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21 Jul 2015
Comments: 0

How TechChef Makes 12 Tools for Creating and Curating Work for Her

Summer for me is difficult because I get out of routine… especially blogging routine. I truly don’t want to take a summer hiatus. In fact I find the mere process of blogging, reflecting, and creating content to be a much needed catharsis: it serves as both a brain dump and a way to archive ideas and resources. But I also find it difficult to blog and gather my thoughts during this time frame as new tasks, projects, and schedules emerge.

This particular post has been a long time in the making. It is hard to believe that I am embarking on year 5 with my blog (half a decade of posts) and I thought there was no better time to give a little back story…(If you don’t care for back story, and want to jump straight to the tools, I won’t be too terribly offended – scroll away.)

Why Did You Start Blogging?

My blogging origins were a blend of a few elements:

  • Ineffective Teacher Sites: When I worked for my previous school district, Ed Techs were provided with websites similar to Weebly. At the time I found the tool to be ineffective for organizing content and professional development resources and was searching for something to fill that need.
  • Loss of Content: I was also concerned that I was creating and curating a fair amount of content and resources that would essentially be shut down (for myself and everyone else that benefitted from them) if and when I left the district.
  • Lack of Educational Content Relating to the iPad: This was year 1 of iPads and there was little content available on the web. As I was navigating these waters, I sought to have a place to reflect and share these digital trials, tribulations, and successes.

So a WordPress blog seemed the most natural progression. I would retain ownership of the “rogue” site and found it easier to organize and produce content with the tool. For those of you interested in polishing your blog to starting one, I have delineated “21 Things Every Ed Tech Blogger Should Do in 2015” to guide and/or inspire you.

*** I contributed a vignette in Chapter 4 of Rafranz Davis’ new book, “The Missing Voices in Ed Tech” which details my call to blogging and shares some best practices. I am thankful for this platform to share the need for blogging and am a fan of  Rafranz Davis as she is not only an exceptionally honest blogger and author – she is a friend and a dear member of my PLN. 

The Missing Voices in Ed Tech

What is an Ed Tech Pollinator?

I have to say that it feels amazing to be in a field of work and at a district that I feels so passionate about. Honestly, I feel very blessed to have a profession that feels less like work and more like a calling. I feel like it is our job in this field to not only support students and teachers but to also share this support online… thus effectively pollinating the edusphere and allowing others to bloom and grow through this transfer of content and insight.

Be An Ed Tech Pollinator

So… (in a not so smooth segue) Adam Jones and I met at Miami Device last year. He attended a few of my sessions and wrote one of the most comprehensive and kind reviews I have ever read. Recently, he asked if I would do a show for his podcast, Adam Jones Ed. I agreed and I have to say of all the podcasts and interviews I have done – this was one of my favorite stylistically as well as professionally (Adam reminds me of NPR’s Guy Ross – the whole interview felt like having coffee with an old friend – sharing inspiring stories). It was a delight to share an hour chatting about education, pedagogy, and technology with him.

*** If you would like to hear this interview (mine is episode 11) or check out other Adam Jones interviews, visit his Education Podcast Archive. Adam’s blog is also fantastic!

What Are Your Go To Tools for Creating and Curating Content?

Part of the reason this post took so long to write and publish is my need to provide resources for my readers. While my origin story and philosophy on ed tech pollination might be interesting to some and will at least frame the 12+ tools I plan to share, I can’t in good conscience blog to just share that info alone.

12+ Smooth Tools to Create and Curate Content for Educators

I have had several inquiries to the tools that I use to create and curate. These ingredients seemed to be just the spice to complete this ed tech dish. While these may not be the most new and flashy tools in the edusphere, they happen to be tried and true ingredients in my kitchen for concocting and curating content… so I thought I would share.


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Cooking Up Keynote

***Where Will TechChef Be Next?***

Miami Device PD Recap (used with Evernote) #TechChef4u #iPad #Evernote-2 copy

Contact TechChef4u to schedule Fall and Summer PD and Workshops: or request booking here.

05 Jan 2015
Comments: 2

21+ Things Every 21st Century Blogger Should Do in 2015

I have been struggling with a post that will set the stage for 2015 and serve as a worthy inaugural nugget for the new year… and I finally happed upon it. The inspiration came from a blend of Carl Hooker’s “21 Things Every 21st Century Teacher Should Do This School Year” and a tweet from a dear friend, Brianna Hodges, sharing her new site, “Educationally Techtastic” hot off the blog press. I found myself disseminating a few tips and best practices for blogging through a series of texts and next thing you know it I had drafted a list of 21 Blogging Do’s for the 21st Century Blogger.

Before I release the list, I wanted to share Brianna’s insight and a link to her own blog beginnings that I hope will serve as support and inspiration for you to create (or amplify) your own blog in 2015:

“I absolutely love being an educator and, as a lifelong learner, I am continually searching for inspiration & exemplars to incorporate in my classroom. One of those searches led me to TechChef4U and, there, I found my touchstone, my source of energy & innovation. I truly believe that we are at a pivotal moment in education and, in her blog, I found the perfect combination of creativity & practicality, sprinkled with a hefty dose of foresight & imagination. Moreover, Lisa helped me see that I can have a voice and a place at the EdTech table. I believe that we owe it to our students and children to help form tomorrow’s learning environment &, to do that, we need to share our experiences, ideas, failures, & successes. With that, my blog, educationallyTECHTastic, was born.” – Brianna Hodges

So here we go… can I get a drumroll? Or should it be a drumstick (#foodpun) 😉

Miami Device PD Recap (used with Evernote) #TechChef4u #iPad #Evernote

Truly, these are not in any order and not all necessary to accomplish at once. I do hope that they provide you with a festive feast of fresh ideas to make the leap to a blog or spruce up your own blog in 2015:

1. Choose a Template that you can Customize and Grow with…

When choosing a template and a blogging service, consider what widgets and themes are offered and if you can truly grow with the site over the years. Though my site has changed designs over the years, I am and will forever be a WordPress girl… this time I just had to shell out a little cash for their paid templates.

2. Buy Your Own URL

This is an easy thing to do. Sites like GoDaddy and 1 and 1 offer this service. Trust me plays a lot nicer on a business card than

3. Plugin Your Feeds

If you are social geek like me, then you most likely already have a Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Add these feeds using a plugin to your site so people that visit your site know how and where to connect with you further.

4. Test Your Contact Page

I say this with a bit of frustration as my current contact page had to be taken down and recoded and in its place is a Google Form. Contact Pages are very integral for people to communicate with you for a variety of reasons ranging from permission to use your work to possible collaborations. Always test your contact page (and have others do so too) and if it doesn’t work, then add another means to initiate email contact. It never hurts to add social media contact info here as well. (Truthfully, I am fifteen times faster at answering a tweet or DM than I am an email.) I really like Holly Clark’s contact page because it includes a form as well as additional means of contact.

5. Tag All Posts with Your Name

This is something I have “stolen” and adopted from George Couros. Many times we tag posts with relevant terms like #iPad or #EdTech but we don’t even think to tag with our own name. Tagging with your name helps with Search Engine Optimization as well as brand recognition.

6. Infuse Pictures of Yourself

I have read many a blog with paragraphs of text. Truly there is nothing wrong with text but I find the sites that share relevant content blended with pictures of themselves and their students during these projects tend to resonate better and deepen the text for those of us that are visual learners. These posts also pin better. 😉

7. Watermark your Images

I truly wish this was something I had done from the beginning. I have found my images floating all around the internet and Pinterest completely uncited with no way to find their way back to me. Matt Gomez does an excellent job of using the Signature Watermark Ultra WP plugin to add a special watermark using his own logo to each of his images. I also stumbled upon this Listly of 15 additional tools to watermark your images. Not only does this help with his branding but it allows people to find him and his work through his images as they are pinned and tweeted. Kevin Honeycutt takes this idea one step further and adds a personal quote to many of his images… they are called Honeyquotes!

8. Include a Disclaimer Statement

This is really key. When I started my first blog, it was considered “rogue” as it was not a district regulated website. To ensure there were no issues with my postings and my job, I added a simple disclaimer statement, “The content on this website in no way represents the opinions or beliefs of … district”.

9. Connect Content you Curate and Create

Many bloggers curate and create additional and supplementary content for their blog on other sites. Cathy Yenca not only blogs… she has a booming Teachers Pay Teachers store, an iBook, and a variety of Nearpod lesson bundles which are all directly linked from her site. People don’t automatically know what else you curate and create unless you share it so don’t be afraid to add this content as badges or even a tab on your site. Laura Moore of Learn Moore Stuff also does a fantastic job of connecting you with her other resources as she includes links to her bulb, Padlet, Smores, and much more on the right hand side of her site.

10. Add Links to Presentations, Videos, Podcasts, and Webinars

As you begin to prepare presentations and deliver webinars or even create videos for your class or school, share them on a tab on your site so others can get to better know you, your content, and your flavor. In the interim of cleaning up my site, I have posted all of my videos and webinars in a Pinterest board for easy access. If you don’t have speaking videos or webinars, consider posting video content that you have created. Both Carl Hooker and Dean Shareski do a most excellent job of blending their recorded speaking engagements with their own content ranging from Carl’s app smashes and iPad Orientations to music videos and to Dean’s workshop promos and success stories to his archived presentations and YouTube creation! The Langwitches genius, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, includes her latest slide decks as a panel on her main site.

11. Creative Commons Your Work and/or Your Site

As you begin to blog and create content and resources, it will inevitably be tweeted, reposted, downloaded, and repurposed. Providing a Creative Commons Attribution license on your site allows your audience to know exactly what they can and can’t do with your work. One can provide a blanket statement for all content on the site or an individual statement for each piece of work. The Creative Commons site easily allows you to create these licenses and even populates a custom embed code for your site. Kasey Bell has an excellent example of the blanket statement at the bottom of her Shake Up Learning site and I have included a singular license for this list after #21. Beth Still provides and excellent write-up on how sites can be perceived when they do not properly attribute work within the Creative Commons framework.

12. Share Both Your Failures and Your Successes

It is easy to share and celebrate our successes but much harder to make public our failures or lessons learned. Everyone fails… let’s face it and embrace it. One of my favorite bloggers truly tackles the tough conversations – she is bold and honest and never sugar coats the truth and I simply adore her candid thoughts on life and education. Her most recent posts “From Midway Negativity to a Positive Ending” and “Facing Insecurities: You Are More Than Enough” frankly address the struggles and obstacles so many of us quietly face and endure.

13. Don’t Be Afraid of Lists

I often shy away from lists because my O/C gets the best of me and I feel the list must be comprehensive before posting. That being said, there is a real time and place for lists. For some reason, we are drawn to numbers and the potential to see if we measure up or can relate to the list and so the power of the list is maintained. I was inspired by Carl’s “Top 10 Things Not to Do in a 1:1 iPad Initiative” and “21 Things Every 21st Century Teacher Should Do This School Year” and recently wrote “11 Useful Tips for Managing iPads in the Classroom“, “6 Do’s and Don’ts for Secondary iPad Deployment and Support of New Initiatives” and “9 Must Read iPad Instructional Support Resources“. And I have to say there is nothing better than an infographic from the amazing talented Sean Junkins to revive or amplify even the finest of lists. I love how he put a spin on both Carl’s and my lists (scroll to the bottom of both posts to see the infographic). Another creative take on lists is the idea of dividing one in to reasonable time frames for completion as Ashley Cronin did with her New Things to Try in 2015: Things to try in 5 Days, 5 Weeks, and 5 months.

14. Break Up Text with Interactivity

As I mentioned in #6, images help others to connect with you and your content. With the fire hose of information at our very finger tips, we have become a society of scanners and skimmers. I find that I tend to glean more information from a blog that has some sort of interactivity to support or extend the content. Sites that embed beautifully into a blog and offer this type of interactivity range from Tackk and Haiku Deck to Thinglink and Listly (all embedded in posts linked above). Not only do those tools jive up your content, they drive traffic to your blog as they are also hosted on additional sites.

15. Provide a Link to your Blog on all of your Social Networks

This goes hand in hand with #3 and #10. Most of the traffic to my site comes from Pinterest and I want to ensure that people not only come to my site from the pins I post and curate but know how to connect directly from my boards. Any social network you maintain (e.g. Linkedin, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Thinglink, Snapguide, should include both your brief bio as well as a link to your site so people can connect with your content no matter how they initially discovered you.

16. Build In Twitter Quote Widgets Within Your Posts

This is a recent development for me. I discovered the Tweet This WordPress Plugin on my brother-in-law’s site and have been itching for a way to begin incorporating it into mine. Essentially, the plugin allows you to build the content of a tweet for someone so all they have to do is go to your site and click on it and tweet it. If you build it… they may tweet it 😉 If you are interested in seeing this type of plugin in action, check out one of Book Creator’s most recent posts.

17. Proudly Display Badges

The design of my site makes it difficult to host badges next to my posts. This is something I am looking to remedy in the future. While bragging and boasting are bogus… celebrating accomplishments is important. An easy way to do this is to post badges. Jamie Forshey, Erin Klein, and Gwyneth Jones do a fantastic job of highlighting their achievements and badges on their sites. Badges can range from awards and nominations to blogs that you cross post too. An added bonus of cross-posting or blog tailgating is that you offer your content to a wider audience. Technology Tailgate is one of my favorite sites for this process and offers a special badge you can embed if you author content within their feed.

18. Provide Consistency with Images for Brand Recognition

For me variety is the spice of life and I tire easily with the same color schemes and fonts. Unfortunately, my need for diversity sometimes leads to confused branding and attribution. That being said, two of my counterparts have really carved out their niche within this realm. Kasey Bell’s Google Resources, Gwyneth Jones Comic TutorialsMathy Cathy’s Math Thinglinks, Brad Ovenell-Carter’s Sketch Notes, and Ryan Read’s App Dice are all recognizable and each contribute to a cohesively branded collection (wow – was that a nod to Project Runway?).

19. Provide Consistency with Content

People like to know what to expect and how frequently it will be posted. Richard Byrne does an excellent job with his Free Tech for Teachers site as most of his posts have a consistent framework which includes a summary and educational applications for each highlighted tool. Terri Eichholz is a shining example of consistency with  frequency of postings as her site Engage Their Minds typically releases a new post every day. While I am not a daily poster, I do try to provide some consistency to the time of day my posts are released by auto-scheduling them to publish at either 9:30 or 10:00 am CST.

20. Build Your PLN by Answering Where?

As people start to really connect and relish your content, they like to know where you will be (e.g. upcoming conferences or speaking engagements) so they can connect in person and or even attend one of your sessions. You can add this information on a separate tab or at the footer of your posts. Many conferences offer an “I’m Speaking at…” badge that you can add to your site as well.

21. Start a Trend or a Tradition

After blogging for a few years, I found myself in search of a little whimsy. Thus, I decided to start an alliteration collection of posts ranging from Marvelous Monday and Thought Leadership Tuesday to Wicked Good Wednesday and Freebie Friday. I didn’t post one of these each day of the week but I did try to post enough of them that people knew what to expect. In the same realm as a tradition of weekly alliteration, Technology Tailgate offers a Techie Tuesday Link Up where you can feature someone else’s content on your own blog and build off of it and then link back your thoughts to the main site.  Another fun trend in education is #hashtags. Consider starting your own or building off of a hashtag that can connect your content with others. Carl Hooker used #student4aday to share his reflections.

22. Share Your Why

This is a nod to Simon Sinek and a post I wrote earlier in the year. I started this blog almost 4 years ago and have crafted 315 posts since then. The blog has evolved as I have so this year I wanted to carefully craft my WHY for the blog and the content I share to ensure that I stayed true to the path and meant the needs of my audience in doing so. As you embark in to 2015, consider establishing a WHY or a mission statement for your blog to guide you in the future.

ePortfolios are AWESome_ETT.001

Creative Commons License

“21 Things Every 21st Century Blogger Should Do in 2015” by Lisa Johnson @TechChef4u is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Bonus Blogging Tips

To be quite honest, I strived for 21 but ended up with a few extra so here goes: keep a notebook of ideas for posts, reduce the size of your images so your page loads faster, install a Pinterest widget so all of your images can be easily pinned, add a blog subscription so others can receive your latest scoop in their inbox rather than having to hunt it down, and make sure links within the post open in a new tab rather that redirecting your audience away from your post (this typically is a default for most WP blogs but that is not always the case for other blog hosting services). This list for me is a work in progress as there are a few I need to tweak in 2015 to amplify my own blog but thought there was no harm in sharing the ideas in advance of their completion.

Stop Being a Secret Genius…

As I am still on a bit of a professional development high from Miami Device and some of the epic quotables gleaned from that event, I thought I would leave you with a little inspiration from Kevin Honeycutt:

Add a little bit of body text-7



HAVE YOU SEEN THE LATEST TECHCHEF GAZETTE ISSUE? Preparing for Back to School and Beyond

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Where Will TechChef Be Next?

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24 Jul 2013
Comments: 4

Do More of What Makes You #Awesomesauce

While it is easy to become discouraged with your own resources and talents when you assemble roughly 400 hand selected Apple Distinguished Educators in one place, it is important to remember this… what you do matters… It matters to your students, to fellow educators, and to the greater good.

Created with Recite This.Com

Created with Recite This.Com

I truly wrestled and struggled with this post for almost a week. How does one share and reflect on the week at the institute while at the same time staying true to the purpose and vision of of their blog… which is ultimately a platform to share creativity and technology resources with personality and posh that can easily be digested and replicated. (yes, I realize that was a bit of a mouthful… and a run-on sentence).

I think Reshan Richards was on the right track when he said, “I don’t think I can articulate it in a way that people who weren’t there would understand”. Thus I would rather share the essence of the week which I believe can be summed up with this iTunes U course developed by five Apple Distinguished Educators (Christine DiPaulo, Brandon Kari, Jason Kathman, Ben Mountz, and John Waldie).

The incredibly thorough and thought-provoking course is intended for grades 9-20. The teacher’s notes say it best, “the true challenge is to introduce the unit and get out of the way to allow students to arrive at their own conclusions, ask reflective questions” and ultimately create their own story. The 18 week course includes:

  • articles on writing and establishing a personal brand statement
  • artistic ventures in designing your own logo
  • photography assignments on personal artifacts
  • thoughtful detail to resume and presentation design
  • research on the etymology of your name
  • online publishing (e.g. Linkedin, About.Me) and connecting with social media

iAm: A Brand Called Me - iTunes U course

While the course itself is developed for grades 9-20, anyone can benefit from a metacognitive journey to discover their own professional brand. My dear friend, Rafranz Davis, mentioned she struggled with defining herself and was thrilled to embark on her own journey to be the CEO of Me.

Knowing who you are and what you bring to the table is empowering. – Rafranz Davis

Follow @RafranzDavis

I think the take-away here, is that everyone has a unique personality and perspective… and deserves a voice. Fortunate to be selected and blessed to meet all of the amazing and distinguished educators along the week, I will leave you with a little ed tech fortune cookie.

Discover what drives your passion and makes you awesome and then share it with the world… because your message and voice matters!

Created with Recite This.Com

Created with Recite This.Com

Interested in becoming an Apple Distinguished Educator in 2015? This video speaks to the heart of the mission.


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