Monday, October 27, 2014

81 Dash - New Backchanneling Tool

Are you familiar with backchanneling?

To “backchannel” is to use a digital forum to have an online conversation about a speaker, presentation, or topic. The conversation is synchronous allowing all users to talk in real-time. Traditionally, backchannels are hosted on various platforms including Today’s Meet, Class Commons, and now 81 Dash. With the growing popularity of social media, many conference developers have transitioned to using Twitter, along with a specific hashtag, to publicly share their learning and confer with colleagues. In the realm of classroom teaching, many teachers continue to use backchannel platforms, as opposed to social media accounts, as it gives all students access and eliminates the need for a personal social media account.

In the past, many teachers have used TodaysMeet as a tool for backchanneling.  Recently we have discovered a new backchanneling tool called 81 Dash that was developed by educators for educators.  

User Features: 81 Dash allows teachers to register for an account and quickly create rooms. Teachers can then name their room and decide when their room will expire.  Once in a room, participants can exchange messages like a chat room or share files.  Students can join your 81 Dash room by using the URL that was assigned to your room and then registering.  Students can register by creating their own 81 Dash login with an email or they can register as a guest without an email. Teachers also have the ability to manually create accounts for students by using the 81 Dash provided Excel sheet.  

Along with deciding when a room expires, teachers can also determine if a room is “Active” or “Locked.”  Active rooms allow teachers and students to post and interact, while locked rooms allow only the teacher to see the room and what people have posted.  Teachers also have the ability to delete student posts to better moderate the conversation.  As a teacher or a student, you can get a PDF transcript of the room’s conversation to save and refer back to later.

Happy Backchanelling!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Using Google Forms in the Classroom

Google Forms is a Google tool that is part of our Google Apps for Education Suite that allows users to collect, organize, and analyze data quickly and easily.  Google Forms provides several templates to create polls, surveys, and/or quizzes in the classroom and beyond. You can even insert videos, add images, create your own theme, or have others collaborate on creating your form.

After creating the Google Form, the link can be shared with anyone to complete.  Responses to your form are automatically collected and organized in a Google Sheet for easy reading and sharing.

There are many ways that Google Forms can be used in the classroom.  Below are the ITF Team's favorite five!

1. Quick Formative Assessment
A Google Form can be created to gather quick, formative, data from your class.   Teacher's can include multiple choice, short answer, paragraph text, checkboxes, or choose from a list.  Data from the Google Form can be used for class discussions and to drive future lessons.

2.  Collect Parent or Student Data and Digital Work
Sending parents a Google Form to fill out at the beginning of the year is a great way to collect important information that you might need throughout the year. In the past, parents have often had to fill out several different back-to-school paper documents that the teacher ultimately has to organize and file throughout the year. By using a Google Form, parents can click on the Google Form link & simply fill out one survey with all of their contact information.  The teacher will then have all parent information in one digital document that can be accessed from anywhere at anytime.

Keeping and organizing students' digital work can sometimes be overwhelming.  Teachers inevitably have an email inbox full of links that have to be sorted and opened individually. Instead of asking students to email the links to various digital projects throughout the year, teachers can use a Google Form to collect all of the links to student work. Students can fill out the form with their name, hour, and also the share link from any online work they have created.  Once the data is collected on the Google Sheet, the teacher can filter by name, hour, or link to the project. The teacher can even share the Google Sheet with students, parents, or others so everyone has an opportunity to see all students' work.

3. Exit Slip
Google Forms can be utilized as a quick and easy way to create and administer an exit slip. While Forms are not extremely efficient for lengthy quizzes, they can be exceptionally useful when gathering a few quick pieces of data on an exit slip. Best practice would be to create new forms and require the user to sign-in as well as collect the respondent’s username (both can be selected at the top under “form settings”). Then request that the student enter his or her first name, last name and follow-up with your question fields. Then, post the link to the assessment in your Brightspace course or on your classroom website. 

4. Students Collecting Data
Students can create and send out Google Forms to collect data in various subject areas for various projects.  This is a fast and accurate way to collect data simply by attaching the link to an email, a website or even social media.  Students can even work collaboratively to create the form by going to “File” and “Email Collaborators”.  

5. Sign-Up Sheet for Clubs, Sports, or Events
Teachers can easily use a Google Form to have student sign-up for a club, sport, or event.  By using a Google Form, teachers can set a specific date range for when the Form is available.  Student can sign-up at home or by using their phone on their own time. Teachers can easily see who is signed-up, schedule times, and organize the data within the Google Sheet to move forward!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Using Technology with Purpose

Using Technology with Purpose

        There's a right way, and a wrong way to utilize technology in the classroom.  When technology is used with purpose, the growth and learning that takes place is astounding.  Here is an info-graphic created by AJ Juliani that lists 7 ways you can use technology in your classroom purposefully:

7 Ways Teachers Can Use Technology With Purpose Infographic

 1.  To Collaborate in Real Time
        Having students collaborate is a great 21st century skill that enhances learning.  Utilizing technology enhances this skill greatly because it breaks the barriers of the classroom walls.  Technology can allow students to collaborate not only with their classmates, but with other classes, schools and professionals across the world.  Google Drive and Skype are just two ways to do this effectively.

2.  To Reflect and Share
     Students learn by doing, constructing, building, talking, and writing, but they also learn by thinking about events, activities and experiences. This meeting of experiences (action) and thought (reflection) combines to create
new knowledge. When we use technology to create and house these reflections, for example through blogging, it allows the reflection to be accessible from anywhere and to be shared with a broader audience, which in turn would provide greater feedback for the learner.  

3.  Better Research
     The Internet is estimated to hold about 5 million terabytes of data...that's a lot!  Students have access to answers with a few clicks of a keyboard.  Technology makes it a lot simpler and more efficient to research--we just need to teach students how to do that effectively.  

4.  Write & Re-write
      Technology makes the writing process much more efficient.  Using tools like Google Docs, kids can draft and share their writing with teachers or peer editors for real-time advice and guidance.  It also keeps track of feedback (comments), which makes it easy for teachers to see what they have recommended, and what was adhered to.  Throw in Google Classroom with the Turn In over.  Life is great!

5.  Make Something (that matters)
     Voice and choice.  This is a freedom we need to provide our students with.  Letting them choose how to best demonstrate their learning...and maybe even making a difference in the world.  Technology greatly fosters creativity.  Students can create songs, videos, presentations, blogs, etc...and these can all be shared with an authentic audience if they so choose.  

6.  Keep a Digital Record
   Keeping a digital or e-portfolio is a great way to utilize technology.  It is a very easy way to show how much a student has grown--either through the year or even years!  Many learning management systems have their own built in e-portfolio, but students can easily make one of their own by using Google Drive or creating a Google Site!  

7.  Mastery Assessments
   Mastery or formative assessments can really help the teacher guide their instruction.  When done digitally, the teacher can get IMMEDIATE feedback so they can shift their instruction, reteach, pull a small group or move-on right then!  There are many free web-based tools, such as Socrative, that teachers can use quickly and effectively in their classroom.  

While there are many ways technology can be used to simply "pass the time", when it is used purposefully in the classroom, student learning can skyrocket!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Google Classroom in Park Hill

Park Hill Google Apps for Education

 A few years ago, the Park Hill School District decided to integrate Google Apps for Education. This robust suite of digital collaboration tools is always evolving and changing to incorporate new tools and resources. In short, students are able to share documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and more in a way that allows for real-time editing. This can be a real game changer as it allows students to collaborate across classrooms, buildings, states, and even nations. It easily breaks down the walls of the traditional brick-and-mortar classroom to extend learning beyond the confines of the physical school building and traditional learning hours.

To learn about Google Apps for Education, click here.

Google Classroom

Google Apps for Education has recently added a new feature called Google Classroom. Google Classroom was designed to help save time and keep teachers and students organized in Google Drive.
Google Classroom makes it EASY to:
  • Create & Manage Classes & Folders 
  • Create Folders for Individual Assignments
  • Automatically Make a Copy of a Google Document for each student
  • Quickly See Who Has Not Completed an Assignment
  • Provide Feedback on Student Work
Check out this awesome Google Classroom video, and contact an ITF for support!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Five Tips from the ITF Team to Start Your School Year

1. Relax
The beginning of the year can be a stressful time for any teacher.  There are hundreds of tasks that you want to complete right out of the gate... Build relationships with students. Meet parents. Organize your classroom. Plan your lessons. New tools to learn. Just the thought of all of this can be overwhelming, but we encourage you to TRY to relax. Everything does not need to be done the first week.  Take a deep breathe...slow down... this is a fresh start to a great new year. Even though you are stressed out, your students are coming in excited to meet their new teacher(s). YOU can make it a great year or not. The choice is yours!

2. Take Risks--- Start Small
Make this the year to get out of your comfort zone, even if it just slightly.  Here is your opportunity to set a goal and achieve it. In words of our great leader, Dr. Susan Rizzo,  "Think about where you are, visualize where you want to be, and take that first step in moving in the right direction."  When thinking about technology, maybe this is trying out ONE new tool, or working to develop a Project Based Learning experience for one Learning Objective in your classroom before winter break.

3. Allow Your Students to Teach You!
Guess what?! It is completely OK for you not to know EVERYTHING. Especially in regards to technology.  If you can just get a basic knowledge of a new tool, allow your students the opportunity to explore, discover, teach each other, and you. Inevitably, there will be kiddos that rise to the top with technology. Allow them to be "experts" or "Tech-Buddies" that students can turn to with a technology problem. Be willing to utilize these student their knowledge in your classroom.

4. Be Consistent, but Willing to Change
It is always a great a idea to start out with a plan or procedure in mind.  With any procedure in the classroom, it is important to be consistent.  Take the time to go over these expectations and procedures, practice, and stick to necessary consequences.  After an implementation period, spend time time reflecting on your practices. If something isn't working how you envisioned, change it! Kids are resilient, and will be able to keep up!

5.   Attempt to Move Towards a More Student Centered Classroom
This might seem pretty big, but if you adhere to the other four tips, moving towards a more student centered classroom is something that is very doable and can happen over time.  Student centered learning could include:

  • Active Learning
    • Students Solving Authentic Problems
    • Students Formulating Questions of their Own
    • Students Spending Time Discussing, Debating, Explaining, and Brainstorming Ideas
  • Cooperative Learning
    • Students Work in Teams
    • Teacher's Support Positive Interdependence & Individual Accountability
  • Project Based Learning
    • Students Work Through a Presented Challenge & Learn Course Material to Address the Challenge
As an instructor, allow your students to have an opportunity to have voice and choice in how they share their knowledge and/or manage their work flow. Allowing for student voice and choice will promote student engagement and ownership in their work.  Provide students time to communicate & collaborate with each other and experts in the field. Leverage technology tools to foster communication and collaboration as well as provide a way to demonstrate their learning to an authentic audience.

The Instructional Technology Facilitators are wishing you a successful 2014-2015 school year!  We look forward to partnering with you!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

StoryJumper --- Digital Publishing Tool

Recently a 3rd grade teacher asked me about using StoryJumper as a way create digital storybooks for her students' fairy tale writing they had been working on during Writer's Workshop.  Even though we had not used the tool before, we found it very easy to set-up and also easy for students to navigate.  In the past, I had used tools such as Little Bird Tales and Story Bird.  Although I like these tools, I believe that StoryJumper is the best choice for students who have already written the story and then are looking for a way to digitally publish with an easy to use layout, backgrounds, and a plethora of props to enhance their story.

StoryJumper Classroom Account
StoryJumper also allows teachers to set up a classroom account.  The classroom account allows teachers to pre-load their students.  When students are ready to begin creating their stories, they simply go to the login page and type in their class code to gain access.  Teachers then have access to all student stories and are able to moderate progress and provide feedback along the way.

Working on StoryJumper at Home
Using the classroom account, students are only able to work on their story at school when their teacher has "started" the class session.  If you would like to allow students to access and work on their books at home, parents will need to set-up a "Home Account."  The instructions for parents to follow to get the home account are easy and can be printed off each students.  Some of the benefits of creating a home account are:
  • More time to work on their stories at home (their home account is linked with their school account)
  • Keep their stories after the school year ends (otherwise, students who don't create Home Accounts can't access their stories after school ends)
  • Parents can enjoy their child's stories
  • Parents can purchase a hard copy of their child's book for $25.95 (must be at least 16 pages)

Sharing Your StoryJumper Book
You can share your StoryJumper book with anyone by simply clicking the "Share" button when you are finished with your book.  By default, your book is shared with "only me." If you would like to share with others, click on "Friends & Family" to receive a link that can be sent via email.

StoryJumper is a great digital publishing tool. Below I have included a short tutorial video that was created for younger students.  The video is great, but I suggest you just sign up for an account and discover StoryJumper's simplicity for yourself!



Thursday, April 10, 2014

SoundCloud for Audio Tracks and Podcasting with Students

Heard of SoundCloud? I hadn't until just recently when I was using other web tools that claimed they could embed "SoundsCloud Tracks."

After some investigating,  I found that SoundCloud is an awesome resource that allows users to upload and/or record audio that they can share on various social media sites including blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Jam, or email for friends, fans, or followers.  Musicians can use Soundcloud to share their music. Authors can record audio books. Podcasters can record directly in SoundCloud. The possibilities are really endless.

After creating a free account with Google, you can search for thousands of audio tracks from other SoundCloud users or record and upload up to 120 minutes of your own audio material. If the 120 minutes isn't enough, go ahead and move to an account upgrade. There are some great pricing options for everyone!

As an educator, I would most likely use SoundCloud for me and my students to record short audio tracks right from our computer.  Students could embed these tracks into tools such as ThingLink, SMORE, & Blogger.  Since SoundCloud simply produces a link, you can share this link virtually anywhere!

Once your account is created, click "Upload." From here, you are a few short clicks away from uploading a previously recorded track or making your own track right on SoundCloud that can be shared privately via a link or publicly in the SoundCloud search.

Happy Listening!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Skype in the Classroom

Education is changing.  No longer are students expected to "sit and get" their knowledge from lectures or books.  We want them to be active learners and use 21st century skills to gain the knowledge they need and to do so in authentic and meaningful ways. One of the best ways to make a lesson authentic and meaningful to students is to bring in outside professionals in the current field of study to talk with students and answer questions they may have.  Another great way to do that is to take field trips to those famous places students are learning about, rather than to simply read about them in books.  While in the past these amazing opportunities required lots of expenses to make it happen, today it much easier to make these fabulous learning experiences come to life...and for free.  Enter, Skype in the Classroom--the world's biggest classroom.  

Skype in the Classroom allows you to collaborate with classrooms across the globe (over 66,000 teachers are currently using Skype!) by participating in Mystery Skypes, being or finding an authentic audience for student writers or by having students collaborate and work together on a project.  It is breaking down classroom walls and allowing children to be a part of experiences from around the world by granting them unprecedented access to new experiences.  Students can chat with Yellowstone National Park Rangers, Skype with scientists from the top of Mt. Everest, and have NASA scientists show students firsthand how to prepare a space vehicle for takeoff.  

Best of all, Skype in the Classroom is easy to use!  Teachers can search by subject, age or what they are looking for (guest speakers, lessons, etc...).  Simply visit: to get started!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

ThingLink Edu

What is a ThingLink?
ThingLink is a tool that allows users to create interactive images to tell a story. Users upload images from their computer, Facebook, Flickr, or a webpage and then add interactive "Tags" that can be text, videos, audio, or links to websites and places on the web.

You can checkout my ThingLink here!

Creating a ThingLink Teacher Account & Getting Students Signed-Up
Now teachers can sign-up for a teacher account and also create accounts for their students in just a few simple steps. Teachers can create an account with email, Twitter, Facebook, or your Google account. Setting up an account as a teacher makes it easy for educators to collect, view, and organize students' work and also allows students to easily find their teacher's ThingLinks.  When a teacher account is created, ThingLink automatically creates a classroom group. With this classroom group, teachers can add students.   Check out this blog post from ThingLink that explains some of the added benefits to the teacher accounts.

Below is a great video tutorial on getting you and your students signed-up.

How Can I Use ThingLink in my Classroom?

After reading an article by Richard Byrne, here are some of my favorite ideas on how to use ThingLink in the classroom:

  • Create a Portfolio
    • Have students add links to different artifacts that they have created.  Students could include webpages, presentations, videos, written papers or photos.
  • Create an Interactive Report
    • Add audio clips, primary source documents, videos, maps, and artifacts from Google Docs to your base picture.
  • Create interactive Bulletin Boards
    • Take a photo of a classroom bulletin board.  Have students make tags on their work and share what they learned with parents or others.
  • Make Art Talk
    • Ask students to record and listen to stories about their own art work.
  • Create an Interactive Adventure for Learning
    • Create a ThingLink that includes websites, text, videos, blogs, and other web tools to allow students to discover their own learning through the teacher's guided resources.
As always, feel free to direct any questions to an ITF.  We would be more than happy to come support you or your students!


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Publishing Tools to Replace Glossi

If you and your students have been using Glossi, a magazine publishing tool, you probably already know the bad news.  Over Spring Break, Glossi sent out emails informing users that they are discontinuing the web-based magazine creator and shifting towards a pure mobile consumption tool.  While previous users will still be able to access a previously created Glossi from the share URL, students will not be able to create a new Glossi or work on a Glossi in progress after April 1st.

With that said, the ITF team has found two alternatives to Glossi so that you can continue to integrate digital magazine/book publications into your learning environment.


One option, very similar to Glossi, is Madmagz.  Madmagz is a magazine creator which allows students to create a magazine with flip pages.  There is one free template with multiple page designs.  This tool gives students the ability to quickly and easily produce a web-based magazine publication with professional quality. I have included a sample Madmagz that I created.  Please click here to view a sample.


A second option which creates a basic flipbook from a GoogleDoc or Google Presentation is Flipsnack.  Flipsnack converts a GoogleDoc or Google Presentation into a customized flipbook.  I have included a sample Flipsnack as well.  Please click here to view a sample.  (It’s on my dog—enjoy! J)
For a detailed resource on how to create a flip book from a GoogleDoc, check out "From GoogleDocs to Flipping Books" from Ed Tech Ideas:  Tech Integration for Busy Teachers!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Setting Up a YouTube Channel and the YouTube Capture Tool

If you are looking for an easy way for you or your students to create videos and easily get them to YouTube, look no further than the YouTube Capture feature.  The YouTube Capture feature has been a free App for a while, but now YouTube Capture is also available right on the web.  To access this feature, you will first need to set-up a YouTube account. Luckily, YouTube is integrated with Google (you can just use a gmail account), so if you are a Park Hill teacher or student, you can sign in with your Park Hill credentials.

After you create an account, I recommend making some adjustments to settings.  To do this, click on the silhouette icon (or your picture in the top right corner) then click on "My Channel."

Next, hover your mouse over the area where it has your name; a pencil will appear in the top right corner.  Click the pencil, and then click "Channel Settings."

Under Channel Settings, I suggest going through the heading and decide if you would like advertisements, channel recommendations,and subscriber counts.  For a classroom I would suggest "Do Not Allow" for all of those options. 

Along the left,  you will also see a tab for Defaults.  This is where you have the ability to change the privacy of your channel.  Your channel will automatically default to Public. There are three options for the privacy options. Public, Private, & Unlisted. You also have the option of adjusting the privacy setting on each individual video. When you edit or change your channel privacy, your videos will default to this setting as well.

Public Channel/Public Videos - Anyone can search your channel name and videos.

Private Channel/Private Videos - A private video can only be seen by you and other YouTube or Google account users you select. The video will not appear on your channel and cannot be searched.

Unlisted Channel/Videos - Unlisted videos allow only people who have the link the ability to view the video.  To share an unlisted video, you will need to send the link to the video with the people you would like to view it. Unlike private videos, the people you share your unlisted video with do NOT need a YouTube or Google account. Unlisted videos are also not searchable.

If you are making videos for your students and/or parents, I suggest making your channel and videos unlisted.

What can I add to my Channel?
Now that you have your channel set-up, you are ready to start creating your videos!  You can of course upload any videos that you have recorded on devices or with other tools such as MovieMaker, Photostory, or Screencast-o-matic.  But with YouTube capture, you now have the ability to create a video using your webcam, make small edits, add music, add annotations, and enhancement all within YouTube.

Creating a Video in YouTube Capture
  • To access the YouTube Capture tool, sign-in to YouTube with your Google account. 
  • Click the "Upload" button.
  • Click the Web Cam Capture Record button (first option along the right).

  • If an Adobe Flash Player Setting dialog box pops up, go ahead and allow your microphone and web cam.
  • Click "Start Recording."
  • When you are finished, click "Stop Recording."
  • Click "Upload."
  • Add a title to your Video.
  • Change the privacy settings to your liking.
  • Feel free to add a description or add tags.
  • Click Save.
Your YouTube Capture video is now added to your channel.  To make adjustments, edits, add music, etc., simply go back to your video manager, find your video, and click "edit." After clicking "Save," you are now ready to share your video!

Happy YouTubing!


Thursday, February 27, 2014

27 Blogging Ideas: Catching Students' Voices

Previous Park Hill ITF posts have outlined 4 Reasons Students Should Blog in the Classroom and tips and tutorials on managing student blogs using Google Forms and an RSS reader like Feedly in a post called My Students Have Created Blogs . . . Now What?.

So you might be wondering, why another post on blogging? Simple!  Blogging is a platform that provides students with a forum to develop 21st century skills, including inquiry, research, communication, creativity, collaboration, and digital citizenship skills in any content area.  In addition, students take ownership of learning because blogs allow students to find and develop their voices by investing in real-world writing in a published forum.

Are you ready to enter the blogging forum?  Let the "Blogging Games" begin!

Below we have listed and briefly explained 27 blogging ideas that can be incorporated into various content areas and grade levels in order catch students' voices!

1.  Create Exploratory Blogs or Vlogs

Students create a blog or vlog (video blog) about a topic or theme that interests them.  Ask students to post during exploratory or enrichment time and develop their theme or topic through each post.  Throughout the year, we have worked with 5th graders to develop individual exploratory blogs.  Topics include blogs about golf, creative writing, coding games, daily life as a fifth grader, a sportscasting blog, vacations, books, etc. Encourage students to utilize widgets such as polls, quick links, and lists so that their blogs attract and engage a regular audience.  
Sample Exploratory Blog

Sample Exploratory Vlog

2.  Write on Demand

Blogging provides a forum for students to simulate CCSS writing task assessments. Based on Kelly Sassi, Anne R. Gene, and Leila Christenbury's resource Writing on Demand for the Common Core State Standards Assessments, teachers can use a blogging forum for students to practice performance tasks similar to PARCC and Smarter Balanced approaches to writing assessment.

3.  Rewrite a Text

Students can use a blog to rewrite a mentor text. Based on Kelly Gallagher's instructional practices outlined in Write Like This:  Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling and Mentor Texts, students can practice real-world writing purposes like expression and reflection, informing and explaining, inquiring and exploring, analyzing and interpreting, and taking a stand or proposing a solution---all by modeling a mentor text.

4.  Reflect on Content or a Process

Use blogs as a space for students to write reflections on specific pieces related to content or processes and 21st century skills integrated into the learning environment.  This process develops students' abilities to become reflective thinkers and develop reflective practices.  This type of blog entry also develops an avenue for bloggers to communicate with blog followers and potentially develop a reflective conversation through the commenting feature.

5.  Facilitate Book Clubs

Blogging is a perfect forum to facilitate book clubs.  Students can post their reactions to readings, address specific prompts, post questions, and reply to other students' posts on the book club selection.  They can also collaborate to create a book trailer to post in the blog.  

6.  Document Students' Learning

A great way to use a blog at the elementary level is to create a class blog in which students or the teacher post videos and pictures documenting each individual student's learning.  Teachers could set up the blog so that each student has his/her own page within the blog.  This makes it easy to access the student's page and add pictures and videos in chronological order.  Ms. Cassidy's Classroom Blog is a great example of what this could look like--even for six year olds!  

7.  Globally Connect with Classrooms and Students

Blogging provides students with a global audience, but connecting with another classroom or community allows students to collaborate and share ideas through blogs.  Your class could connect with other classes in other schools, in other states, or even in other nations and share content driven knowledge, questions, etc. from topics like World War II to Romeo and Juliet.  Students can comment to posts to answer questions, elaborate on a post, or debate facts with specific evidence.  In addition, consider epals and quadblogging to locate blogging communities and topics.

8.  Post a Prompt or Respond to a Prompt

Blogs provide a perfect forum for students to address a weekly prompt.  Another idea is to use a biweekly post/comment rotation.  Students could create a post based on a prompt the first week and then the second week students could read other classmates' posts and choose one or more posts to respond to through the commenting feature.  Bill Ferriter, @plugusin, has great resources for teaching students basic tips and processes for leaving good blog comments.  

9.  Review the Week or Weekend

At the elementary and middle levels, students could collaborate in teams to craft a weekly blog entry to describe the events of the week in the classroom.  This also provides parents with an avenue to catch a glimpse of their child's learning through their student's eyes.  It also provides parents with an avenue to reply to their student.  In addition, this type of post allows those students who were absent due to illness to still be connected with the classroom.  Another idea is to have students begin their Mondays by individually posting descriptions of and reflections on their weekends.  This provides students with an avenue to share their weekends with an audience and tell their own stories, providing an avenue for every student to share and be heard! 

10. Encourage Creativity and Creative Writing

Blogging provides students with a forum to express their creativity.  Students can create poems, short stories, personal narratives, write songs, etc.  This expression doesn't have to be in written form!  Students can create video recordings too!  We have students who have created Note Card Confessions, MozillaPopcorn pop-up videos, YouTube Capture videos, etc. to express their creativity!
Sample Creative Writing Blog

11. Respond to a Text

Using a blogging forum for students to respond to a text provides practice with reading strategies, comprehension checks, and application of skills.  This also provides students with an avenue to view other students' responses to the text and reply to those responses utilizing communication skills and authentic academic discussions.

12. Find the Facts

Students love this activity!  Post a statement with no supporting facts.  Then have students utilize the research process and research skills to find facts to support or even refute the statement.  In addition, you could allow students to use the blog as a forum to evaluate sources.  For example, you could post a link to a site or resource and then students could evaluate the bias, credibility, etc. of that source.  Students could also reply to other students' comments to ask questions or add thoughts regarding their evaluation of the source.  These activities encompasses many CCSS Literacy Standards for science, history, ELA, and technical subjects.

 13. Write a Newspaper-Style Story

Blogs provide a perfect spot for students to experiment with newspaper-style writing for school events. This could include news stories, sports stories, or even feature stories on teachers and students.  This type of blog builds on the school culture and provides students with opportunities to experiment as newspaper writers.  In addition, be sure to tweet your students newspaper stories; we have found that local newspapers will pick up your students' stories and retweet them to their followers!

14. Create a Language Blog

Blog in other languages?  Absolutely!  Students can engage in communicating in a second language.  Not only can students create posts in a second language, students can also comment on other students' blogs in order to facilitate asking questions, writing in various verb tenses, and utilizing the language correctly.  Also, encourage students to create vlog (video blog) entries so they can practice oral communication by speaking in the second language as well! 

15. Create a Historical Content Blog

Create blogs based on historical events and time periods:  World War II, The Civil War, women's suffrage, etc.  Students take on the persona of a person during the time period and write from that perspective as they relate events, experiences, reactions, fears, actions, feelings, and emotions.

16. Create a Novel Blog

Love, love, love this idea!  Create a blog for a novel (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, The Giver, etc.).  Students create posts by taking on the persona of characters other than the narrator and write experiences from that character's perspectives as they read the novel.  Classmates can then comment on those posts as other characters in the novel.   

17. Respond to Current Events

In addition to writing newspaper-style stores from #13, students could use a blog to respond to current event news stories.  You could post a link to a news story and ask students to connect the main idea and supporting details to their own lives or to their community.  This provides students with the opportunity to connect to current events in the news.  If you are looking for news stories written at various Lexile levels, consider using  This is a great resources on its own or in conjunction with a blog!

18. Post from an Educational Trip or Virtual Field Trip

Blogs are a great way for students to report on an educational field trip or a virtual field trip.  You can facilitate the direction of the post by providing students with guiding question, or incorporate inquiry based learning by having students create their own questions before they experience the field trip, whether on-site or online.  This also provides students with the opportunity to interview other students, collaborate on posts, or collaborate with an expert in the field.  There are hundreds of virtual field trips online; check out National Park Foundation or Colonial Williamsburg.

19. Continuing Vocabulary

Use a blog for students to develop vocabulary usage by having students write stories.   Provide students with a prompt that encompasses creativity and vocabulary.  If you are looking for ideas for vocabulary writing ideas, consider prompts similar to the "Super Challenge" activities in Randy Larson's and Amy Rider's AbraVocabra series.

20. Create a Continuous Story

Elementary students love creating stories together!  A blog provides a digital forum students to create collaborative stories.  Each student can write their own endings to a class read aloud, or the teacher can give students a menu of options for the setting, characters, initial situation, and story starters.  Then each student can choose from the menu to create his/her own story.  For older students, consider having groups collaborate to create a portion of the menu!

21. Collaborate on Lab Research

Attention middle school and high school teachers:  Blogs are the perfect avenue for lab groups to document their labs throughout a course.  Students can publish their lab data and their lab report.  Students can then comment on other students' lab data and reports by asking questions or comparing data/reports.  In addition, this is a perfect resource for students who are absent and miss all or part of a lab activity.  Also, consider a blog for courses like foods!  Students can simulate a restaurant blog and publish their recipes, photos of their prepared foods, incorporate food tasting descriptions, rate the recipe and their final products, and reflect on the process and product.

22. Create a Question Blog or a Course Cafe

Elementary levels might utilize a blog that invites students to submit questions about content, ideas for the class, inquiry-based questions, etc., This could be utilized before a unit or during a unit to check for understanding.  Students could also reply and provide answers or responses to each other's questions. Secondary levels might utilize a blog that allowed students to ask questions and then answer each other's questions through the comment feature.  Even though the teacher monitors the blog, a Course Cafe is really a facilitated Q & A.

23. Create ePortfolios

If your district does not have ePortfolio as a part of the Learning Management System, consider using blogs as an ePortfolio.  Students can add videos, photos, and written work, including reflections.  Individual students can manage their ePortfolio blog, but teachers might want to create a classroom or course blog and create Quick Links to each student's ePorfolio/blog.

24. Publish a Neighborhood or Community Tour

A blog is also a perfect opportunity to create neighborhood and community relationships.  Students can use a blog to research and report on local history, important community groups, or even create "community tours." Students can include pictures of community activities!  This provides students the opportunity to practice informational text features including subheadings and captions.  Many local Chamber of Commerce will include your links in their Chamber of Commerce website!

25. Participate in eLearning Days

Snow days or unexpected days off provide a perfect opportunity for students to interact in learning activities from home.  The key to eLearning Day participation is to simulate your blogging processes and activities before that snow day arrives! Also, make sure that the blogging activity for the eLearning Day incorporates creativity and is one the students will view as fun!  Otherwise, they might not be interested in participating! 

26. Role Play a Point of View

Blogs provide a place for students to write from different perspectives.  They could write from the point of view of an inanimate object, an animal, or even curriculum-related characters from literature or people from various historical time periods.

27. Debate a Real-World Hot Topic

Create a blog for students to debate real-world hot topics.  This type of debate forum allows students to practice making claims and supporting claims with evidence.  Other students can reply and add to the claim with additional supporting evidence or refute the claim with rebuttal evidence.  Middle level students are usually more successful with local and school issues while high school students are more engaged when they dive into cultural, national, and international topics.

Many of these ideas were adapted from Teachers First.

Happy Blogging!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How to Create a Video Note Reflection in D2L ePortfolio

Many teachers are diving into the tools in ePortfolio.  One of those tools is the Reflection tool.  A Reflection in ePortfolio can be added to an Artifact or a Collection, or it can be created as a stand-alone item.  Click here for the steps with screenshots to create a Video Note Reflection in ePortfolio and to share that Video Note Reflection with other D2L users. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

5 Tips to Flipping

If you have never flipped a lesson, I am challenging you to flip one lesson during the month of February. Flipping classroom instruction allows students to engage in Quadrant A instruction at home or, depending on your flipped model, 10 minutes during class.  Quadrant A instruction is traditional teacher-guided instruction that typically introduces content and lower levels of thinking such as acquiring knowledge or understanding a concept, skill, or a subject's basic content. Then teachers have more class time to engage in higher-levels of thinking and engagement which requires students to "think and do" by analyzing, evaluating, and creating real-world projects.  Flipping classroom instruction is one shift that can help you transition your classroom from a traditional classroom to a student-centered learning environment.

Tip #1:  Use an Easy Screencasting Tool

Not all screencasing tools are equal!  Two screencasting tools that are easy to use and are free include Screencast-o-matic and Doceri.  Screencast-o-matic has a free version that allows screen capture with both audio and video without downloading additional software.  Screencast-o-matic's free version also allows for up to 15 minutes of screencast capture and can be exported as an MP4, AVI, or FLV file or directly uploaded to your YouTube channel.  Another screencasting option is Doceri.  Doceri is an iPad app that combines a virtual whiteboard and screen capture tool which allows teachers to create a screencast on an iPad with writing and audio voiceover. This tool allows for creative options with colored pens, tools, etc. and works extremely well if you would like to write on the screen as you screencast.  This app also syncs to your computer so you can use the app on both the iPad or your computer and allows you to upload directly to your YouTube channel or Google Drive.

Tip #2:  Post Screencasts in an Easily Accessible Location

Make sure that you post all of your screencasts in a place that is easily accessible for students.  Think about creating a YouTube channel to house all of your videos and then linking those to your learning management system such as D2L.  Also, make a plan for students without WiFi access.  Set up procedures for these students to download the flipped lessons to a jump drive/USB so that they can access the flipped lessons from home.

Tip #3:  Make Reentry to Class Engaging and Meaningful

If students are completing the flipped instruction at home, the reentry classroom activity must be engaging and meaningful to students; otherwise, students will not have a reason or motivation to complete the flipped lesson.  If your classroom activity the day after a flipped lesson is a lecture or a traditional activity, students will not see the value of the flip.  Why sit through a flipped lesson at home if the lesson in class the next day is the same information?  Use class time after a flipped lesson to incorporate application of the skills from the flipped lesson at higher levels and in real-world situations.  Utilize project, product, and inquiry-based lessons and incorporate 21st century skills like collaboration and communication through discussions and group projects.  Also, consider using a formative assessment as an entry event to check for understanding. Quick and easy-to-use tools like Mentimeter and Poll Everywhere can be used for quick formative assessments.  Then teachers can use these results to then differentiate classroom instruction the day after a flipped lesson based on individual student's understanding. This works extremely well if you utilize the workshop model within your classroom.

Tip #4:  Have a Plan for Student Who Don't Complete the Flip

Like traditional homework, have a plan for students who don't complete a flipped lesson assigned as homework.  Make sure that you have a way to hold students accountable for the flipped lesson content.  In other words, how will you know if they completed the flip?  Some teachers send students who do not complete the flip to "exile island," so they have to watch the flipped lesson before they can participate in the class activity.  Depending on your grade level, building's schedule, and your classroom schedule, consider other times during the day in which students could complete the flipped lesson if they don't do it at home. Again, student motivation for a flip assigned as homework is dependent on the reentry activity!

Tip #5:  Think About Flipping During Class

Some flipped lessons can be done during class. This gives all students time to do the flipped lesson.  What is the advantage?  Teachers can quickly and concisely deliver Quadrant A information.  Students can pause, rewind, and review the information multiple times.  The teacher can also use this time to facilitate the flipped instruction and confer with students as they finish.  Flipped lessons during class provide more opportunities for students to work at their own pace with teacher support.  Also, since a flipped lesson is no longer than 10-12 minutes, students still have a majority of the class period to engage in higher-level thinking activities, and teachers have the opportunity to shift roles to that of a facilitator rather than lecturer.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

That's Pinteresting!

 I will be cursing it the last week of May, but when my phone rings at 5:00 a.m. I cannot help but get excited.  Seeing "Park Hill" on my caller I.D. on a cold winter's morning can only mean one thing. A Snow Day!

For me, a Snow Day means some of my favorite things. Sleeping in, sweats, sipping loads of coffee, and Pinning on Pinterest!

Pinterest is a social-media platform where you can search, collect, and organize things you find on the web or from other peoples' Pinterest boards.  You "Pin" a photo of what you like to a particular board(s) that you create.  This pin will link you to another place on the web (i.e. a blog post or website).

I got started on Pinterest about two years ago.  At first I created boards for recipes, fashion, dream vacations, and creative ideas for my home. But as I branched out, I found that many Pinterest users were teachers and pinning ideas for their classrooms -- not just cute bulletin board ideas, but actual lesson plans, tools, and links to great blog posts that connected me to teachers across the country.

If you are new to Pinterest, it is easy to get started.  You can sign-up with your email or Facebook account. You can then create boards and begin following friends or colleagues that have the same interests as you. When you find something you like, you can "re-pin" so the item will then be saved to your own board.

The Instructional Technology Facilitators have recently created a Pinterest account where we are Pinning some of our favorite things.  Follow our boards to stay up-to-date on our tutorials and other great resources we come across.  

Park Hill ITF's Pinterest Boards

Happy Snow Day, and Happy Pinning!


Monday, February 3, 2014

3 "Better Than A Conference" Professional Development Resources

Like teaching, professional development has undergone a transformation due to technology.  Instead of attending a week-long conference once a year, instructional professional development is now a daily, year-long "unconference."  Now, professional development is available as you stand in line at the post office, wait in line at the DMV, sit in a doctor's waiting room, or relax on the couch on a Friday night.  Utilizing the three online professional development opportunities below allows teachers to be one click from the latest instructional ideas, teacher blogs, professional learning networks and communities, resources, collaboration opportunities, and webinars to inspire ideas, redefine instruction, and revive your passion for teaching.

#1:  Twitter

Twitter is instant professional development created by you and specifically for you.  Follow educational gurus who share your vision and pedagogy.  One question that I hear from teachers regarding Twitter is "I don't know who to follow."  This can be the hardest part about getting started with Twitter, but once you find educational experts who can provide you with tips, ideas, links, blogs, other websites, videos, and research, you will be hooked!  From curriculum topics like Common Core State Standards to Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and from educational technology like Google Apps to content-driven lesson plan ideas and templates, Twitter is a hub for educational resources.

Consider following some of the educational professionals below to get you tweeting.

@ianjukes     Ian Jukes is a speaker, co-author of 14 books, consultant, self-claimed educational evangelist, and co-developer of the 21st Century Fluency Project.  Jukes tweets about 21st century learning and teaching through transforming direct instruction, tools for teaching, and using technology to offer real-world experiences.

@tncollins97     Nate Collins is an Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction in Virginia, USA.  He is a collaborative and reflective leader who tweets about tools and strategies for fostering 21st century learning and includes a lot of Google Doc tricks and tips.

@kylepace     Pace is an Instructional Technology Specialist, Google Certified Teacher, the 2013 Ed Week leader to Learn From, ASCD emerging leader, and educational presenter from Kansas City, USA.  Pace is active in #edchat, #edcamp, and #moedchat.  He focuses on developing the web 2.0 classroom and effective tools for curriculum integration.

@TDOttawa     Tom D'Amico is a Twitter guru with over 4,000 followers who focuses on learning and teaching in the 21st century with a focus on edtech, web 2.0, innovation, technology and creativity.  He is a superintendent in Ottawa, Ontario.  He also updates his page iGeneration-21st Century Education, another great resource, through Twitter.

@classroom20     Classroom 2.0 is a network that provides resources for a student-centered classroom and global classroom, including videos, templates, tool tips, etc.

@isteconnects     ISTE tweets are from @Heidi Ellis and @BritniHartford as they provide tips to advance learning and teaching in regard to Common Core, flipped learning, and blended learning.  They also offer webinars and whitepapers.

 @edtech_K12     EdTech K-12 Magazine focuses on issues facing K-12 IT leaders, administrators, and educators.  They partner with @EdTech_HigherEd and provide resources on tools that engage learners and provide individualized and differentiated instruction to meet individual student's needs.

@Desire2Learn@D2LBarry, and @D2LBarbthoeming     Join Desire2Learn to stay posted on new tips to transform education with innovative teaching and learning solutions that go beyond the standard offerings of a traditional LMS. Also, follow @D2LBarry and @D2LBarbthoeming to become a part of the Desire2Learn Community, which consists of educators who work together to share resources and collaborate on effective practices for e-learning.

Don't forget to add the ITFS:  @parkhillitf@jillwatkins1010@erinsmithITF@lstutzman13@carlsonmrc.

In addition to expanding your following, use #hashtags to search for information related to a topic and to tag your tweets.  The Park Hill Instructional Technology Facilitators will be using #phitf.  If you tweet a tool, tip, or resource that would benefit our team, please add our hashtag to your tweets.  Below I have listed some popular and useful hashtags used by educational professionals.  Use these hashtags to search for relevant instructional technology resources.

Also, Twitter hosts educational chats!  You can follow (or, as I call it, "stalk") or participate in a Twitter chat by a hashtag.  Consider trying one of the many Twitter chats using this Google Calendar with educational chats for all content areas.

#2:  Blogs

A second professional development "go-to" is the educational technology blog-o-sphere.  If you are thinking, "I don't want to follow a blogger!"-- think again!  Many of the most respected and innovative edtech leaders have blogs that provide instructional technology news, integration ideas, tool reviews, and reflections and insights from the trenches.  If you become a blog follower or a blogower, you might want to use an RSS reader, such as Feedly, to organize and access multiple blogs from one app.  Once you are ready to launch into this blog-o-sphere, consider following some of the blogs listed below.      

Blogging About The Web 2.0 Connected Classroom:  A Blend of Technology and Education
Steven Anderson is the Director of Instructional Technology for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  Anderson is an ISTE, ASCD, and NCTIES presenter and created the weekly Twitter education discussion #edchat.  His blog won the 2009 and 2011 Edublogs of The Year Award, he was named the 2011 Twitterer of The Year, and he was named as an ASCD Emerging Leader in 2012.  Anderson's most popular blog posts include "Going Global-Tips and Resources for Global Collaborations" and "The Summer Series of Learning (10 Posts To Learn Something Over The Summer, or Anytime)."  Anderson is also responsible for introducing me to one of my favorite global projects called QuadBlogging, which allows students to blog and comment with other students in another country.

Free Technology for Teachers
Richard Byrne is a Google Certified Teacher with teaching experience in the 1:1 learning environment in English Language Arts and global studies.  His blog focuses on free tech tools and how to integrate those tools into the learning environment.  His blog posts include links, video tutorials, and suggested applications in the classroom.

Learning with 'e's:  My Thoughts about Learning Technology and All Things Digital
Steve Wheeler is an associate professor, past e-Learning conference chair and school board member who advocates for the use of blogging in the learning environment.  Wheeler shares insight on using blogging and collaborative tools to produce students into writers by communicating with real audiences.  Some of his recent blog posts include "Learners Promoting Change" and "Backchannels, Hashtags, and Learning."

#3:  Sites and Boards

In addition to Twitter and blogs, websites, Facebook, and Pinterest boards are also quick resources for professional growth.  The following sites and boards are definitely bookmark worthy! is sponsored by The George Lucus Educational Foundation and focuses on K-12 learning strategies that empower teachers to improve education.The site includes specific sections for project-based learning, teacher development, and technology integration.  In addition, you can browse by grade level, access blog posts from multiple bloggers by topic, and access educational videos.  The site also has a Facebook page, Pinterest boards, and a Twitter feed.

The Ed Tech Round Up
Michael Karlin writes the The Roundup as a one-stop source for regular updates on the latest educational technology news and reviews.  Karlin's site includes reviews, editorials and press, weekly podcasts, ed tech links, and lesson plans.  The links tab is organized by both sites and apps (presentation, creation, web design, organization, and mobile).  The Ed Tech Round Up also has a Facebook page and a Twitter feed.

Educational Technology and Mobile Learning
Meb Kharbach has created a resource of educational web tools and mobile apps for teachers and educators.  Kharbach's site includes categorical browsing capabilities so teachers can browse tools and ideas specific to task, purpose, or tool.  The site also features a section with instructional ePosters to embed in sites, an LMS, blogs, etc.  Other key pages in the site include YouTube4teachers, teacher tools, and free downloads. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning has a Facebook page, Pinterest boards, and a Twitter feed.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Creating a Network of Shared Resources with the LOR in D2L

Next Steps on the D2L Journey

Teachers in Park Hill have a little over one semester of experience using D2L as a Learning Management System. Teachers have been busy creating 21st Century Learning Activities, and students have been accessing much of this content through D2L.

In education we collaborate and share best practices on a daily basis.  We are proud to announce that the Learning Object Repository or LOR is up and running so teachers can easily share their content with other teachers throughout the district.

The LOR is made up of 3 types of repositories: grade level bands along with district provided content and professional development content.  These repositories allow for organization and save search time when looking for content.  

Items that can be published to the LOR
  • Individual files, links, and quizzes from a teacher's D2L course
  • Files from a teacher's computer or network drive
  • Submodules (keeps organization structure intact and brings content with it)
  • Modules (keeps organization structure intact and brings content with it)
Items that cannot be published to the LOR at this time
  • Rubrics
  • Discussions
Below are screen casts and handouts to get you started with LOR.



If you need additional assistance, please contact an Instructional Technology Specialist.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

I Heart Haiku Deck

While looking for a new means to deliver content for an upcoming presentation, I stumbled across Haiku Deck.  Haiku Deck is a free presentation platform that started as an app, but recently released as a web based version. While exploring Haiku Deck, I have found that the tool stays true to their philosophy of "Simple, Beautiful, Fun."

What I Love About Haiku Deck

  • It is FREE!
    • Who doesn't love free?  Of course you can purchase a premium version, but from what I have seen, the free version and it's features are just fine!
  • The Images are Amazing!
    • Haiku Deck provides 35 million free images and 6 themes by using images from photographers that licensed under Creative Commons.  If you use the app, you will have access to the free images, but also to Getty Images through Haiku Deck for purchase.  You also have the option to easily insert your own beautiful photos from your computer or social media sites with the web and App version
  • You Decide Who Can See Your Deck.
    • The privacy of your deck is completely up to you. When you publish a deck, you decide who can find it.  You have the option to make it public (anyone can find it on the web), restricted (the deck can only been seen by people you share it with or people you have given the link to), or private (for your eyes only)
  • The Haiku Deck Team Offers TONS of Support
    • I love it when I can find answers quickly!  Haiku Deck has an awesome blog that provides tons of ideas, examples, and tips. They also have an incredibly thorough Support and Tutorials page.
  • Haiku Deck Wants to Support Educators and Students
Although I have just started dabbling with Haiku Deck, I am already impressed. Take a look at this basic tutorial and get started! I know you will love Haiku Deck as much as I do!

-Lindsay @lstutzman13