Saturday, December 28, 2013

Getting to Know You Meme - I'm Up for the Challenge!

Sheri has a great way of waking us up from our vacation slumber and getting us back into the groove!  Thank you, Sheri Edwards, for this challenge and I hope many of my PLN friends will follow if they are tagged!  Click to read Sheri's post if you need more info.

Here's How It Works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

11 Random Facts About Me:

  1. Technology:  I love it!  Although I've been a tech teacher for an elementary school for 15 years, I don't have my masters in IT...yet!  I also love chatting w/ my worldwide colleagues in skype chat groups.  :)
  2. Masters Program:  I'm FINALLY getting my Masters in IT!  I'm excited and nervous.
  3. Immediate Family:  My husband and I have 3 children and we are so blessed!  Maggie is 19, Meghan is 16 and Danny is 13.  This will be the only time they are all teens...time flies.
  4. Extended Family:  My sister and brother live in Rockford, IL, where we grew up, with their families.  My parents are there, too.  I'm the only one who left - and I get reminded often!
  5. Dog:  Our dog, Hobbs, is a boxer who thinks he's a lap dog.  He likes to snuggle and cuddle and loves to play.
  6. Phone:  I can't have it out of my sight...I know, that's not good.
  7. Cars:  I love cars!  My grandfather owned a body shop and I used to walk around the shop all of the time and talk to my cousins and other people who worked there.  I learned little things about cars and my fondness for them grew.
  8. Places: Our family has moved to 5 different houses and 3 states in the past 20 years.  We've lived in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois.  The house we're living in now is the longest we've resided - 11 years!
  9. Vacations:  We've travelled to many places in the US, but haven't gone west - until my daughters and I went to Hawaii last summer.  I went with Flat Classroom Project co-founders Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis and brought my daughters with me.  That was an amazing experience! 
  10. Books - I don't read them anymore...I listen to them!  I can get through a book much faster if it's read to me.  The last book I listened to was "One Amazing Thing" by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.  It was a book my oldest had to read for her Freshman year in college.  Good one!
  11.  Food:  I love it, but can't cook it very well - or so my children tell me.  So, I have 3 meals sent to us each week through Blue Apron, and I follow their recipes with the ingredients given.  It gives us a variety of different healthy foods and they seem satisfied.

Questions for Me:

  • When did you know what you wanted to do for a career? How did you discover that?
    • I wanted to be a teacher the Spring of my senior year.  I was going to be a pharmacist (because my dad wanted me to be one) and I just couldn't see myself in that career.  I felt a calling to be a teacher.
  • What are your top three favorite books of all time?
  • If you could only read one blogger next year, who would it be?
  • What advice do you have for educators today?
    • Open yourself up to new ideas daily.
  • What is on your bucket list?
    • I would love to travel around the world.
  • If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?
    • Italy - preferably Sicily where both sides of my family are from.
  • What is your favorite quote?
    • “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” ― Helen Keller
  • What song lyrics move you?
    • Lately, the Song, "Say Something" by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera
  • If you could sit with any 5 people dead or alive around your dinner table who would you choose and why?
    • Matt Dillon (childhood crush), and my grandparents (miss their stories of the past)
  • What are your five favorite verbs?
    • go, give, find, feel, do
  • What six words sum up your philosophy [of life or of education]?
    • Always do your best in everything.

Now It's Your Turn! 

Questions from me:

  1. If you could choose just one thing to change about the world, what would it be?
  2. Should people care more about doing the right thing, or doing things right? Why?
  3. What things hold you back from doing the things that you really want to?
  4. What makes you, you?
  5. What makes a good friend?
  6. What was/is your favorite class in college/university?  Why?
  7. What is an important thing people should know about educators?
  8. What is your favorite grade to teach?  Why?
  9. Who/what inspired you to be who you want to be or are today?
  10. What is the best age to be?  Why?
  11. Where do you want to travel?

Remember - Here's How It Works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.
Reply to this post with a link when you have finished your post.  Do as much as you can or want - thank you for considering this challenge!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Hour of Code #hourofcode

The students enjoyed learning to code the week of Dec. 9-13.   Grades 1-6 and 8th graders built many lines of code during their time during class and even at home!

The sites we used were:

Angry Birds - all grades
Scratch - junior high
Tynker - grades 1-3 (puppy game), 4-6 (lost in space)
Light Bot - all grades
Khan Academy - junior high
Learn Street - junior high
Botlogic - Kindergarten-3
Blockly - grade 4

I plan to do an after school club to learn to code in January - looking forward to it!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

CSRN Lab Highlights in September & October

The first trimester is nearing the end, and the students had the opportunity to participate in many creative, innovative projects so that they are learning to go onto the Internet safely, responsibly, and respectfully.  We are also fortunate to have several volunteer moms who are giving their time to help out in the lab!
This is what has happened in the lab:

Early Childhood

The 3 and 4 year old students are going onto the computers in the lab and learning to point, click, drag and move the mouse so that it does what they want it to do!  I enjoy the games on Sesame Street ( because they hone in on the skills I would like the students to master and they have fun in the process!  
The students have just started using the site ABCMouse ( which is an integrated site where students can choose a lesson path or their own "adventure" with games, puzzles, painting, songs, ebooks, etc.  I will be sending login information to parents before the holidays.

Grades K-1

Students are working on typing skills and Common Core Math skills in educational websites that include:

Students playing on Chromebooks in the Library
Partner-playing with Keyboard Climber

Grade 2

Students are commenting on their Edmodo Pen Pal project friends from Texas and Korea.
They are also playing Sumdog, a Common Core Math skills site where they can play with other students around the world (similar to World Math Day).

Grade 3

The third graders are participating in the Global Read Aloud.  Their book is Marty McGuire.  In computer class, they are using Vocaroo to write a summary of a few of the chapters and sharing it with a class in Canada.

Grade 4

The Global Monster Project has been in full swing!  Students just finished creating the monster and have named it.  In computer class, they are creating monster movies using Kerpoof.  The winners will be shared with the Global Monster Project community.
Room 305

Room 306

Grade 5

Moon picture taken by Molly
The students have taken pictures of the moon for the Moon Over Us Project.  They will share their pictures and observations in the Kidlink Project.  They have also written a scary story to share with students in the Scariest Stories and Poem project.  They will share in the iCollaboratory project.

Grade 6

Common Sense Media has great units on Digital Citizenship on their website.  I'm using Digital Passport with 6th graders.  They have 5 themes related to digital safety, respect and community.  They play games and choose the best scenarios for each theme.

Grade 7

The students are researching and connecting in the Digiteen Project.  Mr. Lewickas and I have teamed up in Language Arts and Computer class to give the students 3 days a week to dedicate themselves to the project.  This has proven very helpful as Mr. Lewickas has taught the students APA formatting and guides them in their writing process.  The students are ahead of most of the schools in the project but that gives them time to do their best work.

Grade 8

Diocesan Assessments are almost finished!  Most of the students have completed the Joliet Diocese Assessments for Technology and are looking forward to projects where they can collaborate and create.  We are planning to work with an 8th grade group from Ohio in the Virtual Vacation project.  


The lab has been blessed with many wonderful helpers so far this year!  If any other parent from St. Ray's is interested, please let me know.
Ms. Fox and her mom getting the Chromebook cart ready for Elementary students.

Ms. Fox
Mrs. Bird
Mrs. Leon
Mrs. Birsa
Mrs. Karnezis
Mrs. Paone 
Mrs. Funk
Mrs. Vitas
Mrs. Juricic

Special Honor

I was asked to be part of a guest video lecture series created by Bob Greenberg, a retired elementary teacher and now graduate studies teacher for Global Learning.  I was interviewed about the global collaborative projects I've done with students and teachers.  To be a part of this series is a great honor and I'm looking forward to hearing what the students will say when they take his class in the Spring of '14.  This is the list of videos produced by Bob and the global educators he has interviewed.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

August Highlights and September Plans in Mrs. Allen's Lab and Beyond!

Where did August go?
It always seems as soon as August 1st rolls around, the world spins faster.  August first marks the school being officially "open".  Through the month of July teachers and staff are encouraged to stay away so they can clean the floors, paint, repair, etc.  It's a good idea but this month I felt rushed.
Our first teachers' meetings began Aug. 14th and students came for the first day on Aug. 19th.  Nonetheless I gots some of the students back online with their accounts (Edmodo, Google Apps for EDU, Kerpoof, iCollaboratory, and Kidlink).  They also got new computer spots and chair spots when I give instruction.

Two days after we started school, my oldest daughter started college for the first time.  My family and I took a few days to get her settled and participate in orientation.  

At school, the students enjoyed educational games and sites they played last year.  They didn't miss a beat!


We are now moving into September and MANY great things are happening in the lab and classrooms with technology.  Soon we will get another CHROMEBOOK cart with 30 Chromebooks so that the Elementary and Junior High teachers will have more options go check out the chromebooks for their students.

Computer Lab Schedule

This is the set schedule for the students to come down to the lab.
Other times I am either in the classroom with the teachers or
fixing/updating computers, websites and the network.

Early Childhood (Ages 3-4)

The students in Early Childhood (4 different sections) started on the laptops this past week and they did great!  They learned how to use the touchpad and how to "click".  Many of them wanted to touch the screen to "click" but soon figured out how to do it.  They played, "Family Food" game with Baby Bear and his parents:

Kindergarten and Grade 1

This month the Kindergarten students are learning to type the correct letters with their left and right hands.  The best site to teach this is Keyboard Climber  They raise the hand they aren't using to practice typing with the correct hand.  Whatever side the letter is on the screen that's the hand they use to find the letter. Great eye/hand coordination!
They are also learning to log the computer on and off using CTRL+DEL.  

Grade 2

The students are preparing for the Edmodo Pen Pal Project.  Permission slips will go out to parents to inform and allow their child to participate.  The students will participate in the lab and in their classroom.
Information about the project

Grade 3

The students will participate in the Global Read Aloud beginning the end of this month.  The book they will read and discuss is:  

Students will use Edmodo and Skype to communicate, collaborate, and connect with other students and discuss the chapters.  The students will do this in the lab as well as their classroom.  The 3rd grade teachers, Mrs. Hinthorn and Ms. Kinsella, are very excited!

Grade 4

Monster Project Time!  This will be our 4th year participating in the Global Monster Project.  Over 50 schools around the world participate by creating a description of a monster body part, submitting it to the group, and creating the entire monster in their classroom/art room/school.  The 4th grade teachers, Mrs. Gambino and Ms. Howe as well as the art teacher, Mrs. Latz, are looking forward to this project!  In the lab the students are creating introductions to share with the schools.  We plan to skype with them as well.

Speaking of Skype, the 4th graders in Mrs. Gambino's room participated in the first Mystery Skype of the school year!  They did a great job and were the first ones to figure out the state where the mystery skypers are from.  It was Illinois!  
Students asking and answering Yes/No questions

Students using Google Earth and Google Maps 

Grade 5

Moon Over Us Project
The students have begun to register for this global science project.  They will take pictures or draw what they see for 5 days in a row of the moon at the same time of day and share them with students around the world.  They will also take part in other moon-related activities throughout the year.  Permission slips will be sent out to parents so they are informed and will help their child with taking photos.

Grade 6

Students are preparing to use Edmodo for assignments with their junior high teachers.  Permission slips are going home this week.  They are also getting ready to participate in Scariest Stories through the iCollaboratory.  

Scariest Stories and Fall Poetry - October 
Whether it be a scary story or a fall poem, we encourage students to share their literary work and discuss it with one another. Students use this project to develop their writing skills by sharing and discussing their narrated and/or illustrated (optional) writing in our online community.
The Scariest Stories project activities are designed to take about one hour a week in a school computer lab or on set of classroom computers. Teachers should plan to spend an hour a week in addition to the computer time for proofreading student work. Students who get involved spend more time writing, sharing and discussing their stories. Students who complete the survey, story or poem, comment on their pages outside the classroom and share a closing reflection about what they have learned will receive an iCollaboratory Web Badge and a certificate.

Grade 7

Digiteen Project - Students are preparing for the digital citizenship project with Mr. Lewickas, the Language Arts teacher.  They are studying resources, websites, and proper online behavior.  Code of conduct slips will be going out this week.

Grade 8

Diocesan Assessments
The students are working on 4 Diocesan Assessments this Fall - Multiple Choice, Word Processing, Spreadsheet, and Presentation.  For the past 3 years, the students have actively been working in Google Docs using the software in the lab and the classrooms.  They should be proficient and pass with good marks!  

Looking forward to a great start to the school year!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Reflection - Flat Classroom Live Hawaii-Style!

I think I'm finally coming down from my "high" of the 3-day global event at Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii.  The facility is state-of-the-art, the faculty is top-notch, and the staff is simply amazing.  The students were thoughtful, eager, and fun to teach and hang around.  Realizing after that President Obama graduated high school at Punahou makes it all the more special!  Emily McCarren, Director of the Wo International Center, invited the Flat Classroom team to run the event.  She was a wonderful host and resource, and now a new colleague.  I look forward to connecting with her in the near future!

Wo International Center
The students and several teachers were submersed in Flat Classroom learning.  They researched a problem that the school or state of Hawaii faced and worked to find a way to solve it.  Information, notes, and final projects were housed on the Flat Classroom Live Wiki.  Take a look to see the final projects as well as the process.  That's where true learning took place.

We shared our stories and the students learned how to become "flat".   Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay shared important Flat Classroom strategies.  They are the co-founders of the Flat Classroom Project where I met and worked with them online. I finally met them face-to-face in Hawaii!  Frank Guttler taught the students and teachers the important basics of filmmaking.  He is a master at his craft and students listened well.  I shared my story on how I became a global "flat classroom" educator as well.  Many videos on the stories and presentations are on the FCLive UStream Page.

We had fun!  We went to a luau, we ate dinner on the beach, and we enjoyed the Hawaii weather.  After the event was over, we were sorry to see it end.  We enjoyed each other's company and marveled at the final projects the students and teachers created.

After the event, my daughters and I stayed a few extra days.  We spent one of the days on an adventure tour and the other hanging by the pool and ocean.  It was a nice way to relax and get to know our surroundings.

Thank you, Julie and Vicki, for allowing me to participate in this amazing event!  It was wonderful to meet and work with Frank and Emily and to find amazing educators to learn from and collaborate.  I also met creative educators in the conference:  Hui-Mei, Sonya, Bill, Ryan, and Maria  I hope to join you all, soon, through Flat Classroom projects and other types of collaborations as well!

Bill Brady, Hui-Mei Chang, Anita Chen,
Ryan Fujii, Sonya Van Schaijik, Maria Verhaar 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Flat Classroom Live - From Hawaii! July 24-26

In less than a week I will help facilitate a Flat Classroom workshop from the warm, sunny island of Oahu.  This is my first REAL adventure - I presented at many workshops virtually and in person before, but this time I will help Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis coordinate an entire workshop.  I'm excited, nervous, anxious and ready to go!

If you are interested, you can follow and join virtually.  I hope you can join us!

How to Join Us Virtually

1.  Follow hashtags in Twitter:  #fclive13.
2.  Join our Ning:  There you will meet other educators and students and learn what is happening.
3.  Join our Wiki:  This will have directions and things to do as well as our schedule of events.
4.  Contact me ( or and I'll keep you updated as well!
5.  Like our Facebook page:

From FlatClass13 wiki

Tentative Schedule

All times are UTC-10h HAST

Tuesday, July 23  
5-8pm   Social Event 

Wednesday, July 24 
8-9:45am Registration, Hunt, Island Time
10-11:30am Phase 1
11:45-12:45pm Phase 2
1:30-2:30pm Oral Pitch
2:30-4pm Phase 3
4-4:45pm FLATS presentation
5:30-7:30 Evening event

Thursday, July 25
8:30-10:15am Registration/Island Time/Field Trip
10:30-1:30pm Phase 3
1:30-2pm FLATS Presentation - ME!  Digital Citizenship
2-4pm Workshops
4-4:30pm Reflection

Friday, July 26
8:30-9am Island Time
9-12pm Finishing Projects
12:30-2:45pm Closing Ceremony
2:45-3pm Final Farewells

Global Thinking for Local Action - Flat Classroom Live!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

New Connections!

The famous ISTE Conference is in full swing and I am at home wishing I was able to attend.  Yesterday Common Sense Media offered a hangout introducing Graphite, a site that helps teachers find the best apps for their students and classroom.  Sounded great!  Well, a few of us checked into the hangout and were the only ones there.  The YouTube link was available to watch the live presentation at the ISTE conference, but a few of us decided to stay in the hangout and get to know each other.

Meet my new connections!

Jane Lofton
Jane Lofton is a librarian from California.  She was looking to add Graphite to her resources for students and teachers at Mira Costa High School.  Her blog is a resource as well:  She tweets @jane_librarian.

Anthony St. Jean
Anthony St. Jean is a technology coordinator at Orange Board of Education in New Jersey.  He has a school blog where he keeps his students and parents informed during the school year.  He wanted to see the benefits of Graphite, too.

I'm looking forward to staying in touch with Jane and Anthony.  Even though we weren't able to watch the presentation, we connected and planned to learn from in each other in the coming months!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Wrapping up the School Year

It's been a few months since I've written, actually three!  This is what happened this Spring:


Mystery Skyping - Grade 8

Early Childhood moved to the lab laptops instead of the Chromebooks.  I was concerned about the movable chairs but they didn't wiggle and learned to left/right click, use the track pad and scroll very quickly.  
Their sites:

Prekindergarten went to typing games, touch/click/point games, and sites where they needed to listen to the directions:

Kindergarten students played online games and participated in the global project, K-2 Building Bridges.  They retold stories and shared them with their online friends.  Mrs. Kaput's class was able to skype with a class from Bulgaria.

Kerpoof - creating portraits
ABCYa Kindergarten games
Voicethread - Very Hungry Caterpillar (Ms. Bava's class)
Voicethread - Brown Bear (Mrs. Kaput's class)
Voicethread - The Tiny Seed (Bulgaria friends)
Voicethread - The Grouchy Ladybug (Canada friends)

2nd graders playing educational games

First Graders worked on typing skills and first grade core activities:

Discovery Kids Games - great science games!

Second Graders participated in a draw/describe activity where they described themselves as if a portrait of them was taken and shared their descriptions with another class.  They shared their descriptions and both groups drew what they read.  The portraits were sent back and matched up.  It was a great activity!  The students participated with students from Korea, Italy, and Russia.  
They played educational core activity games as well.

The students in Mrs. Buhr's class also participated in the Edmodo Pen Pal Project.  They enjoyed answering and asking questions.

Mrs. Buhr's class portraits (click on drop arrow)
Kerpoof - online drawing tool
PBS Kids Lab - upcoming sites to try out!
Diamante Poem Site

3rd graders working on AWL Voicethread
Third Graders participated in A Week in the Life Project.  They broke into small groups with other students around the world sharing what a week in their "life" is like through pictures.  Each student took 3-5 pictures, shared them with their small group friends, and communicated with them through Edmodo.

These are the final projects:

Fourth Graders participated in the Student Blogging Challenge.  They each had their own blog page and posted, replied and commented throughout the Spring months.

5th graders mystery skype
Fifth Graders enjoyed Mystery Skypes and creating this amazing Hero Voicethread.  They played other educational games as well:
Science Games 

Sixth Graders focused on typing skills and participating in Quest Atlantis, a virtual reality site where students need to make right/wrong decisions to help the people of the city.  There's a lot of reading and writing involved, which they didn't realize!  It also focuses on core skills in science, reading, technology, and other subjects as well.

They also went to these sites:
Physics Games
Math Strategy Games

Seventh Graders followed step-by-step lessons on creating Spreadsheets.  They will review in the Fall and take the Diocesan Assessments soon after.

Formatting Cells - Lesson 10
Creating Simple Formulas - Lesson 12
Working with Functions Lesson 15
Line graph #6: graph #7:

Eighth Graders participated in Quadblogging where they added a post and three other schools commented one week and the other weeks they commented on other schools' posts.  We used The Writer's Club site for blogging created by Rob Sbaglia.  I like the site because it's controlled, yet open, and already has a community of students in it.  It also uses the WordPress platform which I like, too!

Happy Summer!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

March Madness in the Lab!

Now that we are in the heart of NCAA basketball's March Madness, some of the mania is creeping into the computer lab.  Many of the classes are involved in projects that extend beyond the lab and into the classroom.  The students have begun connecting, communicating and collaborating by skyping, blogging, and sharing with other classrooms.

Classrooms in Projects

Kindergarten is participating in Building Bridges, a Flat Classroom Project where they will connect and share a common theme.  They have met some of their partners through Skype and are creating introductions of our school and a "View from Our Window".  Mrs. Kaput is working on the project with her class while Ms. Bava and I work with hers.

Mrs. Kaput's Room 200

Ms. Bava's Room 203

Grade 3 is participating in another Flat Classroom project called, A Week in the Life, where the 3rd graders will give a snapshot of a week in their lives according to various topics.  The 3rd grade teachers, Ms. Kinsella and Mrs. Hinthorn, are also involved in the project.

Mrs. Buhr's class in Grade 2 is enjoying the Edmodo Pen Pal Project where each class posts a series of questions per week and the other classes respond.  There are 4 classes in each group and we are now in Week 2.  Lots of great questions and conversations happening!

Global Projects

The students in Grade 6 have been working on their missions in Quest Atlantis.  They are now at the stage where they can see other students in the world and can communicate with them.  They follow the IBURST rules when they communicate:  
SchoolCenter Picture

The 4th graders are working on the Student Blogging Challenge.  Each week the students have challenges to choose from to build their blogging skills and communicate with students around the world.  They are learning to properly comment, write in paragraph form, and create posts.  Check out their blogs here:

The 2nd graders in Mrs. Ratajczak's class and 6th graders are participating in the Draw/Describe Project in Kidlink.  They are partnered with another class and each student writes a paragraph description of themselves from the shoulders-up.  The partner then draws the description and both the paragraph and drawing are posted in the Kidlink site.  The students draw the portraits with Mrs. Latz in the Art room.  The 2nd graders are paired up with students from Russia and the 6th graders are paired up with students from Illinois, Russia and Virginia.

Global Hero Project
The 5th graders begun their project for the global hero Voicethread project where they choose a hero to write about and describe their hero on this Voicethread where it will be shared and expanded with schools around the world.

Educational Skills and Fun

The 7th and 8th graders are working on Diocesan Assessments in Word Processing, Spreadsheet, and Presentations.  Although not as "fun" as the global projects above, students are learning and applying their knowledge of important fundamentals of these applications.

Grades Preschool - 1

The students in Preschool to First grades are learning math, drawing and typing skills using the following sites:

Preschool:  Number games
PreKindergarten:  Keyboarding 
Kindergarten:  Kerpoof
Grade 1:  ABCYa Keyboarding Kids Korner

Thank You!

I'd like to take a moment to thank the students, parents, staff and community for their kind thoughts and words when they heard of the award I received from the Joliet Chamber of Commerce.  I am humbled and honored to be one of the 16 educators who received the "Great Teacher" award.  Thanks again!