Author Archives: Mindi Vandagriff

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.

Inspiration Wall

Inspiration Wall

When you walk into my classroom, I want you to be inspired.

I want students to know that they hold the power to be anything they want to be.

I created this word wall complete with words that inspire students to DO. I chose each word because it means something to me and I refer to the wall almost daily. Students ponder the words. They resonate. The wall fosters the notion that students CAN.


My inspiration came from this post that I saw on Pinterest.

And yes, I hand cut each and every single letter.

Feel free to download my file here and create your own inspiration word wall! Or you can choose your own twenty words that inspire you! I simply typed my list in Microsoft Word. Then I divided the list into four different groups. I enlarged the first group to 700 pt, second group to 550 pt, third group to 300 pt and the fourth group to 200 pt. I used the font HelloFirstieSquisht by Jen Jones. Then I printed and cut out each letter and stapled it to my wall in a “Wordle” type format.

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Here’s a list of my twenty inspirational words:





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:

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@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!


I heart Evernote.

EvernoteActually I am pretty organized without Evernote. But WITH Evernote, I’m the most organized person ever. Evernote is organization on steroids. Times a thousand.

And it’s not just for educators. It’s for everyone.

I recently did a modest presentation on Evernote at the TCEA Regional Conference (#TCEA1011). I prefaced the session with the fact that I am just an avid user. Not an expert. The expert was the room I was in. The people who surrounded me! You can find my presentation here.

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One of the gems shared was the ability to add AUDIO to any note using the Evernote iPad app.

* Disclaimer: This is my own child so I give permission for it to be published on the web. 

Add audio to any note by simply tapping on the attach icon (paperclip) in the upper right hand corner.
Tap the audio icon.
Simply start recording! Once you tap “DONE”, the audio recording will automatically be inserted into your note. While recording, you can continue to type in the note, or even toggle between other apps!

One attendee shared that she uses the RECORD AUDIO feature to record her students reading. Someone also added that you could then take a photo of the text and insert that into the same note. This is great documentation for reading!

Please feel free to add your expertise in the comments section!


My Students are My Family


My students are my family. I mean think about it. I spend more time with my students than I do my own family. My own children. They spend more time with me than they do their own parents. We are family.

This school year, I wanted the parents of my 60+ students to know that I am invested in their most prized possessions– their children. I want parents to know that I will take care of and protect and love and nurture their children as I would my own children. I think about my students all the time. I think about conversations we’ve had. Conversations we should’ve had. And conversations we will have. I reflect on things that I have said to them. I think about things that they have shared with me, an extension of their own family. I see things daily that make me think, “Oh! I can’t wait to share this with my students!” I am invested in them and I want them to know that deep in their hearts. I want them to know that along with their parents, I am a partner in this so-called journey through life. Your parents and I are connected through you.

We are a family.

That’s why I asked students to bring in a family portrait to share with our school family. This bookshelf is a constant reminder of people who love and care for them. I often catch students stopping by and gazing. Feeling love from a moment caught in time. Feeling love from family. In a way, it makes them feel safe in my classroom. And if students feel safe, they are ready to truly learn.



Confessions of an EdCamp Groupie


You know you’re an EdCamp groupie when….

1. You travel hourS (plural) to get to an EdCamp.
2. You drag your tech savvy and tech terrified friends along with you.
3. Your entire family says as you are walking out the door, “ANOTHER EdCamp?”
4. You’ve never even heard of the city you are going to {eh hem… Waller}.
5. You reminisce about the last EdCamp and say, “See ya at the next EdCamp” to all your tweeps.
6. You are packing a stuffed crane in your luggage.
7. You gawk over the door prizes and are just as mad this time that you didn’t win that Flocabulary subscription as you were LAST EdCamp (that’s a $1,200 value by the way).
8. Your autocorrect doesn’t try to turn the word “EdCamp” into “end cap” anymore.
9. You wonder why you didn’t start collecting EdCamp shirts sooner.
10. You’ve been to at least one EdCamp. Oh yes, people. You’re hooked.

And if you’re not, you missed it. So you need to go ahead and start planning your next one. {You should check out EdCamp Dallas on October 12. That’s my hood.}

photo courtesy of @akbusybee via Instragram

Photo courtesy of @akbusybee via Instagram

Today, I participated in my third EdCamp in less than a year and I am just as blown away today as I was after my very first EdCamp. I should’ve worn a helmet because my mind was blown at the edtech revolution sweeping our nation. I am going to be processing my takeaways from EdCamp Fort Worth for more time than I’d like to admit. But here’s what I’ve got so far….

1. Google Tools

I’ll be the first to confess that Google owns me and I am perfectly fine with that. I’d like to think that I am quite Googlicious. But folks, Google is so much more than a search engine. Google is changing the delivery of education and they’re not charging a dime for it.

I went to this session with an open-mind, knowing that no one would be presenting, there would be no prepared slides to view. No packets. Instead, about 40 people seated themselves behind long rectangular tables that made a, well, long rectangle. It sorta felt last supper-ish as attendees craned their necks to see others at the opposite end of the table. I, of course, was late. So I sat on the floor. The conversation had already started. A new face was talking, someone I didn’t recognize {from Twitter of course, not from real life} and she was on fire. The passion in her voice kindled the spark in mine. She was sharing what she had done in her grade 2 classroom of under-privileged kids in the Austin area. She was the only one doing it. She was a trend-setter. I listened more intently. She talked about how she had written a Google Community Grant for $15,000 that allowed her to purchase 10 Chromebooks and 10 iPads for her students to go 1:1 devices. {So she’s not device specific… interesting} I leaned in closer.

She talked about the importance of Chrome- on any device- and the vast abilities of Chrome apps and extensions. She was a pro at Google Apps for Education (GAFE) and her knowledge of this free resource was refreshing. The questions stirring in my head were dizzying. I had to ask. I had to pick her brain.

Then she dropped the big bomb.

She had literally just stepped off the plane from Chicago. More specifically, from the Google Teacher Academy Chicago #GTAChi There it was. She was a Google. Certified. Teacher. Whoa. She is @ms_cerda and she is uh-mazing.

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My takeaway from the Google Tools session: utilize Google apps and extensions with my students this year. We MUST. UTILIZE. CHROME.

2. Twitter in the Classroom

Moderated by @MattBGomez and @WFryer, in my opinion, two big players in the Twittersphere. Seriously, the combined wealth of knowledge from these two educators is mind-blowing. I should’ve worn a helmet.

PicMonkey Collage

Matt has been a kindergarten teacher in Texas for more than 10 years. He uses Twitter in his classroom, mind you…with 5 & 6 year olds, within the first month of school. The number one question he gets asked is “How do you have time to use Twitter during class?” His response? “It’s just another way to do shared writing.” In the mornings, he favorites 3-5 tweets and then displays those and only those to his class. This adds another layer of security, for you nay-sayers, when exposing his young students to social media. He then lets the learning, collaboration, and creation commence. From the Twitter spark in the morning, he has been prompted to create a research center in his classroom with endless learning opportunities. He also has a giant {interactive} map where he displays his global classroom connections. His students, again 5 & 6 year olds, take ownership of their connections, their place in the world, and it goes beyond the four walls of his classroom. At the end of the day, he has his students summarize their day, an opportunity to create content and share it with the world, among many, MANY other educational implications.

Global Connections through Twitter in the kindergarten classroom of @MattBGomez

Global Connections through Twitter in the kindergarten classroom of @MattBGomez

I tweeted some gems from our group conversation. Most of them from the profound and insightful @MattBGomez and @WFryer:

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My takeaway from the Twitter in the Classroom session: Start early. Start connecting. Start with paper tweets if Twitter is blocked at school. Get Twitter unblocked at school.

3. Planning a Digital Summit in your Community

Every great EdCamp has a tweet-up the night before. What is a tweet-up you ask? In my honest opinion… it’s a time when Twitter followers (tweeps) get together face to face, usually involves Mexican cuisine, and just, well, talk. Face to face. And it is completely socially acceptable to be on your phone the entire time. Most of us are having conversations via Twitter with the person sitting three chairs down from us. Sometimes, as educators, we get so caught up in our online presence that we forget about our actual real-life presence. I believe that it is vital to make these face to face connections. It makes the online connections even more enlightening.

At the #EdCampFWTX tweet-up last night, I had the opportunity to sit with @MrsSmithTMS & @MrsShawGTT, two of the organizers for EdCamp Fort Worth and their former fearless leader, @jackson_carrie, principal of Timberview Middle School {our host school for EdCamp}. Ashlee and Shelly shared their excitement and nervousness for planning and hosting #EdCampFWTX.

Then they flipped my switch.

They told us about a “Digital Summit” they organized for their students, parents, and teachers at TMS. This was a light bulb moment for me. Genius idea. And I was in. I was already planning a Digital Summit for my community in my head.

The next morning, as the schedule board was going up, the ideas and learning desires of EdCampFWTX attendees were posted up, literally posted on post-it notes {see pic below}. I wondered how many others would have the same Digital Summit light bulb moment I had the night before. So I went for it. I wrote the idea on a post-it and before I knew it, the Digital Summit Planning Session was a reality.

The Affinity Diagram- a tool for categorizing data

The Affinity Diagram- a tool for categorizing data

I wanted to walk away from this session with a plan to take back to my campus administrator to go forward with a Digital Summit in our community.

{Side note: I sat across from @ms_cerda at lunch– I know what you’re thinking, I was NOT stalking her. The universe had just aligned and it just so happened that this wealth of knowledge was sitting right across from me– and I told her about the Digital Summit idea. How I wanted to plan one. She told me how she had met an educator from Australia during #GTAChi and he did the same thing for his community. He called it “Date Night with Devices”. The clever bell chimed in my head.}

As we planned, we took notes, we brainstormed, we collaborated, we shared resources, and we networked. Everything an EdCamp should be. Nearly every person (there were about 20 of us) decided that they, too, were going to plan a Digital Summit in their community. We can’t wait to share successes and failures implementing the digital day. Of course we will do this via Twitter. Shelly and Ashlee shared some invaluable resources (schedule, flyer, announcements) from the TMS Digital Summit. You can find them here.

Storify of the Keller ISD Digital Summit

Storify of the Keller ISD Digital Summit

My takeaway from the Digital Summit Planning Session: Get the Anna ISD Digital Summit on the calendar for October 8, 2013 ASAP. Plan. Plan. Plan. Get as many in our district (teachers, students, AND parents) involved as possible.

4. Appy Hour with Haiku Deck

Because Haiku Deck is so popular with my elementary students, I wanted to share it with my fellow educators. I also wanted to hear how others were using it in their own classrooms, professional developments, and personally. So I volunteered to moderate this session with fellow Haiku Deck Guru, @RafranzDavis. Of course, we had NOTHING planned, we wanted this to be a Share & Learn session. As a group, some created their very first Haiku Deck and even received a secret code to unlock a new template. @RafranzDavis shared so many of her guru decks– it was a great visual to see the tool in action. Read her blog on What Haiku Deck Teaches Students. Here are some of my tweets from the session:

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Speaking of Haiku Deck on Pinterest, check out the Haiku Deck board I closely follow. Even if it isn’t an education deck, the creative ideas of others inspire me to go beyond my own creative boundaries.

Haiku Deck via Pinterest

Haiku Deck via Pinterest

My takeaway from the Appy Hour with Haiku Deck Session: Speak intentionally. Present with passion. Use stunning images to grab the audience. Encourage students to choose their words wisely and publish with a purpose. Don’t just regurgitate information. Analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and CREATE new content.

Because cloning myself hasn’t come to fruition yet, these were the only 4 sessions I could attend. Luckily, I have the best PLN ever and we did the next best thing… we divided and conquered with a Google Doc of session notes. Thanks to my #AnnaISD teammates @apratt5, @lyndsaybear, and @AshlynnSmith37 AND our new EdCamp besties from Louisiana, @mrs_queen_b & @em_RSwenson, we were able to cover many sessions at once. Please feel free to share, download, edit, and add your own notes from #EdCampFWTX.

Click the image to access our #EdCampFWTX Session Notes

Click the image to access our #EdCampFWTX Session Notes

Did you miss #EdCampFWTX? No worries! Take a look back with your Twitter PLN:

Can’t wait to see/meet you at EdCamp Dallas!


ISTE Gems {Part 1 of I have no idea because I am STILL processing}

Compartment #1: Steven Johnson

I knew going into ISTE 2013, the biggest technology conference of the year, that I would be overwhelmed, excited, inspired, awestruck the minute I walked into the door. And of course, ISTE did not disappoint. Three jam-packed days of educational technology goodness. And I wasn’t even there the full FIVE days.

There are so many things I am STILL processing, now from over a week ago. So, I MUST compartmentalize to process. For now, in compartment #1, sits my takeaways from Steven Johnson‘s keynote speech. I tweeted throughout his talk, so much so, that may non-educator brother-in-law threatened to unfollow me if I didn’t stop hogging his Twitter feed. I didn’t stop.

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So here’s what I took away, all tucked neatly in this Haiku Deck:

#ISTE13 Gems

There were so many great things about this keynote. Maybe it was the atmosphere– being surrounded by educators who wanted to be there. Maybe it was the message speaking directly to me, and indirectly to me through my Twitter PLN. Maybe it was my gratefulness that I was granted the opportunity to be there in purpose, to witness the power of connected educators. Nevertheless, I was moved. Moved to create great things. Moved to let small hunches cultivate.  Moved to be innovative beyond the four walls of my classroom.


New on my summer reading list? Of course, Steven Johnson’s Where Do Good Ideas Come From? It should be on yours, too.

Part 2 coming soon. As soon as I figure out what compartment of brain it’s going.


Dipity Do Da


Last year, I asked my students to come up with new and interesting ways of presenting content. Not only was I fulfilling the state standards for teaching but also engaging students in new and interesting Web 2.0 tools.  Killing two birds with one stone. As my students and I researched interesting and engaging ways to present a timeline, I came across Dipity, an interactive timeline creator.  Now I am killing three birds with one stone.

Dipity came out of a private beta to a full launch a few years ago (2008). Dipity is a site that makes it simple for students to create and share interactive timelines about any subject or topic. It allows students to embed You Tube videos, Twitter, RSS feeds, Blogger, Flickr, Picasa, Facebook and more right into their timelines. Dipity makes timelines relevant and fun for students and best of all, students are creating timelines in “their language” of Digital Native. The original thought behind Dipity, a timeline-based lifestreaming aggregator, is that users could manage a variety of new social features and have in turn, turned Dipity into a viable alternative to FriendFeed and other lifestreaming services, as well as a replacement for standard RSS readers.

Dipity revolves around powerful interactive timelines which intuitively display content like blog posts, YouTube videos, and Flickr photos in small hovering rectangles that can be expanded. The site is very well designed, and while the timelines seem to lag occasionally when they refresh, they’re fun to play around with (and if you don’t like the timelines, there are a few alternative views like a Flipbook, List View, and a Map viewing feature for pictures or posts with Geotagging enabled).

The service itself should be familiar to anyone who has used FriendFeed, SocialThing!, or any number of similar sites. Users are asked to input their account credentials from services that include Flickr, Picassa, and Twitter, which are used to populate the timeline. Beyond these, Dipity allows users to automatically monitor keywords across services like Digg and YouTube (you can have new Obama videos automatically appear in your timeline), and RSS feeds. This is a great social feeds management tool but even further it can be used to create timelines across the curriculum, not just for social networking.

Dipity is the perfect tool for creating a timeline for any subject in your classroom. Students can bring history to life by embedding relevant You Tube video into their timelines. Timelines can be created by students individually or as a class and posted on a class website as a study resource. I started with a timeline of the days leading up to the fall of the Alamo (very relevant and timely content for my students right now).

Students can click on any of the above events to read the description, make a comment, share the event or explore the links associated with the event.  Below, you can see where I have added an image, a link to a website, and a video on YouTube.

Personally, I am ecstatic about the integration of this incredible Web 2.0 tool into classrooms everywhere.  Timelines on Dipity are dynamic in that they can be used for a plethora of ventures and are always changing.  Even if I don’t include a feed from a blog or social networking feed, the timeline is still interactive in that users can leave comments on every single event and react to other comments made on the events.  I hope that you will consider taking advantage of this fabulous Web 2.0 tool in your classroom.  You could start with something as easy as having students document their day on Dipity. Come on! Just Dipity DO it!

UPDATE: Great blog post on Custom Timeline Creators! Check it out here!