Wednesday, November 8, 2017


An Essay on Change and Innovation

As an educator I believe that every lesson should come alive and connect with students on a personal level. I also believe that all teachers should have a drive in connecting with their students. It is up to teachers to ignite a spark that is going to catch fire with their audience. Just like a fire needs fuel, oxygen, and heat to create a spark, a teacher needs to test out different combinations of ingredients to catch the interest of their students. For me, technology has been the spark to ignite learning and innovation in my classroom and on my campus. With the inclusions of technology in our everyday lessons, we are being given amazing opportunities to reach the “unreachable” -  to reach those students who have not yet discovered the joy of learning. Our goal is to create a spark and have it spread across not only our campus, but our district, state, and country as well.

As educators we need to be leaders and innovators both in and out of the classroom. Change doesn't come from institutions. Change comes from individuals who buck the system and don’t accept the status quo. When individual teachers take risks, others take notice and a movement begins. Yet change can bring about fear of unknown challenges ahead. When we ditch that fear, anything is possible. We search for and create lessons that allow us to discover the best ways to engage our students, while building upon our high goals and standards year after year. We strive to create student-centered lessons, and where appropriate, integrate technology into the classroom to help limit distractions, as well as motivate and engage our students to learn and create. As an educational technology innovator, I strive to encourage my colleagues to integrate more ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) standards into their direct instruction, which incorporates not only common core standards but also integrates tools, strategies, and ideas to draw students into learning, collaborating, and creating. The implementation of technology is a critical need in the 21st-century classroom, increasing student learning during instruction in the midst of our fast-paced digital world.

In our ever-changing digital society, the modern classroom has become a breeding ground of distractions or boredom for thrill-seeking youngsters. Many classrooms have become a place where students fiend for their digital media fix, only to be told to put their devices away. How can we for a moment believe that because a bell rings our students digital life comes to a pause? These distractions can also arise from the improper implementation of technology by educators, stemming from a lack in professional development practice, and in turn resulting in loss of interest from the students, who then resort to using their own technology during class in improper ways.To limit distractions in our classroom environment, we must present information in ways that will truly engage our students. It’s not about changing the ways we teach our students, it's about changing the ways we REACH our students. Utilizing the tools our students use for communication outside the classroom inside the classroom provides a great opportunity to reach them. This task can prove to be beneficial when realizing each student learns at a different pace and in different ways. We wish to create a non-static environment, rich with ever-changing student options, incorporation of differentiation, and one that encourages a project-based learning/collaborating mindset which our students need. The goal is to have our students  become the creators of content, not just educational consumers. Students need to become so engaged that they can’t  help but to pay attention in class. In this  “living classroom” setting,  information is constantly being supplied to, or discovered by, students through many different mediums, all the while allowing the lesson to be malleable from hour to hour, period to period, and day to day.  These living classrooms create an environment where students do not have the time to become distracted or board. It is up to us as teachers to create an educational space where our students can’t help but become collaborative communicators emboldened by the opportunity to become creative citizens full of curiosity.

In our ever-changing world, it is becoming more and more evident that no student should be utilizing more technology outside the classroom than they are inside of it. We should not be overlooking the strengths that our students have been cultivating since birth. Technology is a known commodity to our digital natives, and to tell them they are not allowed to use it is analogous to tying their hands behind their back. The use of technology in our classrooms can empower teachers to engage and motivate students using the most advanced and appropriate technology the world has to offer, using the tools our students have grown up using. Through the integration of technology we can become a new and different kind of teacher- one who takes problems head-on with a fresh set of eyes, who does not back down from a challenge because they deem the situation to be too hard.  We have become educators privileged with an opportunity to share with many of our students the joy of learning for the first time.

By all means, I am not saying technology is the savior of education. I am also not saying that a completely digital classroom is the answer. What I am saying is that a blended learning classroom is what we should all strive for. I understand the studies that state handwritten notes are shown to provide more memory retention than typed notes, and I agree with the studies. However, I do not believe these studies are completely applicable to all the uses of technology available in classrooms today. We are not talking about a student in solitude typing away as a teacher lectures. We are talking about students collaborating, sharing, communicating, and creating within our classroom walls and beyond. I am saying we should encourage our students to complete a sketchnote by hand, but then UPLOAD those notes to a blog or resource where ALL students can see, learn, and utilize them. I am saying we need to let our students read and highlight an article, but then have them share their thoughts in a digital backchannel, collaboratively create a presentation, then screencast their findings to the class and to the world. By including technology in the way our students learn, we are building a community, opening communication, displaying citizenship and encouraging meaningful social interaction through digital media, exactly the same way our students LIVE their everyday lives. Students now control their own learning. As educators we need to cultivate student differences and allow them to thrive the best way they know how. Technology has changed the world in which our students live, so why can’t it change the classrooms in which they learn?

As educators we need to remember that using multimedia and technology is a great addition to traditional methods, but all technology should be looked at through the goals and achievements you have in mind for your students. Going digital does not mean going 100% paperless. Going digital means to begin to leverage the digital techniques our digital natives are already using outside the classroom walls.  As stated before, studies may show writing notes to be more effective than typing notes, but that is not what we are doing here. In fact, the integration of integrated/manipulatable/hands-on technology use is still in its infancy and studies are just beginning (such as the study HERE). Data is hard to gather based on the many variables at play with technology use, such as the tools being used, who is teaching/implementing the technology in the classroom, and the activity being studied. Blended learning is the best model to look at when implementing technology into the classroom.  Correct use of technology in the classroom allows for the instructor to make the learning more meaningful by allowing their students to interact with the lesson, not just consume it. It allows the students to become creators of content, not just members of a passive audience. When used correctly, technology can become a powerful tool to enhance and empower student growth. Anything new can cause pause in our educational community, but remember - no one ever created change by following the status quo. We need to be leaders in change, but you can’t be a leader if there is no one following you.

Through learning to implement new technologies in the classroom, we can consistently uphold our mission as educators: to be lifelong learners and to prepare our students for tomorrow, not just for today. I consistently try to honor our mission by creating meaningful multimedia videos through apps like EdPuzzle, creating engaging assessments using Kahoot and Quizizz, creating interactive digital labs and presentations allowing collaboration through Formative and Nearpod, enhancing student voice through screencasts or Flipgrid, and Interactive Digital Readers (IDR)/ Interactive Digital Notebooks (IDN) using the power of Google’s GSuite tools, following AVID and ISTE standards. You can even smash them together to create the ultimate APPsmahing lesson, an amalgamation of awesomeness! If you are reading this and are saying to yourself “This seems like a lot of work”, then yes, you are correct. No one ever said making a difference would be easy. Anything worth the time is also worth putting in the effort. Once you start seeing the power of incorporating technology through blended learning lessons, you will never see technology as one more thing to add to your plate. You will begin to see that technology IS the plate! You will no longer see technology as another brick in your lesson, but rather, it becomes the mortar holding the lesson together. I know change is hard, but as educators we have pledged to be lifelong learners. We have pledged to be the best educator we can be, not for awards or accolades, but for the advancement of our students. John Dewey said it best over 100 years ago, “If we continue to teach our students today the same way we did yesterday, we are robbing them of tomorrow.” Change does not mean we are doing anything wrong, it only means we have a chance to do more for our kids. By producing meaningful and engaging experiences for our classes, and through the use of our online collaborative environments, we can continue to provide positive experiences, increasing engagement, motivation, creativity, community and a continued joy of learning in this 21st century.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Google Salon: Let's Add Some Extensions!

Welcome to the Google Salon! Let's give your chrome browser a much needed makeover. Chrome extensions are great ways to highlight and brighten up your browser through useful tasks for both teachers and students. See how to maximize your workflow and minimize common headaches. Add these extensions to turn chrome into an interactive whiteboard, easily add common notes to any assignment, quickly create and share a list of important web links, and so much more. You work hard, let the Google Salon pamper you!

Did you know your chrome browser is actually an extremely powerful customizable application? You can add extensions, which extend the power of your browser, to enhance the learning goals of your students and the classroom capabilities of you the teacher.

Below are awesome chrome extensions for you and your students which have been used and tested in classes at Alta Sierra and beyond.

These links are for the chrome browser only, they will not work on internet explorer or edge browsers.

To use them just click on the link, then select the blue button that reads "add to chrome" in one click it will add the extension to the upper right corner of your chrome browser for easy use. 

1.Dualless: Split your chrome screen per tab in any shape, then bring them back together. Great for any reason to split your screen such as grading student work and imputing grades into Google Classroom. Great for research for students or keeping the instructions visible while working on an assignment. You could also use "Tab Scissors" extension, but Dualless allows you to predetermine how the tabs will be split in size. CLICK HERE TO ADD

2. Boomerang: Sometimes we need to be reminded of an email we have received in the past or we need to send an email to someone at a later date. Boomerang allows you to schedule emails to be sent to yourself or other at any future point! CLICK HERE TO ADD.

3. Awesome Screenshot: Capture any webpage in any fashion, whole page, the whole site, whole screen, you name it. This also has built-in info blur to protect any sensitive information. CLICK HERE TO ADD.

4. Web Paint: annotate over any webpage. Turn your Chrome browser into an interactive whiteboard. Have students practice their annotation skills on any article from any website. Use this in conjunction with "Awesome Screenshot" above and have them screenshot their annotations and turn in via Google Classroom. CLICK HERE TO ADD

5. NoteAnywhere: Leave a "Sticky Note" on any webpage and it will be there when you return. I always bookmark webpages, but forget why or how I was going to use the information. Not anymore! With this extension leave a sticky note on any webpage and it will be there when you return. CLICK HERE TO ADD

6. Screencastify: Record your screen to document a lesson or have students record their screen to show proof of Knowledge. Super great tool to allow a student to share their knowledge and growth. The free version allows up to 10 minutes of recording. Use this in conjunction with Flipgrid to create a whole classroom of student tutorials. CLICK HERE TO ADD

7. EdPuzzle: EdPuzzle is a great tool to truly monitor your student growth and learning in any video. The problem is when you find that great YouTube video to use in EdPuzzle you may not have the time to make the assignment, then forget about the video all together. With this extension, a new EdPuzzle button is added to ALL YouTube videos allowing you to easily start and save the lesson for easy editing later. CLICK HERE TO ADD

8. EquatIO: This is a great tool for any math classroom. EquatIO allows you to add any math equation to any GSuite tool via handwriting or voice. Who says there are no good equation editors in Google? CLICK HERE TO ADD.

9. ColorPick Eyedropper: Have you ever needed an EXACT match of a color for a project or website but cannot quite find it? Let ColorPicker do the work for you. Just hover over the color you like and boom the color #code is revealed. Just go to any color menu, choose custom, then past in the #code. CLICK HERE TO ADD

10. OneTab: Have you ever been to a conference or training and end up with too many tabs open to bookmark and/or count? No fear, OneTab is here! Use one tab to collapse ALL your open webpages into an easy to archive list. Bonus: Save the list as a webpage and send it out to your colleagues who could not make the conference or training. CLICK HERE TO ADD

11. CraftyText: If you ever need to "Blow-Up" text or information so a large audience can view it, CraftyText is your tool. Inlarge text on your screen, shorten a url, or create an instant QR code to be "Blown-UP" to be easily seen on your projected screen. CLICK HERE TO ADD


Monday, April 3, 2017

Flipgrid Fever! Hacking The Grid

Hacking the GRID!

Flipgrid Unplugged #3: Hacking the Grid with Joe Marquez from Flipgrid on Vimeo.

Flipgrid is one of the best educational programs to come out with in the last few years. At first look it seems to be a simple student video response program, but when you look at it through a hackers eyes it becomes much more. The more I look into the program the more usefulness I find for it and the more creative my students get with this. This post will be a live living post where I will update, add, and tweek all the ways I find to hack flipgrid within my classroom:

Flipgrid in YOUR Classroom:

  • Intro Ticket/Exit Ticket
    • What do you remember, what did you learn
  • End of Lab Summaries
    • When you ask a student to write a short summary of what they learned in the lab, the only question they tend to ask is "How long does it have to be?" 
    • When you ask a student to do a Flip, they ask how many people are going to see this. It becomes a community post and because of this they tend to take thier time and trully investigate the best way to explain what they have learned. In fact they may record thier post 3 or 4 times, unprompted, to make sure they look and sound good to their peers. 
  • Mini-Movies
    • ex: Newtons 3 Laws
    • Using the Flipgrid mobile app our class has been able to create some creative "Vine" type Flips of classroom topics. The mobile app allows us to get outside and record the science around us instead of being couped up in our four walls.
  • Group Science Scavenger Hunts
  • Lab Station Responses
    • I love doing "Station labs" in the tune of "Speed Dating" The groups need to get to their station, conduct their Mini-experiment, then explain the science behind it and its relation to the world around them. By creating a Lab Grid and a Flip Topic per station I have been getting truly insightful responses, much different than having them write a few sentences of explanations at each station.
  • Classroom to Classroom connections! In school or beyond!
  • Student Tips to incoming grades
  • Back to school night parent introductions
  • State of the Classroom Updates for parents
    • I used to use YouTubes quick record feature to give my parents weekly classroom updates in a "State of the Classroom" sort of way. With the quick record feature removed, Flipgrid is perfect. Just record a quick weekly wrap-up of the week and use the date as the thumbnail. Great way to keep All Parent in the loop.
  • Get to know the class activity
  • Science Fair interviews
  • Upload Screencasts!!
    • Screencastify
  • Clamation/Stop-motion Models
    • Get your AP High School Students to Tutor your Jr. High Students

Flipgrid on your Campus or School Events:

  • Get to know the Staff/Teachers
  • Whole School interviews
  • Virtual PixelPal
  • Senior Legacy Posts
    • Have senioirs (12th or 8th) lave a memorable event from thier time at the school, or leave the incoming students tips on how to survive.
  • School Rules
  • Sports Clips
    • Upload your school best sports highlights to a grid topic
  • Great for EL and Foreign Language
    • create FlipPals; join classes from other countries of students who speak the language you are studying.
  • Flipgrid Booths at School Dances
    • Forget photobooths! FlipBooth is so much more! Leave comments about the dance, or messages to friends who are or are not there.

Flipgrid in YOUR everyday Life:

  • Birthday/Wedding Wishes
    • Dont go around asking people to say a quick wish to the man/woman of the hour, leave the flipgrid code/QR code in the program and let them wish them well on their own time. Even people who cant attend can participate!
  • Conference Presenter Quick Looks
    • record 30 sec presenter slams for each session so your attendees know what to expect from the session and the presenters style!
  • Neighborhood Watch
    • Upload thos videos of the strangers on your block
  • Twitter PD
    • #FlipgridFever

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Kahoot! vs Quizizz

Kahoot vs. Quizizz

I am often asked: Are you Team Kahoot! or Team Quizizz?
I reply I play for both teams!

Both apps have as place in my class and they should have a place in yours as well. I like to use Kahoot! for Monday review of games that are no longer than 10 questions. I like to use Quizizz for reviews that are up to 40 questions. Let me tell you why and give you a quick over view of each.

Create a Kahoot! HERE
Play a Kahoot! HERE

Kahoot! is a game-based learning platform where the teacher controls the pace of the review and puts a timer on the length of the questions. The students view the question up on the main board, and the students select the answer with the corresponding question on their device. After each question the students are ranked and the top five leaders appear on the main board. 
  • The teacher can select the game to be played in classic mode, where the students play individually or Team mode, where the students play in a team of three. 
  • I only play Kahoots with questions of 10 or less to prevent students who are in last place from giving up and dragging the game on for as long as possible.
  • Teachers are provided with instant feedback of correct vs inccorect after each questions to review the material right there for the students to understand.
  • Teachers can create their own lessons from scratch OR use/modify pre-existing reviews from the community.
  • Teachers are provided with a spreadsheet of analytics if they wish to review the students progress for their records. 
  • Have students create their own Kahoots to show their knowledge. Only downside is that they have to create their own accounts so this could be a sticky situation with student privacy Laws.
  • Easily put a Kahoot Play button on your Google Classroom as a Topic Item.

Create a Quizizz HERE
Join Quizizz HERE
Quizizz is also a game-based learning app, the difference here is that students pace themselves, student directed, and can be played with the class as a whole using the live function, or as "Homework" to be played when the student is ready.
  • All is true about Quizizz which I said above about Kahoot, but since it is student paced and they have the the game on their machine, they have more ownership of the review and can last form longer sessions than Kahoot.
  • On the live version there are three different types of analytics to view on the teachers dashboard:
    • Overall Correct vs Incorrect answers
    • Individual Student Progress on the "Racetrack Screen"
    • Individual question correct vs. incorrect.
  • Integrated with Google Classroom, easily push the game with the code to Google Classroom for easy one click access.
  • Homework mode can be played in class or at home. They play against all students who are reviewing the material, but at their own time. Great to use for team teaching across the hall, across the state, or across the world.
  • You can create your own quiz, or copy/edit from the gallery. You can even create your own by borrowing individual questions from multiple pre-made quizizz. 
  • Crowd Source questions from your students with this easy trick:
  • This trick prevents the hassle of students needing permission to create their own account.