Latest Entries »

Over the past weekend, I attended my first national conference.  The National Science Teachers Association had their national conference in Chicago.  My first big take away was getting to meet so many awesome people, many of them that were Twitter friends well before a face-to-face meeting in Chicago.

On Thursday, I started the day off with a DNA electrophoresis session.  I had done this one other time, but it was a great refresher.  What’s more is that I learned that the BTCI, which is a non-profit organization that is tied closely to the Promega corporation offers teachers to borrow the necessary tools in order to do this really awesome activity with students.  They even offer a weeklong summer course around high school biology content.  This is called the Biology Teacher Academy.  If you are interested in something like this, and feel like traveling to Madison, WI, email Barbara Bielec.

Afterwards, I had the opportunity to listen to Neil Schubin speak about our “Inner Fish.”  He outlined his career and the process that lead to the discovery of the intermediate species between the ocean dwelling fish and humans.  While there are many other intermediate species, this is just another piece of evidence to support the theory of evolution.  He also spoke about how he used digital scanning technology (think CT scans) to help visualize different parts of the fossil.  These digital files could, someday, be made available to people to 3D print for use in teaching about these intermediate species.

Feeling enlightened, Jessi Anderson (@TriSciCurious) and I went to the exhibition hall and scored some great resources!  Then we were off to prepare for our presentation.  Jessi, Jeff King (@commander_king) and I presented on Gamification in our classrooms.  We had about 30-40 people in our session and there seemed to be quite a bit of interest.  Check out our presentation by following this link.

One more session for the day, and I found myself among MANY intrigued educators as we participated in the Building Your Body in Clay: One system at a Time session.  While it was a presentation from a vendor, it was a great idea!  They used oil based clay and a skeleton to model muscles during the presentation.  The skeletons, while expensive, can be used to model the muscles and all of the major organ systems in the body.  What a great way to have students learn about muscles!  The only thing that I didn’t like is that the presenter was speaking as if he was talking to students in an anatomy and physiology class.  Having never taken it, he talked right over my head.  It was a good reminder of how some students can feel!  I left this session early to meet Jessi for the Bill Nye presentation.

As we walked into the Skyline hall for the presentation, Bill Nye walked right past us.  He is MUCH shorter than I thought he would be!  Once we found our seats, it wasn’t long before he started talking.  He spoke about creationism and evolution, and talked a bit about the upcoming launch of the Solar Sail.  My big take aways were these:  1) He is extremely passionate about science, 2) He wants use to CHANGE THE WORLD, 3) He is hilarious, and 4) I swear he has ADD because he bounced around from topic to topic quickly!

Thursday evening, I had the opportunity to meet up with Angela Greene (@AngelaGreene12), Pam Evans, Doug Damery (@rddamery), and other amazing educators that have taken part in the R/V Lake Guardian Ship and Shoreline workshop.  We had an enjoyable dinner and walk back to the hotel.

Overall, the day was an amazing learning experience!  More to come, stay tuned!

Did I mention that the McCormick Convention Center in Chicago is HUGE?

While growing up, I used to always play school.  Any opportunity that I got, I was making worksheets.  In high school, I started aiming towards a degree in computer science, and I even started it in college.  The second semester Calculus and Computer Programming II pretty much killed that idea.  For the first time ever in my life, I studied for a math exam and I earned a D on it.  I knew it wasn’t because I couldn’t do it, but my belief to this day, is that I couldn’t connect or understand the material because the instructor just didn’t do it for me.

Well, after I dropped both of those classes, I switched my major.  Maybe it was my secret love of school supplies.  Maybe it was time to realize that I was destined for a classroom.  And it wasn’t just those two horrible classes that made me realize that computer science wasn’t for me.  It was the fact that I needed human interaction and I didn’t want to sit in front of a computer screen all day.  I wanted every day to be different, and that’s what I love about teaching.  My students never fail to keep me on my toes, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I regret that decision.  I have thrown myself into teaching as much as one can.  I am constantly connected, trying to learn, find new tools, become a better teacher because my students deserve it.  They deserve to have a passionate educator in front of them, so that’s what I’ve pushed myself to become.  Kids are the greatest, even when they make you want to pull your hair out.

We spent quite a bit of time looking at all of the domains in the Danielson model.  There are a few areas that I know I have some great strengths, and there are others that I know need some serious work.  I feel like I’ve struggled with classroom management quite a bit over the past 7 years, and I have never really gotten any feedback from an administrator that says differently.  It is hard to know exactly where I go wrong, but I know one thing that I need to fix.  Speak up as soon as you see something awry!

Far too often, I think to myself “Are you kidding me?” or “Really?”  Instead, I need to swoop in an nip the behavior in the bud.  Maybe it was too many years of team teaching and consistently relying on the other adults in the room to do the job for me.  Maybe I need to follow through more.  Maybe I just need to realize that my classroom isn’t a “sit in rows, face forward” type of classroom.  I WANT kids to talk to each other, to learn from each other, and to build relationships…. just not when I’m trying to give instructions!

So, in a nut shell, I want to work on being more fair and consistent and having better follow through… that’s the big one.  My close second would be about making better contact with parents.  This is going to be a key, I think.  Which will tie into my first goal…. At least I’m glad that Infinite Campus is more user friendly now!

Day 2 – New Tech

In my current position, I couldn’t ask for better technology.  One might be able to argue whether students should have the iPad vs. Chromebook, but that argument is as old as Mac vs. PC.  

My current setup includes 1:1 iPad minis for students, my own iPad – 3rd generation, a PC connected to a SMARTboard, and Apple TV.  I also have a district MacBook that I’ve become rather attached to;  I’m afraid what will happen when they ask for it back!  I also have access to a SMART document camera (or my iPad with a little McGyver setup), a Swivl, and if we need it, a PC computer lab.

So when I’m asked what new piece of technology would I like to use?  As far as hardware, I’m pretty set.  I’ll definitely be playing with the Swivl throughout the year, but I think the piece of technology that I am most looking forward to using would be a website.  

Jessica Anderson, a teacher in Montana that I’ve connected with over the past 18 months has introduced me to ClassCraft.  It is a role playing game that helps you gamify your classroom.  Complete with 3 classes of players, the possibility to fall in battle, consequences dealt out and stored in the Book of Laments, and some pretty wicked artwork, I am truly excited to see how my students accept ClassCraft and how their motivation increases.  Add in my zombie theme for the year, and I am truly giddy with enthusiasm.

Technology – we’ve got it, but it is a website that I am most excited about.  I even heard a student whisper to a friend “I like this teacher.”  Totally made my day!

Personal and professional goals

So I’ve opted to take part in the 30 day blogging challenge that I learned about on Twitter. I’ve spent quite a bit of time this summer going over curriculum, creating my game, connecting with innovated individuals on Twitter, and being schooled in Minecraft by students in summer school.

I’m really looking forward to gamifying my classroom this year, and my theme is zombie apocalypse. Since my last name is Henze, my new setting for my classroom is Henzelandia. I am definitely going to be utilizing ClassCraft in my classroom, which will help me gamify easier. There are unite a few staff members that are looking to use a class dojo with students since we are 1:1 iPads, but I think kids are going to be pretty excited about using ClassCraft. So that brings me to my first goal of the school year- keep my motivation and momentum with gamification so that each day is exciting for both my students and me.

Last year I did standards based grading. It was a bit difficult because the community and students had never really seen this form of grading before. It makes far too much sense to look at actual student knowledge and achievement instead of giving students a false sense of achievement with scores on homework and minor things like that. This year, the entire science department has opted to use standards based grading, and I am really excited to be a part of this leadership in our building. So goal #2 would be to help persuade others that this makes sense, and that more people should embrace the idea of grading based on achievement.

My personal goals include getting the house on the market to sell in hopes to be one step closer to a move to the Big Sky state. In addition, I would like to increase my ex cerise and to continue with my downward trend for my weight. I was able to successfully maintain my 25 pound loss over the summer, but now it is time to kick it into gear. This might include a 5 or 10K. I’ll keep you posted on that!

Resurrecting the blog

It is hard to believe that my last blog post on here was nearly 1 year ago.  What the heck have I done with the last year?  In a few words:  a TON!

My first year teaching in a 1:1 iPad school gave me some serious clout to try new things, and I did!  I tried without fear of being looked down upon, I learned great new things, and I tried lots of new strategies.  And since being out of school for almost 2 months, I haven’t stopped thinking about school.  I just can’t shut my learning off the way some people can.

I continued to learn all summer long from my PLN.  I signed up to attend the “Take Personalize Learning to the Next Level” conference in Oregon last week.  It was at this conference that I had the opportunity to try out the idea of Sketchnotes.  This is a strategy that I want to use with my students this year, so I figure I better have some experience with it.


One thing that I learned.  I definitely need to practice capturing what people actually look like!  I know that I’m capable, but it just means that I need to take some time and practice.  The big idea with sketchnotes is that it forces you to listen for big ideas.  Instead of furiously writing outline style notes, this allowed me to connect what I was thinking, seeing, and hearing all at the same time.  Pretty powerful.  And although I didn’t share out any awesome takeaways during the sessions on Twitter, just sharing my sketchnotes was enough.

After the Personalize Learning conference, I “attended” the QuestBoise virtual conference and listened to 4 streaming webinars about gamification in the classroom.  I also drew sketchnotes for those, but found a few of the webinars to be dull as I had already had a fair amount of background knowledge.  Something I took away from this processes though, was that if I allow myself to drift, my attention diverts pretty quickly.  When I wasn’t sketching in my notebook, and checking social media, I lost a lot of information.  Sometimes it is better to disconnect and focus.

As if I wasn’t busy enough with planning curriculum, cleaning out the Science store room, and thinking about gamification, I also took some time to explore building a classroom app.  So far I’ve spend about 7-8 hours playing with AppShed, which is an online, drag-and-drop type of interface that allows you to build an app for mobile devices.  AppShed is completely free and doesn’t cost a dime to build a web app.  If I wanted to put it on the Apple AppStore, I’d have to pay the $100/year developer fee in order to do so, and I’d be afraid as how often I would need to “update” the app.  I’m really hoping to continue building the app to allow my students to use it while they work, but that would mean updating daily or weekly.

Next week I will be taking my first “official” class of the summer.  I’ll be participating in the Making Sense of Science: Heredity course that is being offered from the Madison Metropolitan School District.

Oh my, there is still so much to do before school starts again!

Feeding my addiction

Well, the title is, after all, Confessions of an Edtech Addict!

So I went to Edcamp Oshkosh yesterday.  I was almost coaxed to head up to Edcamp Lake Superior today by a friend that I met last summer aboard the Lake Guardian, but the idea of getting up at 3 am was not winning me over.

I went to a number of sessions that helped solidify some of my resolve for this upcoming school year.  Twenty percent time, otherwise known as Genius Hour really taught me that it was about the process, not the product.  Researching and finding things out is huge in science, as well as any other subject.  The thing that I am still struggling with however, is whether to ask them to focus solely on earth science related topics or to let them pick their own topic.  Dictating a focus takes a bit of the passion out of it, it seems and that’s the last thing that I want to do.  There is so much to learn about in earth science, but for kids that aren’t that interested in science, it might be difficult for them.  I will have to gauge their passion during the beginning of the year as I ask them what they want to learn about, to see how I can hit those topics.

Another idea that I’ve been toying about is how to use a learning management system with my

students to give them the opportunity to use online discussion forums.  While talking to one of my new teammates, we decided to aim for Schoology, but to keep my options open, I went to an iTunes U session to see what that was all about.  Seemingly straightforward, it would be a nice system to use, but it doesn’t have the opportunity for discussion, and I was irritated that in order to get into the iTunes U course manager, you had to have Safari.  Sorry folks, I’m a Chrome girl through and through!

And of course, I had to attend an iPad session since my students will have them in their hands during class.  I attended the iPad Apps for collaboration session and learned how Nearpod is used, offered some information about the Linoit app and also learned about PearlTrees.  PearlTrees is a social bookmarking app and I wonder if PearlTrees would be a good way for students to build a library of resources during classes.

It was a fabulous day of learning, despite some frustrations with the wireless network.  I’ve truly learned that I am much more productive on my laptop than I ever could be on my iPad.  I just cannot move around in the iOS as quickly as I can on my laptop.

The next edcamp on my list may be Edcamp MSP up in the Twin Cities, but that is completely dependent on the upcoming bow hunting season and whether or not I’ll be able to head out of town for a few days.  O

EdCampJVL Reflection

It has been over a week since I attended EdCamp Janesville/Milton.  While it was a smaller edcamp, I learned a few new things.  The first session that I attended was out of my realm of science and technology.  I went to sit in on the Young Adult Literature discussion, and found a few things that were interesting…. my biggest takeaway was when I heard a number of educators say “Common Core and Schools is killing the love of reading for pleasure.”  Seriously!  When kids are analyzing text to death, they lose that pleasure of just following the story.  It no longer is about a ‘movie in your brain’ but becomes about why the author did this or that.  Just let kids read for the sake of reading!

My second session that I went to was on Augmented Reality (AR).  There are seriously some awesome and cool things that can be done with AR.  I’ve downloaded and played with the Aurasma app and I think there will truly be some cool implications in my classroom with it.  An interactive word wall?  YES!  A poster with new information when using the Aurasma app?  I think so!  I’m also going to post some current science discoveries on a bulletin board with QR codes and see how many students use them.

I started in the online learning session next, but didn’t feel like it was meant for me, so I got up and went to the app session.  Wow, to say I know nothing would be about accurate.  Those types of sessions can be overwhelming, but then without those sessions, who would push me to learn these new things?

After a delicious Italian lunch, I headed to the NGSS discussion.  There was some cool things shared here, but it really makes me realize that very few people are ready to start implementing the new standards, or even thinking about a plan for  implementation.  I’m glad that I’ve been looking at them a ton over the summer to make myself keep them in focus so I won’t be incredibly overwhelmed with the idea.

The last session of the day, I went to the learning management systems session.  Based in Edmodo, there wasn’t a ton of information shared out, but we talked a little bit about Schoology as well.  Of the two, I think the Schoology system is better suited for my students, as another teacher already uses it with students.  It just makes sense to keep the students in one site, instead of confusing them with multiple systems.

All in all, it was a great day of learning.  It was the first Edcamp that I had been to that utilized 5 sessions in the schedule instead of the usual 4.  It was interesting to see how the day flowed, but I could tell I was done midway through the 5th session.  There were definitely some things to take note of though while thinking ahead to our February 22 date for EdCampMadWI at Middleton High School.

I’ve been busy learning about a variety of things this summer.  I’ve read most of Teach Like a PIRATE by Dave Burgess and am truly inspired by his work and his ideas on how to make lessons memorable.  I’ve also been reading Invent to Learn:  Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager, Ph.D.  I was interested in instituting a genius hour last year, but unfortunately, the logistics didn’t work out for us.  I’ve been participating in a MOOC related to 20% time and genius hour,  and they expect us to do our own 20% project!

The ideas behind genius hour and Invent to Learn are that students should be digging in, creating new things, problem solving, learning new material, while the teacher is there as a coach or support person.  This is where my struggle begins.

In Invent to Learn, Martinez and Stager talk about giving kids time to problem solve, create a new invention or make it better!  The engineering design process is integral in the Next Generation Science Standards.  This is a perfect fit for a science or Tech Ed classroom.  It feels like a no-brainer to get these ideas into my classroom.  It also feels as though it ties in well with the idea behind 20% time.  If I gave students one day a week to tinker or to investigate something they are passionate about, I’m betting they would come up with some pretty awesome ideas and products.

The big ideas behind Teach Like a PIRATE (TLAP) are that you should make your lessons engaging, “life changing” and fun.  But from what I’ve read, it seems like this is where the role of the teacher is disseminating the knowledge/information to the students, in lecture or other straight forward manner.  While I understand there is a time and a place for these types of lessons, I truly want to be the “guide on the side.”  I don’t have patience for “sit n get” in PD opportunities, I can’t imagine my students enjoy it either, however, using some of the ideas in TLAP will make these lessons far less cumbersome.

So with a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, I enter into my new position at Edgerton Middle School.   I am excited to test the waters with the variety of strategies, to see what fits me the best, learn from mistakes, even fail, only to reflect and move on to make things better.  Because it is the culture of failure that allows us to grow.  And grow, I shall.

Engineering Design Process

Today was the first day of Camp Badger for Teachers, being held on the UW-Madison campus. It was a full day of learning and seeing amazing things happening in the engineering world. After 14 years of hosting Camp Badger for kids, they decided to implement a teacher version last year.

The first thing we did was explored our own engineering capabilities by trying to solve one of eight problems, many of which were re-designing useful objects to allow those with disabilities to be able to use them independently. It was rough, but what was truly amazing was then going in and seeing the kids attending Camp Badger tackle the same problems. Their ideas were awesome, not to mention we were impressed by their ability to work with a small group of kids that they met the day before and go up and present their ideas for the entire group, with little to no visible anxiety.  The also did a great job fielding questions about their design, which is where the design process falls.


As you can see in the diagram to the left, there are a series of steps to take.  But the important thing to remember is this is not the end all be all, just as the scientific method isn’t a great way to teach kids about science.  The cycle can go around and around, and technically, there is no way something can be designed without at least testing and improving your design before implementing it.  Nothing is perfect the first time around.

So even though in our workshop today, we were able to get through the first 2 steps, in only 15 minutes, we were hardly able to finish the third step.  I would love to see kids take the idea of engineering and apply it throughout the course of a trimester, or even the entire year.  Give them time to come up with an idea, and create a prototype, test it out, improve it, create a new one, and eventually present their results.  What an awesome way to tie everything they learn in math and science together for some real world, problem based learning.


Now… to figure out how to implement it!  Could this be an awesome opportunity for a maker space?