Saturday, October 25, 2014

#FutureReady Schools: Transforming Teaching and Learning


With access to a discarded McGraw-Hill fifth grade textbook, Using Energy, William Kamkwamba, learned how to build a windmill to power electrical appliances in his family's house in Masitala.  Just think what our school children could do with unlimited information with access to not only devices but reliable high speed internet at home and at school.  

Many students and teachers throughout our country lack access to basic internet services and devices at school or at home.  In my school district there are locations where even if residents could afford to pay the staggering cost of internet services, these services simply do not exist.  Future Ready districts not only provide broadband classroom connectivity and wireless access, but work with community partners to leverage local, state, and federal resources to support home Internet access outside of traditional school hours, so that learning can take place anytime anywhere.  

Just think. A student is sitting at home watching , The Walking Dead, might wonder, “What is the decomposition rate of a zombie?”  With access to a device and high speed internet the student can immediately research this question and in the process learn quite a bit about biology without stepping foot into a biology classroom.  Perhaps this quest for knowledge about zombie decomposition sparks an interest that eventually leads to a career in virology and saves the world from a real zombie apocalypse.  #itcouldhappen


With access to devices and reliable high speed internet the landscape of traditional school has no choice but to adapt and evolve.  Students no longer need to solely rely on teachers and textbooks to dispense information, but will look to their teachers to be guides in understanding how to apply the information gleaned online.  Thus, tech is and will continue to transform teaching, from planning and preparation to what student engagement looks like in a technology rich school.

How does a teacher in a #FutureReady school plan and prepare to teach students who have the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy at their fingertips?  First, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is using valuable instructional time to teach basic facts and rote memorization to then be regurgitated back out on a test a few weeks later the best use of instructional time? Does it really indicate mastery of a skill or good test taking skills?

  • In a #FutureReady classroom do all students need to learn at the same pace?  Have students ever learned at the same pace?  

  • Does a student need to physically occupy space in a desk to ‘attend” classes?  Is the student physically occupying a desk but sleeping through most of class actually “attending” class?

Teachers with a #FutureReady mindset know the answer to these questions in a resounding, No.  It also means a dramatic shift in the school landscape must occur.  Along with a drastic change to the way coursework is delivered and student mastery evaluated also comes more time and opportunities for students to delve into using knowledge gained to create, evaluate and apply what they have learned.   

My top three starter tips for #FutureReady teachers are:

  • Connect, Connect, Connect!

  • Learning Management Systems

  • ePortfolios

Connect, Connect, Connect!  Don’t try making this change alone.  With access to devices and reliable high speed internet EVERY teacher has access to ideas from thousands of brilliant, motivated, energized educators from around the world.  Not only will connecting with educators around the globe provide you with an endless supply of ideas for your classroom, you will also make wonderful friendships that will support you through the growing pains that come with #FutureReady changes.

Don’t forget about students when it comes to getting connected.  Providing students with an authentic audience renders the age old question "why do I have to do this?" mute. Learning suddenly has real world application and student engagement increases accordingly.  

Learning Management Systems.  In a #FutureReady school every student in your class will not begin working on Unit 3 at the same time.  Learning Management Systems allow teachers to easily provide course materials to a full roster of students working within individualized learning paths.  Trey Armistead, a Chemistry teacher at Van Meter School in Iowa, has been using Moodle for years to meet individualized learning goals.  By doing this , Mr. Armistead has empowered his students work through the content at a pace that works best for them.  Some students in his class have been able to show mastery and complete his semester long course in just three short weeks.  These students have then been able to move forward and take more advanced classes either provided by the school or through accessing MOOCs online.


ePortfolios.  Take a look at this Anatomy & Physiology ePortfolio:

Do you feel this student has a deeper understanding of the course material than if it had been delivered and assessed in a traditional classroom setting?

As you can see from the example provide above, an ePortfolio goes beyond merely a collection of materials that documents student accomplishments.  ePortfolios give students a voice to present their learning accomplishments as well as developing skills in self-assessment.  ePortfolios make learning a personalized experience where, over time, connections are drawn between various learning experiences and critical thinking is enhanced.  

What I love most about ePortfolios is that they empower students to become masters of their own learning. A skill that will serve them well throughout life.


And that is really how technology will and is transforming teaching.  Spoon feeding, rote memorization, mindless tasks, endless worksheets replaced by deep thinking, self motivated and self evaluated learning that empowers students to be lifelong learners is the ultimate goal and why your school superintendent needs to take the Future Ready District Pledge.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Panning For Technology Gold

Recently I went panning for technology gold in preparation for a conference presentation.  I was specifically looking for device agnostic math and language arts technologies for grades K-12.  I searched all my usual haunts, Twitter, Free Technology for Teachers, Kathy Schrock's Guide To Everything, Cybraryman's Educational Websites, & Common Sense Media.  I found many great resources but a feeling kept gnawing away at me that I was missing something more.  Then late, late, late one night I had one of those face palm moments.

SmackDowns!  Why had it never occurred to me to search EdCamp SmackDown documents?! For those of you who have never had the pleasure of attending an EdCamp event (something you MUST rectify ASAP), the SmackDown portion is my favorite part!  During an EdCamp SmackDown all attendees are invited to share one website, app, lesson, etc with the group in two minutes or less.  SmackDowns typically last for 30-45 minutes, thus, ensuring a plethora of great information to explore after EdCamp ends.  I started by going to the EdCamp Atlanta website because I remembered mathematics was well represented there this year.  I then moved on to trolling other EdCamp events for their SmackDown shares.

Here are my top five finds:

MobyMax-Math & Language Arts for grades K-8

MobyMax is for all students K-8. Moby's adaptive curriculum creates a unique, individualized education plan for each student, allowing gifted students to progress as quickly as they like while simultaneously ensuring that remedial students get the extra instruction they need. You've never experienced differentiation like this in the classroom.

Some parts of MobyMax are free, however, the price for additional features is extremely reasonable and worth the investment.

Newslea- Language Arts & Current Events for grades 3-12

Newsela is an innovative way to build reading comprehension with nonfiction that's always relevant: daily news. One of the best features is the Lexile scale that students or teachers can slide to the needed level for maximum comprehension, a must with differentiated learning.

Newslea has a free & pro version.

ActivelyLearn- Reading Comprehension for grades 3-12

ActivelyLearn allows teachers to discover already added reading materials or add their own reading materials from the web. Teachers can then embed questions, notes, or videos directly into the text. This gets students thinking, writing and collaborating while reading. This allows teachers to measure student effort and see where comprehension breaks down.

ActivelyLearn has a free & pro version.

Get The Math- Math for grades 6-12

Get the Math combines video and web interactivity to help middle and high school students develop algebraic thinking skills for solving real-world problems. Drawing on conventions of popular reality TV shows, video segments begin with profiles of young professionals, who then pose challenges connected to their jobs to two teams of teens. Viewers are encouraged to try the challenges themselves using interactive tools provided on the Get the Math website before returning to the video to see the teams’ solutions. Students can further explore the same, as well as extended, algebraic concepts through additional interactive challenges on the website.

Get The Math helps students understand how math applies to real world situations, not just an upcoming test.

Get the Math is FREE.

Geddit- Classroom Management Tool for grades K-12

Geddit allows you to know exactly what all of your students understand about the lessons at any given point in time.  As your lesson progresses, students can “check-in” at any time on their own device by selecting their comfort levels on a series of ascending bars. The feedback is private and updates in real time on the teacher’s screen. You can send your pre-made questions directly to student devices whenever you are ready for them to answer them, or pause on key objectives to get students to indicate their current comfort levels with the materials. You can also ask questions on the fly if your lesson takes a new direction or you just want to create a quick poll to vote on student ideas.

Geddit is FREE.


The Peanut Gallery- Creative Writing for grades K-12

The Peanut Gallery is a Chrome Experiment that lets you add intertitles to old film clips using your voice, then share those clips with your friends. It uses your computer's microphone and the Web Speech API in Google Chrome to turn speech into text.

Students could write scripts before recording to match the videos with concepts learned in science, social studies, language arts & math lessons.  The possibilities are endless.  

I discovered this when my librarian friend, Shannon Miller shared it on Facebook.  She is brilliant!

Friday, October 10, 2014

This Week @ Elkmont and Beyond! October 6th - 10th

Kicking It Up A Notch With DPI

Across the country schools are moving to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or 1:1 Initiatives. Many teachers are apprehensive about these changes for several reason. One reason for this apprehension is due to teachers thinking the technology is going to interfere with teaching core content. What we are learning at Elkmont is that the technology simply merges with the lessons teachers have already prepared to teach. In other words, technology "kicks it up a notch"!

Another reason some may feel apprehensive about DPI/BYOD comes as teachers from one school compare themselves to other schools in Limestone County. None of the schools are or were intended to do the same things with the Digital Passport Initiative rollout. Each school is different, thus the program is custom tailored by the Instructional Technology Facilitator, Administrator, and DPI Teachers to meet the specific needs of each school. Elkmont High School's DPI Team is doing AWESOME and we will continue to learn and grow together this year. Thank you for being such a wonderful team and being patient as we build our unique version of DPI at Elkmont!

This week our DPI Team has used Google Presentations and iMovie to review nouns, vocabulary, and to work in collaborative teams on National Landmark research. Not only did we learn how to use Google Presentations and iMovie, we also learned how to find elementary school appropriate images in safe search portals like Google Junior and KidzSearch. We also got organized with our MacBook calendars and gClassFolders.

As if that wasn’t enough, we set our new Limestone County Symbaloo pages up as our homepage on both Internet Browsers, Safari and Google Chrome. Now, any time we open an Internet search engine, it takes us straight to Symbaloo and all of the links we use. Use this link to start using LCS Symbaloo:

S.W.O.T. - LCS Instructional Technology Facilitators Meeting

This week the eight Instructional Technology Facilitators in Limestone County Schools meet to debrief, reflect, connect, share and learn. We started by using the SWOT Analysis model to reflect on what we have done as a team during the first full year of the district's Digital Passport Initiative Rollout.

We continued the meeting by sharing resources and coming up with action plans until our next meeting.

Limestone County School District is surrounded by school districts who are also implementing 1:1 initiatives, but where Limestone beats the others is in realizing the critical importance of having Instructional Technology Facilitators embedded in each school. I credit this forward thinking to our District Technology Director, Karen Tucker and Superintendent, Dr. Tom Sisk.

Cool Tech Finds of the Week

Cool writing prompts that provide grade 5-12 students with an authentic audience and global connections.

Writing prompts for K-4 students that also provides an authentic audience and global connections.

Gone Google Story Builder does is creates a video of your writing process. You can have characters, writers, and etc... You type in the windows what each person or character says and the Gone Google Story Builder builds a video. You can even add music! You really have to try it for yourself to see it.

Ideas for Gone Google Story Builder:

  • Great way to teach students the process of writing.
  • Great way to visually see a story/writing come to life.
  • Great way to Collaborate.

StoryBird is committed to sparking user imagination by providing a variety of colorful and vibrant Illustrations that ignite creativity. First, choose which photos you want to include in your book, then incorporate your very own dialogue -- before long words will be pouring onto the page. Although this is a great site for younger children, users must be 13 years of age to become a member. If a child is younger than 13, he/she must provide a parent’s email address, and then the parent is immediately notified that their child has become a storybird.

Staying Current w/DIY Professional Development

TL Virtual Cafe: The amazing Shelly Terrell and Jake Duncan presented, Saddle Up & Rope ‘Em In! Codes to Teach Like a Cowboy/ Cowgirl

This session was perfect for librarians AND classroom teachers! 

Teaching can feel like trying to conquer the Wild West. We need inspiration and advice from trailblazers used to rough terrains. Two Texas educators invite you to join this campfire conversation in which they will share some practical ideas and tips for handling anything from fundraising to teaching with little technology. Giddy up! Get your boots on and join us for this adventurous ride that’ll get you fired up and equipped for the school year.

SimpleK12:  School Libraries: Remaining Relevant in a Digital World

Are you looking for ways to keep your school library relevant in an ever changing digital landscape? Would you like to increase student engagement and fun within the library, while still maintaining academic and educational focus? Join Nikki D. Robertson as she shows you how to evaluate and manage your library's digital footprint and where you can get started improving that footprint. She will share how to get connected with others like you in order to share and learn new ideas. Nikki will also suggest ways in which you can increase student engagement in the library by incorporating makerspaces, robotics, and gamification for a fun, interactive, and educational library.

#iCONNECT Tech Tips SMore Newsletter

Saturday, October 4, 2014

This Week @ Elkmont & Beyond! September 28th - October 4th

Elkmont DPI End of Month Report

  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) began at Elkmont 
  • Established Professional Learning Communities (PLC
  • Training of 3rd - 12th grades on LCS GAFE Account 
  • Established a weekly DPI time for each 3rd and 4th grade teacher to ensure DPI teachers/students are receiving at 75% of Instructional Technology Facilitators time each week 
  • Established a weekly DPI blog post highlighting Elkmont’s progression with DPI and BYOD 

Word Mosaics with Nouns

Ms. Bates and Ms. Adams' 4th Grade students had some fun learning nouns by making word clouds with them. This is just the first step the DPI Team will take using word clouds. Our next step is to use word clouds to assist students with identifying main idea and writing summaries of text.
Word clouds, also called tag clouds or a weighted list, are a visual depiction of the frequency tabulation of the words in any selected written material, such as lecture notes, a
textbook chapter or an internet site. Font size is used to indicate frequency, so the larger the font size, the more frequently a word is used. (

Illustrating Vocabulary Words with Google Slides

Mr. Hobbs 4th Grade students illustrated their vocabulary words from the story, The Secret Messenger, using Google Slides. During this lesson students learned how to create a Google Slide presentation, how to choose a slide theme, how to edit text, how to add images, and how to share the presentation with others.

Our next steps once we master using Google Slides (formerly Google Presentations) is to:

  • work collaboratively in groups within the classroom on a single Google Slide Presentation 
  • work collaboratively in groups with students in other classes on a single Google Slide Presentation 
  • work collaboratively in groups with students in other schools on a single Google Slide Presentation 

Ms. English's 3rd grade students worked in collaborative groups using Google Slides to create presentations about National Landmarks. Students learned how to find and add images and edit text. Because of the collaborative nature using Google Slides this activity ranks in the Redefinition part of the SAMR Model.

Student Directors Premier at Elkmont

Ms. Bates & Ms. Adams 4th grade students traded their desks for the director's chair this week. Continuing with their language arts focus on nouns, students used KidzSearch to safely search for images of nouns. Once students had gathered a minimum of 10 nouns they created their own noun movie using iMovie.

Ms. McMunn's 3rd grade students integrated their math lesson about grams and kilograms by creating an iMovie with items that represented each unit of measure.

This lesson is on the Redefinition level of the SAMR Model.

Professional Development with Technology In Motion

Michael Pepper with Technology in Motion came to Elkmont High School on Friday, October 3rd. Mr. Pepper comes around at least once an month and assist teachers with any technology questions they might have.  Mr. Pepper runs from one area of the school to another meeting with teachers during their 30 minute planning time.

3rd grade teachers had questions regarding the new Promethean Boards in their classrooms. Mr. Pepper was awesome and helped the teachers learn great new tricks to do with their boards.

Personal Professional Development

WLMA (Washington Library Media Association) held their first Google Hangout broadcast on Saturday, October 4, 2014 to wrap up their annual conference.  Special guests included Joyce Valenza, Doug Johnson & Jennifer LaGarde.  Kudos to Craig Seasholes and the WLMA Team for venturing into new territory with using Google Hangouts.  I love this example this sets for others to not be afraid to try! 

#iCONNECT Tech Tips Newsletter

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

This Week @ Elkmont and Beyond! September 22nd - 26th, 2014

Professional Learning Opportunites

TL News Night - Monday, September 22, 2014 started the 2nd season of TL News Night with special guests from the Association of Indiana School Library Educators (AISLE).  The "hot topic" was The Power of Networking. 

ISTE Librarians Network - Wednesday, September 24, 2014 kicked off the new season of professional development webinars via the ISTE Librarians Network.  If you missed this webinar you can watch it HERE.

Google Classroom & Khan Academy= Technologies of the Week at Elkmont

Students and teachers from grades 3 - 12 focused on learning Google Classroom and Khan Academy. Both of these technologies allow for continuous formative assessment and relationship building when used properly.

Linda Schmidt's students kicked off the week by completing a mathematics writing assignment that Ms. Schmidt had prepared and uploaded into the Google Classroom class she set up for students in advance. Once students had completed the writing assignment they moved on to learning how to access and move through Khan Academy with their Ms. Schmidt as their coach.

Ms. Gaston's 6th graders were next up to learn about the magic of Google Classroom. Ms. Gaston had prepared a writing assignment where students had to tell the steps for completing long division. Ms. Gaston's class also explore how students can use the comment feature to ask questions or engage in a two way conversation with Ms. Gaston. Next, Ms. Gaston's students were introduced to Khan Academy and began working on their individual learning paths within Khan.

The Dynamic 4th Grade Trio of Ms. Adams, Ms. Bates, and Mr. Hobbs steadfastly tackled using Google Classroom with their students this week to write a persuasive paragraph about what kind of business best would benefit the community. Students had to provide at least three reasons why the business they chose would benefit their community. Using the OREO graphic organizer, students were able to organize their writing.

O- Opinion
R- Reasons
E- Example
O- Opinion

This Daring Trio also dove into Khan Academy with their students! The 4th grade students enjoyed the freedom to move at their own pace and teach themselves rather than remain passive in the learning process. All agreed it was nice to have to power to pause and rewind when needed. Too bad our Dynamic Trio doesn't have a pause and rewind buttons!

Welcome to Elkmont!

Next week Mr. Hobbs, 4th grade teacher, will have a new student as part of his classroom family. Moving from one school to another school is often a hard transition for students to make. They are leaving old friends behind and going to a new place where they don't know anyone. Fears of will I fit in, will I make friends, what is my teacher like, what is our schedule, etc plague students before a school change. To help ease the nerves of this student and to help him feel a part of the class before even coming to Mr. Hobbs' class, we Skyped with his current classroom. Teachers and students from both classrooms were able to see each other and talk to each other. Participants in both classrooms asked questions and by the end of our Skype session Mr. Hobbs' students were sad to say goodbye and can't wait for the new member of their class to arrive!

Rewindable Learning Continues for Teachers at Elkmont

New tutorials were created this week for teachers wanting to move forward using Google Drive, Google Classroom and Khan Academy on their own and at their own pace. You can find all of the tutorials HERE.

New tutorials include:

  • Google Drive Basics- Google Documents
  • Google Drive Basics- Google Presentations
  • Google Drive Basics- Google Spreadsheets
  • Google Drive Basics- Google Forms

Other tutorials available include:

  • Google Classroom- Student Sign In
  • Google Classroom- Teacher Sign In & Set Up
  • Google Classroom- Setting Up A Class
  • Google Classroom- Enrolling Students with a Class Code
  • Google Classroom- Creating Assignments
  • Khan Academy- Setting Yourself Up As A Coach (Teacher)
  • Khan Academy- How A Student Signs Up & How A Student Adds A Coach

If there are any technology tutorials you would like for Ms. Robertson to create please email her HERE.