Friday, December 20, 2013

Winter Break Is Here!

I hope you all have a great Holiday and enjoy the break with your family! What better way to start the new year off than with this inspirational video by one of my favorite people!   Enjoy!  Have a Happy New Year!



Monday, December 16, 2013

Did you know Santa Believes in Project Based Learning?

I am reposting an article from Michael Gorman's Blog 21st Century Educational Technology and Learning.  If you don't already follow him I highly recommend it. 

In this post he shows an example of Project Based Learning and its use by Santa Claus!  I thought it was perfect during the hussle and bussle of the last week before break.  Enjoy!

It all started on a recent visit I had the pleasure of taking to the North Pole.  It was actually a once in a lifetime experience, one that I will always remember. While I promised Santa I would not divulge secrets I discovered, he did hand me a manuscript and gave me a wink. I could see the amazing sparkle in his eyes as he waited for me to discover a power he was already aware of. I looked at the cover of this torn and faded, yet delightful looking, old book.  I could tell it had been constantly used due to the lack of North Pole magical dust on its soon to be engaging pages.  I spent the next few hours looking through a wonderful collection of written journals. This manuscript was entitled “The Santa Projects”.  How did he know my yearning to learn more about projects?  I then remembered that, of course, I was sitting in front of Santa. He probably had quite a data base of everything I had ever dreamed of or desired from my very first teddy bear. Here was a compilation of all of the important projects ever done at this amazing place… at the top of the world. Here were the projects that Santa had brought to his entire staff in order to engage, motivate, educate, and provide means of collaboration and communication. The first project caught my eye. I couldn’t help but smile as I read each of Santa’s journal entries. Allow me to share one of his projects with you.

The Santa Projects – Project Name – Mission Possible…. The Big Delivery

Need To Know – (An outstanding project is based on a student need to know. It is this desire that promotes engagement and excitement in children. It provides the motivation for learning significant content.)  Santa Notes - It will be important to communicate with all of the elves and various staff my desire to travel the world in one night delivering toys to all of the good girls and boys. We will have a meeting, record everything in Santa Docs, based on what we will need to know to make this mission possible. As we answer these important questions I will mark them off our collaborative list. I anticipate a few questions such as: Given that the earth is rotating… how many hours do we really have?

The Driving Question – (The Driving Question is the key to any effective PBL project.  This question must be direct and open a student centric understanding of what is to be eventually accomplished and learned. While giving the students a sense of mission, it is proactive and open-ended.)  Santa Notes – After working with various teams we have decided that a good driving question could be as follows: How can we devise a plan to deliver presents to all the good children in the world in one night? I know this will be exciting for the elves and I am sure the reindeer will be clamoring to get their hoofs into it. I am certain our journey to finding this answer will not only raise more questions, but will also provide the rigor my staff thrives on.

Voice and Choice – (An effective project must allow for all students to have a voice and a choice. This might allow students to pick an area of study, or may give a selection of various final products to demonstrate learning. This voice and choice allows the project to have individual meaning and relevance to each student.) Santa Notes – I must allow all of the workers at the North Pole to participate in a meaningful way while holding them accountable to the Driving Question. Who knows what contribution each group and individual might be able to come up with. In fact, I have already heard that my engineers are drawing a picture of a sleigh. Not sure I know why, but maybe I will learn from them.

21st Century Skills – (Students must be allowed to use skills that are authentic and provide real world opportunities. Teachers must provide learning opportunities and facilitate important skills including collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. It is important to also asses these skills as part of PBL.) Santa Notes – I plan to utilize team building activities to help facilitate project success. At the North Pole we must realize that in order to pull off this miracle it will involve a collective wisdom from the entire crowd. We will use modern North Pole technology including Santa Docs, Twinkler, and Elfmodo to collaborate. In fact, I noticed the elves are already building a new system “The Magic Net”. It is supposed to connect the North Pole with the entire world of children’s desires. I am not sure why, but I am sure I will learn from them.

Inquiry and Innovation - A good PBL study will allow students to not just come up with answers… but also discover new and amazing questions. This will allow students to think outside the box as they remix, create, and innovate. It assures a final product that shows the learning that was acquired from the initial Driving Question.) Santa Notes – Everyone at the workshop is finding out that there is not an easy answer to our Driving Question. It seems we are getting more questions than answers right now. I have encouraged our staff to use Santapedia and NorthPoleOogle but they say it does not always give the answer… again more questions. I have told everyone to tinker… something they have experience with at the toy shop. They did come up with a new gift they called Tinkertoys which could be a hit. I had to get them back on track. Outside, I have noticed the reindeer jumping from the fir trees and one is even playing with a red light bulb. I know it seems very hectic… but I do feel we might be on to something.

Feedback and Revision – (Students must be allowed to obtain feedback through critiques from their teacher, peers, real world mentors, and themselves. Through this, students must learn to reflect and revise to create a better product as they travel a road of formative assessment.) Santa Notes – I am finding myself encouraging all my workers to reflect and critique themselves and others. This is can be more valuable than always using one of my NPARs (North Pole Assessment Rubrics). In fact, I saw the engineer and elves constantly critiquing each other on what they called OBETB (Operation Big Enough Toy Bag). Perhaps if I do a little check with one of my formative assessment rubrics I will find out what that is all about.

Publicly Present The Product – (Providing students with a public and authentic audience is crucial in the design of a good PBL learning unit. It brings meaning and provides motivation for a final product that represents the quality and rigor that should be expected. This audience can be face to face or could be virtual using the World Wide Web.)  Santa Notes – I am so excited for the workers here at the North Pole. Tomorrow night they will be presenting their plan for Mission Possible…. The Big Delivery to a live audience of the North Pole Geographic  Society, Magic Bag Engineers, Animal Aviator Experts, Portable Light Bulb Innovators, The Association of Sleigh Vehicle Workers, and NEXRAD.  It will all be available on Santa Vision. Having all of these experts in the audience will ensure that all involved will take great pride in their work while demonstrating what they have learned and have now made possible.  I am still puzzled as to why we have invited the Animal Aviator Experts and NEXRAD. Sound like a high flying idea!

And yes, there is an eighth essential element that is covered by BIE. It is quite instrumental to the world of PBL!

Significant Content – (A PBL final outcome should provide evidence that students learned the required content set forth by curricular standards. While the 21st century skills are important… they should complement and be used as  tools for learning this content. The project is the process!) Santa Notes – Wow… while everyone has become better communicators, collaborators, and critical thinkers I see that the important concepts needed to make this project a success have become a reality. All of the workers, elves, and animals understand the important North Pole curricular concepts of magical engineering, animal aviation and linguistics, possibility planning, and bottomless bag technology. Most of all, they have discovered the wonderful skill of miracle manicuring. I really do believe in PBL!

As I handed this precious manuscript back to Santa,  I thanked him for confirming my belief in how powerful a project can be. Upon my return I continued to learn more about Project Based Learning and discovered the power it has for providing authentic and powerful learning experiences for students. This knowledge just might be the very best gift I ever received from Santa. I’m still smiling as I recall the other projects I read about in the wonderful book on my very special visit. Projects with names like the ones you find below.

  1. I Can Get Down the Chimney… How Do I Get Up?

  2. The Big Blizzard… Can We Find a Way to Light the Path?

  3. Conquering the 24 Hour Cookies and Milk Dilemma!

  4. Reindeer… Keeping their Minds to the Ground!

I hope you enjoyed this very special message that Santa shared with me. Please take a moment to share this post with other educators across the world.  Please accept my present to you,  which is another year of postings, by subscribing by email or RSS and follow me on Twitter (mjgormans). You will also find a treasure of resources covering 21st century learning, STEM, PBL, and technology integration for the classroom. Again, take a moment to share this blog and even give it a re-tweet so that other educators can experience the magic of PBL. May you find the peace, joy, blessing, and magic of this very special season… and to all a good night! Mike Gorman (

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

eduCanon: Build and share interactive video lessons

eduCanon is a new online environment created by teachers for teachers. Free to use (registration required), members begin with a video they have created or found on YouTube or Vimeo and add questions to it, thereby turning passive viewing into an active experience for students. Users of the free version can add multiple choice questions only, while paid users can also have free response questions. All users can add images to their questions, as well as audio, tables, and web links. Once you have created a video, you assign it to your students.

As students watch the video, they must answer the questions before they can proceed to the next section. Students receive immediate feedback on their answers and can rewind if they wish to review part or all of the video. Dividing the content into smaller components and presenting it in this way increases student engagement and understanding. In addition, eduCanon provides you the opportunity to monitor student progress and proficiency to inform future instruction.

eduCanon videos can be used to introduce or review material as part of a flipped classroom experience, but you can also use them in class, or have students use higher-order thinking skills to create their own interactive videos (at present, they will need a teacher account to do so, although the company reports they are working on allowing video creation from student accounts). If you are using a computer, you can use any major browser to build or view eduCanon videos. Students can also watch videos on an iPad.

Here is a video to introduce you to what eduCanon does:

Monday, December 2, 2013

SMART Resource Page Updated

If you have a SMART board in your classroom, you may have seen the SMART Tech page on this blog. We have just added a new resource for beginners, Training Resources from SMART, as well as a few other resources for more advanced users. Whether you are looking for help getting started or want some inspiration to expand the ways you are using your SMART board, you should definitely give it a look.

Click here to visit the SMART Tech page.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Backups and Updates

This week of giving thanks is also a great time to take care of those backups and updates that you have been putting off.  As I write this I am backing up my own laptop to an external hard drive which I try to do once and month and highly recommend.  It is always better to be prepared, I believe that is the girl scout or boy scout motto! Of course it is easy to put off updating and backing up since it is time consuming and you can't use your computer or device while it's happening.  None the less these are things that need to be done and I am hoping to help make the process a little easier!

Let's start with back-ups: first and foremost back up your gradebooks.  To do this go to the pencil icon add/edit, select the Backups tab, select all in the top right corner.  You will see all your gradebooks be highlighted grey, now go to the green arrow/book icon at the bottom of the screen and click it.  That's it your all done!

Next you can back up your laptop to a flashdrive or a external hard drive.  If you have years of lessons plans on your laptop it is worth investing in a external hard drive to protect your content.

You can also use this time to backup your iOs device to either the iCloud or your iTunes account.  We add contacts to our phones every week, so make sure you are saving your most recent data.

As for updates, I myself am excited to finally go to Mavericks the newest Mac operating system!  Here is a great video of what it new with this update.  It is worth a look even if you have already started using Mavericks. I apologize for the ads in both these videos but reputable tubers have built in ads.


If you haven't already updated your iPhone to iOS 7 nows the time, in fact it is now iOS 7.04 that you should be on!  But don't stop at your phone is you have an ipad do that too!  Here is a great video on some great features you get with iOS 7


That's it! Have a great Thanksgiving break!! Relax, enjoy your family and run those updates and backups!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

AirServer: Project your iPad screen

If you are using iPads in your classroom, whether you only have one for yourself or you have iPads for your students as well, you have probably wished you could display the iPad screen using your projector. AirServer is an inexpensive way for you to do just that. It is a software application that you install on your computer (Mac or PC) so you can send your iPad display to the computer and from there to a projector or interactive whiteboard.

You can model for students and display your content, but you can also quickly and easily share content from students. AirServer supports multiple connections at one time, so you can have more than one student sharing ideas and/or work with the rest of the class.

Other features that you will appreciate include a true full screen display (Reflector, a similar software application, shows a wide border around the display when mirroring content), optional password protection (useful to prevent teachers/students in nearby classrooms from accidentally sending content to your computer), and the ability to easily identify your computer on the network.

AirServer offers a free one-week trial. The application costs $11.99 for 3 licenses or $3.99 each when purchased in groups of 10 or more. For more information, visit

Friday, July 26, 2013


Aeries just released a series of new video tutorials for Aeries.Net! The tutorials show the differences between ABI and .Net and they also highlight features only available in .Net.  They go through gradebook, attendance and student demographics.  If you have time, watch them, they will be very helpful as we move toward Aeires.Net for next year!  You can access the videos through the Aeries SchoolTube Channel.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Blogs vs. Wikis

As many of you think ahead for the up coming school year, one thing that teachers who are wanting to explore something new in their classrooms is an online tool that their students can use.  We hear the buzz words of different tech tools all the time, and blogs and wikis come up often.  What's great about both of them is that they are simple tools to use and have longevity of use...a project could last as short or long as you want them.  So what are the differences?  Which one should you use?  Rather than explain it to you through written text, try checking out the videos below and see how they are demonstrated.  Also, why reinvent the wheel, right?



What is a Blog?
What is a Wiki?
Also, check out this blog post on " 5 Ways You Can Use Wikis With Students"



Thursday, July 11, 2013

Model Schools After Glow

I just got back from the Model Schools Conference in Washington DC. I was so lucky to have had the opportunity to share this experience with 98 teachers in our district.  It was so inspiring to spend time with teachers from my own district as well as meet and share ideas with educators across the country.  For me the motivation started with the straight-talking keynote speaker, Dr. Susan Szachowicz, as she shared the Brockton High School success story.  The school transformed from a low performing urban school to one of the best high schools in the state.  The reason for this rise in achievement is credited to implementing high standards and expectations, monitoring student progress while changing the school culture.  Another point that Dr. Szachowicz made was how important training teachers is to the process as schools move toward the Common Core.  This need for training was echoed through out the conference, which resonated for me.  As a media specialist I feel our role is to make everyone else effective. Which means to find the tools that best suit your needs and supply the training needed for you to use them.  During the conference I attended the sessions that were connected to technology integration, 1:1 devices, The Common Core, and digital textbooks, not a big surprise!  My head is still spinning from all the new tools and ideas that I was introduced too.  As I go through and research the tools that were shared with me I will be using the Edtech blog to showcase the ones I think we could all benefit from.

The first new tool I want to share is FlipSnack.  This is an online flipbook creator.  You upload the PDF’s and it creates a flipbook that can be shared with your students.  Students can also use this tool to create flipbook reports or other research projects.  It is very easy to use and the possibilities are endless!  Here is great FlipSnack example:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Self-Paced Learning

While your relaxing this summer you may want to take the time to add some new tools to your toolkit.  The media specialists have created two self-paced classes that are topical and can be accessed at your leisure.  The first course was designed in our Moodle LMS environment.  It is a Common Core Resources course that gives you the latest news about Common Core with tools for creating lessons and rubrics.  To access this class click on this link: Common Core Standards Training

The next class was developed using iTunes U.  This is a relatively new tool that allows course managers to create online courses.  I have created the Flipped Classroom.  To access this course you will need to download the iTunesU app on your phone or device.  Once the app is downloaded select the Catalog Button at the top right of the app then select Enroll and add the code, FML-7W8-MHA..  The course will give you an outline and within each outline there are a series of posts with resources to view and use.  Hope you find these useful!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Knowmia Teach

I came across a great free app today called Knowmia Teach.  This is a lesson planning and recording tool for teachers.  It is great for those of you that are incorporating the "flipped classroom" into you classroom.  You can create short video lessons and share them with your students.  It also houses your lessons so you are creating your own video lesson library.  You can access this tool through the free app or their website

This tutorial is a good place to get started the app is really robust so you definitely want to utilize the tools provided on the website and through the app.




Friday, June 7, 2013

Summer Learning Fun

After participating in a Twitter chat last night (find out more about this here) I was inspired to write a post about sharing out some of what the educators on the chat looked forward to exploring this summer. Thank you to everyone that contributed on Tuesday's #ntchat and my awesome teammates Karen Lagola and Brittany Sherman for some of these ideas.

*Disclaimer. This is not designed to be a task list. Summer is a great time for slowing down, learning at a comfortable pace without a deadline. Take what you like and leave the rest.


“Teach Like a Pirate” Yargh!  - Increasing student engagement and teacher creativity
“Mindset” The New Psychology of Success” -Understand fixed and growth mindset
“Thinking, Fast and Slow – Explain and harness the two ways we think

Productivity Tools:

Tools to Curate Content (for ease, use with web extension or bookmarklet):

  • EduClipper (The Pinterest of Education)

  • Evernote –Create and share notes/websites/pictures etc. on all devices. 

  • Claco – Collaborate and share resources. View my resources 

Design/Make Your Own:

-Create your own infographic: Piktochart,,
-Story Creation App’s: Puppet Pals, Video ScribeStorybird

Online Skeeball:

Using only your Chrome browser and your Smartphone play Skeeball aka Rollit on your own or with three friends.


Check out a Free Education Unconference Near You:

EdCamps – Happening all over the U.S.

Grow as a Twitter User:

May your summer plans turn out better than you imagine!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Preparing Your Computer For Aeries.Net

As we transition to Aeries.NET from Aeries.abi we are trying to anticipate some of the issues that will arise. One of the issues we’ve discovered is compatibility with internet browsers. Aeries has provided a list of operating systems that are compatible with the new Aeries.Net, seen at the bottom of this post. You can test out whether or not your computer will be able to access Aeries.Net without problems by trying out the demo site. Go to this blog post to find out how to do access this:

Browsers also make a difference. Our department has discovered the best browsers by system as follows:

Mac users - Chrome or Safari
PC users - Firefox
With any system you will need to download Silverlight to use the Gradebook. [LOOK FOR THE ASTERIK NEXT TO THE OPERATING SYSTEM IN THE LIST BELOW]. There have been several problems with getting Silverlight to work. Here are the troubleshooting steps if once you’ve downloaded it and still can’t access the Gradebook.

  1. Shut down and restart your browser

  2. Shut down and restart your computer

  3. Put in a Helpdesk ticket here:

Friday, May 3, 2013

It’s Project Season – Find some Inspiration to Update Your Projects

In this blog post access my interdisciplinary end of the year project (U.S. History and English) lesson plan here and the tech tools I would use to update the project if I were in the classroom today. 

Nearing the end of the year students are ready to make the connections between concepts they’ve been learning all year, and across subjects. I teamed up with my grade level teachers to create interdisciplinary projects. Most of the students were ready to choose their own projects and partners, and I provided project selection oversight based on their needs. We created the project with student input and offered several choices in their mediums. I’m attaching the project directions my colleague and I created, which include objectives, options, rubrics, and daily progress monitoring checks. 

If I were in the classroom today I would allow my students to create an online project (which I would add to my instructional resources for the following year) using the following content creation tools:

For the Presentation Portion (Powerpoint is so old school):

Xtranormal – Turns your words into 3D animated movies.
Prezi – Non-slide platform that transforms presentations into stories or conversations.
Video Scribe HD  A unique way to create engaging animated videos quickly. To see one that I created select the following link:
StoryKit - Create an electronic storybook.
Haiku Deck - a free presentation app for iPad, makes presentations simple, beautiful, and fun.

For the Visual/Poster:

Glogster - Interactive posters loaded with text, graphics, music, videos, and more.
Thinglink – Interactive photographs
Phoster: Make your own poster.

For Review Games:

Study Stack - Create online flashcards and find flashcards for subjects already made.
Jeopardy Game – Online creation of this game
Who Wants to be a Millionaire  - Online creation of this game

For the Quiz Portion:

5 Online Quiz Generators


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013

Blabberize it!

Looking for a new way for students to showcase their biographies or a creative way to present their research? is a great tool that will allow students to do just that.

This site allows students and/or teachers to upload a picture of one to multiple people or animals, record their voices, and create mouth movements to match the voice of the recording.  It's an engaging way for students to speak as if they are a historical figure or an endangered species...and so much more.

Check out this video tutorial on how to use this tool:



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Aeries.Net Demo

If you are interested in learning about the Gradebook in Aeries.NET try the demo site.

You can get to the demo by selecting the following link:

Under “Aeries PORTALS” select either “Elementary School Teacher,” or “High School Teacher” then “Start.” A screenshot is shown below.

If you want the manual to learn about the different features, request one via email

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Aeries Gradebook Tip

Have you ever received a phone call from a confused parent about the unwarranted “F” showing in the Parent Portal for a student that has transferred in or out of your class? This post will describe how to fix this student’s grade without having to manually change the grade of all the other assignments.

I will explain how to do this through Aeries.NET and Aeries ABI separately.

Aeries ABI:

Select “Gradebook” choose the class you want under “Choose Your Gradebook” then “Gradebook Maintenance” then “Manage Students.”

If a student has left the class, like Sargiz in the screenshot, then you would put the last assignment he/she completed under the “High Assgn” column.

If a student came to class after the semester, like Christopher, you would put the first assignment they completed under the “Low Assgn” column.

[click on the photo to see the full size]



Select “Gradebook” on the left, then choose your class by clicking on “Gradebook” in the middle of the screen, then select “Add/Edit” under Edit, then select “Manage Students.”

If a student has left the class, like Thais in the screenshot, then you would put the last assignment he/she completed under the “High Assgn” column.

If a student came to class after the semester, like Jason, you would put the first assignment they completed under the “Low Assgn” column.





Monday, April 22, 2013

Cyberbee: Copyright Laws for Kids!

Cyberbee is a fun, easy kid friendly website where kids can find the answers to their copyright questions.  Kids can choose commonly asked questions and get the answers to what they can and can not do.  It is a great place to introduce what copyright means to students and how they use it everyday.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

CUE Reflections Part 2: Getting Ready for Conferences

*Note: If there is a conference you want to attend but are not able to, there is likely a dedicated webpage for the conference that contains helpful information, and/or apply the Twitter tip I give below.*

Thinking about all the different learning opportunities and people I’ll see at a conference is almost as good as being there. That was how I felt before heading to CUE 2013. Overwhelmed was also another feeling I experienced as there were more sessions I wanted to attend than I could, and I had to prepare to lead a session. In order to maximize my learning experiences and fun, I decided to be strategic and plan.

I started by adding ALL the sessions/events I wanted to attend to my schedule online (which links to my Google Calendar and can feed into an iCal account). I had approximately five overlapping events per session time. When narrowing down the events I considered the following:

  1. Current district technology initiatives

  2. Relevant trends

  3. Ensuring that there isn’t much overlap between the sessions I’m choosing.

  4. Checking out the resources that the session speakers post online. Sometimes they post enough I don’t have to go to the session, or see that it won’t be a substantive enough session to attend.

  5. What will be inspiring, or my fun session. I’m applying Google’s “20% Time” principle.

  6. Fun networking events, meeting new people and continuing to build on the relationships I’ve already started. This was also a great opportunity for exchanging new insights/tools with friends that attended sessions that I couldn’t.

  7. Drop by current vendors, and any others that may have products needed in the near future.

  8. Down time to allow for processing all the information. 

I wasn’t a stickler in holding to my schedule but I was glad I had it. The day before I headed out, @AliceKeeler recommended I follow the conference Twitter feed #cue13 and to tweet throughout. Following this advice and learning more about Twitter in education may have been the most fruitful experience from my time at the conference. More to come about that.

May your conference attendance bring you lots of great learning experiences, resources, inspiration and good times!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fast, Free, Easy PLN: Why You Should Be on Twitter

Many people mistakenly believe that Twitter is a forum where people who have a lot of time to waste share what they had for breakfast and other equally shallow bits of information. In reality, it is so much more than that.

Twitter is perhaps the best and easiest way for teachers to expand their personal learning networks. You can search Twitter for any educational topic imaginable and you will find results you can use. Many tweets also include hashtags (the pound sign, or #, followed by a word or phrase) to categorize them. There are hundreds of hashtags related to education. Some examples are #edchat (anything about education), #elementary, #secondary, #edtech, #gtchat (gifted and talented education), #ellchat, and #spedchat. There are also many other, more specific hashtags that are sure to meet your needs.

Twitter helps you connect with educators around the country and around the world. You would never have the chance to meet many of these people in other ways, but on Twitter, you can find them, talk with them, follow their tweets, and benefit from their expertise. You can also join in and participate in weekly or monthly scheduled chats. I like #caedchat, which focuses on topics relevant to education in the state of California.

Twitter is an online resource, available when and where you need it. If you have been toying with the idea of trying something new in your classroom, you can go on Twitter, search for that topic, and come away with five new ideas in the space of five minutes. Have a question? Post a message, include an appropriate hashtag, and get input and answers right away. It is a place to get inspired, make new connections, and get new ideas.

Getting started is free and takes only a few minutes. Visit and find the area that says “New to Twitter? Sign Up.” Enter your name and email address, create a password, and you are off and running. Don’t worry about tweeting right away. Just commit to spending a few minutes a day looking for people to follow and reading their tweets.

If you would like to know more, I have shared an Evernote notebook of resources for new Twitter users. You can also find me on Twitter, where I am @CoffeeNancy. Still not convinced? Watch this video to see what Twitter can do.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

CUE Reflections Pt. 1: Linda Yollis’ Session on Blogging

The long anticipated annual CUE conference last week exceeded my expectations. There was so much I learned that I will be sharing about it and the resources I received in a brief series of posts. One of my favorite sessions was Linda Yollis’ “Blogging: Teaching Commenting Skills and Encouraging Parent Participation.”

When using a tech. tool in the classroom it is crucial to have an objective to make an impact on student learning. Through blogging Linda facilitates the building of writing skills, commenting on the web, content across the disciplines, digital citizenship, internet safety, learning beyond the classroom, and inclusivity of the community. If you visit her blog it may be hard to imagine doing it all, but Mrs. Yollis encouraged the session participants to start with one thing, her blog has grown over the years.

A few best practices:

  • Linda starts the beginning of the school year by using the blog. She posts a welcome back video published the day before school and emails it out to the class. She invites people to introduce themselves and reviews the comments with the class. 

  • Cluster map gadget you can use this for geography, but also for math. Put the number of vistors, and explained number placement. Also for math instruction, posting a word problem, then encouraging students to create a story with a word problem. 

Bonus: Linda finds her students are more concerned about perfecting their work since students can view this work from around the world. To quote another CUE speaker Rushton Hurley, "When students create for other students they want it to be good, when done for the teacher they make it good enough."

If want to learn more about how to use blogging in your classroom check out Linda’s online resources:

Check out her blog:

Blogging wiki:

Video made by Linda and her students on how to comment on the blog:
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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Embed Twitter! on your Teacher Webpage


If you are a major Tweeter, you will definitely benefit others by embedding your twitter account so that there is a live feed.  To do so, use the following directions:

-Open Twitter

-Open the page you want to link it to

-Next to following click embed this profile

-Copy widget link

-Open an article in the back end website (or on teachers page)

-Click Source

-Paste the link where you want it to show up.

And that's it!  Such a great way to get your audience access to your amazing tweets!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Challenge-Based Learning: Take Action and Make a Difference

While at CUE 2013 last week, I was overwhelmed by many of the great tech tools and the examples that many school districts were able to share on how they are using technology to enhance and engage student learning.  Yet there was one session that truly inspired me: Challenge Based Learning (CBL).  Some of you may know this style of teaching and/or may be implementing it in your classroom.  For those of you who haven’t heard of it, CBL is tying curriculum to relevant issues that students can connect with both socially and emotionally.  It is bringing real-world problems into the classroom and spurring inquiry from the students on what to do about an issue and develop problem-solving skills.  Some social issues include: poverty, AIDS, environmental issues, animal cruelty, etc.

It meets the Common Core standards in many ways, since it crosses curriculum, brings higher-level thinking and creativity, requires research, and more.  The most exciting part to me is that it not only engages students, but it causes holistic learning through academia and social awareness, which connects students to think about the world around them and the difference they can make.  This is beautiful!  As teachers, we want to not only prepare students for their future careers, but to be participating citizens in an ever-changing and connected world.


Click here to check out the main site, where you can either find other teacher’s lessons or share your own.


Oh, and if you have CBL lessons or plan to in the future, we would love to hear about it, so please share them with us!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Take Advantage of Me, Please!

As an elementary media specialist, part of my job is to help teachers bring their old lessons and projects into the 21st century by adding a technology component. Many times, teachers are hesitant to ask because they are afraid that using technology will be more difficult, create more work, and take more time. Please believe me when I tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Any new technology will have a learning curve, but the elementary media specialists are here to be your guide and help you up the slope so it isn’t so steep. You need only have the courage to ask.

For example, one of the teachers at Chaparral, Barbara Fitzner, came to me and told me she wanted to make a movie of her students to share with parents, but wasn’t sure how to do it. It turned out to be easy and the result was adorable (see below). We are already planning on how to make it even better for next year. If you have an idea of a project you would like to transform, don’t be shy! Take advantage of your media specialist and ask her to help. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Lext Talk




I came across this very cool app today for foreign language learners and English language learners, Lext Talk! It is a social network chat app designed for language exchange.  If you are a student learning Spanish you can find Spanish speakers to chat with and practice with!  You simply search the map for users with the same language interests, message them and start talking.  It even has a translation service that will help language beginners find the right words to express themselves. Right now it has English, Spanish and French available.  Check it out in the iTunes App Store by clicking on the app icon!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Aeries.Net: Why I'm Sold

Attending the Aeries conference exposed me to a ton of information, the most interesting/helpful was Aeries.Net. There are many similarities between .Net and ABI, but .Net looks cleaner (or in the trainers words "offers a more consolidated menu feature") and has more functions. Changing from ABI will be a challenge, but I believe it will be worth it. Here are a few reasons why:

-No more "Submit" button. Recording information in the gradebook and attendance happens on the fly. No longer will you have to reenter information because you forgot to click the "Submit" button.
-Right clicking (or "Control" click for Mac users). Quick access to the layers that previously required several different selections.
- The Student Profile has a lot more useful information including: state testing data, attendance summary, current programs, grad status, and gradebook summary.
-Seating Chart arrangement is much easier to use, done by dragging and dropping.
-Spreadsheet type view, now you can view all your assignments at the same time.
-You can COPY YOUR GRADEBOOK OR SOMEBODY ELSE'S. You're able to modify the gradebook to suit your needs. Easy year/semester gradebook rollover.
-You can upload files to your assignments. Instead of having to put assignments on your teacher webpage you can put them where you'll eventually post your grade.
-Extra Credit assignment feature.

NOTE: Once you start using .Net with your students you'll need to stay or risk corrupting data switching back to ABI. You can try out (and see the parent
view) by going to the demo site

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Writing Contest for Grades 3-6!

DC Comics and Capstone Publishing are hosting a "Who Is A Hero In Your Life"? contest.  Students grade 3-6  write about their real-life superhero to win a trip for four to Washington, DC!  Other prizes include a VIP tour to Warner Brothers Animation Studios for four and a $2,500 charitable contribution to the charity of choice.  This is a great way to get students writing.  For more information and to sign up  go to SuperHero Contest.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Get Your Shmoop On!!

This Wednesday we were very lucky to have a Shmoop representative visit our district.  We held a parent/student Shmoop information night on Wednesday and had a wonderful turn out! It was at least 35 families!! The students and parents were very excited about Shmoop's test prep sections!  What is Shmoop you ask? It is a digital publishing company that adds pop culture to content!  They also offer test prep for SAT, ACT and AP!  There are so many great resources in Shmoop that you really have to have a look for yourself!!

Visit Shmoop's website and Get Your Shmoop On today!!

To set up a teacher account download these directions.Welcome to Shmoop-Las Virgenes Unified School District!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

More on Common Core

Learn Zillion  offers 2,000 Common Core video lessons as well as other downloadable slides, texts and other resources, all for free. So if you are thinking of flipping your classroom or just want to start using the Common Core Standards in your classroom check it out!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Common Core Resources

Resources abound that support the implementation of Common Core State Standard. Our department hopes to provide vetted resources that are easily accessible, as well as updates through our blog.

A tab titled “Common Core Resources” was added to the LVUSD home page menu. This page will be a place where resources will be provided in the future, and has some listed already. Select the following link to view the page:

Edmodo has a group titled “Common Core Conversation,” where teachers engage in dialogue about the implementation of CCSS, and resources that support the effort. To join this group select the following link, and then select “Click to Join Group”: - /join/5b3a7a213253492fbc7245a7b4d1b703

The NY Times put’s out a Common Core based weekly lesson plan that includes engaging questions such as “Do violent video games promote aggressive or hostile behaviors among gamers?” or “What should soccer officials do about widespread match-fixing?” found here: 

Here are two sites that will help you learn about the CCSS. Shmoop provides an engaging way to learn about the CCSS, the ASCD is a membership organization that supports educators and provides comprehensive coverage and resources to the CCSS.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mrs. Crisman's Class Garden Video

This is a video of Mrs. Crisman, a 2/3 combo teacher at Sumac, who has taught her students how to grow a garden at school.

This is a great example of a teacher who is integrating math and science together in her lessons, while expanding beyond the classroom walls.  She has given her students a hand-on experience that teaches them real-life application of the subject matter.  Check out the video of her class garden and see student learning first hand!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Change That Site to Suit Your Needs!!

Have you ever tried to print something off a website and ended up with 12 unwanted pages?  Have your students left the computer lab with stacks of wasted paper?  Well those days are over PrintWhatYouLike lets you print only what you want from any website!  Just simply type in the URL of the website you want and then using the toolbar on the left hand side of the screen you can choose exactly what you want included in your print out. Take a look at the demo site:  PrintWhat You Like Demo

In this same vein, I have also recently stumbled across Lingro which is truly "the coolest dictionary know to any hombre".  Similar to PrintWhatYouLike, students can type in any websites URL and make that page a click-able dictionary.  Which means that students can click on any word to find its meaning or have it pronounced for them.  This great way for students to build vocabulary.  Have a look!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pep Talk from Kid President

This is dedicated to all the awesome LVUSD employees with whom I get to work. You all are an encouragement to me!

A special thank you to Karen Lagola for sending this to us this morning.

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Checking Our Resources


When teaching research skills, it is important that students learn how to evaluate websites, since anyone can post their own site.  Most students (and adults) automatically do a Google search to find information, which we all know can lead to unreliable resources.  So I've found a few helpful websites that can be integrated into your lessons.  Check them out to see if they will fit your needs and style of teaching.

Elementary Site:

How to Do Research

Secondary Sites:

The ABC's of Website Evaluation

Evaluation Criteria

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Today is Digital Learning Day

Today is the second annual Digital Learning Day. There are a ton of resources to be discovered to integrate technology in your classes. So many resources that it can become overwhelming to find what you need. Edutopia has done some of the work for you by compiling a list of top 25 resources for digital learning.

A few examples:

For the beginner, a video on introducing technology integration in the classroom. 

And so much more found here:
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Sunday, February 3, 2013

CyberSmart Week for elementary!

This is our 2nd annual CyberSmart Week for all of our elementary schools!  The goal is for all teachers to spend 10-15 minutes a day discussing related topics.  Some of the topics that will be discussed are; privacy, Internet safety, plagiarism, piracy, Cyber Ethics and Cybercitizenship, social networking and cyber bullying.  Our students are a generation of cyber- natives that are connected and ready to go 24/7.  We need to help them navigate this vast world and give them the tools to be successful and safe "surfers".

Teachers were all sent a link to the LVUSDCyberSmart Wiki which houses resources for them to use during the week.  It offers lesson ideas, conversation starters, videos, online quizzes and fun games.  One of the websites we use is WoogiWorld.  It is a great fun way for students to learn about all of these topics while becoming a cyber hero.  The directions for teachers to access their log ins to this site are supplied on the wiki.  Students can continue to play access this site at home during and after this week to reinforce learning.

We are also offering two parent awareness workshops during the week.  Tonight at White Oak from 7-8PM and tomorrow at Lupin Hill from 7-8Pm.  The district media specialist will discuss how our schools handle Cyber Safety.  The Lost Hills Sheriffs  J-Team will also be joining us to offer parents ways to keep their students safe online.  We hope you will join us for these informative nights.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Watch Sumac Students Create Geometry Stories

Eric Tally allowed me to film his 3rd grade class last week as students learned geometry by creating animations. Eric used Frames, which was installed on the classroom computers. There is a cost associated with Frames, but there are free websites that allow for story creation (they are more limited than Frames). There are also several story creation iPad apps.

A few helpful tips that allowed Mr. Tally’s class to run smoothly:

  1. Remind students to save their work, regularly and often.

  2. Check for understanding that students know how to use the device and features before sending them off to use it.

  3. Have students create only parts of the story, teach them software features incrementally then let them practice what they just learned.

  4. Review content during the time they are creating their animation.

  5. If you don’t have enough devices for each student, students can work on different aspects of the assignment, or other classroom work while they are waiting their turn.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Student Webpages for Portfolios & More

Student webpages can open up a world of learning for you and your students. During my first year teaching I piggybacked on the work of a colleague who had students create webpages with links to all of their classes to showcase their work. I continued this practice throughout my time in the classroom as I saw few projects bring a greater sense of accomplishment and pride than their webpages.

Through Google Sites I created a homepage as an example for my students, but it has transformed over the years. I started posting assignments, videos and pictures related to the class or my students on the website. I used the student webpages to show exemplar work, generally yielding better student projects. (Through Google Analytics I have discovered that people all over the world visit my webpage! My entrepreneurial spirit wonders how I can capitalize on this.) Now my webpage is a home to some professional documents and resources.

When I helped my 11th and 12th grade students create the pages I taught them about cyber safety and encouraged them to use their online portfolio as they started applying for jobs and to colleges. Students also used their webpages to complete group projects, and were able to collaborate on their assignments real-time, even if they couldn’t get together by using Google Drive.

Webpages aren’t only for secondary students. Last year Round Meadow’s George Hees had his students create webpages through Weebly. The privacy feature that requires a password to enter the students’ site is one of the features that appealed to him about Weebly over Google. He too has created his own page, which he uses as an alternative to the teacher webpages provided by the district, to communicate to his students and their families. Check out some of the student’s webpage below at the end of this post.

The student directions for creating a webpage either through Google, or Weebly are attached. You will likely need to change the directions to fit your class. (Thank you for sharing George!)

*Note: If you decide to have your students create webpages you may want to inform their parents.


Student directions for creating a Weebly.

Student directions for creating a Google Site.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Collaborating with Mobile Phones

I was given an article, called "44 Smart Ways to Use Smartphones in Class" that discussed some ideas that I've come across before, but also some simple, yet innovative ideas. But out of all of them, one definitely stuck out to me on collaborating through mobile phones, both smart and (un)smart phones (I'm not sure what to call them!)

The article is called "Calling All Resources: Fostering the Right Time to Write" and explains how John Hardison, an ELA teacher in Georgia, facilitates his students using their phones and other devices to peer edit their writing through various forms. To sum it up, Hardison explains how he uses a traffic signal to cue students when to use their devices and allows students to use whatever means they prefer to write and edit their peers' work. His students choose to have soft lighting with classical music playing in the background to create the "ultimate writing atmosphere," as he puts it. But what stuck out the most was his perspective on BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and allowing students to choose their method of writing, including paper and pencil. He states that "I want students to absolutely fall in love with their writing by any appropriate means of composition available. The end result is most important, not how they arrived." I think that this statement is vital for us to remember, because it is so easy to get caught up in all of the "21st Century Tools" and loose sight of the real goal.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Media Specialists on Campus Today

Look for the Media Specialists on campus today. You can usually find us in the Library/Media Center, or the Media Clerk can tell you about our whereabouts. Below is our schedule for today:


8-11a.m.: Sumac

12-3p.m.: Willow


8-11a.m.: Bay Laurel

12-3p.m.: Lupin Hill


8-11a.m.: Round Meadow

12-3p.m.: Chaparral

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Spice up Your Teacher Webpage or Blog by Adding a Widget

I recently helped a teacher get her online book shelf, via Amazon’s Shelfari, posted on her teacher webpage and found that there are widgets for every teacher! If you don't find one for you, there's a website where you (or a savvy student) can create one. Read on to discover a widget you may want for your teacher webpage. Click here for directions on how to post the widget to your teacher webpage.

Mrs. Kimball's Shelfari Widget


This list below abbreviated from a blog post. The full post has many more widgets and explanation of how to add the widgets to a blog. 


Flickr Slideshow and Badges - Easily add photos from your flickr account to your sidebar.

YouTube - Place in YouTube channels or top trending videos. 


Google Translate – Instantly translate your blog into many different languages. 


Shelfari - Show off your favorite books for others to see.

Education Atlas – Free thesaurus and dictionary widget with many features. 

Science & Math

Science Score – A science question of the day. Students can even enter to win prizes.

Wolfram Alpha – Quite possibly the best resource on this list – Wolfram Alpha contains hundreds of customizable math and science widgets, including unit converters, weather tools, graphing calculators, problem solvers, and much more. This might be the only resource math and science students and teachers need for their blogs! 


Info Please – Nice looking “this day in history” widget that displays multiple events and updates every day.

Timeline Index – 30 different timelines showcasing several different periods of history – including US presidents, world history outline, philosophers, and explorers. 

Talking Avatars

Voki - Add a speaking and highly customizable avatar to your blog.  Record you voice, create a character, and much more!


Sweet Search – Place a search box for a trusted and safe for students search engine. 

Google Apps

Google Maps – Embed a Google map – complete with directions, street views, and more.

Google Gadgets – Choose from hundreds of different widgets, including games, trivia and more.

Widget Sites & Collections –The definite go-to place to find and build your own widgets. Edublogs uses several widgets from here on our main site!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Media Specialists on Campus Today

Look for the Media Specialists on campus today. You can usually find us in the Library/Media Center, or the Media Clerk can tell you about our whereabouts. Below is our schedule for today:


8-11a.m.: White Oak E.S.

12-3p.m.: Yerba Buena E.S.


8-11a.m.: Agoura H.S.

12-3p.m.: Lindero Canyon M.S.


8-11a.m.: A.C. Stelle M.S.

12-3p.m.: Calabasas H.S.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Service Learning Hours at the EdTech Dept.

If you know of a high school student in our district that is tech savvy and needs to fill their service learning hours, please encourage them to apply to volunteer in our department. They can pick up and return the application to their school’s Counseling Office. We assign students tasks based on their interest, experience, and our department needs. Some of these tasks include:  processing new equipment, disposing of e-waste, troubleshooting with techs on site, and website development/maintenance. 

Attached, is the detailed explanation of the position and the student application/questionnaire.

LVUSD EdTech Service Learning Volunteer Project

EdTech Volunteer Questionnaire

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New Zimbra Layout

We have created a tutorial to assist everyone in the district with adjusting to the changes to our Zimbra accounts. Watch the video by clicking on the play button and please put in a work order if you have any questions/concerns.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Media Specialists On Campus Today

Look for the Media Specialists on campus today. You can usually find us in the Library/Media Center, or the Media Clerk can tell you about our whereabouts. Below is our schedule for today:


8-11a.m.: Sumac

12-3p.m.: Willow


8-11a.m.: Bay Laurel

12-3p.m.: Lupin Hill


8-11a.m.: Round Meadow

12-3p.m.: Chaparral

Monday, January 7, 2013

Welcome Back!!

Happy New Year!  Hope you had a great break.  As you seen by now the EdTech department has been working over break updating  Zimbra to the newest version!  As with all things new there are always a few glitches that need to be worked out. Here are some of the issues that have been coming up for some of you and solutions to help you solve them:

1. Zimbra Person Contact Groups:

    Issue: Personal contact groups only send to a small number of users and/or 1 user

    Description: The format of contacts in 'Contact Groups' has changed.  This requires editing each contact and/or recreating list


        a. Log into Zimbra

        b. Select 'Address Book' from the menu headder

        c. Select the group list and hit 'Edit'

        d. Click the green '+' for each contact

        e. Edit each contact

                --The issue is with the email address field.  If you delete everything except for the full email address it will work

    Note: This is a global change and most likely will not be resolved in future releases of Zimbra.  This will take manual changes to correct


2. Shares (Calendar, Briefcase, Email, etc):

    Issue: Cannot access shares from other users.

    Description: Some shares are provided a '404' or '403' error page when trying to access other people's shared information


        a. Log out of the user's account in the upper right hand corner (little down arrow next to the user's name)

        b. Select the drop down next to 'Version' and select 'Standard (html)' and log back in

        c. The Standard portal allows access to shares

    Note: This is a global issue with Zimbra 8 and Zimbra is working on a solution to remedy the issue in the Default Ajax version.


3. Error Messages:

    Issue: Error message prompts while using mail.

    Description: Error window prompts while using Zimbra. Does not affect any data or any subsequent issues.

    Fix: There is currently no fix.  Bryan is working with Zimbra to correct the problem on the current version or future versions.


4. Cursor not working and/or text not typing

    Issue: Mouse cursor vanishes and/or text is not being entered

    Description: While composing a message the mouse cursor vanishes and/or text is not being entered

    Fix: This is most likely a bug within Zimbra.  Refresh the browser session and it will fix the issue

    Note: This is a global issue and will be resolved on future releases of Zimbra


5. Mobile device is not syncing

    Issue: Mobile device is not syncing

    Description: After the update a mobile device is no longer syncing. Typically Android devices.

    Fix:    Try the following steps.  Each may resolve the issue

        A. Try to restart the device (turn off and turn on)

        B. Try to update the password in the device for email (this field may be off)

        C. Delete the account on the device and re-add it


5. Cannot Log into Zimbra

    Issue: Zimbra Portal will not take original password


        A. Log in with your employee ID as their password

        B. Go to to update your password (click the lock 'Change PW')

        C. Log in again to test.

 Hope you find this helpful as always if you run into any other issues please put in an order at