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?

More Talking Objects? Yes– With Yakit Kids!

Yakit_iconYakit Kids is an app by Freak’n Genius that lets students take photos of inanimate objects, give them faces, and make them talk. It is similar to Chatterpix Kids, which I have also featured on this blog, but it has some added functions that make it another good choice for animated videos, the most important one being that students can create multiple scenes in one Yakit Kids Video.

How Does YakIt Kids Work?

The app opens with a very obvious “Start New” button that prompts students to begin.

IMG_1630Students can then take a photo using the camera on the iPad, choose a photo from their camera roll, or search the Web for an image. Image search, however, is considered an “Adult” feature. A warning is provided and the added step of “press-and-hold” is required in order to do a Web photo search. Each time I attempted to do a Web search, however, I got a “Search Failed” notice even though my wifi was fully connected. Student can also start with a pre-created scene.Yakit_add_photosOnce the photo is taken or selected, students are then taken to a screen where they will add a mouth. They can create a mouth on something that already has amouth, or they can choose from three pre-created mouths. If students swipe up while on this screen, they will also see different eyes and noses they can add. They will also be able to add a talking character, animated special effects, and props to their scene.
Yakit_MouthIMG_1638If students choose to create their own mouth, they will zoom the photo to line up with the mouth. The photo will get very large and it will seem awkward, but it’s supposed to be large. Tap the “next” button in the upper right-hand corner to adjust the movement of the mouth. Each of the dots moves separately along the mouth, and the chin line can be adjusted up or down. This all controls how the mouth moves in the next phase of recording voice. Students can also test what the mouth will look like when it talks by holding the “test” button at the right. The small inset photo provides a demo.Yakit_test_buttonStudents can continue to add characters, facial features, props and special effects until they are satisfied with the scene, and then they press the green record button. They get a 3-second countdown, and they can record a scene for 30 seconds.Yakit_recordOnce students are finished recording, they will hear a preview of the recording. They can play the scene again by pressing the play button in the middle of the screen. They are also able to delete the scene if they wish, edit the scene by adding additional elements (which requires them to record the scene again after they edit), re-record the voice, change the pitch of the voice, or add a new scene. If they add a new scene, they will go through the entire process again. This puts together multiple segments of Yakits within the same video– an added bonus!IMG_1644When students are finished entirely, they tap the green “next” button and they are then able to save the video to the camera roll. Students can tap “more” and they will get the “adults only” warning. “More” allows students to upload finished products to multiple other apps such as Google Classroom, Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox, or other apps that use video such as iMovie or Explain Everything.


 Common Core Connection

Along with being fun for students to use, Yakit Kids can help students to improve their communication skills while they exercise their creativity. Students are able to use the app to show what they know about a topic or a concept they are learning about. Specific Common Core Anchor Standards include:

Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Writing standards can also be addressed using Yakit if the teacher requires students to write a script before recording. This is always a good idea because it allows students to rehearse before recording, and it also provides students an opportunity to organize their thoughts before trying to record off-the-cuff.

What Do You Think?

Have you tried Yakit Kids? How are you and your students using it in the classroom?

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?

Visual Storytelling with Adobe Slate (Now Spark Page)

Spark Page icon

Adobe Slate (now Spark Page), a new app from the design powerhouse that is Adobe, allows students to create simple visual stories that can include text, photos, photo grids, and links to other websites. The images students use can be images they have taken themselves and have in their camera roll, or they can do a Creative Commons image search directly in the app. This is a great way to search; Not only does the app search the Creative Commons, it also includes a citation for the images used at the bottom of the product the student creates. In order to use the app, students must have an Adobe ID, or the teacher must create a classroom Adobe ID account for all students to use.

How does Spark Page Work?

The home screen of Spark Page looks very much like Spark Video (was Adobe Voice). There are two tabs at the top of the screen— an area for students to explore projects made by others and one for students to find their own projects. There is also a very large “Create” button at the top.Slate_create

The first step is to add a title and/or subtitle and a cover image for the story. Slate_opening_page

Tapping the tiny + signs allow students to add different types of media— images, photo grids, text, or links. Plus signs remain in between each type of media added so that other media can be added before or after the previous media (rather rearranging the media).Slate_+signs

When students add text, they have the options of adding bullet points, a numbered list, quote text, header text, or regular paragraph text. slate_formattingIf students wish to add a link, they will type in a title that will appear on the link button as well as the link URL.Slate_links

Students have many options when they add images to their story. Students can use images that are already on their iPads, they can use the camera to take a photo, or they can do an image search. Adobe Slate only searches images that have a Creative Commons license. When a photo has been chosen, a small i will appear at the bottom of the image to show the attribution information.slate_attributionOther options for images include how they will be displayed. One is to have the image be a “window.” Most of the time, when swiping up through the story, the entire story will scroll. When adding an image as a window, the image gets attached to the background and the rest of the story moves around it. You will need to experiment with it to get a better idea of what this means. Students can also change the focal point of the image by dragging the button in the center and watching the tiny window in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. When they are happy with the image, they will tap Done.Slate_windowThere are other options when displaying images.

Slate_image_optionsThe last step is to share the Page. Tap the share button in the right corner for the sharing options. Sharing can be over social media (not necessarily recommended), or students can email a link if email is enabled on the device. Other options are to copy the link to the clipboard and paste it somewhere else (like on a website or blog) and the last option is to copy the embed code. This is a great option if your kids are blogging, especially using Kidblog, because they can copy the embed code directly into Kidblog and share the Page that way.

Common Core Connection

When using creation apps, whether or not the app helps students meet Common Core State Standards depends up on how the app is being used. An app that allows for students to author visual stories and share a message using images and text best addresses Writing Anchor Standard 6: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6– Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others. However, another way this app can be used is for students to show their understanding of characters in literature, which addresses Reading Anchor Standard 3: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3– Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text. Refer to your grade level standards for specifics.

What Do You Think?

Spark Page has some limitations. One of the major limitations is that students need to be logged into an account to use it. Another is that Pages can only be shared through email, links (hooked to a QR Code, perhaps), or by embedding into another site. This can cause problems for the novice user, but with some technical support, I see students being able to use this app to produce some really nice visual stories.

Do you agree? Have you used Spark Page with students? What do you think of it?

Here’s my finished product:
Sharing Your Work

**Post updated on 9/13/16

Curate the Web with Flipboard

FlipboardThe more students use mobile devices in the classroom to find information, the more important it becomes for students to curate resources they find on the Internet. There are many apps and tools that allow students to curate, including Pinterest and Evernote. Flipboard is another tool for students to use, where they create magazines around specific content that they determine.

How Does Flipboard Work?

Flipboard is a Web tool as well an iPad app that allows the user to create a digital magazine. Teachers and students create accounts in Flipboard, which allows them to follow users, follow magazines, and most importantly, create magazines of their own. Each time a student flips an article into a Flipboard magazine, he or she can make comments on the article. This provides other viewers with some context—why the article is being flipped or what the article means to the student. This can help teachers follow the students’ thought processes as they browse student magazines.

Getting Started

Download the app or visit Flipboard on the Web. The process is a little different on the Web, however, and the following images and directions will be for the iPad app. Choose “Get Started” to create your account. Flipboard_Get_StartedYou’ll be required to choose at least 5 topics to follow, and then choose Next to create the account.Flipboard_Choose_TopicsYou’ll be able to use Facebook, Twitter, or an email account to log in. Students should definitely use their school-administered email account to sign up if they have one, or you can have create students’ accounts by using the gmail +user trick.

Once you have created your account, tap the red ribbon in the upper right-hand corner for the menu.Flipboard_menu You can create new magazines to curate, or you can find other magazines to follow by using the “discover more” option on the left. You can also find the magazines, people, and topics you are following as well as see notifications for activity on your magazines.  Flipboard_Menu_ItemsAfter you’ve followed some magazines, you’ll be able to flip through them and read them as if they were actually magazines. Just start swiping left or right and your magazine will respond.To read an article, tap on the title of the article. The plus sign allows you to add the article to one of your own magazines.Flipboard_remixAs students are on the Web doing research, they can flip articles directly into their magazines. When they are on the website they want to save, they choose the share button (in Safari). Tap the Flipboard icon.Flipboard_Web_FlipperStudents can then type in a comment or discussion point, and choose the magazine where they wish for the article to go. Tap the word magazine to change the magazine if necessary.Flipboard_Web_Flipper_2Flipboard also allows magazine owners to add collaborators, meaning multiple students can curate resources into the same magazine. This is a great idea for gathering resources for a group project. Three of my colleagues and I worked with some fifth grade students to do just this. If you want to invite others to contribute to a magazine you own, tap on the magazine and choose “Invite People to Contribute.” Flipboard will send an email to those you want to contribute, and they will be added once the accept the invitation. Flipboard_email_invitationIf you want others to see your magazine but not follow it, tap the share button at the bottom of the magazine and choose Share via Email.” This is also how you can delete a magazine.Flipboard_Share_via_email

Common Core Connection and Classroom Ideas

Have students search for articles on a specific topic for a project. As they flip the articles into a magazine they’ve created on a topic, make sure they write a comment that cites evidence in the article. The comment can be a conclusion or an opinion or argument, as long as they cite the source in their comment. This addresses Reading Anchor Standard 1.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

To address Reading Anchor Standard 2, students can do the same type of assignment and comment by discussing a theme or by providing a summary of the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

As students become more versed in using Flipboard and curating their resources into the appropriate places, almost every Reading Anchor Standard can be addressed. Students need to add their comments as they flip resources into their magazines, and those are the pieces that the teacher can use when analyzing student work.

What Do You Think?

How have you used Flipboard with your students? Share some magazines in the comments. Looking for a great magazine to follow? Check out this one on Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology by Dr. Abbie Brown and Dr. Tim Green.


Lock Your Google Docs on the iPad

passcode_driveEvery so often, I’ll stumble upon something that’s not-so-new, and think to myself, “I cannot believe I didn’t notice this before!” Today was one of those days. As I was putting together slides for a presentation I’ll be doing at the Annual CUE Conference about Maximizing Google Drive for the iPad, I tapped the settings gear instead of my name when trying to switch accounts. I’m so glad I did– I was quite thrilled by what I found.

Lock Your Docs!

If your students are sharing iPads and they are also using Google Drive, you might want to have each of your students place a passcode lock on their Drive. That way, other students will not have the ability to accidentally access another students’ work. Start by tapping the menu icon at the top left of the screen or by swiping the screen to the right to reveal the menu. Tap the settings gear icon next to the user’s name.IMG_1376The settings for the account will pop up in the center of the screen. Tap on Passcode Lock.

IMG_1377On the next screen, you will swipe the passcode lock to the on position.

IMG_1378You will then add a 4-digit passcode for the account. You will be prompted to enter it twice.

IMG_1379Once you have put in a passcode, you will be taken back to the passcode lock screen. This is the same screen where you started, but now there are some additional options, including Change Passcode if a user wants to change their code. Tap the “Always Lock” button and wait until you see a blue checkmark appear next to it.

IMG_1380Now you can tap on the back arrow and return to Drive. Any time there is a change in user or the account has been idle for 15 minutes, you will need to put the passcode in to access work in any of the Drive apps– Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drive.

It’s important that students remember their 4-digit code, but if they do happen to forget the code, they can always remove the account from the device and start over again.

What Do You Think?

Are you using Google Drive on iPads with multiple users? Have you used the Passcode Lock feature?

Create Videos with Shadow Puppet EDU

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 8.59.09 AMShadow Puppet Edu is a fantastic app for helping students make videos to show their learning about a topic. The app allows students to use images found on their camera roll, on the Web, or through specific educational databases. Students then record their voice to narrate the video about their topic. All they need to do next is share their work!

How Does Shadow Puppet Edu Work?

The landing page of the app contains a couple of sample videos as well as the large Create New button. Additionally, at the bottom of the screen is an Ideas page. This section provides numerous activity ideas that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards, which are provided for you if you tap on one of the suggested ideas.Shadow_landing_page

Shadow_activity_ideasAfter tapping the Create New button, students begin choosing images for their project. They can choose from their own camera roll if there are images and/or videos (up to 30 seconds) they’d like to use. On the left side of the screen are all the different types of searches students can do. The app provides access to images from the Library of Congress, Met Museum of Art, The British Library, NASA and NOAA. Students can also search images on the Web, Flickr Creative Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and Open Clipart. This gives them a plethora of options.

Shadow_image_pageStudents can do a map search to find a specific location, and they can view it in three different ways— standard view, satellite view, and hybrid view, which provides a satellite view with street names and areas of interest. To capture the map and use it in the project, students tap on the camera button at the bottom of the screen.

Shadow_mapWhen students find images they want to use, they tap on the image and it will jump into the timeline. When students are ready to record, they tap Next. Students can record their voice and add text, music from iTunes, or background music from the app. As they record, students can write on each slide to highlight different areas of the page.

After students finish recording, they can watch their completed video. As long as the “Save to Camera Roll” setting is turned on (it is on by default), the video will automatically save to the camera roll when the students tap Done.shadow_finished_2Students can also tap the No Thanks, I’ll Share Later button at the bottom. In this case, they can return to the video and share by tapping the icon in the upper right hand corner of the selected video.

Shadow_shareShadow Puppet EDU also provides images credits at the end of each video, as long as that option is turned on in the settings. This helps students recognize that even though they are using certain images for free, they are still responsible for practicing good digital citizenship by including citations. Tap the settings gear on the landing page to make changes to the settings.

Shadow_settingsHere’s a video I created using Shadow Puppet EDU about how to use Shadow Puppet EDU.

Common Core Connection

One of the great things about Shadow Puppet EDU is that there are many Common Core Connections. As is the case with most creation apps, students can use Shadow Puppet EDU to show their learning of anything and everything in order to address specific standards at each grade level. Teachers will also appreciate that the app provides options for projects and lets the user know which Common Core Standards that particular project addresses. Most of the projects students will create using Shadow Puppet EDU will address these standards:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience, and
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5: Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

There are additional examples of lesson ideas, including the standards they address, on the Shadow Puppet EDU website.

What Do You Think?

How have you used Shadow Puppet EDU in your classroom?

Annotate PDFs on the iPad with Adobe Reader

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 2.08.22 PMStudents in my school district have spent a lot of time with Close Reading, and they have been learning how to annotate passages as they read them to aid in comprehension. Along with this, many teachers are trying to become as paperless (or paperlite) as possible by distributing documents to students via the iPad. Close reading on the iPad has been a challenge thus far, but Adobe Reader can definitely help with that! There are other apps that allow students to annotate documents, but the best part about Adobe Reader is that it’s free!

How Does Adobe Reader Work?

First, students need to get the PDF they want to annotate into Adobe Reader. They can do this by either downloading the PDF, or by choosing the send button, and then “Open In.” The opening page will be a list of the documents that have been opened in Adobe Reader.Adobe_Reader_landingDocuments can be organized by tapping the edit button. You’ll be able to create folders, move documents into folders, re-name documents, and delete documents using the edit button.Adobe_reader_menuSelect a document, and it will open full-screen. Tap in the middle of the screen to bring up the menu in this part of the app. One of the best features in this menu is the search tool. Tap the tool and type in a word to search, and Adobe reader will highlight the word each time it appears. Just tap the arrows down at the bottom of the screen to advance to the next instance of the word.Adobe_reader_menu2Tap the annotation icon, and a menu will appear along the bottom of the page. This menu contains all the possible tools for annotation. When you choose a tool, look to the top of the screen to see what to do with it. Students can add “sticky” notes, highlights, strike-throughs, and typed text. They can also draw on the page and they can even add their signature using this app. To move on after drawing on the page, be sure to choose “Done” in the top right corner.adobe_reader_menu3If a student makes an annotation and wants to remove it, just tap the annotation. A short menu will appear above the annotation– Clear, Color, or When students are finished annotating, they can choose the “Open In” button again, and send it to many other apps they have available to them, including Google Drive.

Common Core Connection

As mentioned above, Adobe Reader allows students to easily annotate PDFs, which means they can use the iPad for Close Reading. This helps students with their understanding of complex text. Using Adobe Reader is also a way to have students read and annotate multiple sources on the same topic. If students don’t have access to Google Drive for collaboration with peers, they could use Adobe Reader instead. In this case, students could take advantage of the Camera to PDF feature on the home screen.

What Do You Think?

Have you used Adobe Reader in your classroom? How are your students using it?

Tell Animated Stories with (Now Free!) Toontastic

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 12.28.13 PMKids love to tell stories. I have found that their stories either go around and around in circles or they end abruptly rather than follow a plot sequence. The app, Toontastic, a storytelling app (that just went completely free!), addresses the “plot problem” in a simple way using cute, animated toys and lots of fun backgrounds as settings for stories.

How does Toontastic Work?

Toontastic is a free storytelling app by LaunchPad Toys, which was just acquired by Google. It has many different settings that students can use to tell their stories, or students can draw their own. There are also many characters, called toys, that students can use. The toys fit with the setting themes.

Toontastic walks the students through a basic plot sequence after they choose Create Cartoon.IMG_1196First, students decide whether they want to edit a story they’ve already started or if they want to create something new.IMG_1198Next, they set up the scenes in the story. Tap a section of the story arc, and the edit paintbrush and the trashcan appear. Notice the use of the red and green icons for editing or deleting– this is great touch for our youngest students.IMG_1197Students can create a scene and then record the animation and voices, or they can put the scenes together and record the animation once all the scenes are created. Each time a student adds a scene, they can choose the same setting as before, or they can choose an entirely new one. As students create scenes and finish recording them, the app returns to the Story Arc.   Characters can start on screen, or they can start off in the “wings,” and enter the scene as the student drags them in. Dragging characters animates them. Students can also resize their characters with their fingers by pinching or zooming on the characters.toontasticOnce a scene has been recorded, students will have the option of including background music. If they don’t want the music, they just tap the flashing arrow in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. Dragging the scene up or down increases the intensity level of music; for example, “frustrated” is the first level, but dragging the scene up increases the level to “enraged.”toontastic 2toontastic 4In addition to all of the background settings that already exist within the app, students are also able to use the camera to take photos. This way, they can pre-draw the story’s setting, or they can set their animated story in an actual location.

If you have used Toontastic previously, you’ll know that the only way to share ‘Toons was to upload them to ToonTube. Now, however, students can save their creations to the camera roll! I can’t even tell you how happy this makes me!This means they can app smash Toontastic into other apps. If you have Green Screen by Do Ink, student could also record their animations on a green background and use them in the Green Screen app. IMG_1195Students can save directly to camera roll from the start screen, as well. They just choose the share button underneath the video thumbnail, and as long as a recording has been done, the video will export immediately.

Common Core Connection

Common Core Writing Standard 6 has students using digital tools to produce and publish writing, and Speaking and Listening Standard 5 requires students to make strategic use of digital media in presentations. Using Toontastic helps to address both of these standards. Students are creating cartoon movies in this app, but in order to do so, they first must write the situation. There isn’t a length limit for the stories students create, which means that they could create a Toontastic story as a small part of a larger presentation. The app is simple and intuitive enough for the youngest students, but it can also be used to tell sophisticated stories, which makes it a winner for all of K-12.

What Do You Think?

How have you used Toontastic in your classroom?

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.