Oh the places we will go…

Happy New Year Everyone!!! Welcome to the new home for my blog ūü§ď.¬† If you haven’t had a chance to read my previous posts, check them out¬†ūüėÄ I am still trying out different platforms, so now it’s on to WordPress!

As we are embarking on 2018, I have been thinking about some of the projects I have worked on with teachers and their students.¬† Since this is a brand new job for me, I have been working hard to be sure that I am providing the support that teachers need, while also trying to encourage teachers to try new/different ways to incorporate technology into their lessons.¬† There are many teachers that I have shared new ideas with, but then there are the risk-takers who have allowed themselves to be my ‘guinea¬†pig’ when their lessons/content/tasks match a new tech idea that I have.

One of the first ideas was using Google Tour Builder to create a Lit Trip.¬† I had first heard of these last year, but it wasn’t until I was talking with a 7th grade English teacher who was looking for an alternative way for her students to do a presentation about the book they were going to be reading, A Long Walk to Water¬†by Linda Sue Park, that I travelled down this road.¬† Since the story takes place in a number of different locations in the world, I thought it would be a great time to try out a Lit Trip.¬† I got the idea from Eric Curts who had a post Create¬†Your Own Lit Trips (and more) for Google Earth¬†that I had seen on Twitter.¬† This post is fabulous, step by step screen shots that walk you through exactly what you need to do to create a Tour.¬† If you are looking to make one,¬†I highly suggest checking out his post (and the rest of his website!).¬† Then I saw his post about Launching Tour Builder Tours in Google Earth with One Click…Oh Joy!

The first day I worked with the students, I introduced what Google Tour Builder was by showing them a sample one I made about myself and allowed them some time to create one about themselves about either places they have been or would like to go to.  I wanted them (and the teacher) to be comfortable using it since I would not be with them the next time they were in the computer lab and starting the Lit Trip.


I also had them install a Chrome Extension called Vidyard GoVideo, so they could make a screencast of their Lit Trip and add in audio.  The videos were then downloaded and added to an unlisted YouTube playlist so they would be able to see the projects made by all of the students in each of her five classes.  I made a quick help video showing how to make their screencast using Vidyard to show the students when they were ready.

Overall, the teacher and students were quite pleased with this project (and so was I)!

After speaking with a librarian about Google Tour Builder, she asked me to come in and work with 5th-grade students who were researching Latin America countries…she had a teacher who wanted to try something DIFFERENT with her students when it was time for them to present their findings.¬† It’s all about Baby Steps…

What are you waiting for?

Thank you Insert Learning for unblocking my blog writer’s block! I figured since I can’t stop talking about this Chrome extension, I might as well write about it! If you don’t know what Insert Learning is, it allows you to turn any webpage into an interactive lesson…how awesome is that?! So, that is why I ask, what are you waiting for?! Don’t walk, run and install this extension!

insert learning

Since I am currently not in the classroom, I have been using this extension to help deliver content in my PD sessions with teachers. The response has been incredible. They are so excited to learn about it, and most of them immediately use it within a few days of the introduction-talk about successful PD!

With a FREE account, you are able to create 5 lessons, however, Insert Learning gives you an opportunity to earn free months by sharing a unique link to their¬†extension with others. In fact, it gives you and the person you share it with, a free month. You can tell this was created by teachers…always thinking.¬† If you choose to purchase a license, it really isn’t expensive ($40/year, at this time) and compared to other tech tools out there and the benefits of Insert Learning, it would be worth every penny.

So, let me start gushing over all the fabulous things you can do with Insert Learning! Here is the toolbar you will see when you open a webpage in Insert Learning:


The first tool allows you (and your students) to highlight¬†text on the website as well as adding a comment/annotation (and here’s how to check to see what they wrote).


The next tool is a Post-it note-this is soooooo¬†versatile! At the most basic level, you can type on the Post-it and leave directions or provide information for your students.¬† You can also paste things onto¬†the post-it: images, links to videos, embed codes… Last, but not least, you can record your own video for your students.


As you keep moving down the toolbar you get to the question tool. You can easily add open-ended questions, as well as multiple choice questions (these can be auto-graded).  You can add point values to the questions as well. This explains how to view and grade student answers and students can go to their dashboard to see their grades.


The last option to start a discussion.  This allows students to respond to a question and allow everyone to see their response.



Also, if you happen to have any Google Docs, Sheets, Google Drawings, Slides…that you would like to ‘insert learning’ into, all you need to do is PUBLISH IT TO THE WEB and you will be able to use all of these great features on your own resources as well.

There is one more menu to take a look at:


Your Teacher Dashboard is your ‘control center’.


From here you can access all of your lessons, see how your students are doing on your assignments, and find the class share codes (and even add in a co-teacher!)

If you are currently using Google Classroom, Insert Learning integrates with it and allows you to share to Google Classroom. If not, have no fear, you can create classes within Insert Learning and give your students a join code to access your lessons. Be sure they are signed into Chrome and have installed the Insert Learning extension prior to starting your first lesson.

Their support area is very informative.  There are a number of articles that answer many of the questions you may have when you are getting started. In addition, there are many videos that go step-by-step if you need additional support.  If none of these resources helps you, they are great about getting back to you if you contact them with a specific question.  Here is a quick guide to get your students started using Insert Learning.

As I mentioned before, this is such a versatile tool, with applications in so many aspects of our daily life in a school. It has worked out so well to use with teachers during professional development sessions and the feedback I have received is that they have had great success using it with their students.

Have you used Insert Learning? What are your thoughts? Have you found other uses for it?

Say it Ain’t So!

Have you seen this report from GoGuardian that shows how Chromebooks are being used in classrooms?  I stumbled upon it when I saw this post on Twitter by Andy Losik and this one by Alice Keeler. Not only did the articles hit upon a lot of important key ideas in regards to using Chromebooks in the classroom, but so did the comments.

Previously, I wrote a post about Creating Creators, Rather than Just Consumers, and both of these articles touch on that as well.  Many of the websites that are listed in the GoGuaridan study are places to access information or practice skills, both of which are important for learning. However, when looking at the list, what is missing, are the websites that students should be going to after they have gained their knowledge to create something that helps show what they have learned. Alice Keeler provides some very useful tools that can be used on Chromebooks. The one that is missing, is my new favorite-Book Creator. I feel it can cross over all content areas (and grade levels) and has so many possible classroom uses.  I hope more people realize that it is now available via the web, which means we can use it on Chromebooks.

I have been paying close attention to all things Chromebooks since my district is in the process of deploying Chromebook carts to our middle and high schools.¬† As I spend time in the buildings, I am often asked by teachers when we will be going 1:1 with devices in the middle and high schools (currently, our 3rd and 4th-grade students are 1:1 with iPads).¬† My immediate response is: WHY? To which I often get odd looks.¬† I ask this because in most cases, I don’t really think people know what they are asking for and/or what it involves.¬† ¬†Why do they think their students should have a device with them all the¬†time? What are they going to have the students use the devices for? How are they going to change the way they present the content to their students to effectively incorporate technology into their classroom? Sometimes, they tell me they want a paperless classroom, and inside my mind, I shake my head.¬† Paper isn’t always a bad thing…students should still have those tactile experiences.¬† Having a ‘paperless’ classroom sounds great, but if all you are doing is replacing the same old lessons with a computer, you aren’t doing your students any justice.

Before a 1:1 initiative should get rolled out, we need to be sure that we have provided our teachers with training so that they can best use the technology with their students.¬† The pushback I get from teachers (which I don’t disagree with) is that if we give them the training now, and they don’t have adequate, regular access to devices, then they will forget what they have learned.¬† So timing is everything. I am looking forward to this journey, and can’t wait to see where it takes us!

Anyone have any suggestions for using Chromebooks in the classroom? Or rolling out devices in a district?


Reaching out…with Skype

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a hands-on workshop that was presented by Matt Miller¬†(if you haven’t had a chance to explore his website, you should! There are so many great resources he has made available).¬† This full day was filled with so many meaningful learning (such a coincidence that the title of it was The Meaningful Tech Workshop) and a lot of interaction…it was everything I could have hoped it would be.¬† I walked away with so many practical tools I can share with the teachers I work with, that now it’s just a matter of trying to figure out which one to start with!

After some deliberation, I decided to begin with the one tech tool I was least familiar with-Skype. I have heard about Skype for years, and even participated in a number of Skype calls, but I had a really hard time wrapping my head around how to use it in the classroom.  Matt arranged for the group to participate in a Mystery Skype call with a 5th grade class in Iowa.


For this particular session, we used a number of yes/no questions to determine their location (while they were doing the same to us).  It was fantastic! Afterwards, we had a chance to hear from the classroom teacher, as she explained and showed us the various jobs that each of her students were engaged in behind the scenes.  I just love this idea!! A Mystery Number Skype was also talked about, which is where I am going to start with one of the 5th-grade teachers I am working with.  What a wonderful way to interact with other students while also applying content knowledge in a relevant way.  He also, provided us with a number of resources to help us connect with other teachers.

In addition to the Mystery Skypes, he opened my eyes to the various Virtual Field trips and Guest Speakers (check out this website) that have been vetted by Skype for appropriateness in the classroom as well as providing us with resources to use with them as well.

I am so excited to take this next step in my tech coaching journey!!

Do you use Skype in your classroom? If so, how?


Take Some Time for Yourself

Last year, I had Stop, Breath, Think (they have an app and you can also access it through the web) added to my class iPads.¬† I had been hearing a lot about incorporating mindfulness into the classroom and how beneficial it can to help reduce negative behaviors.¬† Since I had a double block for math, I didn’t mind spending a few minutes at the start of my classes (one first thing in the morning and one after lunch) meditating, since I felt I would make up the loss in time with more focus in class.¬† I liked¬†Stop, Breath, Think because the meditations were short and focused.¬† Depending on the day, and what may have occurred in and/or out of the class, I would either allow them to choose their own meditation and use headphones to listen, or I would select a topic and do one as a whole class.¬† I was teaching 5th graders, so I first had to introduce meditation, classroom expectations and respecting others as we meditated.¬† I had many students who opted to download the app at home!¬† I don’t really have data to support any significant changes, but I liked having the ability to reference something all my students were exposed something should a misbehavior occur.¬† For me, the best part was the ability to meditate twice a day-something I just stopped finding time to do at home.¬† I know that I definitely noticed a difference when I was able to participate, vs. the times I inevitably got pulled to take care of classroom issues.

This year, as the year has progressed, and as I find myself interacting with many different people (with a variety of personalities) I decided a few months back to get back to meditating on a daily basis.  I was searching for something that was short, at least until I had it part of my daily routine, and could then think about expanding the amount of time.  I had a heard a number of friends talk about Head Space which also allows you to access meditations online as well as an app.  What I liked about this a little more, was the background of meditation and more of a guide through the process.

So often, we spend much of our time taking care of those around us as we get inundated by lots of stimuli…we need to remember to take time to take of ourselves…for me, this is meditation. What do you do for self-care?

The Tale of Two Classrooms

Differentiation…it’s not just for a classroom teacher!

As I continue on my journey as a secondary technology coach, I find that many of the successful tools and strategies I used with my students in my classroom, can also be applied in this role.  Differentiation is one of them.

Today’s post is about one project implemented in two classrooms, and how different that can look.

In a previous post, I spoke about a Book Trailer project I was introduced to by Monica Burns while attending the NYSCATE conference.  When I came back to my district I quickly contacted an English teacher at the high school who was planning to start book trailers with her students.  Although we were planning to use Adobe Spark video already to create books trailers, after listening to Monica speak, I had a whole new way of looking at the project. After meeting with the teacher and showing her a sample book trailer she agreed with the change of direction.

What does all of this have to do with differentiation?

Early in the school year, I was contacted by this high school English teacher and she wanted to meet because she was interested in introducing her seniors to a number of different presentation tools. She was hoping we could meet so I could share a selection of them with her.¬† When we met I shared some different tools with her, and she decided on introducing Google Slides, Emaze and Adobe Spark Video to her students. As the year progressed, she was going to introduce each of the tools one by one and have her students complete a presentation project using it.¬† At the end of the year, for their final project, students would be able to choose the tool they liked the best and use it to present their¬†project.¬† After our initial meeting, we would meet during her planning time so I could go over the key features of each of the tools, and she would in-turn present them to her students.¬† For this teacher, introducing the tools and their function was the extent of the level of support she needed from me, and that’s ok.

On the other hand, I introduced the same project to a 6th grade ELA teacher and her special education co-teacher.¬† After the first day of working with them, with their students in a computer lab, one of the teachers said, “I am so out of my comfort zone, but with you here I feel so much better.” To this, I think to myself, YAY, even though she was doing something she was not used to she was willing to try it because she knew she had the in-class assistance.¬† After working for a few days in the classroom with them, they said they felt comfortable replicating the project again on their own. #WINNING

So although my level of support was very different in the two classrooms, the same project was achieved and the teachers (and students) learned how to use a new technology tool that can be utilized for many different types of presentations.  I am seeing how coaching comes in all shapes and sizes, and it is important to meet each teacher where they are in their use of technology.


Green with Envy

At the start of the school year, I was contacted by a 7th-grade Spanish teacher who was looking for more ways to engage her students with the content, as well as provide them with additional opportunities to practice speaking. She was very comfortable trying new technology-so it was a win from the start!

The first thing we talked about was finding more opportunities for the students to practice speaking.¬† Immediately, I thought of FlipGrid.¬† If you haven’t caught #FlipGridFever yet…what are you waiting for?¬† (Flipgrid is an online video discussion tool that has many possible uses in the classroom.) I scheduled some time and worked with the teacher in her classroom to introduce FlipGrid to her students and give them the opportunity to try it out.¬† They were working¬†on their first unit of study which included concepts such as their name, age, birthday, favorite color…¬† For their first assignment, the teacher provided them with sentence stems in Spanish to help the students with their responses.¬† She then scaffolded the next assignments using FlipGrid, gradually taking away the support she provided.¬† At the end of the unit, she used FlipGrid as a tool to deliver her assessment.¬† She continues to integrate FlipGrid into each of her units to provide her students additional time to practice speaking.

The next unit they were going to be working on was leisure verbs.¬† We brainstormed how to engage the students with the content while addressing the reading, writing, listening and speaking standards.¬† Since she has access to iPads, we decided to create a QR code scavenger hunt. We set everything up in the library, to allow the students more room to move around.¬† As we collaborated on this project, we created a shared Google Doc where we were able to organize the different stations, links and QR codes in preparation for the lesson.¬† Of course, one of the stations was a link to a FlipGrid! It was great! The students were actively engaged with the content, on task and had fun¬†ūüėÉ


Most recently, we talked about an alternate way for her students to present their weather reports. In the past, she had her students create a PowerPoint and/or do an oral presentation in front of the class.  I had been seeing a lot about the DoInk app on Twitter and decided to try it out with this project. Once again we used Google to help us collaborate on the project.  We set up a shared folder for each of her classes in which we would store the images students found and wanted to use as their background images.  (Since DoInk is a paid app, we had it installed on 3 iPads and used those for the filming and students were able to access the shared Google Drive folders).  Prior to the filming, students researched cities and their weather forecasts wrote a script and many of them even made cue cards!  For the day of the filming, I borrowed three iPad stands and set up three green screens (we had one REAL green screen background, and two green plastic tablecloths as stand-ins).  Once again we were in the library, which allowed us to set up the three recording areas at one end, and then had the students who were not involved in the taping at the moment working on computers at the other end.

On the first day, I started class by giving the students an overview of the DoInk app and process for recording.¬† Each group chose someone to be their ‘camera person’.¬† This was completely student driven and the adults were available to help troubleshoot any technical issues they may have had.¬† All the videos were saved in our pre-made shared Google Drive folders and then they were uploaded to YouTube to an UNLISTED playlist.¬† This was then shared with the students so they were able to watch videos made by students in all classes.¬† Once again, the students were engaged, on task and they didn’t even realize the learning that was going (actually standing up and presenting in Spanish!) on because they were so focused on creating the video.


The librarian at this school was an integral part of these project as well.  Not only did she provide us with her space for a number of days, but she took a vested interest in the new technology we were using so that she could be another resource for the students.  In addition, she has been spreading the word about the different methods for engaging students with technology.  In fact, she worked with a social studies teacher to create a QR code scavenger hunt for the Revolutionary War #BuildingCapacity.

Since this project was done in the library, and there were a lot of people going in and out throughout the day.¬† Needless to say, there were many VERY curious teachers…and I think a lot of them were a lil green with envy