Poster Presentation #iste13


Yesterday evening I presented my SimCity project here at ISTE 2013. (You can find all the info on the conference resources page – please feel free to remix and reuse!) It was definitely a highlight of this conference for me, not just because I got to talk about my favorite work that I’m doing but because of the connections I made with other teachers and tech coordinators.

There are two connections that I’m really excited about though they are very different. The first connection is with two teachers from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, who teach at a small boarding school for Cambodian students. It would be fascinating for our 7th graders to video conference with them to discuss the ideas of urban planning and design. What interesting perspectives they would have on city development and infrastructure!

The second connection is with a teacher from Quest2Learn, the gaming public school (OOPS! – I initially posted that it was a charter) in NYC, and his referral to SimCityEDU. I thought it was just a forum for teachers to post lesson plans, but it sounds like the Institute of Play is actually taking SimCity5 and modding it to provide scenarios that teachers can modify for their classes. It might then offer feedback to the student and teacher about how they are interacting with the system. This means that I could see evidence of systems and design thinking rather than just believing that this project is effective.

Presenting my poster also affirmed the value of having other perspectives on your work. One visitor said that he no longer uses the word work in his classroom, but calls it purposeful play. It sounds like a small, semantic difference, but I do believe words matter.

I think the poster sessions are the hidden treasures of the conference because you get to see all kinds of different projects in different phases of development and you get to talk to the people doing them. As a pragmatic person, I appreciate seeing lesson plans and rubrics because I’m always thinking about the literal how-to of a project.

Speaking of pragmatic, next time I present a poster I will remember to bring my own video adaptor and push pins!

Over Ambitious Planning for Next Year #iste13


I’ve got a couple ideas for a new approach to my 6th grade class, and I’m pretty much just going to list all the things I’m thinking about. It’s a little jumbled stream-of-consciousness right now, but hopefully writing it all down will help.

I teach 6th grade technology. In the current schedule, I see a group of 18 students one week on Tuesday and Wednesday for an hour each day, and then not again for another month. The librarian also teaches in this rotation, so for next year we are thinking of team teaching the group of 36 students in order to see the kids for more time and have more continuity. In this set up, we would do two-week long projects.

But what kind of project is engaging to 6th graders in an hour-long class right before lunch? Honestly the best class I can remember was teaching them how to use Scratch. Actually, I wasn’t so much teaching as just allowing them the time to play it.

So I have two ideas:

1. Gamify the class using 3DGameLab and turn it into a series of quests. We could find quests that involved using library and tech skills so that they were learning the skills from both classes. Some of the early quests would be fast, like taking a screenshot of their calendar to show they had properly subscribed to all their teachers’ calendars, and some of the later ones could be longer, like designing their own avatar. I’m daunted by the amount of work that would be needed to build this all, but maybe it would be worth it both for the better structure to the class and to test out what that looks like. Hmmm.

  • There is a camp through 3DGameLab to learn how to design your own app, which I’ve always wanted to learn and I have one in mind to build. I could do the camp and get the license to build for students.
  • I would love to pull some ideas from Jane McGonigal’s Find the Future game, like having students write their own constitution and/or origin story.

2. A project that I have always wanted to do with students is to have them design their own avatar or logo. They would first build it as a profile image that they could use for their google apps account. We could talk about image resolution and thumbnails if they were to try and print it the size of a page. It should be an image that looks good large and small. The FINAL step would be for them to print it from the 3D printer as a stamp, so they could stamp their logo.

  • I’d like them to workshop it to get feedback from each other.
  • I want it to be something that is really meaningful to them.
  • They could research logos for different companies, read excerpts from Tipping Point or Made to Stick.
  • They could make Scratch stories to tell their origin story and then turn them in to an adventure game at the end.

At first I was thinking I would have to choose one or the other, but after writing this out, maybe we could do BOTH! I am hesitant to try a new format with a new project, but it seems like a huge opportunity.

Also, my class is a rotation class that meets twice/week and repeats. It wouldn’t be that much prep. And how can I expect other teachers to try it if I don’t? Besides, our head of school asked us to change one thing this coming year. Reimaging my class in both content and form sounds like a good place to start!

Pre #ISTE13


(I had intended to write this last night, but travel exhaustion and a crying baby kept me from my computer…)

It’s my favorite way to celebrate the start of the summer. Now that the tiring, hard work of finishing up a school year is over, I can sit back, relax, and explore/connect/create (Hmmm… sounds very essential competency-ish).

Turns out, I have done significant professional development every June for the last 5 years:

2009 – Finished my Masters of Science in Science Education

2010 – ISTE – Denver

2011 – Klingenstein Summer Institute

2012 – ISTE – San Diego

2013 – ISTE – San Antonio

Honestly, I’m giddy with excitement for the next few days.

I remember my first ISTE in Denver. Thanks to Angela (then MS Tech Coordinator) I attended with several other teachers from OES whom I would later work closely with (Brad, Gomes, Jeffrey, Lara). I had a tough first year in Portland personally and professionally (never underestimate East to West Coast culture shock) and was really questioning where I should be, what I should do. I found myself in the midst of teachers excited about education and all these amazing tools that could really help connect with students. I learned about Google Apps, Twitter, SMART boards, to name a few. Attending that conference probably kept me in teaching.

San Diego last year was different because I was now the tech coordinator and the one responsible for bringing other teachers with me. I also narrowed my focus, concentrating on gaming and professional development. My most memorable sessions were playing WoW with Peggy Sheehy, learning to program in Scratch and AgentSheets, and connecting with current and former colleagues.

This year I’m here again in a few different roles.

  1. Several of my colleagues are here and I’m excited for the conversation it always generates.
  2. I’m presenting a poster Tuesday 4-6pm on my work with SimCity.
  3. I have been selected for the SIGIS (Special Interest Group: Independent Schools) Executive Committee, so I’ll be at the Meet & Greet Sunday 3-5pm and the Yearly Meeting Monday 8:30-9:30am. I’m excited for this chance to volunteer with ISTE, connect with more independent school techies, and work to support others.

Questions that I think all ISTE goers should ask themselves:

How will I organize myself?

  • Evernote for my own notes/thoughts and lists of resources/articles to return to
  • QR code with my contact info so people can scan my phone
  • Phone for tweeting and googling when the internet is down
  • Texting with colleagues

What are my goals for these 4 days?

  1. Be where I am. Don’t try to be everywhere at once and don’t over commit. Stop and have conversations with people rather than running off to something else.
  2. Gaming. I’m hopeful for several gaming-type initiatives at our school so I want to continue to find ways to talk about it with kids, teachers, and administration.
  3. Support. Three out of four of our middle school arts teachers are here to learn about integrating tech into their classroom, particularly with stop motion animation projects. I want to hear about what they learn and what they need from me in terms of support. This is important to me because people often go to conferences and get energized while they’re there, but then lost momentum when they return.
  4. Reflect. Blogging about recaps, highlights, special moments. While I can’t promise 1 post per session, at least once per day.

Let the fun work begin!

Quotes from Kids

Image from

I asked the following question on my end of year survey/laptop check in (using a simple Google form, of course):

What do you wish teachers/adults would STOP saying, specifically about computers, phones, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.?

Nothing, I think most all of the things teachers/adults ask about computers are reasonable.

Awwww. So sweet and trusting.

Live in the moment. Lots of time I will be living in my moment and keeping up with my friends, and they don’t realize that is how I do it.

Love this. Made me think of this Don’t Carpe Diem  article from the Huffington Post.

I wish adults would stop saying that we can’t lend other people our chargers, but during class when someone asks tells them to borrow a charger.


I think the teachers should be much more aggressive about people goofing off in class. I regularly see people steaming videos, on inappropriate humor sites, and playing downloaded games such as Super Crate Box or Super Mario during class time when they should be working. There is also a lot of phone use during the day. I don’t have a Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr account (let alone know how to use them), and I don’t like most internet sites, so internet distractions are not a problem for me. I think many more sights than the ones currently blocked should be.

JUSTICE FOR ALL! Also, it’s sites, not sights. Darn those English homonyms.

facebook is stoopid, twitter is stooped, videogames are a waste of time


I ❤ Middle School.