Monday, September 30, 2013

Lively Sunday Night! Attended both #techeducator & #21stedchat

Last night I spent my Sunday night participating in not one but two live twitter chats.

The assignment this week in my Emerging Instructional Technology class was to participate in a Web 2.0 Event.  I choose to join a live Twitter Chat I was able to find information on many different chats by looking through the list below.

Weekly Twitter Chats - List of Weekly Education Twitter Chats

Technology Educators (#techeducator) 7-8pm EST
This chat is a live video feed hosted on  The chat is hosted by Jeffrey Bradbury @TeacherCast and Jon Samuelson @ipadSammy the guest this Sunday was Craig Yen @craigyen a fifth grade teaching veteran of 11 years. 

With the month of October designated as Connected Educator Month the theme of the chat centered around how to be a more connected educator, the power of Twitter, EdCamps and blogging.

I enjoyed the experience and found it entertaining and enjoyable as the hosts had a very comfortable easy going rapport. For me the discussion solidified information covered in recent reading and discussions regarding the sharing of resources through twitter and using blogging to reflect and document your own learning and growth as you progress as an educator.

The conversation was easy to follow as the bulk of the conversation was between the two hosts and their guest. Recordings of previous chats can be viewed at

After viewing the Technology Educators chat I decided to try yet another live chat

21st Century Education (#21stedchat) 8-9pm EST

This chat was fast paced and as I understand it they were trying out a new format for the first time.  The chat moderator Jill Thompson @Edu_Thompson presented the chat community with different scenarios for the group to discuss and solve together. Here are a few of the scenarios discussed.
  1. Tech has become a catalyst for distraction & off task behavior, they're supposed to be listening to me or doing work.
  2. You can't count on the wireless, websites go down, crashes / losing everything you've done so why use it?
  3. I don't have time to teach technology, my plate is already full with the curriculum I most teach.
  4. There are too many passwords / log-ins and I can't keep track of it all.
I enjoyed both of these chats and intend on participating again in the future.  May just have to take another look at the Weekly Twitter Chat list to see what else is out there.

Do you have any suggestions for me on Twitter Chats you have found interesting?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Try it Mikey You Might Like It

Do you remember Mikey?

One of my biggest pet peeves is the misuse or under utilization of technology in the classroom how can such powerful tools for creating knowledge and aiding communication be ignored by so many educators?  How do teachers dig in and refuse to utilize computers in the classroom for anything more than a word processor or electronic flashcards?  There are sooooo many exciting and new Web 2.0 tools out there and educators are behaving like children refusing to try new cereal.

I found it ironic that last week in the height of looming deadlines for both school and work along with a particular hectic schedule on the home front I was asked in my Technology in Education class to utilize a VoiceThread for a class discussion tread.  The problem was this was a new communication tool that I had no previous exposure to and a very limited time to learn.  My initial gut response was not positive I resisted even opening the site let alone posting I would have given anything to avoid using something new at that point.  I get it ...I understand we have limited time but sometimes if you try it you may like it just like Mikey.

While I do find listening to posts more time consuming than downloading or copying a text thread for later review I found posting to be less labor intensive as I could choose to speak, video or type my responses into the thread without the excessive worrying about grammar and spelling errors.  I pushed my internal demons aside and gave it a try and I have to say like Mikey I liked it.

With VoiceThread you are able to create more of a "living" online collaborative space. VoiceThread is a totally web-based application that allows you to place collections of media like images, videos, documents, and presentations at the center of an asynchronous conversation. A VoiceThread allows people to have conversations and to make comments using any mix of text, a microphone, a web cam, a telephone, or uploaded audio file. VoiceThread runs inside your web browser, so there is no software to download, install, or update.

Here are some additional resources for ideas on using VoiceThread in the classroom: 

VoiceThread 4 Education - comprehensive collection of VoiceThread examples from students and teachers of all ages and groups. The purpose of this wiki is to gather examples of how educators are using Voicethread in their classrooms (or for professional development) and to share those examples.

7 Things You Should Know About VoiceTread - Educase

Digitally Speaking -  Using VoiceThread for Digital Conversations
Beginning with email and instant messages and stretching to texting and synchronous video web conferencing, digital dialogue has gradually become a common element of everyday life for today's students - another opportunity to "gather."

What are some ways you could see VoiceTread being used in the classroom? 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

To Assign or Not to Assign- Homework is the question.

The Homework Debate

Image by Emma Winsor Wood
Last week at work we got into a debate on whether or not homework was an effective means for extending learning for elementary school children.  Later that same evening during my Emerging Instructional Technology class we were sitting in on the #edchat and the subject for the evening was ... you guessed it HOMEWORK.  While sitting in on the chat I noticed that many of the tweets I found insightful were posted by Jerry Blumengarten also known on twitter as @cybraryman1.

The convergence of these two discussions made me curious about the research regarding the subject of assigning homework to elementary students.  I began my research by going to Jerry Blumengarten's website Cybrary Man's Educational Web Sites where I found a wealth of information regarding the homework debate.

Prior to my research I was of the opinion that often times homework is unnecessary and over used but it did have merits on occasion. As a parent I have made myself available to my children to support their homework needs but have many times felt resentful of teachers infringement on our time as a family with busy work.

I found a fair amount of information on making homework assignments more relevant and meaningful for students one of which was Five Hallmarks of Good Homework by Cathy Vatterott
Homework shouldn't be about rote learning. The best kind deepens student understanding and builds essential skills:
  1. Clear academic purpose
  2. Task efficiently demonstrates student learning
  3. Promotes ownership by offering choices and is personally relevant
  4. Instills a sense of competence - can be fully completed without help
  5. Aesthetically pleasing.
The majority of the information and research statistics however argued against the use of homework as a meaningful contribution to learning with elementary school children. 

The Truth About Homework: Needless Assignments Persist Because of Widespread Misconceptions About Learning by Alfie Kohn. 
"decades of investigation have failed to turn up any evidence that homework is beneficial for students in elementary school.  Even if you regard standardized test results as a useful measure, homework (some versus none, or more versus less) isn’t even correlated with higher scores at these ages.  The only effect that does show up is more negative attitudes on the part of students who get more assignments."

I found additional insight I agreed with on John T Spencer's blog posting Anti-Homework where he pointed out that those who have have already mastered skills why is it necessary to practice for hours and for those that have not mastered the skill what happens if they practice the skill incorrectly? If the argument is we need to provide students with better activities than watching tv each night then what about those students who are active in church, sports, clubs or family are those not also learning opportunities that foster whole students. As far as extending learning into the home Spencer points out that many students who used to read books, draw or play games with parents now slog through worksheets that are tragically causing them to their natural love of learning.

Another blog I found very interesting is for the love of learning by Joe Bower.  He has posted a multitude of blog posting discussing the misuse of homework.
"Homework is not something to assign, rather it is something to inspire. Where there's interest, achievement follows. Traditional homework has exactly the opposite effect on children's love for learning. In fact, I can think of no better sabateur of passion for learning than homework."Joe Bower
In this edition of “Assignment America” 5th grade student, Ben Berrafato eloquently compares homework assignments to slavery.

The real question: Does homework enhance a child's lifelong desire to learn?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Math Monsters

Math Monsters are what I call the group of kids I work on a daily basis providing intensive intervention for Math. I love taking what seemed impossible and making it fun.  Finding ways to make math fun takes some work at times but I get a great deal of guidance and a plethora of ideas from two blogs in particular.

Two Blogs I follow every week:

Math Coaches Corner by Donna Boucher

A veteran  K-5 Instructional Mathematics Coach. Donna writes frequent blog posts on the subject of Elementary Math.  She provides ideas for hands on activities and instructions on how to break math into small manageable chunks for students.

Flapjack Educational Resources by Tabitha Carro

You have to love her Blog tag line "Have Fun the Learning Will Come" Tabitha is a Spanish partial-immersion math and science 4th grade teacher who creates some amazing math and science activities.  Tabitha has created some great QR Codes.

There is a great entry on this blog site about QR Codes in the Classroom. It lays out everything you need to know to create activities using QR codes.

Take a look at these two blogs and let me know what you think.

Bat Signal?... No It's a Tweet!

Is That a Bat Signal?  No It's a Tweet

I just dawned on me that my Twitter account @kim_mccoypk has become by own personal Bat Signal when I am stuck or need help I now go to Twitter and post my question, concern or need like Gotham in need of Batman.  And to my surprise the superheros in my PLN come to the rescue. 

When I was looking for a keyboard typing program because the district was still deciding what software to purchase I flashed the Bat Signal (tweeted for suggestions) in a very short time I had several suggestions to research.  Within 48 hours the research was done, students entered into the teacher management tool, log ins  assigned and we had begun our keyboarding tutorials.  The district is still researching and working on making a software purchase but our students are well on their way to becoming lightning fast keyboardists and loving it.
TypingWeb is a free online typing tutor & keyboarding tutorial for typists of all skill levels. TypingWeb includes entertaining typing games, typing tests, and free official typing certification.
  • Completely Free
  • Perfect for All Ages
  • Lessons for All Skill Levels
  • Teacher Portal to monitor progress
I tweeted a random comment on how I was apprehensive of the gaming portion of my Emerging Instructional Technology Class and received a tweet back from Michael Matera  @mrmatera

author of Mr Matera Musings who blogs about gamification of the classroom.  Below you will find a link to his article Tech tools for the gamified classroom.  He also suggested I take a look at edbean another site full of wonderful articles by insightful educators.  As I was perusing these websites I notices that not only had @mrmatera made suggestions and offer support but he was now following me on twitter as well how cool is that?

I found out this weekend that the Bat Signal can work two ways.  I noticed a blog that @emma_george8 who is part of my PLN would be interested in.  How did I know she would be interested in this particular blog you ask?  I know because I read her blog Little titbits by Emma George she is studying to be a Spanish teacher so I thought she might be interested in one of my favorite blogs Flap Jack Educational Resources.

Images from

I love this blog because of the wonderfully engaging activities she creates. I have found multiple QR code game ideas on this sight and have purchased many of her resources from the website Teachers Pay Teachers.  Many of the resources on this site come in Spanish as well as English.

When Emma tweeted back a thank you for the resource the realization solidified that Twitter can be an effective Bat Signal for asking for or providing assistance.

How will you use your "Bat Signal" this week?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Time to Stop Talking the Talk and Start Walking the Walk

I think we can all talk the talk about the benefits of integrating technology into the classroom and how we need better training and more technology in our educational system, but talking the talk is not going to get it done.  It's time to start to walk the walk even if it is a baby step at a time.

This last week I decide it was time to stop talking and start walking.  Instead of trying to sell the benifets of technology this week I decided to show the benefits to my colleges.

The fifth grade teachers were having difficulties solving the issues of students continually forgetting their study guides for upcoming tests.  They managed to get daily planners home but the study guides were constantly being misplaced.  The other issue we were having was that students were forgetting math lessons taught in the morning when it was time to practice the math at home.  The next day as soon as they would see the hints or work laid out on the whiteboard it was all the trigger most needed to be successful on their own.

Step: 1   Create a QR to tape into daily planner to provide a link to study guides via smart phones or tablets to enable students to have access to study materials in the car or waiting at practice.  I started out a simple black and white QR Code created by Google URL Shortener but as other teachers requested  QR codes for their study guides it became apparent that the plain black and white QR code was not going to work well to separate out study guides.  I then changed to using Visualead to generate QR codes within pictures that tied back to particular subjects.  Here is the QR code used for the most recent Social Studies Chapter Study Guide: Columbus and the Exploration of the New World.

Social Studies - Study Guide 

Step: 2   Create Classroom Blog a blog that would communicate classroom activities for day, links to practice games and interesting sights as well as parent reminders.  Initially the teacher I am working with dismissed the idea as too much work and not of much value.  She stated very clearly that if I wanted to create the blog and do all the posting it would be fine with her but she did not have the time or the technological knowledge to contribute.

I posted the first several postings complete with whiteboard photos of classroom explanations, links to games, videos and activities to reinforces the math concepts learned, funny visuals, links to the different study guides and information about what interesting things happened in the classroom throughout the day. 

I left a link to the blog open on the teachers laptop and continued to add snippets through out the day never taking more than a minute or two to add additional information.  Quickly the kids began to pipe in with reminders of what should be included on the daily blog.  I showed the teacher how to look at the statistical information and she watched as I posted bits and pieces throughout the day.

On Friday last week when I came back to the classroom after an appointment outside the building I was meet by a very bubbly fifth grade teacher who couldn't wait to tell me she posted three times on the blog while I was gone, BY HERSELF!!!!!    I promptly gave her two stickers for trying something new and unknown;}  I feel like I created a little chink in the resistances to technology last week.

The question I have for you is what can you do to help soften the resistance to technology and show that you are not only willing to talk the talk but walk the walk as well?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

CREATIVITY - Where Can I Find Me Some

Creativity -

I read a lot of different things at once with little bits and pieces stick in my memory and for the most part mush together forming new ideas but lately one theme has stuck in my head CREATIVITY.

I typically think, "I wish I was more creative," and am in awe of those I deem as having creative talents.  Then I began reading Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and my thought process is changing.

"Creativity is rarely about natural brilliance or innate genius...creativity results from properly directed attention, laser-like focus, relentless effort, and hard work."    Dave Burgess - Teach Like a Pirate

Follow hashtag #tlap on twitter if you would like to see what other educators have to say about Teach Like a Pirate.

You can follow Dave Burgess directly on twitter @burgessdave or subscribe to Teach Like a Pirate Daily Newsleter.

Sir Ken Robbins' TED Talk on Collaboration and Creativity is another one of my personal favorite creativity pep talks.

I am making a pledge to remind myself and those around me that creativity can be nurtured or found within anyone and I will never again use the EXCUSE that I am just not creative.  I WILL WORK RELENTLESSLY to encourage creativity.  

What can or have you done recently to foster creativity within yourself or other?