Friday, December 19, 2014

Conference Highlights for The One Conference - January 23, 2015

The One Conference Update - January 23, 2015 
Planning for The One Conference is in full motion and it is going to be a day focused on celebrations and learning!

Here are some of the highlights of the day to announce thus far!

One Conference Website
The One Conference website has officially launched.  It is CONSTANTLY under construction as we add session information, details about the day, and schedules.  Check back often! Session descriptions will arrive some time in early January.

You can visit the site here:

Inspiring Keynote Speakers
The  keynote speakers for the One Conference will share big ideas and push us to explore new concepts!

Setting the tone for the morning, Molly Schroeder, an educator, educational technology leader and thinker, will inspire us by teaching us what it means to "live in beta."

Mid-day, Troy Hicks, an instructor, writer, and digital learning advocate, will further our focus and discussion surrounding literacy while sharing his thoughts on amplifying student voices in writing in a digital age.

Conference Schedule
The One Conference is designed with learning in mind.  The morning Explore Something New sessions are intended to expose staff to new tools and ideas.  The longer afternoon Let's Do This session are aimed at giving staff hands-on time to try out the tools.  The goal of both is to encourage learning that leads to SDW staff committing to trying at least one new tech-infused tool, technique, or strategy with students yet this school year.

Interested in taking a look at the structure of the One Conference and the day's schedule.  It's available online here.

Participating Business Partners
Throughout the day staff members will have access to key business partners, providers of some of the tools available to students and staff, for the purpose of asking questions, giving feedback, developing relationships, and learning.  We are pleased to announce that at this time representatives from these companies have committed to being on site on January 23 to work with you.
  • Blackboard
  • Casper (launching new teacher-focused iPad management tool called Casper Focus)
  • Discovery Education

Rock Star Teacher Stage
We want to celebrate the important, innovative, and inspiring work our staff does every day with students.  The Rock Star Teacher Stage will feature short talks throughout the day from nominated SDW staff members.  The focus is sharing their craft, their habits, their successes and failures, and their story in order to motivate, encourage, and teach all of us.  Stop by the Rock Star Teacher Stage throughout the day to hear these stories and to support your colleagues as they take their place in the spotlight!

We are so excited to spend this day of learning with all of you!  It is going to be a special event.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Force Students/Staff to Make a Copy of a Google Doc!

How many times have you sent students (or staff...) a Google doc that you need them to make a copy of, only to have them skip that step and the original doc gets edited, changed, or deleted altogether?

Well, worry no more!  Google has now added the ability for you, as the sender/sharer of a Google doc, spreadsheet or slides presentation to force the receiver to make a copy of the item you are sharing with them.  When the receiver clicks the link to open the doc, they automatically are taken to a screen that prompts them to make a copy; they will never see or access the original doc/sheet/presentation.  Yahoo!

Check out Alice Keeler's Teacher Tech website below for the directions on using this feature in Google docs, sheets, presentations or drawings!

*Note: as shown in the website example above, when you get the shareable link, replace only the word "edit" in the link with the word "copy", all other character(s) following the word edit need to stay as-is/are.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Tutorial: Successfully Sharing a Google Doc from an iPad

In the School District of Waukesha, we LOVE Google Apps for Education!  We also LOVE iPads!  

However, sometimes the two key players who develop these amazing tools, Google and Apple, don't always meet our love and adoration with the grace and respect they should.  In fact, sometimes they make it downright difficult (or at least annoying) to use the products simultaneously to do the important work of teaching and learning.

Some folks have identified that the sharing of Google Docs from the iPad while using the Google Docs app has led to some disappointing results.  The doc cannot be widely shared publicly.  It can be shared with individuals, but the share settings cannot be changed to share more widely.  In a world where our teachers and students have two different domains, this can be problematic.

Mark Anderson, a Social Studies teacher from West High School, has been troubleshooting with his students and has provided a brief tutorial video that unveils a proven method for sharing Google Docs widely from an iPad.  Thanks, Mark, for your willingness to share and teach us.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Clean Up the YouTube Videos You Share Using SafeShare.TV

Sick of the clutter that surrounds your instructional YouTube videos?

Concerned about the appropriateness of the suggested videos that
will appear at the end of a YouTube video?

We may have found a tool that's just right for you!

YouTube is amazing, powerful, and truly our recommended "go to" for sharing and displaying video in our district.  It's hard to imagine anything that can make sharing, uploading, editing, viewing, and customizing video any easier.  Most of us love the ease of use of YouTube.  However, we sometimes have to take the good with the less desirable.  Ads and suggested videos that are just inappropriate for our purpose as educators can be a downer on an otherwise very valuable service.

Perhaps it is possible to get the best of both worlds.

A service called allows you to paste the video's URL into the service.  From there it will generate a link for that video.  It eliminates the clutter that can appear on the outside of the video (which is often annoying and sometimes inappropriate).  It also eliminates the suggested videos that pop up after viewing a video, which can also be distracting and undesirable.  Finally, users can also customize the title of the video (as it appears on the link page), the background for the video, and can indicate what part of the video to play (custom start and end times for the video -- no need to show the whole 10 minutes when only 3 are needed for the instructional purpose).

While there is no embed code (this is a downfall compared to the embed code that is available from YouTube), it does generate a link that can be shared with students/parents, placed in Blackboard, or housed online for your desired audience to access.

Here is a look at a YouTube video that has been "cleaned up" using the SafeShare.TV tool.

Click to follow the link:

*By  the way, the video is an introduction to iBooks Author, a powerful tool available to all SDW staff on a MacBook.  Check it out.  It is an amazing tool that will help engage students, improve the ability of students to comprehend what they read, and allow students to meaningfully annotate text in a tactile, organized, and exciting way!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Blogger: Sometimes It Can Just Be That Easy!

Tonight I was fortunate to spend time with a team at Butler that is interested in communicating more regularly, easily, and openly with parents than they have previously.  They asked a great question that became a starter for a really good conversation -- "How do we even go about doing that?  We've heard about blogs -- is that the right tool for the job?"

To answer the question, blogs are an easy, yet powerful, way for teachers to maintain regular communication with students and parents.  They are flexible enough to serve a variety of roles, from an online journal to a fully functional web page/presence.  Most importantly, they are easy enough to anybody can learn to meaningfully use them in relatively short order.  Tonight I watched a team of teachers transform into teacher bloggers in about 30 minutes.  It is amazing to see what can happen to a teacher once they see just how useful and easy the tools are to use.

The tools that we most commonly recommend for blogging in the School District of Waukesha are:


Owned by Google, Blogger integrates beautifully into our platform because the same email and password used for our district Gmail (and student Gmail accounts) will get you into Blogger.  No extra passwords or logins needed.  The platform defaults to open, meaning the world can view your posts, but it can also be locked down tightly and shared with only a few specific viewers if desired. It works incredibly well on the iPad, and it is something our students could learn to use in less than a class period as a way of exploring their thinking in writing.

Blackboard Blog Tool

Built into Blackboard, the Blog tool is a great way to integrate written responses and commenting directly with the online lessons and resources teachers develop.  The tool lives right within Blackboard. That means it can only be published to teachers and students enrolled in the Blackboard course, making it more of a walled, private blog.  While it doesn't have the same bells and whistles that Blogger does, it does offer teachers some relatively useful tracking tools that make reading student blogs and comments a snap.  Trade-offs between ease of use, privacy, and openness are key considerations when determining if Blackboard suits the needs of the teacher and students.

What is MOST exciting is just how easy both of these tools are to use.  My friends at Butler suggested several times tonight how surprised they were at how easy the blogging tool we were exploring (Blogger) was to use.  That should always be the goal.  As a Technology Department and as Technology Coordinators, we are always evaluating the ease of use and likelihood the tool will readily be adopted by students and staff.  We all have more important items on our daily checklist than spending a lot of time struggling with technology.

As always, if some tool or resource you are using isn't working as easily as it should, feel free to engage us in that conversation.  We are always willing to lend a hand, a suggestion, or to work to get the tool working as well as we can!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Connected Educators

October is Connected Educator Month...

October has been a great month for me allowing me to get into classrooms rolling out iPads with students and staff. It has been an extremely busy month. It wasn't until earlier this week that I realized how busy I had really been. I use Google+ and Twitter social networking sites as a part of my Professional Learning Network (PLN). Since school started I have been woefully lacking in time spent on my PLN, as can happen when life gets busy.

One night this week I found myself with 20 minutes of time. I logged into my Twitter account and refused to be overwhelmed by the number of posts I have missed. I just started at the top and checked out what I could in the time I had available. In just a very short period of time I found several fabulous ideas for using iPads in the classroom, a few new tricks for Google apps, and a big reminder for me that I NEED to find time to learn from others! It didn't take a great deal of time, I was able to do it in my pajamas and slippers and I was quickly reminded that their are others out there that share my passion for technology and learning who are willing to share some of their very best ideas.

So if you haven't started a PLN yet, October still has a week left. Take one small step to connect yourself to others. It can be as simple as activating your Google+ account, a part of our Google Apps for Education package or sign-up for a Twitter account and begin following some of your fellow educators.
No matter how you decide to start your Professional Learning Network you should find some great ideas for your classrooms. Already have a PLN? Spend some time nurturing that connection! It served as a big reminder to me how important it is to be connected to others that share our passions...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

New Experience with Google Drive

With the adoption rate of Google Apps within our school district, I'm fairly certain most teachers are finding Google Apps for Education to be an advantageous addition to working, teaching, and learning.

However, as is OFTEN the case with Google, things change and they change quickly.

Google Drive has been reformatted to incorporate a new user experience that brings added benefits to the way we work with greater efficiency.  The video below from Google outlines many of the new changes.

With any new change, though, there is opportunity for confusion as users get used to the new platform.  Honestly, it seems as if the changes actually bring back some skills that many users were previously familiar with when searching for and selecting files on a computer, so these changes may be exactly what some users have been waiting for.

Take a moment to watch the video, switch over the new Drive experience (I did so by selecting the gear icon when I was in Google Drive and selected New Drive Experience), and start getting a bit more comfortable with the new layout, format, and toolset this version of Google Drive offers.

Additionally, if you have not yet realized it, Google Apps on the iPad has made some major alterations in the past few months that teachers should be aware of.  New apps, including Docs and Sheets, are now the apps used to EDIT Google docs and sheets files, and Drive is the storage and management app.  The video below is a pretty good overview of what these apps can do.  Again, if you have not seen this yet, now would be a GREAT time to get familiar with these apps before the students return.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bored Teacher Summer Learning Series: Become a Blackboard Master

As you lay awake in your bed thinking of ways to pass the time while your students are away, I'm sure that it has crossed your mind to consider ways in which you will better connect, communicate, and deliver resources and content to them this fall.  Now really is the best time to think through that process, but it is also a great time to invest in learning to better use the tools that make this possible.

Well, Bored Teacher, it's time to take your Blackboard game up a level!

From the darkness of a summer without students comes the light
of having time to learn to better utilize tools like Blackboard.
Blackboard is our Learning Management System (or LMS) in the School District of Waukesha.  It has a growing number of staff users placing an exponentially growing amount of resources and content onto it.  Nearly every teacher in our high schools is using it on some level, many of our middle school teachers are moving in that direction, and even some of our elementary staff members are starting to explore the potential of having resources and content online in an organized, always available, digital format.

The real trick to Blackboard, the staggering point that holds many teachers back from adopting the
tool, is the initial learning curve.  Like anything that is powerful and new, getting started is the overwhelming part.  However, there are some resources that SDW teachers can utilize to jumpstart their Blackboard learning and get them on track to be a Blackboard Master by fall.

Stages of Learning Blackboard

When we teach Blackboard, we tend to do it in "stages."  In between each of those stages we encourage teachers to dig in and try the techniques, to build content within the courses, and to get hands-on with Blackboard.  Unlike many other tools, Blackboard is a tool that cannot be learned in a four hour PD session and simply mastered.  Blackboard is a tool that requires time, planning, exploration, and hands-on experience.  

With that said, we typically encourage teachers to go through this progression as they learn to utilize Blackboard for instructional purposes:
  • Course Design
  • Course Building
  • Course/Class Management in Blackboard
  • Communication and Collaboration Tools
  • Assessment and Survey Tools

In Course Design, we take people through the mental process of designing an online resource that is intended to be accessed without teacher support or presence.  Think about letting a contractor into your home to do some key tasks without you there.  Would they know where to go?  What to do?  Where to find what they needed?  These are key questions we ask in the Course Design section.

In Course Building, which is the most tedious and time intensive part of Blackboard course development, teachers build their course complete with resources, directions, media and all other necessary materials.

In Class Management, teachers "go live" with their course and introduce students into the environment.  This is a very logistically focused phase in which teachers need to "set it and forget it" as it relates to enrolling students and utilizing the course.

As teachers ask questions about what else can be done with Blackboard (generally after the first few phases are complete and there has been significant time within the Blackboard system), they enter into the question about how to have students communicate and collaborate within Blackboard.  They also may wonder about testing tools and assessment information, which can be utilized by students and teachers within the varied courses.

Resources for Learning to Use Blackboard

There are two centrally focused resources that we encourage you to use when learning to use Blackboard on your own time.  

Blackboard Course in Blackboard

This may sound counter-intuitive, but if you want to learn to use Blackboard as an instructional tool, one of the FIRST places to go is within Blackboard (  We have a professional development course, Blackboard in SDW, built out there that literally takes teachers through the Blackboard course building process from Design to Class Management.  With instructional videos and organized lessons, a dedicated staff member has an always-on resource to learn to use Blackboard as they see fit.

Blackboard in SDW is a self-enroll course when logged in as yourself in Blackboard (generally speaking, use the same username and password as your Google account).  Using a generic login will not allow you to follow the steps outlined in the video.

The video below will show you how to enroll in this course.

Blackboard Tutorials Playlist on YouTube

Another resource available directly from the School District of Waukesha is our Blackboard Tutorials playlist on YouTube.  We have curated this playlist to provide some of the most informative, personalized, direct tutorial videos we could find (or could make) to deliver relevant information as you learn to utilize Blackboard.  Many of these videos are also embedded within the Blackboard in SDW course mentioned above.

Check it out.  We are constantly adding new tutorials and videos to this playlist.

The link to the playlist is here:

Blackboard Learn Videos Direct from Blackboard

Blackboard has made an increasing commitment to establishing better tutorials and guides for end users (students, teachers, and system administrators) over the past few years.  One result of that has been the Blackboard Learn Video centers.  We recommend you check back here regularly to answer questions that you have about what Blackboard can do, how to do things within Blackboard, and to find resources to teach your students and parents about Blackboard.

The primary link (I'd bookmark this) is here:

Throughout that page there are subsequent links that may appeal to just students and just instructors.

All considered, there are SO many resources available to begin your journey to learning to utilize Blackboard well that you may just fill up your idle time becoming a Blackboard Master as you eagerly wait for your students to return.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Bored Teacher Summer Learning Series -- Making Writing Meaningful Through Blogging

It's 8:00 am on a gorgeous Saturday morning in July and I know you are having EXACTLY the same issue I am -- you miss your students!  You are sitting there thinking of ways to meaningfully engage them in the fall and to make writing just a little more meaningful and interesting for them.  Trust me, I'm right there with you!

Well, Bored Teacher, start thinking more deeply about ways to have your students write more and have them write more online through the use of a blogging tool.

Sound interesting?  It really is.  In fact, it can even be somewhat addicting.  Imagine that; writing can be addicting!

What is a blog?

What is a blog?  Well, put simply, it is a website that is regularly updated by an author (or team of authors). Blogs in Plain English.  Although it is six years old, it STILL accurately describes this lasting technology.  As you watch it, think about how this opportunity could impact your students if put in the role of writing the content, not just reading it.
 There are other parameters as well.  Typically, blogs have the newest content at the top.  They also typically have a "feed" or a means of subscribing to them for regular readers.  There is a great video that nicely sets out a working understanding of what a blog is:

Key Questions

Okay, so we've set the stage.  At least we now know what a blog is.  However, the two primary questions are: 1) Why would I use a blog with my students in my classroom?, and 2) How would I go about setting up a blog?  What tools would I use?

Why would I use a blog with students in my classroom?

Well, the "why" isn't a question that we can provide an adequate answer that suits everybody's needs.  Generally speaking, though, blogs provide a couple of important opportunities.
  1. Students have an opportunity to write for a "real world" audience.  That means that anybody in the world, or at least anybody that reads their blog, sees their thoughts, ideas, feelings, and engages with their work in some way.  Compare that with a more standard view many students take of writing, where they feel they are writing for a single or small group of adults, and possibly a few students.  That expansiveness of audience can be an important element for many students.
  2. People might comment back on their written work.  By people, I don't mean a teacher marking the text for "teachery" technicalities.  I mean their fellow students, maybe other teachers, maybe their parents, maybe a partner classroom from across the country/world, or possibly even an outsider who stumbled upon their ideas in a Google search.  This level of exposure raises the bar of accountability for MANY kids and encourages them to give a better effort on their written work than they may have otherwise engaged in.
  3. Their body of work amasses neatly on their blog.  We all understand the power of maintaining a portfolio of written work to reflect upon, to inspire us, and to proudly point to when it comes time to share with others.  A blog neatly organizes student thinking and writing in a way that is searchable, easy to share, and lasting.  It's something to be proud of when you spend a semester or year writing and realize that you have generated and fleshed out a LOT of ideas over the course of your class.
  4. Blogs posts are EDITABLE, so they truly emphasize the process of writing.  This does drive some teachers crazy from an assessment perspective, but blogs can always be edited.  Previous posts that were not well thought out, or ideas that have been further developed can be re-written on a blog.  It's a powerful opportunity for us to share the process of writing over the finality of hitting print and turning in whatever we have done at the time.
Those are just a few key reasons.  If you can think of more, add them in the comments section to this blog post.  We'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

What tools would I use for blogging?

In some ways, this question can be the catch point for many teachers.  They want something that is easy to manage, safe, and valuable to students all at the same time.  Finding the perfect tool that does ALL of these things without sacrificing one of those three for the other is tough.  As is the case with most choices in life, when selecting a blogging platform/tool, there are choices and trade offs to make. Let's see if we can give you some help, though.

The primary tools we will look at in this blog are the tools most readily available to students and staff in our district: Blogger and the Blackboard blog tool.


Blogger is a Google owned blogging tool (the same tool used to create this very blog) that is available to all students and staff in our district.  The same email and password used for your staff or student Gmail account will allow you to set up a blog with Blogger in minutes.  It is typically very easy to use, used by millions of bloggers around the world, and is directly connected to a wider audience of readers.

The advantages to using Blogger:

  • Incredibly easy to use.  Teachers will not need to spend a lot of time learning to set up or use the tool, and little instructional time is needed to teach the tool to students.
  • Already works with the Gmail accounts provided by the district.  That means no additional usernames and passwords to recall.  This also provides a safety valve in the event that a teacher or staff member needs to log into the blog for security/safety reasons.
  • Wide variability in the scope of each blog's reading audience with Blogger.  Blogger can be used to publish publicly to the world, or it can be limited to just specific email addresses.  Publish your class blog to the world.  Limit your student blogs availability to teachers and students only.  It's all possible.
  • Commenting is built in to each blog.  This opens the door for feedback, conversation, and interaction between writers and readers.  Commenting can often be the biggest hook for writers as they receive genuine feedback from their audience.
  • Customizable look and feel for each blog.  With millions of users out there, that's a lot of templates and tools that can be added to each blog to change the general feel of the blog.
  • Tech support is a Google search away.  With so many users of Blogger, learning to do ANYTHING with Blogger generally requires a simple Google search to find the answers you might need.
The disadvantages to using Blogger:
  • The blog can be opened to a world of readers, but not all readers are trustworthy or have the best intentions of students in mind. As a teacher, this means you need to have a ongoing conversation with students about Internet bullies, trolls, and appropriate conduct, as well as an action plan that students know and can follow when their blog receives inappropriate comments.  It is ALWAYS recommended that teachers engage with parents about the decision to publish a blog publicly (to the entire world).  
  • Commenting opens the door for inappropriate communications.  Just as with the decision to publish the blog to the world is an option, turning commenting on/off is also an option.  However, commenting is the primary hook of blogging for many students.  Although it is possible for the student to turn comments off, they can also opt for turning comments on just as easily, and they are likely to do so!
  • Students are the owners of the blogs, meaning they are in control of the blog.  Depending on your viewpoint, this may also be a positive as they take on responsibility for their blog.  However, students can make decisions about their blog settings that teachers are not informed of.  While the district has the ability to log into student accounts and make changes, that is an action typically performed by request AFTER something undesirable has happened.  This means students need to be empowered and educated on the proper uses of this platform.
  • Scatter can be a BIG problem for teachers when it comes to blogging.  Each blog has its own web address, meaning a teacher will have a different website to visit for each student assigned to them.  That's a lot of links to follow.  Savvy teachers will use a Google Form (students submit the URL for their blog so the teacher has one spreadsheet with all of the blog URLs in one place) or a RSS Feed Reader (I like this one...Feedreader) where they enter the URLs and each UPDATE is pushed to the Feedreader so teachers are seeing the most recent changes to each blog.  However, this is an extra layer of management that turns some teachers off.

Blackboard Blog Tool

There is another option for blogging in our district in the Blackboard Blog tool.  It truly is an alternative solution with varied advantages and disadvantages from  Blogger.  Generally speaking, it is a more controlled, all-in-one solution to blogging, but it does not offer the same "reach" as Blogger, as readership is limited to student enrollment in the course.  Let's learn more.

The advantages to using Blackboard Blog tool:
  • Blackboard Blog tool is a part of a Blackboard course.  Every student and teacher in the district already has a username and password for Blackboard, and a growing number of teachers are using this tool for placing resources online for student access.  With the flip of a switch, the Blackboard Blog tool can be turned on and active in your Blackboard course, giving the teachers and students a single place to go for both content and communication tools.
  • Blog posts in Blackboard are limited to a SMALL audience -- the teachers and students (and possibly parents) enrolled in the course.  Nobody else.  Depending on your perspective, this can be a huge advantage to blogs that are open to the entire world.  This also eases the concern of some parents who do not wish for their children to publish to a much wider audience.
  • Commenting is built into the tool, but again is limited to only the students enrolled in the Blackboard course.  However, each comment is tracked and teachers can easily see who made each comment and when.  This gives teachers an advantage as they are maintaining accountability in their classroom and teaching commenting/feedback skills.
  • Teachers have a single link to visit to see ALL of the student blogs, comments, and interactions.  This makes assessment of a blog much more manageable.  
  • Blogs can be built into lessons easily.  Using the power of Blackboard, a teacher can organize videos, content, readings, and then ask the students to blog their thoughts and reflections within the context of what was just covered.  This can give the blog assignment/reflection greater value as it flows well within the scope of the lesson plan instead of being an add-on after the fact.
The disadvantages to using Blackboard Blog tool:
  • Audience is limited.  This is a biggie not to be underestimated.  A Blackboard Blog can NEVER be made public to the whole world.  It will always be limited to a small audience of peers within the course.  For some students knowing the world might be reading ups the ante and they take writing more serious as a result.  That will never be an option with the Blackboard Blog tool.  One work around is for teachers to set up a single class blog on which to copy and paste the best student reflections (from Blackboard Blogs) to a class blog opened to the world using a tool like Blogger.
  • Commenting is limited.  This ties into the first disadvantage, but there will never be any surprise responses/comments from readers.  Those are the types of things that infuse excitement and authenticity into blogging for many students.  With a locked down audience, this is nearly impossible to reproduce in the Blackboard environment.
  • Teachers need to utilize Blackboard.  While we don't necessarily feel like Blackboard is a disadvantage, there is a steeper learning curve to learning to use Blackboard over Blogger.  That can take some time.  However, once you learn Blackboard, you'll be amazed at all it can do to make teaching and learning a more efficient process.  It is time well invested.

Learning to Use These Tools

With the exhaustive list of advantages and disadvantages, you probably have some thinking to do.  However, when you are ready to learn to use these tools (and YES, you can try them out on your own without using them with students right fact, we recommend you do),  the next question is simple -- How do I learn how to use these tools?

Well, we have built two playlists with videos that may help you get started.  They have been curated to give teachers a starting point for using these tools.  Once you feel comfortable with getting started, there is no substitute for playing with the tool to really get a feel for how they handle.

So, what are you waiting for?  Let's get started with blogging as a way to make writing a more engaging, authentic experience in your classroom this year!  As always, if you have questions, comments, or thoughts, feel free to contact a member of the SDW Instructional Technology team to share.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

"Bored Teacher" Summer Learning Series: Taking Time to Learn While Your Students Are Away

I know, I know. I feel it, too.  The students are away and our lives have halted to a dull roar while we eagerly await their return in fall. What is a bored teacher to do in summer?

Relaxation by Meagan Jean - Creative Commons Licensed
In this summer's "Bored Teacher" series, we are going to offer some ideas for tools to explore, investigate, and play with while you have some time to do so.  We are going to focus on tools that will be available in your classroom in fall (or shortly thereafter if you are not yet a Waukesha One school), and hopefully we will point you to helpful resources to aid you as you explore from the comfort of home, the cabin, a beach, or, most likely, your classroom!

While it won't fill the void your students have left in your heart as they scurried out the door for summer break, taking time to learn to use these new tools in meaningful ways may be just the cure needed as you plan and prepare for their return.

Keep tuning in to our posts each week for the "Bored Teacher" Summer Learning Series.  We would also love if you could share it out with your colleagues who may not yet be tuned into our SDW Tech Integration Now blog.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Solution for Embedded Google Site Not Appearing in Blackboard

Some SDW instructors have reported that Google Sites which were previously embedded in their Blackboard course are suddenly not appearing.

We have found a solution if this has impacted your Blackboard class.

  1.  Go to the Google Site where you are the owner. (This is a necessity to make the changes you need to make.)
  2. Click the "Gear" in the upper right corner and select "Manage Site."
  3. Under the "General" tab (default when you come in to Manage Site), scroll to the bottom of the page. 
  4. Under the "Security" area select "Allow embedding of your sites in other sites."

This should resolve the issue that has arisen for several instructors who have experienced the disappearance of their embedded Google Site in their Blackboard class.

As always, if you have questions feel free to contact the Instructional Technology Coordinator team.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Design Beautiful Graphic Layouts with Google Drawings, iWork Pages, or Word

A great question came in today from one an SDW staff member that has been asked been by many of our teachers.  We would like to offer some suggested solutions.

What tool is available to SDW staff to create graphic layouts, watermarks, and detailed layouts for projects such as flyers, posters, handouts with graphics, and other similar projects?

There are many tools available to do this type of work, but here are three that would be the recommendation of the Instructional Technology Coordinator team.

Google Apps: Drawing
This tool is one of the less commonly utilized tools in the Google Apps world, but it offers some of the
flexibility in design and layout that many users crave for unique projects.  It is comparable to Microsoft Publisher, but with the ease of use and collaborative tools that make Google Docs so powerful.  The Google Drawing canvas can be resized to be an entire handout, or they can be used to make small icons and infographics that can be placed into a Google Doc, Site, or Slides presentation.  A flexible tool with a knack for easy distribution, it is definitely worth a look.  The beauty is, once you know how to edit in Google Docs, using this web-based software is a breeze.  The bad news -- it does not function well on the iPad (today), so it is not highly recommended for student use on iPads at this point.

See a video of Google Drawings in Action.

Apple iWork - Pages 
Wave 1 and 2 staff and students will have this program available to them early next year. Wave 3 staff and students can install the app for free today from the App stores.  Available on both the Mac and iPad, this is a mixture of artistic design, ease of use, and word processing all in one tool.  It is highly recommended for most design projects, but even it has limitations (today) related to collaboration and sharing.  However, the user interface (especially on the iPad app) is difficult to beat in terms of simplicity and developing a professional looking end product.

See a video demoing Pages on the iPad.

Microsoft Office: Word 
While it has its limitations with certain projects and layouts, Word is a familiar, comfortable tool for many users.  However, it certainly can do the job and is available to staff on both the PC and Mac. It would be a good choice, but perhaps not the most flexible choice of the three.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Guest Blog: Competition in the classroom?

Ever play Bingo with a bunch of middle schoolers? Big fan of board games? Competition can bring out the best...or worst in some people. Why not bring that mentality to formative assessments!

At West High School, a web-based game response system was introduced last month called Kahoot. It is a free website that allows users to design, create, and play quiz-style games. It awards points based on time and correct answers; showing the leaders after each question and are accessible with any device (iPhone, Android, iPad, Chromebook, or any computer) that has wifi.

Why would you want to use this tool? Games increase engagement, motivation, and participation. And its fun!

So how does it work...first, it takes about 30 seconds to sign up for an account (at

Then, you can start designing your first Kahoot using multiple choice questions. The number of answer choices can be adjusted; you can even include a picture or video to ask a question about. For each question, you can adjust the amount of time that is given to answer it. 20-30 seconds is usually plenty...and it will advance once every player has answered it. Once you are done with creating all of the questions (recommended 10-15 questions at a time), you will be able to play the quiz (or open it at a later time and play it). It will generate a game pin that students will use to access it on their device (at, they will enter the pin and create a username (Remind students that it will be displayed throughout the game so it should be first name and last initial or school appropriate. Another helpful hint is to have the students keep their device “active,” not letting the phone/iPad go to sleep or it kicks them out of the game).

From the student perspective, they will see the question being projected on the screen from the teacher and the answer choices with corresponding shapes. On their device, they will only see the shapes and that is what they will use to answer the questions.

As the teacher, you will still control the tempo of the game. It will time the individual questions. After each question, it will show the correct answer and allow the teacher to advance to the next question when ready; this allows for feedback and discussion on the correct vs. incorrect answers.

At the end of the game, the winner is announced! In addition, students are able to rate the quiz/game. And teachers are able to download the results in a spreadsheet (each players name, their scores and which questions they answered correct/incorrect).

After sharing a quick presentation to my staff, we played a version that featured questions about faculty members. By the third question, the competition was heating up and people were actively involved! I have never seen so much energy at a faculty meeting before! All over a quiz/game!

Since sharing this with the staff, many staff members have incorporated it in their classes; some using the bring your own device option or even working in pairs or teams. The feedback they have shared has been positive and exciting. Spanish, Art, and Business classes have been using it for reviewing topics. Biology students even created their own to be used in class when sharing out information!

Its relatively quick and easy to use and can be a powerful tool for your assessment toolbox!
Try it!

-Mollie Heilberger, Technology Integration Coach, West High School

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Our Teachers Are Gaining Speed

I am constantly amazed at how quickly things can change.

There was a time when the adoption of Google Apps drew significant critique.  There was a time when the selection of the iPad as the primary learning tool for Waukesha One was challenged.  There was a time when even the suggestion of using Blackboard found a room of disbelieving faces.  None of these "times" were very long ago.

Things are changing.

Nearly every day I get a lead on some small use of technology that signals a change in the way our kids are experiencing school.  I regularly hear from enthusiastic teachers who have turned the corner and see how these tools can change the way their students show what they know.  I ofen am asked "what if" questions from educators who have learned what the technology is capable of, and are wondering how to extend those capabilities.

In Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point, Gladwell explores how changes are made and how individual actions and small movements grow to trends.  All of Gladwell's wisdom and insight boils down into some very simple realizations.  One key quote from the book suggests to me exactly how we have moved so quickly in our adoption of technology in the School District of Waukesha.

"There are exceptional people out there who are capable of starting epidemics. 

The reality is that we lay claim to some pretty amazing educators in our district -- many, many amazing educators.  It is the thoughtfulness, creativity, and risk taking that these people are willing to commit to our students, to their professional learning, and to their practice that is making this change happen.  

With that said, we have not reached the tipping point where these techniques, practices and opportunities are not common place.  To get there, we all have an opportunity to start listening to those new ideas and practices.  We have an opportunity to start emulating these practices, especially if they will enhance our experience and/or the experience of our students.  We all have an opportunity to begin to engage in learning from each other and improving our practice as a result!

Dig in.  There are amazing things happening around us.  It is an amazing time to be an educator, and an amazing time to be in Waukesha.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Moving Beyond Substitution: Innovative Use of Book Creator Climbs SAMR Ladder

If somebody promises gains in student achievement as a result of the purchase of 1:1 computing devices or of introducing an app in your district/classroom, it's fair to say they may not fully understand why these devices are being introduced into the learning environment.  However, when a teacher shares an educationally relevant, SAMR climbing use of that same tool or app, pay attention. Student achievement is likely to follow!
Recently a teacher in my district, Emily Hernandez, shared one way she uses the Book Creator app for iOS that pointed to an educationally relevant, instructionally appropriate use of the app.  If you are not familiar with Book Creator, it is a way to develop interactive, multimedia-incorporating ebooks/iBooks on the iPad.  It is a simple, easy-to-use app that could very easily be overestimated due to its apparent simplicity.
Ms. Hernandez, though, saw the potential in the tool because she dared to think differently about how her students would utilize the app to demonstate knowledge in her foreign language classroom.
Foreign language students need to demonstrate a wide variety of language acquisition skills, measured primarily through their ability to write and speak the language.  This is traditionally assessed via written works and through the use of conversation and oral presentation with classmates and instructors.  
In Ms. Hernandez's application of the Book Creator app, she was able to utilize these two assessment techniques to demonstrate the students' knowledge to date.  Through the use of written text in the eBooks students created, as well as through the ability to record audio and place audio files into the eBook (a feature built into Book Creator), Ms. Hernandez achieved Substitution by having students do something they had always done, only now using technology to do it.
She climbed the SAMR ladder another rung, though, through the meaningful incorporation of audio, images, and written text into a singular demonstration of learning.  Using the medium of a "published" eBook as their palette, students were being asked to provide written text, were asked to record and supplement that written text with an audio version of that text, and were able to incorporate meaningful images that supported the key themes and messages of their eBook.  Here the teacher was taking advantage of the benefits of the technology built into the Book Creator app, as well as the student's pre-conceived notion of a more professional level of communication in a published book, to gain efficiency and to add authenticity to the demonstration of learning.  This is clear evidence that Ms. Hernandez had now achieved Augmentation on the SAMR ladder in her use of Book Creator.
As we move into Modification, it is important to understand that the key focus must be on how the teacher changes the lesson design or demonstration of learning to take advantage of the functionality and efficiency the technology provides.  Ms. Hernandez decided to make student reflection a key component of this project, allowing students to continually reflect on their "performance" based upon teacher feedback to inform their future learning.  In her lesson design, she allowed students to return to the eBook to make changes prior to final publication. 
The stroke of genius that Ms. Hernandez conjured was in using AirDrop and/or Google Drive (both export functions are natively available in the Book Creator app), functions that allowed the student to share the "draft" of their eBook with the teacher, as well as the audio recording function of the Book Creator app, to provide that feedback.  As students shared the draft of their eBook with the teacher, the teacher reviewed it on her iPad in the Book Creator app, added a page for audio feedback in which she spoke her feedback to students, shared it back with students using the same AirDrop/Google Drive method the student selected, and then allowed them to continue working. While that feedback could have just as easily been spoken to the students in class, the ability to use Google Drive and audio record provided four key advantages.  

  • The students could work on the rough draft of the eBook at any time and "turn in" that draft as soon as they were finished.  Ms. Hernandez could do the same with the feedback.  This creates an ability to provide just-in-time feedback to students as they meet natural finish points, not just on a once-size-fits-all, pre-determined collection date.
  • The feedback was recorded, meaning that both the students and Ms. Hernandez had a record of the feedback provided.  This becomes valuable to the students as they make suggested changes and alter their final product, and it becomes valuable to the teacher as a way of measuring growth from previous iterations of a similar work product.
  • Through the drafting process, Ms. Hernandez reinforces the concept that language acquisition is about a process of learning and growing, not a unit of study that is explored and then completed or forgotten.
  • Students create a lasting product that demonstrates their understanding at a given point in time.  This can be posted to an electronic portfolio, shared at conferences, or later revisited and revised as the students grow in their language acquisition.

Ms. Hernandez's work should be applauded, as it is an incredible reminder that the simplest of tools, used in meaningful, thoughtful, and creative ways, can really transform the way that our students perceive and experience the journey of learning.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Waukesha One Core Apps

One of the keys to success to Waukesha One will be/was the strategic selection of “Core Apps”  These Core Apps met a multitude of criteria when we looked at adopting a set of apps for all teachers and all students in the School District of Waukesha.  The Core Apps are intended to be apps that can work with students in all classes and ages in a K-12 environment.

One of the most important aspects of the core apps includes the ability to connect to Google Drive.  Google Apps for Education are one of the key components to efficient and quality technology integration and for a simplified workflow.  In selecting core apps for students and teachers, a connection to Google Drive is a critical attribute. 

Each app that is offered in Apple’s App Store also has age requirements.  These requirements give parents and schools and idea on the appropriateness of an app as it relates to age of the user (student). A key tenet of Waukesha One is encouraging our families to partner with us as it relates to the use and selection of technology. As professionals we must pay close attention to details such as age appropriateness of apps/resources selected, as it sends a clear message to our families that we are aware of what is in their son/daughter's best interest technologically.

Finally, we as educators need to be very aware of students and creating accounts for apps.  The Core Apps for Waukesha One DO NOT demand that students create any new account.  If students need to sign into an account the hope is that they can use their district issued Google Apps for Education account. This is both for convenience and for the security of a student's personal information.

So what gives?  Why are you writing this post now?

Waukesha One is bringing on several new schools during the month’s of February and March.  It is important that parents, administrators, teachers, and students at these newly added schools understand the mission of Waukesha One, and that educators at our existing Waukesha One schools continue to hold to recognize and hold true to the mission to increase student learning in an environment that is technology rich, but that the emphasis is on student skills and creation.  Becoming reliant on Apps is not the goal, but allowing for a more personalized approach to education that demands student show what they know and learn becomes the emphasis and focus.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

New SDW Blog with an Elementary Focus from Blair Staff

We love to see people sharing their journey with others.  It is the truest form of professional growth and meaningful collaboration one can experience.  Blogging is one method of sharing that journey and the lessons learned along the way.  Whenever we hear about another SDW teacher or team of teachers, as is the case today, sharing their thoughts with the world, we love to be able to pass that along and help them grow their audience (and give our readers another place to find SDW specific teacher practices).

Some friends from Blair Elementary shared their newest blogging ventures with us today.  Here is their announcement.  We encourage you to follow them and add it to your list of resources.

Innovative Friends & Colleagues!

Our Blair 40/40 Project Team of Garrett Sheskey, Alyssa Szybist Lynn Rice & I are pleased to launch a new venture for you!

We have created a blog & Twitter to update you on some of the latest tech tools and also some instructional practices that we find effective for integrating innovative strategies. With a ton of resources out there, I'm sure you're thinking "this is just one more" - and you would be correct.

HOWEVER, with our awesome collaboration of educators at different grade levels, points in their career, and even specialized subject areas between math, music, literacy, bilingual education and technology integration, it's a great start to find resources to engage YOUR learners in any classroom!

Please follow us at our blog and on Twitter, and comment/dialogue with us about any questions, reflections, or other feedback you might have!

@WeTech4You (Twitter)

Tracy Garon
Music Teacher
Blair Elementary

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Aw Snap: Is Google Docs Continually Shutting Down?

If Google Docs seems to keep "shutting down" or closing out as you use it, or if you keep getting that dreaded "Aw Snap" warning in Chrome while using Google Docs, there might be a solution available that will get Docs up and running properly.

Too many fonts in your Google Docs will slow down
Google Docs and cause performance issues until removed.
Recently Google provided a font library to users to allow them to select custom fonts for use in Google Docs.  A welcomed addition by many, some users have added many of these custom fonts to their available drop-down list.  When users overload the custom font list (more than 9 or 10 custom fonts seems to be the magic number), it errors out and produces the "Aw Snap" page in Chrome.

This will continually happen until the user manually goes into the Font menu in Google Docs and deletes most of the fonts from the list (specifically the custom fonts, although it is difficult to know which those are).

Testing to date has demonstrated that this is the solution to getting your Google Docs back into fully functional working shape!

As cool as those nifty little fonts are, remember, everything is better in moderation.

Monday, January 6, 2014

An Opportunity for Learning Ready When You Are!

One of the most powerful advantages and luxuries of the Internet is the ability to find just what you need when you need it.  The trick is knowing where to find it.

The Instructional Technologies Coordinator team has been busily building a learning platform for SDW staff to be able to learn to meaningfully utilize the wide variety of new technological tools at our disposal.  The goals for these instructional resources have been clear.  They need to be readily accessible whenever a teacher may need to access the resources, they must be robust enough to assist a wide variety of staff members at various levels, and they must be easy to access.

These resources, while always growing and morphing, are available today and just waiting for you to dig in and start your own personalized professional development.  The beauty of it all is that they are easy to access and accessible anywhere, any time!

We challenge you to begin or continue your professional development journey by exploring these resources.  They are spread out in several key areas.

To start your journey, aim at this website:  There you'll find links to our YouTube site, which is full of playlists and instructional videos that SDW staff will find valuable, links to our PD page, and links to the district help site and even this blog.  

We also have directions to access our Blackboard courses, which is an important resource in our anytime, anywhere professional development model.  We do have many resources available within Blackboard.  You'll find everything from learning to use the iPad and the MacBook to learning a wide variety of the Google tools and getting complete vanguard training resources.  These courses are set up for self-enrollment.  Here are the directions for enrolling in the course:

We encourage you to personally dig into these resources, but we also encourage you to share the resources with colleagues.  We need your help in spreading the word about these valuable resources!