Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Student Response Systems: You have to check out Formative!

Go Formative.com

I have used Socrative, Lets Geddit, Kahoot, etc. and really enjoy them, each seemed to accomplish the task of quick online formative assessments well and each had it's pros and cons. Overall, I felt like my toolbox in this arena was already full. When I went to MACUL 2015, I really wasn't looking for another online formative assessment tool.

HOWEVER, I was at the SIGEE meeting at MACUL and my friend John (@bcgeek) introduced me to Formative (https://goformative.com/). WOW! After a month delay, I finally got a chance to check it out and I am impressed. The user interface is clean and easy to use.  You can upload PDF, Word files, or Google Docs and easily convert them to an online assessment.  You can see students answering the assessment in real time.  The list goes on and on!  Try it out in your classrooms and let me know what you think!

To get started, here is a quick introductory video:

Or for my friends who find paper tutorials helpful, here is the Training Guide and Self-Guided Tutorial from Go Formative.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Learning Together at MACUL: Anybody can Technology!

Our next MACUL experience comes to you from our guest blogger, Malena Schrauben.  Malena is a science/computer science teacher at CMS and inspires me daily with her enthusiasm and drive.  A week ago, she presented at the Mobile Learning Conference at KRESA about how she uses Scratch in her classroom.  However, it wasn't just her up in front of the audience.  She brought along several of her CMS students to share in the experience and show the audience the amazing projects they have been creating to demonstrate their learning in her class.  I couldn't have been more proud of the students, or their teacher!

Learning from my colleagues and teachers is one of my favorite parts of my job.  I am so lucky to work with these amazing Rock Star teachers.  Here is what Malena wished to share with all of us about her MACUL experience.
I loved attending MACUL! I would say my biggest takeaway was the amount of collaboration that took place among strangers. But we weren't strangers, we are teachers and that brought us together. Everyone was there to grow as an educator and it was amazing! We are all looking for ways to incorporate technology into our classroom and engage our students. We are all at different levels with our implementation and comfort. I hope all teachers take the opportunity to attend. Even if you come away with one AH HA! that is awesome! Two tools that I thought were great were wheeldecide.com and tagboard.com. Wheeldecide is a site you can visit and put categories onto a spilling wheel. It can be used to put students into groups or decide on topics for summative/formative assessments. I see myself using it to assign stations or activities in my class. I also loved tagboard, tagboard is a site you can visit to search hashtags. No matter what social media you are using you can pull up a hashtag. I use #doworkcms with my students. I also have both instagram and twitter accounts that I use for education and I can pull up work students have hashtagged or tweets/posts. MACUL also helped build my confidence level. We are all trying to be better, blend better, technology better. What better way than to do it together! :) 

Thank you so much, Malena, for sharing your experience!  We look forward to seeing the awesome ways you continue to use technology in your classroom.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Tech Tips for Teachers from Teachers Pay Teachers

Many of us have combed the archives of Teachers Pay Teachers for the perfect resources that will help enhance our lessons and increase student learning in our classrooms.  Let's face it, we are all trying to find a way to work smarter, not harder, and curating resources from teachers who in the trenches is always a great place to start.

Tech Tips for Teachers is a free PDF ebook that shares ways to use technology in the classroom from teachers who are actually in the classroom.  The book is broken into 3 sections: Prek-2, 3-5, 6-12.  Each page contains a tip by a different educator.  Definitely worth the read!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

DK Find Out! What do you want to learn today?

The makers of the DK books has now created a brand-new website geared at our primary students to help them explore and learn.  DK Find Out! allows students to type in what they want to find out in a search box, then they will be taken to an interactive website with articles, like the ones in the DK books.  These articles include interactive pictures.  The website is currently in BETA, so I anticipate the wealth of information to keep increasing.

Check out this great tool for students to use to enhance their learning, or add resources to a blended lesson.

PD: 21 Things for Students at KRESA this summer

Would you like to integrate 21things4students into their teaching and learning or do you plan on developing a course to improve the technology skills and awareness of learning with technology, then this is a must take summer professional development opportunity.

21things4students – Tech Boot Camp

Offered across Michigan in August, 2015!
  • 8/3 & 4, 2015 Kalamazoo RESA
  • 8/6 & 7, 2015 Clare Gladwin RESD
  • 8/11 & 12, 2015 Macomb ISD
For more information, visit:

Target Audience: Grades 5-9 Teachers
  • Join us for 2 days to get you started using 21things4students in your classroom!
  • Explore the FREE resources of 21things4students - including curriculum, project based learning activities, tools/apps, assessments, teacher guides, and more!
  • Network and learn from teachers currently using 21things4students in their classroom!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Learning Together at MACUL: World Language and Technology can Mix!

Susan Mann, world language teacher at West Middle School, wasn't sure what to expect when she headed off to MACUL.  She expected sessions focusing on ELA and Math and the other "Core" subjects, but what about Spanish?  Would there be anything at the conference for a middle school world language teacher?  YES!  Here is Susan's blog post:
As a World Language teacher, I often feel left out of the conversation when it comes to technology. However, the MACUL conference pleasantly surprised me with all kinds of technology that I can use in the classroom. During the conference, I learned how to incorporate and tweak lesson plans in my Google Classroom, techniques for simplifying and automating rubrics, websites that allow students to record their voice and practice speaking in the target language, and how to use WEVIDEO in my classroom. The presentations were very informative and really inspired me as an educator to incorporate technology daily. 
While the presentations were motivational, I have to say that one of the best reasons for attending this conference is the fellowship that happens between the tech department and faculty. All too often, the technology department seems like a distant entity over at the administration building. Fortunately during the conference, there was time to sit down and discuss these new ideas with them and troubleshoot problems that we are encountering in the classroom. I look forward to a continued partnership with the tech department and continued growth in the use of technology in the World Language Classroom.
We in the tech department look forward to our continued partnership as well.  Susan, your enthusiasm for teaching and learning is contagious! Thanks for sharing!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Learning Together at MACUL: The Tech Director's Perspective

One of the main reasons that I can do what I do in my position as Technology Integration Specialist for Portage Public Schools is thanks to having an amazing Tech Director for my supervisor.  Dan Vomastek is very supportive of what we do to enhance learning in the classroom, and as a former high school math teacher, he understands that the whole reason we exist as a technology department is to support the teachers and the students on their learning journey.  Dan even jumped on the band-wagon and volunteered to share his perspective on the MACUL conference from the Tech Directors point-of-view.  Here is Dan's post:
First and foremost, I'm thrilled to be a part of the transformation in teaching and learning occurring in Portage.  We have hit critical mass with the number of talented, motivated, creative, and resourceful staff getting behind the research-backed, blended learning movement.  They approached this conference with enthusiasm, and continue to press forward.   My big fear is not being able to source the remaining student devices we need to keep this movement progressing forward.   
I also take, what I hope is not too much pride in, going from session to session listening to the new things other districts are doing only to think, 'yeah, we've been doing that for a while'.   Portage is definitely on the right track.   
Finally, I was able to use the time to brainstorm with other administrators on ways to help us be better users (and thus models) of technology for our staffs.  We, with other key players, hatched an idea for a new PD course for our administrators.  Our hope is to show them how blending learning can be used to facilitate staff meetings, their PLC's, and overall school improvement planning.  There is a significant amount of excitement brewing out there for this project - we need to capitalize on this now!
 Follow Dan on twitter @ppstechdirector

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Learning Together at MACUL: If You're Appy and You Know It!

As technology integration specialists, Paul Murray and I love to watch teachers learn, grow and spread their wings in regards to using technology in the classroom.  Kristen Gavlas and Johnna Kline, first grade teachers at Angling Road Elementary, are two teachers who inspire us everyday with their enthusiasm and willingness to take on new adventures and challenges.  They have been our guinea pigs for our Android Tablet pilot and helped us evaluate the merits of touchscreen chromebooks for the younger students.  We have tagged them in the past to present at our PPS Tech Camp and this year we pushed them to bring their enthusiastic presentation to MACUL.  They didn't disappoint.  I feel blessed to have sat in the audience and watched the magic they bring to a room.  Here is Kristen's MACUL reflection:

A terrifying and exhilarating experience all wrapped up into one.  As a first time presenters, I was terrified!  We, Johnna Kline and myself, practiced and practiced.  We had so much support from our District team and from our own Angling Road School staff.   It was my first time to "tweet" and the first time that I was tweeted about, even though I have been on Twitter for a while now. So I want to thank all of you who supported us as we prepared and presented.  What I learned was: baby steps.  Try something new. Everything won't go perfectly but it's the journey that counts.  Oh and be sure to take along a best friend.  It makes the journey so much more enjoyable and fun!
The brave presenters getting ready to present
in their HUGE room at MACUL 2015.
To view their amazing presentation, click here: http://bit.ly/ifyoureappy

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Learning Together at MACUL: First Time Presenter, Long-time Learner

Even those of us who have been to MACUL several times, each conference brings with it new learning and new experiences.  This was the case for Amy Cote, media specialist at North Middle School.  Here is her blog post about her experience at the MACUL 2015 conference.

While I have attended MACUL many times before, MACUL 2015 in Detroit provided a new opportunity for me.  A couple of my colleagues from the 'East Side' invited me to present a "Listen and Learn" session with them all about school libraries and librarians.  It was both nerve-racking and fun as none of us had ever presented at such a large conference before.  All went well in the end, with only one technology glitch and a full room!  Many people stopped us after the presentation and thanked us for sharing our information. 
After that was over (thank-goodness it was Thursday morning) we could focus on all the great learning opportunities MACUL has to offer. Among other things, I attended the annual meeting for the Special Interest Group  for school libraries, SIGLIB and laughed along with Rushton Hurley who is always  able to explain technology in a way that is understandable and fun.  But the session that I was able to take back with me and apply to my teaching this very week was all about Digital Reading.  As we prepare our students for the M-Step, I came back with some useful ideas that I can implement and hopefully help my students become more confident when reading for information on a screen rather than in print.   
Amy Cote (left) and her co-presenters at MACUL 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

PD: Free Webinars available through Kent ISD

Our friends at Kent ISD have new webinars available this month. All webinars are free to attend.

How Edify can Generate Real Time Data Without Generating Real Time Tears
April 13, 3:30-4:30PM
Learn More and Register: http://j.mp/1FC6BSW

STEM in the Classroom - Design Thinking
April 15, 4:00-5:00PM
Learn More and Register: http://j.mp/1amTwUP

Digital Literacy for Educators
April 21, 3:30-4:30PM
Learn More and Register: http://j.mp/1coY8vd

Building a Collaborative Community through Classroom Learning Labs
April 29, 3:30-4:30PM
Learn More and Register: http://j.mp/1NxLiLY

The Flipped Classroom- How to Turn Your Classroom Upside Down
April 29, 5:00-6:00PM
Learn More and Register: http://j.mp/1I6j7Nl

Learning Together at MACUL: Using Inforgraphics in the Classroom and Supporting our Readers

Our next post in our Learning Together at MACUL series, Sheila Clothier shares her MACUL experience as well as some great tech tools for supporting our readers.

Sheila is a fourth grade teacher at Central Elementary School and is one of our Chromebook 1-to-1 Pilot teachers.  When you talk to Sheila, she will be the first to tell you that teaching in a 1-to-1 environment was a huge leap of faith for her.  She is an amazing, gifted teacher, but has never claimed to be on the bleeding edge of the tech world.  Anyone who states that they can't use technology in their classroom only needs to sit down with Sheila for 10 minutes or walk through her room and you will soon realize that tech isn't all that scary after all!  Here is Sheila's blog post on her MACUL experience.  Thanks for sharing, Sheila!

I was amazed with all the possibilities of using technology in the classroom with language arts. During the conference, I refreshed my understanding of Google Classroom, learned about infographics, listened to a teacher that uses digital literature circles, and watched a presentation on supporting writing with technology. My favorite presentation was one on combining technology and your students' passions. I plan on spending some additional time with the infographics. I already started the students writing on the chromebooks using Storybird and Write About. I have never seen such excitement to write! Here is a list of some of the resources: 
Using Infographics in the Classroomhttp://tinyurl.com/infogr15 
How can we use technology to support our readers?
Apps/Websites for Reading
For Writing

Monday, April 13, 2015

Learning Together at MACUL: Genius hour, online literature circles and more!

March 18-20th was the MACUL (Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning) conference in Detroit. This year Portage Public Schools was well represented! We had seven staff members presenting and over 25 teachers, principals and staff members in attendance! There was so much exciting learning going on during these three days that we knew we had to capture and share the experience and knowledge with all of you! Each of the attendees were given the opportunity to be a guest blogger and shed some light on what they learned at MACUL. Over the next couple weeks, we will be sharing out their experiences! Thanks you to all our guest bloggers who stepped up to the Learning Together at MACUL challenge!

Our first guest blogger is Kevin Luteyn, fourth grade teacher at Moorsbridge elementary. Kevin is one of our chromebook pilot teachers and was looking forward to learning some new tools and techniques to bring back to his fourth graders. Here is his post:

MACUL was again a great experience. You don't realize what is out there in the realm of technology, when it comes to working in the classroom. There are so many opportunities to use technology to the fullest extent, to not only expand your lessons, but to completely change your approach on how you want the students to go about learning. I was excited to go back to the classroom and start using some of the things that I picked up there. 
I started to really dig into the online formative assessment tools (getkahoot.com, socrative.com, Google Forms, etc.) and the students love showing what they have learned that way. I saw some different things that you can use QR codes for. 
One session that I was impressed with was the online literature circles. Taking advantage of having students communicate and discuss with each other books they are reading online sounds awesome. They get a chance to respond to each others' ideas and thoughts as they are reading their books. They also talked about the students making a book trailer together using a website as well. They finished it off by giving their projects a QR code that is public so that other people from all over can see their book trailer. 
I also liked the idea of genius hour. This gives students the opportunity to research and do projects about subjects that they are really interested in. It also leaves it open for them to present their information to their peers in a way that they want to. 
Unfortunately, due to the end of the year testing, most of the ideas are going to have to pushed to trial next year since the students don't quite have as much access to the technology. All in all, it was a great experience. I was very appreciative to have the chance to attend. Thanks again to the tech department for pushing this through.

Thank you Kevin for sharing your experience with us! We can't wait to see where you take your teaching next!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Skyward Tech Tip: Adjusting Third Quarter Grades

PPS 6-12 Instructional Staff:

As quarter 3 comes to a close, I wanted to remind you of the procedure for adjusting or overriding a gradebook calculated grade at the quarter level.

To begin the process, first click on the 'Quarter 3' column header options button and choose the 'Enter Term Q3 Grade Adjustments'...

If you need to enter in an I or NC or other special code, click the drop down list widget in Override column for a student, and choose the code from the list as shown below.

If you need to change the letter grade a student is receiving, either enter a new letter grade in the Grade column OR enter in a percent adjustment as shown below.  (note that the gradebook will calculate the other)

Regardless, NEVER choose a letter grade from the drop down menu - if you want a new letter grade, you must create it by altering the percent as shown above.  If you choose one of the letter grades (note they start with a period), the gradebook will not be able to correctly calculate the semester grade.