Project-Based Math

Brooklyn Bridge Source: Wikipedia (

The Brooklyn Bridge
Source: Wikipedia (

In this post, I will begin to share a handful of project-based math assignments that I’ve used with elementary aged students. I adore math primarily because I find it useful – in every day life, and when thinking about BIG IDEAS. Particularly in elementary school, I think all of the math that students learn is useful, so I try to relate math to real life as much as I can. This tends to keep students engaged, and it reinforces the value of math.

Here is the link to my first Project-Based Math assignment which is all about bridges, which I used as one way to address multi-digit subtraction.

Practice what you Preach (& Tweet)

I had been thinking a lot about Growth Mindset and –to me unrelatedly– thinking about whether I should share my lessons, emails, and musings with you, the reader, more consistently. Well, these seemingly unrelated ideas were merged when Principal Greg Bagby (@gregbagby) shared these valuable resources about a “Lunch and Learn” he did for parents about Growth Mindset. View our tweets below:

Thank you, Twitter

Thank you, Twitter

Aside from digging the catchiness of #practicewhatyoutweet, I also really appreciated the idea of tweeting what I practice! What a succinct way of summarizing something I had been aiming to do anyway.

When it rains, it pours: earlier that day, I had read an excellent post from Alice Keeler (@alicekeeler) asking for teachers to tweet their lesson plans. She had me pegged! I was a total hoarder, and I had every excuse she had listed. She argued for sharing lessons plans to build community, reduce isolation, and inspire others. I particularly appreciated the caveat of it being okay if what you post is not 100% polished. It can still be a jumping off point for others!

So stay tuned while I open the Pandora’s Box that is my Google Drive. Having supported students in everything from preK to 9th grade in multiple schools at once has allowed me to view multiple curricula, thus create lessons around a variety of subjects, which I will be sharing!

And now, a blog about Growth Mindset and Teaching:

I have had a few big realizations when it comes to growth mindset. One is that I am a firm believer in the value of growth mindset, intellectually: I have taught students from 4th grade up to high school about it, I’ve read and annotated Mindset, I’ve seen Carol Dweck speak, I know about the neuroscience and how plastic our brains remain. But gosh, it’s hard to change your thinking about something that you’ve grown up (mis)believing, so I recognize that I still “suffer” from fixed mindset (Dr. Dweck says one is not inherently better than the other, but I would like to be more growth-mindset-y!).

Here is where I want to bring up the necessity of Growth Mindset in teaching. We have to believe it for our students, but even I have been able to teach it, without 100% accepting it. I’ve heard colleagues talk about “having ‘it'” (or more often “not having ‘it,'” according to them, a false self-view), and it reinforces the idea that teaching is something that you are born with. I’ve frequently been told I have “it,” but sometimes I don’t feel that way. Issues of self-esteem aside, it used to frighten me that one day I could just lose “it.” Then what?! Everything I do is research-backed (I spent a ton of time reading about best practices), but I often question if that’s what people are responding to when I receive compliments or not, especially when people commend my “passion,” “joy,” or “love of teaching” along with other elements that I can’t control. Yes, I’m passionate, joyous, and love-filled about being a teacher, but those aren’t really things that I can control. Plus, I can conceive of teachers out there that have these positive views of teaching, but are not good (okay, let’s say “effective”) teachers. Joy and passion can only bring you so far.

Thankfully, a month or so ago (just 10 months after it aired…oops!), I was listening to an NPR (@npr) interview with Elizabeth Green, co-founder of Chalkbeat (@chalkbeatNY) and author of Building a Better Teacher. She articulated that teaching can be taught (yay!), and that there are often counter-intuitive things that great teachers do in the classroom.

I’ve now finally begun reading Building a Better Teacher, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it, one chapter in. Green writes well, and her detailed descriptions of a classroom in the introduction highlight four, inter-related lessons from this opening chapter:

  1. You have to think before you act: Though I don’t know its origin, I’ve heard that teachers make thousands of choices a day, more than individuals in other professions. I believe that! In her classroom, teacher Ms. Lampert makes multiple conscious choices about whom to call on, not only based on their personalities (see point #2), but based off of what she knows about race, class, and gender – for instance, she does not want to call on too many boys at once, since she knows the research that shows such actions make girls less likely to raise their hands. She thinks about what type of student can correct what other type of student (how will it look if a white girl corrects a boy of color?). In short, she is always thinking, weighing options, and making quick, informed decisions.
  2. You have to know your students: How can you possibly know which students are likely to be shy, to be diplomatic, to be more willing to fail, if you don’t know your students. Ms. Lampert strategically selects which students to call on not just based on identity groups, but also on personality. She pushes some students, and makes sure she does not call on only the same few students.
  3. You have to anticipate answers: The opening scene included a boy providing a wrong answer that Ms. Lampert had not anticipated. Being an experienced teacher who has seen all kinds of mistakes, she figured out the “logic” of the answer relatively quickly. When designing any kind of question it is essential to know what mistakes are likely to be made – if they are intentional (“Let’s see if the students get confused between remainders and decimals”), then use them strategically, but if they could easily lead your students astray without your wanting to, then change the question (again, one of the many, many decisions teachers face).
  4. You have to validate wrong answers…sort of: Ms. Lampert was very conscious of not flat out saying that a student who got an incorrect answer was wrong. In fact, in a clever move, she asked which classmates thought he was right. This likely made the student feel less alone, and in the scenario, that actually allowed him time to realize a part of his mistake. If we teach growth mindset well, we value, reward, and celebrate “failure” (see this image for the acronym First Attempt In Learning). In addition to celebrating failure, though, we also then get to use mistakes as class-wide learning opportunities (you can even thank your student for creating such an opportunity!).

As a final, possibly unrelated thought, I worry that the book may not continue to appeal to me as it begins to look at some problematic types of schools (see a review by Diane Ravitch (@DianeRavitch) and a review by Nancy Flanagan(@NancyFlanagan)), but I am reading it with a critical eye, so I intend to sift out the parts that are relevant and valuable to me, and report those back to you, dear reader.

Practice What You Preach

Practice what you Preach: Accessibility on Websites Edition.

My husband, a web developer, has talked to me a lot about accessibility on the web – everything from the contrast (think NOT your typical geocities or angelfire site) to the font size, and from layout to highlighting the importance of not only having captions on my pictures, but also descriptions (and shame on me! They still don’t always!).


Read it to me!

Read it to me!

As someone who works with individuals with dyslexia and reading difficulties, I’m particularly interested in accessibility for reading. Therefore, as of today, all of my posts can be highlighted and read aloud to you, even if you do not have a text-to-speech built-in tool or extension at your disposal, you can listen to my posts. Thank you, GSpeech!

Another simple way to listen to my blog posts (or anyone’s!) is via Podcastomatic – it turns any blog or blog post into a podcast (or series of podcasts). Simply copy & past the URL, and you can listen right there, or even download an mp3 for later listening. So easy!

Similarly, because many of my students/students’ parents/viewers also have writing difficulties, thanks to #ISTE2015, I learned about the Speakpipe plugin, so I’m now using that for Voice Comments. This way, any commenters who would prefer to say their comments can feel free to do so. Yaaay, technology!

If you want to read more, I found a thorough 2-part article by @UXAndrew.  Part 1 begins with a thoughtful metaphor, and Part 2 includes the 7 UDL Principles to design by. While they are aimed at web developers, they are useful for anyone with a website. I love how much I still have to learn!

What accessibility features are YOU already using, and which will YOU prioritize? Write or voice your comment!

#inthenews: July edition

Want to listen to this post?
Highlight text, click the speaker, and it will be read aloud to you,
thanks to GSpeech technology!

I have seen the Great Predictor of Reading Disabilities pop up #inthenews multiple, trusted sources, so I felt the need to comment. I have to admit that my thoughts on this aren’t 100% thought out yet, but I’m trying to keep up with the rate of the internet, so I’m publishing this while it’s still a work in progress in order to encourage answers to my questions and critical debate. I have a few scientific and a few ethical/pedagogical questions and issues about the study.

As context, WNYC reported on a study from Dr. Nina Kraus’s lab (at Northwestern University), which says that with a 30-minute mostly-passive EEG task (that requires pre-literate children’s brains to process signals in noise), we can confidently predict whether or not they will have a reading disorder, given a . Dr. Kraus reported that she would love to use this technology to test children at birth. The original research article can be found here.

Where to begin?

My gut reaction was that there would be too many false negatives and false positives to make the technology “worth it,” although it is minimally-to-moderately invasive, and not superbly expensive compared to fMRI (I’m saying this because I used to work in an EEG lab).

thought bubble

The false negatives would come from the heterogeneity of dyslexia. The underlying difficulty in dyslexia (or its official title “Specific Learning Disorder with impairment in reading and/or writing”) has generally found to be phonological (more on this later), fluency and comprehension are also elements of dyslexia, and I don’t think either are highly correlated with auditory processing (again, this is just a postulation and a work in progress!).

Fluency is (also) predicted by rapid naming (although the present study did demonstrate a relationship between their auditory task & rapid naming, a rapid naming task would be a greater predictor, and it can also be done while children are pre-literate, although granted, not at birth). Comprehension is better(?) predicted by language development, and that can be assessed at a young age, and regularly throughout the child’s preschool years. A large Finnish study from Dr. Torppa et al., revealed: “The strongest predictive links emerged from receptive and expressive language to reading via measures of letter naming, rapid naming, morphology, and phonological awareness.” Similarly: “The measures that most consistently predict future reading difficulty in English are phonological processing/ awareness, letter-name knowledge, and RAN (Pennington & Lefly 2001, Scarborough 1998, Schatschneider et al. 2004)” (as cited in Norton & Wolf, 2012)

I know, I know! Science is all about updating what you know, but those studies are robust and replicable, so I want to take this new “news” with a grain of salt.

Parts of the brain

Parts of the brain

To further describe the heterogeneity: What is described as “reading” above, however, refers to behavioral elements only. At a neuroscientific level, there are three important brain regions involved in reading (and therefore dyslexia) – the inferior frontal gyrus (“Broca’s area”), which is involved in spoken language production and word analysis, the (left) temporoparietal  region has to do with word analysis and decoding (sound-letter matching), but that region is also involved in spoken language processing (hence the language development correlation, although presumably, an auditory test would be able to assess this region best). Third, the left occipitotemporal region is involved in rapid access to words and helps create fluent, automatic readers (something an auditory test would not be able to access/assess).

What about false positives? This is less of a concern since students who have difficulty processing sounds in noise may have a difficulty with hearing or auditory processing (which can correlate to reading difficulties), but as long as the test provides parents with information about that difficulty and doesn’t explicitly say that “your child is likely to have dyslexia,” the false positives can still support early intervention – though they would require follow up assessments to find the root of the problem (see the rest of the “Other Sources of Reading Difficulties” from Reading Rockets).

Back to the study: just how “predictive” is predictive? A mini-statistics lesson for you: assuming statistical significance, a 0.9 regression (which is considered “extremely high”) accounts for 81% of variance, meaning that if I get a 1/10 on a test, there’s an 81% chance that I will get 1/10 on that same test. So, how predictive are other assessments of reading? . Even with the “predictable” features listed above, at best they’re in the 60%-ish range, and the students from this study correlated with around 40% reliability with later tests of word reading and basic reading. That’s basically chance! (Again, commenters, please let me know where I’m misreading the statistics… it’s been a while!).

Too many numbers? I'm still working them out, myself...

Too many numbers? I’m still working them out, myself…

Herein lies the rub: When we’re looking at predictability, we need an initial assessment (in this case, the “Wall-E” neurophysiological task) and a follow-up assessment of a different type to demonstrate one’s ability to predict the other. The difficulty is, there is no single test of dyslexia, so as all good clinicians, the scientists used multiple follow-up measure to assess their predictability, including some predictive measures mentioned above (phonological awareness & rapid automatic naming), as well as other word/pseudoword and reading tasks. There need to be multiple tests used to assess dyslexia because it is multi-dimensional and heterogeneous, and a single neurological test neither gives you conclusive information about the “presence” or dyslexia, nor does it provide you with specific goals for intervention. Only multiple, dynamic, frequent assessments from an experienced clinician can do that!

A few final notes: the “trouble” with science is you can often prove something, but its opposite may also be (statistically significantly) true as well. There are other recent studies (for example the aptly titled, “Phonological but not auditory discrimination is impaired in dyslexia,” which had a much larger sample size but also older students) that suggest that dyslexia is not auditory in nature (and this meshes with most other theories of dyslexia I have read about). However, at this point, that is almost less relevant and less important to me than how we interpret these results as a society.

If it’s a crystal ball you would like, know that researchers at Yale are looking into the genetics of language impairments and reading difficulties (like dyslexia), and while I couldn’t figure out their prediction correlates (can anyone? This research was way out of my wheelhouse!), this line of research can also be promising for early detection

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that while the main positive of early detection is providing evidence-based therapies to reduce frustration and increase self-esteem, I want to be clear that dyslexia is a neurological difference, therefore even with early detection, individuals with dyslexia will always have dyslexia, even if they no longer have as much trouble reading as they would have without early detection. BUT there’s a bright side to this! That means, that even with early detection and early intervention, we will still have access to the innovations, art, writing, and charm of people with dyslexia. Read more about the strengths of individuals with Learning Disabilities like dyslexia here.



To sum up, my thoughts/concerns are:

  • false negatives could provide an unrealistic sense of confidence (since dyslexia is so heterogeneous, we are likely to miss many students)
  • false positives may guide parents and educators down the wrong path (e.g. if they have a hearing difficulty or auditory processing difficulty)
  • there are other (arguably better?) predictors of reading disabilities (rapid automatic naming, phonological awareness, and speech and language development, as well as family history, and possibly genetic testing)
  • overall, though, we’re bad at predicting from one assessment, alone, so multiple, frequent, dynamic assessments are most effective in assessing both students’ progress and current level of functioning
  • early detection can lead to early intervention (which has demonstrably high success rates), but thankfully, that cannot minimize the positive side and strengths of individuals with dyslexia
  • changing how reading is taught for ALL learners is what is most needed now: explicitly teaching sound-to-grapheme and grapheme-to-sound correspondence in a systematic, hierarchical, multi-sensory way is essential for students with dyslexia, but helps all learners. Not enough teacher training programs provide teachers with this training, therefore teachers are ill prepared to teach this way. So regardless of early intervention or not, we need more professionals who are reading research and using evidence-based instruction!

Please leave a comment below (or click on the “Send Voicemail” button on the side to leave a voice memo, thanks to Speakpipe). Thanks!

Closed Captioning to Support Literacy

Turning closed captioning on while a child watches video content helps children with hearing or auditory-rooted difficulties, but I also frequently recommend closed captioning for students with dyslexia and other reading-based differences. Sound counterintuitive? It has two goals: One is simply to expose children to text in multiple facets of their life since we don’t want children to encourage any thinking where reading = not fun, and videos = fun. Second, it pairs auditory content with written content, which supports reading fluency (as evidenced by several research studies, summarized succinctly here). In addition, Reading Rockets has a fantastic article about how it also supports engagement, ELL’s, and comprehension!

Below are quick tips for how to turn closed captioning on through various media:

    • Netflix
    • Youtube
    • Amazon
    • Hulu
    • TV – this will depend on your provider, but it is usually accessible by a remote via Settings
    • DVD’s- usually in Setup & Language

Now go watch some televised content :º)

#ISTE2015: Wednesday Round-Up

Last day of #ISTE2015, and what a ride it’s been! @EdTechKaraoke was nuts! Yet I managed to make it to the first session at 8:30 :º)

Tuckered out today

Tuckered out today

It was led primarily by Mark Surabian (@marksurabian), with assistance by John Calvert (@jcalvert4). Mark is an assistive technologist, and our paths have crossed before at the Everyone Reading conference in New York. Some tools that Mark shared that I’d previously never heard about included:

  • Context, which lets you organize your extensions into bookmarks
  • 2 tools for helping students with Attentional difficulties, as they both have you focus on a task for a while, then have you take a break (for a finite time): StayFocusd (sic) and Strict Workflow. Excited to try them out!
  • the Don Johnston (@DonJohnstonINC) suite of apps – everything from word prediction to grammar checkers, there are lots of great tools there!



Not to be confused with Don Johnson

Mark and John are also working on a collaborative list of tools, which shares reviews of apps (by anyone, including YOU!) into a nice-looking website, using Awesome Tables, which makes everything searchable & filterable (that’s a word, right?). When I heard John speak at an @EdTechSummit in March, he had mentioned using a similar set-up for book reviews, so students could reach each other’s book reviews and filter by genre, grade, etc.

While reading Scott McLeod’s (@mcleod) #ISTE2015 take-aways, I also learned about @Speakpipe, which allows people to make voice comments on blog posts! I’m installing it to this ASAP, and hope to use it with students in teh future!

I made my way somewhat aimfully around the Exhibitor Hall (Pro Tip: if you go on the last day, people want to give you even more free stuff… though of course you also risk having exhibitors run out of some fun freebies). I learned more about @BrainPOP’s Game Up! feature, which is free for all users (so you do not need to be a subscriber). However, if you are a signed-in user, you get the added benefit of doing “Snapshots” during games – this is a tool that takes a picture of a frame in the game, then provides a text box below it for students to communicate their ideas and strategies for their teachers.

If you are a non-subscriber, a free work-around would be to use a screen shot tool (e.g. Command + Shift + 3 on any mac or a screenshot extension, such as Awesome Screenshot Minus (which @followmolly shared yesterday, and I forgot to share #meaculpa), which is a screen grabber with simple annotation tools, which also allows you to save via Google Drive for easy sharing to teachers. A simple tool, but one that I can see using as a quick assessment or Exit Card.

Then I attended a session by #YEN extraordinaires, Jennifer Schlie-Reid (@schliereed) and Corey Holmer (@EdTech_Channel). They discussed the benefits of #GAFE mashing, wherein you use two different Google Tools to create greater student products and learning. The session involved a lot of “breakout groups” for discussion and brainstorming with fellow attendees. We used Google Drawing with links (a la Thinglink (@ThingLink), which I had never used before) to make the somewhat-dinky-but-hey-at-least-we-all-learned-something image below:

Task 1, Take 1

Task 1, Take 1

Then we downloaded slides from Google Slides to play around with in Youtube (@Youtube) Video Editor. I’ve worked on slideshows before with sites like Photopeach and Animoto, plus added animations to Google Slides, but the relative simplicity of turning Slides into a video was mind-blowing. It made me reflect on my functional fixedness. I’ve made several books in Google Slides, but somehow never thought to put them together with transitions to make a movie (which is what moving books are!).

Lastly, I squeezed in a session on Apps for Service-Based Learning by Madeleine Dressner (@msdressner). It was a nice, heartwarming final session as she not only demonstrated her entire thought process about how she created the unit, but she shared a lot of the student work. It was authentic, the students were motivated, and they incorporated technology into their projects in meaningful ways. I also particularly liked her use of an acronym for project-based learning, as that builds independence and fits nicely with Self-Regulated Strategy Development.

I am grateful that I was able to attend, I learned a lot, and I’m excited to continue to reflect, play, share, and challenge myself in continuing to incorporate technology meaningfully into my work.

See you in Denver for #ISTE2016!

#ISTE2015: Tuesday Round-Up

Another crazy, learning-filled day! I may have to split it into two parts because there was just! So! Much!

My first session of the day was from Erin Klein (@KleinErin) and Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp), two engaging & charming speakers, who are both still in the classroom. I have so much respect for professional development-providers who are also still in the classroom. Ms. Klein & Ms. Ripp talked about providing students with a voice, and that seemed to be a theme of my day. These speakers were strong advocates for their students, and they used technology to provide their students with a voice, and with authentic writing experiences. It was far from technology for technology’s sake.


Some tools that they shared for helping students communicate their ideas included:

  • Livescribe’s (@LivescribeK12) sound stickers, which can record teacher instructions, student stories, and anything else in between. They showed us a child using it to record bird chirps for a nature project, and I can also envision adding sound effects to a narrative story, adding dialogue to a comic, and to having students record their stories and ideas, especially if they have a writing difficulty
  • They were also one of many supporters of Book Creator (@BookCreatorApp) for student-written books, and they mentioned Smore as well for
  • My other favorite resource that they shared was Brad Wilson’s (@dreambition) two tools: (@MyWriteabout) for upper elementary and middle grade students and (an iPad app) for younger students or struggling learners. This tool allows for an authentic audience, and when I caught up with Brad later, he shared how many SLPS’s and special educators are using it to motivate students to write and share their ideas. He also talked about the various interest groups that already exist (a Minecraft one, naturally), and that teachers can create their own (e.g. for book talks). Plus, I love their motto: WRITING SHOULD BE FUN!

Then I went to a game-based learning playground where I learned about fantastic games from Matthew Farber (@matthewfarber). Since I don’t want to plagiarize, I will direct you to his website about mobile games that are game-based not just “chocolate-covered broccoli.”



After that, I was thrilled to see Greg Toppo (@gtoppo), who is a fantastic speaker, and all-around badass. While he did talk about games, he talked about the power of games and technology, and about the responsibility teachers have to “release control” and embrace progressive thinking (including, but not limited to, evidence-based games). He also completely blew my mind about how much technology has grown (way beyond Moore’s law as we know). He provided great examples of just how much faster, more efficient, and cheaper computers are now than when they were first created. He shared a quote by Dr. Ed Lazowska on the topic, who said, “A house would cost the same as a nice bottle of wine,” as comparison. Lastly, he shared a must-read: John Markoff’s What the Dormouse Said about how the anti-establishment in the 1960’s gave rise to the PC in the 1970’s. I’ve already bought it, and I’m excited to dive in (after I work my way through some of my other tsudonku).

I also heard Dr. Jackie Gersetein (@jackiegerstein) speak about the necessity of the SAMR model and “Web 3.0” (or at the very least 2.0). There is no longer room for technology as substitution, nor boring lessons! Students want to be engaged, they want to create their own content, and they want to collaborate and comment on each other’s work. There are so many ways of doing this, but the audience suggested Kidblog and Google Apps (Docs, Slides, and Sheets with commenting enabled).

Then a session from Common Sense media, which shared 3 tools recommended by teachers on their Graphite (@Graphite) site:

  • ReadWorks (@ReadWorks), which I’ve previously only used for passages (which I found to be somewhat boring) apparently has more than just boring passages! They have Skill & Strategy Units, Comprehension Units, and Novel Study Units that seemed well-designed…and it’s all free & web-based!
  • StudySync (@StudySync), which has a “TV channel” with short movies that summarize popular books, an annotation feature that allows teachers to view their student’s work in real-time, writing prompts, and even current events (with text boxes with reflections). Requires a subscription, web-based.
  • LightSail (@lightsailed), which has over 80,000 books based on various reading levels with teacher-designed notes, annotation/interactive tools, novel study with curriculum checks, literature circle (with reflection prompts), and personalized word wall. Requires a paid subscription, for iPad & Android.

I also attended a BrainPOP session, which was not about the Game-Based Learning I’d wanted, but their Mindmap tools were ultimately very engaging, in line with evidence-based research, and self-differentiating. One aha moment was in how the presenter likened the maps to our neural connections, and encouraged continually updating the mind maps to support Growth Mindset. Like any mind map, the hierarchies are excellent for reading comprehension and pre-writing, and when paired with details, you’ve got yourself a paragraph/essay. I also learned a lot about ants making mine :º) The Mindmaps are currently available for BrainPOP, but the feature is coming to BrainPOP, Jr. soon. The tool relatively easy to use, and certainly has potential.

blurry mind map about ants

blurry mind map about ants

Thereafter, I went to the @InclusiveLN and @GoogleforEdu playgrounds and I validated some tools I already used, and learned some new tools. A few of my faves are listed below:

  • Clicker Books (by Crick software), which is like Book Creator, but allows for amazing scaffolds, including templates, sentence starters, embedded pictures, and more. Definitely something I’ll be checking out for my younger grade students
  • DocentEdu (@DocentEdu), Molly Schroeder (@followmolly) recommended this tool, and I love it! It allows teachers to annotate any website, with highlights, sticky notes, embedded videos, quizzes, and chats. A phenomenal tool that appears easy-to-use!
  • I knew the Omnibox could be used as a search tool & calculator & timer, but I didn’t know it could be used as a dice-roller or coin-tosser! I love that you can use it for randomness, but I love it even more as an opportunity to discuss how those tools are programmed
  • I wrote about how much I love the various uses of Wordle yesterday, but little did I know, there’s a Chrome Extension for it! You can get a world cloud of a website instantly with Word Cloud Website, or use Word Cloud Generator, which lets you put in any URL and get a world cloud of it, which is a great conversation tool or “main idea” generator/critique
  • Molly and Kim Meldrum (@MeldrumKim), whom I was also honored to see, also supported the following apps, which I also adore!:

Well, I apologize for shmushing all of that into one blog post. Lucky that it’s already so long, or I’d include a review of @Edtechkaraoke (#ETK15). It was a blast! Amazed by all of the main stage singers, and very much entertained by all of the side stage singers :º) The winner (@technicolorr) absolutely deserved the title.

P.S. For those wondering about my goal from yesterday: Yes! I made connections! I had conversations! …and it was scary!

#ISTE2015: Monday Round-Up

I feel like I saw so much, and yet I know each session time and exhibitor viewing came with several sacrifices, so I’m excited to read about other people’s experiences, so I can hear what I missed! I’m grateful to the presenters who uploaded their handouts, so that I may view them even if I couldn’t attend their sessions (especially for the ones that were simultaneous with my session, but oh-so-complementary).

So busy!

So busy!

In the morning, I learned about Google Chrome tools, extensions, and apps from Susan Hardin (@shardin22). Many I had heard of, which felt positive since it demonstrated that we were all in the same field, in the same “camp,” as it were. Some, I had not heard of, so I wanted to share some of those:

  • Tween Tribune Jr. (by the @smithsonian)– similar to Newsela (@newsela, which I think/hope I’ve blogged about before since I use it all the time). Aside from the usefulness of the tool, my favorite recommendation about these types of tools was to have students start at an independent (“low”) level, then bump themselves higher and higher (to “instructional”) with the same article. This ensures that students will read the text multiple times, but that they have a foundational knowledge from reading the “easy’ one. It also builds awareness about text complexity. What made one harder than the other?
  • the Accessible Books Collection – haven’t explored it yet, but I know it’s $49.95 per year and has a range of books for students with different interests/abilities
  • Wordle: We’ve all heard of wordle, but I had never seen it used this productively for educational purposes before. Susan showed a Wordle of the Sparknotes summary of To Kill a Mockingbird, and the words that were most prominent were character names (in order of importance) and the words “good” and “evil.” How interesting! Could be used as a conversation starter about theme, importance of characters (is main character always the one that gets the most things to happen?), etc. She also shared a link to a @cleversheep article about 20 uses for Wordle. Awesome!

Coincidentally, both Twitter and one of my sessions heralded Alan November’s “Transformational 6” Essential Questions, which can be viewed here. What a wonderful general-yet-specific tool to ensuring our teaching is intentional and meaningful. Those who’ve used it say it enhances their teaching, and folks have been very positive about discussions around the Transformational 6 at their schools. Thank you for your insights, Alan (@globalearner)!

Then came my session.

How I felt before/during/slightly after the presentation

How I felt before/during/slightly after the presentation

What a rush! You can view the Google Site I created for the presentation, which can be found on my events page. Some reflections on that:

  • Ah! There were a lot of people! What an exciting time to be working with special education populations and with technology. One attendee talked about being able to graduate students out of her Tier 1 because of technology-based tools. Yay!
  • WiFi: grrr! It may not be your friend, but the talk is about the whys of technology as much as the hows, and even when going into practical tools, it’s not always the technology, itself, that’s most important
  • Some participants will be too shy to try the tools when forced to in a session and that’s okay. Sometimes I’m one of those participants! Similarly, sometimes participants won’t ask questions (even when you beg them to) and that’s okay. Sometimes I’m one of those participants!
  • I had intended on doing a screen recording on my session, but that messed with the mirroring, so I am now excited to take screen recordings of the various tools I demo’d so my participants (and anyone else) can see me demoing the tools via my projects (from start to finish). Stay tuned!

Then I attended a fantastic session about SAMR in the primary grades by Melissa Filotes (@melissafilo) and Nicole Baselice (@nicolebas) . These presenters embodied the “above the line” SAMR goals: Modification and Redefinition, and they demonstrated tools to do so in our classrooms. All of their interactive, revolutionary tools can be found on their website, Ten Little Fingers. Special shout-out for the Virtual Museum – a wonderful idea, and one that I loved getting hands-on experience with. More resources on Virutal Museums can be found on Christy Keeler’s blog (@christykeeler). They had us make a Virtual Museum of ISTE, but through discussions, attendees suggested making a math strategies museum and as a “genre walk” and book recommendation or reflection tool. I can also see valuable uses for foreign language or EFL instruction, as a way of introducing faculty to various types of learning disabilities, and as a literacy tool for students (e.g. different rooms have different prefixes/roots/suffixes with visuals to enhance understanding; for even younger grades, each room is a different vowel sound or diphthong, etc.)

After that, I was hungry for lunch, but I didn’t want to miss the @Imagine Easy Scholar demo. Wow. Wow. Wow. It’s no surprise @techedupteacher showed up to cheerlead for the Google-integrated app. Scholar has all of the features I loved about Easybib…and more! It is a full start-to-finish app that will likely reduce student plagiarism, help organization, critical thinking, and active reading. Its features include:

  • being able to easily upload
  • highlighting, saving, citing from websites (including saving cached versions of websites)
  • all of your favorite Easybib tools:
    • color coding and tagging capabilities for all notes, but with easier movement between note cards
    • easy citations
  • ability to create quick outlines from your note cards, and add notecards even in the planning phase
  • Did I mention seamless Google integration? Digital Annotation Tool is a Chrome Extension, and the Google Dcos add-on makes exporting to Google docs almost too easy

All aspects are dynamic and easy to change, and it’s both student- and teacher-friendly. Those teaching middle and high school should really investigate (and I may be bold and try it with some eager 4th or 5th graders!). Read further on the Imagine Easy Solutions website, and to trial Scholar, email

I went to one more session about Visual Storytelling with Kenneth Shelton (@k_shelton), who pointed out that visuals are such a huge part of our students’ lives: from Instagram to Snapchat to communication via emojis, students use visuals creatively and frequently. It is our job to help them harness that to make stories, reflect on text, reflect on themselves, and build a visual literacy. His website has further resources.

Just when I was almost completely tuckered out, I decided to head to a Birds-of-a-Feather talk about apps for Special Education. The presenter never showed, but the audience members (many part of or leaders within the @InclusiveLN) spent almost the entirety of the presentation sharing their favorite tools and resources. It was wonderful to see everyone come together and make the best of it



Plus, I learned a lot! Some tools mentioned that I’m going to look into further include:

  • SAS Curriculum Planner (@saseducator), which seems to have a variety of resources, but I love the idea of the writing process being so clearly delineated and the attendee who recommended this said the Reviser tool is exquisite
  • Draftback is a Chrome Extension that lets you view the revision history. It can give you a sense of how long a student worked on a task, how much they were able to change, etc. It can also be a useful tool for students to visibly see their progress
  • Someone from FastFig (@fastfig) was there to discuss how the app integrates with various keyboards to help students with motor and physical disabilities (e.g. dysgraphia, CP, etc). I’m excited to look into it further!

What another spectacular, information-filled day!

Goal for Tuesday: Expand my PLN by forgetting about my shyness and chatting with more people!




#ISTE2015: Sunday Round-up

I was only at ISTE for two and a half hours today, and I have so much to say that I wanted to blog about it right away (I can only imagine how much I’ll have to say after a 12-hour day tomorrow!).

My evening started with the keynote by Soledad O’Brien (@soledadobrien). She. Was. Amazing. She showed her journalistic cred by being both an excellent story teller, and by having clearly done her research. Granted her latest project, Starfish Media Group (@StarfishMediaG), is related to education, but she simply “got it” across the board about what is and isn’t working in education right now. Some inspiring quotes of hers included:

  • “The school to prison pipeline is very real. It is solvable. It makes me furious.”
  • “There is no point in using technology for technology’s sake.”
  • “Education is the next civil right.”
  • “”You as educators are at the forefront of a critical battle of who learns what and how” (Thanks to @elanaleoni for having a more accurate transcription of the quote!)
  • “Fewer women are getting computer science degrees than 30 years ago”
  • “Technology in children’s hands should be used for voice, agency, social justice and finding passion.” (Quote thanks to @snbeach; I was too busy writing a tweet to write this down adequately!)
  • “Access to technology can give Ss the info that they are missing from their schools. Not having it cuts them off from the world.” (Thanks @saneebell for this quote)
  • “Tuition is important, but mentoring is key”
  • “Some of my students don’t even know what jobs are out there.” (probably misquoting, but this was part of her introduction to Google Expeditions as a way of sharing jobs and opportunities with students who wouldn’t otherwise have that access. She aptly labeled it “information gap”)

I will have more to say about all of these issue (with studies to show that they are accurate statements and/or with studies that show how to improve the situation), but I thought this was a good start.

I also went to many of the booths at the Global Education Poster session. The majority of the topics I attended stressed global collaboration for educators (from everything from Twitter to international Google Hangouts) and of students (via Skype, Book Creator, Google Hangouts, and other tools). Some posters that I will be following up on or that seemed interesting included:

  • Global Nomads Group – for middle & high school students, Global Nomads Group “fosters dialogue and understanding among the world’s youth…[where] these exchanges promote empathy, peace, and build 21st century workforce skills”
  • Storytelling Nations – a collaboration between The Lippman School and members of a Cheyenne Indian tribe (affiliated with Chief Dull Knife College). An opportunity for students to learn about other cultures and reflect.
  • Using Book Creator for cross-cultural collaboration (done at The Avenues School by a broad age of students, preK to 12; they collaborate with other schools in other countries to write books about different foods, different habits, etc)
  • Flat Connections: Global Educator Julie Lindsay facilitates multi-week curricula for targeted age groups that include teacher training and global collaborations



Testing Accommodations: What to do with Extra Time

Many of my students spent the last month or so taking a standardized assessment of some type or another. While I don’t typically teach traditional “test prep,” I do work on metacognition a lot, therefore I discuss testing strategies that can be beneficial for my students. Among them, are what do with that darn extended time many of them are eligible for. Some of my students experience anxiety during testing, and all they want to do is finish as quickly as possible to “get it over with.” Other students of mine have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and they, too, tend to finish quickly, without external reminders.

Below are some guidelines I provide to my students. Needless to say, they require explicit instruction, but once students are familiar with the strategies, they apply them independently. This visual reminder helps while they take practice tests and as a way for us to discuss their extra time.

What to do with Extra Time on a Test


     Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 7.03.31 PM Take a break
yellow light Look at yellows first (remember: while you work, mark questions as Red (“No idea”), Yellow (“Not Sure”), and Green (“I’m positive!”)
 rewind Work backwards (do the last question first, and the first question last)
 Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 7.03.39 PM For math, use a different strategy to solve
underline For reading, find evidence from the text
 thought bubble For vocabulary/verbal reasoning, think of a sentence with the word to confirm



Click here for a 1-page handout of Testing Accommodations: What to do with Extra Time.