First Week!

Because we started on Tuesday, today (the fifth day of school) was the end of the first week for Specials. I’ve seen every kid in the school once. Or pretty much all of them – a kid was added today, I heard. The last number I saw was 523 students at Carmel Elementary, but that was several days ago and anything can happen!

That’s somewhere around 523 login cards that I made for the kids. In the past, the teachers kindly made the cards, but this year I volunteered to make them. One less thing for teachers to worry about, and because I made them all without using a drop of imagination, they are amazingly, boringly, consistent, which I like in a login card. I did use the bigger size of index cards for the kindergartners, because they’re the ones who will use the cards the longest, and they’re easier to grab out of the drawer that way.

I even made them for the fifth grade, because I’m starting a typing thing tomorrow. The teachers and I want the kids to have typing practice – typing’s no longer taught in school, and those of us who had typing class (or keyboarding), back in the day, are a little concerned. It’s possible that as a society we’re placing a little too much stock in the fact that the kids like to play on computers so much, and we trust that they have greater skills than they do. I’ve had fourth graders ask me how to move the cursor from one line to the next, in Word. (Answer: Hit the return button. Response: Ohhhh!) So my thinking is that we’ll start with one of the typing programs that we link to on our fourth-grade weblinks page, have the kids do a typing test and write down their numbers on their login card (see, it all makes sense now!), and then have 5 minutes of practice.

Last week every day went at the speed of light, but today things were a little slower. I breathed a couple of times, took a couple sips of my water. . . . NWEA testing is going on, so I’ve been kicked out of my computer lab for the two- week duration. I’m in the temporary computer lab – an unused classroom in which the efficient and effective Ms. Barney has set up laptops for me. We ran into a couple of issues – one keyboard wouldn’t type the letter A, one wouldn’t type 0 (the zero). Why? Who knows. Wouldn’t have been an issue since we weren’t really typing much today, but you can’t log in when your name has an A in it, or your password a 0…. Plus, not a sadist, to make kids take typing tests with non-functioning A and 0 keys!

Today a first grader asked me if we were going to play Pokemon. “Umm, no,” I said. “WHY would we play Pokemon?”

“Because I want to!” he said, looking at me with his big disingenuous eyes.

Umm, no. Lots of other fun stuff though I PROMISE.

Best. Job. Ever. But I am so so tired.

Days One and Two

Fourth day of waking up at 4:30. I decided to just wake up, and do something – maybe tonight I’ll be so exhausted I’ll sleep through the night. Must be nerves, but so far the week is going well!

Because I’m a Specials teacher, I have five first days. I see everyone in the school for fifty minutes a week, class after class after class. I’ll be done on Monday with my Five First Days, and then I’ll see the second wave.

It’s odd doing the First Day stuff for those reasons – I do it over and over again until by Monday I won’t remember whether I’ve told them already about the Word Wall and the Digital Citizenship posters, or if that was two classes ago. Also, I was here last year in the Computer Lab, and our population is pretty stable, so most of these kids know me in this role.

I struggled with how to do the First Day stuff because of that. There seems little point to doing an introduction of myself and who I am, since they mostly know me. I worry about becoming stale, since I’m certainly becoming repetitive.

In addition to doing Five First Days, I’m also doing basically the same lesson across the grade levels – at least for grades 2-5. I’m doing a portion of the same lesson for the 1st graders. The kindergarteners are getting mouse practice, in preparation for NWEA testing, which starts this coming Monday.

The lesson outline is:

A. Greetings & who I am (A couple of classes I’ve forgotten to say, “I’m Mrs. Finney,” but luckily usually a kid says my name during the class. I do feel afterwards like, really? I forgot to SAY MY NAME? How basic is that???)

B. Expectations – I’m doing this as a question and answer session this year, in which I say, “You guys are 3rd graders (or 4th graders, or whatever), so I bet you know the expectations teachers have in class. What’s one expectation you think I have?”

C. Tools – I brought some tools from home, and I say, “When I think about a computer, I think about this,” and I pull a mallet or a level out of a canvas bag. It just occurs to me, I should bring in one of Dan’s toolboxes and pull tools out of that! Shoot! Why didn’t that occur to me before? Anyway, I pull out five tools and the kids name them, and then I prompt them to figure out why I think of these tools when I think of a computer and sometimes they come up with creative ideas, and then someone gets to “Because the computer is a tool.” I talk about yes, can do a lot, but beware of misusing, just like misusing a mallet, etc.

D. What we’re doing this year – computer hardware, computer jobs, digital citizenship stuff, coding.

E. Eye tour of the room – I have an “I Am a Leader” wall, with the leadership posters on it; I have R2D2, C3PO, and BB8 defining banks of computers; I have the Word Wall (which I actually put words on yesterday!) and some Star Wars digital citizenship posters that I downloaded – I think I talked about those before on the blog. I talk a little bit about all of those things.

F. Everyone goes to their computer. I’ve usually put out the login cards – finished making those yesterday! Hallelujah! – in alphabetical order. They log in. People have difficulty, and I run around and help them out.

G. We talk about icons (one of the Word Wall words), and productivity apps (another Word Wall word) and browsers (ditto, Word Wall). We open Firefox. It goes first to the Carmel Clay schools website, so I challenge them to find how to get to Carmel Elementary. This is something they remember from last year, usually. I have a kid go up to my desk to make my computer do it – my screen is projected on a big screen so they can see it. We find teacher websites – we’re moving to Canvas, so not everyone has a website right now. We find their grade level websites. We click the x in the corner to shut Firefox.

H. I say, “One of the things I like best about computers is that there are usually lots of ways to do something. Here’s another way to get to Firefox.” So we open the Websites folder, which I think I opened once last year and didn’t even know existed until halfway through the year. Theirs looks different than mine does, because theirs opens as a List view, and mine has icons (and I get to say the word again!) (and point to the Word Wall!), so I show them how to change the way it looks. There are extra large icons as choice, so that’s pretty popular, and hilarity ensues when someone picks that. Then we click on Mel the Tiger, and he opens up Firefox WITH THE CARMEL ELEMENTARY HOMEPAGE, which feels like a small victory, frankly. And then I give them free time.

So here’s one of my favorite moments: A kid in one of the classes said to me, “Mrs. Finney, you could click on Mel and drag him down to the bottom bar on your screen and then he’d be there all the time,” and I said, “WOW, that did not even occur to me, great job!” WAY TO GO! I love that, when the kids figure out something that I didn’t know – one, because I’m learning that way, and two, because how great is that, to figure something out that your teacher didn’t know? Wouldn’t that give you a sense of accomplishment?

I want this to be something we figure out together. I know a bunch of things, but I clearly don’t know everything about computers, and at first that really bothered me, but now I’m thinking, Boy, that’s a strength! It means the students and I have to be in this together. I don’t think I was always able to create that feeling last year, but every once in a while, we learned together. Hoping for that a little more this year. That’s why I have kids go up and show how to do things on my screen, to give them a little bit of empowerment, and to encourage a sense that they know how to do things on computers, that we’re teaching and learning together.

Because really, what I’m teaching them how to use now may not be there in five years. The important skill is how to figure out stuff, and not to be afraid. I have to be really supportive of mistakes – “Wow, that’s an interesting screen you’ve gotten to!” – and really encouraging for them to try different buttons and see what happens.

Today: Third First Day. Hope it goes well! And I haven’t shot myself in the foot by getting up at 4:30!

At least there’s chocolate at school. That should get me through the afternoon.

It’s About to Get Real!


Ok, today was the teacher workday and the ice cream social for Carmel Elementary School (and, apparently, every other elementary school in the district – I mean, everyone had a workday, but ice cream socials were also apparently rampant).

Tomorrow… the students come FOR REAL.

I am both excited and nervous. I kept asking kids tonight, “Are you excited about tomorrow?” and they would hang their heads and say quietly, “Well, excited and kinda nervous.” “ME TOO,” I would say.

I am not really ready. I have not scripted what I am going to say. I have told five different people eight different things that I am doing tomorrow for my classes, and I have written down none of them, so the odds are very good I’ll get halfway through the day and think, “Well, shoot.”

I was less prepared last year, but I don’t remember being this nervous. I must have been, though, because let’s face it, I can get nervous about going to the ice cream shop, if there are too many variables involved.

Tomorrow is class, class, class, class, class, prep.

Oh, I was so happy to see the kids today, though. And plenty of them liked my room. And the computer worked AND the projector – I mean, what are the odds?

Good luck to anyone else starting this week! May the odds be always in our favor.

Can You Detect a Theme?

Worked about fifteen hours in the computer lab this week, laminating and putting things on the walls. Laminating – now I feel like a Real Teacher!

computer lab cabinets

I want to emphasize the skills and responsibilities of being a digital citizen this year, so I put the letters up and Lesley Karpiuk has made some cool Star Wars digital citizenship posters! It’s like she read my mind! (She’s also made Pokemon Go posters ’cause she’s on trend like that.) You can download the posters if you go to:

Thank you, Lesley!

computer lab leadership wall

Our school is working to incorporate the leadership skills of the seven habits, and I knew I needed to put the leadership posters up but couldn’t quite figure out how to tie them to the theme running through my room (have you guessed it yet?). Then I remembered Luke saying proudly, “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” So I put “I am a leader” and am going to add the “…” that, in my head, will TOTALLY tie this together with my theme. It’s possible that not all children will make the connection. It’s possible not adults will… But I think some kids will get it. And it makes me happy, which frankly is not a bad reason to put something up on the wall. You spend a lot of time in your classroom, and you want to have something that gives you a quiet chuckle – Mrs. Finney’s Laws of Classroom Decoration!

computer lab whiteboard

I love this picture that Miranda drew for me. The girls and I have shot two videos this summer, which I’m hoping to show the little kids this year. One is about the parts of a computer, and one is about how to log in. We decided that the video series would be called “Curious about Computers.” It only occurred to me last night that if she drew the text and computer on white board (foam core?), I could keep it and use it, rather than having to import her to my classroom each time.

I bought a Star Wars kit of pictures at United Art and Education, and those halfsie-droids were in it. I super love them peeking from behind my dry erase board.

OH, and I had a small flag lying sideways which made me sad – Mr. Ernest, the always-awesome, always-super-kind custodian, found me a Real Flag and a Real Flag holder. I don’t have kids in my class until 8:40 usually, but still, sometimes people are there during announcements and I feel like a Real Teacher with a Real Flag. I mean, I say the Pledge of Allegiance to it every morning!

(Marissa is, of course, charging her iPod touch – so that’s why she’s sitting on the floor.)

computer lab desk area

Speaking of things that make you happy… I downloaded this “No Grit No Pearl” poster last year and printed it out. I have one at home and one at school, and there are times I look at it and it gets me through the next five minutes. If you can get through the bad five minutes, you can usually get through the next hour. And in my job, then you get the next class.

technology rocks. seriously

Thank you, Shannon, for this poster!

I decided my mantra this school year would be “Choose Joy.” It’s going to be a tough year – I finish up my classes for the Transition to Teaching program; I student-teach in the spring; one kid is starting sixth grade and has transition worries, and the other is starting eighth grade and getting ready for high school in the spring. Choose Joy is going to help.

I was blessed with an optimistic mother, and I was trained from birth to find the silver lining in EVERYTHING. Once my basement flooded right before my big 40th birthday party, and my niece and nephew offered to bail out the water so I could get a quick shower before the party. I said later how grateful I was, and how lucky I was that the roto-rooter guy was able to come fix the clogged pipe about an hour into the party, and how it really could have been much, much worse, and my dad said, “Well, the only way we could have been luckier was if the pipe had burst and we could have had a fountain shooting up to the sky from the basement!” But my momma’s training held good.

I really kind of love the Try poster, which is new this year. The lab is such a great place to work with kids on their grit, because computers glitch, or you glitch, and can’t figure out the next step. You have to just try, try, try stuff.

computer lab door

This is perhaps a little boring. But the Chewbacca pic is a little tiny joke to me. Wondering if the kids will see it right away.

computer lab printer area

The shelf which holds my Star Wars collection. I have a new BIG BB8 this year. I was going to make a paper-mache one this summer, but the best laid plans. Maybe over Christmas.

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!