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Thursday, July 28, 2016

3 Top Tips to Make Writing Exciting

Collaboration, Commenting, and a Global Audience

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Learning writing can be exciting! Kids can love writing. Now, students can easily join writing communities. After joining, students find that commenting on another student’s writing can be fun.  Teacher-librarian, Cynthia Alvarado, shows us how to make writing exciting for kids. Additionally, she’ll also teach us her tips and tricks for coaching kids to level up writing.

How to Make Writing Exciting when you teach writing
Listen to this show: BAM Radio Network | iTunes 

Today’s Sponsor: Write the World

Write the World is a fantastic free tool to encourage writing in your classroom. Not only can teachers run writing contests but they can also assign classroom writing prompts. Also, students can join the monthly contests and global writing prompts with other students around the world. Furthermore, Write the World has a schedule of their writing prompts for the year so that you can include them in your planning now.
Targeted to students aged 13-18, Write the World is a powerful, fun community for writing. Even more importantly, I took a tour of the site recently and was impressed with how easy it is to use.

Make writing exciting this year in your classroom. There’s no cost for teachers to join with their classrooms.

Given all these benefits, I recommend this site for writing teachers of students aged 13-18. So, join Write the World and get kids excited to write!

Show Notes:

  • Why is an audience essential to improving student writing?
  • Does audience impact plagiarism? In what way?
  • How do we teach students to comment meaningfully?
  • How do you avoid problems when students write together online?
  • What can you say to students help them write more?

Cynthia Alvarado’s Bio

Cynthia Alvarado is a teacher/librarian who teaches literacy and technology to elementary students in Dearborn, Michigan. Her interests include making school interesting in ways that close the gap for ELL and low-income students.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.button-itunes

The post 3 Top Tips to Make Writing Exciting appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

From http://ift.tt/2akz2jl
via Vicki Davis at coolcatteacher.com. Please also check out my show for busy teachers, Every Classroom Matters and my Free teaching tutorials on YouTube.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

6 Ways to Get the Most out of Back to School Shopping @Staples

Prepare for Back to School

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Prepare for back to school by getting the supplies (and the rewards) to help you and your classroom succeed. These tips and tricks will help you shop at my FAVORITE school supply shopping store — Staples! Get out your pencil. Follow these links and make your Staples shopping list now. Here we go.

Back to School at Staples #SchoolHappens

1. Stock Up on Essential Supplies

I’ve pictured supplies from the Staples “Less List.”  These are supplies I’m using for my Makerspace. Let’s look at some essential items.

Check out Staples’ Less List

  • Staples 1 subject notebook – 17 cents and the Staples Composition Notebook – 50 cents – I keep these so students working on projects between multiple classrooms can have a group project notebook. They share notes and findings back and forth between them. (The first notebook is only available in their store!)
  • 12″ Wood Ruler – 25 cents – As students are making, they are measuring. A lot! I keep enough for teams of two in my biggest class.
  • Crayola Crayons, 24/ box – 50 cents – These Crayola crayons are another one of those in-store deals only. Even in high school, we use crayons for drawing and making. Students can share these, so I get enough for my largest class divided by 4.
  • Staples Yellow Pencils #2, 12/pack – 75 cents – Ok, I’ll buy at least ten boxes of these! I need enough for the whole year. If a child needs a pencil, I won’t turn them away. Sometimes, parents will give me extra supplies. I’m so grateful!
  • Staples Washable Glue Sticks, 4 / pack $1 – We use glue sticks for our foam board projects. I want one per student for my largest class.
  • Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer 8+2 oz $2 – I keep hand sanitizer by the door and at the paper cutter and filing cabinet.
  • Post-It Notes, 3″ x 3 ” yellow 4/ pack $3 – I can’t keep enough Post-It notes. We use them for everything.
  • Staples School Grade 2Pocket Folder, 25/ box $4 – This deal is only online. This year, I am using these pocket folders for my students to collect the items for their student-led parent-teacher conferences. I will keep them near their file folders for them to include their best work.
  • Staples Earbuds $7 – Each of my students needs their own set of earbuds. Earbuds on their school supply list. I do this because I make lots of videos to personalize learning for my students.

Check out Staples’ Less List

2. Put Your Back to School Teacher List online at Staples

Make it simple for parents by putting your school supply list online. (use this link) Staples has linked with Teacher Lists so your parents can buy with one click of a button.

3.  Register Your Wish List on DonorsChoose.org

As part of their Staples for Students program, this past week Staples funded all public school teacher wish lists in the Dallas area. Consider going to DonorsChoose.org and registering your classroom. Many are supporting schools, teachers, and students on DonorsChoose.org.

4. Make Sure You’ve Signed up For Teacher Rewards

Staples Teacher Rewards program is awesome. You earn rewards back and extra rewards on teaching and art supplies. I keep my card in my wallet since I signed up last year. (Teacher Rewards members also get free shipping on orders over $14.99)

Sign up for Staples Teacher Rewards

5. Keep Your Receipts and use the 110% Lowest Price Guarantee

The great thing about buying at Staples is if you find a lower price either online or in another store, Staples will guarantee to give you that lower price. Here are the instructions.

6. Keep an Eye on Deals and Shop Each Week

Each week, Staples has back to school deals, so check out their weekly deals, back to school deals, and technology deals before you shop.

Good luck! We’ve got two short weeks here. I wish I was ready but I’m not. Get ready! Make your list and head to Staples.

Back to School #SchoolHappens Staples


 Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to edit and post it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.) 

The post 6 Ways to Get the Most out of Back to School Shopping @Staples appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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via Vicki Davis at coolcatteacher.com. Please also check out my show for busy teachers, Every Classroom Matters and my Free teaching tutorials on YouTube.

Friday, July 22, 2016

How to Turn off Blue Light on Your iPhone/ Ipad at Night

Keep Your Phone from Waking You Up

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Not sleeping? You might need to turn off blue light on your phone. This week, I was interviewing John Medina, author of Brain Rules, for a future episode of Every Classroom Matters. He made the offhand comment, “blue light wreaks havoc with your brain.” We’ve known this since 2006, This Psychology Today article can help explain why your teenager may be awake ALL NIGHT.

turn blue light off on your iPhone and iPad and protect your health

Thank goodness we can turn off blue light on Apple devices now. I recorded a quick video and am telling everyone I know to make sure they set their iPhones and iPads up this way — especially for kids. I turn off blue light in the evening until the morning so that if I have to look at my phone, it won’t wake me up so much.

Note that after you follow these instructions, your iPhone or iPad will have a brownish twinge to it because the blue light is turned off. You want that. It took me two days to get used to but it isn’t that big of a problem for me.

Tell all the parents you know. 😉 (They’ll thank you.)

Here’s a quick tutorial I just uploaded to YouTube.

How to Turn Blue Light Off on your iPhone or iPad by using Night Shift

Why Does Blue Light Wake You Up?

This would be a fantastic science project for kids. Here are some resources about this phenomenon:


The post How to Turn off Blue Light on Your iPhone/ Ipad at Night appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

From http://ift.tt/2a1mQ3r
via Vicki Davis at coolcatteacher.com. Please also check out my show for busy teachers, Every Classroom Matters and my Free teaching tutorials on YouTube.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Getting Started Guide to Digital Citizenship Education

How Model Teachers Model Digital Citizenship

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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A one time assembly about digital citizenship is not enough. So, Susan Bearden believes digital citizenship should be reinforced daily with kids. In light of how much work we have to do in schools, this whole-school approach brings out so many questions! How do you bring everyone together to understand digital citizenship? What is the role of schools, parents, and faculty?  In today’s show, digital citizenship expert, Susan Bearden tackles these questions and more. Moreover, she helps us figure out where to start if we’re not already doing this in our school today.

Digital Citizenship Getting Started Guide
Listen to this show: BAM Radio Network | iTunes | Stitcher

Today’s Sponsor: NetSmartz

Netsmartz is a free online training program from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. This free course is designed to help you teach the latest in internet safety and digital citizenship for your students.  It is online. Learn at your own pace. Most people can complete this course in just an hour.What is stopping you? Every school and teacher should take the time to go through the Netsmartz course this summer. Just enroll here:

It is online. Learn at your own pace. Most people can complete this course in just an hour.What is stopping you? Because it is so simple (but important), every school, teacher, and parent should take the time to go through the Netsmartz course this summer. Just enroll here: www.netsmartz.org/training.  

Check out free NetSmartz training

Show Notes:

  • What are the most common mistakes schools make about digital citizenship?
  • Whose responsibility is teaching digital citizenship?
  • How do we change student behavior?
  • How to educators deal with the drama that can accompany digital citizenship conversations?
  • What are some ways to deal with volatile issues without having to confront them head on?
  • Why do educators need to talk to kids to understand their social media world?
  • How do you make time for digital citizenship when you’re not a technology teacher?
  • What do we say when parents are angry about what schools should be teaching about digital citizenship?
  • Where should educators start when they know nothing about digital citizenship education?

Susan M. Bearden is the co-moderator of #edtechchat, cohost of edTechChat Radio and creator of @tweechmeApp. She is the author of Digital Citizenship: A Community-Based Approach, a speaker, frequent guest blogger, and a contributing author to the Huffington Post, she was ranked #9 on their list of “The 50 Most Social CIOs on Twitter.”

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.button-itunes

The post A Getting Started Guide to Digital Citizenship Education appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

From http://ift.tt/29WkHvG
via Vicki Davis at coolcatteacher.com. Please also check out my show for busy teachers, Every Classroom Matters and my Free teaching tutorials on YouTube.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

5 Steps for a Successful STEAM Lab

How to Mix Problems, Passion, and Projects to Excite Kids

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Implementing a  STEAM Lab Program can be a challenge.  (STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math.) Today’s guest, Alicia Roberts has navigated this process several times and gives us five steps to make it happen. If you’re ready to implement STEAM or if you’re doubtful, learn from someone who has successfully implemented STEAM.

5 steps for a successful STEAM lab
Listen to this show: BAM Radio Network | iTunes | Stitcher

Thank you, Wonder Workshop, Today’s Sponsor

Learn about Wonder Workshop


Last year I judged a robotics competition for Wonder Workshop. I was amazed at the incredible things students could do with Dash and Dot. Wonder Workshop robots make a fantastic addition to any STEAM Lab. Their robotics clubs make a great addition to any school.

Today’s Sponsor is Wonder Workshop: The Wonder Workshop robotics club is an excellent way to get students excited about STEAM. Sign up to start a club(They have some cool things to help you get going.)

My son loves the Dash and Dot robots from Wonder Workshop. He has been programming them over the summer as I continue to reinforce Computer Science at home. These cute robots will have a prominent place in my STEAM lab this fall.

Show Notes:

  • How do you get students and parents excited about STEM?
  • How do you “sell” STEAM to administrators?
  • What are fun STEAM activities that students love?
  • How do you implement STEAM when you have everyone on board and ready to go?
  • What is a typical 5-year implementation plan for a STEAM lab?
  • What are some measurable points to determine if your STEAM program is successful?
  • How do you get STEAM back on track when it is not working for a school?
  • What are some of the common mistakes people make when implementing STEAM labs?

Alicia Roberts @teach2inspireu is currently the Educational Technology Specialist at Paradise Valley Christian Preparatory K-12 and founder of Teach2Inspire,LLC, an educational consulting firm working with districts, schools, and teachers to support a successful implementation of Technology Instruction related to the Common Core State Standards, and Curriculum Mapping. She has worked with leaders in the industry to design workshops sharing the best free web-based education resources for K-12 educators.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above.button-itunes

The post 5 Steps for a Successful STEAM Lab appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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via Vicki Davis at coolcatteacher.com. Please also check out my show for busy teachers, Every Classroom Matters and my Free teaching tutorials on YouTube.

11 Things Students Need to Know to Be Successful

Truths for Future-Holders So We Can Hold a Brighter One

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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All software is useless if we don’t invest in the greatest software in the world… the human brain. The software within our children is the most important software being created. We can’t program it. We can’t carve it. But what we put into their minds, determines the future for all of us. But what should that be?

future holders
Today’s Global Search for Education question from CathyRubin is: “What are the important skills, behaviors, and attitudes that students need to become contributing global citizens?” See all of the answers at the Global Search for Education 

1. How to Seek and Tell the Truth

Our future-holders should be savvy, skeptical citizens. They should be able to check out the truth. And be able to tell it.

For a citizenry hell-bent on lying to itself has no hope of creating a peaceful paradise.

In his book,  How Do You Kill 11 Million People?: Why the Truth Matters More Than You Think, Andy Andrews concludes that 11 million people were killed in Nazi Germany with one simple strategy:

You lie to them.

And that is what the Nazis did. First, they moved the Jews to a particular area of town “for their safety.” Then, they had them wear a mark “for their safety.” Then, they enclosed the areas of town with razor wire, “for security.” Finally, the Jews were shipped to another place “for the good of the city.” Finally, as they had their babies ripped from their fingers and their jewelry was thrown into a pile, and they were led to the gas chamber, the truth was evident. It is too late to stand for the truth when you are being led to the gas chamber.

And even after the end of the war, many German citizens refused to believe that the concentration camps happened. The lies were so strong that the lies held good people captive in fear and ignorance.

A country hell-bent on self-deception gets the leaders they deserve. Lying leaders constantly change — chameleon wordsmiths who tell a country of desperate citizens what they want to hear.

It can’t last. Eventually, the house of cards will fall.

For justice cannot thrive where lies are the norm and truth is the exception. Truth should be cherished. The truth is the foundation of a just society.

If I have a wish for our future-holders, it is that they will hold to the truth and seek it out even when it makes them uncomfortable and goes against their traditions.

The truth may set you free, but it will probably tick you off first.

2. How to Disagree

But there’s a problem with the truth. The truth may set you free, but it will probably tick you off first. Throughout history, this has caused problems for the truth-tellers.

Scientists of old served their time, died in prison, and died paupers for speaking the truth. It still happens today. Politicizing science perpetuates errors and prohibits discourse.

Our greatness in the future will not be determined by our ability to agree but in our ability to disagree agreeably. For where two humans gather, you have differences. Differences can cause disagreement.

Even as some people are becoming more vitriolic and hateful, others are just becoming quiet. I don’t know which scares me more, idiots who tell everyone stupid things or good people who say nothing.

George Washington said,

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

May our future-holders learn to disagree agreeably but may they not take away their own freedom of speech by bowing to what they think others want them to think. May our future holders be willing to speak the truth even when that truth is unpopular and makes people angry.

-If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.-

3. How to Hate the Right Things in the Right Way

But disagreement doesn’t always have to cause hate. Hate is a like a hangman’s noose: a short trip with a long drop at the end.

The worst evil this world has known happened when hatred hung its banner high.

Unless you’re hating injustice. Unless you’re hating lies. Unless you’re hating actions that hurt the poor and oppressed. But hatred of another person or people group when perpetuated and nurtured breeds genocide, discrimination, and depreciation of the nobility of humankind.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said,

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Future-holders hate the right things in the right way. 

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

4. How to Break Out of the Echo-Chamber

Our future-holders must know how to break out of the bubble. As Facebook, Google, and other sites we use watch our behavior, they give us more of what we like. They give us less of what we don’t like. This is called the “filter bubble.” Some even blame the filter bubble with the polarization of society.

Filter bubbles hide dissent.

And those brave truth-tellers who don’t get “likes” will be doomed to anonymity as the world reacts to popular mistakes and ignores the unpopular truth. The majority might rule, but the majority can be wrong. We must intentionally seek out those who are different from us.


Future-holders find dissenting views and friends who are different from them. They know how to burst the filter bubble and hear opinions different from their own.

5. How to Shield Their Privacy

Many future-holders are stealing their own privacy. They’re giving away their most precious, private moments one snap, tweet, and pic at a time. It only takes an instant to send their most private selves into the cloud. There, other nameless faces will treat them as just another bit of naked skin.

And yet, many future-holders are blindly biting away at their privacy one bit and byte at a time.

Future-holders protect their privacy and respect that of others. They understand that some things just shouldn’t be digitized because the cloud cannot be controlled.

6. How to Know and Love People

Our future-holders already know one thing very well — how to take a selfie.  They know their best side and can snap a magazine-ready pic in their bathroom mirror in and flash.

You can look like a diva but have people happy when you leave-a. 😉

Poor manners. Rudeness. Unkindness. Disrespect. If we can’t look another human being in the eye and carry on a mutual, respectful conversation what future have we inherited?

Future-holders know how to know, love and respect people both face to face and in online spaces. 

You can look like a diva but have people happy when you leave-a.

7. How to Find Contentment

Oh, the quest for beauty! Reality doesn’t measure up to the airbrushed beauties our future-holders see in their magazines. I remember seeing Cindy Crawford on a television show. The host asked,

“How does it feel to look like Cindy Crawford?”

Cindy quipped something like,

“I don’t know. I look at magazines and think I don’t look like her either.”


Contentment doesn’t sell products. Greed does. Envy does. Dissatisfaction does. You can pursue happiness and never find it.

Oh that our future holders could learn this truth from classic beauty Audrey Hepburn,

“Happy girls are the prettiest.”

I hope our future-holders are savvy consumers. I hope they have a healthy self-image and aren’t easily manipulated. 

Happy girls are the prettiest.

8. How to Manage Their Money

Speaking of wealth, if our future-holders have learned anything, it is that many in the generation who have raised them haven’t attended to their future. Many of our future-holders will be left holding the bill. They need the will to care for aging parents.

Some future-holders may move straight from student loan payoff to parental support.

If the big-haired 80’s taught me anything, it is that all those credit cards sent to me as I graduated from college were boat anchors that I had to cut loose to sail the sea of success.

Future-holders need a cushion. Their life will be full of bubbles and busts, bulls and bears. They need to brave the storm financially. Good money management is more important than ever for this generation.

Let’s hope our future-holders are smart about paying off debt and saving money. 

9. How to Help Others

Future-holders face a needy world. The world doesn’t need more slacktivists (people who think that liking or reposting about a cause helps) but real activists who use their social media savvy and money for good.

If our world suffers from hashtag amnesia, only the socially savvy nonprofits will survive. Causes that don’t have ice bucket challenge-like movements will languish and die.

And certain things should always be remembered even without a hashtag.

  • How many homeless shelters have the time to start a hashtag?
  • How many of the poor can whip out their smartphone and talk about the lack of food and warm clothing this winter?
  • The hungry two-year-old isn’t thinking about starting a movement; she’s thinking about her next meal.

We need future-holders who can hold out their hands to those in need and not just to those holding out their hands in massive social media campaigns.

Charles Dickens said,

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”

Mahatma Gandhi said,

“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it reats its weakest members.”

Future-holders consistently remember the poor and pay attention to important causes, not just the trending cause of the moment. 

10. How to Have an Innocent Childhood

But if there’s anything that makes me truly angry, it is at the future-holders of today. Yes, I’m mad at my generation. Furious.

For in our classrooms, cribs, and bellies, our babies grow.

They see everything. They hear everything.

I’m afraid that in our desire to be entertained or be aware of the news, we’ve ripped away their shelter. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,

“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.”

We wouldn’t send a 3-year-old out in a hailstorm. But I know some who watch Game of Thrones with them!

We wouldn’t let a kid go to a cage fight. But we’ll let them watch murder, beatings, and violence as we hang out in the den at night.

We’ve ignored the need that young children have to be sheltered.

I interviewed a child trauma expert recently who told me that when young children see replays of terrorist attacks on the news, they have no concept of time. These young children think it is happening again. And again. And again.

A society that adores cruelty will find itself the victim of it.

I’m afraid we’re creating a generation either addicted or immune to violence, sex, and drama. Both options are frightening.

May those raising future-holders today protect their children. May we put their needs ahead of our wants and protect the innocence of childhood, they’ll have enough adult things to deal with when the time comes. 

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.

11. How to Be Self-Aware and Self-Motivated

If we see anything in education, it is that self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-motivation are holy grails of success. Metacognition or our ability to think about our own thinking is so important.

But I worry about the blame game.  A child cannot control her race, culture, or the affluence of her parents. Most kids can’t control the school where they go. But the question is not if injustice will happen in the lives of these future-holders but what injustice and to what extent.

But the more important question is — how will these future holders respond to hard knocks?

Henry Cloud gives a great example in his book, 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Love and Life, to help illustrate this point.

If I walk out in front of my house and get hit by a drunk driver, it is not my fault. Even if the court blames the other person for my injury,  I am responsible for my rehab. I have to struggle to learn to walk again. No one can do it for me.

Will our future-holders solve their problems or stew in them? Will they accept responsibility to make things better even if they are not to blame?

Successful future-holders regularly ask themselves “What can I do to make this situation better?” and take action.

Rethinking our Thinking

The kind of thinking that brought us to today won’t lead us to a better tomorrow.

Trying harder is not the solution when the machine is broken.

All innovation is not progress. All technology is not awesome. All futures aren’t so bright kids gotta wear shades.

Perhaps a large part of our future is to put together noble truths with leading edge learning.

I have big hopes for future-holders. For the future-holders I teach are incredible people. They are loving and hard working and unselfish. They are funny and bright and engaging. They love those who struggle and help each other when they struggle. They inspire me.

I hope to be a small part of their future success but in the end, the future is in their hands. They hold it. And what the future holds for all of us depends on if we can help them be not only good citizens but good people.

But to get there, we’ve got to care about the software that matters.

The post 11 Things Students Need to Know to Be Successful appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

From http://ift.tt/29UrxSI
via Vicki Davis at coolcatteacher.com. Please also check out my show for busy teachers, Every Classroom Matters and my Free teaching tutorials on YouTube.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

11 Essential EdTech Action Steps for Back to School

Simple Updates to Your Classroom Procedures and Workflow sponsored by EdTech Software

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Technologies can transform; even simple technologies can make a significant impact. Here are eleven of the technologies that often affect classroom procedures and workflow. Use this checklist and infographic to make sure you’ve included the edtech essentials in your workflow this year.

11 essential edtech action steps for back to school

1. Design Your Web Browser

Your start page and bookmark bar are strategic for both you and your students. Why waste it with standard Google Start Page?

Intentionally Select Your Start Page

Choose one of the four choices of start pages. Be intentional!

4 Choices for Start Pages:

  • A personal dashboard: Start.me is a service that has both free personal pages and a free start.me for your class. Netvibes will also do this. You can start with a glance at your email, your list, the news, blogs you like, and more.
  • A minimalist productivity start page. In Google Chrome, Momentum and Limitless have some cool features to help you focus. Momentum even has a simple list-building feature and link adding feature added. 
  • Links. Many teachers love Symbaloo, which gives cool icons and links. Some people like speed dial but most web browsers pull in links to pages people go to often.
  • Graphic News Reader. Newsmap is a slick news summarizing service will show you a big picture of what is happening in the world. It indexes all of the Google news for your selected country and shows with a quick glance what works. (Read more about newsmap here.)

TIP: For those who say they need the google box in the middle of the page, please remember that the address box at the top of your browser can do this. It is now called an “omnibox” which means you can type a web address or search.

Organize Your Bookmarks

Also, edit your bookmark bar. The handy icons show along the top of your web browser when you turn on bookmarks.  See my Chrome tutorial,

As you design your start page, you’re applying the mud puddle principle. Think of a toddler on the edge of a mud puddle – the closer they get to the brink, the more likely the toddler will jump in! By putting the things you want to do on your start page and bookmark, you increase your likelihood of doing them!

Back to School EdTech Action Step #1: Determine the start page for you and your students. Organize your bookmarks. Decide when you’ll teach your students how to organize theirs.

2. Mash up your textbook (or prepare to)

Lately, I have been using Shelfit software by EdTech Software. Shelfit is the future of textbooks today. As a teacher, we will soon all be mashing up our textbooks. We can add quizzes, videos, and materials right inside the textbook alongside with content. Imagine being able to add your handouts right onto the textbook page where students need them!

Try Shelfit from EdTech Software

Understand Where This is Going: Test eBook “Mashup” Software to See How It Works

So first, I do recommend that you test a textbook modification program so that you can understand what this technology means. Shelfit from EdTech Software has made it so you can check out their service now and it is one I recommend you share with your school IT departments too.

Be Strategic About How You Use Your Textbook This Year

back to school education technology

My short link and QR code note. I organize these to make it easy to pull the resources back from year to year. It will be the springboard that lets me mash up my textbooks.

After you test the software and understand where your textbooks are heading, be strategic and intentional about how you organize the textbooks you use this year.

I am keeping a copy of all resources, links, and materials on each page of the textbook and pasted in a Google Doc to make things easier to retrieve.

Procedure for link shortening and mobile sharing:

  • Copy the hyperlink for the page or lesson that relates to a particular page in my textbook.
  • Shorten the link using bit.ly. Bitly makes the link shorter (and your QR code smaller)
  • Paste the link into Kaywa – a QR code generator to make a QR code. (Just click “static” and go with the free QR code.)
  • Paste the QR code and link into Evernote or a Google Doc organized by page numbers. Print it and tape it onto the page in the textbook as well so it looks like the photo to the right.

Textbook customization is here now or just around the corner for most of us. Shelfit from EdTech Software is platform agnostic, which means that if I go in Shelfit and customize the textbook, my students can download the app and read and interact with the textbook on any device. It is available offline; everything but the YouTube videos and hyperlinks will work (those need the Internet), but all other text, comments, notes and PDF’s are available.

Back to School EdTech Action Step #2: Understand textbook customization by testing Shelfit from EdTech Software. Create a plan for how you’ll capture hyperlinks to resources for the time when you’ll be customizing your textbooks if you won’t be this year. 

Try Shelfit from EdTech Software

11 Essential Edtech Action Steps for Back to School

3. Connect Devices to the Board

Every device in the classroom should easily be able to send their screen to your projector or interactive board. There are several ways to do this:

  • Lightcast Sender. I have an InFocus Jboard, so my students use Lightcast Sender to transmit their screens to the board (it works with Chrome and Chromebooks to InFocus devices.) Many brand name projectors have such apps.
  • Chromecast lets you mirror desktops and many devices to your television or projector. All you need is Google Chrome and the Google Cast extension. For phones, you’ll want to install the Google Cast app.
  • Airplay lets you stream Apple devices to your Apple TV.
  • Miracast is called “HDMI over Wifi.” That isn’t really accurate because you don’t even need wifi. Many devices support Miracast, but Airplay and Chromecast do not support it. It is built right into many smart televisions., Android 4.2+ and Windows 8.1 and higher so you can connect Windows devices and Android smartphones to Miracast-compliant receivers. However, it just doesn’t seem to be as easy as other options. You may be using a Miracast compliant device and not know it because many manufacturers name it something else!
Back to School EdTech Action Step #3: Simply projecting any screen in the room is an essential classroom procedure. Practice doing this before school. Teach students and have each student check their devices it your first week of school. This way, you’re set up for the year. You could even have one student or two who are designated “streaming” support technicians. Don’t forget to teach them how to stop transmitting!

4. Set Link Sharing Procedures

Hyperlinks fuel much of the work in the modern classroom. Teachers and students should be able to quickly and easily share them with one another. For example, if they are sharing their screen and want to give the hyperlink to the class, they should be able to follow the procedure included in point two for link shortening and mobile sharing.

If you use QR codes, your students will need a QR code reader. (I like i-Nigma but check out my Classroom QR Code Implementation Guide for more info.)

Back to School EdTech Action Step #4: Determine the procedures for how you’ll share links in your classroom. Have students practice sending and receiving hyperlinks onto their devices as rapidly as possible. 

Try Shelfit from EdTech Software

5. Connect with Parents

Determine how you will communicate with parents. This is important because you probably don’t want to share all of those pictures and videos on social media. And not all parents are on social media. As I’ve said before, I use Bloomz for this and I’m working to make sure that all of my classes are set up properly before school starts. I also include the link to parents in their letter home. There are other systems out there. Decide what works right for you!

Back to School EdTech Action Step #5: Select your parent communication system, set it up, and include it on letters home to parents to get communication going from day one. You could also have students have the classroom job of taking pictures each week and sharing on your parent communication system. 

6. Design Your Online Classroom

As I shared at ISTE this year at the Blended Learning Panel discussion, our classrooms are built from bricks and clicks. You have a face-to-face classroom and an online classroom.

We spend a lot of time arranging furniture and on your face to face workflow. We want our classroom to be friendly. Make sure your online classroom is friendly and has flow as well.

Back to School EdTech Action Step #6: Review and add procedures to your first week lessons for your online classroom. Include: how students know what to do online, how students turn in online work, and other procedures for the online classroom. Include how to check their grades online.

Try Shelfit from EdTech Software

7. Set EdTech Class Procedures

Make sure you have the language in place use technology in your classroom.

Language for Device Use and Non-Use

  • iPads: For example, some people who use iPads will say “apples up” when they want the students to put their screens face down on the desk. 
  • Chromebooks, Laptops and Tablets: Lids up or lids down
  • Fly (Go in Airplane Mode): Sometimes you may want students to use an app or film video while not being online. Make sure students know how to put their devices in airplane mode for those times you need distraction-free filming and photography.
  • In a Computer Lab. I’m in a computer lab, so I have something I call “teaching position.” Students turn their chairs towards me, point their knees towards me, and get their notebooks out and are ready to take notes.

A simple definition for a professional workstation

Clearly defining what a great looking workstation looks like is important. Teachers of younger kids often call this “a clean desk” but I really want to focus on what it looks like when they sit down to get to work.


Have a graphic that shows what you expect workstations to look like. Here’s the one for my classroom. I made it in Powerpoint.


Back to School EdTech Action Step #7: Determine how you will ask students to use and not use their devices. What do you want note-taking and class discussions to look like? Spell out the procedures for using and not using technology. Clearly demonstrate what a professional student work area looks like.

Try Shelfit from EdTech Software

8. Set Up Social Media

Determine how you will be connecting with the world this year. Will you have a class Twitter account? A class hashtag? A class Facebook page? A private Facebook group with your students? Will you have a class Instagram account?

What platforms will you choose?

Consider at least one way that you communicate and share with the world. (See See 10 Cool Ways Teachers Use Social media to Enhance Learning )

You may not think this is important, but I’ll never forget the year I received some huge donations from a local person who watched what my class was doing on our class YouTube channel. It really does make a difference to communicate key things that are happening in your classroom.

How do you facilitate student sharing on classroom sites?

Make sure your photo policy fits with your school policy.

One way that many people like to determine what they’re going to post on social media is to have an in-class Twitter board. Students write short updates of what they learned that day and stick it on the board with Post-It notes. They may sign their own handle or just put their initials.

If older students are connecting on social media, you could have a class hashtag for Instagram or Twitter.

At the end of the day, the teacher selects the best couple of tweets and shares them out over Twitter or Instagram or whatever account the class is using. This is a great way to see what people are learning and also communicate with the world and create engagement with the world. You can also appoint a class communicator to help capture and share.

Back to School EdTech Action Step #8: Select your social media accounts. Create a graphic on your wall to help you decide what to share or appoint a student to help share content each week.

Try Shelfit from EdTech Software

9. Set Up Screencasting

Student and teachers should know how to capture both video and photos of screens with screenshots and screencast. This is something that should be second nature and easy to do. It is part of the five steps to Internet safety and is a basic safety mechanism, but it also just makes it easier to share and to communicate.

Simple Ways to Take Screenshots

  • PC –  Try the snipping tool or just press Alt+Ctrl+PrnSc and look in your picture folder.
  • Mac –  Try Command + Shift + 4 on the Mac
  • Jing – A simple free tool that does screenshots and screencasts on PC’s and Mac’s.
  • iPhone and iPad – Press the front button and power button to take a picture of your iPhone or iPad. The Apple watch is similar, just press both buttons.
  • Learn how to take screenshots on Droids and Windows phones.

Simple Ways to Screencast (with video)

  • Screencastify – Jon Bergmann demonstrated this one in our blended learning session at ISTE. Great tool for video!
  • Snagit – I’ve been using Snagit but I haven’t been able to find the extension any more on the Chrome store. (Share in the comments if you know what has happened.)
  • Screencastomatic – This simple free tool is one I use with my students. (See How to Screencast in 3 Simple Steps.)
  • Quicktime has tools built in for capturing iPhones and iPads or you can pay for a tool like Screenflow.

Students should be able to grab a picture or shoot a quick tutorial and turn it in quickly. If they have a problem with a website or on their phone, they should know how to take a picture and email it.

Sharing Video, Audio, and Photographs from Mobile Devices

If students film on personal devices, they should know how to send those files to other devices or publish them. For example, if you text or email from the mobile device, often the file is compressed and you lose quality. If a student is going to film on a drone or GoPro, I make sure they know how to download video before I allow them to use it to film. Familiarize yourself with instructions for sharing and grabbing video and photos.

Back to School EdTech Action Step #9: Students and teachers should know how to take screenshots and screencasts and publish or share them with each other and teachers. If a student is using a device, you’re empowering them when they can take a screengrab. Stock extra cables to allow students to take high-quality videos and photos off their device and train students how to properly get the video and files off the device.

10. Select Writing Tools

As I’ve shared before in 4 Writing Tips to Help the Writing Process, let technology do what it does best: proofread. Use tools like Grammarly, Pro Writing Aid and the Hemingway App to aid student writing. Help students who struggle with typing dictate in Google Docs or the microphone setting on your computer. (See the article here.)

Back to School EdTech Action Step #10: If you teach writing, educate students on how to use writing tools that will save them time. Require their use before they turn work into you.

Try Shelfit from EdTech Software

11. Start with Student Strengths

I call my classroom the Wonder Lab. I tell them my room is a place where we wonder about things and where wonderful things happen. And my students are the most wonderful part of my classroom. So, we start the beginning of the year with a simple Play-Doh project I tweaked from one by my friend Dave Burgess. I asked students to model with a Play-Doh something that’s wonderful about them that makes them unique.

Then, students take photos of that item and share it in our online classroom space. This technique does several things:

  • We immediately have a conversation about something the student loves.
  • Students take a photo.
  • Students immediately turn in their first assignment in the online classroom.
  • I have photos to share with parents demonstrating how we are talking about something they love.
Back to School EdTech Action Step #11: If you’re using technology, find a way to use the technology as you focus on your students’ strengths and interests. Use good old fashioned ice breaking with technology. 

Test Shelfit from EdTech Software

Let’s Do This!

So, there are lots of things that we can do to start our school here well. Here I just 11 action steps to be ready to use technology successfully this school year. What is missing? Please share in the comments.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it, EdTech Software, maker of Shelfit,  compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to edit and post it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.) All opinions my own and not necessarily the opinions of the sponsor.

The post 11 Essential EdTech Action Steps for Back to School appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

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