Technology Pursuit

Blending Technology Into the Language Arts Classroom

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The Easter Egg: The 4/20/17 #games4ed Chat

Nearly every week I participate in the #games4ed chat, and every week I am so blessed to learn new takeaways from some of my favorite Twitter peeps! Last night’s chat focused on Easter Eggs in games, and here are some of my favorite ideas:


Tale Blazer: New to me, Tale Blazer is MIT’s AR software that allows teachers and students to build mobile games around any subject. It sounds like it has amazing potential and can’t wait to play with it more!


Easter Eggs Throughout the School: I loved the concept of planting eggs for the entire student body. One very simple idea was putting Easter Eggs in the daily announcements–something that would be great for middle and high school students. Another idea shared was setting up Easter Eggs during Back to School nights or Student Orientation Days–a great way to get incoming freshmen to interact with their surroundings more!

Games that use Easter Eggs–Literally: While planning the chat, I ran across some great idea for actually using eggs, like using eggs to teach prefixes, roots and suffixes. Other uses could be for math problems or any type of game that connects two ideas together–Great for tactile learners!

Full Transcripts from the Easter Egg chat can be found here.


If you’ve never been to a #games4ed Twitter chat, come check it out! Every Thursday, 8pmET/7pmCT/6pmMT/5pmPT!





The Peer Review Process

It’s spring, three weeks left with my seniors, and time to review what worked well this year–and what didn’t. And one thing that I’m never fully happy with is my peer review process.

I’ve used myriad ways: Google forms, Google docs, plain old hard copy. This year I used, which is a handy tool and helped the organization of it all.

But still, I’ve never been content. Some students take it seriously. Some don’t. Although I know these are teenagers, and I may not get 100% engagement every minute of every day, some peer review half-heartedly.

I don’t blame them. I blame myself–at least partly. As a teacher, I don’t feel like I’ve yet truly prepared them all for peer review. In fact, there have been years I bypassed using peer review completely–after all, I decided, I’m the teacher. Shouldn’t they get their feedback from me?

Then I think back to my masters degree workshops. I learned just as much about writing reading and thinking through giving feedback on others’ papers as I did getting feedback for my own. Perhaps even more.

This past week, I read Starr Sackstein’s new book Peer Feedback in the Classroom, which gave me a great idea: Jigsaw peer review. Rather than having students assess all aspects of writing, Sackstein describes how “expert groups” focus on one area of writing, such as introduction, analysis, and organization.

I love the advantage of having students focus on one area. It’s less overwhelming to them, especially for those who aren’t completely confident in their feedback.

This is certainly something I’ll try next year–and if you get a chance, take a read of Peer Feedback in the Classroom. It applies to ANY type of peer feedback, whether it be writing, art, science projects, or any type of student creation.


Listen Up! Two New Gaming Podcasts

A few weeks ago, I finished forensics season. I was spent. Exhausted. Dare I say–a bit burned out.

What better way to get rejuvenated than to tune into a couple new podcasts while out walking in the spring weather?

  1. Legends of Edgames Podcast: The Legends of Learning crew launched their podcast this past January, focusing on #GBL in the classroom. This past weekend, I listened to Episode #4 with guest Chris Aviles, gamification guru. Anything with Chris is a great read (or in this case, listen) as he shared his insights and learnings about gaming in the classroom. Plus, if you’re a middle school science teacher, you definitely need to check out the hundreds of games Legends of Learning website now has to offer!      
  2. Well PlayED Podcast: Michael Matera and Tisha Richmond talk about gamification, game-based learning, and just plain old playful learning. Just launched, this podcast promises to be another staple in the game-loving-teacher’s toolbelt. In the first episode, Michael and Tisha share the reasons they love gamifying their learning and their overall process in how they started.


Of course, there are always amazing Twitter chats to join for game-based learning and gamification! All three of the chats are filled with great minds, always welcoming new folks and lurkers!

Tuesdays, 7pmCT: #MinecraftEDU

Wednesdays, 7pmCT: #XPLAP

Thursdays, 7pmCT: #games4ed


Tackling Fake News

Fake news and extremely left or right news has bombarded social media, and what truly scares me: the number of people–people I respect as intelligent beings–who are reposting it and using it to support arguments.

My fear has prompted me to put together a fake news unit to piggyback onto my college composition research unit and my Brit Lit satire unit. Here’s a rough rundown.

Day One:

I introduced the idea of fake news through one of the several fake news quizzes online. I’ve used this one from the BBC today. Then students read two articles at the Actively Learn website and answer questions embedded in the article. Article 1 is Fake News Fools Millions published in Scholastic’s New York Times Upfront magazine (subscription needed to access). The other is  Fake News: How a Partying Macedonian Teen Earns Thousands. At the end of the second article, I ask this question: Should Google & Facebook do more to restrict fake news? (Some of my students’ responses are here–I tend to publish top student responses on Google Slides anonymously for their classmates to peruse.)

Day Two: 

I model examples of fake news and questionably slanted sites that I find on Facebook–yep, I use my own Facebook feed. This is one posted by–deep breath–a relative of mine. When I first show it, many of my students feel very supportive of the Mexico wall…and then they realize they’ve been had. The wall in the photo is in an entirely different hemisphere.

Then we look at some other examples on my feed that are very left-wing or right-wing (I’m a liberal living in a very red, conservative area–my feed runs the gamut of political views). I show them how to go the source’s FB page, then the website page. From there, the headlines and sometimes just the About page gives away if the site is focused on the right or left side of the political spectrum. I do the same with YouTube.

After this, students find a source on Facebook or YouTube and place it where they think it belongs on the political continuum. (We usually have to have a discussion where FoxNews and CNN lie.)


Day Three: 

In teams, students try to deduce which websites (see page 2 of document) are legitimate and which ones are fake. I don’t tell them how many of which there are, though after they muddle for a while, I let them “purchase” (with Classcraft gold) the knowledge of how many of which there are.


Day Four:

Reflection and evaluation. This can be as simple as discussion, as I did with some classes, or a practice ACT writing essay, as my Brit Lit students will do.

There are so many other ideas and options out there! Feel free to post any in the comments below.

My New Favorite Chrome Extensions

Before this morning, I had 43 Chrome Extensions installed in my browser. After listening to Stacy Behmer at the Great Plains Google Summit, I’ve upped that number to 48.

Without further ado, here they are:

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Google Docs Quick Create

Google Docs Quick Create During the school year, I can’t count how many Google Docs I make in a given day. And every time, I have to spend countless seconds finding my Drive tab or opening it from my bookmarks, then wait for it to load. (OK, so maybe 8-10 seconds.) However, I can click this extension, and a dropdown menu of the different doc types drops down. I click on one, and I’m done: a brand new doc/sheet/form/drawing appears before me. Maybe it’s not a huge timesaver for occasional use, but for someone who makes a dozen or so docs a day, it adds up!

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Note Anywhere

Note AnywhereMore than once, I’ve wished I had virtual sticky notes to put on a website, just as I would a hard copy of an article. Now I do with Note Anywhere! Close the website, come back to it later, and the sticky notes are still there where you left them.

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Google Cast

Google CastI haven’t had a chance to play with this yet, but I’ve been so excited for it since Google announced it at ISTE last month! This extension allows students (with teacher authorization) to project their screen onto a television or screen, cutting out the need for other apps or gadgets to make this happen. Major time saver and a great way to allow students to share the stage.


Google Dictionary

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Google DictionaryThis is one I’ll highly encourage my students to install! If you don’t recognize a word you’re reading, just double-click on it. A small window opens with the definition! Looking up a definition has NEVER been this easy!!

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Make a GIF

Make a GIFThis summer, I’ve fallen in love with GIFs. With this extension, I can make my own GIFs by recording a video on my computer or using a YouTube video. If I’m feeling lazy, I can search for already made GIFs through this extension. It’s great for adding humor, but I’ve also recorded myself demonstrating something on my computer and then adding them to Twitter posts.

If there’s a new one out there that I MUST try, post it below! I’m always on the lookout for great new extensions!!


Sharing Conference Takeaways

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Coming back from ISTE in Denver is an overwhelming and inspiring conference–one that took me two full days to truly come down from. There’s so much I learned, so much I wanted to share with my staff.

However, I’m holding back a bit. Why? Because I don’t want to overwhelm them.

Putting myself in their shoes, I imagined how I would react to a long email about a conference. Is it long and multi-paragraphed? No headings? Then no way would I read it.

What would I read? Headings with quick blurbs of a sentence or two–that way I can scan through it, pick through the information most important to me, and disregard the rest.

On the drive home from Denver (we had five hours to kill), we wrote a Smore page with our favorite takeaways from ISTE. You can see it below.

Have you shared your favorite takeaways from your most recent conference or workshop? If not, jump on a Smore page (or Google doc or whatever your flavor) and make your own top 5, top ten, or top 13!


A Billion or so Things to do with Google Slides

Earlier this summer, I lead a session about all the things teachers and students can do with Google Slides beyond the traditional presentation. Check them out below!


Summer Reading for GBL & Game-Loving Teachers

I’ve had a few people on Twitter ask me for suggestions of books to read this summer, especially if you’re interested in delving deeper into gamification and/or game-based learning. Here are some I highly recommend and plan on revising this summer myself:

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 12.03.46 PMGamify Your Classroom by Matthew Farber: This books is quickly becoming a seminal read for anyone who wants to start using more games in the classroom. Farber covers the gamut, from game elements to serious video games to gamification to…well, just about everything you might be interested in related to games in the classroom. This is a great starting point!




Explore Like a Pirate by Michael Matera: A component in the Teach Like a Pirate series, Explore Like a Pirate takes you inside Matera’s gamification classroom and is jam-packed with ideas about not just how to use gamification but also examples of quick games that you can modify to meet your needs. Super informative and extremely practical. (I reviewed it several months ago here.)





cover-300wMake It Stick by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger, and Mark McDaniel: This book has nothing to do with games or gamification and everything to do with how we learn. Peter Brown takes the brain research of Roediger and McDaniel and transforms it into a supremely readable text with real-life examples and real-life teachers. This book will change how you plan and execute your teaching.





imagesFormative Assessment & Standards-Based Grading by Marzano & Company: OK, OK, I’ve heard it from my own local colleagues. Few people find Marzano riveting material for summer reading, but I honestly did. I’m a proponent of standards-based teaching in a traditional school with a traditional grading system. Marzano helped give me ideas about how to approach grading in my own classroom and at least make my own assessments more standards-based within a traditional system. I read it in a day and loved it. (Really.)


Non-Techy Efficiency: Bullet Journaling

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I realize that it’s uber-ironic that as much as I love technology that I don’t use it exclusively to organize my life. I use Google Calendar for scheduling appointments and important dates, but most of my planning is done in my pretty notebook.

In honor of National Notebook Day today, here’s my notebook and journaling system:

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I use my own version of Bullet Journaling, a simplified form of journaling that you can modify to fit your style.  The Bullet Journal website has a version you can adopt, but I simplified it further. I only write my to-do lists on the RIGHT side pages of my journal. I write the date, reminders of appointments I have, and then my list of to-dos. My current page is below (it’s summer vacation now, so my lists are shorter than usual!).


What goes on my LEFT hand pages? Random notes, lesson plan ideas, slide deck plans, free writing, notes from books I’m reading–whatever I feel like. Sometimes an entire layout–left and right side pages–get taken up by my brainstorming, and that’s okay, too. I don’t restrict myself to rules, because the more structured I try to make it, the less I use it.


However, if you try it, you should adapt it for yourself. Make it more structured, or less structured, for what works best for you. Some people use coded symbols for their to-do list. Others create a monthly index in the back of the journal. To be honest, I love the idea and tried it, but couldn’t keep up on it very well.


Chrome is aplomb with fantastic to-do apps and extensions, but if you’re like me and you still need that feel and immediacy of pen and paper, try bullet journaling for yourself and see if it works.


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