Monday, October 21, 2013

Impressions from the First Quarter

How is it possible that the first quarter is over? Or maybe you are wondering, have we really only been in school for 9 weeks?  I know what you mean.  Some days, it seems like school just started. Other days, I'm ready for summer break!

Since I'm a Specials teacher (even though I'm not in the official Specials rotation), my schedule and  classroom experiences are different from the average teacher's, but I bet we have some of the same thoughts throughout the day. Here are my impressions from the first quarter, in no particular order:

  • It is possible to reach 10,000 steps in a day WITHOUT leaving your classroom. I've been wearing a FitBit for over a year and have discovered some pretty creative ways to achieve those 10,000 steps, even on days when I don't leave my room.  LOTS of circles around the room.  Let's hope the carpet holds up!
  • You have to build up to the "teacher bladder".  By now, we can make it until lunch without a bathroom break.  By the time winter break arrives, we will be able to make it all day without going to the bathroom. This a super-hero trait. Not recommended for the average person!
  • Students really do learn some of the stuff we are trying to teach them.  I get such a THRILL every time one of my students uses the word "amber" instead of orange.  Seriously.  It's a geek thing.
  • Every grade level is different every year.  You might not expect this well-known fact to make a big impact on Specials teachers, but it DOES!  For example, one year, I was so frustrated because my 3rd graders never seemed to finish anything. Everything just took SO long to do.  This year, my 3rd graders have already completed one project and did it in record time. Hurray!
  • There is reason for concern when I say "booger" and the kids have absolutely no reaction.
  • No matter how prepared I think I am, I've forgotten something.
  • No matter how prepared I think I am, if I'm trying to do too much, I'm going to screw something up. 
  • Migraines are not teacher-friendly. I've had a migraine almost every week of school so far and they really mess me up. Maybe one of my students will discover a cure for migraines.
  • Paperwork and documentation can be more painful than a migraine. Don't you just want to grab the SBOE, shake them really hard and ask, "WHEN do you want me to teach?"  
  • Meetings are almost as bad.  I'm not big on meetings in general, but this year we seem to be swamped with meetings and visitors. Just send me an email, please.
  • We NEED a holiday in October!  Yes, I still want the whole week of Thanksgiving off, but it is just SO hard to go from Labor Day to Thanksgiving without a break.  If I counted correctly, that's 11 weeks. Let's remember this next year when it's time to vote for the District calendar.
  • Exercise makes me feel better. Last week, some of my colleagues started working out a couple of days a week after school. I have always done some sort of exercise, but working out with colleagues just feels good all over!
Did the first quarter make any impressions on YOU?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Lipstick, Earrings and Tears

Most of the time, my girly gene is pretty weak. I prefer black to pink, brights to pastels, comfort to couture, and power tools to kitchen utensils. I NEVER rearrange the furniture in my house.

Sometimes, I try to challenge myself to "get my girl on".

For example, Monday was the first day that teachers came back to school.  To celebrate, I came in the front door wearing lipstick AND earrings.  (Plus my regular clothes, lest you think I hate my colleagues enough to show up nakkie.)  I even considered wearing a necklace, but couldn't find one in my limited arsenal that seemed to work.

But, now it's Thursday night and today there was no lipstick or earrings.  In fact, within a few minutes of arriving at school, I locked myself in my room and burst into tears.  Such a girl thing to do!

What happened to incite such rare behavior? The same thing that probably plagues most of us at this time of year; unmet expectation.  Who didn't meet my expectations?  ME.

Oh, boy.  That's tough.  It's a whole lot easier to blame someone else.  Sure, I get annoyed at answering the same, darn questions a million times and people who don't even TRY to fix their own problems make me CRAZY, but no one can beat me down like I can.  Anybody relate?

Today, I felt discouraged because I couldn't do what I had planned to do.  Some of the things I wanted to accomplished are still left undone.  My "to do" list doesn't seem to be shrinking. HOW are we going to be ready to start school on Monday?

But, we will be.  We always are.  And, guess what?  There isn't a single thing on my "to do" list that will prevent Monday from being a successful day of education...including the projector bulbs and the darn employee handbook! (It's coming! I promise!)

So, tomorrow is going to be different.  Maybe a little less girl and  little more grown-up woman. I may not be able to solve all the problems, but I will do the best I can. Every teacher will have what they NEED to conduct school on Monday, even if it means that, once again, I don't have time to get my bulletin board up before the first day.  For the second year in a row, it's going to look like this...

Monday, July 1, 2013

URL Shorteners

Whatever your reasons for using a URL shortener, there are several services available to perform this task. For my friends who are new to URL shortening, here is a quick look at a few of  the most notable ones:

  •'m a HUGE Google fan, so it stands to reason that I would start with Google's own URL shortener.  As with other Google products, when you log in to your Google account, you can track your shortened URLs.

My very FAVORITE part of using is that it automatically creates a QR code for your shortened URL!  WAY cool!

  • (formerly is very popular as it is the default URL shortener used by Twitter. In the past couple of years, Bitly has added a variety of services to it's site, including "bitmarks" which works as a bookmark service. You can now also create QR codes from your bitly URLs, as well as access various user stats.

  • is a shortening service that works independently or along side Hootsuite, a social media management system. Hootsuite users rave about this product, but my social networking does not yet require such a powerful tool.  If you aggressively utilize multiple social networking sites, this might be the tool for you.
  • is a basic URL shortening service whose home page has a form-like structure.  This site is easy to use, but does not provide the tracking features of the previously mentioned services.
Do you have a favorite URL shortening service that I haven't mentioned? Post a comment and tell us why it is your favorite.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Mouse

I remember computers BEFORE the creation of the mouse. Unbelievable, right? I know.  I have a hard time believing how old I am, too.

Before the mouse, we had commands, function keys and, hopefully, a good memory.  I am just at this very moment realizing how grateful I should be for the creation of the mouse, considering the current state of my memory.

When I first heard about the creation of this bizarrely name computer tool, my response was (and I'm being painfully honest here), "Sounds like something created by a lazy man."  Nice, right? Well, I was only 19 and full of attitude, but I wasn't the only one who initially thought the mouse was a ridiculous contraption for the lazy and intellectually inferior.  I read somewhere that John C. Dvorak, long-time computer columnist, once wrote that the mouse would be the reason that the Macintosh would fail. See...even techno smarty-pants get it wrong sometimes!

Regardless of when we got it and what we first thought of it, today the mouse is likely to be the first human interface device that a child encounters. Prepare yourself for a big revelation at this point: Children do NOT come from the womb pre-programmed with the knowledge of how to use a mouse. It's true. I promise. Anyone who disagrees clearly doesn't know any young children. Or any Kindergarten teachers!

So, for the sake of all young computer experts and their brave teachers, here are my suggestions for teaching mouse skills and improving mouse dexterity.

Step 1: How to hold the mouse
Most students have some experience with a mouse by the time they reach Kindergarten, but they most often do not realize that there is a "right" way to hold it. I use the "bunny ears" concept to model how the mouse should be held.  Have the students show bunny ears (or "live long and prosper"), then show how to place a bunny ear on each side of the mouse without touching the bunny nose (scroll wheel).  We NEVER use the bunny tail (thumb) to click the mouse.  The thumb goes on one side of the bunny and the ring finger and pinkie go on the other side of the bunny and hold on to the bunny and control it.

We ALWAYS use the right hand on the mouse, even for left-handed students.  Yes, I know you can configure the mouse to work on the left side, but don't do this to your sweet lefties!  Why encumber them with the necessity to reconfigure the mouse settings every single time that they sit down at a computer when they so easily learn to use the right hand?

Step 2: Placing the mouse and clicking
One of my favorite resources for introducing and practicing mouse movement and clicking is this website created to prepare young students to utilize Mimio's reading program. We all start the website at the same time, but do the first minute or so without headphones, watching on the interactive whiteboard. After the students get the hang of it, they put on their headphones and work through the rest of the interactive practice on their own.

Step 3: More practice clicking
There are endless resources online that will give students an opportunity to practice clicking. Download a short list of my favorites here.

Online puzzles are another great way to practice with the mouse.  There are multiple online puzzle sites so I haven't included any specific sites in this post.  As always, make sure to double-check all websites for appropriate content.


I'm so excited that you are here, but I really have no idea what is going to happen next! Technically (pun intended), this blog is meant to record my ideas and experiences with technology. Fortunately (pun not intended but unavoidable), I know myself well enough to say that there is a good chance that other, completely random things will show up here.

It is very intimidating to consider adding another tech blog to the world as there are already so many out there, written by people with far more experience than I, so why bother? The final compelling reason to move forward turns out to be that I want to honor my experiences, my students and my colleagues by recording what I have learned with them and from them.

Wish me luck!

Tiffani the Tech Diva