Monday, December 31, 2012

Make it Monday- Bed Buddies

With Christmas finished and the cold weather upon us (at least here in Texas it has been pretty stinking cold!) Anyway, I really wanted to sew this year.. and money has been tight.  I remembered growing up my mom used to make bed buddies.  She made them using warm fuzzy socks and long grain rice.  I had gone to Hobby Lobby and found some wonderful bandannas for $1.00 each!

To Make the Bed Buddies you need
-fabric (I used bandannas because they were already a good size- VERY IMPORTANT- cut off the edges or test out your fabric first! It is going into the microwave.. and I found that the edges of the bandannas had some type of plastic in it.  Thank goodness I tested out before I got to sewing!)
-sewing machine

See my video for full directions.  Each one took me about 10 minutes to make.

On another note.  When I bought all of these awesome bandannas I found one that had flames all over it, perfect for my husband!  I ran home and put it together fast (as he was at work.. and I wanted to get it wrapped and under the tree while he was out)  I was SO proud of how it looked.  But if you notice my first VERY IMPORTANT message.. cut off the edges to the bandanna.  Wahh wahh (insert Charlie Brown Christmas right here) So, the present stayed under the tree.. he opened it.. and then I had tell the whole story.  Everyone else loved them though!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy New Year! A Few Reflections!

I have a blog all ready for December 31 for my Make it Monday blog (finished up the movie this morning!)  But I had to take a minute to reflect on this year.  This year has been a TOUGH year for many reasons.  I am very lucky with the people that I surround myself with, amazing husband, and amazing family.

This morning my husband and I sat down and wrote out goals for ourselves.  I will be sharing our goals and adventures at my new blog (don't worry.. I will still be updating this one.. but wanted one just for goals!)  You can find it here.

This year has been a crazy busy year (but then again.. if you know us.. we don't sit still well!)

William was busy this year!  He enjoyed being in the spotlight in several online articles.  He also loved having the chance to be on the Main Stage for Taste of Dallas.  He is an amazing chef that can turn anything into art.    I have been trying to keep his website up to date at Culinary Anarchy.

This summer West Nile was the big thing in the news.  Our family had its fair share of it during the month of August.  Who knew a little mosquito could be such a PAIN!  William recovered from that and is back to his passion.

This year I was honored with the title TCEA Teacher of the Year, 20 Educators to Watch by the National School Board Association, and also Most Influential in Educational Technology.  I still am in awe that I have these honors.  I also spent time traveling and presenting at conferences all over the United States.  It was such an adventure! This year was the year that I also thought I might move out of the classroom, but things do not always go as you have planned them.  I LOVE my classroom and we have done some super fun things this year!

Anyway.. back to this morning.  William and I have always told our goals to each other in passing, but have never written them down.  We sat down and wrote our goals for our careers, financials, health, short term goals, and just goals in general.  They of course include actually going on a vacation (we haven't been on one together since our honeymoon), pay off certain bills, keep a certain amount in savings and some other odds and ends.  I think the biggest goal/reflection was about careers.  I applied for several assistive technology positions/ instructional technology positions this summer.  I thought I was qualified and perfect for the job and that I would be perfect for it.  I did not get either position.  I don't think I am ever going to get over this... and truthfully I don't know if I can ever accept what happened.  But since I did not get that position I have felt lost.  I have always known what I wanted to do.. and how I was going to get there.. so I thought.  When I didn't get those positions I thought I didn't want to be an AT or an ITS... that is not the job for me because I didn't get the position here.  When William and I sat down and wrote our career goals.. it was the first time that I put down on paper that I want to be an assistive technology specialist or be a part of the educational technology world.  In other words, with that really long drawn out story, I know what I want to be!  I have lots of goals, but my career goal is to be an assistive technology specialist or an instructional technology specialist.  It was so nice to write that.  I don't know where I am going to be.. or how I am going to get there, but I know that is what I want to do!

What are your goals?  How are you reflecting? I do have to leave with my FAVORITE picture from this break.

I have the BEST family ever!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Movie Monday- Merry Christmas! #TexasSanta

As I mentioned in my last blog this year our finances have been tough.  So, when my husband called me out to the front Friday evening and there stood my parents I cried.  My husband had called my parents and asked if they would come down for a couple of days.  Wow.. kudos to my husband!

Here is the cool thing.  I know that you all have great parents, but I have the BEST!  My parents are Texas Mr. and Mrs. Claus.  On Saturday my parents got dressed up in their vintage Texas Santa costumes and we went to the Fort Worth Stockyards.  The look on kids faces as they saw my parents, the pictures taken, and just the overall happiness were fantastic!  My parents didn't charge for pictures, went through over 100 candy canes, and spread cheer to hundreds of people that we passed.  I am very lucky to have the family that I have.

I wanted to share the movie that I created.  Please.. please.. please share if you can :)  Also, my parents own a local bookstore in Canyon, Texas.  If you are ever in the area you should stop by and see them.  They are pretty awesome.  Buffalo Bookstore has a facebook page too and they post a quote a day (so go like them!)

Enjoy the movie.  I hope you have a very safe and happy holidays!  Next week is Make it Monday (and I already have started on the blog.. I am on a role!)  Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Magnificent Monday! Crafting for the Holidays!

Tis the Season to be crafting.... this season has been a little tighter on the checkbook.  I know that most of the world is struggling financially.. and I am NO different (husband had West Nile virus this summer, so he was out of work with no pay for a month!)  Anyway, every year I enjoy participating in Secret Santa.  I also make over 100 ornaments to put in the boxes of all of our staff members.

I was super lucky to grow up with some great parents that encouraged us to give gifts from the heart.  The things I make might not be the best or the prettiest, but they come from my heart.  My first year teaching I didn't really fit in (but then again.. I am kind of an oddball.. and I don't fit in everywhere.. but that doesn't stop me!), but I knew that I wanted to do something for the whole staff . I knew that everyone enjoys getting something in their box.  That started my ornaments 11 years ago.  Each year I try to make them a little different so people don't have repeats.  This year I am a little more behind on my ornaments (thanks to being sick this weekend!)

Thanks to Pinterest and raiding my craft closet I came up with some great gifts!  See captions below each picture.  Want more information on one, let me know!

I saw these cute ideas on Pinterest.  I have seen them made with a larger frame.  For this one I found a little 5x7 frame from my craft closet.  Take out the glass.  The ornaments I found at the dollar store (even the jingle bell) Tied them on top with some pretty ribbon.  My friend Misty did a huge one that looked great!

This is the start of our Christmas tree at school.  We are learning about holidays around the world. Each place we learn about we travel by google earth to check it out and then add an ornament to our tree about the place.  I will add more pictures about it to a later blog

This was one of my FAVORITE projects! It took maybe 30 minutes and cost less than $3!  I found a Santa hat at Wal-Mart and bought 3 yards of tulle.  I bought the tulle at Wal-Mart for  $.97 a yard, but I sure it would work just as fine if you bought the spool.  Use a wire hanger and start tying it on. I love how it turned out (see picture below)

Every year I have my class help me make a holiday shirt.  We have always done a Christmas tree, but this year we did a Santa! I love how it turned out!

This was my final project for my Secret Santa.  I was pretty pleased how it turned out!

I nabbed these light bulbs last year and I wasn't for sure what I was going to do with them.  We had an ornament exchange at work.  I hot glued 4 together at a time.  Then glued the 2 done pieces together.  I found these cute snowflakes to cover the hot glue.

These are my ornaments for this year. Very vintage (a little different than my usual ornament)  Found pretty scrapbook paper and used brown paper packages.  Cut out stars that I had drawn and sewed them together.
Of course I couldn't blog all of my holiday blog without including a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Claus!

What are your yearly traditions?  I also always bake (yes.. I wrote bake!) cookies or some other treat for our cafeteria staff, janitors, office staff, and bus drivers.  I have a feeling tomorrow night will be a long night, but one that makes me super happy to do!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mail Call Monday- Review of Tim Holt's Book 180 Questions

I can't believe that I wrote my blog over a month ago!  Tis the season for life to get crazy!  I am back on track though... and I have some super fun blogs lined up!

In October 2012 Tim Holt's book 180 Questions hit the iTunes bookshelves.  I was excited to have the opportunity to review it.  Last month Tim did a guest post for me over his book and the importance of asking questions.  You can find that blog here.

There were many reasons that I was interested in downloading and reading this book.  One of the main reasons, however, was because I know the author and some of the people that helped with it!  I already enjoy their thoughts, actions and ways that they are trying to change education and thinking.

"Do all the teachers of our school know all the other teachers, and what they teach?"
 -Tim Holt 180 Questions-

The creativeness of this book includes interactive links, short quotes, meaningful questions that provoke a conversation, videos, and QR codes.  This allows not only opportunities to extend learning but offer other ideas to use in the classroom or school.  I have noticed that in my online Professional Learning Community many people are more apt to answer tough questions put out by other educators.  When it comes to face to face PLC's we are not as forth coming.  This book presents enough questions to have a daily reflection of school through six different categories.  These questions don't just focus on the big questions about school, but also how parents, students, and community perceive school.  We are looking for ways to engage in conversation.   We are looking for ways to share our ideas and opinions over various topics.  

I look forward to using this book to leverage conversations with my administration and members on my team.  As I move forward in my career it will be a book that I use to reflect on different facets of my education and community that I am involved in.  

Tim of course says it best:

"When was the last time we actually discussed the profession of education in a PLC? When did we do something to improve ourselves as educators, instead of just trying to improve a test score? Those are the types of things that happen when we actually start asking ourselves meaningful questions. When we ask the questions that colleagues and ourselves can really bite into, then, as educators, real learning can take place. Just like when we ask our students meaningful questions."- Tim Holt Mail Call Monday

How do you engage your Professional Learning Community in meaty questions?  What do you do to promote questions that are no just test based, but ones that will help you grow as an educator and learner?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mail Call Monday- Tim Holt

I love the ability to be connected with some amazing people through plurk, twitter and facebook.  My PLN offers a wealth of knowledge and ideas.  I have had the chance to meet Tim Holt several times (and I LOVE following his twitter feed @timholt2007)  Tim has recently released a book about making professional development relevant for administrators and educators.  I am SO excited that he his my guest blogger today! I will have another follow up blog soon of my review of the book (which I have LOVED so far!)

When the Conversation Stops Start Asking Questions!
Tim Holt
"180 Questions: Daily Reflections For Educators and Their Professional Learning Communities" ©2012
Available in the iTunes bookstore exclusively for the iPad 

Socrates might have been proud. We educators are great at asking questions. We love to ask our students something, anything. Probably, if you think about the last class period you taught, you could make the case that the entire class period was based on questioning. We question for a variety of reasons including increasing understanding of a concept, improving retention and encouraging participation in class. We are great questioners. Heck, if you think about it, we often start the entire school year with a question “What did you do this summer?” and end it with a question “What are you going to do this summer?”  Then, when we are finish asking questions in class, we assign more as homework. Take a guess on how many questions you ask in a day. 50? 75? 100? One study found that teachers ask between 300-400 questions each day (Leven and Long, 1981)! We love questions. We love Socrates!

Of course, there are many other benefits to questioning: keeping students actively involved, allowing students the opportunity to express their ideas, enabling students to hear different explanations, allows us to help pace lessons and of course. After we ask questions, we can adjust our lessons to meet classroom needs. Ask away!
I suppose if we were to actually make a graph of our questions, most of them would fall under the lowest level of Bloom’s: “What is photosynthesis?” or “What is 9x9?” “Name 10 prepositions.”   These are the easiest to check for correctness, so they are of course the easiest  and most often asked. The more probing questions that might have messy answers are not asked as often; the “Was Truman right to drop the nuclear bomb on Japan?” and “Why would we want to even know about photosynthesis?”-type questions. We love to question so much that probably any teacher that has been in education for any amount of time has taken some sort of professional development session on questioning. Entire books have been written on how to question our students. We love the questions! 

Questions rock!


We don’t seem to love questions so much when the technique is turned around and WE are asked to answer questions. How many of us have lowered our heads pretending we are not sitting in the audience, or started counting ceiling tiles, or secretly said “Please don’t call on me, please don’t call on me...” whenever a principal or presenter starts to ask US questions? If I don’t make eye contact with the speaker, he can’t see me and he won’t call on me. Suddenly, those same reasons that we actively use on a daily basis  as a matter of course are considered unfriendly and intrusive. I have even been in sessions where people sitting next to me would say “I swear, if he calls on me I am walking out the door!”  Of course, there is always ONE person that loves to answer questions in the group. That one person that ruins it for the rest of us...We even might gently chide that person as a “teacher’s pet.” “That Jerry, always answering the questions.” What a suck up!
We love questions. We really do.

Just please don’t ask us any. For the love of all that is holy, don’t ask us. Suddenly, we become students when the questions are asked of us. We don’t want to appear to be uninformed. We don’t want to look bad in front of our peers. Please, when is this session over? In some situations, presenters and audience even have an unwritten agreement: “Don’t ask any questions, and we will let you off easy. Heck, we might even buy whatever it is your selling in the lobby. Put us on the spot however, and all bets are off.”

But questions do have their place even when we are the ones being questioned. Those exact same reasons that we use when we are asking our students questions work in professional development settings as well. How well do we understand a concept? Do we have an opinion about this topic? How can we learn more about this?  I have noticed this phenomenon a lot in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) that I have been a part of. In many situations, the conversation dries up, especially if the PLC meets on a regular basis and the person in charge (even though everyone is supposed to be in charge) has run out of ideas to talk about. many PLCs across the country are nothing more than meetings where teachers look at student data. What do you do once all of the data has been analyzed? 

How do you get the conversation going again? How do you engage your PLC (or staff, or curricular department)  while at the same time not appearing to be confrontational? I think the best method is one where a question is presented that does not have a right or wrong answer. A “messy question” if you will. Messy questions provide a non-threatening conversation starter that anyone can contribute to. There are no right or wrong answers, just answers. The answers are the basis for the conversation, not the question. In my book “180 Questions” I try to present exactly these types of questions: “How do we reach out to parents that have never been to our campus?” “Are we using technology to it’s full potential? If not, why not?” and so on. The point of the question is not to be used as a “gotcha” kind of thing, but rather an ice breaker to get the conversation about teaching and learning back into professional development. When was the last time we actually discussed the profession of education in a PLC? When did we do something to improve ourselves as educators, instead of just trying to improve a test score? Those are the types of things that happen when we actually start asking ourselves meaningful questions. When we ask the questions that colleagues and ourselves can really bite into, then, as educators, real learning can take place. Just like when we ask our students meaningful questions.
Socrates would be proud. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Magnificent Monday- My Favorite App Right Now

If you follow along my twitter feed, facebook feed, or youtube videos.. you would probably know that my favorite app right now is iMovie!

At #edCampDallas I went to a great session led by Stuart Burt over iMovie.  Stuart did a great job of showing tricks and tips.

Then John Samuelson made that great trailer about #edCampDallas which you can find on my previous blog.

Okay, okay.. when I first got my iPad2... iMovie was one of the first things I downloaded.  Had I really used  the app up until October 1, 2012... no.. I hadn't.  Did I go to #edCampDallas and get a ton of great ideas.. why yes, yes I did.

I am not going to go into a how to blog, but I wanted to share how EASY it is to get going!  In our class I am an avid user of photostory and movie maker.  My students do a pretty good job of navigating the different programs to create different videos.  What is fantastic about iMovie is it both programs rolled into one!  In the past 3 weeks we have made 5 different movies.  What a great way for me to access my students learning in a different way, have a product that they can watch as an outcome, and something to show of to parents and the school.

Here is one we made today!
We have been discussing pumpkins.  Each student weighed their pumpkin using great science and math language of scale, pounds, and decomposing.  Each student then took a picture of their pumpkin and typed the patterned sentence into iMovie.  This took us about 30 minute all together and now they have a movie on their blog that they can go back and watch and I have a product that my students made!

Ways that I am already using iMovie:
-We have our own newscast on Friday afternoons.  We call it Channel 110 News
-We are using it to create paper slide videos

These are just what we have done in the past 3 weeks! You should check out our class blog for our movies and other fun things we have done!

Do you use iMovie?  What are some of the ways that you have used it?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mail Call Monday- Lesson Plan Writing!

I know, I know.. I have not kept my goal this month! I did make a movie this month, but... I didn't post it on movie Monday (can you tell I am a little OCD sometimes)

You can find it here:
I did do a couple of posts over Smoothboard Duo and EdCampDallas, but life has been a little crazy!
I LOVED helping with EdCampDallas.. and I LOVED volunteering with the 100 year celebration of Girl Scouts they had at the Texas State Fair.  Thanks to @Stuartburt I learned some great things to do with iMovie and made my first trailer showcasing the exhibit.

This Monday is supposed to be Mail Call Monday.  I will usually have a guest blogger, but this week I wanted to share some of my tips for writing lesson plans.  I have had several emails through my facebook page of how I organize lesson plans and staff... so perfect timing to finally post a blog about lesson plans.

At the beginning of each year I always love buying those cute lesson plan books for school.  I love how they feel, I love that they are bound, and I love that they have all those nice squares in them so I can organize however I want to... and then.. I get to school.  For a classroom that maybe has one or 2 grade levels in them, it would probably work.. but in my classroom I have 5 grade levels in them....and it just doesn't work. If you are able to use one of those for your multi-age level classroom.. please SHARE! I would love to know your tricks :)  Our school submits lesson plans online, so that is another reason having one of those is not ideal for me.  

Before I get to much more involved in this post, I have to thank my 2 amazing paraprofessionals who work in my room! I am VERY lucky that Lopez and Avelar are always ready to work with the students and have their interest first.  

I have tried many different ways to organize my lesson plans.  Every year is a little different as every classroom is a little different.  I, however, have found this format to be the easiest.... and am now on my second year of using it!

My lesson plans are 2 pages.  On the top of each page has a broad overview of the whole week.  

There are then 6 columns for each day.
The first column:
Has the day listed.  This is the place that I also put our TEKS that we will be focusing on.  If we have a special event for that day, I will usually write a reminder ie. picture day, library day and so on.

The second column:
Just lists the things I will do whole group or during a morning meeting.   

The third-sixth column:

Is how I divide up for my small groups.  One more reason I LOVE the Unique Curriculum I start each "period" with a mini lesson that focuses on small group.  Such as for Small Group Language for Monday I did a short mini lesson over writing.  I then had my paraprofessionals work on lesson 17 and 14 from the Unique Curriculum.  The Unique curriculum has ideas for level 1, 2 or 3 students.  For the math this day was not completely a Unique lesson, but was one from the general education curriculum.  So for the math "period" I had a mini lesson over months of the year and days of the week.  I then had students do different activities depending on their level (remember.. I have 5 grade levels.. I am there with you!) Once I have taught a mini lesson I take a group of 2-3 back to my table and work on individual IEP's and other curriculum areas.

Last year I had this same type of form, but I had it divided up to be where the third column was me, the fourth column was Lucy (who focused on language) and then fifth column was Lopez (who focused on math)  With students going in and out all day.. this was a much easier and WAY more effective solution!
Want to see a whole lesson plan? Check it out here!

Just wanted to leave you with a few pictures of what it looks like in the end!
My clipboard! It includes lesson plans, day cards, weekly notes and anything else I need on  hand!

Okay, so it is a little cluttered. but it is clean!

I usually plan on Sunday's.  Whatever I plan to do for the week I have it copied and ready to go in the corresponding folder.

Sorry for the super long blog post! How do you plan lessons?  Do you have any tricks? I am TOTALLY digging the ideas from The Autism Helper!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Afterglow of EdCampDallas

Working in a special education classroom... I attend a ton of professional development that is not always what I need (but then again.. I am sure that most people say that!) Now, not to say that I don't attend some really good stuff too, but I always like the option of choosing what I want to learn... rather than being told.

A couple of years ago I attended EdCampPlano and knew that I wanted to help when the next one came around.  I emailed the organizers and said I was ready to help.

Okay, so what is an EdCamp?
Edcamps are composed of educators, administrators & staff members who share a vested interest in growing professionally. Unlike other conferences, edcamps are considered to be an unconference because it does not include a key note speaker and the cost of attending is free. You want to share your ideas, sign up to speak. You want to hear the ideas of others being shared, sign up to attend a session.
my favorite photo from @ipadsammy

This weekend EdCampDallas was held in Coppell High School and it was AWESOME!
A few of my favorite things about EdCamps:
-it is FREE!
-there are no vendors (now.. vendors are welcome to attend to be able to network and share, but it is a learning community.. so it is not a you need to buy this product now!)
-you are surrounded by other educators that want to spend their time really learning
-you give teachers a chance to share their knowledge in a setting that might not otherwise be available
-CONNECTIONS! I LOVE connecting with other people outside my classroom.  
Thanks @ipadsammy for a Fantastic video!

@jessica_branch hanging up the schedule
When you walk into an EdCamp there is big blank schedule.  If you want to present.. you sign up.  That easy!  If you attend a session that is not for you... you choose another one (no hard feelings!)

I attended some great sessions! I learned a ton about iMovie from @stuartburt  I also had a chance to present on Technology in the Multi-ability classroom. Hanging out with the Coppell ISD iTeam in the virtual blended learning lab was AWESOME!  I got some great new ideas on presentation forms.  The day ended with a SmackDown and of course DOORPRIZES!

The best way I was able to help was through Doorprizes :) I So appreciate all of the vendors that helped with these awesome doorprizes! You can check out the sponsor page to see all of the sponsors!

Follett send them a tweet @follettsoftware

Horizon Imprinting took care of our awesome Organizer shirts!
Core PD by ETA Hand2mind @ETAhand2mind 
IR Great Innovations LLC

BrainPOP send them a tweet @brainpop

Smoothboard send them a tweet @smoothboard

TechSmithEdusend them a tweet @TechSmithEDU and they also donated 3 camtasia codes!

Big thanks also goes to: 
-ThingLink send them a tweet @ThingLink_EDU
-iHomeEducatorssend them a tweet @iHomeEducator
-Nearpod send them a tweet @Nearpod
-SimpleK12- send them a tweet @SimpleK12
-Flocabulary- send them a tweet @Flocabulary
-Edutopia- send them a tweet @Edutopia
-Wonderopolis- send them a tweet @wonderopolis
-TCEA- send them a tweet @TCEA

Thank you SO much to all that donated, attended, shared, and learned!  I know that I had a fantastic day and am already looking forward to the next one!  EdCampWaller?

Have you attended an EdCamp?  What did you take away from it?

the tweeps at #edcampdallas

Monday, September 24, 2012

Magnificent Monday-IR Great Innovations and Smoothboard Air

If you have been following my youtube videos for any time you have probably seen my How to make an Interactive Whiteboard using a WiiMote.  I have been using a form of Smoothboard since the beginning, and let me tell you how AWESOME Smoothboard Air is!  When I made my first video I had Goh Boon Jin actually comment on video.  I felt SO special!  Since I been using the Smoothboard Air he has answered all the questions that I might have, and have also given me pointers.

I have set up my group/calendar area with the Rear Projection Screen from IR Great Innovations.  I have been working with them for over 3 years now, and they are FANTASTIC! Always super helpful, fast, and kind!  Not only is my rear projection system from there, but also my IR Pens that I use

I love using the IR pens with the wiimote, but the Smoothboard Air ROCKS! Once I load the program I can use the wiimote portion of it, but I can also use my iPad or other mobile device.  

QR code that gives the IP address to add the iPad as a mobile whiteboard device.  No camera? That is okay! As long as you have internet connection you can enter the IP address. 

Scanning the QR code

Now all my devices are synced, but I can also use my IR pen!

Best part?  You can annotate!  These options are also on the  iPad

I am currently using this during my News 2 You and Unique reading time.  I like the ability that I have to be able to highlight specific areas that I want my students to see.  I also like the ability of the pen mode in the IR pen, but also being able to use a stylus on the iPad.  When my students need to write a complete sentence they can do so on the iPad.
Things we have already done using this setup:
-tally marks on favorite snack
-interactive calendar
-sentence writing
-creating hypothesis
-highlighting letters we are working on
-highlighting words we are working on or important words

Working with multi-ability students, I am always looking for ways to meet all learners.  Having this product allows me to increase the rigor in my instruction, but on different levels and different ways... but while still staying on the same topic/idea!

There are SO many other ways that you will be able to use Smoothboard Air.  Have you used it?  What are your favorite things to do?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mail Call Monday- EdCamps- Guest Blogger Jaime Vandergrift

I have had the chance to meet some AMAZING people these past few years!  I had a chance to participate in PadCampDallas that Jaime Vandergrift hosted.  A new form of professional development is popping up all over the US (and EdCampDallas is just around the corner) so I asked if she would write a post on her recent experience EdCampATL.  You can check out the original post here.

Reflections of The Un-Conference Experience – EdCampATL & Beyond

Long time, no blogging! Yes it seems my last blog was also about EdCampAtl, in promoting the event, and here I am now reflecting upon it. To be honest, my blog has hit the back seat in comparison to my digital newsletter. In the last few months, I have wanted to become more connected to my audience, see more analytics, and understand who I was talking to, and what they wanted to hear. I have made the shift from the classroom educator, to the speaker, coach, trainer role full time. In doing so, communication sure changes, and so sorry dear blog… I have neglected you!

With my professional shift, one might ask how I so heartily still jump at the chance to pour months of work into a totally free event, especially now that I get paid to do similar tasks. The answer to that is quite simple I must say… I am a teacher at heart, and boy do we love all things FREE!  Seriously though, I must say that I see the need for edcamps and the philosophy behind them. EdCampAtl, as well as PadCampDallas, both served a very different purpose in the professional development realm. They hand over the learning to the participants, and as a result the take away by attendees always yields better results. Follow any edcamp or padcamp hash tag weeks and months after the event, and see all the tweets about what attendees are NOW doing DIFFERENT, all because of that experience.  Honestly, my commitment to edcamps most certainly make me a BETTER consultant. I won’t ever go into a school without knowing what the teachers in that building want and need. While I honor the vision of the administration, and will do my best to do as asked, I also want to design what I do to give the teachers who are working with me the content THEY want. It is essentially the merging of consulting, with the values of edcamps, which in my mind will only send more of those I meet along the way to edcamp events close to them.  I would love nothing more than to be a part of the changing vision of professional development for educators in the days to come.

If perhaps you are interested in the tech tips and tools I send out each Tuesday morning, you can sign up for my digital newsletter here - - And if that simply isn’t enough… I post daily to my educational technology Facebook page, which you can find and LIKE here - And as always I tweet as @jaimevanderg …. Google + Hangouts are also my new happy place. (A side effect of now working from home without co- workers) …. Find me & Hangout with me there! I love to discuss all things educational!

Also feel free to guilt me into a guest blog post for you… As that tends to bring me back here to just flat out say what I think

Thank you SO much Jaime for guest blogging! Have you been to an EdCamp?  What do you look for in professional development?  Do you want to be a guest blogger on a mail call Monday... email me!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Make it Monday- Getting Ready for International Dot Day 2012

Okay, so a few of my blogs have been about Dot Day lately.  I am much like my mother and I am thankful for connections I make and the stories that I hear along the way.  Dot Day is just that! After following the #dotday tag on twitter I found some amazing teachers, librarians, authors, illustrators.. and so many more that wanted to remind people that you just need to make a mark to make a difference.  You can even check out some really cool authors and illustrators and other celebrities that have taken the time to share their talent by submitting their own dot at Celebri-dots

Reading more about Dot Day my brain started running.. and I wanted to do so much more than just an activity in my classroom (now.. do I have a TON of cool things planned for my classroom.. of course I DO! Keep reading to find out what)  I got with my art teacher, got the okay from the principal... and decided to hold an International Dot Day Event!  Saturday morning from 9am-11am we are inviting families to come make their mark with different dot activities.

I wanted to do something creative with the teachers that are helping, so today after school (oh convenient for Make It Monday) we had a Dot Day T-Shirt Making Party!  Super easy to do.. and I have to admit, so far they look fabulous!

Dot Day Shirts- Tie Dye with Sharpies
Need: sharpies, rubbing alcohol , eye dropper, t-shirt, cups, rubber bands 

Choose where you want to put the cups or cup.  It is up to you what kind of design you want to use!
Once you have the spot, rubberband

Add designs using sharpie (or permanent marker)  Add eye dropper  of alcohol to get your desired effect
Once dry remove rubber bands and cups and throw in dryer to heat set
For Dot Day on the 15th we are going to have 4 stations.  Families will come in and add their dot (made from construction paper) with their signature on it to a paper eagle (our mascot is an eagle) and get their ticket for the stations.  There will be a welcome where The Dot will be read and stations will be explained. We are going to divide k-2 and 3-5 for the day. Stations at school will include: -Glow in the Dark dot station- creating pictures using glow sticks -Thank you station- creating thank you cards using dots to thank those that helped us make our marks -Cookie creation station- decorating cookies -Tie Dye Station- make those cool coffee filter crafts
Making Cool Station Signs!
I am excited about Saturday... but Friday in my classroom is going to ROCK! By following the twitter hashtag #dotday (have I mentioned that few times?) I connected with @matthewwinner who posted some fantastic want ads for connecting with skype in the classroom to connect on Dot Day!  We are connecting with a classroom in Canada so far (more to come!)  There are also some great blogs out there from @mcteach
Thank you @tjshay for helping so many educators dream big, and thanks @peterhreynolds for reminding us to make our mark!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Big Year- Birds of a Feather

I finally had the chance to watch The Big Year.  So, Rotten Tomatoes only gave it 39%, but I found it enjoyable.  I can't pass up a Jack Black movie.  Although my husband and I have varying tastes on movies... we can't pass up an evening of dinner and a movie.  So, we watched.  I enjoyed and my husband made a very interesting observation. Quick overview-Every year there is a competition to see who can see the most birds in the United States. The winner has the ability to say that he/she saw the most birds, meet other people that enjoy watching/looking for birds, sometimes they work together to find more birds, had to give up things at home to travel to see more birds... and sometimes they were conspirators against those that had already found to many birds.  In the end there was no money involved, but more of the journey that was taken to find the most birds. Have I said bird enough times? As we are sitting on the couch, my husband looks over and said this Big Year of hunting birds is like you and your conferences. WOW! Pretty deep for a movie that had low ratings on rotten tomatoes!   What is even more interesting.. is that I agreed with him!  I was very lucky to be able to attend some amazing conferences this year.  Of course I had Podstock where my PLN is the "flock" that I hang with!  This is my favorite conference to meet up with those educators/friends that have the same ideals as I do.  I also had a chance to attend DENSI this year, which had the same feel.  I attended both of these conferences for the connections I could make, my friends I was able to see again, and the learning that I knew would take place.  I also had a chance to attend ISTE2012.  It was pretty amazing, but it was also a chance for me to watch thousands of people learn and watch different kinds of "birds"  There were the ones that embraced newcomers welcoming them into the fold.  These were the ones that understood the importance of collaboration on every level and also the importance of feeling loved and accepted.  There were those that were watching the "birds" as a way to attend required professional development.  There were many different people that were watching many different "birds" Just like in the movie, each of us is on a path to follow their dreams or ambitions.

I think that my husband compared it to my conferences because it took me away from home for almost 4 weeks this summer.  He also compared it because in the end I didn't win anything to prove that I had traveled to all of these conferences.

Isn't it amazing how you can watch a silly movie and it have such a profound idea come from it.  My journey that I was able to take this summer was pretty amazing.  I wouldn't trade it for the world.  I will continue to work on finding my balance in "bird watching"

Monday, September 3, 2012

Movie Monday-Learning To Earn!

This year I am trying a new behavior incentive.  I really want to work on earning and spending money, so I created the learning to earn board.

Now, just like everything in my classroom, this does not work for every student.  Some students need a higher reinforcer at a faster pace.  But I still want to give all students the opportunity to participate. This is what I have posted on my website for Parent Information
A new update for this year is Learning To Earn!
There will be opportunities throughout the day for your student to be able to earn BeeBucks. 
Every hour students will start on green. 
student stayed on task, did work, and only needed 2 redirections– earns $1.00 BeeBuck
student needed 3-4 redirections to stay on task and complete work– does not earn any BeeBucks
student needed 5-6 redirections to stay on task, Student hit, kicked, bit or scratched a teacher or a friend– owes the bank $1.00 BeeBuck
Students will be able to spend their BeeBucks daily on items such as using a special pen for the day, extra computer time, and other items. There will also be a classroom store that will be open on Friday’s.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Magnificent Monday!- Pixel of Ink

I have been singing this sites praises all summer long!

Pixel of Ink

Pixel of Ink is a website of free or bargain books for the kindle. All you need to do is sign up for their email, like them on facebook, or visit their page to find what great bargains they have.  Everyday they have at least 3-5 books that you can download for FREE!  You have to grab them fast to get the free ones, but even if not free there are some great bargain prices that are offered.  I love seeing what the daily deal is!

Here is the part that I love..... They have a Young Adult Section (and a facebook page) and a Children's Section! On the Pixel of Ink Young Edition it is also sectioned out by ages.

As a teacher I am always looking for books for my classroom.  Using amazon you can read on your kindle, the kindle app on another mobile device, or even your computer.  I am also always looking for books while I am on a budget.  Since learning about pixel of ink my classroom library has grown by leaps and bounds!  My personal reading has also gone up.

Today I finished my first day of my 11th year of teaching, so I am going to finish shutting down my computer and head to my next meeting.