Monday, October 16, 2017

Digital Citizenship: Ethics and Empathy

When students connect with each other from a distance or through a screen name, it can affect the way they behave. For example, their actions can feel removed from consequences or free from discovery. When people are anonymous, it's easier to behave irresponsibly, cruelly, or unethically. Others may simply misinterpret the tone and context of messages or posts. Kids need a code of conduct for using the Internet and mobile media just as they need a code of conduct in the offline world. They should be empowered to be good digital citizens, in addition to being good citizens in general.

Why Teach It?
To help your students …
  • recognize that different audiences require different types of communication and online etiquette;
  • develop constructive solutions to online interpersonal dilemmas that exemplify ethical behavior;
  • and imagine the motivations, feelings, and intentions of others as they relate to a variety of online exchanges.

Anything your students say or do with their phones or through quick messages may seem to disappear when the devices shut down, but the impact on others remains -- whether good or bad. As a teacher, you can help guide your students to think critically about different forms and norms of digital communication. Guide them to choose their words wisely. For Ethics and Empathy Lessons to use with your students click here.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Personalizing The Great Gatsby

Students at Shannon High School are learning which Great Gatsby character they are most alike. It is the mastermind of their ELA teacher, John Shaddox. “My goal is to make the story more relatable to my students by personalizing the reading experience. I found a great site called Pollsnack that allows the students to take a quiz and get a score that translates to each personality trait,” said Mr. Shaddox. PollSnack is an easy online tool for polls & surveys that allows you to create and conduct questionnaires. The results can be displayed in real-time and the results can be downloaded to a CSV file. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Breakout EDU Takes Fractions to a Whole new Level!

Jennifer Moreau's 6th grade students are learning about fractions in a whole new way.  That's because their teacher has created a Digital Breakout Edu lesson. Breakout Edu is a strategy that allows for the facilitation of activities where students use teamwork and critical thinking to solve a series of challenging puzzles in order to open a series of locked objects.  Mrs. Moreau's lesson covers fractions and the assignment is to figure out how much of each ingredient would be needed to make a double batch of chocolate chip cookies. "The students are 100% engaged and are enjoying what they were doing. I'm planning on creating more breakout edu sessions in the future." -Jennifer Moreau 
Check out a video of the lesson here

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Cumulative Vocabulary Practice with Quizlet

Judy Cassady, Walker Creek 5th Grade Reading teacher, is using to create an ongoing vocabulary review for Reading Academic vocabulary.  Each six weeks she will add important vocabulary words from the curriculum.  Students will always have an interactive cumulative review available.  This aligns with the BISD Tier 1 priorities in language arts.

Students enjoy the interactive elements of Quizlet.  The match game was a big hit, with students trying to match the terms with the definitions in the least amount of time.  The link to the Quizlet has been shared with students in Google Classroom so they can easily access it at any time.  The Quizlet deck is also available by scanning a QR code in the classroom, which was also sent home in a note to parents.

Friday, September 29, 2017

So you have 5 Chromebooks: PERFECT! Try Flipping your Classroom

So you are a classroom teacher, well into your teaching routine, master of your curriculum.  Your class is popular with students, they are coming into your classes down and leaving inspired, ready to conquer the world.   You have your plans that you tweak each year but, in total, remain relatively unchanged.

Enter your campus Digital Learning Specialist.
Here they come, into your classroom and say, “today is an exciting day!  You get 5 Chromebooks for your classroom!”

Sound familiar?

How did you respond with the outpouring of technological potential?
Were you like a child on Christmas, opening the coveted present from Santa?

Or like Indiana Jones, carefully moving the devices as to not trip the booby trap that will cause the classroom to fill with water.


No matter how you did respond, one integral piece of information was clear. Your classroom was never going to be the same.

For some, those Chromebooks have been a blessing of the instructional challenge. Your thinking moved from "what I have always done" to an exciting "What if". For others, you have carefully hidden those devices in a special place so that they don't jump out and scare you during your lecture. Your DLS is always sending resources and blogs (like this one here) about how those devices can "make learning better" or even "make your life easier".

The overall question though is "what are ways I can implement these devices in an effective way to impact my student's learning?"

The concept of flipping your classroom is defined in the article "Flipping Learning in Senior Mathematics" from Teacher Magazine: students spend their normal ‘homework’ time learning about new concepts, freeing up class time to practice and apply what they’ve learned with face-to-face support from their teacher and peers."

So let's break this down into simple terms:
Image of students and teachers talking about what a flipped classroom looks like.  Homework will be a video and class time will be projects based on the video.

The example above is a severely simplified explanation of what a flipped classroom looks like.  From the student's perspective, homework has a time limit.  The teacher is taking the lesson they would have delivered in class, making it condensed and digital. 

What does this do for the learners?
-Classtime is now devoted to their mastery of the content, not the lecture/lesson of the teacher.
-Greater opportunity for differentiation now exists because time is opening up.
-A workshop model can be implemented easier into a classroom with limited devices because projects/stations can be created around the flipped lesson the night before. 

George Couros was quoted on the Bam Radio Network saying, "Should we be a sage on the stage, or the guide on the side, or the architect of learning?  The answer is that teachers should be all of those.  The art of teaching is figuring out when you should be which one."

Flipping is not going to answer all of your teaching challenges, but it can provide more opportunities for learning than you previously had before.  

Let's look into the "How" of a flipped classroom.


In order to flip your classroom, you can be a big budget director or a local video maker, it’s up to you.  Here are a few tool options for flipping your classroom:

  1. Your Project Innovate iPad:  With the update of iOS 11, your iPad has the ability to do a screen recording.  So you can create your videos right on your iPad (using google slides or docs to show information).  The OTHER option with your iPad uses the camera as a visualizer and record yourself doing the lesson on paper.  iMovie is also standard on your iPad, so you can edit your video right on the same device and publish a neat product.

  1.   Screencast-o-Matic:  This tool is great for exactly what its name does.  Screencasting.  Recording your screen while you talk over it provides a clear way to make a video of your text, images, notes, without getting overly technical on the production.  This is either a web-based recorder or a download.  Plus the premium version is only $15 a year which gives you some editing opportunities.

  2. Camtasia: Camtasia is another screencasting, video creation tool.  This one is much more expensive, but you get what you pay for.  This is especially valuable if you want to venture into adding music and other neat tricks to your videos.
  3.  Desktop iMovie: For the Mac user out there iMovie is your one stop shop for video creation and editing.  You can record, edit and publish videos from iMovie. (This is similar to iMovie on your iPad which can do almost all of the same tricks!)


Socrates is quoted saying "the secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new."  When you choose to move in this direction, there will be growing pains, technological challenges, and failures along the way.  But what better way for you to learn a new skill and practice, while modeling authentic learning to your students, through this innovative change.

To get a better grasp on planning a flipped classroom, check out this video by Sprouts called "The Flipped Classroom Model" 

Now for our district, the digital divide exists. Not every student has access to internet at home, or a device that could allow for them to watch the videos you curate or create. Jon Bergman is an educator who has been a pioneer in the area of flipped learning and has a great video on "How to Flip Your Class for Students with Little Access". In the video, he provides differet ideas and tools to help you flip your class, even if students don't have digital access.


In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin writes, “The only purpose of starting is to finish, and while the projects we do are never really finished, they must ship.  Shipping means hitting the publish button on your blog, showing a presentation...answering the phone...Shipping is the collision between your work and the outside world” (page 103).

Publish your flipped lesson.  It’s not going to look good in the beginning, but the important part is getting the video to your students so they can start to understand the concepts you are guiding them through.  The videos will improve over time with practice, but the most important part is not to wait until they are perfect, learn as you go!

Please let your friendly neighborhood DLS know if you would like more help on flipping your class!


Godin, S. (2010). Linchpin: Are you indispensable?; how to drive your career and create a remarkable future. Piatkus.
How to Flip Your Class for Students with Little Access. (2016, August 19). Retrieved from

Flipping learning in senior mathematics. (2017, August 15). Retrieved from

The Flipped Classroom Model. (2015, September 28). Retrieved from

DL Underground Episode 002: Tools for Building your PLN

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Shannon HS Teacher Gamifying Science with Classcraft

Cliff Moran is using and gamification with his science students at Shannon HS! What is Gamification you ask? It is the process of taking something that already exists--a website, an enterprise application, an online community and integrating game mechanics into it to motivate participation, engagement, and loyalty. Once everything is set up, teachers can use Classcraft not only to encourage accountability among students, but also increase collaboration. The students' teams give them many opportunities to use collaborative powers and support one another. Teachers can use teams for in-class assignments (or quests) to increase a sense of belonging. Classcraft also allows parents to have accounts so they can keep an eye on their child's performance. "I build learning quests where my students can gain points by accomplishing their work. This allows them to level up and add gear to their avatar. The students really seem to enjoy it." -Mr. Moran 

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 eradicate 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!