Monday, June 17, 2019

Performance Matters

PowerSchool's purchase of PeopleAdmin has meant that it is no longer supporting or investing in Assessment and Analytics (formerly known as Interactive Achievement). Instead, PowerSchool's new online assessment platform is Performance Matters.

Performance Matters is a robust testing platform with capabilities that will help Colonial Heights' teachers administer tests because of some of the following features:
  • Built-in Text-to-Speech capability for audio accommodations
  • ability to create assessments for project-based learning using rubrics
  • built-in Desmos calculator
  • ability to attach YouTube videos to assessments
To learn a little more about the Performance Matters assessment platform, you can watch this video:
Performance Matters also has an incredible reporting interface that will help teachers view results and trends in an extremely user-friendly way. 

With this new reporting ability, teachers will be able to quickly see where students are struggling or excelling. 

To learn a little more about the Performance Matters analytics platform, you can watch this video:

As you attend training in the coming months, you will learn even more about how to use the testing and reporting features.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Introducing... ClassLink!

ClassLink is our new Single Sign-On (SSO) solution for all CHPS staff and students! Read to find out how ClassLink will help you with your daily computer use and get into programs that you frequently use. 

Based in Florida, ClassLink is an educational technology company that has been in business for over 20 years.  The Office of Technology and Learning felt strongly that using a well-established company who values teachers and students was the best decision for our school division. In fact, their chief academic officer is a former superintendent of Orange County Public Schools in Florida. His trust in ClassLink translated to working for a company that helped his district excel. 

Julie Bowles, Student Data Administrator; Mike Zaweski, Systems Administrator; and Piotr Kaminski, Systems Administrator have been working hard to populate ClassLink with apps (websites and web tools) that our district subscribes to. 

You will see 2 different types of apps in ClassLink:
  1. A Bookmark
  2. Single Sign-On
A bookmark functions just like a bookmark that you have created in a web browser. It is simply a quick link to a website that you use frequently. 

A single sign-on app links to a website that asks for a username and password. ClassLink is able to remember your username and password for specific sites. In some cases, our technology administrators have created the single sign-on setup so that you do not even have to enter a user name and password for a particular site. 

CHPS ClassLink Dashboard

Currently, all staff members have the ability to start customizing and using ClassLink!  All you have to do is go to 

or find the link in "My School Bookmarks."

To view incredibly helpful how-to videos created by Mike Zaweski, please go to the district web page he has created for our school system.  Also, we will be holding training sessions during the summer and during the pre-school work week to get you going!

There will be more video resources coming soon!

As always, please contact Erin Ford and Debbie Walwer if you need any help!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Google Drawings & The Ripple Effect of a Teacher

If you need innovative ideas for integrating technology into the curriculum, visit Matt Miller's Blog, DITCH THAT TEXTBOOK. Matt's blog provides information on a variety of topics including Google Apps for Education, technology tools for the classroom, even behavior management strategies. Last week he posted this drawing he created using Google Drawings. Google Drawings allows you to add some color to your documents, presentations, and websites with easy to create charts and diagrams. All your drawings are automatically saved and stored in Google Drive. You can learn how to use Google Drawings during our Summer EdTech Week- August 12-16, 2019.
The Office of Technology and Learning appreciates all that you do for our students. I hope this Google Drawing reminds you of the impact you make on your students.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Brain Boosts for State Testing Time

Our testing window is officially open. There is no escape from this time of the year. It can be stressful for both students and teachers. Most of our students' success comes from what they have learned throughout the year. Cognitive Science, the study of thought, learning and mental organization can help us to get students ready to succeed on tests. 

Retrieval practice is the act of calling information from our long-term memory. Re-reading notes or chapters won't provide the best results. Simply asking students to recall what they remember about a topic can have benefits for long-term memory.

Retrieval has a collection of strategies to help students use this powerful brain-friendly technique. On this site, you will also find Retrieval Warm Ups that you can download and use with your students. "Retrieval Warm Ups" are a perfect way to show students that we retrieve all the time, without thinking about it. 

Interleaving is the practice of switching between ideas while studying. Instead of studying a concept for one long session, switch between ideas during a study session. Go back over the ideas again in different orders to strengthen understanding. Make links between different ideas as you switch between them. Print this poster and try some of these strategies with your students. (

Most of us need some training to learn how to study. Help your students to study using Spaced Practice. Start planning early for tests and set aside a little bit of time every day. Review information from each class sometime during the day but not right after the class. Make sure to go back and study and review older information to keep it fresh. 

Students frame of mind on the day of the test determines a lot too. On testing day, life can be stressful for our students. Our normal routine has changed, there's a new set of directions, tensions can be high and that can lead to unhappiness. All of us are more successful when we are happier and positive. 

How can we build happiness into the day?
Happy lives are made up of a combination of positive emotions and meaningfulness, both contribute to a child's learning process and well being. 

  • Having students work together on a common goal provides a positive class climate. Students can write notes of encouragement to other classes and deliver them before testing day.
  • Allow students to spend a few minutes picking up litter from the school playground. This will give students a break from studying and they will feel good about doing something for the school community. A dose of sunshine can provide a useful jolt of energy.  
  • Challenge your students to "Be Kind" every day to everyone. Compliment someone, help a classmate or teacher, and smile!
Provide some review activities that include movement. Movement, even walking around during a learning game can increase motivation and concentration. Use a set of task cards and play a SCOOT Game. Students will review content and move around at the same time. 

I am currently reading Practicing Presence and just finished reading The Art of Happiness.

Miller, M. (April 17, 2019). Ditch That Textbook. Retrieved from



Thursday, February 21, 2019

Digital Learning Day 2019

Digital Learning Day 2019 will be on February 28th this year!  What is it, and how can you participate?

Digital Learning Day was founded by the Alliance of Excellence in Education and was first celebrated in 2012. The mission of that initiative was to promote innovative teaching practices through digital means. The goal of Digital Learning Day continues to be celebrating all the various ways teachers are using technology in novel ways.

Teachers who are fortunate enough to have multiple devices in their classroom can celebrate Digital Learning Day almost any day, but Feb 28th might be a great time to try something new!

We at the Office of Technology and Learning want to use the advent of DLD to introduce a technology model that you may find useful: the SAMR model, created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura.

You may have heard of SAMR before, but we are here to help explain it to you! Something you should really understand is that SAMR is NOT an instructional model; it is a technology integration model. Dr. Ruben Puentedura's work and research certainly includes instructional design components, but SAMR should not be used as a measure of teacher or lesson effectiveness; instead, it should be used as a tool for teachers to help them assess where a particular lesson is in the SAMR model in terms of integrating technology into their classrooms.

Substitution and Augmentation

The first two levels of SAMR show that technology can enhance learning. With substitution, teachers use technology to simply substitute a more traditional lesson. Augmentation means that the technology adds some meaningful function to the lesson or task.

Consider this example: Writing a paper examining the causes of the Revolutionary War.
  • Substitution: Students simply type the paper with word processing software to substitute hand writing with typing. (There is no functional change for the students' task.)
  • Augmentation: Students use the capabilities of MS Word or Google Docs to spell check and grammar check their papers. (Students still type the paper, but the function has been enhanced by the technology.)

Modifications and Redefinition

The last two levels of SAMR show that technology can transform learning.  With modification, teachers are able to redesign the lesson or task because of the available technology, while redefinition implies that particular lessons and tasks were simply not possible before the technology existed.

Consider this example: Reporting on the causes of the Revolutionary War.

  • Modification: Students create and edit a video documenting the causes of the Revolutionary War. 
  • Redefinition: Students design and develop a virtual reality tour leading classmates through events that perpetuated the Revolutionary War.

Teachers should note that one task or lesson is not better than another, rather, the lessons simply allow for students to exhibit different skills and knowledge. Having said that, teachers can assess whether they are substituting or augmenting tasks and lessons or if they are modifying or redefining them. The slides below can give you some ideas about how you can try Modification as you continue to grow as an educator.

(Click the square "frame" to enlarge the slide show.)

If you are interested in learning more about Digital Learning Day, below is the webinar from last year's DLD:

Friday, January 25, 2019

Going 1:1 with Brenda Dortch

Brenda Dortch, CHMS Math Teacher has been going full steam ahead since CHPS has rolled out it's 1:1 initiative. Read about her experience below and insights she has gained along the way.

Going 1:1 with the Chromebooks has given me the assurance that I can incorporate learning and assessment activities anytime in my classes without pre-scheduling a computer lab or cart. Every day my warm-up starts on the Chromebooks. Instead of displaying the questions with the LCD projector, the students go to Schoology and have the questions. While they still show work and answers on paper with a block for 4 questions per each day of the week, there are no more issues with not being able to see the display at the front of the room, and they settle down more quickly to actually work on the warm-up. I then display the questions and using the SmartBoard, students answer each one so that everyone has a chance to correct their work. Warm-ups are used for spiral review.

I am trying to put as much of my instruction on video as possible. Initial instruction delivered this way with guided notes and sample problems seems to work well for most students and really helps when students are absent. It is a bit difficult in math, and I am using a used graphics tablet to hand write work during the video. I would like a newer, more precise graphics tablet. I have also used Nearpod for initial instruction which can incorporate assessment questions. I am glad we are in the first full year of implementation of new math SOLs so that the materials I develop this year and next won't be "out of date" for a few years.

The Schoology Assessment tool is very robust. There are types of technology enhanced questions that go beyond anything in PowerSchool or the SOL which I soon found out had a temporary negative side -- the students were confused about how to navigate or answer certain types of questions. I have now cut back a bit on how many different question types I use and give them a chance to adapt. It is wonderful to have quiz and test grades transfer directly to PowerSchool. I have set up categories that are ungraded, such a one for exit tickets, that makes it easy for me to get formative feedback. There is still a need in math to have students show work on paper so that I can correct their errors, but if they only use Schoology to enter the answers, it helps with grading and hopefully encourages them to do work on paper when they are working on a computer. This can only help them during the SOL testing, since many of them barely use the scratch paper, and I know if they did use it, their SOL performance would improve.

Having the Chromebooks makes it easy to use practice and formative assessment tools like Quizizz and Kahoot! on a regular basis which are exciting and motivating for the students. The addition of IXL for math this year is also an excellent way for students to practice skills in a way they prefer to the old worksheet.

In my Pre-Algebra classes, I did a homework project for review of the subsets of real numbers which included a requirement to use Google Slides or Docs to define each subset and present the information in a creative and attractive format. As the shared Docs started coming into my Google Drive I was amazed at the variety of formats chosen and work put into using clip art, pictures, word art etc. to make the definitions more interesting.

In addition, I just went to 3 hours of training on the Desmos graphing calculator which has an activity builder feature. Even though the graphing calculator is not the one the students in 7th grade use, we can use the activity builder as teachers to create activities to explore and teach concepts that are in our curriculum. This brings me to the most difficult thing about having all of these tools available - finding the time to learn how to use the tools and to create content and activities. I know I cannot do it all this first year and will be building more and more each year.

-Brenda Dorch 
CHMS Math Teacher

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Gimkit and Gamification with Ashley Whitaker

Gamification in the classroom has been steadily gaining traction as a motivational learning strategy, and there a several tools that can help you to gamify lessons or even entire units. The easiest way to get started is simply gamify your review. Read Ashley Whitaker's views about educational games and how she has been using a new tool, Gimkit (pronouned with a hard "g").

Educational games are games specifically designed to help students learn about certain subjects, expand concepts, reinforce a skill, or assist them in learning a new skill as they play. I like using educational games in my classrooms because it engages the students and promotes student learning at the same time – as long as the games require critical thinking, problem solving, and reinforce a learned skill. I have witnessed unengaged students perk up when it’s time to play Gimkit, Quizizz, or Kahoot. I have also witnessed students’ competitive spirit come out when we play Grudgeball, Zap, or Trashketball. Games, whether it’s technological or basic, can be powerful tools when used effectively.

While all games can be beneficial in the classroom, I have found Gimkit to an amazing online formative assessment tool. It is very similar to Quizizz and Kahoot in the way it is set up and run. The major difference is MONEY! The goal of Gimkit is for all players to try to earn as much money as they can or reach the cash goal before the time runs out. As the teacher, you create the kit and set up the game to run for as long as you’d like (5 min, 8 min, 12 min, etc). The reason why the students enjoy this game so much is because of they are “earning” money and they can use the money for different powerups and upgrades to ultimately win the game. For example, they can buy a Icer upgrade that freezes other players and does not allow them to answer questions or shop for 15 seconds. Players can also buy powerups that increasing the amount of money they earn as the game goes along.

I first learned about this assessment tool from a Twitter chat. The first time I hosted a game with one of my English classes, the kids LOVED it! I heard statements like, “This is way better than Quizizz and Kahoot.” Now every time we review for a quiz or test, they ask me if we can play Gimkit. I often answer, "NO" because I don’t want them to get tired of it -- lol.

If you haven’t tried Gimkit out, you totally should! It is truly amazing. Plus it has catchy theme music!

-Written by Ashley Whitaker
CHMS, Special Education Teacher

A note from Erin:
When you enter student names so that they can choose their name, please just use a first name. As of now, Gimkit does not save any student information, but the less information about students on the internet, the better!

The creator of Gimkit is a high school senior (!) in Seattle, Washington.  If you'd like to read about the future of Gimkit, you can read it here.

Performance Matters

PowerSchool's purchase of PeopleAdmin has meant that it is no longer supporting or investing in Assessment and Analytics (formerly know...