Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Gaining Resources with DonorsChoose.org

A few years ago, we posted about the crowdfunding site DonorsChoose.org. This is such a great resource that I wanted to revisit the topic. With budget cuts and a greater emphasis on using technology and STEM in the classroom, finding other avenues for funding is a necessity.

Since the previous post, we now have several teachers in each of our district's buildings who have created DonorsChoose.org accounts and many who have had projects successfully funded! Funded projects have included resources like robots, Chromebooks, iPads, green-screening equipment, 3D printing pens, and more! Many of these projects took advantage of match offers where companies, foundations, or anonymous donors fund 50% of the project. Creating projects with match offers is one of the best tips out there!

Botley the Robot

Little Bits R2-D2 Droid Inventor

In addition to match offers, there are also other ways to find funding besides individual donors.

Google has been offering some classroom rewards through DonorsChoose.org ($100-$300!!!) for completing their coding and applied digital skills activities. 

Check out this one if you teach grades 4-8: Classroom Rewards for Coding Activities with Google

and this one if you teach grades 6-12: Classroom Rewards for Google's Applied Digital Skills Activities

Angie and I are currently DonorsChoose.org Ambassadors and would be more than happy to help you get started with an account and/or posting your first project. DonorsChoose.org has even given us $5 starter donations to add to your first project! 

If you'd like to get started on your own, here's a quickstart guide! To learn more about how DonorsChoose.org works, the impact it's had, and more detailed steps to posting a project, check out the slideshow below!

I know there are many of you who have had projects funded! Please feel free to share the resources you've gained in the comments below!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

SeeSaw in Action

Last May we introduced you to SeeSaw-an online portfolio tool teachers and students can use to document learning. This week guest blogger Diane Bobik, first grade teacher at Fox Twp., gives us a glimpse into how she's been using SeeSaw in her classroom.

Image result for seesaw app

Welcome to the 21st Century….wait we’ve been here for 18 years!  This was important message that I learned at PETE&C this year in Hershey.   Are you still sending home paper newsletters, notes, and updates? I was guilty of keeping things the same even though times are changing.  There are so many digital tools out there to track behavior, send messages and newsletters to parents, practice skills after lessons, and gather electronic portfolios...but who has time for all of these apps? I know that I certainly don’t have the time or to be honest, the patience to learn all of these programs.

SeeSaw offers all of these tools in one simple app.  And the best part, it’s FREE! Setting up a class is easy.  There are templated letters to send home to parents so they can sign up.  Parents can keep one account for several children. This was a win for my class since I have siblings together this year.  Once you have your account ready, the kids can start using the app. So far, we have taken pictures of our vocabulary words and then recorded ourselves reading them.  We have recorded videos explaining how we solved our math problems. We have done videos of our oral reading of stories. I can also use the app to send newsletters, reminders, and behavior updates.  Parents are then able to respond directly to me, or send praise to their children on their posts. Parents and students cannot make their posts live until they are approved by me. This is especially helpful if you have a student who wants to put silly things onto our page.

Here are some examples of what we have done with this amazing app:

Students log in with a QR code.
Student is taking a picture of his vocabulary words.
Students are recording themselves reading their vocabulary words.

Thanks to Mrs. Bobik for showing us how this 21st century tool has impacted her classroom! If you have any questions about getting started or if you already use SeeSaw in your classroom, be sure to let us know and check out the Badging Center under "Other Badges" to get your badge and let others know you're ready to share your expertise!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Making the Most of iPads in the Classroom

With the wealth of iPads available for use at the elementary level, I thought it would be a great time to highlight some of the apps that are currently installed. If you have a personal iPad, you may find these apps useful as well. There are quite a few installed apps for skill-based practice, but the apps I am going to focus on will, in many cases, help move students from consumers of information to producers or will help them apply what they've learned!

I tried to break the apps down by category, although some may actually fit into more than one. It would be great if we could have the apps sorted into folders on the iPads, but with the way the updates push out, that isn't currently possible :(

Robotics-Sphero EDU & Sphero Mini (for use with the Sphero Mini robots), LEGO Boost (for use with the LEGO Boost kit), WeDo 2.0 (for use with the LEGO WeDo 2.0 kits), Wonder, Xylo, Path, Go, Blockly (all for use with the Dash and Dot robots), Droid Inventor (Little Bits R2-D2 Droid Inventor kit)

*Note: the robots for use with these apps may not be available in all buildings, but if you'd like to borrow something, let me know!

Coding-Hopscotch, The Foos, Scratch Jr

Osmo-Pizza Co., Osmo Monster, Coding Duo, Osmo coding, Numbers, Masterpiece, Newton, Words, Tangram (see previous post about Osmo here!)

Google apps-Drive, Docs, Slides, Sheets, Classroom, Hangouts, Google Earth

Formative assessment-Plickers, Flipgrid, Kahoot, Nearpod, Explain Everything

Digital portfolios-Seesaw, Class Dojo

Notetaking/Organizing ideas-Popplet Lite, Dragon Dictation, Notepad +

Create Videos-iMovie, Spark Video, TeleStory

A few others: ActivCast (mirror devices with the new ActivPanels), QR Reader (scan QR codes-great for puzzles, scavenger hunts and more!), EdPuzzle (assign video lessons-great for flipped learning)

Mark Anderson (@ictevangelist-click here to see a larger version) recently posted a great periodic table of useful iPad apps, especially for elementary use, sorted by category. You may recognize some of them from the above list. If you check out a new app and think it would be beneficial, let us know by dropping a comment below!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Google Classroom: An Administrator's Perspective

This year at the TechSpot we are offering perspectives from those out in the trenches working with students and technology. 

In case you missed it...

  • In September, we had a guest teacher talk to us about her incorporation of Google Forms in the HS English classroom. 
  • In October, Class Tag was presented by one of our own elementary teachers. 
For this Tech Tuesday I decided to have a conversation not with a teacher, but with an administrator regarding our Google Classroom journey here at the middle school.

The conversation is presented as a podcast in hopes that you find time to have it playing in the background as you are getting those last minute grades entered for the end of Q3.  
You can expect to hear thoughts on...
  • how we got started
  • where we are now
  • what the future holds 

"I'm a huge fan of Google Classroom from more of an organizational standpoint... 
When people need something they have one place to go."

"My biggest concern/need is that every teacher wanted computers in their class..... 
It's a good problem to have." 

"Our students would definitely benefit from a 1:1 environment."

"I don't necessarily have to be in the room to see what they (the teachers) are doing."

"Our students are engaged and we don't want to lose that engagement by pulling out the old paper and pencil again... "

- SMA Administrator

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Instead Of Another Poster...

Recently for a conference I was asked to create a poster.    
After the trip to Wal-Mart, some frustration, and a nasty paper cut...... 
3+ hours later I ended up with these guys. 

 Not too bad, eh? 

Benefits:  A poster like this was large enough to catch the attention of teachers from across the room who then came over to learn more. Without access to a large television or monitor this was the next best option to get people to me.  Once there, multiple persons could engage in the presentation at once.

- Space
- Static words/images
- Could only work on it at home
- Couldn't collaborate nor ask for peer review without inviting people to my house
- No new learned skill for the future
- No flexibility, nor means to edit
- Time, Time, Time

Why do we use posters as a means of assessment in the first place?

  • It forces the students to synthesize information, potentially raising DOK Levels.
  • It is created to be viewed by others, potentially changing the audience from who we get feedback. 

However, we are now 18 years into the 21st Century! 
- Let's step it up a notch.
(....or at least give the students the option.  They may surprise you!)

Below is a flyer I created on smore.com and was able to embed it into this website for free.  
Little to no time was spent on formatting/fonts etc.  The entire investment was on content.  

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Explain Yourself.

Image result for screencastify

Screencastify Lite Chrome Extension

Ready to take your tech integration up a notch?   

Move into the deeper end of the SAMR pool of tech integration by incorporating screencasts into the teaching and learning that happens in your room. 

Screencasts are video/audio recordings of your desktop.  The Screencastify Chrome extension allows you to easily take and share videos of this type.  (Scroll down for the how-to's)

Top Tips for Teacher-made Screencasts

#1 Remediation / Flipped Instruction 

#2 Teach the Tech / Formatting

#3 Give Video/Oral Feedback while reviewing work

Top Tips for Student-made Screencasts

#1  Explain the thought-process while solving a problem

#2 Narrate a Google Slides or other Presentation

#3 Dub a video with new language/narration


  • Remediation 
    • Make a video to re-explain tough concepts.
    • Put this video in a Google Form or an EdPuzzle to check for student understanding.
      • Did you know? Google Forms can send students to a remediation video if they select the incorrect answer.  
    • Use the video as a must-do before retaking an assessment.

  • Flipped 
    • Record your teaching and assign it to students before you teach it in class, or even have them watch during class. 
      • Give checks for understanding,  then differentiate the lesson for those who need remediation vs those who require a challenge. 

  • Teach the Tech / Formatting
    • When giving a digital assignment, most students can figure out the tech.  So, why waste valuable in-class time teaching it?   Post a quick how-to screencast to demonstrate the tech and/or formatting of your project.   
      • No time?  See if your tech coach has one to lend you ;-)

  • Feedback
    • Record yourself while reviewing a student's work.  Allow them to hear your feedback for each section as you show it with your mouse.  Works great for projects that don't offer a comment section. 


    • That's right! Have a student create any of the above resources instead of doing it yourself.  Perfect for the student that finishes earlier than others, is tech savvy or simply needs a challenge.

  • Explain Yourself 
    • This is the $$$ maker!  Whether it is math problem or a project, try at least one time this year to have your students record their thinking over their assignment.
      • Instead of doing 10 math problems.... 
        • Do 3 !  Have the students record themselves doing one of the problems and thinking out loud. 
          • Put all the videos in a Google Slides for the class to share
            • Teacher puts feedback in the "speaker notes"
      • Project Explination
        • Have the students submit a video of their project going over what they did.  You will be better able to give feedback when you hear the justifications for their choices. 

  • Narrate Google Slides 
    • Instead of presenting 1 at a time during class....
      • Have each student record himself talking over his presentation
      • Post these presentations for the entire class to see 
        • Padlet
        • Google Slides
      • Give students the task of offering thoughtful feedback to 3 presentations

  • Dub a Video 
    • Synthesize information!  Raise DOK levels by having students create dialogue over a video
      • Find a video on YouTube, mute the sound and talk over it
        • Great for World Languages
        • Retell literature with a twist
        • Recreate historical scenes

Or Click HERE to see a Screencast of the above presentation.

How can you (or have you) used Screencasts in your class? 

Comment Below!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Using Google Sites

Image result for google sites

With the new Google Sites, building websites is easy. Just drag content where you need it. Create a one-stop destination for all important information, including videos, images, calendars, presentations, documents, folders, and text. Then, quickly and securely share it with an entire organization or the world.
Note: You can view the new Sites on most browsers on computers and mobile devices. However, at this time, you can only edit new Sites content on a computer using Chrome or the Mozilla Firefox browser.

The new Google Sites is not only great for creating your own personal website but it is also a great alternative way for students to present information and create projects.

Click here for G Suite Learning Center's "Sites Cheat Sheet"
Click here for G Suite Learning Center's "Directions to Getting Started"

Click on the links below to view sample websites!