Author Archives: tsawyer225

ISTE 2015 – Day 2, Crowdsourcing and Sketch Notes

Today was all about sessions. There were just SO MANY! It made my head spin. Luckily I had already registered for at least 1 a day before I got here and figured I hop into a lecture session during my time. I heeded the advice of my grad school friend Kyle in his blog and didn’t fill my day with sessions. I hit three and by the time the 3rd one was over I was ready to call it a day.

I LOVED the first session I attended, Crowdsourcing ISTE: A Dynamic Model for Collaboration Inside and Outside the flaming empiral ship from Star Wars From Star Wars UncutClassroom.  The presenters,  Tzvi Pittinsky and Sue Waters were engaging and excited to be there,Tzvi face-to-face and Sue via Hangout. You could tell they really loved what they were presenting and they got me totally bought in by starting off with something Star Wars, which anyone who knows me will tell you is the way to my heart, my absolute favorite thing to geek out on.

And it wasn’t just a gimick.  They presented a few minutes of Star Wars Uncut: The Empire Strikes Back. It was really the essence of what they were talking about, crowdsourcing. The project of a web developer, it invited people from all over the world to submit 15 seconds of their homemade version of Empire and then it was edited all together, full length.

I’m excited about the idea of building a libary of knowledge on a subject by gathering resources from many different people. I would like to get my students crowdsourcing notes and projects in the upcoming school year and it’s really as easy as each student making a slide for a Google Slides Presentation.

After a short break, browsing the expo floor and swinging through the tech playgrounds and lounges I headed to my next session, which turned out to be filled, so I started looking around me at what was open in that same area and I stumbled upon a session called, Sketch notes My sketch notes. The Possibility Posture: Designing for Experimentation in Modern Learning.  Ironically this session was all about how I already choose to teach and how I try to inspire the teachers I coach to teach. I enjoy constructivism (mostly because I learn by doing.) and allowing my students to try new things on their own and find what works best to get to an end product. The very first 5th grade class I ever taught, the theme for that class was that failure is good, learn from your failures. The prenters showed how experiementation can bring about fantastic reults and that building from failure helps us learn.  This was also the session I decided to try sketch notes using Paper by Fifty Three on my iPad in earnest. Little did I know, part of this session was the introduction of sketch notes. It was really quite a serendipotous hour.

I found my final session of the day through a chat on Twitter with another of my classmates from grad school, Danielle. She told me she was hitting up a session on online and blended learning, OLN Presents: 2015 ISTE Online and Blended Learning Extravaganza, so I met up with her. This session was structured like the Ignite Sessions that ISTE had scheduled throughout the conference, so we were able to see 8 presentations on 8 different topics in an hour. This was one of those times that I may have only learned 1 or 2 new things, but a couple of the presentations were about ideas for projects for my school that I have toyed with in the past few months and it was very validating to see that I’m on the right track mentally and it was also very valuable to see how other people brought similar ideas to fruition.

Looking forward to tomorrow and EdTech Karaoke!


ISTE 2015 – Poster Sessions

I perused the poster sessions last night and it was so wonderful to see so many people passionate about what they are doing or have done. I posted on my ISTE 2015 Pinterest board some of the websites associated with the sessions that I took a gander at.

This morning it dawned on me that I’m in a building with people who speak the same language as me. It’s so liberating to use terminology and have other people immediately know what you’re talking about without a lengthy explanation. Just my tidbit for the moment.

ISTE 2015 Day 1 – Opening Keynote

 ISTE Philadelpha 2015I’ve been given a wonderful opportunity to attend the 2015 ISTE Conference. I’ve been hoping to become a member of ISTE, let alone attend the yearly conference. This year’s conference is right in my backyard across the bridge in Philadelphia. I’m going to make the most of the experience and try to blog everyday and add my thoughts and what I’ve learned.

Yesterday was my first day at the conference marked by an inspiring keynote by journalist Soledad O’Brien. In the few hours I was in the Pennsylvania Convntion Center I followed several new people on Twitter, made a new network contact, and gained several new Twitter followers myself.

My first thoughts fall on the opening keynote. The event began for me with a high energy atomosphere created by the talented Big City All Star Band from Winnepeg, Canada. The first presentation was part of the Ignite sessions at ISTE 2015. Presenter Rafranz Davis gave her thoughts on diversity in technology education and set the tone for my thoughts for the evening, how can my school help? How can I get my students envolved with diversity?

This was followed by a short interview by Brian Lewis, Cheif Executive Officer of ISTE and Kecia Ray, Chair with Lord Jim Knight, who was the Minister of State for Schools and Learners in the UK. His contribution to the evening reafffermed me position of support for teachers.  tweet 1One of my favorite parts of my position is backing up teachers and giving them the support they need to facilitate technology in their classrooms. He mentioned also that just the act of purchasing technology does not necessarily teach technology.

Sketch of Soledad O'Brien Keynote

Image created using Paper (@FiftyThree) by Matt Miller @jmattmiller

The entertaining and though provoking speech by Soledad O’Brien opened my eyes to so many possiblilties for my school to use technology act in accordance with it’s mission to put minds at work, hearts with God and lives to service.  The theme of diversity was continued as Ms. O’Brien talked about her involvement with disadvantaged students through The Starfish Foundation and her role as a journalist documenting the struggle of students stuck in a sometimes broken education system.

Google Expedtions
She presented her own integration of technology using Expeditions by Google which lead me to my own thoughts on how I could leverage augmented relality with my own students. She uses Google’s latest to introduce high school students to different careers that they otherwise would not be exposed to. This was a really cool presentation and I would love to do something like this in collaboration with another school.

Soledad hit on the ideas of closing the acheivement gap with technology and allowing students to learn the way they learn best. She talked of the importance of access to to technolgoy and teaching students to be digitally literate.She said,  “Technology for technology’s sake is a waste.”  almost echoing something Lord Knight said earlier in the evening.

My Take-Away:

One of my goals for the upcoming school year involves global collaboration. This keynote ignited my fire for working with disadvantaged students whether it’s across the globe or in our own backyard. There are some many Catholic schools in the same diocese as my own that we could partner with to share what we are learning and doing with technology.  My final note from last night was this, how can we “leverage technology to change the world.” (S. O’Brien) and use our blessings to help others.

Learn and Link

Featured image
This past school year my middle school students recieved Samsung Chromebooks in our school’s first 1:1 program. I had some ideas to extend the students learning that my teachers can implement in their classrooms for use with the Chromebooks.

The students are already well versed in Internet research so I want to play to that strength while adding in social media. I am a fan of Marc Prensky’s term “Digital Wisdom” and my take away from reading his work is that it’s important to know how and where to find information using digital enhancements such as the Internet. With that in mind, I came up with the plan to allow students time in class each week to learn a lesson or concept on their own using the Internet. Everyone has a different way of learning something and this opens the door for my students to learn the way they are drawn to. Some may watch videos, some listen podcasts and others may find that texts and diagrams are their way to go. They will of course have guidance in finding the information.

The second part of this exercise is to share how and what they learned with their classmates. I’m toying with the idea of using Twitter and hashtags, but there is a myriad of ways they can share this information.

I’m hoping to make this common practice amoung my teachers to have the students share with a global audience what they learn.

Post suggestions and thoughts!

Common Sense Media – Certified Educator

Certified Educator BadgeEver since I started teaching “computer” 5 years ago, back before I was a “Technology Integrationist” (labels — don’t you just love them?) I used a web based resource called Cybersmart Curriculum. I knew that it was important for students to know how to act and react to what they were doing and saw on the web. The Cybersmart Curriculum became part of Common Sense Media and as a mom I’m always hitting up that website to check on things like if the new Captain America movie has too many profanities or should my 5 year-old-play Grand Theft Auto (actually a no brainer, but you get my point)

Recently I applied to become a Certified Educator of Digital Citizenship  through Common Sense Media and their curriculum and this morning got my certification!

It’s a great tool for any age level and I’m a big fan of their curriculum. It’s split up according to grade level and different themes from internet safety to creative rights and copyright.

Poster made my 2nd graders about online safety

2nd Grade’s Online Circle


This year my 2nd graders learned and discussed which people in their lives are safe to talk to online. We made a great poster of their “online circle” as a reminder of friends, family and community members were on their green list of connections online.  Not only did they have a blast creating the poster but they gained digital citizenship knowledge for the future, since let’s face it they aren’t hitting each other up on Instagram and Tumblr just right now.

I think that’s the important point of teaching even Kindergarten and PreK about digital citizenship. The Internet is just part of our lives now. It’s as important to know who to connect with as learning “Don’t talk to strangers” or “Look both ways before your cross the street” Common Sense Media has put together wonderful tools to help educators and parents teach students how to “Look both ways.”

TreeRing – The website I’ll be hitting up all Easter break.

A few years ago I was charged with coordinating with students to create our school’s yearbook. At the time we were using a service where we would have to create ad revenue in order to even get the thing printed and the yearbooks were in my opinion too expensive. So I did some research and came across what I think is an awesome service called TreeRing (

Not only did it bring the cost of the yearbook down, we no longer had to deal with ad space and each student gets a personalized 2 page spread.   The price was so great we were able to tag on a couple of fundraising dollars to the price.

The social aspect of the TreeRing was what really caught my attention. The integration of Facebook and other social networking platforms to add pictures and being able to tag friends and comment on photos throughout the year on the TreeRing website itself makes building the yearbook a social event which culminates in the finished printed product at the end of the year.

Why will I be spending so much time on TreeRing over Easter break? Because the horrific winter and all the snow days we incurred, my yearbook team didn’t get to meet as often as I would have liked and I have to put the “finishing touches” (read “finish the book”) before the end of the month. Even if I don’t get everything done I can extend the print date and the staff at TreeRing has always been amazing.

So if you are looking for a new social expreince for your school’s yearbook check them out.

A Simple Recipe To Create A Better Yearbook

Ed Tech Nirvana

Just a quick post. I’m in ed tech Nirvana. Chromebooks just came and pushing apps to the master iPad for the cart roll out.


Science Expo 2014

When the science teacher, Patty, approached the art teacher and me this year about working together to create a science expo as opposed to our usual science fair, I was stoked. Usual the science “fair” consists of experiments and inventions and it’s gotten pretty stale.

Patty had this fabulous idea to give the students (5th through 7th graders…I’ll get to the 8th graders later.) a choice on how they would best like to express a science concept or topic. They could either use art or technology or do the usually experiment or invention. The art teacher, Grace, got many willing participants and I got 6 groups, mostly 6th graders, who wanted to make a Mr. Parr type video for their projects.

It was a long 3 months.

Between research papers and keeping the kids on track with creating lyrics and then realizing that I never really asked them how they planned on creating the video, only to be surprised that they all were mostly done creating PowerPoint presentations with images and the lyrics….well let’s say it was stressful but well worth every minute.

I helped my students edit everything they had created together using Camtasia. They provided the music (lyrics sung by them) and the PPT and I sat with them and put it all together. I am so proud of them all and the finished products.

For the most part they kept on task and had something to teach the viewer and they were entertaining.

My 8th graders had a separate assignment for the expo. They were charged with completing both art and technology projects based around a notable person in science and/or art.

They all created podcasts “interviewing” their subject. They each wrote a script and then had someone read the scrip with them while recording using an iPad. Our recent implementation of Google Apps for Education really came in handy since there was alot of sharing of music, raw voice recordings and pictures for this project.

My personal favorite creative idea was from a student, Matthew, who’s scientist/artist was Michelangelo and he used his father, who speaks with an Italian accent, as his partner in the interview.

Along with the podcasts the students had to find a picture of their subject and then use photo editing to place themselves in the picture with their subject. We don’t have Photoshop or anything awesome to do this in school, so I showed them how to do it in MS Paint.

The finished work is impressive considering the time and tech restraints we worked with. I’m looking forward to next year’s Expo since we’ve decided to start working on it in September and make it a year long journey.

You can check out some of the winning project videos, the “Mr. Parr” videos and the podcasts here at a site I created to showcase the expo.

lego car

Lego car created for one of the Science Expo projects.


I’ve been trying out TerraClues with my 4th graders. I find it’s a great tool to increase their internet researching skills. I’m looking forward to implementing the private classroom feature for various subjects not just geography.

I teach at a Catholic school so I can see TerraClues use in finding historically religious places and viewing them with Google maps satellite view to gain a better perspective.

The students get really excited and it’s a great group exercise, but I could also see it used as an assessment since on order to finish each set you have to answer each clue correctly.

terraclues banner

My Journey

I’ve been reflecting a lot on my teaching experience over the last 10 years, going from teacher’s aide to technology integrationist so I’m sharing.

It’s interesting how my position, my job has grown, and how for the first time in the five years I’ve been working in instructional tech, it’s finally coming together.

5 years ago I taught “computer” part time 3 days a week and in doing that I realized that there my school could do so much more in terms of using technology as a tool. At this point the students were learning how to make a PowerPoint and how to use MS Word and playing “educational” games and it just wasn’t translating into a quality learning experience. They knew how the programs worked, but we’re not given the proper context to put there knowledge into action, they were regurgitating knowledge and just using PPT to make it look fancy.

With the realization that there had to be more for my students and having a passion for technology in general, I set out for a masters degree in instructional tech.

During my studies I started to put some of the theory and a lot of the really cool ideas I was exposed to into action. I made mock Facebook pages for novel characters with my 8th graders. I showed my middle schoolers the awesomeness of Prezi. We began a learning journey together and that’s been my quest ever since and an idea that I try to instill in my faculty; Learning doesn’t end with a diploma or a certification. It’s a life long journey.

When my school hired a new principal a few years ago I got the chance to really grow. He had an open mind and a vision of 21st century learning for his students and asked me to come on board full time as an instructional integrationist.

This is my second year in this position and I’m finally starting to see the change I set out for in beginning. We’ve implemented a technology committee which helps me with research and development of tech initiatives, most notably our first 1:1 program using Chromebooks with a pilot roll out beginning next quarter.

The biggest shift has come from my teachers who have struggled with the idea of integrating tech for a long time. For example, The science teacher wanted to shake up our yearly science fair by adding choice for the students and turning the fair into an expo. The students could choose to present a scientific idea through experimentation, invention, through digital media or through art. The art teacher and I jumped right in and the kids went to work. It has been so enjoyable seeing what the students come up with and lending our knowledge to collaborate and focus in our there ideas.

The idea of choice is really something I would like to focus on for next school year, especially with the middle school. I would like to see my teachers implement the use of at least one social network into their daily lessons and marry that use with the students searching and sharing different ways of learning what is laid out in the curriculum. It would be interesting to see a math class collaborating on how best to learn a particular lesson and the. Sharing that information with another class. Or in history, the students searching out media clips to augment what they are learning through the text.

Learning is my passion and my quest is to help others find a way they love to learn.