Friday, December 27, 2013

New Year = New You! Fill Your Own Bucket with Goodness!

I’ve been reading a lot of posts lately about New Year’s Resolutions and have in fact written  my own.  Today, however I’d like to take a slightly different approach.  Resolutions are all about bettering yourself, stretching your goals, and trying something new, right?  Well, how about just tending to yourself to be a better, well rounded individual.  Teachers are notorious for neglecting their own needs day in and day out for the sake of their students.  But just as parents are ineffective if they haven’t nourished themselves, I argue that our students benefit from our healthy choices just as much as we do.  So when considering your New Year resolutions, do not forget about the activities that can truly nourish your soul, mind, and body.  Try some of these activities in the near future and see if you don’t feel more like a human and less like a robot going through the daily grind.

Be inspired by other.  Whether you act on your inspirations is really inconsequential.  It is always about the journey and experience.  So whether it is walking through a beautiful store, art gallery, or listening to other people’s stories, be open to inspirations that might touch your heart or spur you to action.  One of the best places online to be inspired by others is Pinterest!  If you do not have your own Pinterest account- get one!  It is simple and is a great place to repin other’s people work that inspires you.  

Read a really good book!  Put away your edu-speak literature and read something decadent, historical, or whatever interests you!  I always use iBooks to download samples of books before purchasing the book.  It is like walking up and down the aisle of Barnes and Noble, but without the crowds!  I search in iBooks by New York Times and Best Sellers.  Can’t pull yourself into a book without a purpose?  Check the the list on for award winning literature.  

Beat the wintertime blues by getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day.  Make it a priority to be active outside, even if it is cloudy and snowing!  Ice skating, walking, and sledding are fun activities for anyone this time of year!  My favorite app to use when tracking physical activity is Map My Run!  I use the app on my iPhone and it syncs up to my account online.  At the end of each month I can impress myself on all the miles I have tracked!  Exercise keeps you happy and healthy! Everyone benefits from your workouts!

Do one really thing nice for yourself!  Not one to get a massage, pedicure, or purchase something for pure luxury?  Now is the time for that pick me up!  I love Google Offers, Pinpoint app, and Groupon.  My Google Offers come straight to my email and I can choose to purchase the offer or not and pay with my phone!  Pinpoint offers great discounts at local merchants and restaurants, and who doesn’t love a great Groupon Offer?!  I never pay full price for most of my more decadent purchases. Need some retail therapy?  Try for great discounts at hundreds of stores!

Cook something rich and yummy.  Yes, I know we’ve all over-eaten over the Holidays, but that doesn’t mean starvation is the key to happiness.  Instead try your hand at a new recipe that doubles as comfort food.  Your family will love you for it!  My favorite cooking app is Allrecipes.  I can search by ingredient, course, or ease of creating.  Allrecipes uses a “dinner spinner” to create a meal in an instant!  I probably use this app every week to plan out the week’s menu.  I have great success with this app and you will too!  

Makeover 1 area of your house.  Whether it is a closet, a corner, a bathroom, or a kids room, January is a great time to do a small makeover and freshen up that space that has been nagging at you!  Aside from the obvious inspirational site Pinterest, I love the app Houzz.  It has millions of pictures of beautiful spaces.  You can search by room or style.  You can also receive emails of updated images and curate your favorite ideas if you create a free account.  January is also the best times to purchase new linens on sale everywhere!  

I hope this post finds you well and relaxed over the holidays!  Remember, you are important as a teacher, but more importantly as a well-rounded person.  Don’t forget about you, so you can give back to others.  Fill up your own bucket with goodness this January!  Happy New Year!

Written by: Jennifer Krzystowczyk

Friday, December 13, 2013

From Consumers to Producers: Creating a Producer Centered Classroom

We still get asked the question, “What is so great about an iPad in the classroom?”; from all sorts of people; teachers, administrators, students, and parents. That is a loaded question for sure, but one of the things that has become obvious is that our students are becoming producers as opposed to consumers.  Teenagers are excellent consumers of information online.  They read Reddit, use Facebook and Twitter, and peruse through YouTube and Pinterest.  Ask yourself, “How many of my students are actually producing online material?”

Here are some of the things that our students with iPads are able to create:

When students begin producing their own materials they become passionate about content.  When students become passionate about a topic, they tend to learn more than what is outlined in our curriculum.  The quality of their work is improved, they receive feedback from others outside the four walls of their classroom, and they can connect with people who are interested in similar topics.  Online publishing is a powerful tool that teachers can leverage to increase interest of content and quality of work.
Here are three ways to establish an environment conducive to a producer-centered classroom:

  1. Create a Collaborative, Project-Based Learning Environment
  2. Foster a Creative Atmosphere
  3. Globalize the Classroom

Creating a collaborative, project based learning environment
Shift to a self-directed, producer-centered classroom by moving away from the front of the room. That means creating a classroom environment that is least restrictive for the students allowing opportunities to demonstrate mastery of curriculum objectives in a non-traditional manner.  Project based learning tied to curriculum and provides students the freedom to create materials they are proud of and are worthy of publishing.  They know their project is important because they are participating in a solution to a real world issue and viewed by an authentic audience.  

Foster a Creative Atmosphere
How do you create this atmosphere?  Reflect on your current classroom workflow.  Is there a time for students to create?  Albert Einstein said,  "When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come close to the conclusion that the gift of imagination has meant more to me than any talent for absorbing absolute knowledge."

Creation time is critical for enabling students to be innovative.   This means letting go of most the things we learned in our pre-service days, and stepping into a bold new world where the classroom environment allows for movement, flexible grouping, freedom to create. It allows students to set goals and self-assess, and lots of time for revision and peer sharing.  How are you fostering creativity, imagination, creation in the classroom?  

“We have a lot of learned behavior of compliance, and hunger for external rewards and no real engagement. We have this belief that people perform better if we hit them with this endless arsenal of carrots and sticks: If-then motivators,” Daniel Pink said in his book Drive.  “To get to that engagement, people have to unlearn these deeply rooted habits. I defy you to find a two year old who is not engaged. That’s how we are out of the box.”

Globalize the Classroom
Globalizing the classroom is key to connecting your students to an authentic audience.  Tools such as Google Communities and Twitter make it easier to find others to connect with.   By nature, humans are social and are extremely motivated when connecting to others.  Create an environment where peer sharing extends beyond your room and your school.  There is a lot of buzz about bringing experts into the classroom, which is a great way to stretch students minds, but there is also a tremendous amount of excitement created when students become the experts and they can share their work with the world.

Producers are engaged, proud of their work and appreciate an authentic audience. These students are better prepared for the real world and future careers.   The validation producers receive from their audience causes them to be more motivated and willing to keep creating.  Create a producer-centered classroom and allow students to collaborate with each other, even with others in the building, community, state, nation, and globally.

Problem Based Learning

Thursday, December 12, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

Well it’s that time of year again when we all make our NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS!!!  This year I want to encourage teachers to set some technology goals for themselves and their classrooms.  To avoid using technology for the sake of using technology alone, try to consider how your tech use will increase student learning, communication, and collaboration.  Here are 10 resolutions to choose from that will directly impact your students.     

Benefit to Students
Create a workflow in your Google Drive for your students.  Check out this Playlist for more information.

Students receive immediate feedback to experience increased collaboration and have access to their work anywhere, anytime.
Utilize a back channel for a class discussions like Twitter or Today’s Meet.

Now everyone has a voice during a discussion!  It also provides the opportunity to teach internet etiquette with students.
Use mobile devices like smart phones to give quick formative assessments by using Google forms, Socrative, or Nearpod

Immediate feedback and data to drive targeted instruction.
Engage in virtual fieldtrips with Google’s Connected Classrooms and Google Hangouts.

Increased global awareness for students, and increased diversity appreciation.

Create a blog for yourself as a teacher to keep your audience up to date on all the great things happening in your classroom.
Boost communication with parents, students, and the world.  

Team teach with yourself!  Create video tutorials using Quicktime or YouTube capture to post to your YouTube channel.

Additional resources for your students for remediation, repeated watching, independent learning, and access for absent students.  

Get yourself connected in a Google Community.  It is easy to search communities that are applicable to you.
Expanded knowledge and ideas always positively affect your teaching and outlook over all!  
Get your students blogging!  Use to increase student writing.  

Students who publish to a wider audience are inspired to produce higher quality work.

Read 1 of these blogs at least once a week!  Unless you already have a favorite online educational magazine or blog you can’t go wrong with these blogs!  

Your own professional excellence is something you will treasure and your students will benefit from your continued growing knowledge!

Create Playlists in your YouTube Channel on the topics you teach. Use them throughout the year as supplemental or inspirational materials for your students.

Videos allow students to learn at their own pace by being able to rewind or watch only the part they haven’t mastered yet.

Written by: Jennifer Krzystowczyk

Learning and Movement in Your Classroom

This post isn’t about being physically active or about me really, but about allowing opportunities for movement to your students.  You have kids in your room, who like me, need to be able to move in order to learn.  I remember one time I thought doing a cartwheel in my second grade class was a great idea, until my heel caught the skirt of my teacher’s skirt and ripped her pretty outfit.  

I still behave that way- just not with cartwheels.  I have urges to get up and stretch during a long meeting or get up and sway from foot to foot, while everyone else is happily sitting for hours.

Movement helps me construct ideas.  Ideas are crucial to my line of work and moving helps me think.  In retrospect, I have always been this kind of learner.  I need to move to be creative and problem solve.  I wonder if I would have been seen as hyper-active in today's classrooms?  Why is it that from third grade up we expect our kids to sit at desks all day in order to learn?  

According to, only a third of k-12 students engage in daily physical exercise.  Many studies have also proven a direct link between the part of the brain that controls cognitive processes also controls movement.  Furthermore, most neuroscientist are in agreement that cognition and exercise and connected.

Reading was an awful experience for me beginning in third grade.  And guess what?  That is when I remember that reading under tables or performing plays were no longer frequent happenings during reading class.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.  

So the next time you are insisting on a child sitting still in order to learn, think of me in yoga attempting a flying bird pose (please, because I can’t do it yet) constructing ideas, problem solving and giving thanks for my life.  

In light of many budget cuts, less PE classes, and the rise of childhood obesity, take it upon yourself to incorporate all kinds of great moving and learning activities.  Maybe its time to have a non-desk hour a day, a yoga break, a running club, or a dance break.  Check out these iPad related ideas for including movement in your room! 

GarageBand  Despite the grade level, garageband can be used to create sound tracks.  With music comes movement.  Allow students to create their music through a jam session that they record.  Then allow them time to move to their music for a creative interpretation of character, setting, or theater.

Camera  Utilizing video capturing through the camera also is a great way to get kids up and moving.  Whether the end goal is an iMovie that is used as a book trailer, or a project for main idea, video can always be tapped to force kids to get up and move.

Task Completion and Free Choice-  Set your kids up with mobile assignments that can be completed anywhere and that give them choices.  It doesn’t matter if students complete their assignments at their desk or on the floor or on a school bus.  If you set them up correctly, mobile learning is movement at its core. 

Physical Activity Apps  There are several apps out there that track physical activity and calorie intake.  Create challenges and use some competition between classes to increase health awareness in your students. 

YouTube Karaoke- There are so many great songs now on YouTube that come with lyrics.  A karaoke break might be just the thing to wake your kids up and get them moving.  Plus they are reading!  Disclaimer: check out the songs before choosing them!  Rihanna might not be ideal for the school setting.  One Direction might work better! 

QR Code Scavenger Hunts-  QR codes can be created for almost any content.  We love because it gives you options for all kinds of content, and you can customize the color.  Posting QR codes around the building is a fun way to engage your kids and get them up out of their desks.  We have teachers using QR codes in math, science, social students, and reading!  

Written by: Jennifer Krzystowczyk

Monday, December 2, 2013

iCan iPad Day

“My daughter couldn’t wait for the weekend to be over so she could go to school,” said a dad as he walked in the doors of Michelle Klamm’ s 2nd grade classroom (@klammlovesmnms) at Bellevue Elementary in Bellevue, Nebraska.

This was no ordinary day.  November 25th, 2013 was the highly anticipated “iCan iPad Day” where parents joined their child for a morning of sharing and learning together.    

Students began the morning independently working on their differentiated math problems using Splashmath, Math Bingo, and Meteor Math, while Mrs. Klamm gave parents an overview of how she has been using the iPad as a learning tool.  Then students took the lead and showed parents how they can iPad! First up, taking a photo of their guests with Photobooth. That was a hit and laughter erupted in the room! Then it was on to sharing their animal projects they created in keynote and their dinosaur vocabulary slides they are currently working on. Parents were impressed with the quality of their work and their expertise with both the topic and the Keynote app. They also showed parents their dinosaur field journals they are working on in Notability.   

The pairs adventured beyond the classroom walls and scanned QR codes to go directly to their “A Turkey With Dressing” blog posts at .   (Here is a direct link to 2nd grader  Steven’s post).  The students were very proud of their posts and beamed as their parents read their writing and gave them feedback in the form of smiles, hugs, and words of encouragement.  

Next the duos moved on to a math scavenger hunt using their iPad to uncover hidden math problems and an app called Screenchomp, which is similar to a whiteboard,  to solve their tricky double digit with regrouping problems.  Then, parents and children returned to the classroom where they co-authored a blog post about their learning adventure.  

“I think the "iCan iPad" morning went beautifully.  The students completely exceeded my expectations!,” said Klamm.  “The kids did an exceptional job and the parents were very pleased!  It was a joyful opportunity to be a part of and I can't wait to see what else we can do!”

Mrs. Klamm (left) with a parent/child duo at iCan iPad Day!

Here is a little trailer of the morning.

Written by Ann Feldmann

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Four Easy Ways to Keep Growing After Formal PD

As a district instructional technology trainer/coach in Bellevue Public Schools, I conduct a lot of professional development sessions. Our two district initiative are Google and Apple, so most of the training I do are related to these two topics.  Most recently, I have been conducting Apple Foundations Training with my colleague Jenny Krzystowczyk (@jennykbps) and the last session we conducted were on iPads in the classroom.  

It is amazing to see the tremendous growth each teacher experiences and how that growth occurs for each person in different ways.  As we embark on a learning adventure, our own growth is not only a result of what we personally do, but also what we learn and share with one another. To me, that is the essence of learning.  Each of us is unique and each of our learning experiences needs to be unique too.

Although training is over, it is really just the beginning of a new adventure of connectedness, inspiration, learning, and growth.  Here are some ways to continue professional growth by being connected with others, taking a deeper dive into learning practices, and putting ideas into action in the classroom.

Stay Connected
Many people ask our team where we get great ideas and how we keep learning. Twitter and Google Communities is the answer.  Twitter and Google Communities connects me to brilliant minds every day and I am constantly being pushed to be better, try new things, be inspired, and share!  Tapping into social networks is the best thing I ever did and the best FREE professional development I regularly receive!   Create a thread of connectivity for attendees by utilizing the collaborative tools of Google+ Communities and Twitter.  Both are powerful connectors, so take advantage of them and create a Google Community and Twitter hashtag!   Encourage everyone to check in to the community, share ideas, comment, and even join a Twitter chat.   

Connect to the World
Public Google Communities are a great way to connect your classroom to other classrooms.  From online field trips via a Google Hangout to finding classrooms to connect with.  Two great communities to join are  started by Brent Catlett (@catlett1) and Connected Classrooms at  that Google recently launched.   Connecting your students to each other and the world is also possible with a simple tool - blogging.  You can use (@kidblogdotorg) to get your classes blogging and #comments4kids on Twitter to share the blogs with the world and have other students and teachers comment on their writing.  

Take a Deeper Dive
Tap into the training materials even after the sessions are over!  Take advantage of online resources that were provided during the training.  Whether it is from an iTunes U Course, a shared Google folder, or a website hosting all the materials,  the materials are there for you. Reviewing the materials you were given can be a great way to dig deeper into new content, construct meaning, and implement new ideas into your classroom setting.  

Take Action
One of my favorite sayings is:  “If it is to be, it is up to me.”   Take what you are given, and make a difference.  For example, if you completed our training and have 1 iPad, teach with your iPad in hand and create rich learning experiences with that iPad.  We have a strand in our Google Community to share ideas in the 1 iPad classroom.  What you share may inspire others!  Continue to push yourself to be better and continue to learn and grow.  

As Adam Bellow (@adambellow) said at ISTE 13, “Do not let fear and/or fear of failure hold you back.”  Connect, inspire others, take a deeper dive into the content, and start a ripple.  Seize the opportunity as a learner and make a difference.  The main agent of change isn’t professional development or devices, it is YOU!  You are the agent of change!  

Written by Ann Feldmann

Friday, November 8, 2013

Making Math More Fun Through Design

This week one of our ipad academy teachers, @coachklein4, began his lesson by having his students watch Vihart’s Doodling in Math: Connecting Dots video.  The video is all about connecting dots to make parabolas which turn into amazing images and designs.  It is a very cool way to introduce, review, and play with the concept of parabolas and quadratic equations.  The girl in the video is obviously a teenager and has a wonderful sarcastic view of math class that is relatable to almost any teen.  The room completely fell silent as soon as the earbuds were in and their YouTube apps fired up!  Mr. Klein also had them sitting around the room on the floor so collaboration and problem solving could flow more easily

The follow-up exercise was to use the app Geogebra to create several different parabolas using quadratic equations.  Basically, his students had 45 minutes to doodle and create within this app.  Next, students captured their parabola designs with a screen-shot and brought them into Notability to add color, real life similar images from the web, and notes.  One student recreated the Under Armour Logotm with parabolas, then checked online to see how hers was similar or different to the real one.   After analyzing her design she changed it to a “chromosome”.  (See below)

We loved hearing questions like, “How do I change my equation so my parabola faces the other way?”  Frequently, students answered each others questions.  

Taking this to the next level lead us to posting their designs on their Kidblogs and sharing their blog link on some type of social media, Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, Instagram, etc.  Designs were anywhere from simplistic to intricate.  Students with the more intricate designs needed more time to complete their work, while others with simpler designs were able to move on to tackling other problems.  It was fun to see how allowing the opportunity to create really hooked some kids into using algebraic equations in a practical way.

This lesson takes at least two class periods, but I am confident that the skills they learned and practiced far out-weigh the daily time crunch teachers succumb to when trying to cover every last bit of content.  See below some of the examples of what the kids created!  Great job @coachklein4!  You are paving the way for high student engagement, interest, and achievement!  
Written by Jenny Krzystowczyk