April 28


The last week of March was my school’s SMART Hackathon. Everything about it was amazing! In a field full of creativity, think of this as a blank cavas. Just like the Notebook software it can be anything we want it to be. It was discussed how it would go, what would occur during each session and where the success would lie.

The biggest question when selling this to my colleagues and administration is “What is it?” In a nutshell, it’s the most open ended activity you can imagine. No rules. No right way. No wrong way. Your way. Everything that is being stated in the educational journals regarding the way we need to be teaching today comes to fruition during this event.

An excited class walks into the computer lab. Kelly Miksch and team, at my event included Jason Smith, ask the students what they are learning. She’ll make a list of it on the SMART Board and gets thnd shows them 1-2 of the LAB activities. A game is created in less than 5 minutes focusing on questioning techniques appe kids thinking about the content they are learning. Questions are asked the same way any classroom teache would guide inquisitive minds. Then they enter the world of  Lesson Activity Builder (LAB) activities. From this she gets them excited about video games aropriate to the population she is working with. The students quickly see the repeated template format in each one and the energy soars. From here the children are chomping at the bit to get with their partners and create.

Listening to the conversations with the classmates, they select a topic (unless you predetermine it for them) and what they want to focus on. The students then create their first LAB activity using every level of Bloom’s Taxonomy and all the 4 C’s you can think of. 45 minutes later each group has at least 4 games, we couldn’t stop them if we tried, and then it’s time to share. Each pair rotates through the computer lab playing every game created by their classmates


It was success and there was such pride in every aspect of this. As with most lessons, there are unexpected outcomes that seem to blow us away. You see at the beginning, our Hackathon plan was to be with one class of 14 students. We later added a 3rd grade group who created their activities in 20 minutes, a teacher group where an apprehensive educator took over by assisting a colleague with a technology question and (our favorite moment) hearing a special education teacher yell out “That’s her IEP goal! This 10 year old child with an Autism diagnosis created a game, completed it successfully and it’s her goal. She has a hard time doing it in the classroom and on here she does it in record time!”

Are you interested in learning more?

Download SMART Notebook Software for a free 45 day trial.

Check out SMART’s ebook “Hackathon’s Made Simple” 

July 28

SMART Superheroes

Home sweet home. After 6 fabulous days at the SMART Exemplary Educator (SEE) Summit in Calgary, Alberta Canada I’m home. I’ve hugged my family, unpacked and even started laundry but my heart has a sad spot. For those 6 amazing days I’ve been surrounded by 56 passionate educators from the around the world. We love technology integration so much so that we spent one week of summer submerged in it. Our utopia. SMART Technologies has gone so far beyond treating us like the superheroes we now know we are. We are one SMART superhero team. 

Looking at photographs, reading social media posts, my heart is a little heavy to know my team is all over the world..and not with me collaborating, talking and laughing. My heart is also beaming with pride knowing I can call on any of them and they will be there to guide me, help me, support me-the perfect side kick. 


SEEs and SMART developers at the Hackathon

Why is this week so amazing? How do I begin to explain it? Is it my friends who I’ve kept in touch with since the 2012 Summit who greeted me with best hugs? Is it the new leader who studied all of our profiles and said hello with our name as soon as we arrived at the hotel, which set the tone for this adventure? Is it the bonding events that occurred every day in every way imaginable be it challenging sessions, evening events or the discussions about how to continue, share and grow our passion for collaboration? Or was it that when we spoke with SMART Technology developers, marketing engineers and executives there was no “us and them”, we are a team. A team that shared, supported, challenged and created amazing things.    

                                                                                            The beginning of the application explained it as “a week long intensive professional development”. It was a week long, but intensive doesn’t seem to match the experience…empowering would be better. For I am now empowered with tools of a program that promotes cross-curricular learning. I am empowered with a collaborative team that lives in different corners of the world and a plan to show our students how wonderful each area is. I am empowered with ideas and a plan to find more superhero teachers in my local school. Most importantly I am empowered with a family of superheroes that each have their own unique super power that is ready to shine.

Thank you, SMART Technologies, for reminding me that I have super powers, side kicks and superheroes all around me.


A few superheroes (teachers from around the world)


March 10

Too Young to Research?

How young is too young to research facts? At a very young age we read to children. They may be your children, nieces, nephews, or students. As we read, we begin to ask questions-What do you think the he’ll do next? Where is the shoe hiding? Comprehension skills are a part of young minds long before we realize it. Continuing that process as these young people enter Kindergarten and First grade is key to creating a love of reading that will carry them through all of their academics. 1gr research

Finding a site that is age appropriate where the language is on the level of a 5-7 year old can be a challenge. Although I normally don’t use paid sites on my blog, Pebble go offers exactly what is needed at this age level. Navigating through the site is completed by using limited language and easy-to-understand graphics.

pb main page

 Creating a 5-7 question worksheet paired with a story will allow the students to practice or research in a well, laid out piece of literature with language they can understand. Looking at the image to the left, you will see a speaker that reads the story to the child, highlighted key words that offer pronunciation and definition when clicked and chapters sorted by the tabs at the top.

You can find out more about pricing and/or obtain a free two week trial.

pg story


March 6


McFarland, USA is an uplifting movie about a coach who works in a predominately Latino town and trains a group of students who become state champion cross country runners. Through his journey, he learns of the challenges the boys face with their families and economic responsibilities to work in the vegetable fields. These boys begin their day before sunrise to work in the fields, go to school and return to the fields for a late afternoon shift. For those of you that don’t know the labor intensive job working in the fields requires, this movie will surely open your eyes.

It leaves me wondering about my roots and the challenges faced generations ago. What did it take for my great grandmother to travel from Poland to America over 100 years ago? How did she get the money to travel here? What obstacles did she have to overcome as she was trying to start her life in America?


Here are some ideas for your students to learn about their families and challenges they have faced:

  • Jewel of a Book  directions for the project are listed on the page, but instead of handwritten-same shaped jewels, use a program like Paint, Publisher or Pixie to create the shape and add text.
  • Use a picture of a tree found in a photo gallery and import saved pictures and text boxes to display the information
  • Using Timeline from www.readwritethink.org, have students organize their collected research of their family line onto a timeline. This will also give a different perspective to any historical figures you are covering in your class. The file can be saved and completed at a later time.
  • Here is a sample project outline to help you get started.



February 22

True Colors

“So don’t be afraid to let them show/Your true colors/True colors are beautiful,Like a rainbow” True Colors Cyndi Lauper 8/25/86 (video by MattyBraps)

What do your students know about their classmates? What if instead of sitting near their friends, they had to sit next to someone new? As scary as it sounds, when we break our normal routine, amazing things can happen. What if you took 5-10 minutes of the class’s down time to learn about other people in the room?  Yes, during the day, time is a hot commodity and must be devoted to the curriculum, but what about when the students are first coming into class in the morning, recess or during afternoon bus call. The students are talking at this time anyway, but usually with their buddies. It is the perfect time to learn about those people they spend so much time with during the school day.

What are some things they can do:

  • Put all the kids names in a bucket. Each person pulls out a partner and they need to learn three new facts about that person.
  • Put all the kids’ names in a bucket and have half the class pick one out. They will sit near them at the lunch table and talk about their favorite lunch treats or after school snacks.
  • Find one person who has a common hobby and share stories with them.
  • Find one person who has a different hobby then you and ask questions about it
  • Give each students a bingo card with each of the classmate’s names on them. Place a line under each person’s name and have the students write one fact they have learned about their classmate. The caller may say “Place a bingo chip on someone who likes to play soccer.”