What Does a Guinea Pig Have to do with Technology?

So here you are, browsing blogs looking for ideas on including technology into your classroom and BAM, you are smacked with a picture of a Guinea Pig dressed up like he is on his way to a Mardi Gras party. (He was celebrating, by the way.)  I know what you are thinking,” What does this have to do with technology?” Well, a lot actually. I’ll explain.

Today children are so comfortable with technology that they don’t give it a second thought. Teachers who are given new technology for their classroom are first excited. The possibilities of uses in the classroom are limitless. Then they become overwhelmed. “How am I going to figure this all out? What will we actually be able to accomplish? ” Finally, they are scared. “I was just given a $500.00 piece of equipment, and I’m supposed to just hand it over to an 8 year old!” We find ways to protect the technology to the point where it’s almost unusable. If I could wrap my new iPads in bubble tape and they still worked, you bet I would!

The children though,  think of it in an entirely different way. The have been born into a world full of screens, gadgets, and easy accessibility. It doesn’t scare them, it excites them. They are so comfortable that they can multitask with no problem. The title of this blog ” Put the Guinea Pig Down” is something I have actually (repeatedly) said to my 3rd graders. It was followed by, ” You can’t work on the iPad and carry S’Mores around at the same time!” Here is the thing, THEY CAN! They are so comfortable with these devices that they can do multiple things at ones. I was over at my desk sweating bullets that they would break these precious gifts of technology, but they were cool as cucumbers. They know how to treat this tech, because they have grown up with it in their hands. In the 4 years that I have had iPads, Kindles, and a SMART board in my classroom, not one item has been broken, not one! Does it happen, can it happen? Sure, no one is perfect. But they are so comfortable with it that it’s rare.

In this blog I will explore technology use in the classroom. I will share what has worked well, and not so well. I encourage you to comment and share as well. It is the collaboration of educators that makes us grow, evolve and be better for our students.

Students need to be challenged in many different ways and while trying to explore ways to do that I have come across the article 10 Key Components of Customized Learning After reading this you realize that there is no one good “fit” in education. Traditionally, that is what has been done in the past with a little room for differentiation. What we can learn now is that students can learn in any situation given the opportunity to choose the way they learn. What does that mean? It means that Christopher can choose to make an iMovie about the different properties of rocks and minerals, while Sadie would like to create a Puppet Pals show to demonstrate her knowledge. Addie would like me to go over the information with her and help her with the “big words”, while Finnley would like to draw examples of different properties using OSMO Masterpiece. Giving multiple pathways for students reaches them on a deeper level. As stated in the iNACOL post from April 26, 2016,”Multiple pathways are an important element of personalized learning environments because they create distinct, equally-rigorous paths for students to pursue their interests and gain the real-world skills and experiences they need to be successful after high school. ” They feel that they are given the choice to decide how to learn and what way works best for them. They are part of the learning experience, not just a bystander watching in the stands.

In my six short years of  teaching I have tried to focus on these 10 key components to help my students reach their fullest potential. Including technology in a meaningful way that can give the opportunity provide formative feedback while students are working ,can reach them in ways that paper, pencil, and a teacher lecture can’t. Charlie Brown realized this when his teacher only said ” wah wah wha wha wha” . Today’s students need more. They need to not be told, ” Put the guinea pig down”, they need to be shown how to be successful in this crazy, fast paced, technology rich, multi tasking world that they live in!




Ch Ch Ch Changes

While going through the process of making a new unit and integrating as much tech as possible, I realized that there will be many changes involved. Not just by the tech used, but by the students, parents, and myself.   take some getting used to and sometimes change is hard, for everyone. In the end it will better prepare out students and challenge them on a level they are going to succeed in.

rafiki change

While making this technology saturated unit I had to make some changes as I went along. Looking back and reflecting on your work makes you a better educator and looking back and reflecting on anything make you a better person. I started out with a million ideas and had all of the new idea jam-packed into one unit. It was too much of a good thing!

pug good thing


The one thing that wasn’t too much was the way that the students will be collaborating while using technology. The flipped technique of the classroom will allow them to be ready to discuss and collaborate when it comes time for class and we will make better use of our time.  My students are always more engaged when we get to use technology in our learning. They are just more comfortable with it. (and the Piggy!) Work sheets and individual assignment just don’t excite them. We want them to WANT to learn and be in charge of their learning.piggy picture

As I was completing this unit it was fun to think of ways that they can make the choice to display the knowledge they learned. I am excited to see how they are able to work though this unit and honestly, I can’t wait to see what their creative little minds come up with. It almost always exceeds my expectations!

As with any change, challenges do arise. Thinking out of the box (thinking critically) will allow you to overcome them, though sometimes that can be hard. My biggest challenge with a flipped classroom, is that most of my students do not have access to internet at home.  How was I going to make this work? The mini flip with the morning work solution seems to be the best answer. It is a way to make it work, take advantage of time that may not be used so wisely, and get them involved in their own learning. Win win!

Incorporating technology into a classroom is going to take time, it is going to get messy, and meet some resistance. Be the change you want to see and the rest will follow suit. Students will see your excitement and want to participate, parents will see happier students who are succeeding, and administration will see their community of learners doing their very best. So what do you think? In the words of David Bowie, is it time for some“Ch Ch Ch Changes” to your classroom? The time is now, you can do it! Good Luck!ch ch changes

Give Flip A Chance

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a concept called The Flipped Classroom.  It sounds like a great idea, students come to class with the background knowledge and basic understanding of the day’s lessons. They spend their class time in collaboration with other students or with the teacher working on problems.  FABULOUS!

As a teacher of 3rd grade that seems like an impossible feat given all the subjects we teach. At the same time it could be a great way to fit in more content with less time. I’ve been thinking about giving it a try for my upcoming year. I have more students this year and trying to get all of the curriculum covered with a wide variety of levels will be a challenge. The flipped classroom for a subject or two could be my answers…..with a few modifications.

So much of an elementary school teacher’s day is focused on math and ELA. That combined with specials outside of the room there is little time left for science, social studies, health, handwriting, environmental and character education. So here is my plan. We are going to give it a mini flip. What is a mini flip? Well, let me explain. Most of my students are from a low or no income home. They do not have the technology or internet in their home to make a true flipped classroom work. How can I expect them to access online material at home when they don’t have it? I can’t.  At school however, we do have the technology. We also have about 30 minutes when students are trickling in before the start of each day. Why not use this time in a more beneficial way? Currently my students do a journal write using the Write About it App and a morning starter. Then they are free to work on any work not completed or simply read. My thought is to use this time for “The Flip”

I’ve been using Schoology as a class delivery system for my Grad school class. I’ve really enjoyed it and decided to use that as the platform to try this. I’ve created a folder for each “lesson”. Students can come in the morning and pick up an iPad and get to work. They can read on line or in their actual book and take basic notes in an interactive notebook. Each lesson has an assignment that can be done electronically or by hand and submitted electronically. When it comes time for social studies class,( one of the three times a week for 20-30 minutes that I can actually fit it in) they will be prepared to collaborate with their classmates about the subject, rather than just starting out with reading the lesson. capture of schoology

We can get right to the “meat and potatoes” rather that starting out with the appetizer!

There are some kinks that will need to be worked out. I will have several students who are well below grade level, reading wise. My thought here is to use the website screencast-o-matic.com to create a screen cast of me reading the material and guiding them to highlighting the correct information. That way they can read and follow along with me. I will also create a screen cast using TouchCast, that will help them with the technology. Of course I will model all of this when introducing this method to the class, but I will also upload these videos as references.  Students will be given assignments along the way  including a Webquest (similar to this one)  I will make using Wiki Spaces to monitor group participation,  and a choice of creating a final project that they can work on, in a group or alone.

This will go along with the 10 Key Components ideas that students need  a voice , they need to be challenged on multiple levels of thinking, and that they should be given multiple pathways to encourage learning. It is my hope we can eventually try this with several subjects and even be able to do this with our math lessons allowing for more time for collaboration in the classroom.

I will add an additional post and link it to this to let you know my reflections on the successes and failures of this process.  As Sir Robinson said, “ If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’re not prepared to be original. Failure is to be expected” I say, it’s what you do with those failure that make you more successful in the long run.  So off I go to Give Flip a Chance!


Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration!

You hear it all the time. Students perform better and retain information when given the opportunity to collaborate. That is easier said than done. Try to get 8-9 year olds to sit down to discuss anything. You will be treated to a symphony of  “He is hitting me!” , “She said my idea was dumb” ,”That was MY idea not yours!!”, “ NO ONE LIKES MY IDEAS!*proceeds to pout in the corner with arms folded over chest* “.  Here is the thing, it CAN be done and your student WILL love this student centered method of learning. You just have to go about it in a way that will engage them.

Over the past week I have been researching different methods of introducing collaboration in the classroom. They include everything from, getting started with basic classroom management and helping your students understand what collaboration actually is, to blogging and global connections,  and finally student centered peer groups rather than teacher centered learning.  The amount of technology out there to help students collaborate is dizzying! I’ve decided to focus on a few  that will help achieve student centered learning and some that will help connect your students to the world!

First things first, how can I set up my tiny room to encourage collaboration? I’ve been thinking about that lately since I will have 19 students this year and previously have had no more than 15 ever. ( Yes, we are a small school, don’t hate!) Many articles I have read talk about setting up a room in a U shape or by small groups to encourage shared discussion.  This VIDEO is a three-part series that will give you some ideas on how to use small spaces to your advantage. Well worth the time it takes to view it.  I know I will have to rethink my classroom set up to get us talking this year and now I have a better understanding on how to do that.

Now that you have your room set up , how are you going to get your students to collaborate respectfully and stay on task . This master teacher in Anchorage, Alaska has done a fantastic job with this and has included his students in the process. Private think time, and respectful, thoughtful discussion are so important. Not dismissing student’s ideas and giving your students models to see what a good discussion looks like are also key.

You’ve now gone through the process to foster collaboration,  so now what? I’ve recently read an article that talks about the research behind why collaboration is so successful. Students learn from one another and can help each other.  Giving them the time to discuss and explain will strengthen their understanding of a topic and help others as well. Teachers can then observe discussions and check for understanding based on feedback from her students. Using technology like Wikispaces or Edmoto  or even Padlet can give the teacher real-time feedback on how the discussions are going. This also gives students access to discussion 24/7. Students don’t have to wait until tomorrow to ask questions. They can post a question and get answers no matter what the time.  This addresses the ISTE Standards in many ways. Standard 1.b and 1.c are key examples of this.

Ok, time to take it to the next level. Let’s collaborate GLOBALLY!  WOAH!  That sounds so high-tech and so advanced. ( And so scary! How do you do that?!) Actually, it’s not so hard. There are so many resources out there.  The first I’m going to talk about is Quadblogging. This is a website that connects you to three other schools world-wide. Students will create a blog individually or as a whole class and will then get to share ideas with the other three schools. How cool is that? They will get feedback on their writing from other kids around the world! Check out this video on how it works exactly and the success one school has seen in their student’s writing skills.  Another way to reach students and make connections globally, is this amazing website called EPals.com. Here you can make connections and have your students write to schools from around the county or around the world. You can also set up Skype or Zoom video conferencing to have students meet face to face. Wouldn’t your students rather learn about a different culture from student’s their own age rather than a teacher standing in front of the room showing them pictures and videos? Finally, one great resource that I have found is the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration  .Here you are connected to different organizations and businesses that will take your children on a real-time virtual field trip. If you are learning bout different ecosystems, then look through connections on this site and there you will find The Aquarium of the Pacific who will set up a time to skype with your class and take them on an underwater adventure in the ocean. Some of my students have been outside of Hburg City, let alone even set foot in the ocean and here they can dive deep under! How amazing!  If none of these suggestions have peaked your interest, then check out this site with even more ideas on how to turn your students into Global Collaborators. Speaking of being a Global Collaborators, these sites and apps help your students reach the ISTE Standard of being a Global Collaborator.  Reaching out and teaching about and from others from their own little corner of the world gives them such power.

In terms of thinking about the 10 Key Components of Learning, which I have previously spoken about, collaborations work to reach so many of those. You can give your students a voice and multiple pathways of learning. Collaboration will reach your students on every level and give them a chance to use critical thinking and higher order skills. Finally, it will allow you the chance to give formative feedback to students as they go. Identify needs and help to direct them in real-time. So, have I convinced you yet?  I know I am very excited to go out there and try all of these this upcoming school year and hope you are too!  Go out and COLLABORATE!

Google Owns You!

                                                                                                                                                                                  Photo Credit: The First Born

Not really, but sort of! They decide what you look at, how you look at it and in what manner you look at it.  How many times do find that you just “Google it” scroll down and pick one of the first 5 hits as your source of information?  Come on, I know you have! We all have, it’s just second nature now.

Well, all those fine folks at Google and other search and social media sites have us figured out. They know where we are, what we like, what device we use, how old we are, what culture we come from, and use all of that information to give us what they think we want.  I know you’re thinking, “HEY! That’s not fair! I want to be able to choose what information I am given.” It’s sad but it’s true.  Check out this Ted Talk Video.

Creepy right? *que scary movie music* Well, I just had to see for myself. So I sent  a text to my friend and said, “ Google puppies and take a picture of your results” without question ( which is why I love her) she did and sent me this .IMG_2168-1

Aww, how sweet! So I Googled “Puppies” and got this.

IMG_2147 WHAAAAATTT?  I mean, I have voiced my opinion on puppy mills a time or two, but it’s not like I’m a vigilante or anything.I am a huge fan of cute puppy videos. I want cute puppy videos!  This was a prime example of how we are in our own,  as Eli Pariser said, “filter bubble” .

So how are we supposed to find the correct information from credible sources and document it properly?  How are we supposed to teach our students to do the same thing? As teachers it is our job to become knowledge constructors, where students are able to gather information and think critically to solve problems using 21st century tools in a meaningful way.  Students need instruction on how to search properly, realized what is credible or what is fake, and how to document it all properly.

There are many ways to teach students online safety and to search using critical thinking.  BE INTERNET AWESOME is a wonderful curriculum for younger students to become a model digital citizen. Using the BIG6 ideas, you can help your students use critical thinking to solve problems using technology. It is the most widely used approach in schools.

Another way, is to provide them with proper searching skills. Students need to know that Wikipedia is not a credible source and why. It is essentially the virtual version of a playground education. “Mom, Jimmy told me at second recces that if you swallow your gum and burp three times your head will explode! It’s so true! “ Wikipedia even says so! It’s a good place to start to get general knowledge on a topic but there always has to be more.  Google (ohh beware 🙂 has several “tricks of the trade” that you can use to help your students find multiple credible sources.

Once you have gone through how to search, offering a search engine that is safe and appropriate and will pass “The 9 Year Old Boy Test” is just as important. Just think what a 9 year old will search for? Yep, you want a search engine that will turn BUTT into articles on the life cycle of a BUTTERFLY or FART into articles on proper nutrition. There are several out that that are wonderful resources. They have articles chosen by educators or use Google Safe Search technology, are age and reading level appropriate, and direct the students to credible sources.  This is a list of my favorite sites.





Now you know ways to help you and your students become knowledge constructors.  Teaching proper search skills, ways to recognize “fake” news and sites, and ways to break free from search engines and social media limiting their choices of information will prepare our students for a successful academic future. Remember,  don’t let Google own you…. OWN GOOGLE!

Technology Integration in 3rd Grade

I am often asked about my use of technology in the classroom. How am I able to use it so often? What goals are you really achieving? Can you trust them with the tech? What specific apps are you using and how do you use them?

The 3rd graders use our iPads in a variety of ways and on a daily basis. I have created a video to highlight some of the main ways we have used our iPads so far. When using tech in the classroom you need to think of not only how to use the tech itself, but how to  reach the students in the best way to help them learn. The goal is to achieve Redefinition in the SAMR Model while including higher order thinking skills from Bloom’s Taxonomy. While a majority of integration easily meets the Enhancement levels of the SARM Model, it is a true challenge to go further.  Taking tech integration one step at a time and bit by bit will make it seem a  less intimidating. Soon it will become second nature and your students will not bat an eye at lessons or assignments given or using technology!  Happy Integrating !