Friday, May 28, 2010

New Stuff just keeps pouring in

Can you believe it is already summer vacation? This year ended so quickly; I definitely wasn't ready to see my kiddos go. Oh, well, now I can spend time searching out cool tech. ideas/resources to use with my new students next year.

I ended my year with some fun. I have a Promethean Board now, so I was excited to see how my students would interact with it. I'm still getting the hang of all of the advanced stuff you can do like interactive, individualized tests and such, but it made a great impact on my students already.

I don't know if I mentioned that we applied for a grant and received two digital document cameras to share in our intermediate wing. They were an immediate hit. They are easy to use and great for teachers - no more money or time spent on overhead. The problem is we all like them so much, it is difficult to share. :-)

Another neat new tech. activity I have started was inspired by "Civil War Sallie," a bear dressed up as a nurse from the Civil War era, who travels to schools learning/teaching about the Civil War. I decided to create Madame Curious. You can find her at I mail her to different scientists, and they blog and take pictures of her on her visits. Then, with my class, we read about her experiences. So far, we have only had her in nearby locations, but I hope to send her to John Hopkins this summer to learn about Zebra fish.

Finally, I have been experimenting with edistorm - a website that allows me to collaboratively plan with others. Right now, I've been using it to plan the handbook for my new Bureau of Education and Research class about internet projects. It is like being in the room with my colleagues and placing postits up on a whiteboard as we brainstorm. Hopefully using it for the preparation and organizing will make the writing stage go quickly.

All for now. I'm off to Costa Rica for two weeks in June. See ya

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Wow! Where did the winter go? It has been crazy, but that is really no excuse for being such a lazy blogger. So... let's see. What has been happening in my life? I traveled for the Bureau of Education in January and had a blast. It is so fun to show teachers ideas of free ways they can integrate Web 2.0 activities into their classrooms.
Also, in January, I applied for and received a grant-funded Promethean Board for my classroom. It is amazing. It comes with Expression Responders as well, and they have really helped me keep students engaged, formatively track achievement, and more easily integrate technology. I took two courses through the Promethean Planet Website to help get up to snuff to use the equipment. It was a pretty great way to learn. First, I went through the tutorials and then I took the test at the end. If I didn't get 100%, I went back and reviewed the tutorials until I could pass fully.
We also had a training presented by one of the company's trainers in February. Then our facilities guys came in and did some rewiring to get ready for the big event - the board's installation! My students were so great. They stayed focused and worked hard throughout the installation process.
Since then, I have used the board daily, especially in Science and Math. To review for our state tests in Science, I was able to locate a number of "flipcharts," (kind of like PowerPoints but with interactive pieces) that would match my students' needs. It was nice to rely on lessons others had created as I tried to quickly get a handle on using the equipment.
This Monday, the 29th, another teacher and I are going to do a mini staff development lesson with our staff, so they can know how to use the board. We have a second board in our upstairs computer lab, and teachers can sign up to use the lab when it is not being used for technology classes. I also have made the board available to any teacher from 8:40 - 9:30 when my students are at Specials. So far, Kindie, Third, and Fourth have all taken me up on it. It has been fun to demonstrate it with the various ages of students in our school.
This weekend, I have been in Washington D.C. attending a conference for the GK-12 Grant Program of which I became a member this year. The program enabled me to have a Fellow who is currently a Teacher in Residence at our local Science Learning Center. He helped me plan lessons and field trip activities for each of the areas we study in the fifth grade. I also received pay for the meetings I attended, the workshops I attended, plus I received money to purchase equipment. With the funds provided, I bought a LabQuest device and multiple probes to measure the functions of the human body. We will start that unit right after Spring Break, and I can't wait to use the tool. I know my students are excited as well.
In addition to that, last week my class used Skype to contact a 4th grade class in California to answer their questions about what it is like to live in a mountain state. It was obvious that their class is much more affluent than ours. More of them had been to the Colorado ski resorts than my students have :-).
Plus, just before I left for Washington D.C., I received the box with Civil War Sallie in it. She is a Build a Bear dressed as a nurse during the Civil War era. I signed up to have her "visit" my class for the week. Next week, we'll take her to historical places in Greeley, take her picture, then write in her blog about her visit. She'll also be joining us on our Survival field trip along the Poudre River Trail and at the Poudre Learning Center. She comes with a lot of research and resources that teachers have added to her traveling kit over the year. This project was created and is managed by a middle school girl. What a tremendous idea!
Hmmmm.... well, I guess I've caught you up on technology and learning in my classroom. It is pretty fun to think back over all of the neat learning opportunities we have had this winter. Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Winter Break or Not!

Winter Break arrived just when things were starting to take off in Room 118. We have been busy using our new technology tools, all of them acquired through grants.

First, we got a projector and digital camera to be able to leave those old transparencies behind. This hardware was awarded us through the Littler Foundation. It was pretty exciting. We got two sets, so we have set up in 4th grade and in 5th grade. So far, we've used it in math to work on fractions with colored power blocks.

Then we were accepted in the GK-12 Program and had money to spend on equipment.
We purchased a LabQuest to help us gather data in Science. We've already used it for one of our field trips along the Poudre River. We measured the river speed in three different locations on the river: right bank, left bank, center, to see where the slowest speed was and to see if we could have predicted it by looking at the lay of the river bank. We were correct and the data supported our prediction. We plan on using it a lot with our Human Body study as we got a ton of different attachments to measure things like lung capacity, heart rate, etc.

A number of my students are also just finishing up their published pieces to put on their wiki page at They are excited to share their writing and get feedback from others.

In addition, some of my students are now members of Questia, an amazing research management site. These students are researching Controversial Issues and will use Questia to gather information, catalog it, organize it, quote it, etc. There are school rates. I was able to purchase 30 memberships for $300.00 for a year. (I know! Money! Don't let obstacle block you - ask your parent group, a local business, your spouse, your principal, your local foundations!) Check it out at It is amazing.

Finally, just at the end of break, I finished a grant application for another projector and an interactive board. I feel fairly confident I'll get it as it is an in-district grant application and they were short applicants so we encouraged to apply at the very end. Initially, two people per school could apply. We ended up with four applications. Cross your fingers!

So, I've spent the break playing on my computer. Check out Scratch. It is a neat animation site that is free to download. Now, I just need enough time to experiment and learn it. I also found a really good poll site that easily goes into my sites as a widget. Check out I've also found so many different To do List apps online that I am sorting through and seeing which one I like. Right now, I think Remember the Milk is the easiest, but Nexty lets me organize things a bit better. Will the madness ever stop?

Check back in a bit to see what has happened next. Feel free to share ways you are Knocking Down the Walls at your schools.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


I haven't had much time to Knock down these walls as we just finished Parent/Teacher Conferences. Having 31 students in my class causes a great deal of prep. work plus hours of conferencing. I had three no-shows, so I've had to make them up. One came to school; another I went to his home; the third parent is out of town, so I'll try to see her next week. On top of Parent/Teacher Conferencing we have our state testing, CSAPs.

I did find some wonderful sites put out to TAKS that were science vodcasts that were brief reviews/overviews of a different topics like magnets, animals, etc. I used them with my students as a fun way to review for the science testing. A teacher, Dr. Loopy, and his cast of characters teach the concepts in a fun way. My students loved the videos, plus they think I'm actually kind of normal now after watching that group teach. :-)

My students are finally using the wiki site routinely. I check the changes made for a few minutes each day. So far we've only had one glitch, found the culprit, took care of business, and moved on. I'm really pleased with the number of stories being published. I'm frustrated with the level of comments however. Somehow I am going to have to find time to demonstrate effective commenting. Right now I mostly see a bunch of adjectives and exclamation points!

I had been emailing with a teacher in New Orleans to see about having Skype buddies. She seemed motivated at first, but then the realization that it was another activity to fit in, no matter how great it was, set in and she backed out. I'm having a similar discussion with another teacher from Georgia. We hope to have a Skype "Meet and Greet" some time in April. Then, hopefully, out students can pair up and start evaluating each others' written pieces on wikis and Skype to discuss them. We hope to get this up and running before the end of the year. Keep your fingers crossed.


February is here and it is time to get ready for our 1950s Valentine's Party. That is about as far removed from using technology in schools as can be, you would think. However, I am going to need to set up the digital projector, hook it to the speaker system, hook it to the DVD player, and have it ready to show the "Honeymooner" videos. Every year, the parents who join us and I have a good laugh while the students in the room are just horrified at what we used to watch!

As for Knocking down these walls, I continue to try to push the envelope. I have been trying to use my laptop at school because on it I have TeacherTube downloader and YouTube downloader. I can download the videos I want to use with my students so when I show them, we don't have all of the streaming issues that cause students to lose interest, become inattentive and then misbehave. For a while, that worked well until the district engineer made it so my laptop wasn't allowed on the system because it has Vista. Ugh!

Back to the drawing board.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Can you believe that it is 2009! It has been a pretty exciting fall for me as I have been integrating technology Web 2.0 tools into my classroom atmosphere and learning. There have been some failures but many successes, too.

Most of the failures were caused by lack of access. It is frustrating to find a tool that can be really helpful to students and then not be given permission levels to use it. Our OIT Department has been working with me a great deal; however, I've been bumping up against district-level policy issues.

The successes have been great:

1. - My students have loved this site. You get three free voicethreads. The one we have used most recently was a group of pictures from our field trip to our school's business partner, Norfolk Iron and Metal, Inc. I uploaded the pictures to Voicethread then each child took a turn looking at the pictures and choosing three about which to comment as a thank you to our hosts. I then emailed the link to the company CEO, Ron. I, of course, sent a copy to my principal, too. It never hurts to keep them in the loop.

2. - this is the wiki site I settled on after playing with a few. I stayed with the version 1 level so kiddos didn't have to have a email account. They all already have an email account through our echalk program. Each child has a page on the wiki. I do the introduction page. I try to write each Friday but it doesn't always happen. :-) On the students' pages, they can format and design them to their liking as long as it is school-appropriate. Then we upload their writer's workshop pieces or PowerPoint presentations. I sent home directions to parents on how to access the site so that they can share their children's work with their other relatives. I got a great response.
The biggest glitch came with the Comments option. My kiddos used it kind of like Instant Messaging! Once I explained that the comments were to be critiques/feedback about student uploaded work, they self-corrected and all has gone well since.

3. Camtasia - Yippee! It has allowed me to take a PowerPoint presentation and record information for each slide then I uploaded it to my iTunes account. It is really slick and easy. It also has editing capabilities which I am still learning. My plan is to turn one of my students loose on it to explore then he/she can teach me the tricks. He/she has more time is more comfortable "messing" with software than this ol' digital immigrant is.

4. I have also been accessing quite a few podcasts and screencasts to use for building background knowledge for my students. They like the multi-sensory presentation of video/sound. Plus, much of the work is already done for me; I just have to push, "Play."

In addition, my kiddos are on a nice, stable rotation for their math facts practice software called "Fastt Math." (Yes, it is spelled with two "t's".) I have 30 students in my classroom and most days every student gets a turn at Fastt Math. I have seen great increases in their general math fluency.

I have also gone to some old technology - laserdisc player - to use a great program from Tom Snyder called, "The Great Ocean Rescue." It is a science simulation which involves a lot of technological reading, inference skills, researching skills, and collaboration. It was a huge hit, so now I purchased the other one, "The Great Space Race."

Another piece of software I have been using is "Reading for Meaning," also by Tom Snyder Productions. It is a software that has you practice reading skills/concepts such as Cause and Effect as a class with a video and graphic organizers. Then you print out other short stories (three different reading levels are available with two stories for each level for each concept) and the handouts for students to do OYO (On Your Own). Inference, summarizing, main idea and details, and cause/effect are some of the topics.

We also have 16 palms; however, I haven't been very good at using them. I bought some software to use on them and had trouble getting it on the palms. Right now, we use a few math programs and the kiddos love Crazy Daisy which has little educational value!

As you can see, life is grand in my classroom. Running smoothly some of the time, too, but we are all working together to see technology's place in our learning.

In a week or so I begin traveling to teach about Web 2.0 tools to other teachers. I hope they find at least one program or idea to use right away. My newest goal is to use Yackpack. Check it out on the web. It's free and a great way to support students when they need help away from school. Let me know what you think.

Good luck with your Web 2.0 journey!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Where did the fall go?


Hmmm... I was so positive I could keep this up during the school year. I don't know what happened. I don't want to taradiddle (make excuses) but I do have over 30 students. They, of course, are wonderful, but I can't seem to get my arms around grading, testing, planning, etc.

Anyway, about knocking down these walls. I have started using my Wiki to have students publish their work. They are very proud. I am, too.

Plus, I have been pretty good about keeping up my wiki introduction page that is told from the classroom's point of view. It is a weekly summary of what happened in our classroom the past week. It is a good place for parents and grandparents to go to find out what's happening.

I'm excited because my technology class is a go for our District. I didn't get notified that it had been approved so thank goodness someone who registered for it contacted me. If she hadn't, I wouldn't have been here on the 15th and the registrants would have been unhappy.

I also got my schedule for teaching for the Bureau of Education and Research. I head to Seattle adn Phoenix in January and Cherry Hills and Newark in February. Hopefully by then I'll have more kid examples of using the different tech. tools.

I do have some exciting news. I was given the opportunity to test drive some of the new alphasmarts - NEO2's. They are pretty sharp. They are wireless. Students can take Accelerated Reader tests on them and do all of the other stuff of which past alphasmarts were capable. Now if I can just get OIT to load the software :-)

More to come.