Thursday, October 28, 2010

My First Conference Presentation

I am extremely nervous about next week, but it is a jump that I've been wanting to take for quite a while. I am presenting at an upcoming Social Studies Conference and I want to share them how I use Web tools in my classroom. I present in front of our faculty all the time, but this is different!! I plan to show them how we used Skype to make connections outside our classroom. In order to make these connections, I will briefly introduce how I use Twitter, Classroom 2.0, and The Educator's PLN. We had contacts in several countries including Thailand, Spain, England, and Australia as seen in this video.

I plan to show them Blogger and how simple it is (not to mention free) to share your classroom with parents and other educators.

Another tool that my kids loved was podcasting. We used GarageBand to create our podcasts, but Audacity works just as well with PC. The project was very simple. The students had to research a famous person from the Civil War. (We put a bunch of names from our standards in a hat and the kids drew one out.) They came up with ten facts about that person and shared them in a podcast. The other students went to our site and listened to each podcast and tried to figure out "who" each student was. This helped with their grammar and reading skills as well. They were very careful to read fluently and correctly when they knew everyone in their class would be listening in. The link below is an example of one such podcast.

Abigail's Podcast 

We also used podcasting to record our reader's theater. Hear an example here

I've also created a small collection of links on a portaportal so that they can access all this from one location. I only have an hour to present, so I'm hoping I can get through this in that short amount of time. 

Wish me luck!!! :)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Beginning My iPad Journey

Our school has formed a technology committee this year as a result of the proposal that you all read about in a previous post. Our district technology coach agreed to allow members of the committee to pilot iPads for the upcoming school year. We have 7 in our building that we are currently piloting. I have been very excited about the possibilities that the iPads are providing us with in education and have begun compiling some very intriguing apps.

I brought the iPad home, of course, to play and explore. My children (ages 3, 6, and 9) have completely taken it over. They would play it 24/7 and I'm not exaggerating! The video above is my 3 year old learning from a great app during my daughter's girl scout meeting. Please excuse the watermark. I'm trying out a converter that will take my mobile videos and convert to web format. (Fingers crossed it works!)

I can't wait to see where this device takes us this year!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tech Committee Proposal

So I've done several technology trainings over the past few years. I get really passionate and pumped up during these summer trainings. I can see the excitement for the teachers that come and every year I thing...this is it...this is going to be the year that we see some new things happen. Then the school year begins and the kids flow in and the lesson plans are due and the testing starts and .... well you know.

We do not have a tech integration specialist in our county. We have a fantastic, supportive tech coach at the district level, but she is just one person completely overloaded with the needs of the entire county. I am the school-based tech coordinator, but that is an extended contract position that I have to fit in whenever I'm not working my full time job. That leaves very little time during the school year to support tech integration.

After reading an article in Tech and Learning, I was inspired to propose a technology committee to my district coach and principal. The coach immediately jumped on board and offered up the iPads to those agreeing to serve on the committee. (I told you she was great!) We were looking for a good way to pilot the program anyway. Here is the proposal:
  • Encourage one participant per grade level; possibly special ed also
  • Participants will discuss the condition/functionality of technology available at their particular grade level
  • Participants will discuss exciting technologies that teachers can introduce in thie classrooms
  • Participants will share findings with their respective grade levels during planning/grade level meetings
  • Participants will research grants/available funding to pursue projects for his or her classroom/grade level
  • Each participant on the tech committee will be given an iPad to pilot in his or her classroom. At each meeting, we will discuss ways to use this new technology in the classroom
  • There will be at least six meetings throughout the year
Some of my responsibilities will include leading each meeting, introducing unfamiliar tools, demonstrating ways that the iPad can be used in a classroom setting.

Do any of you have committees like this at your school? Do you have suggestions for us? I would certainly like to hear from you if you do! Also, I'm collecting a list of iPad apps for education if you know of any!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Making Tech About the Content

Well, it's back to school time in my neck of the woods. That means back to the blog for me as well. I hadn't planned on taking so much time off this summer, but...I did. I spent the majority of the summer playing and swimming with my three precious blessings and I don't regret a minute of it. I hope all of you take some time to put work completely aside and enjoy time with your families.

As we get back to school, I have been looking at a lot of new and old tech tools to use to integrate technology in the classroom. I came across this great post by Mrs. Ripp in my reader and it really made me think about tech integration and what I have done in the past in my classroom. So many times the technology that we are using is so new to my students that we get completely caught up in the TOOL and the content gets pushed aside. I'm guilty of it, too. I'm a proud nerd and I love playing with this stuff! In Mrs. Ripp's post, she mentions tools that she is using with her student and very clearly posts the content behind the technology. I would love to see more classrooms use technology in a way that  is second nature and isn't the focal point of the lesson. Here's hoping!!

Wishing everyone the best school year ever!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Engineering and Science for Kids

In elementary school, we are constantly looking for ways to engage students in science activities (especially girls). It is important that we instill this love and interest in them early. Thanks to my subscription to the Rutherford County Schools newsletter, I found some great sites for integrating engineering, science, and math.

This site provides some fantastic interactive activities and all of the resources are free!

eGFI is provided by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). This site is committed to promoting and enhancing efforts to improve K-12 STEM and engineering education. There are links to lesson plans, activities, and outreach programs by grade level.

The EngineerGirl website is part of an NAE project to bring national attention to the opportunity that engineering represents to all people at any age, but particularly to women and girls.

There are lots of links here for science and math activities for kids.

Do you have other sites for engaging students in science activities that you can share?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

My Summer Inservice (Ideas Needed, Please!)

Ok, today I took the plunge and decided to schedule a summer inservice for my county on developing a PLN. Here is the proposal description that I sent to our Technology Director:

July 22 (1/2 day inservice)- Using Social Networking to Connect Yourself and Your Classroom
Learn ways that educators build PLNs (Professional Learning Networks) and utilize services like Ning, Twitter, Skype, and Blogger to collaborate with other classrooms and educators and to pursue professional development customized to your needs.

I have found my experience with my PLN to be so invaluable that I feel it is absolutely necessary to share with other educators. This will be brand new to most (if not all) in attendance. I don't know of anyone else in our district who uses any of these tools except for Skype. I held an inservice on Skype last summer and most everyone in our county have really used it and loved it. Right now, though, they only use it's IM capabilities to communicate with each other. I want to take the next step and help them realize it's ability to connect their classroom with others. Their problem, though, is that they don't have the connections to do that. I want to introduce them to ways to make connections first and foremost.

My goal is to introduce them to the benefits that come with a PLN, show them ways to start building theirs, and hope that they take off from there. I would really like to have them leave excited about the possibilities. I hope to also have some ideas for them that they can begin to pursue immediately that won't require developing relationships right away. I found some great ideas in Kathleen McGeady's last blog post. I would love to hear other ideas/links that you all have to share with these teachers.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pass It On

This week, I was notified from Kelly Tenkely at the iLearn Technology blog that I had been chosen by her for this award and it was certainly an honor coming from her. As I was catching up with my reader, I noticed that I had also been mentioned in Suzanne's Blog etechplace. Boy was I surprised because I love Suzanne's blog, too! Thanks so much for taking the time to recognize me. There is no bigger boost to the spirit of blogging than to have your hard work noticed. This award is meant to honor the blogs that we read regularly and find helpful and informative.
So, this is me paying it forward.....

The rules of the award are as follows:
1- Copy and display the picture of the award given to you;
2- Link back to the blog that nominated you;
3- Nominate 10 different blogs yourself;
4- Inform the people you nominated, so they can in turn, continue the chain and spread the word about other great blogs out there.

I get about 100 blog posts a day to my reader. Sometimes I scan through them all, sometimes I only read the ones that have a title that interests me, but there are some that I never miss. This is a few of those in no particular order. I wish I had time to elaborate on all of them, but trust me, they are all worth a visit.

1. Bright Ideas Blog- a fantastic "library blog" sharing resources that can be used across all curriculums.

2. EDge 21- Mr. Bolito shares his "Catch of the Day" and they are always good ones. Lots of math stuff here too.

3. Bits and Pieces Place- Every single time I visit this blog I have to bookmark something. I never miss a post! I even have lots of them saved in my reader to read again later.

4. Notes from McTeach- Always lots of good ideas and tons of links! Great examples straight from the middle school classroom also.

5. Bits and Bytes- This blog is amazing. Ann is so knowledgeable about everything Web 2.0 and shares it here. She is also super supportive of all of her fellow bloggers.

6. A Geeky Momma's Blog- I know that a lot of people look to Lee for guidance in the Web 2.0 world. She was one of the first blogs that I started following and I still enjoy reading her posts.

7. Ozge Karaoglu's Blog- I could go on and on about the resources here. Everyone in education needs to be subscribed to Ozge's blog. I wonder if she ever sleeps!

8. Passport Academy- I love, love, love this blog. This a homeschooling mom who does such great activities with her children (students). She shares these fantastic ideas and resources and we can take them straight to our classrooms.

9. The Pursuit of Technology Integration Happiness- Mr. Zimmer's blog is one that I never miss. I have never read a post that I didn't come away with a new resource or idea.

10. Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom- I love the ideas and resources that Kathleen shares in her blog. This blog has fantastic resources to use in the elementary school classroom.

It was very hard to choose ten myself because there are so many! Thanks to all of you hard working bloggers who share your knowledge with all of us every day.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Making Standardized Testing Fun (for one day at least)

Well, as we all know, testing is becoming a part of life. It is inevitable (for now), so why not make it at least a little fun for the kids? The week before the tests, stress and anxiety could be seen on the faces of all the teachers in the building (and the kids too because of that). For the first time, our school decided to do a TCAP pep rally to try to alleviate a little bit of that stress. All teachers and students in our building dressed up as rock stars. Our theme was "Rock the Test".
The kids made signs and posted them throughout our school on the week before the tests. On Friday, all students entered our auditorium to tunes like "We Will Rock You" and "Are You Ready for This?" Some very creative teachers made up cheers and led the students in them. Our music teacher and a "rockin" first grade teacher sang songs with the lyrics adapted to encourage test-taking strategies. We also did a little skit featuring a "hard-working" test taker and a "don't care" test taker. It was so nice to see some excitement and laughter replace all that anxiety. Teachers really put forth a lot of effort to make this enjoyable for the kids and they loved it!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Earth Day 2010

This year, my school is participating in the Earth Day Groceries Project. This is a very simple project especially for elementary school to help raise awareness for Earth Day. We have standardized tests coming up next week, so this is the perfect time for teachers to do something like this in the afternoons to give students a break.
Last week, I went to our local grocery store and asked for donations of paper bags. The manager was hesitant to give me enough for all 560 kids, but he did donate about 100. I decided to use the bags for one grade level (fifth) and improvise for K-4.  The other grade levels are going to create a flyer or bookmark to be inserted into the paper bags.  On Wednesday, I am going to return the bags to our grocery store and the manager has agreed to distribute these to patrons in lieu of plastic bags on Thursday in honor of Earth Day.  I gave the teachers a description of the project and printed off a few examples from the website to help get the kids thinking.
I'm anxious to see how the students do on the bags. Pictures coming soon!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Teacher's Clubhouse

Usually if I am looking for a teaching site or resource, I search the web and only visit sites that offer free materials. Teacher's Clubhouse is my one exception to that rule. The resources created and sold here by two elementary school teachers are well worth the average $0.99 per activity. I call it my iTunes for education. These are not just worksheets. These are colorful interactive activities. In the fall, I purchased the non-fiction text features activity.

I paid a total of $1.98 for the whole activity which included nine signs and 20 cards.

All subjects are represented and the site is very easy to navigate. Every activity is available for instant download. The teachers that I have shared this with love it and always go back for more!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Apps for Early Elementary

As promised, here is a list of some of the apps that my PreK teacher uses on her iPod Touches in her classroom:

ABC Tracer Lite-Free
Bathtub Letters
Cute Math-$1.99
Doodle Buddy-$.99
First Words-$1.99
Fruits and Veggies-$1.99
Giraffe's Matching Zoo-Free
Giraffe's Preschool Playground-$.99
Grover's Preschool
Meet the Vowels-Free
Meet the Uppercase Letters-$.99
Meet the Lowercase Letters-$.99
Meet the Shapes-$.99
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox-$.99
iPlay 'n Learn-Free
Phonics Free-ABC & Words-Free
Shape Builder-$.99
Toddler Pad-$.99
Wood Puzzle-$.99
Write My Name-$.99
123 Animals Counting Lite-Free
Preschool Pattern Recognition-$.99

I also found the ikids Blog which has fantastic lists and reviews on early elementary apps.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

iPod Touches in our Pre-K Classroom

We have a very tech savvy pre-k teacher, Amanda Stiles, who is implementing iPod touches in her classroom this year. I am amazed by what these kids can do and can't wait to see how it affects their Kindergarten year. Her progress with these has encouraged the IT department to consider putting them in the hands of more students at our school. I truly hope that we can.
This is a Quicktime video.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Teach Like a Champion

I read an excellent article this morning that had been recommended on Twitter by @thecleversheep. I had never heard of Doug Lemov or of Uncommon Schools. His ideas, though, I think are really important to explore especially when we are about to experience a huge shift in education with Race to the Top. My state, Tennessee, was named as a finalist yesterday for RTTT funds. This is no surprise. We have been projected from the beginning to be one of the states that will ultimately receive the funds. All teachers in my county are now up in arms thinking immediately that their jobs are on the line. I have watched the progression of this and have slowly tried to develop an opinion on how things are headed. I'm not one to jump on bandwagons one way or the other. The painful truth is that there are teachers who don't really perform up to par. Do I think the answer is to fire each and every one of them? Absolutely not!

I do believe that some people are just born to be teachers. They seem to have an innate ability to teach and lead a class. I do not believe, however, that it is realistic to think that those are the only people who are going to enter the teaching profession and come to work in my school. Doug Lemov believes that we have to improve upon what we have. I agree 100%. I think that we can take many if not most of the teachers that we currently have in the profession and tap into whatever inspired them to become a teacher in the first place. We need good administration in place to identify the needs of those teacher and then offer training to them based on their needs.

Mr. Lemov's book Teach Like a Champion outlines 49 Techniques for teachers to improve performance in the classroom. The description is as follows:

Easy-to-apply ideas for becoming an outstanding teacher

How to Teach Like a Champion is filled with proven teaching techniques that are designed to help teachers, especially those in their first few years, become champions in the classroom. These powerful techniques are concrete, specific, and are easy to put into action the very next day. Includes techniques and tips in the following areas

* Setting high academic and behavioral expectations
* Structuring and delivering excellent lessons
* Engaging students in your lessons
* Creating a strong classroom culture
* Building character and trust
* Improving the pace of your classroom
* Helping students improve their reading skills

You can also view short videos of a few of the techniques here and here. For some of us, this comes naturally. But for some, I think these small instructions can help change a classroom. The book has not yet been released but I can promise you that when it does, I'll be one of the first in line to buy it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Jefferson County Schools

If you have never visited the Jefferson County Schools website, you must. As a teacher in Tennessee, this resource has been priceless for me. It does, however, have much to offer to teachers in any part of our country. The links down the right side of the page take you to some great resources. Here are only a few:

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cybrary Man

Through a friend of a friend of a friend (you know how Twitter works), I stumbled upon Jerry Blumengarten. After following him, he provided links to his sites. I am in awe. The abundance of resources here are amazing!!

Check these out and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


My current position this year, among lots of other things, is to help teachers differentiate activities/lessons, etc. in their classrooms. There is a ton of research out there on this and people have written numerous books on the topic. My favorite authors on the subject are Carol Tomlinson, Beverly Tyner, Sharon Walpole, and Michael McKenna.

This week, at my school, there has been a push for teachers to show on paper how they are differentiating each subject in their classroom. I've found a few links to share with them. Hopefully this is the start of a long list. Does anyone have others to share?

From Wilmette public schools, this site provides printable pdfs and presentations for teachers as well as ideas and examples.

Great examples per grade level and subject of differentiation by readiness, interest, and learning styles.

Links to all things differentiation.

Monday, February 1, 2010


On today's web, there are tons of ways to share links online. Two of the most popular are delicious and diigo. While I enjoy the benefits that comes with both of these services, there is a slight learning curve involved as well as creating an account. In order to share links with the teachers and students at my school, I needed something simple that they could access in a blink without any training. That's where portaportal comes in. I created a portaportal at the beginning of the year and set it as the home page for all of the lab computers as well as several student computers throughout the school. I love the response that I have gotten from teachers and students. It is very simple for them and the students are able to easily use it from home. I am adding links on a daily basis thanks to the fabulous resources I get from my friends on Twitter.

After attending TETC this year, I was able to see the many other uses for portaportal. The best session of the conference for me was given by Jackie Elam and Kris Marshall from Rutherford County Schools. Jackie shared this fabulous portaportal with us. She even exported her bookmarks (under portal resources) so that you can have a huge head start in getting your own portal up and running. Portals are very simple to create and easy to clone and share. Another great idea that I got from Jackie was this portaportal in which the teacher has created a folder for each of her students with personalized links under each. I thought this was a fantastic idea for differentiation in the classroom.

The best news is that portaportal is free. I pay the small fee for having an ad free site because I use it with so many students, but it is not required.

Does anyone have any other great portaportals to share?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dalton Sherman's Inspirational Speech

My curriculum director shared this with us at our monthly meeting today. I can't believe I had not seen it before now. If you have not already seen this, it is well worth eight minutes of your time. This kid is really going places and what he says really hit home with me. I can't wait to share this at the next faculty meeting.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Teaching Resources

Ever wished you could just dig through a great teachers filing cabinets and see what all she has stored in there? Visit Laura Candler's site and you can do just that. Laura has an online filing cabinet with tons of printable activities all for FREE! Files are in PDF format so you will need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed. She has activities posted for math, science, reading, and social studies. In addition, she also has a strategies section packed with research-based strategies. Check it out...I know you'll love it!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Teaching Outside the Standards

I know it's sad that many times the teaching of good behavior and sometimes ethical behavior falls to the schools rather than the parents. While I don't presume that we can teach everything a child needs to know about treating and interacting with others in the short 180 days we spend with them, I don think it's important that we use each and every one of those days to set good examples for them and show them some guiding principals. I came across this website with some good lesson plans for 'teachable moments'. I especially like the lessons on teaching the children to listen. I think those could be worked into any elementary school classroom. There are also lessons on respecting differences and being peacemakers. The site also links to activities for Middle and High School students.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Web's #1 Math Practice Site

This site claims its title well. I feel like I've been under a rock because I haven't seen this before now! This website is extremely user friendly and well structured. Grade levels are very clearly divided and the skill division is phenomenal. Click on a grade level and then a skill. You will be directed to a series of questions in which you are timed and given a score out of 100. The best feature of all is the link to state standards. Skills are broken down by state specific standard. All of these features are free! There is an optional membership component which will give you access to reports, identify trouble spots, etc. There are prices for parents and teacher and they all seem very affordable. Give it a try...I know you'll love it as much as I do!

Monday, January 4, 2010

First Things First

In hindsight, I probably should have started with this post. I would not have been able to start this blog, find great resources as easily, have the contacts I have, etc. without the support of a dynamic PLN. The best thing that I have done as far as professional development for myself has been to actively pursue a solid professional learning network. I love this post on developing a network. My PLN started with joining the Classroom 2.0 Ning. There I learned to ask and answer questions and participate and begin discussions surrounding my topics of interest. From there and through attendance at a conference, I learned about Skype (see previous post). Later, I started my Twitter account. This was the hardest network to learn and build, but has been (by far) the best resource for me. The constant ongoing conversation has provided unlimited resources for me and in turn for my colleagues. In 2010, my goal is to be more of a contributor to my PLN. I owe a lot to everyone for all of the great ideas they've sent out and for all the times I've been inspired and supported by them. For example, when I mentioned starting this blog on Twitter, here's the response I got:

Sean Banville @tamralanning Start your blog - we'll help :-)

..and I know they will.

CC Image courtesy of / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 on Flickr

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My #1 Tool for the Classroom

If I had to recommend one tool to begin with in the classroom, it would most certainly be Skype. Skype is a free videoconferencing software that is easy to install and use. Last year, I was fortunate enough to be a part of a project started by Silvia Tolisano in which willing schools were put in contact with one another to arrange Skype conversations for their students. My students came to school early and stayed late many times in order to communicate with students across the globe. We spoke with children in Thailand, Spain, Australia, and even students here in the U.S. They were awed by the experience every time. Another great way to find educators willing to communicate via Skype is through a Ning like Classroom 2.0. I also stumbled across a great blog outlining 50 ways to use Skype in the classroom. Please share your success! How has Skype impacted your classroom?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Woodlands Literacy Zone

Woodlands Literacy Zone offers links to tons of literacy activities for elementary age students. There are online interactive stories and lots of literacy activities. Students could go to this site and navigate to any learning activity or teachers could find an activity for them in advance. These games are great for use on interactive whiteboards. Computers visiting the literacy zone will need an updated version of Adobe flash to run most of the activities.