Sandy Freeland: 3rd Grade Teacher and Tech Development

Who are you and what do you do?

10389084_10204673949548127_2189366482901295330_n (1)My name is Sandy Freeland. I am in my third year teaching full-time at McBain Elementary School in McBain, MI. It is a small (about 1,000 kids) K-12 connected building. I also taught part-time and in long-term substitute positions in McBain for 6 years prior to my full-time hire status. I’ll be teaching 3rd grade for the second year this year. I’ve also taught Kindergarten and 2nd grade.

In addition to classroom teaching, I’ve also provided technology professional development for the district for 3 years. This year will be my first year as the official Technology Integration Coach. I am 22i-TRIG trained and a REMC BLiC certified instructor. I am also part of a small team of Michigan 3rd grade teachers that will be working on creating a digital, interactive social studies textbook this year. This is part of the MI Open Book Project led by Dave Johnson. I am excited to be part of this process!

In my time outside of the classroom I can be found learning from others in Twitter chats (@TechyTeacher1), participating in groups on Facebook (#TechCoachTribe, Third Grade Tribe, Small Fish Teacher Blogger to name a few), and working on developing a coding club for my school. One goal I have this year it to become a better blogger. I have presented at a number of conferences, so I am trying to become a better blogger by sharing links to my presentations on my blog, I also enjoy running, reading, cake decorating, and spending time with my family…not necessarily in that order!

What hardware are you using?

Our entire K-12 district is 1:1 devices. All teachers have a MacBook Pro 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5, 8GB 1600MHz DDR3, running Yosemite OS X. K-4 is 1:1 iPads, with Kindergarten using iPad Minis and 1st-4th using iPad Airs. Grades 5-12 are 1:1 MacBook Airs. We also have access to projectors in each classroom that are connected to AppleTV for AirPlay capabilities. In addition to these devices, we also have 3 computer labs that have 30 Dell PCs running Windows 7. These computers are left over from our pre-1:1 days.

And what software?

As a Technology Integration Coach, I’m often piloting different software and then sharing it with my staff members. Due to this, my list changes often, but here is a list of my current go-to’s for software right now.

Software Tools For Classroom Use:

Schoology: This is the LMS that our school uses. We have PowerSchool, and with Schoology’s PowerSchool integration, it makes my job easy! I create tests in Schoology as I’m working toward creating a paperless classroom. Written tasks can be graded by the teacher, otherwise it is graded by the software. From there it is synced with PowerSchool Gradebook. I also create assignments that my students can complete in Google Docs or Book Creator. Once completed, they can upload the files to Schoology. Voila! The piles of papers to-be-graded are no longer so large!

ClassKick: This is an app that allows teachers to create assignments, share them with their students, and then see what each student is doing simultaneously. Students can work through the assignment at their own pace. They can also raise their hand to ask for help without signaling in front of other students, as well as receive support from their classmates through the app. I’m new to this app, but I plan on using it during my Daily 5 reading and Daily 3 math stations this year. Students will be working on meaningful learning tasks while I am able to meet with individuals for one-to-one conferring. I’m really looking forward to digging deeper into this app this coming school year.

Skoolbo: My students LOVE this app! Skoolbo is a FREE common core math and ela practice app. Student accounts are created by me. Students log in and are taken through a few tasks for each content in order to place them where they are at. As the teacher, I can also assign specific tasks for them. At this time, the reports option is still not operational, but from the dashboard I can choose a student and see what they have been working on.

Book Creator (Free): We use the free version of Book Creator often. Last year I had my students create a recyclables book, as well as research the three main industries in Michigan and create an informational book about them in Book Creator. Users are limited in the amount of books they can make, but if you export your book as a PDF, you can delete everything and make a new book! I plan on bringing more research projects into my classroom this year, and Book Creator will allow my students to have a choice in how they present their information.

LearnZillion: LearnZillion has a free database of video lessons to support students. These lessons are Common Core aligned. They allow students to choose the standard and assign lesson videos to individuals or the whole class. Students can respond to the videos by completing notes about the videos. I plan on using this feature in ClassKick and/or with Explain Everything this year. Explain Everything can be uploaded to Schoology as well! I like that my students can use these videos as extra teaching on the skills they need during center time and at home!

Bloomz: I am excited to use the Bloomz App this year to bring my parent communication to a new level! Last year I used Remind and ClassDojo, along with my paper newsletter, to keep in contact with parents. This year I have created a Bloomz classroom. Bloomz allows me to share photos, message parents, share my newsletter, and share my classroom calendar with parents in a safe, private environment. Parents can even sign up to volunteer in the classroom through the app! Once your class is created, you can email parents the invite code. They go to the website, enter the invitation code, and they are set! Instead of having to post my update on my classroom webpage, my Remind account, and in ClassDojo, now I just go to one place. I can message individuals or groups. It is accessible on the computer and also through the iTunes and Play store.

Software Tools for Professional Learning & Connections:

Twitter: There are no words that can explain the value of the education connections that I have made on Twitter. It seems that there are so many educators on Twitter, but many educators that I know personally are not taking advantage of the awesome professional resource! I have learned more by participating in #MichEd chats (chats concerning topics relevant to Michigan educators), #edtechchat (chats concerning educational technology practices and pedagogy), and so many more! I definitely recommend taping the power of Twitter to enhance your professional learning and networking! You can find me by searching the Twitter handle @TechyTeacher1

Facebook Groups: Another professional tool that I feel does not get as much use as it could is the Groups feature on Facebook. Many teachers that do not feel comfortable exploring Twitter are connecting with others on Facebook.

Periscope: Periscope is all the rage right now! It is owned by Twitter. Periscope lets users open their world to any individual that is a Periscope user. It’s like Skype and Twitter combined, but instead of having a two-way video convo, the “Scoper” communicates with others by video broadcast. Viewers are able to comment and share hearts if they love what they are hearing. Most of the people that I follow are educators. I don’t tend to watch too many scopes live because there is often connectivity issues on the end of the scoper. Instead, I usually watch the replay. Scopes are available for 24 hours on Periscope following the live broadcast. Many scopers save their scopes and upload them to YouTube or their blogs. The best use of Periscope that I have experienced has been being able to “attend” conferences through the Periscopes created by individuals that are actually there!

How has your workflow and your teaching changed from when you first started?

When I first started teaching we had four PCs in the classroom and access to the computer lab. Halfway through teaching 2nd grade, I purchased an iPad 2. That was so exciting! During those days, I was weighed down by papers to grade and trying to create an open learning environment. It was very difficult to connect my students learning to anything outside of our school walls. Now I’m able to create a digital learning space in which my students are able to choose what tool works best for them to express their learning. I can assign tasks that meet their individual needs. They are connecting to other students in different states. My students are truly beginning to become global learners and I’m able to provide support to them at their level without having to constantly meet in small groups. I’ve become the instructor in the middle, a guide per se, instead of the holder of all knowledge.

When I had that first iPad, I used it mainly as a tool for consumption. My students used apps for fact and skill practice in small groups, but that was all. Now all of my students have iPads. They are able to continue to practice facts and skills, but they have also become creators. They are able to create and send their work to me digitally. I’ve cut down on the time I spend grading papers as I can use Schoology’s self-grading and PowerSchool Gradebook feature. This is definitely a smart use and eases my workflow!

What would your dream set up be?
I am fortunate that my dream setup is extremely close to what I have right now! The one item that would make it perfect would be to have a 3D printer in my classroom! I would love to have a SMARTboard and have control of my iPads. Otherwise, I’m teaching in my ideal setup.


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