Friday, July 31, 2015

Just GAFEn' go for it! Palo Alto Gafe Summit 2015

Hello Everyone,

It has been about two weeks since I attended the Edtech team Gafe Summit in Palo Alto. What an amazing time! I need to give a big THANK YOU to everyone in the Edtech team for putting on yet another amazing conference but also being willing to help me with a selfie challenge.

If you are following me on Twitter you may have seen me post pictures with a bunch of different Edtech team members. Inspired  by a recent Ignite session, I attended while #notatiste15, about how to get the most out of a conference via selfies and the GAFE 1st day keynote speaker Jennie Magiera, encouraging us to “do something nuts.”Helped me to branch out and create a selfie challenge: I challenged others and myself to take a selfie with members of the Edtech team. The process started out with a feeling of , OMG so nerve racking! Everyone was super nice, but there is always that awkward moment of hey you have no clue who I am, but I know who you are, can you take a picture with me. Additionally, the whole inner dialogue you have with yourself trying to meet someone who inspires you for the first time; what do I say, please don’t let my hands be sweating profusely, do I have anything in my teeth, OK words think of words! Finally, words come out that don’t always follow the rules of a proper sentence, you get a picture, you remember to thank them (thanks Mom and Dad for drilling manners into me!), and walk away like oh my what did I even say! When all was said and done, it was really wonderful. I was able to have some semblance of a conversation with people who have helped to shape a wonderful world of educational technology and shaped my philosophy of technology in education. Again, Edtech team thank you for being patient and wonderful with my selfie requests and nervous conversation. Here are some of the amazing selfies I was able to capture.


While taking selfies was quite the adventure, you probably don’t want to read a lot more about my inner dialogue and may actually be reading for content from the conference. There were many different important educational messages presented at the conference, while writing them all down I realized they all went together. Here are some of the main points of the keynotes and even the classes I attended. Do something Nuts, Allow students to F.A.I.L. (First attempt in learning), Don’t be afraid to fail, press buttons!  All these ideas came back to creating a culture that promotes these philosophies and leads to more student centered instruction.

One of the most powerful classes that helped reiterate these messages was lead by Jeffrey Heil, titled WTF: Why teach Failure? The class looked at the idea of what we are wanting students to be able to obtain in the classroom and how he has used a growth mindset model and created instructional materials in his college classroom. The most impactful time was the time to reflect and discuss with other teachers in our band (elementary, middle, high school) to bounce ideas off of and gain feedback from Mr. Heil and other peers on how we want to implement  a non failure teaching philosophy . These ideas are strongly based in Standards based learning and growth mindset. Which promotes allowing students to go back and redo assignments and allowing for failure without feeling discouraged about it. The focus is on students being able to revise and redo until mastery is reached. This also allows for differentiation so that those kiddos that are struggling can be able to get the direct teaching help they need. While those kiddos more advanced have different goals to reach.

Before heading out for Palo Alto I had been really wanting to implement a badge system in Kindergarten, but was not sure how to accomplish this method. While talking with my in laws about how currently in education I am seeing more parents wanting individual learning plans for their children and how with 25+ kiddos in a class I am struggling to find the time to be able to meet all my students needs. I stated that it would be great to be able to take a book like thing and be able to give the students stickers for things they know. I could show parents what they know and what they still need to learn.This idea was able to blossom during the WTF class and I was able to receive feedback about how to approach beginning to make such a huge project. Once I explained my idea it was suggested to start small choose one area to focus on.  I decided to only focus on the ELA CCSS this year. I am currently developing a book from Slides that my students would be able to use for such a purpose and look forward to sharing it with all ya’ll.  

Another powerful class was a session on classroom design lead by David Jakes. He showed us several classrooms and talked about how to create innovative spaces in your school. The biggest thought provoking idea I got from him was. “When someone enters your classroom door, what does your setup say about the learning that takes place in that space?” WOW powerful! We talked about how different classroom designs tell you different things.I began thinking about what my space was communicating and what I want it to communicate to people who enter.  Here are some examples of what I am talking about:

Truth about Online Schools   
This traditional setup tells the person entering that the students are expected to listen and not talk or collaborate.
Redesigned classroom with 
While something like this tells the person entering that the students will be expected to collaborate on work in teams, move around and listen to some lecture.

The conference helped me develop an affirmation to be able to do something nuts. The conference also helped me to search ,as I feel many teachers do an ask big questions, such as: What is my job as a teacher? What do I want to teach my students? and What do I need to teach my students? I realized that the philosophical change to a growth mindset and allowing for failure needs to be a culture that is supported within the school to help students receive the best education.

I come away a little overwhelmed but more inspired. This inspiration has left me with 2 main goals: 1- Design a space that allows for the best learning environment for my students.
2- Implement and if need be develop a program to allow for the best possible education for my students, that will meet their educational needs.

The GAFE summit was an amazing opportunity to be able to learn from some amazing innovators in the field of education. I was able to add many new friends to my growing PLN and meet some members of my PLN in person. I highly encourage others to attend and learn from the amazing education leaders in your area and take some selfies with educelebs.  


Friday, July 3, 2015

It has officially come to an end ISTE 2015 from Philly. For those of you not familiar with ISTE it is a large educational technology conference held every year in a different city. ISTE brings together passionate educational teachers,coaches, and admin as well as educational technology companies. It is usually about 3 days with LOADS of information floating around and thousands upon thousands of connections to be made.  

Unfortunately, the price tag can be steep when you calculate ticket ( approx. $200-500), airfare (if your not local), hotel, food, etc. For a younger teacher with loads of student loan debt this is just not a possibility this year. I was totally bummed to not be attending and was more disappointed at all the information and connection I was going to miss out on. As I perused the internet I saw a friend of mine tweet about #notatiste15. I was intrigued so I followed the rabbit hole that lead me to the Notatiste15 Google+ community. I asked to join and was accepted!! There was a make a badge document that I started in on, which was fun to see all the different people in the community. Then I started doing what I do best, clicking! I started to discover other events that where taking place like: Karaoke, Door Prizes, Challenges, Hangouts, and more.
Not at IsTE.png

Right about now, I was having a very real moment with myself, not sure how this all worked and how much I wanted to be involved. Then I decided to troll along on twitter and attend some of the hangouts. Oh how glad I am that I didn’t just sit in the shadows. I started to get more intrigued and started to dive in more. In making the decision to engage in conversations and follow along, I was able to make some great connections and learn a lot!!

Here are three big things I learned from #notatiste15!

  1. PERISCOPE: I believe I learned about periscope when someone ( probably my new connection @craigyen) on the #notatiste15 feed posted a message and link on Twitter. From that click on, my view of life was blown into a new technological dimension! The video was this guy named Tony walking around looking at different Poster sessions (kinda like presentation about different things tried in classrooms, apps smashed, etc.), he had a microphone and everything. My first thought was why is it in vertical frame, and he is a journalist for a edtech company (I mean he had the microphone and all). Oh how wrong I was, as I continued watching, Tony said something about how you can not comment if you are on a computer.What you can have discussion on this thing and it’s live?! Disappointed for a second but then……. elation, as he said if you download the app on your phone you can comment. DONE! Oh my goodness as I continued to watch from my phone and comment and participate I realized, Tony was just a dude at ISTE willing to take a bunch of random people on a journey. He talked about how he is usually shy and how this was helping him to ask questions and help others. WOW, let’s just think for a moment how empowering this is, It connects people across the world together to be able to experience in real time an event many could not attend and empower someone to reach outside of their comfort zone!! I’ll wait while that soaks in………………..Ok that should be a long enough pause. By following @tonyvincent I was able to learn about app smashing at different schools, meet new people, and learn about educational technology. I was so inspired by how simple he made it look, how effortless (even though I know it wasn’t), that he inspired me to Periscope from the GAFE summit I am attending next week in Palo Alto. I don’t know if I will have a nice microphone like Tony’s but I am going to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I want to thank @TonyVincent for being such an inspiration. After I experienced Tony’s periscope I started looking for other periscopes and found an Amazing one that @edsurge did recapping each day, it became my nightly video. There are so many more amazing periscopers out there. Download the app and search for people you follow on Twitter. It is available for Android and Apple products!
  1. VOXER: I was originally very skeptical of Voxer. Voxer is a messaging system where you can leave recorded messages for people.  I didn’t understand the purpose behind it. Why would I want to leave a voice message when I can already do that within my text messaging system on my phone? I heard a lot of people talking about how there were sessions from the conference on Voxer. I was still skeptical of the advantages of Voxer. Then, @craigyen invited to participate in Voxer karaoke. OK let me start off saying I have NEVER done karaoke in my life and never really felt a need to, but again in the spirit of ISTE I wanted to connect. So people started to sing and as they where singing I was able to message them text in real time. I finally decided to give it a go, I was soooo super nervous. I hit the little record button and as I was recording people left audio and text messaging. After that I was hooked, whether on Karaoke or Voxer we will never really know. I went on to perform many more songs and listen to the encouragement that was taking place. I also started to see how powerful a beefed up recorder could be even in today’s super technological world. You are able to get a better sense of others in the community, we listened as one member sang with her new baby boy. As a community we laughed at song choices, praised others with their voice, encouraged the timid, and just had a plain good ol' time. Voxer allows for connections to be made over various subject areas. Could you imagine using this tool as a music teacher, have your kids perform a piece for you on Voxer and then be able to give them real time hints and tips, even if they are at home sick,or on a vacation. Students could listen to lessons in real time, or go back and re-listen to something they may have missed. There are probably a 100 more ways for this tool to be useful, but it is still pretty new to me. Check it out!

  1. Teachercast: Teachercast is one of my main follows on Twitter @teachercast. They provide great podcast and videos about different educational topics. This year, they were able to broadcast live from ISTE. Teachercast invited different guests on to discuss products, experiences, and other interesting educational adventures.They even broadcasted live from the Microsoft booth! Even though I teach at a GAFE school and live near Seattle, I am always intrigued to see what Microsoft is going to do next. I learned that at the end of July (29th I believe) that Microsoft will be releasing Windows 10, and that if you currently have Windows 7 or 8 that the upgrade will be FREE (my favorite word)! There were many other amazing revelations about Microsoft products, I encourage you to go to their Youtube channel and subscribe . The live broadcast was another way for us not at ISTE to be involved in the process. The live feed being on a Youtube channel allowed me to be able to project the feed to my Chromecast. Oh the greatness of technology! I was literally watching the Teachercast broadcasts, taking notes, periscoping, and tweeting all at the same time. (It was a little bit of a multitasking headache). The other great thing about the broadcast was the ability to go back and listen again to a point that resonated with me or an address,or twitter handle that I missed. Teachercast live from ISTE was another way for me to gain knowledge from amazing educators and hear talks from people I would have missed out hearing from.  

There are a thousand other things that I could blog about; all the connections I made, apps that I saw, things that I learned, but the overarching message that came from all of this was how much technology brings us together and can empower us in education. Even though I was unable to attend the ISTE conference this year, I am already looking forward to ISTE next year in Denver, hoping to go and see you all there.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

QR codes in Kinder

Greetings Everyone,
It is officially summer time! Every year I pledge to try and take a month off of school. This entails mostly no going into the school, but also no working on things for the next year as well. It may seem a little extreme but it is necessary for me to keep my sanity. Additionally, it allows me time to reflect on the previous school year and make notes about what I am going to change. I know that the reflection process can lead very easily into the planning stage. So I make notes of what I am wanting to accomplish in the next year, so I don’t break my own rules.

One of the big things on my list is QR codes. This last year I began learning about qr codes. I have seen them on posters, at grocery stores, and on Pinterest, but just started really learning about and using them this year. Part of the huge push for me was that my school is transitioning to a STEM school and this year our focus was on Technology and math. As part of the transition we were blessed with a grant that allowed us to purchase Chromebooks carts for 2nd-6th grade and 5 tablets for each K-1 classroom. As I was looking at ways to really make my new technology beneficial for my students and more than games, I ran into a lot of interesting blog posts and tweets about QR codes.

Using the QR codes was a great way to go beyond using the tablets as a gaming or time filler device to a teachable device. I started out by researching QR scanning apps and with the help of the Google Play for Education market was able to easily find the QR scanner app. Once the app was pushed out to my tablets. I taught my kinders about Qr codes. I talked about how it allows you to scan a code and then see something from the code, it can be a video, a word, a math problem, or a picture. I then showed students how to get to the QR scanning app and then pulled up a QR scanning document found for free on TPT from Smorgasboard. 
Slide1.JPG   ksbuttonsmall_edited-1.png

I had my 25 kiddos line up and one by one scan on of the QR codes on my desktop with the tablet. The code produced a subtraction problem which we were learning about in class at the time and then they had to answer the problem to pass it on to the next person. Once they were done they went and worked with manipulative at their seats to practice subtraction.

After this lesson, my students started looking for and seeing QR codes everywhere. They wanted to scan every QR code they found. So we had to set some rules, as we found the QR scanner at times would let them bypass the filter and get to things like Amazon. The rule became unless we have talked about using QR codes for class then we don’t scan QR codes we find without permission.

Seeing my kinders excitement over using QR codes I decided to try and find another free TPT Qr document I could use in class. I found this cute document that had them scan a code and then would link it to a private secure Youtube channel of a celebrity reading a children’s book. I was so excited to get the codes and use them in class. I printed using the color printer and laminated them. I had them all set out and reviewed with my kiddos about how to use the QR scanner. I set it out as a center during my small group time. I ran this center to help ensure that I could handle any glitches that arose while the students were trying it for the first time. Luckily, I had done this as we instantly ran into the filter and I had to login in to my personal account to override the filter. Unfortunately, this took me approximately 20+ minutes to override each one. I called my IT and realized that they were not aware of what a QR code was or how it was used. A little deflated after this interaction with my IT department I stopped using QR codes.

A couple months went by and I was getting ready to participate in the Google Education onAir, where I participated in a class on QR codes. Seen here: It was super inspiring to be able to see how easy it can be. A couple weeks later we were having a group of educators from the district come and see how technology was used within the classroom at our school. I made up some sight word QR codes using Google sheets like shown in the training video. I just printed them on paper and taped them around the room and I created a simple document to accompany the QR codes, where students would write their sight words they found. I again reviewed how to find the QR scanner with my students, and showed them that the print may be really small. When the visitors showed up and my small groups where running, my kinders were working like boss’. They were scanning and writing excitedly. They pulled the adults into show how the scanner worked and then the process they were doing and why they were doing it. I was a proud little teacher. Kinders I had worked all year with that struggled to write or explain a process where now fully engaged.
As I reflect back on this moment of awe, I was determined to use QR codes more in this next upcoming year. Hoping to continue to inspire and innovate the thinking of my kinders. I was also thinking about using them: at the beginning of the year for back to school parent nights, helping to get my kiddos to websites for working on the tablets, and much more.

Please feel free to comment and let me know about your QR experiences or  if you would like help with starting QR codes.

Enjoy the summer,


Sunday, May 31, 2015


Hello Everyone,
 Welcome to my inaugural post. My name is Lara. I currently teach Kindergarten at a school that is transitioning to a STEM school of choice. I am a graduate of Washington State University, Go COUGS! I have been happily married for 3 years to my husband,Chris. My husband is an assistant coach for our local high school football team. We are both passionate sports fans (I am often referred to Hayden Panettiere's character in "Remember the Titans".) I am a huge Seattle Seahawks fan and support the Seattle Sounders. We recently bought our first home in August (right before school started, adventures!) I am learning a lot about what it takes to upkeep a house, thank you HGTV, for causing me to have crazy inspirations that only get half way done, lol.

My reasons for starting to blog are varied but mostly it's about continuing to build and expand my PLN/PLC (Professional Learning Network or Professional Learning Community). This last year our school focused on the Math and Technology portions of STEM. I was privileged last summer to attend the Google Apps for Education Edtech Summit in Palo Alto, CA. I have always loved using technology in the classroom (via Interactive Whiteboard, Youtube, and Classdojo), but this conference opened my eyes to all the potential there was with other technologies, especially via tablets. I learned a lot about how to use tablets to help enhance instruction, the ability to reach out and learn from teachers via social media, and different professional development implementation models. The conference and recent change to our school helped me to find and fuel my passion for technology. Upon my return I began working closely with our Technology leaders at our school to implement technology.

My journey with technology this last year has been one of a lot of ups and downs, but making lots of new professional friends and connections. I have great technological mentors at my school to help me learn and grow. I strongly believe this is such an important part for all innovators in any field. Creating this collaborative network is really quite easy. Creating accounts on social media networks such as Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Pinterest and/or Instagram, help you to be able to connect with educators throughout the world.

As I bring my memoir to a close, I want to give you all a heads up to some of the things you can look forward to reading about.
- Creating a PLN
- PLN's what are they and why are they important
- How I use technology in my classroom
- Fun things I do not technology related in my classroom/life
- What's new with technology at our school