Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Engaging Our School Community Through Think and Make Workshops

Today's blogger is Leslie Preddy, Library Media Specialist (aka School Librarian) at Perry Meridian Middle School in Indianapolis. Perry Meridian Middle School is 1:1 utilizing Chromebooks and has a library makerspace. You can find Leslie on Twitter, Symbaloo, and Pinterest. 

I often embrace new opportunities and say yes, especially if it means new possibilities for my students and community. Just such a moment arose with the awarding of a Library Services and Technology Act grant through the Indiana State Library. Public and school libraries are eligible for these grant funds, and I received a grant to expand our school’s library programming and makerspace to develop and pilot Community Think & Make Family Workshops. 

During the evening workshop, families participate together, joining a community expert who shares his experiences and models skills. The guided community workshops provide students and families an opportunity to develop interests and skills; bonding through common learning experiences. Families apply what is learned into doing with the assistance of local mentors. Mentors could be clubs, older students, hobbyists, or committee members. For example, the Family and Consumer Science students were group leaders during our Cooking Think and Make. Through the workshops our students gained confidence, became inspired, independent, and developed new interests.

Perry Township Schools embrace the importance of community within the school. The school and school library are critical to a young person's school success, sense of well-being, and their commitment and engagement within the community. Families need opportunities to positively engage with the school through authentic learning experiences together. Integral to learning is sharing experiences, problems, solutions, and helping others. Due to the importance of our school places on meeting the ever-changing needs of our school community, we began hosting a series of successful STEAM workshops. We find this fun to coordinate, easy to replicate, and will take just a few steps to understand how to incorporate our successful Community Think and Make Family Workshops into your school engagement plan.

So what did we do? Nearly every month of the school year we hosted a two hour evening workshop for families on a specific STEAM topic. The year included workshops on flight, photography, cooking, picture book publishing, coding, gaming and game design, and comics. Workshops have been so well-received, we are already discussing plans for next years’ topics.

What do you need to get started? A committee chair and a committee of staff volunteers. Some of the initial planning for the year is most effective with a meeting, but once it gets off the ground, email and other virtual means of communication work great for the tweaks and fine-tuning while respecting people’s time. The chair will take the brunt of the responsibility for the planning, program development, registration, budget, and coordinating with the community experts and mentors. Committee members are a vital sounding board, copy editors, locate viable topic experts within the community, and give of their time to attend and help during the workshops.

The Basics

  • Students attend with at least one significant adult, or the whole family, for a tangible learning experience together.
  • This is an opportunity to expand interests and for families to engage in unfamiliar technology, equipment, and tools, or to use familiar technology, equipment, and tools in a new way.
  • Leading up to the evening, work with the community expert and committee to develop the evening's agenda, custom to fit the specific skills and expertise of the guest, the topic, and the interests of the community. 


  • Create a registration flyer to promote the event. If registration is open too late for our community, we couldn’t gather the momentum needed, but it was also difficult for our families to plan too far out so too much promotion time negatively impacted registration as well. We learned to promote and advertise two weeks out. Convert the flyer into a jpg and promote through the school’s social media channels, school newsletters, website, email notifications, and other modes of communication.
  • Allow for online registration, but we also let our families call, email, or personal note as not all our families have easy access to Internet at home. If we get an off-line registration, I enter it into the Responses Google Sheet to keep registration accurate. Keep the registration simple, like this template we duplicate, update, and publish for each workshop.
  • Prepare a Google Slides template. This helps guide all those who might be collaboratively planning the evening to dig in and add their own personal touches. We like using this as it helps all of us with the thinking for the evening. It is also a tool to coordinate pacing. In this way, all our committee and community volunteers can follow where we are during the evening and what’s to come next. For example, this is our workshop plan for our photography think & make. Sample Google Slides tempate
  • Work as a team to develop a take home resource guide. Your school librarian will be an asset as a local expert in OER (Open Educational Resources) curation. School librarians call a collection of resources a Pathfinder. It is a tool for the learner to find his own path to learning more about a topic after the workshop experience.
  • Have the next workshop flyer ready to pass out at the conclusion of the workshop. This allows attending families, excited by the evening’s experience, to register early for the next workshop.
  • Send an email for the upcoming workshop to committee members and registered families a day or two before the event. To protect privacy, send the email to yourself and BCC everyone else into the reminder. Example: 
General Outline for the evening:
We frontload the evening with the community expert introducing his experiences, how he became interested in the field, what he does, and how he does it. The rest of the evening is broken into chunks of learning to keep the evening at a fast and interesting pace. There will be about three 15-25 minute blocks. Each block includes learning a guiding or simple principle related to the topic followed by making and doing with that knowledge.

5:45 - School committee & mentors arrive
6:00-6:15 Community Expert arrives, practices with presentation tools, displays personal artifact
Committee arranges library tables, Smartboards, the theme’s library materials display, attendee learning packets with Pathfinder, prize drawing materials, bottles of water
6:15-6:30: Review/train committee, mentor volunteers
6:30-6:35: Greet attendees entering, prize drawing registration
6:35-6:40: Librarian: welcome & introduce guests
6:40-7:10: (20-30 minutes) Community Expert:Introduction and topic overview
7:10-7:20: Mentors: Activities Introduction
7:20-7:40: Think & Make rotation #1
7:40-8:00: Think & Make rotation #2
8:00-8:20: Think & Make rotation #3
8:20-8:30: Librarian: Thanks to participants, handout Pathfinder, overview of library materials display and checkout available at end of workshop
Community Expert (if in attendance) & Mentors: Q&A
Librarian: Next Think & Make announced, Prize Drawing (optional)
After the event, be sure to send a thank you and reminders to all who registered to attend, the committee, the community expert, and local mentors.

Tips to success

  • Use Google Drive to share and collaborate. Prepare a Google Folder for all to be able to share documents, contribute, and engage in the planning.
  • For attendance, think in wedding terms. Plan for everyone to show, just in case, but realistically expect your attendance to be 70% of those who registered.
  • Plan your first event with a community member you know well so that she is comfortable being the person with whom you might make mistakes as you learn how to host a successful workshop for your community. For that reason, we selected for our first topic Flight. We knew a former school librarian who is now a pilot and Youth Education Coordinator for the local Experimental Aircraft Association.
  • Utilize kick-start opportunities. If looking for activities for the evening, adapt pre-exisiting resources and lessons to your workshop needs. We purchased the 4-H National Youth Science Day Drone Discovery kits for our Flight workshop. This kit was incredibly helpful as we were just figuring out how to develop our program and it was a relief to have a starting point and be able to adapt the kit to our program needs. We had so much fun, we will consider upcoming 4-H National Youth Science Day themes for future workshops. (4-H newsletter sign-up)
  • Not much money? Think of topics that can be done with little or no money. For example, Cooking will be expensive due to the perishables needed. Conversely, by using the school technology, Coding could be no cost. Or coding could be very little cost added if you incorporate a coding unplugged into the think & make rotation.
  • Have flexible expectations for your community expert. Let the community expert engage in the manner he is comfortable. This could be an informative presentation, modeling a complex task, or leading the think and make sessions. Some of ours wanted to come in, do their thirty minutes and leave. Others wanted to do their field expert opening presentation and to stay throughout and engage, but not be responsible for leading any of the activities. Still others wanted to be engaged the whole time and were an active, integral part of the whole evening. It helps to work out what level of engagement he is comfortable with when meeting face-to-face.
  • Be date flexible. We tried at first to set it to a specific day of each month, but quickly learned from our mistake. The community expert is donating time and efforts, so work the event around his schedule and the school’s seasonal activities schedule.
  • The preliminary invitation and scheduling with the community expert can be done virtually, but meet with your community expert in person once they are confirmed. Meeting face-to-face will make them feel more appreciated and comfortable, and it provides an opportunity to get a better feel for her role for the evening. Share with her the general outline for the evening, the promotional flyer to approve, and copies of sample slide shows and handouts from a previous event as a guide to discussion and planning.

It was not possible to include every nuance in this blog, but hopefully enough to get your school inspired and start your own Community Think and Make Family workshops. I hope you enjoy the experiences, the learning, the community, the family engagement, as much as we do.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Gaming in English Class

Glenn Seland is the English Department Chair at Fishers High School (a BYOD 1:1 school) He teaches AP Literature and Composition, IB Theory of Knowledge, Literature of Science Fiction, and IU Dual Credit courses W131 and L202.

I am not a gamer. In truth, I probably annoy the few real gamers I have known, because I want to explore the environments and every detail the creators of the game have developed. Gaming has largely been dead to me for the better part of a decade as I have raised a family, moved from Long Island, and worked as a department chairperson in my school. Life has been BUSY.

Then, my brother-in-law stayed with us for a while and with him, gaming returned. He introduced me to a game called Destiny. This is a massive, online, set in space, first-person shooter. I am not big on shooter games, but before long, I found myself immersed in the game – complete with headsets and all.

The game was, in every sense, addictive. It kept pulling me in to go deeper - explore more, achieve more. Soon I found myself questioning what was it that motivated me to keep returning to a game that never ends? While it probably varies from individual to individual, overall, I was able to identify a few key ideas: achievements and badges, open-choice worlds, and the ability to keep replaying until a mission objective is achieved.

Then my inquiry took a new direction: what if I set up a novel unit that mimicked these concepts? How might that increase student motivation? The game was afoot! I locked myself in my room and charted, mapped, and wondered how this idea could transfer into a reality in my classroom. I soon discovered there were already educators on this path, but the professional website that was most in-line with my ideal was somewhat costly. Instead, I decided to use materials already available to me or freeware.

I wanted to combine multiple intelligence learning, performance badges, inquiry-based projects, and mastery learning in one comprehensive unit. But it had to feel like a game. It needed characters, abilities, challenges, and quests. The idea of switching out tests and quizzes for quests was powerful – it unlocked a new level of teaching for me. It reshaped how I thought about our activities…and undid some of the “teachering” in me. I was freer to approach standards and tasks with a different frame, and it helped me to approach the unit as a designer or developer.

I chose a shorter novel as my game subject, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and then gave it a bit of a steampunk theme. With the help of my PS4, I introduced students to a few games that demonstrated the framework I was going to be using for this unit. Students who had never participated before jumped at the chance to play a video game in front of their peers. Then we jumped into the unit. It began with having the students establish a character for themselves and take a multiple intelligence test (figure 1) to help shape the projects they would eventually create.

Figure 1 Sample Multiple Intelligence quiz
The characters were meant to shape the types of projects and activities they could choose from as well as help to make it feel like a game (figure 2). I created character types like Time Travelers, Freelancers, Architects, Artisans, and Cyberpunks. Each “class” of student had different quests to choose from that fit their learning interests. Each quest had a name and a point value. Quests could be submitted and resubmitted until a student earned a mastery score. A mastery score would earn a student a badge of completion, which they could display and accumulate. Badges served two functions, one to indicate successful completion of a quest, but could also be awarded to students for things not usually recognized, like class leadership or teamwork. These badges also transferred into extra credit points at the end of a grading period. The more badges, the more extra credit.
Figure 2 Sample character page in OneNote

I particularly enjoyed creating badges for the students as it allowed for a good deal of creativity and the chance to recognize student achievement. There are numerous badge creating apps and sites to choose from, and I used several. Badges were also given titles like The Clone, or Big Idea (figure 3). The content/quest badges were directly linked to IDOE standards. I used the website to create and house the badges. This site also allowed me to create and track mastery learning rubrics for my students’ grades.
Figure 3 Sample Quest with associated badges

The mastery learning rubric always provided feedback to students as to what they needed to do to get the score they wanted. It didn’t serve to assess what was wrong per se. This allowed students to resubmit and try again without the fear of failure. My students appreciated this tone within a rubric and activity.
Figure 4 Sample mastery rubric

After much of this initial introduction and setup, the class pretty much became a workshop for the novel where students created projects to reveal their learning focus and inquiry into the novel. Once the students caught it, it took off! I had students creating amazing projects. For example, one student identified through her MI test that she learned well through physical, natural, outdoor kinds of activities. She created a poster of all the flowers that appear in the novel and their symbolic meanings and impact on the scenes they appeared in. Other students created dances or modern art that revealed motivations and conflict within the main characters. Some of my bakers created symbolism cakes and presented them to the class. Another student used physics to calculate the amount of force used within a specific scene.
Figure 5 Sample student badges and achievements

It was actually difficult to keep up with the student work! It flew in faster than I expected. These inquiry projects, based on multiple intelligence data, and assessed with a mastery system, were creative, engaging, and insight-filled.

Of course there are things I learned along the way, like more specific guidelines for the learners who need more direction, and more refined pacing of deadlines and reflection activities. The level of freedom I offered was liberating for most of the students, but some needed more guidance or boundaries to move forward – baby steps! Even so, for a first run - or a beta - it was powerful and motivated my students beyond what I had hoped. Their increased enthusiasm was the end game, but it has also motivated me to refine and advance my design for the next level – a semester-long game.

Sites used: to house badges and mastery rubrics. to create badges. for the multiple intelligence test.

Monday, February 20, 2017

iPads and Tonal Energy in the Band Classroom

Samuel Fritz is currently Director of Bands and Music Department Chairperson at Center Grove Middle School Central in Greenwood, Indiana.  Since 2004 Mr. Fritz has worked for MakeMusic as an Education Support Services Clinician for SmartMusic and Finale and has given presentations throughout the country on SmartMusic and Finale. He is a 2-time Center Grove Middle School Central Teacher of Teacher of The Year, and a member of the school’s technology and design teams. Mr. Fritz is a repeated presenter at the Indiana Music Educators Association annual conference on large ensemble best practice techniques and has been invited to present around Indiana on 1-1 device application in the music classroom. Mr. Fritz was a 2015 presenter at the American Middle Level Educators National Conference on applying highly effective teaching techniques in the large performance ensemble.

As our district rolled out the 1-1 iPad initiative, I decided to take advantage and find one app that I know would be used daily in band 6-8. I settled on Tonal Energy Tuner, and boy was I impressed and amazed! In this post, I am going to outline what this amazing app can do for your band, and how I use it daily in my class. This is not just a tuner, I use this to develop tonal concepts in ways I never thought possible with an iPad app. I am only scratching the surface of what is capable here, but if you use even a few of the features I outline, it is worth every penny! Did I mention that we have this on every kid's iPad in 6-8 band? Here is what I do.

Analysis Function

Each day when we begin our fundamental time, I have students select the "analysis" function. This allows students to see their sound. We are going for a constant, steady, and smooth block of sound. I am trying to achieve an immediate start (attack has a violent connotation and produces a noisy violent sound so I don't use it) where the start and end have the same shape as the middle - rectangles not footballs. When two or more people play simultaneously, intonation "beats" can be seen in the wave as well. 2-finger tap the wave and it freezes for demonstration purposes. You can even plot the pitch on the wave so intonation tendencies in volume change exercises can be seen. This is very helpful when learning how to identify tuning issues aurally when they can be seen visually as well. We have been working dynamics during our fundamental time this week and we are having students focus on not changing their embouchure while increasing or decreasing volume. I stood next to a group of saxophones who looked at each other with dismay as their "Pitch Plot" showed them clearly releasing embouchure firmness as a crescendo happened, just as we mentioned might happen. They sounded great while doing it, but being able to see their error was very powerful.

I will ask students often questions like: "Did you like how that sounded?" "What did it look like?" "Does the visual support or dispute your analysis?"

Standard Chromatic Tuner

Don't ask me why, but my kids love to see the smiley face! When you play in tune, the app smiles at you. Even adults smile when they see that cute little smiley face. You have three settings under skill level to allow up +/-0.5 cents for an in-tune reading. Advanced, as I have it in this picture, allows +/-0.2 cents for an in tune reading. You can adjust mic sensitivity for different instruments and scenarios and WOW you can use equal or just tuning! If you look at second picture, you will see that I have chosen the key of C, played the 3rd and it shows "in tune" but I am -13.8 cents. When you are beginning to tune chords this is very helpful! I will talk about his below too, but when you use the tone generator function, it plays in equal or just temperaments as well.

Tone Generator

This is a function like many other tuners, but can be used to play not only single tones, but sustained chords as well. I like to have young brass players especially, use this function to double check their pitch accuracy during home practice. By selecting "just temperament" you can double click any pitch to select a key, then hear your pitch as it should sound in a "just" tuning scenario. I use the tone generator function during class as a drone and can even play along with individual parts when learning a piece in class.

Digital Recorder

This feature is how I have students submit audio recordings for formative and summative assessments. Using the "analysis" function, students can select the record function to capture their best performance and export it directly to Google Classroom or Canvas. My absolute favorite function on the "analysis" tab is the ability to slow down or speed up a recording. When learning a challenging technical passage, I will have the band play a section at 1/2 speed. I can increase the speed to 200% tempo and they can hear the clarity that will come with precise practice. On the other hand, I have them play the same passage at performance tempo and slow it down to prove that that technical inconsistencies are present but just go by faster.


Like many tuner apps there is a metronome function. This metronome is unlike many as it has deep capabilities just like the tuner functions. The picture below shows the versatility of the metronome function. You can even set it to keep time in 7/8 (2+2+3 or 2+3+2 or 3+2+2). Couple this with the ability to keep the metronome clicking even with the app closed, and your students can record a video of their playing with the metronome on as well.
Good luck and happy practicing to build knowledge and excellence, one glorious mistake at a time!

Learn more at

Friday, February 17, 2017

Ozobot Light Trail

Melissa Swaidner is an Art Specialist at Haverhill Elementary in Southwest Allen County Schools, a  1:1 school. They have K-2nd have IPads and 3rd-5th have laptops. We also have IPads available for our upper grades on a cart if needed.

Have you ever been nervous about trying something new, but excited for what kids might be able to do at the same time? When our school went 1:1, I was challenged to consider how to best integrate the use of technology into art class. It started with video lessons and drawing apps, but I just knew that there was so much more we could be doing. This was my challenge for myself this year. How could I use technology to enhance my art curriculum? I have done a lot of research about different apps and programs. The following lesson is just one that I have incorporated this year. The best part about this lesson is that students who often don’t feel confident about their abilities in the typical mediums we use in art (drawing, painting, sculpture) loved it the very most!

It all started with robots called Ozobots. My school had a class pack to use starting this year. My principal allowed me to brainstorm a way to use them in my art room. Most of the students in our building have done some form of coding, but this was the first introduction to Ozobots for my 2nd graders. These robots follow a marker line drawn by the student. My students used the “Ozobot Code Sheet” to help create their own coding which controls the Ozobot in their design. Artists can use different colored lines to make the Ozobot change colors, and even code with color to make the Ozobot do “tricks”! From spinning to doing a backwalk this little robot is full of fun!!!

The following link shows these amazing robots in action!

Taking the students beyond the fun of color coding, I wondered about my students using the robots to actually create a piece of DIGITAL art! Ozobots emit light as they are being coded, so could we artistically create light trails that could be captured? I researched several different slow shutter camera apps. There are several out there but I found one that does not have commercial pop ups. The app’s name is Slow Shutter Vintage Photo Camera 8mm. The best thing about this app is it is free! I have included the icon image for you. It does have different settings but is easy to use. We chose the light trail setting and set shutter speed at 0.5. All the other settings we left alone. After experimenting with different settings I decided these were the best settings for our artwork.

To build background knowledge, I showed examples of photography that had light trails. Students had to guess what the light was from…lots of fun! We looked at everything from car lights to sparklers. I then explained that with their Ozobot we would be creating a photograph of the light trail it created. The students were shocked and amazed! We used our slow shutter camera app to capture our Ozobot trail and had huge success! A new definition of “art” was being created with each click of the camera!

As artists, we all have different strengths. Some of us are more confident with painting, others love sculpting, or drawing with chalk. Sometimes it is hard for our students to find what they are confident in and they will say they are “not good at art”. Nothing could be farther from the truth! One of my second graders in particular comes to mind. He has a hard time being confident with any art medium in my room. He has told me he just feels he is not that great at art. This student would work hard and just wasn’t always happy with what he created. When we came to this project that combined his love and talent for technology to creatively express himself it completely unleashed his art talent! This is his medium and he is great at it! He worked carefully and diligently on drawing his path and adding codes for his Ozobot to move through. The moment he was able to capture the light trail with our camera app he was ecstatic! He could not get enough of it! Several he did with his own drawn trail and then would tweak it to change it! Then he decided that maybe two Ozobots are better than one and ran two while capturing the light trails! He had success and never again will he consider himself someone who is “no good at art.”

As teachers we need to be open to trying something different to let students that are not confident in other mediums to have a time to thrive in our rooms! I am so glad that I integrated technology into my art curriculum as it has given my students a new definition of what art can be.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

HSDL and Student Tech Teams

Today we have 3 student tech team leaders sharing their stories. First, from East Noble School Corporation, we have Technology Integration Specialist Ann Ventura. They have 1:1 devices throughout their school district (K-4 iPads, 5-12 Laptops). Email:

Think student tech teams are only useful at the secondary level? Think again. At East Noble School Corporation, student tech teams were established this year at Avilla Elementary School and Rome City Elementary School and so far things are thriving.

Getting Started: Over the summer, I realized the need for having tech teams in my buildings and couldn’t wait to get started. Once the school year began, students were selected and the teams began meeting, but I quickly realized that the students didn’t entirely understand the possibilities and purpose of a student tech team. We slowed down and began researching other student tech teams to get a better idea of what we wanted our own teams to look like. Finally a light bulb went off when I took my tech teams to the HSDL Student Google Summit in November. My students grasped what it meant to be a tech team and we created our vision. Now it was time for branding. The Avilla Tech Team became the Avilla TechSperts and the Rome City Tech Team became the Rome City TechBusters. Logos were created, flyers were made, and websites began being built.

Now: Each week the tech teams meet face-to-face for about 30 minutes. This is our time to discuss individual tasks, plan for upcoming classroom visits, and make sure we’re all on the same page. Here are some of the major projects we’ve worked on so far this year:

  • Creating Help Guides and Videos - Whenever a teacher comes to us saying “My students don’t know how to…” we create a help guide or video. For example we created How to Connect your iPad to Home Wi-Fi and How to Submit an Assignment on Seesaw.
  • Helping Newly Enrolled Students - New students can be overwhelmed at a 1:1 device school. To help, we pair up a tech team member with a new student to teach them how to use their computer or iPad, as well as teach them how to use major ENSC programs such as Seesaw, Canvas, RazKids, and Everyday Math. 
  • Helping K-1 Students Utilize Devices - Our younger students need the most one-on-one help with their iPads. The tech teams go into their classrooms to show the younger students how to organize their iPads, how to change settings, how to quickly log into accounts, how to delete old pictures, etc. 
  • Teaching Tech Lessons - When I go into classrooms to teach a lesson incorporating a new tech tool, I started bringing some of my tech team members along for more helping hands in the classroom. Soon I hope the students can have a chance at being the main presenter instead of me. 
  • Creating Digital Citizenship Reminders - If we realize the student body needs a digital citizenship reminder, we make posters and videos to help. Here is an example of Bus Tech Etiquette
  • Cleaning Devices - Devices can get quite gross, especially during flu season. The tech teams go into classrooms to clean devices and to remind students how to properly care for their devices, explaining things like you can use spray on a laptop but not on an iPad. 
  • Presenting at Family Nights - This year the tech teams presented at one family night, explaining to parents the different platforms and programs we use at ENSC. 
  • Organizing MakerSpace Rooms - Weekly the tech teams stop in the MakerSpace rooms and add all new donations to bins and tidy up any messy areas. 
  • Supporting the Student Newscast - Also new this year, our buildings began a student newscast. My student tech teams help behind the scenes shooting footage and editing film. 
What’s Next: The possibilities are endless! Our main focus will always be to help with any ideas or projects that are brought to us by other teachers and students in our schools. One idea I’m pondering is having my student tech teams participate in a community service project. I like the idea of having my tech teams go to a local nursing home to help the senior citizens with technology. (If my students were older than 13, I would have them teach social media so that the senior citizens could stay in better contact with their friends and family.)

If you are interested in starting an elementary student tech team, feel free to reach out. I’d love to share ideas and resources.

Chantell Manahan is a language teacher turned Director of Technology at MSD of Steuben County and adviser to the High Tech Hornets from Angola High School.

As MSD of Steuben County’s 1:1 Chromebook initiative reached Angola High School, I quickly embraced it in my classroom. I had previously taught in a G Suite district, so I was ahead of the learning curve with the tools and had experienced the power of 1:1 to transform teaching and learning. My students were more engaged than ever; they were creating digital content, sharing with authentic audiences, and harnessing the power of social media. Students who came to me fairly tech savvy were seeing new implementations, and students who had never considered themselves “techie” were learning that they really had some skills. My colleagues were noticing, and they wanted help integrating technology into their own classrooms. They were so enthusiastic, in fact, that they asked me to help with ideas, implementation, and troubleshooting when I really had a class of my own to teach. My students often saw me giving a quick tutorial or bit of advice as class began or ended. It wasn’t long before my students were jumping to the aid of those teachers, too! They had used those tools with me, and they were eager to share their knowledge.

The original High Tech Hornets
Enter the High Tech Hornets! About two weeks before the Hoosier Student Digital Leaders conference in the spring of 2015, I was asked to bring a team of students down to the conference and see what it was all about. I was hesitant at first. Sure, I was tech savvy, but I wasn’t really in any position of coaching or leadership at that time. However, I was passionate about edtech, and I knew I had inspired some students to share that passion. I asked my own students if they’d consider attending (all 170+ of them!), and I asked a few other teachers for recommendations. I ended up with 12 volunteers to give up a Saturday, load onto a school bus at 5:00 am, and make the trip down to the conference.

Leading Google sessions at the New Teacher Academy
My sleepy students stumbled off that bus, and they were immediately energized! They hung on every word keynote speaker Kevin Honeycutt had to share, they split up to attend every session available, and they left full of excitement and enthusiasm. On the bus ride home, the High Tech Hornets were named and a plan was formed! They would be a team focused on all of that troubleshooting, tool vetting and training, and technology integration they were already helping me do to help teachers at Angola High School.

Members have come and gone since its inception, but the High Tech Hornets HSDL Team has never suffered from lack of enthusiasm. They have led digital citizenship efforts at Angola High School, hosting parent discussions during conferences and celebrating with activities during the homeroom period each day during Indiana’s digital citizenship week (check out their digital citizenship website). They have also made tutorials on various tools, the SAMR model, and Chromebook care. They have presented at several summer of eLearning conferences, at the ICE conference, and to the high school staff and our district’s school board. Their favorite presentation for teachers is “Tech Ideas to Take Your Class from Meh to AMAZING (see one version of it here), but they also have presentations on digital citizenship and what teachers need to know about tech integration. This year, they helped train teachers new to our district on some common Google tools in a station rotation segment. Their latest initiative is helping roll out new tools and facilitate exploration in the AHS Makerspace.
Last minute prep at the hotel, the night before the ICE Conference

This year’s team president, Jordan, shares that she was interested in being a part of the tech team from the beginning.
Gunner at last year's HSDL student summit
“I’ve had a couple of amazing teachers who showed me that technology went beyond substitution. When we use the tools, like social media, that are a natural part of our lives to learn and to share our learning, we realize that we are really always learning. Learning doesn’t just happen in school. And it shouldn’t stop there. If all of my teachers had the skills and mindsets to allow us to explore, create, communicate, and share--and a lot of that has to do with technology--, we would accomplish more in less time. I want to be a part of making that happen, of making learning real. Oh, and we have a lot of fun with High Tech Hornets too!”

Vice-president Gunner Carter agrees, adding
“High Tech Hornets has given me a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have had without the tech team. My teachers see me as more of a leader since they know I’m tech savvy and willing to help. And I have gotten to see and meet some amazing public speakers, which is my other passion. I’ve learned so much just from observing Dave Burgess, George Couros, Kevin Honeycutt, Matt Miller, and Alan November. Hopefully I can find some way to combine my passion for public speaking with edtech the way they have. I got my first taste of that at last year’s student summit, where I was lucky enough to give an Ignite speech that won me a trip to do it again at the Google Summit. Those were incredible experiences I’ll always remember.”

The passion Jordan, Gunner, and the rest of the High Tech Hornets have and the ownership they’ve taken of our our 1:1 initiative inspires me each day. Even though I have moved out of the classroom and into the Tech Director role, I still make time each week to see these students. They keep a connection for me to the daily teaching and learning happening across our district, and they are a constant reminder of why we do what we do. Our mission is simple. Inspire and empower students to take action, to be positive change agents in keeping learning student focused, authentic, and improving!

Closing out today's post is Susan Parker from Martinsville High School. She is the Technology Integration Specialist, teaches a Computer Tech Support class, and manages the Help Desk and Artie Intel repair space. 

Student tech teams are an important part of the digital learning culture in many school districts. Martinsville High School had planned to implement a student tech team two years before our 1:1 initiative. The result of that planning? Artie Intel.

Artie Intel is our student tech team. They are all HP certified, and we work on the Chromebooks in house. Many Chromebooks are repaired and returned to students within twenty minutes if parts are on hand. However, when asked how our HSDL tech team and technology have helped empower digital learning in our school, we came up with several thoughts.

We have created tutorials for both students and staff as well as providing classroom visits, and being role models during class time. It has been very empowering for our students to realize that they are the technology leaders in our school and district.

Examples of Artie Intel created student tutorials:
Google Cast

Student leadership is an awesome thing, but has the introduction of Chromebooks changed the scenery of a routine day at Martinsville High School? Artie Intel discussed this topic at our last meeting in early January. Nik states that he’s noticed that a lot of teachers are starting to use e-books or some sort of textbook online rather than paper books. They also use more google classroom than before, and they also use a lot of different apps on the Chromebook from the web store.

Zack mentioned that teachers do not have to have a giant setup to "stream" going over real papers. He also said it is much easier to get in touch with teachers via email, and take notes in classes through highlighting instead of combing through textbooks. You can search for specific areas.

Our foreign language department was less than enthused about implementing Chromebooks in our classrooms. However, our Artie Intel students have seen a change in their teachers’ perspectives. "In Spanish class, we have been using Newsela and have been able to read articles about the topic in order to get a more deeper understanding. The website has a feature that allows you to read the articles in different levels of Spanish, so it expands our Spanish vocabulary. Also, Quizlet has decreased homework time IMMENSELY in Spanish class,” said Korinne. Laura also responded with her view: “Madame has been using Kahoot, and Quizlet Live for class time. Statistics has been using surveys on our Chromebooks to collect class data. We've been using our Chromebooks as our books.”

Change doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes we need to be patient, and let staff experiment with some of the technology available for them. Teachers seem to be more willing to let students take the lead and show them some of the technology they use on a daily basis. If teachers believe that these changes will make their lives easier, they are more willing to accept student suggestions or leadership. We really are a team, and things always flow better when we work together.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Top 10 Digital Tips for Teaching Social Studies

Kari Catanzaro has been teaching Social Studies using laptop computers in the classroom for the past 6 years. All Maconaquah Middle School students have their own laptop. Google Classroom is the platform that connects students digitally throughout the school grades 6-8. Follow her class page on Facebook at and her tweets on Twitter at She is also a SMART Exemplary Educator who has created many SMARTboard digital lessons and activities that can be found through the SMART Exchange at by searching for "catanhistory." In a nod to Indiana's own David Letterman, here is Kari's “Top 10 Digital Tips for Teaching Social Studies.” Primary Source Documents

Documents are great tools in Social Studies class. You can put the text on the interactive whiteboard and do close reading activities as a whole group, or give students digital access to read independently on their own. Primary sources also help address those Common Core or College Career Readiness standards about literacy.

Here’s a great site with 75 different lesson plans and activities that teach students how to “Read like a Historian.” Some are more challenging reading levels and require scaffolding, but you can make accessible to students with teacher support. (I’ve used several with 6th graders.)

#9 Online Classrooms

Lots of generous teachers out there have shared their online classroom with the world, posting resources that other teachers may freely use and adapt. Be careful not to violate copyright laws, but there are lots of people who intend for others to learn from their experiences and use their materials (a good rule of thumb is if you aren’t sure, contact the teacher first- most sites have email links).

One of my favorites is, an innovative history teacher who has found ways to make Common Core literacy standards fun and engaging for his middle school students.

#8 International Resources

I have found that education in Canada and England has transitioned to digital classrooms at the same time as the United States, and they have some great uses in social studies because we share a common world curriculum (though we often see different viewpoints on events, which can be interesting too). For example, just like the History Channel has done in the U.S., the BBC has a lot of great resources for classrooms, from videos to interactives to simulations to games- all accessible to students. Dig deep -- there’s a lot to explore!
#7 PBS

Besides great videos and programing guides, PBS has lesson plans, interactives, and teacher collaboration to offer educators. Don’t be afraid to look around for related sites outside of the social studies- I’ve found great things from the science program Nova, such as this engineering simulation for Roman aqueducts.

#6 Pinterest

Yes, you actually have to go back and implement the ideas you pin, but I can search while I’m waiting to pick up my kids and look things up later when I have time to use them. Every so often, I go through my boards and email myself ideas to use in class so I don’t forget them.

#5 Online Assessment Platforms

Education is a culture of tests and measures, but who says they can’t be fun? “Gamify” the quiz or assessment by using memes, avatars, graphics, visuals, and color. Too bad we can’t take standardized tests this way. I know students would score higher because the assessment would engage them as digital natives. A few of my favorites: Quizziz (like a private Kahoot game for each student, with avatars and memes) Quia (free 30 day trial then reasonable subscription price- games & quizzes both) Socrative (quizzes and games like Space Race) Formative (very interactive- lots of data for teachers to use) Quizalize Ditch That Textbook

A Spanish teacher from Indiana authored this book (he’s working on another one, Ditch That Homework) about how he learned to teach digitally. It’s a great book and worth purchasing, but he also has a free companion website that’s a gem! It’s great for all grade levels and all subjects. You can subscribe for daily emails about techie teaching ideas that help students learn 21st century skills and help engage them in learning in ways that a textbook alone can’t do. The site is very teacher friendly, with tons of screen shots and step-by-step instructions on how to use new Google and other tech tools with students. You also can participate and comment on the ideas, gaining knowledge from other teachers.

#3 Twitter

Lots of great #hashtags and handles to follow. Again, something I can tap into when I’m doing Mom’s Taxi and Meals on Wheels, then implement later in class. I recommend that you search for Teach Like a Pirate, a group of passionate educators who are willing to be bold in their quest to reach students. They even have a subgroup just for social studies teachers. I collaborate online with teachers all around the world. We cheer each other on, share ideas and websites, and just have a wacky good time in general. I highly recommend Twitter chats, too. Spend an hour “tweeting” in discussion - the best authentic (and free) PD there is!
#tlap Teach Like a Pirate
#sstlap Social Studies Teach Like a Pirate
Twitter chats for education - lots of “how to” and schedules here: Interactive Maps

There’s still value in colored pencils and handmade student maps, but there is a LOT to be offered by interactive maps online. Animations bring maps to life for students, incorporating movement and color in ways that a paper map just can’t. I find them by using Google to search for “interactive map” + a topic. Many have comprehension questions that go along with the map so students can document what they saw. I’ve even used them as a skills assessment. Here’s one I found on the Age of Exploration, much clearer than any worksheet showing exploration routes that I’ve ever used on paper.
Lots of Civil War animated maps here (Gettysburg, for example): Learning Games and Simulations

Gamify the classroom -- realistic life experiences that work on a big screen interactive whiteboard as a class or a small laptop/I-pad screen as individuals. Teacher is the “guide on the side” or facilitator as the technology leads students on learning adventures! You can help students travel the Underground Railroad to escape slavery, joust as knights in a medieval tournament, fight in a WWI trench, trade spices on the Silk Road, visit with Gandhi, or run the US government. All from the safety of your classroom or their home. (They will love these games so much that sometimes they will play at home to beat them.) Perfect for digital eLearning days, too; an assignment that students will actually complete! Many of these sites have upped their game as well, adding lesson plans and additional research links and quizzes so students can learn more than just gaming skills from the experience. I try to find at least one game or simulation a unit (again, use a Google search) because students enjoy and learn so much from playing with a purpose.

I love teaching Social Studies with my computer, interactive SMART board, student laptops, iPads, and the Internet. After 22 years in the classroom, I look back and wonder how I ever existed before modern technology came along to engage students, with just my word processor and textbook and roll-down maps to bring it all to life. And most days I have lots of fun learning and teaching alongside my students. 21st century teaching + technology in the Social Studies classroom = great learning for all.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Indiana Loves Digital Citizenship!

Jennifer Chance Cook currently serves as Technology Integration Specialist in Perry Township Schools. You can find her on Twitter @jenchancecook, on Google+ as Jennifer Chance Cook, and on Facebook as Ms. Chance Cook. Perry Township students are 1:1 on Chromebooks in grades 2-12. 

Jennifer is passionate about Digital Citizenship and Maker Education. At various times in the past she has been a classroom teacher, a museum educator, and a provider of extracurricular science programming. Her most recent former position was as a K-5 Media Specialist. Her most unusual position was definitely the one that required driving a (plastic) horse skeleton out to schools and other sites to conduct hands on anatomy explorations. A huge skull in your passenger seat earns you quite a few odd looks at drive through windows!

**Be sure to check out the Office of eLearning's Digital Citizenship page to learn more about digital citizenship, find resources to use in your classroom, and get information on Common Sense Education's Digital Citizenship Certification Program. 

Digital Citizenship

The need for students to learn responsible citizenship has never been greater than it is today. In addition to face to face interaction, our kids are able to talk to people across the world in just a few keystrokes. In addition to traditional publishing methods, anyone and everyone can put their work and opinions out there on web pages, blogs, and social media. With those great opportunities come great responsibilities, and educators who fail to address digital citizenship in their classes are depriving students of desperately needed guidance and experiences.

There are many resources out there to help teachers engage their students in lessons and discussions about digital citizenship. There are games in the BreakoutEDU sandbox I have used to introduce or review the topic, and BrainPop has fantastic videos available to their subscribers, but the resource that I find most useful and come back to again and again is the Common Sense Education site.

Common Sense K-12 Curriculum

Common Sense has a full, K-12 curriculum for Digital Citizenship. Their eight topic strands not only cover the basic issues of online safety and responsible posting, but also branch out into related issues of media literacy and healthy self-image. Many of these topics are a natural fit for addressing subject area standards in Computer Science, English Language Arts, Health and Wellness, and Social Studies.

The Common Sense materials are are very practical and kid friendly. Although targeted at a particular age range, the activities are adaptable for a variety of ages. I have taught variations on the same core lesson about Creative Credit to 3rd graders in the library and 7th graders in a digital communications tools course. It was equally effective at getting both groups to think deeply about what is right and what is fair.

The curriculum authors have taken what could be a very dry, abstract subject and made it relevant to students’ lives. Copyright becomes a powerful concept to students when they think in terms of other people using THEIR work without permission, and stereotypes in the media are seen as a real and present challenge when students analyze the way that those messages are used by stores and advertisers to manipulate kids and parents.

Digital Interactives

In addition to the main scope and sequence of lessons, Common Sense has also produced a series of student games and interactives: Digital Passport for upper elementary, Digital Compass for middle school, and Digital Bytes for high school. Used alone, these tools give students a grounding in the basics of digital citizenship and online safety. Used in combination with class conversations and thoughtful teacher questioning, they can provoke deep thinking and reflection about our place in a digital world.

My personal experience has been with using Digital Passport with my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade library classes, as well as designing lessons for our elementary computer aides to teach using the Digital Passport materials. Each segment of the Digital Passport (Communication, Privacy, Cyberbullying, Search, and Creative Credit) has a video and accompanying game for students to complete independently, as well as a module guide for teachers to use in guiding introductory activities and reflection, and in providing opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge.

Digital Passport never feels preachy or off in tone. The videos are brief and focused, featuring kids talking about how the issues have affected them. The games are engaging, and many students want to return to them on their own. For my students, Share Jumper has been the overwhelming favorite. One caveat: teachers do need to remind students to engage with the games thoughtfully and not just jam buttons!

The Digital Compass Interactive for middle school takes the form of a set of interlinked Choose Your Own Adventure style stories. While I have not personally used this with students, I have heard positive things from teachers who have, and I have played through it a bit on my own.

Each Digital Compass story reflects real world situations that middle school kids often encounter. The interactive storytelling format allows students to play through the scenarios and make a variety of choices in a safe environment. It encourages them to explore the different possible paths and see where the decisions are likely to lead.

While Digital Passport for elementary is a series of topical games, and Digital Compass for middle school is a set of interconnected stories, Digital Bytes for high school students is a more mature format to engage older teens. It takes the form of more traditional online learning modules, with longer video content, opportunities for written reflection built in, and collaborative projects. Like the interactives for younger students, though, Digital Bytes still offers students choices in their learning.

These tools, and the more formal classroom curriculum, are a wonderful resource for teachers who are committed to helping students learn to live healthy, responsible lives in today’s wide digital world. While there are certainly no one-size-fits-all solutions to digital citizenship education, Common Sense Education offers a rich menu to choose from when selecting quality experiences.