Week 2 – Getting Rolling!

During this past week, my students started DARE. Each Monday, a DARE officer will join our class. This will take place every Monday over the next ten weeks.

We also started diving into our first unit, Steps to Respect. In this unit, we focus on students developing group work skills. This is a great way to start the year as students in my class complete group work all the time. Students will also learn more about preventing bullying, resolving conflict, and working together.

Students this week spent quite a bit of time getting to know their iPads. We practiced sending emails, creating collages of photos (which they set as their lock screen), and we even made an Educreations presentation in groups during class on Thursday and Friday. Here is an example of their work on Educreations. I only expect them to get better as the year goes on.

During this week, students are going to use the website phrase.it to create comics about bullying in order to put themselves in the perspectives of others. They will also be using Pic Collage to create a collage of pictures and words that represents them. By creating this web, students will learn about how their personality traits, interests, and family shape their perspective and get the opportunity to see how different the perspectives are in our classroom.



An Exciting Start to a New Year!

It’s been awhile! I have decided to repurpose this blog to be aimed at my students, their parents, and other teachers that are looking for ideas in a 1:1 environment. I have three major goals for this school year and I believe this blog will serve as a way to kill two birds with one stone.

My 2014-2015 Goals:

I just started my 5th year of teaching in Shakopee, MN. I teach at Pearson 6th Grade Center, a really great place to be. I teach two sections of Health (1st quarter) and Social Studies (2nd through 4th quarter). For the rest of the day, I serve as a district-wide Digital Learning Coach. Our job is to provide professional development for teachers, research new and exciting technologies, and help teachers incorporate these technologies into their curriculum so students can learn valuable skills that will be needed in the future.

We have had a very exciting week at Pearson this year. The first two days of the year were spent learning about me, our classroom, and meeting classmates. I can already tell that we have a lot of talents in the classroom that will help make class a fun place to be!

Wednesday and Thursday night of this past week, students attended our iPad Rollout. Students created an Apple ID and were given their brand new iPad mini. On Thursday, almost all my students had their iPad in class. By Friday, every student had it. In previous years, I have tried everything I could to get students to remember to bring a pencil to class. It never failed that one or two would forget. With iPads, I don’t foresee that tool being forgotten very often. It’s clear the students are very excited to use them! While there are still some hiccups with explaining to students what they can and cannot do, I think that things will smooth over in a week or two. 

On Thursday, students were signed into computers and then their Google Apps for Education account. This account will give students access to Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, and more. I plan to have students communicate using email, publish video projects to YouTube, and create and store their digital work in Google Drive. Students took notes on how they signed in so that they have this information for the future.

On Friday, I officially started treating class like a 1:1 (one iPad for each student) iPad classroom. While some students were unable to download apps because they didn’t have an Apple ID or they forgot their password, we were still able to vote on positive and negative classroom behaviors that we felt were important. Using goo.gl, I was able to create short links and QR codes so students could access a Google Form without me having to send them an email or type in a long URL address. It worked like a charm! No apps required! After we had a discussion about making our classroom a positive and fun place to be, students took a survey that included a number of questions about their learning style, their typical grades, technology questions, and more. Using the survey results, I plan to send an email to each student about what they wrote so we can connect better as partners in learning. I have a feeling that shy students may be more likely to share if it’s not a face-to-face interaction. It’s definitely an experiment!

Some other tools I plan to use until I know all students can download apps are:

Padlet, Socrative, Infuse Learning, Kahoot, Pear Deck, Every Slide, and Todays Meet.

For this next week, students will be starting D.A.R.E. on Monday. Every Monday we will be having Officer Jamie Pearson in to teach D.A.R.E., which includes topics such as drug use, bullying, making good decisions, and more. After Monday, we will be focusing on our first unit, Steps to Respect. We will start this unit practicing and building effective group work skills.

My Favorite Chrome Extensions

I love Google Chrome. Now that most of the staff in Shakopee Public Schools are using it, I thought I would provide a few reasons why I think it is the best browser available today. There are apps and extensions you can add to Chrome to make navigating the Internet easier and there are some pretty awesome tools too!

If you were to go to the Chrome Web Store, you can easily search and add apps. Apps are basically simple bookmarks that are displayed when you clicked the “Apps” button in the upper-left corner of your screen.

Extensions are where the magic is at. Here is a list of my favorite extensions:

Awesome Screenshot – allows you to create a screenshot in Chrome, annotate it with text and circles, then copy and paste it into an email or slideshow.

Readability – converts a webpage into a more readable view. Much easier to print or show the article to the class!

dotEPUB – in one click, you can create an EPUB file from a webpage and then students can use it in iBooks on their iPad or iPhone.

Adblock – blocks… ads? Especially the start of YouTube clips.

Toggle Comments – Lots of NSFW comments are on YouTube. This allows you to hide them.

OneTab – Ever have like 15 tabs open? Click OneTab and you condense them to one. Speeds up your computer performance!

1 click timer – nice little timer that shows up on your screen

WatchDoc – WatchDoc alerts you if a Google Doc you shared or was shared with you has been edited.


Amazing iPad App

I usually don’t go out of my way to review iPad apps, as there are so many website that do just that. But as it is a strong possibility that my school will be 1:1 with iPads next year, I thought it would be good to share an app that I feel has tons of potential and really is perfect for a 1:1 environment. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is essential.

TouchCast is an app that allows you or your students to create interactive videos for flipping your classroom or as a presentation of information. Sound familiar? Well TouchCast does just about everything that other similar apps do and it is completely free! The best part is that it is not just a static video, but something you can click on and interact with in meaningful ways. TouchCast allows you to place small virtual apps that are placed in your videos and add interactive elements. CLICK HERE to download the app for iPad.

Here are a list of the features that I absolutely love:

-Record your video using either camera on your iPad and apply filters to the video, such as black and white.

-There is an option for using a whiteboard (similar to Educreations, Screen Chomp, etc.) as you record your video.

-There is a teleprompter feature within the app so you can type up what you are going to say and then read it back while recording. I put the teleprompter on the side of the iPad with the front-facing camera so I am actually looking into the lense.

-Easily insert a background using the green screen feature. With some green butcher paper and good lighting, you can create an image just like the one below.

-There are themes, such as the Breaking News one, that automatically add some nice little virtual apps to your TouchCast.

-Students can answer multiple-choice questions within the TouchCast and receive immediate feedback on whether they answered it correctly. They also can submit responses to survey questions and see the percent of people who picked each response while watching the TouchCast.

-Every user on TouchCast has a channel. Your students can follow your channel and see all your updates. And if your students don’t have iPads available, you can upload your TouchCasts to YouTube easily, though interactive elements are not usable on YouTube.


Class Dojo – Behavior Management Software


This past year, I noticed a steady increase in students acting negatively and disrespectfully to their classmates. It may have something to do with the fact that I taught 7th graders, but many of these students were good kids just following the crowd. I decided to introduce Class Dojo, a behavior management software, to my classroom.  

Here is a great introduction video that I showed my students, courtesy of Class Dojo:

After that video and a little explanation, I was very surprised to find that many of my students were really excited about it and desperately wanted their “secret code” so they could customize their avatar. We then established what behaviors we felt were important and created a reward system for positive behaviors. I saw an overall trend of improvement over the next few weeks and really enjoyed tracking behaviors while students were working in small groups or partners. I could also use it to randomly select students for answering questions or for choosing volunteers. It also gave me a better foot to stand on when parents came to conferences, as academic grades don’t show the whole picture of a student’s performance in the classroom. By the end of the semester, I realized this would be far more effective if used throughout a school year.

Here is a Prezi I made that I am presenting to my grad school class next week regarding classroom management strategies, which explains how I will use Class Dojo next year.

P.S. In case you are wondering, this works in 7th grade classrooms but it really would be perfect for an elementary setting where you get to see a student for more than 50 minutes a day.


One iPad Classroom Ideas

Next year, I will have a school-issued iPad and an Apple TV so that I can wirelessly project my iPad onto my SMART board. In preparation for a 1:1 initiative, I know that this will be a great time to test apps and ideas on smaller groups of students and make this year a great year!

using-the-ipad-2i41r9qPhoto by Barbara Day via Flickr

Here are a few ideas on how to utilize one iPad in your classroom:

1.) Presentations! Show off your cool presentations you have made using cool tools such as Prezi, Haiku Deck, Keynote, etc.I like using Prezi with my Apple TV because it seamlessly plays YouTube clips and allows you to pan and zoom around using the iPad’s touch screen.

2.) Set up a wireless desktop app (such as Splashtop 2) so you can wirelessly control your computer through your iPad screen. This could allow you to write out math problems, circle key information, etc.

3.) Showcase student work. Have students create work on their desks, in their notebooks, on small whiteboards, etc. and then take picture of their work. You could then project those pictures to the class so everyone can see what is written on their work. You could import these pictures into apps such as educreations and highlight or annotate it in some way.

4.) Make it one of many stations. It may be scary, but students will treat your iPad with respect. Create 6-8 stations for your class and have one of them be at your SMART board and one of them at your iPad. Examples of an iPad station could be watching a youtube clip and answering discussion questions, playing Jeopardy (create it free here), or reviewing vocabulary using Quizlet (a free iphone app).

5.) Record a video. You could record students giving a speech (privately or publicly), record a play they create, or record a video that you create for them. Other teachers have been using their iPads to create videos to “flip their classroom” and have students watch their lectures or lessons from home so they can use

6.) Sock Puppets? Have students plan out and then create a dialogue or story using any of the following apps: Toontastic, PuppetPals, or my personal favorite – Sock Puppets. I made a dialogue between two puppets that showed different conflict resolutions methods for health class. The students were sent in the hall with their small group in order to record them.

7.) Classroom Management. I used an app called Class Dojo over the past year. While I started it late and didn’t use it much after semester 1, it was a really cool site/app! You can upload a list of your students, customize negative and positive behaviors you will document during class, and then share this data with students and parents. I also used it to randomly call on students to answer questions daily. Sometimes, I would give a “difficult student” the iPad to be in charge of randomly calling on students and then they would document if students got it right or wrong. I might need to make an entire blog entry on this site! Go here for more info.

Here is a video done by Modern Lessons that has some more ideas:

How to Make PD Better

I know this may come as a shock, but sometimes professional development on workshop days are not as productive as they could be. I gave a speech to my grad school class about this exact topic. In order to improve on the current model of professional development, I believe we should adopt some of the ideas that I learned from going to Edcamp last spring. You can learn more about it at edcamp.org. I also made a short prezi to illustrate my ideas for adaptation.