My Week in Tech Integration – Spring Break

It  is Spring Break in our school district so no visiting classrooms for me. Instead I’m preparing presentations and researching.

I read this article and thought it would be a thought provoker for teachers coming back to school. It is long and a bit rough at first, I think the author missed the opportunity to truly define why we need good teachers in the digital age, but with some help perhaps we can get there.

The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher — The Atlantic (My annotated version


I’ll start with the end, “There is a profound difference between a local expert teacher using the Internet and all its resources to supplement and improve his or her lessons, and a teacher facilitating the educational plans of massive organizations.”


Often tech companies and privateers try to hype the cost savings, which is code for getting rid of expensive teachers. What they fail to realize is it has been possible to record the best teachers and deliver the recording to students for well over 50 years. It has also been possible to have students take quizzes and tests on that material. I myself took a telecourse for credit at community college way back in 1986. The newness isn’t the delivery of content or grading of tests, it’s the ability of teacher to be there with the content.


[Teachers are] “shifting from content expert to curriculum facilitator”, but not really. Yes we can bring content in from the best, most interesting teachers, but that doesn’t mean we sit back and manage behavior in the classroom. The best classroom teacher can now switch from the time consuming task of delivering content or grading tests, to working with small groups or individuals. Helping students make sense of the content.


“Teachers like me are uploading onto the web tens of thousands of lesson plans and videos that are then being consolidated and curated by various organizations” This is a good thing. The more we share our lessons, the less for profit companies can charge fees for decent lesson plans. Skip Teachers Pay Teachers and go to a union shop like


Next the author shares some great examples of how edtech companies are taking the labor out of preparing for teaching. It is almost like the traditional teaching job is being split into two or even four jobs, curriculum/subject matter expert and presentation/facilitator. As long as we don’t try to change the job of teacher into reader of scripts or security guard who forces students to sit still and be quiet during the canned lesson it is alright.


Listen Current, a website that curates the best of public radio, including current events, and offers the three- to five-minute clips alongside a full set of lesson plans and worksheets.


I found Edmodo. … I signed up just to see what it was all about. Within five minutes, I found a great lesson…


Activate Instruction is already creating a free and open online tool that is “similar to Wikipedia” and will “help put resources and curriculum in one place that any teacher can use.”


“I don’t ever write my own lesson plans anymore.” … the materials are usually inexpensive or free; are extremely well made; and often include worksheets, videos, assessments, and links to other resources. Time and money savers. I don’t have to write the lessons and I don’t have to let a textbook dictate my lessons. I can even get rid of textbooks if I find enough lessons with resources.


His conclusion, that I shared earlier, mirrors mine.

There is a profound difference between a local expert teacher using the Internet and all its resources to supplement and improve his or her lessons, and a teacher facilitating the educational plans of massive organizations.


Bonus- tech tools for use in the classroom

Stolen from Ryan Schaaf


  1. Google Forms
  2. Socrative
  3. Plickers
  4. Twitter
  5. Geddit
  6. PollEverywhere
  7. ExitTicket
  8. VoiceThread
  9. lino
  10. Padlet

Massive Minecraft Learning

My 10-year-old has a hero. Some might be worried because she is an adult and spends a lot of time with him online, even Skype chatting before bedtime one night. I’m not worried.


A couple of years ago I bought Minecraft for his birthday. Minecraft is a 3D game with absolutely no instructions. At first it was difficult to even install the game, because I required that he use Linux as his first operating system. Then, as is  usual in the  game, when you finally start playing you usually die pretty quickly.


When learning Minecraft, we actually have to leave the game and find help somewhere else. They have forums on, but most people end up finding videos on YouTube. One of my sons early favorites was StampyLongNose.


A couple of years ago Stampy was just a guy who liked to play and record his explorations of Minecraft (not uncommon with most games). His genuine enthusiasm and cool British accent made him pretty popular. He used to swear a lot in his older videos, but since learning that kids were watching his videos he has stopped swearing and changed his name to stampylonghead. Allowing us to find quality videos without fear of bad words.


Seeing the amount of time my son was spending on Minecraft I knew he would need not more help than I could give him, and I would need to strengthen his digital citizenship skills.  I had seen a young educator from Australia give a talk about virtual worlds in SecondLife.  Turns out she ran a Minecraft world called Massively Minecraft. Massively is a white-listed world, meaning you have to apply to join. Kids cannot join alone, but need parents permission to join. It is a world about more than just playing a game, it’s a world about growing up online. They even have a charter written in part by the kids. Well I won’t explain it all Jo Kay can explain it herself.


So why am I not worried that he is Skype chatting with an adult just before bedtime? Well I know her work well enough to know she is a professional.  I know she was teaching him how to install a modification to his own Minecraft server so that he could make it safer for other kids. See, she runs a Minecraft server for kids and he is inspired to create his own Minecraft server and share it with friends. And I know my son and I trust him as well.


Why am I sharing this with you? Most of what he is doing with his Minecraft server I can’t help him with. He has to ask outside experts. I just set the parameters; you have to pay for it with your allowance, you have to be able to enforce the rules you set up, it has to be safe. The safe part is subjective, based on what he learned in Massively, the webmaker tools I teach, and some of the stuff they teach in computer class at schools.

What is the point of this whole thing? Nothing really, just that video games are sometimes more than just video games, people on-line aren’t all bad, anyone can learn this computer stuff, and know what your kids are  doing, just don’t try to control them.



Radio Shack should become Maker Shack

Wouldn’t it be cool to have a national chain of stores where you could go in and learn how to solder, play with Arduino boards, or Raspberry Pis, maybe a robotics kit or two? Kids and adults could sign up for regular classes, or drop in for a one on one tutoring session.

homebrew radio alarm clock

Making things is cool, we just don’t make crystal radios anymore, though that might be a cool first project.

My Week in tech Integration 3/20/15

I get to see less and less each week, I think because I get busier with individual teachers. a special thank you to Mrs. Kallieras for inviting me to teach a couple of fun lessons on Scratch.

Kids teach each other

It doesn’t matter whether I’m in a high school classroom or middle school, or even elementary school. Kids are always leaning over and helping each other quietly.


I spent some one on one time with an English teacher and we discussed some google add-ons, apps, extensions that might be useful in her classroom


My draftback video

Classroom practice

I also spent some time talking about Google Classroom and HaikuLearning. Some topics I think I will be spending a lot more time on  in the coming weeks. As more technology enters the classroom and teachers find more innovative ways of using that technology we need the tools that support us.


Google Classroom is great for assigning and collecting work, but is kind of limited after that.

HaikuLearning, is a true learning management system. It allows us to transform our classrooms in ways that allows teachers to differentiate, extend, and re-mediate as needed.


Nothing of course is a single silver bullet to fix everything, but knowing what the tools are and what they can do is the first step.


My Week in Tech Integration 3/13/2015

Question of the day

Question of the day – What would you do for a student who consistently failed to do work in school or homework, yet always had a good excuse?

Please answer in the comments.

State Projects

Students in 4th grade had some fun projects last week, but they weren’t finished in time to share.


I listened to a few classroom discussions over the last couple of weeks. It was interesting seeing how students and teachers naturally pulled information from outside of class to relate to the books. A few high school students even discussed with former students, which led me to wonder what would happen if online discussions were opened up to former students or across classes?

This leads me into this great article on 5 Highly Effective Teaching Practices, from edutopia.

  1. Teacher Clarity
  2. Classroom Discussion
  3. Feedback
  4. Formative Assessment
  5. Metacognitive Strategies

When we talk about technology in the classroom, we aren’t talking about replacing the teacher or the content with a shiny electronic device. What we are talking about is taking these effective practices and making them possible.

How Technology Helps with Effective Teaching Practices

  1. Teacher Clarity

Learning goals and explicit criteria for success are not just posted on the classroom whiteboard, but live on the classroom page where students and parents can refer back to it over the corse of the unit.

  1. Classroom Discussion

How can we extend the discussion beyond the classroom? Open the discussion across classrooms? Create smaller discussions, small groups can keep a record of what they discussed. Small groups can share with each other final points.

  1. Feedback

Teachers can leave voice or written feedback on google documents. Teachers can read and comment on online discussions. Self grading quizzes are very common across several platforms. It is even possible to create video quizzes. There are of course hundreds of computer learning programs that will tell students if they are right or wrong, but useful feedback is teacher driven and usually personal.

  1. Formative Assessment

Quick self graded quizzes, Kahoot, electronic check ins, anything that replaces the 30 half sheets of paper we used to grade. When reviewing answers for a test create a poll for each study guide question and submit live on the projector and discuss each question. Gauging understanding with Socrative or a quick poll.

  1. Meta Cognitive Strategies

When we find ways to put more of our content online on a learning management system what is to stop students from working ahead, especially if the learning goals and criteria for success are clear? If students continue to move beyond the class it becomes easy to allow them to create an individualized learning objectives. When they create this within the learning management system it becomes possible for teachers and parents to monitor progress.


The Case Against Technology in the Classroom

I both agree and disagree with this article. I agree that teaching students to use technology is not the purpose of technology in schools. I disagree that technology is not a useful tool. It is all nice for wealthy tech leaders to fixate on social aspects of learning especially when the kids they are socializing with are the kids of other silicon valley tech leaders, but for the rest of us technology, used correctly, can eliminate barriers of distance and time.

Resources from Teachers and Classrooms

Girls and code 

Google drawings graphic organizers

 socrative - A great way collect students thoughts. 

 URL shortner Shortens long URLs and makes a quick QR code. 

 Are you looking for EdTech stuff? A great resource is edshelf.

 Rubistar – for creating rubrics



Can you imagine doing this in LA class to get the elements of a story.

My Week in Tech Integration 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.

I read The History of 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. It isn’t possible to make a horse 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.


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