Category Archives: Ed Tech Elementary

Even On Your Worst Days

I watched this Youtube video from John Spencer.

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And the bit that struck me the most was when he came to a moment where he talked about teachers, even on their worst days.

He said, “Even on your worst days you are going to think critically, and promote justice, and transform the teaching practice. You will inspire your students to be better people and empower them to be deeper thinkers. They will feel safe and loved and challenged. They will be the makers who build a better future and the world will be a better place because of you.”

I think this caught my attention because at the beginning of the year a popular conversation is just how busy how each of us are and how, perhaps, the job we are doing each day is not our best.

But, I think teachers need to be reminded that we needn’t be so critical of ourselves. Because even on the days we know we did not live up to our potential, the students are still taking so many positives away from the experience. They don’t feel the disappointment because the paper wasn’t laminated just so or the lesson didn’t flow the way you anticipated.

To students, teachers are superheroes.

As teachers, we need to remind ourselves that even if we feel like Clark Kent or Diana Prince, the students still see Superman and Wonder Woman. And I’m going to take this thought with me this week and give myself the chance to feel good about the work that’s happening each day with my students.

marigolds. walnuts. and everything in between.

it’s the craziest time of year here at asm.

the beginning of the year.

school hasn’t started yet and i’m just trying to keep my head above water as i plan for two middle school classes and prep 200 iPads to go into elementary classrooms. on monday. and it’s already friday.

oy vey.

yesterday our staff took a moment away from the craziness for a kickball game and aperitivo. i had a few minutes to chat with a new hire, who also happens to be embarking upon her first year teaching.

being a first year teacher in an international setting is a big ask.

because being a first year teacher is a big ask no matter what.

then add the pressures that come in many international settings: piles of new curriculum, the pressure of parents, the expectations, a full class of non-native english speakers. and suddenly your new teachers feel completely overwhelmed.

she mentioned feeling the weight of some of these things.

i arrived home last night and thought about this post, which has kept sliding down the ladder of priorities. i dug through my email for the prompts available for this month’s challenge.

i took a cursory glance and clicked on the first one.

it speaks to an essential rule for new teachers.

which happens to be important for all teachers, no matter how many years you happen to have under your belt.

surround yourself with good people. 

so i sent this on to our new teacher, hoping it would help her find a little peace in the midst of a very crazy and unsettling time.

and it was a good reminder for myself to seek out those people with positive energy, those people who can add strength and goodness to my day, rather than take those things away.

so, here’s to a new school year…

and finding marigolds…

and being one.

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One Week In.

Last spring my school decided we were going to begin transitioning our elementary school to iPads. While many schools went with iPads initially, we were using Windows 8 tablets and mini laptops. But we decided that our students, especially our youngest learners, needed a platform with more ease of use and ability to work between apps.

Last week, we rolled out 9 iPads (8 students, 1 teacher) into a 2nd grade classroom. We made an initial purchase of 50 iPads and we’ll be using four other K-2 classrooms to extend this pilot. Assuming all goes well, we hope to make a larger purchase of iPads to include the remaining K-2 classes and move into grades 3-4.

Learning how to make a stop motion video

Learning how to make a stop motion video

Here are some of the successes: (comparing to our other tablet options)

  • Battery life…the iPads last SO. MUCH. LONGER.
  • App options…even the free options on an iPad beat the Windows 8 store apps by miles. We tried Lapse-it and Kids A-Z in the first few days. The stop motion videos were a success and so easy! The students were already familiar with Kids A-Z as a “listen to reading” option (part of the Daily 5 reading program) so this was an easy transition.
  • Ease of sharing across devices…using AirDrop is like heaven when you’re used to much clunkier means of sharing…using USB keys, our network dropboxes…a few clicks and we could share all the videos to one device.
Using Kids A-Z to "Listen to Reading"

Using Kids A-Z to “Listen to Reading”

And still a few issues to work through:

  • We’ve started with managing the Apple IDs of our teachers, but this is proving problematic, as they can download nothing on their own. We’re curious…what do other schools do? In a conversation this weekend, another school told us their teacher Apple IDs are not managed by the school. We wondering if this is standard or how other schools have tackled this issue.
  • The storage boxes we bought from Griffin require their own short charging cable so that it is easy to close and lock the door. So, when they arrived we hadn’t realized this would be the case and now we have an ugly mess of cords to contend with inside this beautiful storage box.

Overall, I’m really happy with how things have started. We still have a long road ahead of us, but I believe that this new platform will make the road to redefining their classrooms much more smooth. While the technology is only a tool, the right tool can make all the difference.

We’re still really early in our iPad adventures. If you have any suggestions or favorite apps to share, please comment on this post!


In the past month I came across the #observeme trend. Just take a look at the movement on this hashtag on Twitter in the past couple months. Combined with my reading and thoughts on the necessary evolution of teacher evaluation, I became very interested in this movement.

After reading Robert Kaplinsky’s post about the topic, I decided that I would try it out. I only officially teach one class right now, so my opportunity to explore this idea is limited, but I wanted to give it a go.

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I believe that a teacher we need to model continuous learning and this is one way that we can learn and grow as educators. As a coach, if I’d like to encourage others to do this, I feel like I should probably walk the walk, and not just ask others to take on this challenge.

For a little background knowledge, this course is a required, semester long course for 6th graders. It is an opportunity for them to develop in their understanding of how to use their laptop to enhance and extend their learning. I have 23 students this semester and this is their first year being in a 1 to 1 environment, as this program starts in Grade 6 in our school.

When deciding on these goals, I thought a lot about the state of my class currently. I was concerned that a few students were requiring more one on one attention and preventing me from being able to circulate evenly among the full class. I would like to move away from whole class instruction and develop ways to move towards a more student-centered approach. Lastly, I’d like to push my students thinking beyond the superficial level of just using the computer and see what other deeper thoughts and ideas can surface.

With all that said, I created my first #observeme sign.


As I don’t believe feedback given to teachers should just tell us ‘good job’ or pat us on the back, I developed a form for observers to complete while in the room. I want to be able to analyze and reflect on the feedback myself instead of someone else determining the quality of the job I am doing.

Here’s the feedback form I initially developed for my goals.



Since this was new to my school, I emailed a few teachers and administrators that I knew might be able to make the time to come observe. I posted my goal sign on the door of the classroom and used a gift bag to hold the observation forms and hung it on the door handle.

I posted the sign for the two periods I taught during one week and was able to get six different people to join me in my class.

Here are my takeaways:

  • I need someone to help guide my reflection of the data I’ve collected. I mentioned Cognitive Coaching in previous posts, and this would be applicable here. I’m sort of staring at my data and struggling with my next step.
  • I paid a lot more attention to the things that were my goals when someone was in the room. I wonder if this changes over time if observers become a regular part of your teaching.
  • I was actually spending less time in one section of the room.
  • I do a lot of individual instruction compared to whole group instruction. I’d like to move this more towards student self-directed learning.
  • I’m still not sure if the feedback form I developed is how I want it. I suppose more thought and discussion is needed on this.

Moving forward, I think I’d like to narrow the focus to one or two goals for a few weeks at a time, but I need to find someone who could talk me through my thoughts post observations. Perhaps this could just be a colleague at my school who wants to work together on this…

Have you participated in the #observeme trend or have read about it? What do you think?

New Year, New Start

I always love the beginning of the school year.

flickr photo by big t 2000 (Tony Heussner) shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license


It’s awesome to work in a job that has the sense of new beginnings each year.

Because this allows each of us to recalibrate our ideas and adjust for the new year.

This provides such hope and passion in trying again.

With that being said, I’m getting my 6th year underway at the American School of Milan.

How it is, in fact, actually my 6th year is beyond me.


This year I’m taking a more relaxed approach with my coaching of teachers. I used to set goals with everyone, write them down and write out a set of actions to accomplish those goals.

Instead, this year, I simply put an open invitation out to everyone to invite me into their classrooms, even when there is no technology involved.

flickr photo by alnicol2000 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

I’m thinking that just being there will allow me to generate ideas that might naturally fit within the classroom and hopefully allow a more natural transformation to take place.

So, we shall see. I’m satisfied with what’s happening early on and hope that it continues moving forward. Most teachers responded to my email and I’ve been in and out of classrooms over the past week. Others need just a little more nudging and I’ll continue to encourage them foward.

The Student Tech Team is also something I’m taking on as part of my role. Last year we had the skeleton of a team, but used them primarily as presenters for our Learning2 conference. The results of that, however, were not great and basically we had a lot of chaos with a big ol’ group of teenagers, which is never pretty.

One of our Student Tech Team members during the Little Bits workshop

One of our Student Tech Team members during the Little Bits workshop

This year, there is an official application process, a quick interview and a selection of team members. We’re trying to keep our team small in an effort to help organize them and our plan for the year. I’m hoping to set the standard that being part of the tech team is kinda like having a job, with responsibilities, work that needs done and expectations to be met.

I did a fair amount of research on this topic and discovered that many schools have the tech team as an official course in their curriculum. I was really surprised by this as it requires having a teacher available to supervise each set of students in the different periods. Our school, quite simply, doesn’t have the staff for that at the moment. So we’re making the best of our situation and moving forward with a small and manageable plan for the year.

Students will be asked to submit a website/app review, podcast or tech tutorial of some kind each month. I’m planning on once monthly group meeting/training sessions, quick individual check-ins to review the work they’re doing, and optional monthly sessions of fun stuff, like learning more about the workings of computers or discovering more about 3D printing, gaming and coding. They will also work a shift or two in the Help Desk, so that they can learn the ins and outs of computer repair and customer service.

I hope this sets us up to start the year out right and find success with an awesome group of excited kids!

Do you run a successful student tech team? What are your best tips? Other suggestions we might consider?



Changing the Way We Approach Professional Development

Lately, I have been reading a lot about adult education and the ways to make Professional Development really effective. And collecting articles in a Flipboard magazine. There are some really great articles out there!

We’ve all been there, sitting in those meetings, with our eyes rolling back in our heads, wondering why in the world we’re being forced to endure such torture. Whether someone is reading a PowerPoint to you or telling you how to use Google Docs instead of Word, we’ve all found ourselves in the position where we felt our time was being wasted.

And for a teacher, time is everything.

flickr photo by Sean MacEntee shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

So much is asked of teachers who already have so little time.

As someone responsible for providing some professional development to our staff, I continue to look for ways to ensure that the opportunities I have are well planned to meet the needs of our staff.

I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, including my own.

I’ve read about the importance of the choice in adult learning and for them to be in control of their learning.

Earlier in the year we tried “speedgeeking” for the first time. Everyone was really happy with the experience and though it was really valuable PD. We’re planning on this happening again next year, at least twice with Technology topics, but maybe also using it with other subject areas.

One thing that makes speedgeeking great is the opportunity for our teachers to teach each other. More teachers can and should share their knowledge with others. We all think that what we’re doing is not exciting enough to share and quite simply, we’re just wrong. Each school has so many great resources within the building (the TEACHERS) that really can and should be used!

Last week, we took a page from the Learning2 playbook and offered an “un-meeting” instead of our standard faculty meeting. One of the elements of Learning2 are un-conference sessions that are determined by the participants during the conference. There is no set expert or agenda. The group that shows up determines how they will spend their time with that topic.

Our meetings are held on Wednesdays, so on Monday morning I emailed out a Google Doc with directions for adding ideas that the teachers were interested in learning about or talking about in a group. Once ideas were added, teachers could vote on the topics.

Wednesday afternoon I counted all the votes and picked 6 topics that appeared to have some interest. I assigned each topic a room.

Before heading off into the topics, we met in a large group just to discuss the overall idea of the “un-meeting.” We talked about how each group might go about getting started and what to do if no one in the group felt like an expert.

I also borrowed an idea from the Eduro learning team that Kim Cofino posted about where they asked everyone to think about the feelings you have when you are forced to learn something versus when you learn about things that you are passionate about.


I wanted to get everyone on the same page in terms of recognizing their choice in the “un-meeting.” Their choice of topic, their choice to be an active participant, their choice to be fully present.



After the meeting, we asked each group to share back some of their discussion on a Padlet so that you could see what happened in other groups and that the learning was available to those who had some other commitment.

We also did a short survey to gather some feedback.

Here’s what we learned:

feedback 1

Overall, it appears that most everyone felt their group was productive, which is good. With some of the topics that had been voted on I was a little concerned it might just be a session of complaints.

And no one wants to sit through that!

We also asked teachers to write one new thing they learned. Here are some of their responses.


I thought some of the comments were really thoughtful, in recognition of there being possibilities to explore new ideas and learn to work together more.


Since I organized the “un-meeting” it was important to me to have an understanding if my explanations and structure made sense to everyone else.


Clearly, the idea for choice did resonate with the teachers. I think that the smaller group size and informal setting was something that allowed more people to participate in a meaningful way and that made a difference in the success of the time spent.


I also asked for suggestions for improvement. Beyond the idea that the teachers would be really happy to see prosecco show up for the “un-meetings”, the most commonly mentioned thought was about following up on the content discussed. I think this is especially true because two of the meetings involved topics that affect the whole elementary, the schedule and the units of study. And it makes sense that those groups would want to know that the time they took discussing and developing ideas was heard by all and thought about in planning for next year. This is something for me to connect with our principal about and see what would be the best strategy to take those ideas and discussions into consideration.

There is also a bit of interest in there being more structure to the “un-meeting.” I think that this is something that we look to because we’re so used to having everyone tell us what to do and how to do it. We need to continue to challenge ourselves to build our own learning and find comfort in the lack of structure. This is difficult, even for me, but I think it is the path to take. For ourselves as learners, and for our students.


Has your school explored different formats of Professional Development? What strategies have you found that are effective? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Fighting the Comfort Zone

Many teachers face times in their career when they find themselves less than satisfied with the work they are doing.

This is true for me too.

I want to feel that the teachers I work with are making gains with their technology education and that the work I’m doing is leading to those successes.

And I don’t feel this way every day.

But I want to.

And I also know that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself!

We are doing great things!

Many people love finding their comfort zone and nestling down deep in it.

flickr photo by symphony of love shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

I love my comfort zone, but what I’ve realized is that space does not make me feel happy or fulfilled.

And I don’t know about you, but I’d much prefer to feel happy and fulfilled each day.

So I’m working on some things to continue to grow and develop my practice.

Like reading more professional books on coaching and professional development.

And trying new methods of professional development for our teachers. (We’re giving another new idea a go next week. Reflection to come!)

I’m also attempting to write here on this blog more in an effort to make my reflections on things more concrete.

I’ve been meeting regularly with my principal to discuss ideas for moving our whole elementary forward, and not just with technology.

And I’ve been looking to people I respect and rereading their blogs and following articles that they are sharing. (See some of these curated here.)

I’ve essentially had a tab open on Kim’s Always Learning blog for several weeks on end.

Here’s to fighting the comfort zone.

Who’s with me?

What do you do when you feel the ‘teacher slump’ coming on? What are other suggestions for overcoming the negative emotions that seem to bring so many down?

A Little Late to the Party…

I have been hearing about speed geeking for many years, probably since the beginning of my CoETaIL experience back in 2012.

So we’re a little late to the party just now getting around to trying this format out.

But, better late than never right?

This past Wednesday I organized rounds of speed geeking for the elementary staff of our school.

We ran five eight minute sessions.

We covered a range of topics, including using Padlet, Google Forms, using Microsoft Word with Publisher to create physical books, tips for the interactive white boards, and using the BeeBot and ProBot.

Caitlin Munson shared how she uses Google Forms as part of her Morning Meeting. Morning Meeting is part of the Responsive Classroom format that ASM has been implementing the past several years.

Ann Simone discussed the use of Padlet in the classroom and how to embed the padlet into classroom websites.

Odaliz Romo has been making her Young Author’s Day books for several years using a combination of Microsoft Word and Publisher and she demonstrated how this could easily be replicated in other classrooms.

Annaleigh Kress modeled use of the BeeBot and introduced the ProBot. She offered several examples of classroom possibilities that combine programming with the curriculum.

Sarah Wampler offered her favorite tools for successful use of the interactive white boards. Frequently, a goal of teachers is to improve their use of the boards and Sarah is very knowledgeable with how to use them best in our elementary program.

The feedback after our speed geeking sessions was really positive. I was thrilled the teachers enjoyed it so much.


I asked teachers to finish the sentence, “Speed geeking was…”

A few answers:

-the most productive hour I have spent in a long time.

-the best PD we’ve had! I learned five things I want to implement in the classroom.

-informative and efficient


I loved that the sessions were run by the classroom teachers and not by myself or others who specifically hold technology roles. It was a great opportunity for teachers to see what each other are doing in the classroom.

I’m already thinking ahead to what sessions to focus on for our next rounds of speed geeking in a few months!

Suggestions for speed geeking sessions? Share them in the comments!


Instructional Vision and Feedback

The third and fourth weeks of the MOOC, Coaching Teachers: Promoting Changes that Stick, have come and gone. With the end of the school year wrapping up, I’ve had less time to organize my thoughts around the weekly topics, but still feel it’s important to reflect on my learning.

The third week focused on the ‘Clarity of Instructional Vision’. This vision is designed to articulate what the students will be doing when the strategy is implemented and used effectively. One point that this course keeps coming back to is the idea that this process of coaching is effective when it promotes change that meaningfully impacts students. Effective coaching promotes this type of change and it makes connections between the teacher’s behaviors and decisions and the desired student behaviors and thinking.

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by carriezimmer:

Also noted in the third week’s lectures was the idea of practice and feedback being imperative in promoting teacher change. This led into the focus for week 4, quality of feedback. The Match Teacher Residency program uses a rubric they call the Kraken as the tool for planning and recording observations and coaching sessions. This tool helps coaches keep a narrow focus for the vision, which allows the teacher to focus their change energy on one piece at a time, since teaching in itself is inherently full of demands throughout the day.

The importance of keeping coaching sessions forward thinking was clearly made. We naturally might be inclined to review past observations or lessons, but only 1/3 of the time spent in a coaching session should be for past notes and thoughts. The rest of the time should be focused on the future and moving forward.

Overcoming the Fixed Mindset

It’s the end of Week 2 of the MOOC, “Coaching Teachers: Promoting Changes that Stick” and I’m anxious to share my learning from this week’s video lectures and reading.

This week focused on the “Fixed Mindset Tax” that prevents teachers from accepting critical feedback and using it to improve their practices. In one of the lecture videos, course instructor, Gunletler stipulates, “If the person you’re coaching doesn’t truly believe they are capable of making a change, you’re not going to get anywhere.”

So clearly, identifying, naming and moving past the various types of fixed mindset is important in increasing teacher effectiveness and student achievement. Without overcoming this a teacher is unlikely to improve and student achievement will not increase either.

Four types of fixed mindset were identified and named in this week’s materials. By doing this, both the coach and the teacher have a common language and can then use this information to notice and correct behaviors.

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by deeplifequotes:

The Four Horseman

1. You’re Right, I Suck- Feedback is taken personally and the coach spends time trying to validate the teacher instead of moving forward

2. You’re Wrong, I Rule- The teacher disputes the coach’s feedback and the coach must justify their thoughts.

3. Blame it on the Rain- The teacher blames problems they cannot solve on external factors.

4. Optimist without a Cause- The teacher mostly agrees with the feedback, but doesn’t express a sense of urgency about applying this new knowledge to their teaching.

I truly thought about a picture of Milli Vanilli to represent “Blame it on the Rain” but I went with this one instead…

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by @Doug88888:

Also part of this week’s course was ‘The Snowman Effect’. The idea here is that while coaching a teacher to develop ‘skill A’ they will process and internalize the feedback, begin to implement discussed changes, but while developing the skill. Overtime the feedback will show improvement and skill A will be developed. This might take several rounds of implementation and feedback. Once skill A is acquired, the teachers have evidence that they can improve. When the teacher is ready to focus on a new skill, ‘skill B’, it will take less time to acquire the skill because it will be built on the foundation set by skill A, which helped to develop a growth mindset in the teacher. The same pattern continues with future skills.


creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by wwarby: