New Vocabulary ~ Take a Chance!

New lingo, language, boohaha, jargon ~ whatever you want to call it -- technology words come to light every day of the year. With the rapid turn of technology in our global environment, students are being exposed to new vocabulary daily. I find it interesting that  we still tackle vocabulary issues each year in testing, yet students have the wider understanding of terms and language that teachers sometimes miss. Why? Any educator can tell you...it is all about context! 

In a recent discussion about literacy with a national roundtable of educators, eight of the ten people at the table struggled with the use of technical vocabulary that eighth graders were able to breeze through in a short quiz.  Then the question surfaced of WHY? Many ideas surfaced but as educators we know that it is often about context. Our students operate in a world where 20,000 - 30,000 pieces of media, if not more, hit them daily through access to our global networks. They are connected. 

I am not saying anything we don’t know or haven’t heard before. Teachers tend to have limited use of social texting (I know don’t groan...) gaming, business vocabulary, and other technical resources that our students access in a myriad of ways. Just ask my husband who actively promotes the reading of WIRED, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, PC World and a few other geek magazines at home and Slashdot online.  My kids race to the mailbox to hold them hostage, read and devour them and they access them online as well. We now have permanent mail collectors in the house due to “first access” rights to the monthly magazines. In fact, new boundaries have been set to eliminate the disappearance of the new issues into the vault of each of the boy’s  bedrooms. Sometimes it is an annoyance, but in reality they are increasing their comprehension, vocabulary, and ability to make connections. In many senses teachers do the same.

We read to learn, and learn as we teach. Educators can name a million educational acronyms right? DIBELS, NCLB, ELL, STEM, STEAM, ESEA, RTT, SRI, EM are just a few, and we make connections immediately. We can put them in context in some form or another, define them, use them, and apply them to the workplace whether we like to or not. But, that is where I wonder. Actually, it is where our group stopped and paused... because we discussed the more important question of, “What if learning gave the opportunity for students to access new vocabulary that would be useable to them, and that was what appeared when testing?” After all, the shifts in the new common core standards ask practitioners to use extensive vocabulary, non-fiction and informational text, ideas and comprehension readings that make real world connections.  No kidding. Tell me something I didn’t know already right?  

But think about this instead and model the good practice.  I would challenge you to step out of the box and consider adding some of the more contemporary words to your vocabulary and the vocabulary of your students. Will they be tested on them? Probably not, but I would rather have them prepared for their world, than prepared for a test. Wouldn't you? 

So think on it, and watch TwoGeekyTeachers over the next year. We will make every opportunity to model what we teach in this blog, and share the words we are learning each week with our colleagues online so that we can build our vocabulary too. And to launch the effort...here goes.  I am glad this blog is not a dead tree edition, and that you are reading it online today! 

Dead Tree Edition: A term to describe any document or image that someone prints instead of viewing the comparable item online electronically.  

Pecha Kucha

I first became acquainted with this presentation format at the Denver Nature and Science Inquiry Academy last summer.  It is a week long immersion into inquiry and I came away a changed being.  We have Inquiry Days in my 21st Century Learning Classes and my students often tell me that those are their favorite days!  We have examined ice blocks, I mean really examined with flashlights and probes and adding salt and food coloring and asking questions and trying other things.  It is amazing what you can see in a block of ice.  We have gone into a dark room and used static electricity to light a light bulb.  Inquiry is engaging and magical! As a teacher you have to give up some control and let the questions guide the journey and the lesson.  Your work is to come prepared with something to ask questions about. Pecha Kucha is a way to present all of your learning and can be a wonderful, concise assessment tool.  Students should be learning how and becoming comfortable with presenting.  20 slides at 20 seconds each lets them do that.  You could even start smaller if you wanted depending on the age of your students.  How about 6 slides at 20 seconds each? Or give each student one slide in a collaborative presentation. Set the timer in the powerpoint presentation and then focus on the content and turn it over to the kids to demonstrate their learning.  Here is a video tutorial about how to use Pecha Kucha! And it is fun to say!!!


Creative Freedom Through Being Autonomous

“The ultimate freedom for creative groups is the freedom to experiment with new ideas. Some skeptics insist that innovation is expensive. In the long run, innovation is cheap. Mediocrity is expensive—and autonomy can be the antidote.”   TOM KELLEY General Manager, IDEO”
I know that many people are aware of Daniel Pink and his books which are well received by many. I have read them and thought through the quotes and references, and spent time thinking about  the people he talks about time and time again. This has lead to many searches, and lots of reading, and some things stick with me. The above quote has been pasted on the back of a journal in my briefcase for two years. I haven't been able to get it out of my head for a myriad of different reasons most importantly the focus on creativity and mediocrity. 

As a teacher this is a huge part of my life the idea of mediocrity scares me.Why? I wonder if our current educational system actually leads to more mediocrity than excellence. As educators we know the discussions, we know the comments, we know the push to place blame and reinvent and change, but I wonder if autonomy in two senses could actually be the true difference. Can we allow students to be autonomous in some of their learning? Can we be autonomous in some of our teaching? Don't get me wrong-- I firmly believe in collaboration and working together, but sometimes things need to happen one person at a time. Because sometimes it is one person starts the flame that launches the rocket of innovation, creativity, and ideas. 

I had the deep pleasure of meeting with people from around the world at the Biennial of the Americas here in Denver this week. A convocation of world leaders, great minds, innovative speakers and participants lead to some hard thinking about our future in the western hemisphere. With issues mounting in the areas of poverty, the unstable economies of many countries, and the need for innovation in all realms of business and science the focus always returns to education. The constant comment was how we must make teachers and students work together and that full collaboration is the true skill that students need to succeed in a global society. If I heard collaboration and group work once I heard it thirty times. My mind kept saying...Maybe in part.
 This is where I have to be one of those "polar opposites." I can't collaborate the entire time, I can't make my students collaborate all the time, there has to be flexibility to allow for creativity and geeze I want to help instill that inner passion to learn in them by allowing them to be creative and explore what is meaningful to THEM.Thank goodness one other colleague from Brazil mentioned the value of being a passionate individual learner. Phew!

You see, I believe that there is a passion in each one of us which ignites the need to learn, and if fostered, can lead to great things. Sometimes the true creative side of a child only shows through individual learning. We know that as adults we need downtime... time to think, process, reinvent, and pursue those things that are meaningful to us. I believe that a truly innovative classroom allows for individual inquiry. as well as group inquiry. Period. End of soapbox. 

(Well kind of...maybe...no... I can't let it go that easily.)

As educators, we need to embrace a balance of learning strategies in the classroom to allow autonomous / individual learning  or I am afraid we will see only more mediocrity. As continued pressure for performance on standardized tests shrink the flexibility in planning and delivery of quality lessons, we need to think harder and harder about the fight to allow creativity in the classroom. We need to let students rise out of the shadows of assigned group collaboration to give them the time to be creative in an autonomous way. We can guide them, give them a road map but why not lean to the individual side a bit? Give students a menu of choices. Give them an open ended inquiry project to our students without the fear that they won't perform well on the test.  Let them dream of solutions to problems and come to a conclusion by their own mechanisms. 

Technology tools can help students do this, and share what they are learning on an individual basis as well as a group one. Next time you look at a technology tool. Think about it in two ways: 

1) How can this foster creativity as an individual while building necessary skills and a passion for learning?
2) How can this tool work to provide a bridge to understanding and collaboration in a group setting? 

Now I know some of you are thinking -- Hey I do this... I definitely have built time into my classroom for this.But have you on a regular basis? Have you advocated for it on your team? Have you made a point to say my students don't need to learn the same way and with the same mechanisms? Can you be an autonomous teacher and step out of the standardized box to bring passion and creativity into the classroom

I have been walking by the dragon (the big one in the above picture) in downtown Denver for the last week thinking how beautifully creative he was and how small a little dragon (mine) looks like in comparison.My dragon sits next to me in a loud, shouting sort of way to remind me that life is creative and we are not all the same. Time to once again commit to stepping out of that standardized box to make a difference for students and teachers. I love to collaborate to do that-- but I am going to chase a passion or two at the same time.

Right now.

Youth Summit Students and Teachers Giving Feedback on Amache Exhibit Website

Laura Says: We got to work together today with some of our Youth Summit students from around the state and some cool museum buddies.  They came to give feedback on a site that they helped to brainstorm.  It is about the Amache Exhibit at the Colorado History Museum and replicates much of the experience you would have at the museum.  There were a few glitches that the kids found and they had some great ideas for additional material including ways to involve kids from around the state.  It is so important to provide ways for students to have buy in.  Everyone wins when we take the time to work together!  We will post more about these interactive opportunities and online gems!  
Michelle Says: It was a true gift to hear the wealth of knowledge come from these guys and the director of education at the museum and a couple of educators nudged them with some great questions.But it was the kids that caught my attention... from the comments about how one of the interactive games should operate, to the wording of the scrapbook and captions, they had a lot to say and it was all valid. (even more amazing was when a certain browser did not work and they effortlessly tried typical admin solutions like changing to other browsers and settings without asking. Windows/Mac  iPhone, iPad, they were all over each device without a blink. They are navigation whiz kids! ) Their feedback helped the staff of History Colorado understand how kids would walk through an online exhibit site. I think one of the best things was to see them relate the information in the online exhibit to their recent field study at Amache, and their school projects and summer time spent on Mindcraft and other games and websites. They had very determined ideas about the stories that should be told and what themes rose to the surface of the exhibit. 



My school is contemplating an introduction into the world of BYOD.  I came across this article that includes numerous resources to help with that decision.  Budgets are forcing us to consider options like this in order to provide opportunities for kids to utilize technology.  What do you think?  Click on this link to read more about and access 20 BYOD Resources for 21st Century Schools!  


Michelle Attends Biennial of Americas

July 19, 2013  

Proud to be with educational leaders at the Biennial of Americas at History Colorado talking about the future of technology in education and early childhood education. The ideas are flowing already!

International round table on early education... Nicaragua, Canada, Brazil, US, Chile, Argentina, and Mexico. Many translators and incredible voices here today!

Technology allows people to access education... something that was once only a dream but is now a reality-- an education. Some classrooms look the same now as they did 100 years ago. We need to look at the flipped classroom model and thinkabout how technology will better serve our students. Currently 40% of our online students are from the developing world. The capacity of the developing world cannot handle the want and need for education. Now with technology we can provide access to education around. We can turn education from something for the few to a basic human right. ~Daphne Koller (Coursera)

How do we work together to create an international system that advocates for students from cradle to career? We have a desperate need for pre-k education and the cost of college is a huge issue and we need to make a massive investment. We need to get great teachers to at-risk communities. If we want to build a thriving middle class and upwards mobility for all then we have to focus on education. ~Arne Duncan, DOE

And ... after a long hot panel.. Secretary Duncan send a shout out to the NNSTOY crowd for a great conference this week and "was thrilled with the energy and ideas shared." Yay!

How cool-- Discovery Education is recognizing the power of multimedia and the average 8th and 9th grader and that engagement is their developmental future. By looking at the power of Netflix and harnessing servers to deliver multimedia and video to the far reaches of developing countries we can make a difference in new ways. We know that engagement is trans-formative for students! ~John Hendricks, Discovery Communications

Thanks Sen. Udall...for all you do for positive Ed reform and for as always asking how the preservation efforts of the Youth Summit gang are going! That was a fast 5 minute update but thanks for climbing the mountain for educators and students!!

Ok is it too geeky to say I just had one of the best chats of the day with the CEO of Netflix... Geek goosebumps!! His comment about his user demographics... Primarily under 40. Yup. I have a household to prove it!!


Avatars! Avatars! Avatars!

Laura's Doppleme!
We utilize edmodo for classroom organization and after a recent conference, we are looking at schoology but not sure we want to make the switch. We always start by having the kids sign up and create an avatar. There are some avatars in edmodo but not a huge choice. Our favorite is Doppleme. We don't even create an account, just create your doppleme and then use the snipping tool or right click and save the image to your computer. Then you can upload it into edmodo as your avatar! Click on Laura's face for a link to Doppleme or check out this link to a site with many other options for creating free avatars!!  http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/11-sites-to-create-cartoon-characters-of-yourself/

Tech Tools for the Elementary Classroom

#1 – Livebinders
Ok, Livebinders is kind of amazing!!!  So think about the binders you have in your classroom that hold all of your resources.  It’s just like that, but web based!!  You can access those resources from any computer, anywhere!  You need to create an account, but it’s F-R-E-E!    You can view other people’s binders as well!  
Have you ever been to a restaurant or a store and seen those signs that say “Text ‘blahblahblah’ to 55552 to receive coupon codes”?  Well this is just like that!!  You can give your parents a code to text to a number and then you can send them updates via text message!  A good example of this would be to remind them of upcoming tests, parent conference reminders, school event reminders, etc.  SO COOL, right?  Check it out!
#3 Kerpoof
It is a bright, colorful website where you can create movies, cards, drawings, and little books/stories!  This would be awesome to have students use this to create a drawing and/or picture to go with a story they wrote!
“ZooBurst is a digital storytelling tool that lets anyone easily create his or her own 3D pop-up books.”  This is similar to Kerpoof, but it’s a tad bit more user friendly (in my opinion).  So this would probably be great to use in primary classrooms.  This is also available as an app so you can have it on you iPad!
 It’s like all your bookmarks on one screen!  It creates little “tiles” for you.  You can also create different “webmixes”.  You can have a “webmix” for math and bookmark all your favorite math sites there.  You can create one for language arts, and have all of your favorite online language arts resources right there.  You can also search for other people’s tiles and add them to your “webmix”.  And they tiles are cute little icons, which is great if you are a visual person like me!  It might sound a little confusing now, but go check out the website and play around on it and you will see what I’m talking about!!  You MUST check this one out!!  It’s amazing!  Here is a symbaloo that I have posted on my library website:

TIPS on Reflection, Picture Editing and 21st Century Learning

Are you an Adapter?

21st Century Learning

Adding Google Apps to your Mobile Devices

Here are some directions for adding Google Apps to your Mobile Devices.  Substitute the Adams 12 login information for your district or school information.


Project Your iPad Wirelessly!

The iPad becomes a great whole-class teaching tool when it is connected to a projector. However, that hasn’t always been easy to do...

For a couple of years now (since the introduction of the iPad 2), teachers have been able to display their iPad on a projector using a $29 VGA adaptor. It was great for sharing, but the teacher was tethered to a specific location - and the adaptor didn’t stay attached to the iPad very well.

Shortly after, it was discovered that you could do a wireless display with the help of an Apple TV ($99) and an HDMI to VGA converter ($30). A nice option, but rather expensive.

Now there are two great and inexpensive (less than $15) options for doing a wireless display from the iPad (or an iPhone 4S or 5) to a projector. Actually, you will need to display to a computer that is connected to a projector, but you probably already have that setup.

The two apps that are available are:
1) Reflection - http://reflectionapp.com/
2) AirServer - http://www.airserverapp.com/


Here are the general directions. (You’ll find more specific instructions at the website for each tool.)

  1. 1.Download either Reflection or AirServer to your computer (the one that  is connected to your projector, of course).
  2. 2.Make sure your iPad and your computer are on the same wireless network.
  3. 3.Open Reflection or AirServer on your computer.
  4. 4.On the iPad:
    a. Double-tap the home button.
    b. Swipe your finger across the bottom of the screen from left to right.
    c. Tap the AirPlay icon.
    d. Select your computer.
    e. Turn on Mirroring.

  5. 5.Now your iPad will display onto the computer and of course also onto the projector. Even the audio will come through to the computer. Pretty awesome, huh.

Important notes:

  1. -You need to install the software on your computer. You do not need to install anything on the iPad.
  2. -Both Reflection and AirPlay are available for Mac and PC.
  3. -The AirPlay icon will not show up on the iPad unless it detects an airplay device on the same wireless network.
  4. -The original iPad does not do video mirroring. This only works with the iPad 2, the new iPad, the iPhone 4S, and the iPhone 5.
  5. -These tools do not work on all networks. If you can’t get it to work on yours, check with your school’s tech support person to see if the AirPlay option is blocked.
  6. -I would recommend downloading trial versions of both Reflection and AirServer to see which one works best in your classroom before making a purchase.
  7. -Both software packages are in initial stages and can sometimes be a little “buggy.” However, both companies are working hard to deal with problems - and they offer free updates as they improve things.

21st Century Libraries and Teacher Librarians Must Evolve and are an Indispensable part of Successful Schools!

From the June 2013 issue of Teacher-Librarian journal by David Loertscher and Elizabeth "Betty" Marcoux:
There isn't a more relevant book out on what is happening and can be happening in school libraries today. An update to Johnson's 1997 edition, this second edition embraces technology and clearly states that transformation isn't an option for school library programs today. It has practical strategies and solutions for many concerns teacher librarians have today in their programs, and it stealthily encourages teacher librarian professionals to not only be on the "bandwagon" of change, but also to lead it. Johnson explores a range of school library issues, from planning success, embracing and influencing curriculum, to sheer survival of the program. Not to be missed. Highly recommended.
David Loertscher is a must read for Librarian Reformers!


Diane Ravitch on Education

Please allow me an editorial moment,
BAM!  Diane!  Exactly!


Global Read Aloud

Since 2010, I have been partnering with our 4th grade teachers to add content to the Global Read Aloud Wiki.  It has been an amazing experience.  The teachers read the book aloud in their classroom and then in 21st Century Learning class we create Animotos, iMovies, Popplets and other activities to discuss and demonstrate our learning.  We read the book with other kids around the world on an agreed upon schedule.  We are able to embed technology products created by the students about that section of reading, Skype with others reading the book and open lines of communication!  It is a One Book One World experience.  This year, they added an upper grades text and I can't wait to find some partners with that title.  Explore and sign up, you won't be sorry!


Common Core APP

Common Core is coming up in every local and national conversation about education.  45 states have adopted these standards to drive their instruction.  We have added the Mastery Connect APP to our Blog (see the right hand side of the Blog for easy access).  There is a handy APP for your iPad or iPhone to download as well.

MasteryConnect has designed a wonderful app to keep the Common Core State Standards at your fingertips. Navigate the app by choosing your students' grade and subject area to access detailed information about each standard. There are even extra resources to support educators working with English-Language Learners and students with special needs. The clean and simple interface will have you abandoning gritty photocopies and referring to the app every time you're planning a lesson or unit of study.


Maker Virtual Summer Camp

Wow!  What isn't available online?  MAKE magazine is hosting a virtual Maker Camp starting today and running through August 16th. The virtual camp features new DIY projects that students can do at home or school as individuals or in groups. A new project is posted each day. Daily Google+ Hangouts will offer tips for completing each project. Students can share their projects in the Maker Camp Google+ Community. I think I am going to try making the iPhone charger for my bike next weekend!!!


Best Classroom App for Curriculum Delivery

Nearpod is an amazing app that allows a teacher to deliver curriculum to students through iPads and iPods.  The teacher controls the delivery and speed and the students have ways to individualize their insturction, contribute to the class discussion and work with the media through a variety of methods.  It is amazing!  Read here about how Nearpod was started and  changed a whole school.  Upload the App to see it in action!  My favorite feature is the ability to upload a current presentation and turn it into a Nearpod lesson!

We've Gone Wiki Crazy!

After some reflection on all of the wiki's that we have created for different presentations here and there, we are posting a few.  They are varied and reflect the needs of the people we are working with or presenting to.  We try to differentiate our presentations and model what teachers should be doing with students in the classroom.  Here are a few examples:

Thompson Valley21st Century LearningTop Tech ToolsUniversity of Wyoming