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 http://www.amybarbarino.com 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:

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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…

Help at Home Apps

Two apps are going to help me clean up my act in 2014:  Big Oven and Red Stamp.  See why I love these apps:

app-bigovenBig Oven:  I cannot take credit for discovering this one.  My husband found it all on his own and delivered one of his best Christmas presents ever:  all of my go-to recipes in a single app!  Every Saturday morning, I sit at the kitchen table with my recipe binder, select a menu for the week, and trudge to the grocery store.  Slow, cumbersome, and dicey.  I’ve almost lost some of our favs for lack of organization.  My super slick hubby recognized a need here, grabbed our most yummy plates, and snapped pics.  Big Oven recognizes the ingredients and directions and imports them into easily accessible, printable files that can be shared!  No typing necessary!  I love this!  You can also search and browse over 250,000 recipes from favorites such as the Pioneer Woman and Food Network.  Now, it’s not cheap.  It is $20 to subscribe and uploading recipes generally costs $1 apiece, but he was able to search for many in its database and save time and money by grabbing those first.  And aren’t those super-special meals that your family has enjoyed for many generations worth preserving for a buck?  You bet!  Online storage without the hassle of typing and hand-held simplicity is worth every penny!  Thanks, honey!
Red Stamp:  I think it is important for my children to be grateful for all that they receive for holidays and birthdays.  Our family and friends spend a great deal of time and money selecting gifts for all of us, and I think it is important to show appreciation.  Despite missing a few here and there, writing thank you notes has always been part of my routine, and it will be the same for my own children.  And while traditional emails lack a personal touch, I, myself, would not mind receiving one from Red Stamp!  As soon as we get home, E, D, and I will select our favorite photos from the holiday season and put them on the cutest cards out there!  Grandmas will get personalized notes of thanks with pictures of the boys playing with their recently received toys!  Should I email, text, tweet, or snail-mail them?  I guess I will decide when they are finished.  Digitals are FREE.  Having Red Stamp mail them traditionally will cost a small fee.  But you know… if that means that I won’t be late on birthday cards this year, I might just buy in!

Mystery Math Museum

Age Scale: 6-12

Device: iPad

Quick Line: Don’t Mess with Success

What Educators Need to Know:

Do you have Halloween on the brain?  I know I do!  Check out Artgig Apps’ newest creation – just in time for Halloween!

Say you are a ghost. You’ve already haunted every house in Mystery Math Town. You’ve collected your buddies, the fireflies, and your art collection is pretty extensive, if a bit peculiar.

But you are ready to move on. What’s a ghost to do?  Ghosts are immortal but powerless without a home to torment.

You hear about a new hot spot. It sounds pretty promising. It’s called Mystery Math Museum, and the premise is the same: move from room to room collecting and releasing dragonflies while solving math problems. You hear that you’ll need to brush up on your division skill set. Now that’s something you didn’t need to do in Math Town!

You decide to give it a try. The first museum has a sports theme. Sweet! As you pass through, the portraits, once again, begin to talk to you. You think they might make an nice addition to your gallery, so you press on, hoping to score some gold coins for your excellent computational skills. As expected, you are soon rewarded, and you decide to make Mystery Math Museum your permanent residence.  Lucky you! You didn’t have to travel far to find yourself right at home.

Once again, Artgig Apps creates a product that appeals to adults and children alike.  Gaming in education is a hot topic right now, and these creative developers have their pulse on how to maximize learning. The ability to add multiple users with varying abilities is essential to the modern classroom.  I love that a simple tap can change the game from simple addition to division using dice to represent numbers. Enrich or re-mediate? Mystery Math Museum can do both!

This app is just quirky enough to get your attention and just delightful enough to keep it!   Like any other institution with engaging exhibits, I will have to drag my kids out of Mystery Math Museum!  It is well worth the price of admission!

See my review of Mystery Math Town here!

Price: $2.99



How to Draw Symbaloo

Hi! This is not my weekly post. I needed to create an easy way for students to access How to Draw websites. Use if you’d like!


Send to Dropbox Feature

Update Time!

As you know, I started the year off by having the students create graphic organizers to tell more about themselves by using the Popplet app. [I invested in the full version ($4.99) because I was afraid students would need to return to their projects to edit/finish. This proved to be an essential move] They were thrilled and completely ran with it! But sharing their creations with me… That was a little more complicated.  See my original post here.

If you are like me, your students are sharing iPads with the rest of the school via a cart. Up until now, email has been disabled. But the thought of saving Popplets as jpegs and connecting each device to my desktop to download the images was less than desirable. So, I enabled email and set up a dummy account via yahoo. We added it to our contacts. This worked well except the class that helped with setup was pretty far behind in the creation process. Since then, I did some more research into something called Send to Dropbox. If you have a Dropbox account, it was simple to add this feature which provides an email that will, as the name suggests, send your docs and images to your Dropbox. Perfect! We are in the process of adding this email to our contacts, and I will most likely use this exclusively until I find something even better.

So, is Dropbox the best productivity app? I’m still not 100% sure, but it sure is easy to use!  See my original post about Dropbox here.

dropbox icon

List for Writers – ideas for creative writing


Age Scale: 10-adult

Device: iPhone, iPod, and iPad

Quick Line: A List of Lists

What Educators Need to Know:

My sixth graders surprised me today. We talked about how highly successful people set goals for themselves. We discussed how goals should be SMART.


And I sat back and let them generate four goals for themselves for the first quarter. I could not have been more pleased! Gone were the blatantly obvious “I want to be better in Reading class” goals. These kids gave careful consideration to what they thought were reasonable, reachable goals!

Even more impressive, some recognized writing as a weakness, and they sought help to generate phrases that would reflect exactly what they wanted to improve upon. A few mentioned making their writing more interesting.  I briefly suggested a newly downloaded app called List for Writers.

Since we are speaking of lists, I thought I’d give my reasons for supporting this app in (you got it!) list form.

Reasons I like List for Writers – ideas for creative writing

  1. It is simple and neat. As the title suggests, List is full of lists, including those relating to characters, personalities, plot, setting, and words. There are no graphics or anything else to distract you.
  2. It is comprehensive. Each list contains hundreds of suggestions for words you might need in each of many categories. For example, there is a list for first names (a list for both male and female), last names, occupations, clothing, people, and even body types!  The action verb and adjective lists would be particularly useful in narrative writing. I also really like the list of seven basic plots. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them laid out so plainly!
  3. With a simple tap, most words are defined by a built-in dictionary.
  4. You can copy and save your favorites to a notepad while you continue to generate ideas and formulate your ideas.
Options I Wish List for Writers Offered:
  1. One notepad might not be enough. It would be nice to be able to work on more than one story at a time.
  2. A favorites list might come in handy.
  3. Although the lists are extensive, a thesaurus option might be an easy addition.
  4. It would be nice to be able to add your own items to lists.
This app is currently $2.99 in the App Store. Some might find the price to be a bit steep for an intermediate school budget. But it is definitely something I would consider if I were a middle or high school writing teacher. Children WANT their writing to sound more mature and professional. List for Writers is certainly a tool that would easily aid them in achieving this goal!
Price: $2.99
Download by clicking here.