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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Your Kids Are Using Social Media...Are You?

My middle school newsletter article this month...

Chances are, you have some sort of social media account, whether it be Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter.   I read an article the other day that said right now approximately 70% of Americans are using some form of social media.  I imagine that number will only grow as we head into the future.  The world today is a whole lot different from when you and I grew up. There are so many ways to be connected!

It was trying to think of how I was “connected” back in my middle school days at Centura in 1986.  How did I communicate with my friends? How did I interact with others?  Well, I distinctly remember cruising up and down South Locust with my buddies and having those chats with others out our windows.  I remember making “dub tapes” of my favorite songs while listening to the weekly top 40, and then sharing them with my friends.  Now, we simply go to iTunes and purchase what we want.  How about actually calling up your buddies and getting a pick-up game of basketball or football going in the park? Sadly, I don’t see a lot of that anymore as I drive by a park.  Yes, kids still do some of these things, but a lot of their social interactions are taking place on devices.

I was curious to see how many of our students at Aurora Middle School are using social media so I constructed a very unscientific survey and had students complete it the first couple weeks of school.  Check out the results at the bottom of this article.  We have a lot (72%) of  students that are utilizing social media in one form or another.  Instagram is the most popular, followed by Facebook and Vine.  These forms of social media are very popular amongst teens right now, not only in Aurora, Nebraska, but all over the world.  I was a bit surprised by the Facebook statistic being so high as kids are starting to migrate from Facebook towards other forms of social media that their parents are NOT using.

My question for you is this….

Are you using these forms of social media?  If not, I would like for you to consider doing so.   Nationally known speaker Kevin Honeycutt once said, “Our kids are growing up on a digital playground and there are no teachers on recess duty!”  We as parents need to monitor and model the correct way to use social media.  
I would highly encourage you to sit down tonight with your child and have them share what social media sites/apps they are currently utilizing.  If you are unfamiliar with any of the sites/apps, have your child explain to you how it works and how they are using them.  Then, I would highly encourage YOU to download those apps, create and account and start using them.  “Friend” your child or follow them on the accounts. Be sure they do the same.  Because we have taught them the importance of online safety during Digital Citizenship, many students have made their accounts “private.”  If their account is private, they will need to allow you to “follow” them.

Together we can do a great job of making our Aurora Huskies even better students in the digital world that they are growing up in!  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to tweet, email, or call me at the school.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Engagement is...

"Student engagement is the product of motivation and active learning.  It is a product rather than a sum because it will not occur if either element is missing." 
 ~Elizabeth F. Barkley

I don't know about you, but I get pretty giddy this time of the year.  I can't wait to get our teachers and students back into our buildings!   At our high school faculty meeting yesterday, Mr. Kittle, our building Principal, challenged us to focus on the word "engagement" in our classrooms this year.  He challenged us to think about student engagement in our classrooms and if what we are doing is truly engaging our students and meeting their needs. I don't have a classroom right now per se, but his challenge got me to thinking about what engagement looks like.    

Engagement is not...



A plethora of drill and practice problems when only a few will suffice

Regurgitation of information

PowerPoint or Keynotes

Doing the same thing everyday

Teacher as the "Sage on the Stage"

Teaching the way you were taught

"Busy Work"

Watching movies

Engagement is all about...






Student Choice


Self directed learning



Active classrooms

Making students think

Opening your mind to new ideas in your classroom

Monday, August 11, 2014

Share Your Passion With Students (Instructions Included)

As educators we all know that one of the greatest benefits to teaching are the relationships that we build with our students.  This year marks my 15th year in education and I truly cherish each and every chance I get to build relationships in my classroom.  Just the other day I received a letter from a former student letting me know how much she enjoyed my class and that she still has a passion for studying History.

It made my day.

That is what teaching is all about.  Each and every day that we walk into our classrooms we have an opportunity to make a difference!  How awesome is that?

In reflecting back over my 15 years in education there is one thing that I don't think I did very well.  I didn't really share what I was passionate about with my students.  Sure, my students knew that I loved to teach and coach.  But what about the other things that I enjoyed to do like gardening, golfing, camping?   Why didn't I share those passions with my students?  Why was I holding that information back?  I know I was always asking my students to be passionate about every single thing they did in their lives, yet I was holding back in sharing what I was passionate about.

This made me think about a day a long time ago...

I remember the day well in 1977.  It was about the middle of my Kindergarten year and  I was at the local supermarket with my mother.  I saw my teacher Mrs. Martin and she was wearing jeans!  I tugged on my mother's shirt and exclaimed, "Mom, Mrs. Martin is wearing jeans!"  Here I thought that my teacher was a superhero (still do) and wore only skirts and slacks.  I only knew Mrs. Martin in "school mode." I was always curious about the "other side" of my teachers. What were they like when they took off their superhero capes?  What did they like doing outside of school?

So here is your challenge.  As you begin this school year, I want you to share your passions with your students.   Here is a way to showcase your passions mixed in with a little technology...enjoy creating!


  • Create a new deck in Haiku Deck
  • Create six slides that describe/list your passions
  • No more than six words on a slide!
  • Share it with your students...often. 

Watch the video below to see how to take your Haiku Deck, export it,  then upload it into a Google Presentation that will continuously loop.  Stand out in the hallway on the first day of school, greet your students and have your Passion Project playing as you students are entering your classroom.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Creating & App Smashing with App Dice

I have to give all the credit for this awesome idea to Ryan Read.  Ryan is an Integration Specialist in Illinois and boy does he have some great ideas! I ran across his #appdice idea while perusing my Twitter stream last Spring and was immediately intrigued.

It's a simple way to get students to creating in your classroom and #appsmashing.  I wanted to create a set of my own geared towards using the iPad to create, so I  created two types of die for my set (and other sets I created and gave out to our teachers). One die has six "creation" apps, while the second die has six "showcase" apps.

For the creation apps I used Popplet Lite, Pic Collage, Doodlebuddy, Trading Cards, Skitch and Word Clouds.

For the showcase apps I used ShowMe, Educreations, Tellagami, Thinglink, 30Hands, and iMovie.

Have your students roll the "creation" app, then the "showcase" app.  Have your students create something with those two apps based on what you are learning/studying/analyzing/reading.  Have them hand in their products via Google Drive, Showbie or eBackpack. Better yet, have them publish what they created using their KidBlog accounts.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

10 Activities to do on an iPad instead of a Worksheet

I always have teachers wanting to know how they can better utilize the iPad in their classrooms. I know that it's very easy when first receiving an iPad to take a worksheet that you have done for several years, and convert it to glass. But glass can be boring too, so I created this Breakfast Club session to give my teachers some ideas on ways to better utilize this powerful tool in their classrooms.
So the "activities" that I started coming up with started turning into all sorts of ideas and app suggestions.  I shared all of the ideas with the teachers that attended, but found myself particularly enjoying the conversations that we were having about some of the activities that are taking place in the classrooms at Aurora Public Schools.
Our teachers are doing great things with the iPads in their classrooms and it was great to have teachers share and learn from each other!  Here are some of the activities, ideas and apps that we talked about on how to better utilize the iPad in the classroom.

  • Create
  • Present
    • What if we allowed our students to demonstrate their understanding by NOT taking a written test? 
    • Haiku Deck, Prezi, ThingLink, PicCollage, Keynote, Presentain, Deck, Tellagami, Zoobe
    • Place word limits on slides
  • Collaborate
    • Get connected, it will revolutionize your classroom!
    • Teachers all over the world are wanting to participate in collaborative projects. 
    • Social MediaApp Suggestions-->Twitter, Hootsuite, Pinterest, Google +, Instagram
    • Monster Project, Mystery Skypes
    • Classroom Collaboration-->Google Drive, Padlet, Titan Pad
  • Code
  • Explain
    • Similar to presenting, but on a higher level
    • Download Explain Everything immediately.  This is one of the best (if not the best) app that you will have on your iPad. (All students 6-12 will have this year)
    • App Suggestions-->Educreations, ShowMe, Skitch, Adobe Voice, QR Codes (linked to or 30 Hands product)
  • App Smash
    • Combining multiple apps to create one product.  (prior blog post)
    • App smashing comes naturally to students.  Quit giving recipes (this is what I want it to look like) in your classroom and encourage app smashing! 
  • Discover
    • As human beings we are naturally curious.  Do you allow time to discover in your classroom? 
    • Allow time for students to discover the "why" using the iPad, by searching for more information about something you are teaching/learning.
    • Teach students how to better search on the internet using Google Operators
  • Explore
    • Discover and Explore are tied together
    • Are you teaching your content in a manner so that it creates a curious environment? 
    • Allow your students to explore using Google Earth, Google Maps, Social Media
  • Assess
    • Quit making trips to the copy machine and use the iPad instead!
      • Socrative
      • eBackpack quiz feature
      • Edmodo quiz feature
      • Google Forms
      • Class Dojo
      • Kahoot
      • Zondle
  • Communicate
    • Create a Twitter hashtag for your classroom or school (#aurorahuskies, #ahsbio, #ahs109)
    • Create a class Facebook page
    • Create a class Instagram account (hashtag as well)
    • Start blogging and sharing the awesome events that are taking place in your classroom!
    • Create and share an Animoto  
    • Use Remind to inform and educate parents. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sharing Items on the iPad with Sound? Just Chirp It!

I was stumped in Kindergarten.  We were creating books using the My Story app and the teacher and I wanted all of the students to be able to use the same pictures for each page of our book.  All of the pictures we wanted them to use were on Mrs. Ostdiek's iPad.  How in the world were we going to get the pictures to each student iPad? Email? Dropbox? Google Drive?  All those options had too many taps and would take too much time.

Then I remembered the Chirp app!  I had dabbled with it a couple years ago, but never really saw a good use for it...until now!

What is Chirp?  Chirp is an app that you can use to share photos, webpages, notes or links to websites....using SOUND!

We downloaded the Chirp app on our class set of iPads.  Mrs. Ostdiek then walked around the classroom "chirping" the images that she wanted to share.  We showed the students how to save the chirped images to their camera roll and our problem was solved and our books were soon completed!

I think Chirp is a great app for any classroom.  I really like the "note" and "link" feature.  You could use this app to check for understanding, chirp a website to your students/staff for immediate access or even to have students share products with the class that they have created on their iPad.

Happy Chirping!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Is the 'F' Word Holding You Back in Your Classroom?

No, I'm not talking about that word.  I am talking about the word FEAR.  In my four years as a technology coach I have had several teachers use the 'f' word in conversations with me....

"I'm fearful that my students know more about this than I do..."

"I'm afraid to change things up in my classroom, what I'm doing now has always worked..."

"I'm afraid that I will fail in front of my students..."

"I fear that the technology will fail, then my lesson will tank..."

I will admit that after about my third year of teaching, I started getting pretty comfortable with the routine(s) in my classroom.  Then in year seven, every student in grades 9-12 received a MacBook 

Fear immediately set in...

I was afraid that the device was going to be more interesting than me...

I was afraid that I wasn't going to be able to engage my students...

I was afraid that I was going to have to change a lot of the things I was doing in my classroom...

I feared that the technology rich lesson I had planned would fail...

But you know what? Everything turned out alright.  I survived.  At first I allowed fear to hold me back, but slowly I started chipping away at those fears, taking chances and trying new things in my classroom. It truly was what was best for my students!

 I often think about how much better some of our classrooms could be if we could just get over the fear of changing, trying something new, teaching a different way than always have.  

I think the video below serves a powerful lesson for us as educators.  Think back to your childhood and a time that you were afraid to do something.  Now think of the moment you finally had the courage to conquer that fear.  It was exhilarating, wasn't it? It's exactly what you will see as you watch the video.

Now imagine some of the great things that would happen in your classroom if you would just quit letting FEAR hold you back.

Come on, change it up.  Get out of your comfort zones.  There are some pretty cool things waiting to happen in your classroom.