Tuesday, March 25, 2014


This past week I had a great mentor tell me that I had Grit. She mentioned that I need to look up Angela Lee Duckworth and take a moment to watch her TEDTalk The Key to Success: Grit.

Webster's Dictionary defines Grit as mental toughness and character.

Now, the reason I write this blog is not from the compliment that was given (but it sure is an awesome one) but because this last week my Long Ways Granny passed away.  Long Ways Granny you ask? Everyone has their nicknames for their relatives.  I grew up in the small town of Canyon, Texas... but my grandmother lived in an the even smaller town of Bovina.  Bovina was a good hour and a half drive away from my house... so of course she is Long Ways Granny.

Ah the early years.  My sister and I about to hunt Easter Eggs.

Beautiful set up to share wonderful memories.

So, this past weekend I drove the 6 hours to get home to be with my family.  Usually at funerals you share memories, thoughts, laughs and you meet people that you never knew were so closely bound by one person and you hug the necks of family members.  But as I listened to the stories that were shared about my grandmother... all I could think about was Grit.  

I have 2 amazing parents (I am going to go ahead and say that mine are the best) that taught me from an early age that the way to get through in life is to work hard, have dreams and never give up.  Anything can be accomplished as long as you put some elbow grease and your mind to it.  They also taught me to always have an open heart and an open mind and to remember that everyone is on a different path. 
My AWESOME parents!

After the funeral many of us traveled out to the "Farm" where my dad was raised.  The stories that were shared during that time will forever be in my heart and my soul.  I listened as people shared stories of my grandparents Grit.  Their perseverance to make a life and a home for their family.  I learned the story of how much sweat went into harvesting good crops. None of this was an easy task with a fast way out, but because of that the land continues to thrive.  

"Grit is passion and perseverance for very long term goals. Grit is having stamina.  Grit is sticking with your future day in and day out, not just for the week, not for just a month, but for years. and working really hard to make that future a reality.  Grit is like living life like a marathon." Angela Lee Duckworth

I know that I am the person today because of the family members before me that have taught me to have passion.  No matter what my situation I know that with hard work and putting my mind to it I can accomplish anything.  I appreciated the reminder this weekend that by planting seeds and cultivating the land so much can grow.

As was said this weekend
"The fruits of your labor is going to pay off many years from now.  When you think nobody cares and you think when you are doing at the time, is all of this really necessary, it is.Because people like us get to come back and see it, and be reminded of why we are and who we are and why we were created to be that way." Lance Teague

My heritage has always had Grit.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Magnificent Monday-So Long Gnop-Jiye

YAY for spring break!  I have enjoyed sleeping.... and most of all... getting to some of those things that have been stuck on my to do list forever, but keep getting bumped down because of other things.  Such as-I have cleaned/organized both of my Google Drives..... and drum roll please.. my main Gmail account is at INBOX ZERO! Now, I still have 4 other emails I need to work on, but YAY!

A few weeks ago an author connected with me (and even better.. she is a teacher too!) and wanted to share her book.  Katrina Moore's book just recently came out, and I was super excited about the opportunity.
So Long Gnop-Jiye

So Long Gnop-Jiye  by Katrina Moore  is a wonderful story of a mother sharing a childhood story to her children.  During the story the mother (Kuen-Mun) weaves the tale of her family having to quickly leave Hong Kong and relocate to America. During this quick move she had to leave her beloved Gnop-Jiye (little duck) behind along with many of her belongings.  Kuen-Mun continues to share this now bedtime story of how she had to attend a new school and could not understand the language spoken and how as she grew older she had an understanding of the sacrifice that her family made so she would be able to have a better life.

Reasons I love this story:
-It was an easy read, and one that students will be able to easily associate with.  Many of our students are ones that have had to move at some point in their life, and many are also ones that have had to leave their home country.
-Katrina has a FANTASTIC teacher resource guide that you can download! You can find the Teacher Download here . This guide has great question stems, discussion ideas, and also pages that you can use so students can create their own memoir.  It is also a great resource to compare current times with other times throughout history.
-I love how this story is told.  I can remember spending evenings where my own mom would read to me, or share stories of her childhood.  To have this one in a book made it so enjoyable, as I could just imagine the children hanging on every word that the mother told of her journey.

I think as educators we have to remind ourselves to step back and look at the hole picture of the child.  Where have they come from, what is their story?  This book does a great job of reminding not only the reader that people have had to endure great hardships, but also reminding educators that we are all on a journey.

Favorite quote:
"He put down his chopsticks and sighed, 'Kuen-Mun, when were in Hong Kong, all our money and all our riches were taken from us without permission.  We were rich, but we had no freedom.  Now, you are Mary. You may be poor, but you are free to be whoever you want to be.'

Moore, K. (2014). So long gnop-jiye. Mustang: Tate Publishing.

I can't wait to share this book with the teachers on my campus, and I am even more excited that Katrina is going to be a guest author for our CARE Day 2014!  Check out Katrina on Twitter and Facebook and happy reading!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Digital Gaming- SXSWedu Recap

I am so thankful that Spring Break has started... and I finally have a chance to reflect and share my learning from SXSWedu!

I had the amazing opportunity to attend SXSWedu this year with BrainPOP (some of my most favorite people!)

I did a hands on session called Beyond the Gameboard- Digital Gaming in the Kinder-3rd Grade Classroom
Since I have been doing challenges in my school and classroom, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to create challenges for the participants to work through!

Each table had 3 missions. Thanks to Caitlin Andrews for making my envelopes look awesome!

The Game Up Logo was created by BrainPOP (one of my most FAVORITE websites!) You should sign up for a free BrainPOP Educators account so you can see all the great freebies they have!

So, mission one was more geared towards a kinder/1st grade classroom.  Participants had to roll the dice, count up how many dots there were and then fill in the squares.  When the table completed the challenge they received a piece of Moby.

Mission 2 was geared more towards 2nd/3rd.  This one was a much more digital challenge.  I got this amazing idea from Wesley Fryer to create a five picture story! It was super fun to watch participants complete this challenge (and see what resources they used!) You can find more information about this challenge here. Once this was completed they received the 2nd piece of Moby.

Mission 3 was geared more towards 3rd grade.  During this mission participants had to use Google Earth or Google Maps to calculate how many miles each person had traveled.  Once this had been done the table had to come up with a  more central location with the information that they had. This was the last challenge. They received their last piece of Moby and also a BrainPOP calendar.

I had an awesome time watching the different tables finishing the various missions.  Wanted to include a few other pictures from the awesome adventure (I have a ton more on my FB page)  Although for this session I did not have a projector or computer.. I also had a chance to share about the AWESOME games that BrainPOP and BrainPOPJr. has through Game Up! If you think digital games are just about sitting a student in front of a computer or device.. Game Up will make you rethink that! These games are even better when done in a collaborative group.  They offer tons of opportunities for academic conversations and higher order thinking as students (and teachers alike) work through the games.  Did I mention they are FREE!  You should check them out!

After they completed their missions (I only had 30 minutes for this hands on session!) I had a chance to share about Techformers Unite, the Affinity Game and the Tech Challenges I am doing with teachers. SO much to share... and SO little time1

Had a chance to make my own Meme (without using technology!) Check out their blog!

This is one of the biggest highlights!  I am always so inspired by students to amazing things.. and Jack Andraka is awesome! He even took time out of his day to come over and take a selfie with me! Thank you for inspiring Jack!

The Digital Harbor Foundation is doing some amazing things in Baltimore, and I had so much fun changing the colors on these lights

Of course.. I tried to get a group picture of all the AMAZING BrainPOP peeps.. but these random shots will have to do :)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

SXSWEdu- Beyond the Gameboard—Digital Gaming and the K-3 Classroom

I am SO stinking excited that I will have a chance to attend...and lead a Hands On Session!
Beyond the Gameboard- Digital Gaming int he K-3 Classroom

If you have been following my blog lately.. you will know that I am all about taking learning in a different way by creating Challenges or Missions.  I of course can't post my "Top Secret" Missions now, but I wanted to share where some of the ideas have come from!

I am LOVING the resources from Wesley Fryer at Mapping Media to the Common Core  I am also thankful to my EdTech Chat N' Chew Podcast group for letting me bounce hundreds of ideas of them!

After the Hands On session is completed I will post the 3 Missions that attendees had to complete and also the products that they created!  

But, I couldn't leave my blog over Digital Gaming without mentioning the AWESOMENESS of the BrainPOP Game Up Games!  The BrainPOP Game Up games are awesome... but have you checked out the ones for BrainPOPJr. What a great way to get kids critically thinking with games.. and collaborating to finish.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Movie Monday- Affinity

My Movie Monday is a little different this month.  This has been one crazy busy year (wait.. do I say that every year?)  So, before I get to far ahead.. the movie:

This year I have really taken on the whole idea of Game Based Learning.  I have been listening to/reading Reality is Broken: Why Games Make us Better and How They can Change the World by Jane McGonigal and I am gaining so many new ideas.  I started the Tech Challenges with Teachers... I still don't have the biggest following, but I am okay with that.  I have 4-5 teachers that really participate.  When I have been going into classrooms I have been making mini missions for the students and it seems to keep me on track and them also (still tweaking these)  Through all of this.. I have also grown and realized what needs to be worked on and what is working (now, is everything going to be perfect.. I would hope not! If it was then I would lose my sense of motivation)  As I began to work with my Flight Program students (I open my lab at 7am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings for students that are interested to come in and research whatever project they would like to learn about and then learn a new website or app) I realized how much fun the students were having doing projects on their own when given a chance to explore.

I spent the first part of February at TCEA (now.. this idea of a school wide game had been on my brain) where I found inspiration from a few of my friends (of course.. I did not get all the pictures I wanted! What was I thinking) But I had a chance to pick Elaine's brain on the whole ride home (and thankful she helped talk me through so much of this!)! So.. the game Affinity was born!

 Affinitya natural liking for or attraction to a person, thing, idea, etc.

I have a large bulletin board outside of my computer lab.  I cut out about 100 squares and made the bulletin board to look like a gameboard.
The spaces look like floppy disks
Full gameboard
As students move across the board the challenges will get more complex, so they will "Level Up" 

If a student lands on a power up card they will win a small prize 
Goal is to become a Techmaster and make it to the Cloud

 I have my gameboard set up, and now I am working on the website.  I get super busy, so I am trying to make it where it is manageable.  You can check out the Affinity website.  To begin playing the Affinity game students must complete 2 tasks.
1. Email me
2. Comment on one of our blogs
Once these 2 tasks have been completed they will have a chance to create an avatar and get the first secret code for Challenge 1.

It took a little coding on my end, but I wanted to make each challenge password protected. This way students would want to complete a challenge to get the code.  Each student playing must complete the first five challenges.  These challenges will focus on sharing Google Docs, Citing images correctly, creating presentations and creating a Google Form.  All tools that every student has access to.  Once they have "Leveled Up" on Challenge 5 they will have a chance to spin the wheel to move them either 1-3 spaces.  Some of the Challenges that students open up will be "Detours" such as Lost WiFi connection- move back one space.. Oh No, you ran out of charge move back 3 spaces.  Some of the challenges will also be ones that require the students to collaborate with others.

I plan to also have a Leaderboard Page- depending on how many students I have playing- everyone might not fit on the board at the same time.

I have almost finished up the first 5 Challenges. Have I mentioned that I LOVE Canva? It was instrumental in designing my "gameboard"

Do you use Games in your classroom or school?  What is your motivation behind it?  Do you have any go to resources for Gaming in the Classroom or School? I am pretty stinking excited that in just a couple of weeks I will be at SXSWedu presenting on Beyond the Gameboard- Digital Gaming in the K-3 Classroom

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Mail Call Monday- Carrie Baughcum

Have I mentioned how much I love social media and the connections that I am able to make. I started following Carrie Baughcum and all the awesome.. I mean Heck Awesome stuff she does in a special education classroom. I started following her website and Facebook page and have gained some great resources.  I was So excited when she said she would write a guest post!  Thanks Carrie!

Carrie Baughcum is a Special Education Teacher of 15 years. She currently teaches a 6th, 7th and 8th grade Extended Resource Special Education class in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. She is an inspiration junkie, idea sharer, tech ninja and learning enthusiast who believes that all children can learn, we just need to find out how. She writes at carriebaughcum.com...where life and learning are HECK AWESOME.

Last Saturday was …
... the first time ever that I would be the one standing in front of everybody.
…the first time I would be giving the information.
…the first time I would be the one teaching information and showing someone else new ideas.
…the first time ever being a presenter at a conference.
My first and second sessions came and went. They left me feeling better than I could have expected.  My ideas were welcomed. My audiences reactions warmed me as questions were asked, ideas were shared and I heard the ahaas and oh yeahs that something I had shared and taught had connected with them.
I walked out of my second session still floating in the happiness and pride that comes from presenting at your first conference. I walked the hallway to get some coffee and smiled at my thoughts about each session.  With coffee in hand I was ready to find a spot, sit and relax before the keynote. I pulled out my phone and called my husband to share this moment and my good news... I had survived.  A couch called my name.  It was perfect for sitting, relaxing, putting my feet up (my feet were killing me…new boots…fashion hurts sometimes) and soak up the experience.   My hard work paid off.  Sharing my ideas with others was worth it.  With my feet resting, my happiness warmed me as I checked the tweets of the conference.  Suddenly a very different feeling came over me and made me pause.  It wasn’t a  feeling of energy, a moment of ahaa and oh my goodness.  It was missing.  My crazy, amazing, idea learning feeling was absent. It was a feeling I was not used to when I attended conferences.    
Sunday morning I brewed a cup of my favorite hazelnut flavored coffee and sat down to read and catch up on Twitter. My iPad began pinging over and over again.  I watch it as a stream of retweets filled my screen.  My tweets retweeted...shared over and over and over again.  In between sips of coffee I smiled.  My ideas were being shared.  A tweet with a link to a post about my session pinged in.  I quickly clicked to read about her thoughts, her reflections, her take aways of the conference and the session of mine she attended.  I scrolled through her blog reading one post and then another and another. She shares all her ideas... big ideas, little ideas, great ideas, everyday ideas. All of them. She fearlessly shared for one of us, all of us to learn from her ideas.  
I clicked back to Twitter.  The flow of retweets had stopped and were replaced with responses, words, replies and interactions.   A woman who would seen my tweets had travelled to my blog.  She had read one of my posts.  She told me how happy she was that she had found one of my posts. She shared her enthusiasm about sharing this tool with a student she tutors. She told me about the empowerment the app was going to bring this non-writer. An idea I had shared  just helped one child access technology and potentially learn to do something they thought they couldn't do.  

I finish off my second cup of coffee and thought about the weekends errands and things to do. My thoughts suddenly stopped as I realized very powerful.  I learned that I'm a teacher and that doesn't change if I'm standing up in front of the kindergartners, 8th graders or adults. I love to teach.  I learned that my ideas, no matter how small, how big, how lofty, how outside the box or how simple I think they might be… one, just one of them, one of my ideas might make a difference in someone else's classroom,  might make a difference in somebody else's teaching,  might make a difference with someone's child or someone’s student. I learned I need get past the notion and that need for my information or my idea to be a big idea, aw inspiring idea or awinspiring idea.  I need to share with others the little activities,  the little ideas, the little experiences too because you just never know what impact your idea, your thoughts, your moments or your lesson might have the lesson, lives, classroom or thoughts of others!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

I think I have always wanted to be a Super Hero

I think I have always wanted to be a Super Hero.  Not one that wears capes, but one that takes on challenges... and helps save the world.  I mean, isn't that what teachers are?  One of our first meetings with other Instructional Technology Specialist and Academic Specialist we had to use an app and Super Hero ourselves.  Here is mine:

 Andrea's superpower is to excite teachers in the use of technology so every person has a voice.

As the year has gone on, I have learned so many new things... and in a FAST and FURIOUS way!  I have also discovered new things about myself such as:
-I feel like I am a pretty good presenter
-I work pretty well with all teachers
-I work very well with special education students
-I work well with Destination ImagiNation
-I need work on actually working with the general education classroom

I have been reading and listening to Reality is Broken: Why Games Make us Better and How they Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal and it has inspired me so much!  Game Based Learning is something that I am learning more and more about (and am always trying to figure out how to incorporate it into my work)

So, the one thing that I need to work on the most is actually working with a large group of students.  When I say that I struggle with this.. it is not because I don't have great lessons that go along with TEKS that are being worked on (I am all for don't use technology to say to use technology) I also know that teachers are super busy (and that is the reason that I created the Tech Challenges)

This week I had a HUGE aha moment!  Doesn't everyone like a challenge?  Doesn't everyone want to feel like they have a say in how they complete something... I mean that is why the students in Destination ImagiNation thrive and the Techformers Unite and Tech Challenges have done fairly well.  I needed to take my Tech Challenges and make them kid friendly!

So, this week I sat with first grade and they are working on some great stuff.  We talked about what the students were working on and what they would like to have the outcome be.  Here is what I came up with:
You can find it here.
I started my lesson with telling students that they were going to be a mission
We started with an Academic Conversation.  Groups were divided up and partners had to talk about which picture best represented morning.

We talked about different super heroes and how they face challenges

We talked about how they were going to do the challenge.  I introduced the iPad and what apps we would be using when it was their time in the station

We talked about the evaluation piece.

After I showed the students the various apps that we would use, we made a tree map of Morning, Afternoon and Night.  Groups then talked about which time of day they wanted to showcase and which app they were going to use to do it.  The first grade teachers are going to put the iPad into one of their math rotations next week so students will be able to complete this together with their group.  Once each group has created their product it will be posted on our blog along with discussion that students had to create it.

Now, of course there is going to be some changing as I go along, but I am so thankful to those 1st grade teachers (and my fabulous 5th grade teacher who let me use her students to figure some of this out) for allowing me to brainstorm with them and join them in their classroom.  I felt like I wore a cape on Friday... and it was wonderful!  I can already see how I am going to begin making school wide challenges...and having students level up!

I am headed to TCEA next week, but I can't wait to share my Mail Call Monday blog by the AMAZING Carrie Baughcum and I will also be sharing about my new Flight Program that is already growing.

Will you be at TCEA? Come see me at the BrainPOP booth and join us on Thursday morning for the TCEA photowalk  How do you remind yourself that you are a Super Hero?  What are your Super Powers?  I love that Podstock this year the theme is Super Heroes!