Click Here

Braeden’s Easter Bunny: A New Tackk

Braeden’s Easter Bunny: A New Tackk

If you follow any of my other social feeds, you know that Braeden made a new Bunny puppet for his mother. So, naturally I used TACKK, an amazing digital storytelling tool to share the story.

I love Tackk because it’s the perfect way to share the details beyond the images and videos that I load across the web. I especially love the instragram integration. If you haven’t checked it out…you should!

I’ve embedded it below. You can also view it on TACKK, here.

Self-Hosted WordPress Tips: Choosing a Theme, Designing and Chrome Extensions to Help

Self-Hosted WordPress Tips: Choosing a Theme, Designing and Chrome Extensions to Help

One of the highlights of my rebranding of all of my social spaces has been receiving positive feedback from visitors and collaborators. I love that people actually think that my blog was a big ordeal to design. It was not. I run a self-hosted wordpress blog which means that I run the wordpress software on my servers. It’s a choice that I made once I understood how blogging worked.

The beauty of self-hosting is that you can choose your own theme or in my case, framework, and customize it however you choose. My blog is running the Headway theme, which is basically a blank canvas that lets me build whatever I want on every page. Seriously, if I wanted to make every page look different, I could.

Headway Drag and Drop WordPress Website Builder

Once I chose my color landscape, I partnered with a design friend, Social Ink DFW, to create my banner which now serves as my backdrop across almost every network. We collaborated on the banner but as far as the rest of my blog, I did it all on my own.

socialinkdfw (socialinkdfw) on Twitter

The rest of my blog is all about widgets, plugins and placement.

Themes, Themes and More Themes…

What if you are not okay with crafting your own design? There are plenty of places that have these done for you! Below are a few places to start. I will say that unless you are running a framework which lets you control the design and structure, you might still need to know a bit of coding in order to tweak certain things here and there. I relied heavily on wordpress forums and also on just “playing” and to this day, there are still small things that I have to google, but I do fully understand how wordpress themes work and can pretty much call exactly which file and code needs to be tweaked for certain actions to occur.

WordPress Themes Loved By Over 230k Customers

WordPress Themes | Website Templates | Create a Website | ThemeForest

Chrome Extensions for Blogging

Inspiration comes in all forms. What if you wanted to know more about a blog page that you are on? What if you needed to find the measurement of graphics for a page? If you’re using a tool like Canva, you might even need the hex color!

Well, there’s an extention for that! I have three Chrome extensions that I use frequently. Check them out and also watch the video below as I share how to use them and what I use them for!

BuiltWith Technology Profiler


Eye Dropper

Oh Bammy: Promoting Collaborative Positivity Sans Back End Deals

Oh Bammy: Promoting Collaborative Positivity Sans Back End Deals

Last year, I watched the Bammy drama unfold from afar…begrudgingly fielding 12 different “vote for me” twitter DMs and cringing throughout much of the telecast that I could stand to watch. From my seat, it looked like a show aimed to recognize the closed circle of twitter edu-stardom. (not to mention that the show itself was in poor taste)

But then…what did I know?

I didn’t know the stories behind the nominees. I didn’t know the impact of what they had on their school communities. I didn’t really know if the job as promoted online represented the one in school. No ones knows that. How could we? I knew that I was seeing people who I have grown to appreciate through twitter being honored on a grand scale…the same people who are honored for everything because reach matters…at least according to this.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago…I checked my spam and saw that I had been nominated for a Bammy by “the academy”. My first thought was a sarcastic “oh great” (flashback to last year) and my second was, “the academy…who the heck is that?” Then I clicked the link and allowed myself to be proud of the honor because for some reason someone thought enough of me to grab the “about me” from my blog…click my linkedin profile…save my image to their desktop and upload to recognize their perception of my work and I knew that doing that took time. In addition, the email came to my work email which meant that they had to take the time to search for it because only a few people contact me at work and most of them are Discovery Education and SMART.

So, naturally I took to my SMARTee Google+ community to thank whoever submitted my name because it was nice. It had to be someone from that community…right? From that, people started “voting for me” by adding reviews and as nice as it was, I reminded them that it was not about me but to please nominate/review others who have impacted them either online or in their schools.

I nominated another person, Lisa Johnson (@techchef4u), because I know how collaborative she is and I also know how much the “internets” borrow from her work. She is amazing at what she does and inspires so many so if anyone needed to be “honored”, she did. I literally went through the process of adding the nomination…”borrowing” her profile pic and writing what I knew to be true of her. It all felt kind of sketchy to do but it felt right so I proceeded…and told her through FB message. Of course she was skeptical but she was okay with the “shout out” in the end…even if it meant that we were in the same category. (Again…who cares? I never viewed this as being competitive)

A few days later, I received the clarification from The Bammy organization about what the honor was about. The spirit of the Bammy’s, as it said, weren’t about “me” but “us”. It also stated that you could not “win” a bammy and using that term would go against what it was about. There was even a line about revoking nomination. In other words, it’s supposed to be an honor…not an award. If you get caught talking about “winning a Bammy”, your nomination could be pulled.

To be clear, if a person(s) is called out as “the honoree” amongst a sea of nominees…it’s an award. (Emmy’s, Grammy’s Oscar’s, local/state teacher of the year, Denny’s, Webby’s…Bammy’s) [Just Saying]

With that said, I am okay with honoring those that have had impact on education. (which is every educator…good or bad) I was and am proud that I nominated Lisa because aside from my constant face to face and twitter love, it gave me a chance to honor what she does on a larger scale. I was excited to see that people from her school reinforced her nomination with actual in-school feedback as that was huge. Of course her school had to be “notified” with the link that she was nominated but even with that…those people KNOW her and their comments are real.

I imagine that the community nominee/vote portion is meant to help “the academy” determine who the September honorees are and I can appreciate that as long as it’s not based on number of comments but magnitude of contribution of the person. I can appreciate that as long as the honorees represent a diverse cross-section of edu…and not only the same faces that we always see.

If we are truly honoring positive collaboration, this should be a no-brainer.

As for last year’s antics…

So far I have gotten 5 different “vote for me” DMs and each time I could do nothing but cringe as it’s just an odd thing to do. To add insult to injury, most of them were of the “you vote for me and I’ll vote for you” kind. Again…Really?? Is it really that serious???

I know that once you are an “Oscar nominee”, you retain that title forever…but do we really want our conferences to be “featuring Bammy nominee” ahead of the person presenting? (Dear conferences that are doing this now…STOP…Really??)

…Because now the worst part of what we do takes this thing that could be an honor and turns it into a fiesta of business and self-promotion….BACK END DEALS…money

That’s the part that I am not okay with. That’s the part that sucks the life out of honors in education.

Forget the “spirit” of the Bammy’s. It’s not in the “spirit” of Rafranz.

If this is what it’s going to be, I won’t play this game and you shouldn’t either.



GTA Application Video Submitted, a post reflection

GTA Application Video Submitted, a post reflection

Today I decided to complete my application for the Google Teacher Academy and anyone that knows me knows how much of a big deal this is that I did it so soon as that does not typically happen. Yes, applications are due in May but with a media fair, after school sessions and a trip to NY looming, I knew that today was the day…now or never.

I didn’t have the luxury of a classroom to include, students or other teachers. Correction: Had I waited, I’m sure that I could’ve rounded up a few people but today was not feasible and I was determined to get this done.

I was appreciative of the required reflective questions as they forced ME to think about why GTA mattered. This time last year I could not have answered those questions. I definitely get it now.

After recording, re-recording and remaining in that cycle of uncertainty for a while, I went back to my blog post from yesterday and in one shot ended up recording the base of what I needed…the story


Going Google At Home, A Reflection of my GTA Video Process

Going Google At Home, A Reflection of my GTA Video Process

For the past week, I’ve been trying to brainstorm my GTA video and thinking about how to best tell a story in 1 minute. I sat down and wrote a script, recorded a movenote and sent it to a colleague. It was still very “vanilla” to me meaning that it sounded more “teacher voice” instead of conversational. It’s like I was reading what I wanted people to hear instead of saying what I believed in my heart…if that makes sense. I hate talking in my “teacher voice” because it can often come across as “plastic” and I’m definitely not fake.

The thing is… we can all attest to the tools that we use in the classroom. We can talk about how we train teachers. We can talk about how we use the suite of Google Apps. We’ll throw in words about Docs, blogger, groups, google+, chrome, chromebooks and even youtube. However, can we attest to the impact that these tools are having at home. How are kids really using them in their world after the bell rings?

I took a step back from my “fake cue card read video” and looked at the kid right in front of me. For months, I’ve shared and talked about my nephew and his puppets. He’s not in a google school. Heck they can’t even use “google search” but he’s definitely a “google kid” meaning that the apps are a part of him. As I was coming home to excitedly talk about what we were doing and sharing…he was learning. He picked up on tools through conversation and watching me work. He learned about tools as he needed to accomplish a goal and sometimes he’s even taught me a thing or two.

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 6.12.29 AMEverything that he has learned has come from a google tool. I’ve watched him take a flat sheet of foam, design a pattern and give it curves. I’ve watched him watch youtube videos for hours as he honed in on his techniques. He’s using docs to write scripts for his videos and sharing them with me to gain feedback. He’s blogging using blogger. He even makes google forms in order to collect data on his puppet types as people request them. Last week, he learned about spreadsheets and now maintains one where he’s keeping track of his savings in order to purchase a few Axtell puppets. He is 9 and if he is owning these tools as they relate to his normal life, I can only imagine what our kids are doing when they go home.

How we use technology shouldn’t be some abnormal event but should be a part of our “normal” just like it is for him.

The same rules apply to our kids in our classrooms and that is what our kids are exposed to as we integrate with google apps.

In the past, I didn’t apply to GTA because I honestly didn’t “get” it. I wasn’t in a google apps district and I wasn’t effectively using these tools. Yes, I am all about community, learning and growth but I also have to believe in the power of the purpose.

It seems only fitting that at this stage, while I was thinking through ideas, they were right in front of me all along.

No, I’m not going to talk about Braeden but I’m a storyteller and through him, I “feel” the story and that’s important.

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.Continue Reading

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 stuffContinue Reading

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 itContinue Reading

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 whatContinue Reading

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 notContinue Reading