Cooking with TPACK

TPACK Fruit Salad

To truly live TPACK, I was given the assignment from my technology course to cook a dish, but with some serious rules. I called upon Matt, giving him no background information, to help me by choosing a plate, bowl, kitchen utensil, and draw a number from 1-5. He chose a large plate, small bowl (ramekin, more like), cheese grater, and the number that corresponded to fruit salad. No one ever uses a cheese grater to make a fruit salad, so the final product is clearly not your everyday fruit salad. The process, however, was enlightening.

I found a way to slice soft fruit (the strawberry and banana) and discovered that one could grate pears and apples! While it wasn’t the cleanest process, there was a more potent fruit smell and I had fun. I decided to use the bowl for my fruit trash and the plate worked well as my cutting board, and later doubled as my serving dish (why not?).

As teachers, we’re often given supplies that are inadequate for meeting all our students, or that are just not useful. Using our creative ingenuity, we can make anything “work” as long as we remember what our ultimate goal is. In this case, a fruit salad was made and enjoyed, so I would consider myself successful. Learning should be messy. Learning should be fun. By finding tools and repurposing them to fit our learning objectives, all teachers find success.

Please watch and enjoy my video to witness my crazy process. Thank you, Matt, for setting the stage. Bon appetit!

Learning Through YouTube: Mission Possible

My grad class assigned me a “Networked Learning Project”. What is that? Well, I had to choose something that I wanted to learn, but didn’t have the time or energy to learn it. Considering I am 33 years old and don’t know what to do with my hair…ever…I thought this was the perfect opportunity to learn some basics. I could only use YouTube and discussion forums, but I quickly discovered that those are not limitations in ANY way, shape, or form. After hours and hours of time spent on YouTube and rejections from many hair forums, I learned more than I ever thought I could know about how to style my hair.

As ridiculous as it may sound, I DID need to learn how to style my hair. I learned so many things that most normal girls probably already know: what products to use and when, how to use a curling iron, how to do a fishtail braid, how to make sure your hair stays put, etc. Honestly, this project has taken me to “I’m a real girl!” level. See my video for only a few things that I learned:

Some of the key things I’ve learned is that there are people on YouTube who specialize in certain things (hair styling, being only one specialization) and that when you find someone that knows what they are talking about and gives explicit verbal and visual explanations, they are “keepers”. If it weren’t for Tina, I wouldn’t have been able to learn how to adapt the lessons for my “overnight curls” into large, voluminous, realistic, and WANTED waves. If it weren’t for Lilith, I wouldn’t be able to do fishtail braids or know how to make braids stylish, instead of childish. These two YouTube celebrities are heroines to me for their clarity on how to complete hairstyles. They are just two examples of my favorite “teachers”, as I learned to combine styles and techniques from MANY different YouTube sources (see my previous post for more references).

The key to being an effective YouTube instructor is ensuring that you are clear with what you are teaching, explain every key step and repeat it verbally (and sometimes visually), and make sure that your visual component matches everything your viewers NEED to see. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a billion: use the perspective of your videos wisely. I can’t wait to incorporate YouTube videos into my future lessons, and create some for my students as a reinforcing reference or pre-lesson, flipped classroom technique outside of class. Not only that, I am looking forward to learning more hair styles and other [secret] skills I’ve always wanted to master.

Ultimately, we are in the digital age and it is up to us to use it or lose it. If we do decide to use it, I recommend finding “specialists” that explain their content clearly and visually well. Good luck to you…and me!

21st Century Lesson Plan

There are many technology resources at our fingertips, and teachers need to ensure that the ones they choose to use in the classroom support meaningful learning objectives and their students’ development of understanding through play. Thomas and Brown (2011) recognize that “A growing digital, networked infrastructure is amplifying our ability to access and use nearly unlimited resources and incredible instruments while connecting with one another at the same time” (p. 18). The classroom of the 21st century, then, should look very different to that of the 20th century.

I have created a lesson plan for a class of fifth grade students that balances meeting common core standards and allowing children the opportunity to create, problem-solve, and evaluate. To help me create an effective 21st century lesson plan, I used Renee Hobbs’ (2011) list of core competencies: access, analyze, create, reflect, and act.

An essential question of this realistic fiction writing unit, “How do writers engage their readers in a short story from start to finish?” is powerful and overarching. Every writer wants their story to be well-liked! As an introduction to the unit, this lesson plan begins with students watching a video that summarizes and gives fresh ideas for the different key elements of a short story before class (flipped classroom strategy): setting, plot, and characters. The Educanon video was created to automatically stop after each key element and challenges students to process the ideas presented, then brainstorm ideas for a story of their own. They will do this in a GoogleDoc template, to equip the students for easy sharing with future partners and teachers, and to reinforce the idea that nothing is set in stone, as many do when they write in notebooks. The template includes tables, bullets, text boxes, and colors – all of which students are free to work within or modify to their liking. By using a template, I am helping them deepen their capacity to use tools within word processing well.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

When students come to class, they now share their ideas with a writing partner by exchanging documents. A follow-up video prompts students to analyze their partner’s work and problem-solve issues that may have arisen in their planning (lack of conflict or weak themes) by commenting and revising their GoogleDoc. The preparation before a real conversation allows both people the time to think things through and the ability to get their thoughts out in a focused, yet open way.

By giving my students the focus from the video to concentrate on small pieces at a time, I am setting them up for success. GoogleDocs and collaboration with classmates and me gives them freedom and the knowledge that there is no “right answer”, but there are techniques to make your short story more effective.

Your comments on my lesson plan and its rationale are very welcome.


Bergman, J., & Sams, A. (2012). Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. USA: International Society for Technology in Education.

Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand, Oaks, CA: Corwin/Sage.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Retrieved from:

Learning Through YouTube: Update!

I’ve spent hours scouring YouTube to learn how to style my hair (Click here for the introduction to this project). The first, and most important “skill” for me to learn was forming voluminous curls that would last throughout the day. While there were many videos that told me a curling iron could work, I completely disagree since my hair didn’t hold the curls for very long. I purchased a heat resistant glove to hold the curls after I’d remove them from the curling iron, used copious amounts of hair spray, and pinned the curls to allow them to cool and set. Regardless of every attempt, my hair was always straight within an hour. I did notice that the curling iron worked well for curls around my face, where my hair was shorter and less heavy, but I still wanted curls on the rest of my head.


Not the look I was going for


The headband method gives me loose, relaxed, and natural curls

After accepting that my hair wouldn’t become best friends with the curling iron, I moved onto heatless curls and tried many different methods. Basically, I prepped my hair the night before in either braids, pin curls, buns, or a headband, went to sleep, and woke up happy or shocked. Curls can hold all day with this method! However, I NEED TO ensure the curls are large enough before going to bed because tiny curls or tight braids at night meant super tiny curls in the morning. It wasn’t pretty and not what I was hoping for. I ended up modifying Vivian’s headband method by putting individual pieces and keeping the flips through the headband loose. Vivian and her videos are extremely helpful because she explains why she does certain things (like wetting her hair a little first), which allows me to be more successful and avoid potential mistakes. See my short video below to see how it works for me.

A classmate recommended I look into mastering the chignon (thanks again, Dave!), which was wonderful because I discovered there are many options for long hair. I found Lilith Moon‘s YouTube site and watched almost every one of her videos. She taught me how to take advantage of my long hair with beautiful braids, wraps, and twists. She not only shows how to do each hairstyle, but also includes simplified steps that she repeats over and over to help me remember.

Loose and slightly messy is trendier now, which means prepping my hair the night before for curls is helpful for the inevitable strands that come out of the up-do to have life. It’s a good thing I’ve finally mastered that skill so I can move onto perfecting hairstyles by Lilith and Kate.

Tips to Make Evernote Your Personal GTD Assistant

evernote search

My saved searches

I just discovered the true power of Evernote. Instead of just being a place to jot down notes, diary entries, phone numbers, etc., it is becoming my personal Getting Things Done (GTD) assistant. I just add an actionable task as an individual checkbox with special tags. Ta-Da!evernote checkbox

Thanks to detailed instructions by Ruud andMalc, anyone can figure out how to set up saved searches to match their personal needs: time, place, projects, etc. I recommend adding them to Shortcuts to make it easier to access and jump between. I also modified some of Ruud’s key tags by eliminating the @ unless it’s a place or person.

The saved searches have allowed me to organize my day by what I truly need to accomplish AND the smaller items that often get pushed aside just by clicking on the 5 or 15 minute search. The key is checking in on a daily and weekly basis to move items from waiting for (someone), projects, and someday into next actions.

Best part? You can still use Evernote as an organizing platform for everything else!


Allen, D. (2001). Getting things done: The art of stress-free productivity. New York: Penguin.

Malc. (2013, February 27). Time management made really easy #GTD + #Evernote [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Ruud. (2009, September 27). Evernote GTD how to [Web log post]. Retrieved from