Showing posts from 2014

The Making of My #GTAATX Video

This summer I taught Video Game Design and Crazy for Coding classes to fourth and fifth graders. As I was helping some of my Coding students create in Scratch I had the crazy idea of creating a Google Teacher Academy video game. I spent some time playing with the idea. I found some images online (that were Creative Commons licensed of course) and started to piece them together in Scratch. I hated it and decided to scratch the idea of creating a GTA game all together. 
A little known fact about me ... I LOVE Google Draw! I use it on pretty much a daily basis for a wide variety of things. To me the possibilities are nearly endless. Right before leaving for Atlanta in ISTE I even used Google Draw to create my business cards. Later in the summer I was at the CPS Googlepalooza sitting in a Google Draw session led by the very awesome Jennie Magiera, and like a ton of bricks it hit me ... why was I looking for images online when I could create my own! 
I started with making the hallway scen…

First's Firsts

This school year my school district took Microsoft Office off all of the student devices. We now have iWork as well as Libreoffice, but using either of these choices mean that a student must complete the work on the device they started on. The majority of the work that our intermediate students do is on Google Docs, but up until now all of the primary students have been using Office. Well since they no longer have that as an option primary needed to find another option. After talking with all of the first and second grade teachers we decided to try and use Google Docs in conjunction with Google Classroom to help with file management. Using Google Apps will be a little challenging for our young learners because the login is much more difficult including capital letters, which is what they usually learn the first couple weeks, not to mention the @ and the length.

I want to celebrate these teachers' willingness to take a risk and try something new. The past two weeks all of the first…

The Inagural #ICEilchat

I spend a lot of my time and energy volunteering in different roles for the Illinois Computing Educators organization. Attending the ICE Conference and volunteering for the organization has helped me to grow as a professional in so many ways it's almost too hard to separate it from everything else. One of the things that ICE has been talking about doing for awhile now is hosting a twitter chat to engage it's members. After lots of conversations and planning the ICE Professional Development team, +Mike McGowan and +Nicole Zumpano, and the ICE Communications team, +Jennifer Smith+Carrie Baughcum, and myself, along with the Executive Director of ICE, +Margaret Johnson, and +Paul Solarz finally got the ICE twitter chats ball rolling. We marketed through social media and email campaigns working hard to get the word out.

Our first #ICEilchat took place on September 25th, and the chat was centered around being a connected educator. What better way to kick off Connected Educators Mo…

EdCamp Illinois Reflection

#EdCampIL was one of the best EdCamps I have ever been to, and I'm not just saying that because I helped organize it. There were a ton of EdCamp newbies there, which was very exciting. I remember my first EdCamp I was a little scared to jump in. I didn't know very many people and I wasn't sure that I had much to contribute to the conversation. Needless to say my hesitance has been quelled, learning and sharing at EdCamps, on Social Media, on this blog, and in the world has become my heartsong. Anyway, enough about me and back to the point, all of the EdCamp newbies last weekend were not hesitant, they jumped in and asked questions. It was awesome! I loved getting to meet all of these new people. 
One of the best sessions I went to was the Collaborative Coaching session. I was overwhelmed by the number of instructional and technology coaches there were. Sometimes I think it is easy to feel like an island when you're the only coach in your building or in many cases in yo…

Stop and Smell the Successes

There has been a lot of changes in technology in our school district this school year. Heck, there have been a lot of changes in our education system period. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, actually there's a lot of positive things about changing and growing. I believe that a lot of educators are stressed over all of the changes that are happening. According to the Wall Street Journal, "Half of America’s public school teachers say they feel great stress several days a week and are so demoralized that their level of satisfaction has dropped 23 percentage points since 2008 and is at its lowest in 25 years, according to an annual survey of educators."

I live in the growth mindset of always trying to grow and better myself and those around me. I'm not sure how to live any other way, but it can be quite exhausting sometimes. When you're always looking for ways to improve it can be easy to forget or overlook all of the things that were great this time around. I…

Living in a Growth Mindset

Companies come out with new products all the time, but that doesn't mean they stop working on and developing those products. The newly released product is the best version at that time. When companies stop developing and improving on it, that is when that product begins to get outdate and lose value.
Life doesn't get better by chance, it gets better by change. No one can go back and make a new beginning but anyone can change and make a new ending.  - Jim Rohn
I believe that today I am the best version of myself. But, tomorrow, tomorrow I will work to be an even better version of myself. Never will I be a finished product, because there is always something I can improve on. That doesn't mean that I'm not happy with where I am right now in this moment. I take time on a daily basis to reflect. By reflecting I have an opportunity to celebrate my successes and the growth that I have already made, and also find things that I can do better in the future - opportunities for ne…

An Exciting Back to School Week!

As you might have read in a previous post, my school district is going 1:1 Chromebooks in third through eighth grades. The past couple weeks we rolled out the middle school Chromebooks in our C(hr)ome Explore events. This week I helped organize and distribute Chromebooks to our Carpenter third, fourth, and fifth grade studnets. I also worked with each of the third grade classrooms as this was their first time logging in to their Google accounts and touching a Chromebook. It was a very exciting week!

Googlepalooza Power-Up Event

This week I had the fortunate experience of attending and presenting at the CPS Googlepalooza event. Chicago Public Schools partnered with Google to put on what turned out to be a great event. On Monday all of the presenters were invited to the Chicago Google offices for a Power-Up event. I was super excited to get to go to the Google offices, and I loved the idea of having a special event to get the presenters "powered-up." Often times as a presenter you have little time to attend sessions and I loved getting the opportunity to learn, share, and get excited before heading off to present a couple days later.

The day started with some presentations from David Tess, James Sanders, Jen Holland, and Jennie Mageria. I was able to learn about the Learning to Code with Google Apps Scripts course that +James Eichmiller and +David Tess created as a part of their Google Certified Teacher action plan. I found it very intriguing and I hope that in the future I can attend one of their …

C(hr)ome Explore 64 Pickup

This year our school district is going 1:1 with Chromebooks! (I'm just a little excited.) There has been a lot of work put in to prepare the students, teachers, administrators, community, and our network over the past several years. And this past week all of that hard work came to fruition, we had our first two nights of Chromebook pickup for the two middle schools. We'll have another two nights this coming week for the rest of our middle schoolers to get their Chromebooks, and the elementary students will have a device on their desk when they walk in the first day of school. The pick up nights went so smoothly, I just wanted to share some of the things that made it so successful.

Over the summer the instructional technology coaches met and created a video that outlined the 1:1 for students and their families. It explained why the district chose to go 1:1, what they could expect it to look like, and what was expected of them. (Shoutout to +Caroline Schaab for pulling everythi…

My enthusiasm tank was super low, and I was in serious need of a fuel up...

I'm not going to lie to you, there was a point during this summer that I was not looking forward to going back to school. If you know me, you know that I love my profession and my job. I think there were a lot of factors that contributed to this temporary lack of enthusiasm... some of my close friends and allies on my coach team at work are moving on to new opportunities, there is a lot of change in leadership in my district and I'm unsure of what things will look like, but mostly it was that I didn't slow down at all this summer and do the things that I usually do like spend copious amounts of time with my #miniman. All of these things combined left my enthusiasm tank super low, and I was in serious need of a fuel up.

Last week I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday fueling up at the Leyden 1:1 Symposium. The conference kicked off with the awesome Leyden team sharing their story with a Star Wars twist, which I of course shared with my #miniman when I got home later that …

It's Debatable

I spent some time this afternoon with some friends from the area that had also gone to ISTE this year. We got together with the intent of sharing what we had learned while in Atlanta and reflecting on our time there. One thing that that we all said was that there really wasn't anything new and flashy for us. +Nicole Zumpano said that she was looking for some reinforcement for some ideas like Genius Hour that she had been toying with. +Charlene Chausis found that she didn't really spend a whole lot of time in sessions but spent more time volunteering at the conference. For me, like I blogged about earlier, it was all about creating and building on connections with other educators because I can learn from them throughout the year, not just the week of ISTE.

As we were discussing the different sessions that we did attend I was reminded of a conversation that I had with +Steve Dembo at the airport waiting for our flight which was delayed, just enough for us to be able to watch the…


Hi, I'm Amanda and I am not a sit-and-getter. (Hi Amanda)
I have not slowed down this summer, it has been a summer of learning. I have attended, participated, and presented at several different conferences this summer including the EngagEDnwi, ISTE2014, and EdcampHome. I have plans for a few more before the school year starts like the Leyden 1:1 Symposium, District 207 Summit, and the CPS Googlepalooza. Call me crazy, but I love learning!

As I was driving back from my most recent learning experience at SAMRi Summer Camp, a conference run by a group of classroom teachers from Downers Grove 58, I started to reflect on the morning there. I was able to attend four great sessions, and the reason they were so great was because I was able to participate in all of them. I realized that I am not good at a sit-and-get style of learning. I need to be an active participant. I need to be able to ask questions, make connections to my life and experiences, and share things that I have learned. …


Let me just start by saying I am in no way a gardener. I love flowers and think that they are beautiful, but I don't have much of a green thumb and would rather spend my time outside doing other things. But, this past September I bought a house and with a house comes gardening responsibilities. Early this spring my dad came and pulled out some very (read VERY) overgrown bushes and once they were gone my house was left looking a little bare. I planted a couple lilac bushes, a hydrangea, some bleeding hearts, and some other small bushes all of which are low maintenance.  The hydrangea was especially beautiful, if I do say so myself. In the front there was a lot of empty space so I bought some mulch to cover up the dirt, but got busy and still haven't had the chance to put all of it out. I was walking in my house the other day and saw that there was a whole bunch of other plants growing in the empty space. Those other plants are known as weeds. My beautiful garden needed to be we…

A Love Letter to ISTE

To My Dearest ISTE,

I can still remember the first time we met, it was in beautiful Denver. I came to you not really knowing what to expect, I had no idea all that you would someday give me. That first week together I tried to attend every session you offered, I sat and learned at every session I possibly could and I'm pretty sure my brain grew three sizes that week (kind of like the Grinch's heart). While I was in Denver a friend, +Daniel Rezac, introduced me to twitter which has opened up the world so much. Without you, ISTE, I may have never known the power it can hold. Sadly we parted ways after five wonderful days together, hopeful to see each other soon.

It took us a couple years to to be in the same place at the same time, but when we were together in San Diego it was magical. I got to see a different side of you. I learned that you spent your days learning and your nights celebrating. We are two peas in a pod. I had the time of my life just being there with you learni…

Reflections of a First Timer

No, this wasn’t my first ISTE rodeo, but there was something very unique about this time for me … I presented a poster session. If you would have met me ten years ago the first word that you would probably use to describe me would most likely have been shy, or it would have at least made the top ten. If you met me this week shy probably wouldn’t be on the list, actually I would think that if I called myself shy people might look at me like I was crazy. I’m not really sure what caused this change, what triggered it, when it happened, or whether it has slowly occurred over time. What I do know is that I am so happy that I have gained confidence. Anyway…
Last year at #ISTE13 in San Antonio I decided to drive (so I might actually be a little crazy) in early so that I could attend the pre-conference #HackEd event. One of the sessions that I went to was on Coaching. Having just finished my first year as an Instructional Technology Coach in Park Ridge I had a lot to share. At some point dur…

Geeking out in Summer School

This was the first week of summer school ... and oh what a week it was! I am teaching two different classes Game Design and Crazy for Code to incoming fourth and fifth graders.

For Game Design the students are using Gamestar Mechanic. They learn different elements of video game design while working through challenges that teach them about the different elements of building a video game and then they work up to building their own game. Gamestar Mechanic does all of the coding for the students so that they are just manipulating the elements of a game: space, rules, components, mechanics, and goals. It helps them to develop a story for their game and I think it would be really interesting during the school year to let them create games around literature they are reading, history they are learning, or stories they are writing. The students are loving it!

The class that I was most excited to teach was Crazy for Code. Don't get me wrong Game Design is a lot of fun, but I am really intere…

Building Relationships

Today was the last day of my second year at Carpenter Elementary School as their Instructional Technology coach. Words cannot express how much I love my job. There are, of course, rough days where things don't go right or I get bogged down in the politics of education and change. But, I believe in what I am doing and I see the impact I have had with the teachers that I work with and the students that we serve. I know though, that I could not have had any impact if it weren't for the truly great group of people that I work with and the relationships that we have built together. Without relationships you cannot have growth.

Personal relationships are the fertile soil from which all advancement, all success, all achievement in real life grows. - Ben Stein
Relationships are built on mutual respect. In the first couple months in my time at Carpenter I had to work to gain the respect of my teachers. I had to prove to them that I knew what I was talking about. In talking with them I …

Don't Let the Tool Get in the Way

There is this really great breakfast place that I take my son to sometimes. I always order the same thing, an omelet nest and an iced tea. Every single time the tea comes with a spoon in it. The spoon is a great tool! It has many uses and is even necessary to complete certain tasks such as eating soup easily. Even though the spoon is a great tool, if I don't get it out of the way it causes problems when I'm trying to drink my iced tea by hitting me in the face. It doesn't matter how great a tool is, if it's getting in the way of what you're trying to do (in this scenario, it's drinking tea) it isn't the right tool for the job. A straw, however, is the perfect tool for this task.

Technology, wether it's Chromebooks, iPads, Laptops or mobile devices, is an amazing tool that has so many uses and in many cases makes life so much easier. Technology has made things possible that were not before. Just because technology is an excellent tool for so many things…

What I learned by applying to the Google Teacher Academy

In the words of the (very wise) Rolling Stones...

"You can't always get what you want,
But if you try sometimes, well you might find,
You get what you need."
I definitely wanted to get in to the Google Teacher Academy, like I really (REALLY) wanted it. And, ok, maybe I didn't "need" to get rejected, but... it's a good song. In all seriousness, going through the application process has helped me reflect and set goals that are helping me to grow and be better. 
I am always talking to teachers about the importance of reflection. Reflection on what we have tried, reflection on the new tools and strategies we have worked on, and reflection for students. By going through the GTA application I was forced to practice what I preach. I set time aside to think about the positive changes that I am making in my learning community, to think about how I deal with difficult situations, and to realize how important it is to share and learn with a community.
Through my ref…