Biblionasium… Another Tech Resource (@heatherzmartin)

My husband and I are both HUGE bookworms. We’re so excited that our soon-to-be seven year old has been reading like a fiend this summer. We both love goodreads because it allows us to keep track of books we want to read and see our friends’ recommendations. I decided to look into a similar website or app for kids and came up with It allows kids to keep track of their books (want to read, reading, and completed) and also has a log where they can keep track of their progress either by time spent reading or pages read.

It has a kid-friendly interface. My son has never really used a website independently and has been able to navigate it fairly well so far. Here’s a picture of my son’s homepage.



When you sign up, you can register as a parent, a student, or an educator. The homepage for the parents and the kids are fairly similar, but the parent page has more options. I have the option to send a message, but my son doesn’t, which is nice because it means he and his friends can’t send each other anything questionable ūüôā


To be honest, I have no idea if there are any security measures if you register as a kid. I signed up as a parent and created a username and separate password for my son. The site directly stated not to use his actual name for his username, which I appreciated. His login is tied to my email address. When there’s reading activity, completed challenges, wishlist adds, or friend requests I’ll get an email. In order for someone to “friend” him, they need to have his username or my email address. There’s no way to just randomly see people or anything like that.

One aspect of this that I thought was cute was the challenges. They provide pre-made incentives or you can create your own.


When I registered him, it gave me the option of putting in a class code. I’m assuming that means teachers can track their students. In his “friends” tab, there’s a place for “friends” and a place for “adults”. ¬†I think this would be a great way to monitor students’ reading at home. You could also change the incentives to things like pajama day or free choice, etc.

I know I kind of rambled through this (which you probably expect from me at this point), so let me know if you have any questions. Also, let me know if you sign your kids up… my son would love some more “friends!”

PS. These images were brought to you by Jing ūüôā


Cultivating mathematical learners..

I read yet another article, that points to the fact, that the teacher makes all the difference.  This article pointed out a few specifics that aid success and increased motivation to learn in a mathematical setting.  The instructional goal should be hyperfocused on understanding versus completion.  It was found to lead to less avoidance behavior when focused on concept understanding rather than completion.  Also, when teachers focused on completion, challenge appeared to be lower.

Meyer, D. & Turner, J. (2004) saw positive results when teachers focused on the effort in mathematics instead of ability.  And to create successful learners in mathematics, teachers need to have challenging learning, which focuses on mathematical understanding, while cultivation positive attitudes towards math.

This is something that makes me angry when teachers don’t teach with the focus I referenced above. ¬†Educators need to be breaking down these barriers. ¬†Every kid can be successful, every kid can learn. ¬†They just need the right teacher with the right instructional practices that creates the right environment.

I know I’m on the right path towards my dissertation…reading these articles because I love reading on this topic…however, the study..what..and how…. still evades me..

Meyer, D. & Turner, J. (2004) A classroom perspective on the principles of moderate challenge in mathematics. The journal of Educational Research. Jul/Aug. 2004; 97, 6, pg. 311-318.



Time to stop asking if online is ‘effective’

When my program made the switch from residential courses to online, I was concerned.¬† How will I engage students? What will the content look like?¬† How will I know if students are learning or struggling? What about teaching the ‚Äėsoft-skills‚Äô? Will it be effective?

So, I can understand where others are coming from when I hear their concerns and judgements of online education (revisit our first twitter conversation to recap many of these opinions).  It look me awhile to get behind this change, but now I am fully onboard with quality learning opportunities in any modality.

I was thrilled to read a piece by Haynes (2017) on the Inside Higher Education website today.

‚ÄúIt is time to stop asking if online learning is as ‚Äúeffective‚ÄĚ as traditional face-to-face learning.¬†Teaching and learning work best when faculty, instructional staff, and students are invested and engaged. What is often lost when we ask the ‚Äúeffective‚ÄĚ question is that investment and engagement are modality-independent qualities‚ÄĚ. ¬†¬†I would agree about the modality-independent qualities.¬† Good teaching matters, everywhere. ¬†My initially stated concerns could easily be applied to online or residential courses.

Haynes also believes the fear and judgment stems from the disruption online education causes.¬† Again, I agree.¬† Online is different from how many of us learned.¬† It is a lot for most institutions to tackle, both in scaling quality programs and in providing professional development for educators (at every level). ¬†Additionally, there are many bad (really, bad) programs. ¬†However…..inadequate residential classrooms are numerous as well.

Online education and the perception of it is fascinating to me.  So, I am wondering, what are your biggest concerns about this platform? But before you answer, think about if your concern could really be applied to both modalities.

One final thought:¬†¬† this article suggests, ‚Äúthere is no established scholarly consensus that online education poses substantive risk to the attainment of student learning outcomes.‚Ä̬† An interesting contradiction to the previous articles we have read. @kwalley_au

What advice would you give to a new teacher? @KHsocialstudies

This  particular blog post is not the orginal post I had intended to share.  My original post discussed a topic that some of you might have felt was inappropriate.  I reached out to Darryl, who was supportive of my original endeavor, but after some reflection, I have decided to switch gears.  Instead, I thought I would blog about a topic that all of us can relate to: Being a new teacher and all of the advice that gets thrown at new teachers.

I am working on pulling some resources for my new teachers in the fall, and I came across this post from Edutopia. ¬†You have to check this out! ¬†The artilce, ‚ÄúTwenty Tidbits for New Teachers‚ÄĚ ¬†

Before I read the article, I had a few pieces of advice in mind that I thought the article would touch on like providing quality feedback to students, providing exciting opportunities for students to engage with the content, etc. However, the article did not mention any of these. In fact, of the twenty ‚Äútidbits,‚ÄĚ 8 of them were technological in nature (41% of them!). ¬†¬†More specifically, the list was:

  • Seek your passion
  • Be a 21st Century Educator
  • Build Relationships
  • Communicate
  • Collaborate
  • Get a mentor
  • Ask for Help
  • Be willing to Grow
  • Blog for Yourself
  • Blog with your students
  • Make time for R & R
  • Start a Wiki
  • Use Skype
  • Join Twitter
  • Participate in Twitter Chats
  • Join a community
  • Start a YouTube Channel
  • Participate in Free Online Professional Development
  • Journal About your experience
  • Don’t be afraid to fail

So, what do you think about this list? ¬†Does it mirror the advice you were given when you were a newbie? I remember hearing the ‚Äúdon‚Äôt smile until after Napoleon dies.‚ÄĚ To a world history teacher, that means upon returning from Christmas Break.

I would like to hear from you all. Is there any advice missing from this list?  Please tweet me your one piece of advice- I will add this to the list that I am going to share with my teachers in the fall.

Thanks in advance!




Dabbs, L. (2011) Twenty tidbits for new teachers. Edutopia. Retrieved from

Technology isn’t magic…but it can be..

When I was in the midst of reading up on if/how/when technology can helps low-socioeconomic areas, I came across that article titled,¬†Asking the hard questions about technology use and education¬†(Ehrmann, S., 1999). ¬†I found a statement from the article particular powerful that I will quote at length. ¬†“Technologies such as computers (or pencils) don’t have predetermined impacts; it’s their uses that influence outcomes. ¬†This statement seems obvious, but many institutions act as though the mere presence of technology will improve learning.” (Ehrmann, S., 1999, p.32).

Those two sentences sum up the problem and power of technology in the classroom. ¬†Darryl has repeatedly asked us in class, why have tech in ed if it doesn’t create greater results. ¬†And my response now is that, it can, but on a classroom by classroom basis. ¬†You can’t teach in the same exact manner you did previous to the technology and expect different results. ¬†That’s insanity right? ¬†You need to adapt and evolve whatever curriculum to make it more rigorous with the help of technology, more integrated, more engaging, more everything if you want greater results. ¬† I think one of the most powerful possibilities with technology is the ability to motivate, differentiation and challenge students. ¬†Instead of asking a class to create a the same project on the same topic because of limited resources before. ¬†Students could now conduct their own research on a topic of interest to them and showcase their learning in a variety of ways which would also increase their interest and motivation and deepen their love for learning or their passion for whatever interests they may have that will enhance their possibilities for the future.

In closing, technology isn’t a magic wand, magic bullet, whatever cliche you may want to use. ¬†But, I think it can be with the right instructor. ¬†Hasn’t that always been the case though? Great teachers always find a way to make learning magical and inspire their students…

Ehrmann, S. (1999) Asking the hard questions about technology use and education. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, Vol. 91 (3)


Discussing the “Elephant” in the Classroom @KHsocialstudies

I recently listened to a podcast by a teacher named Larry Ferlazzo. ¬†The title of his podcast was, ‚ÄúTeaching What Matters Most: Discussing the Elephant in the Classroom.‚ÄĚ ¬†Throughout my research so far, I have not come across Ferlazzo‚Äôs name, so I was interested in what he had to say about controversial issues. ¬†I must admit, after creating my own podcast, I have become much more likely to listen to podcasts now than I did in the past. ¬†I really like the conversational nature, and have enjoyed listening to them.

In this particular podcast, Ferlazzo interviews three teachers about their opinions regarding teaching controversial issues into class. ¬†The teachers were all in agreement that controversial issues should be added to the curriculum. ¬†Ferlazzo states at the onset of the podcast that the discussion of such issues is similar to the cat in the Mark Twain story who didn‚Äôt want to touch a hot stove, and also didn‚Äôt want to touch a cold stove, either. ¬†He likens this story to the teacher who is overly wary about doing something out of the ‚Äúnorm‚ÄĚ in the classroom setting.

The topics Ferlazzo suggests can be controversial are those surrounding, race, politics, and social justice.  Many of these topics, he admits, are ignored by teachers because teachers don’t want to put their careers in jeopardy.

The first teacher interviewed, Lorena German, shared how she prepared students for classroom discussions surrounding controversial issues.  German states it is essential to prepare students prior to the unit.  By spending time with the preparation piece, students gain confidence, and then are more likely to share with the class.  Based on my own classroom experience, I can completely relate to the strength of this particular instructional strategy.  When teaching students about the Holocaust, I was able to hold genuine classroom discussions with students about the atrocities committed by  Adolf Hitler.  These conversations, however, would not have been possible without the prior background information.  We then were also able to discuss Holocaust deniers.  Students were able to make their own judgements based on the information and sources that had been presented in class.

In addition to preparing students in advance, German referred to the physical layout of the classroom and how important the room set-up was in having a deep conversation with students.  I often felt that sitting in a circle, along with the students, assisted in this process. The idea that I was physically at the same level as the students made a difference.  

The second teacher, Adeyemi Stembridge, mentioned how she handled controversial issues in the elementary classroom. ¬†The example she provided was the NFL players who were not respectfully standing for the National Anthem. ¬†Stembridge maintained that students need time to research a particular issue. ¬†She utilizes this time to discuss valid and reputable sources . ¬†These opportunities, she said, are imperative and ‚Äúgreat experiences for students‚ÄĚ.

The final teacher interview, Steve Lazar, really hit home with my personal beliefs.  He said, if we don’t share with students what is really happening in the world, teachers and education in general comes off as frauds.  He argued teachers should not ignore or avoid controversial topics in school.  When I reflect on his statement, I think back to the book, Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Lowen.  (If you are unfamiliar with this book, visit: It is the entire 318-page book- free.

Are we lying to our students by leaving out important pieces of history because they make us feel uncomfortable?  When you reflect on your high school history class, do you ever feel cheated that you weren’t taught the entire truth about certain historical topics? 

Larry Ferlazzo concluded the podcast by providing an interesting way of teaching students to handle controversial issues in the classroom.  Lazar suggests that anytime a controversial issue is going to get brought into class, to invite another teacher into the classroom and have the students assign the teachers a side.  The teachers, then, would take sides and argue their points, stressing how to make an argument.  The idea is to teach students that it is not about who is right, but how to respectfully argue and disagree with others.

Overall, I really enjoyed this podcast, and will definitely add Steve Lazar as someone I should research further.

Thanks for reading!


Ferlazzo, L. (Producer) (2017, May 29). Teaching what matters most: Discussing the elephant in the classroom [Audio podcast]. rRtrieved from

What do non-musicians think? @SaraGFunk3


I stumbled‚Äč across this ad for college on Facebook from some friends of mine. It went viral in the music community, with heated arguments for & against the message.

The message? You’re going to be a music major? Good luck with that. As a music and humanities teacher I find myself torn with this recruiting tool. On one hand it insinuates that a degree in the arts is useless. On the other hand, it makes a point I never heard growing up: you’re training to be a specific teacher. The jobs to be a rockstar will not knock down your door.

It’s a constant internal battle for me, as I learned a great deal from my ‘useless’ classical saxophone performance master’s. My final question on comprehensive exams haunts me to this day: “explain why classical music is dying, and why the saxophone will never play a part in this world”. It left me shattered in the end to say the least. When I went home with my masters it took me three years to find a waitressing job and a steady performing gig. Did you know that if I wanted to be a hobo in downtown Chicago, I’d have to audition for a permit? To occupy a certain amount of space I’d audition next to someone who’s played their entire life and most likely be turned down.

I was getting hopeless until I started teaching. I learned the hard way that my degree was training me to teach something very specific, not play careless whisper to screaming crowds.

In this regard, the ad speaks to me. I still am unsure of how to guide my students now as they embark on the arts, an uncertain future at best. Everyone seems to agree they are vital to learn for creativity and development, but should we still be offering degrees in these areas?

Everything looks different now…

20170531_113322This summer I have decided to do some personal reading and catch up on some recommended books and love overdue on the must read list…. ¬†Even though the process of this doctoral program can feel overwhelming. ¬†I really like to take a step back, take it scholarly article by article, class by class, week by week and just enjoy the process so to speak…as much as possible. ¬†This isn’t a race…and I’ve never been one to be first at much. ¬†I like to do things my own way and finish near the front, but rarely first.

I also feel like it’s important though to keep dreaming, keep your eye on the prize. ¬†And why I began this program was to move up the University level and work with future educators and pass along my love and passion for the world of teaching and education.

It is amazing how as I read now, I am reading with such a critical eye. ¬†This book is a research based book that studies what the best college teachers due and it’s funny now as I read…now I see…Method….Theory…, where a semester ago it was glaring at me on each page. ¬†It’s incredible to me that as I learn new things how whole new worlds open up to me that allows me to look through a different lens…while seeing how little I know…about so much….:)



Financial burdens @SaraGFunk3

Here is yet again another story of financial hardship. I am particularly enamored by this issue because I was clueless jumping into college.

The story covers a would-be Northwestern student, which of course comes with a hefty price tag. I could go into affordability measures, but I’d like to focus on the story since I wish I was smart enough to realize what this student did earlier.

My top three schools did NOT include Western Illinois University. I was accepted and going to either Berklee, Roosevelt or University of Iowa. After visiting once I remember thinking, I’ll go anywhere but WIU. But then the financial aid offers came in. My parents started whispering. Most importantly, I met the teachers. What it came down to in the end was money. I didn’t realize it then, but I do now.

I was pushed and recruited heavily for WIU, and when I recieved a “full ride”, the highest honor possible in the music department, I felt special. I thought I would save tons of money, with a really vague concept of how much money was really being spent. I still took out loans for books, materials and everything a “full ride” didn’t cover, which was a lot. Then graduate school was pushed heavily on me again, with the promise of two graduate assistantships. Again, my mind thought wow I’m going to save so much money! In the end it was a major distraction to what I was doing with my life.

I often wonder, especially being in debt with loans as I am now, how different things would be if I went to Berklee or Roosevelt. Most of all, I wish I had been cogniscent enough to do the math early on and really weigh the pros and cons that come with each school.

I’m elated to be where I am now and know that this path led me here, but a story like this still makes me wonder about how my life could’ve been different. I would never say I want a different life now, just curiosity talking. If everyone’s in debt, what’s the difference between a little debt and a ton? Does paying for that big name school pay off?

A case for academic freedom? Florida. @SaraGFunk3

I would encourage everyone to check out this story, which I may be behind on finding. The article asserts that teachers, principals and other educational stakeholders are leaving Florida in mass numbers due to frustrations that are arising from accountability measures.

The article points to standardized testing, angry parents and confused educators for this issue. Interviews focus on educators leaving Florida, implying a state problem, but isn’t this the constant problem of balancing academic freedom with accountability? Couldn’t this easily be Illinois? How can we rectify this problem of talented teachers leaving the profession to become sales people or the like?