Future me: Send an email in the future

My very first teaching position was at a challenging district. Some of my kids in my first period/homeroom class were looking to graduate and some were hoping to get out of high school alive. It was a very interesting year and I learned so much from my first class. The very last day of school I had them write a letter to themselves in the future. These letters are collecting dust in a storage bin at the bottom of my bed in my parents house. I will mail them in the next month or so. I hope they achieved their goals and I hope the letters give them a chance to reflect on their childhood dreams. 

I discovered an interesting website called Future Me from the Kevin Hodgeson’s Blog Instructify. You provide the email address, add a subject line, write a note to your future self, and then choose when it should get delivered. You may designate your emails private or public, and there is a gallery of interesting public emails.

A great time to use FutureMe would be at the  end of the school year to write a letter to yourself when you are a senior in high school or about the graduate college. It may start some interesting discussions about the future!

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Cell Phones in School

Some schools around the country regard cell phones use as disruptive and distracting, and have implemented policies that prohibit using them on school grounds. Students still use cell phones in school. According to the PEW Internet and American Life Research Project

  • 58% of teens from schools that forbid cell phones use them during class anyway
  • 31% of teens that take their cell phones to school send text messages during class everyday

Cell Phones are some of the most useful and least utilized technologies within classrooms across the country. It is time to enter the 21st century and encourage schools to use cell phones as a tool rather than treat them as contraband.

There is a wonderful blog I follow written by Liz Colb entitled From Toy to Tool: Cell Phones in Learning. The site in entirely devoted to encouraging responsible cell phone use in the schools. Another website is called Mobile Phones for Learning.

Application in the Classroom: texting homework, podcasts, quiz answers, polls, mobile videos, google docs, research, blogging, recording interviews, posting discussions, and so much more

Update: This semester I offered a texting option on the parent permission slip. I was shocked when every parent approved of their child (who had cell phone) to use  textblaster. What shocked me the most was that about 35 out of 55 parents wanted to have their number included on my mass text option in addition to their child’s phone number. Texting may be just the new wave of parent communication.

Useful Websites:

Other ideas for using cell phones in school?
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My Big Campus User (FREE) Conference

Last year I had the unique privilege to attend My Big Campus (MBC) Summer Academy in San Diego, California. I learned from amazing educators across the country, learned to train others using MBC, and creative ways I can implement MBC into my classroom. I left the training motivated and excited to share My Big Campus with my professional learning community. Since then I have spread MBC to several teachers at my school who are using it with their students. I am hopeful the rollout will continue to spread within my district.


What is My Big Campus?

My Big Campus is an online learning environment where teachers and students can have online discussion and online learning for all students. It is a secure social network that is designed to be used inside and outside of the classroom. My Big Campus is carefully monitored and has specific settings that are designed for you class and student population. Anything that is uploaded, created, or posted can be seen and printed by teachers, administrators, or My Big Campus administrators.  Students will learn that they are members of a community and are expected to be responsible digital citizen.All My Big Campus groups are “Private” meaning that only students and teachers that are invited to be a part of the group or class can see comments, assignments, discussions, or shared resources.


Here are some ways you can use My Big Campus in your class:

  • Students can get directions and resources for assignments given in class
  • Students can participate in and create discussions related to the topics we are covering.
  • Students can access to our classroom calendar and receive announcements about upcoming events and important dates.
  • Students can have online storage space so they can easily access digital projects and assignments they are working on for class.
  • Students can communicate with me and their classmates about assignments and projects we are doing in class.


My Big Campus Conference  

Any MBC user can attend our first-ever MBC User Conference–there are no conference fees! Teachers, tech coordinators, and admins will be coming together to share best practices for engaging students, improving learning outcomes, managing online behavior, collaborating on PD, rolling out MBC and 1:1 initiatives, and more. Users teaching and learning from each other–because together we do amazing things!

Register today — the conference is free!

Submit your proposal to present — this conference is all about users sharing best practices. Strands include:

  • Student Engagement (e.g., course delivery, global connections)
  • Content Curation (e.g., curating content in MBC, cross-district collaboration, course bundle best practices)
  • Innovative Learning Models (e.g, PBL, flipped, differentiated instruction)
  • Virtual/Distance Education
  • Digital Citizenship and Managing Online Behavior
  • Mobile Implementations (e.g., 1:1, BYOD)
  • Professional Learning Networks (e.g., PD, book studies, district rollouts)

Apply for a scholarship to offset travel expenses.

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My Big Campus is Amazing!!!

I have used Edmodo the past year and a half with my classes. I love Edmodo because it’s a free social learning network for teachers, parents, students, and administrators. It provides a way to connect, collaborate, and so much more.

Michelle Krill, a technology coordinator @mmkrill at my former school, introduced me to new course management resource called My Big Campus. My Big Campus is a wonderful resource that allows teachers to create a virtual classroom with their students. My Big Campus has so many features and endless opportunities to collaborate and teach your student’s 21st century skills!

My Big Campus has a resource library for websites, wiki’s, handouts, power-points, and videos, etc. Once you create an account, you can create separate classes or groups. As a teacher you can create a blog, classroom calendar, post assignments, and even grade assignments right in My Big Campus. Last semester I used the blog to have a virtual discussion before and after classroom debates. I also used the classroom “chat” feature to Back-Channel while my class watched videos.


MBC is by far one of my favorite programs. It has replaced a lot of other programs and allowed my students to go to one place to access all our classroom information. Two teachers in my department have already rolled it out, one with an honors program and another with the AP US history course. My wonderful department chair, Mrs. McGrath has actually encouraged our department to start using it for a department resource sharing. I have two trainings scheduled for this spring to teach teachers about MBC in my district. I am excited to share my passion for MBC.




Video  Citation 


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Use Glassboard for group discussions

I learned about Glassboard at EdCamp Hudson Valley. I must say it’s a pretty neat program in order to have a discussion with a group of people that can remain private. It is considered a private social network that is simular to facebook but uses email and instant response. Once you create an account you can create or access a “board,” which is basically a group of people who can share messages, comments, phone, videos, files, etc.


I used Glassboard to have a post Edcamp Hudson Valley discussion. Rather than communicating through multiple emails (like we did to set up #EdcampHV) we were on Glassboard posting questions, comments, and images. It is easy to set up and can be used for so many purposes in education. I imagine it being useful with a group of students working on a project together or sharing ideas to study for a test.

Email Invitation – now what? from Glassboard on Vimeo.


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Life After the Red Pill: One Educator’s Journey into the Rabbit Hole of Social Media

We all have to make choices. As teachers we must constantly make them. How will we spend our time in and out of class? What resources should we use with our students, and where should we go to get them? How will we foster effective learning? Social Studies educators, like me, often wonder, how will my lessons foster responsible citizenship among my students?


Implementing Social Media into the Classroom

I recently chose to investigate the possibilities and challenges of utilizing social media to improve my social studies teaching. I define social media as any service where content is user generated and shared with fellow users of that medium. I was already using several social media services (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram) in my personal life, but I did not utilize them professionally. While I didn’t understand it at the time, I’ve found this choice, albeit a quite a bit less dramatic and violent, like the one Neo faced in The Matrix (1999):

Like Neo, I had no idea of the ramifications my choice to select the red pill of social media. When I began to use it I discovered a world that I did not know existed, but, fortunately, it was not the painful reality of Neo’s “real world.” Over the last couple weeks I have uncovered a wealth of resources, ideas, and colleagues. Yet it has not been without challenges. I will provide a brief summary of my some of my experiences using social media for school. I hope these experiences might provide some insights for others embarking upon a similar journey (or maybe even remind social media veterans what it is like for neophytes).


Exploring New Forms of Social Media

While I made the choice to investigate social media, I have not been alone. For the past week I asked my senior social studies methods students to accompany me. I began a week before our first class by immersing myself in a variety of social media services by using them 5-10 hours a day. I created a Facebook page, a new Twitter account (@WSUSocStudies), an Edmodo account, and sought out people and organizations on these forums. I checked out books from the library and searched databases for academic articles on the topic. The academic materials provided some interesting perspectives, but they didn’t show me what to do. Just like Morpheus explained to Neo, “no one can be told what [it] is. You have to see it for yourself.” Only by using social media can one really understand the possibilities it might afford teachers and students.

I initially used my linked Twitter and Facebook pages to collect and share resources with others. I searched organizations with which I was already familiar (e.g., the History Channel, the Gilder Lehrman Institute). I retweeted interesting links, or posted YouTube videos or websites that I had previously used in my own classes. I made use of Scoop.it to find new and interesting articles.

I found many good resources, but I also felt overwhelmed. I was inundated with a mass of information, and keeping up with everything on just scoop.it and Twitter seemed like too much. I enjoyed much of what I was finding, but I found myself without enough time in the day to keep up with all my professional responsibilities along with this new cyber world. Not only was I overwhelmed, but I also wondered, what is really different about social media then just searching the internet? I was also nervous about how my students would feel accompanying me on this journey (see next blog post). The social studies methods course is designed to help students think about theoretical and practical aspects of teaching social studies, and I was dedicating the first few weeks of our course to exploring these tools so we could practice using them all semester. I certainly did not want to waste their time, and there’s always anxiety when you try something new and different with your students, especially something that is banned in many schools. Like Neo, I was initially unsure of my role in this new world.


The Turning Point: Connecting with Other Educators 

The turning point came when I discovered that the real power of social media was not in simply collecting resources and ideas, but in connecting with others whom are on the same journey. I have met a community of social studies educators passionate about teaching, and using social media tools to improve their craft. All of a sudden, I not only found resources, but support, insightful recommendations, answers to questions, and invitations to opportunities to continue the conversation. I didn’t just search for resources, I began receiving and providing them to people as we had conversations about wise practices. My online use went from a largely one way gathering of resources to the development of transactional relationships and the discovery of an online community.


Twitter’s #sschat 

After 10 days of social media use I found myself participating in a Twitter social studies chat (#sschat) where educators from across the country were sharing resources and ideas. Four days later social media leaders in the social studies – Shawn McCusker (@ShawnMcCusker) of Illinois and Melissa Seideman (@mseideman) of New York – were imparting ideas and answering questions with my class via Google Hangout videoconferencing. They showed my class and I specific ways we could successfully use social media and technology to become better teachers. As they answered my students’ questions I was amazed how social media made this all possible.

I still have an incredible amount to learn, but after only two weeks I can’t help but feel like Neo at the end of the Matrix – after he finally believed and understood how the Matrix works. He realized that the rules of the old system didn’t apply to anymore. He saw that a new world of possibilities existed. I am excited and unquestionably satisfied with my choice to journey into the rabbit hole of social media. I recommend that you make the same choice.



– Participate in social studies chats on Twitter using “#sschat” every Monday for one hour beginning at 7 Eastern/6 Central; Follow moderators: @ShawnMcCusker, @Ron_Peck, @Becky_Ellis_

– Although I’ve had some problems, I’ve found Edmodo to be an interesting way to set up a class. It has a Facebook interface, but provides a closed, and presumable safer, environment for classes.

– I have found Google Drive (formerly Google Documents) and Google Hangout invaluable resources to connect with students and colleagues.


Dan Krutka, Ph.D. is middle level/secondary social studies chair at Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas. He taught high school social studies for six years previous to beginning in his current position in 2011. He can be followed/contacted at www.facebook.com/WSUSocialStudies, on Twitter @WSUSocStudies, or by e-mail at dan.krutka@wichita.edu.  

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Instead of telling your student’s who you are SHOW them

I learned from Mrs. Jee about a wonderful idea to create an Animoto as an introduction “about me” video for the first week of school. I absolutly loved the idea and stayed up way past my bedtime to create it.

Mrs. Jee said she “loved  @royanlee‘s idea to use Animoto to introduce yourself to kids on the 1st day of school. They get a multifaceted sense of who you are. Animoto’s use of pictures, text, and storyline is much more effective than a hastily muttered five minute speech.” After I made my first week introduction video, Mrs. Lindinger was also inspired. Check out her video below!


Back to School Night Idea

Mrs. Jee and I also made a much shorter version for back to school night. I can’t think of a better way to “tell” parents who you are and what you are about. My back to school night version will be a shorter version with images and pictures of my students participating in my classroom. I also plan on linking the video to a QR code to send home to parents who can not attend the back to school night. Thanks for the great idea @mrsjjee @royanlee Another reason I love twitter!


Here is My About Me Introduction Video:

Here is Mrs. Jee’s Video

Here is Mrs. Lindinger’s video

What is Animoto?

Animoto is a simple program online to create simple videos from pictures, sound, text, and  existing video clips. It makes it possible to quickly create a video using still images, music, and text. Animoto  is constantly updating its features as well as background options for your video slideshow.  If you can make a slideshow presentation, you can make a video using Animoto Video Slideshows.


I used Animoto before for a student project on a PSA assignment on interest groups. Here is a previous post.


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Use Cel.ly to safely communicate and engage your students!

As many of you know Cel.ly is on the top five lists of AWESOME programs I use with my students. It may even be # 1!!! No, I do not work for them, but I find it to be one of the most useful programs I use daily with my students to increase student communication and collaboration in a safe and support environment. Cel.ly is changing the face of education!


What is Cel.ly?

According to the Cel.ly website, “A cell is our term for a mobile group network. Messages and polls sent to a cell are forwarded by Celly to specified cell members. In this way, Celly users can communicate and collaborate as a group in realtime using the immedicacy and convenience of text messaging. Additionally, from the Celly website you can send and receive cell messages, polls, and access other Celly features. Celly works with any regular phone that has SMS texting, or from any web enabled device; for instance, a tablet, smartphone, or laptop.”


How I use Cel.ly with my classes?

I use Cel.ly to send text messages to my students with reminders, announcements, polls, questions, etc. Students can text me and ask me a specific question such as “what is on the test tomorrow?” or ask “what did I miss in class?” when they were sick. Cell phones have the potential to bridge the gap between the home, school, and social media world.

Video Demonstration: How to use Cel.ly?
Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Interesting ideas to incorporate mobile devices into your classroom

  • Create a Poll– This past fall I used Cel.ly to get instant audience feedback to a series of prompts using student cell phones. Polls can be multiple choice or an open ended responses. The responses can be posted directly on the board and are an interesting way to get instant feedback, even from your quietest students.
  • Create Text Messaging Group– I have my students join Cel.ly, which is a group chatroom, where my students can communicate instantly via text messaging. I have found Cel.ly to be one of the most beneficial social media programs I use in the classroom. Students communicate more with me through the use of their cell phones compared to any other form of communication. What impressed me the most this year was the number of parents that wanted to be included on the cell phone group. 
  • Cell Sharing- Ask students to locate a photo, song, or video from their mobile device that best represents them. They can then pair share their selection with the class and why it was selected. (Idea from Jackie Gerstein)
  • Random Question or Poll- Students can be assigned a random question from Question Cup and then post their response using  Cel.lyWallwisher or Wifitti. Responses can be posted on the whiteboard. (Idea from Jackie Gerstein)
  • Texting Interview– Students can be randomly paired together and provide them with a series of interview prompts. The pairs can text their questions and answers back and forth. The interviews can be summarized and shared with the class and posted on a sticky not board such as  Wallwisher or  Cel.ly.  (Idea modified from Jackie Gerstein)
  • Text a Friend– Students can text a friend or family member (outside of school) a question and then post the response on the whiteboard using  Cel.ly,  Wallwisher or Wifitti. Last year I posed the question, “What was one history event that impacted your lifetime?” I am a history teacher so this was an interesting way discuss the concept of why history matters and how my students are historians. This idea also works well with any topic. I have used text a friend multiple times such as “What do you know about Richard Nixon?” “Why was Bill Clinton impeached?” “Did you vote in the last election? Why or why not” Questions like these bring interesting and multiple perspectives into  the classroom. Many family members have also commented that they enjoy the conversations afterschool about the lesson.
  • QR Code Scavenger Hunt– You can design a QR code scavenger hunt for your classes to get your students moving, sharing, and bonding. Check out this simple QR Code Generator from Teacher Tools.

How can it increase parent communication? 

Last fall, I encouraged parents to join my text messaging classroom group. I was surprised with the results. Of my 55 US history students, 35 of their parents participated. Parents commented that they appreciated the text message reminders about homework & tests, updates about their child’s progress, and even the in class texting activities. Parents are now more informed about how their kids are doing and are better able to help their children with their schooling, which is key to student success.


Previous Posts About Cel.ly

  • Here is a previous post about Cel.ly adding email as a new addition to texting.
  • Here is a previous post about mobile devices in the classroom
  • Here is another post about Cel.ly adding polling
  • Here is another post about making texting positive with Cel.ly



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Teacher Kit can help you stay organized

Often teachers have little time during the school year and any app that can save you time is well worth the money. Fortunatly for you, Teacher Kit is a FREE application. It is a personal organizer to help you organize classes and students. It is very simple to use and it can help you with attendance, grades, and student behavior.


After playing with it a little it seems like it would be a very useful application to use in the classroom. As a teacher you can set up your classroom, seating assignments, grades, and save student information such as their names, emails, parent contact information. Everything is stored in one place! From the app you can even email students or parents with a simple click…. You can take attendance and monitor student behavior.

Not sure if this is creepy… but you can even take a picture of the whole class and the app recognizes faces and asks you to identify them and it can help you build a roster with names and pictures for attendance purposes.


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Need Volunteers in your Classroom!

I am always looking for ways to make my classroom more  efficient. I discovered VolunteerSpot and wish I was an elementary school teacher so I could use this awesome program. VolunteerSpot is a free online volunteer coordination tool that even has an app for your mobile device. It can simplify busy parents into a list of easy to access parent volunteers for your classroom.


Schools across the country are always looking for ways to encourage volunteers in the classroom, fundraise needed funds, and improve their community. VolunteerSpot’s has actually updated the old paper and pen sign up sheet and increased parent participation!

It is also a wonderful resource for teachers and parents with “how to guides” and resource sharing materials for teachers. VolunteerSpot can save you time and improve your classroom.


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Create an Infographic for your Classroom!

I learned about infographics from Twitter’s #sschat. Before Monday I had no clue how to make an infographic. Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge. Here is more information: What is an info-graphic?

Easel.ly is one of the simplest websites to design an infographic for your classroom, a lesson, for a school poster, and the ideas can go on and on. Easel.ly is “easy to use,” free, and within a matter of minutes you can make an infographic, unless you are a perfectionist like me, in that case it will take you a few hours.

Once you create an account you select a theme, select objectives and shapes, design the layout, add text, and you can create an infographic is a short amount of time. Easel.ly is not the only website that allows users to create infographics, another is  visual.ly, which seems to have a fewer resources. I seemed to prefer Easel.ly.

According to Jamie Forshey author of Edutech for Teachers blog, Infographics can be used as a “visual to show students and educators the way that technology is projected to continue shaping our lives, world—and education! What a great way to motivate, encourage, persuade and guide students in post-secondary career planning! It’s also an excellent visual for stressing the importance of exposing students to relevant, real-world tech tools in the classroom setting.”

Here is a sample infographic I made for my classroom. I brought it to staples to enlarge it or you can use the Block Posters web tool to create your poster. I also embedded it on my blog.


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Create Awards with Certificate Street

As the end of the year is closely approaching, it is time to recognize and celebrate all the work our students have accomplished. It’s important to give students a reason and a drive to succeed; using awards and positive recognition is a great way to do just that. I was looking for a simple certificate when I stumbled upon Certificate Street.  The website has a ton of FREE certificates organized into different categories.


Each certificate can be downloaded in an editable PDF format for FREE with the companies watermark on it. You can pay to have the certificate free of the watermark. Once you download the PDF you can personalize the certificate with your students name and details. It’s time to recognize your student’s accomplishments. Check it out today!

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Use Google Voice to Call Parents

I am constantly amazed by the number of teachers who do not know about Google Voice. In my school if I want to call a parent I need to go to the main office or into the copy room in the basement “dungeon”  to make a phone call. I work with teachers who give the school phone number, their cell phone number, or home phone number to parents. I always encourage teachers to use Google Voice when calling parents. 


Google Voice is  a FREE program that gives you a phone number that can be tied to any phone or device. Google Voice isn’t a phone service, but it lets you manage and make calls from all your phones. There’s nothing to download, upload, or install, and you don’t have to make or take calls using a computer (but you can).

Once you have your Google Voice number, you can associate your other phone numbers–work, home, mobile, whatever–with it. You can still make calls from  your regular cell phone service; their individual numbers will show up on the caller ID screen. But you can also choose to have your Google number show up instead.


I love that my Google Voice phone number can go directly to email or text message. I can’t tell you the last time I “listened” to a voicemail. You can also customize your Google Voice voicemail for your users. For example on my Google Voice I am Mrs. Seideman and on my regular cell phone number I am Melissa.


Another feature is that you can have all calls to Google Voice forwarded by setting up rules for how you want your calls routed. For example, you may want calls received before 5:00 pm sent to your office phone, calls after that to your cell phone; Google Voice can do that. I send all Google Voice calls before 4 PM directly to email.


Image Citation: Internet Techies  Selling More Homes Google Mobile 


For More information on Google Voice: click here


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Great Video about using Mobile Devices in the Classroom

I learned about Infinite Thinking Machine, which is a TV show designed for teachers from Ken Halla’s blog. I am constantly amazed with the wonderful resources I discover because of Ken. I highly recommend following Ken Halla on twitter @kenhalla and adding one of his many blog’s to your RSS feed.

The following video highlights interesting ways mobile devices can be used in the classroom to apply learning to the real world and connect the content to student’s lives. The video highlights ways you can use Instagram, TwitterPoll Everywhere, Text the Mob and Wiffitti, Google+ Hangouts, and create instructional videos on sites like Educreations in the classroom. I can’t wait to try a few of these ideas with my students. Check it out today!

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myHomework Keeps Student’s Organized

Organization is the key to success in any career. If a child learns and maintains organization in secondary school, they will find it easier to remain organized for the rest of their life.  An organized student will be less frustrated because they won’t waste time searching for handouts or redoing assignments. As educators it is our duty to foster and encourage organization with daily assignments and homework planning.


I recently discovered an application called myHomework for both Android and iPhone. MyHomework is a FREE application that can help students stay organized and keep up with homework, assignments, and assessments. There are multiple features such as a calendar display including block scheduling and different classes. The paid version of myHomework is 1.99, which can sync homework with any device, be accessed anywhere with the web feature, homework notifications, and even a Facebook sign-in option. It’s a wonderful application that can encourage organization for ANY student.

For More Information Visit myHomework.




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