Archive for Jennifer

Trying Something New — March Appness

We had a LONG stretch of time from Winter Break until Easter vacation.   And I did not want our kids becoming weary and I needed something to kickstart my ho-hum-possibility as well.

Now, in no way am I a sports person.  I like to watch the Olympics, Superbowl, the World Series, Golf, and sometimes Wimbledon.    I used to be a Dodger fan in the 70’s — and now am a Cubs fan (though I could not tell you 1 players name) — I just need to admit, not a sports kinda gal.

But I knew there was this thing with basketball and colleges in March (go ahead and be shocked) — and decided that I would springboard off of that for a idea to try with my students.

And thus began — March Appness.

I built a mockup bracket — no measuring so that’s why it didn’t line up perfectly — but I was creative.

Then came the decisions of what apps.

I put them into categories.
For fun, we had Hoopa City 1 VS Hoopa City 2.
For problem solving, we had Zoombini’s VS Stack the States.
For coding, we had lightbot VS kodable.
For robots, Dash VS Sphero.
For math, we had Monster Math VS MathSeed.
For video, we have Discovery Education VS BrainPop.
For spreadsheets, we had Numbers VS Excel.
For writing, we had Book Creator VS Comic Life 3.

I found all the app icons and created circles for each and placed them on the board and introduced it to the students the first week of March.

Since we had A LOT of other stuff to do as well….participating in March Appness was an extra option.   So one day, you might come into the lab and one group was working on a slide show, someone might be typing, a few might be blogging, some were march apping, and others might be coding or 3D printing.

March was one of the most ECLECTIC months ever in the computer lab.

Not every student participated with every app.  But we had enough participation in each to get a true showing of votes.

I knew from the get-go that Hoopa City would be in the finals — just was not sure if it would be #1 or #2.   (it is a class favorite).   I was suprised how CLOSE the vote was for Stack the States vs Zoombini’s.  (Stack the States lost by only 2 votes.)  Brain Pop and Discovery were also neck and neck.   Younger kids love BP, olders seem to prefer Discovery.   Both like extra options both BP and Discovery bring.  Kodable was the past favorite — but we had some logon issues with it that did not occur with Lightbot — so Lightbot won mostly because of lack of frustration.   (But wow, I love to watch my kids code and watch them help each other code!)

So, on Monday, when the students enter the lab — I will have updated the board and they will see the final winner of March Appness.   There will be no trophy, no huge fanfare, no parade…but I know all the students will enjoy knowing the winner & I know they all learned a lot in creative and unique ways.

Lightbot vs Hoopa City 2 — who do you think won?


I Want My Kids to be MAD for the rest of the year

We have 25 more days of school left.  I know this because our 2nd grade is doing a letter a day and had to start the Thursday before Easter break to fit in all the letters.   Usually I am not a day counter…..I am one of those teachers who never wants the last day of school to come.

It would be very easy to coast the last days of school.   The students only come to the lab 1 time a week….so “tech”nically, I only have 4 more days of school with them….we could be winding down.

But instead…..I am going to be winding them up.

I am going to encourage my kids to be MAD for the rest of the year.

Not angry — but MAD.

I want them to be Making A Difference!  Finding ways to do things NOW rather than waiting for when they grow up.   Looking for opportunities each day to be Making a Difference….at school, at home…..and more!

~~I am going to borrow Tony Vincent’s idea ( and create post-it notes for my kids to share anonymously with others!

~~I am going to share the story about a 2nd grader coming up with the idea for a Buddy Bench ( and plan on how we could do something similar.

~~I am going to invite them to watch Kid President’s 20 things we need to say ( and have them share their 20 things!

After I introduce these ideas to them….I am going to back up and watch them be MAD for the next 25 days — and hopefully many many more!

And — look out — because I plan to be MAD too!


PS:   Any other ideas on how I can encourage them to be Making A Difference?  THANK YOU!



10 Years Of Learning

2007 was a huge year in my educational life.
I began a new job — not in the classroom but part of a HELP DESK at a Christian school/church…..where I would stay til 2013 then back into the classroom parttime/helpdesk parttime.
I became a Google Certified Teacher in Santa Monica, CA.   Learning some new stuff however I was already immersed with Googleness ….and met some remarkable people.
I attended NECC in Atlanta …  began using twitter…..and met some remarkable people!

So now — in 2017, I am looking back.   Not wishing to be stagnant….which sometimes is easy to do.  Here are some things I have learned.

1.  Choose your battles…….
As my friend Stacey says “not my float, not my parade.”
In 2007, I thought everything was a battle.   And everyone NOT using tech (as I thought they should) was the enemy.
I have learned to step back…..and relax a bit and not make everything #1.
There are some things I need to stand strong on….and not budge….but there are other things I can let go and just chalk it up to personal opinion.   Mac vs PC — opinion.   Office 365 vs Google — opinion.   Comic Sans vs every other font — opinion.   Etc.
Everything cannot be the most important — otherwise, nothing is important.
So choose your battles…..and don’t make them based on personal opinion.

2.  The loudest voice is not always the voice to be listened to.
I have found in the last few years what wisdom there can be in silence.   As I wander around conferences now, often I will just sit to the sidelines and listen.  I do the same at edcamps.   And I try to listen hardest to the person who talks the least….often who waited a while to share their point.  Some people….myself included….can easily fill a conversation with noise…..but often the quiet voice….can be the loudest.

3.  The sound byte is not always true.
I have learned to search before believing.   Just because someone posts something does not make it true.   Often things are misquoted or distorted or stated as fact when indeed it is just opinion.    I am learning to not knee-jerk to something I read but instead take the time to research it out.   A lot of times I find that what I thought might be true….is in deed false.

4.  Do not judge yourself against what others are doing
This is a hard one….especially this year.  Projects by Jen is in its 18th year and with pride, also comes a bit of weariness.   Something begun a long time ago that was unique is now commonplace.   I tend to stay slow and steady — and I am horrid at marketing.   So often, I feel invisible, inadequate, and ineffective…..and fall into a bit of a mope.   I honestly have to work hard to pull myself out of the funk and persevere.   I cannot let your success diminish my job well done.

5.  Watch for the sustainable, Watch for the authentic
Technology is changing so fast now it is difficult to keep up.   Things can seem like the “next big thing” yet poof, they disappear or are purchased by another company or ….. etc.
Free is no longer free……or won’t be free for long and reading the small print is so important now.
Some things that have stayed steady for me……Google Forms, Wordle, Keynote, WordPress, Twitter.
Things which have gone poof – Netscape Navigator, Ning, Google Reader.
Something I thought was important that I walked away from — Second Life.

6.  What matters is MY classroom
So many people are telling me what to do — so many people are writing books telling me what to do — so many people are creating podcasts telling me what to do.
But not one of those people work with my kids.
I love for you to inspire me — but I need to sift your wisdom through my classroom environment.
No matter how hard you make me clap — it has to work within my classroom to be the best for my kiddos!

7.  Keep a small core of great people nearby
In the last few years, I have narrowed down my field of influencers…..not just to people who are wise, but also people who are truthful and sometimes blunt.  Almost all have been in education for more than 20 years.  Almost all enjoy the opportunities of technology.  Several speak at conferences, a few have blogs, most I do follow on twitter.   If I need wisdom, I seek them out.    Trusted, true, helpful.

8.  It’s no longer a buffet
For many years, I got caught up in I HAVE TO USE IT ALL.   Every time something new came out….I had to conquer it.  Every app that was shared at a conference, every website that was shared at an edcamp, I felt the need to be in the know.
Now, I have pushed away from the buffet and work on pretty much getting very good at a few things rather than being okay at much.

9.  My voice is important
This last year has been a hard year for me.   Not going to go into much detail but I began to fill invisible……yet, I was in fact wearing the invisibility cloak myself.   No one put it on me….I had picked it up and put it on.
But my voice is important….and I need to share more.   20+ years of being involved in EdTech is helpful and knowledgeable.   One of my favorite quotes from West Wing is when President Elect Santos says to CJ Craig “Institutional memory is an invaluable commodity.”  I need to remember to include my voice in conversations.

10.  My blog posts are nothing without you.
I need to write in a way to invite conversations….to gain information… elicit knowledge… not just share my thoughts but to invite yours as well.   I guess that will be my “resolution for 2017.”



Things Change

Interesting how when I look back to 2007, I know that it was so pivotal for so many of us who are in Ed-Tech.   The blogger’s cafe at NECC in Atlanta — was HUGE.

For many many many of us — it was first times of F2F — yet, we knew each other.  There were screams of excitement, silent hugs of appreciation, hand shakes of admiration…..on both sides.  You could not wait to meet someone…..yet people wanted to meet you as well.

I don’t really remember HOW we knew each other so well — because for so many…..NECC 2007 is where Twitter began.   Thanks to John Pederson……so many people entered the twitterspehere and our sporadic conversations became daily, hourly, minute by minute.   I can close my eyes and place myself at the table in blogger’s cafe…….I can almost picture every single person at that table as we learned together.   I can still hear the gasp when someone’s laptop fell off the table.  I can still see Mark Wagner dashing up to meet Ryan Bretag.   I can still see that silly Best Buy bag.   We were the last to leave the conference each day — the first to show up.   There was an excitement of sharing that was electric!

Since we were all “kinda at the start together” — I mean, sure there were the David Warlicks, Gail Lovely, Tammy Worchesters, Tony Brewers, Kathy Schrocks, etc — who were 10 years plus ahead of us…..our little islands of creative opportunities kinda merged into one larger island.

Friendships were created…..because we were all “newbies”.  Optimistic newbies, Vocal newbies, Creative newbies, but still — pretty much new to all this and trying to make sense of it all — and we began making sense together.

From NECC — for many of us — we journeyed to Educon that January and further cemented “our tribe”.   We took what was strong and made it even stronger.   We got to know each other via twitter, blog, podcasts — but then we got to know each other F2F and realized (for the most part) we still liked each other.

For me — NECC and EDUCON are a huge HUGE foundation for where I am in EdTech.   We were a strong team, a mighty team — we did not always agree everything but we agreed on much.

But our tribe seems to have dispersed…..
Don’t get me wrong — we meet, we converse, we share, we listen ….. and yet……things are different.    And that is not entirely a bad thing… be honest, its life.   But, why?

I caught a tweet feed by Ben Wilkoff which seems me to feel that I am not the only one that feels there is a difference.

Was it the honeymoon phase……where everything is perfect, everything is optimistic, everything is new and exciting?
We were all so eager to try everything and anything… was exhausting sometimes to keep up.   It was not the fear of missing out….it was the joy of something new.   Everyone was everyone’s cheerleader!   When someone spoke at a conference — at least 8 of his “friends” would be in attendance.   If someone posted a blog link — at least 8 of his “friends” would visit it almost immediately.   If someone shared a profound thought — at least 8 of “his” friends would retweet or replurk or refacebook or mention it in a podcast!

If I needed help in anyway — I knew with out a doubt — someone out there cared and would respond.   EduTechionally — I was in a safe place with my “friends”.

And I wonder …..
#1 — is it because we are more departmentalized?   So many people who were “there” at the beginning now have their own companies.  Woo Hoo and congratulations….I am so proud of you.   But that does change your viewpoint….sometimes limits your opportunities……and can be your selling point.    Are we so busy with what we began so many years ago?
#2 — is it because keeping up is work?    Our conversations — at the beginning were small in people.    The first educon, I think was 150 people…….that’s small.   Most people had “maybe” 200 followers on twitter.   Having conversations….good conversations……small conversations…..was easier that it seems to be now.
#3 — too many alpha dogs?   looking honestly at my network — so many are now viewed as EXPERTS in their fields.  (I do have great friends)  🙂   The newbie status has gone poof.
#4 — things change — yep….so very true.   Our network has gone through a lot…. a few marriages, lots of new babies, death, health issues, divorce, empty nests, continuing education, writing books, building businesses……. its exhausting.   When your so busy with so much….things get dropped.
#5 — have our interests changed?   some have left education, some have shifted what’s on their bulls-eye, some have become all google, all mac, all whatever, what we thought was #1 might not be anymore.
#6 — do I expect too much?  Probably.   Yet, to be honest….I know I have distanced myself as well.   Mostly due to #4 — life in general.

But — also to be honest — I sometimes truly miss the “good old days” when we were newbies.   I would go back in a moment to that table at Blogger’s Cafe — when things were so new, our optimism was so strong, when no one was the expert, yet everyone was, and everyone was learning together.

Perhaps I am just a bit nostalgic today…….