Friday, March 31, 2017

Spotlight on Digital Conferring Notes

Teachers have forever jotted notes on student progress. Notes on paper, notes in planning books, notes in journals. And this have served us well -- they are a way to document what we are seeing at any given time so we can come back to the notes when working with students or planning lessons.

The hard part, though, is obvious. Data collection is not necessarily the strong suit for most people. Notes collected on paper need to be organized, summarized, and then analyzed to become meaningful data that we can utilize to drive instruction.  And while humans are not generally that good at this task, this is something that machines do very well!

Several teachers participating in the Model Tech Classroom work in the School District of Waukesha have been engaging in conversation around creating really meaningful digital conferring notes. This has definitely been a process, but some exciting outcomes are starting to emerge.

Quickly See How Many Times You Have Conferred with a Student

A simple count of how many times a teacher has conferred with a student does not seem that valuable, but when teachers begin to identify their patterns over time, they can take corrective actions to be sure all students are receiving the right amount of opportunities to confer with the teacher. 

Formulas built into the digital conferring notes give these teachers a "dashboard" view of who they have and have not met with to help them guide their decisions moving forward.

Determine Which Conferring Data is Most Important to Guide Instruction

There are many notes we can take on student growth and skills. Not all of those notes, though, lead us to meaningful data that will allow us to determine clear next steps for growth. 

The teachers who have been collecting digital data on students are learning that when they can identify exactly which information will help them determine next instructional steps to support student growth, then they can more efficiently look for and record that data and eliminate data that is not as useful/meaningful.
This process happens over time and it can be difficult to let some of things we traditionally look for with students go, but as the mountain of student conferring data grows, it becomes obvious that we can only utilize so much data meaningfully.

Record and Report Growth to Students

Determining a student's proficiency in various skills is one of the key reasons we confer with students. 

Paper notes require the teacher to look back in the notes to determine which skills they have noted as proficient. Digital conferring notes, though, can automatically tabulate how many times a teacher has identified the student as proficient in a skill. This allows teachers to make small group instruction decisions, helps the teacher to more accurately mark growth on the continuum, and can even be used to help students see their growth and determine next-step growth goals.

But My Paper Notes Already Do This For Me!

If you are already doing these things with notes taken in a journal, log, or notebook, that is amazing! Stick with it! Technology is intended to help us do those things that we cannot do with ease, or to do these things better. If you are already making instructional decisions based on your paper notes, then use your paper notes.

However, if the paper notes are not giving you the level of detail you need to make instructional decisions, or if analyzing your paper notes is taking you more time than it seems like you even have (and we know the main shortage of any teacher's life is time), consider how technology might be able to automate this task for you. For some of the teachers trying this now, they are either not using conferring notes to do this level of analysis already, or they are finding that they have gained additional time to invest back into conferring or other teaching tasks!

VoiceThread Now Available to SDW Students and Staff

Looking for a way to hear every student's thought on a topic or idea, but having trouble getting every student to speak up? Maybe you are looking for a way of having student's express their thinking verbally outside of class, or as they work in small groups where you cannot always be present?

A tool is newly available to Waukesha students and staff to give students a way to speak their thoughts around topics chosen by the teacher: VoiceThread. We are excited about all of the ways this could support instruction!

VoiceThread has been made available in our district as a result of our partnership with Blackboard. You will need to use Blackboard to access VoiceThread.

What is VoiceThread?

VoiceThread is a tool that allows users to share their thoughts and ideas around topics presented to them. The topics are selected by the teacher, presented through various types of media (slides, videos, photos, etc.) and then each participant/student can share their spoken or written response while annotating over the top of the various media types.

This video provides a quick summary of what VoiceThreads look like and do.

Try Out VoiceThread

To give you an opportunity to experience VoiceThread, we have created a VoiceThread that you can comment on. The topic for the VoiceThread is, "How can teachers and students utilize VoiceThread in different subject areas?"  We encourage you to share your ideas with others while trying out the tool.

How do students and teachers access VoiceThread?

VoiceThread is available in Waukesha because of our partnership with Blackboard. It is integrated into Blackboard and tied into the same accounts as Blackboard.

Teachers will need to log into their Blackboard accounts, and then head into one of the classes where they are designated as a teacher.  From there, it's pretty straight forward.

  1. In a Content Area, click "Tools" on the build bar. Select "VoiceThread" from the list
  2. Write a brief description if needed in the available Text Box. Then select "Submit and Launch."
  3. A new window will open. If it requests your username and password, you will use the same username and password that you use to log into Blackboard.
  4. You will select the appropriate view for your needs. For the first time, select Course View. (Tutorial on the ways different views are used is available here.)
  5. In the far upper right, click "Add Your Own"
  6. You are now ready to create your first VoiceThread. Students will use the link created in Blackboard to access the VoiceThread.

Is VoiceThread iPad Friendly?

VoiceThread has a useful app called VoiceThread Mobile. It is available for download now in Self Service on all student iPads in the Communications category.  This app makes it incredibly easy for students to upload and annotate while recording their thoughts to VoiceThread. The app opens with ease from Blackboard.

You can learn more about VoiceThread, gett step-by-step tutorials for bringing VoiceThread into your Blackboard course,  and answer troubleshooting questions at the SDW Help Site

Friday, March 24, 2017

Side-by-Side Browser Windows on Mac

Adding five seconds to your work time as you fumble around your Mac desktop looking for the right browser window may not seem like a major distraction, but over time those five seconds, accumulated many times a day/week can add up. 

Your computer has tools to make your work more efficient, and that's what we are highlighting today.

So, if your desktop has ever looked like the photo at right, and you've had to move and minimize and dig through windows to find the right window on your Mac, try this tip out to make your work a little more efficient.

You can easily set two browser windows side-by-side so you can see both at the same time. Here's how.

Click Command + hold on Green Ball
Step 1.  Hold down the Command key, and click and hold on the green ball (maximize) in the upper left of the window.  (You'll have to hold for about two seconds.)

Step 2: If done correctly, you will see a light blue box appear on the left side of the screen. Let go of the Command key and mouse and it will snap to the light blue window.

Side-by-side browser windows
Step 3: Any other browser windows will appear in the right. Click on the other browser window you want to see and it will snap to the right side of the screen.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Rockstar Stage Presentations - Brandon Egnarski - Building an eSports Clubs In Your School

Presentations from The Rockstar Stage

The One Conference 2017

The Rockstar Stage has become a favorite element of The One Conference for many as the focal point is on hearing directly from teachers and students regarding tips, tools, and inspirational messages about how they use technology in their classrooms. It is a celebration of our staff and students, giving them a few minutes in the spotlight to share their very best ideas!

Rockstar Stage Presenter: Brandon Egnarski

Brandon Egnarski
Waukesha West High School

Brandon Egnarski is a business teacher at Waukesha West High School. He is also the founding advisor to West's eSports club.

In the talk Brandon talks about his personal and professional experiences with gaming, and he identifies why eSports might just be a value add at other schools. eSports is becoming a legitimate, funded, possibly even NCAA recognized activity that is of high interest to students. It is also a way to introduce and create bonds for students who otherwise might not connect at schools.

Brandon's group at West High School has over 100 students and is an active way for kids to connect, relax, and have fun. He hopes to connect with others who might be interested in building an eSports team at their schools.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Book Creator: The cloud might save you!

Why iCloud might matter in a Book Creator Publisher's world...

In a previous post, our team shared some information about backups for iPad apps like Book Creator, Notability, and iMovie. We were seeing learners lose months worth of digital work in these apps if something would happen to their iPad and they had not backed up. While some apps have a backup feature built in that can be enabled, others required the user to "publish" their work to Google Drive.

One app that caused the most headaches due to the "digital dog" eating work was Book Creator. However, thanks to a recent update, it now has the ability to backup books to iCloud Drive! While this exciting news may only SEEM exciting to me,  I promise, its really good news.

The ITC team tested this by ensuring a recent iCloud backup. Then we deleted the Book Creator App. After reinstalling from Self Service, the books that were in the original copy of the app slowly started to load in the Book Creator App and were available to download and continue being edited. So cool!

What does this mean? If a learner's iPad is logged into an iCloud account (under settings-iCloud) and have auto-backup turned on and working (this also means they need to have enough storage space), the iCloud Drive now includes the Book Creator App. Even learners in kindergarten, first,  and second grade, who fall under the managed Apple IDs, can be logged into iCloud for backups.

If you have not added your learners iCloud accounts, please contact your ITC team member for assistance.

(AND if you are seeing backups of Book Creator projects from other students in your classroom, it means that its time to move those devices over to a managed Apple ID. See your ITC team member for that as well!)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Getting App-roval and Parent Permission

You may have seen or heard that there is a new app approval process in the School District of Waukesha. The goal is to make it easier for students to get access to the apps they use in class without an Apple ID. The indirect goal is to ensure that we are protecting our student's data privacy and safety.  A previous blog post outlined the details of this process; you can read that here.

Before we place anything in front of our students, whether it is a book, text, website or video, we should be making sure that is appropriate for use in an educational setting.

Keys to Selecting Safe, Appropriate Apps

When it comes to Apps, there are some key things to look for and understand (this can help you to be sure the app you wish to use is approved for use):

Look for links to this information in the
iTunes app store for easy access.
  • Age range in iTunes - This is a recommended age range from iTunes but does not always line up with the terms of use. This is only one of the things we look at when vetting an app.
  • In app purchases, advertising or limited use without purchase - Apps that only allow users to interact with a small percentage of the app, offer or require purchases, or contain advertising that could contain inappropriate material should be a red flag.
  • Privacy: These can usually be found on the app developer website. What information are they collecting and what will they do with the data? Look for apps that comply with COPPA (Children Online Privacy Protection Act). This is typically outlined within the privacy statements, which can often be found in the app store.
  • Terms of Use/Service: These can usually be found on the app developer website as well. Often, they will give specific details on the information the app collects on the users and who they share it with. It may also contain an age range of use or the need for parent permission. 
An example from SeeSaw: 
Seesaw only collects personal information through the Services from a child under 13 where their school, district, and/or teacher has agreed (via the terms described in more detail below) to obtain parental consent to use the Services and disclose personal information to us for the use and benefit of the learning environment.
    • Parent Permission can come in many forms. Some developers require it for all users under the age of 18, while others are for 13 and under. Either way, it is up to the classroom teacher who wishes to use the app to obtain that parent permission for EACH student before they download the app from Self Service. These apps will be in a category called "Parent Permission." 
    • A sample Parent Permission letter template has been designed to help classroom teachers. You can find it here. Make a copy of it in Google Docs and tweak to fit your app request. Make sure to include the app name, link to the terms of use and privacy, and share how you will be using the app with your students. 
So now, how do you get into the App-proval game? App requests must be entered into the SDW Self Service App Request Form available here: all apps will be approved. And plan ahead. It can take some time to track down these items and review them. 

Whether approved or not, the person submitting an app approval to SDW Self Service App Request form will receive email notification of the determination made. As of today, we have reviewed 470 apps! 

Protecting App Data

What an amazing journey we are on in the world of technology!  We are a few years into this "thing" we call Waukesha One, and instead of wondering if students are using their devices, we are now in a place where we are concerned about losing student created content on their devices.

If you have ever worried that the work your students create in the various core apps could just up and disappear, the reality is it could happen. BUT, don't fear! There are ways we can help our students backup, archive, and safe-guard their work. Teaching them these critical skills now will help them be safer, more aware students and employees in an increasingly digital world.

Avoiding the Digital Version of "The Dog Ate My Homework" 

Do your students know how to back up their data from an iPad? Most likely not.

Consider taking a few minutes to walk your classes through the backup of one app a week, repeat once or twice, and empower the students to continue good backups regularly. Add "Export your project to Google Drive" as the publishing step before students finish a lesson. If you are regular user of a core app with your students, this should become part of the routine.

The infographic below outlines some of the key steps students can take to back up their work. It can be printed and posted in your classroom, media center, or added to a parent newsletter. In addition to the infographic, there is a series of short video tutorials that you can use for your own learning or even to share with your students ( As always, your ITC team is ready and willing to help with this process or answer any questions you may have.

iPad Backup by mheilber

Quick Fixes to Try with a Cranky Apple TV

When Apple TVs work they can positively change the way teaching happens in our classroom.  And when they don't -- well, it can be frustrating.

If you cannot project to an Apple TV in your classroom, there are a few things you can try before submitting a ticket for support. 

Turn Off Bluetooth on Your Device

Bluetooth does not need to be on for Apple TVs to work at school. Turning it off eliminates one possible issue that may exist.

Here's how:

Turn Wireless Off and Back On on Your Device

If your Apple TV isn't appearing in the list, turning the wireless off on the device, then turning it back on forces your device to search for Apple TVs nearby again. This will often allow the Apple TV to re-appear in your list when you want to AirPlay.

Here's how:

Restart Your Device

Sometimes our tech needs a reset. While it may hurt to close down your browser with all of your critical tabs, it is important that we regularly restart our devices. Power them down. Power them back up. Check to see if AirPlay works.

Update Your Device

Technology updates are a part of our lives. If your device has not been updated recently, take some time after school or on a weekend to update the device. It can take some time, so be sure to do this when you do not need your device immediately. Updating overnight is an excellent idea!  

Pro Tip: 
Before updating, always be sure to make sure your CRITICAL files are backed up. We typically recommend putting them in Google Drive!

Here's how:

The Apple TV is STILL Not Working!

Okay, on to the Apple TV for just a few tweaks before we submit a help ticket.

Turn Bluetooth Off on Apple TV

Just like your device, your Apple TV does NOT need Bluetooth turned on to find devices. In fact, it can get in the way and cause problems. Turning Bluetooth off on your Apple TV is an important step that may solve the issue.

Here's how:

With the Apple TV remote:

1. Go to Settings
2. Click on General
3. Click on Bluetooth
4. Click "Off"

Restart Your Apple TV

Grab an Apple TV remote (any Apple TV remote...they work for all models) and restart your Apple TV.  Some people say unplug the Apple TV, but this restart should do about the same thing.

Here's how:

Check for Hanging Wires
It may be hard to believe, but sometimes students (and sometimes adults) pull apart connections for varying reasons. And they do not always leave things as they found them!  Just take a look at the back of your projector/tv. Is there anything hanging there that seems like it should be plugged in?
Is this unplugged? (It's an HDMI cable.)
Or is this unplugged? (It's a VGA cable.)

If you see these cables hanging from the projector or Apple TV and not connected, this may be the root of the problem. You can try plugging them in, or you can file a Help Desk ticket if you are unsure if this is the issue or require assistance.

Time for a Help Desk Ticket

You have done what you can. It's time to submit a Help Desk ticket. It is worth mentioning anything that you tried from the above list. This may speed the process along and helps the tech assigned to the ticket to know what steps to take next.

And Remember...

Your Apple TV should work! Do not accept it not working properly. The SDW Technology Department wants to help you get your Apple TV working reliably.  If you are unable to get your Apple TV to work, don't just avoid using it. Put in a ticket and let somebody know. The SDW Technology Department cannot fix issues that they do not know about.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Removing Background Noise When Recording on an iPad

By request, we are bringing back an older post written by SDW Teacher Wendy Anderson. Thanks Wendy for your clear and practical solution!

 Hopefully we all have discovered the power of the audio recording feature on the iPad. This feature gives students’ the ability to reflect on what they’ve learned or explain how they reached an answer verbally. Many applications require this record feature.  In my first grade classroom this has been game changing for students who have a hard time communicating their thoughts in written words. But, we have also all discovered the poor recording quality of the built in microphone if there is any type of background noise in the classroom.  During playback, the background noise sounds just as loud as the person’s recorded voice. This can become frustrating for the student and their audience.

 After trying different microphones and recording locations, our solution was simple; mini-recording studios. Our mini-recording studios are inexpensive storage stools from Target. As you can see in the picture, students place their iPad in the back of the storage stool. They then lay with their head in the mini-recording studio. This set-up helps prevent unwanted sounds and room chatter from ruining students’ recordings. You can still hear the background noise, but it is truly muffled and the recorded voice stands out more clearly. Egg-crate foam or acoustic foam can also be attached to the inside walls of the stool to increase the sound blocking effect.

 There are many other advantage of these mini-recording studios. The provide privacy for students who are wary of recording in front of other people. We have heard much better audio “performances” from students who were once shy to record. Also, before using the mini-recording studios, students would seek a quiet place to record in the hall. This was challenging because  for a short time these students were not under direct teacher supervision. Also, the hall would  have unexpected noise occur as a student was recording. Now, because we already had several storage stools in the class many students can record IN the classroom at the same time. Students really feel professional having their own recording studio just like Justin Bieber.