Monday, March 9, 2015


Recenlty, I've been looking at the TPACK model to help plan for quality technology integration.  TPACK is an extension off of work done by Lee Shulman in the 80s that focused on pedagogical content knowledge.  It has since been extended by Mishra & Koehler to include the use of technology.

The TPACK Image (rights free). Read below to learn how to use the image in your own works. Right click to download the high-resolution version of this image.
Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by

In a presentation given by Mishra & Koehler they state,

"Teaching with technology is a WICKED problem.  WICKED problems require CREATIVE solutions, and teachers are designers of the Total PACKage."

As teachers, we've always had to deal with what we need to teach and how we need to teach it.  We know that we can't simply place a book in our students' hands, stand up and recite facts (even if we put notes on the board for them to copy), or give them the best study manual.  We have to find the best way to transform the content and make it understandable for our students.  We have to understand our students as learners and know where to meet them with our content.  We have to make it accessible, relatable, and interesting.  As teachers, we're not necessarily experts in the fields we teach, but we know how to transfer knowledge to our students.

The context of how we teach now with each of our students having access to a computer is very different from before. We no longer have to plan ahead for time in the lab and make sure we are at the right point of our instruction on a certain day, nor do we have to worry about only having a certain amount of time.  The technology is there when we need it for how long we need it.  With that, there is also often an expectation to use the technology we have access to.  We need to plan to use it appropriately.

When we include technology in the mix we add a whole new level of material to include.  Teaching and creativity have always gone together, but technology allows teachers more ways in which they can get creative.  Also, we need to remember that this new level of material is constantly changing.  What is new quickly becomes old.  It isn't hard to look and find some sort of wheelguide, or top 10 list that will show us the right answers for tech tools to use.  The problem I have with these types of resources is they don't get to the point of HOW we use the technology.  Just because we use it doesn't mean that we automatically have reached any higher order thinking skills, a new level on Blooms Taxonomy, or a certain area on the SAMR model.  I fear that these types of resources can encourage us to put the tech first and search for any way we can use it.  Instead, we need to have an idea of what we want to accomplish, and then pick the appropriate tool for the job.  Mark Fijor gives a good example of this scenario here.

As we've moved through our digital conversion we have focused on using the SAMR model.  We've used this because it is relatively simple to understand, and does not lead to attention on the tool being used.  Instead, it always brings focus back to the task being performed.  TPACK can be a nice companion to the SAMR model.  It can help us keep in mind how our teaching, our content, and the technology can all blend together to enhance learning.  By finding the right blend of all three components we can create very effective instruction.  Both of these can help us as educators be creative in our instruction and work to find solutions that include technology to best reach our students.

Perhaps one portion of TPACK that can be overlooked is that the technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge all live inside a specific context.  I realized how important that piece is when considering how I could apply TPACK.  We have a school that offers an alternative setting for students.  The learning is much more personalized and is becoming more digital as a way for students to be connected to school and work from other places and at their own pace and time.  TPACK, and the idea of context, is very relevant in this situation.  The teachers need to consider what technology they can include that will work best in the context they are working in.  Technology allows the students to be connected to the content without stepping into the building.  It allows the teacher to provide materials to the students digitally and the students a way to demonstrate and show their understanding.  It isn't so much using an fancy app or website, but provides a way for the teaching and learning to occur. It is evident in every portion of the environment.  The use of the technology is what allows this type of setting be possible, and the proper use is what will make it successful.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Making the Most Out of Classroom Videos

Watching instructional videos has been a part of classrooms for a long time.  As we've gotten a few weeks into our work with Chromebooks I've heard of several teachers using them to deliver instruction through video.  With so much great content out there, it comes as no surprise that this would be one of the first benefits we'd make use of.  I can't help but think back to how the use of visual media in classrooms has changed over time.

Some of us remember the old film reels, or hoping we could be the lucky student that got to move the slide at the sound of the beep.  Next, we were on to VHS tapes and televisions in classrooms.  DVDs got in the mix, and soon we could project a nice, big picture on our screen that previously only saw light from our overhead projector.

Now, we have the Internet and all that comes with it.  We can find content on YouTube, YouTube EDU, Teacher Tube, Vimeo, Khan Academy, and other sites.  We can find it quickly, it is always there for us, and we don't have to worry about returning it on time if we borrowed it.  We can even make our own!  As classrooms move to more blended and flipped learning environments, videos have an even larger part in student instruction.

What used to be a whole class activity can now take an individualized approach.  Everyone can still watch the same video, but a teacher can now have groups or individuals watching different videos at the same time. The teacher can also move away from leading the entire group through the video, and  have time for conversation with individuals or groups in class while the remainder of the class is still involved with the task.

While this substitution is easy enough we also have some extra benefits that are worth knowing about.  Along with watching a video in class we usually have students either taking notes or answering questions about what the video is covering.  There are some tools that can help achieve those tasks!  Both of these are simple to use and add some great benefits.

One is, a simple and open-source tool that allows students to take synchronized notes with videos.  After a note is taken, students can click on the line of notes and the video will go back to the relevant part.  Best of all, it is integrated with Google Drive.  This allows students to have their notes saved automatically with the availability to refer back to them, and the video, later.  The notes can also be shared with others just like other Google Docs.  

Another is eduCanon.  This is another free tool (a premium version is available with some extra features) that will help with student engagement, holds them accountable, and lets you monitor understanding of the video's content.  It also helps you move a lesson to a more "flipped" experience.  With eduCanon, you can tie questions and other html items into the video.  Your students will answer the questions when they come to them and provide you with live feedback. Take a moment to watch this introduction.

If you try either of these tools in your classroom let me know.  I'd like to know what you think and how it went for you!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Here We Go! Now Where Do We Begin?

NASA, We Have Liftoff!  Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!  On Your Marks, Get Set, Go!

However you want to say it, we are in.  There is no turning back now!  Marshalltown Community School District has officially stepped into a new world in education with classroom sets of Chromebooks available for students in 3rd and 4th grade and in 7th -12th grade science classes. It is exciting knowing that we are starting down the road of 21st Century education and will have tools in our students hands to help us encourage collaboration, communication, creativity, and higher order thinking skills.  I cannot wait to see the great things happening in our classrooms.

Where do we begin?  I encourage our teachers to start small.  Our comfort levels are all different.  This is a new way of teaching for many of us, and it is a new of learning for many of our students.  It is okay to dip our toes in before we really take a dive, but don't worry - the water is warm.  No one is alone through this, and if something doesn't work just like we thought it would, it will be okay.  It's not the first time we've had one of those "not as we intended" lessons as teachers and it won't be our last.

Remember, we're doing what we already do everyday.  It all comes back to good teaching.  Think of the new access to a Chromebook as you would any other tool your students use in the classroom.

Start with thinking of ways to Substitute what you are doing in your room already, and look for some benefits you may gain.  Does it make something faster, easier to plan for, more engaging for students, or promote some peer collaboration?  You don't have to start out reinventing something new!

Take an exit ticket for example.  I've heard several teachers talk about how this would be a good first exposure for both them and their students.  I've made this help sheet to guide you along if you need it.  You might also want to check out this blog where Google Certified Teacher Melissa Murphy gives an example of an exit ticket, and promises to show a favorite Google form every day this week.  You can copy the form she shares and use it for yourself if you'd like. (After you click the link just go to File and Make a Copy.

Whatever you decide to do, remember we're in this together.  Don't be afraid to take some risks, try something new, and have some fun doing it.  Your students will appreciate the use of technology in your classroom and be eager for more!

Did you try to do this or something similar with your class?  Leave a comment and let us know how it went!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Converting Us and Them

Google in Education recently had a great Hangout titled, "Designing Curriculum to Engage Students with Technology." This came at a great time.  I was just having the conversation with some colleagues about our conversion process and how we would soon be working with teachers to do some design work.

Five panelists shared their ideas in the presentation, and each had a different role in their district, from an assistant principal to a director of technology.  Their schools were in different stages of 1 to 1 plans, and each rolled their plans out in different ways.

Through the video, I came out with several ideas worth sharing:

As we move forward and transform our curriculum, we can include the technology as a source to learn from and not just a substitute for another "paper and pencil" method of accomplishing a task.  Our lessons should not center around the device, but what we want students to accomplish.

We should work to allow students to use more higher order thinking skills.  How does access to the technology allow us to do more Project Based Learning and hit the four C's - Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity?

Collaboration is huge!  It is one of the top skills employers look for.  What is one of the biggest reasons young adults lose jobs? The inability to work with others!

We need to MODEL!  Leadership needs to use the digital skills and methods of communication we want our students to use.  This will encourage teachers to use the same.  Have a guest administrator or teacher come and demonstrate or partner up for a lesson!  You never know what they'll say unless you ask!

We are all learning!  This is not a process that just goes to our students.  We are learning how to teach, teaching students how to learn, and how we can teach ourselves using technology.

You don't have to be a "techy" teacher!  Good practice comes from good teaching.  We're just adding a different way of doing things that teachers do already and including some skills necessary for students today.

Eventually, the technology will just become the way we do things.  It won't stay new for long.

Take on what you can handle.  Progress is progress!  Trying to do it all at once will be impossible, cause frustration, and will cause burnout.

Our rooms can become less centered on the teacher and more so on the student. We have tools to meet students where they are at and provide individualized learning.  The teacher becomes more of a facilitator than a leader.

As we move forward, what other areas of our schools will undergo a conversion?  How will our learning spaces be able to change?  Is a classroom filled with rows of desks going to remain the design of choice? Check out this BOLD move by a second grade teacher,  mentioned in these two articles! And see her blog, Kleinsperation. (She has a nice post on Chromebooks too!)

Ditching the Desks
Foster Productivity and Creativity

Its Not About the Device!

Last spring, Google in Education did a week long program that focused on Innovative Chromebook Teachers.  Each day they had a Hangout featuring teachers of specific subjects and how they used Chromebooks to enhance students learning in their classrooms.  It was a great series to watch.  Thankfully, they are all recorded and available to view on the Google in Education YouTube Channel.

After I watched them there was one things very clear- these were not commercials promoting Chromebooks!  They were showing all types of tools you could use available to anyone with the Internet.  The device didn't matter!  Also, so many of these ideas could be used in other subjects.  It was worth watching them all to see what similar ideas could be used in other classes as well.

Here are all the videos with a list of  the tools discussed by the teachers.

Before you grab some popcorn you may want to take a look at this AWESOME resource created by Richland School District Two in South Carolina.  They have created a wonderfully organized tool list.  It is definitely worth bookmarking!


Monday, May 6th-  Mathematics  (recording)
·  Wix (free website builder) - use it as a summative assessment
·  Quia & Quizlet - students can use these for quizzes & review
·  Illustrative Math - complex tasks instead of just 'drill & practice'; also ties into different state/Common Core standards
·  Desmos - online graphing calculator - use it in linear relations unit, also great for plotting circles (and can do it more easily than other graphic calculators per the math teachers!)
·  Manga High - uses gaming for learning math; students can earn badges and you can compete against different schools (Webb City used it for 'integer reviews')
·  Awesome Screenshot -  capture screenshots of kids' works and annotate them.  
·  Geogebra & Geogebra Tube (resources from lots of teachers with little lessons)
·  Lucid Charts with math vocabulary words - have to connect the words, the more connections the better (e.g. 'trapezoid' connected to 'shapes')
· - quick way to make quizzes and submit homework
·  Schoology - LMS that also gives analytics for quizzes so you can target which students need help on certain concepts (and you can create your own questions, where Kahn academy already has them created for you)
·  Kahn Academy
·  Youtube - bring in movies with math problems' in it, and solve them in class
·  Daum Equation Editor - allows you to use math symbols on the Chromebook (Schoology also allows this; or you can save something as a PDF)

Tuesday, May 7th - Science (recording)
·  Google Drawing - incorporate pictures and words
·  Google Forms - allows students to give their peers feedback on their projects
· - gives a blank screen where students can post 'stickies' and answer eachothers' questions
·  Google Spreadsheets - organize lab data and use graphs
·  Google Sites - created Sites for different elements (Chemistry)
·  Study Stack & Quizlet - for learning vocabulary
·  Edcanvas - start with a blank canvas, and you can add pictures, videos, text, etc.
·  Glogster - create posters
·  Create your own 20% project -- watch a clip of a video (October Sky), allow students to pick what they're interested in (e.g. mining, rockets, etc.), and then they can start doing research
·  Google presentations - insert images and label body parts, etc.
·  Study Island, Study Jams
·  Evernote - save all lesson plans in this app
·  Vine - can take short videos (like one on the intestinal system), upload them and share with social networking sites

Wednesday, May 8th - Social Studies & Foreign Language  (recording)
·  Google Calendar - sync calendars for students with assignment due dates
·  Prezi - create presentations
·  Popplet - online mind mapping tools
·  Thinglink - take an image and attach tags to the image (e.g. picture of the globe, and annotate parts of that picture)
·  Go Animate
· - make online flyers to create arguments
·  Storybird - create a book to create an argument
·  Animoto - tie text and pictures together
·  [teacher productivity] Doctopus
·  [teacher productivity] Goobric - Chrome extension that pop-ups a rubric over a Google Doc so teacher can grade the work and the grades feed into a Spreadsheet
· - create historical timelines from a Google spreadsheet
·  Wevideo & Youtube - create videos
·  Soundcloud - create podcast of "Radio broadcast" from the 20s
·  TodaysMeet - can create your own chat room, messages limited to 140 characters (like Twitter), students can ask questions and share answers. 
·  Twitter - students assume identities of historical figures and tweet as of they were them;  then they have 'Twitter wars' where they pit characters against each other (e.g. Charles Darwin vs Elizabeth Cady Stanton)
·  Comic Life - comic program
·  Bit Strips - can create avatars for students

Thursday, May 9th - Special Education (recording)
·  Google Dictionary - enables student to define a word on a website and pronounces the word for the students
·  Voice search (on - students can say a word and it will help them spell it  
·  Google Voice - use it to text parents to schedule Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings; and use it for students to call and leave a voicemail to record themselves reading aloud
·  Google URL shortener - makes it easier for students instead of typing entire site
·  One tab - condenses all tabs into one window and saves memory on Chromebook
·  Google Keep - help kids keep track of their tasks
·  Google Chat - keeping in touch with students after school
·  Google Sheets - kids can give feedback on other students' speeches/interviews to keep them engaged; teacher can watch kids add their feedback to make sure they're on task
·  CodeAcademy & Scratch - teach coding to students and the teacher doesn't have to be a coder him/herself
·  Socrative Teacher - able to create quizzes for exit tickets;  also can create a game out of it so students race each other and see who gets the most correct answers the most quickly
·  Quiz using Gmail subject lines -- one of the teachers on the Hangout created this! Creates a game out of quizzes
·  Spelling City
·  Brainpop
·  Voice Comments in Google Docs - allows teachers to highlight text and give a voice comment instead of typing it
·  Flubaroo 

Friday, May 10th - Language Arts (recording)
·  Youtube - create public service announcements and edit on Youtube
·  Google Voice - younger students use the landline at school to call Google voice and record themselves reading outloud.  Then the teacher can refer back to the original text and make notes for them.
· - can use it for infographics and paste in sources
·  Google forms - for surveys of students' interests
·  Edublog - every student has their own blog and can write on whatever topic interests them
·  NoRedInk - create assignments and quizzes that are grammar-based.  The questions also relate to students' interests (e.g. Justin Bieber; Modern Family)
·  WeVideo - teachers love it even more than iMovie because it's not device dependent; also more collaborative than iMovie
·  Google Sites - ePortfolios
·  Snapchat & Twitter - send out poems via these social media channels
·  Typing Club
·  eBooks that are accessible via their schools' library

·  Blabberize - upload a picture and have it talk; use in language arts to pick a character from a book and give a report on that character

Monday, September 23, 2013

It Finally Arrived!

That's right!  The day finally got here.  Marshalltown had its first full day of professional development.  While normally this day may be scheduled with informative meetings, group work, or some team planning several teachers got some hands on experience with what is to come this year.

Our 7-12 grade science teachers had a full day of new material.  Their morning was spent at our High School Library getting a refresher Google Training from AEA 267's Kay Schmalen and "experimenting" with the soon to be used Chromebooks themselves.  This was the first time that so many of the devices would be pulled out from their carts and used besides enrolling the devices several weeks before.  Nothing could go wrong, and everything would go perfect, right?  Generally speaking it went great.  Besides some of those hard to understand or try to explain situations things worked well.  Teachers got some great practice with the Chrome browser, sharing files, creating Google + profiles, having hangouts, and just getting familiar with the Chromebooks and how they worked.  The science teachers' day was topped off with an afternoon of learning about  They had an opportunity to see how the site worked, begin creating class rosters, and explore the resources the site had to offer.

3rd and 4th grade teachers had quite the experience as well in the afternoon.  This was the first day this year most of the group got to be together at once.  It was also their first training using Google Apps for Education. They enjoyed themselves and the Hangout section of the training was definitely a hit.  Soon, email notifications were blowing up everyone's inbox as circles were being formed and PLNs were being established.

In the end, we were able to create a nice list of questions to follow up with and share back out to teachers.  It was great to get their insight, to see how things worked, and to hear them discuss how they may handle instruction later this year.

As the day was over and it was time to digest I had to remind myself something.  It is so easy to get stuck on the vision of our classrooms full of students using technology, having a high interest level, collaborating, completing lessons where they are problem solving, using higher order thinking skills, publishing their work, and pushing their limits.  While I am sure I will see that vision, and thinking about it is exciting, I need to remember that getting there is a process.  We'll get there, but we need to take one step at a time.  There will be challenges and problems along the way.  We need to keep our mind open.  Instead of roadblocks they may just be changes in thinking or how we handle business.

For now, we can keep exploring resources.  What units or activities can I modify to bring in technology and challenge students?

What learning do I as a teachers still need?  For some, its experience with the Chrome browser and becoming familiar with how it works.  Here's some resources.

60 Chrome Apps and Extensions
Top 12 Google Chrome Extensions That Enhance Student Learning
Google Chrome Blog

If we are placing Chromebooks in our classrooms we have some reasons in mind - one of those being improving our 21st Century Skills.  Marshalltown Schools found an excellent resource to help develop those skills and monitor growth.  We have next generation assessments coming such as Smarter Balanced and without digital literacy skills students will not be prepared for an online test.

Very soon all students in grades 4 - 8 will be taking the 21st Century Skills Assessment.  This assessment is aligned to all 24 of the ISTE NETS-S standards and gives four levels of proficiency based on the results. The full reports that are offered on the district, school, teacher, class, and student levels will allow us to identify learning gaps and use EasyTech lessons to build the skills in the specific areas we need.   Giving a post test at a later date will allow us to see the growth we've made and also find the areas that are still challenging us.

Besides skills, we'll be able to handle the topic of online safety.  Students will be able to learn digital citizenship, and how to use social networks safely, protect personal information, and prevent cyber bullying.  All the skills can be revisited as students grow, and presented at their appropriate level.

It is also worth mentioning the other classroom curriculum resources has to offer.  It will support classrooms with direct instruction videos, multimedia resources, interactive learning tools, and virtual labs - all aligned to the Common Core. Teachers can take advantage of the lesson planning tools to help deliver content to the students in their classes.  As teachers gather their resources they can start creating district curriculum.

Read this article for more on's place in the Marshalltown Community School District.

Here are a couple reviews on
Tech & Learning