To Post or Not to Post…

is a question I have to ask myself whenever I consider putting something on social media. Articles reporting about teacher internet indiscretions like this one here might make most professionals in education, particularly classroom teachers, think twice before they click to post. Social media can be a powerful tool to connect and build our personal learning networks, but professional and personal can quickly begin to overlap.

The article outlines how a Texas teacher posted some sarcastic memes to a Pinterest account, and a parent came across them. The parent notified her school district, which led to her school officials to look into the issue. In situations like this involving social media, the lines between professional and personal are most definitely being blurred when colleagues, parents, and others within the school community are connecting through personal social media accounts. The question I find myself asking about this sort of scenario would be, are teachers held to unreasonably high standards? If so, is it fair to hold them to these higher standards? There are a ton of stories online that describe some of the situations teachers have gotten into that led to investigations and possible repercussions as a result of their posts on social media. Even the NEA’s website has a page warning teachers about online behavior. Other articles I came across, including some I had already seen prior to this week, like this one titled “When Young Teachers Go Wild on the Web”  or this one, “St. Louis Teacher’s Tweets Cause Uncertainty for Social Media and Educators”, examine the issues with teachers having information that might be available to the public.

I happened upon this infographic from Daily Genius, that had some interesting do’s and don’t about teachers interacting on social media. While there are some good rules of thumb, I was particularly amused by its suggestion to avoid bikini pictures or anything with a state of “undress”, and to keep all posts light and positive, or “keep quiet” and don’t post anything at all. 


This infographic and article suggest that teachers should be acting and portraying themselves a certain way when using social media, even going as far as suggesting it’s inappropriate to post too frequently. This was a great time for me to question some thoughts and ideas from these articles, because just this week a parent of a current student Facebook friended me. I felt immediately uncomfortable with the idea that parents of a student I currently have could see where I might be going, what I might be doing, but more importantly, see what types of thoughts and opinions I might have about the world. In school there are certain limitations and professional standards that I adhere to completely, but do I also have to censor myself (jokes, opinions, pictures, check-ins at locations, etc.) on social media, as well? When discussing this very topic, a colleague of mine said, “Sometimes it’s like we [teachers] aren’t allowed to be human.” Privacy settings, organized lists, and general good judgement to censor yourself can help avoid a lot of problems, but if you can’t really post what you want anymore, is this portrayal of you real at all? What’s its purpose if you can’t say what you really think?

Most of the time, I can’t say what I think. Mostly because of my political and religious views. I have accepted and embraced that my social media accounts are for pictures of my children, and positive interactions with friends and family (with some healthy debate thrown in every once in a while). This here is mostly what it looks like:


There are some exceptions, of course. I have an anonymous Twitter account to tweet about whatever I truly feel like saying, secret Pinterest boards, private Instagram account, and some restricted audiences on Facebook posts. As a teacher, keeping most of my information private is important. Even if you don’t think you have anything to hide, you really don’t know how any person will respond to a link, picture, or thought you might have expressed on a social media platform.

A final thought about this came to me today, when I looked at my “Timehop” app. Spring break pictures from senior year of college popped up, and reminded me that maybe it’s time to double check my privacy settings…

My apologies for the state of undress.

Hi! I’m Erin.

  • Where do you find the majority of your teaching resources?

-I find the majority of my teaching resources online, but there isn’t one specific resource I go to the most often. Several teaching resources I use the most frequently are determined by my district’s adopted curriculum. While I use supplemental resources from all over, there are some underlying online and text book procedures I follow as a result of what our school has implemented.  With that being said, I love using Pinterest (I know, I know…me and every other teacher and mom on the planet), Teachers Pay Teachers, a variety of elementary school blogs run by teachers, and good old Google. Exploring new avenues by sorting through websites found in searches on Google and lists on Diigo, have been the way I’ve found some of my favorite classroom materials and ideas. This method sounds a bit “old school”, but it helps me generate new ideas and break up the monotony of visiting the same websites and using the same resources.

  • Who do you look to for support and research for new ideas?

-I look to a few people for support and research for new ideas, a close colleague of mine who is also a third grade teacher. We made a lot of decisions together, which allows us to constantly bounce ideas off of each other, and develop new and fun ways to reach out students. In addition, we use common assessments in our 3rd grade at FTS, so we consistently work collaboratively in order to make sure our standards are mastered, and that our student needs are met. My family is also a great place to look for support and help develop my ideas, because my parents and my husband are also teachers. My husband is an amazing listener, and I bounce all of my ideas off of him. He always gives me a fresh perspective, and his solution to a problem usually has a different approach than mine, which is a great asset when brainstorming.

  • What challenges do you face as you try to incorporate new ideas and research with your students? 

-While I do have freedom and space to create and develop ideas for my classroom, there are some expectations I need to fulfill because I’m part of a team. Besides this obvious roadblock that many teachers encounter, incorporating new ideas and research is difficult when you’re prepared for, and have done the leg work for something already.  For example, I might create a center for math that I felt was really amazing practice. I create, cut, laminate, instruct, show a routine…and then in a professional development a few months later I find an even better way to carry out that lesson or center for my students using a totally different technique. Keeping what I already had made would be the easiest solution, but the path of least resistance is not always the best one for our students. It takes a lot of time, planning, and motivation to constantly evolve, but dedicating time to research, and striving to change in order to implement best practices in our classroom is part of what we signed up for as educators.

Gardner u05a1

Both the article and video built upon some background knowledge I have about SAMR and STEM/STEAM, resulting from Next Generation Science Standards workshops I have attended for school. The idea that PBL, STEM/STEAM, and the SAMR framework are all interconnected is definitely how I feel. The Next Generation Science Standards will be implemented in my school a grade level at a time, starting next year. One look over, and most teacher will realize the way they currently teach science cannot possibly meet the standards.

PBL and technology connect through SAMR because SAMR is examining how we use technology in our classrooms. PBL requires real world application, student creativity, decision making, sharing of ideas, critical thinking, and independence (to some degree). Taking a look at SAMR, the framework shows that technology can be implemented in several ways in our classrooms, but which of these ways is the most authentic, provides lasting understanding, and mastery of standards? PBL allows to new ideas to be created, reinvented, and preconceived notions questioned. Student exploration and inquiry based learning becomes so natural and feasible when they are creating and developing their own ideas. This ties in directly with the most effective implementation of technology in our classrooms. For example, PBL can easily and fluidly help students develop their own multimedia presentation, coordinate and record an interview, locate a place on Google Earth near school and explore it, etc. These are the higher tier and more effective ways of using technology in our classroom. It makes it meaningful, real, and important to our students, and this is clearly tied to the same principals and end results as when PBL is implemented. The two clearly go hand in hand.

Moving away from just projecting old PowerPoints, or pulling up an etext to lecture next to, we need to implement technology by examining and truly understanding what our standards are asking us to do. Across subject areas, standards as us to have students solve real world problems, which means standing next to a Smartboard can’t be all the technology experience we provide for our students. Using tools and creating by using a variety of technological platforms is how we will prepare students to solve these real world problems.

Finally, I think that the SAMR framework allows teachers to reflect on how we can truly reach and empower our 21st century students to use those higher order thinking skills. As technology moves forward, it is our responsibility to equip our students with the tools and experience to feel confident, creative, and competent enough to at some point solve their “real world problems”. Using technology effectively and really reaching out students is what can prepare them to build and use these skills in the future.


Common Sense Media. (n.d.). Introduction to the SAMR Model. Retrieved February 18, 2016, from

M. G. (2014, September 15). Essential Connections of STEM, PBL, and Tech Integration… What Would Dewey Think? Retrieved February 18, 2016, from

EDIM 502 – u01a1

“More Fun Than a Barrel of . . . Worms?!” – Diane Curtis
“Geometry Students Angle into Architecture Through Project Learning” – Sara Armstrong
“March of the Monarchs: Students Follow the Butterflies’ Migration” 
– Diane Curtis

All of the articles seemed to link together well for me, after I had completed reading all three and watched the video. There were things in common that linked all of the projects together, and it was interesting to examine the student and teacher roles in the projects. Using project based activities like these truly seems to engage students, and foster an enthusiastic and student led atmosphere within a classroom. Though sometimes more challenging to produce and see through, learning this way is wonderful for our students.

What linked all of the projects together was the hands-on and student led approach to learning that these projects provide students. Teachers facilitated the learning, and provided guidance and structure, but students are given the chance to create and think for themselves. When taking ownership and creating based off of their own ideas and convictions, students are so much more likely to feel dedicated to and excited about a project or an assignment. A project based assessment can show new facets of a student’s ability, mastery, and understanding, unlike traditional assessments. The design principles of these projects are similar because they all require planning, flexibility, and creativity from each of the teachers. In addition, and what I think is the most important commonality, is that all of the projects had real world implications for their students.

The understanding that the projects had actual meaning and purpose tremendously seemed to help student engagement across grade levels. Some of the students were taken on field trips, all conducted research, some presented and argued a design, created and sold items as an actual business, and the list goes on. These students were creating work that had actual purpose and meaning. In my own classroom, that seems to be what truly engages students. In addition, these projects helped student engagement because student made their own decisions and had ownership of their projects. Helping to choose topics and conducting their own research put them in charge of their learning. Teachers reported there were fewer behavior problems and better test scores as a result of students learning through this project based model (Curtis, 2001).

Technology made a lot of these projects possible. Research, field trips, drafting, and communicating with others, all helped these students build their projects. Some of the projects were formally presented, while others were ongoing and students built upon their work throughout the year. Separate from just using a computer or tablet, students used other technology tools such as digital cameras. The integration of technology and the freedom to create projects like this did make me a bit envious. While I do have some flexibility and can use my own ideas at my school, these types of projects to be a sole way of teaching seems to be something to strive for.

Armstrong, S. (2002, February 11). Geometry Students Angle into Architecture Through Project Learning. Edutopia. Retrieved January 19, 2016, from
Curtis, D. (2001, October 1). March of the Monarchs: Students Follow the Butterflies’ Migration. Edutopia. Retrieved January 19, 2016, from
Curtis, D. (2002, June 6). More Fun than a Barrel of…Worms . Edutopia. Retrieved January 19, 2016, from

Digital Board

The digital board I created was for a story that we read together in grade 3 called “How My Family Lives in America”. The story is about three children who have parents who came from another country. They are exposed to different languages, foods, and traditions. They all live in different cities in parts of the United States. The story is an amazing way to have students relate to other cultures from around the world. The students in the story are just like them, but they are also so different. The story creates three characters that are relatable and interesting to read about. The students in my classroom this past year were shocked and amazed at some of the things that people around the world do differently than us, just from reading this story.

I think that the story paired with the glog will be a wonderful way to help foster my students’ respectful and ethical minds. They are getting the chance to not just read about the stories of the children we meet in the book, but go deeper into understanding and learning about other cultures. The glog has an introduction about America being a melting pot, and then it has three sections that have links, videos, and images that will allow us to learn more about each of the places we learned about in the story. In addition, the quiz I created links together the ideas from the book and from the discussion and glog presentation, but asking some comprehension questions as well as some short answer opinion questions. Getting to learn about just these three different places is just scratching the surface in terms of expanding more respectful and ethical minds within the classroom, but teaching students whenever we can to understand and respect the differences, cultures, and decisions of others is a step toward fostering their ethical and respectful minds.

Though this is a specific example of a lesson that teaches about other cultures, I think that digital boards like this can be used in amazing ways to help foster the growth of respectful and ethical minds in our students. The boards allow so many resources to be laid out in an easily accessible and fun way, which makes for a great platform to have a whole class work together, present to other grades, teach peers, or create cooperative group projects. The ways we can use these digital boards on our own, as a whole group, or in small groups all have potential to expand and build upon our students’ ethical and respectful minds.

Respectful and Ethical Minds

I really enjoyed watching the interview with Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay, because reading about a Flat Classroom versus just reading about it online made a tremendous difference in my understanding of how it truly works. The idea is incredibly exciting to me, and I love that students are broadening their horizons, connecting with others, and reaching out to places in the world they might have never even thought of. So many of the things that they discussed connected directly to Gardner’s respectful and ethical minds. Using the Flat Classroom model, students aren’t learning to just not just tolerate others, but truly understand, connect, create, communicate, and respect them.

An idea that I recently implemented in my classroom that helps foster collaborating and helps develop students’ respectful and ethical minds was a project using Google Apps. Over the course of two plus months, my students worked in groups to create documents and slideshows using Google Drive. I teach third grade, so the process took a lot of time to first teach my students how to use the Gmail addresses, how to open a document, how to create a slide, etc. Teaching them to use the tools was important to me though, since I knew they were going to need them in the future. The next step was breaking down our social studies chapter, and having students each complete a fact sheet they shared and added to, and then they created their slideshow. When all of the projects were completed, they presented to the class. Each student needed to talk to others via email, on the documents, and in person. They did a great job in the end (but it took a really long time). The talk regarding Flat Classrooms really made me feel more confident about my collaborative classroom project. Vicki Davis said, “you don’t eat watermelon whole, you eat it in bites” (2013). I very quickly learned students at my grade level could only take so many steps at once, and teaching them to use Google Apps took a lot of time and dedication. They mentioned having a flexible schedule and not being afraid of lengthy projects was something we need to not be afraid of as teachers in order to really connect and collaborate. I was happy to hear this, because it can be discouraging when something takes so much time. I just have to remind myself of it’s importance and keep working toward what I think is best for my students.

The project we completed in my classroom really helped my students connect and learn to work together effectively. The groups I chose were purposeful, so students had to understand how to overcome differences between learners, both academic and personal. I also taught the implications of not doing your own work, copying out of our textbook, or not participating and letting the rest of the group do your part. They understood how to use their respectful mind better than their ethical mind during the project. Doing the right thing, and working hard for the greater good is a hard concept, because some students just don’t “get” that yet. Some never do, which is why I think it is important to try and teach. In addition, certain leaders in groups would move forward without considering how much or what type of participation all members of the group gave. The ethical mind is harder for me to teach, it is something I recognize now I should be working on. Creating more respectful minds is something I feel that I have concentrated more on. Gardner mentions that as teachers we are the most important models for students seeing and understanding respect; the way we treat other teachers, support personnel, students, and parents is all being soaked up by our students (2008). We need to be conscious of the way we talk to and treat others, because that is what our students will learn as acceptable forms of behavior. Gardner also makes the point that respect isn’t just “tolerating” others, it’s a deep and genuine understanding reflected in our language and behaviors (2008). We can’t just “deal” with those that are different than us, we need to teach our children what genuine respect looks like. The project we worked on taught my students how to respect and understand each other on a very small scale. In regards to fosterings the development of their ethical minds, there were reminders to compliment each other, work honestly, and “fill others’ buckets”. Doing the “good work” and making decisions based on not just your own good, but for others as well, is much harder for elementary schoolers. Developing their ethical minds, and the intrinsic motivation to do the “good works” is an ongoing, constant lesson we are trying to teach them as people. Gardner explains that respect is a little bit more tangible, and that it can be practiced easily in elementary school, but the ethical mind I think is more of a challenge for me (2008).

Gardner, H. (2008). Five minds for the future. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.
Juliani, A. (2013, February 18). Education Is my life: Interview with vicki davis and julie lindsay. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from

Spotlight on Strategies

Spotlight on Strategies – Jigsaw

The strategy I chose to discuss and present was the Jigsaw strategy. The goal of the Jigsaw is to allow cooperative group work, but with individual students still needing to maintain personal responsibility for their work and learning due to the way the activity is designed. It’s a great way to introduce information, activate prior knowledge, review, and have fun. It can be used across subject areas and in so many different ways. I challenged other teachers to use this strategy in their own classrooms. It’s not the easiest activity to organize, but it can be so worth it! It also requires a lot of monitoring by the instructor, especially in elementary school settings. In order to make sure all the students are participating and that they are reading, researching, or discussing the correct idea or topic. The activity provides a great opportunity for small group, individual participation, and whole group interactions.

The use of digital media in my flyer is there to aid in the lesson example I created. The pictures and videos I chose for the example lesson are important to use in our whole group discussion. They provide examples for students to look at that are teacher chosen, unlike the material they will see in their group work. In order to reinforce the concepts, I chose examples I liked for rural, urban, and suburban communities. I also chose a short video to present to my students so that they had another visual example of what the three communities are like. Our textbook has very few examples in it, so I wanted to incorporate digital media elements to help student understanding of the concept.

I also included resources in my “challenge” that might be useful to other educators when trying to create a lesson or activity with the jigsaw strategy. I included an example video and a easy steps list into the “challenge” category on my flyer. Without ever seeing or reading about the jigsaw strategy before, it might sound a little confusing. I thought by adding some extra examples, it might help make the process a little bit easier to understand!

Content Creation

Being that it’s the summertime, I interviewed a third grader who is participating in a summer program (camp) at my school. She was in my class this past year, and is moving onto 4th grade. To get started, the first question I asked her was about what she values and loves about what we did in our classroom learning environment. I asked her to name at least three things. She responded by telling me that she liked when we have recess in our classroom (I knew that first answer was coming!). The second thing she answered was that she loved when we did projects together (she referenced a video we made together as a class), and the third thing she said she loved was Writer’s Workshop and Writer’s Celebration.

I then asked her what she would like to change about our classroom learning environment, but I didn’t require her to list three things. She responded quickly by saying that she wished we didn’t have math ALL morning. I was interested in this answer because she is a very strong math student, and I never got the impression that she didn’t enjoy our math class. We have math from 8:30 when school starts till my students leave for physical education at 9:50. From a teacher’s perspective it’s wonderful, but I know that’s a very long time to sit when you’re 8 or 9 years old. The second thing she said she didn’t really like was Study Island. We have benchmark tests required by administration that need to be administered several times per year in our computer lab as a whole group. I have gotten the impression several of my students are overwhelmed by Study Island due to it’s formatting. Many students move up from second grade and have to adjust to taking assessments on the computer.

My student mentioned several parts of our learning environment and classroom procedures that involved digital media, technology, and personal creativity, so then I asked her what she liked and disliked about the different types of technology she likes in our classroom, and if she thinks she can be creative with them. She said she loved using the Activboard, loved when we learned how to make a video, loved using camera and video camera, and loved using Discovery Ed in science class (but not Social Studies). She said she felt very creative when we got to shoot the video, make our online collages, and take pictures in class. She said she dislikes taking tests in the computer lab, which was something she expressed earlier in the conversation. She also said she doesn’t dislike typing, but feels like she isn’t good at it and wants to practice typing on the computer more frequently. She said she feels creative when we get to use the computer in our computer class every tuesday, because my students got the chance to type letters, make powerpoints, search for pictures, make collages, and play games. She said she doesn’t think it’s very creative for me to put up slides during reading and grammar on the Activboard. She said, “Come on Mrs. Gardner, everybody does that!”

The discussion with my student was predictable in some ways, and enlightening in others. Not very many of my students have expressed their distaste for taking assessments on the computer, but her admission makes complete sense. Most of their assessments are in a paper-pencil format, and then they are randomly requested to be assessed on the computer. I think it’s important I take the time to make them more comfortable with online assessments, especially since NJ is moving to the PAARC test this year. I had my students on the computers so frequently, but I need to invest even more time there this year. In addition, I learned that my students in elementary school have never not had a day or lesson that hasn’t had an Activboard in it. What they think is a standard, boring, typical slide on the Activboard, is actually something some seasoned teachers find difficult to produce and practice every day. They are lucky to be familiarized with these technologies at such young ages, but to remain creative and spark their creative interests, we have to constantly reinvent and amp up the “same old” things we use in our classrooms. Her comments about slides have made me realize I need to transfer a lot of slides and files to be more creative and dynamic presentations. When we have an online resource like Prezi available, it obviously would be beneficial to our students and ourselves as teachers to move away from PowerPoints that have been saved from years past. I was happy to hear that my student loved Writer’s Workshop, because it involves a lot of drafting and typing. The student I interviewed was encouraging about project based practices I have in my classroom, and our conversation also served as a great reminder to check myself in my everyday uses of technology. It is important to be more creative with the every day, and not just when we are actually creating something new as a class.

Role of Creativity in Schools

I think “schools” in this question is a broad term. Do teachers kill creativity? Does administration kill creativity? Do state/federal laws kill creativity? I think that most schools don’t want to kill creativity, but unfortunately, the politics of education can kill creativity. Schools are required to implement standards, value results of high stakes testing, and even judge educator success based on student academic achievement, regardless of student location, socioeconomic status, and special needs. Despite these parameters, I think that teachers and schools do care about creativity. Our system of education doesn’t necessarily seem to value creativity anymore, but that makes our job of fostering creativity in our classrooms even more important. Ken Robinson’s talk was hilarious, thoughtful, and poignant. I don’t usually feel so affected by academic presentations; I felt like he was actually talking to me. He make some really amazing points that stayed with me.

“Kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go” (Robinson, 2006). This is a really simple but true statement. Kids in elementary school aren’t as afraid as we are as adults. They often say and do things naturally; they aren’t embarrassed like us to ask the questions and find answers. At some point in time, this ends. We no longer just ask or say what we feel, and I think Sir Robinson makes an excellent point about this, and it needs to change. We need to make learners throughout their lives feel that participating, asking questions, and being wrong is okay. It’s totally fine. That has to start in the classroom. His idea to lengthen this time of exploring and asking really stayed with me. In the talk he also said, “we are educated out of creativity” (Robinson, 2006). We concentrate so much on standards and academic subjects like literacy and mathematics, and it is crushing potential creative minds and their talents and creations. Most of us have all heard we should go to school for something that will result in a job. We have been steered away from passions and dreams knowing that educating ourselves further in something “useless” won’t result in prosperity or happiness. As teachers, we need to steer away from this. We have to teach students that we value whatever it is that they’re good at.

A final thought Robinson had that was important to me was that as teachers we need to use the gift of human imagination (Robinson, 2006). Creating is important, no matter what it is. We need to teach our students that it’s okay to like things others don’t. It’s okay to stay after school for a club their friends might not like, draw pictures at night if they’re bored, or to not quit dance class because they’re too worried about their reading homework. I thought a lot about my sister throughout Robinson’s talk. She was average (maybe a little below average!) academically in high school. It was all due to a lack of effort, not because she wasn’t intelligent. The only thing she cared about was acting. Despite the cost and fear it might not work out, my parents encouraged her and supported her dreams of going to school for musical theater. As a teacher, and as a parent, I hope to be that open minded. Teaching students to use their imagination, and encouraging them to follow their passions will help our amazing little thinkers and creators be successful in the future, no matter what academic or career path they choose to take.

Robinson, K. (2006, February). How schools kill creativity. Retrieved July 14, 2014, from