Tuesday, December 17, 2013

That Mac Can Do What?!!!

Last week, I had the great privilege to attend Accessibility training for Mac users.  I learned about a host of great options offered on the Mac that can improve usability for our special needs students, but I also learned a lot of great tips that can by used by all.  Most of the accessibility features are accessed through System Preferences > General > Accessibility.
Accessibility Features
By accessing the Display options, you can invert the colors, use grayscale, or adjust the cursor size.  These are fantastic options that may assist visually impaired students.  I have found the larger cursor size to be a feature that anyone might like.  It took me a few days to adjust, but I like that when I'm displaying my screen for others to see, it provides a larger cursor which makes the view easier for those trying to follow along.  This could be a valuable tool for any teacher.
There are a variety of adjustments that can be made to the zoom, voiceover, audio, keyboard, etc. For a bit more detailed descriptions, check out my notes from the session. 
Dictation and Text-to-Speech
Another feature that might prove useful is the dictation option.  Dictation software can be incredibly expensive, so I love that the Mac has a built-in dictation option.  This can be a great feature for anyone with limited hand control, but it's also great for efficiency for anyone.  The dictation option does require Wifi access, but once enabled allows you to speak in any application where you could type.  Typing is, of course, always still an option.
To enable, access through System Preferences > Dictation and Speech.
Select to turn the Dictation On.  The default shortcut will be to press the Function (fn) key twice.
Text to Speech can also be enabled in these same settings. 
Safari Reader and Summarize Features
We also learned about a few options that are part of the Safari browser, including the Reader and Summarize features.
The Reader option opens articles in a new page that is advertisement and junk free!  Note that this option is only available if you are actually in a text-based article.
Select the Reader on the right of your browser bar to get a clean article free of ads.  
If applicable, select Print and Open PDF in Preview to use annotation tools.
The Summarize feature allows you to access a summary of any text-based article. Because one of the Common Core standards is that students can objectively summarize texts, this feature could have some interesting classroom applications.  Students could read and summarize an article, then compare to the summary provided by Safari.  
You will likely need to enable the Summarize option. To do this, select Safari > Services > Services Preferences. Find the option to Summarize and checkmark.
To use the tool, highlight a section of an article or use Command+A to select the entire article.  
Adjust the summary size to increase or decrease the length of the summary.
I hope some of these options are useful for you and your students.  Feel free to contact any coach for support using any of these tools.



Thursday, November 14, 2013

Creating Teachable Moments

In a recent Google Hangout with Grant Wiggins, one of our teachers asked about the role of character education in public schools.  Wiggins shared his perspective, but he really made me think when he explained his view that we really learn character education by being put in situations that test our character.  We don't learn about perseverance through lectures, but rather by enduring situations in real life and then reflecting on those moments.  As our students learn to navigate the digital world, this 1:1 environment is putting these students in daily situations that test their ability to focus, manage time, be responsible, etc.  While it can feel incredibly painful to watch the blunders of mismanagement of the digital world, I do believe that our students will learn these skills and be more prepared for their future. I had the great privilege to attend #edcampKC this past weekend, and I learned of several great tools that might be great conversation starters regarding digital citizenship, time management, focus, etc.  Here are a few tools and ideas to consider using with your students:

1.  Who doesn't love Kid President?  The first 1:40 of this clip is a great conversation starter about how we use the Internet.  Thanks to Jake Boswell for sharing this video with me!

2. Check out this video on The Science of Procrastination...another great conversation starter.  It really makes you think about why we multi-task and the effects it may be having on our productivity.  The video also provides a great synopsis of how to use the Pomodoro technique as a time management tool.

3.  Check out the Chrome Extension Strict Workflow.  This extension plays off the idea of the Pomodoro technique.  For every 25 minutes that you have focused work, you get a 5 minute break. By using this extension, if you find yourself multitasking and hopping to another site that might interrupt your workflow, you will receive this message:

Customize the list of sites that are blocked during your 25 minutes of workflow.  CAUTION:  In reality, you or your students can just hop into another browser and access the sites, but the extension might provide that needed moment of reflection about our multitasking habits. 

4. If you want to try the concept of the Pomodoro technique, the Tomatoist Chrome app or the Tomatoist site offer a simple timer that gives you 25 minutes of work flow and then a 5 minute break timer.  Many teachers use timers to keep the pace of class moving; let's teach students to use timers for themselves!

5. The StayFocusd Chrome Extension allows you to limit the amount of time you spend each day on time-suckage websites.  Once your allotted time for the day expires, the site is blocked for the remainder of the day.  This could be a great time-management tool. 

6.  Lastly, check out the Progress Bar Timer.  Create progress bars that track time, dates, and more. 

Please share what tools, videos, or strategies work for you or your students.   

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Just a Casual Chat with Grant Wiggins

Last week I was truly reminded of the power of technology to enhance our learning and connect us with the world.  For the last several weeks I've been leading a book study of Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe with our new teachers . This book is truly one of my favorites for its focus on timeless pedagogy.  I've read the book at least 10 times, but I always take away something new and am reminded of ways to fine-tune my practices, whether it be working with staff or students.

Truly a highlight of the entire study was having the opportunity to Q and A with author Grant Wiggins. I rolled the dice and contacted him through Twitter to see if he might be willing to Skype or Google Hangout with our crew.  Wiggins immediately messaged me back and sent me his personal email.  Not only is the man insanely brilliant, but he's incredibly personable and lovely.

This past week, Wiggins did a Google Hangout on Air with our new teachers and allowed us to fire questions at him.  What an experience.  If you'd like to check it out, click Play!

Here are just a few of my take-aways from the conversation:

  • One of our first-year teachers asked for his best advice for those new to the profession. You'll have to tune in to hear the t-shirt worthy response, but it reminded me of staying on the positive side of education.  Wiggins bluntly told us to not fall prey to the the toxicity and cynicism that can be ever-so-present in education. 
  • Teaching through authentic problems that require transfer of understanding is the single best way to make learning stick!  
  • The value of collaborative conversations regarding evidence of mastery is vital.  It's not as essential that we always assess mastery in the exact same way, but that we have a common understanding of what mastery looks like.  I love this as a means of thinking about avenues to differentiation!
  • We teach character by putting students in situations that test their character, and then making it a point to reflect on those situations.  Lecturing about perseverance or responsibility probably isn't that valuable. 

So who might you want to connect with for your own staff or your students?  Twitter offers amazing networking possibilities.  Roll the dice and see what happens!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Citations Made Easy with Google Drive

As our world advances digitally and it becomes easier and easier to share information, it's incredibly important that we teach our students to credit the work of others.  Purdue Owl continues to be one of my favorite sites for up-to-date information on how to cite just about anything.  It's a site I wish every student would bookmark and use, especially for formal research projects.

For more information research quests, the Google Drive research tool makes citation incredibly easy. There is really NO EXCUSE for students to not cite the source of their information and images. Check out this short video for a demo:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Google Drive Basics

Google Drive offers a host of potential for integrating great instructional practices with digital tools.  In future posts, I'll share some instructional ideas for integrating Google Drive in your classroom. Meanwhile, here are a few basic tips for getting started with Google Drive.

Logging in Google Drive
  • Visit www.google.com and sign in.
  • Select Drive at the top of your screen. 

  • Visit the Chrome Web Store and add Google Drive as an app for your Chrome browser.  

Adding Multiple Accounts

Creating and Sharing Documents

  • Select CREATE and the type of document.  Name your document.

  • To share, select the SHARE icon.

  • Make the document public by changing the privacy settings or invite specific people to collaborate on your document.

  • Be sure to select the access level.

Creating and Sharing Folders

  • In your Drive, Select CREATE and Folder.  Name your folder.

  • Right-click on the folder, and select SHARE.

  • Make the folder public by changing the privacy settings or invite specific people to collaborate within your folder.

  • Be sure to select the access level.

  • Note that shared folders will have the people icon.  

Accessing Shared Documents and Folders

  • Click on SHARED WITH ME to find all items that have been shared with you by others.

  • Drag shared files or folders into MY DRIVE to organize.

  • Use the Google Drive search bar to find documents or folders.

Organizing and Personalizing Google Drive

  • Use the star feature for frequently used documents and find them in your Starred folder.


  • Create folders in your Google Drive.  Decide on List View or Grid View.

  • Right-click and select Change Color to organize folders by color.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Creating Digital Word Walls

This summer I had the opportunity to hear educator Kelly Gallagher present.  He really got me thinking when he talked about our responsibility to "elevate word poverty."  We know that words have tremendous power, and are often a gateway to student success in many of our classes.  There are many strategies we can use, but I want to talk here about the strategy of word walls.    

Many teachers use word walls to build student vocabulary.  Robert Marzano in Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement describes a word wall as an "ongoing, organized display of key words that provides visual reference for students throughout a unit of study or a term."  Word walls are a powerful way to reinforce the repetition necessary to build student vocabulary, and they provide a visual for vocabulary development.

A strategy worth considering is challenging your students to create digital word walls.  Using a tool like Padlet provides an opportunity for the "wall" to go anywhere with the student.  That visual is now mobile!  

I've included a short example of how you might use Padlet to create a word wall.  I used some geometry terms in this particular case, but you could do this with vocabulary from any content area.  As students build word walls, challenge them to play with the words.  Here are some different ways students can construct meaning: 

  • Associate images
  • Create analogies
  • Write definitions in their own words and then compare with the formal definition
  • Generate examples and non-examples
  • Create word shapes
  • Break down the meaning of roots, prefixes, and suffixes
I've illustrated some of these methods in the example below.  Scroll the padlet to see several word examples. 

The power of the digital word wall is in the ability to personalize, collaborate, and reinforce or add to the wall anywhere and anytime!  Padlet walls can be shared spaces.  Would you want your entire class to collaborate on one word wall or would you want small groups to create word walls?  Perhaps a few students from your 3rd hour and 4th hour collaborate and construct meaning together in a virtual space.  Through the technology, their learning isn't restricted to your classroom.  Or would you want each student to create an individual word wall?  There are a variety of options!

Watch this video tutorial for a quick demo on creating a Padlet wall.

Marzano, Robert J. Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement: Research on What Works in Schools. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2004. Print.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Go Paperless

No matter how you are used to collecting assignments from students, there's probably no doubt you found an organizational system that works for you.  You'll also need to find an organizational system that works for you in the digital world. As students move to turning in hyperlinks instead of worksheets, below are a few methods to consider.   

1. Use Google Forms
Hint: This works well if students are submitting an assignment with a url (e.g. Prezi, YouTube video, Evernotes, Google docs/presentations, etc.).

HERE is an example of what you would create for your students.

HERE is an example of how the submissions would look.

2. Use Google Drive Folders
Hint: This works well if students will be using a lot of work using the Google products (Docs, Presentations, Spreadsheets, Forms).  Students could also paste a url in a doc if they are creating that type of assignment.

HERE is a tutorial on how to create and share your folders.

3. Share Google Docs, Presentations, Spreadsheets
Hint: If you aren’t planning on using Google Drive frequently with students, there is always the option for them to share a single document with you.  They will just need to hit the share button in the top right corner and invite you to the document.

4. Use AirDrop
Hint: This is a good feature if you occasionally have a student that quickly needs to share a file (e.g. Word doc, PowerPoint, etc.).  It is probably not the best option for having all students turn in assignments.  Be aware that students will be able to AirDrop with other students as well.

HERE is a tutorial on how to AirDrop.

5.  Use online assessment tools
Hint: Remember that tools like Quia, InfuseLearning, Socrative, Blackboard, Edmodo have assessment tools that also store student scores.  These can be linked from your classroom website.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Syllabus 2.0

I was recently asked for an example of a syllabus, and it got me thinking about different ways we can update the syllabus to make it more personal, informative, and accessible.  I always passed out to students a printed syllabus created in Microsoft Word.  Of course, that definitely does the trick, but I wanted to explore some new possibilities.

After brainstorming with my colleague Tracey Kracht, here are a few enhancements we brainstormed:
  • Use a web-based tool that will allow you to share the syllabus with just a link.
  • Include an introduction video that allows parents and students to put a face with the name.
  • Include a tutorial video that provides students and parents with a tour of your classroom website.
  • Include information about any hashtags or backchannels that will be ongoing throughout the year.
  • Include a link to recruit digital (or face-to-face) volunteers for your classroom.
Here's what it looks like:
Go to this Tackk on Tackk.com

If you are interested in upgrading your syllabus, here are a few tools to consider:
  • This syllabus was created with the very simple tool Tackk.  You could also use Smore.
  • The videos were created using Screencast-o-matic and YouTube.  Click HERE for a tutorial to get you started.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

To Blog or Not To Blog?

As you become more involved with reading the blogs of others, you might be thinking about starting your own.  Blogging is definitely an amazing example of the power of the web.  In just moments, you can share your thoughts with the world in ways that were almost impossible before computer technology.  There are some great benefits to blogging, but there are also some definite points to consider before you begin.  Here's some food for thought:

Decide on the AUTHOR!  Many teachers and administrators host their own blogs, sharing their reflections and tips for professional success.  Likewise, many teachers engage their students in the blogging process.  Engaging students in the blogging process is definitely a way to integrate some of the Common Core writing and digital standards for any content area.

Determine your PURPOSE AND AUDIENCE!  Like any other good writing, it's also important to determine the purpose and audience of your blog.  Do you want to share your class news with parents?  Do you want to reflect on your professional experiences as a teacher or administrator with educators worldwide?  Do you want your students to blog about their learning experiences to share with experts in the field?  The options are unlimited!  Visit your favorite blogs to determine what you like about their purpose and style.

Strive for FREQUENT posts!  Blogging requires more time than one might think.  Be sure to set some goals for how often you would like to post, and set a schedule to stay on track! The bottom line is that if the blog isn't updated, people will stop reading.  If you are using blogging with your students, be sure to build in plenty of time for students to brainstorm, write, and comment on one another's posts.

Be AWARE of what you can share!  While there are fair use guidelines that make it a little easier on educators, it's important to be mindful of Copyright law and Creative Commons guidelines if the work you are sharing is not your own.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Get Your Blog On

If you've decided blogging is something you'd like to explore, I'd like to share three blogging tools worth considering: KidBlog, Blackboard, and Blogger.

Options for Students
KidBlog is a blogging tool designed to be a safe option for students.  It's much more private than many blogging tools and can't be accessed through an RSS reader.  KidBlog's site is very user-friendly and their blog templates make creating an attractive blog easy.  Login with your google account and create a class so students can enroll.  Check out this quick video overview if you are interested in learning more about KidBlog.

If you are a BlackBoard user, there's also a blogging feature available in the Interactive Tools.  Like KidBlog, these can't be accessed through an RSS reader.  In fact, they are only available to your assigned BlackBoard users.  This makes it a great place to start if your students are beginning bloggers or if you just want a more private environment.  BlackBoard does not include templates or design, so it's also a good place to start if you want the students to focus on the writing without focusing on appearance.  Click HERE for a video tutorial.

Options for Teachers and Students
Blogger is available through your school google account and is a great way to reach a wider audience.  This LPS Connects site is an example of Blogger!  A variety of templates are available and the final products are professional and attractive.  Blogger can be accessed through RSS readers, which helps you build a following.

Click HERE for a video to get you started.

If you decide to blog, be sure to share your posts with us at #lpsconnects.  Now get your blog on!

Cross-posted on LPS Connected Educator.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Reading the Right Stuff: Great Blogs to Follow

Once you select an RSS reader, the fun begins.  Reading educator blogs is a fantastic way to learn new ideas, keep up with research, and stay afloat in a sea of ever-changing educational trends.  Finding great blogs can be like finding the needle in a haystack, so today I'd like to share a few of my favorite blogs.  I hope this will help you add to your own collection or get started using your RSS reader.

Without further ado, here are my favorites:

Fluency 21 - Committed Sardine Blog:  The Committed Sardine blog has thousands of posts, and I love the combination of information on digital natives, brain research, and technology tools and tips.  This is a must-have blog for the 21st-century teacher.

A Principal's Reflections: Principal Eric Sheninger's award-winning blog offers big ideas on school change, great tips for capitalizing on the power of technology in school, and reflections on continual learning and growth.  Sheninger's ideas really inspire!

Catlin Tucker: Blended Learning and Technology in the Classroom: Catlin Tucker is a high school ELA teacher using blended learning approaches, but she posts so many great technology ideas that could help teachers K-12 in any subject area.  She offers practical tutorials and ideas to harness the power of technology.

Dy/Dan: Don't tell my husband, but I love Dan Meyer!  Meyer is a former math teacher. He has an amazing talent for provoking wonder and curiosity, along with infusing technology in the learning process.  Dan Meyer will make you believe in the power of inquiry.  Check out his 3-act math ideas for a whole new way to think about possibly flipping your classroom.

Langwitches: Sylvia Rosenthal, a 21st century learning specialist, provides a hub of amazing resources at the Langwitches blog.  She writes on educational technology and offers a host of tips for success.  She also offers great ideas to get students blogging.

So where can you find other blogs?  Many educators that blog include the blog link as part of their Twitter bio.  That's always a great place to start.  Click HERE for an #edchat collection of bloggers.

Consider doing a blog study as a staff instead of a book study, or find blogs centered around your next unit of study that students might explore.

Please share your favorite education blogs to follow!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Become a Readivore With Your New RSS Reader

It's amazing how much information you can quickly consume when it's all in one place, right at your fingertips.  To make RSS feeds truly work for you, you will need to decide on a reader service you'd like to use.  The fancy word for it is an RSS aggregator.  There are many options of RSS readers available; this post is going to feature three RSS readers I think you'll like.  You will probably want to choose one of the three in order to keep all of your content in one place.

Here's a quick snapshot of the three options - you'll notice they all have a bit of a different look about them.



Feedly is a great option if you want a reader with more of a linear approach.  Check out this video for a more in-depth look at Feedly and a quick tutorial on getting started.

NewsSquares provides more of a visual look to your reader.  Each feed is represented as a square on your screen.  This NewsSquares video will demo the features of this reader.  Download the NewsSquares app in the Chrome webstore to get started.

While you may already be familiar with Symbaloo, did you know you can use Symbaloo as an RSS reader?  This reader also has the tiled approach of NewSquares, but they are more text heavy.  Symbaloo would be a great option if you want to share blogs with students.  Find several blogs related to your next unit of study, load them into a Symbaloo webmix, and share the webmix with students.  This tutorial will show how to add RSS feeds to a Symbaloo webmix.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Feed Your Need: Using RSS to Simplify Your Life

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the internet?  There are so many news sites and blogs are emerging daily.  How do you remember which ones are worth a return trip?  How do you keep up without thumbing through website after website?  The solution is an RSS reader!  A year or so ago, I'm not sure I could have explained what an RSS reader does, but the concept is actually very simple.  Now I wouldn't want to work without RSS working for me!

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.  In essence, it means the information YOU want is coming directly to you, rather than you having to go seek out the sources.  Think of it like shopping at Barnes and Noble vs. Amazon.  Rather than going out to the store, the store is coming to you!

Check out this quick video by WydeaWonders for the 4-1-1.

The first step in getting RSS to work for you is to select a reader.  In tomorrow's post, I'll feature three popular readers: Feedly, NewsSquares, and Symbaloo.  After deciding on your reader, you will be quickly on your way to managing your favorite blogs and using blogs to enrich your learning and the learning of your students.

Here are my top three reasons to love RSS readers:
  • Time is on your side.  It's as if you have a date with all these bloggers, but you never sit around waiting for your date to show up.  They are always at the door, and you can decide when you want to open the door and whom you want to go on a date with!  And if you want to ignore your blogs for awhile, they will never know but they will always be waiting for you!
  • Personalize for your interests.  An RSS reader allows you to find and follow the blogs and news sources of your choice.  I'm always on a quest to find the blogs that give the good stuff and I'll share some of my favorites in the next couple days. 
  • Stay in the loop without running around the Internet.  An RSS reader allows for one-stop shopping, which makes it easy to keep up with the latest ideas or share information with your students in a user-friendly way.
Cross-posted on http://lpsconnects.blogspot.com/. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Reading Rush

Summer is one of my favorite seasons because it brings more moments in the day I can spend reading.  I love the rush of reading a good book, those moments when you feel you can't read fast enough.  I appreciate how many books one must read to find the good ones.  They often seem so few and far between.  Here are a few of my favorite fiction reads, perfect for summer reading or great to add to your pleasure reading for the next school year.

My love affair with books reminds me of how much we can give our students if we can light the fire for reading.  While it's so important to model enthusiastic reading habits for our students, we can give them so much more.  Reading can connect you with people and the world in ways that few other things can.

GoodReads is a must-have digital tool if you have a passion for reading!  I don't know about you, but I have my go-to people for reading recommendations.  There are some people in the world that share a likeness for the same books.  GoodReads is my way of keeping up with their reading recommendations, even if I haven't seen them for months to have a face-to-face conversation about books worth reading.  In essence, GoodReads is social networking for readers.

Establish a profile and 'friend' others that you are interested in following.  Create digital shelves of books: to read, read, currently reading, abandoned, etc.  Never again forget about the book somebody told you to read months ago.  The best part is that once you finish a book, you can rate the book 1 - 5 stars.  As your friends finish and rate books, you'll receive updates about their recommendations.  GoodReads also provides opportunities to participate in author discussions, which could be a great experience for students.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Info on Infographics

One of our history teachers recently asked me about the possibility of students creating infographics.  I love the idea as it's a fantastic way to combine research, reading, writing, and design skills.  Here are some simple steps to consider:

1.  Expose students to a few infographics that can serve as mentor texts.  Begin with something like  What is an Infographic? to guide students in thinking about the power of this tool, but then provide students with examples specific to your subject area.  I suggested The Age of Exploration and History of Pyramids to our history teacher.
2. Consider having students complete an Infographic Analysis Exercise.  An exercise such as this could be done as a whole class, in small groups, or individually, and it guides students in thinking about how an infographic is constructed before they ever start creating their own.
3.  Design backwards.  As you build your assignment, don't forget the standards.  I pulled a few of the Common Core Reading History standards for our history teacher to consider.  Any of these could serve as an excellent starting point for designing an infographic assignment.

History Common Core Reading Standards:
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.3 Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.6 Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.7 Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.

4. Guide students through a planning process.  Creating an infographic is an excellent opportunity for students to work through the process of brainstorming, planning, drafting, reviewing, revising, and publishing.  Try something like this Infographic Planning Outline.  Working through this process will guide students in thinking about the audience and purpose for their work, which are essential in determining the content, design, and organization.  I particularly love the idea that infographics can be organized using one of the LATCH methods (Location, Alphabetical, Timeline, Category, Hierarchy). This Five Hat Racks video is a great way to convey that idea to students.  Also, consider what students will research and how they will synthesize the information in a unique way.  The last thing we want is for it to become an exercise in copying and pasting.
5.  Be sure to choose the right tool.  There are several infographic tools out there, but many are cumbersome.  My current favorites are http://piktochart.com/ and 

6. If you are part of Liberty Public Schools, check out these Common Core aligned rubrics that could work well with infographics.

You might also require students to turn in their annotated research with the infographic.  This is a great way to emphasize the process as well as the product. Online annotation tools like Diigo or Scrible are fantastic for this.
7.  Publish, publish, publish!  It's never been easier to actually publish student work to a wide audience.    Think Twitter, Pinterest, blogs, and more!