Saturday, March 18, 2017

2016-17 #5) Thing 12: Final Reflection

Cool Tools For School.
Year three.
I really enjoyed this PD.

My favorite Thing this year was Social Reading and Book Stuff.  I started this Thing back in January and have been actively "doing" something for it every month since!  I "sucked" another colleague into it as well and although we have yet to do anything ourselves within our own district, that does not mean we have not been active!  Far from it.  Taking the time all these months to participate in others online book chats is helping us become more comfortable participating in them as well as beginning to get a full grasp on just how much work is involved with starting and running our own.  I know that I will continue to spend time each month participating in these to learn as much as I can - not to mention the fact that I find them fun!  I've been told I'm a dork.  I'm completely Ok with that. I can really see the benefits of organizing our own in some way, either with students or teachers.  All those details I am not sure of yet.  One update to my Thing 37 post is that the @ALBookClub that I couldn't find much information about back in January when I started suddenly came to life in my Twitter feed and I joined in for their February book selection (When Breath Becomes Air, which I had not heard of before and is fantastic by the way; if you haven't read it I highly recommend it!) and have put on hold their March selection.  If anything, these online Twitter book clubs have exposed me to so many new books to read and that is what I hope to do in some way within our district!
Ive said it before and I'll say it again, but I really enjoyed this type of PD that allows me to pick and choose what I am most interested in.  I spent more and more time this year thinking about how we can bring this type of PD to more of the teachers in our district.  I think that all of our teachers could benefit from this.  I encouraged a good friend of mine to participate this year.  She is someone who isn't necessarily afraid of technology, but at the same time she has said that she is intimidated by it and finds it uncomfortable for her to do on her own.  I wanted her opinion of this type of PD and so far, she loves it!  It is incredible how much more comfortable teachers can be checking things out if given choice and time.  I repeat - I think that all our teachers could benefit from this!  I just need to figure out the way for our district and department to do it since I doubt we afford to pay for all teachers in the district to take part in your amazing PD.  I also think we might need a way to start a little smaller than what you have built - maybe a few less choices for beginners or something.   I don't have the answers yet, but my wheels are turning!
New this year was the Canvas LMS, which allowed for discussions. This was a nice addition. I must admit, I didn't always post (guilty!), but I enjoyed reading through some of the boards. I will need to make that a goal for next hear- to participate in the discussions more!
Thank you again for a great PD! 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

2016-17 #4) Thing 14: News Literacy

Well, this certainly is a hot topic right now, isn't it?!  I figured now was a good a time as any to take some time to look into this.  Partly  because of what is going on in the world, specifically right now concerning our latest section and new President, but also because our district is taking part in Safer Internet Day this year on Feb 7th.

We are in the first year of a several year digital transformation in our district and this will be one piece of that.  The Instructional Technology department is going to heavily promote this and I know that news literacy is one component of internet safety.  We are also pushing the use of the Netsmartz website, including the educator training piece, to help our teachers learn more about internet safety for our students.

It is our job as educators to help student safely navigate the internet, and once component of that is new literacy, which as I said, is quite the thing these days!  It is scary that we seem to have a new president who seems to somehow be involved with a lot of the debate around this right now.  I mean, how did CNN and the NY Times become fake news...or did they?  The president said it, so it must be true, right?  It all makes no sense to  me, so imagine how confused kids probably are!  Fake news is so easy to make appear real and social media, something kids love, is a very easy way to get it out there quickly!
For this Thing, I spent quite a bit of time reading through both the resources you had as well as some resources our district has gathered and plans to use for our upcoming Safer Internet Day.  I also happened to get an email this weekend from Listenwise (which I signed up for in a previous Thing) titled "Helping Students Spot Fake News" that had several resources as well.  I know I  already said it but I am really liking Listenwise!  They have several resources that teachers can use on the topic and in conjunction with Netsmartz and Safer Internet Day I think there is a lot to choose from for teachers to use.  I found myself getting lost (in a good way) in all of the information! Itt was good to read through a variety of articles and resources that had ideas of how to teach this valuable skill to students.
I think our district is moving in the right direction around this, but I also think we need to do more; more teachers need to be engaged in this undertaking and doing more with our students.  I think that sometimes it is easy to assume students will see a clearly fake news story and know that it is fake, but the clearly fake ones are now what worries me.  It is the false news that could be true as well as the lack truth or purposeful omissions of certain truths that worry me the most.  These are the things we need to very carefully delve into with students.  I will definitely be looking into how we as a district can get the word out to more teachers, including more resources from the sites mentioned above for them to use!

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016-17 #3) Thing 37: Social Reading and Book Stuff

I have always wanted to join a book club so the Social Reading and Book Stuff Thing caught my eye.  Once I read through all the information, I was intrigued by the idea of an online Twitter book club.  I looked into the two  you mentioned, #SharpSchu and #2jennsbookblub, and immediately went to my Overdrive app to check out the books they both have for January.  I had to waitlist all of them, so I hope I get to check them out and read them before the chats!  I waitlisted them from the NYPL as well as my local MCPL so hopefully between the two of them I will get lucky!  I am clearly late to the party on these books and Twitter book clubs; better late than never I always say!  I made sure to waitlist the future books from #2jennsbookclub as well just in case - they have a list of books through the end of the year, however some of their selections are not available through the library currently; I will count on Twitter to remind me to check back (by way of following the four people behind the chats).

This is so exciting that I  decided to look into adult Twitter Book Clubs, since the two above are for grade school.  I love reading good grade school and young adult books, but I also am always looking for good adult books to read as well!  I googled "twitter book clubs" and the 4 top results
were very promising and I was excited!  I went to twitter and checked them all out.  I followed all 4 of them and then did some reading through their previous tweets.  I was super bummed to see that it appears none of them are currently up and running! :(  If you read through their tweets, the "newest" ones are from 4/23/15 (@thebookclub), 9/27/16 (@ALBookClub), 5/8/15 (@1book140), and then @Penguinusa had recent tweets, but nothing I could find about their book club.  I then went back to Google and searched them individually to see what I could find out but it wasn't much.  The only one that had some information (and recent use of twitter) was @Penguinusa so I sent them a private message through Twitter asking if they are still doing the book club.  We'll see if I hear anything back!

This made me a little nervous so I made sure to do a little more research about the two you mentioned - to make sure they are current!  I read more about them and then again, went to Twitter and followed the people behind the clubs to read through their previous tweets.  A little stalk-ish, but hey, it was necessary!  I was very happy yo see they are current in their tweeting!  Leave it to the educators to be on top of their games, not the book companies! ;)
I really liked that #2jennsbookclub keeps a list with past Twitter chats through Storify!  How cool is that!  You can check out their list here ( and if you notice, in their charts, they have a column for archived chats!  Such a great idea and it really helped me to read through a few of them.  It also added to my every growing list of books to read - I swear, I never seem to be able to make progress because for every one book I read I am always adding at least two more; a good problem to have I suppose!
Anyway, back to the task at hand! This Thing has been very interesting and I have spent way more time than I thought!  However, after all my researching and reading, I am still not quite done yet- I need to come back and comment after I have had a chance to participate in the Twitter chats!  I added them to my calendar and am looking forward to both later this month!  Until those, I am done-ish for I just need to get to reading the January book selections!

Update, added after the fact:
Well...I am hooked!
I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the twitter chats (book club or otherwise) I have found to participate in this month.  I participated in my first book club twitter chat (#2jennsbookclub) and it was fascinating.  I also discovered #NHCSchat ( and spent an evening following this one.  This one is not a book chat, but similar in format - it is a chat for educators with a different topic each month.  There are so many possibilities!
Luckily I had read about TweetDeck from another twitter account I follow, so I settled in one night with Tweetdeck on my iPad, Twitter on my phone and a nice cup of hot tea!  I was pretty immediately hooked and started texting with a colleague telling her that we are definitely investigating how to use these live twitter chats for our work.  Her and I work to run our online learning courses for students across the district so that was one thought.  The other was for PD for teachers in the district!  We could incorporate live twitter chats into book collegial learning circles!  The night after my first twitter chat, we spent some time discussing how we could incorporate these 2 ideas into our work - either a book chat or just a general education chat.  We also did some more research into Storify because we will definitely need to archive our chats!  She is going to participate with me in a few of the future chats from #2jennsbookclub, #NHCSchat, and #SharpSchu.  We definitely need more practice participating before we can host!!
As I said, I am hooked and look forward to more research into this area of twitter book chats!  They are definitely coming soon to the RCSD!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016-17 #2) Thing 11: DIY

I love all of the lessons I have done with Cool Tools, however I am always glad that there are DIY options!  One of the first years I participated in Cool Tools I did the Thing about Twitter.  I now use twitter on a pretty regular basis - mostly as a consumer of news not so much as an active participant - but recently I have working with some colleagues to more actively use some of the program twitter accounts we created to get positive news out there about our district and specific programs.  The reason I bring this up, even though Twitter is not the topic of this post, is that I now follow quite a few people on twitter and am constantly learning from them!  I often read about things that I have every intention of investigating, but life happens and unfortunately, I sometimes don't find the time to do so.  One of the tools I read about on twitter this fall and wanted to spend more time learning about is called Listenwise.  I was very interested in learning more about Listenwise because I am a huge reader of audiobooks.  I rarely have the time to sit down and read a book, however I am able to "read" about 1-2 books a week on average by listening to them.  In addition to my past Twitter blog, I also had a blog about audiobooks - I use the app OverDrive to check out books for free from the NYPL and listen to them right from my phone!  However, I am getting off topic again!

Back to Listenwise!
I heard about Listenwise from NPR, one of the accounts I follow on Twitter.  It was founded by an NPR reporter and NPR is a partner.  It is a place teachers can go to find resources that revolve around listening to information - whether it is a podcast, an article, etc. - and then there are resources they can use to go with it to have discussions with students and to give assignments and/or quizzes to students.  When you use Listenwise to give a reading to your students, they can listen only or they can choose to listen while following along with the written text.  This helps students read text that might be too difficult for them to read on their own and learn the content of such articles or podcasts! Then they complete follow up assignments/quizzes and participate in discussions with their teacher and peers.  I think the idea of this is fantastic and really wanted to learn more about it, so I chose to use Thing 11 to do just that!
Listenwise is free, although there is a premium account which I did not investigate.  I signed up for the free account and used that to browse through what they had.  They have lessons for ELA, SS and Science and what I really liked is that there was an entire current events area; that is the area I chose to investigate today.  There were so many great topics to choose from and I got lost in there!  I didn't really get lost :) but I ended up spending much more time than I had planned to because I just kept finding interesting articles that I found myself listening to!  With each lesson, there is the audio as well as text version, which as I said is nice because students can read along as they listen if they choose to.  Then each lesson has some resources for teachers to use with their students, which makes it easier on teachers to use more immediately.  Some of the lessons had quizzes which were built in Socrative, which is another tools I have used and found to be very easy for teachers and students to use.   Overall, I was really impressed with Listenwise and I will definitely be spreading the word with my colleagues!  I can see so many applications for this to be used by classroom teachers in our district!  I have never understood why listening to stories seems to end pretty early on in grade school because I think listening is a skill people need to learn and once they do, it can help them dive into content that might be at a higher level than they are able to simply read about.  I also think that in this day and age, listening to news via videos and podcasts is much more available and prevalent, so teachers need to make sure to use those tools in their classroom to help students learn how to listen critically and analyze what they have heard!  If you haven't heard of or checked out Listenwise I highly recommend it!

2016-17 #1) Thing 8: Screen Sharing

For my first Thing for Cool Tools 2016-2017, I chose to explore more about screencasting and screen sharing.  For my role, I am often trouble shooting computer or website issues over email/phone as well as making short videos to show people how to do things.  I rely on ScreenCastify for making my videos, the snipping tool for sending screenshots, and I needed to find a tool to quickly/easily share my screen.  
I was very interested in ScreenLeap; I read about it and was intrigued by the fact that it said no downloads!  After reading more and trying it out, there actually is a download for the person sharing their screen, but not one for the person viewing a shared screen.  For me, that is fine, I can download things to my machine, but I am not sure that other teachers in the district would be allowed to do that.  I will have to investigate that with a few colleagues and see if they can download or not!  However, since I was able to, I shared my screen and had 2 people test it out for me.  It was so easy!  I just sent them the link via text message, they clicked it and immediately were viewing my screen, right on their smartphones!  Obviously for trouble shooting, viewing it on a smartphone it not ideal, but this was just a test.  You could easily send the link via email for them to click and view on their computers.  I was really impressed with how easy this tool was and I am glad to have found it - or should I say that Cool Tools found it for me!  There was no account creation for any of us- my sharing my screen or them viewing my screen and that is very nice!  Now, with that said, there are some limitations.  Without creating an account, the limit is 2 people viewing your screen and 30 minutes.  Those are not really problems for me, as in most cases when I would need to use the tool, it would be one on one with a teacher and would not even go close to 30 minutes.  Besides, the time limit would be easy to work around - if you needed it to go longer, just start another one.  If you create an account, and choose the free plan, the limit is then higher - 8 people and 1 hour.  There are then a few different levels of paid plans.  Plenty for everyone to  choose from, but the free plan is certainly perfect for what I need as a technology resource teacher!
I am really glad that I learned about this tool!  I had never heard of it before and know that I will be using it from now on!  On a side/personal note, I will also be using it to help my mom for all the times she calls  me to help with her computer!  I will download it on her machine for her, them show her how easy it is to start and give me the code I need to view her screen!  This will make helping her so much easier!!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

2015-16 #5) Thing 20: Final Reflection

I enjoyed my Cool Tools PD this year just as much this year as I did last year!  Although I think I actually liked it more because of the bonus thing, Make Connections, but I will not repeat what I wrote in that post!  I am very glad that I was able to participate again for a number of reasons, the main one being that it is obviously very convenient to be able to learn on your own tie rather than having to attend scheduled meetings.  As I am sure is the case in all school districts, we are expected to do more and more, so it can be hard to find the time to learn on your own and grow professionally when all of your time seems to go to just keeping up with what needs to be done!  The change made to Cools Tools this year where most of the lessons were posted pretty early on was very helpful in being able to complete it on my own schedule; great idea!
The second, and probably more important reason was that it gave me the chance to learn more about how to use a different blogging tool.  Last year I used Wordpress, but this year I used blogger because I wanted to learn about the Google tool.  Our district has embraced Google and we are not a GAFE school district.  This means that every person in the district has their own Google account and so our department (Instructional Technology) has been heavily involved in promoting the use of all things Google and helping teachers use all the tools to enhance not only their learning but that of the students!  Therefore it was extremely useful for me to learn about Blogger and now I am confident that I can share this tool with the teachers I work with.  Along those same lines, another thing I learned about, from reading the blogs of others, was quad blogging.  What a great idea - I have absolutely shared this with others and I hope to share with more in the future.  This is a great way to get classrooms involved with blogging.
I also used my Cools Tools time to learn more about coding and creating websites.  I have SO much more to learn, but I also know that I have come a long way in what I know now from what I knew at the beginning of this school year!  I honestly was not sure that I would like it, but I have found that I really do.  I had a conversation with a former colleague recently - I was a high school math teacher before taking this position - and I have started to realize that I do not want to go back.  I truly miss having "my own" students and classroom, but I have found that I enjoy this position more.  I guess I felt that in teaching, I wasn't really learning myself.  Sure I would take PD, and the ways you would teach were constantly changing, but once you know the subject, whether it is algebra, geometry or whatever, it doesn't really change.  However, in this position, with all of the different aspects of it, I have found myself learning almost everyday and enjoying it immensely!  I feel like I am using my brain again!
Again, same as last year, I have nothing but positive things to say about this PD opportunity and I only hope it can continue.  I wish that our district could find a way to expand this and offer the opportunity to more teachers!  Now that I am thinking about it, I wonder if our union might pay for teachers to participate!  I have to remember to talk with our district administrator to see what the possibility of that is early on next school year.
Thank you again for another great year!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

2015-16 #4) Bonus Thing: Make Connections!

When I saw this lesson added I got pretty excited and jumped all over it!  One of the things I reflected on last year, after participating in the Cool Tools for the first time, was that I wish that somewhere built into the process was a way to have more interaction with the other participants.  There were a few teachers doing it within my district, but other than conversations with them, I had no idea what anyone else was doing.  I didn’t have an answer for how that would look exactly, but it was my thought/suggestion nonetheless.  I know that I could have taken the time to find blogs of other participants, and read through them all, but to be honest, even with the best of intentions, I just never found the time to do so.  Fast forward to this year, my second year participating, and this bonus lesson!  What a great way to encourage us to find the time! 
I had to slightly alter the directions of this lesson since not all of the 3 people after me in the list had any posts other than the first blogging post, and that wasn’t something I wanted to comment on – I wanted to see more of the creative things people were learning and doing!  I wanted to read blogs that had more to read!  I also wanted to find 3 that I had something constructive to offer, rather than just post to post, so I hope this is OK!
So even though I read through about five to six of the blogs after me, the 3 that I chose to comment on were Barbara Mierlak, Cathie Morton, and Lindsey Murphy.  I read through all of their posts, but the ones I commented on are linked below.
I really enjoyed this and was very glad to have this opportunity to see what others are learning about!  I got some more ideas to investigate for myself!  One of the things I learned about was quad blogging – where you get your classroom matched up with others who are blogging so that the students get people coming to their blogs, reading and posting!  If you don’t have that, blogging tends to get very boring very quickly with students, so I think this is just fantastic and can’t wait to share with some colleagues!  We are always struggling with getting traffic onto our students’ blogs, and it often ends up being adults, so it would be great for kids to have other kids interacting with them! 
Great lesson!  Thank you!