Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

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How often are you breaking down the walls of your classroom and bringing the outside world in?

As a former French teacher and current Instructional Technology Specialist, I strive to create opportunities for students that they might not be able to receive from a traditional classroom or even from home.  In this day and age of budget cuts, stretched schedules and simply the cost and logistics of organization, many schools are starting to eliminate and/or severely cut down on the  number of field trips students take each year.  Sadly, this affects our students in a multitude of ways.

Many educators are aware of the incredible opportunities that opening up their classrooms with tools like Skype and Hangouts provides for their students, but they are often hesitant to engage in these types of activities due to several reasons. They might be unsure where to find the “matches”, the collaborations; unsure of how to integrate into their everyday classroom; unsure of how to engage with students before and after the actual call; and unsure of the technology needed to pull off such a thing.

That’s where I swoop in to help!  In my day-to-day job as an ITS, I help my teachers find these matches and opportunities for their students.  And, last week at the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference (PETE&C),  I presented a session on this very topic.   Titled, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” the session description was as follows –

Enrich your students’ learning experiences through providing ways for them to collaborate locally and globally using Skype in the Classroom projects, Microsoft Teams, Translator, and Office Online.

In the session (slides embedded below), we discussed the life of an average student and how their life mirrors that of a “real life TV show”.  We discussed the opportunities that our students have to be not only the STAR of the TV show, but even better, how they can react and interact with the OTHER stars of their own TV shows… through Skype.

With Skype in the Classroom and additional tools and resources such as Microsoft Teams, Office Online, Microsoft Forms and Microsoft Translator, teachers and students literally have a collaborative world at their fingertips, no matter their native language!  Every single day can be career day by Skyping an expert – through a guest speaker, virtual field trips or even lessons taught by that expert.  Students can work together with fellow students from another school, state or even country through Collaborations, Office and Teams.  And, what better way to learn about another school and culture than with a Mystery Skype?

In fact, my session participants got a taste of all of the above during the conference session.  We connected with a dear friend and my session participants first had to play Mystery Skype to figure out where he was.  Once we found out he was in France, he then served as the expert as he explained how he uses Skype to empower his English-Language learners.  Then, we chatted a bit about the collaborations we have done between his classroom and the classrooms I support.  Talk about real-world, hands-on engagement!

Here we are, Skyping with France!

Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo & Conference

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On February 21-24, 2016, I attended the PETE & C Conference for the first time since 2010!  As usual, I put my best self forward and presented four sessions on Microsoft in Education.  Check out my presentations and resources hosted in a collection on Docs.com.


MakerSpace “Playdate”

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On Friday, November 13th, WMS hosted educators, technology/instructional coaches, administrators and librarians in our MakerSpace and Library for what we dubbed our “Playdate”.  The intent of this time was for folks interested in MakerSpaces and STEM education to come together to collaborate, experiment, communicate and essentially PLAY with the items in our MakerSpace and other items that were brought by those in attendance.

We started the afternoon out with a bit of a “potluck” lunch and a brief overview of MakerSpaces, the Maker Generation and the items available in the WMS MakerSpace.  Participants also briefly shared the items that they brought as well.  Check out this Sway that we used for our intro presentation:

Wow!  What a Friday!  Not only did the afternoon work out exactly as planned with hands-on experimentation and collaboration, but we now have a solid group of educators from the area who will continue to collaborate and communicate about MakerSpaces and STEM education.  In addition to the items we already have in our MakerSpace, we learned about a lot of other STEM tools and resources and discussed their use in various curricula.

Check out some of the pictures from our event below:



Ten Tools for Engaging Learners

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On Wednesday, September 30th, from 3-6 pm, the Montgomery County Association of Teachers of Foreign Languages (MCAFTL) held its fall conference at Wissahickon Middle School.  I was asked about 6 months ago if I would be the presenter for this conference as they wanted to once again focus their fall conference on technology.  As a former French teacher and member of MCAFTL, I jumped at the chance to share my love of instructional technology with my world language colleagues once again.  When writing the conference presentation blurb in the spring, I came up with the following:

World Languages 3.0:  Technology Tools for Engaging World Language Learners

Come on out to learn about the latest and greatest web-based tools for creating engaging and interactive activities, projects and lessons for your World Language learners.   In this fast-paced, hands-on workshop, participants will be exposed to a variety of tools and resources that can be used for communication, collaboration, creativity, formative assessment, and the blended/flipped learning environment.  Time will also be allotted for participant sharing, so be sure to come ready to share your favorite web-based technology!  Be sure to bring your own device (laptop or tablet) to get the most out of this session.

However, I didn’t really know at that time what tools I would be presenting.  As I really only had about 2 hours of instructional time, and I wanted to be sure to allow the participants some hands-on time with the tools I present, it was difficult to choose not only the best tools for world language learners, but also tools that would be free, web-based, and device agnostic, as we have a variety of platforms, devices, and student access in our county.

So, without further ado, I present “Ten Tools for Engaging (World Language) Learners“.  I put World Language in parenthesis because in no way are any of these tools solely for language class.  Each and every one of the tools below can, and should, be used by teachers from every discipline in every grade level.

What tools would you have chosen?  Please leave your favorite free, web-based tools, in the comments!

E2: Microsoft Global Educator Exchange

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I had the most life-altering experience of my life a few weeks ago as one of 20 educators from the United States chosen to join about 250 other like-minded educators from around the globe at the Microsoft Global Educator Exchange, E2.

Check out the Sway that I created below as a recap, photo album and reflective blog post all wrapped into one!  You can view it as embedded below, or click HERE to open it up in its own tab to see it fully.  Enjoy!