PLN/PLC Lesson

I am happy to report that my Google Hangout to discuss David’s Problem of Practice was a major success! It was a productive half hour of rich discussion about how I can support David in solving his 2nd grade math Problem of Practice (see my previous blogpost for more information).

Aside from gaining a lot of knowledge on how I can best support David, I gained knowledge in an areas I did not expect.

1.) Reach out to your PLN (Professional Learning Network) and PLC (Professional Learning Community) when you are in need. They will help you in more ways than you would expect. I was so worried to reach out to people and interrupt their schedules–but every colleague I asked to join made a point to be there (even one who was on a lunch break). Not only did they show up, but they took the time to read David’s analysis of his problem ahead of time and then provide useful resources and insight. I am so thankful to be surrounded by equally selfless and knowledgeable educators. Shout out, again, to: Debbie SchuitemaHeather VernonStefanie CairnsRachelle GalangPiotr Buniewicz, and Stephanie Raezler.


2.) Always reach back to someone who reaches out to you. I am usually pretty good at responding to colleagues when they come to me for help–but experiences like this remind me how prompt, professional and resourceful I need to be, no matter how small or large the request. Everybody needs help at one point or another–and it is our job as educators to support each other and be good models.

3.) Google Hangouts are a GREAT way to bring people from all over together to collaborate. I have participated in a couple Google Hangouts before, but with no more than 2 people! It was great to introduce my MAET buddies to my school district buddies–and then watch them collaborate with their wealth of knowledge.

It’s time for me to continue my research and put my new knowledge to work. I have a great start thanks to these fine educators. I’m looking forward to sharing with David (and all of you) the awesome things I have learned! Have a great weekend!


What’s your Problem of Practice? #PofP

One of the projects we are working on this summer through our Masters courses is revolved around a Problem of Practice one of our peers has identified. Our job is to act as a consultant to help our peer improve  a “unit”  his or her students are struggling to fully grasp an understanding of. We all began the process by first identifying and analyzing one of our Problems of Practice, and then we were buddied up with someone else in class and passed our problem of practice on! Then the technological consulting began!

Right now, it is my job to work as a technology integration consultant to identify and develop a transformed learning experience for my friend, David Mattie. I am carefully analyzing his problem and using the TPACK Framework (Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge) as a critical tool in my instructional design.  David is a fantastic 2nd grade teacher from Ypsilanti, Michigan. His problem of practice occurs during his math instruction. His students are struggling to count and add money. You can read more about the problem and David’s context, here.

My journey to help David began with a Q&A to help clarify any misunderstandings I had after reading his analysis of his problem. The next step is reaching out to my PLN & PLC (Professional Learning Network and Professional Learning Community) via social media. I have contacted six educators who teach similar content in a similar context to David to participate in a Google Hangout. Participants will have read about David’s problem ahead of time and come prepared to discuss/offer insight to his problem. David is not the only educator who has this problem, so it will be interesting to hear how others have tackled instructional issues in their own classrooms. I cannot say thank you enough to these amazing educators who are taking time out of their summers to have a discussion with me and on such short notice! Here they are:

Debbie Schuitema – ELL Math Coach at Godfrey Lee Public Schools

Heather Vernon – 2nd Grade Teacher at Godfrey Lee Early Childhood Center

Stefanie Cairns – Technology Integration Specialist of Oakland Schools, former second grade teacher, former MAET student

Rachelle Galang – Technology Integration Specialist of Oakland Schools, former Technology teacher, former Kindergarten teacher, former MAET student

Piotr Buniewicz – Teacher at Mackinac Island Public School, current MAET student

Stephanie Raezler – Teacher of Elementary Education at Utica Community Schools, current MAET student

Aside from a Google Hangout with these rockstar educators, I will be reaching out to other educators on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I am looking forward to this process and hoping I can come up with some awesome solutions for David!


Demo SLAM! What will you “Write About?”

During my Masters Courses we are challenged each day to test out and explore new tools to add to our tech tool boxes. This summer, four of us will present, “Demo SLAMS” (similar to the SLAMS they present at Google) each Friday. This week one of those people was me! I had a hard time deciding what to SLAM…SO many programs and tools out there!

Recently I came across an online Platform called Write About. It…is…awesome! It is a writing community where students can engage in high interest writing. Students can go to the site to look for ideas to inspire them, rather than prompts to require them to write something. They can read writing from students around the world and engage in conversations about the writing. Teachers can easily add their students to a group and then annotate, leave feedback through audio, or comment on their students writing.

Write About can be modified for any grade K-12. Kindergarten students can look on the site for ideas. I teach first grade and will try using this with my class this year–so I will keep you posted! Feel free to visit their site which has lots of interviews of teachers using it right now in their classrooms! Besides the little guys, Write About is great for grades 2-12. Have FUN!

Instructional Strategies you can use with this program (but not limited to):

Think, Write, Pair, Share: Students can pair with one or more students and authentically collaborate by commenting on their peers work.

Transfer and Apply: Students transfer their knowledge/experiences from their real lives to their writing.

Hot Topics: Students can post ideas/galleries to their page to save for a rainy day!

Idea Starts: The idea boards and galleries provide hundreds of writing ideas to inspire.

Idea Waves: Students can share writing ideas with other students

Check out my screencast Demo SLAM in 60 seconds below!


A Peek at my Week (end)

As our last week here in Galway Ireland continues to fly by, we begin to wrap up our first year in the Masters in Educational Technology Program (can you believe it?!). Reflecting back on where I began and where I am now is just incredible. I have grown so much professional and personally, and it is all thanks to the people I am surrounded and encouraged by.

This past weekend, I celebrated my 24th birthday in Galway. It was tough celebrating away from home—I really missed having my family around…and the Buffalo wings 🙂 However, my new MAET friends here in Galway were so thoughtful and made my birthday very special. In just four short weeks we have grown so close and that is why I am so thankful for this experience. I know I am a little biased (MSU alumni…) but this program is unlike any other. The ability to collaborate together inside and outside of class for four weeks straight provides endless opportunities for creative thinking and support. Additionally, we all get to explore a new country together and have a lot of laughs along the way. It will be a long year until I get to be back here with my friends next summer!

Aside from the birthday fun, we had a lot of awesome activities happening in class. On Friday, all of the program instructors and members got together for “Mock Interviews.” The purpose of the interviews were to educate us about what interviewing committees look for (and do not look for) in a candidate. Each member of the MAET program submitted an application for one of the positions posted–(meaning we had to re-configure our cover letters and resumes to better fit the job we were applying for). This was an eye opening experience for me. After one short year in the classroom, the information I had on my resume was relatively outdated–and I had this resume on my website (cringe). It was refreshing to add my new experiences to my resume and see how much I had grown over the course of my first year in the classroom. Lesson learned: continuously update your resume!

Three very brave year three students were interviewed by instructors and fellow peers for educational technology positions–and they did fantastic considering the circumstances. It made me think about the experiences I have had with interviewing (good and bad). It also made me think about how much more knowledge and experience I will be able to present at future interviews. The most powerful and meaningful message I took away from the interview was this (from Dr. Carey Roseth): Interview committees will not necessarily remember each and every word you said–but they will remember how you made them feel. It is so imperative to be genuine during interviews and be YOU. The first few interviews I ever went to were nothing to write home about–and I believe it was because I was trying to answer questions based on what the interview committee wanted to hear–rather than answering as myself. A major part of teaching is being personable-so let your personality shine!


One of three interview committees discussing questions pre-interview.

More interview/presentation practice was provided on Monday when the year ones hosted our very own Maker Faire! This was our chance to share and receive feedback about our Maker Projects that we have been working so hard on. Before the Maker Faire, everyone presented his or her projects to our class. I was blown away at how amazing each idea and project was–and no project was the same. There is a reason for that: our professors Chris and Alison let us pick any project of our choice and let us pick our own challenge.

When I think about my own teaching practice, I think about how much more engaged my students are when I combine open ended projects with choice. It is an authentic way to implement your students lives outside of school. This was probably the most engaged I have ever been for a project that was “course work” and it is because I was able to choose my own project, manipulate every aspect of it and make it realistic to my own classroom. I cannot wait to take back to school what I have created and see it unfold in my classroom!

When it was time for the year 1 Maker Faire, we were all pretty excited and nervous to share. It was a relief and a confidence booster to hear how much the other members of our program enjoyed our projects. They also offered a lot of feedback and other resources we might find useful. Specifically to my project, someone suggested looking at the website, Kickstarter, for other Maker ideas. Another person suggested looking at the Makey Makey Journey Challenge as an activity to complete after this project. These are incredibly useful resources I had not come across yet! The Maker Faire helped me to reflect one my project and make some meaningful changes. I would say it was a success!


@DMattie89 created a game for his students using Scratch to support his States of Matter science unit.

It has been an amazing last week (end) in Galway and the MAET program has not disappointed. Although I am sad to leave all of these amazing people, year 1 of the program and the beautiful country of Ireland, I am beyond excited to take my experiences back to my classroom setting.

Stephen Howell @ #GREAT15

I attended my first overseas conference today and was lucky enough to have it hosted by the MAET Year 2 students (way to go #maety2!). #GREAT15 stands for Global Resources in Educational Technology. The conference was held at the National University of Ireland Galway and attracted professionals from all over the country–hearing the different perspectives of global educators was so interesting.

They kicked off the conference with a keynote from Stephen Howell, who is an academic achievement manager through Microsoft Ireland. Stephen created an incredible program called Kinect2Scratch that combines a Microsoft Kinect controller to be sent to the coding program Scratch. He makes it possible for anyone (at any age) to code and create programs with motion control and kinetic games. I know that concept might sound confusing to some (maybe most)…but essentially Stephen has created a way to let your entire body become a controller–and on top of that, you create the game that your body controls. My classmate, Patrick, is seen below using the program. As you can see, there is a “green skeleton” outlining his body and he is using his arm movements and body to play Space Invaders. Too cool!

image2 image1

Learning about Stephen’s program was amazing, however, the most powerful lesson I took away from his presentation was this: document all of your projects/ideas in an online portfolio. You never know how many doors they might open for you one day. After roughly a day of sharing his new Kinect2Scratch program online, a librarian at another school thanked him and told him how much her students enjoyed it…that librarian worked in a school that was in Australia. Pretty incredible, right?

As a new teacher, I do not always think to share my ideas/projects. I believe there are a couple reasons for this. 1.) Time. I think this applies for all educators, old and new. We have so many other things going on and do not always have the time to sit and type out a blogpost and post pictures and explain. However, one creative project changed Stephen’s life. The best solution for this issue is to set aside time each day or every couple days to blog. 2.) Lack of experience=less confidence. Thanks to social media, my PLN (Professional Learning Network) has dramatically expanded over the past two years. I have so many different types of educators to look up to and hope to be like one day. They post many projects and ideas that are so resourceful. There were many times this year when I had considered posting a project my class had done, but thought twice about it because I was not confident it was ground breaking material. Stephen made me realize that does not matter. Somewhere, someone out there will appreciate and value your work…if not now, maybe later. An online presence can open so many doors for us as educators and so many of us fail to believe that or realize that.

Stephen Howell is proof of what having a powerful online presence will do for you! I left #GREAT15 feeling incredibly motivated and plan to continue blogging throughout the school year. Keep posting, keep sharing and keep educating!

Universal Design for Learning

When a person walks into a classroom, things appear to look pretty normal. There may be vocabulary words on the wall with pictures, a timer on the teachers desk and maybe some headphones hanging by the computer area. What this person does not realize is that all of the ordinary classroom objects they see are accommodations that teacher is making for his or her students. The vocabulary words on the wall with pictures are there to support the English Language Learner. The timer on the teachers desk is for the student who needs 15 extra minutes to complete a task. The headphones are there for the student who needs to listen to audio recordings instead of reading text.

Today was the first day I heard the term, “Universal Design for Learning” or “UDL.” UDL is an educational framework that guides educators to create a flexible learning environment that supports all different types of learners. I now know that the UDL is the reason for the accommodations I make in my classroom and accommodations I have seen in other classrooms. David H, Rose, Ed.D. first defined what UDL was and today in class we watched this video where he presents and speaks on behalf of children with special needs. He discusses a case where he worked with a boy named Matthew who had a very severe physical disability that prevented him from walking and talking. Matthew needed a wheelchair to function. Matthew’s problem Matthew’s schools problem was that there was no handicap accessible entrance to the school.



The entrance the Matthew’s school












As you can see, I crossed out above that this was “Matthew’s problem.” Dr. Rose goes on to talk about how there are two ways to look at this issue. It is either Matthew’s problem because he is handicapped or it is the schools problem for not being handicapped accessible. Which problem is easier to fix? The school’s problem. So, the school went on to build a ramp and unfortunately it was an expensive and ugly fixer-upper. Worst of all, the corners were too sharp for Matthew to make a turn in his wheelchair.

curb cutThis is when Dr. Rose makes his case for a universal design. Everyone has a choice. You can choose to not build in universal accommodations at the start…and deal with the cost, inconvenience, and scrutiny down the road. Your other choice is to build accommodations in from the start…a cheaper, faster, more beautiful and convenient approach. An example he gave that really helped me to understand Universal Design was the curb cut (seen right). Not only do curb cuts benefit those in wheelchairs–they benefit rollerbladers, bikers, scooter riders, parents pushing kids in strollers, and more recently: blind peopleSome curb cuts are now being made with bumps to alert a blind person that they are about to cross a road. These accommodations that I am exposed to every day are ones that I did not even recognize or think twice about. I am not handicapped–so I had never thought twice about appreciating this Universal Design.

So…how does this relate to teaching? As I reflect on UD and UDL, I think about all of my students. All the accommodations I make for them can seriously make or break how and if they learn. I also think about all of the accommodations I have failed to make–and what a disadvantage my students would have because of it. Just like contractors have a UD choice when they are building a structure, we as teachers have a UDL choice when teaching. It makes sense for us to accommodate from the start of the school year, rather than waiting until a student is seriously struggling and falling behind. Be proactive. Thankfully, there are three guidelines for creating a Universal Design for Learning in my (or your) classroom.


1.) Provide multiple means of Representation: To develop resourceful, knowledgeable learners. You can provide options for comprehension, options for language, mathematical expressions, and symbols, and options for perception.

2.) Provide multiple means of Engagement: This is so we develop purposeful, motivated learners. You can provide options for self regulation, provide options for sustaining effort and persistence, and provide options for recruiting interest.

3.) Provide multiple means of Expression & Action: To develop strategic, goal-directed learners. Provide options for executive functions and options for expression and communication.

As I work on my Maker lesson and implementing the Maker Movement in my classroom, it is so important that I take the UDL framework seriously. It is also important that as a novice teacher I continually reference the UDL guidelines and be sure to accommodate whenever possible. My professors, Chris & Alison, provided us with a UDL Guidelines Educator Worksheet in the form of a google doc. The worksheet breaks down all of the UDL guidelines and leaves space for me to comment and take notes. It will be an awesome reference point for me as I continue my teaching journey.

For more information on Universal Design for Learning and how you can accommodate students in you classroom, I suggest visiting this website.


About Universal Design for Learning. (n.d.). 15 July 2015. Cast, Inc. Retrieved from <;.

(2009, August 24).  Dr. David Rose on UDL Part 1. (fcsnvideos). Retrieved from <;.


Disclaimer: I am not a rapper and this post is not solely about mixing music 🙂 Did you know that people remix everyday of their lives when they do not even know it? I recently learned that it is possible that everything in this world is a remix…music, movies, books, clothing, even our lives. We activated our prior knowledge in our MAET class by watching Kirby Ferguson‘s four part video, Everything is a Remix. My mind was blown! In his videos, he makes people aware of how unaware we are when it comes to how many things in our lives have been. He provides examples from Hollywood that will make your jaw drop–like showing multiple scenes from Star Wars that were ideas from other movies. More recently, you might be familiar with Marvin Gaye’s multi-million dollar lawsuit against Robin Thicke/Pharrell for ripping off Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got To Give It Up.”

Prior to watching this four part video, I had never known that remixing went beyond the rapping world. I was even more shocked to realize that remixing went so far beyond the rapping world that it was actually a part of the teaching world! I can honestly say that now I know that remixing is a major part of my professional life. As teachers, we are constantly collaborating with each other and trying to make things better. Below is an awesome visual to help you understand what remixing is.

I might walk into a classroom down the hall from me and think, “I really like how Mr. Bob organized his guided reading area. I am going to organize mine that way too, but maybe tweak a few things to work for me and my students.” That is remixing. Or I might be reading through my Twitter feed and see how a teacher in Florida taught her kids about numbers in base ten but add a technology segment to make the lesson more engaging. That is remixing.

For a MAET quick fire activity, we were challenged to create a one minute video using the Mozilla Popcorn Maker about one of the buzzwords we found on the EdTech Cheat Sheet (another awesome resource). Popcorn Maker helps you to easily remix web video, audio, text and images into your own creative mashup. It is free to use and once you get the hang of it, relatively easy to play with.

A realization I had during this quick fire activity was that so many of the viral Youtube videos I have watched were remixes. This program and programs similar to it are how people are remixing these days. A great example our professor, Chris, presented to us was the Star Wars Kid, which has close to 31 million hits on youtube. This viral (and kind of hilarious) video has been remixed countless times to make it even more hilarious. If you search, “Star Wars Kid Remix” on youtube, you can see what I am talking about.

The whole idea of relating remixing to my teaching practice really got me to thinking. Do I remix too much? Where do we draw a line between remixing and copyright infringement? How many ideas have I taken pride in that were actually remixed without me even realizing it? As a teacher (especially a new teacher), it is important to remember that it is ok to not have to re-create the wheel for every lesson. For sake of time and our sanity, we have to remix sometimes. I believe that ideas lead to better ideas. We need to continue to push each other to be better teachers, especially in our ever changing technological world. The ability to remix in the classroom allows us to support each student in the way they learn best.


Team Teaching the Readings

Today, my classmate David and I team taught our Chapter 2 reading from Words on Screen by Naomi S. Baron. To give those of you who are not in the MAET program a little background information, two students were assigned a chapter to team teach to the rest of the class–super nice of our professors so we do not have to read the entire book on top of all of our other course work 🙂 Even after one day of presentations, I can say that it is really interesting to see my classmates teaching styles, how they use technology, and learning about new technologies that they introduce to my tool box.

David and I were the first group the present. Overall, I thought the lesson went really well and I think that is reflective of how much preparation went into it. Knowing that we had 30 minutes to teach the lesson, we knew that we had to be precise and organized while engaging the class with technology. We both read the whole chapter, took notes, shared and discussed our notes, shared our lesson ideas, shared our technology tools and were open to each others ideas. It always helps when the person you are working with is easy to work with–and that we both teach lower elementary.

When we were first introduced to this project, I was a little nervous about incorporating multiple technologies in so little time. We were able to use Google Docs to collaborate, Google Presentation, Random List Generator, Facebook (that linked to our MAET year 1 page), our MAET classroom website, a laptop and a projector during our lesson. It was an eye opener to see how easy it can be to implement multiple technology in simple ways. I believe the lesson went smoothly because of the technology accessible to us. For example, David and I created a Google Presentation page that we shared with the class that allowed them to easily click on their assigned group number to access their reading. It also included a link that took them directly to where we wanted them to turn in their final products. That simple slide eliminated any confusions they had about what they were reading or where to submit it. Here are some awesome timelines:

timeline 1 timeline 2





timeline 3 timeline 4






If I could change one thing about the lesson it would be not assuming I know how to use a technology that looks simple. Our professor Chris used the Random List Generator to form random groups last week. The website looked easy to use and I figured I could just type in names and it would create 6 groups of 2 for me…wrong 🙂 However, I could not waste lesson time by trying to figure that out, so David and I just assigned groups based on the master list. Lesson #1) Don’t assume a program will be easy to use (especially when presenting). Lesson #2) It’s OK to roll with it, make do and move on! In reality, not being able to form the groups really is not a big deal–so there was no sense in stressing about it or getting upset. Technology is not always the most reliable thing and as teachers we need to be prepared with a plan B.

Overall, I really appreciated the team teaching experience. I look forward to participating in the rest of the lessons ahead!



Baron, N. (2015). Words Onscreen. Chapter 2.

Professional Learning Network (PLN)

We began the second day of MAET class with a quick fire that required us to visually represent our Professional Learning Networks (PLN). Your PLN is essentially all of the people you connect and collaborate with whether it be professional or personal. We were provided with a list of online organizational tools to choose from to create in 40 minutes. I decided to try a tool I have never used before: MindMeister. It was easy to use and visually appealing!

mind meister

My PLN was divided into four parts that encompassed all of the people I’m connected with : family, work, social networking and friends. I chose these groups because all of the people included helped me get where I am today. When I started completing the mind map, I was shocked at how many connections I had! There are many ways to expand your PLN. Social media plays a huge role in that for me–I use various outlets such as Twitter, Instagram, Google+, WordPress, Pinterest, Weebly and LinkedIn. These sites help me to connect with educators across the country and world. I have to admit, when I first started to become active on social media, I did not really know what I was doing! Following other educators blogs and Twitters really helped to give me an idea of how the whole PLN platform worked. I also started setting aside time each night to be active on my social media accounts–it is very easy to feel like you are missing something when you are not active. My course instructor, Alison, made a great comparison in regards to Twitter: it is a lot like the radio. You will miss things…and that is ok. If you are like me, that might give you some anxiety 🙂 So setting aside the time to be active on your sites helps with that.

My PLN also had me thinking about a reading we had for class this week. According to Too Cool For School by Punya Mishra and Matthew Koehler, “The fact that a technology is innovative and popular does not make it an educational technology.” I think an interesting text-to-world connection to make is that most social media sites were not intended to be professional development platforms for teachers. If you were to have asked me five years ago what Twitter or Facebook or Instagram had to do with teaching, I would not have been able to tell you! We as teachers chose to take these tools and turn them into something more.

Finally, seeing how many people I connected with made me realize how significant it is to have a professional presence online. My professional accounts are public to allow other professionals in my field who do not know me to collaborate. However, that does not mean that they are the only ones viewing my sites–I could have students or parents looking at my posts. If that is the case, I need to be setting a good example and promoting a positive presence!


Koehler, M.J., & Mishra, P. (2009). Too cool for school? No way! Learning and leading with technology. Link to

article: “Too Cool for School” EJ839143

What is learning?

learning                                                                              What is it?

Learning is when you acquire new knowledge or skills through experience, exploration and metacognition. I believe that a major factor of how someone learns has to do with his or her prior knowledge and experience. Not everyone goes through life having the same exact experiences, at the same exact time, with the same exact feelings. Knowing this, we can come to the conclusion that the learning of experts and novices are extremely different. We all have different knowledge and experiences to apply to what we are learning. An experts discipline is extremely organized around one main idea, where a novice’s is not really sure how discipline is organized (Bransford, 1999). I enjoyed Bransford’s (1999) comparison of this knowledge to chess. An expert chess player will not waste his or her time thinking about all of the possible moves to make next. Instead, he or she will skip immediately to the most strategic move to win. A novice would take the time to sort out all of the moves, and then take the time to come to a decision. Bransford (1999) also states that an expert chess player practices by playing 50,000-100,000 a year–so let’s make the connection to education: An expert chess player comes in with much more experience, exploration and metacognition compared to the novice chess player, and is therefore much better at chess. If you were teaching a “chess class,” you would need to take the time to figure out what knowledge and experience your students already have–otherwise you are setting them up to not move forward–you are going to lose them if what you prepare is too easy or too difficult.

A method that combines understanding and conceptual change is Connected Learning. According to Ito (2013), Connected Learning combines peer culture, interests and academics (62). This makes sense if you think about it–students want to learn about things that apply to their real life. I know specifically for me as a learner, I am much more inclined to participate and be intrinsically motivated if the content relates to my life. This reminds me of an activity I did with my first graders this year. We had some digital fun and created our own video games using Pixel Press. They got to choose the name of the game, the design, the characters, create their own advertisement using any materials and set their own price of the game. By giving them most of the control over the assignment and letting them pick the theme, I was shocked at how excited and “geeked” they were about the assignment. I spent more time collaborating with students about their ideas and listening to them collaborate, rather than managing the class. They were so engrossed in their projects–all because it related to their lives and what interested them. In the end, they produced higher quality work than I had expected and it was clear the projects relevance was a huge motivation factor.

As I continue to study educational technology, I reflect on how these foundational ideas can be valuable to me as a learner and teacher.Using different technologies can help me to make connections and transfer information. Providing different technologies can do the same for my students. I hope I can continue to add resources to my tool bag to execute in future classroom settings.


Bransford, J., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (1999). How People Learn Brain, Mind,

Experience, and School. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Mizuko Ito (2013).  Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design.  Retrieved from