Sunday, August 11, 2019

Caching out of Summer...

As I shift focus from summer learning to the 2019-2020 school year I find myself looking back and reflecting on the summer learning opportunities and which pieces I can bring to my practice. One theme that resonates with me is the infinite possibilities with technology. Whether connecting students to the 9/11 memorial via Google Expeditions, or promoting student voice in the classroom, technology has the potential to transform the learning journey.

Approximately, five years ago I distinctly remember having a conversation with my superintendent about our iPads and how students viewed them as a gaming device. The device was new to education but not new to our young learners. Through this conversation I shared my vision that as we continue to use the ipad (or other devices) in education to enhance learning the shift from “gaming device” to “learning tool’ would naturally and gradually happen. These infinite possibilities with technology and this shift to “learning tool” were very evident at ISTE 19.

Ask yourself, “How can you create an opportunity not possible without the technology” is a common statement and something I hear regularly. During my first day at ISTE 19 I was surrounded by examples of learning opportunities not possible without technology. I spent most of that day in poster sessions that focussed on Augmented (AR) and Virtual (VR) Reality. There were so many examples of students virtually traveling to and experiencing things that many could never physically visit. There were examples of students creating things in three dimensional environments, printing and reflecting on how it could be improved, replicated and shared. Besides the opportunities to promote curiosity and wonder, AR/VR in the classroom provides opportunities that were previously impossible or inaccessible for most.

“One of the most powerful ways we can promote student voice in the classroom comes from the purposeful use of technology.” This quote from Holly Clark also represents a way to enhance learning with technology. Not only can technology allow us to hear from ALL students, it also creates a new level of transparency in the learning process. This was particularly evident in the announcements coming from FlipGrid. In addition to Flipgrid, utilizing tools like Seesaw and Adobe Spark, can also create opportunities for visible thinking and learning.

You may still debate the idea of learning tool vs gaming device. We must continue to promote curiosity, inspire students to find their passion for learning and create spaces for choice and voice. Together we can enhance learning and provide opportunities not possible without the technology. Here’s to another great year of learning, growing and collaborating.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Connect, Expand, Share...

Last February I was working with some teachers in my district to help students build background knowledge prior to reading the Book, Woodsong by Gary Paulsen. We were brainstorming various basic ideas; google searching images, websites and articles online. I just knew that we could do more and that technology allows this. I decided to reach out to my friend Andrew Chlup @chlupa. Andrew is a tech director in Alaska and I met him at ISTE17. This communication created an amazing learning opportunity for our 6th grade students. Students and teachers from Alaska shared information regarding the role of mushing in Alaska, the geographic relationship with mushing in Alaska including weather and equipment and also the mechanics of mushing. We were able to use a Zoom connection with their Alaska class and our three 6th grade classes in Nebraska to connect, learn and share.

This experience was made possible not only by technology but by connections. The connection made at IST17. When attending conferences we all go “in” with goals to learn something about a specific topic or idea. We listen, learn, take notes and think of ways to implement these things in our own classrooms or jobs back in our buildings. But, how do you keep this learning sustainable? How do you share this with others? Whether attending ISTE, EDCamp or NETA, how do you implement what you have learned, share it and keep it going beyond the two or three days of the actual conference or event. The above example was a connection I took away from ISTE17 and was able to create a learning opportunity and connection for students in my own district.

Since this experience, I have been thinking of ways to take learning from blogs, conferences and podcasts and expand on it. I really wanted to take what I learned throughout the
Alaska Connection” and other learning experiences and create a “Nebraska” connection. With some collaboration, brainstorming, problem solving and together with Katie Pfanstiel we have created a plan. We are currently working on a virtual learning opportunity with her students called: Connecting Nebraska the Good Life.

So, as you prepare for spring learning opportunities I have a challenge for you. Whether you are attending a conference, listening to a podcast or reading a blog post, how can you expand and share your learning? What other opportunities can you create? How can you take this beyond the ten minute podcast or two day conference. Strive for something bigger, something sustainable… make the connection...

If you would like to follow our Connection Nebraska journey feel free to check it out at:

Monday, January 14, 2019

Alexa: More than a Student Flash Briefing

Amazon Alexa is just one personal assistant device popular in many homes. Whether you have Alexa, Google or any other personal assistant device, it's a way to conveniently consume content. What if this content was related to news, updates and celebrations in your school or district? Thanks to Taylor Siebert and Striv we have been able to build on this idea and provide a student opportunity that is also a win for our community.

Here's how we got started at Northwest:

1. A Shared Google Doc: The weekly flash briefing is shared via a Google Doc. Collaboratively we share ideas, reminders and celebrations. Notes are turned into a story for a weekly audio recording.

2. Cell Phone: You have plenty of options here but our student content creators prefer phones for recording the written script. Recordings are usually done in our green screen room.

3. Alexa Audio Upload: Obviously, there are a few tech requirements and specifics to incorporate directly with an Alexa Skill. We are provided this service by STRIV.

Here is where we are going:

Knowing Alexa is not something in everyone's home, we wanted to expand our reach. We had the writing and the audio already, we just needed another way to share. Headliner was suggested as an audio tool that also had easy download and sharing options. By taking the audio file already recorded, uploading it to headliner and adding a background image we had a shareable file with news, announcements and updates. We also had options to share captions right within the recording. Our headliner creations are shared on our school's Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts weekly. This has expanded our reach and helped bring more content into homes of our followers.

Our Alexa Skill content creation team has been going strong for almost a year. What started as just another task for me has evolved into a weekly writing, recording and publishing project for students. We currently have a team of two students working collaboratively on each briefing. Both are able to use and explore passions for writing and recording. They are producing content that is heard well beyond the classroom. They are practicing skills that will open doors and opportunities as they move beyond high school. Each week I am in awe of the content and quality they produce. I look forward to the growth of this project, the doors it opens and the celebrations of success. We truly are creating way more than a flash briefing.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

March Madness
March 28-29

"It's not how big you are, it's how big you play." -John Wooden

I am hoping we’ve got your attention now.  Have you heard the news? March Madness 2019 will take a different look this year when over 2,000 teachers, administrators and other school officials connect, collaborate and share at the annual spring NETA conference.  You’ve seen it on social media, read it online and hopefully drank out of a beautiful coffee mug advertising the NEW dates of this Buzzer Beater Event!!  With more than 200 breakout sessions in two days, this conference is sure to “Cut the Net”.  
As your brackets are busting and your sweet 16 picks are turning into March Sadness, you have another chance to win your game.  A chance to team up with more than 2,000 educators across the state to learn, grow and elevate your game. In the words of John Wooden: “It’s how big you play”.  You will play big while you immerse yourself with others who are in it to win it, others who are ready to take their learning to Go BIG or go home.  You will play big as you Hustle with Heart and make the learning happen.
We’ve heard your suggestions and listened to your feedback.  We know The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra. We are giving a little extra and ready to make some shots.  So this fall, when you are giving your all… we hope you make the call! Join us March 28-29 in Omaha!!

Let the Madness begin!!

Tech is Nice and So is Pumpkin Spice...

Tech is Nice and So is Pumpkin Spice... Yes, I know you are reading a lot about pumpkin everything these days so why not connect that seasonal sound to some of my tech favorites!

To some of us coffee is coffee and to some of us tech is tech. However, there are those of us who anxiously await the seasonal coffee favorites such as Pumpkin Spice or Peppermint Mocha. Just like these seasonal trends, there are some tech related trends as well. Some tech tools or trends may seem like the regular coffee and some are that special treat or the Pumpkin Spice. Just to stick with the seasonal trend I will share Five of my "Pumpkin Spice" tech tools.

1. Google Keep: This is Google hidden gem and continues to amaze me. Google Keep has that hidden "spice" that helps keep my desk free of sticky notes, my phone organized with important reminders, and syncs on all of my devices. Google Keep allows me to take pictures, record my voice, color-code, send reminders,  share and track lists, notes, links and so much more. This tool has the "caffeine" I need both personally and professionally.

2. *NEW Gmail: The *New Gmail allows you to quickly take action on your messages. You now have options such as Snooze, Quick Reply or attachment preview. My move favorite new feature is the ability to use Calendar, Keep and Tasks right within mail. Yes, no need to open a new tab. This is like the whipped cream on my Pumpkin Spice Latte... It just hits the spot for productivity and workflow.

3. Seesaw: Nothing says top notch in everything like this student driven digital portfolio. The possibilities with this app are "steaming" and your cup never goes empty on ideas here. With the constant updates to Seesaw activities, the collaboration between teachers across the country, the various social media groups and the consistent support, the opportunities for student learning are endless. You just have to see it to believe it. Whether your students are in Kindergarten or High School, this tool will keep you craving for more. No need to watch your calories with this one... here's MORE.

4. Canva: A "must-have" creation tool. This tool allows users to easily create documents, flyers, social media posts, graphics, invitations, and so much more. Canva puts a lot of "flavor" into any shared creation. And if you want a little more check out their design tips and inspiration for everyone from beginners to professionals. If you manage any social media this tool is a must.

5. Flipgrid: This tool screams feedback and formative assessment. With Flipgrid all students have a voice. With teacher created question prompts, students have opportunities to share their opinion, their learning, ask question, provide examples and even give feedback to others. Flipgrid is spicing up the transparency and differentiation in student learning. Check out Fliphunt #fliphunt for even more “latte” learning

Just like my seasonal coffee favorites, technology tools come and go. It is always hard when a favorite retires or is replaced by a new one. Whether you are set on a few of your own favorites or looking for new ideas, I hope some of these turn out to be that "special treat" your tech tastebuds needed.

Sunday, August 5, 2018


To my friends, fellow teachers, parents, students and social media followers:

It is time for yet another amazing school year. It's time for learning growing and celebrating together. With that comes reflection and goal setting. As I reflect on my summer full of fun, family and professional learning, I decided to put it all into one word. The word I chose is CREATE. Summer for me was full of creation: creating memories, creating opportunities, creating conversations, creating connections, creating challenges, and the list goes on. Creating meant embracing the opportunity to learn, play, grow and accept challenge.

Whether I tried to increase my running speed and almost flew off the back of the treadmill, watched my fearful daughter go from no desire to dive into the pool to diving off the board, watched our youngest master her bike without training wheels, celebrated ten years of marriage or connected with other educators across the country for tips and ideas; Creation was happening  Creation goes beyond the idea tangible things. Creation is conversations, ideas and moments.

So as I gear up for another great year, I want to share my word of the year and challenge you all to do the same. May you all CREATE a year full of memories, opportunities, connections, challenges, ideas and moments. May those moments be  full of memories, memories full of connections, connections full of opportunities and opportunities full of challenges. This my friends, will create a great year!!

Best wishes to a great 2018-2019 school year!!


Friday, December 15, 2017

Be Internet Awsome

Teach it: Be Internet Awesome

Recently I had the privilege of attending Google’s Be Internet Awesome training at the Google headquarters in Chicago. Not only was this an opportunity to learn, but also a check on my bucket list of AWESOME things to experience. Google tools and resources have become a huge part of many schools.  They are constantly adding, updating and listening to educators as they work to improve and meet the needs of educators and students.  Besides all of the tools in their Suite, they have many other awesome things to offer.  Speaking of AWESOME...
Access: This is the first time in history that a generation is growing up with constant Access to the Internet.  In fact, 79% of teens (and younger) have their own smartphone.  Students (and adults) have access to information at their fingertips. Today technology is being used both personally and educationally.  Schools across the country are purchasing and providing devices for students.  With this access, many are thinking about digital citizenship and how to reach and teach the importance of being a digital leader, managing digital identity, engaging in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior and understanding/respecting the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property.

We: When it comes to Digital Citizenship and being Internet awesome, We are in this together.  As educators, we need to embrace the teachable moments regarding digital leadership and building a positive digital presence. According to the Family Online Safety Institute, educators are the most trusted source to maximize benefits and minimize harms of technology for children. It is important to remember Digital Citizenship IS citizenship!! Google has done an amazing job with their NEW: Be Internet Awesome curriculum.  Aligned with the ISTE standards for students, Be Internet awesome creates opportunities to learn and explore the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety in an interactive environment. Be Internet Awesome is a FREE online resource with no login or account required. With easy access students and families can learn together. Together WE can be a team and promote, model and teach digital citizenship.
Edtech: Edtech Defined: Education technology, or “edtech,” is the study and practice of teaching and learning processes and strategies that incorporate devices, apps, programs, and media. Edtech can be used in traditional classrooms, at home, and as part of learning in almost any setting. Many schools have devices for students and many of them have a device for each student.  Not only does this provide access to so many resources, but also opportunities for students to connect, collaborate, create and think critically.  Edtech is creating opportunities to transform teaching and learning.  Students do not need teachers to deliver all information as so much is at their fingertips.  
Security: Security is not always on the  top of the list with students, but as parents and adults we often think and wonder about security with accounts, devices and social media use.  One thing I learned during my Be Internet Awesome day at Google was that security is priority.  Whether you are using a Chrome enabled device or account, Google is on point with security features.  Did you know they even offer $100,000 if you can hack a Chromebook?  
Opportunities: It seems as if we always talk about all the opportunities our students have when it comes to devices, apps, tools and extensions.  These opportunities are only as good as the purpose.  Google has Nailed it with Be Internet Awesome.  Not only do they have specific lessons focused on Being Internet Awesome, they break it down into Five key parts associated with being a responsible digital citizen.  Students learn the importance of Being SMART, ALERT, STRONG, KIND and BRAVE.  Included in the curriculum are lesson plans for the five topics, with activities and worksheets that were designed to complement Interland. Kids can play their way to being Internet Awesome with Interland, an online adventure that puts the key lessons of digital safety into hands-on practice with four challenging games.
Me: Being Internet Awesome is for adults too.  So many times we focus on what we are telling our kids and we forget that they are watching our online actions too.  It is  important to reflect on these questions: Are you internet Awesome? Do you portray yourself as a digital leader? Have you Googled yourself? What does YOUR digital footprint look like? How secure is your password? These are just a few things to consider when reflecting on your digital presence and what you model for kids.  After all, they learn from both our successes and failures.  
Education: Education is key!  There is no other way to put it.  Assuming because students are “digital natives” that they can appropriately operate and navigate a device is a false assumption.  The access and possibilities related to technology cannot be underestimated.  IF we can get teachers and students excited about what access to technology can do for learning, the safety and digital citizenship will come along with it.  In education when our kids do not know how to read, we teach them, when they do not know how to write, we teach them, when they do not know how to practice online safely….. We NEED to teach them. We need to partner with families, be a model, and together teach and promote digital leadership and online responsibility.

So many great things were shared and discussed at Chicago’s Be Internet Awesome event. Of all those things, a stand out to me is partnering with parents.  Whether we bring them in, share resources, or have conversations to learn together, we need to be a team.  Below are some of the amazing resources shared by some of the presenters. I would love to chat more and work with others who are on a similar mission to collaborate, educate and create digital leaders in their communities.  Together we are better!!

Connect Safely Guides- Collection of short guidebooks for parents about popular apps, services, and platforms popular with kids from Connect Safely who host Safer Internet Day.

How Secure Is My Password- Check your password strength and how long it will take for your password to be hacked.

Family Online Safety Institute- Resources and toolkits for talking to parents and students about digital safety. Schools may request a free presentation to share to help you have positive digital parents.

LEAP Innovations- Within the LEAP personalized learning framework there are samples of contracts to have with students about good digital citizenship and rules to keep them safe online. There are also strategies for being a learner connected.

Be Internet Awesome - Games and curriculum to help teach students to be internet smart, alert, strong, kind and brave! Kids can play their way to being Internet Awesome with Interland, an online adventure that puts the key lessons of digital safety into hands-on practice with four challenging games. Teachers can download the curriculum to use with students.

Digital Citizenship & Safety Course for Educators- Learn why we teach digital citizenship and safety, online safety on the go, savvy searching, how to stay safe from phishing and more in this short certification course.

NEW: Family Link (for Android devices)- Create a Google Account for your child that's like your own and lets parents manage apps, keep an eye on screen time and set timers on the device.