Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top ALL TIME posts - keyboarding, formative assessment, math sites, Chromebooks plus more!

(Almost) Happy New Year! Here's wishing you a healthy, happy and prosperous 2016! In honor of '16... here's our all-time top 10 posts. Hope you get something useful out of these still-current posts chock full of valuable, sensible tips to improve student learning!

This image was retrieved from Pixabay, which I strongly recommend as a great place to find a wide variety of copyright friendly images.

The alltime posts list...

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Rumie update - interview with Tariq Fancy from Rotary eClub of Silicon Valley

We recently wrote a post about Rumie and their goal of assisting 1 billion learners across the globe. Thought it would be good to update our readers via this interview with Tariq Fancy of Rumie, which was recently aired via the Rotary eClub of Silicon Valley.

Please do take a look at Rumie's web site and get involved by adding to their LearnCloud!

Get involved - check it out!!! You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Rumie helping educate Syrian refugees - how can YOU help?

I learned about Rumie at a recent Imagine K-12 Educator DayRumie is a non-profit that makes education affordable and accessible by using low-cost technology to deliver digital educational content to youth around the world. They have a $50 tablet providing a library for the cost of a book, allowing resource-constrained and offline communities to access high quality educational resources. They're currently in 10 countries and will expand to 15 by 2016. Rumie was named World's Best Social Startup in 2014.  They started in 2013.

The tablet content is crowdsourced, curated by teachers on the LearnCloud, an online database of free learning resources - like Pinterest for education. Teachers add online content and organize it into collections, collaborating with other teachers as they go, creating a valuable resource for their own use and the use of other educators around the world.

This fall, they've launched the #LearnSyria campaign to support education for children in Syrian refugee camps. 

Here's the need, in the words of Rumie's LearnClould Community Manager Deanna Del Vecchio.

"We need your help to curate the best free online learning resources, which will be preloaded onto Rumie tablets and sent to Syrian refugees at the Al-Salam school in Turkey. Join our community in contributing towards our goal of collecting 3000 resources by December 15th. Visit to find out more and let us know what you can contribute - we're specifically looking for content in Math, Science, Language, and Vocational Skills." 

Can you help out? Please consider adding to Rumie's collection! Do it today!

Thanks in advance supporting this noble cause!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Lots of apps, tons of resources: how to understand which are truly 'good'

Here's a blog post about the 5 worst ways to choose an app from our friends at Balefire Labs that is a must-read. Think you need to find apps that are "fun" or "motivating" for students? Read the post to better understand what you really SHOULD be considering when selecting apps for your students!

Balefire Labs is a free site with over 4000 research-based reviews on  a wide variety of apps.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Your French Teacher Says "Show Your Work" - M. Stampfl guest post

Here's another interesting guest post from my colleague Monica Stampfl about ways to integrate technology into the Modern Language classroom. The post is called Show Your Work and can be found on Monica's Blog called The Life in My Years (of teaching). Many thanks to Monica!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Back to School Edtech Classroom Checklist, 2015 edition

Here's an article we wrote about the important items to consider to get your edtech program off to a smashing start, published  a few weeks back on Fractus Learning . The orginal post on Fractus Learning can be found here.

Here's the full post, for your reading pleasure. What important items did we miss?

If you can't do ALL of this (very few can), pick the biggest hitters for your classroom or your school, and go for it!

The start of the school year brings with it more than a few ‘gotta-do’s for a classroom teacher. For that matter, if you’re also the designated ed tech “go-to person,” there are a LOT of tasks for you (and the IT team) to consider. With a technology program, ensuring that the various aspects of technology are ready for you, your colleagues and your students could be a huge task. It’s hard to envision all the aspects of tech that you might need to worry about, and if you or the team miss something, it only creates more heartburn and wasted time later.

To help your student-centered tech program get off to a fulfilling start, we have put together this checklist. Most of the items on the list will be important for you to consider. Some of these items will not apply depending on your role, your devices, and the latitude your administration and district allows, of course. In any case, reviewing this list will remind you (and your administration, tech support, teachers and others) of the needs of a highly engaging, fully functioning student-centered classroom.

With Your Administration and IT Team…

  • Confirm your ed tech budget. Hopefully, this was already done last school year.
  • Update your Acceptable Use Policy. Has anything materially changed in your school’s approach? Switching to mobile devices? BYOD? A new take-home program perhaps?
  • Check the mobile carts – are the devices charging? Is the timer working? Are the power supplies working? Do you have a couple of spares?
  • Power outlets: are there enough outlets where the devices (on carts or whatever) will be stored? Has anything changed in your layout (or number of carts or devices) from last year?
  • Device tune-up: update/refresh/re-image your tablets, laptops, and desktops. Add a website launcher like Symbaloo to your class page to make it easier for students to rapidly get to your favorite sites. Add apps to your tablets. Clean them up (don’t use harsh chemicals!), check batteries, and replace missing keys or other malfunctioning items. Do your laptops/desktops need more memory? If so, who’s doing the installation? When will it happen?
  • Tune up/check your Google Apps for Ed (GAFE) policies and settings. New features hit periodically, so take advantage of them! Here is a LONG list of recent updates, to GAFE, Android and iOS apps. For instance, Google Apps admins can now be notified by email of suspicious login attempts. These improvements are happening constantly. Keep abreast of what’s new by signing up for update info from Google here.
  • Confirm equipment storage location(s). Did you buy new laptops or tablets? Do you need a new cart or in-class storage unit? It’s usually not trivial to set up a new device (some are MUCH easier than others but all take time), and new carts can still take hours to get set up just the way you want.
  • Review/create a procedure for “resource” check in/out. This can include carts, labs, cameras, iPads, Chromebooks, you name it. Whatever can be checked out needs to be done so in an organized manner or some chaos will ensue later. Here’s a good Google Form add on called CheckItOut that will help you accomplish this. There are other tools – search around!
In Your Classroom…
  • Create a Tech Boot Camp agenda to train students on application basics; start rollout early.
  • Determine your go-to techie students. Get them to help (before school starts) with the cleanup noted above.
  • Develop your first (or another) ed tech integrated lesson. Try to not just substitute paper and pencil; instead, try to transform your lessons in ways only technology can (student videos, flipped lessons, etc.). Learn more about the levels of technology integration by visiting the Technology is Learning site.
  • Confirm all wireless access points and printers are operational. Have you made any material increases to devices? Does your network have the capacity for the bigger load? Hugely important…
  • Update student lists! Google Apps for Education, Learning Management System (LMS), Student Information System (SIS), online education sites…
  • For online education sites, do you have all usernames and passwords?
  • Ensure document cameras, projectors, etc., are functional. Do you have a spare lamp for the projector(s)?
  • Find your digital cameras. Are they charged? Create a checkout sheet.
  • Develop a brief parent communication about your ed tech plans so they understand its importance. Include something about digital citizenship and home screen behavior. Subscribe to Common Sense Media, which has a WEALTH of tools to help your students grow as digital citizens. Get parents to subscribe as well! Great lessons on appropriate online behavior, copyright/plagiarism, treating all with respect, website and movie ratings, and more!
  • Freshen up your class webpage! Add that Symbaloo link noted above.
For Yourself…

  • Partner up with another teacher to grow your ed tech knowledge and skills.
  • Find a blog that will help you learn more about new tools, tips and techniques. Here are some good choices to start with:
Freetech4teachers - many excellent instructions and info on a multitude of free tools
Edutopia - wide variety of edtech and teaching strategies, tips, how to's
Catlin Tucker – Blended Learning - all about blending tech into a classroom
Alice Keeler – Teacher Tech - many more easy to understand edtech tips and how to's
  •  Add one new application to your tech tool belt. Here are some good, easy choices to add to your repertoire. They each have a “LOW” entry point – you and students can start to use them very quickly and get results FAST.
StoryboardThat – Storyboard and comic creator
Quizlet – Flashcard and study games that engage learners
Padlet – Collaborative whiteboard for brainstorming and planning
Kahoot! – Fast and fun game-based formative assessment. Very easy!
As you can see, there are quite a few things to consider. Do not be discouraged! And remember, it’s never too late. Even if you don’t have time or expertise to work on all the items above, choose the top four or five you CAN manage. They will certainly move you down the path you want to go for your students. Partner up with another competent, engaged teacher like yourself. Divide and conquer! Talk to you administrator, bring this list, and get him or her to provide some additional resources. We are confident, if you take the time to dig in some, you can do it. And your students WILL benefit. And, we know you will have more fun as you see how excited your students are to be in your high-tech classroom with engaging lessons they will enjoy!

Good luck!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Raising Student Trust in the Classroom, guest post M. Stampfl

Here's a guest post from Monica Stampfl, a fabulous Modern Language teacher at Presentation High School (where I also work). It's about an important teacher goal: raising student trust (or lowering the affective filter) to ease students classroom anxiety and worry less about making "mistakes." It's a great read with lots of real-life examples. Many thanks to Monica for sharing this post, which she first posted on LinkedIn here.
What do you do to gain students trust and provide a "safe" place to learn? Please share!      
Like many teachers, I use my summer off to refresh my mind, body and spirit after 10 months of being on a treadmill.  There is no need for me to explain how busy I am during the school year, every teacher is, no matter how long they have been teaching. 
My day starts with a coffee and a browse through social media to catch up with my friends and family from all over the world.  I do not subscribe to a particular newspaper or online material, so I rely on my friends to post articles about world events that they find interesting.  It gives me insight on what is important to them and it nourishes my intellect.
At the beginning of June, I discovered  It is a website that gives teachers tips and suggestions on how to be the best educator possible.  Sometimes the articles are based on research, but most of the time, they are good sound advice from experience of being an effective teacher.
Today's article is You're Gonna Hear Me Roar: Overcoming Classroom Stage Fright by Todd Finley.  Every teacher gets stage fright from time to time.  Even after teaching for 22 years, there are days that I still get nervous before class starts.  Many times, external factors are the culprits, but there are ways to overcome a case of stage fright that he mentions in the article.
Finley's  article touches on something else that is so important in the language classroom.
fun and learning image
Probably more important than anything is lowering the affective filter. There are many articles written on the topic and much research conducted, which can be confirmed by personal experience.  Students need to feel like they can trust you and the class before they will risk making mistakes in front of you and their peers.  They must feel comfortable and trust that you are not going to embarrass them or hurt their feelings.  They too get stage fright and the way that you handle it will make all the difference in how they perform in your class.  If you do not make your classroom a "safe" zone for each student, you will lose them forever.

There are many ways to make the classroom a safe zone.  This is by no means an exhaustive list.
1.  Establish routine.  Students appreciate having a classroom routine because they become comfortable in the routine.  They know what to expect and know that there are no bad surprises waiting for them.  My classroom routine starts with hello and then I ask them questions based on their level that they can answer.  In French 1, it might just be how are you?  In upper levels, they might share what they did or what they may have read or saw recently. This gives me a sense of where everyone is that day and brings them into the lesson and our community for the day. It also gives me the opportunity to know my students and have the best rapport possible with them.  I know their likes and dislikes and can relate content to them.  
2.  Share the lesson objectives and map with them.  This way they know what they are responsible for during the lesson.  You don't have to list every activity, but they should know what they are expected to know at the end of class.
3. Make learning fun.  This does not mean that they need to be playing a game every second of the class period, but show that you enjoy your subject matter and they will enjoy it to.  Laughter definitely lowers the affective filter.
4.  Share a little bit of yourself  You have an opportunity to every tidbit of their life, they will find you more relate-able if they know a little bit about you.  I usually share my outside of school interests, movies I have seen, funny things my pets have done or even sometimes use my family members and their pictures in my lessons.  Teaching language makes this possible without crossing that student teacher line.
5.  Reactivate prior knowledge.  Every single lesson can incorporate and review prior knowledge in language classes.  Reactivating or reviewing prior knowledge makes them feel comfortable in knowing that they know something about the lesson on that day.
6. Check for understanding and learning often.  A teacher's repertoire should be full of these.  The importance of checking often is so that you know exactly where each student is with the material.  Do they need more practice or more individualized attention?  If the whole class is struggling than the material needs to be retaught.
7.  Apply content to real life.  I cannot take every single one of my students to a French-speaking country to have them practice vocabulary and grammar.  What i can do is create a French-speaking environment for them.  Once they have enough vocabulary, I expect them to communicate with me and their classmates in French whenever possible.  Even the conversation between activities must be in French.  I speak French 95-100% of the time depending on the level.  I use authentic documents and videos (created for French-speakers) whenever possible.  And most importantly, my students participate in situational simulation activities during and a the end of every chapter and concept.  Global simulation would be ideal but not practical with my current teaching schedule, but I can get close.  These are the activities the students enjoy most. And the content becomes more meaningful.
There are many more techniques to lowering the affective filter. Perhaps the most important factor is that they enjoy your class and look forward to coming each day because they know that they are cared for and will learn something meaningful.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Video of the Year Voting open NOW!

Here's a note that appeared recently in our friend Rushton Hurley's newsletter... Click the link, watch the videos, and please vote now!

We'd love for you to focus a little of your time helping us choose the Videos of the Year for the best submissions from the 2014 contests. Intrigued?

There are thirteen videos across the three strands, and each follows the rule of being no longer than 90 seconds (with up to another 60 seconds for credits). Voting on every strand should in total take less than thirty minutes of your time, and it'll be a half hour that should provide some cool ideas for you.

Why do this? Mainly it's a chance to do what is all about - highlight creative approaches to learning something and celebrating those who put in the work. However, this is also a good opportunity to see what others have done and get some ideas for projects you may do once school starts again in the coming months.

Are you in? If so, click here for the links and the ballot. Please cast your vote by the end of day (US Pacific time) on July 26th. We appreciate the help!


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

TechWomen - what is it? And why you should care!

I had the pleasure to participate on a Google Hangout with Eileen Brewer, who represents TechWomen. What IS TechWomen, you ask?

TechWomen is an organization that empowers, connects, and supports the next generation of women leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East by providing them the access and opportunity needed to advance their careers, pursue their dreams, and inspire women and girls in their communities. They do this through a mentoring program in the US, after a rigorous vetting process for the potential mentees.

Eileen Brewer is a director with Symantec Corporation, who has been volunteering as a mentor through the TechWomen organization here in Silicon Valley. Please take a few minutes to find out more about TechWomen as you watch this video.

Find out more about TechWomen through their website, too. If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can get more directly involved!

Here are a couple more links that may be of interest...

Girls Who Code – “working to close the gender gap in the technology and engineering sectors”
Women’s Alliance for Knowledge Exchange – “links high-impact, innovative women’s organizations to technology tools and expertise from leading companies to help organizations accelerate their impact and scale their work”
Notable Women in Tech – supporting “educators around the world who are working to inspire women and girls to consider or continue careers in computing”.

Thanks to Rushton Hurley, the president of the Rotary eClub of Silicon Valley, of which I am also a member. Rushton leads interesting programs each week on a wide variety of topics, all in support of Rotary's motto "Service Above Self."

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Using Photos App for Great Student Outcomes

The convenience of having a smartphone or tablet is multiplied by the fact it has a camera.  We use the camera for more than recording family events and nature’s beauty – the flash makes a great flashlight and its ability to zoom doubles as a magnifier.  It's a multi-functional tool that has great value in the classroom too.

The iPad Photo app may be one of the under-rated native apps on the tablet.  Spending a little time on organization on a semi-regular basis is not a bad idea.  It is a sleek way to curate those treasured images.  Albums are easy to make and a great way to memorialize class parties, field trips, presentations and other student events. 

Taking some time to discuss proper photography techniques with students is a good way to ensure successful outcomes.  The Rule of Three, backlighting, shadows, and movement are all issues that can make or break a photo.

Images can also be integrated into student work as a way for them to show what they know.  If you are in a Google App for Education school, any image in the Photos app can be uploaded to Google Drive.  Students who create work in apps that save to Photos (Shadow Puppets, for example) can easily upload that work to Drive (or Google Classroom) to share, add to other work, or simply store.  This is especially important in classroom where many students use the same tablet.
Here are a few apps that students may enjoy using to build outcome with photos…
  • Flipagram – students can upload photos to tell a story with text and voice (free)
  • ChatterPix – Give any photo a voice (with a moving mouth!) and let it tell the story (free)
  • Waterlogue – takes images and makes a beautiful watercolor ($2.99)

If you have other photo apps your students like to use, let us know!

Friday, May 29, 2015

What Will You Do This Summer Infographic

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Keyboarding Tools on the Web - 2015 update

"Way back" in March of 2013, we posted our original Keyboarding tools on the web to support CC stds! It seemed like the time to circle back and update it. Here's our revised Keyboarding Tools on the Web for 2015 post.

Before school lets out is a great time to get your kids practicing typing skills. As a minimum, give them a couple of these sites to practice over the summer! Great way to kill time and learn/enhance a skill they will need now and in the future!

Keyboarding is referenced (often) in Common Core standards. For instance, keyboarding is called out in:

W.3.6. With guidance and support from adults, use technology to produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills) as well as to interact and collaborate with others.

W.6.6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of three pages in a single sitting. W.4.6. W.5.6. are similar - one page (4th) , and two pages (5th) in a single sitting.

I pulled the above from (yes, I double checked the standards directly). Several people responding to our original post have made many positive comments about qwertytown, and it continues to be a top recommendation. It's not free, but there is a free trial available.

Here are several other excellent keyboarding resources to consider:

Typing Web - Programs to learn typing (free registration to save progress) - at my prior school, this was the favorite. Good practice, and the progress tracking is really nice.

Key Hero Typing Test - No log on required but you CAN do so to save work.

Dance Mat typing -Good for all ages! This is one of the most 'fun' for students and consistently mentioned by many.

Typing tests - can be customized from simple to hard.

E-learning for kids - Fun games!

Fix the Keyboard - Good game for learning key location. In general, has several keyboard practice games for grades K-5 that look fun and engaging; need to hunt around a bit but they are there.

Here are two other recommended resources:

Typing Club is an easy to use Google Chrome app. Teachers are able to track the students' progress in terms of accuracy and speed. - mentioned by a few of our readers as a fun way to learn typing skills.

What do YOU use or recommend for either web-based or tablet keyboarding/typing apps? Please comment!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Check out our Facebook Page

We are introducing a feature to make reading new posts easier for you.  "Like" our Facebook page, and see new posts appear on your Facebook page. You can share with your friends and comment on posts too!  Go to our page at

While we're talking social media, follow us on Twitter at @ccedtech, @karen_larson, and @gtognetti1

Friday, May 22, 2015

Avoid the Summer Slide with these Resources

A few good resources have bubbled up in recent days regarding how to help students avoid the "Summer Slide." Studies - and practical observation of students - have shown time and again that there is a loss of skills when students take their summer break.  Check out these resources I've found that can help lessen or eliminate that slide...

Here's the list so far:

CK-12 BrainFlex - links for teachers and students to set up (free) plans or practice needed work to avoid a backward slide in math and science.

TenMarks - a free program designed to help math students from grade 1 through Algebra 2 stay on track over the summer.

Mathnasium - a list of activities to help students avoid the summer slide.

Reading Is Fundamental - a list of activities for the summer to help students stay on track.

 Scholastic Summer Challenge - is a free online reading program for students as well as schools. Sign up your students and track their progress all summer.

Another interesting site is called the National Summer Learning Association. Originating at Johns Hopkins University, it supports summer learning for all, with a particular focus on underprivileged students who don't necessarily get the same access to books, technology, classrooms and other resources to support their continued summer learning.  You need to check this site out - resources about how to start a program, online resources to support students, and much more.

Do you have other resources? We want to know about them!