Tech Tuesday

Finds and Thoughts about Tech Integration

Snow Days & Distance Learning



That’s become a dirty word in a lot of school systems.

Granted, we all love a random day off, but after too many, you suddenly realize that the school year will continue well into that period of time when students (and staff) shift into “summer vacation brain”, making instruction not so effective.

Many districts have tried Blizzard Bags (with and without success) to keep student learning from being interrupted on snow days. There are many reasons why such an endeavor may or may not work, from student resources and support at home to the structure and quality of the activities created.

My district has investigated the possibility of making up some of our snow days this school year with “Distance Learning Days”. Essentially, students would make up a specific snow day by completing a certain number of assignments (based on a developmentally appropriate number of minutes) that correspond with the missed day. Since we are looking at this from the perspective of making up days and want to make this endeavor family-friendly, students would be given a two week window to complete that Distance Learning Day’s assignments at home on their own schedule.

I was very excited to talk with a colleague this morning who had started thinking about this proposal. She had started a folder in Google with a Doc dedicated to each Distance Learning Day. She has given permission for you to peek at what she’s drafting here! (Thank you, Ms. Anderson!)

What you will notice is that she is developing a workflow for herself and colleagues to collaborate on building these Distance Learning Days as well as for students to complete assignments that address specific learning objectives in an efficient, clear manner using digital tools and services.

For example, this folder can be shared with all the members of her teaching team, including specialists. Let’s say that her students missed music class or strings class, that specialist will be able to type in an assignment on the chart she created for that day. That way when she links this Google Doc in her Google Classroom, students will have the expected work all in one place for easy access. Furthermore, many of her grade level team is teaching the same content at the same time as she is. Therefore, they will be able to work together on the creation of high quality assignments in this space and then make a copy of the Doc to tailor to that specific classroom’s schedule for the snow day that is being made up.

Ms. Anderson and I also talked about how familiar subscription services such as DreamBox, BrainPOP and Typing Club may be utilized by students at home with directed assignments. For example, the teacher may make a short term assigned focus in DreamBox that addresses that snow day’s math learning standard/lesson. The teacher can access the results of the work right in the dashboard of the program, proving that the work was completed and what next instructional steps the teacher can take with that student. In BrainPOP, students can be instructed to watch a movie in a content area like science or social studies and take the built-in quiz. The student can fill out a Google Form that reflects on the learning as well. The Form can be “generic” so that it may be used for lots of topics at BrainPOP and other future Distance Learning Days. The Form’s results will be submitted to the teacher and archived via a Google Sheet, demonstrating learning and holding students accountable for the work. (Of course, a teacher even could sign up for My BrainPOP for more great services and feedback opportunities!) In Typing Club, a teacher can make specific assignments as well or just indicate a set number of minutes for keyboarding practice. The service logs all of the work that students complete in order to check expectations and see progress right on the teacher dashboard.

And there are so many more Google apps and non-Google services that could be harnessed in the creation of authentic activities that meet student learning objectives. Plus, the opportunity to “flip classrooms” with teacher instructional videos… and differentiating and personalizing the assignments so that all students can get what they need and feel successful

I think we really could take control of these Distance Learning Days and craft them into wonderful opportunities for advancing student learning and teaching practices.

(Disclaimer: We all understand that if there is no power or access at a student’s home or even the local library that these outlined digital activities would not be able to take place. For synchronous Distance Learning Snow Days, alternate plans and materials would need to be ready for students or more time allotted for the completion. Making up days with the two week grace period gives us a lot more wiggle room for digital devices and services to be available and operational.)

An Idea for Sharing, Collecting & Organizing Links From Socrative (or Anywhere)


At a PLC meeting this winter, group members were talking about not reinventing the wheel with Socrative quizzes that they had created in math. In Socrative, there is the ability to share a quiz to an email address; therefore, the team was beginning the process of sending each other these quiz links.

While I love the idea of sharing these resources, I was envisioning a possible nightmare for them: overflowing inboxes full of emails with these links that would have to be addressed and organized. The emails would come in randomly, too, as people shared new quizzes throughout the year. I’m also assuming that the sender would have to enter each person’s email address every time.

An idea that I proposed to streamline this whole process was the creation of a Google Form. Every time a PLC member wanted to share a Socrative quiz, she would copy the quiz link and then enter it into a Google Form that would organize the information into a Google Sheet that all PLC members could access. Members now could go to this Sheet to get the quiz links. Additionally, a member could set up individual notifications for the Sheet by going into the Tools menu as shown below:

Notifications would keep them from forgetting to check the Sheet for the latest links.

There also is another advantage to collecting and organizing these links via a Form: more specific details about the quiz can be included and archived that are not options in the Socrative sharing method.

For example, subject area and topic may be collected along with the link. Then when a teacher visits the Sheet for ideas, it is clear what the quizzes assess. There also is a place for notes on the Form for any other specifics about the quiz, such as titles, targeted audience, modifications, etc. The Sheet would be able to be sorted by subject area and topic for easy retrieval of all quizzes in that area and/or topic.

Here is an example Form from my Guided Math PLC.

We are all doing so many great things… how are you sharing, collecting and organizing them?

Keyboard Shortcuts on a Chromebook


There are many things that we automatically know how to do on a laptop or computer; however, when we are on Chromebooks things can feel a little different, and our “go to” keystrokes and methods don’t seem to work.

For example, I have people ask me a lot: How do I copy and paste on a Chromebook? How do I take a screenshot?

At this point, I switch between so many devices that I don’t have everything memorized. Therefore, a little Google search yielded some resources for all of us. Here is a link to some popular keyboard shortcuts for Chromebooks… and yes, screenshot key combinations are listed! Another resource I found is a little more comprehensive.

The coolest find: when you are on a Chromebook, press these 3 keys: Ctrl+Alt+/ .

An interactive onscreen keyboard will appear. Now, press on the Shift, Ctrl, Alt or Search keys (either separately or even various combinations on your physical keyboard), and the onscreen keyboard will display a menu of different tasks that can be performed when combing with other keys. I love that there is a built-in reference right on the Chromebooks! This is a must try!


AssistiveTouch – A Great Demo Tool for iPad


Being able to demonstrate where to go and what to do on an iPad is essential. Even if you are plugged into a VGA cable projecting your iPad on a screen, the audience (your students) can not see easily where you are tapping. Often where you are only appears for a split second with a slight color change, depending on the app you are using.

AssistiveTouch to the rescue!

Turning on this accessibility option on an iPad can make directions crystal clear for your students.

Watch this video to see what I mean.

Go to Settings on your iPad. Then go to General and scroll to Accessibility. Under that category, choose AssistiveTouch. Toggle the feature to On.

You will notice a spotlight-like circle will appear on your iPad screen. You can move that spotlight circle anywhere on your screen. Moving the spotlight as you model directions on your iPad is like “watching the bouncing ball”. (Remember following that object as you sang along to words on a screen?) When your iPad is plugged into a projector (or AirPlaying) and you move the AssistiveTouch circle to the parts you want highlighted, students will see everywhere you go!

Of course, there our other reasons to use AssistiveTouch (go here to learn more about this powerful tool and its intended uses), but it works as a visual movement tracker beautifully for us with students.

Demonstrate away!

(This tip is compliments of an Apple Update iPad Workshop that I attended this Fall. It’s the little things that really can make a difference!)

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Pineapple Chart


I was introduced to the idea of the Pineapple Chart at a conference recently. And wow… such a simple concept seems like it could be so affective in offering PD and building community!

What is a Pineapple Chart?

Basically, it’s a chart or calendar that teachers can post an invitation to what’s happening in their classrooms. Other teachers see the postings and can visit that particular lesson/activity at the specific day/time.

A key element is that participation is not mandatory for staff. It’s also not a time for administrators to do observations. It’s all about sharing in a safe, non-evaluative way!

I’ve seen examples of physical bulletin boards, but at my school we are going to try an electronic version using Google Calendar and the ability to set up notifications. In the spirit of sharing, here’s what I have put together for our school. This resource includes links to a blog post about Pineapple Charts as well as step-by-step tutorials.

So it’s time to give this a go!

I welcome people’s thoughts, successes and failures about Pineapple Charting.

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