Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Amazing Educational Opportunities

As I see it, my job is to provide amazing educational opportunities for students and teachers. And while my focus is on educational technology, those amazing educational opportunities (as far as I am concerned) can happen with or without the use of technology.

One such amazing educational opportunity happened this morning. But first, some background.

Two years ago, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Stephanie Coleman, aka Kahoot Steph. Steph is in charge of teacher happiness at Kahoot. Steph works in Kahoot's London, England office. My friend Josh Allen was connecting schools together to play a Dr. Seuss Kahoot. Steph saw us Tweeting about it and asked if she could join us. So through the magic of Google Hangouts, one of my first grade classrooms and a classroom in Josh's district joined Steph in London for a game of Dr. Seuss Kahoot. Steph was kind enough to answer some questions that the students had prepared. A great time was had by all.

Fast forward to this past summer. I was fortunate enough to attend the ISTE Conference in Denver. And who did I get to meet in person?! Why Kahoot Steph of course! She even remembered our Kahoot Google Hangout.


Two of my third grade classrooms (Jolene Groninger at Woodland Park Elementary and Lori Coffin at Grant Elementary) wanted to challenge each other to a Kahoot. As I was discussing with the teachers how we could do this through Google Hangouts, I mentioned that Steph might be able to join us from London. What an amazing opportunity for our students to talk to someone in another country. So I reached out to Steph and she was game!

So this morning, Mrs. Coffin's 3rd grade classroom at Grant Elementary took on Mrs. Groninger's 3rd grade classroom at Woodland Park and Steph joined in from London.



The Kahoot was personalized with student names from each classroom. I even made an appearance as a Kahoot question!


After the Kahoot was over, Steph answered questions prepared by the students. Students wanted to know everything from what children in London wanted for Christmas, to Steph's favorite song (the Kahoot theme song of course), to what she calls potato chips and has she ever met the Queen.


As Steph was answering questions, Mrs. Groninger and I wrote notes on the board of things the students might want to research. Steph talked about mince pie and Christmas pudding as well as Big Ben and the Thames. The students were going to be busy researching to learn more about the things Steph talked about.

What started out as a challenge from one classroom in Norfolk to another turned out to be an amazing global event.

As I said in the intro, my job is to provide amazing educational opportunities for teachers and students. I am not sure how I will top this one, but I will try.

Thank you to Lori Coffin, Jolene Groninger and Kahoot Steph!

Friday, December 16, 2016

A Good Struggle

For the second year in a row, Jefferson Elementary is doing a school wide #HourofCode event. Jefferson is a K-4 building and is 1:1 with iPads in K-2 and Chromebooks in 3-4. We decided to participate in #HourofCode last year as a unique way to take advantage of the technology the students had access to. Principal Angie Hausmann and her staff were willing to take on the challenge without knowing much about coding themselves. I liked the idea that every student in the building would be focused on the same activity at the same time.

Coding is a great activity for students. You can actually see the students thinking as they build blocks of code to complete the puzzles and mazes. Magic happens when one student figures something out and then can show her classmates. And really, coding is just learning how to think. And who couldn't benefit from that?

Tynker has become my favorite app to use with elementary students. This year we are using it with 2nd grade. The directions do require a bit of reading but 1st graders could probably use the app with help. Yesterday I spent time in the 2nd grade classrooms helping students. A lot of students were on the Lost in Space activity in Tynker. While the first level is similar to activities they had done earlier in the week, the second level, Lockdown, is a bit more challenging. As the classroom teacher and I were watching her students work I commented, "They are struggling but it is a good struggle."


Coding is an activity that requires perseverance. If the code doesn't work the first time, you need to try something else. And sometimes you have to try again and again and again. Students have definitely learned that this week.

"It is a good struggle." I think a lot of times teachers (myself included) give up the answers too easily. It is hard to watch students struggle with an activity and you want to help. But in this case, when they get the right code and you see the excitement in their face, that is a good struggle.


As the coding time was ending and the teacher was transitioning to the next activity, the kids were reluctant to put the iPads down. Some of them had spent the last 45 minutes struggling through the activities. And yet, when it was time to be done, they didn't want to stop. That is a good struggle.

Friday, November 11, 2016

#12daystwitter and the Power of a PLN

In 2013 I had a Technology Tuesday session to get teachers in my district to join Twitter. This wasn't the first session I had done on Twitter. People would join. They would Tweet during the session and then they wouldn't Tweet again. The number one comment I received from new Tweeters was, "I just don't know what to Tweet about."

I came up with #12daystwitter to give my teachers something to Tweet about. Every day for 12 days in December I would provide my teachers with a Tweeting "prompt." This gave them a topic to Tweet about. Every morning I emailed the prompt and posted the prompt to Twitter. I created a Smore advertising all 12 days so they could think ahead. I created a LiveBinder to collect all of the great things they were sharing. If the prompt was to Tweet a favorite website to use with students, I added the sites to the LiveBinder. For other prompts like the best advice you have for a new teacher, I created a Storify for the day and embedded it in the LiveBinder.


I created this challenge for the teachers in my district. But a strange thing happened. Teachers who were not part of my district started to participate in the challenge. Wow! I really had no idea my little Twitter challenge would extend beyond my school district.

Fast forward one year to November 2014. A group of tech integration specialist type people were together at an #edcamp like event and we started talking about how we could get more of our teachers on Twitter. I told them about my #12daystwitter challenge. They loved the idea and so we decided to update my #12daystwitter challenge and take it to all of our districts. Another LiveBinder was created to advertise the event. Now this challenge was in multiple districts throughout the state of Nebraska. And because the people promoting #12daystwitter had amazing PLNs already established, #12daystwitter wasn't just a Nebraska thing, we had people from all over the United States participating. The #12daystwitter LiveBinder ended up on the LiveBinders featured binders page and we had even more people join us. The 2014 #12daystwitter LiveBinder has over 11,000 views.


In 2015, #12daystwitter was back. And this time it became global as we had people from all over the world participating. The 2015 #12daystwitter LiveBinder also ended up on the featured binder page and as a result has over 14,000 views.


It is 2016 and yesterday our tech integration specialist group met and again updated the #12daystwitter challenge. So starting on December 1, the fourth edition of #12daystwitter will begin.


As I look back, I am amazed at how my one little idea has morphed into something global. This wouldn't have been possible without my PLN. I had an idea, they took it and expanded on it and shared it with the teachers in their districts and the people in their PLNs. This one activity that I created with the intent to get my teachers Tweeting has now become a global event. Crazy!

If you are not a connected educator, if you are not active on Twitter, this is your chance! Every year we have done this I have added amazing educators to my PLN. I am definitely better because of it.

Please take our #12daystwitter challenge and share it with your PLN. The more the merrier! Join us and meet some new people and grow your PLN. We are all better together!

And to the amazing educators who have helped spread my little idea, thank you!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Introducing Breakout EDU to Teachers

To truly understand Breakout EDU, I think teachers need to experience it. So you might be wondering what game do I use to introduce teachers to Breakout EDU. It depends.

The first Breakout EDU game I ever ran was with the Senior High social studies department. I selected Time Warp because this game actually fits in with their curriculum. Time Warp covers the history of communication from ancient times to modern day. I have had several social studies teachers do this game with their students.


To introduce Breakout EDU to administrators, we did Dr. Johnson's Lab. This game is about surviving the zombie apocalypse. And while we aren't really in danger of a zombie apocalypse in Norfolk, this game has both paper clues and digital clues so it really is a great overview of the possibilities of Breakout EDU. This game also works well for high school students.


To introduce Breakout EDU to our Senior High teachers we did Attack of the Locks. We set up five kits in the gym and used the scoreboard clock as a timer. This game is actually intended for middle school students so we only gave the teachers 30 minutes to work out the clues. This was plenty of time. I have since done this game with 4th graders and they rocked it!


For elementary teachers, I decided to pick a game designed for elementary students so they could see that their students could do this activity. If I did Dr. Johnson's Lab with elementary teachers they may think that Breakout EDU would be too hard for their students. When I introduce the game to elementary teachers I use If You Take a Mouse to School. It will only take adults about 15 minutes to work through this game so adjust your timer accordingly.


All of these games are available for free at Breakout EDU. There are hundreds of games to choose from and more games are added all the time.

I don't think it matters which game you select to introduce Breakout EDU to teachers but these are the games that have worked well for me. Good luck!

My Love Affair with Breakout EDU

I couldn't decide whether to call this post "My Love Affair with Breakout EDU" or "My Obsession with Breakout EDU." Both accurately sum up my feelings regarding this innovative game. Let's start at the beginning of my journey with Breakout EDU.

I remember seeing people Tweet about Breakout EDU last year. I was intrigued. An escape room concept built for education. Everything contained in a box with puzzles to solve to get into the box. So I talked my boss into ordering a kit. Once the kit was ordered, I needed some willing participants. Keep in mind, I had never actually seen a game in person or participated in a game. But I knew I needed to try this.

The first game I ran myself was with the Senior High social studies department. We did Time Warp which actually fits in very well with their curriculum. Within seconds of letting them go, they were all engaged in the activity. Debriefing afterward, they all had ideas on how they could use this in their classrooms.


My next victim, I mean willing participant, was a 3rd grade classroom. We used Candy Caper. This teacher wanted to reward some of her students so we worked with about half of her class or 15 students. She put the kids into groups and called one group up at a time to work through the clues. As we sat down to debrief with the students after the game, one little girl raised her hand before we even started asking questions. She said, "Mrs. Coffin, it is not about the prize. It is about working together!" Without any prompting, she had it figured out. That is when I really knew, Breakout EDU was something special.


I knew that my one kit in a district of 4,000 students and 325 certified staff probably wouldn't be enough. So I wrote a special projects grant to the Norfolk Public Schools Foundation. Instead of a presentation to the Foundation board, I had them participate in a Breakout EDU game. Needless to say, they were sold! The Foundation funded ten kits - one for each building in our district.


I think people sometime have trouble seeing the power of this activity if they only look at the wooden box and a bunch of locks. So I knew I needed to have our building administrators actually participate in a game. At one of their summer retreat days, I set up Dr. Johnson's Lab and turned them loose.


They successfully survived the zombie apocalypse and were able to see what an engaging activity this was. Our Senior High principal was so impressed he purchased five kits for the SH building. Having a total of six kits in this building means teachers can check out multiple kits to have smaller groups of students working on solving the puzzles. We have set up as many as six kits at one time to have large classes working on the same activity.

In order to "sell" this activity to teachers, I really think they need to participate in a game. During our back to school work days, we set up five kits in the Senior High gym and divided the SH staff into groups. We used the scoreboard for the timer and they were off trying to solve the Attack of the Locks.


I have done Breakout EDU with kindergarten, 1st grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, high school students and adults. The #1 comment I get when people are done with a game? "When can we do this again?"

So why do I love this activity so much? This one activity works on all of the 4 Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity. These "soft skills" that in education we actually work on on a daily basis but are often difficult to assess. This one activity works on all of these things and more.

Next steps for me and my teachers would include creating our own games to match our curriculum. After a game with a 4th grade classroom this week, the students decided they wanted to make a game for the 4th graders in the classroom across the hall. Wow! What a great idea!

If you haven't tried Breakout EDU I encourage you to take the plunge and do it! Remember, I had never participated in a game before running one of my own. Sharing this one activity with teachers throughout our district has been extremely rewarding. I am excited to see where this can go!

Ready to get started? Head on over to Breakout EDU. Everything you need to get started is available at their website. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

BrightBytes Clarity Survey: What Does the Data Tell Us?

Norfolk Public Schools has participated in the Clarity survey by BrightBytes for the past three years. The Clarity survey combines input from administrators, teachers and students to understand the environmental factors, skills, access levels and classroom factors that shape the impact of technology in a school district. The CASE Technology Framework is used to improve the impact of  technology on learning outcomes.

CASE stands for Classroom, Access, Skills and Environment. Districts are given an overall CASE score based on survey results. Based on the overall district score, the district is placed on a maturity scale from beginning, emerging, proficient, advanced to exemplary. This maturity scale is used to highlight a district's technology readiness and use in each of the framework's domains, indicators and variables.


The data can also be broken out by building. So each building in a district also receives an overall CASE score and a placement along the maturity scale.

As a district in 2015-16, NPS received a 1068 CASE score which is in the proficient category. This score is down one point from the previous year but an increase of eight points over three years.


At NPS we are fortunate to have a lot of technology in a lot of classrooms. We continue to add technology because we believe that students should have all of the tools they need to be successful in today's classrooms. The purpose of the Clarity survey is to see if the technology you are adding is having an impact on learning outcomes. We would hope that as we add devices to classrooms, the CASE scores would increase.

We have been 1:1 at the Senior High for two years. The first year we did the Clarity survey as a district, we were not 1:1 at the Senior High. So in this building we can see a before 1:1 score and an after 1:1 score. The year prior to going 1:1 at the SH, the CASE score was 1055. The first year of 1:1, the CASE score was 1077. This was a pretty good increase. And this past year, the second year of 1:1, the CASE score grew to 1086. We have seen a steady increase in CASE score the longer the SH has been 1:1.

Last year, one of our elementary buildings, Jefferson (K-4), went 1:1. So again, we have a chance to measure before 1:1 and after 1:1 in this building. The year prior to going 1:1, Jefferson's overall CASE score was 1072, in the proficient range. This past year, the first year of 1:1, Jefferson's overall case score was 1102, in the advanced range. This score increased 30 points in one year!


Jefferson's CASE score is currently higher than the district's overall CASE score. This is the highest CASE score by far among the ten buildings in our district.

Giving each student a device that they can use throughout the day obviously made a difference in this building. But we have given devices to students in other buildings also. Our SH (9-12) and our JH (7-8) buildings are also 1:1. Both of those buildings have increased their overall CASE scores but their scores still remain in the proficient range.

How do I explain the dramatic increase in CASE score? It is so much more than handing a kid a device and letting them go. At Jefferson, Principal Angie Hausmann knew that getting her teachers the support they needed to effectively use these devices was vital. Angie and I met multiple times before the devices went to students to discuss how I could help her teachers. We decided that I would be in the building one day a month to meet with teachers during their plan time. Teachers could come in with questions and we would work together to solve them. Some months we had a specific theme for my day. For example, because the entire building was going to participate in the Hour of Code in December, our November meetings focused on Hour of Code. In April, our topic was creativity or using the devices to create things, having students show what they know.

In addition to my monthly sessions, I was available for teachers whenever they needed me. One day, I went to the 2nd grade classrooms and took the students through Kahoot while the classroom teachers watched. The next time the 2nd grade did Kahoot, the teachers were able to do it themselves.

I attended Thirsty for Knowledge Thursday sessions. (The principal buys everyone in attendance a soda, tea, etc and they learn something new.) The first Thirsty Thursday session I went to we discussed Seesaw which is a student driven digital portfolio. I knew that this app would be a game changer for Jefferson because it was one tool that every classroom could use. Jefferson is 1:1 with iPads in K-2 and Chromebooks in 3-4. Seesaw was the perfect tool to use in this multi-device environment. The teachers loved this tool and students and parents did too.

The week Jefferson participated in the Hour of Code during Plus (intervention) Time, I was in the building every day working out issues and helping teachers and students.

Bottom line, I was in this building, working with these teachers on a regular basis. I worked with this building principal to devise a training and support plan that would work for her teachers. I haven't had that opportunity in every building in our district. But I think we can see that teacher support is vital.

So what is next for Norfolk Public Schools and the Clarity survey? I plan to meet with each building principal to discuss his or her school's results. We will then set goals for improvement and discuss how I can assist in helping reach those goals.

At Jefferson, we are going to take things to the next level this year. We need to be sure that the technology we are using with students makes sense for the task involved. We need to be sure we have students creating things, not just using the devices to practice skills. We have a disconnect between the teachers use of the 4 Cs and the students use of the 4 Cs. We need to be sure students are creating, collaborating, communicating and problem solving with the devices. And we also need to do some work in the digital citizenship area. Teachers believe they are covering digital citizenship but students don't say the same thing. We still have work to do!

How do you know the money you are spending on technology is making a difference? Is improving learning outcomes? At NPS, we have learned through the Clarity survey that providing devices isn't enough. To make a big difference, we must support our teachers as well.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Using Seesaw for a Book Study: The Results

In May I wrote this blog post on how I was planning on using Seesaw to run a summer book study on George Couros' book, The Innovators Mindset. The book study is now over so I thought I would write another post on the experience.


Seesaw is a digital portfolio tool designed for students to share their learning. Seesaw is super simple to use which is why I decided to use it for the book study. I also liked that Seesaw would allow participants different ways in which to share what they were learning as they read the book. And Seesaw works the same on any device so it wouldn't matter if participants were using iPads or laptops, Seesaw works on anything.

We had people take pictures of passages in the book and annotate the pictures using the tools in Seesaw. A few people used the voice record option to add their explanations. We had people share links to websites and YouTube videos for people to review. I used the video record option when I caught up with George at ISTE and had George record a personal message to our book study participants. This was a huge hit! Every post had a like or a comment and most posts had multiple comments. I wasn't sure if we would be able to generate good discussions using an online tool but I am really proud of the comments people made and the support they provided to other participants. I have received feedback from some of the participants who really enjoyed using Seesaw for the book study.

The biggest issue I had was getting people into the class. I used the Google sign in mode which made sense for our staff. When using Seesaw with a Google sign in, people still need a code in order to access the class. The code is only good for 15 minutes at a time. I set up a specific date and time to send out the code. Unfortunately, no one was available at that time to use the code. So I ended up exchanging multiple emails/Tweets with participants making sure they were available to use the code and sending codes out. But once people were actually in the class, we had no issues. I had one participant who had used Seesaw with her students but the rest had either never used it or had just dabbled with it. No one asked any questions about how to make Seesaw work. That speaks to the simplicity of this tool!

Now that the book study is over and done with, I would say that Seesaw was a great tool for a book study. If you want to do an online book study and are looking for a tool, Seesaw should be at the top of your list!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Planning Technology PD for Administrators

Administrators can be a hard group to get to technology training. After school sessions don't always work well with their busy schedules. Summer can be hit and miss. So when I was given three hours of time at one of our administrators' summer retreat days, I jumped at the chance. I was told I needed to cover copyright, Clarity data and "tech tools for busy administrators." With that as my base, I went to work.

Because I only had three hours, I wanted to maximize our time together. An earlier request from some administrators was to know more about Google Classroom. So I decided to flip part of the meeting and show administrators how they could use Google Classroom and a few other tools to do the same with their staff.


Three weeks prior to our face to face meeting, I put together a Google Classroom and asked the administrators to join it. They would have three tasks to complete before our face to face meeting. When they joined Google Classroom, they were presented with their first task in the form of a question. My goal here was to show them how they could have an online discussion with their teachers.


When we had a couple of administrators who weren't exactly sure how to work in Google Classroom, I made this video to show them what they needed to do and posted that to Classroom.


Task #2 had the administrators reviewing their Clarity data. For the past three years, we have surveyed students, teachers and administrators using the Clarity survey from BrightBytes. While we have participated in the survey, we really haven't done much with the data we have received. This was one of the items we were going to discuss face to face. Since many of them hadn't been in the Clarity dashboard for a year or more, this task was really about getting them into Clarity again to familiarize themselves with the dashboard. Because each principal only has access to their school's data, this task was also about sharing the data from their building with others.


I included some supporting materials for the assistant principals and other CO admin to review. Only building principals and certain CO admin have access to Clarity data. Classroom makes it easy to share links to sites and upload PDFs or Drive files to share. Two of the links I shared were to infographics summarizing our 2015 Clarity data and our 2016 Clarity data.


The third task they had to complete was to watch an EDpuzzle on copyright. My purpose in assigning this task was twofold. First of all, I wanted then to have some background information on copyright before we met face to face. Secondly, I wanted to show them a tool that would allow them to track whether or not people actually watched a video. I've had administrators say to me, "I can't send my staff a video. They won't watch it." With this tool, you can see exactly who watched the video and how long they spent watching the video. And since EDpuzzle shares directly to Classroom, getting it to staff is simple. You can view the copyright EDpuzzle here. My EDpuzzle tutorials are available here.


The day of our face to face meeting we started with Breakout EDU. We did a game called Dr. Johnson's Lab. As with any Breakout EDU game, they had to work together to solve a series of challenges before the time expired. We debriefed after the game and discussed how they might use this with their teachers and how their teachers could use this in their classrooms.


We moved on to discuss our Clarity data and how we could assist teachers in using technology in their classrooms.

Up next was a discussion on copyright. I used Kahoot to ask a series of copyright questions. After viewing the results we discussed the answers. Kahoot is a great tool that is often used for review activities. I wanted to show them how they could use Kahoot as a fun way to have a discussion with their teachers. You can access the copyright Kahoot here. Discussion points are available here. Questions and answers came from the book, Copyright for Schools: A Practical Guide.

To finish our copyright discussion, I had them do a group activity to assess whether or not audiovisual performance rights were needed for a particular activity. I used Group Picker to divide them into groups. Each group needed to open their situation from Classroom and evaluate it based on the Audiovisual Performance Worksheet that was also distributed through Classroom. Once the groups had completed the assignment in Classroom we had two groups share their findings. In addition to having them get up and move and work in a group, I wanted to show them how Classroom could be used for group work. (The Audiovisual Performance Worksheet is available in the book, Copyright for Schools.)


For any type of professional development activity, I believe it is important to have participants reflect. Our reflection activity for the day was Speed Dating. For Speed Dating, divide your group into two lines facing each other. Give them a topic and two minutes to discuss. Then have them rotate so they have a new partner. Our reflection topics included: Breakout EDU - how could you use it as an administrator; Clarity - what goals do you need to set for your building; copyright - one new thing learned.


Finally, I brought them all back together to explain the method for my madness of that day. I encouraged them to think of themselves as the instructional leaders for their building. Every time they get up in front of their teachers they need to seize that as an opportunity to model what good teaching looks like. We talked about the next opportunity they would have in front of their teachers: the back to school meeting. I shared with them that this year would be my twenty-third back to school meeting. And in that 23 years, technology has changed drastically, but the back to school meeting looks virtually the same. Twenty-three years ago I was given a stack of mimeographed papers that was read to me word for word. Today, I sit through a Google Slides presentation that is read to me word for word and takes up two hours of my time. It doesn't have to be that way. My goal in structuring this admin training the way I did was to show them how they could structure a staff meeting differently. They could use Classroom as a communication tool with staff. They could use EDpuzzle to have staff watch a video and know who actually watched the video. They could use Kahoot to start a discussion. They could use Breakout EDU as a team building activity. They could use Speed Dating as a reflection activity. I really challenged them. Selfishly, I want a better back to school meeting experience. A better faculty meeting experience. But more importantly, I want them to take their roles as instructional leaders of their buildings seriously.

Since that day in June, I have had several administrators contact me wanting help setting up Google Classroom. Others have contacted me regarding the copyright information that I continued to add to the Google Classroom. Others have contacted me about doing a Breakout EDU game with their staff as a team building activity at their back to school meetings. Another said they had created a Kahoot to use with their staff. So while we are still a few days away from our official back to school meetings, I think what I said got them thinking. I challenged them to do things differently and hopefully they will put that into practice. We shall see!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

ISTE 2016 Reflections: It's About the Sessions

So my ISTE 2016 experience was too big for one post. My first post was all about the connections. My main goal for ISTE 2016 was to meet as many people as possible. Mission accomplished!


So I have to be honest, when it came to the sessions, I didn't really have a good game plan. My husband on the other hand knew exactly what he wanted to focus on. He wanted sessions on math, assessment and flipped learning. With that plan in mind, he did go to some great sessions.

We did learn one thing about the ticketed sessions. We obviously didn't do a good job of looking at the schedule ahead of time and so Chris didn't get preregistered for some of the BYOD sessions he ultimately wanted to attend. For those ticketed sessions, they have a line you can wait in. If all of the ticketed participants don't show up to the session, they let the people in line in. So Chris managed to see several BYOD sessions without signing up ahead of time. An insider's tip for future ISTE conferences.

As a regular conference attendee I have learned that if Leslie Fisher is on the schedule, you go! In Leslie's first session, Apps, Tools, Tips + Gadgets You Can Take to Class Tomorrow, she highlighted two of my favorite tools Seesaw and Formative. But a new to me tool was PBS LearningMedia. This isn't a tool as much as it is a place for teachers to find great standards aligned, digital resources. You can do a search and filter by grade, subject and media type. Some of the resources include supporting material like background information, discussion questions and teaching tips.

When I saw Alice Keeler was presenting, I knew that was a session I had to attend! I've followed Alice on Twitter and I've given away her 50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom book at every Google Classroom training I have done. I got a chance to introduce myself and she autographed copies of her book for me. One I plan to keep but the other two will be giveaways at my next Google Classroom training session!



Her session was entitled "Talk Less and Get More with Google Classroom." Access it here. Alice used the new Google Slides presenter tools in this session to take questions from the audience. This was the first time I had seen presenter tools used and I was impressed with the new Q&A feature.

I attended George Couros' session entitled "From Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership, Empowering Learners Through Social Media." As always, George was inspiring and thought provoking. Since our district is participating in a book study of The Innovator's Mindset, I knew I had to have George's session on my list. I reached out to George prior to his session in the hopes that we could meet up so he could give a shout out to my book study friends... and he did! You can see his message here (I don't know why I am looking off to the side in this video - just look at George!).

One of the BYOD sessions I attended with Chris was "Boost Your Instruction With Formative Assessment Tools." This session was a fast and furious introduction to several formative assessment tools. The full presentation is available here. Many of my favorite tools were covered including Formative, Nearpod, EDpuzzle, Actively Learn and Kahoot. Lots of others are listed in the presentation.

Another session I attended with Chris was "Assessment Doesn't Have to be a Four-Letter Word." Again this was a showcase for several assessment tools. You can access the many resources from this session here.

The final session I attended was the closing keynote with Canadian educator, Michelle Cordy. Michelle's message was heartfelt and inspiring. I hope that ISTE will make her keynote available on video to everyone. She had a great message and was an awesome close to another great ISTE.

While that is not a complete list of the sessions I attended, it highlights some of the best and lets you share in some of the great resources I was able to find.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

ISTE 2016 Reflections: It's About The Connections

I was able to attend ISTE 2016 in Denver in June. This was my second ISTE conference and I was super excited to take in the awesomeness of ed tech at this one of a kind conference.

I attended my first ISTE in 2011 in Philadelphia. I had just accepted a new position in my district as the educational technology facilitator. In 2011, I wasn't a connected educator. I openly refused to join Twitter - I didn't need to know what everyone was having for lunch. Google+ and Voxer weren't even things in 2011! So I knew my 2016 ISTE experience was going to be different.

My main goal for ISTE 2016 was to connect with as many people as possible. I wanted to meet face to face these people and ed tech companies I had been connecting with on Twitter and Voxer and Google+.

I met the amazing team from Seesaw including Victoria and Zach and the awesome Angela Gadtke. Their booth was swamped the entire conference. It seemed like everyone was talking about Seesaw. A lot of the sessions I went to mentioned Seesaw. The Seesaw team has been working on all sorts of great updates. As a Seesaw Ambassador, I have seen what they are working on. This great tool just continues to get better and better!

As I was walking down the convention center on the way to a session I happened to see Matt Miller, author of Ditch That Textbook. I had exchanged Tweets with Matt so I thought why not go up and introduce myself! So I did and we took a selfie! Matt's book is great and so is his blog. Make sure you sign up to receive his newest posts delivered right to your inbox!


I finally got to meet the Quizizz crew in person. My tutorial videos are featured on their website so I was anxious to connect with them in person. If you haven't tried Quizizz for assessment, give it a try. Your students will love it.

The Kahoot gang was awesome! I got to meet Steph who had Kahooted with us during Dr. Seuss week. We did a Google Hangout with one of my first grade classrooms and a class in Council Bluffs, Iowa all arranged by the amazing Josh Allen. Steph was so sweet to answer questions that our first graders prepared. Our first graders were amazed to be face to face with someone in London! When I started to introduce myself to Steph, she said (in the cutest accent) "Are you Mickie Mueller?" and gave me a big hug! Kahoot isn't just for review activities! I'm planning on developing a session on taking Kahoot to the next level.


I was also attending my first ISTE since becoming a Google for Education Certified Trainer. Google hosted a mixer for trainers and innovators one evening. I got to go with my pal Beth Still. I ran into Aaron Svoboda who was formerly at Kearney and who is now with Synergyse who is now a part of Google. I also got to hear about some great things the Google Apps for Education team has in the works. Due to a nondisclosure agreement I can't share any of those awesome things but let's just say when a room full of trainers and innovators ooh and awe like school kids, the stuff is good!


I made it a point to connect with some of the ed tech companies that I interact with and admire from afar including BrightBytes, GoGuardian, Promevo, Pear Deck, Bitsbox, CodeMonkey and Formative.

All in all, ISTE 2016 was a great conference. I met some awesome people and learned a lot. In fact, my ISTE 2016 experience is too big for one post. My next ISTE 2016 Reflections post will be all about the sessions I attended. Stay tuned!


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Innovator's Mindset and Seesaw

I had the pleasure of hearing George Couros speak at the 2015 NETA Conference. It was one of the BEST keynotes I have ever heard at any conference. So needless to say when his book The Innovator's Mindset was published by Dave Burgess Consulting in October, I knew I had to read it. Once I read it, I knew I wanted all of my teachers and administrators to read it. So I decided to hold our first ever district-wide book study.



The next decision was how to hold this book study. I knew that I wanted it to be an online book study. I had seen lots of groups using Twitter chats to discuss The Innovator's Mindset. I thought about creating a Google+ Community for our book study. I even thought about using Google Classroom. And then, an epiphany! Seesaw! I liked that Seesaw would give participants a lot of flexibility in how they would would reflect on each section. Participants could type their reflections or make a video or draw a picture or take a picture of a quote in the book and add audio. And Seesaw is so easy to use I thought anyone would be able to pick it up quickly with little to no training. I also liked that no matter what device a participant wanted to use, Seesaw would work.

I created a class in Seesaw for the book study. Since we are a GAFE district, I decided to use a Google sign in mode for this class. I created a folder for each section to follow our timeline. The Innovator's Mindset is already divided into four sections so I used that for our timeline. Our timeline is as follows:

June 6 - June 19 Innovation in Education Chapters 1-3
June 20 - July 3 Laying the Groundwork Chapters 4-7
July 4 - July 17 Unleashing Talent Chapters 8-12
July 18 - July 31 Concluding Thoughts Chapters 13-14

I also included a folder for introductions.


We are in the process now of getting people access to the Seesaw class. Because I am using a Google sign in, people need to use a code to gain access to the class. Due to security reasons, the code is only good for 15 minutes at a time. My plan was to send the code at a specific date and time. Unfortunately, no one was available at that date and time. So it has been interesting getting people the code and getting them to use it within 15 minutes! I could have done this differently. But for our situation when I wanted participants to use the device they were most comfortable with, this was the best option for sign in.

Our book study doesn't officially start for a couple of weeks so I won't know if using Seesaw was a good idea or a bad idea. But honestly, how could using Seesaw be a bad idea for anything!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

We Can Do Better For Our Students


For those of you who know me, you know I am not a fan of the worksheet in any format, paper or digital. One of my main issues with worksheets as assignments is the lack of immediate feedback. A student can fill out an entire worksheet, thinking he or she did a great job when in reality many of the answers could be incorrect. The student, thinking he or she did a fantastic job on the worksheet, now believes his or her answers are correct and therefore has learned the material incorrectly. A worksheet in paper form or in digital PDF form by its very nature requires a teacher to review the worksheet and mark each answer correct or incorrect. As you mark those answers wrong, do you provide feedback to the student why the answer was wrong? And how long does it take you to go through a stack of worksheets, paper or digital? Do you get that worksheet back to the student quickly so that the student can see how they did? Before the student has made incorrect assumptions about their work? Before the student has learned the material wrong?

Some teachers believe that if they digitize a traditional paper worksheet and students fill out the worksheet on an iPad or on a Chromebook, that the worksheet has suddenly become engaging. I've heard this many times from teachers and administrators alike. "Oh but filling out the worksheet on a Chromebook is so much more engaging for the student." Um, no. No worksheet in the history of the world has been engaging in any form.

Don't get me wrong. I am all about making things accessible for all learners. Screen readers are awesome if a student requires that. I have yet to have a teacher tell me they are assigning digital worksheets to make them accessible for their learners.

I have an entire presentation dedicated to creation tools. In that presentation, I challenge teachers to take a worksheet and really look at what that worksheet is asking the students to know. Once you have determined that, you can use any number of creation tools to have students show what they know about a particular topic. Creating something is more engaging for a student than filling out a worksheet. You can view that presentation here.

For the rest of this post, I'd like to share some tools with you that are similar to worksheets but that provide students with immediate feedback. These tools also provide you with data that you can use to drive your instruction. And you won't have to get out your red pen to grade papers!

Socrative is an oldie but a goodie. Socrative allows you to create quizzes with multiple choice, true/false and short answer questions. Socrative quizzes can be teacher paced where the teacher controls the questions or they can be student paced where students go through the questions at their own pace. Regardless of the mode you choose, students receive immediate feedback as they answer each question. And as the teacher you get a report that shows how each student did. The report allows you to easily see if students are struggling with a particular topic. Socrative is really meant to be done in class but there is no reason why you couldn't assign a Socrative quiz as homework. You would just need to remember to start the quiz so your students could access it outside of class. Socrative has an excellent User's Guide and a YouTube channel with tutorial videos to help you get started.

Formative is a tool that allows you to upload PDF or Word files and make them interactive with a few clicks. You can also start from scratch to create a Formative. As students work on the activity, you see in real-time how they are answering each question. And students receive immediate feedback. You can also add images and YouTube videos to a Formative. If you are a math teacher and you want students to graph a line, simply upload a graph image and add the interactive element to it so students can draw on it. Formative assessments can be shared to Google Classroom so students can easily access them. Formative has an excellent set of tutorial videos as well as a User's Guide.

Wizer is fairly new to the market but I think it has some possibilities. Wizer reminds me a lot of the flyer creation tool, Smore. With Wizer you can create interactive assessments and provide students with immediate feedback (on most question types). Wizer has also recently added the ability to record audio so you can record each question for students who may need that. A Wizer can include multiple choice, short answer, fill in the blanks and matching questions. You can even use a cool fill on an image option to make questions out of images - think about using maps or labeling parts of a microscope. You can also add videos to a Wizer. Here is a Wizer I did to show you the type of questions you can have on a Wizer. When students complete a Wizer, the teacher can see how they answered each question. You can visit the Wizer blog for tips and tricks.

All three of these tools allow you to take and modify activities created by other teachers. A good way to start would be to find something already created and either use it as is or modify it to fit your needs.

A caution. Copiers these days allow you to put any piece of paper on the bed and create a PDF copy of that paper. While it is possible to do this, you need to be careful. If you have a workbook or worksheets that came with your textbook, you need to check the licensing agreement that came along with that. You may or may not (probably not) have the right to scan that page and turn it in to a PDF that you can distribute digitally. As teachers we need to be very careful and be sure we are always following copyright laws.

Bottom line: we can do better for our students. Our students deserve more. There are so many tools today that can provide your students with immediate feedback and you with information to drive your instruction. Will it take some time to create these assessments? Yes. Are our students worth it? YES!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

What the #aurorahuskies Taught Me About Google Classroom

I was honored to be a part of the #aurorahuskies PD day on Friday. I did five sessions including two sessions on Google Classroom. In my tips and tricks session, I decided to take some questions from the audience. We were talking about the ways students could submit assignments through Classroom. Someone asked if it was possible for students to be able to comment on each other's work. At first I said no. When a student submits an assignment it goes directly to the teacher and no other students can see it. And then I thought, wait a minute, let's explore this further. So I switched over to a student account in Google Classroom and clicked on the + sign. I'd actually never done that on the student side before. I always demonstrated adding a new post from the teacher's perspective.

If teachers have allowed students to post and comment, students will be able to click the + and add a post to the stream.


From there, students could type something about the assignment and then attach either a file, video or link.


This is what it looks like on an iPad.


Think about what this means. A student could attach any piece of work: 
  • a Doc, Sheet, Slides, Drawing from their Drive 
  • a link to something done in another web app like Haiku Deck or Vocaroo or Voki
  • a YouTube video that they created
  • a photo out of Photos or Camera Roll (how many apps on the iPad save back to the Camera Roll? TONS!)
  • use the camera on the iPad and take a picture of ANYTHING
Once the work is attached to the post, students can receive feedback from their peers!



What a powerful use of Google Classroom! I am definitely adding this to my tips and tricks session.

This one simple question from an audience member had me thinking about Google Classroom in a completely different way. And it made me realize two things. Number one: I need to take more questions from the audience during my presentations. And number two: the smartest person in the room is THE ROOM!

So a huge thank you to the #aurorahuskies for teaching me about Google Classroom!

If you are interested in the resources I put together for the #aurorahuskies, you can access them here:









Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Pushing Messages to Student Chromebooks

If you use Chromebooks in your district, the GAFE Admin Console can be your best friend. The Admin Console gives you lots of different ways to configure Chrome and push things to your student devices. You can push specific apps and extensions and you can even push a wallpaper to all student Chromebooks. Depending on how you have your OUs set up, you could push a different wallpaper to each grade level of students or to students in different buildings. At the SH we currently have this wallpaper pushed to all student devices:


This serves as a good reminder for students since they see it every day! You could even have students design the wallpaper. What a great way to showcase student work! To set the wallpaper, go to Device management-->Chrome-->User settings and look for Wallpaper under General.

Another setting we have configured in our Admin Console is to load certain websites when Chrome is launched. We currently load the SH website and our Chromebook Information site.

Since you can list any website to load when Chrome is launched, we have recently added a Google Slide presentation to draw attention to our Career Academy application that is now live. The presentation includes one slide with a transparent box covering the entire slide. The transparent box is linked to the Career Academy application so students can easily access it. The presentation was published to the web and I copied the link and added it to the list of sites to open on startup. You can see the slide below. Click anywhere on the slide and it will take you to the application.



To specify pages to load on startup, go to Device management-->Chrome-->User settings and look for Pages to Load on Startup under Startup.

These are just two quick ways you can use the Admin Console to push messages to your student Chromebooks.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Favorite Things of 2015

The start of a new year always causes me to reflect on the year that has just passed. At the beginning of 2015 I did a review of my favorite tech tools from 2014. I thought to start out this year I would do the same. But as I was reflecting on my favorite things from 2015, I realized not all of them were tech tools. So I have changed my post to "Favorite Things of 2015." Here we go!

Being a huge fan of free tech tools, I do have to start with one of my favorite new tech tools of 2015. Hstry is a timeline creation tool. But it is so much more than just a timeline of dates, times and places. Hstry can include videos, audio, images, text, links and even quiz questions to make the timeline truly interactive. Hstry is obviously perfect for the Social Studies classroom, but I love Hstry as an alternative to a slide based presentation. And I love this blog post giving ideas for using Hstry in Math, Science, Language Arts and other subjects.

Another one of my favorite new tech tools of 2015 is Quizizz. Quizizz allows you to create multiplayer classroom activities that are perfect to review for quizzes or tests. Quizizz works with any web-enabled device. Students use a code to join your quiz. Once in the "game" students proceed through a series of questions at their own pace. Questions and answer choices are presented on the student device making this tool a great choice for classrooms that lack an audience display like a projector or interactive whiteboard. Students receive more points for answering questions correctly and quickly. When students finish the quiz they can review their quiz while they wait for others to finish. And for those of you wondering, yes, Quizizz is similar to Kahoot. You could use both tools. Where Kahoot is more teacher paced, Quizizz allows students to take the quiz at their own pace. Some students like that they do not have to wait for everyone to answer before they proceed on.

As I said in the introduction, not all of my favorites in 2015 are tech tools. This favorite is more of an event than a tech tool. My next favorite of 2015 is the Hour of Code. The Hour of Code is done in December to promote Computer Science Education Week. The idea is to give every student an opportunity to learn to code for just one hour during the week. I have promoted the Hour of Code since its inception but 2015 was truly the Hour of Code at Norfolk Public Schools! Over 2,000 students participated in the Hour of Code this year. From kindergartners to high schoolers, lots of students tried their hand at coding. And yes, you can code even if you have never coded before. code.org has tons of resources that allow every teacher to give coding a try. Learning to code is really learning how to think. And who couldn't benefit from that! It is not too late to try coding with your students. Head on over to code.org and sift through the mounds of help available. Or take a peek in my Coding LiveBinder. Coding should be done year round, not just in December!

And my final favorite(s) of 2015 are the books published by Dave Burgess Consulting. You may know Dave from his own book, Teach Like a Pirate. Dave has taken his publishing knowledge and harnessed it to give some great educators a voice. Each one of these books is better than the next.




Here are the Dave Burgess Consulting books I read in 2015:

Dave has done a great service to the education world by finding these amazing educators and giving them a platform to share what they are doing in their classrooms and their schools. Read just one of these books and you will be hooked!

Bonus Favorite!

I couldn't do a favorites list of 2015 and not include Bitmoji! I love Bitmoji. And while you might question its educational use, you will have so much fun with your Bitmoji you probably won't care that it isn't very educational! Bitmoji is an app that lets you make a little mini-me of yourself and then use it in your communications. From email to text messages to Voxer messages and Twitter posts, your Bitmoji will tell people how you really feel! And just so you know, I did manage to create a professional development activity using Bitmoji. Check it out!