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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wednesday Words With John Mason - Social Studies Teacher and Podcaster

Q1 As you reflect on your last year(s) in education, what is a stand out moment for you?

At the end of the school year I had the opportunity to sit down with my, now former principal, to go over my annual review for the school year. In the course of the conversation we spoke about what was required, going over my evaluations and areas in need of improvement, but the conversation continued into other areas as well. For example, that we need people who are willing to put themselves out there and not merely wait to be offered a position. There is still a strain of thought that people need to put in ‘their time’ in order to gain things whereas with the major shifts that are happening in education today it is simply not sensible to follow this mentality. If someone has great ideas they need to put them out there and to not be afraid to go for it regardless of the status quo. We hear this frequently, as teachers, but workplace politics and the reality of it ultimately softens many of us and our resolve to do so. I’d suggest that if one has something in mind that is truly awesome that even those who would prefer that you hold back will ultimately come to your side once they see how great you ideas or actions can be.

Q2 Who or what inspires you as an educator?

Students certainly inspire me on a regular basis but perhaps not in a typical way. I find often it isn’t a student’s curiosity or drive that motivate me to improve my craft but the opposite; a lack of wonderment and intrinsic desire for growth and learning pushes me to try to find ways bring that student into the fold. Clearly, we need to teach to who is in the room and often times this means that we are dealing with students who may not be particularly interested in school, for a variety of reasons, on a given day. While there are also a plethora of awesome people in my PLN who push me towards greater things some folks that have been involved in my nascent career have been instrumental in pushing me forward. I’d be remiss not to mention Steve Santilli, @SPSantilli, who not only hired me for my first teaching job but pushed me towards becoming a Connected Educator, and to not merely be satisfied with what is but moving towards what education should be. My wife, @MsKouzoukas, continues to inspire me, whether she knows it or not, and keeps me moving forward as I want to be awesome for not just my students and myself, but also her.

Q3 How do you integrate technology into your teaching?

Technology is an integral part of my pedagogy but in two main and different ways. While ideas of App Smashing and using technology on a regular basis to make cool things and to push one’s learning is great, I try to think of teaching the structure of technology in addition to how to use it to make awesome things. For example, as my middle school went BYOD in the past year I had students communicate concepts like collective learning in a 6 second Vine clip. Great use of technology, challenging, pushes their thinking, 6 seconds is a real short clip, and introduces the students to rudimentary video editing. I also make it a point to try to teach them the fundamental pieces of technology that they will likely continue to use over time. For instance, defining a web browser, at least the concept of it. Will web browsers be exactly the same in 10 years? Many people would assume not but while their abilities and appearance have shifted they are largely the same as they were ten years ago even with the advent of tablets and smartphones. The idea that the web browser is what one uses to visit places online, and that places online have addresses like houses, help to teach students the larger concepts they need to know to navigate the tech world. Teaching 6th grade, many students weren’t aware of how to visit a website without just searching Google. Contrary to popular belief, I find many students have a rudimentary understanding of technology at best and part of my job is to teach them how to use tools but also to understand technology in general.

Q4 What resources do you use to learn about new instructional technology? Where/how do you do your tech-sploration?

Twitter, of course, is a great resource for learning about educational technology. Due to the inherently limited nature of Twitter it is often best used, in my opinion, for things like this where ideas and tools can be shared in a more straightforward manner within the 140 character limit. Podcasts are a great resource, too, and there are tons of great Edtech podcasts, I particularly like the House of EdTech. Often times it is still a search on DuckDuckGo, that allows me to go find new tools to play around with. Once I find a new tool to say that I explore it is an understatement where I almost always immediately go through every single option that I can tweak and try to figure out the overall structure of a tool to determine whether or not it will fit my needs. Of course, this isn’t a perfect system, and I still make mistakes and end up investing time in a tool that I may not ultimately use, but as a whole I can usually make a decent judgement as to whether or not a tool will fit into my workflow. Between Twitter and searching online I generally have no shortage of new tools to try, however, and do also keep up with some iOS and related blogs, such as Apple World Today, to try to stay up to date on new apps and things to play with. I am also a productivity nerd and always love to try to find out more about how to upgrade my workflow, sometimes to my detriment, and to find ways to allow technology to make my teaching life easier overall. Places like TheSweetSetup spend ample time on this as well as other folks like Brett Terpstra provide tons of resources for this.

Q5 What's next for you in the coming year?

It is somewhat odd to put this into writing but I recently accepted a new teaching position for next year. I am leaving my first teaching job, spending the last three years in 6th grade Social Studies, and moving to a local high school where I will be teaching a collection of Juniors and Freshmen. Should be an interesting leap, to say the least, as not only will there be new content to teach but new challenges to overcome as I move into a new building to work with an entirely new staff. I will truly miss many of the awesome folks I have worked with in the past three years, such as @bethsteinen, @MissMcErlane, @SPSantilli, but am looking forward to the new challenges ahead. In addition to focusing on teaching entirely new content I look forward to finding out what I will be able to do with high school students as opposed to middle school. I don’t like to say that the middle school students are limited but there is inevitably a difference within maturity level as well as ability. The biggest challenge will be how to best do this while still working on my podcast and going to graduate school. It’ll certainly be a busy year but I, currently, welcome the shift.

John is a 4th year Social Studies teacher from Southern New Jersey who is currently attending grad school for administration. As a lifelong technology enthusiast, lover of coffee, and passionate educator, John has also presented locally on technology, Social Studies, and language arts integration in the classroom. John is also a teacher as well as a practitioner of Yoga and currently lives with his lovely wife in Northfield, NJ. Recently, John launched his first podcast, titled beardED which focuses on big ideas in education, technology integration, and how to connect what you learn online with what you do each day in your school and classroom. You can currently find his podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and at his website, jmason.me

Voxer: jmason

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wednesday Words With Melissa Morris Inoa - First Year Teacher Resource Specialist for Technology

Q1 As you reflect on your last year(s) in education, what is a stand out moment for you?
Something standing out to me right now is the idea of how quickly things can and do change. This is not a single moment, nor is it news, but it is an idea that is becoming increasingly more important to me:  how much change occurs, how receptive or resistant we are to change, what we do with the change; where the change originates, and what other changes it creates.

Changes with technology, especially, are happening quite quickly these days. These rapid and disruptive changes have a huge and immediate impact to the field of education, and our society in general. (Keep in mind that the first iPad was only released in April of 2010 and the first Chromebook in June of 2011...and now it’s difficult to imagine schools -- and museums and doctors’ offices and car dealerships -- without them!) Not everyone responds to these changes in the same way, so change and growth (or the lack thereof) are ideas that I’m sure I will be reflecting and focusing on for a while.  

Q2 Who or what inspires you as an educator? Education is not an easy field. Many people who get into the field of education don’t stay for long, because teaching is extremely hard work and there are new challenges all the time. What inspires me -- and what keeps me in this increasingly demanding field -- are my students. Helping my students to view themselves as learners, set and achieve goals, become impassioned to try new things, and share their ideas and talents with others is what keeps me in this field. Now that my role includes working directly with other educators, they are inspiring me as well. Their goals are my goals, and we are working to accomplish them together.

Q3 How do you integrate technology into your teaching?
Integrating new uses for technology became a part of my teaching practice when I was a novice teacher and was looking for ways to motivate some very, very disengaged students. The actual devices and sites that we used were really secondary to the goal of increasing engagement and empowering my students as learners. Being receptive to new ideas and new ways to engage my students has always been at the core of my practice.

I try to make sure that my students understand what we are learning and why, and that they are a part of the process. We all need to understand how something is relevant to us, both as individuals and as part of a community or society, in order to really learn. I guide my students in putting ideas in their own words, setting goals for themselves and monitoring their progress, reflecting on their learning process, and taking control of their own learning. Technology is a great way to personalize and differentiate learning. When students choose to use a device or a certain app or website, they are making decisions about their learning process.

Q4 What resources do you use to learn about new instructional technology? Where/how do you do your tech-sploration?
I read a lot. (I prefer actual books, but also read magazines, ebooks, and online journals.) As my career has evolved to not only teach students, but to also assist and provide resources for colleagues, I’ve found that it is helpful to follow ideas from all fields and disciplines. I pay attention to how events are organized when I attend them and the way that information is shared with me. I watch how traffic patterns on highways change over time and which products are displayed in stores. I notice how my bank updates their mobile app and how the convenience store implements new ways to order sandwiches. As I encounter new ideas and experiences, I tend to think about how those ideas can translate to the classroom. I think of my students, their interests, their struggles, and I see if there are connections that can be made.

For me, the greatest sources of tech-sploration are usually conversations. I love talking with people about the goals or tasks they are trying to accomplish. I love brainstorming with them -- whether students, other educators, or individuals outside of the field of education -- about what they’ve already tried, what worked and what didn’t, what else there is to try. There are new technologies developed every day. There are new ways to use old technology being explored all the time. I believe that we learn from our experiences as well as the experiences of others and that by sharing ideas and resources, new ideas emerge.

Q5 What's next for you in the coming year?
Many, many new things are coming this year! For starters, I’m going to be working at the high school level for the first time. Most of my teaching career has been at the middle school level, and so it will be exciting to work with an older population of students who are more independent, already identifying areas of concentration, and thinking about their futures beyond high school. It will be especially fun for me to work again with students that I taught back when they were in 7th grade! As an instructional coach, I will be working alongside other educators from all content areas. Our work will be focused on developing, collecting, and cataloging best practices and resources for facilitating future ready classrooms.

I will also be starting a new graduate program this fall, studying the concepts of creativity and innovation. My work will include exploring how the habits and practices of creative and innovative people, in many different fields and all parts of the world, can be translated to the field of education. I’m excited!

Melissa Morris Inoa
Melissa Morris Inoa is a Teacher Resource Specialist for Technology and Instruction in New Jersey. She works alongside teachers to integrate technology into instruction in meaningful and relevant ways. She is a proponent of the growth mindset and innovative practices.  

Melissa is also a former special education and language arts teacher, teaching since 2005. She is currently studying Creativity and Innovation at Drexel University and has a BA in English from Rutgers University and a MA in Inclusive Education from Georgian Court University. She holds a Supervisor certificate as well as certificates of instruction in Elementary Education, Teacher of Students with Disabilities, and Literacy/Language Arts.

You can connect with Melissa online through her blogs: https://melissamorris.wordpress.com/ and https://todayinschool.wordpress.com and on Twitter (@mmorriswrite).

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Tomorrow's Classrooms Today: My ISTE "Expo"

If you've ever competed in a running event you know that once registration is complete and you've (hopefully) done your training, the next step in the process involves packet pickup and, in bigger races, a race expo.

As a runner I have experienced quite a variety of packet pickups. Smaller races usually include the collection of your shirt and your bib (the number you pin to your shirt during the race) the day of the event; if you're fortunate, there may be other "swag" by way of bags, coupons, samples, and other items that have been donated by race sponsors. Bigger races tend to open packet pickup a day or two prior to race day, but the process is similar to smaller races. Still larger events (for me the Trenton Half Marathon and the Disney Princess Half Marathon) hold a race expo. Typically held in a large hall or convention center, race expos afford participants the opportunity to see what's new in running-from gear, to fuel, to other accessories.

For me, expos always add layers to the excitement that starts to build days before the main event; they allow for you to meet and mingle with fellow runner, get an idea of what the course will be like, and offer other valuable information. In so many ways, the expo can be even more exciting than parts of the race; it is certainly an experience that should not be skipped.

So if you skipped the title of this post, you are probably thinking that my first Race Report for ISTE 2015 is about the ISTE expo-not quite. My "ISTE Expo" the event that raised the level of excitement and heightened my ISTE experience was Tomorrow's Classrooms Today (TCT).

The inaugural TCT was a one day event held on Friday, June 26, two days prior to the first keynote of ISTE. Created and planned by Evolving Educators: Brad Currie (@bradmcurrie), Billy Krakower (@wkrakower), and Scott Rocco (@ScottRRocco), TCT boasted a schedule that included keynotes with Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman1and Rich Kiker (@rkiker), a brain break with GoNoodle, and four amazing and informative sessions jam packed with presenters. Perhaps, best of all, all six members of the #EdJusticeLeague were in attendance (but more on them later)!

Rather than make this a bed to bed story (that's first grade writing talk for a story that starts with waking up and ends with going to sleep), I'll focus on the highlights of TCT. And there were many!

Session 1 The first session I attended was with the amazing Chris Aviles (@TechedUpTeacher). Chris' session topic, Gamification, was a new one for me. In essence, gamification is the use of video game elements (level ups/status, HP, AP, badges, special powers, special items) to teach and assess learning. What it means in a practical sense is that students are engaged and motivated to learn in the same ways that they are engaged and motivated to advance in a video game, in other words-the classroom is the video game and the kids are the main characters.

So much of what Chris shared in our hour long session (which ended much too quickly) has turned my thinking on its head. As a teacher trained in the guiding principles and practices of Responsive Classroom, I am a firm believer in intrinsic motivation. I questioned how gamification, with its extrinsic factors (special items, badges, etc.), fit with this approach to teaching. I have reviewed Chris' presentation, my hand-written notes, and the collaborative notes taken during the session by the Ed Justice League more than once, and I am still working through this conundrum. After all, he had some truly eyeopening points: we live in a gamified society. Not sure what I mean? Do you have a rewards card you use (think Panera, Dick's Sporting Goods, Starbucks)? Even if it's not on your person, don't you share information with the cashier to makes sure you earn your rewards? Case in point - I will make more than one transaction at Starbucks so that I will earn extra stars, getting me closer to the requisite 12 stars for a free food item or beverage. I even love that my Starbucks card is gold! As Chris stated, "It's all about status, access, power, and stuff."

I still have a lot to explore before I dive into gamifcation and this will certainly NOT be my last post about the topic. From a practical standpoint I am processing his session on two levels: first, how can I use the concepts of gamification with the teachers I support? Second, how can I relay Chris' message and ideas about gamification to my teachers in a way that will be beneficial to their students? There is no easy answer to either of these questions. What I know for sure is that I will be having a follow up conversation with Chris in the near future and I will work with him, my PLN, and my colleagues to design a game that will be right for all of us.

Session 2 The second session I attended was a timely one, as it has me focusing on my blog (this blog) in a new way. Meghan Everette (@bamameghan) shared her expertise as a Scholastic blogger. Her presentation included advice on topic generation - favorite lessons, local problems, national problems, something you love, something you are an expert on, and conferences/PD (this one sounds familiar), to name a few. Other advice included the length of the post (400-700 words), the length of the title (8 words with colons and semi colons), using short paragraphs, and remembering your audience.

Meghan's advice was inspiring. My greatest takeaway from her session was the use of an editorial calendar - which acts as an outline and plan for possible posts and topics. I love this idea and will certainly be using it. In fact, I will be using all of her advice!

Sessions 3 and 4 After an extended lunch, members of the Ed Justice League decided to forgo a formal session and spend time in the Makerspace. There we played with pre-assembled catapults. Once we were redirected by Meredith Martin (@geekyteach) to create our own, the competition was to create the catapult that would shoot the farthest marshmallow. Once we had a winner we moved on to trying to get a marshmallow in someone's mouth and being the first to land a marshmallow on a light fixture...s'mores anyone?

Our intent was to spend only one session in the Makerspace, but we were stood up by the final presenter and we headed back to the Makerspace. This time we decided to work individually and I devoted my attention to a light up, pop-up card. With so many projects to explore, we were not at a loss for inspiration.

During our second session in the Makerspace we also had time to play with Raspberry Pi, a fun little computer that had been programed to be a fast paced game. Our time spent with the lovely folks from Raspberry Pi and other shenanigans (ie tossing marshmallows into Cybraryman's mouth) made me happy that we had a double session in the Makerspace. It's fun to act like a kid!

Overall, my ISTE "Expo" experience, aka TCT, did exaclty what race expos are meant to do: I was introduced to some amazing PLN members: Dan Whalen (@whalen), Jerry Blumengarten, Billy Krakower, Brad Currie, Denis Sheeran (@MathDenisNJ); I reconnected with other PLN friends: Meredith Martin, Chris Aviles, and John Mason (@jhnmason); and had another meeting of the minds with the Ed Justice League (I promise to reveal their secret identities soon enough!). I also had the opportunity to inquire about ISTE and get the information I needed to have a wonderful first ISTE.

I know that ISTE 2016 will be in Denver next year, but I look forward to returning to TCT next June. I wonder if the Evolving Educators will bring TCT to Denver so that others can experience my ISTE Expo.

Related Posts:
I Conqured The Beast That Is ISTE!: A Running Reflection Series

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

I Conqured the Beast That is ISTE! A Running Reflection Series

I could spend days...weeks...months...YEARS talking about my ISTE 2015 experience to anyone who is willing to give me the time of day. (If you are reading this post, I hope you'll indulge me a little longer, as I am just cracking the surface!) 

They (not sure who "they" are) say that your first ISTE is a conference like no other. Well, they weren't kidding! Nearly two full weeks after the closing key note and I'm still processing all that was my first ISTE - it was THAT overwhelming, exciting and transformational! 

Not unlike finishing a race that requires focus, endurance, and passion for what you are doing. I'm proud to say that I've conquered the BEAST that is ISTE!

Rather than make this an exceptionally LONG post, I have decided to write my reflections slowly. That is to say, I will be "writing long" about each of the events that transpired over the course of the five days I spent in Philly at ISTE and the sixth that I spent at TCT. My plan is to write it like a race report, treating each event or milestone like a separate mile in what felt like a half marathon; after all, my first ISTE has me on a high not unlike the running high I was on after finishing my first 13.1 (I still remember that day with distinct clarity!).

As a result, over the next 13+ days I will spend time reflecting on and dissecting the following (and more):

  • Tomorrow's Classrooms Today (TCT)
  • Volunteering
  • Problem Based/Inquiry Based Learning (PBL)
  • The Ignite Sessions
  • The Opening and Closing Keynotes
  • and more...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Wednesday Words With Natalie Krayenvenger - First Year Fourth Grade Teacher and ISTE Atendee

Q1 As you reflect on your last year(s) in education, what is a stand out moment for you?
Moving to 4th grade.  Not actually being in 4th grade per se, though there are many amazing and wonderful things we get to do as the “Top Dogs” of the Lower School, but the fact that this was the year I met, and got to work with, Diana and Jenn, my teammates and (without sounding cheesy) soul sisters. This was the year I felt like I could do and try anything because when I did, I would always have not one, but two supportive, loyal, and inspiring people standing by my side, ready to jump with me into the unknown.  It was the year I found the courage and the confidence to swim against the current and do what I thought was best for my students.  In addition to, and as a result of, this newfound (or should I say renewed) courage, I implemented techniques, strategies, and methods in my classroom that were novel to me, and was, for the first time, comfortable admitting I didn’t have all the answers on day one. I got on Twitter because of Jenn, which led me to meeting Wonder Woman herself, Stacey Lindes, and is the reason I now find myself typing these words!  Because of 4th grade, I had the best year teaching while experiencing my hardest year teaching. I learned that one of the most beautiful and gratifying things on Earth is being part of a team in the truest sense of the word.  That relationships, like the ones I found in our fourth grade hallway, do exist in the real world and not just in Remember the Titans.  I am a better teacher because of moving to 4th grade, and that means my students are better because I moved to 4th grade.

Q2 Who or what inspires you as an educator?
Oh boy!  Well, we know Jenn and Diana do! But even more inspirational than these two angels from the Garden of Education, are my students.  They are the reason I wake up in the morning with a smile on my face, go to sleep at night wondering what I could, should, can, and will do differently, and randomly crack up in the middle of cooking dinner. They are my everlasting fountain of youth and keep me young at heart.  Don’t get me wrong, there are moments when I don’t know how I still have all my hair, or why I still want to have children one day, but those moments are fleeting and could never outweigh the pure joy and pride that accompanies a student’s squeal of glee upon realizing he “gets fractions!”  I get to be part of that magical moment. Me. Every single boy or girl I have taught has taught me something in return.  He or she has made, or will make, me a better teacher.  I do it all for them and will instantly walk away from this privilege called teaching the moment that is no longer the case.
I also need to give my mom a plug here.  She was my first teacher.  Yes, Dad too, but my mom took me into her own classroom and showed me that patience, love, and understanding breeds a love of learning. She was my model for what a true teacher could and should be.  She truly knew her students and always took the time to see who they really were and could be.  Even more importantly, she told them what she saw.  My mom is without a doubt my inspiration and my aspiration.

Q3 How do you integrate technology into your teaching?
  • Netbooks - writing, conducting research, making presentations
  • iPads - practicing skills, conducting research, listening to and reading books, going on scavenger hunts, QR code-related activities, listening to themselves read aloud, documenting activities
  • Skype - Mystery Skypes, talking to authors of their favorite books, Global Read Aloud (we talked to another class)
  • Kahoot! - assessing understanding, friendly competition, reviewing material
  • Twitter - talking to other students around the world, discussing topics, learning how to summarize and determine importance, identifying theme, participated in the Oreo Challenge
  • Movie Maker - created book trailers
  • Various websites for playing games, learning new information about topics we are exploring, going on interactive tours, etc.

Q4 What resource(s) do you use to learn about new instructional technology? Where/how do you do your tech-sploration?
TWITTER!!!!! I have learned so much from being on Twitter this year.  This is where I find and read articles and blog posts about technology and participate in chats, like #podcastPD. I also listen to podcasts that talk about the latest and greatest in technology, like Chris Nesi’s (@mrnesi)  #HouseofEdTech.  Another podcast I listen to is John Mason’s (@jhnmason) #BeardEd.  This podcast reflects on the use of technology in the classroom and looks at both the pros and the cons of living as a connected educator. ISTE was life changing and opened many more “tech-doors” for me to knock on and perhaps walk through.  I guess the great (and at times overwhelming) thing about technology is that it is always changing and there is always something new to learn!

Q5 What's next for you in the coming year?
Well...my fantabulous team was awarded a grant to revamp our curriculum, so we are excited to be rehauling our literacy and social studies units of study.  This will include how we use technology in the classroom.  ISTE came at a perfect time!

We are also going to be starting Genius Hour! Woot-woot!  We are so excited to be embarking on this next adventure and cannot wait to see what the future holds!  Again, thank you ISTE!

Blogging!  All of our 4th grade students will be blogging next year and in every subject the homeroom teachers teach (literacy, math, social studies, character counts).  I am excited for my students to share their thoughts and writing with one another and other students around the world!

With all the exciting things still happening in the world of education and all the amazing educators I am continually connecting with on Twitter, there is much to be excited about and much to learn!  Needless to say, I am looking forward to another amazing, inspirational, and risk-filled year in 4th!  

Natalie Krayenvenger

Natalie lives and teaches in Baltimore, MD and her passion in life is all things education! She is currently a 4th grade teacher and has been a "sherpa of learning" since, well, as far back as she can remember, but according to her diploma, a "real" teacher since 2011. Reading, writing, social studies, math, and social/emotional development is what makes her jump out of bed in the morning and what she is still thinking about at night as her head hits the pillow like a 50 lb weight.  When she is not in the classroom, she can be found reading, cooking, coaching, running, knitting, tweeting, or having fun with her bearded and handy husband, Jeff, and their wiggly and uber friendly bulldog, Copper.

Natalie would love to connect with you on Twitter (@nkrayenvenger) or through her blog What’s YOUR Rush?!?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wednesday Words With Alisha Tricarico - First Year Teacher

Q1 As you reflect on your last year(s) in education, what is a stand out moment for you?

This past year was filled with an astronomical amount of growing and learning. There have been many moments where I wished I could have stopped time so I could live in that moment forever. Most of those moments involved an excitement like no other from my students. Sometimes the excitement stemmed from a specific lesson we were about to embark on, but more times than not, the excitement came from them experiencing that "aha" moment, and mastering a concept. This past year I worked as the Special Education teacher in an inclusion setting. One of my students struggled with her multiplication times table, specifically her 7 times table. In the beginning of the year we worked with various strategies to help her master it, so she would not be slowed down as the mathematical concepts got more complex. One day, mid December, she walked over to me, a glow in her eyes and a grin from ear to ear. She recited her 7 times table perfectly and jumped with joy that she finally mastered it. She exclaimed that she continued to work hard and with my help she was able to understand it. Moments like this, where a student is excited about their work, and where a student is able to achieve their goal without giving up, are stand out moments for teachers.
Q2 Who or what inspires you as an educator?

Growing up, I was blessed to learn in an education system where my teachers pushed me to my fullest potential. They knew about me, not just as a student, but also as a person. They would want me to share my success with them, and they would be genuinely proud. Now that I am an educator, my students’ success inspires me, and I strive to be like the teachers I grew up having. To me, success is not just academics; to me success is when a student becomes more self-directed, when a student does a random act of kindness, or when a student collaborates productively. Yes, I want my lesson plans to be engaging and for students to fully understand all that the common core states they need to know, but ultimately, who the students are as people plays the bigger role in my eyes. My students inspire me to be a better person, to be a superstar role model, and to go to workshops where I can learn the latest educational technology. My students inspire me to attend professional development days, to plan my lessons on my weekends, and to get out of bed in the morning. I want to be the best educator I can be because of my students.
Q3 How do you integrate technology into your teaching?

This past year, each student in my class had their own Google account, which I felt was amazing. I was easily able to integrate technology in simple ways such as using Google Docs for readers and writers notebooks. I conferred over Google Docs by adding comments to student work. Additionally, I had students go through the writing process online for each unit by using Google Docs. Students were capable of participating in peer conferencing by sharing their work and allowing their peers to make comments on their work. I was able to monitor who was sharing their work, I was able to see where each child was in their writing process (inside AND outside of school!) and I was able to write my own comments and suggestions. I will absolutely be using Google in my classroom again this upcoming year. Other ways I have integrated technology into the classroom is by recording students working together in groups then having them reflect by watching it, by using Glogster (thanks, Stacey!), by having students engage in research, by allowing students to create projects online, and so much more!
Q4 What resources do you use to learn about new instructional technology? Where/how do you do your tech-sploration?

Being an educator is a collaborative job, regardless that you are in your own four walled classroom throughout the day. Teachers are constantly working with their co-workers to improve their own educational practices. My best resources to learn about new instructional technology are the teachers I am blessed to work with everyday. We share with each other what we have been using in our classrooms; what works and what does not work. Aside from collaborating with co-workers, I do engage in my own independent research in order to learn about new instructional technology to use within my classroom. I am a Pinterest addict, so sometimes I use that as my base. Then from there I find websites that give me ideas on different websites I can use, apps I can integrate, and strategies to use in order to bring these resources into my classroom. I also am signed up for various educational magazines such as Science and Children, and Social Studies and the Young Learner. Magazines such as these provide the reader with many different sites to explore. Other websites I use are edutopia.org, teachers.net, educationworld.com, www.smithsonianeducation.org, and more.  
Q5 What's next for you in the coming year?
A goal for myself in the coming year is to become as paperless as possible. I plan on using technology as much as I can this upcoming year whether it be for reading and writing journals, station work, for review, for students to create projects, for my class to collaborate with schools around the world, or to motivate my students and show them that there is a bigger audience than just their peers. I plan on using Google Classroom in order to create a home base for my students. I plan on having students take ownership of their work by having choice and integrating technology into their work. Fourth graders in my school are limited with the technology in their classroom, so I will try reserve the laptops that are shared within my school as much as I can, get the iPads as much as I can, and book the computer lab as much as I can. If I am unable to use those resources as much as I please, I will use the resources I do have, two computers in the back of my classroom, and integrate them into my work accordingly. For example, I can project my screen and model for the class. I can use Skype for a whole class, I can have students rotate with the technology, etc.

Alisha Tricarico

Alisha Tricarico is a Fourth Grade General Education Teacher in Central New Jersey. This upcoming year, 2015-2016, will be her second year as a teacher.
Alisha Tricarico graduated from Rider University, in Lawrenceville New Jersey, and received her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and Special Education.
Alisha Tricarico’s hometown is on Long Island, New York; she has wanted to be an educator her whole life. Growing up she worked with various age groups during the summer, which strengthened her love for working with children. Additionally, Alisha lived in San Francisco for a summer to work with international students. There she helped them learn English and introduced them to American culture.
Alisha is constantly working towards improving her educational practices. If you do not find her in her classroom or at a professional development seminar, you will find her lost in a book. Alisha is always reflecting on her educational practices in order to grow and learn.
Start a running dialogue with Alisha on twitter @alishatricarico