The Fear Project

This has been an amazing year for me as a professional.  I hope my students have learned that any effort, no matter how small they believe it may be, is enough to impact a community.

Children Helping Children Overcome Fears at Cecil Intermediate School’s Maker Space Whether you are the chief of…

Posted by Canon-McMillan School District on Friday, April 8, 2016

Sew What’s New?

albert einstein creativityThings are about to get really interesting around here!  See how we will be using our new Makerspace and integrating making into our reading!

Our Digital Journey: Selecting the Tools

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 5.57.33 PMThis is the third post in a series documenting the digital literacy initiative at Cecil Intermediate School.  If you like this post, you may want to read “What Do You Value” and “Building a Team”.

Writing a lesson plan can be difficult.  I always know what I’d like the outcome to look like, but I struggle with the details.  Sometimes, I just have to get started before I can be super specific about how I will meet my objective.  The same is true with our new Digital Journey.  As I highlighted in my first post, the world is looking for problem solvers, team players, collaborators, and communicators.  But as many of you know, there are thousands of web tools and apps that encourage these skills.  How do you narrow it down?

I considered the following categories before making my final selection:

1.  Ease of Use:  Our students are sweet, hard-working, and bright fifth and sixth graders.  Many of them have their own devices at home, but they have not had a great deal of experience using complex programs.  I wanted them to feel comfortable and successful right away.

2.  Compatibility:  If we are going to encourage students to learn and create at home as well as school, I felt that the programs needed to be available on many different platforms.  I gave special consideration to tools that could be accessed from computers, Chromebooks, tablets, and even phones.

3.  Google Connected:  The technology department created Google Accounts for each of our students as we have three Chromebook carts available for use.  I wanted students to have the experience of registering through Google, so they could see how easy it is.  The fewer the steps they need to take to get into a program, the better off we will all be!

4.  Application:  The tools selected allow students the ability to express themselves through pictures, video, and audio.  The tools can be utilized in ANY of our courses, including the Arts and Humanities.

5.  Ability to Share:  After students have created their spectacular projects, we need to be able to share them with the world.  Tools that encourage sharing via email, Twitter, YouTube, and Schoology were given special preference.  But no worries, most educational web tools are built with this in mind!

Want to see our first digital tool list?  Stay tuned!

Our Digital Journey: Building a Team


This is the second post in a series entitled “Our Digital Journey”.  Click here to read my first post describing why and how Cecil Intermediate School has embarked upon a digital literacy initiative…

So, my first meeting with our fabulously connected middle school librarian, Amy, occurred at the end of July. She might be horrified to know I was promoting her blog, but you can find her @MrsBarbarino on Twitter and She feels that she should blog more consistently, and she should, but the experiences that she has already created and the tools that she has been sharing are spot-on. Her approach to a “movement” will be different as she reaches students in a different mode, but her Tech group will be something special, no doubt! Bottom line, connections are essential, and I will need a sounding board, someone who will experience the same successes and frustrations as I.

My next logical step was to think about how I was going to create a team within my building. Many do know how to use many tools beyond the Office suite, but they WANT TO. They are interested but professional development has left them with no opportunies to explore. There are a few that I decided to approach first:

Jody is the other sixth grade reading teacher in our building. She is super creative, fabulously artsy, and has the most amazing personal style. Her experience with technology was top-notch a few years ago, but her teaching partner sadly left for a position with another district. I knew I needed to grab her immediately for planning purposes. I also know that she is willing to take risks. Our first meeting was at her house with my kiddos. I set her up with a Padlet board of things to think about while I was on vacation and a Twitter account to engage her further. Oh, and I also ordered a copy of the book, The Dot, to be shipped to her. If you have not read it, you must, especially if you are lacking the courage to start a movement within your own building.  You can follow Jody’s class, Room 313,  @mcilvaine313 on Twitter.

Chuck is the gifted support teacher in our building. You can keep up with his enrichment projects @tatumenrichment on Twitter.  He has his own, albeit small, classroom. He has access to extra resources and a flexible schedule. Most importantly, he has an interest. In the past few years, I have shared crash courses on several tools, and he has been intrigued. But again, he lacked opportunity and time to learn. Here’s his reply to my email:

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 4.48.54 PM

Lauren is a fifth grade Math and Science teacher. She and I were paired a few years ago, her very first year as a regular education classroom teacher, and it was one of the best years in my teaching career. Lauren is ready to try anything! She is an avid “pinner” and has a overall idea of what we should be doing but aren’t. Lauren is working on her Master’s degree, but beyond her life in academia and with her super tech-savvy husband, she has something that I definitely don’t have: time.  Follow Lauren’s adventures in Math, Science, and #edtech @204shelley.

The last thing I knew I needed to do was run this whole endeavor past my boss, Bob. He was somewhat up to date with parts of what I wanted to do, but I pitched him the idea wholly one afternoon, and he was very supportive. He gave me time on our first inservice day before school started to introduce the idea to our staff.  I wanted to keep this as simple for the teachers as possible as I do not want to overwhelm the staff as they prepare for a new set of students, so a quick 30 minutes is all I allowed myself.

As an added bonus, I helped Bob create a Twitter account. He was just like me in the beginning: what in the world am I going to do with a Twitter account? I showed him how to follow people and how to compose a tweet. He started to follow a few members of my PLN, which is now in a list! And people immediately started to follow him. He says that he won’t do much commenting and sharing, but I hope to nudge him in this direction!

Stay tuned for future posts about the process used to select digital tools and our final list…

International Dot Day 2014

International Dot Day 2014

“Our Three Words”

Cecil Intermediate School

Grade 6


Our Digital Journey: What Do You Value?


This is the first in a series of blog posts about our Digital Journey at Cecil Intermediate School. We are hoping to better prepare our students for their educational futures by allowing them to think creatively and share digitally. This is the beginning of our story…

The notion to drive change from the inside-out (from students to teachers) rather than the outside-in (from teachers to students) can be credited to a consultant at BLC14. We knew there were union issues. The word curriculum couldn’t be used. Curriculum committees had to be posted. Curriculum was written after school or in the summer, not during the day and certainly not at night on our back porches. We knew we needed to avoid the term “technology committee”. That gave the indication that we were focused on the “stuff” like Chromebooks, ipads, projectors, wifi. We knew that we couldn’t make blanket decrees to apply to all buildings, all teachers, all students. It was too big. Too broad. Too scary. Related, we knew there were discrepancies between the buildings. Some had. Some had not. We knew that there would be complaints. Many many complaints.

So, we decided to initiate a digital literacy initiatives with the students within two buildings open to change. Our consultant’s suggestion? Select five tools. Toss up a bulletin board divided into five sections. Introduce each tool with a quick 2-3 minute explanation. Tell the kids to go home and learn how to use them. When they were proficient, they were to come to us and show us. We would put their names on the bulletin board.

But what five tools should we choose? He asked us what we value. Whoa. Tough question. I wanted to answer honestly, but I was hesitant being so candid with my admin sitting next to me. We looked at each other and apologetically answered, “test scores.” There it was. The problem that has been locking me up as a teacher for the past 6+ years.

What would we like to value more than test scores? I keep coming back to my own son who has just entered first grade. I cannot help thinking that what I am about to do within the walls of my intermediate school building could indirectly improve education at his elementary school 3 miles down the road. How do I want him to learn? What kinds of experiences do we value in our home? Improving the system for my own children is what drives me. Inspires me. Makes me crazy. Keeps me up at night.

I want my son to create things. Invent things. Collaborate with friends and play with things. I want him to share what he is doing. I want him to learn how to program things. I want him to know how things work by trying new approaches and reading about them. I want him to know where to find the answers to questions that keep HIM up at night. I want him to have a VOICE.

This was getting bigger every time I thought about it. But I knew if I kept my own children at the heart of what I was doing, I’d be fine.  After all, they’d be in sixth grade someday.  But I also knew I needed help.

Stay tuned to learn about how our team was built…


The graphic at the top of this post is not my own.  It originated in a report entitled “The Learning Curve” by the Pearson company.  You can see the report here.