Blended Learning Day Camp 2017

Remember when you were a kid and you went to camp – and it was awesome? Well, last week I got to go to “camp” – and it was awesome! Michigan Virtual University has put on an annual Day Camp for the last three years. Centered around implemented blended learning, the conference features both inspiring speakers as well as examples of teachers implementing blended learning in their classrooms.


Not only did I get to attend, I was asked to be a Camp Counselor and have my own cabin of campers. Each camper was assigned a cabin (table) and a seat, which was designed to get people out of their comfort zones and to network with others. Our table was split into two cabins – 12A and 12B – and each cabin had a counselor. Most counselors at each table were instructional technology specialists or building leaders. We acted as the moderator to help break the ice with our campers, facilitated some lunchtime discussions around our practice, and helped to manage the GooseChase scavenger hunt.


And we got some sweet swag! There’s a fanny pack hiding in that coffee mug!

The Keynote speaker for the event was the incredibly inspiring Pernille Ripp. She’s a middle school teacher in Wisconsin who has a really interesting story about how she became a teacher and landed in her school. Aside from the hard work she engages in as a teacher, Pernille also is the founder of the Global Read Aloud, which several teachers in our district have participated in.

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We hear a lot in education about doing what’s best for kids, but we don’t often actually ask kids what it is they want we teachers to do. Pernille does this – and then she makes changes to her instruction and how to interacts with students. Not only does this create an environment where students feel comfortable to contribute to their learning, it also demonstrates to students that their voices are valued and matter. When we think about how we want to teach our students to engage in the world, what better way to model that for our students than to ask them to use their voices and have conversations about those wants.


I could go on and on about how much what Pernille said resonated with me, but something she has been promoting for a few years is around behavior charts. I couldn’t agree more with her. Whether or not I’m having a bad day should not be public knowledge. Continually publicizing students’ behavior issues really doesn’t seem to make a difference in student behavior. I have seen behavior charts used in classrooms. The well-behaved students continue to behave well. The students who are on “yellow” or lose points become disgruntled or upset and continue to act out, until they go to “red” or lose more points. Of course eventually, those students on “red” lose other privileges. I think about how I would feel if I went to a conference session or a work meeting and was called out for talking or being off task. I certainly wouldn’t engage in the rest of the training with an open mind, and the next time I had to work with that presenter or leader, I’d have an attitude and would have my guard up.  Why would we expect any different from our students?


There were a few big takeaways from the Blended Learning Day Camp for me. First, I loved the scavenger hunt component using the GooseChase app. GooseChase makes the work of a scavenger hunt super easy. You create a game, others join your game (you can password protect them), and then they complete the various challenges within the game. You can have participants take photo evidence, use GPS location, take a video, or write a text response. I love the multiple modalities incorporated into the app, and it’s so easy to create a game or participate in one. I’m definitely going to incorporate this into some of my day-long trainings this summer.

Another takeaway was the opportunity to get up, network, and play with a small group of teachers. Throughout the day there were multiple times when we were able to stand up, solve a problem, make something, or explore. We had a playground/Makerspace with a variety of “toys” – Spheros, MakeyMakey, Little Bits, BryteBites, etc. There was also a BreakoutEDU game. If you haven’t done one yet, I’d highly encourage you to give it a try. You can order a kit online, or you can make your own. It is a WONDERFUL community-building activity, first week of school, “brain break” activity. It requires students to work together to solve a common problem – with some tension added in as they are fighting against a clock and other teams. The GooseChase game also asked participants to find areas outside of the conference space, so it was fun to get outside and walk around.





Lastly, I’m excited to participate in a book study with author Liz Kolb, who just published a new book called Learning First, Technology Second. We got to hear about the impetus behind her book and some of the highlights of her research findings. I’m not-so-patiently waiting for my book to arrive from ISTE so I can dive in and really participate in the online book study.

Your Turn: What were some of your favorite summer learning/professional development experiences? What made them so awesome? 

Why #ISTE17 Was My Favorite ISTE Yet…

Y’all, Texas got me!

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Enjoying the Riverwalk

A couple weeks ago (side note – how has it already been two weeks!? This summer is flying by), I went to San Antonio along with a few thousand other educators for one of the biggest education conferences of the year. Even though it took me over 13 hours to get there – hello cancelled flights, delays, and lost luggage – I had a blast and learned SO MUCH deep in the heart of Texas.



Significantly less excited to be traveling 6+ hours in and stuck at O’Hare

Honestly, I could write thousands of words about the energy and beautiful chaos of ISTE, but I am going to try to focus on a couple of my big takeaways from the conference, and why this was my favorite one yet. (Full disclosure, I leave every ISTE thinking it was the best one ever…)

Professional Learning Among Professionals

One of the best parts of attending a conference is being surrounded by so many professionals, on fire for improving their practice, sharing what they’ve already done, making connections, and planning how to improve their teaching the next year. This year I was honored to be chosen to present at ISTE on the work I’ve been doing with podcasting in our school district. It is always exhilarating – and terrifying – to present on what you’ve done to a group of educators. I really appreciated how folks took the time to Tweet me, engage in our presentation, and reach out after the presentation to continue the conversation. While there are always a plethora of sessions to choose from as well as Playgrounds, Poster Sessions, and other types of learning to engage in, the most value I always find is in those conversations with others. The opportunity to dig deep, to think critically, to have your ideas challenged, to reflect on your own ideas and practice are all invaluable.

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Model The Behavior You Want to See

We know a lot about how people learn, and the efficacy of engaging with learning versus just hearing about something. And yet, so often, the type of professional learning teachers experience goes against everything we know about best practice. Teachers complain all the time that most of the professional development isn’t useful, is a waste of time, or that they never have the chance to really “learn” because they hear about something once or twice and never revisit it again. One of the best sessions I attended was called “Designing ‘Just Right’ Professional Development” and the presenters – Connie Lippenholz, Lucy Podmore, and Matthew Patty – were not only engaging and entertaining, but it was clear they have given deep thought about what pedagogical approaches will best meet their learners, and will create a systemic change in the ways their teachers model instruction. (You should totally follow them on Twitter because they are awesome!)

Visit the Exhibit Hall

You can’t expect to attend a huge technology conference without a large presence of all kinds of new (and more seasoned) tech companies and tools. It can be totally overwhelming to try to visit all the vendors, so probably don’t even try. But, many vendors are becoming more in tune with what educators are looking for and what kinds of powers they have. A teacher might see a super cool tool and want to bring them back to their school, but most teachers don’t have any budgetary powers. I think a lot of vendors understand that are are focusing more on how their tools could be implemented in a classroom setting. Nearpod had a bunch of mini sessions where teachers could sit and experience using their software in a mock classroom setting. Google also has many different sessions showcasing “nuts and bolts” type examples of how their products can be implemented in a variety of learning environments. Seeing those examples are more powerful than showing a principal or superintendent a flashy flier.

Attend Networking Events

After the conference each day, several vendors host happy hour and cocktail events. A lot of the ISTE PLNs have networking events, too. This is a great way to learn a bit more about a company’s product or offering, but more valuable, is the chance to talk to other educators. We attended a dinner with myON, a company committed to creating a digital literacy environment for students to boost student reading and excitement around reading. We learned a bit more about some of the new offerings and the philosophy behind the company. But, over dinner, I got to hear from two different people from schools who have implemented myON in their district and the effects its had on student reading, growth, and achievement on standardized tests. There is value in spending time with other educators – friends and strangers alike – and doing it in a more relaxed setting is even better.


Take Time to Reflect

It’s important to spend some time reviewing resources, ideas, products, people, etc. that came across your path. Then, begin setting some goals for your practice. I love to blog in order to reflect, set public goals, and hold myself accountable. Some people podcast – which I’m planning to do, also! Sharing what you learned with your colleagues is also powerful.

ISTE is incredibly overwhelming but also so inspiring and energizing. I had a blast in San Antonio – despite getting “Deep in the Heart of Texas” stuck in my head for about a week.


Next year, ISTE is a little closer to home in Chicago, and I’m already excited for it!



If you’re like me, podcasts have completely taken over your listening preferences. I listen to pods while I’m getting ready for work, running, driving to work (which reminds me, I really need to cancel that XM subscription…), cleaning the house, etc. They are awesome and FREE, which is even better.

This year I decided to challenge myself and get a little bit outside of my comfort zone. I started a podcast! Wha!? It’s pretty sweet, and for the 3 people who subscribe, I hope you’re enjoying the content! Fun fact, there’s more to it than just recording yourself. The hardest part was going through the process of how you share the podcast once you have it created.

Thanks to my PLN, Twitter, and Google, I decided on Shout Engine as the host for the podcast. Once you have a place to host it, you also then need to use the RSS feed to submit to iTunes. It’s a bit of a process. But, now that I have the workflow down, it’s pretty neat. I’m co-hosting the podcast with my coworker Eric Spicer, who is a Technology Integration Specialist at Averill, one of the schools in our district. The two of us try to have a digestible how-to video or technique to implement and we also end the podcast with a short tech tip. Our goal is to eventually get teachers using podcasts in their classrooms – as learning supplements and eventually as ways for students to showcase their work.

You can check out our podcast on iTunes or on Shout Engine. Let us know what you think!

What podcasts do you listen to?
How do you use podcasts in your classroom/professional sphere?

Family STEAM Night

Students and teachers at Mt. Hope STEAM had an awesome and successful family STEAM night last week! Our Magnet schools throughout the district hold theme nights several times a year to open their buildings up to parents and the community at large to show off all the great learning that’s happening in our buildings. It’s also important for parents to see just how much education and schooling has shifted since they were in school.

Throughout the building, it’s clear that Mt. Hope STEAM is a different kind of school. The walls are painted bright colors, a beautiful mural dons the walls on the front entrance showing the cityscape of Lansing and elements of the STEAM theme – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math.

It was easy to see the STEAM theme throughout the building. In the Technology Lab, students and parents used VEX Robots to race each other and complete challenges.


VEX Robotics

A fifth grade teacher used latex to create rubber bands. Parents and students got to participate and use scientific principles to make their rubber bands.


Making rubber bands.


Finished products!

In another classroom, students showed their parents what they have been learning about computer programming using puzzles on


She completed all 10 puzzles! 


Even parents like! 

Another teacher set up the Lego robotics kits and parents and students worked on programming their Lego builds. Parents commented on how different these Legos were from the ones they used growing up!



Lego Robotics

One of the tastiest activities was in a 6th grade classroom. Using Nerds and Starbursts, students created different types of rocks to explain the rock cycle. At the end, they got to eat their creations – like lava melting rocks!


Creating sedimentary rocks with Starbursts and Nerds

The fourth grade showcased their 3D printed houses, buildings, and cars on their moon colonies. This was such a fun project and the kids loved seeing their designs printed in tangible objects.


Moon Colony

Of course, we had some time for fun, too!


Some dedicated teachers! Thank you for all you do!


Pizza! Yum!


Our fabulous MSU Interns making sure everyone gets fed.

We even had our local school district press present. Teachers and students explained what learning is like at Mt. Hope STEAM and shared what they love most about their school. It’s always so powerful to hear students share what they are learning and how they are engaging with new content and ideas.


Students sharing why Mt. Hope STEAM is a great place to learn.

Too many times we hear about all the problems and issues with public schools. I love sharing events like this that help to showcase all the efforts teachers and staff go to in order to create positive experiences for our students and community.


With the myriad responsibilities, anxieties, assessments, and learners teachers have to juggle, sometimes learning just one more tool can feel overwhelming. Obviously, my job is to put teachers at ease and to help them to see that the technology is just a different way to do a lot of the same things students already do. But that can be difficult to visualize.

Today, I had the opportunity to share with a group of passionate and dedicated 4-6 educators some ways to help engage learners using their Interactive White Boards. Our district has chosen to utilize Promethean boards, which offer a TON of great resources and lessons via their online community called Promethean Planet. Today, teachers created accounts, learned how to browse and refine resources, and then discussed ways these lessons could be used in class.

I always love listening to teachers share and generate ideas with one another. That’s why I love working with educators! We all have so much to share, even if we think what we do isn’t necessarily mindblowing or earth shattering. Spending time discussing ways to get kids up and involved in their learning is always beneficial.

Another tool I showcased for teachers was Kahoot – which is getting tons and tons of buzz in the educational world right now. Sometimes I think it’s helpful for teachers to see things from the kids’ points of view, so I had the teachers experience Kahoot from the student perspective first.

Some comments I heard:

  • “Wow, this is really fun!”
  • “I LIKE this!”
  • This was definitely worth it!”
  • “We’re going to use this this afternoon!”

As a presenter and instructor, who doesn’t love when their attendees feel like what you told them was helpful and worthwhile? But more than an ego boost, I like knowing that I have generated an excitement. How validating to know that I have worked to inject some enthusiasm back into something teachers do. As the teachers left, the principal remarked that she hadn’t heard so much excitement and energy after a training session in a long time.

It’s not just that Kahoot is fun – it is definitely that. But, beyond that, the tool (because that’s what’s really important here) WORKED THE WAY IT WAS SUPPOSED TO. Teachers were impressed with the ease of creating their own Kahoot. They liked that it involved EVERYONE in the class at the SAME TIME. Teachers remarked that they appreciated how it was fair – everyone had the same opportunity.

Before we left for the morning, I walked teachers through setting up an account and creating their first Kahoot. That felt like an important step for me, because I know for myself that I constantly learn about all these new tools but then never actually use them. Now that teachers have their own accounts, that’s one less barrier to them not using this in their classroom. We were even able to create a couple of questions for a quiz, so teachers could experience that as well.

Today sort of feels like when you have a great lesson with students. You feel validated and inspired to continue to work hard. You get a sense that what you’re doing matters.

Your Turn:

Have you ever had a lesson that turned out “just right”? 

How do you get the feeling that what you do matters? 

Sooo…What is it you DO, exactly?

I get this question a lot when I first tell people that I’m a Technology Integration Specialist. While those relatively new to the education world are more familiar with this idea, others have never heard of it. I kind of liken it to all the various acronyms we give to jobs nowadays. Secretaries are “Administrative Assistants”, we have “Customer Care Relations Specialist” for Help Desk employees. So, usually once I explain to people my role, they are excited and interested to hear how I help teachers and students.

Working with 6 different buildings is a bit challenging, and the logistics of simply making it to all the schools and doing meaningful work is often difficult. Teachers have so much on their plates, technology is AWESOME when it works, random visitors, opportunities, assemblies, emergencies, etc. all pop up, and a myriad of other “crises” can derail even the best laid plans. With all of those (potential) obstacles, working with teachers and students is still incredibly rewarding – even if fleeting and short-lived at times.

My job has been made possible through funding by a Federal Grant to support STEM and STEAM education in our  nation’s schools. What an awesome and exciting time to be a support person! The incredible things students do, the intense level of engagement and connection to their learning…it’s awe-inspiring. I decided to create a short video of what types of work I’ve been doing in the month since I began working with teachers. You can view the video here.


There are so many creative ways students are using technology to improve the world they live in and to enhance their understanding of complex issues. I cannot wait to see the fruition of some of the projects I have been supporting students on.

Your Turn:

What do you do that inspires others? 

What do others do that inspires you? 

Digital Citizenship Lesson

Today I had the opportunity to speak to 7th and 8th grade students about the importance of Digital Citizenship and their Digital Footprint. We used pieces of the outstanding curriculum from Common Sense Media.

We began with a discussion about what a Digital Footprint shows about a person, what assumptions people might make about them if they were to trace a person’s digital footprint, its impact on future selves. I was really impressed with students’ ability to think about the big picture and the future consequences their behaviors today may have. We then watched this video to remind students of how your digital footprint can grow, even without our permission.

Once we discussed some of the negatives that would happen, we talked about ways students can make sure their Digital Footprint is reflective of what they would want the world to think about them. Students worked in groups to make lists of the things they should do or avoid doing in order to be mindful of the type of digital footprint you are leaving.

2014-09-12 10.25.182014-09-12 10.28.20 2014-09-12 10.28.37A couple of things I posed to students I’m still puzzling over – we know what we’re supposed to do and what we’re NOT supposed to do, so why do these conversations still have to happen? Why do we still hear stories about cyber bullying leading to tragic consequences? Why are celebrities, politicians, athletes, etc. occasionally in the news about negative things that have happened to them? More importantly, students know what they’re supposed to do if they see or are privy to cyber bullying or other inappropriate content on their various social media and school accounts. Yet, over and over again, the majority of them stand by and do not speak up. I don’t blame students; many adults engage in the same types of behavior. Either we perpetuate it or we work to end it. Doing nothing does nothing to end the problem.

Today’s work is another way I work with teachers to help educate their students not only on the consequences of their digital footprints and choices they make, but on how to continue to spread the message of how to use technology appropriately. As adults, we remember a world where technology was not such an integral part of our lives, but our students don’t. We have to teach them – and not just once or twice – how to harness its power for good and how to increase and build educational opportunities for them.

Your Turn:

How can we continue to educate students (and others) about our digital footprint? 

What ways can we model appropriate usage of social media so students know what it looks like?

First September…

I have to admit, this fall feels a little bit “off” for me. For the last five years, every end of August and early September has been dedicated to classroom preparation. From the exciting summer working with my mentor teacher before I began student-teaching, through the anxiety-ridden summer of job interviews, excitement over a job offer, and then the terrifying reality that *I* was going to be a teacher – the woman in charge – to the new challenges that each fall inevitably brought, I have always been working in a classroom. 

This year is different. This is the first September that I don’t have a classroom to decorate, no Open Houses to attend, no student names to learn and memorize, no “What was your favorite thing about summer” ice breakers to play… No longer assigned to one classroom space and 180 new students to get to know, I am facing a new challenge this year. As the brand-new Technology Integration Specialist, I will be working with almost 100 different teachers, over 500 students, and a variety of abilities. Sounds a lot like teaching, eh?! My role is to work with the Magnet Schools program, all of whom have either a STEM, STEAM, or Global Studies focus. While I definitely have a lot of challenges ahead of me, I am incredibly excited to work with educators and students again. 

So, while in some ways I am sad I don’t get to create a classroom theme, design a welcome packet with cute fonts and adorable cartoons, impress (or irritate) students with my love for U.S. Presidents, I am excited, too. Although, I do miss being able to justify purchasing an obscene amount of office supplies, I will get to interact with a variety of age groups, many of whom I have not worked with before. As a Secondary certified teacher, most of my experience has been with middle and high school students. I am anxious to work with younger kids and see their curiosity and open-mindedness at work. 

There is nothing better than the energy and enthusiasm in a school. I love that every year, educators get to set new goals – personal, professional, academic. It is like a fresh start every few months. Opportunities seem almost limitless, the ability to engage with and influence another group of young people is an awesome gift, and I love that teachers embrace that. One of the best parts of my job is going to conferences and listening to all the great things others are doing. It is inspiring! I can’t wait to play a role in helping other teachers get inspired. More importantly, I can’t wait to be awed and impressed with all the great teaching and learning that is happening in this community. 

Here’s to a great year, teachers! You are amazing. Thank you for all you do. 

Your Turn: 
Teachers, what is your favorite part of fall?

If you’re not an educator, what do you do to stay energized and refreshed at your job?