Monday, December 15, 2014

Toolbox for Keeping up With the Latest EdTech!

Staying on top of the latest tech might seem virtually impossible. Maybe you've thought/heard this before, "I learn one tool, use it, love it, and then the next day there's something new. How can I keep up?" Or, "How can I possibly learn every App out there? Not to mention how they work and on which device/OS?" Teachers have expressed this concern to me and, admittedly, I, too, have felt overwhelmed by all the tech choices and changes. You are NOT alone! I made a list of strategies that have helped me to stay afloat. You CAN keep up!
  • Let the learners choose the tech. Students/staff LOVE having choices. For a task that, for example, requires them to showcase their learning, tell them to select a tech tool of their choice. You can guide them by listing choices like PowToon, ChatterPix, Piktochart, and Google Slides. By giving your learners options, they will take ownership of the learning, and thus work harder to create something they can be proud of. Oh, and you are guaranteed to learn something new from them!
  • Hold yourself accountable. Start blogging about tech tools you've tried (and maybe even failed at!). Then you REALLY have to learn and use the technology to be able to give a testimonial that is published for the world see. Readers will LOVE to hear the pros and cons of what has/has not worked for you. Build a support network. Start/join a tech team or PLC at your school. Sponsor a student tech club. Follow edtech leaders on Twitter. Follow edtech leaders' blogs. If you hold yourself accountable, you are more likely to accomplish your goal of staying abreast of tech tools that students and teachers are using.
  • Have a Can-Do attitude. When planning your next unit, pick a tech tool you've learned about that you think could enhance a lesson. Chances are, the technology will engage your students and consequently improve the learning outcome! Read an example of how ChatterPix helped a 4th Grade unit in my fabulous colleague Clara's blog. Whether you're afraid of technology, a guru, or the only one on your team who is willing to spice up your classroom with technology, be a pioneer! Lead the pack with your can-do attitude and people will follow.
  • Never stop learning. Attend an EdCamp (like EdCampDallas every October or EdCampAwesome every February). Participate in a Twitter Chat (see the Twitter Chat Schedule) like #PISDEdChat Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. CST. Subscribe to an edtech magazine. Even if it's just reading one article a week on your favorite edtech website (Edudemic is mine!), you are learning something new! 
So, then next time you're feeling like you can't keep up with the latest and greatest technology, think back on all that you DO know and start with one of the strategies above. Just do it!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Reflecting on ETSI & Google Summer Camp

ETSI selfie wall! Party of 5!
What a whirlwind the last two weeks have been for our Instructional Technology team! We successfully completed our first Educational Technology Summer Institute (ETSI) AND our first Google Summer Camp! From conception to completion, planning and executing these trainings has been nothing but MAGICAL!!

Jump on Twitter and follow these hashtags to see the magical goings on for #pisdetsi and #pisdgoogle! I was impressed to see novice Twitter users jump in head first into the Twittersphere the last couple of weeks. So proud to see them connect with other teachers and get new ideas for implementing tech tools and techniques in their classrooms and for their staff.

Reflecting on my favorite, stand-out moments throughout the trainings:
  • Stepping out of my comfort zone by providing less sit-and-get instruction and more teacher-driven learning,
  • Giving a mini-EdCamp a try at ETSI and seeing it work wonderfully! Teachers stepped up to the challenge (just like I had hoped and encouraged!) and enjoyed the opportunity to learn from each other,
  • Carefully reading our Google Summer Camp evaluations from teachers and then adjusting the structure of the event to differentiate our delivery and instruction,
  • Building relationships with ed tech leaders in our district and really listening to them. Sometimes teachers just need a sounding board. :)
  • Hearing from four foward-thinking, diverse, articulate, fearless principals who so graciously participated in our Principals Panel discussion at ETSI. I know they appreciated the opportunity to voice their vision for campus leadership and the teachers seemed to hang onto their every word!
  • Receiving an applause when we announced our plan to each adopt a campus to team up with and provide ed tech support. What a warm welcome!
These experiences have validated my confidence in my team to pull something like this off! I thank Harriet, Nancy, Clara, and Barbara for making this event a success. Not to mention our CTA Barbara S. and the whole Instructional Technology Department for making this possible: Mary, Douglas, Tara, Laura, Dana, Tracy, Robin, and my boyfriend Jason (for moral & tech support!).

I look forward to following up with our campus leaders and to helping them use what they learned to make a difference in their classrooms.

Ashley Marquez leading an
 Instragram discussion at Mini-EdCamp
Ramy Mahmoud (Teacher of the Year 2013!) teaching
"A Flippin' Success" at Mini-EdCamp
One of our Trends in Technology sessions:
Mystery Skyping! (Pictured: Kelly Parrish)
Twitter Wall! Expanding our PLNs!

Participants scanning a QR Code that takes them to
a Google Form evaluation. Easy!
Maker Movement creation by Rebecca Bailey
(obviously an art teacher!). Her name is
ETSI the Robot!
Ed Tech Leadership activity -
What's the diff. bet. "Using Tech." and
"Tech Integration"; Dealing with tech-resistant teachers;
Characteristics of an Ed Tech Leader; Developing a PLC.

Clara & Nancy getting ready for
Google Summer Camp!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What am I doing this summer? Party planning for teachers!

At a Region 10 conference w. my boss! Getting coffee, of course.
Ten-hour work days, Fridays off, long weekends... This is my schedule for six straight weeks out of the summer. The long weekends are great for mini-vacays (!) and a continuous flow of coffee helps me get through the weekdays. It's hard to be innovative so early in the morning. Although lately, once it starts, I can't seem to get out of the zone by 5:30! I'm lucky to have fantastic colleagues to bounce ideas off of and to keep me motivated to do great things in our district. In our Instructional Technology Dept., preparing for all of the trainings and professional dev. sessions feels like we're a party planning business! :)

It's not unusual to hear eruptions of laughter down the hallway of our office building while "party planning". Yes, we enjoy each other and can't get enough of our great ideas. Life is good here at PISD's Central Office. Our biggest project right now is planning for our first annual Educational Technology Summer Institute (ETSI) at the end of this month.

Our overall goal for having this three-day institute is to increase capacity on all campuses in our district. We asked principals to invite stand-out tech leaders on their campuses to complete an application that we provided. We then selected at least one teacher per campus to invite to attend ETSI. We wish we could have invited everyone who applied (!), but since they will be paid, we were limited by a budget.

Our plan is to discuss tech integration models, collaborate on how to overcome tech integration challenges, and teach tech tools by modeling their use throughout the three days! Before teachers leave, we will help them create an action plan for ed tech leadership on their campuses. Then we will follow-up with them throughout the year with webinars, pull-out days, expanding PLNs, etc. That's our capacity-building goal!

We have SO MUCH fun stuff planned for ETSI 2014!! Here is a sneak peek:

  • Taste of Technology - stations with tablets, laptops and table tents categorized by concept (collaboration tools, curation tools, etc.). Teachers will have the freedom to cruise from table to table to learn about the apps/websites in whatever way works best for them, make curricular connections, and then create something with it.
  • Classes covering the Maker Movement, Virtual Field Trips, Digital Citizenship, Twitter, BYOD, Augmented Reality, Classroom Flipping, Collaboration Tools, and more!
  • 3D printer and robot demos
  • Green screen playground!
  • mini-EdCamp!!
  • a gazillion tech tools! (Kahoot, Socrative, Poll everywhere, Popplet, Today's Meet, Answer Garden... too many to mention here!)
Planning for this has definitely been a mind-shift for me in terms of how to design professional development. I will share more about ETSI in a later post, including pictures and videos! Oh, and I haven't even talked about our Google Summer Camp yet!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Socrative Space Race: A RAD lesson that makes learning fun!

An extension of my last post, "Making your lessons RAD" (Relevant, Adaptive, Dedicated to education). 

What is Socrative?
Picture this: Your students are laughing, engaged in the learning, competing against each other, and having fun, all while taking a quiz! It can happen! If you've never used Socrative before, I highly recommend it! It's an interactive student response system of quizzes and games that you can customize with your course material and that your students can access using the web or a mobile device (using the app). My students were always engaged and competitive (especially in my Sports & Entertainment Marketing class) while being assessed. Imagine that! 

Watch this short informative video to see how Socrative works.

Space Race!
Let's say that you want your students to review for a test. Maybe you have a game you play (my kids always loved Trashketball!). Maybe you have a review sheet they complete on their own time. Consider changing it up for the next test review. Take that review sheet and convert it to a Socrative Space Race! 

  • Create a Socrative account and log in
  • Go to "Manage Quizzes" --> "Create a Quiz" --> "Multiple Choice" (it's easier to grade than Short Answer). If your review sheet is in a Word document, it's easy to copy and paste the questions into the Socrative quiz. Otherwise, just type the questions individually. 
  • Save it 
  • Click "Space Race - Run a quiz as game". 
  • Select the quiz you just made of the review questions. 
  • Select the number of teams - I grouped my students into threes. (You can have them compete individually, but there is a limit of 10). They can either gather around a computer (easier for everyone to read the questions) or a device (cell phone or tablet). So for a class of 30 students, I had ten teams.
  • Check the box to Auto-assign team colors. (It seems to work better that way).

  • Click Next and tell your students to go to
  • Before you give them the Room Number to join, remind them that their team space ship will only move forward if they answer the questions correctly, so they need to be ready to think hard! Now announce the Room Number and watch the space ships go!
  • Display your screen to the class so they can see the live results!
  • As students finish the race, tell them they can close the web page and wait until everyone is done. 
  • After everyone is finished, you will then click "End Activity" and "Download Report". 
  • Open the downloaded Excel spreadsheet to see the results. It's up to you whether to give grades or use it as a self-check. 
  • Share a copy of a quiz with another teacher. I'll admit, I didn't even create the first few quizzes on Socrative myself. Another marketing teacher across the district graciously shared copies of his quizzes with me. That really helped ease me into using Socrative. 
  • Glitch. Sometimes the students must click on an answer more than once for it to accept. It can be frustrating!
Here's a short and sweet video demonstrating how a teacher uses the Socrative Space Race in his class! Love it! 

I hope you find the Socrative Space Race to be as RAD as I do!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Making Your Lessons RAD!

When choosing educational technology for a lesson, ask yourself, is it RAD? RAD stands for Relevant, Adaptive, and Dedicated to education. Whether you are updating the curriculum or starting from scratch, every Ed Tech lesson can be RAD

Is the technology relevant to the students and to the lesson? 

Can the technology be adapted to the curriculum and to the standards?  

Dedicated to education
Is the technology dedicated to improving student learning? 

Why being RAD is cool
When analyzing a lesson, make sure that the technology you incorporate has purpose. It should engage the students and get them excited about the learning. As a result, their assessments will be impressive! Most importantly, dedicate yourself to using the technology and don't give up if it doesn't work perfectly the first time. I know it can be scary to introduce something new to your already wonderful lesson, but keep in mind that amping it up with technology doesn't have to be hard or mean changing the learning outcome altogether. Rather, it's just more rad than before. :) (Can you tell that I love the word rad?)

Students today learn differently from those even five years ago. They have anytime-anywhere access to information with mobile technologies. They have the ability to instantly connect with others globally via social media (eg. Twitter, Instagram, video conferencing with Google Hangouts or Safari Montage Live). They can crowd source and curate like never before. And schools are changing their mobile device usage rules to allow for BYOD and one-to-one. So you owe it to your students (and to yourself!) to revamp those oldie-but-goodie lessons every now and then. Make a mental RAD checklist before you implement any technology in your classroom and you and your students are more likely to enjoy a positive, educational experience. Make it a lesson that you can be proud of! Make it RAD!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ideas for Using Google Drive in the Classroom

I am so happy that our school district uses Google Apps for Education (GAFE) for several reasons. Particularly, Google Drive is fabulous because:

  • the kids use it 
  • it's accessible anywhere (not just on our school network)
  • it works (!)
  • resources for how to use it are available everywhere you look! (Just Google it!) (Ok, that was cheesy)

A member of the Google+ Community "Using Google Apps as a Free LMS" posted this fantastic video with great ideas, Using Google Drive with a textbook in the classroom:

What I love about it is that Andreas Hofer demonstrates specific uses for how a teacher could teach a lesson using Google Drive; from having students check their answers to listening to audio files for a comprehension exercise. He makes it look so easy! A summarized list of some concepts he covered:
  1. Sharing the folders and making them viewable to the public
  2. Animating text on the Slides to reveal answers
  3. Inserting a Drawing shape to cover up answers
  4. Using media to enrich the textbook: Inserting a video, an image, and an audio file
  5. Using the Snagit extension to select an image of the digital textbook
  6. Linking directly to items in your Google Drive
This video was helpful for giving me ideas to take to teacher trainings. I subscribed to his channel to see what else he cares to share!

PS: Take a look at the video's transcript. :D

Friday, February 14, 2014

"Sponsoring a club is easy!" (Said no teacher ever)

Have you ever found yourself voluntold to sponsor/coach clubs, organizations, and sports? Chances are that your principal asked, told, or maybe even begged (!) you to be in charge of a club that will give so many well-deserving children the opportunity to learn and grow. During my eight years of teaching, I have had a positive (borderline obnoxiously positive!) attitude about change. Although challenging at times, a positive attitude made even the most stressful situations bearable. When I'd find myself in a panic, I'd tell myself that everything was going to be okay and to not forget that it's all for the kids! So, with each task bestowed upon me, I welcomed the challenge and always ended up loving it! 

If you've ever had this experience, you know that we do it for the kids. They're the ones that drive the excitement in the club and motivate us to work harder (and longer hours) for them! I'd like to share some tools that have either helped me with my organizational skills and productivity, and/or improved the member recruitment and retention. 
Oh, and in case you were wondering, here are some clubs that I've sponsored/coached:
  • Cheerleading
  • Debate
  • National Honors Society
  • Future Business Leaders of America
  • Yearbook
  • DECA (Marketing club)
QR Codes
  1. Post a QR code on your club bulletin board
  2. Print QR codes on meeting notes
  3. Make a large calendar in the classroom or bulletin board with QR codes on the days. 
  4. All these can be scanned to:
  • download important dates directly to their calendars
  • open a map to a competitive event or charity event
  • open a website 
  • open a document using TagMyDoc
  • check out the links below for MANY more ideas!
    5. Video to get ideas on how a high school uses them:
    6. Excellent links to resources & videos:

QR Code scanner - QR Reader for iOS and QR Barcode Scanner for Android
QR Code Generator -

Make a poster of an ifaketext conversation about a club meeting. This one really got their attention! 

Have students use Quizlet to make flash cards to study for competition. They can use the website or download the app (iOS or Android). Bonus!! Some "sets" of flashcards have already been created! Just search for a subject and BAM! You've got a set of flashcards ready to study!