Microsoft Innovative Educator

Microsoft Innovative Educator

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Conference Wrap-Up: #EdcampPAL

Last year it was Edcamp Sparkle. This year, it was like a kick-off event to the Edcamp Palmetto mini-tour. No matter the name, it was still a great time! This edcamp holds a very special place in my educational heart because it was my first time experiencing an edcamp. And now, I am hooked. This Blog Is Why you should review my first Edcamp Sparkle experience and meet me at one of the upcoming locations (Rock Hill, maybe?!). See you soon.

What is an edcamp? You may be asking yourself this question. This is a FREE, professional development event for educators. Participants in attendance determine the topics for the day. When the sessions begin, everyone in the room becomes an expert or a part of the discussion. You won't find one speaker standing in front of the room ready to go with their Google Slides presentation or Microsoft Sway. Instead, educators share best practice ideas and resources. During the day, there may be a few anchor sessions that are pre-planned presentations or a demo of a product. And the best part of all, there are FREE door prizes donated by businesses who support educators. Whether you walk away with a prize or not, everyone is a winner. There is so much to gain in addition to that: confidence as an educator, a new friend/colleague, meeting your connected educator friends, or a new idea to implement in your classroom/school.
                                                            (Seesaw Ambassadors)

Equip. Encourage. Empower. These are the main tenets (as described by organizer Jed Dearybury) of EdcampPAL, where PAL = playing and learning.

Equip-Your edcamp experience will provide you with tools, resources, and strategies to meet the needs of your students. There's nothing like coming together with like-minded educators on a Saturday morning fired up for a great day of learning and growing.

Encourage-Those same like-minded educators will push you to new limits. At an edcamp you are encouraged to learn and try new ideas. Step outside of your box and think outside of THE box. Want to learn about ozobots or 3-D printers? Speak to the representative. Want to start up a Lego Lab? Talk to Ms. Alisha Bridges from Jesse S. Bobo Elementary. Have an arts-inspired idea? Come play and explore with the team from Lily Sarah Grace (@LilySarahGraceFund).

Empower-Last, but not least. Leave feeling empowered. Empowered to accomplish your goals. Empowered to help your students achieve. Empowered to pursue your dreams. And empowered to be a better you. A better educator who changes lives. That is the power of edcamp.

But wait! It's not all about learning. Remember the "P" is for playing. Have fun with the latest craze. That's right, a GooseChase. Download the app and prepare to be silly. I must admit, I was totally distracted during this year's edcamp because the GooseChase was so much fun. And more fun things kept being added by the minute (it seemed)! But it did make people interact  more. It was great to see people collaborating to get the most people at the Step and Repeat or completing the arm wrestling challenge. And if you weren't completing a challenge, then you were snapping a picture or recording a video for someone who was. Such great fellowship.

What's Next?
When all the fun is over, be sure to say thanks to everyone who makes the event possible. The hard-working team and the generous supporters. Also, if a session sparked an idea for you, don't forget to apply for an Impact Grant. From Edcamp Palmetto, check out the team and the sponsors:

Meet The Team

Thank The Sponsors

Impact Grant


Friday, August 4, 2017

DonorsChoose: Support for Military Families

On the Fourth of July, DonorsChoose enthusiasts were tempted with an offer we couldn't refuse. Just follow @craignewmark on Twitter and receive a $10 code for DonorsChoose to support classrooms with children from military families. Sounds easy enough. Right? As an educator and member of DonorsChoose, it is always great to give back. Thank you to @craignewmark for this campaign and I look forward to more great news about your mission. This Blog Is Why getting the code was easy, finding the project to support not so much.

So, how did I solve my problem? Interested teachers were encouraged to enter a contest with simple rules: 1) "Like" the MsClassNSession Facebook blogger page 2) Comment with a link to your project. View the video below to see the winner:

I wish I could do more to support these classrooms and help them get funded. One of the ways that I have been able to get my own projects funded is by sharing, sharing, sharing. So, as an additional show of support, I am sharing all of the projects entered in the contest through my blog and social media platforms.

Project Links: 
**Fully Funded** Project: Carpeto Equipo 
**Fully Funded** Project: Hands on Learning to Start Our Day
Project: Learning Innovative Techniques In Our Reading

Best of Luck for funding your projects! #kidsdeserveit

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Conference Wrap-Up: EdChange Global 2017

Have you ever experienced an online, global slumber party? That's what it was like to participate in the EdChange Global Classrooms 24-hour PD this summer. Although, I jumped on board at the last minute, I was still able to enjoy the fun from beginning to end (of course with some naps in between). One of my favorite components of the conference was the variety of formats they offered for presenters and audience members. Presenters could decide on a Twitter chat, Voxer chat, Google Hangout video, or Periscope video. What an awesome concept! This Blog Is Why PD in your PJ's has taken over my summer conference tour and I am loving it.

Stop #1
After the opening ceremony, participants created Google slides to introduce themselves to the learning community. I enjoyed using the presentation to see who would be joining in and to build my PLN. Here is a sneak peek at MY slide:

Stop #2
Next, I made my way over to Periscope to hang out with Jacqueline Rose (@JRose_Edu). I was amazed at how poised and focused her presentation/share was as she stood outside of her sister's birthday party! She gave some compelling examples about how to incorporate Snapchat in the classroom or for building your PLN.
Snapchat: Your Next PLN

Stop #3
My favorite session of the event was the Twitter chat with Kathi Kersznowski (@kerszi). As a new Instructional Technology Coach, I am always looking for new connections, tools, and resources. This special edition chat using the hashtag #iichat was just what I needed. I have included my list of must-haves from the chat:
Stop #4
Now even though the chat was my favorite, I had the most FUN with the "Name That Tune Challenge". As a true couch potato, this was right up my alley! I must confess that my connection kept going in and out, so I am surprised that I was able to hang in the competition as well as I did. Ha! There was one moment when I lost connection and came back just in time to guess the TV show theme before others. Felt like sliding into home base! This is definitely an icebreaker to add to my list. Try your luck with it:
Name That Tune

Well, the next morning, I was up early to host my own chat using the hashtag #MsClassNSession. It was not as successful as I would have liked, but I am grateful for those that popped in anyway. Special thanks to @cybraryman1 for stopping by to share his tech tools page.
Technology Pages
Chat Questions: "The EdTech Exchange"

If that's not enough, during my live session, I had trouble logging in! I eventually made it and tried my best to make up for lost time. I didn't want that setback to derail my energy and enthusiasm for my session. A huge thanks to all who attended. I am especially thankful to Peggy George. As I mentioned during my online chatting, she is always a great sidekick in those sessions.

Stop #5
Tuning in with Matthew Castilleja gave me the chance to learn about Google Keep and how to use it for keeping my notes, lists, and reminders organized. There were so many surprises about what I can do with this tool. Take a look for yourself:
Google Keep Presentation via MattEduTech

Stop #6
"Leading Digital Literacy" with Katherine Goyette (@kat_goyette) taught me how I want my next online session to go. I liked the way she interacted with and included the audience for feedback, questions, and discussion during the presentation. Even though I had to check out a little early for another online session, I still gained some valuable resources. In her presentation, she addresses skills for the new workforce, digital citizenship, and reluctant teachers.
Leading Digital Literacy

Final Stop 
The last session of the conference for me was all about student blogging. This is a topic that I am passionate about and it was an opportunity for me to learn from someone else. Dianne Csoto (@MViTDiTeach) shares student blog examples and other resources for those ready to implement this tool in the classroom.
Student Blogging

There was definitely a learning curve for me. The joys of technology. In the end, I would do it all over again. I am already looking forward to next year and being a part of the EdChange Global experience.

Thank you to the conference sponsors:
Participate, Hoonuit, CCS Arizona, Flipgrid, Chromville,, Kami for Schools, Nearpod, nepris, VoiceThread, JogNog, Buncee, Classcraft, TechSmith, NutKase Accessories, EduMatch, Deb Atchison, and William Jackson

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Conference Wrap-Up: Upstate Technology Conference 2017

This summer I was fortunate enough to participate in another conference mini-tour, which included my first solo online presentation (I think) for #notatISTE. You can see my post "ISTE Unplugged" for more details.  I am very grateful that I was able to participate in the full two days of #2017utc. Last year, I made it for day 2 only after driving/riding straight from the emergency room just in time to present. Luckily, we did not have to make a pit stop at the ER this year and had a wonderful trip. Again, I am excited to be heading back to Spartanburg in late August for Edcamp Palmetto at Converse College. I hope to see you there! This Blog Is Why I can fill you in on some of my highlights from the conference, in case you missed it.

First, I want to start with some tips for those who attend the Upstate Technology Conference:
1) Use the Sched tool. I know when you log-in and begin to select sessions, it tells you that this does not guarantee your spot in the session. That's okay! Sched is about so much more than that. You can read the presenter's description to see if the session is exactly what you need. Find out what sessions have been scheduled for the day. Get an email of just the sessions you have planned out. And the best part, after the conference, you may be able to get access to to the presenter resources that you missed and heard some great things about.

2) If you are not using Social Media (in this case, Twitter) then sign up today. I think this enhances the conference experience. You can get announcements, share photos, and connect with inspiring educators. How else will you know the best lunch times to avoid the crowds? Or, why those ladies are walking around with umbrellas? Or, that Burns and Byrnes (no relation) are available at the photo booth for selfies? Social Media can be an awesome tool in education, why not try it today and be ready for Upstate 2018.

3) Use this time to connect with your awesome PLN (Professional Learning Network) of friends and bond in person. Enough said.

Okay, back to business. So what did I learn or gain from the conference? My goal was to continue building my toolkit of resources to share with teachers in my new role as Instructional Technology Coach. Did I mention that before? Oh yeah. It's official! And UTC did not disappoint. I liked the interactive components of my sessions with Dr. Monica Burns (@ClassTechTips) and Shalonda Blakeney (@sblakeney3). In these sessions, we explored: Padlet, Nearpod, SparkPost, Google Docs, Slides, and so much more. It sounds like a lot to take in with just one hour each, but the best part is you can still connect with them on Social Media if you have follow-up questions. Remember, that was Tip #2. One of my take-aways for further research is to look at Alice Keeler's (@alicekeeler) book for Google Classroom: 50 Things You Can Do with Google Classroom (List).

I also enjoyed the TAG session with Jenna Kay, Thomas McAuliff, and Bethany Whalen: 3 presenters and 3 tools in an hour. I already have my Screencastify extension added on my laptop. I learned about 4 different types of Kahoot quizzes and if you are new to Kahoot, you can just use the ones that are marked public. There is also a new Kahoot app if you want to have students review on-the-go. Finally, there was EdPuzzle. This is a great way to customize those video lessons and get an understanding of what students may be learning from the content by embedding questions. Take a look at this short video for why teachers use it in the classroom.

Ya'll, that was just  Day 1. Now, I am all about tips, tools, resources, and strategies. I gained all of that in just a few hours. So how could Day 2 be any better? I feel as though, Day 2, was tailored just for me: So you are a new tech coach? What are you going to do? Not only did I leave the conference with ideas to share, but I also walked away with some valuable information just for me. The new kid on the block. The new Tech Coach. Questions I didn't think to ask. What will the roll-out for one-to-one look like? How will I support teachers? What are possible PD (Professional Development) options? What will teachers need to know to help students? What will students need to know? I also loved being able to connect with coaches who have done it before, knowing that if I have questions, there is a support system there. Also, connecting with other new coaches as we learn the ropes together. Back to tips #2 and #3. Build your PLN. Grow together. Support each other.

Last, but not least, during my session (see the intro for more specifics about my session) I just want to acknowledge my  prize winners and the wonderful sponsors who continue to support teachers: @GoNoodle, @nearpod, and @Seesaw. A huge--THANK YOU!!

**@ = Twitter connections

Monday, July 3, 2017

GenCyber Teacher Camp 2017

Have you heard about the GenCyber experience? If not, take a look at the link below and find out if there is a camp near you. This is a prime learning opportunity for educators (or students) who want to know more about cybersecurity and careers in computer science related areas. Also, there are grant opportunities to host your own camp for students and/or teachers. This Blog Is Why I don't want to ruin it for the next cohort of teachers (Best of Luck in July), but YOU need to know what you are missing.

About GenCyber

As my time to participate in this week-long camp came closer, I began to get nervous. What do I know about Computer Science? How am I ever going to understand advanced coding and how to read or write it? I am not that familiar with ISTE Technology Standards or the Cybersecurity Principles. And math! I HATE math. Okay, hate is a strong word. I am not that fond of math. What have I gotten myself into??? Before our first day at camp, we received a secret message written in code (*see my spin-off example at the end of this post). We were also encouraged to complete the NSA Day of Cyber course. Intense! If you have students interested in a Computer Science/Technology career path, this is a great way for them to learn the requirements of various positions.

NSA Day of Cyber

So, that's what was going through my mind. What was it REALLY like? Five days of learning, collaborating, teamwork, team building, laughter, fun, aha moments, and ice cream. Of course, there is a great deal of content that is covered in those five full days with just the right amount of engagement mixed in; just the way you want to see a classroom operate. We had several guest speakers come in as well to share community resources and tell us about their first-hand experiences working in the area of Cybersecurity. Our featured guests included: Special Agents from the SC Law Enforcement Division, visitors from SC Cyber and GenCyber, local business owners for Breakout Rooms, an instructor from a local community college, members of an IT consulting firm, and an ethical hacker. I was intrigued to learn about ethical hacking and how this position fits into the business world. Each day you will learn something new and you will not be disappointed (at least not in my opinion). Team building was also an essential component of the camp. We were given a variety of scenarios and activities to incorporate key terms as well as the principles. We worked in teams, small groups, and with partners to complete these tasks. Some of my favorites were the infomercial, breakouts, and minute-to-win-it games. I am still trying to figure out how to eat a cookie off my face without using my hands! A requirement for our camp was that we had to eat lunch together and that was another opportunity for us to bond and get to know each other better. Our favorite lunch time ritual became getting our ice cream fix at the end of our lunch hour. We created some great memories during our camp experience and hopefully gained a new network of colleagues to continuously share lessons and ideas with during the year.

                                           (Voting sticks for our infomercial presentations)

Below are a few resources from the week. And I guarantee, this is just the tip of the iceberg from the resources we gained:

Even though you walk away with some amazing goodies, the best thing you will leave with is a wealth of information that you can share with students, colleagues, parents, family members all about staying safe and preparing for the future (and by the future, I mean now).

                                                         (Hot item from the camp store)

Ready to crack the code? Email your answer to for a FREE virtual Cybersecurity game.

*Secret Message: Dtz mfaj htrj xt kfw! It sty lnaj zu stb.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

ISTE Unplugged

My #notatISTE  experience just keeps getting better and better. I hesitated at signing up to share an Unplugged Session. I actually waited until the last minute and decided to take the plunge. This Blog Is Why if you missed my session, no worries, you can check it out here.

A special thanks to Blackboard Collaborate, Steve Hargadon, Peggy George, Michelle Dragalin and everyone else who made this event possible. Of course, I enjoy meeting and interacting with my audience, but I enjoyed my experience with ISTE Unplugged LIVE. The launcher for the event, Blackboard Collaborate was super easy to use. I know I had some "technical difficulties" but those were strictly user error! I liked the ability to schedule your own event with a day and time to fit your schedule. I was also able to select my time zone which is really important when you are dealing with people coming from all over the country/world. After scheduling your event, there are links for training and a practice room. Pure genius! Once again, I could use the links to access the training at my convenience and enter the training room on my own time. I liked that the practice room allowed you to set your preferences, make audio adjustments as needed and then save them. The practice room provided a simulation for the actual presenter's room, so you knew exactly what to expect. Finally, on the big day, there were helpful assistants in the room to help,as needed, and make sure that your session moved along smoothly. Again, thank you Peggy and Michelle! I hope this continues to be a part of the #notatISTE experience and I look forward to another opportunity to present.

Below you will find resources from my session and a link to view the recording:

Google Slides Presentation

ISTE Unplugged Live: Welcome to the Blogger's Cafe (All Sessions)

LiveBinder (Courtesy Peggy George)

If you get a chance to watch the recording of my session, please complete the survey. Thanks!

Monday, June 26, 2017

ISTE Ignites

Yes! I am breaking my conference wrap-up tradition with a little #NOTATISTE17 sneak peek. I was inspired and awestruck by the ISTE Ignite Sessions with Stacy Lovdahl on Periscope. Be sure to check them out if you missed it. There was a good mix of presenters from professionals to students with a variety of messages. This Blog Is Why you shouldn't be sad or upset that you didn't make it to #ISTE17, come on over to #NOTATISTE17!

This year is my second year attending/participating in #NOTATISTE. The first year there was definitely a learning curve, but I still enjoyed it. I even won a prize! This year, I feel as though I have a better handle on things. And the great thing about participating is that you can do as little or as much as you like. There are challenges, ignite presentations, even online conference sessions that you can choose to host or view. Last year I didn't get my selfies, so I am working overtime to get some this year. Fingers crossed. Come on PLN. Don't let me down!
                                      **Update: Special thanks to Darla Murinchack. You ROCK!!**

On Sunday, as I tuned in to Stacy Lovdahl's livestream (great seats!) of ISTE Ignite Session: Round One. These were some of my take-aways:

1) My favorite was Bonnie McClelland's presentation based on the childhood favorite The Gingerbread Man. Her focus was on student recipes of success using the 4 C's to cook, bake,  and stir up learning. Her kindergarten students created a class gingerbread man that suddenly disappeared overnight. They used the "magic" of technology to locate him on his journey back home. The class used tools such as Buncee, Seesaw, and Twitter during the adventure. What a great way to connect students with a real audience! Loved the selfie at the end.

2) Another stand-out presentation for me was Nathan Kraii and his plea to "Bring back the "F" Word. He wants us to "F-up" our classrooms for the sake of our kids. And you know what? I'm with him! Kraii believes that there has been a shift in schools to focus on adults and an obsession with seriousness. To counter that, we should "transform a place where imagination, passion, and fun intersect and curriculum can come alive." How do we bring the fun back to schools? If you are ready to "F-up" your classroom, check out and share your happiness on twitter #5mins4fun.

3) Next was Kim Pollishuke speaking about BreakoutEDU. I love Breakouts, so she was speaking to my heart! The connections she made were powerful. Breakout is not about play, but deep learning. She explains that the deep learning comes from students' successes AND failures. It comes from students realizing in the process, "We haven't struggled enough" (wow, what a moment). Pollishuke shares how implementing Breakouts unlocks a variety of mindsets in students: growth, collaborative, innovator, and educator. And she leaves you with this call to action, "Ignite their natural drive to problem solve. Use that spark, to begin shifting mindsets. Unlock the risk takers. Unlock the collaborators. Unlock the innovators and unlock the fun. Unlock the potential."

After watching, if you are not amazed by the educational excellence of the adults, then you will be blown away by the maturity of the students. And remember, they are standing on stage alone presenting to a room full of educators at THE biggest technology conference. WOW!

A few words of student advice:
-Allow your 2nd graders to talk/share/learn about code
-Find out who your students are
-Discover their passion
-Ask how we like to learn
-Put us in front of authentic audiences
-Publish our work
-Encourage us to connected learners in a connected classroom
-Let us share our voice with the world
-Let us empower other kids
-We can solve problems and create solutions
-"Don't ask me to memorize things, I can google."
-Ask yourself: "How are you using technology to make a real difference in people's lives?"

Throughout these 5 minute talks, the overarching message is: As you go through this conference, the challenge for you is to take what you learn back to your classroom. Your students deserve it and they are ready and waiting.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Conference Wrap-up: SC Midlands Summit

This week was my first time visiting the Richland Two Institute of Innovation (R2i2). One word can describe that experience: Wow! I love the idea of combining a student-friendly/community-friendly environment with the administrative (district level) office spaces. A great way to build community. I was there attending my very first SC Midlands Summit. Although, I was not a presenter this year, I look forward to the opportunity in the future. This Blog Is Why you should add the SC Midlands Summit to your list of must-attend conferences, I know I am!

My hat's off to the awesome presenters of this conference. They truly made their sessions interactive and I came away with many great ideas that I am ready to implement for the 2017-2018 school year. The kick-off event to the conference was a keynote by Matthew Luhn (@MatthewLuhn). He is a writer known for some of your favorite children's movies (Toy Story, Cars, Finding Nemo---just to name a few).  His presentation focused on the power of story. He states that story is 22 times more memorable than facts alone. In order to be meaningful, stories should also have impact and be personal as well. Luhn also shared what makes a good story. These key elements include: The Hook (8 seconds), a promise of change, connection, authenticity, and structure. What is structure? The Basics: beginning, middle, and end. Sounds simple, right? Finally, he shared "The Story Spine" which are sentence stems to help give your story that flow, if you are struggling with putting your thoughts together coherently. The life story that Luhn shared was definitely made for Disney. I hope you get a chance to hear him speak some day and learn his story.
More About Matthew Luhn

My favorite session of this two-day event was "GoNoodle 102: What's New" with GoNoodle Ambassador, Jessica Lopez (@SeaTurtlesCD4). One of the reasons that I loved this session, was because I THOUGHT I knew GoNoodle, but she introduced me to a whole new world. I wish I had known! I feel like I have been cheating my students. This session was the perfect combination of free swag, movement/dancing, selfies, and tons of valuable information. If you want students who are awesome, engaged, and ready to learn, try these short movement videos. You can find getting-to-know-you activities, exercise (Zumba), mindfulness videos, and academic minilessons. The Plus option expands your access to resources and features. You can get a one-month free trial before making a financial commitment or use the free version. As you try something new in GoNoodle and love it, share with them on social media using the hashtag #betterwithgonoodle. Great videos shared on Twitter if you follow @SCMSummit.
Free GoNoodle Printables

The staff from Jesse S. Bobo Elementary in Spartanburg was another favorite for me. I was inspired by the work of Ms. Alisha Bridges from an Edcamp that I attended. She shared some phenomenal Lego resources with me and I wrote an Impact Grant to get started with using LEGO's WeDo 2.0 kit. Now, I want my own LEGO Learning Lab! I enjoyed hearing from the teachers about how they incorporate the use of LEGOs into the curriculum starting from Pre-K classes. The team offered some helpful tips including management in the classroom, where to get additional resources, how to get started and lessons for elementary students. Again, more freebies and a fun activity creating a storyboard featuring a fairy tale/nursery rhyme. Can you guess mine?

Some other conference highlights: 
1) I love hearing from Nick LaFave! He always shares a variety of great tech tips. I will be checking out Screencast-O-Matic and you should join Nick's website (link below).
Nick's Picks

2) If you are attending the Upstate Technology Conference (#2017utc), stop in to see Shalonda Blakeney (@sblakeney3). She shares great resources for using @Seesaw in the classroom. Her sessions are interactive, so you can practice while you learn. Don't forget to bring your device!

3) If you are planning an EdTech event, "It's as Easy as 1-2-3"! I enjoyed the un-conference set-up for this session. The discussion was engaging and informative. As we are preparing for Edcamp Palmetto, I will use the tips, tricks, and resources shared in this presentation.  A special thank you to Irene Bal and Jennifer Thornsberry!
Edcamp Palmetto

4) I cannot forget about my best laugh of the day with Dr. Lee Green (@itsleegreen). Not only did I learn about Google's Explore Button and Add-ons, but I learned the new terminology "chompey-chompey's" (insert laughing emoji). Dr. Green shared some easy ways to make your research look professional and thorough in a matter of minutes. When I begin work on my doctorate, I am using these time-saving resources. In the meantime, can't wait to explore Autocrat, Flubaroo, Doctopus, and Orange Slice. It's a whole new Google language!

5) Another gem from the conference was the Digital Citizenship session presented by Janelle McLaughlin (@Ms_Mac4). I personally learned the most in this session. There is a lot of talk about digital citizenship and cyber security, but I must be honest that I have not put enough emphasis/focus on them. That changes now. I am more aware of my responsibility than I have ever been and I have the resources to make more informed decisions. My final share from the conference and call to action for you all: Pledge today to be better digital citizens. Our students/children are depending on us.

                                    (Courtesy: Creative Commons & @misskyritsis-Eleni Kyritsis)
**@ = Twitter connections

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Time is Now

Summertime! Many of you may be gearing up for vacations, camps, or professional learning opportunities. Whatever you decide to do with your time, don't forget to relax and enjoy. It has been a while since my last blog. You know that is always the case in my busy season(s). But, not to worry, I still have plenty to share. It also gives me something to look forward to with my summer blogging series. This summer, I am looking forward to sharing some amazing experiences with you. This Blog Is Why my advice is to bookmark this one for future references for some money-saving resources.

                    (I borrowed this from the MIE Facebook group. Hope you don't mind!)

Graduation season is here as well. If you know anyone in college or planning to go to college, please share this post with them. I am highlighting the work of Melinda Mihlbauer. You can find her on Facebook. I discovered her in my PLN as a guidance counselor in my state who has a resource of scholarships. I know the importance of harnessing those untapped resources to help with funding education and she has compiled those into a book. Please support her and she is also available to host events. This particular book is designed for SC high school students (Website link below).
Paces Scholarship Academy

Ms. Milbauer shares the following stats from last year:

Shocked? In the future, let's make sure there is NO Money Left Behind! As I mentioned before, I hope you will save or bookmark this post. Be ready to search and apply for the many scholarships available to support students.

The Scholarship List: (April 30th deadline) (Essay Scholarship) (Essay Contest) (30 scholarships annually) (Tennis Scholarship) (SC Nursing Scholarship) (Engineering) (SC Engineering Scholarship) (May 1st deadline) (148 Scholarship opportunities) (UNCF scholarships) (Congressional Black Caucus Scholarships) (Scholarship and free Dell laptop) (Denny's; September deadline) (Jane Austen Essay Contest) (Breast Cancer Awareness) (Military Dependents and Spouses) (Taco Bell Scholarship) (March 1 deadline) (Black Engineers Scholarship) (Grades 3-5; Poetry Contest)

Do you know of any others? Please share and add to the list.
Bonus Link: (Thanks to my classmate for sharing!)
Bonus Link: Scholarships for African-American Students
Bonus Link: IP Video Contest 2017

Is Your Child in this Video?

This video may cause some controversial conversations. But, the more important point is that it should spark some conversations. The focus is on the importance of Summer Learning and how it can help address achievement gaps. This Blog Is Why I hope you are making plans to extend a child's learning. Let's help them all to be successful.

Need some ideas? Check out my blog post from last year:

Sunday, April 16, 2017

MsClassNSession Exclusive

I have an exciting opportunity to present and deliver a keynote address during the Ignite Cocktail Hour at the Tomorrow's Classrooms Today Conference in New Jersey (Rider University) on May 20th.
I am also h
onored that my presentation has been designated as Future Ready by the Alliance for Excellent Education in Washington, DC.
Finally, you can join me there and receive $10 off when you register with the code: FutureReady (deadline: April 22nd). 

Register Now (Click Here)

Support MsClassNSession (Click Here)

Interested in sharing your story? Click the link below:
Share Your Story

Friday, April 14, 2017

Dear Microsoft

s that time of year again. Conference Time. And I love it! In the past, I have incorporated Sway as a presentation tool in my sessions. This time, my focus was dedicated solely to Sway. I hope that my audience walked away with some useful information, because I know I did. This Blog Is Why I am sharing feedback from: Digital Storytelling with Sway.

First, a Recap ICYMI (in case you missed it):
My goal for any session that I present is to find out what my audience needs and provide it. This one mainly focused on beginner level skills. You can take a look at the Sway presentation used (adapted from a PowerPoint) and get a general overview.

TLC Session: Digital Storytelling with Sway (Click Here)

We focused on the following:
*features of Sway
*uploading a document
*uploading a PowerPoint
*Voice/Audio feature
*Image sharing
*Video sharing
*Search options
*Microsoft Forms as an assessment tool

When the opportunity to host a session for Winthrop University's Teaching and Learning Center presented itself, I was excited for the opportunity.  In my recent session titled, "Digital Storytelling with Sway" one of the positive points for me was the level of engagement, sharing, collaboration, and thoughtful conversation during the session. I would even venture to say, these were some of the best participants I have experienced (overall). Professional Development should be a time for sharing and thoughtful conversation. I believe we mastered that. I hope to hear more in the future about some of the ways these college personnel use Sway professionally to connect with students and other colleagues.

Feedback from the session:
*One hub that houses search options. You can find images, videos, etc to add without leaving your work space (Sway).
*Ease of use-You can create a professional presentation in a short amount of time.
*Possibilities-Participants shared how they can incorporate Sway in the classroom for students to use, creating an interactive syllabus, etc.
*Student/User-friendly-You are able to easily manipulate items without losing your work. Risk-taking!
*Participants like the "Start from a Topic" feature because it gives a good outline/suggestions

*How is Sway different from some other tools that are available to educators (ex. Office Mix, Adobe Spark, etc.)?
*How secure is the information that is in Sway? For example, if a project includes sensitive or confidential research, who would have access to that information?
*As Sway is changing, will there be an option that analytical data will be provided. For example, being able to see how long a viewer watched a video and/or embedded quizzes with scores.
*Is there a way to export your Sway as a PowerPoint, PDF file, or other option?

What's Next:
In May, I will be at the Tomorrow's Classrooms Today Conference at Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ. I hope you will join me there! For a limited time, get $10 off registration by using the code FutureReady. This code is valid through April 22, 2017.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Yeah, THAT Edcamp!

Another awesome Edcamp experience and job well done to the team at Edcamp Greenville: Kelli Coons, Austin Greene, Hamilton Parks, Sarah Liebenrood, Victoria Salvat, and Fran Rogers. It was definitely worth the drive, worth getting up extra early on a Saturday, and worth missing out on (some, not all) my #satchat ritual. I am looking forward to pitching in to bring an Edcamp to MY area. Hey, my Rock Hill area peeps! This Blog Is Why you need to be a part of the Edcamp Palmetto experience.

**For exclusives and a sneak peek into the conference, go to Twitter: #yeahTHATedcamp **

Photo credit: Kelly Hines @kellyhines

Positive Energy, Engaging Conversations, Free Food, Prizes, Freebies, Meet Ups, Music and Free Food. Yes, I said Free Food twice because it was just that good!! There are so many great things that I could share from the event. When I got out of the car, I could hear the music and laughing. It came outside, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, "Girl, come on in". And you know I am not a morning person!! Just being honest. Check out the planning board below. As ideas for the conference were coming together, the DJ set the tone for the conference by getting us out of our seats to "Cupid Shuffle" and "Wobble" into the day.
Photo credit: Lachelle Brown @LachelleBrown80

There were a variety of sessions to participate in and a few of my favorite topics from the day included: flexible seating, Twitter for Educators, Engaging Activities, Guided Math, and DonorsChoose. I also enjoy meeting my Twitter PLN in person and I hope to see you all at #2017utc. The ideas that you get from other educators can inspire you to try something that you may not have done otherwise.The classroom below has a variety of flexible seating options and we learned the logistics of how this teacher makes it work for her fifth graders. 

Photo credit: Hamilton Parks @IC_at_AJ

The conference also sponsored four anchor sessions that ran throughout the day. These were hosted by: LilySarahGraceFund @LSGFund, Discovery Education, Lego Education, and Breakout EDU. This was my first breakout experience and I was not the genius behind our group's success, but we had the fastest time of the day...10 minutes. Can you beat that?

Photo credit: Matt Johnson @EduCaptAmerica

A special thanks to all of the vendors, companies, and restaurants that support teachers and make these learning experiences possible. My prize for the day came from the Peace Center and I cannot wait to share with my students. Shhhhh!!
Lunch provided by: McDonald's, Papa Johns, Firehouse Subs, and Arizona's

Call to Action:
1) After you read the FREE book you received, Every Child A Super Reader, share out on Twitter using the hashtag #BookCampPD.

2) If you are in the Rock Hill, Columbia, Charleston, and Greenville (SC) areas, click the link below to be a part of the planning committee for an Edcamp near you. Deadline: April 30th
Edcamp Palmetto Volunteer

3) If you attended Edcamp Greenville, don't forget to apply for an Impact Grant. Were you inspired by a session or presenter? Here's your chance to bring that experience to your school or students. Deadline: March 31st
Impact Grant Application

A huge shout-out to my other half who gave up a Saturday just for me. <3 <3 <3

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Building Relationships: Practical Ideas to Implement in the Classroom

It all goes back to relationships!

Relationships are the essential element in our schools. The old adage, “Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” is true especially in today’s society when kids are used to so much choice in their world. Also, in today’s busy world, it’s important for teachers and school staff to make positive connections with students. We must be intentional and taking time with these relationships must be purposeful.

Members of the Compelled Tribe have teamed up to share practical ways for educators to build relationships with students. As connected educators we also embrace the notion that it is the power of the team that drives much of what we do. How do you build relationships with those that you serve? See the list below for ideas to add to what you may be already doing in the buildings and districts in which you work.

  1. Greet students at the door. Smile and call them by name. Tell them you are glad to see them.
  2. Ask your students to share three things about themselves. Let them choose what they share. Keep them on index cards to help make connections throughout the year.
  3. Know your students families. As important as it is to know the students, make the connection to home. Great relationships with your kids starts where they kick off their day. As the year continues and both the good and bad arise, having that connection will be crucial to getting the results you are seeking.
  4. Journal writing is an activity to get to know your students well and give students a voice in the classroom.
  5. Make positive phone calls home especially within the first two weeks of the school year.
  6. Genius Hour/Passion Projects really give teachers an opportunity to learn about student passions.
  7. Have kids make something that represents them out of Play-dough and share.
  8. In the first couple of days of school, learn the first name of every student in your first class of the day, and something personal and unique about them that has nothing to do with your first class of the day.
  9. Be vulnerable!  Let your guard down and show your students that you are a learner, you make mistakes, and persevere.  They will see you as a person, opening the door for a relationship built on trust. Share stories about yourself as a learner or challenges you’ve faced when you were there age and help them see what it took to overcome it. It’s easy to forget how much a simple connection can make the difference.
  10. Eat together.  Have breakfast with a small group of kids or join them at the lunch table.  Gathering around meal time provides an informal way to have conversations and get to know your students.
  11. Hold Monday morning meetings (We call them “Weekend News Updates”).  Ask each student to share about their weekend - good or bad.  Ask questions.  Be sure to share about your weekend too!  Occasionally bring in breakfast or make hot chocolate.
  12. Laugh with them. Frequently. Show them that school, and your class, is just not about learning stuff. It is about sharing an experience. Tell them you missed them if they were out.
  13. Keep in touch with past students.  Show past students that you do not have a 1 year contract with them.  The ongoing relationship will also model to your current students the value of a positive classroom community.
  14. At the elementary level -- hold morning meeting everyday as a class and stick to the routine of greeting, sharing, team building activity, and morning message.  This is a sacred time to build and maintain a culture of risk tasking and building relationships.
  15. Send positive postcards home to every child. Have them address it on the first day of the quarter, keep them and challenge yourself to find at least one thing each quarter to celebrate about your students, let them and their parents know.
  16. Find their interests and what motivates them! Sometimes it may take a bit to break down barriers and build trust, but through being genuine and authentic with them this will happen in no time.
  17. Make personal phone calls to parents. Find one good thing to say about the children in your class.  It can be how they contributed to a class discussion or how well mannered they are in class or in the halls. For older students it can be how diligent a student is at learning challenging content.
  18. Share something about yourself that they will find relevant or interesting to extend your relationships with students.
  19. Tell a story from a time you were their age. This approach allows students to see teachers as they once were and make connections easier to establish and maintain.
  20. Create a unique handshake or symbol for each of your students.  Use it when you greet them at the door or say goodbye.
  21. Eat lunch with a group of kids throughout the week. They will enjoy a time dedicated just to them. (And you will enjoy a peaceful lunch!)
  22. As a school, hold monthly celebrations to recognize students and educators their accomplishments.
  23. Take pictures with students. Print. Write a special note on the back to the student.
  24. At the end of a term or year, write a thank you to students telling them what you have learned from them. Be specific and honest - authenticity goes a long way. Try to make the note handwritten if possible, but email works well too.
  25. Each day write two students a personal  note about something that you have noticed about them.  Go into some detail and be specific. Keep track of who you reach out to over the year and try and reach as many students as you can. The time you spend doing this will deepen connections and pay off 10 fold.
  26. Have dance parties! It is so fun to let loose and get down with students. Students love seeing you have fun with them, and the saying goes, “The class that dances together, stays together”.
  27. Play with students at recess or during a free time. Climb the monkey bars, play kickball, or tag. Students will never forget you connecting with them on the playground.
  28. Hang out in the hall to give high fives or to have quick conversations with students. Relationship-building can be squeezed into any time of the day.
  29. Notice students having a bad day. Ask questions without prying. Show that you care. Follow up the next day, week, etc.
  30. When a student is having a rough day, ask if he/she has eaten. We are all more unreasonable when we are hungry. Keep a supply of snacks on hand (ex: breakfast bars, crackers, etc).
  31. Go see students at their events: sports, theater, dance, volunteering. Meet parents and families.
  32. When a student stops to say “Hello” and has a friend in tow, introduce yourself and be sure that the guest feels important.
  33. Stop class from time to time with a comment such as, “Hey, everyone, Katie just asked me a great question. I think you’ll all benefit from this. Katie, could you repeat that for everyone?”
  34. Sing “Happy Birthday” to students; send birthday emails (I use “Boomerang” to schedule my birthday emails each month).
  35. Say “I missed you yesterday” when a student has been absent. Be sincere.
  36. We have to make time to grow relationships with our students. This time can not always be in a planner or a calendar. Sometimes, this simply means just being there for your students.
  37. Mail them a postcard for their birthday. They are always amazed to receive personal mail!
  38. In a leadership position, learn as many names as you can. Greet students by their name as often as you are able.
  39. Music! Bond with your students over music. Play soft classical music while they are working. Incorporate music/songs into special events or lessons.
  40. Classroom: Start a compliment jar. Share comments at the end of class or randomly throughout the day. School: Do shout-outs during morning (or afternoon) announcements/news show.
  41. Smile and make eye contact.  “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”.  Something as simple as a greeting in the hall with smile and eye contact conveys both warmth & safety.  Try it tomorrow.  
  42. First day of math class have them choose 10 numbers that are significant to them (3 for number of cats, 1 for brothers, 20 for number of hours they work, etc.).  Everyone shares out.  You will learn lots about all your students in one day.  
  43. Cut them some slack every now and then.  “What were you doing?  What should you have been doing?  Can you do that for me next time?”  We all make mistakes.  
  44. Hold class celebrations and have students develop unique cheers for various accomplishments...these can be anything from a sports team victory, to being selected for something, to earning a grade, and they need not be school related.
  45. Allen Mendler’s 2x10 strategy for challenging students. Spend 2 minutes per day for 10 consecutive days talking to a student about something not academic.
  46. Share your own goals, successes/failures. Don’t be a mystery to your students.
  47. After morning announcements have students participate in a daily discussion question.  Have a student read the question and set a timer for two and a half minutes.  Each person turns to a partner and answers the question then volunteers share with the whole class.  Each question, in some way, will help you get to know your students.
  48. Halfway through the year, have your parents and students fill out a feedback form.  In my classroom, these forms look different.  Allow them to evaluate you so you can keep what works and change things that aren’t working.
  49. In your summer introduction letter, include a letter asking parents to write about their children in 1,000,000 words or less.  Keep the assignment voluntary and open so they tell you what is most important to them.
  50. Don’t be too busy to truly listen.  Listen to understand, not to respond.  Are you starting a lesson when a student interrupts and tells you they are moving?  Take the minute to hear them out.  That time will mean more to the student than the first minute of the lesson ever will.
  51. When students get stuck in class, teach the other students to cheer them on.  We do a simple, “Come on, [Name], you can do it,” followed by three seconds of clapping.
  52. Teach students call and responses to uplift each other.  When a student responds with something profound and someone loves it, that student gets to start the cheer.
  53. When you check in with groups to give them feedback or see how it’s going, make sure you are seeing them eye-to-eye.  If they’re sitting, don’t stand.  Pull up a chair next to them.  If they’re sitting on the floor, sit down on the floor next to them to avoid standing over them.
  54. Give honest feedback even when it may not be positive.  Your students will appreciate that you expect more out of them than they’re showing.
  55. Create a “You Matter” wall.  Take fun pictures of each of your students.  Print each photo and put each student’s photo in an 8x10 frame.  Hang them all on your wall under a “You Matter” heading.  At the end of the year, send the photos home with students.
  56. Tell them what was hard for you when you went through school and how you worked to overcome the challenges.  It shows they aren’t the only ones who struggle.
  57. Defend your students in front of other people.
  58. Take risks so students feel comfortable doing the same.  Don’t ask them to do anything you wouldn’t do.
  59. Create something that is unique to your class.  For us, it’s a house competition.  It’s something that connects my past students and current students.  It’s also a family bond that only the students who have been in my class understand.
  60. Apologize when you make a mistake.
  61. Cook together and then you can eat family style in the classroom. Some fun and easy crockpot meals: applesauce, vegetable soup, chicken and dumplings. Then, make cupcakes for dessert!
  62. Every so often, take the pulse of your building according to students. Convene a volunteer roundtable with student reps from various groups (athletes, scholars, quiet, loud) and ask them for critical feedback about topics you are working on. Some ideas I’ve seen discussed in this format include schoolwide incentives (assemblies, sledding event, etc.), dress code, and discussing recess options for winter.
  63. During your informal walk throughs, saddle up right next to students and ask them the purpose of the lesson they are involved in. Why do you think the teacher is asking you to work on this? You’ll be more than surprised with the honest feedback.
  64. Bring board games back! Add a few games like Checkers, Uno or Chess to your lunch table options. See if any students are willing to play a game or two with you and others.
  65. Use sidewalk chalk to decorate the entry of your building with positive messages to students. Have teachers help you write and draw the notes!
  66. Leave nice notes on post-its for students on the outside of their lockers. Recruit other students to help spread the kindness throughout many lockers!
  67. Forgive them when they make mistakes. Remind them that mistakes are opportunities for learning. Don’t hold grudges against misbehavior and don’t allow other adults to hold them either.
  68. Make time for dismissal. Tell them you can’t wait to see them tomorrow and share high fives on the way out!
  69. Notice which students still don’t have money to pay for lunch. Help them out when you can. Treat them to a snack they don’t usually get to purchase at lunch time.
  70. Find special projects that need to be done around school and recruit the most unlikely helpers.
  71. Remind your students you and your staff were all kids once too. Have your team bring in pictures of themselves as children (at the ages you have in your school). Post them and have a contest allowing students to guess which teacher is which. Those 80s pictures are the most popular!
  72. My favorite question to ask my students or any student I come in contact with is what are you into lately? This opens communication with your students and let's them know you are interested.
  73. Allow students to do a job shadow. Give them a peek into what you do and how you make daily decisions.
  74. Host an ice cream social for students that meet certain goals.

The list will grow as our experiences and our connections grow. Feel free to reach out to any of the tribe members listed below to learn more about the power of our team and how our tribe constantly supports each other in our teaching, leading and learning.

Compelled Tribe Contributors:

Jennifer Hogan, The Compelled Educator  @Jennifer_Hogan
Jonathon Wennstrom, Spark of Learning  @jon_wennstrom
Craig Vroom, Fueling Education, @Vroom6
Allyson Apsey, Serendipity in Education, @allysonapsey
Sandy King Inspiring The Light @sandeeteach
Jacie Maslyk    @DrJacieMaslyk
Jodie Pierpoint  Journey In Learning @jodiepierpoint  
Jim Cordery   Mr. Cordery’s Blog  @jcordery
Allie Bond   The Positive Teacher @Abond013
Angie Murphy ConnectED to Learning @RoyalMurph_RRMS
Karen Wood @karenwoodedu
Lindsey Bohler @Lindsey_Bohler
Debbie Campbell The Curious Educator @DebraLCamp
Michael McDonough M Squared at the Microphone @m_squaredBHS
Barbara Kurtz @BJKURTZ
Stephanie Jacobs @MsClassNSession
Michael Todd Clinton Motivated teacher blog  @MotivatedThe
Cathy Jacobs @cathyjacobs5
Reed Gillespie Mr. Gillespie’s Office @rggillespie
Molly Babcock Sweet Tea and a Live Oak Tree @MollyBabcock
Lisa Meade Reflections @LisaMeade23