#CUE15 as told in my Sketchnotes


Recently I attended #CUE15 in Palm Springs, California. Throughout the conference, I took sketchnotes of sessions I attended. It may seem as though I didn’t attend many sessions in the three days of the conference, but I did present three times and collaborated with my Quantum Academy team. We spent quite a bit of time doing some research on the vendor floor.

The presentations I was a part of were:

  • #caedchat Live!- This was a collaborative presentation with the moderators of #caedchat. We hosted a conversation based chat at the conference. Our theme was “How to Be More Ed Than Tech in an Edtech World.” It was great seeing so many of our PLN faces live and in person. Plus the added bonus was having conversations in more than 140 characters. Here is the resource doc we shared.
  • Global Games- This session was a collaborative session with Scott Bedley where we shared our stories of connecting our classrooms with other classrooms around the world. Here is the resource doc we shared.
  • Google Certified Teacher Panel- This was a collaborative session with other Google Certified Teachers. I shared how I use Paper53 to personalize my Google Slide presentations, docs, and forms. Here is the resource I shared. 

Here are the sketchnotes I created at #CUE15:









Grassroots Learning


This post is part of the Share #YourEdustory movement for week 14. The topic is: Describe your ideal conference: What is covered? Who is present?

grass-534873_1280Image Cred: Pixabay

The ideal conference is grassroots. It is organized by the people for the people. Meaning, there isn’t a big company or organization that runs it. There are not huge sponsors. You are not handed a giant bag at check-in that is stuffed full of pamphlets and advertisements.

Rather a grassroots conference is brought about by a group of teachers. These teachers find a way to secure a location, gather some money to offer water to the attendees, and help to make the day run smoothly. A grassroots conference does not have a huge vendor hall or sessions led by companies hoping to sell you more edtech software. A grassroots conference does not have to have “speakers” or “presenters.” A grassroots conference honors all attendees and strives to build conversations and time to get hands on. A grassroots conference invites administrators to collaborate alongside. Grassroots conferences are free!

Some of the best learning I have experienced have been at Edcamps, which I believe is a strong grassroots movement. Also, my district has allowed teachers to run their own conference called Edtech2U where the goal is to inspire more teachers to integrate technology into their teaching. And don’t forget a small #CoffeeEDU is like a mini grassroots conference where teachers pick a time and place and meetup (usually at a coffee shop) to discuss educational issues for one hour.

While I still attend and even present at big conferences, I value the time spent at smaller grassroots conferences where I don’t feel overwhelmed by the amount of session choices, the large vendor hall, and the thousands of attendees. I value my time at Edcamps where I have time to have deep conversations about education and make connections with teachers from all over.

What teachers need more than anything is not the newest and flashiest app or tech tool demonstrated for them, but rather time to talk about the “big education picture” and pedagogy. It is through those conversations where I have learned the most and been challenged to think even bigger. Grassroots learning builds connections, honors teacher voice, and establishes a community of collaborators.

To learn more about the Edcamp Movement, follow this link. To learn more about my district’s Edtech2U conference, follow this link. To learn more about #CoffeeEDU follow this link.

If you want to learn more about the Share #YourEdustory movement, follow this link and start sharing your story!


Designing the Learning Space


So much thought goes into what we teach and how we teach. But how often do we actually consider the importance of the learning space? As part of my research for designing a new school, my team and I have done a lot of research about the importance of purposefully designing the learning space.

Before you can actually design the learning space, you need to consider what you want to accomplish in your classroom. Here is what I want my students to be able to do inside the learning space:

  • Create freely
  • Collaborate often
  • Learn through projects
  • Develop a love of books and learning
  • Become a community

In order to accomplish all of the above, the learning space needs to be:

  • Student Centered
  • Flexible
  • Honor student choice
  • Honor collaboration
  • Clean
  • Full of great books!
  • A personal touch

Student Centered

When you walk into a typical classroom, you can quickly determine where the front of the room is. Usually there is a whiteboard, a pull down screen, a projector pointing to that screen, and a teaching station that stays put. All desks are usually arranged to face this spot in the classroom. When you really think about that type of a classroom, the layout says something. It says, the teacher is the most important part of the room.

What if, when you enter a classroom, you can’t tell where the front of the room is? The message is that the teacher is more of a facilitator of learning and the classroom is more student centered. I believe this is more welcoming to students.

Whiteboard spaces should be all over the classroom, not just in one part of the room. This allows for students to use the whiteboards for collaboration. The “teacher station” would be on wheels and can easily move out of the way.

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Link to this teaching station on wheels by Smith System.

After much research for Quantum Academy, we decided not to purchase projectors. Instead we are purchasing 70” flat screen TVs and Apple TVs. We plan on putting the flat screen TVs on TV mounts which have wheels and can easily be moved around the classroom. We have eliminated the need for a projector and speakers, which allows for more flexibility in the classroom. No longer does the front of the room need to stay in one place. It can move when needed.

Here is an example of what we are using:

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Link to this TV stand.

Moving toward a more student centered layout is more welcoming to students. It sends the message that they are the most important part of the room.


The space needs to be able to change easily. For example, I may want all the tables to be pushed to the side so we can utilize a huge floor space. In addition, my students may want the table arrangements to be set up differently to better meet collaborative needs. By putting all furniture on wheels, the classroom space can quickly adapt to the ever changing learning needs.

Honoring Student Choice

Have you ever wondered why we (teachers) do the things we do? For example, why do we assign seats? What if we didn’t assign seats, but rather allow students to choose where they sit, how they sit, and who they sit near? Students should have a choice and I think if you give students this choice, they will make choices that are good for them.

Learning spaces should have a variety of furniture so students can learn how they learn best. I love these student tables for a number of reasons:

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Link to this table by Demco.

These tables are flexible, adjustable, and collaborative. You can quickly move them around since they are on wheels. In addition, they can easily fold up and nest, allowing you to move them all out of the way and stack them together along the wall. But the best part about these desks is they also adjust up and down; from sitting height to standing height. We all have students who prefer to stand while they learn. These desks will allow for different types of choices for students in the classroom.

What if students had different types of seats to choose from? With a combination of traditional seats and these Hokki Stools, students can find the seat that best meets their learning needs.

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Link to Hokki Stool from WittFit.

I ordered a Hokki Stool to test out and it just arrived in my office on Friday. I sat in the stool all day while I was at my desk. After the first hour or so I realized my back and abdomen were getting sore. I realized it was not because the seat was uncomfortable, but rather I was using those muscles while I was sitting. The Hokki Stool has a rounded foundation which allowed me to wiggle and adjust my posture regularly. I also found that I was sitting in more of an active manner, leaning forward just slightly. I also didn’t slouch at all today as this chair kept me in an upright posture.

By providing choice in tables and seating, you allow students to reflect about how they learn best.

Honoring Collaboration

To build collaboration into your classroom you have to consider how you design the arrangement of desks or tables in the classroom. For Quantum Academy, we are moving toward the use of tables rather than desks. However you can arrange desks in a way that promotes collaboration. If cost were not a factor, I would even consider moving to chairs with wheels that would allow you to quickly turn and talk with anyone around you for collaborative conversations. The Hokki Stools are very light and can easily be picked up and moved around to quickly gather a circle of students together.


I know I might be a tad “type A” when it comes to my classroom, but I truly believe a clean learning space is critical for students. Many of our students come from homes where there is a lot of clutter and chaos. They should not have to experience the same thing at school. I try to limit the amount of “stuff” around my classroom and on my classroom walls. I do hang student work and important anchor charts on the walls.

Storage is an important part of a classroom space to help keep it clean. A teacher needs plenty of storage to “hide” and organize all of the important stuff we need to do our jobs.

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Image and product found here.

Full of Great Books!

My absolute favorite part of my classroom is my classroom library. I am proud of it. In fact, when I went to box up my books this year for my year out of the classroom I just couldn’t do it. I asked if the incoming 4th grade teacher would like to borrow my classroom library for the year. I just couldn’t bear the idea that my books would be boxed up and away from children for a year.

I am rethinking how I organize my classroom library. After talking with a colleague and seeing how he organizes his over 2000 books, I want to put stickers on the binding of the books to label them with the last name of the author and move to organizing that way. I also will continue to organize some books by genre or theme.

Some books should also be displayed so students can see the cover. Usually I will display 4 or 5 books above the bookshelf. I will change them often as I do book talks about them throughout the year. This always creates a welcome buzz about certain titles in my library.

A Personal Touch

Don’t forget, students want to know who you are. Adding a personal touch to your classroom is important. It says you want your students to know you and that you care about them too. I always have photos of my family and our crazy adventures. I also display my graduation cap and diploma. I get a lot of “street cred” by showcasing one of my soccer team’s championship trophies.

Your classroom is a place where you and your students make memories together and build a community. I love to post pictures from throughout the school year. Having a wall dedicated to the memories the class is making together is important to building a classroom community. Students have even brought in photos of their lives outside of school to add to the memory wall.


Classrooms haven’t changed a whole lot since the 1800s. Yes, we may have new technology, but classrooms have been typically designed to be teacher centered. It is time to move away from this design and to rethink the classroom space as collaborative and student centered.

Here is a link to my Pinterest Board called EduDesign with some of my research.

This post is inspired by the Share #YourEdustory bloggers movement. To learn more about Share #YourEdustory follow this link.


My Path


Share #YourEdustory week 8: “What was the defining moment you decided to be a teacher?”


I couldn’t pinpoint just one moment of when I decided to become a teacher. Because I believe it was something that was built upon as my life unfolded. More of a journey than a defining moment. In fact, I might even say it is something that continues to build (or rather be reinforced).

However, here is a little bit of a history about my path to becoming a teacher…

Coming from a family history of teachers and administrators, I knew well the challenges of the teaching profession. Perhaps it was the influence of my mother or grandfather, but whatever it was I have always known that teaching was the career path of my future.

For me it was a question of, “A teacher of what?”

My first desire to become a teacher was in high school. I have always held a special spot for people with special needs and being a teacher in special education was my first interest. I used one of my free periods in high school to assist a special education teacher on campus. Through this experience I was able to bond with new friends and learn to have more compassion for the other students in my high school with whom had special needs.

I also had an inspiring English teacher my senior year of High School. She inspired me to believe that I had to be a high school English teacher to teach high schoolers to have a love of literature, poetry, and writing.

Then in college, I was so fascinated with all the doors that were opening up in my learning! I took a class about anthropology and I wanted to major in that. I took a class about geology and then I wanted to major in that. I was completely fascinated with learning at the college level and having choice in my classes. But it wasn’t until I volunteered in an elementary school for a college class requirement, that I fell in love with teaching children. I embraced the curiosity and innocence of the younger students and I felt right at home with the children with whom I worked. It was then that I began to study early childhood development and focused my studies on elementary education.

I dove into my studies of education. I quit my job at the coffee cart in the BMU at Chico State and got a job working in a pre-school to gain experience working with children. I began taking more Spanish classes so I could improve my language skills and the best classes I took in college were the classes that focused on education.

After college I moved back to San Diego County and got my teaching credential at CSU San Marcos and I couldn’t wait until I nailed down my first contract.

But I didn’t REALLY know that I was on the right path until I had my first class. Until I saw 20 sets of eyes looking to me. My true learning and inspiration came from my first class of kindergartners and first graders. I was able to loop my kindergartners from my first year of teaching and teach them first grade as well. It was the last day of their first grade year when I knew I wanted to be a teacher. When I saw those first graders leave my classroom as readers and writers and my heart was full. They had come to me in kindergarten, some of them not even knowing how to write their name, hold a pencil, and sing ABCs. Then all of the sudden, two years later, they were walking away from my classroom ready to take hold of the world as readers.

Through my 16 years of teaching, I continue to know I picked the right path for my life. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else other than teaching. As a teacher I can continue to be advocate for children and continue to be learner myself. With each new class comes a new adventure. A new journey for my students and I to embark together.

Henry David Thoreau says, “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” Through my 16 years of teaching, I continue to become a teacher. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else other than teaching. With each new class comes a new adventure. A new journey for my students and I to embark upon together.

To learn more about the Share #YourEdustory movement, visit this link.


The Why


Week 7 of Share #YourEdustory


Simon Sinek – Start With Why – TED Talk Short Edited

Simon Sinek says that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

While this short Ted Talk focuses on the business world, educators can easily relate to this as well. I think if you have been reading this blog regularly you know my “how” and my “what,” but you may only be guessing what my “why” is.

So here is why I do what I do:



What is Connected Learning?



Share #YourEdustory Week 6: What is connected learning?

What is the point of learning anyway? Is it only to further one’s knowledge? Is it only to become smarter? If it is only to further one’s knowledge and to become “smarter” then we have missed the boat.

Learning is not just for one’s self.

Learning is about becoming a better person. Learning is about thinking how your knowledge can impact others. Learning is about taking what you know and creating a better world.

Learning isn’t really about you at all.

Learning is for the community.

Think about it. What if you never shared your knowledge? What if you never shared your skills and talents? What good would it be?

Connected learning brings learning to the community. It is about crowdsourcing ideas and knowledge. It is about building stronger bridges for our work as educators. Sure, I can plan a lesson all by myself, but I would much rather share my insights and collect insights from others to build something better than I could have imagined.

Connected learning is not just for teachers. It is for students, too. No longer do we as teachers have to be the ones who know everything. We can help students crowdsource information from their peers and the community. We can build bridges for students to connect with other classrooms around the world through blogging, social media, and Google Hangouts.

Connected learning is about creating a space larger than the four walls of our classroom.

Connected learning is about learning together to make our community stronger.