Category Archives: Productivity

It’s ABOUT time! How to find time to improve your educational technology literacy and skills.

ClassroomScreen: Web Tool to Checkout

I recently heard about and then checked out a new handy little web-based tool I thought I’d do a quick blog post about.  ClassroomScreen is a website you visit in your browser that has several handy built-in tool options I think many teachers would find valuable.  So for the rest of this post imagine having ClassroomScreen open with your computer hooked up to a projector and the image being displayed for your entire class!

Of first note is that the background images that are available:  they are beautiful and soothing.  Of course you can upload your own photographs and share those beautiful vacation pictures if you’d prefer!  So much more focused than a busy  computer desktop with hundreds of icons.

The entire screen is controlled by a simple toolbar that shows across the bottom of the screen.  Tools that are in use, have a simple red circle an “x” that will let you turn it right back off.  Some tools have options.  Here is a screen snip of just the toolbar:

Toolbar from

Toolbar from

From left to right the tools are:

  1.  Language:  You can display the words for this tool in your choice of languages.
  2. Background:  Select from about 35 beautiful images or upload your own.
  3. Random name generator and dice:  Add your class list and you’ll always have a way to quickly select a student at random.
  4. Sound level:  This tool allows you to use the laptop’s microphone to measure sound in the room and the represent it visually so students can tell when they are getting too loud.
  5. QR Tool:  A handy little window you can pop open, paste in a website and generate an immediate QR code you can have your class scan to quickly visit the site you’re wanting.
  6. Full Screen Drawing Window:  Simple pens of a variety of colors and paper background options…including the option of graph paper.
  7. Small Screen Drawing Window:  A smaller window with fewer options.
  8. Text Box:  Great for collaborative writing with your class or leaving written instructions as “bell work.”
  9. Work Symbols:  Visual reminders to students about what type of work should be going on at any one time.  Included are:  silence, whisper, ask neighbor, and work together.
  10. Timer:  A visual timer that counts down from the time you give it.  Notice in the picture below, you can have multiple timers for various groups that may be working in your class or various reminders you may set for yourself.  You can also set this to a stopwatch feature to have it count increasing time.
  11. Clock:  Simple display of the current time.

Multiple tools can be open and in use on the screen at the same time.  Just drag them around for an arrangement that makes the best sense to you!  A few more screenshots follow this post, but the best way to learn about is to follow the link and try out the tools for yourself!  Let me know if you find it valuable!

Timers from

Timers from

The drawing window and example of a "work symbol" from

The drawing window and example of a “work symbol” from

Example of a quickly-made QR code at

Example of a quickly-made QR code at

Committed to Improvement: #Edublogsclub

I’m excited to be participating a in weekly blog challenge project that starts here at the beginning of the new year: #Edublogsclub! Each week, members of the challenge receive a prompt and are challenged to write towards this prompt during the week and publish their blog post. If you want to try the challenge along with me, click HERE to learn more and sign up!  This is my first weekly challenge where the prompt was to write a post that “tells your blog story.” So here goes:

This is not my first blog post, but I also don’t consider myself a successful blogger because I haven’t been consistent in my blogging practices in the past though I’ve tried several times to improve! I read other blogs through a feed reader (Feedly) so that I can just quickly skim the headlines. My favorite blogs are ones where new resources are shared as I used those to stay abreast of new ed tech that I then share out to the staff I support in our district.  I also read posts suggested by members of my Twitter PLN. I’m choosing to participate in this challenge to try to establish blogging as more of a professional habit. I hope that by receiving and responding to the prompts, I’m challenged to add other blog posts that are relevant to what I’m learning and sharing with others as well.

My biggest fear as I get started is that my posts will be long and wordy.  I know that other writing I do (emails, etc) can sometimes get too wordy and hard to follow, so I hope to keep things succinct and easy to read.  I’m also worried that the time I spend blogging will not be worthwhile since hardly anyone reads my posts.  In response to this fear, I hope to be able to focus on finding value in the process for professional growth and reflection of my own whether anyone reads or not!

Google Classroom Video Resource: Sharing!

Here is a Great video on using Google Classroom!

In today’s blog post, I’m sharing a video I ran across through a useful resource I use to learn about Google Tools:  I’m often asked by staff to show them quickly how to use Google Classroom, but this tool has become more than a “quick share,” so I’m hoping that being able to help folks create their first classroom and then sending them to this blog post will be useful!

This video is about 50 minutes long, but you can forward through the first part of the video because this is a recording of a live webinar and the first 6  minutes (or so) are the presenter inviting the live viewers to join his Google Classroom account so they have live participation.  As a viewer of the archived video, I just suggest you forward in the video to about 6:15 and start it there.  (This should make the viewing length about 45 minutes total.)  The video was published in September of 2015, so as of today, it is pretty current on what Google Classroom can do.)

Why Consider Why?

Why? One simple word can make all the difference. Whether planning a learning experience for young people or adults, “Why?” is an important place to start.  Today during the early Saturday morning educational Twitter chat I like to participate in, #SatChat, someone shared the following video, that made me start thinking about that little word: “why?”  Take a few minutes to watch:

Watching the video and reflecting a few minutes on it, reminded me of a conversation I’d had a day or two ago with colleague where I shared some thoughts I had after watching a TED Talk given by Simon Sinek, the author of “Start with Why.”  A few months back, I jotted a little “note-to-self” to look up “Sinek’s Golden Circle,” probably after reading about it on a blog or seeing it mentioned in a webinar.  I can’t even recall today where my first exposure to it was, but I can tell you that it motivated me enough to write myself a reminder to learn more about it!  I ran across my note the other day on one of the many Post-it notes that are on my desk, and I took a little break from work to start my research. I started by Googling the phrase and looking at some of the images that came up.  I dug into the concept a bit more and came across the following video of Sinek giving a TED Talk on his ideas.  The video is at the bottom of this post; it’s a little longer, but worth the watch.  I started thinking of all the applications the idea of “starting with why” has in the field of education, and I began to believe it is an important reminder to us as educators.  Children, young adults and especially adult learners we work with need to know the “WHY?” behind what we are teaching them.

Just as important as activating prior knowledge, explicitly pointing out the learning objectives for the lesson, or framing lessons within essential questions, the learners we work with need to know why what we have to say is important.  And for us to convey “The Why” to our students, we have to be able to articulate “The Why” ourselves.  So I challenge you today to add a step to your lesson planning or professional development planning that focuses on “The Why” of time you’ll spend with your learners.  What is “The Why?”  How will you communicate “The Why?”  See how it changes your planning process and delivery of your lesson or professional development!



iPad Timer and Timer+ Video Review

Classroom teachers use timers all the time. I used to keep a stopwatch AND a kitchen timer on my desk when I taught middle and elementary school. In my science classes, I often needed multiple timers for each group to time experiments. I was also NOTORIOUS for being the teacher whose class was late to “specials” like music, library, art and PE. (I started life as a middle school teacher who lived by bells . . . then moved to an elementary building where each teacher’s schedule was so unique they had to get their classes where they needed to go on their own time!! What an adjustment THAT was!) So timers are a valuable resource in my eyes. Here is a short video reminding readers that the iPad operating system has a nice built-in timer/stopwatch as part of the Clock app, and also a review of an alternative timer app, Timer+ that I think is worthwhile.

If you’re interested in trying Timer+ link to it in the App Store here!

#SatChat Share Out: Genius Hour LiveBinder Resource

This morning’s #SatChat (a live Twitter chat I like to join on Saturday mornings) was co-moderated by Don Wettrick whose new book “Pure Genius” was the basis for the chat theme. I’ve been following the trend of Genius Hour or 20% Time in classrooms for a long time, and I was motivated to blog about it after this morning’s chat.

The idea of Genius Hour is simple, but I suspect the application of it to your school or classroom is much more deep. Here’s the thought: let students CHOOSE what they want to learn for a portion of the time you have them under your supervision. If you see them one hour a day, five days a week, take one of those days a week and let them have voice in what they learn.

There are teachers in schools all across the country giving this a try in all subject areas and all grade levels. You’ll see the words and phrases like “wonder, student voice, authentic learning, and choice” sprinkled through blog posts, Pinterest pins and Instagram feeds that illustrate what innovative teachers are allowing students to try.

So, if I had one single resource I would suggest starting with to explore this concept, it would be the LiveBinder resource linked at the top of this post. I’ve dug into this resource before myself and briefly shared it at some small group meetings in our district, but when it was shared during today’s #SatChat, I knew I should share it again through a blog post. Explore the tabs and “get lost” in the research of what others are doing, then set the technology aside and dream for a bit about what it might look like if you listened to your students’ voices and gave them time and support to learn about what really interests them.

Reflections from a Twitter Chat: Connected Educator Month

As part of my “celebration” of October as Connected Educator Month, I thought I would post a short reflection following my Saturday morning Twitter chat today. I like to participate in #SatChat which occurs every Saturday morning at 6:30 am Central Time (where I live). It’s pretty early, but I’m a morning person, so I’m already “up” if not fully awake…a couple little dogs are on a morning routine that helps ensure that I’m ready to go when 6:30 rolls around. So I grab my coffee and log in to HootSuite, the tool I like to use to more easily follow the chat messages as they come in. This morning, I just climbed back in bed with my laptop and participated in my pjs…now that is some convenient professional learning, right there!

As I was participating in today’s topic of “Game Changers,” I was challenged by some of the questions the moderator posed, especially Q2: How does your philosophy of education impact student success? and Q4: Does your philosophy of education make you a game changer? So I thought about how I could have an increased impact and be more of a game changer. This reflection combined with Connected Educator challenges I’ve been working on resulted in a conviction to be more reflective and regular in my blogging practices. I frequently share things from my Saturday morning Twitter chats with individual teachers or administrators in our district, but I don’t know if I have ever actually blogged my reflections for all to see. Who knows…maybe someone, somewhere will read my reflection and be challenged to impact students under their direction in a positive way. So, here is my first post reflecting personally on #SatChat October 18, 2014:

Game changers are important to keep education moving because the world is constantly changing. We’ve all seen the quotes about how industry has changed so much in the last 100 years, but if a teacher from 100 years ago walked in to a school or classroom, they would know just what to do because education has changed very little while other industries have been through total transformations. I hope in the schools I support, a similar transformation is starting. We don’t need to change everything…just the things that are not the BEST. Keep what’s best and change the rest.

A couple of quick resources to share that I gleaned from this morning’s chat:

1.  An article to read about Rigor:  22 Ways to Add Rigor to Your Classroom

Although the term “rigor” is not a new one, the emphasis on rigor in education today is high.  We see it mentioned in new standards, new teacher evaluation tools, and lots of educational commentary.  I like the definition of Rigor from  The Glossary of Education Reform which includes this phrase:

” instruction, schoolwork,learning experiences, and educational expectations that are academically, intellectually, and personally challenging”

You can read the whole article explaining rigor here:

2.  A blog post that could challenge you, but also might help you maintain sanity as a teacher:  Buried Alive:  A Cautionary Tale about Piles of Work

In this post, Starr Sackstein reflects on sharing responsibility with students as a way to both empower students AND maintain a reasonable work load for the teacher.  While she is a journalism teachers, her post has relevance for teachers of all subjects.

In the future, I’ll try to be more reflective following my Saturday morning Twitter chats, so that others can also benefit from my early, weekend morning forays into professional learning in my pajamas!

Twitter Chats for Personal Learning

My ongoing personal learning over the 24 years of my career in education has seen many changes, but one of biggest changes technology has brought to personal learning has been the convenience of learning anytime, anywhere with anyone! This month is Connected Educator Month and as I proceed through EduBlog’s Teacher Challenges, I’m trying to document my progress here on my blog. Step 3 in the Challenge focuses on Twitter Chats for personal growth.

I’ve already written briefly about my favorite Twitter chat: SatChat on Saturday mornings at 6:30 Central Time here in Kansas where I live. Good thing I’m a morning person, huh? I’ve participated many times over the last year or so in this chat. First, I just got up and made my coffee and tried to follow the #satchat hastag using Twitter itself. Not very impressive. Then I dug a little deeper and tried out HootSuite as a tool to make the chatting experience more manageable. Hootsuite allows you to open a columnar window into which ONLY the tweets with the desired hashtag will feed. They still come through pretty quickly, but this made it much more easy to keep up with. You can expect a welcome message from a moderator or two and then a stream of introductions at the designated start time. Soon after, the moderator will post a discussion topic that you can identify by its starting “Q1,” meaning “here is discussion question 1.” You may see a few “retweets” of the Q1 tweet, then you can expect the flood of responses to the question to come in labeled with “A1” indicating “this is my answer to question 1.” After a few minutes Q2 will be released and then the A2 tweets start flowing in. Most Twitter chats I’ve participated in have 4 -5 questions in an hour long chat.

The chat experience is even more powerful when you use it to make connections with other like-minded participants. It is a great way to find people to “follow” on Twitter, or even to communicate with directly in whatever way you like to communicate for other projects. Other tips I have: I have both a laptop and an iPad on which I have participated in Twitter chats. Even though I’m pretty good on my iPad keyboard, my own personal preference is still to participate on my laptop so that if I do decide to post an answer, I can most quickly get it typed and submitted. But it is pretty rewarding to have my iPad nearby and hear the notification sounds come in when one of my posts is “retweeted” or someone “favorites” or “direct messages” me because of something I posted.

If you haven’t ever tried a Twitter chat, I challenge you to try one as part of Connected Educator Month 2014. Here is a great link with a schedule of several educational twitter chats that happen regularly. Be sure to cognizant of the time zones each one is marked in. Its also a great way to find hashtags you can search Twitter for even if the time of the live chat doesn’t work for your schedule. (Thanks, CybraryMan, for the great Twitter resources posted here:!!)

Using Blogs as Part of Your Personal Learning Network

As part of Connected Educator Month, I’m participating in Edublog’s PLN Teacher Challenge. Each step of the challenge focuses on a different aspect of developing a PLN, or Personal Learning Network. Step five focused on the use of blogs for enhancing your PLN. I use as a blog aggregator to make following several blogs more convenient.
Feedly allows me to find bloggers I enjoy and have all their posts filter in to one single location so I can look at the headlines when I have time and read the posts which interest me most. I can add or remove blogs that I have “feed” in anytime, so If I’m working on a specific temporary project, I can add blogs that apply to it and then later I can remove them to help prioritize my time! Here is a screen shot of what Feedly looks like in case you’re interested:

Along the left side you see the list of blogs which I have selected to follow. On the right side you see the headline view where I see a chronological listing of the headlines from the blogs feeding in. I can focus on one single blog at a time if I want by clicking on its title of the left. There are also some controls which allow me to mark posts a read or tag them for follow up. Clicking a headline, shows an overview of the first few lines of the post in this view with links to the actual website. If I select a blog title on the left, then expanding the headline allows me to read the entire post right inside Feedly without ever leaving.

I also try to post on my own blog and share my blog with others in my PLN to be a “contributor” to the field, and not just a “taker!” I don’t know how much other educators benefit from my blog, but I do know that the process of reflecting in writing has personal growth value to me even if no one reads what I have written. Organizing my thoughts and getting them down on screen is often a way for me to plan and brainstorm and fulfills a need for creativity that I have! Even though I am a bit sporadic on my blogging, I still keep trying to occasionally post!

Sketchnoting and MOOCS

Let’s be clear: I love MOOCS. If I had unlimited funds, I would just keep taking college classes in all sorts of topics because I love to learn new things. I hope that when I am retired, I live near a campus that allows senior citizens to audit courses for free like ESU did when I was in college!! So when I heard about the concepts of MOOCS…free Massive Open Online Courses, I was elated. And not just a little intrigued by the design aspect since I was formally trained in Instructional Design and Technology during my masters work. I’ve participated in MOOCS from a a couple different platforms, but mostly Coursera. I’ve taken my first poetry class, Listening to World Music, Beginning Guitar, a course designed for technology coaches like me, and now a course specifically about how to generally coach teachers. I didn’t complete all the lessons but grew a little in courses on songwriting and something called “disruptive technologies,” too.

One of my classmates in this most recent class shared her weekly notes done in a process called sketchnoting, and I became inspired to try it myself. It reminds me of the concept mapping that I always had my science students do to make connections between concepts in class, but on artistic steroids. Visual drawings enhance the main points of the notes to help the note taker retain what they are studying. Color and doodling enhance. Here is my first sketchnote from the class:


Now granted, there are mostly just words in this page, so one of my goals will to become more artistic and graphic and less text-based as I do my next sketch notes. The app I used was Paper 53 for iPad and on this first one, I only used the free version which has limited tools and colors. I might experiment on the next one with a different tool as the add on for Paper costs about $7. It was super easy to share, though and could be emailed quite easily in a file that opened fine on my Windows laptop, too.

Now if you want to see some professional Sketchnoting, head over to the Langwitches blog and check out Silvia’s work on the same subject . . . I could let this put me to shame, but instead I choose to exercise a growth mindset and instead be INSPIRED by her work! Here is her post and sketch on the same week of the course we are taking: Sketchnote from Silvia at Langwitches