Power of QR Codes

The power of a QR code has become crystal clear in the past few weeks. I’ve been working closely with a teacher who works with significantly learning disabled students. Each student has highly specialized individual education plans. The demands on this teacher to ensure that her students have different activities which support their IEPs  every single day is overwhelming at times.

She has looked at technology as a possible solution to some of her questions, and is an avid OneNote user. In our conversations about her students and their new access to iPads, we were brainstorming programs and how her students were going to use the devices. I suggested that she try using Microsoft Forms with her students.

The next day she had a form made, but we ran into a new wall. How could her students independently access the form? The forms live online, but it’s too hard for her students to type lengthy URLs. There had to be an easy way. Enter the QR code solution! Using a QR code generator she was able to make a simple title page with a QR code to put in her student’s notebook. Then she taught her students and their Educational Assistants how to scan the QR code with a QR code reader. In seconds, the form activity was activated and the student was working.

Her students all love using devices, and since she has implemented the program, they are starting to push against adult assistance! More and more she is seeing a “I can do this myself!” mindset.

What I love is this wonderful blending of adaptive technology – iPads + Microsoft Forms + QR codes = independence AND gives this teacher more time and flexibility for other lessons. It’s a pretty big win!

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Surface to the Rescue

Every teacher knows how frustrating it is to teach at the front of the room, tethered to the computer without ability to move around freely.  Sometimes you need to walk around the room and help students, without having the lesson come to a complete stop. Not any more, at least not for me! My FREE new Surface Pro4 is here to rescue me!


Yes, I did say FREE. In December I submitted my application to become part of the 2016 MIE Surface program. The purpose of the program is to learn and share how the Surface and digital inking can evolve the teaching and classroom experience at Cougar Ridge Elementary. In early March I received the news that my application was approved.

MIE Surface Expert email signature - large

In late April my Surface Education Training Kit arrived. I put the box at the front of the library and waited to see if any of the students noticed.

One class came and left. Not.a.word. The next group of 5th graders came in. Within 15 minutes one of the girls asked me what was inside the box. A couple other students asked too. They got to be the ones to open the box. They were even more excited than I was!


The box was filled with the typical promotional goodies like posters and a wrist bracelet USB filled with information I will be able to use in the classroom.



Want to know the VERY  best part?  I am able to  connect my Surface to my projector. What’s more – I did it myself. Once our district tech person gave me the directions, I was determined to figure it out. It took me an hour, and some frustrating moments, but as you can see, IT WORKS!



Having the ability to move around the room, between tables and anywhere I want with a device is priceless. I don’t do it for every class, but love the ability to use it as I need it.

Am I an expert? No way. I’m working through the tutorials, so I’m definitely not an “expert” by any stretch. However, I am learning from the Microsoft materials, colleagues, social media groups, Surface group connection calls, and from good old trial and error. I like it. A LOT! Especially the new digital pen. I’ll have more stories coming in the months to follow, but right now I am one happy Surface educator! Thank you Microsoft!


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Become a Microsoft Expert Educator

If you’ve read my blog very much, you already know that I’ve been part of the Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator program since 2012. I firmly believe that I would not be the teacher I am today with the skills I have developed without this program. I connect with educator friends both in the US and around the world. No you won’t get paid with dollars, but you will get paid with amazing experiences that will change your life both professionally and personally.



The Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator program is an exclusive program created to “recognize global educator visionaries who are using technology to pave the way for their peers for better learning and student outcomes.”

22 crazy teachers

What do MIEs do? We work closely with Microsoft to lead innovation in education. We give feedback on new products and tools. We advocate for effective use of technology in the classroom. We collaborate to develop new lessons and project ideas that bring promote optimal student learning. We develop life-long friendships. And often we have fun!

The self-nomination applications for 2016-2017 are now open! I urge you to view this Sway and find out more about the program and then send in that application. Find all the details and the application you need by clicking here. If you have questions, please contact me. I would be happy to answer any of your questions.


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Learning without Borders

This has been a very special couple of weeks for our books to Africa program.Our international reading project was featured in the first issue of Microsoft’s Innovative Educator magazine last week. This magazine is filled with stories, tips and helpful information from teachers. Our article is on page 35 and showcases the impact this project has had on  the teachers and students receiving these books.


Technology really works wonders with tearing down the classroom walls and bringing the world inside our classrooms. Last week we Skyped with some of the students at Pula Madibogo Primary School. We shared facts, we had an impromptu recorder mini-concert and students shared poetry they had written.
Seeing the faces of the students 10,000 miles away made the connection personal and real for the students on both sides of the world. Suddenly they understood how relevant our project is and how we both benefit from it.

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Next week we are Skyping with Thejane Malakane in Maseru, Lesotho using his mobile phone. He doesn’t have internet at his school, but he doesn’t let that inconvenience stop him. A phone with a camera can bring us together as well. In a few days 300 more books will arrive at Thejane’s school where the students will use them for lessons and free reading. It would be quite the miracle if they arrived in time for us to  see his students open these boxes.

good box

I sent off 4 boxes on April 30th.   As you can see below, the box went from Issaquah, to Kent, to New York, then Dubai, Johannesburg and hopefully to Maseru for its final stop. The tracking information is so helpful because I can see where the boxes are, if they are together and when they arrived at the destination. Sometimes communication between the post office and the schools needs a boost, so I try to let teachers know when the books are there.

world maplines
tracking a package

Whether they get there in time for our call or not, we are having a great time packing up and sending off the boxes. We raised about $1500 and roughly speaking that means we will be able to send about 1500 books this year. Since our program started I estimate we have sent about 6,000 books to Africa. We are changing lives one book at a time!


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More Poetry to Celebrate

For National Poetry Month, my students have been composing poetry individually and in groups and sharing them in our Global Poetry Unites Project OneNote notebook.

gpup pix

This notebook is kept online and is a way for students to share their writing with a global audience. We have poems published from different US states, as well as Canada, Spain and South Africa.

Here are some of the 5th grade Origami Inspired poems:



My dream is to have at least one poem from students in each continent, but it may be a bit of an ambitious dream! These are busy times, and teachers often don’t feel that they have the extra time to take one more step and publish their student work. I understand their feelings. I get completely overwhelmed at times as well.

Yet, that one step to bring social media into their classrooms, is one that may make all the difference in the world to a student. In a recent blog post, 10 Cools Ways Teachers Bring Social Media into their Classrooms, Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) showcases how different teachers use social media to make sure their students have a voice. I urge you to read her post and then visit the classrooms where teachers are harnessing the power of social media. In particular, view the PS22 Chorus video and see how these children know in their hearts that the work they are doing matters for one of their teachers. (have a hanky nearby) Yes, I’m honored to be included with such an amazing group of educators.

vicki tweet

I know that when I show my students their poems in our notebook, there are always quite a few who smile and are excited to see their work. They like just as much to read the poems others have written. They keep asking if other teachers will join in. I keep telling them I hope so.

If you have student poems that you would like to publish in our notebook, click on this link. Publishing on OneNote is easy and there are step-by-step directions to guide you. We are looking forward to reading your student poems! Happy writing!


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Fun Animal Research


To correlate with my library curriculum, Common Core Standards,  and our Books to Africa project, my second graders have been researching facts about land mammals in South Africa. We used our library iPads, the database PebbleGo (I LOVE PebbleGo!!!) and the app ChatterPix (aka ChatterKid).

I am thrilled with the results because the kids were highly engaged through each stage of the process, including the end where they got to record their mini-report on ChatterPix. I documented the process in this Sway.

If you are interested in making a Sway, check out this link. I love Sways because they are incredibly easy to make and embed in blogs without hassles.

This is my first experience with using iPads in the classroom and as with any project it came with its own set of problems because of my learning curve. I really wish there was a way to transfer files with a USB. After working out how to get files from five different iPads to my iPad (thank you Dropbox), I found one BIG area for improvement next year. I have five second grade classes and the video management quickly became very complicated. Next year I will definitely limit each class to an indepth study of one animal. Lesson learned!

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Food for the Teaching Soul


It’s been nearly two weeks since the E2 conference ended in Budapest, Hungary. I was one of nine teachers from the US who joined about 275 educators from around the world at this conference. Many people have asked about this experience and yet, words like amazing, unbelievable or fantastic don’t capture the experience adequately.


With the climate of teacher bashing so prevalent in the US, going to a conference where teachers are celebrated and treated as rockstars, feels like you’ve stepped into a magical make believe world.


Instead of being questioned about every choice we make in the classroom because someone wants to tear it apart, E2 teachers are questioned about how Microsoft can improve their products to make them work even better for teachers and students.


The excitement of this extraordinary group of educators in one place is infectious. Cameras flash non-stop, OneNote cape selfies abound, and teachers can get pretty silly.


Yet, the conference is work…hard brain work. The lightning fast boot stomping of the Hungarian dance group, Varidance, set the tone for the week.


We listened to the Microsoft corporate Vice-President of Central and Eastern Europe and a member of the European Parliament speak about the importance of teachers.

A panel of speakers discussed how Minecraft has a role in today’s classrooms. In fact, Minecraft was present in breakout sessions, keynote speeches and table conversations. I’m not a gamer, but after hearing how playing Minecraft can enhance student learning, I am interested in learning more about how it can be utilized in the library classroom.

The theme of Hack the Classroom defined our collaborative team work. We had to design a classroom hack in an assigned persona: Gamify, Personalize, Minimize, Simplify and Strategize. Our Hack had to be shared in an Office Mix and couldn’t be over 3 minutes long. Each teacher was assigned to a team, where we had to find a common problem and a solution to it.


Oh yes, and it had to be done quickly, with teachers who speak different native languages. These team challenges are part of the magic of the conference. Everyone is thrust into a collaborative situation that is difficult, and yet the experience breaks down barriers.

team at Budapest

After a couple days of intense meetings, new connections are launched. I am still friends with the members of my team when I attended the Global conference in Barcelona. I hope the same holds true from my Budapest team.

One of our American team members was part of the winning Hack the Classroom team. Here is their classroom hack.

I especially liked the breakout sessions on a variety of topics led by fellow teachers. It’s one thing to hear about a product from a developer’s point of view. It’s invaluable to listen to a teacher model how that product can be successfully used in the classroom. Like at any conference,there wasn’t enough time to attend all the sessions I wanted to visit. I did really enjoy the sessions on using Sway and OneNote Class Notebook. I really hope these tools will be available for my students to use at home. The ability of Office Lens to take photos of documents where you can then store them in OneNote was really intriguing. The Office Mix add-in also offers new tools for recording information within the familiar context of Powerpoint. It’s exciting to see how the new tools can enhancing lessons.

We could also take some of the Microsoft certification tests if we wanted. Taking an intense test was a good reminder of the difficulty it can be for our students. The Microsoft Certified Educator exam tests whether educators have achieved technology literacy competency in six content areas, mapped to the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers, Technology Literacy:

  • Education policy
  • Curriculum and assessment
  • Pedagogy
  • ICT/technology tools
  • Organization and administration
  • Professional development

The tests takes 90 minutes and I was very excited to learn I had passed. Whew!

During the second day keynote address, Anthony Salcito, the Vice President of the World Wide Education team emphasized the mission of the Microsoft Education team.  We had a chance to Skype with an Arctic Explorer and hear what it’s like to live in such a harsh climate.

On the last day came my favorite part of the conference – the Learning Marketplace! Each educator set up a trifold poster detailing the project they focused on at home with their students. The trick is to be at your booth to meet other educators and tell them about your project AND move around the room meeting others and hearing their stories.




I visited as many booths as I could, but it’s never enough. If I could get my wish, we would have some Learning Marketplace time every day of the conference. More time with colleagues allows for more indepth conversations with each other. This is my third experience at this type of Microsoft conference. The Learning Marketplace has been the highlight of the trip every single time. Getting a new perspective on how to use tools is invaluable. We all bring these ideas home to try with our own students.


The last evening of the conference was the celebration time. Dressed in fancy cocktail attire, we were bussed to the National Gallery of Budapest to spend the evening at the building that houses some of the most renowned Hungarian art. There was an award ceremony where the winners of the Hack the Classroom contest were announced. As each team hurried to the stage, with each member proudly carrying their national flag, we all cheered and clapped for the winners. Whatever national or cultural barriers might exist at home, have no place on the E2 stage. We are all one group of educators who want the best for our students.


As a person who loves the written word, I feel inadequate to explain how this conference is the cherished food that fills my teaching soul. I encourage everyone to apply to become a Microsoft Expert Educator and experience the value that comes from collaborating globally with other passionate educators. Jordan Shapiro, an internationally recognized speaker, lecturer and journalist, who writes about global education and game-based learning published an outstanding article about E2 in this Forbes.com post.

Maybe this video will lend a taste of the excitement, that my words can’t convey. All I can say is Thank you Microsoft! Thank you for changing my life in 2012 when I became part of the MIE family and for each year since. You have taught me how to lead my students to take risks and achieve more through the use of technology.

You can find out more information on the Microsoft Educator Program by clicking on this link here.


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E2 Educator Exchange

BudapestHungaryOn Saturday I will be leaving Seattle for this fabulous city in this photo. Do you know which one it is?  I’ll give you a couple hints. Hint #1 – It’s not in North or South America, Africa, or Asia.  Hint #2 – It is a landlocked country. None of its borders touch an ocean or sea. Hint #3 – It is in the “EU” but uses its own money, called the Florint. Hint #4 – The Danube River flows between the two parts of the city.

Have you guessed it by now? Yes, this is a photo of Budapest, the capital and largest city in Hungary. I’m going there because in January I received this email invitation.

WIN_20160302_21_50_13_ProI was invited to participate and represent the United States as one of the 15 US teachers in the Global Educator Exchange. For three days I will be surrounded by some of the most creative and innovative educators from around the world. We will share our experiences, collaborate on projects and learn new techniques to integrate technology in our classrooms. Some of the event highlights include:

WIN_20160302_21_50_05_ProThe conference will be at the Corinthia Hotel Budapest. I don’t know anything about this hotel, but judging from the photos I’ve seen, it appears to be a beautiful example of restored Hungarian architecture.

53dabbe16dec627b149fee28_corinthia-grand-hotel-royal-budapest-budapest-hungary-106366-3 83_6ad013b2I also was invited to visit The American International School of Budapest on Monday with some other educators. We will be touring the school and talking to fellow teachers about their techniques. I am really looking forward to visiting the library of course!

When I travel I am always fascinated by what the money looks like. I got some Florints – their currency- from the bank. The money is beautiful!

WIN_20160302_21_51_26_Pro I’ve had a lot of questions about what the weather will be like. I can’t say I know for sure, but my weather app tells me that it will be in the high 50’s with mostly cloudy weather during the week. So, mostly like Seattle.

This week will be learning, learning, learning! I know I will return with a tired brain full of new ideas to share and try at Cougar Ridge. As much as I am able, I will share photos and blog. I will also tweet photos on our library Twitter account @CRidgeLibrary.

See you back at school on the 14th!

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Reflections on NCCE 2016

Last week I was able to attend the NCCE (Northwest Council of Computer Educators) conference in Seattle. It was by far the best conference I have been to in years. Here are my top reflections from attending the TeacherLibrarian Summit, the Keynote sessions with Kevin Honeycutt and Cheryl Strayed, and the numerous sessions I attended.

ncce 16

  1. Try makerspaces with your students

One of the major topics of the conference had to do with the makerspace movement. What strikes me the most is that anyone can have a makerspace and you can make it your own. There is no perfect way to start – no perfect way to have one in your library or classroom. You have to find what works for you, your students, and budget. Have no budget? Start with donated items, cardboard, tape. Just let the kids create and make. Stand back and watch their genius shine.

  1. Wikipedia is not your enemy

I think probably most teachers have said it at least once, “No you can’t use Wikipedia as a source in your paper.” Yet, did you know that every article in Wikipedia is rated by a strict rubric, which you can view? The highest rated articles achieve that rating because they have been reviewed by experts and academics. Open any article, click on the talk tab next to the article tab. Scroll to the article rating, and open quality scale. You will be able to view the rubric. Be prepared to be surprised.

  1. YouTube works in the classroom

Why not YouTube? Videos are engaging. You can teach content with them. Students can create their own content and publish on YouTube. Plus, with websites tools such as Zaption, you can turn videos into interactive assessment tools that engage students and deepen understanding.

  1. We need to be global educators

Our students can’t afford for us to keep learning within the confines of our classroom walls. We need to open connections with the world around us. Try out International Dot Day, Talk like a Pirate Day, World Read Aloud Day. We can’t teach students to be global citizens if we never open the world to them.

  1. Share your story

Kevin Honeycutt and Cheryl Strayed, author of Lost, along with nearly ever presenter at the conference said it numerous times. Share your story. Share what you are doing in the classroom with others. By others I mean, people outside of your school and district. Again,we can’t ask our students to be global citizens, if we don’t model it ourselves. Blog, write, share.

  1. Persist through the blisters

Often the best learning comes from the mistakes we make from taking risks. Kevin Honeycutt talked about how students who want to learn to play guitar often quit at the blister stage. They quit when the learning gets hard. We all need to risk, and learn through the blisters. We need to model persistence and help our students develop the tenacity to push through the hard muck to the reward on the other side.

  1. Meet the new Office tools

If you haven’t tried some of the new Microsoft Office Tools, now is the time. Check out how you can flip your classroom with Office Mix, and PowerPoint. Create dynamic presentations with Sway where the content is the focus and Sway takes care of the design. Use OneNote Notebooks to save teaching content in digital notebooks that you can access from any of your devices.

  1. Start using Social Media

If you aren’t on social media yet, what is stopping you? Don’t want to read posts on what a friend had for dinner or see their latest baby photos? Have professional accounts or classroom accounts. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter classroom or library accounts open the world of global citizenship and connections for your students. Here is where you can share what your students are doing with the world.


  1. Teach digital citizenship

Our kindergarten students were born into a world with technology at their fingertips. Many were learning to swipe a phone or iPad before they could walk. What our students don’t know is how to be a responsible digital citizens. We need to teach them. Common Sense Media, Mike Ribble, Craig Badura, YouTube, NetSmartz and iKeepsafe all have materials you can use in your classroom.

  1. Skype in the Classroom or Google Hangouts –

We no longer have to think we need to be the experts. With the speed in how everyday knowledge changes, we can’t be. So, bring the experts into your classroom. Use Skype in the Classroom or Google Hangouts to talk with experts, authors, or take virtual field trips. Bring just-in-time learning into your classroom.

  1. Primary coding for young kids

Coding isn’t limited to the older high school, computer nerdy kids and teachers anymore. Students can code at any age, and the younger we start, the more skills they will have by the time they graduate.

  1. Don’t marry the tool

Sometimes we get hung up on whether Apple, Google or Microsoft is best. Hello? – can we all get along now? It’s not the tool that matters, it’s what you do with it to make learning better. If that means using a Surface in the morning and an iPad in the afternoon, then do it. Use the tool that makes the most sense for what your students need to learn.

  1. Empower Students

We need to empower our students by sharing their voices. Publish their work and open up the world to them. Andy Plemmons talked about how he has a Student Book budget team who is given a set budget and then is empowered to decide the books they want to buy for the library. Kevin Honeycutt emphasized that we need to honor the work of kids by helping them publish or sell their work. We need to let them inspire the world with their ideas on how they can help others.

  1. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable

Cheryl Strayed and Kevin Honeycutt both emphasized the risk taking theme.

“Innovation is all about risk raking and being willing to fail.” Cheryl Strayed

“Wanna make change? Break into the classrooms and burn down the file cabinets full of lesson plans.” Kevin Honeycutt

  1. Reflect

This blog post has helped me reflect on what struck me the most   at   the NCCE conference, so I can narrow my focus to some key elements and bring them into my library classroom. We teach our students to reflect, but we also need to do it ourselves. When you take a risk and it flops, ask the hard questions. What happened and why? Learn, adjust and try again. Don’t quit at the blisters, develop the calluses and keep moving forward.

If you want to learn more about sessions at the conference, you can still learn from the comfort of your home. Visit the NCCE conference website here and the presenter resources here.

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Grateful for Stories


What’s their story?

I was in California over the weekend with my husband and we had a surprise encounter with thousands of migrating monarch butteries wintering at a small grove of eucalyptus trees at Natural Bridges State Beach. We arrived when the sun was filtering through the leaves and warming the orange and black wings of these delicate creatures. Seeing thousands of butterflies wake up and begin fluttering through the grove filled me questions. Why are they there? How do they know where to go? Is one of the senior butterflies their director of story?

Seeing them made me think about the gala we attended on Friday evening and how I have a serious case of job title envy. My husband and I were at the Digital Innovation in Learning Award gala and heard the Karen Cator, the CEO of Digital Promise introduce the keynote speaker and his position within the company.  I thought I misunderstood what she said, and had to check the facts on their website.

Director of Story

Digital Promise believes in the power of story enough to actually have a person be a Director of Story. Not a Communications Director.  Not a Media Relations Specialist.

Director of Story.

I think that job title speaks volumes about the vision and uniqueness of this company whose dream is for all learners to have access to learning technology.

And a storyteller he is. Marco Torres spent the next 20 minutes illustrating how math and music can integrate through GarageBand and iPad orchestra. Within minutes he had created a musical composition without ever touching a “real” instrument. Then he shared his story of how some students in Geneva, Switzerland saw a similar demonstration and then proceeded to make their own version of Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel. You can view this incredible piece here: https://vimeo.com/43162659


What I took home from that gala event were the stories about amazing educators being recognized for doing amazing projects in their schools. Administrators bringing coding to entire school communities. Teachers finding ways to connect their students with peers around the world. Companies bringing cross-cultural and meaningful exchanges to school aged children. Everyone in the room had a story. Stories with heart. Stories with vision. Stories with children as the core element. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to participate in the DILA gala event as one of the honorable mention award winners in the Busting Boundaries category because I could share the story of how my students have worked to make our world better through generosity and literature. Their story deserves to be heard.

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That story and those of our partners in Africa will continue to be heard in 2015-16 within the Microsoft Expert Educator program. Educators around the world have been celebrating for the last week after receiving their congratulations letter. Me too.

mie announement

My letter highlighted a spectacular week – acceptance into this amazing program, the DILA gala, and a Skype call across continents with 120 students from different cultures. I am grateful for the opportunities Microsoft has opened for me to meet and collaborate with teachers around the world and close to home.


I have been involved with the MIE program since 2012 and it has changed my life. I am not the teacher I used to be. I don’t regret the way I taught, but now I’m thrilled with how my lessons are evolving and integrating technology in meaningful ways. The world is coming inside my classroom without the need of a passport. This year my students will be making book trailers with students in Spain, writing cards and mini-stories with a teacher in Turkey, creating videos for students at a refugee camp in Kenya, plus continuing our Books to Africa program. All it takes is technology and a willingness to experiment and step outside the traditional box. I am not the extroverted person in the group and I certainly am not the most talented. I need quiet to re-charge my batteries and time to write. What I am willing to share is what my students want to say to the world. I am grateful that the MIE Expert Educator program has helped me find the voice for my students and myself through story, technology and education.

I am a teacher. I am a librarian. I am a Director of Story.


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