Monday, March 2, 2015

Thank You Bloggers and Readers!

Thank you to all of the wonderful bloggers who shared resources in our 2015 Digital Learning Month blog and to all the readers who joined us in our Digital Learning Month journey. Hopefully you all found at least one resource that you've been able to try in your classroom. Please continue to visit the blog and comment about how you are using these different resources. Be sure to connect with us through our website and social media and check out the other Digital Learning Month and Day events that Indiana is sponsoring.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Minecraft in the 21st Century Classroom

Our blogger for the last day of Indiana's Digital Learning Month blog is Amy Heath, 6th grade teacher at Yorktown Middle School.

I am always observing and questioning my students to inform my teaching.  I evaluate my lessons and assignments based on students' needs and interests.  Over the last couple of years, I became aware of my students love for Minecraft and interviewed students to learn more about the game.

After playing Minecraft and watching students play Minecraft, I realized that Minecraft is a powerful, learning tool.  At first, I feared gaming would control my classroom, but I was wrong.  My students worked harder and longer on research projects because students were not only engaged, they were addicted.

Over time, many students utilized Minecraft to prove learning.  For example, in Minecraft, students created a library where they stored "books" in a treasure chest for research-based assignments.  Students also created museums to explain various concepts such as how a Greek God or Goddess connected to a constellation to recreating villages from the Middle Ages, and when we studied pirates, students created pirate ships filled with biographical information about their pirate of choice.  We have even used Minecraft on virtual field trips.  For instance, we "virtually"  discovered Africa and learned that we could save baby elephants if we created them on Minecraft and posted a picture on Twitter with the #elegram on  When students choose the Minecraft option for an assignment, I have observed that they spend additional evenings and week-ends to create.  I am always impressed with Minecraft projects and thrilled that my students love to work.

Before we begin a project, students and I discuss the criteria for the project and create a rubric.  I conference with each student at project's end to determine if they met the requirements.  To my surprise, students always surpass the requirements showing standard-mastery over multiple standards.  After these experiences, I determined that Minecraft allows teachers to open the gates of creativity and connect the game with various content area literacy and writing standards across the curriculum.  How will you use Minecraft in your 21st century classroom?

Share these example projects with your students.

Friday, February 27, 2015

"Failure to Signal..."

Our blogger today is Eric Sieferman, Principal at Cascade Middle School in the Mill Creek Community School Corporation.

Find out how Google Sites MAY get you out of a citation for a traffic violation!

I have experienced countless sleepless nights in my administrative career when I inexplicably awoke in the middle of the night and began to ponder all that was required for me to do in order to prepare for the day, plan for the next big school event, or organize myself to facilitate professional development with our teachers.  The more I thought about these issues at some ungodly hour the faster my brain would shift gears into a rate and pace that would make Usain Bolt take notice.  Because everything I needed to sort out my work-related thoughts was on my work computer, the only solution when these thoughts limited my visit with the Sandman was to crawl out of bed, prepare myself for my day, and head into the office.

One of these sleepless nights was on a cold evening in November of 2009.  I awoke around 2:00 a.m. and was headed toward my office around 2:45 a.m. wearing a shirt and tie with my lunch riding next to me in the passenger seat.  On my 25 minute commute to work I travel through a very small town with one main intersection where the liquor store, bank, local mechanic, and the "F-O-O store" (the "D" fell off years ago) are all located.  I stopped at the 4-way stop sign and proceeded one block south where I connect with a county road that takes me to my school.  At approximately 3:00 a.m. I apparently failed to turn on my turn signal as I merged on to that county road.  I became aware of my oversight when a Sheriff's Deputy who was hidden from my immediate view noticed and informed me when he pulled me over a mile after I completed my turn.

There I was at 3:00 a.m., in professional dress during a driving rain storm on my way to work and pulled over for "failure to signal.”  It took some serious negotiating skill on my behalf to convince the officer that I was the principal at the local middle school, and I was heading in to work at that hour. I'm positive that he did not believe my story initially.  After running my license and checking my plates and after a few minutes of rain-drenched conversation, he let me go with a verbal warning.

With Google Drive you no longer have to worry about how to access files that may be on your work machine or stored within your local intranet when you are not on campus.  With Google Sites, those creative thoughts and ideas that awaken you at 2:30 in the morning are just a Chrome click away and available to you from the comfort of your own living room!  Google Sites has become my "go to" tool in order to present information, collect work/ideas, curate content, facilitate professional development, share resources, and organize projects.  When your work is complete all you have to do is share a single link or URL address with your audience, and they have access to view or edit the content. 

The purpose of this blog entry is to share with you how Google Sites have helped frame much of the professional development my teachers and I have experienced on our journey to becoming digital leaders.  Perhaps more importantly, Google Sites will help you avoid getting pulled over by law enforcement officials at 3:00 a.m. for "failure to signal" while you are on your way to work!  Here is how…

  • Google Sites has significantly decreased the need to meet with staff or send all of those "reminder" e-mails.  The teachers at my school know that MOST things they want or need to know are going to be displayed on our Staff Site. They check it daily as they check their e-mail.

  • One of the best examples illustrating the collaborative power of Google Sites is in our collection of digital and flipped lessons. The intent of these exercises (repeated in February of 2014, in May of 2014, in September of 2014, again in January of 2015) were to encourage teachers to try new tech tools and explore how technology could be used to engage and enhance the teaching and learning process. Teachers created, implemented, and facilitated digital lessons and documented their experiences in these sites.

  • In May of 2014 about 90% of my staff were not Twitter users. I wanted them to set up an account and explore how powerful Twitter can be as a personalized professional learning community.  I just knew that if I could get them to see the value that they would become as hooked on Twitter as I was.  We only conducted our "Two Tweets to Share" activity a couple of times because follow up conversation with my staff demonstrated to me that they "got it" and were well on their way to becoming regular Twitter users.
  • The Google Chrome Store is one of my favorite sites.  There are thousands of tips and tools that will enhance your productivity or they way you teach and the way your students learn.  Visiting the Chrome Store is like shopping at your favorite retail store with a huge gift card in hand!  In order to acquaint our teachers with the resources available in the Chrome Store, we created this site entitled "Chrome Store Shopping" which corresponded with a PD experience in March of 2014.  We decided to repeat the activity in February of 2015 with an updated collection of our favorite discoveries.
  • Google Sites can also be used as a way to curate content.  A handful of our teachers read Flipping Your Classroom by Johathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams in the winter of 2014.  This book served as a guide for our teachers who conducted several PD sessions with our staff in the spring and fall of 2015.  Here is a collection of flipped classroom resources that was used as part of one of those PD sessions.
  • We have used Google Sites too as a reflective experience to collect our emerging philosophies of technology integration in August of 2014.  The idea behind this activity was to challenge teachers to begin thinking about who they are as digital leaders and instructors.
  • We participate in an experience once per month we call "Instructional Rounds.”  The idea is to get teachers to visit their colleagues' classrooms and provide their colleague with some constructive and positive feedback relating to some specific component of the RISE Rubric. Here is a Google Site that was used to facilitate our Instructional Rounds in January of 2015.
  • My building became a 1:1 Chromebook building in October of 2014.  Prior to that date, the decision to "go" 1:1 was made in September of 2013 and a committee selected the Chromebook as the device in January of 2014.  Here is a site we produced in order to introduce the Chromebook to our school community.
  • Because our students all now have their own devices, we decided to use that to our advantage and eliminate reading the daily announcements over the school's public address system as part of our daily routine.  Students have all bookmarked the Daily Announcements and check it frequently each week.  This student site contains a few other student oriented tools such as a collection of Chromebook Resources to help them learn about their devices.  
  • Google Sites can be used as a presentation tool.  The advantage provided by Sites is that you can provide attendees with the URL in a follow up e-mail or on a business card, and they have access the content in your presentation long after the presentation concludes.  Here is a presentation that a colleague and I provided to a group of Butler University aspiring principals in the fall of 2014, and here is a presentation a team and I distributed at an Indiana e-Learning conference in the summer of 2014.
  • Google Sites could almost be used as a Learning Management System (LMS) to facilitate learning.  I took an online class offered from Five Star Technology Solutions in the fall of 2014 that was just fantastic!   I was afraid that I would not have access to the course content and resources once I completed the course.  So, I began collecting all of the content presented in the course that was available online for my future reference.  The layout of this site resembles chapters in a book which corresponded with the modules in the course which was entitled, "The Leadership Mindset" (this link will illustrate my meaning).
  • A second example of Google Sites as an LMS is presented in this middle school language arts site.  The site was created to guide students through reading the novel The Giver including resources, videos, audio readings, and related assignments.
  • My final example is a work in progress and will continue through the spring of 2015. Chromebooks were introduced to students in grades 5-8 in October of 2014.  Students in grades 9-12 will be issued Chromebooks in August of 2015.  We decided that it would be beneficial to essentially begin vertically aligning technology skills students had from grade level to grade level.  For example, we wanted to help the 9th grade teachers prepare for their Chromebook student launch by illustrating what it was exactly that our 8th grade students knew.  If 8th grade students were all proficient in a web tool like Socrative, we wanted the 9th grade teachers to be aware.  Likewise, our 6th grade teachers wanted to know what their incoming students were exposed to as 5th graders.  This site is a collaborative effort to identify which tech skills were introduced, are emerging, and have been mastered by our students from one grade to the next.

I hope this entry has provided you with some insight on the versatility of  Google Sites and how it can be used for professional development.  If you are a Google Sites enthusiast like me and have additional ideas on how the tool can be used, I'd love to hear about them!  

Until then, don't forget those turn signals!

Creating a Google Site is not much more challenging than typing a document.  Google Sites is free within your Google Apps for Education suite and requires no HTML programming knowledge or skill.  It comes with similar collaborative options as most other Google products do.  And, it is easy to insert any GAFE created artifact (such as Docs, Slides, Calendars, Sheets, Forms, etc.) or any image stored in your Google Drive directly into the Google Site.

If you'd like to learn more about Google Sites and how to get started with making your own site, check out some of these resources:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Igniting Innovation, Invention, and Inquisitiveness through Raspberry Pi

Today’s blogger is Stacey Schmidt, Superintendent of the Porter Township School Corporation in Valparaiso, Indiana.

As a child, there was little I loved more than finding things around the house and inventing a new game, finding a new use for an object, or investigating something I found in nature.

Regularly I had the opportunity in school to do the same thing—take a found object and create something new from it. I am thankful for those hard working teachers that ignited my need to innovate, invent, and be inquisitive about the world. Although my days in school are long ago, our students experience these same needs. It is important for schools to continue to consider how to provide experiences for students that nurture that need for exploration and creativity. Have you watched what Sir Ken Robinson has to say on the matter?

 Sir Ken Robinson: How Schools Kill Creativity

While there are several ways that teachers incorporate innovation, invention, and inquisitiveness into their instruction, one that I have been reading about lately (and hearing about from my awesome technology crew!) is called Raspberry Pi.  In a nutshell, this is an extremely low cost computer ($35—additional components needed to make it functional) which can browse the internet and do what a traditional computer does but also allows students to learn basic coding languages, work in digital creation, and learn the basics of how computers work allowing them to invent.

Schools have been utilizing this little device to create an open environment allowing students to do some pretty amazing things! Students have worked on creating weather stations, creating video games based on literature,  using it to engineer projects and inventions,  building robots utilizing 3D printers,  inventing dog feeding systems,  and designing plant care systems just to name a few. You can even utilize the Raspberry Pi with Minecraft.

Additionally, there are many resources available to help schools learn how to utilize a Raspberry Pi in whatever setting might be appropriate. They have developed teach, learn, and make resources which provide great starting points for schools.  There are also free professional development resources  though the company or available on YouTube in case you’re like me and need help getting started.

I have just begun my exploration into this tool.

This is the first model of Raspberry Pi which my tech team has purchased.

There is a lot of learning left for me—and discovery about how best to unleash interested students to innovate, invent, and be inquisitive about it. As I believe it is essential to be a learning leader--this particular device pushes me outside of my comfort zone which I like.  What I most certainly know is that if I put this in the hands of students they will be fast to figure it out—while I’m still watching a YouTube video on how to make this thing work!

Raspberry Pi is just one tool to ignite the minds of our greatest treasures, our students. What activities have you done lately to achieve the same goal of igniting innovation, invention, and inquisitiveness?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Time-Lapse INeLearn Instagram Takeover

Today's blogger, Lance Yoder is a Technology Integration Specialist for East Noble School Corporation.

When East Noble found out about the INeLearn Instagram Takeover, we were quick to volunteer as it provided quite an opportunity to display students using technology to transform their learning experience. It was exciting as students were using their iPads to create fun responses with apps such as Chatterpix and Shadow Puppet, and I could document the entire experience using PicPac on my Android phone. Instagram only allows for 15 second videos, but creating a time-lapse allowed for the recording of an entire lesson within the time constraint. My opportunity to share took place on February 10th.

I’ve been encouraging my primary grade teachers to utilize their iPads by having students record book reviews with Shadow Puppet and have a class collection in Google Drive. Back in my days of being a 4th-grade teacher, it consumed a lot of time for students to create and share book reviews. Having each student that shared stand in front of the class when it was time to present is not efficient. With the implementation of the iPad, everyone can share in the experience simultaneously. We are using Google Drive to upload items to a shared folder. However, I’ve used other resources, such as in the same manner.

Here are some fun samples my first graders at Rome City Elementary produced during my time working with them:

I wanted to document my working with students, but who really wants to watch a 20-30 minute video of me teaching? (That and you only get 15 seconds on Instagram.) PicPac is a free app for Android that will create stop-motion and time-lapse videos. I purchased the “pro features” to get a better-exported product. The free version only allows a resolution up to 360p verses 1080p for the pro features. Here is how it works:


The first class I worked with was Ms. Zolman’s first grade at Rome City Elementary. The students were very curious as to why I was setting up my phone in the back of the room before launching my lesson. Using time-lapse would obviously be a fun way to give parents a glimpse into the classroom. Students would be fully capable of creating these experiences for the teacher.

Mrs. Huelsenbeck is the Media Specialist at Rome City. She read a book about Penguins aloud to the students and wanted a way for them to record facts and opinions.. I decided to record the event and help the students as they work with their iPads.

Time-lapse videos are a lot of fun, and the community enjoyed watching them as I was able to post the links to the school district’s social media accounts. Though my day to participate in the INeLearn Instagram Takeover is through, I am still using PicPac in the classroom as a means to give a glimpse of the learning taking place. You can see an example from Wayne Center Elementary where I worked with Mrs. Kuehnert’s kindergarten class using Hello Crayon, Chatterpix, and Google Drive. Primary students are so much fun!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Google+ Community of Readers

Today's blogger is Susan Drumm, Instructional Technology Coach with Hamilton Southeastern School. As you're reading about how you could use Google Communities with your students,  consider joining an Online Community of Practice.

Fact #1: Independent reading is an important way to learn and grow–even when one is a high school senior.

Fact #2: High school seniors (not to mention nearly all other teenagers) love to communicate through social media.

Senior English teacher Jennifer Jacobs recently decided to take advantage of Fact #2 (her students' love of social media) to foster Fact #1 (independent reading). Continually struck by the time and effort her students expended to read and write on social media, Mrs. Jacobs decided that it was time to harness that energy for learning--by purposefully inviting social media into her classroom. Thus was born what has become the successful and expanding HSE Google Community of Readers.

Taking advantage of our district’s Google Apps for Education (GAFE) status, Jacobs created an 'invitation only' Google+ Community and posted the prompt, What Are You Reading? In order to work out any account issues on the front end, Jacobs scheduled a computer lab and rolled out the project during class one day. Before the day was over, each senior English student had joined the Google+ Community using their school account, understood site navigation, and had written his/her first post!

Students now have ongoing participation requirements in the Google+ Community throughout the semester. They write book reviews, and share other thoughts about what they are personally reading. Much like customers at Amazon, students can rate the books they’ve read, recommending them (or not) to peers as they see fit. To organize the Community, Jacobs has created LABELS (like tags or folders) for specific literature genres. It's easy for students to choose the type of book they most enjoy, and then scan reviews for titles they'd like to read next. Community conversation often springs up over a title, often led by quieter students who would rarely speak up in class.

Already, this Google Community of Readers has expanded, as other senior English classes in the school have joined the group as well. The idea of using social media for curricular purposes is catching on! What other curricular applications might there be for Google + Communities? How else might educators harness the power of this digital tool to deepen and extend student learning?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Making Writing Matter with KidBlog

So here's the thing: You aren't going to hit it out of the park every time.  This is one lesson I have learned from blogging.  My first blogs are always amazing and funny and interesting and memorable.  And then... they aren't.

This is just one reason kids should blog.  In the land of As and 100s and passing scores and just-good-enoughs, blogging is a great place where kids can shine and learn that is OK not to shine every time.

Blogging is a great place to model and practice risk and failure.  And reflection. I could write for days about how great blogging is for kids, but let me just list a few reasons:

1. Taking Risks: it's scary to put yourself and your thoughts out there.  My husband guest blogged for me and was so nervous because he "never put anything on the internet before."

2. Writer's Workshop: blog posts aren't stagnant.  They can be updates, edited and republished.  Because of this, blogging is a great support for Writer's Workshop.  Students have a bank of stories and writing pieces they have started (because no writing is every finished) and not matter the mini-lesson can retrieve, edit, revise and renew any piece of writing.

3. Blogging=Audience=Motivation+Authenticity: There is that school of thought that if students are doing something for a teacher, they want it to be good enough, but if they are doing it for an audience, they want it to be good. I was using to blog with students and when it was time to write, the room went silent.  The teacher was amazed, "They are really into this!"  When kids know someone is going to read and care about their words, it gives a whole new purpose to writing.

4. Commenting: commenting is hard.  Whether you are taking an online class or commenting on a blog, finding what to say can be stressful.  Blogging allows students to practice this. How many of you have blogged and are bummed because no one comments on your blog?  Trust me; it's not because we don't want to.  It's because we are not sure how to do it without agreeing numbly or hurting feelings.  Teaching kids to politely, respectfully and meaningfully disagree is powerful and useful!

This brings me to  A wonderful platform for blogging.  I use it with elementary students and high school students.  It is easy to use and safe. Here's a quick How-To by Adam Bellow:

It can be as simple as publishing a post or as complex as using HTML to embed media.  When your kids write, for whom are they writing?  Who else might care about what they have to say?  Kids say amazing things.  They deserve to be heard and deserve authenticity is their writing.  We would expect the same, wouldn't we?


Fighting Writing: Getting Started with KidBlog
Blogging? It's Elementary, My Dear Watson!
Student How-To
One More How-To
5 Reasons Your Students Should Blog
Why Students Should Blog