Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Take Kahoot! to the Next Level

(The following content has been reposted from TCEA's email newsletter. Subscribe at www.tcea.org. Image from www.getkahoot.com)

Take Kahoot! to the Next Level

By now, most of you have tried Kahoot!, the game-based student response system. The teacher creates a free account and then can create quizzes with embedded images and video. Students respond to the quiz using any device with Internet access. The faster they respond, the more points they score.

Kahoot! is lots of fun and really motivates students to participate. But what you may not know about it is the data that you can access once the quiz is over. After logging in, the teacher can access data from each quiz by clicking on the cloud download icon next to the name of each quiz. This will download an Excel spreadsheet that includes a detailed analysis of the student answers, including correct and incorrect answers by each student, along with an overview of how all of the students performed. This data is automatically generated and is a wonderful tool for formative assessment to guide instruction.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Search your Google Drive from the Address Bar (omnibox) in Chrome (no add-on required)

If you are like us, you use Google Drive/Docs all the time. We are constantly accessing Google Drive to find and create documents, presentations, spreadsheets, etc. Rather than navigating to Google Drive to perform a search for your stuff, you can search right within the Omnibox (that's Google Chrome's name for the address/URL bar). This may not sound like such a big deal, but this can be a huge timesaver! Here's how to set it up:

Initial Setup- Add Google Drive as a Search Engine

  1. Right-click on the Omnibox (address bar/URL) in Chrome. 

  2. Select Edit Search Engines.

  3. Scroll to the bottom of the search engine list.

  4. Add Google Drive as shown. Give the search engine a name (in this case, we called it "Google Drive"), a keyword (we used "drive"), and then enter the url: https://drive.google.com/#search/%s.
  5. Click the Done button.

Putting it to Use
  1. In the address bar, type "drive" or whatever you used for your keyword when you set this up.

  2. Press the space bar or the tab key.

  3. Then type in your search words and/or parameters.

  4. Then hit the enter/return key. Chrome will open Google Drive in the tab where you performed the search and will search your Drive with the keywords and parameters you stated.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Inquiry, Apps and Geometric Concepts

As a high school math teacher, I always looked for applications that supported learning in deeper ways than practice apps. Like many of our AISD students, my students relied heavily on their mobile devices as their means of connecting to the world.

With the plethora of apps available that gave students access to not only immediate answers but detailed steps to solve any and all math problems, it was important that I understood how to formulate questions or challenges that encouraged deeper thinking while allowing for technology to support learning.

For this blog post, I wanted to step outside of my role as a technology specialist and take you inside my head from the lens of a high school math teacher exploring ideas for a lesson that integrates technology. Below is an example of a process that I would have followed with the resulting lesson directly below it.

Planning a Technology Integrated Math Lesson from the Lens of a Teacher 

The other day, I came across a bag of "smarties" candy and naturally, I wanted to find a way to store them so that they could be eaten gradually. Yes, it would have been simple to just toss them in a cabinet but...what's the fun in that?

I immediately looked for containers and noticed that I had quite a few at varying sizes. This is the moment when the math teacher in me intersected with the technology specialist. I happen to have an app on my iphone called, "My Measures & Dimensions". This is an app that allows users to annotate math measurements on top of images.  (I use the free version. The skitch app is great for this as well)

I measured my containers and took the following images which I put together using a simple collage app called "Moldiv". (pic collage works just fine as well)

Now, yes...I can stop right here and have students calculate the volumes and even surface areas of each container but, again...what's the fun in that?

Referring back to my "smarties", I measured them and took a few snaps. Again, using the "My Measures & Dimensions" I labeled those as well. (See the image up top!)

I also notated that a roll of "smarties" contains 15 wafers and with this information, I can easily determine the logistics of not only how many smarties could approximately fill each container but how much space is left in the container that isn't a "smartie".

The list of questions goes on.

Revising this for Student Inquiry: Iteration 2 of The "Smartie" Situation

Inquiry based learning happens when questions are generated from interests, curiosities, perspectives and experiences of the learner. Basically, the learner is presented with a scenario and from that experience, questions are generated and continue to build and generate even more questions throughout the process.

Instead of the teacher "pre-labeling" each image with measurements and asking students to solve one problem,  the image or objects are presented to students which prompt their investigation.

What Students need: Objects (This can be anything that is measurable like cubes, checkers, packaged crackers, cookies, dice and even candy wafers...depending on district guidelines), ruler, mobile device (or school issued ipad/chromebook), graphing calculator although not completely necessary since mobile and web tools can help students with calculations), container

For this problem, the scenario changed yet again to a rectangular box instead of the original three cylindrical containers.

Possible Questions 

1. Estimation/Pre-Thinking: Without solving, estimate the number of "objects" (remember this can be anything) that could possibly fill the square container. What's the smallest possible number? What's the largest? Explain your thinking.

2. Decisions, Decisions: You have over 100 individual rolls of "smarties" and must find a way to package as many as possible into the given container. You can either pack them in their current rolls or take them apart and pack wafer by wafer. Using active investigation along with mathematical reasoning, collaboratively determine the most efficient way of storing candies. Document your process with annotated images, video, calculations and descriptive text.

3. Extension: Do you think that this was the best choice of container? If you could redesign it, what shape would your container be? What about measurements? Justify your choice.

Publish your investigative process via a tool like google docs, TACKK, google slides, thinglink, FastFig,  or any other tool of your choice including a blog. You must include your images (with annotations), video and mathematical reasoning through some form of media.

Post the link to your published work via our classroom LMS (learning managements system) - Google Classroom, Edmodo or Canvas if you are using it.

In case you missed it, this is meant to be a collaborative effort.

Important teacher note regarding grading: Always provide a rubric where the focus is on the intended conceptual outcome...NOT the technology. There is a great ipad app called WeLearnedIT that actually allows students to do every piece of the publishing portion of this assignment as well as the rubric creation and grading for teachers.

Student Support FAQ (I always include this piece so that they can be more self-directed while I facilitate)

1. Video: You can upload longer video to youtube or share 15 second increments to instagram. If you use TACKK, both video types can be embedded directly.

2. Audio: You can use an app called audioboo or even a web tool called vocaroo. If you have another tool that you like to use, please do share it.

3. If you use Thinglink, all media can be uploaded directly into the app from your device.

4. (I have no idea where to start) - What is the question that you were asked to answer? Think of obvious as well as "outside of the box" ways to figure it out. Make a plan but understand that it's okay if your plan changes depending on your investigation. Check the rubric throughout.

 5. Don't just stop when you feel that you might have an answer. So many other questions should arise during this process. Document them, share them and dig deeper as you feel compelled.

Be aware that this was me taking you inside of MY planning process from the lens of my classroom experience. Yours may be very different and that is okay. Yes, this was pretty nerdy and extensive but it can still be done to the scale that is appropriate for you and your learners. Our goals, in ITD, are to support you as you give students more opportunities to exercise their potential as 21st century learners. 

It's not an overnight process but one that builds. We'll get there together.
See an example of a process such as this by checking out Eanes ISD Cathy Yenca, "The Big Nickel" below.

Also check out these two amazing math blogs for more mathematical critical thinking based ideas.  Estimation180 and Would You Rather Math

See on Tackk.com

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Argggh! Geocaching and Talk Like a Pirate Day at Goodman Elementary

Carrie Donovan's 6th grade science classes (and one of Bob Stone's 4th grade classes too) enjoyed learning about latitude and longitude while enjoying the wonderful weather outside. The students used GPS receivers to find geocaches around their campus which instructed them to transform themselves into human machines. The students used iPads to scan QR codes, and then videotaped their "machines".

Goodman 6th graders Freddy, Milton, Mayra and Luis work together to create and videotape a bicycle.

Our best quote of the day... "It's like hard core Easter egg hunting!"

Friday, September 5, 2014

Canvas is coming!

Outstanding news!  Last night, the AISD Board of Trustees approved the adoption of Canvas, an innovative and robust learning management system (LMS) that will empower the work of both teachers and learners. 

Canvas (the product) by Instructure (the company) was recommended for adoption only after multiple rounds of evaluation and comparison with other industry-leading LMS products. 

What evaluators loved most about Canvas was its intuitive design, ease of use, and innovative and forward-thinking functionality.  It is clearly a tool that will help advance our efforts to provide learners with relevant, innovative, and rigorous learning experiences!

There will be a period now in which we work to integrate Canvas with our existing systems in order to ensure an easy work-flow for users.  Once the system is ready to launch, we’ll focus our initial efforts on supporting the innovators and early-adopters: teachers who can’t wait to utilize Canvas this year to:
  • Receive and grade student assignments, discussions, and quizzes with Speed Grader
  • Easily align assignments, quiz items, and rubrics to standards and/or learning targets
  • Utilize robust analytics to track student/class/course standards and targets-aligned data
  • Utilize web tools (like Dropbox, Google Drive, Twitter, etc.) all within the Canvas interface
  • Empower students to build eportfolios
  • Utilize mobile apps to instantaneously gather formative assessment data
  • Provide students with written, audio, or video feedback, peer-review and multiple revision/submission opportunities
  • Synthesize all work and course related events into one, drag-and-drop enabled, calendar
  • Push notifications to students with one click

Excited yet?  Canvas is coming . . .

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Guest Post: Why Blog?

The following post was submitted by Dr. Harrison McCoy, AVID Teacher at Ferguson Junior High. Dr. McCoy using blogging as a personal growth tool for himself and his students. In this post, he is sharing his perspective on the importance of blogging. He also talks about Ferguson Junior High's new community driven 180-day blog which includes daily reflections contributed by various members of the school community.

With all of the tasks at hand for teachers -- especially this time of year -- why would one willingly  take on one such as writing a blog? I had to laugh just a bit to think about the request I got to write this blog post because it is quite literally a blog about blogging. When we think about our thinking, we call it “metacognition”.  Would blogging about blogging be considered “metablogging”?
Back to the original question: why blog? I’ll begin with the easiest answer. I blog because I am, by both trade and nature, a writer and I enjoy the creative outlet that it provides. At a more practical level, I use blogging for reflection. At a professional level -- as a technology trainer -- blogging facilitates and extends my efforts to help colleagues implement technology integration goals on our campus. My latest effort -- “The Final Campaign - A 180-Day Blog” is an effort process and help my co-workers positively process the fact that this is the final year of our campus’ existence as an AISD junior high school before the repurposing of our building.
I maintain two blogs at this point, although I only regularly contribute to one of them. The first --"theothereduguy". -- is a personal blog in which I comment on a variety of educational issues, including technology applications that I am finding helpful. The second -- "The Final Campaign"-- is our campus blog, of which I am for the most part only the editor. My co-workers join me in the daily posts to chronicle this school year as a kind of blogging scrapbook. A third effort -- a classroom blog for my students -- is on the drawing board, but we haven’t gotten to that yet.
Why would anyone blog? That was the original question, after all. I honestly believe that for the average teacher, a blog represents a chance to slow down and reflect, and that is clearly something of which we do not do enough. We understand the benefits of having students learn from their reflection about our lessons in the classroom, but do we really have any idea how much we could benefit by reflecting on those lessons ourselves? For some bloggers, writing takes on a much more personal mission when they open themselves up in almost a therapeutic sense to write about their thoughts, feelings, disappointments, and exaltations. One might actually discover a more mission-oriented reason for blogging, i.e., blogging to persuade or influence others about a particular cause.
The beauty of blogging is that it is personal. For most of us, we get to choose when we write and what we write about. That takes a lot of pressure off, and pressure might be one thing that holds someone back from blogging. I suspect that the ultimate thing that holds many back from blogging, is the the vulnerability issue. I mean, what if someone disagrees with me about something I write? That is an issue, I suppose. Blogging for an adult audience is very different from talking to students 45 years younger than myself. I had to deal with that, and honestly had to get over it the first time I clicked the “submit” button and knew that I was sending my thoughts out on to the internet. Allow me let you in on a secret: there is a delete button that allows me to delete any blog post I have second thoughts about. Aside from that, I have also learned that I don’t know everything -- not even about what I think. I have benefitted from having others disagree with me from time to time.  
Feeling connected is another reason for blogging. As an educator, I have an obligation to be the best possible educator that I can become. Connecting with other educators by reading their blogs and having them read mine makes me a better educator. Life-long learning is not just a catch-phrase. It is a way of life. Consider checking out this list of edu-blogs -- the top 50 to consider in 2014 -- at http://bit.ly/1rLbgAT
If you are ready to try classroom blogging, here is an excellent source http://bit.ly/1x7aWPk  from an educator who has spent a lot of time developing an
excellent model that includes lots of scaffolding for getting students to the place where they can handle a personal blog.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

921 PD Hours earned in Mobile Device Academies in Arlington ISD

July 29th and August 4th, the Instructional Technology Department hosted its first ever "Mobile Device Academy." These 59 sessions were designed to introduce teachers to dynamic web applications and mobile apps for integrating technology into their curricular areas. These web and mobile apps can be used in almost any curriculum and in any grade level using either iPads, Chromebooks, laptops, or other BYOD devices.

Most sessions were 50 minutes in length and focused on just one or two apps. Flip through the HaikuDeck below to see the session titles:

Mobile Device academy 2014 - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

The feedback from these sessions were overwhelmingly positively- but, of course, there is always room for improvement. So as we move forward, we will revamp and revise sessions to offer the best technology staff development available that is both engaging and relevant.

If you would like any additional information about any of the sessions in the Haiku Deck above, please see your Campus Technology Liaison (if you are an Arlington ISD teacher). Otherwise, shoot us a message and we'd be glad to share!

Monday, August 11, 2014

TLI EdCamp at Adams Elementary last Friday!

TLI EdCamp was the place to be last Friday, August 8th!

Highlighted thoughts for the day:

Collaboration in the hallway about Remind 101
“[Loved] hearing other teachers and students teach about tech they are using in the classroom.”

“I liked being able to talk and gather ideas from fellow teachers,”

“[I enjoyed] being allowed to lead our own sessions. It was nice to hear the conversations flow naturally from one subject to another.”

“I loved the collaboration. It was nice to not have to just listen to a PowerPoint.”

“THIS WAS GREAT!! Many workshops will cater to the people who do not know anything, this one catered to all......asked lots of questions and got many answers......sooooooo glad I came. Well worth the time.”

“There were many useful applications for my classroom.”

Buh8VS6CMAMMFxk.jpgBuioVGtCEAMSsBM.jpg“I enjoyed learning about how to design and use the 3D printer.”

[We] learned lots of tips and tricks for managing technology. Also, lots of fun apps and websites to incorporate into the classroom and get the students involved.”


“Cool format. Met my needs exactly. Fast paced. Effective.”


“Informative, interactive, peer driven. Plenty of time for questions, one on one with presenter.”

Buj3M9oCMAA6yZI.jpg“I gained new info in a very relaxed setting. All of the presenters were very helpful. Answered all questions, enjoyed the snacks and gifts. Super camp.”
Lesley Cano, Remynse Librarian speaks about the 3D printer!
Setting the afternoon schedule

As you can see, teachers, facilitators, and participants raved and learned a lot at this year’s host school, Adams Elementary. After a morning of scheduled sessions led by many ITD specialists, TLI specialists, and teachers, participants had the chance to “choose their own” topics for discussion in the afternoon. Participants collaborated in a number of designated areas as well as congregating in groups of their own makings in the hallways and classrooms. Martin HS student Nyssa Turner spoke about her experiences in Computer Science and shared her experiences as a founding member and president of a coding group for students, called Warrior Women Who Code.
MHS senior, Nyssa Turner, president of Warrior Women Who Code
Thank you all for making this year’s camp a success. We hope to offer similar trainings throughout the year and for sure another EdCamp is scheduled for next year! Party On! Margaret and Jana

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

LMS Evaluation: Another Opportunity for Providing Feedback

Our evaluation of learning management systems continues this week and I wanted to make you aware of another opportunity you have to participate and provide feedback.

In order to draw further distinctions between two of the learning management systems that we are evaluating, Canvas and Schoology, we have scheduled follow-up conversations with both providers to which you are both invited and encouraged to attend.  Please note that there are participation options (below) for those who might be unable to attend.

Schoology Session:
Face-to-face on Thursday, July 31, 8:15-9:15, PDC (Rm 605), Max seats: 30, ERO SRN 943141501 (register to secure a seat)
Live, web-based session option
Recorded session option (link will be shared following the session)

Canvas Session:
Face-to-face on Thursday, July 31, 10:00-11:00, PDC (Rm 605), Max seats 30, ERO SRN 943141502 (register to secure a seat)
Live, web-based session option
Recorded session option (link will be shared following the session)

Obviously, if you'd like your feedback from this portion of the evaluative process to be considered, you would need to either attend or watch both (Canvas and Schoology) sessions.  Those that are able to participate in the live session will have the opportunity to ask questions.  Here is a suggested document for taking notes during both sessions.

For those who choose to watch and evaluate the recorded versions, there will be a 5 day window in which you can view the sessions and complete the evaluations.  All evaluations are due by 11:59 pm on Tuesday, August 5.

I know that we are approaching an especially busy time of the summer, with lots of training requirements and professional learning opportunities.  Despite these obligations, I hope that you will participate in this very important process.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Learning Management System (LMS) Evaluations Underway!

Over the next three weeks, we'll be continuing our evaluation of three learning management systems (Canvas, Blackboard, and Schoology) for purchase and use in our district in the coming years.  The LMS will not only host future online courses, but will also be a platform for professional learning delivery, student ePortfolios, and teacher's classroom resources, notifications, etc.  This trial evaluation period follows earlier investigation that involved a committee of district stakeholders evaluating each LMS based upon each company's on-site demonstration of their product.

I have finalized trial evaluation tasks and wanted to give you an overview of the process so that you can determine whether or not you are willing to participate.

Evaluators will complete a series of identical tasks in each of the three platforms, all the while considering the intuitiveness, navigability, and functionality of each for the end user.  I estimate that it will take roughly one hour for an evaluator to complete the set of tasks in one LMS and complete the evaluation for that system.  Obviously, that estimate might increase for less technology-proficient users or decrease for highly skilled users.  The tasks involve those most typical and likely of uses, from both the learner's vantage point (completing and submitting an assignment, posting to a discussion board, taking a quiz) and from the teacher's (creating an assignment, discussion board, quiz, rubric, etc.).

The window for our evaluations closes on Monday, July 21st.

All three products have impressive strengths and your assistance is vital to our selection of the best system for all our stakeholders.  Please email me at ssimpso4@aisd.net if you would like to participate in the trial evaluations.  Once I hear from you, I will send you more specific instructions.

Best regards,
Steve Simpson

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

ITD Summer Technology Classes

The Instructional Technology Department is pleased to announce that our summer courses are now available for registration in ERO. In addition to many individual classes, there are three multi-session academies that might be beneficial to you.

Click on the dates below to get more details about the individual sessions being offered in each of these academies. Slots will fill quickly, so register soon. Please show professional courtesy to others by registering for only those sessions you can attend.

You must be logged in to your AISD Google Account to view the schedules below. If you are unable to log in to your AISD Google account, please complete a help request at http://tinyurl.com/AISDgooglehelp.

Google Academy
28 individual sessions per day (most are 50 minutes)
June 24, times vary
June 25, times vary
June 26, times vary

19 individual sessions (most are 50 minutes)
July 10, times vary

Mobile Device Academy
30 individual sessions per day (all 50 minutes)
July 29, times vary
August 4, times vary

Other Technology Sessions
Many more sessions can be found by searching the "Technology" curriculum category within ERO.
A complete spreadsheet of the summer technology sessions can be found on the ITD Website!

We look forward to seeing you in training this summer!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Guest Post by Kim Martinez: Tech Lesson Reflection

Lesson: Using Doodle Buddy to photograph a plant and then label it’s parts.

Intro: After a solid introduction on plants, their parts and their needs, by reading several books, a KWL chart, labeling the plant in large group, as well as the kids drawing and labeling in their own science journal, we did it with the iPADs.

Modeling iPad use-First we reminded ourselves of proper iPad use and care. I then, showed them the APP and modeled use if it-showing the ICONS for taking the picture, where to find the drawing/writing tools etc. I then modeled taking the picture and labeling it.

Doing it… My TA had to help me get the kids to Doodle Buddy, since the iPads have SO many APPS, it was difficult for them to find it.
Once we go the APP, it went pretty smoothly. Some of the kids did it right away, with ease, so I enlisted them to help the few that had a harder time. A few kids just couldn’t write with the drawing tool, so I differentiated by showing them the typing text tool and that worked great for them.  The kiddos that caught on quickly went on to draw pictures of plant life cycles and plant needs. I was happy to see them excited again and doing something new!

I will do more lessons like this in the future, but I think I will try to jump in more gradually--starting by “playing” in the app that we will use a time or two before we use it, so I have a fewer questions. I have to say I was pretty surprised at how well they did, despite this is truly the first time we had the Ipad cart for an actual project instead of just “free choice” game time. Now that I have wet my feet, I will attempt to go a little deeper the next time!

Below you can see some student samples.

The student above used the type tool, but it is hard to see in the photo.

This is one of my strugglers! And she did GREAT!!!


Kim Martinez
Kindergarten Teacher
Webb Elementary

Friday, May 23, 2014

Success in the Second Grade Classroom with Nearpod!

Written by guest blogger, Robin Shepard
2nd Grade Teacher at Ditto Elementary School

Nearpod is an app that allows you to interact with your classroom using mobile devices. You can use presentations that are already created or create and customize your own. The app is free and can be downloaded on iPads, iPad Minis, Chromebooks, laptops, PC’s, or MACS.

The teacher can create or download interactive multimedia presentations; share the interactive presentation with your class; control the student’s activity in the presentation; and monitor and measure student results on an individual basis. The student interacts with the presentation and submits responses to multiple choice or open-ended questions.

There are many free presentations for all grade levels as well as those you can purchase. The pricing is very reasonable – most are $2.99. There are also presentations that teach you how to create a fabulous presentation of your own.

I have used this app in my classroom for math and language arts. The students think it is great fun. I have not had any issues with the app working in real time but I know this has been an issue with our server in the past.

Download Nearpod and see how to liven up your classroom instruction.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Crouch Elementary: App Smashing with The Parts of a Plant

During a recent classroom visit to Ms. Leti Hernandez's Kindergarten classroom at Crouch Elementary, students were reviewing the parts of a plant. Students used the Doodle Buddy app to draw the parts of a plant and then used the app Shadow Puppets to record their understanding of what roll each part plays. During our time together, we were only able to finish projects from two of the groups. The students who were able to finish the activity then were able to teach the other students how to use the apps the next day.

Please enjoy a student sample.

Images were drawn using Doodle Buddy. PicCollage was used to create the collage for this post.

This was the students' first experience with recording their voices on the iPad so they were a little soft spoken, but they still wanted to share their projects.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Media Fair 2104 Best of Show

On April 28th, the Instructional Technology Department hosted their ninth annual Media Fair Showcase and Awards Ceremony. 208 medals were awarded to PK-12 students in for their technology projects in nine different categories ranging from Digital Video to Programming and Mobile Applications. From the submitted projects, one was chosen for the "Best of Show" award.

This year's Best of Show award is truly incredible. Ahmonza Gwynn's digital animation project, Beowulf: The Anglo-Saxon Hero, is truly a showcase of his absolutely incredible talent. To truly appreciate the project, keep this in mind:

  • The entire project was animated using Adobe Flash
  • Every graphic was digitally, hand-drawn with a mouse (no, not a a graphic tablet)
  • When he couldn't find any acceptable music to use, the student composed his own soundtrack using another application called Fruity Loops
  • The voice-over is his original work, recorded and altered using Audacity
This is true, raw talent- a story brought to life using amazing artistic and technical abilities. Enjoy!

Here is what educators are saying about Ahmonza's talent:

"Your work left me speechless. I'm still holding on to my seat waiting for more!" - Media Fair Judge

"Ahmonza epitomizes what is means to be a true artist. His ability to design, create and implement is absolutely amazing and like no other! It is without a doubt that Ahmonza will excel in his future artistic endeavors!" - Linh Nguyen, Coordinator of Art K-12/Journalism

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Happy May Day!

Yes, today is May 1st and among other celebrations going on today, many AISD teachers are celebrating the end of CPALLS+, TPRI, and Tejas LEE assessment windows.

Thanks to all our wonderful PK, K, 1st and 2nd grade teachers for all the hard work that goes into teaching students all year and assessing them via the TANGO application three times a year.
While we know there is a lot of time left in the school year and oh so much more to accomplish before sending your children out into the world (and onto the next grade level) we wanted to take a moment to celebrate the end of testing - at least this round. Thanks for all you do!

Margaret and Jana

Make sure to check back here for more information in coming weeks about our TLI (Texas Literacy Initiative) Technology Ed Camp - happening Friday, August 8th at Adams Elementary!

CRE8R Space at Remynse Elementary School

Every Wednesday afternoon at 3:30, a group of fifth grade students make their way to the CRE8R space in the Remynse Elementary library. The librarian, Lesley Cano, applied for and received a Transformation through Innovation grant this year to acquire equipment for the Remynse CRE8R Club. They received computers, a 3-D printer and  a Lego Robotics set.

The day that I visited, I watched the students as they began designing playground equipment using Tinkercad. This is a web based tool that students can use to design products that they can then send to a 3-D printer. Because Tinkercad is web based students worked with a variety of devices. I observed students using PC Laptops, Macbooks and even Chromebooks. Each student received a login card with his/her Google credentials as they were able to use the same credentials for Tinkercad.

Students worked in small groups as they began the design process. Some began by sketching their designs on paper while others just jumped right in to Tinkercad. At one table a group of boys were designing soccer goals and at another table girls were creating a special swing that would allow the user to lay down. The students will work on their projects for two or three weeks and then they will be printed using the 3-D printer.

Being a part of the club is teaching students skills that they can use for a lifetime. Sometimes students design something that does not work. They are learning that failure is part of the design process. When something does not work, they can analyze why and find a better design.

The students really enjoy the CRE8R space and Mrs. Cano hopes to expand the use of the it next year. I look forward to future visits to see all of the creative things that students have designed.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Guest Post: Author’s Purpose Slideshow Lesson Reflection

Author’s Purpose Slideshow Lesson Reflection

After reading two different selections on the musician Ray Charles, we had a class discussion on the author’s purpose of the selections. On was an autobiography and the other was a biography. We determined that the autobiography was written more to express and the biography more to inform. This lead to a discussion about the other purposes authors write.

I gave the students instruction on how to use google presentations and taught them how to share with each other. The task was to create a slideshow that highlighted each of the different purposes that authors write and provide five examples from things that we have read this year.

I felt that this was a really cool way to reinforce author’s purpose. I saw the kids really getting into creating their slides. I even heard someone say “ this is so fun.”

I learned so much from doing this and am already trying to find other ways to include similar projects in my class.

Greg Kramer
6th Grade Teacher
Crow Elementary

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

5th Graders Spice up Writing with Sensory Words

Students in Mrs. Richardson's fifth grade class at Corey Elementary School learned how to turn mundane writing into interesting pieces that capture readers' attention, like transforming a plain vanilla ice-cream scoop into a delicious, fudge-covered sundae with sprinkles!

After a class discussion on using the five senses to describe a common event, students then used iPads to access Kidblog.org (the district's recommended and supported blogging platform) to create original blog posts describing a night at the movies. They flavored their writing with sensory descriptions, then published their posts for the class. They finished up by commenting on each other's posts, providing constructive feedback and encouraging words. Students love feedback from their peers!

Here's a small sample of some of their awesome writing (first drafts):

As I enter the theater a rush of cold air slaps me. The scent of buttery popcorn is delightful. I watch as tons of people wait in plush chairs at the front desk for the movie to start. As my friend and I enter the movie theater we can hear children munching on crunchy popcorn, and light chatter before the film starts. (by Sofia M.)

My best friend and I get out of the car, so the ice underneath our feet breaks with a crash. Our shoes are soaked in frigid waters, when we move away our feet freeze or at least it feels like it. When we get inside an aroma of buttery popcorn attacks me. The line is full of cold, waiting people loudly saying how come they have to wait in such a long line.  (by Amber B.)

On an awesome Friday night me and my mom are going to see The Amazing Spider man 2. I felt so optimistic it was such a lure to me and everybody. Once we got in line I can smell the aroma of sweet candy and buttery popcorn popping in the machine. (by Victor B.)

Now that students know how to use Kidblog, they can post all kinds of things in their classes- including their digital works they create using iPads. Hats off to Mrs. Richardson for providing such opportunities!

On a side note, the class began their science review for the STAAR test as I was packing up. Mrs. Richardson used Kahoot! to motivate and engage students- the faster you answer, the more points you get! I stuck around just long enough to play a few rounds. After sweating it out, I now have evidence that I am smarter than at least some 5th graders (good thing I taught junior high science for all those years, sorry Victor!):

Monday, April 21, 2014

Media Fair Showcase

Our Media Fair Showcase is Monday, April 28, from 6-8 pm. This is an exciting night where you can see all of the winning projects from this year's submissions. We hope you can join us!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Teacher Appreciation!

Teachers from the new 8th grade required CTHEI course were recognized for their Media Fair participation during a recent training session. All 8th graders district-wide participate in CTHEI (Career, Technology, and Higher Education Investigations).  CTHEI is a technology embedded course that will provide students with opportunities to develop technology skills they will use throughout high school and into college and career while actively investigating their career options for the upcoming years in high school and beyond. CTHEI is a joint venture between the Instructional Technology Department and the Career and Technical Education Department.
Tammy Fiset, Bailey JH and Kristen Newcomb, Ousley JH
Tommy Thompson, Gunn JH, Maurine Gill, Young JH and Lynn Jenning, Workman JH

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Giving 3rd Graders a Place to Publish

Recently, Julie Lee, third grade teacher at Corey Elementary, began a series of technology integrated lessons with her language arts students. In order for students to share their work with their peers and get their feedback, it was important to give students a place to publish their work- but it needed to be in a safe and protected environment.

Kidblog (www.kidblog.org) is the answer! This district-supported platform allows students to post text, images, and web widgets into posts. Then students can comment on each other's posts to provide feedback. And this is all done in a "walled garden" environment that is safe and secure- no one can view or comment on posts unless they are logged in! And the teacher can even limit posting/commenting so that the teacher must first approve everything before it appears to others.

Mrs. Lee's class is working on inferencing. They are using an iPad app (Pic Collage) to create a collage around a central theme. They will publish this for their peers in Kidblog; other students will then use their observation and inferencing skills to infer the central theme (posted as collaborative replies in Kidblog). These 8-9 year-olds are learning so many technology skills while still being focused on the language arts TEKS! You can read Mrs. Lee's own blog post about this activity here.

We applaud Mrs. Lee for giving students an awesome opportunity to create and collaborate! Want to see some student samples? Check back here soon!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sam Houston High School Math Intervention Day

Our guest post today is by Kellye Vandergriff, Instructional Coach at Sam Houston High School
Sam Houston High School students participated in a virtual math competition on Tuesday, April 1 as part of an intervention/enrichment day on campus. Students competed against one another in individual classrooms by answering specifically designed quiz questions via a QR code reader to earn points for their teams. Each team's correct answer tally was compiled virtually to determine 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. Included in the competition were all Algebra 1 students, as well as Pre-AP Geometry students. All students were involved in a day of interventions and enrichment. The innovatively designed competition was a first for our students and proved to be a unique experience for all!

Geometry Teacher Greg Peters demonstrates math concepts with his students

Monday, April 7, 2014

Technology Fun at Larson Elementary

Larson Elementary third graders in Mrs. Long and Mrs. Casale's classes had fun reviewing vocabulary from Charlotte's Web using the iPad app, Doodle Buddy, and the website, Kahoot! Before I arrived, the teachers reviewed the vocabulary with the students and assigned each of them a word to work on during the Doodle Buddy part. It was so fun to watch the students explore Doodle Buddy and decide how to illustrate their words through a drawing or by uploading a picture they took with the iPad. Students then shared their vocabulary projects with the entire class as one final review before playing the review game on Kahoot!

Students continued using the iPads to answer the questions on the quiz I created on Kahoot! and showed that they had a good understanding of the words being reviewed. I enjoyed working with the teachers and students with this technology integration activity and cannot wait to visit them again. (One student has already suggested to his teacher that we do this every Friday!)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Author's Purpose Tech Integration Lesson at Crow

While participating in the new Technology Integration Coaching Session, Greg Kramer (Crow 6th Grade teacher) planned a technology-rich lesson for his students after having many lessons on author’s purpose. His 6th graders worked in collaborative groups to create Google Presentations that contained examples of written works that were written to entertain, inform, persuade, or express. Students were encouraged to look for examples of written works that they read inside and outside of the classroom. The students then had to search for an image that would represent their slide. Stay tuned for a blog post from Mr. Kramer about his experience.