Friday, September 26, 2014

Who Moved My Cheese?!

Wow, where did the summer go?!  I had this glorious goal to write blog posts throughout the summer.  I wanted to blog "Tuesday Tech Tips," books I've read (children's literature, young adult literature, professional), and anything else that inspires me relating to topics on education, school library, technology, and much more.  Unfortunately, I did not meet that goal.  It is called "life as a mommy with 2 busy sons" (ages 3 and 5).  My sons and I had our fill of sun, swimming, fun, and fond memories!  Our highlights were going to Lost Island Waterpark (Waterloo, Iowa), Adventureland (Des Moines, Iowa), and Iowa State Fair (Des Moines, Iowa).

Thankfully, goal(s) allow us to re-evaluate and try it again.  So, here I am, back to blogging!

This is a wonderful time of the year with fresh beginnings and new starts!  It is the start of a new school year, new weather season, fall sports, and the list goes on!  I saw this picture quote on Facebook the other day, and can't resist sharing the beautiful fall leaves, in addition to the words stated, that I am striving to be and do this year, particularly in my new job role as a teacher-librarian in THREE different buildings!

Yes, you read correctly, this year I am serving three different buildings as a teacher-librarian!  Last spring, I faced the unknown of what my job would entail this year.  I received an administrative transfer letter in May and didn't find out until June what I will be doing this year.  At that time, I predicted I would either be moved to a general education classroom teacher position or be shared as a teacher-librarian among multiple buildings in the district.  Sure enough, my administrative transfer letter indicated I would be shared among multiple buildings.  So, instead of serving one building, like I did last year at Harding Elementary, this year I am now assigned to be shared among three buildings.  Two days I am at Harding Elementary, two days I am at Jefferson Elementary, and one day I am at Lincoln Intermediate.

I am not a stranger to being shared among buildings.  During the 1st five years of my career as a teacher-librarian for Mason City Community School District, I served both Harding Elementary and Jefferson Elementary (2008-2013).  While I am proud of the work I did during that time I served both Harding and Jefferson, I fully believe I accomplished more last year, being in one building, than I did during the combined five years among two buildings.  Unfortunately, the reality is budget cuts got the best of our school district, and resulted in many changes.  I won't go into details about the budget cuts in our district, but I can tell you that our entire district has had to face CHANGE.

In fact, I think the book that best defines this time in our district is "Who Moved My Cheese?" by Spencer Johnson.

My mom and dad gave me this book to read when I was in high school, and I am forever thankful they gave it to me!  It is definitely worth the time to read this book!

They even have a kids version of this book!

On Tuesday, September 23, 2014, I attended TI 12 (Technology Integration K-12) at AEA 267 Clear Lake office (more details to come about that awesome day of ed. tech. learning), and we came across this YouTube video of "Who Moved My Cheese?" that is also well-worth your time to view!

So, why am I making such a huge deal about this particular book?!  It is because it deals with change, and I have certainly had to deal with lots of changes for this new school year.  While I LOVED serving one building last year, I admit that the start of this school year, so far, serving three buildings has been crazy, busy, but completely awesome!

I could be completely negative, whine, and complain about my new job role as a teacher-librarian for this year, but I choose to be positive and EMBRACE THIS CHANGE!

I believe so much positive will result from being shared among three buildings!

  • I get to form positive student relationships with half of the district's elementary population, and then eventually, the entire district at Lincoln Intermediate!
  • Our district library program moved away from a fixed schedule to a flexible schedule.
  • I have more opportunities to create, connect, and collaborate with staff and students!
  • Students will be able to make a deeper connection between classroom learning, information literacy skills, and technology skills!
    • Skills will be remembered, transferred, and applied in many, different situations.
  • I have the opportunity to inspire and share my love of reading and technology!
  • I will be able to share and impact many more teachers, who will then make a great impact on students, with my knowledge and learning of new technologies!

Truly, it is all about how a person deals with change!  Thanks to the book "Who Moved My Cheese?" and my parents, I choose to embrace and thrive on change!  Clearly, I am "Sniff and Scurry"!

I am going to leave you with these thought-provoking questions to ponder...
  • How do you deal with change?
  • Which character are you in the book "Who Moved My Cheese?"  Are you Sniff, Scurry, Hem, or Haw?
    • Who do you wish you could be?
  • What could you do to change the way you view change?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tech Tuesday #2...a day later

I had started blogging the following "Tech Tuesday" post yesterday (Tuesday, June 24), but family and summer fun got ahold of me.  My two sons and I took a little trip to Hampton, Iowa with my friend Heather and her adorable daughter Landry to buy Scratch Cupcakes from Scratch Curbside!  If you have had Scratch cupcakes, then you know Scratch cupcakes are indeed a sweet treat and worth a trip!  If you haven't had a Scratch Cupcake, make sure to go to Cedar Falls, Waterloo, West Des Moines Jordan Creek Mall, or Coralville to get your sweet fill of these yummy cupcakes!

Here are my two sons, Levi and Jacob, enjoying their Scratch cupcakes yesterday!

So, here is my Tech Tuesday blog post, a day later!  Better late than never, right?!  Also, by finishing this up today, Wednesday, June 25, it allowed me to add a few finishing touches to enhance this blog post from its original! ;)

A week ago, I wrote a blog post about how I plan on making every Tuesday "a Tech Tuesday" on my blog!  You can click here to read my 1st Tech Tuesday blog post!  Last week, I had indicated that I planned on sharing something I have known about, but haven't had the chance to further explore.  By blogging every Tuesday about a tech tool, this holds me accountable to move beyond my knowledge about various tech tools, and move towards becoming "a tech samurai" (can use and implement technology), instead of "a tech ninja" (has knowledge about technology but hasn't actually used and implemented).

On my "to-explore tech list," I want to get into MinecraftEdu, Aurasma, and Code Academy, just to name a few!  My plan was going to further explore one of these three tech resources and blog about one of them for this 2nd Tech Tuesday.  Well, I am going to save my original plan to blog about either Minecraft, Aurasma, or Coding!

Instead, I am going to blog about something that I learned yesterday, Tuesday, June 24, which is very timely, in my opinion.

Special thank you shout-out goes to my colleague, Ben Feight, a 4th grade teacher at Harding Elementary (also currently working on his master's degree in educational technology), for sharing this YouTube tutorial video on how to send emails from a Google Sheet with me yesterday.  By the way, you should check out his blog "Tech in a Sec for Classrooms!" ;)

Ben shared this YouTube tutorial video via a Facebook wall-to-wall message!  Love how co-workers and I stayed connected over the summer to share and teach each other!

After watching the YouTube tutorial video on how to send emails from a Google Sheet, I couldn't resist making this my 2nd Tech Tuesday blog post!  Not only is it "mind-blowing," but it also supports my excitement and passion for Google Apps for Education (GAFE)!  I've already blogged about "Going Google Drive in 3rd and 4th Grade" and "gClassFolders and Doctopus," so today's blog post is a perfect addition!

So, how do you sending emails from a Google Sheet?!

Check out this YouTube tutorial video on how to send emails from a Google Sheet!

As I watched this tutorial video, I had tons of ideas of how this could be used with colleagues and students!

  • Colleagues could send emails from a Google Sheet during a PLC/PLN/Data Team meeting, a social planning meeting, etc..
  • Grade level teachers could send emails from a Google Sheet to students who have Google accounts for a project, assignment, etc..
  • Students could send emails from a Google Sheet when meeting to organize a group project, group assignment, etc.
  • Students could send emails from a Google Sheet as a form of a literature circle
Those are just a few of the ideas that came to my mind!  I am sure there are many other ideas!

As you watch the YouTube tutorial video, what ideas come to your mind?!  Please share in the comments section! :)

Stayed tuned for Tech Tuesday #3, next Tuesday, July 1!  You are in for a treat, as I will be returning from a two day Tech Integration K-12 (TI12) professional development at AEA267 on June 27th and July 1st!  I am sure there will be tons of tech resources I learn about from TI12 that I will be eager to share for the next tech Tuesday blog post! :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Welcome to 1st Tech Tuesday of Many Tech Tuesdays to Come!

School has been out for a week and I can fully admit that summer break has kicked in by now!  I can't believe I just wrote my 50th blog entry earlier today (click here to read how Kindergarten students got "keyboard happy" for my 50th blog entry)!  When I first started blogging, I was a little worried if I would be able to come up with topics to blog about.  Well, it isn't the topics that is the challenging part, it is more like finding the time to write about everything I want to write about.  This summer will bring a hodge podge of topics, but I plan on writing a blog post on Tuesdays called "Tech Tuesday!"  By starting Tech Tuesdays during summer, this will hopefully develop a habit that will continue into the school year!

Tech Tuesday blog posts will allow me to...

  • share technology tools and resources that I have been using for quite sometime that will hopefully inspire others to try out and implement!
  • further explore technology tools and resources that I have heard about and will allow me to actually try it out and share!
  • discover new tech tools and resources!
So, I would like to start off my 1st Tech Tuesday blog by sharing my three of many favorite tech resources...
  • Symbaloo - a great tool to bookmark websites
  • Class DoJo - a great classroom management tool
  • Google Drive - Doctopus and gClassFolders - a quick, efficient, and easy way to manage a classroom of students using Google Drive!
While there are many more I can easily add to my list of favorite tech resources, I want to highlight these three tech resources in my first Tech Tuesday blog post because I have actually blogged about them this school year, and thought it would be a good time to review how awesome these websites are!  Click here to read about Symbaloo, click here to read about Class DoJo, and click here for Google Drive's Doctopus and gClassFolders!

The following YouTube Channels I highly recommend to subscribe to learn about...


Class DoJo

I recommend the following YouTube video tutorial to learn about Doctopus

Stay tuned for the next Tech Tuesday blog post when I blog about a tech tool I have heard about but never had the chance to "play with" until now!

Kindergarten Students Get "Keyboard Happy" instead of "Mouse Click Happy"

Students and staff in Mason City Community School District have now been on summer break for one week.  Students' last day was June 9, while a majority of the staff were done June 10.

Today I noticed that I still have a blog post "in the cue," waiting to be written and published.  Despite school is out for summer (hope you don't mind the Alice Cooper song reference), I still want to blog about the Harding Elementary Kindergarten students and what I discovered about their computer skills in April and May.  I think my discovery is one that should be discussed, pondered, debated, and "food for thought," even if school is out for summer!

In April, the students and I celebrated National Poetry Month and Poem in Your Pocket Day.  There are tons of different forms of poetry, but I decided that I would have students in grades K-4 write an acrostic poem.  Of course, next year I plan on expanding to book spine poetry, shape poems, and hopefully many more forms!  You can read about how we celebrated National Poetry Month and Poem in Your Pocket Day by clicking here.

All students in grades K-4 wrote an acrostic name poem.  By having students writing a poem about themselves, not only are they learning about a form of poetry, but they are also getting a chance to express themselves, be creative, and develop positive relationships.

Despite all grades writing an acrostic name poem, I had students use different forms of media to write his/her own acrostic name poem.

  • Students in grades K-2 wrote it on a paper form I created.  Then the K-2 students transferred their work to ReadWriteThink interactive acrostic poem webpage that provides a format to write an acrostic poem.
  • Students in grades 3-4 used their own Google Drive accounts to write an acrostic name poem, as this allowed third and fourth grade students to practice logging into their Google Drive accounts, use Google Docs with a purpose, and practice their keyboarding skills.

So, what is so special about the kindergarten students that I am highlighting them in this blog post?!

Well,  as kindergarten students were transferring their acrostic name poem from paper to the Read WriteThink interactive acrostic poem webpage, I discovered something that I had predicted might happen; students had a difficult time finding the letters on the keyboard!  Kindergarten students have become so "mouse click happy" that they weren't aware of the keyboard!  Largely due to the websites for that grade level and lack of proactivity on my part, these students have become so accustom to the mouse, that they weren't even aware of the keyboard!

As a cycle passed of watching kindergarten students having trouble finding letters on the keyboard, I pondered the following...

  • How can I help kindergarten students become better acclimated to the keyboard?
  • Should I stop my mini-unit on acrostic poems and switch over to some sort of keyboarding instruction for kindergarten students?  Should I also include students in first and second grades in keyboarding instruction, especially so late in the school year?
  • Am I better off re-thinking keyboarding instruction in the fall with all grade levels, so the entire school year they improve and become more affluent using the keyboard?

I have always known that keyboarding skills don't just start at third grade, when formal keyboarding instruction begins, particularly in our school district, but they should begin keyboarding skills at a much younger age.  There is a HUGE ongoing discussion, debate, questioning, etc. of when should formal keyboarding skills be taught, how it should be taught, etc..  I come across many questions, thoughts, and discussions regarding keyboarding skills via SLIK-12 (UNI school library email list serv I belong to), Twitter, Facebook, blogs, conferences, and face-to-face discussions.

So, what did I do to resolve the kindergarten students' lack of keyboarding skills?

Kindergarten students finished their acrostic name poems (that cycle I discovered their struggle to find letters on the keyboard), so it was perfect timing to switch to a keyboarding mini-unit!

Now the following questions arose...

  • How do I teach keyboarding skills to this age group?
  • How should I introduce it?
  • How do I keep them captivated and attentive?
  • What website(s) should I use?
I decided to use ABC Ya Alphabet Zoo and ABC Ya Typing Rocket Junior with the kindergarten students.

And, what was the result of teaching kindergarten students how to locate letters on the keyboard?  Kindergarten students were captivated and excited about using the two websites to locate letters!  I observed a HUGE improvement in locating letters!  Students became more at ease and fluent when locating letters!  The best part was when students were given the option for "free choice" during the last week of school, students chose to use these two websites!

Obviously, by identifying a "teachable moment," pondering how to help students, and implementing an entirely new unit in kindergarten, a positive outcome arose.  In fact, this will lead to many more positive outcomes in many grade levels!

Now I know that definitely the next step is to introduce keyboarding skills to all grade levels K-4 at the start of the school year, while also continuing to teach students the traditional start of year skills (i.e. using a shelf-marker, taking care of books, identifying parts of a book, identifying Caldecott Award-winning books, identifying fiction and non-fiction books, using the card catalog, logging into Google Drive, etc.), so they can be successful for the rest of the school year!

Check out the following pictures of kindergarten students getting "keyboard happy!"

Friday, May 23, 2014

gClassFolders and Doctopus

Now that elementary students in Mason City CSD, particularly in the 3rd and 4th grade, have Google Drive accounts, teachers and students will be able to "go green," save time, collaborate, and many more endless opportunities!

With such a large class load, I wasn't sure how to save time when "sharing" a Google Drive app with multiple students, while also not lose the original document.

Initially, I started out creating a "template" of either a Google Doc, Google Spreadsheet, or Google Form.  Then I would "make a copy" of that "template," followed by renaming the Google Drive App (doc, spreadsheet, form, draw, etc.) with not only the document title but also include each student's assigned number.  Then I would click and drag to combine that particular Google Drive App into a class folder.  After doing this for three sections of 2nd grade on a particular unit, I was getting annoyed and frustrated with this time-consuming task.  Also to mention it was starting to "burn my eyes".

I knew there had to be a way to save time and steps, but how?!

That is when gClassFolders and Doctopus came to the rescue!

I had heard of and read about gClassFolders and Doctopus from a few blogs, but it was Mason City Community School District software supervisor and PowerSchool Administrator Doug Abbas who asked me if I have heard about gClassFolders and Doctopus, and offered to help me set it up so I could actually implement it into my library skills classes.  This is also a great opportunity for me to try it out, learn about the features, and then share this valuable tool with colleagues!  After using it the first time, I was immediately sold and eager to promote gClassFolders and Doctopus!

gClassFolders and Doctopus are extremely user-friendly, easy to use, and a major time saver!

It is important to set up gClassFolders first.  gClassFolders allows the user to export information from the school district's information about students (in Mason City's situation, this would be PowerSchool)  in each graduating class.  This information would be the student's first name, last name, and Google Drive account.  Once information is exported from PowerSchool, it is then imported to gClassFolders, which allows one to set up class rosters, as these class rosters will be used in Doctopus, an "add-on" in the Google App store for Google Sheets.

To learn how to set-up gClassFolders, check out .  To learn even more about gClassFolders, check out .

Once the gClassFolders are set up, then it is time to "install" Doctopus as an "add-on" in the Google App store for Google Sheets.

Click on this link  to learn how to install and operate Doctopus.

Check out this YouTube video to learn more about Doctopus!

Check out the pictures and screenshots I have taken of what I have done with gClassFolders and Doctopus!

Setting up gClassFolders is the first thing that must be completed!  This screenshot indicates gClassFolders is set up, using Google Sheets and appears in "My Drive" on Google Drive.

I recommend creating a folder within "my drive" for those assignments that I will be using with Doctopus.  This picture is a screenshot of the folder I created titled "Student Assignments Spring 2014."

Within the folder I had created (see step above) to house Google Drive Apps that I share out using Doctopus, then I created other folders for each student assignment,. within that folder!  This is a screenshot picture showing three assignments I have shared out with students, using Doctopus!

A few days ago, I blogged about 4th grade students using Google Drive and CultureGrams to research, summarize, and take notes for a report about a country.  You can click here to read all about it.

To expand upon how I have used Doctopus to "share" a Google Doc, I am going to use "Country Notes Form 4th Grade" as an example for the rest of this blog.

Once a folder is created within the folder designated for Doctopus shared assignments, then you are ready for the next step.  In this folder (within the overall Doctopus folder), the document you plan to share out AND a Google Sheet (spreadsheet) must be in that folder.

Here are screenshots of what the Country Report Notes Doc looks like that I shared out with 4th grade students!

Here is a screenshot of the Google Sheet (spreadsheet) I created using Doctopus!

Some awesome features of the Google Sheet with Doctopus is...

  • You can enter the student's grade and feedback on this spreadsheet, and it will immediately be included in that student's Google Doc that was shared with them.
  • With one click on the link on the spreadsheet, you can access the student's document.  This is a great way for organizational purposes and saves time!
As one can see, Doctopus is an awesome "add-on" feature!  It is definitely worth using, especially when dealing with multiple class sections and many students!  I highly encourage the use of gClassFolders to set up your class rosters, in order to make it a easy, user-friendly, and a major time-saver for Doctopus!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

4th Grade Students Travel All Around the World with CultureGrams

Harding Elementary 4th Grade students in Mr. Feight's, Mrs. Long's, and Ms. Ibis's and Ms. Beatty's classes are travelling all around the world to learn about countries!

When I found out 4th grade students are going to research a country and write a report about it, I immediately got excited about how I could collaborate with the classroom teachers and their students on this particular project!  As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, one of my goals this year is to increase awareness and usage of Iowa AEA Online resources!

Of course, these country research reports present itself as a perfect opportunity for these students to learn about another Iowa AEA Online Resource, CultureGrams!

Also, the 4th grade teachers and I are also teaming up, as a data team, to work on the goal of improving students being able to summarize a non-fiction text.  So, researching and writing a report on a country, while working on the skill of summarizing are perfect opportunities for me to work alongside the classroom teachers and students!

Check out the 4th grade's learning targets!

According to CultureGrams, their goal is "to foster understanding and appreciate of the world's countries and peoples by creating and publishing concise, reliable, and up-to-date culture content."  With just a few clicks, students are able to access CultureGrams to obtain the most "concise, reliable, and up-to-date culture content."

Another bonus about collaborating with the 4th grade classroom teachers and students is this allows me to continue practical applications to Google Drive.  4th grade students recently learned how to login and use their own Google Drive accounts.  I thought this would be great timing to have students use CultureGrams alongside Google Docs to research, summarize, and take notes on a graphic organizer I shared out with the students!

The following are screen shots of the country notes form graphic organizer that students are using for summarizing and note-taking.  It meets the criteria that the classroom teachers are seeking for areas on content information on each country.  This Google Doc "Country Notes Form Graphic Organizer" was shared out to students from me, using gClassFolders and Doctopus (stay tuned for a future blog post on Doctopus, an AMAZING time-saver)!

Students were taught how to click between the two tabs of their Google Doc and CultureGrams.

Check out the following pictures of students "in action" using Google Doc and CultureGrams to travel around the world to learn about a specific country!

I am quite pleased with students' efforts and work on their country research reports!

If you know a Harding 4th grade student, ask them...

  • How do you login to Google Drive?
  • What is a Google Doc?
  • How do you summarize information in a non-fiction text?
  • How do you access Iowa AEA Online Resources?
  • What is CultureGrams?
  • How do you access and use CultureGrams?
In the meantime, stay tuned for a future blog post on how I use gClassFolders and Doctopus to share out one Google Doc with multiple students, like I did for the 4th grade students' "Country Notes Form Research!"