Thursday, December 19, 2013

Three Tips for PBL

While creating a Project Based Learning unit it is important to remember it is about the journey, not the destination.  It is easy to become overwhelmed when thinking about planning lessons that may have multiple standards, take multiple class periods, and could include some unforeseen detours and road blocks.  Here are three tips from the ITF's to consider while developing an effective PBL.

1. Address Your Standards

When thinking about creating a PBL for students, it is important to always begin with the standard(s) that you would like to address.  Ideally, you would choose multiple standards from different subjects that lend themselves to self-directed learning and a culminating event. Students could work to create a product or presentation or solve a problem.

From a teacher's perspective, PBL allows for collaboration among teachers whether they be grade level or across subject areas.

2.  Begin with the End in Mind

As you begin to think through a Project Based Learning experience for students,  it is important to first think about what you would like to have the students accomplish.  After beginning with the standards, decide how students will demonstrate their learning through a real world or real world "like" scenario.  While thinking through how your students will demonstrate their learning, it is also important to incorporate 21st century skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration, and creativity and innovation.

3. It's Not All About You!

Project Based Learning will look different from your traditional classroom.  Teachers will no longer be the "sage on the stage" but a facilitator of student learning. Teachers will not plan out lessons day by day, but rather teach through the workshop model based on student needs.  Therefore, groups within the class will mostly likely be working on different skills at a different pace/time.  In addition, students should have voice and choice in the project.  Students are choosing the vehicle to demonstrate their mastery of standards.  The teacher will not be dictating the project or product students create.  Although there will be an "ending" point to your PBL, students can demonstrate their learning throughout their journey of Project Based Learning.  The assessment of standards should not be solely based on the final product, presentation, or project.

If you or your team would like support in creating a PBL, please contact an ITF team member!

Happy Planning!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Copying D2L Content - Fall 2013

Need assistance copying D2L to 2nd semester course(s)?  Watch this short video to learn how.

Nonfiction Text Resource:


News ELA is an innovative tool to help students build close reading skills and critical thinking skills through relevant nonfiction text. Each News ELA article is written at multiple levels of text complexity, and each student has the ability to adjust the text to a Lexile level that is most appropriate for his or her reading ability. Lexile levels range from the 2nd-3rd grade “stretch” Lexile band (420-820L) to the 11th grade-College and Career Readiness or CCR “stretch” Lexile band (1185-1385L).

How does this tool support individualized instruction and differentiation for students reading at various Lexile levels within a class?

Each News ELA article includes five versions, each written at a different Lexile.  In the screenshot below, the article "Getting Kids to Go to School So That They'll Do Well in Class" is available in five different Lexile levels: 550L (Grade 3), 700L (Grade 4), 940L (Grade 7), 1180L (Grade 8), and MAX (Grade 12). This provides differentiation for individual students; however, the entire class is still reading about the same topic.

Do the articles align with the Common Core State Standards?

While all articles have Lexile differentiation, some articles are specifically aligned to anchor standards. Each article aligned to one or more anchor standards are signified with an anchor icon followed by the anchor standard number. The article in the screenshot above is aligned to anchor standard 2: central idea (determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas).

Currently, articles in News ELA align to one or more of the following anchor standards:
  • Anchor Standard 1: What the Text Says
    • Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  • Anchor Standard 2: Central Ideas
    • Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
  • Anchor Standard 3: People, Events, and Ideas
    • Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
  • Anchor Standard 4: Word Meaning and Choice
    • Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
  • Anchor Standard 6: Point of View and Purpose
    • Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
  • Anchor Standard 7: Multimedia
    • Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

In addition, all articles aligned to anchor standards have accompanying quizzes aligned to the Common Core State Standards. The quizzes are leveled to align with the Lexile level; therefore, the rigor level of the quiz increases with the text complexity and Lexile level, further differentiating the article to individual students.

How can a teacher signup for NEWSELA.COM?

Currently, is a free instructional tool. Teachers can sign in with their Google account. Once a teacher is signed in, the teacher can create one or more classes. Each class will be assigned a five letter class code that the teacher will be able to share with students so that students can enroll in the teacher’s class without registering for a separate account.

Teachers can then build class Binders, which means they can assign individual articles to students. When students log in, they will have a list of articles and accompanying quizzes that they will need to complete. Once students read and take the quiz, the data is easily accessible to the teacher by individual students or by article.

Quick Search Tip:

Teachers can search articles by topic or by anchor standards by using the following link :  Simply replace the number “2” with any of the anchor standard numbers.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Adding New Students to Exiting Individual Student Journals in D2L

Many teachers have already created and are utilizing student journals within Desire2Learn to provide individualized and interactive learning experiences to engage and inspire students by providing opportunities for differentiation, creativity, inquiry, and reflection. However, when new students are enrolled in PowerSchool and automatically added to teachers' D2L courses, teachers have to manually add these students to the existing individual student journals in D2L.

The following steps outline the procedures necessary to add new students to an existing individual journal. All new students will be added to D2L when they are enrolled in PowerSchool.  However, you will have to follow the steps below to add each new student to an individual journal within D2L.  This is a two step process.  First you must attach the new student's name to the student's group # in D2L.  Then you must attache the new group # to a Topic within the individual journal.

Step One:  Attach the New Student's Name to the Group #

  • Go to Edit
  • Select Groups
  • Scroll through the list of Groups and locate the Group # not assigned to a student to a student
  • Click on that Group #
  • Select Enroll Users
  • Search for the Student's name which will be assigned to this Group # (Make note of this # for Step Two)
  • Select the Student
  • Click Save

Step Two:  Attach the New Group #/Student to a Topic within the Individual Journal Discussion

  • Go to Edit
  • Select Discussion
  • Select the Forum that holds the individual journals
  • Click the Dropdown arrow beside the Forum name and select Add Topic
  • Change the Title of the Topic to the Student's Name
  • Click on the Restrictions Tab at the top
  • Go to Group and Section Restrictions
  • Select "Restrict this topic to the following groups and sections"
  • Click on Add Groups and Sections
  • Select the Group # that you previously assigned to the student in Step One
  • Click Add
  • Click Save and Close
Below is a short tutorial on adding new students to existing D2L individual journals.

For information on how to create individual student journals within D2L, please click here.

Friday, December 6, 2013


Glossi is a free online publication tool that allows you to create digital magazines from your desktop, mobile device, or IPad. Users are able to easily incorporate different types of multi-media to enhance their Glossi by including images, photos, videos, animations, links and even audio from Soundcloud with no design skills necessary. After signing up and confirming your FREE account, students will have the ability demonstrate their learning by creating a new, sleek, polished, real world e-magazine that fosters creativity, innovation, communication, and decision making.  Glossi provides several features, but some of my favorites include the following:
     Glossi Provided Page Templates
o   When you begin creating a Glossi, there are a plethora of page layouts that users are able to utilize.  These template pages take the headache out of organizing images, videos, and text to create a professional look.   These layouts can be adjust of built from scratch by using the “Custom” layout.

·         Usability of the Glossi Editor
o   The Glossi editor allows users to manipulate any page by adding, deleting, and manipulating the page set-up to easily get the look and layout you are trying to achieve.  While editing a page text boxes, images, videos, and audio can be added and resized.  Glossi also allows users to “clone” pages to easily re-create and add a page that has been added or edited. 

·         Glossi Images/Clippings
o   When adding images to your Glossi, users have the ability to add images from their computer or find them using Google or another website.  When images are added, Glossi help you organize these images into a “My Clippings” folder.  Once the images are added, you simply can drag and drop photos to where you would like them in your publication.  Glossi also provides Stock Images that include Backgrounds, Effects & Textures, Frames & Borders, Numbers & Symbols, Photos, and Speech Bubbles. 

·         Sharing Capabilities
o   When a Glossi is published, you have the choice to make it listed or unlisted (in a school setting, I would suggest going with the unlisted option).  Once you click “publish” you will receive an embed code to use on a web page or blog, the ability to share via other social media sites, or simply grab the link to your Glossi to share with others through email. 

If you are interested in creating your own Glossi, check out the screencast below or contact an ITF to assist you and your students!

Happy magazine making! 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013



Screencast-O-Matic is a very easy tool that can be used to quickly and easily create a screencast from your desktop or laptop computer.  Users can create screencasts that are 15 minutes or less, and it is FREE to do so!  This is a great tool for teachers to use in their classroom and here are a few ideas on how to use it:

  • leave tutorials for substitutes
  • do a mini-lesson for students when you are absent
  • do a mini-lesson for students who are absent
  • show colleagues how to access or do something on the computer step-by-step
  • allow students to create screencasts to demonstrate understanding
  • allow students to create screencasts to tutor other students on a new program or web 2.0 tool

To get started, simply go to and you have two options from here:

  1. Download it to your computer. I recommend this option simply because it is the easiest.  If you download it, you simply have to access it from your start menu and you are ready to go!
  2. Create an account and login every time.  This option requires you to go to the website anytime you want to create a screencast and login.  
Whichever way you choose--they are both relatively simple and easy!  I am including a link to help videos that will provide you with very brief tutorials on how to do various aspects of screencasting.