Lunch & Learn: Teachers Spotlight EdTech Successes

April marked the last of this years monthly Lunch & Learns, where teachers were invited to bring their lunch to the library during their lunch bell on a designated Thursday each month.  I wanted the last session to spotlight some teachers throughout the building, and allow them to present some of their edtech success stories.  I’m happy to say that I had trouble narrowing it down to 4-5 teachers from each lunch bell!

lunch and learn informationTeacher presenters ranged from 5 to 40 years of experience teaching, and the tools they presented on also ranged in tech-ability level. I asked teachers to answer the following questions in an 8-10 minute presentation of the tool.

  • What was the activity/project and how did you decide on having students use this particular tech tool? How was this different than the traditional project/activity you previously used? How would you change the project for future use?
  • How much were you involved with setting up the technology portion of the project for students? How long did it take? How difficult was it?
  • What were the results? How did this improve/enhance student learning? How did the students respond?
  • If there is an opportunity to quickly interact with your tech tool, I’d like to do that with the teachers.

I filmed each of the teachers’ presentations and uploaded them into the corresponding Lunch & Learn resource folder on Schoology.  Teachers asked the presenters a lot of questions, and there was a lot of great brainstorming going on.  I know some teachers have already implemented some of these tools after seeing them presented at the Lunch & Learn.  A brief summary of each of the highlighted tools are below.

Word track changes/review tools– Word has a handy feature that allows you track your and student changes, add comments and more. This is a great way to grade papers, so your students can easily see all your comments and suggested changes. It’s also a great way to see peer-editing progress.

Screencasting– Screencasting records whatever you’re doing on your screen and you can also record your voice giving instructions. Screencast-o-matic (screencasting tool) allows you to download your video to your computer or upload your video to the their website or YouTube and share the link with anyone.

VoiceThread– VoiceThread is like an audio discussion board. You can upload a picture or even a PowerPoint presentation and record your voice over each slide. Students can create audio comments on each slide too. Both you and the students also have an inking option that is recorded/played back as you speak as well.

Weebly– Weebly allows you and your students to create websites/portfolios. It is an extremely easy platform to use. There is also a blog feature. You can manage your students sites and they can be password protected.

Symbaloo– Symbaloo is a visual bookmarking site. It’s an easier way to keep track of all your favorites and website resources for students.

Kahoot!– Kahoot is an awesome, interactive, quiz game. It’s similar to a BDubs trivia game; the less time you take to answer the questions, the more points you get. You can download the results to see what each student answered, how much time they took, etc. It’s really easy to set up and the kids LOVE it!

Wikispaces– Wikispaces has a great educational side to their wiki platform. Wikis are a great place for students to complete group work because you can track all the changes they make and students can work on the wiki from anywhere-they don’t have to be together. They have a project side to the wiki that allows you to put students into groups, and only those students have access to their group pages.  Wikispaces was highlighted at a Lunch & Learn earlier in the year and caught this teacher’s eye to implement.

Blogs– Our creative writing teacher showed off her student created blogs in WordPress and how she manages them.

Minecraft– Our Latin teacher talked about how letting his students use a tool they were comfortable with (and he was not) transformed an okay project into a really awesome experience. His students researched important buildings and places in Roman/Latin history.  Previously they had to create the building out of a clay, a diagram, a drawing, etc.  He allowed his students to use Minecraft and was blown away by the detail they were able to put into their creations.

Read about all the Lunch & Learns this year by clicking here. How do you spotlight teachers and encourage teachers from different subject areas to engage in conversations about best practices together?

Tech To You Later!


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

The video Lunch & Learn session:

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

Tech To You Later!

Lunch & Learn: Teacher EdTech PD

Since October, I’ve been putting on monthly Lunch & Learn PD sessions for teachers.  December was dedicated to tests and quizzes in Schoology (our new school-wide LMS).

As usual, I shared the results of the pre-survey I send out to teachers a week before each session.  I use these surveys to see what teachers are already doing with the tool(s) we’ll be discussing at the Lunch & Learn and what they want to learn. I share the results for three reasons.  First, I want teachers to see why I’ve chosen to cover certain areas of the tools (based on their responses).  Secondly, I want teachers to see I am taking their input into consideration, so they will know I value their time and opinion.  Lastly, I want them to know where they stack up compared to their colleagues, and see that they are not alone if they aren’t a technology wiz.

lunch and learn teacher pdBefore we began learning anything, I had the teachers take a “pop-quiz.”  This six question quiz included one of each of the six question types you can add to a Schoology test/quiz (multiple choice, true/false, matching, fill in the blank, ordering and essay). It was truly more informative to highlight the question and answer options.  I also wanted them to experience the students’ perspective when taking a test/quiz.

Once they had become familiar with all the test/quiz options, we discussed the possibility of using the “test/quiz” feature for interactive and in-class assignments.

We quickly looked over question banks and how to grade the quizzes (questions that don’t grade themselves), and then they had the rest of the time to start building a quiz (or an assignment). As always, I wish we had a little more time so they could have gotten a full quiz (or assignment) built and saved into a question bank.

To check out my Prezi presentation for the Lunch and Learn, click here.  To read about October’s Schoology assignments and discussion boards L&L session click here; and to read about November’s collaboration in the classroom L&L session, click here.

How do you use your LMS’ test/quiz feature as interactive assignments?  What do you think of online quizzes?

Tech To You Later!

Backwards EdTech Flow Chart

I’m a very visual person, so naturally I’m drawn to charts, diagrams and anything that I can look at and understand.  I’ve made a couple other charts to help people pick technology tools based on Bloom’s Taxonomy and web tools by category.  I’m particularly proud of this new chart that I’ve been working on for quite some time!

Backwards EdTech Flow Chart

Click this image for the full version!

I truly believe technology enhances the classroom, but I never think it should be used just for the sake of using it.  This is another visual I created to help teachers select the right technology tool for the job. I hope it helps you think backwards (or rather the “right” way) to think about selecting a technology tool to use in your class.

It starts by asking what you want students to do, and then you pick a goal, such as explain a concept.  Follow the diagram until you either reach a list of tech tools to help you or your students complete this task or you reach a prompting question, such as “do you need them to do this verbally?” Based on your yes or no answer, you’ll finally come to a list of edtech tools.  All the tools found on the web are hyperlinked.

If you’re not a visual person like myself, scroll to the second page that is just a list of the goals  and all the corresponding links (no prompting questions).

For this, the Bloom’s and the web 2.0 by category chart, visit my website!

What tools or goals would you add to the chart?

Tech To You Later!

Help Students Build Confidence as a Presenter Through Screencasts

The other day I met with a teacher to go over some things about our LMS.  When I arrived to her classroom she had a student who had to give her a presentation before we started, so I decided to stick around and wait for him to finish.  The student did a great job and really knew a lot about the topic. He was very mature and even shook the teacher’s hand and thanked her when the presentation was over. I assumed he had been absent on his presentation day.

I was wrong.

This student had asked the teacher if he could give his first class presentation of the year to just her because he was afraid he may be sick if he had to do it in front of the whole class.  He wanted a chance to work his way up to giving a presentation in front of the whole class.  I’m sure there are many other students in the building who have this same debilitating fear of public speaking.

So I got to thinking this weekend, how can teachers help students build their confidence to present in front of the entire class?

screencasts for student presentationsThen I remembered one of the screen capture tools I included in my 5 in 5 screencast from October 2013.  I thought students could use Jing (or any screencast tool) to take a screencast of their presentation, including their voice to talk through the presentation just as they would in front of the class.  Then students could upload their presentations to and share the link with the class via a discussion board, class blog, class wiki, etc. Each student would be required to watch all the other students’ screencasts and comment on the presentation.

Sharing screencasts may be an alternative to first time, in-person class presentations, especially if you have a lot of shy students. How do you help students build their confidence to present in front of a large group?

Tech To You Later!

Lunch & Learn: PD Reflections

You’ve seen, heard and read it everywhere: teachers need ongoing technology professional development.  That’s where my job, and might I note one of the favorite aspects of my job, comes in.

But where is the time?

On a quest to provide teachers with more edtech PD at my school, I tried to figure out a way to fit this into their ever-growing, never-ending schedules.   Inspired by my time working in higher education at NKU, I came up with the idea to host Lunch & Learn sessions.

lunch and learn informationTeachers were invited to bring their lunch and eat it in the library for some light learning or review of a topic and a chance to discuss the tools with teachers from different subject areas.

I loved seeing the teachers help one another and answer each others questions.  It was a great chance for them to hear how teachers in different departments were using the tools- something that doesn’t normally happen.

The first session was dedicated to our new LMS Schoology. I wanted to make sure teachers were able to use some basic tools with a lot of functionality and uses in the classroom.  We went over setting up assignments and discussion boards, using the audio feature to add a whole new element to discussions, submitting assignments and discussion board threads as a student and ways teachers can use these two Schoology tools in their classroom.  I wanted to see a lot of discussion amongst teachers, and I was pleased with what I saw.

In order to tailor the sessions to the specific needs of those who wanted to attend, I sent a pre-survey via Google Forms.  This helped me shape the precious 40 minutes that I had with them.  Afterward, I sent another survey in order to make sure all the following sessions are just as, if not more, helpful.

I go back and forth about the option to offer these sessions twice per month: one session for beginners and one session for more advanced users.  On one hand, I want everyone to feel like they’re getting something out of this. And on the other, I want to offer teachers a space to converse about what they’re doing on opposite ends of the building.   All in all, I’d say it went pretty well. I’m really looking forward to the next L&L- I’m going to use a totally different format.  I can’t wait to share about it!

If you want to check out my Prezi that I used to guide the discussion, click here.

What do you think?  Do you like the idea of Lunch & Learns?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

Tech To You Later!

10 Reasons I Prefer Schoology Over Edmodo

Recently, our school purchased Schoology’s Enterprise pack to replace our previous (outdated) LMS.  Obviously I am a fan of Schoology since I was a champion for the switch.

schoology logo

Through grad school classes and my own explorations, I have had a fair amount of experience with Edmodo too.  I see so many articles and tweets surrounding Edmodo, that I can’t help but feel like maybe people just don’t know about Schoology. Let me first say, that while I clearly prefer Schoology over Edmodo, I still think Edmodo is an awesome free resource for teachers!

Below are 10 reasons why I think Schoology is a better option than Edmodo.edmodo logo

1. It’s FREE!  Ok, so they both are free, but I think it’s important to point out that Schoology has an awesome free version too. You do have the option to pay for the enterprise package for the entire school and get even more awesome features (school wide analytics, single sign on, etc.).  The free version still offers plenty of incredible features for the independent teacher.

2. Ability to easily create folders inside of folders.  I am someone who puts a folder inside a folder inside a folder, so this is a huge deal breaker for me.

3. In Schoology, you can reorganize any folder and any item within a folder at any point.  In Edmodo, you have to be very careful to plan ahead and pick the exact order you want everything to appear because you cannot reorder.  If you can reorder items and folders in Edmodo, it is not very easy to figure it out … I still haven’t.

Student completion rules in Schoology4. Student completion rules.  This is one of my favorite features.  You can set any item within a folder to meet a certain requirement before the student is allowed to move on to the next thing.  You can set it to force the students to view an item, post a comment/reply,  make a submission or obtain a minimum score before they can view the next item in the list.

5. Discussion boards.  This is another one of my favorite features- they are awesome! You can easily grade comments and replys by student.  Both teachers and students are also able to embed media (files, links, audio/video recordings) in the discussion board comments.  Teachers can also require students to post their own comment before they will be able to see other students’ responses. I could go on about even more features with the discussion boards, but I’ll let you check it out!

6. Gradebook allows you to drop lowest score(s). You can also get to the gradebook for any of your classes within the gradebook view.

7. Student and course analytics are more detailed and easier to get to in Schoology.

8. Grade assignments/documents without leaving Schoology.  A student can attach any document to turn in an assignment and the teacher is able to grade it without leaving Schoology, using the Schoology dropbox.  Along these lines, you can grade by student or by question when grading assignments and quizzes.

9. Intuitive interface.  This is personal preference, but I think Schoology’s interface is much easier to navigate than Edmodo without any training.

10. Rubrics.  Schoology has enabled rubrics for grading. You can use a generic rubric or create a new rubric for each assignment and it will automatically populate when grading the assignment.

I think it is important to point out a few of the features that Schoology and Edmodo have in common.

  • Sync your Google account with Schoology to import your Google Docs.
  • Send updates, post assignments and create a poll from both the home page and within each course.
  • Reward students with badges.  You can choose from pre-created badges and/or create your own.
  • Parent accounts are also available for both.
  • iOS and Android apps are available.

Check out this video for a full overview of Schoology features.

Which free LMS do you prefer and why?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Tech To You Later!