Screencastify – Students Can Be the Experts & Teach

I woke up this morning and it hit me that I go back to work in 5 days! As I opened up my beautiful spiral full of things I wanted to accomplish this summer, I also realized I did way more relaxing and things for ME than I planned….and that is quite alright!!

So this morning I want to hit a few Virtual Voyage posts that I intended on sharing. The first one is about Screencastify.  I learned about this fabulous tool back in February when I went to Austin for the TCEA Conference.  I played around with it earlier in the year and shared a few with my campus.

Screencastify is a Chrome extension that allows you to record yourself walking someone through something while recording your screen the entire time.  I can see many ways students could use this to teach other students – to be the experts in an area and show others.  Isn’t that the purest form of securing our learning?  Here is my example of how to add the Distraction Free extension for YouTube.

It really is that simple!  I would imagine that the students getting the Chromebooks this year would be able to do a lot of amazing things to show their learning!  I might have to try it out on a few students. 🙂

Give Yourself Grace and the “Okay” To Play

Fighting for Grace – As a Child of God, As a Daughter, As a Wife, As a Parent, As an Educator….you name it.

I seriously have fears that my daughter is growing up missing out on something (not really sure what, but something) because I am an educator/parent-AKA “teacher mom” and she a “teacher’s kid.”

I felt so relieved when I read this great article,  7 Ways to Survive the Teacher Mom Guilt because it hit me that there are others that feel this way too! I am not alone. Recently I started reading For the Love by Jen Hatmaker.  She uses humor and just plain realness to urge us to give ourselves grace in this unattainable Pinterest life world of impossible standards. It’s like she is encouraging us Teacher Moms to UNITE and stop this ridiculous guilt we place on ourselves. 🙂

It’s not only just the Teacher Mom Guilt.  There is the dreaded technology time battle.  I’m just going to be real y’all. Sometimes she wants to do something on it and I instantly answer, “You need to do something else.”  It doesn’t matter if she hasn’t even been on it that day!  #truth  I have no reason other than my fictitious belief that a “good mom” is supposed to tell her child not to get on her device and do something outside.  Right?  Isn’t that how we grew up?  😉 You hear that voice in your head too.

  • It takes away family time.  
  • We played games outside growing up.
  • Too much screen time these days.
  • It isolates them. 
  • They aren’t using their brain.  

Then the other day something happened.  I decided to say  you know what, I can fluff the laundry one more time and just “play” with her what she was playing on her device.

Two things happened:

1.) What I judged as a mindless activity, was actually igniting her creativity.  She was using her creativity in ways I am not sure I could have done, and quite honestly barely understood!   This also led to me see a passion she had for something I didn’t know about. 🙂

2.) I got to see this when I stopped and gave myself grace to just “play” with her, like Jen talks about in her book.

Which leads me to the biggest realization that day, and that is that I realized our children are living in a different time.  A different world.  That is just the truth.  Accept it or not, but it is not necessarily always a bad, evil thing.

Before you mumble under your breath, this lady is crazy suggesting technology time whenever…..please know that I am not advocating for kids to be on their devices all the time.

I am a big believer of everything in moderation, but this was the “quality time” that my child was wanting from me.  That was it.  Times have changed where quality time CAN happen using devices, and it does way more often than we imagine if we open our minds to it.  Think of all the amazing things that come from YouTube creations, and lately the videos that all kids are completely loving!

Here is the beauty of the lesson I learned.  We were doing something she loved and saw as quality time instead of spending quality time only doing things that I felt met the “criteria.” What criteria, you ask?  Oh, just the expectations I felt I had to meet that were not mine! Thanks Jen for giving me that okay to give myself grace to do it our way without feeling like a bad mom!

We had more fun in those moments together than any of the ones I had created this summer on our list!  She made the comment about how much she has wanted me to play that with her.   That hit me pretty hard.  I “play” things with her, but I never realized how many of them are things I encourage because of my own agenda. (Have to multi-task while I play, want her to learn things and create, use critical thinking, practice her talents, want her to read or write, math, etc….teacher mom problems). There go those impossible standards again.

Quality time is not seen as quality time to our children if they do not connect with it, and if they do not view this time together as happy and fun does it really become a precious memory? Maybe.  Maybe not.

Times have changed. What some children enjoy and can do for hours is like nothing we could have possibly imagined.  Yet, if we open our minds to stop and “play” we might discover just how passionate and creative they are being.

All they want is TIME doing the things THEY love WITH us.  Making moments.  The moments that will carry us on and become precious memories. These moments might look different than we know from our childhood, but different is good. I know my goal is to embrace it and give myself grace!

Innovation: Sharing Is Caring

Last week was the best educational experience ever!  I was fortunate enough to get to attend TCEA for the entire week.  After spending Thursday learning from George Couros, or as someone said, “Day of Couros,” the concept of innovation had many thoughts swirling in my head. Then, when I read his blog yesterday it stirred up even more in me!

Just recently, a principal friend, Matthew Arend mentioned in his blog, how during one session George took the concept of using a Google Doc to curate many inspirational videos. In both blogs, the mindset of innovation is discussed. The idea of using a Google doc was not a new concept to me at all.  In fact, this past week at TCEA many of us had one that we were all adding to while attending as many different sessions as we could so we could divide and conquer.  And boy did we!

In The Innovator’s Mindset, George defines the notion of innovation as a way of thinking to create something new and better.

We have collaborated on Google docs in our faculty meetings, with our students, and each other.  What made this innovative in my eyes was the “new and better” part of it. When George crowdsourced this document to gather even more ideas, THAT was “new” to me.  I never thought of sending it out to people who are not part of the making of it, and can I tell you how much “better” this one thing made this experience!  First, so many people responded with quality videos that now it has saved me hours of searching for the perfect video. Second, do you even know how many people have circulated this document and how many people it has helped!?  THIS is creating new and better with something that we already use. I am not writing to discuss this experience, but how this experience has led me to thinking about something else.

What if the document stopped there? What if someone saw it and thought, that’s great, but I am not going to use someone else’s list of videos.  If not applied, does it truly make the idea better? In short, yes and no.  Yes, for those who take this idea and use it to enrich the learning experiences for their students.  No, for those that hear the idea and then go back to doing it the way they always do it for whatever reason.

Take the above example and substitute curated videos with teaching strategies, classroom management strategies, technology lesson ideas, classroom climate/culture suggestions…you name it.  Unfortunately, I think so many teachers are hesitant to use things like this because they are afraid it is “stealing or copying.” Or they feel like if it isn’t something they came up with themselves, then they are frauds. Maybe that is a little dramatic, but the point is…this is a huge misunderstanding out there with teachers that needs to stop!

For many years people have said, “Why reinvent the wheel?” Now I hear, “We are better together.  The best idea is a lot of ideas.”  I wholeheartedly believe the latter one. We are better when we work together. Every person you meet has something to teach you.  We all have different backgrounds, experiences, and thoughts.  Why wouldn’t we capitalize on this for the sake of the children we teach?  If our mindset is in the thinking that “sharing is caring” then it is a win-win situation!  🙂  Who wouldn’t want that?

  • We need to let go of the thought that as teachers we have to do everything ourselves.
  • We need to let go of the thought that innovation is some huge thing and involves the best and latest technology.
  • We need to let go of the thought that we have all the answers.

We don’t.  We can’t.  We need to turn to other awesome educators out there and be better together. How can you use the power of your PLN to make this happen today?

Symbaloo – How to Organize It ALL

I often write about matters of the heart in education.  Well, today…here is my informative post of the week about a fabulous technology tool that will really save you T-I-M-E!

Lately, I have often been asked how I keep all of the websites I use, blogs I read, and district information organized.  I recently shared this amazing trick with the rest of the teachers in my building.  Are you ready?  It is..SYMBALOO! 🙂  I think many have seen this site, but not really utilized it to the fullest, including myself.  Kasey Bell is a great resource for walking you through how to set things up in a user-friendly way and finding tips and tricks.  Check her site out!

So, today I am sharing what I use Symbaloo for and I hope you list 10 others ways and share them with me!

  • To keep all of my district’s Most Frequently Used Sites in one easy place. (I’m only showing a partial screenshot, so you see the part I am referring to.)

I will not lie – I love that you can customize your background.  You can never have too much glitter!
  • To keep all of the blogs/sites that I frequently read in one spot.  (However, now thanks to a great post from the amazing George Couros, my new reader is Inoreader. Everything I read is housed there!  Check out his post and you will make this switch too!)
  • To keep Hook clips and songs for lessons.  I also house content related info pages here.
This is the Reading page.  It also has tiles that link to my Pinterest Boards on each topic.

This is the Social Studies page.  You can see, it is a work in progress!  🙂
  • To keep Brain Breaks (that I created or found) in one place so that we are not wasting time searching for our next favorite one.  🙂  
This is a Webmix already made by someone else that I added to my Symbaloo page.  

Here is my Brain Breaks Webmix that I started with our classroom’s favorite ones.  I added Go Noodle and the background music we use throughout the day.

Finding what you want on Symbaloo:

1. Use the magnifying glass at the top of the page to search.
2.  You will see this:
Tiles will search for specific sites people have created. Ex: Sight Words, GCISD Teacher Resources, etc.
Webmixes are the “pages” I refer to that people have created.
Profiles are people who created them.  My profile is public and you can search for it by entering my name, Bridget Visser, into the gray search box and you will see all of the webmixes I created. If you choose to not make your webmix public, it still works the same. People will just be unable to find what you made or use it, and that’s okay if you want that.
Symbaloo can be used for so many different things to meet your needs and the needs of your students.  One year, I had it set up as the homepage on the laptops for the kids to navigate themselves through frequently used sites that they needed for research and other things independently.
I know this is just the tip of the iceberg on ways to use Symbaloo.  Try it out.  Use some of mine! Share your ideas with me!  I can’t wait to learn new ways to use this awesome tool.

Twitter PLN Infographic using Canva

I want to share one of the best apps I have started using since attending iPadpalooza. It is called Canva!  It can create just about anything you want to and make it look AWESOME!

For our virtual voyage we were given the mission of creating an Infographic.  I have seen these a million times and pinned a ton of them on Pinterest.  Why?  That’s easy.  This is my kind of thinking.  Visual.  Simple. Easy to read.  Do not require much time to sit down and get the message.  🙂  What more can you ask for?
When I thought about what topic to create this on, I drew a blank.  1.  I am on vacation and my mind is starting to drift…. 2.  What do I really have to share using this that people will want to read?  So last night (I will admit, late) when I was scrolling through Twitter reading all of the great articles from blogs and people I follow I felt this nerdy sense of amazement!  
I feel INSPIRED by Twitter and here is why:
1.  There are so many amazing educators out there!
2.  So many of these educators blog incredible ideas!
3.  We are so lucky to live in a world like this where we are allowed to learn!
4.  How lucky are we to learn SO much from simply reaching out to a “stranger” on Twitter!
5.  I am so lucky to have connected with so many FAB people at iPadpalooza and Twitter!
6.  Wow….I am loving my connections on Twitter and how much I am learning!  How in the world did this even start?
THEN….my idea came!  If I hadn’t gone to iPadpalooza, would I have known which person to follow on Twitter?  Would I have even attempted to follow someone I didn’t know on my own? How did I know whom to follow?  
Here is how I start :  I look at a Twitter friend that I follow, respect, and love what they represent.  I look and see who they are following and/or take recommendations!  I figure if my Twitter friend is following them, they must be awesome!  So I check them out.  You can find people to follow so many other ways, but this is what works for me.  
This brings me to my IDEA – I decided to create my Infographic using the coolest app, Canva, and list my top Twitter recommendations!  Now, it’s not a perfect graphic, but I’m learning.  🙂  Hope you find someone new to follow and love as much as I do!

Virtual Voyage – Kaizena

When I first looked at this word I wasn’t sure what it was, how to say it, or if I wanted to spend time finding out.  SO GLAD I DID!

The link that was on our Virtual Voyage led me to an amazing tutorial and very easily walked me through using this.

I began using it on a Google doc that my PLN (shout out to my Digital Divas) and I are working on to submit for a TCEA Techstock presentation.

Even though I used Kaizena on this document for our memory purposes, I can see where it will have the greatest benefit using in the classroom on peer editing or feedback from the teacher in the writing process.

I wish I would have known about this when we were doing our writing process using Google Docs this past year.  Since I had first graders, this would have made the process a little less labor intensive at times.  It also would have given any ESL students a chance to get their thoughts out without the intimidation of spelling correctly or having to “correct” a partner’s paper.  Just another great tool to do another thing to support our students!  Try it out.  It’s kind of fun!  🙂

Virtual Voyage – A Day in Tech History Podcast

If you are looking for something to make your long commute fly by or if you want to learn something new while working out, podcasts might be the way to go!  I will admit, I have heard the word podcast thrown around. I have heard of examples of students using them and teachers using them, but I had never made time to sit down and look into them for myself until this virtual voyage.  Kudos to the virtual voyage creators….exact reason you probably created this. 🙂

Here’s what I got from my podcast exploring:
1.  EASY TO ORGANIZE – The first thing I saw in the app store was the Overcast app.  After downloading this app on my phone, I set up my playlist and subscribed to different podcasts.  The ones that really caught my eye were the Technology ones. Of course, anything techie interests me and has me inquiring for more!
2.  MULTI-TASKING ABILITIES – I watched one from Ted Radio Hour about how our upbringing shapes us and how parents mold children into who they are.  I loved being able to listen to my favorite “nerdy brain topics” while unpacking from a trip.  This goes to show you can learn a little something while doing anything in your normal day. (If multi-tasking is your cup of tea.)
3.  MY FAVORITE – I highly recommend Day in Tech History podcast .  I am a history fanatic (I know, hard to believe if you know how social I was during my history class in high school!) and this combines important dates and technology happenings!  It reminds me of the app I used with my first graders this year called A Day in History.  We LOVED seeing what cool thing happened each day.  If you do not have that app, it is a must get!
4.  MOST USEFUL THING – What I found most useful about the Day in Tech history podcast is that you can use it with your classroom!   Out of all the podcasts I saw and listened to, this one was the only one I found where each session was no longer than 8 minutes!  For any human being, this is the perfect amount of time to learn something without losing your attention.  
Next thing on my podcast learning journey…..sharing my favorites on Twitter and getting favorites from my friends on Twitter.  Try it out!

Virtual Voyage – Gamification or Game-Based Learning

Do you learn while playing games?  Do you think your kids might?  Give it a try.  It might not be as “loosey goosey” as you think it sounds.  How can you not afford to try something new that will:

– engage your kids and create ownership in their learning
– deepen their learning experiences AND knowledge
– allow them to SMILE, and be happy (and we all know learning sticks when this happens)
– provide healthy competition for those who thrive on it
– allow YOU to enjoy stepping back and watching the kids be creative and take their learning further than you ever imagined.

There are many benefits to this.  I love Janie Stach’s infographic on her Pinterest page  In short, it can be gaming systems using badges and competitions, as well as your formative assessment using Kahoot! (which we all love dearly) on any given day.  Read further to discover how easy it is to incorporate!

I recently had the privilege to sit and talk with Kasey Bell, an amazing digital consultant and Google Certified Innovator and Trainer, about gamification.  My question to her, “I thought the two were the same thing.  What’s the difference?”  She very nicely explained the difference and I was surprised that I had actually been doing one for at least 2 years and it isn’t difficult! 
CHECK OUT her blog, Shake Up Learning, and see for yourself the many amazing resources she has for you!!
Follow her on Twitter @ShakeUpLearning to get even more amazing resources at your fingertips!  
I am grateful for her sharing this information with me, and that I was able to meet her, learn from her at iPadpalooza, and add her to my PLN list! 

Virtual Voyage – Google Hangout (Shhh…

One of the tasks to complete on the Virtual Voyage #gcisdvv is to Skype or Google Hangout with a fellow teacher.  Here’s the thing, I had a Google Hangout months ago when our technology department rolled out how to use our Gmail Calendar.  It was great.  So, I wanted to try something different this time that I learned from a sweet girl in one of my sessions at iPadpalooza last week!

Here is a picture of us on the way home from Austin chatting in a session!  Laura Follett and I were supposed to meet Erin Gerdes, Amy Henderson, and others at her teammate’s house for dinner to brainstorm and collaborate!  We loved iPadpalooza so much we couldn’t leave!  Just kidding (kinda), really….it went until after 4:00 and we couldn’t make it back in time. So what did we think to do?  HANGOUT!

We used to chat and it acts similar to Google Hangout, but from what I have been told and seen it is clearer with fewer static noises.  Who knows, but we used it.  I am not trying to discourage Google Hangout.  I want to make you aware of another option to use if you need one.  🙂
Seriously, what would we do without the amazing 21st century tools we have at our fingertips?  Professional Learning and Connecting on the road, who would’ve thought?!

George Couros changed my parenting! Say what?!

I am OVER-THE-TOP inspired by the keynote speakers at this year’s iPadpalooza in Austin. ( This is lengthy, but stay with me to the very end. It’s worth it. I promise!) I have never met and been in the presence of as many positive, enthusiastic, fired-up about education, innovative, learning focused, children first, creative thinking and why-not minded educators at one time!  What a way to start your summer.

All of the presenters were amazing (that’s another post), but there was one that I follow on Twitter and know how great he is, but to see, hear, and talk with him in person……it changed something in me.  I want to share with you the takeaways I got from 1 hour of listening to the amazing George Couros.  If you haven’t heard him speak, you must!
Laura Follett and I are still dreaming up ways we can have him come to our district’s convocation!  Hey…anything is possible, right?

My very first CANVA created product!  So fun.  Check this app out! @canva. 

As I left Austin,  I thought to myself, “I am on fire about integrating technology even more than our amazing district does.  I want to go and tell everybody right now! Every single teacher NEEDS to come to one of these events.  I am so excited about the professional connections across the world that I have made this week.”

Then I think,  “I am up to date and do a good job integrating tech in classroom and feel confident in this.  The kids do pretty well with blogging. Are they understanding how important their digital footprint is in this process?  Have I taught them this?”

Then, it hits me!  My heart feels this sudden panic and I see the whole picture.  OH MY GOODNESS, how have I helped MY daughter follow her dream of sharing her ideas on youtube and blogging? What am I doing to foster this learning and help prepare her for the world she lives in?  Am I the passionate tech teacher and scared parent?  I am.  Then I cry.  How do I change this?

I have this amazing, creative little girl who has asked me for years to blog and share the movies she makes on youtube.  I have always said no.  I do not want her to have anything out there that is unsafe.  However, it doesn’t have to be this way.  The safest way of doing this is to sit next to her.  Show her.  Guide her.  Help her.  Create something together that teaches her digital citizenship while bonding over something that is meaningful to her.  I do it with my classroom students, why have I not done this with my own child at home?

So, how did @gcouros change me you ask?

He changed my thinking as a mother of a little girl living with these resources at her fingertips. 

He changed my thinking in using what we have now for connecting in a million ways.
Most importantly,  I left there energized about not holding my daughter back. 
I am not going to hold back her dreams of sharing her voice singing, sharing her love of creating and using her God given talents and passion for creativity!  I will be right there beside her in the passenger seat for the ride of my life!