Personal Blog and Reflections

The Next Chapter In My Life

posted Aug 13, 2015, 2:45 PM by Cori Frede

Changing jobs is never an easy decision. It's made more difficult when you work closely with an amazing group of educators that feel like a family. While I had some challenging times, I also had amazing breakthroughs as I watched my students throughout the years.

Earlier this year, my principal discussed with me the possibility of changing grade levels. He was preparing a major change-up in the school and I do have multiple certifications. In hindsight, this was the push I needed. In my heart, I knew I could teach the content but wouldn't be happy. Shortly after, I took the certification exam for computers/business and posted my resume on the state's centralized teacher application website. I'm not sure what I was expecting at the time but I couldn't be happier with the end result.

Last month, I accepted a new position in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. The position is going to be an amazing opportunity. I will be teaching computers and business in the high school and working with the district's technology coordinator on the cyber school. Additionally, I have already met with other administrators and will be helping to design ongoing technology professional development.

While sitting in the administration office for a meeting, I met another new teacher for the high school. She will be teaching English and also helping with the school's television studio. We spoke for a while and she seemed just as excited as I was to join this district. While I will miss my old colleagues, this is not really goodbye. I'm sure I will stay in touch with them.

I Just Went to ISTE and Barely Used My Technology

posted Jul 3, 2015, 6:04 PM by Cori Frede   [ updated Jul 3, 2015, 6:05 PM ]

I'm still recovering from the week of intense technology and yet, the only technology I truly used during the five days was my phone. Even then, it was mostly to tweet about the amazing things I was learning. If you are unaware, ISTE stands for International Society for Technology in Education and each year, they host an annual conference for teachers to come and connect in person. This year, the conference was in my home city of Philadelphia so of course I had to take advantage. I put up a request for professional development on Donor's Choose and thanks to a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation I was able to fund my conference registration along with materials purchased during the conference. 

Microsoft Innovative Educator Trainer Badge
Microsoft Certified Educator
The official conference began on Sunday night with a Keynote but I took advantage of already being in town by participating in a pre-conference training through Microsoft. I spent Saturday and Sunday in fu
ll day professional developments. I had brought my own computer, however Microsoft provided Surface Pros with all the required software ready to use so I never took my own computer out. At the end of the two days I received a certificate starting that I was a Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE), also known as a trainer. Following the two day training I also took advantage of Micosoft's offer to take their certification exam for free, receiving the Microsoft Certified Educator (MCE) certification.

Besides Microsoft, I also spent a good amount of time at the conference at events sponsored by Google. First up was a special breakfast for Google for Education Certified Innovators (the new title for Google Certified Teachers) and developers. This breakfast gave me a chance to hear about upcoming projects from Google and third party developers for Google add-ons. During the following days, I attended two more special events and learned about some amazing features that all teachers will appreciate once they become public. I wish I could share now, but I was sworn to secrecy. Just know you will love it when Google releases these new updates for Google Apps for Education. 

Sketch Notes of Simplifying CommunicationsThe best part of volunteering at the Google booth in the expo hall, was when a professional sketch note artist drew my presentation on simplifying communication. I was able to take the artwork home. I then spent two hours answering questions and talking to people about Google tools. I meet some really cool educators from around the world including a group of three ladies from Guam. I also finally meet a ton of educators I have known online for a while. The best meeting was Nick, a theater teacher that encouraged me not to give up after being rejected from GTA on my first try.

On my last day of the conference I went a little overboard in my attempt to win a new Acer Switch. The person that tweeted the most would win the notebook. By the end of the competition, I had almost 200 tweets. The guy that won had over 400 so I had no shot. While trying, I sat down in Acer's display and had a caricature drawn. Even cooler was that the artist used a tablet instead of a traditional paper and pen to draw the sketch. I'm not sure about you, but I think it looks just like me. While I didn't win the Acer Switch, I did get lucky with one of the expo hall's raffles. I won a new laptop, mobile hotspot, and 12 months of data from Mobile Beacon, a company that helps bring high speed Internet to non-profits for reasonable costs. I'm not sure what kind of laptop yet because they are mailing it, but it's still awesome that I won something so cool.

  1. How to use Microsoft OneNote
  2. Upcoming releases for Google
  3. How to correctly use features from Study Island
  4. Warrior Tech - a concept for a student run computer science program
  5. New (to me) websites and programs I didn't know about

  1. Google Cardboard
  2. Google portable phone charger
  3. Google Certified Innovator pin and bag
  4. IPEVO Interactive Whiteboard System
  5. Tshirts from multiple websites I use in the classroom

I Failed and That's Alright

posted Apr 23, 2015, 6:39 PM by Cori Frede

Following my journey to become a Google Certified Teacher, I decided to apply for Apple Distinguished Educator. Based on the title of this post I'm sure you can already guess that I was not accepted into the program. Sure I could be upset but I'm really not. Just like becoming a Google Certified Teacher the process to become an Apple Distinguished Educator is extremely competitive. I was told by an insider that Apple received over 800 applicants for 100 spots. That means that 700, highly motivated and extremely qualified educators received the same rejection letter as I did.

If you remember, it took more than one try for me to be accepted into Google Teacher Academy so I'm not going to say that this is it for Apple. Sure, I wish I had been accepted for the week long training in Miami, but life goes on. I will still continue to present and attend professional developments to help myself grow as a teacher. When the next round of applications are accepted for the ADE program, I will be a stronger candidate. 

If you're interested in my application video, you can watch it on YouTube. My idea was to create a mini sitcom and my students had a great time dancing and acting silly. This was also my first attempt at manipulating multiple videos on a screen.

Does Technology Help or Hurt Our Student's Future?

posted Mar 14, 2015, 10:45 AM by Cori Frede

I recently spent a weekend at an education conference where teachers from all over got together to discuss best practices, new methods, and more. A big concept of the weekend was "conversations" and I got into an interesting debate with a fellow GCT. It stated innocent enough, as most debates do, but soon I realized I was actually arguing against technology.

So here was the start of the discussion: I was telling my colleague about a funny (in a sad way) story about when my students were taking a computer based reading test. One of my seventh graders, who reads on a third grade level, had headphones on in the computer lab. Our computer teacher said that some students put the headphones on as a way to cut out distractions so I didn't think much of it at first. When I walked past his station I realized that the headphones weren't being used to block the outside noise; I heard some sound coming from them. This student was using the browsers "text to speech" feature to listen to the story. I immediately muted the headphones and told the student to take them off, but the fact was this student used the technology to get around the issue.  

Should we fault students for using the technology to solve their problems? During class, we help our students when they struggle to read. In fact, I'm the one that originally showed that student how to use the text to speech feature. However, technology is now becoming a crutch for some of our students. Why learn how to read when a phone will do it for you. Are some students not capable of reading? Are they lazy? I don't believe either of these to be the case. I feel that this generation just doesn't know any different.

From the time these students were born, some form of modern technology has existed. Today's student has never lived in a world without the Internet. This is where the debate began because as a younger teacher many of my more seasoned colleagues often look towards the millennials as if we are in that same situation. Yes. I grew up with technology but not the same way our students do. I had a 36k dial-up modem and AOL 2.0. I remember a time of card catalogs and needing to physically go to the library to complete a research project. 

So what can we do as educators to prevent our students from over-relying on their technology? Can we force them to ignore the resources that technology has made possible? I doubt it. Should we just give up and allow the next generation to become lazy? No, that's not the right solution either. We as educators need to find the compromise between the two extremes. Let's keep the discussion going and prepare our students for a well-rounded future.

Image Source: Pinterest

When Winning Becomes Something More

posted Jan 16, 2015, 8:08 PM by Cori Frede

Back in October, I was attending an event when I saw a booth for a radio station. As I often do at similar events, I stuck a mailing label on an entry form and put it in the box on the table. I then walked away and forgot about it because what are the true odds of ever winning something from a radio station? Then the phone call came: I won a Dell Latitude laptop and would be able to pick it up from the radio station. I was shocked and excited because my personal computer was dying after six years. The next thing the woman on the phone said blew me away. As one of the eight winners of a personal laptop, I could nominate a deserving school or community center to win ten laptops. Immediately I asked if I was allowed to nominate the school where I worked.

Today a group of executives from Comcast and KYW Newsradio 1060 came to my school building to deliver ten brand new Dell computers. It was exciting and my students seemed happy to represent their school. I spoke with one of the executives while we were waiting for the reporter to arrive and he mentioned how nice it was that an inner city school won this year because he knows what a difference these computers will make for our community. We talked about the struggles my students face in the classroom and how additional computers will help them.

For those that don't live in the Philadelphia area, KYW Newsradio 1060 is a station that repeats the same stories often for people that are commuting. It's also the go to station when you stuck in traffic and trying to find out what happened on the road ahead. On my drive home from school, I listened to 1060am hoping to hear our interviews but I didn't hear it play. About ten minutes later, my mother called and said "was that your voice I heard on the radio?" I then sat listening to the live stream of the station for the next hour until finally I heard the repeat. I quickly grabbed my phone and used a recording app to get the audio. It kind of reminded me of my childhood when I would listen to the radio for hours just hoping to record that new hit song onto a tape. I am a true child of the nineties (technically eighties but who remembers their toddler years?).

So here's the interesting part which led me to write this rambling post regarding the entire experience. Since my sister, and then mother, aunt, etc. all posted the article on social media, I keep getting comments such as "Your students are lucky to have you" and "Super teacher! Nice job Cori." However, I'm having trouble understanding some of these responses. How did being lucky constitute being a good teacher? I could understand if I had written a grant, or organized fundraisers to get these computers but all I really did was put my name in a box at an event. The event wasn't even about education; it was a fundraiser for the local animal shelters and I took my dog for a day at the park. I know that these computers will really help our school but I just can't wrap my head about the attention I'm getting for it.

Since my colleagues found out about the new computers, I've been asked what I would be doing with them. Again, I just nominated my school. These computers were donated to our building, not directly to my classroom. I don't know any teacher that would turn down more computers for the classroom and I hope to see these computers put in the middle school classrooms, however I will respect the decision my principal makes. Ten computers can help any classroom or be split to help multiple classrooms. He sees the big picture and will know where the computers will do the most good for our students.

I am truly grateful to both the radio station and cable company for their community support. As one of my students stated to the reporter "It's nice to have people give us computers; we can't afford them sometimes." 

borrowed image sources: KYW Newsradio 1060

My Action Plan - Google Hangout on Air for Holocaust Memorial Awareness

posted Jan 10, 2015, 7:31 PM by Cori Frede

World War II and The Holocaust are often taught in classrooms, but how many of our students actually have that moment when they realize exactly what it means? They memorize the dates and names and then forget it after the test. It often saddens me when I hear of people talking about The Holocaust in the same manner they might refer to The Trojan War. What many students can't comprehend is that The Holocaust took place less than one hundred years ago. 

At the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem, a separate memorial was placed for the children that were killed. The memorial is extremely simple with just a few candles and mirrors. However, the message is clear: not only must we remember those that died, but the infinity mirrors are used to represent all those that will never be born.

It is those somber thoughts which make me want to complete this project I have begun. I am going to bring Holocaust survivors to classrooms through a Google Hangout on Air (GOA). I am currently messing around with a few different formats which include one long HOA or multiple short HOAs. Using the Connected Classroom Google Community, I have connected with another GCT and we are working together to create this learning experience for our students. I have also emailed a few organizations to help connect us with survivors. My hope is that we will be able to connect with classrooms that might not otherwise have the opportunity to hear first hand accounts.

The hardest part of this program, and future conversations, is that while these people persevered and survived The Holocaust, they are all senior citizens. My step-father is the son of a survivor and his father died about ten years ago of natural causes. We must hear their stories while they are still here to tell them. Future generations of students might become even more disconnected from the events of generations before them. It is important that we preserve the stories from people that lived through it to keep the memories alive and prevent history from being repeated.

My New Year's Resolution

posted Jan 1, 2015, 9:00 AM by Cori Frede   [ updated Jan 1, 2015, 9:01 AM ]

2104 was an amazing year for me professionally:
  • Added Biology to my teaching certificate
  • All teaching certificates were updated to level II
  • Became an authorized Google Education Trainer
  • Presented at multiple conferences
  • Became a Google Certified Teacher
Now that 2014 has officially ended and 2015 has begun, I have made myself a few goals for 2015. These goals are for outside my classroom.
  • Write at least one blog post a month. It can be something about education in general, or a reflection on something happening with my career.
  • Organize a Hangout On Air (HOA) to connect Holocaust survivors with students around the world.
  • Continuing to present at regional conferences.
  • Become an Apple Distinguished Educator.
  • Begin my Master's degree in Educational Technology

Sponsorship Offer to Present at ISTE 2015 in Philadelphia

posted Dec 27, 2014, 2:23 PM by Cori Frede

A few months ago, I received an email from a representative of Class Dojo which asked if I would be interested in presenting at ISTE and included a short survey to complete. I immediately responded and was thrilled when a few days later I received an email response. Since I have never presented at a conference as large as ISTE, I had stated that I would be willing to present alone or with a group. Following a few emails with the Class Dojo representative, I was put in contact with a fellow educator in Philadelphia who was also interested in presenting on the topic of parent involvement.

A week later, we met at Starbucks and discussed how we would want to present. My new partner was a school psychologist so we actually played off each other nicely. He will talk about the psychological benefits of positive communication and I will demonstrate how to use different types of technology and websites to make that communication efficient for all involved. After a few hours and many refills, we had a basic idea of what we wanted to present. We emailed back and forth a few more times with both Class Dojo and ISTE before submitting our proposal.

Unfortunately we were not selected to present at ISTE. Just being sponsored does not guarantee a spot within the conference but it was exciting to know that I have begun building up enough of a reputation to even be asked. Class Dojo is still considering a sponsorship for my attendance at ISTE, however it will not be a full sponsorship so I will be looking to find a way to fund the rest of my admission. 

If you have not used Class Dojo with your classroom, I recommend checking it out. The website has been around for a few years now but they are still improving all the time. They listen to teacher feedback and make changes based on popular requests. If you teach elementary or middle school, your students might enjoy the personalized monsters they can create. High school teachers? If you think the avatars are too "babyish" for your students, you can import actual photos of your students. 

Class Dojo also allows your parents to connect and allows for easy communication. Parents can sign up for accounts which allow them to monitor their students. Many of my parents have loved it. I'll admit that some days I'm more consistent with my points than others, but it really helps with tracking behaviors in the classroom.

Reflections of GTA

posted Dec 5, 2014, 9:39 PM by Cori Frede   [ updated Dec 10, 2014, 4:53 AM ]

Within minutes of receiving my acceptance letter in October, the Austin 2014 cohort of the Google Teacher Academy (GTA) immediately became a close knit family of educators with a common goal. We talked technology, lesson ideas, successes and failures. We talked about school and random topics. By the time my plane landed in Texas, I felt like I already knew my cohort of 52 educators from around the country. I knew their voices from Voxer, their faces from G+ profiles, and their personalities from Hangouts.

After four days in Austin Texas, I feel rejuvenated in my career as an educator. The actual GTA was only a two day program but our group added a few extra activities. Monday night, a large group of future Google Certified Teachers (GCT) went out for dinner at a local restaurant that shared its parking lot with our hotels. This restaurant was selected because of its location, but we had a great time as we all got to finally meet each other face to face. The following morning, many of us met for breakfast before walking over to the Google offices.

The buildings lobby looked like a normal office, but once on the elevator we were transported to the magical world of Google. Tight security required us to always have an escort because without an employee badge, the elevator automatically returns to the first floor. As we walked off the elevators on the fourth floor, we were greeted by our lead learners, a cool title for past GCTs that now act as mentors, and Google staff. A few signatures later, we had our name tags and were touring the conference room that would be our home base for the two days and the attached break room.

I was shocked when the first thing we were told was to put our computers away. Our first lead teacher began by talking to us about what we don't know. He proceeded to show a video tutorial about tying shoes and passed out a ton of shoes to practice. Did you know you can tie your shoelace in one quick motion? Neither did I but it was a great introduction to the way we would be learning and thinking. 

From tying shoes we started moving very quickly. The morning was spent using post-it notes to organize our "problems" in the classroom. After moving, categorizing, moving again, and narrowing it down, we each selected one problem to focus on. My personal choice was to think about why students feel disconnected in the classroom. After moving around the room to work with teachers that had similar problems selected, I was working with a group of eight teachers that all wanted to focus on student engagement. 

Later, we split into groups based on the color of our name tags and rotated through smaller workshops each with a different theme. In these workshops we discussed different uses of the Google tools for the classroom. I got tons of cool tricks that I didn't know about before and learned about a few Google tools that are useful but lesser known. For example, did you know you can compare the use of keywords in books written to recognize patterns? Star Wars and Computer Science have a pretty cool relationship. These relationships can spark some interesting discussions in class.

Day two continued the smaller workshops but also included some full cohort activities. The Amazing Race was a 

great competition which I hope to recreate for my students. The basic idea was that you create a scavenger hunt using Google Maps and associate a challenge to complete which each fact. We had a lot of fun, but I did feel bad for waking my friend up for the Hangout challenge. Turns out that he had taken a sick day because he wasn't feeling well.

As the second day wound down, we continued working on our big problem and began to come up with a way to solve that problem within our communities. I choose to try and begin a 20% plan, sometimes referred to as a genius hour, for my students. I'm going to begin by having my students think about passion. They will then take their passions and create a personalized project. My hope is that by encouraging students to pursue topics they choose, they will become more interested in the learning process.

The two days at GTA went very quick and I was sad when it ended. Speaking with other teachers in my cohort helped me to see that things I thought were problems, really weren't the end of the world. I also saw that every situation has its issues. Some schools have the issue were students don't care about their grades but other schools have the issue where students care too much about their grades. Either way learning is not happening in an authentic way. As I continue to speak with my cohort, I have brought the lessons from GTA back to my school and community. I am looking forward to what the future brings and I am honored to hold the title Google Certified Teacher.


borrowed image sources: +Danny Silva and +Amy Mayer

How One Email Changed My Life and Teaching (For the Better)

posted Oct 30, 2014, 7:05 AM by Cori Frede

Each day, our school email accounts get filled with tons of "junk" mail. Subject lines such as "Planning Retirement Seminars" and "Teacher Practice Networks Survey - Chance to Win $100" were just two of the fifteen emails I received yesterday. With all this extra stuff, you normally scroll through quickly looking from emails that were specifically for you. Whether you're looking for your principal's name in the sender column or a subject line that makes sense, many emails tend to get passed over.

Two years ago, I received an email from the curriculum office that has changed my life: "Pittcon Science Teacher Workshops." I knew about Pittcon because of a family member so I opened the email. I am forever grateful that I didn't skip over that email because it was the turning point for my career and my classroom. I attended a five hour PD about hands on chemistry lessons that I could do in the classroom without any special equipment. Some of the experiments I already knew, such as self-inflating balloons, but it was so much more. This was the first time I connected with teachers outside of my own school district. I also received a gift certificate to purchase science equipment for the classroom. Free supplies? Just for going to a professional development where I actually learned something? So began a beautiful relationship. 

After that day, I started opening every email that came from that particular colleague. I joined her and a group of teachers, referred to as the Math and Science Partnership (MSP), the following summer for a two week Biology program at Drexel University which led to my qualifying for an additional teaching certificate in Biology. Besides the content, I was surrounded by educators of all backgrounds. Some were young and newer to teaching like myself but others were wise with experience. Through discussions during this summer program, I began to gain more confidence in myself and my abilities. The following year at school, I stopped worrying so much about the paperwork (which I still make sure to get in) and more about my students. I stopped following the textbook script word for word and started to actually teach. Wow, what a difference. When I started enjoying it more, my students did as well. I continued to meet with my summer PD group multiple times throughout the year and each time I gained more ideas to bring back to my classroom.

The next turning point came when I received an email from the district's listserv about the Google Education Summit that would be taking place on Temple's campus. I was so excited until I saw the price tag. It felt like someone was reading my thoughts because before that day ended, I received another email from MSP announcing that they had six tickets and it would be first come/first serve. After spending the weekend with a group of Google Education Trainers and Google Certified Teachers, one of my MSP friends said "You should really go for the next level. You have so much knowledge to share." I went home and decided to take the series of exams to become a Google Educator. 

Now, months later I received yet another life changing email. This week, I received an email from Google inviting me to attend the upcoming Google Teacher Academy in Austin Texas. This was my second time applying to the program and I was really nervous waiting to see if I'd be accepted. At 7:25pm the email finally arrived. I can't wait to continue this journey when I step onto the plane in December and head to Austin for a few days.

My #GTAATX Application Video

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