Thursday, December 20, 2012

JB Tech Info - Coursera + Shortcut Cheat Sheet + Christmas Updates

Around the Net:

CourseraIs a website that offers free courses from many top Unversities from around the world.  Best of all it's FREE.  These are college level courses, but are a great way to expand your mind and the mind of your students.  This is a great opportunity for students to try out college material for free.
"The website provides free online courses in the fields of Computer Science; Healthcare, Medicine, and Biology; Society, Networks, and Information; Humanities and Social Science; Mathematics and Statistics; and Economic, Finance, and Business" -

Shortcut Cheat Sheet for PC and Mac

Tech Updates:

Over the break we will be updating the rest of the Ubuntu Linux netbooks with the latest version of Ubermix.  Also we'll be doing a Wireless Survey.  This will help us deploy additional WiFi Access Points in the best locations, with less guessing.  This will help evolve our WiFi network from a maximum coverage with the least amount of AP's to a high density/maximum availability WiFi network. Certain areas will get an additional AP over the break, due to poor coverage.  Particularly the basement at Lee HSMS.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monthly Tech Integration Idea: December 2012

Hop on over to my blog if you want to check out my monthly tech integration idea prompt!  This month my post is about using the Elf on the Shelf in your classroom!

Source: via Sarah on Pinterest

Rebel U {Virtual Edition} - 2013

This a post in a series about Rebel U {Virtual Edition} 2013.
This school year, the Technology & Media Department was granted another professional development day.  In August, we held our Rebel U event, which was structured similarly to that of larger conferences (a keynote address, breakout sessions, in-house and guest speakers, etc.).  One of the great things about this day is that it provides teachers with an opportunity to share things with one another about what they are doing in their classrooms.  I also know that many teachers walk away overwhelmed with all of the new tools they have learned about and excited to implement them in their classroom.

The purpose of this upcoming day is to build upon the things learned, and since implemented, from our fall Rebel U day.  The outcome of building upon those things learned about in the fall is to have everyone establish a web presence in the form of a website.  This website will be representative of you and your classroom and serve as a central communication tool.  This day will provide teachers with an opportunity to take what they have been working on in their class, show it off, and provide a central location for resources.

The presentations for the breakout sessions are based on some of the "Things" from the 21Things4Teachers program.  As teachers are working on developing their websites, they will be meeting National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS-T).  These standards not only help teachers develop their own skills, but also encourage them to utilize technology as a tool in their classroom to promote student achievement.  In addition, this district-provided technology professional development day will be aligned to the teacher evaluation framework.

We are updating our website as we plan this day, so feel free to see what we have planned so far by clicking here!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

JB Tech Info - Khan Academy + RebelNet Tips

Around the Net:

Khan Academy for iPad/iPhone

Khan Academy is a great website with a huge library of educational videos.  The iPad app allows you to view and save videos to your iPad for later viewing.  If you create an account it will even save your progress.  Plus it's FREE.

Khan Academy Website
Khan Academy in Apple App Store


You can update stored RebelNet passwords under Account > Password Mgr.  Remember to click the Update Stored Passwords after you make any changes.

Tech Update:

Added a link for Discovery Education under Staff Resources in RebelNet.  The link will also save your username and password just like Infinite Campus.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

JB Tech Info - Zite + Keyboard Shortcuts + Tech Updates

Around the Net:

Zite is an app for your tablet or phone.  This works on Android and iOS devices (iPad/iPhone/iPod).  It will take a topic such as e-learning or technology or gardening and builds a custom magazine for you to read.  It takes news articles from all over the internet on each topic and puts them in your hands.  If the article isn't something you like or not related you can vote it down or up if it's something you like.  This is a great way to get information from sources you would never otherwise find.

Search for Zite in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store


Can't find where to print?
Use this shortcut: Ctrl + P or Command + P on Mac

Have a bunch of windows open and want to get back to the desktop quickly?
Use this shortcut: Windows Key + D

Can't read the text?
Use this shortcut: Ctrl+(+ or - keys) or Command+(+ or - keys) on Mac

Tech Update:

Soon to begin pushing out the latest Java Update and later Adobe Flash.  For some you may have ran into the issue where Firefox disabled Java due to it being behind a version.  Most will noticed it, because the Gradebook in Infinite Campus' uses a Java plugin.  This update should automatically install itself on Windows computers.

This update will cause the computer to take a long time to login/startup, this is because it is installing software.  Please do not shut the computer off and be patient!

Monday, November 19, 2012

2012 12 Days of #EdTech Cheer is Here!

For the past couple of years, I have published my own "12 Days of EdTech Cheer" as a way of sharing resources and ideas for integrating technology into classroom instruction or professional use.  I am continuing the sharing this year with my 2012 12 Days of EdTech Cheer.  I would like to really encourage you to participate in this year's "challenge."  The challenge is to simply establish a place to put your "stuff" online (website, blog, wiki, etc.) and then post content to it.  The activities and resources listed on each day are meant to simply be a guide for helping you create content (especially if you are new to posting online).  To view the 2012 12 Days of EdTech Cheer, click here or on the image below.

If you are participating in this challenge, feel free to pick a day, two, or ten to participate in - whatever works best for you and your classroom!  I have followed along with my own challenge and have included links to my implementation on each day.  Do not feel as though you have to follow the order that I have, but logistically Day 1 and Day 2 should be completed before the rest of the days.

I am sending this out now with the thought that some people might want to plan ahead with their classroom implementation.  There is no set day to begin or end - this is a work at your own pace online professional development opportunity.  If you are looking to fit your 12 Days of EdTech Cheer on the calendar, you could use the following schedule:

GLPS Teachers:  This online professional development opportunity was not only aligned with the Teacher Evaluation Framework (alignment found here), but if you participate in even one day, it will help you prepare for our second day of district-provided technology professional development which will be held in mid-January.  Our Technology & Media Team strives to not only provide you with hardware and network support, but also effective curriculum support in utilizing technology tools in your classroom.  Hopefully this opportunity will provide opportunities to try something new and use technology in the process!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Service Learning Grant brings new iPads into the district

Both Kindergarten and Fifth Grade teachers received iPads from the the KISD for service learning grants each grade level is participating in. The hard work of the grant writing has payed off for both of these grade level teams. With both groups eager begin using their new devices they are finally in the hands of the teachers.  Although the setup process did not go as smoothly as planned today we have worked out the kinks and the teachers are starting to setup and use their iPads.

I checked out the apple website and found some helpful information for anyone who is not familiar with using iPads and needs help (hint, hint). The first one I found here is an iPad user guide that covers almost everything you’ll ever need to know about using the iPad. The next one here is more of tutorial of what to do when an app is not working properly or not responding.


JB Tech Info - Newspaper Mapper + Tips + Tech Updates

Around the Net: Newspaper Mapper - This website geolocates newspapers from around the globe in different languages.  It utilizes Google Maps and Google Translate.  This means if you click on a newspaper written in the local language, it will do it's best to translate the newspaper for you.


If a page will not load at all (blank page), you've been there before, and you've double checked the spelling.   I use this website called .  Just paste the web address in there and it will answer your question.  However, it doesn't give you the answer you always want.

Tech Updates:

Created a new Ubermix image for the Linux netbooks.  This updates them to the latest version of Ubuntu and updates the web browsers, plugins, and other software.  We will probably be rolling it out over Thanksgiving Break.  Go to the website below if you would like additional information on Ubermix.

Guest Post: Election PBL in Action

Today's guest post is written by Second Grade teacher, Bethany Brumels.  In the weeks leading up to the 2012 Presidential Election, Bethany and other members of the 2nd Grade Team had been studying the government. Bethany has share her teaching and student learning experience below and how they used PBL as their approach to teaching as well as how they integrated different technology resources.

- - - - - - - - - -

PBL is a lot of fun for me.  I see my students engaged in a way that they never are otherwise, even with the best preparation.  Students who normally struggle to stay focused and complete a task get to shine and students who are fast at finishing and catching on to ideas have to stretch themselves.  After finishing our unit on government, which was a PBL unit with our second graders, every student had something to say.  I asked them about what they knew about elections and every hand in the room went up.  It was a great discussion.

With the upcoming election I wanted to try and have my students run an election.  As a second grade team we plan together a lot.  I brought up the idea with Char and Maggie, two other second grade teachers and we decided to run with it.  We started the unit by reading several books to our students about presidents and elections.  Our students loved them and before we even told them about having an ECC election they were talking and excited.

One tool we used a lot in this unit was YouTube.  We watched videos of the two presidential candidates and used that to decide what they believed on an issue.  We also watched a couple schoolhouse rock clips on our government and how it formed. After a clip we would sit down and talk about it, what did we learn?  Why does it matter? 

From the books our students remembered and pointed out campaign posters.  So we made posters.  In my class we made a t-chart comparing Mitt Romney and Barack Obama and talked about what each person believed on each issue.  Then half of my students agreed to create campaign posters for Mitt Romney and half worked on Obama posters.  My students were die-hard fans of President Obama; I was so proud of the fact that they recognized the need for Governor Romney to also have posters. 

The results were really amazing.  Students from all the classes had something to show and were proud of the fact.  On Election Day our students shared their posters with the 1st graders and kindergarteners.  They did an amazing job explaining their work.

Then comes the computer work.  Google has amazing tools that you can use.  One thing they have is Google forms.  I love this tool because it allows you to easily and intuitively create a survey that you can publish on the Internet.  This form is linked to a Google spreadsheet where responses are instantly tallied.   I pulled up the form an all the computers in the media center.  When classrooms came down, students got to vote and when a classroom was finished voting they moved over to the Smart Board and we could show them their results coming in real time. 

Char Walsh had created an enlarged map of the school using her document camera.  As results came in we had each class find their room and color it either blue or red to match who won the election in their classroom.  As a follow up second grade students colored a map of the United States at home as the results came in.  The next day we were able to compare results between the national election and the ECC election.

I loved this unit.  Students were engaged and excited.  We got to use technology.  We did a lot of writing; we got to practice graphing and comparing results.  It was fun and students bought into it in a way they probably wouldn’t have if it had stayed in the realm of this is an election and it is something we do, here are some examples of how it has happened in the past.  They got to experience it and be involved in the process.  They taught other students how to vote and educated them on the options.  It was amazing for me to see and I am so proud of my students. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

JB Tech Info - PopcornMaker video editor + Tips + Tech Updates

Around the Net:

Mozilla Popcorn Maker - Online video editor that incorporates a whole lot more.  Take a video and add in elements from Twitter, Wikipedia, and other sources.  Visit the website to see what is possible and get some ideas.


Using your mouse button wheel to click on links opens them in a new tab.  Give it a try!

Tech Updates:

Changed the policies regarding incorrect network/RebelNet logins.  5 tries will lock the account out for 10 minutes, then reset automatically.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Teacher Web Site Usage & Understanding

Several weeks ago, Kelly McGee and I sent out a survey to our professional teaching staff asking questions about their professional use of their own web sites.  Our goal was to determine how many of our teaching staff currently had a web site, how often they updated their site, how they utilized their web site, why they might not have one, and consequently, how we could structure and develop future professional development opportunities to meet teacher needs.  Approximately half of our professional teaching staff responded to our survey and we analyzed the data and wanted to share some of the results in the infographic below.  If you are able to view/read the infographic, please click here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Guest Post: Monarch Migrations

Today's guest post is written by Sixth Grade PBL teacher, Vlad Borza.  For the past six weeks, Vlad and his students have been raising monarch butterflies in order to release them for their yearly south-ward migration to Mexico.  Vlad and his students documented their learning and shared their findings below in a guest blog post.  You can also find Vlad online on Twitter.

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For the past month, students in the 6th grade Project Based Learning class have been raising monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) caterpillars. They are researching the question-Why do animals migrate? In preparation for the butterflies’ release in late October, students researched various questions relating to a monarch’s life. Some groups were in charge of understanding the butterfly’s life cycle, anatomy, food sources, or the climate and geography that the butterflies will face on their annual migration from Michigan to the oyamel fir forests of the Sierra Madre Mountains in central Mexico.

We are working with a local, non-profit Grand Rapids company called Michigan Butterflies, which raises monarch butterflies and provides butterfly habitats for events at John Ball Zoo, Meijer Gardens, and many other public and private occasions in the West Michigan area. On the second week of school, students of the 6th grade PBL class were presented with nearly 150 monarch butterfly eggs to take care of— as they quickly hatched and needed to be fed a specific type of food daily—milkweed!

During this project, students monitored the growth and behavior of the caterpillars as they changed from small, pale, yellow eggs to rapidly-growing eating machines and on to their dormant phase as an emerald-green and gold-lined chrysalis. The butterflies will emerge after spending 10-14 days in the chrysalis, meaning that we will have nearly 50 butterflies in the classroom by the week of Oct 22nd!

Students will be presenting their research findings near the end of October, with several groups choosing to create works such as children’s books (in Spanish and English-oruga!) or theatrical plays and presentations for the elementary school or Godfrey-Lee community about monarchs’ life cycle or
yearly journey.

Once the butterflies emerge, they will spend several days in the classroom drying off their wings and will be tagged (with a small sticker to track them) and released.

Editor's Note:

At the end of their study, the students released the mature butterflies to begin their migration south.  The 6th grade students gathered on the front lawn of the high school and invited other staff members and students to join in the release.  If anyone lives in Texas or other areas where butterflies congregate on their southern migration, Mr. Borza and his students would be happy to hear from you!

2012 Election Resources

Are you teaching about the election process with your students or discussing the process for how a candidate becomes elected to the presidency?  There are many resources and tools online that can serve as a teaching tool, but I wanted to share just a few of the resources I have collected.

To view a collection of my resources, click here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My role as District Media Specialist
Wow...What is my role?  Is it supporting technology?  Is it helping teachers to implement technology into their classrooms?  Is it developing a library that best meets the informational and literacy needs of our students?  Or, is it to support the audio visual needs of our district?  Well, believe it or not, it’s all of the above.  The old fashion practices of a librarian are now almost 100% obsolete and the ability to be open to the ever changing world of information and technology is of utmost importance in meeting the needs of our school district.
When I first started at GLPS in 2003 about 80% of my time was devoted to library work.  This work consisted of cataloging, shelving, ordering and checking in and out books.   About 20% of my time was dealing with blown overhead projector bulbs, setting up the two multi-media projector/anchor weights for presentations, wheeling a TV cart and VCR to a classroom and making sure inappropriate websites weren’t being accessed on the nine colorful and huge Apple computers in the Media Center.   10 years later I can, with certainty, tell you that we’ve done a 180 degree turn and I now spend most of my time dealing with technology, technology integration and information literacy and a small amount doing “library work”.  
As times change and technology enables greater access to resources it is important that the Media Center adapt to what student and teacher current needs are.  This helps to not only keep the media center relevent but to also keep student learning and research skills relevent.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Guest Post: Technology from a Teacher's Perspective

Today's guest post is written by high school Social Studies teacher, Tom DeGennaro.  Tom approached our Technology & Media Team and asked if he could write a post about how he uses technology in his classroom.  Below is his guest blog post.  You can also find Tom online on Twitter.

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I recently recieved a IPEVO 2 to use in my classroom this year but was not too excited to use the technology because of my limited experience with technology.   I graduated high school in 1983, right before the beginning of the PC craze.  We learned how to type on typewriters that you manually had set at the end of the page.  You had to correct your mistakes with an eraser pencil with a kind of broom on the end.   If you were lucky you would not rip the rice paper you used in the typewriter and have to start that page all over.  Then at the tail end of my undergrad studies, we got to take computer courses at GVSC.  I took a class call BASIC computers thinking it was a course on how to use the computer, you know, simple things like how to turn a computer on.  NOPE.  It was a course on how to write B.A.S.I.C. computer programs (I am still not sure what that means.) So I set in a classroom with 30 "nerdy" looking guys with pocket protectors and filled out my "go to" sheets to communicate with computers.  After that class I did not want anything to do with computers or technology. 

While in graduate school I bought my first laptop with an early edition of Windows.  It was a new revelation.  You could make spelling mistakes and correct them instantly.  WOW!  (Something I am doing as I type this.)  But beyond using the computer for word processing I did not have much use for it.  But since I started teaching I have become more and more familiar with more uses.  I now use email, instant messaging, PowerPoint, video maker, spreadsheets, and many other programs.  I can even buy my baseball cards on the computer.  So I have become more comfortable with technology but still am weary when learning new things.  But I am here to tell ya, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

The IPEVO is evidence of that.  I noticed with the contraption you had to download the software.  I thought "ya right like I can do that."  My five year old can do it but I cannot.  But it was easy.  I just put it into the disc drive and it loaded all by itself.  Next I thought what would I use this for?  But I use it almost every day to look at different historical documents with the whole class or to look at charts and graphs to make sure kids know how to read those things.  It has been a wonderful addition to my classroom.  And I did not have to ask anybody to show me how to use the darn thing. 

So I guess what I am trying to say is don't be intimidated by technology use it.  Try out new programs and put them into your teaching tool chest to help the students to become life long learners.  I do ask one favor, can anybody show me how to use my cell phone?  Na, I ask my five year old.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Quick Tech Tips

Quick Tech Tips

  • Can’t Print from Infinite Campus?
    • Try using Mozilla Firefox as your web browser. Infinite Campus works best when you are using it in Mozilla Firefox rather than Internet Explorer or Google Chrome. All you need to do is open up a new Mozilla Firefox window and go to, then go to Infinite Campus as you usually do from RebelNet.

  • Need to add a printer?
    • If you are using a district windows device your homepage will have an icon on it labeled ‘add a printer’. This will take you to a webpage that has all of the supported printers listed on it. Select the printer you need and click connect.
    • If you are using a different device please contact a member of the tech team for your printing options. 

  • Microsoft Office Upgrade
    • As you may have noticed all of our windows devices have had Microsoft Office upgraded to the 2007 version.  Almost everything you create in Microsoft Office is able to be uploaded into your Google Drive so you can access it anywhere as long as you’re online. 
    • If you are still having trouble navigating in the ‘newer’ version of Microsoft Office browse through these online PDF files I found (must be authenticated if you are in the district) or search what you are looking for on youtube.
    • Word
    • Powerpoint
    • Excel

  • Elementary Wednesdays 
    • Just a reminder that each Wednesday Jesse and Jason will be stationed at each of the elementary buildings. If you are in need of support please email them to schedule a time on Wednesday or anytime. 
    • Also, because the tech team is around the district most of the work day email is the best method to get ahold of us.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rebel U 2012: Guest Post

This a post in a series about Rebel U 2012.

As part of the Rebel U 2012 evaluation, we asked participants if they were willing to be a guest blogger on our Godfrey-Lee Technology & Media blog.  We were not only interested in hearing (and sharing) first hand accounts from attendees and presenters, but also introducing some teachers to publicly posting content online for the first time and building an online presence.

Today's guest post is written by 7th Language Arts teacher, Alissa Huggins.  You can find Alissa online on Twitter.

This year, I presented in two Rebel U sessions. Last year, I filled in for someone, so this was my first year designing and presenting my own material. One of the best things about Rebel U is that the sessions are developed by teachers, for teachers. That makes the designing of a session very simple. My two main focuses were valuable discussion and TIME - particularly for my Google Sites session. I could have filled up two hours for that session, but it gave me a great springboard to help colleagues after Rebel U was over. The session based on Project Based Learning and the Common Core. It was awesome to discuss how teachers already use project-based learning in their classrooms; our colleagues are such a wealth of knowledge and I think it's such an amazing gift that we are able to share with each other at Rebel U. It's definitely the most beneficial professional development I have ever participated in.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

KISD Media Resources for GLPS Teachers

The REMC8 Kent ISD Media Center has resources available to help supplement your curriculum needs.  Many of these resources are free to use and can sometimes provide access to resources that are not currently available in the district.  Some of the resources they have available are:
  • Recorded and digital media (a great alternative Learn360 or United Streaming!)
  • Laminating services
  • Die-cutting room for visual aids/bulletin boards
  • Many other services!
In order to utilize some of these services though (especially the digital media), a client code is required.  If you do not already have your client code, please contact Sarah Wood.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Power of Information V.1

  In this series we will look at great resources available through the internet.  They may consist of online databases, websites, e-books, etc.  Today we are going to look at a database offered through the Kent District Library and The Grand Rapids Public library systems called Biography InContext.  You will need to have an active library card to use this tool, so get off your butt and get one because without one you’re truly missing out on a ton of amazing information tools.

Biography InContext, as you may have guessed, is a biographical database where you can search for biographical information on any popular figure.  What you may not have known is how comprehensive the information is on this database.   From reference books, newspapers and magazine articles to videos, interviews and Text to Speech read-alouds, Biography InContext is more than just an overview it’s one stop shopping for biographical information.  

Take a look at this video to find out more about how to use this amazing tool.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Rebel U 2012: Teacher Learning & Experiences

This a post in a series about Rebel U 2012.

As part of the Rebel U 2012 evaluation, participants were asked to complete the following sentence, "If you were at Rebel U 2012, you would have learned, witnessed, or experienced..." (similar to the question Scott McLeod posed on his blog, Dangerously Irrelevant). We received many responses that really spoke to the learning experience that teachers encountered during the day.  We had also asked our teachers this question last year and it evoked such great responses that we had to ask again this year!

So... if you had attended Godfrey-Lee Public Schools' Rebel U 2012, you would have learned, witnessed, or experienced...
  1. Teachers learning, instructing and engaged.
  2. Some enthusiastic educators helping each other with awesome tools.
  3. I always learn so much at Rebel U, even when I'm presenting. I think that this training is something that every district should have at the beginning of the year.
  4. All the tools you need in order to be successful integrating technology into your everyday work at Godfrey-Lee.
  5. Experienced how project based learning can be used to increase engagement.
  6. Teachers collaborating to create an educational experience for the students that will allow them to be successful.
  7. A rekindling of the collaborative nature and energy of the staff in the Godfrey-Lee district.
  8. That we are a top class school with top shelf staff.
  9. Major opportunities for students to learn guided by teachers.
  10. You would have learned about the technology available to help you and your students have an amazing and productive year.
  11. Collaboration, excitement, and a drive to learn how to be a better teacher.
  12. Home made lottery tickets!
  13. How to successfully incorporate technology into every aspect of your teaching and learning!
  14. Some interesting tools to use for student engagement and streamlining what you do on the administrative side.
  15. How to think out of the box when using apps in the classroom.
  16. Many teachers who are passionate about their jobs and are willing to share their wealth of knowledge.
  17. A day of rigorous learning.
  18. How technology can help our students learn in a way that is exciting to them and how we, as teachers, can use technology to save time, money and stress.
  19. Knowledgeable and enthusiastic presenters sharing ideas and resources while the staff enjoyed learning in the sessions they had chosen.
  20. Hundreds of new ways to use the latest technology in your classroom!
  21. A wonderful chance to share with colleagues from other buildings. It made you feel like a strong united district.
  22. The epitome of educators sharing knowledge. Rebel U is an awesome way to kick off the school year to get teachers motivated to incorporate new technology ideas in their classrooms.
  23. A plethora of useful strategies and tools that can be adapted to fit each teachers' and students' style and needs.
  24. Godfrey-Lee teachers are passionate and dedicated to their profession and want to help each other to move up!!
  25. New, quality techniques, resources, and ideas to help improve your teaching and your district's policies that would ultimately lead to better student learning.
  26. An organized, informative, tech filled day that is NOT A WASTE of time! :)
  27. With it being my first Rebel U, I felt like I was "properly" baptized as a Rebel now, thanks for such a great start of the year.
  28. A teaching staff working together to learn and make themselves more prepared for the upcoming school year.
  29. I enjoyed everything. Dan Townsend's presentation made me cry three times. So let me just say, "I believe."
  30. Something new and exciting in professional development - innovative and fresh!
  31. Teachers and other staff members sharing their ideas, experiences, and knowledge with other peers and colleagues to enhance the learning experience of our students.
  32. Many fun and worth while sessions. It is OK to be a beginner at Rebel U. The instructors are there to teach and to help you make your classroom a more viable place of learning.
Doesn't it make you wish all technology professional development was like Godfrey-Lee's Rebel U?

Rebel U 2012: Recap

This year marked the third year for Rebel U.  As our district continues to grow and add different technology devices and resources, it is vital that we provide our teachers with relevant professional development that supports the use of technology in their classroom.  Each year, we ask teachers to complete an evaluation at the end of Rebel U.  We use the information gathered from this evaluation to improve weaknesses, continue the areas that were deemed important or positive, and make each event entertaining and filled with relevant learning.

Our theme for this year was "weLearn."  We know that there is not a one-size-fits-all model to using technology, and how we approach using technology (whether it be for professional/personal use, or with students) will look different for each person.  Different knowledge bases, comfort levels and intended uses all play a factor in implementation.  Regardless of how it is used, at some point, we had to learn how to use different kinds of technologies.  We wanted to focus on how we can use what we know to help others and inspire others to try new things.  We heard many comments from teachers about things they learned throughout the day that they couldn't wait to start using in their classroom.

Some of the highlights from this year:

  • Keynote:  This year we added a keynote address to the schedule.  Our keynote was presented by our District Media and Technology Supervisor, Daniel Townsend.
  • Amazing Donations:  We had many businesses and organizations that donated items, supplies or food to support our professional development event.  To see a full list of all of our sponsors, please check out Sponsors page.
  • Photo Booth: In efforts of trying to combat the "My brain is starting to fill because of all of the learning and awesome food I just ate" feeling, we set up a photo booth for teachers to stop in and take a picture after lunch before heading back to their afternoon sessions.  We had some very energetic teachers stop by and took some great pictures.  To see the full gallery of pictures, check our our Photo Booth album.
  • "Lottery" Tickets: Our Tech & Media Team put together some custom scratch-off "lottery" tickets to give away incentive prizes.  We wanted a fun way to engage people in the learning taking place in their sessions so it wasn't a "sit-and-get" kind of professional development day.  Presenters gave these away in their sessions and our teachers were so excited when they had a winning ticket.
  • What did our teachers think of Rebel U?

To see more pictures from our day, please check out our photo album.

If you wish to keep up with our on-going effort to provide relevant and meaningful professional development for our teachers, please "Like" our Facebook page!

Monday, July 30, 2012

2012 1:1 Learning Initiative Training {Part 1}

Each year, we provide a training for our teachers involved in our 1:1 Learning Initiative program.  As we are in the process of moving away from using netbooks as district-provided devices and instead using Apple devices (MacBook Pros for teachers and MacBook Airs for students), this year we provided separate trainings for our teachers.  For the 2012-2013 school year, our 6th and 7th grade students will be utilizing Dell netbooks and 8th grade and several high school teachers will have carts of MacBook Airs.

The first part of our summer training was developed by myself (Sarah Wood) and Kelly McGee for 6th and 7th grade teachers.  In our continued effort to design our training to meet the needs of our teachers and students, we designed everything in our training so that we were modeling ideas and techniques and engaging our teachers in the training instead of having them passively sit and listen to us talk.  Due to the many activities going on this summer, we had a small group of 4 teachers, which allowed for many open discussions and fun learning.

All documentation, links and resources for the training can be found here.  Below are some highlights of the training.

Day 1: (Agenda found here)
As we planned the training, we wanted to build on the training from last year as well as provide effective training and learning for the participating teachers.  As trainers, we hoped to provide some unique learning experiences that would help the teachers understand the role of the teacher as a facilitator in the PBL learning environment as well as use technology as a tool in this process (not the focus of the process).

PBL Review
We started out the day with some discussion about the teachers' preparation for the 2011-2012 school year based on the training from last year, their experiences, and ways we move forward based on their experiences.  As trainers, we learned that many of the teachers could recall activities from last year's training and that they often referenced the materials we posted online for the training.  We wanted to point this fact out to the teachers because this is the type of environment we want to build for our students - a place where learning is fun and the information sticks because of the teaching environment.

After our discussion, we started out by reviewing the 7 Essentials for Project Based Learning article from last year.  To put a fun twist on looking at an article, we had numbers hidden in balloons that corresponded to one of the "essentials" stated in the article.  We told teachers to figure out a way to pop the balloons to find out their essential element that they would research further.  We asked each teacher to read the article (focusing on their essential element) and then answer the following questions:
  1. What does your essential element mean to you?
  2. What does your essential element mean to students?
  3. What is an example of your essential element?
We asked them to share their findings in a creative way.  We had a few videos, a graphic organizer and a Google Presentation (findings are listed in the Day 1 Agenda).

Bridge Building Activity

All documentation, links and resources for this activity can be found here.  Below are some highlights of the activity.

As we were planning the training, we wanted to focus on the things that we have heard from teachers throughout the year as things they struggled with as they worked through building a PBL learning environment.  One thing we noticed and heard from teachers was understanding their role as a facilitator in the learning process.  Some struggle with how to let go of the "teacher at the front" while others struggled with what to do after they have let go (as well as those in between).

To provide a learning opportunity that was meant to spark discussion, we had the teachers build a bridge.  The catch to this activity was that they were given minimal direction and the activity leaders (trainers), provided "guidance" that changed the course of the activity.  The purpose was to put the teachers in the role of the student and we would facilitate the activity.  To read more about the activity, click here.

As facilitators, it was interesting to watch the interaction and listen to the dialogue after the activity about what worked and what didn't work.

Ice Cream Activity

All documentation, links and resources for this activity can be found here.  Below are some highlights of the activity.

After lunch we wanted to engage the teachers in an activity to get everyone's minds thinking about curriculum connections.  We planned for everyone to make their own ice cream using some simple ingredients.  Using directions found from Indian River Schools' web site, each teacher made their own ice cream (we also had some toppings to make it taste a little more exciting).  While everyone was shaking their bags to make their ice cream, we talked about how an activity such as this could be used in the classroom as an introduction to a lesson/unit.  We also discussed possible curriculum connections that could be made with this particular activity.  A short activity like this seemed to be something feasible for teachers to do with their students on one of our Early-Release Fridays.  To read more about the activity, click here.

Curriculum Planning
After our ice cream activity, we started selecting standards that we would be working on developing a lesson/unit plan for Day 2.  Each teacher was asked to pick one or two of their standards they would like to work on the following day - we suggested standards that they would like to add a fresh twist to or something that they have not taught before.  We told them that if they were working on a standard that they have previously taught, we would like them to plan something completely new and different from what they have done before, this time using some of the elements we had discussed in developing a PBL lesson/unit.

Day 2: (Agenda found here)
Our Day 2 began with a recap of Day 1 and an overview of what we were going to be working on for the day.  To get everyone thinking about standards and planning, we shared a tool with everyone that could be helpful in developing driving questions.  In the blog post, "How to create driving questions for my projects?" found on the BIE blog, the author discussed how the TubricTM could be used for teacher professional development or for helping students create their own driving questions.  The teachers found this to be a good tool for helping them organize their thoughts and could definitely see students using it for supporting their learning.  The video below demonstrates the Tubric.

Curriculum Planning
The remainder of the day was spent planning PBL lessons and units using the information we had learned throughout our training last year and this year.  As our training last year introduced the teachers to many different web tools and resources, this year the focus was not on learning about new tools or resources, but the implementation of them.  As trainers, it was exciting to see that including these tools in their discussions and planning had become more natural and they seemed more comfortable using them.

We started working on an unit for the 6th grade team.  The science teacher decided she wanted to work on her standard that addressed plate tectonics.  The math teacher was trying to work in her standard with histograms, but as a group, we were struggling to make a relevant connection between the standards.  As we researched, talked, and brainstormed ideas, we were able to come up with a project that not only incorporated all subject areas, but also fit in with their service learning project.  The teachers decided to use the study of plate tectonics as a starting point for looking at things globally and the effects of the environment can impact people around the world.  The teachers were going to try and contact some local organizations and make first aid/survival kits for people impacted by forces of nature and donate them to the Red Cross.  The start of their plan can be found here.

The 7th grade teachers had previously discussed their service learning project and also decided to use that as a way of building a cross-curricular PBL unit.  After helping the 6th grade plan their unit and gathering their own ideas for their unit, the 7th grade planning went a little faster and allowed them to start mapping out their year with project goals and deadlines.  The 7th grade team plans on starting "Rebel C.A.R.E.S.", which will help students understand how environmental issues are connected to one another as well as to their lives.  Their plan has many components that will be carried our over the course of the school year.  The start of their plan can be found here.


Each year, we hope to build and grow our program by building a knowledge-base for our teachers, who can in turn, share with their students.  As we continue to focus on using the devices as support tools in the learning environment, we strive in providing our teachers with the necessary support for implementing their ideas and utilizing the tools and resources available to them to the best of their ability.  Our devices are simply tools in providing students and teachers access to a wide knowledge-base, and our curriculum and collaboration allows us to effectively utilize these tools.

Friday, May 18, 2012

GLPS May Technology & Media Newsletter

Important End-of-Year Information

As we approach the end of another school year, the Tech Team would like to remind you of our annual updates to district devices. In order to keep our devices fresh and up-to-date, we will be applying many important updates over the summer break.
  2. Save any favorites and bookmarks to your home directory (My Documents) Folder or use a social bookmarking tool such as Delicious or Diigo to save them online.
  3. Make sure all items on your desktop are saved in your home directory.
  4. If you have any unique programs installed on your computer, please note that you may have to re-install them when you return in the fall. 
  5. All district-owned laptops and netbooks will need to be turned in by the end of June for essential updates.
  6. If you have anything saved on the shared drive, please back it up to an alternate location as it will be cleared - the Shared Drives are only temporary holding places and content stored on them is not backed up on district servers.
  7. Register for Rebel U if you have not done so already.  If you do not register before the end of the school year, you will need to register the day of and will have limited session options.

Please let us know if you have any questions regarding any of these items, we are happy to help!

And for your viewing enjoyment - a promo video for Rebel U (link to video can be found here).

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

GLPS April Technology & Media Newsletter

For our newsletter this month, we decided to create a short animated video.  As we can't share links in a video, short descriptions of the video segments (including links) are listed below the video.

Note: For our video newsletter this month, we used GoAnimate to create our video.  If you are unable to view the video below, please click here.

Dan Townsend, District Technology Coordinator

As educators, it is difficult sometimes to spend a large amount of time searching the web for tools that you can use in the classroom. Apple’s App Store does a great job at delivering educational apps in a simple to use interface. What if you don’t have an Apple Device though, Edshelf is a great alternative for you either way.

Edshelf  is a directory of websites, mobile apps, and desktop software that are rated & reviewed by educators, for educators. They decrease the friction of using and procuring effective technology into the classroom.”

Some apps have prices associated with them but there are tons of free apps and sites organized for your classroom use. Check it out and see if it works for you. You can even filter by grade level, subject or platform. Go ahead...find tools... and share the ones you like with colleagues!

Sarah Wood, Technology & Media Integration Specialist
Like I mentioned in the last newsletter, I would like to share some of the features of the 21 Things for Students program.  One thing that can be helpful for you and students is social bookmarking, or in other words, saving your bookmarks online instead of to a specific computer.  Tools such as Delicious or Diigo can help you keep your bookmarks organized and allow your students to access teacher-selected websites easily.
Also, if you haven't signed up for Rebel U yet, please do so very soon.  Spots are filling up quickly.  Registration should be completed by the middle of May.

Kelly McGee, District Media Specialist & Technology Integration Support
Check out my online picture book at using  I've created recommendations for action/suspense books for middle and high school students.  These are books, that I'm positive if you pick up and read the first couple of chapters, you'll have to finish!

Jason Faasse, Audio/Visual Technician
A good pair of headphones or a quality headset is hard to come by, that is why this weeks edition of the AV item of the month is featuring both!
With the increasing amount of laptops, netbooks, and other devices in our district we are able to create more learning opportunities by allowing students to listen to things on the web.   Headphones and headsets would eliminate the possibility of disrupting others while students are learning online. *If you are interested in getting new headphones, please contact your building administrator*

Recommended Headphones:

    Jesse Burrows, Network Administrator
    E-mail/Twitter/Facebook tip:
    If you’ve ever been the victim of Malware, Here are 8 Best Practices to avoid Malware.

    Gmail tip:
    Don’t like the new Gmail look? How to get old style Gmail buttons back, instead of the picture based ones. click Here

    Like our avatars?  You can make your own using Face Your Manga.


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