Friday, October 19, 2018

Speech-to-text: Promoting independence in learning!

In educating children we should have some very clear and direct goals that indicate what success looks like. Two very clear goals are:

1. Being sure that every child is capable of proficiently reading to a level that will allow for life success in any path that child chooses.
2.  Developing an ability for every child to navigate the world independently across any experience they encounter.

Over the past few weeks I have had several conversations where both of these clear goals have been identified. They came to light regarding students who are still working on the first goal of becoming more capable, proficient readers. Instruction for learning to read is in place and a plan for becoming an improved reader is moving forward. These students are going to eventually achieve that first goal of becoming a proficient reader as they continue to build their skills.

However, in the meantime, we are not clearly making strides to support the second goal to make them independent learners. When reading is a struggle in itself, reading academic content full of challenging academic vocabulary is problematic. Some of these same students that are building their reading skills are falling behind in other academic areas because of their inability to access the written content. The choices that are sometimes made are to avoid the work, lessen the academic challenge (sometimes called rigor), or read the content to/for the student so they can access the learning.

The beauty of technology is that it often can provide solutions that allow us to navigate these types of challenges more independently.

(NOTE: Just using technology without a plan to improve the student's ability to read proficiently is NOT ACCEPTABLE! Students must continuously read in order to build their reading skills. Using technology should not ever be considered a solution to achieve both goals!)

Already built into the iPad is an accessibility feature called Speak Screen/Speak Selection. These text-to-speech functions are intended entirely for the purpose of allowing people with a wide range of abilities and challenges to access content presented to them.

They are easy to set up, easy to use, and they can be used on almost any text content that is available digitally. They require no additional apps, no intensive training to use, and they can be implemented on any iPad regardless of age.

Setting Up Text-to-Speech Functions on iPad

Believe it or not, you can have this feature enabled on any iPad in six taps of a finger.
This video will show exactly how to enable the various features so you can get started today.

Using Speak Screen and Speak Selection on the iPad

Actually using the Speak Screen and Speak Selection tools is just as easy.  

To note the difference, with Speak Selection the user highlights the content they would like to have read to them. With Speak Screen, a two-fingered swiping gesture tells the iPad to read all text on the screen to the user.

Below you can see a short video that showcases Speak Screen and Speak Selection in use. When using either of these in a classroom setting, it is important to instruct students to utilize headphones/earbuds to avoid distracting other students. This will become a common practice in your classroom and it is important to set a clear expectation at the outset.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Back To School 2018

Back To School 2018

So the new year has started, and I feel like a great deal of September was making sure things were up and running, and assisting with those back-to-school, once a year tasks. As the end of September rolled around and then October reared its head it was time to dig into what is happening in our classrooms and how we can leverage technology to support it...

This week I was able to have some fabulous conversations about classroom goals and how we might implement high-quality uses of technology to meet those goals over the coming months. I give a huge nod of gratitude to the Model Tech Classroom teachers that are collaborating with us to grow our district's practices, and for their thoughtful consideration of the use of technology and its best applications. Their willingness to try new things and explore the possibilities that the technology has to offer supports all of our classrooms. Follow their reflections this year here!

Later this month we will host our first gathering of building Vanguard Teams. This brings together a great group of motivated individuals and provides everyone with the opportunity to collaborate and share practices. It is a great time to troubleshoot and garner ideas from others. Many new learning sessions were offered this summer, and there will be a variety of offerings for professional learning throughout the year!

It is now at the onset of the new year that we look forward to what this year has to offer. We look ahead to new applications and opportunities for growth. We look forward to offering our students the chance to become experimenters, builders, investigators of knowledge, and creators of content.
What are your tech goals for the 2018-19 school year? What will you learn, explore, try with your students? What will you implement to be able to share at the OneConference?  How will you grow in your technology application? Commit now to attending a Tech Talk, OTL, online class, join your building Vanguard team, or another learning opportunity being offered throughout the district. 

Video Contest for Students: Activating Change

Students have something to say, and they should not have to wait until they are adults to say it. Young people can influence change today.

We want to celebrate this with our School District of Waukesha sponsored celebration of the video competition themed around Activating Change.

Video Contest is hosting its second student video contest this year. The theme this year is Activating Change.

"Films must respond to the theme of the festival: “Activating Change.” Students are invited to interpret this theme as they see fit, so long as audience members can clearly understand how the theme is utilized in the film. We encourage you to be creative with this theme. Try to think beyond your first impressions and see if you can create a focus for a truly original film. Feel free to experiment with different approaches such as animation, puppetry, silent films, stop motion, etc!"

To encourage greater student participation, and to highlight the ideas and voices of our students, the School District of Waukesha Technology Department will be hosting a viewing party of SDW student video submissions to this contest at The One Conference in January, 2019.

Participation Rules

Please be sure to read the detailed submission rules available here:

Here are some highlights from the rules:

  • Videos no longer than 1 minute (with an additional 30 seconds of credits/citation)
  • Addressing the theme of "Activating Change" -- students may interpret what this means
  • Film must be original work of the students
  • Students must carefully cite work as outlined in the rules (can result in disqualification)
  • Groups can work together (no size limit for group indicated)
  • Three judging categories: Early Ages (5-9 years), Middle Ages (10-14 years), Upper Ages (15-18) -- submissions enter category of oldest group member
  • As videos will go public, students MUST have a signed waiver on file with the adult sponsor
  • Films must be in English or contain English subtitles
For submissions to the contest to be screened at The One Conference in January 2019, submissions must be received to the SDW Student Voice Video Competition form by December 15, 2018.

Submissions received by the SDW Student Voice Video Competition form will be automatically entered to the competition. Applicants for the competition only need to apply to the SDW Student Voice video competition form.

The form can also be found here:

Getting Students Excited

Young people are eager to have their voices heard. The video competition is a great way to give your students a platform to share their voices with the world. Submissions will be viewed by teachers attending The One Conference viewing party in January 2019.  

Additionally, their submissions will be viewed by a committee outside of our district. And if their submissions are rated highly enough on the scoring rubric, they may even be invited to attend ISTE 2019 in Philadelphia to have their videos viewed in a live release/viewing party.

To inspire them to share their voice, show them some of last year's winning submissions: .

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Push Apps to Your Students: Reviewing the App Approval Process

The current app approval process in the School District of Waukesha is in full use across the district. The goal is to make it easier for students to get access to the apps they need for use in class.

Staff members use this process to have apps pushed out to students. However, there are still some questions about the app approval process, so let's take a moment to review.

Before Requesting an App in Self Service

First, ask yourself: Do students already have access to an app that can do something similar? We always aim to multi-purpose apps when we can. If you are unsure, ask your Instructional Technologies Coordinator for clarification.

If not, just as teachers have always done, staff should check out the quality and safety of the app before submitting it for approval.  There is a 
helpful guide that can get you started as you explore an app that you would like to see students use in your classroom.

Additionally, we ask that teachers of similar grade levels or subjects within a building come to a consensus on which apps will be available to students. For instance, teachers at each building in Kindergarten and 1st Grade across our elementary schools started this process by calling meetings, discussing which apps would be on their approved list, and then submitting these apps for approval. We ask that you work with your colleagues to do the same before submitting an app request.

Request Apps to be Placed in Self Service

App requests must be entered into the SDW Self Service App Request Form available here:

Apps will be reviewed for key elements that include:
    • instructional value, 
    • terms of use, 
    • student privacy 
    • data collection

This process may take some time depending on the volume of requests, so please plan ahead. Not all apps will be approved.  Whether approved or not, the person submitting an app approval to SDW Self Service App Request form will receive email notification of the determination made.

Installing the Apps to Student iPads

Once an app has been approved, students should visit Self Service to download the app. No Apple ID is required. Teachers will need to download the apps from the App Store with the professional Apple ID created when you received your district Mac and iPad. 

As students move through the system, these apps will come and go from their iPads automatically (within a reasonable amount of time). 

As  a student moves from one building to another, or to a new grade level (as indicated in Infinite Campus), new apps will become available to the student in Self Service while some previously assigned apps may leave the student's iPad.

List of Approved Apps

For those that wish to view a list of the approved apps, it is available for review here:

Friday, September 14, 2018

Safe Words: Empowering students to take responsibility

Summer slide is a real phenomenon, and I can prove it. Witnessing the multitude of students that have forgotten their district-issued password over summer, I am fairly certain that the area of the brain specifically responsible for password storage may be directly impacted by increased exposure to sunshine. 

Directly related to this "forgotten password" phenomenon is another increasing trend: the amount of time teachers are spending looking up their students' passwords.

(Cue the trumpet sounds)
We bring good news for all educators who have lost precious life trying to recover the safe words for their students.  This news will give you back some time (of which teachers have far too little) and  will empower your students to take responsibility for themselves (something we all say we want our kids to learn).

The Safe Word Self Help site allows students to enter information that they should already know, and then it spits out the safe word that they have forgotten.  

The students need to know the first part of their district email address (and this IS something you can look up easily in Infinite Campus if they have forgotten it), their birthdate, and their lunch code. These are things MOST students know and can manage entering.

The address for the site:

Bookmark it, share it with your students, have them create a shortcut on their iPad's home screen, and then when they come asking what their password is, encourage them to help themselves.

Sure, but my students are too young to do this!

Like anything, it may take a little bit of coaching, routine building, teaching, and support, but no matter what grade you teach, I guarantee that your students are NOT too young to do this.  We do provide added supports for teachers in grades K-2, though.

For most students older than that, asking them to enter information they know about themselves into a website to get the password they need -- we teach them to do FAR more complex things in our classrooms. 

Don't undersell their abilities! Set the expectation and see what happens.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Apple Classroom in Action: Teaching Effectively with iPads

If you have not yet tapped into the power of Apple Classroom in your classroom, it is time to see what is possible. We have watched many teachers get their school year started with Apple Classroom, setting a tone for how technology can be utilized in their classroom.  Take a few minutes to see what this powerful tool can offer in the way of supporting classroom management of iPads.

Apple Classroom, probably better named Apple Classroom Manager, is a tool that allows teachers to see what is happening on all student iPads in their classroom, to open apps, websites, and files on student devices, and to lock specific students, groups, or an entire class into apps (or just lock down the iPad while you provide instruction). It empowers the teacher as it aids in classroom efficiency and helps to keep students on task.

Apple Classroom does not replace Google Classroom or Blackboard. It is a different tool serving a different purpose for teachers.

Getting started is the most technical part of using the tool, and even that is a quick setup. The good news is we have plenty of guides and tutorials to get you started with Apple Classroom in a short time. Our newest Getting Started with Apple Classroom one-page guide brings all of the information together in one place.

Learn How to Create Rosters

Our blog post for creating rosters in Apple Classroom is all you need to get started with Apple Classroom in the School District of Waukesha.  Class lists can be created for unique groups of students manually, or educators can use the Intranet - Apple Classroom tool to create classes based on the course rosters in Infinite Campus.

Either way, you can create Apple Classroom courses today, and be ready to use them within 48 hours with students.

Using Apple Classroom with Students

There are only four things needed to use Apple Classroom with Students:

  1. Students must be in class rosters, and the teacher must be assigned to that roster (see above)
  2. Teachers must be on the iPad with bluetooth turned on, and students must have bluetooth turned on
  3. Teachers must download the Apple Classroom app from Self Service on their iPad (not students)
  4. Students must be within the immediate vicinity of the teacher (approximately 40 ft. or less)
With those criterion met, you can begin taking control of your 1:1 iPad environment while guiding student learning, feel empowered by knowing what is happening on student devices, and get excited about all of the ways you can use technology to support student learning.