Digital Doors was created as a place for me to blog and share resources that I think would be helpful for teachers integrating technology in meaningful ways in their classroom. My goal would be to write a blog post a week, but with my busy schedule, that doesn't happen. I write when I can and rely on nifty tools to help me share what I am finding when I don't have time to write.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Hour of Code is Coming!

Next week is Computer Science Education Week.  This is a way to bring to light the careers and opportunities available to students who gain a Computer Science Education.  The emphasis will be on coding.

I have said many times to teachers that as the technology gets more complicated, it actually gets easier for the consumer.  Even our most technophobic teachers, can order something on Amazon, play Candy Crush on their phone and get cash from an ATM.  So with the growing ease of use, comes the growing number of consumers and the growing number of jobs for those with Computer Science skills.

Teaching code to kids is a great way to have kids problem solve, think logically, and collaborate.  Kids (and adults) of all ages can learn how to code.  And coding can be fun.  We even have a few coding apps on the iPads for Kindergarteners to get started learning the process at there level.  And one of the coolest things about teaching kids to code is that in most cases, it is self directed and self motivated.  All you have to do is provide the right opportunities and point the students in the right direction and they're off on their own, testing ideas, trying to solve their own problems etc.

Greg Doud, at LaVenture has been running a Coding Club for kids after school.  He is really excited to see how the kids have run wiith this activity and continue to push themselves to learn more.  I have added coding activities and sites on our Elementary Tech Lab resources page so that students in our labs and at home can explore and learn coding.

I encourage you to share the Hour of Code resources with your students and perhaps even plan to do an Hour of Code with your students during the week.  (or in the future.)

Here are a few resources to get you started.

Computer Science Education Week
Coding for Kids
TED : Let's Teach Kids to Code
7 Apps for Teaching Coding to Children Pin It Now!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Celebrate Learning and Win!

In September, I won a Keurig Brewing System at a conference.  I wondered what this non-coffee drinker should do with this device that so many coffee drinkers covet.  I could make tea and hot chocolate I suppose, but I decided it would be fun to offer this device as a prize for a drawing in  hopes to get teachers using a little technology and sharing the amazing things that they are doing in their classrooms.

So today I introduced the contest.  Teachers are asked to share learning happening in their classroom by creating a slide for a collaborative presentation.

So far, three teachers have shared.  I am excited to watch this presentation grow.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Getting Connected with the Global Read Aloud

Photo by Lyndsay Craven
Several teachers in our district joined over 100,000 teachers and students across the globe this week in an exciting global connections event.  Teachers and students are connecting with other students via Skype, Edmodo, Kidblog, Twitter and more to share their ideas and impressions about common books they are reading in their classrooms.  This project is the brain child of Pernille Ripp an elementary teacher in Wisconsin, originally from Denmark.  She started this project with her students in 2010.  they chose one book and she connected with her Professional Learning Network on Twitter and asked others to join in.  The response was great and the students were able to connect with students all over the world reading the same book at the same time.  Each year, the project has grown.  Last year, they had over 30,000 students participate.  And this year, the number is well over 100, 000 students from all over the globe.  Books and authors at different reading and interest levels have been chosen to expand the project.  There are even groups participating in the project in Spanish and French.  This year students will participate in a variety of global collaborative activities, over the next 6 weeks while reading either, Eric Carle books, Marty McGuire by Kate Messner , Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper and Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach.

I am really excited about this opportunity for many of our teachers to take their first dip into this type of global collaboration with their students.  Lisa Condran, Library Media Specialist at Lincoln Elementary is quite tech savvy, but she has taken on the new challenge for her of connecting about half of the teachers in the school with different classrooms around the world  using a variety of collaborative tools and reading a variety of books.  The classroom teachers will read the books in class and Lisa and Tech Instructional Assistant Mark Johnson will make the connections with tech in both the library and the lab.  Students will be connecting with students across the country in Canada and even as far away as Indonesia.  Deena Franklin, 3rd grade teacher extraordinaire at Jefferson, is doing what great teachers do.  She is modeling new learning to her students and continuing to challenge herself and grow as a teacher.  Tech is a scary word for her, but she is facing her fears head on with support from her peers.  Her students will be connecting with a class in Wisconsin via Edmodo and sharing with tools such as Padlet.  As the project continues, I hope to be able to share how this project is impacting our students across the district as they join together and learn from students and teachers around the world.

For more information about this project and to follow along visit the Global Read Aloud Project.
To explore some of the tools that teachers will use to connect and share visit these sites. ( within our district),
Skype in the Classroom
Twitter for Educators Pin It Now!

Digital Literacy Workshop Webinars

We are starting to get into the groove with our weekly Digital Literacy Workshop webinars.  They have been described as short and sweet.  The hope is that 20 minutes on one topic is doable and not so daunting with our busy schedules on a Monday afternoon.  So far, the topics have all focused on our new adoption of Google Apps for Education.  As our year progresses, we will explore other topics as well.  We've landed on 4 pm as the weekly time for these "Short and Sweet" webinars, because this is the first time in the school day when all teachers are out of school.  It is not ideal for those teachers who have been out since 2:30, but it seems the best option.  The good thing about a webinar, is that those teachers with an earlier ending time can access the webinars from a coffee shop or a comfy couch at home.  The webinars are also being recorded and archived so teachers can access at a time convenient for them.

Here is a link to the archives.

And here is the latest video where we familiarize ourselves with Google Docs.

As I reflect on my own learning process through this, I am finding that doing a 20 minute webinar on my own feels like a whirlwind.  So many things to keep up with and remember at the same time.  And Google Apps for Education is a topic that I am pretty excited about, so keeping it short and sweet and not expanding on ideas is difficult for me, but I am learning.  For each webinar, I share a Google Doc with Collaborative notes.  I put all the links and resources, suggestions etc.  In there.  If others in the webinar have ideas or resources to share, they can share those as well.  I also share the Google Presentation with the group so that they can explore later.  After the presentation, I put  the recording and resources on an archive page so that people can revisit.  I think that it is a good system.  I do wish that I had someone monitoring the chat window for me.  So much to think about and it goes so fast.

One exciting thing that has happened so far is that I have actually had other teachers who are interested in being a guest presenter for a webinar and sharing what they are doing in their class.  This makes me very happy.

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Teaching and Learning with Technology: Blended Learning Group

Teaching and Learning with Technology: Blended Learning Group

I am excited about the opportunity to work with a small group of Mount Vernon teachers throughout the year in a blended learning model.  Teachers involved in this project will meet a 3 times during the year in a group and then will participate in online discussions,webinars and projects as they practice what they are learning in the classroom.  I will also be visiting with these teachers in their classrooms and modeling lessons. This class will be designed to meet the needs and goals of the teachers who are participating.  

If you are a Mount Vernon Schools teacher interested in being considered for this group.  Please complete this form.  If there is more interest than space available, you may be placed on a waiting list with priority for the next school year.

Applications will be open until September 20.  I will review the responses and send out invitations and waiting list notices on Sept. 23.

Limit: 10 teachers ( preference to a variety of grade levels and content areas)

Kick Off Session: October 10, 4pm-5pm
This will be an overview session where we will begin to develop a plan for the year, learn how to use the tools we will use to communicate, share and collaborate and explore ideas we would like to focus on this year.   (1 clock hour)

Group Session: October 16, 4pm - 6pm
In this session we will come prepared to share our goals and project ideas.  We will spend the session building out these plans and gathering the resources and knowledge needed to get started. (2 clock hours)

Final Group Session: May 1, 4pm - 6pm
In this session, we will celebrate our progress by sharing student work, products and accomplishments.  And plan next steps. (2 clock hours)

Webinars: Throughout the year, there will be opportunities to participate in webinars that will help you in your process.  You will be able to select from a menu which webinars would best meet your goals and interests.  (A short written reflection will be required to receive clock hours.)

Edmodo Group: The Edmodo group will be a place for communication, sharing ideas and questions and examples of student (or teacher) work.  Each week we will have a prompt to help keep the conversation and learning going. ( Weekly participation will be worth 5 clock hours)

Classroom Visits: During the year, I will schedule times to meet with you individually in your classroom and also plan times to come in and work with students.  

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Look for the helpers."

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

I have had the blessing in my life to live and travel all over the world.  Because of this,  I have had the opportunity to witness good people doing good things all over the world.  Contrary to what you may see on the evening news, there is no shortage of this.  And this type of “helping” behavior doesn’t stem from what nation we are from, what our skin color is, or whether we are rich or poor.  Parents love their children, teachers devote themselves to their students, strangers come to the aid of strangers in need, neighbors look out for each other, children are curious and eager to learn, and many people share more of themselves than it seems like they possibly could.  There is also evil in the world, and this also, does not stem from nationality, skin color, or wealth or lack there of.   I believe the good far outweighs the bad.  
by Brittney Le Blanc

They say that living abroad changes your personality.  I know it changes perspective.  Anytime we have the opportunity to learn more about each other, the more opportunities we have to discover the amazing good all around us.  The more we know about each other, the more we are likely to love more and hate less.  

As a teacher, I want to make every effort to make sure that our students have opportunities to get to know a lot of good people and see people doing good things not just in our own community, but all over the world.  I’ve often said that my ideal classroom would be a school bus, but even better would be a jet, or a ship.  Since that isn’t likely to happen,  I can help kids to explore beyond our classroom by connecting via, blogs, Skyping, epals, etc.  I want my students to learn to recognize and appreciate, in fact, celebrate both our sameness and our uniqueness.  I want them to learn ways to love more and hate less.
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Monday, September 9, 2013

Digital Literacy Professional Development Opportunities this Year

Another great year is underway.  I am excited about all of the possibilities.  Each year, I work at getting better at providing opportunities to support teachers in engaging students through the use of technology in the classroom.  (And beyond.)  The math of providing these opportunities is my biggest challenge.  There is only one of me and there are hundreds of you.  There are only so many hours in the day and your hours are already full. etc., etc.  But as we know, Digital Literacy and Fluency is an important part of insuring that our students are College and Career ready.

I have several different opportunities planned for the year.  My hope is to provide a wide variety of ways to access and learn so that I can meet your different needs and schedules.  The following is an overview, I will be sharing specifics with information on registering etc. soon.

Each Monday, I will be hosting a 20 minute Digital Literacy Workshop. I will provide a form for you to sign up and receive the information needed to log in to the webinar.  The session will be short and sweet and focused on just one idea, resource or tool.  Maybe even just one aspect of that tool or resource.  Although you will be able to attend the webinars live, they will also be archived so that you can watch at a later date.  In order to receive clock hours for attending these sessions, you will need to attend at least 6 during the school year and complete a short form for each session.

With more and more teachers using mobile devices to teach and learn in the classroom, we have plenty to share and discuss on this topic.  So we will continue to have monthly get togethers to share new ideas and resources and learn new ways to leverage these tools in the classroom. These sessions will be one hour long and we will meet in different locations throughout the district.  Clock hours will be available if you attend at least 3 sessions.

I am excited about the opportunity to work with a small group of teachers throughout the year in a blended learning model.  Teachers involved in this project will meet a 3 times during the year in a group and then will participate in online discussions,webinars and projects as they practice what they are learning in the classroom.  I will also be visiting with these teachers in their classrooms and modeling lessons.  I will be sending out more information about this opportunity soon.

Invite me!  I love the opportunity to work with teachers to help meet learning goals in the classroom.  I am happy to come help as you try something new or need some help brainstorming solutions and ideas.  I am also hoping to have invitations and opportunities to come in and work with groups of students using tools and strategies I would like to share with others.  I will do a far better job of helping others use these tools and strategies if I have had the opportunity to explore the ideas with groups of students.

We have a Mount Vernon Digital Literacy Facebook page.  Like the page and I will share resources and ideas with you on a regular basis.  If you are already on Facebook, this is a great way to keep up on new ideas without having to search out a site etc.

We will continue to build opportunities for collaboration through the use of Edmodo this year.  Mount Vernon Teachers, please make sure that you are registered at and join the groups that interest you so that you can be a part of the conversation. I will be sending an email out with information on how to register and a list of groups.

I believe that blogging is a powerful tool for both teachers and students.
It helps us to reflect on our learning, be transparent about the process and provides a place for conversation and growth.  I am committed to blogging this year.  But I also want to support teachers who would also like to blog or would like for their students to blog.  I plan on doing a weekly blogging challenge to give you some ideas to get started.

Whew!  That is a lot!  I hope that you are able to find a fit with at least one or two of these opportunities.  Please stay tuned to find out more specifics about each of the opportunities.

Ways to stay tuned: 
Read emails I send out :)
Follow us on Facebook.
Follow my blog. 
Visit our Digital Literacy Workshop Page

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Friday, September 6, 2013

My Summer School Teachers: Pernille Ripp

I attended Edmodocon 2013 this August.  This was a day long online event with a variety of inspiring speakers and presentations from teachers who are using Edmodo in amazing ways in their classrooms.  The standout presentation for me was an impassioned call for giving our students the opportunity to experience and learn about the world from others through a project called The Global Read Aloud.

Pernille Ripp, originally, from Denmark, is an elementary teacher in Wisconsin.  A few years ago, she had an idea of having students from all over the world participate together in a read aloud of a favorite children's book.  She states that she really didn't know how to get started, but that didn't stop her, she just jumped right in and got going.

The Global Read Aloud Project is now in its 4th year and last year, there were over 30,000 students from around the world who participated.  She credits a lot of the success to her partnership with other teachers through the professional learning network she has built with other teachers around the world using social media tools such as Twitter.  She asked for ideas and help and she received.  The power of the PLN can be amazing.
Why the Global Read Aloud? Global collaboration is necessary to show students that they are part of something bigger than them. That the world needs to be protected and that we need to care for all people. You can show them pictures of kids in other countries but why not have them speak to each other? Then the caring can begin.

The Global Read Aloud is an open ended project where the framework is provided for teachers and students to connect with other classrooms and collaborate and communicate about the book they are reading.  Teachers find other teachers through the Global Read Aloud Wiki and  Edmodo groups, these teachers decide together how they want to connect and participate with other classes in this project.  Teachers may choose to use Kidblog, Edmodo, Skype or other tools to facilitate communication and collaboration with the other students.  They may choose to connect with just one class or with many classes.  There are so many possibilities, the best way to learn more is to visit The Global Read Aloud website.  There you will be able to sign up and find ways to connect with other teachers.  

Last year, one of the books read was The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.  As students blogged about the book they were reading, they were thrilled to discover that Katherine Applegate and jumped in and joined the conversation.  How cool is that?

This year's project runs September 30th - November 8th. There is no deadline to sign up and there are four different groups to choose from (the ages are just suggestions!):

Eric Carle Author Study - K and upMarty McGuire by Kate Messner - 1st and upOutof My Mind by Sharon Draper - 4th and upStupid Fast by Geoff Herbach - 8th and up

I am excited that several of our Mount Vernon teachers have decided to participate in this project this year. I would love to help you facilitate this in your classroom.  Mount Vernon teachers, if you need help signing up, connecting with other teachers of implementing the project in any way, please let me know, I will be happy to help.  

So, as this is my last blog in the series of posts about the amazing educators I learned from this summer, here are a few of the things I have learned from Pernille this summer.

  • If you have an idea you want to try in your classroom, give it a try!  Don't be afraid to take risks. 
  • There is great power in Professional Learning Networks.  If you don't have a PLN, you need one.  Start building yours today.  Twitter has a great community of educators, but you can also build your PLN on Edmodo, Pinterest, Google + or many other Social Media sites where teachers gather to share ideas and learn from each other. 
  • Our children deserve to learn beyond our walls.  We need to provide safe places for them to learn and care about people beyond the walls of the classroom.
Thank you Pernille for inspiring others to reach beyond the classroom walls and teaching students to value others.  

You can learn more from Pernille at her blog Blogging Through the 4th Dimension
and by following her on Twitter.

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My Summer School Teachers: Catlin Tucker
Last Spring I heard rave reviews from my California friends who attended CUE and had the privilege of hearing Catlin Tucker's keynote.  So this summer when I was beefing up on the Common Core Standards, I was happy to find several webinars by Catlin on SimpleK12. Catlin is a high school English teacher and the author of Blended Learning in Grades 4-12.  Catlin has a good understanding of the changes and challenges of switching to the Common Core State Standards, and not only clearly lays out the key points, but also offers great examples of how to implement the Common Core in the classroom.  I think that what most impresses me with Catlin is the way she is making blended instruction and technology an integral part of her instruction even though she and her students have limited access to school provided technology.  Catlin finds a way to make it work for she and her students and she inspires others to do the same.

Catlin is a fellow Google Certified Teacher and her school is also a Google Apps for Education school. Catlin takes great advantage of these resources in organizing, managing and teaching her classes.  Students write and collaborate on projects, using docs, presentations and drawing. Students create learning portfolios using Google Sites.  Catlin shares assignments and templates using a shared folder in Google Drive.  Students submit their assignments online. Catlin uses the comment feature in the Google Suite to guide her students in their writing.  Catlin also uses a program called Collaborize Classroom which is similar to Edmodo which we use in our district.  With this program, students are able to have online discussions and share resources to enhance their learning.

A question I always hear when this type of integration is talked about in the classroom is "What about our students who do not have access to the internet at home? "  Catlin's answer to this in words and actions is that they just make it work.  Catlin teaches in a block schedule so her students meet every other day, giving them a little extra time to find access and get assignments done.  Catlin has created a map for her students with places and times  in the school and the community where students can access the internet outside of class time.  Catlin leverages the devices that her students bring into the classroom having students work in pairs, etc, to use the tools they have available.  A few times a month she is able to sign up for her school's computer lab.  She makes the most of this time by having tabs open on her Google Drive with all of the docs her students are currently working on.  She is able to comment and collaborate with students real time.

Check out Catlin's blog where she shares examples of how she uses technology to teach efficiently and effectively.

As I said, Catlin is a high school English teacher and so I highly recommend our secondary ELA teachers take a look at the wealth of resources she has to offer on her blog.  But Catlin has done quite a bit of research on integrating tech with the Common Core in all levels and for both Math and ELA, so we all have something to learn from her talent and generosity in sharing what she has learned.

Thanks Catlin for your expertise, and inspiration. Pin It Now!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Setting Goals for A New School Year

As I am sure you either know or have been told, summers are busy times for teachers.  There are courses to take, plans to make, classrooms to decorate, and hopefully, at least a little bit of wonderful rest, relaxation and adventure.  I am not here to complain about that time I take planning and prepping for the new year. Sure it would be nice to be paid for that time, but somehow, being on your own time, gives you permission to think for yourself, try new things, learn what you want to learn.  I like that.  I also love that as a teacher, I get a chance to start new every year.  Even though it might be easier to do the same thing every year, that really rarely is a possibility with changing standards, changing needs etc.  The fact is, we have a new set of learners each year and they deserve a plan made to fit their specific needs.  All that being said, I have relished  the time to dig in and learn and try new things and get ready for a new year.

I have several goals for the new year.  Too many, really.  The needs are great, but I will need to prioritize some things and put the other ideas on hold for another year.  Here are some of my priorities for learning and sharing this year.
  • Planning to teach with technology : Looking at the big picture, having a goal or objective, backwards planning, these are all important pieces in designing the most powerful learning environment we can provide our students. I want to help teachers build a tool box with effective and engaging tools to use in teaching.  Supporting teachers as they learn to analyse these tools as resources for transforming their teaching practice is my goal.   I don't want the tool to be the target, but I also don't want it to be an extra add on.  My hope is that teachers  begin including technology as a part of their teaching strategy. A way to add value to or transform lessons in effective ways for students.  I want to help teachers start with their learning target and always consider technology as part of the path to meeting that target.  In order to do this, teachers need to be aware of many tools and be able to look at these tools open endedly so that they can see the possibilities and build lessons that are not necessarily pie in the sky, but lessons that just work for students and teachers.  

  • Implementing the Common Core with Technology:
    We are all digging in and trying to get a grasp on what the Common Core State Standards mean to our teaching design and strategies.  It does not take long to notice the many references to technology, research, presentation and digital media throughout the Common Core.  Technology is definitely not an added extra, but an integral part of how students learn and successfully meet their goals to be Career and College Ready.  I hope to help teachers begin find ways to build on the technology skills students will need to be successful, not just in taking tests, but also in communicating, collaborating, creating and critical thinking. 

  • Getting Started with Google Apps for Education:
    As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am giddy with excitement about how Google Apps for Education can be a game changer in our district.  I hope to be able to help teachers build that culture of sharing and collaboration through the use of these powerful tools. 

  • The Power of Blogging:
    Dean Shareski states in his article in the Huffington Post that the best way to make teachers better is for teachers to blog.  Blogging provides opportunities for you to become a reflective practitioner.  Blogging is not new to me, but I have to admit, that the last few years, my professional blog has taken a hit due to a barrage of other responsibilities.  Well, the responsibilities have not gone away, but neither has my belief gone away that blogging is a powerful learning tool for teachers and that it does indeed, help to make better teachers.  So, this year, I am committing to blogging regularly.  And not only do I think that it is a powerful tool for teachers, it is also powerful for our students and even our administrators.  So beyond my commitment to blog myself this year, I also plan on being a blogging ambassador for all learners in our schools.  
Stay tuned to future and frequent blogs where I will continue to share more about these goals and the opportunities I am planning on providing to help support you throughout the year.  

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