Friday, November 13, 2015

When Tech and Literacy Collide...

Quality literacy-focused instruction is at the core of everything we do in Waukesha. Teachers and students across our system demonstrate that with their planning and learning every day.

Just in my classroom walks and conversations this week a linked trend is becoming apparent: Teachers are finding interesting, engaging and thoughtful ways to integrate technology meaningfully into their literacy instruction.

Take Maria Meyers, Foreign Language teacher at South, for example.  Maria is having one of her classes write a fictional story in Spanish.  The academic goals are vocabulary development and greater fluency as students develop in their language acquisition.  The larger goal, as Maria shared with me in advance of the lesson, though, was the ability of the students to simply communicate their ideas -- to have and use their unique voices as they create and tell the story.

Using Book Creator, Maria's students have generated the written text of the story.  They have also
found or created images to support the story and give readers key context clues.  Additionally, the students are using the audio recording feature in Book Creator to find music and sound effects to set the tone and mood of the story they have written.  Just through a little creative planning and proper tool selection on Maria's part, her students are engaging with and thinking about the text they are writing more deeply than if they were to simply write the story on paper alone.

It does not end there, though. Getting even more mileage out of this activity, students are going to share their stories with their peers for review.  And what is the best feedback any author can get on their work?  That's right... immediate feedback directly from the readers. Maria's students will generate a reader feedback form (using Google Forms), ask readers some basic comprehension questions, and then place the link to the form RIGHT in the book.  

The authors will then be able to explore the feedback to determine if their combination of text, images, and sound was effective in helping readers to fully understand their story.

That is just one project, though.  Maria has two other literacy focused lessons she will be exploring in upcoming weeks that may have a similar impact using other tech tools.

Maria's classroom is just one place that the marriage of technology and high quality literacy instruction are apparent.

Another teacher I worked with this week is digging into iBooks Author as a way to deliver engaging digital texts to his students.  He included images, links, glossary terms, and even a pop-over tool that lets images pop up in the text to further student understanding (for instance, the students click on a location mentioned in the text and a map of that country appears). Even early in his journey with this tool, he mentioned how powerful he can imagine this tool will be in creating engaging text resources for all of his students to explore.

In my work at elementary schools, students in one of the kindergarten classes that I visited were eager to share their recently completed research on animals (specifically animals that might make good pets). The students researched and then collated their work using Book Creator to put their thinking, images, drawings, and links to their resources into a single location.  The enthusiasm in the room was palpable as students wanted to share their book and learning with a new face. One student even tried to convince me that, based upon what he learned in his research, a tarantula would be a good pet for me, as long as I purchased the right type of tarantula (I respectfully declined, but I did admire his tenacity).

The best news of all is that this is just a small part of the larger story of the ways that Waukesha students and staff are finding ways to meaningfully use the availability of technology to take their teaching and learning to new levels.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Waukesha One Conference Call 4 Presenters!!

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Hello Everyone!
WaukeshaOne--Call 4 Presenters! Join us 1/22/16!!

Coming this January (Friday January 22, 2016 at West High School), the School District of Waukesha will once again be hosting its very own learning summit for all staff. The WaukeshaOne Conference returns! Planning is under way for this exciting learning opportunity and celebration. 

Days like these do not happen without the expertise of our educators and leaders. We are actively looking for SDW staff and administrators willing to share their technology experiences with others. Today we are launching the Waukesha One Conference - Call forPresenters. You may receive an invite from your principal, EC, coordinator or simply a nudge from a fellow co-worker... These are great indicators that you are doing something in your classroom/building that others would like to learn about. Whether invited or not, PLEASE consider submitting a proposal to share with others how you have integrated technology into your classroom and have taken the LevelUp! challenge.
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Level Up! will be the theme for the conference. We are asking each presenter to use the SAMR progression to explain how they have taken their technology practice to a new level. 
  • What are you doing now in your classroom that you could not have accomplished without the technology? 
  • What steps did you take to get here? 
  • How has it transformed your instructional practice?
We encourage you to consider what contribution you can make to this special event.  There are many opportunities to become involved, to share ideas for utilizing technology to support instructional strategies with your colleagues, to inspire others, and to collaborate with colleagues across the district to develop even more high quality instructional tools and practices. Everyone no matter the integration level are encouraged to submit a presentation proposal! Join us in making this another awesome learning experience!

There are three different presentation formats to choose from.  Details are outlined below:
  • Level Up! Session (These will be 1 hour sessions. ~40-45 min presentation/~15-20 min Q&A/digest information time for attendees). Prepare and share with others how you have used technology to LevelUp! your integration of technology in your instruction. This could be a lesson or unit and how you integrated technology or changed the activity to move it up the SAMR progression. Presentations and additional resources will be submitted for linking to the WaukeshaOne Conference website.
  • Poster Session (Informal poster type session to share with your colleagues. You do not need to be present.) We are asking Poster Session presenters to create a "display/poster" showing how they have integrated technology in their classroom. You will also be asked to have a short (3-5 min) video explaining your display and what you did in the classroom. You will not be expected to be present at your display at any time during the day.
  • Rock Star Stage (3-5 min presentation) on how you have LeveledUp! your professional practice. 

The call for presenters is available here:

The Call for Presenters is scheduled to close on December 1st.

The Session Selection Committee will make determinations based upon the needs and applications received. Selected presenters will be sent more information in December.

If you have specific questions, comments, or concerns, please contact Wendy Liska -

Looking forward to seeing you, January 22nd!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Use Nearpod to Structure and Deliver Your Digital Lessons

Wouldn't it be great to actually lead your students through a lesson where each student could see the slides right on their device as you advance through them?

Wouldn't it be even better if you could put activities into the presentation for students to engage with (and be able to see their answers)?

Actually, with 1:1 devices in our classrooms, both are possible and easy to get started with.

Apps like Nearpod (and Socrative...there are others as well) do exactly this.

  1. Create a presentation
  2. Share the presentation with students
  3. Students view the presentation live (with the teacher) or can engage in a self-paced review of the lesson on their own
  4. Collect and review the data
This post is aimed at pointing you to resources that will get you started.

Sign Up for a Nearpod Account:

Only teachers need to create a Nearpod account (there is both a free and a paid will work just fine to get you started).  You can use your district Gmail account to log in, but students will not need to do this.  Sign up here

Nearpod Support Guides

Learning to use Nearpod is fairly straight forward, but you do not have to do it alone!  There are some simple, helpful guides from Nearpod available here.

Nearpod Lessons
One of the greatest things about Nearpod is the ability to download and then alter already made lessons from other teachers/people.  Want to see what is waiting for you?  They are available here.

Give Nearpod a try.

(*We should mention that neither Socrative or Nearpod are presently SDW Core Apps. If you choose to use either app in your classroom, a letter/email to the parents is strongly recommended asking them to install the app and informing them you will be utilizing this tool in your classroom.)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Classroom Management in a Technology Rich Classroom

Special Celebration for SDW Tech Integration Now Blog

This our 100th post on this blog.  Since our first post this blog has been viewed nearly 17,000 times.

If you are new to the blog or have missed it, dig through the archives and see if you can find any posts that may support your professional learning/practice.

Posts from 2012
Posts from 2013
Posts from 2014
Posts from 2015

Classroom Management in a Technology Rich Classroom

As schools ready for the introduction of Waukesha One to their buildings, we often hear questions regarding what classroom management will look like in a technology rich, 1:1 iPad environment.

The truth is that classroom management, with or without technology, does not fundamentally change.  The foundational rocks stay the same.  Offering a safe, respectful, engaging environment that students feel connected to is essential.  Building community in your classroom is critical.  Offering students opportunities to stretch their thinking, share their ideas, and be heard (by peers and possible beyond) is central.

With that said, there are some unique challenges that come with the introduction of technology in the classroom.

The Instructional Technology Coordinator team has put together a presentation that covers some of the classroom management strategies we recommend to keep kids focused as you work with them.

These are NOT new ideas.  They are also not high tech solutions.  They are, however, effective and are employed by teachers across the district to keep the focus on teaching and learning.

It may be worthwhile to review this presentation with colleagues, your PLC, in a staff meeting, or as a collegial study just to discuss, calibrate a consistent plan, and learn from others to find out what they do in their work with students.

Slide Presentation: Classroom Management Strategies in a Tech Infused Classroom

Video Presentation of Classroom Management Strategies in a Tech Infused Classroom

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Waukesha One Headlines That Should Make the Paper (but Perhaps Never Will)

I blame nobody for this reality, but it is worth noting.  The media tends to pick up and publish/promote the most salacious stories, or that highlight the worst choices people make.  It is rare that the opposite is true.

This post is intended to celebrate those Waukesha One success stories that are huge celebrations, even if they will not make the 10:00 PM news.

Students Able to Adjust Text to Unique Needs

Second grade students engaged in a close reading activity (an activity designed to reinforce a focus on collecting the details from a body of text) utilized tools on their iPad to adjust the text to their unique needs.  Each of the students uniquely experienced the text  based upon their preferences.

Notably, one student's text was drastically enlarged on the page.  According to the student, she was having a hard time seeing the smaller words.  By zooming in on the text she was able to focus on the passages and uncover the details.  The teacher did engage the student in an informative conversation regarding whether the student typically had a hard time seeing the printed page otherwise, providing the teacher greater information about the student's performance.

For just a moment audio could be heard as one student, who later said that hearing the audio while he read helped him to better understand the text, rushed to plug his headphones into the iPad.  The onboard text-to-speech function is used by some students for this purpose.

One student finished early and was found exploring another related article in the app.  Apparently his interest in dinosaurs had been piqued and he was curious the names and color of other dinosaurs that existed.  This student did not have to leave the classroom and no other students were disturbed as he furthered his exploration on the subject.

Instructor Continues to Teach While Student Receives Formative Feedback

A kindergarten student struggling with formation of the number "8" received immediate formative feedback as he utilized an app on his iPad that was designed to assist students with handwritten letter and number formation. The feedback was offered via the app.  The app  forced the student to continually practice the formation of the number "8" until he had correctly written the letter.

The classroom teacher, concurrently working with a small group on individualized reading instruction, continued his focus on the students in the small group.  His focus on the students in his group was not interrupted.

The student seemed proud of his newly mastered skill.  He opened another writing app, Explain Everything, and drew the number "8" five more times.  The student then showed the student next to him.  She was working on the number "6" at the time.

HS Students Eager to Play Five Minute Review Game at End of Period

Students in a high school science course were eager to participate in a five minute review game using Kahoot! The review took place at the end of the period.  

With six minutes left in the period the teacher asked if the students would like to use the last five minutes to review content.  "It will take about five minutes so we need to hurry."

All of the students in the classroom opened Kahoot! on their iPads and logged in without instruction.  The teacher later said that they have used this review game several times already to review so the kids were "pretty familiar" with it.

With five minutes left in the period the game began.  Some students were excited by the points they scored in the game by answering correctly (the fastest correct response gets the most points).  One student was frustrated by an answer she believed to be incorrect.  The student beside her informed her that the answer was accurate and corrected her confusion without interrupting other students or stopping the game  The teacher allowed the student to support her peer.

Elementary Student Supports Peer by Recording Read Aloud

Two elementary students in the library were witnessed conversing about books they were reading.  One student admitted that she liked the book she was reading, but said, "Don't ask me to read it out loud.  I'm not good at that."

The other student said, "That's okay.  I bet you are getting better.  Here, let me record you reading and then you can see."

The student then pulled out his iPad, turned on the video camera feature on the iPad, and began recording as the other student read aloud.

After recording, the students reviewed the recording and the supportive student said, "See, you did a great job."

Rollout of Devices Complete; Schools Learning from Each Other

Waukesha One, the personalized learning work that the School District of Waukesha has embraced, and the related decision to provide every student with an iPad to support that personalized learning is well under way.  Just this fall the final schools rolled out devices and the district is now are 100% rolled out.

As a result of the distribution process format, schools that were earliest to roll out had the steepest learning curve.  Since then, though, leaders from across the district have shared their wisdom, their experiences, and their support related to device rollout, family communications, instructional advice, and resources.  The focus on site-based ownership of the process encouraged a larger pool of local experts to share their stories and suggestions with others.  The final schools rolling out this fall were among the most ready, eager, and accepting schools of Waukesha One based on this mentorship and sharing.

Both schools were led by principals who had previously experienced iPad rollouts at other schools, yet the rollouts felt unique to the culture and personality of their new schools.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Possible Solution When Files Do Not Open in Google Drive on the iPad

It happens from time-to-time, from iPad-to-iPad, that a file just will NOT open properly on an iPad when using the Google Drive app.  This is particularly true of non-Google Apps files, such as .note (Notability), .epub (Book Creator), or .ibooks (iBooks) files.

While it is frustrating, there may be something you can do about it.

In short, simply opening up Safari (the web browser on the iPad), opening Google Drive in Desktop Mode/Version, and attempting to open the file from there can be an easy work-around.

The video below gives a short tutorial that you can try the next time this frustrating event happens on your iPad (or your students' iPads).

Great Lesson Ideas: Powerful Teachers Utilizing Powerful Tools

Collectively, teachers are the MOST creative and resourceful people I have ever met.

In my work with staff members in the last two weeks, I was once again blown away by the ideas that have been shared with me by SDW teachers who are working with students.  It is evidence that when you provide educators with powerful tools they find amazing ways to use them.

In an effort to inspire others, to jumpstart ideas, and to celebrate the interesting opportunities Waukesha teachers are giving to students to show what they know, I will share two of my favorite instructional practices that utilized technology.

Building Interactive Learning Modules in Explain Everything

Several teachers at Hadfield shared that they are building interactive learning modules for their students using Explain Everything on the iPad.

In this case they are teaching letters and letter sounds to Kindergarten students.  In order to create interactive lessons that include BOTH an instructional mini-lesson and a place for students to practice in the same file, the teachers are creating the lesson using Explain Everything.

On the first slide of the Explain Everything presentation, they are placing instructional videos (some that they have created or that they have found online) directly on the slide.  These are SHORT videos (just a few seconds to a few minutes) that teach the skill or introduce the concept.  In some cases they have even placed two or three related videos on the slide (Keep in Mind: Video files can become very large if too long, so select short videos if you want students to have success in getting the files downloaded onto their iPad)

On the following slide(s), the built "prompts" or wrote directions for the students to follow to practice the skill covered in the video.  This could be directions such as:  "Use the pen tool to practice writing the letter 'D'"  or "Type/write/record words that begin with the letter 'M'."

To share the files with the students there are two options.

From Explain Everything you can share the file with others, but you MUST select "Project" file for this to become an interactive lesson for the students.

The teachers at Hadfield are using AirDrop to share the files with their students.  If students are in the proximity, this is a great option.

Another option is to send the "project" file to Google Drive, and then place the link in your Blackboard course to share with students.

How about checking on the student work?  Well, this can be done a number of ways.  A teacher can physically move from student to student, group to group, and look at each student's progress and evidence of thinking.  You could also have students package up the lesson and export it as a "movie"
to their YouTube account (they all have one), or as a project or movie file that is shared JUST with the teacher via Google Drive.

Value Added

  1. This format closely links a mini-lesson of direct instruction on a skill/topic with some sort of immediate practice.
  2. The video allows the teacher to bring in other instructional supports - video from another source, a different way of teaching a skill, or even another student who can explain it to students in another way.
  3. The direct instruction mini-lesson is now reviewable -- the student can play, pause, and rewind the instruction until they truly understand (or can perhaps better speak to the teacher about what they do not understand).
  4. Once a library of these types of lessons are built up (consider building these with other teach-alike colleagues), you now have a variety of resources students can choose from (and we know kids value having choice).
  5. No instructional, subject, or age boundaries exist -- this works K-12 (and beyond) and any topic/skill can be broken down and instructed in this method
  6. The kids can share their thinking with any size audience.  In this case, every student is asked to make their thinking visible (to at least the teacher), and can actually share that thinking with a much larger audience if appropriate.

Carousel Stations with QR Codes

Ken Hirsch, a teacher at South High School, shared a strategy he uses to get students talking/thinking on a variety of perspectives and focal points on the same topic.

Mr. Hirsch's setup looked like this.  In advance, he identified several websites, resources, or Google Docs that would serve as "prompts" for his students to discuss.  In this case they were all focused on the topic of heroes, heroism, characteristics of heroes, etc.  Then, using a QR code generator (here's an article with links to some of these types of sites), Ken created QR codes, printed them, and set them out around the room.

When the class arrived (with their iPads already installed with a QR Code reader app such as i-nigma), the class was broken into small groups and asked to travel from station to station (in a carousel style, making one full rotation during the 20 minute exercise).  They then scanned the QR code, watched/listened/read the video/audio/prompt, and then followed the instructions at the site to begin their small group discussion.

To make the thinking of the group visible, Mr. Hirsch had a place that each group could demonstrate their thinking/conversation so that the group following could make connections with other student's thinking as well.  This could have been done digitally in a Google Doc, but I appreciated that it was physically written on the board/paper to create an anchor chart of the class's thoughts/reactions.  This was especially helpful in the follow-up conversation Ken facilitated with the group.

Value Added

  1. Every student was asked to engage with the topic by shrinking the group size from 25 to groups of 2-3.  In small groups there was less room for students to "hide" behind the answers of students more willing to talk to the teacher.  Every group needed to write something on the thinking sheets.
  2. The expert (teacher) was de-centralized to begin the lesson.  The students could not wait out the teacher or simply agree with the teacher's perspective.  In this case they were presented with a prompt or idea.  They had to form some sort of response to it that was original.  This is the act of thought that we desperately need our students to engage in.
  3. The instructional practice of a Carousel Discussion can be continually used and the media/prompts where the QR codes point can be easily changed. This means it will work throughout the year for a wide variety of new topics.
  4. This format, mixed with intentional grouping, can give the teacher the ability to give students just what they need instructionally when they need it without drawing obvious attention to that differentiation.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Give iPad Presentation Tools Another Try

Presentation Tools on the iPad

Presentations are a way students can synthesize their thinking, add visuals to deepend and further demonstrate their understanding, and go public to share their thinking with new, authentic audiences.  There are three powerful presentation tools available on every SDW student and teacher iPad that you should check out.  

And remember, technology moves fast. If you tried it last year and did not love the experience, some major changes have happened that may make these tools even better this year.
Now users can add images from the iPad
Camera Roll, create shapes and colors, with
all of the collaboration tools you'd expect.

Google Slides (formerly Google name, same product)
If you were underwhelmed by this app the last time you used it, give it another try.  You can now add images directly from the iPad’s camera roll, or using the camera on the iPad.  You can also add shapes, text, lines, and tables.  All of that coupled with the collaboration tools you have come to expect from Google.  

Keynote, the most powerful presentation
app on the iPad, is built specifically for
use on the iPad, making it easy to use.
This is Apple’s version of Powerpoint. This gives you all of the functionality you would expect from a presentation tool right on the iPad.  Beautiful backgrounds and themes, amazing transitions (called Builds in Apple’s terminology), and built for the iPad.  This is not a tool built for collaboration (unlike Google Slides), but you and your students will make beautiful slides from this app.

Explain Everything
A new logo and a slightly
re-designed user interface for
the 2015/16 school year.
Not everybody has explored Explain Everything yet, and those who have often don’t consider it a presentation app.  Explain Everything gives users a blank space to draw on, set photos and text and images on, and to record from (while you write on the "board", point to things with a digital laser pointer, and move objects around).  However, it also gives you a “slide deck” feel (similar to any other presentation app) that allows you to create multiple slides to present from.  If your goal is to create a presentation and then record it and share it as a video, try Explain Everything (a core app available to all students and staff).

All three apps are available in Self-Service.  Keynote is available in Self-Service on the Mac for staff to download as well.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Free Professional Development: Bb K-12 Innovative Teaching Series

As we dig deeper into the powerful tool set that Blackboard is in our classrooms, it is always helpful to have more resources from which to learn.  Blackboard's increasing support in this regard may be just the answer.  There now offering free professional development this school year called the Innovative Teaching Series.  We encourage you to sign up and learn from the experts that blackboard has scheduled for us to engage with in this endeavor.

Below is the press release put out by Blackboard. Click on the links to register for the series.

Free Professional Development: Bb K-12 Innovative Teaching Series

Sign up for our free, online professional development series, the K-12 Blackboard Innovative Teaching Series, designed to help K-12 educators reimagine education with Blackboard teaching & learning solutions. Our special K-12 series is designed to bring teachers and administrators together to spark conversation around today's classroom challenges and share best practices.

We are pleased to announce that we will be offer professional development certificates for live K-12 Blackboard Innovative Teaching Series attendance.  These certificates can be used to document time spent in the webinar to be used to meet continuing education requirements for professional re-certification. While Blackboard does not have official CE Certificate provider status, our certificates are acceptable for the requirements for many states. 

Each fall and spring we begin a new season of free, weekly training sessions that offer:

  • Strategies to increase educator efficiency
  • Pedagogy to improve student achievement
  • Tips for innovation and creativity in the classroom

Register for one (or all!) of our fall sessions, and get easy access to past sessions.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Strengthening Connections via a Gmail Signature and Profile Photo

Waukesha is an amazing place to work.  With such talented students and staff, support around every bend, and a network of thousands to connect with and learn from, there are so many opportunities to both grow and witness/execute astounding learning and teaching events.

These connections do not happen, though, without building a strong, connected community.  It is no secret that The School District of Waukesha is pretty big place with a lot of staff members and students. Recognizing faces and remembering names can be one potential concern in a district this large.

Thankfully, there are some things we can all do to bridge the gap and strengthen these connections.  This is particularly true with technology, as it is a primary way that many of us communicate.  So, here are two suggestions each staff member should consider to make connecting and communicating in our district just a little bit easier.

Create a Gmail Signature

We love Gmail and we use it to communicate with each other, with students, with families, and with the community.  With the hundreds of emails I get daily, one trend is particularly clear.  Those staff members who clearly identify themselves in their email, providing information that I need to connect with or support them, make it far easier to re-connect with them or follow through with a request more expediently.

Generally speaking, there are a few items you should consider placing in every email you send.

  • Your Full Name (there are a lot of people across the district with your same first name)
  • Name of Your School(s) 
  • Your Position/Role 
  • Phone Number (avoid personal cell phones...your school number is probably the best choice here)
That's a lot to type at the end of each email, though.  To make that more efficient, you can add a signature that is automatically placed at the end of each email.  Set it once and forget it.  Your information will always be attached, making it easier to identify and connect with you.

Here is a tutorial page that will help you set up your signature in Gmail:

Add a Gmail/Google Profile Photo

I have had many email exchanges with people I have yet to physically meet.  One way that I feel more connected to the people I communicate with online, though, is knowing what they look like.  The simplest way that this is achieved is by providing an image of yourself as your profile image. Especially when communicating with people that have not met you before, or who do not see you every day (district level support and administrative people, colleagues from other buildings, parents, etc.), this makes the face-to-face meetings (especially identifying each other) much smoother and far less awkward.  

I understand that many folks are a little sheepish about putting a photo of themselves out there. In fact, some people elect to include an icon that is not an image of them. While we learn a little bit more about you and your interests, nothing is as valuable as an actual photo of you. That photo helps others to identify you and it is incredibly useful to aid in connecting and communicating with others (especially as you are getting to know each other).  

Consider adding your profile photo to your Google Apps account.  Here is tutorial that shows how:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Making the Most of the Tools We Do Have

Tonight I'm going to be leading a webinar on the Intel Teach Live series called The Dangers of App Overload.  If you would like to register to join and follow along live, here is the link:
Before I write any more, I want to say thank you to Naomi Harm (@naomiharm) and Vanessa Jones (@vkajones) for the opportunity to connect and share tonight.  It is an honor! Thank you for the opportunity.
This blog post below is inspired by my reflection on and preparation for tonight's webinar.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Free PD Right at Home: Find a Google PD Session That Suits Your Needs

Last weekend the Google Education on Air Summit took place.  This free, powerful, and energizing PD opportunity had many powerful ideas from educators using these tools to with students.

Did you miss it?  Don't fret -- the beauty of technology is that these types of learning opportunities are on-demand and accessible at a time and place that works best for you!

For the Adventurous Soul

If you are a choose your own adventure fan, you might like to just Click here to find the full run down of topics for both day one and day two.
review the whole schedule and find sessions of great value to your professional practice.
(*Hint: After clicking the link, you may need to scroll down the page to see the full lineup of sessions.)

I'd Prefer a Recommendation

If you are the type of person that won't eat at a restaurant until you uncover at least two positive recommendations, let us provide you with a few recommendations for the online conference. We've prepared a short list of recommended videos cued up to just the point where the learning heats up.

Google Forms for Assessment and Communication

Presentation by Oli Trussell

Creating and Using YouTube Playlist

Presentation by Norm Peckham

Beyond Genius Hour: Empowering Students All Day

Moderated by Jennie Magiera

The Best of Both Worlds: Google Apps for the iPad

Moderated by Kasey Bell


We will post additional high quality resources from the Education on Air conference in future blog posts.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Proudly Announcing SDW Staff Member and Apple Distinguished Educator Kathy Miller

We have a big announcement to share with the SDW Staff and the community of Waukesha.

 Kathy Miller, an instructor at the Waukesha Transition Academy, has been selected as an Apple Distinguished Educator for the Class of 2015.

The Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) program is a highly selective program that honors educators who have made meaningful use of technology, coupled with high quality instructional practices, in their classrooms to transform their students' educational experiences.

We asked Kathy to guest blog this week and share a bit more about herself, about being selected for this honor, and about what she is doing in her classroom with technology.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Back to Basics: Intentional Classroom Management to Reduce Digital Distraction

Technology can break down walls.  Technology can add efficiency.  Technology can remove restrictions and limitations. Technology can change the way we teach and the way students learn.

At the same time, for all the benefit that technology can provide, it can also introduce new challenges, dilemmas, and downfalls.

Like anything, as professionals we have to accept the good with the bad, take advantage of the best it can offer, and learn to manage the challenges.
Courtesy of NEA Today

One of the most common concerns teachers raise related to Waukesha One and the introduction of personalized learning tools is digital distraction.  That categorization fits many different symptoms.

  • Students unfocused due to messaging on the iPad/phone.
  • Students unfocused due to gaming on the iPad.
  • Students watching videos/movies on the iPad.
  • Students hiding what they are doing on their iPad/closing apps when teacher walks by.
  • Students unable to stay on task when given work time -- doing something "unproductive" on the iPad.
There are many other symptoms that fit this category.

While there is no silver bullet solution to end digital distraction, one of the most proactive ways for teachers to diminish digital distraction is through intentional and consistent classroom management.

Following are some suggestions to consider putting in place in your classroom.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Professional Learning: Take on the challenge of time!

Reflecting on my time at the WEMTA Conference recently, one theme was consistently raised by many presenters from districts across the state: the constraints of time on educators.

Results from many surveys, conversations, and meetings in our district have echoed the same theme: Finding adequate time for professional learning is a challenge.

We all feel it.  Every one of us.  There is so much to learn, so much that is changing, and so much that we can improve upon.  As a result we feel the pressure to learn it all, and to learn it soon!  That is a badge to our credit -- it means we are lifetime learners and we are committed to a growth mindset.  We should model that for our students and make them aware of it at every opportunity.  Our students need to see us as learners; we can give them this gift by modeling what it means to be a lifetime learner.

However, the challenge still exists.  Where do we find the time to learn what we need to while still maintaining a sane professional and healthy personal life?

The beauty of living in the digital age is that we can use the tools and resources around us to make something that was previously difficult, now possible.  

  • Learning now can take place on demand.  
  • Learning now can take place from home.  
  • Learning now can be custom tailored to our unique needs and interests by finding the appropriate offerings and resources (there are thousands).

There will never be enough time during the work day to get the direct instruction necessary to keep pace with the professional learning we need to do (especially as it relates to the use of educational technology tools).  This is not unique to Waukesha.  As I said earlier, this sentiment was echoed by people of varying positions from varying districts across the state.  

Something I did hear from many of those professionals is that they have found ways to grow professionally despite the challenges of time.  And yes, it has meant a commitment to doing so outside of the bell-to-bell school day.

As we look at warmer weather and a bit of non-student time ahead (let's not pretend our work ceases in the summer, but our daily direct connection to students lessens), here are some resources and opportunities you may want to put on your calendar to help facilitate your professional growth (specifically as it relates to instruction and the role technology can play).  You'll notice that both face-to-face and virtual opportunities exist.  (For many of us personal connections are still a necessity!)

Virtual - Live

  • Google Education on Air - May 8 - 9 (Registration Required)
    • This free online conference has sessions for every level, every subject, and every position (admin track, teacher track, IT track, anybody track) and brings together some of the most visible, noted, and interesting presenters to share what is happening in their classrooms (and how Google Apps supports that work).


  • Ed Camp Milwaukee - May 9 (Registration Required)
    • This free (no, seriously, it is TOTALLY free) unconference brings together educators across SE Wisconsin to share and learn from each other.  Participants are encouraged to come with an idea for a session to lead or share in a full day of learning.  Sessions can explore anything related to education.  

Virtual - Recorded

  • Blackboard K-12 Bits Webinar Series
    • This series of webinars covers a wide range of topics related to Blackboard's wide range of instructional uses. Get great ideas that you can play with in your own Blackboard course.
  • SDW Bb9 - Instructional Strategies course
    • Log in to Bb9 and enroll in the instructional strategies course.  There you will find a tab called Vanguard Professional Development Workshops.  Get recordings of the same PD webinars on the core apps, Blackboard, and Google Apps that your Vanguard team has had access to.  PD tailored to the tools you and your students have access to.
  • SDW YouTube Playlists for Tech Integration
    • There is a lot of content on YouTube.  At times it can be difficult to sift through.  Let the SDW Tech Coordinator team do the lifting and sorting for you.  Here you will find our curated playlists for a wide variety of topics:
    • If you subscribe you will receive notifications of newly posted videos that may solve your technology woes or give you new ideas.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Guest Blogger Donna Subotnik: Encourage and Measure What Matters When It Comes to Student iPad Care and Use

As educators in a 1:1 district, we need to continually teach our students the best practices for caring for their devices, backing up their data, and using their iPads appropriately for academic purposes.  This has to be intentional and some schools are coming up with creative ways to do exactly that.  Donna Subotnik, the lead technology aid at West High School, put on her thinking cap and developed a program that students find fun, engaging, and that encourages them to learn these critical skills! Donna is our guest blogger for this post!

Waukesha West iPad Patrol

by Donna Subotnik

Donna Subotnik developed a creative program to engage students
in the conversation about caring for their school issued iPads.
In the Fall of 2014, Waukesha West students received their iPads, and with that came expectations that students would self manage their devices.  Students received communication via emails about how to back up their files, and how and when to update their iOS.  It became apparent to me, as I processed broken iPads, that students were not updating their iOS and/or backing up their files on a regular basis.  When I asked students why they had not been updating and backing up, there were a variety of responses.  Some students said it took too long or they didn’t have space on their iPad to do it.  Some admitted to laziness, and others said they simply did not know it was important to do all the time.  It was only when their iPad was broken, that a student realized why self managing their device was important.
iPad Patrol was created to acknowledge and reward students who are actively managing their iPads.  A couple days a week, I find students in classrooms, the hallways, and in study halls.  They are informed that their iPads are being checked for a list of items that I have developed using the acronym: W.I.R.E.D.

Without cracks.
iOS up to date.
Remember to backup.
Equipped with a quality case.
Determine if audio jack is free of everything.

Bonus:  Notability is backed up to the cloud and drive.

If a student’s iPad meets the first five criteria, they get one entry into the drawing for prizes.  If they are missing one of the first five criteria, but have the bonus criteria, they will get one entry into the drawing.  If a student’s iPad meets all six criteria, they qualify for two entries into the drawing.  Prizes for the drawing were donated by area businesses.The time I spend with each student, gives me a chance to educate them why each item is important, and how it will save them in the event their iPad becomes broken.  As iPad Patrol continues, my observations will be recorded to determine and analyze the effectiveness of the program.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

"I Commit...": Moving From Commitment to Practice

We are just over a month away from The One Conference.
The One Conference was a day focused on professional learning,
professional connections, and commitment to using the newly
introduced tools and practices with students in our classrooms.

That's far enough away for the seeds of tools, techniques, and ideas planted at the conference to sprout into using these practices with students.

It is also far enough away to start seeing that day of professional learning and inspiration, the ideas shared, the best intended plans to become a rapidly fading memory.

Which of those two options is your story?  If you are in a leadership role, what is your building's story? What do you want that story to be?

Now is the time to take action!

What can we do?

Step 1 - Make the "I Commit..." Posters Present in Your Building

I just took a long look at one building's "I Commit..." poster today.  It was a powerful reminder of the learning that took place at The One Conference.  Seriously, if we could each commit to using just one tool/idea/technique with kids, we would make a statement to our students about what teaching and learning can look like with technology in hand!

It is not lost on me, though, that many of those posters have become not particularly attractive wall art. If we do not take a moment to re-engage with the commitments made on those posters, to encourage them to at least be attempted, we send a frightening message: We do not value the commitments we make!

Step 2 - Check In On Progress

We need a pulse check on the progress of the practices we each committed to. We need to hold each other accountable (in a positive, "you can do this" manner). This is NOT the work of building administrators alone, though.


  • Ask at your next PLC meeting -- "Hey, what is your 'I Commit...' practice? What have you done to achieve that?  Can we work together on it?"
  • Capture evidence of your "I Commit..." in practice (even if it is not an immediate success) and put that evidence some place public to encourage others!  (The caption could read, "I did it!")

Substitutes and Assistants:

  • Engage the teachers you support -- "So, what is your "I Commit..." concept in this class?  What can I do to help support that?"


  • Encourage your Vanguard Teams to engage the teachers they support and develop a plan to encourage every teacher in your building to succeed in attempting to use these tools/ideas/techniques with students.
  • Partner teachers with a similar commitment and help them find the resources and engage the people necessary to move the practice forward.
  • Find a public space to celebrate risk taking as teachers attempt to put their commitment into practice!  Bring attention to this in any way you can!  This is an enormous accomplishment!

Step 3 - Go Public! (in a thoughtful way)

Committing to a goal and making it happen is an amazing success (even if things do not go particularly well -- that's just the danger of risk-taking).  Find ways to help your staff tell their stories.  That may be to you, to each other, to the staff, or perhaps even wider.  Know the people you work with, understand their comfort zones, and find ways to CELEBRATE THEIR SUCCESS in a way that will not add anxiety!

SDW staff attending The One Conference commit to
using one new tool, practice, or technique with students
 before the 2014/15 school year ends.
It is not too soon!  

It is not too late!  

It is the perfect time to bring these practices to life in our classrooms.  

We must take the first step to make it happen!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Going Public: Yes, people are eager to read and view!

It was not long ago that the only way anybody would know about the powerful, amazing, creative work happening in our classrooms was if they would physically talk to  us.  While face-to-face connections are powerful, the ideas shared in those conversations only spread as far as the humans wish to take them.

Many of us have at least signed up for a social network like Google+ or Twitter, but are we really leveraging it to share our work, our students thinking, and our classrooms with the world?  Should we be?

A few weeks ago I spoke with a parent that was very impressed with one of the videos she found on an SDW teacher's YouTube channel.  "It is so nice to see what is happening in the classroom."  As a parent myself, it feels like the events of my children's school days are somewhat of a mystery -- 8 hours of school summed up into a ten minute conversation hardly seems to cover the scope of what they experienced throughout the day.  Parents are looking for some insight into what their children experience each day and the important work they are doing. Using these social networks and media outlets to share what is happening in our classroom is just one way we can offer parents a chance to investigate the great things that are happening instructionally.

Equally true, educators are scouring these social networks for ideas and examples of what is being done in other classrooms.  I regularly search the archives of Google+ to see how we, as educators, are "going public" with our thinking, using the tools placed in our hands, and giving our students a voice that can be shared with the world.  This was one of the great focal points of our summer institute work surrounding literacy -- giving students an authentic audience to share their thinking (making it visible).  Like it or not, we carry this responsibility.  Our students have plenty of opportunities to share "socially" with the world in informal settings online.  This is our chance to show them how to productively use these media outlets to share academically, professionally, formally, and respectfully in order to make a difference!

Finding a new, authentic audience is not as time consuming as it once was -- we no longer have to gather an audience of parents or community/business leaders in advance, or make connections with teachers from across the country weeks before the unit of study.  

These social networks are bringing an audience right to us.  The devices in our hands, available in our classrooms, are built specifically with the intent of sharing with these audiences.

The question is not about who will read our thinking or view our students' work.  

More importantly the question is:  What will you and your students share?  How will you "Go Public" with your thinking?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Key to Engagement: The Launch of a Lesson

I have led enough staff development to say this with certainty: No matter how much time I have available to teach adult learners, I can completely jeopardize the effectiveness of my entire time with them within the first few minutes of our meeting.

How?  Failure to launch (not necessarily a reference to that Matthew McConaughey movie)!

Almost every teacher I have worked with has thoughtfully engaged in the instructional planning process.  They have thoughtfully selected the lesson they deliver to students for some meaningful, often instructional purpose.  Most teachers are even excited to share those lessons with their students.  That tends to be a constant -- teachers plan and teachers believe in what they do with students.

So why does it so often happen that students (especially our older students) tend to disengage and find little relevance in these well thought out lessons so quickly and so consistently?

After watching a few classrooms this week I was reminded that it might just come down to a failure to truly launch a lesson in a meaningful, engaging, inspiring way.

What I notice about adult learners is that I have about five minutes (on a good day) to hook them on learning some new tool or embracing some new strategy.  Unfortunately, the "hook" isn't always the first thing I need to share with them -- it doesn't come first in the chronological process of learning to utilize the tool.  If I miss that window I tend to lose my least dedicated audience.  And every additional minute or two after that I can visibly see waining interest in a growing number of learners.  Sometimes I can recover and bring them back, but it often seems as if we never get that initial enthusiasm back if do not plan well and miss that initial opportunity to hook them.  And truly no marvel of technology that I can share with them is going to bring them back!

This means I have to plan a little differently. I have to think about my intro.  I need to answer questions like, "Why does this matter to my audience?" or "What is the most important or interesting element in what I'm sharing with them today?"  When I know that, I have to strategically re-think my delivery -- how do I deliver on these elements early in the lesson without completing losing my audience.  Teachers hold the ability to do exactly that -- re-structure a lesson order and then find a way to tie it all together in the end.

This week I saw some pretty interesting lessons on topics that should definitely be of interest to students!  However, in several cases an initial failure to make a compelling argument as to why the topic was worth the investment of time and energy to students, or a failure to hook students and develop an interest right from the start of the lesson, left many students visibly disengaged from the meat of a well developed lesson.

 In journalism taking the most pertinent element of the story and burying several paragraphs in is called "burying the lede."  Instead, be the salesperson you want to buy from!  Put a little showmanship into the first few minutes.  Be dramatic.  Be fun!  Oversell the product a little.  We all want to be part of something special, and the first few minutes of anything seems to be the key to making something stand out from the ordinary.  You already plan great lessons.  Now just spend a few extra minutes thinking about the sizzle that is going to draw them in and find ways to highlight that first.   Once you have them hooked, it is amazing what learners are willing to put forth.