ISTELive2016- NOT!


ISTE2016 is right around the corner and many are gearing up to head to Denver for the ultimate tech-ed experience. While many are deciding which outfits to pack and making sure the have all the adapters to power all of their devices, I am stocking the fridge with quick snacks and making sure I have enough coffee. Just like last year I plan to spend the conference days at my kitchen table participating in ISTELive2016, the virtual version of ISTE with live presentations and backchannel discussions.DSC00034

Except… I just found out that ISTELive2016 is not happening.


I’m so very disappointed with the decision not to continue ISTELive.  Last year I spent three (plus) days glued to my computer watching and interacting with amazing presenters, as well as the ISTELive2015 cohort.  I was so enthralled that I forgot to eat.  When I walked the dog, I took my phone with me so that I wouldn’t miss anything.  I have gone back and watched the recorded sessions.  I made real connections that have impacted my teaching, connections that would not have happened if I could not attend ISTE virtually.

I’m not sure why this decision was made, but I can tell you that following social media feeds, and reading the presenters handouts is no substitution for the experience that I had last year.  ISTELive made me feel like I was part of ISTE, immersed in it.  When you hear your question being asked of a presenter and she responds to the live audience you can’t help but feel connected.  There was an energy that made me feel like I was actually there. Many of the ISTELive2015 cohort expressed the same feeling and many were planning, even then, to participate in ISTELive this year.

People have many reason for not being able to attend such an important and rewarding event; family obligations, work obligations, cost, etc.  It’s too late for me to even consider attending in Denver and obviously it’s too late to find a way to make ISTELive happen.  I will watch the twitter feeds, but I don’t expect that I’ll be glued to them.  I will read the handouts, but I can’t imagine that it will feel any different than any other day where I read my blogs and PD articles. In short, I predict that I, and many others, will be very disconnected from the ISTE experience this year.

So. Very. Disappointed.

Follow up: Virtual Summer Reading Club

Summer reading

Photo by M. E. Shenefiel

Earlier this summer I blogged about an inspired idea, a virtual summer reading club.  We are nearing then end of our second book, with one more book to go in August.  This was a new venture for me, and I was initially nervous about how it was going to turn out, but it has been very rewarding!  Most of the active participant are  going into grades 4 and 5, and I have a few colleagues actively participating as well.  I’m just as excited as the students to get on Edmodo and see the latest questions and comments.  I love how the kids interact with each other and the other teachers without even knowing one another.

Today I received this message from a parent who’s child is participating in the club:

“I wanted to take a minute to let you know that I believe the summer reading program is a huge success. I always have my children read over the summer but the interactive book club has taken it to a whole new level. My son is excited to read, excited to come up with questions for the group and excited to answer questions. And not because he receives anything just because it is fun. I think it is a great way to engage the students over the summer. He is diving deeper into the meaning of the stories not just reading on the surface. He gets so excited to check Edmodo every day. I think that this is a safe and effective way to have these students peak into the world of social media. With social media being the way of the future I do think its important for students to learn about it and this gives them a chance to use it in a safe secure way.
I am so grateful for this program and hope that it is something you keep for future years.”

Classroom teachers probably get this type of email all the time, but for me it’s a huge deal. Needless to say the virtual book club will continue, possibly even throughout the school year!  For those of you who are considering offering this type of opportunity for your students I highly recommend it!

(By the way, the June book was The Menagerie by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari H. Sutherland. Our July book is The Secret Box by Whitaker Ringwald.  The August book, which hasn’t been revealed to the club yet, will probably be Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley.)

#ISTE2015 Take-Away: Build Your Wild Self


This week I’ve been reading many posts from educators who are reflecting on #ISTE2015 (or #notatISTE15.) Most are finally getting the chance to decompress as they try to process the massive amounts of information with which they were presented during those intense conference days.

As I participated in ISTE Live I gathered a plethora of articles, tools, strategies, videos, and other resources and added them to my ISTE2015 Symabaloo.  Like those other educators, I’ve begun revisiting those links and contemplating how this new knowledge will transform my instruction.  After all, that’s the whole point of ISTE right?  The big takeaways (at least for me) were the 4Cs (creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking,) global learning, equity of access, makerspaces, resilience, passion, and project based learning.  It’s not about a tool or gadget or website.  The whole point is to transform education through technology.

Screen Shot 2015-07-11 at 7.49.19 AM

Mrs. S- The Ho-condo-fro-ingo-monitor from

Sometimes though, these tools are just plain fun!  So I have to take a few lines to share this. At some point, someone shared a website called Build Your Wild Self.  Published by the New York Zoos and Aquarium this website allows you to generate an image that combines your physical attributes with the body parts of various wild animals.  You can then download the image, share the image, or download a pdf version that describes your special features.

For example, here’s me as The Ho-condo-fro-ingo-monitor.

Red river hog ears-­ Your red river hog ears have long black and white tassels. They can fluff out as a defense mechanism to make you look bigger and intimidate predators.

Anaconda snake tongue- ­ Now you can smell with your tongue! Your forked anaconda tongue collects odor molecules from the air and brings them back to tiny grooves in the roof of your mouth, letting you “taste” the air.”

Giant tree frog arms, Chilean flamingo legs, Green Tree Monitor tail.  Then choose the perfect environment in which to release your wild self.  Awesome right?

The site isn’t without it’s glitches.  I found that as I was creating my wild self the preview image that I clicked on didn’t match what showed up on my wild self, but I was going to click on them all any way, so I could forgive this glitch.

I don’t know what it is about them, but I love tinkering on avatar creation websites.  Although this site doesn’t necessarily generate avatars as such, I defy you to visit this site and NOT end up revealing your wild self!

Curricu-Links: Retweet Round-Up


Here are some interesting links that I found on Twitter over the last several days.  I hope you find them interesting as well.  Thank you to those in the Twittersphere who took the time to share.

Here are the same links in OneTab.

Curricu-Links: Retweet Round-Up

Here are some interesting links that I found on Twitter over the last several days.  I hope you find them interesting as well.  Thank you to those in the Twittersphere who took the time to share.
Here’s the OneTab link to these resources.

Google Maps and GAFE Apps


I’d like to make an appeal to Google for Education to include Google Maps in the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) suite.  I’d like to encourage my fellow techie teachers (and not-so-techie teachers) to make the same appeal.

Bear with me on this… here’s my situation…

I’m a thinker.  I don’t say this to imply that I’m some kind of super intelligent, Plato-inspired philosophical guru.  Those who know me know that this isn’t the case.  What I mean is that I like to think about ways to make things better.  I get inspired by those who are smarter than me and I think about how I can use their inspiration to improve what I do.   Unfortunately for me, and my patrons, I am not necessarily a do-er.  I get paralyzed by imaginary road blocks before my plans are ever put into action.  In many cases these grandiose plans never make it past my head and we all lose.

“Earth-Erde”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons –

Such has been the case for a project that I have had in the works for several years.  Each year, as summer break approaches, I have this inspired idea to map, with pictures, where my students read over summer.  I make a poor attempt at collecting photos and usually I get a handful of students and teachers who hand me photos.  The photos pile up on my desk and I forget about them until the following spring when I’m preparing for summer break.  Seeing the pictures reminds me that I want to try the project the following summer.  Rinse and repeat.

This summer I decided I WAS going make it happen.  I was bound and determined to bring this project to fruition.  Our district uses GAFE, so naturally I thought, Google Custom Maps… electronic images.. perfect solution! Except… Google Maps is not part of the GAFE suite.  I’m finally putting a plan into action, and I have a real-life road block!  Ever the thinker and problem-solver, I came up with my work-around.  I’d use my personal gmail account to create the Google Custom Map… not an ideal solution (I prefer to keep my professional and personal accounts separate) but again, I was determined.

After a lot of hoop-jumping, I was able to get the summer reading map created, with pictures, and able to embed it on the school website.  It looks the way I want it to look, and the feedback from parents has been very positive.  All is good with one small exception:  When I’m logged into my school gmail account, I can’t view the embedded map.  My best guess is that for some reason Google Maps and GAFE don’t play well together.  It should be so much easier to put this plan into action.

Why would Google Apps for Education not include Google Maps in their suite? The GAFE suite is designed to promote collaboration, creativity and communication among global learners.  What better way for students to understand their connection to a global community than by helping them to visualize what that looks like?

Including Google Maps in the GAFE suite would invite a multitude of opportunities for other creative, collaborative, educational projects.  Imagine students working in groups to map events during the American Revolution, using primary source images form the Library of Congress.  Language Arts teachers could create class maps featuring the settings of fictional stories.  Science classes could map migratory patterns of various species.  High school students could map the global repercussions of current events.  Students could create their own custom maps to make connections with places of personal interest.  These maps could become part of their educational portfolios.

There may be some very valid reasons that Google Maps is not included in the GAFE suite.  I’m guessing that maybe there are privacy issues, or maybe it’s just a matter of money.  I’d love to understand the rationale, but I have a hard time believing that providing access to Google Maps would present obstacles that wouldn’t be faced in the other apps in the GAFE suite.

So again, I’d like to make an appeal to Google for Education to include Google Maps in the Google Apps for Education suite.  I’d like to encourage my fellow educators to make the same appeal.

What do you think?

Enough – My Nerdtalk for #NerdCampMi


Be a reading warrior! Take a few minutes to watch this powerful speech by Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp)

Pernille Ripp

Yesterday I had the incredible honor of declaring myself a reading warrior along with hundreds of other passionate nerdcampers.  Thanks to the awesome Erin Klein,this Ignite/Nerdtalk from Nerdcamp 2015 is below.    If you have never experienced Nerdcamp, you need to put a huge “X” in your calendar for next year.  It was absolutely incredible to be surrounded by people who are as passionate about literacy as I am.  We will change literacy instruction if we band together!  Thank you to Colby, Alaina, Suzanne and all of the other incredible people that put this event together.

PS:  Due to the slides not working you will see me filling 3 minutes of awkward silence with my stand up routine – luckily I think I am better teacher than stand up.

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud…

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Curricu-links: Retweet Round-Up


Here are some interesting links that I found on Twitter over the last several days.  Thank you to those in the Twittersphere who took the time to share. Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 7.42.48 AMRight now this is just a hodgepodge of different topics, hopefully in the future I’ll have this a bit more organized.  You can also access these links through the QR code or my OneTab Link.

ISTE 2015 Take-Away: OneTab


For those of us who participated in #ISTELive one of the most valuable experiences that we had was the backchannel discussion. We began our discussion during the opening Keynote, but things really swung into action during the sessions on Monday through Wednesday.  Over the course of these three days we became colleagues and friends… a true cohort.  When I talk about my ISTE experience I mention these wonderful educators by name.  We shared a lot! We talked about teaching and technology, choices and challenges, family and friends, travels and home…  We talked about how we were on the ISTE diet (feeding on information forgetting to eat real food), how we hadn’t left our computers for days, how we needed treadmill desks…

…And we shared TONS of resources.  Early on, Adrienne (@adebouch) gave me the tip to use Symbaloo to curate some of the resources that I found and we both began collecting and curating.  Her ISTE Symbaloo was connected to my ISTE Symbaloo and mine to hers, and we both had a link to a shared google doc with Jen’s notes (@JKjennkaiser) from the sessions.  We had several people from our group editing that document as well.

As I said though… we shared  A LOT!  I got to the point that I couldn’t keep up, so I started just opening tabs.  I decided I would go back at the end of each session and add the links to my Symbaloo. I remember looking at my tabs at one point and I had so many open that I could only see one or two letters on each tab.  Thankfully Brandon (@Den_Petersen ), one of the moderators, recommended installing the OneTab add-on.

OneTab is a Chrome/Firefox add-on for website curation.  It is by far, the easiest webpage curation tool I have ever used.  Here’s how it works: Open as many tabs in your browser as you want.  When you get tired of looking at all of those open tabs, click on the OneTab button. Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 1.00.31 PM OneTab closes all of the open tab and creates a new webpage with links to all of the tabs that were just closed.  That list can then be named, rearranged, edited, shared, exported or deleted.  The next time you want a new list of tabs closed OneTab will add them on that same page.  You can move links from one list to another.  Check out more features here.

When you share a list you either can share it as a link or use the generated QR code.  Check out my links form the QR code/Augmented Reality Session. Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 2.07.16 PM

There are two features that are missing that would improve the functionality.  First, when I share a list, I’d like to be able to see the title of that list (the title that I gave it) on the shared page.  Right now I can’t find it anywhere.  Second, I’d like to be able to annotate the list in OneTab before sharing. My work around for this is to copy and paste the shared list into my blog post or a word document, but life would be just a bit easier it I could annotate the links before sharing.

Saving and sharing links just got amazingly easier for me and my students.  If you’ve ever been frustrated by keeping track of webpages, give OneTab a try.

Inspired Idea: Graphic Novel Book Trailer


After several intense days #notatISTE, and participating in #ISTELive, I’m finally able to go back and catch up on the annual ALA convention (#alaac15) which was also held this week in San Francisco.  (I tried keeping up with both for a while but I just couldn’t do it!)

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

One story that caught my attention was “Crying Emoji: ALA Annual Recap (Part III)” by Travis Jonker from 100Scopenotes.  The very first picture shows several authors performing readers theater, acting out a scene from Jennifer L. Holm’s and Matthew Holm’s graphic novel Sunny Side Up.  I had seen this done before, I can’t remember where, but I think it was Raina Telgemeier performing one of her graphic novels as reader’s theater.  Somewhere along the line (maybe that was the whole purpose of these presentations) I realized that the graphic novel format probably lends itself to reader’s theater.  I’ll bet that many, if not all, graphic novels could be performed in this way.

Then I started thinking about my students, and my library, and I’ll admit that I don’t do enough to promote graphic novels at my school.  My graphic novels circulate well, but mainly because of the students who already love them.  Most of the teacher’s have a hard time appreciating the complexity and value of graphic novels.  (When it comes time to do book projects, graphic novels are often vetoed as choices.)

So here’s my idea…  I think the students could collaborate to create book trailers reenacting short scenes from the graphic novels as reader’s theater, with accompanying images from the text (no more than one or two pages.)  Of course, I’m a little concerned about copyright, but I do feel like this would constitute Fair Use.  The students could then add music, sound effects and other images to create a finished book trailer to promote our graphic novels.  We are very privileged to have our own television channel and the trailers could be broadcast throughout the day.

Creating reader’s theater style book trailers offers so many opportunities for students to creatively express their love of graphic novels and also helps showcase their value to other students and the teachers.