Thursday, March 31, 2016

Beef up your Google Geo knowledge!

My favorite area of Googleness resides in its geography arena. And, they are not just for the geo teacher. They are cross-curricular. For instance - use Tour Builder to create ePortfolios of their journey through school. Use Earth or Map Builders tools to take measurements and integrate geometry.

Google's Geo tools transcend the social studies classroom. So, I challenge you to check out some of my favorite geo tools. How can you use it in your classroom? How can you collaborate with another teacher to use it in both of your classrooms?

Check out for an extensive list of Google tools.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Becoming a search ninja

Knowing how to search and evaluate are two of the most critical skills. I search and evaluate sources multiple times every hour - not to mention each day. They are not only critical; they are often the most used.

However, it's something we take for granted that students - and other adults - know how to do effectively. This is typically far from the reality. When would students have had to the chance to learn these skills? When do we allow for it in the curriculum?

As a former English teacher, I can vouch for the fact that these tasks are often given to the English/language arts teachers. But, they are everyone's jobs. They are not unique to any teacher or subject.

With that in mind, I've compiled some of my favorite Google searching tips and tricks to transform you and your students into search ninjas. I've also begun adding some of my favorite sources for teaching Web evaluation to the list.

See slide 65 for new updates

Enjoy! Check out for more literacy resources.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

#YourEduStory: The importance of citizenship

This week's topic: Why do all students need to be digital citizens?

I'd change this to say "why do all students need to be citizens?" Whether you are on a digital or traditional platform, citizenship still applies. When the term digital citizenship is used, other educators assume it is the job of "tech" teachers to instruct. However, that could not be further from the truth. It's everyone's job just as general citizenship is everyone's job. 

I am responsible for digital citizenship (along with the librarians) for digital citizenship. And, while I love the task, I know it's more than our jobs - it's everyone's job. So, when we talk about digital citizenship, we need to be careful to reinforce the idea that everyone is part of it. The word "digitial" to some implies that it is for those of us who are digitally inclined (and I could write a separate blog on how we are all so-inclined.)

At my school, I started a digital citizenship focus group (yes, I know I hate the preface word) run by several teachers. Together, we created a Website for all staff to use. We have held (holding) two masses - one in the fall and one in the spring - for all students on how to be positive citizens. The lessons focus not on what NOT to do, but on what TO do. In April, we are organizing a chapel with three student speakers to present on their online presences. We want to highlight examples of how other students are using the online platform to do good. 

We want all students to be citizens because we want all students to make an impact. Every impact spreads. 

Digital citizenship is citizenship. By withholding devices or refusing to teach with devices, we are not showing students who to be positive citizens. Instead, we are only showing them what not to do. 

I watch as my brother and sister-in-law hand iPads and Kindles to my 3-year old niece. From an early age, she is figuring out how to make use of technology. We are not showing her. Rather, she is figuring it out in a way that she feels benefits her. But, what about creation? We only show consumption of technology. Children watch videos, listen to music, and play games. Where and when are they creating? This is part of being a citizen - a productive, creating member of society. 

We need all entities in students' lives focused on providing opportunities for creation. When your child or student complains about something missing, have you helped them design a solution? Have you helped them use technology in a way that makes a difference? 

It's not just important for our students to be positive citizens, but it's important for us to. I can count very few of my colleagues who are using technology in a meaningful and impactful way both in the personal & professional lives. We need to model this use. We can't be afraid of it. 

What will you do to make an impact? How will you make a difference? I started a blog last year, the Snapshot Diaries, to focus on the moments each day that I'm thankful for. It's small, but it's meaningful and it holds me accountable. It's okay to start small. Just start.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

#YourEduStory: Favorite Edu quotation

This week's topic: What is your favorite quotation about educaton and what does it mean to you?

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.” ― E.E. Cummings

On my last day of student teaching, another teacher sent this quote my way. It's stuck with me over 10 years later. It's a quote I've shared with my students and it's a quote I try to live by. It's also a quote that represents education. 

Within my current field in education, there is a push to keep up with the latest trends. This is what drives us to improve education, but it is also what divides us. When I go to conferences, check Google + and Twitter, I am hit with a desire to try everything I see. I want to do it. I want to be it. This drives me to improve, but also makes me compare myself to those I should use to better myself. It also makes me lose sight of who I am what I can bring. 

As educators, most of us what to improve. Within the edtech/innovation sector, we are competitive. We drive each other to improve. But, we can also drive others to burn out. I speak from experience. You can only "keep up with the Jones" for so long until you lose some of the passion that set you on your journey. So, I remind myself of this quote to keep myself grounded. I remind myself of what my passion is. 

We need to use our network to build us up and contribute to our network with our own unique passions. We don't need to do it all. That's what the "world" is for. However, we do need to find what makes us, us. We need to thrive in this. We need to wear it with pride. 

This quote has changed its purpose throughout my educational career, but it is what grounds me. It's a reminder that we each have a role to way - one that is unique to us. 

What quote - educational or not - empowers you?

Friday, March 11, 2016

#YourEduStory: Growing in a role

This week's topic: How have you been stretched this year in your role? How has this been a blessing?

In many ways, this year has been easy - too easy. And, the ease is what has stretched me. This year has been the most challenging for me - yet the the most easy - since my first year of teaching. And, I've spent a lot of time looking at the challenges. However, perhaps, it's time to look at the blessings. 

Over the past few years, I've coined myself a Google Ninja. I was an Edmodo rockstar. I was a flipped classroom superstar. The one thing in common - these are tools (with the exception of one). I was a tool expert. When I started my current role, I realized that did not mean anything to them. Since my job no longer entailed fixing things, being an expert in tools was not a badge of honor. Instead, I had to redefine myself.. 

I've become someone passionate about getting girls involved in STEAM/STEM and bring Maker Ed to the classrooms. This year, I've refined my focus. I've learned it's better to be passionate about one area than stretch myself in all areas. That's what my network is for - to rely on for support. 

I've tried many programs this year. I've held coffee chats, after school EdCamps, coding clubs, tech clubs, Maker Nights, Family Coding Nights and so much more, many of which were either poorly attended or not attended at all. This year has been a test of my resiliency. It's worn me down and it's built me up. 

I feel a different educator than I was a year ago. This year has stripped me of many things, but it's also refined my focus. For that, I am thankful. 

Last year, I was overwhelmed by being involved in too many things. This year, while I have tried a ton of things, I am not involved in a ton of things. Rather, I'm focusing on one larger objective: education. I've found my passion not in tools, but in bridging the gender gap in STEM through the maker movement. I've been able to spend time creating again. I've made quilts. I've painted. I've learned to play the Ukulele. I've taken baking classes. I've stretched myself creatively. 

And, I've remembered my base - my creativity. It's reminded me to bring creativity into what I do. And, I've found I can best to that through maker programs. 

This year has been a testament to my work ethic and to my determination. It's been challenging in ways I still cannot put into words. It's torn down what I thought I stood for. In it's place, though, it's refined me as an educator. It's allowed me to achieve balance again. It's given me time for creativity. 

Despite reminding myself of this year's challenges, I'm am thankful for the balance and creativity that have been restored. Without balance, we cannot persevere. We cannot make the impact we are capable of. 

What blessings have you found this year through your challenges?

Friday, March 4, 2016

These are a few of my favorite...scripts!

I apologize in advance for getting The Sound of Music stuck in your head. It's been stuck in mine since I went to the play last week. In honor of that, today, I'm sharing a few of my favorite scripts. I'll admit that there are a few I want to add and a few I want to make slight revisions to. That said, these are a great starter pack of scripts.

To find additional add-ons and other Google Goodness, check out Enjoy!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Pursuing Positivity

This post was originally published in my Chasing Life's Lillie's blog

Don't sext. Don't put revealing photos of yourself online. Don't friend those you don't know. Don't post anything you wouldn't want your grandma to see.

The list goes on. We're full of the "don'ts," but we should be promoting the "dos." We should pursue positivity. We should challenge students to do positive work online. 

The truth is we all do the "don'ts" online. I still keep my phone on and next to me while I sleep - a major "don't." At times, I feel anxious if I haven't checked my phone for notifications. And, I know not to do this. 

It isn't that we want to do the "don'ts." We know it's not right, yet, we still do it because it's easy and we aren't faced with alternatives. We are not educated on the positive uses of the online world. These are the alternatives.

So, let's educate. Let's pursue positivity. Let's create. And, let's share.

Step 1: Start with a simple brainstorm

Recently, I met with seventh and eighth grade students to brainstorm a positive online presence. We used Google Docs so students could type simultaneously and all ideas could be present whether or not they are verbalized. 

I challenge you to challenge your students or children to discuss orally and in writing.

Ask them:

1. What makes a positive online presence (POP)?

2. What are examples of positive online presences at [your school]? 

3. What are examples of positive online presences outside of [your school]? (Start a list for students so they can visualize what POPs look like. This is the list I started for students.)
4. What types of positive online presences would you like to see at [your school]? 
5. What platforms work best for positive online presences at [your school]? (Provide students with a few examples to help them get started. Then, ask them to think deeper.)

  • Examples: app creation, Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/SnapChat, blog, Website…
6. What are the obstacles/negative sides of those positive online presences? (Challenge students to consider all populations and their obstacles. For instance, will males feel as open to be express positive images on Instagram as females?)
  • Consider all students - what will we use and what helps us?
7. What will we create today? (Challenge students to work together to create one for the school and then, if they'd also like to create one on their own, they can.)
  • You can create individually as well, but today we will create one for the school
8. How will we continue this and ensure it stays positive? (This is the most important question - how will you ensure longevity and monitor negative infringement?)

9. Other thoughts? 

Allow for all opinions. Redirect those who fall off-task. Check out our first brainstorming session

Step 2: Small group discussion

Quickly break into groups of 2-3 students. Challenge them to brainstorm positive online presences they would like to create. Ask them to think of:

  • a name for the online presence (some said "Meet the Spar-dashians" since we are the Spartans)
  • who is the audience
  • what is the purpose
  • what is the content
  • how can we be sure it stays positive
  • how can we ensure all are represented 
Due to time limitations, students received only 20 minutes for this process. However, this can be stretched longer. We resorted to traditional pencil and paper to reiterate positive behavior in all media. 

Some examples:

Step 3: Draw it out

Due to time restraints, I was not able to include this important step in all classes. After students map out the outline of their "POPs," ask them to draw a sample of the product. If it is an app, what will the home screen look like? If it's a Website, what will it look like. 

This does not need to be a full storyboard. Rather, the intent is to get students to refine their ideas.

Next, we will begin the creation, sharing, and maintenance of the "POPs." We must decide how to fit in the creation. When will we find time in the schedule? Who will be part of this - will we include all students are just some? 

Step 5: Creation is equally as important as brainstorming. 

Step 6: Sharing.  Sharing instills intrinsic motivation. We like to see our work get attention. Share the "POPs" in a way students receive some attention and others see positive work showcased. We need to bring attention to positive behavior. 

Step 7: Maintenance. Maintain the positive presence. Will this product stay with students, the school? 

Stay tuned for follow-up on the final three steps when we meet again. 

Resources for your struggling/reluctant readers & writers

When I taught high school English, my biggest challenge was finding materials for my struggling or reluctant readers and writers. I could find resources, but finding quality resources that my students found helpful was another challenge.

So, over the past two years, I've gathered my favorite Chrome reading and writing resources into one document. I've also added additional Websites that I've found to be helpful. Since this document is starting to get lengthy, it may have to switch to a new medium!

Have some that aren't on here? Please share to:, @christyfenne, or +christyfennewald!

Check out for a full list of ELA & ELL resources! 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

#YourEduStory: #pln appreciation

This week's topic: PLN Appreciation Week -- Say "thanks" to a member (or members) of your Professional Learning Network for inspiring, encouraging, and helping make you a better educator.

You are only as successful as your network. You can only be an "expert" in so many areas. In fact, you don't need to be an expert in any area if you are at least an expert in finding the solution. Being able to communicate and collaborate are two of the most important skills in my field. It changes routinely. The job demands are broad. It's not plausible to be a connoisseur of all things. So, it becomes about how you can search; how you can network. 

This year has been a testament to that. I'm at a new school in a position that did not exist until I assumed it, at a school where I do not have a network. In the past, my reliance was on my network was based around information - information I could use to help my staff and students. This year, though, it has been about support and inspiration. 

We all need a PLN. And, the more diverse the better. 

I follow some to get inspiration and to keep me up to date. I follow others for encouragement. And, others - to find answers. 

My fellow GEG Texas cohort members remind me of the joy to collaborate. Though all very busy, when we collaborate, ideas flow and I am encouraged again. ( +Kasey Bell , +Kelly Fitzgerald , +Christy Cate , +Brandie Cain , +Ann Witherspoon )

My fellow GTACHI 13 alums are my inspiration to being a better educator. I thought I was doing awesome and then, I met them. I was reminded how much I can still grow and should develop. Every time I feel complacent, they challenge me to grow and evolve. 

My EdTech Women Austin co-organizers are great for encouragement. They are supportive. They are hard working. They are my work away from work. ( +Tracy Clark , +Leslie Barrett , +Lacy Bartlett )

And, the many voices on Twitter and Google + keep me energized. Some days, I rely even more heavily on them. 

Who do you appreciate? What does your PLN do for you? What do you do for your PLN?