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Friday, November 24, 2017

5 Reasons Why A School Staff Should Blog

Blogging can be a fantastic tool for school staff!  As an administrator, it's a great way to keep the staff informed and for school transparency.  As a classroom teacher, a blog can keep parents and the rest of the staff informed about what's going on in their classroom.

1. Keep the staff updated.  Instead of a weekly newsletter, use a blog.  This is a great way for the administration to keep the staff updated on school events and upcoming important dates.  Talk about upcoming school events: plays, fundraisers, school sports, meetings, etc.

2. Discuss your goals and values.  A great way to onboard new staff.  Share posts about school values and school goals.  Keep the staff in the know about what the school is doing to achieve those goals and how the staff exemplifies those values.

3. If you're the principal, let your staff contribute. Let the staff comment, give suggestions, or voice concerns.

4. Put interesting forms on your blog.  Provide links to Google Forms or other survey apps.  Keep the staff feeling the ownership of the school by asking their opinions on certain aspects of the school.  Then share the results on the blog.

5.  Use a blog for transparency. Talk about what's going on in at your school and in your classroom.  Share what's going on in your classroom with the staff and student families.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Eight Ways to Introduce Tech at your School


With Chromebooks and iPads becoming more prevalent in today's classrooms, more administrators and tech personnel are finding it necessary to teach the teachers on the uses of technology in the classroom.
Here are some sure-fire ways to get the staff on board using new technology:

1.  Ok, this one is simple.  Introduce it on a PD day.  Show off that shiny new Chromebook at a professional development.  Show the staff how this hunk of a machine will benefit them and their students in the classroom.

2. Invite teachers to sign up for an account before the PD.  Ask teachers to sign up for an Instagram or Twitter account before the PD, this way, they’ll be able to participate in the meeting.  They don’t necessarily have to start using Twitter or Instagram, but at least come with an account in hand.

3. Food!  Have a Taco Tech Tuesday.  Yes, unfortunately, someone is going to have to shell out a couple of bucks for the taco’s but a happy, full staff is a productive staff.  It definitely offers them an incentive when you’ve provided some tacos.  Now, it’s not just a training, but it’s more of an event.

4. Get the staff using the software before a big PD day.  Perhaps you’ve got an English Learner class that could use some new life injected into it.  Tell the teacher about something like “Duolingo.”  Show them how it works and perhaps demo a lesson.  Show the teacher what a benefit it would be in their class and how easy it is to use.  A teacher wants to spice up their lectures?  Pull them aside and show them all the great things they can do with PearDeck or Nearpod.

5. Institute the app school-wide.  Take Google Classroom, the much loved Google Education app.  You can have different departments use Google Classroom as a depository for lessons.  You've essentially created a professional learning network using Google Classroom.  Each department can have a Google Classroom where they can deposit lesson plans for other teachers in their department to peruse.  You taught Economics last year and the new Econ teacher is looking for ideas, simply point them to the Google Classroom for their department.

6. Use it for a PD.  That is, don’t make the app the center of the PD, but use it to facilitate the PD.  For example, Google has a great way to use Google Slides with an audience with Google Slides Q&A.  Instead of that same old boring PowerPoint where questions are asked during the presentation, sometimes breaking the flow of the meeting, simply ask the staff to sign on to the presentation using their device.  Once they’re part of the presentation, they can ask questions using the app.  In most cases, once they see how it worked in the PD, they’ll want to incorporate it into their own classrooms.  Same with other interactive presentation software such as PearDeck or Nearpod.

7. Show up at their department meetings.  Instead of taking on the whole staff, work with the staff in small chunks.  It's like having a small class, you can be more hands-on and easily address questions they may have.  In most cases, they’ll share with other teachers how they’re using the app, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on and so on.

8. Summarize a PD or check for understanding using a game!  That’s right, a game!  Look, just because they’re adults doesn’t mean they don’t like to play games once in a while.  Create some Kahoot questions or put some questions in Socrative and create a racing game.  Again, using the technology will get teachers wanting to use it in their classroom.  Most will find the staff meeting fun and engaging.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Go Paperless in the Classroom with Showbie!

Paper? Who needs paper in the 21st century classroom? There are a multitude of apps out there that help teachers avoid the dreaded line at the copy machine. After all, with an app like Showbie, you'd be hard pressed to try and use paper in the classroom. Showbie is essentially a learning management system where you can deliver material to students, keep track of their work, and track their progress in the class. One thing that sets Showbie apart from other LMS's is that it's very easy to use. Explore Showbie with a few clicks and you'll find you're already a pro at using it.
Showbie is a snap for students to sign up. Students simply navigate to the Showbie site (or open the app on their iOS device) and sign up with their Google account or they can create a unique username and password.

On the surface, without the paid "pro" features, Showbie is a great way to distribute and receive student assignments. What make's Showbie so easy to incorporate in your classroom is that it works with a multitude of apps and devices. You can easily have your students show you how they solve a math equation using Explain Everything, they can mark-up a document in Skitch, or write an essay in Apple's Pages. All are easily shareable to Showbie. Showbie can be accessed using everything from an iOS device like an iPhone or iPad using the Showbie app, a Chromebook, or a plain ol' Windows machine.
Showbie has a "shared folder" component where the teacher can simply deposit an assignment so students can have access to it. The assignment can either be marked "view only" or the teacher can give each student access to mark on their own copy using Showbie's text tools.
Once it deposited in the shared folder, each student has their own individual copy. With the text tool, students can mark on the provided worksheet. Students can even record a voice note and include it with their assignment. This is a great way to ask students to practice a new language or explain their thought process.
It's easy to stay on top of class work with Showbie. Click on the assignment and you get a list of your students. You can instantly tell who has turned in the assignment or even who has asked a question about the assignment.
One of the great things about Showbie it the "assignment lock' feature (pro feature). Set a due date, activate "assignment lock" and no longer will students have access to the assignment. No longer does the teacher have to wonder if a student has turned in the assignment after the due date.
Showbie allows the teacher to create student groups (pro feature). Create groups to work on a project together. Class discussions are also an important part of Showbie. They allow you and your students to have a discussion in and outside the classroom.
Showbie makes it easy to grade student work as well (pro feature). While viewing a student assignment, you can add a grade as a number or letter grade. You can also add a comment if you wish. Keep all of your students work together in one place with student portfolios.
Even without the paid pro features, Showbie is still a great alternative to other LMS's. A teacher would owe it to themselves to give it a try.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Five Apps to Get Students Excited About Journaling

Journaling can play an important part in the classroom for a number of reasons. Journaling helps students develop their writing skills and become a more confident writer. It's a great way for students to self-reflect. And, in the case of a free-form journal, it may aid in decreasing stress as they are able to pour out their thoughts and emotions. Journaling in the classroom is also a great way for students to reflect on their learning.
As far as journaling tools go, there are the obvious word processors such as Google Docs, Pages, and Word. But the following are five unique ways students can journal in the classroom:
  1. Google Slides/Keynote: Presentation apps are an easy way for students to organize their journals and an easy way for teachers to review them. Simply use each slide as a day's journal entry. Let students edit the slide so they might include pictures, themes, and various fonts.

  2. Seesaw: I've written how cool Seesaw is as far as keeping a student portfolio. In essence, it's a journal where students can reflect on their work by including pictures and video about what they're doing in the classroom. Take it one step further and post some of the student entries on the class blog included in Seesaw.

  3. Kidblog: A way for students to not only keep a journal, but develop good digital citizenship skills by creating a blog. Kidblog is a blogging platform tailored for the classroom. With Kidblog, the teacher is in complete control. From who can see the posts to who can comment, Kidblog puts the teacher in total control of the blog.

  4. Tag Journal: An iOS app that can be used for both note-taking and journaling using, text, voice recording, and pictures. The cool thing about Tag Journal is reflected in its name. You can "tag" your entries. A student may want to tag journal entries specific to what they're learning in class. For example, tag entries regarding the Civil War or World War II. It's a great way for students to organize their journal according to topic or subject.

  5.  Paper by Fifty Three:  A unique way to keep a journal. Unleash students creativity and give them ownership of their learning with this iOS app. There's no end to what students can do with Paper. Paper enables students to be creative in documenting their learning by giving them the ability to draw using a variety of tools, annotate screenshots, incorporate photo's, as well enter text.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Get Interactive in the Classroom with Nearpod

Get interactive with Nearpod!  I'm always looking for new and exciting ways to present information to my students.  Being in a classroom with a class set of Chromebooks has opened up new possibilities to get my students engaged with the content.

One that I've been excited about lately is Nearpod.  Nearpod provides apps for iOS, Android, Windows, and Chrome OS, so it works on virtually any device with an internet connection.  So, what is Nearpod?  In short, it's a way for teachers to put together and present interactive presentations, which in turn, keep students engaged.  Gone are the days of students staring at a boring PowerPoint presentation (or Keynote if you're an Apple person) while the teacher spews out information.  

With Nearpod, students are engaged drawing, taking quizzes, participating in a poll, completing fill in the blank exercises, and/or writing short answers to questions that are posed by the teacher in the Nearpod.  You may have seen these features in other presentation software or incorporated them into your own PowerPoints, but Nearpod takes it one step further where you can take virtual field trips or examine particular items with Nearpod 3D.

Nearpod 3D includes subjects such as anatomy, the environment, ancient buildings, as well as the planets.  Nearpod 3D allows students to examine a picture from all angles while manipulating the picture.    You can insert a Nearpod Filed Trip, which is a virtual reality type tour of a particular place, such as the Acropolis in Greece or a pyramid in Mexico.  Nearpod also allows you to upload a video from Dropbox, Google Drive, or find one and insert it from YouTube.

Another plus of Nearpod is that you can take those old presentations you've been using for years and upload them into Nearpod and turn them in to interactive presentations that will wow students and colleagues.  Simply insert activities in your slide deck deck and boom, your old presentation has been updated for the 21st century student.

And, while the students are working on a particular Nearpod, you can monitor their progress.  It's awesome!  The teacher can control the pace of the presentation or, with an upgrade, let students proceed through the Nearpod at their own pace.

One of the things that makes Nearpod stand out is its sense of community.  There are many pre-made Nearpods that you can add to your own library, both paid and free.  So, if you find yourself in a pinch (perhaps you've taken ill) and want your students to use Nearpod but don't have one ready to go, you can browse the selections that cover your topic and add it to your library.

Nearpod also features what they call "collaborate."  Collaborate is a virtual message board where students post a quick answer to a question posed by the teacher.  Collaborate is a great way to start of a presentation while activating prior learning or reviewing from the previous day.

At the end of the session, you have the option to view and download  a report of your session for analysis and/or gradebook purposes.

If you can't tell, I'm excited about using Nearpod in my classes!  If your looking for a new way to engage your students in the classroom, or just want to add another option to your teaching practice, you owe it to yourself to check out Nearpod.  For more info, check out 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Seesaw: A Digital Portfolio App for the 21st Century

Paper is out. Digital is in. Seesaw is an awesome digital portfolio and blog where students are empowered to document their learning in their class. It’s very easy for students to sign up. They can sign in using a QR code or through an email or Google account.
Students can capture their work in a variety of ways. They can document their work in a variety of ways. They can insert something from their camera roll or take a picture of a project or assignment and insert it from there. Seesaw also gives them the option to shoot a brief video about their work or project and insert it into the platform. They can include links to a particular website or draw on a blank canvas. Lastly, they can write a note or short essay and include it in their portfolio.
Students can collect their work from any device. They can leverage their PC or Chromebook camera. There is an app for Android, iOS, and ChromeOS. It’s great in both Chromebook classrooms and iPad classrooms as well.

Seesaw also provides the teacher with the option to create a class blog based on student work. The teacher can take student work and post it to the class blog, therefore, everything goes through the teacher before being posted to the class blog. The blog can be accessible with or without a code. This really gives students ownership of their work, knowing that there will potentially be many other people that will see it.
Another cool aspect of Seesaw is that parents can have access to their child’s work in Seesaw. So, instead of asking what their child did that day — they know! Parents can bring up an assignment with their child instead of the other way around.

Keeping with folders, student portfolio work can be assigned to as many folders as needed. For example, if a teacher wants to organize work according to topic or chapter, simply create a folder.
One of the ways that that Seesaw is worth its weight in gold is its usefulness at parent-teacher conferences. Instead of tracking down student work, simply take along your iPad or laptop and open up their portfolio. If a teacher wants to set aside student work for a parent/teacher conference, simply create a folder for certain work. It’s that easy!
If you’re looking for a digital portfolio for student work, look no further than Seesaw! For more info, check out Seesaw at

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Five Ways to Turn Up the Power of Google Sheets

Google Sheets can be much more than a simple spreadsheet application. Turn up the power of Sheets with these five add-on's!


Attched to a Google Sheet, Flubaroo is a powerful grading tool. Not only can it grade assignments that in a Google Sheet, but if you have the student email, you can return their grades to their shared folder.  Using one of my favorite application in Pear Deck?  You can send your Pear Deck results to a Google Sheet and use Flubaroo to grade them.


Doctopus is a great way to distribute classroom assignments in a paperless classroom. Students simply look in their "Shared With Me" folder for their assignment. The thing that's great about Doctopus (of which Google Classroom recently added) is that it provides a way to differntiate assignments among the students in your class. Want student "A" to do all of the questions on the worksheet while student "B" should only do half of them, it's easy to send out separate assignments. Once the due date for the assignment has arrived, you can "ingest" the assignment for grading and return the digital copy.


Goobric takes that rubric you have on a Google Sheet and attaches it to student work for easy grading. It works hand in hand with Doctopus. Once you've got the student work in Doctopus, attach the Goobric, grade and return--it's really easy to do and makes grading simple.


Rostersync is heaven sent for those that are typing rosters into a spreadsheat to use for different applications such as grading apps. It works in conjunction with Google Classroom in that it pulls your roster from Classroom or vice versa sending a roster from your spreadsheet to Google Classroom. It works great when you want to set up a class with Doctopus.


Autocrat is a document merge app that takes information you have on a spreadsheet and moves it to a Google Doc or PDF. For example, you've asked the students to sign in using Google Forms when attending an after school study session because want to give the students a certificate of participation. The Google Form is connected to a Google Sheet for easy reference. You can take the information on the Google Sheet and create certificates of participation using Autocrat. It's also great for use at staff meetings. The staff signs in through a Google Form that's tied to a Google Sheet. Use Autocrat to create a certificate of attendance.