Flipping Back to School Night


Flipping BTSN


No, I’m not trying swear about Back to School Night… we actually “flipped” it! Thanks to the idea from the famous Scott Bedley who has been flipping back to school night for several years now.

WHY did we flipped BTSN at Quantum Academy?

We are all crunched for time. Parents are. Teachers are. And there just isn’t enough time to really get to know each other. So one of the first times parents are invited into our classrooms, traditionally we inundate them with information “sit and get” style. In the past, I have looked out at my parents during BTSN events and have seen their tired faces, after having worked all day long, trying to focus, write notes, and learn about what their child will be doing all year. And yes, we all know parents use this time to gauge their child’s teacher. To see if their child’s teacher has passion, commitment, and knows their stuff. But is this traditional method of BTSN the best way to do this?

I say no. Parents can learn all the nitty gritty stuff like behavior expectations, curriculum guidelines, and contact information in a better way. This is when flipping comes in. Why not create videos parents can watch BEFORE BTSN so they can watch and learn about your classroom in the comfort of their own home and maybe even while wearing their pajamas? Why not give them an opportunity to gather their questions BEFORE they come to BTSN so they can ask you in a more personal manner? Why not open the doors of your classroom on BTSN for both parents and students and let the students do the talking about their classroom? All of these questions led us to decide that at our school we are Flipping Back to School Night.

HOW did we flipped BTSN?

We took advice from Scott Bedley and created about 15 1-2 minute videos by screencasting on our computers. We simply used Quicktime on our laptops. We co-created slides using Google Slides. We divided up the number of videos between our principal, Ted Kirkbride, and I. We created almost all of the videos that covered all the “school-wide” details. The teachers then created an introduction video where they introduce themselves and describe what makes them passionate about teaching. They were also welcome to add any other videos as well. What is great about making many short videos rather than one long video, is that it allows parents to watch in small chunks, rewatch parts they need refreshing about, and next year they can skip the videos they already have watched to save some of their valuable time. Also, from the perspective of making the videos, by creating smaller videos we could easily share the responsibility of creating them.

Once we had all of our videos created we posted them online in two ways. First, we posted them on our school website. Then we also created a Youtube playlist so all the videos could be watched easily at once. About a week before BTSN night we sent a link out to all parents and explained how BTSN will work at Quantum Academy.

I know some of you are thinking… what about equal access? What about parents who do not have access to technology to watch the videos? Here is how we solved that problem. We opened up our computer lab on the evening of BTSN and allowed those parents to come early to see the videos.

HOW was time spent during BTSN?

This is the best part… we had great one on one conversations with parents and students allowing us to make better connections with them. Students had tour guide sheets to help show their parents around. Students got to pitch their first Genius Hour project to their parents and parents had an opportunity to give feedback by using a rubric to help their child with their idea. I believe everyone had a great time during the event. There were far more smiles and stronger family connections were made. Perhaps this is something you may want to consider trying at next year’s Back to School Night Event.


#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:









SDCUE Tech Fair Reflections


SDCUE was a great day of learning, connecting, and collaborating! Since I was led two sessions and helped with the Google Certified Teacher’s panel, I only had the opportunity to go to one session. My biggest takeaway came from two people!

The first person I learned from was Vicky Sedgwick. I was able to attend her session called Coding with iPads. She has done a lot of work with giving her students experiences with coding. She really helped to make something very clear… there are really two types of coding apps out there. Skill review based apps and open-ended creative type coding apps. If you are regular reader of my blog, then you know that I am a huge supporter of using iPads for student creation rather than student consumption. I happen to believe creative apps lead to more critical thinking and well… creativity!

When talking about coding apps we can categorize them this way too. Take a look at my sketchnotes from her session. It is clear which ones are creative coding apps that start with a blank screen and allow students to create code to build something new. Some of these apps even allow you to remix codes other people have posted to the community. Thank you so much Vicky for introducing me to many new apps!

The other person I learned from was Nicole Delasio, the keynote speaker at SDCUE. During her Google Slam session she showed us how to easily create a black and white silhouette image using Snapseed. Then she suggested posting these silhouettes onto a Google Slides presentation. From there you can annotate or animate. I would even suggest putting the image into Google Draw to add annotations as well. I will work on a sample of this tomorrow.

After SDCUE I had a chance to sit down with her and talk about sketchnoting. She showed me a great new tip that I didn’t know about Paper53. When you save my sketch to camera roll one of the options you are given is “save background on” or “save background off.” If you select “save background off” then it will only save the sketch, not the background. Then you can use a app that allows layers like Photoshop Touch (an app she encouraged me to purchase… $9.99) to create something entirely new!

Here is an example of a sketch I created in Paper53, saved with the background off, then layered with a photo (that I too while beach camping this summer) in Photoshop Touch.


Nicole also introduced me to another sketching app that allows you to have layers, insert images, and sketch called Procreate! It has all the tools I have been wanting with Paper53. Procreate has a lot of art tools to use including oil pastel, artist crayon, markers, pens, Gesinski Ink, a lot of brushes, airbrushing, textures, and some very interesting abstract tools. Here is an example of an oil pastel creation with my Paper53 sketch added as another layer.


These new tools are sure to keep me busy for a very long time.

While I learned about some new a fantastic tools, the best part of any conference is catching up with my PLN in person. I loved seeing all of you there and if I didn’t see you and get a chance to talk to you… we shall meet again. Perhaps at #edcampLA?


SDCUE Tech Fair!


SDCUE has arrived! I am up late making last minute tweaks to my presentations and thought I’d whip up a new blog post in honor of my favorite CUE affiliate… San Diego CUE. Who wouldn’t love them? They made stickers this year!



They have a new location and new format this year. The last several years have been at California State University San Marcos, but this year I get to flock to my hometown, Encinitas, to La Costa Canyon High School (ok… so it’s really La Costa… but I grew up less than a mile away from this school). The new format comes in options of sessions this year. Instead of only offering the traditional 50 minute sessions, attendees can attend 45 minute lecture style sessions or 90 minute hands-on sessions.

Another new change this year is the keynote! I am excited SDCUE chose the amazing Nicole Delasio to host the keynote. Her keynote is called “Nothing Else Matters.”

Here is what my session line up looks like this year:

Session 1: Best Use of Apps in the Classroom

This is my session! I am excited to share about how to create an app smashing culture in your classroom. Also, I will help you understand the difference between a skill review app and a creative app and how using the 4 Cs can help bump up your app game in your classroom and climb that SAMR ladder! I am honored to be a featured speaker this year at SDCUE.

Here are links to my blogs about this session:

One Screen of Apps

Building and Sustaining an App Smashing Culture

Some new apps I’ll be mentioning that are not listed on these blog posts are:

BaiBoard– Great collaborative whiteboard app

Sketches– a free option in place of Paper53

FotoCam Paint– iphone only app that allows you to turn any photograph into a watercolor painting

Resources from this presentation:

Did you like that video? Kid Snippets: Back to School

SAMR in 120 Seconds

SAMR and Starbucks Idea. Not mine. But isn’t it great? Link here.

Blooming Butterfly. Great to keep this by your desk as a reminder. Link here.

Session 2: Coding on iPads with Vicki Sedgwick

Here is Vicki’s session description: Have iPads in your classroom? Want to explore Computer Science concepts and coding with students? Learn how to to do just that with apps like: Kodable, Tynker, Hopscotch, Cargo Bot, and more. Attendees will be creating a project in Hopscotch and exploring other apps; please install apps.

Keynote: Nothing Else Matters with Nicole Delasio

Session 3: #caedchat Live! with Ryan Archer and myself

We are trying out a new and more interactive type of session. We hope to bring new #caedchat folks and “old” #caedchat friends together to discuss issues in technology. This should be a great way to connect with your PLN and something you won’t want to miss!

Session 4: Google Certified Teacher Panel

If you think you are a Google ninja, then come to this session. You are sure to walk away with something new and inspiring and Googley to add to your Google bragging rights. This session was created by Jen Roberts and she recruits Google Certified Teachers from the area to do a 4 minute demo slam. Some of the amazing slams will be done by: Scott Moss, Dan McDowell, JR Ginex-Orinion, Kevin Fairchild, Nicole Dalesio, Jeff Heil, Jen Wagner, and Adina Sullivan. I am sure there will be a few more surprise guests!

So many of friends will be presenting and I am sad that I can’t attend their sessions. I packed myself full of teaching and left little room for me to do some learning. Hopefully, over lunch, I can learn from them or just have some great laughs.

If you aren’t able to attend SDCUE Tech Fair tomorrow, follow the learning on Twitter with #sdcue hashtag. If you are interested in learning more about SDCUE, visit their website at www.SDCUE.org.

Thank you to all the volunteers who have worked so hard to make this event possible. Especially thank you to my Escondido colleagues who I know put their heart into this event: Brad Pascoe and Krystle Miller.


CUE14 Reflections


Consider the desert, a gathering of over 5,000 teachers, and a seemingly endless list of sessions lead by quality educators from all over the US. That was CUE14… well, in a nutshell. CUE14 took place on March 20-22 in beautiful Palm Springs, CA.

There were so many take aways from CUE14 and I will share a few with you.

1. The first takeaway was not a session at all. It was the people.

One of the true joys of CUE14 was weaving down the halls and seeing my PLN face to face. I wasn’t able to make it 10 steps without bumping into one of my friends I have made since joining Twitter. Small gatherings of my Twitter friends would become unique learning opportunities that didn’t require an assigned room or scheduled time.

Joining meetups like the #caedchat meetup the first night of #CUE14 helped me to put a face to Twitter handles and get to know some of my PLN on a personal level. Making connections with others at CUE14 was humbling, inspiring, and absolutely the best learning I had throughout the conference.


2. Get your students blogging. You just might inspire them.

On the first day I attended David Theriault’s session about how giving his students the space to create and write through a blog has brought out a new love of writing within his students and so many unexpected surprises. In fact, David’s way of presenting through storytelling had me going from belly laughs to tears as he shared his silliest teaåching moments to his most gut wrenching sad moments. He claims that we should inspire our students to leave something positive behind. We should inspire our students to share their passion through blogging.

While I have had my students blogging for two years now, I brought back with me a new level of enthusiasm about student blogging. This last week, my students too, found a new inspiration for blogging… and that was greatly due to the fact that I attended David’s session. One student came up to me when he finished his work and said, “Can I write a blog in my free time?” I said, “Absolutely!” Then he replied… “Blogging is my FAVORITE time of the day!” Now why would a fourth grader find so much joy in this? It is because his writing has a purpose and an audience. He hopes that his classmates will start talking about his blog post and it will go viral in the classroom.

3. Your iPhone is your canvas. iPhoneography.

I started on Instagram about two years ago. One of the first people I started following was Nicole Delasio, also known as @magrelacanela. Her pictures that she posts on Instagram are pieces of art. In her session she shared with us her tips and tools she uses to take an ordinary iPhone photo and transform them into… well anything!

Since her session, I have taken on some of her tips and her app ideas to create a few of my own. My  favorite photo editing app she shared with me was PhotoWizard. PhotoWizard has an incredible amount of editing tools. Here are my sketchnotes from her session.

photo 2

Here are a few photos I took on a photo walk last week with my fourth graders. We went looking for angles: acute, obtuse, and right. Here is the shot I took of an acute angle. The before shot shows what the original image looked like. The after picture was the image after it was edited in PhotoWizard.







4. Google tips are endless! You’ll never know them all.

I have said this before… but if you ever say you know everything there is to know about Google… you’re lying. I attended two sessions about Google Apps and Extensions lead by Mark Hammons and the other lead by JR Orinion Ginex. In both sessions I learned so many ways to make my life easier with Google Apps and Extensions.

Here are my favorite ones:

Clearly: This extension allows you to display an article without all of the ads or other distracting things that are regularly found on a webpage.

Awesome Screenshot: Allows you to screen capture and annotate the image!

SnagIt: Allows you to annotate a webpage.

Dot ePub: Turn any webpage into an :!

Screencastify: This is a simple screen-casting software for Chrome.

Google Voice Search Hot word: This extension is in beta but you can say, “okay Google” then say your search terms.

Here are my sketchnotes for both sessions.

photo 3

photo 1

5. I love presenting!

This year I applied to present at CUE14 about using Twitter to develop  a personal learning network. My session was titled “Twitter: A Superpower for Educators.” This was by far one of the largest audiences I have ever presented to. They were a great bunch and I think some of them were even inspired enough to go out there and get themselves a Twitter account and start making some connections to the thousands of educators out there sharing what they do.


By they way, I am super proud of this slidedeck. I created my own slides on Paper53. I don’t know which was more fun… creating the presentation or delivering it!

Here is my presentation:

Here is a blog post link about this presentation.


App Differently: Reach for Redefinition {EdtechTeacher iPad Summit}


No longer does our old pedagogy match the changing world that is all around us.

Our students today deserve more. They deserve more time creating; less time filling out bubbles. They deserve more time collaborating;  less time sitting quietly at their desks filling out worksheets. They deserve more time communicating in ways they never imagined possible. And they deserve to be challenged to think critically about the world around them.

Some of the biggest critics of students using technology in the classroom visualize “zombie” children mindlessly clicking away on their screens. Well I am here to shout from the rooftops that when implemented correctly, technology integration can redefine how students learn in your classroom.

Take a look at Ruben R. Puentedura‘s SAMR model.

Or watch the simplified version of the SAMR model here.

In order to reach the Modification and Redefinition level, you need to take an honest look at how you integrate iOS apps into you classroom. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are the apps my students using “creative apps”?
  • Are the apps my students using primarily “skill review” type of apps?
  • To read more about the difference between these types of apps visit this blog post.

In my classroom, I limit my students’ use of “skill review” apps because they really aren’t too different from a worksheet. Skill review apps promote  more drill type of activities. However, I have many “creative apps” for my students to access so they can use iOS apps to create, collaborate, communicate, and to think critically (4 Cs of the Common Core). This is how you can move to the modification and redefinition of the SAMR model. In my classroom my students and I, App Differently.

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If you attended my session at Edtech Teacher iPad Summit session, you may feel a tad overwhelmed by the number of amazing apps that I shared with you today. So have no fear, I have included a list of all the apps I discussed in my session and a few bonus ones as well. Also, in my presentation, I included student samples so  you could see how these apps can be used.

Creative Apps for the Classroom:

Where do you start?

Mind Mapping:

Popplet and SimpleMind+ are mind mapping apps which can be used in a very substitution type of way. However if you think creatively you can use this app in a way that promotes critical thinking. I use this app for my students to document evidence from the text to support their opinions. In addition, these are great tools to use for students to plan bigger projects.

Digital Storytelling:

Sonic PicsStoryrobe, or 30 Hands for digital storytelling, storyboarding, and reading skills.

Puppet Pals is a digital puppet theater that creates recorded movies of puppet shows.

Mad Lips allows you to make any image TALK! See my Talking Book Covers post here.

Trading Cards by Read Write Think allows you to create trading card about historical figures and characters from stories. Another great one by Read Write Think is Word Mover.

Collaborative Reading:

Subtext is one of my favorite apps ever. My students love it too. With this app my students and I do collaborative reading connecting with each other and classes around the country.

Thinking Critically:

Hopscotch is a visual coding app that is a great tool to introduce simple coding skills. My favorite thing about this app is that my students practice essential critical thinking skills. One of my favorite students quotes regarding this apps is, “I failed so many times trying to make this script, but I kept going until I got it right!”

Communicate What You Know:

Explain Everything is an app that allows you to screencast. I use this app in my flipped math class. My students even create videos to show what they know.

Other apps that I love for screen-casting are: Doodle Cast Pro (paid) and Doceri (free). Both of these apps have the ability to save the screencast to the camera; a feature that I love.

Ask 3 takes screen-casting a step further! This app allows you to create a screen-casting collaborative community. As the teacher, you set up a group which your students join. Students can create their own screen casts that the other students can view and respond to. This app is FREE.

Create with Images:

The camera is perhaps the BEST tool on the iPad.

My favorite photo editing tool is Snapseed. This app is full of great tools to edit a photo for artistic expression. Get your students outside with their cameras. Send them on a quest to find geometry in the world around them. Then allow them to create beautiful images in Snapseed.

Annotate Your Images:

There are many comic type apps that will allow you to annotate images. Story Me,  Comic Story, and Comic Life are great for creating comic strips. I also use this app for reading strategy practice and for annotating pictures in science and social studies.

Pic Stitch plus Skitch to annotate images for any content area!

ThingLink creates a “touchable” image where students can type in information, place links, or videos right onto the picture. This is great for students to add to their blog posts.

Create With Video:

My favorite movie making apps are iMovie (paid) and Splice (free). iMovie’s trailers are a great tool for beginning videographers.

iStopMotion is an expensive app, but well worth the price! This app allows you to create stop animations and time lapse videos.

Vintagio is a wonderful silent moving making app. This is great for a classroom environment because students don’t have to worry about sound. Read my Vintagio post here.

Share and Celebrate:

Edmodo (or My Big Campus) are tools that allow your class to interact with each other. It is a “safe” social media for education.

My Big Campus is a learning management system my district has adopted. It has many similarities to Edmodo, except for some things. MBC allows threaded discussions and has a blogging feature built in.

Kidblog is a webpage and also an app. This is a blogging tool that will allow you to set up student blogs and monitor their posts and comments. You can have their blogs set to share with the world or only with each other in the class. Read my Kidblog poster here.

Google Drive is an excellent tool to use to save and share student creations. Many apps have a built in feature that allows you to upload to your Google Drive. Students in my classroom have their own Google account created by our district. This allows them the access docs and sites. In addition, it is a place for them to organize and store all of their iPad projects.


Thank you for attending my session at EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in San Diego. Please come visit my blog often as I love to blog about how iOS apps can redefine learning. Also, I will begin blogging more about Google Apps for Education.


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EF Explore America: What is 21st Century Learning? YouTube

Sarah Washam created in YouTube editor: YouTube

SAMR Model in 120 Seconds: YouTube

All images created by me.