Change is inevitable

Here is a tweet that I wrote less than a month ago.


I think about change all the time and often reflect why some people are so resistant to change?  After all, without change, wouldn’t life be boring?  If my life never changed, I would have never gone to college, grad school, become a teacher, married or had children.  I would have never left the classroom to do professional development for teachers.  I would always be wondering “what if…” Is change scary?  Yes.  Absolutely yes.  But, as one says “change is the only constant.”

Technological Change in the Classroom

I battle technological change daily.  Some teachers tell me “I hate computers”, or “I’m bad with computers”, or even “I can’t do this.”  I find it very ironic when I hear this from my fellow educators.  When I was teaching classroom World Language (French & German), I told my students that they were not allowed to walk into my room and tell me that they could not do the lesson that I had not yet begun to teach.  They had not learned it yet, had no experience and no confidence.  Now, I am facing this same issue with those people educating today’s students.  How strange.

So, what do I do? Just like with my students, I build relationships.  It has taken me four years and I have built many but there is always work to do.  More teachers to reach, more confidence to build.  I believe that this parallels my time in the classroom.  I cannot teach without building that relationship, that trust, first.  How can I make you believe in yourself and push you past your preconceived notion of what you can and can’t do?  I encourage.  I model.  I empathize.  I go off topic (yes, that is important, too.)  I learn while they learn. Then, I do this all over again.

I have found it important to keep my expectations in check.  When I first went into the classroom, I thought that my students would love French and learn quickly.  Anyone who has been in the classroom knows that it is only a very small percentage of students who love the content and learn quickly.  With most students, you have to take baby steps.  Baby steps help to build self-confidence in the student and trust in the instructor.  As I moved out of the classroom and into the professional development world, “take baby steps” has become my mantra.

Change is inevitable.  You might as well embrace it.  Just embrace it in baby steps.


Let’s Hang Out! #NEOtech2016

Learning is Everywhere

When I was doing my teaching internship at Saint Ignatius High School, my mentor teacher continuously told me to “look for the teachable moment”.  As I have gotten more experienced (I hesitate to say “older”), I realize that the teachable moments are everywhere.  In fact, if you look around you, learning is everywhere.

Going Beyond the Four Walls

Classrooms are relatively small yet many teachers spend 180 or more days in their classroom.  In my classroom, I had one small window.  There were days when I yearned to go on a field trip, take my students outside, or even just go out into the hallway.  But, we were contained in those four walls.

The Web Cam

I was fortunate to live overseas as a child, so I know, first-hand what else is out there.  For the first few years of my teaching career in the World Languages Department, I struggled to teach my students what else was out there.  I could explain and explain, narrate and narrate, etc. but truly, they did not get it.  Even when I showed the “great” travel videos that I had borrowed from the library, they were still unimpressed.

One glorious day, I received a web cam.  Honestly, I do not remember the circumstance why I was granted this beautiful piece of technology, but there it was so delicately placed on top of my computer monitor.  I looked at that and the world opened up for me and my students.  Good-bye travel videos, hello real people, telling real stories! It was marvelous and a French/German teacher’s dream.

After Skype Came Hangouts

I was only with my sweet web cam for a few short months before I left my classroom to work district wide.  Fortunately, my new monitor had my favorite piece of technology also sitting atop.  I had previously used Skype and was tied to talking to one person at one time.  Also, Skype had to be downloaded on to a PC, which is another obstacle that I had to face.  I could download on my home computer, but not my work one.

Soon after I came into my new job in 2013, I learned about Google Hangouts.  Like Skype, you could video chat with people. One big difference was that more than one person could join that Hangout.  This meant that you could talk to multiple people, in different places all at the same time.  All you needed was a web cam.

Hanging Out

This brings me to my presentation today.  If you are in my session, you will have the opportunity to take part in a Mystery Hangout (providing the technology is working).  If you are not in my session, I encourage you to Google “Mystery Hangout” and see what you can find.  You will be surprised to see how engaged your students will be when you connect them to the world outside of the four walls of your classroom.

And, don’t forget…you need that web cam!

Click here for today’s slides

EdCite #OETC16

If you are reading this, perhaps you joined me in my session this morning at OETC16.  If you missed the session, I hope to provide you some insight on how and why we need to create interactive assessments for our students.

“These tests are not going away.”

Today, I was in a session where the leader was talking about preparing our students for online assessments.  One thing that she said stuck with me for the rest of the evening.  “These tests are not going away.”

I’ll admit, I am not a fan of standardized testing.  I was never very good at standardized tests, although I did very well in school and now have a successful career.  I have never understood how one’s intelligence can be measured by a test that is taken on one day.  Baffling.

With that being said, standardized tests have existed for a long time.  The presenter today was correct – they are not going away.  We just have to better prepare our students for the assessments that they are required to take.  The difference between their assessments and mine ( ** years ago) – their assessment is digital.

How can I prepare my students?

Back in the day, when I had to prepare for any type of standardized assessment, I went to the bookstore, bought a book and did the tests in the book.  I used a pencil, made flashcards and worked my way through something like this:

sat verbal workout

My test was going to be paper and pencil, so that is how I practiced.  In the 1990s, I had no option.  It wasn’t until college, that I even had internet (dial up).

Digital Preparation

So, if I prepped for my paper and pencil tests with paper and pencil, and our students are taking online tests, shouldn’t they be prepping online?  I feel like this is an obvious statement, but a fact that many people tend to miss.  We don’t want the technology to prevent the students from succeeding on the tests.  We cannot assume that they know, understand or feel comfortable using a computer, keyboard and mouse to take a high stakes assessment.  Most of the time that we sit kids at a computer, it is to play a game.  And, now, all of a sudden, they are doing high stakes assessments?  I would feel nervous and probably wouldn’t perform very well, either.

Interactive Assessments

Last year, a 4th grade teacher introduced me to  She told me that she was using EdCite to prepare her students for the PARCC assessments and that she liked the website because it allowed her students to practice the tech skills needed to complete an assessment online.

I began to explore the website and found that I liked it too!  I began to encourage other teachers in my district to use it and as I talked to more teachers, I found that some had already been using it.

Click here for my slides from OETC16

If you would like to try to take an assessment, you can click on this link.  ASSESSMENT  You don’t even need to have an account to take my assessment!

In the classroom setting, I recommend that you and your students have EdCite accounts (by the way, these are FREE).  The easiest way to create an account is to “Sign in With Google.”  Once the teacher signs in and creates a class, a class code is generated.  This is the code that you can give to your students to join your class.  If you are familiar with Google Classroom, it works in the same way.  This is minimal work for the teacher.

In my opinion, the best place to start is in “Assignments”.  Teachers have two choices in EdCite.  First, to create their own content, or, second, to use the teacher created content in the EdCite library.  I am very picky about what my students see in an assessment. So, I suppose that my preference is to create my own content.  I will then have more ownership over it and I will know how best to prepare my students.  But, in a time crunch, teachers can go into the EdCite library and use whatever content they want.

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I have no time

Generally, teachers have very little time.  In this case, go to the library and use the resources there!  Any question that is in the library has been tagged with standards.  Now, this is the tricky part.  Keep in mind that this is teacher created content.  So, if a teacher incorrectly tags his/her content, it will be difficult for you to find.  As you curate more content, you will begin to know the content providers.  You can then search their particular content.  This is a big time saver.

Once you find an assessment that you like (make sure you preview it), you can copy the assessment to save it into your own account.  When you save it, you can assign it. EdCite generates a “Quick Link” to share with your students.  The “Quick Link” is the easiest way to get to the assessment.

I have all the time in the world

Well, maybe one day, I will have all the time in the world…But, if you do, you can create your own content in EdCite, or you can pull some questions out of the EdCite library and tweak them to be your own.  You could even pull some of their questions and mix them with some of your own questions!

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If you create your own question, be aware that there are 60 question types in EdCite.  Think about which skills your students need to practice.  Look at the Sample Questions provided by EdCite.  Choose the right question type for the question that you are asking.

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Once you have your questions created, you can add them to your assessment.  Save your assessment and get the quick link.  You can post the quick link in your Google Classroom for the students to easily access it.

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If you are doing this, start small.  Do a three question exit slip.  Get the students in and start slowly easing them into the world of online assessments.  Unfortunately, “these assessments are here to stay.”

Please contact me with any questions or suggestions.

Extending my Boundaries

Trying Something New

Today, I did it.  I practiced what I preached, took a step (or ten) out of my comfort zone and I tried something new.  I did my first Google Hangout on Air broadcast for Professional Development.

A Passion for Presenting

Many people that I encounter every day would prefer not to present to adults.  This makes sense.  We are teachers and every day we present to children.  But, adults?  They are definitely a different breed.  They take out their cell phones, talk to each other, pass notes, make comments under their breath and even sometimes, they may put their head down and take a nap during a presentation.  No, no, I didn’t just describe my class of high school students – really, I am talking about adults!

It is true; adults make a difficult audience.  Especially teachers!  Ask any teacher and he / she will tell you the same thing.  But, for some reason, I love to present to teachers.  I enjoy getting them engaged in something that they may have previously had no interest.  I like the interaction, the Q & A, and the feedback.  I like feeling like I can help them help their students!  It is truly exhilarating to feel the adrenaline flowing through a great presentation and an engaged audience.

Each time that I present, I rely a lot on the audience’s reactions.  I did this while I was in the classroom, too.  I could gauge how interesting (or boring) my lesson was by looking at my room full of students.  Facial expressions give a lot away.  I gear my presentations towards the looks I get from the audience.

Google Hangout on Air

TILO presents

I was very grateful to have the opportunity to present today with Stephanie Sholtis from the Brunswick City School District.  We both agreed to try something new together.  (And, everything is better when you have a friend!)  TILOhio (the Tech Integrator’s Group in Ohio) requested presenters for the online Professional Development, and Stephanie and I signed up.  We presented “15 Excellent Chrome Extensions”.  Neither of us had ever done a PD like this before so we were a little nervous!

The broadcast began and all was well.  We had sound, video and, most importantly, internet.  The introductions had passed and I had even made it through my first extension.  When I went to close my screenshare and pass it over to Stephanie, I got the cascading that often happens when I screenshare in Google Hangouts on Air.  I WAS HORRIFIED.

But, really, what could I do?  Nothing.  I just watched part of the HOA with my kids and Will asked me if I was embarrassed.  I told him the truth, yes, I was but I couldn’t do anything about it.  I told him that I had to take it in stride, like “Pete the Cat”, and say “It’s all good.”

As I watched the HOA this evening, it really wasn’t that bad.  I think that the faces that I made as I was trying to fix my problem were worse than anything.  But, as I told my kids, I moved on.  I continued and I still conveyed the message that I wanted to convey.  Eventually, it started working again and the rest of the presentation continued without any problems.  But, it was a difficult presentation to do because I couldn’t see any of the reactions of my audience.

Lessons Learned

My lessons learned: Do more “blind” presentations, without seeing the reactions of an audience.

My boys’ lessons learned: Sometimes Mom has to be like Pete the Cat and say, “It’s all good.”

Your lesson learned: 15 Excellent Chrome Extensions – try them at home or in school!