Reflections on #edcampHome

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in my first ever virtual edcamp. (For those of you wondering what an edcamp is, I wrote a little bit about my previous experiences here.)

EdCampHome is different from other edcamps in that it’s not a face-to-face in person experience. All of the sessions took place over Google Hangouts On Air. Session topics were suggested in the days prior to the official event, and registered attendees voted on which sessions they wanted by giving the recommendations a +1 in our Google+ Community. This determined which sectionals would run during the conference. When the conference started, the initiators were given a Google Drive folder with different documents and instructions on how to begin each session.

I was a little nervous about volunteering to be an Initiator/Host of the two sessions, as I’ve only hosted a Hangout On Air a couple times. The sign up process was easy, and I’m so proud of my refurbished computer (on which I’m experimenting with my first Linux install) for handling the multiple tabs and video streams.

My first session was about Student ePortfolios. It took me a while to figure out how to get everyone properly invited, but I think the session was productive. Big props go to Michelle Stein for sharing her students’ digital portfolio. We talked a lot about using Weebly sites vs. Google sites. Since I’m doing a Computer/Technology class for 6-8th graders next year, I’m strongly considering the creating of an ePortfolio for them to show off their best work. The challenge for this session was to keep people talking. As a mostly-introvert myself, it was a little awkward for me, because I felt like there weren’t many people engaged. Maybe most of them were just there to listen! Hopefully everyone was able to take away some good ideas. We then moved on to session two.

Session two brought me to a talk on Tightwad Tech. This session felt a lot more comfortable to me because there was natural conversation happening. We talked about some good tools that we use in our classrooms that are cheap/free like KidBlog, some apps for iPads, and addons/scripts like Doctopus and gClass Folders. I even shared in a peek of Google Classroom, even though I haven’t had more than 24 hours to play around with it much. (That’s a future blog post!) Big thanks to Chris and George for the great discussion that we had!

I look forward to the 4.0 iteration of edcampHome, and I’ll encourage anyone who wants some good summertime PD to virtually attend!


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Teach Like a PIRATE Book Whisperer

Yadda yadda, haven’t posted in a long time. Course load increased, prep time decreased, musical production, mentoring a first year teacher, supervising a pre-service teacher, etc. etc. etc.

Image from Denise Caparula via

BUT I just finished reading Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess. Oh. My. Goodness. It’s our book for our WELS Book Club this summer. We’re discussing Part 1 of the book on Twitter – July 15th at 8pm CST using the hashtag #WELSbkclub.

My brain is now swirling with ideas. Hopefully I don’t get sucked down into the infinite vortex!!

So. Next year I’m teaching (subject/grade level):

Homeroom 6; Reading 6; English 6; Music 6, 7, 8; Technology 5, 6, 7, 8; Geometry 8

That seems like a lot looking at it, but I also am thankful because it’s less than I had last year (when I almost died).

Aaaanyhow, last summer, I read/listened to The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. Unfortunately for me, my school also dropped a bunch of money on a new Reading textbook (Journeys from Houghton Mifflin) so I needed to use the text as much as possible. I still supplemented with a couple novels and Scholastic’s SCOPE magazine, but the joy just wasn’t there.

In the light of Teach Like a Pirate and The Book Whisperer, I’m thinking of an idea kind of like the Challenges Dave Burgess uses in TLAP wrapped around the idea of independent choice and reading like The Book Whisperer. Students can choose to read whatever book they want, and if they provide some kind of review or summary (who knows what that will look like — I’m sure I’ll allow many different forms from the traditional report to a YouTube video and everywhere in between) they get some sort of credit in the gradebook (because I still have to take grades, and if they’re going to put in the work, I want their grade to reflect it), and some kind of public acknowledgement.  I’m considering some kind of competition around it as well, but I’m not certain how that would go over with the kids. Maybe I’ll leave that up to them! I’m still coming up with how I want to design my instruction during our time together, but letting the kids have time to read is going to be a big part of it.

Let me know what you think of this idea! I’m planning on creating a rubric and guidelines of what is and is not appropriate, and I’ll update this post with links to that when I’m finished.

Thank you, Teach Like A Pirate, for putting some zip back into my step and getting me excited about teaching again.

Update 1: Wowza! Thanks Dave for your kind comments. Donalyn, also for your feedback on Twitter. As I said on Twitter, when I mentioned competition above, I was thinking of a recognition wall where we could either track how many books were read, or to show off some excellent product. I don’t like pitting students against each other, but I’d rather we work together to a common goal, such as 200 books read or something. Finally, just as a side note, I only have 12 students in my 6th grade next year. Think of how well we’ll be able to build our relationships!! :)

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International Dot Day (Week) 2013

For those of you who may not know, a book called The Dot has commanded my mid-September reading for two years now.

The Dot follows Vashti, an art student who believes she has no art talent. “Make your mark and see where it takes you,” encouraged her teacher. Vashti jabs her blank paper with a marker, and proclaims it finished. “Now, sign it!” says her art teacher. Later on, Vashti returns to the art classroom to see her teacher has framed her artwork and mounted it on the wall. Vashti realizes she can do better than that dot, and continues throughout the story to make dots of all shapes and sizes.

Thanks to the wonderful teachers and librarians in my PLN on Twitter, I was alerted to the fact that “International Dot Day” happens on or around September 15th. We had the awesome opportunity to share some of our artwork at the Waukesha Public Library. We created our dots with watercolors, and sent them off to the library for display. I plan on getting to the library soon to take some pictures. The other awesome part of Dot Day (Week) was that we spent the week of the 16th connecting with different classrooms.

Someone on Twitter created a Google Doc where teachers/librarians were able to add in their classroom contact information and set appointment slots for others to fill in their information. My 6th graders managed to connect with three schools and four different classrooms.

What it looked like on our end:

Skype with a class in Austin, TX!

What we looked like on their end:

I even started a custom Google Map so we can keep track of all the locations with which we connect this year. I’m looking forward to adding even more pins on the map during the Global Read Aloud coming up! Hopefully this is one way to help my students understand that they are not alone in the world–there are many more kids out there and they all can make a difference!

Until next time, keep a song in your heart!

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Vocabulary Bulletin Board

My vocabulary board!

My vocabulary board!

I got a huge stack of these cards along with my new reading series. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s “Journeys”) I had no idea what I was going to do with them, because initially they were just going to take up space in one of my cupboards, as many of the ancillary materials do. Then, I had an idea to use the edge of my large bulletin board as a vocabulary area. I just needed a way to keep the cards intact, because if they will be reused year after year, I don’t want to punch holes in them.

I had a few ideas on how I was going to do this — blue goo (the sticky putty that we teachers love so much) wasn’t quite going to cut it, since I know that it can leave a residue after a while. I also thought about going to the dollar store to buy some cheap frames, painting them, and making it really cute. That idea got the kibosh because of time constraints, and I didn’t measure the cards before I left the building the other night.

Enter Target’s dollar section! Yay! They have these cool, round bulletin board tacks that have a rubber seal on the top. They also have two metal pins to stick into the board so they don’t rotate in place. You slide the paper between the rubber seal and the plastic, and voila! A place to hang paper without punching holes in it! I wish they were 2/$1, but no such luck. They were a dollar each. But, for the convenience of not punching holes in papers that will get reused from year to year, it works!

Hope your school preparations are going well! We’re back to school on Wednesday of this week. I’m looking forward to 24 vibrant young people who are eager to learn. I am also supervising a student teacher from September-November. Yikes! I’m nervous, but I’m sure it will be great.

Until next time,
Keep a song in your heart!

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Google Education Summit, Wisconsin Lutheran College

This summer I had the awesome privilege of speaking at the second Google Education Summit at Wisconsin Lutheran College. I was an attendee last year, and I was quite happy when I was asked to come back and talk about my Google Apps for Education/Chromebook experience.

Lunch on the Milwaukee Shoreline

Lunch on the Milwaukee Shoreline

It was another great week at WLC! I was really happy to spend time with all the folks learning how to get Google-fied. I was able to share some great things that we did in my classroom last year, and I hope the attendees found it helpful.

The one big bummer of a moment was during the day at Discovery World. The day itself was awesome– I’m hoping we can schedule a field trip sometime this year. I was eagerly anticipating an email from the people at CUE that run the Google Teacher Academy. I had submitted my application a few weeks prior, and I was hoping for some fantastic news. However, I wasn’t one of the ~50 people chosen for this particular GTA. It would have been great – it was hosted at the Google offices in Chicago. I plan on applying to the next one, and hopefully I can attend!

Finally, here’s a video that WLC put together after the event, and after that is my Google Teacher Academy video.

Until next time, keep a song in your heart!

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Google Adds Search To Link Box in Drive


Hi friends!

Sorry I’ve left this site so dormant over the summer! I’ve had so many great learning opportunities this summer, I can’t wait to write about them. This breaking news comes first, though!

Last night, as I was revisiting my presentations for AppFest, I was adding a link to Pernille Ripp’s “Blogging through the Fourth Dimension.” (A great blog on working with Elementary students–check it out!)

Lo and behold, as I was ready to paste the link, a new box popped up and startled me. This is not normal! It’s new! I thought. You can search the web or your Drive to find and link related content. It’s makes things that much easier, again!

Enjoy your new search box–

And keep a song in your heart!

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#WELSEd Twitter Chat

WELSEd Chat using TweetChat web service

One of the new adventures I’ve embarked upon in the recent past is leading a Twitter chat every two weeks. I am attempting to connect educators in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod schools. This is a great opportunity because we can share with each other what is working in our Lutheran schools, we can give feedback on what the Synod and Northwestern Publishing House are working on with creating materials for our schools, and we can support each other in our ministries.

Although some would warn me about adding yet another thing to my plate, I think this is a worthwhile venture to help connect the technology leaders in our synod. I know not all of the tech-savvy are on Twitter, but we can connect those who are already and encourage those who are not. (It’s great Professional Development!)

Last week Thursday, we talked about using technology in our Religion classes. Click through to Storify for an archive of the conversation: [View the story “#WELSEd Chat 4/18/13″ on Storify]

I’m always looking for ideas from people on what we can talk about in order to help the most people. Tweet me @aleixa or send me an email through the blog to suggest topics!

Keep a song in your heart!

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April, Already?

Waste less EARTH do less homework[Day270]*

Waste less EARTH do less homework[Day270]* by Chapendra, on Flickr

The teachers and I here are just coming off our first “real” break since Christmas. It was a delightful time for me, a whole week off (almost…still had grad school work to do), and time to visit parents, brothers, sisters, and my nephew. I missed meeting my new nephew by only a couple days! My husband and I look forward to going back to South Dakota to meet him in a few weeks for his Baptism.

And yet, here we are, in the home stretch of the school year. I am so thankful that we do our standardized testing in the fall, because many of the educators I see out there in the universe are all pressed for time because of test preparations. I’m pressed for time because I want to get my poetry unit and another novel finished before the end of school. I want to get through all the human body systems before the end of the year, and we’ve only done skeletal, muscular, and digestive. I want to actually reach the last section of my 6th grade science book, and have the kids make the e-book guide to space and technology that they’re so excited about. (Look for a longer post about how we went about the process of making our ebook in May or June.)

The K-6 reading teachers are meeting tomorrow morning to decide on a new textbook series that will fit our Reading curriculum. I’m glad for this, because coming into my new grade level this year and discovering that there was no textbook was a challenge. I’ve filled our time with visual literacy with CNN Student News, non-fiction texts through Scholastic Scope Magazine, and then a series of four novels, one per quarter. (Freak the MightyHatchetThe Westing Game, and Bridge to Terabithia) I am fairly sure that I met all the curricular goals that we had outlined in our previous curriculum. Now that it’s revised and more CCSS-based, I’m hoping that whatever textbook series we go with will help me plan a little better. I really think I want to lobby for the digital edition for my classroom, since they will have Chromebooks next year, too. We’ll see what ends up happening.

Whatever happens here or in your neck of the woods, know that you, teacher, have a noble calling. We are preparing kids for the world of tomorrow! Do your best, finish strong, and keep His song in your heart!

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Praxis II Middle School Content

As if March wasn’t busy enough with presenting at the Metro Milwaukee Teachers’ Conference, I applied for Wisconsin licensure, too, and have to take the Praxis II in Middle School Content Knowledge test. D-Day is tomorrow! I hope my studying will pay off! I’m taking the computerized version, which will be something new for me.
Prayers would be appreciated, thanks!

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The Un-Conference Experience

Photo Feb 23, 9 36 30 AM

My first EdCamp Session – Google Certification

Last weekend, I gave up my usual Saturday-of-fun to drive over to Madison, WI, and attend my first EdCamp. It was my first experience with the un-conference style, and I fell in love with it.

What is an EdCamp? It’s a grassroots type of organization for people who have an interest in all things education. In attendance last weekend were classroom teachers, media specialists, administrators, and even school board members! I’m sure most teachers have been to a conference before where they have to sign up a month in advance, choose from a static list of presentations, and then sit through those presentations, even if they weren’t exactly what you were looking for.

After having a delicious breakfast, we found our way into the Sun Prairie High School Auditorium. It was then and there that the magic started. We had a blank schedule template of the rooms and times that were available. People filed up, one by one, and offered their session proposals. The sticky notes were then arranged into the schedule, updated on the Google Spreadsheet, and off we were!

Another one of the things that I really liked about EdCamp was the emphasis on “vote with your feet.” If a session was not interesting to you, they highly encouraged you to get up, and go to something else. (I could not even imagine doing something like that at one of our Lutheran School conferences. It seems rude!) But, I did gather the courage to walk out of one session and then find something new.

What was really evident the whole day is that everyone wanted to be there. Many of the mandatory conferences my coworkers and I are expected to attend have a feeling of obligation hanging over the attendees, but EdCamp didn’t. Yet another thing that makes EdCamp a unique experience…

I really want to thank all the organizers of the Madison EdCamp for providing an awesome first experience. I want to thank the sponsors who made the event great, too! I’m drinking out of my Edutopia water bottle, and rocking the Kidblog pencils/magnets! I love the t-shirt I won as a prize, too.

If you’re looking for an EdCamp near you, head to and search the map for something happening in your area. EdCamp in Milwaukee is coming up on May 11th, and registration opens tomorrow, March 1st! Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend, since I am already scheduled to work at our school’s track invitational that day.

Overall, the EdCamp structure is really awesome. The attendees are those who really care about the future of education! I’d encourage you all to get to one if you can!


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