Reboot. Going back to my roots.

The secret is out. In case you haven’t heard, you may want to sit down. Ready? I have decided to go back to the classroom in August. Gasp! “What?” “Are you sure?” Yes, I am sure. It’s something that has been tapping me on the shoulder for over a year. It’s time. I have been out of the classroom for about 8 years. Throughout that time I have enjoyed school level technology integration jobs, district level technology education jobs, consulting, and traveling more than I ever thought possible having a career in education. Alas, it’s time.

I thought I would take a few minutes to share with you the why. Some people have said to me, “Why would you want to give up a district level position?” Really? For me, it’s not about the district level position. It’s about the impact I feel I am making. So let me go through my list in no particular order.

1. Passion. I feel like I am not making a difference. I go to work everyday and help create ideas for teachers to try. But what difference does it make? Last year I watched Taylor Mali’s poetry slam “What teachers make?” and it reminded me of the feelings I had and I loved being a teacher.

His honesty and passion about students makes me cry, my heart beats fast, and gives me goose bumps every time I see the video.

2. Vision. Everyday “we” (as in everyone I know worldwide in educational technology) talk about what we want to see in our classrooms. A lot of times what we want to see and what we see don’t match up. I have a skill set that is being wasted. By wasted, I mean, I have been afforded a lot of additional educational training due to the jobs I have held in the last 8 years  I do not routinely practice. Let me go back to the classroom and see what I can do. Can I make the vision come to fruition?

3. DENSI. Last summer I spend a week at Discovery Education Network’s Summer Institute (DENSI) with 150 other educators. It had been years since I last attended and I was a little nervous about it. I was skeptical at first thinking, “What can I learn from this group?” What I took away was an amazing love of teaching and willingness to try for the sake of learning and loving students. So many people made an impact on me that week. They hold a special place in my heart for helping me find my way back to my passion of teaching.

4. Validity. I provide professional development giving teachers ideas of how they can use technology with their content. Yet, I never get to actually try any of the ideas. My voice has no validity. I know you may say that is not true but from where I am standing today, that is my lens. I want to be able to share ideas from classroom happenings. I want to share in the frustration students go through when they are being pushed a little harder to get the best out of them. I want to share technology integration ideas with teachers and be able to say what worked and what didn’t.

5. My family. I want to be home more. Summers are hard on our household. Monday through Thursday are long work days and we barely get to see each other. Summer camps don’t last as long as we need. The sun stays shining long in to the night. It still isn’t up long enough to get everything in and quality time spent.

6. Pride. I know pride can be seen as a bad thing but I used to be proud to say, “I am a teacher.” I didn’t have to explain anything. Now when I asked what I do, it ends in a 5 minute explanation and the person usually confusing what I do with I.T. No, I don’t fix or build anything that has to do with the physical computer.

7. Community and connection. Nothing can replace the community and connection you build with students and a school. I have the privilege to still remain in contact with students I taught 15 years ago. I care about them and am proud when they succeed. I want that connection with students again.

IMG_3664So what I am I doing to prepare? One thing I am doing is attending as much professional development as I can surrounding curriculum and the art of teaching. Last week I attended an AP Human Geography workshop on global migration conducted by the University of South Carolina – Center of Excellence for Geographic Education. It was an amazing day of learning. My brain was afloat from all of the wonderful information that was given. I am also taking a couple of days off in March to head to the 70th annual ASCD Conference. I attended this conference last year for the first time and Dr. Russell J. Quaglia’s ( keynote on student voice was the most inspiring session for me. His keynote was just the kick in the ass I needed to think about student voice and what I was doing to increase the volume about student voice. I am very excited to see what inspiration comes from the conference for me this year.

IMG_0770Another thing I am doing is a little old school but I am keeping a journal of what I want to do as a teacher. I am filling the notebook with ideas, tips, professional development notes, etc. It’s my little offline learning place. I am surprised how much I have all ready put in the notebook. I think this helps me realize my decision is the right one.

Do I know where or what yet? No, I do not know where I will be teaching or what subject within the realm of Social Studies I will be teaching but I know I will end up where I need to be. When I started teaching I wondered if it was a calling or a career. I think I’ve always know I was called to be a teacher.

I have LOVED the opportunities I have been given being on the edge of the technology education field. It’s just time to get back to doing this work WITH students. I can’t wait for what will be in store for me come August.

Life as a beginning runner.


In August, my husband and I decided it would be a good idea to start running. I am not sure why… it was August in SOUTH CAROLINA! What were we thinking, right? We began the Ease in to 5K program (Couch to 5K). I have never run before in my life. It was something I never thought I would do. Since August we have completed our first 5K and are schedule more through the holidays to keep us moving.

Some things I have learned in the last few months:

1. Running gives me confidence. It’s a hard to explain but running makes me stand a little taller. Not just because of the physical benefits of exercise but because I can say I did it. Prior to August I could barely run 30 seconds straight let alone 45 minutes that I do now. When it comes to workout plans I have not been known to stick to a plan. I stuck with it and when I complete a run no matter how short or long I feel a sense of accomplishment.

I'm slow and that is ok.

I’m slow and that is ok.

2. I’m slow but that is ok. Speed is not what I am after. I want to finish. I am super slow. At times I wonder if it would be faster to walk but I keep trying. I know that everyday I get out there and complete a run, it makes me stronger mentally and physically. One of the things I enjoy about running is it allows me to let go of everything that is going on in my life. The only thing I focus on is meeting today’s running goal. Can I make it to the next tree/stop sign? I push through my brain saying, “Why are you doing this? No one is chasing you.” I have found that I don’t like to just run. My thing is intervals. It helps me push through to the next recovery time.

3. I am more aware of my body and what it needs. So many things are going on here. First off, my body is changing. I am not drastically losing weight but I feel leaner. My close fit differently in some cases they are too big. My body now gives me very clear signs when I eat things that are good for me and things that aren’t good for me. My taste/palette have changed. Processed foods taste gross. It’s almost like exercise has become the translation mechanism for my eating habits.

4. Sugar is the enemy and water is my best friend. There is not other way to say it. One week out from Halloween and I can say I have eaten my fair share of sugar and my body feels awful. I’m slow and sluggish. Sugar is everywhere and I need to be mindful of how much I am ingesting. On the other side of the spectrum I have learned just how important water is to the body. If I don’t drink enough when I run, I feel like I am literally running and going nowhere.

5. The runner community is amazing. I think this is the most rewarding part of the last few months.  Runners are so supportive.  No matter if you need help when your head is getting in the way of you running, you are looking for the right shoes, or just to tell you “Great Job! Keep it up!” The community is amazing. When I completed the 5K a couple of weeks ago, a woman I didn’t know walked up to me and said, “Are you MaryAnn?” “Congratulations on your first 5K! I run with Shirley and she said you would be here today.”  It was great. We shared our experience. I showed her my road rash and her and another women were like, “Yeah, it happens to all of us!”

My Thought.

My Thought.





Logging out

Amanda Tipton Flickr CC

Amanda Tipton Flickr CC

I know we are in the age of information all the time but this weekend I have had enough. I am connected all the time and really for no reason. If you are someone who is connected and it ok with it. That is great. Keep it up. I just realized living through a screen is something I need to stop doing.

What made me come to this realization? This weekend started on Thursday night for me because I was feeling pretty ill. I slept a lot but there were times between Thursday night and Saturday morning I was laying on the couch with “nothing to do.” I say that with quotes because even though I was feeling bad there is always the TV or better yet, that book I haven’t finished. Instead my phone was within arms reach so I would grab it and see what was going on in Facebook and Twitter. After a few minutes I’d put the phone down and pick up again and do it all over again. This was really bothering me. I began to think about all the things I don’t have time for. Would I have time for them if I wasn’t aimlessly trolling Facebook or Twitter? Most likely. I began to pay attention to how much I pull my phone out of my purse or pocket to see what is going on. I realized if I am not driving, I spend most of the time in the car looking at my phone screen.

Now I am not completely banning social media in my life. That would be crazy not to mention, impossible with my work. But I think I have made a decision to make it a little more deliberate when I am online with social media. Instead of clicking the app and being connected I have logged out of the app. Is it worth my time to log in (although it only takes a few seconds) to see what is going on or to post. Should I spend time in the here and now? Can that post wait until later? Or will it matter if my online world doesn’t know my every move?

Last week my husband shared a NPR article with me about the amount screen time and children. It stated children with more screen time had trouble reading human emotions. Is this the same for adults? I think this article planted the seed for me to begin thinking about my own screen time and if it’s worth it.

Do you ever think about logging off? What do you do to not allow social media to become too much in your life?

Mini Maker Faire Road Trip

One of the latest crazes to hit is the Maker Faire. What is a Maker Faire you ask?

Maker Faire is the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth—a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned. (Maker Faire)

On a whim when we were planning for our back to school meetings, we decided to have a mini maker faire. I took the idea and ran with it. Now it seems to become a road show. The maker faire road trip is a bit more about learning new ideas than a traditional maker faire with makers showcasing their work.  It has made its appearance at two trainings in the last week.  What is included in my mini maker faire? I have between 5-6 stations depending on the space. Presently, I have the following stations:

1. Coding: Creating a flappy bird game14775472990_f7ddae7cc6_o

2. Creating a Hovercraft

3. Building a 60 cup structure

4. Games (board games, dice games, logic)

5. Green screening with WeVideo

6. Circuits with Snap circuits and Roominate

From my vantage point, the maker faire was an engaging time for the participants to Collaborate, Communicate, Create, and Think Critically. The 4Cs were embedded throughout the faire.  Here is a flappy bird game created by Nikki, one of our Technology and Learning Coaches (TLC). Emily, another TLC said, “I loved the circuit building activity!  I was avoiding it at first because it seemed a little scary the idea of building a “circuit,” but the activity showed that I could learn something new and construct my own knowledge through collaboration with other team members and access to a direction book. My colleagues were my co-learners in creating something new”

What has this Maker Faire shown me? It’s demonstrated to me that the hands on activities are a way to get everyone involved in the learning. The learning is more than the standards and we need to teach critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity in our classrooms at EVERY level, not just elementary because they have learning stations/labs. It also brings a lot of questions to mind. How can we turn our classrooms in to maker faires? How do we model this learning for teachers to begin to have this mindset?



#DENSI2014 Did that just happen?

I returned from #DENSI2014 in Nashville Friday night after a day full of driving in the rain. Not my favorite way to drive but none the less, it was time to get home. Prior to arriving at #DENSI2014 I was a little fearful of my aversion to large groups, close quarters, 6 women sharing 1 shower, and having to be “on” all the time. Yes, I am an introvert but an introvert that can drip her toes in to the extrovert world at times. I kept telling myself it would be fine.

When I officially checked in to the Carmichael dorm I was all ready overwhelmed with all of the people and the noise. People were hugging, laughing, and greeting one another. I unloaded my car at the stairs by the door and then parked. When I came back to the door Mark Case, whom I had never met was all ready lifting my heavy luggage up the stairs to the dorm. At that moment I thought, it’s going to be ok.


DENnis Grice, Dave Tchozewski, and David Fisher

Throughout the week I was exposed to some amazing sessions planned and unplanned. My favorite keynote was Lodge McCammon. He never ceases to amaze me. I really enjoyed Conni Mulligan‘s session on creating shadow puppets with old overhead projectors. It gave me so many ideas for not only work but play. Tim Childers session on teaching with one image resinated the word focus for me. I managed to make it to #SitDen (AKA meet at Starbucks and chat at 6am while others were exercising at #FitDEN) a few times. I learned there too. Kathy Schrock showed me It’s a cool image animator.

As the week progressed, I decided to let a little of myself show. I brought my photo booth mustaches and started taking photos of people using them. I would walk up to people and say,  “I ‘must-ache’ you a question, may I take your picture?” It was a great way to just talk to people I didn’t know for a moment.  This led to “my thing” at DEN. Someone suggested I do something for WDEN our morning news show. When I was looking at the photos later that night I thought…BAZINGA! I will interview people and they will have to answer with the mustache! This was great for my introverted self. I would meet even more people because I was working on a project. So I spent Wednesday interviewing people in between sessions and editing video. I submitted my video to WDEN and they played it Thursday morning. Here is a little look if you want to watch it. I have more footage and plan on creating a few more episodes. Hopefully time will not get away from me.

Being an introvert, another worry of mine was finding time to recharge in silence. I was worried I wouldn’t ever be alone. Not that I wanted to be antisocial… I just need to recharge. I probably missed out on a few fun things but I did find some quiet space on the patio outside the dorm. It was a great place to sit feel the cool breeze.

I would like to thank the DEN for letting me be me all week. I was able to learn the way I liked to learn. I wasn’t pressured to be part of the crowd. I was given space when I needed it.  The conversations I had were amazing and I met some wonderful people. The conversations were invigorating. The DEN Love was palpable. My twitter and Facebook feeds are filled with their knowledge and friendship. Thank you, so much for this experience.

After the week, I have to admit seeing this post on twitter made me feel a little better about my introverted-ness. It reminded me we are everywhere!


Oh, and by the way, if #DENSI2015 will have me back… watch out, I’ll be out of my shell. 🙂



Their Nashville Story

roberts.jpgOn Monday, Discovery Education sent us on an outing around Nashville. We visited the Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and Honky Tonk Row. Of everything we did on Monday, 30 minutes of my day will stick with me forever. A few of us were walking around Honky Tonk Row around 10:45 am and the establishments were beginning to open and have live musicians. Prior to leaving for Nashville my husband told me I needed to go to a honky tonk and listen to music during the day and he suggested I go to one of his old hangouts called Robert’s Western World.

As we walked down the street, I looked up after we passed Tootsies and I saw Robert’s sign. We did not realize Robert’s was not open when we walked in but they welcomed us, let us know they would be open at 11:00am and told us to make ourselves at home. I began looking around at all of the artwork on the wall. I noticed an older man about 78 years old preparing the stage and a little old woman sitting content to the side. I walked over to the woman and said, “Do you do come here every day?” She smiled, giggled and said, “Yes, I have every day for 44 years.” As she talked there was a sparkle in her eyes. I went on to ask her if her husband owned the honky tonk. She told me no and went on to tell me her husband plays the 11:00-2:00pm slot every day. Proudly she pointed to the recognition plaques her and her husband received for the years they sang at Robert’s. She pointed out two plagues, one for 30 years and another for 40 years. Looking at the plaques, I learn their names are John and Lois Shepherd. Lois was so very proud of the life she and John have spent at the Honky Tonk. John used to work for “Robert” the original owner when Robert’s was a clothing store. The location began serving dinner and then added singers to the day all while selling clothing. Eventually they stopped selling clothes and focused on food and music. After our short discussion, my party and I decided we would come back at 11:00am to hear John sing. I am not sure if Lois thought we would really come back but when we did with another companion, John looks at Lois from the stage and says, “They came back with another to hear the music.” and immediately broke in to Conway Twitty’s song “Hey, Darlin’.”

IMG_0283As John played we took in the paintings and shelves of cowboy boots on the wall. Tim, Sandy, and I decided to order a fried bologna sandwich and coke, the house special, to enjoy while we listened to John sing. When ordering we asked the bartender about them. She told us John and Lois were a staple in the bar and the area. Lois used to sing a lot more with John but she doesn’t much anymore due to her health. John continued to play music and ask for requests. Tim requested George Jones and then asked him to play a song written by Lois. When Tim made this request, Lois beamed. John introduced the song by telling us she won an award the specific song he was going to sing and “two fellas in Ireland recorded it.” After John finished the song, Lois walked over to us while we were waiting on our food to tell us the first photo of John and her was on the wall next to where we sat. We moved the boots to see the photo. She told me she thought he was so handsome and they were in love from the moment they met. John and Lois were a team. Lois wrote the songs and John sang/played them.

I was sad to leave too soon but we had to get back to the tour bus. I could have listened to John sing all afternoon while I talked with Lois. You never know where you will find the next story that will touch your heart. Lois (pictured to the left) was the sweetest, most adorable woman I have ever met. She was so willing to share herself with me. John was a wonderful artist. Their relationship was beautiful.


Those few moments I spent with John and Lois Shepherd made Nashville become ‘real’ to me. It was no longer this tourist destination about cowboys and country music. It was about real people. Their story makes me want to return to Nashville and get to know the city a little better. I took from their story love, respect, and passion for each other and country music.

So I ask you, what is your story?


If you are interested in listening/watching John and Lois Shepherd check out this YouTube video. The video isn’t that great but you will be able to hear their beautiful voices clearly.




Dimitris Kalogeropoylos,

Dimitris Kalogeropoylos, 

Today the word FOCUS has hit me like a ton of bricks in a good way, if that can be done. I am presently attending #DENSI2014 in Nashville, TN. Today we spent the day in sessions learning new tips, tricks, and techniques about technology integration. The day was kicked off by Lodge McCammon. He is one of my favorite people in the realm of education. Lodge talked about the word ‘Lecture’ not being a bad word. If we looked at how we do lecture we could make it more effective and efficient.

Lodge spent time working with us on the efficiency of the mind and body. This was fascinating to me and even now as my mind and body are exhausted from cognitive overload. In my job I spend a lot of time reiterating things over and over like anyone else. It’s exhausting. Recording the content or expertise would essentially “free my mind” of some cognitive overload. See what I mean from one of his ‘recorded lectures’ in the keynote.

And this brought me to my aha… Lodge worked with us on how recording our lessons helps teachers reflect allowing us to FOCUS and improve our teaching. This really spoke to me.

This word focus followed me to my next session from Tim Childers, Teaching with Just One Image. Tim talked about how to get students to look at an image and focus on specific things in the image whether it be simply what you see, a specific area of a photo, or using a tool like VoiceThread for students to express thoughts about a photo. But he kept bringing up this ideas of guided attention to focus students. He also shared a touching story about his daughter and her focus on making it up the Beehive in Maine. When her focus changed she was able to continue to the end of the hike. There is that word again!

So it got me thinking. As I conduct professional development routinely, I find myself waiting longer and longer to prepare because “I got this.” When it is time to conduct the PD, I become drained. At times I even really don’t want to do it because I don’t want to repeat myself again. I find that I can become the talking head spewing out information at the front of the room. How can I FOCUS? How do I guide the attention of the teachers? What do I want to accomplish in the PD that I am conducting? Not only do I want teachers have a better understanding on the topic, I want to model teaching practices we want to see in our classrooms. How can I accomplish these things?

How can I FOCUS?

1. Don’t forget what I learned today.

2. Take the time up front to plan and create my lecture videos.

3. Use the added time in the PD session to involve the participants in discussions and hands-on. Keep veering from click her, do this.

4. Reflect each time I conduct the sessions and improve.


I {heart} the Richland Two’s SC Midlands Summit

The last two days have been a culmination of almost a year of planning. The team I work on hosted the 3rd annual Richland Two’s SC Midlands Summit with over 600 participants from 9 states and 31 school districts. What an amazing experience! The summit was filled with over 130 sessions and 3 amazing keynotes from Steve Dembo, Leslie Fisher, and Catlin Tucker.

Planning this Summit is a LOT of work but every year, after it is over, and I am so tired all I can do is smile. Why do I smile? Because every ounce of the work is worth it to see how excited teachers are about learning and integrating. These are the same teachers that one week ago were exhausted from a long school year. Being on the planning committee allows me to share my passion for technology and it warms my heart to see so many so excited.

I just wanted to say thank you to all of those who attended. You reminded me of the reason I do what I do every day.

Finding that Loving Feeling for My Work

For about a year or more I was feeling very unfulfilled in my job and work. That is a very odd feeling for me. I have always LOVED what I do… being in education and having the ability to share my passion for all things technology and geeky is awesome. It was weird to feel as if I had no ambition, no drive, no reason to ‘show up’ to work everyday.

Then one day my husband and I were talking about how I was feeling and trying to figure out what was going on with me. He was reading a book called Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar: How Self Education and the Pursuit of Passion can lead to a Lifetime of Success. He showed me an image in the book that resonated with me. It was the idea of finding where you are engaged in your work. You have two levels one being level of expectations from you or your boss. Higher, you have a level of aspirations. It’s where you want to be or go. If you are working below your expectations you will have a tendency to be worried. Worried of losing your job, perhaps? Worried about not doing well? etc. On the other end of the spectrum if you are working higher than your aspirations you are bored. You have nothing to strive for if you are working above your aspirations. So the key is to work above your expectations while always having a level of aspirations to reach and this will bring engagement.

The image was a preverbal smack in the head. I realized the reason I “lost that lovin’ feeling” was because I stopped reaching higher. I was working above my aspirations. So much to the point that I stopped learning. I stopped reading blogs, using twitter or any other social network for learning. Having this realization, I had to do something about it.

What did I do?

I essentially created a list of things that I was interested in hoping it would lead me to my passions of work again.
I reflected on things I used to love about work.
I reminded my self why I do what I do… It really is for the students. It doesn’t matter how far I am from the classroom, my goal is to improve learning for them.
I created an action plan. How was I going to higher my aspirations? By making them known. I made an appointment with my supervisor and talked with her about my work performance and how I wanted it to change.
I asked to take on/lead a project.
I sank my teeth in to the project and it led me back to wanting to learn more.

How has this affected my outlook?

I find myself asking for input and feedback from my coworkers more often.
I revamped and relaunched my blog. (You are reading it)
I find myself on twitter, Google+, Facebook and other social networks more often to gain more knowledge and SHARE.
I don’t dread going to work in the morning.

Find your passion in work. It makes work a happy place to be.

A quick TED Talk on Success at work.