With ClassFlow We Grow




Growing is something that I have become quite accustomed to in this instructional technology career of mine. I know as a teacher I did similar things each year, but I feel like in this role the growth jumps are so much bigger, better, and eye opening. In our Meet the Teacher event two weeks ago, I had a student come back, who is now in 7th grade, and in talking to her she mentioned how she thought it was cool that her class was the first I had used Google Classroom with. It was a conversation that left me thinking about how far I have come in just two short years in terms of instructional technology and learning tools. I have used so many tools, I sometimes look back and wonder how I kept them all going in the craziness of the year. This year I do believe it is going to be quite different. This year I found Classflow!

Last spring Classflow hit my radar at the Google Apps for Education Southern Summit, and since then I have been quite intrigued with just what potential lies in this content management system.  I was thrilled to jump in and start learning about how Classflow worked, and what place it might just have in my instructional planning. I had no idea how far this would go, but now I sure am glad I started exploring!

Classflow combines so many of the tools I already use into one FREE classroom content management program. It lets me search thousands of already created interactive resources, run lessons, assign tasks, award badges, deliver content that students can connect to, and provides me opportunities to send live questions straight to student devices. I can send a question to all students, or just a select group. I have a class stream for sharing announcements with each class, and I can even run Classflow Desktop on the fly with any web based lesson with full annotation tools! This really is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how Classflow can impact the teaching and learning in my room… and my school!

I personally think I have gained such a better understanding of Classflow because I have jumped in to it from three different perspectives. I have looked at it from the role of a teacher, a student, and an Instructional Technology Specialist. Those different perspectives have given me a deeper appreciation for what I can do to change teaching and learning in my building and beyond though using Classflow!

So where do you start? I suggest you check out Camp Classflow as a great starter resource. Head back to school with a new Classflow account and be ready to wow your students, parents, and fellow teachers! Kick off the year with something that is going to make a difference in how you teach your class each daily!




‘Tis the Season for Learning and Growing

Hang on tight as this blog is going to be a multi-media production. Text alone simply can’t convey the amazing things happening at Sara Harp Minter! This was the whole month of December!




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If you hung in for all four Voxer messages… you are amazing! It was a whole month of greatness! If I could just get a point of blogging weekly it wouldn’t go as long! Someone be my accountability partner on that! 🙂





Sharing the Victories as They Come


What a crazy fall it has been in our little part of the education world @saraharpminter. I truly believe it is imperative that we share the amazing things that happen in our schools, as the media sure can do a pretty good job showing the other side of it all. I don’t want to tell you about test scores… the media will tell you that. I don’t want to tell you about new initiatives, as what is the fun in that? I want to tell you about the great instructional gains that have happened in our school, as that is a great story to tell!


Let’s start with Common Sense Media, and our 6 week journey to becoming a Common Sense Media Certified School and my work in becoming a Common Sense Media Certified Educator. It took plenty of time, planning, instruction, and collaboration, but it was so very worth it. We started with grades 3-5 and used the great resources in Digital Passport to get the data we needed to have some great wrap around lessons in the weeks to follow. The honest conversations we had, the real situations we discussed, and the feedback we received was truly what made the whole experience come together. If you are considering taking this path and working toward this certification, I highly recommend it! I am also always willing to share how I did it. Find me on Voxer @jaimevanderg and I will share our Common Sense journey with you!


This little journey was a trial run of virtual reality as a writing center in first grade. As those of us without Google Expeditions in our reach know, we have to get creative with how we use Google Cardboard and VR viewers in our instructional practices. For this group the students all had one opportunity before the writing center to take a walk in Virtual Reality Jurassic Land. They could see a T-Rex, and a couple of other dinosaurs running around, and  were captivated that the Dinos ran right by them. We talked about looking for what habitat the Dinos lived in, and what they ate. It was the starting spot for the writing to come. One of my amazing first grade teachers made a virtual story writing page, and students when in that center could re-view the Dinos, and then draw a picture and tell a story about their virtual journey. Each day for a week a new group had the opportunity to go virtual and tell all about it. This for me was a trial run. Here is what I learned. Cardboard won’t hold up in the hands of our little ones. I bought a real viewer recently to give it a try in our other first grade classes. I also think that the viewer in our primary grades will be best served with an adult guiding the virtual journey and overseeing the use of the viewer. I see so much potential for this, and hope that in December we can get this into our other first grade classes too. What a great learning experience, and all it takes in some passion, drive, and some easily attainable resources. The devices inside are ones I had lying around the house. If you have some of those, why not turn those into virtual journeys for our kids?


Lastly, I have been quite busy professionally as well. I am better to those I work with and for if I am always growing and learning, and that is just what I have done! First, I passed my Instructional Technology Certification Test in October, and I am elated! What a journey to have behind me. I have been asked if the EdS courses helped in preparing for the test, and I can easily say in fact they did! Then on a spur of the moment decision, I jumped on an email in my inbox about working toward becoming a Newsela Certified Educator. My school district has Newsela Pro, and I haven’t truly felt I could be supportive in helping my teachers learn how to use this Non-Fiction Gold Mine as an instructional tool. So off I went in meeting the requirements to become a Newsela Certified Educator. It was a great learning experience as well, and I am so glad I did it! I am so excited to share Newsela with my teachers, as well as anyone else who has an interest! Sharing is what it is all about!



True Adventures of the Tablet Lab – Minter Style

Where has the last 12 weeks gone? From pre-planning and un-boxing new Nexus 7’s, to starting the year off and hoping for the best, here we are headed into November! My original plan was to blog about our adventures each week. (Insert belly laughs here!) Clearly my estimation of “free time” was off just a bit! So here we are in the second nine weeks, and I have committed to documenting the journey, so I guess it might have to be just a grading period at a time. So here we go… The first 9 weeks of Tab Lab!20150826_095052

Week 1: Tablet 101 & Paint App – (Communication ) I probably didn’t consider how different it would be to teach a 1:1 tablet lab from a 1:1 Chromebook or PC lab. Tablets in 2nd grade were not new, yet the structure of a class sure was.  We role played the right and wrong ways to handle tablets, how we carried them, and what they needed to do once they got them. (Upside down in those laps!) We have a saying… when it is time to start we say “Flip Up, Wake Up, Swipe Up, Find Your App.) Now the first few times we also made them ‘put their apps on their heads’. This helped us to see they were in the right place and simply meant they raised tablets up for us to visually sweep the room quickly for a check of each tablet status. As for the instruction, we asked a series of 3-5 questions, and asked students to illustrate the answers. It was fun watching them illustrate ideas, and enjoy sharing them with others. Computer screens and wired set ups keep us from truly sharing our work with the group sometimes, so this was a nice welcome change!

Week 2: Georgia Symbols Using Pic Collage – (Research and Information Fluency) In an effort to tie in some instructional connection, we helped our 2nd grade teachers by introducing some Georgia State Symbols through images with Pic Collage. We brainstormed search ideas (which I HIGHLY recommend due to content available on that app) and had students type or use voice -to- text those symbols into the search. They learned a lot, and so did we. As a WV girl, I didn’t know much about Georgia, so it was a learning win for us all!

comiccreatorWeek 3: Comic Creator – (Creativity) I always tend to lean toward ELA based learning practices, so this was a great way to help students spend more time on characters, settings, and sequence of a story. We talked about time order words, and using images to tell a story. They loved all the possible character and setting options, and it was so fun watching them create their own comic based stories!

Week 4: The Foos – (Critical Thinking) Why wait until December to work with students on coding? This will be something we do every  9 weeks, and each time we will use a different app to facilitate the practice.  I love that we have so many options to make coding a regular instructional plan for the Tablet Lab!

20150903_130238Week 5: Cat Physics – This is what we call in Tab Lab as “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner” lesson planning! I won the lottery on this one. The 2nd graders were in love. So many of them went home and asked their parents to download the app too! Cat Physics was so much trial and error. It was angles, estimation, problem solving and planning. What was additionally great about this app was the discussion we heard from students. Each level increased in complexity, and watching 7 and 8 year-olds talk though strategies together, ask each other for help, and see them celebrate with each passing level, simply made me the happiest little teacher I could be!



Week 6: Lego Creator Island (Critical Thinking) What fun we had creating our own little islands with this app! We collected gold lego bricks, turned them into great little products, and found out the hard way that if you don’t keep that bunny busy he might get into some trouble! He he… Sorry, to know what that means you are going to have to try this fun app out with your kids! The bunny can help you though… Hint… He can dig up a few extra lego bricks for you if you want him too! Oh the fun learning we do! Again, if you want to know the real learning, you really have to hear it for yourself. By week six they have mastered the collaboration standard and rarely ever come for teacher help now. They try something, but know when to ask for help, and know their classmates will give them that help! #TeacherWin



Week 8: Sprinkle and Sprinkle Island (Critical Thinking) – We needed to put out fires, and do it fast. We had to conserve our water, look at ways to use the water with regards to force and motion, and so much more. It was a great way to wrap up the grading period, and as a collective decision, we decided week 9 of every grading period would be a free choice to go back and work on any of the above mentioned apps! I think I can say that Cat Physics won out as crowd favorite, but Lego Creator Island and Pic Collage were not far behind! So much learning happened for all of us in the first 9 weeks of Tab Lab!

Lastly, let me say it takes a village! I can’t say enough how much my partner in crime Mrs. Bates has made this a success. She is amazing in every way, and not only do the kids love learning with her, she pushes me to think even deeper about what I plan so that I can in turn help her understand how to instructionally communicate it to kids! Having someone like her to co-teach with is a win in my book every day! Thank you Mrs. Bates!!




Look out 15-16… Here We Come!

11694953_898606800175715_3501341556521079753_nWhere does summer go? It flies, that is for certain, but let’s face it, it makes us appreciate every moment and use the time to decompress and get ready to make the next year even better than the one before! As for me, I have spent as much time as possible just taking in the non-techy moments, and while that is sometimes hard to do, I gave it a good shot. Now it is time to get back into the swing of things, as here in Georgia we teachers head back in two short days!

#EdCampFayette sure did get me back into the moment last week at Sara Harp Minter. I loved hosting this great event at our school, and I loved watching so many of us there learning and sharing! I had a blast seeing so many like-minded educators jumping in and truly discovering new ways to take their instruction to the next level!

I had so much fun sharing Google Cardboard, and it was so exciting to introduce virtual reality using something as simple as Cardboard with other educators. I noticed that no matter who was experiencing Cardboard, they were smiling. It was an excitement about potential, about opportunity, and about possibility. We discussed the variety of ways we could use Cardboard for instructional purposes, and I think it is safe to say that won’t be the last time we think instructionally about virtual reality! I can’t wait to see what opportunities arise as Cardboard becomes more utilized!

As the time has come to set my sights on the year to come,  yes Google Cardboard is on the agenda, as are many other new ideas swirling in my head! I am also excited about the learning potential in some new ideas I have in K, 1, and 2 using tablets for 1:1 instruction. I have professional learning goals, collaboration goals, relationship goals, and instructional goals. I have goals for my school relationships, and goals for our district relationships. I feel like we made so much progress last year, I simply must keep that momentum going! I want to continue to build on the dynamic culture around instructional technology, and look for ways to foster other leaders in this journey. For when we see our role in technology as one that fosters growth in learning and in people, we get to watch all of that blossom, while seeing others take the lead. This doesn’t make me less needed, rather it gives me the opportunity to learn new things, and take other leaps in technology based instruction. So as you embark on your year, I hope you set goals, dream big, and never stop inspiring!

When #EdTech Succeeds: A Story of True Collaboration

11187278_10205354466692539_6640646744179122719_oMoving to Georgia three years ago gave me an opportunity to meet new people, make new connections, and build great relationships in instructional technology. While I would have loved to report every relationship was a match made in heaven, I think we all know that isn’t realistic. I had a lot of great learning experiences when it came to trusting people, working with and for people, and finding a balance between partnerships and competition. After all of those lessons I have a few ideas of what real #EdTech relationships should be… and thanks to Amy Pietrowski I can tell you for certain they are attainable with the right mindset. Amy leaves me this next school year, and blesses Maryland schools with her passion, but from our days as collaborators I can tell you for certain the recipe for true success.


1. Encourage each other – It wasn’t about how well Amy did something… or I did something.. it was about how we encouraged each other to go for it. We held the same role at two different elementary schools just minutes from each other, but we weren’t worried about who was doing what. We encouraged each other to just go in each day and make a difference! Having no true team in this school based role, we were each others ‘team’. By 7:20 am I had a “good morning from the bus loop, have a great day” message. Encouragement makes every day better!


2. Be real- My frustrations… they were heard. I knew if I needed someone to just listen, Amy wasn’t going to do anything but take in what I was telling her and give me her best advice. I tried to always do that in return. Never was it a weakness, but an understanding that there would be success and there would be failure. We always celebrated the successes, and tried to do the same with the failures. When you are real, you show the most human part of this experience. This career is full of ups and downs, but having someone you don’t have to sugar coat things for is crucial.


3. Competition is never allowed! When I took the job down the road from Amy last year, what did she do? She helped me.. every.single.day! Yes I know instructional technology, but what I didn’t know was all the crazy little ins and outs of how that was going to work in a new school, in a new district. When I had a great idea… she built on it… When she had a great idea, I ran with it. We always gave each other credit, where credit was due, and we never ever wanted to see the other fail. We were a team. We voxed daily, shared ideas, and never once wanted to be better than the other. I promoted her ideas, and she promoted mine! Competition has never once been a part of our relationship, and that is why we were successful, without a doubt!


4. Do it together, even when you see it differently- Our brains work so differently that it is almost hilarious to watch. Give us the same task, and you will see two very different interpretations of the same task. We fed off each other’s passions, then went our own way with implementing it. We built an idea, an instructional plan, and then we each took our own path. Reporting back what we accomplished was amazing, and led only to our next big instructional mission. You don’t have to see things the same way to be a team, you just have to appreciate each other’s differences.


5.  Inspire each other to keep growing – No matter where we went, we were likely not heading to the same sessions or meeting spots. We didn’t have to sit side by side in our edtech adventures, rather we gained much more when we headed different directions and reported back what great ideas we discovered. We didn’t hold each other back, expect each other to be our tag along at a conference, or expect one another to be front row when one of us was presenting. Instead we encouraged each other to go off and learn something new. We grew far more from that, than just sitting together at every event!


6. Use your experience to help others- While this chapter of our relationship closes, another will open. While Amy won’t be down the road from me, she will only be a vox away! What I carry away from our collaborations will be used to make more relationships this strong. I look forward to reaching out to others in this role, and using this recipe for success to help our district grow in instructional technology based leadership. Amy will go on and do the same. She will carry this to her next school and district, and the ripple effect will exist, change will happen, relationships will be fostered.

So to sum it up… be there, don’t compete, value each other’s ideas, listen, encourage, share, and celebrate. It is the recipe for instructional technology success, that when used can create dynamic change in our schools. It is worth a try, don’t you think?




Oh What A Year… Victories, Lessons, and Paving the Way for Tomorrow


It has been a while. Indeed, finishing an EdS in Instructional Technology and Media, while working full time and trying to keep up with life, just didn’t leave much blogging time. So with the EdS behind me… and only one class left to help me earn that Instructional Technology Certificate, I am embarking on a summer of reflection and planning for what is to come. I am excited to share the past, and provide a glimpse of the future with you!

This time last year, quite honestly, I was frustrated. After two years in Georgia consulting, I felt like I was spinning my wheels and just never really creating change. I never had time to build relationships, I never had time to collaborate with a teacher and see the growth potential happen. I just felt lost in a field that I truly loved. Yes, I met great people, and had some small victories, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t feeling like I really made any real difference.

Last July, things changed, opportunities arose, and I found myself going back to elementary school after a two year hiatus. It was a risk… as I moved my kids with me, and just hoped that I was making the right decision. Today, I can tell you you it was the best decision I could have ever made. Sara Harp Minter Elementary is a school that is filled with passionate teachers, wonderful students and families, and leadership that you just do not find in most elementary schools. I found myself with teachers who embraced change, students who thrived in a very different learning environment, and administrators who supported every crazy idea that I came up with. If that isn’t an #eduwin I just do not know what is!

So here is a snip-it of what I learned:

  • 45 minutes teaching technology will fly by faster that you could ever imagine
  • Lesson planning with BYOT for 750 kids is a disaster
  • The ease of using Google Chromebooks and Nexus 7’s makes me want to kick BYOT to the curb
  • Flexible seating is a victory on so many levels.. instructional… behavioral… collaborative
  • No matter what degree I have… I will always learn something from kids
  • Having supportive leadership is worth more than any job title in the world
  • Change takes time…. lots and lots of time
  • Relationships can make or break your effectiveness… take time to make the relationships
  • Listen… Listen… Listen… (one I am working on, as I like to talk, talk, talk)

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20150318_073825 (1)Those lessons led to some victories… just to name a few…

  • Kindergarten and first grade teachers, in just three months, dove into Nexus 7 tablets like pros & collaborated with me on a performance based math assessment using Lensoo Create
  • First grade teachers started using Google Classroom & Google Forms… yep.. #awesomeness
  • Second graders used multiple devices and resources to create Google presentations, and Google Drawings
  • Third Graders used Flipgrid to publish parts of stories, narrate sidewalk representations of Georgia Regions, and to create commercials for Mini Society
  • Fourth Grade Used EduCreations, worked in project based learning groups, and fell in love with GeoGuessr
  • Fifth Grade built their own Google Site and every single student met or exceeded technology growth in the state of Georgia (98 % EXCEEDED) (This was a true team effort that would have been impossible without amazing 5th grade teachers!)


20150323_105528 (1)And… that is just a taste of what I was lucky enough to be a part of this year. To say in retrospect it was an tremendous growth year is simply and understatement. While I had some small part in these things, these teachers took on so many new learning experiences, and our students truly benefited!



So what is to come? Well, I could write a whole blog on just that! This summer I will embark on creating20150209_135601 our instructional technology curriculum. Kindergarten and 2nd grade are going to get an extra technology class weekly, and to say I see amazing potential in this, is an understatement. With that, I feel a strong responsibility to make sure the scope and sequence of what we are doing is setting us up for amazing technology integration growth. So stay tuned, as sometime this summer I will be looking for feedback!

Wishing you a happy and learning filled summer!







Are You Applying the Brakes, or Being A Driver of Innovation?

So this one has been whirling around in my mind for a while. It believe it comes from having a wide variety of experience in instructional technology personally and professionally. I see both examples.. that is, examples of those who put on the brakes when the idea of innovation arrives, as well as those who take the wheel and see where it takes them. I have always tried to understand why one would choose one of these two paths over the other. As someone who lives each day to drive innovation, I assume those who are like me do it for the same reasons. We have found something that we love that truly makes a difference, and we can’t wait to see what happens next. For those who put on the brakes, well I can only assume it is due to a variety of factors that at the end of the day leads back to working harder for something you may or may not value or understand.  So no matter where you stand on the matter I charge you to think about this…

Instructional technology folks, no matter how long it has been, we all started in the classroom. We are teachers. We somewhere along the way found our specific passion in the field and moved that direction, but again we are still teachers. In addition to being teachers I challenge that we are also leaders. Leadership comes with great responsibility. In my opinion instructional technology leaders must be servant leaders. It is not about power, knowledge, expertise, or title, rather it is about serving. The best way to serve those you work WITH, is to learn alongside them, to do anything you would ask them to do, and show you of all people, are a lead learner.

Driving innovation and leading must also be about showing you are always reflecting and evaluating each and every day. You consider what you taught last year and determine if it is still instructionally relevant to your learners, and plan for where you want the learning to go next. While the ISTE standards won’t change from this year to the next, my lessons will. The reality is that my students will change from this year to next. They will have one more year of living in a digitally driven society. They will have one more year of experience with technology in schools. They will be one year more capable of creation over consumption, so in no way should my lessons look the same next year. If I do not model this as leader, how can I call upon those I work with to reflect and evaluate on their own instructional path? Driving innovation is about being the one out front, doing anything you ask others to do.

So look around… who do you know that is driving innovation? Who do you see putting on the brakes every time something new comes around? Ask yourself if you can foster an innovator in the months to come. Can you help one more person see the value of gunning it over slamming on the brakes? It is my challenge to you!



The Day Nexus 7’s Came to Our Classroom.. A Must Share Story


I am crazy busy… I have literally no time to blog… but here I am. Why? Well if I don’t tell you this great story right now, it just won’t come out as amazing later. My excitement about today just has to be shared.

Let’s start with this idea that primary grade teachers are scared of technology. Nonsense… at least not at Sara Harp Minter Elementary! I have 50 district provisioned Nexus 7 tablets that I am getting out as fast as I possibly can. Why? Well because my teachers are well beyond ready to use them, and they let me know! This week I have added 6 classrooms of students to tablets for use in the classroom, and the remaining four I will get out early next week. As soon as I get them ready I literally walk them to the classroom. We don’t let technology collect dust around there! So let it be known, I see NO fear in my teachers, instead I see excitement and drive!

Then let’s talk about how teacher with tablets immediately put kids into consumption apps. Noop… not at our school.  Hours after getting the tablets today, one of my kindergarten teachers set students off on a  scavenger hunt taking pictures while looking for words they could read. This wasn’t me… not my idea… purely the first thing she put into action with these devices! Down the hall a bit I sat on the floor with another class, and after putting the student’s pictures on their profile the teacher let them work on exploring the apps. What did they do… oh a little creative drawing… some Google Earth… you know…  the kind of things where they express themselves and explore the world! Was she hovering over them like they had rare jewels? No… in fact she was the example of great ease. She showed them that she trusted them, and in turn they worked together and learned together! Amazing example of what digital leaders do.

Last… well of course I saved the best for last. How about that idea that kids just want to play games on devices? Well let me tell you about a moment when a 5 year old asks me to find shapes and bump them to her device, and I am in awe. Kyli asked me to send her a triangle. In Google images I found one and beamed it to her. She then found one and beamed it to me. Then I sent pictures where she had to look and see if she could find the triangles. She then beamed me a different shape (to see if I knew what it was, of course).  This little one gave me the greatest vision of what kinds of collaborative assessment you could do with the Nexus 7’s!  That’s right, she was showing me the very potential that lies in these tools! 

So there you have it… one afternoon… lots of theories debunked… and no room for excuses! Let’s tell those naysayers who think mobile learning is poorly implemented that they need to look a little harder. Take it from my Kindergarten crew… The potential that lies in utilizing these resources for emerging learning opportunities simply is limitless!




It’s the Things NOT in the Lesson Plans…


I am always trying to plan technology lessons that expose students to something new, challenging, and relevant long after our class time together. This week for K-4 we Built With Chrome. This great project between Google and Lego is one that can be used in so many ways, so I wanted students to have this experience this week. I had a feeling the Legos would be a hit, but what I didn’t account for was how fascinated each class would be with Google Maps. We had conversations about geography and map skills that I never planned to have, but they sure where great. I sometimes forget that things I expose my own kids to, other kids may have not experience with. For many of the students I saw this week, Google Maps was fascinating because they had no idea such a thing existed. Many of them wanted to build where they had lived previously, where family members lived, and my little ones wanted to go to the “white place” where Santa, or the penguins lived! Several of my students have families with European or South American descent, and this was an opportunity for them to see where their families came from! These very unplanned leaning moments were the best part of the week!


While Google Maps were a hit… they were also pretty excited about those Lego bricks! Watching students build was a window into who they were. I saw creativity, detail, and patience in kids I have never seen before. I observed those who would start on a task, and 30 minutes later be adding the last perfect detail, as well as kids who looked at others work, compared themselves, and wanted to completely start over.  I watched students show grit and determination, and that was pretty great to watch!


While both Google Maps and Lego Bricks made the week, often the bigger picture is the real win. This week I stepped back and 20150122_131154realized that for the first time this year, most of the classes were showing independence and collaboration. Instead of having everyone asking me for help, they asked each other. It was such a great observation for me. While not everyone would walk into my room and see kids “playing” with Legos online as learning, I could debate that opinion on so many levels. Every time students come into my room and are exposed to a new digital creation tool, they are also getting additional exposure to the online environment, online tools, and online vocabulary. We all know that so many of these things consistently overlap online. Each of these experiences helps me to build a school full of independent digital creators, not just digital consumers!

So with that week in the books, I have the next two weeks to plan our next big adventure. I have a pretty good idea where I want to go with my big kids already. I am so thankful for these days. While I am truly exhausted after teaching 750 kids in 5 days, the reflection makes me realize it is all worth it.