Helping Faculty Rethink with iPads

At Roycemore School, lifelong learning is a value that is shared across our community. We encourage our faculty to seek new knowledge in their field throughout the year. As Coordinator of Academic Technology and Professional Development, I am here to help teachers meet their personal learning goals and to provide meaningful ways to do this. We feel that learning about technology, and how it fits into our classrooms, is a key part of an effective teacher’s professional development.

Launched last spring with a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation, we began a three-stage professional development program for our faculty called iPad PRoS. Each Roycemore teacher received an iPad Mini, and each classroom an Apple TV, so that they would have a simple and portable wireless way to share information with students in the classroom.

The three phases of the iPad PRoS program are Play, Rethink, and Share:


When you receive a new technology tool, you need time to play on it! The first phase of the iPad PRoS program gave teachers a few months to simply use their iPad Mini in whatever way they thought best. Most began using their iPads right away for email, web browsing, and taking notes. Others discovered great content-area apps to use in their classrooms.


Ultimately, we wanted to help teachers rethink their teaching. During the summer, we hosted three professional development seminars led by well-known education experts. Almost every faculty member attended at least one session, and many attended all three. The emphasis of these sessions was not so much on how to use apps and devices, but on how to integrate them into our curriculum. Teachers were encouraged to promote student creativity, communication, and critical thinking using the iPads. Our last session was focused entirely on “flipping” classroom instruction.

Here are just a few of the apps and tools our teachers learned about:

Right before school started, I conducted a few more sessions for teachers – on building a classroom website, iPad basics, and Google Drive/Calendar. This provided follow-up and helped teachers start the year excited about using technology in their classes.


We are now in the midst of the Sharing part of the iPad PRoS program. Teachers are encouraged to share the new things they try in the classroom with one another. We share during faculty meetings and through informal conversations, email, and social networks. We share our successes as well as our trials – not everything goes perfectly every time, and that’s OK! Sharing what we try with one another helps us discover new ideas and creates connections from Lower to Middle to Upper School.

Since all our students have access to iPads and other devices, it has been easy to implement the many things we learned over the summer in to our classes. Here are some of the things happening as a result of the iPad PRoS program:

  • The 2nd grade class uses Kahoot! to check for understanding in many subject areas
  • 3rd grade students wrote an iBook using Book Creator
  • 6th and 7th grade students created movie trailer-style book reports
  • iPads are used every day to show graphs and problem-solving in Upper School math
  • Middle and Upper School French classes are taught using a flipped model

Our teachers will continue their learning throughout this school year, and beyond. We are always focused on improving our own teaching to better help students learn.

Hour of Code Tools for Young Kids

The Hour of Code is coming soon: December 8-12, 2014. Many resources exist for the K-12 set (if you’re looking for a place to start, try, but my preschool teachers want to participate too. So I’m rounding up some tools that we are considering for our youngest students. At this time, we have not actually used any of these tools, but I thought I’d share this list in case it is helpful to others. I will provide an update about what we decide to purchase, and how it goes.


  • From their website: “Bee-Bot is an exciting new robot designed for use by young children. This colorful, easy-to-operate, and friendly little robot is a perfect tool for teaching sequencing, estimation, problem-solving, and just having fun!”
  • programs (up to 40 commands) are entered by pushing directional buttons, so no reading/writing required
  • can be paired with mats and curriculum for further coding practice
  • preschool-3rd Grade
  • To buy:

Scratch Jr.

  • great introduction to Scratch, if you’re planning to use that later
  • picture-based commands that connect together like puzzle pieces
  • very open, in that kids can program characters to do whatever they want; if more direction is needed, try some of these lesson ideas
  • ages 5-7 (but I think could be used younger)
  • Free iOS app

Lightbot Jr. App

  • for iOS, Android, also Flash-based version here
  • puzzle-based coding app
  • has some reading, but looks like preschoolers could still figure it out
  • ages 4-8
  • also Lightbot app for ages 9+
  • To buy

Coming soon…
Two more tools that I think sound amazing, but are not available quite yet. These won’t work for the Hour of Code this year, but keep them in mind for the future!

Dash and Dot Robots

  • from Wonder Workshop (formerly Play-i)
  • ages 5 and up
  • can be programmed with their apps or with Blockly; older kids can write their own apps
  • To buy
    • Dash is $169
    • Dash & Dot pack is $228


  • ages 3 to 7
  • uses tangible shapes and boards
  • seems like it will be a great first step in helping kids develop logical programming skills
  • play set is $282, expected to be available in Winter 2015
  • pre-order here

What coding tools and apps do you use with your youngest kids? This list of 4 Coding Apps for Kindergarten and Elementary School may also be helpful.

Mayan Pyramid Erosion Project

I have been working with the third-grade teacher on a very exciting project the last couple of weeks. The teacher approached me with the idea, and shared the lesson plan link that she had found with me (Archaeology and Erosion). This is not, in itself, a tech project, which is why I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s not a project where a teacher came to me and said “I need help with tech.” It’s a truly STEAM project, and the teacher just had a feeling that I would be helpful, whether we used technology or not.

The third-graders have been studying the Mayan culture. The third-grade class has studied this topic for years, but this is the first time they have done this particular project. The project involves building a pyramid out of sugar cubes. The kids did this part with their art teacher – there’s A in STEAM for you! You can see pictures of the third graders building their pyramids in art class here and here.

Next, students were split up into four groups: wind, rain, sun, and all of the above. Then came the fun parts. Each group conducted an experiment that modeled erosion on their sugar cube pyramid. Groups used a spray bottle of water (rain), a hairdryer (wind), an overhead projector light (sun), or all three. Again, you can download this lesson from this website.

Throughout the experiment, each group used an iPad to take pictures and videos of their pyramid. We put the pictures into Book Creator, a fantastic kid-friendly app for creating interactive iBooks. After each day of erosion, students put the pictures and videos in to Book Creator, and recorded their own observations in writing. When the experiment was done, we had four Book Creator books, detailing each experiment. The four pyramids each behaved a little differently but, as you might guess, the ones that were “rained” on were the most eroded.

I combined the Book Creator books into one book (with help from these instructions), and exported it in several ways for parents and others to see. Want to take a look? Choose one of these options:

  1. Download as an epub or iBook
  2. View as a movie
  3. View as  PDF (no video or sound)

The third grade students really enjoyed this project. Every time one tiny speck of sugar came off of their pyramid, they were ready to record it in Book Creator and share their thoughts with the group. If we had not been using iPads, I think their excitement level would have still been high, but I believe they may have lost interest after a day or two of doing the same experiments each day. I’m glad I got to help with this project, and I look forward to helping teachers find ways to do more projects like this soon.

Next up: having the third graders re-create the pyramids in Minecraft!

Chromebook Tools

We recently gave each of our 6th grade students a Chromebook. I am working with the teachers to integrate the technology into the curriculum. Here are a few tools I shared with the teachers at a recent meeting.

  • Padlet: Easy way for kids to collaborate. Create a “wall,” share the address with students, and start putting up ideas!
  • Mindmeister: Collaborative brainstorming or mind-mapping site.
  • Select & Speak: A Chrome extension that lets you select a portion of a website and have it read to you.
  • Typing Club: Free online learn to type program.
  • WeVideo: Free online video editor and maker. This is integrated into Google Drive.
  • Kaizena: Leave verbal feedback for students on Google Drive documents.
  • Pear Deck: Present a Google Slides presentation (or any type of presentation), share it easily with students on their devices, and interact with them through Pear Deck.

We will meet again, so more tools are coming soon!

Screencasting Tools for Chromebook

Several teachers are using screen-casting apps like EDUCreations and Explain Everything on our iPads. Others are using Ink2Go to record flipped lessons. These apps allow students and teachers to create a video of what is on the iPad or MacBook screen while recording their own voice narrations. Teachers have used them for flipping lessons. Students have used them to present projects and explain their work, among other things.

But we don’t have iPads for everyone. So many teachers have asked me to look for an alternative to apps like this for the Chromebooks. This is especially important because we’ve recently given each of our sixth graders their own Chromebook, in a 1:1 pilot program. And since they are the Acer C720P Chromebooks, with touch screen, a screen-casting app makes a lot of sense.

Here is what I’ve found so far:

  • Web-based app that lets you record yourself while displaying presentation slides or documents. Allows uploading of PPT, Keynote, Google Slides, and more. Easy and fast to use. There is a limited free account for educators. There is a Chrome app for it, which means I can easily install it on our Chromebooks. This is the closest Chromebook-friendly tool to Ink2Go.
  • TechSmith Snagit for Chrome: I have not used this myself yet, but I have been hearing lots of good things about it. There is a Chrome app and a Chrome extension (you need both – check out the website to learn the difference). More details coming soon.
  • Clarisketch: Lets you record your voice while drawing, including drawing on top of an image. This is probably the closest CB-friendly tool to Explain Everything or EDUCreations. Good news: There is a Chrome app for this. Bad news: The app ONLY works on Chromebook and Android, so it isn’t a solution that will work for all platforms.
  • Pixiclip: I just discovered this one, and it seems like the most user-friendly of all! Like Clarisketch, you can draw on a blank canvas or on an image. There is no Chrome app for this, but it’s a simple web page that teachers and kids can get to easily enough. I will need to experiment with it more to see how easy it is to save and share from this tool.
  • This website has more tips and tools for screen-casting in general, and a few specific to the CB.

Let me know if you know of any other Chromebook-friendly screen-casting tools! I will update this page as I find more suggestions.

Applying to #GTAATX: What I Learned

I recently applied for the Google teacher academy (GTA, hashtag #GTAATX) in Austin, Texas. I had applied for GTA Chicago in 2013, but didn’t get in, so this was my second try. This time around, I actually didn’t have as much time to prepare my application- Or, I should say, I didn’t take as much time, because the first couple of months of this school year have been SO incredibly busy for me!

I don’t know the results of my application yet, but I wanted to write about the application process now, because I learned a lot simply by applying. The application process, which involves creating a one minute video and responding to a few questions, helps any educator know who they are, whether or not they get in.

The GTA application process also motivated me do several things I’ve been meaning to do for a while, but just haven’t forced myself to complete. Here are things I learned, things I did, and things I want to report, as a result of completing the application.

  1. I am blogging more. I have been neglecting my blog, or at the very least, inconsistently using it. I want to use my blog to share what’s going on in my teaching life, my school, and my personal learning network. The application motivated me to update my blog a little more. I hope I keep it up!
  2. I finally started working on becoming a Google Educator. One earns a Google Educator certificate by passing five exams covering Google’s wonderful tools. Even though I only had time to take and pass one exam (Gmail: 95%!!) before the application was due, I hope to take the other exams very soon. The exams, and the courses to prepare for them, are helping me learn more about Google Apps than I expected. Much of what I am learning will be extremely helpful to myself, my students, and my colleagues. I’m excited to use this knowledge in several professional development presentations coming soon.
  3. I had to really think about why being a Google Certified Teacher was important to me. And, I had to do it in 800 characters or less! This was very tough, but in the end, I decided to focus on how important my PLN has become in my life as an educator. I mentioned how it helps me maintain a level of enthusiasm that is essential to what I do, and how the GTA would help me meet more people face-to-face. I said that I am ready to take my PLN to the next level!
  4. Speaking of my PLN, I also started using what is a new PLN tool for me: Google Plus. I have been a Twitter fan for years, and didn’t think I had much use for G+. But after only posting a couple of things, I see great potential there. I used it to ask a couple of Chromebook-related questions, and got more and better responses than I did with Twitter. After using G+ more, I will write a separate blog post about it!
  5. It’s always good to get more experience filming, planning, and editing a video, no matter how short. For the GTA application, the video prompt was: “How do you innovate in the classroom or educational community to generate positive change?” I asked for input from my 5th and 6th grade students to get started. Everyone agreed that innovation meant trying new things. The point I wanted to get across, though, is that technology in itself is NOT innovation in the classroom. We need to change how we’re teaching. And I am helping that happen at my school! Here is a link to the video. What do you think?
  6. I have learned that Edublogs is perhaps not the best blogging platform for my needs, and I might be moving to Blogger soon. More on that later!
  7. I realized that I’m not as busy as I thought I was. I had been feeling very stressed out since the beginning of this school year, but taking the time to write a good application, and make a video, made me realize that perhaps I do have time to do more than I thought I did. Like time for more blogging!
  8. I love my students, colleagues, and PLN. They inspire me every day to do the best that I can do; this application just helped me put that into perspective.

This is getting long: can you tell how hard it was to condense my GTA application answers down to 800 characters?

Classroom Websites

One more post about the August PD sessions I conducted with my teachers…

After surveying faculty, I discovered that one of the biggest desires was to know more about creating a classroom website. Many teachers at my school had little experience doing so. I ran two sessions: one for Lower School teachers, and one for Middle and Upper. The content was basically the same, but I showed slightly different examples.

I began with a discussion of why one might want a classroom website, and what it would be used for. I asked the teachers to answer this question before choosing a platform and starting to work on a site. I figured most of them simply thought it was a good idea to have a website, but hadn’t actually thought about their goals.

I believe it was worth the time to have the teachers think this through before beginning to look at tools – something that is true for just about any ed tech one wants to use. Answer the question “what is it you want this to accomplish?” first; only then can you choose the most appropriate tool and start working.

After that, I showed a few classroom website creation tools. I discussed what I thought to be the pros and cons of each one, then showed examples. The tools I showed were:

Here are links to the slide shows I used during the presentations:

Google Drive and Calendar

Another workshop I did at the beginning of this school year covered the basics of Google Calendar and Google Drive. Our teachers have had access to Google Apps for Education since 2011, but many of them are not aware of the plethora of tools available to them. I hope to do a better job this year of making sure they know what those tools are, and how to use them.

This workshop was focused on Calendar and Drive basics: accessing them, creating a new event or document, sharing, etc. I presented a “Challenge” for each tool for teachers to try during the workshop. For Drive, I had two challenges: beginner (open and collaborate on a shared document) and advanced (create a form).

Here are my slides. I am planning Calendar and Drive follow-up sessions soon.

iPad Basics Stations

At the beginning of this school year, it was evident that teachers needed some basics skills practice, especially on their iPads. So I conducted a workshop for my colleagues about basic uses (and a few advanced tools) of the iPads. I set up these eight stations around a large classroom:

  • Warm-Up (Basics)
  • Install Apps
  • Use a QR Code
  • Connect to the Apple TV
  • Take a Picture of a Worksheet
  • Annotate on an Image (Worksheet)
  • Learn with Atomic Learning
  • Advanced App Practice

Each station had a sign so participants would know which station was which, as well as a printout of instructions. Even though I’m trying to print less, I decided to print out these pages. In the future, I plan to laminate them so I can do this workshop again and again without printing. The signs and instructions are all on this slide show.

For the most part, teachers walked through the room from station to station, and guided themselves through the activities. I roamed the room helping wherever needed.

Sometimes it’s hard to connect those teachers who need help with a tool to those who have used the tool before. One of the most successful parts of this workshop was putting a “Find Help at Roycemore” line at each station. I listed people who had used each tool before, and encouraged participants to talk to those colleagues whenever they needed help. This created some new cross-divisional connections within the building, and (bonus!) meant slightly less help requests for me.

Here is the slide show for the stations. I did not show this like a slide show; I printed and posted around the room. It just seemed easier to create it in slide format (I used Google Slides on my iPad – sweet & simple!).

Chromebook Serial Numbers and Wiping

I’m about to get somewhat technical, so bear with me… We have a cart of Samsung Series 5 Chromebooks that are now over two years old. They’re still, for the most part, going strong. They power on quickly, have great battery life, and are generally the go-to machines for the middle school kids to use for documents and research. There are, of course, a few issues we’ve experienced, and I’d like to share how I’ve worked around those. Missing Serial Numbers – For some reason, the serial number sticker has been removed from a couple of our Chromebooks. It’s not easy to find the serial number through the software, like it is with Apple devices, but it is possible: this will wipe it blah blah blah Thanks to Doug Blatti and his blog, which helped me figure out how to do this.

  1. Shut down the Chromebook.
  2. Turn on developer mode. For Samsung Series 5, you do this by using a switch on the right side, under a little plastic flap near the USB port. You’ll have to use a paperclip or other small, pointed object to toggle the switch. When it’s moved the the right, developer mode is ON.
  3. The next time you power on the Chromebook, you’ll see a sad computer face that says “Chrome OS verification is turned off. Press space to begin recovery.” This is a trick – you don’t really have to use recovery.
  4. Press Command-D, or just wait 20 seconds.
  5. Wait for it to wipe the machine. This takes about 5-10 minutes.
  6. The Chromebook will restart and return to the sad face screen. Press Command-D again.
  7. You should see the select language and wifi screen. Press Control-Alt-Right Arrow (F2). This is NOT the right arrow at the bottom of the keyboard. It’s the one at the top of the keyboard, above the numbers.
  8. Type

    and press enter.

  9. Enter the following:
    sudo dump_vpd_log --full --stdout
  10. The serial number will be listed on the first line of info returned.
  11. Record it, print it out, and attach it to the device externally so you don’t have to go through this process again! Well, until a kid removes it again…
  12. To exit the command prompt, press Control-Alt-Left Arrow (F1). Again – this is the arrow at the top of the keyboard, above the numbers.
  13. If your device was previously enrolled in your domain, you’ll have to re-enroll it. See below.

Shut it down. Switch off the developer mode switch. Turn it on. Choose the language, keyboard, and wifi network, and accept the terms. Make sure it’s Pending. Log in to a domain account. This enrolls it (if you’ve configured your devices to enroll automatically). Change the user listed on the Google Apps Admin panel. More on how to wipe the device and how to enroll (click Automatic enrollment).