Sunday, May 1, 2016

Google Cardboard In a Primary Classroom

Google Cardboard 

As a classroom teacher, I am always looking for innovative activities or lessons that will engage my 2nd grade bilingual students in new discoveries. ELL students need lots of exposure to various kinds of experiences in all content areas of learning. They struggle with vocabulary and background knowledge so it is important that teachers bring in as many experiences as possible to help with the language barrier. 

We were studying about basic animal needs and characteristics in Science so I decided to integrate a virtual reality lesson to my unit. I borrowed a google cardboard from one of our middle school campuses and brought it into my classroom. One of our technologist specialist, Ann Witherspoon created a Symbaloo with lots of VR apps for the primary and secondary classrooms. I downloaded one of the apps "VR Safari" on my iPhone and let my students explore the app. You could here all the "oohs and aahhs" as the students walked around the classroom with a google cardboard in their hands. They had never heard of Google Cardboard so this was a perfect opportunity for them to learn about it. After the activity, rotated it through tables, the students wrote a summary of all the animals they had seen within the app. I immediately began thinking how I could use this in my Daily 5 Stations for writing activities , describing animal characteristics, or just simply let my students pretend they are inside a virtual world and write a story of their virtual field trip. 

I began looking for ways other classrooms were using Google Cardboard in their lessons and how to bring those experiences into a 2nd bilingual classroom. I found several resources that may help you when planning for innovative lessons using Google Cardboard. Here are several resources you may want to check out. I know this will be an activity that will continue in my classroom and bring in experiences to my students that provide great learning opportunities. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

TCEA 2016...My Take Aways This Year

The First Few Days...TCEA 2016

Its always exciting when you are given the opportunity to attend one of the largest Technology Conferences in Texas. The Texas Computer Educator Association ( TCEA ) is that conference for me. This year I had the opportunity to Keynote at the  ELL/ESL Academy for Teachers, Principals and other Educational Leaders from all over the country. What an honor it was to be speaking and representing my school district of Midlothian ISD for my first Keynote. The energy when you arrive is contagious and makes you feel "alive" as soon as you walk into the conference center. You arrive early on that first day so that you can get checked in and get settled into your hotel room. By the second day of the week, the mass crowds begin to arrive and the energy seems to multiply immediately. You begin to notice how "connected" everyone is to their smartphones, laptop, iPad, etc. It gets you excited and you begin to feel the energy surround you as you walk through the long halls. It was going to be an exciting week! 

Connecting With Others

Each time I attend TCEA, I begin to look for my fellow connected educators on Twitter who will be attending the conference. We have already tweeted each other prior to the conference in regards to our stay there finding out what sessions we would all attend and hotels we were staying. Being a connected educator, has given me the privilege of connecting with the most AMAZING leaders in education today on a global scale. Not only do I love getting to spend time with them but also love meeting new educators as well. Our dinner conversations begin to evolve and take us to familiar places that lead to great discussions of student learning. I love learning new ideas, practices that work, those that do not. It is a time of conversing in meaningful topics, especially technology practices and what we as educators can do to make learning relevant for students. I did get the opportunity to connect with new educators and leaders who are making a difference in education today. One of those leaders was +Eric Sheninger who's book Digital Leadership Changing Paradigms for Changing Times has impacted my learning, thinking and teaching in my classroom. Another great and former Waxahachie, Texas educator, now an Instructional Tech Specialist for Elign ISD was +Patrick Reid . Patrick and I connected immediately in Waxahachie, Texas sharing similar ideas for innovative learning in the classroom. I was so excited to finally meet him in person, a genuine and great guy and great friend. There were others of course who I had met before like the incredible +Kasey Bell  +rafranz davis and +George Couros who I did not get the chance to meet in person but did have my book signed thanks to Patrick who graciously made this happen. These opportunities are rare and so exciting for me as a classroom teacher. Being connected continues to be a huge part of my learning and has allowed me to grow in so many areas of my teaching. What an exciting place to be in my career.

Patrick Reid

Kasey Bell

Eric Sheninger

Principals Making a Difference

My Keynote Reflections

Being able to reflect on all aspects of my learning, teaching and best practices, has allowed me to share my educational story with educators from all over the world. This year I would present my first Keynote at TCEA titled, "How Big Is Your Brave?" The Real Truth About Teaching in An ESL/ELL Classroom. If you have never presented a keynote, let me just say, the preparation months before takes on a whole new level of thinking and planning. I reached out to several of my technology specialist in my district asking them for guidance in the design process of a keynote. The topic I chose would tell the story of how I transformed my classroom into a "digital hub" by redesigning it to meet the needs of my ELL learners using mobile devices. My goal: to inspire teachers, principals, and other leaders of education to step out of their comfort zone and make magic happen in their classrooms. I wanted to be real, honest, have fun and inspire others throughout the presentation. I began presenting and the next thing I know, my time had come to an end. At the end of the presentation, I challenged the crowd to come out of their comfort zone where the real magic happens and we began dancing around the tables. It was incredible and the energy was amazing. The entire ballroom stood up and sang to Sara Bareilles video...Brave. My keynote was a success and I had had the best time of my life. I will remember this day forever and will cherish the many connections that came from this experience. My challenge was not easy for some but TOGETHER we had realized one thing, it takes courage to make real magic happen but the rewards would conquer all fears in the end. Real learning does not happen in comfort zones! 

Friday, January 1, 2016

What Will Be Different This New Year?

The Same Old Song and Dance

Most people will begin their new year by writing down goals they want to accomplish, changing bad habits into better habits and eating and living a healthier life style. Yes, I have actually done the same thing. But how many of us have actually sat down to reflect where we are right now this very moment both professionally and personally? It is hard when you feel like you are going 100 miles an hour in all sorts of directions. So let us sit down together for just a brief moment, for those moments are rare, and reflect on God's goodness and blessings. 

The Things That I Love the Most

I love to read and write! Reading takes me to places I dream of both professionally and personally. You may catch me crying, laughing or just simply meditating in God's word. I have always been a reader but the funny thing is that I was not a reader in school. I read books because they had to be read not for pleasure or anything else. I did not have teachers who modeled reading so I had to create my own experiences and find my favorite authors and genres all throughout my college days! I am so thankful I did. I had discovered my purpose in life....become an educator, a reader and a writer!

So lets talk about writing. Most students and adults I know do not actually like to write. Why? Writing is a craft that takes lots of practice and not to mention time. I actually began falling in love with the craft of writing when I began blogging about my students successes and failures in my classroom. It is why I created this blog in the first place. It has opened so many doors both professionally and personally and has allowed me to continue growing in education. On a personal level, it has allowed to me share my story and journey of my triathlon training this past year. My struggles and successes are all documented so that one day I may pay it forward and share with others. The professional books I have read and staying connected with fellow leaders in education have given me a profound purpose in having a growth mindset. The things I have learned this past year have been incredible and so blessed by these leaders and teachers in education, both locally and globally, for sharing their classroom stories on blogs and their books.

So What Will Be Different This Year?

September 21st, 2015 the day I was diagnosed with breast world had changed in a split second. We all cringe when we hear those words including myself. The thoughts and "what if's" and restlessness begin to consume you day and night. You find yourself spinning in circles wondering when it will all be over. Your life is no longer your own so what happens now? God is so good all the time and I know that he does not give us trials in our lives that we can not handle. This has been part of God's plan for me from the beginning. My mom a 25 year survivor and so many dear and close friends who have passed and conquered are my inspiration for hope and a prosperous new year. This disease that has become so "common" in today's society attacks the deepest part of your soul and breaks you to pieces. But it WILL NOT break me! It will challenge your faith to the deepest core and have you asking questions that only you can answer. I have learned much about this disease and still learning! My family has been there every step of the way. They give me hope for life and I'm stronger by that hope and love. 

My"one word" for the 2015-16 school year was "purpose". I get goose bumps just saying it. How ironic but yet so relevant to my life today. I pray that I may serve others before me, mentor to those who are survivors and those who will be diagnosed this coming year. This is why I share my story so that others may be inspired by hope, faith and God's love and mercy for us. Each and every one of you, family and friends, are a blessing to me. You have inspired me to not be afraid both professionally and personally and to love deeply. I will continue to read and write for this is part of my purpose. I am confident that God's goodness and blessings will carry me through the finish line, my greatest race of all. That is what will be different for me this coming year. May 2016 be your greatest year of great things to come.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Its A Brand New Year of Digital Learning

What's New

Its another brand new year of digital learning with my new group of 2nd graders. Over the summer, I made a list of "new" apps that I had not used last year and I came across an app called Classkick. I had heard about it through other teachers in my district using it in their classrooms in various ways. So here we are, a brand new year of digital learning and we have already downloaded the app on our iPads and have seen its potential in my classroom! 

How I Plan To Implement in My Classroom

One of the best ways I see implementing this app is through small group instruction in all subject areas and through mini lessons depending on subject matter. In math, I work with several small groups each day to check for understanding of content being learned. This app allows me to spend more time with struggling learners who may need more remediation or one on one instruction. I love how a teacher can give immediate feedback to students who show mastery and also encourage those students who seem to be inactive. The learning is in real time and that's what I love about this app. When students are struggling, they have the option to ask for help by tapping on the "hand" which a teacher can see immediately. Teachers can give stickers or give positive feedback by showing them right there on their work. Love this feature! Images can also be uploaded to focus on vocabulary. It also allows teachers the opportunity to create interactive lessons. This is what my students love the most, being able to interact with me and share their work with others. What a great way to learn! But my favorite feature is the "recording" feature which allows me to speak in a different language for those students who may need content being presented in their native language. I have not explored the use of this app with Classroom Google but that gets me even more excited as our district provides these tools for our teachers. Its a great tool that I know my students and I will benefit from greatly this year. I hope to be a more effective teacher and engage students in a more meaningful way by using Classkick!  Happy Classkicking!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Clear Perspective

Looking Back

Summer 2105 is almost over and teachers and students are getting ready to embark on a brand new school year of learning. As an educator of 24 years, starting my 25th, I have spent all summer reflecting on the past year and thinking about the things that matter to me the most. As a mother of twin identical girls who will be starting their first year of college and wife of 25 years, I have discovered that my passion for teaching has changed in a way that has me asking questions, what will be different this year, can I still make a difference in children's lives, is my passion still there?  It is common for most teachers to spend their summers what I call "detoxifying" themselves from the daily routines that teaching brings and the demands of testing, lesson planning, grading, meeting after meeting, deadlines, etc. There are never enough hours in a day to get the work done and most days it comes home with you. So where do you draw the line?

The Things That Matter the Most

I have always been an athlete most of my childhood into my high school and college days. Long distance running has been my main sport with two full marathons under my belt, lots of half marathons and the list goes on. Two summers ago, several of my friends and I were introduced to the "triathlon" sport and I was hooked! I had discovered a new "passion" and one that I knew would be around for a lifetime. So this year I decided to get serious about "triathlon" training and hired a swim coach to help me train for my first "half ironman" in 2016. I had finally found a sport that would change the rest of my life spiritually and emotionally. So why am I writing all this?

I believe God brings people and circumstances into your life when your life begins to unravel uncontrollably. My daughters will be starting their first year in college and I am so excited for them. They have decided to go to a Jr. college in town to take their basic courses and keep their jobs as well. I'm turning the big 50 this year and that has me consumed in all kinds of thoughts. Age has never really bothered me up until now. My parents are getting older and my dad's health can change in an instant. I miss my brother who has served this great country for 16 years and I wish he were here with us. 

My swim coach has been a great influence this summer and someone who I admire and respect dearly in the triathlon community. His friendship and family have played a key role in strengthening my spirituality and I have loved spending time with them this summer. My husband continues to travel quite a bit more than usual so its been a busy summer for him. We try to spend as much time together as possible, even if it means sitting on the couch watching British drama tv all night. 

My triathlete friends, old and new, continue to inspire me each and every day to never give up and continue pushing through my training. I am convinced that God continues to work in my life as he has allowed me to reflect on what's most important. My time in education is short and he is preparing me for the next chapters in my life. These relationships are what matters to me the most. Teaching will continue to change and so will children. Some teachers will have the same mindset they had when they started teaching and others will go out of their comfort zone and take risks. In the last 5 years, I have already witnessed how much education has changed. I have seen more teacher burn out and lots of frustration with state testing. So what will change for me next year and the years following?

A More Clear Perspective

It is so important to have a clear perspective in this business of educating children. As a veteran teacher who still loves teaching and the joy and happiness it brings, I will no longer bring work home, love those most important to me more, and not worry about what tomorrow will bring. I will continue in my training for it brings me strength and peace. The seasons of my life have changed and so must my perspective. My priorities are no longer the same and I must accept that God's plan for me is uncertain but so worth waiting for as it unfolds in his own timing not mine. It is through him that I am able to make a difference in children's lives and my own and hope to inspire other teachers and athletes along the way.  

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Another Digital Success Journey

Letting Go.... 

It is always bitter sweet when I have to let go of a group of students I have had for two years. Not only do I let go of them but I also have to say goodbye to the parents who I have bonded with these last two years and who have supported our learning. This group was special though. They were my first group of students who used various digital tools for two solid years mostly the iPad and chrome books. What did I discover that I had not seen with the last group? A richly developed digital language that pushed them further than I had imagined and a love for what it means to be a "digital native". They explored places that I did not imagine on their own and some with the help of others pushing them along their journey and teaching others how to get there. As a bilingual instructor, this brings me such joy and an affirmation that "creative thinking" and " "self directed learning" take students beyond their capabilities. I saw myself as a "facilitator of learning" not a teacher instructing her students what to do next. Their digital skills surprised me in most cases which proved that "self discovery learning " is what I need to foster and support in my career as an educator. I trusted my students and let go of that "teacher control" and the results were clear. They achieved great success with little instruction and they learned how to think independently when creating digital products. There were many times when I learned from discoveries and lots of aha moments! Their joy of learning brought many happy moments in our classroom but mostly a love for one another that will always stay with me as they continue in their education and discovering their "own voices". I am so very proud of their accomplishments. They showed me that trusting them and loving them would be our greatest success and they were right. I am so excited for the next two years and new ideas that I already have planned. My PLN has made a huge impact on my learning and I appreciate the friendships I have made these past few years. I keep them close and am looking forward to their partnerships. My students matter and they will always matter in my heart! Their "voices" will carry them to their next destination as they say..."let me show you how". 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Chrome Books in a 3rd Grade Class

How It All Started

When I decided to redesign my classroom 3 years ago, I had a longterm vision of how that was going to look and what kinds of challenges that was going to bring. But I was ready to face those challenges at no cost. Three years ago, my classroom became a 1:1 iPad digital hub. The excitement of redesigning my classroom brought new ideas and learning and also transformed me as an educator. The students I had this year were also with me last year so this would be my first group of students who would have the opportunity to use a mobile device for 2 years. The prior group had the opportunity to use the iPads when they were first introduced as part of our "project launch" initiative program in our district. I had a suspicion that this group would bring a new kind of learning to our that required little instruction on my part. Thus the Chrome book came to life!

The Chrome Book Was Added

Each year as a bilingual teacher, we are given a certain amount of monies to use towards our classroom to add to our resources that would enhance student learning. So last year, I ordered three Chrome books and the students have proved that this device has helped connect their learning to the iPad. The use of their "google drive" on a daily basis has transferred that learning to the Chrome book in a way that requires less instruction from me and more time on task for them. I have discovered that the language being used on how to manage the google tools on the iPad is very similar to the language required for the Chrome book. The students know exactly what Chrome book extension apps to use because they have seen or used them on their iPad. This makes the learning transferable and more effective for me as an educator. I spend less time teaching or trouble shooting and more time facilitating their learning. What a wonderful problem to have! 

The Chrome Book in Action

During the the day, my students rotate through their Daily 5 stations in Language Arts and Math. The students use their iPads and the Chrome books throughout these rotations. My students love to work together in groups or with a partner so this helps other students that are less technology savvy with any problems they may be having. Its great to see these mobile devices being used hand in hand. The students are able to move around my room wherever they need to go to work on their project or lesson that I have created for them. Here are a few examples of the students working in groups or with a partner throughout the day. I will continue to add as many Chrome books as possible each year so that my students will continue their digital learning!