Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fast, Free, Easy PLN: Why You Should Be on Twitter

Many people mistakenly believe that Twitter is a forum where people who have a lot of time to waste share what they had for breakfast and other equally shallow bits of information. In reality, it is so much more than that.

Twitter is perhaps the best and easiest way for teachers to expand their personal learning networks. You can search Twitter for any educational topic imaginable and you will find results you can use. Many tweets also include hashtags (the pound sign, or #, followed by a word or phrase) to categorize them. There are hundreds of hashtags related to education. Some examples are #edchat (anything about education), #elementary, #secondary, #edtech, #gtchat (gifted and talented education), #ellchat, and #spedchat. There are also many other, more specific hashtags that are sure to meet your needs.

Twitter helps you connect with educators around the country and around the world. You would never have the chance to meet many of these people in other ways, but on Twitter, you can find them, talk with them, follow their tweets, and benefit from their expertise. You can also join in and participate in weekly or monthly scheduled chats. I like #caedchat, which focuses on topics relevant to education in the state of California.

Twitter is an online resource, available when and where you need it. If you have been toying with the idea of trying something new in your classroom, you can go on Twitter, search for that topic, and come away with five new ideas in the space of five minutes. Have a question? Post a message, include an appropriate hashtag, and get input and answers right away. It is a place to get inspired, make new connections, and get new ideas.

Getting started is free and takes only a few minutes. Visit and find the area that says “New to Twitter? Sign Up.” Enter your name and email address, create a password, and you are off and running. Don’t worry about tweeting right away. Just commit to spending a few minutes a day looking for people to follow and reading their tweets.

If you would like to know more, I have shared an Evernote notebook of resources for new Twitter users. You can also find me on Twitter, where I am @CoffeeNancy. Still not convinced? Watch this video to see what Twitter can do.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

CUE Reflections Pt. 1: Linda Yollis’ Session on Blogging

The long anticipated annual CUE conference last week exceeded my expectations. There was so much I learned that I will be sharing about it and the resources I received in a brief series of posts. One of my favorite sessions was Linda Yollis’ “Blogging: Teaching Commenting Skills and Encouraging Parent Participation.”

When using a tech. tool in the classroom it is crucial to have an objective to make an impact on student learning. Through blogging Linda facilitates the building of writing skills, commenting on the web, content across the disciplines, digital citizenship, internet safety, learning beyond the classroom, and inclusivity of the community. If you visit her blog it may be hard to imagine doing it all, but Mrs. Yollis encouraged the session participants to start with one thing, her blog has grown over the years.

A few best practices:

  • Linda starts the beginning of the school year by using the blog. She posts a welcome back video published the day before school and emails it out to the class. She invites people to introduce themselves and reviews the comments with the class. 

  • Cluster map gadget you can use this for geography, but also for math. Put the number of vistors, and explained number placement. Also for math instruction, posting a word problem, then encouraging students to create a story with a word problem. 

Bonus: Linda finds her students are more concerned about perfecting their work since students can view this work from around the world. To quote another CUE speaker Rushton Hurley, "When students create for other students they want it to be good, when done for the teacher they make it good enough."

If want to learn more about how to use blogging in your classroom check out Linda’s online resources:

Check out her blog:

Blogging wiki:

Video made by Linda and her students on how to comment on the blog:
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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Embed Twitter! on your Teacher Webpage


If you are a major Tweeter, you will definitely benefit others by embedding your twitter account so that there is a live feed.  To do so, use the following directions:

-Open Twitter

-Open the page you want to link it to

-Next to following click embed this profile

-Copy widget link

-Open an article in the back end website (or on teachers page)

-Click Source

-Paste the link where you want it to show up.

And that's it!  Such a great way to get your audience access to your amazing tweets!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Challenge-Based Learning: Take Action and Make a Difference

While at CUE 2013 last week, I was overwhelmed by many of the great tech tools and the examples that many school districts were able to share on how they are using technology to enhance and engage student learning.  Yet there was one session that truly inspired me: Challenge Based Learning (CBL).  Some of you may know this style of teaching and/or may be implementing it in your classroom.  For those of you who haven’t heard of it, CBL is tying curriculum to relevant issues that students can connect with both socially and emotionally.  It is bringing real-world problems into the classroom and spurring inquiry from the students on what to do about an issue and develop problem-solving skills.  Some social issues include: poverty, AIDS, environmental issues, animal cruelty, etc.

It meets the Common Core standards in many ways, since it crosses curriculum, brings higher-level thinking and creativity, requires research, and more.  The most exciting part to me is that it not only engages students, but it causes holistic learning through academia and social awareness, which connects students to think about the world around them and the difference they can make.  This is beautiful!  As teachers, we want to not only prepare students for their future careers, but to be participating citizens in an ever-changing and connected world.


Click here to check out the main site, where you can either find other teacher’s lessons or share your own.


Oh, and if you have CBL lessons or plan to in the future, we would love to hear about it, so please share them with us!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Take Advantage of Me, Please!

As an elementary media specialist, part of my job is to help teachers bring their old lessons and projects into the 21st century by adding a technology component. Many times, teachers are hesitant to ask because they are afraid that using technology will be more difficult, create more work, and take more time. Please believe me when I tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Any new technology will have a learning curve, but the elementary media specialists are here to be your guide and help you up the slope so it isn’t so steep. You need only have the courage to ask.

For example, one of the teachers at Chaparral, Barbara Fitzner, came to me and told me she wanted to make a movie of her students to share with parents, but wasn’t sure how to do it. It turned out to be easy and the result was adorable (see below). We are already planning on how to make it even better for next year. If you have an idea of a project you would like to transform, don’t be shy! Take advantage of your media specialist and ask her to help. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Lext Talk




I came across this very cool app today for foreign language learners and English language learners, Lext Talk! It is a social network chat app designed for language exchange.  If you are a student learning Spanish you can find Spanish speakers to chat with and practice with!  You simply search the map for users with the same language interests, message them and start talking.  It even has a translation service that will help language beginners find the right words to express themselves. Right now it has English, Spanish and French available.  Check it out in the iTunes App Store by clicking on the app icon!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Aeries.Net: Why I'm Sold

Attending the Aeries conference exposed me to a ton of information, the most interesting/helpful was Aeries.Net. There are many similarities between .Net and ABI, but .Net looks cleaner (or in the trainers words "offers a more consolidated menu feature") and has more functions. Changing from ABI will be a challenge, but I believe it will be worth it. Here are a few reasons why:

-No more "Submit" button. Recording information in the gradebook and attendance happens on the fly. No longer will you have to reenter information because you forgot to click the "Submit" button.
-Right clicking (or "Control" click for Mac users). Quick access to the layers that previously required several different selections.
- The Student Profile has a lot more useful information including: state testing data, attendance summary, current programs, grad status, and gradebook summary.
-Seating Chart arrangement is much easier to use, done by dragging and dropping.
-Spreadsheet type view, now you can view all your assignments at the same time.
-You can COPY YOUR GRADEBOOK OR SOMEBODY ELSE'S. You're able to modify the gradebook to suit your needs. Easy year/semester gradebook rollover.
-You can upload files to your assignments. Instead of having to put assignments on your teacher webpage you can put them where you'll eventually post your grade.
-Extra Credit assignment feature.

NOTE: Once you start using .Net with your students you'll need to stay or risk corrupting data switching back to ABI. You can try out (and see the parent
view) by going to the demo site

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Writing Contest for Grades 3-6!

DC Comics and Capstone Publishing are hosting a "Who Is A Hero In Your Life"? contest.  Students grade 3-6  write about their real-life superhero to win a trip for four to Washington, DC!  Other prizes include a VIP tour to Warner Brothers Animation Studios for four and a $2,500 charitable contribution to the charity of choice.  This is a great way to get students writing.  For more information and to sign up  go to SuperHero Contest.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Get Your Shmoop On!!

This Wednesday we were very lucky to have a Shmoop representative visit our district.  We held a parent/student Shmoop information night on Wednesday and had a wonderful turn out! It was at least 35 families!! The students and parents were very excited about Shmoop's test prep sections!  What is Shmoop you ask? It is a digital publishing company that adds pop culture to content!  They also offer test prep for SAT, ACT and AP!  There are so many great resources in Shmoop that you really have to have a look for yourself!!

Visit Shmoop's website and Get Your Shmoop On today!!

To set up a teacher account download these directions.Welcome to Shmoop-Las Virgenes Unified School District!