Monday, January 16, 2017

The importance of support

For the past few months I have been recording interviews for the Chromebook Classroom Podcast. Each episode features a conversation with a teacher, tech director, librarian, tech coach, etc. While each conversation is unique, as I was re-listening to each episode to develop the show notes, there was a common element that appeared in nearly every conversation - the importance of support for teachers. 

Each of the teachers that I interviewed spoke highly of their administration, tech department, and tech coach. This support was an essential element of their success in the classroom. Several of the teachers that I spoke with would not consider themselves "techy" but the support provided by their district gave them the confidence to step out and try something new:

Support from the IT department insures that school infrastructure optimized for learning. 
School administrators can support teachers by working to secure funding for technology and school improvement and ensuring that school policies support classroom teachers. 
Tech coaches serve on the front lines, providing just-in-time support for teachers looking for new tools and strategies to engage and challenge their students. 
Teachers are not reluctant to try new things...
Teachers don't avoid technology.... As long as they are supported

When teachers are supported, they can do amazing things! 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

ThingLink VR Bootcamp in Michigan!

Virtual Reality is a promising classroom tool. Being able to transport your students to a different time and place is pretty remarkable! 
Right now VR is primarily a passive activity - you just consume content. While that is okay, I much prefer technologies that allow teachers and students to create and share with one another.
ThinkLink is developing tools that can be used to CREATE a custom VR experience. Here's an example of something a Science teacher might do to teach students about biomes.
I played with the ThingLink VR editor this past summer and was impressed. I reached out to them to see if they would be willing to come to Michigan to lead an event to help get more educators involved in CREATING VR content.
ThingLink is coming to Brighton, Michigan on February 3 to lead their VR bootcamp. This full day of training will show you what ThingLink can do and how it can be used as a teaching tool. Everyone is welcome, even if you haven't used ThingLink before.
Registration is $175/person and INCLUDES a full year of the premium version of ThingLink ($129/year). We'll also give you a nice lunch and good company! 

To register, click here

Not from Michigan? ThingLink has bootcamps scheduled around the country. Here is their current schedule. You can also register to host an event! 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

How to Disrupt your Classroom in 2017

While technology in the classroom has greatly increased and improved over the past 20 years, the teaching methods that we use, haven't kept pace! It's time to disrupt traditional teaching methods! Here are four ideas to get you started.

1. Ditch boring lectures

Sit-n-get lectures don't encourage collaboration or critical thinking. Instead of firing up your favorite PowerPoint, use Pear Deck to engage your students with questions and activities. Pear Deck allows you to add multiple choice, short answer, free response, numerical, drawing, and interactive questions into any PowerPoint or Google Slide presentation. It's super easy and it integrates with Google Drive and Classroom! Here's a 30 second video to help you get started!

2. Make your Students Teach

Ask students to record a short (1-3 min). screencast that explains an important topic or idea you are studying. I recommend Screencastify, but there are lots of options out there!

Have them save their recording to Google Drive and add a link to the video into a Google Presentation or document that the entire class has access to.Now every student has a mini lesson on all of the essential topics you are studying! Here's an example of essential tech skills that a group of teachers put together over Christmas break.

3. Put the technology away!

Technology is great, but should serve a specific purpose. Sometimes, the best way to shake things up is to do the opposite of what students expect! Instead of using technology, put it away!

Have students "pass notes" in class on paper rather than commenting in a Google doc. Or have them conquer a Breakout Edu Challenge!

4. Give students choice!

Too much of my own instruction was sequential and "one-size fits all". Give your students choice by using hyperdocs! It's a simple idea - a hyperdoc is a "menu" of small activities and choices that helps students explore a topic. Your "menu" should include sufficient choice and flexibility to allow students to express their learning in their own unique way.

Check out this great example from middle school teacher Tonya Nugent.

Interested in exploring more ideas for disrupting the traditional classroom? I am working on a free 5-lesson email course that expands on the ideas above. Click here to subscribe!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Chromebook Classroom Podcast

I have always wanted to write a book and publish a podcast.

I finished my book in November, so I decided to tackle the podcast!

Next week I will be launching the Chromebook Classroom podcast to explore how Chromebooks are impacting education.

Season 1 features 6 interviews with a wide variety of guests. Here's what you can expect:
  • ep. 01 | Cyrus Mistry - Group Product Manager, Android & Chromebooks for Education
  • ep. 02 | Dave Bast - Technology Integration Specialist, Holland, Michigan
  • ep. 03 | Eric Griffith - Tech Director, Mechanicsburg, Ohio
  • ep. 04 | Elliot Soloway, Professor of education, engineering and information at the University of Michigan
  • ep. 05 | Jolanda Nederveld - K-4 Technology and Media Specialist, Oriole Park Elementary School
  • ep. 06 | Wendy Nimtz - 5th grade, Our Shepherd Lutheran school
All six episodes will drop "Netflix style" on January 17th on both iTunes and Google Play. If you would like to be notified when season 1 is available, just enter your contact information below and I will send you an email.

Season 1 is a test to see if my podcast is well received, and if I enjoyed publishing it. I will be looking for feedback to decide if there will be a season 2! If you listen to any of the episodes, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think! 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Lesson Ideas for #Chromebook Classrooms: Simple Story Builder

Note: this lesson idea is an excerpt from my book, The Chromebook Classroom. If you find this lesson helpful, you will enjoy the 40+ lessons from the book! Pick up a copy on Amazon or at!

Dialog and character interaction is what makes fiction immersive and engaging. Learning how to write engaging dialogue is difficult, but with Google Story Builder, students can practice the writing process in a fun and interactive way. Students can add multiple characters and background music to set the tone for their story.

The purpose of this assignment is to help students practice and experience writing dialogue. It takes a lot of time to come up with characters, a plot, and a setting for a short story. Rather than coming up with these elements on their own, have students use a plot generator to automatically suggest all of the required elements. Not only will this save time, students will find the crazy plot suggestions quite entertaining!

After generating and reviewing their plot, students will use the Google Story Builder tool to write the dialog for a portion of their story. The story builder tool is purposefully restrictive and only allows a maximum of 10 characters, with no more than 10 comments from each one.

After completing the dialog, students can customize their background music, then publish and share the video for others to watch.

Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

Here's an example of a finished story:

Tips and Suggestions

Stories cannot be modified once they are published. Encourage students to plan their story on paper before building and publishing their digital story.

Stories cannot be downloaded. The only way to share a story is to copy the unique link to a published video. Create a shared Google document to collect and share links so that students can watch each other’s creations.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Lesson Ideas for #Chromebook Classrooms: Flipped Book Reviews

Note: this lesson idea is an excerpt from my book, The Chromebook Classroom. If you find this lesson helpful, you will enjoy the 40+ lessons from the book! Pick up a copy on Amazon or at!

Have you ever sat through a series of book reports or student presentations and watched the clock tick away as one student after another comes to the front of the room to give their report? Have you ever longed for a more efficient way to allow students to present their work? With flipped book reports, students simply record and post their presentations online, which can then be easily shared with family members and classmates.

For this activity, students will develop a book report based on the guidelines provided by the teacher and use the free Chrome app Screencastify to record their voice and screen as they deliver their presentation. Their presentation can be created in Google Slides (template), Prezi, or any other presentation tool. It may be best to assign the recording as a homework assignment to minimize background noise and distractions.

Note: The free version of Screencastify limits recordings to a maximum 10 minutes.

It is recommended that students share their recorded book report with the rest of the class. Posting videos to Google Classroom is a simple way to exchange video links! Each student watches and peer edits several videos created by classmates. A rubric for evaluating should be used to help guide the peer editing process.

Bonus: link the finished book reports to the physical books in the library using QR codes

Helpful Resources:

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Lesson Ideas for #Chromebook Classrooms: Collaborative #Math Study Guides

Note: this lesson idea is an excerpt from my book, The Chromebook Classroom. If you find this lesson helpful, you will enjoy the 40+ lessons from the book! Pick up a copy on Amazon or at!

The best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else! For this activity, students who need to learn materials for an upcoming test will use the Ziteboard whiteboard extension to solve a math problem while recording their solution using Screencastify. Students will add their recording to a class Google Slides presentation so that everyone can review this problem type.

Lesson Overview

Give each student a different problem to solve. Provide them with time to review and practice the steps. If students are unfamiliar with Ziteboard and Screencastify, you may need to provide additional time for them to practice with these tools.

Students will use Screencastify to record the steps required to solve their assigned problem. Ziteboard provides a writeable surface ideal for showing work. Ziteboard works great on touchscreen chromebooks. Screencastify will record both the screen activity and the students voice.

The finished Screencastify recording should be saved to the students Google Drive account. Students will need to make the recording visible to "anyone with the link".

The final step is to have students place their links into a class Google Slides presentation. This can also be done in Google Sheets or Docs; however, Google Slides will allow you to assign each student their own Slide page.

Each student now has access to a student-generated study guide with dozens of practice problems!


Thanks to Carrie Moeggenberg, Instructional Technology Coach, Ludington, Michigan for submitting this lesson idea!