Monday, October 3, 2011

Loving 5th Grade!

Four weeks into the school year, I am up to my eyeballs in technology in the classroom!  I am not complaining though... I love it!  Our class blog is bursting with student work and we are working on reaching a larger audience.  I am posting the link here so you can check it out if you want!

For me the best thing about this new school year so far, is the projects we are doing.  We are part of the Global Read Aloud Project for Tuck Everlasting and the students are so engaged and beg to read each day!  We have connected with two classrooms via Skype so far; one in Colorado, and one in Iowa.  We are blogging, creating vokis, and writing picture books.  In addition, we are in the computer lab for 90 minutes a week using the 12 brand new laptops that arrived a week ago!  We are still waiting for approval for some kind of a tablet...  Whether we end up with iPads, Nooks, or something else - it remains a mystery for now!  In the meantime, we use every extra computer available to collaborate with our new buddies online.

The infusion of technology has inspired and motivated me and my students to create, create, create!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Welcome to 5th Grade!

I have been busy working for two weeks now, getting ready for the first day with students on Tuesday!  This is the front bulletin board outside my classroom.  I just decorated it today!

I am so excited for this school year.  Today I set up our class with first grade buddies.  We are going to be reading picture books to their class.  Our read alouds will be a great way for us to learn about the structure of narratives, practice our oral presentation skills, and engage young readers in literature through kinesthetic movement!  At the end of our unit, my students will write their own high quality picture book to be shared in our school library.  Very exciting!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Social Media Policy

I just got done writing my Social Media Policy parent letter.  This is the first time I have attempted to write it myself, so I admit I borrowed a lot of the lingo already out there on the web and personalized it for my needs.  That is what teaching is right?

Social Media Guidelines
Parent Permission Form for Student Participation
Mrs. Diaz’s Scholars 2011-2012

Dear Parents:

This year, to help our students develop their reading and writing skills as well as cultivate our understanding of different people and cultures; our students are participating in using a variety of social media applications (blogs, wikis, podcasts) via the Internet. When students are able to safely share their ideas with an audience broader than just our classroom, often they can discover their voice and become even more motivated to learn, communicate and share their ideas effectively with others.

Often we hear negative stories in the mainstream media about the ways young people use the Internet and social media websites. One of the reasons we are participating in some collaborative social media projects this year is to help our students learn through experiences, ways to safely use the Internet to share information and collaborate. I am writing to let you know what we are planning to do, and to obtain your permission for your child to participate.

Planned Activities: We are planning to use several different social media tools to let our students safely share their work and ideas with other students as well as with our school community. (You!)  A description of each one and how we will use it is outlined below:

  1. Class Blog ( – This class blog will be used to post content such as pictures or videos of individual or group student work or classroom projects, and will usually include short descriptions of learning activities.  Our intended audience is parents, and other classrooms around the world we are connecting and sharing with this year.  This blog will be monitored by me and all content will be carefully screened to be sure to protect student privacy. All comments on the blog are monitored by me as well and inappropriate content will be removed immediately.
  2. Edmodo ( – This online educational social networking website is administrated and monitored by me.  All students will have a user name and password and will be given access to join our discussion group.  The purpose of this tool is to connect directly and privately with other classes during the Global Read Aloud project.  We will also use it as a class forum to connect with each other outside of normal school hours. Only members who are given a code can join our group, and students cannot join other groups without being invited by a teacher.
  3. Twitter (@mrsdiazclass) – Our class is using twitter to share what we are doing in our classroom with parents and other selected classrooms around the world.  Most likely this will be used to alert our audience that there is something we would like to share on our class blog. Our twitter account is monitored by me and only approved classrooms or parents will be allowed to follow us on twitter.
  4. Student Blogs ( – Kidblog is a blogging website for kids. We will be using it to journal topics assigned by me.  Usual topics include response to literature for the novel we are working on.  Each student will have their own blog page, a user name and password.  All use is strictly monitored by me and the intended audience is our classmates and me, although parents may also access the blog.
  5. YouTube ( – We will be making and uploading videos to YouTube to embed on our class blog. Our account is private, and our videos will not be searchable.  Access will be restricted to those who have the direct link.
  6. Skype ( – Our class will use Skype from time to time to video conference with other classes, professionals, experts, or authors during the year to enhance our learning experiences.

Safety Concerns
Our projects may be shared privately with other classes over the Internet and with parents, and also may be shared publicly on the Internet. To protect student privacy and ensure safety throughout all projects we will:
  1. Only use student first names, if names are used at all, in identifying student work and ideas.
  2. Never identify pictures of individual students or groups of students.
  3. Not intentionally post any identifying personal student or school information on any social media tools.
  4. Will read and follow the Acceptable Use Policy, whether at home or at school when using any social media tools.
  5. Remove any content at a parent’s request until such time as it is re-evaluated for any safety concerns that may arise.

If you have questions about our projects please contact me. I am happy to discuss the topic and your concerns until you are satisfied that we are using technology safely and purposefully for educational activities that enhance our curriculum. In addition, I will be in contact with you with specific to share links to specific projects as we create them!  If at any time you are not comfortable about an online activity, you should share your concerns immediately so that I can re-evaluate or modify it as soon as possible.

Please complete, sign and return the bottom of this form to me as soon as possible. Thanks!


______  YES, my child has my permission to participate in teacher-moderated, Internet-based social media projects and the planned collaborative activities outlined here.

______  YES, I give permission for my child’s work and ideas to be posted on our class blog and other social media tools.

______  YES, I give permission for my child’s pictures, or videos to be posted on our class blog and other social media tools.

______  NO, my child does not have permission to participate in these activities.

Date: ______

Student Name: ____________________________         Student Signature: ___________________

Parent Name: _____________________________     Parent Signature: ____________________

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Update on the Summer Reading Blog

Before we left for summer break, my class formed a summer book club.  Here is the original post on the Summer Book Blog.

Unfortunately, most of the students did not participate.  In fact, only 4 students took the time to post (out of 13) and of those, only 2 posted more than once.  So what went wrong?  The kids loved to blog about our books during the school year.  So why didn't that carry over into the summer months?

Was it lack of parent support/access/interest?
Was it that we didn't have concrete dates to read certain chapters by?
Was it because they didn't want to read during the summer?
Is it because the cool things we do in school, are still related to school not cool to do in the summer?
Is it because I failed to help them become life long learners?

The only way I am going to know for sure is to ask them.  So this year, when we go back, I will be interviewing them to find out what, if anything, would have encouraged them to blog.

I had originally envisioned using a blog for my Reading Log this year.  Now I am not so sure...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Evaluation of the Nook Color in Education

Last week I attended an information meeting about the Nook Color and saw a presentation on its potential in the classroom.  I have to say I was very impressed.  My evaluation notes are below:

The Nook Color is primarily marketed as an eReader: books are downloaded to your machine.  For no cost, a representative at Barnes and Noble will manage the school account.  If you want to purchase a new book, you won't be able to do it yourself (and neither will your students - which is a great safety feature).  Instead the representative will handle the purchase and then push the ebook to the group of machines you want it installed on.  You can "group" machines in any number bundles you want (unlike iPad that requires the bundle to be in groups of 10).  So you can have 8 machines with one set of books, and another set of 6 with another set, if you wanted.  This is an advantage for literature circles, where not everyone needs the same book at the same time.

One helpful feature of the eReader is the highlight and sharing capability.  I downloaded Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, and started to read the prologue.  I changed the backgrounds, text shape and size to make the reading experience more to my liking.  Then, I read a sentence that included the phrase "dog days".  This is something I wanted to save, so I used the highlight tool to highlight the sentence.  Then I added a sticky note with a question: "What does dog days mean?"  If I wanted to, I could choose to share this post on Twitter. Students could use this in the classroom to share with other classes during our Global Read Aloud project taking place in September.  Then, I decided to use the link to look up the phrase "dog days".  Three choices are presented for looking up words, a dictionary, Wikipedia, and Google.  The downside is that it would not look up the two words together, it would only look up "dog" or "days" one word at a time, however it was easy to add the other word during the search.  I came up with a great explanation of "dog days of summer" from Google.  This feature would really benefit all kids as they learn new vocabulary.

The other feature that doesn't get enough mention is the Internet browser.  Nook Color runs on an Android operating system which means that you can view flash files and movies!  I had no problem visiting websites like that utilize flash.  I was able to view any website I can view on my own computer from this mobile device.  The only criticism I had was that it was hard to locate and use the BACK button.  It was hard to maneuver backwards if opened a link or webpage I didn't want by mistake.  I eventually figured it out, though.  I also checked to see if I would be able to view our online math textbook.  It took about 30 seconds to download, (which I think is a lot) but once it did I could view the workbook and textbook pages as pdf files.

The Nook Color is also a storage device.  I learned that you can connect the Nook Color to your computer and save word documents, pdf files, and powerpoint presentations to it just as you would for a portable USB drive.  This would be great if I wanted the students to complete a worksheet or graphic organizer for Tuck Everlasting. I would not have to make copies to distribute anymore which is great for those who are interested in going "paperless". This would take time though, because each device would need to be connected to the main computer one at a time.  There is a lot of potential here if I could figure out how to have the students write directly on the template, and then save their work or email it to me.  There is likely a way to do it but I would have to research it further to see if an app like that exists.  At the very least, you can view and edit shared Google docs.

This brings me to the app store.  There are about 240 "education" apps that can be downloaded.  Again the purchasing and pushing of these apps to the machine would be done by Barnes and Noble (you can do it yourself, but for free, why not have them do it right?).  There was a good drawing app that turns your Nook Color into a portable slate, flashcards, games, and an app for publishing student books.  I did not do much research into the apps.  But to me, this was a bonus feature, not something I really woudl purchase a Nook for.  If you want apps, you go iPad...

Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised with the Nook Color.  I think it is an excellent alternative for schools who are looking to expand their digital library, go paperless, and have portable internet access.  The low cost of $250 makes it a realistic alternative to other devices.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Nook Color an Alternative to iPad in Schools?

I have been doing quite a bit of research on Nook Color and how it can be used in the classroom.  I see several advantages.  Here are the main things I like about it so far:

1. Low cost - Nooks cost about $250.  That is about half as much as iPad.  That means twice as many students can have daily access to one.
2. Nooks have a web browser with WiFi access.  And they have Flash.  This means that students can access all Web 2.0 tools including twitter, blogs, wiki's, survey monkey, google docs, email, web-based applications, and online textbooks.
3. And of course, you have the ability to download eBooks.  Barnes and Noble is a huge supplier of eBooks and they are sharable (or so I've read).  Nice easy way to do literature groups.
4. There is a limited app store available.  Not sure how applicable this would be to education.  I've seen a drawing app that looked very good.

So what do you give up?

1. Video and photo usage.  This could be a big thing... Unless you have access to separate digital cameras.
2. What else???

If you have a Nook Color or iPad and can add to this list on either the pro or con side, I'd love to hear about it.  Also if you know of any schools using the Nooks, let me know!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

One-One Portable Device Possibility

The idea was posed to me today that Nooks could be a useful tool in upper elementary classrooms.  After doing some basic research tonight here is what I have come up with.

Books have ebooks (through Barnes and Noble) and an internet browser with WiFi capability.  And they are way cheaper than iPads - by a lot!  There are some 100 apps available from their SHOP, some of those are categorized as learning,  but I am not convinced those will be really helpful to us.

On the downside, there is not camera or video recording capability and I am a big fan of multimedia, podcasting, and screencasting.  I like the idea of getting iPads instead, but I know that not having Flash affects teachers who like to use glogster and prezi.

I've got a Xoom and an iPhone at home, so I'm familiar with the usage of both Apple and Android apps. I know that there are things I have on my iPhone that I want for my Xoom that just aren't available for my version of android and that is very frustrating.  I expect that same problem would occur with the Nook as well.

I am looking for your feedback, experiences, and thoughts about using Nooks, iPads, or other portable 1-1 devices, either for personal or educational use.  If you know of any classrooms that are currently using iPads, please let me know.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Global Read Aloud Project

I am privileged to be a part of the Global Read Aloud Project this year!  This project is created by Pernille Ripp, an amazing teacher I've been following on twitter for a couple of months.  I hope she doesn't mind me saying this, but she is an inspiration to people who have never met her!  This is her baby, and I am thrilled to be along for the ride.

For those who may be interested in joining, the GRA project really desires a GLOBAL audience.  Right now there are over 200 participants signed up but there is always room for more.  The idea is simple...  A read aloud book can connect children and schools together and give them a chance to reach beyond the four walls of the classroom.  Via Edmodo, Wikispaces, Blogs, and Skype, classrooms all over the world will be discussing two books.  One is Tuck Everlasting , the other is Flat Stanley.

In preparation for this event, I've already read the book, searched the Internet for resources, and joined in the planning process (well, I am just watching for the most part, but loving every minute of the dialogue!).  I am so excited for the school year to start and I'm only three weeks into summer break.  This feels like the biggest thing I've ever done, and I can't wait to take a group of kids on this adventure! It's hard not to be excited when there are 10 emails to read from the planning group when I get up each morning.  I am inspired by this project and hope that I will be able to connect with several classrooms during the course of this project.

When I first started teaching, this was my Educational Philosophy. I constructed it in my credential program.  I have always believed it but didn't quite know how to achieve it.  Thanks to the Internet, this project, and the amazing PLN I am building on twitter, I finally feel like I have all the tools to impact students like never before.  When you read this, you may understand why I am so taken with educational technology...

"It is my belief that the purpose of education is to develop and refine the skills necessary for children to grow up to be successful, productive, and affective adult members of a global society.  In addition to subject matter, students should learn logic and reasoning, critical thinking and interpersonal communication skills.  Students should be exposed to diverse multi-cultural and gender perspectives.  They should also have the opportunity to develop responsibility, self-regulation of behavior, and an awareness of the meaning of social justice, democracy, citizenship and integrity."

Thanks, Global Read Aloud Project!  

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Back from SDE Conference

I just got back from the SDE Conference in Las Vegas and my head is swimming with all the new ideas!  I can't wait to get back to work this fall, incorporating all the things I have learned.  In order to share all the information with a wider audience (i.e. the rest of my school and the readers of this blog), I started a wiki.  I hope this collaborative project of notes and ideas compiled by myself and my colleagues will be a wonderful resource for those who could not attend.  It is a work in progress so it is incomplete right now, however I hope to add my notes from each of the classes I went to.

Feel free to check it out!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Getting Ready for SDE Conference 2011

Tomorrow I head off to Las Vegas for the SDE Power Up & Singapore Math Conference with several of my colleagues.  I am especially looking forward to attending the Power Up pre-conference on Monday.  This will be a great opportunity to get new ideas about how others are integrating technology into their classrooms and make some connections with other teachers from around the country who are like-minded and inspired by technology and teaching.  I hope that my colleagues will also be inspired and get some ideas of how they would like to use technology in their classrooms next year.

The conference is at the Venetian this year.  Last year it was at the Riviera.  That is one of the oldest hotels I have ever stayed at.  I've never seen a casino so empty at 2 AM as it was at the Riviera.  Although I expect I may play a little bit of blackjack - I don't mind contributing to what I call the "entertainment fee" in Vegas, I think we are also going to try to see the Blue Man Group.  I haven't seen them before, so that would be a great show!  Then of course there is the shopping, too. And the Singapore Math strategies are exciting too!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Web Tools for Language Arts Integration

This is a list composed during the USC Differentiated Curriculum training I went to presented on Integrating Technology into Language Arts by Julia Nyberg.  Some of these are favorites; others were new to me.  I believe all are free. - mind mapping software - create a poster with video, audio, and art. - video sharing and collaboration - drag a setting and characters into a comic strip that students can then narrate - creates word clouds using text you provide -  video archive interviews with some famous authors - reviews of books by students - read aloud books to students - students can create online books - can create a simple online poll. Students can text their answer using mobile devices.

USC Differentiated Curriculum Training

I learned many new things as a result of attending the USC Differentiated Curriculum class.  First, I did not know there were actually GATE standards.  Well, there are!  Basically, they outline what opportunities gifted students need to have  (in several areas) to MEET and EXCEED the state standards.  The training I went to provided me with an understanding of how to differentiate by acceleration, depth, complexity, and novelty.  It was very inspiring!  Sandra Kaplan is amazing, too!  The overall positive message was that gifted learning is beneficial to all students - not just gifted. This article in UrbanEd magazine is a great overview of Sandra's work.  The two day seminar focused on strategies that can be used when designing curriculum.

Some key points from my lecture notes:

Critical Thinking Skills - these are higher levels of thinking skills.
Prove with Evidence
Judge with Criteria
Determine the Relevance
Note Ambiguity

Basic Thinking Skills - basic skills that make up the critical thinking skills above.
Ask Questions
Make Connections
Draw Conclusions
Make Inferences

Creative Thinking Skills - how to provide the novelty component to diff. instruction
Put to other uses

Depth and Complexity Prompts - used to diff. curriculum

Think Like a Disciplinarian - used to establish a motive for learning. Check out the blank graphic organizer  for defining a discipline.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Thoughts about Professional Development

Tomorrow, I'm heading off to a two day seminar at USC for the Summer Gifted Institute and Demonstration School.  A couple of days ago, I wasn't sure I would go after finding out that I may not actually be teaching fifth grade next year.  (Due to an increase in enrollment, there may be too many students for a GATE cluster.) But the fact of the matter is, professional development is always beneficial and I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to learn first hand from Sandra Kaplan on "Scholarly Attributes" and "Think like a Disciplinarian" stuff.  So I will be heading out tomorrow with all the working people who travel to Los Angeles every day!

I think that no matter what, teachers can always benefit from professional development and collaboration with others outside their own school site.  When I stop learning more, that will be the day I know it is time to give up teaching!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Reading Blog

We always tell our students we want them to read over the summer; we know it's good for them to keep their skills honed during the long vacation months.  In the past, I've made summer homework calendars for students to track the number of minutes read and promised them some grand reward if they brought it back to me in the fall.  Well, needless to say not many have ever brought it back in September... (Actually the number is two out of seven years of teaching...)

As a result of our technology "infusion" of the 3rd grade curriculum this year, we had a few chances to use blogs as a way to respond to literature.  It dawned on me that most of my students travel during the summer and a blog would be a great way for us all to stay connected.  (It's been a great year, and I guess I didn't want it to end just yet!)  So, instead of the usual reading calender, I decided to set up a Summer Reading Book Club using as a way for my students and I to share what we are reading over the summer.  The students suggested potential book titles, and a short synopsis of the books we wanted to read.  Then we voted.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that my students choose to read On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingles Wilder,  the sequel to Little House on the Prairie  that we just finished a few days ago at the conclusion of our Apple Valley Simulation. I didn't even suggest it!  So that is the book we are reading first, and I hope it will be a rewarding experience for all of us!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Moving on to 5th Grade

Considering it is three days till the end of the school year, it is time for me to share my news.  I have been asked to teach 5th grade English Language Arts and Math next year, in addition to Integrated Technology to 3rd-6th graders.  I am so excited!  I've already created a website for my class, to be known as ILM, which stands for Intensive Language and Math, and means "knowledge" in Arabic.  Pretty cool, huh?

The website is still a work in progress.  I'm not ready to share it yet, so that will be something to look forward to!

Mrs. Diaz

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What to teach ?

One of the things I've been thinking a lot about is: What am I going to teach these 3-6th graders next year?  I mean, I know what I've been able to do for my class this year and I expect to contnue to expand and add more tech integrated assignments for third grade, no sweat.  I am an expert on third grade content for sure, but not the other grade level standards. So where do I start?

Like a good teacher, I went to the standards.  ISTE has standards for students and teachers that outline how teachers should use technology with their students, but they are general.  I know CUSD has technology standards that outline what the students should be able to do at each grade.  After a quick search, I ran into a wonderful resource: CUSD Educational Technology that has specific standards for grades K-5 and lots of other links for resources for internet safety and digital citizenship.  The standards for each grade level are linked to the ISTE standards for students.

This will be a helpful resource for me as I sit down with grade level teams this summer to plan my curriculum!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Getting Prepared

I just got a great referral from my friend, Ingrid Beaty to check out for Depth and Complexity training.  I am looking forward to attending the workshop so I can brush up on my skills for my new class!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A New Adventure!

So I just found out I will be teaching a new grade level next year, and I will be the technology teacher for grades 3rd - 6th!  I am so excited that I can't stop thinking ahead to next year.  And this school year isn't even over yet!  I created this blog to chronicle the process of designing an amazing curriculum for the tech classes.

So far, I've created a website for my classes and have already started brainstorming ideas for integrated projects next year.  But I really can't share the specifics yet until everyone at my school is given their assignments for next year... So stay tuned for more details, coming soon!