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…



Age Scale: 12 and up

Device:  iPhone, iPod, and iPad

Quick Line:  Never Lose Notes Again

What Educators Need to Know:

One of my favorite classroom apps this year has been Evernote.  I know so many tech-savvy people have been probably been using this app for ages, so excuse me if I am about to bore you.  Write a comment and let me know how inferior my knowledge is as I know I am only scratching the surface!
My fellow teammates have been teasing me for bringing my iPad to building meetings.  Well, I should say they WERE giving me a hard time until we needed notes from an earlier intervention meeting, and I was the only one who still had them!  See that?  The geek strikes again!  Basically, it works like this:  you go to a meeting and open Evernote.  Your administrator distributes a document.  You take a picture of it.  The team discusses timelines and strategies to help a particular student, and you take notes under the photo.  Evernote automatically saves it to your cloud storage.  A week later, when you have totally forgotten what was said at the meeting, you pull up your note, filed appropriately in the “Super Important Meeting Stuff” Notebook, print it off, and save the day!  In addition to “Super Important Meeting Stuff”, you can have a Notebook for “Parent Meeting Stuff”, “Articles and Stuff”, and “Don’t Forget to Do This Stuff”.  Evernote even gives you an email, so when I am browsing Twitter, and I don’t have enough time to read an entire posting or article, I email directly to one of the super-helpful Notebooks mentioned above, and it is there when I open it at work.  I also used it during parent conferences and browse my notes frequently to follow-up.
Evernote + Super Nerd = Teacher Greatness.

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.

Back to School with Popplet


Age Scale: 5+

Quick Line:  Popplet to Produce!

What Educators Need to Know:

In an attempt to freshen up my first week, I put myself on Twitter. If you are an educator, and you are not on Twitter, you should be. There are AMAZING people doing AMAZING things in classrooms all over the world and are sharing their free resources and advice. Reading tweets is like popping snacks- quick, satisfying, and oh so good.  I don’t know why I resisted the urge to join for so long.  I guess I was trying to avoid such craziness as #sharknado!  Ha!

I found this link to starting the new year with technology:


[I must mention that this was tweeted by @mattbgomez and is a post from Karen Ogen’s blogspot site:  www.karenogen.blogspot.com.  Matt B Gomez has an AWESOME blog.  www.mattbgomez.com]

The very first idea caught my attention because it used an app called Popplet Lite.  I have used this app several times.  It is a very intuitive app that allows users to make graphic representations  while brainstorming, diagramming, listing, scrap-booking, presenting, and planning.  A quick tap produces a rectangle (popple) which can be stretched, moved, labeled, and filled with a photo.  The sides and corners of the popple can be connected to other popples to show relationships.  Think:  graphic organizers!  The Lite version (FREE) allows users to create a single popplet, save as a jpeg to the photo library, and email as either a jpeg or pdf.  This is what I have been using.  The paid version ($4.99) lets you create an unlimited number of popplets, which can be shared and edited by other Popplet users on the Popplet website and on other iPads.

The idea is to have the students create a graphic representation of themselves using popples.  Here is a quick mock-up of a Popplet about me!

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I have used Popplet after reading quite a bit.  For example, my kiddos tackled a nonfiction article about the Titanic.  Although the article detailed the events of its demise, they were not in chronological order!  Those tricky authors!  I had students create a timeline Popplet to show exactly what happened in the order in which it happened.  I hope it solidified exactly how quickly it actually sank!

I’m not sure if I should invest in the full/paid version.  Any thoughts?  Care to share any of your uses for Popplet?

Oh, and let’s connect on Twitter!


Price:  FREE (for Lite version)


$4.99 for Full Version:


iPad Lessons

edutopiaHey Everyone! I was browsing through Edutopia and came across this lesson plan link.  It includes detailed lesson plans that integrate iPad apps! I thought you would LOVE it as much I do. It’s a beautiful pdf with details on how to structure lessons in each of the content areas with examples and real-life practicality.  App suggestions are included (many of them FREE apps!)

Keep an open mind! Many of the initial lesson ideas start with high school objectives, BUT they can be adapted to middle and even intermediate classrooms with some retooling.


Where do YOU find lesson plans when using iPads and iPods? Willing to share? Link up!

Lesson Plans: Apps to Help You Out

teachers app box Paperless Teacher Teacher Plan

It’s Back to School Time! [insert groan] Time to start thinking about planning and setup. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning shares this list of Top 10 Apps for Lesson Planning:


What do YOU think? What are your top apps for lesson planning?