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.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Changes for Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Sites


What's New with Google?


Changes for Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Sites and a Must Have Google Skill



G Suite for Education is our adopted suite of Google apps tailored specifically for schools. You may have noticed that Google updates these tools often. Google takes suggestions from their end users and constantly improves their tools. Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Sites will be getting a new look and feel on the web. While there are no functionality changes, users will notice some visual improvements. The four products in this update join other G Suite products like Gmail and Calendar.

What’s changing
  • Interface typography that uses Google’s custom-designed and highly-legible typefaces
  • Controls (like buttons, and sidebars) that are updated and consistent
  • Icons that are legible and crisp, with a fresh feel
The new look is Google's effort to standardize "material design" across all G Suite tools. This update doesn't change anything about how the editing and design tools work.



Must have Google Skill: How to Make a Copy of Google Files

Speaking of Google, any Google user needs to know this skill and that is How to Make a Copy of Google Files.

Have you seen a great Google Doc or Slide deck that you want to use? Make a copy!
When you come across a Google file and you can view it, is likely you also have the ability to make your own copy and save it to your Google Drive. Instead of clicking on the share button and requesting access, click on File>Make a Copy!

Think of this like the "Save As," button. Once it is saved to your Google Drive you can rename it. This "Make a Copy" feature can be used with most Google applications.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Self Directed Learning with Amy Jarvis

Recently, Amy Jarvis, 7th grade science teacher, had her students embark on a "self-directed learning" journey with Cell Theory.  As you read, you'll notice that this venture was certainly not in her comfort zone, but her supportive administration and colleagues helped her through the process. 


Teaching a course to 7th graders in the parameter of a semester can be a challenge. Seventh grade Life Science is the first time students encounter a specific branch of the science curriculum. This really hit home, literally, when I looked at my daughter’s end of the semester packet for 10th grade Biology. I saw everything I taught with some additions! It was then that I realized the importance of effective differentiation within my classroom. I have firmly believed an honors block should look much different than my standard block. My standard block should look much different than my collaborative block. Furthermore, all of these blocks should look much different than the same level blocks the semester, or even year, before for that matter. You see, I, like many of you, want learning to occur each second of each minute I spend with my students. I’m not talking about learning based on the lowest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I don’t want my students to just grasp at a concept. I want them to grab it, hold it, feel it, see it, examine it, analyze it, relate to it, describe it, connect to it, and never let it go! Don’t worry! I’m unrealistic. I am aware that not all students absorb the material as quickly as others. I realize some even drop the concept, step on it, kick it and even walk away from it. But those are the kids I hope to inspire enough to recover it, brush it off and try again to receive it in the only way his/her brain can.

This desire led me to a recent journey with my 4th Block Honors students. I have to say, the first few weeks with my students were brutal. I honestly did not know how I would relate to them. They are WAY beyond where my academic career was at their age. They were SERIOUS. Once girl even used the word, “prepubescent!” At this point, I knew differentiation was going to be an everyday standard to meet the needs of this group of students. Oh, and did I mention, this happens to be the largest block of my day.

Recently, I asked our gifted teachers, Mrs. Walger and Mr. Uyeda for resources on how to challenge gifted students. We spoke about learning contracts, educational menus, and other types of
Figure A
differentiation. I began doing online research and found some templates. One in particular, “The Self-Directed Learning Project,” seemed easy enough to introduce the following week. I had just started teaching The Cell Theory to my first and second blocks. I decided to teach them in the “same manner as always” approach. However, the fourth block was challenged to “The Self-Directed...” approach to The Cell Theory. In the first rectangle in Figure A, I let the students know the three objectives for the cell theory. In the rectangles that follow, the students had to reflect and respond to explain how they would teach the content to peers and help them reach the comprehension level of the Cell Theory. Once finished, the student signed the project as well as I. The project began that night for homework. For the next two class periods, the students worked individually or as a group researching the Cell Theory and creating a presentation. The presentations began that Friday.

Words cannot express the way I felt watching the first two presentations. The feeling grew with the third, and hasn’t stopped as of yet! The students use technology in a way I never expected from twelve- and thirteen-year-olds. Because of my astonishment, I knew I could not keep what I was seeing to myself. One beautiful part of this whole experience is that I have been afforded the opportunity to brag on my co-workers who played a part in this without knowing it. For example, Mrs. Fleming, the robotics and technology teacher at CHMS, Mrs. Walger who began teaching math to this same group of students last year, setting the bar high for teachers that followed with this particular group of students, and Mr. Uyeda who keeps the bar high with interactive lessons that allow for the technology skills these same students crave! The second, and most beautiful of all, is to watch the excitement with which my “techie babies” present. I watch the class reacting with eagerness, engagement, enjoyment and more as they have learned the Cell Theory through the instruction of their newest classmate instructor day after day. My task as an observer is simple, fill out the Instructor Observation Form I found online and tweaked for this project’s purpose. This form is pictured in Figure B. This is considered the rubric, an out of the box rubric, in a nontraditional sense. The students were shown the rubric ahead of time, as with any rubric, to be aware of the grading criteria. I attach the original Self-Directed Learning Project form filled out prior to the start of the project with the grade filled in at the bottom. 


Figure B 1

Figure B 2


In conclusion, I invited a few leaders of CHPS from the tech center, school board office and CHMS, including the 6th grade science teachers who poured into these same students last school year. I am relying on the leaders to find a different venue where this lesson can be an example of how the 1:1 initiative is being used within the classroom. Without 1:1, I do not believe the project would have been as successful with the steady pace a one semester curriculum demands. Finally, I want to encourage each of you to watch and listen to the students within your classroom walls. Without words, and through simple observation, it is evident how each student approaches learning the content within this school year. It took me eight weeks to build relationships, watch the behavior of each student, converse and ask questions, promote other technology uses, watch whether excitement ensued or boredom before finding the path these students wanted to journey. My challenge to each of you is to do the same. Where will this 1:1 initiative take you and your students? We might not take the same flight, boat, bus, or road, but I promise the view will be priceless!

Amy Jarvis
7th Grade Life Science Teacher, CHMS

Self Directed Learning Contract Template - Google Doc


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Reflecting on 1:1 with Kate Ewalt

The following post was written by Kate Ewalt, 7th grade Life Science teacher and recent recipient of the Virginia Association of Science Teachers VAST Teacher-of-the-Year for Middle School. 



I've been meaning to take time to write about 1:1 in my classroom, but it has taken me entirely too long. Part of the reason is the time I’ve been spending on developing material to use with the Chromebooks. This is a down-side of the integration, the time needed to plan and develop new ways of teaching material. For me, though, the challenge of trying new things is one of the reasons I’m still an educator. I also know the time spent creating video lessons, preparing tech integrated lessons, etc, will be time saved for years down the road. I’ve seen lots of positive impact on students. My grading time has been cut, giving me more time to individually conference with students. And now, one nine-weeks in, I feel I’ve managed to establish a routine and structure that students feel comfortable taking educational risks.

I don’t want to talk about the impact on my students here though. So many beat me to that. Instead, I want to talk about the positive impact on myself as a teacher. Some are obviously positive, while others presented themselves as challenges at first. The latter is my first example. I’ve had various conversations with parents about technology in the classroom, but when a parent related that her child said the Chromebooks could be really confusing, it gave me a pause. We were doing some innovative and fun online activities, but sometimes I hadn’t figure out the best way to show students how to do things. This child is in the first block, and that often happens to be the first block to try new web activities. I could see how learning experiments could be confusing to students. I think I was able to explain to the parents a satisfactory reason for continuing to use Chromebooks for certain activities, and I also think we were able to identify the best way to help him overcome the issues, but it was the first accommodations for technology use I’ve had to develop. Usually, the accommodation is some technology!

I like data. I’ll admit it - I’m one of the people who get excited about SOL breakdowns by topic. I enjoy setting goals based on data, especially when the goals are reached, but even when they aren’t, I always feel I’ve learned something. I feel the speed at which I’m able to collect data is actually timely enough for me to act on it during my instructional design now, thanks to one-to-one computing. And it’s not just dry-technical data like reading levels and test scores. Through online blogging and vlogging (essentially journaling formats), debates on Schoology forums, and Google Forms surveys, I’ve gleaned bits of my students’ personalities far quicker than when I had to find time to go through all the hand-completed surveys. With more opportunities for my students to write, I see the quieter students blooming, which makes me a better teacher connecting with more children. Bonus - I look forward to grading some of the homework! I had students submit designs for the official online classroom banner - used on Google Classroom, Schoology, flipgrid, Voki, and several other sites - every kid submitted a creation and the class voted on their favorite. They had a day to submit votes and could see the results real time. Some were even doing the math to figure out if it was possible for a design to get beaten after a certain number of students had voted for it! My other favorite homework to grade this year were several Flipgrids -- in fact, I think I need to assign another Flipgrid before Thanksgiving so the kids can use the holiday-themed stickers. Flipgrids gave interesting insights into the students' homework environments -- sounds and all. That would never come through on a simple written paragraph.

So the one-to-one is going well overall. There are bumps in the road. Experiments abandoned. Activities deemed not worth completing. Some fizzle with the kids. But there are so many positives, I wasn’t worried when a kid commented the other day “They should call this computer class, not science class, we use the computers so much.” After all, they may never need to know the parts of a cell in their adult life, but they will certainly need to know how to communicate effectively in digital media.



As you continue your journey with Chromebooks and digital learning, please continue to reach out to colleagues and EdTech Coaches! We are all here to create engaging learning environments for our students.

Handy Password Trick

Piotr Kaminski taught me this little trick a few months ago, and I thought it was genius.  


If you have a password that you have a password that you have to change regularly, use a password that you are familiar with but add the month and year in which you will have to change it. That way you will remember your password AND when you will have to change it again!



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 fo...