My Week in Tech 3/6/2015

I spent a lot of time in extracurricular classrooms this week, one teacher spent the first 5 or 10 minutes of class just asking students about what they were doing what they accomplished in other classes and clubs. Obviously she did it a lot because they were ready and willing to share and some of the comments were updates from previous weeks. When they got to work though it was all business.

Posture was mentioned a couple of times lately. I love how some of the elementary classrooms have big rubber bands under some desks so kids aren’t constantly tapping their feet. And last week at the ICE conference a participant brought up the Alexander Technique for Musicians and how slouching actually takes more energy than sitting up straight. Because if you relax you just fall to the floor.



I read The History of the Future of Education from Audrey Watters

My thought for the day. What is the difference between an overhead projector and an SMARTboard?

I used to used in my classroom and I know a few teachers at the high school also use it. It is a great tool for communication with students and parents. We know it’s working when students are complaining that some teachers use it too much. If you have students who are constantly missing assignments being able to send a group text to students and their parents without sharing phone numbers is awesome. Plus you can schedule texts for an optimum time. I always sent mine around dinner time.

Do you know about the Camscanner app? Some teachers like everything to be electronic so they can annotate and keep a copy in their google drive or Haiku dropbox. Some students prefer to write by hand. Camscanner allows you to take a picture of a piece of paper and turn it into a PDF and upload it to your Google Drive. Now that the first draft is written and feedback given the second draft can be typed.

I’ve been showing off Learning Management Systems to the middle school teachers. No one has said it is required, but I have always thought it was an invaluable tool for putting responsibility for learning onto the shoulders of the students. And as we are almost one to one in the middle school I would almost consider it necessary.

The power of a LMS in the classroom is not for the low students, or for the recalcitrant students, it is for the smartest and hardest working students. The student who takes decent notes, does all assignments, and has decent grades. The student who could be moving faster and works independently, but waits patiently for the entire class. This isn’t even a gifted student, just an average student with a good work ethic.

When this type of student is given an LMS they can work at their own pace, usually slightly faster than average, and still take time to explore topics of greater interest. When they get stuck they won’t be so far ahead that they are stuck alone and have to wait weeks for the rest of the class to catch up. Maybe even a regular conference with the teacher will be all they need, because certainly they won’t spend months working alone, maybe just one unit they are more independent than another. At any rate the teacher is checking progress reports and formative assignments regularly so they know what the student is doing and how well they are progressing.

Meanwhile the teacher still teaches class as normal, but has time to work with smaller groups of students. They in turn move faster because they have more teacher time and more individual instruction.

How does it work?

Students who show evidence of independent learning can do more in the classroom on their own leaving the teacher more time to work with students who are not as independent. Formative assessments like self grading practice quizzes or video quizzes with educannon or EdTed can be assigned for homework, or as bell ringers. This quick formative assessment shows they have a strong grasp of the concept and then can choose to do some independent or small group work in the classroom. While the teacher can spend more time with other students. It becomes possible for students to move at their own pace and/or get more in depth learning on a concept without extreme burden on the teacher.

An LMS can help with that recalcitrant student also. If your content is online it removes the excuse of “I was absent” or “I missed that lesson”. If the homework is online students can never forget it. If the discussion is online (at least partially) everyone can participate. If parents have accounts they can always stay up to date with what is happening in class. If alternative content (youtube, Kahn Academy, LearnZillion, Alex, etc…) is made available students can choose to learn in the way most suitable to them. Shared notes and other resources can be attached to each unit.  As they say you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink, but we can take away excuses.

Finally, an LMS is great for the future. Digital projects and portfolios can be linked to students and brought with them to high school. The classroom walls are in effect removed. Students can learn when they are most comfortable learning, they can come back and revisit (ok they won’t), they can…, well it’s a tool, it won’t create utopia in your classroom, but it can help.

We looked at four learning management systems. They are:

HaikuLearning is great and several teachers use the free version. Some teachers even ask why we all aren’t using it.

Google Classroom is free. To be honest it isn’t a classroom. It is more like a place to assign and collect work. It syncs great with Google Drive (obviously) and can be used in conjunction with another LMS just for assignments.

Schoology is kind of like the facebook interface. It has it’s own calendar. you can create courses and groups, send messages, and add resources. The app center allows you to bring in web 2.0 functionality into your classroom. Like Backchannel Chat, or TurnItIn. There may be an extra cost for some apps.

Edomodo is very similar to Schoology. It is free and you can add apps, many of which are extra. You can also easily create quizzes and add resources. It also possible to connect to google Drive.



Fun in the classroom

Counting with counters and the iPad


A mystery of missing chocolates.

2015-03-03 07.57.14

More counting, which bag has more? Put your guesses in the comments.



Smartboard being used for attendance


Students gathering information online

statesymbols statesymbols(2)


And some students playing with static electricity



My Week as Tech Integration 2/27/15

I was asked to do a bit of research on online comic creation sites.


My first thought was to share the comic book dissertation. Comic book readers have always bristled at the idea that comics are not a true literary form. This just steps up the quality to the nth degree. I grew up reading comics, but I was never as serious as most comic book lovers. I just liked the stories. I hated that they just never seemed to stop. No purpose, no end etc….I watch the movies that come out now, but I don’t get too worked up about them, the stories aren’t as good, more snark and less human frailty. The life lessons like “With great power comes great responsibility” Uncle Ben from Spiderman are lost.


Using comics in class.


Pixton is usually recommended as the cadillac of interactive comic sites. It does seem to have more options than the rest. This comic took me about five minutes to create from scratch.

When you click the pencil button on the top right pencilyou are taken to a page where you can create a comic or a character. If you create a character it walks you through the process with almost no words necessary, even non-readers can do it.


If you choose create a comic you are immediately given the choice between beginner and advanced. I choose beginner. The beginner process allows you to choose from stock backgrounds, characters, and speech bubbles. The advanced process gives you a blank slate, but allows you to add backgrounds and props just a bit at a time. Unless creating the scenery and characters are important I would stick with the choice of beginner.


I did not examine the pricing structures. For a one off assignment this seems to work fine and allows you to send a link of your work to the teacher. Plus you have a range of privacy options which is great.



I liked makebelievfscomics, very basic and easy to get started.  It took me even less time to make this comic.


With makebelievefscomix (easy to misspell) you don’t even have to sign in to create a comic. Head to the comix creation page and get started. You have only the basic three panel scheme and you cannot create personalized characters, but for young kids this is the choice. Literally everything for creation is on one page. Click next and you can review, print, and email.



Storybird, is not a comic creator, but a book and poem creator. I like it because it allows you to choose great art and then write a story. Or if you like  you can upload your own picture prompt. It took me about 15 minutes to create this picture book. It is also easy to share, plus commenting with moderation is built in.


As a teacher you can easily create a classroom and add assignments for students (free).  Students can write a poem, a short picture book,  or a long form chapter book. As a teacher you can choose the type of book they write for their assignment, you can add some pictures or art for a prompt, and set due dates.

Google Docs

It is very easy to forget about Google Docs. Opening a blank document it is easy to insert a drawing (which can be a picture with a textbox overlayed). If we create a table and add these drawings into the cells we have a simple comic strip with text boxes instead of thought clouds.  The pictures can be a simple hand drawing that we take a picture of with our phones and upload to Google Drive, they can be pictures from the internet, or even snapshots from our webcams.


ICE 2015

ICE is the Illinois Computing Educators annual conference. We are lucky to have such a large and vibrant community of technology educators in Illinois. They also love to share in the knowledge, the notes from almost everyone at ICE2015 can be found here.

Effective Presentations for 21st Century School Leaders

I spent two days this week at the ICE conference in St. Charles, IL. My first all day session was Presentations for Administrators. Lot’s of good suggestions. (shared notes)

  • When watching a video open a back channel like and have students discuss the video while watching.
  • All presentations should probably start on paper using basic creative writing 101 skills. Tell a story don’t read bullet points from a slide.
  • Seven Tips for Storytelling
  1. Stories are about people.
  2. Let your characters speak for themselves.
  3. Audiences bore easily.  Make people wonder what will happen next, always throw up obstacles.
  4. Stories stir up emotions.
  5. Stories don’t tell: they show.
  6. Stories have at least one “moment of truth.”
  7. Stories have a clear meaning.
  8. Finish with a STAR moment (Something To Always Remember) Nancy Duarte
  • A good presentation will kind of look like this


Tuesday was three distinct activities. A half day program on Google for students with mild to severe disability, a few short speakers, and EdCampAfterDark.

I tried to put some of these practices into my presentation on helping students make better presentations.

A new tool – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Google for Students with Mild to Severe Disabilities

I love these Special Ed programs because most of the tools can be used in the regular classroom, they just don’t have to be used. (shared notes)


Speech to text

Nothing on the market today seems to match the accuracy and functionality of Dragon Dictation software. If however, you have a chromebook or don’t want to pay there are still options.

  • Read&Write for Google Docs (free for a year subscription for teachers)
    • Previously we pushed out a speech to text chrome extensions to D2 called SpeakIt. You may have noticed it reads a webpage when you highlight the words. Read&Write is much more advanced.
    • Read&write also helps convert text to speech and predicts the next word when writing.
  • Dictanote A speech to text writer. Also recognizes foreign languages. This program and most like it probably uses the same speech to text engine as when you talk to your phone. It isn’t great or fast, but works pretty well. This also means it can tap into google Translate and allows you to speak in any languages they have (a lot).
  • Use Hello sign to have parents sign forgotten field trip forms etc.. up to 3 per month free.
  • Workflows When working on a building it might be nice to add workflows so everyone knows who is doing what and who needs to sign off on what.
  • Using a single google doc for repetitive notes. Create a table of contents at the top, use bookmarks or headings to create links to days. I’ve put my blog post drafts on a Google doc on thismanner so you can see.
    • If you use headings 4thor insert > bookmarks you can create hyperlinks within a google Document. Then you can insert>table of contents to create a quick hyperlinked table of contents anywhere in your document. Or add the hyperlinks one at a time to the top.
    • This is great if you have regular meetings on the same subject or student. Instead of creating dozens of documents and maybe losing one everything is there and easily found.
  • Distance measurements on maps or Map a work-out
    • You can add several flags on a map and ask students to measure distance, create directions etc….
  • Adding pictures to Google forms and spreadsheets. When you click insert > image on a google form or spreadsheet you can search online or your computer and add a picture. This can be great for students who make grocery lists and need pictures.


I used my new better presentation skills to create a quick presentation on HaikuDeck about HaikuDeck. A great little web and iPad tool to break out of the worst PowerPoint mistake (too many words on a slide).


Things found on the web

DOE clarifies student privacy policies


3:36 using websites and parental consent in class.

6:30 using free apps – This site may help with terms of service

The official government website on student privacy

My Week as Tech Integration 2/20/15

I spend too much time in my office, trying to solve the worlds problems. I am going to do my best to stick to my schedule of one day a week in each building visiting classrooms, then on Fridays reflect. Classroom stuff first then some resources down below.

Classrooms Around Town

Smartboards are great for organizing class during transitions. Many teachers have a list of names, especially in the morning and let students move themselves from absent to present or to hot or cold lunch. Even kindergartners can often do this activity.

Daily Agendas are also a great way to keep students informed and involved in the school day –

In one class I visited, a teacher asked a volunteer to read a book while she was getting the next lesson ready. I thought, students love to hear their teacher reading a book, why not record yourself reading a book and post if for your students? Copyrighted books should not be posted online, but anything written before 1930 is fair game. In the case of needing a few minutes of time you could record yourself reading and save it on your google drive for play in the classroom. This is fair use and perfectly legal.

About 5 years ago I recorded a Dr.Seuss book for my kids. I had fun finding images for this book and recording myself reading.I wonder if the kids would like to do this too?

Dr. Seuss from Brendan Murphy on Vimeo.

That reading took me an afternoon of playing around with MovieMaker and finding images, but today I would just create a powerpoint or Google presentation and do a screen recording. I am checking with to see if Dr. Seuss books allow this type of recording. I think they might.

A teacher took just a few seconds before turning off her document camera to pan around the room. Kids waved and danced as they showed up on camera.

Math fluency and speed in computation is not the same thing. However, competition can often be a way to practice math facts until they are automatic. Live mathletics and games on (free daily practice usually 15 questions), or can be fun.

Some of the hardest days teaching can be reviewing study guides, or walking the whole class through instructions to make sure everyone understands exactly what they are supposed to do. It always takes three times as long as it should and even then there are those one or two students who just don’t seem to get it. I wonder if we could flip these lessons. A ten minute video going through the review questions or a podcast? Could this be a job for a star student? Maybe, during the year students can earn the right to be the homework instruction star? They can record the instruction video or audio and post it to the class youtube channel or something.

I sometimes see teachers writing homework assignments on a word document projected on the wall and asking students to copy to their assignment notebooks. What if I did this on a Google Document then clicked File -> Publish to the Web? It becomes a webpage that automatically updates itself as I put the next day’s homework on top. I can send the link home to parents through skyward everyday (just resend the same message everyday) I can publish the link on my classroom or department web page. I can even embed the page into an existing webpage.

Things Found on the Web

Anytime we try to convey information to the entire class students have questions. Some are shy and don’t want to raise their hands, some don’t think of the question until too late, and other times the answer to the question is coming up if they just hold on.  That’s why I think it can be useful to have a backchannel up and running, especially during these review or instruction settings. Questions can be put on the backchannel and even sometimes answered by other students without slowing down the pace of the class.

The ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) is attempting to create child friendly translations to the NETS-S (national educational technology standards for students) standards. What do you think?

Stuck trying to create a new lesson try this: Search for publicly shared Docs. Just type “Example Topic” into Google Search. See how it is done here.  (Quotes will force google to search for the exact words, but are not required. Try with or without for different results.)

Taking notes on paper and reviewing them, enhancing them and then sharing digitally. This is pretty advanced and might be best for high achieving high school students.

A different way to learn vocabulary.

8 apps to turn your ipad into an interactive whiteboard. You may not have $2,000 for a Smartboard, but can you get $400 for an iPad? I wonder how well they work on the $300 Google Nexus?

Surveys for grade 2 using forms. Teaching questioning skills as well as math skills as they examine the results.

If you only read one thing, then read this post.

Tech Integration – “There is No App for Good Teaching

Ask the Right Questions

When bringing technology into the classroom, how do you know you’re asking the wrong questions?


Can you help me find an app that will teach …?

What kind of tech should I have in my classroom?

How do I use this in my classroom?

Can you show me how to use this?

How do I find time for this?

How do I fit this into my lesson?


When your questions have to do with bringing something extra or replacing expert knowledge of teaching.


Instead ask:

What do I want my student to learn?

What ways to I want to present the content?

How will students prove they have gained understanding?

How will I give feedback to my students?

How will students make corrections and resubmit? (iterate)



CCSS doesn’t leave time for this.

I have so much more content to cover.

The kids are/will be off task.

Students just know how to play, not learn.

Texting, slang, etc… is not real speaking writing.

The technology/wifi/site doesn’t always work.

Students wont get enough practice.

They cheat on tests/quizzes.

I don’t know how to do it. I don’t have time to learn.

Massivly Skype Chat – Copyright Snafu

I find it amazing the number of new skills our children have to navigate in this world. Skills most adults fail to understand and use in their own lives.
People my age often speak nostalgically of the things we did as kids.
We might say something like, “Kids these days have it so easy they can just go download the song they want to hear. We had to sit and listen to the radio for hours, (holding our pee, because you know the second you left the room your song would come on) waiting for that one song.”
I remember those days.  We would hit record on our tape deck just when as song was beginning, and half the time the darn DJ spoke over the intro. Did we ever care about copyright and ownership? No way, that tape was ours and we made as many copies as we wanted. we gave them away for free to our girlfriends and boyfriends. Yep, we made them to share.
Sharing these days isn’t so easy.
The internet made it easy to find and listen to your favorite music, and it made it a heck of a lot easier to share, but it also made it a legal jungle. We may hate lawyers now, but if your aren’t a lawyer in the future you might be in trouble.
My son is a member of the Massively Minecraft Server. A really cool place where he plays Minecraft, makes friends around the world, learns digital skills, and builds community. Below is a conversation where they learn to navigate some of the intricacies of copyright.  His friend had remixed a video and added a bit of a song for background music.

Original POst
Why did the company block this video.

post 2
Wait was it blocked for everyone or just blocked for us? And why? what does it mean for copyright grounds? Is someone going to get arrested?

Post 3
So copyright is discouraging someone from making something. The complete opposite of the justification for the law. After a bit of questioning we realize that some “stupid” company is making life difficult.  We can understand restrictions if we were perhaps creating something to sell big or small, but honestly a couple of pre-teens remixing for their own personal enjoyment, is that what a major company needs protection from?
Why is it everyone always suspects the music?

Yep, the music, but only in one of the countries. Does this surprise anyone? At least we are encouraging everyone to keep trying.

We are learning fast not to play the game. Copyright is becoming a game of, “it’s mine and I won’t let you play” until I have soaked you for every penny. Ah, but there are those who don’t have profit as their only motive. That isn’t to say that it is wrong to make money, just that it is wrong to take it too far. You know moderation in all things.


What is the biggest lesson you have learned in the corporate world?

Answer by A Quora admin:

My past – 30 years in corporate life.  Was an executive, and then thrown off the corporate ladder 7 years ago, and it's been a slow climb back up since.

What have I learned?

1. Whatever you do, be competent in your current job.  It's the only true currency you have.  That being said, no amount of competence will protect you when the next re-organization comes.

2. Never forget that relationships in business should be business relationships.  You may have a friend or lover at work, but the relationship will end the moment the opportunity to advance in the business is placed between you and your friend or lover.  By the way, I strongly recommend keeping romance outside of the workplace.

3. Understand that politics is a fact of corporate life, and learn to deal with it.  That means you take time to understand the views of the people involved in corporate conflicts, as well as the conflicts themselves.  There will be times when you have to choose between being in the right or being employed.  It's your choice.

4. Understand the culture of the organization, especially their expectations of what makes a good employee.  They all say they believe in teamwork, dedication, hard work, etc.  But look at the employees who are successful, who get the recognition, who rise quickly – they represent what the company is looking for.  What do they do that you can do?

5. Everything communicates.  How you dress, how you stand, how you speak, etc.  If you want to succeed in a corporate environment, you have to communicate that you are the kind of employee that represents the corporate success story.

6. It's a mistake to confuse your personal identity with your employment.  If and when you're sacked, you'll be spending quite a bit of time trying to figure out who you are.   Have a life outside a corporate life.

7. Document what you do in a public place.  We maintain a wiki where I work, and I make a point of adding things I've learned.  I do it not only to remember how to do things, but also so that everyone can see what I do, and how much I do.  Because I've made a habit of it, it's not regarded as a "cover your ass" (CYA) activity, but a cynical person might see it that way.

8. Make your boss look good.  Understand what your boss regards as a priority, and help him or her accomplish it.  Make sure that you document what you've done.  Your boss needs the accomplishment, but shouldn't get the credit for the work you've done.

9. Train your replacement.  You won't be able to get a promotion if there's no one else to take your job.

10. For all of the reputation that corporations are soul-sucking, back stabbing, political jungles where you can only rise by stepping on the heads of others, they also provide employment, benefits and a bit of security that support millions of people and their families world wide.

They are not democracies, not charities, and not therapy centers.  They exist to make money, and they hired you to help them make money.  That's the deal.

Keep that in mind every day, keep your emotions in check, do your job, and if you find you don't like working there anymore, don't complain – just keep it professional, and move on.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in the corporate world?

DeIce Conference

I will not be presenting at the big Illinois Computing Educators Conference in Geneva this year, but I will be presenting at DeICE tomorrow. (December 6th, 2014)
One of my favorite topics, Digital Citizenship with Webmaker Tools.

Last year I kind of floundered around with my presentation. I was surprised at how many people didn’t have a computer to play along. This year I am a bit more prepared for that, I can lecture for the hour if I have to. I just don’t want to.

If you would like a sneak peak, my Google Doc is here, and my slideshow is here.