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Sharon Skretting | @SharonSkretting

Sharon Skretting | @SharonSkretting

Sharon Skretting is the author of The Ultimate Treasure Quest I: The Jewel of Peru, and the founder of the Quest Teaching blog-site. She has been teaching elementary school for twenty years. Being able to use her love of writing to excite her students about learning is a dream come true for Sharon. Her goal is to write fast paced, excellent literature, filled with interesting characters, danger and intricate plots that will help make students make connections to curricular concepts. The website is filled with technology, teacher tools and interactive learning quests related to curriculum.

Posted by on in Student Engagement

If someone were to ask you, what would you say is the number one thing that makes you an effective teacher?

One word makes all the difference. Relationship.

Oh, I know, I need to be tough in the first half of the year so I will have control of my class, right? Wrong! I am not teaching robots. I am teaching children. They do not look the same, act the same, or have the same likes and dislikes. Some like pizza with pineapple, while others spit it out. There’s the class clown, the shy one who will never ask a question, and the one who constantly trips over his own feet. I love them all. It's not my job to control them so they will learn. It is my job to watch each of them, get to know them, and find out what makes them tick. With each, I need to develop the kind of relationship that builds a bridge of trust between us. They need to know I'm here for them, and I'm always on their side. Only then, will they take enough risks in my classroom to let the learning begin.

Wait a minute, I thought this post was about technology. What does technology have to do with relationship?

Stay tuned. In today’s world, we need to use every available tool to inspire and connect with our students. Here are three tech tools that I love because they help me know my students better and communicate with them more effectively even outside to the classroom.

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Video shared by on in Education Resources

As promised, this is the second in a series of posts in which I’ll share ways for teachers to work smarter, not harder, using technology tools that will actually “save” you time. Today we’re going to take a look at setting up notebooks and tags in EVERNOTE.evernoteicon First of all, if you haven’t done so, yet, download the Evernote app to your desktop and all your devices. It’s free for the first 60 MB of notes. You can find the various links here: Evernote. *Note - I’m using a Mac, so it might look slightly different on a Windows PC, but the same features are in both versions. Once you have Evernote, it’s time to set it up for your classroom. When you open up your app you are going to see a toolbar across the top. It will look like this. 


Now let’s set up some notebooks for student portfolios and for your other teaching needs. You do have a limit of 250 notebooks with Evernote, but that should be plenty. In Evernote, you have a 3 layered hierarchy for organizing your notes. A note is like a single document. Several notes can be put together by topic into a notebook, and finally, notebooks can be piled together into notebook stacks. Let’s get started setting up a system for collecting student data and work. 1. Go the left-hand sidebar and find the icon that looks like this: notebookiconClick on it and you will have a toolbar at the top that looks like this: newnotebooktif click the +New Notebook button to add a notebook - I begin all my student notebook names with the word student-first name. That way, they will show up all together in a list because they start the same way. Go ahead and make your first notebook and name it student one. Follow the video clip to help you make student notebooks and put them into a student stack:

2. An alternative way to get students into notebook stack is  to click on the student before you go on to the next student,  Just right click on the student notebook and choose the option add to new stack. Then name your new stack. I call mine Students-year or Student Portfolios. You can name yours whatever you like. Now I have a stack called students-2015. studentstack

Inside the stack are all the individual student notebooks and in each student notebook will be the notes or any documents related to that student. (Running records, assignments, student pictures, videos, etc.) Yes! This is can be likened to my filing cabinet, but the beauty of this system lies in the fact that all of the information I put into it will be sortable and searchable. With a search tag and a click, I can easily find any information I want in seconds. I definitely cannot say the same about my filing cabinet! With Evernote, I have created an easy database which I can now use in so many ways (which will be the subject of later posts, so stay tuned).

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Posted by on in Education Technology

Teachers, I estimate that we only spend one-third of our time actually in the classroom teaching. Would you agree? Long after the students are dismissed, we spend our hours planning, marking, doing professional development and preparing materials for the lessons we planned. Technology is supposed to make things better, faster, and more efficient. It's supposed to make these other tasks easier, but often learning the technology, itself, becomes a burdensome time-consuming chore.

As educators, then, we must constantly evaluate where to spend our time. Which tech tools will actually help us with our profession and which will take a lot of time to learn with limited practical application. Today I want to share with you two tech tools that have changed the way I plan, mark and organize everything. I share these tools because I believe that these tools really will help you and save you time, rather than waste it. Today I’ll introduce them, but over the next few weeks, I will highlight the many uses of these two tools for the classroom.
evernoteiconThe first tool is an app called Evernote. Evernote is a web-based application that allows you to make notes that you can then tag, file and have access to, from any device. Whether using your phone, iPad, tablet, home computer and/or any other device you may have, Evernote syncs your information between all devices seamlessly and allows you to find it with ease. record or make information in any format. Here are just a few examples:
**text notes** - type in anything you want to remember
**speech to text notes**- just speak a note into your phone and the voice recognition does an excellent job of creating a text note from it.
**audio** - you can use the audio recorder in any device and then share the audio file to Evernote quickly and easily. No more using a digital voice recorder then having to download it and rename it, etc.. This is one-step ease using your phone.
**camera** - just use your phone to take a snapshot of student work or projects, notes from your whiteboard, sticky notes, documents, or business cards that you want to record. TADA! Just name it, tag it and you will be able to call up the information quickly and easily forever! Another super feature of using your camera is that Evernote takes the note in the format you select, so you can specify that this note is a business card or a sticky note, etc.. Evernote will even let you use your phone as a scanner. This means you can take pictures of multi-page documents and it will scan them as one document. As an added bonus, Evernote has OCR(optical character recognition) which allows it to search the document for key words, when searching to find that document.
**video** - Evernote also allows you to make your videos and add notes to share. Any video on your phone can be shared to Evernote and then accessed by any of your devices. Never, ever worry about how to transfer a big video file again. Evernote does it for you.
There you have it, Evernote is my first choice of tech tools for collecting, sorting and having access to information. Finally, my desk is decluttered and it takes only a few moments to tag and file the information so it will be at my fingertips whenever, and wherever I need it!
scrivenericonThe second tech tool I want to highlight is Scrivener. Scrivener is actually a tool for writers. As a novelist, I first was introduced to Scrivener as an effective tool to organize and produce writing projects, but I can also see so many applications for my teaching. Here are just a few:
**unit planning** - Many of us have our unit plans set up in binders. Scrivener is like an electronic version of that. It is set up like a binder that will let you include documents inside folders and subdocuments within documents, etc.. The thing about Scrivener is that it also has a research section that allows you to pull in websites, articles, pdfs, MS word documents, powerpoints, etc.. You can pull in all your resources for a unit and put them in one place with easy access while you build your unit. Scrivener also has some very exciting features that make it easy to then take those resources, compile your unit together and export it in many different ways.

Screenshot of unit planning with Scrivener. The split-screen feature allows you to show the resource on one side while you plan on the other. I love this feature!

**differentiation**- Scrivener includes many tools that will allow you to produce materials quickly and easily for different students. It also has a nice little speech feature that will read the text with just one click of a button. This would be an easy way for students who need tests or any pdf document read to them read to them. I know there are other programs out there and web based, but this could be customized for a student quickly, and easily and there’s only one click needed. The only drawback is that Scrivener would have to be installed on the student’s computer, but the program is relatively inexpensive and there are good discounts for education.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll highlight the specifics of “how to” use these two programs in the classroom. Watch for these tips in a series about Evernote for Education and Scrivener in the Classroom here, and on my blog at www.questteaching.com I hope you join me for more tips and tricks. I believe that the time you invest in learning these two tech tools will be returned to you manyfold. If you’re interested,  also remember to subscribe to my website at www.questteaching.com and you’ll be sure not to miss any future tips about classroom applications for these two “time-saving” tools.

Remember, time saved as we “work”, leaves more time for “play” with those we love.
Any questions? I’m here and would love to help.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Education Leadership

My fifth-grade social studies teacher is to blame, or to credit, for the kind of teacher I am today. I couldn't wait to get into her class. That was the year we would get to learn about the history of Alberta! I wasn't the only one buzzing about it either. My classmates were excited too. We couldn't wait!

So what made us so excited to learn history and look forward to going into grade five? It sure wasn't the thought of having excellent class discussions, gleaning the pages of a new textbook or even our love for sitting in desks all day, that got our enthusiasm revved. In fact, we all knew that though we would inevitably do those things, they would be in the context of this amazing project that everyone who entered Mrs. Wallman's grade five class would get to do. That was the year we would get to put on the Alberta History Fair!

All year long we learned in preparation for the final project. We learned about the food of the pioneers, so we could prepare it for taste tests at the fair. We learned about the clothing, so we could dress up in time-period fashion for the fair. We made maps and learned the names of all the locations, rivers, and regions so that we could display huge maps and explain to fair-goers, the important historical events that had occurred at these places. We created skits about these events, and we practiced square-dancing. We wanted to put on a show that our audience would not forget. In short, the project provided us with purpose and allowed us to "experience" history as we learned. The “fair” motivated us to learn. After all, we had to be the "experts" when the guests arrived. To this day, grade five is one of my most memorable years of schooling. Think back to your schooling. What do you remember the most? I would venture to guess that it is the projects that you did. Therein lies the beauty of teaching through projects! When we are learning to accomplish something greater than just the learning itself, then we are willing to take on new challenges and work through them to get to the end result. All the curriculum objectives were accomplished and connected for us through that project. We cared about history because we wanted to put on the fair! What about the time factor to teach the curriculum? I don't have time to do a project for every unit. I already hear the critics expounding their protests and I offer the following guidelines:

1. One project, many outcomes/objectives: Many of your year's outcomes can be brought together and achieved in one project that is accomplished over the year. An example of one such project was a "Smoovie" project that my grade four class did. The class wanted to make a "movie" of a novel that I wrote for them, called The Jewel of Peru. Through the project, they practiced and learned many of the language arts, art, and technology, outcomes in the curriculum. In art, we had lessons about horizon lines, perspective, color and texture to create the backgrounds. In language arts they listened to the story, did vocabulary searches for the words so they would fully understand the story, they rephrased, summarized, retold and practiced reading their chapters with expression and voices. The project provided a natural reason to read the story over and over again, improving their fluency. The result was that they produced a great audio track for the smoovie. The technology outcomes were many, too. They learned how to navigate the iPad's, how to produce audio files, how to do stop animation and edit out scenes. They blogged about their projects on Kidblog, thus improving their writing while learning how to do safe blogging on the internet. This is not to mention the many social skills that were practiced through the collaborations that took place while they planned, produced and shared their projects. The story, too, had a plot that embedded many science and social studies outcomes. They learned about rocks and minerals, rainforest, caring for the environment, hearing and sound, community, etc.. Learning and teaching were never so much fun!

2. Know the outcomes and share with the students how you will evaluate each part of the project. One project will also have many different assessments within. I assessed their artwork, according to each of the lesson objectives. I assessed their blog posts for content, organization, and conventions. I provided students with rubrics, checklists and exemplars to show them what their project should look like and sound like. Such feedback is a valuable part of the learning process as our students need it to grow.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

The sign at the front of our school reads:

Include Us and We Will Understand, Inspire Us and We Will Inspire Others

As educators, I believe that each of us aspire to be a role-model and a source of inspiration for our students. Today I'd like to share with you the story of one teacher who more than achieves this goal. Maybe her story will incite you to keep on making every effort to inspire your students.

Ms. Barnes with Gabriel, just one of her many students.

A young boy stands waiting in the wings, legs shaking as his name is announced through loudspeakers. His palms run up and down the sides of his thighs, trying to keep them dry.  This is the moment he's been thinking about, preparing for, and anticipating for months.  Here it is.  Is he ready?

You can do this, you've got this,  he hears her encouraging words repeating over and over in his head. His shoulders rise in a deep breath as he shakes his hands at his sides one last time.   The adrenaline forces his legs up the stairs, onto the stage and over to the mic.  The audience stares, waiting. Panic. Can he do this?  Another deep breath and a shake of his hands to calm his nerves. He spins around to see her sitting there, behind her keyboard.  She smiles, gives him a nod, and mouths the words, "You've got this!"  He nods and the music plays. In that moment, all the hours of preparation come together and his performance takes flight.

Last modified on