Summertime Means Perfect PD Reading Time!!

One of my goals for this 2018-2019 school year is to get back to blogging! I enjoyed blogging regularly when I started back in 2009 but my posts have been more sporadic for the past few years. I miss the sharing and reflection! So, jumping off the heels of my very first ISTE conference this summer, I’m motivated to provide my students with as many authentic opportunities to be as positive, participatory and impactful online as possible – blogging will be a significant way I can model that practice.  And what better way to blog in the summer than to reflect on a bit of summer reading . . . I read LOTS this summer, as I always do to continually renew and grow as an educator. Here are just a few books I’ve had the chance to finish so far:

Social LEADia – Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership by Jennifer Casa-Todd

After finishing Dr. Kristen Mattson’s inspiring book Digital Citizenship in Action ,I gained loads of ideas to weave digital community building activities into students’ daily lives. Building on that excitement, along with inspiration from the entire ISTE Digital Citizenship Network I’m proud and excited to now be a part of, I’m getting my hands on as many resources as I can to help students thrive as participatory, positively impactful citizens. In doing so, I most happily discovered Jennifer Casa-Todd’s book, Social LEADia – Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership!! 

More #digcit!!! Casa-Todd frames her book around these important central questions:

  • How do we change our position on social media use in school when there seem to be so many barriers to use?
  • What opportunities exist for using social media? How can we provide the appropriate level of guidance? And at what point do we let students navigate these spaces independently?
  • What kinds of conversations should we be having about how social media can influence a child’s positive online presence? At the district level? At the school level? With parents?
  • Is there a new moral imperative to include social media in curriculum, lesson design and professional learning?
  • Is teaching “digital citizenship” even possible without using social media spaces, and should we, at this point move beyond digital citizenship? [Foreword xiv-xv]

This book explores possibilities for each of these great questions, opening up interesting conversations that I look forward to having with colleagues and students. While exploring these topics, Jennifer intersperses ideas with real-life students currently exemplifying digital leadership, which she defines as “using technology and social media to learn and share, to promote important causes, and to positively influence others (Todd 1). Like Dr. Mattson, Jennifer Casa-Todd really emphasizes the community, participatory portion of citizenship. Both books hold a true emphasis on student voice and giving our students more opportunity to utilize their voices not just to create their digital footprints, but to make an impact. It makes sense – in real and digital life, it’s important to not only be static members of a group, but to positively conduct ourselves so that we impact real change for the good of our community. That’s why we’re here!! While reading, I found myself nodding, annotating and doggy-earring pages. I agree whole-heartedly that our students can be strong, powerful digital leaders – and this book is filled with resources for helping them do just that. Many of these ideas can complement our already existing practices while others provide new solutions. Some of my favorite takeaways: cell phone logs to help students be more cognizant of when and why they refer to their phones, an ed tech day during which students demo their knowledge of tech tools, activism vs. slacktivism and how to encourage students to lean more on the active vs. slacking side and so much more!! I’ve got great ideas both for my digital democracy team’s work with students in my school and for students in my own classroom!

Another great use of social media in school!! I’m addicted to Tara M. Martin’s #BookSnaps and I think my students will be too. Here it is with SnapChat!

180 Days – Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle


As I have read and own all previous books published by both of these master English teachers, I waited excitedly for this one to be published – it exceeded my anticipation! The premise of this book centers around Gallagher’s and Kittle’s collaborative planning of one glorious school year. Gallagher teaches in California; Kittle teachers in New Hampshire. Despite the distance, they collaborated together to reflect on best practices in teaching both reading and writing. Long distance co-teaching . . . fascinating!! Inspired by the simple, always asked question of and by teachers, “How do you fit it all in?, together they decided what daily, unit and annual practices matter most to empower students to become the most creative, critically-thinking learners they can be. Their decisions are based on what they wonderfully call belief-based instruction – instruction steered by core beliefs stemming from insights of their experiences, observations and discussions. Reading the book felt like a fascinating peek into the heartfelt conversations they had in planning out the year. And having access to the supplementary video clips of these conversations – and live-from-the-classroom lessons – is an amazing resource and fascinating to watch.

There is no question that the teaching of reading and writing goes hand-in-hand as the two communicative skills are naturally intertwined. We become better writers by reading more; we become better readers by writing more – and Gallagher and Kittle solidify that core belief. There are honestly countless take-aways from this book for me: the approaches to peer editing and revisions, the ways to encourage students with notebook writing, the narratives for students as readers and narratives as writers . . . and the list goes on. I will be referring to this book all year long!

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Trying #TaraMMartin ‘s #BookSnaps with Google Slides . . . #180Days #KellyGallagher #PennyKittle

A Novel Approach by Kate Roberts


I am a believer in some form of independent reading in the classroom. Just as I choose these very professional development books that I read on my own, I wish to honor that same privilege for my students. My AP Language and Composition course includes an independent reading component each semester, and my entire Advanced Reading course is focused on students reading as many varied independent books as they can throughout the semester. I see the benefits in my own classrooms but studies consistently reflect these benefits of student choice, and how students become more engaged learners and read more when offered opportunity to choose what interests them. That said, as an English teacher, I am also a believer in the power of a whole-class novel and the collective, collaborative learning, activities and discussion that stem from reading the same anchor text in our core curriculum. In A Novel Approach, Kate Roberts offers new insightful approaches to traditional learning in ways that compliment both whole class and independent learning.

As in 180 Days, Roberts practical plans and strategies can be implemented in my classrooms immediately, this year. Roberts offers simple, practical ways to map out units without causing extra work, to design mini-lessons along the way and to differentiate learning to pinpoint students’ individual struggles. She offers methods for annotation, grouping, discussions and assessments to emphasize students’ thinking. I love the bookmarks for students to track their reading and the teacher bookmarks to target quick strategies. I also appreciate Roberts extension of her whole-novel discussion with the idea of launching book clubs and more student choice to foster the independent, empowered learners we want each of our students to be. A Novel Approach, in other words, was a perfect compliment to my PD collection this summer.

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And with Google Drawings – #ANovelApproach #KateRoberts #BooksSnaps #TaraMMartin

EdTech for the K-12 Classroom – ISTE Readings on How, When and Why to Use Technology


I snatched this book at #ISTE18, and I gotta feelin’ I’ll be referring to it LOTS this year as an ed tech coach and as a teacher! It’s a compilation of readings, video links and other resources from ISTE to help educators foster learning in their classrooms and schools. First, the ISTE standards are discussed along with ways to empower teachers while reflecting those standards. Next, the book offers methods to support community and help teachers leverage technology to collaborate together most effectively. I appreciate the important differences between differentiated, individualized and personalized learning that are outlined well in the book. And, finally, this serves as a wonderful reference to tools, apps and platforms that teachers and administrators can utilize to support that learning. The key message I truly gain after reading this is that technology is not meant to be used simply to replace manual practices and make life easier BUT to help make learning better . . . to help facilitate creation, critical thinking, problem-solving and collaboration (school, community and global) among peers, colleagues, schools, districts and beyond. In other words, just as the sub-title identifies, it’s not just a how-to manual, it’s a how/when/why reference!


And another #BookSnaps with Snapchat – #ISTE #EDTECHfortheK12Classroom #TaraMMartin

This week, my school district officially opens up the new school year with institute days and students gracing our halls the following Monday –  I couldn’t be more excited!! Each new school year feels like a wonderful fresh start, and reading books like these throughout the summer is always a perfectly enjoyable way to grow. I can’t wait to converse with colleagues, greet the students and put some of these ideas into practice!! It’s going to be the best year yet, I can feel it!!☺️

p.s. My pd reading is not done, by any means – stay tuned for more book synopses coming soon!

Book Review: DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP IN ACTION by Dr. Kristen Mattson

After eagerly snatching this book at last week’s #ISTE18 conference, I just finished Digital Citizenship in Action by Dr. Kristen Mattson, and am so motivated!!


Dr. Mattson refreshingly frames her approach to digital citizenship around a very positive, student-centered narrative that aligns with the positive vision my school’s digital democracy team, Viking Network, initiated last year! Each succinct chapter first offers summary of a current, more traditional approach to digital citizenship followed by Kristen’s offering of a more participatory approach that extends the definition of digital citizenship from a set of conduct rules to follow to empowering skills that guide students to actively contribute to their digital communities. I believe approaching digital citizenship this way is crucial in today’s society to help our students grow to become responsible community members who give back to their communities while working toward social justice and equity. Furthermore, practicing these skills online will undoubtedly spill over into their real lives (RL . . . as Kristen pens).

In each chapter, Kristen includes suggested activities, that would work integrated within any content area or digital citizenship curriculum, along with “spotlight” stories of students, teachers and school leaders who’ve successfully implemented innovative ideas that embrace participatory citizenship. I love reading the amazing success stories for inspiration . . . some names and stories of which I recognize from my Twitter PLN!! My favorite part of the chapters, though, may be Kristen’s “You Can Do It!” where she ends with encouragement and quick, attainable methods to put our own ideas into action.

Here is just a sampling of the countless snippets in each chapter that I find useful, intriguing and motivating:

Chapter 1: Creating Spaces for Digital Citizenship – I found the “Digital Citizen Survey” for students that categorizes questions into three parts – Access, Online Activity, Skill Level – to be a useful activity to spawn student discussion and reflection on their current online experiences. This could be a great way to gain some data about students’ digital lives at the beginning of a program or school year.

Chapter 2: Acknowledging Student Voice in Digital SpacesI love the idea Kristen presents in this chapter of a collaboration-based curriculum where students work with staff to develop curricular resources. Students creating short videos, their own Google Slide presentations and lessons on what it means to be digitally responsible is a fantastic way to empower student responsibility in itself.

Chapter 3: Helping Students Understand Their Roles in Digital CommunitiesThe “Consume or Contribute” activity seems like a fun way to raise student awareness on the type of impact (big or small, positive or negative) their various forms of digital communication can make. This activity is a perfect way to get students thinking before they post! (and I like that it gets them moving and actively engaged).

Chapter 4: Participating through Respectful Discourse: Love, love, love the effective vs. ineffective online discussion real examples and charts . . . I see MUCH classroom use for this as well as potential school use for Viking Network to share.

Chapter 5: Networking to Make Meaningful ConnectionsKristen lists five simple steps for students to find and connect with their own digital PLNs – how cool is that?! She offers ways to connect with a broader community . . . . something I am definitely interested in having students do more of this year!

Chapter 6: Making Contributions that Matter:  ❤this quote: “Students cannot be what they cannot see, so make sure to show them plenty of examples of citizens coming together to make an impact in their local and digital communities” (96). This last chapter is chock full of ways to get students excited about and involved in participatory digital work that will make a positive, real impact. The suggestions are versatile enough to be tailored as simply or involved as we need. Kristen offers real platforms and projects to implement.

Shout out to Tara M. Martin for her awesome online tutorials on #booksnaps!!

My head is spinning with implementation ideas that I can’t wait to share with my colleagues and team! There are practical applications for students, teachers and school leaders alike – within individual classrooms and whole schools. Digital Citizenship in Action is a must for every professional development library. It will help arm students with one of the most necessary college and career ready skills  – to become clearly communicative, responsible, active ,members of the society they are about to enter and positively impact!


Top Ten #ISTE18 TakeAways

Where to begin?! I am truly grateful to have been given the amazing opportunity by my school district to attend my first International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference this past week, held here at McCormick Place in Chicago. I was very excited when I first learned I was going but even more appreciative after attending and experiencing first-hand the invaluable connections and immense resources. I’m quite certain I made some new lasting relationships with colleagues, and have loads of material and ideas to bring back to school. Here are just some of my highlights:

  1. Presenting William Fremd High School’s #TeacherTakeover Social Media Event: My school’s Digital Democracy team, Viking Network, had the privilege of taking part in a learner-centered collaboration with The Teacher’s Guild, an innovative community bringing teachers together, and was chosen as a favorite to speak at #ISTE18 in the “Digital Citizenship & Design Thinking: Build Ideas for your Classroom session! I was honored to represent Fremd at #ISTE18 and share amongst long-distance colleagues! The room full of fellow educators truly inspired me with their earnest feedback and inquiries about building school culture and empowering students through positive social media usage!  It was such an uplifting, worthwhile experience to connect with everyone including Alysha English of The Teacher’s Guild as well as other collaboration favorites I admire very much, like Katey Hileman and Gail Desler. (who I met later at ISTE‘s #DigCit PLN meeting!). I know we will keep in touch and continue learning from each other. If interested, the #TeacherTakeover presentation is available HERE.

Sharing Fremd High School’s #TeacherTakeover at ISTE18 “Digital Citizenship & Design Thinking” session

2. Sitting in a research paper session with Dr. Kristen Mattson sharing her dissertation, “Moving Beyond Personal Responsibility: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Digital Citizenship Curricula: There were many of us at a smaller table setting, affording opportunity to informally chat on our pedagogical beliefs about the incorporation of digital citizenship in our classrooms and schools. I was super excited to meet Dr. Mattson after following her tweets, and her book was literally sitting in my “Wish List” on Amazon to purchase. Glad I snagged one before it sold out the next day at ISTE. I just started reading, and already have take-aways within Chapter 1.  I can’t wait to share with the team back at school, and gain more inspiration from Kristen!

Side note: the educational world is powerfully small – one of us sitting in the session was an educator from West Leyden (my mom’s alma mater!) who just happens to also be a Fremd parent. I have to say I truly enjoyed making the connections at ISTE!

3. Joining ISTE’s #DigCit PLN On the last morning of the conference, I excitedly walked into a room full of like-minded educators who came together to meet and share ideas for empowering our students to be participatory, empowered digital (and RL!) citizens. There, I met some wonderful new #digcit colleagues like Nancy Watson and chatted again with Dr. Kristen Mattson. I had the chance to share a little bit about Viking Network‘s first year in creating #digcit awareness amongst our students, and can’t wait to get more involved!

At ISTE”s #DigCit PLN meeting

Check out ISTE’s #DigCitCommit Moment for more highlights (thank you, ISTE, for including my tweet amongst so many great #digcitcommit declarations).

4. Re-joining Illinois Computing Educators (ICE): – I was a previous happy member of this local ISTE affiliate, and spoke at the 2014 ICE annual conference about Blogging in the Classroom, but hadn’t renewed my membership in a couple of years. I’m glad I did, and look forward to participating and giving back to our local community! 

5. Joining the ISTE EdTech Coaches Network: I just found out at #ISTE18 that my application to become one of my school’s technology coaches next year was accepted, and I couldn’t be more excited! Integrating technology to best help students create, learn and grow is another passion of mine, and I can’t wait to help my colleagues in every way I can. Soooo the first place I went after finding out was upstairs to ISTE’S EdTech Coaches playground!!! The playground areas at ISTE are set up as fun destinations to gain loads of resources in a small amount of space and time. Ed tech specialists were gathered amongst various tables and small groups, offering snippets of resources in moments.


#ISTE18 Playground

6. Meeting some of my idols: When creating my program agenda, I sifted through the ISTE program, searching for EdTech superstars I’ve been following on Twitter.

I was eager to hear Shaelynn Farnsworth and Web20Classroom speak about Differentiation: Meeting the Diverse Needs of of Learners with Technology., and was lucky to chat with Shaelynn afterward for a few minutes for advice. Thank you, Shaelynn!! Your resources are always useful – you’re inspiring!!

with Shaelynn Farnsworth

I combed through the exhibit hall to make it in time to see Alice Keeler speak about “Pulling the Paragraph” in Google Docs. Thank you, Alice! Your tech tips are indispensable! And the selfies were fun!! Check out a previous blog I wrote about one of Alice’s book HERE.

with Alice Keeler

And  . . .

Eric Curts, Matt Miller, Vicki Davis, Kasey Bell

7. Watching Vicki Davis,Kasey Bell,Matt Miller and Eric Curts share their best Tech Tips during “Goog Smacked” . . . sitting third row center:. I seriously didn’t stop taking notes all hour except to take a couple pics (oh, and catch a “Shake Up Learning” t-shirt from Kasey Bell!!). . . these four superstars shared one after the other after the other. If you blinked, you missed something. Thank you to each of you for an hour well-spent!!

8.Listening to Keynote Speakers Andy Weir, author, former software engineer; Katie Martin, Ph.D., education leader, teacher and author; Michael Cohen, designer, educator and creativity instigator. I sat down that Tuesday morning and felt sincerely grateful to be sitting in that auditorium, and have opportunity to hear these incredibly inspirational educators. Below is something from Katie Martin’s presentation that resonated with me. I just ordered her book, Learner-Center Innovation, and can’t wait to dive in and gain more inspiration from her!

Check out Katie’s ISTE moment on Twitter HERE for more (thank you, Katie, for including my tweet!):

Katie Martin – just one of many resonating moments for me

9. Creating at Apple’s #EveryoneCanCreate station: Many thanks to Tricia Fuglestad for letting me know about this! (another fun connection: Tricia was the first person I met at ISTE, standing in line for coffee . . . she’s an award-winning, impactful art teacher who student taught at Fremd!) Apple set up an interactive mural set up encouraging attendees to draw and play. Yours truly is not an artist by any means so I opted to sketch a “Post Positive” reminder instead just to try out Tayasui Sketches I will say, though, that I already downloaded the app; it’s super easy to use and I can see its value for student use for projects or posts!


10. Scavenging around the exhibit hall: I walked away from the exhibit hall with an armful of information from a slew of ed tech vendors – Alexa in the Classroom (this is so interesting to me!), Google for Education, Apple, new digital research platforms, student portfolio platforms, digital writing platforms . . . the list goes on. Swag is always fun – especially when it includes items that I can bring back to share with my colleagues!


Honestly, my biggest takeaway has been the invaluable connections – it’s the conversations I had the chance to have with both local and distant colleagues that inspire me the most. Like it or not, our digital life is fast becoming as much a part of our world as our real life (or RL, as I often heard at ISTE). Now more than ever, it’s important to work together as we empower our students to be participatory, proactive citizens – both digitally and IRL!