20 Ways to Use ThingLink in Education

When I first learned about ThingLink late last summer, I was immediately impressed. My mind started racing about all the ways that ThingLink could be used by teachers, students and even beyond the classroom. If you’re not familiar with ThingLink, it makes images interactive. How do you make an image interactive? You upload a still image to ThingLink, and then you can add little icons on top of the image. Those icons become hyperlinks to other web media- websites, articles, videos, sound clips, and much more. Not only can you link to external content, but students can type their own responses onto an icon. I’ve embedded a ThingLink featured example by Molly below, so you can see it in action.

Now tell me that isn’t AWESOME?!

So, now that you’re hooked, what are some of the ways you could use ThingLink in your classroom? I’ve just included the tip of the iceberg below; the ideas are truly endless.

  1. Have students create one for a summative assessment in place of a typical test.
  2. Use a book cover image and have students include links about the book, characters, plot, etc. for an end of book project.
  3. Use the image of a map, and include links with information about the area, like this one, or this one, or this one.
  4. Use an image of a person or character and include links about their life and their important contributions to history or the topic being covered.
  5. Include an image of a body system and include links about how it works. For example, the skeletal system.
  6. Foreign language teachers (or ESL/ELL classrooms) could use an image of a familiar scene, like a family cooking in the kitchen, and include links to recorded sound clips about what’s going on in each part of the picture in the language being studied.
  7. Create a “getting to know you” ThingLink using a group photo and include links to teacher’s websites, bios about seniors for senior night, etc.
  8. Use it as a beginning of the year/course ice breaker by having students upload a picture of themselves and including links to content that describes them and things they like. Students can comment on one another’s published ThingLinks.
  9. Search the database of ThingLinks others have created and shared to see if there’s already something out there you can use.
  10. Create an entire lesson in one ThingLink, by including links to sound clip instructions, video content and links to assignments or quizzes.  See a great example here.
  11. Use the image of a book cover and include a video link to the book trailer to preview the book before reading it.
  12. Scan and upload an image of a worksheet, and include links to videos and websites that will help them solve the problems/answer the questions if they get stuck.
  13. Have students create a portfolio by linking to their work in all other webtools you use in class: blog posts, videos they created, scanned images or pictures of non-digital work.
  14. Depending on how big your school is, you could create and upload a map of your school. Then include a link over each classroom to information about that teacher, like their Twitter handle, class website, class LMS page(s), a written bio right in ThingLink, a recorded welcome sound clip from that teacher, etc.
  15. Create an image collage, upload it to ThingLink and then include links about each image. For example, you could create a collage of different geographic land forms like this one.
  16. Upload a picture of the periodic table of elements and include a link to a video or information about each element (or the ones you’re studying at the time). Sort of like the Periodic Videos site.
  17. Include links to videos demonstrating how to preform certain skills, like this push up example.
  18. Upload an image of your school and include links to information and videos about your school: clubs and activities you offer, your mission statement, academic offerings, promotional videos, and more. Then embed it on your school’s website!
  19. Put a twist on Friday’s current events discussion by asking students to not only find an article, but find an image that relates to their chosen event/topic, upload it to ThingLink, include a link to the original article as well as other links, videos, etc. that relate to the article and what you’re studying in class. You could even ask the students to include a link to an audio recording of themselves discussing their current event.
  20. Create instructions for a new website, device, or process like this one.

One of the things I like the most about this tool, is that no matter the project or access to technology, you can incorporate ThingLink into your class. You, as the teacher, could create one that students will use to preview/review information or complete an assignment. Students could work in groups or on their own to create one, depending on their access to technology and devices inside and outside of the classroom. If you have very little access to technology in your classroom and you still want students to create their own, you could assign individual students or groups pieces of the project to research and prepare. Then have the groups take turns adding their links to the full class ThingLink image. As you can see with how all over the board these ideas are, there are so many ways you could use this tool in an educational environment.

How are you using ThingLink with your students and in your schools? If you’re using it, please share a link to an example in the comments.

Tech To You Later!


Speaking at the EdTech Coaches Playground at ISTE 2014

Like I said in my last post, I’m a little behind on my blogging…

iste 2014 presentation iste 2014 presentationISTE 2014 in Atlanta was another whirlwind experience, and a month later I’m still processing everything. This year, I was lucky enough to present during the EdTech Coaches Network (formerly SIGETC) playground.  I talked about the Digital Citizenship Day I planned back in February. Talking with so many educators who come from different walks of life and have had similar ideas and experiences to those I was sharing was awesome! As much as I was sharing best practices with people, I was getting just as many ideas as others shared their experiences with me and asked provoking questions. I’m really grateful to the ETC network for selecting me as one of the presenters.

All the sites I referenced during my presentation at the playground are on my website here.

I just think we are so lucky to be educators right now.  Imagine teaching during a time when doors were closed, you had to perform all day for students (or bore them to tears), and you were pretty much in it alone and constantly recreating the wheel… picture just 10-15 years ago (if that).  So much has changed.  As exciting as it is for our students to learn in classrooms today, I think becoming a teacher or working in education have become extremely exciting careers to embark on and fields to work in! The number of people ISTE pulled together from all over the world is seriously impressive.  Although I didn’t even begin to meet a fraction of the people who attended, the coaches playground I spoke at, other sessions and just plain down time (wait, when was there down time at ISTE?) led me to making many new connections who I am able to reach out to in an instant over email or Twitter. I am not alone in this thing called education, and I am fortunate to be a part of it with so much technology and so many instant networking opportunities at my fingertips. Thank you ISTE and my PLN for making it another successful year and a very memorable first speaking opportunity at the conference.

Did you attend ISTE 2014?  What did you think?

Tech To You Later!

Tech Teacher of the Year Award

This year was the inaugural year for a Tech Teacher of the Year award at our school.  It was decided that the winner would receive new classroom furniture.  Luckily, our school PTSA was very generous and found this to be a good cause, so they offered to fund a second classroom with new furniture.  We were able to award two teachers this year.  Teachers were asked to nominate a colleague and students were asked to nominate a teacher if they qualified for one or more of the following criteria to be this year’s Tech Teacher of the Year!

  1. Creativity and innovation in the classroom through use of technology
  2. Shows growth in his or her teaching through use of technology
  3. Commitment to digital citizenship and information literacy
  4. Commitment to life-long learning
  5. Vision for the future of technology in his or her classroom

In a 1:1 environment, you have to think a lot more about the devices you get, the software you put on the devices and the training you provide.  There are countless infrastructure considerations that must be made as well.  While things like wifi/internet access must be made a top priority, classroom furniture is sometimes overlooked or deemed as a project to get to down the road because it can be put on the back burner.

old student deskWhy does classroom furniture matter?

Take an older style chair and desk combo for example (image to right).  These desks currently make up many of our classrooms.  Our students have tablet PCs that take up a large portion of the desk space.  There is little room to have anything else on the desk, not to mention they constantly fall off the desk if the desks are bumped or students walking up and down the isle are wearing a book bag and accidentally bump into another student’s tablet.  Obviously these desks are not conducive to a tablet environment, but they also don’t lend themselves to a collaborative, creative working space either (2 of the 4 Cs of a 21st century classroom).

As a technology department, we felt it was important to focus on revamping the current classroom setup for teachers and students to take full advantage of our tablet program.  The new desks will be longer and wider and will allow for group work to be done much easier.  Chairs will be separated from the desks.   We worked with School Outfitters to order the new furniture;  they’ve been really helpful, and I highly recommend them if your school is in the market for new furniture.

A BIG congratulations to John Norman and Michelle Semancik as this year’s TTOTY winners!

Norman has really pushed himself this year to try new things and enhance his teaching.  Norman has implemented many new technology tools into his teaching repertoire this year, including voice recordings in his PowerPoint presentations so students who were absent or on retreats could get caught up on his lectures from home, to completely transforming a long standing senior project to include a classroom wiki, Google forms, and different web tools of students’ choosing.  Norman was very dedicated to his own learning this year and attended almost every Lunch & Learn as well as had many one on one meetings with me to see how he could best implement technology into his teaching.  With more than 30 years of teaching experience, Norman is a great example of continuously striving to improve himself, his teaching and his students!

Semancik is constantly working to learn and grow, her own personal motto and resolution this year.  Semancik always actively attends and participates in technology professional development and it is clear that she takes what she learns and applies it to her classroom.  Sometimes skeptical at first, she closely evaluates and tests new technology before implementing it into her lessons.  She served as the social studies PLC leader this year, and worked with her department to figure out a way to include more educational games and simulations into their teaching, while also including meaningful assessment.  Semancik fully embraced Schoology this year, including many discussions boards and assignment submissions in all units.  She frequently uses Twitter to extend her classroom culture outside of the school day, find resources and connections for her own PLN and support the Academic Team. Through microfinance organization Kiva and the help of technology, Semancik has connected her students with people all over the world to help alleviate poverty through monetary lending, rather than direct donations.  These are only a few examples of the many ways Semancik utilizes technology and web tools in her teaching. It is exciting to watch Semancik constantly challenge herself, her teaching and her students through effectively implementing technology into her classroom!

Thank you to all of our teachers for continuously working to learn new systems and tools to use in your teaching! A special thank you to all of our 19 nominees, John and Michelle for doing something extra (or many extra things) to be noticed as taking full advantage of our tablet program.  And of course, a special thanks to PTSA for funding a second classroom with new furniture.

How do you think classroom furniture and setups contribute to a 1:1 or BYO environment? How do you recognize teachers in your building for their effective use of technology in the classroom?

Tech To You Later!

Campus Meets Community

schooloutfittersToday, I had the honor of speaking to employees from School Outfitters as a part of their Listen, Learn and Lead series.  As a testament to their motto, furnishing great places to learn,” they wanted to get a better understanding for the clients in which they serve- schools- and how they could better meet their needs. They asked me to participate in one of the “listen” sessions, so their employees could gain a better understanding about educational technology needs in schools today.

I really enjoyed talking with the company today, and not just because they were offering free pizza!  People in many different departments (from IT, to human resources, to marketing, to the President) attended the session and seemed genuinely interested to learn about what our environments are like in a school setting. They were very engaging and asked a lot of great questions-an educators dream!

I commend School Outfitters’ efforts to learn more about their customers! Now I realize a large part of their client base is the education industry, but I think businesses should reach out to schools in this way to see how they can better serve our campuses.  After all, we are always trying to figure out how our students and our schools can help serve our communities.

It’s easy to feel like the education world is the last to get on board with something that the rest of the world has caught on to for quite some time.  It was nice to finally feel like we (education) could be leading the way, or at the very least providing the insight and feedback to others to help lead the way!

So if you haven’t already (I know many companies do a tremendous amount for and to get involved with local schools-thank you!), now is your chance to get your company community involved with a local school’s campus. Could you help fund something or offer sponsorship for the school? Could you create an internship or work study opportunity?  Could you team up with a teacher/discipline to create a PBL opportunity for students?  There are so many ways to get involved with local schools; when you do, everyone benefits!

So thank you again, School Outfitters, for inviting me into your home today!

Schools, how do you get involved with your community?  Community leaders, how do you get involved with your local campuses?

Tech To You Later!

5 Edtech Tools in 5 Minutes: Episode 5

With our school-wide Digital Citizenship Day, February was a little crazy and I never got around to making a 5 in 5 episode for February. Now that things have calmed down, I can resume making the monthly 5 in 5 screencasts, which highlight 5 edtech tools teachers can use with students in 5 minutes (okay you caught me-less than six minutes!). By no means are these five minute episodes a comprehensive overview of the tools, but it should be enough to let you know what the tool is, what it can do, and if it’s worth your time looking into and learning more about.

5_in_5This episode features the following tools:

  1. Big Huge Labs
  2. Kahoot!
  3. Pinterest
  4. Visuwords
  5. Piktochart

For the videos, the Prezis, Diigo links to all the sites featured in the episodes and more, visit my website. If you don’t want to miss another episode, subscribe to the iTunes podcast channel here.

Tech To You Later!

#DigCit Day Reflections

tshirtfrontIt’s been over a week since the area’s first ever Digital Citizenship (DigCit) Day took place. It was a complete whirl wind and worth every second of the time put into planning it. I’m not really even sure where to start this post-my head is still spinning!

If you’re looking for a little more background information on digcit day, check out my blog posts leading up to the day.  Essentially, the entire school day and every class was dedicated to different topics relating to digital citizenship.

Throughout the day, we used the hashtag #MCNDCD on twitter.  Check out the Storify including tweets from the day here.

I first started writing about the DigCit day in July of 2013 with my post about free resources from the FTC. Since then, I’ve been brainstorming with people at work and my PLN on Twitter, collecting resources, making a case to hold the day with administrators and teachers, planning, and meeting with teachers to share the resources and finalize their role in the day.

digcit day

One of my favorite fun pieces to the day were the temporary tattoos, which represented students’ digital tattoos, and the T-shirts every employee in the school wore all day.  The front of the T-shirts had our “McNick students T.H.I.N.K.” logo and the back had our “Is it…. True, Hurtful, Illegal, Necessary, Kind?” logo for the day. The tattoos read “I’m a responsible digital citizen.”  Our librarian and web master, Anne Jones, designed all three logos.  We uploaded the art for the tattoos to Tattoo Fun and purchased them for a very reasonable price.

During the first 20 minutes of school, students received their tattoos and their “digital passports” which served as their guiding light throughout the day. Each teacher had previously received a stamp (each department had a designated color) in order to stamp the students’ passports as they entered the class.  In order to prevent any student from receiving the

Some completed digital passports.

Some completed digital passports.

same session twice, there was some predetermined shuffling for some students to different areas of the building than their normal schedule.  For example, if a student had two math classes, they would show their math teacher for the second time that day that their passport had been stamped for math already, and they would proceed to the library session. The front of the passports had an area for each of the 10 different sessions, and the back included a schedule for the day and any major class changes.

Steve Smith from CBTS got our day started on the right foot.  Many students and even more teachers have commented on how interesting he was.  There’s always skepticism when bringing in a guest speaker for an all school assembly, and he definitely exceeded expectations. If you live in the Cincinnati area, you’ve got to reach out to him to bring him to your school- you won’t regret it!

From the assembly, students progressed through their normal schedules where teachers taught a designated topic relate to digital citizenship based on department. English focused on email etiquette and online privacy; Religion classes discussed sexting, snapchat and selfies; math discussed cyberbullying and how to become upstanders as opposed to bystanders; science classes had a department wide research and poster contest about responsible disposal and recycling of e-waste; fine arts classes learned about copyright and fair use; business and technology classes looked deeper into the ramifications of a poor social media presence; health and gym classes learned about the effects of technology abuse on the mind and body and then played a game of dodge ball to reiterate the importance of stepping away from our digital devices; and our S.A.I.L. classes, study halls and any students who would have received a repeat session attended a critical website evaluation session in the library.   For more information about teachers and students’ reactions to the day, please check out our school’s news info about the day.

Photo Feb 24, 7 02 04 AMWe had a wonderful line up of 13 guest speakers (including Smith) throughout the day in our foreign language and social studies classes: Matthew Wallace, Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office; Jennifer Kinsley, Chase College of Law; Andrea Smythe, Cincinnati Police Officer; John Greiner, Graydon Head; Brett Renzenbrink and Matt Worth, Strauss Troy; Anthony Reese, Union Township Police Department; Scott Griffith, School Outfitters; Josh Welsh, Matt Shoulta, Lauren Lonce, Jeff Thomas, and Chris Styles from Total Quality Logistics.  The legal professionals spoke to all social studies classes about laws associated with cyberbullying, sexting and child pornography, while the HR professionals spoke to all foreign language classes about social media’s impact on the hiring process. Based on many students’ post- digcit day survey responses, these sessions were not only their favorite sessions, but also the sessions they felt they learned the most.  I imagine it has something to do with the real world speakers that don’t see the kids every day. 

DigCit Day Profile 2014_LargeAlong with the real world speakers, we also had real data to share with the kids based on a completely anonymous student survey sent to all students before digcit day.  Out of 640 students, over 200 responded to the survey.  As with any high school student survey, I think there is some room for error based on students responding to be funny or lie because they’re afraid they’ll get in trouble.  But, based on some of the national averages, our students are not far off. The infographic to the right was shared with all our teachers, students and the parents at the parent portion of the evening.  It shows we’ve got some areas to improve upon, but we’ve also got some good things going to too, such as students ‘defriending’ or blocking someone who hurt their feelings online.  I created the infographic on Piktochart (very easy to use), and I think it really helped some of the teachers answer the, “why do we need to do this? We already know better!” questions and remarks they received from some students.  It also served as a wakeup call that our students (along with every other teenager across the country) are not exempt from these issues.

Along with our school infographic, I had some other images, infographics, and our three digcit logos hung up around the building. Between these images, the T-shirts, and the messages in all classes throughout the day, the importance of positive digital citizenship was at every turn throughout the day. We kept many of the signs up throughout the remainder of the week, and will leave some permanently displayed in the library.

Most of our employees on digcit day.

Some of our teachers, counselors and Principal on digcit day.

Based on survey feedback from students, there was a feeling that a portion of the day was repetitive.  This certainly wasn’t my intention since each department had a designated area/topic to discuss, but it also speaks to the fact that many of these topics overlap and are intertwined with one another.  On the flip side, many students enjoyed the day and felt like they learned a lot of valuable information that would not have normally been taught in a classroom setting.  Others also felt they received a direct and much-needed wakeup call in some of the other areas they’ve been hearing about for quite some time (online privacy, etc.).  The majority of teachers I’ve spoken to or that filled out the post teacher survey also felt like this day was very beneficial to the students. In my opinion, I think this was one of those days and lessons that some students may not realize the impact it had right away, but they’ll realize it down the road when they go to apply for colleges and a job and decide not to post that picture or status.  There have been a handful of students who have already signed up for LinkedIn, per the suggestions of our HR guest speakers, to begin building their resumes and documenting awards and achievements.  Way to start making a purposeful and positive digital tattoo, guys!

Q&A during the parent DigCit Night to conclude the day.

Q&A during the parent DigCit Night to conclude the day.

To conclude the day, we had a Digital Citizenship Night for parents of our students and invited grade school teachers and parents to attend as well.  There was one teacher from each department who talked to parents about what their department focused on during the day and a few things parents should know about that area.  Many left the evening telling us how thankful they were for this program, and we’ve received many requests to do this again and pass on information and our presentation from the evening.  We left parents with the hard copy of the Living Life Online magazine from the FTC, raffled off a couple copies of the FTC’s NET CETERA book and a T-shirt.  And of course, everyone likes sweets as an incentive (and I know our teachers needed a pick me up after such a long day), so everyone received a 3 Musketeer candy bar for being one of the “3 Musketeers of #digcit!”

Each candy bar reads "Teachers, students and parents working together to become responsible digital citizens.  Thanks for being one of the '3 Musketeers' of #DigCit!"

Each candy bar reads “Teachers, students and parents working together to become responsible digital citizens. Thanks for being one of the ‘3 Musketeers’ of #DigCit!”

All in all, I think the day was a huge success!   I know discussing digital citizenship with students is not something that can be done in one class or one day, but this was a great introduction to many conversations that were either overdue, or needed to be had again.  It sent a loud message to students and to parents that this is important to us, as a school, and the topic is here to stay!

For more information and press about our Digital Citizenship Day, please check out the following articles:

So what would you have included?  What would you not have included? What do you think of the idea altogether? I’d love to hear your digital citizenship ideas.

Tech To You Later!

Facilitating PD in my PJs: Moderating my First Twitter Chat

Tonight I had the pleasure of moderating my first Twitter chat: #1to1techat (1:1 teacher chat).  This has been my favorite Twitter chat, professional development, and weekly motivation for a long time now.  I was flattered when Shaelynn Farnsworth asked me if I wanted to moderate this week.

You can check out the archive of #1to1techat on 2/19 by clicking here.

Before I answered her, I got very nervous. What if I didn’t have a good answer to someone’s question? It only took me a few minutes to calm down and realize, she wasn’t asking me to be an expert at anything.  The beauty of a Twitter chat is that it is a bunch of educators and practitioners coming together to exchange their expertise, brainstorm and bounce ideas off one another. I’m sure someone learned a thing or two from me, but I bet I learned the most from everyone else!

If you’ve participated in a Twitter chat before, you get the benefits.  If not, don’t worry-they happen every week day, so you have time to see it for yourself.

#1to1techatA Twitter chat is the easiest, most affordable (free!) and convenient way to connect with other educators across your state, the country, and even the world.  You use a program like TweetDeck, or even the Twitter search feature, and follow the chat by setting up a column (or searching) the designated hashtag (in this case, it was #1to1techat) at a specific time.  They usually last an hour.  A moderator poses questions to facilitate the conversation, and you- as a participant- include the designated hashtag in all tweets to keep it in the stream for others to see and respond to.  Twitter chats are like the best faculty room/hallway conversations and brain storm session you’ve ever had… on steroids!

“…until you look at Twitter, you won’t realize the sheer volume of conversations that are happening without you… It was kind of scary and awe-inspiring at the same time: the education world had been going on without us, and it was going really fast.”
Jody Passanisi and Shara Peters

Some Tips for Moderators and Things I Learned Along the Way:

  • I invited some individuals, (Twitter) lists of people, and  other common hashtags/chats to join us. The more people that are involved-the more fulfilling the conversations!
  • I had my questions pre-typed and double checked for the 140 character limit. This made it a lot easier to copy & paste the questions from a Google Doc (which I was also able to easily share with Shaelynn for feedback prior to the chat).
  • I used TweetDeck on my Mac to keep track of everything going on during this fast paced chat. I had multiple columns dedicated to the chat based on replays, RTs, favorites, etc.
  • I kept a notepad and pen near by to jot down any new tools, sites and go-to gurus that I want to investigate after the chat. HAH! I did not write one thing down because I didn’t have time. I’ll have to go back through and re-read the tweets and check out the archive.
  • Chats go fast and it’s easy to lose track of which question you’re on or what the question is.  After participating in #NTchat (new teacher chat-another inspiring chat) a couple of times, I borrowed Lisa Dabbs idea of pointing out the question as the moderator like so,
    —>Q1: question here. #hashtag.”
  • As hard as it will be, pay attention to time. I got caught up in conversations and didn’t leave as much time for some questions as I’d have liked.

Overall, I’d say it went pretty well. Well after the hour was up, people hung around to keep talking and sharing ideas (no thanks to me, but rather the people who participated and shared their experiences and ideas). When is the last time you were a part of “sit & get” PD where teachers weren’t looking at the clocks and ready to race out the second it was over? When was the last time people were actually bummed PD was over already?!  All of these people will continue to check out the ideas and tools shared on Twitter and implement them into their own classrooms to improve their instruction/facilitation.

This is the power of twitter chats, my friends!

Have you participated in a Twitter chat before? What did you think? What tips do you have for moderators?  What are some of your favorite Twitter chats?

Tech To You Later!

McNicholas to hold Digital Citizenship Day for all students – From Around Anderson Township

Original post via McNicholas to hold Digital Citizenship Day for all students – Around Anderson Township.

First of its kind in the greater Cincinnati area

McNicholas High School will change its curriculum for the day on Monday, Feb. 24. On this day, all students will participate in a Digital Citizenship Day, organized by Director of Educational Technology Katie Ritter.  The day will run normal school hours of 7:40 a.m.-2:40 p.m.

The DigCit day will begin with a presentation by Steve Smith with Cincinnati Bell about living in a digital world and the dangers and ramifications of a negative online presence.  Students will then proceed through their normal class schedule and each department will focus on a different area related to digital citizenship. For example, during social studies classes, guest speakers will discuss the legal ramifications associated with cyberbullying and sexting, and in business and technology classes, students will learn about the importance of keeping their social media clean for colleges, employers, and government agencies.

“As a one-to-one Tablet PC school, it is our responsibility to teach our students how to navigate the online world and be responsible global citizens, which now includes their digital life. In the same way we wouldn’t hand the keys to a teenager to begin driving without proper training, we shouldn’t hand them these devices without proper guidance. This day will elaborate on the conversations we’ve already begun, and become part of a continuous conversation we have with our students about digital citizenship,” Ritter said.

Ritter said the idea came to her through many discussions with students, parents, teachers, and sessions from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference she attended last year.  “We needed to do something BIG to make a statement that we, as a school, think digital citizenship is very important,” Ritter added.

More detailed information can be found on Ritter’s blog Talk Tech with Me under the blog post #DigCit Day for High School Students.

Questions? Contact Katie Ritter, McNicholas High School Director of Educational Technology, at kritter [at] mcnhs [dot] org.

PHOTO ATTACHED: Katie Ritter, Director of Educational Technology at McNicholas High School, reviews curriculum plans with Phys Ed teacher Cheryl Heise. Ritter has organized a Digital Citizenship Day for all students on Feb. 24.

Busy as Can Be? Time for Online #EdTech PD!

Cheesy, I know.  I can’t help myself if there’s a good rhyme to be made!


Photo taken by Al Camardella Jr.

If you’re reading this from my part of the world, you’ve had more snow days than you can count, too. And it’s only the beginning of February!

Mix that with retreats, conferences, calamity days, Digital Citizenship Day, make-up games, tutoring students, meetings, teaching, grading, the other 300 things on a teacher’s plate each day, and oh yea, your personal life… and where in the heck do you have time to fit any educational technology professional development?

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been holding monthly Lunch & Learnswhere teachers bring their lunch to the library to learn about (or refresh their memory on) something edtech. We’ve had a session on tools for collaboration in the classroom, DyKnow,  and every other month is dedicated to our new LMS: Schoology. Based on availability and pre-existing events on the school calendar, there would have only been a couple of weeks between the January and February Lunch & Learn sessions.  I just couldn’t add that additional stress to people, or myself, right now in the midst of the overwhelming schedules and make-up schedules. I couldn’t cancel the February session either.

What to do?

In the spirit of the students using Schoology to make up snow days, I decided to put the February “Lunch” & Learn (Schoology Analytics and Student Completion Rules) online in the teachers’ Schoology PD course. I still sent the pre-survey to teachers, asking them to complete it by a certain date, so I could have the material ready based on their needs. I took a screencast of the usual presentation and how-to’s I would have shown on a big projector screen.  At the points I would have normally had teachers stop to do something on their own tablet (tablet PC), I asked teachers to pause the video and do the task themselves in one of their Schoology courses. I included the normal links to resources and added a discussion board for them to ask questions and share experiences since they wouldn’t have the opportunity to discuss face to face.  I also included a brief online screencast “tutorial” of the course. At the end there was a five question quiz to make sure teachers had actually “attended” and understood the content. Finally, the session ends with a post-survey as always.

Lucky for us we had another snow day and I was able to get everything posted and made available to the teachers a day early. Instead of one lunch period on a certain day, they now have the entire month of February to complete the session and receive credit for “attending” the Lunch & Learn. There have been about 15-20 out of 45 teachers attend each face to face session thus far.  Nine people have already completed the online session, and they still have three weeks to go! I’ll have to wait until the end of the month for the feedback to gauge how well this format worked for them.  If an overwhelming majority really liked this format, it might be something to think about for the future.  At the very least, I hope it alleviates the stress of making another meeting during this busy time while still getting the same PD time.

Click to view the screencast how-to overview of the online session on screencast.com.

The video Lunch & Learn session:

Have you taken or prepared an online edtech course before? What did you think?

Tech To You Later!

#DigCit Day for High School Students

Now that our school’s Digital Citizenship (DigCit) day is right around the corner, plans are really starting to fall into place.  I haven’t been this excited for something in a while-and it’s for work!  That’s how I know I’m in the right field :).

the-definition-of-digital-citizenshipIf you’re wondering what exactly is digital citizenship right now, I suggest you check out this article by Terry Heick on teachthought.com.  He does a great job explaining everything digital citizenship encompasses.  The picture definition to the left is from his blog post, and I think it is fabulous! There’s also an awesome infographic at the bottom of the post you have to check out, too.

We’ll be starting off the DigCit day with a presentation from Steve Smith with Cincinnati Bell Technology Solutions.  Steve travels to local high schools and puts on a very informative presentation about living in a digital world, the dangers and the ramifications of a negative online presence.  I saw his presentation at another school around Thanksgiving, and I knew it would be a great introduction to our DigCit day! If you live in the Cincinnati area, you’ve got to bring him to your school.  Best part about this presentation- he does it for FREE!

In November, I presented the idea of a DigCit Day to the teachers at our faculty meeting.  We discussed different possibilities, and I asked them for their input on the day since they will be such a key part of the execution. The feedback I received showed a majority of the teachers were in favor of a full day session.  Once we’re finished with the Steve Smith assembly, students and teachers will proceed throughout the day with their normal class schedules (students will go to their regular classes with their regular teachers).  Each department has been designated to teach a certain area/topic related to digital citizenship. I tried my best to align topics to departments that fit with their content areas.  Teachers have been given the option to team teach their topic with their students if they feel more comfortable doing so. Topics by department are below.

  • English
    • Email Etiquette
    • Online Security & Privacy (information, passwords, and social media location check-ins)
  • Fine Arts
    • Copyright, Fair Use
    • Protecting Online creativity
    • Creative Commons
  • Foreign Language
    • Outside speakers coming to discuss the hiring process and how businesses check social media before hiring people. Speakers include recruiters from TQL, School Outfitters and hopefully, at least, one more person
  • Business/Tech
    • An extension of the Foreign Language department- more student centered
    • Hiring Process & ramifications w poor representation
    • Importance of keeping social media clean and your digital tattoo
    • Will look at some examples, including the storify I made, and check out their own profiles
  • Health & Gym
    • Abuse of Technology & the Effects on the Mind and Body (excessive video gaming, obesity, low self-esteem and depression from cyberbullying, etc.)
  • Math
    • Cyberbullying
    • T.H.I.N.K. before you “speak” (also part of the official logo for the day)
    • Upstanders vs bystanders
  • Religion
    • What does your online presence say about you (from the opinion of others) & your digital tattoo
    • “Selfies” & online affirmation
    • Sexting/snapchat
  • Science
    • Responsible disposal, recycling, and life-cycle of e-waste
  • Social Studies
    • Legal professionals/guest speakers will be talking to students about the legal Issues facing (cyber)bullying, sexting and child pornography- I’m still trying to nail down a few speakers for this area
  • SAIL (Special Accommodations for Identified Learners), Study Halls, Repeat lesson (ex. student has two math classes, so they would get the same lesson twice)
    • Our Librarian will be holding a separate section for these students in the library about website/digital content evaluation for research.
    • If a student runs into a situation with a third repeat session, they will be sent to an area they are missing

I’m going to make a paper “digital passport” that each student will receive during their first class.  Each subject area will have a place to stamp on the passport. This will help keep track of students and any double lessons.  I’ll be posting all of the lessons from each department after the day, but in the meantime click here to see some DigCit resources.

I’m currently in the process of meeting with each department to share the resources I’ve collected and finalize their plan/lesson for the day, together. I think it’s really important that the teachers decide on their final plan, since they’ll be the ones carrying it out. This allows them to take ownership for the day.

This week an anonymous survey was sent to all our students to gain some perspective on our population.  It asks questions about cyberbullying, sexting, online privacy, copyright, social media, parental involvement and more. I’m going to provide each department with the feedback that pertains to their DigCit area, so they can share the results with students on the day (students don’t know about the day/date yet-it’s going to be a surprise for them).

Digital Tattoos for students

Temporary (Digital) Tattoos for students using our school logo!

I also plan to hang some infographics (using student survey feedback) and other DigCit posters around the school. SPOILER ALERT: students are all going to be receiving a temporary, stick-on tattoo to represent their digital tattoo (to the right)! A HUGE thank you to our Librarian and Web Master, Anne Jones, for making this and two other official logos for the DigCit day! If you could see my draft of ideas (if you can even call it that) and the final products she came up with, it makes it even more impressive.  I’ll share the other two after the day; they’re even cooler!

After the DigCit Day with the students, I’m going to plan an informative parent session (maybe call it DigCit Night?). I’m hoping to get one teacher to volunteer from each subject area to talk to the parents about what their department did with the students. I also believe schools cannot fight the digital citizenship and social media battle on their own; parents need to be informed and allies to schools and teachers. We’ll provide parents with resources to talk to their kids about digital citizenship at the parent info session.

I’ve got a few other tricks and surprises up my sleeve for the day, but I’ll wait to share those.  Follow along with the progress and reflections about our DigCit Day on my blog with the DigCit Day tag.

So, with a few weeks left to finalize and plan, what am I forgetting? What tips and resources do you have to share? What must-do activities can you recommend? What do you think?

Tech To You Later!