Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tech Challenge Update

We just completed our first month of Tech Challenges, and I am pretty happy how it turned out!  You can check out my first Tech Challenge Blog here.
My challenges for November were:
-Non-Negotiable-Complete the STaR Chart (guess what! Everyone did this!)
-Science- Use Voki to share science words.  These were posted on our Scientifically Sharing blog.
-Web2.0- Skype- connect with another classroom using Skype
-Data-Driven-Comment on either the Number Crunching blog or Wonderful Writing blog
-Support Staff- Create 2 Voki's to go with the Number Crunching blog

The end product for the first month
-Non-Negotiable- ALL the teachers completed this!
-Data-Driven- I had about 1/3 of the teachers participate in commenting on the blog
-Science- just a handful of teachers participated
-Web 2.0- just a handful of teachers
-Support Staff- I had about 1/3 of the support staff join in the challenge
To keep up with who was completing challenges I created an Excel document.  As a teacher completed the challenge I added an X.  I highlighted the box after I had put the badge in their box and given the swag that they earned.

My overall experience? I knew going in that not everyone was going to participate.  My goal for the Tech Challenges is to plant seeds!  It made my heart SO happy when I had a teacher approach me to ask for help on how to complete the Tech Challenges.  I loved seeing her class comment come up on the blog.  It made my heart SO happy when another teacher told me that she enjoyed the Number Crunching blog because it was a perfect transition.  It also made my heart SO happy that I had 2 teachers complete ALL of the Tech Challenges!
One of the Tech Challenge game boards

The badges for the Tech Challenge game board
I just finished up the December Tech Challenges.  I have contacted a couple of the websites/tools we will be using this next month.
Loved that Voki sent some great prizes for the teachers!

Loved that Skype in the Classroom also sent some great incentives!
I just finished creating the challenges for next month.  You can find December challenges here  I have enjoyed the communication that the Tech Challenges have opened between myself and teachers.  I have also enjoyed hearing teachers discuss with me how they are going to use these tools next (outside of what was required for the challenge!)  The challenges are basic, but who knows how big the seed will grow and where it might transplant.  I can't wait to see what else the teachers that I work with accomplish!

Have you tried Tech Challenges?  What are the pros/cons that you have seen?  What are some great tools that should be included in future Tech Challenges?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

#kidwish-Connecting LIFE/Special Ed classrooms with Mainstream Classes

I am just so stinking excited to write this blog!  For the past 6 years I have had the opportunity to break down walls of my LIFE (Living in a Functional Environment) classroom by participating in online collaborative projects and virtual tours.  I had a chance to do these activities because I had amazing teachers that I could collaborate with. 

Being a teacher is tough these days, and being a special education teacher brings on even more challenges! Challenges that are worth it, but challenges none the less.  There are a TON of amazing projects online for classrooms and my class and I have participated in many of them.  I knew how to modify the projects so my students could be successful and participate, but also be challenged at the same time.  I have the same expectations as other teachers, I wanted my students to have the world! As I connected with other classrooms I noticed that there were not very many special education classrooms that were taking on the challenge of collaborative online projects.

And then...... it happened!   Several of my amazing friends (Dyane SmokorowskiMichael Soskil, and Karen Wright-Balbier) began talking about the idea of creating a project that would partner LIFE/special education classrooms with regular education classrooms. #kidwish is starting out as a Holiday Card Exchange and New Years Wish for the World exchange using video conferencing and extension activities, but we hope that it expands to so much more than that. 

Now you might be thinking, why is it so important to identify a LIFE/special ed classrooms and pair them up with a mainstream classrooms?  I had the opportunity to connect with Dyane's class for this very project for the last 5 years.  My students LOVED it!  It gave them a chance to be creative on a holiday card, they received something in the mail, and they were able to connect with someone outside of our school setting. I also was able to see a change.  My students began to take more time in their holiday cards (works on writing, following directions and most importantly... creativity).  My students also began to attend and participate more during the actual video conference.  Nothing could make my heart soar more to hear the students reading along with the book and then ending the video call with holiday carols (even my non-verbal students would attempt to participate)

So, LIFE/special ed teachers I challenge you to sign up and participate in this project! You never know what connections you might make from it!  Our classes ended up Skype calling with other classrooms and even other LIFE classrooms.  We have done science projects, shared ideas, and read lots of stories.  The ideas are limitless if you take that first step!  Want more information, check out the website ? Want to email me with questions  

My wish is for all students to have the same opportunities inside and outside the classroom no matter what the abilities are.

I have written about my fears of losing my niche as a special education teacher when becoming an Instructional Technology Specialist.  I am so stinking excited that this is giving me a chance to share my love of connecting, technology and special education.

Monday, November 4, 2013

New Adventure (A Not so Techy Blog)

I am the first one to admit I probably have over 50 different nail polishes in my closet.  I didn't ever paint my nails, but my toenails were ALWAYS painted!  Ever so often I had a gift so I could get my nails done (but that was always a special treat)  This past summer I was at a local conference and ran across a Jamberry Nails booth.  I skimmed through the catalog and look book that the consultant had and exchanged information.  A few weeks later I ordered my first set of Jamberry Nails and I haven't looked back!

Jamberry has created the newest, most affordable and long lasting way to accessorize fingers or toes. Jamberry nail wraps are a solid film covering that can be applied directly to the nail to achieve a look not found anywhere else. This special material is both pressure and heat activated to create a watertight bond to your nail. The film is finished with a high gloss protective layer that prevents your nail wrap from chipping or scuffing.
This new nail treatment can be applied in just fifteen minutes at home on your own or with family and friends. With over 300 styles available, these designer nail wraps are made to last up to 2 weeks on fingers and 6 weeks on toes. With Jamberry nail wraps, achieving a salon look that was once reserved only to the professionals is now simple, affordable, and available to women everywhere through our growing network of consultants." 
Northern Flare
Things I LOVE about Jamberry
-They are affordable!  They have a special of buy 3 get one 1 free... which is only around $45!
-They look great on fingers and toes.  Each sheet can do 2 manicures and 2 pedicures
-They are super easy to put on!  All you need is a blow dryer (I do enjoy the Jamberry Heater much more though!)
-I love that there is no drying time.
-I love that when you take off the nail it doesn't kill your nail (I take mine off with baby oil)

This last weekend I had a chance to attend the Dallas Regional Conference where I learned even more about the company.  It was so inspiring to hear all of the stories of how being a Jamberry Independent Consultant had changed lives of these people.  Not only that, but it is based out of the USA and created by a family following their own dreams!

Team Cute Nails

Do you want to know more, purchase, or host a party.. let me know.  You can order directly from my site at   You can also check out my personal Facebook page where I will hold various contests and post information on specials and upcoming fashion! This new endeavor is going to help pay for various meds as we try to grow our family (but you can read more about my personal story here) 

Part of Team Cute Nails with members from the Jamberry Home Office