A Week of fun: Appleton and SmartBoards and Bernajean Porter – now that's a GREAT Week!

This past week was a special one for me as I had a chance to spend time with some extrememly talented and inspiring people and learned a lot of things worth knowing!   I love weeks where I am the learner and all around me are wonderful teachers who inspire!

I spent two days at Appleton East and West High Schools with DEN Educators Brian Bartel (Brian has one of the BEST DEN Blogs I have yet to see), Dale Basler, and Judy Owen helping educators understand the vast potential of unitedstreaming in the classroom.  Brian even tagged team me along with his wife to see the new Appleton Big Picture Theater showing of All Things Egyptian. How cool is this to have a big picture theater within your own community.  If you get to Appleton, Wisconsin be sure to plan to get to the The Big Picture Theater!   What I love is that the owners support educators by giving them a chance to see the programs free of charge before they are even released!  See the Educator Section of the web site for more details.  Check out the online free teacher resource guides!

Next on my week’s agenda was a visit with Technology Coordinator, Kevin Messman, of New Berlin School District.   Kevin is an amazing and supportive Technology Coordinator who understands what really makes a difference for teachers — opportunities to grow and learn how to enhance inCimg1916_1 struction using well-founded technology integration strategies.   His leadership has provided tremendous support for educators who want to grow professionally.  Each summer a program is provided to enhance instruction through technology. 

Last summer’s program provided opportunities to learn how use Bernajean Porter’s model technology spectrum chart to move lessons from literacy level to adaptive and transformative.  Teachers also had an opportunity to learn how to incorporate SmartBoards and Smart Tools software into the classroom.   

Did you know that New Berlin School District has approximately 100 SmartBoards and two Smart Exemplary Educators who are also Wisconsin DEN members? 

Rachel_and_toni Toni Heinowski and Rachel Yurk are featured in the just released Best Teachers, Best Practices section of i.e. interactive educator – SmartTech’s quarterly professional journal.   

I also was lucky enough to be able to visit Rachel’s 6th grade classroom at Poplar Creek Elementary School to view and videotape an engaging life science lesson on cells and cell division.  Resource specialist and DEN Member Lisa Conway was also on hand to help share and support how effective technology and visual literacy skills are embedded into New Berlin’s overall educational technology program.

What was really impressive was how Rachel used her SmartBoard to link to video clips downloaded from unitedstreaming and use them seamlessly within instruction.  Her students said use of the SmartBoard and unitedstreaming "makes learning much more interesting and easy to understand" and that it’s boring to be in a classroom without such cool resources.   Rachel was easily able to navigate the videoclips, review concepts using various frames of cell struture and division, re-play video, label parts of the cell with the Smart tool pen, and even capture the interactive discussion notes if needed for a student who missed class today.   You can now ask questions and discuss SmartBoard instructional strategies via Rachel’s own BLOG on our national DEN web site!  Please visit her blog and post comments, questions, and let’s all get SMART!

I also stopped by New Berlin’s Orchard Lane School where I found DEN member Jack Chamberlain’s fourth grade student cooperative learning groups deeply involved in a Wisconsin Explorers WebQuest.   One of the groups was viewing unitedstreaming explorer videoclips for background knowledge at one of his classroom computer stations, while others were busy collecting and creating special explorer artifacts and researching online.  Great strategy, Jack!!

Onwards home to western Wisconsin… but there was one more wonderful visitor to come.   

I had an exceptional evening for my husband, Dan and myself, as we shared dinner with Bernajean Porter – one of my own real life heroines!   We all have heros and herorines who inspire us, who mentor and guide, who lift our hearts and spirits. Bernajean does that for me and, I would guess, everyone whose life she touches.  Her wonderful digital storytelling resources, Digitales, has provided insight and vision to all those who seek to share their own stories.

Cimg1917 Bernajean is a charismatic and deeply devoted educator, storyteller, educational technology visionary and *real* person who loves life and humanity.  Her heart is as big as her unlimited educational technology wisdom. Okay… so I am a FAN!  And, proud to say so! 🙂

Being the hostest for the evening, I met Bernajean at the LaCrosse (WI) airport which meant that I must welcome my guest in style with some "momentos" to take back to her Colorado home.  What better represents Wisconsin than the noble dairy cow and some western Wisconsin cheese? I had no idea that cows held such a special place in Bernajean’s life until we sat down and shared Da Um Jeitinho

Da Um Jeitinho is Bernajean’s own personal tale that unfolds one of her own childhood dreams and her strong spirit of perserverance. 

You will find it in her Storykeeper’s Gallery in the "Living Memories" section. 

Each of these digital story examples uses a personal or family experience to develop a living memory with a moral, an a-ha awareness, or a specific lesson learned.    I think this type of story makes for the best story for your first digital storytelling experience as each of us have life lessons to share which provide rich content and impactful messages.

Heartcow_1Now, go find out what Bernajean and cows have to do with perserverance and a life long lesson to which all of us can relate!  🙂   

Once you view Bernajean’s own story… be sure to spend more time in the Storyteller’s Gallery as these are wonderful models for your OWN digital storytelling adventure! 


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  1. Rachel Yurk said:

    My students will never be the same. They absolutely loved being the stars while you were there. It is amazing what that does for spicing up the life of a 6th grade classroom. They certainly love to “ham it up” for the camera. Should we have any other DEN members interested in SMART Board lessons, let me know as Toni and I are more than willing to share our expereince with others. New Berlin has a really great staff and we are so glad we were able to share with you. Come back again soon!

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