Friday, November 14, 2014

Classroom Visits

Today was a great day to visit in classrooms.

In the library Mrs. Richer has been teaching students how to search with Google a day.

As we move into a digital culture we learn that student know how to play with technology, but they have to be taught how to use technology, For example, there is more to search than just asking questions in Google. Learning to search is part of the Mozilla web literacy standards.

Up in 8th grade Science it is CSI week again. Totally awesome interactive presentations that include writing, audience participation, and great acting skills.

Using movies and a presentation software (usually PowerPoint or Google Slides) the students Created and solved a mystery al a the popular show CSI. Showing how Science not only teaches the basic Sciencey skills, but can also include writing and drama as well. 

Later Mr. Hepner exploded from his room and into the library. His students were so into their Veteran’s Day projects that they have continued to work on them over the last three days. This student was using a picture from the netbook as a model for her hand drawn art. The group next to her were adding music to a presentation, while still others didn't even have computers.

What I love, as a Tech Integration Specialist, is how all of these lessons included technology, but only one had one to one computers. Even then the students were often discussing what was happening on their screens with their partners. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Using Ted-Ed in Your Classroom

At first I was just going to send out this Ted-Ed Lesson for the Science teachers in the district, but then thought better of it. (Be careful before you start watching they are very engaging shorts for each element.)

Then I realized it has been a while since I have shared the Ted-Ed resources. I love how they have created a simple resource that can so quickly and easily be used to engage students, and even make them think. like this one.

The concept is simple start with a video and then ask some questions, all in four or less steps.

  1. Watch
  2. Think 
  3. Dig Deeper
  4. Discuss
Like the Dan Meyer's three-act lessons (More from Andrew Stadel here) the technology (videos, online discussions) isn't there to teach or assess it is just there to spark curiosity. 

The best part of Ted-Ed is the ability to take any video, either a current Ted-Ed, a youtube you found, or something your created yourself, and quickly add your own questions and discussions. I've created a quick example (it took all of 15 minutes) just to show you what you could make for your classroom. So if you have a few minutes, watch my lesson and then start the discussion, here or there, it doesn't matter.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Connected Art

In case you forgot (or just didn't know) October is Connected Educator month.

At the middle school Mrs. Lauer has taken the challenge and connected to an online community of Art educators.

Nings were a very popular place for educators to connect and share for many years, right up until the point when they decided to start charging to host the communities. On the other hand if a ning community is still going then you can be pretty sure the people running the thing are going to make it valuable to you.

So cudos to Mrs. Lauer for joining the ranks of the connected educators. The rest of us can follow along as she goes from a new blank flickr account (Staff are encouraged to follow this professional account) to one full of students examples like this one.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Maker Party - AppMaker

Maker Party

Yesterday evening the school district again hosted a #teachtehweb Maker Party.  As they did last year Mozilla, NWP, and several other non-profits are promoting digital literacy around the world

We started the evening asking why apps such as Flappy Bird might ask for things like location data? It was quickly decided that while it doesn't seem harmful (if they are using the information to provide more targeted adds) it is certainly a bit uncomfortable having so much information about ourselves being passed around. We realized that free apps aren't actually free, we are paying for them by selling information about ourselves. If an app is free to you, that means you are the product being sold to someone else. 

If we want to play games on a tablet or phone it would be nice if we could create the games ourselves. How could we do that? We would look at two app building programs Mozilla Appmaker and AppInventor from MIT.

We started by creating a simple counter app. Add a button and every time you click the button it counts. Some of the participants modified the app to use pictures of cats inside the button, some added a second button to count down, and some added automatic counters. 

With our first app created I passed out some paper planning sheets.  However, most were busy creating apps already and didn't want to step back and start planning. 

Fifteen minutes before the end I stopped everyone and asked they to take a tour around the room to see what everyone else had created. 

Some had created musical instruments that would play when tapped. Others created video players that would play favorite youtube videos when a button was pressed. 

Especially, nice was the way parents worked with their children to create, but the kids did most of the heavy lifting and were the creative force behind the app being created. 

After our tour of each other's work we took a quick look at AppInventor from MIT. This is an actual programming system for Android. Appmaker from Mozilla is a bit easier and allows students to create an app quickly. AppInventor will allow the kids to create something at home and actually put it on the phone or tablets. Eventually, if they want they can also share their apps with their friends. Hopefully they won't create a messaging app that they will then use in school. 

We ended the day talking a bit about net-neutrality and the implications around the world. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Growing a Rainforest

Biomes in Science are always a fun time. Students love to create intricate worlds to explore. It's even better when the world they create is big enough to walk through.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Research Project on Animals.

When I was a kid, and dinosaurs roamed the earth, the project was: “500 words on your saber tooth tiger.” We had a set of encyclopedias at home; most of those reports were copied directly from there. Honestly, I always wondered why I didn't get caught for plagiarism. 

When I was teaching I discovered the hamburger writing guide and variants. My students and I learned a bit about writing together.

Today with technology the possibilities have expanded even more.

All of these choices still stem from the original idea, and meet concepts, or Standards in different ways.

Today the teachers choose, what is a good first step, into easing the students into 21st century work. A nice familiar paper outline, supplemented with the option to research online.  The biggest and most exciting, difference I saw was the teachers embedding a quick lesson on digital literacy, reminding students to use quality sources during their research. “Remember, don’t just Google your animal. Start with a library Destiny search.”
Students using a variety of tools to research animals

Friday, April 11, 2014

Poetry and Math

I love going to visit elementary schools, they do so many cool things and the kids are just so much fun. They aren't shy that is for sure, I had several kids volunteer to show me what they learned today.

The teacher here has her children working on half a dozen different exercises at the same time. As the students finish their pencil and paper work they can read a book, order numbers, create math sentences, or use a variety of iPad apps.

In the old days, when I was a kid, if we finished our work we either read a book quietly or did the "extra" worksheet. Differentiation on skills was just not that personal.

I think we all know that apps are great at adding the sounds and visual elements that make learning more exciting for the students.

The can read words with the teacher

Read a story independently

She can quickly change levels for the student

The self check with computers is also one of the big bonuses. 

Tech tools are great, but students still need to touch and make contact with objects. Apps are great for bringing leveled content to students. This allows them to practice a skill at the appropriate level. But sometimes we just need open ended play to learn and explore. It also helps when two students of different levels work together, they can teach and learn from each other.

The students in this class have the option to use technology after they had finished some writing (one student actually was writing his poem in Word) This allowed students to transition from one activity to another at different times without disrupting the entire class. I like how the teacher didn't have students put away their electronic tools, they just closed the covers and left them on their desks because they would be going back to work on them soon enough. It isn't just a wasting time activity until the real teaching begins, it's a powerful learning tool that for a moment does not need to be used.

The activity may not seem like it included technology, but now that it is recorded and on youtube students can see how well they did and reflect or comment.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Presentation tools

Examples of presentation tools



LIke an online bulletin board only more versatile. glogster allows you to add pictures, voice, video, and text over a background of your choosing. A great way to ease students and teachers from traditional to virtual.


Great for classroom discussions and presentation. Start with a visual prompt and ask students to respond or give students and topic and ask them to present using their own pictures.

Haiku Deck

This is basically powerpoint and just works on the iPad and the web, but it solves the two most common problems in student presentations - too many bullet points, and stolen or uncited pictures. Each slide limits you to a title and one line or text, it them suggests pictures based on the text. all the pictures supplied by HaikuDeck have the citation already embedded.


Create flyers for any occasion and share them easily. Printing is also an option.


Tell a story with your pictures. You can record a voice comment on each picture.


The original non-linear power point replacement. The movement around the screen can give your presentation a deeper meaning or it can make everyone seasick.


Slide speech reads your speaker notes for each slide giving your presentation a voice of its own. It also helps keep presentations short and to the point.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Whats happening in school

Just some of the fun happening in the local schools.

In Kindergarten students are learning to add and subtract to ten by having a snowball fight.

Some of the 5th graders are having math discussions.

Eighth graders are deconstructing their first Science Splash program and making changes before the next presentation. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Some teachers have SMART Response or clickers in their classroom. They are technically mobile tools so I guess you can borrow them as needed. But if you are curious about gathering student responses to multiple choice questions you can also try Plickers.

Basically, with Plickers you print out 4 papers for each student. Each paper is different for each student so no mixing them up. Ask a question, each student holds up a card with their answer A,B,C,D. You take a picture with the iPad or phone and the answers are tabulated and sent directly to the computer. 

Will it work perfectly every time? Nope. Will it be a fun way to practice for tests? I think so. Pre-testing, super idea. Student polls? Absolutely.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Google Add-ons

Google Add-ons Google has introduced a new feature for Google Drive. Add-ons, similar to scripts I suppose, are tools you can add to your Google documents to help facilitate certain processes. Track Changes - Allows you selectively take changes being made to a document. I’m not sure how well this would work with 50 people in a document, but I would have liked to try it the other day as I let 30 freshman have edit rights on a document at one time without impressing on them the need for respect and citizenship. (It was not a pretty site and made the document almost unusable as they started changing everything willy nilly.)  
Lucid Charts - I know some teachers in the district love this and I thought they might like the idea that they can easily go from document to mind map or flowchart with ease. 
Easy Bib - I’m sure anyone asking students to write research papers will appreciate the ability to create bibliographies. Format in MLA, APA, and Chicago style. 
Pro Writing Aid - Not sure if this will be any good, but any help in writing can’t hurt either, or maybe it can. I don’t know I’m a math person. Kaizena - voice notes now even easier. WorkFlows - At first this doesn’t sound helpful, but imagine this, “Student forgets to turn in work. Teacher grades everyone elses work and moves on to next assignment. Student turns in work and complains that the teacher still hasn’t graded it.” Enter Workflows, now student must add workflows to document and get teacher signature. Teacher is notified when work is turned in later or changed and can then go back and grade assignment.  
These add-ons are new and these are just the first ones out of the gate. Expect them to get better and new products to be offered on a daily basis.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Digital Learning Day - Webmaker

This was our third in a series of #maketheweb activities.

Over the summer was a Scratch programming session as part of the Mozilla #maketheweb activities.

In December we held another Scratch day as part of the Hour of Code.

Yesterday, Feb 5th, was an hour of fun celebrating Digital Learning Day.

All of the participants except my son were girls between the ages of six and twelve. I brought my camera, but we were having so much fun I forgot to take pictures. Instead I remixed a webpage in honor of all the girls who participated.

Friday, January 17, 2014