The Art of Sharing

This school year has been a year of sharing, even if I have been slacking with new blog posts. With so much negativity in the press about teachers and education in general, I feel like it is my responsibility to share the great things I know are happening in my classroom. Unless we as teachers share our stories, the world will only have a single-sided, negative narrative of public education.

Last year I favorited a tweet with powerful images to share at a faculty meeting. A quote from George Couros about teachers in a district sharing what happens in their classroom using a shared hashtag really stood out. I was proud this year when my district set up a school hashtag to share student learning #hmslearning. The lesson tidbits do not have to be life-changing, but honest insights into how the students really learn in my classroom. I have also enjoyed seeing what other teachers have posted to the hashtag, but I wish more people would participate and less pictures were staged … yes, I can tell when students were just told to randomly raise their hand.

Another hashtag I have been sharing my classroom lessons with is #tweetlesson. Alice Keeler originally came up with the idea for teachers to share their lesson plans with the shared hashtag. There are not many people who do it, but I have enjoyed sharing my weekly lesson plans. It is interesting that within minutes of posting the tweet I can see 10-15 people viewing the Google Doc. That is motivating for me to continue sharing and I hope other teachers find resources or learning activities that would benefit their students. I use the same GoogleDoc to post to a Google Calendar for my class, so students who are absent are able to see what they missed. Sharing the lesson plans has many benefits and I have nothing to hide.

I created a hashtag for my class that I also use whenever I share student learning, classroom finds, or things I create for my students. Parents have followed the hashtag and commented that they appreciate knowing what is going on in the classroom. It is vastly different than the classroom that they would have attended; without concrete evidence of how technology is used to enhance learning opportunities it can be confused with just fun. By using a consistent hashtag on Twitter and Diigo I am easily able to go back to see previous resources. In previous years it always felt like I rediscovered digital treasures the week after it would have been best.

Posted in Random Ramblings & Advice Received | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Responsibility of Learning

The first test of the school year did not go as smoothly as anticipated. The test answers were not completely wrong, they were often just missing the details to make them fully correct. Even though every class practice involved providing an answer, the text evidence to support it, and an explanation, when it came to the test they thought a single word would suffice.

I started to question my ability as an effective educator while writing copious feedback and probing questions on every single test. Somewhere between the panic and the frustration I realized I could not take full responsibility for them learning. The opportunities were available, encouraged, and occasionally forced down their throats, but that did not mean they were invested in learning. Mentally I envisioned the expression about leading a horse to water, but you can’t force him to drink.

For the Five Themes of Geography, there were a variety of activities:

  1. They had a teaser activity they worked on with a partner to infer as much about the themes as they could (without any prior knowledge).
  2. Flipped lesson homework assignment to hear the five themes.
  3. Cornell Notes, examples, and practice (x4)
  4. Scenarios involving the Five Themes
  5. Jigsaw activity to apply the Five Themes to our town. After each group finished, I left specific feedback on their GoogleDocs. There was also an answer guide posted on Google Classroom for groups who had questions.
  6. More scenarios, but done through Quizizz
  7. Projects to apply the Five Themes. The students really enjoyed the creative freedom of the project, but the content was sometimes overlooked with the project construction. It did not have the deeper level of learning that was hoped for.
  8. Formative assessment on Socrative with practice scenarios. The results shifted my lesson plans for the following two days.
  9. Focused practice on the definitions and core examples of the Five Themes with Quizlet.
  10. Optional scenarios on GoogleDocs with an answer guide/explanations.
  11. Study Group during Study Hall for the students identified as needing additional review from the formative assessment.
  12. Review games and videos posted on class website.

There were many opportunities to apply the learning. However, there were some disappointing statistics.

  • Only 1/3 of students completed the Learn Mode on Quizlet
  • About 1/2 the jigsaw groups fixed their answers based on the feedback I left them.
  • Only 1 out of 90 students completed the optional (but highly recommended) extra scenario practice. Not a typo, that says ONE.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 4.38.07 PM

As I reflected on the test and the test responses, I had some ah-ha moments. There are a few minor tweaks to the directions for next year to clarify even further the answer expectations. I also did not write the grade on the test, just in my grade book. I did not want the percentage to be a distractor. So many times all the students check is the grade and do not process the comments and questions.

Right before I had the test back, I am going to hand them a self-reflection form for the test. The first portion they fill out without seeing my feedback.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 4.47.09 PM

Once I had back their test, they will fill out the second side of the reflection form. At that point, they will also need to respond to any and all of the questions I wrote on their test. They will highlight their new responses so it is easy to read. My hope: do they see the connection between the classwork, studying, and success on a test?

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 4.47.27 PM

Re-Take Policy: There will be some students who are shocked by their grade. Our department has a re-take policy that puts the ownership back on the students. They need to develop a study plan, complete all of the optional assignments (or assigned work that they missed), and arrange a time to work 1:1 with the teacher. I would check their general level of understanding before allowing them to attempt a re-test, because if they are not prepared they will not be any more successful the second time.

So this entire test was a learning process for everyone. In the future, I will emphasize the importance of studying outside of class and provide some study strategies. The students do not have an innate study habits, but that does not give them an excuse not to study once they are modeled. Lessons learned for all of us, except not necessarily about the Five Themes.

Posted in LessonsLearned, Reflection | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Create Your Own Zombie Adventure

Zombie Adventure Header

I was so inspired by last night’s #sstlap chat I couldn’t sleep much. Instead, I created my own adventure. Students will practice latitude and longitude while having to survive a zombie pandemic. The zombie idea was from Gerald Aungst, he has a conference session website with resources and other zombie lesson suggestions. I’m very grateful for the CDC resource, because that was the backbone of my story.

zombie foodThere were a plethora of digital resources that went into creating the Zombie Adventure:

  • Google Forms – For a guide to create your own using Google Forms, check out what was created by Sylvia Duckworth. I figured it out by playing with the options. Zombie 3 DaysAnother way to create a Choose Your Own Adventure is Quest.
  • Center for Disease Control Zombie Graphic Novel – This was really created by the CDC. It teaches how to be prepared for a natural disaster, but in an amusing way. It was a great storyline for my own story.
  • Breaking News Generator – This is a simple generator from There is a lot of potential for humor in a Social Studies class.
  • Google Maps – As a geography teacher, there are so many ways to use Google Maps.
  • Zombies are comingTOMORROWImgFlip – Memes make everything better. ImgFlip allows you to create your own. PvZ zombie was the winner for the ‘try again’ messages.
  • U.S. Census Bureau Maps – The maps were high quality, with county lines, and the latitude and longitude grid. It was necessary for the adventure to have something the students could easily read.
  • Canva – I’m a Canva addict. I created the header image with Canva. I also wanted a teaser image to share with the students through Instagram and with Remind the day before.

My big takeaway: when I did the linking/new pages I labeled the multiple choice answers either correct or incorrect. After everything was linked, I went back and put the names of the places as possible answers to the multiple choice questions. It was easier to keep straight and do correctly the first time. To make it easier on myself for future stories, I created a template that has all the pages linked with descriptions of what each page should include.

My Choose Your Own Ending has multiple interconnected parts: the Google Form, the Google Map, the CDC Graphic Novel, and the Google Doc with the writing assignment. But I’m not worried, it will be easy to share everything with students through Google Classroom. It will be a two day activity for students.

I am providing the link to the shared Google Drive folder with the resources I created for the Zombie Adventure, including the template for easily creating your own. Feel free to make copies and customize it. I would love your feedback and a shout out on Twitter if you find it useful.

Posted in Geography | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Twenty Edcamps

20 things edcamp

Yesterday I attended my 20th edcamp! I know this is not a world record, but it still feels like a monumental accomplishment based on what I have gained from the combined experiences. To justify to other teachers why I have given up so much of my free time since 2011 to attend edcamps, here are the twenty things (in alphabetic order) about the past twenty edcamps that I have loved … and the reason I am not stopping at twenty.

  1. Books and Blogs – Some edcamps I have walked away with impressive reading lists for professional literature based on powerful conversations. Edcamps are informal presentations, so people do not have the research visually disseminated through PowerPoint. I don’t need that anyway; I like being able to read deeper for the topics that truly interest me.  
  2. Classroom Design – This is an accidental take away. There are often cute bulletin boards I snap a picture of or seating arrangements I like in a school that is hosting the edcamp. They didn’t set it up for us, but that does not mean I don’t learn from it.
  3. Comaraderie – I have gotten closer to some of the people I work with through edcamp. It is not forced like normal professional development, so we get to be ourselves. The real us have a feeling of friendship, the work us tend to be stressed about something.
  4. Fame – I’m not exactly famous (yet), but I like to think of it as the Seven Degrees of Separation from edcampers. I can often make connections to people from either previous edcamps we both attended or by knowing a colleague of theirs.  
  5. Food – This is not a pre-req for me loving an event, but food and coffee never hurt the learning. There have been some stand out breakfast/lunches/desserts. Edcamp Seacoast had the most delicious food options for meals. I am proud of our cupcake bar at Edcamp Harrisburg.
  6. Growth MindsetCarol Dweck’s definition of growth vs fixed has really taken off in education recently. As was pointed out yesterday, we are surrounded by the growth mindset at edcamp. I pregame my teaching with learning.It is a positive learning environment.
  7. Humor – Some edcamps take learning seriously, but often there is fun and laughter. The evidence of this is pictures that get posted to event hashtags, like the Photo Wall with props at Edcamp Hershey.
  8. Memories – I remember specific moments at each edcamp foundly. I have become that person who always has a story: “this one time at edcamp…”
  9. Monday Mornings – Yes, you read that correctly. I am excited to try things Monday morning. That excitement had been lost until I found edcamps.
  10. People – The people make the event by being willing to attend and have conversations. I am always happy to meet people of diverse education backgrounds to get unique ideas for the same situation. I have attended edcamps with teachers, private school teachers, multiple disability teachers, administrators, aides, outside service providers, parents, and a few students. Everyone is welcome to attend edcamp and everyone is acknowledged as possessing important knowledge. There is no social stratification. We learn together. This is a major different to a traditional conference.   
  11. Planning Events – It is awesome when people are so excited about their edcamp experience that they want to plan their own. I love providing my insight and resources I found helpful (including other blog posts about edcamp). It made a good session yesterday but sometimes it is just an informal conversation over coffee about the first steps to take.
  12. PLN – While this sounds like cheating/repeating people, I consider this the continued connection and sharing with the same people I valued meeting face-to-face. Edcamp does not lead to one and done learning opportunities.
  13. Questions – The status quo is comfortable, but sometimes I needed to ask myself ‘why do I do it that way?’ Often my status quo matches those teaching around me, so they would not have made me realize there were other considerations. Edcamps inspire questions because of the diverse people in attendance.
  14. Reminders – Frequently at edcamp I hear something and realize, oh yeah, I’ve heard of that before and never checked it out. The reaffirmation of it’s awesomeness is normally a sign it’s worthy of the time to explore.
  15. Strategies – I don’t always think in terms of labeled strategies; personally I know what works and does not in my classroom, but it is good to hear new strategies to try. Every year the students are unique, so you might need that new strategy. I have found great inspiration for strategies to support less traditional students, like ones way below grade level or with definiance issues. Luckily I do not have endless personal wisdom to draw from, so I needed a support system that edcamp provided.
  16. Swag – Someone at an edcamp said “FREE is a teacher’s favorite F word.” I have walked away with great swag and door prizes I have won. I would not have realized how valuable Flocabulary was in my classroom without winning the free subscription at my first Edcamp Philly.
  17. Teacher Leaders – I absolutely consider myself a teacher leader, and when at edcamp, my voice is appreciated and heard. The majority of edcamps are not planned by administrators, but by teachers. Edcamp is teacher driven professional development.
  18. Tech Smackdown – The tech smackdown can even be appreciated when stalking an edcamp hashtag. Often the list is shared on Twitter. I have found so many great resources through tech smackdowns.
  19. Travel – I love any excuse to travel, and edcamps provide that. I have road tripped to many destinations with friends and we bonded in the car and got to spend the drive home reflecting and sharing great ideas. Yesterday I shared the Edcamp Calendar with another group of teachers; they were planning their next road trip together, and for my guidance I was rewarded with an invitation to be part of their bus.
  20. Value – not only do I find the events valuable, but I leave the event feeling valued. Other educators made the effort to plan the day and sponsors believed in education enough to provide goodies for us to enjoy. A free bagel and a smile in the morning can go a long way. When I feel valued I do not hesitate to put in the extra time at school or to create the individualized resources to help students.
Posted in Reflection | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A New Year of Goals

This year is slightly different than previous years; I actually get to prep for a 1:1 iPad classroom instead of a BYOT environment. I thrived with BYOT, but it did leave some room for improvement with equality (self-explanatory) and consistency (students did not always have it with them if they had it taken away by their parent as a behavioral consequence). To be consistent with my team, I am also going to mix up the work flow for my classroom.

GAFE for ClassGoogle Apps and Scripts and Add-Ons are going to be central to my classroom. Google Classroom will be utilized by all four of the core teachers on our team. This will make it so much easier to share GoogleDoc templates for students to edit and we will be able to see their work in real time. I will use Doctopus and Goobric to grade the Google Docs. Normal quizzes can be completed with Google Forms and graded with Flubaroo. Teacher presentations will be created and shared from Google Slides so the students will be able to add notes to their own copy. I created a Grading with Google guide to help my team members utilize all these tools together (as Google Slides of course!).

Formative Assessment Tools

This year with 1:1 iPads I will have so many options for formative assessments. Formative and Quizizz are new to me. I have been exploring them this summer and I am excited for the potential. Quia and Zondle will both be paid yearly subscriptions, and I am considering paying for both of them. Quia works on iPads if you click the small <play HTML version> button. Quizlet and Kahoot are past favorites for students and the teacher. Quizlet is better for focused review (if the students are taught how to star the cards they need extra practice with). Kahoot is always a loud and exciting day in class.

Remind Digital Badges I am going to use Remind for a lot more this year. It was very successful with the small groups I had last year. This year, each class will have a Remind group. I will be able to share out links to student work as well as general reminder messages. Because my students are all under 13, their parents are encouraged to sign up for Remind accounts as well, so they will get the messages. I’m excited to create digital badges using Canva to send through Remind to students as they go above and beyond. This will communicate to the parents what their child has accomplished and hopefully make the students proud of what they did as well. Above are some of the example badges I have already created, and there will be no limit to what I could make a badge.

Memes for ExpectationsI added to and re-did some of my class expectation memes with I image the first week of school for students can be overwhelming with information and boring to hear so many sets of rules. Instead, we have a laugh and go over the expectations for Social Studies class using memes they will recognize.

Menu for CreatingSince students will each have an iPad, there is no reason for each assignment to look the same. I created a Menu for Creating with choices. Last year I gave them one or two choices, but throughout the year I realized I cared less about the final product and more about what they could demonstrate they learned. At the end of this year, student feedback was that they wished we had done more projects. I can’t change the past, but moving forward I will give students more creative ways to show what they learned.

For the menu options, on the class website I provided example apps to use to accomplish each style task or how-to videos. about-me-sketchnotesThe sketchnote option is something I played with this summer. I love adding artistic touches to my notes. It is almost doodling with purpose. I created a sketchnote with Adobe Draw to introduce myself to the students. My sketchnote hero is @SylviaDuckworth – she has an amazing and inspiring collection on Flickr. I do not think every student would aspire to this level of detail, but I know some who would.

Something I want to include more of are active breaks in class. Sixth grade is the first year that students do not have recess. They love throwing a foam ball to answer questions, so I will continue to use this easy review strategy. However, I also want to use GoNoodle for a couple active minutes. Student feedback last year was that some activities were really intense, like analysis of multiple maps to answer a single complex question, and they needed a little decompression time before jumping in the next activity.

Professionally, I want to develop my Social Studies PLN. I’m a fan of #sstlap and #worldgeochat on Twitter, but I have just been an occasional attendee. This year I’m also going to seek out more Social Studies specific professional development – literature, webinars, research papers, conferences, etc. I love historical fiction, but I am going to branch out to read a wider geographic and time range of stories. The Covenant by James Michener was a college textbook for my South African history class; I felt like I effortlessly learned about South Africa, so I want to read his other books. I am looking into possibly attending the Pennsylvania Council of Social Studies fall conference. I am also going to keep my eyes open for other professional development opportunities from the Newseum or National Archives. Diigo to Twitter SharingBoth have online series, and I was on vacation during one that looked great from the Newseum. I not only want to learn from a Social Studies PLN, but I want to do a better job curating and sharing my ideas and digital resources. The Outliners feature on Diigo will also be an easy way to share ideas with my PLC.

Now that I rambled, felt inspired, and worked through some anticipated challenges, I feel prepared for another great school year. Happy new beginnings everyone!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

So you want to start a new Edcamp …

Planning Edcamp HersheyNormally I blog more during the summer. This summer many of my waking hours (and some of my sleeping ones too) have been consumed with planning Edcamp Hershey. I was on the planning committee for Edcamp Harrisburg for two years, so I thought how challenging could it be to form a new one? It was a completely different experience.

Edcamp Hershey is BornEdcamp Hershey was inspired by a passing comment at Edcamp Harrisburg between two other Hershey Middle School teachers and I. The next month the Edcamp Foundation was a guest on #satchat, and it got me seriously thinking about creating a new Edcamp. Two nights of insomnia later, we had a website, a logo, a Twitter account, a gmail account, and our planning team had grown to seven people. I have found that we dream big, which is fine, as long as we are willing to compromise to meet reality.

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 1.24.36 PMI used Mindomo to create a concept map to figure out what we had to do/decide as a new Edcamp. The screenshot is impossible to read, but it links to the full version. There are four large areas of consideration: the team, the brand, the money, and the sponsors.

The one area I think a new edcamp needs to be the most thoughtful with is the brand. This was also my favorite to create. While I got feedback from the team, I created all of it. I blame/give credit to the random insomnia I have. Remember if something is on the web it must be true (kinda kidding!). So a good place to start with branding is online presence, we started with a website, a Twitter account, and an email address. I used Weebly to easily create the website for our educational event. As a team we debated buying the domain name, but for the first year we were satisfied with No one seemed to be confused or overly taxed by having to type the .weebly part. There were many pages that initially looked empty. We had a skeleton of a schedule, but we did embed the Google Spreadsheet that was filled in on the day of. People also requested a link to the Schedule on the day of because the embed wasn’t displaying fully. I also hid each column as the time finished so the first column was the current session. You want a space to Thank Sponsors and tell them how to contact you if they are interested in becoming a sponsor. Our space holder for this page: “We will be extremely grateful to sponsors… once we have some. If you are interested in being a sponsor email us.” It was overwhelming how many companies and groups contacted us about being a sponsor.

Twitter_logo_blueFor Twitter I was not overly creative; the account is @EdcampHershey. The same lack of creativity was used for the gmail account, which was necessary to create a Twitter Account and later an Eventbrite account. It also made communicating with attendees and sponsors so much easier by having a central hub. A few of us checked the email on a regular basis and responded. We made sure to always include our names so they knew which of the planners they talked to. Only one person expressed confusion that she emailed twice and got two different responses. Next year it would make sense to use a tagging system, so when one person responds, they tag the email with their name. A chain of emails would show up almost dedicated to the original responder.

Edcamp Hershey Logo OptionsThe logo is where things got creative. I had a middle of the night version of the logo, but I did not love it. It was cute and Hersheyish, but I knew it would not print well. It also was too far from the Edcamp norm. Yes, there are style guidelines on the edcamp wiki for people to use when creating their event logo. For logo attempt #2, our team voted on the font color for the word HERSHEY. The majority went with brown, so our logo was born. It was easy to update the website with the group approved logo. Considerations for your logo: create it in a program that will allow you to save it as a vector file (.ai, .eps, or .pdf). It needs to be high resolution so it will print well. If you are going to have anything printed, you pay per color, so a bright and colorful logo might look good, but it won’t feel as good when you see the cost to print it on shirts. The logo is also necessary when you create an invoice. If colleges/universities or some companies donate money, they need an invoice. It was easy to find a template to customize; Google Docs provides lots of options.

Social MediaThe hashtag was an area I was a bit of a rebel in. I know traditionally the hashtag formula for edcamps is #edcampHershey, but that would be 13 characters. I much shorter and catchier hashtag was #sweetpd. All of us were active on Twitter leading up to Edcamp with lots of #sweetpd references.  It caught on quickly beforehand. On the day of, announcing the official hashtag was part of our opening, so no one was unaware of it. I loved using Canva to create Twitter perfect images to Tweet out throughout the day, like the one for the Hashtag.

How you communicate with attendees is also part of your image/brand. We used Eventbrite because you can set up free events and easily email people who register. We sent occasional emails so people did not forget about us. In the couple weeks leading up to edcamp, we had many more details since we knew the majority of our attendees were edcamp newbies and we wanted to allay their concerns. The actual Eventbrite page is something we want to improve for next year. It did not have enough information or communication. We could have sold shirts through Eventbrite instead of dealing with cash on the day of. There could have been a link to the attendee survey. There are a lot of ‘could haves.’ I like the way Edcamp Baltimore has their event set up. Another communication option would be Remind, since people are almost programmed to check their phone when they hear the ding of a text message.

If you have any questions, I love helping. Seriously, reach out on Twitter (@SrtaLisa) or through a blog comment. Happy edcamping!

Posted in Inspiration, LessonsLearned | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

ISTE Ideas 07/03/2015

Posted from Diigo. The rest of ISTE ideas group favorite links are here.

Posted in Forward Thinking | Leave a comment