Capstone – Thing #15-21

Well, my time with “21 Things 4 Teachers” comes to a close with this final project.  I tried to take the very best of everything I’ve learned over the summer, but it was SO difficult to choose.  This is a video that I am sharing with my principal and colleagues, and I’ll even be sharing it with the participants in my Blended Learning in the Classroom course this term.  I fully intend to keep this blog going.  I officially changed the title earlier today to reflect the idea that you are NEVER finished trying to adjust and adapt your classroom to best meet the needs of your students.

Watch (be sure to turn up the volume because I need a new computer) and enjoy!


Thing #21- Emerging Technologies

Moving at the Speed of Creativity!

I visited the blog page of Wes Fryer’s “Moving at the Speed of Creativity” (, and one of the postings was about Creating Multimedia eBooks.  The posting actually linked to an audio file of Wes presenting this idea in a Chicago conference, which was pretty cool.  I was able to attend an hour-long conference given in Chicago without leaving the comfort of my living room!  Fryer maintains that a student-created eBook will provide a unique opportunity for students to “show what they know” in a narrative that gives them someplace to make meaning of their education.

A student-created eBook in the math classroom might work differently than in English class.  This would be the perfect chance for students to “show what they know” using informational and technical writing rather than the narrative, creative writing they’ve become so familiar with.  They could create a book on How to Solve Exponential Equations or How to Use the Vertical Line Test…the possibilities are endless!  Using any number of the digital storytelling tools discussed in Thing #19, students could show what they know through something other than the typical paper-and-pencil test.

eBooks could be used as a form of assessment in the classroom, but the creation of the book fulfills a number of CITW best practices.  Through reinforcing effort and providing recognition, students will be published authors, and I’m not sure what gets much better than that as far as recognition.  Students are able to do summarizing and note-taking as they put together the information needed for their math eBooks, and they will certainly need some non-linguistic representations as storyboards and other organizational tools are used to put their story together.

The production of these student-created eBooks will modify and redefine the lesson through the SAMR Model.  A common task might ask students to write what they know about exponential equations or even complete 20-30 practice problems.  The collaboration and sharing of this book also redefines what was ever thought possible in this type of lesson.  Students can use technology to open up their math world from something mundane to something that engages and interests them.

Future Trends!

Wow!  I was simply blown away by the emerging technology tools that almost seem like something from the SciFy channel rather than something that could potentially be used in my classroom, realistically!  I was particularly fond of the 3D printer.  We explore volumes and surface areas of 3D objects often in 7th grade geometry lessons, and the 3d printer would allow students to construct their own 3d objects.  The programming tools are essential to our students because as they are strong consumers of technology, it is also important for them to  learn how it all works, as well. This would certainly lead to a potential career in programming and engineering.  However, the one item that was literally jaw-dropping was Google Glass.  My husband and I travel quite a bit, and to be able to bring my experiences back to my students, even LIVE, is something that you just can’t put a pricetag on…especially in the rural, low-income community in which I teach.  The students in my classroom typically haven’t ever left the state, let alone the country, and so something like Google Glass would give them an educational experience like no other.  I can envision the social studies teacher taking something like this on the 8th Grade Washington, DC trip (only about 1/3 of the class is ever able to afford to go).  Those students that stay behind could link up with their teacher an be right  there in DC with the rest of their classmates!  Amazing!  Truly amazing!  For math, I could take Google Glass along to show where math can be found in all corners of the world, or go into another math classroom in another country (we are visiting Jamaica next spring, and I already have plans to visit a middle-level classroom) and share with my students.  Wow!!  Watching the video of the advanced physics teacher nearly brought me to tears…. THIS is what teaching is all about!


I see the importance and the trend of BYOD in classrooms, but because or school policy for so long has included a strict enforcement and zero tolerance of “no cell phones or electronic devices in the classroom” rule…this is going to be a tough adjustment for me, only because I am so programmed that devices in the classroom are “bad”.

Pros…Students won’t have to rely on the iPads on the cart to be available to us for the hour or for a computer lab to be free…they will already have their device.  It would also give the students an opportunity to use their device for something other than the Facebook ranting and Twitter crawling in which they currently participate.   They can become more educated in how to use technology above and beyond the basics.

Cons…My biggest concern is that because the school policy has been so strict in the past, students will see a BYOD policy as a “free for all”.  I worry that they’ll have their devices out, texting, and they won’t get ANYTHING educational completed in class.  I worry that they will be taking pictures/videos of each other, and me, and the information will be posted out of context and in embarrassing circumstances for all parties involved.

My opinion….it’s certainly a trend that can be a great resource, provided the structure and consistent rules are put in place.  Our principal has already proposed a new cell phone policy that involves the colors discussed in the Thing #21 lesson.  The red, yellow, green status of the classroom should help to remind students of what should be going on with their devices at any given time.  The zero tolerance policy of our school board was creating a battle that the faculty just could not win.  Perhaps as we teach students the appropriate use of their devices in a public setting, they will be better prepared for their lives after school.

ISTE Standards

1a Promote, support, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness – Applying something such as Google Glass into the classroom would certainly be an example of promoting, supporting, and modeling an innovative way of thinking.

2d Provide students with multiple and varied formative and summative assessments aligned with content and technology standards, and use resulting data to inform learning and teaching – As students create their own eBooks, as mentioned above, they would be producing an excellent example of what exactly the understand about the content discussed.  The information gathered from their books would certainly let the instructor know what needs to be adjusted and discussed next.

5b Exhibit leadership by demonstrating a vision of technology infusion, participating in shared decision making and community building, and developing the leadership and technology skills of others – As I was reading through the blog of Wes Fryer (, I noticed that there was a call for Google certified teachers and trainers.  This would be something that I would LOVE to do.  Over the summer, I have taken this whole Google world (which had been a completely confusing mystery to me), and turned it into something that I’m already using in my BLiC course and intend to use with my students.  As a Google educator, I would be able to share this with my colleagues and my community as well.

CITW – Best Practice

1 Cues, questions, advanced organizers – Taking all of the emerging ideas and tools in technology and putting them to use for students will take some dedication.  It’s difficult to make changes, especially when it is easier to just keep things the same as they were before.  Pushing students to ask questions about what type of tool or resource could be created to make a specific task easier, encouraging them to develop those ideas….that true learning!

Assigning homework and practice – Students could be asked to research or try out an emerging tool and report back to the class.  This would encourage them to try new things and to become critical consumers, determining what works best for them and their situation.

Thing #20 – Blended or Flipped Classrooms

You know, it’s sad to say that as I near the end of this 21 Things course, I’m wishing there were another 21 things to learn about.  I have so much to say, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.  There will be more time for that later!  Right now, I need to share my experiences with creating videos.  My Math Lab class was “blended” last year in that I had students work a lot with Khan Academy individually while I took the time to work with individuals and small groups.  I veered away from making my own videos because….well… seemed like it was going to be kind of hard, I wasn’t sure how to run any of the software (I had a Snagit license from the BLiC class that I had yet to even install, let alone figure out how it worked), and….well, it was just too much to wrap my head around.

And then Thing #20 comes along.  In today’s virtual meeting, I was hoping for some sort of  impossibly easy way to get around this assignment.  After about an hour of playing around with Jing AND my newly installed Snagit (sad, but I’m now looking at both icons at the top of my screen), I can’t imagine what I thought was so difficult this whole time!!  It’s just like teaching to my students in the classroom, only I can’t see them.  I wish someone would have made me do this sooner!!


I must say that I love, love, love Jing.  The majority of my evening was spent with it, and so that’s where I’m most comfortable right now.  I’m sure, given some time and experience with video captures, I’ll come to love Snagit and all of its editing features just as much.

I have not recorded a video for my junior high students just yet.  That’ll be later tonight after I get my thoughts down here.  What I did was create a short video on how to do an assignment for my BLiC class that just started Monday.  I had a couple of participants that had questions on the same assignment…I slowly put 2 and 2 together today as I was trying to figure out what I was going to do for the Thing #20 assignment.  Why not just create a video for my BLiC participants??  Here is a screen shot (courtesy of Snagit….which I am falling in love with, even as we speak) that shows my posting in the Course Questions forum of my BLiC class… only because you won’t be able to get in as a student.  I guess this would be my proof that it’s out there.



If you want to see the video for yourself, just follow the link.


The feedback from one particular BLiC participant came rolling in right away.  She was thrilled for the help…turns out she was mistaking what a “screenshot” really was, and so we were able to clear up that misconception right away.  It’s not my best work, to be sure, but I was so excited to get it posted (and even more excited to start making videos for my students), forgive the imperfection.


Strengths…I’m pretty proud of myself from avoiding a lot of “ummm….” and “ahhhh….” talk.  It’s one of my pet peeves, and I think strong preparation ahead of time really does avoid that path.  If you know exactly what you are going to talk about, you don’t feel the need for those types of time fillers.  I am also one to mumble a lot and I talk really fast, but I think I did a very nice job of speaking slowly and clearly in the video.

Weaknesses…I think my lack of experience with the technology of these tools may show.  It feels like I am spending a lot of time learning the technology right now, rather than the quality of what is being presented.  I suspect that will begin to clear up over time with practice.  My mind is also racing with all of the things I want to do with Jing and Snagit, and I tend to get overwhelmed when that happens.

The best strategy for making my next video recording even better is to do another one tonight.  It will build that confidence and give me more practice.  I think that will give my mind a chance to sort out how I want to use these videos in my classroom.  I definitely think that when I’m out for a conference, students will no longer have to wait for me to return to start something new.  I’ll be right there with them!  My next video will be better…I want to give Snagit a try, and actually use some of the writing and editing tools to show students how to solve some math problems.

ISTE Standards

Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity – Creating videos for students to view in either a blended or flipped environment provides me with the time I need to work with students more closely.  I’m not bogged down by standing in front of the class all hour going on and on and on…telling the students in the back to be quiet or to get out their math binders.  Students will take more responsibility for their own education, leading to higher interest and participation.

2b Develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their progress – The blended and flipped environment do just this for students.  Students are no longer tied to what I want them to know, how I want the to learn, when I want them to learn….and so on.  They can discover and explore the content in new and different ways, learning as much as they like, however they choose.

3c Communicate relevant information and ideas effectively to students, parents, and peers using a variety of digital age media and formats – I now have the freedom to not only make educational videos for students, but I can make videos that shows parents how to check their child’s grades online, videos for my colleagues showing them how a new digital age tool might work in their classroom…the opportunities are endless!

4b Address the diverse needs of all learners by using learner-centered strategies providing equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources – Students of all learning styles and capabilities will not only have more time with me in the classroom to help them directly, but they will also have access to videos that they can rewind and pause and watch as many times as necessary until they either “get it” or they are able to formulate a question that will lead to understanding.

CITW – Best Practices

Setting objectives and providing feedback – A video can clearly state right up front exactly what will be discussed in the content.  As in the case with my BLiC participants, I was able to quickly provide feedback in the form of a tutorial video that cleared up a misconception.

Cues, questions, and advanced organizers – If a hear a number of questions being repeated as I walk around to individual groups and partners, I can re-adjust my instruction and include a video that would address those questions.  Basically, the students and their level of understanding will drive the curriculum.

Summarizing and note-taking – The videos provide that “playback” feature that will encourage strong note-taking and summarizing skills for students.  I only hope they understand that not EVERY class will give them this unique characteristic.

Assigning homework and practice – I completely understand the theory behind giving the content of a lesson as the homework for students.  With videos, they have a chance to re-watch and pause as often as necessary.  That leaves their time with me as a chance for me to answer questions, iron out any misconceptions, and I get the chance to see how well they really do understand the material.

Thing #19 – Digital Storytelling

Digital Storytelling!

I was able to play around a bit with the Storybird tool ( and create a story problem for my students to solve.  In the spirit of Dan Meyers and his Three Act math problems, I created a problem that didn’t necessarily give every piece of information to students, but instead gave them the chance to explore a relatively real world situation and answer in a way that makes sense to the student.  I probably gave away too much information as it is, but it’s a start.  After going through and solving the problem that I have presented, students will be asked to create their own digital story problem.  Not only have I modeled digital storytelling, but I have redefined and modified my original lesson to make a richer, more meaningful experience for students.  I would say that creating their own story problems, sharing, and solving would be much more beneficial than completing a worksheet of story problems.  Every year, I have students that routinely skip the story problems in the homework assignments in the book because they say they are too confusing.  If they begin to create their own story problems, students will be looking at the problem from the other side, hopefully not nearly as intimidated by all of the words anymore!  Here is my Storybird, entitled “Karl Gets Lost”.

Karl Gets Lost


Reactions From Others!

Two of my colleagues looked at this, and they were both amazed.  One happens to be an English teacher, and she couldn’t wait to get her students working on one of these this fall.  The other was a math teacher, and I don’t think she’s stopped talking about it yet.  We have been struggling in the math department for years trying to get students to tackle these story problems.  Perhaps by putting the power of the students’ education into THEIR hands, they will have more of an investment and interest in moving forward.  As much as I loved Storybird, I felt a little limited by having to make my story match the pictures, and I would like to try another source the next time.  Using my own photos and videos to create real world problems might be easier.

Practice with SoundCloud!

I created an account in SoundCloud, and discussed the benefits of digital storytelling for students.  Students reach a different level of thinking as they go through the assignment, and they are provided with multiple means of expression, content, and technology standards.  The audio file is linked below.

SoundCloud Audio Clip on Digital Storytelling


ISTE Standards

1b – Engage students in exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using digital tools and resources – Though the original intent of this thing was to create a story through digital means, I was able to turn this into a story problem for students.  Students can solve the problems and then create their own through the use of the digital storytelling resources.

2c Customize and personalize learning activities to address students’ diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using digital tools and resources – Not every student thinks like I do, especially when it comes to math.  I am very linear and procedural, but more and more students crave that need for creativity, especially in this digital age.  With digital storytelling tools, students are able to access those types of learning styles that they maybe couldn’t before in the typical math classroom.

3d Model and facilitate effective use of current and emerging digital tools to locate, analyze, evaluate, and use information resources to support research and learning – The use of digital storytelling tools allows the instructor to model a different way to solve math problems, opening the door for student learning.

4a Advocate, model, and teach safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology, including respect for copyright, intellectual property, and the appropriate documentation of sources – Though I have been guilty of  letting this idea slip in the past, through consistent modeling, students will learn the importance of protecting themselves, their creations, and their ideas.  I was sure to include the Creative Commons license on both my Storybird book and my audio recording.

5d Contribute to the effectiveness, vitality, and self-renewal of the teaching profession and of their school and community – The SoundCloud resource allowed me to easily share my thoughts and ideas about digital storytelling and its benefits.  Sharing these thoughts on my face of the classroom and the blog shows that I have made a contribution to the teaching profession.

CITW – Best Practices

Summarizing and note-taking – There were a number of storyboard organization sites that were shared in this thing that would allow students to take notes and include the elements of digital storytelling.

Non-linguistic representations – Using photographs, videos, and provided artwork is the essence of digital storytelling.  Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of objectives without the use of the written word.

Setting objectives and providing feedback – A SoundCloud or Audacity audio recording would allow the instructor to upload and provide feedback to a student’s work directly.

Cues, questions, and advanced organizers – The digital story problem book that I created includes questions within the story.  Students are asked about halfway through the book as to what information would be necessary to complete the problem.  Also, there are elements of creating a storyboard for a student’s own story problem that help him/her to organize thoughts.

Identifying similarities and differences – As students work collaboratively and explore the work of others, they will quickly be able to compare the similarities and differences in their stories with that of their peers.  In my particular situation, it would be great if they could see that the stories that they are creating all result in linear functions!



Thing #18 – Dig the Data

Spreadsheets and Charts from School Data!

Using Google Sheets, I was able to take a closer look at my district’s data for the 7th Grade MEAP testing in math.  I looked over a 5 year time-frame, and I was able to investigate how the economically disadvantaged students compared to those without an economic disadvantage.  I sorted the Sheet in the year column, only because it made the most sense.  You can find the Sheet as well as a bar chart by following the link.


Perception and Process Data!

I had to change the questions a bit in my Perceptions and Process data from Thing #17 in order to get some data that I could actually analyze.  I ended up re-asking teachers how many hours they spent outside of the regular class time with students per week, on average, and then what they actually did with students.  From there, I asked teachers if they felt the school was safe and how many referral forms they handed out to students, on average, per week.  The results were quite interesting.  It looks like the more teachers were involved and willing to be advisors, coaches, and tutors outside of the regular class time, the more likely they were to view the school as safe and to give out less referral forms.  I was able to sort the data by first names only, which are fictitious to protect those that were willing to help me out again, and I calculated both sums and averages of the numeric columns.  The chart gives a clear picture of the information.  You can see that they higher the time spent with students, the lower the referrals.  Also, the less time spent with students, overall, the more referrals.  You can find this information in Google Sheets.

In the Classroom!

Online polling could be used in the classroom at the end of a unit exam or test.  I could quickly ask students how much time they spent studying for the assessment, total.  I could then ask them to reveal their letter grade.  I could take those two pieces of information and quickly create a quick and easy spreadsheet and chart that would allow students to see (hopefully) that they more time spent studying does pay off in the end.  This would be done anonymously, of course, to protect student grades.  We could also collect data about how much time students spend watching tv or browsing the internet and compare that to the current grade in the classroom.  I am pretty sure the results would not be surprising to educators or parents.

ISTE Standards

1a Promote, support, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness – Collecting data and analyzing into some form of useful information certainly models that creative and innovative thinking.

2d Provide students with multiple and varied formative and summative assessments aligned with content and technology standards, and use resulting data to inform learning and teaching – Taking the information from a recent test or even an informal exit slip will give the instructor enough information to inform the direction of the curriculum.

3b Collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation – The data that is collected and analyzed could be shared with students, parents, and even members of the community so show progress.  It’s difficult to just say the students are performing better in math, but when you can show them a tangible piece of evidence that supports that claim, the results are difficult to argue.

CITW – Best Practice

Setting objectives and providing feedback – With spreadsheets, it is easy to set a specific objective and track the results.  Perhaps an instructor collects data, ensuring that all students will perform at grade level by the end of the school year.  Through frequent assessments an analysis of data, an instructor can adjust the instruction methods to make every student successful.

Reinforcing effort and providing recognition – That same spreadsheet could be used to determine which students are still struggling and need some extra help.

Cues, questions, and advanced organizers – The very format of a spreadsheet and the chart itself lend themselves to belong in the advanced organizer category.  Encouraging students to look for and understand what the spreadsheet means can allow them to begin to clarify the information.

Non-linguistic representation – The quick and easy charts that can be created with the information provided in the spreadsheet can simply tell the story of the data.

Assigning homework and practice – Students could be assigned the task of creating a spreadsheet and chart, and then analyzing the information.

Identifying similarities and differences – Through some quick analysis of the information collected in the spreadsheet and the chart, the user will easily be able to find some comparisons.  For example, in the chart provided above in part 1, a pattern quickly develops, showing that the economically disadvantaged students are doing poorly both in our district and across the state.  Gaps in the data can be found.

Generating and testing hypothesis – The analysis of this data will allow students both to make a prediction of what the data will show, and to test that prediction.  Students can predict what will happen if they study more, and when the spreadsheet and chart are created, chances are that they will see that the more you study, the better your grade on the test.

Thing #17 – Evaluation and Assessment

FERPA/HIPPA Quiz Results and Reflection!

I was quite surprised on how poorly I did on this quiz.  I have been aware of FERPA and HIPPA for quite awhile now, but there are still aspects that I obviously have not recalled properly.  The part that pertains to my own part of the world in my classroom is pretty solid.  I’m perfectly aware that I cannot post grades…heck, I don’t even recycle old student papers because recycling…well, anyone could get in there.  I even had quite a discussion with the aunt of one of my students…she wanted to know more about her nephew’s grades, but I had to let her know that I couldn’t discuss it with her.  Mom was home sick, and so there were a few “words”, but I stood firm.  I won’t even tell an older sister how her brother is doing in class.

I need more information on how the school handles FERPA and HIPPA, on a larger scale.  I guess I assumed that when we sat down to analyze data, the student’s records were available for all teachers.  Now I see that it is only on a “need to know” basis.  If a particular teacher does not have the student, and never will, he/she really shouldn’t have access to those records.  I need to remember to keep the data results anonymous, leaving the names off of the information I share.  I also have had parents question me when their son/daughter goes away to college, wondering why they no longer have access to grades.  I didn’t realize that there was hope of looking at those grades, if the school chooses to release them.  I feel better knowing that I have accurate information to share with these parents.

Data Report Gaps!

This is certainly something that I knew was an issue, but to see the actual results in front of me, it’s a little hard to ignore.  For my district, I pulled up the 7th grade math scores, and I found students that were economically disadvantaged scored much lower than those that were not economically disadvantaged, and this is something that continues to happen year after year.

Marlette MEAP


I compared this same group, same grade level and content area to find similar results.  There is a huge gap when it comes to comparing economic status.

State MEAP

Perceptions and Process Data Questions!

I was eager to see how teachers really felt about certain processes and perceptions about leadership and the learning environment in our school district.  I asked a few of my closest colleagues to respond.  These were all junior high teachers, and I felt these would be the teachers that would give the most honest responses.  Here are the questions.

  1. What do you find takes up the most of your time with students outside of the regular class time?
  2. What extracurricular activities are you participating in with students, either as a leader or co-leader?
  3. Do you believe the environment at our school is safe?
  4. Do you feel that the Responsible Thinking Classroom is working for students with discipline issues?

I used PollEverywhere, and the results were amazing!  This is definitely something I could use with students on the days when we have the iPad cart in the classroom.  I could post the results right up on the interactive whiteboard.

Filling the Gap!

To address the economic status gap that is apparent in our school, there are several questions that we could use to try to get at the source of our problem.  Students could be asked…

  • Do you have someone at home to ask for homework help if necessary?
  • Do you have internet access and/or a computer to contact your teacher if you need homework help?
  • Would you be willing to stay for after-school tutoring if you needed help?

These questions would certainly let staff members know which students had parent support at home and which ones were able to access the internet resources to help with assignments.  After teachers are aware of which students are in trouble, they would then be able to provide additional assistance through after-school tutoring, or even adjusting assignments to help those that are economically disadvantaged succeed in the classroom.

ISTE Standards

1c Promote student reflection using collaborative tools to reveal and clarify students’ conceptual understanding and thinking, planning, and creative processes – Through the use of such assessment tools as PollEverywhere, the instructor can quickly reveal how well students are understanding the material.

Design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments – Again, with the use of PollEverywhere (I love to use Socrative as well, but it was giving me trouble today), students are exposed to digital age assessments that can quickly assess what has been learned.

Model digital age work and learning – Through the use of such collaborative assessment tools, the instructor is modeling and exposing students to a variety of digital age tools that will certainly engage and appeal to their interests.

CITW – Best Practices

Setting objectives and providing feedback – I can’t think of a faster, more convenient way for instructors to give feedback to the class as a whole.  Simply asking an exit question, such as “Where can you find the slope of a line when the equation is in slope-intercept form?” will allow the teacher to immediately see how well students are understanding where to find that slope.  From there, the teacher can immediately correct any misconceptions and/or adjust the next day’s instruction to fit the needs of the students.

Generating and testing hypothesis – Using a quick poll through something like Socrative or PollEverywhere, students can take a risk and relay what they are thinking.  They are generating a hypothesis, and when the students see the classroom results, they will determine whether the hypothesis is correct.

Identifying similarities and differences – I love the open-ended feature in PollEverywhere.  You can set it to generate a word cloud, and the words that are used the most often get larger.  If I were to ask students to compare linear and exponential functions, noting their similarities and differences, students would begin to see this amazing word cloud with so many new and different ideas to their own.  This is an outstanding feature!



Thing #16 – DI and UDL

Differentiated Learning!

In order to address differentiated learning, there are a number of things that I already use in instruction.  Here are just a few examples.

  • Align tasks and objectives to learning goals – Using the Common Core and district curriculum as my guidelines, I create lessons and activities that build student learning.  Each class is different, and so I find that I can’t just do the same thing year after year.  My curriculum guide is a living, breathing document that changes with each group of students.
  • Flexible grouping is consistently used – Depending on the specific lesson or activity, we rotate among whole class groups, small groups, and pairs to construct student knowledge.  I regularly re-assign groups based on the content of the activity, keeping in mind student strengths and capabilities.
  • Students are active and responsible explorers – I regularly check to make sure each group and partnership is appropriately challenged.  If a particular student is rushing through something that is too easy, warning flags go up for me.  I regularly reflect and readjust to ensure that each student is interested and eager to move forward.
  • Emphasize critical and creative thinking as a goal in lesson design – I always try to make sure that math isn’t a class where students take notes, and then do a bunch of problems.  I try to create an environment in which they make connections to the real world, seeing the importance of math in everyday life.  We go through problems that may not even have an exact answer, but rather we emphasize the problem solving process.

Diverse Learning!

I think the best tool that can be used in the math classroom to support a struggling learner would be a graphic organizer.  There are several types available, specifically discussed back in Thing #3, and if students could see the big picture of how certain math concepts are connected together, perhaps they would see the value behind the content that is being addressed.  These could be student- or teacher-created, and they could be started at the beginning of a unit and readjusted as new information is shared.  With color-coding, text-reading, and image capabilities, students would have a solid map of the unit.  Another graphic organizer could be a rubric, something that would set clear expectations for students early on in the unit or lesson.

Universal Design for Learning!

In the math classroom, I use math manipulatives every time I possibly can.  If students can feel it and touch it, it gives them one more way to help their brains remember the concepts.  When we go through a probability unit, I have students flip coins several times to see if that whole “50/50” thing is real.  If students flip the coin 20, 30, or even 50 times, they may not get the true sense of what it means for two outcomes to be equally likely.  However, if we use a virtual math manipulative that can flip the coin for them 100 or even 1000 times in seconds, they can see for themselves that the outcomes do theoretically balance out.  I have used the Shodor site frequently ( and the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives ( for my students.  I do have a classroom set of graphing calculators for students to quickly make comparisons in their graphs, but not all students have access to these calculators at home.  I see there is a Graphcalc resource ( that students could potentially use at home if they have been absent or would like to explore what we have learned in class a little more.  Each of these virtual manipulatives will certainly get math into the hands of ALL students.

Text-to-Audio Conversion!

I used the Natural Reader site ( to convert a paragraph of this posting into an audio recording.  I ended up downloading the free program onto my laptop.  I never realized how easy it was to use these text-to-audio programs, and as my “face” of the classroom becomes more of a place for students to access lessons and resources online, I would like to include this website for student use.  I often have students with low reading capabilities, and as my 7th grade curriculum consists of a number of real world problems and scenarios, this text-to-audio idea would be essential for these students.  They wouldn’t be bogged down by all of the reading, but rather, they would be able to focus on the math of the lesson.  However, as I include more student writing into my curriculum, these text-to-audio resources could also be used for students to double check the grammar and “feel” for what they have written.  My students are famous for writing something down, and then just submitting it without giving it a second thought.  If they ran what they had written through one of these text-to-audio programs, perhaps they would hear the ridiculousness of some of their writing.

Text to Audio Converter

ISTE Standards

1a Promote, support, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness – Providing an environment in which every learner can be successful is my job as a teacher, and putting simple strategies in place to help each and every student only makes sense.  With tools such as the text-to-audio converters and online math manipulatives, all students will get their chance at math success.

2c Customize and personalize learning activities to address students’ diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using digital tools and resources – Without actually going through and making three different versions of the same lesson to address students needs, using simple differentiated learning and UDL strategies will still reach the diversity of learners in the classroom.  Through flexible grouping and creating innovative and engaging lessons and activities for students, the instructor will be able to reach all student learning styles, working strategies, and abilities.

3a – Demonstrate fluency in technology systems and the transfer of current knowledge to new technologies and situations – Simply being aware of the elements of differentiated instruction, diverse learning, and UDL resources, the instructor will be able to transfer that knowledge through digital age tools.  Through continued use and practice of these elements, the instructor will then easily be able to move that knowledge to the newest and most updated technology tools and situations.

4b – Address the diverse needs of all learners by using learner-centered strategies providing equitable  access to appropriate digital tools and resources – Through the use of something like the text-to-audio converters, instructors will be providing all learners equitable access to the lessons and activities provided.  This would be true of the virtual math manipulatives that were discussed earlier as well.

CITW – Best Practices

Cues, questions, and advanced organizers – In order to make the curriculum accessible to each and every student, a graphic organizer could be used to outline the upcoming unit and to outline expectations.  Color-coding and images paired with text-to-audio conversions will provide a big picture of understanding for students.

Summarizing and note-taking – As students take notes or summarize particular portions of a lesson or activity, they could run it through a text-to-audio converter program to ensure that what they have written makes sense.  The students could also use the converter to read certain portions of the textbook or articles to them, allowing them to focus on what they would need to write down for notes or summaries.

Assigning homework and practice – The text-to-audio converter could easily be included in the “face” of my classroom, and the students that are working on homework and practice individually could use it to read the assignments to them, it could help them read the assigned text, and it could even read back their written responses.

Thing #15 – Professional Learning Networks

Building a PLN Through Social Networks!

I have been Facebook and Twitter user for awhile now, and I’ve recently added Google+ to my repertoire.  I already belong to a number of the teaching resources, and because of this, there are several new ones that are frequently recommended to me.  I’ve already had the opportunity to build my Professional Learning Network through social networks.  I am also now a proud follower of the 21 Things 4 Teachers Twitter Network!


I am now an official MACUL member, and I was able to sign up for a number of Special Interest Groups during my sign-up process.  I’m hoping to become an even more proficient technology teacher for my students, but also a leader in my school.  While all of the web tools and concepts introduced in the 21 Things course are groundbreaking and exactly what is necessary for education to move forward, these ideas are quite new to my district, and I look forward to sharing what I have learned through this course and what I will get from MACUL!  These Special Interest Groups may help me to get started.

  • Multimedia (SIGMM)
  • Professional Learning (SIGPL)
  • Technology Coordinators (SIGTC)
  • Online Learning (SIGOL)

MACUL Journal!

After becoming a proud member of MACUL, I noticed the journals on the site right away.  It felt like Christmas when I realized that the journal was completely FREE online, and I had immediate access to it!!  I know I only had to read one article, but an hour later, I realized that I had just read the entire journal and was actually disappointed that I had reached the end.  I read through several contributions from people I actually knew, and so I felt pretty important!  😉  I read through the current journal, Fall 2014, Volume 35, Issue 1.  The most interesting articles to me included:

  • TRIG Classroom Readiness – The staff where I teach is constantly griping during staff meetings about the new testing that is right around the corner and how are students won’t be prepared for it.  I wonder if this is something that would help ease their concerns.  I plan on sharing this article with my principal for some potential professional developement.
  • Bringing the Real World Into Our Classrooms – As a math teacher, my students are constantly inquiring as to WHY they have to learn this “junk”.  After reading through this article, I am now a Vimeo member, and I will definitely be using some of the Video Story Problems in my classroom this year.
  • Building Online Assessment Literacy – As with the first article I mentioned, the new testing methods require our students to be able to show what they know as far as content, rather than being bogged down by their lack of technology proficiency.  This topic is a must for our students.
  • A Dynamic Resource for Classrooms – The mention of 21 Things for Students here is perfect, as it is an idea that I have been toying with since way back in Thing #2…as I gradually realized this resource was out there.  We have an outstanding technology teacher in our building, but after blending my Math Lab class last year, I’ve realized that my students’ technology skills are limited to keyboarding, word processing, and data sheet skills.  They are completely unaware of the Internet safety and collaborative skills that are necessary in the world today.  I would certainly like to take some time this year to work with students through 21 Things for Students and to share this resource with our technology teacher.
  • When Digital Native Blog – This is yet another idea that I have tossed around since the very beginning of this course.  Our district writing scores are low, and administration and curriculum leaders have been encouraging us ALL to include more writing in our own core content for quite awhile.  As a math teacher, I never really knew how to implement more writing effectively until taking my Masters in Math Education program completely online, submitting more writing than I ever dreamed possible.  Having students create a blog to write about their math skills is ingenious!  It’s an excellent location for students to write about what they’ve learned, what they understand, what is still confusing…and they can comment and collaboratively work through math content!  I love this idea!

As I said, I got a little carried away with this journal, but the good news is that I am certain to go back and read past issues now, eagerly awaiting the latest issue.


Sadly, I must admit that as early as 2-3 years ago, I would receive emails from our REMC director and just shrug my shoulders.  I had no idea what REMC was, what it did, and no one had ever really mentioned it in our district or explained it, so it didn’t seem that important.  NOW, things are dramatically different!  I lament over the years worth of resources and information that I missed out on, simply due to ignorance.  I am certain that the new school year will bring on HUGE changes in my own classroom, and I’m hoping that a “ripple effect” will cause other staff members to see what I’m doing and bring about some changes district-wide.  As a BLiC instructor, I have already begun to share blended learning ideas with colleagues, and it is guaranteed that they will hear all about 21 Things and how much REMC 10 can do for them.

After visiting the REMC page, I watched the video entitled “Knocking Down Walls: Connecting Students With Blogging” because of this growing idea I’ve had about students forming their own blog page.  It was nice to hear the confirmation that blogs are an excellent place for students to put down their ideas and collaborate.  What I hadn’t thought of was the fact that student blogs will provide students with an entire year’s portfolio of work that they will have forever if they choose, much like this blog that I’ve been keeping throughout the 21 Things course.    The  Kidblog space seems nice, but I’d love to do some exploring to see what would work best.

ISTE Standards

Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity – Building a Professional Learning Network will provide me with the latest information on building a learning environment that will inspire my students.  Whether it be through professional, social, or collaborative sources, the knowledge is invaluable.

Model digital age work and learning – As the knowledge is built for me as a teacher through professional learning networks, I will be able to take what I’ve learned and model and share that information with my students and colleagues.  This is the direction that education is heading, and it is important for students to see models with digitla tools.

Engage in professional growth and leadership – Becoming a member of MACUL and linking to a variety of educators through professional and social networks, I am actively growing professionally as I acquire more information.  Sharing what I have learned with my colleagues will mark me as a leader in the field.

CITW – Best Practices

Cooperative learning – Students will reap the benefits of what I learn through Professional Learning Networks.  I already have a Facebook page that I have set up for my students (past, present, and future), and I also have a Twitter account.  Students can begin building their own learning network as they are exposed to a variety of digital age tools and resources.

Setting objectives and providing feedback – Through social networks, I can certainly share objectives with students as well as provide feedback.  For example, I can Tweet to students the objectives of tomorrow’s lesson (maybe graphing parabolas), and I can encourage students to put on their graphing brains.  Similarly, a student has often asked me a question on Facebook about homework, and I am able to respond directly.

Capstone for Things #8-14

I decided I was ready to create a lesson plan for this Capstone assignment.  It took awhile to wrap my head around how to implement all of this new technology knowledge into a simple lesson that I could use for my Algebra class.  It seems like there are so many new things, I was eager to try out as many new tools as possible, and I was quickly overwhelmed with a massively complex lesson that would certainly enrage and confuse my students.  Remembering that the technology component should be invisible, the math content being the focus, I finally found something that would work.

I realize that in my small, rural district, it will be a bit of a chore to ask students to approach this radically different type of learning environment.  However, I think that once they see that the content presented is solid and structured, they will quickly adapt.  Here is the lesson, in its entirety.  Enjoy!

Capstone 8-14


Thing #14 – Powerful Presentations


Have you ever had a complete and TOTAL “aha” moment that hit you so hard, you had the strong desire to do 4 weeks of work in one night??  That’s just about where I am with Blendspace.  I have been thinking and experimenting with a number of different tools and ideas for over a year, trying to find what would work the best for my students as I try to move my classrooms to a more blended environment.  I’ve tried a lot of really cool things, but nothing ever really seemed like Goldilock’s “just right” web tool… until NOW!!  I love love love Blendspace, and my mind is reeling with everything I want to do before school starts.  I have created PowerPoints for nearly all of my lessons, but it’s just not enough anymore.  Blendspace allows me to include practice handouts, videos, games, interactive practice…even links to the textbook.  The Blendspace presentation I created for this “thing” has already been posted on my Weebly site, and it will be our first lesson in Algebra this fall.  I can’t WAIT to create even more!

During that first review week of school, I always find it necessary to revisit the order of operations with students as well as the properties of real numbers, and that is exactly what this presentation does.  I intend to get students hooked up with gmail accounts and access to this first Blendspace lesson as soon as possible.  We have an iPad cart that I can use, or I’ll be signing up first thing to get into the computer lab.  Students will go through each page of the presentation, learning and practicing the reviewed skills.  I plan to facilitate this web experience by speaking with individual students or small groups to answer guiding or specific questions as the students are working on the lesson.  This particular lesson addresses each point of the SAMR model.  For substitution and augmentation sections, students will be going through the content pieces (such as the PowerPoint or the graphics that have been presented) and writing down their own notes, interpreting and explaining in their own words, constructing their own methods for understanding the order of operations and properties of real numbers.  For modification, students will have an opportunity to critique, offer suggestions, and give their opinions in the forum as classmates post responses to where the properties of real numbers can occur in real world situations.  Finally, the redefinition comes in as students develop and create a presentation of their own version of the PEMDAS acronym.  There are also a number of “best practice” components built into this presentation, most importantly setting objectives and providing feedback.  Students will be fully aware of what they are learning, and as I am able to be available to individuals and small groups, the feedback on how well they are understanding the material will be very fast.  The built-in quizzes and provided answer keys will also immediately provide that critical feedback students thrive on.


This is a resource that I have been aware of, but I’m not quite sure why I haven’t used it more.  I think the way I will handle each of these lessons is through a multimedia rubric.  Students will be able to earn points based on the handouts they turn in, the tasks they must complete, and the online assessments.  This puts the power of learning into the hands of my students, where it should be… and I can spend more time moving individuals forward, no matter where they are on the learning continuum.

ISTE Standards

Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity – With something as flexible and user-friendly as Blendspace lessons, students will be able to move forward in their math content knowledge through videos, interactive sites, practice, online quizzes,…something above and beyond where they’ve been with their education.

Design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments – There is such a wide variety of digital age learning resources, and through the use of Blendspace, I am able to design and develop lessons for students that will take them beyond the walls of the classroom.

Model digital age work and learning – By bringing in an iPad cart and/or taking students to the computer lab on a regular basis for math class, students will be exposed to a different type of math classroom.  The Blendspace lessons that I create for my classes will show students how well the digital age tools can be used for work and learning.

4b Address the diverse needs of all learners by using learner-centered strategies providing equitable access to appropriate digital tools and resources – Students with special needs can certainly access the Blendspace lessons that I create.  Students with specific learning disabilities can complete certain portions of the lesson.  The videos and additional PowerPoint presentations can be accessed an unlimited number of times, and rather than copying down notes, special needs students can print out the necessary content.  Those with hearing impairments can certainly use the closed-captioned feature on the videos.

5c Evaluate and reflect on current research and professional practice on a regular basis to make effective use of existing and emerging digital tools and resources in support of student learning – The Blendspace lessons can easily be adapted to the newest and best researched digital tools as they become available.  As I read through the updated materials, I can make changes to my Blendspace lessons.

CITW – Best Practices

Setting objectives and providing feedback – As mentioned above, this is the most prominent best practice of the Blendspace lessons simply because the objectives can be plainly stated at the beginning of the lesson for the entire class to see, and then there are multiple opportunities throughout the lesson for both teacher and interactive feedback for students.

Non-linguistic representations – The video and image feature make the Blendspace presentations the perfect opportunity for students to access this best practice.  Students could be asked to make their own Blendspace presentation to teach a particular standard using any of the non-linguistic tools available to them, such as world clouds, images, videos, and so on.

Summarizing and note-taking – As I provide the content to students in the form of PowerPoints and videos, students will have the option to take notes and summarize what they have learned.  There will no longer be the need to copy down every single word they see on the board because it will be there for them throughout the year.  They need to use this best practice to really learn the material.

Cooperative learning – Students could collaborate and work on a Blendspace presentation of their own, sharing the lesson with other students, and perhaps even presenting the information to classmates.

Final Thoughts

I’ve used PowerPoints and Prezi, and even Google Presentations, but I sincerely believe this Blendspace idea is the beginning of something fantastic for my students!  Thanks for bringing this “thing” to our attention!