Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Paperless Grandparents

This past Friday we had our annual Grandparents Day. Usually for me it is filled with word game, some curriculum material and LOTS of paper. Not this year! I decided our grandparents were going paperless. So, how to fill the time? What am I going to do without all the papers I have used so much through the years. Well. . . . .

6th Grade - Google earth – showed them where were going in 6th Ancient History – took a walk around the pyramids and then amazed them with the Titanic wreckage. We also looked at the student’s blog site (http://www.kidblog.org/) and they showed off some of their Glogs. (http://www.edu.glogster.com/)

7th Grade - Google Forms – had the students help Grandparents contribute to a Google form about 9-11, (which helped us get more responses for our project (http://livebinders.com/play/present?id=186481) Another question on the form was what was another “always remember where you were moment”? We then took those responses and put them in a Wordle (http://www.wordle.net/)  It was neat to see the responses in this way. (Kennedy was the biggest word)

8th Grade – PBS Website/Google Forms – used PBS site about colonial America (our next unit - ) We took the “would you survive in a colony” quiz and then filled out a Google form about what they learned about colonial life. I also had the students list 10 words about their grandparents. Then we “wordled” those responses. The colonial answers will serve as our lead in to our colonial unit this coming week.

In the end I needed/wanted more time. Technology once again served as an awesome tool! It helped to bridge generational gaps and made usually stressful day a very enjoyable one.

Friday, May 27, 2011


These are the celebrations reported by ASLS staff. They were then put into a word cloud using TAGXEDO It was a GREAT YEAR!

Recommended Reading

THANKS to everyone who contributed to this list. I put out on Twitter what books would be recommended for a staff to read. Here is the list I received.

"I Read it but I don't Get it" by Chris Tovani.
"The Essential 55" by Ron Clark
"Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement" Robert J. Marzano
"Outliers: The Story of Success" Malcolm Gladwell
"Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics - The Hidden Side of Everything" by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner.
"A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age"
Daniel H. Pink
"5 Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Lencioni
"7 Habits of a Highly Effective Person" By Stephen Covey
"Re-Imagine" by Tom Peters
"Intervention for Young Children with Autism" by Maurice et al
"The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life" Rosamund Stone Zander, Benjamin Zander

Monday, May 9, 2011

Twitter - Expanding our Classrom - Shrinking the World

(This was also a guest post on freetech4teachers.com, which if you are a teacher and have not checked out yet, you are really missing out!)

While I was principal for 3 years I dealt with a lot bullying/behavior issues related to social media. Finally, I swore it off as a hassle that led to many discipline issues. I swore up and down that I would never use a social media site like Twitter. Now I am back in the classroom full time and cannot imagine my life or career without Twitter.

Twitter recently led to an experience for my 6th graders that I could never planned or make happen on my own. While studying ancient Greece and their gods, I assigned my students a research project on a god. While they were giving their presentations on it, I posted a few tweets about how well they were doing. A teacher in Pennsylvania (@brdcmpbll) happened to see the tweets and it led to an awesome interaction between our two classes.

Mr. Campbell saw that we were studying Greece and asked our class to help his class. His senior Western Civilization class had prepared Greek god reports and we were going to be judges. Through the use of Skype we sat in on some of their presentations. During the presentations, our students used the backchannel Todaysmeet.com. My 6th graders were excited to see other students’ work, talk with students in another state and oh by the way, learned a little more about Greek gods in the process. One of my students actually got to perform the song she wrote about Athena for her presentation to the class in Pennsylvania.

The collaboration due to Twitter did not stop with viewing those presentations. Our class viewed the rest of their presentations using a Google 3X3 grid. Later, the students in Pennsylvania made study guides for my 6th graders using Studyblue, Studystack and Quizlet. All of these sites helped my students learn our material better and made it more fun for the students to learn.

Twitter helped make all this connection and collaboration happen. It broke down the walls of our classroom and allowed students in classrooms across the country to interact and learn from each other. My students were still buzzing about the experience days later, more so than they ever would have been had I just taught a lesson only in our classroom.

Twitter shrinks the world. My students and I follow world events on Twitter, almost as they happen. Greece riots reported by someone watching out their window, earthquake updates in New Zealand, and of course the guy who blogged the U.S. raid on Osama’s compound without even knowing are all examples of events we have “watched” unfold through Twitter. We talk to with classrooms around the world. We participate in classroom competitions and gain authentic audiences for projects of our own. For a recent project the students had to create Prezis on an earthquake. I wanted the students to practice the skill of persuasive writing/presenting and try to win “Worst Earthquake of the Century.” One of my 6th graders was concerned that in the voting phase, everyone would vote for their friends. Great point! Through the use of twitter, my students will have a non-biased audience for their presentations. This provided more motivation for them to prepare great presentations.

Twitter increases our school’s communication as well. I have created a middle school Twitter account (@aslsms) that the students are allowed to tweet from during the school day. The students update it periodically. I also put updates out there for the parents to read. We have gained a few followers through the year; parents and others. Parents are also just checking the Twitter page to see what is going on daily. Also, some students have even gotten their own Twitter accounts and I have communicated with them via Twitter.

Twitter brings the world into our classroom in so many ways. It breaks down the walls of our classroom and allows our students to experience the rest of the world in new and better ways. Twitter provides opportunities for connection, communication and collaboration to help make the students’ learning experiences better. Twitter has made me a better teacher. Twitter has expanded our classroom and shrunk the world in exciting ways for my students.

Please check out some of my students’ work at www.aslsmra.blogspot.com. This is a collection of some of the digital work of our students from this school year. Most, (if not all) of these ideas or websites I learned about on Twitter – yet another benefit!

Two big thank you’s – one to @kevcreutz for getting me to sign up for Twitter. Also, to @brdcmpbll for collaborating on the Greek god project.

Scott Akerson – 7th Grade homeroom – Abiding Savior Lutheran School – St. Louis MO – Twitter handle @mra47 – www.mra47.blogspot.com

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How Exciting are YOUR plans?

Have you ever planned a week of teaching and then walked away, come back and said to yourself, “How boring!” I have had lessons recently that I am just not enthused about teaching. This had led to me to think how my students must feel during those kinds of lessons. If I am excited about it, how can they be? Sometimes we need to fake it yes. There is material that needs covering that just isn’t exciting by itself. But doesn’t that fall on teachers to make EVERY lesson exciting? Is it a teacher’s job to make every lesson the best, coolest lesson and material ever? Isn’t that how tech can help? I am pretty sure that the students pick up on when I am not “into” a lesson. How can I expect them to get anything out of it if I am not excited to teach the material or how I am teaching the material? After planning a week or a unit, step back, look at it, if you can’t wait to teach it, you’re already a step ahead of getting your students motivated to learn it. If you look at something and sigh, find a different way to teach it!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Reflections from METC

Dear Who Ever Will Listen,

I recently went to the METC conference. I learned some things. I have some thoughts. I want to share.  But first some awesome quotes:

“The only thing technology changes is what is possible.” @rushtonh

“Are you not getting through the curriculum because of the way you are teaching the curriculum?” @rushtonh

“Kids are digital natives. They came out of the womb with a password.” @rushtonh

“L2L2L – Learn to Love to Learn!” @kevinhoneycutt

“Whoa, did they teach you a teleportation app?” A 6th grader at my school when he saw me on Wednesday morning before I left for METC

To METC presenters, organizers – awesome conference – the amount of collaboration, learning, fun that took place cannot be measured. It energized and refreshed my passion for teaching with technology. It validated all the thoughts I have about teaching with technology. You taught me so much and encouraged me even more.

To colleagues at METC – Awesome to meet some of you! Awesome to reconnect with some of you! It was great to feel like that what I am doing in my classroom lines up with what some of the best tech teachers are doing too.

To my students – THANK YOU – You were so eager to hear about what I learned about. You were so excited to get going on some of the projects. Thank you for begging for Google Earth, or Blabberize, or Froguts on the Smart board or more Edheads. Thank you for being willing to try new things with me.

To my co-workers back at school – I get it. All your frustrations/headaches from me trying to be encouraging and introduce you to so much new technology, I understand better now. At METC there were so many NEW apps, projects, ideas, “techie” things that I know are great, I would love to try, but I don’t know where to start! Which project? When I am going to find time to try to learn that new app? Small bites, we can’t do it all at once. So overwhelming, yet exciting at the same time.

To my administrator (@aslsprincipal) – thank you for letting me go to METC; thank you for letting me try things, thank you for getting on Twitter, thank you for leading the way and being a champion for tech integration with me.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

3 Days without Twitter = TORTURE

On Sunday, January 2nd, I was thinking about how to convince other teachers both at my school and elsewhere to join Twitter. I decided to go on a week-long “Twitter-strike.” I would not get on Twitter, not respond to any of the texts that come to my phone from Twitter, basically have no contact with the Twitter world until Sunday, January 9th. I kept a notepad and pen handy during the school day and I wrote down all the things that I missed out on, all the times I could have asked for help/ideas, all the times I could have helped another educator, everything I would have used Twitter for.

Well it is January 6th, so you can see how I did. I couldn’t take it anymore. Below is a list of some, (the real list was just too long), of the missed opportunities in just 3 days with no Twitter. What finally broke me was when a student asked, “Can I tweet about what we’re doing?” My Twitter strike was now prohibiting my students from using it and that was unacceptable.

My goal is simple: to let teachers know the power of Twitter who don’t already. There could also be some ways to use Twitter on this list that teachers on Twitter hadn’t thought of. There are so many other ways that Twitter makes teachers better that I haven’t even experienced yet. I am officially a Twitter-holic (thanks @kevcreutz for that) and want to share that joy with everybody!

Epilogue – since the creation of the first draft of this blog, my principal had approached me about doing a “Tweetorial” for our staff. See, my Twitter strike couldn’t have lasted, my boss wouldn’t let it!

Blessings on your 2011 – I pray it is Twitter filled and student centered!


1. Asking for China resources/ideas/people to Skype with in China for my 6th history unit on China

2. Helping an awesome teacher, @karacornejo, with her questions about outdoor ed and another question. (Sorry I didn’t reply Kara, still need stuff?)

3. Finding pastors for my Pastor to follow now that he is on Twitter. (Go @revdmc2!)

4. Asking for updates and sharing those updates with my students as they come in, about the Australia floods.

5. Welcoming our librarian and helping her connect with other librarians. (welcome @BevBrown61)

6. Showing my students the Ayers Rock photo that came from the astronaut that tweets pictures from space, during our unit on Australia

7. BRAGGING on my awesome 7th graders during school day about their Australia Google presentations they created and were showing. They really did an amazing job. Bragging about my shyest student getting up and talking because it was safer with technology. (COOL MOMENT OF THE WEEK!)

8. Telling again how I did my best teaching this week from the back of the room while the students led a lesson.

9. Updating parents about the everyday goings on in our classrooms.

10. Sharing, via twitpic, our technology-challenged chapel service, where we used a bull-horn because the sound system and projector were not working.

11. Telling others about my blog about Project X and the final stats from it.

12. Getting the tweets my principal was putting out.

13. Pursuing #stuchat

14. Participating in #edchat

15. Thanking people for RTing my blog (THANKS @gret and @blog4edu)

16. Searching for Ipad Apps

17. Thanking people for following me

18. Asking for help broadcasting my 8th graders Presidential presentations for parents.


20. COUNTLESS other activities, ideas, professional conversations

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Project X - Complete!

After 25 days, over 2400 pictures taken, and countless hours Project X comes to a close.  It was really an awesome project.  I cannot put in words how awed I was by how many people helped spread the word.  It showed me what a small world we really do live on.  We had over 3100 hits to the website, from 6 continents, 43 countries and all 50 United States.  You can see a summary of the hits here - PROJECT X ANALYTICS.  It truly shows the power of social media (Twitter and FB) as well as just regular old email and "word of keyboard." 

I would change some things if we were to do it again.  We needed to be more organized and uniform in our picture taking.  It would have been nice to be about a week ahead of the calendar as well, but as it was we were scrambling the day before and sometimes the day of to get it finished.   However, I liked the Weebly website and would definitely use it again. 

The 8th graders were very diligent in this project.  Yesterday was our first day back at school and as we summed up and discussed the project.  Some of their comments cracked me up - "Are you going to do something like this next year?"  "What could you do to top this?"  "Let's do a Lenten calendar!"  (At this point I said let's move on to Science.)  Their enthusiasm is contagious and appreciated though. 

We received a lot of positive feedback.  Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment on the blog, send an email, or tweet a response.  The 8th graders and I really appreciated it.  (My favorite was when we were told "Mele Kalikimaka" from Hawaii!!)  At the bottom is a Wordle of some of the comments.

God's blessings to all in 2011 - I wonder what Project Y will be this year . . . . . .  Follow along on Twitter at @mra47 and @aslsms