Friday, December 19, 2014

Reflections, tips, and ideas

Virginia Society for Technology in Education conference 2014

Last week I had the privilege of attending the VSTE Conference in Virginia Beach.

The weather was horrible but the conference gave me lots of ideas to share.

The big idea I left with is that when we talk about technology sometimes teachers and administrators feel that they have to know it all before they have their students use it. In Albemarle County there is a single vision of what is best for the student that guides everyone’s practice. The Director of Educational Technology and Professional Development explained the philosophy that:
“School is the Safest place to make a mistake”
Both adults and students in education  should be able to make mistakes and learn, we want to “teach and trust”.

Other useful tidbits:
  • In Google Classroom create an assignment spreadsheet and give students editing permissions. The students will create the “wiki” of resources for that assignment for the whole class to share.
  • Create a group on Diigo for the team or the staff- Diigo is a  free bookmarking service that will also annotate. You can place sticky notes or highlights on a website or website article for the group to pay attention to and the annotations stay attached to the link when it is shared.
  • Create fake email addresses for your students when they need to access a program that requires an email with Dispostable or GuerrillaMail. The emails are temporary.
  • This one is great for meetings - Decide already - enter a question and you and the team will be prompted make a decision; and the best part is the team does not have to be in the meeting!
  • Use Timeline from ReadWriteThink and the lesson plans that come with it for student research on any subject.
  • Try Countable with your students as a starting point for discussion or a topic to start research. This site tracks the bills and issues that our Government Representatives are working on now. You can vote on the issue and then track how the congress person voted.
  • Use a wireless mouse and keyboard to allow more students to interact with the SMART or Promethean boards.
  • Wolfram Alpha is great for getting answers to math problems (and any other question). The pro service gives access to the Wolfram Alpha Problem Generator which will generate problems to solve with step by step answers.

Special Recommendations for Administrators:
  • Studies show that parents get much of their information from social media. Start a blog or twitter account to keep communication going with all the interested stakeholders. Include your schedule for the day, sub lists for the day, changes for the day or other information.
  • Use HassleMe to set up reminders or Remind to notify parents and teachers of emergencies or upcoming events.

Speaking of Twitter:
  • Use tweetymail to tweet right from your email
  • Set up Tweetdeck to view the hashtags you are following in columns, create a list in tweetdeck to narrow tweets shown to students.
  • Tweet faster from websites with
  • Use tag sleuth to visualize the tweet trends and explore graphs of trending topics.
  • Share this with students: TwitterFall will display a pre-selected list of tweets, like a “waterfall”, with geolocation tags.

  • Information from the Virginia Department of Education: An initiative called the  Education Superhighway designed to get us all high speed broadband and connectivity by 2016 and  a heads up for new technology goals for 2016.
  • Goochland county is a 1:1 district that has told its teachers to stop teaching the SOL’s and concentrate on project based learning, what will be the results?

Amazon echo and the future of education? This new device will answer any question.

This is just a small amount of the information shared at this conference. More worth a mention are the virtual worlds Unity, Kitely, and MinecraftEdu that can be used to create content by students and teachers.

Rob Furman, Principal of South Park Elementary School in Pittsburgh  describes the idea of changing the "classroom” to a “classworld”  What do you think?

Friday, September 12, 2014

What is a Maker Space?

“Makers” in New Kent County Public Schools

Have you heard about Maker Spaces and the Maker movement? They are popping up all over Virginia, including here in New Kent County. A very popular educator, Vicki Davis, has described it as “ ... a unique combination of artistry, circuitry, and old-fashioned craftsmanship. Certainly, learning by doing or "making" has been happening since our ancestors refined the wheel” Her article outlines the research that supports the trend. Simply put, students(and adults) implement 21st Century Skills when they make something.

As one New Kent County Student describes what “making” means to her:

“ of my favorite things is to build and create things. Whenever I build things, I feel like I am my own person and nobody can tell me what to do.  One of the things I think is cool is that I get to design exactly what I want something to look like.
I enjoy building furniture and items for my room and decorations for my locker.  I have found that when I build something and it doesn’t work, I may have to take it apart and rebuild it until it works just the way I want.  For example, when I tried to build a chair, it kept falling apart.  I took it down, used other materials and designed it another way.  I just keep trying different things until it works. 
Some of the things I’ve made for my locker were not staying in place, so I needed to use stronger magnets.  I designed a rainbow fringe feature for the top shelf of my locker this year, and I found that embroidery thread, duct tape and magnets did the job  Of course, I needed to use the right strength magnets to hold it all in place. 
I celebrate when I’ve completed a project and the design works!  I’m really proud of myself when a new design comes together.  When I get tired of one design, I can pull it all down and start over fresh – with new ideas and challenges to overcome.  The best thing is that I get to use the design when I’m done with it!”

A maker space can be established in school or outside of school. With the 2014-2015 School year, Mrs. Noctor, the librarian at George Watkins Elementary School is getting ready to have a small makerspace in the library. The students will be able to get creative while in the library, which is a a good place for a maker space with so many resources available for inspiration.

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The hot item to include in a makerspace is a 3D printer.


Mr. O’Rear in New Kent High School used the Donor’s Choose website to receive funding for the 3D printer. The printer chosen was the MakerBot Replicator 2 for its versatility and ease of use. Students will be using various CAD software to design a number of projects throughout the course.

Do you want to see what the Maker Movement is about? The next makerfaire in Virginia is happening on October 4,2014 in Charlottesville, VA. Get Tickets now!

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If you can not “make” it to the makerfaire check out to explore the “maker” in you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Classroom Technology Setup

Welcome back faculty! The Technology department has been busy upgrading district computers to Windows 7 and there are a few minor tweaks that you will want to perform to get your computer ready for school. By default, your projector is set to extended display and printers have not been installed. Directions for setting up the projector and installing printers are located under the Faculty Resources tab above. Throughout the school year resources will be added to that page to assist you with technology problems and to inspire you to try various technologies and methodologies out in your classroom. Check back often!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Google Classroom

Google Classroom is coming and it looks awesome! Check out the video below and start thinking about how you plan to use Google Classroom... in your classroom!