#ISTE2014 & My PLN

#ISTE2014 was an amazing experience for me as a professional.  I presented an ISTELive session with my partner in crime, Kate Baker @ktbkr4.  Kate and I developed and wrote Classroom Gymnastics for EdmodoCon2013 and have received great feedback from it every time we give it.  However, presenting it at ISTE was the icing on the cake. Yes, having a sold out room, more than 200 people watching live online and having an audience outside the door was all #EDUAWESOME.  But the most thrilling part for me is seeing other educators excited about new ideas and that fact that I can provide it for them.  It’s all about SHARING.  If you attended ISTE or purchased an ISTELive subscription our session was archived so you can see it.

Personally, ISTE2014 was great too.  I got to meet and hang out with with my PLN.  I love sharing all of my experiences with my husband Kyle @kcalderw but it is really because of him that my PLN has truly grown.  My free time was either spent in the Edmodo booth or hanging with my #njed friends or other Edmodo Ambasadors/Certified Trainers.  These are all people who are doing great things in education and are worth following:

Kyle Calderwood

Kate Baker

Billy Krakower

Bruce Arcurio

Paula Naugle

Nate Stevens

Before we left Atlanta, my husband organized a small stragglers breakfast for those of us who were waiting to go home.  Here I got to meet Alice Keeler, Delaine Johnson, Susan  Bearden and Kelly Kermode.  So happy these people are now part of my PLN.


All of our conversations revolved around what we are doing for students and how it benefits them.  And some of mishaps and shenanigans in-between.  As teachers we need to keep growing our PLN so we teachers keep growing.



My Blended Classroom

Image from Wikipedia

One of the buzz words in education right now is “blended learning” or “blended classroom”.  I bet you’re asking yourself, what is it and why should I bother?

Actually, blended teaching and learning is what most teachers who use technology in their classroom are currently doing.  Blended learning is when a teacher combines traditional face to face instruction, with teaching with technology in the classroom and combining completely online components.  And that’s me!  Or at least it is now.  I do not consider myself a “flipper” even though at times I may use aspects of flipping.  I see what I do in my classroom as face to face instruction that is enhanced by the use of technology.

The benefit of blended teaching/learning is that it helps students learn how to take responsibility for their learning and their education.  When my new 7th graders walk into my classroom in September they are still elementary school students.  They want their hands held and to be given the correct answers.  They don’t have an appreciation for the process of learning. However, I have found that by using a blended learning model I can scaffold their learning and teach them to become more independent throughout the year.  And not just independent so that they will complete an assignment but independent in their thinking and producing quality work.  I think this is because we are improving their self confidence as student with the types of assignments we created and with the AID of technology.  Not only does technology speak to them it provides a support system that is slightly forgiving but always there.

There are definitely draw backs to teaching with technology, especially when the school internet provider has issues.  But I think the positives far outweigh the negatives.  Just my two-cents.

A Day of Constructivism

I was inspired to change my lesson plans one day after participating in a presentation by some of my fellow #teamMAIT(s) from grad school on constructivism learning/teaching.

Constructivism is defined as learning creating or uncovering the meaning of the lesson on their own.  The way I define it is the learn will be able to figure out the objective of the lesson after completing the assigned activities.  The learn is to construct the meaning through any means.  Check out this digital summary Powtoon of constructivism created by my classmate Heather B.

My original lesson involved me standing in the front of the room going through a power point slide by slide.  However, their lesson inspired me to change it.

As the students came in that day, they were slightly confused because I had replaced the day’s objective and plan with ???s.  My new lesson consisted of first having my students participate in “chalk talk”.  Chalk talk is a strategy that I was reminded of when I read Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart, Marc Church and Karin Morrison.  For my chalk talk I came up with 7 topics/questions that I wanted the students to brainstorm or answer and wrote them on easel paper.  I then broke my class up into 7 different groups and gave the members of each group the same color of colored pencil.  Each group was given 90 seconds per topic to write down what they knew about the topic or question.  After the chalk I facilitated a class discussion about the connections between all of the topics.

My students were to figure out the objective of the lesson, which was to understand the importance of trees to groundwater and that we were going to make a poster about it for the annual Arbor Day Contest.

YAY!! The Lightbulb went off.


Our Day in DC

Recently, my husband and I took my son on his first trip to Washington DC.  I know he’s too young to appreciate most of DC yet but even as a 2 1/2 year old he had a great time.  It is important to us as teachers and “tech geeks” to immerse him in all sorts of different science and techy things.

Our first stop on our way in was the off site part of the Air & Space Museum.  I think this was by far Gavin’s favorite part of our trip.  He got to see a full size “Skipper” (reference from the movie “Planes”) and the Shuttle Discovery.  The look on his face when he told me “Skipper” was there melted my heart.

The "Skipper"

Shuttle Discovery

The following day we visited the Air & Space Museum, Natural History Museum and American History Museum.  My husband and I are huge fans of the Air & Space Museum, which is where we ended up spending a good part of the day.  Gavin got to experience his first planetarium show – where he promptly fell asleep.

Picture 1: Gavin playing with a toy airplane at Children’s story time at the Air & Space Museum.

Picture 2: Gavin and I in front of a train at the American History Museum.

Picture 3: Gavin mesmerized by an “old fashion” steamie.  (For those of you familiar with Thomas and Friends, this engine looks like Stephen, he was in love.)

Picture 4: Vietnam helicopter.  This helicopter was flown by the father of a woman that my husband works with.  It is now part of a permanent exhibit at the American History Museum.

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thinglink logoI am trying to move more paperless in my classroom, so I am slowly trying more and different web 2.0 tools with my students. To be honest, I am afraid to push them too far, too fast.  Yes, I know it’s February but I am used to throwing many different things at my 8th graders (who I had for two years; that’s a different post for a different time). However being back in 7th grade and trying to implement different EdTech tools has been challenging especially with a group a students who do not necessarily want to use any kind of technology.

Recently, I started a unit on Cell Structure in which traditionally I would photocopy cell diagrams and have students label the organelles. Then I would have give them a chart and they would have to fill in the organelle and it’s function in/for the cell.
Well, I tried something new this time.  Yes, at first I did do a few small activities on paper but then I found a tool called ThingLink.com. ThingLink allows you to take any ordinary picture and make it interactive. It allows you to embed music, text, video, and even other pictures into the main photo. ThingLink lets you use a picture to convey any kind of information.

So, after some back end details like creating accounts and the normal tech trouble shooting I had my students use ThingLink to practice labeling an animal cell diagram. Their directions were to drop tags on the different organelles and state the name of the organelle and it’s function.  They were having a blast.  They were looking information up, leaning over to see each others, and having discussions about science while working. Once they are done I am going to have them submit the link to me on Edmodo and also put in their backpack so they can find it again easily. In the end my students have yet another tool that they can put in their digital tool box and use to help them study or better yet create media rich projects.  Which I think is going to be my next step. Little do they know that they just created their own personal study guide for a quiz that they will have in the future.

The new webquest: QR Code-quest

qr code picWhen I tell a classroom full of students that the day’s activity is a webquest; I am met with a room full of blank stares.  However, when I tell my students that we are going to do a QR Code-quest the room erupts with excitement.

So what is the difference between a webquest and a QR Code quest… pedagogically nothing.  Both are inquiry based activities where the students work with information from a website or series of websites.  The difference is in the level of engagement of my students. By using QR codes and BYOD with my students they are actively participating in the lesson and the content instead of sitting at computer passively looking at a webpage.

Other reasons I like using QR codes are:

  • They can link anything digital.
  • They are reusable (as long as your digital content is still on the web)
  • Students don’t have to type anything into an address bar (there’s noting to type wrong)
  • Once the code is scanned the content is saved in the apps history for later use

My most recent less with QR Codes is about cell organelles and their function.  I have also does lessons on: Newton’s Laws of Motion, weather & weather maps, entrance and exit slips, and link to content on Google Drive.

For more information about using QR Codes in the classroom check out these links:

My EdmodoCon Experience

I can’t believe it’s almost been a month since EdmodoCon.  I wanted to make sure that I added this post before it was to late and the school year was fully upon us.

June 14, 2013 was the most exciting day of my professional career besides the day I got my first teaching position.  This was day that Kate Baker (@KtBkr4) and I got the email that our proposal for EdmodoCon was ACCEPTED!!

EdmodoCon is a virtual conference that takes places in August and focuses on they how’s, why’s and uses of Edmodo in the classroom.  For more info check out the website.  www.edmodocon.com  Our presentation is called Classroom Gymnastics: BYOD, Flipped and Blended Learning with Edmodo.  You can watch the archives here:  www.edmodocon.com  or  http://dalesdigitalclassroom2.weebly.com/edmodocon-2013.html *

*Side note – Nira Dale has an amazing Weebly site.  You should check it out!!

So, what was this experience like for me?  As all of you teachers know we did not choose this profession to be praised and thanked for a job well done.  We chose it because we care about kids – bottom line.  The daily grid can be tough and mentally exhausting.  We carry much more home with us at night than papers to grade and lesson plans to write.  We carry the emotional highs and lows of the day and our students.  And we work hard!  I left school in June 2013 with a lack luster attitude and dreading September 2013.

However, this experience changed me.  The collective group of teachers that were chosen to be EdmodoCon presenters and the Edmodo company employees rekindled the spark that I had lost.  As a group our focus was about students and what was good students.  There was no other conversation.  These were and are passionate people who love to teach and are doing great things in their classrooms.  We talked about the amazing things everyone was doing, what worked, what didn’t work and the lessons they learned on the way.  At any given moment there were tons of ideas flying around the room.  And they were GREAT ideas.

Not only that but we were thanked a countless number of times for we do in the classroom by the Edmodo staff.  This for me, this was the most humbling part.  I couldn’t do what I do without Edmodo – they make my class possible.  So to be chosen as presenter and show the possibilities that Edmodo has and the life-line it has become for me was the highest compliment possible I could give them.

Our time in California with Edmodo reminded me how much I love my job.  And if our presentation helps just one teacher rekindle their love for teaching, I’m happy.

Apple TV Shenanigans

Apple TV Shenanigans  apple_logo

In late September or early October 2012 I was approached by my tech coordinator and asked if I would test out how an iPad/Apple TV combo would work with the new interactive projector that was just installed in my classroom.  My response “Umm, let me think about that for a minute… YES!!”  (The entire math department got interactive projectors installed in their rooms over the summer before the 2012/2013 school year.  I was only science teacher that was slated to get one along with one english teacher.  However, my projector was on back order and didn’t arrive until after the school year started.)

Our first order of business was deciding on where to install the interactive projector.  We (the tech coordinator, myself and maintenance) agreed that we would use the recommended specs that come with the projector.  It ended up being mounted towards the right hand side of my whiteboard so that it was close to my computer and within the specs.  This was not an ideal spot because all of the kids in my room didn’t have a great view of the projection but we worked it out.  My students that were at a bad angle to the projector figured out where they could move in the room when we were using it.  And did just that… we had a system, the ones who needed to move would quickly and quietly get up and go when they needed to with a hassle.

My second order of business, once the Apple TV was installed and I had the iPad I started rewriting my all of old lessons to accommodate the technology in my classroom.  I spent many hours searching for interactive websites and iPad Apps that would support what I was teaching and enhance my lessons.  My rule of thumb was that whatever I used my students should be able to use it as well.  I tried my best to structure lessons so that the students were the ones using the technology during the lesson.  I would let them come up the board and use the pens for in the interactive projector.  I would use the Apple TV to mirror what was on the iPad and pass it around while I was teaching so the students could see and test their ideas.  My students loved this!!  The technology was helping to keep them engaged and was not distracting.  What a win win situation I was in.

I was then approached my by supervisor and asked if this would be a good set up for all of our science teachers.  Again my response was “YES!!”  The entire science department was now getting interactive projectors, iPads and Apple TVs.  However, in order to get these items we had to agree to use our textbook budget – and be okay with the fact that we may never get new textbooks again. It was unanimous!!  And they were ordered.

Here are the two major problems that we ran into and the solutions that we came up with:

Problem 1: Placement of the Interactive Projector

The interactive projectors needs a flat surface in order to work properly.  In my building most classrooms have old chalkboards that are covered with a material to make them a whiteboard.  However, there was a bump in the middle where the two chalk boards meet so the projector could not be installed in the center of their front board.  My room was a little different as in I had real whiteboards installed many years ago but I had a metal piece running down the middle where the two boards met.  SOLUTION: The interactive projectors would have to be mounted to one side or the other so that the projection didn’t overlap the bump in the middle and be more centered so that all of the students had a better view.  However, by doing that we had to add cable extensions to all of the wiring. This is not recommended by the manufacturer of the projector because it could decrease the connectivity between projector and the computer.  So far this has not been an issue. Everything has worked perfectly.

Problem 2: Apple TV Drops Mirroring

Once the projectors and Apple TVs were installed if multiple teachers were using the mirroring on the Apple TV at the same time the mirroring would drop and you wouldn’t be able to reconnect.  First he turned off everyone else’s ATV and left just mine on.  Once this was done I didn’t have any problems.  I didn’t lose the mirroring and it ran smoothy.  So after lots of research by myself and our Tech Coordinator we realized that if there are several ATVs in close proximity they cross signals on the wifi and drop out.  There’s a more to it but it’s too technical for me.  SOLUTION: All of the ATVs were placed on a subnet (a different wifi than the main one for the entire building).  Each ATV is passworded so that only the classroom teacher’s iPad can connect to the ATV in their classroom.  This has eliminated the dropping of the mirroring.


There are a lot of little technical things that happened in-between but this is the overall gist of it.  Hope this is helpful for anyone who is considering this setup in their classroom.


PS – I love it!!  I think it has helped make me a better teacher because I’m rethinking how I teach and what the desired outcome is.

So Why Now?

As I look back on this past school year I wish I had kept up with this blog and chronicled everything that happened to me and my class technologically speaking.  My blog was originally started as part of a grad school assignment (as you can tell from my previous posts) and when the class was over I fully intended to stick with it, however life got busy and I forgot.

So let me re-introduce myself to you.  I am a 7th & 8th science teacher at Southern Regional Middle School in Manahawkin, NJ.  I have been teaching for 11 years and for 10 of those years I have looped with my students.  I’ll be honest: I think I am an edtech novice but I’m learning and experimenting everyday and becoming an edtech geek.  One would think that by being married to a self-admitted tech geek (@kcalderw) I would have jumped on the bandwagon a lot sooner.  I started using Edmodo with my students about 4 years ago but only on the most basic level.

Today – Edmodo serves as the “hub” for my class.  Everything that we do is on there.  I am proud say that this year I am presenting at EdmodoCon13 with my partner in crime Kate Baker (@ktbkr4) – but more on that later.

So why now?  What prompted me to want to start another blog that will be floating around the universe… my need to share what I am learning or have learned about using Edmodo, web 2.0 tools and BYOD in the classroom.

If what I have to say here helps at least one person I will be happy!