Friday, August 15, 2014

Bring on the Learning Revolution

I have been in education for almost two decades. This week I met two new teachers who were students at the elementary school I taught and now are teachers themselves!?! YIKES!! Where did the time go? I remember being the youngest, bright-eyed new teacher of the bunch. I also started thinking of how things have changed a lot since I first started teaching. Back in the day, (my kids laugh at me when I say this) teachers had more autonomy in the classroom to make decisions for themselves. Unfortunately, since "No Child Left Behind" was passed, the education of our students has changed dramatically! At times I am sad for all that is put on teachers in the classroom and other times, I will admit, I get MAD! Enough is enough! Please for all that is holy in the world, let teachers TEACH!

I could rant about this subject all day long (especially after the day I had), but to tell the truth, I am a cup half full kinda girl. I could let the state of our system get me down but I believe this is an exciting time in our educational history. I know for many schools around the nation, changing educational paradigms may seem out of reach. There appear to be a lot of external reasons for this such as money, administrative and state mandates, and parental influences. However, I have always and will always believe that an extraordinary teacher can remove barriers and create conditions in which students can flourish and be innovative. Teachers are what make a difference! YOU have the POWER!

Don't endure the state of education. Let's change it TOGETHER! The best defense is to arm yourself with knowledge. There are so many opportunities for teachers to learn and grow together. You can find a lot of opportunities in Facebook groups, Twitter chats, or even just following your favorite blogs. Better yet, step out on the ledge and write your own blog. If you feel overwhelmed, these avenues are great ways to develop a Professional Learning Network (PLN) with like-minded educators who understand what you are going through, bounce ideas off of, and create plans to develop your passions and ideas.

It is important to realize innovation is the spark of insight that leads the learner to question, experiment and test assumptions. In the world of education, in order to be innovative the educational system itself must change as well as the instructional delivery system. According to Sir Ken Robinson in the video, "Bring on the Learning Revolution," he states, "It's about customizing to your circumstances and personalizing education to PEOPLE you are actually teaching. Doing that is the answer to the future. Develop your own solutions with external support." So develop your OWN solution. You have the tools. In today's world you no longer need your district making decisions about your learning needs. For example, you may read my blog and find lots of ideas you never even considered. You have the whole world at your fingertips! Use them to bring about change! Have a great year!

For me, innovation is driven by a commitment; because you believe in something better. What does innovation mean to you? Are you ready to bring on a learning revolution?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

iPad Mini Giveaway

I am super excited to announce my first giveaway! Your chance to win an iPad Mini for your classroom. A topic I am most passionate about is getting technology in the hands of students. When Melissa @Teacher Treasure Hunter asked me if I would like to participate in a giveaway, I jumped at the chance. If one of my readers could have an opportunity to win technology for their classroom than I am on it! So if you win, I thought I'd provide a few tips of the trade to help you manage your new device.

Tip #1 is let the students use the iPad. I know a lot of teachers who have access to one iPad and they keep the device to themselves. Most are scared the students will break the tablet. I get it! Students like to run around the room. They drop stuff in the floor. They just don't pay attention!  However, an iPad is a goldmine in your teaching arsenal. Get a good cover and let the students use the iPad. However, there are certain things you need to know before handing this device over to students. For example, NEVER EVER add your credit card to the device! I always advice my teachers to create a class email. You can use this as your Apple ID, email address, Dropbox account, etc for the iPad. You do not want students or anyone else having access to your personal information.

Another tip is to become familiar with the settings app on your iPad. This will allow you to set up the iPad the way you feel is best for students. For example, you may be interested in setting a few restrictions on the iPad. It is possible to set the iPad so students do not have access to Safari, FaceTime, and the iTunes store to name a few. You can also create restrictions to prohibit students from deleting apps. One word of caution though when using the restrictions is be careful what you restrict. For example, when our district first started managing the iPads, our network administrator created default restrictions. I didn't pay much attention until one day I was setting up a cart. I loaded the restrictions and my teacher started teaching with one of the iPads she freaked..."Where is my camera?" Our network administrator had restricted the camera! I would not recommend disabling the camera. This is probably the most important part of the iPad for the classroom, but sometimes people forget almost all of the best apps need camera access.

One question I get a lot is how to disable the iPad so students only have access to one app. This is called guided access. This is so useful for young students when iPads are accessible during center time. You have given them a specific assignment only to find them playing Angry Birds! Can I get a witness!?! With guided access, students will have no alternative but to use the app you have chosen for them. If you are interested in how this works, check out my friend, Nancy's video. Another feature I think is so valuable for students who struggle with reading is the accessibility feature. By enabling the speak auto-text option on the iPad, students can highlight words, sentences, and paragraphs, press speak and listen to text being read to them. For more information about using iPads in the classroom check out the iBook I made. If you need more ideas of how to infuse the iPad in your classroom, check out some of the technology lessons in my store. I even have one to help with the one iPad classroom.

So now for what I am sure you are here for: the giveaway. "This giveaway is only open to teachers (classroom and homeschool) who are living in the contiguous United States. The winning entry will be verified and proof of eligibility may be required. Please see the complete terms and conditions at the bottom of the giveaway for more information." Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more technology tips of how you might use this wonderful device in your classroom, please visit the sites below:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mystery Skype: Connecting Classroom Around the Globe

What a day! Such a great day of learning here in Fort Worth, Texas at the TechnoPalooza conference. I love it when I learn new things to keep me on my toes and challenge me to branch out of my comfort zone. One of the big ideas of today was to rethink how we teach students about the world around us. It is more than just having a day of celebration to discover other cultures, but to build a deeper awareness through social interaction. It has never been easier than it is now to interact and connect with others from around the world. Did you know you and your students could participate in a variety of global projects? One project I learned about today was called Mystery Skype. In a nutshell, classes from around the world can connect with one another by participating in a Mystery Skype session. Say a fourth grade classroom from somewhere in the United States connects with a classroom from Australia. These two classrooms would meet during a Skype session to ask each other questions about a given topic. The questions would have to be phrased in such a way that students could only answer yes or no. Here is a video example of what it might look like in the classroom.

During the session, we connected with Hugh McDonald, an educator from Canada to guess where he lived. We had no idea where he was from when we began and let me tell you it was hard. We couldn't use vague words like close or near but needed to use more precise language such as north, south, etc. It took us awhile to find the answer because we were not writing down the clues like you would have students do. However, believe it or not I ended up figuring out where he lived! I can be directionally challenged so this was a huge feat! It was a lot of fun and I can only imagine what students would think about this experience. So if this idea peaks your interest check out a few resources to help you get started here and here. Come back tomorrow as I have a special post scheduled. A chance to win an iPad Mini. This would be a great addition to help you and your students connect with other classrooms around the globe.

What do you think about Mystery Skype? 
Would you be interested in doing this with some of my classrooms?
Let me know what you think.

Fun in Texas

I am so excited to finally be in Fort Worth, TX with my good friend Nancy Alvarez @Teaching with Nancy after a long day at the airport. I decided to fly to Texas rather than having to drive. When I went to turn in my luggage I found my flight had been cancelled. So I ended up spending the whole day at the airport. It was worth it though because I finally met Nancy face to face. We have talked online now for awhile and even chatted on a Google Hangout but this is the first time we have actually got to see each other. It is amazing the connections made online when you click with like-minded educators. It is truly a blessing!

The reason for my trip is Nancy and I are presenting at the TechnoPalooza conference on augmented reality. This is my first out of town conference to present so I am extremely anxious to make a good impression. We found out tonight our session is full! If you are attending the conference swing on by and see us! We have a lot of exciting things to show you!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Technology Infusion: Three Ideas to Jumpstart Your School Year

I have been spending a lot of time over the past couple of months trying to come to terms with the fact I have branded myself as a technology specialist. It really hit me when someone asked me to present at a conference and wanted me to send in a proposal for a session. I sent several possibilities with some sessions directly related to technology while others were geared more to literacy topics. I was surprised at the response I received. Actually, I wasn't surprised, I guess I should have expected it since I named my blog "Tech with Jen". :) She wanted me to teach a technology session. She said this was my area of expertise. I wasn't at all upset about the statement, it is nice to know people value my experience and knowledge. However, I did start to think about the comment. To be perfectly honest, my area of expertise is teaching students how to read and write. I have a specialist degree in reading. I am a National Board Certified teacher in literacy. I'm not just about technology. This is why I started my blog in the first place. I want teachers, administrators, and anyone else who will listen to know it is NOT about the technology!! It is all about HOW we use technology in the classroom. Technology is such a valuable tool to take our lessons to a whole new level. It can provide numerous ways to help differentiate our instruction. Technology can help students create, collaborate, and communicate like never before! 

Many teachers struggle, not only with ideas for using technology in the classroom, but how to make it work. Using augmented reality is super cool but if you don't know how to create the triggers and overlays it can be hard to try these new tools with students. This is what I do. I provide the "behind the scenes" knowledge of how to make it happen in the real-world but I hope I offer ideas of how it works with the curriculum. So I have decided to take a look at several of my posts from the past and elaborate how these tools can be used in the classroom. These three ideas may help jumpstart your mojo to use technology for the upcoming school year.

One idea is from a favorite post about interactive notebooks. This is my version of the popular paper versions floating around except I use the Book Creator app. Using this app along with other iPad apps allow students to "think and talk" about their reading. I like to allow students to respond to the reading of text in a variety of ways. To be perfectly honest, I prefer students choose what works best for them. If a student struggles with writing why do we make them write first? Could they not draw, create a video, or maybe even a Toontastic presentation? Students really enjoy responding to text in this way and students' writing improves. So start your year allowing students to respond to text through projects on the computer, apps, a poster, or whatever fabulous ways you can think based on your students' learning styles. Get to know your students; their likes and dislikes. If technology is not available, students can still respond to their reading in a variety of ways.

Speaking of writing, I wrote a post about using technology in writers' workshop with a lot of ideas for infusing technology. Some other ideas that might be of interest is having young students rehearse their sentences using the Tellagami app. They record their voice and then go back and listen to the video over and over again to help with the transcription process. If you teach young children, I am sure you are aware of having students rehearse the sentence by saying it over and over again and counting the words. Using tools such as this will help your students like never before. You don't have to have a classroom set of iPads. Even if you only have one iPad you could teach the students how to use it in a small group setting first and then begin to allow students to use it individually. Imagine this...picture in your mind the student that, when asked to write, just sits there and looks at his/her paper with a blank stare? Can you see his or her face? Now imagine handing your iPad over to create a gami. Is the student a little more engaged? I promise one device can be a game changer. Even older students love Tellagami. Students can explain their thinking about a particular topic or story they have read. The skies the limit and students usually come up with a lot of great ways to use this app.

Have you heard of augmented reality and how it can help you in the classroom? I wrote a post last summer about augmented reality apps. At the time, this technology was brand new to me but now I have had the opportunity to try it out with kids and get feedback from a lot of teachers about how this works in the classroom. I am excited to present about this topic at the end of the month at Technopalooza. There are so many cool augmented reality apps out now. I will be writing more about this topic at a later date, but I do want to share how augmented reality can help you engage your students before a unit. Build background for students by creating links to websites and videos. This can also be used to allow students to explore research topics more efficiently. I am currently working on a human body unit about the body systems and created this freebie. I thought you might be interested in taking a look at for me. 

Many of you wrote to me and suggested students use Aurasma to create their own auras. I couldn't agree more! Students can use the Aurasma app to share their work in a variety of ways. Let's go back to the ideas of students creating a Tellagami or Toontastic during reading and writing. Imagine students linking this resource to a trigger image. When students scan the trigger image they can see the video the student created. I could think of all kinds of ways this could be used in the classroom. It would be great for book talks. Add a student's trigger image to the inside cover of a book, when scanned an aura appears and a student's video tells more about the book or their recommendation.

My hope for this blog to help you see ways you can develop your curriculum in the 21st century classroom. Remember to start small and never let the lack of technology keep you from doing what you want to do with your students. Let's figure out a way to build these innovative classrooms together. Our students deserve it and so do you!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Teach Like a Pirate Book Study: Transformation

I apologize for being a little late getting this post out to everyone! Life has been a little crazy to say the least. For starters, as I sat down to prepare for 3 professional development sessions last week, my MacBook decided to quit! If you know me at all you know the loss of my beloved MacBook is devastating. Out of all my technology gadgets my MacBook Pro is my fave! I absolutely LOVE it! Hopefully the sweet guys at the computer shop can fix it for me but I'm not holding my breath. They think it is the logic board which doesn't sound good. I probably wouldn't have had such a panic attack about the crash except for the fact I am now officially self-employed! My district offered a buyout to the teachers of our district to help save money. I decided the buyout was a good opportunity to TRANSFORM myself as an educator. Hence my decision to write about the transformation chapter in our online book study of "Teach Like a Pirate".

Teach Like a Pirate Transformation

In the chapter on transformation, the author Dave Burgess, encourages readers to reflect on the current reality of their classroom. Is your classroom a purple cow or a brown cow? A purple cow is one that stands out from the rest. The question encouraged me to reflect on my current situation. In many ways my blog has become my classroom. I try to use this platform to help you learn to infuse technology in the classroom. This is important to me because I have learned technology can help an extraordinary teacher transform how students learn and create. However, technology is NOT the only way to change teaching and learning. When reflecting on how I wanted to reframe my message (as suggested from the chapter) to anyone who happens upon my blog, I decided my vision is bigger than just teaching technology tips and tricks but to offer amazing content to help you position yourself as an educator with a classroom filled with engaging content. I have lots of ideas and my goal is to become a purple cow of the blogosphere. I loved reading this chapter and it helped inspire me on my new venture. I'm sure it can inspire you as well. Whether you are a classroom teacher, instructional specialist, or a lover of technology I encourage you to check out this book or any of the other online book studies to help transform you in one way or another in your career. Next stop, it is on to Looney's Lit Blog to learn about Enthusiasm.

Teach Like a Pirate Enthusiasm

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Math Apps Review: Drive About Number Neighborhood

Ready for a road trip this summer? Your kids can travel on an exciting adventure by boat, car, under the sea, in a hot air ballon, and rocket up to space as they learn number sense skills. No, it is not an episode of the Amazing Race but it is the new release of the app Drive About: Number Neighborhood by Artgig Studio just released today. This app is so stinkin' cute! The child uses his or her finger to move different types of transportation around town while stopping periodically at a destination to play a math game.

There are nine games in all, each one to help students learn a unique number sense or math concept. This app will help teach the following math skills:

Identifying Numbers
Counting Numbers to 20
Showing the Same Number in Different Ways
Writing Numbers to 9

The app is appropriate for children in preschool through Kindergarten or children needing help with simple number sense concepts. There is a parent section of the app to provide feedback or reviews, as well as turn the music on and off. The only suggestion I would make is to add more settings for parents to adjust the difficulty level of each game. Other than that I cannot think of a thing I would change. Not only will your child develop number sense skills but also problem solving and critical thinking! The concept for students to get from game to game is absolute genius and the sound effects are hilarious! 

This app would be the perfect companion for your child this summer or to help teach number sense concepts to your students. Try it today and let me know what you think!