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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Mapping the Ingredients in Thanksgiving Meals

Last year on Thanksgiving I discovered an ESRI Storymap titled Where Does Your Thanksgiving Dinner Come From? Of course, having discovered it on Thanksgiving Day it was a bit too late to be useful so I'm sharing it again this year in advance of Thanksgiving.

Where Does Your Thanksgiving Dinner Come From? displays where eight popular Thanksgiving foods are grown and harvested in the United States. The storymap includes a map for each ingredient. Each map shows the locations of commercial producers. Fun facts are included in the storymap too. For example, did you know that Illinois has at least twice as many acres of pumpkins as any state?



Applications for Education
You could use the Thanksgiving meal storymap to spark students' curiosity to investigate questions like "why does Illinois grow so many pumpkins?" or "why don't we harvest any pecans in New England?"

A Digital Differentiation Model

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This entry is from Danielle Lagnese.

Personalizing learning in my classroom four years ago was challenging. To say the least. Imagine eight red buckets from Dollar Tree filled with binder clipped packets of worksheets. We did the best we could, but humidity curled the papers beyond recognition. Activities were limited to what could fit on a piece of 8X11 white paper. Students were compliant, but the activities were antiquated even if my desire to reach each student where they were was genuine.

In 2015, we moved to having Chromebooks carts in each Social Studies Classroom and using Google Classroom districtwide. My ability to make differentiation manageable, rather than something that would overload me, changed overnight. I was faced with an opportunity to create a system that would reflect the pedagogy I believed in and serve my students without sacrificing my personal style. Creating “learning playlists” have improved ability to differentiate in a digital environment. They’ve given my students choice, voice, an opportunity to reflect on their learning, and an increased growth mindset. They’ve given me a chance to try out new tools, adapt my instruction anytime, and a refuge from red buckets of crumpled worksheets. I’m able to do all of this with Google Forms, Google Sheets, and Google Classroom.

My unit planning starts the creation of a playlist - here’s a PDF of the finish product. I consider which learning activities all students must do within this curriculum. The diversity of my students makes this a small number. Our students’ reading, writing, vocabulary, listening, and technology skills range widely and I want to move all students forward while meeting each exactly where they are. This is not a science and it’s something I hope to improve at every day.

The top part of the Google Sheet contains these required activities. I try to make it as visual as possible and I mix colors and images to help students use the sheet as independently as possible.

In the initial planning phase, I leave a few of these rows blank so that I can use formative assessments to make decision about what activities are necessary for all students as we move through the unit. This should be a living document that I can adjust at any time as I teach real humans whose capacities expand constantly.

The bottom part of the Google Sheet contains individual activities. This is a much larger area of real estate on the sheet, which reflects the percentage of activities are personalized in my 8th grade Social Studies class. This may look different in different subject areas and grade levels.

After I have created categories for the unit, I add individual activities. This can be extensive. One unit can have 15-20 activities in the individual section. The best way to “make it manageable” here is to collaborate with your departments or grade levels. Take advantage of the best resources around you - other educators.

Within each category, there may be different choices - leveled, specific skills, or choices for different interests:

The most important column in the individualized section is the materials section. This is where all the learning lives. Some links prompt students to make copies of activities, or link to directions, flipped videos, Google Forms, or other digital tools. I can pull students to a small group for extra practice at any time and they can track and reflect on that practice in this space.

I leave a spot below this blank canvas for students to write in their goal and the amount of points they’ve earned. I use a formula so the sheet works for kids to automatically track their progress. As we progress through the unit, my kids conference with me constantly. I give them feedback, they use evidence from their work to convince me how many “points” should be earned for each activity.

Goals are set on the first day of the unit using Google Form. Students answer questions like these to evaluate their strengths and calculate a points goal.

The final step is the “assessment conference” I have with students. Students run the conference. Here’s a script for how I model that. They tell me what activities they did, why they chose them, how they used the feedback the got, and why they deserve to have met their goal. If students didn’t meet their goal, we reflect on that together and come up with ways to meet them in the future. Using this method has made personalization manageable for me and I hope that it can help you too!

Danielle Lagnese is a middle school Social Studies teacher in East Windsor, NJ. She has presented at conferences around the state about digital differentiation and using technology to personalize learning. You can follow her @MissLagnese on Twitter.

BookSnaps, Passage Snaps, and a Flex-time PD Model

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This entry is from Jerry Schneider who shares a couple of good examples of using a "flex-time PD model."

In an effort to make professional development more flexible and adaptable to the needs of our teachers, our school district is trying something new. Teachers in our school district are able to earn PD hours during the school day that can be applied to the flex-time PD hours. For example, if a classroom teacher spends time planning a project with the library media specialist or instructional technology coach on ways to increase the level of rigor by integrating technology, the planning hours go toward the flex-time PD hours. We have dubbed this as “shoulder partner time” where we are sitting “shoulder to shoulder working together to reach a common good for our students.”

Other examples for flexible PD time include curriculum development with fellow teachers outside of the school day or learning about new web tools from the library media specialist or instructional technology coach during teacher prep periods. Those teachers that fulfill their PD flex-time obligation are able to take the scheduled PD off since they have fulfilled their PD hour requirements. The combination of credit for PD time and collaborative time to learn new software or develop new curriculum/lessons has meant teachers seek out the library media specialist and instructional technology coach often.

The shoulder partner time model helps our teachers who are constantly looking for ways to integrate current technology apps into their curriculum. In meeting with one of our Latin teachers, we discussed ways for students to use technology when evaluating a historical quotation. She decided to do a #PassageSnap adapted from Tara Martin’s “#BookSnaps with Seesaw.”


The concept was based on SnapChat, an app that takes any picture, video, or message you send to followers and makes them available to the receivers for only a short time before it becomes inaccessible. Users can mark up or annotate the message with text, drawing, emojis, images, filters, etc. Since SnapChat is often blocked in schools, Martin used Seesaw to create a #BookSnap, where students promote their books with those same enhancements available on SnapChat using Seesaw.

Instead of using Seesaw, I decided to try using Google Drawing for the #PassageSnap. Students were given a specific Latin quote, and the students were to use those same enhancements available on SnapChat on Google Drawing and Google Docs. The Latin teacher shared with the students through Google Classroom a Google Doc with the instructions and rubric for assessment. The students then added a page break and inserted a Google Drawing onto the Google Doc. They were to define different words of the Latin quote on Drawing using text, drawing, emojis, images, etc. When completed, the students were able to turn in the Google Doc using the Turn In feature of Google Classroom either in the Google Doc or in Google Classroom. The students went above and beyond the teacher’s expectations; she was in awe of the creativity and originality of the students. She said she will be doing this again in the near future. As educators, we need to allow our students to demonstrate their depth of understanding using student-created projects.

One of our freshmen English/Language Arts teacher came to me asking about a mapping tool where students could map out a journey. My suggestion was to use Google’s Tour Creator incorporating Google Street View. Tour Creator uses the Google Street View to drop pins (stops on a trip that shows the view from the street view in the past 1-5 years) along a planned route. The E/LA teacher wanted the students to create their own map of the stops of Odysseus from the novel The Odyssey. Along with views of the stops on the journey, students were able to record audio narration of the journey, using the PLD’s Voice Recorder, and upload to the location of the stop on the journey so students could hear about the significance of this particular stop. Students would then share the link to their tours with the teacher and the rest of the class. Many of the projects were extremely detailed and very well done. This is the fun part of my job...seeing what can students create when given the tools and the time to create something that shows what they know.

About Jerry
For the past three years, Jerry Schneider has worked between a high school and middle school in Fargo, North Dakota, as an instructional technology coach. Prior to that, he worked as the instructional technology coach at the high school level for five years full-time and one year split as a business education classroom teacher and instructional technology coach. 

For his first 17 years in education, Jerry was a business education/software applications teacher. He is a Google Certified Levels 1 and 2 Educator, earned Google Certified Trainer status, is a certified online instructor through Florida Virtual High School, and is an adjunct instructor at North Dakota State University where he teaches online Google Certified Levels 1 and 2 Educator courses. Jerry is a member of ISTE and the NDATL (North Dakota Association of Technology Leaders). As part of his Personal Learning Network (PLN) Jerry frequents Twitter, Google+ Communities, Spigot, Feedly, and Diigo as he feels it is important to stay up to date on new features in web tools, software, and hardware as well as finding and evaluating new products. He blogs at https://fnhtechnologycoach.edublogs.org and enjoys following technology companies, bloggers, administrators, and educators on Twitter https://twitter.com/FNH_Tech_Coach.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Free PD Webinar - Article a Day With ReadWorks

ReadWorks is a free service that I have been writing about for the last few years. It offers free reading lesson plans aligned to standards for all K-12 students. Tomorrow, at 4pm Eastern Time ReadWorks is offering a free webinar on how to use their Article a Day feature in your classroom. The webinar will cover ReadWorks' 10 minute daily routine for building background knowledge building important vocabulary, and building reading stamina. You can register for the webinar right here.

If you cannot make it to tomorrow's webinar, you can watch a recording of a previous webinar on the same topic. That recording is available here or as embedded below.

Article-A-Day Webinar 7.16 from ReadWorks on Vimeo.

CoRubrics - An Add-on to Facilitate Assessment Among Students

This week I am hosting guest posts. This one was authored by Jaume Feliu at the Salas i Xandri High School in Sant Quirze del Vallès, near Barcelona.

More and more rubrics are coming into the classroom for assessment. Rubrics are tools that encourage formative assessment, especially when students use them for self-assessment and peer assessment. But this co-evaluation can be a long and tedious process.

CoRubrics is a free add-on for Google Sheets, developed by a teacher. It is used to assess students (or groups of students) with a rubric and it also allows students to assess other students (co-evaluation).

First, teachers design the rubric they want to use in Google Sheets. Then they add the students' names and their email address (these can be imported from Google Classroom). Once this is done, the add-on will:
  • Create a Google Form with the contents of the rubric. 
  • Send the form to the students by email or simply provide the link to the teacher. 
  • Process the data once the form is filled out (by the students or by the teacher). 
  • Finally, send the results to the students (each student receives only his/her results) with a personalized comment.
The process is detailed below.

Once the add-on is installed, the add-on menu will guide you through the process.

The first step is to create the rubric template. Three sheets will be created where we will have to indicate the rubric, the students and the teachers’ names and emails. You can delete and add aspects and levels.





From here the process is really fast. Using the Corubrics menu the rubric form is created.



Students answer the form with their mobile phone or with their computer and the complement carries out all the calculation in order to obtain the results.



Finally, the rubric of result is sent to each student.



The following video shows the usage process:


Detailed information can be found at the following CoRubrics link and updates are published on the following CoRubrics Twitter account.

Jaume Feliu is a Teacher of Technology at the Salas i Xandri High School in Sant Quirze del Vallès, near Barcelona.

Blog: Tecnocentres
Twitter: @jfeliua

Passionate about education and technological training, I try to take advantage of ICT to improve the organization of the center, to facilitate the methodologies where the student is the main character of his/her learning and to improve the evaluation. In this sense, I have developed some complements (CoRubrics and ImExClass). I am convinced that, in order to improve education, we must constantly rethink what we are doing.

7 Tips for Moving from Decorating to Designing Classrooms

This week I am hosting guest posts. This is a guest post from Dr. Robert Dillon. I have been following Bob's work for the last few years and I am thrilled to host this guest post from him.

The images that we see of many “modern” classroom designs are filled with Pinterest-pretty decorations that aren’t based in the what we know to be brain-friendly learning spaces. Ideally, schools would be taking time to study and design with intention spaces that support excellent learning. Unfortunately, the social pressure to decorate classrooms is strong, and decorating classrooms is an inch deep solution that elicits the dopamine flow that comes with likes on Instagram, Facebook, and Snap. These cute, neat, and fancy solutions rarely equal great learning. As educators, we need to make sure that there is a sync between instructional practices that provide experiential learning, technology tools that support creation, and optimal learning environments. To accomplish this, consider the seven tips below to keep the focus on intentional design.

Know the Verbs
Design requires a human-centered lens that allows you to understand the true purpose of a space. When teachers and leaders know the verbs of their space, they have a deeper level of intentionality. Is your space designed to explore, investigate, and discover? Is your space designed to create, make, and tinker? This clarity makes decoration seem like frosting instead of missional.

Declutter the Parameter
Too many design initiatives move straight to the furniture, but the parameter of the room can have a greater influence on student learning. Posters and clutter can be distracting and lead to less engagement. Students rarely consciously notice the mess, but it impacts their comfort in the space. Having too much in a classroom can limit its flexibility as well. Try removing ten or more items from the space to let it breathe for students and their learning.

Focus on Student Feedback
So many spaces are designed FOR students as opposed to WITH students. Even if students aren’t a part of the initial design, they can be a part of the next iteration. Students need to be asked about the space. What is supporting their learning? What is inhibiting their learning? We often solve for problems that aren’t issues for students, and no matter the age, we have to drive changes into the learning space that are based on feedback.

Create a Maker Culture
If we keep designing makerspaces, isolated from classroom learning, with no plan to close them in lieu of a maker culture, we are building this decade’s computer lab. We need to instead think about creating a culture of making in every classroom. This doesn’t mean that we are putting 3D printers in every classroom, but maybe we are adding cardboard and low-tech creation items in all spaces. Allow students to showcase their learning in a variety of ways. Don’t limit making to space or specific time of the day.

Develop a Color Palette
Research continues to emerge that an intentional color palette enhances learning. Too many spaces look like a bag of skittles exploded with every color of the rainbow represented in the rugs, furniture, and items on the wall. Designers are looking for a base color with a couple of accent colors. Classroom decorators, though, are adding flare and pop, and this rarely helps with the focus or calm of a space.

Provide Choice with Coherence
Twenty-five of anything is the wrong answer. The idea that we would bring 25 yoga balls, 25 pedal bikes, or 25 desks into a modern learning space definitely lacks the level of design that we should be seeking. It is essential that students can choose the seating that meets their learning task and their learning style, but adding neat items to the classroom for novelty will get the undesired effect of students focused on furniture instead of their future.

Mind Brain Research into Space Design
The more decorated classrooms that appear on Instagram and Pinterest as model spaces to pursue for teachers, the more we wander from what we know about best practices in learning. Research may not get us likes and retweets, but it is essential that we are considering the principles of design that promote learning. Only with this information in the forefront of our efforts can we truly build student-friendly spaces.

Dr. Robert Dillon has served as a thought leader in education over the last twenty years as a teacher, principal, and director of innovation. Dr. Dillon has a passion to change the educational landscape by building excellent engaging schools for all students. Dr. Dillon serves on the Leadership Team for Connected Learning, a Saint Louis based organization designed to reshape professional development to meet today's needs. Dr. Dillon has had the opportunity to speak throughout the country at local, state, and national conferences as well as share his thoughts and ideas in a variety of publications. He is the author of four books on best practices in learning, Leading Connected Classrooms Engage, Empower, Energize: Leading Tomorrow's Schools Today, Redesigning Learning Space, and his most recent book on learning space design called The Space: A Guide for Educators.

Dr. Robert Dillon - rdillon25@gmail.com - @drrobertdillon - drrobertdillon.com

Teaching Online - What Does it Take?

This week I am hosting guest blog posts. This one is from Nik Peachey. I have been following Nik's work for many years and I was flattered that he wanted to guest post on my little blog.

As the market for online tutoring and particularly for online English lessons continues to grow at rapid pace, it seems inevitable that eventually all teachers will be expected to be able to deliver some elements of their classes online.

This can be intimidating, especially for the less tech savvy teacher, but developing this ability isn’t so difficult and if you can overcome some of the technical obstacles there are many advantages to be able to teach online, not least the fact that, in many cases, you don’t have to leave home to do it and you can have more flexibility to fit your classes around your own schedule.


So what do you need to get started?
Firstly, you’ll need a laptop with a good quality headset and a webcam. Nowadays, the kind of headset you get with the average smartphone will usually be good enough for the job. Don’t be tempted to use the speakers built in to your laptop or desktop computer, this will cause echo for your students and won’t make you a popular teacher.

The next thing you need is a good broadband internet connection. If your home connection struggles, then there are a few things you can do to help it along. Plugging in with an ethernet cable rather than wifi can help, as can rebooting your computer before you start a class and ensuring that you don’t have other browser windows or programs open which could be sucking up your connection in the background.

Once you have the equipment side of things sorted you also need to find a suitable place to do it. This needs to be quiet, well lit and have a suitable looking background. Remember, your students are going to be able to see the room you are in, so make sure you don’t have your washing hanging up in the background. It’s also best to have a light behind your computer screen rather than behind you. This will ensure that you don’t appear as a silhouette. If you have a strong light that’s directional, try to bounce the light off of a wall and onto your face so that it lights your face without dazzling you.

When you set up your webcam try to make sure it is on eye level with your face and you look directly towards it. This will help you make eye contact with your students and also ensure that they aren’t looking up your nose or just the top of your head. Ideally they should be able to see from above your head and down to your elbows. This will give you a reasonable space to work in and help them understand some of the non verbal elements of communication.

One of the hardest challenges most teachers have when moving from the physical classroom to the online classroom, is the lack of visual space. In the classroom we have lots of space to move around play with the proximity to our students, mime, make exaggerated gestures and generally move around. In the online classroom, you are ‘trapped’ within the visual space that your webcam offers. This is limiting, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still use the space. Practice in front of the camera and see what the best distance away is to give yourself a bit more space. See how you can use hand gestures within that space. Examine the impact that moving in closer to the camera can have, or putting your hands closer to the camera. In time you can develop a whole new repertoire body language and communication gestures.

The other things you need are a platform for the delivery of you courses and some content to deliver. I have been working with the iTeach.world platform for some time and I find it has lots of great features such as document sharing, so that you and students can work on things like Google docs collaboratively, in the classroom. The ability to sync video across the class so that you can watch video from YouTube during the online classes, and it also provides an LMS with content creation tools so you can build in asynchronous elements to your courses for independent study or flipping your online classroom.

The last problem is content. You can’t simply grab a copy of your course book and scan it to use online as that would be violation of copyright, so you may find you have to create your own. I’ve done this using Genially. This is a great tool for creating all kinds of dynamic web-based content. This is an example of one of the lessons I developed using it.



Well, I hope this helps you to get started on your online teaching route and that you enjoy picking up some new skills along the way.

Nik Peachey is an award winning materials writer and course developer. He has been involved in education since 1992 and delivers conference presentations and workshops for teachers all over the world. He also co-founded PeacheyPublications Ltd where he publishes and shares a range of teacher development ebooks and digital classroom materials.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Meaningful Reading Engagement with Quote Cards

This is a guest post from Noah Geisel.
“Quote cards were fun way to be more creative with it and manipulate it instead of just writing it down.” — Cruz, 20.
My Digital Media & Learning class is driven by critical thinking and analysis. There’s a lot of reading and reading reflection, and I wanted students to go deeper than the mindless compliance of writing a few words on an LMS discussion board because they were required to.

Turns out, so did they.

The Quote Card Assignment
It was simple: Do the reading and pull three quotes to make into graphics and add to a collaborative Google Slides deck. During class, I showed exemplars from inspirational Twitter posts and modeled how to use Slides, Adobe Spark, and Canva to make their graphics. I posted additional resources in the LMS.

Lastly, I encouraged them to use Commenting and the Presenter Notes on the slides as they saw fit. If they pulled a quote because it seemed deep and important, perhaps share why in the notes. If they used a line because they had no idea what it’s saying and were hoping someone else would shed a light because it seemed important, consider noting that for peers!

Not every student went above and beyond. Some did. What every student did was produce reflections that went beyond what I am used to seeing in traditional discussion threads.

  • Students mostly chose background images that related to their understanding of the quote, hinting that they probably read at least their own quote.
  • No students repeated the same quotes. So they probably read each others’ slides. One student, Joshua, commented, “Looking at someone else’s highlights helped me know whether I was understanding the same stuff as them from the readings or if I was out in left field.”
  • One student, unprompted, went in before class and organized the slides by page number rather than the chronological order of when students added them. A second student, seeing this, suggested in the next class that we instead organize the quotes thematically around the deeper ideas that emerged from discussion (because class discussion was sparked entirely by the students’ quotes).
  • When asked why we did the reading reflections this way, students pointed out that they had collaboratively pulled quotes and page numbers that were now easily accessible for everyone to use in citing sources on an assigned essay. This produced an ah-ha moment as they realized that, as a group, they had just saved themselves future time and effort.

Beyond these observations, I know the quote graphic activity worked because of this message that one student, Brian, sent me: “I like the quote cards activity a lot. So far, I loved the class. It’s more dynamic than any other class I’ve taken…involving different tools. You are immersing us in things we’ve never done before.” 


Noah Geisel is a World Languages, EdTech and Digital Badges consultant, teacher and speaker who is passionate about helping educators and students make awesome happen. He is a learner, sharer, traveler and giver of high fives. Noah was recognized as the 2013 ACTFL National Language Teacher of the Year. He is also Education Director at Stackup.net. He blogs at medium.com/@senorg and is on twitter at @SenorG

Great Ideas for Mystery Skype & Hangouts

This week I am welcoming some guest bloggers. This one is from Sarah Fromhold.

Mystery Skype is a concept that first began around 2011. The premise is that students Skype with another class somewhere in the world, and each class tries to guess the location of the schools by asking yes or no questions. When participating in a Mystery Skype, students are hitting three out of the four Cs--collaborating with classmates, communicating with the other school, and critically thinking when figuring out what to ask next based on the previous answer.

Mystery Skype is an amazing opportunity for all students, but it can be difficult to complete with younger grades (K-3). Due to their age, they don’t have a lot of experience with maps and globes, and may not have the schema of major cities other than the one to which they live closest.

If you teach younger students, and want your students to have a similar experience, you may want to consider connecting to guess a mystery number, shape, or animal!

For 1st - 3rd grade
Mystery Number is an excellent way to practice place value and number sense. Each class would apply their knowledge of even and odd, comparison language, skip counting, and the value of each digit in the number.
  • Before the day of the Skype/Hangout, students in Class A and B each choose a number. Depending on the standard and grade, numbers could range from 0 - 100,000.
  • Students in each class work together to list the properties of their number.
  • When the classes connect via Skype or Google Hangouts, Class A begins by asking yes/no questions about Class B’s number. These questions could include:
    • Is your number odd? 
    • Is the value of the digit in the hundreds place greater than 400? 
    • Would we say your number if we were skip counting by 10s? 
    • Is your number less than 275?
  • Each time a question is answered, the choices are narrowed down and numbers are crossed out based on the previous answer.
  • When Class A has guessed Class B’s answer, they switch roles and it’s Class B’s turn to ask questions and guess!
  • At the end of the game, both classes can share information about where they live, the weather in their area, and have the opportunity to ask questions about the other school.
Preschool and kindergarten students can apply knowledge of the physical characteristics of animals by playing Mystery Animal. To play Mystery Shape, the premise is exactly the same, but the students would ask questions about a two-dimensional or three-dimensional shape.

Ready to get started? Here are some tips!
1. You can find classes who are interested in connecting in many ways. You can tweet to the #MysterySkype hashtag, post in the Connected Classrooms or Mystery Hangout Google Plus communities, or reach out to your instructional technology department/campus liaison.

2. Review good questioning strategies before the Skype/Hangout. You might want to create a question bank for the students to reference.

3. This activity can be quite unstructured. If your students require a bit more structure, you can assign a job to each student. Some jobs include, but are not limited to:

  • Greeter - The student who will greet the other class once you are connected. Sometimes the greeters play “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to decide who will go first!
  • Question Asker(s) - The student(s) who will ask the questions at the computer. You could have one asker per table group, and each question comes from a different table.
  • Question Answerer(s)
  •  Animal/Shape/Number Narrower(s) - If you have a class chart of animals, shapes, or numbers, these students would cross off items according to how the other class answered the question.
  • Reporter(s) - If you have a way of communicating to parents (class website, email, newsletter, etc), the student(s) would take pictures for the teacher to post later in the day.
  • Sign Holder(s) - It is helpful to have some signage to let the other class know you are thinking or ready for the next question. This student could be in charge of standing in front of the computer holding the appropriate sign.
  • Fact Sharer(s) - At the end of the game, the student(s) could share a little about their school, district, or community.

Last but not least, have fun!!! Your kids will enjoy connecting with someone outside of their community, and won’t even realize they are applying their knowledge and learning!

Sarah Fromhold is a Digital Learning Coach in Frisco, TX. Before moving into this role, she taught kindergarten and 2nd grade. Sarah is a Google Certified Educator Levels 1 & 2 and a Google for Education Certified Trainer. She is a proud member of the #4OCFpln, a Voxer group that started with a book study and has grown into a family. You can find her on Twitter @sew1080 or check out her blog at fromholdsblog.wordpress.com.

Apps Day - A Great Way to Learn About Apps

This week I am welcoming some guest bloggers. This one is from Phil Strunk. 

I am relatively new to the profession -- this is my fourth year of teaching -- and like most teachers around the country, if I had access to computers, it was often in the form of a cart that was reserved almost every day that I wanted them. Then, on the occasion that I would get it on the day I wanted them, something would occur and I would need to give them up to where they were needed. I longed for the day when I could have my own cart of computers for students. I imagined how incredible it could be to have students use the various technology applications to create and innovate.

Think back to your childhood. Do you remember a Christmas, birthday, or another holiday morning where you can remember looking at presents wrapped up? When you see those presents, can you remember thinking “Yes! I got it!” and with great excitement, you ripped through the wrapping paper and joyfully screamed thanks to the gift giver? I had a similar experience last Spring.

It turns out that wishes do indeed come true. Last Spring, my superintendent announced that our division was going to be launching a 1:1 technology initiative. I can remember jumping up, grabbing my phone to call a colleague, and the feelings of elation that occurred when I told my wife when I got home. I was -- and still am -- incredibly excited about being able to design more learning opportunities to prepare my students for their bright futures.

I consider myself a reflective practitioner. The last thing I wanted to do was to simply force technology into a place where it was not necessary. I wanted technology to be used transformatively not haphazardly. Like anything new, I needed to create a foundation of common knowledge to teach my students about the basics of the technology that I would be implementing, so the focus could then be on the learning instead of on the technology.

Over the summer, I worked intentionally to revamp curriculum, this is not unusual for me, I have never quite figured out how to take a summer “off.” I decided before we dove into content, we would first jump into our essential apps to build foundational understanding for my students. I spent several days designing a hyperdoc to allow for self-paced learning of Canva, Screencastify, Flipgrid, and Powtoon and named the project, “Apps Day.” This experience provided an opportunity for students in my classes to learn the foundational technology skills they would need for the remainder of the year.

What is Apps Day?
I implemented Apps Day at the start of the year, and I contacted my school’s Instructional Technology Resource Teacher (ITRT), Patrick Hausammann, to see if he could co-teach it with me. He spent four days in the classroom with me as we worked with students to design brilliant products. Apps Day was an exciting change to the start of the school year, students used the various apps to design products to allow me get to know each student a bit more; having students create videos about topics they were excited and nervous for the upcoming year, and designing graphics about their interests. This activity allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of my students. In addition, Apps Day allowed students to see early in the year that it is okay to try and fail at something, as long as we learn from those losses and grow as learners in a class where risk-taking is safe and celebrated.

Hold Your Own Apps Day
Apps Day was not only good for my class. It benefited the school as a whole. I have had multiple teachers mention how nice it has been that students understand how to use the applications from Apps Day. My students can do more than fill in bubbles on a scantron; they can create and innovate. If you are interested in bringing Apps Day to your school, you can copy the Google Doc found here.

Phil Strunk is a sixth and seventh grade US History I&II teacher at Johnson-Williams Middle School in Berryville, Virginia. He is an active member of the Twitter community (@MrPStrunk) and the founder of the “Wins and Losses Ed Chat” #waledchat that meets Thursdays at 9 pm ET. He is a podcaster of the Wins and Losses podcast available on iTunes and on his website, philstrunk.com. Phil also hosts the Youtube show, Edusations, where he speaks with teachers from all over about successful practices they implement in their learning environments.

Monday, November 12, 2018

News Aggregators: Professional Development for the Busy Teacher

This week I am welcoming some guest bloggers. This one is from Rebecca Meeder.

Professional development helps expose teachers to new trends in their field and aids them in growing in their profession. However, with the tremendous amount of work teachers already have, is regularly attending professional development sessions even feasible? Online news aggregators can help ease the problem of teachers needing growth in their profession, but having only a limited amount of time to spend on professional development.

What is a news aggregator?
Imagine having your newspaper or magazines delivered to you, but only the articles you want to read show up in your mailbox. Online news aggregators work in a similar way. News aggregators, such as Feedly or News360, are free online sites or apps anyone can sign up for. They organize all the content that interests you into one single webpage for you to browse through. Often these sites contain articles on the latest trends and practices in the subject area or field that you are interested in.

For example, an English teacher can sign up with Feedly using her Google account or Facebook login. She can then either tell Feedly what content she is interested in, such as blog posts from 9th grade English teachers, or what websites she wants to follow, such as Free Technology for Teachers. After that, every time the teacher visits Feedly, the site will display the latest content from these sites that she shared with it.

Think of news aggregators as short bursts of mini-professional development opportunities. Teachers can browse the aggregators at leisure during lunch or right before they leave the classroom to head to their after school meeting, and have the latest news and findings about their specific subject area or grade level. It is as if they attended a professional development seminar, but within a few short minutes.

A few sites I would recommend following for K-12 educators using news aggregators are:
These are great sites to start with, especially if you are new at using news aggregators. They post new content regularly and enable you to stay on top of the latest trends and practices in K-12 education.

How I Use a News Aggregator
About three years ago, I wrote a post on my blog on how I use Feedly to help me stay “in the know” regarding Educational Technology. While working at a university in the College of Education, I was only able to spend a limited amount of time in the K-12 classroom since I had to focus on teaching Educational Technology classes and managing the college’s online Grow-Your-Own program. Therefore, to stay up-to-date on trends and practices within the field of Educational Technology, I used Feedly every day to catch up on articles featuring strategies and tools teachers were currently using in the classroom. My interests at the time were blogs and news sites that featured topics on technology used in the classroom, but also news sites that featured articles on higher education trends.

I also shared with a few of my colleagues my strategy of using news aggregators as a form of professional development. A few of them were in fields other than education. Yet, they also started using news aggregators to read articles within their own field. What is great about news aggregators is the ability to narrow down and specify which topics you are interested in, so that meaningful content appears in your news feed.

Currently, I work at the Bellevue School District in a more administrative capacity. Even though, I am in a K-12 environment, I still have little interaction with teachers or students in the classroom. However, I use a news aggregator to provide myself with an overall view of what technology teachers are currently using in the classroom and what innovative practices are growing in popularity regarding their use. Some of the sites I regularly follow are The Principal of Change, and a blog by Catlin Tucker, a Honors English Teacher in Sonoma County.

News Aggregators as a Professional Development Solution for Overworked Teachers
I am hoping that educators in the K-12 field take the time to use news aggregators and continue with their professional development, even if it is not in an official capacity. Teachers now more than ever are expected to do more work than they are capable. Instead of pushing more work, such as several face-to-face professional development sessions, onto teachers, we could streamline their work and utilize technology, such as using news aggregators. News aggregators will not completely replace face-to-face professional development sessions, but I believe utilizing tools such as news aggregators can help with keeping our teachers in the field and growing at the same time.

Dr. Rebecca Meeder has worked at various companies and organizations including the University of Hawaii, Nintendo, Ellucian, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, and Northwest University. She is currently an Instructional Technology Designer at the Bellevue School District. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @drmeeder.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Creating a Digital Culture

This week I am welcoming some guest bloggers. This one is from Clint Winter and Chuck Bell.

As a School Superintendent and as a District Technology Coordinator we both are often asked “How and why did your district decide to go 1:1?.” Our school district has been 1:1 in some form or fashion for a number of years. Initially funded through a grant through the University of Georgia we were able to give Windows devices to students in the 11th and 12th grade. As the grant ended and expenses began to mount and as Google established a strong presence in K-12 education it became clear that we needed to make a commitment to Google Chromebooks. We were able to fund our Chromebook initiative through money collected from a special local option sales tax. Also, it helps us meet the state of Georgia’s mandate for 100% online state required testing.

When we made the commitment to Chromebooks we also are making a commitment to collaboration and creation. We wanted to connect our students and teachers with both curriculum and new opportunities. Actually, that is a big reason we decided to get Chromebooks! Our Chromebooks booted up faster, we have unlimited storage, and we are able to collaborate in real time all the time. Students are also able to access their documents offline. Keeping with the theme of collaboration and creation We wanted to alleviate fears by letting teachers know that from a District prospective. We knew they will have both success and failures with the new devices in their classroom. We also wanted to remove barriers by offering tools such from Texthelp and GoGuardian. Also, we wanted to make sure that we were using best practices and have worked with AmplifedIT to maximize our Google Admin Console.

For Professional Development our school district embraces the SAMR model. It is important that our students Chromebooks are being used intentionally. We offer personalized paths for our teachers to learn and lead about using technology for more than substitution. Some of our teachers go through Google Certification, others attend Edcamps, we are promoting building our own Personalized Learning Networks.. Our administrators are offering teachers to choose professional learning in the building and also encouraging their teachers to screencast new things that they have learned. We tweet the good things we are doing in our classroom and use the hashtag #Bluewayondisplay to expand our audience and learn from educators across our region, nation, and world. We are continuing to build a culture that supports Every student Every Day and know that this cannot be accomplished without the support of our students, community, teachers, technology staff, and administrators. Building a dynamic culture that encourages risk taking and embracing new styles of learning is truly a team effort.

Chuck Bell is the Superintendent of the Elbert County School District. You can follow Chuck on twitter @Chuck_Bell_

Clint Winter is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Elbert County School District. You can follow him on Twitter @ClintWinter. Clint is the author of TheFridayTechTip which is updated every Friday during the school year. You can listen to the Edtechrewind podcast he co-hosts with Dr. Lee Green.

Edji - A Great Tool for Literacy and Critical Thinking

This week I am welcoming some guest bloggers. This one is from Eric Hills.

As a tech coach, I love spending time trying to find tools that are easy to use, can enhance student learning, and are engaging for students. Edji checks all three of those boxes for me. I’ve learned about so many amazing tools and strategies from Richard Byrne and I want to return the favor to him and his readers by sharing a little about this amazing tool. And because Edji was created in my home state of Minnesota, I take a little extra pride in sharing my love for it. I hope after reading this post, you will give Edji a try with your students!

What is it?
Edji is a unique, collaborative annotation tool that works on any device. Students and teachers can highlight portions of text and leave either emoji comments or text comments. They can also place a hotspot on a picture and leave a comment. It sounds simple, but there are endless ways it can be used.

One key feature of Edji is called “Heat Vision.” Teachers can toggle Heat Vision on or off. When you turn Heat Vision on, all highlights and comments will appear for all students to see. Text that has been highlighted by students will appear in colors ranging from yellow to dark red depending on how many students highlighted that area. Most teachers will likely leave the Heat Vision feature off until students have had time to highlight and comment. Once they are done, you can turn on Heat Vision to show common highlights and comments.



Why use it?
Edji can be used in many ways and it is incredibly easy to get started. If you have an article, diagram, chart, image, or text of any kind, you can have an interactive lesson ready in minutes. And by giving students a place to make their own highlights and comments, you are allowing every voice in the classroom to be heard. Using Edji will enhance the face-to-face discussions that your students have in class.

Here are just a few ways you could use Edji in your class:

  • Identify the main idea and supporting details in an article using highlights. Click on Heat Vision so students see whether they highlighted the correct portion of the text.
  • Examine a historical artifact or political cartoon image and have students make comments on their observations.
  • Read a primary source document in social studies and have students highlight key vocabulary that they don’t know. Have students share the task of finding synonyms to help decipher the text.
  • Create an emoji chart with your students that represents what you are looking for in the text. For example, cause and effect. Students could use a raindrop to represent cause and an umbrella to represent effect. Having students identify the best emojis to use activates their critical thinking skills in an engaging way.

How do I get started?
Creating a reading for students to complete is very easy. You can copy and paste text from other sources such as Newsela, CommitLit, The Tween Tribune, Project Gutenberg, or any other preferred source of texts. You can also upload PDFs or images. To set up your first reading, check out the video below.


Once you have created a reading, students access the reading by entering a code at edji.it. They can sign in as a guest or create an account (Google sign-in available). You can also create reading groups, which lets you duplicate a reading and use a unique code for each small reading group. This is especially helpful if you use the same text for 30 (or 150) students as it might be difficult to navigate the comments and highlights.

Disclosure: I have received stickers and magnets from Edji. I also received two Edji Hero licenses for teachers at my school to pilot its use.

Biography: Eric Hills is a Digital Learning Coach from Shakopee Public Schools in Minnesota. You can find his blog posts and those of his amazing colleagues at techtools.shakopee.k12.mn.us and you can connect with him on Twitter @MrEricHills.

My Party PBL - Technology and Project Based Learning

This week I am welcoming some guest bloggers. This one is from Debbie Carona.

The PBL, My Party Election, originally written by Mike Kaechele, became a part of the U.S. History curriculum for 8th graders at St. John’s Episcopal School Dallas during the Presidential Election of 2016. Students worked in groups with politically like-minded teammates to create new and unique political third parties by developing a platform, creating a logo, writing a slogan and building a website. At the time, St. John’s was the only middle school to join this nationwide competition where the party of the winning presidential candidate submitted its website which is judged by other students across the United States. Over the past two years, as most good PBLs tend to do,” My Party Election” morphed into simply “My Party” with a stronger focus on the actual third parties formed in the process rather than the election of an individual from one of the third parties as president.

The current My Party PBL is now a fundraising event where each party conducts extensive research on various aspects of the role of third parties in American politics as well as four assigned current issues that are to be built into the planks of the platform. The required issues include healthcare, immigration, gun control, and energy. Each party member plays an important role in creating the party and planning the event. Students take on the roles of Director of Fundraising, Media Coordinator, Branding Coordinator, Webmaster and Steering Committee Chairperson.

Using Word documents shared on One Drive, students work simultaneously on the creation of their platforms. The Fundraising Director spends time editing and researching the planks of the platform while the Branding Coordinator works on designing the logo to match the party’s ideology. Many of the logos are developed digitally on iPads using apps such as Canva or Notability. Each logo is revised and reimaged until it is satisfactory enough to be sent on to the Webmaster who uploads it on the Home Page of the website. The Branding Coordinator has the option to create a trifold brochure using PowerPoint to hand out to potential donors at the final presentation. To read about the logo process of one student Branding Coordinator, click here.

While the Branding Coordinator is working through iterations for the logo, the Media Coordinator creates the storyboard and develops ideas for shooting the political party commercial. Students take advantage of the school’s green screen using the app Do Ink. Final edits and tweaks are made using iMovie. Click here to see one of the most successful commercials this year that was created using the iStopMotion app with colorful caramal-flavored M&Ms. Each group submits the completed advertisement to Webmasters for display on the party’s website.

Webmasters use Wix.com to develop the party websites. Each website is required to have color and font choices that fit the branding of the party. Student webmasters work diligently to develop a template for showcasing the work of the other students. Each site contains pictures and bios of party members, the platform, commercial, logo, moto and bibliography for each party.

For the final presentation, each party creates a PowerPoint that explains the platform and showcases the work of the party. A panel of entrepreneurs, educators and parents are invited to view the presentation as “donors”. Each donor is given a hypothetical $10,000 and can split their contributions between the three parties in any amounts they choose. At the final Fundraising Event, students handout their brochures and give-away items. Students create items such as magnetic party badges and coasters using their logos and party names using the GlowForge, a laser engraver.

The My Party PBL allows students to work with peers in an open collaborative environment. They have the opportunity to practice strategies learned in lessons on civil discourse as they discuss current event issues. They have an opportunity to use their personal strengths and talents to create their political parties and develop the poise and self-assurance to present to an authentic audience.

LeAnne Wyatt is the 8th grade US History and the 8th grade Speech teacher at St. John’s Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas. She also serves as the Grade Level Leader and as the Service Learning Coordinator. For several years she has collaborated with Debbie Carona on numerous project based learning units. Ms. Carona is the Technology Integration Specialist and PBL Coach at St. John’s. To learn about more PBL, go to Ms. Carona’s blog or check out her Twitter feed @DebbieCarona.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Music, Feedback, and Flowcharts - The Week in Review

Good evening from Nebraska where I'm visiting my good friends Kris and Beth Still. Some of you may remember that Beth was the person who organized the NECC Newbie Project back in 2009 to get me to the NECC (now called ISTE) conference. We were relative strangers before then but good friends since then. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you're having fun too.



These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Build a Body - An Interactive Biology Lesson
2. Five Places to Find Free Music and Sounds for Multimedia Projects
3. Is Your Feedback Really Effective? - This Google Docs Add-on Will Tell You
4. Parts of Speech Quest
5. A Good Tool for Writing Reflections on Stories
6. Visme - Great Tools for Making Flowcharts and Mind Maps
7. MyBib is Back

Book Me for Your Conference
I’ve given keynotes at conferences from Australia to Alaska for groups of all sizes from 50 to 2,000+. My keynotes focus on providing teachers and school administrators with practical ways to use technology to create better learning experiences for all students. I like to shine the light on others and so I often share examples of great work done by others as well as my own. Send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com book me today.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
TypingClub offers more than 600 typing lessons for kids. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
Book Creator is a great tool for creating multimedia books.
Kami is a great tool for annotating and collaborating on PDFs. 
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.
Seterra offers a huge selection of geography games for students. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Is Your Feedback Really Effective? - This Google Docs Add-on Will Tell You

Anyone who has ever spent a Sunday afternoon grading essay after essay has at some point wondered, “did anyone listen when I explained homophones?” This usually happened to me around the 27th essay of the day. It’s at about that point that it’s a fair question to ask, “is my feedback effective?” That’s the question that the folks at JoeZoo are trying to help teachers answer.

JoeZoo is a free Google Docs Add-on that teachers can use to add voice and text comments to a students’ paper. But that alone is not what makes it great. What makes JoeZoo stand out from the crowd is the built-in student engagement tracking capability. JoeZoo will let you see which text comments your students read, which voice comments they listened to, and how long they engaged with those comments! Check out the animated GIF below to see how you can track your students’ engagement with the comments that you add to their Google Docs.


As you probably gleaned from the previous paragraph, you can use JoeZoo to add voice comments to your students’ Google Docs. You can mix voice comments with text comments through a document. And to help you save time, JoeZoo has a comment bank that comes pre-loaded with 93 of the most commonly used comments created by teachers. You can edit those pre-loaded comments or use them as written. If you need something other than one of the 93 pre-loaded comments, you can create your own canned comments to add to your students’ documents.

When it is time for students to look at the feedback you have given to them, JoeZoo has a couple of helpful features not found in other free commenting systems. First, all comments are color coded according to comment type. That can make it easier for students to quickly identify all comments related to a particular skill. Second, there is an accessibility feature not found in other commenting systems. That feature is text-to-speech. Not only can students listen to voice comments that you have added to their documents, they can have any of your written comments read aloud too.

So rather than wondering if your students are engaging with the feedback you give them in Google Docs, use JoeZoo and know for sure if they are engaging with your feedback. I can’t promise that using JoeZoo will make grading one hundred essays more fun, but using it will make your feedback process more efficient. Try it today, it’s free!

Disclosure: JoeZoo is an advertiser on this blog. 

Add Adobe Spark Creations Into Book Creator eBooks

Adobe Spark and Book Creator are two of my favorite multimedia production tools. And now you can combine the two! Earlier this week Book Creator announced that you can now embed videos made with Adobe Spark into the pages of Book Creator ebooks. But it's not just Adobe Spark videos that you can embed into your Book Creator pages. You can include graphics and even webpages made with Adobe Spark into the pages of Book Creator ebooks.

In the following video I provide a complete overview of how to create an ebook on Book Creator.



And watch the following video for an overview of how to create things on Adobe Spark.



Applications for Education
For years I have been saying that Book Creator is a good tool for students to use to create digital showcases of their best writing, drawings, pictures, and videos. And since its launch a few years ago I have loved using Adobe Spark to make videos. The integration of the two services provides a great opportunity for students to create videos then include them as part of a larger work that they publish through Book Creator.

The Origins of Ingredients in Thanksgiving Meals

Last week I shared three Thanksgiving-themed projects that you can do this month. Of course, I have many more Thanksgiving resources bookmarked to share with you. One of those is an interesting video from It's Okay to be Smart titled The Surprising Origins of Thanksgiving Foods. Through the video students can learn how the most common, traditional Thanksgiving foods originated and evolved to what they are today. This lesson includes an explanation of how archaeologists and scientists determined that turkeys were one of the first animals to be domesticated in North America. We also learn why the turkeys we find in the grocery store today are so much bigger than those of just a few generations ago.




Try using EDpuzzle to add questions into the timeline of this video. Or use EDpuzzle to simply add some additional notes for your students to read before, during, or after watching the video. My videos embedded below will show you how to use EDpuzzle.




A Handful of Resources for Learning About Veterans Day

This Sunday is Veterans Day (many places will observe it on Monday). The following resources can help students understand the origins and meaning of Veterans Day including how it is different from Memorial Day.

Bet You Didn't Know: Veterans Day. The video explains the origins of the holiday and why its date of celebration has twice shifted in the United States. The end of the video includes an explanation of the differences between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. PBS News Hour has a basic lesson plan about Veterans Day. That lesson plan includes showing them Bet You Didn't Know: Veterans Day


NBC News offers the following short audio slideshow about the history and meaning of Veterans Day.





Thursday, November 8, 2018

Build a Body - An Interactive Biology Lesson

Spend a few minutes using Build a Body and it is easy to understand why it was recognized by the National Science Foundation. In Sponge Lab Biology's Build a Body students construct a human body system-by-system. To build a body students drag and drop into place the organs and bones of a human body. Each organ and bone is accompanied by a description of the purpose of that bone or organ. The systems that students can build in the Build a Body activity are the skeletal, digestive, respiratory, nervous, excretory, and circulatory systems.

Build a Body has a case study menu in which students can read about diseases, disorders, and and other concerns that affect the human body. In each case study students are given a short description of the concern followed by a question that they should be able to answer after completing the Build a Body activity.

Applications for Education
Build a Body was designed with high school students in mind. Build a Body could be an excellent resource to pair with Biodigital Human or Healthline's Body Maps. Have students use the Body Maps and Biodigital Human to study the construction of the human body then use Build a Body to test their knowledge.

This Is What an Astronaut's Camera Sees

What an Astronaut's Camera Sees is an impressive narrated video of images of Earth as captured from space. The video is narrated by Dr. Justin Wilkinson from NASA. The video includes images of deserts in Africa, Sicily, the Kamchatka Peninsula, China, the Zagros Mountains, Australia, the Great Salt Lake, and the Andes Mountains. The video is embedded below.


You can read the transcript of the narration below the video on YouTube. This video is part of YouTube user SpaceRip's channel. Explore SpaceRip's channel to find more excellent space videos.

Applications for Education
Here's an idea for a small geography project based on this video. Show the video to students then have them try to locate the same places in Google Earth. Then have students research the unique geographic features of each of the places featured in What an Astronaut's Camera Sees.

A Good Tool for Writing Reflections on Stories

Scholastic's Character Scrapbook offers a good template that elementary school students can use to write about and reflect on the characters in their favorite stories. The template is quite simple to use. Students enter the name of a story and the name of their favorite character on the first page. On the next pages students list ten attributes of the character. The Character Scrapbook also allows students to create pictures of their favorite characters.

As you can see in the image above, Scholastic's Character Scrapbook doesn't limit students to human characters. Students can write about and create images of animal characters too.

Applications for Education
Scholastic's Character Scrapbook could be a great tool for getting students to think about their favorite stories. The Character Scrapbook has an easy print option so that you can print and display all of your students' works in your classroom.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

How GPS Works

From finding a place to eat in a new city to navigating a detour to geocaching, GPS is an amazing technology. But just how does GPS work? NASA's eClips channel on YouTube has a good student-friendly explanation of how GPS works.


Applications for Education
Geocaching is a fun activity for students to do to learn about latitude and longitude, to discover geological features, learn or relearn basic math concepts, and to practice good digital citizenship. Seven years ago Jen Lefebvre, née Deyenberg wrote a great overview of geocaching in an education context. You can read that blog post here. When Jen wrote that post you had to use handheld GPS units to go on geocaching activities. Today, you can simply use the Geocaching Android app or iOS apps.