Day of Discovery with Discovery Education

In my new position this year as an Instructional Technology Specialist, I have had a lot of opportunities to continue my professional development in different ways. Even though I might not be able to directly implement new tools or strategies with my own group of students, I want to make sure that I am a helpful resource for the teachers and staff members I work with so that they feel more comfortable trying something new.

Last week, I was able to attend a Day of Discovery put on  by Discovery Education at our local Region 10 Education Service Center. I heard that they come to do similar events every year, but unfortunately as a classroom teacher it was hard to secure and plan for a sub on a Friday in October. So I was happy to attend, take notes, and try out some of their new tools and ideas so that I could share them with other teachers who weren’t able to be there in person. I loved Discovery Education as a middle school science teacher, and my current district has subscriptions to the Science TechBook. Streaming was nice, but the TechBook includes virtual labs, interactive reading texts, and assessment pieces I was able to assign to my students.

Some of the highlights of my day included:

– Learning to better search and filter results in the Streaming section. I knew about their videos and high quality images, but I was surprised to see the library also included a lot of content-based songs that included printed lyrics for use in lessons.

– The new Board Builder tool which allows students and teachers to create multimedia digital posters (think Glogster-style), within the Discovery Education site with the ability to link streaming content and personal uploads. I sat in on one session where I had work-time to create my own Board, which I plan to use to help share information about DE features.

– Applying to become part of the DEN Star program – a network of educators that connect and help one another as they use Discovery Education.

The event was free and was a great opportunity to DISCOVER (haha – I crack myself up) better ways to use a piece of technology that my district already has. If your district uses Discovery Ed, I would recommend that you attend a similar event if you can.


Summertime and Changes!

So the spring and end of the school year were super busy, as they always seem to be. I fell behind on blogging, but here I am again. Highlights of some exciting things that have been happening lately…

– My Genius Hour presentation at the Region 10 Digital Fluency Conference went great! I was a little nervous when my session room was filled to the brim, but so excited when I found out most of my audience was classroom teachers. Even though I was sure everyone would already know about all of my ideas and cool discoveries – but I found out I was definitely able to share some new information. And my audience was able to share and teach me some new things, so I would call the day a success. If you’d like to view my presentation, click here.

– The school year ended, and I finished my 4th year as a classroom teacher. I enjoyed trying things out at a new campus in a new district this year, and I loved meeting a new group of kids. My experiences will be very different next year, however, as I will be moving into a full-time position as an instructional technology specialist. I will be housed in my district’s professional development center, and I will  regularly go out to junior high campuses to help support teachers. I think my new position will be rewarding and challenging, but very different from what I have been used to before.

– Right now, even though I have only been out of school for 4 days,  I am currently back at it and attending the Ed Tech Team Texas Google Apps for Education Summit. For 2 days, I have been learning  and practicing all kinds of interesting things about Google. Some of my favorite presentations so far have been on maximizing the benefits from Google Chrome and student ePortfolios – I’ll make sure to share some notes and cool ideas after the conference.

I also hope to get some time this summer to decompress, research some new tools, and enjoy time with my daughter before she starts kindergarten. Hope you are able to enjoy your break, too!

Tips and Tricks for Google Apps for Education

One of the things that I am asked to help teachers and students with most is Google Apps for Education (GAFE). I am proud to be part of a district that is utilizing this tool, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about how powerful it is. It can also sometimes seem overwhelming to new users, and with features being added all the time, I am constantly learning and trying new things, too.

Below are a few of my favorite resources for users of all levels on how to make Google Apps for Education work for you. The tutorials and help sections straight from Google are extremely helpful, but sometimes it’s nice to have information in multiple formats/styles. Please let me know if you’ve got others that I can share with my teachers!

RISD Google Apps Training – specifically designed for Richardson ISD, but lots of good information

100 Important Google Drive Tips for Teachers and Students and Google Drive Video Tutorials – from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning

GoogleDrive Blog

Google Tutorials – from Richard Byrne: Free Technology for Teachers

Beginner and Intermediate Webinars for GAFE – From ESU 5 Technology Integration


Free! Region 10 Digital Fluency Conference – May 6th : EDIT

EDIT: Unfortunately, registration for the conference has filled and closed. If you’d like to check out the online schedule, I know many presenters will be sharing links to their information after their presentations. You can find the schedule here: Region 10 Digital Fluency Conference Schedule

Also, make sure you follow @R10Tech on Twitter to get the latest news on what’s happening in the North Texas area. 

With STAAR testing prep, meetings, and my own daughter registering to enter Kindergarten next year, I have not been very active here on my blog. I am working to set up a schedule to help keep that from happening again, so you should be able to check back in here regularly to find some new resources, ideas, and events.

For anyone near to the Dallas area, I wanted to let you know about our Region 10 Educational Service Center’s annual Digital Fluency Conference coming up on Tuesday, May 6th. The conference is completely free, and it will be a great opportunity to hear from teachers, educational leaders, and students (yes!) about how technology is changing the way that learning takes place in our schools. I’m excited to attend sessions, but I will also actually be presenting for the first time on my own! I’ll be sharing my ideas and experiences with incorporating Genius Hour into my science classroom and how Google Apps for Education can help the process run smoothly.

I know I mentioned that the conference is FREE, and you can earn CPE credits by attending. There will be door prizes, networking opportunities, and some awesome local food trucks to enjoy. (like Jack’s Chowhound, Easy Slider, and Mo’Jo A Go-Go)

Click HERE to register. If you’d like to view the conference schedule or get more information, visit the conference webpage HERE.

Haiku Deck – Presentations in a New Way

The Power of Images in Teaching and Learning

I first learned about Haiku Deck from some of my PLN members on Twitter. I know that all teachers are familiar with Powerpoint and Keynote for presentations, but I like to explore new options and see what is out there.

At first glance, Haiku Deck seems like a pretty standard presentation platform. There is an app version for iPads and a web-based version for creating products on your computer. The presentations are broken down into slide form, which can be play automatically or clicked through at your own pace. However, the company really focuses on helping people develop creative, visually appealing presentations that will engage audiences in new ways.  Haiku Deck encourages you to make images – not bullet points and mountains of text –  the focal point of your work. They even limit the amount of text that you can put on a single slide to make sure that users do not overwhelm their audience.

We’ve all sat through professional development sessions where people have literally read text aloud from a standard Powerpoint template. And as teachers, most of us have probably used them for students to copy notes or complete study guides. But if you really want your audience to LISTEN to what you are saying and THINK about the topic at hand, Haiku Deck can be a really beautiful option to harness the power of imagery.

Here are a few other awesome examples Haiku Deck. Check out their galleries to see how others are using this product in education, social media, business,travel,  and other fields.

Ten Tips to Transform your Presentations the Haiku Deck Way

Step Away from the Bullet Points by Dr. Brian Housand (hosted on SlideShare)

Recap of ITIC

Last week, I posted about attending the Instructional Technology Integration Conference (ITIC) that my district has put on for the last three years. I got to hear some great presentations, and I actually co-presented a session on assessing student understanding with another teacher from my campus. I was a little bit nervous to present before even having the chance to attend the conference first, but I think that all went well. I feel hopeful that I shared some new tools like ThatQuiz, Padlet, and Today’s Meet with teachers and school leaders from my area. I have to remember that technology integration is part of my daily job, so I get the opportunity to read blogs and Twitter feeds and play around with these types of things regularly. Just because I’ve heard of something before doesn’t mean that everyone else has – and I think everyone can put their own spin on new ways you might be to use an existing technology.

Outside of my presentation, I really enjoyed the sessions by Tammy Worcester Tang. In Beyond Copy and Paste, she gave great quick tutorials on tons of different Web 2.0 tools and linked them to ideas and assignments that could be implemented in the classroom right away. During her Go Paperless talk, she highlighted the use of Google Forms as a teacher dropbox to collect URLs of student work for easy grading. Beyond submitting separate URLs for each assignment, students could also keep a running portfolio of their work in Google Drive and send the teacher a link to access that living document throughout the year. I especially love this idea for my Science classes. Instead of lugging around crates of spiral notebooks to grade at the end of each unit, I could just peek into a student’s digital journal to look at all of their notes, photos of their lab observations, and other creations.

I’ve heard other good feedback from the conference, and I found some new, active people to follow on Twitter. I’ll definitely make plans to attend (and present!) again next year.