Get Connected - Make Connections

Quick Classroom Activity: Photography & Poetry


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Here is an activity that can be a class starter or center or a stand alone assignment that allows students and teachers to incorporate technology and writing.

Have the students go out with their iPad or mobile device and capture two images that they they believe compliment each other. Next, using a photo blending app such as the iOS app Photoblend, edit the images to their liking and have them use the image as inspiration to create a poem. Students can save their edited image to their camera roll and them import into a writing or presentation app that allows them to combine their image with their writing that they can then share with the teacher and the world!

Here is my example poem:

On The Tracks
When I’m on the tracks I can go where I want
I dream Arizona, Boston or even Vermont
When I’m on the tracks I feel the movement of the train
With every forward bump and sway there is excitement to gain
When I’m on the tracks it reminds me of my past
As kid putting pennies on the track to get smashed
Most of all it just peaceful with lives moving about
At the end of their journeys with with families no doubt

Care enough to know that teaching…

There is absolutely nothing like engaging with motivated educators, sharing ideas and making a stronger workforce of teachers. It is evident of a teacher’s will to improve on their craft when they arrive early on a Saturday morning, either towards the end of their school year or in some cases already on their summer vacation.

The 3rd Annual Think, Create, Share Conference at Cal State Fullerton was kicked off by the very engaging and inspiring poetry of Taylor Mali . Mali is a former classroom teacher who can now be found speaking all over the world, reciting his poetry and supporting the teaching profession.

It is the teaching profession and the educators who make the wheel of learning go round and round, that inspire me, to care enough to share ideas and make a forward moving difference in education.

This is a simple message to all teachers. Care enough to know that teaching….


  • is demanding

  • is rewarding

  • is not following a step-by-step procedural textbook

  • is not over when the last bell rings

  • requires you to be open to new ideas

  • requires you to love children

  • requires you to differentiate

  • requires you to be early and leave late

  • requires you to stop making excuses

  • requires you to create or find solutions

  • requires you to engage with technology

  • requires you to seek out the latest teaching strategies

  • requires you to love teaching

Thank you to all educators who inspire me and thank to all educators who care enough to know what teaching is!

Recap of a math workshop: Math in a PLC at Work

This is a recap of my observations and notes at a mathematics workshop in Pasadena, CA. This was by far the best math workshop/conference that I have ever attended. One of the primary reasons I felt this workshop was elite was the way it made me feel and act as a professional educator. The main catalyst of the presentations that I attended was Juli Dixon (@thestrokeofluck) who is a dynamic speaker and thought provoker. The information received mainly revolved around how to develop a strong math PLC at work.

  • When team building sign-up for a duty that compliments your
  • Be aware of sellout stories when building strong learning communities. Stay away from phrases such as ‘nothing I can do,’ ‘it’s not my fault’ and ‘it’s all your fault.’
  • Here are what high leverage teams should be saying: What do we want students to know, how will we know they know it, how will we respond?
  • Checking for understanding without meaningful feedback for the student is diagnostic not formative
  • Students need to take action on feedback so there is growth and learning
  • If you give homework, make it formative so students get feedback that goes beyond diagnosis
  • Focus on strategies for struggling students in math. Fluency takes a back seat for the moment & will support all learning over time
  • Model the mathematics by mathematizing the lesson. This means use math language
  • Time to come back to the math practices and use them during instruction
  • We have an understanding that word problems make math more difficult when in fact it makes it more believable & supportive
  • To make sense of a student explanation and check for understanding, ask students “what did he/she say.”
  • If you dont hear what you need to hear in a discussion, guide the conversation w/ “I heard…” Even if you did not hear it from them at least the students have a buy in
  • You have to ask students questions when students are right, not just when they are wrong
  • Scaffold questions to students, don’t bail them out too quickly
  • Create enough imbalance that a student gets back to equilibrium w/o turning the student off
  • When creating math tasks, make sure that you keep common errors in mind to treat the misconception.
  • During every math lesson choose only one or two math practices to focus on. Others will be there, but keep the focus!
  • Dont teach students to use key words in math. Allow them to think abstractly & quantitatively

In Summary, create high level cognitive demand questions balanced with lower level cognitive demand questions that grade level teams agree on. Introduce more word problems as tasks to teach math strategies. Finally, support place value, fact strategies, addition and subtraction with re-grouping and fractions as a basis for math fluency.

iPad Mount Features

The following video discusses the features of two iPad mounts that I have used with my students in the classroom.


Creating Batch/Bulk QR Codes


There are a lot of easy to use QR code generators out there to be used in education. Some of them even create large batches of codes by simply cutting and pasting. There is one small problem with most of these generators if you are creating more than one, more often than not you lose track of which QR code belongs to whom. As a teacher, one way to double up on your productivity and create batch QR codes identified by a student name is to create them in a spreadsheet.

Here is how:
1. Collect student’s digital projects via a Google form (optional)

2. The form that students fill out requests that students submit a link to their project which ends up on a spreadsheet.

3. Once in the spreadsheet, the teacher simply pastes the the following QR Code formula (not sure who created the formula but here is a link to where it is stored online: in the last cell of the first row of cells.

QR Code Formula

4. Look at the formula and notice that the last couple characters are A2, which refers to the cell that QR code will be made for. If the links that you want converted into QR codes are on column D2 for example, then change the last piece of code to D2.

5. Click on the cell that contains the formula. The cell will highlight and you will see a small blue box that you can click on, hold and drag down, making QR codes for every single student link just like that!

6. Lastly resize the cells horizontally and vertically to increase the size of the QR code and print.

Screenshot aided directions to create batch QR Code





Watch how to copy QR Code: QR Code Formula Copy Down (43 seconds)

Watch how to re-size QR Code: Re-size QR Code in Spreadsheet (1 minute 45 seconds)


EdCampLA – Educators Teaching Educators

On a frigid Saturday morning, droves of educators gathered in West Hollywood, CA at the The Center for Early Education to talk technology and education, all for FREE! Yup, this was an un-conference called EdCampLA, where participants are invited to post 45 minute sessions on something they are passionate about and lead a discussion, how-to or just sit back and enjoy all of the great information being delivered. The following is a second look at wonderful presentations, ideas, resources and thoughts that I was fortunate to be part of!

Evernote was the first session on my agenda and in un-conference fashion, the speaker had posted the session on Evernote but wanted to learn more about it, rather than lead the session, and quickly, educators chimed in about their experiences. Just like that we had a full blown discussion on Evernote. Evernote is an online based product that can store notes, documents, audio and much more. Use it with students, share information anywhere, anytime from multiple devices.

@nerdyteacher for hands-on experiences using Evernote
Laurence School has great resources for teachers regarding Evernote
artsonia art online gallery for displaying kid’s art (can also monetize)

Apps! App Differently
This was the second session of the day for me and as the title states, apps! Jo Ann Fox (@appeducationfox) moderated this discussion and many apps discussed. Below is a small list and some of their attributes. See the image below for a more comprehensive list of apps that were discussed in this session. My favorite by far was MyScript Calculator (see video below)

-madlip app- free version gives you 15 seconds of audio. Have students make a talking book cover using
-imovie app. Use to make trailers with your content
-explain everything
-bugsandbuttons, bugsandnumbers, etc (for lower grades)
-imotionhd for creating stop motion movies
-remind101 – a single directional text for parents and students (can set up groups and for field trips )
-vintagio (for silent films)
-creative book builder
-pickplaypost (create collages) idea: take pictures that relate objective, make collage and explain
-myscriptcalculator (Microsoft version is mathmatica for PC). My favorite of the day (see below) (cost?)

Apps mentioned in a session at EdCampLA

MyScript Calculator Demo

The 1 iPad classroom
John Stevens (@jstevens009) and Eduardo Rivera led this session on how they use a single iPad in the class to teach 8th grade and 9th grade algebra respectively. They utilize both Apple TV and/or the Reflector app to connect their iPads wirelessly to create an interactive and collaborative experience. Here are a few of the apps and resources they recommended:
-educreations and explaineverything (.99)
-appshopper (track apps for pricing)
-class dojo for participation
-Jumbo Stopwatch

After a great lunch I headed off to John Omekubo’s (@jumekubo) session on Subtext. Subtext is an app that allows students and teachers to collaborate on the same book. Students can be invited to a group by their teacher and then both parties can interact by asking questions, tagging and highlighting text , adding resources for the students and much more! Below are a few ideas and resources to support this app. turn web articles into chapters
-make an epub file

The day culminated in a Slam session, where educators stood up and presented their favorite thoughts, apps, websites or whatever they wanted to reflect on, from the day’s events. My favorite is listed below. I actually stood in line to present my slam of the day(MyScript Calculator) but @jstevens009 beat me to the punch, SLAM!
video for playing youtube
– upload any video from google using google docs

Here are some other links that might be useful for finding information on sessions that I did not attend or did not cover in this blog post. You can also peruse the EdCampLA website to search for specific information. Thanks to all of the folks @EdCampLA for a great day!

EdCAmpLA Blog
EdCAmpLA Wiki

Road to Teaching Conference: Using the iPad/iPod in Education

It was a pleasure to speak to all of the young, pre-service teachers today at Santa Ana College’s Road to Teaching Conference. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have. I am very willing to help aspiring teachers. If you decide for this to become your profession, you are joining ranks of the selfless and the very giving.

Road to Teaching Conference: Using the iPad/iPod in Education on Prezi

How To Screencast on an Apple Computer

A quick screencasting (record your screen to make a movie) tutorial “how to” on an Apple Computer (Snow Leopard or higher operating system)

Click here to view: Screencasting How To Screenshots

Twitter Interview

  • A Fresno State student is interviewing me through Twitter! Below are the questions and my responses. The Interview was recorded over the course of a few days
  • Question 1 by: Jessica Zendejas ‏ @jessica84011
    @teachusingtech Hi Mr. Diaz, I am going to begin our interview.How have you used twitter in your professional development?Thankyou #ci100
  • Question 1 response: I use Twitter on a nightly basis to improve my skills as a teacher, stay current with ongoing education news and also to help where I can professionally. Twitter is an awesome tool that allows me to reach out to teaching professionals on a daily basis and ask questions and/or provide help to those in need. I primarily follow like minded people on Twitter. What I mean by that, is that I follow people in the area of education. This allows me to ready micro-blogs that are written specifically for my area of interest.
  • Follow-up Question 1a: Jessica Zendejas ‏ @jessica84011
    @teachusingtech and why twitter, when there are so many other social media sites out there? Thanks again for your help
  • Question 1a response: You are right, there are a lot of choices when it comes to social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and so on. However, it has been my experience that Twitter allows for the most convenient and densely populated center for the type of information I am looking for. You get to populate your Twitter feed with interests that fit your needs. My needs are in the area of education and more specifically education technology and I follow like minded educators. My Twitter feed is populated with links to articles and videos, as well as 142 characters of thought provoking statements and conversations.
  • Question 2 by:Jessica Zendejas ‏ @jessica84011
    @teachusingtech Thankyou. Second question:what suggestions do you have for educators who want to use twitter as an educational resource?
  • Question 2 response: My number one suggestion would be to try it out and see if it fits your needs. I am a fan of Twitter but you may not be and that is okay. On the other hand, the education conversation needs to continue outside of the classroom and being a good educator, one who works on making a difference, takes time outside of the classroom. Therefore, some type of social media allows you to access the minds and thoughts of thousands of educators all around the world who have a similar mission. Okay back to Twitter as a resource. Another suggestion I have is to find a hash tag, which is a grouping of comments tied to a specific idea, and begin browsing through content and comment when you can to add to the discussion. You can only be better for it and you begin to form relationships with people you can count on. If you want to follow education technology conversations, a suggestion would be #edtech or if you are a new teacher #ntchat is great! One last suggestion would be to have parents, students and/or teachers create a hashtag, so that you can create a conversation about a particular topic. For example, I have started a hash tag on the greatness of #dchilders. Please go there and comment when you can. We will see how popular this topic is?
  • Cue 2012 Review – Day One

    Hundreds of educational tech enthusiasts flocked to the annual CUE (computer using educators) conference this past weekend (March 15-17, 2012) in Palm Springs, California. A lot was learned over the 3 days at the conference and here are some of the highlights:

  • Day 1
    Chris Fitzgerald Walsh spoke about creativity in the classroom. Some myth’s of creativity were explored:
    -Must happen in isolation
    -Happens during random aha moments
    -It’s what artist do
    -It’s innate
    It makes sense that creativity can happen to and by anyone. You don’t have to be alone with your thoughts for something magical to happen, in fact, creating in a group setting is healthy and the people that you are working with can provide a stimulus to your thought process. Sure artists can be creative but anyone has the ability to create and and is not just reserved for those artistically inclined.

    Some conditions for creativity:
    -Playfulness (having FUN!)
    -You need time
    Having fun and just being playful can become a catalyst for students trying to create. We as educators need to give students the time to explore and allow them to FAIL! We also should not place judgements on intermediary work during the exploration process. The students should feel secure in their ability to explore without the hinderance of evaluation, which can provide students with walls to overcome or roadblocks to think about instead of moving forward and allowing creativity and maturation to take place.

    In order to be creative you must have a passion, an attitude towards what really matters and thus will provide the spark! It is important for anyone who wants to create to internalize a sense of permission to create. More often than not, we stop our selves from following through on an idea or thought instead of permitting ourselves to succeed and move forward.

    Discipline and commitment are necessary to be creative and it is this type of attitude that cultivates the wonderful ideas that are created on a daily a model model promotes creativity and asks students to stay in the moment and commit to an idea. Design thinking is a mesh of many disciplines, such as math and science and allows students to broaden the mind.

    Technology needs to be at the forefront of an education so that problems can be solved now and in the future. The ability to allow students to apply what they are learning at an early age, exposes them to a glimpse into their future.

  • Tom Van Ark – The Pivot to Personal Digital Learning
    In this session we discussed the value of blended learning, which is a combination of face-to-face instruction, along with computer mediated activities. According to Web Learning @ Penn State website, we should blend learning to allow advanced learning, interactively in the classroom and outside of it, there is access to quality multi-media content anytime of the day. Conversations are still happening about this topic and they need to continue. There are many school in America and abroad that have adopted this and similar models and have reported positive to amazing results. However, there are skeptics out there, that say any and all data can be skewed to present any school in a positive light.

    No matter what you think of these systems, we can always learn and take the best of what people are trying to do to make education a better place for students and gives them and advantage when they leave school.

    Here is an example of a school that is using the blended model approach:
    About Carpe Diem Schools

  • Frank Guttler – Lights, Camera, Learn
    10 lessons for better video in the classroom
    A call sheet is the order of business for any production day.
    For any movie there is pre-production, production and post-production.
    Celtx is a free pre-production software download that allows a film maker to create story boards, scripts and much more.
    What is the difference between a shot and a scene? A shot is part of a film between two shots, where a scene is a series of shots to tell a story.
    The evolution of a movie goes something like this: Shot, Scene, Sequence, Movie
    When shooting a movie, think point of view of a shot. For example shooting from high or above, from down low or find different angles.
    Here is an example of a quick exercise you can do with your class: Show a segment of a movie and count shots by clapping every time there is a new shot. Claps will increase in frequency as the action increases.
    Lighting Basics: 3 Point Lighting (Key Light, Fill Light and Back light – Lighting Basics at Media College
    Below I have a video example of how you can introduce your students to the process of film making by learning through experience, story boarding and reflection.
    Check the video out and begin your film making experience.

    Other ideas to teach students film making:
    Have students study the elements of genre (classical, western, etc).
    Complete a scene study (check out the Ikea Lamp commercial)
    Use pictures to tell a story. Here is a link to Frank Guttler’s Thousand Words project.

    A great resource is the Library of Congress website. Check out the American Memory Photo Archive for images that can be used to build a photo video/movie.