Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Giving Thanks for Tech Tools in Waukesha Classrooms

For many educators across the School District of Waukesha, we can recall a time when the only way to do something meaningful with technology was to:

  • Schedule time in a computer lab (of course the most organized person in the building had already booked out the year before school even began, leaving the rest to fight for openings).
  • Plan a time in the computer lab, only to find out that your students were not quite ready to use the lab on the day you had it reserved (or an impromptu fire drill chewed up 20 minutes of your lab time).
Those missing keyboard keys on
school laptops often made it
difficult to efficiently type.
  • Waste five minutes walking to a computer lab, another seven logging in to the computers, and the last two encouraging students to save their work and log off.
  • Wait for somebody to physically arrive at your building to solve some tech problems they can now assess and fix virtually.
  • Await the use of a C.o.W (laptop cart on wheels), only for some of the computers to arrive with missing keyboard keys, interesting words spelled with re-arranged keyboard keys from a creative student, dead batteries, or entirely dead laptops, meaning some of your kids had nothing to work on.

While some of that is just a way of life with technology, the reality is that students and educators in our system are generally utilizing our devices/tech to be more efficient, more timely, to allow students to move through lessons at their own pace, and to extend learning beyond the school day.

In the past few weeks I have had several conversations in which educators have expressed their gratitude for the tools our students and staff have access to across Waukesha.

My Kids Can Literally Do Anything

A teacher shared with me that she truly feels like anything is possible for her students today, largely because of the availability of the technology in her classroom.  She was so excited that with the skills her students learn from using the technology, by having the tech in their hands, they could create anything, share their voice in a way that could be heard by the world, and solve any problem.  

"Imagine being this age [these are 4th grade students] and realizing that you can share your ideas with the whole world! Imagine what that does to your view of the world."

It Has Changed How I Teach

In an impromptu visit to one teacher's classroom, I noticed many of the students were using their iPads to document their research in science.  I asked if her students had any Book Creator projects to share with me, so I could show others the quality work they are doing. 

The teacher said, "We have so many." The teacher then went on to say, "We do such wonderful things on our iPads. I love them.  The iPads have truly changed how I teach science and social studies in my classroom."

We Don't Realize How Fortunate We Are

A few months ago I spoke with a former Waukesha teacher who had moved on to other opportunities. 

One of the points that the teacher made absolutely clear to me was that educators and students in Waukesha are truly fortunate to have such a wide range of technology/tools available to use in our classrooms. This particular teacher was in the process of encouraging his school district to adopt Google Apps for Education, as he had no way to share with students or have them collaborate with each other. He said, "You lack the perspective of what other schools really have when you are in a system like Waukesha." 

We have heard this sentiment repeatedly from former staff members who have experienced the availability of technology to students and to staff members in other districts.

Waukesha One Gratitude

As you reflect on how the tech tools Waukesha One made available have impacted you, your students, and your classroom, take a moment to share your thoughts with the world.  

If you are on Twitter, the #sdwone hashtag is a great way to express your thoughts and gratitude. That hashtag also works on Google+. Or just offer your comments in the comment box below.

Celebrating SDW's Growth in Technology Adoption

We want to pass along our most sincere gratitude for your continued willingness to help us understand how we are shifting in our thoughts and practices related to technology adoption in classrooms.  708 of our SDW staff members recently completed the Fall 2016 Technology Profile survey.


This data is meaningful and useful in many ways, from planning professional learning opportunities (at the building and district levels) to determining what technology skills and beliefs our staff already hold.

It also helps us to look at trends of professional practice and professional beliefs about the use of tech. And there is great news to share on that front.

Growth by the Numbers

Our staff's consistent investment of time and energy into learning how to best use these tools to support instruction is palpable across our system. Every day our Instructional Tech Coordinator team has opportunities to see growth in our staff, and to witness new approaches to teaching and learning that were not previously possible. While we can feel that shift, while we can see that shift, summing that growth up into hard data is difficult.  The responses from the SDW Technology Profile survey help us to do exactly that.

The great news is that the numbers show the growth that we can feel.  Below you will find an infographic that compares data from our first survey to our most recent survey.  The first Technology Profile was completed four year ago in Fall 2012. We had 724 respondents at that time. The most recent survey was in Fall of 2016 and we had 708 respondents.

Take a look for yourself. Help us to celebrate the professional growth! Share your key takeaways on Twitter using the #sdwone hashtag!




Monday, November 21, 2016

Hear All Students' Thoughts: Recording Audio Using Your iPad and GarageBand

There are many ways we can assess student thinking and understanding. The use of technology provides additional ways to do this more efficiently and creatively.

A simple audio recording of student thinking is one way to easily capture your student's thinking.
While a teacher could just as easily speak to students to capture a glimpse of their thinking, there are some clear advantages to having your students record their audio responses.
  • Review Student Thinking at Your Convenience
    • Students audio record their thinking, share it with their teacher via Google Drive or Classroom, and the teachers can review those audio files at a time more convenient than taking precious time in class to do so.
  • Hear the Thinking of All Students
    • For those students less inclined to take intellectual risks and share their thinking in front of peers, audio recording is one way to make sure teachers hear the thoughts of all students in the class.
  • Record Small Group Conversations
    • Breakout groups and turn-and-talk shoulder partners are effective ways to have students share their thinking with others, but the teacher generally misses the conversation (and the opportunity to assess student understanding). Have small groups record audio of their conversations, as both an accountability tool (making sure kids are staying on topic) and as a way to listen in on the conversations of each group.
  • Student Review of Thinking from Previous Lessons
    • While hearing a student's thinking today is valuable to the teacher, having students reflect on their own thinking from an earlier conversation/lesson may give students an opportunity to consider their growth and reflect on their opinions. This review of earlier thoughts (in a student's own words) is made easy with audio recordings stored in Google Drive.

Using GarageBand for Simple Audio Recording


If we have hooked you and you want to learn more about how to have your students create audio recordings using their iPads, you'll be happy to hear that the steps to make it happen in your classroom are quick and simple.

Your students (and you) will use GarageBand. GarageBand is available to SDW students and staff in the Self Service app free of charge.

If GarageBand seems intimidating (there is a lot it can do), this short instructional video will show you (and your students) how to easily set GarageBand up for simple audio recording. It will also demonstrate how to send GarageBand audio files to Google Drive for easy sharing and playback




Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Give Your Students Feedback with Google Forms

Recent additions to Google Forms will make grading Google Forms quizzes even easier for teachers. Additionally, the new tool can be used to quickly and easily send feedback from those quizzes directly to students.

For anybody familiar with creating Google Forms, this feature addition is going to be quite easy to adopt quickly. If you are new to Google Forms, it is a tool that is quite easy to use.

Chad Kafka has a wonderful introductory video that introduces how the Quizzes tool in Google Forms functions.




Once you have decided to dig in and give this teacher-friendly function a try, this support guide from Google should help.