Reality Bites

November 20, 2015 — Leave a comment

Reality hits

At the beginning of the school year I wrote about my grand plans for technology and my students.  I wanted to blog regularly, tweet my classroom feats, and flip my classroom when I could.  I dreamt of STEM challenges and hands on learning, students who were ready to be excited by new things, and the resources to do it all.  Nearly 12 weeks on, reality sinks in and it’s not very pretty.

What I have learned is that teaching is far more than they teach in grad school.  There are meetings, interims, report cards, and did I mention meetings?  Don’t get me wrong, my grad school program totally prepared me for the pedagogical aspect of teaching.  And being a parent, as well as my year-long internship prepared me for dealing with the kids.  In fact, I find connecting with the kids to be the easy part.

What grad school doesn’t teach is how very long it takes to do report cards.  Local screening meetings are an hour a pop, and there are at least three meetings for every kid, and that’s just if they are in the re-evaluation process.  Imagine the process for every child just entering special ed eligibility.

What happened to my Twitter account for my classroom?  Well, do you know what you have to go through to make that a reality?  There are hoops to jump through, make sure there are no photo opt-outs, the privacy settings that have to be set.  It’s pretty harrowing and nothing at all like tweeting just for yourself.

Then there was my wish to have a class blog.  I wanted to use KidBlog, which is a brilliant platform for the classroom.  It’s kid friendly, easy to use, and offers built in protections for kids to have user names and passwords that have nothing to do with school IDs.  But if it’s not on the school system’s approved list, you can’t use it.  This makes me really sad, because this is a company that took all of the appropriate steps to make a product specifically designed for the classroom and that is safe for kids to use.  But I can’t.

I could still blog if I wanted to, but I would have to do it through my Blackboard site.  Have you ever used the blog function on Blackboard?  It’s okay…but it’s not really like a true blogging experience.  If I want to give my students authentic learning experiences, including blogging, Blackboard is not the way to go.  So for now, there is no classroom blog.

Finally, flipping my classroom is not really an option.  My school’s population is such that there are several kids without computers.  Some of them don’t even have access to the internet.  I’m not saying flipping is out of the question because I know there are teachers in a true Title I environment that do it successfully, but having kids without technology sure puts a damper on the subject.  I just have to figure out how to make flipped learning accessible to those kids who truly can’t do it at home.

I know I sound jaded already, and maybe I am to some degree.  But make no mistake.  I still love my job.  I love my kids.  I love my school.  My administration is beyond amazing.  But being in love doesn’t mean you never get frustrated.

In the 6th grade at my school, we have 25 aging, though functional, laptops for 75 students.  We also have 3 decrepit desktop computers.  Not a good ratio if you want to help kids learn about digital citizenship and 21st century skills.  And believe me, it’s not for lack of trying that we don’t have more tech at my school.  There just simply isn’t money, and I know my school system is not the only one to have this issue.  So what’s a first year teacher to do?

I’ll be exploring Donor’s Choose, grant opportunities, and any other third party funding I can get my hands on.  (It makes me really sad that I have to be the one to do this leg work, but that’s a whole separate blog post.)  Hopefully, I will be able to bring some 21st century learning tools to my classroom.   Just keep following me on Twitter, follow my hashtag (#rookieTEStiger), and let’s just see what I can do.

In the meantime, I will continue to plan lessons that engage my kids, encourage them to think in ways that they have not before, and do some STEM challenges.  I’ll continue to just be there for them, drawing on the floors and the tables, helping them learn however I can.  I’ll keep trying to bring them the best because…to borrow a line from L’Oreal…they are worth it.

Photo Credit:

This time last year I fell in love with blogging and tweeting and even started a successful guerilla social media campaign to save a wonderful education website – edshelf. I blogged to complete assignments and I blogged because I wanted to. I even posted other classwork on my blog. And then I fell off the face of WordPress and Twitter.

Why the long hiatus? Well…grad school. I was enrolled in a yearlong M.Ed. program at Marymount University. I knew the program was going to be intense. I just didn’t know how intense. You could ask me what I did last year, but I don’t know that I will even be able to tell you! The pace was so frenetic that I just put myself on autopilot and hoped for the best.

The best happened! I graduated (with honors!) and I am now going to be teaching 6th grade at a fabulous elementary school in my community. I am so excited to be part of the Terraset community that I could almost do cartwheels – if I wasn’t afraid of breaking my leg!

Now that I have graduated, become employed, and allowed myself to recover from the last year, I am finally getting back into the ether. How I have missed this world! There is so much to be gained from being active in the ed space on the World Wide Web! And there is so much to give too.

Now that I’m back I’ll be tweeting a lot under #rookieTEStiger.  It shouldn’t be surprising that I have big tech plans for my students. I plan to incorporate blogging into my lessons because writing for the electronic audience is a skill today’s students needs. I hope to have a class Twitter account to use as a platform for teaching my kids digital citizenship AND sharing our fabulous work. I’ll be flipping lessons and helping my students better navigate this electronic world to which they were born. So be on the lookout! I see big things ahead for me and my students!

(Photo credit:

Social-Studies-WordleWhat should our kids know? How should they learn it? When should they learn it? These are questions that are asked repeatedly at many school board meetings. So much so, that now we have Common Core Standards. Oh, but not every state has adopted those, and some that did are dropping them. Here in Old Dominion, we have the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs). And then, there is the National Council of the Social Studies (NCSS) with their 10 themes. Yet, with all of this guidance, the issue of how to, or even whether to, teach social studies is constantly up for discussion.

The argument of teaching social studies holistically – as an integrated approach – rather than through the individual disciplines (geography, economics, civics, history, etc.) is a regular debate in many schools. And while it is true that the teaching of social studies touches on many areas of import, such as standards, basic general educational concepts, civics and citizenship, diversity, and global interdependence (just to name a few), it is also clear that all of the individual disciplines are so interconnected it becomes difficult to tell where one subject ends and another begins. Therefore, it is imperative that we teach our children about the world through a holistic approach to social studies rather than simply visiting each discipline individually. Continue Reading…

Childish Things

August 17, 2014 — Leave a comment

booksClasses have already ramped back up and are absolutely insane in pace. I love it, but it has definitely taken me away from exploring new edu-things and writing. I had a few free moments this morning and remembered that I had bookmarked something that I really wanted to write about “at some point”. (I may never get through THAT list!)

One of the early assignments in my ED554 class this past summer was to some edu-blogs (and then report on them). You may have already read about some of my adventures in that exercise, including how hard it was to pick just one blog, how I found edshelf, and then later my journey to help save edshelf. Two of those were required posts, the other a heartfelt plea.

At any rate, during that blog research, I stumbled upon a blog called the Intrepid Teacher. Jabiz Raisdana has an engaging blog and his writing style really appeals to me. I suspect that it is in part because his philosophy on education has so many points that mirror my own, and that in that philosophy he claims himself to be an “avid reader”. Continue Reading…

Edshelf Kickstarter

I have heard about the magical power of the tweet and of social media in general, but I generally poo-pooed the idea. Sure, I have seen those pictures of kids on Facebook with their signs about being dared to see how many likes they can get for their social media project. Yes, I know some people are super connected and live their lives in the world of social media. I just never thought I would be involved in something akin to social media wildfire.

It all started with a class assignment to review some blogs. Through a blog I was reading, I found edshelf. I fell instantly and madly in love with edshelf, and immediately signed up and started making collections. (You can follow me if you like.)

So what is edshelf (besides awesome!)? If you ask Mike Lee, the co-founder of edshelf, he will tell you it is two years of blood, sweat, and tears. If you look on the edshelf website, it will tell you it is a “directory of websites, mobile apps, and desktop programs that are rated & reviewed by parents & educators, for parents & educators.” If you ask me, it is a lifeline in a sea of edtech. Continue Reading…

Frontline ImageWow…my last REQUIRED blog post.  When I first heard that I was going to have to keep a blog, I groaned internally.  The idea that I was going to have to write every week worried me.  But, in the end, I took to it like a fish does to water, probably because I am opinionated and passionate person who always seems to have a lot to say.

One problem I have is that I am not always good at following the rules.  My Twitter bio even tells you I am a renegade pre-service teacher.  So it should be no surprise that my final post doesn’t exactly follow the directions as outlined by my professor.

One of my earliest posts was about another PBS production, Digital Media* New Learners of the 21st Century.  I enjoyed this video so immensely, I actually found myself writing a SECOND post about all my thoughts unrelated to the assignment.    So naturally I was thrilled when I saw Quest 2 Learn and one of its founders featured in this new video.  For this last post I found myself once again watching the amazing PBS – specifically a FRONTLINE episode titled “Digital Nation”.  This video features Douglas Rushkoff, who I have grown to really admire over the course of ED554, as we explore many digital topics where his opinions are rendered. Continue Reading…

mobile-handKids today live in an extremely connected world and they crave the instant gratification that can come with that level of connectivity.  They think so differently than generations of children before them.  They shift gears and thoughts before any adult can even blink an eye.  And this can lead to carelessness.  They post without thinking and that could come back to haunt them later.

Lisa Nielson suggests one reason to allow smartphones because we should be educating students with the tools they will use when they get to their professional life.  The idea of allowing cell phones in class on the premise that kids will be using smartphones in real life doesn’t work for me.  It’s one thing to argue on the basis of connectivity, collaboration, access to Blackboard, etc., but to suggest that we have an obligation to help students become proficient in their smartphone use is just silly in my honest opinion. Continue Reading…

Flipped learning is awesome, especially when there are awesome tools like PowToon available.  I really loved it and could go on, but you should check out my review on

In the meantime, enjoy some math!

Going Off the Deep End

July 14, 2014 — 2 Comments

Going whole hog, go big or stay home, jump in with both feet – there are dozens of idioms to describe what I did on July 2.  I tweeted…

I have to add a little disclaimer here.  Continue Reading…

one sizeDigital native?  Digital immigrant?  Are these things even real?  Depends on who you ask.  I do think some people take to technology more quickly than others.  If they didn’t, why would marketers have coined the term early adopters?  But are these labels enough to understand the ever-evolving world of tech, and more importantly, how can they, if at all, help us understand how this rollercoaster of buttons and apps applies, or should apply to education?

Speak Up is this great initiative to gain insight into student brains by Project Tomorrow, a non-profit that is “dedicated to the empowerment of student voices in education.”   Their annual report is full of facts and figures related to when, how, why, and where kids are using, or want to be using, technology in their learning.  So how does Speak Up get into these students’ thoughts?  Wait for it…THEY ASK THEM!  Such a novel idea, really.  They outline their findings in The New Digital Learning Playbook:  Understanding the Spectrum of Students’ Activities and Aspirations. Continue Reading…