Tech Tuesday

Finds and Thoughts about Tech Integration

How Will I Make 2015 The Best Year For My Students?


A pinch of this and a dash of that…

Perhaps, too many holiday cookies have put me on this train of thought, but wouldn’t it be great if there were a recipe that would ensure that 2015 were the best year for our students?

However, individuality (thank goodness!) makes things a bit more complicated. Everyone has to follow his/her own recipe for success because if it’s like my grandmother’s cooking, things are never exact, written down and usually change depending on what’s available in the kitchen.

Therefore, I see my role as a digital learning specialist as that crazed restaurant manager… running around while juggling plates (a.k.a. devices) and consulting with staff (teachers) about how to meet the needs (learning objectives) of clients (students) at that moment.

Today’s Specials? Encouraging collaboration and creativity.

And of course, you can’t forget the side of passion. Who wants bland, right?

If you think I am just talking about the students, you are wrong. The most effective way to inspire the students is to inspire their teachers.

Teachers are the ones who create optimal conditions for the blending and mixing of learning. My job  is to seek, design, and support techniques and methods that will produce “edible” creations.

Do all ideas bake to perfection?

Honestly, no.

Yet, from that lesson, we all learn the importance of risk taking and self-reflection.

Now, those are the two core ingredients (skills) that will last and make years to come continue to be the best for our students.

Show (And Tell) What You Know Apps… More Pic Collage Examples


Last year, in a post entitled Show (And Tell) What You Know Apps, I mentioned the Pic Collage app.

I wanted to share a couple of recent examples because this creation app can help students achieve so many different learning objectives

  • Self-Reflection on Teamwork

Grade 4 students used Pic Collage to reflect on their Genius Hour group work dynamics. See the examples on their blog here.

  • Observation

Grade 3 students used Pic Collage to make observations of the Abbot Nature Trail. Students had to show evidence of Autumn in photos (that they took themselves) and words. (This project may be replicated for all of the seasons so that a multimedia comparison can be made.)

2014-09-26 14.30.58

I also used this app with Grade 3 recently as a part of a Digital Citizenship lesson on private and personal information. Students practiced making online profiles, making sure not to share private information. See mine below:

2014-12-14 20.26.32

This online profile activity easily could be modified for an English Language Arts objective with characters in a story or a biography study.

  • Formative Assessment for Science

Grade 5 students were sent on a scavenger hunt to see how many simple machines they could find (snap photos and label) in the school within a time limit.


With all three of these activities it was not about the technology, but rather the learning because there is not a lot of time devoted to directions about how to use the app. Pic Collage is easy to use. Take photos and add text quickly.  Arranging and rearranging is simple. The collage shares via email or right to the camera roll where it can be used in another app, moved to an online space or inserted in another document or presentation.

I know that time is a factor these days… so much to do in our school day. I think you will be amazed what learning objective can be undertaken (and even accomplished) in a 45 minute block with this app.

Gotch ‘ya thinking? I’d love to chat.

Long time, No Write


So it appears that my blog has become a bit dusty…

What can I say? It’s been a very busy fall. Lots of new: Chromebooks, going totally mobile, Genius Hour, Google Apps For Education, Google Classroom, grant writing, a new keyboarding program, to name a few.

Last night, I saw a video that actually made me pause from all of the controlled chaos: “This Will Revolutionize Education“. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth the 7 minutes.

It reaffirmed that all of the craziness of this fall is heading us in the right direction: Students need to take risks and reflect on their learning to make meaning. Students also need to collaborate and problem solve together.

Yes, there are many tools that can assist with these tasks. I continuously write/endorse/recommend/encourage tool use (as many other tech specialists do). However, we need to remember that it’s not really about these tools; it should be all about what we want students to achieve.

And how do we get them there?

I’m a week late, but I’m thankful for the caring teachers in my school who guide, coach and serve as role models on a daily basis, on this journey.

Genius Hour


I’ve always been a believer in Choice Time. We’re always telling kids what they should be doing at school, and it’s important for them to have some space to pursue their own interests. Making the time for that can be extremely challenging, however, due to curriculum demands. When I was a classroom teacher, my compromise was devoting one Language Arts block per week to academic choice within that subject. I especially encouraged students to plan and form partnerships to accomplish their own projects that often would continue from week to week. The result: kids no longer just looked forward to Fridays because it was the last school day before the weekend. My experience was that Choice Time ignited enthusiasm into even the most reluctant learners.

This year, some colleagues and I are taking a project based learning course. This endeavor has given us the opportunity to explore a concept that reminds me of Choice Time:  “Genius Hour”. Essentially, Genius Hour lets kids explore “passion” projects during their school week. The topics do not have to be tied to their curriculum. Plus, failure is an option. Learn more about Genius Hour here.  CNN also wrote a very good article that you may want to read.

Our version of Genius Hour is bringing two classroom together each Friday afternoon to explore out of the box thinking, creativity and team work. Our goal is for students to build the muscle this fall to be able to undertake their own projects mid-winter and spring 2015. An important part of our preparation is student reflection. One of the classroom teachers and I have been working on the power of metacognition and its impact on student performance (for our Educator Evaluation). Therefore, a Genius Hour blog that  chronicles the students’ journey has been created. Please take a moment to listen and watch the student posts that were created with iPad Minis and two apps, thus far: PicPlayPost and Explain Everything. I have written about the tremendous possibilities with these two apps as a part of the learning process in the past (Game Changer and PicPlayPost Palooza).

Your feedback is greatly appreciated!

Chromebooks – A New Adventure


Yesterday I was greeted with one of Steven W. Anderson‘s “Awesome” tweets:

‘Good Morning! Don’t wait for everything to be right to make your move. Take a chance and see what happens! Be awesome today!’

This tweet really spoke to me… and our new adventures with Chromebooks.

I fully admit that I am an Apple person -both professionally and personally- so it really raises a few eyebrows and turns a few heads when I tell people that we are piloting a cart of HP Chromebook 14s this year at our elementary school.

And my response even when the learning curve feels particularly steep: “It’s not about the device; it’s about the learning.” (I first read similar words/ideas on Sylvia Tolisano’s blog a few years back, and they stuck with me.)

What do we want kids to learn in the core curriculum? Figure that out, and then choose your device to meet those objectives.

That’s exactly why we are trying to diversify at school with AirBooks, iPad Minis and Chromebooks – oh, my!

From a management/set-up point of view, it’s been tough. It’s a whole new world of setting permissions and having Chromebooks behave the way that we want them. Often forgetting these devices are not laptops! Going Google also has added a new layer.

New possibilities, new decisions; No where near perfection. But that’s OK. We ask students to take risks every day. It’s my turn. I’m sure that I will be filling this blog with lots of trials and tribulations with hopefully some great integration examples.

In the spirit of sharing, here are a few ideas/resources and scenarios that I’ve had to troubleshoot thus far:

1) The class isn’t ready to dive into their Google accounts… so I guess we won’t use the Chromebooks.

Knowing that our Google log-ins are quite lengthy, it will take a while for our third graders to get the knack for logging in. Therefore, I want us to be little kid user-friendly” with the Chromebooks by setting them up with a “public session“. Essentially, a log-in box appears on the main screen for students to click on and gain quick access to the Chrome Browser. (I named our public session “student” to mirror our student account on the laptops.) Why do I like this option versus just having students browse as a guest? I have discovered that you can not set a home page for guest. That essentially means the user has to start typing in an address or do a search. Not really desirable with young students. A public session lets us set a home page (just like our laptops’ browsers) that will be familiar and safe for students as they navigate through links on that page to the desired destination.

2) It says that the network is not available… what’s going on?

One of the first things I now show students when we get an orientation on the Chromebooks is how to choose a WiFi signal (AirPort). Coverage is definitely something that I will be discussing with tech support as these devices seem to require a much stronger signal. I have found that by empowering students to troubleshoot the switching of AirPorts has helped enormously with the flow of their work  (and keeping my sanity).

3) Do your prep.

Not all websites will work on Chromebooks due to plug-ins. Make sure to check out the desired site ahead of time on the device. It will save you a lot of  time and frustration. This also is an area I have to do some more investigating to see if policies can be set up in management… <An hour later>… OK: I did a little looking around Admin Console and noticed that you had to enable plug-ins. Looks like some sites that I didn’t think worked are now in business… see it’s a work in progress!

Any advice or thoughts from others who have been on this journey?

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