Sunday, November 27, 2016

EdCamp Queen City: Makerspace, Motivation and Much More

By Dr. Nancy Betler

On October 1st the third annual EdCamp Queen City (@EdCampQC) was held at Barringer Elementary School in Charlotte NC.  EdCamps are an incredible trend in professional development where the participants guide the training.  I was fortunate to once again be part of a group of dedicated educators who organized this event.  It was an exciting Saturday of learning and growth!
The day started with an overview of EdCamps given by Nathan Stevens (@nathan_stevens).  Nathan shared how the day would run and that the participants had an opportunity to attend sessions that they felt best met their learning needs. The participants not only choose the sessions at EdCamps that will be offered that day but also decide which of those sessions best meet their individual professional needs.

One of my favorite parts of the day was the MakerSpace. In the MakerSpace teachers were able to test out and learn about different tools to use with their students.  Something new I learned about while in the MakerSpace was the augmented reality app Quiver (@quivervision).    Students are able to color and draw pictures and then see them come to life! This is a great tool to use with your students for story writing.  Since EdCampQC I have used this app with several of my students and have seen an increase in not only the amount of text but in the details in their writing.

Another tool that I enjoyed using that day was Sphero (@sphero).  I have used Sphero before with my students but loved seeing all the different Sphero options available.  The brainstorming of ideas with other participants was also amazing!  I learned new strategies to use with my students.  I came back after EdCampQC and was able to share a lesson, Rate Time and Distance, which another teacher suggested with my students.   This lesson is part of the SPRK education program website but I had never used it before.  My students loved it and I plan to use more lessons off the site.

Ozobot (@Ozobot) is a robot that I had heard about and seen in use but had never used myself prior to EdCampQC.  Ozobot is a tiny robot designed to teach kids coding and programming basics.  It is an engaging and easy robot to use with younger as well as older students.  One idea that was shared was having the Ozobot be Little Red Riding Hood and having Kindergartners code how she gets to Grandma’s House!  With Ozobot students have the opportunity to be creative and have fun while they learn.     


Bloxels Builders (@bloxelsbuilders) is another tool that I was able to use in new ways as a result of the MakerSpace.  Bloxels is a hands-on platform that gives kids a chance to build, collaborate and tell stories through video game creation.   There is a free app available as well as a board that you can purchase.  I am currently hoping to get five sets of the board through my Donors Choose ( project.  One teacher in the MakerSpace shared how she is using Bloxels to help students visualize their creations prior to writing.  This is just one idea I hope to use in the future with my students.

I love MakerSpaces and found the one at EdCampQC to be extremely valuable. I spent a lot of my time at EdCampQC in the Makerspace.  I appreciated sharing and learning about strategies and resources to use with my students.  I finally left the area to attend other sessions but found it to be one of my favorite parts of the day.

After leaving the MakerSpace I went to the session on Breakout EDU (@BreakoutEDU).  Although there were many valuable and interesting sessions available this another area that really peaked my interest.  I had attended a session on Breakout EDU at EdCamp Foothills (@Edcampfoothills) but wanted to learn even more about it.  I appreciated the participant and leader excitement and the group was able to breakout!  The more I see this tool in action the better I understand it and the different applications it can have in the classroom.  There are hundreds of free lessons on the Breakout Edu website and they are not only student but teacher friendly.  I love this creative tool and look forward to using it with my students.

As I end this blog post I feel that it is important to note that EdCamps are made even more special through the support that teachers receive from the different educational companies. Squirrels (@squirrels) donated our lunch that day. Yum!  It made everyone’s day to feel so appreciated. Teachers also had the chance to win fabulous door prizes to use in their classroom.   As I have said before it is fantastic that so many different education companies understand the value of EdCamps.  Thank you to Squirrels and all the other companies that donated that day!

EdCamps are amazing and I love to attend them.  I always leave with new strategies and ideas.  I also love the fact that I helped to make this particular EdCamp a success.  I can’t wait to start planning the fourth EdCamp Queen City!

Dr. Nancy Betler is a Talent Development Teacher at Eastover Elementary and primarily works with gifted and high-ability students in grades K-5.  As a National Board Certified Teacher, she fully embraces life-long learning and has recently earned her doctorate degree.  Nancy is also heavily involved with the North Carolina Association of Elementary Educators (NCAEE) and serves as a Board Member. She looks forward to connecting with you on Twitter @nbetler and being a part of your PLN!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Blended Learning for K-2 Students

4.jpgHave you been interested in blended learning in the K-2 classroom but are hesitant to dive in? Have you been told that your students are just too young to truly utilize Chromebooks and tablets? Think again! Read on to find out how two second grade teachers transformed their classrooms into a blended learning environment and how it has impacted their students.

Last year, various teachers across Franklin County participated in a series of professional development sessions know as “EmpowerED”. These were led by Dr. Lisa Hervey from The Friday Institute at NC State. I (Alyssa) had the privilege of being part of this team! In these sessions, we  focused on stepping out of our comfort zone and integrating technology in various ways across the curriculum.  At first,  as a second grade teacher, I was thinking “how could I ever get my kids to do this!” But luckily in each session we got “PLEARN” time, where I could use the tools and start creating things that could work for my students. Before I knew it, my excitement for blended learning grew! As soon as I got back, I pulled Claire into my room and showed her EVERYTHING we did! She jumped right on board with me and we started planning how we could make this work! To start, we focused just on the “substitution” step of the SAMR model. This seemed most realistic for our students who still struggled to log in, find the keys on a keyboard, and know how to work a mouse!

As soon as Alyssa filled me (Claire) in on what they had been doing in their sessions, I was instantly hooked - and I knew that if WE were this excited about it, our kids would be over the moon! As Alyssa mentioned, we knew that we had to keep it simple to start with - and, full disclosure - majority of the time, we are still in the “substitution” phase of the SAMR model. Make sure that if you are wanting to implement some of the things we discuss, you move at a pace that works for YOUR students - if you throw too much at them too quickly, you won’t have the outcome you’re hoping for. Start small, and start smart.

6.jpgWe know that the distribution of technology across classrooms in North Carolina (and the country itself) is grossly unequal. There are classrooms that are 1:1, and unfortunately there are also classrooms that consider themselves lucky to even have one desktop. The best part about implementing this model of blended learning is that with creative planning, it can be done with any amount of devices. When we started this journey, we each had two Chromebooks, two tablets, andtwo desktops (did we mention that we had 27 students? Don’t let your class size deter you either!) See if you can borrow technology from other grade levels - chances are that someone is at lunch or recess during the time that your kids might need devices and hopefully they are willing to share! Donor's Choose is another great option! Organize who is using which device in a way that makes sense to both you and your kids. Labels will save your sanity - assign certain students to each device so that their log-ins can be stored and they won’t have to enter their usernames/passwords each time. Alyssa is a master at organizing  the devices in a way that was equal for our students - she was able to create a rotation schedule that gave students both individual time and time to work with one another on the computers. This set-up was honestly the most time consuming part - but the payoff is worth it!

2 - Copy.jpgSlide2.PNG9.jpgWe chose to focus on implementing blended learning in ELA last year. Students had specific schedule cards (see Trevor’s on the left) and a log-in sheet inside their “Blended Folder” with every username and password they will need!  That way they have a one stop shop for log-ins for any activity they are doing! Utilize free sites first - ReadTheory, Epic, ReadWorks, TenMarks, and Prodigy  are just a few sites where you can create profiles for your students and track their progress. Google  is a life-saver when it comes to linking websites and assignments for your students. Tackk is also a great tool to link websites in one common area that is kid friendly and teacher friendly!  EDpuzzle can also be linked through Google Classroom and you can use it to create a video lesson on nearly any topic you teach! Keep an  out for grants and trials that some websites run. We were fortunate last year to receive a year’s subscription to Headsprout simply by applying for their teacher grant. The money is out there! 

No matter the amount of devices you have access to, the resources that your school allows you to use, or your number of students - the most important thing to remember is that you have to start SOMEWHERE. Choose one subject area and focus on that. Trying to implement blended learning across your curriculum from the start will more than likely leave both you and your students frustrated. Find another teacher to collaborate with. They don’t have to be in your grade level or even at your school - but you will need someone to bounce ideas off of and reflect on the process in general with. Our students will have jobs that haven’t even been invented yet - if we aren’t putting devices in their hands and getting them to collaborate with one another (both in-person and online), then we are doing them a great disservice. Our students are our future and as teachers we need to prepare them as much as possible to be successful! 

Please feel free to contact us with any questions! We would be more than happy to help you and your students! 


About the Authors

Alyssa Kinary grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York and graduated from The College of Saint Rose with a B.S. in Elementary and Special Education and a MSED in Literacy. This is her third year teaching second grade at Edward Best Elementary School in Louisburg, North Carolina. She is currently a part of the EmpowerED and Differentiation teams for Franklin County Schools. 

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Claire Roehl is in her fifth year of teaching second grade at Edward Best Elementary in Louisburg, NC. She graduated with her B.A. in Elementary Education and her M.Ed in Elementary Education, both from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is a member of the Gamma Tau chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, is a board member of the Franklin County Education Foundation and was recently selected as Franklin County’s 2016 Teacher of the Year. 

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