A Semester with Google

When we first announced that our students and staff would have access to Google accounts this year many people asked me, “What can we do with Google?” The answer to that is varied. One of the things I like most about Google is its variety of tools and flexibility to meet many needs. So the question really becomes, “What are your learning objectives? And is there a way Google can help meet those needs?” As the semester progressed, the teachers and students of BurbankUSD found many interesting ways to put Google to use. Below are a few examples:

One of the least known tools within the Google Suite
Google Draw. The applications in education are numerous. In one Kindergarten class, the teacher created a template,
which was shared with the students through
Google Classroom. The students worked on both number identification and mouse skills as they manipulated the numbers into the correct order on the screen. file_000Students were also excited when they learned how to change the color of those numbers.


A second grade class also explored the creative possibilities of Google Draw. After a short tutorial on some of the tools, students used the shapes to create animals and added text boxes to write about their work.

Another way Google Suite has been utilized is as a curation tool. A 3rd grade class has started developing a digital portfolio of their work utilizing Google Slides. Students imported a picture of a physical project they had completed in class. They typed a reflection about the project on the slide next to the picture. They will be adding slides to the portfolio as the year goes on. In the end they will have a nice way to demonstrate what they learned throughout the year. The teacher is planning to create QR codes so that she can easily share the digital work with parents at Open House.

file_000-1Google Slides is also being used to aid in collaboration. A middle school Social Science class learned how to work in groups on a single slide show. One person created the slideshow in their Google account and then shared it with each member of their team. Each person was responsible for creating a slide with one section of information that they had studied the day before. In the end, each group had a slide show with all the information. Working like this required students to really communicate and work together so their finished project looked cohesive.

One of the benefits of Google tools is that teacher can now easily give “in file_003the moment” feedback to students. Students at both the elementary and high school level are doing work in Google Docs which allows teachers to easily see and comment as the students are working. In the past, students would not receive this kind of feedback until the assignment or project was completed. However, the teacher can now easily scroll through the students’ work, even as they are sitting in class typing. In one high school classroom students are using Google Docs to do their daily agenda and warm up. In the past, the previous weeks’ warm- up was collected on Monday, reviewed by the teacher and returned. Now, the teacher is able to scan the students work throughout the week. This allows students to make corrections in the moment. Likewise, a 3rd grade class is using a table in Google Docs to file_001-2organize their ideas as they research for their animal report. Having access to these documents as the students are working on them will allow the teacher to provide timely support, suggest edits and additional resources, as the students are working.

Teachers are also utilizing Google Forms on both the small and large scale. Several teachers have started giving quizzes and tests with Google Forms, either utilizing the self-grading feature within google forms or using the add-on Flubaroo. Google Forms was put to an even bigger test recently asluther-graph Luther used the tool to collect votes for their Dancing with the Staff event. They collected 17,000 votes that night and used the results graph to determine the winner.
These are just a few of the ways teachers and students in Burbank are putting Google tools to work for them. Are you using Google tools in a really cool ways? Comment below and if you are a BUSD teacher, please invite me out to see what you and your students are up to!

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Twitter chat anyone?

I participated in my first Twitter Chat the other night.

Opening InfoEvery Monday night at 8:00 pm PST a group of TOSAs (that’s the acronym for Teacher on Special Assignment, of which I am one) gather together on Twitter to chat about all things TOSA. Being a TOSA is an interesting balance. Teachers no longer view you as a teacher, but you are not an administrator either. Somehow, you must find a way to work with both groups without actually being a part of either one. The #TOSAchat is a great way to connect with other people who find themselves walking that same tight rope.

I first started actively using Twitter as a requirement of theTwitter MAET program at MSU. Previously I viewed Twitter as just one more social media account. I didn’t have much interest in it on a personal level.
What I have come to find out is that Twitter is an absolute gem on a professional level. I believe every educator should take advantage of Twitter for its wealth of resources and potential connections.

For some time now I have been a fairly passive participant in the Professional Learning Network (PLN) I have created for myself. I follow a lot of people in ed tech and gain great resources and ideas from the tweets I see. I check in on an almost daily basis. At first I only posted when I had an assignment to add. However, with some encouragement from Leigh and Michelle (my professors from this summer), I began to contribute more. I particularly enjoyed tweeting while at conferences or trainings. By being an active participant in the back channel conversation I have made some great connections.

However, none of that could compare to the experience of my first Twitter chat! Wow! What a crazy experience. Here is how it went:

7:55 pm-Should I check out this Twitter chat? I opened Twitter on my phone.

7:56 pm-Holy moly, there are actual questions and a GoogleDoc with all sorts of organized information and links.

7:57 pm-I better bust out the computer. TweetDeck is going to be necessary to keep up. (Oh that lovely naive impression that I would somehow be able to keep up.)

Twitter Chat Intro

8:00 pm-Introductions: I knew this part was coming, but a picture too? And my first cell phone? Yikes, what was it?

8:01 pm-Madly Googling images of old cell phones. Found one, I think that was mine. Okay, ready to post my introduction.

8:02 pm-Hi, I’m Debbie, Ed Tech TOSA, Burbank, CA <insert pic of old phone> POST!

8:03 pm-Crap! I forgot to add the hashtag. Delete, delete, delete.

8:05 pm-Hi, I’m Debbie, Ed Tech TOSA, Burbank, CA <insert pic of old phone> #TOSAChat and…POST! Whew…now I am really participating. Let’s do this thing.

8:06 pm-Ok, the first question. Think of something profound to say…..

8:09 pm-Well, I don’t know if it was profound, but A1 is up.

8:09 pm-Oh, what’s that notification? Someone liked one of my posts! That’s so cool.Twitter Chat A1 Post

8:10 pm-Back to the feed. How the heck did I get so far behind already? Must read fast.

8:12 pm-The next question is coming up? Man this is moving fast.

8:14 pm-Cool, another notification. Let me respond.

8:15 pm-Get me back to the feed. We are on question what?

8:21 pm-GoogleHangout? How are these people able to do a GHO and Twitterchat at the same time? They must be superhuman.

8:50 pm-Oh man, now someone is asking me about OneNote. I love OneNote. Gotta give it props.

8:55 pm-How long does this chat last? I bet it ends at 9:00. I hope it ends at 9:00. My eyes are about to fall out of my head.

8:59 pm-And…it’s over. Now I can breath again.

9:10 pm-Someone else says they can never keep up either. Thank goodness. It’s not just me.

Wow! That whirlwind experience was one of the greatest PD experiences I have ever had. I have new followers/connections with other TOSAs who are doing what I am doing. It is one thing to connect with other people in my own district, but through this Twitter chat I am able to connect with educators in other districts. This expands the reach of great ideas I can access. It gives me something to reach and strive for when I see amazing things being accomplished elsewhere. It also allows me an opportunity to share with others some things we are doing in my district.

Even though it was exhausting, I can’t wait until next week.


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Hey Ireland…See you next summer!

It was early on the third day when it first hit me. We were having a discussion about the Willingham reading from the night before. Rachelle had just said something profound and I knew. I had to come back for more of this next summer.

I started the Michigan State University, Masters of Educational Technology program online. And if you ask anyone I came in contact with during that time, they will tell you that I was incredibly impressed. It was probably the first post-secondary learning experience I have had that didn’t feel like jumping through hoops to earn a piece of paper at the end. The assignments were realistic, useable and FUN! I didn’t think it could get much better.

And then I experienced the Overseas component.

My original plan was to do Year 2 overseas and finish the rest online during the subsequent school year. Compounding that decision was the fact that I was scheduled to go on an Alaskan cruise with my family during what would be the first week of the Overseas program next summer. Before I got there, there was really no doubt in my mind that I would not be returning to Ireland to complete my degree.

And then I got there.

Prior to this summer in Ireland I would have told you the biggest life changing experience I have ever had was my first trip abroad, to Italy, in 2010. I had always dreamed of going to Italy and the trip with my cousins did not disappoint. It came at a very important time in my life and affirmed for me that I COULD. That word, “COULD.” I could do anything I set my mind to. My life had a multitude of possibilities and I COULD reach out and grab any that I wanted. It was incredibly empowering.

This summer in Ireland definitely equalled and possibly even surpassed that Italy trip in terms of its impact on my life. It allowed me the greatest professional growth experience I have ever had. Every summer, teachers aim to spend time working to better themselves and their content for the next school year. I am no different in that desire. This summer was the first time I have ever concentrated this amount of time and focused energy into bettering my practice. The program is so well organized and the teachers provide just the right amount of pushing and support, that I was able to achieve things I never imagined possible.

However, not every part of this process was sunshine and roses. The idea of spending four weeks working and living with a group of complete strangers was actually terrifying for me. It was very far outside my comfort zone that I even considered doing it. Five years ago, prior to that Italy trip, I would not have even entertained the idea. But off I went anyway.

And then I met some absolutely incredible people.

MAET Year 2 Cohort Galway 2015

MAET Year 2 Cohort Galway 2015

It was amazing to be surrounded by a group of people who were so passionate, driven and excited about their profession. I was blown away by the talent, openness and work ethic, exhibited by the people in my class and the other two cohorts. The learning

Alicia drove 2 hours to visit when I was in Sonoma.

Alicia drove 2 hours to visit when I was in Sonoma.

I had experienced online was increased exponentially by being immersed in this group of amazing people. The connections that were forged this summer were so strong that already within a week and half of returning home I have met-up with two people

Joy, from Boise, was in San Diego. I had to drive down to say hi!

Joy, from Boise, was in San Diego. I had to drive down to say hi!

from my class. I have known these people for only a month and already they are a very integral part of my life.

Even though it was only the third day when I first knew I needed to return to Ireland, I made a promise to myself to wait until I had finished the summer and been home for a few days to commit to the decision.

And then I experienced graduation.

I hate graduations. They are usually pretty boring. After my own (pretty miserable) college graduation I decided I never had to go to another graduation again. I gave myself permission to skip them all! I have since been to a few, but I was still pretty adamant that I was never going to participate in one myself again. I am a graduate of UC Santa Barbara, but I don’t really have an emotional connection to that school. Michigan State University is a completely different experience. I will, most likely, earn my Masters Degree from MSU without ever setting foot in Michigan. And yet, I feel more connected and more a Spartan than I ever did a Gaucho. This energy and experience was present at the graduation recognition ceremony on the final day in Ireland. I sat in the audience watching people I had just met, four of whom I had spent the summer learning alongside, get recognized by the University for their hard work and achievements. The ones they had already accomplished and the ones they are headed out into the world to achieve.

And then I knew for sure.

Hey, Ireland…see you next summer!

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Pushing limits…making changes!

This has been a summer filled with pushing my limits. However, I believe real growth only happens when one is willing to step outside their comfort zone. I am happy to say, that by pushing the limits real changes have occurred!

The decision to join the Masters of Ed Tech program at MSU came pretty easily. I was looking for an online program, but the overseas component of MSU was what really drew me in. I have developed quite a passion for traveling and this seemed like the perfect answer. Get a Masters and go to Ireland? Absolutely!

Interesting then, that as the trip approached, the very thing I had been most excited about became the thing that terrified me most. The thought that I was voluntarily going to spend 4 weeks with a group of people that I had never met was incredibly unsettling. Add to that the unknown of living someplace new for a month, and I was a hot mess!

The video below is a resource that I wish I would have had before I came here. “Living MAET in Galway” is a glimpse into the day to day of my experience here. Happily, the unknown became the familiar very quickly. Both the city and the people have touched my heart and my life in ways unexplainable.

With day to day living under control my attention turned to the classroom. I guess that is why we are here after all. The focus of our Year Two cohort was research and leadership. Prior to this summer I would have told you that I was good at ONE of those two things. Trying to guess which one? Click on the image below to read about my “Research Realization.”

Click here to check out my Bitstrip.com comic

Click here to check out my Bitstrip.com comic

Finally, the mark of a really good professional learning experience is to have something concrete to take away at the end of the day. On the very first day of class we used the MSU rules of branding to design our own SpartansWill posters. The idea was to include what we hoped to accomplish by then end of the four weeks.
Spartan Image-McHorney.001Now, as I approach the last day of the four weeks I can look back on that first day with pride. I wanted to come away with something that could help the district become better at technology integration. I wanted to inspire the teachers I work with to be willing to take risks and try new things. For my Research to Practice project I designed a new professional development experience. I hope to take that back to my school district and be a part of some exciting change. I created a website that

This Spartan Did

This Spartan Did

can be used as part of a professional learning experience. My time here in Ireland did in fact allow me to grow something that can make change!

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Inside the Interview Process

Applying for a new job is a very isolating experience. You turn in your resumé then wait for a yes or no answer. If you are lucky enough to get an interview, you again put forth your best effort, but then really only ever get a yes or a no in regards to your performance.

Why should I hire you?

Why should I hire you?

If you get the job, you most likely don’t dwell too long on your performance on the resumé and interview. However, if you don’t get the job you are often left with an unsatisfied curiosity about what you need to do better next time.

This week in MAET Overseas we had an opportunity to draw back the curtain on the interview process. Three of our brave classmates volunteered to be interviewed in front of us all. Talk about pressure!

Some great thoughts and discussions came out of this. One of the things that struck me was how you would handle it if the person you are replacing is on the interview panel? When I heard that comment made during the interview I found myself wondering why the person would be leaving. Getting to process these thoughts while watching the mock interview was very valuable, because had it happened to me in an actual interview, it would have distracted me and completely tripped me up. Now I know that if this happens in the future I should look to that person as someone who has insight into the job. I will ask him/her to tell me about a project they are very proud of, letting them know I would like to continue the positive work they have started.

Dr. Cary Roseth, visiting from MSU, brought up a very intriguing point. He mentioned that the interview process itself is very inauthentic. Most people consider that the person going in to interview is going to be nervous and somewhat ill at ease. However, Dr. Roseth pointed out that it’s not just the interviewee, but the interviewers who need to be set at ease as well. He suggested that the interviewee could do themselves a big favor if they work to make the interview panel more comfortable as well, (C. Roseth, personal communication, July 17, 2015). I had never thought of it from this angle before. I know it is something I will take with me into any future interviews.

As I watched and thought about this process a question arose for me. If the interview process is so inauthentic, why do we still give it so much power in the hiring process? As I prepared for my last interview I found myself feeling that the 20 minute exchange I was going to have would hardly be enough time to really showcase the things I believed I could bring to the position. I know many schools are now asking candidates to come back for a second interview, which includes them teaching a demo lesson, sometimes even with students from the school. That would seem to garner a lot more genuine idea of how someone will perform once they get into the classroom. However, it would also take a lot more time.

While it may not be the best system, it is what we are stuck with for now. I am very glad to have had the opportunity to watch and discuss these mock interviews. It will be very helpful the next time I am in on the interview process, no matter which side of the table I happen to be on.


Unknown. (2014) Clinical Interview [clipart]. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Clinical_interview.PNG

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Hoping to make a difference in the world

One of the reason I swore I would never get a Masters is that I have had entirely too many educational experiences in which I felt I was simply jumping through hoops to earn a piece of paper. So, when one of the first year students here in Galway asked me this evening, “What do I need to do to be prepared for this experience next year?” my response was that he should make sure to choose a topic he was passionate about. This thing was WORK! However, when you are doing something you believe in, the work doesn’t ever feel like wasted effort. Coming into the presentation today, knowing that I had a product that I worked hard for and believed in, made the presenting part seem like a walk in the park.

Conference Ready!

Conference Ready!

I also have a slight advantage here. I have presented at and helped organize conferences before, so once I knew the work on the project was put in, I wasn’t particularly nervous about presenting. However, I did feel a great sense of pride in my classmates and our group as a whole. In my last blog post I wrote about the research to practice project as a journey. One of the best things about this process is that though we were working on individual topics, we were never in it alone. I felt incredibly supported by all the people in the program, but none more than my fellow year 2s. The amount of pride and work everyone put into their projects is what made today so great.

I am especially happy with the bond that developed with my fellow room presenter. While I wanted everyone’s project to go well, I became especially connected to Rachelle’s presentation. We were there for each other and I became invested in her success just as much as my own. It was a very cool experience to see both of our sessions get Tweeted and ReTweeted!

As part of the TeachMeet team my duties did not end when my presentation was over. I originally joined the TeachMeet team because I would really like to host an EdCamp back home. After going through this experience with my group-mates I feel better prepared to take on the uncertainty of an Unconference of my own. The session I was in, about Instructional Coaching, was very rewarding. I learned a lot from the other participants and appreciated the opportunity to share my experiences with them.

In final reflection of the day, I have to note, it’s probably not a good thing to cry right before you head to your presentation. Yet, that is the space I found myself in listening to the incredibly moving comments by our welcome speaker, Stephen Howell. I was incredibly touched by his sentiment that everyone in that room could have a drastic impact on the world. It echoed the feeling I had the day before about my fellow classmates, that each one of these individuals is unique, powerful and equipped to make real change happen in education. Stephen’s words, that each one of us, myself included, can go out and make a real difference in this world are something I will try to carry with me after I leave Ireland.

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A Journey

Glen Coe in the Scottish Highlands

Who’s ready to embark on a journey?

Over the last two weeks I have engaged in an incredible JOURNEY. I emphasize the word journey because it truly has been a process with many steps. As with any journey I have experienced many emotions, including: anticipation, excitement, frustration, panic, fear, exhilaration, and gratification. The fact that I immediately tie this experience to emotion is a testament to how invested I am in the process.

The anticipation came early on in the activity. Often when you plan a journey the first step is to get a map of where you are headed. However, with this assignment the end product was not very clearly defined. We were asked to embark on the trek without knowing exactly where we were headed. I had a choice to make. Do I hold back because I am unsure of where we were headed? Or do I go all in, trusting in the people who designed the experience to make sure I did not stray too far off path?  I decided to go all in and have not regretted that decision even once.

The first choice I had to make was which direction to head. While I did not have an exact map of where I was going, I did know that I was suppose to create a research-based learning experience. My design idea centered around my new role as an educational technology instructor. In my new job, I am blessed with the opportunity to provide training for the teachers in my district.  Our current model has been to provide one time trainings that teach a specific technology tool.  While these have been well received, I had a belief that there was an even better way to approach it. I wanted to create a professional development experience that would build over time. Instead of teaching teachers how to use one specific tool, I wanted them to learn how to find and implement tools on their own. However, those were only my gut instincts and this project needed to be based on solid research.

Equipped with the right tools, could I scale that mountain?

Research. Ugh, how I have hated that word since my undergraduate days. The research part of this journey felt like my mountain to scale. This process was designed to teach us that the learning experiences we were creating needed to be grounded in proven research. While I understand the logic of that, I have never had a lot of success in the research process. I always got what I needed, but it never felt I truly “got it”. In order to move past this hurdle I would have to dig deep.

As promised, we were given all the tools we needed to make it through this journey. Like any difficult task that is completed, the in depth look we took at the research process was really valuable for me. I have a better understanding of how to assess if research is “good” research. I have some tricks and resources to help focus my research, not only for this project, but for further learning as well. I felt my frustration with research turn to excitement as I saw that I could build a strong product when I based my ideas on something concrete and proven.

Once the research was in the books the actual design of the experience I wanted to create started taking place. At times I was overcome with the “hugeness” of the idea I was grappling with. Is it possible that in one month here in Ireland I could really design something that could have the kind of impact I was imagining? While it was scary, it was also quite exhilarating.  One of the things that kept me grounded was the many check-ins we did with peers and our professors.  Each time I met with someone, I was forced to express my design idea out loud. Describing it multiple times helped me to begin to narrow down and grasp just what it was I was picturing in my head. The feedback and reflection process was invaluable. With each iteration I felt myself gain more and more clarity about what I was trying to accomplish.

Those first few days of gathering research, formulating ideas and gaining clarity began to feel very comfortable. Then all of a sudden a deadline was thrown down…Friday by midnight…a draft of the actual product was due. The sense of panic I felt was very overwhelming.  It is one thing to have big ideas and to gain confidence in those ideas as you hash things out with others. It is another thing entirely to believe that you can actually put something concrete together in a short amount of time. Once again I had to trust in the process and just put one foot in front of the other. Just keep moving, even if it doesn’t seem like forward progress. One thing I have learned about myself, not just in the last two weeks, but through this program as a whole, is that sometimes I have to step away from the computer to get things done. It is amazing how whole parts of my project have come together while I was not actually sitting with my computer. My brain continues to mull over, hash out and plan even while walking the streets of Galway or sitting in a pub.

In a very short time span I have gone from self-professing my ineptitude with web design, to deciding my final product should be in the form of a website. Again, a testament to the environment that has been created for this class, I did not choose the safe path, but opted for the risky. The risky path was one I knew would push my comfort zone, but would ultimately create a project that I could use in my job back home. After all, isn’t that what I am here for? And isn’t that what I am asking the teachers who participate in my learning experience to do as well? If I expect them to take risks in learning with me, then I must be willing to take risks in my journey as well.

I pause now for a reflection on this journey so far, but it is far from over. The beginnings of the website are built, initial feedback is in, but there is much still to accomplish. I am incredibly grateful for the experience to this point. It has given me skills and confidence that will help me as I forge my way forward. I can picture the end of the journey more clearly now, but if there is one thing I have learned in this process it is this. The road may be uncertain, but if you are willing to go all in, the rewards will be well worth it, no matter the destination.

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Adventures in Ed Tech

Passion and curiosity.  Those are the topics we are meant to focus on as we come to the culminating activity for the Graduate Certificate in Ed Tech program from MSU.  Thomas Freidman asserts that in this technology driven culture we currently live in, we must have more than just intelligence.  We must also have the passion and the curiosity to remain relevant in the workforce (Freidman, 2013).

Freidman’s article and the ending of this first part of the masters program come at an interesting time for me.  This year has been a time of great change in my own career.  The change was driven by my own desire to follow my passion, instead of staying in a comfortable job; a job that no longer inspired my curiosity. For my final project I used Powtoon to create an animation of my journey, which I hope demonstrates just how much I believe that if you follow your passion you will find success and happiness.  Enjoy this Adventure in Ed Tech!


Campbell, S. (2010) Twitter Bird Sketch. [drawing]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/thecampbells/5042764163/in/photolist-8FBu6H-ayG6Vj-6NM2tt-avgZqq-69cP9q-4VrsTg-fg5gJH-6Nuj9w-6Lb4yf-5ro1T9-5qtbaW-6Bxfdw-8oTdWZ-7aXhjJ-7U4KnJ-65Hcmv-8nAByF-f9G133-4qVUMu-6yNCXa-a1vp4W-ayDr8X-3McFgH-dV5Q7M-7FutAY-6aKyLM-cAT173-5JUo43-aDHpGW-6XoNHZ-7tygge-a1swhv-5oC1rK-9aHWfJ-5XW7XZ-cNL529-bKUVDn-5dwffj-avx5pY-e1GtBw-5Bi2KA-5BpnGU-cp4fTm-f7syrv-xhWkS-eRooBr-4qCtaS-artgBQ-6TaS6s-7i765k

Friedman, T.L. (2013, January 29). It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as much as I.Q. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/opinion/friedman-its-pq-and-cq-as-much-as-iq.html?_r=0

Kazuma, jp. (2008) Wii Controller [photograph]. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/kazuma_jp/2412932140/in/photolist-4FdUEh-ykWnv-4MdHZt-zcsYb-GNTFH-7Shsgd-yXirg-yQwhT-4kXhsX-t1hyn-66ajMr-3VSc4z-t2MLz-4reFUA-cbRg7J-7zxJtE-7ztRGn-pfvHD-MNJoR-4GtehK-7zxrTA-cbVbPh-4uDeuJ-bUR8B6-5ehJup-iMW1fk-gEprD-7K7nwD-gEppH-4qZFqk-9afqK4-uJ6z3-uWVhJ-zCLS3-sGzAQ-7rQXsR-c5v9Q7-2wRFr3-4dTnrJ-u2fcx-4HAymb-qSJrn-qSJtE-M966U-4CEFbQ-4i81MF-7dTncP-4wP7jL-5urUfF-4t7VGS

McHorney, D. (2014). Makey Makey Kit [Photograph]

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How to incorporate failure as a learning mode in education is a Failure PiktochartWicked Problem indeed.  As part of my Wicked Problem Project in CEP 812 I had the opportunity to research, discuss and think about ways to incorporate failure into education.  In my Think Tank discussion there was never any doubt that failure could be a valuable learning tool.  The wickedness of the problem comes from the paradigm shift that would need to occur to incorporate failure into our current learning system.
I believe that through TPACK inspired incorporation of standards based mastery learning, personalization and technology, failure can in fact be re-introduced as a powerful learning tool.  Click here for the full essay on my proposal.

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Teaching with Tech: A high school surveyed

In order to better understand the community Tech Survey
of practice of a local high school, I surveyed their faculty about teaching with technology.  The survey brought to light some interesting things, some of which are highlighted in my essay and in the infographic included to the right (Click on the image to get a closer look).  The exciting thing about this school is that the teachers are already doing some great things with technology.  They are utilizing the tools they have now and are eager to learn how to do even more with technology.  That is a good thing, since one thing that came to light is that the students at this school are not getting their hands on technology in the classroom on a very regular basis. It seems that as more technology makes its way into the school, teachers will be interested in learning how to make it work.


Dustwin. (2014). Document [clipart]. Retrieved from https://openclipart.org/detail/196139/document

OpenIcons. (2013). Presentation [clipart]. Retrieved from http://pixabay.com/en/presentation-canvas-beamer-98489/

Rock1997. (2011). Internet1 [clipart]. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypertext_Transfer_Protocol#/media/File:Internet1.jpg

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Combating Dyslexia with Bookshare.org

How would you like to take a class in which all the lectures were given Booksin your native language, but the textbook and worksheets were in a foreign one? I often imagine this is what life is like for people with dyslexia. Dyslexia affects the ability to read, but does not have an impact on intelligence.  I imagine students with dyslexia sitting in class able to understand the lecture and participate in discussions.  Then those same students go home to do their homework and the words on the page make no sense.

Thankfully, text-to-speech technology is a tool that can help transform those textbooks from gibberish on a page into meaningfHeadphones_by_K4pturul information.  Click the link below to read my review of Bookshare.org, a tool that gives audio access to hundreds of thousands of books, and how it can help students with dyslexia achieve success in the classroom.

Full essay can be found HERE!


Bookshare.org (n.d) Retrieved April 2, 2015, from Bookshare.org

K4Ptur. (n.d.) headphones [picture]. Retrieved from http://k4ptur.deviantart.com/art/Headphones-82050379

Milani, A., Lorusso, M. L. and Molteni, M. (2010), The effects of audiobooks on the psychosocial adjustment of pre-adolescents and adolescents with dyslexia. Dyslexia, 16: 87–97. doi: 10.1002/dys.397

Rocket000. (n.d.), books [clipart]. Retrieved from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/32/Books-aj.svg_aj_ashton_01f.svg

Tunmer, W., & Greaney, K. (2010). Defining dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 43(3), 229-243. doi:10.1177/0022219409345009

Wadlington, E. (1996). Teaching students with dyslexia in the regular classroom. Childhood Education, Fall 1996, 73,1; ProQuest pg. 2. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/62597491?accountid=12598

K4Ptur. (n.d.) headphones [picture]. Retrieved from http://k4ptur.deviantart.com/art/Headphones-82050379

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To tech or not to tech…a “frozen thought” dilemma.

Why are humans so stupid? This is the question James Paul Gee attempts to answerbanned cell phones in his book, The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning, (2013). While he focuses on several issues in his book, my essay reflects on the term he calls “frozen thought,” which is a byproduct of human created institutions.

In my essay I focus on the current technology use policy in my district and how we have had to work through the difficult process of unfreezTwo_Cell_Phones_2ing a policy that is out of date. Gee puts forward some very intriguing ideas, but with the right awareness perhaps humans can be smart after all.



Gee, J.P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan

Wikipedia. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ATwo_Cell_Phones_2.png

Pixabay. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://pixabay.com/en/no-cellphones-cellphone-not-allowed-35121/


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An Ill-Structured Problem

This week in CEP 812 we looked at different types of problems we come across in our profession.  They were categorized in three different ways.  First, Well-Structured Problems, which have one definite best solution.  The second, Ill-Structured problems have many potential solutions. And the third, Wicked problems, which are so complex and have so many variables, that there really is no BEST solution.

Below is a screencast I made of an Ill-Structured problem I face in my work and a technology tool that I can use to help solve the problem.  Check it out! (If the embeded link does not play, click here.)

Here is a link to be able to download OfficeMix.

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Lessons in Application

It has been a month since the end of my most recent class at MSU.  While I have not been working on coursework for the MAET program, I have had a few opportunities to apply the lessons I have learned so far.

First, I had the opportunity to prepare and present three sessions of professional development for 37 of my colleagues.  The theme for our session was technology, but I was able to decide the topics.  One of the very first things I learned at MSU was the power of a personal learning network (PLN).  In our first class we created a Twitter account and started to connect with other educators who were also using technology in their classrooms.  I found this to be extremely valuable and I wanted to share this resource with my colleagues.  I created a Google Presentation (click here to check it out) on the ins and outs of Twitter.  In the 45 minute training I explained how Twitter could be utilized to grow a PLN, guided teachers through the process of creating an account and finding some relevant people to follow, and explained some of the intricacies of Twitter. (What is a hashtag anyway?)

It was the last part that got a little tricky.  I had surveyed the participants prior to the training, so I knew that out of 37 people only 5 were currently using Twitter.  The problem was I knew for a fact that the ASB advisor was well versed in things like hashtags, mentions and follows. I knew she would be bored by the basics.  In order to differentiate the lesson (see that, even teachers need differentiation), I added an “Advanced Users” slide at the end of the presentation.  I had shared the presentation with the participants, so she was able to click to the end to see my slide about TweetDeck and follow the links to learn more about it.  In this way I was able to meet the needs of a diverse group.

Also, in an effort to grow my own PLN on a local level, I created a weekly informal gathering I have named “Tech Tuesday”.  Each week I invite members of the faculty and staff to my room at lunch to have a technology discussion.  Some weeks we focus on a particular topic, others we discuss whatever is relevant for those who attend the meeting.  I have found these meetings to be a great way to connect with educators on a local level.  I have learned a lot from the other teachers at my site.  My favorite is when a teacher walks away with a solution to a problem that had been plaguing them and is able to come back the following week and share with their colleagues.

The other really exciting thing I have been able to take from MSU and apply to my school site is the maker kit I studied.  I worked with the MakeyMakey kit for CEP 811.  On October 8, my school held an “Arts for All” Day.  This was an assembly that brought out the Visual and Performing arts classes, the Vocational Ed classes and local artists.  In the past the day has been a chance for students to showcase the work they have done in their elective classes.  This year the administrator in charge decided to make it a more hands on experience.  This fit right into the Maker Movement that we were learning about in class.  I volunteered to run a booth and let the students experience the fun of the MakeyMakey kits.  They were amazed that they could use everyday objects to create a controller for the computers.  There was a very nice write-up in the local paper that details the experience the students had during this great experience.

Overall, I am very excited at the things I have been able to take from the MSU program and share with my students and my school.  It is very rewarding to see the real world application of the things we are learning in class.  That is something we need to remember as we plan curriculum for students in this digital age.

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Final Evaluation

After spending the last few weeks exploring the Maker Movement, I believe it is vital to the future of education.  As a Special Education teacher I see incredible opportunities for leveling the playing field and getting kids excited about learning again.  My students come to me in high school believing they are broken.  They know they are not successful at this thing called school and most of them think it is their fault.  My goal is to help them rediscover that they have something amazing to offer the world.  In order to do that they have to be willing to take risks.  By changing the culture of the classroom, from “memorize these facts and regurgitate them back to me”, to a place where students are encouraged to work together and create, I hope to help my students discover what unique skills they can bring to the group.  As James Paul Gee stated in the video Grading with Games, “The group is smarter than the smartest person in the group,” (Gee, 2008).

I would love to see the day where my student, who can not write at even the first grade level, could come to the table with other people who have a similar interests as him, and be an equal participant.  I believe that the Maker movement is a key to this.  The type of maker kit one uses is not important.  I explored the MakeyMakey kit for this class and I have plans to use it in an assignment later this semester.  However, the first week of school I had students work in groups to try to build the tallest tower they could out of 64 plastic cups.  This did not require fancy equipment or expensive computers.Photo Aug 19  It did require the students to work together, to struggle, to go back to the drawing board time and time again.  At about minute 5 of their 20 minute time limit, I had one group say to me, “We’re done.”  I thought that was the classic example of where their education had gone wrong up to this point.  They built a tower with all the cups, so they must have successfully completed their mission.  Imagine the shock on their faces when I told them they weren’t done.  That they should try again, perhaps leveling their current creation and starting from scratch.  While some students had a hard time with this, what I saw reinforced my belief that I was headed in the right direction.  Students who are typically disengaged in their educational experience were some of the most engaged in this activity.  They were leaders in their group, they were encouraging the others and there were smiles on their faces.  That is what the Maker Culture can bring to education.  If we get kids to buy into themselves again, to believe that they have value and that time spent in the learning environment is not time wasted, then I think we will be headed in the right direction.

I have been amazed at my experience in this program so far.  I swore I would never get a Master’s degree because school was not something I looked back on with fondness. (I know, that’s a funny thing for a teacher to say!)  See, the thing is, I love learning.  I remember looking through my books and syllabi at the beginning of each semester and feeling excited about the learning possibilities.  Each semester my frustration and disappointment would mount as I found myself sludging through research papers and cramming for multiple choice tests.  In CEP810 I knew I had found something different.  Although I wasn’t able to articulate the difference, I was fully engaged in my assignments, thinking about them even when I wasn’t actively working on them.  After taking CEP811 I now have a better understanding of myself and why this program has resonated so deeply with me.  The assignments (for the most part) don’t ask me to just read and write about theories.  They ask me to play, explore, apply and create.  It is these elements, which are such a part of the Maker Culture, that set this learning experience apart for me.  It is those elements that I hope to bring to, not just my classroom, but beyond that as well.


Edutopia. (2010). James Paul Gee on Grading with Games . Retrieved from http://youtu.be/JU3pwCD-ey0

McHorney, D. (2014). Cup Challenge [photograph].

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