Welcome back! I am always excited as I anticipate the new school year. The buzz in the buildings as teachers prepare their classrooms, attend meetings, and get everything as ready as possible for the moment the students arrive - it’s all so energizing! As you get back into the classroom and prepare for your students to arrive, there are many tasks that make the to-do list - which, I’m guessing, includes setting up instructional technology and digital learning spaces for your students. There have been some changes (some major) over the summer. Here are a few important notes for you in regard to these tasks:
All secondary students will have had passwords reset to a new default password beginning TODAY, Wednesday, August 29th! Teachers, please communicate this with students beginning the first week of school, plan accordingly for your own classes, and plan to assist with the process.
Password protocol is changing how the District sets up default passwords. Take note that one of the factors with the new password protocol is the last three passwords are no longer eligible for use. To generate a default password that will be general enough to help classroom teachers manage the process, the new default password will be an uppercase P, 8-digit birthdate, lowercase s, and 2-digit school year - this year it's “19” (e.g., P01012001s19). Students can then set up a new password, following the password protocol:
Google Classroom has had a significant update over the summer. Former Classrooms will not have changed too much, but will no longer have an “About” tab, and the “Students” tab is now called “People.” Here is how to manage previously used Classrooms:
Setting up a new Google Classroom has a learning curve, but will feel somewhat familiar once functions are located. Here is a list of various functions now relocated:
Just as your students anticipate new learning, we as teachers can also anticipate some new learning ourselves. As you take off this year, know that your instructional/technology coaches stand ready, willing, and able to support and cheer you on! Make it a great year, Great Falls Public Schools!
“Not all worksheets are created equal” - I recently read the “Frickin’ Packets” blog post by Jennifer Gonzalez - @cultofpedagogy where she discusses the difference between “busysheets” and “powersheets”. Busysheets being the “kind where students are either doing work that’s fairly low-level recall stuff–filling in blanks with words, choosing from multiple-choice questions, labeling things–or work that has no educational value at all, like word searches, word scrambles, or coloring stuff in cases where coloring adds no extra layer of understanding.” Powersheets, on the other hand, support thoughtful, relevant, high-level learning. Most “worksheets” fall somewhere within this continuum. Gonzalez does a thorough job of classifying different busysheet activities and gives an extensive list of ideas for lessons and activities outside the realm of worksheets and packets (stapled worksheets) that can engage students, promote more rigorous and relevant student learning, and save teachers time with tedious grading and stacks of papers. Her post is pertinent to the discussion of student engagement and relevant learning and definitely gives us all something to think about as we plan for the remainder of this year and next.
"So my challenge to you is simple: From now on, every time you’re about to use a worksheet, ask yourself if it’s contributing to student learning or if it’s actually just keeping them busy. If it’s the latter, start replacing your worksheets with better, richer alternatives. Your students will learn better, school will be more fun, and you’ll waste a whole lot less time in line at the copy machine." - Jennifer Gonzalez
Link to @cultofpedagogy article Frickin’ Packets
The District’s Chromebook roll-out has generated a lot of interest and excitement regarding technology in the classroom. There are so many options and so few dollars! Industrious teachers have been working to find sources of revenue to help fund their use of technology in the classroom, along with some innovative uses and tools. While this enthusiasm is appreciated, it is also helpful to understand how technology impacts our infrastructure, and as a result, the District’s ability to support innovative uses and tools when funded by grant sources. This requires that all grant-funded technology must be reviewed by the Informational Technology (IT) department before teachers proceed with grant writing, in order to ensure that devices can be supported by the IT department.
Devices and applications such as iPods, iPads, Kindles, Alexa, Echo, and Google Home have potential to positively impact classroom instruction, but unfortunately, our tech support options are limited as managing those devices requires both manpower and bandwidth (access to the Internet). In addition, there are often unintended consequences to the use of some of these tools, such as compromising student data, displaying/presenting inappropriate content, having inadequate security settings, etc. All of these factors must be evaluated by the IT department to help determine if the requested technology can be supported by the District.
This review process is a required step in any grant writing, to include sources such as Great Falls Public Schools Foundation, KRTV’s One Class at a Time, Go Fund Me, Donors Choose, and any other grant options. The review process and guidelines are outlined on the District’s website, under Staff > Technology Resources > Teacher Resources. The IT department (Tech Coaches, IT Director, Support Techs, etc.) is also happy to help in the grant process to help determine what technology is appropriate and supported. Including the IT department in your planning will help ensure the District’s guidelines are followed and potentially improve your chances for a successful experience with grant writing to fund technology.
Let us know how we can support you. Happy grant writing!
Check out the Virtual Valentines Project! Students can "circumnavigate the globe with Virtual Valentines greetings and cultural exchanges in order to spread a little happiness to children everywhere".
There are two levels of participation - students can create and share Virtual Valentines (Level 1) or take it a step further where create and share Virtual Valentines AND Skype with partner classes (Level 2).
Students could use Google Drawings, Piktochart, or another graphic tool to create their Valentines for their partner community. What a unique (and FUN) way to (virtually) get students outside the four walls of your classroom and make Valentine's Day educationally relevant (doesn't get much better than that)! The registration deadline is FRIDAY, February 2nd! If you are interested in participating, I would LOVE to offer my support! For more information or to register your class go to virtualvalentines.weebly.com or give me a shout!
Student engagement is a hot topic these days and, let's be honest, sometimes lectures/direct instruction aren't very engaging for our students. BUT that doesn't have to be the case! Pear Deck is one of my favorite tools that makes connecting with students during a lecture easy. Students can answer interactive questions and engage in the lecture from any device - even their own.
Pear Deck allows you create slide decks or vocabulary lists - very similar to PowerPoint and/or Google Slides. The difference is that Pear Deck has embedded options to encourage student interaction - you can add multiple choice slides, free response (text & number) slides as well as website slides. As you progress through the presentation, your students follow along with you and interact throughout the lecture. You can also import slides from pre-existing PowerPoints, Google Slides, or PDFs so you don't have to start all over with your current presentations!
In addition, there is a library of pre-made slide decks that teachers can use, copy, and edit for free. There is a premium version that allows for even more options; however, the free version is a great place to start!
Poll Everywhere, Nearpod, and Padlet are also great ways to increase student engagement during your lectures/direct instruction. You can provide links to activities that formatively assess student understanding and engagement throughout your lecture. You might even try a back channel like TodaysMeet to empower your students - even the quietest students - to ask questions, contribute the discussion and more! Google Slides presenter view has an embedded back channel where teachers to take questions or comments from the audience during their presentation!
Feel free to reach out if you have questions about any of the tools mentioned or have questions about other technology tools you would like to integrate into your classroom.
Pear Deck is a communication platform that lets teachers create interactive assessments and presentations that students can follow along on their devices. It aims to help teachers efficiently understand individual students’ progress in the classroom. Teachers create a presentation, or “Pear Deck,” in their Google Drive; students interact individually with questions within the Pear Deck while teachers monitor both individual and class progress. Pear Deck is available in free and paid versions. http://www.peardeck.com
Everyone has their favorite websites they love to use with their students. There are so many options available out on the Internet these days, and new educational websites are being developed all the time. However, as educators in the world of instant access, we have to be mindful of what and how student information is being used on these websites. As a result, Great Falls Public Schools has developed the guidelines described below for using only District-reviewed and approved websites with students to ensure that we are complying with federal laws such as FERPA, CIPA, and COPPA.
To get to these two resources for approved website use, begin at the District’s website, select Staff and then Technology Resources. Click the tab called Web 2.0 Tools, and with a click, you have access to these resources. Bookmarking the Approved List could also be beneficial for a quick reference when considering a new resource. Your instructional and technology coaches are always available to support your lesson planning with these approved tools to promote a successful experience with technology in the classroom.
Source: Digital Computer Science. (n.d.) Retrieved November 28, 2017 from https://pixabay.com/en/http-www-digital-computer-science-368146/
Cloud storage is available to GFPS staff and students through Google Drive and Office 365. You can upload any file type to either location (docx, xlsx, pdf, jpg, etc.). I recommend considering one of these two options for storing and/or backing up files. You should not be saving important files, folders, and documents to the desktop and/or hard drive of your school computer, including the documents folder. Please use your Z-Drive and/or cloud storage for all important files.
If you want to upload and convert files like Microsoft Word documents, you an change a setting in Drive to convert files. To do this, follow these steps:
Here are some other useful Google Help Center articles for your reference on how to work with Office files and upload files and folders to Google Drive.
Here are several articles from Microsoft Support on how to upload folders, files, and photos to OneDrive.
Please reach out if you have questions or need assistance with this process.
Computers are everywhere, changing every industry on the planet. But fewer than half of all schools teach computer science. Good news is, we’re on our way to change this! In addition, if you've heard about the Hour of Code before, you might know it made history. More than 100 million students have tried an Hour of Code.
With the Hour of Code, computer science has been on homepages of Google, MSN, Yahoo!, and Disney. Over 100 partners have joined together to support this movement. Every Apple Store in the world has hosted an Hour of Code, and leaders like President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote their first lines of code as part of the campaign.
This year, let's make it even bigger. I’m asking you to join the Hour of Code 2017. Please get involved with an Hour of Code event during Computer Science Education Week, December 4-10. Get the word out. Host an event. Sign up your class or school. Or try the Hour of Code yourself—everyone can benefit from learning the basics.
I am here to support you if you are interested in participating in this event or getting started beforehand with Code.org, so whether you have had any training or not, this is an event for every teacher and every student! Let's get coding!
Get started at http://hourofcode.com/us
“The 'Hour of Code™' is a nationwide initiative by Computer Science Education Week[csedweek.org] and Code.org[code.org] to introduce millions of students to one hour of computer science and computer programming.”
About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved October 25, 2017, from https://code.org/about
It's hard to believe it's already October! With the school year in full swing, there may be days when you are not in your classroom and need to prepare for a substitute teacher. Even if we aren't in our classrooms, our goal is for quality instruction to prevail. However, we use a plethora of tools every day and sharing those resources with guest teachers can be difficult. In our district, we have at least two ways to share our digital resources with guest teachers without sharing our personal logins and passwords.
First, all substitute teachers actually have their own logins for both the computer and PowerSchool. It is not necessary, and strongly discouraged, for teachers to share their login information and passwords. There are protocols in place for both guest teachers and long-term substitutes to provide them with access to the necessary systems and applications. We also need to safeguard our usernames and passwords to prevent threats and security breaches like those that have happened in other school districts. When writing your sub plans, then, instead of noting "The PowerPoint on my desktop..." please refer them to one of the following options to access digital files.
The first, and probably easiest, option classroom teachers have to share digital resources is through AESOP, our online substitute reservation system. When completing or editing your reservation, you can attach files within the reservation. Video files may be too large, but most other file types will easily attach and become accessible to the guest teacher when they accept your reservation.
The second option is to access the "sub_material" folder on our network. Each teacher and substitute teacher has access to these folders, which are set up by school level (elementary, middle, and high school), and then by school, and lastly, by teacher. To get to these folders, in your Windows 10 search box, type \\disk\schools and hit enter. Find the sub_material folder. Double click your school level, double click your school, and then double click your name to open the folder. If your name does not appear, you have permission to create a new folder (right click, select New-->folder) and then name it first_last. You can also right click on your folder and select Send to-->Desktop. This creates a shortcut on your desktop so you can drop and drag digital resources directly to your sub folder.
These two options provide your guest teachers with the access they need to digital resources without you having to share your logins in passwords, keeping your privacy and access secure. As always, I am available to support you if you would like a side-by-side guide in looking at these choices for setting up your guest teacher for success!
Welcome back to a new year at GFPS! We are looking forward to a year filled with amazing adventures in learning and using technology! As we embark on these new adventures we want to make sure students and staff are using safe and secure practices with technology. As a school district, we need to model these practices. One safety parameter is using a secure password. This year the district is putting a new password protocol in place. The protocol will require teachers, staff and students to create a more complex password that includes a combination of three of the following options: UPPERCASE, lowercase, numeric and/or special characters. For example, GFps1234 would meet this requirement because it has uppercase, lowercase, and numeric characters (please do NOT use this example as your password). You will also notice the the password example has a minimum of eight characters. Last, but not least, the password CANNOT contain any part of your name or the student's name. This new protocol will begin in October and will happen annually. If you have not changed your password within the last year and/or your password does not meet the new requirements, you will be prompted to change it at that time.
To change your password now, you must be logged into your computer. Once logged in, press Ctrl-Alt-Del and you should see the option to 'Change a password'. Changing your password here will update your Active Directory password which also changes passwords in programs connected to our Active Directory (i.e. email, Google Drive, Office 365, Moodle, iVisions, etc.) The new password must meet the requirements detailed below. Please feel free to contact me if you need support with this process.
New Password Protocol
I love Google Classroom and see more and more teachers in our district loving it too! However, after some time, you may notice that your Google Classroom has an overabundance of assignments, announcements, etc., and students are subject to the “scroll of death”. Awhile back, Classroom responded to that complaint by adding the “Topic” feature. This feature allows teachers to organize their classroom based on topics. Teachers can create topics for each assignment, resource, etc., - students can click on a specific topic (left hand toolbar in Classroom), and anything that the teacher has filed under that topic will show in the student stream. Thus, eliminating the constant scrolling and searching that often happens when teachers find out what a great tool Google Classroom is for sharing and engaging students using Google various tools!
Another game changer is the new option to assign to “all students” or to choose individual students and/or groups of students to assign things. This allows teachers to assign extension activities to accelerated students or students who finish early, as well as, scaffold work for those who may need to go at a slower pace or just need differentiated assignments.
I am impressed with Google’s response to the feedback they receive from the consumers of their products. I highly recommend giving feedback as you see changes you think would enhance your experience (and your students) when it comes to using Google products. In Classroom, you should see a question mark in the bottom right corner of your screen. You can click on that and send feedback, ask a question, or get help at your convenience. You can check out this page to see what else is new in Google Classroom.
"Creating a strong visual picture, graphic organizers support students by enabling them to literally see connections and relationships between facts, information, and terms" Dr. Katherine McKnight.
Using strategy-based instruction is essential in today's teaching and learning, and graphic organizers or thinking charts are a great instructional tool to help students organize their thinking. Also, they are proven to help to facilitate comprehension of information across all content areas. Using both text and visual information, graphic organizers/thinking charts are useful for all learners. With help from Kayte Howell, we created a digital resource of graphic organizers specific to the literacy and instructional goals of Great Falls Public Schools (link below). We used a variety of tools to create, including, Google Drawings, Google Docs, and Adobe. To access the templates, click on the link below.
Digital Graphic Organizer Resource Folder
The folder is "View Only" so you will need to go to "File" and choose "Make a copy" if you would like to add one or more to your own Google Drive. Once you have a copy, you can edit it to your liking, and even share it with students via Google Classroom! I'm more than happy to assist if you have questions or need help!
McKnight, Dr. Katherine. “Use Graphic Organizers for Effective Learning.” TeachHUB, www.teachhub.com/teaching-graphic-organizers.
I can't believe 2016 has already come and gone...where does time go? Our district made great strides in transforming teaching and learning with technology. We implemented a district-wide Chromebook Pilot that included getting Chromebooks in the hands of over 800 elementary and middle school students and teachers, provided several hours of professional development and PIR classes focused on effectively using technology in the classroom, finalized and prepared our teachers to integrate new PreK-12 Technology Standards, and even had several educators pursue their Google Certified Educator certificate! Wow, what a productive year!
Alice Keeler is one of my favorite bloggers and often provides inspiration for me that I try to share with my fellow teachers. If you don't follow Alice, I highly recommend that you start! She recently posted a recap of her 10 Top Blog Posts of 2016. Check it out for some great ideas for upping your technology integration in 2017!
In 2017, we, as a district, are more focused than ever on supporting teachers and students in their use of technology. I challenge you to make one technology-related "resolution" or goal for your classroom this year. My resolution/goal is to be more visible in schools and classrooms supporting teachers and students in their use of technology to transform student learning! As Robert John Meehan once said, "The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives" - I can't wait to see what the year has in store for all of us and I look forward to working with you all as we continue to do what's best for kids!
If you are looking for a way to share videos with students and increase student engagement while viewing videos, EdPuzzle is the tool for you! EdPuzzle allows you to trim videos, add content (narration, questions, etc.) and publish your videos to Google Classroom for students to view. EdPuzzle is one of my new favorite video tools. Check out the quick demo below! If you have more questions on using it in your own classroom, email me and we can set up an appointment!
You can also easily integrate your EdPuzzle content into your Google Classroom! Check out the video below!
The other day I was searching for new innovative ways that teachers can engage students using digital tools and I stumbled upon The Hyperdoc Handbook. I was intrigued and had to buy it! You ask, what is a Hyperdoc? The Hyperdoc Girls, Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis, (geniuses in my opinion) define a Hyperdoc as "a transformative, interactive Google Doc replacing the worksheet method of delivering instruction, is the ultimate change agent in the blended learning classroom". If you are looking to redefine learning and engage students in a meaningful way, you need to check this out! The book offers QR codes and links to several lesson plans and templates to help you get started with Hyperdocs. Hyperdocs are definitely one of my new faves! For more information go to http://hyperdocs.co/
We just wrapped up the Montana Institute on Educational Technology (MIET) Conference in Great Falls, MT. MIET brings educators from all over the state to Great Falls and is an excellent professional development opportunity for Great Falls and many of our surrounding/rural communities. Jason Neiffer, the first Assistant Director/Curriculum Director of the Montana Digital Academy, Montana’s public state virtual school, a doctoral candidate in educational technology at the University of Montana and a Tech‐Savvy Administrator‐in‐Residence for the Northwest Council for Computer Education was our Keynote Speaker. He wowed our audience with his insight into the "shades of gray" in today's world of technology in the classroom. He also talked about privacy issues with social media sites like Facebook as well as effective search strategies using Google in the classroom. We are so glad he chose to join us for this annual conference. In addition, we offered 50+ sessions on topics ranging from All Things Google, Flipped Learning, Window 10: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and Using Technology to Support Struggling Learners. All in all, the conference was very well attended, the feedback was excellent, and we appreciate everyone who made it possible! A special thanks to Great Falls College-MSU for hosting the event. Check out our website for a list of sponsors, facilitators, etc. You can also sign up for notifications on next year's conference! http://miettechdays.weebly.com/
Hope to see you next year!
One of my projects for this month was working with 7th graders in Mrs. Jensen's class at East Middle School to build Google Tours of Montana places. Tour Builder is a new way to show people the places using Google Earth. It lets you pick the locations right on the map, add in photos, text, and video, and then share your creation. Students were required to include five Montana cities, three reservations, and two other places/landmarks of their choice in their tour. They also had to tell a little about each place and include pictures that tourists might be interested in seeing/hearing about the places. Not only did students get to expand their technology skills, but they also learned quite a lot about Montana along the way!
Check out some of their tours:
When working on projects, I always have students who want to know an easy way to convert an image from one with a background to one without. Well, of course, there is always Photoshop but not all of our computers have that program. In doing a little research, I stumbled upon LunaPic (http://www190.lunapic.com/editor/) which is a super easy way to edit images and it's FREE. You can use the URL or upload a saved image. Check it out! It's pretty cool!
In February I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Riss's and Mrs. Thomas's classes on creating student newscast videos highlighting the impact of Global Warming and Climate Change. Students used the Flip Video cameras, the OfficeMix Add-in for PowerPoint, paint programs, and other technology tools to create one-of-a-kind newscasts. The teachers also used Google Classroom to share required resources, rubrics, and other information students needed to complete their task. It's amazing how much time and effort students put into these projects. Most chose to stick to simple tools, and others went above and beyond to find new tools to create some pretty awesome videos showing the impact of climate change. Check out a few examples...
Secondary Technology Integration Coach for GFPS. Former high-school history and psychology teacher. Montana native, and avid user of ed-tech!