Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Hey Educators - Can You Help Students to Acquire These Qualities?

Just under a week ago, on our inservice day, employees at East High School had the amazing opportunity to visit several businesses in our area. The two businesses I visited were Omni Premier Technology Consultants and Great Northern Laminations

As we were talking to the panelists of employees and also touring the sites, I kept thinking about this question, "What can we do in our classrooms and in our schools to help prepare our students for careers in today's work force?"

At each of the businesses there were several qualities that are desirable when hiring new employees. 
Omni looks for people who think "around the edges of the paper" which means thinking differently, creatively and openly. They also like people who are problem solvers, team players and who aren't afraid to try new strategies and techniques.  The other quality I heard mentioned multiple times is that working in the technology industry means you must continue to grow and learn throughout your entire career.

Great Northern Laminations looks for people who can persevere through learning difficult concepts, work along side a team to encourage and support each other and who work toward common goals with respect and determination.  They also look for employees that are dedicated to showing up on time for every shift and who are enjoyable to work with and be around

When thinking about giving students opportunities to develop these desirable qualities, I kept coming back to one experience that we are offering at our high school. An experience that can provide students with team building, critical thinking, problem solving, perseverance and thinking "around the edges of the paper". And that experience is. . . 

Our Makerspace! 

Whether students are trying to break open and solve the latest Breakout EDU, or taking apart electronics, or expressing their ideas on the idea wall, or exploring the latest virtual reality app, or incorporating green screen technology into their project or building something with legos or origami paper; they are growing the skills and qualities that are desired for today's workforce. 

What about your classrooms and / or school environments? Can you think of ways that you help students to develop their skills and character traits that today's businesses are looking for?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

8 Ways to Enhance Your Classroom With Chromebooks

Once Teachers Obtain Chromebooks . . .

how do they actually proceed to use them with students?

The Chromebook offers many possibilities to bring new and interesting opportunities for teaching and learning.  So the questions to ask ourselves is, once students have Chromebooks how are teachers using them in their classroom?

Here are 8 ways to use Chromebooks in your classroom that can have an impact.

1.  Writing with Instant Feedback Using Google Docs
Google Docs allows students to be able to work privately while allowing teachers to comment and make edits instantly. Instead of teachers having to constantly move throughout a room to check on each student's writing, the teacher can remain in one spot and review student's progress in real time and leave the students suggestions and comments.

2. Homework that is Enjoyable
Teachers can assign additional practice that is exciting such as using educational games. Sites such as Funbrain, Quizlet, IXL, or Quizziz offer games that are challenging yet help to increase student overall performance and understanding.

3.  Collaborate on Creating a Class Video 
Online tools such as Animoto and WeVideo can be used to create a group video. Perhaps students will create a libdub or a video about different cultures. The possibilities are endless.  

4.  Storytelling through Presentations
One of the best methods of learning is to learn by doing. When students create a presentation or use a digital story telling app, their role switches from that of receiver of information to deliverer of information. Using sites such as Google Presentations, Slides Carnival, Sway, or Powtoon will give students the ability to put together a professional presentation.

5.  Invite Visitors into Your Classroom Virtually
Use Google Hangouts or Skype to invite experts, career specialists or authors into your classroom with a video chat or presentation. Students can participate by asking critical questions and also by using a backchannel chat such as Today's Meet. Visitors can share their presentations virtually and students can also share with the visitor. Imagine the possibilities of connecting globally with people from different countries.

6. Collaborate with Other Teachers on Lesson Plans and Units
With the use of shared folders in Google Drive, teachers can easily share and comment on lesson plans and unit plans with their colleagues. Many sites such as Socrative, EdPuzzle and Nearpod, allow a teacher to share their creative assessments and lessons with their fellow teachers.  Finally, teachers can collaborate on YouTube playlists to collect quality videos for use in their classrooms.

7.  Blended Learning Lessons Allow for Teacher Facilitators
Using sites such as Buncee, GoClass and LessonPaths can be used by teachers and students to teach and learn through digital technologies. The teacher is freed from the front of the room to be more of a guide on the side, and students have more independence in their learning and can work at their own pace.

8.  Add Apps and Extensions for Personalization, Productivity and Engagement
Have students visit the Chrome Web Store to add interesting apps to use in their everyday work. Some recommended apps include 


Biodigital Human

Word search puzzle

The Elementals


20 things I learned

Lucid Chart



Extensions can add functionality to the Chrome browser and to websites. Here are a few to consider

Boomerang for Gmail

Session Buddy

Incredible Start Page

Chrome Tips Beta

AppJump App Launcher

Chrome Vox URL shortner


With so many free Google applications and various web resources, using Chromebooks in the classroom has never been easier and learning by means of technology is natural to our students. Are you using Chromebooks in your classroom?  I would love to learn how you are preparing students for a world surrounded by technology. Please share in the comments below.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Digital Citizenship Conversations

Chat with Deb

Digital Citizenship

Watch this Chat with Deb Video Blog about conversations we should have with our students as well as laws and policies that are helping to protect our students. 

Here is the presentation that goes with the video.

Do you have certain topics, activities or resources that you use to teach students about digital citizenship?
Please share with us.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Empowered Learners - Meeting the Standard

Creating Empowered Learners in Your Classroom

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ISTE Standard
One of the new ISTE standards for students is Empowered Learner.
This standard is all about students taking ownership over the learning process. It is also about students using various methods to show their learning as well as demonstrating the use of emerging technologies.

Recently, some of the teachers in our school district that are enrolled in the masters cohort, created blended learning experiences for their students. These blended learning lessons are right on target for creating empowered learners in the classroom. They also show a shift in the teachers' instructional approaches from givers of all content to facilitators of student learning.

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Blended Learning
Remember, blended learning is when students are delivered content and instruction through both the teacher as well as online.  Because the content is partially delivered through online resources, students must take ownership over their learning. They have to be reflective in the learning process and consider how well they are understanding the content. Students should set learning goals for themselves and also learn to troubleshoot technologies in order to acquire and show their learning.

Sharing with You
Today, I have great news for you. I asked some of the teachers in our cohort if I could share their blended lessons with all of you, and many said yes. These lessons have been created over a 4 week period and many of them have been implemented with students in the classroom. 

Please Remember
Before I share the lessons, please be considerate. If you should share or use any of the content being shared, give full credit to the creator and tag them or mention them when you share. 

Here Are the Blended Learning Examples:
My suggestion would be to take a look at one of two of these that relate to you in some way and consider how the teacher and student experiences are different than that of a traditional classroom experience. 

Biology Lesson on Mitosis - 10th Grade - Katie Bragg -Click Here

Immigration - 8th Grade Humanities - Amanda Kranzusch - Click here

Plot - 6th Grade ELA - Julia Theiss - Click here

8th Grade Humanities - Brittany Saudstad - Click here

6th Grade Science - Weather - Lisa Sackman - Click here

9th Grade Algebra - Inverse Equations - Kelsi Van Fossen - Click here

7th Grade Geography - Food and Culture - Jonathon Zabel - Click here and here.

I hope that sharing these blended learning lessons will inspire others to create blended learning lessons that will promote the ISTE student standard for Empowered Learners. Thank you to these teachers for being willing to share their hard work and creative lessons with all of us. These teachers ROCK!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Have You Heard About HyperDocs?


Lately, I am obsessed with HyperDocs. Have you heard about them?  HyperDocs are a transformative way to deliver an interactive lesson to your students that incorporates engaging and meaningful technologies. 

What is a HyperDoc?
Think of a HyperDoc like a digital lesson that offers students a personal experience which involves them in the learning throughout the entire process by incorporating various multi medias, creative activities and interesting websites.  
Image Source

HyperDocs come in many forms such as a Google Presentation, a Google Map and most commonly, a Google Doc with colorful tables built in.

Perhaps a better way to explain a HyperDoc is to show you an example of one.  Click here to see a HyperDoc on Electricity. 

 Notice how the lesson is designed to access prior knowledge, build the concepts, provide student reflection, assess learning and all of the necessary components of a properly prepared lesson.   

Also, the HyperDoc includes relevant interactions and activities for the students and allows for blended learning. 

Image Source
Perhaps you are looking for a HyperDoc lesson that is more geared towards the level that you teach? Here  and here are collections of HyperDocs for 1st - 12th grade.

Are you getting hooked on HyperDocs like I am?

If you want to learn more about HyperDocs, here are some resources for you:
I think one of the reasons I love HyperDocs so much is because I see the value of using digital resources in a purposeful way that makes the online experience for students transform from busy work to relevant tasks and a true involvement in the learning process. 

Rather than teaching a lesson and then having students use technology to show what they learned in the lesson, a HyperDoc allows for the students to use technology throughout the lesson and gives them participation and ownership of the learning. 

Join me to learn more
On October 29th, I'm leading a workshop in Fond du Lac, WI on HyperDocs.   If you would like to learn how to create HyperDocs and acquire skills for using many Google tools and various technologies, you can register here. I hope to see you there. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Making of a High School Makerspace

Our Makerspace - The Liftoff

We've been planning for a makerspace in our high school for over two years. During that time we introduced ideas and gave students a small taste of what was to come. Showcasing some tech on a table outside of our office to initiate interest and exposure.

This year we kicked off the official space and it is definitely a work in progress with challenges and successes.

Here is the space before we began.

We started with limited furniture, limited supplies and a blank canvas. 

To prepare the makerspace, I gathered some tech, went shopping for supplies, up-cycled some furniture and made a plan.

With the help of my co-worker, Jeremy, we assembled 6 stations throughout the makerspace.

#1 A Green Screen Photo Booth Station
with some green screen backgrounds

 #2 A Hack Your Chromebook Name Tag Station

#3 Virtual Reality Headset Station

#4 An Idea Wall (Whiteboard Wall)

#5 A Take Apart Electronics Cart

#6 A BreakoutEDU Station

When implementing this makerspace there are several goals we wanted to achieve:
  • invite teachers and students to look at learning in a non-traditional way
  • incorporate problem solving, critical thinking skills, and the design thinking model
  • give teachers and students exposure to new technologies and trends 
  • allow teachers and students time to explore, create, tinker, and experiment
  • promote teachers and students to use their voice and show involvement in how to use the makerspace
Challenges and Successes:
As we move forward, the challenges will include planning and implementing new stations with current technologies and uses for the makerspace. It takes time, money, planning and creative thinking to keep this space current and interesting. Thankfully we have great support from our leadership.

We also need to think creatively about how to get a high level of involvement from teachers and students.  So far we have had one class use the green screen and a few classes came down to write on the white board wall.  Many students are stopping by to hack their Chromebook name tags, write on the idea wall, work on the BreakoutEDU challenge, explore virtual reality or take apart some electronics when given some time in their schedule.  

It will take time and also many hands on board to get the word out, to provide support and demonstrations and to promote use of the space.  We would also like to get some community involvement.  It will take the efforts of many to make this makerspace a success. 

For now we celebrate the liftoff of this makerspace and continue to capture the moments that make all of our hard work worth it. 
Students show perseverance when trying to open the BreakoutEDU locks.

These two students are very proud of breaking open the BreakoutEDU box and being rewarded with tech swag.

It's wonderful to see students gathering around the hack your Chromie name tag table and sharing creative ideas.

Students didn't hesitate to add their voice to the idea wall. Our prompt was, "What makes East High School great?"

Knowing that BreakoutEDU made the idea wall makes all of the preparations and time it takes to set up the challenge worth it. 

We are so fortunate to have a makerspace in our high school. Our teachers and students can take advantage of having an additional space which fosters creativity, innovation and collaboration with hands on learning and rich technologies. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Buncee Can Be Used in Many Ways - Presentations, Blended Learning or a Student Showcase

Buncee is a Great Site I learned About This Past Summer

If you are an educator I recommend going to  This is a free site that allows you to create a slideshow type presentation, but also can be used to blend learning for a lesson or even as a student portfolio or showcase.

Your students will enjoy creating content with Buncee as well.

When you first open a Buncee you are able to choose a background  from their gallery, from the web or upload an image of your own. Next you can choose from many different types of media to add objects to your page.

Once your page is created you can add additional pages and view your Buncee in preview mode whenever you want.

I love all of the options for adding media to your pages. The animations, drawings, videos, and stickers make your slides visually appealing.

One of the richest types of media you can add is a 360 degree image from Buncee's gallery. These images allow the audience to click and scroll to view an image in 360 degrees. Check out this simple Buncee I made and embedded below.  If you look at the third slide you will see a 360 degree image. Just click where is says click to load panorama.

Here is an example of a Buncee slideshow that I found in the gallery-

Here is an example of a blended lesson using Buncee-

There are so many options for using Buncee in your classroom.   I highly recommend using Buncee as an instructional tool but also as a student creation tool. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Friday Fun - Instant Creativity

Are you looking to make money? Yes? Then I have a deal for you!

Let me explain. Festisite is a site that lets you do all sorts of fun and unique things including making money with your picture on it. When you go to the site, click on Instant Creativity.  
From there you will have many choices of what to create.

Money, money, money

Uncle Sam

Queen of Hearts




Festisite has been so much fun to explore and create with.  I highly recommend using Festisite to promote digital content creation.  Share this site with your students and colleagues. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Teaching Generation Z

Generation Z were born between 1995 and 2015.  They range from 1 year old to 21 years old.  In other words, the students we teach in school today are Generation Z.  Generation Y, also known as Millennials, range from 21 to 41 years old and represent much of our workforce today.


I know what you're thinking. What will be the next Generation? What comes after Z? I did a little research and found out that the next generation might possibly be called Generation Alpha. I found this information by reading this article and here is a graphic from the site.

 Let's take a look at a few facts about Generation Z.

  • They have never known a world without Internet and cell phones and they have little or no tolerance for being without digital resources
  • They are tech savvy and in constant contact with people 24/7 using Facebook or Twitter
  • They want technology that is easy to use and will solve their problems, help coordinate their activities, or provide them with relevant people or information
  • Instead of reading an article, they want to watch a video (YouTube) that summarizes it
  • They may never send an email: [that is “so yesterday”]. Why email when you can text, instant message, tweet or FaceBook
Perhaps Karen McCullough tells it best in one of her Lessons from the Road videos. 

So,what does this mean for us as educators?  Well, we can adapt and transform our instructional models to meet the learning styles of this generation.  Here are some ideas.
  • Fast delivery of content with graphics. They are kinesthetic, experiential, hands-on learners who prefer to learn by doing rather than being told what to do or by reading text. Learning is not a spectator sport.
  • Integration of continuous grading, instant feedback, clear goals, rewards, challenges, and positive reinforcement.
  • Task switching (multitasking) has given them a short attention span. They may be hard to teach, easily bored and ready to move into the next thing. Due to this, learning needs to be delivered in smaller “bites.” 
  • Flexibility to learn in the way that works best for them. They need options to choose from, so learning can be personalized. This makes them more reflective and independent learners than other generations. 

Are you willing to be the change? To take on Gen Z and give them the type of educational environment they will thrive in?

Just for fun, here is a video that encompasses the best (or worst) of Generation Y also known as Millennials.

As a member of Gen X, I feel the importance to relate to, connect with and appreciate the other Generations of Baby Boomers, Millennials and Gen Z. As an educator, I know the importance of changing instructional delivery and pedagogy to stay current and teach to the students in today's schools.

Monday, August 15, 2016


Inspiration for Redesigning Your Learning Space

As I have mentioned many times, I love listening to podcasts when I'm commuting.  Recently I listened to this podcast from The Cool Cat Teacher - "Do Students Learn Better in Chairs or Couches?"  In this podcast, the guest, Oskar Cymerman, talks about how he plans to Starbucks his classroom. Oskar is a Chemistry and Principles of Engineering Teacher at Woodbury High School in the Twin Cities Metro Area, MN.

After listening to the podcast, I went to Oskar's website, and read his blogpost about redesigning his learning space. In the blog post, Oskar mentions checking out the hashtag #StarbucksMyRoom on Twitter. So I went to check it out.

These teachers and classrooms really jumpstart my desire to bring in flexible seating and create learning spaces for today's students. This is the year to #StarbucksMyRoom!  I don't actually have a classroom, but we do have open spaces in our high school where comfortable, flexible seating can be incorporated. I hope you have the chance to listen to the podcast I mentioned above or to follow Oskar's blog or to check out the hashtag #StarbucksMyRoom.