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Thursday, February 26, 2015

KySTE and our first Edtech Share Fair!

As I desperately try to thaw out, I look ahead to March, which will bring warmer weather and some busy times with it.  Today I want to highlight two events that happen next month, KySTE's spring regional edtech conference and our inaugural Shelby County Edtech Share Fair.

(Quick side note:  both of these events are on Watson's World under the "District PD Opportunities" page.  I update this page periodically.  Here's a link.)


KySTE is the local regional chapter of ISTE.   Every spring at the Galt House in downtown Louisville, KySTE hosts the largest Kentuckiana edtech conference of the year.  I have had the privilege of attending as well as presenting at the conference several times.

This year's March 4-6 conference theme is "Welcome to the Future."  I am attending all three days and presenting at two sessions: one on augmented reality (Thursday, March 5, 10:30 am, Coe Room) and another about the construction of Southside Elementary (Friday, March 6, 10:30 am, Coe Room).  Southside just opened in August 2014 and features some of the most sophisticated intelligent classrooms in the district. The Southside presentation will be a group effort, and features Tommy Hurt (Shelby CIO), Kerry Whitehouse (Assistant Superintendent of Operations), and Susie Burkhardt (principal of Southside).  Several Shelby County instructional coaches and teachers are attending the conference as well, and I can't wait for us to share what we will discover at the sessions.

For a list of #KySTE15 session topics, click here.

Edtech Share Fair

This week, we began to officially beat the drums for our first ever Edtech Share Fair on Thursday, March 26 from 4:00 to 5:30 pm at the district's new Learning Center next to Southside Elementary.   I'll share our "press release" with links to more information; I will embed our Smore flyer and our ThingLink page underneath.

Be sure to get your tickets ASAP!

Step right up, step right up!  Our inaugural Edtech Share Fair is coming to the new Learning Center at Southside Elementary on March 26, 2015, 4:00 to 5:30 pm.  Nine teachers from around the district (elementary, middle and high school in several different content areas) will set up their “station booths” and give short presentations on various tools, as well as lead mini-discussions with audience members.  Hear how they have integrated their edtech into their classrooms and impacted student learning, while getting a chance to visit our newest district space.

But this is no typical PD!  With Adam Watson as your carnival barker, be prepared to rotate through only the stations you select in the order that you want.   There may even be some popcorn on this midway of learning.  So come one, come all!  Help make our first Edtech Share Fair a success!

To get your FREE ticket, please visit our Eventbrite page

To take a virtual tour of our Edtech Share Fair, explore this Thinglink page

For a Edtech Share Fair FAQ and a preview of the nine presenters and their tools, see this Smore flyer:

Be sure to follow our event hashtag: #scsharefair

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Snowbound but still learning

Brrrr.  Day #4 of our Kentuckiana snowmaggedon.  In Shelby County, we announced today's closing with some flair:

Here's a fun fact: Kentucky is "the first state to tackle the problem on a statewide basis," and several districts are piloting snowbound learning days.  When a snow day occurs, students know to log in and get their assignments.  (For those with tech equity issues, a "hard copy" packet is provided before the expected snow day or provided to the student when they return.)  The big question, of course, is: will they do it?  As always, students are willing to meet and exceed expectations.   I actually wonder if students prefer the personalized, individual, comfortable learning they can achieve at home rather than the desks in a row, bell-driven experience that occurs for most of our schools. (I think I can guess the answer.) How can we replicate that experience inside our schools?  (For further reading, Kentucky's pilot program is detailed in this national news story, and another article discusses how Lawrence County uses Google Classroom to make "no school" into "snow school.")

Here in Shelby County, several of our teachers and principals are using Twitter to communicate assignments, expectations and/or use of technology to continue learning at home.  Here is a sampling:

Whenever we return to the brick-and-mortar buildings (tomorrow? Monday?  April 24th???), I hope that we continue to find innovative ways to blur the boundaries of where and when learning can occur.  Until then, stay warm inside your igloos and be careful on the roads!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

TUIT: Kate Herrick and Lillie Hall, WMS

I arrived at Wright Elementary on Monday and have been settling into my new embedded home for the next three weeks: the library.   That means it's time for a new Instagram photo!

A photo posted by Adam Watson (@watsonedtech) on
Meanwhile, as I just begin my whole-school PD and plan for some classroom observations with the Jets, I wanted to give one more West Middle School #ShelbyTUITshoutout.  As I mentioned in previous entries, WMS had an unusual amount of teachers that paired together to tackle an edtech tool....which leads us to English teachers Kate Herrick and Lillie Hall.  Ms. Herrick is a first year teacher, working with veteran educator Ms. Hall.  They have partnered together to integrate Edmodo into their classrooms.

For those that don't know, Edmodo is a Learning Management System (LMS).   Student sign up is simple, and teachers can easily reset passwords of enrolled students.  In Edmodo, a teacher can make and assign a quiz, create assignments and have students submit work, have discussions via forum posts, send alerts of upcoming deadlines and important news, and maintain a calendar of events.   Last but not least, a teacher can upload files in a library so digital media can be shared.

But there are other uses for Edmodo.  As Ms. Herrick explains, "In my instruction, I plan to use Edmodo both inside and outside of class to allow students to respond to written prompts or to watch short clips, view images, or read short texts to develop background knowledge for class the following day." In other words, Edmodo will help create a blended and flipped classroom experience.

The site also continues to improve.  There is now an Edmodo "app store" (some free, some for a fee) that allows another level of interaction with and between students.  Recently, Edmodo added a built-in assessment tool called Snapshot that can automatically generate Core Content-related questions and give teachers valuable data on their students' proficiency.

An overall class example of Snapshot results.

Still, some parents may balk at Edmodo because of its perceived social media appearance, especially for younger students.  Ms. Herrick addressed these concerns in a letter to parents, which read in part:

Edmodo can be accessed through downloading the app or simply by visiting Edmodo looks like Facebook, making it familiar and exciting for students, but it is not a social media site. Some of the features include:

1.  Students can direct message me, the teacher, at any time with questions or for homework help; however, students cannot message each other. This is a great way to open up communication between me and students without offering a “social media” type communication between students.
2.   Edmodo allows for online discussion, giving students an authentic audience for their writing and an opportunity to engage in written communication with each other.  As a class, we have established norms for what our “cyber behavior” should look like. If students cannot follow the norms, they will lose privileges of Edmodo and will be faced with appropriate consequences, just like with any other unacceptable behavior in the classroom.

3.      My favorite feature of Edmodo is that it allows guardians access to see what both I and the student post on the site. For privacy reasons, guardians can see only what their individual students respond. I will soon be reaching out to guardians with directions on how to access Edmodo with a “parent code.”

I agree with Kate on #3: when I used Edmodo the last few years I was a high school English teacher, this was also one of my favorite features. Each student that enrolls in a class gets a corresponding parent code (accessible by the teacher), so a parent can register and see his/her child's Edmodo classes on their own.  I posted what we did in class every day, not only so absent students could figure out what they missed on their own, but so parents of struggling students could see what we were up to in order to support their child.

There are certainly other LMS's that are more powerful; to give but two examples, Blackboard and Canvas by Instructure are used in higher education yet are increasingly seen in K-12.  Few are as user-friendly as Edmodo, however, and by partnering with other webtools like Edpuzzle, make Edmodo even more compelling.

As our 1:1 student device initiative begins next school year, we will be able to utilize tools like Edmodo even more in an "always online" environment.  Kudos to Kate Herrick and Lillie Hall for starting to experiment with that environment now.  Congrats for your #ShelbyTUITshoutout!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Lenovo Yoga: fixing your audio for HDMI connection

The new Southside Elementary, which just opened in August 2014, is unique in our district when it comes to technology.  As they built the school, they made sure that input plates to the new projectors reflected current standards.  Therefore, one of the ways you can hook up to the projector is via HDMI.

Yesterday, as I was preparing for some PD I will have here on Feb. 13 (topics include Google Forms, Augmented Reality, and SMART Board power tips), I plugged in my Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga device to a SMART board.  First, in order for the SMART Board to work as a touchscreen and use the Notebook '11 software, you need to plug the Yoga via a USB cord to the input plate.  Here's the first hurdle: you need to use the USB on the RIGHT side of the Yoga or you will get an error message.  Next, you need the display to show up on the screen. The Lenovo Yoga has a mini-HDMI port on the right side, whereas the wall plate has a normal size HDMI input.  This leads us to the second hurdle: make sure you pick up a mini-HDMI to regular size HDMI cord (one online store with good prices is here).

Now, I got the display on the screen, and the SMART board's touch capability was working fine.   However, I could not get my sound to come through the room's speakers!  So that leads us to the final hurdle: you need to update your Lenovo's drivers to get both video AND audio to output via your HDMI cable.

  1. Go to the Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga driver website.
  2. Look for the "Conextant CX20751 Audio Driver for Windows 8.1 (64 bit)" (see picture below).
  3. Download and install the driver.  This will take a few minutes and require a restart of the Lenovo Yoga.
  4. After a successful installation, there is nothing you should have to do; when your HDMI is hooked to a display, both video and audio should automatically work.

Two final thoughts before I end this entry:

  • If you are having other issues with your Lenovo, check out some previous Edtech Elixirs entries.
  • The driver fix above will need to be done regardless of what display device your Lenovo Yoga is hooked up to via HDMI.  For example, if you plug it up to your HDTV, you still need to update the driver or the sound will not come through the TV's speakers.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Quick Key

Ahh, Scantron.  They have been a mainstay of many teachers' formative or summative assessments over the years, especially when multiple choice activities are concerned. I remember taking my cards to the grading machine in the teacher's lounge (sometimes waiting several minutes for my turn!), and when I slid each student's answer sheet in, I prayed for near silence (meaning few if any misses) and hoped to not hear the staccato click-clack revealing a student had a number of wrong answers.

Of course, Scantron is rife with problems.  The grading machine itself is not free, and in my experience prone to frequent breakdowns.  The cards themselves were always guarded and in short supply, as their cost was also not insignificant.   Assuming the student marks were readable in the first place, the machine will still occasionally read answers incorrectly.    It reminds me about clickers and why I hate them so much -- why spend all that money on equipment and waste time trying to use them, especially if they are not reliable?

Enter Quick Key, a free app and site that (much like Plickers) technically requires only one mobile device and photocopied "Quick Tickets" for students to answer on.  Never go back to Scantron again!

How does it work?  Go to the website to register for free, then download the free iOS app (Android is coming in the future) to your iPad or iPhone.  You will need to log into the app using your account credentials; info is synced between your device and your online account.

On the site itself, you can create multiple classes along with student rosters for each.  (Student ID numbers can be either automatically generated or you can assign.)  You have two choices when it comes to quizzes.  There is an advanced quiz builder through the site, complete with plugging in pictures; when finished, the quiz is saved as a PDF you can print out for students.  A second option is through the app itself; think of this as just inputing your answer key to correspond with a hard copy quiz you already have made.

Once a quiz is created, you will need to download, photocopy, and hand out the Quick Tickets to students so they can take your quiz.  (You can see that the Student ID number is important to keep track of individual results.)  Students fill out the Ticket and return it to you.  Using your device and the app, choose the correct quiz and class, then scan each Ticket individually to automatically grade and see the results in real time; later, you can export an Excel report of the individual student results.  The scanning and report generation is surprisingly quick.

Here is a short video that gives an overview of Quick Key:

How could you use it?   If you are limited in student devices and don't have a 1:1 environment, Quick Key can still save you tons of time grading and assessing multiple choice answers.

Downsides?  Quick Key only works for multiple choice and not open response assessments. Although multiple choice tests certainly can be higher order and challenging, be careful on over relying on these as your only kind of assessment!

Do you use Quick Key?  Talk about it in the Comments below.