Small Group Center Ideas

Our division has really been talking hard about small groups.  Our literacy plan requires small groups in Language Arts, but teachers are also asked to come up with ideas for Math, Science and Social Studies — even cross-circular activities.  Here are some ideas for using Technology in small groups.

 Minecraft Edu (Use Prompts to match your content – area, perimeter, models of science or social studies concepts, novel settings, etc.)  — All Roanoke County teachers and students have accounts.

Breakout Edu (Digital Breakouts) ; Create a free teacher account to find the free games; Example: Finding Frosty –

Formative (Game Based) Assessment Websites





Are there any other ideas or resources that you use in your classroom?

VSTE Ignite Session (SDGS)

Here is my ignigte speech on Sustainable Development Goals.  It was the first time I’d ever done an Ignite presentation (20 slides, 15 seconds per slide, 5 minutes total).  We were supposed to pick something we were passionate about, so I picked Sustainable Development Goals.  I hadn’t known about them before last year, and I thought there might be other people like me who hadn’t heard of them either.  I thought it might be a good way to at least introduce them to some educators.

I did misquote a couple of statistics–I was a little nervous!  Here’s are a few excerpts with the correct statistics and some links to more information.

On 25 September 2015, the 193 countries of the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Development Agenda titled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” otherwise known as the SDGs – Sustainable Development Goals. There are 17 of these goals that have specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years (by 2030).


The goals that came before the SDGS are called the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals. These goals were also created by world leaders at the United Nations Headquarters. They committed their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty – with a deadline of 2015 – that have become known as the Millennium Development Goals.

The first goal, eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, was to halve the proportion of people living in poverty by 2015. The MDGS use a 1990 statistic as their baseline that said that 36% of people in the world live in extreme poverty. Their goal was to reduce that proportion to 18%.

Did that happen? No.

Actually, by 2015, the proportion of people living in abject poverty was reduced to 12%, so we exceeded that goal! Progress was made in other areas too!

  • Enrollment in primary education in developing regions has reached 91% (up from 83%).
  • The mortality rate of children under five has been cut by more than half since 1990.
  • Between 2000 and 2013 new HIV infections fell by 40% and 37 million tuberculosis deaths have been averted.
  • 2.6 Billion People have gained access to improved drinking water since 1990.

We still have a long way to go, but it actually may be possible, if we all work together, to end poverty for good! The world CAN get better!

After learning about what the SDGs were, I began researching how to help. I wanted to know how can citizens and teachers and principals and ITRTS and tech leaders and STUDENTS help with these lofty Goals? I think there’s three main ways.

First, check out the SDGs and learn more!
There are tons of resources out there, from apps, to websites, even online courses.

Second, incorporate the SDGs into your classroom – find lessons or projects to join!
Not only are their resources for you to learn more, but there are resources already available for you to use with your students. We talk about 5 C’s and PBLS, and global goals are the perfect way to be able to incorporate those concepts.

Share the global goals with your students, find a lesson, and empower them to make a difference in their world! And if you are in a position where you work with teachers, help them find these resources and support them as they use them! There are all sorts of projects that students can join, or you can make your own!

Third, it’s been said that Knowledge is Power. Spread the word! Be an advocate!
As educational technology leaders, we hopefully have the ability and platform to spread the word! Participate in Global Ed Twitter chats, use the hashtag #teachSDGS and #GlobalEd really use the power of social media to get the word out!


Jamestown Hybrid/Digital Breakout Edu

At the VSTE conference this year, I attended a session where the presenter, Kristine Vester (@kavester) shared her ideas for Hybrid Breakouts.  Basically, Hybrid Breakouts were a mix of digital and hands-on Breakout Edu games.  Students solved all the clues online, and then once they knew the lock combinations, they used those combinations on a physical box with actual locks.  It was appealing to me because it meant you could use less boxes (between groups you could re-lock the box), it allowed for more participation for individual players, and the set-up was a lot easier on me!  I still LOVE hands-on Breakout Edu games and will continue to use them, but this idea provided an alternative, especially when there was limited time to make physical game pieces.

I tried it out with two fourth grade Virginia Studies classes.  I built a Jamestown Digital Breakout using Breakout Edu’s new platform.  There were enough locks in the Digital version that every student on a team would be able to “drive” the computer for a lock.

At the end of the game, the reveal was the lock combinations for the physical box.  There were enough locks on this one too that everyone in a group could open at least one lock.

After playing it a few times, I’ve adjusted the clues a bit.  I think it’s perfect for students in Grades 4 and 5, which was just what I needed for our Virginia SOLS.  All teams were able to Breakout in under 45 minutes, and they had a blast playing!

So, just in case someone else would like to use it, included a link below. For the Hybrid version, you will also need a Breakout Box with a 4 digit lock, 3 digit lock, word lock, direction lock, and key lock (combinations are shown at the end of the game).

Jamestown Breakout Edu – Hybrid (Play Code: 6XW-P1I-WEU)

I went ahead and created a completely digital version of the game too, just in case someone without access to a box would like to play.

Jamestown Breakout Edu-All Digital (Play Code: 8HY-TK7-IUY)

I don’t want to post answers online, but if you need help figuring it out, feel free to contact me.

Minecraft Edu

Did you know Roanoke Country provides Minecraft Edu to students and teachers?  Here are some resources you might find helpful as you explore the ways you can incorporate this engaging game into your classroom.

Support Links:

Lessons, Worlds, and Educational Community

A huge thanks to JT Thompson from Microsoft for many of the above resources.

Here’s one more great resource:

Ben Kelley’s Minecraft Resources


Office 365 Handouts

Access the Roanoke County Office 365 Portal here: 

Looking for Office 365 Handouts?  Here are ones that we have set up so far:

Accessing Office 365

One Drive – Shared Files

SharePoint – Accessing Share Fair Resources


Office 365 – Changing Email Format Settings

Office 365-Contact Group

Office 365-Distribution List

Outlook 2016-Contact Group



ISTE 17 Takeaways

I had an incredible and surprising opportunity to attend ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) this June in San Antonio, Texas. ISTE is a huge conference in the world of educational technology, and attending it always broadens my perspective, gets me excited about teaching with technology, and provides me with an arsenal of ideas and resources to use with the students and teachers at my schools.


San Antonio River Walk

And while I have had the opportunity to attend ISTE in the past, being the lone attendee from my district this year made me view the conference through a different lense. I did continue to try to spend as much time as possible learning new things to bring back to my schools and district (like I have in the past), but I ended up lost and wandering frequently. I guess I didn’t realize how much I rely on my colleagues to help with my horrible sense of direction. Being lost in a venue such as ISTE, however, provided opportunities for things I wouldn’t have necessarily seen otherwise. My perspective on the opportunities I had to connect with others was changed as well. I found myself talking to many more people, and I learned a ton in the process.

And truly, I wasn’t really alone…the team of folks from Level Up Village were great hosts. I had met and talked with most of them at length virtually, and they are just as kind and fun in person. I learned so much just by hanging out with them in the evenings and at various other points throughout the day, and they introduced me to some people doing great work in Global Education and Tech Ed in general. Just being around their team provided opportunities for me to consider trends of technology education that I might not have otherwise thought about!

So, with all that in mind, here are some of the things I took away from ISTE this year.

Global Education and Design Thinking

I am not sure if it was because of the company I was keeping or if there truly was an increase in the push for Global Education at ISTE this year, but I heard about Global connections everywhere. On the day I arrived in San Antonio, I made it to the conference center in time to attend the Global Education Day run by Lucy Gray and Steve Haragon. During our breakout groups, I learned about new-to-me Global Ed partnerships and was able to connect with many different teachers across the world who were utilizing global connections in their classrooms. I was excited to hear educators talking about incorporating Design Thinking into Global Ed projects. Here are a few resources gleaned from that experience:

One evening while at ISTE, I was also introduced to Terry Goldwaldt from Taking it Global, and then ended up in a session he led by accident (back to the getting lost part). I was able to hear about how this organization is mobilizing students to be change makers in the world. Check out the current TIG’s project: #Decarbonize: Youth Art For Climate Change. I’m so glad I accidentally attended!

I also learned more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals, also known as Global Goals. I had heard a little about them via Twitter, but after hearing more, I feel that it is important that I share them, and keep exploring their relevance for educators. Here’s a quick video explaining.

Two other great resources about SDGs:

Finally, I walked away from ISTE with some new reading material about Global Ed: The Global Education Guidebook: Humanizing K-12 Classrooms Worldwide Through Equitable Partnerships by Jennifer D. Klein.

As our district continues to focus on the 4 C’s, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration and Communication, and adds another area of focus, Citizenship, I believe these connections and resources will be very useful.

Virtual and Augmented Reality Experiences

ISTE also had a huge number of sessions around Virtual and Augmented Reality. I especially LOVED hearing about getting students involved in creating these experiences. I attended two sessions that shared ideas around the same student creation tools: Thinglink and Cospaces

Designing, Visualizing, Making in 3D Session

In this session, the panel discussion really started me thinking about possibilities for student created experiences. They showed a ton of teacher and student examples, and when we broke up in small groups, I was really able to get a better grasp on the student creation potential for VR. Here are a few of the examples that one of the presenters, Michael Fricano, from EdTechnocation showed:

You can see all the slides from his presentation here: 3D Network Panel: Designing, Visualizing, and Making in 3D. I walked away intrigued with the idea of student VR creations.

20170627_223837889_iOSOn a side note, one of my co-workers knew Michael from her time teaching in Hawaii.  She suggested I find him while I was at ISTE, and amazingly enough, I did!  AND that was completely by accident — I didn’t realize he was one of the presenters when I wandered into his session.

Create, Capture, and Cardboard Your Curriculum Session

In this session, Mary Howard from Your Smarticles walked us through creating our own Virtual Reality experience. It was pretty easy, and something I definitely think my upper elementary students could replicate. In one of her examples, she even showed us how to make a VR Breakout Edu experience! Check out the awesome HyperDoc she shared!

Ideas from Playgrounds and Poster Sessions

20170627_192046103_iOSBecause I kept getting lost inside the conference center during this trip, I ended up spending lots of time at Poster Sessions and Playgrounds. I loved it! These are the best places to get tons of ideas and tips and tricks for all things Ed Tech. Here are a few things I learned:


Green Screen Tips

I love the Green Screen App by Do Ink and have use it a ton, but the things I learned in 5 minutes by just walking by a green screen playground station were some of the most useful tips I’ve learned for using green screens with students! My favorite tip was to use green straws to animate hand-made figures (adding a STEM and Maker Component). They also showed a variety of cheap resources to use to create green screen videos.

Digital Portfolios and Digital Badges

Our district has been discussing digital badging and hopes to roll out Digital Portfolios for students very soon. There are lots of examples of schools divisions using both these tools, and seeing what others were doing helped me consider the potential for our elementary students and teachers.

Here are a few Digital Badge resources that had interesting information:

This long, but really GREAT documentary from Madison City Schools in Alabama on Digital Portfolios in worth watching. They share strategies and resources for getting Digital Portfolios started in a division or school. I really like the direction this district took when rolling out Digital Portfolios and how they made them extremely relevant to students. Here is their Free Google Drive folder with resources and a link to Qurious Digital Portfolio Database which seemed to be a great way to keep track of individual student portfolios.

Making Digital Breakouts

20170626_151720829_iOSI loved the short and sweet session at the TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) playground on Digital Breakouts. The presenter walked us through solving a couple Digital Breakouts and then discussed technical ways to make these great learning activities. Check out her presentation here. I actually loved all the sessions and resources TCEA had available at ISTE — every time I walked by their area I learned something new!

Other Resources to check out:

Throughout the conference I heard a few other tools mentioned frequently.  I am hoping to delve deeper into them before the new school year begins.

  • WeVideo — I have used this video creation resource before, but want to look at it more in-depth for collaborative student projects with video.
  • Sound Trap — A tool that allows students to collaborate on music and podcasts.
  • Spiral – A tool that might be good to use in flipped learning situations.
  • Little Bits Code Kit — I love Little Bits, and especially loved learning about and playing with their new Code Kit. Now I just need to find funds to buy a few to try out with students…
  • Flipgrid — I already love this service and use it frequently, but I can’t share it enough with other educators.  Loved seeing a playground session they ran.


I love ISTE keynotes — they are incredibly inspiring. I only made it to one this year — Jennie Magiera — and I’m sure glad I did. Her message was about amplifying the untold stories of limitless potential — both for teachers and students. I have added her book, Courageous Edventures, to my summer reading list, and I highly recommending jumping at the chance to hear her speak if the opportunity arises.

Thank You Level Up Village

I am so grateful for the chance to attend ISTE this year. My love for the Level Up Village company only increased as I got to know the folks from the company personally, and I am even more passionate about the opportunities they provide for schools across the world after talking with other teachers who have taught their classes as well. Their combination of Global Education and STEM activities is unique, and they really make the entire process of teaming with another country easy. While their courses meet various Global Goals for Sustainable Development and have earned the Seal of Alignment at the Proficiency Level for the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students, the important things I heard from other LUV teachers was that the courses changed the way students thought about both the world and their ability to impact it.

As teachers, that’s what we want to see fostered in our students. That’s the gold standard for meaningful courses. So being able to meet and see and hear about the work that Level Up Village is doing to make these courses available for educators world-wide was inspiring. I am very thankful for the opportunity to spend time with such great folks at one of the best conferences in the edtech world.