Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Creating in Educreations

Educreations received a slight makeover, and it now has a few new features that allows teachers to push lessons out to student accounts, while also being able to see published student work for those enrolled in her/his classes.

What is Educreations?

Educreations is an interactive whiteboard and screencasting tool for both the iPad and desktop computer. Its features include drawing, annotation, and narration. You can insert photos straight from your camera, photo album, Dropbox, Google Drive, and from the Internet.

  • Students can use Educreations to investigate ideas, and create videos to share their thinking and learning.
  • Teachers can use student artifacts as formative assessments as evidence of learning or misconceptions/gaps in understanding.  
  • Teachers can use Educreations to send presentations to students as well.
How do you use it?

How do Teachers sign up and create a Class account?

How do students sign up and connect with the Class account?

Any drawbacks?

Students and Teachers can only save and work on one draft at a time with the free version of the tool.

One way a teacher can have multiple groups of students work on the same draft is to add a page to make it a collaborative presentation, with each student or groups of students contributing to the topic. Tip: Have students put their initials or first name on each of their slides.

What are some other tools like Educreations?
  • Desktop: I like using Screenr for screencasting. 
  • Chromebooks and Chrome browser from desktop: Snagit works nicely in Chrome, Google Apps, and Google Classroom. 
  • iPad: Seesaw has a lot of potential (see this post by Richard Byrne).
  • iPad: ShowMe is another whiteboard recording tool that allows you to add multiple pages. You can save multiple drafts at a time with this app.

Final thoughts

When choosing any app or site for students to work on, it's important to make sure they are compliant with FERPA, COPPA, PPRA, and meets state legislation. I've been shying away from some great sites and apps until companies rethink what data they need to collect and their use of advertisements.
  • How would you have your students use a screencasting tool? How could that benefit their learning?
  • What tips or tools would you recommend for screencasting?
  • How else did this post connect with you?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Comments for Community to Enter a State of "Flow" #C4C15

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, happiness and genuine satisfaction comes from a state of consciousness called flow. To achieve flow, one must be completely absorbed in an activity, a mindful challenge, involving creativity. Those mindful challenges can not be too demanding, nor too easy.

This "mindful challenge" reminds me of a volleyball net. If it is set too high, it is too difficult to hit the ball over the net, resulting in giving up the game out. Likewise, if the net is too low, there's not enough challenge to keep my attention, leading to the same outcome of giving up the game. Thus, we need to set the net at the appropriate height, and then we'll start learning how to make changes to improve, which is when we'll become intrinsically motivated by the act.

“Most enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person's skills, it usually begins to be intrinsically rewarding.” ― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

#C4C15 Project

A few weeks ago, I received a quality comment on my blog post from Ben Wilkoff. At the end of the comment, he shared his #C4C15 Project: Comments for Community, which is his call to create a community of writers by leaving comments for others to build connections and a culture of learning.

Ben Wilkoff's Launching #C4C15: Comments for Community in 2015

I'm inspired by Ben's #C4C15 Project, and fearful at the same time. I fear the time commitment. I fear being completely open and vulnerable.

If I really want to grow, I need to allow for that vulnerability and trust that I'll gain critical friends rather than criticism.

Slide_CriticalFriends by Bill Ferriter, CC: BY, NC

Count me in

Despite my apprehension, I am making the goal to connect and learn with others online, and leave quality comments.
“It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were. When we choose a goal and invest ourselves in it to the limits of concentration, whatever we do will be enjoyable. And once we have tasted this joy, we will redouble our efforts to taste it again. This is the way the self grows.” ― Mihaly CsikszentmihalyiFlow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

  •  How do you connect and learn with others?
  • What risks are you taking to grow?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

What does it mean to be literate in the 21st century?

There's not a doubt in my mind that technology has changed our world. Information is created, shared, and evaluated differently. People connect, communicate, and go about their daily lives in new ways with the use of technology.

Think about the impact of technology on industries like newspapers, publishers, movies, travel agencies, etc. I go online to read the news, view books, and watch movies. I plan vacations, make travel arrangements, and purchase tickets online. I find new recipes and share them with friends through social media.

We are in an information revolution. It's changing and disrupting how things are done, and requires new skills to be successful. Therefore, it impacts what it means to be literate, moving beyond reading and writing and into information and digital literacies.

New literacies

Today, students need to be taught information and research fluency, along with digital citizenship and technology operations and concepts.

Final thoughts

Even if students are "digital natives" it does not mean they know online information skills such as vetting valid and reliable sources. Students must be taught the new literacies.

Literacy is not optional, and teaching students how to search, organize, evaluate, synthesize, and share information, is part of learning in the 21st century.

  • What do you think it means to be literate in the 21st century?
  • How do new literacies change the learning environment?
  • How else does this post connect with you?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


One question I'm asked on occasion is, "How do you capture a copy of what's on your screen?"

The procedure differs a little depending on the device. The devices I most frequently use are listed below.

On PCs, this is often how I'd do it:
  • Press the “Print Screen” key on the top right of my keyboard.
  • Then open my email, PowerPoint, or Paint.
  • Press CTRL + V to paste the image.
  • Decide if I need to save the image (or crop the image). If so, I like using Paint.

On my Mac, I'll:
  • Press Command, Shift, and 4 at the same time.
  • Then pull the crossbars down and around the image you want to capture.
  • You’ll find it on your desktop as a Screenshot.

On an iPad, I'll:
  • Press the sleep button and the home button simultaneously. It will save in the Camera Roll album (see icon below).
Final thoughts

Screenshots are valuable when creating presentations or explaining something from the screen. For example, if there is an error message, I like sending a screenshot along with my request for help to show exactly what occurred. 

I am also cognizant of copyrights.
  • What questions, comments, or insights would you add to this post?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

14 Best or Worst from 2014

As I reflect on 2014, I want to share 14 of the best and some of the worst from 2014.

1) Most acknowledged blog post -- Mystery State Skype

I received the Editor's Choice Content Award from SmartBrief for my post on the Mystery State Skype. I also had the opportunity to talk with by Larry Jacobs on Education Talk Radio -- (click here to go straight to archive of radio show).

2) Most visited blog post -- Digital Storytelling and Stories with the iPad

3 & 4) My favorite post -- Harnessing Powerful Ideas: Leading One-to-One

This post was my favorite to write because it helped me collect many ideas about one-to-one, and place it in one space -- my post. Furthermore, I absolutely loved creating the graphics for this post. It was my first experiment with using Canva.

5) Favorite new(ish) tool (besides Canva) -- Pinterest

While Pinterest isn't new, it so happened to be new for me. I had an account before 2014, but it was during this past year that I really recognized the power of Pinterest, and had the insight to know when to use it. I found myself diving into Pinterest for visuals, which led to resources and learning.

6) Epic fail -- Lost many creations

Did I take the time to back it up before installing? Doh! Serves me right!

7) Most difficult lesson learned -- Leadership has a cost
"Good leadership is not a popularity contest. One of the most important days in my career was the day I realized that leading well was more important than being well-liked." -- John Maxwell
8) Most challenging idea -- Create my TPOV

Shawn Evenson, a highly-valued member of my PLN and friend, challenged me to write down my Teachable Point of View (TPOV). While this was an activity to strengthen leaders, it trickled into other aspects of my life. By reflecting on my core values, it helped me make tough decisions -- decisions that I stand by -- and helped me communicate those decisions and ideas to others.

9 & 10) Most important reminder & biggest decision -- family comes first

Family is always a priority. Always. We put family first and chose to move mid-school-year back to California to be closer to family.

11) Best gift -- John Maxwell book from Larry LaPrise

So, a gift by Tina Jada was awesome-sauce too, but Larry's note left my heart full and eyes saturated. -- Larry was the principal who first hired me in Apache Junction. He always spent time building other leaders in the organization, and invested in me, even though I didn't see myself as a leader at first. I wouldn't be where I am without his mentorship and friendship.

12) Most excited about for 2015 -- Next to being closer to family is my new role at VCOE

I was hired by the Ventura County Office of Education in the Curriculum and Instruction Department as the Technology Integration Specialist. I am surrounded by the most innovative educators and am inspired every day!

13) Bucket List for 2015 -- PhD

I've narrowed it down to a few programs, and have to get applications rolling.

14) Bottom line -- Serving, connecting, and 21st century learning

The bottom line is I'm most excited when I am serving and connecting with others, and am passionate about 21st century learning. With all the changes going on in my life, I'm relying on my PLN more and more these days. So, I thank you for connecting and learning with me.
  • What are some of your best or worst from 2014?
  • What are you looking forward to in 2015?
  • How do you communicate your TPOV?
  • How else does this post connect with you?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Formative Assessment with Plickers

Formative assessment helps teachers make data-informed decisions to plan for and/or adjust instructional activities, identify potential misconceptions, monitor the pace of instruction, etc.

While there are many ways to formatively assess students, I recently saw Eric Sheninger use Plickers during his workshop at the Ventura County Office of Education, and thought, what an easy and inexpensive way to quickly assess groups!
Purpose and benefits
  • Collect data from multiple choice or true/false questions from a group.
  • View data as a group snapshot in a graph, or view individual data from audience.
  • Quick, low-tech tool to use, especially when you don't have the budget for clickers.
Technology and prep
  1. Teacher/Facilitator creates an account at Plickers.
  2. Download app for portable device: iTunes or Google Play.
  3. Print out a set of reusable cards.  
  4. Add class(es).
  5. Create questions.
Getting started 

Click here to download as PDF
Last thoughts

Multiple choice and true/false responses provide limited data of learning and understanding. However, it can be used as a quick assessment to make data-informed decisions and to spark discussions for deeper learning in the classroom, a staff meeting, or the workshop setting.
  • How do you use technology to make you more effective, efficient, and informed?
  • What other tools do you like to use to gather information from your audience?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mystery State Skype

Mystery State Skype isn't a new idea, it's basically taking learning geography and placing it in a game format like Twenty Questions via Skype, by asking questions to guess the location of the other classroom. Not only does this connect students from across the country (or globe), but it also gives a context for students to apply geography with critical reasoning, collaboration, communication, digital citizenship, and information fluency -- 21st century skills.

Skype in the classroom
Learning standards

What should your students research? I recommend looking at your standards to know what is expected of your students as a starting place.
Create a graphic organizer to guide their research, or adapt this Google Doc for your needs.

Preparing for the Mystery Skype

Setting up the Mystery Skype

There are many places where you can sign up for a Mystery Skype. Here's a few:


  • Check time zone differences.
  • Set up a test call a few days before the event to make sure the technology is working, and to confirm the Mystery Skype day and time.
  • Double check how the teacher wants to do the Mystery State Skype. There are several variations of Mystery Skypes such as using yes/no questions or clues. The questions your students create will reflect what variation of Mystery Skype you do.

21st century fluencies

What 21st century skills will students use?
  • Research and Information Fluency: Do students know how to search for valid and reliable information?
  • Digital Citizenship: Have they been introduced to Skype etiquette
  • Critical Thinking: After researching, organize the information as questions in a logical order. To add an extra element to the research, have students make a list of the states that fits the question and add it to the map. Then when they ask questions in the Skype ("Is there a NBA basketball team in your state?") they can use it to eliminate/include states. 
  • Communication and Collaboration: Have collaboration norms been established?
What 21st century skills might also be addressed/included in the Mystery Skype?
  • Research and Information Fluency: Do students know how to use Google Maps?
  • Digital Citizenship, Communication, and Collaboration: Will you have students typing up questions and answers on a backchannel? If so, are they aware of what's expected of them as digital citizens
  • Technology Operations and Concepts: Do students know how to troubleshoot if the sound doesn't work? Do they know how to check the Skype preferences and then the computer hardware preferences for the microphone?


The roles you assign students will really depend on what tools you have available and best fits your students' needs. It's also important to make sure all of your students are allowed to be on camera prior to the Mystery Skype (check for non-disclosures).

  • Click here for a template with the steps as well as roles.

Going deeper

When the Mystery Skype is over, it's so important to go deeper by reflecting and connecting back to the learning.

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano created this assessment of learning graphic organizer for a Mystery Skype.

Final thoughts

Focus on the critical thinking and the learning. Help students think through their reasoning while not giving them the answers.

Mystery Skypes should be a fun and engaging way to apply their learning for a real purpose and audience.

  • What questions do you have about Mystery Skyping? 
  • What insight or resources will you add to this conversation?
  • How else does this post connect with you?