Category Archives: Uncategorized

When Useful Tools Get Blocked

It has happened ….again.

One of the easiest tools for teachers that are just beginning to jump into the web-page building world, is Weebly.  It is easy to use, it looks good, the beginning stages are free, and they can post pictures!  That pretty much covers the basic needs of beginners.  And now we have been told by our district IT department that Weebly is now blocked.  Why?  Because there is inappropriate content on Weebly.  Not that our students can access it, or that it has broken through our filters – but because it is a site that can host inappropriate content.  We have been informed that individual subdomain sites cannot be unblocked, and that any level of unblocking would be a violation of our state statutes and endanger our state funding and e-rate monies.  While we could spend hours debating the details, logistics, usefulness, appropriateness, long-term consequences, etc, etc, etc of that decision – the bottom line for teachers is that one more tool is taken away.  And replaced with what?  Even our district itself has had trouble finding a tool where our teachers and students can easily create public accessible web sites.  Google sites is also blocked for our students – as well as almost all blogging sites.  So, time to reach out to the power of a global learning community!  Any ideas or suggestions for our students or teachers?  We need a tool to create websites that won’t get blocked!  Then, after our websites are up, let’s dedicate a page to discussing how these decisions are made, who makes them, and how we can find more workable solutions besides blocking useful tools.

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Posted by on December 9, 2013 in Uncategorized


1st Grade Roaring Rocket Success!

Whew!  It has been a crazy start to the school year!  After teaching 2nd and 3rd grade at the same school for 21 years, this year I made a change…a big change.  I moved to a new STEM school that opened in our district, and I moved to 1st grade.  Our school is the Barbara Morgan STEM Academy and we are the “Roaring Rockets!”  Let me be the first to tell you that there is a WORLD of difference between a 2nd grader and a 1st grader!  It felt like it took me the first 2 months just to get my feet on the ground and moving forward at a steady pace.  October was exciting for our class, we won a grant for 6 iPads, and a second grant for $5000 of digital courseware.  Until this year my students have had minimal technology exposure.  We spent the next 4 weeks muddling through introducing them to apps, online tools, and usernames & passwords, and usernames & passwords, and more usernames & passwords.  When you are 6 years old and barely reading, even a list of your usernames and passwords can be a mountain of a challenge.  Once November came, I began to notice a change in my students.  Some were really beginning to fly with reading, and some were finally able to log onto computers, get on the internet, and find our class web site….all on their own!  🙂  Primary teachers will understand what a milestone this is.  And now, as December is flying by, I have most of my class logging onto computers, our class website, Edmodo, Math programs, Reading programs, and Discovery Education – daily!  We are Skyping regularly, and they made their first digital book this week in small groups using our iPads, AND without adult help!  They can take pictures, and video and audio record.  Every day I watch them gain confidence and skills.  Watching young children discover reading is amazing.  Earlier this week, one of my most academically struggling and shy students, came back from Thanksgiving break and couldn’t wait to share a song with the class he had written.  He stood up in front of all 22 students, and sang his new song…after requesting that it be video taped for kids in other schools to also see.  🙂  To see the confidence of a 6 year old who knows that he has something valuable to share with the world – is truly magical.  Houston…we have lift off!!

I can’t wait to see where my 1st Grade Roaring Rockets will be next month!

The Thanksgiving Song

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Posted by on December 5, 2013 in Uncategorized


Highlights of My Week of Learning at DENSI2013


I had an amazing week at DENSI 2013 in Burlington, Vermont!

I was so blessed to be chosen to go to the Discovery Summer Institute again this year.  This is the most incredible learning opportunity for educators!  I tried to capture the highlights of each of the days I spent there.  If you want to see some of the sessions, or browse through the resources, be sure to check out the website at

Saturday Highlights

  • Today was an un-conference for all members of the Leadership Council.
  • I learned about iTunesU and how to set up an individual or district account. If you set up an individual account, you can keep the rights and privacy of the content. You can then give the exact link to your students, and a security code that they use to enroll in your course. When making an individual account, you only have the option of creating courses. When setting up a district account, one person is given administrative rights, but then teachers can be given rights to upload onto the channel. You can create collections, courses, and other options. When you use the district account, all content is made public and searchable through iTunesU.
  • I also had a great discussion with a group about finding ways to do inquiry projects through globally connected classrooms and groups. We will be using DENConnects to do this, and helping to write inquiry questions for the Classroom-to-Classroom Connections. We are also working on a Symbaloo of resources for Connected projects!
  • Greenscreening was a great session! Even though I do many projects with green-screening with my students, I learned a bunch of new tips and tricks! For those who are looking for an iPad only way to green-screen, the app VeeScope may be what you are looking for! Get the paid version, and you will have many options. It is easy to use, but can only use still pictures as the backgrounds at this point. If you are looking for a great stop-motion video app, try Easy Studio (3.99). It is an incredible app that teaches kids about stop-motion video, and can even be used with Kindergarten. It also has advanced levels for older students.

Can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds!

Sunday Highlights

This was a great day of service and fun!  We made sandwiches and sack lunches for the local shelter, and made cards of encouragement for parents taking care of foster children in the Burlington area.  We welcomed the rest of the DENSI participants in the afternoon, and headed out to the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory for a tour!

We kicked off DENSI 2013 with the amazing Kristin Wilcox, producer at Discovery Education.  You can follow her on Twitter at @sharkweekgirl.  She shared about her journey to becoming a producer, and the importance of nurturing creativity in all that you do!  We saw the preview of Shark Week – Snuffy the Seal.  Kristin is the lead producer of Shark Week, and it is one of her favorite projects!  We also had a great presentation by Lance Rougeux, Vice President of Learning Communities and Instructional Implementation.  He talked about the importance of having diversity in your PLN.  He related our different personalities to different types of doughnuts, and discussed the roles that a variety of personalities can bring to the community.  It is important to include all, and to include yourself into groups that you may not necessarily feel comfortable with.  He encouraged us to step out, broaden our PLN, and include all types of personalities in our groups.  Everyone has something to contribute.  You can read more about Lance’s doughnut philosophy 🙂  on his blog!  Lance Rougeux Blog.

Monday Highlights

Today was an adventure day! We went on a field trip to the Shelburne Museum and Shelburne Farms. Be sure to check out the amazing exhibits and displays that can be found at the Shelburne Museum. I spent a lot of time touring through the barns and learning about the carriages and wagons. I also loved learning about weaving, print making, blacksmithing! They took our group picture in front of the Ticonderoga ship! Check out the website to see all that we learned about! The Shelburne Farms was an unbelievable experience! It is located on the banks of Lake Champlain. They are a non-profit organization that is promoting sustainable living. They are not only growing and raising their own food supply, but they also promote a conservation effort for a sustainable future of a community. We spent a lot of time discussing how schools-cities-and communities can work together. They have summer institutes and workshops for teachers if you are interested in learning more. Several people from our group were able to milk the goats and cows! I learned so much at the Farm, and wished we could have spent days and days there! I was able to pick up a couple of great educator resources: Shelburne Farms Project Seasons. It is a 300 page resource book of hands-on inquiry activities for elementary students for discovering the wonders of the world. My second resource is a workbook for teachers and administrators on how to connect service-learning to the curriculum. This resource will help you design, plan, and assess a service-learning project in your school. Tomorrow we are back to sessions! I can’t wait to get my geek on! 🙂

Tuesday Highlights

Our opening keynote speaker was Richard Byrne. If you don’t follow him on Twitter, I would highly recommend it – @rmbyrne. Richard challenged us with thinking about the limitations of teaching our kids a specific set of skills. Jobs and success in the future will require our students to have critical thinking skills – we are headed toward the “Thinking Economy”. He discussed important concepts for teachers to keep in mind when working with our students:

  • Create responsible users of information
  • Encourage collaboration
  • Education happens everywhere
  • Encourage creativity and imagination
  • Encourage them to try & embrace failure on the path to success

My first session was learning about DENConnects. What a great resource for teachers! You can sign up with DENConnects and you can participate in units and collaboration with classrooms around the country! There are 4 themes/units for next year. You can find them at DENConnects

Kyle Schutt shared some great resources in another session. He talked about the FREE resources that are available through Discovery. If you go to and look under Teachers or Students before you log in, you will find TONS of resources!

My other great take-away from the day was Patti Duncan’s session on Engaging Science demonstrations! She is a great presenter if you ever have the chance to see her in action! She had the whole room “hooked” for the entire session. I will definitely be using every idea she showed us! If you would like to watch her presentation, you can see the archive on LiveStream – Patti Duncan.

We ended our day by participating in the DEN-mazing Race! This is an awesome challenge/scavenger hunt type game that is played in teams and all around the university campus. We bounced balloons, created a giant pangea puzzle, identified DEN Stars by picture/name, found information on posters, picked up noodles, and found pom poms by geocaching with a GPS (not very successfully for me! :)) The race takes 1 – 2 1/2 hours to complete, and you are exhausted and sweaty when finished. Our own Casey Boothby from Idaho won the Sportsmanship Award, which earned him the right to throw out the opening pitch at the baseball game on Wednesday night. Way to go Casey!

Wednesday Highlights

Our opening keynote speaker was the amazing Hall Davidson! You can find him on Twitter at @halldavidson Hall is an incredible speaker, and you always leave with your head swimming from all of his ideas! Hall has also been sharing his Google Glass with everyone this week. He loves to let you try them on and play around with them a bit. Pretty cool stuff for a bunch of techy people. 🙂 You can check out all of Hall’s amazing resources at one of his sites:


Hall talked to us about his work with the California Student Media Festival. We talked about the power of video with our students. Be sure to check out one of the most popular clips and sayings at DENSI 2013: That’s so chocolate bar!

I went to a great session on the SOS Strategies that Jannita Demain posts each week from Discovery! Be sure to check them out on the Blogs inside Discovery Education. Another session I attended was “Putting the E in STEM” with Michael Bryant. He did a great job showcasing the features on the Science Techbook. I also learned all about the virtual labs and integrated science simulations in DE. Cool stuff! I loved the session “Ready, Set, Create” with Zulma Whiteford and Tracy Carpenter. These are two dynamic ladies who do amazing things in their classrooms. They created a garden at school and turned it into a giant project based learning opportunity for their students. If you would like to learn more about their projects, you can find them in this Scoop It.

We ended our day by attending the Vermont Lake Monsters baseball game! We flash mobbed with Gangnum Style, and had a great time cheering on the hometown team. The Lake Monsters lost, but after the game we were able to run the bases!

Thursday Highlights

Thursday is always the giant unconference day! We post our ideas and spend time learning from one another. I love this day because of the variety of topics you can always find! I learned about HAM radio in the classroom, how to become Google Certified, and all of the Web 2.0 tools (plus extras) that Steve Dembo wrote about in his book. If you haven’t bought the book yet, I HIGHLY recommend it! It is called Untangling the Web. It contained the top 20 2.0 web tools that you can use right now in your classroom. It explains what they are, and how they can be used.

One of my sessions was on my favorite topic – creating videos with kids! I learned some really cool tips from DENnis Grice and Andy Losik on creating videos. My favorite tip was learning how to use PowerPoint and Keynote to create slides/backgrounds/videos that you can then use to import into iMovie for green screening! Cool stuff!

My final session was on Web 2.0 tools. Dave T. has a ton of resources ready to use! You can check out his list at and look under Web 2.0 tools.

We ended our day by attending a costume party with costumes representing each of hometown states. What a ton of fun!

Friday Highlights

Friday is always the bittersweet day. Sad to see the sessions end and leave good friends, but exhausted and ready to go home to family. We finished by spending the morning sharing with Porter all of the cool things we learned from the week. You should definitely check out the DENSI 2013 website to see all of the videos and notes from activities during the week. Each day there is also a DENews team that reports on topics of interest. I learned a ton, and am very thankful to have been able to come to DENSI again this year!


Posted by on July 21, 2013 in Uncategorized


Blending Learning

I am so excited to see the blended learning happening in my classroom!  I teach a 2nd/3rd grade combo class, which daily challenges me in how I will structure learning.  When you are teaching a combo class, the traditional sage on the stage instructional delivery is the first practice to fly out the door!  This is my third year teaching a combo class, and every year I learn new ways to meet the needs of the diverse group of learners.  

This year I have an exceptionally large range in the academic abilities of my students.  Using a blended learning environment has allowed me to continue challenging my highest learners, while freeing up more time to spend with some of my younger students.  Every day my students are receiving instruction from a variety of sources.  Sometimes they have peer chats, sometimes it is in small grade level groups.  Sometimes they are learning from instructional videos I posted on my class website (flipped lessons), and sometimes they are learning from videos and assignments posted through Discovery Education.  Every student logs in to check the weather each day for their graphs and weather report.  I hear them dialoging about cloud types and temperature trends from the week, and learning from each other.  Each morning they check their Edmodo account for writing assignments, class news, and notes from their pen pals in another state.  They are researching and writing animal reports with a friend over 2,000 miles away.  They are sharing information they have learned with each other – information they gathered from books, e-books, MyOn, videos, and Google.  Every day they make a video podcast of what they have learned in Science, and we will combine them for an end of unit video showing their journey of learning.  We meet face to face twice a day in small groups to learn a new skill, read, discuss, clarify, and question.  They want everything to become something!  “I learned about grizzly bears.  Can I make a Sonic Pics about it?”  “I wrote a play, can we act it out?” “I read a book, can I make a commercial?” “I wrote a book review, can I green-screen it?”

I have watched them really grow into their role as a learner this year.  Today, a student brought her own tablet to school.  After our small group instruction time on fractions, she went back to her seat and found a fraction app to download – because she felt like she didn’t quite understand the equivalent fractions we were working on, and she wanted more practice.  This is what I have learned this year:  Give them the tools, keep developing their skill set, open the doors of opportunities, and get out of their way.  🙂  

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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Uncategorized


Rap Songs and Intrinsic Motivation to Learn

Great day in the classroom!

Since finishing my master’s thesis on creativity I have been really focusing in on making sure my lessons contain opportunities for students to build their creativity. The last two days have been a lot of fun! Even though we have had inside recess for all recesses due to the cold weather, I still have energy left at the end of the day. Yesterday the students were given a choice to make a song, video, or poster to show the rules for spelling plurals. I introduced a group of kids to AutoRap. They made amazing rap songs about plurals! One student went home, downloaded the app, and made another plurals rap with a different beat, then emailed it to me from his device. He also made another rap song for the names of the continents and oceans. When you open the door for them to express their own creativity and curiosity, they create their own intrinsic motivation to learn. It was a good day!

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Posted by on January 4, 2013 in Uncategorized



“Mrs. Miller, I’m going to rescue these,” she says.
“Rescue what?” I ask her.
“THESE!” she replies.
“Ummmm – no. Rescue them outside sweetie.”
Hahaha!! Never a dull moment when you’re a teacher!

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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in Uncategorized


Random Creativity

If you are a teacher in grades K-3 chances are you have often heard the words, “Can I show you something?”  There is something in the hearts and spirits of young children that they love to share!  They want you to watch them dance, sing, draw, build, act, do, and on and on.  Mostly, they want someone to pay attention to what they have created, and then give positive affirmation of their creation.

A group of girls in my class started asking if they could share their skits, songs, dramas, cheers, and funny handshakes with the class after the lunch recesses.  After sharing one of their skits, they asked me what I thought.  I told them I thought it was, “Interesting, definitely dramatic, and random.”  They wanted to know what random meant.  I explained, “Something that is without a direction or a goal.  Something that happens without any real reason, or connection to anything else.”  They loved the idea that they were random, and named their group The Randoms.  As the weeks have turned into months of performances by The Randoms, I was intrigued today by the development of their cognitive, social, and performance skills.  The Randoms really are not so random anymore.  Their skits contain interesting story lines, clear organization, creative ideas, and no fear of public performance.

I read an article today called Developing Creativity in Every Learner by Doug Johnson.  In the article he listed ways that human beings demonstrate creativity:  As writers, presenters, storytellers, dancers, artists, athletes, musicians, problem-solvers, inventors, leaders, humorists, collaborators, etc.  I thought about my group of Randoms.  Every day they are developing their creativity collaboratively, in a grassy field, during lunch recess.  As their teacher, all it it took from me was a willingness to let them share.  As long as they still have an avenue to share their creative performances, they continue to create.  But what if I no longer gave them an opportunity to share?  Would they still be spending their lunch recesses creating?  Would they be developing their cognitive, social and presentation skills to such an advanced level?  Chances are they would stop creating.

When children ask me now, “Can I show you something?”, I always respond with, “Absolutely!  Let’s find a time to make that happen.”  Creating a climate where students can develop creativity often starts with just a willingness to give them time for random creativity.

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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Uncategorized