Off on a Tangent training using Ethics Depth and Complexity Mat
K-12, Math, Teaching Tools

Off on a Tangent

I had a wonderful time yesterday working with NEISD GT on some math enrichment activities in a workshop I titled, “Off on a Tangent.” We mashed up a Slow Reveal Graph with Depth and Complexity mats and tried out the Connect, Extend Challenge Visible Thinking Routine with Splat. (The latter could have gone better, I think, with higher quality facilitation on my part. Definitely improving on that next time!) Even though they had just completed challenging working days, the teachers were receptive and enthusiastic as they explored the many resources I tried to curate just for them to either use with their students in GT or to recommend to classroom teachers for students craving new challenges.

I’m grateful for still having many opportunities to be involved in education despite “retiring” a couple of years ago. Thanks to all of you for allowing me to continue to be a part of this world whether it is by reading my blog posts (which admittedly often go off on a tangent), connecting with me on social media, or inviting me to present professional development. It’s an honor to regularly interact with and learn from so many rock-star educators!

Education, Science, Teaching Tools, Videos

Good Thinking!

The Smithsonian Science Education Center worked with Fablevision Studios and science experts to produce the web series, Good Thinking!  The Science of Teaching Science.  Each of the short (about 6-10 minutes) animated videos is designed to address a common student idea or misconception about science.  For example, one video disproves the unfortunately common “neuromyth” of people being either right-brained or left-brained –  “Why Right-Brained is Wrong… Brained.”   Each video offers detailed references regarding the research it is based on, as well as a professional development guide. Although the target audience of these videos is science teachers, some of them may also be good to show students.  Before you embark on your next science unit, take a moment to explore Good Thinking! The Science of Teaching Science to find out how to make your lessons even better.

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from: Good Thinking!  The Science of Teaching Science

Careers, Education

Never Have I Ever

Never have I ever…

Thought of using this game in a professional setting with colleagues (including our school’s principal).

I’m not going to elaborate on the usual context of, “Never Have I Ever.”  Suffice it to say that when my friend, Angelique Lackey (@lackeyangie), suggested we play it during our next Professional Learning Community discussion, I had a difficult time fitting my head around including this activity into what I have always defined as a “meeting.”

Angelique’s re-mix of the game did involve red Solo cups – but they contained gummy bears.  Her directions were simple: we would each share a personal professional development goal that we haven’t achieved yet, and anyone who had already accomplished it would eat a gummy bear.

I’m not sure if it was the presence of gummy bears or the absence of other refreshments that made this Never Have I Ever game experience more productive than my past ones.

By playing the game, a few of us vocalized goals that we had never shared with our colleagues.  For me, this made my own goals more resolute.  It also helped me to learn more about the other staff members.  In addition, I ended up adding some of their ideas to my ever-growing list of goals.

Another interesting by-product of this activity was discovering people who were eager to help us to achieve our goals.  For example, I mentioned that I had never taught a college class.  My principal instantly invited me to substitute for him one evening teaching undergrads.  And, just like that, a goal that has percolated in my head for more than a few years, is on the road to being accomplished.

To recreate the “Never Have I Ever” Professional Goal-Setting Experience™, I would recommend that you do it in a small group of no more than 8 people who have already developed relationships that support taking risks.  Prepare the group in advance so they can think about what they want to share.

And don’t forget the gummy bears.*

*According to Mrs. Lackey, the gummy bears should be organic.  If there is accidental (or intentional) ingestion of artificially colored gummy bears during this activity, we cannot be held responsible for any inappropriate behavior that occurs as a direct or indirect result of playing the Never Have I Ever Professional Goal-Setting Experience™.

**Regardless of gummy bear ingestion, we cannot be held responsible for any inappropriate behavior that occurs as a direct or indirect result of playing the Never Have I Ever Professional Goal-Setting Experience™.

***We haven’t really trademarked the Never Have I Ever Professional Goal-Setting Experience™.  I just figured out how to access special characters in my blog and thought it would be fun to add the ™.

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I searched for “gummy bear meeting” and this is what I got.  Thanks, Pixabay.

Education, Teaching Tools

Tech Field Day 2015

Do you live anywhere near the San Antonio area?

Are you, like me, so busy you can’t fit one more thing into your schedule?

Well, drop everything else and head on over to Tech Field Day 2015 this Saturday, November 7th.

Seriously.  Stop being so rigid and so, “I need to plan things way in advance.”



A. I’m presenting (you gotta click on the link to see what)

2. I’m in the middle of losing my voice so you can see me trying to figure out how that’s going to mix with my presenting-in-front-of-peers-is-more-intimidating-than-students anxiety.

c. You might actually learn something if you attend any other session but mine.

IV. Door Prizes

If that isn’t enough to convince you, here’s the cherry on the chocolate volcano:

IT’S FREE (and worth credit, if that means anything to you)

So, mosey on down to the Tech Field Day 2015 this Saturday and find out how great PD can be when it’s hosted by Dr. Roland Rios!

Find me and say, “Cherry on the chocolate volcano.”  You won’t get anything. Just the joy of seeing my confused expression when random people come up and talk to me about dessert at a technology conference 🙂

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Books, Education, Parenting, Reading

Mindset Parent/Teacher Book Study Reflection

The last couple of weeks have provided a few great opportunities for me to learn, and I would like to reflect on them in this week’s blog posts.

One of my grand ideas last year was to try a Parent/Teacher book study.  Having read Mindset, by Carol Dweck, I felt that it was the perfect book since it has advice for parents, teachers, and coaches. I applied for a grant from our PTA to purchase the books before the end of last school year with the plan to distribute them before the summer for everyone to read.  We would then meet together in person in September.

The first thing that didn’t go as I predicted was that far more teachers signed up than parents.  The teacher interest was probably due in no small part to the chance of earning professional development credit.  However, I gave the parents little incentive, and that was completely my fault.

During the summer, I sent out e-mails in an attempt to keep interest going.  These e-mails included links to SMORE flyers with book, music, and video suggestions.  There was also a link to a Padlet for feedback on the book.  Again, there was very little response.

As the meeting date closed in last week, I began to panic.  Few people had RSVP’ed and only 1/3 of them were parents.  I mentioned door prizes and childcare, which drew a couple more responses.  (However, it turned out that no one brought their child, after all.)

The meeting was from 6-7 PM. When the participants RSVP’ed, they signed up for 1 of 4 breakout sessions, and to bring snacks, napkins, or plates.  Out of the 40+ books I gave out, about 21 people came. We met in the library first, where I showed a couple of videos.  Then we pooled all of the snacks and supplies before going to breakout sessions.  Each session was in a different classroom with an iPad, and the participants shared out responses and suggestions to a Padlet for their session.  Here are some of their answers:

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One of my favorite quotes, from teacher Amy Huebner, was, “Prioritize your child’s learning over your time.”  She explained this to mean that we often do things for our children b/c it’s faster and easier when they could learn so much more by doing it themselves. Very true!

After coming back to the library to share the Padlets, the group played a Kahoot game on Mindset to compete for door prizes.  It was very competitive, and seemed to be a great way to end the evening! Of course, I messed up the whole experience by putting the wrong answer down for the very last question, so we had a bit of a discussion about learning from our (my) mistakes…

The next day, I sent out a form to everyone to gather feedback in case we ever try something like this again.  Only teachers responded 🙁  Kudos to them for taking the time b/c that was definitely not a required part of their professional development hours!

Here are some of the summaries:





I am very conscious of taking people’s time, so I was gratified to see the last responses.  It was also interesting to see in the comments that a few people thought it would be worth it to add some time to the actual meeting so we could have more breakout sessions and follow-up time.

One suggestion that also seemed like a great idea was to ask parents for a book suggestion next time.  Love that!

To sum things up:

  • I’m glad we did this.
  • I wish more people, particularly parents, would have participated. (We need to offer more incentives and ask for input before starting the next project.)
  • I think it would be a good idea to try this again, using the feedback from the first time to improve it.

If you would like more Mindset resources, take a look at this Pinterest Board for articles, video links, and much more!

Books, Education, K-12, Teaching Tools

Region 20 Library Resource Roundup

The last couple of weeks have provided a few great opportunities for me to learn, and I would like to reflect on them in this week’s blog posts.

My partner-in-crime (actually, I’m generally the victim of her crimes), Angelique Lackey, who is our school’s librarian, submitted our names to present at Region 20’s Library Resource Roundup on a 3d printer curriculum we are using.  We were accepted – which meant I got to attend some awesome sessions while nervously waiting for our presentation time near the end of the day.

One of my big interests is makerspaces, and there were some great sessions on these at the conference.  I learned how David Gallin-Parisi provides a space in his high school library for students to remix, imagine, and create using Little Bits and the 3D printer (among other things).

I also met Joe Tedesco who works for Northside ISD, a district that is doing some revolutionary things with makerspaces in the library. Joe is very interested in collaborating, and has started a Google Site called, “SA Makerspaces for Education.” (SA is for “San Antonio.”)   One idea that Northside is trying is to make “kits” for librarians to check out from their Central Office so costly materials like Little Bits can be rotated around the school for maximum usage. (For more info on makerspaces, check out this Pinterest Board or search my blog.)

At lunch, I had the great honor of sitting with Angelique, Dee Dee Davenport (our district’s Library Services Coordinator) and local author, Jeff Anderson.  Jeff has written a book called Zach Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth.   It is set in San Antonio, and the main character is a 6th grader.  It’s hilarious, and a great suggestion for Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans who are ready for a book with less pictures.


Another highlight at lunch was a presentation by Moonbot Studios. Moonbot Studios is the incredible company behind The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.  This book, and the  imaginative short animation of the story, are two of my favorite resources.  A representative from the company came to speak at the conference, and then we were supposed to Skype with the author/illustrators of the book (and many others), William Joyce and Joe Bluhm.

However, a happy accident occurred.  We could see, but we couldn’t hear.  So, not to be deterred, William Joyce took us on a silent but delightful tour of Moonbot Studios – showing us work they had done as well as works in progress.  William Joyce skipped around and hammed for the camera like a young boy, and proudly showed us the Oscar for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.


I was so inspired by this wonderful day spent with librarians, authors, and makers!  This is the kind of professional development I would gladly participate in on a regular basis 🙂