Nibs from Nancy

Instructional Technology Integration

Nibs from Nancy

Who’s in the driver’s seat?

November 15, 2012 · No Comments · integration

How is technology used in your classroom?  It depends on who is in the driver’s seat.  Is it teacher driven, or student centered?   It makes a profound difference!  Integrating technology effectively  involves the intentional design, development and implementation of resources or tools that best suits an instructional purpose.   It’s not about how many video clips you can show, or how many PowerPoints you can run, in fact…it’s not really about you.   It is more about the ways in which students  are actively engaged to learn.

So…. how do you actively  engage your students with technology in your classroom?  The foundational skills needed for the SOL tests  often involve lower level Blooms taxonomy, but  upper level Bloom might be just what’s needed.  Don’t get me wrong….skill and drill programs like Fasttmath serve a definite purpose. For other content areas, working with abstract ideas might require a different approach.  Projects, or activities  taught through small groups or work in centers can provide tremendous learning opportunities. Maybe you could have students blog about a particular topic, useVoice threads, , use digital cameras and pictures or video to generate digital posters, short videos or other products.  How about creating a digital newspaper or participating  in a virtual field trip….  the list is endless.  The point is that the students are actively engaged in a task where they are thinking, doing, learning, producing…    not simply watching a video or copying notes displayed by a document camera blindly into a notebook.

 It requires a shift in thoughts and teaching habits, stepping out of the driver’s seat and into the passenger seat.  If you have never tried it, you are in for a surprise. You will find that your role will change from the sage on the stage to that of a  facilitator.  For some, that is a huge shift. It’s hard to let go.  You can do it!  Once  thoughts and practices have  been adapted, the stage is set for transformation to occur.   The transformation will probably involve some or maybe even all those educational buzzwords that you keep hearing about  like differentiation, collaboration, Marzano strategies, modalities…   you know the ones that I am talking about.   It’s not easy, but it is rewarding, and can help students in so many ways. 

 In our school division, we  have a wealth of resources, tools and support to afford such transformation.   There are computers everywhere…labs, classrooms, and COWS (laptop carts).  There are doc cams,digital cameras, data projectors, Promethean boards, voice recorders and other gadgets, plus a plethora of software like kidpix, Kidspiration & Inspiration Software, PowerPoint, Word, Publisher, PhotoStory, Movie Maker and much, much more.  We have TRTs  who are ready, willing and able to help you make it happen.  Want to brainstorm some ideas?   Need someone to help you co-teach a technology integrated lesson?  Your TRT is there to assist!   To see what you can do with technology in your classroom, start small. Adapt.  Grow.   Keep trying new things.  Keep adding new tools to your teacher tool box.  Next thing you know, you will have a wealth of high quality, student centered technology activities that provide meaningful learning experiences.

You want to get  effective technology in use in your classroom?  Get out of the driver’s seat.  Explore ways to adapt your practices.  Work with your TRT.  Add tools to your toolbox.  Use the resources, tools and support to facilitate a  transformation in yourself and your classroom.


Feed thyself!

November 14, 2012 · No Comments · integration

Educators are provided countless ways to receive professional development.  Everyone including  TRTs, content area specialists, and building level personnel are offering training opportunities.  Things are offered before, during, and after school, during the summer, online,  in whole group, small group and 1:1 settings.  There is no shortage when it comes to opportunties to learn something new.  To take that to an even greater level requires the individual to take charge of their own learning and explore new avenues to learn.  How do you do that?  There are so many ways!  Making connections with other educators in various online environments can help you grow and develop in so many ways.   These days, so many educators are willing to connect and share resources, ideas, plans and more.   With RSS feed, blogs, wikis, Nings, listserves, social networking sites and other web 2.0 tools and resources you have everything you need to feed thyself.  It’s like an IV that constantly provides the food to sustain you.  In fact, the more you get into it, the more you realize that it can start like a trickle and very rapidly grow into a gushing flood.  Educators that develop a Personal Learning Network quickly find new ways to develop professionally, which ultimately results in better teaching and learning.  So… the question beckons….  How do you feed yourself?


TRT’s as “Change Agents”

November 7, 2012 · No Comments · integration

A recent professional development activity forced me to think about my role as a change agent.  Our role places us in a unique position to change others.  Here are my ramblings concerning this role:

 TRT’s are change agents that strive to enable teachers to make profound changes in thoughts, attitudes and practices in efforts to improve student learning.   Given that teachers do not all possess the same dispositions and skill levels, this is an interesting challenge that is best met when the change agent employs a combination of roles and skills that ideally suit the needs of the teacher.  The role of the TRT as a change agent remains constant, but the course of actions taken to make the change adjusts.  Like a teacher, the change agent differentiates, as needed, to accomplish an objective.  Effective change agents are “jack-of-all trades,” enabling and empowering others to make the necessary transitions that will alter their teaching practices, and ultimately impact student learning. As Heather Stagl described in her article, The Seven Roles of a Change Agent, the change agent may wear many hats including those of the detective, advocate, counselor, facilitator, mediator, expert and the “law” enforcer.  Based on these roles, it is clearly apparent that the change agent must possess a high level of people skills and be extremely perceptive and flexible.  Change agents are guided by vision, but are tempered by reality.   It is a delicate balance of knowledge, skills, vision and relationships.  We are in the people business, and for me, I personalize my role and actions based on the skills, knowledge and attitude of the teacher.   I customize the relationship to suit the needs. I take into consideration the goals of the administrator and any other division initiatives.   I assess the teacher’s current level, and make concerted efforts to push the teacher out of their comfort zone to produce positive results. I use training wheels, then I take them off and tell them to keep peddling.   I coach, model, support , adjusting the role and approaches as needed to enable the teacher to have positive experiences as they work through a new endeavor.

 Influences on the role of the change agent are varied, and directly impact how the role is implemented.  To be effective, the change agent needs to be able to accurately see things as they are, and be able to work toward the vision of how things could be in the future.   That vision serves as a catalyst for all efforts made by the change agent. Change agents should possess a wide range of job-related experiences upon which they can draw.  This lends to the credibility of the change agent, and provides the foundation necessary for the relationship essential to the role.  Having taught at various levels and served in numerous capacities in school and division efforts, I find it easy to see through the eyes of the teacher, specialist, librarian or administrator.  I know firsthand some of the challenges they face, and I also know how to overcome those challenges. I can provide concrete examples and offer suggestions for “best practice” that is based on practical experience as well as pedagogy.   I can develop a lesson plan or a project plan that maximize success while minimizing problems.    My vision is essential to the way that I communicate and interact with others, which has a huge impact on the way I perform my role.  I know that my thoughts and attitudes affect my words, and my words can make or break a relationship with a teacher.  Broken relationships do not get the results that I want to see.  In every endeavor, I make sure to treat all with respect, and intentionally look for the “good” in a situation, looking for that foundational building block onto which the second and third can be added.

 The efforts of a change agent are endless and ongoing.  There is never a discrete finish line.   Instead, with each success, the line is quietly advanced a little further.  It is only when we stop and look back that we can see the impact. Driven by passion, the change agent is an inspired self starter that believes in themselves and others to bring the dream to fruition.  Inch by inch, step by step, the transformation takes place.  Given the nature of change, even the change aspired by the change agent can change over time.  Dreams change, needs change, technologies change…   For that reason, the change agent must be an inspirational source of change that possesses a gift or talent to inspire others.    That means that the change agent must be able to provide the leadership to share the vision and support the efforts to bring about the desired change.   I firmly believe that teachers are some of the most creative, talented, dedicated professionals, and have the ability to accomplish the seemingly impossible.  My attitudes and belief in teachers motivate me, because I know that given time, support and resources, we have what we need to bring about desired change.

 As a change agent, I am acutely aware that change is a difficult process, as I am asking people to explore and alter their attitudes, beliefs, philosophies, behaviors, and practices.   I use my people skills, experience and knowledge about people and the change process to impact others.  I feel that I have found my niche working in this capacity as it draws on my passion for teaching, and amplifies my personal and professional gifts and talents with people and instructional technology. I know that change is tough, but I also know that if we believe, strive and persist, we can move mountains.

 Above all else, faith is needed for strength, guidance and inspiration.  We don’t have all the answers, and sometimes the game plan shifts mid-stream.  The change agent needs to be ready to adjust as needed for times when then the failings of mankind present inevitable challenges for implementing the dream.


21st Century Learners… questions, questions

April 5, 2012 · No Comments · integration

Questions, questions…21st century learners…  are they really different?  Is it necessary to always use technology? Is it more appropriate sometimes to use the “no-tech” approach?   Where are we now and where are we going with this?  So many questions… 



It’s a small, small, world!

April 4, 2012 · No Comments · integration

We are blessed to be living in a time when educators can use technology to cross time and space boundaries to connect, share, collaborate, trouble shoot, and grow and develop as professionals.  Thanks to the power of the Internet and web 2.0 technologies, educators have countless ways to talk with each other to learn and grow together.  By nature, educators are a unique breed of professionals with incredible skills, talents, attitudes and possibilities to help shape the lives of students. Often overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated, this group works tirelessly to be successful.   They help their students, and they help each other.   Today, I was pleasantly reminded that it’s a small, small world.

When I opened my email this morning, I received an email from “Sara.” I am not quite certain if or how I might know Sara, but she alerted me that I had a broken link on my blog, and provided me a link to another educational site that I could use to replace it.  The site that Sara suggested was awesome, including various types of interactives.  Immediately, I updated my blog, replied to the email to thank Sara, and then Plurked about it in my PLN (Professional Learning Network). While on Plurk, I checked to see if Sara was in this community.  I didn’t find Sara, so I invited her to join my Plurk PLN, which includes various practicing educators  across the country. (I hope she will join and benefit from this community.)  Using Plurk, educators, information technology and instructional technology people from all over share ideas and resources.  They share links to content based materials, best practice ideas, training opportunities, and cutting edge technologies.   They share and/or collaborate on web based projects.  They troubleshoot, giving and receiving help.    And…whether they are aware of it or not, they actively participate in the growth and development of the people in the PLN with each post that they make or read. It’s a wonderful thing to see practicing educators use technology to improve how they deal with educational issues. 

Educational standards, curricula and supporting technologies are continuously changing;   ‘Tis the nature of the beastie.  How we as educators approach change and new implementations to maximize teaching and learning often takes the support of a community.  That community may be “in-house,” but it might also be virtual. After all, whether you live in Kansas, Texas, New York,  Virginia or anywhere else in the world, similar issues are encountered by educators.  How an educator addresses the issues is often the subject matter of a professional PLN.  Insights, experience and perspectives often help the members of the PLN to approach the educational issues, and often serve as a catalyst for change.

As more and more educators use technology to connect, share, collaborate, trouble shoot, and grow and develop as professionals, I think that we will continue to see our world shrink.  Barriers imposed by time and space are being erased, and replaced by possibilities. It’s a small, small world, so it would seem!


Ready, Set, Teach!

June 22, 2011 · 10 Comments · integration

Ready, Set, Teach is a session at TEACH Academy designed to help teachers get a head start on the next school year!  Participants  explore and use various resources, web 2.0 tools, and templates that will take them to the head of the class.  Participants  have the opportunity to create personalized classroom expectations, motivational posters, open house presentations, award certificates, class newsletters, instructional activities for the core content areas and much more!  What resources proved to be most useful to you?


Kickin’ It with Kidspiration at TEACH ACADEMY 2011

June 21, 2011 · 10 Comments · integration, Math, Reading, Thinking, Writing

At Teach Academy in PPS, teachers are exploring ways that Kidspiration can be used to support content areas.  This is a highly versatile, visual teaching and learning tool that can be used for language arts, math, science, social studies and more.  Kidspiration has a picture view, writing view and math view.  Templates are provided for reading and writing, math, science and social studies.  With minimal teacher input, lesson activities can be easily created for classroom use.  Activities can incorporate text, images, sound,  and hyperlinks.  It’s a great way to create activities for use in the lab, for centers, or for direct instruction.  How will you will use  this product to affect student learning in your classroom next year?


Career Switcher Finds Niche in 21st Century Classroom with PPS

May 2, 2011 · 1 Comment · integration

When a former legal counsel service provider for Portsmouth and Norfolk Coast Guard decided to make a career change, she chose to become a classroom teacher with Portsmouth Public Schools.  Little did she know, almost everything that she knew about the world of education had changed.  The road to transform this career switcher from a 20th Century blackboard, chalk and basal reader style teacher into an effective 21st Century teacher that utilizes a variety of digital technologies on a daily basis was wrought with some interesting challenges, but was well worth the effort!  Career switchers bring a wealth of experience to the classroom, and time is well spent to help them develop professionally into 21st Century educators.

Roxanne Richardson began her career in the 80’s as an elementary classroom teacher, but left the profession after 4 years to attend law school.  She provided legal services in New York State and ultimately served as a civilian employee to the Coast Guard in Portsmouth and Norfolk.   Following a lengthy career with law, she decided to go back into the classroom.

When Roxanne first came to Portsmouth, I began a long-term relationship with her at Churchland Primary & Intermediate School as an instructional technology coach and mentor. Roxanne had no idea what kind of journey she was about to embark upon, but I knew it would be one that would revolutionize what she knew about teaching and learning.   As an instructional technology resource teacher (ITRT), I have unique opportunities to help teachers develop their skills, knowledge, and attitude about instructional technology integration.  Everybody gets something from my services, but those teachers that go the extra mile and are willing to try new things are the ones that really come out as winners.  Roxanne is one of those teachers.  

When Roxanne first started teaching a few years ago, very little technology was in use in her classroom. She and I worked together to help her become TSIP compliant, and from there, her skills and knowledge grew extensively.  Over time, new equipment, software, web based resources, ideas and strategies were introduced and implemented.  With some encouragement, support, and technological upgrades, Roxanne’s classroom has been transformed from a low tech 80’s style classroom into a technologically advanced interactive Promethean classroom, and she is well on her way as a 21st Century teacher.

If you walk into Roxanne’s second grade classroom now, you can expect to see a wide range of technologies in use.  The instructional day begins when the Promethean Interactive White Board, laptop, and document camera are powered up.  Her second grade students use the Promethean Interactive White Board on a daily basis, and the teacher guides the learning with various types of digital content.  Students begin with a warm up, using online content to correct sentences for spelling and grammar.  Students might take turns at the Promethean board; sometimes utilizing the dual pen feature.   While students complete this activity, Roxanne completes attendance with her online gradebook.  Throughout the day, various websites, digital documents and resources are utilized.  She quickly flips from one type of digital resource to another, adapting to provide differentiated instruction.  Students might read digital text, watch a short video clip, listen to an audio clip, observe wildlife on a webcam, or interact with a flip chart. You might see them sharing class work with the document camera.   Since students have access to three computers in the back of the classroom which are used as centers, you might see them access practice sites to increase math or reading fluency.  You might see second graders in the centers working on an individual project.  After some co-teaching was delivered by the classroom teacher and ITRT, students were prepared to take turns at the computer centers, where they use an online database to conduct research, and then build their own PowerPoint presentations about a topic.  If you are really lucky, you might see these second graders engaged in a class activity involving digital cameras or Flip cams.  This class has videotaped their Reader’s Theatre productions, and has PhotoStories and Movie Maker videos to show off their efforts. 

As you look around Roxanne’s classroom, you will see a blend of paper and pencil activities as well as tech integrated activities.  From the ceiling, “Gallon Man” dangles next to hand written stories about the butterfly life cycle and tri-folded paper dioramas of habitats.  For each of these hands-on paper activities, Roxanne has added corresponding online activities which are accessed from one of her highly developed online PortaPortal sites.  Each activity demonstrates another milestone in her efforts to provide effective technology integrated activities for students. ISTE Nets S standards are being woven into student activities, one project at a time. As soon as she learns a new way to reach students with technology, it becomes another tool in her teacher toolbox.  It’s a transformative process, and it’s changing how she teaches students.

 The big questions we all have, what effect does this effort have on student learning?   Does it really work?   The data stands for itself.  Roxanne’s city wide benchmark scores have increased every year.  The data from her most recent benchmarks show that on average, her students outperformed others in the school and division.  She enjoys what she is teaching, and students enjoy what they are learning.  That sounds like success to me.

Roxanne’s commitment to lifelong learning is evidenced by her ongoing efforts to learn more about about web 2.0, and it is transforming her into a 21st Century educator.   Roxanne has completed a 21 Things Program, attended TEACH Academy Summer Teacher Camp, participates in Classroom 2.0, is currently participating in various webinars to explore cutting edge topics, and hopes to be one of the lucky teachers that will attend Tech Trek at WHRO this summer to learn even more.  This teacher now utilizes a variety of digital technologies on a daily basis to affect student learning.  Roxanne’s thirst for knowledge about technology integration and a commitment to education are transforming her from a 20th Century blackboard, chalk and basal reader style teacher.   Roxanne Richardson, career switcher, has found her niche as a 21st Century educator that embraces change and all the possibilities that it brings.


Is the Thinkfinity Teacher Excellence Award for You?

February 28, 2011 · No Comments · integration

In the recent Virginia Superintendent’s Memo #050-11, the Thinkfinity Teacher Excellence Award was featured.  This high profile competition is designed to showcase teachers that are using Thinkfinity in their classrooms.  They have some pretty sweet prizes including iPads and $1000 stipend to attend a conference. There will be 8 regional winners in Virginia.   If you are interested, read the details below and check out the web site. ( ) You will notice that this requires a recommendation from your ITRT or LMS.  In Portsmouth, the ITRT is called the TRT.  Talk with your building TRT.  You just might have what it takes!  
Not familiar with Thinkfinity?  Let’s schedule some time by grade group to learn about this valuable resource.  You might be surprised to see what kind of things you can do and see with this site.


Flip Cams for Reader’s Theatre

February 8, 2011 · No Comments · integration

Flip Cams are easy and fun to use, and there are so many ways to use them. At present,  I am exploring ways to use them with reading.  Recently, I worked with a second grade teacher and her class to use the Flip cam to record them as they participated in a Reader’s Theatre activity.  Reader’s Theatre?  Yeah…you know…those very short plays that are found in basal readers.  Lots of students get a reading part, which means that there a lots of opportunities for kids to participate.    Add some available props, and you have a cool tech integration activity.  Edit the clips to produce a finished movie and you have a wonderful resource to share with students.  It takes very little time to plan, execute and edit to produce a finished 1 minute movie.  With the movie produced, students can see and hear themselves while reading.   Everything that you are constantly talking about regarding fluency, tone, intoation, and expression become very obvious. You can use on-screen controls of the video player to  stop the movie, rewind, fast-forward and play again.  Nothing like seeing yourself on video to identify strenghts and weaknesses. Plus…it’s a great way to show development over time. We found this to be an all-around great tool and will probably use this again.


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