Five Minute Primary Source Lesson



Sometimes I feel a slump in my lesson planning creativity. During such an occurrence I saw a tweet from @TeacherToolkit which sparked interest. The title was catchy and so was the visual outline for the 5 Minute Lesson Plan. The website (which I just used as a trial) walked through writing a lesson plan. This isn’t a process I’m unfamiliar with, it’s just something I wanted inspiration with. The prompting questions did their job and prompted deeper planning and exploration of unused resources to teach the lesson.

I started to dig out resources discovered at Edcamps and Conferences from the past. I wanted to bring Primary Source resources into the class. The Smithsonian has a PDF that overviews primary sources and provides suggestions for using them. Edutopia provided an additional 6 recommendations for Primary Sources. Neither one of these were groundbreaking, but they are useful reminders of how many options you have and how easy it is to incorporate primary sources. Now that I felt inspired, I reflected and dug deeper.

My students love looking at maps and photos, and there are an abundant set of primary sources that would appeal to their interests and transition nicely into our unit on the United States and Canada. A perfect example is from DocsTeach with a Map of the United States and Canada in 1783.

National Humanities Center has collections of primary source documents and questions to accompany them. An interesting example for my students would be the poem about life in Pennsilvania (not a typo on my part) from 1692. Obviously I spent more than 5 minutes searching for resources. But the time was worth the payout. I found an entire units worth of interesting primary source documents that would lend authenticity to the discussions we would have in class.

The Library of Congress provides guides for analyzing different types of Primary Sources. For times I integrate historic maps, there is a guide for maps . For the lesson I’m planning next week the one that will best serve is for Analyzing Photographs.

So this might have seemed like a long ramble. The journey resulted in this:  LessonStudent ChartThere were other pieces to the lesson, like the chart for students to record their findings. For the final part of the project, students will submit their guess for where the photograph is and providing supporting evidence why they think that. The answers will be compiled on a Google Form, which will allow us to look at everyone’s answers without the fear of people knowing if you were wrong.

I always have some students who finish early, so they can play the TapQuiz Maps app for Canada or the United States. I will also post additional images of Canada/the United States that they can try to figure out through the same process using the Primary Source Analysis Guides.

Posted in Geography | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Case of the Missing ‘Thank You’

said no student everThe beginning of the school year had a unique, almost daily occurrence. A small group of my 7th period students would thank me for another great lesson. It was a great start to the year. I did not realize how motivating it could be to have students say ‘thanks’ for what most people assume is an automatic component of public education. But it was incredibly motivating. I wanted to be a better teacher for them and I self-reflected on every lesson. I can’t take credit for the genuine phenomenon; they started it the first day of school without prompting. I take pride in my lessons and believe they were a good mix of interesting and informative, but if I were a student I do not know that I would go as far as to thank a teacher. I thanked a few teachers after the school year when I realized the real world application of their content, but not for the daily lessons.

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Then something changed. I don’t know what or when. This is depressing. I don’t know what caused multiple students to lose their daily joy in learning. Maybe it was my class became too predictable. Maybe it was the stress of receiving numeric grades for the first time. Maybe they felt like they were being ignored while misbehaving students monopolized class time. Maybe they are pre-teens and disenchanted with everything and I shouldn’t take it personally. I just hope it was not something I could have prevented.

There is a bigger issue. I do not know when exactly they stopped saying ‘Thank You.’ I just realized today that I miss it and it has been awhile. When did I lose some of my passion for teaching? I used to make a conscious effort to pay attention to each student, every day. Clearly I have not been doing this or it would have registered that the great students aren’t vocalizing their gratitude for their education anymore.

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I made other trivial New Year’s goals, but this is the new one that counts: I want to rediscover my excitement with teaching and make it obvious to the students. Hopefully that will spark a newfound joy in their learning. Ultimately that is more important than most of my content or my state mandated SLO. I might not know when the ‘thanks’ stopped, but it is not too late. Today officially marks the halfway point for the school year, which gives me plenty of time to achieve my goal. For myself, I want to be professionally happy. For my students, I want them to have the joy of learning engrained in them so they do not lose it as they progress through upper grades. Many teachers strive for life long learners; my plan of attack to accomplish that is to start right now.

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

Five Themes

The Five Themes of Geography is the first introduction to Geography that the students have. I wanted it to be memorable. I also want to make intentional connections back to it through each unit of the year, so it is important for students to have a solid understanding.

Notes and Study Guides:
We practiced taking Cornell Notes in class, but the success of that is dependent on the student. Even with me modeling it, some students had suspicious gaps in their notes. I created an adaptive version of the notes: it was available for any student who needed it.
I also created two visually unique study guides. The first is like a Five Themes Study Guide, definitions, and examples. It does not sound interesting, but if you cut the bottom stripes up to help study, it looks unique. The second is a Five Themes cootie catcher with four of the five themes, the fifth is on the bottom, but get cut off when you fold up the cootie catcher.
Students have a fairly good understanding of movement, region, and human-environment interaction. The location and place confuse them, not because they are complicated, but because they mix them up.

To make the geography personal and get the students’ attention, I created a class Instagram account (@Geo6HMS). It provides an outlet to showcase the Five Themes through pictures. I’ve had so much fun creating the images. I’m extending the visual ideas into my BYOT Club, our first meeting will be visual design elements on a mobile device. Instead of C.R.A.P. I changed the acronym to C.A.R.P.E. Diem. The ‘Ed’ is EdConnection. With creative projects, it is always important to remind students that they have to tie in the interesting elements back to the learning goal.


Last year I just asked the students to draw a picture to represent the Themes of Geography. However, this year I wanted to let them run with the project. The time required stretched from one day to three, but I was really impressed with the end results. I gave digital and non-digital options, but did not limit the students or burden them with tons of requirements. All I asked for was a visual representation of the Five Themes. Students created posters, iMovies, Keynotes, Prezis, 3D models, photo stories, and more. Here are some student examples linked and embedded:  FiveThemesSlides from Keynote and a Prezi.

Posted in Geography, Technology | Leave a comment

Edcamp vs Excuses

To set the stage for this post, mentally think about the Beastie Boys song ‘You gotta fight for your right to [PD].’ Except the fight is more of a defensive stance than an attack. Here are some of the excuses that I’ve heard for why teachers do not attend edcamp and my responses to why they are making a mistake.


  • It’s not a real conference. I love this about edcamp. There is no schedule set months ahead of time. Topics that are of importance to people attending on that day set the schedule. There are no vendors hawking their goods and distracting you from learning from other teachers. There is no obligation to sit through sessions that are not valuable to you. The ‘Rule of Two Feet’ encourages you to change sessions if something else would be a better fit. Try walking out of a session at a real conference and see the glares you get. However, after attending edcamps, it feels stifling to be trapped in boring sessions.
  • The state won’t give me credit for attending. Since when do teachers care about the state? It is extremely rare that they [state decision makers] make decisions that are of educational value to students and/or teachers. If the bureaucracy got involved and tried to regulate the unconference experience, it would squelch the spirit and authentic learning. Leave the state out of it and do it for the sake of reigniting the spark in your teaching.


  • It’s too far away. Define too far away. People travel for hours to do things they want to do. Most places in the United States have an edcamp within an easy driving distance. Every year more edcamps are added. There have already been 500 edcamps globally. This map shows the current dispersion of edcamps – with a full schedule of upcoming edcamps on the edcamp wiki. If there is not one near you, you could always join with other passionate teachers to organize your own. The wiki also provides guides for organizers. Edcamp Map
  • My district won’t pay for me to attend. True, but you also will not pay to attend. Edcamps by definition are free. We did not get into teaching for the big paychecks, so I’m not sure where the expectation of making money comes from.
  • What’s in it for me? I suppose if you have to feel like it is “worth your time,” the swag and chances to win sponsor raffles are pretty exciting. To some people they might just be pens, highlighters, and post-it notes, but to teachers, the supplies are cute ‘thank you’ notes from companies that support education. I’ve been lucky and earned some great tools for my classroom, like a subscription to Flocabulary. Many edcamps also have food, so you can have great, informal, educational discussions over yummy food and coffee. edcamp nepa sponsors


  • I don’t want to present. The presentation dilemma is a non-issue. People are not supposed to present at edcamp anyway; you sign up to facilitate a discussion. Some people may have more expertise and contribute more, but you don’t spend hours ahead of time prepping for edcamp. Instead of preparing a presentation, prepare a few questions that you want answered about something education related. During the course of the day, make the effort to ask the questions in a relevant session. Ten minds combined are more powerful than a single mind, which is a benefit of crowdsourcing.
  • edcamp sessionsNothing will interest me. This is your own fault. You either do not want to propose a topic or you are so disenchanted with teaching that nothing can interest you. Edcamps sessions are not approved by a panel of organizers; edcamp sessions are written on post-it notes (or a similar strategy) by the people who are attending that day. The educational topic potential is endless. So think of something, anything, that interests you, and find another interested person to have that dialogue or healthy debate.
  • I don’t like technology. This has a two pronged response. See above for the first part. Maybe the reason you don’t like technology is you have been overwhelmed by mandatory trainings in your district. When the forced element is removed, and you have choice, it is easier to see positives. Also, sessions might not focus on technology but general best practice or skills. Often teachers share a technology tool they use to accomplish that. When framed in that light instead of focusing on the tool (like PowerPoint part VI), it is easier to envision how it could apply to your classroom.


  • It’s on a Saturday. This is the perfect day of the week. It means I do not have to write extensive substitute plans because I will not be missing school. It gives me a day to process all of the ideas and strategies, and figure out the logistics of the activities, yet I can still go into the classroom on Monday and apply the best of what I learned. What do you do over the weekend that actually makes you excited for a Monday?
  • edcamp peopleI won’t know anyone. Why is this a bad thing? Most districts have the same discussions over-and-over. Get out of the conversation rut by hearing fresh new ideas. It gives you the chance to expand your PLN; a great example of this is Twitter walls of the attendees (we did this last year at EdcampHBG, and now I’ve seen lots of other examples). Learning is social. People who decide to attend edcamp on their own time tend to be the friendliest. Everyone is welcoming. There is not the tension of some state conferences where the upper echelon takes offense to the enlightened newcomers who encroach on their territory. Everyone is there to learn, not to maintain social stratification.

Honestly, I might be slightly biased. I have attended 12 edcamps.  I also help organize Edcamp Harrisburg. I generally exhibit high levels of #edcamplove. So I might be biased, but that does not mean I am not also correct. Just like most things in life, you will get out of an edcamp opportunity what you put into it. So don’t make excuses why you shouldn’t attend edcamp, instead make plans to attend a local, teacher organized, day of professional development. Edcamp Harrisburg 2014 Invite

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Brainstorms for Geography

Summer has a way of inspiring great ideas because there is no pressure to write lesson plans. These are some of my lesson brainstorms for teaching different parts of the geography curriculum that I do not want to forget.

  • Absolute Location pre-teaching activity: buy a cheap used puzzle of medium difficulty. On back label pieces based on row and column (1A, 1B, 1C, 2A, 2B, 2C, etc). Don’t tell students about system on the back. In a class period, have each small group race to put the puzzle together the fastest. The following day debrief as a class. What was challenging? What made solving the puzzle easier? Puzzle for Absolute LocationLesson learned. I bought a 500 piece puzzle at the Salvation Army, after spending a lot of time putting it together, I found out I am missing 2 pieces and have an extra piece. For future activities, 100 pieces would accomplish the same goal with a lot less labeling necessary. Your hand will thank you. 
  • Curriculet for Current Events and News Articles: I know ELA teachers who love using Curriculet. However, it was not until this summer that I realized it could be perfect for current events as well. Many news stories need additional images, explanations, history, maps, definitions, biographies, info graphics, etc to make them comprehensible to students (and most adults). Big news stories normally have these additional features, but they are not worded for students. I can customize the additional media and provide checks for comprehension all on Curriculet. I wrote a lesson flow using multiple technology and traditional tools for Creating Current Event Comprehension on Graphite. My favorite tool last year will continue to be the weekly introduction to current events: Flocabulary’s Week in Rap. Flocabulary was loved by students and the teacher. One addition I plan on making is adding Newsela to the Current Event lesson.
  • Newsela for Current Events: This website automatically picks a few news story a day to publish. The stories are leveled so that students or the teacher can select the level of difficulty of the reading passage. All students can get the same background story, but with personalized Lexile level. The 4 question reading quiz also changes based on the level. The questions are based on skills from the ELA Common Core standards. If a teacher pays for the pro version, there are many tracking options. Even without the pro version, I think this will be a useful resource.
  • Math behind population density: GSpreadsheet PopDensity
  • I want to bring more intentional cross-curriculuar lessons into my class. Calculating population density is the perfect example. I wrote out a lesson flow using technology on Graphite for Population Explosion: Understanding Population Density. There is a detailed outline, process, rationale, and links to the resources.
  • Publish iBook about Geography of our city: This might be overly ambitious; however, I am up for the challenge. I am going to crowd source writing an iBook about the Geography of our city. The work will be done through shared Google Drive folders, with everything copied into iBooks Author. It would be written like a tourist guide, but emphasize elements of geography, like the Five Themes of Geography or Absolute and Relative Location. All the images would either be photos or illustrations created by the students.
  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 11.26.43 AMPost Card with a fact learned while on vacation: Enforce the rule that anyone who is absent from class because they go on a trip, must bring back a postcard with a fact relating to geography or history. The easiest way to do this is provide an example of a human or physical characteristic of place. They will be hung around the room with clothes pins. I did this last year and the students enjoyed looking at what people brought back. I just forgot to require it of everyone.
  • Map our clothing: where is everything we are wearing from? Add pins to a Google Map. Use this to discuss the theme of movement. How did our clothes go from somewhere in the world to us wearing them? We can use a different color pin for the different clothing objects; this would allow us to see patterns between shoes and shirts and pants, etc.
  • Everything National Geographic: I have underutilized everything they have to offer, especially in relation to thematic maps on the Map Maker Interactive. I was inspired last summer at ISTE during a session from National Geographic, I was just overwhelmed this year and forgot some of the great resources. I rediscovered them over the summer.
  • Pinterest inspirations for crafts using old maps and globes: use chalkboard paint on an old globe, create a lamp shade with an old map, cut out hearts of maps of places you love an create a poster.
  • Maps, Maps, Maps. Maps are the heart of all the work we do in geography class. Students who struggle to read a map at the beginning of the year struggle all year. I need more problem solving practice activities with map reading. In my travels this year, I have stopped at many welcome centers and picked up a variety of maps for local states. These are such a great free resource.
  • Map Scavenger Hunt: Students will work with a partner and be given a random map. Groups will not have the same maps. We will use old bingo markers to highlight the places they find. Most of the items will be based on the Map Key, but it will also require observation and attention to detail. Possible items for them to look for: rivers, mountains, lakes, airports, turnpikes, tunnels, roads that cross state lines, museum, National Parks, state parks, historic site, welcome center, hiking trail, railroad, capital, big cities, small cities, a city with a man’s name, a city with a woman’s name, a city with an animal in the name, a city with a cardinal direction in the name, funniest city name, longest city name, etc.
  • Map Puzzle: I am going to take one of the free political maps I picked up during my travel and laminate the map. After it is laminated, I am going to cut it into 30 equally sized squares. As a challenge, I am going to remove the map grid. Posted around the room will be the List of Towns with coordinates. They will have to work as a class to piece it together based on the relative locations of their towns/cities.
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RE: Summer Institute

The Summer Institute of Mobile Technology at Millersville University was the perfect reminder of why I love technology. Due to some winter negativity directed towards me, I had shut down and took the opportunity to recharge my non-digital life. I unplugged my professional development, but continued to utilize technology in the classroom. Time does make the heart grow stronger. I realized that I missed constantly discovering and sharing new technology ideas. The Summer Institute helped to bring me back to a state of enlightenment and inspiration.

REconnected with people / It was a chance to talk face-to-face with people who could push my thinking and provide positive support as I learned. The discussion during lunch  on Wednesday about the benefits of social media inspired me to catch up on my Twitter feed. My favorite Tweets are automatically saved to Evernote using IFTTT, so I now have many more treasures stored. The discovered treasures also includes blog posts from presenters and other referenced experts. I am grateful for everyone who contributed to the experience. I expanded my PLN to include local teachers with similar passions.

REjuvenated / This week was a mixed set of emotions. To best explain it: image the last day of a vacation, when your mind starts to create the ‘To Do’ list of everything that needs to accomplished once you return to reality. The class had a calming atmosphere because of the positive energy of the professors, presenters, and attendees. However, I always felt like there was something else to do.

REnewed aspirations of another degree / I can do it! It was great to sit down over lunch and talk through some ideas about post-graduate level degrees. Later this summer I am going to seriously examine the idea of a Ed.D. again. The field of educational technology is not new, but it felt that legitimate schools that were offering an Ed.D. in a more hybrid format (so that I could continue teaching) were rare. I want to pursue another degree, but my end goal is teaching middle school with an occassional graduate class on the side, so quitting my job to become a full time doctoral student is not an option.

REflective / Everyone can improve their teaching. Sometimes you just need to remove yourself from the classroom to honestly reflect. If I reflect in the classroom, I come up with more excuses than solutions to the problems. While planning for the final project for class, I realized there were two problem units during the year that struggled to reach the students. I decided to focus on the unit for Spatial Inequality the instant Clint Walters (@mrwalters) presented serious games. Before the next school year starts I will look at the other unit that I identified as a trouble unit and modify it to better accommodate the learning needs and interests of the students; it just won’t be for a grade. I wrote down many ideas and resources during the week that will transform more than a single lesson.

This week provided ample time for reflection. I drove one hour in the morning and another hour to get home after class. The time in the car allowed me to work through potential issues and come up with work arounds. I discovered there is nothing more frustrating than having a great idea and not being able to write it down or record it. I guess that would be a great use for wearable technology; I should have used Google Glass to compose messages in Evernote to reference after I arrived home.

21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times

The book that we read and discussed the first day also provided points for reflection. Previously during tech trainings, our school has discussed the 4C’s of the 21st Century. In my opinion, these are easy to see and apply. What I had not considered were the necessary literacies for students today that they were not faced with in the past. Our group created a demonstration on Educreations of why Information Literacy is so important. Social Studies is not a subject tested by the state, so I have the freedom to focus on the literacy skills that would make the students successful across the curriculum. It is also a natural connection because of our focus on Current Event Fridays. The students need the skills to evaluate the resources for authenticity, bias, and be willing to look at multiple sources for the same topic. I have plenty of chances to model Information Literacy for the students since I am willing to research their questions with them. I will keep some of the discussion points associated with Information Literacy in mind and intentionally model and teach it with our current events. With the end goal of social studies to make them global citizens, information literacy reigns supreme.

REdiscovery of tools / I know the purpose of this institute was not tool specific, but walking away with resources is greatly appreciated. For years I had been collecting resources to apply in my Spanish classroom, so there are many tools that are a perfect fit for Social Studies that I knew about and had forgotten. Rediscovering new resources is just as exciting as finding them the first time. Some of the resources I came away from the summer institute with are:

  • Games for Change – The website and games provided have improved so much since I saw this years ago. Now many of the games are applicable to my classroom (like Spent, 3rd World Farmer, etc) and I look forward to utilizing them.
  • iCivics – As the name implies, the website provides games to teach Civics.
  • Fake iPhone Texts – As a group, we brainstormed some creative class starters or discussion starters that originate with a fake text message conversation. There are a bunch of websites to create these.
  • Fakebook –  Fake Facebook profile creator from This would be an interesting way to evaluate a historical or political figure.
  • Scribble Press App – This app allows students to add short text and draw a message. It looked perfect for explaining a concept. However, the app is only for iPads and costs $3.99.
  • EdTechTeacher – Helps you find an appropriate tool to you. Gives you the starting prompt to search by device or to search by learning activity.
  • Learnzillion – Flipped lessons pre-created to teach Common Core topics.
  • MIT App Inventor – I hear about the App Inventor every single year. I always think that it sounds good in theory but do not see how to use it. This summer was the first time I seriously played around with it. I even created a functioning app that was much more complex than the basic tutorials. I was able to string ideas together and feel incredibly accomplished.
  • Tutorials for App Inventor
  • Intro to Scratch Cards – I liked how these broke Scratch down into manageable pieces that could easily be implemented into larger projects. I want to use these with our BYOT Club.
  • Other Ideas for Hour of Code – I did the Hour of Code with a group of students, but I want to get more students involved this year.
  • Classroom Salon – This is a tool from Carnegie Mellon University that could be useful when flipping a classroom.
  • EDpuzzle – This is another tool to flip a classroom. This was a favorite of many people in the Institute because of the tracking and analytics it provides to the teacher. I used part of this in my final project and already brainstormed a few more times it would be a great fit in my class.
  • Touch Cast App – This iPad app is described as “Looks like video, feels like the web.” It has potential in a flipped classroom. It is definitely on my list of things to try.
  • Dan Spencer - Many additional Flipped Classroom ideas and resources
  • Flipped Classroom Reflection – These are the resources that I found last summer, but I had not looked at them in a year. After having a Skype call with Aaron Sams (@ChemicalSams) I was motivated to revisit all the resources.
  • Being Device Agnostic – Blog post that provides great links to additional resources on tools that work across devices. Since I technology still have a BYOT classroom, this is valuable.
  • Infographic of wearable technology apps – one of the topics I presented about. By preparing my presentation it helped me evaluate my own use of wearable technology in the classroom. I came to the decision it is not the right use, yet.
  • Video Star App – Easy app to create movie video like videos. This could be a fun medium for students to share information about a topic.
  • Jot Script Pen – A pen for an iPhone or iPad. This looks amazing. It provides much more precision than a traditional stylus. Because I do not have an Interactive Whiteboard in my classroom and just project using Apple TV, I think this is a great investment.
  • Mr. Walters Blog – There were many, many resources mentioned in relating to serious games and the ramification of the classroom.

REinvigorated ideas for the classroom / I have bookmarked, and already referenced numerous times, the Technology Integration Matrix. It is great how the matrix breaks down integration into distinct areas and provides examples of what it would look like by subject area. I already use significant amounts of technology. However, a tool like the Technology Integration Matrix would provide the conversational framework for explaining to colleagues how some of our common tasks could be made digital and why that is important in terms of student learning.

Reading the predictions on the K12 Horizon Report for 2014 and listening to stories, theory, and pedagogy from Chris Penny (@ChrisPenny) solidified my determination to teach problem solving and self-sufficient use of technology in the classroom. There are so many devices, the teacher can not be expected to be the master of everything. By promoting student leadership and problem solving, students will be better prepared for the ever-evolving world of technology. Some of the smart technologies and wearable technologies of the near future are both exciting and creepy.

Overall, this Summer Institute was exactly what I needed to reinvest in my professional development. I have so many ideas about what to do next year in the classroom. I am glad that I have six more weeks to process and create.

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EdcampMetroDC 2014

There was something in the air on Saturday in Washington DC, and it was not the Cherry Blossom festival … yet. Edcamp MetroDC was held in Bethesda, MD and for the second year in a row, I made the drive down from Hershey to attend. There was excitement and collaboration in the air. The co-chair Sarah encouraged everyone to participate because we are all experts in something. That was important to remember. It does not matter if someone is an edcamp newbie or an edcamp organizer, we are all there on a Saturday because we want to learn.

The opening speech was probably one of the best.

The first rule of #edcamp is to talk about edcamp. That could be on Twitter or other Social Media [like Instagram or Facebook], and share your resources on GoogleDocs … the learning can extend to teachers following from at home.

So what did I learn and share?

The 15 Minute Film School; moderated by @matthewfrattali  (Matt’s blog reflection for the day)

This was a session where I walked away with great resources and things to ponder. I have used video creation in  a class, but I know I do not have the time to dedicate to teaching the principles of filmography. However, this session showed how much you can accomplish in 15 minutes in giving students the basics:

  • Give the students an overview of film terms (framing, types of shots, focus, camera position for storytelling, lighting)
  • Show shot names and explain when you used them (wide angle, close up, reaction, cut away, over shoulder)
  • Ask students for favorite commercial. Ask students to count the camera shots with video on silent. Normally just 3-5 seconds each shot.
  • Get a variety of interesting little shots. Clips are easy to shorten, so don’t shoot too short.

Great series of advice for students:

Do something interesting with the camera … tell a story … think like a producer not a consumer.

Other resources that I found through the session or from independent follow up of the session. For the storyboarding portion, the Penultimate app (which I already owned) has a free template for storyboarding in the writing category. It is simple but does prompt students to sketch and write. Based on the discussion about teaching students the bare bones of the process but providing them with a resource to reference if they wanted to go further, I found with breakdowns, descriptions, and examples of each stage of the filmmaking process. For my own personal interest in filmmaking, I found MIT’s OpenCourseWare for media. Overall, I loved the energy and ideas that came from this session.

EdCamp SessionThings that Suck; moderated by @TechTeacherT

This session is a staple at Edcamps, but it is the first time I have attended. I liked the format. For some of the topics brought into the forum, it was interesting hearing the similarities and/or differences between the public school and private school teachers.

Coding in the Curriculum; moderated by @TechTeacherT

I have never brought coding into my curriculum, but I have incorporated it into our BYOT Club and as an option for bored students during study hall. During the Smackdown, I shared that was set up for the Hour of Code earlier in the year; however, the website and the very helpful tutorials that can be used across a plethora of devices are still available. General advice for finding good resources for incorporating coding in the curriculum is to follow the Twitter #ukedchat because it is a topic that comes up frequently because of their coding initiative in school and push for students to code. Other resources that were mentioned are Tynker and Live Code.


  • Tynker (new free ipad app, but watered down and limited from website)
  • Some portion of the website are free, but setting up a class is a paid feature
  • Because they are a start up, they are very responsible to teacher feedback and constantly improve the website.
  • Tynker can be linked to Google accounts

Live Code

  • Write codes for personal devices, could be games or interactive eBooks
  • A teacher shared the site with resources and examples from his class.
  • After code is created, create a stand alone, set what the program should run on. There are free downloads to accomplish this:
  • Google or Android device emulator needs to download
  • Download XCode for iPhone (free from Apple)


Google Glass in Education; moderated by [me] @SrtaLisa

I brought my Google Glass along to document Edcamp MetroDC and to let other people try them on (one of my favorite things about owning a pair, the ability to share and watch the joy and surprise on people’s faces).

There were four weeks that I wore Glass frequently (as well as shared with students) and blogged my reflections: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, and Week 4. I know what my experience was, I wanted to see what other people thought. The only way to do that is to give them a chance to try Glass on and complete some tasks like taking a picture or asking Google a question. The point of the session was to brainstorm how Glass could be used in education.

I just saw an interesting article for the New York Times about the places that Google thinks Glass would be well suited for … Education was not on the short list. This was the same discussion we had during the session. There are some great features for private life or certain industries, but it is not transformative for education. Most of us are lucky enough to have access to other technology in our classrooms and our students are able to use their hands to type, so wearable technology is not the most efficient way to complete tasks, neither for the money or the ease of use. I will continue to find ways to incorporate it into my classroom, but it is more about the novelty than need.


That of course brings us to one of my favorite parts of Edcamp: the Smackdown The entire Smackdown was curated to perfection on Smackdown GoogleDoc. There were a couple stand out tools that I immediately plan on implementing or have already shared with the teachers who would benefit the most.

  • eduCanon , Alchemy , and Glean all provide teachers who want to flip their classrooms with additional checks to make sure that the students are actually completing the tasks. Alchemy was one of the great sponsors of the edcamp … not that free stuff is necessary, but it does make everyone happy.
  • Kahoot is a game based student response system. I am already a big fan of Socrative and Infuse Learning (so much so that I shared these at last year’s Edcamp MetroDC). I registered for a free account already, and I am interested to see some of the different options that Kahoot offers.
  • Art options that I shared with the art teachers in my district. I already knew about Artsonia and the Google Art Project through the Google Cultural Institute (which has so many interesting things to explore). Google Open Gallery is a unique opportunity being offered by Google. I suppose it would call into question the ownership of work, but that is always the case when something is published online. There is a balance between having the students publish their work in a searchable and shareable manner vs maintaining absolute ownership.
  • WordMover App for the iPad was shared on Twitter during the day.

The only downside of the day was the raffle mix up. My raffle number was drawn and I was so happy I thought I won… but it was a mistake. I still walked away with the enthusiasm to continue past the winter teaching blues. Thank you to all the organizers for yet another fantastic Edcamp. For those of you who have not tried Edcamp, the Edcamp Wiki has a schedule of upcoming locations for Edcamps.

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