Friday, November 21, 2014

Keyboarding & Online Testing

In our district, anxiety over CMAS and PARCC online testing has been steadily rising as the testing window approaches. Concerns over student tech skills hampering performance have continued to grow as teachers have increased the use of technology in their classrooms and realized that students' tech prowess may not be up to par.

Back in March, I blogged about our department's work around determining the tech skills students will need to be successful on the CMAS & PARCC. Since then, an increasing number of teachers and principals have taken an especially hard look at their students' keyboarding abilities and realized that typing speed (or lack there of) may sabotage their kids' ability to show what they know on the state tests. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Student Guide to Writing Comments

Communication and collaboration are important 21st century skills addressed by the ISTE Standards for Students:
Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
As Google Apps for Education, Google Classroom, and learning management systems continue to gain in popularity, students have more and more opportunities to work with others in an online environment, provide written feedback to their peers, and communicate digitally. This does not mean, however, that they all have the skills needed to do so productively and effectively.

As a result, we decided to provide our teachers with a resource to help students write better comments. After scouring the Internet for ready made resources, we found a variety of good information, but nothing that met all our needs. So we compiled what we found to create the information below.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

COPPA - Children's Online Privacy Protection Act

As the school year ramps up, our department has been busy creating a training module on COPPA and protecting students online. This is a module that all teachers in our District will be taking this year (and likely every year going forward), thus denoting a significant shift in our District's messaging about tech integration and student safety.

As part of this module, we created a short video using Adobe Voice that explains COPPA. (You can read more about Adobe Voice in my previous post.) Our goal was to help teachers understand COPPA without boring them with a lengthy written explanation. Hopefully, our little video is less dry than the alternatives....

Similar to other districts, ours has struggled in years past with finding a balance between protecting student privacy and empowering teachers to use professional judgement when selecting sites for instructional use and creating student accounts.  This year, the Responsible Use Agreement that is part of our Superintendent's Policy includes changes that allow the District to consent on a parent's behalf when a website seeks to collect the name, District-provided email address, and/or birthdate of a child under the age of 13.

This change allows our teachers to easily use sites with kids that require individual student accounts, so long as students and parents have signed this agreement and the site does not collect more than name, email, and birthdate.

If a site needs additional information (such as gender, location, etc.), then teachers send home an opt-out permission form with the site's information, purpose, and what data it collects. If parents do not want their students using the site, they notify the teacher.

We are hopeful that these changes to the Superintendent's Policy will help free teachers to find and implement the best online tools and resources to support their instruction.

 How does your district handle the creation of online accounts for students under 13?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

No Rest for the Techie...InnEdCo, Here We Come!

How do you like to spend your summers? Resting, rejuvenating, traveling, learning? Why not all of the above?

Summer break for my team started on June 10th, but we're not ready to relax just yet! On Monday, three of us head to the mountains to present at the InnEdCo conference (formerly TIE Colorado). We will be leading a session called Exploring the Tech Integration - Blended Learning Continuum. Our session is based on our Blended Learning vs Tech Integration presentation that I blogged about in January.

We are excited to have the opportunity to present and learn alongside so many great Colorado instructional tech leaders, including some teachers from our district. If you plan to attend the conference, I hope you'll come to our session!

For those of you who don't live in Colorado or who are not attending, what are your favorite summer learning options?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Great New Presentation Tool for iPads: Adobe Voice

Adobe recently released a free new iPad app called Adobe Voice. If you use iPads with your students or for yourself, you should check it out! It's an extremely simple and user friendly presentation tool that is great for teachers and students alike.

It has several different combined background/transition options, but not an overwhelming amount and has a nice little music library divided by theme/mood. Users can use the available graphics, upload photos, or add text to one of a few different slide formats, record audio for each slide, and either use the provided music or upload their own. It even has a few pre-made story structures, such as "Teach a Lesson", "Show and Tell", and "Explain Something".

It also has a built in tutorial that walks you through how things work the first time you use it. No need to spend time teaching students what to do! Best of all, it's so easy to use, even a Kindergartner could use it!

The only real downside is that you can't download your completed video, but you can share the link by copying it to the clipboard, emailing it straight from the app, embed it, or share it out via Facebook, Twitter, or SMS.

I was able to make a video explaining Blended Learning in about 45 minutes (would be faster now that I know how everything works.)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Instructional Tech QuickGuide to Integration

In a recent post titled "Go Paperless", I shared a Paperless PD QuickGuide our team created to help with meaningful tech integration in professional development. Since then, we've made a few adjustments to it and re-branded it as an Instructional Technology QuickGuide, designed to be a reference for teachers looking for ways to integrate technology. As with the original, this document is filled with links to sites and tutorials. Click on the image below to check it out! (*Note: Strange Google Behavior: For some people, the document is not opening without requesting Share permission, though it is set for all to view. If this happens to you, copy and paste the link into a new browser window, and you should be good to go.)

We hope that teachers will find our QuickGuide helpful and easy to use.

What do you use to inspire tech integration for yourself or others?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Schoology - Inspired by CommonCraft

One of our favorite resources when helping teachers understand technology is CommonCraft, a company that puts out a series of short videos that explain various tech concepts "in plain English". If you're not familiar with their videos and formats, below are a couple of great ones:

Online Citizenship

Web Search Strategies

As part of a subscription, you get access to CommonCraft's cutout library so you can create your own CommonCraft-style videos. We used their cutouts to create a short introduction to Schoology, a learning management system that we recommend our teachers use to house resources and course content for their students.

We shared this video in a course we created to help our teachers learn how to use Schoology with their students. Although the Schoology website has a few videos of their own, the features described in their marketing videos include some of the Enterprise features, which are only available in the paid version of Schoology. At the moment, our district is only using the free version (which is extremely robust), so we wanted to highlight what Schoology can do for teachers without talking about tools they won't be able to use.


I have to say, making your own CommonCraft-style video is a lot of fun, but it is time consuming! If you've ever tried making one, I'd love to see it!