Saturday, November 24, 2012

Nominate Your Favorite Tech Leader for a MACUL Award!

Each year, the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) recognizes exemplary leadership in classroom teaching with technology and building and district technology leadership.

Three categories are awarded:

Do you have a colleague or staff member who stands out and should be considered for these awards?
The MACUL Outstanding Leader Program is a perfect opportunity to recognize great work and contributions to your school and district.

All winners will receive fabulous prizes.

Information and applications can be found at:

 Deadline for the 2013 awards is Monday, January 14, 2013.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Using Twitter to Create a PLN

The MACUL Journal is published quarterly and mailed to MACUL members, who attended the most recent MACUL Annual Conference, MACUL Friends, MACUL sponsors, ISD/RESA/REMC organizations, and every school district Superintendent throughout Michigan.

The Winter 2013 Journal was just distributed and articles relate to social networking in learning.  One of the articles, "Let's Travel with Twitter," by Tammy Maginity, is the first enhanced article.  the article is available on the MI Learning Channel on iTunesU and has video tutorials associated with it. Videos include how to create a Twitter account, and how to follow others.  Check it out!

View the entire MACUL Journal here.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Election Impact on US Educational Technology Policy

This post is copied word-for-word, with permission, from Hilary Goldmann's Voices Carry blog.  Hilary is the Director for Government Affairs, ISTE. She wrote this blog post on Nov 7, 2012, the day after Election Day.

After all of the dollars spent, countless advertisements and robocalls, we woke up today to elected Executive and Legislative branches of government that in composition appear very similar to the one we had prior to the election.  President Obama was re-elected to a second term, Democrats retain control of the Senate while picking up at least one seat, and the House remains in Republican control with several races still too close to call.  Nonetheless, when the new Congress convenes in January, there will be some significant changes afoot as committee assignments are made and leadership positions are filled.  These changes in leadership and committee assignments will have a direct impact on education policy.

There are rumors that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi may step down, which would certainly shake things up on the House side for Democrats and would have implications for the workings between the two sides of the aisle.  Term limits will be in effect for eight House Committee Chairs, including Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan, Chair of the House Budget Committee (though it is expected that he will be granted a waiver and continue as the Chair of that powerful Committee).  Several Republican Senators will be term-limited as Committee Ranking Members. Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) the Ranking Member of the Senate Health,Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will likely be replaced by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN). As with all elections, policymakers may choose to change committee assignments and serve on committees that are either perceived as more powerful or more in line with the needs of their district or state.  Therefore, it is likely that between retirements and shifting committee memberships we will have new leadership and members on many of the critical House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over education, broadband, funding, STEM and other important education policy areas.

Two  of education technology policy’s strongest advocates retired this year, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) author of the Achievement Through Technology and Innovation Act, and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) a leading advocate for the E-Rate program and education technology.  Judy Biggert (R-IL) who co-sponsored of the Achievement Through Technology and Innovation Act was defeated in her re-election bid.  We will miss their leadership and strong support of digital learning.

Thus, while leadership of the Executive and Legislative branches of government remain the same, (even Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has indicated his desire to remain for Obama’s second term), the inner workings of the government will change.

ISTE will continue our bi-partisan advocacy efforts to support a 21st century education for ALL students that ensures all high school graduates are college and career ready.

Blended Learning Google Apps for Education Course

I have been absent from Yes Tech! for too long.  Much of my time has been spent creating materials for a 10 week blended learning professional learning course on Google Apps for Education that is being offered to teachers in my district. It is a lot of work, but it is filling a need for several teachers who want to use Google Apps in their classroom.  The course is a blend of face-to-face and online sessions, with participants being able to choose options that work best for their learning style and schedule.  Each week, they can either attend an in-person workshop that focuses on one of the GAFE tools or attend online at a time of their own choosing.  The course will take approximately ten hours for participants to complete over the course of two months, October 15 through December 15, 2012. The goal is for teachers to explore and become comfortable using Google Apps personally and with students.

The course lives on the district Moodle site.  I use Camtasia to record instructional videos for each topic, and am building the course as I go.  If the course is effective, I will be able to offer the course again and again, with some minor tweaking of the content and activities.  I’m learning lots in the process as I explore each tool in depth so that I can create handouts and videos.

I took a Michigan Learnport online course on blended learning in September, and I learned some excellent online teaching strategies.  I designed the GAFE blended learning course as part of the Learnport course and decided to jump right in and give it a try rather than wait until I had the entire course created, which could have possibly taken months. Doing it this way has forced me to devote a solid chunk of time on something that could possibly make a positive impact in many classrooms across the district.  Right now, all the content is only in Moodle.  I  plan to share the instructional materials in other ways when I can (Walled Lake Instructional Tech Website or a new Google Site).

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Walled Lake Spice it Up! Technology Conference




Walled Lake Consolidated Schools hosted its 8th annual Spice it Up! Technology Conference on Thursday, August 23, 2012 at Sarah Banks Middle School.  It was the best yet! 325-350 teachers and administrators attended this voluntary professional development event to help them learn new ways to incorporate technology into their instructional practices.  I coordinate the event and it is one of the highlights of my year!

John Sowash was the keynote speaker and he was outstanding!  I thought that he connected with the audience and was inspirational; his message was a fantastic start to the day. He spoke about the importance of setting high expectations, including projects where students create and publish to a world-wide audience, and the critical need to teach tech/info literacy skills.  His stories and visuals drove his points home.

We used Edmodo as a platform for presenters to share resources and for attendees to ask questions and post ideas. Hopefully the conversation will continue after the conference!   116 people visited the site, so roughly a third of our attendees used Edmodo during the conference.  Edmodo was new to most of the attendees, so using it for the conference introduced the tool to them, which was great - my guess is that many will now use it with their colleagues and students.

The conference came just a few weeks after all the teachers in the district received a new iPad and laptop. We are so fortunate! I wish we had scheduled more beginner iPad sessions.  Of course there are plans to offer a variety of training & support in the next month or so!

The conference would not be possible without the Walled Lake presenters, who volunteered their time to plan and share their experiences with their colleagues.  They were fantastic!  Thank you JP Arens, Jon Bison, Jennifer Bond, Laura Brown, Kim Chumney, Lynn Dunn, Cindy Goris, Dennis Graham, Barbie Green, John Gregg, Krista Harmsworth, Mark Hess, Kelly Holubeck-Gotts, Deb Jess, Laura King, Caron LaBlanc, Jennifer LaCross, Mark Lada, Kim Loszewski, Scott MacIsaac, Michele McKendry, Randy Micallef, Kathren O'Brien, Ryan Ossenmacher, Rob Osterman, Barb Ozminkowski, Brad Paddock, Davida Pesick, Jennifer Phillips, Kelly Reuter, Theresa Robinson, Cheryl Roden, Gina Sartor, Jessica Schultz, Jennifer Shamberger, Pam Shoemaker, David Stanton, Amy Stasak, Renee Valentine, Katie Weingarden, and Jane Wendyker.

The administrators at Sarah Banks Middle School, Brad Paddock & David Stanton, were so helpful and accommodating in the days leading up to and on the day of the conference, and the IT Department was there in full force to assist attendees as needed.  There are so many others to thank; it was a prize effort by many, and is truly an event that positively impacts the learning that occurs in classrooms across the district.


Friday, July 13, 2012

NETS for Coaches

ISTE has NETS (National Educational Technology Standards) for students, teachers, administrators, computer science teachers, and coaches.  A session was offered at the ISTE Conference on the newly released NETS for Coaches, so I made sure I attended.  I enjoyed the discussion that took place among other technology integration specialists like me.  I plan to use these standards to help guide me as I work with teachers this coming school year - There are supposed to be rubrics to go along with each standard, but I cannot locate them -  perhaps they have not yet been released.  The white paper that is available to ISTE members is excellent.

There are six standards and 28 performance indicators.  To summarize:

Visionary Leadership:  Shared Vision, Strategic Planning, Advocacy, Innovation/Change

Teaching, Learning, & Assessment:  Content/Technology Standards, Research-based Learning, Meaningful/Relevant Learning, Creativity, Higher-order Thinking, Differentiation, Instructional Design, Assessment, Data Analysis

Digital-age Learning Environments: Classroom Management, Online/Blended Learning, Selecting Adaptive/Assistive Technology, Basic Troubleshooting, Selecting Digital Resources, Communication/Collaboration with Community

Professional Learning & Program Evaluation: Need Assessment, Professional Learning, Evaluation

Digital Citizenship: Digital Equity, Safe/Legal/Healthy/Ethical Use, Diversity/Cultural Understanding/Global Awareness

Content Knowledge & Professional Growth: Emerging technologies, TPACK, technology skills, technology standards, organizational change, leadership, project management, adult learning

Monday, July 9, 2012

ISTE 2012

I had the pleasure of attending the ISTE Conference in San Diego. WOW!   It's been a few weeks now, but today is the first day I've been home and able to do some reflection.  I stayed for a few extra days to enjoy the lovely sunny 70 degree  weather - I visited the San Diego Zoo and the US Midway Museum (time well spent).  The day after I got home, I left again to spend time in beautiful northern Michigan - golfing, boating, and visiting with family.

I learned just a few weeks before the conference that I could attend, thanks to the MACUL organization.  I am humbled to be elected as their President Elect, so I'm looking forward to my year in training from this year's President, Steve Schiller.

There will be several blog entries coming in the next several days about what I learned at the conference.

I most enjoyed attending the ISTE Affiliate meeting.  The day before the main conference began, a full-day meeting was held and attended by all of ISTE Affiliate group (MACUL-like groups from all over the USA and a few other countries) leaders. We discussed ideas and strategies to make our respective organizations stronger.  I appreciated all of the networking opportunities and feel proud to be a part of MACUL, one of the largest and most vibrant affiliate groups.  Our Executive Director, Ric Wiltse, is on the ISTE Board and had a role in planning and facilitating the meeting - I also learned that he was elected to be ISTE's new treasurer!

I attended the conference through a "MACUL lens" - looking for ideas to tweak or replicate, hunting for presenters that we might want to invite to our conference, and networking with ed tech leaders from other states. Overall, I left the ISTE Conference with a strong feeling that MACUL serves and leads its members in innovative ways that make a difference at the classroom level.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Apply to Participate in the 2012 AT&T/MACUL Student Technology Showcase

On behalf of AT&T and MACUL, we would like to invite you to participate in the Lansing Student Technology Showcase scheduled for November 28, 2012. We are looking forward to having you and your students join us. The Showcase has always been an exciting opportunity for students to showcase their projects to their state representatives and senators.

Registration is now open and you can register online at: and then follow the registration link. Please use care when filling out the registration since the text will be used in the showcase booklet. You will have the opportunity to edit/change your project description.

This is a wonderful opportunity for teachers and students to show their legislators (at the MI Capitol Building) how technology positively impacts learning.  It's a great advocacy experience for kids!

Apply for a MACUL Grant

Do you have an idea for a project that involves effective instructional uses of the computer or related-equipment?  Apply for a MACUL grant!  Projects should focus on an instructional use of the computer or related equipment, which has the potential of being replicated in other educational settings.

Grant limit: $1500

Deadline:  noon, June 15, 2012

See the requirements and grant writing tips on the MACUL website.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Google Docs Lesson: Fakebook

I have been facilitating “Introduction to Google Apps” workshops across the Walled Lake Consolidated School District in preparation for a full-scale implementation of Google Apps in the fall.  I am finding that many teachers are anxious when they think about the changes that will occur next school year when students use cloud-based productivity applications (Google Apps for Education) instead of productivity software (MS Office) that they have been accustomed to using for a decade or so. Changes are never easy, so the teachers’ feelings are normal and expected.

I’ve found that the best way to help alleviate their concerns is to show them Google Apps for Education, help them use it, and recommend some file management strategies (see resources here).   Once they log on and see how easy it is to create, edit, and share files, a little bit of their fears subside.  When they explore the instructional benefits due to the collaborative features, they often begin to feel a bit excited.

Here is an example of a teacher who decided to not wait until next fall to begin using Google Apps with students; she dove right in now.  Amy Kositzke, a 8th grade English teacher at Clifford Smart Middle School, wanted her students to develop a deeper understanding of literary characterization. She wanted her students to focus on a character of a book they had recently read using the three elements of physical appearance, actions/behavior/speech, and interactions with others.  To do so, she found a template that was shared by another Google Apps-using teacher at The template was created with Google Presentation, and it looked like a Facebook page.  Most of Amy’s students were familiar with Facebook, and embraced this assignment with enthusiasm. See screenshot of a student example of a Facebook profile page of a character from the popular novel The Hunger Games below. Other slides (not shown) include interests and photos.

I asked Amy if she needed to do much direct instruction to help her students use Google Docs for an assignment like this.  She replied that she set up the framework, helped them log on, showed them how to save a copy of the file and let them go.  The students were familiar with PowerPoint and found the editing features to be similar in Google Presentation.  She plans to modify the lesson a bit for next year to include more differentiated learning.  Amy discovered that she could import slides from other presentations, so she imported a slide that included the assignment rubric to make it easy for her to grade the student projects easily and without paper.

I’m confident that the teachers will enjoy using Google Apps for Education with their students next year, thanks to creative teachers like Amy, who blaze the trail.  I look forward to sharing other examples here.

Friday, April 27, 2012

iPads: Observations & Thoughts


A couple of Special Services teachers in my district (Jen Shamberger, Speech and Language Pathologist and Katie Weingarden, Social Worker) wrote a proposal to pilot the use of an iPad with the students they work with.  They spent a considerable amount of time researching apps and figuring out specific ways to use an iPad with their students.  They have been using it for a month or so, so I wanted to find out how it was going.  I visited Oakley Park Elementary School this morning and was able to observe Jen work with three students, and then afterwards we were able to spend some time chatting about the pilot.

Jen shared an example of an experience that has stuck in her mind that shows the positive impact of using the iPad with small groups of students.  She recalled a day when she was working with young ASD children using First Phrases, an app that helps young learners develop sentence structure by hearing, seeing, and then saying combinations of nouns and verbs.  One of the situational examples was of eggs breaking and making a big mess, which was very funny to her students.  They giggled and laughed and engaged with the learning activity, and with her, in ways that she had not experienced before.  Jen explained that often ASD children tend to engage with a toy or an activity, and tune everything else out.  She felt that this activity, made possible with images and sound on the iPad, prompted the students to engage in the learning activity as a shared experience. Jen’s eyes lit up as she told this story; it was obvious to me that she connected with her students that day and that it was professionally gratifying.

A few other apps that she feels are effective for the development of speech and language skills include:

  • Conversation Builder, an app that helps children learn to have multi-exchange conversations with their peers in a variety of social settings.  Being able to converse with others helps in developing relationships. Students are presented with a situation, and they need to decide if they will introduce themselves, ask a question, make observations, or change the subject.  The app records the conversation for play back.

  • Articulation Station, an app to help users learn to pronounce sounds more clearly. Images represent target words to be practiced in fun-filled activities.

Collecting data to record the progress of specific skills for each student is important.  Some of the apps have built-in data collection features, which is convenient; others require coming up with a concrete plan to assess and collect information.  Jen and Katie are collecting a variety of data and are working on figuring out the best way to collect information to show growth and share with others.

Jen recognizes that the iPad may not work for all students at all times.  For example, one of her students is unable to use the iPad without stimming on it (basically, hitting all the buttons repetitively).  Others do better with more traditional materials.  She also recognizes that “it’s all about the app,” that some are high-quality and others are not.  She loves the ease of creating learning activities according to individual needs of students, and was pleasantly surprised that planning and creating lessons is not as time consuming as she thought it would be. Jen is able to take her own pictures and quickly import them into learning activities.

After just a short time, it’s apparent that the iPad pilot is going well, and I look forward to examining the data and the pros/cons in a few more months!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Free Bookshare App for Android

There is a new free app for Bookshare called Go Read. This app reads Bookshare books on Android devices.  It's great for users to have more options for ways they can access Bookshare books.

Any reader with an individual or institutional Bookshare membership can use Go Read to download content, which includes popular fiction, nonfiction, and educational titles.  Those with documented disabilities can join Bookshare for free.  The Walled Lake Consolidated School District, where I work, has an institutional membership for Bookshare; Special Services teachers can assist students who qualify use Bookshare, or parents can apply for an individual membership.

Unlike Read2Go, which costs $19.99 for the Apple iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch, Go Read is a free open-source app.  Users can suggest improvements on the Go Read forum and let others know that they can contribute to the future development of the app.   Download Go Read here!








Sunday, April 15, 2012

Adult Gadget Ownership Growth














The graph above is included in the highlights of the Pew Internet Project’s research related to mobile technology. The use of mobile technology has exploded over the past few years. Currently, 88% of American adults have a cell phone, 57% have a laptop, 19% own an e-book reader, and 19% have a tablet computer; about six in ten adults (63%) go online wirelessly with one of those devices.

Smartphones:  Among cell phone owners, 53% own a smartphone as of February 2012. This means that 46% of all American adults own a smartphone. Those under the age of 45 – 71% of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 now own a smartphone as do 67% of those ages 18-24 and 54% of those ages 35-44. Even among those with a household income of $30,000 or less, smartphone ownership rates for those ages 18-29 are equal to the national average.  49% of blacks and Latinos are smartphone users.

Tablets: The share of adults in the United States who own tablet computers nearly doubled from 10% to 19% in just one month, between mid-December and early January.

eReaders: 29% of Americans own at least one digital reading device.

Text Messenging: 73% of adult cell phone owners send and receive text messages (an average of 41.5 messages on a typical day).  Cell phone owners between the ages of 18 and 24 exchange an average of 109.5 messages on a normal day.



What About The Kids?  If the use of mobile technologies is on a steady rise for adults, it makes me think about the use of mobile technology by K-12 students. According to the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan,  it’s expected that nearly all of the Class of 2015 will have smartphones by the time they graduate.

Mobile learning is here and it is impacting how students learn and how educators teach. Students are more technologically aware than ever before, and using mobile technology to learn is as natural a move and non-disruptive for them as it was for their parents to bring encyclopedias out of the library and into the home. The time is right for schools to encourage students to BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology)!






Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Education On-Air: Google Apps (and more) PD

Education On Air is an education technology conference entirely
online and completely FREE.  It will take place on Wednesday, May 2nd, from noon to 10pm EST.  Since my district is moving to using Google Apps for Education next year, this comes at a perfect time.

There are over 40 sessions scheduled and they look fantastic; see the full schedule here.  There were some tough choices to make, but the sessions I plan to attend include:

- Learn more about how to participate in the conference on the website:







Sunday, April 8, 2012

April is Advocacy Month!

April is Advocacy Month. Advocacy means different things to different people. It may mean speaking up at a staff or school board meeting, writing a letter to your representative, or participating in a rally around a common cause. Ed tech advocacy comes in different shapes and sizes, but all these efforts add up to a greater emphasis and awareness about how to improve learning and teaching through innovative and effective uses of technology.

I'm guessing that the folks who visit this blog believe in the incredible power of using technology when in the hands of students and teachers. We all are so busy making a difference in the local roles we play in schools across the country, and sometimes it is difficult to take the time to do one more thing. However, it is critical for us all to take the extra step to tell our personal stories about the impact of using technology on our students - to our neighbors, school boards, and legislators. Policy makers are also very busy and cannot possibly be knowledgeable about everything. If we can help them understand a bit better, perhaps we could influence the decisions they make.

Please make your voice be heard by doing one or all of the following:

  • Tell everyone you know about how you use technology and how it affects students.

  • Be a little more public by writing a letter to the editor of your local paper, submitting an article to your school district's newsletter, posting your thoughts on Facebook, etc.

  • Participate in ISTE's "My Technology Story Contest."  If you do this, you might win a Kindle Fire!  Enter by April 23.

  • Set up a meeting with one of your representatives.  Sounds scary, but here are some tips to help you know what to do.

  • Send a letter to Congress via the Ed Tech Action Network.  This takes only 2-3 minutes!

Every voice matters. Together we can make a difference!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Mobile Learning Conference

The program has just been announced for the April 27 Mobile Learning Conference to be held at Kalamazoo RESA.  The conference is a joint project of MACUL, the REMC Association of Michiganand Kalamazoo RESA.  Registration, which includes breakfast and lunch, is only $65.  SB-CEU's will be offered.

Many of the sessions that were standing room only at the recent MACUL conference are being repeated at this event.  To see more information and to register for the conference, link here.

Sessions include:

10 Apps to Use in Your Classroom on Monday and Where to Find More!
A Day in the Life of a 1:1 Classroom (K-4)
A Single iPad Classroom- What Can I Do?
Apps Taskonomy: Digging Deeper into the Application of Apps
Beyond Angry Birds: Getting Productive with Your Mobile Device!
Branding Your Class Using Twitter Use Inside and Outside of the Classroom With Students Make Your Own Digital Textbook (Not in iBooks)
Can My Students With Special Needs Use an iPad?
Close Encounters of the App Kind
Creating an Interactive Whiteboard With Just an iPad
Creating Digital Content on the Mac
Digital Textbooks with iBooks Author
Flipping the Classroom Using Mobile Technologies
Flipping Your Classroom into the 21st Century
Fun with Socrative! Free, App-Based & Browser- Based Student Response System
I Have an iPad...Now What?
Increasing Access to Instruction for Students with Disabilities Using the iPad
IOS Management Options for Beginners
iPad Implementation and Roll Out: Everything You Need to Know
iPadding Around in the Elementary Classroom!!
iPads, Marzano, and McREL-Oh My!
iPads: Weapons of Mass Instruction!
Joining Our Students in the 21st Century: Using iMovie and iBooks in the Language Arts Classroom
Leveraging Your Android Phone to Improve Student Achievement
Managing IOS Devices
Managing Your Mobile Classroom
Moving Beyond the iPad as a Consumption Device
Moving Your “School” to a Global Learning Hub: It’s Inevitable!
Padding with a Purpose
Portable Mobile Devices and Peer Observation
Quick and Easy Formative Assessment Using Mobile Applications
Successful iPad Implementation from Beginning to End Educating the Mobile Generation-What Every School Should Consider Before Deploying a 1?1 Mobile Learning Program
Texting as a Tool: Using Cell Phones in the Classroom
The Flipped Classroom: Making Learning Possible Beyond 7:30-2:30
Using daqri and QR codes to take your class mobile
Using the iPad/iPod in the Special Education Classroom
What’s on Your iPad?
Which App for That?
Why You Want an iPad Instead of an Interactive Whiteboard

Thursday, February 2, 2012

iPad Apps for Special Education Students

Here are some iPad apps that were recommended by Randall Palmer from the Children's Institute, Verona, NJ.  I enjoyed seeing all the quick demos!

Communication Apps:

  • Scene Speak: This app allows you to take a picture and audio-lable the items. $10.  Works great with younger children.

  • Proloquo2go: a full-featured communication solution for people who have difficulty speaking.  Works great, but is expensive. $190

  • Verbally: An app that does what proloquo does.  Try the free version, which may be all that is needed.  There is an upgrade version for $99

  • Functional Communication System: This is new and has the advantage of using real images instead of stick figures.  $50

Social Skills:

  •  Sōsh:  is a mobile app designed to help ‘tweens, teens and young adults improve social skills. It is especially designed to be used by individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome.  Randy couldn't say enough about this app.  It is for high functioning students and is packed with options.  It includes a dictionary of idioms, talking strategies, recognizing feelings,  voice meter that is helpful in speech therapy, a shredder for ridding negative thoughts, and more.  $40

  • Stories to Learn:  Students can create their own social stories that include pictures and audio. $13.99

  • Conversation Builder:  Neat app! Students select responses  and record their voices. $9.99

  • Sharing Timer:  an animated timer with sound effects show kids when it’s time to take turns

  • Look in My Eyes:  A game-type format to help children learn to make eye contact. $2.99

Activity Schedules:

  • Chore Pad HD: an electronic checklist.  Can add rewards if you wish. $2.99

  • First Then Visual Schedule:  designed for caregivers to provide positive behavior support to increase independence and lower anxiety during transitions through different activities.  $9.99

  • Video Scheduler:  Blends activity schedules with video modeling. $12.99


  • Time timer:  A visual timer that would be helpful in any classroom.  $1.99

Misc Supports:

  • Read2Go by Bookshare: an accessible daisy e-book reader. $19.99

  • Constant Shopper: is visual shopping list with pictures of items  $2.99

  • Dragon Dictation: voice to text app that is very accurate.  Free!

  • Twin Calc: Two large screen calculators that work side-by-side.  $.99

Moms with Apps:  a catalog of great children's and family-friendly apps. Search by educational categories and age groups to discover new apps and developers. Check out their website for "Free app Friday" where vendors make their products available free for one day only.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Curriculum 21

Heidi Hayes Jacobs was a keynote speaker at FETC that I very much enjoyed due to her common sense suggestions.  She is the author of six books, most recently, The Curriculum Mapping Planner: Templates and Tools for Effective Professional Development, co-authored with Ann Johnson, a book available on ASCD.

Her message:  "We do not need educational reform.  We need new-form."  She believes that we are using 19th century schedules , 20th century curriculum,  and our students are 21st century learners.  The time to make changes is NOW, as the common core curriculum standards are implemented.

Strategic replacement of curriculum is what needs to be done.... short term replacements with long term vision.   Dr. Hayes Jacobs recommends for every school to do the following:  Have every teacher in the school choose one upgrade.  Example: convert a persuasive essay assignment into a persuasive videocast.  The move to the Common Core Curriculum standards is a huge opportunity to upgrade.  Think of the collective difference this could make if everyone made just one upgrade to their current instructional practice.

To help teachers identify their one upgrade, the Curriculum 21 Clearinghouse can be used.  Websites and web 2.0 applications have been reviewed and tagged with curriculum-friendly terms to make it easy for teachers to choose curriculum and topics.  It's a tremendous resource; check it out!


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Moving to Google Apps

I had the pleasure of attending a workshop with Rushton Hurley at the FETC Conference, "Google Docs and Forms in Gory Detail."  I enjoyed it and am feeling more confident than ever that moving to cloud computing and Google Apps is the right thing for my school district to do next year. 

According to Rushton, "The collaborative nature of Google is why we all should switch from Microsoft to Google."  Another teacher said  "Using Google Apps has been the best innovation in my career; there is not a more dynamic tool to impact student learning. "

It will be a change for our folks, and change is always difficult.  Users will have to make a shift when working with Google Docs.... Example: the home screen is just too huge.  However, once you remember to switch to using the Google tool at the top to search for files, it's not a big deal. 

I look forward to working with teachers in my district.  I learned some things that our teachers are going to love, such as  how to make a self-correcting quiz, how to take advantage of the data in Google lists when using spreadsheet, and providing feedback to students that they cannot throw away after looking at their grade. 

Some things I like about Google Apps (short list):

  • I like the convenience of being able to work on a file on one device and open it up and continue on another without ever having to hit a save button! 

  • I can work on a project with someone who lives far away in real time.

  • There is less email!  Revisions are saved without having to send the latest version to other team members.

  • One username and password for a whole slew of applications.

  • Once you set up the people you want to share files with in a collection, you're done; all you need to do to share with the same group is drop a file in the collection.

Some things I still need to figure out:

  • How to work on Google Docs offline if I am in an area where I am unable to connect to the Internet.  At the conference I used Evernote when the wireless was down, but I heard there was a way to use Google Docs offline.

  • The toolbar options are limited when using a mobile device (tablet). There may be a way around that, too. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Infographics as a Creative Assessment

I attended one of Kathy Schrock's sessions at FETC and the topic was using infographics as a creative assessment.  I saw the value of using infographics with students before there was a term for it, so I huried to this session.  (I even subscribed to USA Today just so that I could cut out the "snapshots" that were always on page one and incorporate them into lessons with my 6th grade class.)  

Recently, I have been working quite extensively on the role of technology in the Common Core Curriculum Standards.  I know that using infographics could be extremely useful as a means to:

  • Integrate information using multimedia

  • Write with formatting and illustrations

  • Collect info from multiple sources

  • Create technical information in a visual format

  • Understand and use sources in acceptable ways, following copyright laws

  • Strategically use multimedia in presentations

  •  Translate quantitative/technical words to a visual form

What are infographics, you ask? 

 See Kathy's intro video below (2.5 min) and then take a look at all of her examples and how-to's.

Infographics as a Creative Assessment from Kathy Schrock on Vimeo.

 Her extensive list of resources can be found here.

Software, sites, and tools to create infographics:

I challenge all educators to look around for infographics in their day-to-day lives and to think of ways to help students understand and create them for themselves!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Walled Lake Schools Spice it Up! Technology Conference

Every year, just before school starts, the Walled Lake Consolidated School District hosts a technology conference. The conference is planned, organized, and facilitated by Walled Lake staff for Walled Lake staff. This past August, a huge wind storm blew through the area the night before the conference.  The morning of the conference, we discovered that there was no power at the hosting school, so we had to cancel it.  Hundreds of teachers and administrators were disappointed to find out that their yearly dose of tech medicine was not available. 


The planning team was determined to reschedule the conference for an upcoming Saturday. This proved to be more challenging than we figured. We needed to work around "big" football games, holidays, and the schedule of our keynote speaker. Rescheduling for a Fall Saturday was impossible! We couldn't find a date until January 21, 2012.  Therefore, the organizing and planning process needed to start all over, and we did the work we needed to do.  We soon discovered that over 200 people registered to attend, which is unheard of for a local conference held on a Saturday.  When a winter storm was predicted to come through the night before, we just could not believe it.  The storm turned out to be just a few inches of snow, and we had power. Hooray! 


Our Keynote speaker, Dr. Rebecca Harris, General Motors' Social Media Strategist, delivered a perfect message to a perfect day. She explained the importance of social media in the business world, and challenged the teachers and administrators attending the conference to personally experience the worlds of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin. This is an important first step that is critical as we prepare our students the important skills they will need to survive in the world they are currently living in. 


The Walled Lake teacher leaders delivered a smorgasbord of learning opportunities for their peers. I believe that our home-grown method of providing professional develment is tops. People can reach out to their peers to ask questions and ask for advice. "If he/she can do it at that school with the same resources, then I can, too!"  


Our little conference garnishes professional relationships, provides needed encouragement, and tweeks learning that promotes the kinds of skills that our students require to survive in the world they will live in after they leave us, their college years and beyond. I am so proud of the teacher leaders who volunteer their time and share their talents to help make the Walled Lake Consolidated School District the best place to educate children.