Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Add-Ons Can Save Lives, Or At Least Time

It's been awhile since I've made a post about anything other than Kid President.  It's been a very busy year.  I no longer have to worry about my Master's Degree, but I'm department chair this year and become a site rep for the union.  We also have had a lot of administrative absences for various reasons and a few of us have been picking up some of the slack when we can.

Last week, my Safe School Ambassador "club" hosted an Anti-Bullying Week.  That kept me pretty busy, but that's a kind of busy that is definitely worthwhile.  We got some help from one of the AVID classes and created a "Take What You Need, Give What You Can" board to share

A photo posted by Miss Barron (@missbarronsfhs) on


I'm, as always, behind in my grading.  One thing that helped me so far this year is a Google Doc add-on called JoeZoo.  It's not perfect.  It would be great if you could go from giving grammatical feedback on an assignment, to grading it (using a rubric to give it a grade) instead of having to go back to the start screen.  But, if you use many of the same rubrics for different assignments, it's pretty handy.  I just had to set up my districts narrative rubric once, and now I can use it with multiple assignments.  It saved me a lot of time and it will show the students the areas they need to work on.

It also integrates with your Google Classroom (GC), so you don't need to enter in all your students and assignments.  If you have them in GC, it's there in JoeZoo.  I still suggest edits for mistake students make because the feedback function is not foolproof.

I discovered two new Docs add-ons the other day as well that I'm pretty excited about, though like JoeZoo, they aren't foolproof (apparently, it's nigh on impossible for AIs to identify comma splices).  These two add-ons have similar functions:  proofreading.  One is called GradeProof and the other is Proofread Bot.

GradeProof Screengrab
GradeProof reminds me of Grammarly in function and aesthetic.  I really like it.  It gives statistical information too like how many words, sentences, etc. the paper has.  It also gives a readability score and a "grade level".  The grade level isn't really what most teachers would consider a grade level.  What it is is a number of years it is estimated one would have to be in school in order to underestand the text.  So, my students and I figured out that the higher a readability percentage, the lower the grade level was.

Proofread Bot is interesting in that it explains the error and why it shouldn't be made.  I like that about it because it teaches along with guiding you through corrections that maybe should be made. This tool in particular could assist students in self (and peer) editing. Here's a video to see it in action:



I was a little surprised to hear about the change in name for GAFE to G Suite.  I'm curious how that will affect the Ed Tech world.  For instance, will EdTechTeam rename their GAFESummits?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Kid President #2

Source: Wikimedia
It's actually #3.  Or, it is for my students.  I didn't model blogging for them last time (shame on me).  But since it has been a while from my last post, I decided to do it for them today.  It's not that I haven't had anything to say.  I've just been busy.  I'm sure all of you more than understand that.  I envy those of you who are better blog stewards than I am.

So, this time around, I had my students read #8 in the book:  "Focus on the Awesome."  One thing that I think that is awesome is that my students are blogging.  They don't all particularly enjoy it yet (but they will), but one thing I've noticed about my students over the years, anything that is different = hard = don't want to do it.  Once it becomes easier for them, I anticipate that they will enjoy it.

Another thing that I think is awesome is the fact that one of the authors of the book is now following me on Twitter.  Never thought that one day I would get excited about who was following me on Twitter.  But then again, I never really thought I would be anywhere near active on Twitter either.

I'm hoping that the students will eventually not need the prompts I come up with the help them write their reflections, but here are the prompts they can mix and match for this particular assignment:


  1. Reflect on #8: “Focus on the Awesome”
    1. Do you agree with Brad and Kid President? Should we focus on the awesome?
    2. What might be some benefits on focusing on the awesome?
    3. What might make it difficult to focus on the awesome?
    4. Who is someone in your life that helps you to remember to focus on the awesome?

I do agree with Brad Montague (the one now following me on Twitter) and Robby Novak.  We should focus on the awesome.  It makes you feel better mentally, which will only help you feel better physically.  It's not particularly easy to do, especially if you're predisposed to being negative.  It's going to take practice.

There are some days that will happen where it just seems like nothing is going right.  Those days might make it difficult to focus on the awesome.  But, the fact that you can survive days like that and come out on the other side is pretty awesome if you think about it.

I think Robby Novak himself is a pretty good reminder to focus on the awesome.  I especially feel this way since I've learned that he and his biological sister both have the same "Brittle Bone Disease" and were adopted by the Novaks.  If he can focus on the awesome, I certainly can.  The people who are currently in my life that help me to focus on the awesome are my best friend of 20 years, Christel, and her two boys (her youngest has a smile that can't be called anything other than awesome), and my students.  My students can also make it hard to focus on the awesome, depending on the day and/or period, but the fact that I can be a part of their lives and maybe make a difference for them is absolutely awesome.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Kid President Blog Post

I'm doing a little modeling for my classes today (two of them at least) and writing a blog as they do their first one of the school year.

Over the summer, I began to read Kid President's Guide to Being Awesome.  I thought it would be kind of neat to have my students read and respond to some of the vignettes in the book.  Today, with my 11th graders, I began that journey.

On Sunday, I went to four Barnes and Noble bookstores to get eight paperback copies of the book (one for each group in class).  Yesterday, I started the 11th graders on their blogs.  I helped them get their blogs set up and a draft post for their first blog post, which they are doing right now.

It was really cool to walk around the room and hear the students reading "The True Story of Kid President" to each other.  I'm really hoping they get something out of this.

They can write about whatever the story made them think or feel, but if my 11 years of teaching have taught me anything, it's that you need to have prompts anyways.  So, I came up with two to help those that need a little push:


    1. What reason can you find to dance?
    2. What could you stop complaining about? What could you start celebrating?

Source: WikiMedia
The fact that I had students reading to one another, and reflecting (in writing) during the first week of school without much push back is definitely a reason to dance. I'm kind of known for doing happy dances anyways. When students seem to take to something I took a lot of time to plan out for them, and it seems to go well, it is definitely dance time. I sometimes do it in front of the students too. Other times, I do it in my head.


I could probably stop complaining about how tired I always feel. I should probably go to the doctor and see if there is anything I can do to get a better night's sleep. That would probably help a lot. I could also work up my stamina again and do more walking. That's supposed to help sleep, or so I hear.
I am celebrating, on a small level, the fact that I did pretty well in maintaining my weight loss over the summer. I didn't really lose any more weight, but I was able to keep myself from really gaining any either. I might have even gained some muscle since many people are commenting that it looks like I lost more weight. I could also celebrate the fact that I was born without any debilitating disorders like Kid President was. I had a student a few years ago with "Brittle Bone Disease". I loved his laugh. It was infectious.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The First (Half) Week of School 2016


I didn't sleep in any day, at all, during the summer.  I always woke up in the 6 or 7 o' clock hour. Every. Single. Day.  I find this very unfortunate.

It seems to be a trend that is continuing even after the school year has started because now I'm waking up somewhere in the 5 o' clock hour.

But, it's back to the "grindstone".  Though this grindstone isn't making a lot of noise.  So far, my students are soooooo quiet.  It's kind of disconcerting really.

I'm teaching the same preps this year (English 11 College Prep and English 10 Honors), but they flip flop back and forth between periods, which is kind of annoying and will probably get more so when we start doing different activities.  A minor issue, I know.

So, a post on the Breakout EDU facebook group rolled through in the days before school started from Sally Hoyt about a back to school digital breakout she did with her students.  She gave me permission to modify it, so I did and gave it a try.

Like Sally, I started out with a Google Form student survey.  Once the students were done with the survey and had clicked SUBMIT, there was a link to the 3-lock digital breakout I'd created for them.

Many of the students didn't read the confirmation page and closed the tab, which created some problems, but we navigated through them.

I had clues built into the data validation for each lock.

The first lock was a date lock, and I followed Sally's Breakout and chose Back to School Night.  Ours happen to be on the same night.  Many of the kids thought the clue about going back to school meant that day: the first day of school.  Some kids were getting upset with me because they didn't understand and thought they had to put in the date I gave in the example so they would type the date in the correct format, which of course, didn't work.

I followed Sally's example, to a point, with the directional lock as well and used it to lead them to Google Classroom.  I had given them a sheet with all the codes for all the Apps we would be using in class, which included Classroom.  The clue talked about how if you couldn't find your way, you may need to GOOGLE your way to the CLASSROOM.  Some of the kids picked up on the clue right away, others thought they had to find the coordinates to the school on Google Maps.

Once they were in Classroom, there was an announcement with a link to this document:



Many of the kids figured out the code, but couldn't quite figure out (read:  were not reading the help text for the lock) and were writing out the entire word instead of the first letters.

I'd given the kids a half sheet of paper "introducing" myself and telling them they could find more about me on my website (one of the pages on my site is titled "About Me").  Where the following infographic about myself could be found.  I borrowed this idea too.  I thought it was cute.

If the kids paid close enough attention to what I talked about in note (how many schools I've taught at, how many degrees I have, how many Google certifications I have, and how many colleges I've been to), they would pick up on the numbers and order for the 4-digit lock.

I had one girl figured it out, on accident, by deducing that few meant 3, multiple meant 2 (for her at least; but hey, it worked!), etc. from how I worded my clues.  I might need to be a bit more vague next time.

Once they had all the locks right, they clicked NEXT and that lead them to...





I decided to add a few questions to gauge how students felt about the Digital Breakout.  Here is a sampling of some of the results:



I had a few kids report that they liked nothing about it, but many of them said they liked the challenge, some liked how "sneaky" I was with my clues, and many of them liked the mystery of it.

A lot of the kids realized that the objective was to hit all four of the "Cs": Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Communication.  Some missed out on the communication part because they were trying to do it alone.

Overall, I think the Breakout was a success.  I think I'm going to do one for The Crucible.  I think I'll do the "old-fashioned" Breakout for that.  I need to find one for a book that has already been done and modify it.  It would make me feel a little more confident in trying it out than if I tried to do one from complete scratch.

The Breakout didn't take up the whole period, so I had a Kahoot all about me and the room ready to go.  The kids really had fun with this one despite the fact that they'd just met me.  I used it to point out where the station for staplers, sharpeners, and a hole punch is; and, how to go about turning in late work or getting their absent work, etc.  Here were my two favorite questions, the first one comes right after a question about whether or not I have a sense of humor:




The next two days, I spent practicing some of the Apps we will be using during the school year with the students.  We used Google Classroom both days as the springboard for the other three.  I really like the new topics feature they added, by the way.

First up was a diagnostics assessment on NoRedInk.  This is an online grammar learning tool that I found out about from Esther Wojcicki when she came to present at our district on Moonshots (bought the book, have the book, haven't read it yet).  Four of the five classes are having the most trouble with connecting clauses with colons and semicolons.  My 4th period needs help there too, but they were having more trouble with active and passive voice.  So, I now know what my first official NoRedInk assignments will be for the students.

Then it was Verso.  I really like Verso.  I discovered it last year during CUE after having a hallway chat with my friend Crystal Kirch before we headed to lunch with another friend.  I could have sworn I blogged about using it last year.  Apparently, I had meant to and never did.  I really love Verso, and the kids seemed to like it last year in the few times we used it.  I plan to pretty much use it for any online class discussions this year.  The students' responses are anonymous to students, but not the teacher.  The kids mentioned how they liked the idea of anonymity because that way they would feel more confident and comfortable responding honestly and thoughtfully knowing that other students don't know what response is theirs, but they can't be mean to each other with impunity since they are accountable to the teacher who can tell who said what.

Here is the video that the students watched for their first "flip" (What Verso calls an activity) that they did as practice.  There was an accompanying question:



Lastly, I introduced them to Actively Learn.  As I blogged about last school year, I really like Actively Learn.  My school is test piloting it with a Team plan for 6 of us, so I get some special goodies this year.  One thing I noticed is that when I sync my Google Classroom classes with it and then create an assignment, it creates a draft for the assignment in my Google Classroom.  That was really cool.  For this practice session with the kids, I chose a current event article from the catalog on music and how it affects the brain.  It has only two questions, which I thought was perfect for practicing.

I was really surprised at how thoughtful and thorough many of the answers were from the students, especially from my 11th graders.  Many of them wrote quite a bit.  They seemed to like when I went over to the computer and started grading their answers and they would get the feedback in front of them already.

A similar product to Actively Learn reached out to me over the summer through Twitter about their product and this blog.  They talked about my readership.  I wasn't aware I had a readership.  Readership are you out there?  Would love to hear from you.

The product is called OwlEyes, and it is certainly worth a look.  Their slogan on their home page is: Read. Annotate. Collaborate.  It's completely free and houses a bunch of readings from the public domain, and they were going to be adding (should have already added at this point) some texts from Project Gutenberg.  It seems really interesting, and if I didn't already have Actively Learn, I'd probably give it a try with my class. But, we are paying for Actively Learn, and I don't want to overwhelm my students with Apps that carry a similar purpose.  I did sign up anyways, just in case.  I like having my username saved.  I also liked how they have some analysis already embedded into their texts.

Here are two short videos that Samantha over at Owl Eyes sent me:





Sunday, June 26, 2016

Nurturing Learning Communities Reflection 7 (the last)




The LAST prompt EVER (can you tell I'm excited to be done?): Are you getting burnt out yet? What is making you feel that way? How can you sustain momentum? After you finish this course will you continue? Why or why not? Have you made any connections to other school districts or universities? What are you learning from them?

I write this as I wait for the opening keynote at ISTE 2016.  So, am I burnt out on connecting with other educators? Um...no.  Am I burnt out on my Master's program?  Um...yes.

Don't get me wrong.  It's been very enriching to go through this program (there were a few exceptions).  But, I'm ready to be DONE.  It was very hard to balance my education with creating time to enrich my students' education.

I've already talked in previous reflections about the connections, or lack thereof, that I've made.  I won't stop participating in PLNs and getting involved on Twitter and Google+.  Despite Bill Selak's suggestion during today's Ignite session, I'm wary of Snapchat.  I think I'll be a holdout.   I carefully straddle the line between giving to much access to my students of myself and trying to be an innovator. I tend to err on the side of not giving too much access.

I'm sure I'll learn a lot from them in the next few days at ISTE.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Nurturing Learning Communities Reflection 6

Here was this week's reflective prompt for my class: Do you have any global connections? How did you acquire them? If you don’t how will you try to make global connections? What do you hope that your global connections will do for you? What can you do for them?
Virtually, that is

I know that I have "global" connections, but they are indirect connections through PLNs and such.  I have one person from Germany that recently added me to one of their lists and followed me on Twitter and one from the Dominican Republic.  Is that global enough?

This did make me think about the fact that I don't think you can force connections.  This is a world of lurking more than dialoguing between each other.  At least that how I feel right now, as I tried to engage people last week in various discussions with questions posed to various hashtags.  I got no response other than people adding me to lists or favoriting my tweet.  I'm not trying to scold anyone with that, but it is a bit hard to make connections, at least meaningful ones when people don't respond.

Like I said last week, I think Google+ might be better for making connections.  At least if you are a part of the EdTechTeam's Google+ community.  I really enjoy EdTechTeam.  I went to one of their FutureReady Summits last summer, probably a year ago today actually, and right around Thanksgiving, I went to one of their GAFE Summits.  I'm going again in August as it's in my neck of the woods.  

It was during the last summit in Temecula, that I started making some of my connections.  I was able to do that through the GEG SoCal Google+ Community.  At both the summit and at CUE, they did a meetup, which is both intimidating and fun.  If you wanted to get started with finding a GEG (Google Educators Group) for your area, start here.  I highly suggest it.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Nurturing Learning Communities Reflection 5

This week's journal prompt asked me about what tools I'm finding most beneficial to my learning community.  By tool, I'm assuming they mean what platform.

I would have to say that right now, I'm finding Google+ the most beneficial.  At the very least, it's being the most communicative.  I feel a bit like I have to be a little spammy to get a response, and I'm not entirely comfortable with that.  Google+ won't allow for sending one post to multiple communities, so I have to make a public post and then share it with the communities I think the post would apply to.  I may be irritating those in multiple shared communities.

Depending on what communities respond, I may just start sharing with those communities in particular.  Right now, it looks like the winner is +EdTechTeam's community.


I've purposely asked specific questions on Twitter with PLN hashtags and gotten no direct response.  I've had a lot of people add me to their lists, but no actual responses to the questions I posed.


This is in anthesis to what I've read and been told about Twitter.  I wonder if it has something to do with the end of the school year.  Maybe Google+ is taking over as the educator's preferred way to interact with groups of like-minded educators?

The prompt also asked me about Open Education Resources (OERs) that I have found.  As part of my requirements for the NEA Foundation grant I received, I had to sign up for their OER site, Curriki, and contribute.  In using the search term "open education resources", I found the OER Commons site.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Nurturing Learning Communities Reflection 4

This past week was...sad and scary. I didn't really do much in trying to connect and got myself out there on my PLNs. Maybe after sharing this blog post, I'll go out and ask a question about trust and see if I get any responses, which I can then discuss next week.

So why did I fall short in participating in my PLNs this week? Why was it both sad and scary?


On Monday, Memorial Day, I got an email from my principal that a senior (whom I had as a sophomore) had passed away from an apparent suicide. I've since had this weird vague sadness about it. There is some disconnect because I don't have an empty seat to remind me of his absence every day, but I do have my memories of two years ago of a smart (if not slightly apathetic about school) kid rapping and beatboxing under his breath. I have my memories of the student who spoke so eloquently and philosophically about life and music; though I didn't always understand what he was saying, I got the meaning behind the words.  


I also have my anger. I will admit. I have my moments where I'm angry at him for doing it. Also my anger at the school for only telling his current teachers about the services and not the entire school. He had teachers all four years he was at our school. He had other teachers who cared about him.


His family started a GoFundMe to help with expense, they are almost at their goal. Please consider donating.


That was the sad (or part of it) so on to the scary. On Thursday, after school, I had just done a walk around the school and sat down to gather my things to head to class when a shelter-in-place call went out over the loud speaker. I went to lock my door and pulled a teacher and about 20 kids from the hallway into my room, turned off the lights and pulled down the shades. I called the office to let them know I had 20 kids in my classroom and to ask what was going on. I was told an armed intruder.


It took about 20 or 30 minutes before we were given the all clear to resume what we had been doing. Luckily, there hadn't been an armed intruder, but the possibility of one. The suspect turned himself in to police before he entered the campus.


So, how do you deal and cope as an educator when life gets real?

Monday, May 30, 2016

Nurturing Learning Communities Reflection 3

The suggested prompt for this week was:  What have you seen that you think may violate creative commons, fair use, or copyright law? Did you do anything about it? Why or why not?
Personal Screenshot

Nothing but the work my students complete comes to mind.  I've been trying to instill the need for students to respect people's work by doing image searches that filter for those allowed for reuse.  I go as far as to do an image search on their blog posts about their Passion Project for the images they use to make sure they show up under such a label and mark them down when they don't.  

Since I've started to make such an effort not to use anything that isn't labeled for reuse, I know how hard it is to ignore some excellent images because they haven't been labeled as such.  It's a process that is going to take time.  Especially since when you do an image search for "labeled for reused" and then filter for such, you get a group of photos like these.


I do notice that a lot of the people I admire in the EdTech world, particularly those that blog, do their best to follow copyright laws and adhere to creative commons practices.  I always do my best to give credit, where credit is due.  This applies in particular in the education world where we want to share and build off of other's great ideas.


Then this made me think of those who don't want to share for whatever reason they may have: insecurity over their ideas or competitive need to be the best.  In class, we've been talking a lot about PLCs and PLNs (Professional Learning Communities and Professional/Personal Learning Networks for the acronym-impaired).  We talked, in particular, this week about trust in both and what both PLCs and PLNs need to work well.  


I think some PLCs don't work very well because sometimes schools, districts, the teachers within it themselves create an atmosphere of competition.  The point of participating in a PLC is for the benefit of all the students, not just one set of students.  So, trust is broken when educators hold back things that worked for them because they want their students to do better than the other teachers.


What I personally need from both and PLC and PLN is reciprocity.  I can't continually give and not get anything in return (and this itself could lead some teachers to stop sharing).  I think, from experience, that when educators are just starting to build and explore PLNs, they are going to, more naturally, take than give.  Now that I'm getting more comfortable communicating and sharing in the social media world of education, I've been making the effort to share more instead of just take.  


It's okay to capture up great ideas for awhile; but at some point, you should start to give back.  Sometimes, being reciprocal isn't always about sharing your work and ideas, but giving feedback to those that do.  It doesn't need to be tit-for-tat.  






Sunday, May 22, 2016

Nurturing Learning Communities Reflection 2

So, two classes down, six more to go.

This week we were supposed to start contributing to the networks we "joined".  I had already been building networks on these platforms, but I was a lot more passive about it.  So, I've gone out of my comfort zone and started to try and take a more active role with my contributions.


This isn't easy for me because I don't like pushing myself on to other people.  I don't invite myself over to other people's homes or parties, metaphorical or not, even when I know I am probably welcome.  I don't want to force someone to be fake nice to me.


So am going about contributing by sharing articles or information that I think may be of use to people.  I started with trying to start a dialogue on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter about Google Spaces.





On the Facebook group and on Google+ I started a very brief dialogue, but it fell flat on Twitter. That's the thing about social media. You can put yourself out there and no one has to return the favor and respond. I put myself out there with this blog, but very rarely do I get responses to my posts. However, thanks to the blogger data, I know that people read them. On the social networks, you don't usually know if people read your posts, so it can be a bit discouraging. That's why I think it's good to start slow.

On that note, that's why, knowing in particular that my classmates might be struggling with getting into Twitter, when I read the blog/podcast mentioned below, I used it as an opportunity to try and contribute meaningfully to Google+ and the cohort's facebook group.




Ultimately, you just need to keep trying. I'm hoping this class will push me to build strong networks of people who will support me and allow me to support them.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Nurturing Learning Communities Reflection 1

So on Saturday, a week ago this posting, I walked in my graduation for my MAED.

I am not, however, actually done.  I have one more class:  Nurturing Learning Communities.

For this class, we'll have to journal weekly, so I'm going to take the opportunity to use this blog to do so.  My hope is that maybe it will help me blog more consistently as a whole after the class is over.

For our first assignment, we were instructed to join three new social networks and make connections with 50 people per network.  Our instructor, in our face-to-face meeting, felt that number was a little too high to make it meaningful.  I kind of agree for those that are just dipping their toe in reaching out to the educator community on these networks.  You want to start slow and try and build relationships and not just lists and circles and groups of people you never end up dialoguing with.

I am already plugged into most of the effective networks.  So, I hope I will be forgiven for not joining new ones.  But, this assignment did push me to reach out and add more people to my circles on Google+.  I had to think carefully about the people I wanted to add.  I just didn't want to add people whose names were unrecognizable or that I knew nothing about.  I went through my G+ communities members and added people to my circles whose names I recognized from GAFE Summits and CUE and EdTechTeam interactions.

This assignment also pushed me to find out about Twitter lists.  I had noticed in my TweetDeck feed that people had added me to some of their lists, but never really looked into it.  So, I found some lists that looked promising and subscribed and created a few of my own.

I'm hoping that this class will push me, even more, to reach out and create PLNs on these platforms.  What platforms do you use?  What do you like about one over the other?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Cue 2016 Takeaways and Thoughts

Like the last few years, I was really excited to attend the National Cue Conference in Palm Springs this year.  One more year and I can nab a 5-year member badge ribbon.

Our school had a very large contingent this year with 12 people (including two admin).


One day, I'll feel knowledgeable enough to present.  It's a goal (#goals).


The opening day Keynote with Brad Montague, co-creator of Kid President, was


His positivity and energy and love for all were so palpable.  It was really inspiring.  The quotes and information that stood out were:

  • ”You were once a child, too”
  • “Be what you needed when you were younger”
  • “Lots of things are contagious: fear, anger, hate...viruses.  But joy, hope, love are the best kinds of contagions.”
  • “Treat everybody like it’s their birthday”
  • “Haters gonna hate.  Huggers gonna hug!”
  • Keep sharing your voice
  • You are powerful
  • It doesn’t matter who gets the credit.  It matters that it happened.
  • Choose joy!

I missed out on my friend Crystal Kirch's session on Flipped Classrooms because her room was overflowing with people, and there wasn't any room. Isn't that AWESOME?

I left my first session part way through. It wasn't what I thought it would be about. I can't use Minecraft with my students since it doesn't work on a Chromebook. There is more to game-based learning than Minecraft people!

I then went to a session by Alice Chen because it's Alice Chen (and it had the word Zombie in the title). I really loved her two journal templates and Question and Answer Challenge. I haven't done any dialectical journaling with the students this year. I may try the Buddy Journal with A Midsummer Night's Dream with my 10th graders at the end of the year instead (or maybe in addition to). I may do the Team Journal with 11th graders and The Great Gatsby, or I may switch it. I think I may even try the Question and Answer Challenge with my 10th graders and the "American Translation" section of The Joy Luck Club (JLC) on Tuesday!

She had another idea that I really liked as well. It involved taking a piece of text and putting it into a Google Doc to share with the students. Give students commenting access and have them, essentially, annotate the text as a class. They can ask questions about parts they read that confused them or they want to discuss. Then, the other students in the class answer the questions in the comments, creating discussions in the margins. I think I may give this a try with the parable in the last section JLC and with my 11th graders and "The Lowest Animal" this week.

Next, I went to Malia Hoffmann's session on Building your Personal Learning Network. She was my first professor in my Master's program when it started last year (two more classes to go). I'm not new to PLNs, though I'm not an expert on them either. I got some good information (but not a Kindle fire) and was able to share some of my own. I learned about Cybraryman who curates a list of educational edchats on Twitter. I participate in some of them outside of the actual chat dates. My goal is to try and start synchronously participate after I'm done with my Master's.

I finished off the day with a few of my colleagues at the Google for Education Certified Innovators Panel SLAM. Here are a few things that I found noteworthy that I didn't know about before:



  • Using the accessibility features on the Mac to create a magnifying glass for screencasts (maybe) and presentations. (Directions here)
  • CrafyText - "CraftyText is a simple app. It allows you to enter text, which then shows up big in the center of the screen. It works on top of your favorite website."
  • Sortd- Helps you organize your email into lists and move them around based on priority.  I have created lists for emails from students and one from professional colleagues.
  • SAS Writing Reviser - this is a Google Doc add on.  Essentially, it can be used by students to check their paper for possible needed revisions.  It will look for a number of things like wordiness, passive voice I'm going to start using it with my own writing as I finish my Master's program.
  • Form Values - I apparently already had this installed.  I never used it before though.  It basically will save form values (or question options) that you use a lot for you so you don't have to constantly retype them.
  • Draftback - is a Chrome extension, so it will only work in Chrome with Google Docs.  It basically creates a movie that plays through all documents revision.  This would be good for both teachers and students.  It could also be a good plagiarism prevention tool.
I really like slams.  I get a lot of good ideas to share with my school through the Weekly Tech Tip I share out.  

I didn't go to Friday morning's keynote.  I might try and find it on CueTube, but since the speaker has a focus on coding, and as an English teacher I have yet to find a reason to try and incorporate that into my curriculum, I took my time getting ready in the morning instead.

My first session was about Tech Tools in the Writing Classroom.  There really wasn't anything new but the speaker was engaging.  I did have some minor takeaways though:
  • Since the brain likes novelty, don't tell kids they have 5 minutes for something.  Tell them they have 4 minutes and 44 seconds to complete something (and then don't actually time them).
  • Use the Boston Globe's Big Picture site for visual writing prompts.
  • When using something like Today's Meet to back channel, let kids know that you can make a PDF of what they say in it and send it to their parents if need be.
Next, I went to a session presented by Lisa Highfill with a few of my colleagues.  She's known as one of the pioneers of the Hyperdoc.  A few possible takeaways that I might use:
  • Have students create memes of their favorite lines from literature
  • Have students annotate text using the highlighting function and commenting functions on a Google Doc
  • Next year, instead of having students do reading logs, have them do reading BLOGS!
  • Use a slide deck that is publically accessible to help students choose their next book to read.
We toured the exhibit hall after that.  My colleagues got free cases for their Chromebooks.  Mine was too cutting edge and they didn't have one for it.

One suggestion I have for CUE next year in regards to the exhibit hall is to bunch all the similar booths together.  That way you can avoid areas that don't pertain to you whatsoever (which as high school English teachers was a great number of the booths), or adequately comparison shop.

Then one of my colleagues and I headed over to the Hard Rock (which I personally think was kind of tacky, especially considering the price) for a session that was about game-based learning, but was really about how an elementary school district created a game-based learning platform.  That is not something that we, as two teachers without any district personnel, could really learn from, so we left.

I went to the OCCUE affiliate meeting for the first time.  I need to get more involved next year, but certainly not as a board member.  I won a MakeyMakey, but I gave it to the Librarian for her Maker Space.

Saturday morning I got up, packed up, and headed to the convention center.  I nabbed some information from one session on badges before it began for my Action Research Project for my group in my Master's program.  Then, I put on my tech leader hat and headed off to John Corippo's session on Rock Star PD.  Despite the fact that it was geared towards administrators, I found it enjoyable and filled with good ideas.  I wish my administrators had been there.

I kept my tech leader hat on and stayed in the room for the next session about TOSAs and Tech Leaders collaborating.  But, this was another example sessions not actually "advertisting" what they were "selling" and I left with my friend Crystal Kirch who gave me some tech to look into called Seesaw and Verso.  So, it wasn't completely wasted.  I then spent a nice lunch with her and another friend, taking the next session off (which sounds like a solid plan considering there was a power outage).

I nabbed a couple of presenter resources on ELD stuff before the last session I went to with Isabelle Selak, which was about using NaNoWriMo in school.  It was a good presentation, and I think that next year I might try it out as an after school club with students and teachers who are interested in trying it out.  I'm always torn about trying things like this out during class because I get pulled in the direction of covering the required district content and teaching my students in a way to be best prepared to critically think and write, and these roads hardly ever meet at a crossroads.

I have VERY mixed feelings about the closing keynote.  I found I agreed with much of what she, Pearl Arredondo, said in the keynote, but one thing she did say put me on the pro-charter alert.  But after doing a little googling, I see that her actions don't seem to be matching up what she is saying.



Sunday, March 20, 2016

Why is Life So Cray Cray?



And yes, I used the words cray cray.  Since my last post...


It's been very busy, and I've barely been the in the classroom.  At the end of February, I attended the National Conference on Bullying and Child Victimization.  I mentioned agreeing to this in a previous post.  I learned a lot about bullying.  What it is, and what it isn't.  A quick run down for those that don't know:

  • There needs to be an imbalance of power.  For example, a group of students against one student or upperclassmen against lowerclassmen.  
  • It needs to be repeated.
If there isn't an imbalance of power or it's not repeated, it might be mean (and still needs to be handled), but it's not bullying.

Don't label:
  • A student who bullies instead of calling the student a bully.
  • The targeted student instead of the victim.
We took the red eye out so we could spend one day at Universal and experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  It was amazing.  I can't wait to experience the one here in California.  

We also did a half-day pass to Seaworld, which was within walking distance of our hotel, and enjoyed the afternoon and evening there.

At Universal, Seaworld, the hotel, and the restaurant across the street, I was consistently amazed at how friendly everyone in Florida was.

The biggest takeaway, the session that stood out to me most at this conference, was the one I attended for the One Leg at a Time group.  This is a student-led initiative and not an adult one (there are of course adults involved).  It was really amazing and inspiring to see these kids take an active role in being better people and trying to get their classmates to be better people too.

I had three days in the classroom when I got back--interrupted by the weekend--before I had to be pulled out with half the department to grade district writing assessments, which is never fun and--considering our school does school-wide writing four times a yea--very unnecessary for us.  

I finally had a full week with my kids after that, though time with my 10th graders was interrupted with registration one day, and then another time this past week.

Then, I was out the last two days for CUE 2016. But, before that...

All hell broke loose on campus because of a phone app called Ogle.  I was notified about it by a student early Tuesday morning before my 10th graders registered.  I downloaded it to see what the student was talking about and showed admin right away. It is a horrible, horrible app that the students are using to bully and demean each other and staff (the post about me is so awful and vulgar that I can't show you) and distribute porn (including nudes of each other).  

Threats were made against the school through this app, which is anonymous, and now the FBI is involved.  

Despite the horrid way many of us were made to feel, there were a few lights that this darkness revealed:
  • Many students are willing to report such behavior and do what they need to to protect themselves and their friends.
  • Many students care enough about their teachers (me) to stand up against those that say vile things about them.
The week before all this went down, I was put in charge of the group of kids called Safe School Ambassadors I talked about before.  I have a feeling/am hoping that a lot more students want to join us for tomorrow's meeting and make a difference in the culture of the school and how we treat each other.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Read Report Beginning of February 2016

Going through the voluminous blog and article posts filling up my neglected Feedly, these are the ed tech ones that I felt were worth sharing.

Jennifer Gonzales over at Cult of Pedagogy blogged about 6 Ed Tech Tools to Try in 2016.

She mentioned some that were unsurprising, like Formative.  I really want to look more into this one, but with everything on my plate the thought is a little too daunting for this school year.

One I'm going to try for sure, in fact right now, is Noisli.  Noisli is a white noise app.  Currently, I've just added a crackling fire to listen to since I have the sounds of rain from an actual storm outside.  It's making me feel just a bit more toasty.  I can see playing this is class to help students focus, or allowing students to listen to it instead of music they spend too much time picking in order to help them focus and be productive.

Another that sparked my interest was Write About.  Jennifer writes that Write about "provid[es] students with an online space to write on high-interest topics and get feedback from their peers".  The other things she mentions, like a collection of writing ideas and voice recordings, intrigue me.  But --yup, I have a but--the free version only allows for 40 students.  This is something that as a teacher in a secondary (junior high and high school) classroom frustrates me with many programs out there for teacher-to-student use.  Why do only elementary school teachers get to try things for free?  Or, why do secondary teachers only get to choose one class?


Over at Ask a Tech Teacher, Jacqui Murray talked about a service called Storyboard That.  I was intrigued by it because it appeared to allow students to create comic book style storyboards, which would be a great tool for sequencing the plot of a story we've read in class, instead of doing a flow map.  It seems to have multiple visual uses and some work already created, like for Romeo and Juliet.  But, it's only free for a two-week trial.  The pricing isn't outrageous.  Elementary school teachers, you could get away with $60/year, and I would spend $75.  They do have department and school pricing, but there always needs to be someone who tries it first.

Jacqui also supplied me with a tip for my Chromebook I didn't know about.