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Sunday, March 23, 2014

3 Cheers for EDCAMP!

Have you ever been to a conference that you can say you found 100% of it to be applicable to you? How about one where the presenters were everyday teachers who just wanted to share what they were doing that was successful? How about a conference that is planned on the spot, instantaneously? One that you don't even know what it is going to offer until you get there?

This is edcamp. It is an innovative idea. Teachers offering sessions for teachers. Anyone. Anyone at all. I attended edcampOMAHA last Saturday March 22. It was the most applicable, exciting, encouraging, purposeful professional development I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of.

I had no idea what to expect, but here is the short story. Show up, have coffee and a donut, greet others, pick up goodies. Watch the 4 sign up boards for who is going to offer what. (Even sign up yourself! which I did) Then map out your sessions, attend, learn, laugh, and play! It was all about educators talking to educators, not AT them. It was a conversation. No hubbub. No big production. Just a wonderful day of chatter about topics that matter.

I met wonderful new people. Even some of my Twitter friends (which I later learned were called Tweeps). And took away some great ideas, websites, and apps. Okay, the title says 3 cheers for edcamp, so here goes....

Cheer #1
1, 2, 3...Edcamp for me
4, 5, 6...twitter, talking, and pics
7, 8, 9...time with teachers divine!

Cheer #2
Rah Rah Rall, Edcamp for all
Rah Rah Rest, Edcamp is the best
Want to learn a bunch?
I bet you have a hunch!
Edcamp, Edcamp, Yay Edcamp!

Cheer #3
2, 4, 6, 8 Who do we appreciate?
All those who make Edcamps possible!

If you get the chance, go. I strongly recommend it. It will be the best PD you do! Ask on Twitter, find out where there is an edcamp near you. (or roadtrip!) It is worth the time. :)

Eight week transformation!

Hello friends,

Today I would like to take a minute (or 10) and talk about the major transformation my classroom, my teaching, my students, and my philosophy has undertaken.  I started my career as a behavior disorder teacher 21 years ago and as you can imagine I learned very quickly that structure and consistency were a necessity for me to be able to successfully get through my day. I carried those two basic ideas into the elementary classroom with me.

The very first thing I did was set my classroom with physical structure, organization, and visual consistency offered through matching color schemes and symmetry. My classroom management was the same. Very consistent, and weighted evenly between positive and negative consequences, with a strong focus on creating successful, thoughtful, responsible citizens.

Then enter iPads! We started gung ho in January and haven't looked back.

Here are a few case studies to share the changes I have seen. My class statistics have several IEP students, several gifted students, and several students below grade level in reading and math. Much like every other classroom in America. One of my students came to me with some strong behavior issues. He was guaranteed to have to leave class any day we worked on writing or math (which was every day).

 When we became an iPad classroom room, all things changed. His first blog post was literally 2 short sentences (5 words each) and a question (because I told him he had to ask a question, which we fought over!)  I stepped back and just continued to lay out the expectation of Tuesday/Thursday blog post writing, and Monday/Wednesday/Friday was reply and comment day. (notice the structure and consistency? I just cannot let it go)

Well, just six weeks in, I have a young man who has realized that his writing has impact. He has an audience that spans the globe (thank you Twitter, Google + communities, and Comments4Kids) He now asks...hang on....ASKS if he can blog. He usually creates 3 or 4 posts a week, on top of what I ask him to do during the week. AND these posts are a good paragraph or two. His organization has improved 100 times over! He uses capital letters, and punctutation (without reminders!!!) And all without my nagging. He has transformed into someone who wants to write and for a reason. His writing test this quarter jumped two proficiency levels, from beginning to proficient. It works folks!

On the topic of blogging, another friend had never used punctuation
EVER! and one fine day he received two comments on his beautiful paragraph about the reader being out of breath because of missing punctuation. In two short comments, and two seconds progress was made the likes by which I haven't been able to accomplish in two years! He always remembers his punctuation now. I do not give him reminders either.

I have a young lady who refused to speak in front of others, uses Tellagami and iMovie to create these amazing presentations to give in front of class. She has gotten such great reviews and feedback from her peers, she has offered to teach some new discoveries with a few apps we use in class...WITHOUT AN AVATAR! She uses her mouth! AND stands in the front of the room!

My job has become a moment of discovery every day. I have moved from a traditional teacher to an "introducer" and a facilitator. The students have taken over the role of teacher and not only have become strongly motivated to learn new things, but also to make the jump to help each other learn. They are amazing collaborators. I am always surprised and blow away each day but what they produce.

iPads in the classroom, used the right way will become a life changer. It has for me.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The agile classroom...soft spaces allowed

Okay friends, so I have this idea that was presented to me as a "wild" idea from my amazing iPad coach +Brent Catlett (@catlett1) and I allowed the idea to roll around for about two weeks. Then I began my research.

My classroom to start with!

We were calling it the "soft space" classroom and in my research I found that most people called it an agile classroom. This idea consists of getting rid of all the "hard" surface items in my room and replaces them with "soft" spaces. So THAT means, no desks, or school chairs, and bring in couches, love seats, recliners, bean bags, bar stools, etc!

The beginning of my agile classroom!

WHAT?? No desks? Are you crazy? Well, crazy enough! I began trolling the free section of and volia! in one weekend, I have enough to get me started on this agile classroom. There are a few things that I tried to think about that would be considered CONS for this idea. One: what about germs/lice etc? Well, get leather, pleather, and vinyl. CHECK! Two: what about the kids that need personal space and a "spot" like Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory? Well, I polled the kids and explained the idea and asked them who wanted to keep their space. I had about 1/3 of the class that did. So I kept those desks and added a couple blank ones to act as "coffee side tables" where some kids could sit to have private space. CHECK! Three: What about name tags for when a sub comes in? Good point, well, going to have to have name tags like when we were in kindergarten, unless someone has a better idea (I am willing to listen)! CHECK!

I am sure there are several more that I have not even begun to consider, and as they arise I will address them.  I am hunting and searching for more leather, pleather and vinyl and ever expanding! The students LOVE it! It has been amazing. I welcome any questions as I process this!

Friday, March 7, 2014

iPad 101 class for Parents

That's right! It was iPad 101 class for parents in Boycetown today! and it was, for sure, the best thing I could have done for promoting the learning that is happening everyday. When I look back at how my classroom has changed over the last 6 weeks, I find myself astounded and in awe of how quickly the students have adapted. And how quickly my entire philosophy of teaching has shifted. The only missing piece was the parents. So we brought them in.

We began the day with a few quick "show and share" kinds of things. Kids pulled up their Daily Spiral Review in Math which killed two proverbial birds...parents got hands on idea of math in 5B and then they also saw how we use Google Drive and Notability.  We moved from there to Educlipper, Stick Around, and our vocabulary projects. Finally we stepped into Kidblog. The parents and kids took some photos of themselves in photo booth, pulled it into Skitch...decorated it up, and then blogged about it.

Showing off DSR for morning math practice. 
 We got to share some stories about amazing growth I have seen with struggling students in the areas of reading and writing. We attributed the difference to writing in our blogs every day.

We have noted that one young reluctant writer used to say things like "how long does it have to be" or "how many sentences" wrote a blog last week that was two FULL paragraphs without batting an eye. It was like 20 SENTENCES!

We all have those kids, and also the ones who NEVER use punctuation or capital letters...well I have one of those too. Also been cured, and not by my millionth reminder (as I had always thought) but by a comment left by a reader! An audience makes all the difference!
 After everyone had time to get their blog posts completed, the students went to their special classes, and the parents and I got a chance to talk, ask questions, and raise any concerns. 

It was fun to have parents and kids take turns writing about their own perspectives on iPad 101 class. It was wonderful to see the parents buy in so quickly. They had so much fun taking pictures together, both serious and silly! 

The sound of laughter that was coming from parents as well as kids was inspiring and uplifting. It lifted me up to the proverbial ceiling. I had to be scraped off! 

Once the adult conversation started, we were off! The parents were 100% invested, and when the time came for questions, parents had some doozies. They asked about digital citizenship, security, email, and the final killer question....what happens when these students whose learning has skyrocketed, get out of Fairview...will they have iPads for the rest of their education! The question of the century! It was like we planted it! So it led to conversation about how to go about talking to the right people about getting more iPad classrooms. It was perfect. 

We finished off the meeting with a crazy agile classroom. What is that you ask? Well, you will need to tune into my next post. It will blow you idea of a classroom right off the planet. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

To listen or not to listen....that is the question!

I have always been one to listen to background noise when I was growing up studying, although I know it is not for everyone. For some, the background noise is a distraction. For me the distraction was the dead silence...chirp chirp.

I need something. If what I am working on is super important then I will listen to music without words. I gave the students the same choice a few weeks ago, and I have found it to be extremely beneficial. I use the iTunes Radio, I do not let them use the featured stations, but added our own. The students requested some stations, and I gave them a listen (if I didn't know them) and added them. They listen for a month at a time, and at the beginning of the month I will delete the radio stations and take new requests. I will leave the ones that they love (like the Frozen Radio Station)...the top station in my room!

We are coming up to the beginning of the month and I have a long list of "must leave on the list" radio stations! They don't know it yet, but I will be adding an irish station in honor of St. Patrick's Day! We just shared our idea with the second graders, and we hope they get as much enjoyment out of it as we do during our work time.

For those friends who can't work with the music, then they just put on their headphones, and listen to the sweet sweet silence. It has made everyone happy.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Hanging out for "A New York" minute

Today I had the unique experience to be a part of my first google hangout ever with a really cool guy named Adam Bellow. Adam is the creator and mastermind behind the amazing app Educlipper. It is one of my students favorite apps. They have really taken to the social media that has been created especially for them. They love the ability to clip all kinds of photos, videos, and weblinks to their clipboards.

Coach Catlett brought up the idea last week, and I was all in. Two main reasons here, hangout, I mean come on, who doesn't want to try is the telephone call of the future. Like on the Jetsons! And second, how often does a famous inventor (because let's face it...that is what Adam is) get to talk face to face to our students. And as it turns out, not just my students, but six classes! We invited students from Two Springs and Bellevue Elementary schools to join us in this hangout. It was so well planned and thought out. The kids had questions prepared. We had chosen the students to step up and talk to Adam, and he was so interested and gracious.

He answered all of our questions and even took some time to show us some new up and coming updates to the app! Kind of a sneak peek! And the children were giddy with the knowledge that they had seen and heard some things that no one else knows! Until Coach and I tweeted about it!

The whole experience was so worthwhile, and although it was amazing to see the connection kids can make with the technology to connect so far across the country, it was even more amazing to see the inspiration and motivation to dive back in and work more with Educlipper, because now they can say they met the creator!

I cannot thank Adam Bellow enough for his graciousness in taking time out of his schedule to connect, and share with my students and me! It was an amazing experience. I did have a few questions that I didn't get to ask (maybe because of starstruck syndrome!) But one thing he had said was that he used to teach. I was curious as to the grade level, and if he missed it, and if he ever gets the chance to go back in and be a part of a classroom in his travels? Well, guess there will have to be a next time, so I can ask these questions. If you haven't tried a google hangout, give it a go! you can meet some interesting people and the experience is unforgettable!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Just another blog

Well, it's been a while since I posted and our classroom has been actively enjoying many apps on our iPads. We are mastering Haiku Deck, Tellagami, Popplet, Explain Everything, and Screen Chomp. We have found ways to app smash several of these together in iMovie. The students have been working hard on their own projects and have also been able to take time to help mentor others who were struggling with certain aspects. During our "show and share" day, there was some amazing teaching going on by a few students who really had gone in depth to a couple of apps and it was amazing to hear the questions asked, and answers explained! I cannot fathom how much my classroom has changed in just a couple of weeks.

The students have used these apps to  made some sensational presentations for vocabulary, but even better were the ones summarizing separate parts of the American Revolutionary War.

There were a couple that had the W.O.W. Factor (Worthy Of the Web), and I hope to have them posted to our class website and the kids' blog site too. WOW Factor is one of our new catch phrases that was shared with us by Coach Catlett, and it is fun to hear the kids saying it to each other..."that was really good but do you think it has the WOW Factor?"

I also spent some extra hours at school and got our app boards done. The students (and I) really like some routine to start our day. So we have a few set things that we all do everyday and then there are a couple things that are self directed. So each morning the kids like to have the list of what to start with (even though it is almost the same each time). Most mornings I find myself giving the same directions several times, so I came up with an "iPad To Do List". On the other side of the board I have the "all done?" list of apps the kids can use. This is very few and far between, although I have found them using these during indoor recess!  I posted the pictures below. I have all the app icons saved and would be happy to share. Although I have to give the credit to Sara Heine, as she started this whole idea with her cute bulletin board apps that she originally shared with me!


In other news, my blog board is almost done! I found a map that was headed for the trash and I recycled parts that were usable. Bought some new pins and next week we will begin tracking where our comments originate from. We will be putting several pins in different states in the US, but our most exciting comment has come from a small school in Kuala Lumpur the capital of Malaysia! That is our first international comment. We will also be sharing our blog pages with our People to People International Project Partner, Moses Monari, a year 4 and 5 teacher at the School of Hope in Sondu Kenya. When they comment that will be our third continent, which will be amazing. We are also commenting on some blogs from  New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, so we are hoping they comment back to us so we can expand our comments that we are receiving.

Well, that's all from Boycetown for tonight! Heading to bed. Enjoy the winter break!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Guest spot in 5B!

Well, today I have experienced the best of teaching! Mrs. Brown brought her second graders in to be guest teachers in my class to present the app "screen chomp". They were amazing teachers. They came well prepared to instruct my class. They had answers ready to address any questions that my class had. They also came with a project for my class to complete.

We paired them up and set them to work. They worked well together and it wasn't long before we had completed projects! Huge thanks to the second graders, who took time out of their day to come and teach the fifth graders! Thank you to Mrs. Brown for sharing your knowledge.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cat's blogging has us purrrrring!

Okay all you cats and kittens! It is time to focus, and get your blog on! I was not certain I was buying into this blog business, but it really is the Cat's Meow!

Coach Catlett showed my students how to comment on others blogs today. We saw a very short excellent video made by some second and third graders in Mrs. Yollis' class. HOLLA! They did a great job and it was wonderful tips on how to write a quality comment. Here's the video:

So I came home tonight all hyped up on the blogging and commenting and decided to do a bit of research to see what is out there...WELL, I just hit the tip of the iceberg. I started at a website that was created by a genius of a man named William Chambelain. It is called

I was hooked right away. Not only does he spotlight many different blogs from everywhere.  Under his heading "Comments4Kids blogs" he has a spreadsheet with over 50 blogs to hook up with from all over the world. He has all sorts of links on how blogging helps writing skills develop, how to blog, how to comment...AND hang on to your hats...QUADBLOGGING!

What is quadblogging you ask? Why, it is a safe way to set up a small social network of 4 schools that commit to boosting the numbers and frequency of comments! WHAT?! I know it is unheard of! I love it! I checked out many of the blogs listed and found many to be frequently blogging and sites we can access with our filters on our network! I added six from around the world, like Australia, India, England, Ireland, and I have three from New Zealand to add next month (as this is their summer break and they don't come back in session until mid-February.)

So if you haven't joined up with this crazy ball of yarn called Blogging, then gather round...and get started! It is a ball!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

iPaddy cake...Better than birthday cake!

You would think it was my birthday! We had such fun today and it was like a sugar rush all day long! Today my students got their iPads, and it was learning on the run! They learned more than I had planned today.  Here is the breakdown of what we got accomplished:

We got the iPads in our hands and we talked about expectations for handling and care of our iPads. We learned some basic things like turning it on, off, volume controls. We learned that a one finger drag downward between apps will get you a search bar so you can quickly get to the app you are looking for. We learned to "chomp" our screens with a 4 or 5 finger pinch to close an app. We also learned the four finger swipe upward will allow us to move quickly between apps for some "app smashing" when we are using a couple of apps to complete a project, or allow us to completely close an app out. We learned about the "home button". 

After these basics we moved to photo booth, where we explored the many camera styles of photos and we learned how the camera worked. Some pretty silly alien heads, twirly faces, and block heads were spotted on different iPads.  We also opened the actual camera app and learned how that worked differently. We saved our pictures (selfies) and then we opened an app called "Skitch" and we found we could write on our photo. 

We used one of these photos to create a new background and lock screen for our iPads, and now our faces are the first and last things we see! 

The last thing we learned today an app called "Popplet". This is a presentation/creation app that allows kids to create something to display or show. We spent some time learning the ins and outs of the app, including how to "app smash" and head out to google and gather some pictures for our Popplets.  

On a whim, I decided to challenge the students to use what they had learned with Popplet to create a study guide for our American History EO test which is scheduled for Friday. I think this is a great way to assimilate the information they have learned about the causes and effects of the start of the American Revolution!  AND IT WAS A HIT!!! Everyone was engaged and active. They were helping each other, and showing off! I cannot wait to display them tomorrow on apple tv!

Overall, a very successful day, and we all ended the day on a high...almost like we ate birthday cake all day long. The only difference? Well we get to do it again tomorrow! And no calories! 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Eve of Greatness

As I sit in my classroom today, on the eve of getting the iPads, I have to ponder everything I have taken in over the last two days. My fingers have been flying over the keys to input things into google forms, set up google drive, and practicing with notability and explain everything on my instructing iPad. I think I have a plan for what I would like to begin to start, but I am just on pins and needles with the waiting.

Some moments are filled with warm anticipation, and other moments a prickly anxiety for all that can go awry.  I know there is an amazing network of support waiting to assist in this new venture, and for that I am eternally grateful. It doesn't seem to ease the roller coaster of emotion on this day or so before the iPads arrive.

In my mind I have set up expectations for my dream 1:1 iPad classroom and I know it is going to take time to get there. But as with all human nature, I am impatient. I continue to plug away at things that I know are going to prepare me and my students, to put myself ahead of the game, but there is so much I don't know and it is difficult not to fret some about that.

I guess today I am an emotional mess. Excited, thrilled, anxious, nervous, unprepared, brimming with enthusiasm and passion, scared of unknown. YIKES! I guess the only thing to do is carry on and when they finally arrive, dive in! The eve of greatness is upon me, and I will deal and thrive! Here we go.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

First iPad Collaboration

Well, it is our first iPad collaboration. It has been an amazing success so far. We spent the first part of our morning in an inner circle/outer circle discussions that modeled after EdCamp. We (the newbies) were in the outer circle, and the folks who have had them for a while were on the inner circle. We moved around spending two minutes with each person asking many MANY questions.

I am so excited to start learning many of the apps we discussed. Explain Everything, Notability,
Stanford History Education Group for History lessons, Flubaroo from Google, Hangouts, Drive, and all things Google. Using Google Forms for our reading quizzes! Oh My Goodness!! Genius.

There is so much to learn and work on that the kids will never see, and i just can't wait to get my hands in it, and get started. I am looking forward to see what the future holds. Here we go!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

iPads are coming!

Okay,  word on the street is that our classroom set of iPads should arrive next week. This has really stepped up my blood pressure! The excitement, the nervousness, the anticipation, the impending sense of failure looming!

FAILURE! This is almost an expectation of mine. Our class has meetings twice a week to "talk iPads", (that way we don't get sidetracked with our studies!) and during these "talks" we have discussed my expectation of knowing less than the students. We have also talked about them being my proverbial guinea pigs! We discussed things we have tried in the past and we failed learning to ice skate as an adult! EPIC FAIL!

We talked about being relaxed enough to laugh at our mistakes, maybe cry a little too! But the students now know I am not afraid of it, and they should not be either. I think that is my greatest "solid" expectation.

There are other things I think about, worry about, have sleepless evenings (no naps!) going mostly paperless, organizing the google drive to be manageable, STORAGE, managing the plugs/electrical situation, app configuration, and only about a million other things!!!!

Well, I guess the plan is one day at a time, connecting with other teachers who have already used them for a while, exhausting my coach with questions, and of course leaning heavily on my coworker who has had them in his class for the first semester!

Ready or not, here they come!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Today my students and I are starting a 40 day Blog challenge. The beginning of the inspiration comes from a teacher in CO who gave her third grade class a 20 day challenge. I borrowed her idea, added to it, and really took off! I have included the link here

40 day blog challenge

We intend to take on the challenge of the 40 day blog, but we may interrupt the flow of the document that I created to blog about things that are happening in class with the iPads since that is one of  the main reasons we started blogging. We plan to get our class iPads this month, and we are so patiently and anxiously waiting.

However, today's blog is inspired by Kid President and it is:

The world would be more AWESOME if...

The world would be more awesome if we were all good listeners. If everyone took the time to stop thinking about their own agenda and really listened to the people who were engaging them in conversation the world would be a better place. It would make the world awesome. OR if it were made of chocolate, that did not make people fat...that would also be awesome!

Well keep checking in, and be sure to visit Boycetown on Kidblog. By the way, what do you think would make the world more awesome.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Well a new day dawns and the children are all excited to be back in school! HA! Actually everyone was a bit sleepy this am, so we began our day by talking about our new iPads that are coming this week. We discussed goals, plans of what they think we should start with, apps they like or don't like, and then we approached the idea of blogging. I was surprised by the number of students who didn't know what blogs were. We read one or two and then I told them about my blog challenge. We discussed getting into the computer lab and starting tomorrow! and that got the blood flowing!

Here is the link to my 40 day blog challenge:

Feel free to copy and change at your discretion to match your grade or classroom, and share back with me! This challenge is not set in stone, nor is it may turn into a 60 day challenge! I am certain it will change once the iPads arrive as we will be blogging about projects we are working on, etc...but it is a beginning!

40 day blog challenge

Also the first blog challenge was inspired by Kid President! My students love him as he is so cute and silly! We started our blog talk off with a short inspirational video by him....

Kid President gives a pep talk!
Get to it! and make our world AWESOME!

Catch ya later!

Monday, January 6, 2014

First Blog Ever!

Hello all,

This is my first blog for my iPad classroom. My name is Michelle Boyce and I have been a teacher for 20 years. I spent my first 6 years as a resource teacher in multi-categorical room for Conestoga Public School in Murray, Nebraska. I moved to teach for Bellevue Public Schools in 1999.

My first experience in BPS was at LeMay Elementary teaching 5th grade. I was so lucky to work with a highly motivated staff of young teachers, and I learned so much there. In 2007, I was given the opportunity to move to Fairview Elementary to teach 5th grade. The coworkers I was blessed enough to work with pushed me even farther to continue to learn and grow. Since then I have also been to Two Springs Elementary to teach 5th there, and then 4th grade back at Fairview, and now I have returned 5th at Fairview.

I am eager to begin this new adventure as a 1:1 iPad teacher and see how my teaching evolves and my students explode in creativity and motivation in their learning. I am anxious to find other teachers and see how they have incorporated the iPads into their curriculum or their curriculum into the iPads.

I look forward to any input, ideas, blogs, posts, apps, or guidance that you can offer to me. Check back and see how we expand!