Saturday, August 16, 2014

Harnessing Powerful Ideas: Leading One-to-One

How you set up and lead one-to-one is based on your vision for one-to-one. So, what's your vision?

Why 1:1? How will students use the tech? For what?

The purpose of one-to-one is to give the students ubiquitous access to learning. The device itself is not the purpose of one-to-one -- augmenting students' learning is. Therefore, it's essential to know what change you want to see in your district/school that one-to-one can support.
  • What learning do you want to see, and how will technology make that possible?
  • What does that look like? 
  • How will the students use the technology to accomplish those goals?
For me, it's simple, I want to see students using their critical thinking to create, collaborate, communicate, and contribute as digital citizens.

How does 1:1 connect to and support other district or site initiatives?

One-to-one is a learning initiative, and not a technology program. It should not be treated as something separate or as an add-on. It needs to directly connect to the district's/school's mission and vision statement, especially regarding how it will enhance the educational goals.

One-to-one must also connect to and support other district/site initiatives. For example, our district is also implementing the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards (known in other states as the Common Core State Standards); therefore, it's imperative that we connect and communicate how technology is built into the standards.

What percentage of the tech budget goes towards educator PD?

One-to-one can make a difference when there is ongoing, job-embedded professional learning. Yet, I hear about some of the epic failures, and one of the lacking ingredients is the allocation of budget, time, and energy regarding professional development.

Professional development for one-to-one must be more than a few workshops before the beginning of the school year. Administrators need training to lead a one-to-one learning initiative, and so will the teachers. Consider investing in technology peer coaches that "get it" and have great people skills.

Set realistic goals for each year of implementation; focus on the pedagogy; help them gain quick wins; and support the educators. Change is difficult, and it takes time, which is why having ongoing professional learning is important for one-to-one success.

What feedback do you collect from students and parents? How often do you collect it?

In addition to communicating with staff, include students and parents in the feedback loop. There is a lot to learn from students and parents by collecting feedback and listening. Use their responses to improve the one-to-one initiative. Furthermore, this needs to be done throughout the year.

I like asking questions based on Kirkpatrick's levels of evaluation.

Final thoughts

First and foremost, create clear goals for one-to-one and communicate those goals.

When those goals can clearly be communicated, it will help with:
  • decisions about devices to purchase
  • the programs/apps to load on those devices; 
  • other 1:1 campuses to observe or interview to learn from and with; 
  • and how to prioritize educator training.

Beyond the infrastructure that needs to be established, the leadership must be ready to drive the initiative by:
  • creating, communicating, and implementing the vision; 
  • connecting the initiative to other initiatives; 
  • provide educators with ongoing, job-embedded professional learning; 
  • and collecting feedback from all stakeholders, including students and parents.

Image by Scott McLeod

This post was written in honor of Leadership Day 2014, a call from Scott McLeod to share powerful ideas with education leaders.
  • What powerful ideas would you add to this post about leading one-to-one?
  • What questions do you have?
  • What insights can you share?
  • How else did this post connect with you? 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Core Tech for Math Common Core Standards #ISTE2014

In this post, my focus is sharing some of the math resources that I heard about during "Core technologies for the Common Core" by Kyle Brumbaugh and Elizabeth Calhoon at #ISTE2014. I'll also add a few ideas of my own.

Math in the real world

Students should be able to apply mathematical concepts to real world issues. In the real world, math doesn't come in a box labeled, "Today you will only use your multiplying with fractions skill." In the real world, students must use critical thinking to solve problems.

As math is taught, it must be relevant to our students by connecting to the real world. Technology can assist in relevancy by giving students access to real-time data, current information, interactive tools, and audiences beyond the four classroom walls.

Use appropriate tools strategically 

Students are asked to choose appropriate tools strategically when solving math problems. Appropriate tools include traditional tools such as rulers, protractors, etc., and it also includes online tools.

There are a number of online tools for mathematical learning.
  • Desmos: Graph functions; plot tables of data; evaluate equations; explore transformations; and much more. Students can create models that can be manipulated by changing variables. This tool is powerful enough to be used in trigonometry and calculus.

  • Google Calculator: This tool can be used as a "scientific calculator" or geometry calculator. It can convert from one measure to another for temperature, length, mass, speed, volume, area, fuel consumption, time, and digital storage. To use this calculator, you can either type your equation directly into the Google (or Chrome) search box or do a search for calculator.
  • GeoGebra: Online site that allows students from all levels of education to build models and test them using a variety of mathematical concepts. It joins geometry, algebra, tables, graphing, statistics and calculus in one site.

Information and data tools

Students must be able to collect data, synthesize the data, evaluate data, and present data in strategic and creative ways. Technology can also greatly increase productivity for students and teachers.

Technology also helps us to tap into the plethora of data and resources available on the Internet.
  • Google Trends: Use the statistics and analytics from Google searches. Each spike on a graph connects us to specific events going on in the world. This allows students to research statistical information to use in data visual displays and other projects.
  • Google Public Data:  Statistics of topic you search, with the ability to hone in on certain data such as age, gender, economic status, or location.
  • Infographics Archive: Search the archive of infographics, create an infographic or data display using their suggested tools, and submit your infographic to their archive. 
  • Piktochart: Create an infographic or data visualization with this tool. This is a great way to take data and synthesize it to present in a creative way. 
  • Canva:  Create infographics, presentations, etc. with this simple and beautiful free tool. (Thanks Lisa Johnson for introducing me to this tool!)
More resources
  • Khan Academy: There are online tutorial videos as well as skill and drill exercises that provides students with feedback.
  • CCSS Math: Sort the standards and find more resources for each standard.
  • Learn Zillion: More video tutorials that really focus on conceptual understanding along with the skills.
  • Ck-12: Online math textbook. There is a teacher version in addition to the student version. You can set it to your state standards and grade level (6th-12th).
  • Gooru: More online resources for various content areas.
  • Real World Math: This is a collection of free math activities for Google Earth designed for students and educators. These activities help connect mathematics to the real world.
  • TedEd -- Math in Real Life: Here's a series of TED talks (or You Tube videos) for Education connecting math in the real world. It has videos, lessons, and the ability to create your own lessons.

Final thoughts

Technology can enhance learning. It's a tool to gather information, organize, synthesize, analyze and draw conclusions. It gives students access to quality and current information/data. Students can use it to understand abstract concepts, and construct their own understanding of a concept. They can use it to create, collaborate, and share with others inside and outside of the classroom.

The bottom line is technology is part of our world; part of preparing students to be college and career ready; and is built into the standards. It needs to be part of how we "do school."
  • How do you incorporate technology in math?
  • What resources or tools would you recommend?
  • How does this post connect with you?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Core Tech for Learning with ELA Common Core #ISTE2014

One of the #ISTE2014 sessions I attended was "Core technologies for the Common Core" by Kyle Brumbaugh and Elizabeth Calhoon. They had a great introduction to the Common Core and a plethora of helpful tools.

In this post, I will share some of what I learned from them, and add in a few more resources, ideas, and tools.

ELA Text Complexity

Readability levels are an important ingredient for figuring out text complexity. Reading Standard 10 specifically states that students must read complex text, "Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently."

Text complexity reminds me of a s'more. It contains three main parts, and while you can talk about each ingredient separately, it's not really a s'more until you put them all together.

Tools for readability

Have you ever wondered if the text on a website is the appropriate reading level for your students? Here are some tools for assessing the quantitative measures of readability:
  • Determines the Flesh-Kincade Reading Level by copying and pasting the text into the box.
  • Lexile Analyzer: You can scan your text (or type it in) to see the complexity of what you've written (or text in any website). Note, you'll have to register to use this site.
  • ATOS: Determines the ATOS reading level by copying and pasting the text into the box.
  • Lexile: This site helps you find the lexile range, and recommended books for that range.

Table: Supplemental Information for Appendix A of the Common Core State Standards

Writing readability and editor 

Sure, you can use the tools mentioned above to assess the readability of a student's writing, but the following tool also includes editing.
  • Hemingway app: This tool color codes sentences with editing suggestions for lengthy sentences, passive voice, etc. Note: This app currently costs $4.99.

Text with adjustable readability
  • Google advanced search: Set the readability levels in the advanced search.
  • ReadWorks: Reading passages, lessons, and units with comprehension questions for K-8th and by select domain or standard.
  • Newsela: You can find current events by content area. Create student accounts and it will provide different copies of an article with various reading levels.
Here's an example of the Newsela teacher dashboard

Online books
  • Project Gutenberg: Free ebooks that are available for free download (in the USA). They can be read online or through the Kindle App. (The Kindle App is a free app, and it allows you to read texts in a variety of formats on a variety of devices -- not just on a Kindle. You can highlight and annotate with this app, and the selections can be saved using a student's free account at Amazon.)
  • Oxford Owl: Free ebooks that are tablet friendly. 
  • Google books: This is a great research tool for online books. I recommend looking at this tutorial on Free Tech for Teachers by Richard Byrne.
  • Open Library: Borrow and read books.
  • Bookshare: An accessible online library of books with large print, great for people with print disabilities.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art and Getty Publications: Read, download, or search online art history books for free.
Online portfolios

There are many tools that can be used as a portfolio. The beauty of a portfolio is it shows growth over time.

Have you considered these tools for portfolios?
Final thoughts

There are many resources available for learning the ELA standards. Technology is included in those standards. We are no longer in a day and age of putting technology off as something we didn't get to. Technology is essential for students to be prepared for college and careers, and it is built into today's learning standards.
  • What ELA tools and resources would you add to this list?
  • What other thoughts or ideas from this post would you like to challenge, add to, or share?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My #HackEd2014 Summary and Reflections

One of my favorite conferences is ISTE Unplugged / Hack Education. The schedule of the discussions is decided the day of the conference based on the interests of the participants.

What is appealing to me about Hack Education is the small group setting that fosters deep discussions, and the organic nature of the conversations that are completely based on the group's expertise and ability to ask probing questions. I always feel like I walk away smarter.

My notes for some of the sessions are illustrated below as sketchnotes with thinglinks/interactive links, bullet points, or as the main points I Tweeted out.

Personalized Learning - facilitated by Barbara Bray

Click here to view above image with thinglink

1:1 Deployment

Click here to view above image with thinglink


Community, Global Connections using tech to build relationships

Click here to view above image with thinglink

Agency & Self-Direction in Education - facilitated by Steve Hargadon
  • Focus on the pedagogy -- it's about the learning and not the shiny object.
  • Don't underestimate the power of building relationships, especially when it comes to being a change agent. 
  • Remember to focus on the learners, and why the change may be beneficial; and keep in mind what's in your control.
  • What's your elevator pitch? Carefully choose your language and the message you craft.

Final thoughts

The last session of this day really amplified that technology in and of itself is not the key to success; instead, focus on learning and pedagogy.

All of the other sessions I attended: Personalized Learning, One-to-One, and Global Collaborations are not the silver bullets for success. Each and every one of them can fail without the leadership, vision, and focus on the students' learning... and each of them can be successful ...

However, what works in one environment might not work exactly in another environment. So, keep your eyes open. Listen. Learn. Unlearn. Relearn... and focus on what's best for the students.
  • What ideas, resources, or challenges could you add to this post?
  • How else did this post connect with you?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Writing 2.0: Technology-Rich Approach to Common Core Writing

What skills are most desired by employers? On most lists, communicate effectively is the number one desired skill.

How do we communicate? We communicate face-to-face, in writing, through various technologies, and multimedia.

What is does it mean to be literate? Being literate is being able to effectively communicate.

Therefore, every classroom must teach digital literacy as part of literacy, and not something separate.
Original image by Andrea Hernandez

Why have technology-rich writing?

Writing is a huge piece of literacy. Writing should occur across content and grade levels.

Common Core writing requires students to create and publish writing online, and to interact and collaborate with others.
Writing Anchor Standard #6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
We must design lessons that incorporates digital mediums for students to communicate and collaborate with others.

"(Students) are no longer passive recipients of information but active creators and distributors of knowledge. Active participants, perhaps motivated by the opportunity to engage in meaningful reading and writing, approach an event as if their presence matters," (Johnson, 2014, p. 12).

Leading Change and examples of technology-rich writing

Recently, I had the pleasure of presenting with Shauna Hamman at the Arizona Department of Education's Leading Change conference about a technology-rich approach to AZCCRS (Common Core) writing.

We shared a plethora of ideas and examples of technology-rich writing in the presentation below.

Some of those ideas include:
  • Instead of a traditional research paper given to the teacher, have students add their research to Wikipedia.
  • Instead of a traditional persuasive essay about saving the planet, Mrs. Hamman's class wrote this: It's Earth Week!
  • Instead of a traditional book report, have them write a book review for Amazon.
  • Instead of a how-to essay, write an online tutorial: Solving the Rubik's Cube. The three students in the pictures wrote the post collaboratively and chose what pictures to use. 
Click here for the resources from our presentation.

What about Internet safety?

Sharing online for the first time can be scary.

It's important we are aware of how to be safe online, model digital citizenship, and provide our students with authentic opportunities to communicate and collaborate online.
Image: SpinCircle, Patrik Jones, CC: BY
This fabulous article by Ronnie Burt called We should talk -- what are you doing to ensure student safety online?, really helped clarify some of the concerns I had, and what I could do about it.

It's also important to be aware of your district's policies about what can be published online regarding photos, videos, names, and student work. Furthermore, know if there are any non-disclosures in your classroom.
Final thoughts

Communicating and collaborating online is part of literacy, and teaching our students about digital citizenship and safety in the safe environments of our classrooms prepares them for the world today and the world tomorrow.

Digital literacy is built into the Common Core Standards (Arizona College and Career Ready Standards for those of us in Arizona), and being able to effectively communicate and collaborate online and face-to-face is a skills-set we should cultivate in our classrooms.
  • What examples or ideas of technology-rich writing would you add to our list?
  • How does communicating and collaborating online impact the students?
  • What would you share with those who are concerned about Internet safety and online communication and collaboration?
  • Do you have any other ideas or questions about a technology-rich approach to writing?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Chromebooks, Chrome Web Store, and Add-Ons

There's a lot more to Chromebooks and Google than meets the eye!

I've been learning as much as I can about Chromebooks, the Chrome Web Store, and Add-Ons since we are a Google Apps for Education district and have Chromebooks as our One-to-One devices at our high school, and have many carts at our other campuses. 

How are Chromebooks different?

Chromebooks have a web based management council. This means they:
  • update themselves;
  • boot up in less than 10 seconds;
  • cannot have software installed on them;
  • can install apps and extensions through the Chrome Web Store (including a plethora of Educational Apps);
  • can do most anything online via the Chrome browser;
  • and, start up by logging onto the computer with their Google password, then straight into Chrome.

What do we need to know about the Chromebook hardware?

There are different types of Chromebooks. The one we are using in our district is the Samsung. They are light (2.42 pounds) and have a battery life of approximately 6.5 hours.

Their screens are fragile compared to some of our other devices, and we've had some break by picking them up by the screen (top) instead of the keyboard (base). Therefore, it's important that we model and expect everyone to pick them up by the base. 

Chromebook Shortcuts:

Here's a list of shortcuts for the Chromebook. Some that I like teaching the students are:
Chromebook Shortcuts

Screenshots can be added to an email or a Google Doc by inserting an image. Likewise, the image can be uploaded to other applications such as a blog post, etc.

I also share how to right click by pressing Alt + click or place two fingers on the mousepad and click.

Getting to the Chrome Web Store:

Using the Chrome Web Store is how you add educational apps and extensions to your Chrome browser. This means that it will be on every Chrome browser you log into, regardless of device. There are many ways to get to the Chrome Web Store. Here are a few of them:
  1. Google "Chrome Web Store" then click on the link.
  2. Open a new tab in Chrome, and click on Store icon.
  3. If you are using the Chromebook, the Store icon will appear at the bottom of the screen, you can click it.
  4. Go to the Chrome Web Store sampling of Educational Apps, then select one of the hyperlinks to take you to the Chrome Web Store.
sampling of ed apps
5. Visit the complete list of Educational Apps.

How will the teachers know which apps to ask students to install on their devices?

Teachers do not need Chromebooks to try out the apps--they just need to be logged into Google Apps, and have their Chrome browser open. Then, they can add apps and extensions to their Chrome browser from the Chrome Web Store. →NOTE: Some apps require a fee. 

Installing from the Chrome Web Store:
add to chrome
Select the app or extension to install, then click "Add to Chrome".

Launching the App:

There are two easy ways to launch the app.
    launch app
  1. Once installed, you can click "Launch App."
  2. Or, add a new tab (CTRL T) and it will appear in the icons. Then click the app icon to launch (see example below).
chrome apps

Launching extensions:

Extensions are installed onto the toolbar (EG the Diigo extension for Chrome). Some of my most used extensions are:
  • Tweetdeck -- It makes viewing my Twitter feeds easier!
  • Diigo -- I love my organized bookmarks and annotation tool!
  • Google URL Shortener -- It quickly shortens URLs to something more manageable. 
  • Feedly -- My RSS reader so I don't miss a post or Google Alert.


Google has a new feature called Add-Ons, which can be installed on Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets. While Add-Ons don't require going to the Chrome Web Store, I thought it was valuable to share how to make the all powerful Google Docs and Google Sheets a little more robust. For example, Doctopus (great for management of assignments and projects) and Kaizena (which allows you to leave voice comments on documents) can now be added through Add-Ons.

Recommendations of Apps for students:
  • Click here to view suggestions for secondary students.
  • Click here to view suggestions for elementary students.
More great apps and extensions:

I learned about many valuable apps and extensions from Stacy Behmer's presentation:

The one that I use several times a week is a how to schedule Gmail to send at a later date/time.

Concluding Thoughts:

Finding tools for your teachers and students to use is an important part of technology integration. How will they will use those tools for learning? Will the tool be used for memorization (DOK 1)? Skills/application (DOK 2)? Strategic thinking (DOK 3)? Or, extended thinking (DOK 4)? Will it be used as a paper and pencil substitution or will it be used to transform learning?
  • What Chrome apps, extensions, or Add-Ons would you recommend?
  • What other hardware thoughts or questions should be shared?
  • Do you have other thoughts or questions about Chromebooks, the Chrome Web Store, or Add-Ons?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

21st Century Literacy, Communication, and Blogging

What does it mean to be literate? Traditionally, being literate meant the ability to read and write, a trademark of being educated. In essence, it meant the ability to communicate face-to-face and in writing.

The Internet has changed what it means to be literate because communication; writing; and how we retrieve, share, critically evaluate, and synthesize information includes digital fluency, which requires a new set of skills.
Originally adapted from: opensourceway via Compfight cc

The development of this new skills set affects online reading comprehension and literacy (Coiro, 2007; Leu et al., 2005; Leu, Zawilinski, et al., 2007). Those who harness the power of the Internet have increased reading comprehension online relative to those who lack online reading skills regarding locating, critically evaluating, synthesizing, and communicating information (Coiro, 2011).

Therefore, we need to change how we teach literacy. Literacy must include sophisticated Internet searching techniques; evaluating the validity and reliability of the content; minding copyrights and giving proper attribution; communicating and collaborating with global audiences; and creating multimedia products.

Communication and conversation

Conversation builds language and literacy skills, requiring strong communication skills. Those skills include paraphrasing, asking clarifying questions, elaborating on main ideas, supporting ideas with examples, adding more information or challenging an idea, and synthesizing main points (Academic Conversations).

Communication skills can be used in online environments such as commenting on blogs. In the video below, Mrs. Yollis' third grade students share tips for writing quality comments:

These tips utilize strong communication skills to create quality written comments as a way to spark conversation and develop 21st century literacy.

Building literacy through blogging

Engaging in classroom blogging doesn't guarantee increased literacy; however, when students partake in ongoing academic conversations with diverse audiences for various purposes, then students reap the benefits of blogging.

Furthermore, it helps address some of the learning standards.

Blogging global collaborations

To take blogging beyond the four walls of the classroom and expand your audience and blogging experiences, try the Student Blogging Challenge or Quadblogging.

The Student Blogging Challenge is a free global collaboration that occurs in fall and spring for approximately ten weeks. Classrooms or individual students can sign up for the Challenge, and can choose which challenges to participate in. Miss W, the organizer of the Challenge, publishes a choice board of challenges or prompts around a topic each week suitable for all student ages and ranges of experience.

Quadblogging is when four classrooms agree to take turns having their blog as the spotlight class of the week, and the other three classrooms visit and leave comments. By the end of the month (or agreed amount of time), all four blogs have had their debut in the spotlight.

Writing across content isn't a new idea, but writing daily, collaborating and connecting with various audiences might be new for many. Giving your students an audience is motivating, it addresses several learning standards, and is well worth the effort.


The key ideas of this post were presented to our Principals, Education Services, and Superintendent earlier this month. 

Final thoughts

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano (Langwitches) wrote a fabulous post exploring making thinking visible through blogging. Below is one of her graphics from that post:
Visible Thinking Routines by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano & Claire Arcenas. CC License: BY NC SA

Focusing on adding value to the author's writing requires critical thinking and great communication skills. It requires supporting claims with evidence and 21st century literacy -- which includes reading; retrieving information; critically evaluating the information; synthesizing ideas from multiple sources; minding copyrights and giving proper attribution; and sharing the information through writing, discussion, and/or multimedia.

The bottom line is 21st century literacy requires a new set of skills and it's about time we start embracing and teaching those skills.
  • How do you help your students and other educators adopt and embrace 21st century literacy?
  • How does blogging (or any collaborative tool) help build 21st century literacy? (and when does it not?)
  • What other thoughts do you want to add to this discussion?