Friday, November 30, 2018

How are teachers and students curating content?

This week, I decided to start a video reflection series on Blended Learning. 

Topic 1: Content Curation.

I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about content curation. I find so many great articles and infographics online, just to lose them in the ocean of information that is the internet. I have yet to find the perfect tool for myself, but I think I'm getting closer. Check out the video below, and feel free to add comments on you favorite tools!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Digital Assessments: More than an online quiz

There is a sea of assessment tools out there in the EdTech world: Kahoot, Google Forms, GoFormative, Nearpod, Socrative... the list goes on and on. All of these types of tools are good. They can give students instantaneous feedback, and can become more engaging. The but the question is, how are these tools more than just a digital worksheet?

There are many reasons that districts jump on the 1:1 digital bandwagon. The biggest arguably being that technology allows for great support of Personalized Learning. So is taking a quiz and putting it in Google Forms personalized learning?

EdTech gives us the opportunity to add Voice & Choice to how the students want to be assessed. We now have audio, video, graphic design, and many other tools at our students fingertips!

Thinking "Outside the box" on Assessments

1. Graphic Design Displays - Designing posters and infographics no longer takes hours of time with scissors, construction paper, and poster board. Students can use tools like Canva, Adobe Spark, & Piktochart to easily create graphics to display and/or explain their learning. Wouldn't your students take more ownership in their learning if they were developing a social media graphic about the causes of the Civil War as opposed to filling out a google form?

2. Video & Multimedia - There are so many video and media tools available these days. Screencastify, Explain Everything, Educreations, SeeSaw, and FlipGrid are all simple tools for students to record with. With these tools, we can ask every student to explain how they solved a problem as they submit an answer. When the student reviews their video explanation before submitting, they are checking their metacognition! How often does a multiple choice test do that for us?

3. Global Publishing - This option comes with a disclaimer - students under the age of 13 are not legally permitted to use social media accounts.
For our middle - high school students, we can allow them to share their learning through a blog, mini blog (twitter), or other social media outlet. This allows them to ask for feedback from others. Think about the effect of meaningful conversations with others, including experts, would have on the learning of a topic.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Summer Learning for Educators: The Someday/Monday Approach

Image result for someday monday
This post is week 6 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators from To find out more, click here.

Summer learning for educators; there can be so much of it. Conferences, book studies, twitter chats, sessions at the local co-op. etc... The question always is, "how am I going to implement all of these great things into my classroom next year?" The answer is, "you may not... and that's okay." 

A few years back, Feb of 2015, I was able to attend a summit from the EdTechTeacher team. At the summit, I was able to see a fantastic member of their team, Tom Daccord. At the end of Daccord's presentation, he gave some advice: Take the Someday/Monday Approach.

The Someday/Monday approach is simple, but important to those of us that love to soak in tons of professional learning. 
  1. Think of your "someday." That is what your classroom will be like once all of these pieces are fully implemented. "Someday my classroom will ________." Write it down, capture your vision. This may even be a multi year plan. 
  2. What is the first step on "Monday" that you can accomplish towards this goal? Keep it simple, keep it small. Don't try to change too much all at once. 
The key is to constantly revisit your "someday" and check on your progress towards it. Once a step is made/implimented, plan the next step. 

I invite all of my fellow educators to create your Someday/Monday plan, before day one of the school year! Feel free to share in the comments below. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Empowering Students to Share Their Learning

This post is week 5 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators from Find out more by clicking here.

Most of us have been there before as either the teacher or the student. It's the first week of school, and out comes the predictable prompt: "What experiences did you have during the summer?" Now don't get me wrong, it's a decent prompt for building rapport between the teacher and their students, but there has to be a way we can shake it up a little bit, right?

Think about what your students have been doing most of this summer... They've been on social media, sharing (sometimes oversharing) almost every day. Selfies at the ball park, a victory on Fortnite, hanging by the pool, etc... All of this leading to the question, "How do we get them to connect their life experiences to their classroom experiences?" My answer, let them share. 

Social Media of THEIR Choice:
Instead of that writing prompt the first week of school, why not set up a social media prompt. "With the platform of your choice, share an experience you had over the summer and include what you learned from the experience." Then create a hashtag for it... or better yet, let the class create the hashtag for it. SnapChat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, the platform doesn't matter. Have them get out their phone and share not only something they did, but what they LEARNED from the experience. Remember social media is only for students ages 13 and over, check out other options below. 


Flipgrid Sharing:
If you are timid of the social media route, then set up a Flipgrid for your class and ask the same prompt. Flipgrid will keep the videos private within your class, but students can still respond to each other. 

Shared Videos via QR Code:
Allow students to use classroom or personal devices to record a video of themselves answering the prompt. Save the videos to a cloud drive, such as Google Drive, then take that link and create a qr code. There are many qr code generators out there, just Google qr generator and you will be good to go. Print and post the qr codes in your classroom or in the hallway of your school.
Why do this?
There are several benefits to this activity:
  • Student Voice: You are starting the year off by asking them to share something that THEY want to share. They have control over what they share with the class. 
  • Digital Citizenship: It's important for students to learn to post and respond appropriately on social media. 
  • Sharing their Learning: If students are sharing their learning, they are taking ownership in it. Taking these steps will encourage them to begin to share what they have learned, without a teacher directing them to.  
The Real Challenge:
Keep the sharing going all year long. Frequently ask them to pick something from the class that they learned about, and make a post about it in what ever platform you desire. Even if it is just on a Padlet Wall or in Google Classroom, keep them sharing what they learn. 

Imagine months later, your students are at the dinner table. When the parent asks the inevitable "What did you learn in school today?" Their response, "I posted it on Instagram for you to see!"

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Lifelong Learning: Leading by Following

This post is week 4 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators from Find out more by clicking here

Here is a thought I have as I sit down to write this post: Can we be a leader without being a follower? 

I think of many of the professional leadership opportunities that I've had over the last several years: instructing PD sessions, coaching teachers, consulting administrators, writing blog posts, engaging in twitter chats. None of those things are possible if I am not following the work of others. 

A few years ago, I began training in a program called eMINTS. At first glance, eMINTS is looked at and described as a program that teaches teachers how to effectively integrate technology into their classroom. Similar to other professional development groups, eMINTS places you in a cohort. You become part of a family of educators. eMINTS also teaches you about the importance of setting up a PLN, (professional learning network). 

Once I began to develop a PLN across Google+ and Twitter, my leadership opportunities grew exponentially. Why? Because I was able to follow the lead of so many educators across the globe, and bring it back to those around me. The funny thing is, at the time, I didn't realize that I was being a leader. I thought I was just sharing things that I had learned. 

To this day, that is how I continue to lead; by following. I enjoy seeing the work of others, and sharing that work. This process causes great dialogue to happen between myself and my peers.

I don't just follow the lead of those who post things on social media, it's also important for leaders to follow what is going on in the school around them. I try to visit classrooms often to see the work that is going on in the building. I invite teachers to share their work with me in person as well. As great as it is to share strategies and ideas that I see on media platforms, it's even better to share things that are happening right here at home with others. 

There isn't a way to be a leader with out being a follower. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Making Students Aware of the 4Cs

This post is week 3 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators from Find out more by clicking here.

I am constantly thinking about the "4Cs of the 21st Centruy" when I work with students or coach teachers. The 4C skills are: Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, and Critical Thinking. 

According to many, like, these are the skills that our students need to be successful in the current workplace, as well as the workplace they will walk into. Until recently, I hadn't put too much thought in making the students fully aware of how classroom activities are developing these skill sets for them. Yes, I've shared with students before how their time at school should and will be spent developing these skills along with learning content, but I don't promote them on a daily basis with students. I plan on making this change for my learners in the coming school year.

It is common practice to display the student learning objectives for the students in every lesson. Along with those objectives, I'm going to begin displaying a 21st Century Skill objective for them as well. The idea being that by the second semester of the school year, students themselves will be able to identify which skill they are developing. To me this doesn't have to be a major shift in anything my colleagues and I are currently doing. Some examples of this could look like:

These are two pretty basic statements that I can post for students, but they could make them aware of the fact that we are working on these skills. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

#PLN: Using Twitter to Impact Your Professional Learning

This post is week 2 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators from Find out more about this challenge by clicking here.

2of 8weeksofsummer FBThe most important/impactful professional learning I have ever participated in was developing my own Personal Learning Network (PLN) through Twitter.  When I tell many of my fellow educators this, they look at me with a strange look on their face. Whats a PLN? and how on earth are you doing professional learning with Twitter?

My explanation of a PLN is an asynchronous (sometimes synchronous) group of learners that openly share and discuss their resources with anyone that wishes to join in. The great thing about a PLN is that the learner can engage where-ever and when-ever they want. I also use the term engage very loosely. Many people are lurkers, meaning that they just go through a topic and read what other people say/share. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Some weeks, I barely have time to check my twitter feed, while others I'm on twitter several times through out the day.

How do I get started?
There are several platforms that can be used, but Twitter seems to be the most popular. There are a couple steps that you take to get going.

Step 1: #Hashtags
Find hashtags that apply to what you want to learn about. The very generic ones are #edchat & #edtech. There are many, many hashtags, and some groups even make up there own. Here are some resources of Educational Hashtags to use in your Titter Search Bar:
The Complete Guide To Twitter Hashtags for Education  from TeachThought
60 Popular Education Twitter Hashtags from Getting Smart

Step 2: Follow, Follow, Follow
Once you search through hashtags, find people that are posting frequently about those topics and follow them. Don't feel bad about being choosey either. If you click on that persons profile and you find there are more posts about what they eat for lunch than what you want to learn about, then don't follow them. Here are just a few of my favorite Education Twitter users:

Need more convincing?
Here is an excellent SketchNote from Sylvia Duckworth on why you should give a PLN a try!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Professional Learning: Keeping A Balance

This post is week 1 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators from - Find out more about the challenge by clicking here. 

I know that I'm in the right profession, because when I learn I get excited. I share what I learn to twitter, voxer, this blog, as well as other mediums. However, if I'm being honest with myself, I begin to admit that I don't keep a good balance of learning about all of the aspects of my profession.

I find myself quickly getting wrapped up in coding in the classroom, makerspaces, technology integration, and so on. As I reflect upon my professional learning I have to ask myself, "Do I really take a balanced approach to all of the professional learning topics that I need to stay on top of?" My self critical side says, "no, not really."

I'm going to take this prompt as a challenge to balance out my professional learning goals.

Content Curation: Google Keep or Padlet? 🤔
To do this, I plan on using either Padlet or Google Keep for content curation. I am going to set up a few different labels/pages: Educational Leadership, Pedagogy Practices, Curriculum Development, Technology Integration, 21st Century Skills. After I figure out which tool I'm going to use, I plan on setting a goal for at least one link per month shared to each category. As I check throughout the year, I can see how balanced I am with each category.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Extending Your Reach

Last week I was able to be a part of the 4th annual Innovation Institute in Springdale, Arkansas. I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the planning committee for this event and present at it every year. This year, we invited the Arkansas Commissioner of Education, Johnny Key, to come and give a short speech before our keynote.

Key made the excellent point that "technology will never replace great teachers/teaching." A point that many of us have all made before, and agree with. Then he added, "However, it can extend your reach." An excellent point, and one that isn’t stated enough.

It is easy to get wrapped up in “cool EdTech” for the classroom. How often do we get wrapped up in “extending our reach” to our students through EdTech? To do this let’s make sure we are asking some of the following questions as we plan our lessons:

  • Does this app deliver content to my students in a way that can’t be done without it?
  • What 21st Century Skills (Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, or Communication) are my students engaged in while using the tech?
  • Is the feedback process to students and/or parents improved by using this app?
  • Does using this tech offer student voice and choice opportunities? (Such as sharing their learning with peers in and outside of the classroom)
  • Does the tech/app allow for anytime/anyplace learning?
We can use EdTech for efficiency and engagement, but our goals should be using EdTech to extend our reach as educators.

For the last 3 years or so, this blog has really focused on apps and tools to use in the classroom. While I feel that I've been able to help teachers through that aspect, I've decided that it's time to start to shift that focus.

This shift isn't because I'm not proud of what this little blog was able to do, but more so the fact that I want to help teachers by offering more than just tools. I want to help teachers think about how technology effects their pedagogy, as well as the learning in their classrooms. I'm looking forward to this step in having my reader's grow along with me.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Flipped Classroom: Response Tools

This post is the second in a series on flipping your classroom. The first post, Tools for Student & Teacher Production, can be found by clicking this link.

A large part of "flipping your classroom" involves giving students multiple opportunities to respond and interact with content that is being delivered to them. Students no longer have to wait until the next day to turn in a piece of homework, or have a conversation with students or teachers about their work.

There are many tools that this blog has shared over the last few years that explain that purpose. This post will highlight some of those tools, as well as introduce some others.

Video Interaction - EdPuzzle & PlayPosit

These two EdTech tools offer an interactive video instruction experience to students and teachers. PlayPosit (formally known as EduCannon) and EdPuzzle allow you to upload a video, or take one from YouTube, and add multiple question types. You can even prevent skipping ahead in the video, so the students must watch it in it's entirety.

Multiple Choice, Open Response, Voice Instruction, and Voice Response, are just a few of the options available in the tools. They both have subtle changes in what they offer, so it really is a matter of personal preference.

Video Response - Recap & FlipGrid

Let's Recap and FlipGrid allow teachers to ask their students questions and receive a video or audio response back from them.

I personally like to use Recap if it is just going to be a question that I want to keep in the classroom, no outside sharing. They have a newer feature called Journeys where you set up a lesson flow for students to follow and complete. Recap also allows you to use it's platform for free, without asking you for upgrades.

FlipGrid allows teachers and students to share globally. They can send out links to their grid globally, and have control of who can see responses. Conversations that start in one classroom can quickly get traction from all over the world. FlipGrid allows you to have one Grid for free with some options. To utilize the full experience of the tool, you do need a paid FlipGrid Classroom account. UPDATE 6/18/18 - Flipgrid is now completely free for all educators.

Gamification Interactivity - Quizziz

Similar to Kahoot, Quizziz is a game styled quiz experience for students. It allows them to compete with each other for the best score. What Quizziz has to offer is that it has a homework option. The teacher can assign a Quizziz between a specific window for the students to complete. It still allows students to compete by showing a leaderboard according to correct answers and time taken to complete. Teachers also have the ability to shuffle questions and answer options.

Other Online Response Tools

Here are links to two other previous articles from this blog on Classroom Response Tools:

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Flipped Classroom: Tools for Student & Teacher Production

Flipping your classroom, what does that mean? 

It's the idea that most direct instruction moves from whole group class time to an individual space. This allows the classroom to become a place where the teacher is allowed to take on more of a facilitator of learning roll, as opposed to a lecturer. In part, you are setting up a piece of your classroom as an asynchronous learning environment. Meaning that you can and will learn outside of the classroom: at anytime, anyplace.

A misconception about the flipped classroom is that it is dependent on the teacher making all of the content in a classroom for students to read and view. If that were the case, you would simply be recreating a digital textbook. A flipped classroom involves communication from all stakeholders involved. In other words, teachers & students are involved in the creation process of a flipped classroom.

This post will be the first in a series that will focus on tools that both students and teachers can use for a Flipped Classroom.

Production Tools

Apple Clips
iPhone & iPad App

Clips is a newer app from Apple that I think of as a cross between the camera app and iMovie. It has some editing abilities, but keeps it very simple for users of all ages to quickly produce a short video.

A great bonus for Apple Clips, is that the app does real time subtitles as you are talking! Here is a clip that I made right when I learned about this feature

Ideas for flipping your classroom with Apple Clips are:

  • Sending out class announcements.
  • Showcasing Student Projects
  • Book Summeries
  • Field Trip Highlights and Learnings

Screencastify (Free & Pay Versions)
Google Chrome Extension

Screencastify is a simple yet powerful tool that anyone can use with just a few simple clicks. As the name implies, the Chrome Extension allows students and teachers to record and voice-over anything on their computer screen. The camera function also allows recording the presenter’s face in the corner of the screen to add personality to the clip. Along with its ease to use, Screencastify automatically saves all files directly to your Google Drive automatically. The extension is free for 10 minutes of recording time per clip, with 50 clips to record per month.

Ideas for flipping your classroom with Screencastify are:
  • Recording teacher lectures for students to review
  • Recording student presentations
  • Creating virtual tours with google maps or google earth
  • Making quick tutorials for multi step procedures students may need to follow to complete a task
  • Student explanations of how they solved problems
Adobe Spark (Free & Pay Versions)
Multi-device - Chrome OS & iOS Friendly

Spark has a few creative options, but let's just focus on Spark Video.

Spark video allows teachers and students to put together videos through a "PowerPoint style" format. This is a nice feature because it will allow for voice over to be recorded on each individual side, as opposed to having to do an entire recording in one take.

Spark allows users to import video clips into a project, but is not set up for recording videos straight into it. In other words if a teacher or student wanted some video slides, they would need to record them with another program or camera and import them.

Spark will save all projects into its cloud system so you can access them from multiple devices.

Explain Everything (Trial then Pay)
Multi-device - Chrome OS & iOS Friendly

Explain Everything is a recordable whiteboard that teachers can use for their classrooms. The trick on a laptop will be trying to free draw with a mouse, but if you have a touch screen device with a stylus or a Smart/Promethean Board, you may be able to use it with ease.

Explain Everything is actually much more than a whiteboard app, it allows you to import documents, videos, and more and then annotate and record on top of them. You have unlimited pages to add to your project, and each page has unlimited zooming capabilities (both in and out). You may also record page by page in your presentation and pause in the middle of your recording.

Explain Everything also has it's own cloud storage where your projects can be accessed from multiple devices.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

EdTech for Struggling Readers

A teacher's number one responsibility is to meet the needs of their students. Now this sounds like an obvious statement, but it isn't always as easy as it sounds. In fact, it is hardly easy at all. The reason we use technology in education is to support student learning by helping teachers meet the needs of their learners.

This post will focus on two support tools for struggling readers. Whether they are Native English Speakers, English Language Learners (ELL or ESL), or Dyslexic, our schools are filled with a large amount of students who struggle when they read. These tools will obviously not solve the problem for the students, or teach them how to read (only skilled teachers can do that). Yet, these tools might give some support to those students at a time when a teacher isn't available to them.

Speechify - Chrome OS & iOS app
I was introduced to Speechify in Episode 99 of The House of #EdTech Podcast by Chris Nesi. Speechify does what many apps and accessibility features on devices do by reading text that a student highlights on their screen. So you may be thinking, then why use it? My answer would be, ease of use and quality of voice. The drop-down menu in the chrome extension allows you to change the speed of speech and voice with a couple of clicks. There is even a child voice that can be used, which sounds surprisingly real.

If you decide to go the premium route with Speechify on your iOS device, the app goes the extra mile! You can connect the Google Chrome Extension to your iPhone and it will share text between the two devices in a clean and organized manner. Send multiple multi page documents to your phone and have them read to you. It's like taking anything on your computer screen and sending to your phone as an audiobook.

Speechify also does something rather phenomenal with your iOS device. Take a picture of a page of text and speechify will import it as a text file, and then read it to you.

Think of how this can support your students that struggle reading classroom content. Also, think about your students that have hectic life schedules, they can now listen to their science book on their way to work or practice.

OpenDyslexic Font Extension - Chrome OS
This extension simply changes all of the font on the webpage you are viewing to the OpenDyslexic font with one click. It's that simple!

OpenDyslexic font has been in development for at least a couple of years now. I do want to state that I'm not licensed or trained enough in dyslexia to know if it is actually proven to help students with dyslexia. I have however had a handful of students try this font extension on their chrombook screen, and some claimed that it helped them read their screen better, while others didn't like using it. So like many things EdTech, it will probably come down to a preference by the student.