Redefining Teaching in a Chromebook Environment


11000370156_ebc1bd651c_mI’ve developed an exciting course through the Castleton Center for Schools entitled Redefining Teaching in a Chromebook Environment.  Students will be pleased to receive a Chromebook as part of taking the course. But that’s not the exciting part.  Lots of courses provide students with equipment, but what matters most how teachers use digital tools to improve teaching and learning.  My 3-credit course explores ways that 21st Century, learner-centered strategies can be supported through the use of digital tools in the classroom. With an emphasis on transforming instructional practice, this course will support educators who are or plan to be implementing Chromebooks or Google Apps in their classroom. Chromebooks are much more than tools for email and Google Docs – take your teaching to the next level.

P.S. – One more benefit of this course is that tuition including the Chromebook and three credits is only $1,200.  This course runs from late January until early March. REGISTER HERE.

ISTE no longer about technology


6659992675I’ve been going to the ISTE conference almost every year since 2003, which makes me feel a little bit old (perhaps wise) here.  I have noticed a change, at least a change in the workshops that I attend at this technology conference – there is little talk about technology.  I remember 2003 was the year when tablet computers were the big thing.  I don’t mean iPads, I’m talking about Gateway tablets where you could fold the screen of your Windows machine all the way around and write on it with a stylus.  I remember when teaching with a “smart” board was the big thing.  But I’m not thinking that much about technology this time around.  The important thing is – we are getting to the point where we can “Get technology out of the way of learning” as Marcie Hull of the Science Leadership Academy put it.

The ideas that I have found worth sharing at ISTE recently center around student centered teaching that get to Marcie’s point.

Think as if school is “the real world” Jeremy Spry at SLA

“We don’t want to talk about a student, we want to talk with the student” Chris Lehmann at SLA

“If your dream doesn’t scare you, its not big enough.” Kevin Carroll

“Play is the highest form of research” Albert Einstein (Albert Einstein was not at ISTE!  Kevin Carroll quoted him.)

“Don’t talk about it, be about it.” Kevin Carroll’s grandfather

So, when we all go home we should not think about the latest Google tool or wireless configuration.  We can lean our shoulders into good teaching and “be about it.”

Creativity & Common Core – YES!


preziSometimes the briefest encounters can provide great information.  I pushed my way up the crowded stairway at ISTE 2014 today  to see some poster sessions that looked promising.  I was glad I found Karena Brace and Barbara Moran’s poster “Teachers + Web 2.0 + Common Core= Creative Classrooms.  Common Core and creativity?  Absolutely.  Karena and Barbara’s work at Wilkes University proves that there is lots of creativity within the Common Core and that digital tools provide students a way to unleash their creativity.  Karena and Barbara have shared their work through a Prezi which outlines the critical thinking and literacy skills that can be taught through a variety of lessons.  This presentation is filled with lesson plans, links and resources.  In addition to this presentation, Karena and Barbara shared information about two Wilkes University MOOCs (free online classes) are available which cover Web 2.0 and Mobile Apps:  Teachers + Web 2.0  Creative Classrooms and Teachers  Mobile Apps = Creative Classrooms.  Registration for the MOOCs will be available on the Desire2Learn OpenCourses website in August.

Really Good News from the World of Leadership


On my sec11442320485ond day at ISTE 2014, I was invited to attend the ISTE Leadership Town Hall.  When I got to the ballroom filled with superintendents, principals and other school leaders, I was impressed.  First, you still do not run into many administrators at technology conferences – you’ve got to wonder what that says about education in our technologically connected world.  But more importantly, I was impressed to see who ISTE had selected to represent forward thinking school leaders.  A couple of statements by these leaders stood out to me.  One statement was by Derek McCoy, the principal of Spring Lake Middle School in North Carolina.  Derek is the current holder of the NASSP Digital Principal Award.  When asked about high stakes testing, Derek said that “We are not preparing students for a test, we are preparing them for life.  A pretty amazing thing to say when too many schools still live and die by their test scores.  Another impressive statement was made by Dallas Dance, Ph.D., superintendent of the Baltimore County Public Schools.  Dr. Dance was recently elected to the ISTE Board of Directors.  Dr. Dance said that “Education is about people, not about programs.”  That statement sounds pretty basic, but not when you consider all of the children in our schools who have been cast aside because they do not fit within the confines of a particular program.  It is truly heartening to see that leaders like those chosen to speak a this town hall are being recognized for their vision.  We need more of this kind of thinking in education.

I’m Not Interested in Chromebooks


8204359338I decided that I am not looking for Chromebook workshops while I am at ISTE2014.  Don’t get me wrong, I am still excited that we are getting Chromebooks for our 3rd & 4th graders, but I do not need a Chromebook specific workshop to use this tool.  After all, part of the appeal of Chromebooks is that they are simple to use- If you get Google Drive, you get Chromebooks.  It is high time that we move beyond being device specific.  First we were all crazy about iPads, now we are all crazy about Chromebooks.  It’s not about the hammer, it’s about what you can build.  With this philosophy in mind,  I am looking for conference sessions that focus on topics such as engaging students in writing, collaborating, global learning, reading-writing and literacy.  I have added a bunch of sessions to my planner to learn about what I can do with the Chromebooks we are so lucky to be receiving next year.

Happy New Year!


IMG_20140626_172024245I am writing this post around ten o’clock on the night before the ISTE 2014 Affiliate Meeting in Atlanta,  Georgia.  I am excited for another ISTE conference to begin!  In a way, it is a little bit like New Years for me as a technology evangelist principal.  I have two goals in my head for the next school year:  Using Google Chromebooks to modify and reinvent learning in my school and using technology to engage my third and fourth grade writers.  I will be searching for tips, tools and other information on these topics that I can bring back to my teachers.  In a way though, these goals are just like New Years resolutions that I might make on January 1st.  Easy to make a goal or resolution but harder to carry it out.  Like this conference center that is filled with empty hallways tonight, I pledge to bring my goals to life in the new school year.  Just remind me about this post in November and see if I still have this twinkle in my eyes!

Online Learning – Yes!


Desk for an Afternoon by Dave HillI am excited to be teaching two online courses for educators this summer.

Supervision and Evaluation with the Common Core and 21st Century Teaching in Mind is a course for administrators and anyone who might be supervising teachers.  This course will build your understanding of the Common Core and effective teaching with technology through rich discussion and practical projects that you can use in your school next year.

Common Core Writing and Technology is a course where participants will gain a thorough understanding of CCSS ELA-Writing standards and will learn practical skills that will allow them to use digital tools to improve their writing instruction.

I realize that many teachers and administrators may not have experience with online courses and wonder whether these courses will fit their learning styles or summer plans.  I think online classes will suite your needs.

  • You can attend online courses at your own pace within the broad guidelines of the syllabus.  Do you work best in the morning or late at night?  Do you have more time on one day of the week than another?  No problem, my courses allow you to do course work when it best suites you.
  • You will get to know your classmates even though your interactions are online.  My courses center around rich discussions of class topics.  Not only will I provide frequent feedback, you will have many conversations with your classmates.
  • Vacation plans will not interrupt your participation in my classes.  Remember, online classes can adapt to your schedule.  If you can carve out a little bit of internet time while you are on vacation, you can participate in class.  Even if you are traveling to a remote tropical island, you can make arrangements with me to keep on track with your coursework.

Here is what some of my students said about my course last semester:

“This was my first (I admit!) online class and I thoroughly enjoyed our discussion forums. Your contributions kept us on track while still allowing us to bring in those burning issues.”

“This was a great course and my first online course!”

“I learned lots from this class and the participants – very timely and 
extremely useful information.”

“I found all the readings, posts, videos, and assignments informative, very helpful and professionally rewarding (fun).”

“I’ve truly found this course useful and informative and I’ve enjoyed it a great deal! You’ve renewed my hope in taking online courses….”



Hands On Learning


I’ve been thinking a lot about how technology is either linked to a Common Core State Standard (CCSS) or how the use of technology can support students mastering a particular standard.  I am a big champion of technology use in elementary schools.  But I must admit that I was wowed the other day about a very “analog” method of teaching essential writing skills.  Students in one of my first and second grade classes were creating flip books to help them understand the concept of stories having a beginning, middle and end.  In this introductory lesson, the teacher had read the students a short book and asked them to recall the story in their flip books.


I have to say that I loved this lesson.  I could see students grasping the concept of beginning, middle and end.  I could see how this lesson supported the following CCSS standard:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.1.3 Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure.

Sure, there are ways to teach the same standard with digital tools such as VoiceThread or Storyboarder, but I would not want my first and second graders to start there.  There is great benefit from having students getting their hands on tactile writing tools.  This flipbook lesson was a great example of the importance of multimodal teaching.

Speaking of Common Core Quality


rdecom9127507129It is exciting to see that the Common Core State Standards support the use of technology in education.  Take this Speaking and Listening standard for example:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.5 Add audio recordings and visual displays to presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main idea

My mind races to having students use tablet devices to interview friends at school for a book talk or a having a group of students creating a video reenactment of a scene from a play.  This type of technology use would capture our students’ interest.  But is this all we want from the use of technology?  To be sure, students enjoy creating content with digital devices.  They take pictures and film videos all the time with their smart phones or tablets.  This does not mean that they are automatically going deeper with their learning when they use technology.

Let’s take a look at the standard again:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.5 Add audio recordings and visual displays to presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main idea

The concept of main idea is a key part of this standard.  Students must  have a solid understanding of the main idea that they are presenting.  Not only do they have to understand the main idea, they have to know if the other pieces of information that they have included in their presentation support the main idea.  Let’s say a fourth grader was giving a presentation on the sinking of the Titanic.  It might be interesting to know what was served on the Titanic but this does not help us understand how this ship was crippled by an iceberg.  Now add in some technology.  Suppose a student included a short clip from a movie about the Titanic in their presentation.  Aside from grabbing our attention, does the movie clip help us understand the main point of the presentation?  We have all seen students spend whole class periods looking for and editing a video clip for a presentation.  This might be time well spent if the student finds a clip that shows the ship’s fatal flaws, but it could also be wasted time if the clip simply shows the ship sailing along at a distance.  Just as we must be careful about what we include in one of our lessons, students must be careful about what they include in a presentation they are making.
Finally, teachers know that they  must go “back to the drawing board” if they give a lesson and their students show little understanding on an “exit card” or quiz.  What about the student giving a presentation, how do they know if their audience understood what they were trying to present?  We need to allow students to receive feedback when they are mastering SL.4.5.  After all, wouldn’t we prefer that our own students told us that they learned a lot from our lessons rather than telling us they thought the video we showed was “cool?”

Excited to be talking about Writing at this year’s K-12 Online Conference!


k12online-logo-plainI am excited to be presenting at the K-12 Online Conference this October.   My presentation, Writing- It’s All About Collaboration and Sharing , is part of the Open Learning strand.  The reason I am so excited about presenting about writing is that I feel that now, more than ever, the importance of writing is coming into its own in our schools.  And, I think we have the standards movement to thank for this.  Before you think I’ve gone mad or have drunken the Kool-Aide, look at the evidence.  What we have always know to be good teaching and practice is now being demanded in the standards that are shaping instruction in our schools:

Common Core Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.6 With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others…

Framework for 21st Century Learning

Communicate Clearly….Utilize multiple media and technologies, and know how to judge their effectiveness….as well as assess their impact

ISTE Nets for Students

Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.

Now is the time to think of writing as a core part of our curriculum, not an extra.  Taking time to have students blog or otherwise publish their work is not an extra, it’s an essential!

I’d like you to be part of my presentation!

I am looking for examples of students collaborating around writing and sharing their work.  I would like to highlight your work for the world to see.  If you would like to have your student’s work highlighted as part of my presentation, send me your contact information and a brief description of your work by clicking THIS LINK.