Thursday, August 28, 2014

Lessons Learned

This post will be a lot of words. #sorrynotsorry


I wanted to share an experience from last Wednesday... I gave the WORST presentation of my entire life and am still embarrassed about it. {This includes the time when I was 22, in my first teaching job, and was nominated by my principal to speak at a board meeting about my use of technology in the classroom. Shudder.} But I sure did learn a few things in the process. 

I was asked to present 3 times to various teachers in our district last Wednesday. Of those 3 times, only 1 was all alone, but I was SO nervous. For whatever reason, I can talk and act like a total goober in front of kids and not even think anything of it. But put me in front of adults, and my palms start sweating, my face turns red, and my mind goes blank! So you can imagine that I had mixed feelings about these presentations. I love sharing what I know with other teachers, but I hate standing in front of others and talking. Maybe that's why I like blogging so much!

The presentation I was supposed to give by myself was over how to use social media in the elementary classroom. I feel pretty competent about social media, and I'd thought of allll these ways to use it in the elementary classroom. Worried that I would be too nervous to remember them all when I was in front of the audience, I made a note in the Notepad app of my iPhone that listed a variety of ways for each social media site. I had a list of about 35 things for Twitter and was quite proud of it.

I started by talking about Instagram because I think it's the easiest to learn. I use Instagram in my class, but I always do it on my phone because my phone is always in my pocket and it's just convenient. Because of this, I had forgotten that Instagram is blocked on campus. To use it on my phone, I never connected to the Wifi and just relied on my data plan.

So, of course, when I hooked my iPad up to my computer to show everyone my iPad screen, nothing on Instagram would load. A friend in the audience finally reminded me that Instagram is blocked in the district. Oops. So I start trying to give these ideas about using Instagram in the classroom...without any visuals...because it's all blocked. And everyone is giving me looks like, "You are freakin' stupid." And I was mortified.

Lesson #1: Check your Internet connection and all the sites you are going to visit ON SITE BEFORE you present.

I moved on to Twitter.

I was showing them my profile, walking them through the difference between a reply and a mention and reviewing RTs and hashtags. I looked into the audience, and several people had this look on their face like I was speaking Martian.

It really threw me off.

When a kid is looking at me like that, I know they're confused. But adults sometimes make that face because they think the speaker isn't credible, ya know? And I have this thing where I'm always self-conscious about my teaching ability. I look SO young, and I have a high-pitched voice like Minnie Mouse, and I just always feel like I don't look like I know what I'm doing and that I have to prove myself. So of course, I thought the teachers were making those faces because they thought I was ridiculous.

I finally decided to start listing some ways they could use it in their classroom. I say about 5 off the top of my head and reach over to the podium to get my phone and read the rest of them. Apparently, when I was reaching for my phone,  one of my fingers hit RIGHT on the trash can icon on the note, which deleted it instantly.

I thought my heart was going to stop. Lesson #2: Don't store important information on the Notepad app unless you have a backup.

In a panic, I told them I'd give them some time to explore Twitter.  All but about 5 of them had to make an account. The rest of them wanted to customize their background and/or talk about anything other than social media.

When I asked the class if they wanted to move on and learn about other social media sites to use, they all ignored me. Part of them were on the computer -- too focused on finding a cute chevron background in our school colors -- but the rest were just chatting and not paying attention. 

On the one hand, I know that they are just getting back from summer and want time to visit with friends. But on the other hand, I think it's super-rude to talk while a presenter is talking, or to be in a class and sit at the very back and just check your e-mail and refuse to participate in anything.

One of them threw her hands up in the air and said loudly, "Well, now I know how stupid I am!" before shutting her computer down completely and putting her iPad away. I I hope she doesn't set that example for her students. I talked to a friend about this, and she said that the lady might have been jealous and/or intimidated by all the information I was giving {even though I felt like I'd failed in that area} and chose to project it at me. It made me think of those times when a really gorgeous woman walks by and I suddenly feel less-than -- ugly, even. Lesson #3 was just a big ol' reminder that if someone is good at something, it doesn't mean you're bad at it. This is a big one. Just because we lift somebody up doesn't mean that we have to come DOWN in order for them to go UP...does that make sense? It's hard for me to explain.


60 minutes in {of a 90 minute class}, one person just got up and walked out. Several were smiling while they happily searched for their favorite celebrities on Twitter, but this woman just LEFT. Judging by the variety of reactions, I'd say that lesson #4 is: you can't please everyone -- especially not with a class as broad as this. I wish my supervisor had let me narrow it down a little, but oh, well.  It did help me to remember that she also treats our principal like this during staff meetings, so I tried not to take it personally.

I did end up explaining to everyone that I had all these ideas that I was going to share but accidentally deleted my notes...and I was super-nervous, so I'm sorry if I wasn't the best presenter... everyone seemed a little friendlier after that, but it was a rough crowd for me.

In 90 minutes worth of class time {well, really 75 because I let them go 15 minutes early}, we only talked about Instagram and Twitter. I felt like I just wasted all of their time. I came home and sobbed to my husband that I had been given an opportunity to prove to that crowd that I am worth something, that I know something about teaching even though I haven't been doing it for 30 years like they have, and that I am an asset to the district.... and I blew it. I 100% felt like the biggest idiot in the world and wanted to call in sick the next day. 

But I put on my big girl panties and went to work on Thursday. I was sitting in my room, cutting out endless laminated sheets, when one of the attendees from the day before walked in. She confided in me that she is a presentation snob because she took so many speech classes in college. She silently judges speakers at our school who use the word "um" a lot or beat around the bush. Then she told me that she never would have known I was so nervous because I spoke so eloquently. She also said that so many presenters just rush through all their stuff and never give people time to explore while they're in the room to help, so she loved the whole thing. ...What?! So, lesson #5: it's probably not as bad as you think. As my mom pointed out, only I know what it was really supposed to be like, so for all they know, I meant for all that to happen.

Maybe I'll get another shot to prove myself next year. :)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

10 Things I've Learned

Confession: I have a ton of posts saved in my "drafts" because I get ideas but then never finish the post. Whoops.

While I was looking through all the drafts I have, I came across the following post. I originally wrote it almost a year ago and have no idea why it was never published!

I thought it might be a good post to publish to mark the first week of my 4th "official" year of teaching.

Here goes:


While I was blog-hopping, I saw a cute list at All Things Apple in 2nd's blog of 10 Things She's Learned from Teaching. So many of them rang true for me!

Here are 10 things I've learned from teaching:

  1. Children must secretly eat gluesticks and pencils; that is the only explanation of how those supplies can so quickly disappear. 
  2. You will always have one student who does not know where the tissues/trash can/objectives/turn-in basket/extra pencils/his brain is... 
  3. Do not argue with a child. Even a 5 year old. You will not win.
  4. Brush up on your Disney and Nickelodeon knowledge before going in each day... you'll probably get quizzed during dull moments of class. 
  5. Don't ever ask a question that you don't truly want to know the answer to. 
  6. On days where it seems even your sweetest kids have had their personality sucked out and replaced by the soul of the Devil, it's probably a full moon. Or right before a holiday. Or right after Halloween. Or a field trip day. Or a special assembly. Or a class party day. ...Or a day that ends in "y." ;)
  7. You might as well buy all tie-dyed clothing or stuff that already has boogers and crayons on it because that's where your wardrobe is heading. 
  8. You'll laugh, cry, and pray. A lot. 
  9. Sometimes the simplest tasks -- getting in line, gluing a paper, putting all 4 chair legs on the floor, going to their seat -- take the longest and are, seemingly, the most complicated. 
  10. Start getting used to responding to "Teacher" or "Miss" or "Hey, ma'am" because some kids will never remember your name, even if you shorten your last name to one letter. ;)

Thursday, August 21, 2014


With the school year either just starting or getting close, I'm thinking it's a great time to talk about automating your online life!

As technology comes into the classroom, it can also bring more time spent on work for teachers -- posting to a blog, tweeting, posting pictures on Instagram, updating statuses or photos in Edmodo or a Facebook page, etc. There are times when I want to post the same thing on multiple sites, and it can be a pain to log in to everything and re-post.

IFTTT {If This, Then That} is a free, online tool that's designed to help you. Their logo is, "Put the internet to work for you." I think that's an idea we can all get on board with, huh?

IFTTT can be a little difficult to explain, so I'll let this screenshot from their website do the talking:

After you sign up for a free account, you're allowed to create what IFTTT calls "recipes." A recipe is a combination of a trigger and an action, and it follows the "if this, then that" format. So a recipe might look something like this:

IF I publish a post on Blogger, THEN tweet about my new post on my Twitter account.


IF I post a photo on Instagram, THEN post it on my Facebook page, too.


IF the heat index gets above 95 degrees, THEN send me a text message so I can tell my team that we're having indoor recess today.

You get the picture. :) IFTTT has partnered with over 100 websites {called channels} to help you create recipes that best suite your needs. I've been a member of IFTTT for 1-2 years now; they've added lots of channels since my first day, so even if you don't see a lot of channels you could connect to, have faith that they will add more!

Some of my favorite channels to utilize
But, as I stated before, there are a ton more!


Need ideas to get your creative juices flowing? IFTTT has a whole list of great recipes that you can browse  by "featured" content or by channel.

Some of my favorites include the following:
-IF I post a new picture to Instagram, THEN upload it to a Dropbox folder.
-IF I favorite a tweet, THEN import it into an Evernote notebook.
-IF I haven't met my step goal on my Fitbit by 4:00 pm, THEN send me a text to tell me to get movin'.
-IF it's the first of the month, remind me to change my mantel decorations. {Yes... I'm that girl! :) }
-IF it's the first of the month, THEN call my Google Voice number to keep it activated.
-IF I log a new weight in my Fitbit app, THEN add a new entry to a Google spreadsheet.
-IF a new book is added to the NYT Best Sellers list, THEN send me a text.

And then there's this one, which I don't use but think is funny:

 IFTTT Recipe: Use Liam Neeson's badass quote from 'Taken' to scare someone into returning your phone. connects email to phone-call

Uses for the classroom
  • Cross-post on social media
  • Post pictures taken on a field trip or in the classroom to a social media account automatically {or text them to the room mom to put on a central, photo-sharing site}
  • When your location changes on field trip days, tweet about it so parents know where you {and their kids!} are at all times
  • Teaching students about cause and effect?? This isn't a fully developed idea, but a colleague of mine suggested it, and I think it sounds promising!
  • Send a welcome message to new followers to class social media sites.
  • Send a text to yourself when a student shares an Evernote notebook with you {here's the recipe}
  • Organize incoming e-mails with a certain keyword into your cloud account {here's one from Gmail to Google Drive}
  • Send a text to yourself when a paid app goes free {here's the recipe} -- could be great for watching those pricey educational apps!
  • Notify you if a new educational book goes on sale {here's a good recipe}.
  • Get education news from the New York Times sent directly to you.
  • Tweet links you bookmark in Diigo under a certain tag {like this recipe}
I have to admit that I get a little overwhelmed when I look at all the triggers and actions that can combine to make a great recipe. You could spend hours browsing the already-created recipes and probably still not know them all!

The point is, IFTTT is helping make your life a little easier by automating what it can so you can concentrate on the rest. We could all use a little of that! ;)

Do you use IFTTT? If so, what is your favorite recipe? If not, which recipe(s) would you be willing to try?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


I learned about Socrative last year but brushed it off, thinking that I didn't have time to implement it into my classroom. The TCEA 2014 conference in February talked SO MUCH about it that I decided to give it another shot.  I decided that this is a tool I NEED to share with you all, so... here we go. :)

Socrative is a fantastic formative assessment tool that can be used with any device that has a browser. This is great for 2 reasons:
  1. Since it's not tied to any particular application, it's great for the BYOD school that may see a slew of different brands in any given day. 
  2. If you teach younger students, you'll find that a lot of times their parents don't give them the password to their iTunes account because the parent -- understandably -- doesn't want a bunch of charges on the credit card for things like Angry Birds. ;) Since Socrative can work in a browser, this means kids don't need to download any particular app before getting to school with their device.
It's a totally free tool that only requires the teacher to have an account. Once you sign up {sign up here}, you can log into your account and start creating those formative assessments. You can create pre-made assessments before class, or you can create them on the fly during class -- it's totally up to you.

Socrative offers the following assessment options:
  • multiple choice
  • true/false
  • short answer
You can put in the correct answers and have Socrative grade the assessments for you. You can then download the results via an Excel file or Google Spreadsheet, or you can e-mail the results.

Once you register as a teacher, you get a "room number." Once you tell your students this number, they can log in to your room so that you can now see everything they're doing. As far as I know, your room number never changes, so you could post that big and bold at the front of your class, students would eventually memorize it, and it would make the logging in process go much more quickly the more you use it.

It even has pre-made templates for exit tickets, and you can play a game called "Space Race" that I've been told even kids as old as junior high get excited about.

You can share your quiz with other teachers who use Socrative by giving them your quiz number. From there, they can pull it into their account and use as is or edit it to fit their needs more closely. {This is wonderful who people who teach on a team or with a whole department that needs to give similar assessments.} 

Here's a cool little video made by the Socrative company that will tell you more:

Have you ever used Socrative? What was your experience with it? Do you use some other type of formative assessment?