Monday, October 10, 2016

Check Out Bloomz, One App for All Your Parent Communication

As a third grade teacher, I’m constantly on the lookout for tools that make parent communication easy and efficient. The days of having to type up weekly newsletters are no more, and I’m excited to share with you a brief overview of a new tool I just recently discovered, that literally allows you to communicate with parents in every single way imaginable.

This free app is called Bloomz, and in addition to allowing me to send messages to families, it also helps me schedule volunteers and conferences. Bloomz is user-friendly and works with all platforms including web browsers, Android, and iOS. Check out this brief overview from the awesome people at Bloomz:

Downloading the app took me only a couple of minutes using iOS, and once I opened it, I liked that I was able to create a quick demo class to try it out without actually inviting parents right away. This is a unique feature that I think teachers will really enjoy. Consider it a test drive before purchasing a car. Regardless of how you download it, this handy PDF has step-by-step directions with pictures to make the process super easy for you.

Once I set up my demo class, this is what my screen looked like on my iPhone. As you can see, I can schedule a post to share a quick update, with a photo or video, posts an announcement, message all parents, post an alert (think early dismissal or other emergency), schedule an event, ask for volunteers, or schedule parent teacher conferences. They recently added two new features to the app: student portfolios and behavior management.

When posting a general update, there are a couple of features in particular that I think are really convenient. One, I can push the post or picture right to a Facebook page. If you have a classroom Facebook group, this is a perfect option to share it there instantly. I also like that I can disable resharing, which prevents parents from sharing the post with others if necessary.

Posting an announcement allows me to pin an announcement at the top of the page until the date I have specified expires. I think this feature is awesome, because it’s easy for messages to get buried, especially if you send daily updates like I do.

When you’re ready to write a message, you can do it one of two ways. You can either send a message to the entire class, or to just one parent. The versatility of this is a really nice feature, because sometimes I need to reach just one parent.

Alerts can be posted for urgent messages. Since I teach in rural North Dakota, I feel like I will be using this feature during the winter to post weather-related announcements. Alerts are outlined in red within the feed, and parents will also get a push notification on their phone, text message or an email (or all of them), depending on their notification preferences.

The next two features of the app might be my favorite. Next month, my students will be having Pumpkin Day in our classroom. I’m going to be inviting all of the parents to come in for STEM challenges and all things pumpkin. Instead of sending home a paper note with all of the details and a slip to cut off the bottom with an RSVP, look at what this app allows me to do! I can even schedule an alert to remind parents about the event. Impressive.

I can request volunteers for events, as well as items, like pumpkins! I can repeat the event if I need a volunteer each week, or choose not to if it’s a one-time event. Here’s what that screenshot looks like.

Lastly, this app allows me to schedule parent teacher conferences. I can insert the time slots, even allowing time for transitions. In our classroom, students actually lead the conferences, so I will want to make sure parents select times that allow for students to attend as well. No more sending papers back and forth to finally nail down a time that works for everyone! Hello simplicity and efficiency!

I’ll be writing a couple more posts about Bloomz over the next two months to share even more about this app. Be sure to check back, and leave any questions or comments you have below.

This is a sponsored blog post. All thoughts are my own.

Friday, August 12, 2016

#GeniusHour Master Course Opportunity with AJ Juliani

If you've read this article from the spring of 2015, you know my students are super passionate about their Genius Hour time and they have absolutely blown me away with what they have become experts on. I also reference the importance of student led learning and Genius Hour in my TEDx Talk, and in this post I wrote for ISTE 2016. I believe Genius Hour has a place in every classroom, and I'm excited to share a unique opportunity with you...

My friend AJ Juliani, who is widely known for his work involving all things design thinking and Genius Hour, is offering a fantastic master course for you!

You can register up until August 17.
save 20% on your purchase by using the code 20KAYLA

Here's what the full course includes:
  • 70 Videos walking you step-by-step through the Genius Hour process
  • Year-long Private discussion group for course members with AJ (Facebook/Voxer)
  • 4- Week Unit and 7 lesson plans mapped to standards, 21st Century Skills, Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s DOK
    • K-2 Unit and 3-5 Unit
    • 6-8 Unit and 9-12 Unit
  • 8- Week Unit and 10 lesson plans mapped to standards, 21st Century Skills, Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s DOK
    • K-2 Unit and 3-5 Unit
    • 6-8 Unit and 9-12 Unit
  • 12- Week Unit and 14 lesson plans mapped to standards, 21st Century Skills, Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s DOK
    • K-2 Unit and 3-5 Unit
    • 6-8 Unit and 9-12 Unit
  • Mini-Genius (Two Lessons) Activity mapped to standards
  • Student Genius Hour Notebook (print and digital)
  • PowerPoint for each unit
  • Starter Question pack for teacher and students
  • Parent letters
  • Assessment rubrics for process and product
  • Handouts for everyday and every stage

Bonuses only available during launch week:
  • Guide to student blogging (step-by-step how to)
  • Guide to social media in the classroom (What to use and how to use it)
  • Genius Hour Journal (the popular GH resource PPT)
  • Wordpress 101 (how to create your own blog and get it up and running)

Of note...
  1. This course is evolving. Each month new lessons will be added based on community discussion and feedback.
  2. This course includes everything you need to run Genius Hour at any level. Lessons are differentiated for K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. This is not for one specific grade level, it is for K-12.
  3. All videos and materials are downloadable to your own device/computer so you can take them on the go and use without wifi etc.
  4. All files are editable documents. Nothing is in PDF, it is all Word Doc and PPT files that you can adjust to for your classroom needs.
  5. If you don’t have devices in your classroom, don’t worry. All the materials are print/handout ready, and you can run GH without computers for your students.

More info about Genius Hour from AJ's blog...
How Genius Hour Benefits the Entire School Community
10 Reasons to Try Genius Hour This Year

Remember, the course registration closes August 17!
Save 20% on your purchase by using the code 20KAYLA.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Win 10K for You and Your School!

When you think about your future, what do you see? Starting or growing your family? Traveling your state, the U.S., the world? Getting an education, or giving one to your kids or grandkids? Your dreams and goals are unique to you, and your future could bring anything.

Education can be expensive. Registration fees, sports equipment, music lessons and more are all things we need to provide our kids to prepare for their future. But, it costs money.

Not every parent can grant every wish their child has, but you can help shape them by providing the right opportunities at school and in life. That’s why I’m thrilled to encourage you to enter the Own Your Future Challenge! Record a short video (60 seconds or less) answering COUNTRY Financial’s two questions:

1)  If you won $5,000, how would you use it to own your family's future?
2) If you won $5,000 for a local school, how would you want them to spend it?

Then upload your video at for a chance to win $10,000 ($5,000 for you, and $5,000 for your school).

Submit your video by 7/24 to start owning your future and follow along with the contest hashtags #FutureFocused and #OwnYourFuture. Contest open to applicants in the Minneapolis area.

This is a sponsored post.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Inspiring Creativity in the Elementary Classroom: 3 Quick Tips to Get Started #ISTE2016

I often hear keynote speakers deliver outstanding presentations that all reverberate "Our schools need more creativity." But, they don't actually give a call-to-action, or ideas to help teachers get started. We all know our classrooms need to be spaces where kids are allowed to get messy, inspired, and be creative. But, how do we do exactly that?

Here are just a few ideas that work specifically in our second grade classroom.

1. Hand over the power to your students and let them learn about what they are passionate about. In my classroom, students spent one hour a week studying what makes them tick, think, and question. This hour each week, Genius Hour, was probably our most productive, motivating, and engaging hour week after week. To read more about our Genius Hour projects, check out this fun interview with Emerging Prairie, Tech-Savvy Teaching: How a Fargo 2nd Grade Teacher Teaches a Techie Generation. Consider taking Genius Hour to another level, and incorporating the same concept over the course of 5 school days to implement Innovation Week.

2. Redesign your classroom from a sterile learning environment to one where kids actually enjoy the space they are learning in, and consider it a "destination". It's hard to inspire creativity when kids are sitting in rows of desks that isolate them, and in classrooms that look the same as they did 100 years ago. Release the power, ditch the seating chart, and incorporate flexible seating. Here are some resources I have written to get you thinking and redesigning over the summer: Flexible Seating and Student-Centered Classroom Redesign (a guest post for Edutopia), and Why the 21st Century Classroom May Remind You of Starbucks (my column on EdSurge). You can also view tons of pictures of my classroom by clicking the Classroom Design Inspiration tab above.

3. Incorporate tools and apps that are going to transform your classroom and truly inspire creativity. If something is boring on paper (i.e. math worksheets), it's going to be boring on an iPad. iPads don't guarantee student engagement, motivation, and creativity. There are millions of tools at our fingertips today, but they certainly are not all best for our kids. Some apps are skill-based and and repetitive (turning your devices into expensive flashcards), while others are project based. Let's set kids loose to go create something and not just play games.

Here is a list of just some of our favorite tools, websites, and apps for creativity:
Google Slides
Pic Collage
Explain Everything
Crayola Color Alive!
Book Creator
Doodle Buddy
Adobe Spark
Word Clouds
Class Kick

Why do some classrooms look the same now as they did 70 years ago? In this passionate talk, second grade teacher Kayla Delzer speaks about her mission to revitalize learning and the classroom environment. Kayla explains how to release the power in the classroom by giving students ownership of their learning and making it relevant to them. 
Breaking down the four walls of the classroom allows her students to become globally connected - and you won’t believe the endeavors her students conquer by embracing purposeful technology.

Connect with Kayla on Twitter and Instagram, or meet her at #ISTE2016.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Three Reasons Students Should Own Your Classroom's Twitter and Instagram Accounts

This work is my column that was originally posted on

It is quickly becoming a non-negotiable for all classrooms to leverage social media in order to communicate with families and other classrooms—thus engaging others in the daily lives of students. While simply posting “fun” photos is a start, this novelty wears off quickly, and as a result, we must think more critically about how we communicate via social media.

We must think more critically about how we communicate via social media.

As a second grade teacher who facilitates a student-centered classroom, I now believe our use of social media is an opportunity for students to partake in the type of learning in which they can thrive and shout their story to the world.

1. Genuine Digital Citizenship Opportunities

In fall 2012, I liked the idea of Twitter, but the thought of social media infiltrating my classroom was still a bit scary. So I developed an analog Twitter bulletin board and had each student write out their tweets on sentence strips daily.

A month later, I realized the value of students sharing work with more than just those in our classroom. So, I jumped right in and set up a Twitter account under my name, with the intention of letting the students run it. However, rather than immediately giving them complete control, and possibly negatively affecting all of our digital footprints, we prepared ourselves through digital citizenship bootcamp. Throughout these lessons, we used gradual release of responsibility (the same technique used in my classroom in other subject areas) to systematically turn the “social media reins” over to the students.

Check out Kayla Delzer's student-controlled social media channels:
Twitter: @topdogkids
Instagram: @topdogkids

At first, while this whole process was uncomfortable for me (to say the least), I understood I was doing my students a disservice by not actually helping them to develop their digital footprints in a genuine environment. In the end, my comfort level was less important than their experiences on social media.

What we do in my classroom: This fall, students in our classroom completed digital citizenship bootcamp. My students had to pass seven different digital citizenship rules before I was going to give them access to our accounts as “Tweeter of the Day” and “Instagrammer of the Day”. To take this a step further, I also had parents come in one night to complete the boot camp, as well. That’s right—a parent social media bootcamp, where my students were the teachers, helped their parents get set up with accounts, and taught them about everything from retweets to our district hashtags.

2. Publishing for the World (and the Classroom Across the Hall) is Powerful

When we allow students to write and share their work with the world, suddenly their work becomes more valuable. Students will always do their worst writing when they know the only person who will ultimately view it is their teacher. How many assignments in classrooms are completed solely for teacher as a requirement of the curriculum?

Additionally, while sharing our stories with the world is invaluable, there’s something to be said with simply using social media to share your story across the hallway. Canadian educator George Couros challenged me to use our account in a way that could connect our classroom with not only the world, but the other classrooms right in our school. This is where our school hashtag #LegacyK5 was born.

What we do in my classroom: Students in my classroom now post to that hashtag knowing our principal, previous teachers, future teachers, and other staff members are going to see their work. When my students tweet, blog, or post on our Instagram page, they are sharing their work with thousands of followers. There is a positive and almost competitive pressure in knowing that their work will be viewed by their parents, other classrooms around the world, friends, our principal, and experts—and best of all, they step up their game because they have an authentic audience to share their work with.

3. Establishing Your Classroom Brand

According to educators Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis, branding can be defined as “the marking practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.” Within the past few years, this idea of branding our schools/classrooms has become extremely valuable, as it promotes transparency by painting an accurate, live picture of what is taking place. Yet, in reality, the majority of the time the educators are the ones telling these stories. While this certainly has its place, ultimately what matters most is how students feel about their experiences. Social media has allowed my students to share our classroom happenings through their eyes. It has allowed my students the opportunity to both establish and share the culture of our classroom and our school, and ultimately create our “brand”.

What we do in my classroom: By literally handing over classroom devices that are logged into our accounts, I am giving my students control to cultivate our brand. We have a rule in our classroom to only share pictures and the work of students that are engaged or making smart choices. Additionally, my students start each day with an introductory post (and usually a selfie or picture with me), and sign every post so our followers know who is writing that day. Day by day and month by month, they are sharing work that they deem important from inside our four walls.

The Sky’s the Limit

The opportunities my students have had because of Twitter far outweigh the risks associated with setting up a student lead account. In November, my students had the life-changing opportunity to do a Google Hangout with Brad Waid while he was doing professional development in Hong Kong, China. Following him on Twitter two years ago lead to this beautiful relationship that allows us to follow his journey all over the globe. He has brought new culture, knowledge, and expertise to our classroom. Brad has been an amazing expert who has connected with my classroom over and over again.

In January, my students were invited to do a Google Hangout to chat about digital citizenship with the #DigCitSummitUK. My students became global speakers overnight because of their outstanding work on our social media accounts. To say this is an honor would be an understatement—such a proud teacher moment!

Social media is happening—with or without you. The lessons my students learn by taking ownership of social media ends up enhancing all of their work, both in and out of school. And let’s be honest… wouldn’t you prefer to have your students write the story of your classroom, rather than someone else?