Yeah, but that’s just Barb….

During EdCampOmaha, I happened upon a conversation about something I’ve been thinking about lately. I stopped and joined in. That’s one of the beauties of an EdCamp, it’s ok to jump into any session and ask a question, share, or just listen.

The question was, how do you get other teachers on board with technology. I know that it can be a struggle. I’m very lucky that my principal is on board with all the technology that I have incorporated into my classroom. She is encouraging of the other teachers to use it too. My school does a great job, but we can do better!

That’s the point. We can all do better. We can all learn a new tool to use. Think of a new way to use an application. But it’s important to remember that you have to start somewhere and sometimes it’s hard work.

Using technology didn’t always come easy to me. Yes. it didn’t! I know when I share what I’m doing in the classroom, sometimes the listener gets a glazed look on their face and I can imagine they are thinking, “Yeah, that’s just Barb…” But wait. You can be Barb too! Here is how I started down the technology path.

It all started with the Saints!

I’m a huge fan of the Saints of the Catholic church. I love learning about the Saints. I love sharing the stories of Saints. I think today’s children should look up to these men, women and children, who have been canonized by the Catholic church as heros.

In the Fall of 2006 I read an article in our local Archdiocesan paper about a brain surgeon who lived in Kansas and had started a podcast about the Saints. I wanted to listen! What did I do? I bought myself an iPod as a Christmas present to myself in January 2007. I was hooked on the idea of a podcast. How cool was it to be able to listen and learn about any topic at a time that was convenient to you.

Dr. Paul Camarata podcast, The SaintCast, was my the first step into technology.

I quickly realized that I needed to add more podcasts to my iPod. I loved them! I first added Catholic podcasts and added many podcasts that were affiliated with the SQPN network. The Star Quest Production Network was perfect for me. They had Catholic podcasts and they were so interesting, informational and fun. I really loved the founder’s podcast The Break. Fr. Roderick’s podcast, a priest from the Netherlands, would contain pop culture items, movie reviews, food talk, and a segment on a Catholic topic. He welcomed feedback and questions.

Fr. Roderick’s and the SPQN network encouraged me to change from being a passive listener to becoming an engaged, contributing listener.

During this time, as I was trying to figure out how to send in MP3 feedback to the SQPN shows, I had my oldest son to help. He was still in high school and was a wiz at technology. But then I realized that he wouldn’t always be around as he was preparing to go away to college. I needed someone who could help me with my questions in a simple, straight forward way.

Twitter! Here was the encouragement I needed. People from all across the globe were on Twitter to share and learn. With Fr. Roderick’s encouragement, I joined on May 1, 2007. Yes! I found a great community of Catholic friends to follow on Twitter. Guess who my first follower was, Dr. Paul Camarata!

I gradually began to follow educators on Twitter too. One of the first teacher’s I followed was Patti Harju who teaches 2nd grade at a Catholic grade school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I looked at her tweets. She was blogging with her class! She had a class wiki and she shared her student’s projects. I thought, I have some very similar projects, but she just put a technological spin in sharing it. I could do that!

Patti was very encouraging and kind whenever I tweeted her a question on Twitter. I had a virtual cheerleader in a fellow Catholic school teacher.

But inorder to make that jump I still needed a real live person to give me confidence and ask questions in real time. Sometimes I really didn’t know what my question was! I needed to talk through some of my ideas. That’s where my local group of technology teachers and teachers who love technology came in. We have a group called OPUG. It stands for Omaha Private Users Group. We would meet once a month during the school year and share what was working and what we had questions about. When I met Mike Mansour, a teacher at Jesuit Academy, I knew he would be able to help. He was using technology in his classroom everyday. He was a wealth of information and generously shared his knowledge.

Mike was my, in real life, encouragement.

I was taking off using technology in my classroom. I took my normal projects, such as our usual essay on our Summer vacation and used VoiceThread to record my students reading their essays. They weren’t perfect, I usually have 32 students in my classroom and finding quiet time to record could be challenging, but it was worth it! When I shared them on the wiki, I was so excited to hear from parents, that grandparents and aunts and uncles were enjoying it. My students really enjoyed being a part of these projects and I believe put a little extra into them. Knowing that it wasn’t just me listening but a world wide audience.

My students and their parents encouraged me to continue.

To expand my knowledge, I began going to our state’s technology meeting. I didn’t really feel like a techy geeky teacher when I first started attending NETA. But as I continued going to the conference, listening to the presentations and met more people, I started saving ideas of what they were doing. I thought, I can do that! I became more confident in my knowledge.

My fellow Nebraska teachers inspired me to continue.

Then I met Kevin Honeycutt. A very talented teacher and speaker from Kansas. I went to his conference in Kansas called Podstock in the summer of 2010. This was a lot of fun but his words spoke to me. He said, “Who’s going to tell your story? If not you, then who?”

Kevin recharged me to continue what I was doing.

So, if you read this far, you are probably wondering what is the point of this long blog post. The point is, learning technology is a process. It’s a process of learning, trying it out, tweaking it, deleting, asking, sharing, and telling a story.

Technology to me is all about relationships. If it wasn’t for Dr. Paul, Fr. Roderick, Patti, Mike, my fellow Nebraska teachers, and Kevin. I wouldn’t be as far along in my use of technology in my classroom.

So, the next time someone listens to my latest project and gets the glazed over look and thinks, “Oh, that’s just Barb” I say to them, “You can be Barb too!” it just takes time working on your relationships with people who can encourage you to learn and try. Perhaps I have been working with Saints in the making!




  1. Barb,
    Great Blog post. I love how you outlined your journey into the world of tech. I am honored be mentioned in the same blog post as Kevin Honeycutt. He has influenced me as well! You continue to be one of my influences and I love how we have taken some scary steps together – Our first Skype Chats (organized by you!) during Catholic Schools’ Week and near the end of the school year helped me become more comfortable and confident using Skype. I enjoy our virtual friendship and I know we will one day meet face to face. Any chance you want to bring your 30+ students on a field trip to Michigan? We do have some beautiful beaches. : )

    • Thanks, Patti for your kind comment! I didn’t realize that our first CSW Skype was your first time on Skype. How cool was that?! Let me get back to you on that field trip…

  2. I am honored to be any part of a journey that in the end grows you and your students. Life is a beautiful thing if you connect with the people around you and allow others to help you create who you are. You inspire me with your zest for life and love of learning.

    • Thanks so much for the comment, Kevin! And that is true, I do L2L, I didn’t need to learn to love to learn!

  3. Barb,
    I am honored to have been your first Twitter follower. It has been great to watch you embrace technology and to follow your class and you on Twitter, blogs, and Facebook. Your kids are so blessed to have you!

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