Monday, November 30, 2015

Start making!

We are gradually getting makerspaces up and running around my campus. We've opted for several smaller ones that each focus on a theme (like coding, building, wearables, crafts, etc.). This allows students to go to focused centers and for us to find more spaces for makerspaces.

I've included some of my favorite resources for creating and running makerspaces in my Making over your library presentation. Note: this does not just apply to libraries. Libraries just happen to be a natural starting places for many makerspaces. You can find more STEAM resources at

A recent addition includes: Naturebytes - 3D printed kits that help in the making of wildlife cameras for students.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Coding: Girls' Edition

Hour of Code is quickly approaching. However, coding opportunities should not be limited to once a year. They should be made available at all points in the year. They should also target girls. As girls progress through school, their numbers diminish in the computer science field. By the time they enter the work force, very few are represented. With computer science jobs expected to rise to numbers we are not ready to fulfill, it's more crucial than ever to encourage girls to enter the field.

Think of the awesome innovations we could create if A) all computer science jobs were filled and B) if there was diversity in the voices represented.

To help get the momentum going, I've organized some of my favorite girls' organizations and computer science programs aimed at girls into one presentation. Check out for more STEAM resources. Enjoy and happy Thanksgiving break!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

#BeYouEdu: Finding Your Super Power

If you are not familiar with the #BeYouEdu movement led by +Dr. Will Deyamport, III , you need to get on it! It's one of my favorite posts to write each month. They are a great way to challenge you to think about what you bring to the table. I'm thinking of doing a similar series now with students.

This month's topic: Finding Your Super Power

I love this. It implies you have a super power.

I have more teachers than I should mention to me that "[they] could never do that." I see teachers who are confident in their subject area, but who are not confident in their risk-taking abilities. The problem is that the most critical part of learning is risk-taking. To learn is to take risks. And, it's not unique to teachers. I see the same problem in students. The fear of taking risks - the belief that we do not have a super power to offer.

And, that's why this topic is perfect. It already assumes we do have a super power. What many lack is the belief that they do have a super power. They lack confidence.

What happens to our confidence? I watch as my niece jumps from one chair to the next with a hulahoop in hand. She's not afraid. Perhaps, she should be. But, what makes a child stop taking risks? We will take risks, knowing the consequences, but won't when we don't know. We stop leaping because we don't know what may happen. We don't know what's on the other side. And, at some point along our journey, that becomes scary. We stop doodling. We stop creating. We think we could never do that. We compare ourselves to one another.

It's all of these things that prevent us from seeing and understanding our super powers.

The irony to this is that I have struggled with self confidence for as long as I can remember. However, I am not afraid take risks. I'm a skydiver, hang glider, parasailer, paraglider, mountain climber. And, I'm scared of heights to an extreme level. I want to learn everything. I'm not afraid to invest myself in learning something new. Though I lack confidence in how others perceive me at times, I have a super ability to take risks. I love change. In fact, I strive for it. I move a lot. I admire traditions and I hold them sacred. But, I love risks.

My super power is that I know I have a super power. That seems a bit ridiculous, but I've found many adults, teens, and children, who do not recognize they have a super power.

A fellow educator once told me we all know something that no one else in the world knows. I believe that. And, it's an amazing concept. She said that we should be out to find those things from each other. This concept makes us all unique and all super in at least one way.

I believe in risks. I believe in the impossible. And, that is my super power. It's what makes me determined and it's what leads to success for me.

What do you know that know one else knows? You have super powers - what are they?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

#YourEduStory: Giving thanks back to education

This week's topic: How do you give thanks to the students and adults you work with?

Technically, it's next week's topic, but since there is no topic this week and next week is meant to actually give thanks, I'm writing about it this week.

This topic was particularly challenging and, perhaps, that is not a good thing. I had to really think about how I give thanks to the students and adults I work with. Part of that goes to my work ethic.

It's no secret that I'm a hard worker and that I am very determined. It is through my work that I give thanks. However, in thinking about this post, I realize I should give more personalized thanks to individuals. I need to take time to take a deep breath, slow down, and focus on those around me who are also working hard. 

I think others who work to the point of exhaustion may feel this way. When working hard, I often don't take breaks to enjoy the work of others around me. If I'm told we need to get something done, I will work to get that goal done. If that means assisting others, I will. However, it also means that I don't take any breaks. It's during those breaks where you can appreciate what others do. Perhaps, my goal is to look more at the work my peers are doing. In writing this, I can't say I know too much what others are doing. I am very task-oriented. 

So, how does someone like me give thanks: through the work I do. I make sure that it is done in a timely manner. I make sure to go above and beyond to meet the needs of those around me. For my students, I research, research, and research innovative ways to teach. I spend countless hours finding ways to make the classroom more entertaining, more applicable. I give my time.

To fellow adults, I work to take the work-load off of others. When I say tasks that have no name on them, I complete them for others. It's this that is both a curse and a blessing. It's a blessing that I get it done for others. However, it's a curse that I no longer have time to observe the awesome things others around me do.

How do you give thanks in education? My goal is to slow down sometimes to take in what others are doing so I can give personalized thanks.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Get creative with #chrome! #snagit #screencastify #presentme

I live 100% on my Chromebook so I'm always on the lookout for tools that allow me to be creative on my Chromebook. And, thankfully, there are a lot of options.

I'm a WeVideo fan for creating iMove/Movie Maker style videos. However, it has since made a lot more features at cost. Though it's understandable, it's not always feasible to pay in a classroom. YouTube editor is great, but then you have to worry about whether or not YouTube is available to students. So, if you know of others that can make movies off of a storyboard like WeVideo, do share!

In other news, I'm a fan of MoveNote for doing recording with presentations. Unfortunately, it recently has given many of our teachers and students technical difficulties. I have been unable to get feedback from MoveNote so I went searching for other solutions. If anyone from MoveNote reads this, perhaps we can get some resolution :) 
  • PresentMe is just like MoveNote, but it is limited to 3-4 recordings a month. 
  • can just record your screen - presentation or whatever is open in Chrome - with a screen recorder like ScreenCastify or Snagit.
I use the latter two tools daily so I don't know why I had not thought of that sooner. I guess I just liked the interface of MoveNote and the video option. Regardless, the second solution is valid and a great way to add voice to presentations. 

Check out Chromium Creativity for more ideas and for all things Google and Chrome. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

#Google #Geo Tools for all users!

Though I taught English, I have a secret - or not-so-secret - obsession with maps and geography. To help with that obsession, I've been compiling a list of some of the best educational resources on geography and history in the classroom for the past few years.

Today, I added in a new resource: Google Maps Mania. I follow their blog daily on Google + and am amazed at how they combine data with maps. Last week, they showed all of the traffic deaths in the U.S. broken down by gender and age and type of accident. It's great inspiration for what students can do.

So, check out how to Geosize Your World and for more Google tools and resources!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Stylin' with Google Slides

I use Google Slides every day. I create advertisements, make presentations, make Website headers, make documents, and now...I make interactive presentations.

This fall, Poll Everywhere released an add-on to Google Slides that will insert live polls into Google Slides. While I love PearDeck, many of my teachers like to create their presentations in Google Slides - not in PearDeck. If you do it that way, you are VERY limited on the number you can create. So, this is a great solution for having quizzes embedded into presentations.

How does it work? Check out this post from Poll Everywhere. Then, check out Stylin' with Slides for more ways you can use Google Slides that you may not be currently using.

On, you can read about my favorite uses of the rest of the Google Apps. Check back each month for updates...and soon for a big update on Google Forms (I'm holding out until all of the features in the "old" Forms are available in the new Forms).


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Secrets of a Google Ninja...minions?

This is my favorite presentation along with "Let's Get Chromified." There are so many awesome projects associated with Google that aren't advertised enough. Over Halloween, the Google Data experts shared Frightgeist, an interactive site that showcases the top searched Halloween costumes. Now, it would be great to compare those searched with those actual bought and worn.

You can view more awesome Google "projects" on the Secrets of a Google Ninja presentation and at Check back each month for the latest and greatest!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Become a #google #search ninja

Google started off as search engine so, today, we bring it back to its roots. Searching is one of the - if not the most - important skills. Without the ability to search, find, and evaluate information, we are only swimming in a sea of information. Searching gives us the ability to navigate it. I'd love to see searching as a fundamental skill in all schools. Think about how often you search - probably multiple times a day. It's a key component to modern living.

To aid in that dream, I'm compiled some of my favorite searching shortcuts & tools built inside Google as well as a few other great tips and tricks! Check out this presentation for more details as well as for all of your Google goodness.

#YourEduStory: Promoting creativity & confidence

For this week's #youredustory, I am going to to last week's topic: How do you promote creativity and creative confidence in your classroom/school?

My "hustle," my "purpose," and my happiness all center around creativity. It's in everything I do. I used to assume this was the case for everyone, but sadly, it is not. 

As a high school English teacher, I asked my students to think outside of the box, to write creatively, to add in art and music into all that they do. However, I was confronted with moaning & groaning from some. When I allowed for choice, I saw blank faces. As a classroom teacher, I felt frustrated. I provided opportunities to be creative, but many of my students did not take those opportunities. They chastised their own work. They said "I'm not an artist." Do only artists have creativity? 

I was far from a perfect classroom teacher - if that exists - but my frustration led me to want to affect change at a larger level. I found the lack of creative confidence in my class to be a larger issue. I didn't think it was limited to my class. Rather,  I thought this was an idea instilled in students from multiple fronts. 

As somebody who no longer has a classroom of her own, I look at the creative confidence as a school. My advisory students are seldom willing to jump out of their comfort zone. This leap coincides with your creative confidence. Going out of the area of comfort is improving your creative confidence. 

Since my contact with students is more through clubs now, I've decided to target staff. And, I've found staff lack that creative confidence as well. 

So, my first "attack" on this lack of creative confidence is through makerspaces. When you are making, you are taking risks. There is no right way to make. You  do not fail. Your project may not work, but since the idea of making is to "keep on," there is no failure. This idea that you keep on going until your project meets your goals is what improves creative confidence. You have to view creating as a process. You don't create and then finish. Instead, you continue. You don't stop. Makerspaces are a great way to promote this concept. They have a low failure risk and encourage those to jump outside of their comfort zone who may not normally do so.

My second "attack" is through persistence. Creative confidence is persistence so I show persistence in all I do with staff. I promote creativity in my walls and what I choose to display. I also do it through my actions. I offer weekly trainings and even though I don't always get the attendance, I continue to offer them in the hopes that people will come. I am modeling. I am continuing to try. This is, perhaps, the most important idea of creativity. 

I hang my own art on my walls. I've added color. I've provided a multitude of spaces to think, to reflect, to be creative. 

How do you promote creativity and creative confidence in your school and classroom?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The things you didn't know you could do with #gafe

Today, I was reading a blog post from +Alice Keeler. She has a fabulous idea of creating answer boxes in Google Docs. Though I have been using invisible tables for a while, I had not thought about this twist. So, check out her post!

And, if you did not notice, you can manage versions in Google Drive. Why is this awesome? Let's say you have a PDF embedded in a Website. However, you don't want to have to take it down and reload it every time you upload a new PDF. Now, you can simply click on the manage versions box in the far right and upload a new version. It will retain the same URL so you don't have to update your Website! [Mic drop]

On that same note, I've added my favorite "hacks" (including the ones above) into one presentation of the things you didn't know you didn't know Google Apps could do: Google Apps Hacked.

You can check out more Googliciousness on

Happy Thursday and try a hack or five today!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

#YourEduStory: What scares me most about education right now

This week's topic is actually this: How do you promote creativity and creative confidence in your classroom/school?

However, since last week's topic wasn't posted when I wrote it, I'm going to write it: What "scares" you most about education right now?

I had a conversation about this with my family last week. None of my family is in education so it's always interesting to hear the perspectives from those removed from the "hot seat." 

There's no doubt that economics play a huge part in schools. However, the thing that scares me is the lack of debate in education. There is debate, but on a more superficial level. The same voices emerge as experts in the field and those are the ones shared and heard repeatedly. Though there is nothing wrong with these voices being heard or shared. The problem is that it is often at the expense of other voices. Or, those voices are an echo chamber for what is being said already. As a result, action does not come out of the debates. 

Last year, I attended a session at SXSWedu on maker environments in education. The panel was full of charter school leaders, however. During the open question time, one of the other audience members brought up a topic no one wanted to address. He said: Though it is great that students at these charter schools are getting this exposure, what are we doing for public school?

This is what scares me. I'm a product of it as well. Our most innovative educators are some of the voices that have risen to the scene. They are also the voices of those who have left the classroom. Just as we are creating new schools because there is not room for new thought in public school, our innovative voices are leaving. What does this leave us? What is left in public education?

At my core, I believe that public education is something we must support (I say this after starting my first year in private school so I feel like a hypocrite). I don't believe we need it as standardized as it is becoming. But, I want public education to support exactly that...the public. If we continue to pull out our best, what will be left of public education? What will be left for those at the bottom of the economic scale? I foresee overzealous parents enrolling their children in the top charter schools, leaving the bottom ring for the "leftovers." I don't believe in equal outcome, but I do believe in equal opportunity. I don't know if this will provide equal opportunities for all students. 

This is what scares me. Where is the debate on this? I don't mean an echo chamber of the same voices. I mean a battled discussion full of all ends of the spectrum. Why are our most innovative teachers leaving the classroom? I can say my opinion, but this needs to be a debate - and not a debate where we lead it to the same answer - because there is no room for innovation. Rather, it needs to be a debate that showcases ALL sides of this argument. 

Watching the news last week about the discipline situation in a school where a SRO was called in and escalated the situation, I was saddened that I had a deeper discussion with my family about the issue than what I saw on the news. It scares me that the same argument is reiterated over and over. Instead, there is no debate about the other questions: what about the discipline programs in schools? What about teacher training? What about student safety? What about school culture? Why aren't we discussing these things rather than jumping on whatever is hot right now like the anti-law enforcement sentiment. 

When I first started teaching, I had a student who would show disobedience in a variety of ways - some small like refusing to put something away. When I would ask them to correct the behavior, the student would refuse. It would eventually end in the student threatening to "wet" him/herself and often succeeding. The thing that we aren't discussing is the escalation factor. I still remember how stranded I felt in that situation. I felt 30 students' eyes on me, ready to jump to the defense of the student, even if the student was out of line. I felt the pressure of 30 students who did not have a good relationship with law enforcement. It was a very stressful situation. Why aren't we talking about this? 

Luckily, in my school, I was able to talk to fellow teachers about the problem and work out a solution. Whenever we got to a standoff, I would call the counselor or the administrator to come into my room. Then, I would take my class next door and continue discussion. What I discovered was that this particular student, once backed into a corner, would not back down in front of his/her classmates. It became a social thing. So, if I removed the stimulus, I could get a solution. 

What scares me is that we are not having these discussions in the news or in schools. How many conflicts could we resolve with quality discussion and debate? 

We cannot take down public school and rebuild. We can, however, start enticing teachers to stay, and we can start having meaningful debates. We need not lump all issues in the same category or echo chamber. 

What scares me is that I will still have more discussions with my family than I will professionally. 

Let's have the talk.

Infographics - your resource guide!

Infographics are one of my favorite ways to get students to organize material. In the past, when students create presentations, they tend to go over the limit. They cut and paste, they don't summarize, they don't pull out the important details.

However, with infographics, they are forced to read, to summarize, the analyze information. Last year, my fellow librarians and I had students creating infographics over historical events surrounding the time frame of To Kill a Mockingbird. At first, students deleted the portions where they were to add images and replaced it with text. We had to teach, reteach, and reteach again about allowing images to speak in the place of text and about using trigger words. The students learned a lot more than just content. They learned important and essential skills.

I have highlighted some of my favorite infographic tools as well as some that function as presentation tools too in this presentation. You can read up more on infographic and presentation tools on


Monday, November 2, 2015

What are you doing for the #hourofcode?!

Hour of Code is happening in just about a month! What are you doing? I'm at a new school this year so I'm starting from scratch (no pun intended) on many levels. So, I've decided to segregate the week into two parts:

  • Regular Hour of Code Activities
  • Hackathon
Both will run simultaneously, but are aimed at slightly different audiences. Since computer science is not a huge part of our curriculum, my goals are slightly different. 

Unlike traditional hackathons, I plan on students only developing the entrepreneurial thinking skills and solution prototypes. I won't have time with them prior to teach all of the background knowledge necessary for them to code. However, this is a chance to get students interested in computer science who have a natural inclination towards solving problems and developing solution frameworks. That is the goal of this hackathon.

As far as the regular Hour of Code activities go, I plan on students choosing from Level 1-3 activities each day. At the end of each day, they will post their work to a group Padlet board. At the end of the week, students will be eligible for prizes based upon their participation. This is designed for students already interested in computer science who need that extra boost to learn additional material AND for our newbies who need exposure. 

If you are curious about what we are doing, you can check out our site: for more details. If you have other ideas, please send them my way!

In the meantime, here is a list of coding activities I have accumulated over the past few years (see below as well). You can also check out for more materials!

Learn to Problem Solve with Code
Resources by Christy Fennewald

Coding cover.png

Applications, Games & Products

All Ages


Middle School

High School

Learning & Teaching (How Tos and more)

All Ages


Middle School

High School


All Ages


Middle School

High School