Thursday, July 23, 2015

#SchoologyNEXT Resources and Reflection (a Thank You)

Thoughts and Reflection:

I am still trying to wrap my mind around the amazing time I had the last few days in Chicago at the Schoology NEXT 2015 conference, arguably bigger and better than last years conference. It is pretty amazing to me that I have become so involved with this company. It is an extrordinary feeling to actually know the people that work at Schoology on a first name basis; to feel like you are a part of something bigger and that you matter in the use of the product and even possibly its future development. And while the wifi connection wasn't the best, there was still plenty of learning and untold amounts of professionalism seen in the Schoology staff and the presenters.

To be a fly on the wall at the Schoology offices... There were a ton of very nice people that consistently came and introduced themselves. Saying that, "Their department talked about me a lot and just wanted to say hi." While slightly unnerving it is also very special, and again I have felt very embraced by this teacher platform and made to feel like my opinion matters which doesn't happen that often in education actually. Additionally, the community and relationships that have been built from the Schoology Ambassador's Beta Launch group has been a thing of beauty. Everyone is so friendly, and warmly accepting and positively uplifting about what we all bring to the table to the educational community. That piece was profoundly moving for me. In just a few short months there has been a true community developed between these amazingly passionate educators that all share a common link that is Schoology. The ladies that have helped facilitate this newest development, Bridget Heaton @BridgetHeaton and Jen Robustelli @jenastelli , have really done a fabulous job. Not only from their organization of the group and it's activities but also their friendly and open personalities.

Lastly, my thoughts on winning the award for Schoology Ambassador of the Year... I have realized in the last couple of years that I am an Achiever in the definition of the Bartle's Taxonomy of Players:
  • Achievers are competitive and enjoy beating difficult challenges whether they are set by the game or by themselves. The more challenging the goal, the most rewarded they tend to feel.

Part of the brilliance of the Ambassador Program was asking us to complete tasks and assigning arbitrary points to go along with those tasks. First of all, when I applied to be a part of the ambassador program it was a big deal to me, and I wanted to contribute and do whatever I could to be a "good ambassador." I think had they asked me to accomplish a task with or without the points I would have, do to that "Achiever" mentality. I would have imposed the challenge on myself regardless, but the points did track what I was doing in the eyes of the Schoology people. This is important later...

A month or so ago Schoology posted in the Ambassador course, along with posts on the Schoology Educators group, as well as the Schoology Blog and application for the Educator of the Year award, as I saw this post I read it and I thought to their awards ceremony last year at Schoology NEXT 2014. The two men awarded this title last year Robert Schuetz @robert_schuetz and Keith Sorensen @keithosorensen two more ambassadors are in a league all their own! And last years District Winners Cherry Creek School District from Colorado  are people that I put on a pedestal and want to learn from and grow from.

So to apply for an award in the shadows of these people didn't seem like I was worthy. So guess what? I didn't apply! That's right, I read all the posts, looked at the google form even, and didn't apply. So to be called up on stage for the Ambassador award was unexpected to say the least. To be quite frank I still don't think it has set in, and I feel a little bit like a fraud. The achiever in me was just trying to accomplish tasks and challenges. But I humbly thank you at the same time. Thank you for believing in me, and allowing me to share what I am doing with my students and how your platform has made that possible. You are a great company to represent, and as an educator the product does in fact make my life easier and I am able to accomplish so much more with today's students than I ever would have thought possible 3, 5, 10 years ago. So thank you.
And now on to some resources, below you can find the collaborative notes by the rest of the group of women that went with me to this conference as well as my storify of the thousands of tweets seen with the hashtag #SchoologyNEXT. Enjoy!

Schoology NEXT 2015 Collaborative Notes with Nikki Hartman & Tami Erion from Forest Grove School District

Storify of Tweets

Friday, July 3, 2015

#ISTE2015 Session Notes

PHEW! It has been a whirl-wind, I wanted to get these notes up before I had to give my laptop back for re-imaging! They let me have it for my conference but only for so long before it is wiped!

So click here for the google doc that has the table of contents hyperlinks, and all other hyperlinks, actually working. Or see below for the PDF.

The handwritten stuff is when I used just my iPad mini and the app notability. It is kind of a menagerie but that is what good notes should be in my opinion! Key to my icons; the lightbulb is just a signal to me that it is a good idea and one I should try to incorporate next year. The "book" icon, and I have that in quotes because it is a horribly drawn book and some might be wondering what the grey blob actually is, but it is to remind me of potential PD books/resources to look into/buy. I hate taking home handouts so I generally try and get a digital copy or take a pic instead.

It was yet again another great trip to ISTE, and I am physically and mentally drained yet at the same time ready to start curriculum designing with some of my new ideas!

Friday, June 26, 2015

@isteconnects Coaching Academy Series- Reflection 4

Coaching Roles & Goals

Wee! Because I am now on summer break, and I am finished prepping for conferences I can now start working on this series again. Molly is in love with her summer day camp, which frees me up during the day to get some work done! I know it is weird to be excited about having voluntary work to do on your vacation time but honestly, I have been wanting to finish this series and I simply fell out of time to do it. So I am excited to say I am back in the saddle again, for the series and posting on the blog! Here we go! Picking up where I left off back in January or February, I am not very far into the modules but excited none-the-less.

Some highlights from this module:
“Make an environment where the teachers can ask the questions and get the answers that they need to move closer to being an independent user of technology in their classroom.”- From the Video in Part B
You must understand that you can’t know all the answers and you have to be willing to learn right along with people that you are coaching. I know that if I don’t know the answers, which I imagine will happen often as I am working with peers outside my content area that I have to listen, and provide a give & take situation where I seek out the answers from my PLN when I don’t know the answer.
“Open the classroom doors and start talking about the good things that this person or that person is doing.” - From the Video in Part B

Observing teachers in the classroom is one of the things that I am most excited about as I move forward in this role. Added to that the idea of getting more of the staff to observe each other in the classroom, and open that communication/collaboration and sharing within departments as well as across contents using technology makes this easier than ever! 

Goals for next year as a tech coach?

My goals for next year will be to work on mentoring a handful of teachers throughout the whole school year, as well as work on helping the collaboration and observation throughout the building happen. Observation was touched upon this school year but not implemented because we just frankly ran out of time at the end of the year. It was something admin was pushing each department to do, we started talking about vulnerability and fixed vs. growth mindset, which was a step in the right direction, but many people in the building are still too terrified of opening their doors. If observation is a focus for next school year though I think it would be really beneficial in moving everybody forward not just with technology but with innovating their teaching practices as a whole. I would also love to start moving around during our late start Wednesdays and working with departments specifically, this is just very hard for me to do when I am still needed in my own English department meetings. Setting up time and just being a part of their conversation as they lesson plan would be awesome, I just have to figure out how to make it happen.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

#AprilBlogADay (post #8) Social Media in the Classroom

Prompt: How has social media changed your classroom?  Personally? Professionally? With students? Families?


Everything started for me with Twitter. One other department decided to make a twitter account to send out messages to students about class and I decided to try it out. It started fairly slow, I wasn't used to the platform and I didn't remember all the time to tweet reminders. Then I started using twitter as my own professional development and then everything blew up for me, in a good way not a bad way!

I quickly found a community of people that I could turn to, at the time I was flipping my English class, there wasn't anyone in my building or district that I could turn to for advice, my PLN on twitter quickly became a lifeline. I started participating regularly in the #flipclass twitter chat on Mondays at 5pm PST. It then branched out from there. Quickly my students would start complaining about the amount of my tweets cluttering up their feed, I called it "twitter bombing." I realized as my twitter presence grew and grew that I was going to need another account for my students. So I now manage one account for students and one as my professional PLN.

I connect with students on twitter, both old and new. I send out reminders and messages via twitter, although I have to admit that I have been using instagram so much more than twitter. That is why IFTT (If This than That) is so helpful, once I installed the recipe to post my instagram pics to twitter as a twitter native pic I no longer have to do double duty! Click here to set up your account today!


After taking a webinar on from Todd Nesloney he mentioned doing a class instagram account, this was three years ago, around the same time I started using twitter. I thought, yes! This is where the kids are, this is a great way to post pictures of our daily activities. After getting approval from my admin I started a private class instagram account and marketed it to the students and the parents. At the time I was teaching all honors, now I am teaching both honors and regular so I changed my account from that first year. Instagram has also since allowed for videos, and then of course with additional photo editing apps I am able to not just take pictures in class but also send photo messages and reminders. I love posting videos from class and assemblies, I got a really great shot of a student scoring a basket during our student vs. staff basketball game that was AMAZING! All the students were excited that I managed to capture it. I also have challenged my students to read 40 books this school year, so I love posting pictures of the books I am currently reading as I challenge myself to read that many books as well. One of my favorite compliments this year was when on student posted a picture of her book and a cup of tea and a student responded, "This looks like something Mrs. Carter would post!" YES! #missionaccomplished

Instagram is my favorite mode of communication with my students. Only just recently did I get approval from my admin to make the account public. Now I have more students in the school following the account to get updates and see their friends, I used to only allow students that were physically on my roster to be a part of the account. I also have other teachers from around the country following just to see what we are up to. I also have a personal account that I post school stuff too but also of my family etc. That account is @nichole444
Instagram   Click here for an article with a collection of resources on using instagram in your classroom!


Another idea when thinking about social media is branding your school. Everything I post if it is on instagram, Twitter, youtube, Google+ I use the following hashtags.

  • #NAMSLearns   
    • This is used for most posts as a schoolwide brand- learned about this from Jenny Magiera at ISTE2013.
  • #NAMSTechGurus
    • This is used for anything attached to my tech guru program- an advisory class for student lead technology support.
  • #NAMSLeadership
    • This is used for anything attached to our leadership program at our school, while I don't run the leadership program I am the only teacher in the school that uses social media of any kind, also most of their videos are made in conjunction with my tech gurus so I post their videos to my youtube channel and just hashtag it myself.
  • #40bookchallenge
    • When I post pics of books or other things related to the 40 book challenge
  • #Carterlunchcrew
    • I have a group of students (about 20 or so ) that eat lunch in my room everyday, occasionally I take pics of their antics
  • #CarterCouchCrew
    • I have always had a couch in my room, if I take pictures of the students in class and they happen to be sitting on the couch I will tag it with this for fun.
The cool part of hashtags is that you don't have to have a twitter account or an instagram account to see the pics. If you google the hashtag you can see the feed from any social network. It is then visible to anyone in the community as long as you teach them how! 

I think in terms of hashtags, in fact one teacher in my department used a hashtag on her facebook post and all of her family and friends called her out, it was very unlike her apparently. She started the hashtag #blamenichole and now her husband, the teacher and one of her colleagues use that all the time... At least I am making an impact... right?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

#AprilBlogADay (post 7) Why I Teach

Prompt: Why I teach....

I teach because it challenges me; every class is different, all my relationships with the students are different, every day is different. I have had jobs before where I am not mentally engaged. The time slows and drags on. I can even remember in my youth calling  in sick to work when I wasn't sick, I just simply didn't want to go. I have never done that with teaching. I think that is a good sign. I am never bored. Before I know it the day is over and I have to prepare for the next. I feel sorry for people that have to work in the job that is robotically the same day in and day out. That would be really hard for me.

I teach because it's my passion. I am good at this, damn good. I look forward to coming to work every day and seeing my students and trying to spark a light in them. This video, especially what Neil Degrasse Tyson says about how people that are passionate are often innovators, and we would rather be doing our passion/work than anything else. So that when people tell you: 
  • "You need a break." 
  • "You need to find balance" 
  • "You need to slow down or you're going to burn out" 
(All things that have been said to me in the last few years...) 

you know that a vacation or a break from what you love to do is anything but a vacation. That is why I teach, I can't imagine doing anything else. 

I teach because I am a constant learner, not only do I have to know my content, but I need to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to integrating technology or learning about the world around me. Teaching is a profession that demands you constantly learn. I particularly like teaching teenagers because I like to learn about what they love and find connections to what they love vs. what I love. I feel like it keeps me young and hip, but they might disagree. My husband loves that I can teach him new teenage lingo all the time, he thinks it keeps him in the loop.

#AprilBlogADay (post #6) Advice to 1st Year Teacher-Self

Prompt: What would you say to your beginning teacher-self?

I would say that your first year is your hardest. It get's better, the kids always pull you through. I would also tell my first year teacher-self that the crazy amounts of preps actually helped you in the long run become a very organized lesson planner. You had to be crazy organized to stay afloat that year. Four completely different preps isn't normal! 

Also, it's ok to get help- I did that a lot the first year- but you should move towards collaboratively working and "verbally processing" with others quicker. In hindsight, it takes some knowledge of your content before you can be innovative and be ok being vulnerable and letting people in your classroom and lesson plan ideas. I think the sooner you move to that headspace though the better. 

Finally I would tell my first year teacher-self, you are doing excellent! Keep up the good work, you have picked the right path, stay the course! 

Here is what my first year looked like! 
  1. 7th grade geography
  2. 8th U.S. history
  3. Remedial Reading
  4. 8th language arts for two different teams (meaning two different preps even if looked like it would be the same)

Monday, April 13, 2015

#AprilBlogADay (post #5) Questions??

Prompt: How should we foster question asking instead of answer getting?

I know I am a little behind the times, over the weekend I was grading essays like a madwoman and didn't get to post anything. I am taking some time right now while I am waiting for my daughter to get done with her chess club. I guess I am not really writing on the prompts on the day of, because I am behind I am kind of picking and choosing which ones appeal to me the day of. 

One of the things I have gradually been doing over the last couple of years was shifting the way my class is run- student centered from teacher centered. I am no longer giving a lot of direct instruction. I am moving around and facilitating. Which means a lot of the onus of the students education relies on them asking questions, self advocating, and working independently. 

How am I doing that?

  • Flipped classroom
  • Personalized Learning
  • Differentiation
  • Student Choice

Flipped Learning

This was my first movement into student centered. At first it was because we were making the move to STEM and I didn't know how to cover science topics in my English classroom, and I didn't want to lose my curriculum time too to do it. But then I gradually saw how much better the in class time was when we were applying what we were learning. I no longer had to spend time lecturing and waiting for the slowest kid to get the notes. Instead I was working one on one, and walking around and checking for understanding with the students constantly. In the end I can go deeper and move quicker through units then my colleagues because they aren't flipping. While it took awhile upfront for video production to become second nature to me- when I started there wasn't a lot of English videos pre-made, and because we are a mastery grading system my units were pretty specific and it was hard to find things that worked really well for me. 

Personalized Learning

The biggest change for this was genius hour, I started seeing this idea pop up again and again in my twitter chats in November of 2014 and I got pretty curious. The idea behind personalized learning is that the students start with the idea and what they want to learn. They become the expert, this is the same principal with genius hour and the buy in from the students is HUGE! Genius hour has changed my school. We were piloting the idea in a few classrooms last year and now were are doing it whole school. I think it is a great way to work with students and teachers to get them to think about their classroom in a different way. 

I was recently working with a teacher as the technology integration specialist in my building, many teachers are still working in the "recipe" lesson category. I need this on this page/slide, and (fill in the blank) for this page/slide etc... instead give students the general perimeters of what you need them to cover and then let them ask the questions and get creative. You can move to a student centered/ personalized learning environment if you are telling the kids EXACTLY what to do and how to do it. There are no questions to be found in that environment, you have preemptively shut down the critical thinking environment at that point. 


This one is more for the summative assessments than anything else, especially since we have to be aligned as a department on both our formative and summative assessments. We create at least 3-4 different versions of the assessments and then using Schoology we are able to group the students into their "skill based" groups and assign the assessments to only a particular group. While it can be a pain getting all the different assessments made there are ways to ensure you are getting different level reading pieces etc. use the technology to your advantage. Using Schoology for instance makes assigning assessments that much easier and the students are none the wiser that one student has a slightly different assignment. It might take a bit of time on the teacher end prior to officially assigning it but once class starts it is a breeze. Yet, another way that you are moving your hand and instruction out of the spotlight.  

Student Choice

Where possible I also like to allow the students to search for their own topics and articles so that they are engaged with the content beyond me demanding that they do a specific thing. Allow them to ask questions on what they are passionate about and what they want to learn.

Then on a side note I also like to teach the students to be able to tell the credibility of their sources. We start with that early on in the school year so they can start to question the world around them and the information that they are constantly taking in in this connected world. I would like to finish up now because I feel like this is a very long post. But it was a good reflection piece for me. I am going to continue to think on it.