Sunday, March 20, 2016

2017 OBOB 6th-8th level books quizzes

Two of the 2017 OBOB 6th-8th level books quizzes are now finished and available for download:
Death by Toilet Paper
Dark Life

Sunday, March 13, 2016

2017 Battle of the Books Quizzes!

I'm making good on my vow not to procrastinate on reading the elementary level Battle of the Books selections for 2017. I just finished my first quiz, for the book 'Death by Toilet Paper' by Donna Gephart. It has 308 questions and answers, and is now available for purchase and immediate download!

Another exciting piece of news, this year I'll be making quizzes for the middle school, and possibly the high school level books available! This is something people have requested in the past. As a full time teacher and an adjunct professor, I haven't wanted to take on that endeavor because I don't want to spread myself too thin and not be able to do a good job. However, my 25 year old son, David, is going to be working with me, and this will make it possible to create quizzes for all levels. David is a gifted writer and filmmaker who graduated from Portland State University last year. Like me, he loves to read. I'm confident his quizzes will be as detailed and well written as previous quizzes have been.

Prices for quizzes are as follows:

3rd - 5th grade level: $5 each or $50 for the entire set of sixteen quizzes
6th - 8th grade level: $8 each or $100 for the entire set of sixteen quizzes

9th - 12th grade level: $10 each or $100 for the entire set of twelve quizzes (This category will only be open after the 3rd-5th and 6th-8th level quizzes are finished.)

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Tell me about Google add-ons!

In the past year, I've learned about several useful Google add-ons: Doctopus, Goobric, Easy Accents, Speech Recognition, Extensis Fonts, and WeVideo. All of them are free, and they were all very easy and quick to install. 

Doctopus and Goobric work together to allow teachers to attach rubrics to students' writing in Google Classroom and to score them online. Students immediately have access to the rubrics and their teachers' comments. 

Easy Accents, once installed, allows users to display a side menu of letters with accent marks for users writing in Spanish or other languages that utilize accent marks. This is so much easier for students than having to click 'insert' and then 'symbol' or to push the 'alt' key along with a numeric code. 

Speech Recognition allows users to dictate into a microphone, built-in or connected to their computer, resulting in text. This has empowered students who have valuable ideas to express, but struggle with writing. 

Extensis fonts installs thousands of fonts that Google Docs users can choose from, and WeVideo is a recording and editing program that allows users to quickly, easily export their recordings to Google Drive or other destinations. 

Discovering these free, useful add-ons has created one huge question in my mind: What else is there?! I can't believe I didn't know about these add-ons for so long, I can't believe they're free, and I wonder what other useful add-ons exist that may be useful to me, my students, and my fellow teachers. I'm on a quest! 

Please share any useful Google add-ons you have discovered and how you use them, especially if they're useful in K-12 education. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Oregon Battle of the Books Day!!

Today is the big day for Region 2 East of the elementary school level Oregon Battle of the Books (OBOB)! Oregon Battle of the Books is a yearly competition at three levels: Elementary (3rd-5th grades), middle school (6th-8th grades) and high school (9th-12th grades). Winners of local school competitions in which teams compete to answer questions about the chosen books move on to regional competitions, and finally to the state competitions.

The regional competition for Region 3 East is being held at my own elementary school, Lincoln Elementary in Woodburn, Oregon, where I've been a teacher for the past 15 years. I became involved in the Oregon Battle of the Books five years ago when I decided to coach a team of five 4th and 5th grade students. I read all sixteen of the elementary level books, and then created very detailed quizzes for us to study and practice with. I realized I had created very valuable resources for other coaches and parents of students participating in the competition, as well as for teachers who could use the quizzes in their classrooms when their students were reading or studying particular books. I created a website,, uploaded the quizzes and connected them to Paypal in order to sell the quizzes individually or in complete sets for the annual competition. I provide the quizzes for free to all students and teachers at Lincoln Elementary School.
I have volunteered as the scorekeeper at the Region 2 elementary level OBOB competition for the past four years, mostly because the person directing the regional battle is my very good friend and colleague, Heidi Pramuk. She has been my friend, confidant, and voice of reason for many years and I'm constantly impressed with her energy and passion as a teacher, librarian, union rep, school leadership committee member, church president, and mother of three kids that she and her husband very successfully raised into wonderful young adults. So, basically I would do anything she asks me to do, but luckily I really enjoy helping out with the Battle of the Books competition. It's a fast-paced, exciting day with hundreds of kids, teachers, coaches, and parents in various classrooms having battles, kids running the scores to me, me inputting the scores in a spreadsheet to determine finalists, and the last two teams competing in the gym at the end of the day.

Working on Touchwood Farm in Tasmania
I'm even more excited this year to be here helping out because my son, David, and his friend, Josh, came with me to help. They are in classrooms right now as a timekeeper and a scorekeeper. They were traveling all around Italy, Tasmania, Australia, and New Zealand for the past five months, so I want to hang out with them as much as possible. They didn't like the idea of having to wake up early and leave by 6:30 am, but I have promised to buy them lunch at the nearby sushi restaurant, Sora Sushi, where the sushi goes around on a conveyer belt!

We are down to the final two teams -- Candelaria and Clear Lake. I'm very proud of our own Lincoln team. They worked really hard with their teacher and coach, Mr. Pena, and they made it all the way to the final eight. Now it's time to start reading and preparing for next year!!

P.S. Congratulations to Clear Lake Elementary - winners of the Region 2 East Elementary level Oregon Battle of the Books competition! 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

NCCE 2016 - Feeling Inspired!!

Last week, February 24 through 26, was the Northwest Conference for Computer Education conference in Seattle, Washington. It was a wonderful, educational, interesting, inspiring, and fun fun fun experience!! It was held at the Washington State Convention Center....a huge two-building maze connected from one side of the street to the other by a skybridge that offered a spectacular view through the city all the way to the marketplace on the water.

The NCCE conference is held every year, alternating between Portland, Oregon and Seattle Washington. It's one of my favorite conferences, second only to the bigger ISTE National Educational Computing Conference--but I've only attended in Portland before this year because I live nearby. This year our district's Instructional Technology director, Forrest Fisher, gave members of the district technology committee to attend the conference in Seattle.

I attended several sessions, my favorite two on Wednesday: Absolutely Awesome Graphics; No Photoshop Needed! We learned how to edit graphics with Powerpoint. It did many things I wasn't aware it could do, like remove background from an image:
We also learned about many graphic editing websites, some I'd heard of before, and many I hadn't. One that I played with was Fun Photo Box, which allows you to either upload a photo or take a photo with your computer and insert it into different scenes. I took this photo of myself with my laptop, added the Photo Fun Box effects, and then emailed it to my 5th English Enrichment students who were with a substitute teacher. They loved it! I jokingly put the subject heading: I'm famous! and many of them believed my giant photo was really on a building in the city! I showed them how to do it when I returned to school on Monday. 

Another session I went to on Wednesday was about the CETL (Certified Educational Technology Leader) certification through CoSN (Consortium for School Networking). It's a program that combines technology, pedagogy, and leadership. I had never heard of it before, but it's something I'm very interested in pursuing!

My favorite event at the conference was the opening keynote speech by Kevin Honeycutt, a teacher/ed tech coach/speaker/futurist/comedian/musician!! To be honest,I don't usually like keynote speeches because I want to be doing something, and they are always long. In contrast to the typical keynote speech, Kevin Honeycutt told inspiring stories about himself and his students, spoke in a variety of accents, demonstrated an invention his students build and sell, the 'Godium, played his AWESOME steampunk electric guitar that he designed himself, and shared ways to motivate our students and help them actualize their dreams. He made me laugh, made me cry a bit, and inspired me to showcase my kids and their talents, and to inspire other teachers to do the same. 

Other highlights of the conference included the fun scavenger HUNT, finding codes and clues and posting #NCCEHUNT photos all around the conference center, the nearby hotels, and all around Seattle. I've used Twitter more in the last five days than I have since setting up my first account in 2007. I enjoyed getting to know my Woodburn School District colleagues better and had a really good time with them. We don't cross paths often because I work in the elementary school and my colleagues who attended the conference teach in the two middle schools and one of the high schools. We are connected, though, in our common passion and commitment to integrating current technologies into teaching and learning in all grade levels K-12, and helping our fellow teachers do the same. 

Doug Peterson (WAAST), Forrest Fisher (WSD IT Director),Charissa Bruce (Valor Middle School)
With Charissa Bruce (Valor MS), Erin Rodriguez (French Prairie MS), and the IPEVO guy