Techer Testimonial – Cori Coburn

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@CoburnCori

This is my second year to serve in the capacity of the Technology Coordinator at W. R. Smith Sr. Science & Medical Technology Magnet Middle School in Beaumont, TX. There are only 2 Technology Coordinators in Beaumont ISD (almost 20,000 students), of which I was appointed first.

I attended Lamar University for my undergrads specializing in Sociology & Psychology.  I will complete my Master of Education degree in Technology Leadership in May from Lamar University after I present my action research project on developing sustainable tech professional development programs in schools.

I previously taught middle school mathematics and science for 7 & 8th grade.  I was also a former Future Problem Solving Program coach & judge.  I am currently the founder & adviser for the campus’ National Junior Honor Society. 

I was inspired to get into education by my parents who were also educators. Both of my parents grew up in Mississippi during the time of civil rights conflicts; both were first in their families to graduate high school and go on to college. They later migrated to Texas to start a family. I am a product of the school district I now am employed by.  I left federal employment to return to school and become a certified teacher.

My interest in technology was further ignited when my mother decided to retire after 40 years of being a teacher. She was still effective in the classroom but “didn’t want to struggle with learning anything more about the computer”.  I was inspired to create a classroom environment that seamlessly integrated out limited technology into the curriculum, and it was noticed by my campus administrators who then offered me the position of Technology Coordinator as my campus received a $3 million dollar grant to pilot a 1:1 student iPad program for nearly 600 middle school students over 3 years.

Favorite Tech Tool: Picking a favorite tool is hard. The value of the tool is intertwined in how many different ways that the user can employ it to enhance learning and understanding. The best tools are the ones that allow users to change & customize the function of the tool. I am a huge fan of open source digital tools and resources.  I also love finding “new-tech” and value the ability to communicate and recommend improvements to the creators.

Some go to destinations that make my job easier are: Google Apps for Education (great collaboration tools) and Twitter (great networking and news aggregation tool). I’m also a fan of educational gaming, and among my favorites are Skoolbo, Lure of the Labyrinth and Carnegie Cyber Academy.

Upcoming Projects:  I’m super excited about attending TCEA 2014 Conference. I have volunteered to help with the Region 5 EdCamp in Warren. I will be presenting at the Region 5 Mini-CAST Science Conference. Currently there are neither computer science classes nor technology electives on my campus, so I established a student group called the Tech Aces who are working on their own web page showing their work in establishing digital citizenship and initiate interest in coding for our 1:1 device campus.

As the grant ends in June, I am currently seeking a new position in either the Dallas or Austin, TX area that will allow me to grow in the educational technology community and empower more teachers to embrace digital tools with their students.

A Decision to Blog!

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Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way.
Dr. Seuss

Writing is something that opens your soul to the world. I love to write but have never shared. I was not for sure if I wanted to let my guard down. Did I want the world to know more about what I was thinking, or more importantly would the world even care what I thought?? If it had not been for Todd Nesloney I may never have chosen to begin this journey. He told me I had great ideas that needed to be shared! I’m very thankful to him and glad I listened! I would never have chosen to do this alone. When I first thought to start writing, Daisy was my first thought. We support each other in everything. We have a friendship that has grown, and we owe some of it to our love for education and our students! We have ideas that others may think are crazy, but we on the other hand thrive on! We complete each other’s craziness. She’s the first person I call for support, well after my husband! He calls us two teenage girls when we have have all our devices going at one time. We laugh and learn from my kitchen, and we love it! I’m blessed and thankful to have Daisy in my life!

We started this blog to share our classrooms with the world. We have a passion for what we do, and it’s what drives us to be better. We know that not everyone supports us in this endeavor. And that’s ok! We are going spread what’s positive about education. Our students deserve the best in ALL of us and that’s what Daisy and I are going to give them! We strive to make Education better, dig deep, and put our students’ needs first! It is about student learning, always! Starting this blog has opened my eyes and my soul! It is a way to reflect on my teaching.

I had never written a blog before. I will honestly say I was very nervous about sharing my words. Our words are personal. The blog was something I needed to do. The thought that maybe one of my lessons would help someone, was worth it! I’m also learning in the process. There was no turning back, staartechers.wordpress.com was born. We were so excited about this new chapter together. We love collaborating and working together. The blog has fostered new ideas and projects. We feature a Staar Techer each Sunday. This is an educator that is doing amazing things in their classroom. We love spreading the word about amazing educators. It’s what it’s about, sharing and growing! We have shared many lessons and we are learning more, day by day! I look forward to the new year! I can only imagine the possibilities of what’s to come!

This blog has been one of my best decisions. It would not have happened if I had not connected on Twitter. Todd was right, blogging was the best decision!

Confessions of a Twitter Addict

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When I blog, when I tweet, when I Facebook I am always extremely careful.  I never want to say anything that could be twisted, misinterpreted, or taken the wrong way.  That’s how I am in real life.  Always careful not to offend or hurt. However, today as I reflect on 2013 I may dig a little deeper and expose a little more of @daisyray215.  Just a little.  First of all, this year has been amazing.  Seriously.  And, yes, it all started with Twitter.  My career and life have been flipped upside down.  I started grad school, I’ve been presenting, we started a Twitter Chat, there are a lot of conferences and EdCamps I want to attend.  We are even doing our own EdCamp!  It’s been hectic, time-consuming, stressful at times, but in the end I would not change a darn thing.  My superintendent suggested that I start a Twitter account last March.  He is a true lead learner, and you can follow him on Twitter @bradmceachern.  Reluctantly, I started one.  It took me a while to figure it all out, see the true power, and make connections.  But when it happened, it happened.  People question me a lot.  A LOT!  Doesn’t Twitter take up too much time?   Isn’t it a “time-sucker”?  Are you on Twitter again?  I guess it is the way you look at it.  I was bored.  I had taught the same thing for seven years.  I know my students were bored most of the time.  Teaching to the test and worksheets, worksheets, worksheets were the norm.  I was so worried about my score on the state exam that it consumed me.  Did you catch that?  MY SCORE.  Because the score reflected on whether or not I was a good teacher, right?  When I look back, I see that I was extremely selfish.  Yes, I wanted them to score well for them, but also for me.  I was in a major rut.  Thank God for Twitter.  Thank God for a superintendent that pushed me out of my comfort zone.  Thank God for Angie, Karen, Jana, Cherie, and Steven that are just a text away. Thank God for Erin Klein, Todd, Craig, Summer, Brett & Brandi, Brad & Drew, Rafranz, Carrie, and everyone else in my PLN.  I am so thankful that they openly share and connect with educators from all over.  They don’t connect for selfish reasons or to get ahead….they connect because not only do they love their students, they love my students.  And your students.  And kids from all over the world.  By them connecting, they changed my classroom.  They changed me.  They are changing the world and changing our future.  I am very grateful.  I wish teachers from all over would share the awesome things they are doing in their classroom, so I can be an “Idea Bandit” and take it to my class even more.  So, does Twitter take time?  Yes.  It does.  I used to watch hours and hours of HGTV.  Not so much now.  That’s all I cut out. I still spend the same amount of time with my friends and family.  My kids do not suffer because I am tweeting.  Usually we are all on a device at the same time. When I come across a really cool idea my kids are usually who I run it by.  We have had a lot of fun using Augmented Reality together.  Seriously.  Learning together.  Maverick knows that Twitter is for work.  Maggie likes to do what we call “Creation Station” together.  She creates while I create.  My husband has always supported any crazy idea I have, even when I painted the hall lime green, so the fact that I am Tweeting doesn’t bother him.  What about Twitter takes time?  The articles. Reading someone else’s article or blog that they have tweeted out.  They are never long.  Connected educators are accustomed to the 140 character limit; therefore, everything is basically short, sweet, and to the point.  The planning takes time, too.  When you run across someone else’s great idea and decide to implement it into your class, yes, you have to plan.  But that’s what teachers do.  They lesson plan.  Twitter chats – amazing.  Do they take time?  Depends.  Are you sticking around for the whole chat or just jumping in and out?  Do I recommend them?  Yes, I do.  It is like you are sitting around drinking coffee with fellow educators and bouncing ideas off of them.  Except that you don’t have to leave your house!  Twitter is all about growth.  And I needed to grow.  I needed to stand on my own two feet.  I needed to get out of my comfort zone and know that I could bring new things into my class.  If they didn’t work out, if I messed up, if I totally bombed it….it’s fine.  I just won’t do that lesson again.  Sometimes teachers are so scared of failure.  They don’t want to fail in front of their students or in front of other educators.  This year I’ve learned that it is ok.  Our class motto has been everyone makes mistakes…even Mrs. Marino.  I say that at least once a day.  I am no longer “teaching to a test”.  I am teaching to create life-long learners.  I want them to love learning as much as I do.  If I teach them to pass a test how will that help them in the future?  If I teach them to bubble correctly, how does that impact their future?  I need to teach them to think, to question, to create, to inspire, to love.  I need to teach them to be leaders, to be kind, to stand on their own two feet.  They need to be confident.  They need to know that there is not a formula for everything.  Sometimes you just have to think.  Sometimes you have to fail, and when you do you get right back up.  Teaching is hard if you’re doing it right.  It’s stressful.  It’s demanding.  It will break your heart. Why not join a community of people that know exactly how you feel and what you’re going through?  This community will lift you up when you fall, make you laugh when you want to cry, and give you a good push out of your comfort zone. Change is scary. Twitter WAS my light bulb.  Twitter IS my fire.  Twitter has made me a better teacher.  It is eye-opening and inspirational.  It is full of positive educators from all over the world with the same goal in mind.  Fostering a love for learning in our students, in your students, in our future.  I love Twitter.  I am addicted.

Becoming Connected + 2013 = Reflections from a Changed Edcuator

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Mrs. Moses’ 2nd Grade Class

Do you feel like you are missing a piece of your puzzle? To your classroom? I always reflect at the end of each year.  What was great about the past year?  What can I change and make better?  This past year has been different….in an amazing way! How, might you ask? I have truly changed as an educator.  A 360 degree turn!  I completed my puzzle! I became a connected educator.  Which means, I joined Twitter!  I have an amazing PLN, (personal learning network) to gain knowledge from,  get resources, or ask questions when I do not know the answers! Or just simply connect with!  They are amazing educators that know what it’s like to be an educator!  It’s nice to bounce ideas with fellow educators that will not discourage you!  I always say….WE ARE BETTER TOGETHER!! Become connected!  It is a choice not to become connected!  It has been an amazing journey so far!  I can’t wait to what’s up ahead!  The best part, is that it will take you wherever you want!  I have met amazing people, been to Tech Conferences, and I’m signed up for my first EdCamp in Houston.  I’m also helping with EdcampESC5.  It will open many doors for you as as an educator.

This past year I also had the opportunity to return and teach in my hometown.  This has been a blessing for myself and my family.  I am able to teach in a school district that allows teachers to teach beyond the four walls.  We are blooming with technology.  I am blessed with a wonderful class.  They are gaining a love for learning, and they amaze me everyday.  I feel lucky to be able to watch my students grow each day.  It’s not about me, it is about the students and the learning connections they make. I am definitely the mentor in the center.  This group of students will forever be in my heart.  We have had many journeys together.  We had day 1 of iPads, which was the best day ever!  We have Skyped across the world, started projects with classrooms across the world, and they are ready for more. They are soaring beyond the classroom and it’s spectacular to see in action!

If you would have asked me in 2012 about my outlook on 2013, Twitter would not have been it!  It is by far my best choice as an educator.  I have truly changed for the better!  I love what I do!  I love my students and I want them to be successful. I want them to gain a love for learning.  It is wonderful to be a life learner.

I can’t wait for 2014!  It will be full of learning, laughter, and love!

Techer Testimonial – Jonathan So

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@MrSoclassroom
Jonathan has been teaching for nine years, in the primary and junior divisions.  He lives and teaches in Ontario, Canada.  Jonathan’s passions lie in Mathematics and Technology integration.  He is very interested in the way that students learn and develop understanding.  His classroom is always in a state of inquiry.  Jonathan loves any collaboration project with any class.  Contact him at @MrSoclassroom, so.jonathan1@gamil.com,  or MrSoclassroom.blogspot.ca.

Favorite 🙂 Tech Tools:

Any digital recording device (both audio and video)  you can really do a lot for your classroom with those basic tools.  I also use YouTube and Google Docs, and any app that engages students in learning.
Up Coming Projects:
In January,  my students will be working on an anti bullying campaign by creating music videos and digital posters.  We also have a social justice math project with other students in different grades.  Still working out the concept for that.  Personally, working on a school wide math focus and learning about instructional rounds.

Statue of Liberty + Technology = Virtual Field Trip

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Mrs. Marino’s 4th grade class heads to NYC

Do you ever wish you could take your students and show them the real world?  Are you low on funds?  What teacher isn’t!  Last week while surfing through Pinterest I saw where @TechChef4U (follow her on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter) had pinned a blog about virtual field trips.  What???  I was intrigued.  It just so happened that we had just written a narrative on “My Best Field Trip”.  Instantly, I thought why not take the students on a virtual field trip and then have them write a narrative about that.  We can compare the two narratives, make a ThinkLink, make a Popplet, etc.  Once again, this shows you the power of Twitter, Pinterest, etc.  If I were not searching through other teachers’ ideas, I would have never thought of this!  I digress.  This truly was one of my favorite lessons that I’ve taught in eight years.  I did not tell the kids that I would be taking them on a “trip”.  I wanted everything to be a surprise.  When they walked into my room that morning I told them to get their binder and a pencil and come sit in front of the SMART board.  I already had my MacBook and the Apple TV ready to go.  Beforehand, I printed out a sheet that had four empty squares on it for students to write down interesting facts that they learned.  Once we were settled, I told the kids that we were going to NYC.  Out of 65 kids only four students had ever traveled there, and one of those students was my son.  The kids never questioned me on how we were going.  They never said we can’t go to New York.  That is the way kids are, though.  Open-minded, carefree, excited for an adventure.  We started going through the slides.  There were movies, aerial views of different parts of The Statue of Linerty, and a ton of information on how the Lady Liberty was formed and why. The kids seriously were in awe.  They had a ton of great questions.  They wrote their little hearts out on those four squares trying to fill in as many facts as possible.  They were very engaged in the whole process.  By the time the field trip was over, it was time to switch classes.  When they came back to school the next day the students were still talking about the trip.  They talked about how they told their parents that they went to NYC at school yesterday.  They remembered facts and details.  At this point we started working on our Popplets individually.  The students turned their four squares of information into digital information to email to me.  They love Popplet because they can change the box sizes, colors, locations, etc.  They can personalize their work and save it easily.  They are getting really good at exporting the information to me on their own by this point in the school year.  Making a Popplet is quick, easy, fun, and effective.  Once all the Popplets were made we met together on my big rug.  Then we started working on a ThingLink about what liberty means to us.  I am always amazed at the students’ answers.  They come up with some very thought provoking ideas.  The great thing about ThingLink is that we can upload it to the school’s Facebook page.  So, even though it is something the class created as a whole at school, every parent can still view it that night.  The third day of our project consisted of writing our narrative about the actual field trip.  I was very surprised at how well students had retained the information.  They knew there were 146 steps leading up to the crown.  They knew that the foundation was made of granite and concrete.  I truly believe that because the activity was interactive, engaging, and involved technology that students were more excited…that they wanted to learn and be involved in the activity.  I love technology and everything that it allows me to do with my students.  The possibilities are endless.  I have been teaching for 8 years now, and this year I received the best Christmas present ever.  One of my students bought me a Statue of Liberty bookmark.  Now, that’s magical. I will keep it forever, and I will always remember the day that I took 65 4th graders to The Statue of Liberty.

CHECK OUT OUR THINGLINK …… http://www.thinglink.com/scene/469246669074989058

Virtual field trip link – http://www.nps.gov/stli/photosmultimedia/virtualtour.htm

Techer Testimonial – Carrie Ross

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@CarrieRossTx

Carrie Ross has been truly blessed to serve Texas students as a high school English teacher.  Freshly out of the classroom this school year, Carrie now serves teachers as the English Curriculum and Instructional Technology Specialist at Trinity ISD in Trinity, Texas.  Carrie attended Texas State University where she received her BA in English and later attended Sam Houston State University where she earned her Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.  As a classroom teacher, she harnessed her school’s 1:1 initiative to integrate 21st century skills, to go paperless and to increase student achievement and engagement.  She uses these learning experiences to help struggling teachers effectively use and successfully integrate technology into their curriculum.  After attending a small conference on leadership in the digital age, Carrie had the revelation about the power of professional growth through social media.  Seeing the need for a statewide professional learning network that brings together all educators in Texas, she started the Twitter chat “#txed” to help begin conversations of change.  And from that moment, she has forever been positively changed.  Carrie is passionate about supporting teachers with technology, mentoring, and instructional strategies – whatever they need to be successful.

Favorite Tech Tool:  I think it’s impossible to choose a “favorite” technology tool.  Not because I don’t have them but because I think the tools you use should depend on the task you are trying to complete.  My favorite tools are conversation and collaboration that, coincidentally, don’t really need technology.  However, technology makes it easier for those things to happen!  My go-tos for conversation and collaboration are: Google Apps for Education (maximizes collaboration), Twitter (best conversations I’ve ever been privy to and also leads to some fabulous F2F conversations), Edmodo (as an avenue for collaboration/conversation with students for elementary teachers), Subtext [or the Kindle app] (conversations also happen text-to-text and it’s a great app to use with students), and Feedly (the conversations I have with myself often happen when I reflect after reading others’ blogs).

Upcoming Projects:  The one project I am most excited about is transforming our secondary library to a 21st century library.  We’re opening up tons of space, and we are putting in new furniture that is organic and mobile.  We’re getting ready to drop lines for 2 projectors that will then allow for three separate classes to run in the library (one projector already exists).  The projectors will also have the capability of a single input projecting on all three screens.  This will help for large class projects or our vertical PLCs.  Along with physically updating the library, we have 20 Kindles we will be preparing for student checkout.  Beyond this, I have other little projects in motion: writing articles from my masters research, providing training to higher education professors on using Twitter for professional development, preparing for TCEA, and blogging about all of my experiences.  I’m very much looking forward to all the wonderful things the New Year (2014) will be ringing in!

How to contact Carrie:

Carrie Ross

http://cross15.edublogs.org/

Twitter: @CarrieRossTX

Google +: +CarrieRoss

Pinterest: /carrierosstx

TodaysMeet + Skype Classroom = No Child Left Behind

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https://todaysmeet.com

Mrs. Moses’ 2nd Grade Class

Do you have reluctant students when Skyping?  They are nervous or unsure about participating.  I mean we are talking to teachers and students around the world.  That’s a BIG deal!  I have only Skyped a few times.  My students’ excitement builds each time.  Skyping gives our students the ability to make connections that may not have ever been possible!  I am making connections, and let me just say it’s awesome!  I have been collaborating with two other teachers on a project re-telling the story from the “Grinch’s” point of view. We will create an eBook on Book Creator for the final product, and share with the other classes.  On Wednesday, we Skyped to discuss our versions and the story elements.  Jonathan So, the other teacher, created a TodaysMeet back channel for our kids to use during the Skype.   I have used TodaysMeet in professional development meetings, but I had never thought of using it with my students. My wheels were turning with excitement.  I went from zero to sixty getting all iPads ready.  Did I mention, it’s FREE!!  TodaysMeet is a free resource for students or teachers to use to communicate locally or in our case, across the world.  Once I had all students on the website, I had to discuss what the purpose would be for using a back channel during our Skype.  Which was to allow ALL students to be engaged in the Skype at ALL times.  They are able to enter their name and then ask away!  The question and answer correspondance between the students was AMAZING!!.  How often do students from Texas get a chance to correspond with students in Canada??  Not often!  It was immediate feedback by using TodaysMeet.  The best part, my shy/nervous students were fully engaged and loving every part of the Skype!  Thanks to Jonathan and the power of my PLN (personal learning network) , TodaysMeet will be a part of every Skype in the future!

Twitter + EdCamp = Professional Development 2.0

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Mrs. Marino at Mobile Mania

People get tired of me talking about Twitter, but I can’t help it.  It has changed the way I look at my career and has opened up endless possibilities for me.  I have met people I would have never met; I have gone places I would have never gone.  I’ve seen lessons and ideas for my classroom that I would have never seen.  My 4th graders Skyped with Canada last week for goodness sakes!   That’s major.  My excitement for Twitter really grew last year when I went to iPadpalooza.  (GO IF YOU CAN!) It was an amazing event that opened up my eyes to the potential of professional development.  I had the chance to see people present that I was following on Twitter.  They were just as amazing in person as they seemed on Twitter.  Real teachers making a real difference in children’s lives.  I mean @techninjatodd, @SAtechnoChic, @iPadSammy, @TechChef4U, and @mimg1225. Seriously!  They inspired me.  They gave me wonderful techniques and tools to take back to my class.  I left there on fire and wanting more.  When I returned home I was up late not able to sleep, searching through my Twitter feed and @CarrieRossTx mentioned something about an EdCamp.  Well, I had no idea what this was.  I asked a few questions, it seemed cool, so she helped me get signed up, I invited @NicotreSherri and off we went.  We arrived at Region 6 to a ton of smiling faces.  I can’t even mention them all, but they made us feel at home.  And then the awesomeness of an EdCamp ensued.  The plan is…there is no plan.  Teachers sit around comfortably in a room chatting about what they want to learn.  Did you get that?  WHAT THEY WANT TO LEARN!  EdCamps are tailored toward teachers!  Ideas are tossed around, people raise their hand if they can informally present on a topic, and then a schedule is made.  The irony of it all is that teachers like schedules.  They like to know what is going to happen.  They want a plan.   So how does this chaotic, unplanned, unprepared, organic mess work so well?  I don’t know.  But it does.  It was one of the best days of Professional Development I have ever attended.  I went to the classes I wanted to go to.  And if I attended a session and decided that it wasn’t for me.. I  just got up and found  another class.  No one’s feelings are hurt.  No one cares.  Everyone just goes with the flow, and you learn SO much!  It’s fun, it’s laid-back, it is AMAZING!  We left there excited that day with new ideas to take back with us.  And we wanted to learn more.  I have attended so many great workshops that I would not have because of that very first EdCamp.  Mobile Mania, Google Ninja Academy, etc.  @WISDtechguru and I even taught TechCamps at our own district this summer.  That’s a whole other post.  So, what does this all mean?  If you are in a slump as a teacher (it happens) go to an EdCamp.  Go to iPadpalooza.  Go to anything Google.  Learn something new that excites you because if you are excited, your students will be.  My next EdCamp that I am attending will be in April @EdCampHouston.  It’s going to be a wonderful event with a ton of motivated and excited teachers ready and willing to present.  I can’t wait.  Also, if you are from my neck of the woods (oh, yes I did just say that) @janamac is planning an EdCamp Region 5.  When this happens…COME.  Come and learn.  Share and grow.  Be awesome.

A Question for the Grinch + Write About This = Inferencing 2.0

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Mrs. Moses’ 2nd Grade Class

Have you ever thought of having your students write a letter to their favorite book character?  Me either, until last week.  We are currently working on a “Grinch” project.  The students are re-writing the point of view from the Grinch.  We also started letter writing.  After we discussed the parts of a letter, we needed someone to correspond with. A student asked if we could write the Grinch.  I definitely thought that was a great idea.  The students had so many questions they wanted to ask the Grinch.   We completed one letter together to start the brainstorming process.  The students surprised me with how deep they were getting with the questions.  They have been fully engaged with this project from the beginning.  The next day we used the Write About this app.  The students downloaded an image  of the Grinch before we started.  They inserted photo and then began writing the letter.  Students started saying…”Do you think he will write back?  Where are we mailing the letters? ” The thought that “The Grinch” might read their letters, was driving some amazing questions! Inferencing and predictions were popping like lightning across my classroom! The lesson became meaningful to the students.  The letter to Grinch was the platform to build the rest of our project! Which will be to re-tell the story from his point of view. In my prior post, I mentioned 2 other teachers that joined with the project, Jonathan So and Carol McLaughlin. Each night we collaborate on Twitter and have great conversations about the daily progress our students are making. This collaboration has enhanced our lesson to a new level. Our classes will Skype this week to discuss our versions of the book. I can’t wait until the final eBook with Book Creator. We need to push beyond the page, beyond the book cover. When students do that, conversations with rich vocabulary will increase. Students will discover amazing possibilities within the book that will open the door to connections and learning. They will have questions they never thought before. This project has been a wonderful experience for myself and my students.