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 7

Who was/is your most inspirational colleague and why?

I have had the privilege to work with an amazing colleague - Phyllis Casper.  She is my friend and my cheerleader and my inspiration.  Phyllis has always been willing to take on a task that pushes her and stretches her and makes her shine as she rises to the challenge.

I have learned so much from her - about technology and about friendship and about living life to the fullest.

Phyllis retired as our district's elementary teacher librarian a few years ago and I wrote a blog post saying goodbye to her.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 6

image from iClipart for schools
What does a good mentor do?

I work for a school district that is part of a very special consortium. This group of 12 school districts has hired a set of full time mentors to work with all their first and second year teachers. These are trained and practicing teachers who have been released from their home district for 3 years (the length of the current grant) to mentor new teachers. They are trained by our Area Education Agency and then they focus on the new staff.

There are several things that we have noticed since this pilot has been going.  New teachers are much more apt to be honest about their practice when they are working with mentors who are not part of their school district.  Mentors are much more apt to put their whole selves in to the process if this is their complete job.  This is a brilliant program and we hope that it can continue beyond the grant!!

Friday, September 5, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 5

Post a picture of your classroom - What do you see?  What is one thing you don't see that you would like to?

Well - I don't have a classroom.
I haven't for the past 6 years.
In that time my classroom has been a school library and a wide variety of classrooms across my school district.

Much of the past two years I have spent planning for, setting up, demonstrating, troubleshooting and enjoying these chromebooks!  We had a pilot with 7th graders at the MS last year and I had the privilege of supporting that! So - when I think of my 'classroom' chromebooks are front and center! This year the pilot grew into a full on 1:1 with 6-8th graders. It has been great!!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 4

The thing you love the most about teaching.

I decided to become a teacher because I wanted to hold a teacher's manual in my arms.  I wanted to have all the answers.  I remember watching my elementary teacher walk around during math class with that big fat manual in her hands and she knew EVERYTHING!!  That is what I wanted!

So - when I became a teacher 26 years ago - I had that manual in my arms and I loved it.
At least I thought I loved it!
But - I began to understand that knowing the answers wasn't really teaching.
Google knows every answer there is (at least I think it does) and it certainly isn't a teacher.

So - my thinking changed.  If it wasn't the answers what was it?


When I was student teaching I had the privilege of working with two amazing teachers!  One of those, Mrs. Gugel, told me a story that I have never forgotten.

She had before school duty one morning as a 5th grade teacher. She was standing in the hallway talking to other teachers as we do when we arrive at school.  One of her 5th graders walked up to her and paused a little - she looked down and asked what he needed.
He looked up and said, "My dog died this morning."
She said, " uh huh," and turned back to the teacher dismissing this young man.
He walked away down the hallway.
It was then that it sank in what he had actually said.

That horrible feeling of missing your moment with a student had never left her.
She made amends - but she never felt like it was enough.
I watched her build relationships with everyone of her students- and she traced it back to that moment in the front hallway of Washington Township Elementary school.


I loved knowing that I had a whole year with my 4th graders.
I had a whole year to share the United States and math and Where the Red Fern Grows.
I had a whole year to introduce myself to them and for them to introduce themselves to me!

We built relationships!

That has always been my very most favorite thing about teaching.

As a teacher of adults - my classroom has changed.  But I still believe it comes back to relationships.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 3

image from iClipart for Schools
Mention 1 'observation' area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.

Since I am new to my position - everything I do is sort of an 'improve on!' But, this makes me think about what I want to start doing - what i want to build in to each contact with other teachers and administrators. 

One of my pet peeves as a teacher has always been outside people that come in with all the answers.  That looks a little different from the other side. The truth is that many poeple look to us, as consultants, to have the answers.  As I think about what annoyed me - it wasn't having answers that bothered me as much as the feeling of being less or 'dumb.'

That means even more now, because I am living in a world of technology.  And there is nothing that makes people feel as 'dumb' as technology does.  

So my goal is to empower. 

To help people feel like they already know a lot.
I am only helping them move to a different place when they work with technology.  

I hope that will be observable to anyone who wants to watch.

In any way that I can - empower

Everyone that I can - empower

It is a heady emotion!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

30 Day Blog Challenge: Day 2

image from iClipart for Schools
Write about 1 piece of technology that you would like to try to incorporate this year into your curriculum.

What technology would I like to incorporate?

Since my jobs as both a Learning Design Coach and a Technology Consultant focus on helping teachers with technology it seems like an easy task to make this choice.  But, in both of these roles I am supporting teachers as they use technology.  It isn't really the technology that I am using - but their students or they are using.

So - what about me?

I want to spend time digging in to BrightBytes and they data that I can carry to my schools from this survey.

BrightBytes is a company that gathers data from teachers and students about technology use in our schools.  This data is gathered yearly and the BrightBytes company collates and organizes it into a format that is easy to understand.  It explains both high and low points for school districts as well as suggesting areas to work on and possible solutions.

I am excited to dig in to this data and put it to use!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Blog challenge: Day 1

image from iClipart for Schools

Write Your Goals for the School Year

Goals for this year. . .

Sometimes it is hard for me to think goals rather than to do lists, especially when I am doing two jobs part time in this transition year.

So - I want to focus on bigger goals - not the to do list that I carry with me all the time.  But I want the goals to be doable.

  1. Remember that relationships are at the center of my job - hold this in my mind at all times
  2. Commit to returning emails within 2 days 
  3. Put your all into each and every day - no matter what task you are working on.
  4. End each contact by focusing on the wins that the teacher has experienced

30 Day Blog Challenge

I saw this tweet in a list of retweets and it sort of intrigued me!  I have been very slow to blog and this might be just the kick I need.

Anyone want to join me??? You get a snazzy badge to add to your blog and a whole month of reflective prompts to start the year off right!

Click here for a link to the information.

If you are not up to blogging yourself - maybe you would like to read another teachers reflections and add some comments. That is another great way to get your own reflective juices rolling!

Click here for a link to the google doc of other participants.

And happy blogging!

Friday, August 29, 2014

The 'Magic' of Technology

I have always been fascinated by magic.
image from Pixabay
Fascinated and a little creeped out.
Sitting at a magic show this summer I pestered my daughter to help me figure out how the very tall assistant was not cut in half with those metal sheets.  My daughter gave me a very teenage look and shushed me!

I was thinking of magic today as I helped a few teachers connect to their school's new Google domain.
For some it went seamlessly.
Type in the new password - start up chrome and all is well.
For a few we were worried - they had problems earlier so we anticipated issues. But we were pleasantly surprised - all went well.

And then we came to that one!
You know how it works.
There is always one!
We did everything just like the others - there may have been a bit of cocky banter about our new found prowess with this process before we touched the keys.
And them wham - all came to a screeching halt.
There was an error message we had never seen before.
We backed out of that spot and tried the process again.  And again.
And the poor teacher had to keep coming up with new passwords.  My guess is her final password did not contain only fluffy and sweet words! :)
We walked away.
We thought through an alternate solution.
And when we returned it worked - sort of.  For now.

And that brings me back to magic.

I believe.

I know that technology has been grown in the scientific test tubes of Microsoft and MIT and Apple. And I believe that their algorithms are at work.
But - I believe there is a touch of magic as well.
There is no other way to explain the capricious nature of technology.
It is there one day and the next - things have mysteriously changed.

It is just easier to believe in magic and move along.

The longer I work in this field the more staunchly I hold on to this truth...

Don't ask why it worked - simply celebrate that it did!!
(and whisper abracadabra every now and then!)

Thursday, August 28, 2014


image from iClipart for Schools
I have worked in the same school district for the past 26 years
and this month I turned in my resignation.

It wasn't an easy decision.  It is never easy to walk away from a known thing.
I liked my job.
I liked my coworkers.
I liked the direction we were heading.
I liked the challenge.

So why did I decide to change?

I had an opportunity.  
There was an opening in a job that I have always wanted
and I took a chance.

It hasn't been an easy change.  I am still working 2 days a week in my old school district.  And the other 3 days a week as a new Technology Consultant at our local Area Education Agency.

You know how it is at the start of a school year - each week feels like two smashed in tightly together. You work all day and then come home and work some more at night.  I was trying to pack a week's worth of work into each of the 2 days at my old job while just dipping in my toes at my new one.  That has been a bit rough.

But - this week I feel like I am sort of finding my rhythm.  I know I probably just jinxed everything.

I believe there is a secret formula for walking between two worlds.   You must learn to navigate walking into one door where you know every face and into another door where you need to show your ID so they know you.   You must learn to hide your excitement in the face of those who are left to pick of the pieces you are dropping in their laps because you are leaving them.  You must figure out what to say when someone asks why you left them - and sometimes you just can't explain.  Because sometimes you are not always completely sure why you have left.

But something reminds you...

Sitting beside a teacher I barely know and helping her create a class website.
Standing in front of a group of teachers in a darkened room and sharing a great online assessment game enjoying their laughter.

And it all comes together.

I had an opportunity and I took the risk.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Education and Technology Links 08/27/2014

TED Talks are focused speeches by leaders in the field. What could be better than having an astronomer talk about astronomy for your students. This site offers a way of finding the TED talks you want and creating lessons around those talks AND has a database of already created lessons you may want to use!  Great resource for MS and HS classrooms wanting to start with video.

This template is ready for use!  Fill in the BINGO card with text of your choice - print them and you are ready to go.  You can also search for already created cards.
This is an ENORMOUS site with all sorts of links to lessons and game websites. You are able to search by keyword or subject.  Tons of already created material!
This site creates visual search results. Great for students who need pictures to help them along.
Very interesting 

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Richard Byrne Rocks - Again!

Just learned how to make little animated videos with Wideo!

Links to docs
Richard Byrne Presents
Google Doc

Friday, June 13, 2014

Education and Technology Links 06/13/2014

An amazing list of Twitter chats!  There is truly a chat for every person!
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Education and Technology Links 06/03/2014

Interesting article explaining Australia's decision to use Chromebooks - research info included.
Summer learning resources for our kids at home - lots of ideas!
Dropbox add on - acts like a filter for your dropbox. If your digital life is stored inside dropbox - this is worth a peek.
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Education and Technology Links 06/02/2014

Great tips to own our learning in the same way we help students own their own learning.
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Education and Technology Links 05/31/2014

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Education and Technology Links 05/30/2014

Just a cool minecraft meets education moment captured on a tweet.
How to use google advanced search tools to find readability of anything.
Excellent and succinct reminders for ppt presentations - should be reiterated each and every time a classroom presentation assignment is made!
A shout out to Mr. Rogers that makes me smile and brings back great childhood memories!
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Education and Technology Links 05/29/2014

This is an excellent compilation of rubric links.  There are links to already created rubrics and to rubric generating sites.  This  list is separated by tech activities - like blogging or podcasting.
This site is part of Sophia Learning and links you to a  'course' on flipped learning. Passing the quizzes in this course gives you a Flipped Learning Badge. Great way to display your learning credentials.
This is an amazing idea that could be used for all sorts of projects.  Students created a piece of art that was displayed in the hall. Then their voice was recorded digitally with vocaroo and saved it on the website.  To share the artist's story - they created QR codes and displayed them beside the art in the hallway. Then the parents were invited. This idea could be used for any type of oral report or explanation. Great idea!!!
My favorite app from this list is MyScript Calculator.  This handy little app allows you to write on the iPad with a stylus and it changes the equation to print and solves it!  Quick and easy with no keys to mess with! Lots of teacher friendly apps
This is a sobering website to see how the internet grows and changes right in front of our eyes.
This is a real time-saver for those who depend on revision info in google docs. This is an add-on that creates a messenger like list on the side of the doc for you to see what is going on.
Another interesting add-on for google drive.  This one helps with grading. Worth a look!
This resource is a little mind-bending!  A livebinder dedicated to Google+.  You can find almost anything you can imagine on the topic.  A great summer project!
 Flipboard is an app for iPad and online where it pulls articles from the web and displays them in a personalized magazine format. And what better way to learn about Flipboard then to follow someone else's board. Jeff Utecht's would be an excellent one to follow! Way cool!!!
This is a website to bookmark so you have it when you need it.  This page is a compilation of online museums all over the world and it is amazing!  You can virtually walk through the Met or the National Holocaust Museum.  A great addition to a classroom toolkit!
This is a great portal to personalized learning take advantage of AEA PD for your self-paced  learning this summer!
LessonPaths is the new MentorMob.  And if you didn't know what MentorMob was it doesn't mean much!  This is a way to organized your multimedia lessons - if you have a unit or a lesson with digital clips from a variety of sources - LessonPaths is one curation tool to keep track of those.  It is worth a peek.
Whenever I see a compilation of tools from Vicki Davis - I know that it will include very user friendly tools organized in an easy to manage format. This list does just that.  Great way to find new options and be re-introduced to old friends!
Looking for a new random generator - this is a great option. .  Wheel Decide allows you to create your own online wheels to spin.  All that is missing is the Vanna White turning over letters for you!
This looks interesting. Mozilla (Firefox) is entering the web literacy conversation with these kits.  I haven't spent much time looking - but it is on my summer to-do list.
As schools move to more deeply in to the 1:1 format - the need for student portfolios continues to grow. This article takes a look at four formats and what works and what doesn't. Great place for the conversation to begin!

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

7th grade Chromebook Interviews

I met with each 7th grader today.  It was a brief meeting - very focused and directed.

I asked each one how their chromebook was working.
We looked at the machine together and talked about any issues.
I wrote a few notes in the comments section - or OK if all was well.
I circled the boxes if there were parts that needed to be replaced and talked to the students about when the fees needed to be paid.
Then the student signed the form, I took a picture of their chromebook and they were off. It was about a 3 minute meeting.

This list represents the parts that Mr. Pennington (principal) and myself felt were necessary for the Chromebooks to be in working order for next year.

I really wasn't sure what to expect.
We have replaced WAAAAYYYY to many screens this year.  (Two more broken over Memorial Day weekend!)
I am not working with students daily - so I really wasn't sure about the state of their machines.

I was pleasantly surprised!  There were a few keyboards that had missing keys, a few of the front panels that were cracked but overall - the machines were working well!! YIPPEE!!!

As I sat with each student, no matter how briefly, it made me wish I had done this before. I wish that I had stretched out this time a little more and actually interviewed each student about the year. Found out what went well for them and want they wanted to do differently.  But, this is the last full week of school and there just isn't time for that right now.

It does make me want to consider the need to build that in next year. Something to add to our list of considerations.

Education and Technology Links 05/28/2014

tags:  education

This is a very interesting idea - a group of students walking a specified route just like a school bus would take. 

tags: education

This is added to my to do list for the summer. I really don't know anything about minecraft - but I want to learn.  I expect there to be more minecraft links coming!  

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Confessions of a Digital Hoarder

Hi - my name is Beth and I am a Digital Hoarder.
image from

I live in an online world filled with GAFE (Google Apps For Education), Diigo and Twitter - with Feedly blog browsing and general google searches thrown in.

I have signed up for so many online web 2.0 tools that I am always mildly shocked when I google my name.

My Diigo library has one HUGE tag category called "todo."  Yes - it is misspelled because that is faster to type. This category holds all the links that I want to look at sometime - in the future - when I have time to really read and digest the info.

 I have began to understand that to teach digital citizenship - I need to do a better job of modeling.  Digital Hoarders do not make good digital role models for students or for staff.

So - the next few blog posts will focus on my online presence and ways I am working to organize and clean up my digital life.

My first stop is this blog.

I want to create a landing place for students and staff that holds all the places I am exploring.

To start that I added both a Twitter and a Diigo feed link.  This will be a bit of a road marker for where I have been on the digital highway. Each of these are easy to add.
Check out the videos below for directions on adding them to your blogs too!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Educators rock twitter!!!

As an educator, I knew that twitter was a great way to build my knowledge about all things education.I patted myself on the back for my trendiness as I was scrolled through Tweetdeck.  I knew I was standing on the cutting edge of education!

Apparently, I'm not standing there alone!!

According to an online article on Edsurge - there are 4.2 million tweets a day about education!!!


It made me wonder why educators have grabbed on to this medium so strongly.

I think it's all about the 140 character limit!  That is about my attention span time limit for an article.

In a profession where every minute is dictated (down to the 3 minutes between classes to use the restroom) Twitter is perfect.  You can hop on - browse a couple of tweets - and boom - it's time for the next class.

So - if you are an educator - you have already quite reading and saved, deleted or retweeted this post!

And if you aren't an educator - none of this makes much sense.  That's ok! :)

Follow me @betswan

Friday, May 16, 2014

Two ways to conquer your gmail with PRIORITY INBOX setup!

This is a how-to or 'recipe' video on changing your google inbox in to a PRIORITY INBOX to keep ahead of your email.  I demo two different methods...Unread and Everything Else -or- Unread, a chosen folder and Everything Else. Thanks Frank Slabaugh for the suggestion!

Good Luck!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Google Takeout - our new best friend!

It is that time of year - Seniors are graduating and some of our colleagues are moving on to different jobs.  In the old days seniors could just empty their lockers and staff just had to empty your metal filing cabinet and desk drawers and you could carry the box of stuff to the car.

That doesn't work quite the same in the digital world we now live in. There may be emails you need to keep or drive docs you want to make sure you have.

This post is to help you make that transition from to your personal account.  Google makes this very easy with Google Takeout!  You should feel the relief that you don't have to go doc by doc, folder by folder!!

Here is the scoop.

2.  log on to your account
3.  head over to
 4.  this site allows you to create a downloadable archive of your google items.
take note - I tried to create an archive of a drive folder that had been shared with me. It didn't work. Only the items that were actually copied into my drive worked.
5.  Click create archive in blue
6.  The only ones you will archive are - Drive, calendar and contacts
7.  You can save the zip file on a flash drive - or use the school computer - just make sure you delete the file from the desktop and your server account when you are done with it.

Once the archive is created you still need to get your Google items back in you personal gmail account.

First step is to unzip the folder - just double click on it. Then find the section below that pertains to the things you want to move.

YOU CAN NOT IMPORT MAIL!  If you have emails you want to keep you need to forward them from your to your personal gmail account.

1.  open gmail
2.  click on the word gmail in the top left corner - see photo 1
3. choose contacts
4.  go to the bottom of the left panel of options and choose import contacts - see photo 2
5.  Browse - find the file that you unzipped - contacts -highlight the all contacts .vcf file and the contacts should be imported into a file with the date and imported. You can move them from that file as you need them.

1.  open drive on your personal gmail account
2.  click the red upload button - photo 4
3.  choose files - find the drive folder  - photo 5.
4.  choose docs by folder. If it goes really slow you may need to do only a few docs at a time.

1.  open calendar on your personal gmail account
2.  click on the gear on the left side
3.  click on settings - photo 6
4.  chose calendar at the top of the next page - it is written in blue - photo 7
5.  click on import calendar 1/2 way down the page in blue
6. chose browse and find the folder where your calendar was archived
7.  click on it - open - import

Good luck with this process!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Adding a Word Doc to a Blog for Downloading

You might have a document that you want students to download from your blog.  Here are the steps for that process.
    1.  Save the word doc to your desktop - make sure you know the name of the doc 
    2.  Open Google Drive
    3.  Click on the red upload button - see photo 1
    4.  Choose files and find the doc on your desktop
    5.  Click on the same upload options as the photo 2 above
    6.  Click on the doc when it appears in your list - this will open it in a new window - sometimes there are formatting changes that you might want to address before you share it with your students
    7.  Click the red share button in the top right corner
    8.  Click change in the top - this will open a new window 
    9.  Choose anyone with a link
    10.  Then decide if you want students to be able to edit this doc or view only - see photo 3
    11.  Done
    12.  Copy the URL at the top of the doc window (click on the url one time and it should highlight the entire link)- it will be long and scary - but that is ok 
    13.  Open your blog & start a post where you will connect the doc
    14.  Type and then highlight the words "Click here to download"
    15.  Click on the word link in the menu at the top of the page - see photo 4
    16.  Paste the URL in the second box - see photo 5
    17.  Click ok

    Congratulations!  You have now created a link to that google doc and students will have access.  
    What happens is when a student clicks on those purple words a new window will open with the doc.  For a student to be able to download the link the student will need to log in to google - then they can make a copy and add it to their own drive. 
    For a refresher on just how that works check out this blog post.

    Tuesday, May 6, 2014

    Just a little bit excited!

    What makes me excited?

    Lots of little things...

    - just noticed that I have 9,999 page views for this blog
    - talking to a recently hired, soon to be first year teacher - she was filled with hope and ideas
    - my two-year old niece drawing pictures of herself as she told me a story
    - getting an invitation in the mail for a graduation party from one of my former 4th graders
    - opening my car door and feeling a warm breeze and smelling flowers
    - listening to 7th grader describe his animation of a basketball shooting through a hoop using Blender
    - overhearing a MS conversation about favorite books in the library
    - the first Yotty's ice cream cone of the season
    - showing a staff member just how easy it is to use Google Hangouts
    - finding a penny on the ground - whether it is heads or tails
    - watching HS students create molecules out of bits and pieces and hearing the conversation that described the process
    - clicking on the final step of a troubleshooting process on a computer and having it actually work
    - overhearing a student stand up for a friend

    Each of these little pieces fits together to
    create a climate and an environment of learning and collaboration.
    Each of these little pieces creates the story of my week as I get to peek in to classrooms across two districts.
    Each of these these little pieces reminds me why I love being an educator.
    Each of these little pieces makes me want to come to work again today and tomorrow and the next day.

    Thank you to all the teachers out there for creating excitement and joy in the work that you do!!!

    Monday, May 5, 2014

    The Hidden Triangle - A Powerful search tool in Google Drive

    If you are like me you have spent a bit of time searching through your Google Drive for a specific document or form.  Somehow it wasn't named quite what I remembered or it wasn't in the folder that I thought it was saved in.  The search box saves so much time - now I start there instead of opening numerous folders.  This is how it works.

    if the image is too small - click on it to open in a new tab

    There is a hidden triangle that makes searching much more productive. 

    1. in the search box at the top of Google Drive  
    2. click on the triangle on the right side
    3. a drop down box will appear and allows you to search by the type of document     doc, spreadsheet, form, image
    4. click on the correct format and presto your drive lists all that type 
    5. two ways to sort the list                                                                      
    6. click on the word title and the list is sorted by the titles                                     
    7. click on last edited by me and it sorts by date

    You can also 'stack' the search.  
    For example - for this search I chose forms first then went back to the drop down and chose 'not owned by me'

    Hope this helps you tame your Google Drive!