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CREATE! Conference

This week, I’ll be presenting at the CREATE! Conference at Anthony Wayne High School.  My topic will be using and evaluating Google Chrome Apps and Extensions.

Presenting is always a wonderful experience and an honor to share any information that I have that may help others.  When preparing to present, I always ask the following, “How will this information impact students?”  I believe that everything we do should benefit students in some way.  That could be making a teacher’s task to organize and present lessons easier and less time consuming, allowing a teacher to aggregate data quickly or making evaluations more meaningful.

Utilizing apps and extensions in the Google Chrome browser and on a Chromebook will allow for greater emphasis on student creation, research simplification and more meaningful evaluation.  There are so many options to choose from, it is difficult to sometimes find just what one is looking for.  Everyone has a favorite or useful choice.  My presentation for the conference is below.

CREATE! Conference Emaze Conference Presentation

Google Apps I like:

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Google Extensions I like:

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Do Kids Even Color With REAL Crayons Anymore?

I know that my job is to coach teachers to weave digital content into their lessons and to think forward to blended learning and online learning, but where are the crayons??  I walked into a 1st grade classroom the other day and saw something like this:

grigc30002_gall3Part of me what excited by the seemless use of technology and the way the teacher had integrated the app into the content of the lesson.  The girl was extending the story from the small group and would add her picture to another project.  All in all, a great use of the technology.

However, there was another part of me that wanted to know where the crayons were.  No, the REAL crayons and paper.  The ones that kids used to eat and had the distinctive smell.  Those crayons.  Now, there were crayons in the room.  I could tell by the artwork on the walls that the kids had used them.  But how often?

The question here is, “Does it matter?”  Hmmm.

From a pedagogy standpoint, I suppose it doesn’t.  Standards about setting, sequencing and comprehension don’t state that one form of showing understanding is better than another, but I wonder.

Next question, “Why do kids color?”  Well, I suppose to have fun, but I found some interesting articles related to this.

What’s Wrong with Coloring Books?

Why Do We Color?

To summarize these articles, coloring books are not bad – unless they’re overused to keep kids quiet and entertained.  Kids learn fine motor skills, creativity (although staying in the lines is questionable), color mixing, spatial understanding and more.  Can the same be learned by coloring on a tablet as with paper and crayon?

Back to the artwork on the walls.  There is something nostalgic about hanging a kids artwork on the wall, refrigerator or door.  It just means something – at least to me.  I grew up with these things.  Today, kids are just as likely to take a picture with mom or dad’s phone and keep it in an electronic album and then show all their art work at once.  Maybe even on a Facebook page belonging to their parents.  Is this any better or worse than hanging the same picture on the refrigerator?

Times are changing and as much as I want to change, I want to hold onto the past too.  Below is a picture of kids coloring the old fashioned way.  Which looks better to you?  The top picture or the bottom?  I can’t decide!Little children at the library doing crafts




May the MOOC Be With You

I know, I know.  Really bad play on words, but I grew up in the Star Wars/Star Trek era and still love Sci-Fi.  I don’t try to deny it and my wife just puts up with it!

So MOOC’s have been around for awhile now.  I’m just getting into the game at this point and I suspect many of you are doing the same or at least considering it.  I’ve just started my first MOOC titled, Coaching Digital Learning.  From the course description,

The Coaching Digital Learning MOOC-Ed is brought to you by the Digital Learning Collaborative a program of the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at NC State University’s College of Education. The content was developed by a team of passionate digital learning innovators, coaches, and geeks: Brittany Miller, Lisa Hervey, and Jaclyn B. Stevens, with many others from school districts and other organizations throughout the country contributing to planning and facilitating the course. See CDL Team for more information.

Finding and signing up for a MOOC is easy.  The hard part will be following through on the class.  I’ve completed unit 1.  The MOOC is free, but I can still get CEU’s for completing the course.  In my opinion, the free part is what keeps many people from completing a MOOC.  According to a report in Inside Higher Ed, completion rates for MOOCs range from a low of 3.5% to as high as 40%.  In all, more people fail to complete them than those that finish.  Will I finish mine?  Time will tell.  I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, you might want to try a MOOC yourself.  Here are some resources to get you started in your search.

Happy Searching!

Ohio Educational Technology Conference (OETC) – This Week!


I’ll be attending the Ohio Educational Technology Conference (OETC) this week.  What a great opportunity to meet new people and share ideas.  I’ll also be touching base with many vendors in the conference area.  Some of my favorites will be:

  • Schoology
  • Buckeye Educational Systems
  • Atomic Learning
  • Lenovo
  • InfoSnap
  • CDW-G



Love it or List it?

One of the shows that I watch on occasion is Love It or List It.  In the show, a couple works with two professionals – one to renovate the current house and one to find them a new house.  In the end, the couple gets to decide whether to stay (Love It) or go to the new house (List It).

Education is becoming much the same.  Love It or List It?  Renovate or leave?

The amount of change that has happened in education in the past 5-10 years is dramatic.  In my opinion, unprecedented.  Over the years, there have been many reports documenting the problems with education.  It all started with A Nation at Risk and continued with international reports of math and reading scores of American children.  Check out these reports:

The National Assessment of Educational Progress

A Nation at Risk

Center on Educational Excellence

No Child Left Behind

Teachers have been slammed by government, business and parents in various reports.  Just do a Google search for “Educational Progress Reports” and you’ll see what I mean.  So how is a teacher supposed to manage all the changes and still maintain sanity?  It’s not easy and sometimes not possible to do everything.  Administrators want one thing, parents another and the State Board of Education another.

Education is in flux.  Do we hold onto the past or move onto the future?  Love it or List it?  What we’re actually trying to create is a hybrid.  Kind of like the transition from gasoline engines to all electric cars.  The current thought is to create hybrid.  Think Prius.  What does that look like in education though?  Blended learning.  A blend of the past and infusion of technology and 21st century skills.  For now, this is the present and future.  This is really a disruption of the current educational environment.  To have a much clearer understanding of disruption in education, read the following book, Disrupting Class by Christensen, Horn, and Johnson.

So, what will you do?  Love it or List it?

The End of Sign-Up Sheets

When I started teacher 20 some years ago, I had sign up sheets for all kinds of stuff.  At the beginning of the year, I had parents sign up to help with classroom parties, field trips and help in the classroom.  Later, I moved to conferencing with kids on writing or taking fluency checks for both math and reading.  Of course we also had lists for things like career day, musical tryouts and arts festival performance time slots.  All of this was done with paper and pencil, slots assigned and then reposted for all to see.

In my position now, I have to schedule professional development days with multiple options for sessions and times.  Quite a task and I was determined to find a way to use technology to help.  Here’s the list I like so far:

Snappy Sign Up – This is my current favorite.  I’ve used it to schedule our professional development day.  You can set multiple time slot

Google Calendar – This is great if you are scheduling a meeting and want to invite people, post an agenda and figure out who can come.  We are a Google Apps for Ed school so everyone already has an account.  This can work for those without Gmail account as well.

PTCFast – Scheduling Parent-Teacher conferences just got a lot easier!  This cloud based program allows for whole school scheduling or individual scheduling.  You can also use it to schedule team meetings or conferences with multiple teachers.  Parents log in, pick a time and that’s it!

Doodle – This has been around for a while but it still works well for setting up meeting.  We’ve used to RSVP parent information meetings.

You Can Book Me! – This a great program for scheduling multiple time slots.  It also will populate your Google Calendar when an appointment is made.  Very handy!

Have one you like?  Let me know!

New Year, New Adventures

Welcome to 2015!  This will be a year of adventure, challenge and excitement!  I read two article recently that go me to thinking:

  • The first was by Dr. Clint Longenecker from the University of Toledo.  Each year he challenges his students the following question:  “Please tell me one specific thing that you are doing to make the world a better place.”  The answers will amaze you.  Read the full article here.
  • The second was an article about Gregg Dodd.  He set out at the beginning of 2014 to accomplish 52 things (52 weeks – 52 things).  Kind of a Bucket List for the new year.  Read the full article here.

These both inspired me to create my own list.  I’m not quite as ambitious as Mr. Dodd nor as idealogical as Dr. Longenecker’s students, but I did come up with 12 items for my list (12 month – 12 items.  Get it?)  In addition, I challenged my wife to come up her own list.  She was not nearly as excited about the challenge as I was! She played along though.  I gave us two days to compile our lists and then we got Grandma to watch our son and went to dinner to compare notes, err, lists.

The conversation we had was one of the most meaningful we’ve had in a while.  It was a little rough at first as we both wondered what was on the other’s list.  However, once we got going, it was amazing the different things we had thought of.  Here’s a couple highlights before I reveal my whole list.

My wife’s biggest surprise from my list?  I want to shave off my goatee and regrow it.  Why? I don’t know.  My wife has only seen pictures of me without facial hair and I’ve kind of forgotten what I look like without it too.  Sounds silly, but that was her biggest surprise.

My biggest surprise from my wife’s list?  She want to save someone’s life.  Medically.  Mouth to mouth kind of thing.  Never would have guessed it.  She’s not in the medical field at all.  She works with numbers.  Where did this come from??

So, here’s my list in no particular order:

  1. Run a 5K/10K (I’ve never run a race in my life!)
  2. Visit a foreign country
  3. Visit a city I’ve never been to before.
  4. Pay it forward to a stranger somehow
  5. Shave off and regrow my goatee
  6. Take a MOOC and finish it
  7. Make something out of wood for our home. (I’ll definitely need some help with that one!)
  8. Have dinner with another couple once a month
  9. Go skiing (Haven’t done that for years.)
  10. Learn Spanish
  11. Ride the tallest coaster at Cedar Point
  12. Start a new family tradition

I would also like to extend this challenge to everyone.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress to complete all twelve items.


Blended Learning and Educational Reform

One of the new buzz words in education is Blended Learning.  I’ve been trying to pin down exactly what that team means.  Of course there are the books and seminars that describe a formal plan for establishing a Blended Learning program.  A recipe to follow that will undoubtedly lead to higher test scores, happier students and contented teachers.  However, I don’t believe there is any one silver bullet to educational reform.  We don’t all drive the same car, why should we all insist that one educational theory is better fitted for everyone than another.

When starting to investigate Blended Learning, the following books may be beneficial to starting the conversation and getting a grasp on the totality of the movement:


Anytime, Anywhere – Wolfe, Steinberg, Hoffman

Blended Learning in Grades 4-12 – Tucker

Brain Gain – Prentsky

Disrupting Class – Christensen, Johnsson, Horn

Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools – Horn, Staker

Creating Innovators – Wagner


Do All Roads Lead to College?

A high school education is no longer sufficient to obtaining a good paying job in the United States.  Good paying middle class jobs are disappearing quickly for those with only a high school diploma.  Does that mean that everyone should go to and earn a Bachelor’s degree?  The answer is complicated and not completely clear and depends on whom you talk to.

The Harvard School of Eduction published a report in 2012 titled the Pathways to Prosperity.  The report highlighted the struggle that young people in the United States were having in obtaining meaningful work in their chosen field or career.  The goal of going to college and receiving the cherished 4yr degree may be misplaced for some students and young people who have been led to believe that this s the only credible career path to achieve perceived success of financial wealth.

As I sit on a college university today during finals week attending my own professional conference, I am humbled by the number of students diligently studying, relaxing before the next test or looking relieved that it is all over for this semester.  I wonder how many of these same students will graduate within 6 years of starting and how many may drop out for financial or other reasons.  Currently, the completions rate for college students is at about 59%  What happens to the rest?

My guess is that many end up in low paying, service jobs unable to fulfill their chosen career.  Maybe there’s a better way.  Would the 41% that didn’t finish college have been better off with advice to follow a 2 yr. degree, apprenticeship, or technical education?  It seems that all jobs will require addition training beyond high school of some kind.  However, if the only pathway that some students perceive as viable is a 4yr degree, then many will view themselves as failures or worse.

It’s time that new pathways are developed, presented and encouraged by both the education community and the business community that will eventually benefit from such efforts.

What do you think?

Welcome to the view from the Rear Window!

The view from my office window is not all that great.  I’ve got one window and I can see the back of the building.  Much like teachers these days, the rear window view is about all that is available.  It isn’t until we get out front until we find out where we’re at.  In a View from the Rear Window, I hope to share points of view about education, teaching, technology, life and how they all interrelate.  I hope to begin conversations, share interesting sites and discuss the future of education.