My article in EdSurge: How A Local Tech Meetup Turned My Classroom Into A Startup

EdSurge is collecting stories from across the nation on how personalized learning is being implemented in various ways. I’m grateful for the opportunity to return to my education reporter roots to write a piece about my journey in the classroom. You can read the article here.

What happens when you ditch homework

Our new “homework” in action.

There’s been a seismic shift in the culture of my classroom. Each morning, I greet students at the door — as I’ve always done — but this year, I get to actually sit down next to them and have real conversations during breakfast. They tell me the exciting things going on in their lives. We start the day off on a positive note. Contrast this to every other year when the first interaction with many students each morning included this dreaded phrase: “Where is your homework?”

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Student “arcade” showcases video game designs and critical thinking

One day at recess, I watched two of my third-grade girls playing a video game called Animal Jam on a tiny cell phone screen. They worked together to make all kinds of decisions. Should we adopt this animal? How should we decorate our den? What are we supposed to do on this part? Their conversation blew me away and I thought, how can I get students to talk to each other like that in the classroom?

The answer was right in their hands: video games.

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Give your old, broken laptop a new purpose

RIP Mr. MacBook

When I first started the station rotation model, I had a hodgepodge of eight devices, including my old black MacBook that I didn’t use anymore. This computer was painfully slow and, in fact, wouldn’t work unless the power cable was plugged in at all times. One false move and the cord ripped out from its magnetic jack and shut down, sending whatever you were working on into the cyber abyss. If you closed the laptop (as you should when not in use), it would also completely shut down. You even had to enter the wifi code every time you reopened it.

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A week in the life of a classroom with 1:1 devices

It was really important to me this year to try out activities and strategies that would leverage the power of my 1:1 Chromebooks. My first order of business was to implement two computer centers in my station rotation model instead of one. The second was to better engage students in whole group instruction with interactive tools.

Here’s a look at what blended learning looks like in my classroom in one week:

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The interactive bulletin board that invested my students in our adaptive software

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World, meet our Lexia board. I knew when I dove into blended learning that I wanted my students to track their progress on our adaptive reading program. Originally, I planned to make individual data booklets but I soon realized I wanted to go bigger. If I truly believe in the power of this “other teacher” in my room, I thought, then I must make it have a huge presence. So the Lexia board was born.

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How I got 25 Chromebooks for my blended learning classroom

img_1585-1Last year, I was super fortunate to receive $5,000 from the CenturyLink Teachers and Technology Program. I now have a Chromebook for every student in my class that they use 40 minutes per day for an adaptive reading program and Google Classroom. Having one-to-one devices has completely revolutionized what I am able to do in my blended learning classroom.

Education grant writing is too often misunderstood. I think it’s because we hear about full-time job openings dedicated exclusively to grant writing and assume it is too hard or takes too long. But those jobs are for huge sums of money that come with all kinds of strings attached that have to be monitored. There are grants that are super accessible to teachers and are worth a couple days of work. If you have ever considered writing a grant, here are four tips to help get you started and take away some of the anxiety.

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Why a teacher will always be necessary, even in blended learning

I recently began pulling students during intervention time who were struggling on the Lexia adaptive reading computer program. Lexia provides teachers with ready-made lessons to target the skills students can’t seem to master. So, I pulled one girl over and began working on sequencing events, the area in which she needed the most help, according to Lexia.

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The best, free adaptive math program: Front Row

It’s pretty obvious when using Front Row Ed that there is a strong teacher on the development team. The questions are aligned to the SBAC assessment in content and appearance, and the reports and data really help teachers differentiate their instruction, especially in a blended learning environment. The program even has individualized printable practice sheets that can be sent home as homework so students spend time filling the gaps at home rather than being frustrated with content they learned that day. More importantly, it was built from the ground up to match the Common Core standards.

Take a look at this video that explains the teacher dashboard in more detail. https://frontrowed.com/