Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Building pre-service teachers' leadership capacity for technology integration

Each semester, the pre-service teachers in my Technology in the Classroom course create multimedia instructional technology presentations that can be used to help teachers integrate technology effectively. The assignment increases my students' comfort and efficiency with the use of multiple types of technology, forces them to think through pedagogical and technical issues related to a specific tech tool, and provides them with an opportunity to take on a teacher leadership role. This past semester, I required my students to present to an audience of educators. In past sections of the course, I did not require students to present due to this being a 1-hour course. However, this semester I removed some other assignments in order to add the presentation requirement. Students had options for when and where to present. Some presented at grade level, department, or faculty meetings at the schools where they are currently interning. Others presented at a technology professional development conference in a local school district. Most students chose to present to the School of Education faculty on campus.

I was able to be an active participant in the majority of my students' presentations and was impressed with their ability to talk with ease about technology integration in a way that's focused on pedagogy, student learning, and student engagement. It was an amazing experience for me to see these teaching candidates present to practicing classroom teachers and University faculty. My primary goal is for these pre-service teachers to become leaders in technology integration in their schools and districts, and this assignment works to build their leadership capacity. One of my students who presented at the local district technology conference said that it was a unique experience to lead a teacher workshop before he ever attended one as a participant. Keep reading for the assignment description and links to student presentations.

Below is the assignment description from the syllabus.

Work in pairs to create a multimedia presentation you could use to teach future colleagues about how to integrate a specific technology tool into their classrooms. Your presentation must give teachers a rationale for why they should use the tool, an overview of how the tool works, sample ways to use it, and technical instructions for using it. Include at least four different types of media, such as images, text, screenshots, screencasts, podcasts, or videos. You will share your presentation with a group of educators in a local school, with the School of Education, or with another LR department. Your presentation must take place prior to the end of the semester, so you will need to begin scheduling it early in the semester. You will give a brief overview of your presentation as the final exam for the course. You will be responsible for providing feedback on your partner’s work as well as your classmates’ presentations. A few possible tools to use: VoiceThread, Animoto, Prezi, Popplet, Glogster EDU, Windows Movie Maker, iMovie, Photo Story, Livebinders. You will upload your presentation to Edmodo.

Presentations from this semester are below. Feel free to leave a comment for my students. Thanks!

Assessing Student Learning with iPads

Cell Phones in the Classroom

Class Dojo

Making the Most of Your Classroom Website



SMARTBoards in the Classroom



Why One iPad is Better than None

Friday, November 9, 2012

Are we REALLY connected educators? Some thoughts about being disconnected

If you're reading this post, chances are you're what we call a connected educator. Connected educators have vibrant, dynamic personal learning networks (PLNs) and are continuously learning from others while contributing to the growth of other educators. My PLN is one of the most valuable things to me professionally and has contributed to my own development in more ways than I can describe. I have made numerous connections with educators that have developed into strong collaborative partnerships.

Lately, I've been thinking about the disconnect between my PLN and my local network of colleagues. Those of us who are connected educators often share more through Twitter and blogs than we do with our co-workers. Somehow, it feels safe sending my thoughts out to the world through tweets and blog posts. At the same time, it feels risky to walk down the hall and have the same conversations I'm having on Twitter with a colleague in my department. I participate regularly in Twitter chats - #ncadmin, #edchat, #atplc - and engage in international conversations around educational issues. I think you'll agree that we should be having those same conversations with the people with whom we work most closely, but that may not be happening for a lot of us.

Two things initially sparked my curiosity about this disconnect. First, I had the awesome opportunity to moderate the #ncadmin chat on October 3rd. The topic of the chat was new teacher support. Several of my pre-service teachers joined us for the chat, and it was great to hear their perspective on new teacher support and to see them making connections with administrators. You can read a Storify version of the chat here. During the chat, @philgriffins, an elementary Assistant Principal, tweeted:

That got me thinking. My students follow me on Twitter (because I make them), while most of my colleagues in the School of Education are not on Twitter. Through Twitter, my students have come to know a lot about me that my colleagues don't know. Case in point:

On a Friday afternoon, a student in the teacher education program where I work as Director of Teacher Education came to my office to tell me about a blog she'd found which she thought I'd be interested in. She mentioned that she had read a post on the blog about homework. She said something like this: "I know how you feel about homework, so I thought you might like to read this blog." Here's the thing: Before this exchange about Joe Bower's blog, I had never even introduced myself to the student. She's a junior, and I teach mainly senior-level courses, so she hasn't taken any of my classes yet. She and I had never even had a conversation. Not once. But she follows me on Twitter and she knew my philosophy on homework. I doubt that any of my colleagues in the School of Education know my philosophy on homework, because we don't talk about it.

I have come to the realization that I have to be bold enough to have the same conversations I'm having on Twitter with the people down the hall. So here's my question for you: How can those of us who are connected educators bring that same level of connection to those with whom we work closely?

This has been on my mind for a while now. I'd love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Exemplary Classroom Web Pages by Pre-Service Teachers

I love exploring and discussing applications of technology for teaching and learning. It's my passion. I feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to teach a course for pre-service teachers called Technology in the Classroom. One of the major assignments I've designed for the course is the development of a classroom web page. Most of my students are seniors who are currently in their internship semester and will begin student teaching in January. I encourage them to develop a web page they can use this year and in the future as a classroom teacher. I demonstrate four possible sites my students may want to use to build their classroom web pages, but I also encourage them to use any other sites and tools that work well for them. The tools I demo in class are Edmodo, Google Sites, Wikispaces, and Weebly. Last semester, most of my students used Edmodo to develop their classroom web pages. This semester, an overwhelming majority chose Weebly. My expectations for their web pages include:
  • Web page is visually appealing and structured in a way that makes it easy to access and interact with content.
  • Web page enables students and parents to access and interact with instructional materials. Multiple types of resources are in place to support and extend students’ learning.
  • Web page provides a structured format for meaningful interactions between teacher and students and among students.
  • Web page provides a meaningful structure for ongoing two-way communication with parents.
  • Web page provides extensive evidence of meaningful application of course content.
Early in the semester, I asked my students to explore three different classroom websites of their own choosing and critique those websites according to the criteria above. We used this initial exploration and evaluation to jump-start a conversation about what makes a classroom web page effective and useful. My students identified features and ideas that they wanted to replicate on their own web pages. They also found several examples of ineffective classroom web pages and identified things they don't want to replicate (i.e. outdated announcements, lack of organization).

I have been extremely impressed with the quality of the classroom web pages my students have created. Keep in mind that their websites are fictional since these pre-service teachers do not yet have their own classrooms. However, I believe there is much that current classroom teachers can learn from these students' web pages. The creativity and resourcefulness of these sites are amazing. If you're a teacher who is looking to spice up your classroom web page and make it more useful for you, your students, and your students' families, please take some time to check out the sites below. If you're an administrator who expects teachers to keep their web pages up-to-date and use them in a meaningful way, you may want to use some of these as exemplars for your faculty. My students and I would love to hear your feedback, so feel free to leave a comment.


Middle Grades:

High School English:

High School Social Studies:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Feedback 2.0

One beautiful thing about the Web is that it provides creators with an authentic audience for their work. Web 2.0 makes it easy for others to give feedback and engage in meaningful conversations without distance being a barrier. As an educator, Web 2.0 tools allow me to comment on students' work and collaborate in dynamic partnerships with other educators around the world. In my role as Director of Teacher Education, I use Web tools to give feedback to students in my classes and to interns and student teachers working in local classrooms. I also gather feedback from others regularly via the Web. Keep reading to learn about a few of the tools I use to give and get feedback. This list isn't comprehensive by any means, but these are tools that have worked for me and might work for you.

I've written in the past about how I use Edmodo as a Learning Management System for a course I teach for pre-service teachers on technology integration. All assignments for the course are submitted via Edmodo, and I provide feedback through Edmodo as well. Edmodo allows me to go paperless, and it makes giving feedback simple and efficient. When students submit assignments, they can upload documents or links or simply type their response to the assignment. With each submitted assignment, I can provide feedback in a variety of ways. By commenting on student work that's been submitted through Edmodo, I can tell students what they did well and ask questions to find out more or ask them to think more deeply about the topic. Along with my comment, I can also upload a document, a URL, or a link to an item in my Edmodo Library. I use this feature to attach completed rubrics to submitted work. Leaving a comment and attaching the rubric I used to evaluate student work allows me to provide a comprehensive explanation to students regarding their progress toward learning goals. Another handy Edmodo feature is the annotate tool. Edmodo makes it easy to open a student's attachment and annotate directly on the document by leaving comments, highlighting, drawing, or adding a text box. I assign a grade to some assignments as well, and Edmodo graphs students' weekly progress, allowing them to visually see how they are progressing from week to week.
The interns and student teachers I supervise are required to submit a weekly reflection on their experiences out in the field. In the past, they have used paper field reports to do this. Like most areas of my work, I searched for a way to make the process digital and more efficient. This semester, my interns and student teachers are using Penzu for their weekly reflections. They each set up their own online journals at the beginning of the semester, and they add a new entry (or entries) each week. When a student completes a new entry, he/she shares it with me using Penzu's sharing feature. I receive an email notification each time an entry has been shared with me. While I was typing this post, I received a notification that a student has shared a new entry with me. There are three ways for me to comment. 1) There's a link within the email notification that will take me to Penzu and allow me to read the reflection and comment on it online. 2) There's also a link within the email notification which I can click to leave a comment with just one step. 3) I can reply to the email notification with my comment, and my comment will be added to the student's entry. There is a free Penzu app that allows you to create and post to a journal, but the free app doesn't allow commenting on others' entries. In order to use the app to leave comments, you have to sign up for a Penzu Pro account. One Penzu feature I've learned about since the start of the semester is Penzu Classroom, which allows a teacher to set up a class account and give students a code to create their own journals within the class. The teacher can then comment on all student entries and grade them within the Penzu Classroom. Students can choose to share their entries with their classmates in order to generate a conversation around a topic, which is a helpful feature. Penzu Classroom costs $49 a year, but it might be worth it in order to make managing and responding to student journals more efficient and have access to additional features.

I use Evernote for just about everything: note-taking, lesson planning, brainstorming, student observation feedback, grocery-list-making, the list goes on. I love the way Evernote lets me capture ANYTHING in a note - text, a photo, a video, an audio file, an attachment, a web page. I often take pictures of handouts from meetings or class that I don't want to hang onto anymore and add them to notebooks. Evernote allows me to search through all notes for a key word. It even searches within attachments and text or handwritten words in pictures that have been uploaded. Here are just a few cool things you can do with Evernote:

  • take a picture of a whiteboard from a brainstorming session to capture what was shared
  • clip a section of text and/or images from the Web and add your own notes
  • take a picture of a newspaper article or store circular 
  • send a tweet or email to Evernote and add your own notes
  • share notes and notebooks with others
I use Evernote to take notes during intern or student teacher observations and to record my feedback on lesson plans that have been submitted. I've set up a notebook for the students I supervise, and I keep a record of all of my communication with them through those notebooks. Each week when lesson plans are submitted, I upload the lesson plans into a note and add my feedback. Evernote makes it easy to share notes or entire notebooks with others. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a task that you couldn't complete in Evernote. 

Google Forms
Google Forms is one of my favorite tools for gathering feedback from others. I use Google Forms to get feedback from students on how class is going, for registration forms, to gather information from cooperating teachers, etc. My absolute favorite feature of Google Forms is the Spreadsheet that is automatically generated as soon as you create a Form. Each time someone submits the Form, a new row is added to the spreadsheet. Then, within the Spreadsheet, I can easily sort and analyze the feedback I've collected. The Summary feature within the Spreadsheet displays a visual summary of the data collected, including circle and bar graphs (click Form > Show summary of responses).

Recently, the students in my technology class were asked to visit three classroom webpages and fill out a Google Form to evaluate those webpages. Upon completion of the assignment, I displayed the Google Spreadsheet and the summary of responses while the students and I discussed themes and trends across the data that were collected. Google Forms makes the process of collecting and analyzing feedback just about as simple as it can get.

Socrative, Poll Everywhere, and Wallwisher
In a previous post, I wrote about how I use Socrative, Poll Everywhere, and Wallwisher for formative assessment. I use these tools often to assess student progress toward learning goals and identify ways I need to adjust my instruction. I also use these tools to gather non-academic feedback. I often begin and end professional development sessions with one of these tools to find out what participants already know, what they want to know, what they learned, and what they plan to do next. I also use these tools in a similar way in the classes I teach, asking students to give me feedback on which components of class are working for them and which aren't and to make suggestions on things we might do differently. All three tools are user-friendly and easily accessible from a variety of devices.

How do you use Web 2.0 tools to give and get feedback? Please comment with your own ideas and any questions you might have. Commenting on a blog post is an easy way to provide your own feedback!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

LiveBinders Might be the Answer to your Question

In my last post, I wrote about my plans for using social media tools in my education courses this fall. In addition to using Edmodo, Twitter, and Pinterest, my students and I will be using LiveBinders throughout the semester to organize, share, and reflect on resources and their applications. I use LiveBinders as an instructional tool because of the ease with which I can organize resources around topics and concepts. My primary use of Livebinders this semester, however will be as a tool for my students - who are pre-service teachers - to organize and reflect on resources for their future classrooms.

Q & A

I'm teaching Inclusive Language Arts Methods for Elementary Education majors for the first time this semester. Over the summer, I discovered just how much work it is to create a course from scratch. As I began planning for the course, early on I knew that I wanted some way for my students to create a database of strategies and resources for teaching language arts that they can access when they graduate and get teaching positions in a year. I use my university's learning management system (LMS) to organize resources throughout the semester, but my students won't have access to the LMS next year when they'll need those resources. I also run mostly paperless classes, so I won't be giving them hard copies of resources to file away for later.

So, my question was: What tool can my students use to organize strategies and resources they learn about throughout this semester? My criteria: free; simple user interface; easy to share; and capable of organizing various types of media including documents, videos, and web resources. The answer: LiveBinders.

My students will create a LiveBinder to organize resources and strategies as well as reflect on the potential applications of those strategies and resources in their future classrooms. The faculty who teach the other Elementary methods courses (social studies, science, and math) have agreed to use LiveBinders this semester as well. These methods courses take place during the students' Internship semester, when students spend one full day a week in a local classroom. Students complete their Internship in the classrooms in which they will complete their student teaching in the spring. Building this LiveBinder during their Internship will give them a head start on taking on full responsibility for teaching in the spring.

The Nitty Gritty

Each student will create a LiveBinder with 4 tabs - one for each content area methods course. Each tab will contain several subtabs which will vary from course to course, depending on what each professor requires of students. My students will upload their assignments along with documents and web resources they can use in their future classrooms. One major component of the LiveBinder assignment is reflection. I want these future teachers to be explicit about how they might use these resources and strategies in their classrooms. Here are the things I am requiring my students to include in their LiveBinders:

  • Course syllabus (I want them to have access to the list of additional resources in the future)
  • Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and other relevant supporting documents and resources to the CCSS
  • Mini-lesson script, reflection, and other artifacts from the lesson
  • Small group lesson plan, reflection, and other artifacts from the lesson
  • Anecdotal records and audio or video recording from two student conferences
  • Read aloud reflection
  • Four entries from your writer’s notebook that represent different types of entries and demonstrate who you are as a writer
  • Published piece of writing (or a sample of your published piece)
  • A minimum of five reading and writing web resources that you plan to use in your classroom, along with a brief reflection on how you plan to use each resource
  • A minimum of ten documents that you plan to use in your classroom, along with a brief reflection on how you plan to use each document (i.e. handouts from class, resources from the textbook’s CD, resources from your cooperating teacher, etc.)

Potential Benefits

Hopefully by the end of the semester I will be able to proclaim how beautifully this LiveBinders assignment worked as a teaching, learning, and reflecting tool for these pre-service teachers. Until the results are in, here are my hopes:
  • Consistency across the four methods courses will help our students make connections across content areas and begin to think about teaching in a more connected way
  • Students will feel more prepared for student teaching and for their first year as classroom teachers
  • Students will become more reflective as they consider potential applications of strategies and resources 
  • Students will become familiar with a tool they can use to organize resources for their future students and as a learning tool in their future classrooms
Are you searching for a tool that fits a specific purpose in your own classroom? LiveBinders might be the answer. I would love to help you think about the right tool for the job. Feel free to leave a comment below! 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Social Media as a Learning Tool in Higher Education

This fall, I'm teaching two sections of Technology in the Classroom and one section of English Language Arts Methods for Elementary Education majors. The campus, which has been eerily quiet this summer, will once again come to life as students return this week. I'm looking forward to daily face-to-face interactions with the pre-service teachers I have the privilege of working with, but I'm also excited about online interactions with those students via social media tools. I'm incorporating social media in different ways in my two courses. I'll be continuing some ideas from last semester, and there are a few new ideas that I'm experimenting with as well. I'd love to get your feedback about how you're using social media with your K-12 or higher ed students! Feel free to leave a comment below.


I use Edmodo as the Learning Management System for my Technology in the Classroom course. While the university provides an LMS for instructors and students, I chose Edmodo for this particular course because I want to model a tool that my students (pre-service teachers) can use in their future classrooms. Feedback from students in my course last spring was very positive in regards to using Edmodo as a teaching and learning tool. Many of them taught their cooperating teachers how to use Edmodo and used it as a classroom website during their student teaching. Edmodo helped me implement an entirely paperless classroom during the spring semester. All instructional resources are posted online, and students submit all assignments via Edmodo. Read more about how I use Edmodo as my LMS here.


One ongoing assignment in Technology in the Classroom is building a Personal Learning Network, and Twitter is the main tool we use to do that. I require my students to follow educators and organizations who share similar interests. Students also are expected to tweet reflections on course-related content throughout the semester, mainly by replying to questions I tweet. I created a hashtag for the course, #edu451, which helps me and my students organize our thinking and connect with one another.

One change I've made to how I'm using Twitter in my Technology in the Classroom course is that this fall I'll be requiring my students to participate in one Twitter chat sometime throughout the semester. I scheduled a Twitter chat with my class in place of a face-to-face meeting one week last semester when I was away at a conference, and the chat was a big hit. I'm planning to hold an online class meeting via Twitter chat again this fall. Additionally, my students will choose a Twitter chat that's focused on their interests, participate in the chat, and turn in a reflection on their participation in the chat. I'll be sharing this schedule with them.


I'm trying Pinterest with my students for the first time this fall. This is the primary social media tool I'll be using in my English Language Arts Methods course. I've created a board for my students to follow. Over the summer, I posted web resources, graphics, and ideas that will be useful to them. During the first week of class, I'm going to add my students as editors of the board so they can post resources as well. A benefit of using Pinterest as a way to capture and organize resources is that my students will have access to this board next year, when they are first-year teachers in their own elementary classrooms. They can also share the board with their cooperating teachers and other colleagues. I envision having students share not only great websites with each other but also upload their ideas and products from inside and outside of class. With the Pinterest app, students can easily upload a variety of items that will be helpful learning resources for their classmates. Here are some things I envision being added to our board:

  • a photo of a two-column chart generated during a small group activity in class
  • a photo of elementary students working in a literacy station in an Internship classroom
  • a photo of marked-up text representing a key learning from the week's reading
  • a photo of an anchor chart created during class as a response to readings or discussions

Read my guest posts on Free Technology 4 Teachers in which I detail my experiences last spring: initial post and follow-up post.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Use Sticky Note Templates to Get Organized

A few years ago while I was working as an Instructional Coach, I found myself regularly putting sticky notes on papers to place in teachers' mailboxes. I would write out a dozen or more sticky notes with the same message: "Sign and return", "Bring to PLC meeting on Thursday", "Share with your grade level team", etc. One day I came to my senses and realized that there was a more efficient way to do that. I typed the message I wanted to share via sticky note, placed sticky notes onto printer paper, and printed several copies of the message onto sticky notes. I shared this idea with my good friend Amanda McRary - who happens to love organization even more than I do - and she created sticky note templates in Microsoft Publisher for various sizes of sticky notes to make this process easy and efficient. I used the sticky note templates whenever I needed to attach the same message to documents, books, and other resources for multiple people. You can view sample templates here, here, and here.

For the upcoming semester, I'm posting my office hours, the courses I'm teaching, the courses I'm taking, and the tasks / areas I need to focus on each day. The beauty of these sticky notes is that they look great on my calendar and I can re-use them each week. For meetings and other events that pop up throughout the week, I pencil them in. I only use the sticky notes for events that repeat on a weekly basis. On Fridays, I simply move the sticky notes to the following week.

There are so many possibilities for using sticky note templates to make your work more efficient. Use them to give feedback on student work, send home a message to parents, or share information with colleagues. Is this a process that can work for you? Share your own ideas below!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

End of Year Tech Integration Ideas

Looking for ways to incorporate technology into your end-of-year activities? Below are a few ideas for using technology to celebrate and reflect on the school year. Please share your own ideas by leaving a comment. Thanks!

  • Create a LiveBinders to showcase exemplary student work. Use the binder next year to show new students examples of past student work. 
  • Use Skype or Face Time to allow your students to chat with students in the grade level below or above you. Students can discuss expectations, ask each other questions, and share their favorite things about their grade level. 
  • Use templates from Microsoft Office to have students design certificates for each other. Have students present classmates with awards such as Best Smile, Most Mathematical, Best Sportsmanship, and Most Creative. 
  • Ceate a video of your students describing their favorite moments from the school year. Post the video to your web page for students and parents to view at home. 
  • Have students create a Glog, blog post, brochure, or Voice Thread to let next year's students know what they can expect in your class, grade level, or subject area. 
  • Upload pictures to Animoto or Photo Story to create a slideshow with music, narration, and/or captions. 
  • Use Wordle or Tagxedo to create a word cloud representing the major topics and events from this school year.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Twitter Across the Curriculum

On April 14th, the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, @TwitterRealTime (The History Press) tweeted Titanic's journey with minute-by-minute tweets as if the person tweeting were on board the ship. I followed this Twitter feed (thanks to a tweet from @web20classroom) and got to thinking about how under-utilized Twitter is as a teaching and learning tool. There's so much more to Twitter than most people think. Many educators have discovered the tremendous potential of Twitter for building and maintaining a Personal Learning Network, and some have tapped into its potential for use in the classroom. I'd like to explore some possibilities for using Twitter across the curriculum.

English Language Arts
Similar to the minute-by-minute "real time" tweets on the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, students can use Twitter to retell important events in a piece of realistic or historic fiction. Not only could the tweets capture the important events, but they could also reveal changes in characters' attitudes and perceptions as well as relationships among characters. To set up this learning experience, the teacher would need to create a Twitter account for each character. Students could work in collaborative groups to write a Twitter script and could even support their tweets with evidence or quotes from the text. A Twitter retell would work beautifully as the final product of a literature circle or novel study. 

Stepping a little further outside the box, students can use Twitter to bring inanimate objects to life or give a voice to animals. Twitter provides an easy tool for writing brief thoughts from the perspective of a classroom object, an important object from a text, an object in nature, or an animal. 

Teachers can use Twitter to develop students' vocabulary. Students can tweet definitions, synonyms, antonyms, examples, and non-examples for key vocabulary terms. A class or a small group could build a Twitter glossary for a specific content area or unit of study. Teachers can provide vocabulary instruction by tweeting a mystery word of the day. This daily tweet could be a sentence with a blank where the term would belong, a rhyme that would provide hints to help students figure out the word, or a list of synonyms or antonyms.

Twitter can bring science notebooks into the 21st century. There are countless scientific concepts and processes that can be explored through a Twitter project. Students could construct a Twitter feed that represents the water cycle from the perspective of different components of the cycle, describes properties of each element in the periodic table, write a script for a severe weather report, or demonstrates the steps involved in a chemical reaction. Prior to constructing the Twitter feed that will be documentation of students' learning, students can conduct research and connect with scientific experts and organizations on Twitter.

Social Studies
Twitter provides a handy tool for reconstructing a timeline or sequence of important events, like The History Press did with the Titanic Twitter feed. Students studying an important historical event or series of events could construct a Twitter feed to document causes and effects as well as individuals' contributions to or perspectives on events. An autobiography could be written as a series of tweets from an important historical figure. Students can also post tweet from others who were close to the person or involved in key events in the person's life. 

Teachers and students can use Twitter to post mathematical problems and represent multiple strategies and solutions to problems. Vocabulary Twitter feeds can help students develop an understanding of key math terms and create a database of vocabulary lists students can refer to later. Students can attach pictures to tweets to provide visual representations of math concepts. 

If you have your own ideas for integrating Twitter across the curriculum, please share!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tech Integration Advice from Pre-Service Teachers

I am nearing the end of my first semester teaching Technology in the Classroom, a course designed to teach pre-service teachers about technology integration. You can read more about my learning goals for the course, our focus on TPACK (technological pedagogical content knowledge), and how we're using Twitter in my guest post on Richard Byrne's Free Tech for Teachers blog. The most recent assignment my students have completed is a multimedia project, which was designed to give them an opportunity to put some of what they've learned into a format that can be shared with future colleagues. My hope is that once my students become beginning teachers, they will be teacher leaders in their schools and help their colleagues embrace instructional uses of technology. 

Assignment description:
Work in pairs to create a multimedia presentation you could use to teach future colleagues about how to integrate a specific technology tool into their classrooms. Your presentation must give teachers a rationale for why they should use the tool, sample ways to use it, and technical instructions for using it. Include at least four different types of media, such as images, text, screenshots, screencasts, podcasts, or videos. You will be responsible for providing feedback on your partner's work as well as your classmates' presentations. A few possible tools to use to build your presentation: VoiceThread, Animoto, Prezi, Popplet, Glogster EDU, Windows Movie Maker, iMovie, Photo Story.

As my students' completed projects were submitted to Edmodo this week, I have been blown away by the quality of their presentations, and I've learned about some new tools along the way. (Read more about how I use Edmodo as my learning management system.) I've gotten my students' permission to share their projects so other educators can learn from them. They have allowed me to build an extremely useful database of instructional technology resources for teachers, and I hope you'll find something here that is helpful to you.

Class Dojo by Caitlin Jones & Erin Schudde

Edmodo by Michael Judd & Jordan White

Edmodo by Alex Hughes & Jeremy Smith

Glogster by Caitlan Reese

Glogster by Taylor Oliver & Cara Zell

Google Earth by Brenna Poole

Livebinders by Megan Turnmyre & Lauren Walker

Popplet by Chelsea Hill & Erica Schroeder

Popplet by Sarah Cody and Carlee Carpenter

Prezi by Erin DeBord and Cregg Laws

Using Web Tools in the Classroom (Prezi, Symbaloo, Google Earth, & Glogster) by Ashlee Greer & Katina Peck

Virtual Field Trips by Krystalle Hewitt & Amber Miller

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Technology for Formative Assessments

In my experience, teachers tend to rely more heavily on summative assessments (assessment OF learning) than formative assessments (assessment FOR learning). There is power in formative assessments and their ability to inform instruction and improve student learning. Take just a moment to reflect: How often do you go through this process?

1. Give end-of-chapter tests, unit tests, vocabulary quizzes, etc.
2. Record the grades.
3. Return the papers.
4. Move on.

Who benefits from this summative assessment process? No one. What if, instead, you give an assessment BEFORE the unit to determine what students already know and don't know and DURING the unit to track learning progress and make teaching adjustments? This formative assessment cycle feeds into planning and instruction and has much more meaning for both teacher and students.

A couple of weeks ago, my pre-service teachers and I were discussing formative and summative assessments. I gave them a short quiz using Socrative and asked them to determine whether they would identify various assessment formats as formative or summative. Their results were mixed, which led to a meaningful conversation about what makes an assessment formative or summative. Through the discussion, my students came to realize that whether an assessment is summative or formative depends on what the teacher does afterward. Can a chapter test be formative? Absolutely, if the teacher uses the results to identify gaps in understanding and provide instruction to help students meet learning goals for the chapter. Can a pre-test be summative? You bet, if the teacher doesn't change his/her plans for instruction based on data from the test.

The beauty of formative assessments is that they can be informal and easy to implement. A formative assessment can be as simple as a ticket out the door or asking students to hold up 1, 2, or 3 fingers depending on their understanding of the lesson. Technology can make the formative assessment process even easier and provide tools for analyzing data quickly and painlessly. There are many free web tools that allow teachers to create and deliver formative assessments in just a few minutes and collect student results instantly. Keep reading to learn about a few of my favorites.


Socrative is hands-down my favorite online assessment tool. This free web tool has lots of capability and works across devices. Teachers can create self-paced quizzes, exit tickets, and quiz games, or deliver stand-alone multiple-choice, true/false, or short answer questions. Students respond to questions using a computer, tablet, or phone. A variety of devices can be used during any given assessment. My favorite Socrative feature is the report that is generated immediately following each assessment. Each assessment generates a detailed report automatically and instantly. Teachers can download reports or have them sent via email. Learn more and get some great ideas by visiting the Socrative Garden.

Poll Everywhere

Another assessment tool I use regular (with my pre-service teachers and during professional development for in-service teachers) is Poll Everywhere, a free polling site that allows you to poll the audience with multiple-choice or open-ended questions. Students can respond via SMS, Twitter,, or a private link. As you create a poll, you choose how you would like to receive responses. You can give students a few options or narrow their choices to one or two. When you display the poll, on-screen instructions will assist students with responding. Poll Everywhere saves your previous polls so you can review past results at any time. Following a poll, you can instantly generate a word cloud from responses. You also have several options for displaying your questions: embed in a blog or other website, share via Twitter or Facebook, share a live link, embed in PowerPoint, or download for Prezi.

Google Forms

Google Forms are my personal favorite among the types of Google Docs available to Gmail users. Google Forms allows you to quickly create an assessment with a variety of question types: multiple choice, short answer, checkboxes, choose from a list, scale, and grid. You can deliver an assessment via Google Forms by sending the Form through email, sharing the link, or embedding it into a website. The ultimate feature is that Google automatically generates a spreadsheet upon creation of a Form. As soon as you create and save the Form, Google Docs adds a spreadsheet to your Docs list. Each time someone fills out the form, a new row is entered into the spreadsheet containing that individual's responses. Data within the spreadsheet can then be sorted and analyzed quickly and easily. You can also view a summary of responses with just one click, which provides percentages and circle graphs of data collected. If you're interested in using Google Forms for formative assessments, be sure to check out Flubaroo, a script that will enable Google Docs to automatically grade responses to your assessments.


Wallwisher is another great choice for informal formative assessments. Teachers create a wall, post one or many questions or prompts, and share the link with students who then post their responses to the wall as sticky notes. Teachers have the option to moderate responses, which keeps all sticky notes hidden until approved by the teacher. Sticky notes can contain text, images, video, and links. These media options allow teachers to post image or video prompts or direct students to a website. Students can also include these different types of media in their responses, allowing them to respond creatively. Wallwisher works great as an exit ticket, a warm-up activity, a status-of-the-class, or a progress check. 

Each of these free web tools enables a teacher to create an assessment within just a few minutes, deliver the assessment through a variety of devices and platforms, collect data instantly, and analyze results to inform future instruction. While these are my top choices, there are many other web tools that would be a good fit for formative assessments. Please leave a comment and tell me about your favorite technology for formative assessments. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Who's Using Technology In Your Classroom?

In your classroom, who spends the most time using technology? You or your students? Do you use the interactive whiteboard or tablet while students watch, or do your students use it to teach each other? Do you use the document camera to share information, or do your students use it to share their work? Do you use the Flip camera or digital camera to capture classroom activities, or do students use them to create multimedia projects? If the technology tools in your classroom are in your hands more than your students', then you are limiting the impact technology can have on student engagement with content and ultimately student learning. Create opportunities throughout the day to get students activitely using technology to interact with content, with each other, or with others around the world. When you put technology into the hands of your students, you increase their ownership of and motivation for learning. I have witnessed this over and over in classrooms,  particularly this year in our iPad pilot classrooms. Students will not reap the benefits of technology use until you let them use the tools instead of you. Look for ways to hand over the equipment and get students interacting with content through technology.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Right Tool for the Job

There is an overwhelming amount of tech applications out there that are useful for educators. However, it's sometimes difficult to know when to use each one and for which purposes. In this post, I'm going to give an overview of three of my favorite applications, summarize their purposes, and attempt to clarify the differences between them. One question I've been asked quite a bit is "Why do I need both Dropbox and Google Docs?", so that's where I'm going to begin.

Dropbox is an online file storage application that gives you access to your files from any device. Create an account at, then download the Dropbox application to all of your devices - computer, smartphone, tablet. Upload files to your Dropbox account (either through the website or the downloaded application) and organize them into folders. Dropbox will sync your files across all devices, and you'll be able to access them from anywhere. Dropbox allows you to easily share files with others. Have too many photos to send through email? Create a folder for them in Dropbox and share the entire folder. Need to share a document with someone who doesn't have a Dropbox account? Put the document in your Public folder, and Dropbox will give you a link to email or post on a webpage. Anyone with the link will be able to view your document, with or without a Dropbox account. You can view my Dropbox presentation here.

Google Docs
Google Docs not only stores your documents online, giving you access to them from anywhere, but also allows you to collaborate on documents in real-time. Create new Documents, Presentations, and Spreadsheets, or upload and convert existing Word, PowerPoint, Excel or other document types. Share documents with others, and edit them collaboratively. Organize your Google Docs into Collections (aka folders) and share entire Collections with others. Anytime you or someone else updates a Google Doc, everyone who has access to the shared file will automatically have the most updated version. My favorite type of Google Doc - Google Forms -   allows you to quickly and easily create assessments, surveys, registration forms, etc. that you can share with others by sharing a link or embedding them online. Google Docs automatically collects and organizes responses to Forms in easy-to-use Spreadsheets. You can view my Google Docs presentation here.

Why do I need both Dropbox & Google Docs?
What's the same? Online file storage, Access to files from any device
What's the difference? Google Docs allows you to collaborate on documents in real-time. If you need to share files without collaborating, Dropbox is the way to go. If you want to create collaborative documents or get input from others, use Google Docs.

Evernote is a multi-purpose application that can help you organize your life. Create Notebooks to organize pieces of information, then create Notes that could include anything from bulleted lists to clipped web pages to webcam and audio notes. I use Evernote primarily for note-taking in class and meetings as well as for brainstorming and planning. Evernote's Web Clipper is a bookmarklet that can be quickly installed in your web browser. The Web Clipper allows you to clip an entire web page or a portion of a web page (images and/or text) into a Note. Then, once your web clipping is in Evernote you can annotate and add to it. Download the Evernote application to your computer, smartphone, and tablet to access and add to your Notebooks from any device. Take a photo with your smartphone or tablet, and upload it into Evernote. Use Evernote's Search function to search for key words or phrases within your Notebooks. Evernote will even search within handwritten text found in images in your Notes. View a video introduction to Evernote or watch tutorials that will walk you through how to use Evernote's awesome features. Read below to see just a few of the ways you can use Evernote.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Edmodo as my Learning Management System

This spring, I'm teaching a course called Technology in the Classroom. The purpose of the course is to prepare pre-service teachers to integrate technology across the curriculum and use technology to enhance teaching and learning. I'm structuring the course learning experiences using tools that these pre-service teachers can use as teaching and learning tools in their future classrooms. The students will be creating and maintaining their own PLNs (Personal Learning Networks) using tools like Twitter, Blogger, and Google Reader. They will also be participating in a PLC (Professional Learning Community) throughout the semester using Edmodo.

I've set up the entire course in an Edmodo room, in the hopes that my students will develop a vision for using Edmodo in their future classrooms. The functionality of Edmodo lends itself really well to serving as an LMS (Learning Management System). I've uploaded all course documents, videos, links, and other resources into folders organized by weekly course topics. I will also be posting weekly discussion questions, polls, and quizzes pertaining to course content that students are expected to respond to and discuss online and in class. Students will submit all assignments through Edmodo, and I'll use Edmodo to maintain student grades as well as our course calendar. Collaboration is made easy through Edmodo's small group feature. I am able to create small groups within our Edmodo room for collaborative projects, small group discussions, and focused interactions. I created a rubric to evaluate students' participation through Edmodo, focusing on the quality of their responses, their references to course materials and other sources, and their online interactions with others. While the course is a face-to-face course, Edmodo will allow us to work in a blended learning environment, extending our time for interacting with course content and each other.

Five Ways to Post Something on the Wall

Edmodo Library (course materials organized in folders to the left)

Edmodo Calendar

I'd love to hear about how you're using Edmodo as a teaching and learning tool. Please leave a comment or get in touch with me via Twitter @jaymelinton.