Be Fearless

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” Then…be like Katniss and burn everyone down with you!

What sets your soul on fire? For me, teaching and learning are constant sparks in my life while sharing and collaborating fan the flames. I can only recall one time in my life when I did not want to become a teacher. (I was a freshman in college and having a bit of an identity crisis.) Some of my earliest memories were playing teacher with my dolls in my bedroom with my easel and chalk. I used old books from my great grandma and my great great grandma who were also teachers. Being a teacher is in my blood. Not just literally, but deep in my soul, a part of who I am. Even when I’m not teaching, I’m teaching. It’s natural, something I just can’t turn off.What sets your soul on fire?

As much as I am a teacher, I am also a learner. I can not get my hands on enough information…EVER! Not just any information, but information about the things that make me curious. My mind is constantly asking questions…how does this work? Where did that come from? Why do we do things this way? What other way could we do it? When I find something that catches my curiosity, the search begins!! Watch out world! I’m on a mission! This is my absolute favorite part. The adventure of digging through knowledge and finding jewels of information. Then piecing those jewels together to answer the questions that my mind yearns to answer. It’s exciting and nerve racking at the same time. Once I figure out the answer to my question, you better be ready to hear all about it! I will go around telling any and everyone who will listen to me…even if they really don’t care or have any idea what I’m talking about!

narrow lensAt this point I start lighting everyone on fire with me! You may not have cared about it before now…maybe you didn’t even know to ask the question…but you sure will now and I’ll share with you all of the information I know and where to find it! Here is where it gets really exciting. We get to talk about it and work together to find a solution I may not have thought of or see a question in a light I hadn’t seen before. Without others to share and collaborate with, I really only view the answer or information through my own lens. Others are invaluable to me as a learner. This is the piece of learning that we all too often miss in education.

As a teacher, I strive to teach my students that we are all teachers and learners. I want them to see 30 people in the classroom who have a voice and information that we can learn from. I want them to learn from each other just as much as they do from me…actually even more! I am no longer the disseminator of information in my classroom. My students need to learn how to use their resources to gather the information they need, including each other! I want them to find what lights their soul on fire! I want them to be as passionate about learning as I am! And then…I want them to be like Katniss and burn everyone down with them!



#EduSnaps Challenge!

Last summer I found the app 1 Second Everyday. It is an app that takes one second of Adobe Spark (78)video or a photo for each day and then strings them together in a video. I was really intrigued by the idea so I spent the summer taking one second videos every day of my kiddos. By the end of the summer, I had a 75 second video of our entire summer. It was a fantastic way to see a recap of our summer, the ups and downs, fun times and silly times, all in less than two minutes with the ability to share it with my friends and family. After seeing the power behind this idea, I started to think about how I could use it in the classroom. Reflecting and sharing my EduJourney with my PLN has been incredibly powerful for my growth as an educator. So, how could I use one snapshot of my day to reflect, share, and grow?

But…school started again and things got busy as fall always does. I would think about this idea at night or in the morning while I was getting ready but by the time I got to school, my mind was on other things. As the mom of two little ones, I am very good at reflecting on the go! I think about my day when I’m driving to pick them up or cooking dinner, and even at night before I go to bed. I have always wanted to be good at writing or blogging my reflections on a regular basis but I have to admit that I am NOT. I start out with good intentions but eventually my intentions aren’t enough and my blog goes untouched for weeks at a time.

Now here it is the end of summer a full year later and I am still trying to find a way to reflect that will be not only valuable but sustainable. I know that I will not grow as a teacher without reflection so I ask myself; How do I create a way in which I can reflect more deeply and intentionally than on the go, but less intense and time-consuming than writing a blog post?? Then fullsizerenderinspiration hit during a 30 day challenge put on by my good friends Tisha Richmond (@tishrich) and Tara Martin (@taramartinedu) called #GratitudeSnaps. During this time we were challenged to take pics of our day, adventures, books, friends, anything that we are grateful for. We then layered Bitmojis, emojis, drawings, and text over the pic using apps like SnapChat and PicCollage. Through this challenge, I realized that I was able to be intentional in looking for the things in my day that I am grateful for and reflect on them in a quick but meaningful way. Then by sharing these with others through Twitter using the hashtag, I was able to be a part of other people’s gratitude journey which fueled my own and brought more meaning to what we were doing. That’s when it hit me….THIS IS WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR ALL ALONG! Intentional reflection in a quick and meaningful way while sharing that journey with others….brilliant!! And so #EduSnaps (another cousin of the infamous #BookSnaps) was born!img_0911

The #EduSnaps 30-Day Challenge Starts Monday, August 28th!

Take one picture every day. A highlight, epic fail, fun times with students, or prep time at home. Be warned: Don’t just capture the highlights! Highlights are great but if that’s the only thing you reflect on, your capacity for growth is greatly diminished.

Add that picture to an app like SnapChat, PicCollage, Adobe Spark Post, Google Slides, etc. Then add emojis, Bitmojis, drawings, and a text reflection to your picture. Save it to your computer or camera roll.

Share your reflection pic on Twitter using the hashtag #EduSnaps! 

I’m so excited to see how this journey unfolds! I’m looking forward to being able to reflect and share with all of you and to see all of your #EduSnaps as well!!

Take On the School Year Like a B.O.S.S.!

August brings so many feelings for me. The teacher nightmares begin, thoughts of my goals for the new year start to become clear, hot sweaty days are spent arranging my classroom and planning. I love fall and the new school year, don't get me wrong, but I also get a severe sense of dread. Not because the summer is about to end but for that dreaded first week back before school starts. That dream crushing, overwhelming, supremely negative week. Every year I psych myself up for weeks beforehand trying to get myself into a positive mindset. But inevitably by the end of the first day I have already failed miserably. I just spent the entire summer learning new things, surrounding myself with educators with a growth mindset who are constantly encouraging and supportive. I spent hours planning and preparing amazing learning opportunities for my students in the upcoming year only to sit there in meeting after meeting, training after training having my dreams and goals stuffed into a box and set aside. Making way for new initiatives, new curriculum, and new requirements from leadership. Eventually I pull that box back out, unpack it, and get back on track. But how do I skip the derailment altogether? How do I keep that excitement and drive through that first week and let it propel me into the school year?
Well….I've decided to take on the new school year LIKE A B.O.S.S.!

Be enthusiastic
(Have an) Open mind
Stay positive
Strive for greatness

Be enthusiastic: It's going to take more than just a psyched up positive mindset to get me through this and I strongly believe in the power of enthusiasm! My enthusiasm for what I have learned and what I want to do in my classroom will be infectious and spread to others! This year I won't let people tell me that I have, "Too much enthusiasm" Is that even a thing? I don't think so. The more passionate you are about something, the more enthusiasm you have. I am in the business of changing lives and educating the future. There is no such thing as too much enthusiasm!

(Have an) Open mind: After reading "Lead Like a Pirate" by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf this summer, I have realized my need to keep an Open mind especially when it comes to my administrators. They are in education for the same reason we are and I need to remember that! They aren't there to create more work for us or make us do more paperwork. They are working to make education better for all students just like I am.

Stay positive: Although having only a positive outlook didn't work for me in the past, I still think it is extremely important to Stay positive. Having a positive attitude changes everything. Negativity is like a parasite spreading from person to person until it kills your school culture from the inside out. Staying positive among negativity is never easy. It changes your actions, decisions, and your words. Speaking positivity into a generally negative conversation can be difficult but has enormous benefits for you, your colleagues, and your students.

Strive for greatness: Recently I was reading "Teach Like a Pirate" by Dave Burgess. In it he talks about asking educators, "Do you want to be great?" It kind of made me laugh reading it. I could totally see educators shifting uncomfortably in their seats as the tall dude in the pirate outfit loomed over them trying to catch someone's eye. (No offense Dave! It just made me giggle!) I'm not sure that I would have stood up and yelled, "Yes!" Though in my mind I would have been wanting to! It's funny how we have such a culture in education of not wanting to be seen as better, egotistical, or competitive. Why being great has those connotations to it, I'm not sure. But, as Dave more eloquently puts it in his book, "Being your best possible self contributes to the school culture necessary to create the environment for greatness to flourish." After reading that chapter, all I can say is "Heck yeah!! I want to be great!"

I am excited for this change in my mindset that I've made and I can't wait to see how this change will affect not only myself but also my colleagues, my family, and my students. I can now look forward to the start of school as a positive with opportunities to spread enthusiasm, keep an open mind, speak positivity, and strive for greatness!
Do you struggle with the beginning of the year like I do? How do you handle it? What is your plan to start this year with a bang?

Well PlayED 

This past week I got the great privilege of being on Michael Matera‘s (@MrMatera) gamification podcast Well PlayED (#WellPlayedU). I have never been on a podcast before so it was a totally new experience for me! Because I have two young children at home, two dogs, and a husband who is also off for the summer I can rarely find a quiet space in our house. Even my office (which doesn’t have a lock on it) is not off limits to the wild and craziness that is my home. So when Michael and I finally found a good time to chat, I found myself parked in my car under a tree in the middle of a parking lot. As I watched the cars zoom by, I thought about my year in all it’s ups and downs and my journey that has been gamification. I really enjoyed chatting with Michael and how it felt like we were just two old friends talking across the table with a cup of coffee. I hope that you all enjoy it as well:

Podcast Description: BOOM! Heather Marrs, @hmarrs24, has joined the #wellplayedu crew. This episode pops right off the ear bud. Heather shares how she got started, things she noticed and how her students soared in her gamified class. So much shared, and so much gained in this episode. I really loved having a chat with this dynamic educator who is constantly striving for bringing the best in her classroom.

While the episode is about gamifiy in elementary, it is unbelievable that all that was said can be applied to all classrooms K-College! Looking forward to many more conversations with this talented educator.

Thanks for sharing with use Heather, You rock!

If a Tree Falls…

For the last few months Oregon EdChat (#OrEdChat) has been doing a book study on Lead Like a Pirate by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf. This past week we were discussing Chapter 15: Unleash Social Media to Tell Your School’s Story. This message isn’t exactly new to me. I’ve heard it many times and it’s something that I am completely onboard with! 

#BookSnap of Kids Deserve It by Todd Nesloney & Adam Welcome

Each time I read about or discuss the necessity of telling our school or classroom’s story with the world, the wheels in my head start turning (I’m not sure they ever really stop…). Although I might think this is a completely necessary part of the educational world we live in, I tend to be in the minority. So many of the educators I work with are still not on social media for anything professional much less sharing their school/classroom story. We’ve all heard the expression, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” It makes me think… “If I’m doing amazing things in my classroom/school and I don’t share them out on social media, does it make the same impact I COULD be making on my students, families, and community that I serve?” 

By sharing our story we make our selves more relevant to our students, more accessible to families, a better connection to our community, a stronger support system to other educators. That sounds FANTASTIC! This is exactly what I want to be as an educator. We know our job is more than just teaching a lesson. We also know what things make teaching easier to do. Building relationships, creating connections, finding our people. So why don’t we do it? Why don’t educators jump onboard and set sail on the Social Media ocean liner? Everyone has their reasons but I’ve narrowed it down to three of the most common reasons I hear: 

  • Fear- Fear of social media, fear of the unknown, fear of what families, students, or community members might say. 
  • Time- No time for anything “extra”, no time to learn how, no time to keep track of it all
  • Knowledge- Don’t know how social media works, don’t know how to get started, don’t know what to put out there

Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome say it very well in their book “Kids Deserve It” when they say that we all have time for exactly what we make time for. Isn’t that the truth? What we make time for shows where our priorities lie. As educators our priorities are extremely important not just for us but for our students as well. The way that we prioritize our time directly affects our teaching and our students’ learning. So how do we encourage others to take the same jump into social media that we have? How do we get them to walk past fear, pick up knowledge, and reprioritize their time? I think that we can first and foremost be models. If I share my classroom’s story on social media and then share my successes in doing so with my colleagues, it gets them thinking and asking questions. They can see how sharing my story is positively impacting my classroom and my teaching. Once I get their wheels turning, I offer some knowledge. We get together and look at my classroom’s social media, create an account for them, and get them started on the right track. Once they start to see the value in sharing their story, being on social media starts to make it’s way up the priority list which means….more time! 

This is not a failsafe plan by any means. Sometimes it’s successful in days and sometimes it takes months or years. And then again sometimes it fails epically. But for better or worse, I keep on sharing my story and my classroom’s story because at the end of the day I know the exponential benefits it has for my students, families, and community. 

ISTE Shorts: #NextLevelEdu- Gamification, Anchor Charts, PLF

I’ve been asked several times over the course of the last few days, “What is your big take-away from ISTE 2017?” I get the feeling that people are wanting me to tell them that I found a tool, idea, or a session that I just can’t wait to implement next year. Although, I have found some new tools and ideas that I will definitely be using in the future, I believe that my biggest take-away has been that I am going to take the things that I’m already doing to the Next Level. My PLN, gamification, BookSnaps, and anchor charts are just a few things I’ve leveled up this week due to my experiences at ISTE17!

Gamification: Gamification in itself is Next Level education. Layering the most engaging game mechanics over our curriculum allows educators to take their classrooms to the next level. As I’ve said before, Michael Matera and Tisha Richmond have both been pivotal in my implementation of gamification this year. It blows my mind that a high school teacher and a middle school teacher have had such a huge impact on my elementary classroom! If you would have told me who I would be influenced by and what I would be doing in my classroom a few years ago, I never would have believed you. It means the world to me to be a part of the #xplap (Explore Like a Pirate) crew. They are the most genuine, hard working, creative, passionate people and I’m so lucky to call them my friends! 

Nick Davis, Michael Matera, Adam Bold, Tisha Richmond, Tara Martin, and Jonathan Spike (Not pictured: Carrie Baughcum)

I think many people, including myself at one point, look at gamification as a huge monster of a project. When in reality it’s just taking what we do every day and taking it to the next level. I already had my students in groups. I already had a point system in place. But in organizing my thoughts, creating a theme, and layering game mechanics, I was able to take what I already had in place to a level that was more accessible and far more engaging for my students than ever before. 

Anchor Charts: For years I’ve been following Erin Flanagan of Erintegration on Facebook and Twitter so when I saw that she was presenting at ISTE, I jumped on the chance to hear her speak…no matter what it was about! So, I went to Erin’s Interactive Anchor  Charts session and, as I had expected, it was excellent! She showed us some of her regular anchor charts (which were way better than mine have ever been) and then showed us how she took them to the next level by adding an element of technology to them where students could interact with the anchor charts. My favorite things that I took away from this session were: typing up your anchor chart after you make it with your class to make it look cleaner, adding QR codes to the chart for students to interact with, and using interactive anchor charts as part of reading workshop. What great ways to take something many of us already do in the classroom and take it to the Next Level! 

Professional Learning Family as my Next Level PLN: My journey to becoming a connected educator has been so amazing and completely unexpected. After refusing to get on Twitter for a few years, I finally decided to jump on board. Over the past two years Twitter has quickly become the best thing I’ve done for my own PD. I have made friends, found support, been involved in multiple online EdCamps, and created the #OrEdChat. My professional learning network means a lot to me and I would not be the educator I am today if it weren’t for them. However, when I started meeting my tribe at conferences this year, my PLN truly went to the next level. The connections grew stronger, the face to face time allowed for deeper conversations, and they became my Professional Learning Family. Shared experiences, inside jokes, laughter, and fun times are all things that will live in my heart and pop up in my mind every time I think of them. Instead of being sad that I won’t see them again for a while, I am looking forward to the future to seeing more of my PLF face to face and continuing to build and nurture these relationships.

What makes us different? Over and over again I heard people talking about how great it is to be around the people who “get us” here at ISTE. That we feel like we live on an island by ourselves for the majority of the year where we have access to a smart phone and internet but no other human contact. Why is that? Why are there so many of us who are so like minded converging in one place and yet we can’t even find others in our own schools like us? Why are we the kind of people getting the alien look or elbowed by other teachers during a staff meeting and told to stop talking before we say something that causes us all to try something new? What makes us so different? These questions plagued me every time I heard someone exclaim that it feels so good to be surrounded by our own people! 

After some reflection and thought, I believe the one thing that sets us apart is that we are willing to take education to the next level. We are willing to take our students, classrooms, schools, personal and professional development to the next level. We start where we are and we take steps to make it happen. We have a growth mindset and know that we will fail forward many times. We will push the envelope, make people cringe, and reach out to our PLN for support. We are Next Level Educators. 

How are you taking education to the next level? Share with us on Twitter at #NextLevelEDU

ISTE Shorts: Sketchnoting 

One of my favorite things that I have implemented this year is sketchnoting. I first learned about sketchnoting on Twitter in the fall. I loved the potential that it had, especially in reading, so I went ahead and tried it out. We started by covering some of the basics of sketchnoting. I wanted my students to have purpose and know the difference between a good sketchnotes and a doodle. Pinterest has an enormous amount of examples, both good and bad. I chose a few and showed them to my students. We discussed the elements needed to create a successful sketchnote. We also discussed some of the things not to do. I modeled a sketchnote for them using the title, author, and vocabulary words among other things. The first time we listened to the story we closed our eyes and visualized images in our head. The second time we listened to the story, we only sketched out our sketchnote with a pencil. Once we were done with our pencil drawings, we went back to add color, connections, details, bubbles, etc. Here’s some examples of student sketchnotes: 

Over the year I have learned more from Sunni Brown (@SunniBrown) at IntegratEd and on Twitter from people like Sylvia Duckworth (@sylviaduckworth) and all of the amazing educators who participated in #Sketch50. So when I heard that Sylvia was going to be at ISTE and talking in an Ignite, I made sure that I was there! I was hoping that I would also run into Sylvia at the Seesaw booth today as she was scheduled to be there during the hour before me. But…I got to talking with the guys in the Kahoot booth and ended up missing her. 😦  

It was a wonderful surprise when later that day I met Mandi Tolen in the Blogger’s Cafe during a meet up with my friends Tara and Tisha. While Mandi and I walked to the Expo together afterward she told me that she was also a sketchnoter. Wanting to know more, I asked her about what she likes to use, how it works, etc. Needless to say, I totally picked her brain on the topic! Not only did she tell me all about how she uses Procreate and DoInk to sketch and animate her sketchnotes, she dropped her bag right there in the middle of the Expo, got out her iPad, and SHOWED us how she uses Procreate! It was absolutely the best “unsession” I went to this week! She showed us features that I didn’t know existed, gave me pointers on how to save my sketches for later use, and explained how she added them to DoInk! I was so grateful for her willingness to take time out of her day and share her own knowledge with me!! She’s fantastic! Make sure that you are following Mandi on Twitter at @TTmomTT!

ISTE17 Days 1 & 2

ISTE is flying by! It’s already the end of day 2 and I am totally exhausted! I flew out of Seattle Saturday night and got into San Antonio on Sunday morning. Luckily I got to meet up with my friend Elizabeth Rossmiller of Tech Out my Class on the second flight from Dallas to San Antonio. Elizabeth and I have been friends on Twitter for a long time and got a chance to meet a few months ago in Portland at NCCE 2017. She is a Tech Coach in Gresham and has an amazing blog! You can find her on Twitter at @techoutmyclass and make sure to check out her blog here: 

Elizabeth and I at the Seesaw Booth

After getting settled in at the hotel and freshening up, I got to meet some of my #xplap crew face to face finally! I was so sad that I didn’t get to hang with one of my fav twitter peeps Carrie Baughcum for longer as she had to jet. 😦 She is just as amazing in person as she is in the Twitter-sphere! Speaking of totally geeking out on meeting my Twitter PLN, take a look at all of these outstanding educators who are part of my Personal Learning Family (as Sarah Thomas likes to call it) that I have met in just the last two days:

Joanna VanRaden and I at the conference center

Tara Martin (#BookSnaps) and I at the Seesaw Booth

Tisha Richmond and I

Michael Matera, Nick Davis, Tisha Richmond, & Adam Bold

Julie Jacobs and I at the Seesaw Booth

These people right here have all had a significant impact on me as a person, a professional, and an educator! I cannot overstate the fact that Twitter is by far the most powerful thing I’ve done for my professional development in my entire career. It is amazing the connections, support, encouragement, inspiration, resources, ideas, and relationships that have come out of being active on Twitter. It’s not that I don’t find conferences like ISTE to be valuable, I find them to be extremely valuable. It’s just that these conferences are so much more impactful when you get to connect with the amazing educators that you talk to in the Twittersphere everyday face to face! It’s one thing to go to sessions and walk around the Expo hall but it is such a different experience to know the presenters, go out to lunch with your PLN, and play games with them until 1 in the morning! The connections you make are powerful and continue on into your Twittersphere and on to the next conference. The other thing that makes Twitter one step higher on the PD ladder is that it is daily, take it when you need it, differentiated, personalized professional development like no other. I’m so excited to see what adventures my PLN and I are going to go on next! 

When I wasn’t just meandering about chatting it up with people (although that did happen quite a bit), I actually did go to sessions and visit the Expo hall! I went to a session today that Joanna VanRaden did on Blending the Writer’s Workshop and it was fantastic. I really like the idea of creating content in video form to teach my students the writing lesson and then having more time to spend with students one on one or in small groups. It really is the number one issue that teachers have in all things: TIME! In blending your workshop, you are able to in a sense create more time for yourself by creating a writing master clone of yourself. Then you can use the time you would have spent teaching the lesson, answering questions (Can I go to the bathroom?? When’s lunch??), and otherwise just managing children to actually spend quality time working directly with students on their writing. If you want to check out more about Joanna and her fantastic writing ideas, you can find her on Twitter at @joannavrteaches

Keep an eye out tomorrow for another blog post! It’s late and I’m tired…so this gal is off to bed!