Posted in Book Reviews, English escapades, teaching

They Both Die At The End

Picture of the book, They Both Die at the End, sittibg on my lap

Book 9 of 2021—don’t judge how far behind my goal I am. Packing and moving killed my reading this spring and summer. It turns out sitting around and reading when there are boxes to pack made me feel like I should have been packing instead… anyway.

On to Book Thoughts:

I enjoyed the read; I read it in about a day and a half. For some reason I’m not mourning the characters as much as I usually do, but I think that might be because either (1) the title mentally prepared me to lose them and / or (2) I didn’t identify with the characters a whole lot. I don’t usually read books with teen male protagonists, but it was really neat to be in their heads. At the end of the book, the author writes an essay addressing some aspects of the book (including criticism over the title), and he reveals how much he identifies with one of the characters. The thought processes are authentic. It’s not someone guessing “if I were a teen boy, how would I feel?”

On that note, I’m basically the same age as the author and he is on his 4th book. Nothing like reading about his book tour in Denmark to make me feel like I’ve accomplished nothing in my life 😅😐

What stands out? Oh my goodness. So much. First, the concept. I wouldn’t put this book in the “dystopian” genre at all. It’s our contemporary world with one simple change: around midnight on the day you die, someone calls you to let you know, so you can make the most of your last (up to) 24hrs on Earth. What would you do with a day if you knew it was your last?

Next, the concept of connection runs deep in this book. If you don’t pick up on subtleties on the first read, definitely read it a second time. Every character, every action, every moment is connected. It’s a good reminder that our actions impact others.

Lastly, what you probably already know is a theme in the book: Don’t take the moments for granted. The moments matter. Our culture robs us of moments. Consumerism, materialism, capitalism: these systems work together to ensure we have the best, the most, the newest, but they also rob us of time. We are all guilty of chasing the money or the promotion or setting aside our family to do the job that will get us the money or the promotion. Why? So we can have the resources to enjoy the moments, later. Always later. Until one day, later is gone.


Posted in English escapades, teaching, Tech-ventures

Universal Design

Today’s classrooms look very different than they did 100 years ago, or even 10 years ago. Today we have access to a million different resources on a daily basis, which can enhance learning (whether it does or not… well, we’ll talk about about in a paragraph or two!). We also need every bit of those resources. Unlike the classrooms of our forefathers, our classrooms are diverse.

Diversity is more than race. Diversity is ethnicity, culture, economic status, ability, life experiences, home life, home diet, technology experiences. Diversity literally means “all the things that make us different from one another”. Personality counts too!


*Image used with permission under a Creative Commons License 3 -CC BY-SA 3.0. Created by, original image URL:

Despite our best intentions and greatest hopes, technology is not the long awaited savior of education, nor it is the “great equalizer” we once hoped for. In fact, a great article I read this week, though “old” by academic standards, still had nuggets of valid insight, like this one: “The level of effectiveness of educational technology is influenced by the specific student population, the software design, the educator’s role, and the level of student access to the technology” (page 5).

We must constantly approach technology as a tool for our trade. Everyone is passing out hammers (technology), but some kids have screws and not nails. The educator’s role in determining what a student needs to move to the next stage of learning is vital. We will never be replaced in this way. 

Universal Design For Learning

Before reading about Universal Design for Learning, it never occurred to me that I might already be doing it–but I am (most days)! The basic premise behind it is that in our age of diversity, in classrooms of mixed ability levels, with access to thousands and millions of tools for learning each day, there is a way to help every student move forward in learning every day.

Essentially, lessons should be designed to give students options and access to learning that is relevant and on their level, in three main ways: (1) multiple means of engagement (the “why” of learning), (2) multiple means of presentation (what knowledge is presented to various learners) , and (3) multiple means of action or presentation (how they show what they know).

I am teaching high school English classes right now with students on a 2nd grade reading level in the same room as students on a college reading level, the average being about 6th grade. And somehow I need to help every kid move forward in learning. Somehow I need to engage every learner, teach every learner, and get a product out of every. single. kid.

It is a tough task, but it is much more difficult to pretend that the issues and challenges do not exist. So, I press on–as do most teachers. And I believe Universal Design is a great way to do that.

How does technology fit in to UDL (Universal Design for Learning)?

It is pretty simple, really. An iPad does not fix everything. Bringing students all to the same website does not fix learning. During a literature lesson last week, I wanted to introduce Edgar Allen Poe with a biography, to help the students better understand his dark writing. Rather than choose one, I chose 3. (Multiple means of presentation)

If I want students to present information, I can provide multiple tools for doing that. Can students with a fear of public speaking make a video ahead of time to show to the class? Can students use an infographic instead of a powerpoint? (Multiple means of expression).

If I want students to write a research paper, can I have students choose topics they are passionate about? Can I work with each student to choose what an appropriate way to cite sources would be based on their project choice? Can I allow students to collaborate using a variety of tools of their choosing?

I am working on a UDL unit right now, and I am very excited to see how it turns out. I am even more excited to see it in practice come April 2017!  Stay tuned…


**Featured Image used with permission under a Creative Commons 2.0 License. Created by Justin Baeder. Original URL:


Posted in professional development, teaching, Tech-ventures

The Big C’s in Technology Education

This week I’ve been exploring technology education theories in one of my classes, and I’ve come across what I call the “Big C’s”. Constructivism, Connectivism, and Cyborg Theory. I thought it would be worth sharing my thoughts here!

After all the reading and watching I did this week, I can’t help but think that rather than choosing a theory to believe, I really agree with both Constructivism and Connecitivism.


Constructivism is the idea that we build new knowledge on the foundation of our old knowledge.

As a teacher, I have to agree. Besides being identified as a best practice, I have personally noticed a huge difference in the success of a lesson if I begin by activating prior knowledge. One other component of Constructivism is that learning should be relevant to the learner, and thus, authentic. This older article on Constructivism shares some of the misconceptions about learning in a constructivist classroom (or really any classroom that differentiates learning). Under all of the technology learning theories, we have to understand that how the classroom looks and how the students interact will change. In fact, education has clearly had a major shift in the last few years. For instance, what is represented in Scenario #1 of the article above as a “chaotic” classroom, is more along the lines of what is expected of us with T-TESS (Texas) now.

In terms of constructivism, one part of this publication says it all: “Learning as a Personal Event”. Learning must be critically connected to the student. This is where the student-centered learning environment comes into play. If classrooms are centered around the teacher, students have a lower chance of being able to connect the learning to themselves. In order to do this, we must use technology to be the flexible tool that we cannot always be, ourselves, in the classroom. For instance, technology tools give students the freedom to connect research to their own interests and knowledge bases, and they provide excellent tools for helping students begin right where they are rather than where we’d have to start with the class as a whole.


Connectivism is the idea that technology connects us to more knowledge, and that the real role of education is to help students learn to connect to what they need to know, rather than needing to ingest every single bit of information.

I’m going to be honest… I subscribe to this theory in so many ways! I’ve always told my students that what distinguishes “smart” from “dumb” is knowing how to find the answer… not IQ. I’ve had really intelligent students who drop out of college because they can’t figure it out, while other students will less inherent “smarts” end up with Master’s degrees. Technology connects us to so many resources and we need to be teaching our students how to use them. This includes the dreaded database lesson in high school English, and it includes how and where to get news, create products, and crowd source information, as well as collaboration. Connecting ourselves to information is truly a 21st century skill.

Cyborg Theory: 

Cyborg Theory essentially states that technology may allow us to further evolve our species by enhancing our memory and experiences with computer technology. In the future, implants may give us the extra storage and senses we need. Watch this fascinating (if not terrifying) video to see what I mean. 

Do I know it is possible and probable? Yes.

Am I a fan of it? No.

Do I find lots of ethical and religious problems with it? Yes.

But! Nonetheless, many people see this as a route to the learning of the future. Imagine how much sooner we can become productive members of society if we could program early learning and spend more time on other tasks? How about the efficiency of military members who could accomplish more, more safely with the help of technology?

Sure, it sounds awesome… until all those microwaves and radio waves cause an epidemic of brain cancer. And, of course, until we lose the only thing that has made us human to begin with: The ability to learn and innovate unlike any other species on Earth.

Which theory do you agree with? Comment Below!


**Featured  Image used with permission. By: Gerd Leonhard. Used under a Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons License. 


Posted in Google, professional development, teaching, Tech-ventures

Always more to learn…

I wrote in a previous post that I’d retire when I had nothing more to learn. I guess it is a good thing, then, that I learned some new things today!


We had a consultant visit our school district today to get us started with Google Apps for Education (GAFE). Although I am already familiar with GAFE, Google is always updating, adding to, and improving their products–which means I’ll always have more to learn! Here are the top 3 tidbits I picked up on today:

  1. Google Doodles! I already knew that Google Doodles were themed, and that some of them lead to neat little tricks or games, but I did NOT know that you can click on any special google doodle and explore the history or cool facts behind it. Check it out for yourself!  This would make a great bellwork topic, a rainy day assignment, or the opening to a fun research project!
  2. Google Slides Q & A. If you don’t know what a backchannel is… it is the digital, behind-the-scenes conversation that goes on behind a presentation. More info, here. Google has now incorporated a backchannel in Presenter View on Slides. Instead of using Twitter, Today’s Meet, or Google Docs for a backchannel, it is now incorporated in the same tool! Here is a little write-up about it!
  3. Google Forms Quizzes! Many educators have been using various add-ons for this now for years… but Google finally just added the option right into Forms for us. In your settings, choose the quiz option. Check out a quick tutorial here.

I hope your first days back at school are full of awesome new things you can take back to your kiddos as well!



Posted in Google, professional development

#AllTheGoogles Part 5: Google Forms

form pic

Google forms are a quick and easy way to gather information. They can be used to collect data in a number of different ways:

  • multiple choice
  • check boxes (select multiple)
  • short answer
  • short field (for a name, or similar info) and more!

In teaching, these forms can be created, and the link can be sent to students via Google Classroom, remind, email, edmodo or simple posted in the classroom for students to access. Once they do, the data can be used for many purposes and save the teacher time. Some examples:

  1. Instead of the beginning of the year “questionnaire”, create a google form to collect this information. For me, the paper forms just sit in my filing cabinet and never get sorted through. This way, you can access the results in a Google Sheet (more on this in a bit…) and manipulate or view the date there.
  2. Give a quick poll or check for understanding as bell work or as the ticket out the door. The data will be quickly collected and provide you a snapshot of what students think or know about a topic.
  3. Give a survey to project department data. As a Spanish teacher and department chair, our department is constantly trying to find ways to encourage participation beyond the second year of Spanish. We used Google docs to create a survey of Spanish 1 and 2 students from every section to find out their plans and interests related to continuing in the program. We are using that data to plan for next year!
  4. Quizzes/ Tests. There is a grand debate on whether Google Forms can be used for graded work. I’m not sure where I fall on the spectrum, but know that the option is there. There are many sources online with step-by-step details for creating quizzes that can be graded by you or even be self-graded if you wish.

Now, why is Google forms so awesome??!?!? Well! The results from Forms automatically populate in a Google sheet. They are organized by the person responding and the question they respond to. You will have a quick view of: who participated, when, which questions they answered and what their answers were. You can then use this to create a quick chart, organize the responses or use them for grades. 

Are you planning to explore forms? Try this practice form… now! 

And view the automatically created Google Sheet with results!

What do you think? Please leave a comment below! 


Posted in Google, professional development, teaching

Google Series Part 4: Google Drive

What is Google Drive?

Google Drive is essentially a cloud service by Google. Using Drive means that your files are accessible to you from any device that has internet connection. 

Why is Drive better than other cloud services, or better than my flash drive… or better than my hard drive?

Haha, I’m glad you asked! I have iCloud on my iPhone… but it only comes with 5GB of storage–which seems like a lot… until they ask you to pay for more. If a person has a gmail… they get 30gb free! If you have an educational Google account (as I do, since my district has “Gone Google”) then you have UNLIMITED drive storage. 

I signed up for Google Drive over the summer, in one of the very first google trainings that our new district Director of Digital Learning was hosting. Since then, I have been trying to convince the world of its awesomeness. Finally, the Digital Learning Committee (which I chair) recommended to the campus that on our next staff development day, all teachers be required to attend a training and sign up.

…Shortly after that, I ran into one of my fellow Spanish teachers, sitting at her desk. She was looking at her Drive in awe. She shared with me the many ways Drive was going to make her life easier. Here is a picture of her Desktop and her Desktop (ha, see what I did there?)photo 2

photo 1




Drive has been my Go-to and saving grace this year. I am a frazzled lady, and I often start working on a task at home and get to school, only to realize the file I need is on my home computer. Drive has changed my productivity, for the better. A teacher’s productivity is directly related to student outcomes. In a teacher’s world, every second counts. If I can save some time, that is time I can be interacting with kids, providing feedback and growing relationships. 

Tips, Tricks and Ideas for Google Drive: 

  • Google Drive works best when you check the box that allows any file to be converted into a Google file. This means that if you upload a “Word” document… you’ll be able to open it, even on a computer that doesn’t have Word. Most of your formatting will be the same. Every now and then, something changes… but you can always convert the file back!
  • Google Drive has a Google search bar… this is amazing! You can search for the title of the file or any word that might be in the file. This is much easier than the process to do the same thing on a normal computer… and even better, you can do this from ANY computer with internet access (or device!)
  • Google Drive allows you to seamlessly share files with contacts. We’ll get into this more in the next post but: you can share items with links through email, invite others to edit your files, push files to the web as individual webpages with links and more!
  • Drive has an intuitive “incoming” folder that keeps a list of any files shared with you, almost like an “inbox”.
  • As mentioned in my previous post about Google Classroom, Classroom actually creates and manages assignment folders and files in your Drive. When a student “submits” the assignment, it magically appears in your folder!
  • Any file can be added to drive. I have uploaded tons of videos and sound files that I use for listening assignments in my Spanish classes, and Google opens them with the web-based Google Play. This is amazing, since teachers often have to fight with quicktime and windows based systems that may not agree in file type.

The best part about this tool, for me, is that it’s free. Most of the things I can think of that would save me some time or chaos… cost too much money. Everyone knows teachers only spend money on Bills, Students, Their kids or their “other kids”… rarely on something that is just for the purposes of making their lives better.

Are you using Drive? How has it changed your world? Leave a comment 🙂


Missed part of this series? Get caught up!

Part 1: Google Voice
Part 2: Google Voice (cont.)
Part 3: Google Classroom
Posted in Google, professional development, teaching, Uncategorized

Google Series Part 3: Google Classroom

I can only compare what I know. I know that about 2 years ago, I was introduced to the world of Flipped learning, and as a teacher who had interned with Florida Virtual School, the idea of putting part of my teaching life online appealed to me.

Think about it… Students are online anyway. Most of the time, they really don’t mind adding a school website to the list. They end up doing what they do on all the websites… in fact, they probably are doing what you did to get here. They scroll; they get lost; they read mindlessly; they click on links and learn stuff unintentionally. Its almost osmosis. 

Our current Academic Dean and a team of others in our district introduced me to Edmodo. I’m an all or nothing person (for better or worse!) and a dove right in. Within a few weeks, all of my classes were signed up, students were completing assignments, and we were rolling. I flipped some, but for me, the value of the online medium was the potential for the increase in the language production. 

In a matter of weeks, my students were:

  • Commenting on things in Spanish.
  • Presenting stuff to me (writings AND videos) in Spanish
  • Communicating with me openly about their grades, questions, concerns
  • Sharing relevant content.
  • Making up absent work
  • Completing other assignments, notes and more on Edmodo!

Believe it or not, I didn’t have the commonly feared “inappropriate” posts, even with nearly 200 teenagers 14-19 years old enrolled! In fact, I even conducted part of my maternity leave last year on Edmodo.

But… I did have these problems:

  • Constant log in issues. (Thankfully, on edmodo, teachers can reset student passwords, that is a huge plus!)
  • Problems with the “feed”. Edmodo is modeled after a social network style, and the feed brings up the most popular “posts” in their “network” or classes… meaning that since some students didn’t actually click on my class, they missed out on important posts.
  • A confusing interface… for teachers AND for students.

Of course, neither of these lists is exhaustive. Edmodo has served me well, and my students are still currently enrolled… but over the past few months, we’ve transitioned away to the sleeker, simpler: Google Classroom. 

Google Classroom Vs. Edmodo

Google classroom is accessed by students through their own Gmail accounts, or through school created ones, if you school has “gone Google” (as ours has). This means, students will have to set and reset their own passwords… BUT since they probably already have gmail accounts, they likely already actually know their passwords…. unlike the password for the random educational thing they were forced to sign up for….

It is also a simplified version of blackboard, essentially. Instead of a lame (sorry, Edmodo) version of Facebook, the interface actually mirrors a system they will hopefully be using in a few short years, if we do our jobs and prepare them for college.

The feed in each “classroom” is sequential, meaning the most recent posts appear at the top, instead of the most popular.

Students can turn in assignments, teachers can edit those assignments, and return them with comments. Its amazing. Providing feedback is at the core of constant improvement; Google Classroom make it easy.

The most amazing  part of Google Classroom, for me, is its integration into the rest of the Google world. For instance:

  • Students can attach content from Google docs/ Google Drive directly to their assignments.
  • Assignments are automatically  organized into folders in my google drive by class period.
  • Students log in with Gmail
  • and more!

Although some would complain that the tools Edmodo offers (such as Snapshot, quiz making, and the Apps) aren’t available in Google, I’m glad. In fact, this is part of what contributes to the simplicity of the tool… which directly contributes to my student’s success. AND I am simplifying as a result. For instance, I have been using tools like Kahoot or Google Forms instead  of quizzes by edmodo. Additionally, as a language teacher, production really is my ultimate goal, and encouraging interaction instead of participation in automatically graded quizzes, really is more inline with my goals.

Are you using Classroom? What are your thoughts? 


In case you missed Parts 1 & 2:

Part 1

Part 2

Also, check me out on Tpt! 



Posted in Google, homework, professional development

Google Voice: Part 1- In The Language Classroom

Google voice has rocked my world this year. I had previously wanted to see what I could use Google Voice for, but, like most teachers, I didn’t have time for another “tool” to add to my list and make my life harder. After attending the ACTFL Convention this year, however, my perspective changed.

I sat in on a session by one of the ACTFL teachers of the year, Carrie Toth, who runs as she talked about different way she has added authentic assessment to her classes. She shared that when students have projects that many classes traditionally “present” (aka: waste 3 days of class time presenting), she instead uses Google Voice. In a room so crowded with people that I was in a corner on the floor, here I sat, suddenly engaged beyond measure. This woman had the answers to all my problems.

Any student who has ever sat in my classroom knows 2 things (ok, hopefully more than 2 things…)

  1. Mrs. Wilson doesn’t waste time.
  2. Everything we do has a purpose.

I literally refuse to waste even a second. And, if a student asks me “why” I usually have a dissertation like response of my thought process behind the request.

Presentations had always been an irritation of mine. They worked so hard… shouldn’t they present it? To be honest… these presentations aren’t going to be that great. Who listens to them anyway??? The class can’t hold their attention span long enough to hear more than one. UGH now we are a week behind 😦 

Instead, Carrie explains, that she has students call and leave their presentations using Google Voice. Genius. Students are then able to:

  • Speak with a lower affective filter.
  • Practice several times before calling.
  • Call again to record a better version.
  • Not waste 3 class days listening to their Spanish 1 classmates repeat all 15 words they know (ahem, I mean…. um… sorry!)

I was anxious to try this, and I was amazed at the results. My students did fantastically. They even worked harder on their accents, because they felt that me having a voicemail was more “permanent”.

Tips and Ideas: 

  1. Carrie suggested using some of the time that would have been spent on presentations to do a “museum” style walkabout, encouraging students to interact in the TL instead (Interpersonal).
  2. Use Google Voice for AP level classes to record their cultural comparisons.
  3. Google Voice voicemails cut off at 3 minutes. When students don’t have much dead space… that is actually quite a lot of time! But, be careful about assigning something that can’t be recorded in the time limit. For example, during their celebrity family presentations, I graded their project as a written piece, but asked students only to share the 5 most interesting things via voicemail.
  4. You can set up Google Voice to ring to a phone… but since the main use for it is voicemail (for a teacher), I recommend setting it to “Do Not Disturb”, so that it will automatically record voicemails.
  5. In your voicemail message, remind students to leave their name…haha, seems obvious, but you are a teacher, so you understand.
  6. Space your assignments out, so that your voicemail box isn’t clogged with too many assignments at once. One week I gave an assignment to Spanish 1. Once those voicemails had been graded, I assigned a Voice assignment to Spanish 3. A few late Spanish 1 assignments got mixed in, and there was a delay in grading them.

Have any ideas yet? 




Posted in Google, professional development, teaching


Google owns the interwebs.


This was my revelation about 2 years ago when I went to sign up for gmail, and I found that Google already knew my email address. It was a funny “conspiracy” theory then as I laughed it off…but since then I’ve discovered the world of Google–and more than just a search engine or email platform… Google is a set of tools beyond what I could have ever imagined. This year, Google has changed my classroom for the better.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be detailing my Google adventure from the perspective of a language teacher, but so much of what I’ve found has implications for any classroom. This summer, I’m even planning to get Google Certified!

Check back to see my posts on:

  • Google Voice
  • Google Classroom
  • Google Drive / Docs/ Slides
  • Google Forms
  • YouTube
  • Picasa
  • Google Play

See you soon!

How are you using Google? Tell me below!


Posted in professional development

A journey through…. Technology?

Well, tomorrow ends a short, but intense journey through educational technology. I find it interesting that I am young, and have, until now, lived so successfully–and unaware, of so many great and useful technologies. This course has taught me a lot of things, but the most important are these:

-Successful integration of technology puts pedagogy first.

-I need to be resourceful. There are a lot of free resources out there, and I need to continue to find them, learn them, and use them when they will help my students.

-Technology changes and evolves. And so should I. Continuing my professional development so that my teaching can stay relevant is key : )