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Friday, August 29, 2014

TUIT: Brandon Clark, SSE

As I've said in a previous post, Southside Elementary is in a brand new building, and inside is a host of sparkling new technology.  The installation process of intelligent classrooms is finally complete, and as district personnel go through room by room to make sure everything works as advertised, teachers are just now beginning to let the edtech rip.

While on that upswing, today I observed Brandon Clark, a second grade teacher here at Southside.  There are great edtech educators here, but the totality of the way Brandon integrates tech into learning (and in particular, uses the tool I will describe below) warrants him a #ShelbyTUITshoutout!

When I entered his room, I first noticed a learning objective projected on his SMARTboard, which made the focus of the lesson clear.  His students were doing station work.  Some were "analog": reading print books silently, reading a print book aloud to a partner, writing a response in their composition notebooks.  But others worked digitally.  A group sat on the floor around the teacher's MacBook Air, watching a story video play while listening through wireless headphones.  And then, the wow moment happened.

I noticed the room's second projector had the class's ClassDojo site up.  (More about ClassDojo in a moment.)  Clearly a computer was AirPlaying to the projector's AppleTV, but I couldn't figure out where.  So I asked Brandon.

"Oh, it's from an iPad," he said, motioning me to a table.  An iPad sat in front of a second-grader.  She was reading a print book in her hand, and occasionally looking around, then down, touching the screen. "She's our Dojo Accountant for the week and helps us keep track and assigns points."

What?  I was admittedly dumbfounded.  What a wonderful leadership opportunity for a student!  What a way to make technology (literally) be on all sides of a classroom! And did I already mention this was a class of second graders??

To top it off, Brandon and I talked about the newly installed 3D document camera that he's already used in class.

Mr. Clark, you deserve your #ShelbyTUITshoutout!  Keep pushing the envelope of integrated edtech.

What is ClassDojo?  Basically, it's a digital way to track behaviors, actions and attitudes of students.  Besides a site, it's also available as an app.  Students are given colorful, cartoony avatars and the teacher (or a Dojo Accountant!) gives or takes points away.  Areas of assessment include Curiosity, Taking a Risk, or Teamwork.  Point distribution is saved, progress can be tracked individually or as a whole class, and results can easily be shared with parents.  The reward for students is cashing in their points for upgrades determined by the teacher, such as changing their avatar or a real-world gift such as having lunch with the teacher.  I can't say I've personally seen its use in high school, but it's a favorite among elementary and middle school teachers.

ClassDojo has been around for years, but you haven't checked it out recently, give it a look.  A recent upgrade is a separate iOS app that works parallel with it: ClassDojo Messenger.  You can communicate in real-time, even sending pictures or a voice message.  (Through the site, you can also send parents attachments of other files.) You can also broadcast a note to all parents.  You cannot send a message to a student, or teacher to teacher. A nifty extra is the ability to see when parents read the message. In fact, the ClassDojo Messenger App can work by itself without setting up a class on the site.

TeacherCast recently interviewed ClassDojo to talk about their app, and the last three minutes of the clip covers other new changes with their site.  The video is embedded below.

Do you use ClassDojo and/or their message app?  What age level?  What do you think of the site?  Be sure to leave your comments below.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Odds and Ends: YouTube, MacBook Air, and another Shelby edtech rollout!

Brief bits of info to share:

Yesterday afternoon I was invited to Martha Layne Collins High School as MacBook Airs were given to the staff.  The principal Mr. Leeper and Shelby CIO Tommy Hurt had kind words of introduction, which I humbly accepted. (You can check out Mr. Leeper's blog here.)  MLC HS is my next embedded school, so I'll be returning there in a few weeks....

I have a new how-to video on using your webcam to record video and upload it, all done inside YouTube and your browser.  You can view it below.

Lastly, for those that one a handy one-sheet of Mac keyboard shortcuts, I found one here for the Maverick OS that is extremely useful.  Save, Evernote, and/or print this sucker!  (It's also posted under "My Favorite Edtech" on my district page.)

Until next time!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Sara Kajder (@skajder) is an educator and author.  Back in my U of L college days, I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Kajder as one of my education professors.  Web 2.0 was in its infancy, but Sara impressed me with her ability to integrate literacy with (what was then brand new!) edtech.

Recently, Dr. Kajder reached out on Facebook to her teacher Friends and asked them to share how they plan their classes, for the benefit of her pre-teaching students.  The way she did so, however, introduced a new tool to my toolbelt: FlipGrid.

How does it work?  A teacher sets up an account and creates a Grid (think of it as a class, section or period).  For each Grid, you can create Questions to pose to your students.  For each Question, the students record a video Response up to 90 seconds in length, which is uploaded to the site; students can also view the Responses of others.   Each Question has its own sharable unique URL. You can create as many Questions per Grid as you want, and there is no limit to the amount of Responses you can post.

After a Prezi on flipped and blended learning, I created my own FlipGrid and asked teachers to share a tool they planned to try out in the classroom.  (Kara Clark of Southside Elementary was the first to respond to the Question!)

The interface is one of the simplest I've seen.  No student accounts or logins are necessary; just go to the Question's link.  Click on the plus sign, and once you give the site permission to use your webcam and mike, you can be recording in seconds. A timer counts down your 90 seconds as you record, and you keep doing it over until you are happy with the end result.

How could you use it?  As I showed with Dr. Kajder and myself, getting a different kind of feedback for PD, and create sharing across a school or district, could be a new way of  interacting with teachers. This is a fantastic and engaging way to get feedback from your students -- ALL students.  You know the one that won't pick up a pencil?  Or an exceptional child that has difficulty typing? Or an ELL student that is perhaps shy to share out loud in class?  Perhaps a discussion starts on FlipGrid, and continues in the classroom. Or have students watch at least two other responses and uptake what was said by posting on an online forum.  For flipped classrooms, students could watch your content on YouTube or a TED talk and their FlipGrid response is the accountability piece to make sure they did the outside classwork.

Downsides?  On my MacBook Air, I found that FlipGrid worked best with Safari.  (I could not record in Chrome.)  I tried to access a FlipGrid Question with my Android smartphone via a Firefox browser; I could watch Responses but I could not record one. According to their FAQ, there is an iPad app, with iPhone and Android apps in the works for 2015.  Responders will therefore need an iPad or a webcam and mike for desktop computers (any recent laptop will have both built in).  You can get a 21 day free trial to try it out, but afterwards it is $65 a year.  You are limited to 5 Grids during your 21 day trial, and 10 Grids on the K-12 paid account.   The Questions (and therefore, the video Responses) are not truly private, since anyone with the link can access, so I recommend getting permissions from parents, especially from those under 13.

Give FlipGrid a try, and if you do, please share your experience in the comments below.

[Update 5/3/17: Flipgrid now offers a limited free single grid option for teachers, Flipgrid One.  Be sure to visit their site for the latest price structures and options.]

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

TUIT: James Wampler, SCHS

And our first ever  #ShelbyTUITshoutout goes to James Wampler, an eighth grade science teacher at Shelby County High School, for suggesting the web tool Educanon.

First, a quick history.  I met James in mid-July in Shelby's New Teacher Induction. We quickly began chatting about edtech, and he asked, "Have you ever heard of Educanon?"  And I had to admit, nope.  Mr. Wampler told me he used it often in class and he was enthusiastic in its abilities and usefulness.

Short tangent: It was a great lesson about humility, as I had been on the job all of a few weeks and the first tool someone asked about was news to me.  But that's what I've said from the beginning: there are experts EVERYWHERE in our district. Now back to our originally scheduled programming.

Educanon is an interesting hybrid tool.  First, you choose existing video content from YouTube or other sources like Vimeo. Next, you add content in the form of multiple choice questions and other interactive choices at certain timed moments of the video; your finished product is called a "Bulb."  During the video, the Bulb stops at the points when an interactive moment was embedded. and students must read the text, answer questions, etc. before they okay it to proceed.  In an environment that is somewhat LMS-like (Learning Management System; Edmodo is a basic one), you can put these Bulbs in various classes for students to find and interact with online.  The results of their "quizzes" are saved for later data analysis.

You can imagine the power of Educanon in a flipped or blended experience; it builds in accountability to make sure each student not only watches the video outside of class or independently, but also comprehends the video and does critical thinking.  (You can see why I was eager to include it as a good starter tool for a flipped/blended classroom Prezi.)  However, a teacher could even use it a different way to present media.  At each stopping point, the teacher can answer questions by having students raise hands to vote for each choice, so you get a quick pulse of the room.  Or the teacher can have the students reflect and process on the portion of video they just watched.

You can have pretty good functionality with the free version of Educanon.  For $80 a year, you can get more interactive options, such as free response and automatic grading of short answer questions.  A bit pricey, but if you end up using it often, it may be worth it.

So, thank you to Mr. Wampler for putting another tool in my toolbox!  If you try or currently use Educanon, be sure to comment below with your thoughts. And if you have questions, find Mr. Wampler in the hallways of SCHS or give him an email.

Celebrating Teachers Integrating Edtech

As I said in my first Edtech Elixirs post, despite my position as District Technology Integration Coach, I don't want to imply that I am "the" expert on edtech.  I am one of many; there is expertise throughout this district! In fact, as part of a bigger district initiative, we at Shelby County want to celebrate the many levels of expertise on, and willingness to try, edtech.  We succeed because we ALL are in the process of becoming edtech leaders and share what works and what doesn't.

That said, learning, trying and integrating edtech can sometimes be a daunting task.  Sure, it has a multitude of positive benefits; if it didn't, why bother?  But I certainly understand the trepidation of a teacher who worries that technology is "just" another thing to do when you have a chance to "get around to it."  As a former classroom teacher until just a few months ago, I completely get it.  You are busy, and don't want your time wasted with difficult tools that aren't worth the investment in time.

With this in mind, through this blog and my Twitter account, I want Shelby County educators to learn from each other by hearing about district teachers who integrate a certain edtech tool.  If that makes you:

  • aware of the diversity and depth of our teachers district-wide who effectively use edtech
  • interested in a tool you haven't heard of before
  • put a name to a tool, and you reach out via email or in person to ask the teacher a question about it
  • all of the above
....then this promotion works!

So, how will I promote and reward these teachers?  Well, I wish I could actually give them a "round TUIT" * for "getting around to" using edtech alongside all the other strategies and effective teaching methods that are part of the Shelby DNA. Instead, a shoutout will have to do. The hashtag #ShelbyTUITshoutout will be used to cheer on a Teacher Using Integrated Technology in a memorable way.  Perhaps the tool is new to me, or the teacher is an awesome integrator, or both.  Look for tweets and an occasional corresponding blog post to highlight the particular tool used.

Be looking for the first #ShelbyTUITshoutout this week!

* I first got the idea of "round TUITs" from an item in Trainer's Warehouse (a wonderful resource for coaching items, BTW). But the way I use the acronym of TUIT above is original to me, as far as I know. :)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thumb Drives and Photocopiers

I made two more "how to" videos on my district page.  If you have a newer photocopier at your school, chances are it has at least a USB input, which means you can insert your thumb drive.  This gives two options: printing docs from the thumb drive, and scanning documents to the thumb drive  The last option has come in EXTREMELY handy for me.  Instead of, say, scanning a twelve page packet one page at a time, I can use the photocopier's hopper and scan the whole packet to my thumb drive in seconds.  The link to the Video page is in the embedded tweet below.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

First Day at Southside, and an AirPlay tip

I hope everyone in Shelby County (and any of our surrounding district friends on the same calendar) had a great first day with students!  Today was not just one, but two "firsts" for me.  Not only have I never "opened" a new school, but except for my own personal trip taking my oldest daughter to kindergarten five years ago, I've never had an objective opportunity to see young students actually approaching a classroom for their very first official day of school.

Let's begin by talking about the brand new Southside Elementary (SSE) building.  Yes, there is still some finishing touches to be completed, such as the gym, playground and landscaping, but inside the building it is beautiful and already humming like a well-oiled engine.  And this staff has such passion and grace.  As you can tell from open house on Monday night. . .

 And speaking of the teachers, that's a nice segue into my other "first."  What a wonderful privilege it was to see the kindergarten teachers compassionately soothe the tears (of a few children, but also more than a few parents!) of the people approaching their doors.  Imagine the awe-inspiring moment!  The next crucial twelve years of their lives began today.  With a simple stuffed animal or gentle encouragement, I saw time and again a Southside teacher coax the uncoaxable from a hallway of doubt into a classroom of confidence.  I'm not ashamed to say I got a bit misty watching it myself.  And yes, I think about my youngest daughter making the same first day trip a few years from now.  Time doth fly.

Moving on to some edtech.  At SSE, we are working through some new building jitters of the MacBook Airs playing nice with our state network.  The good news is, we are not alone in the state, and Apple reps are aware and working behind the scenes with our own wonderful IT staff to help fix things.  (If anyone else in Kentucky or elsewhere is having issues, please comment below or tweet me!)  In some cases, the issues are related to having the correct settings in the device.  So let me end this blog post with a tip on putting out one of these fires:  getting AirPlay to correctly display in real time what is on your MacBook Air.

If the projector screen you are AirPlaying to looks "off" or doesn't display what your MacBook Air device screen looks like, check the following:

1. After turning on AirPlay, go to System Preferences (the grey gears icon, usually in the bottom dock).
2.  Click Display.
3.  Check the middle "tab," Arrangements.  Make sure "Mirror Displays" is checkmarked.  If that fixes things, great! If not...
4.  Under the tab Display, see if "Built In Display" is chosen.  If not, do so and see if that fixes the issue.
5.  Sometimes, when all else fails, restart the MacBook Air and restart the AppleTV (if you must, unplug the power cord of the AppleTV, wait 5-10 seconds, and plug it back in to force a reboot).  When everything loads back up and you see the AppleTV default screen on the projector, try AirPlaying again and see if it works correctly.

And with Day Two tomorrow, our edtech journey of 2014-2015 continues!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Innovate, Integrate, Motivate

It is hard to believe Shelby Schools begin in five days!  Counting down...

The title of today's post is three key words for any edtech educator, and the theme of Thursday's inaugural Oldham County Schools Educational Technology Conference. (That is a mouthful!  I'll call it OCSET-Con for short.)  Besides presenting about Teacher Technology Tools, I also attended several sessions and participated in the Twitter backchannel at #ocedtech14, and it's not too late to use the hashtag to review many of the tweets and pictures from the conference.

There were some great presenters and interesting edtech finds.  Here are a few of my favorite moments:

  • The keynote was done virtually.  (The speaker, Richard Byrne, is well known for his blog Free Technology for Teachers.)  I was worried if my attention would stray without an actual human presence walking around, but Byrne was clever, concise, and engaging.  Among his edtech shares was a MIT App Inventor site that students have used to emulate their own smartphone apps.  Talk about real world use of technology!
  • Tobie Keown (ECE teacher in the Oldham district) presented on Google Drive -- in particular, Google Forms.  She blogs as Mae's Morsels, and her Google Slides presentation and accompanying video are located in this post.  One interesting idea she had: make a table in Google Sheets that can be edited by other users, share a link to the doc with students, and have them enter their thoughts (perhaps as an entrance/exit slip) into individual boxes.  If numbered or color coded, it can be easy to tell each student which box to use.
  • Courtney Perkins from South Oldham High School discussed Socrative.  They've recently upgraded their service and this formative assessment / data collection tool has many new features, including automatically saving results in your teacher "dashboard" and allowing quizzes to continue running overnight or for days -- useful for a flipped classroom or homework.
  • Christi Unker (@cunker), a librarian at Oldham County High School, shared her work with Animoto.  Creating student accounts that can be monitored by a teacher can be time-consuming, but the program is easy, intuitive, and create fantastic, professional looking videos by simply uploading your photos.  Lots of fun templates and royalty-free music are included on the site.
  • Last but not least, I was flattered to present the same session twice due to enrollment interest in my first "slot" making it standing room only.  Besides the ten tools, I gave a "bonus" in the form of beginning the session with a Kahoot quiz, which is fast becoming one of my favorite new edtech tools and was a hit with the audiences.
After the conference, the day ended with a first for me: after trying and failing to make it week after week, I was finally able to participate in a regional Twitter chat.  #kyedchat happens every Thursday at 8:00 PM EST.  (On this particular night, it was moderated by James Allen [@TLJamesA], another librarian at OCHS and one of the leader/organizers of OCSET-Con.)  Educators, I'm telling you -- if you don't yet recognize the power of Twitter and how it can increase both your PLN and your knowledge, participate in one.  You will become a convert. 

Congrats to all who organized OCSET-Con, and thanks for all the new edtech knowledge to start my school year!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Hello and Welcome!

Welcome, and thank you for checking out my blog!  I have been involved in education since 2005, but never seriously tried to blog before.  My "About Me" profile sums up my educational background succinctly, but I will add that becoming the first District Technology Integration Coach of Shelby County is definitely the motivation to begin blogging now. Therefore, I am committed to making meaningful and ongoing posts, but most importantly, making my blog a useful resource for others.

One of the hardest things you have to do when creating a blog is naming it.  So I ruminated and brainstormed for quite a while before coming up with Edtech Elixirs.  It represents several things:

  • My love of Joseph Campbell.  I am fascinated with many ideas of Campbell's, and one of his most famous is his belief of the "monomyth" -- a pattern that cuts across cultures thousands of miles and years apart, the Hero's Journey that many mythical characters have been through, and a wonderful metaphor for our own journey through life.  The goal of the Hero's Journey is some kind of "saving experience" or "gift," often called the Elixir.  While it may not actually be a magic potion in the story, the key point is that it has transformative qualities that changes the hero.  So here, I'm making a metaphorical comparison to the heroic journey of a teacher in a classroom, looking for a transformative experience in the form of our present day magic -- technology!  Through my blog posts, I hope to address: What are edtech tools that can transform my teaching and enable me to do things in ways I could not do before?  What are ways that technology can make my classroom more engaging and effective? And last but certainly not least, how will technology positively impact the learning of my students?
  • There is no one magic tool.  I used the plural "elixirs" very intentionally.  Firstly, I obviously hope to introduce and discuss many different apps, devices, and Web 2.0 sites throughout my future blog posts.  Secondly, elixirs can sometimes be elusive, and we must be wary of any device, site, app, etc. that overpromises a "one size fits all" solution.  There are (and should be) many different ways to incorporate technology in your classroom, and in fact, technology is but one tool you should use to further the learning of students. Indeed, speaking of tools, always remember...
  • Technology is only a tool.  There is a deeper truth about the Hero's Journey.  While the hero may think the Elixir (Excalibur, the Holy Grail, Odysseus's return to Ithaca) is the true purpose of the trip, it is not.  As often said to the point of cliche, the journey itself is more important.  The discoveries you make, the change you become (or the "becoming" of the students you empower around you!) during your educational journey is much more enduring than the fact that you used, say, TodaysMeet in a lesson. Teachers should focus on certain tools to enact certain effects -- intentionality is always key in successful teaching -- but never lose sight of the greater academic goals and the "why?" of your unit and lesson.  Using edtech only for edtech's sake will not win points or facilitate critical thinking.  You are not a "techer" but a teacher.
As I wrap up my introductory blog post, let me say specifically to the Shelby County educators whose rank I have now joined -- I'm humbled to become part of your district, excited to be part of your edtech journey, and thankful in advance for how much your suggestions and expertise will enrich my journey as well.