Thursday, September 5, 2013

I Have a Secret

I have a secret.

It's a secret I have kept for a very long time....

This is not my first blog.

For years I have been blogging under an alias.  I have shared and created and crafted my voice all while being anonymous.

For years I have hidden that I was a teacher.  I was constantly fearful that someone might realize I'm an educator and I might get in trouble.

For years I was nervous I might share the wrong thing or write or say something that would be looked down upon.

For years I hid my passion for writing, creating and sharing through blogging and social media.  I hid the amazing things I learned about blogging and social media.

For years I hid the amazingness I got from sharing and connecting with others.

It wasn't until I started this space that I stepped out from behind my anonymity and started to share as a teacher.  Suddenly my two passions had instantly collided.  My love for sharing my words, my creativity joined my deep passion for education and students learning.  Instantly my world was invigorated.  A new energy took hold of me as not only did I get to do what I loved everyday, but now my "hobby" was something I could also do as an educator.  My life suddenly became richer because my passions had collided!

It has been quite a journey for me here and for me on my personal blog.  In a million gizzillion years I never would have guessed that this would all be blogging as an educator let alone the start of this new space.  You see today is the last day for Hold on To Your Chair.  It is the last day I will share in this space...because it is time.  It is time for my two worlds to come together.  It is time for me to step out from behind my anonymity and start sharing as me.  It is time for me to write, create and share as me....Carrie....inspiration junkie, idea sharer and learning enthusiast...all of me.

I hope you will follow me over to my new space.

Starting next week Hold on To Your Chair will have a new home on my new blog 

You will still find all the great posts, pictures, tidbits about what is going on in my classroom, things I have learned, lessons I'm teaching, things I need to do better, my make me giddy with excitement love for technology and my passion for students  really Hold on To Your Chair is not disappearing it just has a new home.  It's just going to be more of all of who I am!

I can't wait to see you there!

Post Update.... is LIVE and ready!  I hope you'll 'CLICK' on over and come and visit my new space!!! 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


I sit snuggled up under the blankets, coffee cup in one hand, one finger peck typing a post with the other.  This is my last day. This is my last day of summer.

My summers have changed over the years from the one before kids supplied with endless me time and no schedule to follow to the exhausting ones when my daughters were young to the ones now full of activity, play and jam packed memories.

My summers as an educator have been equally as different.  Some have been spent full of creating, making new lessons, building new units, others have been quiet with little time spent on anything school, still others have been spent packed full of summer projects and working with peers on projects.

None of those summers have been quite like this one.

I had no goals going into this summer, no projects to work on, no summer projects to work on, no extra meetings to attend and yet as I look back on my summer, never before have I collected, soaked up, +Evernote 'd, pinned, talked to other educators, collaborated and learned SO MUCH!


Information flowed in on +Twitter and +Google+  supplying me with links, pictures, ideas, news and resources to

Pinterest decorated my screen with resources, activities and strategies to

+Google+  Communities offered me an opportunity to share what I had learned with others and see what others were trying to

+Google Hangouts  Hangouts transported me to a world of online education as I watched, participated, shared, was inspired and learned from the +The EdReach Network  to

I even went to +Edmodocon  in my pajamas. I listened to amazing teachers share their tools, techniques, strategies, ideas via live video and tweeted ideas I liked, how they inspired me and "talked" to teachers from around the country about it ...

As I head back into the classroom I am more inspired and filled then ever before.

I am inspired to take more risks, push more limits, bring even more awesomeness out of my students and share even more about what students can do with technology.  I am filled with ideas, eager to try them as they dangle and wait teasing me....try me, try me.

I am just so excited that I am filled with an energy and eagerness that I just can't help but stand up from my seat, make a fist, pump it and shout from the top of my lung..."Lets Do This!!!!"

My "Lets Do This" List for 2013-2014
(ideas, strategies, tools I can wait to try)
  • Use +Subtext  to differentiate and improve accessibility 
  • Use +Flipboard  to make projects, to collect, share and organize information 
  • Improve my students use of +Edmodo
  • Create an +Edmodo group to share classroom going ons with parents that ALL parents are a member of
  • Make +SymbalooEDU our classroom app
  • Use +SymbalooEDU  to organize information (videos) to share with students
  • Utilize some of the new apps in +Edmodo  to optimize it as a tool for us
  • Add to my library of Portable Lessons
  • Improve my student communication with +Google Hangouts 
  • Hold 3-4 "Technology for Parents" Sessions this school year
  • Pair up with 1-2 staff members this year: show them the awesomeness of some of these tools, help them see how they can use them in their classrooms and work with them to implement them in their classrooms
  • Develop/Find consistent tool that is available for daily drill and practice of basic skills my students need consistent practice  
  • Implement 20% Time (Genius Hour) in my Language Arts class
  • Continue to be an almost completely paperless classroom
  • Increase and improve communication with the teaching assistants I work with through simple to use, efficient technology (not sure what that is yet?!)
What are we waiting for!  

Bring it 2013 School Year...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I Was an #EduWin Guest

Did you see!  Did you see!!!!!

Saturday I was honored and well.... over the moon giddy with excitement to be part of the the EdReach #EduWin Weekly.  

This weekly podcast is hosted by James Gubbins with show contributors Carlos Fernandez , Michelle Russell and Cheryl Lykowski.  They share #Eduwin's from across Twitter and blogoshere and put a spot light on FANTASTIC things happening throughout education.  Did I mention I could not have been more over the moon excited with giddiness to be a part of it all and to top it all off it was recorded using Google+ Hangout geeeeee and eeekkkkk me on video.  After some minor technical difficulties I had the honor of joining them as they shared their weekly #EduWins and then got to share all of the amazing things that have been happening in my classroom.  

Here it is...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mission Possible

Duh duh duh duh... duh duh duh duh... duh duh duh duh.....duhduhduhhhhhhh duhduhduhhhhhh duhduhduhhhhhh duh duh... 

Mission Impossible theme song in your head yet?!  


Well I need ya there with me here is some help Mission Impossible Theme song (not that Tom Cruise Mission Impossible stuff...old school Mission Impossible Peter Graves style)

Ready now?

Duh duh duh duh... duh duh duh duh... duh duh duh duh.....duhduhduhhhhhhh duhduhduhhhhhh duhduhduhhhhhh duh duh...

Your mission if you choose to accept is to transform this wagon into a school pride float...
...if you accept it and you are caught or put in detention the Principal will disavow any knowledge of your action...

So we began our TOP SECRET mission!

Collaborative group work is something that generally does not happen too much in my classroom.  When students goals are to improve their individual student skills and independence, close the gap of reading, math, written language and language skills through intense direct instruction and need a predictable, structured environment and it does not leave much room for the unpredictable navigation that goes with group work.  

I was not sure how much support they would need to get this very important mission done was a school wide activity and we were all in.  

Mission accepted! 

One of my teaching assistants (bless her) googled wagon decorating ideas.  I decided I would decide on the theme, thus eleminating that time consuming complicated step, but the students would be incharge of everything else.

My teaching assistants and I decided this would be our inspiration...
CLICK for Source
My students and I met in the hallway for our first planning session.  Excitedly we all spread out, their eyes focused on me.  They were giddy and ready to hear what we are going to do.  I showed them our inspiration and with paper and pen in hand I ask them what supplies or what will we need to make to create this.  Eyes stared back at me for a moment.  I suddenly was over come with worry.  They were going to need more help then I thought.  

Then this happened... 
CLICK for Source
Ideas started flowing.... 

Each student began excitedly shouting out their ideas of things they wanted to add to the ship and materials we needed.  In ten minutes our TO DO list was made and students were off getting the needed materials.  My students came back to our spot from all areas of the building.  They proudly carried their supplies.  I crossed off the things from our list that were done and instructed them on what needed to be done to build the base of the ship.  

Some students cut, an other drew the pirate flag and another was using You Tube to figure out how to make a pirate hat.  My students giggled, smiled and spewed happiness.  As the ship began to take shape the unexpected happened. 

"Let's try this Mrs. B!"

"Let's try this Mrs. B!"

"I have another idea Mrs. B!!!"

"What about this!!!!"  

Ideas flowed out of each of them like I had never seen or herd before.  And not the, "Oh that is a good idea, but it's really not going to work ideas."  Awesomely fantastic ideas!  Awesomely amazing ideas that kept adding to the ships greatness!  Suddenly some of their weakness, things that were challenging for them  to do before, were gone!  

I could not have been more energized and proud!

Finished Pirate Ship  

As we proudly added the finishing touches to the project I knew several things...
1)  Group projects MUST be part of their education next year
2)  Genius Hour (a concept I thought was beyond my students abilities) may be exactly what would enhance their educational experience
3)  In addition to all the direct instruction I do with them I must find a place for this type of outlet because it is awesomesauce!!!
4)  NEVER under estimate the power of creativity to pull out the best in your students!
5) My students make excellent pirates!  You should hear their arrrgggggg!  

What has been a newly iPad 1:1 class for over 8 weeks suddenly had a lesson in old school creativity.

Our mission was accepted and we TOTALLY ROCKED IT!!!!!!! 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Dear Jen

Dear Jen,
A year ago I was a passionate special educator who even after fourteen years still found incredible joy in working with students with significant disabilities, recognizing their strengths, tapping into them as learners and empowering them to over come their weakness and be amazing students.  Still, with all this passion and the successes I was having in the classroom, there was a part of me that was left feeling empty.  It was an emptiness I did not even know existed until this year.

As you know this whole blogging is nothing new to me.  In fact, for the last three years I have blogged anonymously as a mom, a wife, a sister and a friend.  I have learned about the power of words.  I have been warmed by the amazingness of the connections that can be made through sharing words. I have been blown away by the incredible power of social media and the connections it offers. Most of all I have learned the power of my voice.  My experiences in that space filled me, enriched my life and brought priceless amazingness to me ... and yet these experiences never entered my classroom.

Then it happened... 

In November you encouraged me to submit to present at the Illinois ICE conference.  I remember thinking, who the heck is going to be interested in what I am doing in the classroom?  What I am doing is not more interesting then all the other fantastic educators out there?  You were persistant, encouraging and gave me the bravery I needed to submit my idea.

In December I decided it was time for me to start this blog.  Not a blog as Carrie mom and wife.  Start a blog as Carrie Special Education teacher.  Not a private blog for only my parents and students, a blog for everyone to see.  A blog that would be a hub of resources for my students. A place I would use to share lessons I was doing in the classroom, new ideas I was trying and things I was learning about.  You listened to me as ideas brewed inside of me. You smiled and celebrated with me when I told you about the idea.  You supported and cheered me on when I was ready to hit the publish button.  

In February after a fantastically inspiring, energizing Illinois ICE conference I told you I wanted to my classroom to be a 1:1 iPad classroom.  Without hesitation you took my idea and went to work looking for resources and creating a proposal for me.  By March I had enough iPads to pilot being a 1:1 iPad classroom.

March came around and several classes in our building were piloting collaborative learning desks.  I thought...Those would be great for my classroom.  We are constantly collaborative. I want to pilot those desks too.  You encouraged me to ask administration if my class could pilot them too.

April brought emails from our district technology department.  Opportunities to be trained to use an iPad mini and an open call for teachers who want to present at our district technology academy.  I completed the form and  submitted it.  Fingers crossed that I would be chosen to try the iPad mini.  I filled out the presenters form for not just one session but two.
A year ago fear owned a part of me.  Fear kept me asking.  Fear began to limit my creativity.  Fear keep me from sharing.  Fear left part of me empty.  Fear of kept me from using a skill that was a huge part of my life away from the classroom, a part that I am incredibly passionate about.

Jen, you brought energy, a joy, a giddiness, a passion for technology and all of its fantasticness into my life.  You suddenly lit inside of me something I only shared with others outside, away from my classroom.  You were patient as you filled me with information, new tools, new ideas.  You listened to me as ideas brewed inside of me. You smiled, giggled and celebrated with me when I tried new ideas in my classroom and they began to work.  Then you waited, listened and supported me when I was ready to take my fears throw them aside and begin to share more.

I can not begin to thank you for what you have given me.  By giving me this you have not just given me a gift, you have given my classroom and my students all of this and so much more.  You have opened a whole new part of me that was tucked away.  I am a risk taker, an adventurer, a jump into the deep end without a life preserver, try new things...kind of a teacher. You have given my students the same teacher they have always had and so much more. Now they have a teacher who is also a global learner: learning from the world and not just from training sessions, my school or district, a global teacher: who doesn't just teach them but all shares her lessons with others, a risk taker: who is willing to try new things, fail or succeed and then try again.

For all these things and just so very much more...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Week 5 and 6: Steady As We Go

After weeks and weeks of excitement, new tools and waves and waves of awesomeness, things have finally settled and iPad life has been smooth sailing.  

With my students now the captains of their iPads...

they easily navigate between apps, using Goodreader to complete assignment notebooks, worksheets, take notes and write paragraphs. 

New apps that we (I say we because I currently have a dynamo...awesomely tech savvy...she totally speaks geek student teacher)  have introduced to our students have been warmly welcomed and tired with a fantastic energy and without hesitation.  We have tried Baiboard, Socrative, Study Blue and Bitsboard (all of them and all but Bitsboard are also internet based....BONUS for your non-iPad users or if you do not have iPads).  We continue to have great success and celebrate all the awesomeness of what each app offers our students.  All while knowing there are just so many more awesome apps out there!  

My students are still finding their way around Google Talk (I introduced them to it about a week and a half ago).  This app allows them to easily communicate with me if they have any questions while they are working on their homework.  While my students have become expects at using Edmodo as a communication tool, we quickly found that for homework help, Edmodo doesn't reply fast enough and the multiple posts and long streams of communication can be confusing for them.  We are still in the lets try this out phase of Google Talk... setting our course and hoping we find more treasure...but my students are over the moon they have this tool to use and uber excited at what it can do.  Bonus...can we say independent students advocating for themselves...geee! 
My Goals for NEXT WEEK...

  • Each student has 5 tools (apps) on their iPads they are confident, independent and proficient at using
  • These 5 tools meet and support their educational needs 
  • Of these 5 tools (apps)... 
    • One to two of them improves access to the curriculum and improves output of information
    • One of them allows us (me and my students) to communicate with ease (at home, in my class or away from my class)
    • One to two of them provides interactive and engaging funs that reinforces new and old skills.  

So until next week you can find us sailing the open seas, rocking our iPads and spreading our awesomeness where ever we travel! 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Week 4: Light Bulbs

Light bulbs were all the rage last week!  

Ah ha moments, glowing eyes of aw and pride, oooo's and ahhs, and glissening wide smiles...with teeth and everything and oh my goodness look at me filled each period! 

My students continued to just rock technology and totally and completely rock being an iPad 1:1 classroom last week.  They continue to become more and more proficient at using their technology.  Lessons continue to flow and the pace of each lesson increases each day.  Their knowledge of the basics is well ingrained... actually fluid!  At only four weeks into being a 1:1 iPad classroom my student and the possible ways we will use technology have already exceeded my expectations. 

You might want to put some sun glasses on. The glow of all the awesomeness could be blinding...

I find myself able to introduce them to new tools and new components of their technology.  Baiboard has become not just a look what your iPad can do tool but a consistent tool...from sharing word lists during group Reading instruction to facilitating peers working together to sharing math notes and completing them as a class.

I find myself looking for ways to tweek and perfect our usage...looking for ways to be increasingly more efficient at changing paper to text form. The Jetscanner app has been an absolute god sent.  Anything paper need to be turned into a PDF for sharing or use on the iPad.  Take a photo, it changes it to a PDF and done! 
'CLICK' for source

I find myself looking for that very last way to remove almost all paper from our daily use. We have switched my students from typing their daily events / daily narrative on a PDF type enables document to putting these events on their Google Calendar.  Why not?  I use my Google Calendar everyday to keep my day organized!

I find myself looking for ways to connect us more.... to show my students the power of technology and communication. Last week two of my students went on Edmodo (unprompted by staff or parents) at home seeking help on a problem they were having on their homework.  That night after several replies from me and my student teacher they had the answers to their questions.  In that instant they learned the power technology has to connect. It actually made me teary.  As a direct result of this (it is actually something that has been on my mind for a while) I am exploring apps that would allow me and my students to chat when they need help on homework. This very moment was my most proudest yet!  Technology does powerful good and connects them to resources.  They learned that that night!

I find myself becoming a paper snotI even lost the capacity to breath for a half second when I actually had to print something last week.  You mean I actually need to have a paper copy...I need to print?! ...Cue Back to the Future 2... What like you thought my geekiness really started and stopped here...

All of this awesomeness is just overwhelming wonderful!!!   I just can't say enough about what has happened to my classroom, to me, to my teaching and to my students!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Our Awesomeness #1

We have tried out a few different tools to project the iPad during lessons.  Reflector is a phenomenal desktop app that projects your iPad through the projector.  It allows me to not have to be plugged in.  I can walk around the classroom continuously displaying what I am doing on the iPad (downfall is my classroom's wifi is not always able to keep up with it so it has only worked half the time).  Another, more reasonable tool to project the iPad is the iPevo camera. It clearly projects the iPad, but does not allow me to move around the classroom.  The above picture is the iPad projected using the iPevo Camera with one of my students navigating the iPad while I instruct.  My favorite way to use the iPad, iPevo and make students part of my teaching.  

 All of the worksheets and templates we use are PDFs 
 uploaded from Dropbox into Goodreader

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Week 3: Juuuust Right

Remember in Goldie Locks and the Three Bears when Goldie Locks (that naughty girl she was, being in someone's house without asking) sat at the table tasting porridge... this one is tooo hot...this one is tooo cold... this one is just right!  That moment...The moment the porridge finally tasted perfectly warm, was exactly what happened this week!

This week things came together in awesome ways!  So much awesomeness is happening.  I simply can not contain it to a day by day account and feel the the urge to shout all of the awesomeness that happened this week!!!!
1)  Students can independently upload documents from Dropbox to Goodreader

2)  Students now complete all worksheets on the iPad (both in class and at home)

3)  All class notes are taken on the iPad

4)  Students know how to independently view documents side by side in Goodreader
     ex. Students can complete their paragraph organizer on the iPad and view it on the same
           screen while typing the paragraph using it

5)  All grading is done at the beginning of each class (a huge change in routine for us)

6)  Grading time is down to 5 minutes

7)  Instant daily feedback of performance has significantly reduced the number of 
     corrections that need to be made to homework

8)  Corrections are now done the day they happen, rather then on a specific day of the week

9)  The overall pace of a class lesson has almost doubled,  
     significantly increasing the amount of instruction given 
     in a week

10) Students are starting to use their iPads to take notes on while looking at 
      videos / resources on the computer

11) We are almost a completely paperless classroom

12) WE... staff...myself and my Teaching Assistants...and my students are crazy 
      giddy happy and proud...WE ARE (almost completely) A PAPERLESS CLASSROOM!!!!

13) Students use all of our basic apps almost completely independently...  
      Goodreader, Dropbox, Google allowing me to begin to slowly introduce new tools

14) New fantasticness is emerging...Fantasticness I tell you! 

15) We use the Socrative app once a week in two classes to record and document 
      student performance in Reading and Social Studies

16) We began using Study Blue to learn measurement abbreviations in Math class

17) Upon learning how to use Study Blue one of my students sat in his desk, stared at 
      me, stared some more and then said...

Student: Wait...this makes note cards.
Me: Yes, it does
Student: I make note cards for Science class
Me: Yes you do
Student: Can I use this to make note cards for Science
Me: You sure can

...and we set up a time after school to make the note cards together. 

 Can you just feel the sparks and connections clicking!!!

18) We discovered the app (during a day it was offered for free...bonus) Jet Scanner and a 
      whole new world of independent awesomeness was opened. No scanner needed 
      when you can take a picture of a worksheet, turn it into a PDF and then upload it 
      to Dropbox, share it with all of your students and they can upload it into Goodreader 
      and type and/or write on it

19) I am in the process of starting Assistive Technology  
      Evaluations for three of my students. I have plenty of 
      data already that these tools need to be a perminent 
      part of their educational days  

Next weeks technology and iPad goals...
  • Introducing, modeling how to use and using Baiboard to students...humongously huge deal...this means working in groups (something that is very challenging for my students and we rarely do)
  • Changing my thinking about how we are teaching measurement to my Math students.  No more memorizing and memorizing and memorizing conversion facts.  I am going to focus on teaching them to use technology as a resource to access facts and information.
  • Teach my students to use the Jet Scanner app, how to upload documents to our Dropbox and make them available to the class
  • Explore and test out ClassDojo behavior management system
  • Continue to our awesmomeness streak into the next week...because seriously..My StUdEnTs RoCk!!!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Discovering Edcanvas

Using technology to engage my students in independent learning is a huge humongously big deal. Independent activities and self guided learning, because of my students learning weaknesses, is extremely challenging and often not possibleA consistent goal of mine is to provide them with tools that allow them to independently access information of taught materials and tools that allow them to independently practice and improve a given skill completely independently.

This week I discovered Edcanvas and oh momma the potential and awesomeness is ridiculous!

Edcanvas is an online resource that allows teachers to collate resources into a single page for students to access.  Edcanvas's easy to use fomat allows you to easily drag and drop  resources from sites like Flickr, Google, YouTube and even your Dropbox.  It also has the flexibility to allow you to add text.  Not one to waste a great tool, especially when I know it will be excellent for my students I could not wait to try it.  To say I was excited to try it would be an understatement!

. . . . . . 

My Math students had taken notes on Changing Decimals to Percents and had done a few practice problems.  Using Edcanvas I made a Canvas with YouTube videos on how to do the concept, a copy of the completed notes (in case they needed to access how to do the concept during the activity), several questions to check for understanding and reinforce important steps and ten practice problems. One more ensure that my students could be as independent as possible when they used Edcanvas I also created an Edcanvas worksheet/ note sheet to go along with my lesson.
'CLICK' picture to go to link 
where you can download a PDF of the worksheet
The worksheet would make sure my students knew they were going to be held accountable for their work, it would kept them on task  (expecting them to note what type of information was being presented), it would keep them an organized and give them a space to record their answers.  More importantly, using a consistent, structured tool every time we used Edcanvas would increase my students independence and success every time they used it.  The next day my lesson was ready and I shared the link for my Edcanvas with my students via Edmodo (super simple to do with Edcanvas's share option that allows you to share using multiple social media tools with just one click)

The lesson was a huge success and quickly became a part of our weekly Math lessons! 
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