Monday, September 18, 2017

Social Studies Breakout

Melinda Bolles, Richland Middle School 8th grade Social Studies teacher is always looking for innovative ways to teach her students about history. Working with her Digital learning Specialist, Melinda created a Breakout edu session over Exploration and Colonization. “Students figured out quickly that they couldn't rely on me for the information. They had to learn it for themselves. That's kind of a big deal-they've been spoon fed in so many classes for so long that they have come to expect that teachers are the givers of the knowledge.” said Mrs. Bolles. She continued, “They are improving their critical thinking skills and realizing that the answers won’t always be right in front of them.” The breakout was a huge hit with the students and Melinda is planning on creating more sessions in the near future.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Twitter: Who Should You Follow?

Check out the TeachThought article, "50 of the Best Education Accounts on Twitter."  Some of these might be new to you.

picture by sylviaduckwirth, Flickr user

Google Forms are Magic: 4 Ways You Can Bring this Magic to Your Classroom!

As a Digital Learning Specialist/Technology coach, one of the questions I have come across is…”is there one app that can do everything?” Cue Frodo and the Ring reference now.


As one colleague, used to say, “there is no silver bullet”.  Like the mythical beauty of a Unicorn or the massive intensity of the Chimera, an app to “control all apps” simply doesn’t exist.


There are a few apps that I would consider Magic.  Magic apps, in my opinion, provide opportunities for teachers to provide better, more quality learning experiences in a less amount of time.  Magic apps are tools that cause the teacher to rethink how they teach and provide a platform for deeper student understanding.  

At face value, looking at a screen shot of Google Forms, you would say, “Great another survey tool”.  This is true, you can make a survey in Google Forms.  However, you can also create a choose your own adventure lesson, a digital BreakoutEDU, a self-grading quiz, an information database and an infinite loop that can only be escaped when you find the right answers and KNOW the content.


Here are four ideas on how you can use the Magic that is Forms.

The Loop:
 Imagine a quiz that your students take where they have to get the correct answer to move onto the next question.  The wrong answer sends them back to the beginning. If you think about how video games are laid out it is the same principle. Mario runs, Mario falls in a hole, Mario starts over at the beginning of the level.


Eventually, as a player, we learn, we figure out the path and move to the next step. Same can happen in your next assessment!

Why would I use this idea?  Students can no longer slide by with a 75...they have to get a perfect score to finish...even if it takes them 30 times!

What type of questions work with this?: Multiple Choice, Drop Down questions

Response Validation:
 Within Forms, you can set the response validation to be a specific answer.  In doing this, students will be notified with a red bar that their answer is incorrect
Forms can do that.


Why would I use this idea?  Imagine you have students doing a review at home on paper.  You need a check to make sure they did the review.  You assign a handful of questions from the review on a google form with response validation.  Students try to submit the answers, but can’t because they are wrong.  The student thinks, “mmm I should get more help because this doesn’t make sense”.  

What type of questions work with this idea?  Short answer (1-2 words/fill in the blank)

Choose Your Own Adventure:()

Remember the days of choose your own adventure books?  “If you want to fight the dragon and save the princess, go to page 56.  If you want to run away and hide, go to page 80”.  The story could be different every time.  

Using Google forms, you can create your own learning adventure that guides students depending on their answers.  What if you created an entire lesson that was a student centered adventure? Students experience learning through a path of choices through a form.
Are you up for the adventure?

What type of questions work with this idea? Multiple Choice, Drop Down, T or F, etc.

Self Grading Quiz:
Why would I use this idea? I want to collect data on my student's understanding without spending time grading my 90 exit tickets.
What type of questions work with this idea? Multiple Choice, T or F, Drop Down, etc.

Do these look interesting to you?  Curious about how you could build off these ideas?  Contact your friendly neighborhood DLS to chat about the amazing Magic that is Google Forms!


DL Underground: Episode 001: PLN and Social Media

See Video Below

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

September Sampling. Teachers, BOLDLY, take students on Book Speed Dates.

If you had walked into the library at North Richland Middle School last Friday you would have thought there was going to be a baby shower or retirement party judging from the way everything was decorated. Twenty two tables were covered in nice linens and pretty centerpieces. On each table there was a number, an assortment of books and a worksheet full of emojis.

One by one the sixth grade English teachers brought classes to the library. Upon entering, students were seated at tables much like you would in a restaurant. Some brief instructions were provided, soft music started and students began to read any book on their table and even encouraged to look at more if time allowed. Five minutes later, the music stopped, students were asked to use the score-sheet to write down the book title and circle the emoji that best describes whether or not they would "go on a second date" with their book. After marking their score sheets, students were directed to proceed to the next, numbered table, grab a seat and new book. The music began again and the process was repeated. Another layer to this activity was the short book talks some students shared with their peers. Students would stand on a step-ladder and share why they loved a particular book or author. Somehow peer recommendations mean so much more than adult recommendations when you are in middle school.  By the end of the September Sampling, students had exposure to at least 40-50 books from different genres.  Many of which, they might never have picked off the library shelves.

Book speed dating is not new to schools, teachers and librarians.  However, the level of creativity and planning these teachers took to create an entire experience is what took this lesson over the top.

In order to answer Dr. Clark's charge to irradiate illiteracy in Birdville, teachers have to be bold in the ways they reach students. NRMS English teachers and their librarian demonstrated just one way we can answer the call.  #birdvillelearns #nrmspoud #BISDbold #ELARelentless

Book Speed Dating at North Richland Middle School

Monday, September 11, 2017

Student Self-Guided Library Orientation Tour

Lori Caruthers, Haltom High School Librarian, has decided to make her annual library orientation more engaging for the students.  "I want the students to have an opportunity to spend as much time learning about sections of the library as possible," said Mrs. Caruthers. She wanted to create something similar to what you would experience in a museum.  Working with her digital learning specialist, Michael Hanson, they decided that a self-guided tour, similar to the type you would experience in a museum, would be a great solution. Mrs. Caruthers recorded herself explaining each section of the library as a separate audio file and added them to her district Schoolwires page. Students access the files by scanning QR codes with a library iPad or a personal smartphone device. Gloria K., Haltom High School Freshman, said this about the tour, "I like the way this was done much more than if she had shown us a presentation as a group. I felt I learned more and replaying the audio gave me control of the learning."

Thursday, September 7, 2017

iPad Updates - The time is now!

ipad image

Are you still swiping to unlock your iPad?  If so, you are not on the latest version of the iOS software.  iOS 10 was released last fall, but many people have still not updated their Project Innovate iPad and classroom student iPads.  It is important for you to keep your classroom technology up to date whenever possible.  

iOS 10.3.3 image from settings

At this time, please take a moment to update to iOS 10.3.3 on your Birdville ISD devices.  The update should take about 15 minutes to download and install.  If you need support with this, please reach out to your Digital Learning Specialist.

ios 11 graphic with iphone

In October, Apple will be releasing iOS 11.  When the update is released, it is usually recommended that you do not update right away.  It is best to wait until 11.1 is released if possible.

Friday, September 1, 2017

#FLIPGRIDfever, Catch It!

If you are looking for new and creative ways to get feedback and reflections from your students then you need to try FLIPGRID.

What is it? A video discussion platform being used by students and educators around the world. Topics and discussions are shared in a simple to use grid. 

The teacher account setup is quick and simple. You can get one grid for free but that gives you unlimited topics. Flipgrid works in all browsers and on any device. Best of all, you can embed your Flipgrid topics right into Canvas and Google Classroom. 

Teachers have the ability to moderate student discussions before they post to the grid and even to keep the grid private. 

Flipgrid Screenshot
Check out these examples and be sure to click on the topic links to see Flipgrid in action.

BreakoutEDU is Here!

James Paul Gee talks about how “video games are just problems that you must solve in order to win”.  What if we can take that into the classroom?  Enter BreakoutEDU!  (See James Paul Gee’s video on Videogame Learning Here)

There has been a buzz around the district about doing Breakout sessions with teachers and students.  Recently at the Admin conference, a BreakoutEDU game called “The Literacy Conundrum” was introduced.  The participants were given 30 minutes to break into the BreakoutEDU box and then solve the digital breakout to save the day.   In the end, team Cheap Trick was able to break out the fastest!   This has sparked a BreakoutEDU wave on different campuses across the district.

BreakoutEDU is a form of learning that brings the concepts of an escape room into your lessons.  For those of you not familiar with an escape room, it's a live event where you are locked in a room and using the clues around the room you have to “breakout” in a set amount of time.   BreakoutEDU took the escape room concept and modified it to be in the classroom.  Instead of breaking out of the classroom, you break into the box.  The games have creative scenarios that bring the students into the experience, providing challenges that can cause freedom from a classroom, or impact the state of the environment around them.   

The beautiful thing about BreakoutEDU is that the experience provides solid learning.  After integrating a BreakoutEDU game into an 8th-grade humanities classroom, the teacher simply looked at me and said, “this was learning at the core.  Pure, uninterrupted, learning”.  If you think about it, using a game as a medium for students to learn isn’t new or unique.  Students are participating in it all the time.  Are we as teachers willing to change our thinking to embrace what video game companies have already figured out?  

BreakoutEDU is an opportunity to take students through a different learning experience.  Instead of students listening to a teacher talk about content from a powerpoint, they are able to discover learning through play.  Students are working collaboratively to solve the puzzle that will allow them to “breakout”, but also to learn the content in a memorable way.

If you are curious about BreakoutEDU, you can check out their About page located at this link: click here
If you want to explore the HUGE database of BreakoutEDU Games already created, click here
If you are curious about the Digital BreakoutEDU games, you can click here.

Your DLS is ready and excited about bringing BreakoutEDU to your campus and classrooms.  Don’t hesitate to connect with them and talk about the potential learning experience that can be unlocked in your classrooms!

In Every Job that must be done there is an element of Fun! quote by Mary Poppins

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Create Study Groups with Slack

Slack is a free tool that allows users to create a digital workspace for groups to share information and ideas. To get started, sign up for a free account and create a Slack workspace. Next, invite members to participate in the group. Finally, let the members know you have added them to a workspace. Slack consists of several components and tools; teams, workspaces, channels, messages, and notifications. The workspace is comprised of channels and is the digital space where teammates communicate and share ideas. For more information about Slack, check out

Social Media Isn't a Fad...

"Social Media isn't a fad, it's a fundamental shift in the way we communicate."

Eric Sheninger, author of Digital Leadership, Learning Transformed, and other publications focusing on leading learning in the digital age recently tweeted this video:

A US Department of Education study revealed that online students out performed those receiving face-face instruction.  We can no longer hide from social media such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more.  Banning it from classrooms and schools will not make it go away.  Social media is here to stay (until something more disruptive takes it's place), and face it, we all use it in our personal lives daily.  We must embrace it educationally.  It is real and relevant.  It is online and engaging.  It enhances communication with students, their families, and the community.  Students need to learn to navigate and use social media tools appropriately, and schools are the best place for this to happen.

Below are some links to learn how other educators are leveraging social media and some how-to guides to get started.  Just choose one today and see the difference it can make!

Memes, Emojis, and GIFs, Oh My! Teachers Tell How They Use Social Media
Making the Case for Social Media in Schools
An Introduction to Twitter Education Chats
Education Chats
Instagram for Teachers

From, ways to use social media in the classroom:

  • Class updates posted on Twitter and Facebook
  • Student blogging
  • Connecting with other classrooms, local and around the world
  • Real-time feedback for projects
  • Student podcasting
  • Using Twitter for research
  • Getting world stats instantly
  • Student reviews and comments on articles
  • Project-based learning with use of social media

Your Digital Learning Team is here to help you get started!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Sharing the Teaching Load in BISD

Memary Pilkinton and Haley Fogarty, 4th grade teachers at The Academy at Carrie Frances Thomas, recently teamed up to teach math content...but in a very unique way.  They wanted to be able to teach math lessons to one other's classes but did not have a large enough space to accommodate all the kids. Then they discovered Skype for Business loaded on their computers.  Skype for Business allows for web conferencing between classrooms in BISD.  With Skype for Business, you are able to share your webcam image, your desktop, and more. So the two teachers connected their classrooms through Skype and Fogarty delivered the math lesson for the day for both classes at the same time.  See the video clip below!
Pilkinton says, "Having taught 4th self-contained for the first time last year, I recognized a need to collaborate with teachers who are strong in specific content. I was lucky to have teachers willing to collaborate with me through the use of technology. Using Skype for Business we are able to leverage the expertise of the teacher without disrupting their class by bringing in my class or disrupting my class by hiring a substitute while I visited another campus or teacher. I am finding this to be a great resource to assist in scaffolding my ability to teach a new subject while gaining the support from a more experienced teacher. As a kinesthetic/visual learner, I am already piecing together different ways that I can implement instruction while staying true to my desire to integrate technology into the classroom."  Soon the pair will be teaming up with Jennie Wasserman at Binion so she can show how she implements 7-up Sentences and grammar fails in Writing.

If you would like more information about connecting with other teachers around BISD, contact  your campus Digital Learning Specialist.  They would love to come work with you!


MiddleWeb: All About Teaching and Learning in Grades 4-8

MiddleWeb.Com: All About the Middle Grades

MiddleWeb All about Middle Grades website logo

Click here to access MiddleWeb, a great website/blog that is all about middle school & the middle grades — with a sharp focus on teaching and learning in grades 4-8. Find ideas, resources, blog posts, guest articles, book reviews and interviews specifically targeted to students in grades late elementary through early high school. Some great resources to check out now:
Also, check out the very timely post that relates to our Birdville Building Opportunities for Literacy Everyday (BOLD) initiative, "Why Teachers and School Librarians Should Unite!"
In the post, Rachel Grover, discusses specific ways librarians and teachers can partner to increase student achievement.
Multiple studies have shown that students who attend schools with certified school librarians achieve more than those who attend schools without librarians (AASL, 2013) - Click here to open & download the infographic
In addition to supporting and enhancing instruction across the content areas with informational texts and research databases, librarians can make the difference in the reading success of each student.
Check out this story from middle school librarian, Nora Murphy:

Soon after I became a school librarian, a teacher came to me about Mario, an eighth-grader who had never read an entire book. Mario struggled to read at all, and English was not his first language, but he was a bright kid whose teacher believed in him. I recommended a short, funny, mysterious book that appeals to reluctant boy readers. Mario took it home, read it in a week and came back with his friends in tow to check out the remaining titles in the series.
When he was ready to tackle more challenging content, I started him listening to audiobooks while following along in the text, a strategy helpful for building fluency and comprehension. Mario would come to the library even when his track was on vacation, and he'd sit for hours, headphones on, reading. Soon, he was able to transition into reading the books on his own. By the end of that one school year, Mario had read 42 books, exceeding the goal set by the state of California for eighth-graders. He was ready for high school.

Are you "Uniting With Your Librarian" - an expert teacher -  for maximum student success?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Make Learning Visual Using Clips

Clips is a new app that makes it easy to create videos you can share with students, colleagues, and the world. Create a video to quickly share an idea with animated text, graphics, and music. Or record multiple clips that explain a topic or outline steps in a process to create powerful learning opportunities. Clips for iPhone and iPad is available free on the App Store. 

A Texas teacher uses Clips to pose an essential question to her biology students as part of the inquiry learning process. She creates Clips videos, ending with a bit of mystery to pique her students’ interest.  Here are some examples on YouTube:

View the Apple support website to learn how to create your own Clips

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Shannon High School Blend Ed Camp

As a part of Shannon High School's implementation of the Blended Learning model, the students at Shannon High School are taking part in an online Blend Ed Camp. The Blend Ed Camp is the first part of a year long series of Student Digital Essentials Modules that are being delivered through the Canvas Learning Platform. The tasks in the camp were designed to help students familiarize themselves with Google Drive and Google Docs. By the end of the camp, the students can create shared Google Drive folders, complete assignments in Google Docs, and can submit assignments to their teachers in Canvas.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Welcome Back - News from the BISD Technology Department

We hope everyone had a restful summer break and that you are ready for an awesome school year!  The Technology Department wants to make you aware of some exciting changes that will be happening!

Each teacher will need to set-up the technology in their classroom. We have provided Classroom Tech Set-up Resources to guide you in this process.  Please click for the Welcome Back Technology Checklist.

Skyward logins are now the same username and password as your computer. Click this link
to access a Quick Start Guide to Skyward.
K-5:  Each school year, student computer passwords (Kinder-5th) will be reset to Bisd1234.  
At the first login to a computer, students will be prompted to create a new password for the year.
This password will need to be created before accessing district resources. The new password
must have at least 8 characters, with one capital letter, one lowercase letter, and one number.  
6 - 12:  6th-12th grade students will continue use their password from the previous school year.
If 6th-12th grade students need to reset their password, they will fill out the 6-12th Grade Student Computer Password Change Form. (
New students:
Passwords for new K-5 students will be Bisd1234
Passwords for new 6-12 students will be b(birthday)$  For example, a student born on Jan 1, 2008
would have a password of b01012008$
Please click here for more information about student usernames and passwords.

The old “BISD-Secure” wireless network is being decommissioned. We will now be utilizing the newer “BISD 5G” and “BISD” networks. Windows computers should automatically be updated to point to the newer networks. On mobile devices such as cellular phones and iPads, you will need to manually add either the “BISD 5G” or “BISD” network, choose BISD 5G first, if it is available (it’s the fastest!). If you need help connecting to the new networks or just need more information about the change, take a look at our Knowledge Base article WiFi BISD5G.


The new single sign-on portal is COMING SOON! Our new single sign-on portal will be
accessible at This portal will allow you to sign in once and access many online resources without having to login to those individual applications - less passwords to remember! We will have several programs in the portal available for use in the next few weeks,
with even more being added throughout the year.

BISD Technology Department strives to support all staff in the efficient and effective use of technology.  Please visit the BISD Technology Knowledge Base to access helpful information  
and how-to instructions for support, setup, and the use of technology.  If you are unable to find a solution in the knowledge base, please submit a helpdesk ticket.
Helpful hint: Bookmark this link on your Chrome Browser Bookmarks Bar!