Charlotte's Web ThingLink

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Digital Citizenship with an EduWin from Elise Plutt

While the official Digital Citizenship Week was last week,  as our students begin to learn their way around tech, there are lessons that go hand-in-hand with their new environment. Students need to learn to respect themselves and others, how to protect their privacy and the privacy of others, and how to connect to and communicate with others.  There are many different websites and services that provide lessons for digital citizenship, but the one most educators prefer is Common Sense Media.

I first learned about Common Sense Media as a parent. It provides ratings on movies, books, games, and apps. I always appreciated their take on "good for ages...." and the ability for me to use the sliding age range to help narrow my search. Each year, right before the gift-giving holidays, I'd share their information with my students' parents who look for guidance when exposing their students to media.

As an educator, I found the Common Sense Media Digital Passport lessons fun and engaging for students. Geared to students beginning at about third grade, it is easy to enroll students, assign modules, and then track student progress. 

Elise Plutt, a third grade teacher from Guadalupe, wrote, "I was able to create an account, and then sign my kids up for the Digital Passport. That then gives them access to 5 different games to teach various lessons about being a good "digital citizen." i.e. lesson on cyberbullying, oversharing information online and even a game to teach how to search things with effective keywords and how to cite sources when using images. You can enable or disable games depending on what you think is appropriate for your kids to learn about. For example, I disabled the game about cell phones and texting. "

Each of the modules are Common Core aligned, come with a teacher-led lesson to introduce the topic, and a Family Tips sheet to send or e-mail home. Click here for the Educator Handbook to get started.

Another resource I used that is more teacher directed can be found in Common Sense Education. You will need to register with the site as a teacher at your school. Once you do that you will have access to lessons that range from K-2 through high school. Topics as early as K-2 include Internet Safety and Privacy & Security. 

As teachers, parents, and responsible adults, we naturally try to teach children to be kind to each other in our classrooms, homes, and on the playgrounds. It is now equally important for us to pass on these social norms for online behavior. Common Sense Media helps us by providing the tools to do just that.

If you or one of your colleagues are doing something in your class that uses edtech tools, please let me know. I'd love to share it with other teachers.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

EduWin from Pamela Rissman and Christy Mills - Hour of Code is Coming

EduWin from Pamela Rissman, Elise Plutt and Christy Mills

Over the past week, I've gotten a few e-mails from teachers who are planning ahead for the Hour of Code.  The Hour of Code began last year as a way to raise interest and awareness of coding in schools. 

Pamela Rissman, from Dartmouth, was one of the teachers contacting me. She wrote, "As we lead up to December 8 -14, you might want to promote Hour of Code.  Last year, at Dartmouth, we had all math teachers doing this during one period during that week. Here's the website that teachers want to review to determine the best level for their students."

One of Elise Plutt's parents, advocated for the Hour of Code. In an e-mail, he wrote, "I spent 100's of hours coding as a young teen back in the 80's and it's been an invaluable foundation throughout my life. "

Christy Mills' 5th grade students participated in the Hour of Code last year. Watch a short video on what happened when Christy introduced the Hour of Code to her students last year.

Last year, my third grade students participated in the Hour of Code. We started out on the Hour of Code website. I had looked at the first three lessons, but some students were beyond that before the end of our 30 minutes computer lab session. Students who moved ahead quickly were happy to share what they were learning with the other students in the class, while I helped those students who were having challenges. Some students went home and worked through the ten lessons. At the end, they can print a certificate of achievement. The parent of one of my students encouraged her son's interest in coding and Santa brought that student a programmable toy for Christmas. Before the school year was up, Andrew had the toy traveling around the house, with notes requesting a drink sent to the kitchen, and the toy returning the drink to him.

Whether your students are middle schoolers or Kindergartners, whether you have Macs, Chromebooks, thin clients, or iPads, your students can participate in the Hour of Code. Aside from the Hour of Code website and apps, there are a number of coding websites and apps . Primary students might start with the Daisy the Dino app, available for iPads and Android devices. For older students, Tynker and Hopscotch also use building blocks to program commands for students. 

While some coding apps and sites have a license cost, most offer Hour of Code activities for free.

Here is a list of fifty coding tools you can use or pass onto parents to teach kids to code.

As Andrew said in his e-mail, "Here is a great opportunity to get students introduced to coding. No experience necessary." But, if you'd like help getting started, or planning to get started, please let us know.

Thanks to Pamela, Elise, and Christy for sharing enthusiasm for the Hour of Code. If you or one of your colleagues are doing something in your class that uses edtech tools, please let me know. I'd love to share it with other teachers.

Friday, October 17, 2014

BrainPOP/Google Classroom Update/EduWin from Jenny Torres and Diane Nunes

Kids love BrainPOP, and so do teachers. It is so easy to search for a video to augment a lesson and its engaging content and delivery make it a sure bet students will be listening. But there's more to BrainPOP than Tim and Moby.

BrainPOP has aligned all their videos with the Common Core standards. It is easy to search through and find video and resources to enhance a lesson.

BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr's resources include lesson plans, graphic organizers, and short response questions.

As a third grade teacher, I often found that our topics bridged both BrainPOP Jr and BrainPOP. My students always loved the the BellyUp comic and Pop a Joke features at the end of every video. Those were the rewards for having completed the Quiz. They were always disappointed to not have a comic at the end of BrainPOP videos. I hadn't realized it was hiding in the FYI tab. 

BrainPOP also offers game-based learning. In BrainPOP, Game Up is designed with upper elementary and middle school students in mind and are meant to be completed in one class period. You can search through Game Up's catalog of science, health, math, and social studies games to find the one that aligns with your curriculum. You can introduce it as an activity for the whole class, or make it a differentiating activity, having students who complete their work have another aligned activity to keep them learning.

BrainPOP Jr also has game-based learning activities. You can find them by clicking "Game Up" on the home page.

Did you realize that the Union School District has purchased a 24/7 license for both BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. that can be accessed from home? This means that you can "flip" a topic by assigning a BrainPOP video for homework. Students use the same username and password as teachers do to access either program. You can then have them take the quiz, and have the scores e-mailed to you. Just be aware that if you ask your students to e-mail their results, they won't be able to see their score until after the e-mail is sent. You might like to ask them to view the results and teach them to make a screenshot. Use Command + shift + 4 on an Apple computer, and control and the key that looks like pages above the 6, on a Chromebook. That screenshot can then be e-mailed to you.

Also, did you know that BrainPOP has a feature that allows you to "Mix" quizzes, assign them to students, and then track individual student progress? Watch this recording of a webinar to learn more about My BrainPOP. While our license covers this premium feature some additional set-up is required by site level. Please let us know and Ed Services can facilitate setting this up if you think you'd find this feature useful.

A final bit of fun is embedding the Movie of the Day or the Pop a Joke of the Day into your webpage or blog. I embedded the Pop a Joke into my KidBlog last year. That was one way to get kids to go to it.  You can find the code for BrainPOP Jr at You'll need to request the code for BrainPOP's Featured Movie. You can submit your request here:

Update on Google Classroom

A number of teachers have begun using Google Classroom to push assignments to their students and to streamline student submission of the assignments. Your grade-level tech may be introducing you to it on the next PD day so I won't go into it here. However, for those of you who have begun using it, Google just pushed out a number of features in its update. Learn more about it here.

Make sure you continue to use the Suggestions button in the lower right corner of your Google Classroom page. Word is, they are listening, and trying to develop the tools to make it a useful and intuitive tool for teachers to use.


This week's EduWin goes to the Jenny Torres and Diane Nunes at Lietz. Faced with an increasing demand for computers in classrooms, they have developed a school-wide Google calendar that all teachers have access to to reserve a laptop or Chromebook cart for their classroom. They find the carts are pretty much always in use, and this give teachers the chance to plan their lessons around having technology resources.

Jenny wrote, "We realized that if staff has access to view calendars they will also be able to book any appointments without needing to be invited.  If they book an appointment, all they have to do is choose appt time they want and save.  It automatically saves to our calendar as well as theirs.  On our calendar it reflects their name.   IMPORTANT..if they need to cancel appointment they will need to email their administrator.  While you can cancel appointments on your calendar, but it will not cancel on the appointment calendar.  Only the admin can cancel appointments on the appointment calendar."

Jenny is happy to share the directions with any staff or teacher who might find it useful. You can e-mail her or Diane.

If you or one of your colleagues are doing something in your class that uses edtech tools, please let me know. I'd love to share it with other teachers.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Want Apps? Find Out How to Get Them Here

Have iPads in your class and wonder what the procedure is for getting apps? Regardless of whether you earned an iPad from an Academy, or were given it by your school site, here's how:

If the iPad is primarily a teacher tool, you are asked to use the USD-Staff wifi network. The District also asks that you use the iTunes/iCloud account created with your USD username when downloading free apps. If there is a paid-app that is work-related, let your administrator know its name and cost. When they approve the app for purchase, they will let the Tech Department know. We'll purchase the app through Apple's Voucher Purchase Program. Then, we'll install the app.

For student iPads, please use the USD-Student wifi network. Each site has an Apple iTunes account for installing apps. You are asked to use it when you'd like to install free apps on to the student iPads. Your site administrator or secretary should have the username and password for you. Alternatively, you can set up each of the student iPads with your iCloud account. Any apps you install will be available on any of the iPads signed into that account.

If there is a paid-app you would like to purchase, first talk to your grade-level colleagues. Apple has a Volume Purchase Program with a twenty license discount. Unlike your personal iOS devices, we'll need to buy a license for each device you would like the paid app on. Let your administrator know the app's name, cost, and the number of licenses your grade level would like to buy. When your principal approves the app for purchase, (s)he will let the Tech Department know. We'll purchase the app through the Apple's Volume Purchase Program. Then, we'll install the app.

From time to time, a paid-app is free for a day (or maybe a few). I try to keep my eye open for them using the Apps Gone Free iPad app, or the website Apple Sliced. If I find one I think teachers might be interested, I will tweet it and you'll find it in my Twitter stream in the right-hand navigation bar. However, you might enjoy keeping an eye out for them yourself.


This week's EduWin goes to all the teachers who are welcoming tech into their classes and learning how to use it along with their students. This is a huge shift in how we have viewed ourselves as teachers and educators for a long time. We have felt that we needed to/were expected to know all the answers. The shift to using technology is a little scary since students take to it so naturally and their knowledge quickly surpasses ours. As I visit classes, I am proud to work with such a wonderful group of flexible thinking and risk-taking educators. Thank you.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Digital Portfolios for Students in Google Drive/EduWins

I got an e-mail from a teacher early this week. Her student had opened up her Google Drive and documents the teacher had seen in Drive on Friday had disappeared. "What happened to them?" A little of investigation of the Revision History showed that the student, in her zeal to clear out her third grade work, had put the documents in the trash, and then emptied the trash.

While I completely understand wanting to clean out files from time to time, there has long been discussion in educational circles about the value of a digital portfolio. Digital portfolios, unlike paper notebooks, give the student and parents an opportunity to watch the growth of a student's skills through the school year and over the school years. How many of you have enjoyed coming across something you or your child wrote years ago? These gems give such a wonderful glimpse back into what the author was interested in and what might have been happening at the time.

At Alta Vista, fifth grade teachers have included a file of K-5th grade District writing assessments with a student's final elementary school report card. Now, think of including projects and other student created work in a folder that follows them through eighth grade. Students have been assigned a username that begins with the year they will leave middle school. The implication is that they will have access to their work throughout the years. As I have visited third grade classes over the past month, students have created a 2014-15 folder to store their work in. My hope is that they will keep file of their best work, kind of like a learning diary.

Lucky for us, Google Drive not only stores files created in Google, it is also a great depository for photos students take as part of a project, or photos of student art work. Videos, audio files, PDFs, MS Office documents - these are just a few of the kinds of files a student can store in Google Drive. Some apps even give you the opportunity to upload directly to Google Drive.

And this week, Google announced virtually unlimited storage for Google Apps for Education accounts coming this fall. Teaching a student to organize their files gives them a valuable skill. Helping them to appreciate where they've come from and how far is also a great gift. My hope is that with storing learning in Google Drive, that your students will have both.

This week's EduWin goes to all the teachers who have helped make the MacBook Air distribution go so smoothy. A big thank you from the Tech Department to all of you who have used the Welcome to MacBook Air website and been able to do things you didn't realize you could. I love getting e-mails from teachers who are so excited that they have figured out how to (for example) connect their printer. Well done!

A second EduWin has come to USD middle schools in the form of an article about Project Lead the Way which appeared in this week's news. Read it here

If you or one of your colleagues are doing something in your class that uses edtech tools, please let me know. I'd love to share it with other teachers.