Brain Bootcamp – Day 5 – The Final Countdown

Friday morning our group was back at the SEC (Schindler Education Center) at 8AM to work on finishing our project. We worked on putting together our unit on the 6 + 1 Traits of Writing and it was no small undertaking. We made a 13 page website with subpages beyond that and it included numerous activities for each of the seven traits of writing with each having a culminating project to serve as an assessment for each trait. Great stuff and a great group.

We worked until 2PM when we were all to present our projects to each other in the classroom. We were drawn to present first and my team did a good job of showing what we had done.

The other teams presented their work and I was again very impressed with the work of these students/teachers. They all did so much cool stuff with little time. If I had access to all of the links, I would put them here to show off their work. One of the other groups presented a unit on math which was geared toward middle level students and the other three groups had units on Digital Footprints and Internet Safety. They were all very well put together and made use of awesome tools and programs. I was quite impressed.

By 5PM we wer finished and it was time to head out on our own again for home or where ever we needed to go. It was a short goodbye, but it did seem as though we all had been through something pretty powerful together. I hope to have the chance to meet up with all of these people again.

Once my group had finished presenting, I automatically began to reflect on the week I had been through and what I had done, along with what we had done as a group. I have a tendancy to over-analyze things at times, especially when they are important to me. 

I tried to put my thoughts off until I had at least started on my way for home two-plus hours to the northeast. Once in my van on the road to home, I started to think more about the past week. I had been feeling quite anxious about everything over the week. It was intense and not entirely comfortable. To start with, I had gone down to Cedar Falls with a great deal of excitement about being involved in the UNI IT Cohort for 2014 because I had been thinking about this avenue of study for three years at least and had finally committed and been accepted into the program. I had spent some time meeting virtually through Zoom with our cohort, but had not met face-to-face with any of the students or professors yet.

The following reflections in no way should be taken as being negative statements about any of the people invovled. I am impressed with the caliber and intelligence of all of my fellow members in this program. I am shooting for honesty and vulnerability here (after hearing Scott McLeod talk about powerful blogging.)

The images that I tend to create inside of my head of things like this cohort are not fairy tale type images, but they often are more positive than reality. I am not an unrealistic dreamer, but often am more positive and optimistic than reality proves to earn.

I was so excited to be part of this cohort and program, I think I created unrealistic expectations in my mind. The reality was less awesome. I hope I never cause my students as much anxiety over as extended a period of time as what I felt last week. Some of the anxiety was about what we were to do. It was a very impressive project we had to complete  in a limited amount of time with limited supports. I know part of that is by design and did bring out some strong levels of creativity in groups. I found it stress inducing and tough to navigate. I never had the moment of powerful belonging or affinity with the other students in my cohort that I had hoped for and imagined. I teach in a small district with few other like-minded, progressive educators, so I was looking forward to meeting others. I had very little time to even have a conversation with students outside of my project group and I was 20 years older than all of the members of my group. The age difference seemed to dampen the connections we shared.

This lack of a chance to connect with others and feel some camaraderie was truly a bummer for me. I do not mind working hard on projects. I did. I enjoy learning new things. I did. I just feel like I barely had a chance to talk to any of the other students face-to-face which was part of what I was looking forward to most. I worked hard, did my best not to grandstand or take control of my group or of conversations, and still felt rather isolated and alone at the end of the week, much like I have for most of the eight years I have taught so far. Bummer!

On another, more optimistic, note, I do think I will be able to develop some relationships and professional friendships if I work at staying connected with several of the fellow students I met in our cohort. I was hoping for more of an opportunity to do that at UNI. I look forward to working on that over the next two years!

I think I gained more knowledge of the programs and technology-related tools available to enhance education. That was great! I headed into this week having made the very conscious decision not to take on the role of Know-it-all. I tried not to talk too much or to take over or direct conversations or discussions in directions I wanted to go. This is almost second-nature to the teacher in me and my personality as a whole. I enjoy talking and sharing to a fault. There are worse faults, I think.

I met, in virtual form, several people I have held in high reagard from the greater education world and listened to what they had to say. This was a great chance to learn from some very unique drivers of nonconforming education. Awesome!

I was able to witness some of the most creative and innovative educators from around the state who are part of this cohort present on various technologies and show-off (deservedly) some of the great things going on in their classrooms. I gained many great ideas and was inspired by much of what I saw! Wow!

To bring this reflection 360 degrees and close it up, I think I gained things as an educator from attending the week on campus part of this UNI IT Cohort. I think, in the end, I would have gained more in respect to building a stronger PLN (Professional Learning Community) if we had even more time, but that will hopefully happen in the future. I thought it was one of the most intense mental workouts of my life and I would not trade the chance to have experienced this for much else. It was tough, but in the end, worth the effort. I am happy I waited to write this reflection until today. The time has mellowed my reaction.

I will grow from this!

Thanks goes out to my group members and to the other students involved in this Cohort, as well as to the professors and other guests we spoke with. Education is a process!

Have you ever been through a similar situation or process? How did it turn out?



Brain Bootcamp – Day 4

Thursday! After the fourth night on the couch of some young men who are young enough to be my sons, I was back on campus at 8AM.


We worked for a while on our group projects. My group were real troopers with this and put in a ton  of time working to meet and exceed the expectations.

We were all starting to feel the stress of having to finish this large project and ingesting all of the other events of the week. This was an intense week of leraning and creating.

We went up to the classroom we had been using to hear fellow students Maria & Linsey show us the potentials of the LMS program Schoology. They did a great job of showing us what this Learning Managment System is capable of for teachers and for a school. I wish our school were able to purchase this program.

When they were done, Tamara & Dana showed us what the Edmodo platform offers. It too is an LMS and has many great features. Its free version is pretty useful to a teacher or a school. I have used it in the past and may use it more now that I know a bit more about its organizing potentials.

Dr. Z freed us to work on our projects together in the Schindler Education Center (SEC) or the Rod Library on campus. We had been meeting in and using the SEC during our time on campus at UNI thus far, so we stayed there. They had good facilities and it is a comfortable place to work. My group worked on our group project until 8PM again. By the end of the evening we were pretty stressed out about getting everything done for Friday to present. We all had things to do that evening after leaving in order to finish things up.

Have you ever worked on a collaborative project with people you did not know at all for a class or job? Do you think it matters if you know the people well or not? How did working with others go for you?


Brain Bootcamp – Day 3

Wow! Just coming off of a week with my Istructional Technology Cohort @UNI in Cedar Falls. I am reflecting back on some of what we did during the past week. Here is Wednesday! I was feelng like a mental version of a snail still. I was still feeling overwhelmed and slow to catch up.


We began the morning on Wednesday working a bit on our group projects. My group decided to put together a unit to cover the 6 + 1 Traits of Writing for fifth graders. We were a group of teachers from grade 2 to 10. It was a big undertaking, but we wanted to have something substantial we could use one day in the future. We put some more time into developing our website and the activities to go along with it. Our fearless leader, Ben, did a great job of designing the site and the banner at the top. It looks great.

A bit later we went up to the classroom we had been using to have William, one of our cohort, demonstrate using an iPhone or other smartphone to create video and audio recordings. He showed us some cool applications including Loopy for many devices. It can record live audio of voices or instruments in loops that can then be replayed all mixed together. It is very cool and William suggested a few uses for it in a classroom. It could be useful in creating original tunes for videos or other recordings as well.

Then we had a great opportunity to listen to Scott McLeod and ask him a question.  He is the author of the Dangerously Irrelevant blog and a mentor of mine in the world of education and education reform. I enjoyed listening to him and we learned about how to create a professional blog and to develop a following. One of the suggestions that Scott made was to allow yourself to be authentic and vulnerable in your blogging. He also said it is important to readers that you sound like a real, thoughtful, and comppasionate person they can relate to. I will be a better blogger and educator having listened to him speak to us. Thanks @mcleod.

A bit later Matt, Rob & Ben presented on using Minecraft in education. They did a wonderful job and shared a couple of great examples of what they had done with Minecraft in their own classrooms. Ben talked about using Minecraft with his students to show they had learned about various social studies subjects including creating castles modeled after the Middle Ages. Matt shared that he had students create timeline islands that mocked the book The Lord of the Flies. He had them create representations of the island from the book and scenes from within it. These two had some great ideas and Rob had an Oculus Rift 3D gaming viewer to showcase Minecraft in 3D. WOW! That is so cool!

Then, the icing on the cake for Wednesday was the chance to listen to and ask questions of Marianne Malmstrom (Knowclue Kidd) who is a leader in the use of gaming in education, including Minecraft. What she shared was awesome and inspiring! What a great woman and educator. She talked about one project some of her students have created, MIT, Minecraft Institute of Technology. They built a virtual college to invite other kids to join them on a Minecraft server for summer camp sessions. It is wonderful! Amazing and engaging stuff!

Can you think of ways to use this in a classroom? Is gaming of value? What things would you like me to blog about that would bring you to read my blog and comment?

Let me know.

Then it was back to our projects!

Brain Bootcamp – Day 2

Tuesday of UNI Instructional Technology Summer Class was intense again.


We started the day with student led presentations on QR Codes 

 Scan The QR Code Above: (

There were a tone of great resources shared with us in this session.

Here are some of them:



Next we learned about several 3D programs that read information and then create avatars. Can use them to liven up the classwork a bit. I was a very intense day. It was a productive  experience.

One great augmented reality App/program that could be used is Aurasma. I was cool? I would love to use it some, you can make two-dimensional business cards or papers of things the kid’s know.

We also met in the library with Bettina Fabos who talked to us about Camp Mutlimedia taking place on the UNI campus. She has some great seuggestions.

Next we Zoomed for a while with Jason Groth a High Waverly-Shell Rock.

He spoke about his use of augmented reality and the program he used, Layar, which is actually an App with all of  as well?

Then it was time to work on our group projects! Wow! I am beat.

I was good to get some time in with my group to work on our project.

Great information!


Great Summer!



Bootcamp for the Brain!


I finished day one on Monday, June 16 of my one-week-on-campus-finale for my UNI Instructional Technology Summer Class – Using Digital and Social Media in Education.


It was day one of a bootcamp for my brain. I have taught for eight years at the same school now and I love to learn and keep things lively in my classroom, but on Monday, I realized there are many, many more things I can and will be doing to create an even more engaging and challenging curriculum for my students this coming fall.

It was a big day on Monday, with a number of different aspects. To start with we learned more about what this two year maters degree cohort program will entail.

The next thing we moved into was a number of introductions to various programs and applications presented by classmates.


The first application we learned about was Sonic Pics, a digital story-telling program, you can create, record, & share custom photo slideshows using an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. It is a powerful application for creating and sharing slideshows and other great things online. You can use images as slides, record narrations, or play your recorded slideshows on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.


The next app was called StoryKit and was a very fun app for creating electronic storybooks, especially for elementary grades. This group also shared a StoryKit How-To with the group too.



Tinkerbox was the next  App that was presented. It is great problem-solving game that introduces some basic physics, coding concepts, and sequencing concepts. Could be great for some thinkers.


One last program shared by my group was Educreations. It is a program that lets you turn an iPad or even a laptop into recordable intereactive whiteboard lessons. It looks like a multi level platform as well, with many interesting applications.

And all of this was just in day one. That is great and a potentially useful program for flipping the classroom and/or showing processes to students or to have students create steps to show understanding and/or scoffolded learning!


Awesome first day!

It is April?

How did April show up this fast? 

I cannot believe that it is the 4th quarter of our school year already. This year has gone past so quickly again. My classes have been busy and have created and communicated like bosses this year again. I am consistently impressed on the whole with what these young people are capable of when given the tools and allowed to show just what they can do.

I helped to coach debate this past year and was awed at the speed the 8th grade students and, for that matter, the high school students took on new debate resolutions and formulated their statements, both pro and con. I was also amazed at the composure they showed while involved in the heat of the debates themselves. What wonderful skills they picked up while engaged in these activities! Powerful and “real-world.”

I had my 8th grade Language Arts students join the NaNoWriMo YWP novel writing project again this year and had several students go through all of them go through all the steps to have their 10,000 plus word novels printed. What an accomplishment for them. I had approximately 80% of my students achieve their word count goals, all of them over 10,000 words. They are authors now!

My 7th grade Literature students did a great job with their reading challenges this year. I have several students who are already past 40 books for the school year. That is awesome. Many of them created some super cool major meaningful book projects to show they comprehended the novels and put some of them on their Kidblog sites.

We did some cool things in all of the classes I have. It has already been a great year. We have had many great guest speakers come to share in our 7th grade Futures class. Wow! So many careers and so many great people sharing what they do with our class out of their own thoughtfulness. Great stuff. 

I took on directing the middle school drama this spring. That was a brand new challenge too. Holy cow! That was a ton of work and incredibly satisfying and enjoyable too. I was so proud of the 7th and 8th grade students who tried out for the play and performed it so well in March. It was a very nice set of shows! They even learned a bit of Shakespeare! 

I am enjoying learning this year again! Cool job! 

Hope I can do some of this again next year! 🙂

Blogging for middle school students

I have been having my 7th and 8th grade Language Arts and Literature students blog with other students all over the globe for more than five years now. I think it is a great way to have students learn to create real world communications with a variety of other people from various and diverse backgrounds and cultures. 

I really believe that the more students write, the better writers they become and this is the kind of writing that most middle school age students don’t consider writing. My rural Iowa students are exposed to a great deal more diversity of opinions and of people using blogging than they can be any other way, now.

Blog on!