Author - Kristin Oropeza

New Program for Crowdfunding Teacher Needs


Teachers, prepare yourselves – a new program started by website TeacherFunder.com is giving Donors Choose a run for their money…but to your benefit!

TeacherFunder allows teacher participants to apply for funding from generous donors. Similar to the Donors Choose model, TeacherFunder collects 3.9% + $1 from each donation, with the remaining funds going to the teacher.

Unlike Donors Choose, though, TeacherFunder acts more as a payment service and enables teachers to have quick access to the funds donated to them – with fewer hoops to jump through so that donations are in teachers hands sooner. That means money for supplies, field trips, books and other expenses (say, like EdTech subscriptions) a lot sooner!

To get started, visit TeacherFunder.com to register and get to work on that classroom donation hustle!

Innovating Beyond the Classroom


Educators across the nation are doing some amazing things in their classrooms. I first came across Liz’s Twitter page when looking for meaningful ways to leverage EdTech in the classroom. Liz’s page boasts tons of STEM activities, Hyperdoc lessons galore, and a wide variety of G-Suite documents that she and her colleagues have created together and shared with the Twitterverse. Read on to see how she’s using the latest trends in EdTech to create some amazing opportunities for her students to collaborate, create, and get techy!

Name: Liz Stroud

Teacher librarian Liz Stroud

Email: estroud@dg58.org

Role in Education: Teacher Librarian

Location: Downers Grove, IL

Social Media Handle: @LRCFairmount (Twitter)

How long have you been in education? This is my 11th year in education.  I was an elementary classroom teacher for seven years and this is my fourth year as a teacher librarian in a K-6 school.

Please describe a “day in the life” of Mrs. Stroud. Most days are controlled chaos, and I love it!  I get the opportunity to be in the library teaching and also in the classrooms co-teaching.  The most chaotic days are when multiple grade levels are doing different projects. I’ll run back from a classroom (I do run when the halls when I shouldn’t) to the library after showing a student that her 3D prototype finally printed with no hiccups, teach the next lesson, then while the students are reading after book checkout, I’ll quickly vacuum our CNC carving machine to get rid of all the wood shavings.

2nd graders and green screen
2nd graders getting creative with green screen pizza boxes!

What is the best thing about your job? The best thing about my job is having the flexibility to have engaging and meaningful lessons with ALL of the students and teachers.   I’ve been able to schedule a day where every grade Skypes with an author for World Read Aloud Day. For the annual Global Read Aloud, I connect the teachers with another classroom from a different part in the world, and we use various digital avenues to share ideas about the book read. The primary students are code and problem solve with our Dash robots and Beebots. The intermediate grades design 3D printing objects for teachers in the building or as holiday gifts for their family. The lessons, tools, tips, and skills I teach them in library follow them into the classroom.  Then the teacher learns through the students. The teachers are able to see new technologies and possibilities, and that creates even more excitement. I feel like I am able to do more school-wide as a teacher librarian than as a classroom teacher. I really love that. Seriously, I think this is the best gig ever!

How did you get interested in EdTech and what are some of your favorite activities you do in your classroom/library? EdTech is another way to make teaching magical.  Even when I started eleven years ago, our district had a roaming cart of twelve MacBooks.   I was lucky enough to have great mentors who dove right in and weren’t afraid to use them.

We would use them to make podcasts during reading, screencasts of our explanations during math, flyers about National Parks for Social Studies (that could pass as a legitimate flyer), and iMovies book trailers.  Not only were these students creating “cool” projects, but they were bouncing ideas back and forth with each other and really focusing on the art and craft of producing this finished piece of work that they were so proud of.   Their creations always, always exceeded my expectations.

Using read alouds and the green screen to talk about perseverance

Within the past few years with the 1:1 iPads, students are making Adobe Spark websites about the states (that look like an adult created it!), recording green screen videos demonstrating their knowledge of a biographical figure, creating Apple Clips or Animoto videos for our Math Talks. The students become creators instead of just consumers.

You mention your love of collaborating with teachers. What are some easy ways that teachers can take what you do in your room and extend it into their own classrooms? I find that the best way to have teachers use new technology ideas in their classroom is to show the students first.  They become the experts and are easily able to integrate this independently into their own classroom. Our school invested in MakerSpace/STEM supplies my first year as a teacher librarian.  This could be intimidating to just dive into and incorporate these tools into a lesson as a classroom teacher with everything else going on. I tried to ease that process. For example, I would show the students how to use the Ozobots and connect the lesson to something they were learning in class.  We would draw a route for the Ozobot to show the major events of the story. The teachers and I could then brainstorm ideas together, but the students would really be able to hit the ground running in their classroom. Give the students the Ozobots, some markers, paper, and they are set! The burden of learning all these new tools is no longer on the classroom teacher.  

Our Carvey Machine bringing the designs the 6th graders made to life
The Carvey Machine bringing the designs of 6th graders to life

You share a lot of EdTech resources on your Twitter page. How do you find the resources you share? Do you have any favorites that you follow for ideas?

I collaborate with colleagues within my district, neighboring districts, and the surrounding public libraries.  I also look on Twitter and attend local conferences. I am so lucky to have such great resources around Downers Grove.  One summer I really nerded out and spent a bunch of time exploring Twitter, meeting with a technology specialist (Lissa Blake), and the Kids Department at the public library.   Lissa and I spent almost a whole day together just geeking out over ideas that we had done or had seen at conferences or from Twitter. One of my favorites is the green screen pizza box.  Lissa had seen this at the 2017 ISTE conference. The concept was so simple (green gloves, Starbucks green straws, painted pizza boxes), but it also seemed like the most amazing idea! It’s a game changer.

People I follow: @D60HolmesTech @bethkingsley13 ‏, @bhopteacher @luv2teachtech @savviteacher @KarlyMoura ‏, @JennyLehotsky @smalchow @Jordan_priestle @Andrea_Trudeau @DrKMattson @Liz_Delzell

What is your advice to teachers who are just getting started with using technology in their classrooms?

Just. Do. It. Get your hands on as much technology as you can and just go for it. Let the students explore with you and find people who will support you. If it can make a difference in your classroom and has meaning, just do it.

Is there anything else you’d like to share or include in this interview? Not to get cheesy, but I am honestly so lucky to be passionate about what I do and get to work with kids all day and then be able to help teachers out in their classrooms, too. It really is the best of all worlds.

Liz Stroud picture

Liz Stroud graduated from Illinois State University in 2008 with a major in Elementary Education.  A few years later, she earned her masters in Administration and then in Instruction Technology with a library science endorsement. Stroud has worked in the elementary schools in Downers Grove since she started teaching eleven years ago.  She lives with her husband and their rat terrier dog in Downers Grove. She’s lucky enough to spend most of her time in the summer on Delavan Lake – an awesome getaway with family and friends. Follow her on Twitter @LRCFairmount

Get Behind Leroy’s Big Idea

Leroy's Big Idea

Applications for this year’s Leroy Finkel Fellowship (aka Leroy’s Big Idea) are currently open. This fellowship is open to all part-time or full-time K-20 educators who are CUE members and is intended to promote leadership in the area of educational technology.

CUE “Fellows” will have the opportunity to strengthen professional skills; develop an innovative technology-enhanced curriculum project, aligned to curriculum standards; and share their ideas and strategies through the OnCUE Journal, conferences, websites, social media and much more.

To submit an entry, all you have to do is submit a 60-second video (via Flipgrid) and complete the short application form. Your next big idea could get you a $2,000 fellowship, registration and travel expenses to the ISTE Conference for the current year, guidance from a professional mentor for an entire year, and an invitation to write a feature article for OnCUE Journal.

The rubric for Leroy’s Big Idea can be found here. For more information, make sure to check out the Leroy Finkel Fellowship page at OnCUE. Applications are due Monday, January 14th so be sure to submit yours today!

Classroom Newsletters Go Digital

Classroom Newsletters Go Digital

I was all about the weekly classroom newsletter as a beginning kindergarten teacher. It had cutesy graphics by DJ Inkers, homework information, tips and tricks for parents, and what I thought was an abundance of resources for my classroom parents. As my workload increased, I found myself slacking on the newsletter front; what had been a weekly resource was turning into a monthly gig.

It wasn’t until I went to a session at a local Google Apps for Education (GAFE) Summit that I learned that newsletters didn’t have to boring, paper things – they could be digital, they could be engaging, and they could be fun.

Sarah Malchow's newsletter, "Malchow's Tech Bytes"

Sarah Malchow’s newsletter, “Malchow’s Tech Bytes”

The presenter at this particular session introduced the class to Sara Malchow’s newsletter – a completely interactive newsletter made through Google Slides. (I also liked Meagan Kelly’s newsletter – something she shared with her students and families.) There were hyperlinks! There were animations! It was colorful and pretty – but it was also a source of information! And I knew that I needed to have one for myself.

That was two years ago.

The time to get that newsletter done never came – until my new job and a new purpose for the newsletter came into perspective. As a Technology TOSA, I have the amazing opportunity of working at four different elementary schools across our district. I go into TK-5th grade classrooms, working with approximately 1,200 students (give or take) and about 53 teachers. And I have teachers who are actually using the technology and want to learn more!

Oropeza's Tech Bytes Newsletter

My own newsletter for teachers

So, taking inspiration from Malchow and so many other educators who have transitioned to digital newsletters, I dove in and created a newsletter of my own. I’ve started simple but have my staples – my notes to teachers (where I review what I’ve been working on with students and where we will be going in the next month), no-cost-low-cost professional development opportunities coming up, a “Did you know..” section (where I include information on free resources for teachers), and finally, a chrome extension/add-on or website of the month.

Short, digestible, and to the point – most of the time. Something that the teachers I work with could read and pull information from – maybe even get inspired by. (My journalistic heart skips a beat every time I see teachers live on the document!)

Do you create digital newsletters for your class? Who do you share them with? Let me know by giving me a shout-out on Twitter @KristinOropeza – I would love to see what you’ve created!

Crayola Helps Teach Students About Sustainability

Crayola Markers

Teachers trust, love, and know the brand Crayola well. Now they’ve gone and done something to make us love them even more!

Crayola recently started an initiative they are calling “ColorCycle” – a new sustainability program to repurpose old, dried out Crayola markers. Working together with K-12 school across the United States and parts of Canada, Crayola wants students – of all ages – to understand the “importance of their role in protecting the environment.”

It’s as easy as COLLECT, PACK, and SHIP. And, it’s FREE for schools.

And as a bonus, Crayola will take all brands of plastic markers – not just Crayola markers (this includes dry erase markers and highlighters!) This initiative will help eliminate placing hundreds of tons of markers into landfills each year.

So instead of trying to use your dried out Crayola markers for some Pinterest experiment, sign your school up for the ColorCycle program today and get recycling! For more information or to register your school, visit their website here.


Ring in the New Year with a Good Read

Bookcase with Many Books

My last week of winter break begins today and all I can think about is the enormous stack of books that is currently sitting on my desk – books that have been collected since September and have gone unread while work and extracurricular duties (and just life!) consumed most of my days.

And I love books – I love reading. I am a bibliophile to the max. I cannot keep away from both big-box bookstores and hole-in-the-wall treasures found during weekend adventures. I visit my local library almost every week (mostly for my daughter, but I manage to sneak a few books into our bag before leaving.) I love books – both bound and digital.

My current “stack”

I read for both pleasure and professional reasons. I subscribe to journals and magazines and read research on a consistent basis. I’m a sucker for historical biographies, dystopian novels, and science fiction thrillers – and the ever-growing collection of educational books for teachers, thanks to publishing houses like Dave Burgess Consulting and Heinemann.

I’ve seen quite a few other teachers on social media sharing their reads this week, so I thought that I would share some of my favorites along with some of the books that are currently on my “To Read” list.

Just a few of my favorite titles

Google Apps for Littles by Christine Pinto and Alice Keeler (I honestly carry a copy of this in my work bag and refer it to any and all TK-2nd grade teachers I know who are trying to use technology in their classrooms. The book has some great ideas and I’ve been a fan and follower of Christine Pinto for some time – she knows what she’s doing with getting the “Littles” online and computer-using!

The Kickstart Guide to Making Great Makerspaces by Laura Fleming (This book was my own blueprint last year as I tried to forge a makerspace area in my own special education K-3 classroom. This book is a great read for anyone interested in incorporating the maker movement into their own classroom but just don’t know how or where to start.)

Science Notebooks: Writing About Inquiry by Lori Fulton and Brian Campbell (After receiving this book at a phenomenal NGSS training I went to this past summer hosted by UCR and the California Science Project, it’s a great look at how educators can use science notebooks in their classroom to encourage NGSS-geared science skills, student questioning and inquiry, and data organization of science content and observations.)

To Read:
The Wild Card by Hope and Wade King
The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros
Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess
Hacking the Writing Workshop: Redesign with Making in Mind by Angela Stockman
Blended Learning in Action by Catlin R. Tucker, Tiffany Wycoff, and Jason T. Green

Educational Books for Teachers

What books are you currently reading or are sitting on your desk or bedside table? Let me know by giving me a shout-out with your fave on Twitter @KristinOropeza.

Teaching Students How to Cope

Social Emotional Well Being

As a step-parent to a 13-year-old boy, I am all too familiar with the slew of emotional responses that teenagers are prone to giving their parents (and teachers!) In a recent Edutopia article, author Lori Desautels details some emotional regulation strategies that teachers can incorporate into their daily routines in order to help and teach students how to deal with stressors in their lives.

The preventative and reflective “brain-aligned” strategies Desautels writes about are helpful for both upper elementary and middle school students who have experienced some emotional trauma and need help coping while in the school environment.

One of the strategies she details uses peers to teach that everyone shares similar emotional experiences and responses to events in their lives. Desautels states:

“Many of us have experienced some of these situations. If we keep them to ourselves, they may grow to feel overwhelming, taking up so much space in our minds that the only things we think about are the negative experiences and problems we have. If we see that others have experienced these things also, that can help us come to terms with them.”

For more information or to read more about trauma-informed practices and how to help, read more here.

To Share or Not to Share…or to Sell?

To Share or Not to Share image

Education Week recently published an article on their website that touched upon some issues Teachers Pay Teachers sellers had or were experiencing with the selling of their products on the TPT platform. The author also delves into the “ethics of selling vs. sharing” – which reminded me of a blog entry that I had started quite a few months ago and thought I would revisit for this week’s blog post.

I’ve had a few conversations recently with various colleagues about sharing versus not sharing materials and documents that teachers – myself included – have created. What is OK to share? What isn’t? Here are some thoughts to consider…

Teachers Pay Teachers imageI’ve been a Teachers Pay Teachers seller since about 2012 – six years! Now, I don’t run a store that’s making me enough money where I can retire from my day job and stay home and focus on my TPT making (although I wish I did!) I don’t even make enough annually to pay for a nice family vacation. I started my TPT store with the intention of putting products up that I made for my own classroom use – products that other teachers might find useful and that might earn me a couple of extra bucks on the side. I did not start my store with the goal of leaving the classroom or making more annually than I do as a teacher (which, some TPT sellers do!) I was simply working my side hustle.

With that being said, I have invested in my TPT store and purchased commercial fonts, clip art, and the licenses that go with those in order to sell products that are pleasing to the eye and that fellow teachers would be proud to use in their classrooms. Fonts, clip art, and commercial licenses are NOT cheap – especially if you don’t sell tons of stuff! But I did it – and continue to do it – because that’s what a responsible seller does.

So when it comes to teachers sharing TPT purchases without purchasing the additional licenses – as a seller myself – it irks me and I try to encourage my colleagues to see why additional licenses are important (and why sellers aren’t just doing it to make an extra buck!) We aren’t trying to swindle you…but we also shoulder costs for our products that may go unnoticed or unknown to buyers.

Now, my take on products I make in the G-Suite is a little different. I tend to want to share what I make with other educators! Things like graphic organizers, newsletters, Docs templates – fairly generic items that any teacher could manipulate and use in his or her classroom. I know that there are teachers out there who do put more effort than I do into my G-Suite creations and subsequently feel the need to sell their products (and I totally get that). But, I tend to be of the “sharing is caring” mentality when it comes to my G-Suite products.

Teachers Collaborating imageThis leads us to the bigger question – when do (or should) we share? And what do we share? With the way we teach constantly changing and the need for lessons to address the 4 C’s of 21st-century learning, teachers should be actively trying to work with and collaborate with other teachers. (That’s kind of the whole point behind the collaborative component of the G-Suite apps – getting “collaborators” to work on documents TOGETHER). I think this also means the sharing of valuable resources that other teachers could use in their own classrooms and inspire their colleagues to use.

I know that lessons can be a beast – and that many educators want to put a price tag on their hard work and upload it to TPT as soon as possible. (Again, I get it…I’ve been there.) But I also think of all the educators who post their hard work to share with others – Eric Curts (Control Alt Achieve), Lisa Highfill and the HyperDoc girls (HyperDocs), and the entire #TeachersGiveTeachers movement – without asking so much as a penny (just a simple “give credit where credit is due”). If educators were more open and willing to share their QUALITY resources and templates, can you only imagine the effect it would have on our students?

If you’re ready to share your lessons with other educators, make sure to check out fellow SMC Shannon Talbado’s blog post here for more pointers! 

“Locked Mode” Goes Beta in Google Forms

Google Forms Quiz

Earlier this summer, Google announced their plans to introduce a new feature called “Locked Mode” for Forms – much to the anticipation of teachers across the globe. Locked Mode would prevent Chromebook quiz takers from navigating away from that particular Google Form in their Chrome browser until they submit their answers.

After months of waiting, beta is finally here! Teachers who are interested in participating in the beta version of this new Forms feature are encouraged to sign up here.

For more information about this new feature or to read about other upcoming G-Suite plans (like Google’s new Gradebook), check out their recent blog post.

Get Googley This Winter with Activities from Eric Curts

Child coloring Christmas pictures

With many educators looking forward to the upcoming winter break, some of us may need a little help wrangling in our kiddos in the days leading up to their time off. While Teachers Pay Teachers is inundated with holiday activities you can pay for, look no further than Eric Curts (Control Alt Achieve) and his wonderful, FREE holiday resources. His activities get students writing, while also being very tech-friendly and skill-based.

In Curts’ “6 Googley Wintertime Activities for Kids” educators gain access to some valuable winter G-Suite activities including “Build a Snowman with Google Slides,” “Wintertime Magnetic Poetry with Google Drawings,” and “Pixel Art Ornaments with Google Sheets.”

If you’re looking for winter activities that will engage your students while still addressing important technology skills, then Curts’ activities should be on YOUR Christmas wish list.