Texasbook Title

This past week, I had the pleasure of chatting with preservice teachers in Connecticut via Skype. Their professor, @mbfxc, and I met at #ISTE13 (and I use the term “met” loosely because prior to this call, we had never actually seen each other– instead we were part of each other’s extensive PLN on Twitter). I was part of the @HaikuDeck Virtual Team. Marialice loved being a part of the #HaikuDeck tweet stream and she and I exchanged several tweets that day. Months later, she contacted me (via Twitter) and asked if I would connect with her Science/Social Studies class of preservice teachers. Without hesitation, I agreed. Enter an invigorating conversation, thousands of miles apart, between myself, a humble {veteran} teacher, and engaged teachers of the future.


Screen Shot 2013-11-09 at 11.15.04 AMThey asked questions. I shared experiences. As I shared, my wheels turned. I have to say that as a connected educator, it’s not just about ME. My lessons and experiences change from class to class, year to year based on conversations I have with other connected educators. Some in my building, most through Twitter. As I previously shared in my #ISTE13 gems Haiku Deck from keynote speaker, Steven Johnson, good ideas come from slow hunches. They are cultivated. They simmer. They are rebuilt, remixed, and changed. They grow.

Hands down, I give this credit to my #PLN of connected educators.

That’s how “Texasbook” was born.


I struggled with the idea of presenting Texas History to my 4th graders. How could I help them relate to something that happened hundreds of years ago? How could I help them connect with influential adults who were making momentous decisions about our great state? How could I help them understand that decisions lawmakers make today are a direct effect of decisions that were made in the past?

This was THEIR history and I wanted them to be completely absorbed in it. So, I had to ask myself: What are they completely absorbed in now? Facebook. Duh.

Texas History + Facebook = Texasbook

I wanted to hook them in this lesson the best way I knew how. Social Media. At the time, I was pursuing my Master’s Degree in Education Media Design and Technology from my favorite creative college, Full Sail University. I made this video for my students:

Students were encouraged to pick a famous Texan from the Battle of the Alamo and create a Facebook profile on that person. But not online. Instead, live and in person. A six-foot tall person.


Beyond just the obvious Social Studies implications, students were forced to use reading skills and strategies to transform themselves into a person from our past. Someone they had never met. They had to read. They had to research. They had to infer. They had to become. What resulted was mind-blowing. Fourth graders reliving the Battle of the Alamo through a Facebook timeline.

I think they nailed it.







I used this Facebook template to help students plan their final product: http://goo.gl/LZpj8z

Screen Shot 2013-11-09 at 11.24.42 AM Screen Shot 2013-11-09 at 11.24.57 AM


@msalisonperry used our #iMentor Skype call as motivation to step out of her comfort zone and inspire her students to create “Connecticutbook” as a way to celebrate their state’s rich history. Check out her blogpost here!



About Mindi Vandagriff

Proud fire fighter's wife. Energetic mom of two creative boys. Passionate teacher of everything {currently 4th grade}. Schoology Ambassador. Haiku Deck Guru. Closet #edtech geek. View all posts by Mindi Vandagriff

2 responses to “Texasbook

  • Kristin

    Mindi~ NEVER in my life have I commented on a blog, but I just have to let you know how impressive your Alamo presentation is. I have taught school for 15 years, have worked as a mentor to teachers, and have been a Director of Education. In all of my experience, I have never seen such creativity! Thank you so very much for sharing. I definitely plan on using this. I can only hope my kiddos do half as well as yours have. If you have any pointers, please let me know. ~Kristin

    • Mindi Vandagriff

      Wow! Thank you so much! It was a worthwhile experience that, I know, my students will never forget! After doing this a couple of years in a row, I actually do have a few pointers!
      – Have students choose from a list of predetermined famous Texans
      – Put together a folder of research (or a digital folder- Try Symbaloo!) where students can access the information easily & quickly
      – Definitely have students do a rough draft first which needs to be revised and edited with the teacher before writing on the final project
      – Have a parent volunteer cut out the letters! “TEXASBOOK”, “FRIENDS”, etc.

      If I think of anymore, I’ll let you know! I’d love to hear how your TEXASBOOK projects turned out!

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