Are you ready to get wired?

Whether you're a new teacher or just new at heart, education is increasingly becoming a digital experience. Here's your place to find fun, functional, and (most importantly) FREE sources to enhance your classroom via the world wide web - and ways to fund it all. Okay maybe not ALL, but at least a great, big, giant portion of it. Are you ready to get wired?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Unplugged...for now

Wow. I am in a haze of excitement and disbelief. This Wednesday I was name the 2014 West Virginia Teacher of the Year. I am honored and humbled...and on the verge of tears every thirty minutes because it has been such an incredible journey to this point in my life.

Between my travels to Germany this summer and preparing to be a finalist for state teacher of the year, I have not been able to post on the TechKNOW Classroom as much as I would like...and it's about to get a little crazier as I learn how to balance this role with my 5th grade class. I know that I want to remember every part of this upcoming year, so if you would like to follow me on my teacher of the year blog, that is where I will be sharing my experiences and reflections.

I have also been at work on another web project, Be the Difference WV. I am interviewing teachers in Berkeley County about their classrooms and why they entered the profession. You can view my Youtube channel at this link.

Thank you for reading the TechKNOW classroom - I will be back, and hope that through my new role I am able to bring you more knowledge and resources to use in your classroom.

Monday, July 1, 2013

ING Unsung Heroes

Well, between packing my classroom up for the summer and some super, humbling accolades that I received, June went by in a blink. I know you are probably now in full on summer mode, but while you have the time off to think, consider applying for the ING Unsung Heroes award. Each year ING selects 100 teachers (about two from each state) to receive $2,000 for a classroom project, based on your written application and how you plan to use the funding. Once you are selected to receive the $2,000, you are eligible to be consider for the top three awards (3rd place is an additional $5,000, 2nd place another $12,000, and first place is $25,000)! It's a great honor to have your project selected and a chance to secure funding to do some wonderful activities in your class or school.
The application isn't due until April 30, 2014, but once the school year starts, things get so topsy-turvy busy that you end up having to forgo extra things like grants. Starting this year, it appears that you will be doing the application online instead of mailing it in. If you want to check out my past grant writing tips click here for the link. Take a look at it - you may just come up with a great summertime idea!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Transatlantic Outreach Program

Crawling, crawling to the finish! I know you are all busy and probably won't have time to read this until school is out, but I wanted to share some information about the Transatlantic Outreach Program (TOP)  with you. Normally, I don't post about events or sites until I experience it for myself and personally give it a thumbs up, but since this involved travel I thought you would like to look at it now so you can think about it for next year. This is a program for social studies educators K-12 (you need to teach social studies in some capacity to participate) to learn about Germany. I first learned about this program about six years ago from another teacher in West Virginia who had attended and shared her experience. In July (there are groups of teachers attending from June to August), I will be learning about Germany's school system, culture, and history for two weeks. I'm a little hesitant to be so far from home, but I have high hopes that I am going to bring back some amazing experiences for the teachers and students in my area. We will be touring much of Germany, beginning in Frankfurt and ending in Berlin.

To participate, there is an application process involving letters of recommendation, a resume, and essay questions. About 100 teachers are selected to go each year (last year I was on the wait list - but I reapplied this year). While I am in Germany, you can follow my experience on my new blog "A Mountaineer in Germany." I will try to post throughout my travels, but if I can't due to lack of Internet connection, I will post starting July 20th. I feel silly posting this when it's not even the end of May, but things can get busy lightning quick. I hope you'll read about my experiences and it ends up being something you consider doing next year!

Thursday, April 11, 2013


So between facilitating online courses and teaching, I've kind of let my techKNOW classroom collect dust. I do have some very exciting news to report though! In July, I will be traveling with the Transatlantic Outreach program to learn about the culture and school system in Germany! I am excited to have the opportunity to share this experience with you and my students! I will definately be posting some techKNOW projects using some of the tools featured on my blog once I return.

This time of the year is a whirlwind - so thankful for spring break. It's almost time to close up shop for the summer...and start thinking about next year (oh yes, you are!). One thing on my summer to do list is to organize all of the bookmarks that I have on my Portaportal, a free web tool that lets you place all of the websites you use with your class in one place. All you have to do is give the students your guest access name, and they can click on the links you post on your page - no more worries about having students type in the wrong web address over and over! You can organize your links into subject folders and then subfolders. It's been a great resource to connect my students quickly to the web for the past few years.

Once I started using Edmodo, however, I found myself just posting the links right to our class page for my students to use in "real time" when I needed them to access something for practice or to work on a project. I would use my Portaportal to locate the links (many that now need to be replaced), but it was less of a resource for my class and more so for me.

And now...I have been introduced to Symbaloo. It's as if Portaportal just got a facelift. Instead of making folders to organize your links, you create "Webmixes," which are essentially tabbed pages of related links you create. What I like best about Symbaloo is the visual appeal (the webmix pages remind me of apps icons on an iPad). In place of text, a tile is created every time you add a web link. If the website doesn't bring up its own visual for the time, Symbaloo has ones you can choose from. This would be very appealing to younger students who can't read yet, as they could be directed to click on a certain color tile or image.

As a teacher you can create a free Symbaloo account; from making my own account and playing around with it, I don't feel that purchasing a plan is necessary (your students just won't be able to have accounts under yours...and you won't get a personalized URL). With your education account, you can choose to make your webmixes private or public. There are already public webmixes, so if your class is doing a project and you want links on a specific subject, you can search for ones on Symbaloo and share it with your class (check all the links for yourself first).

This is how I plan to use Symbaloo in the fall. I am going to post webmixes for given subjects to our Edmodo class page so they can access the links for projects and class time in the computer lab. To do this, you click "share" on the desired webmix on Symbaloo, then after selecting whether to make your webmix public or private, it will give you a link. Post or embed this link on Edmodo for your class to access! There is also a free app for Symbaloo (for Apple and Android); it's meant for a phone or smaller mobil device, but you can enlarge it - but it will only orient longways.

I'm looking forward to updating my links for next year using this - maybe we will be sharing webmixes in the next few months!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Mission US and Think Fast App

First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR! If you check in to my blog often, thank you for following my posts this year. I hope they have helped you add technology to your classroom in a meaningful way. I have several new projects in the pipeline for the upcoming year, but I will continue to share my techKNOW with you as much as possible. Each time I take on something new, I just consider my classroom getting bigger. As I begin facilitating online courses through WVLearns, I hope to continue to share my love for connecting teachers with technology and opportunities with even more educators!
That being's a great interactive website for social studies that you can use to engage your students when you come back from your winter break! Mission US has a video game vibe that sends you on a journey through history. Students get to "choose their own adventure" as they play one of two quests. "Crown or Colony" follows the trials of an apprentice in Boston around the time of the Revolutionary War. Students will learn about American Revolution events and landmarks as they help Nate make decisions about which side to join in the war. If you teach the American Revolution, introducing this to your students is a must!

"For Crown or Colony" is the original interactive created by Mission US. More recently they have added the second one, "Flight to Freedom!" This one centers around slave Lucy King and her path to freedom. It has the same choose your own adventure aspect as "For Crown or Colony," only students learn about life on a plantation and escape on the Underground Railroad.

In both games, students earn badges as an incentive for completing tasks and collect "smartwords" (vocabulary highlighted in each mission). To keep a log of your progress and to continue your games at another time, you and your students can create accounts (neither of which require you to submit an e-mail account). There are also educator guides for each mission as well.

Mission US also has a free app (both for iPad and Android) called Think Fast. It is basically two separate true and false quizzes that test you on the historical facts from "For Crown or Colony" and "Flight to Freedom." Since it's free, you have nothing to loose, and your students may enjoy racing against the clock to test their knowledge. Other that that...EH, there's not much to it! The Mission US website, however, it a fantastic way to put your students in the role of a historical figure!!-about/id566607316?mt=8

Saturday, December 8, 2012

APP Time: Haiku Deck

Move over, PowerPoint! You, too, Keynote!

And Prezi...I never liked you anyway, so peace out.

This has to be the easiest way ever to make a slideshow presentation, hands down. I love it, I love it, I love it. Haiku Deck, a FREE app, lets you make simple presentations in record time. Now...can you add bullets and transitions and all that other presentation mumbo jumbo that you think you need to display information? Nope...but you know what? After you use Haiku Deck to share information with your students or have them use it to display what they have learned, you'll realize how much more you can do with less.

The concept behind Haiku Deck is that you use fewer images (one picture per slide, actually) and short phrases and sentences to tell your story. You tap on the slide to start typing your text. Then, to add a background picture...well, you have your pick of images to choose from. Haiku Deck will use the text you have entered to suggest images, or you can search for them by keyword. There are oodles of pictures, beautiful pictures, licenced by Creative Commons, to choose from. In addition to using the pictures on Haiku Deck, you can use ones you already have on your iPad camera roll to make your presentation more personal.

You can showcase your presentations with an Apple TV or VGA cable directly from your iPad, just as you would Keynote. Just swipe your finger across the screen to move on to the next slide! To share your Haiku Deck creations online, just create an account with your e-mail. By doing so, you can access your presentations online via the Haiku Deck website. Once your creations are available in your gallery, you can set the privacy level to your presentations (that way if you have students who create work you would rather not share publicly, you can set it to private).You can e-mail your presentations to yourself - and they will automatically convert to a PowerPoint presentation or Keynote. You can also embed them into a blog or share on Edmodo, although it's a little tricky to get it to show up just right. I've created a Haiku Deck on my grant writing tips, which you can view on the right side of this blog. However, that's been the only place (and size) I've been able to stick it.

Download Haiku Deck (you have nothing to loose, or pay) and play around with it. The simplicity of it will engage your students. They could easily use this app to share anything from poetry to a short report about a region of the United States. The next few weeks until Winter Break are as good a time as ever to try something new!

Monday, November 12, 2012

APP Time: GarageBand

It's been a while since I have reviewed an app. With all the websites and blogs already devoted to listing education and/or free apps, I almost feel like it's irrelevant. However...this is one app, one function that you may not realize has the potential to allow your students and yourself to share what they know. It's not free, but the possibilities that your students will have to create and record their own shows, podcasts, and reports are priceless.

GarageBand ($4.99) is an audio and music recording app for your iPad. It simplifies the entire podcasting process to the point where anyone, teacher or student, can record themselves speaking, create and add background music, and publish to iTunes. There are features about GarageBand - such as automatically saving your work and nice, big buttons and graphics to guide you along - that making creating a recorded show nearly fail safe (I will mention a few things to keep in mind at the end of this post). Once you and your students have had some practice, it takes very little time to create a fantastic sounding podcast.

Let me back up a minute - podcasting, simply put, is creating a recorded show and then publishing it through an RSS feed (a site with hosting capabilities). The platform I use to host my podcasts in my classroom is Podbean (setting up an account is free, and for the volume that classroom podcasting takes up, you shouldn't need to upgrade to anything more). Prior to GarageBand, making podcasts was a pain - make sure they are speaking directly into the voice recorder, not deleting or recording over their work, uploading it onto the computer, configuring...I'll stop there. With the built-in microphone in the iPad, you don't even need an external mic to amplify your voice. Students can create music using virtual drums, keyboards, guitars, and "Smart Instruments" that have basic beats already programmed (I like to direct my students to these for time's sake). It's fairly easy to delete, add, and adjust the volume throughout your project - in fact, your students will probably be teaching you a few things about how to use it once you get started. This article on Appstorm helped me tremendously on how to create a podcast set-by-step using this app.

Why do you need this, when there are already so many other things that take presedence over having your students record themselves speaking? Podcasting has many functions and appeals in education. As the teacher, you can record yourself speaking about a concept you are learning in class, then publish it so students can access it though the site hosting your podcasts, or they can subscribe to them through iTunes so they receive them on a personal mobile device. I have the RSS feed for our classroom podcasts set to automatically appear on our class Edmodo group, so they can access the links directly through there instead of typing in the web address. Unlike video recording, students can have a script (that they have written), so the focus is on speaking and fluency. Anything can become a podcast - a classroom newscast, book reviews, a how-to for math problems...the list goes on and on. Podcasting is a great "carrot" to get your students writing, speaking, and being creative.

A few things to keep in mind with GarageBand - from personal trial and error:
1. TURN OFF the metronome FIRST THING - otherwise, you will hear it all through your podcast. Yeah, Mrs. Sponaugle didn't think about that the first time her kids used GarageBand. Oops.
2. Set the meter - plus (+) sign in the right hand corner - to ON for automatic, so it will make the section longer as you continue to speak. Otherwise, your students (and you) are going to get frustrated when it keeps cutting off at 8 bars.
3. Turn the volume up for the audio recorder for students with soft voices.
4. Like I said above, encourage your students to use the "Smart" instruments with the preset beats.
5. Create a sample "song" (what GarageBand calls your creations) yourself so you get a feel for how it works.
6. Make sure you or your students give each song they create in GarageBand a new title, otherwise you will have New Song, New Song2, etc.

There are also multiple articles in the Apple help section of their website to guide you along. If you are looking for a new way to utilize your iPad in your classroom aside from using educational apps, look no further.