Thursday, December 8, 2016

Student Creation with Buncee

Have you heard of Buncee?  It is a game changer, for sure!  I found out about Buncee this past Summer, and haven't looked back since!  Buncee is "a creation and presentation tool for students and educators to create interactive classroom content, allowing learners of all ages to visualize concepts and communicate creatively." (Buncee)

This past Summer, I created a book club for Matt Murrie's book, The Book of What If.  We used Voxer and Twitter as our discussion area, and members were encouraged to use Buncee to reflect on the chapters read.  Speaking of game changers, you have to read his book!! It is awesome! Here is the first Buncee that I ever created:

I loved reading this book with my then 4-year old niece, Nancy!  The questions are thought provoking and inspire curiosity at every turn.

What if There Were Never Books?

I loved creating this Buncee after reflecting on that question with Nancy.  Check out another one of my blog posts to see what she had to say about "What if Dinosaurs Still Existed".

I was inspired to keep creating with Buncee and exploring more of their tools!  I started to use Buncee to create graphics for events such as #PasstheScopeEDU and #EdChangeGlobal, and to spread the word about presentations that I was leading at upcoming educational conferences.  I would then share these graphics on social media to spread the word and to draw attention to this awesome tool.  Here are some examples:

The animations are awesome!!

Every graphic that you see above was found in their library!  And it updates frequently!

Like I said, the animations are awesome!

Buncee is a great tool to use in the classroom!  Students love to create, and this gives them an outlet to do so!  Students crave other ways to express themselves versus the traditional paper and pencil.  Check out this blog post about how one teacher ignited creativity in her students with an introduction to Buncee!  It was because of that introduction, that her students began to showcase their voice and creativity through the use of it.  Wow factor!!

There are endless possibilities with Buncee, and I encourage you to check it out! The video below is a great tutorial for beginners.  If you have any questions about Buncee or need any guidance, please feel free to contact me!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Braeden's Impact on MY Learning

A couple of weeks ago, I presented 2 sessions at TCCA in Houston, Texas.  I presented "Connecting Kids to Math" and "Flipping for Homework".  I love presenting at and attending this conference!  It is one of my favorites, and it is absolutely free...and they serve you lunch...and they have keynote speakers like Angela Maiers and Jennie Magiera!  Check it out for next year!

I have been presenting both of these topics for some time now, and I feature many of my wonderful students in them.  One in particular is featured in "Flipping for Homework".  His name is Braeden Hopkins.  It is because of this little soul that my mindset about homework and flipped learning completely shifted!  He joined me that weekend at TCCA when I presented this topic.  His involvement in that session was incredibly impactful for myself and the participants. 

I am now an Instructional Coach on our 5th grade campus here in Montgomery ISD.  I love that I get to still see my fourth grade students from last year! Braeden's mom and I got to talking at our campus book fair, and I shared with her that I would be presenting this topic again that coming weekend.  A day or so later, she asked if Braeden could come watch.  I was so excited!  In her email, she also said this:

Talk about validating that I did right by my kids that year!

There he is, watching Mrs. Storer completely "nerd out" about his VR head seat! It really was pretty cool!  Braeden was brand new to our campus that year, and after getting to know him pretty well, I knew this kid would change my thinking!

One of the first things that Braeden told me when the school year started, was that "we are all just robots in this school."  Pretty powerful statement from a 4th grader!  But I totally got it!  In his own words, he was letting me know that he craved and wanted personalized learning and differentiation.  

In my heart, I knew that I was doing all that I could to reach each of my students, but there is always, always more than can be done!  Because when you think about it, each year we have to grow as a teacher.  We don't get the same set of kids each year, and it is up to us to do all we can to reach every student.

I started the school year with no homework.  I don't see very much value in assigning homework in elementary school, specifically traditional homework. Traditional homework, in my opinion, looks like packets of review work that is handed out on a Monday and due the following Friday.  I was that teacher that gave packets of homework to my students, and I saw first hand what it did to my kids.  It did not excite them about school.  It did not foster a love of learning.  It did not make them want more out of their educational experience. It actually did the complete opposite.  

It was around the middle of the school year, that I came across a blog post by Justin Birckbichler about flipped learning.  I had heard of this concept, and was very intrigued by it.  So I decided to take a chance on it with my kids!  I put a little bit of a spin on it though, and named it Flipped Homework.  What I should have called it was Flipped Experiences, because it ended up becoming more than just homework, in my opinion.

I am very honest about all of the mistakes that I made along the way in this journey.  I own them.  It is those mistakes and my students that helped me grow.  Would I do it again?  Absolutely!

One of the first lessons that I created was about friction.  I called the lesson "Friction Fun", and asked the students to show me a real world example of friction.  They were told that they could submit in any way that they choose! We were using Edmodo as the platform to share their work.  Check out the wording in this prompt--"Wouldn't a video be super cool!?" Even though I opened it up for anything as far as submission, my wording proved otherwise.  First mistake.

Now don't get me wrong, I LOVED the submissions!  The kids enjoyed creating them, and I know that they will never forget what friction is!  Check out one of the videos below by my friend, Brady!

My second mistake was requiring my kids to turn something in.  I should have made every assignment optional.  

Another flipped experience that I gave my students was about simplifying fractions.  Here is where I made my biggest mistakes of all, and where Braeden stepped in to show me the light!

So many mistakes in my many!!

Another mistake that I made was in the video that I provided them, it is pretty much a white screen and my voice for almost 2.5 minutes. I know what my kids probably did!  They fast forwarded it until it got to the end, and then started their work.  I don't blame them.  I would have tuned out as well!

Braeden asked if he could show his learning with Minecraft and a screencasting tool.  I was all for it!  He spent many nights perfecting it, and when I was able to view it with him, I was on the verge of tears.  Why wasn't this the norm in my class?!  Why wasn't this traditional!?  Check out the video below!

Goosebumps the entire time that I was watching it!  He proved to me, using Minecraft and Bandicam, that he knew exactly how to simplify a fraction.  He did all of this without having to touch a sheet of paper!  Such a beautiful thing!! Braeden further proved the power of personalized learning and how not every child learns in the same way or in the same amount of time!  I am forever grateful to this boy for pointing me in the right direction!

I recently read a blog post by Eric Sheninger, and there was so much about this post that I agreed with!  If student learning and success is the ultimate goal, we need to rethink homework. As he further states, current homework practices are creating a culture of dislike when it comes to school and learning.  We need to reverse this.

The point of this story is that we must do better for our students.  Whether it is in relation to homework, classwork, or relationships, we must do better.  Be open to learning from your students.  My former students are the best teachers that I have ever had-hands down!  I wish they knew the impact that they have had on MY life. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Students Teaching Teachers-Mystery Skype Edition!

Back in September, I was asked to work with a group of middle school social studies teachers about Mystery Skype.  Instead of just presenting them with the information, I decided to find a class to participate in a Mystery Skype with them.  In my mind, I knew that it would be more impactful, and boy was it! The teachers were engaged, and the questions were powerful!

What is Mystery Skype? Mystery Skype is critical thinking challenge that your class takes part in while Skyping with another class somewhere in the world. Check out this wonderful website to learn more about it!  I refer to Mr. Solarz's site every time I participate in a Mystery Skype!

I shared this experience within a Voxer chat that I was a part of for George Couros' book titled The Innovator's Mindset.  It is because of this Voxer chat (as well as iPadpalooza Austin) that I met Tara Martin!  We began working on a plan for classes in my area to join a group of teachers in her area who were learning about Mystery Skype in Mandy Sikes' first ever PD session for her district!  I could not wait!  I reached out to 2 of my teaching buddies, and they were totally on board!  Instead of Mandy just presenting the information to them, she was creating a "hands-on" experience for her teachers by connecting these classes with her teachers.  The students were becoming the teachers! How beautiful is that!?

Fast forward to today!  I am still on cloud nine when I think about it! My 2 buddies, Nikki Taylor and Lorra Lynch (both teachers at Montgomery Elementary School in Montgomery, TX), did an awesome job in preparing their kids for their very first Mystery Skype of the year!! 

We had a few hiccups when we started, and never really figured out why, but when the connection was made, you could feel the excitement in the room go way up!!

One of the things that I loved most about today, was how engaged the students were!  Each student had a job and a responsibility through it all, and their jobs meant something to them.  There were greeters, and a questioner, researchers, photographers, a think awesomeness!  They owned their learning! I know that they will always remember where Kansas is located because of this experience, and not a single worksheet or quiz was involved!  Check out some of the quotes below!

"It was really amazing."

"It was cool that we defeated some teachers."

"I learned how to narrow things down."

"I liked that we got to use maps.  I learned a lot about where places are."

"I was really nervous at first, but it was fun."

"We had a great experience with Skype!  The students were engaged the entire time and were super excited to guess the mystery location.  The depth of conversation in the room was amazing." Nikki Taylor

"I loved how fast we had to work as a team."

"It made my heart beat fast, and I can't wait to do it again."

"My pulse was throbbing when they asked if the Alamo was in our state."

Me too, friend!!!  It was a close one!

This is an experience that I know the students and teachers will never forget! One of the teachers that we Skyped with today is already looking for a connection!


Tara, Mandy, Nikki, and Lorra...THANK YOU!  Thank you for getting in the trenches today with your students and teachers! Proud to stand beside you all in the joy that is education!!


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Today I Sat In A Class And Read A Book...

Today, I sat in a class and read a book, The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros.  I sat in complete silence while other students sat with their novel groups and read with intent and powerful interest.  One group was on the floor, casually laying on comfortable pillows.  Another group was lounging on a couch in the corner.  There was even a student reading in a bathtub filled with pillows. That's right...a bathtub!  Their teacher was also fully immersed in her book of choice as well!  Every now and then, I would look up from my book, and so many thoughts would fill my head.  One being, that this environment was truly fostering a love of reading.  

That became even more evident when I was invited to have a "book talk" with a group of students.  Another thought I had was that I couldn't wait to come back to read with kids again.  I couldn't wait to walk in a room, find a spot to read, and dive into a good book.  I loved being a part of it today! As I was getting up to leave (I didn't want to!), Ms. Taylor Horn asked if I wanted to participate in a book talk with a group of her students.  I kneeled down on the floor, and just listened.  By the end of our conversation, my mind was made up.  I was checking that book out at the library!  

One part of George's book that I read today was about "8 Things to Look for in Today's Classroom".  One of those 8 is "Time for Reflection".  As a educator, I find that I need time to reflect to grow and evolve into the type of educator that my kids deserve.  I reflect on social media outlets like Twitter and Voxer and as a blogger (I am trying to get better at this!).  The students today were given time to reflect on their reading, and the conversation was so good!  You could hear their passion and dedication to the story line, and how they couldn't wait to read some more. 

One of my favorite human beings to follow on social media is Jen Jones of Hello Literacy.  This is one of my favorite quotes from her.

Just Read.

George says in his book, "DEAR Time should be an opportunity not only for reading but to also "Drop Everything and Reflect".  It is important to give our students a space for enjoyable reading and reflection.  One should not be separate from the other.  Now time to get back to my book!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

#WhatIf I Can't Wait to Blog About What If!

This past summer, I read a book that quickly became one of my favorite books that I have ever read, The Book of What If by Matt Murrie and Andrew McHugh. This book is full of activities and questions for curious readers of ANY age!  A group of us decided to start a What If Book Study in Voxer over the summer after being inspired by the wonderful Marialice Curran, and it was awesome!  We were able to share and converse about all things "What If"!  Matt Murrie even joined in on the conversation! I especially loved reading the book when I was with my niece, Nancy.  One of the first questions that I asked her from the book was "What If Dinosaurs Never Went Extinct?". She thought about it for a little bit, and then the curiosity conversation began! We decided to share her thoughts on that topic by including her in the Voxer chat!  We added her thoughts first, and then the author, Matt Murrie, asked her another question as well as my friend, Jennifer Griffin, about what they should eat to keep the dinosaurs away!.  Check out the dialogue below! 

She loved being involved, and couldn't wait for the next What If question! Another question I gave her was "What If There Were No Books?"  This question bothered her a bit!  I used her response as inspiration to create the Buncee below! I love using Buncee for creation, and used it throughout the book study to design and illustrate my curiosity!!

The point of sharing all of this with you is to paint a picture of pure curiosity! George Couros recently posted about the topic of What If, and included this question:

What if schools always focused on the notion that we should all be “learners” as opposed to “students”?

This question made me think about a part in his book, The Innovator's Mindset, that said, "Kids walk into schools full of wonder and questions, yet we often ask them to save their questions for later, so we can "get through" the curriculum." What a powerful statement! Why are we not embracing a kid's wonder and curiosity each and every day! These are the types of conversations that I want to be a part of with my kids! Please don't let them leave school less curious than when they started! 

This past week, all of the elementary schools in Montgomery ISD started a "What If of the Week" based on and with the support of Matt's book. At the beginning of each week, the What If is announced on the morning announcements and also shared on social media.  We are encouraging students and teachers to share their thoughts in any way that they choose throughout the week on social media!  Check out some of the #MISDWhatIf Week 1 posts below! 

We all make a choice as educators on how we choose to impact the life of a child.  This child is someone's entire world, and our job is an important one. In the words of my buddy, Kayla Delzer, "If it's right for kids, it's right." Words to teach and learn by! 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What's New in Flocabulary, and a Super Cool Giveaway!!

I started using Flocabulary last year, and instantly fell in love with what it brought to my classroom lessons and activities.  More than that, I LOVED how much my students LOVED it!

Flocabulary is a website that uses educational hip-hop music and videos to engage students and improve achievement.  The lyrics are on point, and the rhythm is catchy and cool!  We could not get enough of it, and we played some of the same videos on repeat!!  

I loved incorporating it into our fact fluency lessons!  Here is one of our favorite videos from last year!!

Something new this year, that I am really excited about, is the new addition of the Lyric Lab!  Lyric Lab fits right in the Flocab family!  It fosters creativity, student engagement and creativity!!

How does Lyric Lab work?  It is a tool that is built right in within Flocabulary's units.  The students are able to write their very own academic rhymes.  How cool is that!  Check out the tutorial below for more information!

Now, who is ready for a giveaway!! Flocabulary, along with myself, will be giving away 3, year-long teacher Flocabulary subscriptions to my readers! In addition everyone that enters the giveaway will get an extended 45-day, school-wide trial of Flocabulary! You will be able to register and share this access with all of your school colleagues. It will only take a minute to enter!!

Instructions for Entering the Giveaway:
  • Fill out each field below to be eligible.
  • Everyone the enters will receive an email for an extended 45-day school-wide trial.
  • Winners will be drawn at random.
  • You must enter by October 16th at 11:59 ET.
  • The winners will be announced on October 18th.
  • That week, all entrants will receive an email with their access to the special 45-day school-wide free trial.
Good luck, my friends!!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Our Date With The Weatherman!

Last year, I reached out to various local meteorologists to see if they would Skype with my kids about weather maps.  I was surprised that none of them contacted me back!  But I didn't give up!  While searching for a weather map video on YouTube, I came across a video by Ryan Davidson of The Weather Channel.  It explained weather maps in such a kid friendly way!  

So I took a chance....

I decided to search for him on Twitter, and I found his profile!  I sent him a message, and asked if he would be interested in visiting with my kids about weather maps.  Within 12 hours, he responded, and said he would love to!

We were so excited!  My kids loved it, and I knew I would reach out to him again for the following school year!  Fast forward to this school year, and we just completed our visit with him this past Friday.  We even invited some friends from another school district to jump in on the call (Google Hangout).  He is now on camera for The Weather Channel with Weather Underground.  We were able to tour the set, meet a co-worker, and ask him numerous questions about weather and his profession!  It was such a cool experience, and I am so thankful to have his support in my classroom!  I like to refer to him as our class weatherman!  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Students Teaching Students Part 2!

In this edition of "Students Teaching Students", my class connected with a third grade class in Enterprise, Alabama!  We had previously met them during Edcamp Global.  Since meeting, we have stayed in contact on Twitter.  She reached out to me about our classes reconnecting to talk about fractions.  My students were experts in regards to equivalent fractions, and her students were just starting on this topic!  My students were going to work with her kids on equivalent fractions!  So exciting!  We set up a small white board with large magnetic fraction strips, and my kids guided them through a variety of problems.  We also introduced them to a strategy that we use called "The Big One"! Please view the video below to learn more about "The Big One"!  

It was one of those experiences that I know my kids, as well as myself, will not forget.  Her students did wonderful!! It gave them ownership of that knowledge, and they were able to deliver that message through a Google Hangout.  And sharing that knowledge didn't require a worksheet!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Let's Take a Trip to Mars PBL Project Completion!

This was a fun PBL Project!  After gathering feedback from Farmer Brent and our local farmer, Mrs. Carey Poole from P-6 Farms (local farm), the students began to work on their 1-3 minute video to NASA.  Our plan was to post these videos on Twitter and ro tag NASA in the post.  We also wanted to include our new friend from the Cosmosphere Museum on Kansas.

In a previous blog post, I spoke of getting connected with this space museum, Cosmosphere, in Kansas.  We were able to organize a Skype call with one of the employees, Tracey Tomme, the Vice President of Education for the company! She visited with my kids about Mars, martian soil, and the future of gardening on Mars.  We learned so much!  After her visit, the students got to work on their videos.  They were expected to include details about how they would construct a self-sustaining garden on Mars that would allow them to survive for 5 years.  It was through this entire process that they learned all about soil!  Love what PBL does for my kids!  It allows the teacher to step back and give the students room to have voice and choice in their learning.  All of this without the use of a worksheet or test!!  It is such a beautiful thing!

Life Happens....

It has been a bit since I worked on a new blog post.  My goal, when I started this blog, was to blog each week about all of the wonderful things that are happening in my class each week.  I wanted my class to be more global, and a blog was a great way to do that!  It has also been very cathartic for me to reflect as a teacher.  So what have I been up to?

A few weeks ago, I started my last class in my masters program!  Exciting, right!? One of the first things due was my Action Research Project Report.  We worked on this throughout the program, but I still needed to add the final touches.  Between losing part of the document between home and school, and completing the reference list, I was more behind than I thought!  But I got it done!  It was submitted this past Sunday, and I have one more major assignment to turn Practicum Plan!  This plan has over 300 clocked intern hours, as well as reflections!  Whew!  I have a few more weeks left, and I cannot wait to graduate!  I will be graduated with honors at the end of May!

Have you been thinking about going back to get your masters?  Although this program had some flaws (don't they all), it wasn't that bad!  I met some wonderful teachers and administrators that I am looking forward to meeting in May when we walk across that stage.  Check out Lamar University for their online programs!  Contact me if you have any questions, and if you decide to obtain your Ed Tech Leadership masters, I am here to help you!!

We are on Spring Break right now, but I will be back next week!  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Our Interview with Farmer Brent

Let's Take a Trip to Mars-Soil Investigation PBL Project Continued...

My kids have been hard at work researching how to build a self-sustaining garden on Mars!  For their "Flipped HW" this week, they were tasked to interview a farmer or someone who was knowledgeable about soil and farming, and then report their findings to Edmodo.  To help them out, I reached out to my cousin, Brent, to see if he could come visit with my students this week.  He is a trained chef, a farmer, and a member of the Houston Rockets' Launch Crew! A jack of all trades!  He helps to run Donna's Farm in Fannett, Texas with my aunt and uncle, Donna and Steve.  He knows a thing or two about soil and farming!  

The students, as well as myself, learned so much about farming and soil!  The conversation about hydroponics and aquaponics was super interesting as well as the conversations about building and using greenhouses.  My kids were like little sponges, and took wonderful notes on all that he had to share!  I know that this experience will add so much to their PBL project, "Let's Take a Trip to Mars-Soil Investigation"!  We have also set up a back channel on Today's Meet with a local farmer in our area at P-6 Farms here in Montgomery, Texas.  We are looking forward to her answers!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Students Teaching Students

About 180 followers ago, we met Dr. Julie P. Jones.  She was our 200th follower on Twitter, and we decided to thank her!  Within no time at all, she responded! Not only did she respond, but she included a challenge that soon turned into another challenge!  

The students loved this, and enjoyed submitting their answers to her on Twitter!

It is amazing what happens when we tear down the four walls of our classroom. Last week, my homeroom students were able to join a Twitter chat with Dr. Jones and her students at Converse College in South Carolina.  One of my friends, Victoria, shared how we handle our classroom jobs.

Dr. Jones and I continued to stay connected on Twitter and Facebook, and just this week, she asked if my kids would visit with her kids...students at Converse College in South Carolina!  These students are teachers in training, and we were asked to share about our classroom management.  My students shared a few things with her students.  We talked about classroom rules, "You Matter", and "Love First, Teach Second".  It was a great experience!!  My students loved interacting with her students!!