Author - Kristina Allison

Fall CUE Speaker Showcase: Laurie Roberts

Laurie Roberts Bitmoji picture

Data should drive instruction. Yes. We know. But why does it have to be so difficult, time-consuming and monotonous to collect? Well, Laurie Roberts has the solution for your PLCs. Check out her session at Fall CUE.

Laurie Roberts is a veteran CUE presenter. She believes in bringing the party. Everywhere. Even in sessions about data. She is a District EdTechnologist in the East Bay and serves with pleasure on the East Bay CUE board, her local affiliate. You might know her best as EdtechYoda on Twitter. Laurie will bring all her energy and knowledge to Fall CUE this October to share. Be sure to pop in  and ask her all about the “orange sauce.”

What sessions are you presenting at Fall CUE this year?

Ready, SET, go! Creating EdTech-infused, Content-based PLCs and Get InFORMed: Using Google Forms to Get the Data You Want

What inspired you to put these sessions together?

The PLC session was inspired by the success (though small) of putting together a science and EdTech PLC with a variety of secondary teachers. The Google Forms session was something I felt was needed- a 101 style session to give people a foundation in Forms and Sheets.

Why should someone attend?

Those who are interested in improving their basic Forms/Sheets skills should definitely attend my Forms session cuz… DATA! (Nothing more fun and exciting than DATA!)

What’s your CUE Story?

I supply people with orange sauce. That is all.

To read more about this session and the other options for CUE’s incredible two-day conference, check out the schedule. Don’t forget to register for the conference, too! You DO NOT want to miss this year.

FallCUE Speaker Showcase: Corey Coble

Corey Coble Portrait with FallCUE logo

If you are attending Fall CUE this year in American Canyon near the beautiful Napa countryside, you will find far more than just the best wine in the world. You will find some of the best educators in the world. Many of these top-notch educators will be presenting sessions that are sure to invigorate and innovate your classroom on Monday. Corey Coble, from Roseville, California is one of those educators. He is hosting an all day session for those new to Google Apps. 

Corey has been a classroom teacher for 25 years. He has taught grades TK through 7th Grade. Currently, he teaches 7th grade Science, History and Project Lead The Way. He prides himself with always trying to integrate technology in the classroom to help students have the best possible experiences.

What session are you presenting at Fall CUE this year?


What inspired you to put this session together?

I am really looking forward to sharing this all day session to dive into Google Apps.

Why should someone attend?

You should attend this session to learn more how to use Google Apps in the classroom. If you attend this session, you will walk away with a fundamental understanding of how Google Apps can work in the classroom.

What’s your CUE Story?

I started my CUE journey many years ago when I attended a CUE Rockstar Camp in Lake Tahoe. After attending this camp, I started to present at various CapCUE events in the Sacramento area. I’ve now had the opportunity to present at numerous CUE events around California.

To read more about Corey’s session and the other options for CUE’s incredible two-day conference, check out the schedule. Don’t forget to register for the conference, too! You DO NOT want to miss this year.

OnCUE Chats with Michael Vollmert


Gold Disks are CUE’s oldest recognition program. A Gold Disk is a recognition of the recipient’s contributions to CUE and to technology in learning. What does it mean to be a Gold Disk Award winner? Find out from one in the following interview.

What does winning the CUE Gold Disk Award for Gold Coast CUE board president mean to you?

The Gold Disk Award is humbling, and I’m honored that I’ve been considered along with such an esteemed group of past winners. I guess in a sense there’s some personal satisfaction that the work I’ve done has garnered some recognition, but my measuring stick for that has always been the end result with students and teachers. I’ve never really been comfortable being recognized or “in the limelight.”

Tell me about your position at the Rio School District and your scope of responsibilities?

I’m retired, but when I was with Rio, I was the director of technology. I worked with the superintendent and the rest of the leadership team to integrate technology with student-centered pedagogy to build inquiry-based learning environments for kids and teachers. And, I worked directly with students and teachers on various projects—making a video about a scale model view of the solar system that spanned the entire city, for example, setting up collaborative projects between students in Finland or at other schools in the U.S. and our students, or tracking the length of the sun’s shadow over an entire school year and building math skills around the results.

Why did you choose to become an educator?

My career path did not follow a planned track. I started teaching after working in industry for several years. I wanted to make a difference and help students build skills they need to fulfill their dreams. After teaching for a long time, I became an administrator, worked at a few high schools, then went to the district office and ultimately wound up as a technology director.

What is the biggest challenge facing California schools today, and how can it be overcome?

The biggest challenge has to do with pedagogy. In education, we’re at a crossroads where traditional education has focused primarily on content and skills, while modern needs require empowered skills in learning, communicating, and collaborating. Teachers like those who have joined CUE and similar organizations are fully engaged in these conversations, but that’s a small percentage of teachers across the state. We need to engage all teachers and administrators in this conversation and move toward a new pedagogical framework—much in the way Finland has.

When did you join CUE and why?

I joined CUE when I was a teacher back in the late ’80s /early ’90s because it was a place where teachers were having great conversations about improving teaching and learning for students and were using tools that made it possible to do things that otherwise would not be possible.

Where does CUE need to grow?

CUE’s main growth needs to be in engaging more teachers across the state, especially at a local level, in conversations about teaching and learning and how we can effectively empower all students to be capable, nimble learners regardless of the content or field of study.

Picture of Mike Vollmert

Mike Vollmert

Where are you from and what do you like to do in your limited spare time?

I was born and raised in Oxnard and still live there. My spare time is less limited now than when I had a full-time job, and I’m working hard to make the best use of the time I have. I still work with teachers and students in a few schools and districts, as well as doing some work with CUE (I chair the Affiliate/Learning Network Committee, work as a Lead Learner, and do JET Reviews for various schools and districts). Outside of that, I build acoustic and electric guitars and do projects in my woodshop; I’m taking guitar and piano lessons; I do a good deal of off-road exploring of the Southwest U.S.; and I try to get in workouts every day by riding my road or mountain bike, hiking, or hitting the gym. My wife is a first-grade teacher. When she has breaks, we try to travel somewhere.

Facebook Joins the Digital Literacy Game

Girl on ipad

Here’s an interesting development: Facebook wants to teach your students digital citizenship and literacy.  I’m not just talking about how to change your settings on your account. Facebook has actually created lessons meant to be used in classrooms and homes, as Facebook says, “to develop skills needed to navigate the digital world, critically consume information and responsibly produce and share content.” These lessons are designed to be interactive, with the use of games and activities, while also utilizing discussion time with groups of students.

Much like the Common Sense Media lessons, Facebook is giving educators useable and accessible resources to teach very important skills to our 21st Century learners. The need cannot be avoided. We must teach our students how to live responsibly in this digital world. It is no longer about simply trying to block content in the classroom and protect them. These are vital life skills. Add Facebook’s Digital Library of lessons for educators to your tool belt. Make digital citizenship and literacy a priority in your classroom today.

Summer Rockstar Learnin’

Legs out of a car window

Each year at our first staff meeting, I put together a slide show of our summer fun. This seems to be a favorite way to get a glimpse of what everyone has been doing while away on vacation. Every year a few of the pictures I submit always involve some type of teacher conference.

The assistant principal at this school, asked teachers to submit a blog post. Read all about their AMAZING adventures at the CUE Rockstar Camp at Minarets High School. The learning and fun highlighted sure makes me sad I missed this one! Thank you Natalie Chilese and Dr. Laura Witter for your post. Read all about their adventures here.

Learning and Earning in your Jammies

Hands on Computer

Want to know how to incorporate Artificial Intelligence in your classroom? Why not take a class designed for an educator, while earning professional development hours and even college units. ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education, has announced that they will be offering online courses to fit the innovative curious teacher in all of us. ISTE U, ISTE’s new online learning platform, has a menu of options that is not only cutting edge, but constantly changing for the latest in technology.

No more outdated tech classes at your local university. The best part is, you can earn hours (and even credits through Dominican University of California) on your own time, at home, in your pajamas if you choose. Check out the options and find a course that satisfies your learning needs. Finally, technology focused learning from the name you trust.

Learning to Teach for the Future

Computers with Code

“If you can dream it, you can code it.” As I looked around the huge ballroom filled with eager educators, Hadi Partovi’s words began to energize and excite me. It also seemed Partovi’s words were having a similar effect on the overly air conditioned room, filled with over 500 teachers. Of course, it could have been the delicious spread of food in front of us, too. (The food! OMG.) As Partovi, the founder of code.org spoke, it became increasingly clear to me why we were all here. Our world needs us to engage, encourage and train students for the jobs of not just the future, the jobs of today.

Bag, water bottle name tag from code.org


Some interesting statistics about California:

  • There are 75,612 currently open computing jobs
  • The average salary for computing jobs is $110,078
  • Only 25% of high schools in CA offer AP Computer Science
  • Of those taking the AP test, most are white males
  • In 2016, the University of California did not graduate any teachers prepared to teach computer science.
  • CA has no dedicated funding for Computer Science Professional Development

If you want to know more check out California’s fact sheet on code.org.

As I finished my velvety chocolate cake and laughed with my cohort of Northern California area teachers, (thank you Sacramento County Office of Education for being our regional sponsor), I knew TeacherCon was going to be an intense five days of learning, discussing and practicing ways to promote and teach computer science. My last thought before falling asleep in my hotel room (alone–we didn’t even have to share rooms) was, “Why aren’t there more teachers here?”

Our first day, (after the amazing breakfast spread), we separated into middle school and high school rooms. I sat down in the Sheraton conference room in Phoenix along with middle school teachers from Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, West Virginia, the list went on. We had gathered here with a similar goal, to learn a carefully scoped and sequenced computer science curriculum.

Cards on table for a game

Learning about algorithms in an unplugged activity.

The problem with computer science instruction, especially in middle school, is that educators traditionally have taught programs that were cobbled together, with no clear path to the AP exam or other courses in high school. The beauty of the curriculum code.org has crafted is that each unit builds on the other from Computer Science Fundamentals (elementary) Computer Science Discoveries (middle grades) to Computer Science Principles (high school). And every bit of it is FREE for teachers to use. Yes, free.

Through the course of the five days of training, we met in groups with our cohorts from high school and middle school to discuss ways to bring more computer science to our schools, but I spent the majority of time in my Northern California cohort of middle school teachers, participating as a student in model lessons, then eventually teaching a lesson alongside a smaller group of teachers. This cohort model allowed us time to really get to know each other, building relationships beyond our own classroom of teachers we could lean on throughout the school year. We will also meet four more times this year for further instruction and collaborating. Honestly, I miss those awesome educators in my cohort already!

Large group of people at a bowling alley

My Sacramento cohort bowling night.

Oh and I forgot to mention this. The entire experience was FREE. TeacherCon, put on by code.org is well backed by some serious giants: Microsoft, Amazon, Google, just to name a few. (Find the whole list here.) While I know these companies have altruistic motivations in helping move education forward, they also have a vested interest in creating a future workforce. To the donors, it is money well spent. The need for graduates who can fill jobs in the computer industry is imperative.

The good news is things are moving forward. Trish Williams, from the California Board of Education, hosted a lunch for the California educators at TeacherCon and gave us the latest scoop. My state is expected to pass California’s first ever model K12 computer science standards next month and more changes to curriculum standards are constantly being discussed. Williams assured us that she is fighting to see Computer Science education in all schools.

As Williams reiterated to us, all students deserve to learn computer science and explore if they have an aptitude for it. Even if they don’t want to end up in a computing career, all students need to understand how the digital world they live in is made.

Wrapping up my week of intense learning (and gorging on scrumptious food), I walked away with one very important realization. I am a computer science teacher. As a secondary teacher who has spent most of her career in middle school English, I have always called myself an English teacher. Today, I took the sign off my classroom door that read, “Mrs. Allison–Language Arts.” Tomorrow a new one goes up: “Mrs. Allison–Computer Science and Language Arts .”

5 people

My cohorts and me posing with Dani and Josh from code.org.




Advice for New and Old(er) Teachers

Tomorrow, I start back my 15th year of classroom teaching next to at least two teachers right out of the credential program. I love the “new blood” anticipation these new teachers have, the excitement of having your own classroom space, the optimism of changing lives and truly making a difference. It’s a refreshing wash of hope that can bring a staff and school culture a replenishing new start of the school year. Unfortunately, not every campus can be as welcoming or as supportive of our profession’s newbies and so many new teachers are left feeling overwhelmed and lost.

Flittering around on Twitter yesterday, I came across one of my favorite older blogs post from Jennifer Gonzalez. I was reminded of how I need to be a “marigold” for new teachers on my campus. I need to be the one that helps cultivate their growth. It also reminded me that I need to check my own attitude and practices to make sure that I continue to not only be a positive role model for new teachers, but how I should constantly work to surround myself with my own marigolds. Read the post here and think about who you want to be this school year for your colleagues. Remember, we’re all in this together!

Sharing Humanity in the Classroom

Girl walking next to a fence dragging a stick

If you’re like me, I love engaging students with short videos. I especially love short inspirational videos that get my students to think. I use them as starters for writing, discussions, or even teaching specific concepts. Strangely, most of my videos are advertisements. My students have even begun guessing half way through the video what the company behind the message is. “What are they selling?”

Recently, I came across a blog post by Larry Ferlazzo about StoryCorps. I had never heard of the series which records everyday people’s stories to share with the world and archive experiences for future generations through podcasts. As their website reads, “We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters. At the same time, we are creating an invaluable archive for future generations.” And the stories are incredible.

StoryCorps has taken many of these stories and turned them into animations. Watching a few of them, my heart has grown three sizes! As Ferlazzo points out on his website, these short videos are perfect to use in the classroom. Check out Ferlazzo’s blog post here and add StoryCorps to your list of video resources. You might even want to take some time today to get lost in these beautiful shared human experiences.

AR and VR: Hype or Real Engagement?

Child with VR headset

I am completely fascinated by augmented reality and virtual reality. I mean it is freaking COOL! Of course, cool doesn’t always mean it’s the best tool to use in the classroom. Sometimes a tool is just flashy new gadget, without any real payoff for student engagement and learning. However, I’m following the glitz, the glam, the uber cool technology and wondering, will this be the next big tool to change my teaching? In order to invest time and money, most educators need some serious reasons (data would be good, too) to use any new technology. Hype and flash can only take us so far.

Luckily, I like to do my homework. A few days ago EdSurge hosted their #DLNChat (Digital Learning Network) on the topic of AR and VR being worth the hype. If you didn’t catch it, Michael Sano of EdSurge, put together a nice recap on their blog post: Can AR/VR Improve Learning? Integrating Extended Reality Into Academic Programs. Check it out. Are we looking at the next revolution in the classroom or is it not worth the investment?