Thursday, October 30, 2014

10 Weeks of #NerdySpaces


It has been 10 weeks since I started my #NerdySpaces and I thought it would be the perfect time to reflect on how things have been going for me. 

Adventures in No Desk World

The biggest concern for me when I was thinking about changing my room around, was wondering if I could function without a desk. The standard teacher desk has been a part of professional career since I started. I wanted to make more space for my students and getting rid of my desk was one of the ways to do it. I have to say that I do not miss it. It is crazy how much we think we need things until we are forced to be without them. I made the changes and adjusted certain workflows and I do not think twice about it. I have everything I need on a mobile podium. I can move around the room and keep all of my devices and books with me. 

I was always a mover when I taught, but I am more mobile than ever. Since I was able to get rid of the desks, I was able to create larger tables for the student desks which opened up the entire center of my classroom. I can now freely move around from table to table and connect with students. I'm no longer awkwardly maneuvering around students and bumping into them with my hips or butt as I go from student to student. It was weird for everyone, but something that could not be avoided when you have a class jammed with 33 students. 

The best feedback I received about this change of teacher desk and then the student desks came from former students. Students from previous years always stop by to say hello and talk for a bit. When they saw the new class design, they were impressed and a bit jealous. They loved the larger tables and recognized that the extra room would be helpful. Current students like the layout as well. One student said it felt more open and connected, like a community. That made me smile because that is what I was going for in the long run. 

Two Screens Are Better Than One

This is just a huge bonus for me and I know that it is not possible for many teachers, but it is something I wanted to try. I was very lucky to receive a new Smart Board. It is an interactive flat panel that is awesome! The 6065 is a beautiful screen that makes every image crystal clear. It connects to my Mac and my Chromebook. It is HD, so my Chromecast and/or Apple TV are also in play for the device. It only has one HDMI input, so I bought an HDMI splitter so I could connect more than one device and just flip between them when needed. It is on a stand so I can wheel it around the stage front and back if I need it. I use it every day!

The 6065 is awesome to write on and I do not experience any lag. It really is the software that makes the board so awesome. Notebook has been in our district for many years and I many of my lessons saved there. Going over essay writing with my students is much easier when notes can be carried over from class to class and when students can get up and interact with the text on the screen. Annotating has never been easier for my kids. I can't wait to try out amp from Smart. That is going to take collaboration to the next level. 

One of the issues I had with the new desk/table alignment in my classroom was that some students were not facing the front of the room where the original Smart Board was installed. I had students half turned and craning their neck to see the notes. I also did not want a "front of the room" in my classroom. I wanted to create an environment where it didn't matter where students were looking. What I was able to do was connect my laptop to the 6065 and then mirror that to the computer at the front of the room. Now, the students could see what was going on no matter where they looked. From my mobile podium, I would use my wireless mouse and keyboard to add notes from anywhere in the room, or I could go up to the board and take notes on the screen. 

Another great use has been for showing the class backchannel. I used this with my Freshmen and it worked very well. I liked having the running stream of the thoughts from students and using that to enhance the discussion. This idea could work just as well in a single screen classroom. The second screen provided me a spot to collect the ideas shared in Smart Notebook. TodaysMeet has been perfect for my classroom for creating a backchannel. Here is a shot of the 6065 and TodaysMeet. This was before class. I forgot to take a picture of it during class because discussion was going so well. It's a good problem to have. 



I'm sorry that his sounds like and ad for Smart and Today'sMeet, but those are the tools that have helped me make my #NerdySpaces possible. These things can be done without them, but I want to spotlight the tools that have made the first 10 weeks of this crazy experiment possible. The thing I hope that people take away from this is that it is worth taking risks in the classroom. It doesn't always have to be lesson based. Changing the class environment can be huge and I have seen it in the first part of the school year. I look forward to trying new things with different tools to see if I can get the most out of my space and my students. 

If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments section below. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The @BlackboardK12 BITS Learning Sessions #10 #BbK12Live

I've partnered with BlackboardK12 to share out the awesome sessions they are having this Fall. Educators can sign up to attend and share with other great educators what they have learned. I'll feature the session and the description on my blog each week and on my Twitter account. If you have questions, feel free to shoot a tweet to @BlackboardK12. Have fun learning and sharing!

School-University Partnership for Preparing and Supporting K-12 Online Teachers

The North Carolina Virtual Public School and Lenoir-Rhyne University have developed a school-university partnership designed to invest in building capacity for K-12 online teachers. This partnership contributes to the field of online learning in critical areas, including quality preparation of K-12 online teachers and research into effective practices for preparing and supporting K-12 online teachers. In this session, a representative from each institution will share their efforts to develop and sustain this collaborative partnership. Specifically, presenters will highlight the joint online teaching practicum and share findings from research into effective methods for preparing and supporting K-12 online teachers.

Leslie Fetzer & Leslie White

Leslie Fetzer is a Professional Learning Coordinator at the North Carolina Virtual Public School. As the 2012 National Online Teacher of the Year, Leslie made over 70 appearances speaking at conferences, webinars, leading workshops, etc. Her hope is to dispel myths about online education; to show how all students can succeed with personalized, differentiated online instruction; and to empower teachers to teach online and to “blend” learning in their classrooms.

Leslie White teaches OCS American History for North Carolina Virtual Public School and serves as an Instructional Leader for its Teachers in Training & Practicum Program. She has been teaching for 10 years, 6 years in the classroom and 4 years online. She lives in Cary, NC with her husband and 2 daughters.

Twitter: @lafetz00


When: Monday, November 3, 2014 3:30PM EST

Monday, October 27, 2014

Yes! @GoSwivl is out of Beta with new features. #edchat

I've been a fan of Swivl since I was able to try one out last school year. A social studies teacher really wanted to try it out and is now using it to record lectures and share with students. This year, we have ordered more Swivls because we have a student who is out due to medical issues and teachers want to make lessons available why they are gone. Swivl has been the perfect solution to this issue. I will have a guest post later in November from a teacher using Swivl to support this student. 

Now, let me share with you all of the cool things that Swivl has announced now they are out of Beta. 

  • Unlimited uploading with content staging
  • 2x faster uploading speeds
  • Cloud exporting of produced slide+video files to your computer or YouTube.

  • This is an awesome bonus for those teachers using Swivl in their classroom. Swivl reports that 10,000 teachers are using Swivl. Hours upon hours of video are being saved and uploaded to support students. The other nice aspect of Swivl is that it is not available for Android users as well. 

    Swivl is an easy way for teachers to record their lessons and share them with their students. This could be done in class with the students or done at a different time to support the flipped classroom model of learning. Whichever one the teacher uses, students benefit from having lessons they can watch as many times as they need to understand the material. No tool is going to be the silver bullet that saves education, but Swivl is another options for teachers looking for another way to help students. 

    Take a moment and check out Swivl and get one for your school. You will see how awesome it is on your own. 


    Wednesday, October 22, 2014

    Missed Reflections #NerdyCast #EdChat

    I've been working on reflection this year in an effort to be a better teacher. As part of that, I have been doing weekly video reflections on my YouTube channel. This past week, I missed my deadline to reflect. I was bummed, but told myself that I could just do it during the week and do another one a few days later. Well, like most failures, I learned from my mistake. I sat and tried to remember last week and all of the things that I did and the interactions I had with my students and I couldn't get much meaning out of it. I know we covered some cool things and I know we had some great discussions, but my brain has emptied out that info and started to replace it with the new info from this week. It was really crazy. No matter how hard I tried, I could not focus on anything from last week.

    Reflection is such an important part of what we do and this missed week reminded me of how important it is to keep reflecting and not to let a week slip by. A missed week of reflection is a missed opportunity to grow. That is something I will focus on for the coming weeks.

    Here is a playlist of the different reflection videos I have made this year. I am going to do one for every week of the year. I would love to see others start to do the same.


    The @BlackboardK12 BITS Learning Sessions #9 #BbK12Live

    I've partnered with BlackboardK12 to share out the awesome sessions they are having this Fall. Educators can sign up to attend and share with other great educators what they have learned. I'll feature the session and the description on my blog each week and on my Twitter account. If you have questions, feel free to shoot a tweet to @BlackboardK12. Have fun learning and sharing!

    The Flipped Classroom: Growing Student Engagement in Elementary Instrumental Music

    Learn how I use Blackboard to flip my elementary beginning and intermediate strings classes. My flipped classroom facilitates logistics, builds community and makes it possible for my students to find class materials with the click of a button. In these music classes, my students and parents have all materials such as handouts, videos, photos, sheet music and lessons available 24/7 on their computers and smart phones. The flipped classroom lets me get more done during class because “homework” experiences are focused and tailored to the students’ learning and my lesson planning

    Kristin Gomez. MS, Orchestra Teacher, Arlington Public Schools, VA

    Kristin Gomez is currently Director of Suzuki in the Schools at Abingdon Elementary, Director of the Junior Honors Orchestra of Arlington Public Schools and strings teacher at Ashlawn Elementary School. In her 20 year teaching career she has taught Middle and High School French, Guitar and Orchestra. She is also a busy freelance viola player in the Washington, DC area.

    Twitter: @stringsteacher

    When: Monday, October 27, 2014 3:30PM EST