Sep 22, 2014

Using Digital Media To Connect Inside and Outside of the Classroom

Using Digital Media to Connect Inside and Outside of the Classroom

“True technology integration is seamless, it shouldn't be viewed as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event." P. Brown.

Start by taking a moment to reflect. 
Think about last year. How well did you integrate technology in your classroom? The key word is integrate. Unlike “using” technology, which can seem more like an arbitrary afterthought, integrating technology can be a planned, purposeful part of the classroom environment.
But at the end of the day, there are always questions to ask yourself: What tool did I use to connect with my parents and students? How well did I collaborate with other educators? What didn't work? What is one thing I would like to try differently this year?
To answer these questions, I often turn to the people who can help me evaluate how effectively I’ve been integrating edtech tools into the classroom: students, parents and fellow educators. Opening up these lines of communication helps you to determine areas in which you could improve your teaching with simple tools that help you stay organized and engage your students.
Leveraging relationships with educators

One of the most simple ways to begin to breakdown your classroom walls is to build a strong PLN, or Personal Learning Network.  A personal learning network is made up of people/places you go to gain knowledge, share knowledge and collaborate with others of like minds and interests. After all, why reinvent the wheel? If you find someone who has great ideas that they are sharing through their blog, why not try them out?

Twitter is one the easiest and common ways to develop a strong PLN. Following people who share your role in education, or what you aspire to be, is key to staying connected and current with tech trends. When corporations want to get the word out on their new products, they usually take to Twitter and other social media outlets first. Check out your local edtech organizations that host weekly chats on twitter like #moedchat in Missouri, or  hashtags #edtech, #digitalmedia, and #mobilelearning.  

And don’t forget to contribute yourself--other educators want to learn your awesome practices, too!

Leveraging relationships with students

Our students need an authentic audiences, and the ability to connect with others too. How do you do this? By introducing new concepts and activities using creative measures, and out-of the box thinking.  Skype can be used in the classroom to support your curriculum, such as participating in a Mystery Skypes, or an author visit via Skype Experts. NASA has a Digital Learning Network, so you can sign up your classes to Skype with an astronaut or a member of NASA. They have a variety of topics from Food in Space to Robotics to Life on Mars. It's a great way to have your students connect with experts. Skype with another classroom to share projects or become pen pals. There are over 70,000 educators around the world who use Skype in their classrooms everyday.

Discovery Education recently hosted a “Doodle For Google” contest, a Live Virtual Field trip with Google Doodlers at the Google Headquarters. Students were able to chat with professional artists and programmers to learn. Google has also launched Connected Classrooms where students can participate in virtual field trips with virtual tour guides from organizations like the San Diego Zoo, The White House or Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.

Leveraging relationships with parents

Parents want to feel like they are a part of their child’s learning process, and connected to your classroom. Creating  a classroom Twitter, Facebook page or blog are ways to this, but there are other digital tools that you can use with parents  to build those lines of communication as well, like Remind (formerly Remind 101). This tool allows you to send text messages to parents and students without providing them with your phone number. Teachers have found Remind helpful when they want to send scheduled test reminders, open house, or homework reminders automatically.

Class Dojo is a behavior management tool for the classroom with a reward system built into the app and website that motivates students; the app allows you to provide students with immediate feedback, and allows them to earn points for rewards. The system tracks this data, and gives you the ability to share this data instantly with parents. Teachers have found that using this tool has improved overall classroom behavior, and has become a very positive force in communicating with parents.

You can also save hours of time making phone calls by using SignupGenius, a free online tool for creating and managing group sign up lists and forms. Classroom teachers have used this tool to manage parent teacher conferences, class volunteers, book fairs and more. Parents can sign up digitally, and receive automatic reminders.


Digital Media is changing how people, including our students, interact with the world. This paves the way for changes in the strategies and tools we use for teaching and learning. Becoming a digital expert doesn’t happen overnight: It takes some specific goal setting, and dedication. Focusing on one tool, or a few tools at a time is key to making sure you don't find yourself overwhelmed. Collaborating with others is a perfect way to strengthen your tech knowledge while connecting with your students and parents, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Sep 17, 2014

EduCreations Had Made Some Improvements--- Educreations 2.0 Still Free?

I've always been a huge fan of Educreations, a free whiteboard and recording app and website. I have included the app as one of my favorites on a few of my past blog posts.
They have just introduced some new and improved features of their product, that will make using EduCreations even more productive.

They are claiming that their Educreations 2.0 version is better then ever!
In addition to their continued free option, they are also introducing  a new paid option called Educreations Pro. Their Pro Classroom and Pro School plans offer many additional features for teachers, students, and administrators. Educreations Pro provides the ultimate Educreations experience, and while it’s not free, it is affordable, at less than $2.50 per student.

If you’re not able to upgrade to Pro, they hope you will continue to use their free Basic Edition. The free app still includes all the same great features, plus some new features that let you save a draft of your work-in-progress, save your favorite lessons, track your viewing history, and create and manage classes that students can join right within the app. For new users, the free plan includes 50MB of storage space, which is enough for about 90 minutes of recorded lessons.

Read how teachers are using EduCreations in their classrooms here

Leave a comment below, and let me know how you like the new version of EduCreations

Sep 16, 2014

How Will You Make Your Mark? International Dot Day 2014

International Dot Day was September 15th. It is all about being creative and making your mark on the world. The day is based on the book by Peter H. Reynolds, The Dot. It is a wonderful story about a little girl who doesn't think she can draw. She makes a dot and then builds on that one piece of art. Her teacher tells her its all about making your mark on the world and persevering. More about dot day here
Last year our students used the drawing pad app on the iPads to illustrate how they would make their mark.  This year we tried something different.

I got to celebrate Dot day again with Mrs. Towe's 2nd grade class. After reading the story and writing down their ideas for how they will make their mark on the world,

They completed activities like making a team collage

They created individual dots reflecting their favorite colors and ideas using the SpinArt App free version. 

The most exciting activity we completed was using this very cool app called the Colar Mix . This app allows you to see your drawings in 3D.
The class used Present.Me to create a video sharing their work, and saying how they will make their mark on the world.

Kudos to Mrs. Towe for planning such a wonderful and fun filled day for her students.

Sep 14, 2014

Education: the Nesi Way: 19 Elementary #EdTech with Patricia J. Brown (@msE...

 I had the great opportunity to participate in the podcast The House of EdTech with Chris Nesi this past weekend. I got to share some of the ways I have integrated technology when I was a classroom teacher, and as a technology coach. It was such a fun experience, and I had a great conversation with Chris. Tune in to my featured podcast, but also the other podcast episodes. Subscribe via itunes, or listen on Stitcher. Chris is doing great work. Check out his website

Education: the Nesi Way: 19 Elementary #EdTech with Patricia J. Brown (@msE...: Patricia J. Brown  is a technology integration coach at Ladue (MO) School District , an adjunct professor at Lindenwood University , and...

Sep 13, 2014

Sep 8, 2014

Reblog: Be An EdTEch SuperHero WOW Your Students and Parents

My kids absolutely love super heroes. Well, what boys don’t? Even though I can't physically fly, jump through buildings, or stretch myself to the back of my car while driving, I still like to consider myself a superhero when it comes to using technology. Becoming a tech super hero didn't happen to me overnight. It took some specific planning, and dedication to improving my craft. Focusing on one tool or a few tools at a time is key to making sure you don't find yourself knee deep in tech craziness and overwhelmed, but in fact, you find yourself ahead of the game, and you want more, and you can handle it! 

Are you ready for the challenge?

One of the simple ways to begin to unleash your tech superpowers is to build a strong PLN, your Personal Learning Network.  A personal learning network is people/places you go to gain knowledge, share knowledge, and collaborate with others of like minds and interests. Let's face it, as awesome and fabulous as we all are, we can always learn something from each other. Why re-invent the wheel? If you find someone who has great ideas that they are sharing through their blog, why not try them out? Well some of you might say, "they make it look so easy, there is no way I can do that with my kids!" Let me let you in on a little secret; most of us had no clue what we were doing when we first started. We practiced trial and error until it worked. Some lessons turned out fantastic, others were a flop, and that’s okay. We took a look at those lessons, figured out why they flopped, then tweaked them, so when we did it again, it turned out better. The most important thing is you can't be afraid to try. Pretty soon, you will feel comfortable with what you are doing in your classroom, and you want to blog yourself. You are doing fantastic things in your classroom everyday; why not document them through a blog.
Twitter is one the easiest and common ways to develop a strong PLN. In order for it to be valuable, you also need to be a contributor. You have awesome things to share with others. Following people who share the same role you do in education, or what you aspire to be, is key to staying connected, and current with tech trends. When corporations want to get the word out on their new products, they usually take to twitter and other social media first. Twitter allows you to create your own learning opportunities, anywhere, and anytime. The connections you make through social media lead you to a wealth of knowledge that is not made possible without it.

Other simple things to try this year, Remind (formerly Remind 101)- This tool allows you to send text messages to parents and students without providing them with your phone number. Send scheduled test reminders, open house, or homework reminders automatically. Bringit- Have parents schedule their parent teacher conferences digitally, and send automatic reminders as the time gets near. Class Dojo- A behavior management tool for the classroom, that has a reward system built into the app and website that motivates students; it also has features to share data with parents.

Still looking for ideas of tried and true ways other educators are using technology in the classroom? Try searching on Pinterest. There are so many edtech pinterest boards, where people post apps and blogs to try out, as well as ideas for using and iPads, and other technologies. If you are a visual person, pinterest is perfect for you.

Teachers Pay Teachers- If only I would have thought of this! Teachers are taking what they have created for their classroom and sharing it with others. Some items for free, some are at a low -cost. Let's just face it, a lot of us don't have the time to spend hours developing lessons and projects for our students, due to various reasons, but having access to thousands of projects and lessons at your finger tips delivers a powerful one-two punch. Save time by browsing through resources other teachers have perfected, and use them to provide meaningful learning experiences for your students.

Learning from other educators or tech superheroes is a sure way to strengthen your tech knowledge, and help you unleash YOUR tech savvy super powers.

Sep 7, 2014

Smile! Selfies-Usies & More!- Digital Photos in The Classroom

We have certainly come a long way from using traditional cameras in the classroom. We no longer have to wait for photos to be developed, or even to sync a camera with a computer. We now have instant ways to share photos easily! Capturing special moments in the classroom is ideal for any classroom at any grade level. Rather you are using a digital camera, iPad, or smartphone, you can instantly open up your classroom walls to the world. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Here are a few simple ways you and your students can use Digital Photos in the classroom.

Meet the Teacher Night Selfies- Get to know your new students and their families right away. Setup a photo booth in your classroom on Open House, or Meet The Teacher Night. This is a fun way to get families involved. Post them in your classroom, or on your website or blog.  Check out 3rd grade teacher Ms. Wolgamot's page.

Student Portfolios with Thinglink   Take class photos, or individual or group selfies, and link them to projects students create throughout the year.

If you touch the image, it links you to each students' project. What a cool way to share special student projects at the end of the school year.

Personalized Portfolio Webmixes You can do the same thing with Symbaloo for individual students. Create a year-long digital portfolio using this tool to share with parents throughout the year.
Check out the tutorial here

Picture Collages -  Create individual pic collages while students learn their 5 senses, or maybe to visualize a writing project, or to share images from a  field trip. This one was created using the app PicCollage

Other ways to use Digital Photos in the Classroom

Making History Come Alive-  Have students dress as a famous person in history. Have students take pictures of each other in costume. Use them in historic journals, diaries, or posters they create.  Instead of celebrating Halloween, a school in California celebrates Historical Figure Day  

School or Classroom Expectations 
Have students take photos showing proper ways to handle equipment in the classroom, and/or classroom rules and procedures. 

Photo Lab Report  Instead of the usual write-up reports, kids can create a photo- lab report  (demonstrate through photography) the process in their science experiments. Keep track of what's happening in long term experiments or investigations. Plant growth, lifecycle of a chicken, bird feeding station observations. At the end create cool slideshows using an app like a Animoto

Engaging Field Trips Allow students to take iPads, or cell phones on field trips to take photos. Take it step further and use audio boo to add audio to their images. Or use twitter to share their learning experience. Document field trips and class activities simply.

Creative Writing  Have students take a picture, and have other students write about what they see.
Take Mystery Photos that show parts of something, and other students in the class have to try and figure out what it is. They could also write about it.

Social Values, and Manners - Role play problem situations through photographs and captions. Capture facial expressions, and create posters or slide shows. 

How To's- Help students organize their writings through photos. Put together the photos to tell a story, or "how to" do something.

There is no limit to the types of projects your students can do with digital photos. Photos are a perfect way to engage students. After all, Who doesn't love a good selfie?

Presently Perfect! 10 Powerful Presentation Tools for Educators

Don't make your audience victims of death by PowerPoint any longer. Take a look at these highly effective and recommended alternatives to using Powerpoint for creating presentations. Ready to try something different?
In no particular order, here they go....

1) Emaze
Tired of those same  old Powerpoint and Keynote templates? Try Emaze, an online presentation software. Emaze is the next generation of online presentations, empowering you to create an amazing impression through design and technology.

2) Videolicious- This FREE tool is very user friendly  and  great for taking pictures to tell stories.  This is available in the APP for version as well as a website.
3) Google Presentations- This FREE tools is simple to use to make quality presentations that can be shared out with the whole class. Google's  interactive features allow you to collaborate, as well as add graphics, pictures, colors, fonts.. the list goes on. Create a presentation, or have students create the together.

4) Educreations- This FREE app and website, allows you to make cool presentations using an interactive whiteboard format on the app. You can use text (keyboard) to type, or write directly on the whiteboard with their finger or a stylus using various forms of ink (crayon, pencil, marker, etc..) They can insert photos, and draw images directly on the app. You can record yourself talking on the app. This is great for teaching a lesson in the flip classroom format. Use it to teach a unit, and share it to the Educreations community site. 

 5) Voicethread This FREE app and website is great for creating digital stories, or interactive presentations. Have a class discussion by commenting, or writing directly on the slides. Create a presentation using video, photos, or text.

6) Record a lesson on, students can watch in their own time, over and over again if they need – leaving you extra time in class for more interactive work.  View your image on one side of the viewer, and display your slide presentation on the other side.

7) Tellagami a mobile app that lets you create and share a quick presentations. Create easy tutorials, or animated anticipatory sets to introduce a unit or lesson animated Gami video.

8) PowToon  
A FREE tool with super cool graphics. Create animated presentations and videos as easy as PowerPoint, but way cooler!
Flip your classroom, inspire, engage and delight your students

9) Slideshare - Share what you know and love through presentations, infographics, documents, and more. No more worries about your presentation being to large to share via email. 

10) PhotoPeach -With PhotoPeach you can create a rich slideshow in seconds to engage your friends or family. We also support background music, captions, and comments so you can elaborate on your story further.

Sep 5, 2014

Let's Get it Started!!! The Keys to Tech Savvy Teaching!

The Keys to Tech Savvy Teaching!

As we begin this new school year, we need to evaluate our past teaching experiences,  and how effective they were.
Start by taking a moment to reflect. 
Think about last year. On a scale from 1 to 5 (1 not well, and 5 being very well) How well did you integrate technology in your classroom? The key word is INTEGRATE. Notice I didn't say how well did you USE technology in your classroom. There is definitely a difference between using and integrating.  Here are just a couple of the main differences. Using technology-- usage tends to be random, arbitrary, and sometimes an afterthought.  True technology integration is seamless, it shouldn't be viewed as an add-on, an afterthought, or an event." P.Brown
When technology is integrated, it is planned and purposeful, it is a routine part of the classroom environment. 
Questions to ask yourself: What tool did I use the most? What worked well? What didn't work? What are some things you would like to try this year? 
(Check out this chart below)

So are you a tech-savvy teacher? Complete this quiz by Edutopia to find out 
and see how you rank

When exploring new technologies, you may be looking for ways to measure how effective the integration of the technology is. One way to determine ways to evolve your instructional practice is through the SAMR model.

The SAMR model stands for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition
The SAMR model eliminates teachers using tech just because, it allows you to evaluate why you are using the specific technology, design tasks that enable higher order thinking skills, it engages students in rich learning experiences which should ultimately impact student achievement.

Watch the video below to learn more about the SAMR model
Read more about SAMR here
What instructional objective do your students struggle with learning? How can using the SAMR model allow your students to meet the higher levels of thinking?
Use the SAMR model to create a lesson that meets Transformation level of learning (Modification & Redefinition) Download this template to help get you started. 

Other routes to Tech Savvy Teaching....

  • Subscribe to newsletters and online magazines like EdutopiaEdsurge, or Techlearning, or Edtech to have fresh technology integration ideas at your fingertips each week. 

    • Create a Dropbox account for your classroom. Link it to iPads, or laptops in your classroom to share documents, student work, or to create a classroom album.
    • Create a classroom Symbaloo page of webmixes to bookmark resources for your students or even yourself.
    • Create a video avatar using Tellagami, or Voki to introduce topics for your kids, or as a way to introduce the classroom rules.

    Think of ways to breakdown classroom walls and collaborate
    Google Apps for Education- collaboration in the classroom & with instructor
    Back Channels  like Today’s Meet

    Check out these social networking sites to help build your PLN (Personal Learning Network)
    Focus on blended learning to create personalized learning experiences through your professional Learning Network

    Social Networking Sites