Sunday, February 8, 2015

#YourEdustory Week 5: Learning in 100 Words

So I struggled with this week's topic, but I feel I got it right.  I have been challenging my students to blog about the same topic (or a modified version) as the #YourEdustory topic comes out each week.  It has been interesting to compare my blog posts to those of my 6th graders, and that is what influenced me to do my 100 words on learning this week.  I decided to create a Tagxedo of my students posts on learning and their 100 words they chose.  I figured it was perfect because honestly, my students are who I learn from the most in becoming a better teacher through our successes and failures together.  So yes, admittedly my blog is a little bit of a cop out, but I feel it captures my definition of learning perfectly.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

#YourEdustory Week 3: Where's the Beef?

I had many favorite teachers as I worked my way up the proverbial K12 escalator we know as education.  Although my K-5 teachers are somewhat foggy to me, I do remember benchmarks/memories of certain things I learned that I have taken into my profession/teaching style today.  For instance, I clearly remember my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Falk, exposing our class to the Space Shuttle Challenger launch.  We did a whole month long project/unit on NASA, robotics, and engineering and how math applied to this field.  She was ahead of her time as far as STEAM goes today.  At any rate, I really enjoyed the hands-on activities and approach that she took leading up to the day of the Challenger launch.  We all eagerly anticipated that day and watched in class on an old 32" Zenith tube TV.  Obviously a day of tragedy and tears to say the least, but I remember the way that Mrs. Falk handled the situation.  As the Challenger exploded I remember her stating that there had been a malfunction with the shuttle and the plan didn't go as they thought.  As I sat in my seat, I remember being really confused and didn't exactly know what was going on.  I did notice some girls crying and asking, "Is the teacher on the shuttle ok?" over and over.  However, for some reason I remember the calmness that Mrs. Falk displayed while many other teachers excused themselves to hide their emotions from the rest of the 9 year-olds in the room.  Mrs. Falk I am sure was doing all she could to keep her own emotions under control, but she led her 4th graders in the midst of unexpected tragedy with leadership that as I look back on now as someone that proved to be a hero in her own right.

Now, you are probably wondering, what does that have to do with my title: "Where's the Beef?" Well, my 6th math teacher at Castillero Middle School was always one of favorite teachers and really caused me to engage in math in a way I hadn't  before.  I remember on the first day of class she wanted to get to know her students and make them feel comfortable by asking each one what she would like to call them.  When she came to me, I had somehow been given the nickname Beef  in the 5th grade.  To this day, I don't even remember who or why I got that nickname, but it stuck back then (By the way...I am no longer called that today).  The only thing I can think of were those Wendy's commercials and motto was "Where's the Beef?" showcasing that old lady in the drive-thru asking "Where's the Beef?"  Anyways, Mrs. Burke honored my nickname and always referred to me as Beef from that day forward.  Why do I share that with this blog post you ask?

Well, as much as I respected her for that and the way she led her math instruction, I remember that she never would get up from her seat to move around and monitor the classroom,  As a teacher today, I am constantly monitoring my classroom and am very active around the room.  In fact, I don't even have a desk in my class anymore!  I always recall Mrs. Burke's math class as an enjoyable class, but I also remember there being quite a bit of rowdy and unruly behavior in there partly because of the fact that she was always in the front and never would walk around to see what students were actually doing. So I credit Mrs. Burke as being a favorite teacher of mine and calling me by a nickname that was kind of cool, but more-so someone who I learned as an educator to not always be in one spot.  I think being in the center of the room causes students to see that the teacher is the one always guiding the learning, as opposed to the students owning their education.  Now obviously I need to instruct and guide, but I don't want to always have that front of the room presence.  So, as I learn from my previous teachers, especially my favorite ones, I know there is always a different approach that is more effective for a group of students from year-to-year.

Monday, January 19, 2015

#YourEdustory Week 2 - Inspired by MLK: How Will You Make the World a Better Place?

How will I make the world a better place?  Wow!  Can there be a more powerful question to take a moment and think about then that one?  As an educator who takes a lot of pride in my job every time I step foot into the classroom, I take this question extremely serious.  And who better to get influence from then the one and only Martin Luther King, Jr.?
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Every year I start off day 1 with my students talking about how time is a big deal to me and should be to them.  I tell them that there are only 24 hours in the day and I only have about 6 hours a day with them to lead them in their education journey.  This is mainly a pep talk to myself to remember that I need to use the most of my time with my students because I truly only have a limited amount in their lives to instill in them the lessons that I believe will assist in making their world (and ours) a better place to live in.  Time seems to be that one thing that teachers always complain about not having enough of.  Am I right?  No matter what sector you are in education, time is always the enemy.  I hate this because I do cherish the most of my time with my students to expose them to as much as I can to truly get them to understand who they are as people.  The thing I always wrestle around with is how do I get this accomplished amidst the day-to-day curriculum, benchmark exams, IEP meetings, and all the other minutia I wade around within 180 school days?

One thing I take a lot of honor in as a teacher is to not only teach my students what they need to know for 6th grade, but to also guide them in learning what their purpose is and what they are truly good at. If I truly am going to make this world a better place, it is my job to instill in students what their sweet spot is under my watch.  I know some teachers will disagree with me in that this is one of our responsibilities as a teacher.  Now it might not be written necessarily in our job description, but I believe we have a huge role to play in supporting students in finding what they are created to do. And I might not get them all the way there in one year, but I feel the time I have with them I can make a huge dent in getting them on that path.  I think if I keep this at the forefront of my mind everyday I plan, prepare, and create I can bring out the best in my kids which will in turn assist in making students the best they can become and therefore making this world a better place.  Not an easy task, but something I long to achieve for the benefit of my students.  Then again, the task that MLK set out to do was not an easy one either.

Image credited to Wikipedia Commons

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


[bon-sahy, -zahy, bohn-, bon-sahy, -zahy, bohn-]

nounplural bonsai.
a tree or shrub that has been dwarfed, as by pruning the roots andpinching, and is grown in a pot or other container and trained toproduce a desired shape or effect.
the art or hobby of developing and growing such a plant or plants.
Ok.  So I chose the word bonsai for the word that will inspire me in 2015.  You are probably wondering, why did he choose a word that automatically makes me think of Karate Kid? Obviously not part 2 or 3 because as we all know, those were, well...lame.  My intentions were not to make you think of this classic 80's film, but rather it is a word that is intended to inspire me when it comes to my students.  Each day my 34 6th graders enter my dojo (see what I did there?) ready to be shaped and molded into who they are to become. Naturally I want to say that I alone will be the one that shapes my students, but I primarily chose the word bonsai as a reminder that my students are the ones that are to do the main pruning and training with their learning.  Obviously I am the one that assists them in giving them the "pruning sheers" so-to-speak, but ultimately I want my students to own their education and how and why they are creating their own "shape or effect."  

So as I begin 2015, I shall enter in with the wise words of the late Pat Morita (Mr. Miyagi), "BONSAI! Daniel-san. BONSAI!" 


P.S. I was even inspired to buy my own bonsai tree to put in my classroom!

Photo Attributed to:

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Messaging + ClassDojo = Genius

What a week in room 18!  While we dove headfirst into the SBAC and swam among the new forces of measurement and Performance Tasks, something arose out of the dark and murky waters that brightened up the week and helped us (me) stay afloat.

+ClassDojo, a free, online classroom tool that assists teachers improve student behavior, released a brand new feature in the iOS and Android app called "Messaging."  This allows parents and teachers to build a stronger line of communication regarding each individual student.  Essentially, this feature makes it possible for teachers and parents to text message back and forth, via the ClassDojo app, without exchanging contact details.  Messaging allows teachers to message either individually to parents or via broadcast to where the message is sent out to all parents with a ClassDojo account linked to their specific child.  Both are incredible options when I need to let parents know about a behavior immediately (positive or negative), or anything else for that matter.

So as I dove in headfirst with the SBAC, I eagerly dove in with a triple back flip with ClassDojo messaging and sent out my first broadcast message.  I was able to see immediately who it was sent out to and when my parents received the message with "read receipts."  As a huge ClassDojo user and advocate, I am encouraged to see this incredible resource grow and become even better for the use of teachers.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Wow!  What an incredible year at the ETC! Conference this year in Modesto!  Being this was my 9th year attending this tech conference, I was very encouraged to see the number of attendees reach 800+. Unbelievable turnout for this conference that I consider my tech baby as this is the event that really started to change and alter the way I integrate technology into my classroom.  Marianne Pack, +luke hibbard and the ETC! crew really were on it this year with making this experience one that everyone wouldn't forget!  It was also a bonus that the conference was powered by +Edmodo and this really helped make ETC! what it was by offering a place to backchannel during the sessions and after the conference was over.  

The ETC! experience was a little different for me this year as I presented during all four session slots.  Two of which were on my staple preso, Edmodo: Learn Anywhere with Social Media, and the other two were on +ClassDojo with my buddy and co-presenter, +Chad King.  We titled it ClassDojo: Manage Your Class Like a Ninja and apparently they were such a hit that the Modesto Bee caught notice and snapped a picture or two and featured it in the paper the next day!  Take a look at the article here: 

Reflection on Edmodo: Learn Anyway with Social Media
So I designed this session as a two-parter as I wanted to have more time for my participants to really get a chance to have a hands-on approach as they create and design their own Edmodo groups for their class.  The first hour included my normal demo of what Edmodo is, how to sign up, features, etc...And I feel that I got most of my attendees appetites ready for what I was hoping to accomplish in the second hour.  This was creating a more interactive, sandbox session that allowed everyone to dive into what Edmodo was really going to look like in their own environment.  I was really happy I did this after all was said and done because people went away with something constructed and ready to implement as they walked into their classrooms on Monday morning.   If there is something that I appreciate at conferences, it is when presenters allow for takeaway time and give an opportunity to actually do something with the resource or ideas they are presenting about.  This was what I really desired to provide in my second session.  Overall, this double session on Edmodo really allowed me to dive deeper into not only how I use Edmodo with my students, but it also gave me a better grasp on what teachers want to initially start up with when designing their groups.  

ClassDojo: Manage Your Class Like a Ninja
So the highlight of the day was presenting with Chad on ClassDojo.  ClassDojo is an interactive classroom management site that allows teachers to reward positive and negative behaviors in a fun and techie way during class.  Chad and I decided to use the name and design our presentation around the theme of a ninja. So what would anyone do with a presentation themed around ninjas?  Dress up like one of course So that is what we did.  And yes, Karate Kid, Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee clips and sound bytes were extensively used throughout to entertain.  Above all the fluff, Chad and I really wanted to show and demonstrate the power of this site to our attendees in a way that they were going want to start it immediately in their class come Monday morning.  So again, just like I did in my Edmodo session, we made sure that our ClassDojo session allowed time for teachers to begin creating their ClassDojo account and start collaborating on how best to use the Dojo within their classes.  I felt that Chad and I gave them enough info to start up and take the plunge in using something so powerful to not only manage their classrooms, but have some ninja fun doing so!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer Tech Fest 2013

So when you think of Professional Development in education, what comes to mind? Is it a boring lecturer rattling off features of a program that you know darn well in your heart that you will never use?  Or do you think of PD as an experience that is not only a one to three day event, but is something ongoing and you will continue to explore and receive continual help and advice? Well, I would hope it is the latter because that is what Summer Tech Fest was for myself, and I believe many others who attended. I was honored to not only be at the Stanislaus County Office of Ed's/CTAP6 STF13, but to also present on +Edmodo alongside the great +Lee Ollar  and +luke hibbard. Sessions featured +Google in Education , Social Media in Education, iPad Apps and SBAC, interactive whiteboards, Flipped Teaching, and the grandfather session of them all, Appapalooza. The thing I loved most about this event was
the intimacy of each session. Most PD conferences, or unconferences, involve large groups or breakout sessions of 40+ people. Whereas STF allowed each participant the opportunity to dive in to whatever the tool or tip they were being introduced to. I found this to be highly effective for not only me as a presenter/co-presenter, but for the audience as well. And isn't that what PD should be about? Giving educators the opportunity to enhance their skill set with tools that they are actually interested in and using in their classroom environment.

So to close, I am very encouraged with what took place this year at STF13.  I believe it was an experience that all participants gained a little more knowledge in something that they will take back to their sites as the summer rapidly gets closer to an end. Already looking forward to the next CTAP6 event!