Friday, September 29, 2017

I ❤ WebEx -Thoughts from Effectiveness Coach Courtney Konieczka

Courtney Konieczka is an
Effectiveness Coach at
Hillcrest and Lowell Elementary
in the School District of Waukesha
During the last two years as an Elementary Effectiveness Coach, I have found myself putting quite a few miles on my car driving back and forth to each of my two buildings, which are not particularly close together.  Some days last year, I found myself making a 4 to 5 trips back and forth from building to building for SST meetings, PST meetings, Coach/principal meetings, and planning meetings.  Over the summer, I was reflecting on my year (and looked at my odometer) I realized that there had to be a better use of my time.  I realized I was sometimes spending an hour in my car each day! 

Then, I heard from my principals that SDW has a subscription to WebEx, which is an online video conferencing/collaboration tool.  After talking to the IT team, I heard that I could get my own login and create a personal room in which I could invite others to come and collaborate. With a few easy steps, I had my own room and I was ready to begin. I have currently been using WebEx to connect to others across town for the past month.  It has totally changed the way I do my work, and for the better.  

This easy to use tool has been a reliable way to connect with others, even if they don't have a login themselves.  The internet connection at school has been great and the quality of the video is impressive.  There have been times at the end of a meeting where I have had to remind myself that I wasn't actually in the room with the people with which I met!  This week, I began to dig into more advanced features like how I can share my screen and use the "whiteboard" on WebEx.  This is another way to make videoconferencing even easier and more seamless. 

So, I would encourage EVERYONE who thinks that this may help improve their practice to connect with the IT team and ask about getting a login. I could see how this tool could benefit a classroom teacher wanting to connect with another class across town, or across the country.  It could benefit a psychologist who is unable to meet with a family face-to-face, but wants to have a more intimate conversation.  It could benefit an art, music or physical education specialist wanting to connect with another teacher around planning.  The possibilities are endless!  I think everyone should consider taking a risk and trying out this incredible tool! 

If you are an SDW employee would like to find out more about having your own WebEx account, submit a tech support ticket or contacting the SDW Help Desk directly (

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Who ya' going to call? (for fresh ideas for instructional tech use)

The ITC Team!

  • Kristin Brouchoud - West Region
  • Wendy Liska - North Region
  • Brian Yearling - South Region

Seriously, we are usually just a phone call or email away! It seems like everyone knows that when they are troubleshooting or working on a technology issue. But what about when you are just:

  •  Trying to figure out a workflow for assignments in your classroom? 
  • Trying to find an app that will help your students explain/show their thinking? 
  • Wondering how you can take a lesson and move it up the SAMR scale? 
  • Or wondering how to integrate technology in your content area?

Integrating technology in the classroom, troubleshooting what works best to meet a curricular or student need, or finding an iPad accessibility feature to help a learner is what we LOVE to do best. Often times, it gets shuffled to the background with other needs that seem to arise and take front row.

Lately, privacy policies, app approval, conference planning, and device refresh, among other things have taken us away from the things we like to do most. While all these tasks are important and necessary for the safety of our students they are not our "main thing". 

Helping teachers and students have amazing learning opportunities -- that's our main thing!

As you continue into the new school year, make a call (or chat or email) to your tech integration specialists for assistance with curricular support! We love to collaborate and problem-solve to best meet the classroom needs of our schools. This is where we love to spend our time!

Not sure which of us is your regional support person? Just email and we'll let you know.

#StudentChallenge: Build a Better Doc Camera Stand

Teachers that have access to document cameras love what these devices offer to the classroom. It helps students to key in on specific examples within a document, to see a physical example on the printed page, or to explore a real-world object that is too small to be seen by the whole class at once.

When document cameras first emerged, they were incredibly expensive, large, and cumbersome. While these devices have gotten smaller and the price  has decreased, they are still cumbersome, often require cabling, access to power, and added hardware to make them work with a computer.

Thankfully, as a part of our Waukesha One work, we have put a high-quality document camera in every teacher's hands with the iPad.

Moving forward, we are not recommending the purchase of a separate document camera for classrooms. If one of our existing document cameras fails, we will not be replacing it. If there is a need for a new document camera, we will not be purchasing new hardware.

The document camera of choice in our district is the teacher’s iPad. The camera that is built into the iPad is of high quality, is easy to use, and can easily project to a Macbook, or to an Apple TV (using AirServer). The iPad is portable and can be moved around the room (and to locations outside of the room). Even students can use their iPads as a document camera for sharing their work and ideas with others.

Stands for the iPad

The biggest challenge is finding an appropriate stand to mount the iPad on to serve as a document camera. There is no shortage of options if a school or teacher wishes to purchase pre-made document camera stands.  Obviously these options are generally more polished and attractive than other options, but they are cost-prohibitive.

We recommend thinking about how your students could help you to design, build, or find a suitable doc camera stand for use in your classroom. There are really only a few requirements for a document camera stand.

  1. stability so the iPad does not tip over or wiggle
  2. sturdiness so the document camera stand holds up to use over time
  3. a hole or space  on the stand to allow the camera to look through
  4. an open space below the camera to place objects, papers, or to be able to write

There are other features that make for an even more useful doc camera stand, such as the ability to raise or lower the iPad, to tilt the iPad, or including added lights to better view the subject below the iPad. However, none of these are essential.

Student and Teacher Challenge

We know you are creative and thoughtful, always looking for ways to innovate and try new things. We issue a challenge to all SDW Students and Teachers to make the very best document camera stand you can create. This will require design thinking.

Then go public with your creation.  We invite teachers and students to share their doc camera stand prototypes with us, sharing the process they went through to design it, the goals of their design, and the end product.

Use the VoiceThread below to share your project with educators, leaders, students, and the world!

If you cannot view or contribute to the VoiceThread, you may need the VoiceThread app (available in Self Service), or you can go to this link.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Document Outline Tool in Google Docs (for Mac and iPad)

Thanks to Dan Keyser for originally sharing today's tech tip 
with groups, and thanks to Cynthia Gannon for recommending 
we document the tip on this blog for a wider audience.

If you have ever experienced that moment of frustration when pointing somebody (or following somebody) to a specific part of a long document, you will appreciate this today's Google Doc tech tip.

The Document Outline tool in Google Docs, used in conjunction with the Styles menu in Google Docs, can help document creators to develop Google Docs that are graphically appealing, well organized, and easy to navigate digitally.

Styles Menu

To begin, an editor within the document must use the Styles menu. Most of us have bumped into the Styles menu in a variety of word processing tools, but few actually meaningfully use this tool.

Simply by selecting a portion of the text, the editor  can easily assign a style to the text (i.e. "Title", "Header 1", etc.).  While this has an immediate benefit on the look of the document, it has an added value when viewed digitally.

Document Outline tool

Once Styles have been defined within the document, viewers can now easily navigate the document.

By opening the Document Outline tool in Google Docs (Tools --> Document Outline), an outline of the document, based upon the selected styles, will appear with hot links to the various sections of the document. These hot links can be clicked by viewers, moving them around the document without needing to scroll to find content.

"Document Outline" Works on iPad

Our students' experience with instructional content centers on an iPad. Educators will be pleased to know that this tool is available on the iPad and makes it even easier to navigate long Google Docs.  When sharing resources with students in Google Docs, teaching students to use this tool will improve their ability to quickly and easily follow along with you in class.

Teaching Students Document Organization

Not only is this a great tool for teachers, but on an iPad (using the Google Docs app) students have access to the Style menu and Document Outline tool as well.

As graphics and layout have become central elements in digital documents and print, helping students to organize their own documents using subheadings and varying styles is an essential skill. In fact, understanding document design and layout are key elements of literacy.  This is something that we can teach students to help them better understand the text they encounter throughout their lives.

Tutorial Video

Below is the tutorial video that demonstrates how to change styles on a Mac and on an iPad, and how to view the Document Outline tool on both.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Zoom in on your Mac (with ease)

If you present from your Mac regularly, you have definitely needed to zoom in on a particular portion of the screen for the audience.

Thankfully, there is a super easy tool built into the Mac that allows you to zoom in with ease on any portion of the screen without having to use Command + to zoom in and Command - to zoom back out.

Zoom on a Mac

Within the System Preferences of your Mac, under the Accessibility settings, you will find the Zoom option. Turning on the Zoom option, and then selecting "Use scroll with modifier key" option will let you quickly, easily zoom into anything on your screen, and just as quickly zoom back out.

Once you've learned how to use this feature, you will use it constantly! See the video tutorial below to set this up on your Mac.

What a start! How has technology transformed your classroom?

Teaching and learning across our buildings looks and feels vastly different in many SDW classrooms this year! Many educators across our system have turned a corner, with the focus being on how they (and their students) can meaningfully leverage technology, not just focusing on how it works.

Unrivaled by any other year, the depth of the conversations our instructional tech team has had (with educators this fall), regarding the use of technology to meaningfully impact teaching and learning,
have been rich and innovative. It is a sign that we are truly moving toward higher levels of the SAMR framework.

Some Examples of Tech Integration Conversations This Fall

The Groups tool in Blackboard
offers one way that teachers
can release customized
content to specific students.

Blackboard to Differentiate Resources for Students

An instructional team at one of our elementary schools has asked, "How can Blackboard be used to customize the resources students have access to to fit their exact need and skill level?" The follow-up question has been, "Can new resources easily shift into view for students as they grow or as an instructor determines they need scaffolded supports?"

While this team is early in its adoption of the Blackboard platform, the vision is not focused on how to use Blackboard, but instead on how Blackboard can help them to provide an innovative learning experience for students.

Students as Technology Support

Students at another elementary school are starting their first full year of providing timely, helpful, needed technical support to other students and teachers across their building. From helping to implement the Managed Apple ID process to supporting app and Google use, these students are learning technical skills and putting them to use to support others. More importantly, though, these students are learning a wide variety of critical soft skills, such as speaking and listening, and are growing in their ability to comfortably communicate with others they may not know well.

After receiving conferring feedback from their teacher, these students are
sent a link to a Google Form where they can record their weekly goals.

Feedback and Goal-Setting Through Conferring Forms

Teachers at several schools have invested time and energy into developing a digital form that will aid them in collecting and analyzing data gathered during conferring sessions with students (a practice widely used across our system). The development of these digital conferring forms alone is a practice to be celebrated, as these educators move the data from a static paper-based system to a dynamic digital system that can be easily manipulated, analyzed, and shared.

Further, though, some teachers have determined that the archiving of the conferring session conversations should find its way back to students in order to inform student goal setting. Teachers at both the middle and elementary level have inquired about methods for sending conferring form data back to students, and in some cases even allowing students to complete goal setting within a Google Form so the goals are also archived and visible to the teacher. This use of Google Forms far exceeds basic data collection and begins to focus more deeply on the impact that immediate feedback can have on students.

Connecting to Other Students Using Digital Tools

Several teachers have asked how they can more easily connect their students with a wider audience, while still working within the confines of protecting student privacy and data.  Whether through the Global Read Aloud which uses Twitter to connect readers across the world, or to using Gmail and Google Hangouts to connect with classrooms across the country and within our district, SDW teachers are looking for ways to develop an awareness for students that we live in a world that is far larger than our own classrooms, buildings, and communities.

Coding Skills, Publishing Student Apps, and Making

New computer science and coding opportunities have been offered at all high schools this year to further develop the available classes for students exploring that skill set or career pathway. Teachers in these classes have extended their skill sets through extensive training over the summer, and are now beginning to teach students how to code and develop apps. 

As an extension of that, these high school teachers have started to ask how student developed apps could eventually make their way onto the iPads of other students at the individual high school, across the district, and possibly even into the Apple App Store. The focus has been on developing student skills initially, but these questions/conversations have demonstrated that these educators already have an eye on extending the audience for students beyond the walls of the classroom.

To further this mindset, elementary schools throughout the district are beginning to offer students opportunities to focus on the design process, encouraging collaboration and creativity through maker spaces. The goal for educators that aim to utilize these spaces is that learning becomes an active, hands-on experience for students within the existing units of study (not an additional curriculum). Some interested teachers are beginning to ask how they can marry their existing curriculum with the newly available tools within these maker spaces.

How has technology transformed your classroom?

None of these conversations or practices simply happen without the investment of thought and

professional learning on behalf of an educator. Waukesha One began to shift the landscape of SDW classrooms in Wave One schools in the Fall of 2013. All schools have been 1:1 for at least two years (starting the third year this year), and some schools have been 1:1 for four years (starting the fifth year this year). We have now experienced three One Conferences and countless other learning opportunities where learning around how to meaningfully integrate technology into teaching and learning has been a focal point.

So where are you? How have these tools impacted what you are able to do in your classroom? What opportunities have come to be for your students to really show what they know? What evolution of thought and practice have you undergone as you have learned what is possible through the use of these digital tools?

We invite you to comment and share your stories, your evolution (and your students' evolution), and your thoughts.