Posted in 1:1 devices, blog, BYOD, edtech, engagement, inspiration, iPads, lesson plans, Nearpod, PBL, PD, professional development, teaching

Technology is NOT Innovation

There was a great Twitter discussion last night entitled “Using Technology vs. Innovating with HiResTechnology.”  facilitated the discussion, which focused on technology integration, and what it means in terms of being an innovative educator. As a PBS Digital Innovator, I thought the discourse was very thought-provoking. There was a general consensus that the use of digital technology was not indicative of an “innovative classroom.”
In other words, any student can be handed an electronic device, but that doesn’t mean the student is learning or engaged. I see examples of this in my own 1:1 iPad classroom. Always looking for ways to be a better teacher (hence, using Twitter for my own professional development), I noticed that technology and engagement are not hand-in-hand. It is how I frame the edtech that counts.
Lessons have to be crafted carefully to minimize distractions beyond that of a paper-and-pencil classroom. I also have to change up apps or tasks on the iPads to make sure I am introducing novelty and increasing chances of student interest. For example: when I’ve used Nearpod, I need to change up my embedded activities, questions, and seek out deeper thinking. I have to remember to stimulate my students’ metacognition. zpmetacognition
One teacher’s comments particularly struck me:

“A4 Innovation means letting go of traditional constructs and being open to letting go of some control to change thinking”
“A5 Communicate the learning goal clearly w Ss, then let THEM choose the tools and tasks they’ll use to discover. Innovation.”

EdTech Professional Development
The Twitter discussion also highlighted a need for better/more edtech PD for teachers. I would agree with this. I think there is a lot of PD out there, but it has a glass ceiling. In my building, I am asked to help facilitate professional development in edtech with my colleagues, but there is often a lack of PD left for my own further development.
For teachers that want to explore their lessons and how to use tech to bring the students’ experiences to the next level, we don’t need a book of possible apps or to hear about how one innovationspeaker applied their knowledge of tech in the field. We don’t need to hear about one or two project-based learning (PBL) experiences.
Ok then, what do we need for great tech PD? In my opinion, we need to get our hands in it. We need to take our lesson plans and amp them up. We need access to and guidance from experts…mentorship. We need a PBL expert to offer us support. It is great to listen and be inspired by others, but if we are not actively practicing and honing our pedagogical and engagement skills, then the PD can only be effective to a point.
If you use Twitter, I encourage you to check out the hashtag above. It will connect you with a great series of posts and discussions about making ourselves better users and innovators of technology!
LMK what you think in the comments below, and have a great day!

Posted in blocks, blog, edtech, engagement, inspiration, museums, play, unplugging


This blog is about using new literacies or digital tools to create an inspired, engaged educational experience for all. But I think I would be remiss if I didn’t include the importance of unplugging…or stepping away from edtech. “Everything in moderation” we say, right? “Too much of a good thing” we say, right?
So this Spring Break, I decided to make a concerted effort to pay less attention to my passion for tech, and more attention to something infinitely more important: my sons Eamon & Eoin. They are 5 and almost 2, respectively.
Inspired by some articles I’ve read (here is one of them). I took them all by myself on a road trip to the The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y. Sure, I used “tech” to snap a few pictures here and there, but it was a day of pure play. Hands-on FullSizeRender_4displays, activities, etc. It actually felt indulgent to put down the tech, and focus on the boys. We played, laughed, hugged, and had one of the best days I can remember as a parent.
What are your best examples of unplugging?
Have a great day,

Posted in books, Common Core, conference, engagement, inspiration, literacy, NFRC, presentation, professional development, reading, teaching

Motivation to Read in the Age of Common Core

I had the pleasure of attending the Niagara Frontier Reading Council Spring 2015 Brunch on Saturday April 25th. Linda Gambrell from Clemson University spoke.
Here were my take-aways:

  • Spoken language and text language are two different languages
  • There is a second grade slump being observed – a decrease in motivation as students become aware of their proficiency
  • Reading success isn’t necessarily about ability, but opportunities to read. By increasing opportunities to read, we are increasing a student’s chances of reading success.
  • Ybarra et al (Feb 2007): Social interaction and mental exercise both increase cognitive functioning. Intellectual conversation positively affects working memory. What students talk about, they learn best and remember the longest.
  • Have students engage in a conversation about the material you are teaching: “What are the 3 most important things a person ought to know about _____?”
  • In read-alouds, give students a preview of several texts and let them vote on what they’d like to hear. This will increase student interest in the read aloud.
  • When given book choices, there are “flippers” and “wanderers.” This might be due to some readers not knowing how to properly choose a ‘just right’ book.
  • In Self Selected Reading (SSR) – students should have a NOW book, a NEXT book, and a QUICK read in their book boxes/bins. This encourages sustainability and alleviates a student being stuck with a text that doesn’t engage them.
  • The volume/amount of silent reading in schools is directly related to gains in reading and achievement.
  • All good readers know the next book they are going to read.
  • Instead of books labeled easy-medium-hard, have books labeled hard-harder-hardest!
  • Bless the Books: give snippets of books available to get students interested in picking them
  • Have a sign in your classroom the tells what you are currently reading, to ask you about it, what you are going to read next, and an invitation to share what the student is reading
  • Students LOVE hearing “I know a book you would love…”

Overall, the Niagara Frontier Reading Council does a fabulous job providing a community for professionals and educators. The professional development they offer has definitely helped me become the passionate, motivated teacher I feel that I am. Check out their website, and feel free to engage with them on social media:
Here was a poem Linda Gambrell also shared, that I thought was clever:



I have a brief confession
that I would like to make.
If I dont get it off my chest
I’m sure my heart will break.
I didn’t do my reading.
I watched TV instead—
while munching cookies, cakes, and chips
and cinnamon raisin bread.
I didn’t wash the dishes.
I didn’t clean the mess.
Now there are roaches eating crumbs—
a million, more or less.
I didn’t turn the TV off.
I didn’t shut the light.
Just think of all the energy
I wasted through the night.
I feel so very guilty.
I did a lousy job.
I hope my students don’t find out
that I am such a slob.

Have a great day!

Posted in 1:1 devices, blog, BYOD, clicker system, conference, edtech, formative assessment, iPads, Nearpod, presentation, teaching

Nearpod: Triumph from Tragedy!

It has been a solid two months since I had an operational SmartBoard in my classroom. The projector decided it had enough of this world, and went to “projector heaven.” This was probably the most inconvenient time for this to happen too, as it was right before our January 2015 midterms when I was really combing through the curriculum with my students.
I felt like a fish out of water. Maybe I had become too reliant on one teaching mechanism? I don’t know.  All of a sudden, I felt like I had to improvise to teach with both arms tied behind my back. It was a crisis.
Despite the fact that I had been running a paperless classroom that utilizes 1:1 iPads for all my students, I still felt myself scrambling with no presentation device to deliver/review material with all the “tech” around me.

Enter: Nearpod

188_1070x490We have a technology “guru” named Eric that visits our school about once a month, and sets up a quasi-help desk for teachers in our faculty dining room. He travels to several independent secondary schools in Buffalo, and his role is to offer, training, support, and ideas for anything pedagogical and/or technological.
Broken and dejected, I approached Eric with my dilemma. He suggested I look into Nearpod. He explarocking06ined that it was a presentation tool where I could broadcast a live, interactive session onto the devices in the room. Each student could have the presentation right in front of them, rather than glaze over while staring at the SmartBoard. He told me that I can embed interactive questions to check for understanding, polls, and other items to turn the iPads in the room into a “clicker system.”
I’ll admit, change is not easy. But the moment I logged into Nearpod, it was as if a whole new realm of opportunities presented itself. It was so easy to import my PowerPoint presentations. It also didn’t take me long to get the hang of adding what Nearpod calls “activities.”
The first time I presented this with my 137 students, they clamored for more. “Are we going to use this again?” said one student. “I really liked going over stuff this way!” said another.
Clearly one app or website is not the cure-all for all instructional needs. But Nearpod saved my life, in this case. It came at a time when I needed it most, and I could not have been more grateful for the opportunities it is now creating for me as a teacher. My lessons are interactive, and I can take formative assessments from my students as they are learning. Students are not passive learners, but interacting with the curricula as they learn/review it. What a wonderful thing!
How It Workstumblr_inline_n7oj9rHrLA1syjobe
Nearpod can be used for free. Only the teacher needs a login. Students/participants can go to and type in the “Join Session” box on the top right to access a presentation. Once the teacher allows a presentation to be “live,” the teacher then controls the flipping of slides across the users’ devices.
The learner/participant doesn’t necessarily need to create a login to participate, although Nearpod has added a note-taking feature for students, so I would assume they would need to log in to do that. I’m also not sure if that is available on the free or paid access to the site. In general, students can access presentations and interact without a login.

(In the sake of full disclosure, I will admit that my adoration for this website has prompted my school to purchase 5 subscriptions to their full-access service. I haven’t tried it yet though – only used the free features. In a future post, I can update my thoughts about what additional features I found in the paid site and find useful.)

Classrooms, Conferences, and PD – Oh My!2. Nearpod (7)
Since discovering and testing this tool out in my own classroom, I’ve also used it at a faculty professional development day and a teaching with technology conference. In the tech conference, I was assigned to a computer lab – so everyone was facing all directions. Using Nearpod, everyone was able to see my presentation clearly without craning their heads to see a screen/SmartBoard. My conference break-out session was over capacity as well, which was a blessing of riches! Since I didn’t have enough computers in the room to correlate with attendees – I simply asked the participants to find Nearpod on their own personal device – so no one was without a screen! It worked fabulously.
If you think about the bigger implications for a tool like this, it is also quite exciting. Students who struggle to see the board or have visual/auditory impairments will benefit from seeing the screen right in front of them. They will have instant feedback to check their understanding of the material. Real-time feedbacnearpod1gettingstartedk of student learning can be indispensable: not just for students but for teachers.
More Fabulous Service
I reached out to Nearpod on Twitter and received an enthusiastic, personal response. They shared several other Twitter handles with access to other teacher-created materials, lessons, etc. They offered personal service and availed themselves for whenever I need support. Isn’t that wonderful?!
Tell Me What You Think
I have heard rave reviews from not only students but colleagues about how Nearpod can elevate the quality of their instruction. I plan to continue to use Nearpod in my classroom, and look forward to hearing your thoughts on it too! Feel free to check it out and tell me what you think.
Happy Wednesday,

Posted in blog, conference, Digital Day, edtech, Explain Everything, inspiration, LMS, Pi Day, Schoology, teaching

Happy Digital Learning Day (Yesterday) and Pi Day (Today)!

I really wanted to get to my computer to post something in honor of “Digital Learning Day yesterday, but was deep in the throngs of removing a splinter from a five year-old’s foot while the almost-two year old was trying out all the flavors of toothpaste in the bathroom. Ah, the life of a single mom! Sometimes I am waiting for the hidden camera crew to pop out and thank me for all the great comedic material I supply them with on a daily basis.
What Time is It?
So, it is 4:36a.m. as I sit down to write this, and prepare my thoughts for a Saturday conference I will be presenting at today. It is the “T4 Think Tank: Teachers and Technology” at Elmwood Franklin School in Buffalo, New York. I’m really excited, as this is my first official presentation of PBS Learning Media in my year-long role with them as a 2014-2015 Digital Innovator. Wish me luck!
Explain Everything
But for the remainder of this post, I think I would like to focus on an app I really like for creating flipped lessons: Explain Everything. I recently presented this app in two instructional sessions to my colleagues at school, during a professional development day on March 6th.

Favorite App: Explain EverythingEE

Why: I can take existing PowerPoint presentations and convert them into flipped lessons, or create new presentations/videos.

How: Pull them into the app, and use the record button to add audio to the slides.

Features I Like: Easy to learn, user friendly, once you create a login – an actual human being emails you and offers their contact info in case you need them (isn’t that amazing?)

Why this is great: good for kids who need to hear material more than once, great for students to review, great for students who have been absent so they do not miss material, for visual learners – you can have the text with the audio to add more dimensions of multiple intelligences. You can upload the videos right to YouTube, save them to the Camera Roll on your Apple device, or mail them as files.

How I’ve used it: Back to school night video to introduce myself and my classes, opening faculty meeting (we have a hearing impaired teacher who thanked me because he usually doesn’t know what the audio is that accompanies the video – since I captioned the audio), etc.

In general, I’ve used Explain Everything to easily and quickly create flipped lessons. I’ve created PowerPoint presentations, then pulled them into EE, and recorded over the slides. After, I render the video to an unlisted YouTube link to post on my Learning Management System (Schoology) for easy student access. This prevents me from loading up other places or sending large video files – just sending a quick link is easy and the kids are already so familiar with YouTube.
More specifically, what I like about Explain Everything is that they have great customer service. When I was preparing to present to my faculty, I reached out to them. (I’m a big fan of just taking a chance and reaching out to see if you can connect.) Within hours, a real human from Morris Cooke (their parent company) replied with several links I could use or pass along to fellow teachers. How much did I appreciate that?!
Some other ideas that I shared with my peers included creating fresh videos/lessons right in the app, using EE for other presentational tools:explain everything kkenny

  • I made our opening faculty meeting video with EE – I got great feedback from parents who couldn’t make it who felt I gave them a better sense of who I am and what my role is as their daughter’s teacher. I think for incoming freshmen – this was particularly helpful.
  • a flipped Back to School Night video for parents who could not attend –

There are so many things you can do with EE. Pictures, video, text, importing documents, annotation, white boarding/screencasting (I haven’t screencasted yet in a real-time white boarding, but I’m itching to do it), etc.
Here are some great links I found for Explain Everything:explain_everything_blog

Once again, thanks for taking the time to read and explore this blog. I hope you will subscribe, and reach out to me with any comments, questions, concerns, etc!
Take care, and Happy Pi Day!

Posted in blog, edtech, inspiration, LMS, Notability, Schoology, teaching

Presenting….Schoology and Notability!

I have been invited to speak or present in several different capacities over the past few years, but I recently had the pleasure of talking “edtech” at a local conference. It was the Niagara Frontier Reading Council’s Winter Brunch, held in Amherst, New York on February 7, 2015. What a fabulous experience! The conference focused on technology in the classroom. Much of the content discussed technology as it relates to literacy and literacy instruction. My piece of the conference was to demonstrate how I interface, or “app-smash” two separate applications in my 1:1 iPad user classroom: Schoology and Notability.
Schoology 2944415_300
I explained how Schoology has become my one-stop-shop Learning Management System (LMS). I post assignments, discussion questions, formative assessments, important reminders, course materials (handouts, graphic organizers, flipped lesson video links, etc.). My textbook is available online, and students can upload assignments right to the assignment post- which also functions as a submission box. Parents can create shadow accounts where there presence is not known to students, but they can see what is happening in the course, and contact me if they need to. The look and feel of Schoology is similar to Facebook – so any user of social media can adapt very quickly to its layout and features.
Notabilitynotability screenshot
Notability is an app students can take notes in, annotate pdf files I post, record their voices into, or file as somewhat of a “virtual binder.” We have asked our students to create main folders for all their subjects, then sub-headings for units/chapters/topics. There are many modalities for taking notes or annotating – from writing with one’s finger or stylus, to typing with the keyboard. There is a highlighter feature, and my students (being high school girls) love asking me if they can use a myriad of colors, fonts and styles. Of course – I tell them to go crazy!
notability sharedIn my humble opinion, the more they make what they are doing attractive, fun, interesting and aesthetic – the more they seem engaged in it. What I like about Notability is that it “plays nicely” with many other apps. It can be set to back up to one’s Google Drive, so work cannot be lost. It also interfaces with many other apps I am not mentioning herein (one of them being Dropbox). But for the my classroom, I only need Notability and Schoology. A student can take a document in Notability and share it right to a specific assignment submission box in Schoology and upload it directly to the other app. There’s no need to use a third app, which keeps things simple and symbiotic! I love it!
If you have any questions about either of these apps – please contact me. I use them both on a daily basis in my 1:1 iPad classroom, and have come to really appreciate all the capabilities of both – especially on the secondary level. notability
I also have colleagues in the field that are doing wonderful things with Notability in the elementary level, that I can put you in touch with too.
Thanks for taking the time to stop by.
Have a great day!Stay inspired!

Posted in blog, edtech, inspiration, teaching

The First Post

On my snowy drive home from school, I was listening to NPR’s All Things Considered when it came to me: “Ed Tech Inspired.” I’ve been motivated to start a professional blog for a short time now, and have been searching for an identity/persona to attach to my contribution to the online educational discourse.
Ed + Tech
Educational technology has increasingly become an interest and a passion. While I do not claim to be an expert, I am constantly inspired to learn more about what is out there and how it can make me the best teacher I can be.
I have also been serving as a 2014-2015 PBS Digital Innovator, and my exposure to a variety of educational technology-based webinars has catapulted my expertise to the next level. I hope to offer some ideas that I have used as best practices, foster discussion, and cast a net amongst all of you to gain a collective wisdom and expertise.
+ Inspired
Since technology is evolving and growing faster than we could ever keep up with, I feel it’s important not to feel like I’m drowning in a sea of possibilities.
I also love to feel inspired. My Pinterest “Inspiration” board has several hundred followers. I think there is a need in this hectic world for us to center our minds and filter out the unnecessary. Keeping a positive mentality and feeling like we are productive in this life is important to me, and I think it is important to the vast majority. I hope I can offer some inspiration to others in this blog, and invite you to inspire yourselves everyday.