Monday, March 27, 2023

PD Junkie

Hi.  My name is Marnie and I'm a PD Junkie.

I love learning.

I love the opportunity to attend {meaningful} PD - live, conference, webinar, recorded - anything. In fact, I just registered for another webinar being held later this week. Another because I already have one scheduled for tomorrow.

The question is, how do I "hold on to" all that I'm learning so that I can share it with others in my quest to help them bring their curriculum to life?

I talk about it. I talk about what I've learned with colleagues, family (thankfully my sister AND sister-in-law are both teachers, too) and anyone who could possibly learn from what I've learned. BUT I don't talk too much, I don't want to bore anyone!

One of the biggest things I've learned is that after each webinar, conference session, training, or any PD really, I have to press pause and let the synthesis happen. It's in that pause that I think deeply about what I've learned and how I can apply it to my job.

Is this a tool that could streamline processes for others? Is this an app that would help fill a particular student or teacher need? Could this website provide the missing piece for a problem in which we are seeking a solution? Is there a particular teacher who would love this? Is this just a fun tool with which I want to play?

These days, it's so easy to step into the rabbit hole of learning and let yourself fall for each shiny new item that is shared. The challenge is in that pause. Is the tool one that will assimilate into what you are doing, or is it another thing that teachers will have to "do" during their already overstuffed days?

I recently got back from the MACUL conference (more about that another time) and went to only three sessions, but each of those sessions was so powerful I was mesmerized. As a PD junkie, it's easy to get sucked into going, going, going. I'm finally starting to become more discerning about how I spend my (valuable) time.

See, there are literally free (and low cost) webinars for educators DAILY. Yes, you read that right. If you look, you'll be able to find a new webinar to attend every weekday. That would be PD overload. Instead, find the ones that speak to you, that hold promise of something you're looking for. 

I'm a PD Junkie, take it from me....!


Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Tangible Tech

When teachers are planning, I'm the first one to say "If it can be done more effectively while unplugged, do it." We need to face facts - sometimes the "old fashioned" way is better than high tech.

Sometimes, though, you can blend the two. 
Especially with the younger kids.

This post features some of my favorite tangible tech experiences that include hands on components, not just screens.

#1 - Osmo
By far my favorite tech toy for younger students... or really, all age students! Osmo takes the table in which the iPad/tablet is sitting and makes that table interactive. Using a periscope style device, Osmo has more than a dozen different learning games that students can play with, including tangrams, number and letter tiles, maps, coding, and even pizza toppings! I've blogged about Osmo several times but I will never tire of sharing this incredible platform.

#2 - Tiggly
If you are lucky enough to find a Tiggly set, they contain either number rods, vowels, or shapes. The tangible sets are amazing because you stick them right on the tablet screen and the apps "read the screen!" The Tiggly apps do not need the tangible sets to play, instead students use their fingers to engage with the games. My favorite game is Tiggly Chef Subtraction - if the kids need to subtract four, they put four fingertips on the screen. It's kind of hard to explain, but lots of fun to play! Oh, did I mention all the apps are free?!

#3 - Square Panda

In particular, the SquareLand and Phonics Playset. Remember those magnetic letters that were a childhood rite of passage for refrigerators? Well, this playset uses a letter tray where not only are letters recognized, the platform recognizes whether letters are facing the correct direction. It's a fantastic way to explore letters and phonics and basic site words beyond just clicking a screen. Plus, the reading games are adaptable, adjusting to how well the child is doing with the platform.

#4 - Plugo
Plugo has a unique twist on tangible games, with sets that involve STEAM and letters and numbers and puzzles and even a piano! Connect your tablet to Plugo's Gamepad and the sky is the limit. The Gamepad spaces things out and directs kids where to place objects. Whether you're placing the piano or the number spikes, you can clearly see where things go. There are eight different game sets for Plugo, each with it's own apps and storyline. All are engaging, hands on, fun!

There is a whole genre of screen-free tech toys, too, but that is a totally different post!

Monday, January 30, 2023


Have you heard of this new tool that has turned education on it head? Unless you live in an unplugged world, you probably have.

What is ChatGPT?
It is a creation of OpenAI, and as of this podcast, is currently free to explore. In fancy terms, it is a chatbot that uses a language model called GPT-3 which means Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 to simulate conversations with users. It was released in November 2022.

In plain English, it’s a very, very cool tool to have in your pocket.

When I found it, it was full on panic mode, I mean, this was going to change writing education forever! But, after I got over my panic and fear, I started settling into reality, meaning ChatGPT and tools similar to it will be filling our future. What feels unreal now will be an everyday experience in the “then.”

zIt is true. ChatGPT is unreal in the sense that it uses AI to write essays, short stories, plays, you name it. Everyone I’ve spoken to instantly thought of those college essays required with most applications and were speechless when they learned of this bot.

The scary part is that it does a really good job of composing what you ask of it, and because it uses AI, it’s technically not plagiarism, and therefore is not traceable by the standard plagiarism checkers. This brings up the ethical question of cheating… since it’s technically not copying… and is creating original work… does this mean students would have to disclose that they used ChatGPT?

Once I switched into problem solving mode and went looking for ways this tool can be useful to educators, I found some really phenomenal uses for the bot. Even further, speaking with colleagues and perusing social media brought about a plethora of positive uses, which made me feel so much better about this crazy tool.

A colleague said that while she wouldn’t want her son using ChatGPT, she herself could use it to learn about what her son was studying, and therefore be better equipped to help him with his homework.

We also talked about how if we were at a meeting and the presenter shared something we hadn’t heard of, (which never happens!) we could again go to the bot and ask it to teach us about that topic.

Another teacher decided to have the bot write a play on the Golem, a topic his class had just wrapped. The bot wrote the play and the class read it. They then had it write a second play, and compared the two. Finally, he had the class add missing details to the play to make it a richer read.

On the socials you’ll find countless ways teachers have found to use ChatGPT. In fact, here is an infographic that shows eight ways teachers can use ChatGPT in the classroom.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve asked the bot to do countless things for us at school - write essays, yes, but we’ve also used it as an Alexa, just asking it questions. A really neat try was when we asked it to write a decodable short story using a specific vowel pattern to use with 2nd grade and it did it!

ChatGPT has taken the educational world by storm. If we focus on the fear it’s raised, we’ll be in trouble. As long as we keep looking for productive, positive uses, it could really have a positive impact on education.