Record Student Thinking with @RecapThat

Icon of recap appI learned about Recap, an app that allows students to record video answers to questions the teacher asks, when a colleague of mine requested that it be added to her class iPads. I was intrigued by the description of what the app does, and I signed up right away so that I could get an idea of how it works. In short, the teacher asks a question, called a “Recap,” and the students respond via video.

How Does It Work?

The teacher begins by posing a question to the class. This can be done as a text question and/or as a video.Screenshot of question fields

After writing or recording the question, the teacher then has the option to determine, a)  how long the students have to record their answers, and b) whether to send the question to the entire class or just to specific students. This is a great way to differentiate and personalize learning!Screenshot of question distribution

When the student logs into or launches the app on the iPad, the question is there waiting. The Recap will launch immediately after loading, but the student is able to close the Recap in order to respond at a later time.screenshot of what the student sees upon logging in

Recaps that the student has done stay on the student screen, but the student cannot edit or delete them. The teacher is able to delete a Recap, however.

When the teacher watches the Recap, he or she has the ability to leave a typed comment for the student. Then student is then able to comment back to the teacher in text form. If a comment has been made, a little icon with a number will appear in the top right corner of the video.img_2648

If your students have email accounts or G Suite accounts, it is recommended that when you choose how your students will sign into the app that they use their own accounts. They will still have a class code so they can join your class, but it is a more secure way to use Recap. If you have students only sign in using a class code, they will have access to everyone else’s work.They will be able to see their classmates’ Recaps, respond to comments as a classmate, and accidentally record as another student. It is very easy to toggle back and forth between students, however, so a little bit of training should go a long way to get students used to how to use the app on shared devices.screenshot of shared account view

Teachers also have the option of sharing a student Recap publicly via Twitter or on the Web, or they can share privately via email. Screenshot of sharing screen

Common Core Connection

The Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening require that students are prepared for conversations with diverse partners and that they are able to express their ideas clearly and persuasively. In order to do this, students need practice doing so. Using an app such as Recap allows students to prepare dialogue, express it, and get feedback on their speaking in a non-threatening way. When teachers use the commenting feature, he or she can provide constructive feedback for the speaker, and the student can practice again if the response needs some clarity or refining.

What Do You Think?

How have you used Recap with your students?

A New Year, A New #oneword

crossroads-997123_1920A little under a year ago, I wrote about my #oneword for 2015: Focus. I spent the year working on keeping my focus on the big picture in both my personal and professional world. Did I get distracted? Absolutely. Did I keep returning to the #oneword image I created to help me out? You bet. Do I want to keep focus as my word for 2016? Yes.

I wanted to keep the word that I chose last year because focus is what I need. I don’t have any kind of medical diagnosis, but I certainly do get distracted more often than not. I tend to get lost in minutiae and then completely forget about my purpose for doing whatever it was I was doing in the first place. And it was as I was thinking about this not-so-awesome part of myself that I realized my new word for 2016.


Even with all the focus in the world, if I’m not purposeful about what I do, what’s the point? I thought about the word systematic as well, but I think that purposeful encompasses working in a systematic way. I have so many projects that I’m working on; I must make it a point to be purposeful with these projects. Otherwise, I will continue to let things slide by accident. I must be purposeful with the words I use and the questions I ask as I work to help shift teachers’ thinking. I must ask myself, “Why?” (and have an answer!) when I propose something new or suggest a change. I must be purposeful.

I am confident that this word, purposeful, will help me in my goal to promote meaningful change in my school district and in the field of education.

Help me in my endeavor to be more purposeful and tell me: How are you purposeful in your work? What’s your oneword for 2016?

The 12 Days of #tosachat: Day 4

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 7.44.54 PMI participate in several Twitter chats, but there’s one chat I try as hard as possible to make each week, and that’s #tosachat. Over winter break, #tosachat took a departure from the regular weekly chat and held a 12-day “slow chat.” A slow chat is different from a regular Twitter chat because participants respond to one question per day (or per week) instead of 6-8 questions in one hour.

The founders of #tosachat put out a call for guest moderators for the the 12 days of #tosachat. All we had to do was sign up for a day and come up with a question to ask. The obvious choice of days for me to moderate was Christmas day. I figured I’d take one for the team so all of my Christmas-celebrating friends could enjoy the day with family and friends. My question was nice and simple:Screen Shot 2015-12-24 at 12.26.40 PM

I was surprised by how many of my #tosachat friends participated in the chat on Christmas day. I didn’t think I’d have anyone playing– I figured they’d all be busy and unplugged. Instead, I found out that many were spending the day with family and friends, and some had various celebrations that they’d be attending. A couple spent the day like I did– with a movie and Chinese food (Jewish tradition!) and Twitter (new tradition!). Some people got cool gifts and posted pictures. But most importantly, I realized that holidays don’t trump the need for the connected educator to stay in touch with those near and far. Many of us have #fomo (fear of missing out!) and that motivates us to continue to tweet and converse on Voxer, even over the holidays. But I think it goes deeper than that.

The addition of #tosachat into our lives has given us a tribe. A group of like-minded educators who understand one another because we are living very similar existences in which we are forging our professional paths as we go. Many of us are “lone wolves” in our school districts. Many of us are new to our positions, and some of us have been on assignment for multiple years. Regardless, we have created a learning community and have quickly become friends who can quote episodes of Friends. We can all count on our #tosachat Team Awesome colleagues whenever we want to learn something new, if we need advice, or when we want to celebrate. It’s not easy to unplug from a tribe such as this one.

If you are a Teacher on Special Assignment, please join #tosachat on Monday nights at 8pm PST if you have not already. You can join in the conversation even if you aren’t on assignment because everyone’s voice is valued by Team Awesome. Maybe #tosachat isn’t for you, but I urge you: Find your tribe. Find a group that works for you and jump in. Create and grow your PLN. You will not be sorry (and your students will thank you!).

Happy New Year!

It’s Been a #CUERockstar August

Copy of CUE_RockStar_C_FINALV Square200Last year I took a risk and applied to be a faculty member at CUE Rockstar Manhattan Beach. I had never been to a CUE Rockstar Teacher Camp before, but the concept marries so many of the things I love: camp, technology, and workshop-type professional development. So I figured, why not apply? All the feedback I had ever heard was so positive; some teachers even call it “life changing.” It sounded like fun and it was something I wanted to be part of.

Hanging with my Fullerton Friends at TOSA Edition Photo Credit: Pablo Diaz

Hanging with my Fullerton Friends at TOSA Edition Photo Credit: Pablo Diaz

Later, I heard about CUE Rockstar Black Label edition, created exclusively for TOSAs (Teachers on Special Assignment) being held at the StubHub Center in L.A., and I worked it out so I could attend. I can hardly put into words how powerful it was to be part of an event that allowed over 100 coaches and leaders to learn and grow together. We networked, we laughed (oh, did we laugh!), we ate, we played, and we learned. We made connections and collaborated to determine ways to invigorate our work. We brainstormed solutions to our own #tosaproblems and we created ways to make our lives a little more automated. Many of us met some of the educators we’ve admired on Twitter, and my classmates from the Leading Edge Certification for Professional Learning Leaders were able to meet one another live and in person!

Almost All of The Fantastic Faculty from Manhattan Beach Photo Credit: A Rockstar Teacher

Both of the CUE Rockstar events I attended– one as faculty and one as an attendee– were exhilarating, exhausting in a good way, engaging, fulfilling, and just plain awesome. I wish I could have attended every session that was available, because as much as I have to share, I have equally as much to learn. I continue to grow as an educator and as a presenter by providing professional development for others, but also by allowing myself to learn from colleagues and friends. So, the next time a Rockstar event rolls around, you should go. You won’t be sorry.

If you are interested in attending a CUE Rockstar event, be sure to check out the website!

What @TaylorMali Leaves: Reflections on #csuftcs

What Taylor Mali LeavesI’m a word girl. Written word, spoken word; no matter. Eloquent words; naughty words (especially those); words that calm; words that incense. When I write creatively, I pore over word choice, ensuring that each holds exactly the right weight. I obsess over the rhythm, the rhyme, the message. Am I making my point? Am I making it well? Am I trying to do too much? Am I offensive? (although with each passing year, I care less and less about the latter.) I like to smash words together and I like to take ’em apart. When I taught English, I tried to inspire a love of words and a passion for the power words hold in my own students. And I always appreciate the opportunity to be a student at the hands of a masterful artist.

My husband created Think.Create.Share conference in 2013, and, after falling down the YouTube rabbit hole this past October, said, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to bring Taylor Mali here for Think.Create.Share 2015?” Months later that dream came to fruition, and I had the privilege of spending an inspiring weekend chauffeuring Taylor Mali, #csuftcs keynote speaker and master of the written and spoken word, around north Orange County.

We weren’t certain what to expect, but reality far exceeded anything we could have ever imagined. Taylor Mali’s poems are inspirational. Funny. Sometimes shocking. Potentially offensive. His delivery is effortless. He knows how to draw the audience in, caress them with his unique style, and then sock them right in the gut with the reality of his words. He talks of education, of students, of love, of loss. He can make a room of 300 educators sit in stunned silence for minutes. In real life, he personally connects with us “regular” people; he asks questions and he answers them, too. He shares stories about his life, and he listens as you talk about yours. He made us feel not like chauffeurs, but like friends.

I’ve been processing the experience, trying to synthesize the physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting rollercoaster of this weekend and find the meaning in all of it. So, I read one of Taylor Mali’s books, What Learning Leaves. I wrote two poems and this post. And in trying to grow my skills in sketchnoting, as well, I tried to sum up the experience in this visual representation of my thinking. What Taylor Mali LeavesI could never have been on the list of Mali’s Quest for 1,000 Teachers because I’ve known I would become a teacher my entire life. (It was my fall-back plan if acting didn’t work out. It didn’t). Instead, I’d like to put myself on a list of teachers who were inspired to try writing poetry. Creative writing is an outlet I’ve let sit dormant for too long.

What Do You Think?

What’s your creative outlet? Where do you find inspiration?

A Challenge: Let’s Stop Pretending and #makeschooldifferent

makeschooldifferentI was challenged by Jessica Vannasdall (@mrsvannasdall) to write a post on what educators need to stop pretending in order to #makeschooldifferent. Here are my five:

Let’s stop pretending that homework in its current typical form is important or necessary. When done right, homework can be a good thing. But it usually isn’t done right and it’s either busy work or too frustrating to help kids improve. Rethink homework.

Let’s stop pretending that we don’t have time to change our practice. There will never be a good time to make a change, but it has to happen. We can not continue to teach today the same way we did a few years ago. It’s a different world. Change it up.

Let’s stop pretending that our students are “Digital Natives” and we are anything but. I wish this term could be stricken from the record. It creates an excuse that doesn’t need to exist and it needs to go away. We are all capable of learning to use technology in order to redefine what happens in our classrooms. Take the risk.

Let’s stop pretending that our students will take risks if we don’t. We have to be the role models for our students and for our colleagues. Risk taking is growth, and if we want our students to grow, we have to show them that we are growing, too. It’s ok to be scared. But jump in anyway.

Let’s stop pretending that we can do this alone. We can’t teach on isolated islands anymore. There are hundreds of thousands of teachers “out there” who are looking to collaborate, share ideas, and who want to make the world a smaller place. Our students want to collaborate, too. Make time to get connected. Reach out. You won’t be sorry.

I’m a little late to the challenge, so if you have already been challenged I apologize in advance. I challenge my friends Pablo Diaz @teachusingtech, Holly Steele @hollybsteele, Ann Kozma @annkozma723, Catherine Cabiness @ms_cabiness, and Sabba Quidwai @askMsQ. How would you like to #makeschooldifferent?

My One Word for 2015


This is somewhere I didn’t think I’d have to be again…

We are almost an entire month into 2015 and I have yet to blog about my One Word. I’ve known what it is for some time now, but I haven’t had the chance to talk about what it is or what it means for me. But something has happened to shed new meaning on my One Word.

The Back Story

Without going into the entire, ridiculously long story,  I chose to have LASIK surgery in 1999 to correct 14 years of myopia. I was no longer able to wear contact lenses due to extremely dry eyes, wearing glasses wasn’t my idea of a good time, and I felt like the expense would be well worth it. And worth it, it was.

For 15+ years, I enjoyed nearly perfect vision. Yes, I have floaters and I see halos around lights (especially at night) and nighttime driving is a challenge without eyedrops. But otherwise it has been all lollipops and roses and I’ve recommended LASIK to anyone who asks. My husband just had his done about two years ago, and he’s been thrilled with the results, as well. Over the past couple of months, however, I’ve noticed a change in my vision. My eyes have felt off somehow. One eye has felt weak and slightly blurry at times, and I’ve been getting headaches because of it. Let me be clear (pun intended): my vision isn’t bad. It’s just not as perfect as it was just two years ago, and sometimes it’s hard for my eyes to focus. And so I decided to be a big girl and go to the eye doctor.

I don’t know what I expected to hear. The news that the astigmatism corrected by the LASIK had returned wasn’t music to my ears, and the “I don’t recommend a LASIK touch up because it may make things worse,” prognosis took me by surprise. And then the “this is expected at your age and it isn’t going to improve,” comment just added insult to injury.

I had not gone into the eye doctor thinking I was going to walk away with a prescription for and a purchase of glasses. I spent a lot of money in 1999 to not have to wear glasses again. But like I said, I had decided to be a big girl, and that means facing the reality that I’m 6 months away from 40 and my LASIK’ed eyes aren’t what they used to be. The good news is that I can still see pretty well with uncorrected vision. The blurriness is rare and correctable by lots of blinking and waiting for my eyes to focus. But I know that, especially at night, my new glasses are going to help me get wherever it is I’m going safely.

Please note that I fully understand that getting glasses is no big deal and nothing like the health problems that some of my friends and loved ones are currently facing. But the whole feeling-sorry-for-myself-and-finding-the-silver-lining thing is part of this story.

So What’s the Word?

Four weeks ago, at the turn of the year, I had already decided that my One Word this year would be Focus. I have so much going on all the time, just like so many of you, and I tend to get distracted very easily. Sometimes, in the middle of a task, I’ll forget what I was trying to accomplish. Choosing the word focus and having an artistic rendition of the word prominently displayed by my workspace reminds me that I need to keep my priorities in check and keep my eyes on the prize– whatever that may be. I need to focus on having quality family time. I need to focus on my school work and limit distractions so that I can get my projects done faster. I need to keep my work focus on the end goal– that teachers and students are using technology effectively in the classroom– and not on all the distracting fires I put out that lead me on tangents.

There’s no way I can eliminate all distractions. I reject completely eliminating distractions, just as I reject wearing glasses again. I don’t want to have to do either of those things. So occasionally wearing these glasses will be that not-so-gentle reminder that I can have some distractions as long as I keep my focus.  I’m certain that focus will help me to be a better parent, a better student, a better teacher, a better coach, and with a little hope, a better person.