Google Educator, Level 1… It’s True!

So this happened…


One of my goals this summer was to get this certification. I’m not sure how I first heard of it – maybe from Kate Masterson, who’s one of the big deal tech people for our school district. She’s done Level 1, Level 2, AND the Trainer’s certification, but that is beyond my scope right now. I’m happy to have Level 1.

It’s a useful process – going through the study modules for it is a handy introduction to Google’s products that are aimed at educators. The test costs $10 to take, and they give you three hours – I used every minute of those three hours, and finished the test with, I kid you not, seven seconds to spare. But I did finish!

Feels like an accomplishment! I hope it will help me this coming year, when teachers ask questions about things. I have to say, the functionality of Google’s productivity apps is very, very cool. I’m not sure how many of them I can work in this year. I’d love to do some Google Classrooms but will have to check with the teachers to see what they think. We need to use less paper in our school, so there might be additional interest in Google docs.

We went to the pool to celebrate, and now going out to do some Pokemon Go. I feel like I should get a “geek” tattoo or something…

Digital Citizenship Book Club

Digital Citizenship

In my quest to learn all there is to know about education (ha!), I’ve joined a bookclub run by the Indiana Department of Education. We’re reading this book, Digital Citizenship, which is terrific so far.

The link is here:

eLearning Book Club

It just started yesterday, so I’m pretty sure you can still join. You can earn up to 14 PGPs, which doesn’t really affect me yet, because I’m not a Real Teacher, but which is interesting for the future, and might be interesting to someone reading this!

Susan Bearden lays out a definition of digital citizenship and the categories within it: Internet Safety, Privacy and Security, Relationships and Communication (she’s including cyberbullying within that), Digital Footprints and Reputation, Self-Image and Identity, Information Literacy, and Creative Credit and Copyright.

Full disclosure: I’ve only read the first chapter so far, because I’m trying to follow the bookclub “rules” and do a chapter at a time. But so far she’s written a very coherent and (it seems to me) thorough summary of this topic. I’m excited to read the rest of the book, and figure out how to incorporate these ideas in my teaching, both in the computer lab and later on, in a classroom.

I think the book would be interesting for parents to read as well. It’s part of a series called the Corwin Connected Educators Series, but this particular topic is of high interest to a lot of parents, who are struggling to deal with tools and abilities that we did not have to deal with when we were young. It’s like all of our kids got this superpower in their cribs. We got it too, but we’re older and had a structure with which to deal with it. The difference between a Superbaby and an adult getting superpowers is control and understanding.

That being said, it’s true that a lot of us need the benefits of a thoughtful approach in dealing with this brave new world. Bearden (so far! will update as I go along!) has thought through the rules of life in this Internet world, and is laying out the issues for us.

I bought the book on It’s $10, although there are used copies available for slightly less. The kindle version is $9.50 but I thought it would be useful to have this available to loan out.

If you’d rather avoid the bookclub, I would still recommend this book. I’ll update as I go along throughout the club!


Geeking Out

Ok, so I went to the best. workshop. today.

It’s a workshop given by Michele Roberts, taught at IUPUI for FREE. Seriously. And there was swag – a cool bag and a water bottle and a clipboard and a notebook. But that wasn’t even the best part.

The best part was, this was exactly the information I need – her mission, if I may hazard a guess, is to prepare teachers to teach computer science to elementary and middle schoolers. We have new computer science standards in Indiana, and schools may be scrambling a little bit to figure out how to cover those. I’m hustling a little bit, because I want to both support the teachers with what they need and also to teach computer science in the lab this year, and school starts in 2 1/2 weeks.

She gave a couple of reasons to teach computer science. I’m paraphrasing her, but as Willie Sutton said, when asked why he robbed banks, It’s where the money is – an enormous number of projected jobs in the future are computer science jobs.  Also, our kids are going to be making policies and laws and SENSE of what the computer hath wrought. Privacy issues, data issues, all kinds of things need to be understood and digested so people can vote intelligently and make and interpret laws intelligently.

In addition – and this is according to me, not Michele – in my district, the computer lab is a Special class, along with music, library, gym, and art. So here’s what’s great about that: Specials classes often reach kids who are not reached otherwise. We talk often about how kids are different for us – some kids are outstanding in PE, love it, never have any disciplinary problems – and other teachers are tearing out their hair when that kid comes through the door. Some kids come to school for art, or for music. That’s how we reach them, that’s how they learn best, that’s what they love. Computer science can be the same way. I saw kids who knew how to do stuff on the computer that no one else in my class knew – I didn’t know how to do it – but they did and what a boost for them, when I deferred to their greater knowledge.

Computers allow kids to explore and ask questions and go deeper into whatever they’re interested in, and do so many of the things we want education to do now. It’s an amazing opportunity to encourage kids to be proactive in ways that we have a hard time figuring out how to do elsewhere, whether they’re programming or doing Google searches or creating a spreadsheet .

I figure there are roughly 39 weeks in the school year, and even though I miss the Monday kids every three day weekend (five times in all, not that I’m counting), and the Friday kids four times during the year, I will have every kid in the school roughly 24-29 hours during the year. I need to make that as productive and useful a time as possible.

My Information Science buddies may appreciate this: she was discussing parameters, and gave as the example the code Rectangle (5,10). Now you can change those numbers all day long, she said, and you’re changing the parameters. I said, Do you mean Rectangle (x,y)? Wouldn’t that mean you could change those parameters more easily? She faced the class. Class, she said, Elizabeth’s skin has been drained of all color, and if we turned off the lights in here she would glow. She is GEEKING OUT.

I am so. proud!

I highly recommend taking this workshop. Today’s was part 1, and tomorrow I’m taking part 2. Here’s the link to find a local workshop, no matter where you are: local workshops


Columbus, IN: What a Place to Visit!

With the kids in camp this week, I decided I could take a short road trip to do something I’d always wanted to do – go to Columbus, Indiana, and tour the Miller House, which is AMAZING. One of those “What God would do if he had the money,” kinds of places.

J. Irwin Miller, who ran Cummins Engine for a long time, and brought it into the Fortune 500, was a big fan of modern architecture, and in 1957, he built his dream house. It was designed by the man who designed the St. Louis Arch (and many other things, but the Arch is a pretty big one), Eero Saarinen. When the Millers died, the house was given to the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Miller House from back

The cost is pretty steep – $25 for the tour – so I didn’t want to drag the girls along on the tour and have them hate it. But they might actually be interested in it, so maybe I’ll save my pennies and take them next time.

This picture is from the back. I took it, and it’s not great, but gives a general idea of the shape of the house. It’s really hard to take good pictures – well, hard for me – because it’s hard to get far enough back to get the house in. And the modernists, at least this one, weren’t into symmetry, which I feel would help – I could line up on the trees and take it down the middle.

Dan and I talk about designing a house to live in, and I always run from the idea. I don’t want to end up in a house with dumb decisions and know that those decisions were mine. I mean, I live with enough of my dumb decisions, right? I don’t need them to be enshrined in stone or wood or drywall. . . . But the Millers did a good job thinking through how they wanted to use the house. The guide talked about how there were four “houses”, all of which were joined by a common living area. There was the parents’ house; the children’s house; the garage; and the “mechanical block,” with the kitchen, laundry area, and an office. But the house overall is relatively modest. If you include the overhang, it comes in at 7,000 feet – we just watched “The Queen of Versailles,” in which the super-rich family was building a 90,000 square foot house.

The bedrooms were of modest size, and the two boys in the family shared a room. The girls’ rooms were almost the size of dormitory rooms. The kids had a living room/play room area all to themselves, and the house has an enormous backyard, so clearly the emphasis was to get out of your room and go play. There were five children, none of whom live in Columbus now.

The kitchen had a marvelous blue backsplash. I wish I had interior pics of my own, but no interior photography was allowed on my tour. Apparently there are tours throughout the year which allow you to take photos inside. It sounded as if they had to give more time to those tours, which makes sense. The guide told me that those tours cost $60, holy cow.


So this picture is by Leslie Williamson, and it was published in Dwell Magazine (Miller House in Columbus, Indiana, by Eero Saarinen). Isn’t that a beautiful blue? You should click on the link because you can see more pictures of the house, although Ms. Williamson is very interested in textiles, and there are rather more photos of the curtains than I would have taken, but to each her own.

What everyone talks about with the Miller House is the conversation pit. My mom says she remembers these, and there were houses in Pierre, SD, I believe, that had conversation pits, when my parents lived there.


(Photo by Leslie Williamson) The first thing you think when you see this, as a parent, is My kid would never use those steps, but just leap over the edge, and in fact that’s what the Miller children and their friends did. Apparently they would pile pillows on the floor of the pit and leap. But it’s very elegant and I guess Mrs. Miller just kept buying pillows. And look at that bookcase! The bookcase is wonderful, and has some beautiful pieces of art in it as well as lots of books. There’s a piece that is sort of a village on a hill – very folk-arty – that I loved. The round white semi-column is the fireplace. Ms. Williamson must be standing about where a dollhouse is – a big dollhouse that the interior designer designed for them. It’s a townhouse, and he created little dolls that look like the members of the family.

Anyway, much thought went into the design and it’s a great house to tour. I loved it. Very very peaceful, with a couple of fountains in the back and that rigorously disciplined look of a house with either housekeepers or which isn’t lived in.

As a side note, there were thirteen people on the tour, and over the course of the tour, at least four of them identified themselves as teachers. They said admiringly to the caretaker of the house, who followed us around to make sure we didn’t touch anything, “We wish we had your job! It’s so quiet! We’re teachers and all we hear all day is voices!” Good times during the summer months. . . .

You can buy tickets through this website (and there are more good pictures of the house!).

There is a lot more to see in Columbus, and I did take an interesting architectural tour but whew, this post is long, sorry. And if you can only do one, do the Miller House tour. The house is surrounded by huge hedges, so you won’t see the house otherwise, and the other buildings you could in a pinch do a drive-by.

There’s reportedly a great ice cream place as well, but I can take the girls to that, and then drive them around and make them look at some of the architecture that way. (Zaharakos)

OH and the Visitor’s Center has a fabulous gift shop! I love gift shops. They even sell Chihuly glass, not that I’m buying Chihuly glass anytime soon, but wow.

Google Educator, Leader in Me, and C4 Conference: Being a Techie

Whew! What a week! I’ve spent a lot of it hunkered down at the computer trying to become a Google Educator, Level 1. Monday, I went to a Leader in Me meeting? conference? at my school, which was great – three hours and we discussed what to do next in Year 2 of our Leader in Me culture. Great to see everyone, met the new teachers, and managed to get in a couple of plugs for what the computer lab could do for everyone.

Yesterday, worked on Google Educator modules, interspersed with cleaning – I can’t do too many of the modules in a row or my eyes cross. I have one. more. module. left. And then the test. Crossed fingers – hoping to finish it this week.

Today, C4! E green screenHoneycutt school

The first picture is a bummer – it had a REALLY cool Van Gogh background that apparently doesn’t show here – but don’t I look excited and happy to be at C4? ‘Cause I was!

The second is a slide from our speaker, Kevin Honeycutt. He was AMAZING. Totally a Robin Williams character, with a lot of energy and humor but deep feelings underneath – and not all that far underneath. He got choked up a couple of times, talking about his family, and I got choked up, and I just felt lucky to be there in that place.

Kevin Honeycutt

This is his website if you want to go take a look:

So the slide refers to a project his son started – he had to do a project to graduate from high school, and he asked his dad if he knew of any schools who needed anything, and his dad said that there was this teacher in Nepal who was teaching in a place without any government services and they had 20 books in the library. So his son organized to help this man, and they figured out how to get him the money to go buy two laptops, and then the school was torn down and … well, it’s not my story to tell, but his son worked out how to help on a BIG SCALE and just so inspiring a story. There’s a link on Kevin’s webpage, and the site is on the pic above.

This is one of his talks – you should DEFINITELY click on this to hear it (yes, there’s an ad, sorry).

The Angels of My Education

C4 was amazing overall. I went to five different sessions, plus keynote and EdCamp. The first was Your First Graders Do WHAT?!?! – Technology for Your Little Learners. The woman who presented is a first grade teacher at Smoky Row Elementary, Kristen Cannady, and she has got her kids reading QR codes to find out what to do in stations, tweeting for her (she is the only one who can push “Post” – also, no kids’ names are used), and creating their digital portfolios with SeeSaw. She also regularly sends videos home for the kids to watch as their homework. It’s just very impressive what those kids can do.

Second was Computer Coding Clubs, presented by Hanna Rumschlag, who’s the media specialist at Mohawk Trails Elementary – she has been doing a club for two years, and I want to start one this year. She’s very thorough so that was super helpful.

Third was the presentation about the technology plan at Carmel Clay Schools, which is super-exciting for this coming year. I don’t think I’m allowed to say anything about it yet, but it’s going to be fun.

Fourth was Helping Kids Help Themselves, PACKED with apps for literacy and for math. The always-awesome Tracy Hastings presented those, along with Betsy Howard. So. Many. I’ve taken notes but need to go through them and see how they actually work. Not sure how many we can use in the computer lab, but helpful for the future when I have a classroom and, God willing, more devices.

The last session was the Going Deeper with Trends, Tools, and Tactics for 21st Century Learning, which was led by Kevin Honeycutt, and it was great. He talked about his website and options and had several stories about his being able to really push to the limits his programs in order to keep his kids engaged and learning.

Then EdCamps, during which we talked about Canvas and our concerns about devices.

The whole thing was just helpful and inspirational and all of the good things. We even got lunch, and that always counts for a lot for teachers, you know? And door prizes – I won an iTunes gift card! I am so lucky I got to go.

This post is too long already, but a couple of quotes from Kevin’s speech:

“We’re dying of humble.” (gotta tweet/blog more about awesome stories)

We need to be “tradigital” teachers (see what he did there?).

“A good teacher is like a good quarterback – he throws the ball where the receiver isn’t yet.”

Oh, and “Teaching is non-invasive brain surgery.” !!!

Camping – A Hike Before the Rain… and a Cave

Mar rockMir climbing








We went camping this past weekend, down at Indian Celina Recreation Area. It was a lovely site, and we got to go with some good friends. We went on a hike Saturday at Hemlock Cliffs, which luckily a friend had told Jemme about because, whew, just when you thought, This is a mighty small gravel road, it turned into a dirt road and then sort of a dirt track. But the hike was worth it. Lots of climbing over rocks and scrambling around – a creek in which the kids and Dan and Jemme found various animals AND a salamander’s tail, still wiggling. This time, when traveling, I’d brought trail mix and granola bars, so I didn’t perish from hunger!

Mir me hands

And it was a beautiful day to boot – warm enough for shorts, cool enough that we weren’t melting on the trail.

Started to rain that night.

mar me rain

We decided to pack up and head out, even though we were supposed to have another day. The forecast was for rain all day and then the next, plus thunderstorms. We later discovered that there was also a tornado watch. I get shaky when I’m in my stone house and there’s a weather event; I was not comfortable with being in the tent with, you know, weather. Went to Marengo Caves.


Not the greatest pic but you can see some of the stalagmites – you can remember the difference between stalagmites and stalactites because “You MIGHT trip over them” and “They hang TIGHTLY to the ceiling.” If they grow together, they form a column (“You can remember that because, a column? That’s what we call ’em.”) Now I’ve ruined most of the jokes for the tour guides! Man! I won’t tell you the best one, so you can laugh on the tour!

There were two tours, the Dripstone Trail and the Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace had the best formations, and was slightly shorter. It was also helped by the fact that we had a GREAT guide, Larry – it turned out that he was the guide trainer, and he really knew his stuff and was very engaging. The Dripstone Trail had some cool formations as well, but our guide wasn’t as polished as Larry, and somehow the formations didn’t seem as spectacular.

I don’t love camping, but I like it all right, and it does give us a chance to get outside a lot. Also, Miranda seemed to be doing better with her allergies, so that was terrific. We made hobo dinners. I didn’t think they turned out well (large portions of mine were burnt to a crisp), but the girls and Dan said that they were good. I tried a hash browns hack – dried hash browns that come in a milk carton kind of container. You pour hot water on them and they stand for 12 min, then you cook them. I used those instead of chopping potatoes, and that did seem to cut down on our cooking time. We also made pies – using a pie iron, white bread, fruit filling, butter and powdered sugar – as Brenna said, definitively, “There’s nothing healthy about these.” But boy, they’re tasty. THOSE turned out great!

Indiana Wesleyan University Trip

Wildcat Pride

Travelled to the actual. physical. location of Indiana Wesleyan University yesterday. They’re in Marion, IN, and although I’ve been a student for a year, I haven’t actually been on the campus. All of the Transition to Teaching program is online, which is so convenient, but a part of me didn’t really believe that this was a school, unless there were buildings. And a library.

Girls Globe library

Whew. Library at last. The black ball is a globe, by the way, not the Death Star, as one friend thought. That would have been funny, true, but inappropriate outside a library.

We walked around the Student Center. I was bitterly disappointed that they didn’t have the bookstore part open (“They’re only open for part of the year, anyway,” said the nice lady in the store. ??? Why??? I don’t know.). The bookstore was upstairs, so they blocked your entry by closing off the stairs. But you could buy t-shirts, and shirts, and stuffed animals with IWU t-shirts on, and notebooks that said Indiana Wesleyan University. And of course, pins and patches. I bought a pin for my dad, who collects pins, and will be amused to have one from IWU.

We went to the bookstore t-shirt store, which was in the Student Center, and the library, and walked around a little bit. EXTREMELY large building that called itself the Chapel Auditorium, which I would have liked to have seen the inside of, and an extremely small chapel which I thought was lovely. Didn’t try to go inside, though. t thought about trying to find the Education building, but by the time we got started on this jaunt, it was late, so we were going to get home at dinnertime. Bah. Maybe another trip is called for, when the bookstore part is open!

IWU chapel

Cataract Falls

Cataract Falls pano

One of my goals this summer is to explore Indiana a little more. I’ve lived here for years, and I’ve seen some of the big attractions – the Dunes, Clifty Falls, the Children’s Museum. . .  But I really should know more about the state than I do! Some of this is driven by the fact that it’s the 200th anniversary of Indiana as a state, and some is driven by the fact that my school filter is always saying, What if I teach… fourth grade and Indiana History? Must. Be. Prepared.

We went to Cataract Falls this weekend and it was a fun family jaunt. It’s about an hour and twenty minutes southwest of Indianapolis, and what we THOUGHT was going to happen was that we were going to park the car, hike through a forest, and end up at the falls. We would eat lunch, play in the water a little bit, and then hike back.

Cataract Falls Girls

We had to laugh at ourselves when we pulled up and there were the Falls! an easy stroll from the car. We climbed down among the rocks and walked through Owen County’s only covered bridge to get to the other side of the falls… and drove through some greenery to get to the other part of the falls. There might be some hiking trails that we didn’t see, to be fair. And it was totally worth it, just funny to have our expectations changed.

Sandy Dan Sean

We tried to talk my mother-in-law into going, based on it being such an easy walk to a place overlooking the Falls, but she declined. Maybe another time!

We did take Sandy, our dog, who loved it. I thought he’d be worn out afterwards – we were all worn out afterwards, as it was 91 degrees, but Sandy was all fired up and ready for more, once he had a little air conditioning break on the way back home.


Learning to Teach

I’m in the Transition to Teaching program at Indiana Wesleyan, and just JUST finished my first year.

I. Loved. It.

I love the intellectual challenge of it, I love the opportunity to see “behind the scenes” of practices I’ve watched teachers perform in my school, I love the chance to talk about teaching with people who are just about as interested as I am… although I’m the teeniest bit obsessive.

Seriously, everything I read, hear about, watch, or discuss with family and friends is filtered through an education filter. How would I teach that? Could I use that in a classroom? Ooh, that gives me an idea. . .

It was a tough year, and we ate many terrible dinners, I’m not going to lie. But it has been a great experience to have and I’m so grateful that I had the chance to learn. What a gift, at 47 years old, to go back to school!

The classes I’ve taken so far:

Intro to 21st Century Education for Elementary Teachers

Culturally Responsible Teaching

Assessment and Learning in the Elementary Classroom

Reading and Language Arts Instruction in the Elementary Classroom

Three more to go:

Diag Reading and Language Arts in the Elementary Classroom

Methods of Teaching the Elementary School Curriculum

Research-Based Behavioral Intervention and Elementary Classrooms

And then in March of 2017, I begin Student Teaching.

Family Life

Restarting the blog… again! Michelle Mc graciously gave up an hour and a half of her precious no-children-around time to help me update this site – so grateful! So lucky to have clever friends!

I’ve finished my Reading class for the summer, I’m in this sweet spot between work/class and, well, work/class, with only some chores around the house and projects therein to accomplish. I’ve even gotten the grades for my Reading class so I can stop obsessively updating the website. Theoretically.

13508841_10209867871638097_5471364082453261245_n M with goat

In the meantime, how great is it to be invited to a farm for lunch? A farm with baby goats? We are the luckiest people! The one on the left is Casper and you may certainly enlarge your screen but let me just confirm: he is in fact wearing pajamas. The one on the right is Albert, and he eschews pajamas. I did not get a picture of the baby kittens, who look like “fur-covered jellybeans” I’m told. If any of M2’s pictures come out, I will post.

It’s something like 92 degrees, but with the trees at the farm, it was completely bearable, and it was so fun to see coworkers from the world’s greatest elementary school, Carmel Elementary School. Love it.

The only sad spot is that my family is gathered to visit with my brother in Norfolk, VA, and I’m missing the gathering. Hoping everyone has a good time and there are lots of pictures of John with the new babies in the family.