Friday, March 31, 2017

Have it Your Way! IUSD Custom Summit

“Not just some of them, all of them” -Teresa Stringer IUSD Induction Program Coordinator-

This is how I remember one of my initial conversations with Teresa Stringer and Stacy when we first began discussing what a Custom Summit for Irvine Unified School District might look like. What you don’t know is that Teresa is the Induction Program Coordinator (a 2 year program required for all CA educators to clear their credential), so by “all of them”, they were essentially pitching the idea of Global Summit format, only customized for the needs and interest of their first and second year teachers and administrators.

A little back story. If you are reading this blog post it is likely that you have at some point attended an EdTechTeam global summit, somewhere in the world. What you may not know is that while we do 100+ Global Summits and Certification bootcamps annually, we also put together large private summits customized to any district's passion and values. My role with EdTechTeam is to work to design and execute these events. Having worked to help redesign the new teacher induction program at the Napa County Office of Education in CA, it has instantly created a special place in my heart for this one in particular.

Fast forward 5 months and 435 Educators later. What started as a potential 150 - 200 attendee event for new teachers, exploded into a quarter of the district teachers investing their own time, on a weekend, to learn from a group of passionate EdTechTeam speakers, along with a handful of IUSD rockstar teachers. I could go on and on about how much fun it is to have the energy and enthusiasm of IUSD’s new teachers, veteran teachers, district administration, Student Helpers, tech department, and Superintendent, all coming together under the awesomeness of learning that is an EdTechTeam Summit. Instead I will let the event photo album and “By the Numbers” infographic, speak for itself.

Google Certified Innovator & Trainer
Director of Professional Learning
Austin, TX

Would you like to know more about EdTechTeam Custom Summits? Check out more INFO here or submit a REQUEST today!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Little Authors-Book Creator in the Kindergarten Classroom

As I reflect on my teaching practice each and every day, I am confident that my kindergarten students leave my classroom filled with newly acquired knowledge, a kinder heart towards others, and a stronger sense of self-confidence. One of the ways my students leave my kindergarten classroom with fresh knowledge is from the use of technology on a daily and weekly basis. Students in my classroom have the opportunity to have a hands-on learning experience with various aspects of technology, including the use of iPads 2-3 times a week. These iPads will forever be memorable for my students because of the active learning and engagement they encourage, as well as the enthusiasm that is presented when they are being used. The use of technology in my classroom has shown to benefit not only my students and myself, but the families of each student as well.

One of our favorite creation apps that we use on a daily basis is the iPad app Book Creator. Book Creator, by definition is the simple way to make your own beautiful ebooks, right on your iPad. With over 25 million ebooks created so far, Book Creator is ideal for making all kinds of books, including children's picture books, comic books, photo books, journals, textbooks and more. In my kindergarten classroom, we create class, group, partner and individual books every single day. Teachers often reach out to me regarding how to set their student’s up for independent success in using this tool. The number one thing I suggest to anyone who is going to take on the exciting adventure of introducing new technology in their classroom is to MODEL, MODEL, MODEL.

Once you are familiar with Book Creator and all of the options, it is time to get started! A few ideas to implement in your classroom could be, but not limited to the following:

  • Daily/Weekly Math Journals
  • Reading response
  • Publishing classroom writer’s workshop writing
  • All About Me
  • Classroom Rules/Expectations
  • Alphabet Books, Number Books, Rhyming Books
  • Fiction and Nonfiction books aligned with science and social studies curriculum
  • Poetry/Fluency
  • Looking for more? Search Book Creator on our classroom blog and you can see videos, pictures, ideas and more!

As educators, we are striving for the best for our students each and every day. Using tools that come with technology not only enhances their learning experience, but provides a place to create meaningful multi-media content, promotes creativity, engages students in storytelling and so much more. Book Creator is an app and online accessible tool that helps cultivate your student’s technology engagement and cross-curricular lessons. As with anything, teaching any age level technology takes time and patience to build up to independent success. Trust the process, take your time and allow yourself to learn technology tools alongside your students. The end result might possibly surprise and encourage you even more.

Claire Brown
Mayflower Mill Elementary School
Lafayette, IN

Want to learn more about how to integrate the iPad in the classroom? Check out our Apple Teacher Professional Learning opportunities!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

4Cs Series: Creativity

What is Creativity in Education?
There are a lot of definitions of creativity in the education world today. They all basically say the same thing but aren’t very enlightening. Google defines it as “the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.” No one would argue with this but it doesn’t really help teachers understand how to instill something in our students that we may never have had in us. The Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21) gives us this far too complex definition:

“Creativity is the interaction among aptitude, process, and environment by which an individual or group produces a perceptible product that is both novel and useful as defined within a social context” (p. 90).

After doing a lot of research, it was my colleague, Sergio Villegas who gave me a simple and useful definition that I love: “Creativity means creating or making a change to something that improves that thing for someone else.” In this sense, creativity could mean modifying the 3D printing process to make prosthetics for amputees and it can also mean a teacher making a modification to a lesson plan to make it better. It doesn’t have to take much to ask our students to hone their creative skills at the smallest levels with the idea that, with practice, they can be creative in many ways.

What Does Creativity Look Like in the Classroom?
One of the biggest changes to education in the past fifteen years is the access to information. Anytime I wanted to know something, I had to ask my teacher or go to the library to look it up in a book or on microfiche. Students have more computing power in their cars and even their phones than the Apollo 11 systems (Computer Weekly, 2009). The big change is teaching them how to take this information by the reins and become masters of it. Inquiry, then, is the key to creativity. When students have access to information at their fingertips, they have no other action than to learn. It is our job to help them understand how to find, evaluate, and apply information. Once they have this basic knowledge, they can transfer it to any situation which warrants it.

Many teachers are embracing the concepts of Genius Hour and 20% Time. Teachers are also finding ways to help students create blogs and design new tools. Kevin Brookhouser asks his students to spend 20% of their time in his class to research and learn about something they are interested in. Chris Craft, an educator from South Carolina worked with his students to create prosthetics for kids all over the world. Kern Kelley’s students in Maine created the Tech Sherpas, a student group that not only helps teachers at their own school when they have technology questions, they also have a world-wide weekly Hangout open to any teachers who are interested in the week’s topics. Teachers can even submit questions to be answered.

Our students don’t have to be the ones who thought these things up to be successful. If they take one of these ideas and adjust it to meet their own needs, that is creativity too.

What Does Creativity Look Like for Educators?
Hope isn’t lost for us educators who deem ourselves as non-creative. It turns out, we can’t help but be creative. Anytime we create a new lesson plan, modify an existing lesson plan, even try someone else’s idea to a T - we are introducing something new into our schema and we are being creative. My colleague, Sergio is fond of saying that the box we are told to think outside of is your box not the world’s box. As long as we are constantly striving to improve ourselves and our classrooms, we are being creative.

How Do We Cultivate Creativity?
There are many things we can begin integrating slowly into our classrooms to begin this journey of moving “out of our box.”

Modify Our Lessons, All the Time: The first thing my master teacher, Julie Kustura, taught me when I began student-teaching in her English class was to spend the time students were taking the test to go over the unit and make notes about what was really good and what, well...sucked. My advice today would be to do this at the end of each major segment of a lesson or, especially, anytime something doesn’t go right. The day I began blogging about my lessons (the good and bad) was the day my lessons started really blossoming.

Genius Hour: Ask students to spend 45 min each week (Fridays are great) to research a topic they are interested in. Ask select students to give an informal speech at the end of the time period about what they learned.

Solve a Problem: One of my favorite tasks for my students to accomplish was research and design a solution to a problem facing the world. I always asked them to do it economically, practically, and ethically otherwise Harry Potter saved the world every time.

Alternative Assessments: Ask students to demonstrate their understanding of a concept in their own way. You can give them five different tools to choose from to accomplish this task. You can also ask them to design a website with the goal of teaching someone else about the concept - the newly redesigned Google Sites makes this easy even for elementary students.

Encourage Discussion: If we are asking our students to do something in class that they can easily do at home, we are misusing our 1:1 time with them. Encourage discussion in class. I’ll admit, it would frighten the daylights out of me when I realized one of my students are 100 times more articulate and knowledgeable about something than I was. It took a long time for me to be able to admit to them at that moment that I wasn’t sure and could they help me understand. The moment I acknowledged my own form of ignorance with my students, the respect level multiplied between us (and these were 12th graders!).

There are many more ideas out there to encourage and foster creativity in the classroom. In her article, 30 Things You Can Do to Promote Creativity, Miriam Crawford gives a lot of really great ideas. Our challenge for this new year is to go out, embrace creativity in your own way, and don’t be afraid to try something new!

Works Cited
"30 Things You Can Do To Promote Creativity." InformED. 21 Oct. 2016. Web. 09 Jan. 2017.
"The Apollo 11 Mission's Computers Were Less Powerful than Today's Mobile Phones." The Apollo 11 Mission's Computers Were Less Powerful than Today's Mobile Phones - Computer Weekly Editors Blog. Web. 09 Jan. 2017.
"Cultivating Creativity in the Classroom." Psychology Today. Web. 09 Jan. 2017.
Larson, Tony. "The 4Cs Research Series - P21." The 4Cs Research Series - P21. Web. 09 Jan. 2017.
"Tech Sherpas." Google Sites. Web. 09 Jan. 2017.
"Why Creativity in the Classroom Matters More Than Ever." Why Creativity in the Classroom Matters More Than Ever | Edudemic. Web. 09 Jan. 2017.

Kate Petty
Director of Certification Programs

Check out Kate's past 4Cs articles in this series!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Top 10 G Suite Mobile Apps

1. Field Trips

Field Trip runs in the background of your phone. When
you get close to something interesting, it pops up a card
with details about the location. If you have a headset or
bluetooth connected, it can even read the info to you.

iOS link:

Android link:

2. Google MyMaps

Keep track of the places that matter to you.
Easily make custom maps to remember your
favorite places.

Android link:

3. Blogger

Android app for blogging on the go.
Compose a post that you can save to
draft or immediately publish.

Android link:

4. Santa Tracker

Follow Santa Claus on Google Maps as
he makes his journey around the world.

Android link:

5. Google Art and Culture VR

View art from museums around the world with the
Google Arts & Culture VR app. Step inside a virtual gallery
to see works by artists like Van Gogh or Rembrandt.

Android link:

6. Inbox by Gmail

Inbox is an organized place to get things
done and get back to what matters.

iOS link:

Android link:

7. Google Trips - Travel Planner

Now you can find travel details like
reservations and confirmation numbers in one
easy app. Google Trips simply gathers your
travel information from Gmail and Inbox, then
organizes it.

iOS link:

Android link:

8. Text-to-Speech

Google Text-to-speech powers applications
to read the text on your screen aloud

Android link:

9. Google Admin

Google Admin lets you manage your
Google Cloud account on-the-go. Add and
manage users and groups, contact support,
and view audit logs for your organization.

iOS link:

Android link:

10. More Mobile Apps

Get the full list of iOS and Android apps
for mobile:

iOS link:

Android link:

Monday, March 27, 2017

What about MY kids?

What to do when your school or your students do not have appropriate access to technology

In my travels as a national presenter and G Suite trainer, I have met many teachers from around the U.S. who express concerns about lacking the appropriate hardware and software in their classrooms, particularly in high-poverty and/or majority-minority schools. Similarly, teachers in these types of schools with adequate access to technology often wonder how their students will complete online homework assignments or continue the tech-based activities they start in the classroom in homes that may lack internet access or devices to connect to the web. I personally faced these issues as a mathematics teacher in an urban high school with limited funding.

Ask for what you want
Prior to working at a large, comprehensive high school, I taught at a small, selective-admissions sci-tech academy where the latest hardware and software were ubiquitous and every student went home with a laptop. After teaching in this environment, it was a real challenge for me to then teach in a classroom where I only had one desktop computer for student use. At first, I signed up early and often for the computer lab, which, in a school like this, was not being utilized frequently. My students and I did a lot of online activities on our lab days. Eventually, I wrote several grants to acquire a class set of netbooks, iPads and many other hardware tools to enhance my instruction. The more tech I obtained, the more fellow teachers, administrators and even district staff sought me out to let me know about new opportunities to get free and low-cost devices into my classroom. At one point, I even won a grant for a “digital kiosk” (40-inch TV) to display my students’ electronic projects! I encourage teachers who are not satisfied with the level of tech integration in their school or classrooms to research grant opportunities and articulate their tech needs to school and district administrative staff, as well as parents, who can donate used devices or funds to purchase hardware or software. A great place to start is Donors Choose.

Don’t make assumptions
Even with all of the devices I was able to get through grants, my kids still went home every day empty-handed; I never had enough hardware to send each student home with their own laptop or tablet. Nevertheless, I still assigned online homework almost daily and digital projects we did in class continued at home. On the first day of class, I gave my students an “Internet Access Poll” via Google Forms to find out how they accessed the internet at home and what kind of devices they used. Out of almost 150 students polled back in 2011, only 6 indicated that they had no internet access at home, and 4 shared that they had no laptop, desktop or mobile phone/tablet to complete digital activities. This meant that over 95% of the students that I taught (six years ago!) had access to the web at home, often with more than one device, in a school where over 75% of the students qualified for free or reduced lunch and over 75% were students of color. This is not what many teachers assume when working with these student populations.

Why this matters
The truth is that our students will not be able to apply for a job even at Wal-Mart or McDonald’s without sitting in front of a computer, and they certainly will not have access to jobs that pay a living wage without tech proficiency. Do not assume that your students don’t have access to technology at home. Ask--and for the small handful who are not connected, help them find ways to get online with low-cost or donated devices, or at the school or public library. It is our responsibility as educators to prepare all of our students for success in adulthood, and this is just not possible in 2017 without access to technology.

Tinashe Blanchet
Principal Consultant
Blanchet & Associates
Google Certified Innovator + Trainer
GEG Louisiana Leader
New Orleans, Louisiana | @mrsblanchetnet

Friday, March 24, 2017

Leaders in Technology- Mary West

This interview is part of a larger series profiling thought leaders within the EdTechTeam community and brought to you by Soundtrap - A Collaborative Tool for the Modern Classroom.

Guest: MaryEllen West
MaryEllen West is a Google Certified Innovator, speaker, technology coordinator, and staff development facilitator located outside of Atlanta, GA. First as a teacher and now as a technology coordinator and speaker, she focuses on transforming and innovating education because her passion is empowering and inspiring students and educators to take initiative and be change agents.  

Host - Dr. Rod Berger
Dr. Rod Berger, an industry leader in communications strategies for education companies, is a global education media personality featured on edCircuit, in EdTech Review India, Scholastic's District Administrator, and Forbes. As an industry personality, Dr. Berger has interviewed Ministers of Education, leading voices like Sir Ken Robinson, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, AFT President Randi Weingarten, and others. Dr. Berger is President | CEO of MindRocket Media Group and serves as Brand Ambassador to Soundtrap.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Summit Soundboard- Las Vegas

Just over a year I ago I went to my first EdTechTeam Summit in Boulder, Colorado. I walked away extremely overwhelmed, exhausted, but inspired how G Suite for Edu tools could redefine my classroom. Fast forward to January 2017 and I was sitting on a plane to Las Vegas about to present at my fourth EdTechTeam Summit.

Donny rocking Saturday morning Keynote

I find a lot of inspiration going to EdTechTeam Summits! I love seeing what other amazing educators are doing and inspiring others. Saturday morning started off no different with Donnie Piercy’s keynote. As I listened in on his keynote, I remember thinking I wish I was a student in his class! He set the tone for what would turn out to be amazing weekend of learning.

My biggest take away from the weekend was from Jeffery Heil and his session on, “Why Teach Failure,” and our acceptance as teachers to present the possibility of failure as an option. I always want my students to achieve at their greatest potential so therefore why do I even present the opportunity for them to not achieve at mastery or above? Why not create a culture where students are continuously revising and reviewing work until mastery is achieved? This resonated with me and I reflected on my own personal practices as a teacher, “do I really promote mastery if students do not achieve it on the first attempt?” Since returning home from Vegas, I have been explicitly saying to my students “it isn’t about getting the answer right or wrong but more about what you do with it once you know it is wrong.” My students have always known that we can learn just as much from a wrong answer as a right answer but I feel like Jeffery pushed me to take it one step further. I am reiterating to my students day in a day out that their work really truly has no due date and therefore is always a work in progress. I am assessing rubrics and how they are presented to students to see how I can promote mastery rather than the option to fail.

Besides attending some amazing sessions by fellow presenters, I also had the opportunity to present on some amazing topics myself. I ran a session on Twitter, Google Forms, Building a Breakout box, and several Breakouts. The energy from the attendees was electrifying! It was amazing to see a network of educators (largely from the same district) come together and immediately find opportunities on how what they were learning could be implemented in their classroom the following week. I love sharing my passion for edtech so there is nothing better to see teachers excited to use what they learned.

I was sad to leave! The sunshine and vibe that this EdTechTeam Summit offered was rejuvenating. As I sat on the plane back to Colorado, I reflected on the weekend and what I had taken away from the summit. It was simple… never accept failure as an option! Continue to edit and revise until there is mastery. Yet, can we ever say anything is mastered?

Sarah Stuhr
5th Grade Teacher
Summit Cove Elementary
Dillon, Colorado

Want to get your learn on like Sarah at a Summit near you? Check out our EdTechTeam Summit page here!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Using the iPad to Enhance Creative Writing

In a junior preparatory classroom, a great deal of our time goes to teaching children how to write in lines, form letters, write neatly, space their work correctly and introduce the concept of using grammar rules, amongst many other things. These are important skills that they need to develop. However, they can often be to the detriment of their creative writing. When introducing creative writing pieces, we then tell them to forget everything we have been teaching them and to just write, to let their creative juices flow, to not worry about the use of grammar and spelling. Children at this age see black and white, right and wrong. Therefore, for many of them they struggle to be able to do this completely.

Some children will spend so much time worrying about what lines they are writing in. Or if writing on blank paper, “are my letters formed correctly” or “where does the full stop go.” They often are not able to get their ideas onto the paper. When introduced to a creative writing topic, the children often initially respond with great enthusiasm. Their ideas are creative and their imaginations go wild. They are truly excited to write about their topic. They start by planning their work, focusing on the different aspects and laying out the key areas that they need to remember. By the end of this task, they often do not see the point of continuing, or they are tired and do not want to carry on. How can we blame them? That short period of concentration, just planning, requires a great deal of mental stimulation for a small child. Especially a child who is struggling to put their imagination onto paper with the many other things they need to be thinking about, like “Am I holding my pencil correctly?” “How do I write that letter?” “How do I spell this word?” Must I go on to the next line?” “Is this supposed to get a capital letter?” Just to name a few.

What if we could harness that excitement that they show when they are initially introduced to the topic. What if we can help them to relive that excitement over and over. Then their stories not only make it onto paper where their true imagination becomes evident, they are also better able to extend their stories and their sentence structure.

I have the privilege of working at a phenomenal school: Parklands College in Cape Town, South Africa; a Google Apps for Education and Apple Distinguished School where I am a Grade Two Educator and EdTech Innovation Leader for the Junior Preparatory. Each learner in my class has an iPad which has allowed them to transform their learning experience. Through the use of the iPad in creative writing, my learners have been able to harness their excitement in creative writing and improve their writing abilities.

Before beginning with the introduction of our creative writing lesson, I have my learners open a pre-made book from either Google Classroom or from a shared folder in Google Drive that was created using Book Creator. This process could be changed slightly where the ‘pre-made’ book could also be made as a whole class, acting as a form of modeled writing and planning. Upon completion, it to can be uploaded into Google Classroom or Google Drive where they are then able to open it into Book Creator on their own iPads. Below are two examples of pre-made books of creative writing pieces we have done recently titled, “The Old Lamp” and “The Day I Shrunk.”

When introducing a creative writing topic, we spend a great deal of time dramatising the story. We think up all possible connections, we imagine the worst, we imagine the best, we discuss vocabulary, we do sentence structures and we talk about the elements of story writing and bringing the story to life in our classroom. At the end of this introduction, they have all been given a space where their freedom of thought and ideas have been valued and encouraged. The energy levels are high!

The learners then take their iPads and find a spot where they can record themselves telling their stories, following a guideline. The great thing about using Book Creator for this task is the “Read to Me” function that has come with the new update. This update allows for those weaker readers to recap what it is they are needing to say for each section without having to ask me to come and read it for them, therefore, giving them greater independence and less frustrations where they can take the learning into their own hands.

The learners will then record each section of the story. During this recording process, you will often see their faces light up as they tell their story. They have so many expressions and their excitement is clear. They often feed off of hearing their peers telling their story which motivates them even more. Once completed they have to go back and listen to what they have said to make sure that they can hear what they are saying and that makes sense.

Once this activity has been completed, their stories are ready to be put on to paper. We will then return to the classroom where all they have is a blank page or their creative writing books, depending on the learner’s abilities, and they begin writing their story following the structure they have recorded. Their iPads are on their desks and they listen to what they have said in each section. Some learners choose to use earphones to listen to their planned story, where others happily listen to it without earphones. They love hearing each other’s stories. This allows them to be constantly reminded and motivated to put down what they have said.

I have found that from allowing the learners to plan their stories in this way I am receiving far more advanced creative writing pieces. Due to the fact that they are constantly listening to themselves retelling the story, they are naturally editing their own work. They are adding in grammar rules more effectively as they are able to hear it through their vocal intonation, pronunciation, modulation and emphasis. They are using an extended vocabulary and their sentence structures in their writing has improved. For those learners who are slower in their writing, they are still able to begin their stories and, if the writing is in incomplete, they are able to turn in their book from Book Creator. This allows me to see what their true capabilities are when responding to a topic in more than just writing.

This activity takes a very short time for them to complete, shorter than trying to record it onto paper. However, having said that, recording on o paper is still a crucial skill to learn, and we do both planning on paper for some lessons through mind maps and keywords, as well as adding the iPad element. The combination of the two has allowed my learners to become more comfortable and confident in their own writing ability and to trust their imaginations.

Through using this combination of apps and the iPad, my learners feel empowered. This is an activity is something that is definitely worth giving a chance. If you do, I would love to hear how it went in the comments section.

Barbara Brand
Grade Two Educator
Ed Tech Innovation Leader:
Junior Preparatory
GEG Leader for the
West Coast, South Africa
Google Certified Educator

Interested in learning more about iPad the classroom? Check out our Apple Professional Learning community here!