Ed Tech In the SpEd Classroom

Using Technology to Help Bridge the Learning Gap

Intro to the Flipped Classroom–AT LAST!!


If I could have a soundtrack to this blog entry, it would be this.

At long last, I’ve finally been able to get around to intro-ing the flipped classroom component.  If you’re not familiar with the flipped classroom model, click here for some info.

I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting to actually start this.  With all the (unpaid) researching I’ve done all summer, I’ve been dying to actually try it in my own classroom.  Since the start of the school year, I had to train my students on the technology (iPads) and the digital tools we’d be using in class (Edmodo, Wonderopolis, Dropbox, Edublogs, etc.) before we could even start this.  Now that the training is all finished (and the MEAP is finished as well), we can start.  My plan is to use components of the flipped classroom to help my students with IEPs master their goals and objectives.  By providing them with video lessons on their goals (that they will watch at home), each student can learn and progress on their own and at the same time.  This way, I can help Student 1 with syllabication while helping Student 2 with making inferences and Student 3 with multiplication at the same time with these videos.  Also, I can work with them more one-on-one during class time to follow up on their progress.

I’ve already taken into consideration those students that don’t have internet access.  I will allow these students (I only have 2 right now) to watch these videos at the beginning of class as their warm-up.  The videos will be no longer than 10 minutes long, so they’ll have plenty of time to apply what they’ve learned and ask questions during class.  Again, this is my very first time trying this out and it’s complicated enough being a resource room where they all have different goals in different areas.  But I’m willing to try it anyways.  The video lessons will come from ones pre-made that I find online as well as videos that I will create myself.

As far as today, I introduced my students to what the videos would look like and how their work packets, called Student Success Sheets (or SSS), will be used.  Before I get into all of that, I want to give props to Crystal Kirch and Nicole Cremeens for the videos, SSS packet creations, as well as a lot more tools of theirs I will be using during the year.  I pretty much used what they had already created and modified it to fit my own classroom.

The first thing I did was pass out an SSS packet to each student.  I put it up on the ELMO and explained what it was and how it was going to be used.  I then showed them their first video to their first unit, Nouns.  The videos were already created by Mrs. Cremeens and go hand-in-hand with the packets.  To see the Nouns playlist, click here.  To see the SSS packet, click here.  As the video played, I paused and explained how they should be filling in their packets along the way.  The great thing about the videos, besides being short, is that they present the material in small, bite-sized pieces.  It’s not too complex, but it still requires the student to think and apply what they’ve learned in their packets.  I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty cool to watch them do this.

Filling in their packets as they watch.

Working so diligently. 🙂

Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to finish the video and our packets.  However, I still plan on finishing it up tomorrow for the nouns portion of the unit.  That way, they will have a clear understanding as to how the videos and SSS packets work.  I’ll keep you posted on that.

Last thing I wanted to mention: I’m trying something new tomorrow, and it may be a flop but oh well.  I posted on my student Facebook that I will have an online study session to prep for their Math test that they’re having on Friday.  Anyone who is interested can join.  A perk I threw in for my resource students only: free admission to the Halloween dance on Friday that I’m running for those that get a B or above.  Hopefully, it’s enough to get them studying.  🙂


Ah, the MEAP…



Occupational hazard, if you think of it the way I do.

As much as I LOVE administering the MEAP, I can honestly not wait until they’re over.  Ugh.  But, gotta keep a happy face on for the kids, right?  🙂

As for my Extended Core class, yesterday I introduced them to the world of Dropbox.  I was the only one excited about it.  I was  like, “Don’t you get it? You can save your work to the Cloud and never have to worry about hauling your thumb drive everywhere!”

And they were like,

But it’s all good.  They’ll learn to appreciate it more when we start research papers.  The actual sign-up process didn’t take very long at all, which was awesome.

I hope to have them blogging on our class blog next week.  Also, I will start them on their very first “flipped” lesson of nouns.  Hoping the technology is merciful that day.  🙂



Kent ISD AssisTechKnow Conference 2012, Grand Rapids


First and foremost, let me just say I am not a good public speaker.

Having said that, imagine how shot my nerves were this morning before giving my half of the presentation.  Just a quick recap:  I was asked by my supervisor to give a presentation about the technology I’m using in my resource room, namely, the iPad program I’m leading.  I would present about middle school resource for half of the hour and another SpEd teacher, who teaches elementary resource, would do the other half.  I quickly put together a Glog to show my ideas.  Here is the Glogster I created for my presentation this morning.  Add on top of all this the fact that I have a head-splitting migraine, and you can see how today was already not going the way I would’ve liked.

So, I get to the building early and enter the room I’m going to give my speech so I can set up my laptop.  The guy who presented first (we were 3rd)…I felt so bad for him! Technology glitches galore! Needless to say, it didn’t help my emotional being at all.  Fast forward to our presentation.  I think it went very well.  My co-presenter and I were able to show our audience the different ways we use technology in our rooms, at different grade levels.  Each of us had our own, unique things to talk about.  What’s more, I was pleased to hear how well we did from different audience members!

The rest of the conference offered several different topics held in different rooms about all kinds of different technology resources.  I learned about a lot of new apps I can’t wait to tinker with and try in my room! My head is still pounding, but I still plan on charging my iPad and brainstorming different ways I can incorporate some of these apps in my room.  As soon as I try them, I will keep you posted! 🙂



iPads vs. Laptops


In the left corner, we have the iPad: sleek, engaging, and fun to use.  In the right corner, we have the school laptops: bulky, slower, but more familiar.  Which will come out on top for our next lesson on grammar? Let’s look at the reel, shall we?

I was excited to use this new website I found from my teacher friends on Edmodo called NoRedInk.com.  If you’ve never heard of it before, go check it out! Basically, students can sign up for a free account and join your class after you create one.  When they create their accounts, the site asks them to choose three things that interest them, ranging from actors, movies, music, even inputting their own friends’ and pet’s names.  You, as the teacher, can choose from different areas of focus to assign your students.  For example, there is the apostrophes option, which focuses on the correct use of apostrophes in sentences.  The site will give students a sentence in either correct, or incorrect format.  If it’s correct, they hit “Submit” and go onto the next question.  If there’s a correction, they click on the part of the sentence that needs correcting and fix it.  A table located above their sentence shows the progress they’ve made and which questions they’ve answered correctly after a certain number of attempts.

What’s great about this site is that students can actually click (or tap, if using the iPad) the sentences and modify them.  Also, the website incorporates their interests that they chose when they signed up and uses those things in their sentences.  For example, my student entered “Rocky” as his pet name.  On question 4, his sentence mentioned Rocky as the subject.  He gave a little squeal and *gasp* even a small smile when he worked on this sentence.  If the students are working with punctuation (commas, colons, semi-colons, etc), you can click or tap the correct punctuation and drag it over to where it belongs in the sentence.

So, back to our lesson.  I posted the link on our classroom’s Edmodo page and had the students use their iPads to practice their grammar.  Not the best idea I’ve ever had.  While the iPad is more engaging for the students, clicking and dragging the various punctuation marks to the correct location in the sentence proved to be a hassle.  Most of the time, students had to attempt several times clicking and dragging.  It was enough to mildly frustrate some of the students.  And we all know, we cannot afford to “lose” our students in a lesson and have them check out due to an incompatibility with the technology.  The laptops, even though they are sooo last year, would’ve been a better idea to use for this website.  It really would’ve saved a lot of time, and my guess is the students would’ve enjoyed it more.

The moral of the story (for me, at least) is don’t completely abandon what you’ve used in the past if it works just because you have something new to use now (in this case, the iPads).  I’ve been so gung-ho on using the iPads for as much as possible, I think I was in denial with the fact that maybe the iPads weren’t the right choice every single time.  Laptops won this fight.

Lesson learned.

Room 204-A


So, it’s not really like me to post things on a weekend, but I decided to give you a peek into my classroom.  Now that iOS6 has given us the panoramic option in our cameras, I couldn’t resist testing it out and found out I absolutely LOVE it! It’s fantastic! With that said, I snapped a couple shots of my room so you can see what my students see every day.  It changes with the seasons (for example, it will be all kinds of decked out for Halloween).  Talk soon! 🙂

Couldn’t wait ’till tomorrow…


Ok, this may be silly of me, but I’m excited to share with you what I’ll be doing with my Extended Core tomorrow.  The majority of the hour will be dedicated to reviewing and catching up on Science (the kids have a Science quiz tomorrow).  However, I decided to try something different with their warm up.  What I did tonight was create a Google Form with 10 questions, each one in either short answer or multiple choice format.  I will have 10 different stations across the room where they will be directed to.  All four subject areas will be covered.  To see the form I created, click here.  There will be pictures posted in some areas, sentences in another.  I tried to narrow it down to 2-3 questions for each core content area: Math, Science, English, and Social Studies.  I wanted to get the students a bit more exposed to Google Forms.  I had them fill one out at the beginning of the year when they filled out their Student Information Sheets on the first day of school.

On top of getting the students out of their seats for their warm up, I get to see their answers instantaneously on my spreadsheet.  I only wish there could be a way to use pictures on the actual form as well, but this is good for now.  I hope all goes according to plan.  I will make sure to take lots of pics tomorrow and post them. I hope the technology is nice to me!

Blogging about blogging…


Yes, I’m a nerd.  I like to blog. Obvi.

Imagine my enthusiasm when I introduced blogging today to my students.  I decided over the summer to create our own class website slash blog slash wiki.  The wiki stuff will come later.  I wanted to get them blogging as soon as humanly possible.  But as usual, back to the beginning of my hour.

For their warm up, I had them read a Scholastic Action magazine.  Now, if you’ve never used Scholastic magazines in your classroom, especially with students who lack the motivation to read, I highly recommend them! They are absolutely wonderful.  Today they were asked to read an article about a girl who used a robot to go to school because of a severe food allergy.  At the end of the reading, there was a short, multiple choice quiz based on the article.  We went over the answers as a class and the kids did very well.




For those students that finished early, they were able to read the other articles, which had a ton of interesting stuff.

Ok, so onto our daily objective:  blogging.  I started off by asking them if they’ve heard of blogs or blogging before.  One student said they thought they heard of it.  Before I explained how we’d be blogging in our classroom, I showed them this awesome Common Craft video, called Blogs in Plain English, that explains what blogging is…in plain English.  (*side note: Common Craft is outstanding at explaining things via drawings.  Their videos are short, but give you all the information you need about several different topics. Check them out!)  Once the video was over, we recapped the video as a class and clarified once more what blogging was.  I explained we were going to blog as a class, sharing ideas with each other and commenting on each other’s posts.  I then showed them different examples online of classroom blogs and what kinds of things they wrote about.  Hopefully*, if all goes well, we can collaborate with another school’s class blog and comment on each other’s posts.  Ooooh, I’m getting all clappy and squealy just thinking about it! 😀  (*keep your fingers crossed!)

So before we dived full into the blogging world, I wanted them to become a bit more familiar with the concept.  In the hundreds of hours I spent researching over my summer break, I stumbled across this idea from another educator’s blog, Notes From McTeach.  As soon I read about their Paper Blog project, I knew right away I wanted to do it.  Basically, the idea is to get the kids to create a “snapshot” of a blog post on paper first.  They can write about any subject they want and decorate their “page” however they want.  I showed the class my own paper blog as a model so they could visualize what the objective was.

*my fake web address I put on my paper was www.missrivasisdabomb.com   :)

I had written my paper blog post on music and how much it has an impact on me.  My post was two paragraphs, just like theirs will be.  As far as the page layout I created, I told them they could use mine as inspiration if they couldn’t think of anything.  I even added my social networking share buttons! 🙂  Students, at first, had trouble coming up with something to write about, even though I told them they could write about anything.  When I mentioned some topics (video games, sports, pets, etc.), it got their creative juices flowing and they commenced writing and drawing their rough drafts.



I chose to blog with my students this year because I want them to write more than they did last year, but in a different way that they could find enjoyable.  Blogs can be posted from home, at school, on the laptops, or on their iPads.  It’s a great way to mesh perfecting their writing skills (writing, editing, analyzing others’ work, commenting) with the technological world we live in today.  Who knows–maybe it might inspire them to continue blogging after they graduate eighth grade. No, no…can’t think about them leaving me just yet.  I had these students all last year and will have them all this year.  The thought of them leaving gets me a little misty-eyed.  Because of debris, that is.  I have something in my eye, is all…

A breath of fresh air…


Today wasn’t too “exciting,” as far as the technology piece goes in my classroom.  Students got caught up with their Science homework. There is one small, but significant victory I had today.  We had our Open House this evening, and I expected very few (if any) of my students to show up.  The plan was to have parents come into the classroom to see what/how their child was doing in class.  Just in case, and as a last minute idea, I decided to set out my iPad and have a slideshow of all the pictures I’ve taken of the students working so far play for anyone to see who came in.  I was pleased to see one of my students come in with his mother and little brothers and sisters.  (*side note: I absolutely love seeing my students with their little siblings. They have this adorable parent-like characteristic to them that makes them so sweet!)

Anyhoo, I introduced myself to his mother, who I knew from last year, and she noticed the slideshow right away.  My student had explained to her our use of iPads in the classroom and now she had a picture to go with it.  She and her kids giggled at the pics of my student whenever they came up, but you could tell they were happy to see it.  In all his pictures, he was hard at work.  It’s one thing to verbalize this to parents, but it’s another to get a chance to show them.  I don’t know why I didn’t do this before.  I’m so glad I have the chance to use the iPads in my classroom so I can do just that–show the parents that their kids are learning.  In the end, it was only him and another student whose parents came to visit.  However, even if his family was there for a small moment, I was happy to witness that awkward grin he gave when his mom saw what a hard worker he was.

Awkward, with a little bit of pride.

Shoulda knocked on wood…


As the saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Don’t gasp at my pessimism. I feel like being in a pouty mood. What the crap? Everything went so well last Thursday! Let’s start with the warmup for today:  keyboarding.  Right now the students are using the keyboarding component of LearningGamesForKids.com.  I am trying to get the students to practice keyboarding during warmups or if they pull the ole, “Miss, I’m finished with everything! What do I do now?” Granted, they won’t be doing a whole lot of keyboarding, but it would be nice for them to know how to properly type.  Someday, when they’re assigned huge papers to write, they’ll thank me. Or it could just be wishful thinking.  Today our objective was to finish doing the Edmodo Scavenger Hunt, for the students to familiarize themselves with the components of Edmodo that we’d be using throughout the year.  I thought I had learned my lesson last time they tried retrieving it. Just a quick recap for those of you just tuning in:  my MentorMob playlist that was embedded into Edmodo had told my students the videos were no longer available when they really were.  Some last minute thinking had them go onto the YouTube playlist version of it, which took me a while to figure out and set up for the class.  After figuring out shortly after that the YouTube playlist couldn’t be viewed via Edmodo (and I couldn’t locate it anywhere in a regular YouTube search), I purchased and installed a YouTube player app 6 times for all of our iPads.  Purchased. With my own money. Six times. At $1.99 each.

You’re probably thinking, “So what? Twelve bucks for an app for your class?”  Well, here’s the kicker: when they went to access my YouTube playlist for the first time today, the videos didn’t load.  I have no freaking idea why.  It worked last week on my iPad when I was testing it; that’s why I bought the %$#@ app.  I don’t know if it’s a glitch in the app or if it was because my students were all trying to get on that one app at the same time.  I have no clue.  All I knew was that minutes were ticking away and I could feel the Freak Out slowly creeping in my body.  So, once again, I had to go to Plan K and have them do a YouTube search of someone else’s version of basically the same scavenger hunt.

Twelve dollars down the drain.

That’s a night’s worth of Hot and Now pizzas and Crazy Bread from Little Caesar’s for my family.  I don’t take that lightly.

Anyhoo, long story short, I narrowed it down to the four videos to watch before the end of class, since they were the most important to learn.  Tomorrow they get their Edmodo badges awarded to them and will get to come up with their player names for our class, known as Operation X.  Avatars will be created once they finish their tech packets.  I’m hoping by reminding them of the gamification aspects of the class, they’ll keep their motivation to push on.  Also, since it’s Tuesday, it’ll be a Core Class Review day.  More science review and finishing of homework.  Those who’ve finished can watch the rest of the Bill Nye video on volcanoes and finish the accompanying worksheet.  I’m also planning on reviewing English vocabulary with them by using their iPads as whiteboards. Seems like it should be foolproof.  Seems.

On that note, I’m signing out.  If at first you don’t succeed, right? *heavy sigh*




This pretty much sums up my day.  How many times can things go wrong? Let me count the ways…

Again, let me start at the beginning and what was SUPPOSED to happen.  They were going to come in, grab their laptops, and I was going to guide them in bookmarking the websites we will be using the most this year.  It started off fine, until two of the laptops froze.  The students had to shut down and get two other laptops from the cart.  And of course, the login process took forever.  Then we got to the Tech Packets, which was embedded as a MentorMob playlist on Edmodo.  For some *expletive* reason, it gave the students an error telling them that the videos were not available.  One student could view them.  The rest couldn’t.  As I went from student to student, trying to figure out what was going on, I finally told them to watch it on their laptops.  Of course, Internet Explorer didn’t update properly on all of them, regardless of me trying to update them the day before.  As a last resort, I directed them to YouTube on their iPads and searched for “Edmodo Scavenger Hunt”.  That worked, but the videos were in jumbled order, so once they finished a video, they had to go back and search for the next numbered video, and hit play.

Then the kids were confused because we were looking at the revamped version of Edmodo and the tutorial videos were recorded with the old version. To top it all off, one of my student’s laptops just randomly logged him out completely out of the blue, so he had to log back in, wait for the whole startup time, then log back into Edmodo, then re-play the video.

What. A. Mess.

Conclusions: 1.The school laptops suck. 2. The MentorMob playlist won’t work; I’ll have to create YouTube playlists. 3. We may have to skip some of the Scavenger Hunt steps since it’s taking forever to move just a skosh. 4. Next year, I will need to create my own, condensed version of the Scavenger Hunt.  In that order.  I’m worried that the constant tech issues/problems are frustrating the students and if they lose motivation, their buy-in is gone.

But wait! My day gets better!*

One of my students decided he didn’t want to do anything today and grew agitated from the fact that I had the audacity to ask him to work.  So I was the lucky recipient of his verbal insults and assurances that he wasn’t going to do jack for me ever. It was a consistent flow of annoyances done purposely to get under my skin until he became so disruptive in class that I had to call security to have him escorted out.  Wonderful. Thank God I downloaded the Pocket Pond app for stress relief purposes.  I love my job, I love my job, I love my job…..



*by better I mean exponentially worse

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