Sunday, October 18, 2020

FREE! Zoom Signs for Remote Learning

FREE Signs for Remote Learning Title Image

One of my favorite things to do is draw on my iPad. It actually helps me to relax! In fact, I did all of the book illustrations for Coding to Kindness on my iPad using the Procreate app.

Some projects, like the book, are big projects that I work on over time. Other projects, like these Zoom signs, are something that I do out of necessity for myself... and then I realize how helpful they could potentially be for others, so I like to share! 

Circular signs printed out and attached to popsicle sticks

It started out as a set of signs that I would print out for myself to use for my remote students (currently, I'm expected to teach both remote and in-person/hybrid students at the same time). 

Full disclosure: this current situation is an unsustainable logistical nightmare. I've never felt like a worse teacher than I do this year. But teachers keep plugging forward, doing the best that we can with what we're given, and this idea is just one of them. 

image/button/banner linked to download folder

It later occurred to me that a set of signs would also be a great tools for students! I can't even tell you how many times I've had students sit patiently with their hands up, and when I call on them, they ask, "May I use the bathroom?" 

...Aargh! You've been waiting that whole time? This is just one of the differences between elementary and middle school students. Middle school students don't wait. They'd just go. But those elementary students, they're so polite! If only my littles had a sign they could just hold up to silently alert me before ducking out for a minute, they could avoid waiting that whole awkward time! 

Screenshot of the "I need a break" sign

Is this the kind of thing that would help YOU out, too? If so, here's my entire folder of images - download them all, or just whatever you need! You can print them in color and cut them out into circles, or keep it simple by doing a quick black and white/photocopy printout, and square them off using a paper cutter. For the full treatment, print these out on card stock and laminate before gluing onto sticks. 

Keep a set for yourself, or create an entire class set to distribute and send home to students! And be sure to share share share with any other educators that you think might find this useful!  

Is there a sign that you wish existed, but isn't here? Send me a message via IG or Twitter, and I'll see what I can do! ☺️

- Mrs L.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Remote Learning Essentials: Teaching From Home (If You Are So Lucky...!)

As of right now, I won't get to teach from home. It's infuriating. I have asthma and ulcerative colitis, which is a chronic condition that comes and goes. I hadn't had a flare up since 2014. But it's here with full force presently, thanks to the stress I've been under regarding returning to school. Awesome.

Anyways, here's a blog post I've been meaning to write for those of you who ARE lucky enough to teach from home this fall. I have a really great work-from-home setup that does video conferencing and meetings pretty darn nicely, so I figured I'd share what works for me. I even have a whole pdf file with clickable links available HERE with complete details and recommended items.


One of the items that I STRONGLY recommend (if you do nothing else!) is to get a second monitor. You can purchase one on Amazon relatively inexpensively, around $100, or you can use an iPad or other tablet you may have... or even an old computer/laptop? I've even seen teachers use tvs from their house to use as a second screen - so get creative! 


Next on my working-from-home list is lighting. It's a pet peeve of mine when people sit in front of a window. Like, their backdrop is a window. And I'm talking to a backlit silhouette. Aargh! This is simple (and free!) to fix. Just turn around. Face the window and the natural light, it will illuminate you beautifully! I know sometimes your layout may not permit this, so you can also invest in a simple light setup for your space, starting with a desk lamp for behind your computer that helps illuminate your face. You can get all fancy with a YouTuber-style ring light, or even invest in a videoconferencing light like Lume Cube sells. I do have one of these, and they're pretty cool. 


If your microphone on your computer is not-so-great, it's easy to hook up an external mic. Just figure out what your computer input is: USB? Bluetooth? 1/8" (headphone) jack? and decide how much you want to spend! You may not have even realized it, but your earbuds with the built-in microphone are actually really good! Just this last week I decided to really treat myself with a back-to school gift of some sweet black Pixel Buds. #fancy. 

download the entire pdf here


Have you noticed increased eyestrain and headaches from starting at a screen for so long? You might want to try some blue light glasses. I gotta admit, I really just love the fashion statement of glasses, so I searched out some funky cat-eye styles on Amazon. For $10-20 you can grab a pair (or switch up your wardrobe with multiples!) and see what you think. Some people swear by them, and others claim to not notice any difference. I have noticed less eye strain when I've got mine on. Even if it's a placebo effect, I'll take it. And they're cute. :)


I've seen a bunch of awesome ideas for setting up your mobile phone or iPad as a doc cam for filming demonstrations, drawing, writing, or books. My fave is to use a locker shelf! (Face it, kids are always throwing these things out at the end of the year - harvest them up for free when you can!) Of course, you can always splurge on a gooseneck-style holder from Amazon for around $25-30 bucks, so it depends on how much effort you want to put into it. 


Lastly, do not underestimate the power of a comfortable desk chair! I splurged on a cushy upholstered velvety swivel one in the spring, and I haven't regretted it once! My old desk chair was molded plastic, and I had no idea how uncomfortable that could be until I had to sit in it for hours on end last spring. Eek! (NOT Good For Butts, as my husband would say re: his made-up scale for measuring chair effectiveness.)

Do you want to see more of my home office setup? I actually did a whole Reset EDU video on this topic, and you can watch it here: 

- Mrs L.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

#AllMeansAll: Tech Help Webinars for IL State Teachers


During April and May 2020, I worked with Teach Plus IL, who, in partnership with ILSTOY and NBPTS, held virtual PLN groups made up of teachers across the state in order to provide support during COVID-19 e-learning and remote-learning initiatives. The project, named All Means All, was an awesome way for educators to connect with other colleagues who taught in the same subject areas and levels and receive a variety of support. 

My part in this campaign was to provide weekly tech help sessions via webinar for any interested teachers. It was really awesome to be regarded as a leader who had some knowledge to share! I love learning about and sharing tech tools that can help make a difference in the everyday lives of teachers, and that can help students better demonstrate understanding or obtain additional help and support as needed. 

I am so grateful to have so many awesome friends and ed tech connections in my professional learning network that I was able to bring some of them in to help me and give Illinois state teachers a better understanding of some essential tech tools for e-learning! 

Here's what we covered:

The sessions above are all linked to the accompanying 1-pager handout that I gave to webinar attendees (with the exception of Jamboard, which is linked to Kim Mattina's website full of awesome resources!).

Monday, May 4, 2020

A Message from ILSTOY Teachers to All Educators

A Message from the Illinois State Teachers of the Year

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! 

Ever since our stay-at-home-order, I've been pretty bogged down with not only teaching from home, but a lot of other outside projects, too. (Have you seen my media page lately? Lots of podcasts, webinars, etc... I know I don't even have them all listed there!) So needless to say, both this blog and Reset EDU channels have suffered as a result... :(

One of my outside projects is a weekly LIVE tech help webinar for teachers across IL state. It's an effort through Teach Plus IL and the ILSTOY network to create PLCs of teachers, no matter where they teach/live in the state, to help them with their remote learning challenges. It's been fun, but intimidating! The first week was all about Google Classroom, and last week we demonstrated Screencastify for teachers. I was lucky to have Nef from Screencastify stop by to take some Q&A from the attendees. This week will be all about Flipgrid, and Jornea has agreed to stop by! I'm pretty excited. Coming up after that are sessions on Jamboard (w/my friend Kim Mattina of The Suite Talk) and Google Suite for Education tools. 

Another project I'm involved with is the ILSTOY (IL State Teachers of the Year) organization. We wanted to do something to help show our support for teaching during our current situation. One of those things is to partner up with ASCD and PBS to support the #SeniorPortrait Campaign "to amplify the voices of millions of high school seniors whose class experiences were dramatically disrupted by the coronavirus shutdown."

Our other project was a short video that we released to show our support and thanks to teachers out there doing whatever they can to help support our students. You can check it out here:

I know that we would love to get as wide a reach as possible with this video! Please share this message on your social media channels and tag a teacher who you know could use a little boost!

- Mrs L.

Monday, December 30, 2019

I Like To Draw Stuff.

Creating things is what drives me in life. I figured out pretty early on that constantly creating is kind of like breathing to me. I work a lot, and I find it hard to say no to things, but I also LIKE to make things. 

Most people equate creating = ART, and for some of us, that's true, but honestly any kind of making is good with me. I waste a ridiculous amount of time finding the perfect image, graphic, font, color, etc. when I design slide decks for presentations, or I'm designing a lesson for class. It's all still creating, in my opinion. 

But, traditional art is also my jam. This past school year, I was dragged back into the art room to teach 8th grade art, and I was instantly reminded how much I love to draw. If we could just hang out for 45 minutes each day, free draw until the end of class, and go on our merry way, I'd be in heaven. But, you know, grades and such... hmph.

Ok, so I have a couple of drawing things going on at the moment. Like this Slidesmania template I got to collaborate on! I was so excited to come across a random tweet calling for some sketchnote-y drawings to be used on a slides theme! 

You can download this theme, called Doodles, for free (and read more of the story) here:

Shout-out to Omar Lopez for his sweet icon work in this slide deck, too!

For those wondering, I draw primarily on my iPad using an Apple Pencil and the Procreate app. My friends Manuel and Sadie first turned me on to these tools and I've never looked back - they're hands-down my favorites!

If you like these little sketches, I've got more exciting drawing plans in the future, so stay tuned!

- Mrs L.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

10 Reasons Why People Are The Best Part of Conferences

I've recently been to two education conferences, back-to-back: the AMLE conference in Nashville, and the IETC conference in Springfield, where I was fortunate to be named a featured speaker! I was thinking back on these experiences and how much I enjoyed it... and it dawned on me that although the sessions are full of information, useful tips, and new strategies to try, my absolute favorite part of conferences = the people!

As I reflected on why I felt this way, I came up with 10 reasons why people are the best part of conferences. And then I sketchnoted it, because that's what I do. :) Here goes:

10 Reasons Why People Are The Best Part of Conferences

1. Selfies!

This one is pretty self-explanatory. It's fun to document all of the people you meet via selfies. Beth told me that I always make the same face. She's not wrong:

2. Social media does NOT equal real-life.

I know a lot of people solely from social media, so it's extra awesome to get to meet them IRL. I mean, it's always awkward for me because I'm terrible at small talk but I'm truly excited when I see them in physical form and try my best to be exciting and interesting back.

3. People can be energizing.

So, I'm actually an introvert IRL (hence the awkward first meetups) and I do need to go hide in my hotel room/back at home, and I'm exhausted at the end of the day, but it is also really energizing to get to meet people who are excited about education and have fun new ideas to talk about. It's good to be around other passionate educators who think like you do!

4. It's your extended support family.

People will come to your sessions because they're your friends and will sit in the crowd and just be a positive encouraging presence. I remember being super nervous to present at ISTE this year, and I looked out at the 140-ish people in the audience... and then I saw Alicia! She smiled and waved and it made me feel better.

5. Cheering on your friends!

On the flipside, you get to go watch your friends' sessions and cheer them on! Depending on how well you know your friends, you can holler at them and crack jokes. Or sing along at karaoke before the session starts (looks at Adam and Mike)...

6. Travel BFFs.

Either traveling with or meeting up with a friend (or friends) that you can tag along with for the experience is extra cool. In the case of IETC, my travel BFF was Terence. We got to present together, we had automatic lunch table partners, and we had a buddy to peruse the vendor hall. Also, during evening festivities, it's always nice to have a friend looking out for you and making sure we all get "home" safely.

7. Expanding your network.

When I meet someone IRL that I previously only knew online, it feels really cool when they're super nice and act like we've been friends for ages! I had an experience at EdCamp not too long ago when my husband and I were asked to go to lunch with a bunch of friends - some brand-new, some previously acquainted - just be brought into the fold was so amazing and welcoming! I hope to pay it forward - my #LAX18 family can meet my #ILSTOY family, and the network grows.

Shawn models the exclusive "Mrs Leban on a beach ball" sticker. :)

8. Personalized PD.

Talking to folx at a conference - those informal conversations - are the ultimate in personalized PD! You find commonalities and expertise in areas that apply to your specific situation and are super relevant. Sometimes you'll have a conversation with someone that sparks an idea - or connects you to a friend-of-a-friend that can help you out with a project!

9. The unexpected!

Meeting people and making connections are great, but it's often the things you learn that are completely unexpected that leave some of the biggest impacts on you! Some of my conference experiences are a direct result of being introduced to someone else by a friend, and weeks later we connect for a future project or event. Even the most casual conversations had in the evening over drinks can spark inspiration for something else. Just keep your mind open and you'll be amazed at what you can find!

10. Gains beyond the sessions.

I guess all of the items above technically qualify as gains "beyond the sessions," but interacting and networking with people at conferences has really helped me with my social anxiety, awkwardness, and given me lots of practice in a super welcoming and relatively safe environment. Teachers are rad, and they understand (and put up with!) my weird awkwardness, but also passion and excitement when it comes to education.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

How about you - what's your favorite part about going to conferences? Do you get to go to conferences? I know a lot of schools won't pay for teachers to go (mine typically won't - but that's a conversation for another post!) - but sometimes you get that once-a-year opportunity... what do you most look forward to? 

- Mrs L.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

5 Reasons I Love Classroom Q!

I've known about ClassroomQ for a while, and when I finally tried it out with my 7th grade class, it was a beautiful thing! I teach all kinds of tech things: GSuite for Education, Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship, video production, digital imaging and graphic design, tech toys and robotics, and coding/beginning computer science concepts.

In 7th grade, our computer science/coding experience is using Scratch. Students create mini games according to a set of criteria. Although they enjoy the end result, the journey to get there is often filled with frustration. You see, because I am an elective teacher, the skills that my students walk in through the door with are extremely varied. I will have students with special needs and below-grade-level math skills in the same group of 25+ as students enrolled in math classes 2 or more levels above their grade. It's honestly a really frustrating situation, because many people seem to think that an "elective" class = an easy class, or one without too many "academic" skills necessary.

Absolutely not true.

So, when I teach Scratch, I get a lot of questions. A LOT. OF. QUESTIONS.

The average experience is having a student walk up to me, thrust their Chromebook into my face and say, "It's not working!" To which I had to decipher (through conversation or close inspection of their code) WHAT exactly wasn't working, what had gone wrong, and how to fix it. This was not a 30-second process. Trying to figure out what a student had done vs what they were trying to do was mentally exhausting! I wished that I had the luxury of taking a nap after class.

I was racking my brain about what to do. The whole point of this project was for students to do the problem-solving, to investigate, to try and fail, to retry a different way, and to analyze their code!

THEN, I remembered ClassroomQ!

ClassroomQ is an online tool where students can ask the teacher a question and get a "spot" in line to get help! Here's how it works: a teacher generates a special code for students so that they can join their session:

During this session, students enter their name, and they may begin to submit questions. I require students to write their question in the comment box:

Once they press the "assistance needed" button, they can see their place in line, and their question shows up on the teacher's screen:

I always opt to project mine so students can see how many students are asking for help, and what they need help with. Once a student has been helped, the teacher can click their name to remove them from the queue!

The Basic (aka free version) of ClassroomQ will give you five spots in the queue. This might not seem like a lot, but I first used it in class with the Basic account, and I fell in love! Here's why:

1. Students had to articulate their question!

Using ClassroomQ forced students to have to write something down in the comment area, and they quickly realized that "it won't work" wouldn't cut it. Having to articulate what the problem was often caused students to figure out the solution on their own without asking! 

2. I can help multiple Ss with the same question at once.

Teachers are very familiar with answering the same question, over and over again. I could look up at the board, and if 2+ students had the same question, I'd call them all over together as a group and save myself from answering it more than once!

3. I can answer “easy” questions quickly to shorten student wait time, and sit down with tougher issues.

I can look up at the screen and quickly knock out "simple" questions (even if they're out of order) so that students can get back to work, and spend more time with students requiring extra assistance.

4. I can send students with questions I’ve already answered over to other students I’ve already addressed!

When a student asks a question I've already addressed, I can easily send them over to that classmate for assistance, saying, "Oh, I just showed Emily how to do that! Go ask her to show you!" - not only can this free me up to help others, but it gives the student helping the opportunity to deepen their learning by teaching it to someone else. 

5. Students can also see what questions are being posed, and can help each other when they see a question they already know the answer to!

ClassroomQ allows me to harness the power of my experienced students, who often complete the work faster. They typically love to show off how much they know, so when a question comes up on the queue that they know the answer to, they're often quick to jump up and say, "Oh, I know this one!" and rush to help out a classmate. It's a beautiful thing. :)

I was so excited about ClassroomQ that I had to tweet about it!

And then, something even MORE awesome happened, and I was invited to be a ClassroomQ Ambassador, which means I'd love to (officially) help answer any questions you have about the service! If you love ClassroomQ like I do, you may even decide that a Pro account is for you!

A Pro account not only gives you an unlimited number of spots in your queue, but you can also export data from each session that lets you know who asked what (and how many times!) during class! What an awesome way to gather data for formative assessment purposes and evidence for standards-based grading!

Have you tried ClassroomQ yet? What do you think? Tweet at me, @MrsLeban!

(And just in case you're wondering... nope, I don't get any kickbacks if you sign up! I just enjoy talking about edtech tools that I truly love and use in my classroom!) 

- Mrs L.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...