Saturday, December 26, 2015

Constructing Meaning

Instructional Technologists and TOSA’s often hear “I want to include technology in my lesson, but I don’t know how to?” It starts with constructing meaning. Think about teaching as being the general contractor at a work site. You have a series of employees that you want to help you build something, let’s say a building.

  1. What is it that you want to teach? Check for prior or background knowledge. Make sure the foundation of your building is solid before you start construction.
  2. How would you normally introduce that topic? Look at the blueprint (lesson plan) that you have used in the past.
  3. What do you want the students to know and or do at the end of the lesson? How should your building look like at the end?
  4. Find the tech tools to match those needs. You don’t need a chipping hammer to nail wood. If you don’t know which tools to use, Google it, YouTube it, check with your PLN and teacher friends.
  5. Remember that it’s not about just using technology, but it using it to further the students’ understanding of your subject area. Could you have shown the students a building and told them how it was made? Yes, but would it have the same impact on their learning?
  6. Add layers to your lesson. Your building will needs various floors, windows, kitchens, doors, etc. The more times you address one topic in different ways, the more likely all students will learn and retain the information. When you only address it once, you are likely to choose an activity that plays to your personal learning style, but how about all the other learning styles in the room?
  7. Innovate. Don’t just tell students, let them explore the topic for themselves. Let them create and invent a new solution to the problem. Let them get their hands dirty and learn from trial and error.
  8. Make real-world connections. Use the internet to reach out to professionals in the field that you are learning about.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Augmented Reality Makes Biology Come to Life

Quiver is an augmented reality app available for iOS and Android devices. Quiver has developed a series of coloring pages that with the help of augmented reality (AR) come to life.

This animal cell coloring page is free to download. First, you print out the coloring page, color it, and then scan the image using your phone or tablet with the Quiver app. The page conveniently comes with a QR code for you to download the app, if you don't have it already. The augmented reality aspect works without coloring the page, but it looks a lot better colored. It also makes it easier to identify the individual parts if they are colored differently. 

The educational potential of this app is amazing. Not only can you see the image in 3D, but the designers have included additional features to help students learn the parts of the cell. 

By clicking on the question marks the student can see the name of that particular part of the cell. It has quiz mode where it highlights a part of the cell and then asks the student to select the correct name. 

You can also click on the DNA symbol to see the DNA jump out of the cell. 

What an amazing learning opportunity for students to see their work come to life and being able to manipulate it in order to further understand it and learn its parts. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Periscope potential for educators

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Periscope is an app available on iOS and Android. It’s available in Google Play for Android tablets and phones, but not for Chromebooks.

Their slogan is “let's you explore the world through the eyes of somebody else”, a perfect description for what Periscope is all about.  It allows the user to video record live footage and share it with the world. Viewers can comment and interact with the person live and send hearts when they like what’s being said or shared. Periscope has a world map with pins that allows you to see how is currenting “scoping”, the term for currently hosting a Periscope.

When I tried it the first time I clicked on Alaska. I was able to see a Scope of a man that was on his way to work. You could see the piles of snow next to the road. Next, I clicked on Australia. There I watched as a man in Brisbane finished his hike before going to work. It was sunny and warm. There were many eucalyptus trees around. Quite a different view than what I had seen earlier in Alaska. It was exciting to see what was actually happening in two different sides of the world.

Potential for the classroom:

  • Teachers can scope their classes.
  • Scopes of field trips taken can help parents see what the kids were able to see and do.
  • Promote school clubs and sports.
  • View changes in weather, time, and climate around the world.
  • Get a glimpse at how people live in different countries.
  • Listen to a native speaker and have the teacher type up questions that the students might want to ask.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Skyping with another class

I had never tried Skype with another class. This year it was one of my goals for the year. What a beautiful experience. We skyped with a class in Peru. I met the teacher via Twitter and asked her if she was willing to have our classes connect. My students, while shy about using their Spanish skills, did ask some questions and were definitely engaged and excited about the experience. Our buddy class seemed equally excited to talk with us. They had skyped before, so the experience was more familiar for them. Our buddy class has been studying English as their foreign language. They had a little surprise for us. They sang Jingle Bells for us!

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Technology allows us to make world-wide connects that weren’t possible before. By making these connections, students see the value of the subjects they are learning and their importance.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Turn a Google Doc into a Form

A teacher recently said to me,  “I have quizzes that I’ve created in Google Docs, I’d like to make it a Google Form, but I don’t want to go through all the trouble of recreating it. Is there any solution that will make this easier?”

Yes, you will want to install the add-on Docs to Form. It allows you to select text from the Doc and insert it into a Google Form, along with answer options for your responses.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Twitter Reading Activity

In a language class students need to be able to read, write, speak, and learn about culture. How you do that is often very flexible and up to the teacher.

  1. Students created a new Twitter account for my class. They each gave me they Twitter handle.
  2. Students changed the language settings of their Twitter account.
  3. Students were told to follow on Twitter the list of best language tweeters. This list includes news, humor, people, and language learning.
  4. The warm-up exercise will sometimes includes instructions for students to choose an article from one of the people they were assigned to follow. Read it and tweet a reaction or comment about the article. They use my class hashtag which is #sweetbp1
  5. Once they are done, we have a class discussion about what they read. I was impressed with the variety of articles they read. They were very interested and engaged in the activity. Some of them chose health articles, current news, celebrity gossip, etc.

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Growth of Chromebooks in K-12 Classrooms

According to Futuresource Consulting 51% of the devices being used in the K-12 classrooms in the U.S. are Chromebooks. In Canada it’s 41%.

What does this mean for educators?
  • Teachers should become familiar with the Google Ecosystem. Schools that are not using Chromebooks are still using Gmail, Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Google Classroom.
  • Become familiar with uploading, using, and sharing documents that are saved in the Cloud.
  • Become familiar with what Chromebooks have to offer: quick wake up time, easily shareable among student accounts, free access to a variety of educational tools, personalized learning experience, etc.
  • Become familiar with the Chrome Web Store.
  • Know what an app, add-on, or extension is in a Chromebook and how to better use these to help your students gain a deeper understanding of your subject.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Allowing student choice

Technology provides us as educators an opportunity to customize and personalize learning. Think of your own experiences as a student. If a teacher would have given you the option between an assigned reading  or choosing to read one of these three options, in which one would you have been more interested? 

Customized learning was hard to accomplish in schools 10-20 years ago. It was much easier to have a one size fits all approach. However, we now know that this is not effective pedagogical approach and that a student's motivation will highly influence the performance outcome. 

Customization also allows for differentiation of learning. The high achieving student can be pushed to excel further while the one that needs additional support can receive it, without judgment. It's a new era in teaching where we can truly meet students where they are and help them to move forward. 

I realize that it isn't always possible to allow student choice. Sometimes the specific content limits the possibilities. However, we can make a conscious effort to provide these opportunities when possible. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Are teachers being asked the right questions?

Teaching teachers to include technology into their lessons takes time, practice, and patience. I often hear from administrators who are frustrated because their teachers are using technology to present information to the students and not for the students to actively learn. 

How can you motivate change? Start by asking the right questions. Instead of asking the teacher, "are you using technology", ask the teacher, "how are you using technology to enhance the students' knowledge of your content area"?

When I ask teachers this question, I often get a pause and a moment of reflection. They realize then that it's not about using technology itself, but using it in a way that enhances the students ability to understand the subject. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Fomenting Imagination and Creativity in Students

When I was little there was no internet. As an only child, I often found company in my own imagination. I remember trying to make a hot air balloon out of construction paper and a box, which clearly didn’t taken me up, up and away, but gave me many hours of entertainment. I look at my son who is the typical teenage boy who will die if his cell phone is not in his hand or gets stir crazy if he has to wait in line patiently for something.

I wonder, as parents and educators, are we encouraging the imagination of kids? Are we constantly giving students detailed rubrics of what their project should look like, or are we giving them the room to explore and create.

Education has changed greatly in the last few decades. Teachers are often focused on finishing the unit, book, preparing for testing, etc, that they lose sight of what is important. Of course learning specific per class and grade level is important, but the way in which we do it does not have to be static and routine.

Some resources to spark the imagination:

Global Cardboard Challenge

Monday, November 30, 2015

21st Century Pen Pals with WeSpeke

WeSpeke is a free service that allows foreign language teachers to connect with other classes around the world. Similar to a pen pal concept, the classes get paired with another class that would like to practice that particular language. This is a good way to connect with native speakers and motivate students to learn and practice the language. The teacher chooses how he/she wants the students to communicate with one another, whether via text, audio or video chat. This is a great tool for any language teacher that is wanting to use technology to further their students practice of a target language. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

MoocNote for video curation and notetaking

MoocNote  provides teachers with a place to store the YouTube, Google Drive, or Dropbox videos. If you teach the same subject every year and want a place to store the YouTube video that you used to explain a certain concept, this is the way to do it. You can add comments to the videos which can help you to remember how you used in class. Your notes are synced to specific times in the video, which can also be handy when lesson planning. You can easily share your video list with other teachers and your classes. A great organizational tool for the flipped classroom. 

If you're a Google user, Google's single sign-on makes it easy to create an account. Simply click on the red Google Plus button. Pick the Google account that you want to sign in with and you are automatically logged in. No need to create an account and password. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

No more copies

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I was very excited to hear from Nolan as he shared with me on Twitter about his Chromebook launch experiences. He was enjoying the amount of time he was saving by not having to make copies for his students. Online assessments are so much easier than the paper version. In fact, online assessments are even quicker than even grading with scantron answer sheets. Students can get their score back from the teacher much quicker. You can provide the student with more immediate feedback than what was ever possible before. Not to mention how much money a school can save on paper and it’s better for the environment.

If your school is a Chromebook school, I want to hear from you. Send me a tweet @bsweet321. Use hashtag #tiacc.  I want to hear about the great things that are happening in your Chromebook Classrooms.

Temporary Tech Tattoos

The company Chaotic Moon Studies is working on developing a temporary tattoo that has circuits, batteries, LED's, and sensors. They intend for them to be used for a variety of purposes, but primarily for the medical field. It can help a parent monitor the health of a child,  monitor the health of a soldier, and even his location. Long term possibilities for this temporary tech tattoo including the potential of using it as a form of payment. Instead of using your smart phone to pay for items, a merchant could scan your tattoo. 

Chaotic Moon Studios - Tech Tats from Chaotic Moon Studios on Vimeo.

Ed Leadership with 1:1 Devices

Education has definitely changed a lot in the last decade. Significant changes in the way we disseminate information to the students and how they learn and interact with the content. Teachers are finding engaging methods of teaching their content. Technology provides educators with so many new and exciting opportunities.

Educational leaders are still walking around the classroom and observing teachers, but are you seeing what you think you’re seeing?

  • A teacher sitting at their desk no longer means that the teacher isn’t engaged with the students and is busy doing something unrelated. With 1:1 teachers can be working collaboratively with the students, proofreading essays with the students, and adding to an online discussion.
  • Silence in the classroom doesn’t mean that students are not actively engaged in the lesson. Students are often quiet as they are searching for information and determining how best to showcase their knowledge with the use of technology. Silence often means that students are focused on the task at hand.
  • Connections are being made beyond the classroom walls, and this is a good thing. Students can connect, share, and relate to other students across the globe.
  • Students’ work is no longer covering the walls, but online. Bare walls doesn’t mean that students aren’t creating, thinking, and making.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My teacher doesn't teach

As the Technology Lead at my school, I hear not only what is happening with technology from the teacher’s perspective, but also from the students. I always find it fascinating how kids see our lessons. Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a student who was complaining about one of his teachers. He said, “my teacher doesn’t teach.” Concerned about what the student meant, I asked for more information. I asked the student to describe a normal day in the class of that particular teacher. The student went on to say that they have to watch videos for homework. The teacher doesn’t stand in front and explain things, instead, they work in small groups on activities and have learn on their own. I realized that the student was describing a flipped classroom where the teacher assigns videos outside of class so that the student can come in ready to apply the knowledge.


  • Explain to the students the strategy that you are using and why you are using it. In the example provided the student interpreted this technique as not teaching because it did not look like what they know as traditional teaching.
  • At times it will be more effective to wait until the end of the lesson and then ask the students why you used the strategy you used and what they have gained from it.
  • Writing objectives on the board doesn’t ensure that the students read it or understood it.
  • Make connections between what they are learning and why it influences them directly. How is it valuable to them.

4 Digital Notebook Options

In a 1:1 classroom you have an opportunity to use the device in a variety of ways and essentially become a paperless classroom. Digital notetaking will vary depending on the device that your school is using. 

Here are some ideas:

  1. Have an ongoing Google Doc. My students have an ongoing Google Doc that they open and access every day to write their bell work. At the end of the semester students submit their Google Doc to me through Google Classroom.
  2. Notebook for Class- Available in the Chrome Web Store. Anyone with a Google account can use it. Not limited to Google for Education users. Looks similar to an actual notebook with a spiral spine. Students can submit their notes taken in their notebooks to the teacher through the app.
  3. OneNote Online- Collaborate online. Helps productivity. Free version has limited capabilities.
  4. Evernote- Clip images that you see online quickly and takes notes about it. Take handwritten notes and save them in Evernote. Good tool for sitting at a meeting our conference and wanting to remember the information discussed.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

22 Resources for Teaching Science with Chromebooks

  1. Amoeba Sisters- YouTube videos on life science concepts- done with humor!
  2. STEM- STEM resources for high school students
  3. BBC News- Current Science news.
  4. Science Behind Hollywood- gets students excited about science through movies
  5. PBS Science- lessons, videos, activities on many topics
  6. PhET- simulations on a variety of Science topics
  7. Science Daily- Science news
  8. General Chemistry Online- tutorials, simulations, compound library
  9. Learn Chemistry- connects chemistry to other fields
  10. ChemEd- 3D simulaitons, periodic table, tutorials
  11. ChemCollective- virtual labs, scenario based activities, tutorials
  12. Chemistry Notes- chemistry lecture notes
  13. Chem Game Tutor- chemistry game that requires balancing equations, moles, acid and bases, equilibrium,etc
  14. Physics World- news that involve physics
  15. The Physics Classroom- detailed lessons and practice tests
  16. Cells Alive- animations, quizzes, worksheets
  17. Scitable- online library with a variety of biology topics
  18. Biology in Motion- animated cartoons that explain biology engaging
  19. Listen Current- Free resource that allows students to listen to a variety of Science topics. It has built in questions and assessments.