Sunday, August 20, 2017

ISTE Adventure: Tuesday

Tuesday morning began with a student panel sharing how they use technology followed by a fantastic keynote by Jennie Magiera.  She was so inspiring with her love of education.  She encouraged all of us to not only help students find their voice but also to find our own and not try to be someone else.  We need to shatter the "single story" and realize that each person has his or her own story just waiting to be told.

Ms. Magiera said she loved being at ISTE because it felt like a wizard convention.  She shared a memory of reading The Hobbit as a girl that led her to realize that "teachers are fun-loving wizards who can help you find your whole self," as she was quoted in an article on the ISTE website.  She also pointed out how social media rarely shows an accurate picture of a person and we need to be willing to show our warts.  Many people have similar problems and we can all support each other if we are open.

She encouraged us all to share our untold story, with the encouragement that in this technological age, we don't need to wait for an audience, but to put ourselves out there and the audience will find us.  Although it has been a month and a half since the conference, as I reread my notes, tweets, and articles associated with the conference, I can still recall the inspiration I felt after listening to her speech. 

The next thing on my schedule was a session called ISTE Bytes.  In that session, nineteen speakers gave previews of what their sessions were going to be about.  I was able to take notes on contact information and topics to look into further, even if I wasn't able to make it to the session.  This was followed by a session called "15-Minute Learning Products That Feed Student Agency," presented by Howard Martin from the Austin ISD Instructional Design Team.

Mr. Martin began by encouraging us to model what we expect of our students--how to get devices out, use them, then put them away.   We don't keep markers in our hand all day in case we need them.  Help students be accountable for their devices instead of taking them away.  He also urged us to focus on the content, not the tool.   One of our main goals needs to be finding ways for students to take ownership in learning.  The websites and programs that were new to me in this session included:, ClipChamp, Lensoo, and  He also mentioned the importance of scaffolding projects using these tools and reminded us that "choice builds voice."

During a short lunch break, I looked around the vendor hall briefly, collecting information from businesses I wanted to know more about.  My next session had me a bit starstruck.  "Geeking Out Over Google Classroom" was being presented by Matt Miller and Kasey Bell.  I have been listening to their podcasts and visiting their websites:  Shake Up Learning, Ditch That Textbook, and Google Teacher Tribe.  
Kasey and Matt went over some upgrades to Google Classroom and features that all may not know about.  They shared that personal accounts can be used now, and it is possible to differentiate and give students direct access to assignments.  They showed how to customize the header, told about the difference between class comments and private comments, and gave a tip to put initials at the beginning of the comments.  These comments should not be answers to Discussion Questions.  When talking about student choice, they reminded us that students are used to "playing the game of school" so we need to stop feeding them everything.  They shared that students can snap a photo to turn in, for example when Spanish kids are learning a new word, have them take a pic to show understanding.  They also shared a link to their presentation: Geeking Out Over Google.

One of my goals for the conference was to learn more about Chromebooks to help with our district roll-out so I signed up for a special session called "Chrome App Smashing to Create Chromebook Generated Videos."  Unfortunately, this session had technical difficulties with their presentation and also with the internet connection in the room.  I also should have realized that I would need a Chromebook, rather than just using the Chrome app on my device.  I left the session and looked through the poster presentations until my final session. I QR codes of most of the presentations and saved to my Google Keep to look at later.

My final session was called Google Apps with Math Activities.  I have been using with my gifted students for a couple years now and was interested in seeing Jo Boaler and Alice Keeler working together on this.  With Visual Mathematics, teachers need to present things in many different ways to cause communication between different pathways in the brain.  They had several useful quotes, such as "focusing on test-taking has no impact on learning," and "being fast is not the same as being smart."  

Research has proved that collaboration does improve learning.  Putting YouCubed problems on Google Apps allows students to communicate with each other and critique the reasoning of others.  Teachers need to praise efforts, not intelligence and remember that it's not about the problem.  It's about the understanding.  Productive practice equals seeing an idea in different ways, forms, and representations, not the repetition of one idea in near identical questions.  After hearing them speak, I ordered both speakers' books:  Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler, and Teaching Math with Google Apps by Alice Keeler.

I ended the day with a reception sponsored by Quizzizz where we answered questions in teams, competing with each other, then went to the historic Aztec Theater for EdTech Karaoke. Anyone who thinks tech people are just nerds stuck behind their computers has never experienced this phenomenon.  These people were serious competitors!  What fun!  

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

ISTE17 Adventure (Day 3): Monday Morning

My ISTE17 Adventure Day 3 was on Monday, which was the first full day of the conference. My plan was to get there by 8am to go to the poster sessions and look around before my first session at 8:30--Differentiated Instruction in the Chromebook Classroom.  In true Bonnie fashion, I actually arrived shortly after 8:30 so the session was closed.  People stood at the doors with counters and when it reached capacity, you were out of luck.  

I had marked down at least 5 things I wanted to go to during every time slot, so it didn't take me long to realize this gave me an opportunity to hear esteemed ed tech leader, Kathy Schrock. Her session was called "It's Time to Find Your EdTech Passion."  She showed us an image highlighting where her tech interests had been over time and provided us with a link to her website with resources for each area. One of my favorite resources is similar to the SAMR model of determining the use of a tech tool, app or website, but seems more practical and easier to use. It can be found here and uses TECH for the acronym--Traditional, Enhanced, Choice, and Handoff.  It was fun, informative and a great way to start off my morning.  

The next session I attended was an Ignite presentation.  For this, each presenter has just five minutes and 20 slides each to share their passions in a continuous rapid-fire presentation.

I walked in on the tail end of Sketchnoting but here is a video from PD in Your PJs that tells more about it:  Christine Pinto was charming, energetic and inspiring as she told us about #GAFE for Littles.  One of my favorites was Tara Martin talking about BookSnaps and how she uses what the kids are familiar with (SnapChat) to get them to share about their reading, but you don't have to use SnapChat.  Students could use other apps or websites like Buncee to create their snaps. One comment that stayed with me was "If we fear tech because of what they might do, that's crazy!"

Michael Cohen, The Tech Rabbi was fun to watch and had engaging slides.  Ginann Franklin had us all laughing about being too old for ISTE but pointed out the ageism that tends to exist when at tech conferences.  Jen Giffen almost had me crying with her presentation "We Can All Do Better." She shared a story of a student who worked very hard on getting an assignment done, being excited about doing a good job, then not turning it in.  When she asked why, he said: "I didn't hand it in because as long as it is in my bag, it is still good."   We do this to our students when everything is about red ink and grades instead of discussions for improvement.  To end the session, Claudio Zavala shared the Flipgrid fever and his #singasong movement.  Kudos to all for an enjoyable morning!

Monday, June 26, 2017

ISTE17 Adventure--Day 2

Day 2 of my ISTE17 Adventure started off with an Uber ride from Days Inn Airport, which had enough shortcomings for its own blog post, to the Wyndham Riverwalk, where I would be staying until Thursday.  I was just hoping to store my suitcase, but my room was ready, so I was able to unpack and hang up clothes, etc.

My husband, youngest son and I have come to San Antonio the past two years in February, so I am somewhat familiar with the Riverwalk and headed to one of our favorite breakfast places, Market on Houston. My waiter, Rey, was a sweet smooth-talker who did everything to make sure I was comfortable and well-fed.  I had bacon, scrambled eggs, and country potatoes. Since I had only had snack food the day before, it tasted delicious!

After brunch, I walked around the block then headed to St. Mary's for the noon Mass.  I was there more than a half hour early, but I thought some extra prayers of thanksgiving were in order after my experiences the day before.  I was also able to pray the Rosary, which is something I need to do much more often.  As a convert, I still don't have all the prayers quite memorized, but I have a handy app on my phone called Laudate (available for both iOS and Android) that has an interactive Rosary, along with anything else I might want to know or pray. 

After Mass, I headed to the Henry B. Gonz├ílez Convention Center.  What a beautiful facility!  I found the registration desk, put on my name tag and looked around the lower level, before making my way upstairs.  I sat in on a couple Ignite presentations but was pretty restless, so I left to look around a bit more.  A little before 3, I made my way to the Lila Cockrell Theater to hear Adam Bellow and Steve Dembo presentation entitled "Open the Curiosity Door."  I'm pretty sure Steve was one of the first people I followed when I joined Twitter in 2007.  

They shared many great ideas, including Dr. Robert Dillon's new book The Space: A Guide for Educators, a thought provoking quote by Don Wettrick, Chris Lehmann's advice on how to build a school, and Monica R. Martinez's  Deeper Learning: The Planning Guide.  We were left with two important thoughts:  "You can't change everything in one day, but you can change one thing every day," and "Keep the big picture in mind...."
Next, it was time for the opening keynote.  People were in line 45 minutes early, so I followed the herd.  The Tiarra Girls were the opening act, followed by new ISTE CEO Richard Culatta.   He was a very engaging speaker with an impressive background.  I'm excited to see the growth of the organization under his guidance. The keynote speaker was Jad Abumrad of Radio Lab fame.  

Jad's story of how he got started,  including those who had been an inspiration to him was fascinating.  It was a great example of grit, perseverance and growth mindset.  It was also a testament that dreams aren't easy.  My favorite quote was "Sound is touch at a distance," when he was speaking about how mothers all over the world essentially sing the same tunes to their children when calming them to sleep. 

My day ended with a reception sponsored by the Midwest Education Technology Community (METC) and the promise of more exciting learning in the next three days.

Houston, We Have a Problem

ISTE17 Adventure--Day 1

This week I have the opportunity to not just step, but leap out of my comfort zone.  As part of my summer professional development, I was approved to attend the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference in San Antonio.  I packed comfortable clothes and shoes, bought a backpack to use instead of a purse, spent hours looking over the schedule and arrived at the airport in plenty of time Saturday morning for my 7:25am flight.

It was a beautiful day to fly and I had been able to board in the A group so I chose a window seat.  The flight to Houston was just going to take a couple hours.  Unfortunately, bad weather had hit the Houston airport, so we were diverted to Corpus Christi.  We refueled there and made it to Houston around 12:30.  My connecting flight was delayed an hour, but it left at 11:30, meaning I missed it.  

We were told to get in the line of the gate we would have left from and they would help us.  After standing in line for over 30 minutes, I was told that all flights were full, unless I wanted one leaving at 3pm with two plane changes, including one in Chicago, then arrive around midnight, or I could wait until Sunday at 10pm.  At that point, I made a bold decision to rent a car and drive.

I was told my suitcase would be at the San Antonio airport, so I hopped on a shuttle for Enterprise Rental.  On arriving there, I was told they were not allowing any one-way rentals due to a shortage of vehicles.  I walked across the street to Dollar/Thrifty Rental and was in luck. My phone was down to 20% and my charger was in my suitcase, but I had a goal to make it out of Houston before it got any later.  At 3:30 the traffic was already heavy and of course, the navigation on my phone took me right through what seemed like the center of the city.  It may not be, but keep in mind that there isn't even a stoplight in most of the towns I drive in, let alone 12 lanes of traffic.  

I stopped at an OfficeMax to get a phone charger cable, which unfortunately didn't end up working.  It was a straight shot to San Antonio though, so I just turned the radio on and enjoyed the scenery after getting out of the city. It was a three-hour drive, that may have taken me a little longer, and I thought surely I'd see an airport sign when I got to San Antonio.  Silly me! I stopped at a gas station for directions and the girl had no idea except it would be exit 22 off of the Interstate.  I followed exits 33,32,31, then they suddenly jumped to the 1300s, so I stopped at another station.  "Aw, it's easy!  Just take...."  Of course, it was easy for him.  Long story short, I finally ran across a sign for the airport and after taking several turns around the same loop, arrived at the rental car place.  

They took me to the airport baggage claim, where I waited, and waited, for my suitcase.  The first plane to arrive from Houston since morning finally came in--the flight I was supposed to have been on, but my suitcase wasn't on it.  In retrospect, I don't know how I thought it could since it left before I arrived.  About 15 minutes later another flight from Houston came in and after watching what seemed like hundreds of suitcases, I finally spied mine!  I could have cried.  I was able to catch a taxi and get to my hotel.  

You may think the story is over, but wait.....when I ordered supper online from a delivery place, I didn't get a confirmation so called.  They said they were sorry, but they were closed because their oven had just caught fire.  By that time, it was too late to eat much anyway, so I called it a night.  I never cried, or yelled, or screamed, so I was pretty proud of myself for solving my problems and grateful the be there safely.  What an adventure!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Case for Making: Kids Love to DO Stuff!

My TAG pull-out groups frequently ask "when can we build something again."  After sitting at desks, staring at books or computers most of the day, they crave hands-on learning and creating things.  Some might ask what this has to do with reading and math since that is the areas the program serves with the pull-out groups, but what I witness with these activities is so much more valuable.  They collaborate, create, solve problems and have fun doing it.  In the pictures below students have built a creation using Zome Tools, represented math problems with Omnifix Cubes, explored patterns with Osmo Tangrams, and learned about electricity with Snap Circuits

The Osmos and Snap Circuits were borrowed from our local area education agency but will be a possible investment after watching the students work to solve issues.  The other two pictures show a project that took very little investment:  a STEM challenge using spaghetti and marshmallows in a competition to build the tallest tower.  It amazed me which students were able to get right to work with an idea, and which ones had no clue where to begin.  

One of our goals for the next two years is to create a "maker space" in our intermediate building, then in our primary building.  The activity that will go along with these spaces will be messy and chaotic, but I can't wait to see what they create!


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Faith of Our Fathers....and Mothers

My faith journey has covered many different trails, but through it all, I have recognized a need for God in my life.  I was baptized a Methodist and grew up attending church and Sunday School each week before going to Grandma's for dinner.  My dad was Sunday School superintendent and my mom was often in charge of summer Vacation Bible School. We sang wonderful hymns embellished by a wonderful pianist who I had the pleasure of taking lessons from, and the minister knew just how to modulate his voice to keep people from falling asleep.  

In fifth grade, we moved to a nearby town where my father had moved from owning a grocery and feed business to owning a grain elevator.  Based on his customers' suggestions, we attended the Lutheran church.  My sister and I went through confirmation and were active in the youth group.  Unfortunately, they asked for money a lot and made comments about how if people couldn't tithe, they should not be there.  That is the memory anyway.  This occurred after my father had a heart attack and money was tight.  Eventually, my family quit attending.    

This could have easily ended my faith journey, but I was involved in another youth group with several of my high school friends.  I have such great memories of the Cherry Box MYF--a Mennonite church youth group.  We sang, prayed, played games, and learned more about the Bible with great enthusiasm.  During church services, the congregation sang four-part acapella and the hymn sings with the two nearby Mennonite churches were some of my favorite times.  It didn't hurt that they also had the cutest boys...haha.  I dated one of the young men in high school, then again in college, so when I had a chance to join the church I was re-baptized to signify my conscious decision to follow Christ since my earlier baptism was as an infant.   

The youth group was very vocal about their disapproval of the Catholic faith, to the point that in college, several of us tried to convert another girl away from Catholicism because it was so "evil."  Her brother was a priest, and years later, I really regret the stress we must have put her through.  When I started teaching and met the man who is now my husband, I told him on our first date that the one thing he could never ask me to do was join the Catholic church.  I eventually asked to attend church with him so I could see him earlier on Saturdays.  This led to many questions, so he suggested I look into the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) at a local parish.  

The sponsors of the RCIA classes explained things in a way that I could understand and accept, so Easter 1989 I was confirmed, and marriage preparation classes followed.  Many of the mysteries of the Church still puzzle me, but the history and ritual are very centering and I am continuing to learn and grow in my faith.  That faith helps me understand that some things are just beyond our ability to comprehend.  Future posts will be more about recent readings, music, and experiences, but this varied background was important for me to share.

A Daily Battle

My health has been a daily battle for quite some time.  Over 20 years ago, a well-meaning doctor put me on fen-phen, birth control pills and allergy medicine all at the same time.  Within a month, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure.  When we decided to have one more child at age 36, I developed gestational diabetes, which then a few years later led to a type 2 diagnosis.  (It may have been related as much to genetics, inactivity, and obesity if I'm being totally truthful.) 

Also, because of my high blood pressure and age, I could not go back on birth control.  I said I needed it because of mood swings, which I thought were hormonal.  The kind doctor then prescribed an antidepressant.  Fast forward a couple years to having pressure in my chest and the first of three stress tests.  The doctor said maybe I should see a psychologist because there was nothing physically wrong.  After several meetings with her, medication has been adjusted and I have a diagnosis of some sort that explains many behaviors and I live a pretty "even" mental existence.  I still keep thinking I should be able to handle things without medication, even though I have seen and read all about chemical reasons for depression.

To add to the mix, throw in high cholesterol, premature ventricular contractions, bone lesions, a thyroid nodule, arthritis in several joints, thoracic spondylosis and being a glaucoma suspect.  If I let myself dwell on all of this, it would be easy to have a non-stop pity party.  Instead, I have chosen to work with a trainer for two solid workouts each week, walk more and watch what I eat, at least most of the time.  I dabble in essential oils and aromatherapy as well as some great natural supplements that keep me healthy most of the time.  

Five years ago, I finished a half-marathon and a 20K, then went on to get my group exercise certification and lead classes for almost two years.  A friend of mine posted a quote that said: "Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do, not a punishment for what you just ate."    I know that moving and losing weight will keep me healthier for a longer period of time, and it also seems to help stress as well.  

I can be a stronger, healthier person if I continue to move away from the comfort zone of the recliner and emotional eating, and get moving!