Changing Times with COVID-19

Nobody ever excepted for their lives to be abruptly interrupted by a national pandemic. Healthcare workers and officials have been placed on the front lines battling this virus to save lives. This is also a time to think about those who are working from the front lines at home and how they are trying to maintain the peace. These people consist of state governments and law enforcement, small business owners, and the educators who are bending over backwards to create a new normal for their students.

What exactly is the new normal for educators and students in need?

K-12 teachers describe the new normal as trying to find ways to keep their students engaged and feeling safe in such a  troublesome time. The way education is being monitored varies between state, district, and county because of the resources available. In North Carolina in particular, most schools are not “requiring” that work be submitted and graded, teachers are still working to ensure a stable connection between them and their students.

This can be a very challenging time for students who relied on going to school everyday because it was their safe place, or maybe their only meal a day. Counties all across the country have set up systems to help those in need. I looked at my county in particular, and the ways they are ensuring meals and communication to students. The Gaston County School System has taken many efforts to reach the needs of children and their parents during this hard time. They have launched “Gaston at Home” which allows for parents to download packets for their children to work on while at home. These packets will not be graded, but keep students thinking and learning. Since libraries are closed, Gaston County is enforcing their WOW (without walls) program that connects students to e-books. Spectrum is also granting free wifi to students in need. I think these steps taken are appropriate for students to create a routine while at home, and can continue learning. When it comes to meals, Gaston County launched Grab and Go, which ensures meals to students in need at 16 locations. 

I’m very proud of my county and their efforts to ensure the needs of students are met. Gaston County has a 15.61% poverty rate (from a 2018 report) where people are not having their needs met. It is essential that during these hard times, students know where their next meal will come from, and that they have a support system.

Click here to read more on Gaston County’s policy for ensuring communication and meals to their students.


Education Before Corona?

At this point, it can be hard to quite remember how education was operated before corona. Students went to school everyday and were physically greeted by their teachers and had a classroom and a desk to call their own. Instructions were given by teachers and staff by standing in front of the class giving lectures, providing handouts, drawing examples, incorporating technology, and being a personal assistant. Teachers introduced more lessons and activities via technology, but it was hardly a reliable source for teachers. After the corona outbreak, teachers and staff relied on technology to communicate and teach, but it brought some questions to the table:

What technology is available?

Is online learning cost efficient?

What basic skills are students are students losing from online learning?

What about the students who do not have access to technology at home?

How does this affect teachers who are not comfortable using technology?

Will there be a later push for online learning versus a physical classroom?

Are teachers reaching all the needs of students online?

What are ways that staff and students can adapt to online learning?

Can teachers keep up with the growing rate of technology?

How does the technology gap need to be addressed?

These questions are still concerns that may or may not have an answer from education officials. However, all staff and teachers are all hands on deck to work together to take each day one day at time and focus on their students.

The Life of a ‘Zoom University’ College Student

Upon learning that I would not be coming back to campus at NC State University after Spring Break simply broke my heart. I have so much love for the campus that has brought me so many friends, helped me grow as an individual, and learn what it means to be apart of the pack! I also had many concerns on how my daily routine was going to change and how my classes would operate. The University worked with me, as well as all students to continue smooth delivery of coursework through Moodle and lectures via Zoom. This transition helped to change my mindset on how to view technology, and how much I rely on it. I’m thankful for the applicators available in my life that allow me to continue my education from home.

Check out my video on my “Daily Routine at NCSU Zoom University


Helpful Resources

Below is a list of helpful recourses and descriptions of technology being used by K-12 teachers to help with virtual learning and communication.

  1. Zoom-virtual face to face communication, perfect for class size lectures and communication
  2. Google Hangouts-face to face communication, better for one on one communication
  3. Google Classroom– connection of communication through a google account for teachers and students that provides a feed of posts and assignments
  4. Kahoot– educational game were students put their knowledge to the test by answering questions the fastest to see their name on the leaderboard.
  5. Starfall– educational game were K-1st grade students can improve on their phonics and number skills
  6. Brainpop-educational videos on the topic of the teachers choice with assisting quizzes
  7. Classdojo-connection of communication through teachers and students that provides a feed of posts and assignments
  8. Flipgrid-Video presentations on the lesson or lecture, and you can even reply back via video
  9. StoryBird– allows for students to create art inspired stories to share with teachers
  10. National Geographic Kids– accessible online magazine with educational games that reflect todays trending topics


These technology resources are very useful for communication and assisted for learning for teachers, students, and their parents. Many more educational sites and resources have opened up to temporarily free subscriptions for teachers and students to help with the resource gap the nation is currently facing. I want to incorporate technologies like these in and out of my classroom. I feel as if they serve as a strong communication base, and it can even incorporate the parents for more family based learning. Technology within the classroom is constantly growing and changing and it’s important to find ways were it can benefit the teacher and the student.

Click the following article to find more technology resources for teachers to introduce to their students to establish a learning connection.

27 Tech Tools Teachers Can Use to Inspire Classroom Creativity



COVID-19 took the world by surprise, and left us with lots of “what next?” questions. As a community we realized how much we operate on technology, and how we use it to stay connected with one another. I personally find it very eye opening to the resources created and expanded to reach the needs of everyone and in particular, students. Children have many questions themselves and wonder when their lives will be returned to normal. It’s important to have the conversation with them too about today’s changing world, and what they can do to help keep everyone safe. Younger students should keep some sort of daily routine, just as if they were in school to help with the anxiety of change. This is done through the communication of teachers and students by technologies that keep them connected. Even if teachers are instructed not to grade work submitted by students, it’s still important to acknowledge that it was completed. I believe teachers should reach out to their students and ask them questions regarding the accessibilities they have at home, what they’ve been up to, and how they are seeing this time as an opportunity for a growth mindset. We see this as a scary time in our history, but it’s the obstacles that we face that have stronger outcomes.

All about PLN’s and Twitter


Professional Learning Networks (PLN’s) are networks meant to connect you with others and expand learning through shared ideas, thoughts, and resources online. PLN’s are important because they give teachers a way to become challenged and strive higher, share what they know, expand on personal knowledge, and gain a support system.

In my ECI 201 class, we focused on the PLN of Twitter. We also had the opportunity to listen to guest speaker and educator, Kyle Hamstra (@KyleHamstra). Mr. Hamstra talked to us about PLN’s, his personal hashtag, and how he uses twitter in the classroom. Mr. Hamstra felt it is important to “hashtag a community around your curriculum,” he did this by creating his own hashtag, #Hashtag180. He created this hashtag because it allows from for himself and his educational community to “share their learning, tell their story, grow their PLN, and ultimately achieve their journey.” Personally, I felt that his presentation left a greater impact on me instead of reading the resources online. He became my proof that growing my PLN as a future educator can be successful and it’s very simple. Mr. Hamstra also encouraged my class to create our own hashtag, and share our educational story, and now I encourage you!

Video: More about PLN's


Purpose of Twitter 

Twitter is known as a micro-blogging site, that allows for individuals to write about whatever they want. Tweets range from posting inspirational quotes, discussions on politics, sports, fashion, to what this blog post is focusing on, education topics! Individuals have the opportunity to follow others that share interests, or those who bring out the best of each others differences. Hashtags are also big in twitter, they are typically short statements that follow along with your tweet. This makes searching for previous posts faster because you can search by hashtag, and begin to engage in communication or to continue learning.

Follow my professional Twitter account @koneill_ncsu

Educational Twitter Topics

A great source of connection and communication in the education world is twitter. Educators have access to sharing ideas, lesson plans, and recognizing educational figures. One way that communication can take place is through Twitter Chats. A twitter chat is “a scheduled organized topical conversation on Twitter centralized around a specific hashtag” (Understanding Twitter Chats). Start by logging into ‘Tweet Deck‘ using your twitter handle, next search the hashtag of the chat of your choosing. When the chat starts, you are able to answer the given questions and incorporate your opinion. The purpose of an education twitter chat is for communication among educators that can freely discuss new and relevant or complicated topics in the education community. I think anyone can benefit from a Twitter Chat whether or not it is your first year teaching or your twenty-fifth. There is always something new we can learn from one another, and Twitter Chats are a great resource to consider when sharing ones opinion.

Sample Topics include:

-Helping 1st Year Teachers

-21st Century Education Chat

-Promote Reading and Literacy

-Common Core State Standards Chat

-Social Studies Teachers Chat

-Aspiring Educational Administrator

-Educational Technology Chat

-Student Voice

-Kindergarten and Early Childhood Chat

-Middle School Math Chat

Click the button below for a full list of all upcoming education Twitter Chats.

Upcoming Ed Chats


Twitter in the Classroom

Twitter can be used as a very useful tool to many teachers and students inside the K-12 classroom. Being a multifunctional social media platform, teachers can incorporate twitter into the lesson plan and post using class accounts. Teachers can also post activities and accomplishments presented by their students and have them be viewed by their parents and guardians. This helps to create conversation when the student goes homes since the parents have an idea on the daily learning, they are able to ask questions and engage with their child’s education. Twitter also can be incorporated into many lessons operated by the teacher. This gives students the opportunity to engage on a social media platform for educational purposes, and can also make learning more enjoyable. Here are ‘10 Ways To Use Twitter In The Classroom‘:

1. Keep up the trends

2. Communication with students and parents

3. Get feedback from students

4. Show off your classroom

5. Get students summarizing

6. Connect with other classes

7. Make Twitter the homework

8. Tweet as a historical figure

9. Write a Twitter haiku

10. Edit tweets, using retweets

Video: Twitter in Elementary Classroom Video: Twitter in Highschool Classroom


Risks of Twitter

Every personal learning network (PLN) comes with risks and responsibilities, just like Twitter. Most importantly it is important to keep your students safe, and your reputation clean. Ensuring safety of students takes the form of not releasing any personal information of your students on twitter, and recognizing their privacy and not posting their faces or full names without permission from parents and guardians. It is also important to be mindful of the content that is exposed to the students from twitter. Make sure as educators you are following safe, appropriate, and positive individuals that will benefit both you and your students. Click here to read an article on the pros and cons of twitter from an educational standpoint.

Before my ECI 201 class, I was unaware of the impact Twitter and PLN’s can have on educators and their students. PLN’s have created many new opportunities for educators to help their students engage and learn online. Twitter, serves as a resource for communication and even a search engine when wanting to receive answers on topics, so finding new lessons. Educators should also try to have an end goal in mind, what are they trying to get out of twitter for the lesson? It can be so easy to get caught up in incorporating the use of PLN’s in a lesson, that our students are not getting anything out of it. Twitter should not be used as a standard social media platform trying to entertain students, without containing educational factors. Educators should include resources that work for their particular classroom, and critique if necessary.

As a future elementary teacher, I can definitely see myself incorporating PLN’s, especially twitter into my classroom. The main purpose I want twitter to serve in my classroom is to communicate with parents and guardians, and gaining more ideas and knowledge for myself. With my students still being a young age, I do not believe a full functioning social media platform should be operating in the classroom. There are many educational alternatives revolving around PLN’s that students can benefit from besides social media. However, we live in an age of communication through technology, and if twitter is the resource that will connect my classroom to their parents, I want to include it. I plan on creating a private classroom account, and only following other educational accounts, and only letting educational accounts plus approved family members of my students follow the account. During activities and lessons, I want to record and take pictures of my students and let them create captions that explain the purpose of the activity and what they got out of it, and tweet it to their family members. It will also be used at my benefit to discover more lessons, and gain support and resources from other elementary teachers. I am choosing to let twitter serve these purposes in my classroom because it keeps from exposing the extended use of a social media platforms to students at such a young age. Educators should include PLN’s in the classroom were it’s used as a resource to benefit educators and their students.

Digital Citizenship

What is Digital Citizenship?

“Digital Citizenship refers to the responsible use of technology by anyone who uses computers, the internet, and digital devices to engage with society on any level” (Applied educational systems).

Digital Citizenship ranges from the positive aspects from; the way you connect with others online, create relationships, to the negative ones; cyberbullying, and hindering your reputation by the things you post. This connects into deeper connections such as monitoring your Digital Footprint, maintaining a positive Reputation while online, and striving for Digital Communication and Collaboration.


It is important to start having these conversations at a young to help better prepare our students for their future. Google put out an insightful website called “Be Internet Awesome” this website is full of preparation resources for Digital Citizenship for elementary teachers and their students. Teachers have the opportunity to gain lesson plans to incorporate digital citizenship in the classroom, while students can learn from an interactive game online, called “Interland”. This digital operation lays the foundation for digital citizenship, and what it means to make smart decisions online. I think this interactive site and tools for teachers would be very beneficial in the classroom. It helps teach students the citizenship guidelines online and offline that will be beneficial in all stages of life.


Digital Footprint

Digital Footprint is the trail that individuals leave online, including what they send, websites they visits, location services, and submissions.

As a future educator, it is important that our students understand their digital footprint. With a growing rate of technology, there is always going to be information others can access. It is important that they are building a reputation that will better prepare them for their future.

Here are some helpful hints that can help our students keep their digital footprint clean:

1. Google Yourself- When students google themselves they can see what the world wide web has to say about them.

2. Keep Social Media Accounts Private- Encourage students to only allow friends, family, and associated peers that they are comfortable with to see the information they are posting online.

3. Keep track of Accounts- Most school systems create an account for their students, make sure they understand the difference between this account, and their personal.

4. Enable Location Settings- Make your students aware that their posts can be tracked through location, should they be giving away the address of their home or school?

5. Keep from creating unnecessary accounts- If you do not need an account for the site you are using, do not make one. This can help students to keep their personal information private, instead of intertwined into multiple connections.

6. Be Aware- Even though students need to monitor what they are posting, they should also be aware of what others post about them, including tagged pictures.

7. Terms & Conditions- Everyone is guilty of not reading the terms & conditions. At least encourage students to skim the document because it will inform them how the specific site will effect their digital footprint.

8. Posting is Permanent- Explain to students now that what they post today, can have an affect on them tomorrow because it never really goes away.

9. Enable Location Settings- Make students aware that what they post can have an attached location. It is not always safe for your location to be available for the public to search.

10. Be Kind- Express to students the importance of remaining kind online, and the dangers of cyberbullying.


Reputation is how you are perceived online. It is important to keep your reputation appropriate, positive, and respectful because it’s always going to be available to others. As educators and future educators, it is important we are aware of the reputation we are leaving online. Is it appropriate to have public social media accounts for our students, their parents, and fellow staff members to see? Should we create multiple social media accounts for our professional and public lives? These questions can be controversial depending on the teacher, school system, and the incorporation of technology and social media inside the classroom. The bottom line is that the information we post, or what others post about us needs to be appropriate in order to maintain a positive reputation. Click here to read an article on the importance of a positive reputation for teachers.

It is also important to encourage students to maintain their reputation. Even at a young age, it is important for them to keep up with what they post because it can hinder their future. Below is a video that can be shared with your students, specifically middle and high school students about managing their online reputation.

Video: Managing Your Online Reputation

Here is a link that will take you to a Digital Citizenship poster that I created in my ECI 201 class. This poster has the incorporations of digital footprint and reputation designed for teenagers.

Digital Communication and Collaboration

Technology serves a purpose for allowing for multiple individuals to come together share opinions, deliver ideas, agree to disagree, and capture moments. This is the formation of communication in our to create a collaboration. This element is very enhancive for educators because we can use power of technology to communicate lesson plans, and collaborate on projects for our students. There is always teachers who want to help and share their ideas, this collaboration reaches many more individuals and leads to safe ways on how to work with others online. Click the link below to read an article on the importance of digital educator communication and collaboration.

Article: Digital Collaboration for Teachers


What’s the Law?

We have discussed as educators what digital citizenship looks like for us, our students, and how it is incorporated in the classroom. Now is a chance to view how school systems and the government views the rights and regulations of digital citizenship. Below are two laws that focus on the importance of privacy and filtering in the lives of our students:

FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act): “A federal law enacted in 1974 that guarantees that parents have access to their child’s education record and restricts who can access and use student information. FERPA protects the access to and sharing of a student’s education… FERPA also permits schools to share information with another school system regarding a student’s enrollment or transfer, specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes” (FERPA SHERPA).

CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act): “CIPA imposes requirements on schools or libraries that receive discounts for internet access or internal connections through E-rate program- a program that makes certain communications services and products more affordable for eligible schools and libraries… The protection measures must block or filter internet access to picture that are: (a) obscene; (b) child pornography; or (c) harmful to minors” (

Understanding the purpose of these laws is a tremendous ordeal in the lives of educators. We need to protect our students reputation while in school, by only sharing the allowed information set by government officials and school systems. By educating ourselves on these laws, we are helping to maintain the privacy of our students that is constructed online.

Throughout my ECI 201 class, I have learned the importance of Digital Citizenship and all its components to remain positive and safe online. Educators play a huge part on how students choose to portray themselves online. Starting in elementary school, teachers begin introducing digital citizenship by incorporating lessons on kindness and keeping personal information, such as their address private. As they get into middle and high school, they learn more about the dangers of cyberbullying, their digital footprint, and refraining from posting the scandalous picture that could hinder their college acceptance or future employment. It is heavily stressed by teachers that what we do online today, can have an effect on our tomorrow. In my future elementary classroom, I plan on incorporating videos, interactive websites, and in class lessons, that I learned about in my ECI 201 class. It is never too early to take the first steps in order to keep our students safe.

The same standards are set for educators online. As a future elementary teacher, I am making sure to keep my digital footprint clean, and my positive reputation. I want my future students and staff members to view my digital profile and recognize my professional background and achievements. This needs to be the mindset of all educators because their digital profile can be viewed by their students and parents if not under specific privacy guidelines. There are times when incorporating digital profiles into the classroom is beneficial, by collaborating with other teacher or classrooms or publishing lessons for all to see. However, there still should be guidelines such as creating a classroom account, and maintaining the privacy of everyone published in the account. The main takeaway is to educate ourselves and our students on the importance of Digital Citizenship and what to means to protect our futures.


Computational Thinking

What is Computational Thinking?

According to an article by Jeannette Wing, Computational Thinking is “a way of solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior by drawing on the concepts of computer science.” Over the past couple of weeks in ECI 201, we have learned the meaning of this definition and how to break it down, so let’s get started!

There are four main skills used in Computational Thinking; Algorithmic Thinking, Decomposition, Abstraction, and Pattern Recognition.

Image result for computational thinking"

To read up on Jeanette Wings article on Computational Thinking click here

Algorithmic Thinking

Algorithmic Thinking is being able to create a logical series of steps in order to produce an output in computer science. In ECI 201 we have talked about coding, and I think that’s a perfect example for how algorithmic thinking takes place. We got to do some online coding of our own, I chose ‘Wayfinding’ from Moana because it’s one of my favorite Disney movies. The object was to help Moana and Maui travel through the sea, catch fish, and to strike and dodge the coconut pirates. Algorithmic thinking was used because I needed to create a sequence of “moving forward, turning left, dodging, and striking” all in the correct order or I failed the level. It was a cool experience to see computer science at work through coding. I really enjoyed this activity because I got to take control of the gaming system, and basically see what the creators see when they make the games.

Coding should be more incorporated into schools because with a growing technology rate, children should have an idea on how the games they love are created. Coding activities differ by age and grade level for the level of intensity. For younger students, I strongly suggest simple coding activities, so they are not becoming overwhelmed and frustrated with the complexity of the assignment. Coding at that age should be a way for them to understand the concepts and techniques incorporated into game and lesson making. Disneys “Hour of Code” consists of coding activities for students that involve some of their favorite Disney characters. These activities allow students to think critically to build the kingdom, destroy the bad guy, and save the day, all while using code.


The next skill we are going to look at is Decomposition. This is a concept of breaking down the complexity of a subject or object and focusing on the individual or separate part. The best example for this in terms of computer science was putting together ‘Piper’ in ECI 201. Piper is a basic computer with added software that can add downloads, such as Minecraft. In class we got to build a Piper computer, and learn the basics of Minecraft. This demonstrates decomposition because after the computer was built, we still had to work step by step to attach each wire. Instead of the wires just being apart of the setup they each delivered their own function, such as moving forward or backward. This allowed for the bigger picture to be broken down for each little function in the grand scheme of computer science. For the future, I definitely think children should have access to a ‘Piper’ or a similar equivalent in classrooms. Ages that will especially that would benefit from Piper and similar activities include 3rd through 5th grade students, as well as early middle school students. Piper consists of a stronger thought process needed to build and set up the codes. It is easy for younger students to get frustrated with the activity, or not get much out of it. Older students however will benefit because they are at a stage in life where they want to take control and try new challenges. It was a great example of trial and error of trying to build a computer and correct the software. It allows for critical thinking skills and gains creativity with a fun purpose.

The link above takes you to a Youtube video describing the use of Piper for the development of students in a STEM classroom. The video goes into detail about the clear concepts of growth mindset, problem solving, creativity, collaboration, and engineering concepts through the creation of Piper. I think this video does a great job on breaking down the intellectual outcomes of Piper, instead of just focusing on the building and the finished product. The video also stresses that these fundamental practices and skills turn into careers later in life, and students would have never imagined they would be capable of such concepts at a younger age.


Another skill used in Computational Thinking is Abstraction. This is simply taking away the unnecessary details of a problem or situation and turning into a simple model. I saw Abstraction being used in our Visitor & Residents map we made in our ECI 201 class. On the map we divided it into four sections including visitor, resident, personal, and public. Visitor means a website you spend a short amount of time on, and residence means the site that you spend more of your time. Personal and public define as what you share with others, and what you decide to keep more to yourself. We then included the technology sites we used on a regular basis such as social media, google drive, email, and online shopping, and placed them in the appropriate spot. This is an example of abstraction because even though we did not use a computer for this activity, we took out the complexity of a site and simplified it into the meaning it had on us, the individual, and placed in its defining category.

The link below takes you to the “Visitor and Residents” by David White website. This was incorporated in the Computational Thinking unit in my ECI 201 class. The article and associated video does a great job of explaining the meaning of Visitor and Residents in terms of the internet and the various contexts. This article can be used for teachers and educators to get more on an insight on the footprint their students and themselves are making on the internet. This site helps to put new perspectives on what we choose to spend our time on, how we are tracked, and what data is being accessed. Teachers and educators need to take more action on this because it can allow for more lessons and useful sites to be shared between educators in a safe manner. It also helps to recognize restrictions for what educators should have access to during the school day, and learning how to separate their school life from their home life.

Pattern Recognition

The last skill of computational thinking is Pattern Recognition. This can be seen as identifying patterns and using them to analyze different concepts in computer science. Pattern Recognition was a big part of Sphero in ECI 201. Sphero is a robot ball, that can be controlled through coding. As a class, we got the opportunity to design a map of our campus, and include the main places we visit everyday. Then through coding we had to get Sphero to go to our different locations. This demonstrates pattern recognition because each repeated turn and distance Sphero traveled created a pattern. Using coding, the power of computer science drove the power of the robot. It was a cool experience to know that I was in control, but it took careful remembrance and skill to get Sphero to do what I wanted.

I think Sphero is a great tool to use in the classroom. Elementary students enjoy hands on activities, and Sphero is a great way to get them out of their seats, interacting with one another, and learning in a unique way. Sphero can be incorporated into many lesson plans; Examples include simple computer science, math equations and fractions, logic puzzles, and simple architecture. These activities give students the opportunity to creatively construct movements, lights, sounds, and mimics, through the power of learning core subjects. The link listed below is the official Sphero website which incorporates lessons, games, and the workspace for Sphero. The website can also be downloaded at the App Store under “Sphero edu” for mobile devices.

I had little knowledge about Computational Thinking before learning about it in my ECI 201 class. Now I have a pretty good idea that computational thinking is an expanded concept of computer science that is only going to grow. Computation Thinking can be broken up into four skills; Algorithmic Thinking, Decomposition, Abstraction, and Pattern Recognition. These skills are present in countless projects and clearly define the rise of computer science in our education system. As a future elementary teacher, I see the importance of providing children with opportunities regarding computational thinking within core subjects. Activities can be planned around the four skills, and give children the ability to let their individualistic minds operate and transform while learning. Students will get so much out of the activities when they are using the technology that allows them to be hands on and creative. Learning is fun and more engaging when the students can personalize any core lesson and make it their own. I want to make that evident in my classroom by incorporating resources like those listed above, instead of the every day pencil and paper. Lessons can be introduced in a more formal matter, but then transition into activities that give children the power to learn on their own. These concepts will remain with children and help prepare them for their future from a technology based standpoint. The basic fundamentals they are learning now, transform into life and career applications that students never realized began with computational thinking at such an early age. Living in a world that is full of increasing technology, it seems only fitting to incorporate such a concept on a daily basis.