Friday, November 30, 2018

Reminder: Student Video Competition Submissions Due Dec 15

In September we announced our sponsorship of the StudentVoice.org video contest. We truly want to celebrate our students' voices at The One Conference in January.
One way of doing this is by celebrating students/teams that have submitted a video to contest by holding a student video release party at The One Conference.  The contest submission form can be found here: tinyurl.com/sdwvoicevids18

To date we have no submissions to the contest from across our district. We need your help to make sure their voices are heard. Submissions are due by December 15 to be invited to the release party.

Video Contest Details

Studentvoice.org is hosting its second student video contest this year. The theme this year is Activating Change.

"Films must respond to the theme of the festival: “Activating Change.” Students are invited to interpret this theme as they see fit, so long as audience members can clearly understand how the theme is utilized in the film. We encourage you to be creative with this theme. Try to think beyond your first impressions and see if you can create a focus for a truly original film. Feel free to experiment with different approaches such as animation, puppetry, silent films, stop motion, etc!"

To encourage greater student participation, and to highlight the ideas and voices of our students, the School District of Waukesha Technology Department will be hosting a viewing party of SDW student video submissions to this contest at The One Conference in January, 2019.

Participation Rules

Please be sure to read the detailed submission rules available here: https://studentvoice.org/filmfest/rules/

Here are some highlights from the rules:

  • Videos no longer than 1 minute (with an additional 30 seconds of credits/citation)
  • Addressing the theme of "Activating Change" -- students may interpret what this means
  • Film must be original work of the students
  • Students must carefully cite work as outlined in the rules (can result in disqualification)
  • Groups can work together (no size limit for group indicated)
  • Three judging categories: Early Ages (5-9 years), Middle Ages (10-14 years), Upper Ages (15-18) -- submissions enter category of oldest group member
  • As videos will go public, students MUST have a signed waiver on file with the adult sponsor
  • Films must be in English or contain English subtitles
For submissions to the contest to be screened at The One Conference in January 2019, submissions must be received to the SDW Student Voice Video Competition form by December 15, 2018.

Submissions received by the SDW Student Voice Video Competition form will be automatically entered to the StudentVoice.org competition. Applicants for the competition only need to apply to the SDW Student Voice video competition form.

The form can also be found here:
tinyurl.com/sdwvoicevids18

Getting Students Excited

Young people are eager to have their voices heard. The StudentVoice.org video competition is a great way to give your students a platform to share their voices with the world. Submissions will be viewed by teachers attending The One Conference viewing party in January 2019.  

Additionally, their submissions will be viewed by a committee outside of our district. And if their submissions are rated highly enough on the scoring rubric, they may even be invited to attend ISTE 2019 in Philadelphia to have their videos viewed in a live release/viewing party.

To inspire them to share their voice, show them some of last year's winning submissions: https://studentvoice.org/filmfest/ .

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Waukesha One Conference 2019! Make it Amplified!



I can't believe it is already November and I am once again encouraging staff members to present at the One Conference!  I LOVE the conference and the feeling that our professional development has on that day. But it only happens when we as staff members are willing to share what we are doing in our own classroom/instruction with others!


In talking with staff and maybe trying to nudge a few into participating; I often hear, "It's nothing special," "Everyone knows how to do that,"  or the famed, "It's not techie enough for the conference." We do tend to be tougher on ourselves than anyone else would. No idea is too big or too small; we have staff at all levels of technology integration and many may not have experience with a tool or activity that you are using.



Amplifying Student Voice! will be the theme for our 2019 Waukesha One Conference. We are asking presenters to share technology practices that encourage student voice! How do you have students Creating, Collaborating, Communicating, and Critically Thinking? Consider including student presenters or capture them in a video, work samples, projects or other means to share their experience with the audience.




  • What technology are you using in your classroom to support student thinking?
  • How do you have students collaborating in the classroom and beyond?
  • How are students communicating with others their thinking and ideas?
  • What are your students creating? What technology supports this process?

It is through this open-minded mentality of sharing and risk-taking that we all grow and learn a little more. Never presented before? Don't worry, this is a great place to amplify your voice! The planning team is happy to help you take those first steps.

Looking for a different way to contribute? This year we will be offering a new session format known as "SNAP" Chats. These 1/2-hour sessions will be similar to a roundtable discussion group, more informal. We are looking for individuals willing to be "facilitators" for these sessions. You would not be creating a presentation but asking questions and helping to keep the discussion meaningful to those involved. Agreeing to facilitate one of these sessions requires an ability to welcome a diverse set of learners of varying abilities, ask thoughtful questions to keep the conversation moving, and encourage others to share their thoughts and experiences. "Check out the Call for Presenters form for more information.


Help us make the One Conference a phenomenal day! Please submit a proposal to present at the One Conference, proposals are due by 12/7/18. Take time to submit today!

Two ways for SDW students to share their voice!

Students in the School District of Waukesha are making a huge difference in the world.

They are reaching out and making changes in our community.  They are connecting to the world in ways many of us cannot even imagine.  They are publishing their ideas and sharing their passions. Whether they show it at school or not, whether we know it or not, many of our students are having their voices heard by the world.

This year at The One Conference we want to celebrate all of the ways that students are amplifying their voices.

Here are two ways for your students to get involved.


Students: Share Your Story

Next week our students will receive an email encouraging them to share their stories of success. If you know a young person (or a group of young people) in our district who are finding ways to have their voices heard, please encourage them to tell us about themselves. With just an investment of a few minutes of their time to answer a few questions, they can inspire so many others with their work and have a platform to share their ideas.

We are hoping to find many ways to share some of those stories with our adult community. Our goal is to have students of ALL ages tell stories that inspire us, inform us, and give us examples to share with others.

The link to the form where students can submit their stories is: sdwone.us/stories

Video Contest: Activating Change

At the beginning of the school year we announced our support for SDW students to submit entries to the studentvoice.org Global Student Voice Film Festival.  This is another way for students to have their voices amplified. We encourage you to share this opportunity with your students.

The festival is open to students from ages 5-18.  Students must submit a video focused on the theme of "Activating Change" that is one minute or less.

For submissions to the contest to be screened at The One Conference screening party in January 2019, submissions must be received to the SDW Student Voice Video Competition form by December 15, 2018.

Submissions received by the SDW Student Voice Video Competition form will be automatically entered to the StudentVoice.org competition. Applicants for the competition only need to apply to the SDW Student Voice video competition form.

The entry form for the video contest can be found here: tinyurl.com/sdwvoicevids18


For film festival details, see the post on the Global Student Voice Film Festival.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Speech-to-text: Promoting independence in learning!

In educating children we should have some very clear and direct goals that indicate what success looks like. Two very clear goals are:

1. Being sure that every child is capable of proficiently reading to a level that will allow for life success in any path that child chooses.
2.  Developing an ability for every child to navigate the world independently across any experience they encounter.

Over the past few weeks I have had several conversations where both of these clear goals have been identified. They came to light regarding students who are still working on the first goal of becoming more capable, proficient readers. Instruction for learning to read is in place and a plan for becoming an improved reader is moving forward. These students are going to eventually achieve that first goal of becoming a proficient reader as they continue to build their skills.

However, in the meantime, we are not clearly making strides to support the second goal to make them independent learners. When reading is a struggle in itself, reading academic content full of challenging academic vocabulary is problematic. Some of these same students that are building their reading skills are falling behind in other academic areas because of their inability to access the written content. The choices that are sometimes made are to avoid the work, lessen the academic challenge (sometimes called rigor), or read the content to/for the student so they can access the learning.

The beauty of technology is that it often can provide solutions that allow us to navigate these types of challenges more independently.

(NOTE: Just using technology without a plan to improve the student's ability to read proficiently is NOT ACCEPTABLE! Students must continuously read in order to build their reading skills. Using technology should not ever be considered a solution to achieve both goals!)

Already built into the iPad is an accessibility feature called Speak Screen/Speak Selection. These text-to-speech functions are intended entirely for the purpose of allowing people with a wide range of abilities and challenges to access content presented to them.

They are easy to set up, easy to use, and they can be used on almost any text content that is available digitally. They require no additional apps, no intensive training to use, and they can be implemented on any iPad regardless of age.

Setting Up Text-to-Speech Functions on iPad

Believe it or not, you can have this feature enabled on any iPad in six taps of a finger.
This video will show exactly how to enable the various features so you can get started today.


Using Speak Screen and Speak Selection on the iPad

Actually using the Speak Screen and Speak Selection tools is just as easy.  

To note the difference, with Speak Selection the user highlights the content they would like to have read to them. With Speak Screen, a two-fingered swiping gesture tells the iPad to read all text on the screen to the user.

Below you can see a short video that showcases Speak Screen and Speak Selection in use. When using either of these in a classroom setting, it is important to instruct students to utilize headphones/earbuds to avoid distracting other students. This will become a common practice in your classroom and it is important to set a clear expectation at the outset.










Friday, October 12, 2018

Back To School 2018



Back To School 2018



So the new year has started, and I feel like a great deal of September was making sure things were up and running, and assisting with those back-to-school, once a year tasks. As the end of September rolled around and then October reared its head it was time to dig into what is happening in our classrooms and how we can leverage technology to support it...

This week I was able to have some fabulous conversations about classroom goals and how we might implement high-quality uses of technology to meet those goals over the coming months. I give a huge nod of gratitude to the Model Tech Classroom teachers that are collaborating with us to grow our district's practices, and for their thoughtful consideration of the use of technology and its best applications. Their willingness to try new things and explore the possibilities that the technology has to offer supports all of our classrooms. Follow their reflections this year here!


Later this month we will host our first gathering of building Vanguard Teams. This brings together a great group of motivated individuals and provides everyone with the opportunity to collaborate and share practices. It is a great time to troubleshoot and garner ideas from others. Many new learning sessions were offered this summer, and there will be a variety of offerings for professional learning throughout the year!

It is now at the onset of the new year that we look forward to what this year has to offer. We look ahead to new applications and opportunities for growth. We look forward to offering our students the chance to become experimenters, builders, investigators of knowledge, and creators of content.
What are your tech goals for the 2018-19 school year? What will you learn, explore, try with your students? What will you implement to be able to share at the OneConference?  How will you grow in your technology application? Commit now to attending a Tech Talk, OTL, online class, join your building Vanguard team, or another learning opportunity being offered throughout the district. 

Video Contest for Students: Activating Change

Students have something to say, and they should not have to wait until they are adults to say it. Young people can influence change today.

We want to celebrate this with our School District of Waukesha sponsored celebration of the StudentVoice.org video competition themed around Activating Change.


Video Contest

Studentvoice.org is hosting its second student video contest this year. The theme this year is Activating Change.

"Films must respond to the theme of the festival: “Activating Change.” Students are invited to interpret this theme as they see fit, so long as audience members can clearly understand how the theme is utilized in the film. We encourage you to be creative with this theme. Try to think beyond your first impressions and see if you can create a focus for a truly original film. Feel free to experiment with different approaches such as animation, puppetry, silent films, stop motion, etc!"

To encourage greater student participation, and to highlight the ideas and voices of our students, the School District of Waukesha Technology Department will be hosting a viewing party of SDW student video submissions to this contest at The One Conference in January, 2019.

Participation Rules

Please be sure to read the detailed submission rules available here: https://studentvoice.org/filmfest/rules/

Here are some highlights from the rules:

  • Videos no longer than 1 minute (with an additional 30 seconds of credits/citation)
  • Addressing the theme of "Activating Change" -- students may interpret what this means
  • Film must be original work of the students
  • Students must carefully cite work as outlined in the rules (can result in disqualification)
  • Groups can work together (no size limit for group indicated)
  • Three judging categories: Early Ages (5-9 years), Middle Ages (10-14 years), Upper Ages (15-18) -- submissions enter category of oldest group member
  • As videos will go public, students MUST have a signed waiver on file with the adult sponsor
  • Films must be in English or contain English subtitles
For submissions to the contest to be screened at The One Conference in January 2019, submissions must be received to the SDW Student Voice Video Competition form by December 15, 2018.

Submissions received by the SDW Student Voice Video Competition form will be automatically entered to the StudentVoice.org competition. Applicants for the competition only need to apply to the SDW Student Voice video competition form.

The form can also be found here:
tinyurl.com/sdwvoicevids18

Getting Students Excited

Young people are eager to have their voices heard. The StudentVoice.org video competition is a great way to give your students a platform to share their voices with the world. Submissions will be viewed by teachers attending The One Conference viewing party in January 2019.  

Additionally, their submissions will be viewed by a committee outside of our district. And if their submissions are rated highly enough on the scoring rubric, they may even be invited to attend ISTE 2019 in Philadelphia to have their videos viewed in a live release/viewing party.

To inspire them to share their voice, show them some of last year's winning submissions: https://studentvoice.org/filmfest/ .







Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Push Apps to Your Students: Reviewing the App Approval Process

The current app approval process in the School District of Waukesha is in full use across the district. The goal is to make it easier for students to get access to the apps they need for use in class.

Staff members use this process to have apps pushed out to students. However, there are still some questions about the app approval process, so let's take a moment to review.


Before Requesting an App in Self Service


First, ask yourself: Do students already have access to an app that can do something similar? We always aim to multi-purpose apps when we can. If you are unsure, ask your Instructional Technologies Coordinator for clarification.

If not, just as teachers have always done, staff should check out the quality and safety of the app before submitting it for approval.  There is a 
helpful guide that can get you started as you explore an app that you would like to see students use in your classroom.

Additionally, we ask that teachers of similar grade levels or subjects within a building come to a consensus on which apps will be available to students. For instance, teachers at each building in Kindergarten and 1st Grade across our elementary schools started this process by calling meetings, discussing which apps would be on their approved list, and then submitting these apps for approval. We ask that you work with your colleagues to do the same before submitting an app request.

Request Apps to be Placed in Self Service



App requests must be entered into the SDW Self Service App Request Form available here: https://goo.gl/G7sf7S

Apps will be reviewed for key elements that include:
    • instructional value, 
    • terms of use, 
    • student privacy 
    • data collection

This process may take some time depending on the volume of requests, so please plan ahead. Not all apps will be approved.  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.



Installing the Apps to Student iPads


Once an app has been approved, students should visit Self Service to download the app. No Apple ID is required. Teachers will need to download the apps from the App Store with the professional Apple ID created when you received your district Mac and iPad. 

As students move through the system, these apps will come and go from their iPads automatically (within a reasonable amount of time). 


As  a student moves from one building to another, or to a new grade level (as indicated in Infinite Campus), new apps will become available to the student in Self Service while some previously assigned apps may leave the student's iPad.


List of Approved Apps

For those that wish to view a list of the approved apps, it is available for review here: https://sdw.waukesha.k12.wi.us/Page/2584

Friday, September 14, 2018

Safe Words: Empowering students to take responsibility

Summer slide is a real phenomenon, and I can prove it. Witnessing the multitude of students that have forgotten their district-issued password over summer, I am fairly certain that the area of the brain specifically responsible for password storage may be directly impacted by increased exposure to sunshine. 

Directly related to this "forgotten password" phenomenon is another increasing trend: the amount of time teachers are spending looking up their students' passwords.

(Cue the trumpet sounds)
We bring good news for all educators who have lost precious life trying to recover the safe words for their students.  This news will give you back some time (of which teachers have far too little) and  will empower your students to take responsibility for themselves (something we all say we want our kids to learn).

The Safe Word Self Help site allows students to enter information that they should already know, and then it spits out the safe word that they have forgotten.  

The students need to know the first part of their district email address (and this IS something you can look up easily in Infinite Campus if they have forgotten it), their birthdate, and their lunch code. These are things MOST students know and can manage entering.

The address for the site: https://selfhelp.waukesha.k12.wi.us/

Bookmark it, share it with your students, have them create a shortcut on their iPad's home screen, and then when they come asking what their password is, encourage them to help themselves.

Sure, but my students are too young to do this!

Like anything, it may take a little bit of coaching, routine building, teaching, and support, but no matter what grade you teach, I guarantee that your students are NOT too young to do this.  We do provide added supports for teachers in grades K-2, though.

For most students older than that, asking them to enter information they know about themselves into a website to get the password they need -- we teach them to do FAR more complex things in our classrooms. 

Don't undersell their abilities! Set the expectation and see what happens.


Friday, September 7, 2018

Apple Classroom in Action: Teaching Effectively with iPads

If you have not yet tapped into the power of Apple Classroom in your classroom, it is time to see what is possible. We have watched many teachers get their school year started with Apple Classroom, setting a tone for how technology can be utilized in their classroom.  Take a few minutes to see what this powerful tool can offer in the way of supporting classroom management of iPads.



Apple Classroom, probably better named Apple Classroom Manager, is a tool that allows teachers to see what is happening on all student iPads in their classroom, to open apps, websites, and files on student devices, and to lock specific students, groups, or an entire class into apps (or just lock down the iPad while you provide instruction). It empowers the teacher as it aids in classroom efficiency and helps to keep students on task.

Apple Classroom does not replace Google Classroom or Blackboard. It is a different tool serving a different purpose for teachers.

Getting started is the most technical part of using the tool, and even that is a quick setup. The good news is we have plenty of guides and tutorials to get you started with Apple Classroom in a short time. Our newest Getting Started with Apple Classroom one-page guide brings all of the information together in one place.

Learn How to Create Rosters

Our blog post for creating rosters in Apple Classroom is all you need to get started with Apple Classroom in the School District of Waukesha.  Class lists can be created for unique groups of students manually, or educators can use the Intranet - Apple Classroom tool to create classes based on the course rosters in Infinite Campus.

Either way, you can create Apple Classroom courses today, and be ready to use them within 48 hours with students.

Using Apple Classroom with Students

There are only four things needed to use Apple Classroom with Students:

  1. Students must be in class rosters, and the teacher must be assigned to that roster (see above)
  2. Teachers must be on the iPad with bluetooth turned on, and students must have bluetooth turned on
  3. Teachers must download the Apple Classroom app from Self Service on their iPad (not students)
  4. Students must be within the immediate vicinity of the teacher (approximately 40 ft. or less)
With those criterion met, you can begin taking control of your 1:1 iPad environment while guiding student learning, feel empowered by knowing what is happening on student devices, and get excited about all of the ways you can use technology to support student learning.



Thursday, September 6, 2018

Consider the consequences when taking iPads away from students

As teachers are getting students ready for the year of learning that is ahead, the first week is a time where educators begin to practice and teach routines/rules to their students. This week I had two separate conversations with teachers who mentioned that they had a clear plan of consequences for students who were not using their iPad properly in class.  In both instances the teachers mentioned that students would lose access to the iPad as a part of the classroom management strategy. 

While I am fully in support of having a classroom management strategy that supports a quick and effective return to learning, we must be mindful of actions, consequences, or punishments that are well intentioned but cause other potential issues. Specifically when it comes to technology, I often find that the initial reaction for educators is to remove the technology whenever student behavior somehow involves the misuse of technology.  Is that a wise response?

For the sake of illustration, let's play that idea out a little bit with other examples to see if this same thinking makes sense in all situations. Below is a fictitious monologue from one fictitious teacher whose classroom policy for student misbehavior centers on removal of the tools involved.

Today  one of my students was really acting up and causing trouble in class. Ahmon kept intentionally rolling the wheel of his wheelchair over one classmate's foot. I saw him repeatedly do this, and even after asking him to stop, he did it on purpose again. Obviously there was only one thing I could do. I took away his wheelchair, called his parents, and told him that he could earn it back in one week with good behavior. That solved the issue in my classroom! 
Another one of my students was also off task today. During our class work time I heard the muffled sound of music coming from one group of desks. I found that Nel was the culprit. She had found a way to pair her permanent hearing aides with a music app so she could listen to her favorite music in class. I had her remove her hearing aides and I placed them in my desk. She will be without them for two weeks. She cannot afford to be continually distracted by her music.
Finally, I gave students the task of reading an authentic text on their iPads that I thought would really intrigue them.  Guess what! I found Leonard off task again watching a YouTube video on his iPad. I know that Leonard likes to use the tools on his iPad to have articles read to him, but he cannot stay focused when he is on that device. I will be taking away his iPad for the next two weeks and I will provide him a paper copy so he can stay focused when reading. 

Let me be clear. The solutions posed in paragraphs one and two, with Ahmon and Nel, are crude, irresponsible, insulting, and unethical. Taking away a student's primary means of mobility, or removing the student's only method for hearing are not suitable consequences in any situation that I can imagine. Those options are recognizably off the table, out of bounds, and moronic.

Yet, that third paragraph in the example may really trip some readers up. At first glance it stands to reason that Leonard is off task on the iPad, and by removing the iPad we can remove the key to his distraction. By removing the distraction we can help Leonard be more focused so he can succeed academically. 

What we fail to recognize about Leonard, though, is that he is a student who struggles with reading. He is several grade levels behind in reading and his comprehension is almost non-existent with text containing academic vocabulary. Leonard uses his iPad as an academic support.  He utilizes the "Speak Screen" function on his iPad to open up the world of text to him. The iPad highlights words/sentences as he reads so he can follow along with his eyes while building upon his comprehension. He can click on a word he doesn't recognize and have it defined for him without raising a hand to admit that he does not understand a word his peers seem to know.

Just as we find it socially unacceptable to remove tools from Ahmon or Nel that open the world up to them in ways that were once impossible, we also need to wrestle with the reality that students like Leonard are using tools like the iPad to open up the world to them in equally important ways.

And no, this is not an entirely fictitious example. While I've changed the name, I met Leonard today. His teacher did not even know that he knew how to use the speak selection tool on his iPad to support his reading. He did and he was showing it to me. He stated that he did use it to help him read. I met him today because he was earning back his iPad for the start of this school year. He lost access to the iPad last year after making a series of inappropriate choices that involved the use of the iPad.

There is not an easy solution to this fundamental question: What are we to do when the tools students use to engage with and support their learning are also tied into student misbehavior or misconduct?

This will be a fundamental question we need to continually ask and turn over with our teams as we consider how we maintain a focused, safe, productive learning environment that is responsive to the needs of all learners. However, defaulting to simply "taking it away" is no longer an acceptable response in all situations.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Students still care deeply; find ways to capture their attention

Not long ago an executive at a large local company said to me, "Kids are truly just different these days. I see it in the young employees that I hire. You must see that all of the time, right?"

I paused. It's something I tend to hear a lot, but not just from people outside of education. Those words have been spoken to me by numerous teachers over the years. These words tend to reflect a genuine belief and they are validated by some of the ways we view young people today.

Then I responded as I always do.  "No, I don't believe kids are different today than they ever were. Society has shifted. Parenting has shifted. Adult expectations of kids and our focus on nurturing young people's growth and potential has largely shifted. But kids have not fundamentally changed. And I know this because I have seen young people who light up, get motivated, and go all in on those things they truly get excited about, even with topics that wouldn't excite most adults at times. I witness it over and over in my work with teachers and students, and that proves to me that kids haven't fundamentally changed."

Put a student in a river with a kick net and a mission to find out which critters live in the river and what that tells us about the river's health. Place a student on a structured, purposeful web conference call with students from across town, across the country, or across the world. Ask them to identify a problem of significance to them in their world and then find a reasonable solution to solve it. Even more simply, challenge them to solve a series of riddles/clues in an in-class competition or an EduBreakout. Have them argue their side in an in-class discussion or socratic seminar, have them teach other students with an instructional flipped video that others will see, or create a presentation they will deliver to an audience of people that will listen and engage with their ideas. These are all examples of things I have seen in the last few years where students came passionately alive in their work.


No, I truly do not believe kids are different today. They may be a little harder to engage at times considering the outside forces we compete with: instantaneous feedback with friends on social media, the ability to binge watch the shows that suit their exacting interest on streaming services, or a constant stream of access to enticing games and music that are their constant companions.

While educators do have to compete with these forces for our students' attention, the kids themselves have not shifted. They are exploring the world, trying to find their place and purpose, and attempting to figure out what type of person they would most like to be. As educators, we have the opportunity to expose them to the things we are most passion about, opportunities and topics they have never experienced or heard of before, and we can be the ones to lead them down paths that they will continue on for the rest of their lives.

However, doing something of such significance might require us all to shift our approach to how we structure these learning opportunities. We have to think more like independent entrepreneurs trying to engage our customers, and less like members of an institution that requires our clients to attend.

Although our kids' ability to dig in deeply and do great work has not fundamentally changed, society has. And it has given ALL of us the opportunity to elect when we will be present and actively engaged, and when we will opt out. We have all benefited from, or fallen victim to that reality. And because we have this experience as consumers of the things we are most interested in, we can use that experience to think differently about how we can best reach our students. The challenge for educators is to find exciting, engaging, meaningful ways to get our students to tune in and give our inspiring "channels" a try.


Friday, July 6, 2018

Encourage Students to Discuss Their Thinking with VoiceThread

Educators know that talking about our thinking is a critical way for us to make sense of our thinking, develop our ideas, and commit learning to memory. Across our system I hear teachers talk about the importance of engaging all students in this kind of discussion. However, we often run into logistical obstacles that make it a challenge to engage all students in active discussion during class.
The good news is that we can utilize technology to support student learning while tackling some of these logistical challenges. For instance, one challenge educators often face is students who are unwilling to speak up in front of their peers for a wide variety of reasons. Whether shy, not confident in their response, or unable to process their thinking in the time allowed in class, we can utilize technology to allow every student an opportunity to share their individual ideas through a video/audio recording.

Another challenge educators face is the question of whether students have engaged with assigned work outside of class. We can utilize technology to ask questions or offer prompts that students will respond to "asynchronously," meaning independent of each other and not at the same time. In this way all students are asked to share their thinking when they get to the topic/work/assignment and the teacher will have a way to hold students responsible for sharing their thinking.

While we can use tools like FlipGrid or ReCap to have students share their thinking, sometimes we need to have students share their thinking in context of the content they are learning about. For instance, perhaps your students are looking at an image of a map, a diagram of a cell, or the sentence structure of an author's work. Wouldn't it be great to have them share their thinking while annotating over the top of diagram/image/video? Using the tool VoiceThread, a tool we have full access to in our district through our use of Blackboard, students can easily record their thinking while annotating over the top of videos and images. They can then share their thinking with their teachers, with other students, and they can even listen to and respond to other students' responses "asynchronously".

VoiceThread is easy to learn and use with a wide array of free workshops. And because it is accessed through Blackboard, you can place VoiceThread assignments right in line with other content you offer students in your Blackboard class.

To see a powerful example of VoiceThread in action, take a look at this video from VoiceThread.

When you are ready to get started with VoiceThread, check out our help articles on VoiceThread. And be ready to have your students start recording and sharing their thinking with you and others this fall with VoiceThread!

Friday, May 25, 2018

If you throw away your bicycle...

Recently my daughter (10) and I were able to participate in a true daddy/daughter bonding experience. We traveled 26 miles by bike for a full day outing. Neither of us are avid bikers, but we do take short trips from time to time around the neighborhood and town. It was by far the longest bike ride either of us had ever participated in, and it truly modified our perspective of what we are capable of accomplishing together.

There was another student on the trip trying to explain the trouble he was having while attempting to ride his bike. He was sharing with his teacher that this bike was new -- his parents had "thrown away" his bicycle a while back. He said he was not regularly riding it and it was not really working for him.  In preparation for the class bike trip, though, they purchased him a newer, bigger one.  However, in last-minute preparation for the trip, his bike was put together with handles and brakes facing in the wrong direction. The boy, both out of practice from riding in general, and just learning to ride his new ten-speed with rear-facing handles and brakes, struggled on the trip out of the gate. He needed support for the first mile before they simply exchanged his bike to allow him to participate in the ride.

A few educators have suggested to me over the year that they don't see a need for using technology for lots of tasks in the classroom. I have even heard, "Well, I don't use technology unless it is an activity at Modification or Redefinition levels on SAMR. Otherwise I have them put the tech away."

I am impressed with this dedication to understanding that technology is more useful in our classrooms at some times, and less valuable at others. I am impressed that we know there are higher leverage uses of technology and lower leverage uses. That shows incredible growth in our adoption of tech in our classrooms.

I am worried, though, that if the only times our students are using these tools productively in classrooms is when we have a high leverage Modification or Redefinition level lesson, we may fall into the same trap this young man fell into on the bike ride.  His bigger challenge was that he was out of practice. He didn't have a bike to practice on, even for short rides around the neighborhood. So on the day of the big outing, he faced the challenge of learning to use new equipment (his new bike), but he also faced the challenge of getting back into riding form. 

The same could be said for students who are asked to put away their iPads until the teacher is ready to use them for some big project. They now need to struggle with updates to apps, outdated operating systems, accounts that have signed off from lack of use. And then they also have to remember how to do some of the things they will need to do for the lesson in the classroom. Additionally, they are out of practice and will have to re-familiarize themselves with the device and the apps (including new updates to apps that may have changed the way the app works). While using technology is a lot like riding a bicycle, imagine if your bicycle was continuously updating itself in the garage while it was waiting for your next ride. Picking it up and riding without a refresher might be a bit of a challenge the next time you decide to head out on the road.

Remember, in Waukesha we do not believe that technology is ALWAYS the right tool for the job. We are not paperless, we are not tech only. But we also believe that technology will be a part of our students lives for everything they encounter moving forward. As a result, we need to have them continually honing their skills around PRODUCTIVE uses of technology. They do not get that opportunity to continually improve when we ask them to power down and continually put technology away.

So before you power down and put away those devices in your classroom, ask yourself: Is there enough value in what the students are doing with technology today that we can utilize it so students stay in shape with the skills they need to be productive with technology?


And if you want to see an amazing video about two important topics -- riding bikes and how we learn -- check out the video on riding the backward bike -- https://ed.ted.com/featured/bf2mRAfC#review.




Friday, May 11, 2018

Vanguard Unite!

On Thursday, May 10th, over 30 members of various School District of Waukesha Vanguard Teams gathered to meet and socialize with others from across the district.





This was the first of several professional learning and collaboration events that are being offered by the Instructional Technology Coordinators to all school's Vanguard Team members! There was time to meet and discuss our successes and challenges this year. Many teachers were able to make connections with others and some collaborative planning has already started. There was LOTS of food and prizes. Vanguard members in attendance even left with a bit of "swag" for their efforts. You may have seen them sporting their new Vanguard Team T's today.

If you are on your school's Vanguard Team but were unable to join us, look for upcoming messages on how to obtain your swag pack!

If you are on your school's team look for emails outlining future learning opportunities. We are very excited about the different sessions that will be held this summer and next year! Lots of opportunities for growing your own practice and expanding the ideas you have to share with your staff. On your school's Vanguard Team but not receiving our email? Please contact us at ITC@waukesha.k12.wi.us we want to make sure we are connecting with everyone!




The purpose of a Vanguard Team has changed significantly since our launch. The team was once focused on device rollout, logistics, and basic training. We are now at a time where Vanguard Teams should be exploring and sharing more meaningful uses of the tools to support deeper learning, regular collaboration, genuine creativity, and authentic communication in our classrooms. Come join us this summer as we deepen our understanding of these tools and how they can be used!

*A special THANKS! to South student Zoe McCarthy who designed our new Vanguard Team logo. This was a part of a collaboration with a number of other students in Tom Mancuso’s digital design class. You may see Waukesha One and Vanguard Team logos from time to time in communications. These are logos designed by students in the class.


Student Blogging: More than just pushing "Publish"

Passionate learners are infectious. Their enthusiasm for a topic shines brightly, and it rubs off on others. For a small team of students at Banting Elementary, they are working to spread their passion to an audience well beyond the walls of their school using technology.
Several students at Banting Elementary are
sharing their passions through a team blog.

This small team of students at Banting are passionate about different topics, but by working together they are combining their passion, knowledge and energy into a productive outlet to inspire other learners. These students have been working on a passion project over the past few months, and the power of their collaboration is just starting to shine through outwardly.

Deciding on a Publishing Platform
The students began with inquiry, research, and writing. The next stage was thinking about publication. After serious thought about the best way to reach their identified audience of other learners of all ages (both English and Spanish speaking learners), the team decided to start a blog to publish their information to the outside world. 

Their blog address is https://destinformation.blogspot.com/ and they would appreciate readers stopping by to read their first few posts. AND coming back to watch their journey as they continue to post.

Sometimes we can water down the idea of going public with our thinking. Somehow hitting the share button on a Google Doc falls short of meaningful publication for a real audience. However, these students have really put a fine point on what it means to think about your audience, to think about the best way to communicate with an audience. They considered the best digital outlet. A YouTube channel? A website? A newsletter? They ultimately settled on a blog because it gave them an opportunity to regularly update with the newest content at the top. They also could stay focused on writing and inquiry. The blog format gave them time to be thoughtful, play with their ideas in writing, and to ultimately incorporate other media (images or video or links) if needed. And they could work collaboratively on it with a shared blog. And they could keep their identities a bit more concealed by not being on video on a YouTube channel. That was important to this team.

That level of thought and critical thinking around a foundational question, which format is best for our intended audience, is something that showed the power of allowing students to pick and publish to their audience using tools that made the most sense to them.

Topics, Length, and Summary
As for topics -- well, that's where their passion comes into the picture. Each student is publishing posts on their own topic, but they also have to share their thinking and questions with the other students in their group. All of them have an equal say in what goes live to their audience, and they have already had thoughtful talks about pieces that may need more research before going live.

Regarding the length of the posts they are publishing, after some conversation with the team they decided to break down posts into smaller parts that they could publish over time. This gives readers smaller bites of information to digest while allowing the students to publish more regularly over time, something that students learned will encourage more regular, ongoing traffic to visit their site. It also allows the students to really focus in on a key question they are answering with their research for that post.

The ability for students to chunk their entire research topic into smaller parts, summarize the key points for a particular question they are answering within a larger topic, and then decide what parts to publish for an audience to answer these questions completely and accurately, these are skills we hope students can develop by the time they are in high school. These students are showing that with the proper outlet and motivation, they really can begin to develop the skills much earlier on in their academic career.

Personal and Group Accountability
Let's talk about accountability for a moment. This is a collaborative project with elementary students. The teacher is not looking over their shoulder and gently nudging them or requiring them to publish to the blog. This is a student driven passion project. They have to be responsible to themselves to finish the work they agreed to do. They also have to be responsible to the other members of the group to write, edit, and publish on the group's blog.

Student created Google Calendar to outline post deadlines.
Notice that dates extend into summer after school is out.
After some conversation talking about tools that could help to remind them and keep them accountable to one another, they decided two key things. First, they would ALL own the blog. It would not be one person's job to post, but a collectively shared experience between all of the students. Second, they decided to start their own shared Google Calendar. Nobody did this for them. The students created the calendar and then posted a weekly due date for each student who is responsible for posting.

This ability to distribute the workload and hold one another accountable for the completion of work is something our students are ready for at a very early age. The missing component is often a motivation to do the work they are asked to do. In this instance, the students are motivated to do the work because it is something they want to do.

Understanding a Global Audience
Oh, and I should probably mention that the students are also making sure that their articles on the post will eventually be available in both English and Spanish. They know that the world around them and beyond is multilingual, so they decided to broaden their audience by exercising their bilingual superpowers to make the blogs available in both languages.

Understanding that the world includes people of diverse beliefs, languages, ethnicities, and nationalities is something many adults still struggle to acknowledge on a day-to-day basis. These students not only identified this on their own, but they also have an outlet to practice their academic writing and language development in both languages for a real audience.

Underlying all of this is the fundamental reason we need to offer students opportunities to utilize technology in their learning. In this case study, it is about far more than simply writing. The collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, organization, and perceptive thinking about their audience and goals -- these are all value adds to the writing and research that will better prepare these students for success in school and beyond. 

Visit and Share the Blog
Logo located on student blog site Destination Information
The students are actively publishing their blogs now. They have their first three installments in the blog ready to go. Behind the scenes they are actively working on more articles in each series. Their goal is to continually publish throughout the summer and likely into next year, even though they will be headed to middle school. The structure they have built will allow them to continue the project if they personally commit to doing so.

They really would love to get some feedback on their project. Their writing is intended for learners of all ages. It would be appreciated if you could share their blog with your students as well.

To visit Destination Information, their blog, visit https://destinformation.blogspot.com/ .

Friday, May 4, 2018

Vanguard Teams: Thank you for adjusting the sails

When the inspiration for Waukesha One was first born in our district over five years ago, one reality was certain: the shift to learning that utilized digital tools was not going to take shape without sincere belief in the idea, and day-to-day changes in the practice of educators.

Early on, the concept of teacher leadership teams around technology use at each building came to life. In searching for an appropriate name for these teams, the suggestion was made to call them Vanguard Teams. "Vanguard" is the term used to define the group of people leading the way on new developments and ideas. It is also used to identify the foremost advancing or leading group of any army. It was the perfect suggestion.

Vanguard logo designed by
Waukesha South student Zoe McCarthy
So, what is a Vanguard Team in our system? It is a committed group of individuals in each building that are working to find ways to give students and teachers experiences and opportunities that utilize the digital tools that are (and will continue to be) pervasive in all of our lives. It is a team that is trying to make all of us more efficient, while also deepening the learning experiences for students.

Vanguard Team members are the torch bearers of new practices and ideas across the School District of Waukesha.

We know their roles have evolved over time. Initially they led the way on simply navigating our new devices. Do you remember the time when you didn't know how to scroll through a web page on your Mac the first few times you tried it? Do you remember trying to set up that Apple ID and get signed into the App Store on your iPad? It was members of the Vanguard Team helping to lead us through that.

Today they serve a different role than device rollout -- a far more important role. Vanguard Team members from across our district are trying to reshape instruction in their classrooms to best utilize the tools the students have available. While they may be running learning opportunities and support sessions in some places, they are doing the daily work of integrating the tools into their daily practice with students. And then they are sharing. They share at formal events, like The One Conference in January. But they also share daily, in their PLCs, in their co-teaching and co-planning, and in their one-on-one moments with colleagues.

In the upcoming week, the Tech Coordinator team will have an opportunity to say thank you personally to some of the Vanguard Team members that we will interact with at one of our first cross-district Vanguard meet-ups. This is the team that is going to continually help us to adjust our sails as we face the reality of getting our students ready for a life driven by technology, innovation, and change. For this reason, we are making a commitment to finding ways to unite members of these teams and to create a space for their growth and collaboration. We want to thank them for their work thus far and we hope to continually support their work moving forward.

Have you taken a moment lately to thank the Vanguard Team member in your professional life? 
These are the teachers that try new ideas first, invest time in learning, invest time in troubleshooting, and then invest time in teaching and supporting other staff members when questions arise. 

Take a moment to just say thank you to your colleague for their ongoing enthusiasm and commitment to students, to staff members, and to improving the School District of Waukesha.



VG Connections logo designed by
Waukesha South student Alli Geiger

Friday, April 27, 2018

Your iPad is your doc camera

In a classroom where we need to make things visible for all of our students, or when we want to model a process for students, nothing beats a document camera.  They give us a live video feed that we can quickly and easily project to the class.

And the great news -- you already have a document camera available to you. It's your iPad.

Paired with an Apple TV and Airplay (for a wireless experience), or even hard wired into a projector, the camera app on the iPad gives us a live video feed that can be easily shared with the class.

The process is easy. Find, make, or buy a stand that will allow you to be hands-free with your iPad with whatever is below (or in front of) the camera. Then simply connect it to the projector and open the camera app.

The trick is finding a great stand at a great (or no) price. You can buy iPad doc camera stands, but if you look around you'll probably find exactly what you need in your classroom or around the house/apartment.

The stand at right meets all of the requirements.


  • The stand must be sturdy. iPads are expensive, and setting them on a wobbly stand where they may fall is not a great idea!



  • It has openings at the top to safely set your iPad on while allowing the camera to peer through.



  • It lifts the iPad up from the "stage" below so you can fit objects of various sizes underneath.



  • There is a clear working area underneath to fit the demonstrator's hands. This is especially important when annotating text or "modeling" for students.


So go ahead. Look around. What clever ideas have you had for making your own useful iPad document stand?


By the way, this is a GREAT design challenge for students. Set forth the design parameters (something similar to what we outlined above) and let students start thinking creatively.



Start thinking smaller with technology

Nobody likes to use technology when it slows us down. In fact, one goal for meaningful tech use is enhancing a learning experience while keeping the technology seemingly invisible. When technology does that for teachers and learners, it is worth its weight in gold.
However, when we reflect on the ways we most often use technology, the tools are often utilized as a capstone to learning -- a final end product. And that, while a really great way to use technology, well that can be cumbersome, heavy, and can ultimately slow us down.

While summative assessment is certainly an appropriate use of the tools students have, it doesn't take full advantage of what the tools offer us. In these cases, technology use becomes an event, not a way of doing our daily business.

The challenge is to find ways to use the efficiency and mobility of the iPad, along with its built-in tools, to get students interacting with and sharing their thinking daily. The goal is to make sure every student participates, every student engages, every student does the hard work of thinking, all while making a teacher's work in the process more efficient and timely.

Here are ideas you could use to think "small" with technology use in order to incorporate it into your daily learning plan. And the best news -- these tools are on your iPads already. No download needed!


Prior Knowledge & Post Reflections with Camera
In order to activate prior knowledge, educators often use a call and response with the class or group. This only gives some of the students an opportunity to engage their brain and show what they know.

Instead, have every student turn on the video camera on their iPad. Speaking in a six inch voice (direct students to talk into the microphone of the iPad for better audio), have every student record 30 seconds of video explaining what they know about the topic.

At the end of the lesson on the topic, have students listen to their original recording. Ask them to reflect on two key questions: 1) What do I know now that I didn't know earlier? and 2) What questions do I still have about this topic?

They could now share with a partner for a quick turn and talk session.

Finally, have the small group film one final 20 second video using the camera app. They will record the answers to these questions: 1) "One really important thing we learned today about this topic was..." and 2) "One question we still have about this topic is...".

Students can now AirDrop the video to their teacher as an exit ticket, and the teacher can quickly review the student's thinking and questions.

Low Tech to High Tech Reflection with Markup
In most classrooms some amount of work is done on paper. Paper is a wonderful tool for learning. Of course, like anything, it has limitations.

In this technique we start from paper. We have students doing work and showing their learning on paper (this should feel fairly familiar).

Next we organize a quick museum walk or have students find a partner. The goal here is to have students look at each other's work in order to challenge their own understanding of the skill/topic, and to offer feedback to each other.  Using their iPad, they will take photos of at least one other student's written work (you may need to teach them how to focus and take a good picture).

Then, using the Markup tool in Photos (the place where your photos go on your iPad after you take them), have the students annotate their thinking over the top of the photo to determine key points about the work. This would be more efficient and meaningful if the teacher could provide some guiding questions for the feedback.

Finally, students can meet to share their thinking with the student who they are offering feedback to. They can AirDrop their annotated image to each other to serve as guidance as the student goes back to make changes to their work on paper.

Capturing the Learning Process
If the focus on the learning process is the key to the work students are doing, then let's use technology to help capture the process over time. This technique works whether you are working with non-digital tools (paper, construction materials, art materials, etc)  or working digitally.

The teacher starts by outlining the rules. Over the next period of time, students will hear a timer go off sporadically. This timer will be set by the teacher. When the timer goes off, the students simply need to snap a photo of their work at that time. Stop what they are doing momentarily, take a picture, and then get back to work.

Using the timer on the teacher's iPad (and AirPlay if an Apple TV is available in your room), the teacher will set the timer (you will have to determine the appropriate interval -- not so often that it interrupts thinking, but not so far apart that student progress will not be measured). As the teacher moves around the room and students work, the timer will keep pace. 

When the timer goes off, instruct students to capture their work using the camera, and then get back to work. The teacher will then reset the timer for a new interval (not all intervals have to be exactly the same).

Repeat this until the work period has completed.

Next, ask students to open the Photos app on the iPad. Have them start on their first photo of their work, and then scroll through. With each photo, ask the students to reflect on the process and what changes from photo to photo.  Maybe they will watch their drawing or artwork come to life. Maybe they will see their writing process unfold. Maybe they will identify their note taking or annotation process.

They could share this reflection with a partner. They could use the Markup tool to annotate the changes. They could video record their reflections of the process. For more advanced users, you could use either full iMovie or iMovie trailers to document the learning process as well.

Any way it is achieved, the goal is to have the students reflect on their process, to think about what they did and how it impacted their final product, and to ultimately change their process (or understand their process) so they know themselves as learners.