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Confessions of a Tech Specialist: We Share and Borrow Each Other’s Stuff

Confessions of a Tech Specialist: We Share and Borrow Each Other’s Stuff

Yesterday I taught what was supposed to be an intro session to google forms in my school district. I wasn’t scheduled to teach but a peer took sick and of course I volunteered to teach the class. I’ve taught google forms quite a bit so teaching on the fly wasn’t that big of a deal. Typically when I teach a class, I pre-send resources to attendees. This can be anything from a video to simple “getting started” instructions. In the case of this course, I went to the google forms article below written by Beth Still for which really is a brilliantly thorough guide for those getting started.
Google Forms

Sharing resources such as this actually help to accomplish three other intended yet unintended goals.

1. I get to provide my teachers with another way of learning…a new resource or blog post.

2. I get to share a new person to learn from socially. In this case, it was Beth Still.

3. When teachers have tools like this ahead of time, they actually spend the time going through them which save time during sessions as I did not have to repeat basic information.

I believe wholeheartedly in the power of social learning and sharing from my peers gives me room to communicate that. In addition, I did not have to recreate the wheel on a resource as it was already done. It’s important that we do this as it communicates to teachers about the power of sharing. I don’t “re-brand” the work of my peers as my own. Teachers need to know that there are other resources out there for anything that they want to learn.

It was great seeing teachers walk in, get on their computers and pull that resource up. Quite a few of them printed it and were not just making new forms but were embellishing the ones that they started earlier in the day. My session was no longer a “basics” but a “What do I do now to apply this knowledge” session which meant that we were able to spend time on add-ons like Flubaroo and Autocrat which we would not have gotten to otherwise.

I owe a huge thank you to Beth Still because her sharing made my session an amazing learning event and our teachers were pretty ecstatic! If you have not connected with Beth, you should!

Beth Still (BethStill) on Twitter

The latest from Beth Still (@BethStill). Wife & mom – Nebraskan – Founder ISTE Newbie project – Difference maker – Love to empower teachers and students.

Sharing is an important part of what we do. Truthfully, there are so many new tools out that one cannot possibly be the expert of them all. Whether admitted or not, we are all sharing a piece of someone else. I believe that it’s equally important to say, “I didn’t create this, but this person did and it’s amazing” as it is to say, “I created this for you to use.” because both of those statements lend themselves to… “You can create this too”…which is where we should be aiming to be.

Helping Kids Deal In Spite of Life and Baggage

Helping Kids Deal In Spite of Life and Baggage

There are moments when it’s difficult for me to have certain edu conversations. I would love to drown my thoughts in twitter chat hoopla but it’s not happening…not today. Today, I get to deal with real life and not to say that what we discuss in the edu realm isn’t real…but this is the stuff that we never discuss…the real stuff that children face when they leave our schools.

Yesterday, I watched a young single mother clutch her children as her belongings sat on the side of the street of the home that she could no longer afford. We stopped to help them pack and move them to her grandparent’s home. I did not know this young lady nor did I know her children but I knew the pain in their eyes all too well. Her babies were 5, 6 and 11 years old and this is the memory that they will carry with them…their things on the side of the road. By the way, they will all walk into a classroom Monday morning with these memories…their baggage.

We don’t know what kids go home to. We know what they allow us to see. We think we know but we really have no idea.

Even when we do know, some issues are out of our reach yet the children that deal with them daily are well within our hold. I’m not talking about situations where children are in danger. I’m talking about those moments when parents are doing all that they can…yet life for them is just much more difficult than most.

It’s hard to get a kid to care about math when he’s worried about where he’s going to lay his head at night. It’s hard to get a kid to care about science when his only meal, which happens to be at school, was missed because the cafeteria ran out of food.

For older kids, especially those accustomed to struggle, it’s even harder to get them to envision a life beyond high school where they would leave their parents to seek higher education, because through all of the struggle they just want to stay and help at home…which is typically what occurs.

On a personal note, it has been an incredibly difficult 8.5 months watching my sister struggle to make ends meet while dealing with the disruption of her family. What I could do is what I did. We make sure that the 9 year old is ok…that he has an outlet to create and deal…that he can still see the light through darkness. His puppets give him that.

Today, as I sit and watch him dance around and sing “The Circle of Life”, ironically in spite of life…I know that in doing all that we can do, we are doing as we should.

Now, we just have to find a way to make sure that the rest of these kids have this kind of access to “light in life” too.

How We Used TACKK To Share Braeden’s Puppet Story

How We Used TACKK To Share Braeden’s Puppet Story

It may have been two weeks ago when Michelle Baldwin‘s class tweeted that they were inspired by Braeden and making puppets. We’ve shared every bit of his process in doing this across twitter, instagram and facebook. One thing that I did not consider was putting the entire story together in one place to make it accessible to anyone that wanted to read it. So, when I saw the tweet from Michelle’s class, it was a no-brainer that this one last component needed to happen so I created the TACKK below.

TACKK is a simple FREE tool for creating digital posters. For our students, it’s one of the goto tools since kids can create their accounts using their non-email google logins. In addition, users can customize every aspect of their poster in so many ways…from choosing a custom url to adding a background image. Every piece can be customized to the user’s disposal.

I loved that I could easily import images from instagram as well as instagram video. I had so many images that I had to choose as there is a limit of I believe 20 imports from that service. After I reached my limit, I was able to save and upload with no problem.

My favorite parts about TACKK are the sharing features. Check out the video below as I take you inside our TACKK to learn about sharing!

Sharing TACKK

Confessions of a Tech Specialist: We Often Pay to Go Train and Connect

Confessions of a Tech Specialist: We Often Pay to Go Train and Connect

Tonight, as I was going through my training events from now throughout the summer, I had to laugh at the number of events that I plan to go to that are coming directly from my pocket. I laughed because I know that personally paying TO PRESENT professional development is just a normal part of what we do sometimes. Some schools will cover expenses but for many of us, that doesn’t happen unless there is funding. It most certainly does not happen for out of state events.

There are events like, Educon, that I would pay for in a heartbeat because I will leave that place as a better human being. Having said that, tech events are not the same. I rarely learn anything new that I could not have learned through twitter, blogging or a google hangout…so why on earth am I paying out of my pocket to go?

Events can be hundreds of dollars to attend…and that’s just registration. Add airfare and hotels and that means that our out of pocket expenses could be over $1,000 per event. By the way, when I say “our”, I am 100% referring to those of us that present on the basis of submission.

There are a few who have “earned” featured spots and for the most part, those speakers are there expense free…other than meals maybe. Those spots are typically the exact same people conference to conference because those are the people that draw a crowd and get others to pay to attend. They’re typically people who have a resume of great sessions, a reputation, have an insane number of twitter followers and who have extreme visibility.

How and Why

I will say that without the relationships formed through twitter, travel such as this would be financially impossible. Typically if a group of us are going to an event, we’ll split the cost of lodging. It’s those relationships that keep us paying to go teach because those events are where we typically connect face to face. The learning, for me, happens in those conversations and not necessarily in a session. Honestly, I kind of despise sessions that are not conversations. I’m a bit “edcamp-spoiled” in that aspect…which is why I LOVE Educon.

Free Registration

This summer, I’m presenting at TxGoo, Ipadpalooza and iDesign Coppell. Each event gave free registration to presenters, which should really be a no-brainer! Why aren’t they all this way? Hello TCEA, ISTE and Miami Device!

I’m attending Discovery Ed Summer Institute as well as the SMART Global Summit in Canada. Aside from travel TO Tennessee, both of those events are free events but both required an application and acceptance. Anytime that we can get PD at zero cost, we’ll try our best to do it. (Edcamps are awesome for that)

Paying to teach? No Really…Why???

I hate sessions yet I love teaching with a passion! I will even say that I’m pretty good at it and I’m not going to back down from that statement either. I also love seeing new faces and places. I’m not complaining about selling my left kidney to teach because it is a choice. We don’t have to go. We choose to do it and largely because we’re just that passionate about what we do.

I also go because as someone who has a great deal to say about lack of diversity at these events, I think that it’s necessary to be present, counted and heard.

One last thought…

At some point the “featured presenter” page needs to not be void of color because there are plenty of us in this edtech world with just as great of credentials as the typical faces that appear.


Tools for Digital Storytelling in the Secondary Classroom

Tools for Digital Storytelling in the Secondary Classroom

When most teachers hear the phrase, “digital storytelling”, they probably think of telling a story as it would be in a book. For that reason, many teachers struggle with understanding what this is or should be. Stories that are similar to those that students would read in books are only one type and may not apply in every content area or lesson. There are other types as well.

Digital storytelling in my classroom was rarely the “storybook” kind. They were almost always a collection of details that allowed students to bring content together and into focus from their point of view. It was about their curation of things that they created which included how, why, what if and what now. Storytelling enabled students to look at math from the perspective of their world and formulate their ideas about it.

Student stories could be anything from video to slideshows, posters, audio recordings, screencast or even physical printed stories. Below are a few tools that you may already be familiar with including my insight on each one which I have embedded in the descriptions of each card…a cool feature of

1. (image, text, audio, video, websites) <
Log in with Google Acct

Tackk – Content Creation + Sharing

Students can log in with their google accounts. Students can connect instagram to pull images and video. Includes free image search from 500px. Simple to set up and use

2. (image, text, video, audio with link, websites)
Log in with Google acct

Paper for the web | Padlet

Padlet is awesome for bringing content together. I love that it too integrates nicely with instagram. Students can connect with their google accounts and also create custom urls to make their content searchable.

3. Storehouse (Ipad Only) (images, text, video…import from instagram)

Ipad ONLY: Storehouse: visual storytelling

I love the interface of storehouse. I do not like that it is ipad only. I also do not like that accounts can only be create via facebook connect or email. With that said, high school students with email accounts will love being able to pull from almost every sharing site and also add text.

4. (image, text, audio, video, websites)
Log in with Google acct

ThingLink – Make Your Images Interactive

Create a custom image first. Students can then add their images, video and text to bring their ideas together. Honestly, as much as I love thinglink, it really is a more effective tool if students are linking their own content.

5. Tapestry (image and text)

Tapestry: Beautiful Storytelling

Remember, it doesn’t have to be a “storybook” story but tapestry works now on any device and allows users to build beautiful slideshows. LOVE this for poetry/creative writing.

6. Haiku Deck (images and text)

Presentation Software that Inspires | Haiku Deck

Web and mobile creation. Make slides but add more using notes!

7. ExamTime (mindmaps and notes with images, video and links)
I really do wish that the name of this product was not “examtime” because it truly is an amazing tool that goes well beyond use for exams. I like that students can build their own mindmaps and take notes which include images, video and links. I also like that students can create their own quizzes to share along with sharing their interactive mindmaps. I do not like that email or facebook is required to login.
ExamTime – Changing the way you learn

8. Google Apps

Google Apps for Education

What better way than using the tools of google to build a collection of learning? Using docs, spreadsheets, slides…etc…can only be more powerful by allowing others to add content as well.

9. Movenote


I can’t stress how much I love movenote enough because it’s use is too simple NOT to love. It’s simple. Make something that is not a video. Upload it through the app or web and record a video to talk about it.

10. Blogging with any blog site of choice
I can’t stress enough how powerful it is for kids to simply blog. To have a place that is their own where they can share as they choose as well as reflect on life, learning and everything in between is a great thing. How they do that could be any site. Below is kidblog which is what our students use if they aren’t using blogger.

Kidblog | Safe and simple blogs for your students.

Make Your Blogs Interactive with Embedly (My New Favorite Blogging Tool)

Make Your Blogs Interactive with Embedly (My New Favorite Blogging Tool)

I love when I run across tools that are quite useful…completely by accident. I found embedly as I was working on a post about digital storytelling with instagram for secondary students. (posting shortly after this one) Embedly is a tool that allows users to embed any linkable content to a website with an interactive responsiveContinue Reading

Learning Through Rose Colored Tights

Learning Through Rose Colored Tights

When I was in high school, I was an officer on the dance team. We had strict requirements to adhere to regarding appearance. One of those requirements was that we all had to wear the exact same color of tights for performances “flesh tone” rose. Our director was adamant that our legs had to beContinue Reading

Confessions of a Tech Specialist: We Don’t Magically Know How to Do Everything

Confessions of a Tech Specialist: We Don’t Magically Know How to Do Everything

There is a myth that technology experts/specialist have all of the tech answers. We don’t. As a matter fact, if it were not for collaboration and google search, my trainings would be a black sheet of nothing…well, almost nothing! I do have SOME innovative ideas of my own. Technology is an ever-changing bowl of vegetableContinue Reading

Bammy Awards, Missing NCSM14, Sharing and Ignite

Bammy Awards, Missing NCSM14, Sharing and Ignite

Yesterday, I had to remind myself of Amanda Dyke’s great post from last year, “What’s Your Job“. It’s still one of my all time favorites. I was sitting at my desk revising my narrative and redoing my Haiku Deck for my NCSC14 Ignite talk. Up until Sunday, I was supposed to be in New OrleansContinue Reading

Confessions of a Tech Specialist: Today I Took Back My Identity from Twitter

Confessions of a Tech Specialist: Today I Took Back My Identity from Twitter

This morning I looked at my twitter profile and felt sick inside. It was literally a paragraph largely defined by tools. Not to take anything away from my inner tech expert, but I am much more than the tools that previously defined my profile. The thing is that in this field, we are all prettyContinue Reading